Christina/ April 5, 2024/ Culture

Thessaloniki, known as Saloníki in Greek, is the second-largest city in Greece. From our location in Néa Kallikratia, we plan to embark on a day trip to the seaside metropolis by coach. The sky is overcast on this day, the perfect weather for a city visit. Promptly at 10:30 am, we arrive at the bus station. However, the transportation is delayed. It’s not until around 11 am that we finally set off. The journey to Thessaloniki takes about half an hour. We arrive at the Chalkidiki Bus Terminal and think we’re close to the city center. We walk a bit and then ask a Greek for directions to the city. Initially, he looks at us incredulously. “It’s 20 kilometers to the city center. You’re currently in the Kalamaria district.” Oh, we hadn’t expected that. He directs us to the nearest bus stop. From there, we take the city bus, another good half-hour journey until we reach Aristotelous Square. We get off directly at the Bay Hamam, which is currently under renovation. And there, we experience a shock.

A wild pack of dogs causes a stir
Suddenly, a pack of large, aggressive dogs approaches the bus stop. The lead dog emits a nasty growl and bark. Startled, pedestrians jump aside. The dogs look truly dangerous. We quickly want to cross the street and head to Aristotelous Square. On the pedestrian crossing, I see a woman with a small dog on a leash. I think to myself, “I hope that dog doesn’t get attacked.” And that’s exactly what happens. Suddenly, we hear a whimper from the dog. We turn around and see the woman hoisting her dog up by the leash, so it hangs in the air for a moment like it’s on the gallows while the pack of dogs with bared teeth snaps at the perceived prey. I believe everyone, including the dog owner, holds their breath for a moment. With presence of mind, she drags herself to the other side of the street. Everything turns out fine, but it was really close. This experience stays with us for a long time.

Aristotelous Square
Still in shock, we walk along Aristotelous Boulevard towards the sea, the Thermaic Gulf. We admire the beautiful houses with picturesque balconies. Especially the Electra Palace Hotel, a stately building, catches our eye. It clearly dominates the square. We turn left and walk along Leoforos Nikis Boulevard towards the city landmark, the White Tower. We pass many beautiful and inviting cafes and restaurants. Unfortunately, our time is somewhat limited since we’re in the city by bus. We don’t linger long at Lefkos Pyrgos either. We definitely want to take a leisurely stroll through the Upper Town (Ano Poli). And yes, that’s definitely the right decision.

Thessaloniki’s Old Town (Ano Poli)
The higher we climb, the more excited we become. The view between the partially beautifully renovated old wooden houses from the Ottoman period towards the new town is breathtaking. The ascent from the sea up to the old city wall is quite strenuous but definitely worth it. We go up to the highest point of the city, the Kástro district with the citadel, also called Acropolis. The citadel, called Eptapýrgio, once served as a prison and execution site. After an extensive photo session and a walk along the city wall on Eptapirgiou Street, hunger slowly sets in.

Vlatádon monastery
On the way to a feeding station, we pass by a monastery. It looks so inviting that we decide to make a short visit. The area, located right in the heart of the old town, completely captivates us. It’s not just the tranquility and the breathtaking location of the convent. What’s impressive is the stroll in the monastery courtyard amidst cypress and pine trees, accompanied by the loud squawking of some peacocks housed in a spacious aviary. Racing pigeons are in a second aviary further down, and of course, the obligatory cats must not be missing.

We follow a recommendation from the guidebook and go to the tavern To Kastro Tis Kiras. The restaurant looks exactly as I imagine a Greek tavern: painted blue on the outside, tightly spaced inside, with an oven in the middle and a menu that leaves nothing to be desired.

When does the bus depart?
Unfortunately, we can’t stay too long. Since our bus departs at 9 p.m. from the Chalkidiki Bus Terminal in the eastern suburb of Kalamaria, we still need to figure out where bus 45 departs from to take us there. And once again, it’s not so easy. First, we head back towards the Lower Town. A young lady explains to us in broken English that there’s a stop on Egnatia Street. We find it. However, there are no bus schedules, so we don’t know when the next bus to the terminal will depart. We only know that the last bus in that direction leaves at 8 p.m. There’s an electronic display, but we can’t spot our bus number. Once again, we ask a passerby. We’re told that the bus will likely be displayed in half an hour. Hm, can we rely on that? We ask another bus driver and receive the exact same answer.

The second problem is that we need two one euro coins for the journey, as the machine doesn’t provide change. That sounds simple but it’s not. We go to a café. I go to the restroom, Susanne tries to change money. The cashier tells us she doesn’t have any coins. We think it’s a joke, but it’s actually serious. We try our luck elsewhere. Here, it works. So, back to the bus stop. A worried glance at the electronic display tells us that the bus still hasn’t been (or is no longer) listed. Two minutes later, finally the relief, the bus is coming in five minutes. Eventually, everything goes well, and we reach the bus terminal very punctually. The last bus then safely brings us back to Néa Kallikratia.


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