It’s been decades since I last visited Greece – since I finished my first university degree in the Classics, in fact – and decades since I have been telling myself I must go there again. This summer, the dream was finally realised and I set off for a week’s vacation in Thessaloniki and northern Greece.
This post is going to be mostly a photo-journal, but it has taken me a fortnight to upload the several hundred photos and videos I shot to my PC, and edit them. I have picked out between 60 and 70 of the best and I shall post them here, over the next few days, for your enjoyment.
Apparently (according to the in-flight magazine I found in the seat pocket of the very small Astra Airlines plane which flew us direct from Tel Aviv to Thessaloniki’s Makedonia Airport), thanks to a new tourism agreement signed between Israel and Greece the year before last, (plus, I suspect, the chilly relations between Israel and Turkey, which have led to a drop in the numbers of Israelis choosing to vacation in Greece’s immediate eastern neighbour), some 700,000 Israeli visitors are expected to spend their holidays in the Hellenic Republic this year. There was certainly strong evidence of that in the many Greeks working in restaurants and shops, who appeared to have learned at least a few words or sentences in Hebrew.
It is less than a two and a half hour flight between Tel Aviv and Thessaloniki. We landed before noon, our suitcases were swiftly loaded onto the tour bus, driven by the laconic Spartacus (a man of few words, but an excellent driver) and we were off for our first views of Thessaloniki, under the guidance of our charming Israeli tour-guide, Natalie, of Eshet Tours.
Panoramic view of the city from the fortress on the acropolis – the highest point of every Greek town.
The citadel (not to be confused with the iconic White Tower, about which, more later).
The statue of Eleftherios Venizelos, credited by many as being “the Father of Modern Greece”, at the top of Aristotelous Plaza:
We had a late lunch in the market off Aristotelous Plaza where I could not resist snapping the doors of the restrooms in the taverna where we ate, and when you read what is written on the doors, you will understand why:
It’s a bit blurred, so for those of you who can’t make out the writing, on the door to the men’s restroom it reads: MEN
to the left
while on the door to the ladies’ restroom, the sentence continues: WOMEN
Well, you can’t argue with that, can you? 😉
We then had some free time to wander about the market, before being taken to our hotel. The Holiday Inn is well-situated, but was sorely suffering from the fact that the road in front of the hotel (on Egnatia Street, one of Thessaloniki’s three main traffic arteries) was all dug up because of the city’s new driverless underground Metro system, currently under construction. I was, after all, glad to have a room that faced away from the street, even though it lacked a view. How much time, after all, was I going to be spending in my hotel room?
Having eaten so late, most of us were now ready for a long rest before venturing out, later in the evening, for a taste of Thessaloniki by night. That meant a walk down to the harbour, whilst Natalie gave us a basic orientation tour.
The Greeks, it seems, are much prone to protest – and this is often expressed in graffiti, which some have taken to Banksyian heights:
The southern end of Aristotelous Plaza, nearest to the harbour, won me over with its many shops, cafes, restaurants – and ice cream parlours:
I had a to-die-for ice-cream cup with two flavours – New York cheesecake and forest fruits. A mere 2.80 euros. Mmmmmmmm. Heavenly. However, it had been a long day – I, for one, had been up since half past four in the morning – so most of us now headed back to the hotel, for a good night’s sleep. After all – the following day, we were headed for Mount Olympus 🙂
TO BE CONTINUED…