There’s not much to say about day five. The camperstop is on a busy main road with no pavements, and as it’s common practice in Greece to drive along straddling the white line at the edge of the road, it’s not a great idea to walk along roads without a raised pavement, so going for a walk wasn’t an option, and the weather wasn’t very good in any case.
A few days ago Rick Stein’s Long Weekends Kindle book was reduced to 99p on Amazon, so we bought a copy as he’d visited Thessaloniki. Carol was reading the book and found out that he’d also been to the To Elliniko restaurant which we went to on Friday evening, and he’d raved about the food, in particular the stuffed onions. If you’re going on a mini-break to any of the cities in his book, it’s definitely worth a read before you go. We just wish we’d had this book at the beginning of our trip before visiting Cádiz, Berlin and Vienna.
We took the bus into the city and set off for the old town to the north, which hadn’t been impacted by the 1917 fire, and stopped off at a couple of churches (both UNESCO) along the way.
We were following a walk in the tourist board’s guide book, which was a steep climb as the old town’s at the top of a hill. It was quite difficult to navigate because of the number of small lanes and alleyways, and it soon became clear that the guide was ‘bigging up’ the points of interest along the route. After getting lost a couple of times we decided to call it quits, and set off back down the hill into the main city centre. We found another Marks & Spencer there, but managed to resist the urge to buy more Percy Pigs.
After lunch we set off for the port as we’d heard that there were more stolpersteine on the quay by the cinema museum, remembering five port workers who were sent to Auschwitz. They took a while to find, and unbelievably they were literally just 10 metres away from where we had been sitting people watching on Friday!
Next we went to check out the old railway station, as we thought there may be some old engines there or a museum, but there was neither as it now seems to be used as a freight terminal. Walking back into the city centre we stopped off for a drink at a bar in Ladadika, the regenerated area by the port.
By now it was late afternoon, nearly time for dinner, and so we walked across the city back to the restaurant To Elliniko, as there were so many dishes on the menu which we liked the look of but hadn’t tried. There was also the stuffed onions which we needed to try again, as they were terrific. We had another excellent dinner, and the stuffed onions are now my new favourite dish so I’m going to have to have a go at making them (the recipe is in Rick Stein’s book), though I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make them as good as that.
The morning was a write off thanks to Churchill Insurance, who we use for the landlord insurance on our house. The renewal’s due, but the bank card they were going to charge was one that was in my wallet which was stolen in Athens, so I needed to give them the number for another card. All straightforward you would think, but no! They only give out 0345 numbers which I can’t dial from Greece, and their customer services refused to give me the real number behind the 0345 one, so they were to ring me between 9am and 11am UK time (11am and 1pm here). When they did call either of our mobiles, the calls didn’t connect. After lots of faffing about on email, (they refused to let me pay via electronic payment from my bank) they finally managed to call us at about 5pm. What is it with these companies? It’s really annoying, but at least that’s out of the way for another year. Rant over!
After lunch we caught the bus to the shopping centre by IKEA. We hadn’t shopped there for a good seven or eight years and not much has changed, with the Billy bookcases still on sale! It looks like the black ash lounge and dining room furniture is coming back into fashion – all of our furniture was black ash when we got married nearly 30 years ago. We managed to leave the store with just the one item we’d intended to buy, which was a new frying pan as our one had had it. None of the other stores appealed, so after picking up a few bits and bobs in Lidl we went back to the van.
Our final day in Thessaloniki. We’d already seen all we’d wanted to see, so we just had a leisurely day just mooching around town.
It did turn into a bit of a foodie day though, with souvlaki for lunch in the market café, and one final meal at To Elliniko, a perfect ending to our time here.
Today is not just our final day in Thessaloniki, but also our final day in Greece, as tomorrow we will set off on a two week journey to Budapest where we’ll get the van serviced.
We’ve had a fantastic couple of months here, travelling around the Peloponnese as well as Greece’s two largest cities, Athens and Thessaloniki. The weather’s been a bit mixed, but fine on the whole, if a little colder than we were expecting. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to Delphi and Meteora because of the risk of snow, so we’ll have to go there another time.
The ancient archaeological sites have been amazing – in particular Olympia and Mystras – though we’re feeling quite ‘ruined out’ now as we’ve seen so much ancient archaeology recently, not just here, but in Italy as well.
The Greek people we’ve met have been great and so friendly. Almost everyone has spoken English, though they really do appreciate it when you say a big ‘efcharisto’ (thank you) with a smile of your face. One phrase that has gone down well and gets a smile from lottery ticket sellers is ‘thistichos ochi’, a colloquial phrase which translates as ‘unfortunately no’ – clearly not something they expect a foreigner to say.
One of the reasons for coming here was the food, so we’ve eaten out a lot, way more than we’ve done in other countries except perhaps Spain. As we expected the food’s been brilliant, and good value for money too. Highlights would have to include the horta and salads in Kalamata, the stuffed tomatoes and moussaka in Nafplion and the souvlaki and stuffed onions in Thessaloniki. We’re also now rather partial to a couple of glasses of ouzo!
Whilst there are plenty of campsites across Greece, most close down for the winter and so they’re really not geared up for motorhomers out of season. However the Greeks seem to be very tolerant of wild camping provided you’re discreet about it, and we wild camped in some lovely places. We’ve also had the pleasure of meeting some lovely like-minded fellow travellers along the way.
Some other little random observations from our time here: the Greeks seem to like a bet, as there’s only one chain of betting shops here called ΟΠΑΠ (OPAP), the privatised state monopoly, and there are ΟΠΑΠ shops everywhere, quite often just a few metres away from each other; we’ve also seen lots of wild dogs and cats everywhere we’ve been, but they all seem to be well fed, with people feeding them tins of food from the supermarket; and pedestrians do not have any right of way on zebra crossings unless on a green light, and even then it’s debatable!
On the subject of the roads, driving here has been fine (apart from the cost of the road/bridge tolls!) with drivers much more courteous than in Italy, though safety isn’t a top priority with few motorcyclists wearing helmets, and way too many people using their phones whilst driving. The non-toll roads have been in pretty good condition too.
Whilst we’re sad to be leaving, we’ll definitely be coming back another time. It’s now time to get back on the road, and our first port of call on our trip to Budapest will Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, for a two day flying visit.