On Saturday, Carrie and I headed into Thessaloniki together at 11 AM. We got off the bus at Kamara, the stop right by Aristotle University. From there we walked upwards, heading away from the sea. Finally, after forty five minutes of uphill trekking in the lovely spring-like weather (it was 55 degrees on Saturday, and beautifully sunny!), we reached our destination: Ano Poli.
Many cities in Greece have an “old city”: a section of the city that is enclosed within very old walls, where the fortress used to be in ancient times. The contents of the old city are completely modern–people live there, and there are many tavernas and coffee shops and such. It just happens to be enclosed in ancient walls.
This was our destination that day–the old fortress above the city, which looks out over all of Thessaloniki. I can’t believe I hadn’t been up there before! It was beautiful, and we had a great time walking around.
While moseying along inside the walls, we saw some great local characters. I had to giggle at a sour-looking elderly gentleman who was wearing a very silly hat and puttering along on a motorbike. But my favorite was a man who was selling around 30 bottles of homemade liquor out of the back of his pickup. How was he selling it? By driving through the neighborhood with the windows down, yelling out advertisements. Priceless.
On our way back down towards the water, we stopped for a coffee at an outdoor cafe overlooking the city. It was so nice to soak up the sun and sip frappe–which just might be the definition of “the good life” here in Greece!
By this point, it was about 2 PM, and we were starving. So we headed to a tiny taverna located behind the Rotunda. It turned out to be a wonderfully authentic little joint, packed with locals and offering utterly fantastic food! I had fried feta, carrot salad (one of my favorite ultimate simple Greek dishes–grated carrot with lemon and Greek olive oil!), and squid souvlaki. It was all delicious, and we even indulged ourselves with a half liter of wine to split!
After lunch, we met our Turkish friend Nazli and headed to the photography museum. The museum was great, and some of the photographs were absolutely fascinating. One of my favorite exhibits was made up of “portraits without faces”: snapshots of various possessions, which were so well done that you absolutely got a sense of who the owner was and what their personality was like!
Next (yes, there’s more!), we met up with Maria, one of the teachers I work with here at the Farm School. We all went to see “The King’s Speech.” If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it; it’s the best film I’ve seen in ages, and Geoffrey Rush is (as always) simply brilliant. And, guess what? This was the first time in months I have seen something in English with Greek subtitles, and I could read the subtitles!! It was so gratifying. Several of the expressions I just learned (like “pes moo,” which means “tell me”) were in the film, and I could read ahead in the subtitles and predict what was going to be said. (This may be partially because the film features someone who stutters, but we can overlook that.) Finally, after the movie, we all went out to one of the few places in Thess that features good beer, and I enjoyed the heck out of a Newcastle over good conversation with great people. We got back to campus at 11 PM, making for a full 12 hours out in the city!
On Sunday, I slept in and read for a little while before heading down to the waterfront for my run. It was sixty-five degrees on Sunday, and just as sunny as the day before! I ran a solid six miler, though my legs were tired from all the walking the day before. As I put on my favorite song and sprinted my way to the end of the run, I felt so overwhelmingly happy that I actually put my arms out like a plane and “flew” from side to side! What a great place, what a great experience, what great friends I have and what a lovely ten-month ride. I am immensely joyful and grateful for all of it.
That night, I Skyped with my parents and one of my best friends, and went to bed with tired legs and a happy heart. It was a fabulous weekend, and I have great things in store for more weekends this spring: FYROM/Macedonia, Crete, Santorini and Lesvos, to name a few!