We were standing in front of a big Greek Orthodox church on a Sunday morning contemplating whether or not to go in. A little old Greek lady had overheard us speaking English and hobbled over to ask us where we were from. Thirty minutes later, she still hadn’t stopped talking. “The entire world owes their civilizations to Greeks! And so we are all Greek.”
Her name was Calliope, named after the 9th Muse, protector of art and poetry. She covered every subject you could think of: Greece’s failing economy, Achilles’ alleged homosexuality, Lord Byron’s infatuation with the country. By the time she hobbled away, we didn’t have enough time to stop in the church, and we had to walk quite quickly to make it to the documentary film festival in time to catch the film “War and Peace in the Balkans.”
And so went our weekend trip to Thessaloniki [θesaloˈnici]. Equal parts DIY adventure and authentic encounters with Greek culture.
We ate good Greek food and drank sweet Greek wine in cozy Tavernas with the bearded Greek waiters dancing and shouting “opa!” in the Kitchen.
We stayed in the quaintest, coolest hostel and sipped green tea from its rooftop.
We climbed up ruined castle walls and walked the length of it until there was no more wall to walk.
We went to Starbucks (because I’m an American who lives in a Starbucks-less country and I can’t help myself).
We walked through old cemeteries, ancient churches, quiet cobblestone streets, and down along the Mediterranean sea.
We went into a bakery at 1 am and “helped” the Albanian bakers make bread for the next day (and we ate a lot of free bread).
Two days wasn’t nearly enough. Love you, Thessaloniki.
Our antiquity proved, it remains to be shown
That Love is our author and master alone;
Like him we can ramble, and gambol and fly
O’er ocean and earth, and aloft to the sky