After spending a week in Istanbul, I was all geared up for the next phase of travel that is Europe, the first port of entry being Greece.
Crossing the border took some time as the officials had to ensure that I was not a refugee.
My first stop was Thessaloniki (pronounced as Saloniki), and it was just a stop over for the night. I had not researched about the city located in the heart of Macedonia, that is the second largest city in Greece having history dating back to 2000 years. I landed up in the centre of the city, Kamara that was surprisingly abuzz. It has a plethora of eateries, night bars and cafés all catering to the chic inhabitants. The city has a very young vibe owing to the University campus. Since I had not booked any place, I got an accommodation at Rent Rooms hotel which was right next to the University and close to The Arch of Galerius studded with Roman carvings. The city has an active nightlife and one could actually do an all night pub crawl in the city.
I entered in the first week of April and the weather was quite chilly. It’s a city that can be covered by foot, and the narrow by lanes and winding alleys adds a flavour to the experience. You’ll come across awesome graffiti and street art when you least expect it. The old town is the highest part of the city and from up there you can enjoy a beautiful view over Thessaloniki and the Gulf of Thermaikos. Ano Poli is the most traditional and picturesque area of Thessaloniki and it isn’t very touristy. So walking around the ancient and quiet neighbourhood was a soothing experience. There are taverns tucked in these narrow streets, but all of them don’t have their menus written in English. Although it was a short visit, I was able to squeeze in a lot and thoroughly enjoy the vibe of the city.
We have all heard about the Greek culture and history at some given point in our life. I got introduced to the architecture at Ephesus located in Selcuk (South Turkey), and was really looking forward to experience Athens – its culture, tradition, food, etc. It is a city equipped with all the modern amenities, and being a touristy city has accommodation catering to all ranges. I was staying in a hostel that is a ten minute walk from Plaka, which is the old town and which houses all the historical architecture. As I strolled down the streets, my first observation was the strong messaging through Graffiti which clearly communicated the restlessness by the youth with regards to the unstable economy, law and other policies.
The first thing I would suggest is to be part of the free walking tour, which will give you a good perspective about the history and stories that lie behind the amazing architecture. Monastiraki Square, is from where I got to see the Parthenon. The square is lined with cafes, restaurants, eclectic shops selling arts and and souvenir shops. As the sun sets the market comes alive with buskers adding a flavour to the nicely lit cafes. Plaka is the plush part of town lined with posh cafes and houses with Greek Architecture.
The main attractions which is frequented by tourists and backpackers alike are the Acropolis which is the hill on which The Pantheon and other famous Athenian ruins are located. The Hadrian’s Arch (a tribute to the Roman Emperor Hadrian) and the Temple of Zeus are situated close by. There is a garden adjacent to the palace, on the other end of which is the Presidential palace with the Greek Evzones (also known as the Presidential guards). The guards change every hour, and it is a unique sight to see the well synchronised act as part of the change over. Never miss out on the museums when in Athens as one can spend an entire day delving into the great Greek civilisation. The central market at Omonia Square houses some of the oldest buildings in Greece. On a bright day with clear skies, don’t miss climbing up Mount Lycabettus to catch the sunset, and a spectacular view of The Parthenon.
The people are generally nice and friendly. Everyone I met provided me with apt information about the city and directions to good restaurants and eat outs serving authentic Greek food. In fact Greek cuisine has a good spread for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. I was pleasantly surprised with the vegetarian choices that have palate pleasing flavours. If you have the luxury of time, there is an abundance of places to visit outside Athens. Since I was in Athens for 3 days, I stuck to exploring the city rather than spreading thin.
Sometimes the journey of a lifetime begins with a single step. In my case the inception for the journey of a lifetime began with a solo trip. The preparation for
Warrier's Trail is a crazy dream of a simple guy that was inspired by a desire to travel, meeting people, see places and live life full of uncertainty.
The dream is to travel 40 countries, in over 500 odd days in 5 regions (S.E.Asia, Australia, Middle East, Europe & Africa)
A journey of exploration!