It’s day 100. I’m on the train down to Thessaloniki. 28 countries in 100 days. It’s possibly too much, but I’d regret not doing it if I didn’t. I don’t reckon it’s all sinking in now, it’ll probably take a good 12 months for it too all sink in.
The trains down here are very different to back home. The train lines were built 40-50 years ago by the communists yet the roads are much more recent. As a result the buses between cities are much quicker and more reliable, taking the straight modern highways as opposed to the slow twisting ancient railways. I’m completely fed up with buses though, trains are so so much more comfortable, I’d prefer to spend the extra time getting around here. Plus the views from the trains are much more beautiful, to avoid the mountains the rail lines often follow rivers, affording some very very beautiful views.
We’re at the Greece Macedonia border. A border guard (at least I hope he is a border guard got on and asked for my pass port. He looked at it and said “After 10 minutes come to police and get your passport. I wonder if I’ll ever see it again.
The train got into Thessolaniki surprisingly on time and I was caught totally unprepared when the train arrived. I half put my shoes on, shouldered my pack and gathered everything else in my arms racing to get out of the train before it left. I sat on the platform sorting out my stuff for the next 10 minutes… while the train sat motionless.
I’m so dumb!! I’m sitting in the Thessolaniki Train station reading LP having coffee. There was a gorgeous Greek girl (nice alliteration yeah?) on the train with me who was also eating at this same restaurant. We’d accidently made eye contact a few times and exchanged a couple of dumb what-else-am-I-supposed-to-do smiles. When she finished her food she approached me with an enormous smile and asked where I was from and if I needed any help. I froze up, and said “ahhh, no thanks I’m meeting a friend later I’m just killing time, but thanks anyway”. “Oh ok” she said “well enjoy your time here” and she flashed a beautiful smile and left. WHY DIDN’T I PRETEND TO PLAY THE DUMB TOURIST IN DISTRESS… DUMB!!
Not long after she left I got out my computer and the man at the counter called out to me. He was holding a piece of paper and motioning for me to approach him. I did, he said “This is the national network and this is the password” I thought he was talking about a train network or telephone or something. Then he said “Free internet”, it was the name of a national WIFI network and the password. “All over Greece” He said. “Free Wifi?” I enquired not really believing him. It worked though, people here are so very helpful. Hopefully I don’t stuff it up again.
From the train station yesterday I set out with my pack on my back and walked to the tourist information office. This walk took about 40 minutes and with my pack on my back and my day bag on the front I was well and steely sweating by the time I got there. The lady wasn’t really helpful, but at least I got a map out of her. I put my pack back on and walked back to the train station to catch a bus to my new hosts place.
Back at the train station I jumped on the number 14. Turns out it went almost directly past the tourist info office, could have saved me a massive walk. On the bus I sent my host a message saying I’d left the train station at 250 and should be at her University by 310. She replied asking if I was sure of the time as she was already home. I looked at the clock on the bus and the few visable watches around me. They all said 4oclock. I had no idea there was a time difference here to skopje!! So I’d effectively stood up my host. It didn’t matter though she gave me directions to her place and I met her there.
My new host is pretty cool, a really small greek girl who studies surveying engineering, plays in the engineering band, lives in a small 2 bedroom flat by herself and loves death metal. The last trait is quite suprising I know.
The place where I’m staying at is really nice, it’s clean and there’s pleanty of space. Well horizontal space anyway. There’s only two downs to the house. I cant stand up straight in the bathroom and there’s no washing machine. I was desperately hoping that there would be a washing machine here. I desperately need to clean my clothes.
As a result I’ve spent the last hour walking around Thessaloniki looking for a Laundromat. The lady at tourist info showed me on a map two spots where I could find one but none of them were very helpful. Maybe I’ll have to pay for a hostel for the night just to use the washing machines. Or do some by hand tonight I guess is an option.
Last night I was super lazy. Maria, my host, had to meet up with some of her friends to work on a group project but said they were going to a Hookhar bar at about 930 and I could join them then. So after she left I did some push ups had a shower and went to sleep at 630. Apart from waking up at 8 to the telephone I slept through untill my alarm went off at 9.
I had a message from Maria saying they were flat out and that they wouldn’t be meeting untill 11ish. I put on a movie, but pretty soon realized I wasn’t going to make it out, I was knackered. I ended up back asleep by 1130 after reading for a bit after the movie. I slept through untill 0830. Man I needed that sleep.
After a great sleep I woke up yesterday at about 830. It was raining. So much for going for a run. I got up slowly and packed my washing into my back pack along with all the other necessaties.
I left the flat and decided to just walk into town. It was raining on and off and my umbrella was suffice to keep me warm. The walk only took 45 minutes anyway.
I needed to do my washing desperately so I went to the Tourist info centre and they pointed me in the direction of a couple of places. I couldn’t find any of them so I just quit and sat in a café and ordered a coffee.
Morale was low yesterday morning. I blame the rain. It was crap.
I walked down to where the tourist bus left at 12. I got there early but after a quick walk along the water I sat waiting for half an hour. I was early so I knew I hadn’t mised it. I had no idea where it was. So I decided to just walk the loop.
At the café I’m sitting at two greeks are yelling at each other. One of them works here and is going about his daily business setting up the out door furniture while it sounds like they’re about start fighting. I guess that’s just the Greek way.
The bus itself was supposed to take 50 minutes, but I’m glad I walked it. It was really nice and the bus would have missed heaps. I walked up the old town walls to a point with a good lookout. The Triage tower. The Byzantine walls are really cool and most the walk followed these, through a couple of old monestaries and down some back streets back into the main town.
All up the walk took my 2 hours. But I had stopped for lunch at a place up on the hill. It wasn’t bad a good piece of fish and a tomato salad for only 10 Euros. I hadn’t had some decent fish in ages so this was good.
At the end of the walk I stopped at another caffe for some coffee and read my book. The place was full of young people but they weren’t just sitting around smooking. They were all playing board games, everything from back gammon to monopoly.
I walked home. The afternoon was heaps heaps better then the morning. The sun was even coming out in short spurts through the clouds. Morale was much much higher. It was good.
From home I went up to the supermarket. I planned on just grabbing a few things. Because of the couch surfing I’ve been able to afford to eat out a lot, but it’s been taking a toll on my waist line. I bought a few things just grabbing at things as I thought I’d need them. I ended up with a full basket and a 20 Euro bill. Not too bad though I guess, that’ll feed me for the next couple of days.
Last night was the first time I’d cooked for myself in ages…. I don’t remember the last time I cooked a dinner…. I don’t think I have. Not since the dinner I cooked at Eheim in my second week in Graz, so that’s like 2 and a half months ago!! But what I did cook was awesome. Best poached eggs ever.
I met Maria last night at 9 at Komara, the big arch in town which serves as the common meeting spot. We met 2 of her friends.
The other friend was a guy called Cosmos. It’s great not only to meet locals but to go out with people with cliché cliché names is great. Like Klausse at octoberfest, Slobodan in Montenegro and here Cosmos in Greece. Haha. He was really genuine too. I was worried about the whole night them just speaking in Greek but they were all really good, Cosmos even spoke in English before we’d been introduced because he knew I hadn’t a clue of Greek.
We went to a caffe near by. It was another one of these café/bars where everyone was playing board games. And as we went upstairs we passed a huge shelf full of them with multiple copies of most of them. We sat down and Cosmos asked me what I usually play at home. I explained that I hadn’t really played a board game since I was a kid and that it’s not common back home. “Really?” he asked “So what do you and your friends do when you have coffee or drink beer?” I didn’t have an answer, “I dunno” I said “We just sit around dribbling rubbish”. this didn’t make much sense so I explained myself, quite unsuccessfully.
The next problem was choosing a game. Or rather finding a game that I could play as it was all in greek. Maria suggested Scrabble, I was down with that, but she explained that she was joking as it too was in Greek.
We ended up going with Pictionary. All the cards were in greek so when it was my time to draw Cosmos or Maria (the opposition) would write the word down in English for me. This was pretty funny. Cosmos translated one, I wasn’t sure if he’d writted shoved or shovel. So he said he’d write an explanation; “You use one for opening the hole in the ground” haha.
Two more of their friends joined us a couple and they were divided between the teams. We opened up a massive lead and got to the end first, however we couldn’t nail the last square and we ended up losing!! It was a tight end, lots of fun.
By the time we finished it was 1140, we sat around talking for a bit and then decided to cut it away. We got back to the flat at about 1230, Maria was really surprised that I was going to sleep already. She’s the type who likes to sleep in, this morning she was complaining about having to get up at 10.