After visiting the monastery of Sveti Naum, I walked around the back and faced a road, an empty road. I turned right and started walking on this road.
The road was unusually empty, normally I’d expect to see a couple of cars but nothing. As I banked around a corner I approached a border crossing and a friendly officer walked in my direction. He asked for my documents, scanned them and then waved me on through. I then continued over the border until I reached the Albanian border guards. I waited behind 3 cars until one guard noticed me, and ushered me to the front. Once again, they scanned my passport and waved me on through. I took a taxi into Pogradec and he even dropped me off at the bus station and ordered a ticket for me.
Riding buses and crossing borders has been second nature to me but I’ve never had such an awful journey as this one. An old lady sat next to me, with three bags, and it felt like she was trying to burn a hole in my head by constantly scowling at me. As we got to the Albanian border, second crossing in less than 4 hours, they made us get off the bus, collect out luggage and open everything up. Luckily they didn’t go through each individual item but more just an overall glance. We then had to stand in the burning sun while they inspected the bus from top to bottom. Ushered us back onto the bus for about 5 minutes before we faced the Greek border guards. Watching the queue ahead of me I saw some people being turned away, two from my bus, and then I started to get concerned. Luckily, he just asked me a few questions about my movement, where I’m going, for how long etcetera and then send me onwards. They once again made us open up our bags but I didn’t even get a chance to open mine and they’d already declared us free to go. Got back on the bus, next to my moody partner, and we continued to Thessaloniki.
I arrived in the hostel and went straight to bed. Absolutely shattered.
My plan for Greece was to start in Thessaloniki, make my way around the country and then head back so I only booked in for 2 nights so I could get a gist of the city and know what to look at when I come back. Therefore the easiest way to do that was to take a walking tour.
The tour covered the history of the city, all the different religions present through the times and even took us to old Roman ruins and most of the churches. As it turns out though, the tour didn’t cover a lot of the main tourist spots so I had to find them myself. I went to the Rotunda, a section of the original wall and the Arch of Galarius.
I wandered around around the city for a couple more hours, not looking for anything in particular but just a general stroll. Upon passing the Archeological Museum, I noticed a sign saying that the outdoor exhibits were free to view so of course I checked that out. There was a selection of headstones and then a diorama of a traditional Greek house complete with original mosaics. I needed to sort out my next destination once I got back to the hostel, but got distracted so I pushed it aside for future Nick to deal with (as usual).
The next day I got up and realised I needed to sort something out. I really wanted to try to get to Mt Olympus so I booked a hostel nearby and then had to figure out how to get there. There are two bus stations in Thessaloniki, one by the train station and one way out of town. As the train station was closer I walked there and asked about a bus to my hostel, she told me to get a bus to the Macedonia Bus Station and ask there, I then questioned about a train ticket as I didn’t want the hassle and it turns out that as I’m under 26 (I know I don’t look it) I got a discount. It was actually cheaper to get the train directly there! I boarded a train to Katerini and it felt like I was starting my trip all over again, proper nostalgia!
I got off at Katerini and walked across town to the bus station in order to get a bis to Litochoro which is the nearest town to where my hostel is. I got off the bus in town and thought I’d walk to the hostel. A friendly taxi driver pulled up beside me as I was walking and told me he’d take me for free, of course I want going to pass that chance so I jumped in and he took me straight there, brilliant!
I stayed at Thessaloniki Studios Arabas it was a decent hostel and the staff were always sociable. Decent budget hostel but a little bit of a hike from the centre.