I’m baaaa-ack at working on the A to Z challenge (that I started in April!) …
Today I’d like to introduce you to a city/region that holds some our (my husband and my) favorite travel memories as far as a REAL vacation: relaxing and interesting and warm and sunny and shared with good company.
The background information is that my (German) aunt is married to a Greek man. Although they lived and worked in Germany all of their married lives, they kept a kind of vacation apartment in my uncle’s hometown region on the Aegean Sea in the Macedonian area of Greece. When we were stationed in Germany with the Army, Daniel and I traveled to visit them in Greece in October of 1996.
We flew into the airport at Thessaloniki (that’s Thessalonica in English), the city the apostle Paul spent time in and to which congregation he addressed his 2 Thessalonian epistles. I’m no expert on the geography of this region, but from wikipedia, I can tell you that Thessaloniki is the 2nd largest city in Greece.
My aunt and uncle’s apartment at this time was in the seaside fishing village of Pladamonas. They got us our own little suite in a local hotel, and we spent our mornings like this:
Fresh pastries from the local bakery, bougatsa being a typical Thessalonian treat. It is a phyla dough wrapped creamy treat.
On the days when we just stayed local and enjoyed the sea and sites in the nearby area, my uncle would go to the fish market and come back with just-caught fish for our lunch. He made salads with fresh-from-the-market vegetables as well. And there was always a side of crusty white bread and sometimes my favorite garlic-cucumber spread, tzaziki. The best part of all was eating this outside on the balcony!
From our village of Platamonas, we could spy Mt. Olympus in the distance if the sky was clear. And of course, just spending time on the shore of the Aegean was relaxing. Often there was a bustle of fishermen on their boats and others in the water, hunting octopus.
(below: me between my aunt and uncle in Platamonas)
We spent some time in Athens – seeing the Acropolis and the Pantheon – and exploring the more famous sites of Greece like the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sunion and the hillside of the oracles at Delphi. Those were great … but I think I enjoyed the quieter sites in the smaller towns like the Greek orthodox churches and monasteries.
In fact, the day we spent in Meteora was probably the most interesting thing I experienced. There 6 monasteries and abbeys are built on pillar-like peaks of the Pindus Mountains. And there are monks who live and work there – quite primitively – even today. Like the Vatican, these monasteries had a dress code: women were required to wear dresses/skirts, and no one was to wear tank tops or too short, revealing clothing while visiting.
In the summer of 2005, right before my stint of working full-time for a few years, I traveled to Germany to visit some relatives – and my aunt and uncle happened to be in Greece during that time so I flew from Frankfurt to Thessaloniki to visit them one last time. They were in a different little fishing village, but the atmosphere was just about the same:
Due to my uncle’s health, our travel pace was much slower (and I was only there a few days), but we did spend some time by the Aegean Sea:
This time, they took me to the finger islands called the Chalkidiki (Chal-kid-i-ki), right by the Macedonian region that include Thessaloniki:
We only drove around on the most western “finger” and stopped in the Nea Kalikratia for a typical Greek lunch of souvlaki. We also drove on down to the resort town of Sani and walked around and had ice cream. For some reason, I have NO pictures of this trip (perhaps because my husband wasn’t there to take pictures for me?!).
The Greek people are truly friendly and joyful and outgoing, in general, based on my experience. During our travels, it wasn’t unusual, when we stopped to eat somewhere, that my uncle would walk right into the kitchen of the restaurant and talk to the cooks and inspect the food!!
The traffic in Greece is also memorable. I was fortunate that my uncle – a native – drove us around. On most highways, one drove kind of middle of the road, and other drivers could pass you on the shoulder of the road! A travel guide said it best: for Greeks, traffic lights are the equivalent of red-and-green Christmas lights. And I’ve never heard so much honking than I did while we were in Athens. It went on all night outside our hotel.
This land of ancient tales and soothing water is probably among my very, very most favorite travel destinations. I wish I could go back … but until I do, I am thankful to have experienced this part of this country, twice!