Interrail day fifteen – Samothrace to Thessaloniki

13 May

I do not like early starts at the best of times, but imagine my horror on finding that all the remaining coffee sachets in the hotel room’s wee bowl were actually sugar! I had to start my day with tea!

Fortunately there was coffee on the ferry. It was less windy this time and there were no schoolchildren. In Alex, wandering around looking for a nice cafe, I saw two more representations of the Nike – and I’m not even on Samothrace any more! Apparently Alexandroupoli (despite the name) is actually quite a young town, founded by the Turks in the 19th century, so I suppose it has to borrow its history as well as its name.

I decided to go to Noa, the cafe right at the end of the pier that looked quite nice, and it was nice but they charged me €3.50 for a bottle of fizzy water! However, it came with two of the wee chocolate-cream-filled biscuits that I love, and they were playing music I like (Not in Love, Since You’ve Been Gone) so I’ll let it go. They also gave me a bottle of table water with my water (Europe, eh?) so I’ll refill my own water bottle with that to recoup my expenses 😂

The bus trip wasn’t very interesting as I had done it before, although again it was the Apostle Paul’s route. Did you know Samothrace was the first place he ever went to in Europe? When I got to Thess I find that the bus station is not handy and central but is all surrounded by dual carriageway and not designed for pedestrians. Local buses were too confusing. I saw a taxi rank and joined it, and it was only 7 euros to my hotel.

The bus office wasn’t answering the phone so I slept again at the hotel. I’ve had a bit of a chest infection for the last couple of days so I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself. All the cigarette smoke doesn’t help. Thessaloniki must have one of the highest proportions of smokers in the world. The very air smells of cigarette smoke, and that’s not an exaggeration.

In the evening I went out to see Thessaloniki and to buy a bus ticket. I couldn’t find the bus office. (It was number 10 Aristoteles Square. I only found two numbers at different parts of the square. They were both four.) I phoned up and they said they were closed, so I just have to turn up at the bus’ starting point tomorrow and hope that 1) it is there, and 2) it is not fully booked.

I saw Aristotle, though.

Meanwhile, I wanted to see what I could og the old part of Thessaloniki in the couple of hours before I would have to turn in, so I headed down to the shore, past any number of delicious looking takeaways and bakeries and sweet shops (as in cakes, puddings and fancy chocolate confections, not boiled sweets). If I lived in Thessaloniki I would get fat, if the smoke didn’t kill me first! I did grab a sneaky ice cream cone.

There were also craft shops (crochet and knitting mainly), lots of bookshops, a comic shop and even a shop selling cool or amusing socks, although sadly they didn’t have the llama ones in my size. Thessaloniki seems like a cool place with a lot of life and purpose about it.

Alexander the Great was born not that far from here, so there’s a rather good statue of him on his horse, Bucephalus. Nearby is the White Tower, an Ottoman fortress. It has a museum inside, but I was just doing a very quick circuit of Thessaloniki old town so so I can tell you nothing about that.

While I was sightseeing down by the shore I was accosted by a young woman trying to persuade people to take a 30-minute trip on the Argo. The trip is ‘free’; you only have to buy a drink, so of course the drinks are insanely overpriced. They were upfront enough to have the price list on display, which I liked, and I was quite tickled by the though of becoming an Argonaut, so when the boat was still there after I had returned from taking photos and buying something for dinner, I came aboard.

I enjoyed a very watery mojito as the sun went down (I do love a mojito by the Mediterranean Sea at sunset – it’s kind of a tradition) and saw Thessaloniki from a different angle. Then it was time to complete my loop.

I saw the palace of the Roman Emperor Galerius, walked a block further north, and again saw Galerius’ palace. This thing was huge, even though it was only his temporary residence, and he was only one of four emperors at the time!

Further on is what remains of the Arch of Galerius which commemorates his victory over the Parthians. You can still make out Romans bashing Parthians on the better-preserved bits of relief sculpture.

As you can see, it was starting to get dark, but there was still time to quickly see the forum/agora on the way back to the hotel. I followed Google’s directions, and while I’m sure it was the most direct route, it was not the most salubrious. The area seemed a little dodgy and it was one of the very few times in this trip that I have felt a little unsafe. However, I reached the ruins without incident.

Then, culture partaken of, it was back to the hotel to try to get a decent sleep in time to go bus hunting tomorrow.

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