Made it to the final country in Europe on my round the world tour – Greece! I had hopped onto the overnight Hellas Express from Belgrade and it was actually pretty good although I wouldn’t want to do it in the middle of summer as the couchette cars have no AC. I ended up with two cabin mates, both from Switzerland but one young and one old. The older fellow had been travelling around the world for a long time and while he was 80, it didn’t look like he wasn’t going to stop anytime soon! Total respect and admiration as it’s something I plan to do once I retire. I ended up giving him a couple bottles of iced tea (I had bought a crap ton as I was getting rid of my Serbian dinars) and he shared with me some Swiss treats. We managed to get into the last town in Macedonia in the morning around 7:30. At that point, a bus took us over the border and the rest of the way to Thessaloniki.
My itinerary for Greece ended up being:
- June 7th: Arrived in Thessaloniki. Checked out the Rotunda, the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, and the Museum of Byzantine Culture.
- June 8th: Checked out the White Tower before picking up rental car and heading out of town. Read about Anthony Bourdain – horrible news as I looked up to him and he was one of the inspirations for this trip. Arrived in Pella, the birthplace and capital of Alexander the Great’s empire. Spent the night in the shadow of Mount Olympus in the small seaside town of Leptokarya.
- June 9th: Visited Mount Olympus before cutting across country to Ioannina.
- June 10th: Explored the Perama Cave in Pella. Took a drive down the west coast until I hit Patras.
- June 11th: Spent the day resting and exploring Patras before catching a movie.
- June 12th: Explored the small Archaeological Museum of Patras and Patras Castle before leaving town. Arrived in Kalamata and was greeted with cake and alcohol.
- June 13th: Checked out the Kalamata Farmer’s market (only occurs Wednesdays and Sundays). Climbed Mystras Castle Town overlooking Spara. Visited Ancient Sparta before finally reaching Tolo.
- June 14th-15th: Spent the days on the beach in Tolo.
- June 16th: Checked out a couple sites near Tolo – first was Epidavros and after was Mycenae. Had lunch in Nafplio before heading back to Tolo for my last night.
- June 17th: Dropped off the car in Athens and headed to the Airbnb. Managed to have enough time to check out the National Archaeological Museum.
- June 18th: Managed to hit the Akropolis, the Roman Agora, and the Ancient Agora before the rest of the day was called on account of a huge downpour.
- June 19th: Hit a variety of smaller sights including the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium (the first stadium of the modern Olympics), and Aristotle’s Lyceum. Finished the day watching the Billy Murray concert “New Worlds”.
- June 20th: Explored a couple more sites including the Keramikos Archaeological site followed by Hadrian’s Library. As it was my last day in Athens, did some laundry and prepared to head out for Dubai the next day.
- June 21st: Goodbye Europe and thanks for all the fish! (As well as Western culture, food, and people).
In Thessaloniki I stayed in a small hotel that was advertised over Hostelworld. It was perfectly serviceable with working AC and a decent shower, adequate for my one night there.
Next place I stated in was one night in Leptokarya, a nice little seaside town with a pebble beach. I spent the evening soaking in the pool and the next day on the beach.
Next day I was spending one night in Ioannina via Booking.com. Many of these more out of the way places didn’t have hostels or any decent Airbnbs.
After Ioannina it was time to have an “extended” stay in Patras for a couple nights to decompress a bit. Apparently I forgot to take a photo of the main room with the bed, but it wasn’t particularly exciting (a small single bed).
After Patras, I was back to another single night Kalamata at a nice little Airbnb hosted by an old couple that didn’t speak much English but the slice of cake and shot of sweet tasting alcohol were words enough! Apparently this time I completely forgot to take a pic of the place, but I recommend if you’re spending any time in Kalamata to contact me and I’ll link to you the listing.
Afterwards, I finally needed some rest so I ended up 4 nights in Tolo at this fantastic little boutique hotel that is run by a single Frenchman that had just opened it a couple weeks before my stay. Tolo is a fantastic seaside resort town with some great restaurants and sandy beaches as well as some significant archaeological sites nearby for exploring. The only downside was the shower was a bit of a challenge to get into for a person of my size.
Finally, I arrived in Athens and stayed in a superb Airbnb in the center of the city. It was nearby most major sights as well as being near a bus stop of 3 major downtown bus lines. Nearby on the corner was a nice little Greek grill that I pretty much had dinner at every night and there were a couple of supermarkets for drinks and snacks. The host’s uncle lives there and is a particularly animated and welcoming individual who ensured my stay was as comfortable as possible.
For Greece, I mostly walked places in Thessaloniki and Athens while everywhere else I had the rental car, so getting around was easy enough. Driving customs were a bit different than what I was used to in other Western countries (such as passing habits where you’d ride the right edge of the road and people would pass on the left of you but still in the same lane technically). The only time I rode the subway was to the Airport and there were elevators at the main station. I can’t speak for any small stations.
One last note as mentioned before is that was my last stop on the European leg of my tour. It’s already been almost 3 months and now I’m looking at 10 months to go with a good chunk being in Asia. Looking forward to it and the challenges it will present to myself as I leave Western civilization behind and approach the East. My first stop is a few days in Dubai before hitting China. Expect the Dubai post in a few days!
Now let’s get to those random photos!