While Albania may have been the greatest month of my life, my time in Thessoloniki, Greece may have been the greatest week.
Every night was another game of hide and seek in the castle ruins, another rooftop, or another spiritual encounter with a local.
We arrived to Thessaloniki via private night bus from Drăgănești-Olt. It was a bruising adventure. I just remember bodies everywhere; Sprawled on the bus floor. It was an a mass attempt at comfort with the rare success of an hour or two of sleep. An absolute testament to the electrifying nature of Thessaloniki is how it was able to transform our sore asses into creatures of the night. There are few feelings that compare to arriving in a new place when you are absolutely exhausted. You receive just enough dopamine from feeling the difference in the energy of a new place, but yet your human instincts tell you this new adventure can surely wait for the morning. In our case, we arrived IN the morning, making it permissible for the sun to blind us in our groggy stupor. Little did we know though, that Thessaloniki was all about the night. Our sleeping place was in an urban church. The guys were given church pews for beds. I had no idea how comfortable church pews could be because I had no idea what true exhaustion felt like until this stretch of days.
Thessaloniki on fire at night. The waterfront is teeming with restaurants and cafes both elegant and hip. The streets further inland are full nightlife, shopping, bars, and music. It is so alive. It is so Greek. We loved eating at restaurants Κατερινιωτης (simple gyros) ,Elia Lemoni (Greek, Mediterranean), and Mpoukia mpoukia (Greek) . You also must visit Fragile Bar. We also enjoyed Arabella Floating Bar, and Boat Bar, where you can get putted around on an old wooden ship for free as long as you buy one drink. That's a go.
I have much more to see in Europe, however I haven't ever experienced such a beautiful landscape of both culture and nature together. It was amazing being in Greece, a place so Biblically and mythologically rooted. We stayed right next to what appeared to be old castle ruins. Every night we would walk to the White Tower and participate in conversation with Greek locals or international travelers. Sitting in Aristotelous Square is a wondrous sight. It really is refreshing to be surrounded by architecture that is composed of such history and depth. The architectural scene that I am familiar with in America is moribund at best.
We also took two day trips down to Chalkidiki (Three Fingers) to experience the beautiful rolling hills and beaches. We rented kayaks from Sea Kayak Halkidiki (Sithonia). We enjoyed a nice long morning on Paliouri Beach (Kassandreia).
There is a certain optimism that resides in Greece's second largest city. We actually visited Thessaloniki right after Greece's market crashed in the summer of 2015. Even though there was such panic and fear internationally, this young energetic city took it in stride. We had been told by those historically familiar with Greece, that much of Greece's hope springs from this city. The next generation and all the ideas that it holds, spring from these streets.
The urban scene in Greece and many other European cities is very post-Christian. The interesting thing about it is that it has been post-Christian for such a time that truths that have bounced off these cities walls thousands of years ago, ironically have a certain newness to them now.
We had the pleasure of getting to know some incredibly inspiring individuals. During dinner one night, we had an invigorating experience getting to know our waiter, The Man Named Freedom.
We also spend an entire day with two kind Greeks, Emmanuela, and Stelios. This may have been the craziest day of my life. It started with me having to spring out of bed to run to a meeting at a nearby cafe. On my way back from the cafe, I saw Kathryn and Kirsti in another nearby cafe, so I ran in to say hello. A few moments later a kind man sitting in the corner of the cafe by the name of Stelios offered me a seat and a taste of Tsipouro, a local Greek brandy. It turned into the day that never ended as he then introduced us to a nice lady named Emmanuela. 10 hours later we had a great story to tell, which I cannot wait to share with you all!