We took a quick hop down to Greece. We were there for four days. We stayed in a hotel in downtown Thessaloniki. We chose this area because we wanted to avoid the huge crowds of the more popular places such as the Greek archipelago and Athens. Thessaloniki did not disappoint. Great restaurants, pubs, and shopping. There was a lot to see and do in the town itself and, as we had hoped, it wasn’t too crowed.
On the above picture, I have circled where we live, in Stockholm, and also our destination in Thessaloniki, Greece. It was about a three and a half hour flight.
The picture above shows our primary areas of exploration. You can use this as reference as the article progresses. To give you an idea of distance, the drive from Thessaloniki to Nikiti was about a two hour drive with traffic. We chose not to rent a car this go around, using private tour companies to get us to and from our excursions outside Thessaloniki.
I will only use minimal pictures for the article, with a link to the photo gallery at the bottom that houses a lot more pictures. So if you’re the type that just likes to look at the pictures, don’t be embarrassed, just scroll down and click on the link. 🙂
This was our base of operations. Thessaloniki is a Greek port city on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. It was founded around 315 BC, so definitely one of the older places we have visited. And for my gaming friends out there, Greece is the locale for the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey title. Having visited the area and spoken with many of its inhabitants, I can say the game did an excellent job recreating the beauty and history of the area.
Apparently, Hades was in town for a visit while we were there, making it extremely hot and humid (at least by Stockholm standards). It was around 34 to 36 Celsius (mid to upper 90’s F). The hotel was wonderfully air conditioned, but the rest of the places we went were hit or miss on the AC, mostly miss. But of course we did not let this hinder our adventure!
We travelled the city by shoe and we took the hop on hop off bus to a few locations that were further away.
It was very easy navigating and getting around in the city. Everyone we encountered was friendly, helpful, and spoke perfect English.
First of all, let me say right up front: the food in Greece is outstanding! They serve hamburger flat, with no bun, topped with caramelized onions. If you must have it as a sandwich, that is also available in some places. They also specialize in chicken, pork or lamb kabobs, which they call souvlakia. Very delicious, usually served with fries, veggies, and pita bread.
Pictured above, the pork neck with grilled pineapple and served atop pineapple salsa. Absolutely fantastic! I also tried some shrimp saganaki, which is pan fried in a thick, rich sauce. Gyros, kleftiko, feta cheese, Greek meatballs, the list just goes on and on. Seriously, the food alone is worth the trip.
The Archaeological Museum
I know what you’re thinking: museums, really, on a vacation? But seriously, when you think of how old this place is, I mean it may even be where ‘we’ began. They have some artifacts that are nearly 3,000 years old! So yes, you want to see some of these things while you are here.
The Archaeological Museum is right in the city. We were able to walk to it from our hotel. They had a lot of exhibits, and most of them were pretty interesting. We were there for about an hour.
Above, a gravestone from 300 BC.
And of course, Alexander the Great. This one was from around 200 AD. Cosmetic surgery was still in the experimental stages then, as you can see by the botched nose job. Or should I say :?/
Pella and Vergina
We ventured out to these areas to see, you guessed it, museums! On the map at the top, these are located to the west of Thessaloniki. The map label for Pella didn’t show up at that zoom level, so I placed a yellow dot.
I’m going to be honest here, the museum in Pella was not that great, to me. Firstly, the AC wasn’t working and even at ten in the morning, it was sweltering inside the building.
But what was worse was that many of their exhibits were replicas, including the mosaic in the above pic. But check out the photo above the mosaic. That’s the dig site, and it IS worth seeing.
The dig site is right around the corner from the museum. It’s an archaeological dig site of what was part of the ancient city of Pella, which is where Alexander the Great was born.
Now the museum in Vergina was an entirely different story. It is called the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Aigai. This is the location of several significant tombs, including Philip II (359-336BC), who was Alexander the Great’s father. It is one of the best presented and most memorable archaeological museums in Greece. You can walk right down to the entrance of each tomb, which is mostly still intact. It’s an eerie experience.
Unfortunately, they don’t allow pictures inside, this (above) was the only one I got. Definitely a must-see. It’s about an hour west of Thessaloniki. You can schedule tour services that will drive you out to it. Also, be sure to sign up for the tour. It was very informative.
We hired a local driver to take us out to the center peninsula. If you look on the map I made at the top, you can see I circled Nikiti.
We drove around there a bit, absolutely gorgeous. After that, we went further south (also circled on the map) where we had an exquisite lunch and went swimming right off the coast.
Afytos and Wineries
On our way out to Afytos, we stopped at a couple of wineries.
On the map at the top, I circled the area for the wineries just south of Thessaloniki. I have to say, we really never considered that Greek wine would be all that. What with it being so hot and all, we kind of thought it might be overly sweet, like some of the Carolina wines. Boy were we wrong!
This was some of the finest wine we have ever tasted. And, like the French, it is specifically designed to naturally pair with their unique cuisine.
And like most wine producing territories across the globe, the wineries were beautiful to see.
After visiting the wineries, our guide took us further south along the first peninsula.
We drove around in the Afytos area and stopped for lunch at a magnificent venue (above).
We had an awesome time in Greece, despite the sweltering temps. We would consider going back, but would probably opt for a wintertime trip. I guess living amongst the Vikings for a few years has made us more sensitive to the hotter climates.
Here is a link to the photo library that has all the pictures from the trip. These are not hosted by my blog, but are stored externally in Google pictures. All you have to do is click on the link below. Just click on one picture to enlarge it, the you can scroll through them with your mouse or by using the right and left arrow keys. If a picture is a little blurry, just give it a second or two to finish loading from the cloud.