ROCKIN’ THESSALONIKI (Day 1)

Just woke up after my first night here in Thessaloniki, Greece. Haven’t slept this good in ages. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I’m only here for two days, I would have slept ’til the afternoon! What a comfy bed, cool room too, thanks to the AC. Love this hotel, clean, fresh, modern and right in the middle of everything. Walking distance to whatever a tourist wants/needs to see. :)

 But getting here was interesting …to say the least.

My flight from Copenhagen had a 30 minute delay, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if it wasn’t for the transfer I had to make in Budapest, Hungary, and it was already tight. See, THIS is why I always choose to sit in the front rows when I choose my plane-seat, so I can get off it as quickly as possible if needed.
Once we landed in Budapest, I ran like I had rocket fuel up my ass and made it JUST in the nick of time.

 [Flying into Thessaloniki]

 

Thessaloniki airport was busy, people everywhere, I could barely see where I was going. Also noted that my choice of clothes wasn’t overly smart. BLACK when it was 31 degrees Celsius out there?! I might want to rethink that next time…

I knew I was supposed to take bus 78 to a bus stop called Kolomvou, so I got a 0,80 euro ticket from the bus ticket-booth and waited for the bus in the humid Greek heat. A smiling man in his 60’s was waving to me, pointing with a “yes – you“. He said I would have to keep a very close eye on my bag because there were professional pickpockets everywhere.

He was very friendly and talkative, asked where I was going, if I knew how to get there and stuff, kept talking about how he had a cousin in Sweden and he had been in Sweden – online. :-)
I told him I was only in Thessaloniki for a few days to see a concert, he smiled, shook his head and went: “You don’t come to Thessaloniki for a day. You stay a LIFETIME.”
 
After he had reached his destination, I was left alone and kept a very close eye on the information-light-sign-thingie that informed about the next stop. Everything was in Greek, until a few seconds before each stop when it actually said where we were in English as well. :)
I should have known something was wrong after an hour, because the ride to the hotel was only supposed to take 20 minutes.

When we pulled up to the Makedonia International Airport (!) I knew that we had just been the whole round and back again. And no “Kolomvou”-stop anywhere.

 I walked up to the bus driver with my printed directions, pointed at it and asked if we were stopping there. He smiled (very friendly people) and said: “No speak English”.
So I went back to my seat and figured if I only stayed on the bus long enough, I would get to that bus stop sooner or later, maybe I just missed it.

 Asked some other people on the bus, either they didn’t speak English or they were tourists themselves, so no help there. I spent TWO HOURS on that bus, seeing the airport THREE TIMES… I bet I know Thessaloniki by bus better than anyone else.

 I texted my friend Mari who called the hotel and then texted me back “Man! They spoke Greeklish, English words in Greek if you know what I mean, I didn’t understand a thing! But I DID understand that you’re supposed to get off the bus somewhere and then walk for 10 minutes….”
 
Yeah. Somewhere. Interesting concept. :) I got off the bus in an area that looked “touristy” because of all the typical international stores that are there for tourists to spend some extra dough – Sephora and all that. Aristoteles Square. Then I had Mari guiding me by phone, from Sweden, her computer and GOOGLE MAPS! Like my very personal GPS, if you will.
“Are you on the square now? There should be a big street up ahead. Turn right and then….”
 
I finally found my hotel. I think I’m gonna send the hotel the REAL directions when I get home. Nobody would ever have found it with their description on the website. Gah.

[My hotel… That I found after just 2 hours]

 I waited til the sun started to set, because it’s a lot more pleasent taking a stroll when you’re not being fried by the sun. When I got out there it was like a Deja Vú experience. I had a hunch it would be like that after having seen pictures of the city online. It looked very much like my second home town, Split in Croatia.

As it turned out, it really was like a COPY of it!! Everything was pretty much the same, to the point where it was almost scary.
The square had all these glossy white/grey streetstones, surrounded by cafés and restaurants and people selling kitsch-junk everywhere. The sea right in front, which you walk alongside so to speak. I mean, it was all the same – the location of some houses and the harbor/industries or whatever…. Even the scent of the sea was the same.
I didn’t feel like a tourist at all. I felt like I was home.

 [Pics I took last night on my walk down the seaside in the heart of Thessaloniki]

   

  
The palmtrees are the same, little short, chubby ones. :)
And the flowerbush that I haven’t seen anywhere else but in Croatia until now, the oleander. They are beautiful, pink, yellow, white….

It’s so pretty and it’s a shame I came here alone this time. It’s a city to be experienced in someone’s company.

I took a walk towards the White Tower as the sun was setting. Took some pics of that, then ended up being very much a tourist when I walked into Starbucks because I was REALLY craving a mocha frappucino. I should have went to a real Greek coffeehouse instead, but I will later today.
I just sat there, overlooking the sea as the sun went down, hearing the people and the typical sounds of nightlife down the street.

 That is just like Split as well. Doesn’t matter what weekday it is. It’s like a festival, lots of people, music, laughing, just a city that is very much ALIVE. I loved the atmosphere.

 And there were Judas Priest/Whitesnake/Firewind posters all over town. From what I understand, there are not that many outdoor rock concerts here, so I guess that every rocker in Greece will make his/her way to Athens or Thessaloniki today and tomorrow. :)

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 I got a very useful map for my “tourist day” here from a guy I got in touch with because he had uploaded a video of Marty Friedman and Gus G jamming in Thessaloniki about a month ago. I asked what camera he had used because the audio was really good, and then somehow started talking a bit. So he sent me this last night:

 A map of Metalloniki. :-) That, and a short description:
 

Metalloniki

I also send you a map you have to see. It is useful. Includes the places every rock-visitor must see.

METALLONIKI MAP !!! :)))
Place 1: Your Hotel (El Greco) I
Place 2: Tha stadium (Kaftatzoglio)
Place 3: Ladadika (many bars and some of them Rock & Metal)
Place 4: Valaoritou Street (the new hot joint in the city – some good rock places and many people everywhere).
Place 5: Aristotelous Square. The most famous square in Thessaloniki.
Many places for coffee and beers. Some of them with good music.
Place 6: Navarino Square. The “punk” spot of the city. Some good bars an many places to eat before and afrer a drinking night.

There are also lot of other places but these are the basics.
Hope to find you and meet you in person.
Have a good night and get rest.
All those places are near to you and you can go by feet.
Even the stadium is not that far from you. It is almost 3,5 km from your hotel.

Like I said, very kind and helpful people around here. :) I’ll try to check out as much as possible, if I don’t get lost again!

 Before I went to bed, I checked my Facebook and saw that Firewind had sent out a bulletin that there was supposed to be an interview with Bob and Gus at midnight (a rerun) and for the first time I’d actually be able to see that. So, although I was tired, I decided to check it out. What the hell, I’m here, would be stupid to miss it.

I sat through over an hour of Greek TV-hosts talking, without understanding ONE WORD of it (if I don’t learn Greek fluently after this….) and then right at the END of the damn show, yeah, there they were – two long haired familiar rocker dudes. Finally. :-)

I didn’t understand a whole lot of what they were saying either, other than that they were talking about Gus’ guitar models or something, Firewind playing on the same bill as Judas Priest and Whitesnake and Gus playing with Ozzy. Something like that. Everything else was mostly a “okay, what he said – whatever that was“. :) Lol!

 Anyway. Time to go for a stroll down Thessaloniki again, and feel like home.
So far, I really like this place. I’m sure that tomorrow, after having seen three bands I really love, I’ll like it even more!
And yes, you guessed it. I’ll be back.

  
[Went to Starbucks for my beloved Mocha Frappucino]

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