So what follows is a longish post about my trip there with postcards, pictures and all :)
How come I ended up in Greece in the first place? Well, blame it on Sigur Rós....see, my initial plan was to go to the InMusic Festival like last year, esp. since I was kinda sure that Sigur Rós would also be part of it, since they were/are on tour, they are doing festivals only, and the dates really kinda fit...but as time went by I was becoming aware that there will be no sign pf Sigur Rós, ...there were some other good performers announced but not such favourites that would make a whole such trip worth while. So had to start thinking of plan B cos I was really determined that I just HAVE to go and see them live, not knowing ifI will have another chance in the future, and while looking at the tour dates, Athens seemed as the most feasible...so Athens it was. A friend of mine also decided to come, though frankly I was ready to go alone if necessary, I just wasn't willing to miss such an opportunity (and probably I should have gone alone, but oh well, one learns things from his own mistakes...but I won't get down to that since the other side has no chance of defending himself here :D)
And after everything (or at least we thought) was set, we started our journey with Thessaloniki being our first stop (there are no direct connections between Skopje and Athens) where we had to kill literally all day - we arrived there early in the morning and had a train to catch at 11pm (but that was the cheapest option since the other train rides cost like twice more....and we were of course on a budget).
Killing that time in Thessaloniki turned out to be pretty easy, since Dimitris was very kind and offered to come and meet all the way from Komotini (which is like 250 km away, just FYI).
It was great to meet him (you may know that in general I haven't always had the luck of meeting a postcrosser when travelling somewhere, so each time I can it is like pure joy :))
We spent the day chilling out at the sea with some coffee (well, the Greek frappe), strolling around, plus he helped me find the Post Office so that I could mail the cards we wrote (Greece is one of those countries like Macedonia with no functional mailboxes around the city, but you have to find a Post Office and mail them either from the counter or drop them in the mailbox in front of the PO).
Well, not many of you will get a card from Thessaloniki, sorry for that, but due to the time constraints I only chose a few people whom I realized were our common friends (thank you Facebook). But most of you who have received a card can thank Dimitris for the lovely stamps (eventually I had to stock up again in Athens :P)
This is the one I sent to myself, showing a night view of St. Demetrus church (which right now I cannot recall if we saw it or not). After Dimitris left, my friend and I took one of those Free Walking Tours, but I was kinda tired and with my heavy backpack on my bag and with the heat, I honestly didn't pay much attention to what the girl was saying. However, I always recommend a Free Walking Tour if you are going somewhere...well they are not really free, but these people work for tips, so it is in their favour to actually make the tour fun and interesting, so in general they try harder :)
Dimitris and I in Thessaloniki, by the sea :)
me feeding some pigeons in the centre of Thessaloniki
something that was supposed to be coffee, but turned out much better (has ice-cream inside). I regret I didn't remember the name of the cafe, cos it was a really nice one, plus the waitress was really kind.
and now a few pictures from the trains and the train station :D
and all would have been well if our wagon wasn't doomed for this:
yeah, we were talking about a card here as well, and here come the stamps...3 fantastic ones! The first and the third one are Diving stamps from a set of 6 issued in 2015, while the middle one is from a set of 12 issued in 2014 under the name "Month of Folk Art"
Now you know that eternal nonsense between Macedonia and Greece, and I was wondering if my cards to Macedonia would suffer some damage when the postal clerk see the name Macedonia written on them (there is no such force which would make me to use FYROM) and funny enough, this card from Thessaloniki had the name of Macedonia crossed out, so that below it they would write Macedoine! I mean, is this a joke, or what??! :D What's the point here?!! I was expecting "Recognized by Greece as FYROM" or so, but why on Earth would someone just replace it with "Macedoine"?? That is like in French or?? Well I really had a good laugh over this one I must say :))))
Ok...so a few words now about our days in Athens, since that was our main destination (I didn't however sent myself a card showing Athens, but chose this Greetings from... one. Dimitris brought me a number of these so I thought it was cool to use it (those of you who had received a GF card, blame it on Dimitris :)) There were some nice cheap postcards on offer btw on the way to the Acropolis..
I've been to Athens before, though as with Thessaloniki, I couldn't remember a thing :)
If one thing can be said for sure about our few days there is that we got lost more than once, which personally didn't bother me, I mean what can I do...but my friend turned out pretty grumpy about it in the end (and just about everything in general, but oh well...lesson learned).
I'll start with the hostel - we stayed at the Zorbas Hostel and I would really recommend it to anyone staying in Athens, esp. if you are on a budget. It is nothing fancy, not much of a socializing atmosphere, but was perfect for what I needed and the stuff are super kind and friendly. We were in the 8-bed dorm and it was clean, spacious, with its own nice bathroom. And I was amazed at how considerate everyone else was in the room, when they arrived late at night or had to take off early in the morning.
We arrived like at 6 in the morning and even though we couldn't check-in, they let us have a shower - I felt reborn after it.
The hostel is like 2 minutes walk from the metro station from where you can get just anywhere in Athens, it is 15 minutes walk from the train station (which is perfect for when you arrive early in the morning, esp. if you don't know your way around Athens - this one is super easy to find).
And in the nearest vicinity there was one of the chain fast-food Restaurants called Everest, which was open 24/7 - really good coffee, tasty pies, and very reasonable prices.
When it comes to food in Athens, I would recommend:
- Koulouri - something like bagels - I tried them at this bakery called Το Κουλούρι του Ψυρρή - crunchy, tasty and ridiculously cheap (they also sold doughnuts). Again very simple ones, but tasty.
Located at Karaiskaki 23.
- Greek pies - at the Ariston Bakery - probably the best best best pies I have ever tried! Two euros a piece, but I cannot even describe how tasty they were - and so many different fillings to choose from! I had one with leek-feta cheese and one with red peppers...heavenly taste, heavenly!!
Located at oulis 10
- Falafel - again, probably the best falafel I have tried, though unlike with the pies, I haven't really tried falafel at many different places. This place was simply called Falafellas and besides the falafel they sell other things too, which I assume are as delicious as this one. What got my attention is that there was constantly a line of people waiting in front of it. There are no chairs or tables, but if you are lucky, you will find a spot on one of the nearby benches.
It is a pity I didn't think of taking pictures of the above mentioned food - here is one of the falafel (the big version) - not a decent picture, but just to give you an idea
you can find it at Aiolou 51.
And after so many salty things, time for something sweet...and I think it couldn't get sweeter than this. A place called Serbetospito - one thing's for sure, it's gonna drive you crazy coz you won't know what to choose...everything is so delightful..and in such huge portions - no diets will work here.
Here, you be the judge
you can find it at Pl. Iroon 1
In Athens I was delighted to have had the chance to meet with Despina and spend a cool evening with her under the Acropolis....drinking tsipouro :)
I like trying out new foods and drinks....and I have already tried things like Ouzo or Metaxa so I decided to choose the tsipouro from the menu (they had some Greek beers, but you know I am a party-breaker when it comes to beer).
Well, my relationship with the tsipouro won't be long-lasting..it is good, but just way too strong for my taste. I did finish the glass though but I did feel rather tipsy afterwards :)
And now the main reason I went there were Sigur Rós, whose performance was part of the Athens Release Festival. Prior to my trip to Athens, I have never heard any of the other bands performing, so of course, I gave them a try to see if I was gonna be bored or not...and to my utmost surprise, I loved them all! So I knew it was gonna be a great day/night...and it was...one of the best times of my life.
We arrived at the venue quite early...we actually wanted to visit the Pireaus before the event since it was one metro station away, but with our luck, on that day the metro didn't go all the way to Pireaus, but ended its journey at Faliro. So we ended up waiting there for a few hours but luckily that day it was cloudy and even windy, so we didn't boil under the sun. And of course I ended up in the first row! I didn't even have to fight for it :D
The festival opened with a band called Afformance - a fantastic Greek band! But they had the bad luck of playing first when there were still barely any people there. But they didnt show any disappointment or so - they were just happy to play...and I really hope that after the festival they have acquired more supporters - they really deserve it (I won't get into posting songs from each of the performers since I know this post has gotten way too long...but I do recommend you give them all a try on YouTube and maybe you will like something)
Next were Theodore and his band- if you want an emotional performance that will give you the goosebumps then you will like this. All his songs are kinda sad but not depressing. There was also a girl performing within the band and she was like a really nice touch to the overall performance.
Third on stage were DIIV - a very very cool US band, with amazing positivity on stage, esp by Andrew Bailey, the guitar player - he just wouldn't stop jumping and smiling!
At the end of the show, I took a picture, without being aware of the actual moment that a picture was being taken from the opposite side as well...btw, the guy in the blue t-shirt is the Andrew - see, still all smiling :)
...which ended up like this :D Yeah, that's me in the middle taking a picture with my phone :D The guy behind me is my friend, while the girl with the black glasses on my left is a very cool Slovenian girl I met at the festival! (who has seen Sigur Rós 8 times so far...I told her I hated her...not very polite, but just came out of me :)))
The 4th on stage were the Black Angels - another superb psychedelic rock band from the US. Their music is really powerful, their performance on stage as well, esp with all the visual effects accompanying the show. They were like the perfect intro for what was about to follow....
And finally, there were Sigur Rós...no pictures, no words could describe their performance. Sigur Rós are simply out of this world and so unique and incomparable to anything else. I know their music is specific and not for everyone's ears but really people, what you will experience at a Sigur Rós performance, you will not experience it anywhere else. To make things even more perfect, it started raining - rain at concerts is usually not welcomed, but here, the rain was a perfect addition to the overall emotional overwhelming feeling. I was shocked, I was speechless, I was crying - I really wasn't prepared for what I had experienced - and this made the whole trip more than worthwhile and one of the best decisions in my life.
I don't have much experience in uploading my own videos here, so hopefully this will work...Sigur Rós performing Sæglópur live in the rain - that person shouting her lungs out is me (well, I am the one recording this so I am shouting into my own phone, what can I do :))
Before the festival I loved Sigur Rós - after it, I also fell in love with them.
(if the video doesn't work, I will eventually upload it to YouTube and take it from there).
Ok, so that was like the day before the last...and in the morning there was some strike on the subway until like 10 am...so the next day I jokingly asked the receptionist if there was some strike again...he checked things online and said like, subway is working, buses are working..so it is all fine - well the railway is not working but you don't need that anyway.....wait wait wait!!! WHAT????!!!!! What do you mean I don't need that anyway??That's the thing we need the most cos we are leaving tonight!!!!! Ermm...he got confused and said that they were on strike until late in the evening so we should go and check directly...oh boy, doesn't sound good.
So we go to the railway station (thank God it is nearby the hostel) there are some notifications, all in Greek, but there are some kind people around to explain things....and things are as follows - there is a strike like every three hours...so for three hours there are trains running, then in the next three hours everything is on stand by...BUT the rule doesn't apply to ALL the trains from Athens to Thessaloniki - there will be NONE in the next three days! Perfect, just perfect! :D I just couldn't believe it honestly, despite the fact that I often hear that somebody in the Greek transport is on strike :)
So, what to do...well first, finish writing the postcards of course, hell with the strike and all :)
Then we had to decide if we were gonna stay for 3 more days or find a bus back to Thessaloniki. Personally I didn't feel like staying for 3 more days cos that would have turned out more expensive on the overall (the train company said we would have our money reimbursed, and we really did after a few days), so in the end, the 43 euros bus ticket to Thessaloniki was the cheaper option than staying for three more days (for comparison, the return train ticket was 30 euros...)
Again, all is well that ends well...we got back home safe and sound....and even though a number of things didn't go as planned, I had a fantastic time! Fantastic!
Here are two more pictures for the end of this post, with some cool street-art from Athens:
and of course, the stamp (if you have survived up to here :))
one more from the Diving series - and as you can see, no issues with Macedonia on this one...go figure :)
Again, I would like to wholeheartedly thank Dimitris and Despina for taking their time to spend time with me - I really really appreciate it, esp. since I always love to hang out with the locals. I hope to see you again in the future! :)