A Roman Holiday in Greece

Our week in Greece was almost a vacation from our vacation in Italy. It sounds silly, but the two seemingly similar countries could not have felt more different.

The first day was quiet. We slept in late Sunday after our long day in Rome, ate a late lunch, tried — and failed — to go grocery shopping in a deserted city on the Sabbath, and watched the sunset over the Mediterranean by the marina downtown.

Trevor and I chose Thessaloniki because of its renowned nightlife, booming restaurant scene and overall budget friendliness as Greece’s second largest city dedicated to student-life. What we found, however, was that the entire city was on summer break.

We were told that city-dwellers leave for the beach during the summer, as most of the recommended shops, bakeries and restaurants we were hoping to patron had signs indicating dates of return after the summer holiday — which also happened to be the date of our flight back to the U.S. [Insert the tears of a sweet-tooth gal in withdrawal]

Petty complaints aside, we had an incredible week sampling small plates of kafta, grilled tomatoes, bougatsa pie and juicy feta cheese until we couldn’t handle another bite. Then of course, as is customary, every restaurant included a plate of complimentary ice cream with the check. Sweet-tooth, restored.

If I catalogued each day of this trip, you’d be unsurprised to learn that we spent so much time eating in between our explorations of the city’s historical monuments. Who could blame us? Did you even see my food pics at the top of this post?

We explored the Old City, distinguished by its ancient walls and perforated with stunning views of the ocean miles down below; it’s the only section of Thessaloniki that survived a catastrophic fire in 1917. The newer sections of the city are built around the ancient Greek and Roman marketplaces, and are basically strings of restaurants, bars and and more Zaras than you can imagine. 

On Tuesday, we accidentally ended up at a nude beach, and not one of the romantic locales advertised in Oia — just a 100-meter stretch of sand hosting three of the tannest men I have ever regretted encountering (American president not included). Needless to say, we walked quickly past, until we found a family-friendly spot, but Trevor didn’t hesitate to document for his expectant Snapchat audience.

As it turns out, Thessaloniki is exactly what I needed — a chance to eat and explore at our own pace, a week for our bank accounts to rebound from all the Italian wine and cheese, and a space where people assumed we were anything but American (all the thanks to our Mediterranean genes).

I’d absolutely go back again, but probably later in the fall next time, so we can see what the city looks and feels like at full capacity.

Until then, I’ll be working on my posts about Mount Olympus and Athens — stay tuned!