Bulgaria & Turkey, November 2001 Travelogue
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Monday, Nov. 12th, 2001

I set my alarm for 8am, and despite a restless night, I got up and made the 10am train for Thessaloniki. My previous experience in Thessaloniki was a tense one; it was where Tara and I were (incorrectly) warned about not being able to get through Romania without visas. We ran around for 3 hours with our backpacks, trying to sort it out, making for a 30-hour tension-rich voyage. This time I had all the time in the world & was ready for explore the city at my leisure.

On the train I sat in the wrong seat (in first class, heh heh) at first, and then got yelled at for putting my luggage in the place clearly marked "don't block this vent" in Greek. These two events had the fortunate circumstance of revealing that the girl sitting next to me spoke English. We sat and exchanged stories on the 5 hour voyage up the Greek mainland. She studied music and was on her way to see a teacher of hers sing in "Carmen".

I was quite happy to speak English to someone. The day before I had only said about 10 words, and that gets old fast.

Eleni was a little embarrassed to be found reading the third Harry Potter book, she blamed it on her younger sister.

I showed her my photos from the day before and she helped me translate the "Greek Mac" description. She didn't know what the white stuff was that I stepped in, but she said when she was little she rode her bicycle into a mound of it! She said she went in head first and cried the whole way home.

When we got to Thessaloniki we said goodbye and I tromped off with my backpack. At the hotel closest to the train station rooms were $35, so I kept looking. Unfortunately I looked in the wrong direction, walking for almost an hour before finding the Hotel Anessis. My single room was $31.

My room had a TV. set, and nearly every channel was showing the same clip of smoke climbing into the sky. An American Airlines jet had crashed in New York, and the CNN audio was being dubbed over in Greek. It was very frustrating, but eventually I learned about the engine falling off, so I chalked it up to mechanical failure.

After I got settled in, I set off to find internet access and dinner, and found both. I was a little nervous about getting lost in town, because of the way the local roads crossed at uneven angles.

My first impression was that the town was pretty dreary. I was in a part of town where all of the mechanics shops and car parts were. There were many, many signs for video-game parlors: TV GAMES. There were also a couple of brothels, patrolled by unenticing door-women.

I grabbed dinner at a chain restaurant called "kip". I had a single beer and it went right to my head. I walked around town a little after it got dark, but was fading quickly. I made a genuine effort to stay up past 7pm, but failed.

Greek countryside & Eleni's profile

Auto lights and accessories in Thessaloniki

Paper Mache Chef

Across the street from S&M FAG

The line for Splash mountain was too long,
so I came to this old standby.

City streets at night

"TV games" and "hobby games" were all over town

Tuesday, Nov. 13th, 2001

So at 2am I am awake, flipping channels to see if I can find out what happened in New York, but everything is in Greek still, and the special news flashes are over.

I watched Penn and Teller in some comedy from the 80's about a limousine driver and the billionaire's son she falls in love with. Then I watched Gorillaz videos.

Eventually I turned off the television and got back to bed.

I woke up and hit the town. It was a little cooler than Athens, and drizzly. I ate another Tslouvaki at another sidewalk eatery. It is fun to hand my camera to someone and watch them bring it right up to their face, then move it away, then move it around, watching the little display, and eventually take the picture. It is fun to watch...I hope they like it.

Across the street was a post office, so I took advantage and mailed my first batch of souvenirs home. Next, thinking "exit strategy", I tried to figure out where the train station was. It took a lot of walking, but I found it. By this time it was almost noon, so I had to check out of my hotel and beg them to keep my backpack until my train left at 10pm.

10 hours to kill in Thessaloniki. I knew from Eleni that there was a white tower somewhere in town, but when I asked people where it was, they always told me to take a taxi. I was sure, given 10 hours, I could walk there. I resorted to drawing my own map on paper and bought a postcard with a photo of the tower on it.

Finally I had success, a woman told me "it is too far to walk, but if you walk downstairs (downhill), you can see it" Downhill led to the beach, and sure enough there is was, about a half-mile down the coast. This was the part of town where all the little cafes and restaurants were.

I went to the tower and climbed to the top, just in time for it to start raining. In the tower there was a small museum showing Byzantine life.

There was a nice little internet cafe nearby, so I ducked in and waited out the rain. It felt very luxurious to be there, drinking cappuccino and reading the news. I can just visit my favorite sites: yahoo news, cardhouse, fark, and really feel like I am back home. The rain was a good excuse to stay there for more than an hour. The two guys next to me were playing Diablo 2 online. I checked to see if Return to Castle Wolfenstien was loaded.

The rain let up and I peeled myself from the computer screen. I walked to this empty festival area with an Olympic theme. I couldn't get into the TV tower though.

Back along the seafront, there were a few ships coming to port, but only one containerized ship. I am fascinated with those things.

Walking south towards the port, I came across some grand activity which turned out to be the 42nd annual Thessaloniki film festival. Nothing was starting immediately, but I got tickets to see Mobeus, an Argentinean? film by Tonia Marketaki.

Plenty of people were out despite the intermittent rainfall. I ate a club sandwich at a American-style chain restaurant called Goodies, with a medium coke. It was 420 ml. This struck me as tiny, probably because at Carl's Jr in the US, the small coke is 649 ml, a couple of ounces larger than the Goodies' MAXI coke.

After eating I headed to the movie and met the big "artsy" crowd waiting for a Cassevetti film to start. I got a great seat and got to see my first set of double-subtitles, one in English and another in Greek.

The film was alright. Not super, but not bad either. About 9 phones rang during the movie, which actually surprised me considering these were supposed film snobs.
I found a discarded umbrella on the way to the hotel to pick up my bag. I got to the train station with an hour to wait and sat reading until my train arrived. I had a sleeper car all to myself! I met my neighbors, a Spanish guy and a Greek guy, also on their way to Bulgaria, also excited about not having to share their room.

An expanded-foam animal on the spit

Tslouvaki and a Coke at sidewalk cafe

motorcycle-truck thing

This terrorist left his moped for a moment,
so I got a photo.

Next to Greek Political Heroes

Bare lightbulbs at the farmer's market

The White Tower of Thessaloniki

At the film festival lobby

In my private sleeper car to Sofia

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Read my other travelogues: Minneapolis 2001 | Burning Man 2001 | Europe 1999 | Costa Rica 2000

Back to main Cockeyed | Write to Rob@Cockeyed.com Last updated November 15th, 2001.
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