Greece was never on my list of countries I HAD to go to be honest. I thought Greece would be islands, blue skies, blue water, whitewashed buildings in blazing sunlight and copious amount of feta cheese. Nothing wrong with that scenario, but honestly not enough to make me really want to go. But when I got invited by Marketing Greece to visit Thessaloniki and Halkidiki I didn't say no either, mainly because I was on serious diving withdrawal by then and really wanted to photograph a Greek fisherman with a wrinkly, wise face. In lieu of that a kitten on a weathered blue chair would do. As you can see, even a seasoned traveler might have nothing but Lonely Planet fantasies in her head...
Of course on top of these cliches, I got a whole list of smart ass questions and “advice” to travel to Greece right now. Comments like "Take cash, preferably gold!" and "Do they still have money to buy kerosene to get you there?" was mixed with the usual travel envy that accompanies my trips when the weather in Hamburg is crappy.
What to see in Thessaloniki?
I think just to piss me off Greece decided to defy the cliches I had in my head and show me a different side: instead of 50 shades of blue I got the good old' 50 shades of grey. It rained pretty much all the time and even when it wasn't raining big moody clouds hung over the city and the question was looming - what to see in Thessaloniki when the weather is grey? That weather was behaving like this was apparently uncommon for June and so unexpected that even our hosts had arrived completely unprepared, clad only in polo-shirts.
Luckily I have a golf-loving father who taught me early that the saying 'a golfer knows no bad weather only bad clothing' applies to most situations in life. With that in mind, we shared cardigans, bathrobes, umbrellas and went out to explore the grey city and followed our Thessaloniki guide along - plenty of rain and no shine.
Thessaloniki is gritty and I liked it. Ancient ruins mix with street art and left over Christmas decoration. Sidewalks are crumbling and while the city doesn't lack character on its own, the clouds gave it even more atmosphere. There was nothing blue and nothing whitewashed – not even the White Tower held true to its name. Mind you, its nondescript brownish stones are probably a big improvement to being covered in blood as it used to be during its time as a prison and execution ground. It is still one of the things to see in Thessaloniki and the spooky history just makes it better.
The whole city landscape was less than picture perfect and in this lied its perfect charm. It got even more charming once we wound our way up to the Castle of Thessaloniki, the Heptapyrgion, whose walls date back to 4th century A.D. From there one would technically have a beautiful view over the old city all the way up to the harbor in the distance which is so nice that it is usually a preferred first date spot. When we were up there the rain added romance but clouded the view - a lose-lose situation as I wasn't there to snuggle but to take pictures of the vista.
In lieu of sunshine, I decided to start a storm clouds over Thessaloniki series instead and drink more Ouzo to keep me warm, because that's what a Greek would do (or so I told myself). After all, the saying When in Rome... should actually have been called When in Greek... considering that they are so much older and wiser.
Where to stay in Thessaloniki to keep dry and warm? Try for a hotel along the promenade for best (cloudy) views and check here for the best deals for hotels in Thessaloniki, Greece. Need some beach time afterwards? Check out my favorite hotel in Halkidiki here and book a room at Ekies All Senses Resort, Halkidiki.