Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
154Trip End Sep 11, 2009
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Where I stayed
The bus trip from Istanbul to Thessaloniki, Greece is scheduled at 11 hours. But it can be less, it seems, if there are no customers for some of the locales along the way. So, this trip seemed to take something between 9 and a half to 10 hours. But, who's counting?
In Thessaloniki the driver came to a stop in a back street dirt parking lot
I came to an equally busy cross street, and I must have seen a hotel sign or two to my right, so I went that way. They looked like pretty expensive places, so I headed off into some back streets, hopeing for something a little more declase. But it was a neighborhood of automotive repair shops, so I went back to the main street and crossed it to investigate the back streets on the other side. Nothing there either, and I was losing my patience, so I came back around to the main street and entered the first hotel I came to, The Rex. (Shades of Oedipus Rex, come to think of it).
The Rex was in keeping with the kind of place I had been staying at in Turkey. Except for the bathroom being shared. But, it was next to my room, and clean. So, no problem for me. The problem was I was now dealing in the Euro currency, and a more expensive, mainline european country.
After a shower I headed for the sea front in search of a fish dinner . . . . passing a "striptease" club close by the hotel. Oh, so that's the part of town I was in! I got to wondering, Who wants to be teased? I know I don't.
I was surprised to find--at least as far as I cared to look, now after dark--the restaurants and cafes were not on the sea front at all, but ranged up the streets away from the waterfront, which seemed to be given over to industrial use
The next morning at breakfast there was a fellow at a near by table, and this time I broke my mold and asked him if he spoke English. He did, being from New York. I asked him how he came to choose the Rex Hotel. He said he chose it from the internet, and that it seemed to him the best of the cheapies. So I guess I lucked out there.
After breakfast I headed, as was told, back along the main street, into the heart of the city, in search for a tourist information office, and further information as to the location of the Ataturk House. I also needed to find the bus company's office and secure plans for returning to Turkey the following day. I couldn't find a TI office, so I stopped into a travel agency. There the lady gave me a better city map, and indicated where the bus company office was. The friendliness of the people in Thessalonika was beginning to asuage my bad feelings from Athens.
Then something happened. Walking along I chanced to be passing The Pilgrims' Bureau of the Holy Executive of the Holy Mount Athos
Well, back to the story. The sandwich board was noting a exhibit of photographs of Mount Athos taking place upstairs in the building. I have had long-term plans to visit Mount Athos, but hadn't given it a recent thought until this moment. It seemed like an opportune time to get some information towards a visit, as I was aware that visitors are limited in number, and a visit requires a visa obtained some considerable time in advance.
A young fellow in the office spoke English very well, and informed me that the lead time for a visa was about six months. I immediately started to think March, 2009, to see the place in spring bloom.
As we were walking out into a little garden behind the building I took the opportunity to ask him if he knew where the Ataturk House was
I can't remember the course of the conversation. But it was about Mount Athos, and of N.A.'s musical family. He knew quite a lot about both. Before long he was leading me upstairs to the picture exhibit, about which, I was to learn later, he was something of a spokesman.
After an introduction, and as I began to view the beautiful photographs, N.A. began to sing. It was a Greek, probably Byzantine, song appropriate to the pictures. I took out my camera and asked to record him before the pictures. He had no objection. It was beautiful. And there was a slight ringing echo enhancing the sound of his voice and seemed quite appropriate altogether.
As we parted N.A. offered to assist me when I applied for my visa to become a "pilgrim" (perhaps) to Mount Athos. He also hinted at the possibility of a visit together.
Neither N.A. or the other fellow knew where the Ataturk House was; but they knew it was pretty close to the Pilgrims' Bureau offices. And soon after leaving the offices I spied an internet cafe, and I suspected I could Google for some more precise information.
I did indeed find the address, and it turned out to be about two blocks from the internet cafe! And, while I was on-line I checked my email. There was mail from my friend Pete, with pictures of my former car--a PT Cruiser--that he and his son bought from me, and had just finished waxing.
Within two hours of recieving that email, I passed and photographed in Thessaloniki a PT Cruiser that looked exactly like my old car--same color and everything! It wasn't waxed, though.
I was admitted in to the Turkish Consulate grounds, which now include the Ataturk House. . . . or, it's the other way around, I suppose. A minder patiently attended to my visit to this great man's birthplace.
Upon leaving there my thoughts turned to the evening meal. And it occurred to me--finally--that if I invited N.A. to dine with me he would assure that I got a proper Greek seafood meal. So I returned to the offices of the Pilgrims' Bureau of the Holy Executive of the Holy Mount Athos. N.A. had meanwhile gone to the university, from which he soon returned, sweating, to deliver an introduction to the phograph exhibit to a group of college students from Texas. And, after which, N.A. accepted my dinner invitation.
He softly sang as we walked around and while we ate.
One thing I saw that I particularly liked. In Thessaloniki there are outdoor cafes everywhere. And, near the seafront there was one that particularly appealed to me. It was like an outdoor living room. And it was very large. It was under an awning. All of the chairs were in-home style easy chairs, in conversational clusters. And between them, best of all, tables and lamps! It was a really cozy looking venue. Unfortunately, by the time we passed, N.A. and I had wrapped up our evening's outting together.