A bus trip to Thessaloniki
02 October 2019 | Porto Lagos - 8,263 NM
Lorraine Chapman | Hot and Still
A very pleasant 20 NM downwind motorsail past a couple of oil rigs took us to Ormos Eleftheriou. We had to come here as it’s Rita’s (Paul’s sister) family name. It’s a beautiful, big horseshoe shaped bay with small islands dotted about it, a few smaller bays plus a castle and sandy beaches. After dropping the anchor in a sheltered bay we went ashore which was a bit disappointing as it’s a modern resort full of modern apartments and trendy bars where they served us the most expensive drinks we’ve had in the Aegean! Pleasant but nothing interesting but we had a nice peaceful night even though we’re next to a big fishing port.
After breakfast we moved 1.5 miles to the other, less sheltered, side of the bay and anchored below the castle. We paddled ashore in the dinghy and climbed the hill to the entrance. It was free but there wasn’t a lot left apart from the walls but atmospheric nonetheless in its position on the side of the hill. Back to the boat for coffee before motoring (not even a hint of wind!) 7 miles to Kavala port. Kavala is a sizeable city on the coast of mainland Greece with a lot of history. We moored alongside on a long pontoon with views of the citadel and aqueduct - lovely. A short walk before dinner found a clean, tidy and maintained waterside with everything we need close by although our drinks were even more expensive than the last ones!
More exploring in the morning took us around the port to the huge aqueduct which looks authentically Roman but was actually built by the Ottomans in the Roman style and on the site of a Roman one. It is spectacular whoever built it! Next we wound up the steep narrow streets of the old town to the castle on the top for amazing views of the city below and over to Thassos. The citadel has been rebuilt many times over the years. Most of what can be seen today is Ottoman but remains from Greek and Roman periods can be seen below. Going down the other side of the hill through the old town there is the house of Mohamed Ali who ruled in the Ottoman period and a palace which is now a hotel which looks amazing from the boat. Both are open to the public but closed the day we were there!
Thessalonika is only 2 hours from Kavala by bus but much further by sea. We decided to go by bus as the end of summer was approaching and we really wanted to see Greece’s second city and so we were up early in the morning and off to the bus station. It was a lovely journey across the top of the three fingers of Halkidiki and passing lakes which seem to almost cut them off altogether. We managed to find our hotel on public transport which was lovely and although there were lots of other hotels in the area we weren’t sure why as it wasn’t convenient for anything! We walked miles around grimey, crowded, congested, manic streets but it was very interesting - a bit like Rome there are ruins around every corner. It has so much history and so many different cultures. We knew that Larry and Linda (without Debbie who’d gone home) were there and so we arranged to meet them on our first evening and had a lovely meal in a pedestrian, trendy area near the docks filled with bars and tavernas.
First stop the next morning was the White Tower, the symbol of Thessaloniki. On the way we walked through shopping areas, wonderful markets and the grand Aristotle Square. We were a little underwhelmed by the remaining tower but there were boat trips around the harbour in various reconstructions of old ships - and free for the price of an overpriced drink but still a bargain. We boarded our galleon and it was a very pleasant hour and a chance to see the city skyline from the sea. There is a city tour bus run by the bus company charging 2€ right next to the usual red buses charging a lot more. It was a long way up to the castle and so we found the bus stop at 1.50 and found the bus was due at 2.00 - perfect. 20 minutes later we were still there, ummm. 40 minutes later and we were still there and having not had lunch we thought we’d give up and we negotiated 2 busy roads of manic traffic only to see the bus stopped at the traffic lights - we took our life in our hands to retrace our steps only to sit on the bus until 3.00! The tour was awful with the conductor reading from a guide book and talking over the top of a recording which came in between his ramblings in part sentences and neither made sense! Anyway we got to the top of the city and to the citadel where we started with a much needed souvlaki lunch. Walking up through the old town we came to the castle which was an interesting star shape and was used as a prison until the 1980s. Walking back down we had great views all over the city and bay as we followed the city walls stopping to visit a few churches on route. We are a bit churched out but there were some beautiful Byzantine churches in the city. By the time we got back to the bottom everything was closing and we were exhausted and so we walked back to our hotel and collapsed with a bottle of wine and peanuts from the mini bar!
In the morning we continued our tour with the Byzantine church of St Dimitrios built in the 7th century and held a relic of the saint in a silver casket. It was a beautiful church but also had a much older crypt underneath holding pillars, fonts etc from a previous age. Next was the Rotunda built in 306AD and very similar to the Pantheon in Rome - amazing that the whole building is still standing and it’s been in constant use all of that time. Close by was the triumphal arch of Galerius which celebrated his victories with carvings clearly still visible and led to his palace and the Rotunda. And finally the ruins of the palace itself surrounded by the modern high rise apartments! There was much more including the ruins of the huge Roman agora but too much to include - a fascinating city if a bit to manic after life on the islands. Time to get the bus back to a Kavala.