From Thessaloniki to Crete

So I’d decided to stay in Thessaloniki only a day and then fly down to the island of Crete from there. However, the best plane deal I could find was either extremely early in the morning, or in the early evening. I opted to go for the evening and give myself a few more hours to enjoy Thessaloniki before I left.

This turned out to be a pretty good decision with the holiday the day before, as that meant I wasn’t able to see any museums or monuments from the inside.

The morning of my last day I woke up and had some breakfast at my hostel before leavign my bags and heading down the hill into the main part of the city. I decided to start with the Rotunda for my explorations.

One of the things Thessaloniki is famed for is it’s very beautiful early Christian art. Indeed, as I stepped into the rotunda I could understand why.

The structure was built in Roman times but was then taken over to become a Christian church. Later it was converted into a mosque and the beautiful mosaics were covered over. Thankfully the plaster wasn’t damaging, and today most of it has been chipped away to reveal the beauty underneath.

It was truly beautiful, not a really time consuming site by any means, but definitely one worth seeing.

After leaving the Rotunda I headed down the hill towards the archaeological museum.

I decided to go ahead and purchase a pass that would get me into multiple other locations in the city, hoping it would be worth my while.

The museum itself had quite a few nice artifacts. I really enjoyed my time there. However, it was not laid out very well and I was scolded my staff once or twice for going in a wrong way. Could use better signage.

After the archaeology museum I headed to the museum of Byzantine culture, also on my pass. The museum was in a lovely modern building that curved around up the levels to allow you to see everything. The only problem was it was completely empty. I know it was lunchtime, but still… there were no other tourists. Which made me feel very self-conscious let me tell you.

Once I’d finished awkwardly perusing I headed over to the White Tower. I had a pass to go up it as well and since I still had plenty of time I opted to do that.

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I took an audioguide, but it ended up taking forever since ALL of the signs were in Greek and the audioguide simply translated. I’m a pretty fast reader so it was a pain to stand there and listen when I could have just skimmed on my own. Regardless the tower was still fun, and it had very nice views of the surrounding areas which I enjoyed seeing.


Down at the bottom I decided to start heading back to my hostel to grab my bags. I was worried about being late for my flight, so I opted to leave early.

I walked back up the hill and had the staff call me a taxi so I could save some time and not have to worry about a foreign bus I didn’t know how to use.

I climbed in and my taxi driver had to navigate the confusing maze of streets on the hill. He nearly got stuck three or four times. Definitely was some swearing in Greek I’m pretty sure. Anyhow, after a little bit of frustration we did get off and head on the way to the airport.

I arrived and went in, deciding I’d just head straight through security to save myself any worries. I soon found this was a poor decision.

The waiting room for all the gates had a small amount of seats, some bathrooms, one tiny coffee shop, and a little convenience store. There was no wifi. And there were no power outlets anywhere to be found. For such a major city I was shocked. But I forget of course that I come from a wealthier country, and this was one time I simply had to accept that things aren’t always the same in other places.

Finally I was on my flight. It was filled with a bunch of noisy teenagers who kept bumping my seat, but thankfully it wasn’t all that long. And there were complimentary beverages which I always appreciate (especially on the cheapy European flights that I’m not as used to).

I arrived in Crete in the early evening. I exited the airport and went to find the bus to get to my hostel. Thankfully I found it and there was even a man there who spoke some English and was able to tell me which bus I needed to take.

I found Crete’s bus system (at least in Heraklion) was pretty good overall. They had ticket machines at a lot of stops, so it was easy to purchase a ticket, and then you just stepped on and handed the driver it and pulled it so it ripped. The buses also usually announced stops, both in Greek and English, though this wasn’t always working. I took a seat and waited the long thirty minute ride out to Amoudara, a beach area in Crete slightly outside of Heraklion.

I’d debated about where to stay in the city. I’d considered just doing an AirBnB but those were much more expensive than a hostel. Unfortunately the only hostel in Heraklion didn’t have stellar reviews, so I opted instead to go to a place outside the city center and risk wasting time on transport. Besides, it had a pool and was close to the beach, so what more could I want?

I arrived at Manos Studios and was greeted by a very friendly man who ran the place. He told me since it was the off season I was going to have a room all to myself (normally reserved for six girls). I was delighted. I also found as it wasn’t a “hostel” persay it had a full kitchen attached. Needless to say I was very pleased.

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I then went off to find dinner. There was a restaurant right across the street and I was told they had decent fare. Sure enough I ordered a plate of a variety of Greek specialties to try. It was huge, but I was very hungry (having not eaten since breakfast) so I wolfed it down while sipping at a fresh squeezed orange juice.

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After enjoying my meal I went over to the little supermarket next door and purchased things for breakfast the next morning and then went back to my room. I lounged by the pool for a bit, but it was too cool to swim. I decided I’d try that the next morning.

I went to bed early and enjoyed not having to deal with noisy roommates. It was a lovely change.

Off to Thessaloniki

So I woke early to get going out of my hostel. I had breakfast first, a surprisingly filling fare for an included meal. Waffles and scrambled eggs, meats, cheeses, olives, fruits, bread, spreads, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, juice, and water. My word what a feast! I ate my fill before checking out.

I debated calling a cab to get to the bus station. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been very expensive, but I had overestimated my time so I had a good hour left until my bus was leaving, so I opted to walk.

I used thirty minutes to get to the station. I was already a little confused stepping in. A  lot of the signs were only in the cyrillic script of Bulgarian. So I thankfully found the desk of the bus company I booked and asked them where I should be.

They spoke enough English to help and got me to my platform in time to hop on my bus.

While it was a bit confusing and not a lot of directions were given in English, the bus itself was quite nice. Decently comfy seats, chargers, and even wifi (though you had to ask for directions on that…and I really didn’t care that much as T-Mobile was still providing me with cell service), plus screens to watch tv in Bulgarian if you desired. And then even more surprisingly the driver came through with snacks and drinks that were apparently all included. Yay for that.

We had one stop in the middle to use toilets (aka holes in the ground) and buy snacks if we wanted before getting back on the bus.

The only other stop we made was at the border. I was a bit scared because the border guard just took my passport from me and left the bus. He was going to get it stamped, but for a moment I was afraid I wasn’t going to get it back since I was one of the few non EU people on the bus.

Thankfully he did bring it back with a new stamp making it clear that I’d been to Greece! Yay for more passport stamps.

Now the last part is the confusing one. I’m pretty sure I got off at the wrong stop.

The bus did stop a few places to pick up passengers, but the driver never said anything.

In Thessaloniki (yes I could see on the map on my phone) the driver turned and said something. Since I could see we were in the town, albeit about fifteen minutes early I climbed off, even though most passengers appeared to still be sitting there.

Well, the bus station that I’d googled prior to arriving was maybe a 3 kilometer walk from my hostel. That wasn’t ideal but was doable. With the holiday I knew it was unlikely I’d be able to get a bus. The station I was at was much further, so not possibly walkable, or at least not if I wanted time and energy to see the city.

Thankfully I had a list of directions for a taxi driver, so they were able to understand where I needed to go. So I opted to just grab a cab.

It wasn’t exorbitant and saved me time so I was glad I’d done it when the driver dropped me at the bottom of the road my hostel was on.


I climbed up the steps to Little Big House, the most adorable hostel I’ve ever stayed in. It was perched up in this quiet little neighborhood on a hill overlooking the city. When I went inside it got even better. One of the women running it greeted me. She made me a coffee on the house (iced after my long climb) and then walked me through all there was to see in the city before taking me up to my room.

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I sunscreened and changed into a skirt to be a little cooler. In Greece most women don’t wear shorts, but you see plenty of tourists doing it anyways. But for my first few days there I did try to be authentic and dress more modestly. Makes it easier if you want to go into any churches too.

Ready for the sun and heat I set out to walk further up the hill to the Trigonian Tower, a part of ramparts surrounding the city. I admired the views and walked over to a church that was supposedly founded by the Apostle Paul. It wasn’t open, but I enjoyed walking around the outside.

Since it was a holiday, most things were closed, but the fun thing was there were a lot of people out and about. There was music and just a variety of things going on in the city. I enjoyed seeing some of that along the walls and down at Pasha’s Gardens, which weren’t all that pretty but did have nice atmosphere with lots of people gathering. I snapped some photos and walked down the hill towards the city center.

There was a free tour leaving from the rotunda, so I opted to join that. There were only a few other people there, and I soon discovered why. It’s probably the worst free tour I’ve ever had. Not really all that interesting, kind of mundane all in all. I knew it was bad when most people just skipped out at the end instead of leaving a tip.

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Still it did show me some of the major parts of the city that weren’t open at the time anyways. So that was good.

Afterwards I headed back up the hill to a place where I remembered my hostel had said was good food. On top of having really good cuisine, they also had a lovely view of the city. As the sun was going down I was able to watch and then see the lights go on for the city walls.

A cat came to join me for dinner, they are all over Greece, so I soon became used to them, but I thought it was amusing at the time.

I had stuffed grape leaves for an appetizer, and then a plate of meatballs and potatoes with a yogurt sauce. And they even brought me a small dessert free of charge at the end (apparently this is common in a lot of restaurants… or at least the ones I visited). All in all I was quite pleased.

I headed back to my hostel to relax for the rest of the evening. Had some good conversations with two of my roommates from Germany and Belgium. It’s always awesome to meet fellow travelers from all over the place.