A few notes about my road trips:
- My Fulbright grant does not cover any of these trips. I pay for everything myself.
- I notify the Embassy in advance whenever I will be away from Kosova.
- Since out-of-country trips are not covered, I always take out supplemental insurance.
- Several of these trips have been long-weekends that coincided with University and/or American holidays.
- I have not missed any classes or University responsibilities to take these trips.
Skopje to Thessaloniki
To celebrate the end of classes and my production, I took a long-weekend trip to Thessaloniki. I had never been to Greece, and this seemed the best choice given my time and financial resources.
To go to Thessaloniki from Prishtina, we go through Macedonia rather than Serbia to avoid border crossing issues. A bus from Prishtina to Skopje takes 2-3 hours and costs 5€ each way. From Skopje, there is a 6:00 bus that leaves every morning from the central autobus station and takes 4-5 hours, depending on the border. The bus is not full-size, and the resulting ride is considerably rougher than most. (Don’t plan on a nap.) The cost is 20€ for one-way of 25€ for a return (round-trip). Note: Sundays now have been added to the schedule. This early departure effectively means that you must spend the night in Skopje the night before (as well as another night on the return), if you are taking the bus to and from Prishtina. I usually can find a decent hotel for appr $50/night. Also note that Greece is in another time zone: add +1 hour on arrival.
For information and reservations:
- For Skopje to Thessaloniki, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- For Thessaloniki to Skopje, e-mail: email@example.com
For pictures from my “night before” in Skopje, please visit my album on Facebook:
Also known as Salonika and Saloniki, Thessaloniki is the second largest city in Greece and a major tourist destination. This is a huge port city with a history that spans over 2300 years, during which time, much of its architecture has been damaged by wars, earthquakes, and fires. What remains provides a fascinating visual history of its Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman past.
Walking around Thessaloniki can be downright confusing, particularly when the signs are only in Greek. Asking for directions is hit-and-miss…all misses for me my first afternoon trying to locate my hotel. What helped me was having a simple map and then knowing a few main streets and their landmarks that run parallel to the seawall (Leoforus Nikis), most importantly:
- Egnatias Street with the Arch of Galerias (Kamara)
- Agiou Dimitiriou with St. Demetrius Church (Aghios Dimitrios)
For my entire visit, I went everywhere on foot. When I got lost, I’d walk to the nearest historic landmark and locate it on my map. I also discovered that (usually) you walk downhill toward the seawall and uphill toward the Roman ruins.
- It was hot, and I wore shorts and t-shirts everyday. I also wore good walking shoes or my Tevas.
- Most churches and historic sites are free and open during the day and some into the night. No problems with wearing shorts or taking pictures as long as there is no service going on.
- Many of these sites are closed on Mondays. The museums are smaller than I expected but still worth the 4€ average entry fee.
- There is no beach or swimming close to downtown, but there is the beautiful sea, the seawall, and beautiful sunsets.
- There are great restaurants and nightlife in the Ladadika neighborhood near the port.
- Food was more expensive than most of the Balkans but still significantly less than most of western Europe.
- I couldn’t find any public WCs (bathrooms), so I relied on coffee shops and restaurants.
- I got lots of bug bites, mainly around my ankles and, presumably, from mosquitoes.
Most of my commentary about specific sites and experiences are attached to my pictures. In three days, I took over 500 photos but posted fewer than 100. Here are the links to my photo albums on Facebook:
Return to Skopje and Prishtina
The return trip to Skopje was grueling: almost 5 hours on a mid-size bus with no air-conditioning…and it was 91 degrees outside when we left. Even worse, the young Macedonian woman seated behind me talked on and on about how much she disdained Americans and Kosovars, yet she was with two American friends…and she works at a hostel in Skopje. Egads. Fortunately, the young Macedonian woman seated in front of me was lovely: she spoke intelligently and thoughtfully about everything and everyone. And I sat beside an American man who teaches in Turkey and had just begun a 10-week, non-scheduled trip through the Balkans.
For the first time, the return bus to Prishtina the next morning was not Albus’ full-size bus, but instead was a 22-passenger tourist shuttle not suited at all for full-sized adults. I spent 2 1/2 hours seated side-saddle, thinking about past and future (?) visits to the chiropractor .
But, we made it back. Somehow, tomorrow always comes.
For several weeks, I’ve had my plane tickets and hotel reservations for a late-June trip to Athens. My plan is to base there for a week as I visit several ancient theaters in central Greece to take photos and record video for my classes back in the U.S. This will be a research trip rather than personal R&R. It also will be much hotter…
and after the June 17 elections. What will happen next for Greece and its economic future I cannot predict, although I have heard through the proverbial grapevine that a new government will exit the Eurozone and do so quickly. If this happens, then my Athens visit may be upset, particularly if there are violent outbreaks. Whether or not I make it to Athens matters not one iota when compared to the fate of this beautiful, historic, and noble country.
Dimitrios is the patron saint–and protector–of this city. May his intercessions help protect this entire county from the troubles that await.