On the morning of my only full day in Thessaloniki, I started talking to some Australian guys at my hostel breakfast. They started the conversation by comment on my hot pink Lilly Pulitzer shorts, and I just laughed and said “Florida.”
We ended up hitting it off quite well and they mentioned they were going to Mount Olympus for the day and asked if I’d like to join them. I decided to go! I was so excited to be invited because I’d really wanted to go to Mount Olympus, but it’s really hard to get to even with a car, and I wasn’t ready to rent a car and drive in Greece.
So Tom and Shannon (the Australian guys) also invited another guy named Tom from the UK, and the four of us set off for Mount Olympus.
It was one of the most fun days I think I’ve ever had. We were in this tiny Fiat Panda, which is not a car built at all for going to any kind of mountains! But it was the little Panda that could.
We drove about an hour and a half from Thessaloniki to get to Olympus, and then drove up the mountain. Holy crap. It was a super windy road with a ton of switchbacks and steep slopes. Thank goodness I wasn’t driving and that the car was a manual!
We made it up quite high on the mountain and then decided to go hiking. I was impressed with Tom’s driving skills – he got us all the way up the mountain and only stalled the car once (when we were three feet from parking it). Thank goodness no cars came down as we were going up – it was absolutely a one-lane road on the side of a mountain. Scenic, amazing, but also terrifying.
The scenery was amazing, and I can see why the ancients decided that must be where the gods live. The hike was enjoyable and we came upon a random shelter, taverna, or house that appeared to be somewhat abandoned. There was apparently a taverna a bit up the mountain – and by a bit, we passed some other hikers that said it was about another two hours up the mountain.
So we hiked for about an hour and a half total, and then took the drive back down to go find some lunch. We found this tiny taverna and had saganaki, greek salad, and tzatziki for lunch. (The guys also had fried squid!). At the end of the meal, we asked for the check, and the lady at the taverna brought us a platter of watermelon. It was some of the tastiest watermelon I’ve ever had! But it wasn’t the check…
So we asked again for the bill, and she brought us the bill. And an entire watermelon. I kid you not. She brought us a whole watermelon to-go after lunch! It wasn’t anywhere on the bill, so we all just laughed and laughed and laughed about what on earth we were going to do with this watermelon! (I have no clue what happened to it… the boys had it when we got back to Thessaloniki and then I had to catch the train…)
It was such an example of Greek hospitality, and it felt like such a Greek mother thing to do – send us with some watermelon to make sure we didn’t go hungry!
We drove back to Thessaloniki so UK Tom could catch his bus to Macedonia, but got back early. So the four of us enjoyed a Greek coffee. Though enjoyed might be a strong word for it. Greek coffee is a very interesting concoction that has a lot of, erm, depth to it. It’s got a fairly gritty taste, and it’s even known that when you get to the bottom of the coffee (and “it starts to thicken”) you don’t have to drink the sludge at the bottom. The sludge. It’s THAT thick. Shannon was telling us about how he starts every day in Australia with an hour of Greek coffee and Greek music and it sets the tone for his day (his heritage is Greek). I’m excited to get back to the States to try to start my own morning routine like that. It seems quite idyllic and he swears by it starting his day off right and setting a good tone.
And then we parted ways… it was such a fun day, and I’m so glad they invited me along!