So. The difficult part of my journey. It was compounded by the fact that I ran out of credit on my Greek phone, and while I could use the internet, my battery was dying. Most of the planning of this adventure took place en route, changing as I went, which added to the excitement. Here’s the overall picture:
Midnight train from Athens to Thessaloniki (11:55 p.m. – 6:15 a.m.)
The lights remained on the entire time. It was uncomfortable and hot, and around 4 a.m., someone opened windows, which made it cold and violently loud. I slept very little.
Bus from Thessaloniki Train Station to Thessaloniki Bus Station (6:30 a.m. – 6:45 a.m.)
A friend of a friend was supposed to pick me up and deliver me to the bus station, but he couldn’t make it. I was able to find the correct bus—and fortunately I had coins on me because the ticket dispenser on the bus did not take anything cash, and it did not give change (I lost 0.90, but only the Jewish half of me is upset about it.)
Bus from Thessaloniki to Kavala (8:00 a.m. – 10: 15 a.m.)
The highlight of my journey was the bus ride from Thessaloniki to Kavala. I sat next to a man named Leo, in his late 60’s or early 70’s, who spoke Greek and German only; he did not speak English. This was my dream! We managed to maintain a conversation for nearly two hours. Granted, some of the conversation involved pointing out the window and declaring, “There are many trees here!” and “Trees are green,” but still. I learned that he’s been working in Switzerland for 47 years. He has two kids and 5 grandkids (three boys, two girls). Everyone lives in Switzerland, but his grandkids can speak fluent Greek. They will visit Greece this summer for a month; he has a summer home on Thassos.
Leo was very patient, taking the time to repeat himself and use words I knew to define words I didn’t know (sometimes in German), and overall he was a great teacher. He promised to make sure I got on the bus to Keramoti.
Bus from Kavala to Keramoti (10:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.)
This bus should not have taken so long. It was only a 43 km drive. I started to panic after I prematurely dismounted and asked, “Where are the boats?” and they told me RE-BOARD! We drove through fields of grain, and there were mountains all around—I didn’t even see the ocean. Twice I asked the bus driver if I was going to the port. He was not amused. Then, we turned right, and all of sudden there was a bay and ferries. Who knew.
Ferry from Keramoti to Thassos (12:15 – 12:50)
I was feeling stressed. Tassos of Thassos told me the only bus that stopped at Aliki, where I would be staying, left the port at 12:50. “You must run from the ferry!” he said. The Greeks are surprisingly punctual, so it was going to be a very close –if not impossible– call. But as soon as we set sail and I could see Thassos approaching, I had no fear. No stress. The hurry, hurry, hurry voice was quieting. I was almost there.
Bus from Thassos Town to Aliki (1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.)
I turned my big suitcase to into a backpack, I put my actual backpack in front of me like a babycarrier, and I picked up my rolling suitcase and ran off the ferry. I saw a bus drive away and thought surely that was it. But there was another bus at the station that said it was going to Potos. I started talking to the driver in such terrible Greek that he asked, “Do you speak English?” I asked if he stopped at Aliki.
“Yes. We’ll leave in ten minutes.”
“You mean you haven’t left yet?”
The heavens parted and the hallelujah chorus started playing. I boarded the bus in bliss. Granted, this bus picked up school children, and also filled up on gasoline while I was on board, and a 45-minute trip became 1.5 hours, but I was so happy. I looked at all the horia along the way, the cute restaurants and villages, and struck up a conversation with the bus driver. He let me sit in the captain’s seat and dropped me off at the stairs of Archondissa.
Arrival (2:30 p.m. June 1st)
Tassos of Thassos greeted me with hugs and chivalry. He was the first person to help me with my suitcases since I left Athens, despite many trips up and down stairs and onto platforms and an obvious appearance of struggle. Where are all the gentlemen?
And then he did this:
He prepared my favorite dishes—red florinis and horiatiki salad and mussels, his own tsipouro, and later, my favorite sweet red wine. My first meal was just as it should be, four hours long, with friends joining us along the way, and plenty of yiamas’s.
It feels good to be home.