I’ve decided to write this blog post about a favorite subject of mine: dogs.
Let me take a moment to talk about the dogs in Greece: they are so well behaved!
When taking a stroll down to the boardwalk, many of the dogs aren’t on leashes. They simply follow their owners and listen to commands. Imagine! Dogs that actually listen to their owners!!! The dogs here also don’t attack each other or the many stray dogs that roam around.
Recently, I saw a dog waiting outside of a boutique. He was peering into the open door of the store, but didn’t enter the shop to follow his owner. It wasn’t even tied up! His leash was hanging from his neck as he patiently waited for his mom or dad to come back to him!
When we were on Crete, I saw a stray dog do something similar. This dog came up to the open door of the restaurant and peered inside. He didn’t come inside, even when he saw the waitress carrying a bucket of food. Instead, he waited patiently until the woman had placed a paper placemat on the ground and deposited leftover food onto it before digging in. A stray!!
A Sad Reality
Speaking of stray dogs, a group of my friends and I have started naming the stray dogs of Thessaloniki. There are a tragically large number of strays in Greece. For the most part they seem friendly.
Personally, I have refrained from petting any of the dogs because I promised the travel nurse at Iowa State that I wouldn’t after refusing to get a rabies vaccine before leaving for Europe. (That woman told some very convincing horror stories!)
The dogs are cute and seem happy enough, but I often times wish that I could take them all home with me.
Perhaps the reason that I’m so shocked by the dogs here is because the little guy I left at home is nicknamed ‘Wretched’ for a number of reasons. He runs away if the gate is open, chew up shoes, eats things he’s not supposed to, and never listens to a single thing out of any of the family’s mouths.
My dog’s real name is Finnegan. He’s adorable and loves to cuddle and lick your face – when he wants to – and he sleeps with a teddy bear at night. His other nickname is ‘Precious,’ it’s mostly (only) used when referring to when he’s asleep.
Yeah, I know. It’s actually our fault that he’s a terror. ‘Bad pet owners’ not ‘bad dogs’ blah blah, but who can resist this face?
It’s only been a month, but I'll admit, I miss the little guy.
Coming up Next Week: I'm headed to Istanbul with a few friends!
I do not own the meme above
Before coming to Greece, I would have said that I thrived on stress.
I Skyped my mother yesterday and was reminded how stressfully my life was in America. Between classes, work, student organizations, volunteering, family and friends my schedule was a constant race to the finish line.
In Thessaloniki, I still have deadlines and responsibilities but the pace of life is more manageable. I can enjoy the entirety of my days in a way that was personally unattainable in America.
A Simple Walk
For example, one of my favorite parts of any given day is my walk home from the bus. The bus ride itself is chaotic, involving a hike up a massive set of stairs, a packed bus, an across the street transfer to another packed bus, and finally a several block walk home. However, this walk, despite uneven sidewalks, puddles of unknown origin, and having to snake around cars parked on top of the curb, is when I take the time to reflect on the fact that I’m in Greece.
I’m in the homeland of the Greek gods whose mythology I studied as a child.
I’m surrounded by a new language and culture so unlike anything I’d ever experienced in America.
I’ve been given the opportunity to meet new people and create lasting friendships in a foreign country.
On that walk home I am filled with the knowledge that I’m a young, independent woman capable of anything and everything.
Last semester, my advisor at Iowa State gave me a great piece of advice: stop and smell the roses. Yes, I’d heard it before, but rarely followed through. However, since spending a few weeks adjusting to a Mediterranean lifestyle, I’ve realized how little time I spent simply enjoying life.
In America, I know that I would have dreaded the exact same walk home because it would have been time out of my day that could be better spent. Instead, I’m able to use that time to reflect on my contentment with life in Greece.
Greek life has taught me how to relax, a skill I was desperately lacking as an American college student. Hopefully I can take the lessons I’ve learned here and apply them when I return home.
I love going new places. But I’m almost always sad when I have to leave them after such a short time.
Flying to Crete
On Friday, four of my friends and I went to the island of Crete.
Far left is Jordan, then Tori, Jessika, Alec and myself.
We flew from Thessaloniki to Chania. At the airport I was surprised going through security because, while I had to remove my jacket, and my friend had to remove his laptop, no one had to remove their shoes. I also didn’t have to remove my liquids from my bag.
The Adventures of Public Transit
After landing and exiting the airport, we discovered the difficulties of trying to fit five people into one taxi … so instead we proceeded to hop on a bus that we were fairly (only kind of) certain would take us in the direction we needed to go.
The bus was also a new experience. It was a charter bus, but functioned like a city bus by stopping at various bus stops along the way to pick up passengers.
Although I use the term ‘bus stop’ loosely, because as Jordan put it, “That’s not a bus stop, it’s a tree!”
The bus also dropped people off wherever they requested even if it was only a block past where the last person had gotten off. We, however, rode until we reached the bus station.
Getting Our Steps In
After arriving at the station, we decided to walk to the hotel. At the time we believed it was only about two miles. We were very wrong. (When we finally arrived at the hotel, George, the owner, informed us that we’d walked three and a half or more miles.)
“Getting our steps in!” became the theme of the weekend.
To Be or Not to Be Hot?
The first thing a couple of us wanted to do after finally getting into our room was shower … except hot water was only available from 6 PM to 11 PM. So we waited and at 6 PM discovered that there was no hot water!
Neither Tori nor I cared and both showered off the grime of the airport and a three plus mile hike. No one else was brave enough to find out what a cold shower in an even colder room feels like.
Aside from that minor fiasco, the hotel was actually very nice. We’d booked a four-person room because a five-person room was 100 euros more expensive. Since we’re all broke college kids, we pushed two of the beds together and were all very comfortable the entire three nights.
However, this also meant that we had to sneak Alec into the room because we didn’t want to get charged for having him. We then proceeded to pretend that he wasn’t sleeping there the entire weekend whenever we spoke to George. [Side note: there is no way George didn’t know what was going on, especially after we asked for an extra pillow and bike, but he played along with us even though we’re a bunch of dorks.] It still causes hysterical giggling every time we think about it.
Winter in Crete
If you check the date on this post, you’ll realize that we went to Crete in Febuary. Now, I’m from the Midwest. To me, winter means negative degree weather with several feet of snow and ice covering every inch of the sidewalk. It was in the upper sixties and seventies while we were in Crete (it poured in Thessaloniki).
Despite the wonderful weather, it was still winter in Crete. Meaning that everything was closed down. And I do mean everything: restaurants, hotels, even grocery stores!
We had a hard time figuring things out at first, and ended spending most of Saturday on the beach and hiking around the ridgeline. I can’t complain. It was chill and the views were incredible. It was the perfect way to relax and take it all in.
The Joys of Winter
Like everything else, the beach was practically shut down. We had it nearly to ourselves except for a few locals. I even dared to go swimming although I only lasted thirty minutes or so before having to get out because it was too chilly. (I also got spooked and thought I saw a shark, but it was actually my own shadow … so that happened.)
It was also pointed out to me that when I posted a picture of our pristine, quiet beach, that I had spelled the word wrong. I live on Beech Street … but apparently the word beach normally has an ‘A’ in it. Don’t bother looking for my typo, it was on Instagram and I already corrected it!
Old Venetian Harbour
Saturday night we gave in and took a couple of taxis to the city center of Chania. We walked around the harbor and took in the sights.
The next day we rented bikes from George and rode them back to the harbor around sunset. Before dinner, we walked to the end of the Old Venetian Harbour and saw the sunset at the base of the lighthouse.
Never before have I seen such a beautiful sunset.
Finding a place to eat dinner was an interesting experience. The restaurants basically pay people/the owners or managers to stand around and convince tourists to eat their fare. However, we were specifically looking for a place that served seafood for Jordan and me, but also served other food because Jessika is allergic to fish.
We eventually settled on a place and it was a good choice. Jordan and I split a Fisherman’s Platter that included some sort of fish fillet (swordfish maybe?), breaded little fish with the heads on them (I asked guy who talked us into eating at his restaurant how to eat the little fishies – you have to pull off the heads and then slit the fish open and remove the backbone), as well as fried shrimp, complete with heads and feet, calamari, and an octopus tentacle!
Overall, it was amazing.
Leaving Crete - the Saddest Part of Our Adventure
Monday morning George drove us back to the bus station. Leaving Crete was bitter sweet – I was sad to go but also excited to return to Thessaloniki to all of my new friends as well as a city that doesn’t rely solely on tourist season.
I’ll be back someday Crete – and that’s a promise.
Next Weekend: I’m spending the weekend in Thessaloniki!
The experience of studying abroad has already been so incredibly unbelievably fantastic and I’ve only been here a week! I’m already a stronger, braver, wiser woman and I hope to continue to develop these traits during my time in Thessaloniki.
First Day of School
Classes began Monday! Yay!!
I only have one class Monday/Wednesday/Friday morning and it is History of Ancient Greece. (Check out one of my early posts to read more about it.)
ACT, the study abroad program I’m attending, provides a shuttle to the school for my morning classes, however the times it runs back to the apartment are inconvenient. However, a few of my new friends and I went to the bus kiosk early Monday morning; later, two of us were able to find our way back to the apartment building.
It's All Greek to Me
The public bus system in Thessaloniki is hectic to say the least! First of all, nothing is in English, and add to that the fact that you’re cramming a ton of people into a tiny space and you’ve got a recipe for stress and disaster!
Fortunately, Alec and myself were able to hike across campus, hop on a bus right outside of the school, hop off at a stop several blocks away, and then run across a busy street to transfer to another bus before riding it all the way to a familiar neighborhood. Or, I should say, a street that I’m familiar with.
There’s a running joke that if Alec thinks we’re walking in the right direction we should probably turn around – it’s hysterical because it’s so true!
The entire process took less than thirty minutes. Alec and I were very lucky not to have to wait for either bus but to also not miss them by a few seconds either! I hope to have the same luck every day.
So Monday afternoon was my first alone time since arriving in Thessaloniki. I’m a natural extrovert, so alone time isn’t something I need very often … or ever really. But alone time did allow me to sit down and write this post about my first day of classes, so I should try to find alone time at least once a week for my blog!
I also did laundry for the first time since arriving in Greece. I was down to my last pair of clean pants and only had one more pair of socks before I would have been hand washing my clothes in the sink.
The washing machine at my apartment building was fairly easy to figure out, however, we don’t have a dryer. Meaning that all of my clothes go out onto the balcony to air dry. This works best when the sun shines onto said balcony, a phenomenon that doesn’t happen for a very long stretch of the day on my particular balcony.
I’ll get used to it and by the end of the semester; I’m sure I’ll return to America and have to re-learn how to use a dryer!
I only have one other class on Monday evening. If you’ve read my pervious posts, you might recall that I’m taking Sea Sailing 101 for college credits! (This might not sound legit, but it is, it so is.)
The class only meets once a week, and this week we met on the college campus. However, for most of the rest of the semester we’ll meet at the marina, which is at short bus ride from the apartment.
Not only will I learn how to sail a sea boat, I can also become certified if I pass a test at the end of the semester!
Our class will also participate in a sailing weekend trip in which my classmates and I will sail ourselves around the Mediterranean! To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement.
I can’t wait for the rest of the semester and to the new experiences that will be presented to me throughout my time in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Coming up Next: My weekend getaway in the city of Chanina on the island of Crete with some of my new besties! PS: We're celebrating Valentine's Day secret Santa style!
All photos included in this post were taken by Alexandra Kapetanopoulos.
Nothing could have even begun to prepare me for the sheer wonder of the country I will be spending my semester in. My wildest dreams couldn’t even begin to compare to the beauty of the environment around me as I write this post from my balcony overlooking the Greek mountainsides and city below.
Check out my travel photos page for some of the views from Thessaloniki, Greece!
Hitting the Ground Running
Shortly after I arrived in Greece I hit the ground running, literally. I didn’t even manage to unpack until the evening of my second day! (By unpacked I mean that things are in cluttered piles around the room by somehow I’m managing to function.)
Today is my third day in Greece and so far I’ve:
And so many other things that if I took the time to detail and describe it would resemble a novel rather than a blog post!
To follow my regular updates check out my Twitter and Instagram and check back on my website blog page for weekly Sunday evening updates.
Coming up next Sunday: No clue! I'll have to see what unexpected adventures I run into during my next couple of days in the beautiful city of Thessaloniki.
My name is Hunter and this the blog of my worldwide adventures. The purpose of this blog is to show that you can be a traveler, not just a tourist.