When Tim asked if I’d like to take a last-minute weekend trip to Thessaloniki, I jumped at the chance. It’s one of my favorite cities in Greece and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend a weekend. It’s got phenomenal food and desserts, great live entertainment, and it’s just a cool place to sit at a cafe or taverna and let time pass by.
Unfortunately, this trip didn’t start out very smoothly as we were turned away at the Istanbul bus station for the overnight bus with Metro Turizm. We bought our tickets to leave the next morning, but getting caught in Istanbul traffic on the way back to the bus station left us just two minutes to jump on our bus. After breathing a sigh of relief, we settled into the terribly misnamed “Bistro Bus” and were on our way out of Istanbul and heading towards the Greek border.
Thankfully, there were no border issues or delays other than the seemingly excited busload of Turks visiting the duty free shops. The Bistro Bus lumbered down the highway past towns and villages and farms while we were either freezing from the air conditioning or sweating when the driver turned it off. We made a short rest stop for the bathroom and some snacks. After an agonizing 10 ½ ride, we finally pulled into the new Metro branch office in Thessaloniki.
When I stepped out of the bus, I had no idea where we were. Every other time I had taken a bus to Thessaloniki, I was dropped just a 10 minute walk to the city center. This time, I was in the middle of nowhere. A friendly man happily took us to the brand new main bus station across the highway where we found a local bus into the city center. The local bus dropped us off at the train station which is near where I used to get dropped off before. I got my bearings and started to walk to our hotel that we had booked the night before.
We arrived at the Emporikon Hotel at around 10pm and were greeted with a look of shock and confusion. Because they weren’t sure we would arrive, the hotel had cancelled our booking! It was a busy weekend with Oxi Day and St. Dimitrios Day, and literally every hotel in the city was fully booked. The owner apologized for giving our room away and said he found us a comparably priced room near the airport – a €25 one-way cab ride away. Completely unacceptable. Tim and I played a little “good cop, bad cop” but still there was no solution. As late as it was, we were prepared to sleep in a park and weren’t expecting to find a room at all. Finally, we got some good news. The owner found the last two beds at Rent Rooms Thessaloniki, a hostel just a few minutes walk away.
The lady at check-in was very friendly and quickly made up our beds. We both stayed in separate six bed shared rooms. Although it wasn’t exactly what we wanted for the night, at least we didn’t have to spend money on a taxi to and from an airport hotel.
We stayed at Rent Rooms one night and returned to Emporikon the next morning. The owner offered us a late checkout and free breakfast for their oversight. He turned out to be a very nice and hospitable guy and again profusely apologized for the mistake. I had a good conversation with him about the economic crisis and how it has affected him and his family, and the rest of our stay went off without a hitch.