10 & 11 September 2015 – rest day and Thessaloniki

I decided to pause in Edessa for a day’s rest, seeing as the weather forecast was rain and storms all day, and I was in good company. Route and stats for the following day below:

–> 10 September – rest day in Edessa
As already mentioned the weather forecast was pretty foul, so we decided discretion was the better part of valour and had a rest day in Edessa. A day off would also give Jorn a chance to get over his stomach bug, which had been hanging around for too long and was making cycling very uncomfortable for him.

Alen decided to brave the weather and carry on to Thessaloniki, before making his way to Istanbul. I doubt I’ll catch him up, as he does some pretty big distances each day, however we might meet again in Istanbul, or in Vienna when I pass through; where Alen lives.

Tom and I grabbed breakfast from a bakery, where we found some fantastic pastry based sustenance including sausage rolls, cheesy thingamys, spinach triangle pasty type products, and doughnuts. We weren’t sure what we were buying but they were all very nice, especially the doughnuts. The police also pulled up whilst we were eating, to buy breakfast; you can always tell a food establishment is good if the police or fire service stop to buy food there!

We met up with the others back at the hotel, and spent a few hours chilling whilst Jorn went in search of pharmaceutical cures for his stomach bug. He returned with various remedies, and an invite for coffee from people he’d met at the pharmacy. We joined Achilleas and several of his friends in a local cafe for coffee (they did decaf) and a chat; they were all exceptionally welcoming and friendly, and as always locals bring a place to life. We decided to grab lunch at a local restaurant, recommended by Achilleas; good to have some traditional Greek food rather than jut another kebab (Gyros).

Lunch with some new friends in Edessa - locals very welcoming

Lunch with some new friends in Edessa – locals very welcoming

After lunch Achilleas, who lives in Bristol at the moment but is back here for the holidays, took us on a tour of Edessa, to see the old town and waterfalls. The old town (Varosi) was destroyed by the Nazis during the war, as it was a centre for the Resistance. It was good to have a local show you around, thanks Achilleas!

The waterfalls give Edessa its nickname, the City of Waters, and are pretty impressive, once powering a big waterwheel, as well as other machinery; there are various channels leading to buildings, but most are now defunct.

After a bit more wandering, passing quite a few establishments closed due to the recession, we retreated to the hotel for a nap, keen to get out of the wet for a bit. We also arranged with Achilleas to meet up in the evening for a few drinks; it was an R&R day after all.

After a bit of blog updating, and feeling justified about taking a day off when the rain got really heavy, we headed out to meet with Achilleas and his friends at about 21.00. As with a lot of southern Europe things get going later, and it’s not uncommon to eat about 22.00. The small bar, recommended by Achilleas, is a great little venue, although unfortunately I’ve forgotten its name! We spent a very pleasant evening chatting with him and his friends, over a few beers, or in their case a few Mojitos; great bunch of people and really nice of them to give us such a warm welcome, and spend the evening with us.

It was great to have had a rest day in good company, with no cycling whatsoever, however tomorrow it’s back on the bike to pedal to Thessaloniki; the last leg of the tour for Tom, Jorn and Clara, and a step closer to Istanbul for me!

–> 11 September – to Thessaloniki
We were on the road in good time, leaving Edessa on a slightly chilly and damp morning, however the weather was set to improve as we approached Thessaloniki.

After a brief climb we flew down a long hill, and enjoyed relatively flat riding, covering something like 70km in 3 hours; very fast for me – I think a slight tailwind might have provided some assistance. The road was a little tedious, and the traffic got steadily busier as we approached Thessaloniki.

After a brief pause for Jorn to fix a puncture, hopefully the last one of their tour, we found a spot for lunch next to a garage, on a well-tended grassy patch next to the main road; it was noisy but comfy.

Lunch break on a nice grassy patch, next the busy road

Lunch break on a nice grassy patch, next the busy road

Aside from Tom’s panniers falling off due to a somewhat bumpy road, and the occasional dog deciding to bark/chase us, it was ‘smooth’ riding the rest of the way, although the traffic got quite exciting at the outskirts of the city, and as we made out way to the centre. We had to dodge around a lot of cars ad buses before making it to the sea, where we stopped to celebrate the end of Jorn, Clara and Tom’s tour, a great achievement!

Clara had found somewhere for us to stay on the Airbnb app, an apartment not far from the centre which we managed to find after stopping for an ice-cream. The Airbnd app is quite handy, giving you access to accommodation in loads of places, from single rooms to whole houses depending on your requirements. In this case the woman renting out the apartment for a few days was vacating it whilst we stayed there; me for just one night, the others for a bit longer before flying home. We had to lock our bikes up in the street, which worried me slightly, however anyone trying to steal them would have had to deal with several locks first.

After a rest, another ice-cream and some rehydration, we headed into the city for dinner, taking a stroll along the waterfront to find a restaurant for a celebratory meal. There were lots of people out either walking or cycling next to the sea, as well as several buskers, a few living statues, and stalls selling corn on the cob, nuts or candy floss.

Thessaloniki is a vibrant city, with loads of bars and restaurants, and a good atmosphere, however I wasn’t too keen on the dead rats floating just off the promenade; don’t think I’ll be going for a swim. There wasn’t much sign of a Greek recession, with lots of people out enjoying the nightlife. We found a nice little restaurant and enjoyed a last meal together before I left in the morning; the meatballs were very good.

It was lovely to have a last night out with my cycling companions for the last few days, and I know that I’ll miss them as I pedal onwards, however I’m really looking forward to getting to Istanbul now, and to seeing what the return journey to the UK alongside the Danube has in store.

Could be a big day tomorrow, with a steep climb to get out of Thessaloniki, then perhaps 150km to near Kavala; back to solo cycling again.

Many thanks to Clara, Tom and Jorn for a great few days riding, and some much-needed company before my next leg. Hope to see you all again in the future, for perhaps more adventures! Good luck with everything 🙂

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