Thessaloniki is the city of life. People here are vibrant and full of energy. This is what I love about it.
This is the city my dad was born and raised in, and where my grandparents lived. All of my family still resides in Greece so we try to come and visit as much as possible.
On any day of the week, you will find crowds of people young and old, out at the restaurants, cafes, and walking along the sea front. It truly is a city that never sleeps. Despite having work in the morning, people are out enjoying the company of their family and friends. It is such a social environment to be in, and there are many different ways to be social here- party boats that cruise up and down the sea front, outdoor bars in the parks, roof top bars, sea front cafes, ouzo bars…the options are endless.
On every corner, you will find a bakery with the shelves filled from top to bottom with the most mouth watering pastries imaginable. My favorite place of all time is called Terkenlis. It’s a famous bakery found mainly in northern Greece, its main store being in Thessaloniki. They serve a huge variety of Greek pastries and breads, ice cream, candy, and fancy pants pastries. They are proud of their beautiful creations and don’t allow pictures to be taken of their food. Every time I go back I pretend like I don’t know this and snap away until someone yells at me in Greek to stop taking pictures. Our favorite dessert is the Tsoureki bread that is covered in a chocolate ganache. Tsoureki a sweet bread that is braided. It has an orange-ish taste to it. With the addition of chocolate ganache, it is to die for. This is something we go out of our way to safely transport home through airports whenever we leave.
I tried something outside my pastry “box” this time and I am in love. This Pavlova had a meringue nest, a layer of vanilla pastry cream, raspberry jam, vanilla cake, and another layer of cream. I just had to get their version of a Snickers bar and a strawberry mascarpone tart too. Gotta have some chocolate and strawberries.
When we come to Greece, we always spend a lot of time with our family which equals eating an obscene amount of the most amazing home cooked Greek food. All of the restaurants serve traditional Greek food like tzatziki, grilled haloumi cheese, pork and chicken souvlaki, fresh fish from the Mediterranean, Greek wines, ouzo, and every meal ends with complimentary fruit or dessert. I can honestly say that of all the times I’ve been here, I have never had a bad meal. The people here are proud of what they serve and are genuinely hospitable. They want you to love their country, their food, and their culture.
And an added bonus is that food is so insanely cheap. Like a meal with 5-6 large meze plates, 3 bottles of wine, a bottle of ouzo and complimentary dessert cost us 70 euros, which equals to about 79 dollars. WHAT?!?! That would be a meal for 2-3 people where I come from!
So another example of the tasty, scrumptious, yummylicious food you’ll find in Greece is their “toast”. They take a soft baguette and fill it with your choice of deli meats, cheese, veggies, sauces, and they’ll put french fries in it too. They smush it in a panini press until it is toasty and melted. You can get a fully loaded toast and a pop (yes I’m from Chicago. I say pop.) for 2-3 euros which is something like $3.50. Think about the garbage they serve at Subway and how much it costs– like $10 for a nasty sandwich with old lunch meat and stale bread.
I tell everyone I know that they have to go to Greece and here’s why- this is the only place on earth where you can experience the calm, crystal clear blue waters of the Aegean Sea while eating the freshest, home made quality food on the water front surrounded by genuinely happy people, and then go out for after dinner drinks at a lively cafe on any night of the week. This is one of the few places where people go above and beyond to make you love being in their country. Despite the economic hardships, the people have a joie de vivre and sense of livelihood still. You would never know that many of the people here are faced with reduced salaries and unemployment. Life continues on at a normal and happy pace. And still, they are nice to their tourists even with these rough times.
So go to Greece and find your new cloud nine.