A story about my least favorite part of traveling – the physical movement from one place to the next.
I wake up in the Athens airport at around 7am, say goodbye to Dina, and catch the metro to the city to grab the backpack I’d left at my previous hostel. Since our flight from Santorini had arrived at 2am, we figured it wasn’t worth paying for a night of accommodation for only a few hours of sleep, so we’d slept in baggage claim (livin’ the dream as usual…) The hostel receptionist explains how I can get to the train station, and I set on my way, aiming for the 10:18am train to Thessaloniki.
I catch the metro from Synagma Square over to Larissa Station, where all the cross-country trains depart, and hop in the “Same-Day Tickets” line around 10am. A group of Greek men is at one sales counter, and an Italian family of five is at the other. I’m only behind one other person in line, who I later find out is an American guy named Keith. Fast forward to 10:12am. I haven’t moved, and the Greek men and Italian parents are now arguing with their respective sales clerks. I can’t hear the conversations, but it doesn’t look like they’re going to be done anytime soon. I notice Keith looking anxiously at the clock too, and ask if he’s trying to catch the 10:18 train as well. He is, but would be getting off only halfway to Thessaloniki.
At 10:16, the Greek men finally walk away defeated, and I walk up to the counter with Keith to ask for two tickets to the 10:18 train. “It’s sold out,” the lady says. “Ok, we’ll take the next train then,” he replies. “All trains are full today,” she replies, very unapologetically. “Ok, well what about tomorrow?” he asks. “Same-day sales only, you’ll have to check tomorrow,” the lady says, and we walk away. “This is exactly what happened yesterday,” Keith tells me. “I couldn’t get on a train all day, because it’s same-day sales only, and they’re always sold out when I come!” We walk outside and I mention that we could try to catch a bus instead. He’s up for that idea, so we share a 6 Euro taxi to the Athens central bus station.
At the bus station, there are about 20 different counters for various ticket purchases, and because it’s all in Greek we have no idea where to go. Instead, we head to the Information kiosk for help. The man tells me to go to #1, but unfortunately for Keith he’ll have to go to another bus station that has a bus to his location. We wish each other good luck getting to our destinations and head off our separate ways.
I head to kiosk #1 and ask for a bus ticket to Thessaloniki. The sales clerk tells me that it’s sold out. “Anytime today is fine,” I reply. “I don’t mind a later bus.” “Sorry, all the busses today are sold out,” she replies sympathetically. Aghhh. I really don’t want to stay in Athens another night, so I ask, “Can I wait to see if anything opens up? I will even sit on the floor of a bus, whatever works.” She says it’s unlikely that there will be a no-show, but tells me to take a seat in the waiting area.
An hour passes by. Two hours. Depression starts to sink in when I realize I probably won’t get to see Thessaloniki, as I only have enough time to stop by for a day on my way up to Macedonia. I start wondering if I should look up a hostel in Athens for the night.
Just as I’m about to give up, I hear the woman call, “Christina?” I get to the front of the window and she hands me a ticket saying “43 Euros.” Well, that’s more than that bus normally costs according to my research, but I take it anyways giving her a huge thank you.
I hop on the bus and go to my seat number 21, when the driver tells me “Oh, actually you will be up front with me. Confused, I follow him to the very front of the bus, where he pulls down a little seat for me directly over the front stairs. He gives me a friendly smile and tells me I’m very lucky since they don’t usually do that.
I spend the next 6 hours messing around with the radio (which is mostly just traditional Greek music) and helping the driver practice his English while he tells me about some of the places we’re passing. He also informs me that it’s a holiday weekend – August 15 (Saturday in this case) is the Dormition of Virgin Mary and is one of the most important public holidays of the year, so that’s why I had so much trouble getting transportation on Friday the 14th. No wonder… But the stunning views of the Greek countryside that I enjoy from my front-row seat on the bus easily make up for all the trouble I went through.
Amazing how my bad day turned around so quickly!! Moral of the story: never give up! And… maybe researching public holidays before traveling wouldn’t hurt either.
So, 20 hours total from Santorini to Thessaloniki… and the best part is, had I known my itinerary in advance, I could’ve gotten an hour long flight on Ryan Air for only $30! Oh well, at least it made for a good story.
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌