Day 28: Ciao Roma, Χαίρετε Greece.

Back when I planned this trip I tried to make all travel days as leisurely as possible. The reality of modern flight however doesn’t always accommodate that, especially if you only rely on Google maps to get your travel information. So today we were saddled with a not-too-early flight time of 10:50AM but, of course, actually catching that flight meant losing at least 3 hours before it. So it is how we found ourselves this day, the alarm blaring early in the morning, signalling it was time for us to depart what had been our favorite city so far and make for our second to final destination: Ikos Oceania in Nea Moudania, Greece.

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Unlike the last flight we caught this one was far less stressful with everything from the taxi to check-in to getting to the flight going along with relative ease. We did have an odd moment when we realized both our seats were the same and saw that we’d both been given boarding passes for my wife. That and the fact that luggage wasn’t included in our ticket cost, something which cost us a cool €80 to remedy (at least this time I managed to save huge with Hostelbay; click to learn more). Still both flights went by smoothly with the notable exception of our landing in Athens which was a lot bumpier than the prevailing winds would have suggested.

After getting mixed reports about how much a taxi would set us back to the resort I decided to book a transfer using an online company that had good reviews. After we got out of the airport we were greeted by a smiling man holding an iPad up high with my name displayed on it. He took my wife’s bags, showed us to the car and even gave us bottled water before we started our journey over. On the way he gave us a brief overview of the area of Thessaloniki. It was interesting to hear the parallels between here and back home, both places sharing a vibrant coffee culture and a large student population. He also pointed out Mount Olympus which is across the narrow sea from us although it was cloaked in haze to be much more than an outline.

What struck me however was the visible signs of poverty that were apparent nearly everywhere. At least half of the buildings had visible signs of disrepair, both residential and commercial. I’d estimate a good 20% of them were straight out abandoned as well, many of them covered in graffiti. This is, of course, due to Greece’s economy being in a downward spiral ever since the Global Financial Crisis hit back in 2008, it’s large debt levels and lack of control over its monetary policy slashing its GDP by an astonishing 25% over the past 8 years. This has left around 30% of the population in poverty, the numbers looking far worse for the younger generations. I didn’t have the heart to ask our driver about how the greater economic situation in Greece was affecting things here; it seemed like a question that would only bring sadness to us both.

We arrived not too long afterwards at our resort and were immediately greeted by some incredibly chipper people who showed us inside. Whilst it might not have been on the level of Turtle Island (nothing can really beat walking off, or if you’re my wife carried off by the staff, a sea plane onto a private island) it was still an order of magnitude above what we’d experienced anywhere so far. Our room might not be extravagant but the views are unbeatable and the included mini bar is a very nice touch.

After we got settled in we both thought it would be good to grab something to eat, the airplane food not satisfying either of us. It was 6:30PM however, just when dinner service was starting. So we resolved ourselves to have our first dinner right then and a second one, ordered from the room service menu, later on in the evening. The first dinner was a lovely buffet that included both local and foreign cuisine, a wide selection of wines and, my wife’s favorite, a well stocked desert bar full of various cheeses. Once we were full and happy we took a tour of the facilities, impressed with the breadth and scale of the resort.

We then retired to our room for the remainder of the night, myself indulging in a nice Chilean red they brought to our room and my wife in a hot chocolate. It was a very nice way to end a day of travel.

What happens tomorrow will be anyone’s guess. There’s a lot to do here, far more than any resort I’ve ever been to, but we’re in no rush to do anything. One thing is certain however: we’ll be eating and drinking our way through everything that this place has to offer.

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