On first impression, from the airport bus ride to the city centre, there are other words that I would put well before 'beautiful' when describing my current location of Thessaloniki; Greece's second largest metropolis. If you were wondering where Thessaloniki is, wonder no more.
Here it is and in relation to Crete; the island I have just returned from two warm weeks later.
Although the latitude difference only constitutes about 5 degrees, it's at least that in climatic temperature difference! Oh, and it's currently dull and grey with wet weather currently prevailing. Actually, I experienced rain two days ago during my final afternoon in Crete. Two weeks and the only day it rained was on the very last! Extremely lucky I can acknowledge and especially so considering mid 20s temperature is not indicative of normal November weather - or so I've been told.
Although as I put on Instagram, here's proof you don't need sunshine to have a fun afternoon in Crete, you just need to be singing in the rain.
Not quite Gene Kelly I know, lol.
Yes friends, those images signify the end of an unforgettable summer for me; the summer of 2015.
Nevertheless, returning to the Balkans has brought a smile to my face as I nostalgically reminisce back to those wonderful summer days of my time in and around the Balkan peninsular. I plan on staying in this area few days and whilst I plot my route down through the Greek mainland.
Hopefully the weather will soon brighten allowing me to get out and explore Thessaloniki to be able to provide you a little insight into a city that was the second wealthiest once upon a time long ago during the Byzantine empire.
Speaking of the weather, the word I've chosen to describe the current climatic conditions is 'fresh' - one my Uncle Roberto uses. Although it's still double figures here, there's a distinct chill in the air and so I have been forced to dust off the long trousers and jumper. For incredulity, I'd really hoped to make until December in shorts and t-shirt but that didn't happen.
However 'fresh' isn't a term that can be applied to Uncle Rob's home of Interlaken right now. When I was there, 4 or 5 months back and during the period of their highest temperatures ever recorded, it looked like this:
It currently looks like this (albeit from a slightly different location to the above):
Still, it's an alpine region so not entirely unexpected I guess.
A few months ago, Jemma, a friend of mine and blog subscriber from back home, asked if I could include more content from the hostels I'm staying at. I definitely feel I've done this with many references to my accommodation in the last few months. With that in mind, here's some light coverage of my current accommodation.
Name: Little Big House. And I agree with that as it does seem to be both.
Location: Thessaloniki and a 15 minute walk to the centre.
Reasons to reference it: The pictures above show a 4-bed dormitory but 'Little Big House style' meaning there are effectively two rooms of two-beds separated by a door for additional privacy. Additionally, there's a shower and a proper little mini kitchen housing a fridge, microwave a toaster amongst other appliances. All this for 19 euros (£13 GBP) including breakfast. A very good price when consider this has to be one of the best 'rooms' I've stayed in.
Oh, and equally significantly, I was for one night and two days the only occupant making it feel like a private room but for hostel pricing - that was until Danielle, a train-driver from Milan, decided to gate crash my private room. Get this, he arrived at 4pm Friday and caught a plane home today Sunday morning at 10am. So you're thinking he must have had something specific on for such a short trip, perhaps something business related?
Nope! He just wanted to go out for one night and sure enough, he did, returning on the Saturday morning at 4am - so he tells me when he wakes later that morning. He didn't even go out for the Saturday night due to his early flight time on the Sunday and the fact that he has to work later that afternoon.
Lol, match that! I certainly can't.
As for the hostel itself, that was pretty decent too and offered a delightful common area providing warmth in the traditional sense but also in the ambient, atmospheric sense with great tunes playing softly in the background. It was just a nice place to be, as the saying goes.
During my first evening in this common area, I met my latest fascinating character; a Puerto Rican travel blogger named David Camacho Colon. David has been on the road for 20 months - nearly three times as long as I had but that statistic doesn't do his travel experience justice, but a line from his website does...
"David Camacho Colon was born in Puerto Rico and has travelled to more than 60 countries. He left behind a successful career (as an engineer and, after an MBA, a strategy consultant) to continue learning from the world".
I knew quickly and well before reading the above that David was a smart young man. His English was better than many native speaking people and so was his articulation of it, along with his general knowledge and wisdom . Low and behold, he has also since become an author with several novels to his name published in both Spanish and English. Very impressive and so his books appear to be too with copies having sold on Amazon. Fantastic.
Sadly though in this day and age, and unless you have effective experience in Search Engine Optimisation (Google rankings), it's very hard to get your content discovered by Internet readers - something both he and I can relate to. Speaking of relatable content, I was keep to discuss with David his blogging technique as I know just how difficult and exhausting this is from my own experience. In fact, you might remember that last month I finally let out some frustration on this topic when I compared one of my random posts to the quality of a successful travel blogger who has thousands of followers and is paid to publish so-to-speak. Relatedly, when David saw my website for the first time he freely labelled the design as "professional" - a description I'd heard several times this year but never before from someone with comparably esteemed credentials which was particularly gratifying.
David's blog-work appears to be different to my own. He writes about the stories of others and with the world being filled with more people who like to speak more than they do listen, he had filled three books with random stories and quotes. Being a friendly, sociable guy he often finds himself in the strangest situations where people open up and tell him the strangest stories. Hmmmmm, something else I can very much relate to.
Anyhow, he mentally records the stories before first committing his text to paper in the form of a journal before eventually typing this up electronically in his own time. Due to the nature of what he records, each story can be a couple of lines long to a couple of paragraphs to a couple of pages. I'll shortly provide you the first random story he recited to me during his 'type-up' session as an example...
I found David's blog approach different, refreshing and significantly less intensive and less time consuming by comparison to what I publish, which in case you haven't noticed, is rarely less than a 2 or 3 days out of sync of real-time and that's hard, really hard. In fact, looking back I have no idea how I have sustained this for what will soon be eight months!
One thing's for sure though, if I was to ever blog about my travels again in the future, I'll likely have to modify the format we've all gotten used to.
As I change, evolve and improve, everything else around me must change, evolve and improve too.
After Midoros, I went straight to Batangas City by bus. An American girl was sitting next to me; she was heading back to Manila after six months of volunteering with a small community on one of the islands of the area. Her job was to set up a tracking system for tsunami relief funds in order to gain visibility on how they are invested in the communities affected.