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Thessaloniki & Meteora, Greece

Our drive from Gallipoli to Greece took about six hours, with a fairly painless border crossing. Again the sunset was magnificent, slowly disappearing behind distant hills and turning the Mediterranean water pink. It was probably the hottest day we had experienced so far, and we were drenched in sweat the entire drive. Even lying in bed we were saturated. Thankfully I was so exhausted by the drive that I fell straight to sleep and didn't have to think about how disgusting I felt.

It was a relief to get out of the car the next morning and into the slightly cooler outside world. Our first stop was Thessaloniki, which is Greece's second largest city and located right on the water. It didn't feel that big as we wandered around aimlessly for a couple of hours. On the first half of our walk (away from the water) all we saw were tall apartment buildings, mostly run down and unattractive. The second half (near the water) saw much of the same, but the complexes were better maintained. There were Greek Orthodox churches everywhere, with richly decorated interiors full of murals and gold chandeliers. The city also contained several Roman ruins that were partly excavated, but there were no signs or information explaining their significance. We didn't feel the need to spend long in Thessaloniki. 

We jumped back into the hot car and drove three hours to Meteora, a town in the middle of nowhere, famous for its tall, column-like sandstone rocks that protrude straight up from the earth. And I mean really tall - some were up to several hundred metres high. Someone thought it would be a great idea to build monasteries on top of these natural pillars, and now they are a major tourist attraction. I didn't know what to expect in Meteora, but as soon as we arrived the scenery blew me away. Every few minutes I was asking Danny to pull over so I could take more photos. We drove up to three of the monasteries, using the incredibly unhelpful maps from the tourist office. The monasteries themselves weren't anything special, filled with paintings, ceramic pots, wine barrels and human skulls, but views from the front door were some of the best we had come across. All the monasteries involved climbing hundreds of steps, but the effort was well worth it.

 

A thunderstorm struck while I was inside the third monastery - Danny was back in the car, having reached his step limit for the day. I had to wait half an hour before making the dash back down the marble stairs, which had turned into rivers with the rain flowing down them. I definitely could have stayed longer if the weather had been on our side.