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Phoenix–>Washington, DC–>Munich–>Athens=about 24 hours of travel on approximately 4 hours of sleep. But, we made it! 

The last time I was in Athens was last summer, and I can’t say I immediately fell in love with the city. Protests had only recently calmed down, and although I was still looking forward to traveling in Greece this year, I won’t say I wasn’t concerned about the political and economic climate. 
Thessaloniki by night. Photo courtesy of Kairos-Holidays.com
However, our arrival in Athens was smooth; no violence in the streets, no protesters camping out in squares greeted us as we emerged from the metro. We ate dinner at a taverna near the hotel in the neighborhood of Psiri, a hip area where young people hang out to drink, smoke hookah and enjoy the arid Athenian summer air. Three kittens played by our table–a black one and two orange tabbies–and we feasted on our first legitimate Horiatiki salad in a year. Fresh olives, tomatoes, cucumber and onion topped with a thick slab of feta. 
The next morning was passed on a quest to find Boris a watch battery, during which we went through Monastiraki, an area where the Greeks do their shopping. A huge meat market was on our way, and we decided just to walk through to look at the wares. Flanks of every meat-producing mammal humans eat seemed to hang from the stalls, and goats heads peered out at us from icy buckets. Some butchers shouted the details for their meat products, others just greeted us with a friendly, “Kalimera.” (Good morning) All wore white coats smattered with blood. 
After a six-hour train ride north, we made it to Thessaloniki, aka Salonica, the second-largest city in Greece. Our budget hotel is located right on one of the main streets, and is staffed by some of the friendliest hotel-workers I’ve ever encountered. 
We wandered Ladadika and found a little mezedopoleion, a type of restaurant sort of specializing in appetizers, barely a week old. A small feast of traditional Greek salad, oven-roasted potatoes slathered in goat butter and melted gruyere, and spiced sausage & cheese inside perfectly crisp filo rolls. So good and SO CHEAP! We paid less than 15 euro for the entire meal, plus they brought us dessert, bread, and an aperitif called Raki with some sort of tasty bruschetta-type bread with a paste that was really good, too. Sorry I don’t remember the name, I was eating it. 🙂 
Sated by our meal, we walked back to the hotel the long way, admiring the open squares and people relaxing in the bars and restaurants, all with open seating along the plazas. So far, Thessaloniki has made an excellent impression! I hope it continues to please!