After securing our dirty and wet clothes from the gracious hotel lady, Team Baja Llama departed south for Greece. Our destination Unknown. We debated as we drove on where we should stop for the night. By this point we knew to add about 50% to the time google estimated it would take to get us to arrive anywhere. We continued south through windy mountainous and ocean hugging roads until the Greek border. This resembled pretty accurately the scene in the newest Jason Bourne movie where he was a bare knuckle boxer, knocking people out for cash money. The border was easy to get through and before too long, we had ocean views again.
Jason had lived in Greece when he studied abroad during college on an exchange program. His brother Jeff took his first trip out of the country when he was a sophomore in high school to visit him, so they both had been there before. That trip 17 years ago is actually one of the main catalyst where they caught the international travel bug. All subsequent travels, international living, and thirst for adventure can be directly linked to visiting Jason in November of 2001. Kevin had also been to Greece, albeit many years later and under much different traveling circumstances. JH was the lone newbie here and thus had illusions of grandeur for seeing and experiencing parts of the country. Unfortunately most of the picturesque locations that you see in movies were simply not an option for us on this whirlwind driving tour.
We stopped for an ice-cream and some water in a tiny little town just over the border to regain our wits and recoup some stamina. Finally we figured it out – we were going to make it to Thessaloniki. Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city by population. Thessaloniki is a Greek port city on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea with a population of about 315,000 people. There are typical ancient Greek ruins scattered about. None of this mattered to us – the only thing we cared about when we entered the city was Gyros. On the brink of starvation, and without a place to stay we parked our car and booked it for the highest rated, closest Gyro hotspot we could find.
Memories of mouthwatering goodness filled Jason, Jeff and Kevin’s heads. We were on a mission. We found our saving grace and sat down. We ordered and ate as fast as vultures in the bush. Unfortunately the food was just OK. Whatever – we were filled, happy and ready to get amongst the vibrant Friday night scene. We made it back to our car and decided to do what we typically do – Dog It. Dogging it consists of sitting outside, drinking beer, listening to music and enjoying the cities local residents. And boy are we good at it.
About an hour into our mini outdoor concert we had made a few friends. Kevin still talks to the girl he met that fateful evening in hopes of a long term relationship. These new friends were vital to our success since not long after they stopped the cops rolled by. “Oh – I’m sorry officer, I didn’t know I couldn’t blast music as loud as possible right here right now.” I think thats what they told them at least. That’s what we would have said, but it’s all Greek to us. They said something that made the cops nod and take off, so what ever it was worked.
Jeff used the technology available and requested a nights stay at an Airbnb not too far away. JH meanwhile was keen on trying the Raki. Raki for those that don’t know is a highly distilled liquor, originating in turkey that is made from grape vines and leaves. The alcohol content is staggering in most instances, hovering around 50%. JH felt every bit of that as we corralled him from the next door restaurant. We made it to our little apartment for the night, happy and loose.
The next morning Jason and Jeff work up early while the rest of the gang slept in. They realized the entry visa forms for Turkey hadn’t been printed, so they set out on a morning mission to get these forms for the team so they could all make it to Istanbul with no troubles. As they entered the car they realized the cooler had been stolen the night before. They should have known not to leave it attached by only a few bungee cords, but the constant daily task of loading and unloading all the gear was bound to catch up to them.
They printed the paperwork in a kids gaming center. There were 12 kids going nuts on the computers and the obligatory Greek man smoking a cigarette indoors right next to them. On their way back, Jason and Jeff noticed 3 amazing places.
1 – a pastry shop with the best treats at prices too good to pass up.
2 – a little store with perfect sized coolers sitting outside for sale
3 – another Gyro place that seemed far superior to that of the night before
They bought a bunch of pastry treats for the boys and a cooler. They headed back to the apartment to corral the sleeping heard. On the way out of town, we devoured another subpar gyro, crammed in the car and set off for another long haul – all the way to Istanbul. Garrett’s last stop with the boys.