It is 7:00 p.m. here in Thessaloniki. The sun is still high in the sky. Aristotle Plaza is bustling with activity. The cafes and bars on the waterfront are buzzing with people. I am now a seasoned traveler, having successfully completed my third day of lectures, tours and sightseeing in this ancient, yet modern, city of 1 million residents.
And I have learned a lot. Allow me to share my advice to anyone planning a five week long study tour. Although, I bet this information would also come in handy for an excursion of five days!
1. Thank students in Acton for the pink Nike nylon backpack, since you didn't pack one for yourself. It is used every day! (And, of course, Nike is Greek. Not only that, Thessaloniki was partially named after Nike--the last two syllables.)
2. Bring a rain slicker or umbrella with you every day. If you don't, you're guaranteed to get caught in a nasty hailstorm. (Yes, this happened to me!)
3. Bring your extra camera battery with you every day. If you don't, your camera will die on you at about 11:00 a.m., and you'll miss about a thousand photo opportunities for the rest of the day. (This, too, happened to me.)
4. Recharge your extra camera battery every day. (This idea is clearly a stroke of genius that I came up with yesterday. Of course, it was borne out of number 3 above.)
5. Bring bottled water with you every day. (Thankfully the bus driver had several bottles on board today. Tomorrow I'll be ready.)
6. Bring some kind of snack or munchies with you every day. (There is something here called "Greek time." This means that although there is a written schedule for the day's activities and appointments, there is really no guarantee that anything on the list will happen at that appointed time. Meetings don't really start on time, traffic creates further delay, a decision is made to switch the museum and lunch times due to the fact that the museum closes in the early afternoon, making lunch an event at 3:00 p.m......ola kala!)
7. At lunch, try at least a little of everything. Better yet, eat a lot of everything! (It's bound to be delicious beyond your wildest dreams, and dinner isn't served until 9:00 p.m.)
8. Bring a broad brimmed hat every day. (Hey, I grew up in Southern California; this was a no-brainer for me!)
9. Put sunscreen on every day. And put the tube of sunscreen in your Nike nylon bag. (Hey, I grew up in Southern California; this was a no-brainer for me!)
10. Put a small pack of Kleenex in your purse. (You never know when you'll encounter squat style toilets. The school we visited today has just such facilities; I took photos. Oh, and I used the facilities too!)
11. Don't freak out when you log onto Blogger and every word on the page appears in Greek except your name. (I confess; I freaked out.)
12. Take advice from the people you travel with that it takes ages to upload photos to Facebook or your blog. (Consider yourself warned; I might only be able to bore you with my photos upon my return home!)
13. Check out the prices for a foot massage at the local spa. Book an appointment for sometime before you leave for the next town. (I now need to follow my own advice.)
Hmmm...I wonder how many more items I will add before these five weeks are over?