I thrive off of the word “no” because it means I need to prove that anything is possible. So when many people told me to avoid Greece during this economic crisis, naturally I had to go.
At this point I had left Vienna and Budapest, and was missing the company of a boy. Like every leg of any journey in life, you often are reluctant for change; funny how you always convince yourself are happy once time forces you to move forward. So while I had been eager for the day I would visit Greece, I couldn’t understand why I was being pulled in every direction. Of course, once I was there, everything felt better…it’s just getting there.
- Was 15 minutes late to check in and shouldn’t have been allowed to sneak past
- checked into a dodgy one bedroom hostel that had balcony doors connecting to others, yet unstable locks
- Last minute friend who bought me this grand mezes and orektika dinner of lamb, chicken, skewers, saganaki, spanakopita, tzatziki (greek yogurt), dolmadakia, dakos, Kroketes and so much food I just had to take leftovers.
So day one and I’m super full and happy; the city of Thessaloniki was being very kind to me. Until I decided to leave it. Thought it would be adventurous to take my new hammock from Asia and test it out on a beach on one of the three fingers northeast of the city. As a female solo traveler I was very aware of not putting myself into danger, yet I don’t know how I suddenly stopped?
I was aiming to go somewhere with a huge sandy beach, so you can imagine my surprise when I jumped off the bus in Nea Moudania and saw nothing but old, damaged buildings. I pulled my iphone map open (honestly tried to used sparingly when I didn’t have a physical map) and saw a patch of green and ocean not too far. I also noticed my battery was on 24% and I only had a small day bag filled with a hammock, toothbrush, leftover spanakopitas and a change of clothes. Why was I so ill-prepared for this day trip?!
Anyway I headed toward what appeared to be a beach on the map and took in the scenery as I passed house after house of laundry, screaming kids, Greek women and radio frequencies. I felt like I took a step back in time. Arrived to the water to see nothing but trash-covered rocks.
In my disappointment I rested by eating a spanakopita and plotted my next move, while a curious crab kept playing with my feet. I sat upon the rocks with my feet dangling in the salty ocean for about thirty minutes when I realized it was getting to be dusk and I needed a plan. I came to the conclusion that I could walk toward the grassy cliff in the distance, scope it out and see if a hammock would nestle it’s way into a hidden tree. My mission was to be as covert and unseen as possible, as spending the night outside in the not-so-woods sounded like a thriller waiting to happen anyway.
I had been calmly hopping rock to rock for another good thirty minutes, dodging the washed up nets and glass scatter upon each rock. When I reached the hill something made me stop to soak up the sun and scenery. I took out my camera and snapped a photo. Suddenly that weird feeling in your gut when someone is staring at you from behind made me look around. To my surprise there was a young man, about ten meters in the distance, walking my direction.
My heart stopped. Why would anyone be walking toward a filthy, rock-hopping dead-end near the sea? He was following me. He was too far to determine what his eyes were saying, yet too close to casually walk away. My intuition told me to run. Quick. So I did.
I threw my camera in the bag (to this day regretting not having taken a photo of the sickening moment, only to analyze later) and climbed up the cliff. While it was somewhat steep and had many thorns along the way, I had no choice, as adrenaline pushed me upward, away from danger and the man picking up speed behind me.
I reached the top in a record minute, stopping to gag and throw up the little food I had eaten. I was truly scared, so I caught my breathe and sprinted toward the nearest neighborhood in the distance…I was too scared to see if he was even still behind me.
Long story slightly shorted – an old man noticed I had been walking fast around the neighborhood, clearly lost, and stopped upon second passing to offer me dinner and a bed. I gladly accepted when I established 1) he was a 60+ old man with a cane…I was positive I could take him 2) he worked in Australia for many years 3) the buses stopped running every hour and 4) there were little to none hotels in this small dirt town.
While a part of me was nervous to walk into a strangers house, I was immediately reassured when I saw many religious paintings scattered on the kitchen wall. He gave me eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and even left the house twice to pick up cigarettes and alcohol … relax people, I did not request these.
The old man returned and what was originally a friendly manner quickly turned into disrespect and vulgar. I couldn’t understand between the clashing of cultures and language barrier if I should feel in danger. It wasn’t helping that he continued to reach for my leg, speak about prostitutes HE SEES ON A DAILY BASIS, offer his shower at least three times, and continue to “fluff” my panties that were laying on the outside balcony to dry…yes people I was sitting on the rocks and they got soaked and it was stupid of me to wave them around this horny old man. My phone had 5% so I sent an S.O.S. to a friend in Vienna to let SOMEONE know my whereabouts in the worst scenario.
He asked why I was running, I told him, and it really didn’t help the situation when he said that it is very dangerous for a blonde girl to be wondering around by herself; that many Algerian prison exiles are sent to Greece where sex-trafficking (and in many cases death) occurs among tourists and even local females. This old man was starting to stir my stomach into knots as he began mysteriously answering his door to receive “Tupperware” and running outside to get “cigarettes” even phone calls to his “friend” … while traveling I kept a small diamond ring on my wedding finger for events like this. I reassured the man (and myself) that my fiance was coming to meet me in the morning at the bus stop and he kept saying “bullshit” as if the small .01K diamond wasn’t enough. hah.
The night certainly didn’t get better as he kept insisting I “forget about boyfriend and come trip to Bulgaria tomorrow”…I gritted my teeth as the sun settled and dark seeped in. At least I was sleeping in an extra room (and I was trying not to think too hard about WHY he had an extra room when he lived alone countries away from family in Australia). Of that weird night this much I can say followed:
- I casually faked an STD and AIDs so he would think I was “damaged goods”
- I did not sleep a wink, using a chair to block the door
- I eventually took a shower, using his old man toilet chair to block the door without a lock
- He really took me to the bus stop as promised, minutes before him and his friend headed out to search for prostitutes
- It really was Tupperware he neighbor returned the night prior…
I don’t want to know what really would have happened if that day went any other way – but I suppose the only thing I took away from this bizarre incident is better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.
Time to flee to a city with more tourists – perhaps Athens?