What happens when you try to hitchhike from Thessaloniki to a specific beach in Chalkidiki with seven people? Is it doomed from the start, or is it doable? And what do you do when it starts storming while you are on your way? Join me on a trip down memory lane and find out more about Slavic spirit, Greek hospitality, and unexpected encounters.
This story happened quite some time ago, but I finally decided to put into written words now that I am getting close to the end of my project. I have been looking back on the beautiful and interesting experiences and encounters that made my EVS special. This trip to Chalkidiki that I will tell you about was definitely one of those. As summer is coming again, it can also be an inspiration to visit Chalkidiki, which is quite easy to reach from Thessaloniki and definitely worth exploring.
Time for an adventure
The trip started on a Saturday morning. Seven people carrying backpacks, blankets, clothes got on a bus to find a spot to start hitchhiking from. We were not sure if this would work, as we were a big group, but we figured it was worth a try. We split into three smaller groups, got to our spot, and spread out along the road and waited. And waited…
It took some time, but finally, we were all picked up. I was with two others, and we were not sure how easy it would be to hitchhike with three people. It turned out not to be too difficult. We were first picked up by a Serbian monk, who was on the way to Mount Athos on the third leg of Chalkidiki. As my partners-in-hitchhike were both from Slovakia, they could communicate with the driver on a basic level. I was mostly happy to be moving. After a while, the driver dropped us off and the whole thing started again. At least this time, we did not have to compete with our housemates…
After some time, a Russian couple picked us up. One of my travel companions argued that it was ‘Slavic spirit’ that attracted the people stopping for us (both travel companions were Slovak). Slavic spirit or not, we were once again closer to our destination.
As we got to the beginning of the second leg of Chalkidiki, we decided to take a break from travelling and eat some good food. All seven of us stopped in Nikíti, where trouble was lurking in a corner. As we sat down to devour tasty gyros and french fries, a thunderstorm broke out. It started raining, and our summery, sunny trip to Chalkidiki seemed to wash away before our very eyes. For a moment, we lost hope, but we had already come halfway. It was not the time to give up. So once again, we waited. Not for a car this time, but for the rain to pass. And it did, finally, so we decided to continue our journey.
From hitchhiker to babysitter
Still part of the same team of hitchhikers, I got back on my feet and back to the street. We were lucky, and soon a camper-van stopped for us. There was a family of two parents and two children, so it was quite busy, but they had plenty of space for us. At one point, the mother put one of the children on my lap, as she was busy with the other one. From hitchhiker to babysitter! Of course, I didn’t mind putting in this small effort of taking care of the sweet child, as they were giving us a free ride.
In the meantime, we contacted our fellow travellers and decided which beach to go to. As if it was meant to be, the people who picked us up were driving exactly past that beach, so we just had to get off and walk down the sand road for some meters. It was perfect!
Just as perfect was the beach. Sun, sea, sand and lots of people enjoying exactly those things. In the beach bar not far from where we were staying, there was a wedding going on. At night, we had pleasant background music from it, and at some point, there were even fireworks! We had a wonderful time, even if we didn’t sleep too much. The next day, we woke up with the sun touching our faces and with the sound of the sea in our ears. After spending some time eating, swimming, sunbathing and having fun with friends, it was time to make our way back again. Back to the second part of this hitchhiking adventure.
A lucky encounter
The way back was smooth, thanks to the amazing people that picked us up. We (this time it was me and one other volunteer) took our first steps on the sandy path from the beach, and my travel companion raised his arm as the first car drove towards us. To our pleasant surprise, the car stopped and the couple in the car was going towards Thessaloniki. “But we are going to have dinner with friends somewhere along the way,” they told us. We figured
After some time getting to know each other and telling stories about our life in Greece and our trip to Chalkidiki, the hospitable people invited us to join the dinner with their friends! It was a pleasant surprise. We went to a nice taverna in a small village – and when we wanted to pay our share, our drivers surprised us once more with the words: “No, don’t worry, it is on us!” The hospitality of these amazing people amazed us. Close to Thessaloniki, they asked us to switch cars and drive the last part with their friends, as they were going more into the city centre. After the switch, the friends dropped us off at the train station, which is very close to our house. We felt that the trip almost couldn’t have gone smoother.
The hospitality of these people we met, and everyone else who picked us up, impressed and amazed us. And the story didn’t end here: sometime later we were invited to a birthday barbecue of one of them! We felt incredibly grateful to have gotten into contact with these wonderful people and to have had such a positive adventure. Writing this made me want to go back to Chalkidiki for new adventures!
Pictures by Cornon J. Kedro and Filip Grác