On Friday, 12th of January to be exact, I left from the Budapest airport for my year long EVS adventure in Thessaloniki. The first half of my journey led me to Athens, from where I was supposed to take another flight to Thessaloniki. I was pleasantly surprised when the plane hit the ground of the landing platform, and all of the passengers started to applause as if the whole flight had been some kind of performance which could be measured in terms of its aesthetic qualities. For a moment, it seemed a bit unusual to me, but eventually I joined the applause, realizing that piloting an airplane is, from a certain point of view, indeed a form of art. My surprise was even bigger when I discussed this phenomenon with the locals, later on, who told me that the clapping was actually a form of “awarding” the pilot for not crashing the plane and landing it safely after an adventurous flight.
In Athens, I waited for almost 12 hours for the next flight, which was a perfect opportunity for reading books and sleeping. After boarding the plane headed to Thessaloniki, I was seated next to a very nice and warm person called Anna-Maria. As a psychologist, she was very talkative, thus, we spent the time of our flight entertained by a conversation during which she taught me some cultural basics for my stay in Greece (the days of the week; the fact that gyros, in Thessaloniki, is without Tzatziki; etc.). In the end, she awarded me a gift in the form of a traditional greek sweet and crunchy delight: Magnum. This sweet chocolate wafer was also a way for Anna-Maria to express her gratitude for having calmed her down in the moments of a more intense turbulence.
After the landing, I asked Anna-Maria to help me determine, with her psychological skills, whether the people that were coming to pick me up from the airport were safe or not. She accepted this challenge with a giggly laughter, and then we went outside to smoke. The first EVS colleague that we met on the airport was a big eyed girl holding a paper with my name on it. Her name was Hande, and she seemed a little tired but, at the same time, cute and harmless. While I was smoking a cigarette with Anna-Maria outside of the airport building, another EVS colleague appeared – a tall guy with curly hair, glasses, and a tired look on his face. Anna-Maria measured both of these EVSers with her professional glance, and then approved, nodding in my direction with a large smile on her face. At this point, I was sure that these tired young people definitely meant no harm and we could go together to the Balkan HotSpot headquarters.
After saying goodbye to Anna-Maria, I hit the road with the EVSers previously mentioned, and within the next half an hour I was, for the first time, exposed to the nightlife within the streets of Thessaloniki – this caused a really unique first impression on me. The area around the city centre contained a wide variety of architectonic elements, from modern to ancient ones. A mixture of concrete apartment houses, ancient monuments, churches, and abandoned buildings under reconstruction in the light of multiple street lamps, caused an impression of an urban area with the signature of many interesting eras that had passed through it.
For my tired brain, it was a slightly overwhelming experience but, at the same time, I intuitively felt that this place had a large potential of being a pool of unique and unforgettable phenomena. The EVS people that were in the car with me were just highlighting this impression – big eyed Hande came out to be a passionate photography lover, and Lorenzo AKA «The Warrior» was a true renaissance man in the area of multimedia and visual art. Since this special moment ten days have passed and I am pretty happy to have found out that my first impressions were right. The city itself, as well as people in it, seem to be as varied as the flavors in an ice cream shop, and I am looking forward to see what kind of experience is awaiting me in this wonderful environment throughout the year that has just started …