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July 11, 2002

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Yesterday evening we entered Greece, an easy border for non-Albanians (special no-line treatment and a dedicated computer terminal for Americans and EU citizens while the Albanians clawed there way through a mob to the other terminal). In Greece, the bus carried us to Ionnina for dinner before another long ride to Thessaloniki. The contrast between Albania and Greece goes way beyond a language and currency change; Greece, the richest country within the region, shares a border with Albania, the poorest country in Europe. Our bus ride in Greece offers all of the amenities, a smooth ride all the way to Thessaloniki. We arrived there at 1:00 AM and we're attacked by mosquitos instead of taxi drivers. We hailed a cab and picked a hotel in our usual price range - cheap and flea-bitten. In the morning we toured Thessaloniki, a town bustling with people, streetside cafes on every corner, a long waterfront of bars and restaurants, a few Roman ruins, and a charming medieval quarter situated under Byzantine walls. Thessaloniki is the old trade capital of this region and today it's the most developed city within miles in any direction, more advanced than the last few capitals we visited in Albania, Macedonia, or Bulgaria.
Thessaloniki's offers many charming streetside cafes and beautiful old fortifications for the passing traveler. It's worth a stopover.
Greeks preserve their culture from the American Fast Food onslaught by offering their own touches: MacDonalds serves Greek Macs and beers.