This awesome adventure taught Mike some essential tips to improve his hitchhiking skills and he's now willing to share them with you. Let's introduce the heart of this rubric: Mike. Who's hiding behind this adventurous little man?
Mike is a single, pretty creepy guy who has only three goals in life: travel the world, whiten his teeth as much as possible and collect one night stands with pretty girls. This ever single dude has never had a girlfriend in his life, spend most of his time in the sun to be tanned all year long and is always on fleek thanks to his ability to appear perfect in any situation. Very confident and (a bit) pretentious, he likes to describe himself simply as “super cool”. Mike is, somehow, very wealthy but nobody knows where his fortune comes from. Arrogant and enigmatic, he likes to cultivate this mystery. Always trendy, he loves wearing fur coats and big necklaces. Thanks to his glamorous tan and bright smile, Mike always displays a healthy glow and had never experienced sadness in his whole life.
“Hey guys, I am Mike! People think that I'm the coolest guy in the entire world and I have to say, I can't really deny it, they are totally right about this. I always wanted to travel the world by hitchhiking and I finally had the balls to do it! Ok, maybe not the world. But Greece is not so bad for a start. I came back from this experience safe and all grown up, mentally and physically. That's why I'd like to share it with you, lucky folks! You are welcome. My crazy adventure began in a cafe, where I had a drink or two (maybe more). There, at a table with my sex on the beach in one hand and my laptop in the other, I started to think about a plan for my perfect road trip from Istanbul to Greece. At the table next to mine, I noticed a very pretty girl. Unfortunetaly, I couldn't see her entire face from my seat. I sat on the other chair of my table to be abble to contemplate her stunning beauty. As soon as I was in her viewing angle, she immediately started to stare at me. It didn't suprise me. That's how it always goes with girls: they just can't resist my sex appeal. Actually sometimes I wish it wasn't that easy to catch them, but what can I say, Mother Nature has always been very generous to me... Anyway, this is off topic. So, after i gave her my famous big smile and a few winks, I finally started to work on my trip. I opened my laptop to check from where, in Istanbul, I should start my road trip. At this moment, I couldn't help but notice that the pretty girl was also reading some travelling guides on the internet. It began to be very interesting when i saw that she was also looking at photos of Greece. You know me guys, I couldn't stay on my chair any longer! I asked her if I could take a seat next to her. As soon as talked, her big blue eyes started to sparkle. “Sure”, she answered. We had a little chat and we introduced each other. She seemed very happy to have a conversation with me (which I totally understand, I'm brilliant). What was her name? Hm. I really don't remember but who cares? Names are just labels. Only the inner beauty of the soul matters. Anyway, she was on vacation in Istanbul and Greece was her next destination. This is where everything started, guys. I shared with her my plan to go on a road trip by hitchhinking, without knowing where exactly İ should go. “Oh why wouldn't you come to Thessaloniki with me?!”, she asked. “Ok. Let the trip begin, sweetheart”.
Istanbul, being the huge city that it is, is very difficult to leave by hitchhiking from the city center. This is why we took a bus to Silivri, a district located on the border of the city that is connected to the main highways, leading outside of Istanbul. You should start hitchhiking from Silivri to Ipsala, where is situated the border between Turkey and Greece. You will realise quickly that Turkey is a real heaven for hitchhikers. The concept of hitchhiking is widely spread and getting a lift shouldn't take you more than 20 minutes of waiting. In Silivri, within two minutes of sticking our thumbs out, a kind Turkish driver took us in the direction of Ipsala. The girl told me that the driver stopped thanks to her, but there is no doubt that it was just because of my charisma.
In Ipsala we managed to find a Turkish truck driver, again, very fast. It took us five hours to cross the border to Greece. Not wanting to wait for a new ride in the pouring rain, we decided to stay inside of the truck and we waited in line with other trucks to cross the border. Eventually, we found a car that was willing to take us to Komotini. This was certainely not our first planned destination, but it was still better than being stuck at the border, so we took it. You'll quickly learn that hitchhiking often comes with many spontaneous and unexpected destinations...
At 3 in the morning, we arrived in the city center of Komotini. We could have spent the night in a hostel, but we preferred to continue our journey to Thessaloniki as quickly as possible, so we decided to spend the night in a club instead. We got ourselves some beers and dumped the cardboard on the terrace of the café. We akwardly danced to greek music in between the locals. By the time the bar was getting empty, we decided to continue our way and set foot to the main roads outside of the center. Unfortunately, it was still dark, super cold and there were barely any cars on the road. During that trip we noticed that Greeks seem to be a lot less likely to pick up hitchikers than Turks. Hitchhiking in Greece can take more time because many Greeks seem to be afraid of immigrants. However, if you are patient enough, you will get a ride. Greeks who have ever lived abroad or have travelled around seem to be much more open to picking up hitchhikers, as are foreign tourists.
We arrived in Thessaloniki on Saturday morning. The city is located on the coast and is perfect for afternoon walks along the boulevard. There are many bars and cafés, usually all filled with youngsters, because Thessaloniki is a real student city. Thessaloniki is regarded as the cultural capital of the country and there are many theatres and museums to be found. Most of the entrance fees are very low, or free for students. We met the friend of a girl who hosted us two nights at her place. As it was a very spontenous trip, we didn’t make any detailed plan before leaving and didn't know what we should visit, so we got some tips about the city from this nice local. First, we went to a cafe near the seaside to have some drinks and chill out. After we finished our coffees, we made a plan to visit the White Tower. We started to walk from the seaside and we saw one African hawker who was selling very cheap sunglasses. We checked his marchandise and asked for the prices. “7 euros”, he said. There was no way we'd pay that much for these low-quality sunglasses so we started to bargain. “Okay okay, he continued, it's only 5 euros for you guys”. We all know that kind of little trick that street sellers use and I haven't been born yesterday so I answered: “Look man, I am Turkish, Istanbuller to be more precise, and I won't give 5 euros for this absolute rubbish!”. I wish you could have seen his face when I said I was Turkish. “Ohhh bro!, he exclaimed with a big smile. I love Istanbul, I lived there for 3 months! 3 euros for the sunglasses will be fine!”. His offer finally sounded good to me. We choose two pairs of sunglasses, paid our due, and kept on going to reach the White Tower. This symbol of Thessaloniki was built during the 15th century. You can get some information about history of Thessaloniki from there, and if you are interested in the story of the city, you should definitely visit this place. After visiting the White Tower, we decided to go to Agios Dimitrios Church, which was built around 300 AD and is the most famous church of the city. In the past, Greeks believed that this church protected their city from external attacks. I was surprised to find out that the church was full of locals. The Greek people is definitely one of the most religious in Europe. After visiting the church, fatigue caught up with us so we decided to go to home, get some rest and get ready to party! We checked on the internet if there was any electro-music party in this city. We eventually found one and asked our host if he knew where it was. By the way, I forgot to give you some information about that guy who nicely hosted us (unluckily he wasn't a she... but nobody's perfect I guess). This guy was pretty new in the neighborhood since he moved to Thessaloniki only two months before we arrived. As nice as he was, he wasn't as cool as me (how could he be?), and he couln't help us to find the club we were looking for. We decided to go out without any more information, praying we'd magically come across the club. All we knew was that it was located next to a parking lot. On our way, we bumped into a group of girls to whom we asked if they knew the place. “The club is right next to the port guys”, they said without any more details, as if it was so easy peasy to find... After two hours of unsucessful wandering, we finally got the idea that we'll never find that damned club. But that was before bumping again into the same group of girls. “You... again?!”, one of the girl said with round eyes. “Yes... us again, still desperately looking for that fuc**** party”. I'm sure the girls were definitely excited to see me again, but I wasn't quite in the mood for flirting (don't judge, it happens sometimes, even to the best). This time, she described us precisely how to get there. But when we finally reached the club, the place was totally empty. We checked again on the website. “Party will go on until 00:00”. As it was 2 am, no wonder why we were the only chaps still walking around here... Tired and kind of hangovered after the few drinks we had before leaving, we decided to go back home and get some real rest.
We wanted to get up early the next day to have time to walk around but as usual, we failed to follow our plan. We finally woke up around 1 pm and quickly left home to visit Ano Poli. The Ano Poli region is the old town (or upper town) of the city. The most famous building of that district is the Castle of Thessaloniki, which was built in 316 BC. Located behind of the center, there are two ways to reach Ano Poli: you can take the bus from that starts from the center, or you can walk from there straight to the castle (mostly climbing, it takes about 15-20 minutes). We choose to walk because of the old, small and beautiful houses along the road. In the past, when Thessaloniki was part of the Ottoman Empire, mostly Turkish people used to live in this region. There, you can see and visit the house of the most famous Turkish leader, Atatürk, who is well known for the establishment of the Turkish Republic. The house is now part of the Turkish consulate complex, but the entrance to the museum is free. The museum contains historic information about Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his life, especially while he was in Thessaloniki. You can also see waxworks of Atatürk and his mum in the house. After visiting the museum, we started to walk to the upper town. Here, we grabbed some drinks to casually contemplate the beautiful view of Thessaloniki, from the walls of the castle. If I lived in Thessaloniki, there's no doubt that I would buy a pretty house here and that I would give really good sunset parties every summer! Anyway, as the sky got dark and the girl drunk (she was dancing on a song that came from a car parked next to us...), it was time to leave the castle's walls. We walked back to the city center, and bumped into a crowd that encircled the White Tower. We tried to understand what was going on there, we noticed a billboard on which we could read “Thessaloniki International Animation Film Festival”. The entrance was for free so we got inside the building and waited for the show to start. You can imagine our stupefaction when we found out that the movie was talking about the famous Hansel and Gretel Story, but told in a very strange and scientific way... Seemingly, Hansel and Gretel were actually two stupids and very naughty children who foolishly got lost in the forest, while the old lady was actually an innocent person who was living in her sweet candy house without annoying anybody. As you already know, as Hansel and Gratel started to be hungry, they looked for something to eat and inconveniently bumped into that cute candy house. Those two rude kids started to nibble the house, and here come the weird scientific explanations... After eating candies, their blood glucose values drastically increased, which made them even more energetic and unbearable than they already were. As they were running, screaming and making noises all around the house, the poor and innocent old lady got out of her house to check where did those strange noises come from. Without any further ado, Hansel and Gratel just killed the old lady... What the hell was this?.. I still don't know if I made up that story because I was still a bit drunk or if I actually saw that, but as far as I remember, that wasn't the tale my mum used to tell me! Anyway, we actually enjoyed that weird version of this tale, but it was now time to go home and get some rest. Next morning we'll have to get up very early to make our way back to Istanbul by hitchhiking.
Monday morning, it was time for us to go back to Istanbul. The route from Thessaloniki up to Kavala (direction of the Greek-Turkish border), is well-known for being difficult. If you are lucky and find a Turkish truck to get in, it will make your way back much easier. Fortunately, we found an awesome Turkish truck driver who could take us all the way to the border. Turkish people are hospitable and curious, which, from a hitchhikers perspective, is probably the best host mentality combination. Getting a lift from a Turkish driver often means getting invited for a tea, lunch or dinner. This truck driver made no exception to the rule and invited us for dinner in a nice Greek restaurant. The only compensation that was expected was a selfie! Me, photogenic as I am, had no problem with that. But he actually wanted to take a selfie with the girl... only. At first I didn’t understand why he didn't want me on the photo but then it striked me! He just didn't want to look ridiculous compared to me! This actually happens often, but it's fine, I totally get it, I wouldn't want to be on a photo next to a guy as handsome as I am. So they took their ugly selfie without me and he took us to the border. Be careful, there is always a long line of trucks at the border level. The best way to cross it quickly is to change your truck for a car. We got off the truck and easily found a new (luxurious) car driven by two Turkish guys.
Luckily, these two really nice Turkish guys were going to Istanbul as well. But before reaching Istanbul, one of the guys had to leave so we had to change the car, but it didn't cause any problems for us. They also invited us to dinner and they didn’t let us to pay for it... But was it really because of the famous Turkish hospitality or because of my charisma? But my charisma would not work for the guys, so it was probably their Turkish hospitality. After dinner, it took us two hours to arrive to the driver’s house. There, we changed the car and we continued with his friend’s jeep. Our return trip was really comfortable and pleasant. The jeep's driver started to smoke so I asked him if it was okay if I did the same. “Of course you can smoke too”, he answered. So I opened the window and started to smoke casually my cigarette. But because of the wind, my cigarette fell down inside the car. As I couldn't find that cigarette that was still burning somewhere, I started to panic and screamed to the driver to stop the car, pretending that I just dropped... my lighter! (I was too afraid to have caused some damages to his car so I couldn't tell him I lost my cigarette inside!) . He suddenly stopped the car and I started to look frenetically for my burning cigarette. After almost 5 minutes of intensive researches and panicking, the girl told me “Oh boy, never mind your lighter, I have one if you need it!”.. F***! What could I have responded to that?! As the driver started to drive again, thinking I just lost a lighter, I decided to text the girl to warn her that I wasn't looking for a stupid lighter but for my damned cigarette that was still burning somewhere in the jeep! I wish you could have seen her face... Surprised about my suddenly weird behaviour, the driver asked me why I was checking the car so attentively. “Oh I like your jeep, that's all...”, I answered, trying to keep calm. “Is it a new one?”, I asked. “Yep, I bought it last year!”. My face turned white as I started imagining the car burning during the night because of my damned unfound cigarette... We left the car somewhere close to Sisli and we safely reached Istanbul. Even today we are still wondering if the jeep is still alive...