Though we've been to Greece several times, we hadn't visited Thessaloniki, and I knew nothing about it. Not even that it is the second largest city in Greece. I only knew that it used to have a large and prosperous Jewish community, which was wiped out during WW2.
Sitting in the taxi on our way from the airport into town, we drove through familiar-looking roads, shops, warehouses and garages. As we approached the big city, the view changed into a mixture of modern-day but somewhat rundown buildings, interspersed with smaller old or antique houses and other structures. Traffic became heavier, everything seemed taller and denser.
And then we reached our destination. There was absolutely no place to park, so the driver just stopped, ignoring any honking, took our bags out of the trunk, and pointed to the narrow building, squashed like all others in-between two other buildings, on 59 Elftheriou street. It didn't look like a hotel. Because it isn't. It's simply rooms for rent -- some basic, some fancier.
We had no idea how to get in. The glass front door was locked. Behind it we could see a small, empty lobby, with 2 elevator doors on the right and behind them a staircase. There were two gadgets on the wall next to the front door. One was obviously for typing in an entry code, which we didn't have; the other had a button to buzz Information, or Reception, or Zeus knows what. We pressed it several times but nothing happened. Luckily, someone was just coming out of the building, so we quickly dashed in, dragging our suitcases behind us.
Turns out that of all six floors, only numbers 5 and 6 make up Luxor Premium Suites. Eventually, a young woman met us on the fifth floor, we were given the code for the front door and for our suite, were told where to go for breakfast the next day, and we "checked in". No real lobby, no front or back desk, no coffee corner, not to mention a garden or a yard. No fuss. But a bit confusing for a newcomer.
On the positive side, the room was large, spick and span, aesthetic and comfortable, and the a/c did its job quietly.
|Our room, #501|
We unpacked, and took note of the two relatively-high steps leading to the bathroom door. (Pleased to say we did not trip over it when going to the loo in the middle of the night.) The shower stall had a rim separating it from the rest of the small room, plus a shower curtain -- two items that may seem obvious to the average tourist, but turned out to be rather rare ;-) On the other hand, there was no high hook on which to hang up the hand-held shower head, which made things a bit awkward. But I forgave all, once I'd enjoyed the Natural Olive shower gel & shampoo... True, it wasn't my favorite brand (Olive Era), but it did the job. Another shortcoming that repeated itself in most other places we stayed at was the lack of enough hooks on which to hang towels, clothes, etc.
Oh, and very important: The room had a coffee nook; i.e., a corner with a small fridge (including two half-liter bottles of nero matillico), a Nespresso coffee machine, a couple of cups and glasses, and electric kettle. (Good thing Michael always brings his favorite tea, and I brought my fave botz (black) coffee.)
The view from the hotel window was, um, very urban, very typically Thessalonikian, as it turned out. However, there are quite a few other hotels and hostels in the area, because it is indeed very conveniently located, within easy walking distance of eateries, minimarkets, ancient landmarks, museums, pretty boulevards, and the seafront.
|A room with a view?...|
First things first -- a nap. Next -- a walk to a cellular-phone shop, to replace our Israeli SIM card with a local one. By sheer coincidence, the girl who served us was called Nina. She's originally from Georgia, and was delighted to hear that we'd been to Tbilisi and liked it.