When we were in Hoi Ann, Vietnam, last Spring, our new friends Michael and Afroditi (or Diti) told us about Diti’s incredible family back in Greece. They talked at length about Petros and Soula, Diti’s aunt and uncle who are essentially her second set of parents. When they left Hoi Ann, they invited us to visit them and stay with Petros and Soula that summer. It was an invitation we couldn’t refuse.
The Magic of Thessaloniki
We arrived in Thessaloniki on a hot June day. It somehow felt different than the other parts of Greece we’d visited, and we were instantly intrigued. Michael and Diti surprised us at the airport, with Michael’s brother and sister-in-law. As quickly as Brandon and I had bonded with Michael and Diti in Vietnam, we easily settled into new friendships with J.D. and Timmy. We stopped for dinner in the city center, followed by drinks on the cosmopolitan waterfront overlooking the Aegean sea. The real fun began when we left the city and met Petros and Soula at their charming home in Volvi.
There are a lot of warm people in the world, especially in Greece. Yet somehow, Petros and Soula went above and beyond in making us feel like members of their extended family…while speaking only a few words of English. Luckily, Diti was there to translate. At the end of the day, our real connections were made through smiles, gestures, and copious amounts of delicious Greek food and wine. Soula is a gifted chef, and each dish was expertly prepared with the freshest ingredients, including vegetables from the abundant garden. Greek varieties of white wine, always on target in the summer, were the perfect accompaniment for the beautiful food. Petros and Soula fed us like we were preparing to hibernate for the winter, and no one was about to complain.
We’d begin our days with Greek coffee and yogurt with fresh fruit, and leisurely plot our next move. Our group went to the beach every day, and spent hours relaxing and drinking. Diti showed us the most breathtaking beaches in the area, and each one seemed better than the last. One standout was Sani Beach in the Halkidi area, where the tavern food was superb, particularly the grilled calamari. Along the way, we visited picturesque villages, straight out of a postcard. Our evenings consisted of the aforementioned delicious Greek meals, followed by very serious games of Uno. On our last night, Petros and Soula prepared a true feast, capped off by traditional music with drumming and dancing. It was the perfect way to end an unforgettable visit, but we were a bit saddened by the reality that we had to say goodbye to our new adopted family.
On our last day, we packed our bags and headed into the city, since we had a late evening flight. We said long goodbyes to Petros and Soula, and the rest of us drove into Thessaloniki. Diti brought us to another fantastic local restaurant we never would have found on our own. After stuffing ourselves one last time, we walked around the old city and the famed fort, until the notorious Greek summer heat became overbearing. We ended our time in Thessaloniki the way it had started…drinking to great friends and new adventures.
If You Go
Spend some time on Thessaloniki’s gorgeous waterfront. Tribeca was our favorite spot for drinks. See the White Tower of Thessaloniki (you can’t miss it), and the city walls. Try the region’s street food. Delicious and inexpensive gyros and souvlaki are ubiquitous. The grilled and fried calamari was always top notch. You can’t go wrong with the white wine, and Retsina was the one we had most often. Unfortunately, Petros and Soula aren’t available for tours…
Photo credit: all photos by Michael Jeje