We waited a few more minutes for some safety announcements and then took off. We had a female pilot flying us and these all made the trip exciting. We left Beauvais Airport in Paris to Thessaloniki in Greece that afternoon.
I was around 8 years at the time when I dreamt of myself travelling to a place called Thessalonica – a city in the bible times which happens to be one of the books of the bible as well. In that dream, I visited that ‘country’ as I understood it to be then and on my way back in the dream, the aircraft I was in crashed and something happened that I can only describe as death and I woke up from the dream or nightmare.
At that age, this dream was very fascinating to me but I kept it to myself. After some 6 years or so, a friend of mine whose uncle lives in Greece sent him a present which was a school bag. The bag, which I think was for a conference that took place Thessaloniki, Greece. First, it reminded me of the dream I had earlier and also that a place like that still exist in contemporary world. Initially, I was thinking some of those Bible cities were history but the bag made me think otherwise. It was then I made up my mind that one day, I must visit that city.
Now, its 17 years after seeing the bag and 23 years after the dream, I was planning to visit France and I wanted to visit Toulouse and Paris. I had wanted Tolouse specifically because I wanted to have a glimpse of the Airbus Airplane Assembly plant and as at that time, I neither thought of visiting Greece nor Thessaloniki.
When I was trying to make a booking for Toulouse, and just at the point of selecting it, I saw Thessaloniki just before Toulouse I was looking for because the names of the airports where arranged alphabetically. I instantly changed my mind to visit Thessaloniki since it was almost the same amount I was to pay Toulouse – roughly 80 euros for a return trip and I needed no extra visa since I had Schengen visa already.
I was allowed to board the plane after the late check-in. The flight was very interesting. First of all, I noticed I was the only black person on board. Every other living thing in the plane was white and guess what, they were all friendly for the 2-hour duration of the flight.
A few times during the flight, my mind was going back and forth to that dream I narrated earlier – what if this plane blows up midair. In any case, I maintained my cool. I had a good time talking with the passenger and two other crew members who sat close by.
The passenger near me who was half British and half Greek told me a lot about Thessaloniki. I also told him about Africa. The more junior one of the crew members said he took the job because he wanted to end up being a pilot. The other crew member impressed me the most. He was Turkish and he could speak up to 7 languages professionally. He made announcements in 7 different European languages. He told me he has been learning since he was a kid and he is still learning. He was one of the reasons I was inspired that it is possible to learn and speak multiple languages fluently.
I was excited that finally we were a few minutes to landing. I was a bit terrified at the final approach to SKG. I admired the blue clear Aegean Sea but suddenly, I thought of the dream. I wondered what it the airplane blew up in piece. What if a component malfunctions? I imagined how happy the Leviathan of the Greek mythology in the Aegean Sea would be to have a piece of me for lunch that afternoon if any of those happened. While I was wallowing in these thoughts, we safely landed in Greece that afternoon.
Before this trip. I had made a reservation for an AIRBNB hostel. It was when I got to the airport I leant that my reservation was located on the outskirts of the city. From the airport, I would need two different buses to get there. First was a 1-euro ticket to the City Center and another 2-euro ticket to a place called Fix Bustop. I took the first bus to the City Center. It was so frustrating because so many people in the bus did neither spoke nor understood English or French (which I spoke a little of it at that time).
On the road, I admired some of the building initially. I also noticed that unlike other European cities I have been to, there were lots of air conditioners on some of the buildings. On arrival at the City Center, I realized how hungry I was. I had not had any meal for almost 24 hours and I was in place I could hardly communicate.
This was somehow a climax for me. To add salt to this injury, I did not know where to take the next bus. So, I decided to get a bottle of coke and a croissant. Even though that did not make much difference, I was somehow satisfied that I have taken something. Not knowing what to do or having anyone to ask directions, I entered a random bus hoping I would find someone who spoke English inside the bus. It was gradually getting dark.
During all these wandering, I did not spot any black person. Everything was white. It got to a point, I was tired of asking people who understood nothing I was saying. I was just sad and gloomy in the bus. There was neither wifi nor internet data to call my AIRBNB host at least to get him to direct me or speak to someone to direct me. It was so sad for me honestly. I thought of crying to express my emotions but I knew that would not do me any good. I could not do anything but continue till the bus got to a final bustop and it was around 9:30pm in the evening. I had to alight since I could not find anyone who could help with telling me how to get to my destination. It was at that point I felt I should ask a girl in front of me if she spoke English. She answered YES!
This was miraculous as far as I was concerned. I took time to explain my predicaments to her and she understood. She cheerfully described in details how I will get to the FIX Bustop, which was the closest bustop to my destination. I also asked her to write down the description in Greek and English so it could be easier for me to remember and I can also be able to ask someone to help.
First I had to get to one Vox Bustop and then take another Bus 31 to Fix Bustop and that worked like magic. I got to the place around 11pm that night. My host was most delighted to welcome me. They offered me tea (I am writing this with a frown as I was very hungry that night and the tea made no difference) anyways, I took the tea and went to sleep.
The next morning was the time to explore the city but first of all, i needed to find something to eat. Even though my host told me I could use the kitchen to cook, I wanted to eat an already prepared rice. It was also my first Airbnb experience hence I was not too inspired to cook.
I was directed to a place in town where I could buy food, especially rice and a telephone sim in town. I strolled and watched different places in the town and I saw a restaurant before I could get to where he directed me to. I paid for a 5-euro breakfast which I had to force down my throat because I did not like it. Also, playing on the radio in there was Terma a song by Giorgos Mazonakis, a popular Greek musician – I found out about the song with Shazam, a song detection app. I still enjoy his songs till today. Most time when I travel, I spend a lot of time listening to local music and asking questions about local artists. I also do same for popular personalities and celebrities.
Right there in the restaurant, was a guy who came to eat and we got talking. He told me he works in a particular Greek Island and he has an African colleague that was my look alike. I did not take this serious knowing that to some white people, most black people look alike. The name of the Greek guy was Yannis and he was very kind. After the breakfast, he gave me a ride to show me some part of the city after which he dropped me off at FIX Bustop.
At my AIRBNB residence, I had a nap and then decided to take another stroll that evening since I could not find a sim card to buy the morning. I was headed towards Aristotle Square. It got to a point I could not continue as I neither found someone who could direct me nor had internet to find the location. I was also concerned that I might get lost and would not be able to find my way home.
Approaching a shopping mall nearby, I met a young man who spoke both English and French from whom I requested where I could buy sim cards. He directed me to where I could buy a sim card close by but by the time I got there, the shops were closed. He told me that if I wanted internet, he could connect my phone to the wifi in a coffee shop nearby., a proposal I accepted.
The next thing was where to sit and use this free internet. This young man was kind enough to buy me a 5-euro cold coffee so I could be allowed to sit and use the internet. That was so kind of him. Giorgios (George in English) was a very kind guy. After a while, he came to introduce a lady to me who he told me is his girlfriend. The girl was as kind as him. She requested me to come back the next day to visit them and promised to give me a gift if I come. I explained that I would be going back to Paris the next day and she gave me this nice energy drink. A rare kindness I appreciate till this day.
On my way back to my AIRBNB residence that evening, I got lost again. I could not tell the route again and I now had to go into a Mall to ask for directions. The city was a small one and at around 8pm when I was going home, most of the shops and residencial buildings were already closed. Dogs were barking at the top of their voices as I approched each of those houses.
A staff of the Mall called a 4-euro taxi to drive me back to my residence that evening. to take me back to my abode.
I left the city to the airport the next morning – this time very early so that what happened in Paris will not repeat itself again. Once again, I got lost on my way to the airport. This was because I did not want to pay a taxi for it and even the bus I took was not going to the airport but was going to pass around the airport. God was so kind I left early and even though the bus passed the airport junction, I was able to walk back to the airport.
The flight back to Paris was 3 hours unlike going that was just 2 hours. I sat close to a white religious lady who was doing one religious activity or the other till we got to Paris. Also, during the flight, I was thinking the same thing that happened in the dream I had as a kid would happen but it did not. I really had a nice time in Thessaloniki and I plan to visit again very soon.