This is part 2 of my recap about my trip to Greece with The Charming Taste of Europe. Click here to read part 1!
The second half of our trip was in Thessaloniki, which is Greece's second-largest city. We had time to explore downtown Thessaloniki and I was blown away at how beautiful it was. It was also amazing to be walking down the street and be surrounded by history - there would be old columns and historical buildings and then a modern building right next to it.
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One of my favorite parts about Thessaloniki was all the food! Later on in our trip we even got to do a culinary tour and learn all about the food and find some hidden gems. One of the most interesting things I learned was that in Nothern Greece (think Athens) it's more common to bake dishes like spanokopita, while in Southern Greece it was more common to fry.
We spent a whole half day exploring all the cool food and drinks all over the city! We got to try fresh olives and even did a shot of olive oil!
The culture was also so cool. At night, it was amazing to see the city square completely packed with all different types of groups - families with little kids, college-aged kids, older couples, and everyone in between. And even though it was so crowded, it never felt unsafe. We did traditional Greek meals that would take 2-3 hours and it was so refreshing and relaxing. I would love to start doing more meals like that back at home!
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Mount Olympus and Cherries
The next stop on our agricultural tour was to see the cherry production at the Agicultural Cooperative of Rachi Pieria (also known as AGIOS LOUKAS). The coolest part of this was that these cheeries were grown and produced on the foothills of Mount Olympus!
AGIOS LOUKAS is Greek's largest producing and most reputable cooperative and was founded in 1978.
After a quick tour of the fields we got to see how the cherries are washed, sorted, and packed.
The cherries are hand-sorted to ensure the highest quality and stored in a refrigerated warehouse to maintain freshness. They currently export to other countries in Europe and Asia, and are working on import permits to the United States.
We even got to taste a few of them! I will never forget how delicious they were.
After a fun morning at AGIOS LOUKAS, we headed to lunch and do a little more sightseeing. On the way there, we got into a little traffic jam with some local goats!
Over the course of the trip I got to try SO many different and new dishes! A few of my favorites were:
Dolmathakia (Stuffed Grape Leaves) - this ended up being my all time favorite at every restaraunt we went to (which is funny because as a kid I never ate them when my mom would make them!). They're grape leaves stuffed with rice, herbs and sometimes meat and so yummy.
Taramosalata (Carp Roe Spread) - We'd always get pita and some dips at every meal, and this spread was one of my favorites. It had a litle kick but not too much and went with pretty much everything we'd order!
Soulvlaki - Gyros - this one was really fun because almost every place we got them did them slightly different! My favorite ended up being from a little shop in Thessaloniki. It was also different than in the US because the Gyros in Greece are traditionally served with french fries in them.
Grilled Cheese - I forget the name for this, but as an appetizer (or on our salad) we'd be give a huge slice of cheese that had been grilled. It was AMAZING!
Greek Salad - At every meal we'd order a house salad which was usually a mix of veggies like tomatoes, mixed greens, cucumbers with a dressing. The salad was always so fresh and flavorful.
Spanokapita (Spinach Pie) - We used to always have this at Christmas growing up, so I knew I had to try the authentic stuff! It was so delicious and I wish I could've brought some home with me!
Baklava - Another food I grew up with that I knew I had to try when I was there. Phyllo dough covered (drenched, really) in honey and nuts. So delicious! I was able to bring some home for the whole family to enjoy.
Pinsa - As a pizza lover, I had to try the Greek version of Pizza - or Pinsa. The big difference is that the dough is made of soy, rice and wheat flour so the crust comes out a little thinner and crisper. It was super tasty!
Soutzoukakia - Hands down one of the best foods I've tried! These are like meatball sausages with just a little kick to them.
Greek Trip Advice
If you're planning to visit Greece, here are a few things I'd recommend:
Go in May or June - the weather was absolutely perfect when we went! It was about 75 degrees every day and not too humid or hot yet. Only 1 day the entire trip it rained, and it downpoured for only like 15 minutes. Otherwise the weather was perfect!
Order Euros in Advance - One thing that really surprised me is that banks are currently dealing with a Euro shortage so it's taking longer to get Euros - in fact, my bank didn't even receive my order before I left. It used to only take 5 days to get Euros from a bank, but now it's taking up to 7 business days so make sure you order early! Ordering Euros from my bank was cheaper (both in fees and exchange rate) than doing it at the airport but I ended up getting stuck having to buy them at the airport.
Get Travel Insurance - sometimes things happen and you want to be protected! This is third party insurance that you buy on your whole trip (not what you're offered at check out for your flight). It's pretty cheap to get and will cover almost everything and anything that can happen.
Download Google Translate - I was surprised that almost everything in Greece was in both Greek and English, but some places didn't have English translations so I was happy to have my Google translator. Most places had free wifi but I recommend downloading it just in case. It was also really cool you could take a picture in the app of what you wanted translated (like a menu) and it would instantly translate it for you!
I had an amazing experience in Greece and already am planning to return with my family in a few years. I will never forget the amazing food, the kind people, and the beautiful scenery! This was by far the trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful that The Charming Taste of Europe invited me on this amazing adventure!