Sigh. This trip is not going the way I'd dreamed. For years I've wanted to come to Greece -- it's one of the few European countries I haven't been to -- but I imagined it as peaceful and friendly. Instead my experience so far has been loud, stressful, and not (for the most part) welcoming.
I'm hoping things will turn around now that we're at a different hotel. A different hotel, you say? But you weren't supposed to go to Athens until Wednesday. Yes, we're still in Thessaloniki, but now at the Hotel Queen Olga.
Last night we strolled up Aristotelus Square, shopping a bit (bought new shoulder bags and some gifts), and were shanghaied into an open-air restaurant by a very aggressive waiter. OK, it looked fine, and actually the food was quite good, and cheap too! I ordered moussaka and a glass of retsina -- or I *thought* it was a glass, for 3 Euros, but they brought me a whole liter bottle! We were pestered by a stream of peddlers and beggars trying to sell us various things or beg for money, but that's just life when you're traveling (especially in the middle of a global recession...) So dinner was fine, though when we asked for the check, we instead got another round of drinks (including another whole liter of retsina for me)! Turned out they were just comping us some drinks, which was actually nice of them (score one for the friendlies). But we really were ready to go, so we paid and left. We stopped on the way back to buy Caroline a Nutella crepe -- again the girl behind the counter acted sort of cold and unfriendly, but then when she was wrapping up the crepe and saw it was for Caroline, she handed her an extra napkin with it, which made me smile, and she smiled back. So like I said, some of the people don't act overtly friendly the way they would in the US, but that just seems like a cultural difference.
Then we got back to the hotel. We were exhausted, so we crashed shortly after 9:00. And were woken up around 11 by unbelievably loud music coming from the banquet room down the hall. Even though we're in Greece, I hadn't actually planned or hoped to find myself in the middle of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" (as an extra who doesn't get to have any fun or any food, just noise!) I called down to the front desk, and they helpfully (*not*) told me that it would only be "for a few more hours"!! He did say he would talk to the banquet manager, but it only got louder after that. Finally the music stopped around 1am, then we had to listen to drunken Greeks yelling up and down the hall for a while longer. Eventually it started to quiet down -- but a group of men from the party apparently went outside to smoke and party some more, because then we were kept awake by loud yelling and singing out in the courtyard until 3am.
So finally, finally, *finally* at 3am it was quiet enough to fall asleep. Until 7am, when the construction started right next door. Just incredibly loud, banging, crashing, drilling, sawing, hammering, yelling, nonstop for the rest of the morning. I think Caroline eventually got a bit more sleep, but I never did.
When I went down to the front desk to ask what they could do for us, he said he could move us to the 6th floor -- on the same side of the hotel! When there was another (Greek, actually) woman complaining about *her* room on the 6th floor and how loud the construction was! I asked if they would at least credit me part of the cost of the previous night's room, and he said snottily, "You'd have to talk to accounting." He also said I should have asked to change rooms last night. "In the middle of the night??" I replied. "Why not?" he answered (again, snottily). So I just said, fine, we're going to find another place to stay and we'll be checking out. Which we did.
So now we're over at the Queen Olga, farther away from the city center (but closer to the conference, and the same distance from the museums, and on a major bus line). Our rooms face the bay and seem very quiet -- plus we're at the end of a hallway, so nobody will go back and forth past our rooms. They also seemed reasonably competent and polite at the front desk. I even have an Internet connection here (supposedly the Elektra Palace did too, but it never worked).
Hoping things will get better... and trying not to hold the hotel desk clerk's obnoxious and unsympathetic attitude against an entire country...