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We knew before we started the trip that the border crossing from Turkey to Greece was one of the trickier crossings due to being ground zero on the migratory path for the bulk of the refugees fleeing the war in Syria. It did not disappoint.

As we approached, we noticed that the line of cars and trucks was much longer than at other crossings. We also saw scattered tent settlements for a couple of miles leading up to the border. As we approached, we were all a sudden besieged with several dozen people approaching us on foot. We were stuck in line and feeling very exposed when all of a sudden, we saw a guy on a scooter beelining it right to us and he started motioning us to follow him. We didn't hesitate, not wanting to get swarmed by a bunch of most likely harmless but desperate refugees.

He led us not to the front of the line, as was the usual case at crowded borders, but to a narrow passageway between two of the buildings. This was the walk-up window and there was not a soul in line. The bikes barely fit but we couldn't thank our tipster enough. We were processed and crossed over to the Greek side before we knew it.

On the Greek side, the only problem we ran into was their requirement to have travelers’ insurance. It's a European Union requirement and of course, we didn't have it. They said we could buy it from them for cash in Euros which naturally we didn't have because this was our first EU country. This led to a mad scramble to find a currency exchange to convert our dollars. They had one place available but there was a sign on the door saying out to lunch. We ended up buying lunch from a little commissary in the complex that took dollars and used the change to buy the insurance. Problem solved!

Our first stop was Nea Chili near Alexandroupoli, a modern port city on the Thracian Sea. Not much to do here and we only stayed one night but we had a nice dip in the Thracian Sea and swam in the hotel pool and had a nice seaside dinner.


Our next stop was Thessaloniki, another large port town on the Aegean[1]  Sea. It's ancient but most of it was destroyed in a massive fire in 1917 and rebuilt as a modern European city. One of the standout features was the White Tower, an Ottoman Empire fortress and a notorious prison. We once again took a nice dip in the hotel pool and had dinner in a lovely little square full of bars and cafes and live music. We hadn't seen much antiquity in Greece, but it was still just cool to know that the Odyssey took place in this part of Greece.


Early the next morning, we went hunting for a motorcycle shop that had the proper oil and would let us change the oil in our bikes and do a quick servicing. We found a small shop downtown called Moto Z and they graciously let us pull our bikes onto the showroom floor and do our oil change. They seemed genuinely happy to be of service and from what we could tell were glad to chat with their customers and tell them about our world travels and where we had been. Great guys all around!

We left Greece and entered Macedonia with a simple wave from the border agent and we were off to Bitola, an ancient 4th-century-BC city, the second largest in Macedonia.

It was raining when we arrived so we made a mad dash with all our gear into the first hotel we could find. We were hungry so we took off through the town looking for a place to eat. The streets were empty, but we ended up finding a place that sold pizza, so we grabbed a slice. We could see that there was a lot of history to the place, but we were tired and the rain cast a gloomy pall over the entire city. There were loads of nice shops and cafes and I'm sure on any other night the streets would be bustling with activity but that night it seemed like an ancient ghost town.

On our way out of the hotel the next morning. a family that was also leaving, obviously on vacation, stopped and started up some small talk with Mike. Turns out they knew each other from Sweden where JoAnn, Mike’s wife’s family is from. They just happened to be on a family travel tour through the Baltics. The world is a very small place indeed.

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