I spent my one night in Greece in Thessaloniki, staying with a crowd of other couchsurfers. Along with the two resident hosts, Nasta and Vasilis--who actually live in the apartment--there was one Dutchman, two Poles, and another American staying the night.
Nasta and Vasilis seem unable to turn away anybody passing through Thessalonki. I felt bad that I stayed only the one night and didn't really get to know anybody well, my hosts included. That said, I was grateful to have a free bed for my one night in the country. I did socialize a bit in the evening. I cooked up dinner for everbody, a simple vegetable stir-fry and rice. After that, I crashed solidly. The berth on the train from Istanbul the previous night was fairly comfortable, but it was good to have a real bed.
After nearly five months of meandering, I'm now in zoom mode, the quick-dash phase of my trip. Starting with the overnight train from Istanbul and continuing over this next week is a phase of stringing together a combination of transport: trains, buses, and ferries--to get me to Spain as quickly as possible. As with last night in Thessalonki, I will stop a few places to break the journey and get a proper night's rest--be it at a hotel or couchsurfing. In Italy, I'll stay in either Bari or Rome. My last leg should be the overnight ferry from the port town of Civitavecchia (just outside Rome) into Barcelona.
Why the sudden quickening of pace? I'll be meeting family in Spain and touring that country together over the next month. My mother flies into Barcelona on January 25th. At the end of our time around Spain, brother Ben will meet us in Madrid. He and I will head south to Morocco, which I think will be my final overland destination. When I set out from Urumqi in late summer, I vaguely had London in mind as the terminal point I would reach by land. After reaching London, I would allow myself to fly once again. However, China to Africa without flying sounds even better. I do still plan on visiting friends up in London (and points around the continent) but think it will likely make more sense to take flights around Europe by that point.
This morning, I left Thessaloniki and took a bus to the west coast of Greece. I'm in Igoumenitsia, waiting on a ferry that should take me across the water to Bari--in Italy. I feel it's a shame that my first trip to Greece was essentially transit. I haven't seen anything. I'm telling myself what I've told myself at the end of my stay in each of the countries I've visited this trip: There's a lot I didn't see, it's time to continue west, I'll just have to come back to visit again sometime.