Hidden in the alcoves of northern Greece is Halkidiki, a group of 3 peninsulas with sandy white beaches and clear blue water. Unlike the commercial more internationally renowned Greek islands, the peninsulas offer a more unique and pristine experience. Their remote and obscure attributes serve as a haven for local Greeks wishing to escape the touristic glare. Out of the 3, Kassandra, the westernmost peninsula is the most famous and developed. Accessed by a bus from the Thessaloniki bus station, about 30 minutes from the airport, it transports you to another world, one which belongs to a bygone era. Its quaint town with its 1980s styled buses and slow-paced atmosphere gives the impression of having entered a film on sepia mode.
However, in contrast to the languid nature of the town at dawn, the city comes alive at dusk, bustling with activity. We arrived at the town during evening and stayed at Nikos Rooms, right in the heart of the main town centre, Kallithea, a 2 minute walk from the main street. It was a modestly furnished room with a pantry, a simple bed and a television set. On the first night we visited an eccentric nightclub, Pearl Club, a 10-minute walk from the town centre. It had a versatile rooftop that opened periodically throughout the night. The club alternated between an open terraced bar and a nightclub. One moment you are sipping on a cocktail under the stars and the next you are transported amidst a throng of Greeks in a frenzy of ouzo-laced highs dancing to trending numbers under a spectacular laser light show. The whole Greek experience was complete with gyros (A wrap with grilled meat, feta, tzatziki and salad) at 4 as a midnight hangover snack.
We woke up at noon and took a leisurely walk through the town-centre dotted with cafes and restaurants that enveloped you in a state of bliss. While walking on the streets one such sunny morning we came across a small cafe overlooking the Aegean Sea. Sipping on Greek iced coffee while sitting on wooden cushioned chairs in the veranda, we watched the sun cast glittering patterns on the turquoise blue waters. The atmosphere of idleness and the town’s simple life served as a source of solace. To further supplement the charm of the town the restaurants were replete with delicious authentic Greek food with tsipouro, a native Greek brandy. Moussaka, an aubergine bake; souvlaki, grilled chicken; spinach and feta pastries; Kalamata olives and tsipoura, a native fish of Greece, were found in every food joint. The tsipoura, since it comprises of tiny and fine shards of bones was served with bread so as to help you swallow in case fragments of bones got stuck in your throat. Several local shops were also found selling indigenous jewellery and artefacts such as mother of pearl shells, ornaments made of seashells and native attires.
A 30-minute bus ride from Kallithea is Molos Beach Club on the Hanioti beach, which turns into a bar at sunset. The day is witness to people basking in the sun, lying on sun beds and bean bags or floating in the water, with vendors selling iced popsicles and cool drinks. While, some people are found playing beach volleyball or enjoying other recreational activities such as jet skiing, parasailing and banana boats. It is the ideal place to enjoy summer drinks while lounging under parasols and cabanas with the soothing sound of the waves in the backdrop. However, at night the floor in the bar is cleared to make room for a dance floor and the DJ starts playing his tunes.
On my last night we went to a local bar called Spitaki in the town where we enjoyed delicious cocktails garnished with massive pieces of pineapple and grapes. The bar was filled with locals and had some native music playing in the background. After a few cocktails and interesting conversations with some tourists, who are a rare sight in Kassandra, we realized it had become quite late and decided to make the best of it by taking a walk on the beach and watch the sunrise. Due to the early hour of the day, the beach was vacant and all you could hear was the sound of the water lapping on the fringes of the white coast. The onset on dawn enveloped the entire place in a warm orange hue.
Ironically our trip ended with the rising of the sun rather than the sunset on the beach. The next morning we left by taking the afternoon bus back to Thessaloniki.