Turkey & Greece

Thursday, March 1, 2007

 Greetings from turkey!!

Ok, I managed to sign in despite the fact that the homepage headers were not in English!

We arrived last night after a very long day of travelling. Turkey is great, very eastern European that’s for sure, but totally cool. Apparently lines on the roads and speed limits don’t matter much to the drivers here, especially our taxi driver! Got to our hostel, which is right in old part of Istanbul, called Sultanhamet. From the roof terrace we can see the Hagia Sofia (church converted to mosque, built in 537AD) and the Blue Mosque, one of the most famous mosques in the world.  We awoke to the sound of the first call to prayer at about 5:40 this morning, and managed to hear all five today. It’s an incredible sound. Usually the Blue Mosque starts and then the other mosques around the city join in until they are all chanting, overlapping each other, it’s really hard to describe. Tomorrow we are going to go up to the terrace and listen to it and watch the sun rise.  It’s pretty chilly here, about 8C I’d say, but we were walking all day. Ate some good Turkish lunch (lamb kebab) and then had a nap. We might head out for a quick bite to eat before heading to bed – trying to ward off jet lag and tiredness. Today we went to the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace and took a ton of pictures. Its really different here than ‘normal’ Europe, way more eastern influenced, very cool.

Tomorrow we are going to go to the Hippodrome and then the Grand Bazaar and probably take a night bus to the south east of Istanbul (in Asia!) to see some cool pool formations and ruins, on our way to Marmaris from which we will catch a ferry to Rhodes. Had quite the scare today when one travel agency told us that there were no ferries running to Greece at all right now.  We were worried we might have to stay here for another few weeks or take an 18hour train to Greece.  Really, staying here wouldn’t be all that bad, but not exactly our plan.

My travel book, Lonely Planet’s Europe on a Shoestring, though big, will prove invaluable, and I’m writing in my journal every day, and will try to get to the internet as much as possible.

Friday, March 2, 2007

The sunrise over the Bosporus was totally worth it this morning.

After breakfast we packed up all our stuff and went to a travel agency to figure out how to get out of Turkey.  We are going to Ephesus (lots of ruins including the Seven-Wonder-of-the-World famed Temple of Artemis) via overnight bus tonight, then to Kusadasi for one night (in a hotel!) and then to Pamukkale to see some cool thermal pools, and then from there to Marmaris for a night (in a dorm) and then the morning ferry to Rhodes! From there we will catch another ferry to Santorini (an 18 hour ferry!!) where we will spend a few days and then to Athens.

We have planned (and paid for) everything up to and including the ferry to Rhodes. With much difficulty I might add. Apparently, many travel agencies don’t believe that any ferries are running right now, despite the fact that the internet and our travel agency guy says they are. So we will see.  We figure if all fails, we can take a bus back to Istanbul, and then another bus to Athens.

Had a good day today. Went to the grand bazaar and spent probably too much money, but I got some earrings and Jake got a really nice shirt. After that we went to Suleyman’s Mosque and walked around inside, then sat and had Turkish tea while we listened to a call to prayer. We also saw Suleyman’s tomb – which was freaky and cool all at the same time.

We just walked a lot today, which was great – I feel like I saw some of the real Istanbul. I think that when you walk down a street and are the only tourists, then it’s the ‘real’ city or place. That happened to us today, a couple of times. Scary because anything could happen, but exhilarating because it’s the real McCoy.

We are tired today, a full day of walking, coupled with the threat that we may not be able to get out of Turkey, waking up at 5:40am to the first call to prayer, watching the sun rise, and being on uber-alert in the bazaar makes for a tiring day. But, bus tonight, on which we will have hours to sleep. And then ruins tomorrow, in Asia Minor!

It’s so hard to describe what we are seeing here, it’s so different from home and so incredible at the same time. As we were walking back to the hostel this afternoon, I was remarking on how old things are here, and how there are ruins everywhere, and how you never know how old things really are. Like, those crumbling walls over there – are they seriously old (ancient times) old (15-16th century) or old’ish (18-19th century)??? Even our building here: old, or oldish?? Who knows? It’s cool to be surrounded by so much antiquity.

Jake is sad at leaving the Blue Mosque behind. It *is* really amazing. I am sad at leaving it too, but I know that there are more things to come, and not to get too attached to one place, because, our time here is short. We are on day 4 of our holiday today, 64 days to go. Strange indeed. Already we have been in three cities (Vancouver, London, and Istanbul) and two continents (North America, Europe) tomorrow we will add another two cities and another continent to our journey. When we found out yesterday before lunch that we might not be able to get out of Turkey the way we wanted, we were a little shocked (we had thought our plan was foolproof), but then realized how lucky we were. I mean really, we could be stuck in Turkey – poor us.
I realize that this post may be (probably is) really jumpy, but thoughts just keep popping into my head, and I can’t really stop them.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We are in Athens
The overnight bus ride sucked, as I suppose all overnight bus rides do. Arrived at Kusadasi at 8:30’ish, went to our ‘hotel’ (such a piece of crap, but it did have a hair dryer) to change and freshen up, and then back into a shuttle to start the tour. Went to the Temple of Artemis (one of only two remaining Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and walked around. It was totally amazing, unexplainable really – how can you describe being in a place that has been around for thousand(s) of years!

Then to Ephesus, which at one time was a port city and home to over 250 000 people! It was remarkably intact, with shining white marble all around. It was quite warm that day, and our tiredness did not help, but it was still totally amazing. A full Grecian and roman city, mostly there.  Very cool.

Then lunch and a visit to the supposed house of the Virgin Mary, up in the hills beyond Ephesus. Was a very neat little building. Lots of walking around that day, and seeing of sights.

Next day was Pamukkale. Don’t know if it was because it was Sunday or what, but our guide slept the whole bus ride and then didn’t tell us anything special, so that was a kick in the pants, but it was still a good day. We swam in some copper-filled thermal water baths, which felt wicked after all the sitting we’d been doing. The water was super warm, like a hot tub! Then lunch and up to the terraces of pamukkale. The spring water is full of calcium, and about 37C, and then as it trickles down the mountain it cools and deposits calcium, so the whole side of the mountain looks like it has been covered in ice. We walked in those as well, and saw some ruins of ancient Hierapolis.

That night we arrived in Marmaris, where we stayed for two days and had our first suntan beside the Mediterranean, walked around the city, and saw a guy catch and octopus!

Then it was goodbye Turkey and to Greece on a ‘ferry’ to Rhodes. A great island, a great city. The old town was fantastic, and we stayed with this crazy guy named Mike. Walked around for hours, getting lost in the good way, and then another tan day by the sea.

Then we got up at 3 am to catch a ferry to Santorini. 18 hours on a boat – actually not as bad as it sounds. Stayed in a nice hotel for a bargain price, and went hiking in the volcano and swimming in the ‘thermal pools’ (they were warmish) then back to the old port and WALKED UP 600 STEPS to the town of Fira.

The next day we rented a car (couldn’t get a moped) with an American girl, Carey (who we met on the ferry), and drove to the black, red, and white beaches in the south of Santorini, before boarding our boat to Athens in the afternoon. What a ride that was. 7 hours on a heaving ferry in the pouring rain and wind, and I got so sea sick – terrible.

Today being Sunday, all the sights in Athens were free!!!! We went up to the acropolis, saw the Parthenon, Temple of Nike, Temple of Hephaestus, the Roman Agora, the Ancient Agora, the original Olympic stadium and more for the bargain price of $0!!!

Tomorrow is off to Delphi for the day, and after that it’s on to Italy!

Everyone should go to Turkey, it rocks. Athens is a big city, and we haven’t been in one since we left Istanbul, so it’s strange being surrounded by lights and noise again. When you go on vacation, spend limited time in big cities – the smaller ones are best.

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