Our morning started out with 4 hours of sleep and rushing to the Metro Station. Getting places seems to be the most stressful part of the trip. We got to the airport and ended up having to run to our gate to catch the bus to our plane (the bus drives you right up to the plane where you walk up the stairs all 'private jet style'). The flight for Crete left around 9:15AM and we arrived around 45 minutes later.
At the airport we rented a car and were on our way. It was the easiest transition to a new location so far! The place we rented the car from provided us with a map of Crete that was as big as the island itself, no way were we getting lost! Of course, as soon as we pulled out of the airport the gas light comes on, so we drove hoping to find a nearby station. BHW found a gas station and a man came out and asked BHW what he wanted, he said to fill it up, so the man did, with PREMIUM gas. Man, they really know how to weasel you out of money around here! We have been taken advantage of far to many times on this trip.
Our host told us to stop in Chania to take a walk through Old Harbor. While driving there we were in awe of the different landscapes we could see all from our little red car. There were snow-capped mountains to our left, the sea to our right, and everywhere in between were olive trees! We arrived in Old Harbor in one piece, thankfully, and took a stroll around. The water is so clear, I still can't get over it!
After a walk around Old Harbor we got something to eat before we drove to the villa. The drive was fairly uneventful, the traffic was not bad at all and there is literally one road to take us across the island. The guy we rented the car from was telling us where to go and he pointed to the highway and said 'This road takes you to Kissamos.' and I said 'That's E-65, correct?' and his reply was, 'There's only one road, you can call it whatever you want.' One thing we did learn was that driving on the shoulder of the road is typical. If you're going to drive slowly, you just drive in the shoulder. It's basically another lane on the road. It's so funny because in the States we avoid that shoulder like the plague, it's filled with rumble strips!
About an hour later we got to our villa, in the middle of the tiniest town ever, it's more like a village. We had to stop and ask for directions twice but we found it! I keep saying we are in Kissamos (a small town) but we are technically in Kaliviani (an even smaller town). There are about 5 old ladies that live here, and a million goats. I'm pretty certain the entire island of Crete is covered in Olive trees, and goats. Our villa is built into a cave, which is awesome, to say the least. After we settled our things we took a short nap to make up for the lack of sleep from the previous night.
When we woke up we were ready to explore! We read about Balos Lagoon, one of the best beaches in the world, and it was right near our villa! There was, you guessed it, only one road that got us there so there was no way we were getting lost. What we weren't prepared for was the fact that the road wasn't paved.. and by not paved I don't mean gravel.. I mean rocky with a sprinkling of boulders while on the edge of a cliff. I thought I was going to have a heart attack more than once on the drive. We passed a few million goats as we drove along the coast/cliff. We knew it was going to get dark so we were a little nervous about driving all the way there and having to possibly drive back in the dark. There were 2 cars on the entire trip and we drove for around an hour (roundtrip). We did finally find the beach.. well.. we found the entrance to it. To get down to the beach you had to hike for 20 minutes down the cliff. The view of the beach was blocked and we decided not to hike down there and save it for another day when planned to spend the whole day there.
Once we made the dangerous drive back we passed through our tiny town and went up to Kissamos so we could grab some groceries, mainly breakfast stuff and snacks. We planned to visit Samaria Gorge tomorrow morning but apparently it's closed until May. I'm still going to call them in the morning just to be sure, but if not, we have a back-up gorge to hike instead!
As our time in Athens came to an end, I decided to write a little post about some things I learned, in particular, while in Athens.
- There is more to the City than The Acropolis. We planned a lot of our trip using Trip Advisor Itineraries. Don't forget to check out Vouligmeni Lake and Mount Lycabettus.
- The Parthenon and The Acropolis are two totally different things. Saying they're the same is like saying the Empire State Building is New York City.
- And while we're on the topic of The Acropolis, don't wear flip flops. You'll slip and slide everywhere and look dumb, you also can't go barefoot, just trust me.
- Nothing is too far via the subway.
- If you're going to get sick, don't do it on a Saturday, most pharmacies are closed.
- People are nice and proud of their city. They want you to see the best of it and will give the tips to do so.
- The water is hard, don't forget lotion.
- If someone gives you a rose and says it's free, it's not.
- The place is riddled with graffiti, but not with trash.
I went to bed last night with terrible body aches and chills, and my hope for being better by morning was slim. In the middle of the night I woke up and I seriously thought the room was on fire. I was SO hot! I took it as a good sign, meaning my fever had broken. When I woke up for the day I was feeling much better! BHW kept saying we can sleep longer or take another day off but I felt like I could handle the day.
After eating a light breakfast we got out of the house quickly, to make up for lost time yesterday! We had a long list of things to do and were determined to get it all done! Our first stop was Kerameikos Cemetery. It was essentially a bunch of ruins (like everything else in Athens) but we did make a friend there, a stray pup! He showed us around for a bit and led us to the exit when we were ready to leave.
Our next stop was The Temple of Zeus! We got stuck behind a tour group of about 40 people in line but thankfully we got to scoot around them and get our tickets stamped. Nearby was Hadrian's Library and Ancient Agora. They were more or less like the other ruins we visited so we didn't stay long. It will be nice to go back home and research these places a bit more in depth than the pamphlets we were given did.
BHW really wanted to take the subway to Port of Piraeus, the largest Greek Seaport, and we needed to grab lunch at some point.. so we decided to go and grab lunch near the water! The port was filled with cruise ships of all shapes and sizes. We saw one that was cut out in the bottom, to make it go extra fast! We didn't see it moving so we can't vouch for the technology behind it, but it sure looked cool! We got lunch at a little place near the port where we had Gyros and Souvlaki. Since I had just gotten over the stomach flu I didn't eat much but what I had was delicious! After seeing Piraues we headed back to the apartment to pack our bag and head to the thermal lake I've been dying to go to!
The directions I had for the thermal lake were in Greek, no English translations, so we were off to a really grand start. The subway trip was simple.. we just matched up the words (basically symbols) on the directions to the signs at the platforms. The bus trip was another story. First off there was no map in the bus or announcements, secondly, the bus didn't stop at every stop, and thirdly, 3/4's of the bus stop signs were missing. All we knew was the name of the stop and that it was 10 stops away. But if the bus stops don't have signs and the bus doesn't stop at every stop.. how were we know when to get off?! BHW is pretty fantastic with directions, most of the time, and he knew the lake would be on the left side. I was frantically counting the bus stops, while we kept his eyes peeled for a lake. I got to 10 stops, which he thought was 9, when he saw a sign that said 'Vouliagmeni Lake'.. but the bus stop sign didn't match what my directions said. We took the risk and hopped off anyways, and we were correct!
Vouliagmeni Lake is literally across the street from the Aegean Sea.. about 30 minutes outside of Athens, but is it's own private paradise. It was sunny, around 55 degrees, but quite breezy. Not the best weather for swimming, but I had to take a dip in Greece, no matter what! Although the lake is 'thermal' that doesn't mean the water is warm. It was warm-er than the air outside.. but it wasn't anything close to bathtub temperatures or anything. I took the plunge and just jumped in, hoping the shock of the temperature wouldn't make me get sick again. It was pretty dang cold at first but I got used to it. I stood still for a moment, letting my body adjust, and immediately little doctor fish came swimming up to my feet and eating the dead skin off. You heard me correctly, eating my skin. No, it didn't hurt, and yes, it tickled! I could see all this happening because the water was crystal clear! I've never see water so clear in my life! They even had signs around the Lake/Spa saying 'No suntan oil' because the chemicals in sunscreen etc would mess with the minerals of the lake. Thankfully it was late in the afternoon and the sun wasn't harsh at all. We swam around for a while and then decided to get out and watch the sunset.
While waiting for the sun to set we ordered some Cappuccino Freddo and chocolate souffle. We had been waiting the whole trip in Greece to order these drinks that literally everyone was drinking, and we finally both felt well enough to have one! It was tasty, but cold, probably not the best idea for a breezy evening while we were still wet from swimming. While relaxing by the lake we saw some people way up on the cliffs above the lake. We thought that would be a much better place to watch the sunset so we packed up and headed up the cliffs.
The walk/climb was a little steep but the view was unbelievable. I don't think I've seen anything so gorgeous in my life! We were surrounded by water on 3 sides and had a view of Athens on the other. There were mountains and islands, it was one for the books, I swear! We stood around basically drooling for a good 30 minutes and then decided to climb down to the bus stop.. hoping they weren't done running for the evening. A bus did come to get us and we made it to the apartment safe and sound! After a long day of adventures, it's time to pack for our 9AM flight to Crete tomorrow! Sad that this is the halfway point of our trip, but it has been a beyond amazing time (minus getting lost, losing money, and obtaining the flu) !! Now, who wants to witness BHW driving a car in Crete? Anyone else as nervous as I am?!
Who goes on their honeymoon and gets the flu?! WE DO. As BHW was just recovering from the stomach flu, I decided it was a good time to take it off his hands. My lovely day started at 2AM, getting sick. This whole shindig lasted until 9AM and we got very little sleep. BHW was, of course, an amazing support, running around Athens looking for a pharmacy that was open. Unfortunately, there were none. Our host offered to schedule a doctor to come visit our apartment, but it was a little too pricey, so I just stuck with laying in bed and drinking a lot of water.
I was feeling pretty crummy about 'wasting' our day, we had so much planned to do! I guess there is always tomorrow though. I laid in bed until around 1PM, drinking water slowly and eating plain toast.. a Greek delicacy.. NOT. Around then I was sick of sitting in bed and was determined to do something off our days plan. I got ready slowly and we started to head towards Ancient Agora. The walk probably took 3 times as long as it should have, I was slowww movin'. By the time we got there I was in no shape to see the ruins. I felt so badly about not being able to stay out with BHW but he assured me it was A-OK. We went back home and I crawled in bed for another few hours. It had been quite a while since I had gotten sick so I convinced BHW that we should try to go out again.
I was really wanting to reach the top of Mt. Lycabettus, the highest point in Athens, for sunset. We took the Metro as much as possible to avoid having to make me walk here, there, and everywhere. The last Metro stop ended at the base of a HUGE mountain. Who would have guessed? haha. I immediately started getting nauseous, no way was I making it up there. As slow as a turtle, I made my way up the hundreds of stairs to the Tram that would take us the rest of the way up the mountain. We reached the top and it was gorgeous, and windy. We stayed up on the mountain until the sun had set and took the tram back down. Now it was just a downhill walk to the Metro and then we were home!
I'm well aware that the best way to get better is to NOT go climb mountains, but, I couldn't waste a whole day in Greece! Eating soup for dinner and hoping to be 100% for tomorrow, maybe then we'll finally get to the thermal lake!
The Acropolis was our big to do for the day today. We woke up early and ate some cereal and headed out. We are still 'map-less' but you can see The Acropolis from about anywhere, so we just started walking towards it. The weather was simply stunning. It was sunny, a slight breeze, and in the high 60's/low 70's. I honestly was not expecting it to be this warm so it was a nice surprise!
We reached The Acropolis, scurrying past a few huge tour groups to buy tickets before they clogged up the entrance. The tickets were about $14 USD and it got us into 7 different locations, quite a deal! Although, I'm sure most people only use it for The Acropolis. While we're on the topic; The Acropolis and The Parthenon are NOT interchangeable. 'The Acropolis is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and containing the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.' (Wikipedia)
For some reason I decided flip flops were the most appropriate choice of shoes for climbing around on ancient ruins. So I basically spent the entire day slipping and sliding around while tour groups of little kids laughed at me for almost falling. While I'm not that 'into' history, I did enjoy my time at The Acropolis. I'm not actually quite sure how many parts of the buildings are original, they've been restoring those buildings for hundreds of years! There is probably little left that is original. Either way, I was still blown away at how precise everything was for the time period that it was built in. Also the fact that they built these things with basically NO machinery, especially to help them lift these massive pieces of marble! I don't want to go on and on about The Acropolis, I'll let my pictures do the talking.
After The Acropolis it was only fitting to head down the The Acropolis Museum. On our way there we listened to a few different older gentlemen playing music on the sidewalk, it was a nice touch to the afternoon. Again, we are not 'museum goers', but we had a good time looking at things that WERE actually in their original state from 400 some odd years B.C.
Since BHW was still not 100% we headed back to the apartment for a little rest. On our way back someone was trying to sell us something and just yelled at BHW, 'HEY! Barbarossa!' which means red beard. His beard is just the center of attention no matter what country we're in! During our time back at the apartment our host swung by to show us where the washer and dryer were and how to use them. Little did I know that the washer and dryer were ONE machine! How nuts is that?! Why don't we all have something like that?
After a short rest we wandered around the rest of the day to the other 6 locations that our Acropolis ticket got us into for free. Of course, they were all closed for the day. The weather was still nice and everything is fairly close so we weren't too terribly bummed. But, go figures, right? We came back to the apartment before dinner to plan out tomorrow and rest our little piggies. On our way back to the apartment another guy trying to get us to eat in his restaurant looked at BHW and said, 'Tell me you're Irish, you've got to be Irish!' The beard does magical things folks, now he's never going to get rid of it. SIGH.
We had dinner reservations at Kuzina where BHW and I both had a wonderful 3 course meal. It was a cozy little place and the food was tasty! Tomorrow we have a few fun things planned, like going to a thermal lake to swim right outside of town! Yay!
The perfect end to our evening last night ended promptly as soon as I published the blog. BHW started to not feel well after dinner but we brushed it off thinking it was just because we were exhausted and jet lagged. At around 1:30AM I was finishing up the blog and BHW ran to the bathroom and spilled his guts. The first thought I had was 'Oh great, how are we going to get on our flight in a few hours to Athens if he is like this?!' No, I did not immediately think about the health of my husband, yes I'm aware that was not a smooth move. BHW was in and out of the bathroom every 30 minutes or so losing his cookies. I can't think of an eloquent way of saying 'throw-up' so just deal with it. It's not an eloquent event in the first place.
At around 2:40AM, things started calming down and BHW had just about ran out of anything to spew. He drifted off to sleep and I started packing our bags as quietly as I could. We had to be up in 3 hours and I think my body is still unsure of what time zone I'm in, I am never tired in the evening. I decided I was making another poor choice as a wife, as I was being a little loud, so I crawled in bed and tried to sleep. 5:30AM came pretty quickly but we had a plane to catch so there was no option for lazing around in bed.
BHW felt alright up until we locked the door behind us (with the keys inside, left for the owner) to head to the train station. We slowly made our way to the tram station, trying to get BHW there in one piece. We made it to the station and bought our tram tokens, inserted them into the machine to get through the tram gate and.. the gate didn't open. Of course, out of the 4 machines, the one we chose to use was broken. BHW went and bought us more tickets (thankfully they were less than $2 USD each).
We got to the airport and through security with generally no issue, besides the fact that BHW felt like crap. The plane we took to Athens, Greece was a propeller plane. Nothing I hadn't dealt with before, and I was so tired I didn't even care. The 1 hour flight was uneventful and I slept most of the way. I woke up in time to get a glimpse of Greece from above, what a sight! Once through customs, we made our way to the Metro that was going to take us to our apartment. On our way there we ran into a German couple who kindly gave us their 7 day unlimited Metro passes. They said they were leaving and the pass was good until Saturday, what a steal! I guess that makes up for the tram tokens we lost in Istanbul, and the museum pass fail, and (not sure if I told ya this goody) our $5 NYC subway ticket loss too (rookie mistake).
Once we got off the train we had to orient ourselves to the city. We had no map and there were hardly any road signs either. Great. After walking, turning around, asking someone, turning back around, asking someone else, walking, and then turning around.. we passed a tall dark man with dark sunglasses that stopped us and said, 'Are you Johnny?'. My mind immediately goes to the movie Taken and I just cock my head to the side and stare at him. No way was I giving into his scheme! He was going to kidnap me and torture me! The brief pause between sentences was enough time for me to come up with a wild story like that. 'I'm Aris, your host!', he says. I will live to see another day! Praise be! But seriously, he was just standing in the middle of Athens.. how in the world did he find us?! He said 'I thought you might be lost.. so I just waited here.' What did he do? Ask every single American that passed if they were Johnny? Anywho, Aris, you rock. Thank you for finding our lost selves.
Aris showed BHW and I around the gorgeous (and brand new!) apartment. Complete with a kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, and a private outdoor patio/garden. BHW still wasn't feeling up to par and we were both running on very little sleep so we took a 4 hour nap. It was supposed to only be 1 hour.. but.. ya know. At 6PM we woke up and decided it was time to get our bums out of bed and breathe some fresh air. We headed to the local grocery store down the way to get some supplies. We don't really have much money (duh) so we decided that while we are here for a few days, we'll make use of the kitchen and cook some meals here and there instead of going out 3 times a day every single day.
We dropped off our groceries and headed back out to look around. Our apartment is a quick 10 minute walk to the Acropolis so we headed in that direction. It was dark but the Acropolis was lit up beautifully. Somehow we ended up finding these huge rocks that had some stairs to the top. There were a few other people there, mostly locals, hanging out. It was a breathtaking view of the city, we were 360 degrees surrounded by the city! I took a panorama of it but it was quite dark so it didn't turn out that well. Oh, and did I mention my camera has a crack on the lens so I'm stuck using my phone as a camera the entire trip? Yeah, that was a big bummer. I loved that camera! It started to get a tad chilly and I only had a tshirt on so we headed back to the apartment. It was around 9 so I cooked up some dinner, rosemary (fresh from the garden outside!) chicken & penne with balsamic honey thyme vinegar with salad.
And that is where our night ends. We haven't really made a solid plan for tomorrow but hopefully it will be filled with lots of sightseeing and fun! Stay tuned!
Today started with an early morning wake up and a short walk to grab breakfast. We ordered a 'traditional Turkish breakfast' which consisted of some sliced cucumber & tomato, bread, a hard boiled egg, olives, cheeses, and some type of sliced meat (like bologna-ish).. and of course, tea. The Turks don't mess around with their tea.. all day, every day. The meal was small but satisfying.. and only about $10 (USD)!
Once we paid the bill we headed towards Topkopi Palace.
Somehow we got stuck outside the city walls and walked WAY out of our way to get there. I swear, wherever we go, the adventures keep us on our toes! When we arrives the line was outrageously long and we debated about staying or leaving. We decided to go and visit Hagia Sophia and come back later to Topkopi to see if it was less crowded. While in Hagia Sophia we experienced the most intricate and beautiful architecture and mosaics! We tailed a guy giving a private tour to this couple for a little bit, trying to get some info about the place as we were walking around. Apparently there was a massive earthquake a long time ago and it did a ton of damage to the Hagia Sophia (then a place of worship, now a museum). There were still cracks in the marble floors.
Istanbul is very similar to New York City in the way that its packed, huge, and most everything is within under a 30 minute walk. After visiting Hagia Sophia we trekked back to the Topkapi Palace. The walk was much shorter this time, since we weren't stuck outside the city. And we had purchased a 'Fast Track' museum pass to we got to skip the line. The museum pass included admission to several other museums also. The Topkapi Palace had many smaller museums inside it. We spent about 3 hours there looking at things from the prophet Muhammad.. even down to his beard hairs! We also saw Moses' staff! ** Also while in one of the small museums we saw a 37 karat diamond (uh, YES PLEASE.) Apparently it was found in a dump by a homeless man many many years ago.. he traded the diamond (not knowing it was a diamond) for 3 spoons. I repeat, 3 SPOONS, you know, the kind you eat with. Once it was found that the rock was in fact a diamond the size of a golf ball, the Sultan snatched it up and had it made into a ring. Seriously, a ring! I guess he then realized that wearing a golf ball on your finger is just ridiculous and had it made into a piece to wear on his turban instead. Seems a bit more logical to me. I mean, if I had a 37 karat diamond.. I would wear it on my head all the time too. **
The Palace did not allow pictures inside most of the smaller museums so I have mainly outdoor pictures. The tile work here was astounding! Everything was so bright and blue!
In order to get our money's worth from the Museum pass we purchased, we decided to head to the Istanbul Archeological Museum. We aren't huge 'museum-goers' but we enjoyed it nonetheless! There were a couple other museums available to us using our pass so we walked towards the Mosaic Museum. On the way there we passed a young boy selling a light up yo-yo or something equally as enticing. He looked at BHW and said 'Hello sir. I like your beard.' I guess the beard comments are going to follow BHW around from one country to the next. And we thought beards were more acceptable in this country.. I guess they're still as mesmerizing! By the time we got to the Mosaic Museum.. it had already closed, along with every other museum on our pass. Poor planning on our part. We fly out tomorrow morning and didn't even break even on the pass. We lost $5 USD a piece. Oh well I guess, better than losing $50!
At this point we were pretty tired from walking, hungry from our wee little breakfast, and frustrated about losing some money (we don't really have much to lose!) so we headed back to the apartment to regroup and research some other things to do. We found that the Spice Bazaar wasn't too far of a walk away and they were open past the ridiculous hour of 4PM. The Spice Bazaar is the second largest covered shopping center in Istanbul, behind the Grand Bazaar. There are hundreds of shops offering you just about anything! We were almost to the bazaar when we came across another beautiful mosque, the New Mosque. Before you step inside a mosque it is custom to remove your shoes and women must cover their heads. After we did that we went in and just sat. I didn't take any pictures inside, there were people praying (men and women in separate areas) and I felt it was disrespectful. There was an 'official' prayer time at 6:30PM so we relaxed there until then. The announcement came over the many minarets (towers on the Mosques) around town beckoning everyone to come to pray. The place immediately started filling up with men. The women pray in a separate area so I never actually saw them. At 6:30PM a man started singing the prayer and doing different movements at the end of each phrase. Standing, kneeling, bowing, standing. It was actually kind of funny.. men were still running in well after the prayer started, lugging shopping bags, setting them down hastily and doing the movements quickly to catch up to the rest of the group.
After witnessing the prayer, we headed to the Spice Bazaar to browse around. It was completely packed and everyone was talking to you trying to get you to come into their shop. We just smiled and walked slowly, soaking everything in. We didn't plan to buy anything, and we did a good job too!
Once the Spice Bazaar closed, we were ready to sit down, relax, and eat! We were walking along, minding our own business, when this man came from inside a restaurant and basically pulled us into his place. We did SO well not giving into the guys at the Spice Bazaar and we completely evened the score by getting stuck at this restaurant. When we walked in a few other couples eyed us like 'He got you guys too?' We sat down and ordered some lamb and rice. It was pretty yummy and the price was decent, so we weren't too upset about being basically forced to eat there. The meal also ended with, what else, tea, so that was a great way to end the evening. But an even better way to end the evening would be when the waiter tells you goodbye, tugs on your husbands beard, and says 'See you next year, with a baby!'. And that is exactly how our night ended. Success.
Tomorrow early morning, we fly out for Athens, the second leg of our trip!
* As I type this I have only slept about 20 minutes in the past 36 hours, forgive me for typos and other lameness. *
We landed in Munich around 8:10AM, running on no sleep we decided to grab a cup of coffee (for me) and Kombucha (for Brian) at a coffee shop in the airport before our final leg to Turkey.
On the plane we got a chance to nap for about 20 minutes, giving us enough steam to make it through the stressors of customs and obtaining a taxi. Surprisingly, the customs situation wasn't too bad at all, but everything that happened after that was pretty frustrating. I'm fairly certain that wherever I go, drama follows, in some form or another.
I needed to contact our house in Istanbul to let him know that we had arrived and we were headed to the apartment. There were plenty of payphones around, but they were all in Turkish and I had no idea how to use it. You would think it would be pretty simple but neither Brian or I could figure it out. I asked 7, yes 7, people where to make a phone call before I actually made a phone call. The first thing I learned about people in Turkey is that they are really good at telling you to go somewhere else to ask for help. Unfortunately, I lost my temper after the 3rd person who failed to direct me in the correct location to place a phone call. And by lose my temper, I mean I stopped smiling and saying 'Thank You.' All I wanted to do was call my host and talk to him for .45 seconds and it took 20 minutes of wandering around the airport before I could do that. Ugh! We finally found a little cafe that advertised 'free wifi!'. I have an app on my phone that let's me place calls while using the wifi network WITHOUT using my data. Of course, the cafe wouldn't let us use their internet until we bought something. So, Brian bought a can of Coca-cola.. that cost $4!
Once I finally contacted our host, we hailed a taxi and told him the way. And by told him the way I mean we gave him our hosts phone number and HE told the taxi driver the way. The ride was quiet and a bit awkward as the man tried to make conversation in broken English while I had ZERO Turkish language knowledge to contribute to the conversation. There was a lot of smiling, laughing, nodding, and pointing at things. Basically, we just pretended to understand each other for a solid 30 minutes.
We reached our apartment, paid the taxi driver.. where he failed to give us change.. and put our bags in the apartment. Since we don't have much time to spend here, we didn't waste any by unpacking and all that jazz. We headed straight for the Grand Bazaar, one of the world's largest and oldest covered markets. On our way to the bazaar, an elderly man was trying to get us to come and eat in his restaurant. He was waving a pamphlet at us saying 'come in young couple, come eat, good view of the sea.' We kindly said 'No thank you, not now.' The man simply responded with 'Ok, I love you.' Uh.. that was fast! I thought we were at least supposed to go on a few dates before you profess your love to me! Needless to say, BHW and I were completely confused by his response.
The Grand Bazaar was packed with locals and tourists, all looking for a good deal. I went specifically to see the place, but to also purchase a headscarf so that I could be properly dressed when visiting the numerous mosques nearby. I think I semi made my mom proud with my haggling skills in the market. I found a scarf that I wanted to purchase and asked the man how much it was, he said 35TL (Turkish Liras). I said 'No way, I was looking for something more like 20TL.' He responds with 'Ok 25TL.' and then puts my scarf in a bag and shoves me out the door in such a hurry that I don't even have a chance to refuse his offer. Well, at least I didn't pay full price? I gotta work on the haggling.
After experiencing the super crowded bazaar, we stopped for a Donner at a little place run by a kind old man. We both got Donners and freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. And yes, it was fresh, he made the juice right in front of us! On our way home we passed the same older man at the restaurant. He, once again, tried to lure us into his restaurant. After politely saying 'No thank you.' again, he responded with 'Ok, another time then. I love you.' Am I missing something here? Is this or isn't this the correct response in a situation like this? So confused!
We went back to the apartment and planned to shower and nap for a short bit before we went out again to explore some mosques. By the time we got back, we realized there wasn't enough time to relax before heading out again. So, we changed into some fresh clothes.. you know.. ones that we hadn't been wearing for the past 2 days.. and headed to the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (or the Blue Mosque). It was GORGEOUS on the outside and completely breathtaking on the inside! The detail was astounding! We visited in between prayer times because they shut down the mosques for visitors at that time so that people can use them exclusively as their place of worship.
After we visited the Blue Mosque we attempted to go see the Basilica Cistern but, of course, they were closed. So we will save it until tomorrow. We decided we were completely gassed out anyways so we stopped at a corner market, grabbed some goodies to snack on for a cheap dinner, and went back to the apartment. On our way back I just couldn't stop talking about the sunset. Our apartment is right near the Aegean Sea so we quickly made our way down to the water to catch the last of the sun before it went to sleep for the night. When we got there we realized we still couldn't see the sun setting but we got an amazing view anyways! We had a crystal clear view of Asia, only separated by a bridge that you can walk over, lots of adorable stray cats lounging by the water, and a gang/herd/flock/group (??) of dolphins playing in the water! It was probably the most relaxing way to end our first evening on our honeymoon.
Now for some much needed and well deserved SLEEP!
Itinerary: Megabus from Philadelphia (11:00AM) to New York City (1:30PM) // Overnight flight from New York City (6:40PM) to Munich, Germany (7:50AM) // Flight from Munich, Germany (8:35AM) to Istanbul, Turkey (12:10PM)
Now, I won't say I'm 'well-traveled' but I have gone on quite a few trips, many out of the country. Those of you who have known me for years, know that I was, at one point in my life, quite materialistic. Since meeting BHW (the husband), I've learned to live with quite a bit less. No worries, I still own upwards of 30 pairs of Converse, it's my guilty pleasure. I just thought I'd share a few things I've learned over the years of traveling and lugging my things here, there, and everywhere.
- Don't you dare spend $30 in the airport on a coffee, magazine, and a snack for the plane. I mean, seriously! You haven't even begun your trip and you're already indulging in the first things you see! Save your money for something special; Get a hearty meal in you before you head to the airport, buy your snacks at the grocery store, and bring a book that will last you more than the 10 minutes that Cosmopolitan will.
- Call your parents/loved ones before you leave, and during the trip. Trust me, they're probably worried sick about you. Hoping you remembered clean underwear and your toothbrush. Let them worry (it's their nature!) but also let them know you've got it under control (hopefully!).
- You can wear 1 pair of pants for a solid 5 days before anyone notices. No need to pack 2,396 outfits for the 8 day trip you're on. Pack things that can match with the other things your packing. Think solids and simple patterns. I normally pack one comfy pair of pants and a pair of jeans, a few shirts, a cardigan or sweater, a pair of sturdy walking shoes, sandals (if you're going somewhere warm), a rain coat, and a dressy outfit for the occasional nice dinner out. It's also important to check out if the places you're staying have access to a washer and dryer, that could significantly lighten your load! Just pack half of what you normally would, wash it all halfway through the trip, and when you wear it the second time around.. make sure to mix up the outfits a little! No one wants to be caught wearing the same outfit in pictures!
- Pack a change of clothes on your carry-on. Anyone remember this post from my Eurotrip?! Yeah, please don't let that happen to you, PLEASE.
- Bring cash. Not everywhere you go will have the ability to process your credit/debit card. And from my experience, the best places to go to are the ones that are cash only!
- Take pictures, with you in it! I take pictures all day every day. It's my way to document the crazy, or not so crazy, life I live. One thing I realized is how little pictures I have of me.. or my husband for that matter! I have beautiful pictures of places and things, but none with us in it. Who cares if you look like a 'tourist', these are once in a lifetime moments! And don't be embarrassed to ask someone to take your picture, everyone does it and many people are willing to help you capture a special moment! Don't forget to say 'cheese!'
At our wedding we had the guests vote on where they thought we should go for our honeymoon, and they voted Greece! So, 11 months later, we are finally making the journey! Turkey and Greece, here we come!