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!