A Travellerspoint blog

Istanbul!!!

Finally all caught up on this blog!

sunny

Today was loooong and so unexpectedly awesome! I was NOT excited for these last few days of our trip because I didn't have much of an interest in going to Istanbul or Amsterdam, but wow was I proved wrong. Istanbul is such an exciting, fun, interesting city!!

We started the day with breakfast downstairs in our hostel, which consisted of hardboiled eggs, melon, cucumbers, tomatoes, bread, cheese, olives and this weird hybrid between bread & cake. It was such a strange assortment of food but we were starving so we both ate. On our way home tonight, we passed a restaurant that served breakfast and read the menu and found out that this was pretty typical for a breakfast spread. Weird!

We walked down that Istiklal Caddesi Street, the one from last night, and in broad daylight it is JUST as cool but in a different way. Last night it was lined with clubs on the top of little shops and all the shops were closed. In the day, the tops of the buildings are all dead and the bottom little stores are all lined up and open with cool, different stuff. We found an old map/book store where we're going to get an old map of Constantinople tomorrow. We found a store Andrew called the "gentleman's store," which had little globes, pens, pocket-watches and a bunch of other cool stuff. We wanted to buy out the entire store. It was amazing. There are also a bunch of cool cheapy jewelry stores and I bought 2 more bracelets to add to my collection and Andrew even got a ring.

Our first stop was one I knew Andrew was going to want to see as soon as I read it, the Galata Tower. He loves going up into towers and taking pictures of all the sights so this was right up his alley. We had to go up to the 7th floor and then climb 2 flights of stairs. Down on the ground floor, we were waiting in line to pay and these 2 old ladies in front of us could not grasp the concept of how much it cost and spent a good 10 minutes trying to pay. We ended up in the same elevator as them and when they got off, they went up one flight of the 2 flights. On this one, there's a restaurant, but it was closed and was barricaded off. These women moved the barricade and just went into the restaurant. I guess they didn't feel like going up the last flight?? The view was really cool and we got to see a lot of what we were going to see up close the next 2 days.

2 or 3 people have already asked us if we were Australian and 2 people have assumed I was Spanish.

Our next stop was the Yeni Cami mosque. At the mosques here, you have to take off your shoes before you enter and women have to cover their heads with shawls. They provide shawls for visitors at the entrance which was lucky because I wouldn't have been able to go in otherwise. It was beautiful inside and we got a bunch of pictures! There were people praying up front and it seems like there are always sermons going on. It's weird though because it's only men up there praying and the women were in the back with us visitors...

After the mosque, we went to the Grand Bazaar!! I had really high expectations for it, but the streets leading up to it were far more impressive. Things were really cheap and there was a HUGE variety. You get a lot better deals and the shop keeps are a lot nicer and don't bother you at all. Once you enter the GB, it's a lot of rugs, expensive jewelry and knockoff designer bags, shoes & scarves. The owners are really pushy and keep telling you to come in and if you stop for a second to look at something, they're on you in a second. One thing that shocked us in there though was that one guy randomly came up to us and grabbed an empty cup we were holding and threw it out for us in his store.(there are not a lot of garbages around the streets here.. but they are ALWAYS CLEANING!!! It's insane.. there are always garbage trucks or street cleaners out.. it's a really impressive city)... we were so shocked at such a little act of kindness. (It's also important to note what was in the cup - there are little juicer stores everywhere here! We had a pomegranate/orange juice and it was incredible.. they juice it right in front of you and they have a ton of fruit options - unless you want more than one fruit, then you have like 3 choices)

After the GB, we went to the Blue Mosque, which was equally as gorgeous as the Yeni Cami and also had similar coverage & shoe rules, except here they gave me something to put around my waist since my pants didn't go to the floor and only to just below my knee.

Our last stop was the Topkapi Palace, which we read would take a few hours. There was a lot to see: jewels, armor, weapons, Sultan portraits & robes... It was a lot of walking and by the end I was just really tired, but I'm glad we went. It was beautiful and interesting to see all of the centuries old paintings and JEWELS!!!

On our way to grab dinner, the little shops by the Grand Bazaar were all closing, but when we got back up to Istiklal street, everything was still loud and crazy! We got dinner at this build your own salad place which was really good and of course I got a chicken pita here too.. so I had about half of both and Andrew finished them

Now we're just back in the hostel and were going to plan for tomorrow and Amsterdam but Andrew fell asleep and I'm getting pretty tired myself. So happy I got to catch up on this blog! Be home in 4 days!!

Posted by mcsteener 24.09.2012 12:33 Archived in Turkey Tagged shops shopping turkey istanbul hostel blue_mosque sultan istiklal_caddesi galata_tower grand_bazaar yeni_cami topkapi_palace Comments (1)

Travel day to Istanbul

We had to take a 6:15am bus to the port to catch our 7am ferry back to Athens and I was miserable waking up. My back really hurt and I didnt know why.. but Andrew made me breakfast (like he does every day :) ) and we set off

I had never gotten a stuffed donkey because I couldn't find one I liked that I didn't feel like I was getting ripped off on and we never got a Santorini figurine to add to our collection so we stopped at this little store near the dock and got both! :)

We had an 8 hour ferry to Pireaus (Athens port) and sat down at a little table near the food place... after the first stop, this group in comfy seats left and me and Andrew moved our stuff over.. it was nice being able to spread out.. and then at the next stop.. the ferry filled up like crazy. I guess it was because we took a night-time ferry over to Santorini, but that one was practically empty. We had a lot of options on where to sit. This old lady sat right next to me and then this crazy family filled up all the rest of the seats on our long table. The baby would go from laughing to screaming to crying all the time and I just got more secure in not being ready to have children yet. I decided to take a nap because Andrew was updating his blog and I had nothing to do (I had finished my book.. Sarah's Key.. RECOMMEND). Every time I woke up, this little old lady was closer to me. I felt like she was going to be on top of me the next time and I was starting to get cranky. She was really old and I couldn't get up to walk around without asking her to move so I just played about 100 games of solitaire.

After getting off the ferry, we had to find the bus to the airport and after a little bit of running (and a little bit of me being right when Andrew didn't trust me - seriously. He's the worst person with directions and i'm fantastic and he still questions me) we caught the bus and ate the lunches we grabbed before we got on. We got to the airport at 5pm for our 9:50pm flight. We figured we'd check in and eat and shop around or whatever. Well... check in didn't open until 7:30pm so Andrew sat on the computer working on his blog and I literally just sat there for 2 1/2 hours and people watched. It was really interesting for the first hour- hour & a half.. but after that, I got pretty bored. After check-in, we went through the passport check and decided after security we'd get food... when we got to security, we realized the only thing past it was the gate so we turned around and realized that since we already went through the passport section, we had about 2 options for food, both of which were really limited and absolutely nothing looked appealing. (one place with onion rings and beer... one place called FloCafe that was on the ferry as well and sucks - never has anything on the menu).. so we settled on the last 2 hot dogs at flo cafe and then went to the gate to play cards. We waited for the hot dogs for about 10 minutes and then the lady came over and told us they had been waiting on the counter (this was after she told us to sit down b/c someone would bring them over to us.. also i asked for no mustard and i got mustard on mine).. I told her that we were so stupid for not realizing they were there and she pulled me aside and told me to never call myself stupid in front of other people...

For some reason, all europeans hate meat. All of my sandwiches have had ONE slice of turkey on them and most food places have few meat options.. ESPECIALLY in the mornings. Breakfasts only consist of some bread option.

WE both passed out as soon as we took off and woke up at landing so the flight felt like a minute. After having to pay $20 each for Visas to enter the country of Turkey (what a bs fee), we went through the passport line again and went outside to find the shuttle bus to Taksim square. From here, the hotel website gave what I felt were unnecessarily extensive directions. We found the bus and it didn't drop us off exactly where the website said it would so it took a little bit for us to get our bearings, especially since it was so late at night. (around 12am-1am). The directions were also way outdated because a lot of the landmarks were not exactly what were listed (a Virgin megastore construction site? that doesn't exist where they said it would).. but it didnt take long for us to find our hostel. We got to walk down Istitklal Caddesi... the most fun street EVER!!! It was so late at night and still buzzing and made me feel so much safer that it wasn't creepy quiet and late. This city seems really fun and we are super excited to explore!

Posted by mcsteener 24.09.2012 12:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged greece bus athens turkey istanbul santorini ferry souvenirs shuttle air_travel piraeus flo_cafe Comments (1)

3rd (& last) full day in Santorini

By the time I woke up, Andrew had already spent 3 hours driving around on the motorbike to ever corner of the island. He wanted to see the sunset and then I guess just took off all excited. He woke me up coming in the door at 9:30 and I found it hilarious that he was such a travel-nerd. I just wanna relax since we're on a beautiful island and he still needs to find some adventure...

We returned the motorbike and booked a day-trip for later and then went shopping for souvenirs.. We got a few, but I hate shopping for them because it's usually just crap no one wants. Then we just went and played cards until our excursion left!

We took a little boat cruise thingey and to get to the port you could either walk, take the cable cars or ride a donkey. We decided to take the cable cars down because it was quickest and the views were pretty amazing as well. Andrew promised me I could buy a donkey stuffed animal if I took the donkey back up (there are donkey themed things EVERYWHERE because of these lil donkers and I want one so bad but do i really need another stuffed animal? I'm 24.) We got on the boat, which was a glass bottom one! It was cool because we passed over a shipwreck and got to see it at the bottom. I wish we could have explored that! Then the boat took us to the hot springs to swim for a half hour. Jumping out of the boat into the freezing water, my heart was pounding and I was freaking out thinking I had made a mistake.. but then you swim like half a football field and you're in this nice, warm (albeit brown) water. It was reallllly nice. I had never been in hot springs before and it's so bizarre. Swimming back to the boat and feeling the water change back to freezing was pretty terrible though. Andrew gave me a head start and waited until I got half way to the boat and then started swimming and still beat me there. I really didn't realize I was a terrible swimmer.

Then the boat took us to the volcano. On our way there, the lady informed us that it was a public park and we had to pay 2 euros when we got there. Funny. I thought we paid for this excursion. Granted, 2 euros is not gonna break the bank, but why not just charge 2 extra euros on the tour and then pay for everyone when we get there. It makes no sense. It was cool to climb to the top of the volcano and it even smelled like sulfur at the top!

When we got back to the port, we went and got on our donkeys. I did it!!! Roth told me it was scary. Roth, you're a baby. The only time I was a little scared would be when the donkey would just stop for like a full 20-30 seconds and you'd be sitting there like uhhh go donkey... and then it was start going up the steps pretty fast and I'd be hoping he'd even out again lol. They were very stinky. Also, my donkey (who I named "donkey") was a clear leader and was always ahead of the rest of the donkeys (including Andrews) so I was sad me and Andrew weren't gonna get many pictures of each other.. but then we ended up closing the gap and it worked out. It was actually pretty cool because there was this dog that followed us the whole way up and I didn't realize until someone mentioned it, but the donkey would wait until the dog caught up to keep going. I guess the dog was some sort of donkey herder. He kept them in line. How do you train animals to do this stuff???

After donkey time, we went and got a chicken gyro for me and chicken sticks for Andrew and then went off to Fanari again to watch the sunset and have some Mousaka (had to try it!! I really didn't think I would like it, but it was really good) and Chocolate cake (that had raisins in it.. seriously? way to ruin my cake). Then home for tea & cards in preparation for our long travel day!

Posted by mcsteener 24.09.2012 11:59 Archived in Greece Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises greece volcano cake sunrise hot_springs santorini motorbike souvenirs cable_car donkey glass_bottom_boat Comments (1)

2nd full day in Santorini

After breakfast, we sat down and planned the rest of our trip. It looks like we decided on 3 days in Istanbul and then flying out of Amsterdam to come home on the 28th. This also means we get to stay an extra day in Santorini! Yay!!! Also, idk if I mentioned this already, but the tap water here tastes absolutely terrible. Actually, I misspoke. It doesn't really taste bad, but it doesn't have any taste. It's the most unsatisfying water I've ever had. I'll drink a whole bottle and not feel any better, and after being in the sun all day every day.. that really sucks.

The first thing we did was rent a motorbike. Andrew was so freaking excited and couldn't wait to get on the thing. He had to pass the rigorous test of the guy asking him if he could drive and then we were free to take the thing (really? thats it?). We started driving around aimlessly because the island is really small so we figured we couldn't get very lost. We ended up going up this huge mountain and I was getting more and more scared and FREAKED out.. I made him pull over and I was throwing a fit. I seriously give him so much credit for dealing with me because I was acting like a lunatic. We ended up turning around and on our way home passed a winery (Santo Wines) that was recommended to us by the owner of our hotel. Since we were already there, I told him to pull over and we ended up staying for a while.

We first had a little wine tasting with 6 wines and some cheese and the hardest bread you'll ever eat in your life. We found out the terrible sweet wine we had last night at dinner was called Vinsanto and is what Santorini is known for (ick.) After our tasting, we got a tour of the winery which was really cool. Andrew made me take notes on the process and if you're really interested in knowing about it, you can visit his blog b/c he laid it all out (boundlessadventures.travellerspoint.com).

Next stop was Ancient Akrotiri. Andrew was driving less like an idiot so I decided I could handle the motorbike for the rest of the day. This was really cool because it was all inside and covered by a building, so we were walking around this ancient site but weren't in the beating sun and got to take our time. It was really cool walking through what was essentially a little town with different buildings and homes, but all in ruins. Seeing things like the "bathtub" in a house (i've become very skeptical of everything they tell us about these ancient sites.. i feel like theres no way to know the information they do in the amount of detail they do and just kind of guess on a lot of it) was really neat.

After Akrotiri, we went to the red sand beach. Andrew swam while I held our stuff because there wasn't really anywhere for me to change into my bathing suit and I didn't want to risk changing behind this cloth little barricade like Andrew did. The red sand beach was neat.. it looked like half red sand and half black so from far away it just looked pretty dark. The water was a really nice temp too.

We left the red sand beach, dropped off our motorbike at the hotel and then went to the caldera for sunset, but missed it by a few minutes. After searching around for someplace to eat, we decided on this place called "McDaniels." I chose it because it had gyros and chicken sticks, but then found it hilarious that it had the atmosphere of an Irish pub. I'm becoming obsessed with gyros. They put french fries on them.. and I don't even like french fries.. but they're SO potatoey here and i LOVE the taste of them on my gyros.

On our way home, we stopped at the little market right near our hotel, and Andrew just wanted a peach. He's picking them all up and testing them out b/c half of them were rotting, and the owner was right next to him the whole time, trying to grab a peach out of his hand to bag it and couldn't understand that we wanted to check them out. After that, we went to a different place for eggs and the guy tried to pass off giving us 5 eggs in a 6 egg carton... It was just a bizarre couple of things in a few minutes.

Then we went home... had some tomato & cuke salad and tried to figure out what we wanted to do once we got to Istanbul because, to be honest, we really didn't know what to expect!

xoxox

Posted by mcsteener 24.09.2012 11:44 Archived in Greece Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises water greece santorini wine motorbike grocery akrotiri santo_wines Comments (1)

Santoriniiiii <3

Hellllllloooo <3

So I'll pick up where I left off...

After the 7 hour ferry to Santorini, we got in at around 10pm... everyone seemed so confident in getting into cars and we didn't see any taxis.. I saw a bus with the "Blue Star Ferry" decal on the back and just showed the driver the address of our hotel and he told us that the bus does go to Fira (the town our hotel is in).. so we hopped on... I was completely confident until Andrew pointed out that we really had no idea what the hell we were doing or where we were going (thanks.) and then I started to freak out realizing that it was pitch black and I had no idea what we would do if we didn't get dropped off in a place with a lot of open stores and people around... Luckily the bus stopped in the middle of Fira and I just had to walk to a travel agent person and she pointed us in the right direction (after asking if we needed to book a room there of course)... We got to our hotel and the owner was waiting up and he was so sweet and adorable!! He showed us a couple things on a map to make sure we try and see and we were off to our room. He asked us if after the first night we could switch rooms because there were problems with booking... I wouldn't have minded at all and then he was so SO SO apologetic and grateful when we weren't mad... It made me happy we were staying somewhere with such nice management.

Andrew woke up the next day, our first full day in Santorini, and went out and got us groceries since this place has a little kitchenette as well (a sink, fridge & hotplate haha). I didn't wake up until 10 (hey we're on an island.. I get to relax now right? wrong... you'll see...)... We decided (we? I dont remember agreeing to this) that we'd walk the Caldera Path.. along the.. well.. Caldera.. the inside crescent of the island. Did I mention its 6.5 miles? It runs from Fira to Oia (which is supposed to have amazing sunsets.. but we didn't plan on staying that late) and after 6+ miles of walking in the beating down sun (the sun is RIDICULOUS here), I was mad/sad/exhausted and we took a bus back. Oh here's another fun story...

So we get onto the bus and Andrew whips out his tunafish and a piece of bread.. I look at him and I'm like are you serious? We're in an enclosed place.. that's rude.. and then the guide guy comes up to Andrew and yells at him for not only eating on the bus (which you're not allowed to do), but also stinking up the place.. Andrew laughed it off of course and I was mortified.

On our way to the path for our walk, we stopped in a few stores and I got 2 cool bracelets and a scarf/necklace thing thats hard to explain but pretty cool.. and when we got back I realized I had lost one of my cool new bracelets :( I was super bummed b/c I had just bought them and they weren't expensive or anything but I'm just sick of losing things! It's been happening a lot! I had taken off my bracelets and watch during the walk b/c about 3/4 of the way through, I realized both of my hands were REALLY swollen so I thought maybe taking off anything that could hurt circulation would help.. but it didnt. I put the bracelets in my purse and the one must have fallen out when I took out my little lemon change purse to pay for the bus.

We had dinner at a restaurant on the Caldera called Fanari. The sunset was beautiful from here and I had this INCREDIBLE chicken and pasta in this "pepper feta sauce." it was soooo good. When our waiter brought us the check, he brought along 2 little shot glasses of some sweet wine. It was absolutely terrible. I had to have Andrews because after one sip he made a face and wouldn't finish it. He was also pissed that they didn't have tap water and made us pay for big bottles. lol

After dinner, we went home for some tea. Our hotel has these cute little pots that look like sauce pans shrunk down just for tea. I want one. Also, Andrew's been noticing all the pergolas (google it. i wouldn't have known this term either.) and wants one even more for our backyard... with columns.. haha we're gonna look so ridiculous but I love that it's making him so excited. Right before bed, we realized how burnt we got. I have a sweet neck burn, back burn, shorts tan line (this one is a new one.. never had a shorts tan before), sandals tan (which is getting worse every day) and heres the kicker.. a NICE tan line on my collar bone from my purse since it goes across my chest and I didn't think to take it off during that ridiculous walk. I hope it fades before work starts.

xoxo

Posted by mcsteener 24.09.2012 11:33 Archived in Greece Tagged landscapes greece walk santorini hike tourist_sites caldera Comments (1)

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