A Travellerspoint blog

We're in ISTANBUL!!!!

just got to Istanbul :-) It's about 1:17am... and we just got to our hostel.. our room is so little! We'll catch you up on the past couple days later! Time for bed... even though it seems we're the only people in this entire city going to sleep! It's crazy outside!!!!!

Love you all <3

Posted by mcsteener 15:17 Archived in Turkey Tagged travel turkey istanbul arrival taksim Comments (2)

Days 3-7!!!

Athens, Delphi, Olympia, Tolo, Nafplion, Mycenae & Santorini!!!

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Day 3 (9/15/12) → Athens Day 2

We overslept on our 2nd morning in Athens and didn’t wake up until 10am. We first went to the market, where we could only find the meat aisles and I had to run out of there after about 10 minutes because my stomach was turning so bad I started gagging. We then walked around for about a half hour looking for somewhere to eat breakfast and finally found a place advertising “full breakfast” (which we later learned meant “toast” – which was essentially grilled cheese – with turkey – there were no egg/pancake/waffle, etc. options). We then realized that this place was just a few blocks down the same street our hotel was on, so we walked around aimlessly and ended up essentially where we started.
Our first sight was the Archaeological Museum, where Andrew got yelled at for posing with a statue. After a million more museum visits, we realized that posing with anything is forbidden pretty much anywhere. Reason? Anyone? We made it our mission everywhere since to “accidentally” get the other one in a shot we took. That’ll show them to forbid us. This was the first place we started getting sick of all the vases and pots. There are hundreds in every single museum and if we see one more pot we’re going to go crazy.
We then went to a little area where a bunch of streets had shops all lined up. I regretted not buying the ring I wanted yesterday because the ones I’ve found have been either more expensive or of lower quality. I was just trying to see if I could find it cheaper! It’s still my mission to find a good one.
Our next stop was the changing of the guards of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which, to be honest, was ridiculously exaggerated. They did kicks with each step and it was a few minutes long. We wondered if it had been a long-standing tradition or if it was put in place as something to attract tourists because I honestly don’t know who would have choreographed that ridiculous spectacle. Also, I was video taping it and our video camera died half way through so that sucked.
Next we were off to the Panathenean stadium, which was the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. It’s the only all-marble stadium and holds up to 86,000 people comfortably. It was only €1.50 a piece (one of the cheapest things we’ve done) and it was definitely one of our favorites. It was just massive and beautiful and really really cool. We had little audio guides and without them, it probably would have taken us 10 minutes to walk through, but we stayed for about 2 hours, just not wanting to leave. After this, we were going to go to Lycabettus Hill to watch the sunset, but it was cloudy so we started walking around looking for this restaurant Arthur recommended. (Arthur= Our Arthur Frommer Greece Guide), which ended up being a good plan since it started raining on our way. The rain here is really weird. It always seems to rain when we’re in the car or in a building so we’re never rained on and it only rains for a couple minutes as a light drizzle. We’ve really lucked out.
Our dinner was at Athinaikon and we were greeted with this pink mush on the table in a little bowl. It was pretty good and when we asked what it was, I’m pretty sure the guy said it was oil, garlic and “fish eggs.” So I guess I had my first taste of caviar.. ick. We ordered “garlic and potato mix sauce.” I don’t know what I was expecting but it was essentially mashed garlic and a little potatoes – and it wasn’t even very warm so I wasn’t a big fan. The Picurotus mushrooms we got were unbelievable and we’re planning on making them when we get home. Lastly, we got Patsaga – “a traditional ‘titbit’: salted meat, ‘pasterma,’ tomato and various sorts of cheese.” We were expecting a plate of random things and it was just all that stuff in a pastry. We’re getting better at ordering things I promise.
Then we sat in Monstiriaki square and walked around the shops and then chose a cute restaurant with a guy playing piano to sit outside and listen, people watch and drink wine.

Day 4 (9/16/12): Athens → Delphi → Olympia

The amount of wine we drank between dinner and the piano restaurant was apparently too much for me to handle because I woke up this morning feeling like hell. Before we even left our hotel, I threw up. We went back to the piano restaurant for breakfast and before I ate, I threw up 2 more times, thinking how terrible this day was going to be with all we wanted to do and how crappy I was feeling. We went straight to Avis and picked up our rental car and hit the road! (The long trip gave my stomach time to settle before we had to do things so I was thankful for that)
After 2 ½ hours, we arrived in Delphi. Andrew stalled in a toll booth on our way (he says he just put it in reverse accidentally, but it sure sounded like we stalled…). Delphi is really really small and the 2 main things you do are right across the street from each other. We went to the Temple of Athena, Tholos & Treasury first and then the Archaeological Museum of Delphi (which was also combined with the actual archaeological site). The site was really cool. We saw the “Navel stone,” placed where the Greeks believed to be the center of the world. “According to mythology, Zeus released two eagles at opposite ends of the earth (which was considered to be flat at that time), and the point where they crashed into each other and fell to the ground marked the center.” We also met some people from Tennessee who were SO nice. One of the men was in the Air Force (JOJO!! Read!!) and he was in logistics so he said he spent a lot of time in Daton. The last thing to see was at the top of the archaeological site, the stadium. After a really long hike, we finally made it and felt pretty accomplished. We then set off for Olympia.
On our way, we stopped in a little mountain town called Arachova (Oh! Did I mention we had to drive a couple hours on a huge windy mountain? Yeah that was fantastic…ly terrifying.) We had dinner in Arachova and walked the one main street that it consisted of. The grilled feta was AMAZING. We also noticed that every restaurant we go to, we’re charged for bread and given it, even though we don’t order it (and it’s really not that great.) Also, there are no pitted olives. And also, everything Andrew orders seems to come with French fries haha. Another thing we noticed was that at toll booths, there are usually like 5 booths open all with operators, even at ridiculous hours when next to no one is on the road. And gas is very expensive. (1.79ish per litre is what we’ve been paying.) We ended up going the wrong way towards Olympia and what was supposed to be a 2 ½ hour drive ended up being a 5 ½ hour drive so we didn’t get to our hotel until 12:30am. The streets our hotel was on were not in the GPS so we just put in “city center” and drove around for about 10 minutes and by some stroke of luck found the hotel. I have no idea how we got so lucky, but we were freaking out excited. The owner left us a note and our room key and when we went to go park the car, he came outside and was asking us why we were so late lol. Our room was fine, but the lock wasn’t great and I was freaked out because the streets were so bare and creepy looking at night and I didn’t sleep very well. When we woke up, the town was adorable so I felt like a real idiot.

Day 5 (9/17/12): Olympia → Nafplion

We woke up and got breakfast (real breakfast!) at Café Zeus. The owner was Australian which was really cool and we found out she was from Australia and then her mom left her the restaurant when she died so she moved to Greece to take it over. We got “filled” omelets – with tomatoes, peppers & mushrooms yum!
Our first stop in Olympia was the Olympic Archaeological Museum (Archaeological Museums seem to be the staple in every city). There was one room devoted to the Ivory & gold statue of Zeus (which was housed in the Temple of Zeus but moved and later destroyed). We were so intrigued by this statue and disappointed that it doesn’t exist anymore. It was HUUUUUGE and looked like it was gorgeous. We went off to the Olympia ruins which included the stadium where the games were held (Andrew did a lap there and back of the length of the field) and the previously mentioned Temple of Zeus. Last stop was the History of Olympic Games in Antiquity Museum, which talked about women in the games (not allowed), prizes, and the games played. It was interesting but we really wanted to see the History of the Modern Games museum and couldn’t find it. On our way back to the car, we stopped at a little shop and Andrew bought me a cute dress that I’m going to wear in Santorini and we got a little figurine of the statue of zeus to add to our figurine collection.
We stopped in another mountain town, Andritsena, for lunch and this little annoying cat sat right on the ground to the left of Andrew’s chair the entire time and kept trying to paw up his chair. The. Entire. Time. There are stray cats and dogs EVERYWHERE here and people just accept them like it’s nothing.
Driving back around the mountain, we came across a herd (pack? Flock? Lol) of goats and this one random dog with them. “These are mine, move along” – Andrew as the dog. It was so random and hilarious. We got a video of them. All the goats are wearing bells and the dog just sat there and stared at us the entire time as if we were threatening his goats.
Gas is really expensive here. The lowest grade gas they have is 95. Diesel is the cheapest option at all the stations!!!
We arrived in the evening to Tolo, which is 15 minutes away from Nafplion. Tolo is a beach where a lot of Northern Europeans come to vacation so it was a very touristy town. Our hotel has a little kitchen and a BEAUTIFUL view. Our first stop was to go food shopping and then walk up and down the main street to look at all the shops. We walked down to the beach and trailed the beach all the way down. It was so beautiful. Andrew made us a cute greekie dinner – cucumber/tomato/onion salad, grilled feta, & the homemade pasta you find in all the little towns (staples at all the restaurants!). It was delicious. We ended the night drinking tea on our balcony and trying to plan out the 2nd half of our trip. It’s really difficult because we wanted to go to Paris, but it’s really expensive to stay there and get there and get home from there, soooo….. And we cancelled our Egypt flights so we have a credit from Delta, but the Delta flights are NOT cheap anymore!!!

Day 6 (9/18/12): Nafplion

Today was a full Nafplion day. It’s a cute little town right on the water and really beautiful from up high. We started at the Archaeological Museum (of course). It was really cheap (2 euros each) and when we got there, we realized why. It was 2 floors, but each floor was one room. There was nothing interesting there (except for these little tiny pieces of I don’t know what that were from 32,000-21,000 BC – so it was just cool that they were so old). We left there laughing that it was so ridiculous.
There were 2 forts to climb and Andrew was really excited about them so I guess we had to do them lol. The first was Fort Acronafplia, which had pretty views and was a little bit of a hike up, but worth it for sure. We had lunch up there in this little area that looked really old, but like it had been rented out for parties or something because there were still streamers up, but the bathrooms and sink in the bar area looked like they hadn’t been used in at least a decade. Andrew has this cool little pen that’s little but then you can pull it and make it a normal sized pen. He only brought one and I’ve wanted to use it and he gave it to me and told me I could use it (it’s the little things…) and within a half hour, I had already lost it. This is why I can’t have things.
The 2nd fort was Fort Palamidi. To get to the top, it claimed you had to climb 999 steps. We thought that was bs so counted for ourselves. The final count was 1,036 steps and we climbed every one (and then some! – there were more steps to get to other parts of the fort). It was funny because you had to pay and we’ve been using our student IDs everywhere we go to get student rates (half price at everything we’ve been to so far) and this is the first guy who made a comment on how American student IDs don’t have expiration dates and how do you know if the kids are still in school and telling us how some people still use them after they graduate and we were just laughing and agreeing. We’re terrible people. Another thing to note is that at the top of this fort, Andrew claimed he could throw a baseball and hit an intersection that was about 5-10 football fields down and 2 football fields across. Can someone call bullshit on this?
There are little chapels everywhere we go. Especially in these small little towns. How can a town with a few dozen people need 3 chapels? Also, on the roads EVERYWHERE in these little towns are these boxes on the sides of the road, up on a piece of wood and inside the box, there are religiousy looking pictures, a lit candle and a water bottle filled with colored liquid. It looks very religious and we just want to know if anyone knows what these are for????
We finished everything we wanted to see in Nafplion so we took a little day trip to Epidaurus – a town claiming to have the best-preserved theater with incredible acoustics (you can whisper on the stage and people in the last row could still hear you). When we got there, the theater looked closed and after getting up to the gate, we realized it was. ☹ There was a sign saying “Work in Progress,” but there was no one around doing crap. We were pissed. There was a little excavation site next to it which was cool because when you looked in, you could see the walls of a building that they were excavating. We walked up this big hill trying to find the other things Epidaurus was known for (a small museum and a sanctuary) and couldn’t find any of it. A little brochure we found mentioned all these things we could see but the area looked deserted and we didn’t see any of it – disappointing. ☹
We had dinner at a place called Noufara in the main square in Nafplion. There were peddlers in the square while we were eating trying to entice children to beg their parents for the crap they had (one guy with ballons, one guy with stupid little things that fly in the air and come back down, one guy with watches coming up to the tables of people eating dinner, one little girl all dolled up with her hair and makeup done trying to sell roses – seriously parents? It was obvious a parent got her all ready and then sent her out to flaunt her cuteness). There are also a few beggers. This one little girl (who looked creepily like my cousin Kiera) was begging in Greek and then later came up to our table while we were eating dinner and asked us for money (I’m assuming... she had her hand out and was speaking Greek). Also during dinner, Andrew got really excited that this little old lady, who was in her apartment above a little store, dropped down a basket on a rope from her balcony to the store front and someone put something in the basket and she pulled it back up. We then went home and planned our trip to Santorini!!

Day 7 (9/19/12): Nafplion → Mycenae → Athens → Santorini

We woke up in Nafplion and got all our stuff together and hit the road to go back to Athens to return our car. One the way, we stopped and got gas and Andrew was absolutely shocked that the guy pumping our gas (It’s all full service here) cleaned our windows with a squeegee. He had never seen that before.
On our way, we stopped in Mycenae, the main center of the Mycenaean world. The Treasury of Atreus was really cool. It had a pointed ceiling that was really high and we could hear bats up hiding up there! To get from there to the Museum and site, it was a little 2-minute drive and getting into the car, Andrew stepped on a snail by accident. I didn’t know I was dating a murderer. The museum was fine. It was quick and didn’t have too much in it. At the site, we decided we are really sick of rocks. We love all of this stuff (we’re two of the biggest nerds I know) but everywhere we go, it’s been a ton of rocks without much structure and we are definitely ready for a change of scenery. When you see the same looking stuff every day and have been to about 4 or 5 Archaeological museums, it all starts to look the same.
Fanny packs are completely acceptable here. In fact, a lot of waiters wear them so they can give you change right away.
We left Mycenae and drove to Athens, where we returned our car at Avis. We were about to walk to the metro to take it to Piraeus (the port where our ferry is taking off) and walked by a little travel agency type thing advertising the Blue Star Ferry (the one we’d be taking). Since we were cutting it kind of close and the port is really big and your specific port is hard to find, we decided to buy our tickets there and the lady recommended we take a cab to Piraeus. We got to the ferry and it’s HUGE!!! It looks like a cruise ship. I expected this tiny little ferry. As I’m writing this, we’re sitting at a table – Andrew’s passed out and I’m here praying some internet will show up (my computer found a router but there’s no signal). We’re on our way to Santorini, where we’ll be staying for 3 days. The ferry takes about 7 hours so we’ll be here a while!!

Posted by mcsteener 12:59 Archived in Greece Tagged greece temple of athens santorini olympia zeus delphi mycenae nafplion tolo Comments (0)

We're alive fam

semi-overcast 73 °F

Last night was a late night and today is too! Just got to our hotel in Olympia.. we spent the day in Delphi... We're exhausted but having a great time.

Love you all and miss you tons... We'll update tomorrow night after our day in Olympia!

Posted by mcsteener 14:49 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Athens Day 1

sunny 84 °F

Update: Just added a few pictures! We're uploading each day's pictures every day so just in case a Barcelona camera stealing episode happens again! So check the pictures section!

Day 1 - complete!

We started our day yesterday at 7:30am leaving for Rockland so Erika could drive us to the airport by 1pm. Andrew slept pretttty much the whole way because we only got to bed at 3:30am since Jocelyn left at 1am and we still had to book our hotel and pack haha... By the time I got on the plane, I was exhausted from getting 3 hours of sleep and having to drive 5 hours back home. Well Andrew passed right out again and slept for most of the plane ride. The only problem was he kept leaning his head on me and then his head would slowly drop forward and then he'd jolt back up... slowly drop forward and then jolt back up. Over and over and over for HOURS. So I couldn't sleep. Luckily Delta's awesome and had dozens of movies/shows/games to choose from to entertain myself and I watched 3 movies in a row... 7 hours into our trip I tried to fall asleep again and because of Andrew's head bobbing I only got in about 2 1/2 hours of sleep before we were about to land. So day 1: 3 hours of sleep, Day 2: 2.5. Awesome.

We get into Athens and go find the metro... after a 45 minute ride, we arrive pretty close to our hotel so we walk it and find it. The area is kind of seedy looking (as reviews mentioned, but each one promised it was just "looking" seedy and was really safe - Athens is actually a really safe city). Our hotel is really cool. Each floor is painted a different color - blue, pink, green - ours is yellow. We even have a little balcony which is really cute.

After checking in, we go find a place to eat b/c at this point it's about noon and we haven't eaten since Delta Dinner. We found a place (Jazz Cafe) with omeletes and they were surprisingly really good. Then we started our sight seeing. Our first stop was Ancient Agora. It was only 2 euro to get in each (we've prettymuch gotten everything half off with our student ID cards lol). Agora was pretty cool. We just noticed how much "crap" there is - ancient ruins that are essentially a bunch of rocks but have no significance except for their age and so it's practically a crime to throw them out - but they just sit in piles for people to walk by and pay to see. There was a little museum in there with some ancient pottery and other things that were fun to read about. We also went up to the Basilica which was just gorgeous with tons of columns (columns EVERYWHERE here!! Andrew loves it!)

Our next stop was Arios Pagos, this big hill that you can see the entire city from. It's bizarre how from every single direction it's just straight buildings for miles. The view was gorgeous and I ate a little mango ice cream at the top because by this point, I was losing energy fast. I was running on no sleep and we had already walked more miles than I can count (and of course it's hilly everywhere so you're always climbing either a hill or steps)

Next up was Acropolis, which is pretty much what everyone thinks of when they come to Greece. We saw the Parthenon, which would have been a lot more breathtaking if half of it wasn't covered by scaffolding and construction equipment. It was a HUGE bummer, but from the other side, you can take pictures without the machinery in them. The views from up there were just as amazing as on the hill and we were up there for a while since there was a lot to see - Propylaea was gorgeous (it's what we walked through when we first entered Acropolis).. 2 theaters that were really cool.. one was just huge and gorgeous and had marble stadium seating.. the other was supposedly bigger but just looked like a bunch of rubble and then about a dozen rows of seating. This one (the Theatre of Dionysus) was actually really cool b/c the front row seating was a lot nicer and we wanted to try it out but it was all blocked off - so we were stuck in the cheap seats.

Our last big stop was the Acropolis Museum which was cool.. the first floor was everything in Acropolis except the Parthenon, the 2nd floor had food and a store and the 3rd floor was dedicated solely to the Parthenon. There was a video playing too that was really informative. After we left the museum, we walked past Hadrian's Arch which was the arch between Old Athens and Rome. It was nice to see but a quick stop. We really went down to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, but it was closed off for the day for some reason. That would have been a quick stop as well since there's not much to see so we'll see if it's open tomorrow and if we have time.

We left there and walked up and down Adrianou Street - this cool street that has a ton of little shops and restaurants - definitely a touristy street that would probably be a native's nightmare. This ultimately led us to the place we ate dinner.. some place we had planned on going to and also happened to be where we ended up.. called Taverna "Platanos" - idk why the quotes - We got to sit outside and have some wine with dinner and it was wonderful. The weather is perfect. After that we kind of just wandered back home and here we are! We just had some tea on our porch and now we're just planning out the rest of our trip!

A couple notes:
-There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE. In the sights. sitting on ancient ruins... and a few cats too. It's so weird. I saw one with tags on, but I think his owner owned a little shop and I didn't notice any on the other dogs - but I might just not have been looking. They're all big dogs too and they all look SO sad.. It's heartbreaking
-September is the PERFECT time to travel. The weather is still amazing and all the attractions are craze-free. There are always tourists around but its not nearly as bad as going during the summer. It's wonderful - no waiting and we can see everything we want quickly!

Well tomorrow's another jam-packed day so I'm gonna go shower and finish planning and now Andrew has to write his entry. Goodnight. We miss you and we love you fam!

Posted by mcsteener 13:09 Archived in Greece Tagged athens Comments (1)

We have arrived!

sunny 75 °F

We got into Athens safely and just checked in to our hotel. It's currently 11:50am here (4:50am there), so we're off to make the most of the rest of the day. More updates to come!

Posted by mcsteener 01:49 Archived in Greece Comments (2)

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