A Travellerspoint blog

For You, I make a Good Price

sunny 86 °F
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Our first night we figured out that if we want any hope of sleeping past 3 am, we needed to shut the windows and turn on the air conditioner. Between the early morning call to prayer, construction guys on the street and general city noise, it is hard to sleep until 8 am. Night two went much better, so the morning was a little easier. After breakfast at the hotel, which is quite nice considering we have been eating the same thing for most of the month, we set out for Hagia Sofia. The now museum, was first built as Christian church, then later the Ottomans made it into a mosque. When it was transferred into a mosque, the mosaics and ceiling art were all covered with plaster and then essentially re-decorated. In some areas you can see the crosses coming through under the “newer” art, as almost a watermark. It was very interesting to see, and the mosaics have so much detail it is hard to believe it is made up of tiny little tiles.

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia


Inside the Hagia Sofia museum

Inside the Hagia Sofia museum


Ceiling art very well preserved in much of the museum

Ceiling art very well preserved in much of the museum


Faint outline of crosses under the most recent artwork

Faint outline of crosses under the most recent artwork


Mosaic art work

Mosaic art work


Parital mosiac, much of it lost

Parital mosiac, much of it lost

We wanted to get over to the Asia side of Turkey, so took one of the touristy bosphorus Cruises, which go up and down the coast on both sides of Turkey. It gave us a nice view of some of the other areas of Istanbul that we knew we wouldn’t be able to see, including portions of the wall that used to surround the entire city. As we cruised along the Asia side, we realized there wasn’t really much over there to see or do as it is very residential, so we decided we wouldn’t take a ferry over and would instead spend the rest of the day bumming around town.

Old walls of the city

Old walls of the city


Asia side of Turkey

Asia side of Turkey

We had yet to buy any souvenirs in Turkey, and at the Grand Bazaar I had seen some various tea kettles and similar things that I wanted to try and get. In typical Erin fashion, every piece I picked up the owner would say, “that one, very expensive” and list a price that even after negotiations wouldn’t be even remotely affordable. Why do I always manage to find the expensive things? After some wondering, Nate and I found one that we liked and had the potential to get in our price range. After a little back and forth, we handed over the rest of our Turkish Lira and we were then the proud owners of a set of copper tea pots that stack. We stopped at the exchange counter to change over the rest of our dollars (we didn’t want to exchange too much from the start, as we only had two days) and then figured out how to spend the rest. Nate got a t-shirt and then we picked up some Turkish Delights as we had yet to try any. Honestly, they weren’t great – not sure if it was because of the ones we picked out or if we just aren’t Turkish Delight people. Probably a combination of the two.

Tea pot set - as all shop owners say, I give good price, and this price was close enough

Tea pot set - as all shop owners say, I give good price, and this price was close enough

We scouted out restaurants for dinner, and then headed back to the hotel to print off boarding passes and catch up on the blog (sorry for the large amount of posts today, I got a little behind.) After a little BBC News to see what was going on in the rest of the world, we had a lovely dinner at a place TripAdvisor had recommended, Barbeque House. Nate tried another Lentil soup, and we shared a Shepard’s salad (cucumbers, tomato & sweet peppers tossed in some dressing). I had a sort of sweet chicken stew, which was quite amazing, and Nate had a spicy kebab. For me, this was the best thing I have eaten here as much of the food I have tried has been pretty bland. Nate on the other hand, thought last night’s was better – so at least we got something we liked in the last two days. After dinner, we grabbed a few night shots of the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia as we have done in most of the cities. Quite a few people were out, and they had a fountain lit in the park, so it was a nice little stroll through the area.

Hagia Sofia Museum

Hagia Sofia Museum


Blue Mosque at Night

Blue Mosque at Night


Up close of the blue mosque

Up close of the blue mosque

Sadly, tomorrow we start our long track back to Bloomington, Indiana. We fly from Istanbul to Germany, where we then connect on a flight to Toronto and arrive around 7:30 pm. We then have a whole 18 hours before our next flight, so we have booked a hotel to get a little sleep and a shower. We then fly from Toronto back to Indy, where we will catch a shuttle to B-town. It is going to be a very long 2 days, and along the way we will gain 7 hours in time, so I am planning on some serious jet lag through the weekend. We have really enjoyed our trip and the time went way to fast, as all vacations do.

Posted by sellnow 22:51 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Everything in Istlanbul, for a Good Price

sunny 86 °F
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The Sultanahmet Mosque (or Blue Mosque) was our first stop as we wanted to be sure to see it. It was built in 1617 and is the only mosque that was originally built with six minarets (tall stems reaching up, where the call to prayer comes from). With its 260 windows and ornate decorations, it is quite impressive. Unfortunately, we scream tourist and just as we started to walk in, a guy latched himself to us to be our “tour guide.” And of course, “you don’t have to pay, see, I just tell you about blue mosque” and no matter what Nate did or said, we couldn’t shake this guy. He was a little obnoxious, he kept calling me sister and was a little creepy, but he wasn’t leaving so I went about taking a ton of pictures and wasting his time. We did get a few good tidbits of information by having a “guide” that we wouldn’t have known otherwise, but he did take away some of the enjoyment. Towards the end, Nate flat out told the guy, we are not buying a rug. And of course he just says, “no, problem – you come look at my shop.” We knew that is what he wanted all along, so we followed him to his shop, and by this time I was super annoyed and fed up with this game. He introduces us to his uncle and he starts showing us all these rugs and Nate says, “we aren’t in the market for a rug. We don’t have a house.” And then they finally got it…no doesn’t mean no until the thousandth time. So finally we got out, and we went back to the mosque to take more pictures.

Nate in front of the Blue Mosque

Nate in front of the Blue Mosque


Ceiling of the main dome

Ceiling of the main dome


Just a few of the hundreds of windows

Just a few of the hundreds of windows

Looking in on one of the entrances

Looking in on one of the entrances

From there we saw the Hippodrome which was used for chariot races. Today there are two Egyptian obelisks, which told a story of how it was put up along the base. The sun was in just the right position to snap a few interesting pics. Next up was the Basilica Cistern which was built in the 6th century to provide water for the grand palace and city. There are also Medusa heads on two of the columns, one upside down and one on its side. It isn’t understood why they are there, or why one is upside down but it was done intentionally. Don’t worry; we didn’t turn to stone by looking at them. There is still water in the bottom of the cistern and there are carp and goldfish that now swim through the vast space. This was one of the coolest places we have seen on our entire trip, we both really enjoyed it.

Very top of the Egyptian obelisk

Very top of the Egyptian obelisk


Story of construction on base of obelisk

Story of construction on base of obelisk


Nate really really wanted a jumping photo to go into the blog, so this is it!

Nate really really wanted a jumping photo to go into the blog, so this is it!


Undeground Basilica Cistern

Undeground Basilica Cistern


The water reflects everything so well

The water reflects everything so well


Upside down medusa head

Upside down medusa head


Quite impressive

Quite impressive

Next up was the Grand Bazaar which is the oldest and largest covered bazaar in the world and includes 18 gates, 65 streets, 5 mosques, 6 fountains and over 4,000 shops. It was very overwhelming. It isn’t like going to an American mall, where you go in and out of stores, instead you have people constantly trying to pull you into their shop and there is stuff everywhere crammed onto every single surface. There are more jewelry stores than anything else, but it is a lot of the same stuff over and over, so you have to search to find what you are looking for and of course, everything is a negotiation and “for a great price.” After a bit, and getting a feel for what we might want to buy later, we left for the Egyptian Spice Bazaar. They feature spices, herbs, plans, dried fruits, nuts, meats, oils, etc. We enjoyed this a little more, but knew we would have a hard time getting a lot of these things into the U.S. so looked but didn’t by. From there we wondered down the bridge and watched the fisherman pull these tiny fish off their hooks. I couldn’t believe how many people were fishing all at once. At the end of the bridge, is the fish market with a few guys cooking fish right there. These guys buy them when they are still moving, and then grill them up – can’t get much fresher than that. We checked out some of the bosphorus cruises and decided that we would be back for the 2-hour boat ride the next day. On the way back across the bridge, we were once again bombarded by every restaurant owner and Nate had enough, so said to one guy “yeah, yeah, I know…your restaurant has the best food” which made several of the other guys laugh and the ones within earshot left us alone. It was quite amusing.

One of the many bazaar entrances

One of the many bazaar entrances


Trying to make a living fishing the small ones

Trying to make a living fishing the small ones


Fresh fish market

Fresh fish market

From there we walked a ways to see the Aqueducts left over from the romans. We were surprised how much of it was still intact, although it was really a very small portion considering it used to stretch across the city. At this point our feet had had enough (we spent too much time relaxing on the islands, and weren’t used to miles and miles of walking again) so we headed back for happy hour in our room to relax.

Roman Acquaducts

Roman Acquaducts

Dinner was another adventure, as you can’t really look at a menu for more than 30 seconds before being swooped down upon. We found a few recommendations on TripAdvisor, and headed to that area as it seemed to have plenty to choose from. We landed at a little place that was in our budget and not too busy. The food was okay, although I really enjoyed my fried cheese (way better than Greece’s salty version) and Nate liked his lentil soup. Nate wanted to try a Turkish Waterpipe or Hookah, so we headed to another place to experience it. They put in some apple smelling stuff, add coals to the top and then enjoy! There isn’t really any tobacco in it, it was more for flavor, so we enjoyed it for a while before I got sleepy and was ready to call it a night.
Nate enjoying his Hookah

Nate enjoying his Hookah


Proof that I tried it too

Proof that I tried it too

Posted by sellnow 19:01 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

Everyone Knows Someone in the U.S.

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Sunday was an early one, we got up at 5:30 am in order to have enough time to return the car and check in for our flight. Everything went a little too smoothly, and we ended up with 2 hours to kill at the small Crete airport. We were flying from Crete to Athens, and then had a 4 hour layover before we took off for Istanbul.

Both our flights were uneventful, although we once again got a late lunch on our second flight. The flight was really short, just over an hour, but somehow they decided we should still get a meal. I wish I could fly Aegean airlines more often, they are wonderful! We also landed seats in the exit rows without paying additional, so we had plenty of leg room. Fighting for the exit rows must be an American thing as on both flights, some of the exit seats were still empty.

Once in Istanbul, we had to try and navigate the tram system to get to our hotel. We had written down step-by-step directions another blogger had posted as everything isn’t in English as it was in Greece. We had about an hour tram ride, and it was a good way to see some additional parts of the city as we knew we wouldn’t really leave the main area once there. We both noticed that for such a large city (roughly 15 million people live in Istanbul), it is very clean – much more so than both Rome and London. We found our way to our hotel, and because they are laying a new road right in front of our hotel (hand laid bricks to replace the deteriorating cobblestone), the water and electricity on the block were off until 8pm or so when the workers were done. So we dropped off our bags and went to explore. As it was Sunday, all of the parks were filled with families and couples sitting on benches, on the grass, etc. There are several parks in the area, with the largest one around the Topkapi Palace and it was packed. We strolled through anyway looking for a view of Asia across the Bosporus, and along the way saw parakeets up in the trees.
Parakeets flying in the park

Parakeets flying in the park

We then moved onto some of the roads, and were immediately bombarded by the shop and restaurant owners. They are ruthless here – you are walking along and someone says to you, “welcome to Istanbul where are you from?” as if they were a nice person. To that we said, the U.S., and of course their son is in New York, or they used to live in L.A, blah, blah, now come look at their rugs or their leather goods. It was always New York or L.A. and it is funny that everywhere else we have been, people say something more like oh I want to go there, or I enjoyed a trip there once but suddenly in Istanbul, everyone knows someone in the U.S. We decided from that point forward, we would say Canada. Funny thing is, now we just get “Canada…hm…now look at my nice rugs, very good price.”

Istanbul is known for their street vendors and take-away food stands, it is very easy to get a little bit of this and little bit of that as you walk down the street. We stopped for a local kebab sandwich type thing, which came in a pita with red cabbage and some other veggies. A very different kebab from what we have had throughout Greece, and Nate and I agreed it actually wasn’t very good. We then found another stand which offered other types of kebab (we had no idea what any of them were, so you just pick one to see what you get) and Nate ended up with more of a salad type of a thing with rice, beans, cabbage, pickles, roasted tomatoes and lamb. He said it was better than the first pita thing, although I was too full to have more than a bite. We then headed back to the hotel as the electricity was to be back, and we were both exhausted. We spent the rest of the night debating what we should see with our two short days in Istanbul to make sure we fit everything in.
Welcome to Istanbul, Turkey!

Welcome to Istanbul, Turkey!

Posted by sellnow 18:41 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Greek Sun Leaves its Mark

sunny 87 °F
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As we had a half of tank of gas left in the car, and we of course are going to return it as empty as we got it, we decided to head to the southern part of the island. This was our last day in Greece, and while we had made a few short stops at the beach on other days, I was looking for some serious beach time. The owners of our villa were nice enough to point us to a good area for beaches, so away we went.

We drove through mountains, dry areas of the island, and then moved into very lush valleys and gorges. It was a beautiful drive, at times a little scary with all of the twists and turns, but well worth it. We finally arrived in the southern edge and drove along the coast looking for a nice sandy spot. I saw a little bay with only a handful of people, so we made our way down to it. The beach was perfect – a little pebbly, but not too bad. It was shallow enough we could walk out and so clear we could see to the bottom even 8+ feet of water. On the entire trip we have been very diligent with sunscreen as we didn’t want to burn our wintry Midwest skin with the hot Mediterranean sun. We decided though that since everywhere besides our faces, lower arms and lower legs were very winter white, we would go just 30 minutes without sunscreen to add a little color to our pasty bellies. After that we put on the goop, and enjoyed a few hours swimming, relaxing and reading. Nate started to get impatient with beach thing, (I could stay all day) so we packed up and continued on our tour of the island.
Lots of agriculture on the island, more than we expected

Lots of agriculture on the island, more than we expected


Little church right on the ocean

Little church right on the ocean


Tall mountains, not so fun to drive through

Tall mountains, not so fun to drive through


Beehives everywhere on the island

Beehives everywhere on the island


Nice little beach to get sunburned on

Nice little beach to get sunburned on

As Nate was now very comfortable with the stick shift car, and the winedey curves, we stopped at several of the photo look-outs to take pictures. It was a nice drive, with very few others on the road as this part of the island isn’t as touristy. On our way back, we stopped at a little café with a great view and ordered one more Greek salad for good measure. By this time, we were both feeling a little warm and wondered if maybe that 30 minutes without sun screen was a little too long. We made it safely back to our place, and once we got home we realized how red we both were. You can see on Nate’s chest where he forgot to apply the sunscreen, and somehow even with sunscreen on his back, he turned as red as a lobster. I wasn’t nearly as bad, but a very nice pink shade everywhere that I didn’t already have sun. I guess we got what we wanted, and shrugged oh well as it was our last day on the beach and with the leisurely island life. We packed up, as we had an early start the next morning with a flight to Athens and then onto Istanbul, Turkey where we will spend the last few days of our vacation.
Nate with our little car

Nate with our little car


Our last Greek Salads

Our last Greek Salads


Great view from the cafe

Great view from the cafe

Posted by sellnow 18:33 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

More Piles of Rocks

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As we had a lot of gas to burn in our car, we wanted to make today a full day and to see a couple different areas of the island. First off, we headed to Knossos, which is home to the Minoan palace of the same name. Knossos was the Minoan capital of which encompasses Crete as well as other Greek islands, and the Minoans were Europe’s first great civilization. The palace is the inspiration of for the Myth of the Minotaur, which according to legend, King Minos of Knossos was given a white bull to sacrifice to the gods but decided to keep it. This enraged Poseidon, who punished the King by causing his wife, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull. They then had half man, half bull babies, also known as the Minotaur, who lived beneath the palace and fed on young men and women.

When we got to the Knossos palace, we pulled into one of the first parking lots as Nate was sick of dealing with the traffic. They crammed us into what looked to be an olive orchard, and Nate wasn’t sure we would be able to get back out. As we headed up to the palace, the owner says “I do not charge, you come back and buy something when you done.” Fair enough, sure we would grab a soda when we came back.

I had high hopes for the palace as it THE thing to see on Crete, but similar to the Roman Forum in Rome, it required quite a bit of imagination to really picture it. They did have some replica frescos, which were put together from pieces they found as well as some rooms they kind of re-built to show what they think it would have looked at. At this point, it was yet another pile of rocks that we had to try and imagine into something more interesting, and we were a little disappointed in it. We headed back to our car, and the man stops us as Nate went to see if cars had moved to we could get out. “You buy something…” he said, yeah – we got it. Nate threw his bag in the car, and luckily some cars had moved so if we hurried we could get out. I grab a can of diet pepsi and Nate a bottle of pepsi. The lady rings us up and asks for 5.65 Euro. Keep in mind that this equates to roughly $8.25 USD for a can and bottle of soda. Now we get it. Nate laughs and says I don’t think so, we throw our sodas back in the cooler and make for a quick exit. Sorry man, if your prices were reasonable you might get a little more business.
Knossos - a little imagination and several signs help turn these rocks into a palace

Knossos - a little imagination and several signs help turn these rocks into a palace


More ruins at Knossos

More ruins at Knossos


Very famous minoan artwork at the palace

Very famous minoan artwork at the palace


Giant vase, way taller than me

Giant vase, way taller than me

From there we headed to Agious Nicklaus, another port town this time on the East side of the island. We had a lovely lunch of Greek salad (we can’t get enough of it!) as well as the sandwiches we brought with. After touring the marina, walking through town, we headed back to the hotel as we were hot and sweaty. It was in the high 80’s today, which is much warmer than Santorini, so we went for another swim but this time in the ocean. Right across the street from our place is a little sandy cove, perfect for a dip. From there we enjoyed a little happy hour on our patio listening to the waves crash, the locals goof around on motor bikes & atvs, and played a little cards. It was another relaxing evening on our balcony and we are really getting used to these great views and being so close to the beach, it is going to be a little hard to leave on Sunday.
Harbor town of Agios Nickolaus

Harbor town of Agios Nickolaus


Agios Nickolaus

Agios Nickolaus


Yup, another Greek salad - I think we have had one per day since Santorini

Yup, another Greek salad - I think we have had one per day since Santorini


Tzaziki & Feta Happy Hour on the patio of our hotel

Tzaziki & Feta Happy Hour on the patio of our hotel


A lovely sunset over Iraklio from our balcony

A lovely sunset over Iraklio from our balcony

Posted by sellnow 10:48 Archived in Greece Tagged crete palace knossos minoan Comments (0)

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