Izmir and Istanbul

Well, the European part of my adventure is over – I can’t believe it! I’m in Boston now with my boyfriend’s family, and still thinking about our last week in Turkey. As previously mentioned, we found Izmir to be rather boring, and in retrospect I think I would’ve skipped it and spent more time wandering around Selcuk. There were a few interesting sights – namely, the clock tower and the seawall.

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They did have the remains of an agora, but it was fenced off and a bit hard to see. For something to do, we decided to take a day trip to Cesme on our second day there. Cesme was actually quite pretty – it’s a little town on the western edge of the coast. We ended up buying some souvenirs there because we found it was cheaper than in the city. Unfortunately, we went on the one day that the castle is closed (Monday), so had to content ourselves with walking by the water.

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We did catch a pretty sunset in Izmir.

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The final stop in our trip was Istanbul, a city that I’ve heard great things about and that didn’t disappoint. Istanbul is amazing – it’s so full of life and history. One thing I learned is that they have good bonds with Korea, which I was surprised by. They were putting on a Turkish-Korean cultural expo while we were there, so we saw both Korean breakdancing and Turkish folk dances. It was really interesting as a way to see more of the culture.

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Most of our visit in Istanbul consisted of sightseeing. Our first day we saw the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, two incredible religious buildings.

Blue Mosque:

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Hagia Sofia:

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We also checked out the Grand Bazaar, which was enormous and a bit of a labyrinth. Luckily for me, the boy got bored of looking at the stalls and kept track of our whereabouts. The next day, we visited Topkapi Palace, which is also enormous but beautiful. It took us over three hours to walk through everything, but it was worth it.

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We also visited the Basilica Cistern, which is underground and used to be the water system for the city. It’s dark, slightly eerie and very cool.

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On our final day, we took a trip to the Asian side – just to say we had been – and had lunch, before traipsing back and climbing up Galata Tower. The views were amazing!

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Other stops on our visit were the Spice Bazaar and Suleymaniye mosque, both worth a visit. In conclusion, a city definitely worth visiting, and one I will remember for a long time. I do have to admit it’s nice being back in an English-speaking world, though a bit odd.

A final food picture to sum up my trip.

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Goodbye Europe, until next time…off to a different adventure!

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Oldies but goodies in Turkey

We shifted countries – hello, Turkey! I wasn’t really sure what to expect from here. I think I had a decent picture in my head of what Greece would be like, but Turkey was a mysterious blur that promised cool coastlines and old stuff (my favourite). So far, it seems to be delivering, though our current stay in Izmir has been a little lacking.

Our first stop was Bodrum. We only spent a night here, as it was more of a stopping point on our way to Selcuk. Both the boy and I were extremely sleep-deprived, as we took an overnight ferry and then another ferry to get from Santorini to Bodrum, and I think this affected our ability to sightsee – it was more wandering around in a bit of a haze. My impression of Bodrum was that it had a pretty harbour and seaside, a cool castle (see below for pictures), and not much else. To be fair, we didn’t look too hard for more sights. The castle was about all we could manage.

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Oh, and some food.

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We then took three buses up to Selcuk. We stayed in a really interesting and unique hostel called Atilla’s Getaway – it’s a ten minute drive from Selcuk itself, but it had a springwater pool, delicious food and was isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city. The highlight of our visit was Ephesus, ruins of a city that were absolutely amazing to see. To me, it topped the Acropolis, which is saying something. Luckily for us, there was a long dusty walk from our hostel to Ephesus that let us see some of the countryside.

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Ephesus itself is so, so cool.

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These looked like alien space debris to me.

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After Ephesus, we headed to Sirince, a small little village 20 minutes outside Selcuk. The highlight of the area was fruit wine, and I fell in love as soon as I tasted it. I’ve decided it’s the best wine I’ve ever tasted.

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We’re currently in Izmir, and to be honest, a little bored. After the wonders of Ephesus, Izmir doesn’t seem to have as much to offer. We’re going to take a day trip tomorrow, though, and then it’s time for Istanbul, so I’m sure it’ll pick up. I can’t believe there’s less than a week to go – time is flying by!

Swept away by Santorini

Well, we’ve reached the end of the Greece portion of our trip, and I am writing this from Bodrum, Turkey. The boy and I agree that though we greatly enjoyed Greece, we’re excited and ready to move onto our next country. However, I must dedicate some time to Santorini, which was my favourite Greek destination. Santorini is essentially what you think of when you picture Greek islands – whitewashed buildings standing on the cliff of a beautiful blue sea.

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Our first afternoon, we took a trip up to Oia, which is the more “traditional” village. I found it very similar to Fira, just a bit sleepier. The view was astounding, though, and watching the sunset was amazing.

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Fira was also fun to walk around, though we got rather lost in the twisty streets trying to find a particular restaurant (figures that’s what we’d be doing). Lots of tourist shops, but the higher you climb, the quieter and prettier it becomes.

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We also visited Perissa, a black beach.

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Our last day was spent visiting the excavation site at Akrotiri, which was very cool, and made even more interesting because we had already seen a lot of the removed frescoes and objects at the archeological museum in Athens. We then tramped over a small mountain to reach a red beach, which I maintain was red-black and therefore a teensy bit disappointing.

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We then spent a killer overnighter on a ferry heading to Kos, then to Bodrum, and are currently both sleep-deprived and ready to hit bed early.

Oh, and how could I forget the food? Santorini was pretty good food-wise, we had some yummy eats.

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