Europe to Asia
8.19.14 - 8.27.14
I can't think of a more appropriate city to begin my next phase of my journey than Istanbul. As the only city in the world on two continents it's an appropriate bridge, both physically (Bosphorus Bridge) and metaphorically. It's a really interesting city that has over 8000 years of history, at least according to the bus tour. First though, a recap of what I did before arriving in Turkey.
I was in Greece from the evening of August 19th through the morning of the 23rd. My first evening there, I hiked up Mt. Lycabettus, about a 30-40 minute walk one way from my hostel. I made it just in time for sunset too.
There's a restaurant and a small church at the top as well, and they have a fantastic view of the Acropolis.
I waited up top until it got pretty dark because I was hoping that the elevation might give me a better view of the stars as well, but that was not the case.
The next day was my only full day in Athens so I had to do the necessary tourist activities, which in this city meant going to the Acropolis. It was a very hot day with not a cloud in the sky so the exposed Acropolis wasn't the ideal place to be. It was still a fascinating place and even though they are working on restoring the Parthenon, you can still see most of it.
To take a break for the sun and heat, I also went to the (thankfully air conditioned) Acropolis Museum, where a lot of original parts of the different buildings on the Acropolis are stored to protect them from the elements. Unfortunately, photography isn't permitted in most of the museum so I didn't get any shots but it's a pretty expansive collection. There are items that are thousands of years old and sometimes it's hard to grasp how long that really is.
The reason I only had one full day in Athens was because I wanted to also visit at least one of the Greek Isles. I chose the island of Paros and since the ferry ride is 3-4 hours each way, I had to stay overnight to make it worthwhile. and it was completely worth the time. Of course there aren't really any tourist attractions, besides the beach, but it was a nice change from waiting in lines at museums. The water there was unbelievably clear and decently warm (I think Wrightsville Beach has warmer water) and even better, there was a beach within walking distance of the ferry terminal. The restaurants are all right on the beach too, so I had some pretty good meals here too, including the best Greek salad I've ever had. It's not the most exciting thing to read about, but I would love to come back here for longer and do some scuba diving.
I headed back to Athens on the night of the 22nd and didn't do much except upload photos. One thing I had read about the hostel I was in was about the rooftop bar. This picture describes it better than I could ever with words:
So now after a quick flight I'm in Istanbul. I had felt an illness coming on during my last day in Greece and I really felt it yesterday (my first full day in Turkey), so I decided to take one of those hop on/hop off bus tours to save my energy. This also had the added bonus of eliminating my planned 6-7 mile round trip walk to the Bosphorus Bridge since there is a stop on the other side. The bridge connects the European and Asian sides of the city and this was one of the top things I wanted to do while I was here. I also got off at the Egyptian spice market which is a pretty overwhelming place. For dinner, I went to a restaurant on the lower level of the Galata bridge where I watched the sun set behind some of the many mosques in the city.
I moved hostels this morning. My original plan was always to do two nights each in two different hostels, but it worked out because the first hostel wasn't the nicest place in the world. For $20 total for two nights, though, the price is hard to beat. Interestingly, the second night I was there, a guy who had defected from Syria was also staying there. When I told him I was from the US, his first question was to ask me what people think about the situation in Syria in my country. That's kind of a difficult way to start a conversation with stranger.
Anyways, now I'm in a nicer hostel closer to the Tokapi Palace (where I went to today), Hagia Sophia, the Basilica CIstern and the Grand Bazaar, where I plan on going to all tomorrow. The next day (August 27th), I fly to Abu Dhabi to visit my aunt and uncle there.