A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: megandkev

Just another day in Paradise...

Naples, Pompei, Sorrento, and Capri

sunny 95 °F

We so enjoyed our time in the Naples, Italy area, and only wish we had more time here! What a great part of the world. Our day started out pulling into the port of Naples (Napoli), which is actually a much bigger city than either of us expected. Honeymoon_..-30_156.jpg

We travelled by bus to Pompeii, the ancient city (built around 400-100 BC) that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Mount Vesuvius is actually at least 2 miles away from the city of Pompeii, but the eruption still covered the city with 21 feet of ash! Most of the rich were able to escape, as there were several tremors before the actual eruption, and the 2,000 people that died were mainly slaves. Luckily for us, the ash formed a chalky plaster that perfectly preserved everything in the city, even when buried far underground. The restoration and reconstruction started in 1748, and they’ve been working on it consistently since then, but almost 33% of the city is still buried! 5 years ago, UNESCO (which funds the reconstruction efforts of Pompeii) decided to work on restoring the parts that have already been uncovered (that are now falling apart after over 250 years) rather than uncovering more. Anyway, the details of the city that were preserved were fascinating, and it was so fun to walk around and envision life in Pompeii so long ago, just as we did in Ephesus. Here are a few shots of Pompeii, and you can see Vesuvius in the background in a few of them. Honeymoon_..-30_162.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_163.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_165.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_168.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_170.jpg

One of the most interesting things was the roads, which you can see in several of the pictures. The sewage system flowed directly into the roads constantly, so they had a stream of clean water running down the streets also to “clean” them. The roads, then, were always wet, which made for some slippery carriage driving, so the sidewalks were very high to protect citizens. They also had small white pieces of marble embedded in the roads (as you see here) to reflect the moonlight and illuminate the roads, in lieu of a lighting system. Pretty advanced! Also pretty advanced were the sliding doors found on the stoop of each shop - you can see the furrow in this picture. Honeymoon_..-30_171.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_214.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_213.jpg

Throughout the city, we saw several temples, courthouses, main squares, and arches. I will include several pictures here before mentioning a few more interesting facts. Honeymoon_..-30_172.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_179.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_183.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_202.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_199.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_238.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_239.jpg

We came across a pottery shop, which was perfectly preserved – everything you see here is ORIGINAL pottery from 79 AD! Can you believe how well the ash preserved everything? If you look in the middle of the picture, you can also see a man’s body – he was found lying on the floor of this pottery shop. Honeymoon_..-30_187.jpg

We also came across a few bakeries, which were so interesting! Do you recognize the brick oven – it’s the EXACT same as we use today! The other object is a flour mill – Pompeii exported flour as its main source of revenue, and there would be a huge bar stuck through the holes in this mill, with a man on either side pushing the bar in circles. This would grind the flour. I think you had to be there to understand! We also saw a bar, which consisted of a high marble bar/ table, just as we have today, with a few circular holes that were used to hold the terra cotta pitchers, that would keep hot drinks warm and cold drinks cool. In the last picture in this set (with the arches), the archaelogists uncovered 3,000 coins that looked very different from the other coins they had found throughout the houses and shops of Pompeii. It took them a while to realize that this was the foreign exchange shop – holding coins from Spain, Libya, what is now Turkey, and several other places! This blows my mind. Honeymoon_..-30_207.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_209.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_217.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_263.jpg

We also entered the Forum Baths, kind of like a public YMCA where you would go to work out and shower. It had 4 rooms – one for bodybuilding, followed by a very hot one that had underground wells full of boiling water, which released steam up into the room. Notice the ceilings in this room – they are ridged so that the condensation would stream down the sides instead of dripping on the bathers! After the hot room, you’d go into a bath full of medium-temperature water, and finally into the cold water before getting dressed and leaving. Honeymoon_..-30_242.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_250.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_252.jpg

Finally, we entered a house – this was considered a small house, but we were shocked at how big it was! The main area had an open sunlight (hole in the ceiling), where rain would pour into the basin in the middle of the floor, which drained into an underground well that was accessible by pulley. They had summer and winter sections of the houses – the summer section was mainly a garden, and the walls of the garden held beautiful mosaics and paintings that created an illusion of a larger room, or being able to see out. They had no windows (since it would offer no protection from the elements), so these mosaics and paintings helped them feel like they were outside. Can you believe how well they were preserved? Also of note in the house was the dining room - the Pompeiians really enjoyed their feasts! So much so that they ate on mattresses, lying down, to facilitate napping in the middle of the meal Half of the time, it was to digest their food so they could eat more, and the other half it was to recover a bit from all the wine they had been drinking. The richer families even had comedians come in during the dinner period to wake up the sleepers! How funny! We learned a lot in Pompeii and felt very lucky to be able to visit it. Honeymoon_..-30_223.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_225.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_227.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_228.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_262.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_265.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_268.jpg

After Pompeii, we drove about one hour to Sorrento, where we had lunch. It was a traditional Italian restaurant and was delicious! The first course was long ravioli-like pasta filled with spinach and ricotta, followed by chicken breast with mozzarella, eggplant and zucchini, and potatoes. They had “specialty cake” for dessert, which were almost too full to enjoy! We got to walk around Sorrento for about an hour after lunch, and enjoyed the shops and people watching before walking down this massive staircase to the port! Here are a few pretty shots of the coastline of Sorrento! Honeymoon_..-30_275.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_278.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_279.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_272.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_273.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_274.jpg

At the port, we boarded a hydro-foil (we’re not sure why it was called that – it just seemed like a boat to us!), which took us to the island of Capri. Before we got on, we got a few more shots of the Sorrento coastline...Honeymoon_..-30_282.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_283.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_284.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_285.jpg

All I can say is WOW – we absolutely adored Capri. We still can’t decide if we like Capri or St. Lucia more … St. Lucia will always be “our” place since we got engaged there, but Capri came pretty close to it scenery-wise! I think we’ll have to go back to both to solve this issue – ha! Here are a few shots of the coastline. Honeymoon_..-30_287.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_292.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_296.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_300.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_301.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_302.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_304.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_307.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_312.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_314.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_317.jpg

We boarded a funicular to go to the top of the city, and took several pictures again from the top – what a beautiful view! We couldn’t get enough. Our guide then took us on a walking tour of the city, which was again filled with narrow, shop-lined, cobblestone streets and was very pleasant. Here is a famous hotel, Quisisana, where all the celebs supposedly stay – last week Angela Merkel was here! Here is another shot of the lemons – they are famous for their lemons and take lots of pride in them, and they are HUGE! Honeymoon_..-30_376.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_378.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_319.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_321.jpg

Our tour finished in the Augustus Gardens, which were simply stunning and very well kept. It was private property until the owner left it in his will as a public park, and thank goodness he did because it holds the best views on the island! Honeymoon_..-30_327.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_369.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_373.jpg

I am just going to let these speak for themselves – how beautiful! Kev would be mad if I didn’t mention all the nice yachts that you see – they were pretty amazing! Honeymoon_..-30_330.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_332.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_336.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_338.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_339.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_341.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_348.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_356.jpg

Notice this incredibly windy road … there are no cars allowed in the city center, and because of the incredible views, many of the hotels are located high up on the cliffs. As a result, the further you have to walk, the cheaper the hotel is, but the better the view is! We decided that when we come back, we want to stay at Hotel Villakrupp (pictured here), which is apparently VERY nice and even higher than where we stood today, but would be a pretty long walk. The nice thing is that they take your suitcases up for you via electric scooter-type thing, so we are sure we can handle the walk! I just can’t say enough about how gorgeous Capri was – we were sad to leave and will definitely be returning in the future!!! We had some gelato before we left – of course! Honeymoon_..-30_342.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_358.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_364.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_366.jpg

We took an hour boat ride back to our ship in Naples, boarded, and hit the gym quickly. This was a FULL day of touring, and we were wiped out, so we decided to just go to the buffet instead of the restaurant for dinner. It was fine, but nothing special, and Rover wasn’t hungry so we didn’t get any pictures. We also did some laundry and are turning in for the night, before another long but exciting day in Rome tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Posted by megandkev 10:17 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Mykonos and sea sailing

Alright! Finally able to get a post up! This is from Saturday and Sunday.

sunny 88 °F

On Saturday morning, we arrived in Mykonos, Greece. The views from the ship were gorgeous – Mykonos is such a cute coastal town, with blue-accented, white-stucco houses lining the cliffs and beaches. We observed the docking from our balcony and were excited to get out to see the town, although we had no formal excursions planned. We got in a quick spin class/ workout before boarding the bus that would take us into the city center. Once we got there, the views were incredible, and we spent a while taking pictures. Look at these octopi hanging from the ship – gross! Honeymoon_..-30_017.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_018.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_021.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_023.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_024.jpg

We spent the day in Mykonos walking around, enjoying the views, strolling through the narrow, cobblestone streets lined with shops (I bought the turquoise and pink necklace that you see in the pictures!), and having lunch at a seaside restaurant. Kev had Mythos, the Greek beer (which clocks in at a disappointing 0.5% alcohol by volume!), and I had Greek house white wine, then we shared a Greek salad and tzaziki with brown bread (we had snacked before). Honeymoon_..-30_028.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_030.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_033.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_041.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_046.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_054.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_056.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_057.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_059.jpg

There was nothing significant to report, but we had a great day getting to know Mykonos. When we came back, we stopped in at a bar and relaxed on the ship before heading to dinner. It started with a beef and vegetable soup for Kev, and an unpictured vegetable broth for me, followed by salads for each. The main course was coq-au-vin for Kev (too salty, but good), and shrimp kebab with fruit salsa for me (awesome!) We finished with peach melba for me, and I think he must have just had vanilla ice cream, because we didn’t take a picture. We stayed out a bit late and had a lot of fun, which included a photo shoot of me in the elevator – I’ll spare you the whole thing and just share one. It was a very fun day and we hope to return to Mykonos sometime in the future! Honeymoon_..-30_068.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_070.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_071.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_072.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_074.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_076.jpg

Sunday started off by sleeping in, enjoying breakfast, and heading to the gym. We had signed up for a wine tasting and were excited to learn a bit about what we liked and didn’t like, how to act appropriately in tasting the wine, etc. The class allowed us to try a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, a Chardonnay from Kendall-Jackson, a Pinot Noir from Sonoma, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia, and a dessert Sauvignon Blanc (can’t remember where it was from!). We both really liked the first Sauvignon Blanc, and definitely preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon to the Pinot Noir, but red wine really makes my stomach hurt! I don’t know how people do it! I liked the dessert wine, but it was too sweet for Kev. Anyway, it was a fun experience and we got a handy-dandy card telling us everything you could ever need to know about wine. We’ll pull it out at our first cocktail party at Kellogg and let you know if it gains us new friends or not! Honeymoon_..-30_091.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_092.jpg

After the wine tasting, we had a snack of shrimp salad and grilled vegetables, and then read on the balcony and took a short nap. We eventually headed to dinner, where we got the best seat in the house – right by the window! It was a perfect time to be sitting there, because our ship was actually passing around the bottom of the boot of Italy, through a strait that separates Sicily from the mainland. We could see the mainland from our table, and then we got to see Sicily later. It was gorgeous! We slowed down in the middle of dinner, and a small motor boat scooted right up to the side, the pilot (who steers us into narrow ports) hopped on in about 2 seconds while still moving, and the motor boat sped off. It was so cool! Anyway, dinner was vegetable soup for me, asparagus/ tomato/ bacon appetizer for Kev, followed by a tomato soup (Kev) and house salad (me). We each had the lobster tail and grilled jumbo shrimp for dinner, and it was excellent! Honeymoon_..-30_093.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_094.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_095.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_098.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_099.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_101.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_103.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_104.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_106.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_109.jpg Honeymoon_..-30_114.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_116.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_117.jpg

We didn’t have time for dessert, so we grabbed a chocolate cake from the buffet line and headed to a bar that was showing the World Cup Final. It is amazing how SO many people are interested in the World Cup, and it was really fun to watch. Go Spain! Now I can return to my cluelessness of soccer before getting into the World Cup again in 2014! Right before we sat down, we noticed a gorgeous sunset over the coast of Sicily, so we took several pictures. It was absolutely gorgeous and a great way to end the day! It was our last day at sea (sad!) and it was a great chance to rest up for the 3 FULL days of tours coming up! Honeymoon_..-30_133.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_140.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_146.jpgHoneymoon_..-30_149.jpg

Posted by megandkev 21:19 Archived in Greece Comments (2)

Still having fun, but internet is slow...

sunny 90 °F

Hi all! We just wanted to let you know that we are still having a blast, and are continuing to document our journeys through daily blog posts, but we have been having a bit of trouble uploading photos, so the past couple of blog posts have not gone through. Rest assured, the days in Mykonos, Greece, day at sea, and in Naples/ Pompeii/ Sorrento/ Capri, were AMAZING, and we are looking forward to Rome tomorrow! As soon as we get better internet, we'll get it all uploaded!
-Megan and Kevin

Posted by megandkev 13:52 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Gobbling it all up

Our journeys in Turkey

rain 75 °F

We love Turkey! We didn’t have any real expectations, but we’ve come away knowing that it’s definitely a place we’d like to return someday. It’s a beautiful country with so much history and so much potential. Two days ago, we were in Kusadasi (“COOSH-uh-dah-see”) and Ephesus (“EFF-uh-sus”), and yesterday we were in Istanbul. I debated whether to split this into two reasonable entries or keep it as one huge entry, and decided on the latter, so I apologize for the length. I’ll try not to get so behind in the future!

Thursday started with our arrival into Kusadasi. We met our tour group at 7:10am, after a quick breakfast. Our tour guide was named Tan and did a phenomenal job of giving us interesting information, showing us all the critical sites, and making the day fun. On the bus, he pointed out several interesting features of the Kusadasi/ Ephesus region, including the beautiful 5-star hotels on the ocean that go for around $120/night. NICE ocean-side condos go for around $200K, and several wealthy Europeans use the area for their summer homes. In fact, the population of Kusadasi is 500,000 in the summer, and only 40,000 in the winter! It’s a quickly growing area, but because the government wants to make the “summering” experience as pleasant as possible for those who are funding the Kusadasian economy, construction is actually banned from April through September! We thought this was a little funny! Honeymoon_Day_26_214.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_002.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_009.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_024.jpg

After a short bus ride, we headed to the House of the Virgin Mary. When Jesus was crucified, he entrusted the care of his mother to St. John, who took Mary to the Ephesus region around 40 AD and lived with her there until her death. This is believed to have been her house. As seems to be the trend in Europe in summer, there were considerable lines to get in, but the surrounding area was gorgeous so we didn’t mind. Unfortunately, you couldn’t take pictures inside the house, but it basically looked like a one-room, small, stone … house. It was still very cool to be standing in such an old structure – the bottom 25% of the house is still untouched from its original construction, the top 75% has been reconstructed. I lit a candle for the health of our families – especially Ama – here! Honeymoon_Day_26_042.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_050.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_051.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_055.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_057.jpg

After the House of the Virgin Mary, we headed to Ephesus (as in the Ephesians from the Bible). What remains is a bunch of ruins and several marble roads, but there is still enough (especially after reconstruction efforts) to see the different areas of the city and identify the function of most buildings. The city was much bigger than we expected – and they estimate that 90% of it is still covered by a mountain (which was formed over the city after an earthquake in 614 AD). It was SO much fun to imagine people walking around in this village so long ago! Most of the standing structures date back from the 100s – 500s AD. Honeymoon_Day_26_069.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_073.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_078.jpg

Here, you’ll notice a theatre (the “back up” theatre – you’ll see the Grand Theatre at the end), the goddess Nike with Kev, ruins of temples and stores (anything that looks like a cave inside of an arch was a store, mostly selling jewelry), and a marble ball – the ball represents Trajan (an emperor or other type of ruler) stepping on the world, showing that he was ruler and in control of it. How interesting that in the 400s, Trajan and the Ephesians knew that the world was round, far before Columbus! Honeymoon_Day_26_084.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_085.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_088.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_094.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_097.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_103.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_104.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_114.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_116.jpg

The largest and prettiest standing structure in Ephesus is the Library that you see here. It was next to the house of prostitution, and there were underground tunnels connecting the two (“Honey, don’t worry, I’m just going to the library to educate myself…”)! Honeymoon_Day_26_127.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_133.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_135.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_143.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_151.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_154.jpg

This street is called Arcadian Street or Harbour Street, and there is evidence that St. John, Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, and others that we can’t remember have walked along it. Honeymoon_Day_26_170.jpg

This is the Grand Theatre, which seats about 40,000 and again dates back from the 400s. Recently, they opened it up to people like Diana Ross, Elton John, and Sting for fundraising concerts. Unfortunately, Sting’s fans got a little rowdy and ended up doing more damage to the theatre than the money they raised! Honeymoon_Day_26_163.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_177.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_178.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_183.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_190.jpg

Somewhere in there, I bought a pashmina – isn’t it pretty?  Honeymoon_Day_26_066.jpg

Last, we stopped at the tomb of St. John. St. John’s bones were actually physically here until a few years ago, when the Vatican barged in and claimed rights to them and took them to Italy. There was not a ton to see here, but it was a nice end to the day and again fun to see something to historic. By the way, if you’ve been noticing blue headphones, the guide talks into a microphone that is broadcast through those. Our tour groups have only been 20-30 people, but it still helps in case you want to go wander off away from the group but still want to catch all the information! Honeymoon_Day_26_191.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_198.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_203.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_207.jpg

After the day’s tour, we headed back, grabbed lunch and did a little reading. We went to the gym and spent some time around the ship and on our balcony, and then headed to dinner. We started with soup (Red bean for Kev, minestrone for me) and salad, then Kev had homestyle chicken breast and I had Shrimp fra Diavolo (why do I always have trouble with shrimp dish names? This is probably wrong, but it was tasty!) Kev finished with a 4-layer ice cream cake and I had limoncello sorbet. Yum! After dinner, we entered a blackjack tournament (it was only $10 to enter), and lost miserably. You started with $1,000 (of “fake” chips) and only played 7 rounds. I ended with $3,200 and thought that was good, but the winner had $12,000! We spent some time playing real blackjack also, headed to a few more bars, and called it a night. It was a bit too long and “fun” of a night, because our 5:50am wake up call the next morning was not pleasant! … Honeymoon_Day_26_216.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_217.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_218.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_220.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_221.jpgHoneymoon_Day_26_222.jpg

Luckily, Istanbul is an amazing city, so we got over our desire to stay in bed quickly! We grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out. Unfortunately, the first half of the day was very rainy, so Rover had to hide inside more than we would have liked, but we still managed to get some good shots (thanks to the $5 clear umbrellas we bought on the streets!) Our first stop was the famous Blue Mosque, so called because it is lined with valuable, hand-painted tiles that are overwhelmingly blue on the bottom level. It was huge and absolutely gorgeous! The photos don’t show just how pretty it was. Our guide, Kemencan, used this first mosque as an opportunity to tell us more about the Muslims in Turkey. First of all, they are not fundamentalist Muslisms, and are in fact very tolerant and respectful of other religions. Turkey is full of Jewish and Christian history and artifacts, and they revere these artifacts just as they do their own (Muslim) ones. Turkey is not officially a Muslim state even though 95% of Turks are Muslims, so government is secular. Devout, practicing Muslims are required to pray 5 times per day, but unlike several other Muslim countries, the city doesn’t “shut down” at these times, so if you want to pray it is on your own time. Kemencan estimated that only 10-15% of Turks actually take the time to pray 5 times per day. A few other interesting notes on the Turkish Muslim faith. First, you must endure a physical cleansing (“ablution”) ritual that takes about 20-25 minutes before each prayer. Second, you must always pray facing Mecca, which is designated in mosques by the “niche” (similar to the Christian altar). Kev and I knew this, but we did not know why – it turns out that the Cabah is a large, boxlike building in Mecca that holds a very sacred meteor, which has been worshipped since the days of Abraham and was adopted by Muslims only after being worshipped by other faiths first. The meteor is located in Mecca, which is why Muslims must always face it while praying and hope to visit it someday. Lastly, Turkish Muslims are free to marry people of other faiths, and this is quite common. If the mother of a child is of another faith, the Turkish government dictates that the child should practice the mother’s faith without question, and is very accepting of this. The funniest custom that we learned about is the announcement of engagements – when a couple decides to be married, they tell the parents first, and the parents host a coffee party for the couple. The bride-to-be prepares the coffee for everyone, and instead of putting sugar in her fiancé’s coffee, she puts salt. He must drink the entire cup and pronounce “Dear, this is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted!” … getting him ready for a lifetime of agreement and compromise! Amazing! Honeymoon_Day_27_010.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_014.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_017.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_019.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_021.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_025.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_032.jpg

OK, sorry for the detour/ rant, but this is all very fascinating to me! After the Blue Mosque, we headed to St. Sophia (or Hagia Sophia), which was initially built as a church in 360 AD but converted to a mosque in 1453 after the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople. This luckily involved covering up all the Christian symbols with plaster, which nicely preserved them. In 1923, when the Turkish Republic was founded, the government decided to keep Hagia Sophia as a museum (neither a mosque nor a church), and took off the plaster to re-reveal the Christian decorations. It is amazing now because there are both Christian and Muslim symbols everywhere, and it was very interesting to learn about them. The two buildings are set up similarly, so if you think of it as a church you’ll recognize the altar, the pulpit, etc., but if you think of it as a mosque you’ll recognize those same structures as the niche, the Sultan’s lodge, etc. Honeymoon_Day_27_030.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_041.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_042.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_043.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_049.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_053.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_054.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_057.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_061.jpg

Next, we went to a carpet making demonstration. The art of carpetmaking is highly revered in Turkey, and they make gorgeous carpets. We got to see how they are made, learn about the different types (primarily tribal, wool on wool, wool on cotton, silk on cotton, and pure silk), and while the lecturer was speaking, he gave gestures to several helpers who tossed out carpets left and right in perfect order and timing! In the end, there were probably 100 carpets spread across the floor. It was fun! We also got a chance to head to the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul’s most famous market. It is a bit of an unsafe (in the pickpocket sense) place, so we didn’t take Rover out inside, but it was a lot of fun to walk through and bargain. I bought another pashmina (blue, this time), and Kev tried to buy a watch – which he thought was fake, until the seller asked for 7,000 Euros! (almost $10,000) We took a pass  Honeymoon_Day_27_077.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_081.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_082.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_083.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_084.jpg

Later, we headed to a cruise of the Bosphorus River. The River actually separates the two sides of Istanbul, as well as two continents, Europe and Asia! Istanbul is the only major city that spans two continents, and they have a giant suspension bridge connecting the two sides. The cruise was one of our favorite parts of Istanbul, as it was a great way to see the whole city in a short period of time. The river spans 18 miles, and it is lined on both sides with GORGEOUS houses, palaces, fortresses, and condos. The nicest houses range from $70 million to $132 million! There is also a large downtown area, which we only saw in the distance. Istanbul is home to about 15 million people – much larger than we’d realized! It is the largest city in Turkey, although Ankara is the capital. Just take a look at several of the beautiful shots! On the cruise, we also had a delicious Turkish feast – in the true sense of the word! Appetizers included feta cheese, chicken salad, hummus, two eggplant dishes, and rice in grape leaves. The main course was beef wrapped in eggplant for Kev (which he wasn’t the biggest fan of), and chickpea stew for me (awesome!). Dessert was a sampler of baklava, dried apricots, Turkish delight, and some walnut-flour-honey mix. I was sooo full afterwards! Honeymoon_Day_27_086.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_087.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_088.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_089.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_090.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_094.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_101.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_104.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_115.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_116.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_119.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_122.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_133.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_140.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_141.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_143.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_145.jpg

After the cruise, we headed to the Hippodrome, which was used as a racecourse for carriages in the budding days of Istanbul. It had several monuments, including one from Egypt that was over 3000 years old! Honeymoon_Day_27_150.jpg

After the Hippodrome, we headed to Topkapi Palace, which used to house the Sultan but is now just a museum. It was full of gorgeous courtyards, well-kept grounds, and several interesting exhibits (photos weren’t allowed) – including an 84 carat diamond, several smaller (50-60 carat) diamonds, and many artefacts like thrones, armor, etc., used throughout Turkish history. Honeymoon_Day_27_153.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_159.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_161.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_172.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_185.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_190.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_192.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_197.jpg

The Istanbul tour took the full day, and we were exhausted by the time we got back, but we decided to take a quick trip to the gym before relaxing at the bar and going to dinner. Dinner didn’t disappoint, as by now you’ve come to expect – we started with chicken and scallion soups (just looked like broth so we didn’t take a picture) and house salads (again, just looked like salads!). For the main course, Kev had surf & turf with shrimp, and I had grilled salmon – both were fantastic! We finished with 1812 Sacher Torte (chocolate cake) for Kev and a fruit plate for me. It was delicious, relaxing, and a great end to a fantastic trip to Turkey! We truly enjoyed our time there! Today we’re off to Mykonos, Greece, so look for a (much shorter) report soon! Hope everyone’s doing well! Honeymoon_Day_27_199.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_200.jpgHoneymoon_Day_27_201.jpg

Posted by megandkev 02:20 Archived in Turkey Comments (7)

Democracy and marathons

sunny 97 °F

Hello! We are just getting on the boat after touring Kusadasi, Turkey, today, but this post will be about Athens. I tried to upload it last night, but it didn't work, so I'm trying again!

So … who noticed yesterday that Kev has shaved his beard?? Doesn’t he look so amazing! (He did before also). Can’t believe I forgot to write that last night!

Anyway, we had a great day in Athens today. It started off this morning pulling into the port (watching off our balcony), which is actually Piraeus. Athens is not a port, but has relied on Piraeus as its port for hundreds of years, so much so that Athens and Piraeus have kind of meshed together into one huge city – MUCH bigger than Kev or I would have imagined! We took a quick peek off our balcony, had a quick breakfast, and headed out to our tour. Honeymoon_Day_25_002.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_006.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_154.jpg

We had chosen the most popular excursion – a combination of a guided tour of the Acropolis and walking around the Plaka (city center/ shopping area) on your own. Once we met our group and boarded the bus, it was only a 30-40 minute drive to the Acropolis, and we arrived around 11am. Little did we realize (or focus on the fact that) the Acropolis is THE destination in Athens, so EVERYONE on our ship, plus the three other cruise ships that were in Piraeus today, would be heading to the Acropolis at the same time. It was PACKED! Our tour guide estimated that 120-140 busloads emptied out at the Acropolis today. Walking up the 80 ancient marble stairs to the Acropolis itself took about 30 minutes because the crowds were so dense. But the views were worth it! Here are a few shots from our walk up, and showing how big the city is. Honeymoon_Day_25_018.jpg Honeymoon_Day_25_042.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_036.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_064.jpg Honeymoon_Day_25_045.jpg

It was so incredible to be standing on, in, and around the ruins of such an elaborate structure, some of which was built as early as 437 BC!!! The Acropolis was initially built to house the government, when Athens (which was the first place to establish a true democracy) was governing other city-states of the ancient world. The Acropolis contains the Parthenon (the largest building you’ll see), Erechtheion (smaller temple), the Propylaia (the entrance), the Temple of Athena Nike (smallest temple), and several other ruins. Currently, they are doing a good bit of restoration, especially on the Parthenon and the temple of Nike, but even despite their efforts, it is amazing to think that we were looking at the exact same slabs of marble that people were looking at 2500 years ago! Here are a few shots of the Parthenon … Honeymoon_Day_25_051.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_055.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_057.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_070.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_074.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_093.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_095.jpg
Erechtheion …Honeymoon_Day_25_048.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_049.jpg
The ruins… Honeymoon_Day_25_054.jpg
And the restoration…Honeymoon_Day_25_039.jpg

We spent a few hours looking around the various ruins, including the aforementioned ones, and a large theatre that is still in use today, seen below. Here’s an incredible story … as we were wandering around, looking for our tour group (which we’d lost about 45 minutes before), we stumbled into one of Kevin’s friends from the Harvard Cross Country Team, Tom Benson! He is traveling around the world with his sisters and just happened to be at the Acropolis today. What a small world! Honeymoon_Day_25_026.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_030.jpg

Did I mention that it was HOT? It was 97 degrees today (we had to look it up, since of course they use Celsius/ Centrigrade here), and it definitely felt like it! Anyway, once we finished touring the Acropolis, we boarded the bus and had a quick city tour. One of the highlights was the first stadium of the modern Olympics – first used in 1896 and also used in 2004 for archery and the MARATHON! It was really cool to be standing on the same grounds that the Olympic marathoners ran on a few years ago. Hopefully it gave Kev some good luck for the Chicago Marathon in October! Honeymoon_Day_25_119.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_121.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_126.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_128.jpg

We also saw Hadrian’s Arch, which is famous but was relatively plain (I want to look up the story on it – all I know is that Hadrian was a very romantic ruler and built the arch to woo some girl – but I could be making that up so don’t use that in your next Jeopardy game! We passed by the Parliament building, with guards that are changed every hour in a somewhat elaborate ceremony (that we didn’t see). Honeymoon_Day_25_140.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_150.jpg

After our tour, we parked at the Plaka, which was basically just a handful of cobblestone streets packed with stores selling tourist goods (Athens postcards, Athens pictures, etc.) We didn’t buy anything, but we had fun looking around. We also had lunch at an authentic Greek place – doesn’t Kev look hot (as in sweaty hot)? I had a Greek salad and a pita, Kev had chicken kebabs (which he swears were undercooked but ate after I assured him they were fine). We also had a scoop of gelato each, but I forgot to take a picture of that. Honeymoon_Day_25_144.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_147.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_148.jpg

By the time we got back to the ship, we were tired and exhausted! The heat really drains you, and our tour was almost 7 hours! There is one cure for that – the ship’s LIBRARY! I spent almost an hour perusing their selections – I’ll let you know how I like my new book once I dive in! We tried to sit on our balcony to watch the sailaway (which was supposed to be at 6:15pm), but several of the tours got delayed somehow, and the ship waits for all of the tours, so we didn’t end up sailing away until 8pm. By that time, we were already at dinner. Another good one! Kev started with Aegaen shrimp, and I had <insert Greek name that I forget here> chicken, lemon, and mint soup. He had red lentil soup next and I had house salad, but we didn’t take pictures. For our entrée, he had the grilled filet medallions, and I had chicken braised in <insert second Greek name that I forget here> wine. For dessert, we each had the Love Boat Mousse, which was SOO good – we were moaning of fullness for a while after that. Honeymoon_Day_25_155.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_156.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_157.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_158.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_161.jpg

After dinner, we headed to the pool deck, where they were showing the World Cup game on the outdoor big screen. We got chairs with a pretty bad view of the screen, but were happy to be there anyway. It was such an experience to watch the game outside, in the middle of the ocean, and there were SO many fans! Embarassingly, we left early, but Spain is up 1-0 and I hope they win! We have a 5:45am wake up call tomorrow for our excursion in Kusadasi, Turkey, so I’d better get in my 6 hours of sleep! Hope all is well! Honeymoon_Day_25_162.jpgHoneymoon_Day_25_163.jpg

PS … YES! Shrimp Newburg! Who said that?

Posted by megandkev 03:22 Archived in Greece Comments (6)

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