Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Mykonos is amazing

Day #20 - Mykonos

I love this island already.

The day started with a healthy breakfast of home made gelato, pistachio and fig.

The gelato lady makes the gelato herself every day...nice lady, very generous with her potions.

Back on the ferry we went...tons of people again

You cant see in this pic, but it seems as though my backpack gets bigger and bigger, even without me buying stuff!

We were lucky to havr perfectly clear blue skies. Aparently just one day before, mykonos was blanketed in black clouds and rain was jsut pourrrrring. The water was inviting too...

There were a lot of small boats in the marina as well. Speaking of whichk while there, we saw a massssive yacht with just three or four people, enjoying themselves.

Aparently, the island mascot of mykonos is a pelacan...this bird was soooo random. Just walking around town like he owned th place. Lol.

The other key symbol of Mykonos are the five windmills by the edge of the island.

Look at that crystal blue waterrrrrr

We headed to the restaurant by the water and our little friend showed up again

If i didnt get seasick all the time, one of the goals in my life might be to get a yacht lol.

There were quite a few cruise ships tethered nearby. At night you can hear the music and partying going on, on the boat.

My rommate priya had a genius idea of checking out the sunset by the windmills.

First pic, sunset in sunset mode

Second pic, sunset in hdr.

Out of all of the sunets i have ever seen, this was THE most beautiful. The sun was so round, large and clear. It was absolutely beautiful. And, this next pic is my new favourite photo of the trip (in case formatting of my blog messes up, it the one of me jumping)

I love the look of the sky after the sun has set..all those pretty coloure...

And finally, i started off the day with gelato... i will end the day with gelato....

Gelato for dinner? Just lived out a childhood dream :)

Location:Mykonos, Greece

Syros, quaint and quiet

Day #18 and 19

We depart for our first Greek island of some ridiculous hour (so early we saw the sunrise)...

I probably would have taken more pictures during my four hour boat ride, but i took two gravol for fear of feeling sea sick and simply passssssed out on the ferry there.

Its one of the lesser tourist islands with a local population of 22 thousand. After checking in, the first thing myself and a group of ladies did was head to the beach to have lunch. For the first time in two weeks, i had glorious seafood pasta.....yummm

Then it was time to hit the was a nice local beach, not crowded at all with plenty of beach chairs and to lie on

The water was a bit chilly to swim in, not quite the warm water i had felt in turkey, so swimming wasnt an option today.

The beach was sandy...and the sound of the waves just made for a very relaxing afternoon.

The beach was super quiet, not a lot of tourists...perfect. After beaching, we headed back to the town square to meet our group for din.

Christine, our group leader brought us to a nice nearby greek resto...

How can you come to greece without having greek salad?

The answer is, you cant. So i ordered one without onions and gave away the olives. The massive block of feta....LOOK at it

On our way back, we strolled through thr shops. Found this lovely sign, thought it was hiliarious :)

And, as a delicious end to the day, ice cream.

The following day, we started bright and early to "hike" (it was more just walking up steps). It was frreeeeezing. I am pretty sure this walk is what got me totally sick.

Walking through this small town was nice tho, tons of steps.

All the houses and homes were white and blue wiht these gorgeous pink flowers hanging down

I think the clouds are what made the morning soooo chilly. But at least it kept us from sweating buckets when we reached the top...

At the top was a beautiful fourteenth or sixteeth century catholic church. It was very small, but ornately decorated and calming.

After reaching the top, we headed down to grwb lunch back in town. Everything at these islands seem expensive, but a girl's gotta eat. And this girl ate calamari. The squid was fresh annnd freshly fried. Sooooo yum

Went to the same beach again to relax . Lucky for us the sun came out just in time. We then headed to a "special dinner" out in the middle of no where. Whats special about this point is the view.

Yes i am obsessed with sunsets.

The dinner we had was ok, i had a seasame salad that is not really worth mentioning. What is worth mentioning is the great service we had from these nice greek guys. Some communication gap here, but the kadies at my tabke went crazy for them lol.

Syros was a quiet and quaint island. It was more of a vacay destination for locals. A far cry from the island up next....Mykonos!

Location:Syros, Greece

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Goodbye Turkey

My trip in Turkey has come to an end.

After heading to bed at two am, i got up at four for breakfast at five. This breakfast was like night and day from what i had the previous day since they had to specially prepare it for me. I got some cheese, some cold cuts, some jam and butter (no bread tho), it was everything i had avoided from the day before. Anywho, when i headed down, i was supposed to get picked up at five thirty. Five thirty came and one came. I asked the front desk to call the guy. After several calls, it turns out they didnt send anyone for me, they had forgotten or something. I was fummmmming, but they sent a car to come at six. Sigh.

Luckily, the driver drove relatively fast and there were no cars on the road. I made it to the airport thinking that since it was six thirty in the morning, there wouldn't be too many people. I was wrong. The line for turkish airlines was INSANNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. As i mentioned in yesterdays post, its a big holiday this weekend so everrryone was going on vacay.

I was kind of worried since i was already late arriving to the airport...then the check in line took forever and a half (even though it was the "shorter"). So after lining up to drop off my luggage, lining up to go through customs, lining up to go through security and lining up to board the plane, i make it just in time for my flight. Yay!

The last two weeks in Turkey have given me the best travel experience thus far. I don't think my words or pictures can truly do this country justice in showing how beautiful the land is, how kind the people are and how delicious the food is. I have my tour guide turned friend Caglar (chalar) to thank for my new found love of this country. He gave us background to the complicated yet fascinating history of Turkey, he showed us a side of the Muslim religion that none of us have seen before, he brought us to around turkey tasting the best food of each city - he showed us HIS Turkey, HIS home. I have fallen in love with this country and one day, I know that I will return. Thanks Caglar for making my time in Turkey so incredible.

(i made him do the asian peace sign :D)

Location:Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Must-sees

Day #15 and 16 - Istanbul, solo

Day #15
After an adventureous two weeks of being with my group, i end up in Istanbul by myself. I guess this is where the real soul searching begins. My first mission is to find my new hotel. Levni Istanbul. A boutique hotel just around the corner from my tour hotel. It was gorgeous. A big fluffy bed.

A bathroom that was immaculately clean...

The only weird part was that the sink was actually part of the room. Oh well it worked out for me.

After staying in pensiones, and hostel like simple rooms with bathrooms that had showers over the toilet, this hotel was a welcomed change. Not saying i didnt enjoy my stays in the local spots across turkey (because all the owners were amazingly hospitable and soooooo sweet) but it was nice to have a super fluffy bed to sprawl across after a long day of walking. Oh, and it was also awesome i didnt have to wear flip flops in the shower. Lol.

If anyone goes to istanbul and doesnt feel like rockin it in a hostel, this is the hotel to go for :)

After getting myself together, i set on my journey through istanbul to go to the critical must-see spots:

Kind of came upon this one randomly. I wasnt really sure what i wanted to do on this day so i aimlessly walked around the tourist area taking photos.

Then, like all turkish men, a man came up to me and asked me where i am from. (ladies, if you ever venture to istanbul alone, you will have to get used to enduring a lot of "excuse me laaddddy", "konichiwaaaaa", "where aree you from?", "excuse me, can i say something to you?" etc etc. By thr second day, i just put in my ipod and blasted it so i didnt have to hear the constant annoying voices.) For the first time, i didnt think he wanted to sell me something, so i chatted with him for a bit...he told me that this time of day is too busy to visit the hagia sophia, and that i should go visit the cistern first, which i did.

This cistern was built by the emperor justineus (sp?). It was absolutely massive. It reaked of dampness though. Not sure it would be a water source id want to drink from....

There was a bit of a sense of erieness to this place. There werent that many tourists around and you would periodically hear a droplet hit the water and see the water ripple in the dark.

Not to mention the creepy lighting.
In the cistern, there was also two statues of medusa one sideways and one upside down. Even today historians are not sure how they got there and why they are oriented the way they are.

Hagia Sophia
This was a Byzatinian church that was then converted to a mosque. Inside, you can see the early Christian mosaics of Mother Mary and Jesus, right next to the beautiful Muslim calligraphy.

Most of the Christian artwork has deteriorated quite a bit, but the calligeaphy sill stands beautifully, i assume because they were added much later.

Teresa pic!

I took more pics in hagia sophia than i have commentary, so i am just going to post all the pics. (this what happens when you go in without a tourguide lol)

Oh look, i realized i should cover up in the church/mosque:S

This pic of outside was kinda funny. I saw a man with a ton of camera gear standing on his tippy toes trying to take pics out a window that was kind of high. I figured that if he was going to so much effort for a photo, it must be something good. I did the same. But the end result? Meh. What was funny was that other ppl saw me and him doing that, so others followed. Lol.

Heres my attempt at a self taken pic, unfortunatrly lightening kind of sucked :(

This next one is a bit better tho...

When people see you taking these self timer pics, they usually offer to take them for you. From my turkey trip, this only happens with british and austrailian people tho.

Next up on the must-see list...

Blue Mosque
So Blue Mosque is not only a tourist destination, but its actually a real mosque and muslims actually pray there.

I arrived just as the prayer service was finishing up. As the women were coming out of the mosque (men and women are separated during prayers), i ran into a Canadian family that i had met in Cappadocia! Hooooowww random! Normally, foreigners/visitors are not allowed into the prayer services out of respect, but this Canadian family was muslim as well, so they asked to join the prayers. They were very fortunate to be able to see something so spiritual.

Before entering the mosque, similar to temples in asia or churches in italy, women have to cover themselves up. I was prepared with TWO scarves, one for my head/shoulders and one for my short skirt. Unfortunately, i saw a lot of tourists take off the coverings after they walked into the mosque. So disrespectful!

After taking a couple pictures, i saw down on the carpet to people watch. There were still people praying in the mosque, men at the front, women at the back.

The mosque was simply beautiful. Tiny lights hanging fromthe ceiling, sun beams shining through the windows, the lush red carpet under my feet - even though there were so many many tourists and people there, it was oddly calming.

The city:
I wasnt quite sure what to do next so i just ended up wandering and walking around the area taking in the city.

Although there were a ton of tourists around, this are still many locals aound going about their daily lives, praying, shopping, playing with pigeons.

I wandered all the way to the local spice market. After going to a building full of spices, i obviously could not go home empty handed. Once spice i got was sumack, a smokey slightly hot spice, and black chillies. I also bought the most expensive safron ive ever seen - 35 lira per GRAM. Hopefully ill be able to come up with something absolutely delicious to make use of it.

During rush hour, ther were a tonnnnn people. Felt like i was in china!

Kept wandering and decided to walk across the bridge to check out galata tower. All along the two sides of the bridge were ppl fishing. Below the bridge there was tons of boat traffic and polluted water - im a bit surprised theres actually fish to catch, but i guess if theres so many must be there.

Right off the bridge, theres a fish market off to the side. I went to take some pics and some ppl tried to sell me fish..."hey lady, good fish!". Lol. Then i got fish guts and run off on my foot - so i had to leave and pray that i didnt stink like fish.

Made a quick pit stop for something cool and refeshing - gelato. Unfortunately, people here arent really good at the art of scooping gelato, so i didnt get my full cup :(

I finally reached galata tower (its up on a hill, climbing that was a bit tiring...)

Galata tower has changed in use over hundreds of years and now stands as a tourist location to get a beautiful view of the city. It is approx 67m tall, and 16m wide, having walls that are 3.75m thick.

Took a picture of the panoramic view over the city can see both the asian side and the euro side of istanbul. Gorgeous.

I strategically went up thr tower just forty mins before sunset so that i can get a good spot to view it. My first sunset with clouds of this trip.

The thing about sunsets, are that they are very romantic. To my left, to my right and behind me stood couples hugging as they wathced the sun go down.

Something about watching the sun slowly make its way past the horizon...on my own AND enjoying it, made me feel extra independent and good about myself :)

And that was the end of my first day solo. Walked a ton, saw a ton and maybe found a little of myself today.

Day #16
The following day, i took it easy...and by easy, i mean i was a sloth. Had an amazzzing breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, and fresh made-to-order pancakes. Delicioussssss

Oh and freshly squeezed orange juice. Yumm

After lounging in my super comfy hotel room for the morning and a bit of the afternoon, i went wandering again, through the local makets and streets

Istanbul has these corn and roasted chestnut karts everywhere in the touristy spots. The corn is just one or two lira...but dont be tricked - its the nasty type of corn thats super chewy and sticks to your teeth.yuck.

Wandering and wandering, while having no idea where i was going, i found myself at the grand bazzar, my last touristy thing that i have to cross off my list.

However, i got so many of those "hey lady"s, and "where are you from"s that i just gave up. - plugged in my ipod and ignored everyone wo tried to talk to me.

The grand bazzar is a huge building that holds many shops, i think with fourteen entrances, emoloying ten thousand people.

My last bit of touristy business was to grab one last turkish icecream. For those who have not tried, i think the best way to describe it is a cross between icecream and marshmellows. The icecream is chewy, yet melts like normal. Also very yum.

Finally, at night, i got a chance to go to takism, the more modern side of turkey full of bright lights, big shops and people.

I was kindly invited by my tour guide -turned friend to go out to a local bar for some drinks.

As touristy as takism may be, a couple side streets later, and you can find yourself right in the middle of the locals' hang out. As it turns out, it wa the beginning of a very important turkish holiday, and as with all holidays, people were out and about having a good time.

It was nice to hang out with caglar and his friends, being emersed in the real turkey. Friendly people and more than amazing food.