An Olympic Marathon
Greece and Turkey
Today I went from Patras to Athens. I tried to book my train to Istanbul but couldn’t until after 4. It’s a busy city and has areas that aren’t the greatest but there are a couple of good spots. I know they have the Olympics in 2004. They have a lot of work – I haven’t seen any construction and the city is chaotic. The Parthenon and the Acropolis are, of course, good places. It’s really hot here so walking around is a chore. The walk up to the Acropolis hill is tough but worth it. There are several monuments to see beside the Parthenon. I met a couple Americans at the Acropolis who are still stranded.
|The Topkapi Palace has many important areas. One museum has the hair and tooth of Mohammed and another has the hand of John the Baptist|
I just finished 23 hours on a train. Last night it was Athens to Thessaloniki. I always get the top bunk which is the worst because due to the shape and curve at the top of the train there is less room for my feet. We did get to Thessaloniki early in the morning and I looked around a little.
Then it was to the Turkish border. We waited at the border forever because the Greeks and Turks don’t like each other and take their time exchanging our passports. We couldn’t even got off the train or open the windows. They did put us (tourists) all together away from the locals on the train.
Mercifully, we left for Istanbul. The train ticket guy kept trying to get the tourists to pay more by saying we had the wrong ticket. He tried it once with me and I told him to get lost and he did. But after every stop he would go back to the other tourists and play the game. I think he didn’t bother me because I had an actual ticket and reservation. My Eurail pass had run out so I needed to buy a ticket. The others had passes and he was trying to say they needed a supplement or reservation. That battle continued for six hours until we got to Istanbul and the ticket guy pulled a pack cigarettes and a bottle of something and we all had cigarettes and alcohol together. I think he was trying to say “no hard feelings.”
The ride into Istanbul is fantastic because it starts with the rather poor countryside and ends in the city. The mosques are lit up in different colors like red or green. It’s kind of like driving through the desert and then arriving in Vegas.
My first full day in Istanbul. I’m in a laid back area with a lot of tourists. I still get bothered every once in awhile from people wanting me to go to their shops or selling me generic Calvin Kleins. Topkapi Palace is the first tourist place I went to. The tour starts at the harem in the palace and continues through the rest of the grounds. The palace has many important areas. One museum has the hair and tooth of Mohammed and another has the hand of John the Baptist.
|The Blue Mosque in Istanbul has 6 minarets|
The Grand Bazaar takes a few hours to get through. I ended up buying a genie in the bottle, belly dancing clothes and jewelry stuff. There was one kid that was bothering me at the bazaar but the police quickly grabbed him and got him out of my face. So, I wasn’t bothered much. I still had to bargain quite a bit but not a lot of hassle.
I then took a boat to Princes’ Isles near Istanbul. I met a British girl, Catie, and we went on the boat trip together and also took a horse drawn carriage around the island. There are no motorized vehicles here. I was talking to Catie and she said she worked for National Geographic as part of programming for the station. She was bringing in National Geographic tapes to Turkey as it is cheaper for them to buy her a ticket and have her fly to Istanbul then to send the tapes by mail due to all the paperwork. I have already sent two packages back and had little problems but because these tapes are commercial there are more problems apparently.
The Sunken Cistern is one of the oddest attractions I’ve gone to. This was built in the sixth century AD in times of drought so the city residents can drink. Now they have Japanese animation playing, along with this long drawn-out music. This mixes with the dripping of the water, old figures and the cold because it is cistern, to make for a very odd sensation.
I then took another boat ride and went up the Bosphorus River. This trip took a little longer but at the end are Byzantine ruins that I walked up the hill to see. I was able to walk on the walls and get a nice view of the river. There were a lot of locals up there having picnics and getting away from the big city.
My flight today was to Delhi via Bahrain. I was told there would be extra security so I should arrive at least three hours early and there would be no carry-ons. Well that wasn’t true. I got there early so an Aussie guy and me on the same flight had breakfast and talked for a while. Turkey in general was very laid back and was no real problems. The flights went fairly smooth except for the Indian flight were a couple people drank too much and threw up all over the place. It really smelled.
|A walk up Acropolis hill is tough but worth it|
I had been e-mailing a guy about setting up train tickets because I heard it was very difficult. I met him and he quoted me $250, I went to the train station and I bought my own for $40. It was very easy as there is another line just for tourists and they helped me out.
I hired a ricksaw driver who drove me around. I saw a lot of beggars and people wearing masks because of the dirt. He took me to a couple of temples; one was for Hindus and one for Sikhs. He also took me to the area where a lot of the government buildings are. I am definitely suffering from culture shock here but I have two more weeks to get used to it.