Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Around the World in 80 Bajillion Pictures: Part Four, Greece & Turkey

We resume our travelog (after a brief hiatus for poor, poor, pitiful Vivi to spend a weekend hopelessly mired in edits) in Lovely Greece!  Or, in this case, Rainy Greece!

Did you know that Mykonos has something like three hundred sunny days a year?  And we managed to find the single rainy day they'd had in weeks?  The thunder would roll, this loud, crashing rumble that lasted for like thirty seconds (which, of course, makes you look around to see if Chris Hemsworth is in the vicinity). The rain was novel to the locals (and helped shepherd numerous tourists into their shops and cafes) but it didn't stop me.  No sir!  After Paris, no amount of rain can intimidate me!  And in spite of the rain, I seriously loved Mykonos.  It was gorgeous and peaceful (though that may have been the rain driving everyone indoors) and the people were marvelous. 

After Mykonos we sailed through the Dardanelles (sp?) and up to the Bosphorus to see that magnificent and historic city straddling Asia Minor and Europe - Istanbul!  (Not Constantinople.  And yes, I had They Might Be Giants stuck in my head all day.)  (If you notice lots of Turkish flags, it's because we were there on a national holiday.) We saw gorgeous Hagia Sophia...

Took our shoes off and be-scarved ourselves to enter the famous Blue Mosque...

Ate a traditional Turkish lunch within sight of the ancient city walls and then went inside the Topkapi Palace where our guide was quick to inform us that Sultans weren't the only ones who kept harems. 

(Just your average, everyday canopy bed in the palace...)
It was interesting to hear about the court politics of the sultanate.  The queen mother had massive amounts of power, so it wasn't surprising that there was so much jockeying within the harems to make sure your kid had the best claim to the throne.  If nothing else, having multiple wives made the line of succession a mess.  And the practice of imprisoning or killing off your male siblings so they couldn't usurp your throne when you came to power?  Talk about high stakes.

(A view of Europe from the Topkapi.)
We saw the famous Turkish carpets being made by hand, drank apple tea and the local raki (nicknamed lions milk because it turns milky when diluted with water - and after you've had a few you will roar like a lion) and then it was back to the boat.

After Istanbul, we sailed back south to beautiful Kusadasi - the sight of the Tomb/Church of St. John the Evangelist...

The house of the Virgin Mary... which, I'm just gonna say it, feels more like a tourist trap than a sacred site to me. 

(A sign in the pavilion leading up to the shrine.)
They found the foundations of a random house, in an area that might have been where the Virgin spent the end of her life, with some skeletal remains and NO IDENTIFYING EVIDENCE and they rebuilt the house, turned it into a shrine and started charging admission.  Now, I admire faith, and I think if anything is holy about that sight, it is the belief that all the people who go there bring to it.  The notes they tie to the wall, praying to the Virgin.  But the house?  It could have been a sheep farmer's for all we know.  Are walls we rebuilt where we think there were once walls really sacred?

And then there's Ephesus, the ancient Roman city.  WHICH WAS SO DAMN COOL.

Seriously, you guys.  Go to Ephesus.  Once a thriving port town (which is fascinating because the natural topography has changed so much it is now inland) and the Second City of the Roman Empire (second only to Rome), it was covered by silt and erosion for a couple thousand years and now is being uncovered again.  They are excavating more every year and they say less than half of what they know is there (technology is so cool that it can show people where to dig now!) has been uncovered. My favorite part?  The library. 

Is that not a gorgeous library?  It even had a secret underground passageway that ran across the street to a brothel.  So you could, you know, get some "knowledge" on the side.

There were luxurious private apartments - where historical records indicate Cleopatra and Mark Antony spent their honeymoon - and yeah, they had plumbing, complete with hot and cold running water. Also, check out the massive amphitheatre which is still used for concerts today because the natural acoustics built into the hillside are so good.  How cool is that? 

After Kusadasi, it was across the Aegean to Athens.  I almost hate to admit it, but I had kind of a been-there-done-that boredom in Athens.  I loved it the first few times I was there, but this time it just felt like a replay.  The Acropolis was... the Acropolis.

The food was beyond awesome and we caught a folk dance show which was deeply excellent...
But for whatever reason, that day my Wow was broken.  Maybe I used it all up in Kusadasi. Or perhaps, Athens may just not be my city.  Because no matter how many times I see it, I never feel blase about Venice.

Tomorrow... the travelog continues in Venezia.  Ciao!


Diana Layne said...

awesome stuff, Vivi!

Rita said...

Genuine fake watches???? Snort. Coffee spewing moment