Cyprus

We spent about 10 days in Cyprus and it was awesome! We stayed with Father John, an Anglican priest Katisse knew from back home and he really spoiled us. He lives in a beautiful house right next to the church in downtown Nicosia. Cyprus is such an interesting island, it’s covered in flowers but really resembles Anatolia in Turkey, some speculate that it was a peace that broke off. Its political history is even more interesting though, it’s divided into two parts, one being the country of Cyprus (the south) and the other being the Turkish Republic of Cyprus (the north, only recognized by Turkey). To the E.U and Southern Cyprus it’s occupied territory and therefore if you fly into Northern Cyprus you cannot enter Southern Cyprus because technically you’ve entered illegally, Father John made sure we knew which end of the island we were flying into. The island was divided in the 70’s and to this day there is a U.N buffer zone and U. N troops there to maintain the peace…so crazy. The buffer zone is abandoned, whole houses and cars were left to decay. Cyprus since about 2000 BC has belonged to someone, it was Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Turkish, Italian, British…the list goes on, so it’s sort of having an identity crisis and has been having one for the past 30 years. That’s a brief history but it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Anyways, during our time with Father John we sat on the couch with his three amazing cats in our laps (they don’t bite or hiss or scratch) and hot tubbed. We ate, lounged, did laundry, shopped, made dinner, did dishes. Pretty much we were home for about a week, but of course we explored a bit! We went over to the Turkish side (“the dark side” as the Greek Cypriots like to call it) and met a British lady who was very sweet, very sympathetic to the Turkish view (most Cypriots are divided) she took us swimming in the Mediterranean at a beautiful beach. We explored some ruins on the island and drove through the beautiful mountain range that divided the Southern part. We did a Segway tour of the old town and cringed in embarrassment the whole time…it was fun though! We went to church and met an amazing Armenian, Libyan girl Alik who showed us around Nicosia. She was beautiful, dark hair and green eyes! She spoke 5 languages and acted/looked about 5 years older than she was. We helped out at the church Mayfair where we ran the ice-cream stall and ate a lot of ice-cream…whoops. All in all it was our little home for a week and a bit and it was amazing, we thanked Father John profusely and then we jumped on the plane headed for Athens…then Rome!

Love,

S

Crete

We chose to go to Crete out of all the Greek Isles because we didn’t have a lot of time and it seemed to offer the most for the time we had. We arrived there by plane (which is cheaper than the popular Greek ferries) in the capital of Iraklio. I was not very fond of it as it was pretty dirty and unsafe and… we stayed at the most disgusting hostel we had ever stayed in our whole trip. It was run by a decrepit Greek lady, the furniture was bug eaten and there was a dirty Q tip in the wall… we slept with our sleeping bag liners. Luckily it was only for one night. The next day we checked out the Minoan ruins…lame, then we took the bus to Rethmyno were we spent about 3 days. We stayed in a hostel Katisse’s parents had stayed in about 15 years ago, it was very neat. The town was tiny and lovely and we enjoyed the down time spent strolling along the harbour watching the old Greek men “exercising” in valour track suits. We headed to Chania next which was my favourite spot. We got a great deal staying in this beautiful apartment where we were able to cook our own food and we had an amazing view of our little cobbled lane and the ocean. We hiked the Samaria Gorge while we were there which was beautiful, it took us about 6 hours and it was 17 km. We took the ferry back to Chania as the sun set over Crete and the perfectly aqua ocean…lovely to say the least. We were reluctant to leave our little apartment but excited to head to our next destination…Cyprus!

Love,

S

Greece! Athens

We were in Athens on two different occasions, the first being when we came from Istanbul and met up with our friend Jessie and the second being on our way back from Cyprus to Rome, so I’ve decided to just meld them together. The first time we were there for 2 days and we managed to explore most of Athens, The Acropolis & Acropolis Museum, The Agora and The Archealogical museum.When we first arrived we took the metro to Monasteraki station and walked the 300m to our hostel, in this time however Katisse unfortunately was shit on by on of the millions of seagulls that inhabit Athens…luckily a nice Greek man insisted on helping her clean up and with making sure we knew where we were going. Meeting up with Jessie again was awesome! It was so nice to see a familiar face waiting for us in our hostel lobby! That day we grabbed some lunch, the Greeks love pastries, and explored the square surrounding the Greek Parliament buildings, they were nice. Two young guards stand outside wearing skirts essentially and being subjected to numerous embarrassing tourist shots…we felt bad for them. The next day we managed to do The Acropolis, Agora and the two museums and then have dinner in Plaka. The Acropolis was so impressive, it may not be the best preserved but there’s something (pardon the pun) very mystical about it. The hill it sits on for some reason or another has a sort of magnetic interference for the birds flying around it, meaning not a single bird flies over the hill…weird right! Also, legend goes that when Athens was being named the god and goddess, Poseidon and Athena took part in a contest vying for the patronship of Athens. Poseidon struck a rock and salt water sprung forth giving the Athenians power over the seas, Athena presented them with the olive tree which represented fertility and life, I’m guessing you can figure out which person the ATHENians chose. Anyways, there is a temple in the Acropolis dedicated to both the god and goddess that houses a rock with large gouge marks in it as if someone struck it…cool eh!? The Parthenon is so impressive and imagining it back in the day brings to mind so many feelings of inspiration and awe. We ended up going twice and the second time we did it through a free walking tour so we learnt a lot that way. We also learnt about it at the new Acropolis museum that the Greeks built recently to house the stolen (some say rescued) Elgin marbles…google it if you don’t know. It was a beautiful museum worthy of the marbles with detailed descriptions of all the temples in the Acropolis and the Parthenon itself. The museum is built to imitate the actual structure of the Parthenon and it’s fascinating. It’s built on top of ruins but incorporates them into the actual structure utilizing translucent flooring allowing you to be surrounded by one big exhibit. Anywhere you dig in Athens you’re bound to discover some sort of ruin, the city is that old. The archaeological museum was very interesting as well, they had an exhibit on the finds of an ancient ship wreck on its way to Athens from Ephesus. One of the relics was an ancient mechanism from about 200BC that was able to chart and predict the movement of the sun and moon at any given date in history. It was fascinating, it worked through a system of gears and cogs and is still being pondered about today. All these sites were free because we’re both 19 or under…yes!! It was awesome! Then came the night of my tattoo! I was so nervous and excited, it ended up going really well. The artist was very nice and even though it ended up having to be bigger than I originally planned for, I’m happy with it. The rest of the time we just spent wondering around, I actually came to love Athens. I learnt so much about the Greek people in my short time there, some good some bad, and about their current economic situation which is a hell of a lot more complicated than one would think… I would keep my eye on that in the next couple years, it’s going to get messy. Anyways, Crete was what came next!

Love,

S

Goreme

Goreme was straight out of a fairytale…It was a town comprised literally of caves. The whole town had been carved out of what I think was sandstone or maybe limestone, anyway it was soft enough for homes to be carved out. This meant we had a choice of any number of fine cave hotels, the one we picked was gorgeous. Our cave was cosy, nice and dark and perfectly dry. It was also, as one would expect of a fine cave, well insulated. Our hostel was run by two very nice Turkish men. One of which, Mustafa, was a hot air balloon pilot, one of many in Goreme. Our first day we did the tourist thing and booked a tour of the area and the surronding “ruins”. The tour took us to some view points of various valleys in which the stone had eroded into “fairy chimney’s”. They got this name because they were the former hiding places of the condemned Christians during the Ottomon Empire, the villagers nearby could only see the faint glow of the cooking fires used by these refugees (one could say). Next we went to a city carved out by these hidden Christians on the side of a cliff, complete with a chapel containing some crumbling mosaics. The area the city was built in looks exactly like a set from Starwars, though Lucas didn’t pay the Turks enough to actually film there. The tour also took us to the underground city/hideout used by the Hittites and later the Greek Orthodox people. The city was 18 floors deep and extended to about 200m underground. The Hittites built the first 5 floors to hide from envaders and the Greek Orthodox built the rest. It was incredible, they had literally everything from a meeting hall to a morgue and of course the obligatory torture post for those caught stealing chickens or cows…underground. The tour guide was very cute and funny, we ended up meeting that night after the tour so we got to talk a bit more, he’s studied all around the world and had many tourist horror stories to share with us. Apparently when he was down in the underground city, though he warns elderly or out of shape people to remain up top, someone collapsed and he was forced to carry the person out on his back. The passageways underground are about 4 feet tall and he’s probably 6 ft 3″. Yea…I felt pretty bad for him, oh and this happened twice. Another time someone was too wide to fit through the passageway so he was forced to push the person from behind until he kind of “popped” out. The next day Katisse and I headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum, apparently the largest open air museum in the world…that’s also what they said about Ephesus…Anyways, it was a nice hike through the hills and around the alien scenery. At one point we spotted a turtle just as he was about to fall off a cliff…literally about 30 or 40 ft. I grabbed him in time and put him safely in some grass, and then he walked back to the cliff (Katisse thought maybe he wanted to fall on purpose, maybe if he landed on his back he would be ok?) Anyway he ended up just barely turning in time, even though he was going pretty slow as you can imagine. The rest of the day we hung out at our hostel and talked with the nice “security gaurd” he’s 22 and he spoke just a little english but we laughed a lot anyways. He lives at the hostel full time and works as this sort of security gaurd, tea boy type deal. He was always bringing us chai (turkish for tea) which Katisse hates but she drank it anyways…because she thought he was cute. That night we took a night bus back to Istanbul and the Stray Cat. I managed to catch Vedat, the tour guide, one more time before we left just to say goodbye and well in the process of saying goodbye the bus started to pull away and I was forced to run after it like the silly Canadian I am. Poor Katisse almost had a heartattack trying to get the guys to stop. In Istanbul we shopped and enjoyed our last Turkish meal before saying goodbye to a country we truly fell in love with. The middle east, if Turkey can be called that, enchants and ensnares you. There’s something very mystical, foreign yet endearing, about that part of the world. Sorry Paris, I know we haven’t met yet but…Istanbul J’taime or rather Turkey J’taime.

Love,

S

Selcuk

We arrived in Selcuk and were picked up by one of the men who ran the hostel we were staying at, Atilla’s. It was just outside of town. Atilla turned out to be a very friendly Turkish born, Australian raised man who had converted his family’s house into a hostel. We stayed in what used to be the family room. The place itself was about 15km out of town which was perfect! It was a little oasis with the most beautiful surrondings. Mountains surronded it on all sides and you could even spot some ruins from the courtyard. Meals were served there, courtesy of Atilla’s mother, allowing us to get to know the other guests staying there. We met several sweet couples and people staying, but I became especially fond of Atilla. With his hippy demeanor and valour track suites, he was quite the character. He also had the cutest Rottweiler, who though she was quite shy bounded up to Katisse one day (Katisse almost had a heartattack) only to lick her toes and then continue on her way. By the end of our stay Atilla had offered us a summer job at his hostel! Anyways, the day after we got there we headed to Ephesus, the famous Roman city, to check out some incredible ruins. Ephesus was a harbour in it’s prime with a population of about 200,000. Biblical characters made their homes in the hills, with one of the caves apparently being the Virgin Mary’s place of death. Anthony and Cleopatra also visited Ephesus during their campaign against Augustus Octavius. The ruins were incredible, there was a massive amphitheatre, twice as big as the one in the Acropolis in Athens, and a library with the most beautiful front. All of Ephesus is being restored and rebuilt so in about 30 years the city will be massive, and so impressive. As of right now only about 20% has been excavated. The next day we headed into town and booked our night bus to Goreme, while we waited to catch our bus we had a Turkish Bath, also known as a Hamam. It was quite different…We went on ladies day and were greeted at the door by two very large Turkish women, the bath attendents. We were then ushered into a room where we could take off our clothes and sport a tiny Turkish rag for the rest of the experience…Katisse and I brought our bathing suits. We then entered the steam room, it’s a large domed room with a huge heated marble stone at the center and showers on all walls. We were told to lie on the stone so we could sort of malt a bit…kind of gross but part of the experience. We were then called over to a stone massuse table where one of the large Turkish women scrubbed us with a sort of rough mit to get the dead skin off. She scrubbed pretty hard and when she had finished one side of us she smacked our bums and announced “Over!” Then she proceeded to scrub the rest of us, the only thing she didn’t scrub was covered by my bathing suit bottems…although she did take the liberty of scrubbing part of my butt…At this point Katisse and I just decided to go Native and embrace the Turkish bath experience. So, after the scrubbing we were then told to go back and malt some more before having our soap massage. When we were called for that the other large Turkish lady took a giant bucket of soap bubbles and started rubbing our backs etc…being covered in soap and trying to not slide off the table is very difficult. She then asked us to sit while she scrubbed our heads and face, I felt like a baby. We then washed off and stayed a bit longer before heading out and getting dressed. After the bath we felt like new borns, slightly stunned as we walked out onto the street. We checked out some other ruins in town and then headed to the bus stop to catch our night bus.

Love,

S

Bergama

We arrived in Bergama only to be met by the side of the road…we were being dumped about 10 km outside of town…whoops. Anyways we met a very nice Australian couple on the bus, John and Jane, who decided to come check out the hostel we were staying at. We split a taxi into town and found our beautiful old hostel nestled in the hills. The town itself is surronded on all sides by hills. The next day we all headed out to explore the ruins on the top of one of the hills, Pergamum was once a port town of importance to the Romans. We managed to sneak past the ticket offices by literally climbing up the hill (not taking the road) which was awesome! They were my first Roman ruins (one of many as it turns out) and I was in awe. The pillars, though they had long since collapsed, were so detailed. There was even some inscriptions left which were still perfectly clear. We stayed as long as we could wandering around untill we were rained out, we hurried back down the hill but still managed to end up soaked. Later that day we took a bus to Selcuk to explore some more famous ruins.

S

Cannakale

We arrived in Cannakale, after some sad goodbyes with our Istanbul fam, to find a lovely seaside town. We were conviently dropped off at the doorstep of our hostel by chance! We were shown to our room, a 6 bed mixed dorm, and discovered that two other people were already staying in the room (though they weren’t there at the time.) We settled in and around 12am our two roomies got in, I said a sleepy hello, introduced myself and apologized for the stink that was coming from our half dried clothes (courtesy of the istanbul rainstorm). The two roomies were from The UK and were very friendly. They both were very smart women with careers in NGOs. We decided to join the tour that was given that day to the ANZAC landing site from WWI, Gallipolli. I had learned about it in History 12 and was eager to see it first hand. The tour was awesome, we got the see the beach where the troops landed and both the Turkish and ANZAC memorials. There was a beautiful quote from a speech made by Ataturk (The Turks love him!) which pretty much encompassed the idea that though they were once enemies, they now are brothers. During the tour we met some other interesting travellers and got to know our roomies a bit better. After the tour we all walked around town and saw the horse that they used the movie Troy, pretty dece, looked better in the movie… Then we grabbed dinner. The next day Tisse and I got up early in the hopes of seeing Troy before we headed to Bergama… that didn’t happen, we slept in…but apparently there’s only one wall left from the Troy that took part in the Trojan War and it’s a little unimpressive. So we said goodbye and headed off to our next location, Bergama.

S

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