Johanna 's Travel Blog

January 15, 02:47 PM
Athamanika

Three cities in three days is not enough! We got to Athens around 2 pm and after spending an hour in the bookstore at the airport, we decided on a route to get us back toward Istanbul in order to make our return flight on the 14th. It was an ambitious itinerary. We had about 4 hours in Athens, a city where I would love to return. We took the tram from the airport in the wrong direction and were lost in the suburbs for a while. A very attractive man named Francisco told us about Greece and how wonderful it was that we were heading north to the more ‘naturally beautiful’ parts of the country. With his lisp it was hard to decipher that he was suggesting we go to Thesoliniki. That was exactly where we had planned, only we thought it was pronounced like it’s spelled. He gave me his business card with a color photo of himself.

Finally in Athens, we saw the parthenon illuminated from outside the gates (James for some reason thought it was open until 8 when in fact it closes at 3pm) and explored the back streets of a rally neat cafe-clusterd area (Plaka) with book shops a plenty. We found a great bookstore that James had located years ago, and bought a book about Greece (Lonely Planet’s colored ‘highlights’ guide) and I picked up a fantastic collection of stories called “The Boat”. I had been caring around two books I read and wanted to sell back/trade in but there is very little market for used English books—even best sellers. We also located a divine vegetarian restaurant called Cafe Bliss. I highly recommend it.

At around midnight we boarded a train to Thesoliniki, a very large city in the northeast. The train was uncomfortable and there looked to be shady characters. I stayed up all night clutching our bags. James slept, the lucky dog.

When we got off the train we walked in exactly the wrong direction for about 5k. When we stumbled in the right direction, I was extremely grateful to be at our cute hotel. With a double bed! Again we did laundry this time at the rate of 3Euros per kilo and then wandered around the city to the white tower and an exquisite church with lots of metal work. We went to a great lunch at Kitchen Bar, a converted industrial space on the water. We also saw a photography exhibit with very Wesleyan descriptions of the work.

The cafe culture in Greece is incredible—people seem to sit in cafes and drink coffee (given with a plate of free cookies) for hours. During the entire day and night, cafes were buzzing. I wonder how and when people do work, it was such a social environment. We soaked up the atmosphere in a few places before we had to leave for Alexandropoli, the next stop on our way back.

Another round-about train ride and we were there. A port city with a nice boardwalk area on the Mediterranean. It took us far to long to find this cute strip and per our usual style, we walked along a highway for a long, long time before realizing we were no where close to our target. We finally found a fish place to grab dinner and it wasn’t until the next morning that we discovered the cute parts of the city (a wonderful cafe called Alter Ego captivated us a for a few hours). We had to track down a travel agency in order to book the bus to Turkey and once we got the ticket, we had to call the bus driver to schedule the pick up. I would have liked to see more of that town too.

In Greece the toilets had seats, paper was free and we could drink the water. All lovely improvements on our previous environments. We learned that on average, a Greek eats 25 kilos of cheese each year! That seemed untenable until we saw the portions of cheese in salads! I was very happy to be in a place with good coffee (expresso machines at every turn) and went into a coffee coma after being deprived for about 3 weeks.

We caught our bus back to Istanbul (with some difficulty locating it (it was supposed to be at, near or on the lighthouse)) and 6 hours later, were back in a city we recognized. We ate at a great Indian place in the Sultanamet area and then bought two handmade carpets! Colorful masterpieces.

We slept comfortably for a few hours and then enjoyed a lavish Turkish breakfast (oh how I had missed those!) in order to go to the Spice Market to buy gifts before our flight. We picked up every imaginable souvenir—Turkish tea set, spice grinders, hand painted bowls etc. and then rushed to our flight!

Wow, the time went by so quickly! Neither of use were ready to leave when we boarded the plane yesterday. It was a very interesting at times challenging, but overall great trip.


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