Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 16 and 17 (May 31 and June 1)

     Today, May 31, we did a bus tour of different spots in Santorini. We started by going to the traditional village of Megalochori in Santorini. It wasn't what I expected, they looked like all of the other villages just less people. That, however, was because it isn't the peak season for tourism so most of the people are only working in Fira, the capital. Don't get me wrong the village was beautiful, but I was expecting something really old. Then we went to the Black Beach. We ate lunch and hung out on the beach. Literally all the sand/rocks were black with bright blue water. It was truly a site to see, so pretty, but don't dare walk on the sand without shoes on...OUCH!!! I swear I felt like I had 3rd degree burn on the bottoms of my feet and all I did was run, literally RUN, from my chair to the water! We took some pretty cool pictures here, like me jumping in the air and I look like I'm 10 feet off the ground! So cool! We got to just lay out on the beach for a little while before we ventured onto our next location, which was the Red Beach. After the Black Beach I was so excited to see the Red Beach, but it wasn't really what I expected. Our bus was too big to drive down the narrow streets so we got dropped off 10-15 minutes away from the beach and we had to hike to the Red Beach. I use the term hike as just that, hike, with old people in the hot sun! Once we finally saw the beach  we were on top of a pier looking down onto the sea and the beach. It took our breath away. I'm not sure if it was the beauty of the scenery or the fact that the only way to get down to the actual beach was to do more hiking, mind you I was in a dress and flip flops, I didn't really think out my choice of clothing for that day very well! So me and two others though well we made it this far we want to get in the water! Our tour guide told us we have about 10 minutes until we should make the hike back to the bus. So we hiked down the lava rock, really the lava rock that's what makes it red,  to the beach and kicked off our flip flops and start to run to the water. Once you take about two steps on this lava rock you quickly notice that it is rather sharp and doesn't feel very well on the bottom of your feet. Our run quickly changed to a tip toe painful 5 feet to the water. Nonetheless, it was beautiful with the red rocks against the blue water. From the pier it looked like there was blood in the water along the shore. Very cool, I think! We didn't have time to swim, which is what we really wanted to do but at least I can say I stepped foot on the Red Beach. After the Red Beach we drove to the highest point on the Island in the village of Peristera. It was crazy how high up we were, and even crazier how our mega bus made it up the hairpin turns! A few old people were shouting "these are our last days AAAHHHHH!!" That was pretty funny, but back to the mountain. You could see all the different plots of land, which isn't necessarily what you think of when you think of Santorini. We got to see more of the countryside up there and it was gorgeous! However, there were so many bugs up there that I was sick to my stomach! I'm sure I looked absolutely ridiculous trying to walk from one side of the mountain to the other freaking out trying to get the bugs off of me! If only we had that on camera! I'm sure you can imagine! We didn't stay there long! From there we went to see a spot where they once had a castle. It was in the village of Pygros. There wasn't much there to see, but had great views! After that we went to the winery called Santos Winery. They gave us a tour on how the wine is made and where they keep it. Then we got to sample 3 different types of wine. The first one was a white wine that was very fruity, the second one was a white wine that was really sweet, and the third one was a dessert wine made from sun-dried grapes that was very very sweet! I didn't prefer any of them mostly because I like dry red wine, thank you Mom, but I still thought it was cool to see. The winery overlooked the caldera so it had amazing views! I did buy a bottle of red wine to try when I get home, even though they aren't known for their red wines...we'll see!
     Today, June 1, we traveled by speed ferry from Santorini to Mykonos. Mykonos is supposed to be very expensive so I am a little nervous! I mean we have to pay to go to the beach! Good thing we have a very nice hotel with a free pool! That is where I am headed now and thats really what I plan on doing all day. Mykonos is known for its beaches and partying. I might skip the beaches and go for the partying. Don't worry Mom and Jordan it is the gay capital of the world! I'll let you all know how that goes tomorrow! Bye!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Days 14 and 15 (May 29-30)

     Today, May 29, I woke up to Jacee nearly burning down our hotel. I'm just kidding but she started to blow dry her hair and she blew a fuse! It was really funny to see her freak out. That day we went to the Minoan Palace of Knossos. It is the legendary home of King Minos mythical Minotar. It was uncovered in the 1920's and work has been done to reconstruct it to the previous state. The first palace was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt around 1700 BC. It was really interesting to see, especially because we don't know if that is really what it looked like. We also went to a museum and most of it was closed due to reconstruction, but it was still interesting. I think the most interesting thing we saw was a statue from 1st century BC and one from 2nd century AD and to see how much the technique improved. AMAZING! After that Erica, Meghan, Matt, Steph, Jenna, and I all walked around the island. We went down to the beach and walked along the pier. I found a new best friend during the walk. He was a big dog and he followed us the entire way, I named him Zeus and I love him! He was so hungry and thirsty and I felt so bad for him! We gave him some water and we finally saw him eating some trash. He would run ahead of us and stop until we would catch up and start walking ahead again. He reminded me of my childhood dog bubba. I miss Zeus and he really made me miss my little dog, Lanie! We went back to the restaurant we ate at the night before and I ate a grilled cheese and tomato soup, haha! During dinner we got free beer and the protest was in full force. There were so many people at the protest and they had bands playing and everything! It was so cool! We found out that the police don't interfere because they are feeling the reprimand of the Euro as well. Pretty interesting...
     Today, May 30, we traveled by speed ferry again to Santorini. We pulled into the caldera and it was picturesque. We went to lunch and walked around the capital for awhile. Then a few of us went to the village of Oia, which is where they filmed the movie Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It was so pretty, the houses were all white with blue doors. I don't understand why they are like that I want to know what the significance is, but for now I don't know. Our bus dropped us off at the top of the hill which I was kind of disappointed because if they would have dropped us off at the bottom then we could have rode a donkey up the 263 stairs to the top. The views were so amazing!!! Tomorrow we are taking a bus tour and going to see some villages and the red beach and black beach and I'm so excited!!!! Until the next time I can share with you!!

Days 12 and 13 (May 27-28)

     Today, May 27, we went on a walking tour of Old Town Rhodes. I love the mid-evil time period and that was what it was. We got stuck in the moat of the castle for what felt like forever! I thought it was so cool that we saw cannon balls and cannons! It also was so interesting to see in the museum how much Greece and Turkey have a similar history. It is also interesting to see just why the Turks and Greeks fight over their past! i loved how we walked down the streets and they were set up exactly how they were in that time. Well I guess not exactly, but still. There were shops everywhere with beautiful views! During that tour we met a kid from NY who was backpacking through Europe.He had been backpacking for 6 weeks and wasn't ready to go back nor did he know when he was going back. We ate lunch with him and found out his whole life story. He was a pretty cool guy. After lunch we went to the beach where we met up with Jacee and Eddie. They told us they had been snorkeling for the past couple hours and we had to try it! So Meghan, Stephanie, and I all borrowed their goggles and snorkel and went to the rocks where they suggested to go. The water was pretty chilly but you got use to it once you went all the way in. I was the first to go in and of course, I got bit by something! I think I might have actually been finned because it didn't draw blood, but the salt water stung it! As we snorkeled we saw a few different kinds of fish and some plant life in the water. The worst part about the beach was the fact that there was NO SAND!!! It was so pebbly and really hurt your feet to walk on!! But the water was very clear and very blue! Later that night...A few of us went to this restaurant called Chicken Mike's and ate and drank. We got free alcohol which was awesome! I drank lots of local wine and it was really good. It wasn't very dry but thats ok. We all had a very deep heart to heart, which brought tears to many of our eyes. It is amazing how much you relate to strangers, and I know I've said this before, but it was proven to me again. I mean here we all are traveling around Europe and for the majority of us our home life is freakishly very similar. We had a really good time and these are people I will never forget!
     Today, May 28, we didn't have anything to do because we had our flight to Crete at 5 pm. So we just walked around Old Town  and did a little shopping. We had ice cream for the second day in a row! It was so good! Our room in our hotel in Crete was absolutely AMAZING!!! It is huge and makes up for all of the small rooms we had before! Me and Erica have to share a bed but its really big so it doesn't really matter. Then last night we all went out to eat and on one side of the street was a protest about the Euro and on the other side of the street there was a futbol game going. Both sides were not concerned with the other but I was stuck in the middle loving everything!

Day 10 and 11 (May 25 and 26)

     Today, May 25, we went to Virgin Mary's house in Ephesus. I was surprised at how moving this was for me. I really wasn't expecting that to happen at all. You see I don't usually relate to to any religion, but I grew up Catholic. However, in that moment I felt something rush over me and found myself almost in tears. It was a very cool feeling. The house is supposed to be where St. Mary spent her last years together with St. John. It was discovered in a dream by a nun in the 19th century and found and verified  by two popes in later years. At the house you first walked in to the actual house, I had to cover my shoulders with a scarf they provided because I wasn't dressed appropriately ( I didn't realize we were going there when I got dressed that morning!), but you walk in and see this beautiful alter and a statue of St. Mary behind the alter. It was so pretty and I felt it was only appropriate to genuflect and do the sign of the cross as I left. After I left I donated money and got candles and made two wishes and put them in candle case. There were 4 or 5 water fountains there for you to drink out of that each represented something different, like wealth and happiness. They were all full of holy water. I drank out of all of them. There was also a wishing wall that many people from all over have wrote down their wishes and put them on this wall. I of course made two more wishes and placed my wishes on the wall. Sevim said she made one 12 years ago and it came true when she got married. After that we went to the Roman City in Ephesus, which is where Christian people hid. It was really cool to see. The library was amazing and I really wanted to see the first advertisement ever recorded, which was for a brothel. I really wanted to also see the actual brothel, as bad as that sounds but the road was blocked off. After that we went to a Turkish rug store. We got to see how the women made the rugs by tying each and every knot by hand. I really felt sorry for them because that is so monotonous. It would drive me crazy! We got to see the silk worms and how they get their silk as well as all of the beautiful rugs they had! Unfortunately they were too expensive to buy, but I did get a free coke and glass of homemade wine out of it! :)
     Today, May 26, we didn't see anything, it was more of a traveling day. We traveled to Marmaris and ate lunch, I ate Mcdonalds for the first time in so long! It tasted just like home! It is our last day in Turkey and I am really going to miss it. Sevim didn't go with us to Marmaris, but she came to the hotel this morning to say Gule Gule (Bye). It was so sad and I am really going to miss her! It is amazing how close you become to someone you've only known for 11 days! We are on the ferry going to Rhodes. I am so excited to see what Greece has to offer! The ferry is very unique, especially since I've grown up on boats. It was a high speed ferry so it was like a ferry speed boat! Really cool and not what I was expecting! Once we got to Rhodes it was really late so we just had time to eat dinner and go to bed. It had a beautiful view though!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 8 and Day 9 May 23 and May 24

     Today, May 23, 2011, we went to the ruins of Heirapolis, in Pamukkale. It is made up of warm, heavily mineralized water flowing from springs creating pools and terraces. Also located there is the largest cemetary in the world. This place was absolutely stunning! You had to take your shoes off to walk in the water so we did. The limestone was rough on your feet in some places, but the water felt so good. We nearly walked down the mountain! Then we journeyed to the grave yard but we only made it to the beginning because it was such a long walk and it was SOOO hot! Which I'm not really complaining about! Still no suntan thought. :( After that we went to our hotel. There was no elevator so we had to carry our suitcases up the stairs, and there were so many stairs!! I had a hard time carrying it and I hit my ankle and bruised it! I'm pretty sure my bag is going to weight more than 50 pounds...uh oh! Then we all swam in the pool and laid out! It was so nice to relax with literally everyone. Then several of us went to the hot tub. Come to find out it was a natural hot tub and contained the good minerals in the water like at Hierapolis, which is really good for your skin! Since the hotel was a spa I figured I'd treat myself to a was awesome!
     Today, May 24, 2011, we took a tour of the City of Aphrodite. It was so pretty and very different than all of the other ancient cities we've seen so far. There wasn't building or anything everywhere, it was much more spread out. One thing I thought was very cool was that they are still excavating the site. So it would be really interesting to come back eventually and see what else they've found! After that we went to a leather factory in Kusadasi. They started off  by giving us a fashion show! It was so funny because some of the people took it so seriously like they were modeling for high end clientele. Then as we were sitting there drinking our apple juice watching them model they pulled me and a few others to come back stage and put on our own leather jackets to model them off. It was so funny and so unexpected! I think we did really good though, haha!  I'm not a big fan of real leather, but I love leather jackets so I was in heaven. I got to try on really expensive name brand leather jackets made in that store and I really wanted them all, but even after the discounts we got they were still way too expensive! Unfortunately! They kept saying charge it we take credit cards and I was like my mom will kill me and I would like to eat in Greece, they didn't really understand what I was saying and they were very pushy! That is ok they just really wanted to sell a coat, I understand! When we got to our hotel we first noticed how beautiful the view was. The ocean was all around it and the hotel was just beautiful to begin with! So a couple of us noticed a pier with a diving board into the ocean. We went down there but there was no lifeguard and the waves looked a little too intense so we decided to swim in the pool instead. We swam until dinner then had to go change for dinner because this place is pretty fancy and we couldn't wear our swimsuits to dinner. The food was so good and they actually had ice cream!!! Only 2 days left in Turkey :( I can't believe how fast this is all going, 10 more days in Greece then its home bound!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 6 and 7 May 21 and May 22

     Last night was seriously so much fun! It was Turkish Night in Cappadocia and I was very impressed with everything there! We started the night out with free drinks and free appetizers then they dimmed the lights and the magic happened! The first act was the Whirling Dervishes. Their grace and beauty was mesmerizing.  Watching them spin over and over again in such an elegant pose almost put me in the same transcendental state as they were in. Then they stop…and immediately bow…and not a single one of them stumble or wobble, they stand up and walk out. Everyone in the room was beyond words and the crazy thing is they would stop and start all over again and spin for a good 5 minutes and they did this 3 times in a row! Then they came out and did a traditional dance that was beautiful, but the girls didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as the boys. The boys were very believable because it was a love story about two guys being in love with the same girl and the other girls were jealous of this one girl, but the girls looked like they were tired of doing this dance. Which I’m sure they probably are and they probably perform it a lot but being a dancer myself I know that you perform better when the crowd is into it, but the crowd can’t get into the dance and relate to it if you have a blank stare on your face and you look miserable. That is all I could really think about during the dances, which is a shame because the dances were truly beautiful! Then they grabbed everyone in the crowd to learn the dance too. We were in several giant circles just going around in circles having the time of our lives! The lady next to me was Turkish but didn’t work there, she told me that we were doing a traditional dance that they would do at a wedding. Even before that I could feel the culture all around me but once I knew exactly what we were doing I was blown away. In America a traditional wedding dance is the Chicken Dance and this was far from the Chicken Dance. We all glided across the floor occasionally bumping into the people next to us because some of the people were a little uncoordinated, but it was an amazing feeling to look around and see literally everyone with huge smiles on their face sharing with me my own passion, dance. The free alcohol could have had a lot to do with that but still it warmed my heart. Then we all sat down and the belly dancers came out. I related most to the belly dancers, being a dancer myself. I loved watching them and I have said several times I want to learn belly dancing. I mean who doesn’t want to put on a cute outfit and dance and jingle! I would be the first one in line to sign up for that class!! I was talking to my teacher, who has taken belly dancing classes, and she said that every time she would leave after class she would feel so much better about herself and her body. She said that everyone did no matter what size they were and I just think that is amazing. When you dance you want to feel beautiful and sexy and belly dancing does just that, because they say it is better to have some meat on your bones because then you can truly see the isolation of the body. It is also a really good core exercise and actually in Turkey the government pays for girls to take belly dancing classes as a part of their wellness plan. I think that is absolutely amazing and I wish the government in America would do that, not even just for belly dancing but for exercising since we are such an overweight society. I would totally work out if I didn’t have to pay for a gym membership! After the belly dancing they did some more traditional dances and then it was time for everyone to get out and show their best dance moves on the floor. It was so funny to see how other nationalities danced but in that moment they didn’t care what they looked like. I found myself also not caring and I pulled out the cabbage patch and a few other moves that even shocked me! It was seriously the best time and I really enjoyed seeing the culture because it wasn’t just tourists there, Turkish people from the city came too and enjoyed themselves.
     Today, May 21, was the longest bus ride of my life!! We stopped at the Mevlev Order or the Museum of the Whirling Dervishes. We went to Rumi’s museum and for the first time in my life I felt like an outsider. The Turkish women there made us all feel very unwelcome and awkward. Whirling Dervishes spin in circles in order to reach an ultimate state of prayer. The Whirling Dervishes are very religious and have to focus to reach this highest power of prayer. Usually the museum is full of tourists but today was not that way. As we walked in we looked around and immediately saw we were the only ones not covered and very underdressed. As we continued to walk through the museum we continued to get several dirty looks and many elbows to the stomach, arms, and legs! Although, at the time I didn’t really think anything of it and I wasn’t feeling discriminated against but then again most of the time I am oblivious to negative things around me. I tend to always focus on the good of everything so in a way me being so naive saved me from ruining my experience at the museum. All I was thinking about was how crowded it was, and it was very crowded! Afterwards when other people started saying how they felt discriminated against there is when I finally realized that maybe I was mistaking their desire to see the tombs of Rumi and other Whirling Dervishes for discrimination. The old women weren’t elbowing me because they wanted to see the museum that bad, they were elbowing me because they didn’t think I was worthy enough to see what they came to see. They were truly disgusted with us Americans. Sevim said that these women were not true Islamic for two reasons. The first one is that in Islam you welcome everyone and even Rumi himself, the founder of Whirling Dervishes, said all religions should come and see this. The other reason why they couldn’t be true Islamic followers is because they were praying to headstones of graves of specific people who passed away. In Islam you don’t pray to the people or physical things, you pray to God always! In Turkey though Sevim has said is very modern and not all women or men follow the belief literally. She has said that when women come over from Iraq or Iran or any other really dedicated Muslim country they feel more relaxed and take down their hair and unveil because they can. They feel that freedom. So maybe that had something to do with the way we were treated. I’m not totally sure, but I now know how it must feel to truly be discriminated against and it is not fun! The bus ride after that museum was very quiet as people were reflecting on what they had just experienced or sleeping! Then 5 hours later we arrive in Antalya! I honestly cannot tell you how much I slept that day on the bus. When I was actually awake I did see beautiful picturesque sceneries with the mountains coming straight up from the ocean. We also drove through the mountains so see the mountains and then the valleys was breathtaking, and I didn’t get carsick! Thank you Dramamine! Once we finally got to the hotel, it wasn’t quite as nice as our previous hotel. The staff was rude and our triple was really a double with a cot and we paid how much money…needless to say our teacher was not very pleased with this hotel, but that is ok. I mean are we really here for the hotels? I know I’m not! There was a really cool bird in the lobby and I was trying to teach it how to whistle. I felt kind of sorry for this bird because it was off in a corner by itself and it acted lonely. I really wanted to take it home with me just like the million other stray cats and dogs. P.S. Mom I’m in love with all of these animals so I might come home with a few! Just kidding but I really do want to take all of them home!
     Today, May 22, we went to the Perge which was an ancient city from 1500 B.C. It had agoras, bath houses, streets, and shops. It was so interesting to see how ancient cities were set up. Most of it was destroyed by an earthquake but you could still get the idea of what it would have looked like. The frame is still pretty much intact. Walking down the streets I felt as though I were lost in time. I felt like I could actually see the people selling their goods and the pools and fountains sparkling in the sunlight. I could see people roaming from store to store and maybe stopping in to take a nice bath. I would love to see an erect version of one of these ancient cities and luckily I believe we get to and I cannot wait! We also stopped at the Aspendos Theatre, which absolutely took my breath away. I have always wanted to see an ancient theatre where gladiators fought and that was people’s entertainment and I finally got to! I found out that the reason for the archways at the very tip top of the theatre was for acoustics. Which when you have seating for 15,000 people you need to have good acoustics! I loved seeing the view from various seats around the theatre. I sat in the first row where the richest people sat and all I’d have to say is I’d be scared there because there isn’t anything stopping the lions from coming and eating you! Which they did fight lions in cool! I also went up to the very top of the theatre and saw the view from up there. It was amazing I mean not only could you see the entertainment but just over the wall of the theatre were the mountains and it was gorgeous! I also go to experience how hot it was in there with no ceiling and there were few people in the actual theatre I couldn’t imagine sitting in there with 15,000 people baking in the hot sun! When we first got in there I saw a cat roaming around so of course I go and try to pick it up but become grossed out by the fact that I could tell she had just had kittens, I guess it startled me. As we were walking out of the theatre I saw one of the little kittens and so I picked it up because he was lost and an old man pointed to a corner indicating there were more kittens so I went over there and found three more kittens laying in the shade! I loved them all and had to hold each and every one of them! I really thought about taking one home but I wouldn’t know what to do with it in my hotel! Then we went to the Antalya Museum where we saw many marble statues and they were beautiful. I realized that one day I would really like a statue of myself to maybe put in my house or even better at a museum! Most of the statues weren’t of anyone special they were just described as young woman, dressed women, young man, etc. Which surprised me, I’m not sure why but I guess I just though all important people have statues. From there we went to the Kursunlu Waterfalls and I swear the beauty was a slap in the face. I have said just how beautiful everything is and how so many things took my breath away but nothing has like seeing the waterfalls. It was just so natural and peaceful. I really could not believe my eyes, the way the sunlight bounced off the water is how I would picture paradise, honestly. I could have spent the rest of my life in this one area. I got so many beautiful pictures and played a little in the waterfall. I was like a child again exploring my woods behind my house, but my woods do not compare to this jungle of beauty! For lunch today we had fish…I didn’t eat it. I got kabobs, but I did try the fish, it was sea bass, and I wished that I had gotten it. What!!!! I just said that?? Yes I was surprised at myself too! They even served it to us whole…with the head, eye balls, and tail. That was gross and in a way I am happy I didn’t get it because I so would have swallowed a bone! Tonight, we all just hung out in the lobby and talked. It is amazing how much you can relate to so many different people. It is good to see that everyone goes through struggles in their life and sometimes we aren’t sure how to deal with them.  But for one night we were all together not stressing over our home life or what we had to do tomorrow, we were just enjoying the accompany of strangers relaxing in Turkey. I love this group!

Day 5

So I guess I will start putting the dates since I am getting so far behind and sometimes I don't get internet! Today is May 20, 2011 and the first place we went to was the underground city or the Kaymakli. It once housed around 15,000 people. It had both common rooms and individual rooms. I was so excited to actually be able to go see this, I have seen it so many times on the Travel Channel and History Channel. It was amazing to see how the Christians lived when in hiding from the Muslims. I absolutley loved it and the fact that the people left nothing behind facinates me even more! I wish we knew more about it but Sevim said they just don't. After, we went to Pigeon Valley and it had a beautiful view of the valley with rocks that had man made pigeon hole in them. We also saw a lot of pigeons! It was raining so that kind of sucked and we weren't there for very long. Then we went across the street to a jewelry store. The owner gave us a tour first and told us a little about what they did and told us mainly turquoise was found in Turkey. The people were so very polite and made each of us feel very special. They let us try on anything we wanted to try on so of course I tried on the biggest piece of jewelry they had! After that we drove over the Red River, which is the longest river in Turkey. We then had lunch and it was so good! We had tomato soup and beef stew in the clay pot they cooked it in. I loved it and it reminded me of home! Then we went to the pottery town of Avanos and saw them actually hand drawing the clay pots and other things. We got to see them mold the clay, which only reminded me of Ghost and made me really want to make my own pottery! Unfortunately I didn't get to but a girl on our trip did. She was so funny doing it and you could tell how much fun she was having so I am very happy for her! Later, Saviem told her one of the men said to the other man "what in the hell is she doing?" I thought that was really funny! The owner of the store said that pottery business has been in his family for 200 years! Pretty Impressive! Then we went to the Open Air Musuem where they built churches out of the tuff. They were in Goreme and the churches were decorated with unique frescoes depicting various scenes from the Bible. It was very beautiful and very unique. They were very small and fun to explore. We stopped at two places to take pictures, one there was a rock shapped like a camel and there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky. The second place we stopped was to see fairy chimneys and the valley was known as a "girls dream" because of what the chimney's looked like, which I will not say but some men would be jealous! hehe! I also rode a camel! That was so cool, it was so wobbly and I felt like I was going to fall off. He was a stubborn camel and didn't really want to move, which made me nervous but overall I LOVED IT!!! It is time for Turkish Night! Gule gule! that means goodbye!