I’m finally back from my nearly month-long excursion to Turkey and Greece. You can see pictures of my adventures on my Google website. Highlights:
Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul was amazing, my favorite part of the whole trip. The city itself was much more western than I had realized. It felt very much like a European city. And like Seattle, Istanbul is surrounded by various bodies of water, the Bosphorous, Golden Horn, and Sea of Marmara, gracing the city with an abundance of pleasant vistas.
Even despite the declining strength of the dollar and the growing strength of the Turkish lira, the city is comparatively inexpensive. We stayed in clean, comfortable hotels (with an excellent breakfast included) for no more than $30 per person per night. As long as you avoid the overly touristy streets and resturants, you could score a half a liter of excellent Efes beer at an outdoor cafe for only $3 and a nice meal anywhere from $2 to $7. Aside from the affordable prices, the Turkish people were amazingly hospitable (except for those who hang out in the predominately touristy areas and are only interested in swindling tourists’ money). I highly recommend Istanbul.
Ayvalick, Turkey. We called Ayvalick, a small town on the Aegean coast, our “vacation from our vacation”, away from the hectic pace of Istanbul and the tourists traps of Kusadasi. Although I’m sure there were other westerns around, we didn’t meet a single native English speaker in Ayvalick (save one Turkish-American who was visiting his parents in Ayvalick). The beaches are actually a 15 minute bus ride away, and the town itself retains a sleeply, peaceful aura. In the alleys surrounding our hostel, there was the constant din of dozens of neighborhood kids playing and singing, and in the morning there was the occasional (and seemingly appropriate) rooster crow to remind us that, yes, our neighbors keep roosters.
Santorini, Greece. Compared to the Turkish people, the Greek people we encountered were intolerably inhospitable. In fact, I’ve made a personal pledge to never step foot into this country– except for Santorini.
Santorini is an impossibly beautiful island that only a massive volcanic erupiotion could create. Just check out this view. Given its beauty, the island is flooded with tourists, but the endless vistas make up for the crowds and concomitant pollution. And there are still parts of the island, specifically my day trip to Pyrgos, a hilltop town destroyed and since partly abandoned by a 1950 earthquake, that are calmer and more secluded. So, if I ever go to Greece again, it’s to fly into and out of Santorini.