Goodbye to the magic of Turkey!
Istanbul, Turkey…this bustling city is a literal assault on the senses…smells, flavors, and colors!
Food is a major element to any culture, but here food may look unusual, but it’s out of this world! Amazing dips and spreads, kebabs of every kind, sticky nutty baklava type deserts, and wonderful breads and pitas. Of course, aromatic teas accompany everything served in clear hourglass shaped glasses.
I love street food, even though I am not always brave enough to indulge in it; I think it gives insight into local tastes! A must try are the freshly caught and grilled fish sandwiches sold off elaborate barges on the Bosphorous at the Galata Bridge. Also you can sample here a array of fresh corn, roasted nuts, sweet pistachio topped donuts, and sesame bread rings. So much to savor!
There is nothing like a Mezze platter of different Turkish salads and dips! On my final afternoon in Istanbul, that’s exactly how I bid farewell to this delicious city…it was to die for! Tomato Couscous made tasty with fresh parsley, zucchini fried and then topped with Tzatziki, Hummus and Babaganoush, stuffed grape leaves, and assorted fresh salads. We grazed and grazed!
Farewell to Istanbul…a place that really spoils a visitor with it’s many riches!
Istanbul, Turkey…I love this city! So rich and complex…straddling two cultures and two continents!
It has a mystery and a sense of the unknown but also the sophistication and modernity to make it feel familiar.
A visit to the Spice Bazaar, Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, and The Blue Mosque made for a day full of riches! I love experiencing the cultural differences that make the world we live in! It’s intriguing to smell different aromas, taste unfamiliar flavors, and see unknown sights…I relish it! It makes you appreciate how diverse our world is and the many different creeds, religions, beliefs, and customs that all work together to form humanity.
I am still walking around with my eyes wide open and my jaw on the ground as I can never get over the mesmerizing sights of my travels!
Istanbul, Turkey…2 days in this amazing city to enjoy its exotic yet cosmopolitan vibe. Besides visiting all the mosques and bazaars, I wanted to experience a traditional Turkish Hamman… Cagaloglu Hamami, named in the best selling book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”…this 300 year old bath has hosted sultans and kings and retains many of its original details.
I am stripped down to a tiny scarf sized wrap and wooden clogs, the service starts out with a relaxing 10 minutes in the marble encased steam room. Afterwards, the man performing the service shows up also in a towel…I guess we are going to become very well acquainted!
A rough massage smack in the middle of the Hamman on the marble has me squealing. We then proceed to the bathing ritual of skin loofah, foam bath, and a series of cold & warm rinses! By the time it’s done, I am exhausted but my skin is glowing!
It’s a little weird to get fully scrubbed in front of a Hamman of strangers but a cool experience, nevertheless. The interior itself is beautiful and this hour just spent here just adds to the mystique and allure of Istanbul.
Kusadasi, Turkey…this port city was our pathway to the ancient ruins of Ephesus as well as the much debated final home of the Virgin Mary. The well preserved ruins of Ephesus rival Pompeii in their size and grandeur and are a must see!
I have been here before on a previous cruise, but these sights are definitely something you can repeatedly experience…my travel companion has never been here and I wanted him to experience it as well. I am “allergic” to big tour groups, so instead of an organized outing with a large group following a guide, I decided we shall go it independently. I like being able to customize my experience instead of following some pre set program….A few taxi drivers and a lot of haggling later, we were on our way through the beautiful Turkish hillsides towards the House of the Virgin Mary.
The sights were bustling with an overflow of tourists on buses from allover the globe!
At the house of the Virgin Mary, this holy shrine is a pilgrimage spot for many Christians and hence women visit with scarves on their heads to show respect and collect water from the natural Spring below. There is a wishing wall where you can write your wish or prayer on paper or fabric and attach it to a wall already full of other’s hopes and dreams. I affix my wish to the wall and I hope time will tell!
Afterwards, a hike through the marble laden ruins of Ephesus really provides a sense of antiquity and manmade ingenuity…it’s a sprawling feast for the eyes everywhere you look! Instilling complete awe, you are able to see up close how these buildings and artifacts have survived so well for centuries!
History is so powerful. Exploring ancient marvels such as these makes you realize the enduring power of mankind! Learning about it in a book cannot compare to traveling to feast your eyes on the marvel of it yourself.
Kusadasi, Turkey…after arriving at this Turkish port which is the gateway for Ephesus, I needed some personal maintenance! I was desperate for a haircut…
I found a cool looking local yet random barber and had no idea what I was in for! I guess I shoulda known it’s Turkey and everyone here is like a carpet salesman…always trying to get you to spend more money…I can be brave and stupid at the same time!
No sooner did I sit down that I ended up with an oxygen head conditioner, a facial mask, nose hair and eyebrow trim, and the frightening ear hair burn!
My friend Jeff got roped in too…the barber pulls out a mini torch and literally burns the hair off your ear! What!!?!! It was crazy! You can hear the hairs singe under the flame!
An hour later I have had the full service and a bill to match! At least I got the trim I needed and a whole lot more!
Experiences in travel…funny stories that create lasting memories!
Santorini, Greece…a perfect way to end my visit to the Greek islands was with a trip to Oia to see the most stunning sunset! Oia, a tiny town perched high atop the island is a quick jaunt from the main town of Fira.
Bleach white buildings set amongst blue domed churches and cobbled walkways are clustered in this picturesque location high above the islands harbor. An artist’s dream, the tiny walkways are filled with galleries, shops, and balconied cafes. This is probably the Greece so many picture as this tiny town with the big wow has been the subject of many an artist’s brush and lens. Pure magic!
Greece has been a great part of this summer’s travels and as I depart tonight from Santorini, it will mark my final visit to Greece this year…thanks Greece for being the star of my journey so far!
Santorini, Greece…this volcanic island in the Cyclades is today’s day- long stop…our ship is anchored off the coast and the choice of either cable car or mule ride up the hill to the town of Fira awaits us. I think everyone knows the cable car wins… It’s a brutal 90 degrees and can’t imagine what those poor mules smell like!
The town is wall to wall tourist shopping, which I quickly pass…We head to the main square to find transport to the beach.
Today is beach day and the choice of black, red, or white sand beaches is today’s big decision. We opt for black sand of Perissa and take the public bus in order to get there! Black volcanic sand is tough on the feet and is very HOT!
Greek music is blaring from the restaurant and the clear waters are lapping at our feet…oh Greece, you really know how to spoil someone!
Mykonos, Greece…the difference a few weeks makes! I am back in Mykonos, this time as a cruise passenger…it’s the end of the summer season and they are ending it with a big bang here! It’s the infamous XLsior party, so the tiny island is crawling with gay men from allover Europe. Add together these hordes of European revelers with almost 3,000 party craving men from a cruise ship and that equals chaos! Elia beach was wall to wall testosterone; the sand was barely visible…what happened to my lovely chill daily hangout that I made my routine just a few weeks ago?
The parade of muscles is total overkill! But the vibe is definitely energetic and contagious.
I am traveling with my friend, Jeff…I have known Jeff since our sophomore year of high school in suburban Chicago. We have remained friends and sporadic travel buddies for decades! It’s amazing that after knowing one another for 30 years, being a thousand miles apart, and living totally different lives we still can’t diminish our adolescent fun we recreate when we get together! I feel blessed to have several good friends who are joining me for different segments of this long travel journey…this 10 day cruise will be with Jeff and we will amuse each other with our teenage silliness and desire to just have a great time!
After a day at the beach, it was time for the sunset tea dance at Hotel Elysium…the setting was perfect perched over all of Chora with Mykonos’ spectacular sunset as the backdrop for an evening of amazing dancing. We danced on chairs, tables, ledges, you name it! Gorgeous people, great music, beautiful setting, and good friends…as the commercial says: “priceless!”
I enjoy traveling whether it be with friends, family, or alone…but it’s magic to have people in your life with whom you “click” and can meet anywhere in the world to have the time of your lives!