A Travellerspoint blog

August 2012

Samos and Syros, Greece

Cruising the Greek Islands

We didn’t actually book a cruise ship, but we rode a couple ferries between the Greek islands! Fun travel through the Greek islands via ferry boat requires that you pay close attention to the schedule because there aren’t boats every day to each island, and sometimes you arrive at 2am in the morning! We first took a short ferry from Kusadassi, Turkey to a small Greek Island just offshore of the Turkish coast called Samos. After went through passport control we spent most of the day relaxing on the beach and hanging out at a café eating gyros and taziki.

At 18:00 we set sail aboard our ferry boat to Syros, which is just about as close to a cruise ship as ever... We entered on board through the back of the boat and were ushered to an escalator, inside the boat! When we handed our tickets, we were told we could sit anywhere, but a small lounge of airline type seats. So we walked around through the lounge, the bar, café, disco, and the deck areas looking for a place to settle in. Greece was playing Czech Republic in the Eurocup that night so we decided to post up in a café with a TV.

We were on an overnight ferry to Athens that stopped at 2am at our destination of Syros. People came prepared with blow up mattresses and blankets to create places to sleep aboard, under the staircases, and in the hallways. We prearranged our rental apartment owner to pick us up from the dock, and after a brief scare, we eventually found him. Our place on Syros was 100 meters from the beach and had everything that we wanted, including a kitchen, a balcony with a dinner table, a place to hang our laundry, and of course the classic white and blue Greek paint job and architecture.

Our apartment was located about 10 kilometers west of the main city in a quiet place called Megalos Gialos Varis, so we rented a scooter to explore the rest of the island. There were fun winding roads up hill tops for spectacular views and roads that dead ended at pretty beaches. The port town is pretty built up, but had a ton of cute alley streets that were fun to explore.

When we stopped to pick up picnic supplies at the grocery store, we were shocked, and happy, to find 1.5 liters of wine in a plastic bottle for less than 2 euros! We only had a few days for the islands and were really happy with how they turned out.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 02:26 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Selcuk, Turkey


sunny 95 °F

The bus station in Selcuk was smack dab in the middle of a bustling market and as we looked around to get our bearings, we were approached by a random local man who promptly escorted us through the market to our pension (guesthouse), waved to the owner and then headed back into the market. A 16 year old helped an old woman check us in, and we were shortly standing on our balcony looking down at the busy market. It flooded the street entirely and we couldn’t resist diving in… a minute later we were on a shopping spree for tomatoes, bell peppers, eggs, eriks, and apricots. We decided to self-cater our dinner that night and made Manti (Turkish ravioli) in our little boiling pot with veggies from the market.

The small town of Selcuk exists mostly because of tourists coming to visit Ephesus (an ancient Greek and later Roman city that is one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World) that was only a 30 minute walk from our pension. We set off to see the ruins along a bike path bordered by fruit trees and families having picnics. We arrived at the Ephesus grounds and were impressed with the substantial size of the ruined city which offered many places to wander. The well preserved stadium/theater and the rebuilt library façade were quite the attraction but our favorite spot was an almost life-like fountain:

We had mixed emotions while walking through the ruins of Ephesus. Some of the buildings have been left much like they existed in 41 B.C., yet some buildings have been put back together in a sort of jenga-like construction that made them look fake. There were some places where things clearly had been put in the wrong place, or upside down. Regardless, we had a great time admiring the ancient city…

After an long day of walking around the ruins, we were tired, and hot. So we thought we’d relax in our pension owner’s pool:

The pool was actually in a boutique resort just out of town that the owner of our pension had recently built and she was kind enough to drive us there and allow us to swim in her two week old salt water pool! It was like being in Napa Valley, but with olive groves, instead of grape vines.

Europcup soccer had just started, so we headed for the pubs. We watched Spain vs. Italy with some youngsters and some frosty mug beers and then England vs. France drinking tulip glass ĉay (tea) with the local old folks. While walking to one of the games we found the coolest sandwich bar and stopped for a tostu (panini) and a fresh mug of aryan (salty yogurt drink). We also made sure to try out a Selcuk specialty cuisine called “Çöp shis” (which is small little pieces of kebab literally translated to garbage sish kebab).

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 07:29 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Izmir, Turkey

True Turkish hospitality and kindness

sunny 85 °F

Emre, happened to have to work in Izmir on the same day that we had planned to take a bus to Izmir. We hitched a ride and were thankful once again to have small backpacks that could fit on the backseat with us in a small car.

Emre’s door to door service handed us off to Ekrem at a coffee house in a north suburb of Izmir called Karsiyaka. Ekrem showed us around his math preparation clinic for high school students looking to score well on their university entrance exams. It was really interesting learning how important the entrance exams are for Turkish students (they sounded way more important and challenging than the SATs). Some children’s parents will even get a doctor’s note for their child to skip regular school, so that they can spend more time going to Ekrem’s exam preparation clinic prior to the exam.

On our walk around the neighborhood we stumbled upon a huge pasar (market). This was not a tourist market or your average farmers market… this place was under a circus sized tent with clothing and other goods pouring into the streets as overflow. We were in a heaven of fresh fruits and vegetables, buying tomatoes, cucumbers, cherries, eriks (green plums), strawberries, olives, cheese, nuts, bread and eggs. We stocked up on enough food for several feasts, and some for our gracious host and his roommates.

Ripe tomatoes were in season and going for less than 15 cents per pound! The clothing stands were a blast to watch because the vendors would spread out all of their clothes on tables and then stand in the middle of the clothing mounds shouting Turkish phrases to the surrounding shoppers. It was a weird feeling to wander amongst the locals who somehow obviously knew that we were tourists in this market. Being out of Asia, we had thought that we could blend in more with the locals, but apparently, we still stick out like sore thumbs. We asked one vendor who spoke to us in English how he knew we were tourists. He said our sunglasses, figure and our noses!

Izmir was more than a big city, with lots of entertainment options… we watched a local soccer match, had 0.7L Efes beers served with popcorn, nuts, and eriks (green plums), went for a run along the Karsiyaka waterfront, and spent some time playing on the park workout equipment.

The city waterfront is shaped like a half moon with ferries connecting the outer points to central downtown. We headed to town in search of a kumru sandwich and found one tucked away in one of the markets. The kumru sandwich is an Izmir specialty made on a toasted sesame roll with cheese, tomato, bologna like salami, sausage, tomato paste, and a pickle.

In the spirit of adventure, we decided to jump on a random local bus for a tour around the city. We thought we’d luck out and get a bus that went up the hill for a sweet sunset walk through the neighborhoods. The bus driver seemed very amused to have two foreigners fumbling to pay for tickets on his bus, and proceeded to ask us where were going (in Turkish)… we sat in the very front seat and tried to show in charades that we were just riding the bus around. When the bus came to the end of the line, we got up with all of the rest of the riders but the bus driver indicated that we should not get off and repeatedly said “dang-ger, dang-ger, dang-ger” while making the motion of slicing his throat with his finger. In what seemed like a token of his affection and apologizing that he wouldn’t let us off, he had us follow him to an ice cream vender across the street and insisted on buying the two of us ice cream cones (with chocolate sauce and nuts). He then escorted us back on the bus and drove us back into tourist land. Later that same day, Robin had asked for one chocolate baklava from the huge tray at a deli. The lady behind the counter just handed one to Robin, and offered another to Kevin, free of charge! We only accepted one, seeing as one piece of baklava can put a non-diabetic into diabetic shock due to the copious quantities of sugar… but thank you Turkish hospitality for saving us from the ghetto and feeding us with sweets!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 03:54 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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