Monday, October 25, 2010

Paris, France October 14th- October 18th

To all those who are following this blog and thinking- "does this girl ever go to school or study!" I do really go to classes here! I actually have to study A LOT, and have had homework none stop since I have arrived in Athens. The good thing is that I know how to balance my life and prioritize. AND LET'S BE SERIOUS, WHO WANTS TO SEE PICTURES OF ME AT MY DESK STUDYING ANYWAYS! :)

On Wednesday night I was contemplating whether to travel over our week break from classes, or just explore Athens and catch up on homework. It took me about 2 seconds to begin my search of flights from Athens to every major city throughout Europe. I decided to go to Paris, France and decided that I should just leave the next day. So, I booked my flight for Paris for Thursday at 3pm.

THURSDAY, October 14th
On Thursday I packed in the morning, and then found out that the metro was on strike AGAIN! Every time I need to go to the airport, a concert, class, ANYWHERE the metro is on strike. Athens does not believe in suffering in silence like many Americans who go to a job they hate everyday. Instead, the people of Athens just do not show up to work. So, Sheila, Logan, and I ended up splitting a cab to get to the airport. The taxi driver was actually really nice, and took us right to the airport without trying to take us in a circle down back streets like many others have tried in the past.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to go through security and get to our gate. The whole time I was at the airport I could not believe I was going to Paris, I still cannot believe that I am in Athens sometimes!

We boarded the bus to be taken to our plane, a mile away. We boarded the plane, and we were off to Paris!!!!

When we arrived, we discovered that the trains were on strike in Paris as well. We had to take many different lines, and transfer many times to get into the city. At one stop, I did not know we had to transfer and almost got left on the train. The trains were so packed that we had to squeeze into the little room that was available at the edges of the doors. So, Sheila and Logan went in one door, and I went in another one. At one point, a lot of people got off the train and a seat opened up. I walked over to take the seat, looked up and Sheila and Logan were standing on the platform. From the seated position, I leaped towards the door with my suitcase swinging behind me. The doors closed and I threw my body in the middle of them. I somehow managed to get out of the doors, and my suitcase was still attached to me, but through the handle sticking out of the door. Everyone on the platform and inside the train was helping me open the doors to get my suitcase out. I made it, with my broken suitcase! The handle broke and I was unable to roll it around the city :( but we made it :)

Now, this next part was a first for me. We did not have hotel reservations before getting into the city. We had no plans for the weekend, and no expectations.

After we got off the metro in the city, we began to look for someplace to stay. We found a small American hotel where the staff was very friendly and could speak english. We put our stuff in our room, and decided to go out for the night to explore. We found a little cafe by our hotel and decided to go in to take a look at the menu. The doors were really weird and after we decided we did not like what we saw, we could not leave. I tried to open the door for about a minute. The 6 employees standing by the door did not offer to help, but instead stood by, watched, and laughed at us! It was REALLY embarrassing that I had to eventually ask one of them to open the door for me.

The next restaurant had the doors propped open, so we walked in and sat down. I ate duck and potatoes for dinner! I am really excited that on this trip I have been able to eat new things every place I go, and actually enjoy it!!

FRIDAY, October 15th
On Friday, we went to Notre Dame! It was so beautiful! We walked around inside, and then proceeded outside to wait in line to get to the top. We were in line for about 45 minutes, when the man who was in charge came up to us and told us the top was closing. He explained that it had something to do with the strikes that were going on, and no one else would be let up to the top the rest of the day. Reluctantly, we left our place in line and set out to explore the rest of the city! For lunch we found a greek gyro stand, and of course had to try one. I had a small greek conversation with the owner, and he was so shocked/impressed when I greeted him in Greek. The gyros were HUGE!!! I had to hold mine with 2 hands to eat it, and honestly could not believe that I finished it! The stand used extra large pita bread and then filled it with tons of meat, french fries, tomatoes, lettuce, and special sauce!

After lunch, we came across street performers, and were able to cross the many bridges in the center of the city. We navigated the bus system and arrived at the Eiffel Tower for sunset. At the bottom of the tower we got some crepes! They were so warm and so delicious! It was about 40 degrees out, so the crepe was the perfect thing to warm me up! We waited in line to buy our tickets. Then we waited in line to get to the 2nd platform, and in the line to get to the top. Eventually we made our way to the top of the Eiffel Tower!!! At the top we headed over to the mini-bar inside and got a glass of champagne! It was so exciting to drink champagne on the top of the Eiffel Tower. We took SO MANY pictures of ourselves, and even helped out some strangers by taking photos for them :)

The view was so amazing from the top. We were able to see the whole city all lit up! We were torn about going back down, but it was freezing and raining at the top, so we decided to go back down.

At the bottom, we took a different way to get home so we could see even more of the city. We found a baguette/crepe cafe for dinner. I ate more crepes over the 4 days in Paris, than I had my entire life. They were sooo yummy! I could not get enough. I had a strawberry jelly, banana, and sugar crepe for dinner. Some may think this is a crazy combination, but I absolutely loved it :)

SATURDAY, October 16th
On Saturday we wandered around the city again. We knew that our final destination would be the Louvre, but we did not have a designated path on how to get there. I liked this travel style. I had never been so free before Paris, and I loved it! We took side streets, different buses, and tons of bridges, just exploring the city. We found a real french painter, painting on the side of one of the bridges. We saw the flame from the Statue of Liberty. We somehow navigated down a street of designer shops, which Logan did not like very much, but Sheila and I loved it! We were even able to see the Louis Vuitton headquarters in Paris!!

We made it to the Louvre and took pictures in front! There was a long line to get into the main entrance, so we used a trick that one of our acquaintances from the plane ride told us about. You go up to the security guard at the back of the line and ask for the entrance to the shopping mall. Then, you are directed to set of stairs that goes through an underground mall, and dumps you at the beginning of the ticket line for the Louvre. It was so awesome! We skipped a huge line, and then were able to get in for free with our Greek student ID card. I walked around the GIANT museum for about 4 hours, running up stairs, and through hallways to get to all of the exhibits I could. I was able to see the majority of the museum, and the main exhibits! I walked through the Egyptian Exhibit, Napoleon's Apartment, the Greek section first. While in the museum I was able to see the Mona Lisa, Hammurabi's Code, Mary Magdalene, and so much more!! It was such an exciting visit :)

After the Louvre, we took a bus back close to the hotel. We found another crepe place on the way back to the hotel, and decided to stop in. We took our crepes to-go and settled into our warm hotel room for the night!

SUNDAY, October 16th
On Sunday we went to breakfast at the hotel. We were served baguettes with butter, jelly, and nutella. We also had hot chocolate and orange juice. It was the perfect breakfast to build up the strength we needed for the day because today we were going to DISNEYLAND PARIS!! We took the train and then transfered to another train to get to Disney. When we arrived, I am pretty sure we saw snowflakes. It was very cold outside, but we were in Disney!! Nothing else really mattered :) I rode Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, Small World, and Star Wars. There was also a parade and stage show we were able to see. It made perfect sense once I got there, but I was initially shocked when Mickey spoke french. We could not understand what he was saying, but all the Disney songs were still in English and we sang along.

The roller coasters were really intense! Space Mountain went upside down 7 times! And all of the other roller coasters went upside down too. My roommate Sheila is terrified of roller coasters, but somehow I convinced her to go on Space Mountain because in Florida it is not that scary. I said something along the lines of "let's be serious, it's Disney. These rides are for kids." Well, when we stopped you might be able to picture the face she gave me. Sheila was a little mad :)

After a long day at the best place in the world, we hopped on a train and headed back to our hotel. We were both so tired that we fell asleep almost instantly upon entering our room.

~Paris was absolutely beautiful. The trip was such a once in a lifetime experience! I am so happy I was able to go, and I feel so lucky to be able to study abroad and see all of these amazing places.

Keeping it classy in Athens-
Erica :)


Amsterdam! October 7th- October 11th

Thursday, October 7th
After the long and stressful 2-day school week I had to get away ;)
After class on Thursday, Colin, Logan, and I boarded a plane and took the weekend to explore Amsterdam. There was a metro strike in Athens, so we had to take a cab to the airport. There also happened to be an airplane strike that day, so we freaked out that our flight might be cancelled. When we got to the counter to check-in, we found out our flight was not cancelled, but that it was pushed up for take-off because all planes would be grounded after 3pm. This meant we had about 15 minutes to get through security and to our gate for boarding. Logan and I had watched "Get Him to the Greek" the night before so we quickly repeated the stand out phrase- we have 35 minutes to catch an international flight.. no big deal, except we only had 15. We ran through the airport like in the movies, waited in the long security line with other panicked travelers, and finally made it to our gate! We had about 30 seconds to spare :)

The flight went really well. There was some minor turbulence, but nothing too bad. When we were flying over Amsterdam it was really funny to see all of the grow houses for their ever-so-popular coffeeshops.

We collected our luggage, and began to find some public transportation to our hotel. We navigated the local train schedule, hopped on the bullet train, and ended up at Central Station. From there we took a taxi to our hotel. Our taxi driver spoke a little Greek, so we had a broken Greek conversation with our driver until we got to the hotel.

After the long day of travel we got to our room, and plopped onto our beds. The beds were the most comfortable tempurpedic mattresses I have EVER slept on! I could not believe I was in Amersterdam!!!

Friday, October 8th

Today we woke up around 9am, and headed out to explore the city. We bought an Iamsterdam card. This card allows the holder free or discounted admission to just about every museum in the city. It also provides you with a free public transportation card that can work on every public transportation source in the city. We took out our maps, and our list of museums and hit just about every museum we could in the three days we had to explore the city.

We also went on a canal cruise of the city. We were able to see all of the Amsterdam from the waterways! All of the buildings were slanted and very old. The stairs in the buildings were very steep- so steep that furniture cannot be carried up the stairs. Instead there are large, removal windows in every building and a pulley system hanging from the every roof. When someone moves, or needs to bring something into the house, they open the windows and pulley the item into their house.

It was really cool to see the streets/bike lanes in Amsterdam. There was a bike lane, one car lane, and a lane for the tram. There were more bikes than cars in Amsterdam which was really cool to see. People used their bikes as the primary source of transportation, so they rode in the rain, sun, or after dark. There were baskets on the front for children to sit in, or to put bags in. Many people had a seat on the back of their bike for passengers. It was just so different than anything I had ever seen before and I really liked it :)

On Saturday we went to the Heineken Experience, which is a tour of the Heineken brewing company in Amsterdam. There was a museum in the beginning of the tour, and interactive booths throughout. We went on a ride, watched old commercials, and of course tasted the latest batch of beer.

After the tour, we walked to a bus stop, and took it over to the water. We found an hour long pancake cruise there, and waited for the next ferry to pull in. We sat on the top deck and were able to see all around us! During that hour, we ate sooo many pancakes. There were bacon pancakes, apple pancakes, sugar pancakes, jelly pancakes, and of course some plain ones. There was also a bar set up where you could choose from different kinds of fruit, jelly, sugar, sprinkles, chocolate, nuts, etc. to put on your pancakes. The only thing they didnt have was syrup. The boat and all of Amsterdam served powered sugar with their pancakes.

On Sunday we went to Madame Tussaud's wax museum. At the beginning of the museum was a section dedicated to the history of Amsterdam, with all of its historical figures. After we were able to see all of the Dutch celebrities in wax. Mr. Heineken was in the museum, along with Van Gogh. There were also many international celebrities in the museum. My favorite wax figure was Tiesto. He is from Holland, and I was able to see him a few weeks ago in Athens. Naturally I had to take a picture with him.

On Sunday we also went to the Anne Frank House. We waited in line to get in, and then were able to explore the whole house. We went through the bookcase door that kept her housing secluded, and were able to go through the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, and to the attic where Anne used to hang out. There were diary entries written all over the walls talking about different places in the house where she used to write in her diary. It was so surreal to see the pictures and magazines cut-outs that Anne Frank herself had actually put on the wall only decades ago. It was a very educational experience, and I am very happy that I went.

The trip to Amsterdam was absolutely amazing, and so much fun! We were also able to go to some educational places during the trip as well. By the time we left Amsterdam we had been to the Tulip Museum, the Diamond Museum, Hermitage Amsterdam, the Dutch Museum, Van Gogh Museum, the Purse Museum, Riijksmuseum, and Amsterdam's Historisch Museum. I loved Amsterdam so much and would love to go back there again someday. I might even want to live there- it left a great impression on me :)

As always hanging out, keepin it classy in Athens and beyond :)


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Class, Class, Class

After the Turkey trip, we had A LOT of class time to make up! We ended up having class for about 5 hours on Tuesday. This was very hard for me to sit through, but I did it- with a half smile on my face. After class, I went to a local stationary store with my roommate and looked around for some American magazines. I found a copy of the September Issue of Vogue and quickly took it down from the shelf. Ever since I have seen "The September Issue," I have been mildly obsessed with Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, the inner workings of the publication. I was so excited to see the American copy sitting in front of me. After a long day of classes and work, I thought this would be a nice treat for the evening.

That night we had our weekly Tuesday night mezze dinner. I was pretty lazy this week, and ended up bringing Turkey sandwiches. I of course, went all out and toasted the bread, thinly sliced tomatoes, onions, pickles, and lettuce, but they were still just sandwiches. We watched MTV and the U.K.'s hit list countdown. I wish I could watch MTV and television in general here, but we only get one channel, very static-y and in Greek.

After dinner, I finished my homework for classes the next day and began to read Vogue. I was so happy to see all of my favorite designers and read the articles in English! It was just what I needed after a long day :)

October 6th

On Wednesday our group took a trip to the Acropolis and the new Acropolis Museum. Both were such amazing experiences. I have been in Athens for about a month and a half now, have seen the Acropolis sitting on the top of the hill almost everyday, but had not made it up to see it for myself yet.

We started at the Acropolis Museum. Like most museums in Athens, pictures were not allowed. The new museum was actually built on top of some of the remaining ruins from the Acropolis. So, the floors are made of glass so you can see down to the ruins below the building. Even on the 4th floor, there is glass to the bottom, which got a little trippy at times. There were remains from the Parthenon and the Acropolis all over the museum. The actual pieces that survived so many battles, fires, and cannon balls in ancient times were sitting right in front of me. It was so cool to see those remaining pieces of history close enough to touch. There was even a short film that explained the history behind the museum, the Parthenon, and the Acropolis.

After the museum we walked up to the Acropolis. We were able to see the Roman theater that was built during Roman occupation. We were also able to see the Parthenon where the ancient battle took place for the name of the city between Athena and Poseidon. Athena won (athens) and we also saw the Olive Tree that she planted there when she won the battle for the city. We could also see the whole city of Athens. I was even able to take a picture of Lykavitos Hill- the highest point in Athens that I occasionally walk/jog/run up when I am extremely motivated :)

Picture from my adventures can be found at:

Keepin' It Classy in Athens, Greece!!
~Erica out

Life after Turkey

After we got back to the apartment in Athens, it was time for rest and relaxation, well for at least a day. On Thursday we all hung around, caught up on homework and sleep. On friday, we jumped right back into our opportunities in Athens. That night we went out to Gazi- the nightlife district in Athens. We jumped from club to club, meeting local Greeks and dancing to the American music. I was very surprised to find out that Greek people do not dance in the clubs like Americans do. Greek people sit at tables, or stand at the bar and look around. No one talks and NO ONE dances, well except for the American visitors in the club! That was us, and we were dancing all night long! Greek people also do not go out until around 1am. This is not very good for me because I have a strict 10pm bedtime, but I made an exception for the evening. :)
We ended up walking back to the apartment at 4:30am. We actually saw the local produce market down the street being set-up as we walked by to go to sleep!

The fun did not stop on Saturday. Saturday night (October 2nd) Sheila and I went to see DJ TIESTO at the Failro Olympic Stadium in Athens. Transportation is not always reliable in Athens, and tonight was no exception. We ended up waiting at the metro stop for 45 minutes for our train to come. While waiting for the train, we asked just about every taxi driver that passed to take us to the concert. Unfortunately, none of them spoke English and we had to rely on the metro. When we finally got on the train, we realized we had 19 stops to go before we arrived at the stadium. We tried not to panic, but we were very upset! It was finally time to get off the train and we got up and moved to the door.
Then, all of the sudden, the train sped up and went right past our stop. Sheila and I looked at each other in panic! Apparently after a certain stop on the green line you have a push a button indicating you want to get off because there is not a lot of traffic in that area. Well, we did not know this and missed our stop :( We ended up getting off at the next stop, and instead of waiting another 45 minutes for a train, we ran to the stadium! We ran under a bridge, on the tram tracks, over a bridge, and through bushes to get to the stadium. When we finally got there, we could hear Tiesto already on stage, and we could feel the bass hard against our chests from OUTSIDE the stadium. We ran to a security guard who was guarding the gate to get in, and begged him to let us in, even though we were late. He finally let us in, and gave us directions on how to get to the main entrance of the stadium. We saw another security guard in the distance, and started running faster towards him. He started screaming "Problem! This is a problem!" We didn't understand why he was so upset. Then he told us that somehow we had made our way backstage and we could NOT stay here. It was really cool that we were backstage, but all we wanted to do was see the show. We finally found our way to the front of the stage, and enjoyed the show until about 4:30am. After the show we found vedors on the street selling t-shirts for 10 EURO, and we happily bought one! Then we made our way back to the right metro stop. We were informed in Greek that the tram was not running to where we wanted to go, so we would have to take the next train and then transfer later down the road. After switching trains, traveling back to the main square, and finding a taxi to take us home, we were sooo tired, and it was 5:45am!

The weekend did not stop on Saturday, but continued into Sunday with a trip to the V.I.P. opening of Candy Bar in Gazi. We had no problem getting into the club, and danced the night away! The opening DJ was not that good, but eventually the house DJ came on and played some good hip-hop for the rest of the night. There was even a live performance by an Akon look- alike. After dancing for hours, we took a taxi home and settled into our beds around 6:00am!- the record for the weekend, and way past my 10pm bedtime :)

On Monday it was time for some serious homework and sleep. It was totally worth it though because it was the best weekend for nightlife in Athens so far! :)

Take a look at pictures of my adventures in Athens and beyond at:

Keepin' It Classy in Athens :)

Turkey September 22-28th, 2010

WEDNESDAY, September 22nd, 2010
In September, our group traveled to Turkey, and what a trip it was! We started our journey on Wednesday by flying from Athens, Greece to Samos Island in Greece. We spent the day in Samos, taking pictures of the beautiful beaches, and sipping sweet drinks under the umbrella lined street. After spending about 5 hours in Samos, we boarded a ferry and set sail for Kusadasi, Turkey. There were very rough seas and the wind was very strong. Let's just say I am soooo happy I did not wear a skirt. I felt so bad for the group of Australians who had on dresses, but I liked their choice of polka-dotted underwear :) When we arrived in Kusadasi, it took our ferry about 20 minutes to dock. The waves were so bad that the bridge connecting our ferry and the shore could not be secured even with 5 Turkish men trying to anchor it down. Eventually they managed to get some kind of a hold on it, and let the passengers de-board the ferry one person at a time. Once we all got off the ferry, we made our way through boarder control, and then walked to our hostel. The hostel was located at the top of what seemed like the steepest mountain I had ever climbed with my luggage trailing behind me. The incline was very steep, very long, and cobble stone. It was definitely a great work-out after sitting on the ferry for a few hours :)

The hostel was NOT a four-star hotel. Our room was a little sketchy and had a 6-in circumference hole in the bathroom wall leading out to the main street, and we were on the first floor. My roommate Sheila and I joked that the hole was used for the gypsy boys to spy on us while we were taking a shower. The shower and toilet situation made me a stronger person. The toilet was about 3 inches from the shower head that only spewed out cold water.

Luckily, Kusadasi was very tourist-y. We were able to quickly find a restaurant where the waiter spoke English. It was so exciting to speak English!! (There are very few people that speak English in Athens). There were also many shops and vendors on the street that were willing to sell us everything from UGG boots, to Louis Vuitton sheets, to Prada purses- all knock-offs of course. I found an ice-cream stand and was very happy to see the price was only 1 Euro a scoop. I quickly realized it is very hard to get your ice-cream handed to you in Turkey. The stands all have performer-like employees who will hit you with your ice-cream in the face and then pretend to drop it on the ground as you attempt to wipe it off your face. It was a very interesting experience to get ice-cream! The ice cream itself had a gum-like texture. You had to chew it, but it was still VERY tasty. I got pistachio and strawberry, and there were other flavors like rocky road, banana, lemon, cookies, and mixed-berry.

THURSDAY, September 23rd, 2010

Today we woke up early and went to breakfast at our hostel. Turkish breakfast consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, cold meats, bread, hard-boiled eggs, watermelon, and olives. I had some bread with tomatoes and cheese, and also some bread with sour grape jelly and hazelnut spread. The men working the breakfast said it was a very traditional Turkish breakfast. There was also Turkish apple tea served, which I reluctantly tried, and actually enjoyed! It was very similar to a hot apple juice.

After breakfast we walked to a bus stop, and met our tour guide for the day. His name was Jorge and he has been giving tours of the area for over a decade. We drove through Kusadasi, and on the way to our first destination we saw the largest water park in Turkey. On the other side, a few miles up the road, we saw its competition- the second largest water park in Turkey. We also saw many local shops and lots and lots of desert-like land that Jorge called farm land. Our first stop was the Ephesus Museum. This museum contained statues, sculptures, and other artifacts found in the ancient city of Ephesus.

After touring the musuem, we went to the actual city of Ephesus. Throughout my years in Catholic school, I had always heard the letters to the Ephesians, but never thought much about it. Well, I was visiting where all of those letters were sent! It was very, very, very cool to see this ancient, once thriving civilization. Our tour guide informed us that only about 15% of the city had been excavated. He said that if the Austrian workers dug at this site everyday for 24-hours a day, it would take about 900 years for all of the city to be uncovered. I thought that statistic was absolutely amazing! There was so much of the city in front of me, but there was so much more of it below my feet. While in Ephesus we were able to see their libraries, theaters, temples, bathhouses, and even their brothel. Jorge told us that when the Austrian excavators found the library, they discovered a tunnel that lead them across the street to where the brothel was located. I thought it was funny because this was so clever!! During our journey through Ephesus, I somehow managed to rip my linen pants right down the butt. I had to wear a scarf around my waist the entire day (and we had many more places to go after this!).

After learning a lot about the city of Ephesus, walking up to stairs to the top of the theatre, and grabbing some lunch at one of the cafes outside the city, our group piled onto the bus, and we were off to the House of the Virgin Mary. The road was extremely narrow and winding leading up to the top of the mountain. I often held my breath as we passed by the tiny cars that we could easily knock of the side of the mountain with our huge bus. When we finally made it to the top of the mountain, we de-boarded the bus and were able to walk up to where the house was located. I walked through and after lit a candle right outside the house. Also, I wrote a message to put onto the wishing wall. Jorge told us that the rule is that if your wish comes true, you must come back to the house and say a special prayer to Mary for granting your request. Jorge said that he would come back in our place if any of our wishes came true.

After getting back from the House of the Virgin Mary, we all took a break in our rooms while waiting for our hostel to prepare dinner. When dinner was ready, we sat on the patio in the back of the hostel and ate. The choices were fish or kebabs. I chose the kebab and it was so delicious. The kebabs were a combination of meat and peppers, tomatoes, and onions. There was also moist rice and an eggplant/tomato soupy mixture. I ate it all! After dinner a bunch of us went out exploring the port-city. We found a hookah bar on a side street and sat down for an Efes beer and some hookah.
The shop called them nargile-water pipes, and the hoses were very long and made of wood and carpet material. I had never seen anything like it before. We got a tobacco hookah, which was actual tobacco leaves wrapped around the coals, and a strawberry-coconut hookah. The tobacco hookah was EXTREMELY strong and nearly impossible for me to even try; however, I told myself that I would try everything once and I did try it once, and only once. At the hookah bar, there was a man who proposed to me and asked me to stay and live in Turkey with him. Although it was a kind offer, I returned with my group to the hostel :)

FRIDAY, September 24th, 2010
On friday we woke up before sunrise and walked over to the port in order to catch a bus to the train station. After about an hour-long bus ride, we arrived at the train station, and boarded a 6-hour bus ride to Bandirma, Turkey. The bus only had a snack cart of soda, chips, and cookies and this was not quite enough for us hungry students! The train also only had a hole in the ground for the bathroom. This experience was very interesting and LIFE CHANGING! Every time I went to the bathroom in Turkey I thought to myself, 'somehow this situation is worse than the last time I went to the bathroom.' Of course over the duration of 6 hours I did have to squat over the hole and go pee. While I was in the bathroom the train made a turn, and I had both my arms against the walls bracing myself. It was a very interesting experience.

When we arrived in Bandirma, Turkey we were informed our ferry to Istanbul, Turkey would be departing in about 20 minutes. We ran to the ferry port from the train station with luggage and all. Our group rushed through security, got to the gate, and showed the man our tickets. He told us the ferry was full, but another one would be departing at 9:30pm. The worst part was, it was only 3:30pm. For those who do not know the environment of Bandirma, you are very lucky. This is the only place throughout the trip that I was actually nervous to be in. There were military on the corner of every street, and police everywhere. Apparently, this city is a common home to terrorists attacks. I was just about to cry from exhaustion and disappointment from missing the ferry when I walked by a local shop and it was playing "Take My Breath Away." For those who do not know my obsession with this song from the movie Top Gun, you are missing out. I was so excited to hear this familiar tune that I quickly wiped the pout off my face, and looked for the good in the situation. Well, the good thing was that I found a bakery that had DELICIOUS cookies for only about 10 cents/ cookie. I was so hungry after the train ride that I bought 6 cookies on the spot and began to devour them! The cookies were short bread, different colors, and flavors. I could not pin point any particular flavor, but all I knew was that they were INCREDIBLY TASTY!

We eventually boarded the ferry, left Bandirma, and arrived in Istanbul. By the time we landed in Istanbul it was around 1am, and we were all SUPER tired from our long day of traveling. Our hostel was located on a street of hostels, cafes, and hookah bars. It was very convenient for our late night snacking habits!

SATURDAY, September 25th, 2010

Today we woke up after sunrise for the first day in a while. We ate a traditional Turkish breakfast at our hostel, and then we were off to all the tourist hot spots. We walked to the mausoleums on the way to the Hagia Sophia. The mausoleums were gorgeous. They were designed by the top architects of the time with special attention given to the construction of the ceilings. There were detailed tiles placed all along the walls. It was a really special experience. After the mausoleums we made our way down the street to the Hagia Sophia. Word cannot describe the beauty of this architectural masterpiece. It was once a palace that was turned into a mosque, into a church, back into a palace, back into a mosque, and so on based on who was in power at the time. There was so much history behind this now museum; it was amazing. The building was incredible.

After the Hagia Sophia we grabbed some lunch and then headed over to the Blue Mosque.
We had to wait in line to get in. While we were waiting, we saw security guards chase after a woman who refused to wear the headscarf, and kept trying to get into the mosque. We made our way through the line, and were able to take pictures inside. The mosque was so beautiful and peaceful. There were people in prayer everywhere, as well as many tourists taking pictures.

At night we stayed on our street and made our way to one of the local restaurants. We ate our meals, and then for "dessert" the owner gave us a free hookah. It was weird that it was considered a dessert in Turkey, but we enjoyed it just the same.

SUNDAY, September 26th, 2010
It rained today, but we still had many things to do and see. We made our way to the Topkapi Palace first. This was absolutely amazing. The palace was enormous with elaborate rooms, furnishings, and decorations in every room. Even the servants' quarters were beautiful. In one portion of the palace, we were able to see what the Turkish people claimed to be the staff of Moses, the headscarf of Joseph, and the beard of Muhammad. I was a little skepictal when seeing these items, but the Turkish people took their artifacts VERY seriously with security guards everywhere.

After the palace, we took a trip to the Archaeology Museum. The museum spanned 3 buildings and contained sculptures, jewelry, plates, statues, and paintings from Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and other parts of the world. It was really exciting to see all of the different styles and areas brought together in one museum.

MONDAY, September 27th, 2010

Today we visited the Zaman Media Group in Istanbul. The group was the home to many publications including a daily, english newspaper. Zaman Today had a large readership, unlike newspapers in the United States. In Turkey, newspaper readership is on the rise, with more and more subscriptions and issues being sold everyday. We were fortunate enough to meet with one of the editors of the newspaper, as well as the editor-in-chief of their future english magazine publication. He told us about how Turkey's media system works and that right now it was growing exponentially. We were given a tour of the media group building, as well as tea, coffee, and cookies in a conference room. The company was very welcoming to our group.

After the tour, we took the metro to the Basilica Cistern. It was an underground waterway in the past, that was recently restored for visitors to view and tour. We were able to walk through and take pictures of the beautiful columns and lighting.

TUESDAY, September 28th, 2010
In the morning, a group of us went to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It was so big with stall after stall of knock-off clothing, hats, shoes, boots, purses, and watches. There were also amazing lamps on sale, and I of course had to get one! They were made of glass with beads attached and I haggled my way down to 27 Turkish Lira for one of the beautiful purple lamps!

We walked back to our hostel after the bazaar and began to pack our stuff because it was time to go back to Athens. Since there was a transportation strike in Greece, it was impossible to take the train back to Athens. A group of students and myself had planned to climb Mt. Olympus, but could not because of the transportation strikes. Our entire group was left with only one affordable option of getting back to Athens- an 18 hour bus ride.

The bus was not that bad, except it did not have a bathroom on it. Every rest stop we stopped at charged money to squat above the hole they called a bathroom to take a pee. This trip was full of experiences that made me a stronger person. I can honestly say I did not think I would survive the bus ride back to Athens, but I am happy to say that I did.

The boarder crossing between Turkey and Greece was very educational to say the least. There were military lining the whole boarder on both sides. We gave our passports to the Turkish military, and they happily stamped them to have us get the heck out of their country and enter Greece. (Turkey and Greece do not have a friendly working relationship.) We had to de-board the bus when we arrived at the Greece side and talk to a military man at the bottom of the stairs of the bus. We were instructed to hand him our passport and look him in the eyes. The guy looked at my passport, looked up at me, looked back at my passport, and back at me. He seemed very confused between my passport picture, and my appearance in real life. I was just thinking to myself that he would not look so good after being on a bus for about 10 hours. :)
After we made it through the boarder, it was smooth sailing, well sort of. There was a lot of traffic due to the strike. There were trucks blocking many roads and people protesting in the streets. We eventually made it to the bus stop, and walked home. Once I got inside the apartment, I drank a big glass of water, took a shower, and went to sleep in my bed.

Overall, the trip to Turkey was very exciting. I saw a lot of things I had never seen before, and was able to experience another culture first hand. Would I ever live there? Maybe, if I had a water purifier and air-conditioner installed in my apartment :)

As always-
Take a look at all my pictures at:

For now I am back in Athens, and KEEPIN' IT CLASSY :)