Friday, June 29, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Planes, Trains & Automobiles Edition

It's Friday.

We have been at airports, getting vouchers and standing in lines, since Tuesday evening.

And we're still not home.

Granted, we are almost home, and there will be no more lines or vouchers, but seriously. I don't think I had ever missed or been bumped from a flight before in my life, and now I don't even believe them when they give me a boarding pass anymore. Turns out half the time they're really just little paper pacifiers. Boarding pass-ifiers.

So where were we? The bonus night in Athens was lovely, and if all we'd had to do to "earn" it were go through the day I described in the post below, I think we would probably all do it over again.

If only it had ended there.

So we were in the hotel with the vouchers from the airline. The Olympic van picked us up from the hotel on time and took us to the airport. We walked in and Mom found a push cart for our bags. We found our check-in window, waited in line, and checked in. They took our bags and gave us boarding passes without making too many frowny faces at their computer screens. We did a little shopping (the Duty Free guy looked at my boarding pass and said people flying to the United States can't buy Greek Delight candy because it's a gel - we bought extra chocolate instead), went through security, entered the gate area, and boarded the plane. The flight took off from Athens and landed in New York eleven hours later as planned.

Can you see how we might be feeling a bit cocky at that point? Carefree even?

We landed at JFK, went through passport control, recovered our bags - nothing lost or broken - and fairly flew through customs.

We had flown into JFK, and we knew our connecting flight was out of LaGuardia, but we had the recommended 3-hour layover (three and a half in fact), and we had been told our bags could be rechecked after customs.

Right there. That's where it all began to break down.

Of course, having to get our own bags over to the other airport was a pain, but manageable. We had already figured that it might work out that way. But still, it was the first hitch we encountered, and in retrospect was our first clue that getting from Europe to the United States was not, in fact, the hard part.

You know, travel agencies (at least the online ones that I frequent) treat JFK and LaGuardia, and Newark for that matter, as if they were one big airport. Airline ticket counters do the same thing when they're looking for alternate routes after messing up your original plans. (In fact, they do the same thing with Gatwick and Heathrow.) Well, I am here to tell you that by no stretch of the imagination do JFK and LaGuardia actually operate as one big airport.

Before leaving Greece, we looked into the options for getting from one to the other, and when we got there we checked the Ground Transportation Information counter, which confirmed what we had found - there are two or three ways to do it, but none of them are smooth and automatic like one would think they should be (much less free or inexpensive), even though travelers are routinely routed from one to another as if it were a simple terminal change.

We opted for the Airport Express Bus, or some such thing - turns out there are a number of apparently private companies operating under a range of similar names. We paid our $13 each (yikes) and waited while bus after bus came and left without picking up any of our group of probably six or eight people all wanting to go to LaGuardia.

By the time the right bus from the right company (with a driver in the right mood) conceded to stop and load people up, we were beginning to see that the time might be a problem. Then when they stoped for 10 minutes more at another terminal to collect the tickets, load more passengers, make a list of which airline each person needed to be taken to, and argue with one passenger about how late we were all going to be, time was clearly running short.

We did overhear one guy on his cell phone saying that there was a flight to Raleigh leaving an hour after ours, and I figured we would probably have to see if we could stand by for that, since by the time we pulled up to US Airways departures there was less than half an hour left before our flight and not only would we have to remove and replace our shoes at security, we also had bags to check and were holding a Flight Interruption Manifest (in triplicate) from a Greek airline in lieu of actual tickets.

But we needn't have worried, since the first thing we found (after a handy abandoned push cart for our luggage) was a Departures board showing that our flight had been cancelled.

Not just our flight, but about 70% of all US Airways flights to anywhere had been cancelled.

There were plenty of US Airways personnel about the place, showing people what line to get in and handing out sheets with a toll-free number to try and rebook. One of them even loaned me his cell phone to try the number. And the guy who answered tried to rebook us himself, then switched me over to International customer service since we had arrived on an international flight. I figured that might give us some sort of priority, but it didn't seem to help, and in the end the best the guy on the phone could come up with was, "get yourselves to Newark or go on over and stand in the Ticket line."

Obviously, we were already standing in the ticket line, which was considerably closer than Newark.

The best the in-person ticket agent could come up with was a Charlotte flight for Saturday. Saturday! Can we all just take a moment and recall that we started standing in lines on Tuesday? Thank you.

We were making periodic phone calls to Dad & Scott, as well as looking into bus and train options, thinking that either one might end up being cheaper than staying until Saturday even if we just slept in the airport, considering that we had already spent $8 on two small cookies and a one-liter bottle of water.

Dad & Scott were willing to drive up and get us if we could get a flight to someplace closer than New York, so I got back in line and maneuvered to get a guy who was higher ranking than the regular ticket agents, and who had been particularly friendly and helpful when we chatted earlier. Okay, actually I was just lucky and ended up at his station, but I was prepared to maneuver if it turned out to be necessary.

I told him we would take anthing to anywhere in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia or DC, and he came up with a 7:00 a.m. flight to DC the next morning. I both hinted and asked outright about any offices or comfy corners of the airport that might be available for desperate travelers needing to spend the night, but he wasn't quite that friendly and helpful.

Another guy I asked didn't have any lifesaving advice, but he did allow as how the downstairs baggage claim area had some chairs at least, and Lisa went down and found carpeted floors (unlike the ticketing area) and a bunch of other people already curling up on them, so we joined in.

We stayed up another half hour so we could make one last call to Dad & Scott to continue mapping out contingency plans and smoke signals for the next day, then we curled up beside a baggage carousel at 9:00 p.m. and did our best to go to sleep. The floor was, as I say, carpeted, but as it turns out it's surprisingly hard to sleep, even after a 21-hour day, when the lights are on, the air conditioning too cold, and the PA system delivering a pair of loud, clearly enunciated security announcements at 20-minute intervals, plus urgent boarding calls for the few flights that were actually cleared for departure. In addition to the four incoming flights that got there between 9:00 p.m. and midnight, with the arriving passengers talking on cell phones and politely stepping over and around our baggage and ourselves as they collected their own bags from the carousel.

I think I got a total of about three hours of sleep between 9:00 p.m. and 3:30 a.m., when I gave up on it. By then it was 10:30 a.m. in Greece, and not having experienced any darkness to tell it otherwise, my body was sick of trying unsuccessfully to rest and was instead ready to start the day. Plus we needed to get up at 4:00 anyway because that's the earliest we could check in for our 7:00 a.m. flight. We weren't really sure at that point whether we were ticketed or standby passengers, and either way we figured things would be a little more comfortable and secure (with better food options) inside the gate area. (Not that we felt insecure where we were, given the 35 other people and families sacked out all around us and a couple of security personnel who didn't have any problem with us being there.)

So we headed back up to the ticket counters at 4:00 a.m. The airline personnel were arriving, regular commuters were showing up for the DC shuttle, and some of our fellow stranded passengers were stirring by then. When US Airways opened for business at about 4:30, we were 20th in line (and there was another flight leaving before ours), and we had no trouble checking in. We were singled out for additional security on the way to the gate, but quite a few other people were too, and we had plenty of time.

There were only two shops open in the gate area, but we did manage to get two little half-pints of milk and a large coffee for just $4, and we were carrying a bit of muesli and even a plastic cup to put it in and a spoon to eat it with. We also had most of a substantial bar of Greek something that wasn't very tasty, but from the ingredients seemed like it would have not only calories but fiber and protein as well, since it was a tahini-based product.

We were in plenty of time and I even tried to blog from the gate, but the Internet stations wouldn't take my money, so that didn't work out.

We boarded our flight and flew to DC, where we were met by my Mom's friends who are now some of my favorite people in all the world. They helped carry our bags to the Metro and then to their house, gave us juice and coffee and showers and beds and laundry and Internet, all of which we have accepted in various combinations.

Dad and Scott are driving up and should be here in a couple of hours. Since we still have a 5.5-hour car trip ahead of us, I'm planning to stay awake until they get here and with any luck I'll miss the entire ride; it's got to be more comfortable than Baggage Claim, right?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Stuck in Greece edition

Yeah, about that 7:00 a.m. flight this morning? Didn't exist. Hasn't, in fact, existed since June 4...Olympic cut that flight from their regular itinerary on the very day our trip began.

We didn't find out about it from either. When pressed (by Dad) they claimed to have E-mailed me on the 15th, but I've been checking both mail & spam regularly and they did no such thing.

Olympic had transferred our reservation to a later flight the same day, but that would have made us miss our connection with a US Airways flight in London. Since managed to book our trip without informing either airline about the other leg of the trip, neither Olympic nor US Airways felt particularly compelled to resolve the situation. In fact, Dad was told on the phone that if we missed the flight in London, US Airways wouldn't even put us on a later flight, but would be glad to sell us a new ticket at walk-up prices.

By the time we realized how bad it was, we were in Delphi with Simon the taxi driver (Famous George was busy, but Simon was a worthy substitute). We cut our tour short and drove back to Athens, Simon busily plying the hands-free and instructing his wife to make phone calls and yell at people on our behalf - she was the one who found out that Olympic had dropped the flight three weeks ago.

Mom's idea, which we all approved, was to go straight to the hotel, throw everything into our bags and get to the airport prepared to travel on anything they could give us that night, in hopes of getting to London in time for the US Airways flight.

Olympic was happy enough to let us stand by for their last flight to London, but the flight was overbooked and they were actually denying boarding to ticketed passengers, so we obviously didn't get on either.

We, along with all the other standbys, were sent over to the Olympic ticket counter, where their first response was to explain to us that the problem was "not our responsibility" (if you can read that to yourself in a Greek accent it's really worth doing) since they had put us on their next flight out. Fortunately, after much conferring in Greek between the three people behind the counter and a lot of frowny faces looking at computers, and not a single bit of explanation or even a glance to us as we stood there wondering about our fate, she finally looked up and said she had put us on a US Airways flight to Philadelphia the next morning (that's today). She filled out a Flight Interruption Manifest that would serve as our new ticket and we thanked her profusely and offered to come around the counter and give them each a kiss. Lisa in fact blew a kiss to the nearest of the three who had been helping us.

So we put our luggage in storage at the airport and got the metro back to our hotel. We had already paid for the room of course, and had just abandoned it in our hope of getting the flight situation resolved. They had already cleaned it and charged us 20 Euros to get it back again, but whatever.

We got the metro back to the airport in the morning and arrived right on time for the US Airways flight, only to find that it was also denying ticketed passengers, not because of overbooking, but because Greece is in the middle of a heat wave (which I haven't even gotten around to mentioning yet, but it's insanely hot. Upwards of 110 degrees walking through the ruins at Delphi yesterday) and for some reason the aircraft are subject to much lower weight limits due to the heat, and were actually having to fly with empty seats.

So the whole batch of standbys for that flight headed over to the US Airways ticket counter, (where we met another couple who was supposed to have been on that nonexistant flight at 7:00 this morning) and were eventually escorted back to Olympic to be dealt with. Somehow that other couple got onto a Continental flight going somewhere (Newark I think) but by the time they dealt with us it was too late to put us on the same one.

They finally put us on a flight leaving for JFK, instructed us to hurry and pointed down the concourse to one of the long lines in front of one of the interminable banks of identical check-in desks...neglecting, unfortunately, to either say or clearly write which airline we were supposed to be checking in for.

Turned out it wasn't the Delta flight to JFK they had put us on, but an Olympic flight to JFK with a similarly long line in a slightly different place, and none of the airport or security personnel who dealt with us while we were in that line actually recongnized the problem until we waited all the way through the line and got up to check in...for the wrong flight. By that time, the gate for the one we were supposed to be on was closed.

The good news is that when we went back to the Olympic ticket desk THAT time and discovered that there were no more possibilities for today, it didn't seem to occur to the lady behind the counter to blame us for missing the flight.

She put us on that same flight for tomorrow (Olympic Airlines, Athens to JFK) connecting with a US Airways flight from LaGuardia to Charlotte.

We had already decided that if we didn't get out today, we would just spend the night at the airport - just the baggage storage and metro to town and back would cost 50 Euros, plus whatever hotel we might end up finding.

But then it occurred to me that the airport might actually close - some do at night. I asked the ticket agent if it did and she didn't actually answer, but instead told us to go to the next window for a hotel voucher. Much better response, really. We also got vouchers for three meals, and the Olympic van came and drove us to the hotel, where we are now.

I don't even know what town we're in, but here's where we are.

So we don't really know what tomorrow holds (although we have at least been told that our intended flight is not overbooked) but we are in a nicer-that-we've-been-staying-at hotel on the beach, with Internet access and a pool (although it's actually too hot to even go swimming. It's some of the hottest weather I can remember experiencing, ever). We've had a big buffet lunch with fresh salads and fruit and coffee and everything, and we're trying to digest that in time for our free dinner tonight.

So it hasn't been a particularly enjoyable morning, but at least we're done with standby for a few hours. In case you lost count, over an 18-hour period we missed or were denied boarding on a total of five different flights out of Athens, and that's if you don't count the three different London flights we considered just buying tickets for last night, or the Continental one that they didn't manage to process us onto after our first standby experience this morning.

Maybe it's not too hot to go swimming after all.

Preblogging: Back home

Wednesday, June 27 Our flight leaves at 7:00 a.m. today, so we'll have to get up really early to get to the airport a couple of hours ahead. Our layover is in London this time, and it's just an hour and a half, so let's hope the first flight gets in on time. There's some question as to whether we'll have to go through customs and immigration even though we're in transit. Theoretically, our bags can be checked straight through to Charlotte from Athens, but since we're booked on two different airlines, that might not be possible. If time gets too tight and we miss the connection, we'll have to take a later flight that goes through somewhere else - Philadelphia, was it? - and then connect to Charlotte. What with the seven-hour time difference, even if we're delayed, it should still be Wednesday by the time we get home! I'll spend a few more days at Lisa's house, and go back to Costa Rica on July 2. And this concludes our Preblogging effort. All of these "preblogged" posts were written before the actual trip of course, based on our planned itinerary. I wrote about half of them before leaving Costa Rica, and the other half at Lisa's house in North Carolina. In fact, as I sit here writing this, do you know what time it really is? It's 6:15 a.m. on the first day of the trip. We're leaving for the airport in 5 hours...

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Preblogging: Delphi

Tuesday, June 26 It's our last day! Today we've arranged for George the Famous Taxi Driver to take us to the city of Delphi. Maybe the oracle will have some words of wisdom to impart? Here's George's description of the day:

Full Day Delphi & Osios Loukas Monastery (About 9 Hours) Departing from Athens; we drive through Theves, Levadia for Osios Loukas Monastery (short visit). Proceed to Delphi known in ancient times as the naval of the world. Pass by Castalia Spring, visit at the archaeological site the Temple of Apollo famous for its oracle and the museum of Delphi. After lunch return to Athens via Arachova built on the south slopes of Parnassus, well known for its attractive hand-woven carpets, rugs and quilts.
(You didn't think I'd plan an entire trip with no quilts, now did you?)

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Monday, June 25, 2007

Preblogging: Back in Athens

Monday, June 25 The ferry gets in early in the day, and the first thing we'll do is walk over to our hotel and arrange to drop off our luggage - or even check into our room, if it's already available. Then we'll take the metro into Athens and do our last minute shopping and/or sightseeing.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Preblogging: Mopeds?

Sunday, June 24 Before the trip, Mom mentioned two things that sounded good to her: snorkeling, and renting mopeds to explore a Greek island on our own. By now we should have had a couple of opportunities to go snorkeling, but I thought I'd save the mopeds for the end of the trip. You know, just in case. I may join them, or I may settle in at an Internet cafe for the day...or maybe we'll all decide to do something different. Samos has some ruins and ancient sites of its own. We'll get the overnight ferry back to Athens this evening.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Preblogging: Back to Greece

Saturday, June 23 Our hotel, the ANZ Guesthouse, will have helped us arrange for this morning's ferry tickets. The island of Samos is just a couple of kilometers off the Turkish coast, so I expect we'll arrive and have a chance to find our hotel and settle in before lunchtime. Samos has an archaeological museum that has a good reputation, so maybe we'll check that out in the afternoon.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Friday, June 22, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Leaving Istanbul

We left Istanbul on the overnight bus. It was dusk when we left, so we didn't see much of the countryside until the next morning, when it looked like this:

The first thing we visited in the Cappadocia area was an underground city. Not for claustrophobics, it was nonetheless fascinating. The entire population of the region would retreat underground when threatened by invaders, and at one point spent as long as six months at a stretch down there. There were wells, ventilation shafts, protected entryways, areas for a few large animals, a schoolroom, communal food storage and preparation areas, even a morgue.

Next we visited a rug-making cooperative and learned a lot about the different materials, techniques and styles of Turkish and Afghani rugs. Also observed the traditional Turkish blend of hospitality and salesmanship, as practiced by a master.

And finally what we came for; the strange and surreal sights created by the natural rock formations in this isolated region of Turkey, coupled with the human ingenuity that turned these formations into not only underground cities but also homes, churches, entire villages, and a surprising number of human-carved pigeon holes.

Another valley - more pictures of these formations once I get back home and have access to photo editing software, because not surprisingly these sights often lend themselves to vertical photo formats, which I can't rotate for posting while on the road. It's all very Dr. Seuss, often with a healthy dose of Dr. Ruth thrown in.

This was all several days ago - today we saw the ruins of Ephesus, which was just like you see in pictures but a lot hotter. We also went to the town I mentioned in the preblogging, Sirince, which is pronounced something like sheer-EEN-jay. Not only did we find the spoon maker, we took pictures of him working and made friends. But more about that another time - this live blogging is lagging behind the actual live traveling and I don't want to make it any more confusing than it already is.

Plus my time is up here, we have to get up early tomorrow for the ferry back to Greece, and those pictures are still on the camera anyway.

Preblogging: Sirince

Friday, June 22 Today is our last day in Turkey. Assuming we got to see the ruins yesterday, I thought for today we would visit the nearby small town of Sirince. The town is known for its wines, so we may be able to sample some of them. Also, according to the Turkey Travel Planner, "Carving wooden spoons by hand is an old and revered craft in Turkey. In Sirince you can see one of the last old masters at work."

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Thursday, June 21, 2007

LIVE Blogging - More Istanbul photos

There are cats in Turkey too, naturally.

One of the restaurants where we had dinner in Istanbul had a small Whirling Dervish show each evening. Apparently there are few if any actual practicing Dervishes today but it is still considered a Muslim dance. The men who perform for the tourists do respect the form and solemnity of the original dance even though they are not doing it as religious experience. It's very peaceful to watch.

The Dervish show was at one end of the outdoor café and by turning in the other direction we could check on the progress of the sunset behind the Blue Mosque. (This particular dome is outside the main building of the Mosque, but clearly part of the same complex.)

The next day we went inside the Blue Mosque and Lisa discovered a way of using the camera to get great pictures without flash even in relatively low light; for example, the ceiling of the Mosque, which is too high for the flash to reach. Her technique involved setting the self-timer and then either propping the camera against something stable or simply placing it flat on the floor, as she did for the picture below.

The Blue Mosque is a sacred site and is still in daily use. Many Muslims who live close enough attend the five daily prayers at the Mosque, and many travel from far away in order to have an opportunity to pray there, if only once.

Tourists are permitted to enter except during the actual prayer times. Appropriate attire is required (and explained on signs outside the door), and simple sheet-like robes are available for anyone who would like to enter but is not appropriately dressed. Shoes must be removed, and plastic bags are provided for those who would like to carry them in rather than leaving them at the door. Voluntary donations are accepted at the exit, and receipts are provided.

In addition to marveling at the photo, I would ask that you consider how Lisa took it and then think about some of the possible reactions that might occur if an apparently Muslim individual were to enter a Christian high holy place (or significant historical site), press some buttons on his or her "camera," set it on the floor in the middle of the room and step away while it lays there flashing its little red light.

Same technique later that day at the Hagia Sofia, which was the most important church in Christendom in its day. When the area was conquered by Muslims they added minarets and converted it to a mosque. They needed to remove the Christian symbols, but rather than destroying them they simply painted over them. Today the building is preserved as a museum and you can see parts of both types of decorations, with restoration work still going on.
And that's enough for now. I'm getting better at these Turkish keyboards but they still require a lot of concentration. The only letter that is in a different place is the lower case "i," but almost every single piece of punctuation is somewhere other than where I expect it to be. And on this particular keyboard the Page Up/Page Down/Home/End/Delete and Insert keys are also rearranged. What's a touch typist to do?

Preblogging: Ephesus

Thursday, June 21 Ephesus is our last stop in Turkey. The Turkey Travel Planner (linked above) describes Ephesus as "the best-preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean region, and Turkey's top sight after Istanbul." If our bus gets in early enough, we may go ahead and see the ruins today. As far as Roman ruins go, the Ephesus archaeological site is described as "better than Rome itself." It's the ruins of an entire city, and it's a nice 3-km stroll from our hotel. Oh, and on the way we'll pass the Temple of Artemis, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, there's apparently very little left of that.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Preblogging: Moving on again

Wednesday, June 20 We leave Cappadocia on the overnight bus to Ephesus this evening, but we'll have most of the day free to continue enjoying the area. We will have turned our rental in car last night, but the Goreme Open Air Museum is within walking distance of the hotel, so we'll save that for today.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Just a quick one

My time is almost up, I'm on a Turkish keyboard and the computers at this café don't have CD drives so I can't even post a photo.

Just dropping in to say that we are in Cappadocia as planned, and we did do the balloon ride, and it absolutely lived up to expectations.

We changed around our plans for the other local sightseeing (took a couple of tours instead of renting a car), but have seen and done everything we had in mind, and yes, we've seen everything in those pictures below and more.

We have a pretty free day tomorrow, since our bus to the next destination doesn't leave until 7:00 p.m.

Okay, I'm out of here. Just 8 minutes left anyway, and now somebody is smoking right next to me. Time to move on, maybe get a nap before our big Turkish Night tonight - Whirling Dervish and belly dance show, traditional Turkish food and open bar...

Preblogging: Ballooning!

Tuesday, June 19 If everyone who was supposed to have kept their mouth shut has managed to do so, Mom won't have been aware until yesterday that Cappadocia is considered one of the best places in the world for hot air ballooning. (It's such a major tourist activity here that there won't be any way to keep it a secret once we arrive.) We'll be picked up at our hotel before dawn today and go out for a sunrise sail over the surreal landscape. (Photo from the relevant section of the Turkey Travel Planner)

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Monday, June 18, 2007

Preblogging: Cappadocia

Monday, June 18 Our bus gets in early in the day, and our first job will be to find our way to the Shoe String Pension. The soft rock of this region has been eroded by natural forces into surreal landscapes. The local residents have also taken advantage of the material by tunneling into it rather than building structures on top of it. In fact, there are several underground cities in the regions, into which entire towns would retreat for months on end when war above ground became too threatening. (Photos from various Cappadocia websites out there. Sorry, I didn't realize I'd be posting them when I first saved them!)

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Sunday, June 17, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Turkey photos

This was last Wednesday.

Ferry again. Boy, we almost missed this one, but it wasn't our fault.

We finally got the rental car turned in and the ticket mess figured out and rushed through immigration (to leave Lesvos) as much as you can rush when nobody behind the counter is in any kind of a hurry. Then we hustled across the parking lot and actually got on the ferry, 20 minutes late...and then sat there for 40 minutes before it left.

That beats the alternative, of course, but it was very frustrating because Mom had left her prescription glasses in the rental car. We could practically see it from where we were, but the boat was already late to leave, and technically we weren't in Greece anymore!

The town we reached turned out to be very challenging. The guidebook says that people speak English all over Turkey, but it sure wasn't true here! We wound around and around the twisty little cobblestone streets trying to find our hotel, then had another whole adventure trying to buy the bus ticket we would need for the following day. People were very kind, but we couldn't even understand the very basics.

Thanks to Lisa's perseverance and her skillful use of a Turkish language book we brought from the High Point Public Library, we eventually tracked down the bus ticket - about a mile away from where we originally believed it to be.

This was where I managed that second live blogging post - the keyboard, operating system and staff may all have been in Turkish, but the Internet is the same the world over!

We had dinner at a cafe on the waterfront, where the waiter did actually speak a bit of English to us, and applauded Lisa's efforts to thank him in Turkish.

We had heard that bread is an important part of the Turkish diet, and before even ordering drinks, we were presented with evidence of that importance:

In the end, it turned out to be hollow and in fact even thinner than a pita. It was very good. The one plate you see there above had cheese and butter, and the other some kind of spicy meat spread. We've since seen the meat dish listed on menus (with photos looking exactly like this one) as "raw meat balls" but that wasn't until 24 hours after consuming this one, and we figure if it was going to kill us it would have already...

The next morning we got a taxi to take us to that bus station a mile away. We didn't discuss it with him, but even the taxi driver seemed aware that the streets were somewhat on the narrow side.

The bus took us to yet another ferry, this time across the Sea of Marmara, and we arrived in Istanbul in the late afternoon. Our hotel, the SiDE Pension, does not in fact have unusual capitalization. It turns out that it is pronounced the "Sidda" Pension, and Turkish has two versions of the letter "I" - one is dotted and one is not. The dotted one retains its dot even when capitalized. So there.

The Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia (okay I haven't been there yet and I'm not sure which spelling is considered correct) are about two blocks apart, with a park between them, almost like a smaller version of the Mall in Washington DC. I knew our hotel was centrally located, but didn't realize it was just a block and a half from these two major sights!

Today is our last day in Istanbul, and as the Preblogging entry indicates, we will be taking an overnight bus to Cappadocia (pronounce it like Artichokia). We saw Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar on our first day, and did the Bosphorous ferry yesterday as planned. We were too tired to do anything else after that, but have plenty of time today to take in the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the Sunken Cisterns, all within three or four blocks of the hotel.

Preblogging: Leaving Istanbul for Cappadocia

Sunday, June 17 Today is our last day in Istanbul. We'll be taking the bus to the Cappadocia region this evening - it's such a long trip that it's an overnight bus. The buses are supposed to be quite comfortable at least, and Dad gave us each one of those inflatable travel pillows!

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Saturday, June 16, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Just for Sandy

Sandy specifically asked about Mom, ferries & food. This one's for her.

This is the ferry from Kea back to the Athens area, last Saturday.

Back in Athens, we got this larger ferry for the overnight trip to Lesvos. There was a courtesy bus that took us from the end of the dock area up to the ship itself. I knew the name of the ship was Theófilos and we had figured out enough of the Greek letters that I was able to read it and get off the bus at the right boat!

Pulling away from the port

Sunset on the ship

And for the ultimate in request-granting, here is Mom eating dinner on the ferry.

That's moussaka in the foreground - we had that at almost every Greek restaurant, and it was always different, but always very good. The small dish in the middle is a dip made of yogurt, cucumbers and garlic - great with the bread. I had rice with some sort of stewed vegetables and I'm not sure what that is on Mom's plate, but I think she may have had the same thing I did.

This was one of our favorite dinners so far. The restaurant was just two blocks down from our hotel, which is to say it was not only on the same street and at a distance of about two blocks, it was also nearly two blocks vertically down from our door.

There's the moussaka again, in the upper left, followed by batter fried zucchini slices, beet salad, and potato balls. The yogurt/cucumber dip is also repeated here, and the bread came with an herbed butter as well. Looks like Mom had Heineken again, while I tried Alpha, a Greek beer.

I never knew it before we came, but it turns out that "Cats in Greece" is a thing - there are a lot of cats in Greece, and somewhere along the line people discovered that a lot of the tourists like cats, so now there are not only cats in Greece, but also Cats in Greece postcards, calendars, etc. Lisa has been busily building her own collection of Cats in Greece as well. Here's one.

Also, Sandy? Mom says she sent you a postcard today!

Preblogging: Bosphorus

Saturday, June 16 Istanbul is a city divided. The western half of the city is in Europe, and the eastern half is in Asia. It is physically divided by the Bosphorus Strait, which links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Here's a space photograph from Wikipedia's Istanbul entry: Inexpensive ferries run up and down the strait, and taking one amounts to a $6 cruise between Europe and Asia. That's the plan for today.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Friday, June 15, 2007

Preblogging: Sights of Istanbul

Friday, June 15 Following the advice of travel writer Tom Brosnahan, we'll see the main sights of Istanbul today. Or we'll start out on his suggested itinerary anyway. There is an outside chance we'll get tired before doing it all, and if we do we can always save some for tomorrow!

ISTANBUL IN ONE DAY Istanbul's top sights are grouped right around the Hippodrome in Sultanahmet Square, so you can visit them all on your first (or only) day. MORNING Topkapi Palace (9-5, closed Tuesday; stay 2-3 hr). Get there at 8:45 am and go straight to the Harem, which gets overcrowded Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia) (9-4, closed Monday; stay 1 hr). Right next to Topkapi. Don't miss the best mosaics, on the upper level. LUNCH nearby on Divan Yolu: Sultan Pub, Sultanahmet Köfteci, etc. AFTERNOON Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii) (stay 1/2 hr). Just across the park from Ayasofya, on the Hippodrome. The mosque is closed to visitors for 25 minutes after each call to prayer, and for several hours midday on Friday. Byzantine Hippodrome (stay 1/2 hr). Enjoy the monuments in the park--if the postcard and carpet vendors will let you! Sunken Palace Cistern (Yerebatan Sarayi) (9-5; stay 1/2 hr). At the NE end of the Hippodrome beneath the little park. Grand Bazaar (9-5, closed Sunday; stay 1-2 hrs, longer if you're really shopping). Walk uphill on Divan Yolu from the Hippodrome and see the sights along the way, or take the tram along it to Çarsikapi (CHAR-shuh-kah-puh).

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Thursday, June 14, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Istanbul

Well good. I'm glad to know there are still folks out there!

Wow. I don't know where to even start. I don't think I can go back and catch you up from the last long Live Blog because there's just too much! And it takes forever to upload the dang pictures (since I'm using them straight off the camera/CD and not editing, cropping or scaling like I would normally do, they're 1MB each. Blogger automatically posts a scaled version, but I have to upload the large copy.) So it's kind of one or the other at this point.

Let's go with some photos because this keyboard is in English, but makes a horrible sound every time I hit the spacebar! Picking back up where I left off yesterday...

This is the ferry we took from Kea back to Piraeus.

Then this is us on the next ferry, the overnight one to Lesvos that left later that day. This was where I posted the Live Blogging, High Seas Edition.

This is the town of Molyvos, where we stayed while on Lesvos.

So is this. In fact, these two pictures are kind of taken looking toward each other. This is the harbor you can see behind Lisa in the one above, and you can see about where she was sitting in this one if you know where to look.

And this is in the nearby town of Petra, outside a church built up on a high rock for which the town is named.

And my hour is up, plus it's midnight so I'll sign off. Turkey was a bit challenging the first day, but we've made it to Istanbul as planned and things look very good from here! We are right in the midst of all the sights, which we will commence to see tomorrow. The hotel is one of the nicest we've stayed at yet, and we can already tell that there is going to be some serious shopping happening while we're here!

Preblogging: Istanbul

Thursday, June 14 Our task for today is to reach Istanbul. It's a three-and-a-half hour bus ride, followed by a two-hour ferry. We will be staying at the SiDE Pension. I have no idea what is up with that capitalization, but they are in a great location and their rates are reasonable, so I'm prepared to live with it :) Rooftop garden with a view of the Blue Mosque, anyone?

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Finally some photos!

I've finally got pictures and an Internet connection at the same time! I've already been online for 3 hours, checking E-mail, dumping spam, writing to Alex & the girls for the first time on the whole trip, and getting Dad's help with some issues that came up this morning (trying to get refunds for some incorrect ferry tickets and chasing down Mom's lost prescription glasses).

Also, this computer's operating system is Windows in Turkish, and its keyboard is in Turkish as well, so it's all taking longer than usual.

But I have managed to post a very tiny sample of the photos from our first couple of days. Scroll down or click back to the previous blog entries for context and cross your fingers that I'll be able to do this again soon!

Also, if you're out there please leave a comment. Like Dad said, it's unusually quiet out there and I'd hate to think everyone is missing it!

Token Frankfurt picture:

A lot of our pictures make it look otherwise, but there were plenty of other tourists there too!

One of our favorite photos so far

Looking down from the Acropolis to the amphitheater, still in use. An opera had been performed there the night before, and a symphonic orchestra was scheduled the following day. No photography or high heels allowed...

Okay, I forget the name of this but it's up there next to the Acropolis

Athens, below the Acropolis.
(For scale, please note that I am in this photo)

Ferry to Kea

Kea - A pre-dinner stroll

The Lion of Kea

Kea - Ruins

Kea - Swimming after the ruins

And just before I go, I think I should mention that sitting here in an Internet cafe in a small town in Turkey where nobody speaks any English, and yet "My Humps" is now an actual reality to me...I actually knew all about it and declined a couple of opportunities to hear it online, but now I've heard it.

For better or for worse, it's a multicultural world out there, folks.

Preblogging: Turkey!

Wednesday, June 13 Today we take the ferry to Turkey! The ferry leaves from Molivos, where we have been staying, and reaches the Turkish town of Ayvalik about an hour and a half later. We'll be staying at the Taksiyarhis Pension. The pension is just a few blocks from the dock, so we should be able to get in and drop off our bags, then wander the cobblestone streets of the town and find ourselves some lunch. Well, we may need to find an ATM first - Greece uses Euros, but we'll have to get our hands on some New Turkish Lira for this part of our trip. (Photos from the Taksiyarhis Pension web site) Oh, and also? Happy Birthday to James!

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Preblogging: Getting ready to move on

Tuesday, June 12 The guest house in Lesvos will have helped us get the ferry tickets and do what we need to do with our passports by now. We need a visa to visit Turkey, but we don't have to process it in advance, just pay for it when we enter the country. I think we will have had to submit our passports to the Turkish immigration office here in Lesvos today, in anticipation of our trip tomorrow.

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Monday, June 11, 2007

Preblogging: Snorkeling

Monday, June 11 Today we'll continue exploring the island, turning in the rental car at the end of the day. I figure we'll rent snorkel gear for the day tomorrow, and there's one last hot spring that's close enough to visit without a car. (Photos from

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Preblogging: Lesvos

Sunday, June 10 We'll be staying at the Nassos Guest House in the city of Molivos, on the northern shore of Lesvos. Molivos is built on a hill, topped by a medieval castle built by the Byzantines. We're renting a car for two of our three days here, so we'll be able to take in several of the local hot springs, stop by the various ruins or maybe the petrified forest on the western side of the island, and visit the town of Eressos, birthplace of the poetess Sappho. (Photos from

Sent by Jennifer Tucker via the free Email Scheduler service.
Register now at

A click a day for good causes

The Hunger Site The Breast Cancer Site The Child Health Site The Literacy Site The Rainforest Site The Animal Rescue Site

Added 6/12/06

  © Blogger template 'Personal Blog' by 2008

Back to TOP