Monday, July 20, 2009

Turkey, Athens, Sicily, and home

I'm back home and at work, so I figure instead of working I should write a new update on the end of our trip.

Last week Tuesday we went to Turkey. We docked in Kusadasi, and visited the 'virgin mary's house" and ephesus. The tour guide had a phd in art history and was really great, although the first part of the tour was basically "why you should buy a vacation home in turkey and why we are better than other Islamic countries and should be able to join the EU." The guide seemed to have quite a chip on his shoulder about it, which I guess is understandable. He told us about how his wife is more religious than him, but she doesn't cover her hair, and how his brother married a jewish girl from America and they live in Istanbul together.

The virgin mary's house was kinda stupid in a hilarious way; apparently some nun in the 1850s had a dream about how the virgin mary had a house near ephesus on the top of a mountain, and supposedly woke up with stigmata. She sent a letter about it to the pope, and the stigmata was not independently verified. Archeologists then looked at several mountains around ephesus, found the foundation of some old house on the top of one of them, and then declared this the virgin mary's house! So now people come to make a pilgrimage there and write letters and tie them to a wall near this house (kinda like the Kotel), and it was probably the house of some recluse shepherd dude or something.

Then we went to ephesus, a major city in ancient roman times that's only been partially excavated. It was pretty neat and the main road has been pretty well restored- kind of reminded me of Pompeii, except everything was in marble, while in Pompeii there was less marble (that I could see) and more stone.

After Ephesus we went back to Kusadasi, where we visited a Turkish carpet co-op and they showed us a bunch of really neat carpets, and then tried to sell them to us. We walked around a Turkish bazaar for a bit, and I got a neat little ceramic jar thing in this great deep blue color. The bazaar was disappointingly clean and sanitized- I was expecting something out of Aladdin, or even something like Israel, but it was more like an outdoor mall in the states, except they sold a lot of hookahs and pipes and carpets.

The next day we went to Athens, where B and I did a solo "all day athens" tour. We visited the Acropolis, and sneakily took pictures of John Boltan in front of the Parthenon, since we saw him there. Also shared an elevator with him the day we went to Turkey. In Athens we also visited the Archeological museum where we got to see some famous statues, and wandered around the Plaka (marketplace) for a bit. Had an amazing Greek lunch as part of the tour, and had a great discussion about American politics with an Australian couple sitting across from us. Athens has a lot of graffiti all over it- more than any other city I've been to (including NYC in the 80s). According to our tour guide most of it is political slogans, and a lot of it was put up during a 3 day riot last year after an Athens police officer killed a 15 year old. We saw the anarchy symbol everywhere.

Last Thursday was a day at sea, and we mostly spend it reading on our balcony. We also saw revolutionary road at the movie theater, and went to the grill place on board for both meals, since we managed to get 2 free meals there somehow (normally you have to pay extra to eat there). Best two meals of the trip- I had blue cheese steak and antipasto for lunch and lobster mac and cheese and fancy french onion soup for dinner, with 3 kinda of creme brulee for dessert.

Friday we went to Sicily, which was definitely the worst of all our trips. We went with the in-laws, and we took a long bus ride to Mount Etna, and got to see some lava flows that had ended right near a house. Cool, I guess, except we had already seen 3 other Volcano's on this trip (Mt. Vesuvius, Stromboli, and Nea Kameni in Santorini), and after hiking up Nea Kameni, just seeing some lava flows wasn't that exciting. We also visited a jewelry factory, which I guess was B's mom idea, but wasn't super exciting to me. On the way home we watched some movie about Mt. Etna which I slept through. Most of the trip was just driving to Mt. Etna and then back. When we got back we had no time to do anything, since our boat left at 1pm, and Sicily was the only stop I wasn't able to find a shot glass at for my shot glass collection, which was also dissapointing.

Saturday we got up at 6am to have breakfast, and then disembarked in Civitavecchia at around 7am. We were picked up by a driver who had a sign with B's last name- but it turned out he was supposed to pick up someone else with the same last name (his last name is pretty common). We learned this about 40 minutes into the drive, after he had driven us to Rome and asked what hotel we were staying at...when we were supposed to go to the airport. Then he pulled over at the side of the highway and started arguing with B's dad about how he was going to get paid. It was pretty scary, and I started thinking about getting dumped on the side of the highway somewhere with all our stuff. Finally they stopped arguing and he drove us to the airport.

The airport was a nightmare, we had to stay on at least 5 long lines and they checked our passport approximately 30 million times. There was a line for initial security, another line to check our bags, another line for security (with metal detectors this time), another line for passport control, and then we had to have our passports checked twice when we got to the plane- once at the gate and AGAIN halfway down the gangway.

The plane was equally a nightmare, as there was a baby/toddler next to us who cried for the entire 9 and a half hour trip on the way there, and his parents didn't even do anything- they just sat there with their headphones in and didn't try to comfort him or walk him around or anything. I guess he must cry all the time, and they just gave up, but Jebus! I watched 3 movies on the way home (Benjamin Button, Sunshine Cleaning, Milk) and all were great. We got to Detroit, had a 3 hour layover, took another plane, and got home around 11:30pm (our time) after about 21 hours of traveling.

Yesterday morning we picked up Barkley from the dog sitter- apparently he ran away from them THREE TIMES! They said they found him almost right away each time, but man...I'm glad we have 4 doors between us and the front door in our apartment, and we're definitely going to have to keep this in mind when we eventually buy a house.

All in all, this was the best trip I've ever taken in my life- the only possible rival was birthrite in 2001, but this was even better cause I went with my husband and saw a lot more countries! I saw tons of things I've always wanted to see and B and I got to spend over 2 weeks together for pretty much every minute. And with no dissertation work or housework to think about too! I only gained about 4 pounds on this trip- which is pretty good considering that we had unlimited free food for the cruise, and I ate dessert and appetizers at every meal. I guess the tons of exercise we did (walking everywhere, kayaking, hiking up that volcano, walking up all those stairs to the acropolis) counteracted most of that.

Now it's back to reality I guess. I'm in work already today, and I got called for Jury duty next week, boo. In about 3 weeks is the American Sociological Association conference, and I'm doing the employment service there. I'm also giving a presentation, so I have to work on that (haven't looked at it since around January). I was thinking of going to the gathering of the vibes music festival this coming weekend, but I think with the jury duty, I really can't afford to miss more days of work, which kinda makes me sad (although not paying $200 for a ticket makes me less sad). Gotta book my tickets to California, revise a dissertation chapter and finish my presentation for ASA, set up interviews for ASA, do approximately 10 tons of laundry...back to the real world!


  1. Welcome home! I am so glad you had such a marvelous trip.

  2. Just found your blog today and I'm really enjoying it!

    Re: the graffiti in Athens...I don't think it's that new. I was there in Nov. 2007 and was amazed at the quantity (and, in a lot of cases, quality) of it. I saw tons of anarchy symbols, as well as pot leaves with the stenciled words "legalize it". But I also saw some really incredible art, like the gigantic mural of a two-headed girl holding a knife and fork on the side of a building on one of the streets heading down to Plaka from the Acropolis.

    Anyway, glad you enjoyed your trip, and thanks for the interesting and thoughtful blog! :)


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