I was re-organizing my blog about our 2012 South Africa trip, and went back to view my first ever blog about our trip to Istanbul and Greece in 2010.  What a marvelous reminder!  I realized that the Istanbul/Greece blog didn’t work well because I hadn’t set any categories or tags, so I updated that.  It will be interesting to see what this does to site visits to what was essentially a blog ignored by the “verse” (any Firefly fans out there?).

This was my first use of WordPress.  2 years later, I have 5 other blogs and have helped 3 people create their own.  I continue to enjoy and to recommend WordPress as a blog and web page platform.

The header image of my sandals on the beach at Rethymno Greece remains one of my all time favourite pictures.  cheers, Jim

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After thoughts…

between Rethymno and Chania, north coast Crete

This blog is a copy of the written journal I kept on our trip to Istanbul and Greece, Sept/Oct 2010.  Four of us travelled together most of the time including myself, wife Debbie, and our good friends Richard and Kathy.  Daughter Chrystal and her friend Lindsay joined us for a week in Istanbul.  Each pair of travellers left home on different dates and returned on different dates.  The only time we were all together was in Istanbul.

The blog journal entries are in reverse order with the beginning of our journey near the beginning (bottom) of the blog and the last travel day entry near the top.  The easiest way to get to the beginning is to go to the November archive link on the right side of the page.  Why November?  It was when I started transcribing the written journal after our return to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

There’s only 30 pictures in this blog, one for each date.  For all 1000 pictures including 13 video clips, see:

We’ve been back a couple of months now.  So here’s a few final thoughts:

  • if you go to Greece, always make time to visit at least one of the islands other than, or in addition to Crete.  It didn’t work out for us this time, so we have a reason to go back again.  But if you may only be there once…
  • if you’re going to drive, take a TomTom gps.  Since our return, I’ve heard from 2 persons independently that a TomTom is terrific at helping you to find your way in Europe.  Why a TomTom specifically?  Made in England and it seems to have up to date maps.  One person said that its use is intuitive compared to some other GPS units.
  • this was the first time I have kept a written journal.  I will do so again.
  • likewise, this is the first time I have ever attempted to use WordPress. The program is relatively straight forward for new users.  I recommend it.
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All of the pictures from this trip may be viewed at:

The pictures are stored in date order from the start to the end of the trip.  The itinerary is as follows:

  • Sept.24 to 28, Athens
  • Sept.28 to Oct.05, Istanbul
  • Oct.05 to Oct.12, Crete
  • Oct.13 to Oct.15, Athens
  • Oct.15 to Oct.21, Peloponnese
  • Oct.21 to Oct.25, Athens
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Oct.25.2010, Athens to Nanaimo, BC, Canada

X95 bus, Syntagma to the Athens airport

0200 dark, dry, ~19 C.  Sometime between 0145 and 0220 they turned off the lights at the Acropolis.  Debbie said “They turned off the Acropolis, so we might as well leave.”  So, we did, at 0220.  We walked up Ermou street.  It was well lit but deserted.  It was the first time we had seen it so empty.  We got on board the X95 city bus at Syntagma.  I had planned on the 0300 bus but we were early enough that it was the 0240 which left at 0245.  No traffic – the bus ride can take 1 hr. 45 min. during the day.  Ours took about 45 min., at the airport by 0330.  We talked to 2 American boys on the bus.  One has visited 19 countries in the last 2 months, using Eurail pass.  The other is an archeology student who just spent a week on the Pelopponese.  He also visited Crete recently as part of this studies.  A short discussion about Schliemann’s work – I am still of the opinion that he was a treasure hunter charlatan.  At the airport we checked in, no problem, short line.  Then my last Greek coffee and a muffin shared with Deb at Gloria Jean’s Coffee, 0400.

Water bottles may not be carried onto the flight.  It’s a modern, paranoid world.  Also, 115 ml of Aqua Velva is considered dangerous.  I have to agree.  We were talking about Richard’s experience at Istanbul airport again this morning.  0420  Athens airport with an alarm going off.  That’s always going to get your attention in an airport.  Remember returning from Costa Rica when the fire alarm went off in George Bush airport in Houston?  Just paint a target on it.  0440  Through security.  Saw Deborah again whom we met a couple of days ago.  Had a short chat.  Now waiting for boarding time 0530.  0610  take off.  Breakfast and a snooze.  0915 arrive Frankfurt which is 0815 Monday morning local time and is 2215 pm Sunday night in Nanaimo.

Now, midnight in Nanaimo.  We have found our departure lounge and wandered around our little part of the airport – remaining in the secure zone so all we have is 3 duty free shops, 1 restaurant, 1 snack shop, 1 gift shop, 1 magazine/book shop and lots of toilets.  Bottled water from a machine is 2.50E.  I have reset my watch to 0910 am local time and boredom is setting in.  Our boarding time is 4 hours away.

Overcast, cloudy I think – can’t even see outside from here and no idea what the outside temperature is.  0913  Frankfurt seen on the way in – numerous construction cranes on the horizon.  Thought on the way in  – humans are a plague on the earth; extracting, converting, using and discarding resources.  It can’t last forever.

1130 Frankfurt – noticed that our seat assignments on our boarding passes are not together.  We were supposed to have seats 40A and C, instead we got 40C and 57D.  This is in spite of having selected the seats and having them confirmed via internet about 4 months ago!  Found a Lufthansa person at a check in booth and she directed us to the Lufthansa service desk.  However – we would have had to leave the secure zone and check back through the scanners etc.  I was prepared to do that but there was a tremendous line up at the Lufthansa service desk that I could see through a glass wall from my side of the secure zone.  Instead, went back to our checkin counter.  But the clerks there were dealing with another flight and refused to help us with our flight.  At 1220 our flight service reps. arrived at the check in.  I was second in line.  I spoke with the service rep. softly and without anger.  She reassigned the other party to a window seat back in row 57.  Seat problems resolved at 1230.  Congrats to the Lufthansa rep, but the question remains – how did this ever become a problem in the first place if I had reserved the seats months ago?  Grrr.  Don’t like the way that any airlines treat passengers – cattle.

1300  Sunny now, might be 18 C but hard to tell from the inside.  Here’s a travel nightmare story we heard in line waiting to check through the boarding lounge.  A family was booked on a Celebrity cruise line ship for a 12 day cruise through the Mediterranean as far as Croatia.  On day 2, the ship breaks down – rudder, irrepairable.  So the ship says sorry, you’re on your own.  Then they agreed to let the people stay on board one more night.  They also said that the bottled water would cost 4E – aren’t they supposed to provide free water on board?  So, 2000 passengers had to figure out what to do with the rest of their holiday until their return flights take them home.  Nice!

1330  Frankfurt time.  We are all loaded onto 2 or 3 buses then took a long ride out to our Lufthansa plane out on the tarmac somewhere, maybe in the next town.  Airbus 340 and we have our TVideo access for each seat.  It is now 0430 am Monday in Nanaimo.  Oh, it was cool outside as we loaded through an uncovered stairway ramp onto the plane.  With the wind blowing it felt like 14C.  Someone reports that it is raining hard in Vancouver.  1412, we take off and Debbie says “What city is this?”

1040 Nanaimo time, clear, can see snowy land 35000 ft. below us.  4 hrs and 20 min. to go, presently flying over Baffin Island and eating a chocolate bar, drinking orange juice.  They fed us again at 1400, a full meal.  1500 Arrival at YVR Vancouver.  Another thing I don’t like about travel is the end of plane trips – hasty and inconsiderate fellow passengers.  No problem clearing customs – YVR has it automated now.

Windy and feels cold but probably 14C.  Caught a south airport shuttle but it doesn’t go to the seaplane base anymore – so hopped out on the corner and walked to the SeaAir seaplane base.  Debbie not happy about the walk.  We started today walking up a long empty road (Ermou) and we ended it walking up a long empty road.

1715  SeaAir float plane to Departure Bay, Nanaimo, arrive 1730.  1800 Richard picks us up.  1830 arrive home, Chrystal there to greet us.

The excellent adventure is complete!

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Oct.24.2010, Athens

graffiti art in Psyrri

This morning, Debbie announced that it was our last day in Cuba!

0730 sunny, clear blue skies.  Out of bed and down to breakfast 0815.  Had the air conditioning fan too high last night and our sleep was restless.  It may be end of trip jitters too.  1000  Set out from the hotel.  What a trek!  First we went to Syntagma, stopped in and checked out the lobby of the Grande Bretagne Hotel – a classic.  Then started heading northeast towards stores mentioned in the Frommer’s Day by Day guide.  But, as it is a Sunday, most shops up in this area are closed – maybe open later but they are high end shops, not really what we are after.  So then we switched direction.  We crossed behind the national library & university.  We saw a block long flea market and went through, taking us to Panipistimou street that we followed up to Omonia square.  270° around the square then headed south on Athenas.  Saw a couple of people sleeping on benches and one in a doorway – the first we have seen on our trip.  3 blocks down Athenas then west on Epidavrou, looking for local artisans referenced in Frommer’s and heading to Psyrri.  Didn’t find any shops of interest.  The area appears run down.  Sunny, blue sky, 21 C.  Continued into Psyrri – a gigantic flea market, like Sunday at Cassidy!  Then rounded a corner and found the Jason Inn.  We think that Chrystal and Lindsay may have stayed here (confirmed later).  Nice lobby, better than ours but the neighbourhood is a bit dicey.

By the Kerameikos cemetary, one of the oldest in Athens, then back along Ermou.  It’s a huge Sunday flea market!  We saw Thissio metro station and followed Apostoulou Pavlou south.  Stopped for a Greek coffee / cappacino break.  Continued south on A. Pavlou to the bus stop in front of the Acropolis, then struck south along Garibaldi looked for shops in Makriyanni but didn’t find any.  Headed northeast and came out alongside the New Acropolis Museum, then headed into Plaka.  Let the shopping begin!  Lots of back and forth up Adrianou.  1430 Headed back to Plaka Hotel and dropped off purchases from the morning, early afternoon.  A short break, then headed out again.

Observation: Sunday is Greek family day in downtown Athens – at least when the weather is good.  Everyone turns out, some after church, some in their suits and best dresses.  Sunday is also flea market day over a large district from Psirri to Thissio.

1515 sunny, blue sky, 22 C.  Out again, over to Ermou but the guy who twists stainless wire into Greek names wasn’t there.  Up to Syntagma then south on Filellinon, cutting back into Plaka on Kadathineon.  Stopped at the restaurant that we had promised to return to earlier in the day, at 1600.  Unfortunately they had just run out of the cuttlefish special so I had to settle for another of their specialties – veal with onions.  Debbie had spaghetti, this time with tomato sauce.  Also we shared a honey poundcake dessert.  Somewhere after supper we found the Student and Traveller’s Inn again, where Chrystal and Lindsay had stayed their second night in Athens.  Did they see the 4 pub crawl tour signboard just a little down the block?  Shopped our way through Plaka, finally returning to the vicinity of our hotel just before 1800.  Along the way, Debbie found a woman twisting stainless steel wire into Greek names and got one for Cassidy.

Checked the internet – no messages from the kid but one from SeaAir saying we could get on the 1715 seaplane flight tomorrow from the airport (Fraser River) to Departure Bay in Nanaimo.  Also, an e-mail from Kathy saying they were tired from being up for 48 hours.  Richard & Kathy’s e-mail asked if we could pick up a bust of a Spartan warrior. I wrote back saying we got the message too late.  But when we left we decided to walk through the shops as far as Monastiraki.  Sunny, blue sky, starting to cool off.  The shops were closing their doors at this time on Sunday but a few were still open as they had customers inside.  We struck out on the first 3.  I found a bust I liked but it turned out it was Athena – the bust had breasts!  We found Leonides’ bust, 300 Spartan fame, in the 4th shop, bought him and decided to give him as a gift to R&K for sharing the RCI resorts with us.  Debbie’s idea and a good one.  Back to the hotel, up to the roof and with Baileys and red wine in hand in a front row seat we watched the sun set and lights come up on the Acropolis.  After that, down to our room, we each had a shower and straightened up our suitcases.  Deb went to bed at 2015 and I journalled until 2040.  Alarms and wake up call are set for 0200 in the morning.  Goodnight!

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Oct.23.2010, Athens

a Christmas store in Athens

0830 blue sky, few white clouds, no wind, 21 C.  Wow! your basic 10 hr. sleep.  Down for breakfast.  After, checked internet and got a note from Chrystal that she’s home, cleaned up.  Also a note from Frank and Anne sent when the girls had called them saying they were on the ferry.  It sounds like all is well.  No note yet from Richard and Kathy.  Then watching Greek rappers on a TV music channel – a bit unusual.

1100  Headed out for shopping.  Over to Monastiraki, up to Roman Agora, a little lost further up the hill towards the Acropolis, then back down the hill into Plaka again.  Stopped for beer, wine, soup and dolmates.  Continued to Syntagma where I bought 2 tickets for Monday morning bus.  Back to our hotel.  Post office was closed but we found a Christmas shop just opened in Monastiraki!  1530  Hotel Plaka.  It appears that I may have thrown away the wrong internet voucher this morning, so no computer access.  But there is an internet shop only 1 block away.  The account time tracker on the internet computer in the hotel is wacky – my time expired way too soon yesterday and I was careful to fully log out to prevent that from happening.  Journalling until 1600.

1630  Back to the streets of Plaka.  Stopped at the internet cafe and sent an enquiry to SeaAir Nanaimo about a float plane flight home from Vancouver airport.  The we headed back to a coffee and milkshake shop we had seen earlier on the far side of Plaka. Nice stop, the young man out front welcomed us back and we had a good discussion with him.  He loves Bar Port Maine, he worked in a restaurant and delivered pizza there as a student.

Then along Adrianou or another nearby street and stopped in a shop selling paintings.  The 79 year old man inside said he was a former English professor in Albania and then a diplomat – charge d’affaires stationed in Africa and perhaps in Singapore.  No teeth, so I guess the Albanian government doesn’t have a good retiree dental plan.  He said he was a communist at that time – they had to be.  An Asian fellow came in and started negotiating a 100E painting so we stood aside and did not buy our 10E souvenir.  On the way back on Ermou street, Debbie got Emily and Jadon’s necklaces in Greek done with stainless steel wire.  Quite attractive.  Over by the byzantine church Debbie finally spotted some Greek Orthodox nuns – first we have seen on this trip.  Returned to hotel 1830.

1848 dusk, clear, 18C.  I mooned the Acropolis from our room.  1910  Out for supper.  We ended up near the Old Metropolis cathedral in Metropoleus square and shared an appetizer plate for 2 but couldn’t finish it all!  2030 Returned to the hotel then up to the rooftop at 2045.  Cold at 16C tonight!  But had a beautiful view, red wine and Baileys for Debbie.  2115 down to the room for journalling and bed at 2200.

Thought: There’s a world of people who travel.  So we go to Athens and meet a woman from Seattle on the seat in front of us on the tourist train.  Or at breakfast we meet someone from Mexico/San Diego which we have been to, who in their turn had previously been to Vancouver.  Can you hear “It’s a small world” playing in the background?

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Oct.22.2010, Athens

ancient toilets, Roman Agora

0830 somewhat cloudy, looks like possible showers, 21 C.  Down to mezzanine floor for breakfast.  Good bed, good food, good start.  1000 On the internet, no word from Chrystal but Anne & Frank’s note suggests today is the girl’s final travel day.  Yes, looked at itinerary, they are travelling London to Vancouver today.  Richard and Kathy are on the plane back to Vancouver now.  1030 Out on the street, looks like a long way to Syntagma,  thinking about the walk to the square to catch the X95 bus at 0230 in the morning  in a couple of days as it will be too early for the metro.  The Amalia Hotel is a possible alternate as it is just around the corner from the bus.  Checked with Plaka Hotel front desk.  They told us that the area from the hotel to Syntagma square is safe in the middle of the night.  So we decide to stay here.

We walked up to Syntagma and boarded the little red tour train.  We waited about 40 min.  During that time a woman got on the train in the seat immediately in front of us.  Her name is Deborah.  She has a doctorate in diabetes and works in a clinic for First Nations and others in Seattle.  So both Debbie and I had things we could discuss with her.

Sunny, 23 C, windy enough to be cool.  We followed a different route on this train – it took us up behind the presidential palace before going into Plaka.  We hopped off the train at Hadrian’s Library and had 10 minutes to get to Monastiraki square to grab a gyro for a snack.  Back on the train and then around to the Acropolis where we got off.  Deborah got off as well so we invited her to join us.  Up to the Acropolis – mistakenly bought the 12E multi site ticket even though we really only wanted to visit the Acropolis today.  Toured the upper Acropolis and Parthenon then down the side hill to the Dionysius theatre.  I walked over to look at the Sacred Virgin of the Rocks chapel reconstruction.  Out the lower exit and then across the street and showed Deborah the entrance to the New Acropolis Museum.  Deborah decided to continue with us.  So we walked through Plaka and went in the Roman Agora to get a look at the Tower of Winds.  From there, north to Hadrian’s Library and went inside (multi site ticket from the Acropolis allows us entry to all of these sites).  Then we walked west to the entrance to the Stoa of Attalos and the Temple of Hephaistos.  Deborah elected to accompany us to the Irish pub and bought Debbie a Magnar’s cider and me a Mythos beer.

Then we went restaurant hunting on Mitropleus street near Monastiraki.  We found one place that served spaghetti.  I forgot the name of the dish I had, quite good – beef and onions and rice.  After supper we walked Deborah up Ermou street to Syntagma station where she caught the metro towards her hotel which is quite a ways from this part of town.  Back down Ermou to our hotel and up to our room.  I went down to the internet station but no messages from anyone at all so back to the room.  Journalling until 2120 then a little TV and a little reading and an early night.

Observation:  the unseen network of street shop vendors, they all know each other on their street or at least the ones close at hand.  They talk to each other, interact with each other on a daily basis.  They run off and buy each other cappucino fredos.  But still, selling on Adrianou street is repetitive, day after day.  Sometimes a visitor should stop and talk just because the seller has been avoided by tourists all day long.

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