We landed in Athens and made our way to our hotel.
It was more like a hostel because there were four beds to a room...
And the shower was SUPER tiny.....
But I can't help but love it as part of the authentic Greek experience.
The next day we climbed the Acropolis, which was simply amazing. I think my favorite part of the Acropolis was being able to people watch. Because not only were there foreign tourists there, but there were also Greek tourists and Greek school children. They are a fiercely independent nation, and you can tell in the way they talk, walk, and interact. You can even sense the pride and individuality in each and every Greek child. I think the hardest part of seeing Athens is the way that the city is run down and not taken care of. Graffiti covers the walls of buildings, and the smog pushes out any ounce of fresh air in the city. Despite it all, I could still feel the history surrounding me.
Later that day we boarded our cruise ship to head to Istanbul, Turkey. Right after we docked, we set out to the Grand Bazaar, which was just as big of a climb as the Acropolis.
It was so very busy, with shop owners enticing you to buy their items and restaurant owners pestering you to eat at their businesses. I was beginning to feel very overwhelmed, like many others in the group, and we were all very tired from all the walking. So we decided to rest for a bit, and ended up walking into one of the many mosques that line the streets in Istanbul. It was like stepping into a different world.
There was a lone woman washing her hands and feet in reverence before entering. It was so quiet and serene, vastly different from the scene we had just left. I walked back to the ship with a different mindset; my opinions of Istanbul had been severely wrong.
The next day we first visited the Agia Sophia, which was first an Orthodox church, but during Ottoman rule was changed into a mosque, the paintings and mosaics covered and hidden. It now serves as a museum.
As we were exploring someone noticed an etching in the wall, and it appeared to be Greek letters.
We realized it was ancient graffiti and asked Dr. Harper to translate it for us. It says "Honor God's House."
They have brought people in, trying to restore some of the old paintings from the Orthodox, and some have faded through the Muslim paintings. It makes this kind of ironic effect.
We also were able to visit the Blue Mosque. It was packed with people who visited from other countries to pray, residents of Istanbul who were there to pray also,and people like us who were just there to watch.
We also visited Topkapi Palace, but it was so huge and beautiful that I couldn't pick one single picture for it. But they are up on my Facebook.
I think my favorite part of Istanbul was the call to prayer. It happens five times a day, and each of the hundreds of mosques have speakers on top of the spindles that project it across the city. I have a video in which you can hear it and how loud it is. I'll try and post it to Facebook later on.
Oh and here is a picture of our pretty ship!
Mykonos is next!