Where you come from?

18 Feb

What a week! Last night I got back from my “vacation” in Greece and Turkey! It was amazing! We had a “Post – intensive Break” after our German intensive classes in which we had a week off to do whatever we wanted – so most people went to visit other places! Three other girls and I decided to visit Athens and Istanbul!

We left on Monday morning and took a plane from Vienna to Athens. Landing in Athens was lovely! It was sunny and about 30 degrees warmer than in Vienna. We easily found our hostel, which was in an AMAZING location. Only one block from our hostel we could see Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus, and the Acropolis!  We definitely took advantage of this and walked around the first night we were there and saw everything all lit up! So incredibly beautiful! The next day we took a walking tour of Athens, which was great. We got our bearings so we could walk around the city ourselves! Our tour guide, Zoe, dropped us off at the Acropolis, where we fell in love! We walked up a hill for about a half hour and finally reached the top. From there you can see almost all of Athens – simply gorgeous! It was a beautiful day, great for taking pictures! Then we walked back down and ate lunch and visited a few more sites! A tip for students studying abroad in the EU who want to visit Greece – bring your ID from your EU school and you get in to all of these sites for free! I was the only one who was smart enough to bring my Austrian ID, so I got to see everything for free, while the girls I was with had to pay about 10 Euro! The next day we attempted to visit Sunion, which is a city on the coast of Greece, but unfortunately there was a huge protest which in turn closed a bunch of public transportation. (The protest was about public versus private public transportation) We then tried to visit the National Archeological Museum, but were turned away right as we got there! We were told it closed at 8, but it actually closed at 3 on the particular day we were there! So we walked and walked around some more, visited a couple more sites, drank some coffee and went home to our hostel! The next day made up for our lack of fun the previous day. We went to the National Archeological Museum, which turned out to be amazing (as I was expecting 🙂 ) and then found our train to Istanbul!

Our train ride to Istanbul was definitely the most interesting part of our journey! We were to take a train to Thessaloniki and then switch to another train from Thessaloniki to Istanbul. The first train ride we were split 3 and 1, so, we in the 3 person car, were worried about the 1 in the other car for the whole time! They never announced the stops, so we had to keep asking if we were there yet. Once, we asked an older man who had just come on how many stops there were until Thessaloniki. He told us (the wrong answer…) and then asked us where we were from, which was the famous question of the trip. EVERYONE asked us where we came from! Anyway, we answered “America,” to which he responded by immediately taking out his ‘worry beads.’ Which worried us. It turned out to be fine, though. We all got off at the right stop and got onto the right train with no problems. Our train to Istanbul was a sleeper, so we were split 2 and 2. The cabins were really neat! We had beds, a desk, a fridge, and a sink! All on a train! After we sat up and talked for awhile, we went to bed. It was hard getting to sleep on the train, especially being on the top bunk! I thought for sure I was going to fall! I didn’t fall, but was woken up at 3 in the morning by a loud knock and “PASSPORT!” After the third or fourth knock and yell, I realized I wasn’t dreaming and so I got up and found my passport and gave it to the man. They took it away for a long time, in which of course I was very worried, wondering if I would ever get it back! I made up a song in the meantime, to the tune of the Chili’s babyback ribs jingle – “I want my passport back passport back passport back…” and so on. It kept us occupied! When we got it back, we realized we weren’t even out of Greece yet. We got a stamp for going out of Greece. I crawled back in my high bunk and had JUST fallen asleep when I heard another knock and “PASSPORT. VISA OFFICE.” Okay, okay, I’ll give you my passport. Here you go. Let me go back to sleep. “VISA OFFICE.” whaaaat??? What do you want? What do you mean? We’re in the middle of nowhere! There isn’t a visa office! I have a visa, just look! I went over to the other girls cabin to see what they knew, which was less than I did. The visa office guy was standing there staring at us, us looking back in confusion. Finally, he pointed out the door we walked in to get on the train, and says, “VISA OFFICE. NOW.” Okay!! I put on jeans over my sleep shorts and hop off the train, onto the tracks to this VERY creepy looking shack. Where do we go now? Keep in mind, this is at 4 in the morning. A Turkish soldier runs to us and says, “Visa?” Yes, yes! What do you want?? He waves us over to a creepier shack, which holds about 4 non English speaking Turkish soldiers. There is one at the desk, holding just us four girls’ passports, and says, “15 Euro, Turkish Visa.” What? You want money?? Luckily, the other two girls come in the office at this point and have their purses, so we bum some money off of them and get a little sticker for our passport. But don’t get our passports back. Yet. We climb back onto the train and sit. And wait. Sing the jingle. We finally get the passports back, climb into bed, and sleep for another couple of hours. Our train arrived at it’s destination about 3 hours late, so we ended up spending a total of 19 hours on a train. WHAT a day!

We arrived in Istanbul at about 10:30, found our hostel, and went exploring! No time to waste! We just walked around on our first day, not actually going into any buildings or museums, but just looking. There were a lot of things to see, so it was a successful day! But we were definitely exhausted by the end! That night the hostel had a free belly-dancing show, which Laura and I decided to see! It was actually really good! A lot of fun! We had a good night’s sleep that night and headed out bright and early the next morning to see more sights! We went to the Grand Bazaar, where I got to barter, which is really fun! We saw the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern, and more! It was a lot of fun! When we left, the managers at the hostel were sad to see us go! We had a lot of fun at both places! We met SO many people! There was a point at the Istanbul hostel where I was eating breakfast and talking with guys from Australia, Canada, and London. In Istanbul! It was great to hear everyone’s traveling stories! It makes me even more eager to travel more!

In my next blog, I’ll share some of the fun things we heard in Athens and Istanbul! There’s some great stuff!!


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