Europe

Bye Bye Istanbul: Hello Athens


Friday, May 28th, 2004: Istanbul to Athens

N 37°
E023°

Turkey has been wonderful, beautiful, inspiring, angering, frustrating; in other words, all of the things that make a voyage interesting. But all good things must end, and it is time for us to return to Greece, on the start of our journey back to Canada for our brief visit at home.

Best of Turkey:
Best restaurant: Amedros, Istanbul
Best archaeological site: Ephesus (Greg); Mt. Nemrut (John)
Best non-archaeological site: the Ayasofya, Istanbul
Best hamam: Park Hamam, Istanbul
The bread, always fresh and abundant
Where we will go again: Istanbul, Fethiye, Kas, Antalya
Everywhere we went in Turkey, there were security checks – when we went into hotels, when we went into museums, when we went into bus stations. It was actually very reassuring.

Books Read:
The Man-Eaters of Kumaon; The Temple Tiger & More Man-Eaters of Kumaon; and The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayeg; all 3 by Jim Corbett, who created Corbett National Park, where we went on safari when we were in India.
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Hello Athens!

We arrive in Athens to find a beautiful early summer day. The city is in full-scale construction mode – hotels everywhere desperately trying to open in time for the Olympics, sidewalks and roads under construction, buildings everywhere shrouded in scaffolding. Today is the 1st day of a 4 day weekend, and the traffic is chaotic – according to the Montreal-born cabbie who drove us in for the airport, worse than normal because of the holiday. The ride from the airport is quick and efficient over brand new highways and a series of tunnels through the Athenian hills. We quickly come to a bumper to bumper stop when we hit the city limits and it takes well over an hour to make our way to our hotel, in Omonia. A bit off the tourist track, we hadn’t been able to find a room in a better location because of the holiday weekend. But the hotel, when we finally arrive, is recently renovated, offering all mod-cons.

Maybe because we had heard so often how horrible Athens is, and thus have no expectations, we are actually favourably impressed, except of course for the traffic. The air, which we have heard so much about, is actually cleaner and fresher than any air we breathed in Asia or even in most of Turkey. The scale and pace of Athens feels somehow right, and, probably because the Olympics are only a couple of months away, the city feels clean and modern in the way of the best European cities.

The Beautiful People of Kolanaki

Totally without planning where we are going, we go out for a walk and end up strolling through Kolanaki, the very chic neighbourhood that climbs up the side of Likavitos. When we get tired of strolling through the streets there, full of beautiful people sipping coffees in street-side cafés and shopping in designer boutiques, we wander past the Parliament Building and Syntagma Square, over to the Plaka, and find a taverna for dinner.

A perfect way to spend our first day in Athens.

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