(This is the fifth post in a five part series. Catch up with part 1: getting there, part 2: athens & delphi, part 3: the islands, and part 4: into turkey)
DAY 16: Cappadocia => Istanbul (Four Seasons, 1 night, Josh’s birthday!)
- For our last travel leg, we took a noon flight from Kayseri to Istanbul (booked ahead of time), after having gone hot air ballooning that morning. We arrived and took a taxi to check in to our “splurge night” at the Four Seasons at Bosphorus. I’m pretty thrifty, so even with a good deal and a room upgrade it was a little painful signing over the pre-authorization paperwork, but our experience more than made up for the dollars spent.
- For Josh’s birthday dinner, we booked a “water taxi” with the concierge to a restaurant on the Bosphorus, and they upgraded us to a yacht! We returned to champagne & chocolate that night, and a luxurious breakfast buffet the next day.
- Do not do any of this, especially the hot air balloons, unless you want to set a ridiculously high birthday bar for your spouse that you can never possibly live up to again.
Four Seasons Bosphorus
DAYS 17-20 Istanbul (3 days)
- For the rest of our time in Istanbul, we used Chase Sapphire points to stay at the Vault Karakoy Hotel in Beyoğlu. This was a great hotel and location right by the Galata Bridge. I should know, since I spent a bunch of time in it (my first day and a half I was knocked out with what felt like the flu).
- On the last day, I was feeling the urge to make up for lost time, so we hit up Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, the Grand Market, and took a boat over to Kadakoy on the Asian side. So yes you can do all those things in one day! Wear a long dress and bring something with sleeves and a scarf for the Mosque.
- Best meal: the chicken soup that Josh and the hotel concierge hunted down for me when I was feeling sick. Besides that, we had a great meal at Ciya in Kadikoy, on the Asian side of Istanbul, though we experienced a bit of a language barrier.
- “What am I looking at?”: Throughout our trip, most museums and tourist attractions had signage in English (in varying degrees of usefulness). At Topkapi Palace, we hired a personal tour guide for an hour. He was delightful, but pricey. At Hagia Sofia we rented audio tours, and that seemed to be a good way to get more information on the cheap while moving at our own pace.
- CHEATING: I don’t like haggling and I was afraid if waited to buy souvenirs from the Grand Market on the last day, we might come home with nothing. So the evening before, we picked up towels and some other souvenirs from the shopping district in Beyoğlu. Then, when we went to the market we were able to just wander and look without feeling obligated to buy anything (we got talked into buying scarves anyway, as will you probably).
- Cats: everywhere.
- Overheard: “Have you bought a carpet or not yet?” (Those are your only two options, we are in camp “not yet.”)
- Oops: we missed out on hammam! A good reason to go back.
Vault Karakoy Hotel (via Chase points)
(This is the fourth post in a five part series. Catch up with part 1: getting there, part 2: athens & delphi, and part 3: the islands)
DAY 12-13: Rhodes => Fethiye => Pamukkale (2 days, 1 travel day)
- Early morning boat ride took us into Turkey, and from there we went through customs (easy), caught a cab to the bus station, and bought two tickets on a (tumultuous) bus to Pamukkale. In Pamukkale we had a really nice stay and dinner at Aspawa Pension. The bus company sold us tickets for a 1 day Pamukkale tour, which gave a nice history of the ruins but otherwise was unnecessary. From the main town you can climb the hill and easily access the travertines, museum, pool, and Hierapolis, so do it on your own time: you’ll be happier and save $.
(This is the third post in a five part series. Catch up with part 1: getting there, and part 2: athens & delphi.)
DAYS 6-7: Athens => Naxos (2 days)
- We took the Blue Star Ferry from Pireas (10 minute metro from Athens to Pireas) to Naxos, it departed at 7:30am and we arrived around 1:00pm (4-5 hour ferry ride). We paid a bit extra for assigned seats, but then spent half the trip in the economy section, so either is fine. Runs everyday during the summer.
- I loved Naxos!! I could have easily enjoyed 3 or 4 days here. We stayed in the lovely Chateau Zevgoli in the old part of town, where they upgraded us to the honeymoon suite and welcomed us with a bottle of local rose wine. Our best meal was nearby at Apostoli’s (look for the bicycle). There’s lots to see, do, and eat even if you never leave the labyrinthine “old town,” though accessibility may be an issue.
- If you can drive a stick shift, rent a car. If not, resign yourself to the bus, which is doable and cheap, but requires some advance planning. On our full day in Naxos we took a bus to Chalki (crafts, walks) and also Agi Anna (beach). We arrived at the beach too late b/c naps, but the water was glorious. Further away was rumored to be nude beaches. Damn you, naps. Why did I only plan two nights here. Whyyyyyy?
Blue Star Ferry
(This is the second post in a five part series. Catch up with part 1: getting there.)
DAYS 3-6: Athens & Delphi (4 days)
- We arrived in Athens on Friday at 1am. Our Air B&B host also drives a taxi, so he picked us up and drove us directly to the apartment (super convenient).
- We stayed in an Air B&B in Petralona, a 10 minute walk to the Acropolis, but on the other side of town from the touristy part, and we really enjoyed it. We felt like we got to experience a quieter, more neighborhoody part of the city, but it was still easy enough to get around, with plenty of English menus and speakers. It was also super nice to have all the conveniences of home, including a washing machine and a stocked fridge. Josh made breakfast for us a few mornings.
- You can find plenty of recommendations for what to do in Athens. I definitely recommend eating at the Acropolis Museum, on the terrace. Good food at a reasonable price, and a great view. Hold on to your Acropolis ticket, because it gets you in to a bunch of other stuff. (Unless Greece is forced to sell it, which, don’t even get me started.)
- Eat: souvlaki, meze; Drink: frappe.
- We got around Athens on foot and by bus. Four days is probably too many if you’re budgeting days, but I wasn’t sure if we’d be super jet-lagged and “lose” a day (we did not). Instead, we did a day trip to Delphi (via bus) for one of the days. We had an adventure finding the right bus station but it was worth it!
Andreas’ cozy flat on Air B&B
Bus from Athens to Delphi
Next stop… to the Islands!
For our honeymoon, Josh and I mapped out a three week trip based loosely off this one from Fodor’s:
Athens to Istanbul
Google maps does not believe me that you can take a boat from Rhodes to Fethiye, but I assure you that you can! It wound up being a great mix of history, urban adventure, beaches, walking, travel, and unique landscapes. We stayed in a combination of luxury hotels, air B&B, free “points” hotels, and budget pensions. We got around by bus, boat, ferry, plane, and cab. Some nights we even traveled overnight, eliminating the need for extra accommodations! Here’s how we did it, if you’re contemplating a trip of your own.
(Note: this started out as one post and got way too long, so I’m going to break it into 5 parts. Suspenseful!)
Greetings from Santorini!
We were married on May 24 surrounded by friends and family in the best weekend of my life. A week later we took off for Athens and are currently making our way through the islands and into Turkey!
I’ll be back in a few weeks with some Ruby updates (and, of course, an overly detailed anaysis of the trip and my packing efficiency). Can I just say that this whole experience is made better knowing that I’m returning to a “job” that I’m really excited about. Fresh starts all around. Good stuff. Here’s a couple more scenes from the island: