From Athen to Ios, Now onto Istanbul!

Right now we are hours away from arrival in Istanbul, Turkey…I’m really excited for this port because it will be one of the more intense culture shocks – the next 3 ports will actually be much different from what we’ve been to so far. I can’t believe we still have nearly 5 weeks left…over a month! There is still so much to see! As for Greece…

Greece was really great. Athens itself didn’t stand out as spectacular as I had imagined but it was still really fun. I shopped in the famous flea market and all the gypsy shops. It seems like after Greece everyone has taken a liking to gypsy pants, both guys and girls. The first day in Greece we visited the Acropolis and explored that for quite a bit. It was super hot out, I think Greece has been the hottest of the ports so far and everyone was definitely feeling the heat exhaustion. We took a nap before going out to a nearby pub in Piraeus (where the ship is docked) and tried Australian Snake Bites…a mix of beer, grenadine, and cider. For someone who hates the taste of beer these were actually quite good…the grenadine must have helped a whole lot. We headed back to the ship early because we had to be up at 5:00am to catch a ferry to Ios, an island about 5 hours away. There was a lot of drama between the whole ship on whether to go to Ios, Santorini, or Mykonos. Santorini is the romantic island. Mykonos is the wild party, celebrity, rich, rave island. Ios is the mix of both with much better prices plus Homer is buried there. Our group of friends decided on Ios and booked a hotel for 2 days the night before.

When we got to the ferry most of us passed out on the floor because we were still so tired. It was quite a scene having a whole isle of kids on the floor using their towels as blankets and backpacks as pillows. When we arrived on the island we saw a man holding a sign for our hotel, Princess Sissy. I approached him and he proceeded to tell his little girl, probably around 8 years old, to take us to the shuttle. We followed her to the van where 17 of us piled in as she yelled at us in Greek to fit more in. Luckily our friend Victoria has her friend visiting, Angela, who speaks Greek which made it ten times easier while she was with us. When we got to the hotel the owner explained where to go around the island. The other side of the island was a short bus ride away and conveinitly the bus stop was at the top of the street. The nightlife was a 5 minute walk up the street. Our hotel sat on top of one of the dry, desert looking, mountains, overlooking the port down below with crystal blue water and small town lights at night. The beaches were beautiful, the water was warmer then most other ports and once again, incredibly clear. You don’t even need goggles to see underneath the water its so clear. Across from the beach was Far Out, a day time club/bar with a pool, dancing, and trashy girl contests. At 10am you could already see people dancing and taking shots over at this place. Girls taking their shirts off while men sprayed them with water on a stage. It was quite a seen. I felt bad for most of these girls who were not so attractive and obviously intoxicated.

We rented ATV’s for the two days we were there and took turns riding them so we never had to pay for a cab or bus. After a long day on the beach the first day we rested up for awhile then went to get dinner at a restaurant recommended by our hotel owner, Nicos, which wasn’t anything to rave about. The shrimp were decent…the were huge and the heads were still on with the eyes all looking at me. My friend, Eric, ordered fish and it came out as a big ‘ole fish slapped on a plate. The salads are pretty good – they come with a huge block of feta cheese right on top, its delicious. After dinner we headed back to the hotel then started to walk up the road to the night life scene. I was really surprised at how cheap and fun everything was. We went to crazy clubs with great music and danced everywhere. The people were so much fun and really friendly. Most of the people we met were from Australia since it’s their winter they all are coming to the islands to hangout on the beach and have some fun. I met a guy named Noah from California that just came to Ios from Israel where we had been staying the last 10 days. He told me how the Jews in America are given a free trip to Israel for ten days if they are in college which sounded really awesome. He said it was amazing and now I really would love to go there too! It’s been so great meeting new people and being able to keep in touch with them through facebook.

After watching the sunrise we went to sleep, knowing we were going to wake up early again and go back to the beach. Nicos made us breakfast in the morning which was really delicious. I haven’t been able to have my regular egg and cheese sandwich in SO long that this was a God-sent. The coffee is outstanding over here… I believe they use Lavazz which is a bit stronger and it looks like there is mud at the bottom of the cup but it’s actually the best part. I could drink endless amounts of this coffee. After breakfast me and Jordan rode the ATV all over trying to find a place that I could get my own. Since they were all sold out Jordan let me drive his around which was super fun. After a few hours of swimming and laying on the beautiful beach we decided to take a crazy ATV trip to the top of this mountain. The landscape here is very mountainous but not green like the other islands in Capri and Montenegro. The mountains are rocky, dusty, and dry. Half our group caught a ferry to Mykonos to check out the scene over there while the rest of us stayed in Ios and explored the rest of what it had to offer. The ATV journey up the mountain was crazy to say the least. The dirt trails were bumpy and really scary. I held onto Jordan with all my strength while admiring the incredible view up to the top. Sam almost crashed while going up the mountain so Claire refused to let her drive again. When we reached the top there were goats everywhere. These goats are the coolest goats ever…they all have bells around their necks and we watched them jump from rock to rock and graze along the side of the steep rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean. The view was breath-taking. I felt like the water wasn’t even real because we were so high up. The rocks shimmered with gold and silver tints. We stayed up here for awhile, taking pictures and laughing about the crazy ride up. When we started to get hungry we headed back down. The way down we didn’t even need to use gas, we just rolled. We ate at a really unique Mexican restaurant on the opposite side of the mountain. There were hammocks and couches and pillows everywhere. It was a great little place on this tiny cliff. The service was really slow (island time I’m guessing) but the food was great and super satisfying.

After eating we slept… slept until Nicos prepared a huge BBQ for all the people staying at his hotel. Since Sam and I are vegetarians we just had salad but everyone else was loving it. There was all types of meat – chicken, pork, steak….prepared in all different ways. It was really cool eating with the other people staying because we got to know them all and they hung out with us all night. All of them were Australian and all of them were a great time. The night consisted of more dancing (I feel like I’m going to go through dancing withdrawal when I come back to America…dancing has become apart of my everyday life. Maybe I’ll join a dance team at school! Haha). It seemed like everyone on the street that night recognized me or knew me from the night before. Maybe the island is that small but I already felt like some kind of local. Everywhere I went someone shouted my name and we ended up having conversation after conversation. It was so awesome! Later in the night Sam took quite a topple and fell from a ledge about 8ft high. She wasn’t drunk or out of control…her foot just slipped and down she went. It was terrible, we all felt so bad. Thankfully she didn’t hit her head or else this would have been a complete disaster. She somehow happened to land on her feet and just hurt her foot. After a few days of rest, ice, and crutches it seems to be healing quite well and were hoping she will do fine tomorrow in Istanbul.

We caught the ferry back to Athens early the next morning and got home around 3pm. That night we explored a bit of Athens nightlife which is fun if you don’t go into the bars or clubs. It’s super crowded, the streets are filled with people everywhere and the bars are too expensive to even step foot into. Jordan, Claire, and I opted to sit in the bar and people watch while everyone else spent sweet euro in some fancy shmancy bar. It was hilarious in the park. We watched people making fools of themselves in the street and talked for hours. This eleven year old girl, Denize, was selling glow sticks on the street and I had seen her all night and wondered why she was doing such a thing. There are gypsies everywhere trying to sell you stuff but when I see kids doing it, it makes me super sad. It’s so late at night, this girl should have been in bed and instead she’s out till 5 in the morning selling glow sticks? It’s so wrong. I ended up sitting with her for a long time and pouring my heart out to her. I bought her an ice cream cone and sat in the park for probably an hour just trying to tell her she shouldn’t be doing this. She ended up telling me how her brother makes her do it every night. It broke my heart so bad. I wanted to take her on the ship with me. At the end of me pouring my heart out she asked me for 5euros. I said no, I knew it wasn’t for her, and she skipped away. Around 2pm we went to this gay bar to see what it was like. It turned out to be really awesome and I didn’t really expect it to be at first. It was such a relief to not have to push grimy men off of me and just be able to dance and have fun. It was hilarious to watch some of our guy friends, who are not gay, dance in cages and on stage. The guys were all very friendly and super sweet. Non of them creeped us out like in other clubs we’ve been too and all of them didn’t stare and watch us girls dance! It was great!

The next morning we shopped in the flea markets in Athens before dock time at 6pm. I got a pair of sandals so I don’t have to wear Lacey’s anymore that she left me in Rome with and they are beautiful handmade Greek leather. I sent out about 15 postcards and we headed back to the ship to get dinner.

Today was Turkey Day on the ship where we had numerous lectures and movies shown about Turkey. I just got in from watching Midnight Express and it was quite the crazy movie. I have never seen it before but it reminded me of Brokedown Palace but for men. Really intense film. We’re all trying to get a good nights sleep so we can wake up at 630am and watch us pull into port because it’s supposed to be really something. I’m super excited for Turkey, this is going to be a whole different kind of country. We’ve been in places that are pretty relaxed with Americans and women but here is going to be a whole different story. We had a whole talk about how we need to dress, act, barter, etc. I’m looking forward to really embracing the culture and taking it all in. I’m even going to get a Turkish bath – I heard you can’t leave with getting one! It may be a bit awkward having someone wash me but they say it leaves you feeling incredible! Alright, well I hope everyone back home is doing well… I’m hoping the postcards I sent out in Rome and Naples have gotten to all of you by now! The ones from Greece should be on their way!

Sending all my love back to the states !

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