Our group had to wake up early in the morning for bus ride to Delphi. On the way there our tour guide told us of the traditions Greek Orthodox people do for weddings and when a child is born. One thing that was interesting to me was that they do not name their child until it is a year old, when it is baptized. She explained the culture and traditions the people use in their daily lives. Once we arrived we got off the bus and went to the museum of Delphi that had artifacts, some more preserved then others. In the museum we were told to look for interesting items that were found at the archeological site. One was two twin brother statues, a baby angel, the sphinx, dancing ladies, and the most famous copper charioteer. When we were done with the museum we could walk to the Delphi fountain where people who went to visit the oracle would bathe. After a short time we headed to our lunch spot. We had lunch as a group but separate checks. The food had to have been one of the best meals we had on the whole trip. After lunch we headed back to Delphi to tour the ruins. Our tour guild took us around the sight and explained the history of Delphi. She also explained the culture and many important things that have happened in Delphi. After our tour we were free to walk up the path to the top where there was a stadium where they use to play their games. The walk up the top was steep and rocky with lot of turns. On the way up there was a rope to help with the steepest part of the climb. It was worth it to go up to the top to see what it once looked like. It was short in height but long in length. We had 30 minutes to have free time to explore more of Delphi and if you were quick you could make it down to the other temples by the fountain for bathing. On the car ride back to the hotel in Athens, Maria talked to us about funerals and the traditions. One thing that shocked everyone is that once you die, if you lived in the city, you rent out the burial site for a total of three years then your body gets pulled up and the bones go back to the family. If you did not decompose all the way you were put in a smaller grave until you were finished decomposing. If you lived in a rural village you got to stay in the grave. Back in Athens we had free time to do as we liked. Some went to the museums, others shopping, and some went out to tour the city. It was our last night.
Most of the group woke up at 6:30 to go to Knossos on the island of Crete. Crete is the biggest Greek island. Knossos is the excursion that ship offered, not EF Tours. If we wanted to take a tour, we had to pay for the trip which was roughly $53 per trip. Before I went on the trip I was not quite sure what Knossos was until my group told me. Our boat docked in the morning at the Heraklion port. At 7:30 in the morning we had to get on the bus to go to Knossos. Our tour guide took us an hour around the ruins. Some of the buildings were reconstructed. The people who lived in Knossos were wiped out by a tsunami resulting from a volcanic eruption on Santorini and earthquakes. The only way archeologists knew that the people have their own language was because they wrote on clay tablets that burned when the lanterns fell over and lit the tables on fire. After the tour we headed back to the bus where our tour guide told the bus about the mythologies of Knossos, such as how it got its name. When we arrived back to the port we headed to the theater to discuss our plan for the rest of the day. Our group had lunch after the meeting and went off around the boat to do activities or nap. From the top deck you could see Santorini and we were scheduled to arrive at 4:30 to take tender boats to shore. The group doing the volcano tour went first, then the people going to Oia (ee-ah), with its post-card-picture views of the blue roofs and white homes. Most of the group took donkeys up the hill to the city of Fira. On the way up the group decided to name their donkeys. Some of the names I heard were; Donkey, Flagler, Julio, Falcone, and one named after one of the Three Musketeers. Once on top of the hill there were restaurants and shops. At the end of shopping we were to meet on the ship before 8:30. Once on the ship we had to pick up our passports and then had free time to have dinner or enjoy activities on the ship. Everyone went to bed early because of the early morning and the late night. Everyone is safe and well-fed.
Today we woke up early to have breakfast and head to the cruise liner. Our bus took us around the marina, where we had to get off the bus, walk through the market and meet our bus on the other side of the road. We also had to wait in line for a few hours while security checked people in. We got to meet our new tour guide, Maria. She’s in her early 40s, with spiky hair and a bubbly personality. We were to meet up with her later. Once past security we headed to the ship, where we gave the baggage handlers our suitcases. We had our passports taken (they will be returned after Santorini, I hope) and we were give ship cards which would be our passport, our room key and the only way to get on and off the boat. When we were on the ship a maid took us to our room where we met up with our luggage. The room had a desk, a TV with a table, two lower bunks, and two dressers. There was also pull down bunk beds. After arriving in the room we had to make our way to the ‘Fireworks Lounge’ for a briefing of our tour. The talk lasted half an hour and then we were free to do as we pleased on the ship. Most of the group went to lunch at one the many buffets and restaurants. After consuming tons of food the food coma set in and it was time for a nap. We had an hour before we reached the shore of Patmos. Some of the group went to St. John’s Monastery and the Grotto of the Apocalypse with the excursion the boat was offering and some took it upon themselves to do a self-guided tour and others toured the city. We were to arrive back on the ship by eight, or risk being left behind. Good news is that everyone made it on board. On the ship everyone was free to do as they pleased. Most of the group are doing the night activities that the cruise line offers and some are going to bed for an early wake up call for tomorrow. Everyone is well and we are enjoying the trip.
We had an early morning wakeup call at 6:30 and we had to be out of our rooms at 7:00. Our group had to meet in the theater to hear disembarking instructions and then we could eat a quick breakfast. As we made our way to baggage we had to look for our color tags we had put on our luggage the night before and head outside to get onto our purple bus. Our tour guide, Maria, took us to pick up our other tour guide who explained the monuments around the city and the history. We then got off the bus for a tour of the Acropolis. We used Whispers, which are headset devices that are almost the same thing as walkie-talkies but only one way. On the way up she was still talking loudly and most of the group listened to her without the headset. The Acropolis was filled with people from all over the world. The place was packed. The Parthenon was being reconstructed; they were cleaning the pollution from the old marble and adding marble from the same mountain the original marble came from to the old foundation. When looking down the right side of the Parthenon you could see Dieaniseas. We left the Acropolis and headed to Plaka for lunch. After a brief lunch we went on a walking tour around the sights we had seen on the bus tour. We stopped at the Parliament House where we took pictures with the guards and watched the changing of the guard. The march was quite interesting and very different than anything I have ever seen. We then headed down the street to a Christian church, which was also being renovated. Our group slit up at this point and we could go shopping in Plaka or go tour the town. At 6:30 we were to meet at the stop where we left for lunch to go to dinner. Dinner was at a little restaurant outside on a street in Plaka. We had Greek salad, eggplant lasagna (called moussaka), and ice cream for dessert. After dinner we had free time to stay out in town, go back to the hotel, or head to the church on the top of a hill, which is the highest point in Athens. I choose the church. We got there at 9:10 after 4 metro stops that we had to change 2 platforms, ask directions 5 times, climb 1000 stairs, and wait in line for a cable car ticket. In the end it was well worth the look on top of the whole city. Once on top my battery died and I did not bring my spare. I did not get any pictures but I have a mental image. We then traveled back to the hotel, now experts of the metro and the little town we traveled through. We arrived late and everyone was in bed sound asleep. Tomorrow we wake up early for Delphi.
It was an early morning; some of us girls decided to skip breakfast for a little more shut eye but made it on the bus in time. We headed to the House of the Virgin Mary, which was not her original house but it is still religiously considered hers. We could not take pictures inside the house but we could buy souvenirs that looked like it. On the walls of the house were gifts the popes gave to the house. There was also flowers, a golden altar cloth, and candles around the house. As we exited there was a wall of wishes; people could write wishes or prayers on bits of paper. They were wrapped up and tied to the strings, there must have been thousands. After a brief bus ride we arrived at Ephesus, an old Roman sight which was run by the Turks and the Greeks, but ruled by the Romans. We walked past where the men would do political meetings, the baths, the bathrooms, the library, the marketplace, then the theater. Our group enjoyed listening to the stories of the old bathrooms. They would sit on the pot and when they were done they would use the brush to clean their behind, then wash it in the clean running water on the floor then put it back for the next person. The sight I enjoyed the most was the theater. The acoustics were very nice when people would sing from the bottom. The scenery around the site was amazing. After the tour we headed to lunch at Tuscan, were most of the people had the buffet. After lunch we headed to the Ephesus Museum that had artifacts found at the Ephesus sites. There we left to the leather export shop called Populer. When we arrived they served us hot tea and did a fashion show of their clothing line. After everyone fell in love with something they had in their show room we left for the hotel. Once at the hotel we had free time and dinner. Everyone is now in bed and packed for tomorrow’s cruise.
We had an early breakfast at 6:30 and we had to be on the bus at eight to visit Pergamon. When we arrived we had to take a cable car to the top of the hill where vendors shouted “Cheaper than Wal-Mart, better then Target!” We then walked to the acropolis where Damla explained the mythologies of the place and what each building represented. We walked around the ancient ruins. Dr. Riggs, Tim, Karen, Lacey, and I walked down the steep theater stairs, where we could see the authentic seats that still had the marble on them. They same way we went down we had to climb up—probably the steepest hike of the trip, we were all out of breath by the time we got back. We then headed down to Zeus’s ‘house’, but only the foundation because a museum in Germany has the rest of the pieces. We left the acropolis and hopped on the bus to head to lunch. At lunch our group mostly bought the skewers of meat (shishkabobs) with rice and salad. On the table they provided flat bread, cheese, and butter, which was gone in seconds. After lunch we headed outside Canakkale to a rug factory where they made authentic rugs by hand. We walked in and saw the women working on silk, wool, and cotton rugs. The salesman, Simon, took us into the show room, gave us drinks, and began explaining the quality and how to tell if it is quality material. After his lecture we got to explore the prices. The rugs were out of the price rang of a college student’s budget and only a few people bought a rug. One thing we loved about the place was that it had beautiful flowers around the building. As our trip to the factory came to a close it started to pour and we climbed on the bus to head to our hotel, Atinc. After the long bus ride we had free time in the city. At night you could hear the local bands playing on the stage by the shore line. Most of our group walked around the new city. At the end of the night we were all safe and cozy in our new beds.
We had breakfast in the dining room area where they had bread, pastries, cheese, ham, and cereals. As we finished up eating we had to meet on the bus at 8: sharp to head to Troy. In a short 30 minutes we arrived. When we first walked in you could see a replica of the original Trojan horse. Our group took pictures before we started the tour of the ruins; some played with a cute puppy that was wandering around (Turkey seems to have many stray animals, but we were told they are tagged and given shots, and they seem to eat enough). Before we walked through the ruins, Damla walked us through the stages of the layers of Troy. We then began our tour which was insightful and historical. After the tour we got to go inside the replica Trojan horse and take pictures looking out of the cut-out windows. Also after the tour some of our group went into the tiny gift shop and waited in line for twenty minutes for the good t-shirt deal (buy one, get two free). Our bus then left the ruins of Troy and headed to the market place of Canakkale, which was on the coast. When facing the water there were three ways we could go. Left would take you to shop and local restaurants. Right took you to more restaurants and the replica of the Trojan horse used in the movie Troy, with Brad Pitt. Then the opposite way took you to the bazaar where there were spices, rugs and local vendors. We had three hours of time to kill in the beautiful town. We met back up at the bus and shared our stories and gifts we purchased. On the way back to the hotel for free time, the Minnesota group asked to stop at the local grocery store to pick up some items. There are a few things that our group liked and disliked about our hotel. We liked the food; we liked how clean and well-maintained it was, and we also liked the better water pressure (the showers in our last hotel were essentially a dribble). We did not like how it is in the middle of a residential area in the middle of ‘nowhere’; we did not like how we were not supposed to bring in any outside food or drinks; we also disliked how they charged three times the price for beverages than the places we visited before. But other than that we had a successful day and it ended with us being safe and happy.
We started our day by packing our clothes for the total eight-hour bus trip to Bursa and our hotel in Canakkle. The only way to get to Bursa was to cross the Sea of Marmara by ferry. On the ferry some people had coffees; others went outside for fresh air. Our bus ride took three hours to Bursa. Once we arrived at Bursa we hurried to the Green Mosque, where the girls had to cover up their hair, shoulders, and legs. As we entered we had to take off our shoes. We gathered close together to hear our tour guide. The Green Mosque got its name because of the tile color. Also it was more of a local style. There was a pool for show in the center of the mosque. We then headed to the tomb of the Sultan Mehmet I. inside were the coffins of his daughters and himself. After the many photographs we headed outside to talk about the game plan for the rest of the day. During our talk an old woman came over and told our tour guide in Turkish that she was selling her jewelry for 1 TL. Everyone seemed to buy from the sweet old lady. After the talk ended we had free time to shop. We had half an hour to shop for gifts. We then got on the bus and headed to where the Grand Mosque and other attractions were. We had free time once we got off the bus, and some people went into the Grand Mosque, the bazaar, and the Koza Hani (built in 1419), and to have lunch. One important thing about the Grand Mosque was the only thing grand about it was that it had twenty domes, because the walls had no tile color (they were plain white). We met up at our meeting spot and took a three-hour bus ride through the country side to Iris Otel. We had free time after we got off the bus to have dinner and relax. The dinner was outside overlooking the beach as the sun set. It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day.
Our wakeup call was at 7:30, but if you were a light sleeper you probably woke up at five, when the call to prayer sounded. Breakfast was on the 6th floor; it was buffet style with all Turkish food from breakfast items like hardboiled eggs and cereal to appetizers for dinner. After breakfast we were to meet on the bus at 8:30 for our bus trip to the Blue Mosque. We walked briefly and toured the Hippodrome/obelisk area, which was once under the Roman rule. Today, it holds statues given to Istanbul by the Egyptians. On one of the statues you could see the hieroglyphics down the sides, describing the “king” and people cheering during the chariot races, how they got the statue to Istanbul, and more about the people. The next statue was three snakes swirling up together but over time it broke in half because of a war and only one snake head remains in a museum. The next statue was being refurbished. After leaving the Hippodrome area we headed to the Blue Mosque; we had to take off our shoes and cover skin on our shoulders and legs. We learned about the mosques themselves, how they pray, and how the women pray. Another fact we learned is that the dome shape on top represents the circle of life. Inside we learned that the Blue Mosque got its name because the second floor has tiles of blue and white that had been gathered from the journey from Asia to Istanbul. The second floor was closed because people had stolen the tiles, when it was open to visitors. We then left the Blue Mosque and went to the Topkapi Palace Museum. Topkapi Palace was once where the Sultan lived. The group explored the grounds. They could go to the Treasury, the Sultan’s clothes, and Islamic Relics. We then meet up to take the bus to the Grand Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is a market where we could bargain for goods such as silk, rugs, and trinkets. We only spent a short amount of time in the Bazaar. There are over 4,000 shops and it can be overwhelming. When asking the locals where Gate One is to leave they seem to understand and pointed us in the right direction. Following the bazaar was lunch as a local restaurant called Beybalik on the Asian side of Turkey. At lunch we had a salad with lemon dressing, artichokes with onions and carrots, a yogurt with a lemon flavor and a hummus texture, bread, butter beans, calamari with a white sauce, friends potatoes that tasted like mashed potatoes, the main course was sea bass (some people had chicken), and fruit for dessert. Then we took a cruise of the Bosphorus. The cruise boat was a two levels, and the ride lasted about hours. It took us around the coast line of Asia and Europe. We got off the boat took a group picture and hopped back onto the bus to go to our hotel. Dinner was on us. Some people went as a big group others, as little groups. Everyone is safe and tucked into bed.
When we arrive we walked to the Visa counter where we had to pay a $20. Then we had to fight the pushy presumably-Turkish women in the passport line. After the long wait we head to grab our bags and meet up with our EF tour guide. She is a tall, petit woman with light skin and long black hair down her back; her name is Damla. On the bus, she went over the rules and the itinerary of our trip. While on the road to our hotel there was a park to the right where families set up their picnic with hammocks and rugs on the ground, as well as mini stoves to cook their food. In the park there were little boys that had a soccer ball at their feet as they play with their family. To the right of the bus was the historical district where the remains of old building still sit. We arrived at our destination, the Hamidiye Hotel, and we piled into the lobby—both our EF Tour group and another EF Tour group. Our EF guide then told us that the rest of the day was free time, but she must have forgotten that she was supposed to do a walking tour in Istanbul. Since we didn’t do the walking tour some took showers, some took naps, and others toured the city themselves. We met in the lobby at 3:30 to take a tour of the Hagia Sophia Museum. We headed 3 blocks to get the tram, as we walked the side marketers harassed the boys to buy the knock-off name brand clothes and the girl who wore shorts and the Turkish women looked at them in disgust. Once we reached the tram we had to pay 3.50 Turkish lire (TL) to receive two tokens. We headed as a group to the tram platform, the first tram arrived and a quarter of the group squeezed in. The second group takes the second tram. We meet up and Dr. Cremona realized her wallet had been stolen. After the theft was reported, an undercover cop informed her that they caught the thief because he fell into an undercover trap, and that the thief and his wife had stolen at least nine wallets and many cameras. Riggs and Cremona were taken to police headquarters for a statement. They were told it would only take an hour and a half, so they could still make the museum. Our other chaperone, Tim, took us to the museum where we could walk around for two hours. An hour later most of the group waited in the meeting area for the rest of the group. At seven, we left the museum where we took the cramped tram back to our stop. We walked three blocks back to our hotel. Another member of our group had also arrived; Eric had flown separately from the group. There was still no sign of Drs. Riggs and Cremona. My roommates and I headed to the buffet. Some of the group went around town for dinner and drinks. As my roommates and I were at dinner, both professors arrived and told us briefly of their adventure. It took two hours to process them; they had a video interview, a newspaper interview and a news cast interview. They were busy important people. As the day rolled to a close, people headed to their rooms for a much-needed sleep and shower.
We left Orlando International Airport with a total of 18 Flagler College students, 2 chaperons and our chaperons’ son. One of the girls on the trip with us has nery been in an airport or flown in a plane before. A few of the people on the trip have gone on another Flagler Study Abroad trip with each other. Some of us, like me, has never met any of the people on the trip before. But as group who didn’t know each other well we still boarded the plane. Like most airports there was nothing but lines of people, as if we were going to Disney world. I sat in seat 14E the middle seat and as most people know the middle seat is the worst seat. You can’t put your head on anything as you sleep, you have to craw over people when you want to go to the bathroom and you can’t control the window as the sun shines in your eyes as you try to sleep. One thing that I prayed for the night before was at least sitting next to a person that didn’t smell like any odors that make me sick, fart, or touch me while I slept. My wish came true! I slept the whole plane ride. After a short hop and a skip to JFK we landed safely and we herded out of the terminal. We met up as a group of the the terminal and discussed are game plan. The group splitup, one headed into the city and the other half toured the airport. We walking aimlessly around not known exactly where we were going. The next boarding passed had no gate or terminal number. Riggs (are chaperon) took the initiative and by asked an employee what direction we should head in to get on the plane. Th plane ride was long if you were awake and short if you were asleep. The total hours in the sky was 9 hours and 20 minutes. On the plane I sat next to Micheal, a senior at Flagler college, who is studying journalism and political science. Also Riggs sat behind me. The flight consisted of three chick flicks/ romances and tv shows. But mostly everyone watched the back of their eyelids.