One of the first things to strike me was how LITTLE CLOTHING some of the ladies had on in Greece. After thinking on it, I realized that after being in Egypt for 3 weeks (where women show NOTHING... Not ankles, not wrists, not hair. Only faces, and frequently not even that.) Had changed me in some way. To see a curve was shocking.
The ladies in Greece were wearing nothing unusual by Western standards. I can now see how being in such a conservative (okay, not "conservative"... "EXTREME") environment (even for a short time!) can impact how one sees things.
Being away from the life I had in Phoenix has been tough. It was a life I built through 10 years of effort both deliberate and unintentional. All those daily activities that provided structure, stimulus, and helped “grow” my personality and my relationships are “paused”. Being away from “my former life” has taught me things... One of which is how good that life really was. I have gained much from this experience—but though I feel part of me has grown, I also feel a part of me has been stunted.
So much happening in others´ lives at home I have missed out on... Moves and birthdays and new relationships, promotions and achievements and parties, moments of clarity and uncertainty, times to comfort and times to be comforted... And I have been g o n e. . . And life goes on... So much stimulus myself... Experiencing the anxiety of living with no job, no home, and no bed. Seeing so many places I´ve only dreamt of, living in a way I never have, developing new language skills, meeting SO MANY fascinating people... It has been absorbing, rewarding—absolutely fantastic—And yet I have been experiencing a profound longing.
Such is the nature of choices in life: gain one thing, lose another.
Aside from a few small artifacts of my former life—my watch, the shoes I bought before I left, a few mementos given to me by loved ones—every part of my typical day has been devoid of markers from those days that came before. So getting a call from a loved one, or an email, or a care package takes on so much more significance—since to revisit the familiarity is to revisit a relationship I fear has dimished in my stead—it is to reconnect and once again feel the pull and push of a friendship—It is to revisit a part of my life that I dearly miss. So, when Jacob told me that he wanted to join me, I was ELATED.
Jacob and I met in Junior-high school when we were both big nerds (some things never change!) nearly 22 years ago. We met up in Athens, then went counter-clockwise south to Kos (Greece), then to Bodrum (Turkey), then north to Istanbul, and finally West to Greece.
Being able to share this time with Jacob has certainly been one of the highlights of my trip.
Night helped bring out Kos´s magic. This is a picture of one of the overgrown bouganvilla bushes (I definitely have a "thing" for these breathtaking bushes!!) strung with party lights over an uplit wall. I loves the theatrical lighting! (Kos, Greece)
From the island of Kos we took a somewhat exotic form of transportation—a hydrofoil. The boat floated just like every other standard boat until we got out into the open water and then they opened up the throttle and we kept getting higher and higher in the water. But once you´re up, you can´t see over the side of the boat, so you can´t really see JUST HOW COOL you look (how sad!). One thing I DID notice was how small our wake was. The model of boat is called "Meteor" (Kos, Greece to Bodrum, Turkey)"
We landed in Turkey! Yay! On the walkway from the international ferry landing were these beautiful statues. So of course I had to grab my trusty Lonely Planet Turkey and join them (Bodrum, Turkey)
Leaving Bodrum in the rental car, we had to fill up the tank. It had 1/4 of a tank, so we only added 3/4 of a tank. And when you do the conversion, we added about 11 gallons, and the price was about $123.00. About $11.18/gallon. Yes, that´s right, ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THREE U S DOLLARS for THREE QUARTERS OF A TANK OF GAS. Turkey has the MOST EXPENSIVE FUEL PRICES IN THE WORLD (Leaving Bodrum, Turkey)
Purty! (Rose garden in Urla, Turkey)
While driving, before we saw any signs for it, was spied the ampitheater of Epheses. At the site, there are ruins all over the place. This particular vista reminded me a bit of images I´ve seen of Tuscany. I love the junipers! (Epheses, Turkey)
Majestic old roads with columns (Epheses, Turkey)
The Ephesus bone-yard. Such beautiful ornamentation! (Epheses, Turkey)
Warning: you might start breakdancing (Epheses, Turkey)
The restored Celsus Library at Epheses is an absolute jaw-dropper. Approaching it, it is difficult to make out what you´re looking at. But quickly after coming out from under the entry arch, you look up and here is this MAGNIFICENT old facade that is so delicately ornamented and HUGE. And something else remarkable is the sociological aspect of the library as well: These were a people that valued education. This is the view looking up through the ruins (Library at Epheses, Turkey)
During our time at Epheses, a documentary for the History Channel was being filmed. The gentleman on the right claims to have found a link between the library at Epheses and Judaism in the form of a rough-cut menorah. The lady in the near left is watching the video feed wirelessly broadcast in HD from the video camera, and is giving direction to the cameraman and to the interviewer (in black). After they were done filming, I asked the interviewee (in the blue polo) if there was any possibility of the menorah being a late addition to the steps to which he seemed incredulous, saying, "of course not". Maybe I´ve learned too much about hoaxes during my trip. I´ll call it a "scientific detachment" :) (On the steps of the Library of Celsus, Epheses, Turkey)
Beautiful (Entry to the Temple of Hadrian, Epheses, Turkey)
Where tourists go, so do the things tourists buy. ´Tacky´ knows no international boundaries! (Tourist kiosks, Epheses, Turkey)
In Istanbul, Jacob and I found a FABULOUS restaurant called... Umm... Really hard to say. I´m lacking some Turkish characters, but it´s something like "Meshut Kofteci battal usta". We were looking for dinner, wandering the neighborhood scouring menus and looking to see where the locals were eating. The Maitre´d told us his food was wonderful, took us over to a nearby serving table, and started popping morsels in our mouths. He was right—it was SO SO SO GOOD! We ate here every day thereafter! (Istanbul, Turkey)
Me being a dork on a street with the Hagia Sofia ("Hagia" is pronounced i-yah) in the background (Istanbul, Turkey)
The Hagia Sofia is absolutely, completely, totally, amazingly breathtaking. It is SO SO SO SO SO BEAUTIFUL! It is probably the most beautiful building I´ve been in on this trip. (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey)
Pictures absolutely cannot convey the beauty or the grandeur of the space. It is a magnificent convergence of architectural perfection and man´s artistic possibility. This building sits majestically at the height of human inspiration. (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey)
A view rarely seen: beside the main room of the Hagia Sofia are barrel ceilings with inlaid mosaic tile, these beautiful columns with beautifully done iron capitals, and very interesting lights atop pedestals. The Hagia Sofia is a masterpiece (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey)
A monster stalks Jacob as he uses an ATM (Istanbul, Turkey)
We left Istanbul on the overnight train. It was crowded but not altogether unpleasant. During the night we were awoken first by the Turkish border officials, then later the Greek border officials... and finally we were in Thessaloniki! This is the view from the roof of our hotel, "El Greco", which is funny since "El Greco" means "Greek" in Spanish! Why they have a Spanish sign on a Greek hotel in Greece I haven´t figured out yet. But it was a nice place! :) (Thessaloniki, Greece)
Jacob and I took a trip (in another rental car) from Thessaloniki to Mt Olympus. It is easy to see why Greek mythology calls Mt Olympus Zeus´s home... It is nature on a huge scale. And it is SO beautiful! We forded a stream in the foothills and drank its water. (Foothills of Mt Olympus, Greece)
Nearby the stream, we saw a sign to a "holy cave", which sounded interesting enough to make the hike. When we got there, we saw this rather un-holy looking structure wedged into the cave entrance. BEHIND this building is a very dark space from which a spring (or partly underground stream) sprang from the back wall. Jacob got very excited when he noticed a "large crevice" in the back of the cave and had to be convinced not to start splunking into the depths of Mt Olympus. Wouldn´t want to upset Zeus! (Mt Olympus, Greece)
On the way back to Thessaloniki from Mt Olympus, we went for a long drive and got lost in some overgrown farmland. It was wonderful (From Mt Olympus to Thessaloniki, Greece)