As we venture away from the ancient religious centers of the world, we enter to my personal favorite type of religion: the land of the mythos. Here lies the world of Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena, and my patron goddess, Artemis. The land of heroes like Hercules and Odysseus, places like Troy and Mount Olympus, islands bearing beautiful nymphs and sea-fearing men. Oh the sweet, tempting worlds of lotus flowers and infinity pools and pomegranate seeds. The world of Scylla and sirens and safe havens meant for destruction.
God, I love Greek mythology.
Anyways, our first stop in the ancient mythological world is Cyprus, the island where Aphrodite rose out of the foam of the ocean to grace the earth with her love and jealousy. Cyprus was cool, if not a little boring, which is nice because it is precisely what we wanted. Everything worth seeing in Cyprus has to do with Aphrodite, so just stick to her and you'll be golden. The beaches are calm, the people are chill, the wine is pretty good. Interestingly enough, they have to bury their vines to keep the heat from destroying the grapes, which is fascinating and amazing that they figured out to do that hundreds of years ago.
Also, apparently, Cyprus is FILLED with British tourists. Not a bad thing, but hilarious when you see all the bars and restaurants catering towards their palates (cool lager! mushy peas!).
After Cyprus, we bused across the island to the Northern Turkish side, ferried our way to Turkey, realized we needed to purchase our visas online beforehand, had 20 minutes to buy them on our phone with shitty Turkish data reception, grab a taxi and make it to another our next bus with, I kid you not, 4 minutes. to spare.
We spent 3 days in Cappadocia, which is a magical fairy land of whip cream mountains and beautiful sunrises. The land was barraged by volcanoes and carved out by magma, giving it one of the most unique landscapes I've ever seen. We took an ATV tour so we could get around quickly and see all the different valleys, and then we explored the towns that decorate the area. It's something I read about in a book in college, and was thrilled to finally be able to check it off the list.
After Cappadocia, we spent a month in Istanbul. We were there the entirety of Ramadan, so the streets were quaint and quiet as people respected and celebrated the holy month. We stayed in the New Town, Beyoglu and Taksim. It looked so much like San Francisco, Travis would turn a corner and marvel that he was home. We took in the sites, including the Hagia Sofia, which is something so unique I'll never forget. The mosque/church has passed back and forth between Christian and Muslim hands, so you can see the seraphim painted over and these huge wooden boards with islamic phrases covering the original saints statues, yet they kept the Madonna and Child in the main dias.
One thing about our stay in Istanbul: our neighbors were a bunch of prostitutes that would sit at their windows all day and talk to the men passing by on our street. This was strange to us for two reasons: One, that has to be the MOST BORING job. They would literally look out their windows ALL. DAY. LONG. Second, there are SO MANY MEN in Istanbul. Even on a Tuesday night, we would look out our window and see a sea of men just hanging out in huge groups looking up at the women. It was a...unique... experience.
After Istanbul, we made our way to Athens, patron city of Athena, goddess of wisdom and warriors. Athens was great! The Parthenon sits atop a huge hill, beautifully preserved and glowing in the sunset. The wine in Greece is freaking spectacular. The people are open, friendly and not 95% men. I have to say, after 6 months away, it's nice to be back in Europe.
Athens was a cool capital, with tons of history (duh) and a big cafe culture. We wandered around and enjoyed the long summer days for two weeks. We rented a car our last weekend and drove to the east to try some of the delicious Greek wine (which is absolutely fantastic - so many good wineries!), and to the north to visit Meteora.
First off, Meteora is absolutely amazing and 100% worth getting the car and going through tolls. It's this luscious landscape of pillared mountains with 5 monasteries that sit atop them. We did a hike around one of them, promptly getting lost and wandering around STEEP hills for 2 hours before giving up and flagging down a taxi.
Despite that, Meteora was probably the highlight of the trip, for sure. After we dropped the car off, we took a ferry to the island of Poros, in the Saronic islands of Greece. For one glorious week, we spent time on our porch, lazed around the port town, and fell asleep at the beach. This, my dears, is how we want to retire.
Our time in these ancient places was fascinating, calming and, frankly, really freaking hot. We've been in summer for 7 months now, and we are VERY much looking forward to the cooler climates of Northern Europe. To Scandinavia we go!