September 22, 1998:
We arrived at in Athens, Greece about five am. The bus stopped at the port (for people leaving on ferries) and everyone except Thomas and I got off. So we went to the Hostel Aphrodite with the bus driver and guide. All that was left was a double room, so we took that. It was 8,000 drachmas ($24). We had breakfast in the little bar/restaurant that’s in the basement. After sleeping for a while, we went to the Archeological Museum and looked around. They had lots of statues from ancient Greece. It was a great museum, as far as museums go. After I got done looking around the museum Thomas still wanted to stay longer. So I told him he could stay but I was going to go, and take the map with me. So he had the business card from the hostel and he wrote down some directions on it, and I took off. Needless to say, he had a hard time finding his way back, especially since it was our first day there and we hadn’t gotten a feel for the area yet. Meanwhile I was back at the hostel trimming my beard, which left the sink clogged for the remainder of our stay. We got our laundry washed for 2,500 dr. ($8). That night we went up to the nearby restaurant Pita Pan, which we ate at many times during our stay in Athens. They served different kinds of Gyros, which are very good, as well as French fries and beer. After going out to eat we headed back to the bar at the Aphrodite for our complimentary Ouzo shot. And as always one thing led to another…
The Acropolis, Athens
Sep. 23: We went and saw the Acropolis (Pictured). It was the hangout for the ancient Greeks, and was very interesting to see. You can walk around and look at all the rubble and the Parthenon, which is the main building. When we were there the Parthenon had scaffolding erected inside, and there were people restoring it. The sign said they had been restoring it for ten years or so. At night I went back to the Aphrodite bar for some beers, while Thomas went to bed early. There was the coolest bartender ever there, She was from Perth, Australia and her name is Tanya.
Sep. 24: We had planned on going to the Ancient Agora, which was a market place in ancient times, however when we got to the metro (subway) station, it was closed, so we had to walk a ways and when we got to the Agora it was going to close in 15 min. so we decided not to go in. Instead we decided to go to the Parliament building. However we had a slight disagreement on how to get there, so we split up and I took the map we got from the hotel and Thomas took the guide book with a map in it. Well, it ends up Thomas’ way was the right one. He got there and waited around for ever for me. Meanwhile I saw Zeus Arch and a track that was used for the Olympic games and I talked to some old guy in the park for a while. However when I tried to get back I ended up going for quite a walk, and finally made it back to the hotel, and still beat Thomas by a few minutes. After resting up for a while we went and tried to buy train tickets to go to Istanbul, Turkey. It was very confusing and we finally ended up with a ticket for 11,400 dr. ($ 38) for both our tickets. This seemed a little cheap, So
Sep. 25: We asked the guy who was at the desk at the hotel about the tickets and he thought that they were only to Thessalonica, Greece, about one third of the way to Istanbul. So we went back to the train station and got it worked out and the tickets ended up costing 18,700 dr. ($62) each ticket.
* The metro was working today, so we took it to the Agora. It was real crowded, and both Thomas I had had money belts on and then would keep like $20 or so in cash in our pockets. Thomas whispers to me “I think that guy pick pocketed you!” So I reach in my pocket and sure enough my cash was gone. I look to this punk next to me and say “Give me my money back!!!” Now this punk was like 16 and not very big, and he just acts stupid then Thomas says look, and my money was on the floor. There was no way it fell out, so either the punk dropped it or tossed it down there. I wasn’t sure at that point so I said sorry and then the punk says “FUCK YOU” and hops off the train just before the doors close.
So we went back to the Agora and saw that, it wasn’t too exciting, just a bunch of old collapsed buildings. We also went back to the Parliament building and the big Park and the Zoo, which was pretty funny. There were just normal animals in there like ducks and rabbits and other normal farm animals. We left on the train at 11:15pm. When we were at the train station I had to pee, so I went to the bathroom and there was an old lady there, now this was my first experience with the pay for usage bathrooms, she wanted like 500 or so drachmas but all I had was a 5,000 dr. and some coins that added up to about 100 dr., so I tried to communicate that I only had to pee and she let me for 100 dr. We had a sleeping car on the way to Thessalonica and then had to switch trains there.
Sep. 26: We switched to seats for the rest of the trip, and of course we were backwards, but right in the middle of the train so there were these two old Greek women across from us. There were these two English guys and one girl who were at the Aphrodite with us and were going to Istanbul too, and they had called a hostel there and supposedly made reservations or something. Thomas was playing his game boy and when at one point dropped it and it slid under the seat where the two old ladies were sitting. Later on one of them got up and them Thomas could reach it, and they were dazzled when he turned it on and it started making noises. After we got to the border we had to buy Visas for entry which were $45 each, which took up almost all the rest of the US Cash I had left. We then had to wait an hour and a half for the Turkish train to show up and then get going. We then got into Istanbul about 10pm. It was something like 23 hours to get from Athens to Istanbul. And most of that was riding backwards on the train!
We followed the English guys to the hostel but when we got there they said they were all full but if we wanted we could sleep in the hall! We said no and then went and ended up at the Cordial House Hotel, which was pretty good. It was 1,250,000 Turkish Lira ($5) a night each, I tried to pay in us dollars but they got angry so we borrowed money from the English guys for that night. We stayed in bunk beds in a room with like 10 other people.
The Blue Mosque is in the Foreground, and the Hagia Sophia in the background.
Sep. 27: We were so hungry, all we had to eat the day before was some crappy cookies and mushy bananas on the train. We tried to find a place to change money, but it was Sunday so there was no place open, so we ended up getting money off my credit card from the hotel. We went and ate at this restaurant that we went back to several times that was right by the St. Sophia church. We had some beer and some tasty “meatballs.” We also went and saw the Hippodrome, which was the ancient race track, which is now just a couple of pillars. We saw the Blue Mosque and the St or Hagia Sophia, which was a very important church in old Constantinople. We took a tour on a Double Decker bus around town, for fifteen American dollars. Later on we went and ate dinner at the Chinese food restaurant (Pictured Below). We then signed up for the “no hassle” tour to Gallipoli and Troy for $45 for the tour and bus rides and hotel.
Sep. 28: We started our “No Hassle” Tour with a five hour bus ride to Gallipoli. Gallipoli is a site from World War One were the British and ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) attack the Ottoman Empire to try to open the area for an attack on Istanbul, which would provide the allies an open supply route to Russia. But anyways, we spent the day touring the area including the museum and five or six memorial sites. There were trenches set up in the same spots as during the war. It was a very good tour, the tour guides name was Ole and he was awesome. It was an excellent tour that lasted about five hours. In 285 dies of fighting, in 1915, at Gallipoli there were 250,000 thousand Allied casualties and 250,000 Turkish casualties, including 39,000 allied deaths.
After the tour we went across the channel and to the Anzac Hotel, where we stayed in a room with two guys from B.C., Canada. We had dinner at the hotel, and then stayed up to watch the Movie Gallipoli, staring Mel Gibson, but they showed an hour long documentary first, and then we were dead tired so we went to bed.
*The “Big Canadians” as we came to call our new pals, had a hilarious story for us about there trip from Athens to Istanbul. It started with them missing there night train, so they got on the train the next morning. However when they got to the border, which consisted of a small store that sold snacks and the government office, they were told they would have to wait some insane amount of time before the next train would be there to take them into Istanbul. I think they said they got to the border sometime like 5 am and would have to wait until 3 or 4 pm for the train. So they made it but had to wait outside for almost 12 hours at the border.
Thomas at Troy, Turkey.
Sep. 29: We took our tour of Troy, pictured above, today, it lasted two hours. It was much better than I expected. Ole was our tour guide again and even though it was just kind of piles of rocks Ole really explained it and helped envision what it used to be like. It was raining that day but not too hard. There was a big wooden horse that was a remake of the famous “Troy Horse.”
*We then went back to the wonderful Anzac hotel, where we had to wait four hours for the bus to come and get us. We were in the hotel lobby and asked the dude who helped out running the tours (Dubbed Peon Man), if we could watch Gallipoli, why we were waiting. It seemed totally plausible to use since were just sitting there and so was the TV and VHS tape. He told us we could in 40 min, so about 30 min later he took off and never came back. So Thomas took a nap in the lobby and I just walked around the town for a couple hours. When I got back it was time to go so I went and woke Thomas up. While he was napping he had taken off his eyeglasses and when he got up to go he left them on the floor there. So after we got to the other side of the straight (by Ferry), Thomas realized he had lost them and we asked the other tour guy if he would call over to the hotel, so he did but they could find them anywhere. To this day we still think that Peon Man is walking around with them on!
So we started the bus ride back. On the way down this idiot guy had some stupid “Dance Party” tape that the driver played, so when we got back on the bus after a rest stop I gave him my The Doors tape and he played that. So on the way back up to Istanbul they wanted more music so we passed up the Credence Clearwater Revival tape and were jamming to that. We stopped at some truck stop type place and had food, meatballs and rice, Delicious! When we got back to Istanbul, we went back to the Cordial House, and stayed there another night. We had a room to ourselves this time, it was pretty nice.