Cruising the Mediterranean – 2

by Lou on August 19, 2006

We’re docking in Venice later this morning, the last port of call on our cruise. After a day-and-a half here, we’ll be flying home and arriving in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon, assuming no airline issues.

When I left off we were in Mykonos, which was only a half-day stop. Our next port was Istanbul. I’m not quite sure what my expectations were for that city, but Istanbul exceeded all of them. The place is big. With a population of 15 million it’s like New York-and-a-half, but it’s quite modern and all the sites we wanted to see, such as the Blue Mosque, St. Sophia, and Topkapi Palace, were all closeby.

Though a predominantly muslim country, Turkey has a secular government and a long tradition of Muslims, Christians, and Jews living side-by-side in peaceful coexistence, so it’s a model for a more harmonious world that other nations might follow. The only drawback to Istanbul is it’s traffic, which is horrendous. About 400,000 people move to the city each year, and the infrastructure has not kept pace with developmen. They are in dire need of more roads, more subways, more bridges spanning the Bosphorous (Lots of folks in Instanbul live in Asia and commute to Europe each day to go to work; it doesn’t seem strange to them, but somehow it amazes me).

Istanbul would take a week to really see , but I was very impressed and would go back to visit again in a heartbeat. One neat things about Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar, with more than 4,000 shops in a maze of narrow streets — though all indoors and air-conditioned — it is probably the world’s first shopping center, albeit it one that’s thousands of years old.

Our next stop was Kusadasi. Until lately Kusadasi’s sole claim to fame was that it was near Ephasus, the site of some significant Roman ruins. Since Istanbul (Back when Istanbul was Constantinople, which was after it was Byzantium) it served as the administrative center of the Eastern Roman Empire. Because of that, Turkey has significant Roman sites, and Ephaus is one of them. But Kusadasi is now becomming a Turkish Riviera of sorts, with lots of new beaches and second homes being gobbled up by Europeans. You can buy a pretty nice villa with a pool for 250,000 Euros or less, so it’s a real bargain compared to European and American real estate. The town is new, clean, and full of new houses, condos, a made-for-tourism paradise, sort of like Cancun was originally.

After Kusadasi we spent the day in Athens. Athens and Pireaus (it’s port area) were really spruced up for the Olympics and it still looks like everything had been freshly painted for our arrival. We walked and climbed to specacular views of the city from the Acropolis, which towers above it. It looked just like all the tourist photos you see, and when I get home I’ll post some shots from this trip here on the blog.

Yesterday was spent at sea, aa welcome rest from the nine, ten, and 12 hour days of walking from one attraction to another. Today is Venice. So is tomorrow. Then it’s home.

I’ve got lots of catching up to do when I arrive, but I’ll try to get all the pictures posted by the end of the week or the beginning of the following one.

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