After 3 weeks of travel in Greece & Turkey, I think it’s time for some reflections. I experienced a lot in a pretty compact time, I’ve got to say! I really enjoyed this leg of the trip for many reasons, but I think the main one was because it was relaxing and easy. Sometimes easy travel is just what a girl needs to refresh.
As for Turkey, I have nothing but a glowing review to report. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this European and Middle Eastern country. Honestly. I loved everything about Istanbul, Ephesus and Bodrum. Obviously this is only 3 cities in a country of 80 million, but I have no doubt that I will return. I found Istanbul to be easy to navigate from a tourist perspective. All of the signs were in both English and Turkish, and I found many people, especially in the Sultanahmet neighborhood, spoke excellent English. There was lots of public transportation options to explore the city, including metro, street car, taxi and bus. I really appreciated the thoughtful tourist infrastructure in the city, like listing the tourist sites underneath the name on all the public transportation stops and having student volunteers wearing “Ask Me for Help” shirts all around the major tourist destinations. But most of all, I really enjoyed the people of the city and the life it pulsed. I found the Turkish people to be incredibly welcoming and excited about tourists. They are a proud people, and are more than happy to show you around, help you find your hotel or chat with you over a cup of tea. The people are always what make your experience, and Turkey, Istanbul particularly, really excels in creating an inviting atmosphere to travel in.
I also liked Greece, but I think Turkey won over just a tad. Having been to Athens before, I knew a little bit of what to expect. But I found the culture in the Greek Islands completely different than the mainland. The islands are very laid back and island time is certainly a thing. I liked that each of the islands had it’s own unique vibe, especially some of the smaller islands like Astypalea and Kalymnos. Santorini is hands down one of the most unique and beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen, and absolutely warrants a stop. Vacationing in the islands will be relaxing and sun filled. I can see why thousands of Europeans flock here every summer. With that said, I’m not sure it would be in my Top 5 favorite places list. I am more than thankful that I was able to visit and have absolutely no regrets about this trip. But 2 weeks in the islands is a little long. Thankfully, I was surrounded by family on a beautiful boat so the time went fast. But they do start to blur together after a while, and blue water and white-washed houses get a little redundant. If I were to recommend someone to visit the Greek Islands, I would encourage them to visit the smaller islands in addition to the main tourist spots of Mykonos & Santorini. I thought the smaller islands were more impressive in terms of the culture, and honestly, I think Astypalea was more beautiful than Santorini.
Most of all, I will remember the time spent with loved ones. I am so thankful that I got to spend quality time with my immediate family, but also my extended family and family friends. I’m so glad that Sam was able to join us, because everyone got a chance to get to know him better, something we haven’t really had the opportunity to in the past. We both left feeling like “he was part of the family”, what more could I ask for! It feels really good to have your partner accepted and respected by those that you love. It feels like our family circle is expanding, and I look forward to the day when my sisters and cousins start to bring their partners into our tight-knit group. And now he will share a once in a lifetime experience with me, but also with my family. And the same is true for all of our friends who joined. We bonded and developed memories together that nothing will be able to replace. We are all closer because of it, and that is what I know I will take away from this trip.