As much as we hated to leave Varna so quickly, we needed to get to Greece as we had promised to work on a farm on the island of Paros.
Our flight from Varna wasn’t until 3:50pm, so we had more time to look around the city, plus we needed to do some clothes shopping.
I have now realized the reason WHY I’m not blogging on packing tips……it’s because my packing is ridiculous! We both under packed and have had very little to wear. At first we were proud of our thriftiness, but as days wore on, we realized that what we had packed, wasn’t entirely practical. Not only did we need more items, but some of the items are not very effective for this sort of travelling.
For instance, I packed a pair of flannel lined pants. My thinking, at the time was the need for warmth, in case we got stuck outside waiting for buses etc. However, I didn’t take into account (and had forgotten entirely), that most countries in the world don’t have the luxury of clothes driers like we do. Try washing clothes, and then hanging them to dry in a damp seaside climate, and at only 8 degrees Celsius. It takes forever! Not appropriate for moving around every day or so. Needless to say, we have towed damp clothes around with us on a couple occasions already.
Packing Tip#1-Pack clothes that dry quickly and layer up if necessary!
I keep saying that I think we were delerious by the time it came to packing. We worked right up until we left, and I became obsessed with getting the house ready for our house sitter, and wasn’t thinking clearly about practical travel clothes. Now that I am on the road again (it HAS been 8 years since my last backpacking trip after all), it is all coming back to me, and rather quickly!
Anyways, thankfully there were used clothing shops in Varna, many in fact, and we didn’t have to dump large amounts of money into purchasing a larger wardrobe.
Our taxi ride to the Varna airport was much less eventful than the one to the Gabrovo bus station. The staff at our hostel phoned the taxi company for us, and told them where we were going. Ah! MUCH easier! As a lover of all things colourful, I was delighted at the sight of the Varna airport. The upper portion was awash with bright bold colours. I even took a picture!
Our flight to Istanbul was uneventful. When I booked the flight back in Gabrovo, I hate to admit it, but I was a little dismayed that we had to fly through Istanbul. With news reports declaring that The Russian government wanted their citizens to leave the country, and with the crazy Syria issue going on, I had felt when we left Canada that we had no need to go anywhere near the Turkish border while on this trip.
It’s silly really! Although I had no reservations of coming on this trip after the Paris attacks, the thought of going to Turkey did bother me. Chris and I discussed it and decided that the Istanbul airport was likely the safest place to be, if anything did happen. Don’t even ask me what we thought would happen. It was total, unequivocal, irrational fear!
This is the kind of fear that I attempt to dispel on Facebook and amongst friends at all times. This is the kind of fear that gets us making bad decisions. This is the kind of fear that creates hatred to others. This is the kind of fear that FEEDS ISIS. This kind of fear is largely unacceptable when travelling (unless of course you are travelling IN a war torn country, which I don’t recommend anyways!)
We landed in Istanbul and disembarked the plane. As we exited the gangway that linked the plane to the airport, we merged into a thick stream of people. I instantly felt like an ant passing through its tunnels in the ground. I imagine that they come and go from off shoots, but the main corridors are packed with them jostling back and forth. I quickly asked the gate agent if we needed to pick up our checked bags. For some reason, of which I can’t even conceive of right now, I thought we may need to transfer them through customs as we were heading on to a different country. He glanced at my boarding pass for the next flight and said “Gate 222, upstairs!” I assumed at that point that we didn’t need to worry about our bags.
We ascended the escalator to the upper level and filed in with yet another massive amount of people. I swear I have NEVER seen so many people coming and going in an airport in my life! We found the sign pointing to our gate, and immediately felt like we were swimming upstream.
Hoardes of people were walking here and there, many with blank looks in their eyes, not sure where to go. One poor guy had his boarding pass in one hand and was looking every direction with an equally frantic and clueless look on his face. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, and a need to help, but we were in a bit of a frantic state ourselves. We kept looking for signs pointing to our gate number. I don’t think I have ever seen so many signs pointing every which way. The gate numbers went into the 500’s! We even passed a digital clock that told us how long of a walk it was to our gate…it said 15 minutes! Wow!!! ‘How bloody big IS this place?’ I thought to myself.
I must say, I wish we had made the time to stop and smell the roses a bit. I saw all sorts of neat things that we could have checked out. One of them being a little kiosk that was selling Turkish Ice Cream. It was attended by a guy in the cutest little outfit I think I have ever seen. He reminded me of Abu from Aladin, with a cute little boxy hat and everything! However, nothing got more than a sideways glance as trying to move sideways in the wave of people would have been like playing a life or death game of Frogger to get to the far side of the stream.
After a while, probably about 15 minutes, and much struggling “upstream”, we found our gate. We still had a bit to wait, so we asked the gate attendant when we would be boarding. He said we had half an hour.
We both really wanted to try Turkish coffee, so we headed off to the nearest food kiosk to place our order. There were tiny bottles of wine available as well, so we got two bottles of that and ordered our coffees. The cashier announced “Fifty six Lira please.” I cringed and handed over my Visa card with absolutely no idea of the exchange rate. I still haven’t had the guts to check my visa statement yet on online banking. Oh well! Chalk it up to another experience!
The coffee was super hot (apparently they boil it three times) so we decided, in Chris’ words to “have our downer, before we have our upper.”
The coffee was crazy strong, and we were very thankful that we asked for sugar in it as well. I drank mine down first and noticed a thick sludge in the bottom of the cup, filling about 1/3 of the way up. We both examined it, and thinking it looked like pudding (but really not sure at all what it was), we decided I needed a spoon. So Chris got up and asked for one. I scooped a bit out, tasted it, and immediately realized that it was definitely NOT pudding, but was in fact super finely ground coffee grounds. EW!!
I’m thinking maybe we were drunk off of our wine, as immediately I knew it was an incredibly stupid thing to do. I’m sure the staff were wondering what the hell these stupid tourists were doing. Either way, the great thing about travelling is that you CAN do stupid things, and people will never see you again. Hooray for that!
Again, our flight to Athens was uneventful, and so was our quick trip to Turkey! Well, with the exceptions noted above anyways.
We arrived in Athens at about 9:00pm and began our journey to our Hotel (which I thought was a hostel as I had booked it on Hostelworld.com.) We managed to get tickets for the Metro (train) fine but when we made it down to the platform we were totally confused. It wasn’t like the Vancouver skytrain, the airport being the end of the line. This train went both ways, and we didn’t know which side to stand on, or which train went which direction. We gawked around just staring up and down the tracks, looking for any sort of clue as to which way to go. The image of the poor guy in the airport, lost and confused, immediately came to mind, and I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself that we probably looked just as clueless as he did (but less frantic at this point.)
We looked at the metro map, which was all in Greek. The middle of the map was rubbed out and scrawled across it in black sharpie pen was “How about having signs for tourists in English?” YES! We agreed!
Finally I was able to find a man that spoke English, and he assured us we were on the right side to head into the city.
We changed trains where we were supposed to, and arrived to our station that was in the directions of how to get to our ho(s)tel. Now, upon booking this place, there were many comments in the recommendations about it being in a dangerous neighbourhood, and not to walk around at night unless in groups.
Chris and I had discussed possibly catching a cab from the metro station, but I had mapped it out on my phone, and knew it was only a few blocks away. I felt that with the size of Chris, nobody would mess with us. Besides he had our passports in his money belt, and all of our important stuff was tucked away, save for 30 Euros at easy reach. If necessary, I could just grab that and use it to placate a robber if needed.
As we exited the station, we assessed the area, and felt that we should just wing it. We walked the 6 or 7 blocks with not one bit of worry, or seeing anyone that looked remotely like they gave a damn about us. Again, the fear mongering was, in our experience, unfounded.
Our Hostel, well Hotel, gladly welcomed us and we celebrated the fact that we had made the hop to Greece! We crashed on our beds pretty hard, and despite still buzzing from our Turkish coffees, drifted off to sleep with visions of the Acropolis dancing in our heads.
Next up: The Acropolis, The Athens Market, and a ferry ride to Paros.