Finding Treasures in Istanbul, the Greek Islands and Athens

One of the fun ways to see a city is to have a scavenger hunt around town.  I decided to organize a collection of puzzles that would lead us to the highlights and the treasures around Istanbul. There were twenty of us, so, we divide ourselves into five groups of four and with puzzles and cameras in our hands,  we were off to explore Old Constantinople. The plan was that the team with the most creative pictures of each highlight would win the challenge.  

We wandered around taking funny pictures and talking to people as we went. I was amazed how friendly and welcoming the people were.  Istanbul was also fascinating because it was the first Muslim city that I ever visited. I was blown away by the devotion to religion I saw there. At prayer time, the men would flock to the mosques and sometimes, the mosques were so full that the men have to sit on the streets outside. 

We spent four days in Istanbul before boarding a cruise ship on the expansive Bosphorus waterway for a five-day journey through the Greek Islands.  As we sailed under the Bosphorus Bridge, which spans the Bosphorus Strait that connects Europe and Asia, I could only think that I would miss the beautiful place, and I hoped to return soon.

On the other hand, I did not enjoy the cruise. This cruise was my first, but I did not like it because the stops were too short and in some cases, we did not stop at all. We missed Mykonos because the sea was too rough for us to disembark. Missing Mykonos was a major disappointment because I had visited Mykonos in the early eighties and I wanted to see the island with the many nude beaches again. We made short stops at Rhodes, Crete, Santorini and a few other islands but the stops were too short to enjoy any of the places. My biggest let down came when we visited Santorini because I had such wonderful memories from my first visit there. I had climbed the Volcano, went to the hot springs, saw the archeological dig and rode the donkeys from the port to the town. However, this time, we had little more than an hour to glimpse just the surface of this spectacular town before the boat would leave again. I screamed with frustration.

My main enjoyment of those five days were the domino games I played with my kids every night at the stern of the boat. We played tournaments and chatted all night as we sailed from Istanbul to Athens.

We spent four lovely days in Athens at a five-star hotel beneath the Acropolis. We walked through the Plaka at night, visited museums, ate good food and enjoyed a fantastic concert.

Here are some of the treasures of Istanbul: 

BASILICA CISTERN
This enormous underground chamber stored water for the whole city. The Cistern has 336 columns, two of them are the shape of the mythical Medusa.  

THE GRAND BAZAAR
The bazaar is the primary shopping location where you can hunt for moderately priced souvenirs or clothes. There are more than 400 shops in the Bazaar! 

 

THE HAGIA SOPHIA

The Hagia Sophia is one of the most astounding buildings of Istanbul, which is used to serve as an Orthodox basilica, a mosque, and a museum.  The Hagia Sophia is a must see.

 

THE HIPPODROME
The Hippodrome was the main square of the ancient Constantinople where the people organized chariot races.