Thanks to my Couchsurfing host Thanos’s advice, I got up super early for my 07:15 ferry to Kythnos from Piraeus, the port closest to Athens. From where he lives, it’s only five metro stops away (20-25 minutes). The port was already buzzing with people at 06:40. I wasn’t sure where to find my ferry company, so I stopped in two different ferry companies’ shops while bumbling my way towards the direction they indicated. The first guy said that I had to go to E9. Not certain what that meant, I walked east since that’s where he pointed. The next person I asked patiently explained that E9 is a gate, and I would have to pass E7 and E8 to see it. The walk always seems longer when you don’t have a clue how far away something is.
Friends, if you don’t know this about me already, I need to share with you that I have a fascination with visiting cemeteries. They’re a bit like outdoor museums and show how the living treated their dead. Kerameikos is different from the usual cemeteries I visit since it hasn’t admitted new residents in many years. But it was no slacker: it received thousands of Athenians over the course of 1,500 years.
The Ancient Agora of Athens spans a large space on the northwest slope of the Acropolis. It must have been quite the square: not only was there a marketplace here, but social gatherings, religious ceremonies, outdoor theater, and athletic competitions also happened in this location, starting from the 6th century BC. There are so many remnants of buildings here that I probably could have spent at least two hours finding all of them, but you know, limited time and all.
The most visited ruin of Athens, the Acropolis was surprisingly not my favorite place to visit out of the seven ruins on the multi-site pass. But because of its historical significance, I would still recommend paying your respects if you’re in Athens.
To fuel my upcoming adventure, I tried some goat’s milk yogurt that I picked up from a grocery store the night before and Greek coffee (€1) prepared in sand, suspiciously similar to Turkish coffee, made by hand at Mokka. The yogurt
Before leaving Mo’s place at 07:30, I wished him the best of luck on his degree, his job, his housing, and his application to immigrate to Canada. Thanks to another great Couchsurfing host! To prevent being gouged at the Istanbul airport, I picked up a cheese and tomato sandwich (₺5) at Koleti before going to the Marmaray Metro Station.
Almost immediately after I arrived in Istanbul, I noticed an innumerable quantity of stray cats lounging about in the streets, but they all seemed to be happy and healthy. A number of stories surround why the residents and government are looking out for them, including an Islamic legend about a courageous feline saving the Prophet Muhammed from a venomous snake. This story led to the saying, “If you’ve killed a cat, you need to build a mosque to be forgiven by God.” I hope that’s not why there are so many mosques (over 3,000) in Istanbul.
You might have been able to tell that there are many options for getting around Istanbul if you’ve been reading my previous posts. You’re absolutely right! This post briefly describes each of them.
One of the few tourist attractions that I felt compelled to complete a pilgrimage to in Istanbul was Hagia Sophia. Originally built in 537 AD, it is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture and has had three different uses: a Greek Orthodox church, an Ottoman mosque, and a museum about itself. The evolution of its architecture to adapt to these distinct purposes intrigues its visitors, and the speed at which it was built awes even the casual passersby.
For my last full day in Istanbul, I was determined to do three things: