A little Rhodes, some Marmaris, and a lot of ‘story time’

The whole reason The Ferry Fiasco (see the post if you’re curious) was even a thing was so I could take the ferry from Ρόδος (Rhodes) to Marmaris. And before said ferry ride across the short (30 miles) stretch of water began, I was given shit by the agent ‘letting’ me out of the Schengen Zone. There was no stamp in my passport for when I entered Greece because I entered via Iceland on 30 January. It was 26 April and I had 2 days left on my tourist visa.

For the record: US people have 90 days out of every 180 on a travel visa. Most people are unaware of this as they simply stamp your passport at the border, and let you in without any paperwork or anything. Most of the time, they don’t even say a single word to you. So I understand why this is not common knowledge.

Agent: “When did you enter Greece?”

Me: “I don’t remember, I entered the Schengen Zone at the end of January.”

Agent: “Wait over there.” After everyone else had gone through the line. “You’re going to Turkey?”

Me: “Yes.”

Agent: “When did you enter Greece?”

Me: “Hang on, I’ll check.” I opened the Hostelworld app to see when I checked into my first hostel in Greece. “6 February.”

Agent: “And when you’re done in Turkey, will you come back to Greece?”

Me: “No, I’ll move on.”

That seemed to satisfy her…sort of. She put an exit stamp in my passport, and let me continue to the ferry. There had been several times through the process when she’d stopped, and thought about what to do. She’d even ran off and talked to another agent before calling me back for the second time. I get the impression a lot of people exit Schengen then come right back, and overstay their allotted visa time. Anyway, I had escaped the border agent so all was well with the world.

An hour long ferry ride later, I arrived in Marmaris (Turkey). While standing in line to see the border agents, I saw a price list for visas for different countries. It made me glad I’d gone though the Turkish webpage, and bought my visa online as it saved me over $5. I also noted that it costs Canadians double that of other 1st world countries. Canada, what did you do?

When I got to the agent, he looked at my passport, checked online for my e-visa, stamped my passport and handed it back to me. He totally wasn’t interested in the e-visa copy I’d printed out; thanks, technology! Then I was directed to a bag scanner like the ones at airports. A quick scan later, and I was in Turkey. It was so much easier than I expected. Between the pseudo war between Greek and Turkish fighter planes over the Aegean, and all the news in the ‘west’ about how dangerous Turkey is; I expected more of a fuss.

News flash: I’ve been in Turkey for almost a week now, and I have always felt safe. Even safer than I’ve felt in the large cities in the US. As long as you don’t plan on going near the Syrian border, you should be fine.

I walked 20 minutes to the hostel. It was 25 degrees (77F), and I was carting around my backpack so I was pretty warm and a little tired when I arrived. I was greeted by a nice, old lady who insisted I sit down while she made me tea. The common area at Meltepe Pansiyon (pansiyon is Turkish for ‘guest house’ so almost all hostels, hotels, and lodging facilities have that word in the name) is gorgeous. There are small tables and chairs set up under a canopy of vegetation making it shady and cool.

When I was finished with the tea, I was shown to my room which was far better than expected. I’d booked a single bed room with a shared bathroom, but I was shown a two bed room with its own bathroom. The next day while talking to the owner, I was told he’d upgraded me; winning!

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Random shots of Marmaris, Turkey.

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The next few days were spent wandering around the city; mostly along the coastline, and through the grand bazaar. This city was built for tourists. It sits on a bay that’s largely cut off from the rest of the Mediterranean Sea. That makes the water a little warmer, and is why there’s a huge stretch of beach interspersed with a couple docks. All along the water sit a bunch of hotels, restaurants, and boat owners offering a plethora of tours.

The grand bazaar is also close to the water. It’s several blocks of shops. The roads are ‘closed’ to traffic (although they can’t completely keep motorcycles out, and covered which is a welcome relief from the hot sun.

There are also small, local buses all over the city. If you see one passing, you can even flag them down for a cheap ride (3 Turkish Lira, which is than $1). So getting around is very easy.

Having never been in a Muslim country before, I was a little surprised the first time I heard a ‘call to prayer’. There are megaphones all over the city that broadcast the voice of a priest singing in Arabic (at least I assume it’s Standard Arabic which is what the Quran is written in) several times a day. I was surprised again when I saw people continuing whatever they were doing rather than stopping to pray; even though I’m pretty sure most people are Muslim. Relatively secularized? I have no standard for comparison so I don’t know.

What I can say is I spent about half an hour one day talking to the pansiyon owner about Islam. He was quite sad to hear I’m atheist, and was concerned for my ‘soul’. One of the things he said is that God has to be proven logically which I agree with completely. Our conclusions turned out to be opposite, but the premise is dead on.

He also told me that heaven is like a castle with 1,000 gates. Each gate is only valid for a certain time period, and one can only enter through the gate that corresponds to their time on earth. For example before Christ, the gate was Judaism. After Christ, it was Christianity. And after Muhammad, it is Islam.

I found this fascinating as The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (The Mormon Church) also builds on the base of Christianity. I was curious to see what his thoughts on that would be, but I didn’t want to be rude so I didn’t mention that. I also didn’t want to start punching holes in his view as I was still trying to understand it. One must be aware of what they attempt to refute before coming to a conclusion.

Moving on, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Marmaris and the pansiyon. The owner and his mother (the woman that greeted my upon arrival) are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and are incredibly hospitable. When I would use the kitchen, the owner would poke his head in the door, and tell me he wanted me to treat his house like my own and that he wanted me to be comfortable. On the day I left, he even gave me a ride to the main bus station on the back of his motorcycle; saving me time and 3 Lira! If you ever go to Marmaris, I’d encourage you to look up Meltepe Pansiyon.

And now that I’ve talked your ear off…does that work with blogging? Anyway, until next time….

Financial Friday 13

Week 13 on the road. This one includes the Ferry Fiasco (see my previous post if you want to see how that went down), and changing countries so there are a few more expenses than normal. Let’s go.

Transportation

On Friday, I took a bus from Χάνια (Chania/Hania) to Ηράκλειο (Heraklion): $18.72. And I took a local bus in Heraklion to get to my hostel/hotel: $3.09.

On Saturday, I missed the ferry to Ρόδος (Rhodes): $35.52. And took a ferry to Αθήνα (Athens): $56.79. Oh, and I took a bus from the hostel in Heraklion to the port: $2.10.

On Sunday, I took a ferry from Athens to Rhodes.

On Monday, I took a ‘local’ bus from the port in Rhodes to Ιαλυσός (Ialysos, where the hostel was).

On Thursday, I took a bus from the hostel to Rhodes city: $2.84. And took a ferry to Marmaris, Turkey: $49.56.

Accommodation

On Friday, I stayed at a hostel in Heraklion.

On Saturday, I missed my hostel in Rhodes so I was just out the deposit. I also spent the evening trying to sleep on a ferry which is no easy task.

Sunday through Wednesday, I stayed at a hostel in Ialysos. Wednesday’s was slightly cheaper as I extended and payed in cash. Online bookings are great, but they’re slightly more expensive than just walking up to a place and handing them some paper.

Thursday was my first night in Turkey. I’m not sure of the exact price as I haven’t officially payed yet, but it’s something like $10 per night.

Food

Saturday and Sunday were spent trying to find cheap food on ferries (hint: it doesn’t exist).

On Monday, I went grocery shopping so that reduced by food bill quite significantly on the following days.

The rest was random eating out. Nothing too exciting.

Other

Travel insurance: $3.07 per day.

On Saturday, I bought an e-book. The first in ‘the expanse’ series. I figure if it’s good enough for a Sci-Fi series, it’s good enough to buy and read. Plus, it came in useful on those long ferry rides.

On Tuesday, I did laundry…exciting, right?

On Thursday, I bought some data from GigSky since the European plan doesn’t work in Turkey: $25.00.

I also put the cost of my Turkish visa on Thursday: $20.55. I also noticed that Canadians get charged twice as much as most other countries for their Turkish visas. I don’t know what they did to piss off Turkey, but it’s enough to make me feel sorry for them.

Quick travel hack: if a country offers an e-visa, use it! The charge to buy a visa at the port was €25 ($30.89). So I saved over $10.

Summary

Week 13
Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Total
Travel 21.81 94.41 78.4 2.72 0 0 52.4 249.74
Lodging 18.21 5.58 17.89 17.89 17.89 17.3 10 104.76
Food 11.11 11.11 13.46 17.15 3.83 0.62 8.54 65.82
Other 3.07 13.76 3.07 3.07 6.78 3.07 50.62 83.44
Total 54.2 124.86 112.82 40.83 28.5 20.99 121.56 503.76

So yeah, expensive. But, I’m in Turkey now so next week’s should be a lot cheaper. See you next week for another edition of Financial Friday. I think I’m the only one excited for it….

The Ferry Fiasco

Anyone that’s traveled before will tell you there are times when things will go wrong. This is even one of the reasons some people travel: to be pushed out of their comfort zone and overcome unforeseen obstacles. Well, buckle up readers, because I have one such story for you now. But first, I need to explain what was supposed to happen.

The plan

My allotted 90 days in the Schengen Zone will come to an end on the 28th (of April). So I’d been looking at future destinations for a while. Should I go further up the Balkans; maybe hit up Bulgaria; run off to Egypt? There were plenty of choices, but I settled on Turkey. (Note: this is not where things went wrong. As far as I can tell from people I’ve met along the way, Turkey is an excellent place to visit.)

I noticed the island of Ρόδος (Rhodes) is right next to it, and some quick searching on Rome 2 Rio told me there’s a ferry that goes between the island and a place called Marmaris, Turkey. Better yet, there’s a cheap hostel in Marmaris that looks amazing. So that was settled; Rhodes would be my last stop in Ελλάδα (Greece).

Quick travel hack: if you want to know how to get from one place to another, Rome 2 Rio is an excellent website that can give you a bunch of options. It can even direct you to the various transportation company’s webpages.

And how would I get to Rhodes? There’s a once a week ferry from Κρήτη (Crete); specifically Ηράκλιο (Heraklion). It arrived at 0030 (12:30 am) though, and the hostel I wanted to stay in was a good ways from the port and its reception closed at 0100. No problem; I’d book a place closer to the port, spend a night there, and move on the next day to the better, cheaper hostel that’s a little farther inland.

I’d heard Heraklion kinda sucked though so I’d spend most of my time in Crete in Χάνια (Chania/Hania). I could take an overnight ferry to either city from Αθήνα (Athens), and save a night at a hostel in the process. The plan seemed foolproof.

When things went wrong

Things started to go wrong in Hania two days before my bus to Herakion. I thought going to the beach would be fun, and it was! But this was the first time all year I didn’t wear jeans outside, and my legs and feet got really burned. Showering hurt; putting socks and pants on hurt; trying to lay down and cover up with a sheet to sleep hurt…. I spent the entire day (at least while the sun was up) before my bus to Herakion inside the hostel in shorts and flip-flops trying to be in as little pain as possible.

The day of my bus trip, I put my socks and jeans on as gently as I could (it still hurt though), and waddled down the road to the bus station. The bus ride took 3 hours. Then, I had to walk to another bus station to take the city bus out to the Heraklion suburbs where I’d foolishly booked my hostel. I ended up spending about 5 hours clothed until I could strip back down to shorts and flip-flops. I had managed to find some vaseline with aloe in it when I was grocery shopping though so I put some on my burns.

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Brunch

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The next day was the day of the ferry to Rhodes. But the ferry left in the evening, and check-out was around noon. So I hopped the bus back into town, and chilled near the harbor all day; which would have been pleasant if not for the cloths rubbing against my sunburns the whole time.

Finally, it was FerryTime © (just kidding, people can’t copyright that). I went to check in, but the guy was taking a long time to find my ticket. After a good 10 minutes of back and forth, he figured out that the ferry I was supposed to catch had left 12 hours earlier than I was expecting — wait, what? The ferry from Athens to Hania was 8 hours long, and it was far shorter from Heraklion to Rhodes. After some post-crisis research, I discovered that the ferry takes 14 hours to traverse that relatively small distance. Talk about slow-boating….

The fix

So now, I had to hurry up and catch the ferry to Athens (that was leaving in 2 hours), and from there, go to Rhodes. Which is far more expensive and would take me over 24 hours to complete. So the overnight ferry to Athens left at 2130, and arrived at 0600. Then I took the 0930 ferry from Athens to Rhodes that arrived at 0315 (yes, that’s the next day).

There were two fortunate things I discovered during those long hours on boats. The first is that I’d almost gotten used to the pain of cloths rubbing on my sunburns…almost. The second is that the hostel I really wanted to stay at allowed for late/early check-in. I simply informed them of when I would arrive, and the host arranged for me to find the key in a pre-determined location.

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Before the city wakes.

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So I arrived in Rhodes at 0315, spent about an hour trying to find the bus station, took the local bus at 0445, and arrived at the hostel (in Ιαλυσός/Iallysos) around 0530. At which point, I found the key and my room, and promptly went to sleep. And for anyone keeping track, I’d been fully clothed for over 40 hours.

The aftermath

Fortunately, the first, expensive hostel I was going to stay at didn’t charge me for the full night; they just kept the security deposit: $5.58. That ended up saving me $31.46 (you know how I mentioned they’re expensive).

The original ferry from Heraklion to Rhodes was €21; which was just lost money. The ferry from Heraklion back to Athens was €46 euro, and the one to Rhodes was €63.50.

So when that’s all computed, I basically lost $103.73, and spent a lot more time in pain from sunburns than was necessary. A pessimist would probably say something like ‘worst most of a week ever’ or something.

Summary

But I’ve been surprisingly upbeat (relatively) this whole time. I mean, just look at today’s brunch:

Brunch

How could you not love that? Granted, I was wearing socks and long pants that still hurt a little, but that view though…it’ll be even better for dinner once the sun’s gone down.

So if there’s anything to take away from this it’s that sometimes bad shit happens. But it’s typically not the worst thing ever, and afterwards, it makes for a fantastic story (or blog post). Until next time….

I’m on a boat!

Sometimes, acting like a complete tourist is worth it. I’d seen the pirate boat at the Θεσσαλονίκη (Thessaloniki) dock a few times, and was like “that’s such a tourist-y thing to do”. And it is. Before I got on the boat, one of the people hanging around even asked me if I could snap a quick photo of her and the ‘pirate captain’.

Once we got out on the water though…everything changed. I found myself a nice spot on the bow, and felt the sea air on my face. Locals would have said it was a cold day, but for me (who’s from a colder climate), it was perfect. I felt like I could have sat there all day in my jeans and t-shirt, but alas, it was only a half hour cruise…. And for most of the second half the ‘pirate captain’ stood in front ringing a bell and holding a huge ass pirate flag. Whatever, the first half more than made up for the obnoxious second.

Then, I wandered around and look a few obligatory pictures. Like this one under the famous umbrellas. Or the picture of Macedonia’s most famous person: Alexander the Great. I suppose conquering the most powerful nation at the time (Persia) makes you worthy of your own statue. Though I prefer the one of Aristotle; who has the largest square in the city dedicated to him. Ironically, neither Alexander nor Aristotle ever set foot in Thessaloniki, because it was founded after their deaths. The more you know….

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This tree looked photogenic to me

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I did manage to take some actually decent shots though. Like a huge tree that looks amazing! It’s just hanging out in the middle of the city. I don’t think there are too many others that thought to take a picture. Hipster reputation saved!

Anyway, this was a quick post to show that there are still funny, every-day things that can be observed even after being in a place for a while. I do have to do something when I’m tired of studying Greek after all. Oh yeah, did I mention I’m taking Greek classes as part of my cultural studies? I know, I’m weird….

See you guys next time.