Greece and Turkey the first few days
So after our traumatic journey through Albania we found ourselves in Greece - where Tigger is strip searched again crossing the border. They didn't seem interested in anything other than secret compartments for presumably drugs but irritating that we had to take everything out of the van while they went round knocking on all the panels. If this is only Greece dread to think what it is going to be like later on!
We eventually get into Greece and find our self a free campsite without any facilities but that's ok we make camp and get out our witches hat and make a fire and cook up our dinner!
And very yummy they were too!
We are keen to get going the next day and decide we want a proper campsite with luxuries such as showers and toilets having been without these for a few days now. It would seem that most campsites in Northern Greece don't open until 1st May and its only the 31st April and apparently wild camping is not allowed in Greece - aaarrgh everything is closed - we are hot, bothered and want to stop. We find another campsite just outside of Thessaloniki which is closed BUT if we don't mind not having hot water until the next day we can stay - we don't even ask how much we just want to get out of the van. We spend a two nights at" the campsite without hot water" as it will be known (as they never really got it going while we were there) just chilling, sorting the van - which we do on a regular basis, and enjoying not driving! We did eventually have a luke warm shower which was better than nothing!
Beautiful but the water is a bit too chilly for a dip
Our Entrance to Turkey
We eventually get to the Turkish border where the armed guards are waiting with their machine guns and then Tigger decides to announce his arrival by beeping his horn, loudly and continuously!! The Guards look at us suspiciously at the same time as grabbing on to their machine guns with both hands, meanwhile we are frantically pulling over to one side waving our arms in the air manically and shouting" Kaput, Kaput"!! John jumps out with his trusty leatherman to take off the front of the van where he can disable Tiggers horn , The guards stand over John with their guns poised as he quietens our beast - We have one hormonal Tigger who needs to get his horn sorted out!
Turkey so far has been a real mixture of extremes, from wild camping without any to facilities to the complete luxury of a hotel. In my former days before I was an adventurer I would have turned my nose up at a Raddison thinking them nothing more than a business hotel preferring to stay somewhere more exclusive and "Boutique" Well that's all changed for sure!! I loved the Raddison couldn't fault it on any level, and the staff were lovely, helpful and captivated by Tigger, so I will do nothing other than big up the Raddison Blu in Istanbul. Our wild camping has also been better than expected, the en suite facilites are actually pretty good
Raddison Blu Shower - which one do you prefer?
Istanbul was fun we visited all the things you should, The Blue Mosque which required us to don extra clothing - I have to say I felt quite claustrophobic having something over my head the whole time and irritated that John didn't have to experience the same - ok so I'm not going to be a Muslim then!
Aya Sofya the Cathedral in Istanbul is bigged up in the tourist books but we were a bit disappointed, other than having a fresco of the Virgin Mary surrounded by the symbols for Allah and Muhammad, not something you see everyday and a cat (a real one ) sitting on the alter - who was getting more of a photo shoot than the Virgin Mary - it wasn't anything too special and at 30TL for entry in our opinion not really worth it. To be fair it was extremely busy and there was lots of renovation work going on so we may not have seen it at its best
An unexpected highlight were the Cisterns which we would thoroughly recommend (as soon as you get past the guys trying to get you to have your photo taken dressed up as a Sultan! ) they are in Roman origin and have been sympathetically renovated, apparently according to a friend have an amazing echo although we didn't actually try that out! They are also a great place to get out of the sun and delightlfully cool and serene.
We visited the Grand Bazaar the largest covered Bazaar in the world and it really was huge, not being able to buy anything because we don't have the room was torture! We are going to have to find a solution to this my retail urges won't cope! As we HAD to buy something we stopped for an Apple tea - definitely the best so far served in a caffitere type pot with what looks like chunks of dried apple - after infusing for a couple of minutes we had to add further ingredients cinnemon, mint and a piece of orange - all in all yummy yummy!
Lastly we were scrubbed, lathered , washed and massaged in a Turkish Hamman - it was sort of relaxing - in bits! Don't think we are going to be this clean for a while! We didn't really have enough time in Istanbul (a recurring theme?) but we did enjoy our time there it has a great atmosphere and we ate some wonderful food another one on the list to come back to!
Cisterns - where there is also an upside down Medusa head!
The Blue Mosque
Mosque ladies wear
Bye Bye Istanbul you were fun
After a two days of luxury in Istanbul its back to reality and the road We head off over the Bospherous in search of Asia!
Goodbye Europe Hello Asia!