Thursday, March 24, 2016

Lesvos, Greece

Before telling all the great stories of our weekend trip last weekend, I feel like I need to address the terrorist attacks that have happened across the world recently. I thought  about doing a whole post about it, but you all have heard me talk about the refugee crisisviolence in Turkey, and a bombing in Turkey, so I figured I'd just leave it at this.  We are sad.  We are sad because all over the world, innocent people have died.  The attacks in Brussels were real and scary for many people and received a lot of attention, but the attacks in Turkey were also scary.  Innocent people died in Turkey, just as they did in Brussels.  We are praying and thinking and sending good thoughts to the families who have lost their loved ones, both in Turkey and in Brussels.  We are hoping that the violence stops, but understand that there are so many aspects of the situation that we don't understand.  Despite the violence, we will continue to travel.  We will continue to remember that people are good. And we will remember that the world is a big and beautiful place.  As one of my childhood idols*, Mr. Rogers, said

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

My sentiments are echoed in many of the travel blogs I read.  My favorite was in this blogpost.  The people of Turkey are living their lives and refuse to let terrorism win, so why should we?  Maybe something will happen while we're traveling, but maybe something will happen while we're sitting at home. We're not going to stop living our lives just because something could happen.



On to a much lighter topic...

A few weeks ago, Mike's old Turkish teacher texted him and said a few people from his class, as well as herself were going to spend the weekend in Lesvos (Lesbos in English), Greece.  It's an easy weekend trip from Izmir and lots of Turks are known to travel there. We agreed to join them and were looking forward to checking another Greek island off our bucket list.

Saturday morning, we boarded a bus at 6:00am.  Y'all I'm so over these early morning travels. I know it's such a minor thing to complain about, especially when we're going to all of these amazing places, but it's exhausting. This weekend we're staying at home and I plan on sleeping in as late as possible. Anyways, I digress.  We got on the bus and got to Ayvalik, Turkey around 8:15 and caught the ferry around 8:45 to Lesvos.

Let me just paint the picture of our group before I continue.  Mike's Turkish teacher, Nejra and her husband, who are in their mid-forties, a Ukranian woman, a Greek woman (from Lesvos) and a Japanese woman who are both the same age as Nejra and then Mike and I.  When I say we have a hard time meeting people our own age, I'm not kidding.  Oh and did I mention that the whole weekend, the only language they spoke was Turkish?  It was definitely good for me to practice, mainly my listening skills, but between the age difference and the language barrier, the dynamic was definitely different. The ladies were great, though, and they love Mike.  They kept saying "Mike ozledik!" which means "we miss Mike!"

Anyways, when we got off the ferry, we were greeted by our tour guide. His name was Bayram, but I didn't get that until day two of our trip.  Every time they said Bayram, I thought they were talking about the holiday Bayram.  Whooopppps.  Guess my Turkish isn't that great....  We jumped in the van and headed downtown for tea (I would have expected nothing less).  Luckily,we made it to the cafe right before it started pouring.  We drank lots of tea and coffee and watched the rain fall.  It's amazing how far hand gestures can go when you don't understand something.  Everyone was speaking Turkish and, although I can understand some of it, I definitely didn't understand everything.  Hand gestures it was!
A nice rain cloud moving in....


The history of the island goes like this.  According to Greek mythology, Lesbos was the patron god of the island, hence it's name.  Years later, the poet Sappho was born on Lesbos and became famous for her poetry.  She was also a lesbian, so this island is kind of a hot spot for the LGBT community.  Oh, and yes, people from Lesbos are called Lesbians.

Sappho herself

After learning about the history of the island, Bayram took us for a walking tour around the downtown part of the island.

As we were walking through town, I noticed this shop.  It had nothing to do with the television show despite it's logo, but I had to take a picture.














By this point, it was time for a late lunch.  And when in Greece, you can't pass up the opportunity to have a Greek salad, amirite?






After lunch, we got in the van and headed north on the island.










We went inside this beautiful Greek Orthodox church







And then we stopped for more tea....





After tea, it was time to head back to the hotel for a few hours of rest and relaxation.  I was thankful for this since we had been up since before 6:00am.  We met up with the group again around 8:00pm to go to dinner. Mike and I are early dinner people.  We eat at 6:30ish every day and our meals are not very long.  This goes against everything Turkish, so when dinner was scheduled for 8:30, we weren't surprised.  We also weren't surprised when it lasted almost three hours, although by the end of the meal, we were both struggling to keep our eyes open.  All of our traveling had caught up to us and we were both falling asleep. Don't worry though, because the adults in our group (aka everyone else since they were 20+ years older than us) was going strong at 11:30 and I think were kind of disappointed that we asked to go home. Sorry guys, next time....



 The next morning, we met Bayram around 9:30 and he took us up to another part of the island north of where we were.  Our first stop was another Greek Orthodox church.  Everyone else in our group went inside to check it out, but Mike and I felt weird doing that since they were in the middle of mass. Mike did get super excited because they had this plane on display outside of the church (I don't know why) and he kept saying "It's like the Top Gun plane!"




After everyone came out of the church, we continued onward and found some good picturesque views.




Our group for the weekend!












Just a kedi taking a cat nap (kedi is Turkish for cat)


We stopped for lunch on the water and enjoyed one last Greek meal.  Unfortunately, they didn't have Gyros, which both Mike and I had been craving all weekend, but they did have lamb. Mike got this huge tortilla thing full of lamb and was extremely happy with his choice.




This sign was in the bathroom at the restaurant and I just had to laugh...
After lunch, you guessed it, we stopped for tea.  I was kind of tea-d out, but everyone else enjoyed a cup of tea before it was time to catch the ferry back to Izmir.  It was a long weekend, but it was fun to explore a new island. And, even though I didn't understand everything that was being said, I had a lot of fun spending time with Mike's former classmates.  I definitely improved my listening skills this weekend, if nothing else.  Lesvos was a beautiful island.  There wasn't a ton to do there this time of year, but I'm sure in the summer it is filled with beach and water activities to do.

All that being said, Mike and I are looking forward to a weekend at home. I've got an Easter dinner planned for us and a lot of sleeping to do.  Traveling on the weekends is fun, but it's definitely tolling on our bodies.  It's tough being gone all weekend and then jumping right back into school.  Hopefully a weekend at home will provide us with the rest and relaxation our bodies have been craving.

*When I was little, I remember watching Mr. Rogers at my grandparents' house.  They would record them on VHS and then I could watch them when I came over.  When he would ask questions like "How are you today?" I would actually answer out loud! Guys, I was that kid!