Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Our Mediterranean Adventure: Days Eight, Nine, & Ten Turkey & Lots of Cruising

Dear Em,
* This is one of ten posts recapping our California adventure. See also Day One Boston to BarcelonaDay Two Antibes & NiceDay Three Pisa & FlorenceDay Four RomeDay Five & Six CruisingDay Seven AthensDay Eleven Capri, ItalyDay Twelve Cruising & Returning Home, & Your Own Adventures with Grandma & Papa. *
On Saturday we docked in Turkey. We had three different spots to explore, & I loved passing by rows & rows of olive trees as we traveled by bus.  We drove in & out of mountains while our tour guide told us all about Turkey. Like the USA, Turkey has many different people from different cultures. The guide called it a mosaic of cultures, & it seemed the perfect way to describe how beautiful it can be when a place includes diversity of people & cultures.

During the days of the Roman Empire, they established one of their largest cities in Turkey, the city of Ephesus. Unlike the ruins we visited in busy cities everywhere else on this trip, Ephesus was abandoned long ago. As a result, the ruins we saw in Turkey were the most complete  of the whole trip. 
In Miletus we saw, explored, & climbed a theater that had once held 15,000 people. Surrounding it was a bath house & other pieces of what was once a harbor city. When the water dried up, so did the city...leaving these incredible ruins standing quietly in the middle of nowhere. 

We stopped at a small nearby museum to see pieces of plates & artwork & even money that had been used back when Miletus had been full of life. 

Next we traveled to Didyma to see the ruins of the temple of Apollo. Had it been finished, it would have been the largest temple of its time & one of the wonders of the world. Unfortunately, it was never finished, but it was still impressive to see. The two pillars that remained intact were massive & towered high in the air. 

We had the chance to eat what they called an "authentic Turkish meal." In reality, it was a gigantic dining hall experience. Daddy said it would be like taking an international group to a Ponderosa & telling them it was an authentic American meal. Still, it was fun to try out a variety of different Turkish foods. I loved the dips & the breads most of all.

Ephesus was once one of the largest Roman cities. It was a city on the move as the silted harbor receded. The city actually moved to 4 different locations. The last location was buried after an earthquake, which is why so much of it remains. It was the largest & most extensive of all the ruins we saw on this trip. It was fascinating to see how the ancient city was situated & how the people lived. 

In Ephesus, even going to the bathroom was a social experience.

From there we took a bus back to the port & navigated through the many shops & merchants that lay ahead of the ship. They sold carpets, one of the main goods of Turkey & many, many "genuine fake" name-brand handbags, watches, etc. 

The day had been scorching hot, with temperatures in the upper 90s. We returned to the boat exhausted & grabbed a casual meal from the buffet. Then I happily put on a pair of sweatpants. We sat on pool lounge chairs, covered ourselves in pool towels, & watched a big screen movie on the pool deck. 

I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow that night, excited for our next day's early excursion in Santorini, Greece. Unfortunately, we woke up early the next morning to some serious rocking of the ship. It was difficult to get dressed & get myself ready as the boat lurched from one side to another. I don't know if I was more excited about going to Santorini or just getting off the rocking ship. I started to feel sea sickness for the first time, & it was awful. As we gathered in the ballroom before the excursion, I turned to your Daddy & said, "I just need to get off this ship."

That was when they announced that the water was too rough, & it would be too dangerous for us to take our tenders to the island of Santorini. I don't know what was worse, knowing that we would not be able to go to one of the spots I had most looked forward to or knowing that I was stuck on the violently rocking ship.

We were looking forward to the blue-roofed buildings of Santorini. Sadly, this was the only blue-roofed building we saw on our trip.
Nevertheless, I was determined to make the most of the day. While Daddy, Glen, & Liz went back to bed, I went up to the track on the top deck to exercise. The wind was blowing so hard, I didn't make it very far. Looking for protection from the elements, I went to the gym inside (still with a nice view) & got onto a treadmill. Have you ever tried to run on a rocking treadmill? It's not easy! I relaxed in the sauna for a little bit before swimming laps in the empty pool (which had waves like an ocean). 

After I showered, Daddy & I looked for fun things to do on the ship. Every indoor area was crowded with people. After lunch, we found Liz & Glen. That was when I hit a wall. It was a miserable day to be at sea. It was cold & windy outside. Most of the outdoor activities were closed. I was starting to feel terribly seasick. While the others played cards, I put on my headphones & closed my eyes for a while.

Luckily, after taking a Dramamine, I felt a little better. We had dinner at the formal dining restaurant, where every night we have the same table & the same servers. They all know our names, which is a nice feeling when you're traveling so far from home. I was awestruck watching them all work amidst the rocking of the boat. I could barely walk. How were they serving food & drink? 

The wind had died down enough to go out on deck that night & watch another movie under the stars. We snuggled up under towels again to watch the outdoor movie, & then headed straight to bed afterwards. I was glad to put an end to what had been a disappointing & challenging day.

What a difference a day makes. I was so incredibly happy to wake up the next morning & see calm seas out our window. I woke up early & ran 3 miles on the top deck track. I'm going to miss ruining in the sunshine with the sea views & sea breeze all around me. I stretched & hit the sauna before eating breakfast quietly on a lounge chair with the beauty of the Mediterranean all around me.

We spent a good chunk of that day laying in lounge chairs, enjoying the sunshine, reading books, & catching occasional cat naps. I also snacked on soft serve vanilla ice cream whenever possible, & we played a few games of shuffle board. Unlike the previous day, it was the perfect day for cruising.

When we had our fill of sunshine, we went to a piano lounge & played cards. We returned to our stateroom to get ready for our last formal night on the ship. We were cruising through the Italian straight, making for the perfect backdrop to our formal photos. 

We went to a fun show after dinner & then headed to bed, excited that we would FINALLY be able to leave the ship for our last excursion the next day. 

As sad as it will be to see our last piece of Europe, we're so excited to be returning home in just a few days. I miss the little things...like toilet seats...& most of all my little girl's snuggles. We love you so, so, so much...to the moon & back. Can't wait to hear about all of your adventures while we've been away.

I love you so,

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