I'm back! I haven't updated this blog in ages, but today, I felt it necessary to add a new entry to describe what has been one of the best vacations I have ever taken. I went to Turkey and Greece with a touring company called Contiki. What made this trip so awesome, you ask? Read on...
One of the most enjoyable elements of this trip was the food. We ate at a variety of different places ranging from buffets to formal "sit down" style restaurants. Everything was excellent. My favorite mediteranean dish was the "Doner Kebab" (pictured). Combining meat, pita, spices, yogurt and of course, loads of melted butter, it was like biting into a piece of heaven every time.
Also quite popular in Turkey was the Turkish Delight candies. These little morsels of fun come in a variety of flavors including pistachio, pomegranate, honey and more. The texture is soft and smooth and offers just the right amount of sweetness. There is truly nothing like Turkish Delight.
And, of course, who can leave out Baklava. I've had Baklava here in the US, but Baklava in Greece? There is no comparison. I've always found Baklava to be too sweet and too sticky. This was definitely not the case in Greece. The Baklava there was mild, soft and practically melted in your mouth. You haven't had true Baklava unless it's from Greece.
No entry on Turkey and Greece is complete without a section on it's archaeological significance. With ruins dating back thousands of years before Christ, this is Indiana Jones' Mecca. You cannot walk more than a few hundred meters without seeing the remnants of some ancient civilization. Some highlights include the Parthenon, Ephesus, Troy and Asklepieion. It's fascinating to realize that thousands of years ago there existed humans who were capable of the same kind of critical thinking that we enjoy today. This is clearly demonstrated by the incredible structures they built, many of which still stand today.
The People (and Culture)
It's tourist high season in Turkey and Greece right now and as such, the locals go deep into hiding to avoid the crazy foreigners from around the world. Nevertheless, I managed to venture off the beaten path and found some locals just hanging out on the island of Crete. I saw old men, sitting outside a local cafe drinking Raki and Turkish coffee. They were enjoying the view and playing board games. I saw dogs and cats freely roaming as though they owned the island. I saw women, dressed in traditional Greco-roman garb, performing classical dances. I saw streets with overhanging trellises holding grapes and olives. I could go on and on. The point is, beneath all the tourist traps, shops and bazaars, is a truly beautiful culture that has persisted for centuries.
My Contiki Family
Normally, I would conclude my entry here, but there is one critical component of this trip that I have not mentioned yet: my fellow travelers. This was my 7th group tour. They've all been great, but this group has taken the prize. We had the perfect balance of personalities from all walks of life and from all parts of the World; Puerto Rico, South Africa, New Zealand and Jersey, just to name a few. The good vibes on this trip was highly infectious and spread like a virus. We did everything together, including some things that would normally be done alone (i.e. Turkish bath). But, amazingly, it worked! By the end of the trip, we were inseparable and the friendships we forged will surely last a lifetime.
This trip was truly incredible. I'm almost afraid to book another because I can't imagine how it could get any better. The places I saw and friends I made were epic and one for the history book. As I reminisce on all the people I met, I am reminded of poem I once read on friendship:
There is a place I like to go
Whenever I'm feeling
Lonely or sad--
A place of sunshine,
Laughter and love
That always leaves me
There I share my secrets,
Hopes and fears,
For this warm, inviting place--
Always waiting, always welcoming--
is found in my friend's smiling face.
The world is a more beautiful place
because of friends like you
© 2016 Vimal Gopal. All rights Reserved. San Diego, CA