26 Jul 2010 @ 11:46 AM 

we are now lagging behind on our maps and trivia, but they will be there soon with the pictures.

Upon arrival to St. Petersburg, we walked over to our hostel. We were greeted by the owner of the hostel, who was quite blind, but very nice. He gave us some advice for our morning in St. Petersburg and we headed out for an early birthday celebration. We found a little beer garden at the foot of the Church of Spilled Blood, which looked a lot like St. Basil’s. We had a relaxing evening next to a little river enjoying the view.

The next morning we slept in a little bit, ate lunch at Carl’s Jr., and went to wait in line at the Hermitage. We waited for a long time. During this time, I doctored up my UW employee ID until it would be accepted as a student ID, so when we reached the ticket buying area, neither Sunil nor I had to buy tickets, we got in for free. (yay!) We wandered around for a few hours, it was fairly hard to navigate and we weren’t always sure whether we were seeing famous art or not, but we definitely saw Michelangelo sculptures, as well as paintings by Van Gogh, Picassio, Monet, and Renoir. Sunil and I missed a sign that forbid photos of the Picasso exhibit, so we got chased down by some Russian lady for violating the rule. We pretended to be confused due to the language barrier and promised to take no (more) pictures. I’m sure she wanted to so something about the pictures we likely took but she didn’t witness us taking, but we scooted out of there as soon as we could.

After we left the hermitage, we wandered around the town seeing the sights and stopping at a few shops before we went to the airport to head to Latvia. The flight was quick and we were soon on a bus to the old town center of Riga. We walked into our hostel, which was spitting distance from the bus stop, and they told us they couldn’t check us in until we had enjoyed our free drinks at the bar. Because it was my birthday, they gave me champagne, so by the time we checked in, we were already pretty happy with Riga.

After we dropped off our luggage, we walked to the other end of old Riga through the middle. It was very quaint and all of the beer gardens and pubs were just starting to have customers. It was past midnight. We went to a classy bar on the top floor of their highest high rise (26 stories!) and while we were admiring the view, a retired Finnish couple joined us. They were probably the friendliest, tanniest, craziest people we have met yet. The woman kept kissing my face and telling us not to leave. After another drink, the bar was closing, so we decided to head back because we had an early flight in the morning. The couple kept trying to get us to head out to the disco, but after much persuading and kissing, we managed to head our own way back to the hotel. Once there, Sunil went right to bed and I proceeded to be violently ill all night.

anyway (this is sunil now), we woke up the next morning and ran around riga and took some pictures before we had to get on a bus to go to the airport. and then we were on our way to turkey.

once we entered the istanbul airport, we proceeded to the visa/passport lines. chris and aj were supposed to arrive an hour and a half hour before us, respectively, so we kept an eye out for them in the passport line. funny enough, we spotted both aj AND chris in the passport line, which is pretty incredible, since chris came from the US, aj from scotland and us from latvia, and we all happened to converge practically at the same time.

from the airport, we found a man who took us to our hostel, which was smack dab in the middle of the old town. after checking in, we went up to their awesome rooftop bar that overlooked the bosphorus and golden horn and had a couple beers and kebaps. we also played a bunch of card games and caught up with one another about things we’ve been doing in our life.

after we had all showered and were ready to go out, we started walking around the old town of istanbul. we also ate a bunch of döners on this walk, because me and aj couldn’t stop eating them. the people of turkey apparently love to tell you random lies and joke around with you a lot, so it was my kind of place. for example, if you order ice cream from them, they play a little keep away game with you. and sometimes they also jokingly tell you the price of something is really high in a straight face, and then laugh at you as you think you owe them a lot. anyway, we continued to wander and walk past the famous istanbul monuments until we decided to sit down and have a drink while we waited for it to be midnight (and my birthday). we ended up finally settling on a bar close to our hostel that was playing some american music and we had a few birthday drinks and then retired for the night (after going to our hostel’s rooftop bars and having them playing happy birthday on the guitar for me).

the next day, we headed to the hagia sofia and blue mosque, the two main attractions of istanbul and wandered around the town for some time. that night, we had planned on going to nando’s for dinner because it’s the restaurant that aj works at in scotland. so after hyping up how amazing nando’s is, we decided it would be the perfect place to have my birthday dinner. it was kinda hard to find our way to it, because it was kinda far out of the center of town, but we used our keen public transportation skills to get our way there.

the dinner was pretty amazing. we had two whole chickens marinated in peri peri spice and four sides of food (along with appetizers), and the people working there thought we were crazy because we woudln’t be able to finish all of our food. but since we were fat americans, it was no problem for us. we left nando’s super satisfied.

for the night, we planned on taking a pub crawl with our hostel, and it started at our hostel’s rooftop bar. we met a couple of aussies to hang out with, and one of them apparently acted exactly like me and shared the same humor as me (and not to mention, the laugh). the first bar we went to was pretty cool, but the second one wasn’t that great, so we went back to the first place and hung out there for a while before finally going home. we officially finished the night by playing some monopoly deal.

the next day, we didn’t have a whole lot planned. we checked out of our hostel and took a boat to asia. we chilled in a little park (and i somehow lost 60 lira) and returned to europe after a couple hours. in the evening, we got on an overnight bus to ephesus.

once we arrived in ephesus, we bought our next bus ticket, and got a cheaper price just by talking to more and more people. we headed to the ruins of ephesus and saw some of the most impressive ancient ruins i’ve ever seen. i would have to say the ruins are probably better than what i’ve seen in rome. on the way back from the ruins, we stopped by the ruins of the temple of artemis, one of the seven wonders of the world. all that remains of the temple is one of the pillars.

we got some lunch and then headed on our next bus to pamukkale. we booked a ticket for a “direct to pamukkale” bus, but little did we know we were going direct there.

first off, they really didn’t have seats for us on the bus. an hour into the bus ride, me and aj were moved to the front of the bus; i was sitting in a jumper seat and aj was sitting in the aisle between the driver and me. when we reached denizli, we were taken off the bus and a few of the bus staff people chat for a while until the sent us in to another bus. that bus drove for 2 minutes to a bus station where we were escorted to yet another bus. and then finally that bus drove around for 20 minutes and dropped us off where someone took us to another bus that finally went directly to our hostel.

once we checked into our hostel, we gave them some of our laundry and ate a pretty awesome dinner full of lamb. we took a little swim in the pool here and are currently now playing cards by the poolside. tomorrow we will be going to the “cotton castle”, the main attraction of pamukkale and then we’ll be going to the turkish coast. hopefully we make it through without so many buses!

Posted By: Sunil
Last Edit: 26 Jul 2010 @ 11:46 AM

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