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Balabanova All Over

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[Istanbul, Turkey, May 25, 2019] And just like that, it was the last day of our trip! It’s always hard to believe when that day comes. Time seems to fly by while at the same time my normal every-day life seems so far away! It rained again overnight but we decided to leave the umbrellas at home – it was a pain to carry them around all day yesterday, and the weather… Read More

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[Istanbul, Turkey, May 24, 2019] A gloomy, rainy morning sky greated us on our full first day in Istanbul. Luckily, it was not cold. We borrowed some umbrellas from our hotel and headed to Hagia Sophia, the most easily recognizable Istanbul landmark. The current structure is the third church built at this site in the 6th century by Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the previous two having been destroyed. It remained the largest cathedral… Read More

[Istanbul, Turkey, May 23, 2019] Ahhh, Istanbul! This magical city, which straddles Europe and Asia, has gone through many transformative changes in its history. Founded under the name of Byzantion around 660 BC, the city grew in size and influence. Roman Emperor Constantine, having just converted to Christianity, made it the new capital of the Roman Empire in 330 AD and began its transformation as a major Christian center. A thousand years… Read More

[Athens, Greece, May 20, 2019] After our marathon through Athens and its outskirts yesterday, we were looking forward to a less busy day. The only things on our agenda were a visit to the National Archaeological Museum and returning the rental car we used to go see the sunset at Cape Sounion. The National Archaeological Museum houses some of the most important artifacts from a variety of archaeological locations around Greece from… Read More

[Athens, Greece, May 19 ,2019] We began our first full day in Athens with a visit to its most famous landmark, the Acropolis. We knew it would get busy, so we figured we’d avoid the crowds by getting there at 8 am, when it opened. Even though we were staying in the center of Athens, the neighborhood looked like a ghost town on our walk to the Acropolis! Even though the Acropolis… Read More

[Santorini / Athens, Greece, May 18, 2019] Our flight back to Athens wasn’t until late afternoon, which left us with some time to explore the other parts of Santorini. There is so much to this island other than Oia and its gorgeous sunsets! First, though, we made the most of our stay at Aqua luxury suites. We enjoyed our breakfast and took one last dip in the hot tub before we said… Read More

[Santorini, Greece, May 16-17, 2019] There are over 6000 islands and islets in Greece, of which only 227 are inhabited. The Greek islands account for almost half of the country’s 16,000 km/10,000 miles of coastline. They are split into six groups based on their georgaphic location. Offbeat Greece has a great guide to the different groups. The most popular group is by far the Cyclades, which includes Mykonos and Santorini, as well… Read More

[Sofia, Bulgaria, May 15-16, 2019] The weather, which had been getting worse even since I got here, deteriorated even further the next day. It’s a good thing B and I already saw some of the major sights in the city. For this second day in Sofia, I decided to focus more on museums to avoid the rain in the forecast. Temperatures were also cooler, so I had to borrow a thicker jacket… Read More

[Sofia, Bulgaria, May 13-14, 2019] I spent the next few days showing my hometown to B, who arrived in Sofia three days after me. It was his first trip to Europe since 1992, so he was little anxious about the long flight. But everything went smoothly and he popped out of customs smiling and ready to spend the next 2 weeks on the Balkans. I had a whole day free before his… Read More

[Plovdiv, Bulgaria, May 12, 2019] In 1985, the Greek minister of culture Melina Mercouri came up with the idea of designating an annual capital of culture to bring Europeans closer together and to highlight the richness and diversity of European cultures. Athens, Greece, served as the inaugural European Capital of Culture that year. More than 40 cities have held the designation since. Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria, earned the designation… Read More