Expectations of Turkey, Greece and Italy Revisited

Venice at night

Before we took off for Europe in September, I posted my nine pre-trip expectations. Let’s check in to see how those expectations worked out.

1. I expect to complain about how expensive everything is

Expectation: sort of met

We usually travel in cheap 3rd world countries, so the prices in Europe were a shock. While it is true that I did complain at first, I sort of became resigned to my fate, although it was depressing to spend more on a diet coke than we’d spend on a hotel room in India.

Instead of being upset, I decided not to pay attention to how much money we were spending. It works for the U.S. government, so I thought I’d give it a try.

2. I expect to eat my body weight in doner kebab

Expectation: not met

I have something important to say: I didn’t so much love doner kebabs in Turkey. This may prevent me from ever going back, as what I am about to type may get me a visa denial if the wrong person sees it, but I prefer the Greek gyro to the Turkish doner kebab. There, I said it.

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The Greek gyro was my favorite sandwich. Sorry doner kebab.

We LOVED the food in Turkey, but the doner kebab was a bit of a disappointment. It was usually a little dry, served without sauce, and lacked some pizazz. I’ve had better doner kebabs in Peru, Germany and Sicily. Heresy, I know.

Aside: the best kebab we ate was in Ragusa, Sicily. We found a kebab shop down a narrow, deserted alley. I think the shop was a money-laundering front for the mob. We entered and interrupted a meeting of an imposing, serious Arab man and some younger, intense Sicilians. They eyed us suspiciously as the nice Muslim women made us some ridiculously delicious kebabs.

Usually, the vendor carves off a few slices of meat, slaps in some veggies and the sandwich is served in about 14 seconds. This woman took about 5 minutes, adding picante sauce, carefully placing the veggies and then put it in a panini press to heat it up. It was a spiritual experience eating this kebab. I think the plan for any money-laundering kebab shop is to serve kebabs that are total garbage so as to not attract customers or suspicions, but this lady clearly was failing at that.

3. I expect to like Venice despite the crowds

Expectation: met

Venice at night

Venice is ridiculously beautiful.

Venice is special. Walking out of the train station we were gobsmacked. Just outside the station is the Grand Canal, a green-domed church, gondoliers and magic. There is no other city like it. No wonder it has captured the hearts of so many artists, writers, travelers and movie producers.

We enjoyed Venice, loved it in fact, but I think if I were to visit during peak season, I’d hate it. Even in late November, hordes of tourists surged through the narrow streets and coagulated atop every tiny bridge, shooting photos of every little photogenic canal. I was often part of this logjam, I must admit.

I loved Venice. But I probably wouldn’t love it in June.

4. I expect to encounter some sort of transportation delay due to a strike

Expectation: sort of met

There was a train strike our last day in Greece, so we ended up taking a taxi from Meteora to Thessaloniki. It cost about 40 extra Euros but saved us about 3 hours time.

5. I expect to take more than 200 photos

Expectation: met

I took 8322 photos. Stay tuned for a slideshow of the top 8322 photos of my trip.

Screen Shot

Set aside 4 days to look through my 8322 photo slideshow. I’ll post it soon.

6. I expect the locals to want photos of Kristi and I

Expectation: not met 

I am so surprised the locals in Greece, Turkey and Italy didn’t want photos with a westerner. Weird.

The locals usually want photos with us. The Turks, Greeks and Italians acted as though they'd seen westerns before.

The locals usually want photos with us. The Turks, Greeks and Italians acted as though they’d seen westerns before.

7. I expect (and hope) to return home the same weight as when I leave

Expectation: not quite met

I gained one pound on our 10-week trip. But here is the thing, I didn’t gain 1/10th of a pound per week. I lost probably five or more pounds in Turkey and Greece, then gained it all back plus one pound in Italy.

Europe2013weightThe food in Turkey and Greece is very healthy and we were doing a lot of hiking. At one time, my wife said to me, “You are losing a lot of weight. Your jeans don’t fit.”

“No. I just haven’t washed them in a couple of weeks,” I replied.

But I had lost weight and for the first time in a few years I was feeling svelte. Then we went to Italy.

Fun Fact: If you eat pasta, pizza, and pastries every day, you will gain weight. All the gains I’d made in Turkey and Greece were lost in Italy. But the thing is, somehow Italians are quite fit. I did some research, and a mere 40% of Italians are overweight. That might sound like a lot, but about 75% of Americans are fat. Italy is actually one of the thinnest developed countries in the world.

economix-23obesitycorrected-custom2How do they do it? It seems like many Italians substitute cigarettes for a meal or two. I think all the espresso they are slamming must serve as an appetite suppressant. I think they save all their calories for dinner, where I can attest that they feast like it is Thanksgiving.

Somehow, Italians remain thin but eating their diet for a month caused me to gain about six pounds.

8. I expect to step in something gross while wearing sandals

Expectation: luckily not met

I stepped in dog poo with shoes on, but that isn’t bad all things considered. It sure beats sacred cow dung squished all up in between bare toes.

Sacred cow poop.

Sacred cow poop feels the same as regular cow poop.

9. I expect to get scammed at least once

Expectation: not met

I am pretty sure I never got scammed. I am sure I overpaid for stuff a few times, but after being in India, the touts in Europe are easy to avoid, even the touts that have been imported from India.

Europe scams

European touts are total amateurs compared to the Indians.

On the contrary, I have a couple of things weighing on my conscious I need to come clean on.

First, when we arrived in Rome all the taxis had a fixed price from the airport to city center listed on the door. The driver wanted to charge us five extra Euros because it was night. I argued with him, it got somewhat heated, and finally he relented. Later we asked our hotel receptionist and he said the five Euro night charge was customary. So I feel like a jerk for that.

Also, in the Cinque Terra the hiking trail checkpoints were unmanned, so we didn’t pay the entrance fee. We thus scammed Italy out of 10 Euros. It sounds like both Italy and the Bells could use the 10 Euros, as both of us are now near bankrupt. Italy for crappy management of its economy, the Bells for visiting Italy.

U.S. government, China, any rich people out there? Can you bail us both out?

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Do your expectations of places usually get met when you travel or go on vacation? 

Let’s discuss in the comments section below. 

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18 Comments on “Expectations of Turkey, Greece and Italy Revisited

  1. This is a great idea. I am usually too worried to have any expectations for traveling. You know how it can go. I too scammed Cinque Terra and later felt bad about it. Guess we will just have to go back and pay double 🙂 After a recent stint in Spain, I too worried about getting scammed but we never had one incident. People just need to BE AWARE 🙂

    • In our defense, we INTENDED to pay at the Cinque Terra, just like you did I am sure. The booths at the entrances were unmanned so we couldn’t pay. Although, I guess we are supposed to buy a ticket at the train station or tourist office.

      If Italy goes bankrupt, we can accept some blame.

  2. I am surprised at your number 6 assumption… I wouldn’t have expected people from those three countries to want a photo with westerners bc I think there are enough native people in all three of those countries who look similar enough to westerners to begin with. I don’t think westerners look different enough that the natives would view their appearance as something novel.  Congrats on not getting scammed or stepping in crap!

  3. Give me good pile of cow dung over dog doo any day! 🙂 (I grew up on a farm) Funny, I never thought ahead of what to expect enough to write it down and evaluate later. It’s almost setting yourself up for failure or contrived success. Looking forward to the slideshow.

    • I wrote down my expectations before going to India last year because I wanted to see what my thoughts were in advance, especially because India is so different. I think my expectation of Venice and weight gain/loss were the two I was most interested in personally.

  4. Great write up as usual. So it sounds like future trip destinations will be determined by calories and cost – or did I miss something?

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