Cats of Ephesus

by Karen

I’m starting to sense that there are large numbers of stray cats all along the Mediterranean. In contrast to the ones I’ve seen in Morocco, the strays in Italy and Turkey are big! They are very well-fed and well taken care of. The ones in Ephesus are incredibly smart as well, they know the exact pillar or podium to stand on in order to get your attention, and they all seem to magically pose for your photos. In Dubrovnik, we saw two people in different areas feed stray cats with large cans of meat from a market.

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The Turkey Shuffle

by Karen

No matter how much careful planning you think you do, there’s always something small that can slip through the cracks. In our case, it was a pretty big crack!

Somehow we got the idea into our heads that Mark didn’t need to apply for a Turkey visa beforehand, that he would be able to purchase one upon arrival for $20. We both could’ve sworn it was true. In fact, it IS true for US citizens, but not for Philippine citizens.

We were thisclose to booking our 14 days in Turkey, when on a whim we decided to read the page about visa requirements.

PHILIPPINES
Ordinary passport holders are required to have a consular visa before travelling to Turkey.

To say that we panicked is a gross understatement. We scrambled to get all his visa paperwork together, going through the motions of booking fake hotels, printing out flight itineraries, filling out forms, and grabbing cash, and raced towards the Turkish embassy in Paris, only to find out they were closed. We then realized that it might take days or weeks to get the visa approved, so we gave up on the idea of going to Turkey for 14 days.

Turkey was an important strategic segment of our trip. Because we’re only allowed 90 days in Schengen territory, and because we want to experience Christmas & New Years in Europe, we needed a way to extend our time in the Europe region through January. An obvious solution would be to fly to Asia, then come back, but we have bigger plans for that trip later. 😉

So what were our other options? We couldn’t go to a country that required Philippine citizens to get a visa in advance, and we couldn’t stay too long in Schengen, lest we go over our 90-day welcome.

  • Extend our stay in Morocco (US & Philippine citizens OK for 90 days)
  • Go to Israel (no visas required for both of us)
  • Go back to London

After e-mailing the Turkish consulate in LA about our visa issue, I found out that there was a loophole for Mark entering Turkey. According to the friendly Turkish consulate worker:

If you come to Turkey by a cruise ship and thereafter leave Turkey for another country by the same cruise ship, all cruise passengers on board are exempt from visa for a daily stopover. If your cruise ship starts from Turkey or ends up in Turkey, all passengers are subject to a visa to enter Turkey. Depending on the citizenship of the passenger, an advance visa may be necessary to disembark.

Really? Even if we have to disembark the ship? *flutter of hope*

Mark found a cruise with Costa Cruises that fits into our itinerary quite well (anyone back home wanna join us???). But, we need to be absolutely sure, for real this time, lest we repeat our mistake:

YOU DO NOT NEED TO HAVE AN ADVANCE VISA UNDER YOUR CRUISE TRAVEL ROUTE FOR ALL TURKISH PORT OF CALLS. AS LONG AS YOU ARE LISTED IN A CRUISE PASSENGERS LIST, YOU VISIT TURKEY.

Yes sir, we will go and visit Turkey! With the supposed blessing of the Turkish consulate, we went ahead and booked our cruise!

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Now because we are leaving from Italy, we would be spending extra time in a Schengen zone. We did the math and so far it seems to work out (we hope). So if we’re on a cruise ship, which country are we technically in? I e-mailed the Greek consulate in LA and got back this response:

When you are on the cruise ship in Greek waters, you are considered as being in Greece.  They will stamp your passport when you enter and exit the country.  As a U.S. citizen traveling on a U.S. passport you can stay in the Schengen area 90 days in any six months.

So, hopefully this all works out in the end. A cruise will be a nice break from all the planning, and in addition to Turkey, we get to visit Greece, Croatia, and 2 new Italian cities in the process, something that we hadn’t planned. 🙂

Updated Itinerary

Mark & I sat down and re-hashed our itinerary, currently in its 5th iteration. We’ve decided to add more time to Scotland & England, bump Turkey up to post-Morocco, cut Salzburg and Stuttgart, and add some Baltic States lovin’. It’s like we’re playing musical chairs with Europe.

With all these changes, this puts us in Munich for Christmas (which I greatly prefer over Berlin), and Vienna for New Years’ Day (which was highly recommended over Prague).

Mark is worried that we don’t have the luxury of downtime once we come back from Europe though, and it seems like all out major stays — Paris, Morocco, Turkey, Rome — are happening upfront, while our more hectic trips are towards the 2nd half of our journey.

 

More flights booked

Flight to San Jose booked! Leaving Sept 1st at night on Virgin (I’m excited) after Mark finishes his last wing-chun class. Charleen has kindly agreed to take us to LAX.

We’ve also decided to go ahead and fly Delta round-trip from SFO without any stopovers. Sucks that we won’t be taking advantage of the free stopover, but I’m sure we’ll get chances later. It’d be too stressful to visit another location while we go towards Boston, and we’ll be too busy settling back into our Cali life to think about visiting another place. We’ll need to find an apartment again and grab our vehicles from Sam’s. Hopefully Mark will still have his job, and I can find one once I return!

At least we are taking advantage of our free US stopover on AA, we’ve decided to go to Miami for 3 days.

We also decided to reshuffle our itinerary a bit, since we have to depart from Barcelona anyways, we might as well go to Spain last after Turkey. We’ll most likely fly to Morocco after France and cut Salzburg, Vienna from our trip, since we are almost maxed out on Schengen days and need some buffer room.