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Greece/Turkey/Croatia Itinerary

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We are in the very beginning phases of planning a trip to Europe. We can only manage to go every 5 years or so and want to make the of it which means a packed itinerary. We can rest when we are old!

My biggest challenge is my passion for all things Italian. Every trip I get lured in. Five trips now and I have yet to see Greece. So, I am soliciting advise on a Greek itinerary with Istanbal. I am completely ignorant about the Greek islands and all of Eastern Europe (which also accounts for my repeated trips to Italy and Paris). I am half tempted to do a cruise to take us from port to port so we can visit many places with no hassle. But then you lose the flavor of the city. We are 45 and very comfortable travelling without a guide. Fumbling through language barriers and bus maps is part of the experience.

We can swing 2-3 weeks in May or October. We do frequent beach vacations with the kids so we are looking to tour, not lay around on the beach.

Could an experienced traveller kindly point us in the right direction? I once found a great page on Fodors that started with "if you only have 3 days in France, spend them all in Paris..." but I couldn't find it. I thought that might be a good starting point for some of these "foreign" countries.

Or I could jut do Rome and Paris again! I realize this is a broad question. Thanks in advance for any advice.

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