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GACG95 Jun 23rd, 2017 07:52 AM

Help on ancient history route
Hi, everyone!
I'll be doing a short course in England, either this fall (October) or next spring (March). After that, I want to do a quick trip (2 weeks and a half) into Europe, if my budget allows. Since I'm a huge history buff with a rather thin wallet, I planned one expensive city, one mid tier and one cheap, all three with the history heritage I eager to see while in Europe:
Flight to Rome from London;
6 full days in Rome (with one sure day to Ostia Antica. The other, it depends: if I find myself with extra money there, I'll go spend a day in Florence; if not, I'll go Tarquinia, to see the Etruscan necropolis. In Rome, I intend to devote one day to the Vatican, one day to the Centro Storico and one day to the Appia, the old walls and the catacombs. The other day I want to let open, in order to do something at my leisure. Maybe visiting the other 2 papal basilica and the Roman National Museums, maybe I'll go see the Ara Pacis, maybe I'll just go to the Tibertina Island and the Trastevere...I don't know, and I want to have that freedom);
Flight to Athens;
3 full days in Athens (just enough to see the Acropolis + museum and the other top personal highlights (the stadium, the Agora, the Archaeological Museum, the Kerameikos), I'm not planning any kind of day trip. Cape Sounion, tops);
Either flight or an overnight bus to Istanbul;
5 full days in Istanbul (I know I could "do" the highlights I want to see (the usual ones + the Theodosian Wall + Askeri Muze + Rumelihisari) in 4 rushed days, but, considering the language barrier, I want to have some margin of error);
Flight to Izmir and bus to Selçuk;
2 days in Selçuk (my main goal here is Ephesus. Bergama and the Pergamon ruins are quite far, so I'm not planning for it. Maybe Miletus, or even one slow paced day in Selçuk itself);
Backtrack to Istanbul, then flight home

A few observations:
- This'll be my first time in Europe, and I know Paris should've been a focal point, specially considering France's history in the world and, a personal interest of mine, the Invalides. But even 4 or 5 days in Paris would skyrocket my budget (4 days in Paris would be monetarily equivalent to those 9 days in Athens, Istanbul and Selçuk). I could drop Rome to include 5 days in Paris, but I think Rome fits the itinerary more than Paris, and I know a LOT more italian than french. And, if I want, I can pick an overnight bus to Paris on a friday night, and rush myself on the weekend through the Louvre, the Invalides and the Ile de Notre Dame (my big interests in town, along with Versailles and the Valenciennes Châteaux, undoable on 48 very rushed hours in Paris);
- A complement of the previous topic, but my interests are history and heritage. I know a lot of people wants to go to Paris to just sit on a café and watch the movement. This isn't my motivation, and I would feel bored with more than 15 minutes doing this. So, I could handle a whirlwind Paris weekend, and I can pack Rome more easily. I also have no interest in nature, so this heavily urban itinerary will not bother me;
- If my budget troubles me, I'll need to cut one city. Should I cut Rome or try to compromise a few days there and cut Athens? Istambul and Selçuk are too cheap to impact my overall planned budget;
- During my time in London, I want to visit Edinburg (also on a weekend), Dover, Portsmouth and Canterbury (both on day trips) and maybe Cardiff and Bath (as a combined weekend) and Newcastle and York (on the same deal). So, you can see why I'm unsure about doing Paris as a weekend trip: my hands'll be full in England. Edinburgh and Dover are sure deals; I'm not so sure about the others

I'm sorry about the long text, and I would love to have some inputs here. Appreciated

bilboburgler Jun 23rd, 2017 08:22 AM

I'd miss out on Paris, most of the walls have been torn down, there is a colosseum type structure but small and heavily upgraded. Lots of reminders of the great Dictator but... really its great pleasure is the people and the cafes.

Interesting to think France is important in the world, which exact features are you thinking of. Along the lines of "what exactly have the Romans ever done for us" will do.

Dover, Portsmouth and Canterbury needs more than one day.

use to get the best idea of ways to use the train system

Sounds like my kind of trip

dwdvagamundo Jun 23rd, 2017 09:15 AM

Looks good for a history buff. FWIW, I'm a big history buff too, and my first trip to Europe included Rome and Athens, and the second more of Greece plus Athens again. And our third was to Rome, Napoli, Etruria.

You've got Rome covered, although you might want to take a day trip--or even an overnite-- to Naples to see Pompeii and the Archaeological Museum, and possibly Herculaneum and some of the other ancient sites in the area.

I'd spend one less day in Athens, and take a day trip to Delphi.

I think you've made a good decision to bypass Paris on this trip. While it has some ancient features, it is not as rich as the others. If you want to see ancient stuff in France, Provence has much more than Paris, but it's quite expensive.

nochblad Jun 23rd, 2017 09:20 AM

This is all rather confusing. You say you are a huge history buff which is not very precise whereas your posting is headed "an ancient history route".

What exactly are you looking for? You cover a huge range of history.

Keiracaitlyn Jun 23rd, 2017 10:09 AM

You won't have a problem with language in Istanbul - most of the people that you will encounter via tourist sites speak English. I loved exploring the ruins of Rumeli Fortress.

Keiracaitlyn Jun 23rd, 2017 10:10 AM

And Ephesus is amazing!

PalenQ Jun 23rd, 2017 12:58 PM

Hadrian's Villa a short bus poke east of Rome to me was really neat:

Combine with Tivoli's Villa d'Este's playful water gardens.

GACG95 Jun 23rd, 2017 02:43 PM

bilboburgler, yes, the roman remains in Paris are scarce (if I can remember correctly, there's only the old stadium and the Cluny structure). If I went to Paris, it would be for the medieval and early modern heritage. France was a major power in the XVIII century forward, specially after the spanish decline. France, England and Germany (as Prussia leading the confederation) were the European leaders, along with Austria. Versailles and the Invalides are proof of that heritage, from XVIII to the XX century. I like every moment of history, visiting this modern heritage would not be a problem, au contraire. Oh, and every Monty Python reference is a welcomed one.

dwdvagamundo, yes, Pompeii was on my mind since day 1, but the costs of staying 2 days in Napoli (in order to see Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Archaeological Museum...with a not rushed napolitan pizza, because I'm a son of God too haha) would be expensive. Like, only slightly less expensive than 5 days in Istanbul. I haven't give up on Napoli, but I need to see how I could fit this. If I'm not sure, so I can't plan around it, at least not yet. And I agree about Provence. I would love to spend a couple of days in southern France, spending some quality time between Arles, Provence, Nimes, Marseille and Avignon, but going there is almost as expensive as Paris, so, I'll need to leave it for another day. About Delphi, what doesn't stimulate me is the lenght of doing it as a day trip. It's a world class place, I like to say it was "West's first Vatican". I know this doesn't make sense at all, but this nickname is on my mind (and mine only haha) . Corinth + Mycenae is tricky because of transportation, there are a couple of bus connections (although seeing Mycenae is entering the world of myths). On Istanbul, Troy is the same thing: between Troy and Ephesus, I had to go with Ephesus. I heard an indication of Aegina, and an amazing Aphaia Temple there. I'll need to play this more, though.

nochblad, I love every period of history. I said something to my GF once: you can't go wrong with Europe. Whenever it's a Paris-Vienna-Prague, a Venice-Munich-Berlin, a scandinavian, a Lisbon-Madrid-Barcelona, or whatever, you can't go wrong if you like history. This ancient history route is just a teasing nickname, I know I'll find heritage from another eras (the Vatican is just an example. Istambul is based on early and late medieval history, with a modern history touch), in fact, the more, the better. I'm sorry if my writing was confusing, I noticed this, TBH. Yes, I like and would be happy with setting an itinerary on every period of history, but, since I don't have money to cover it all and I don't want a "1 day per city, including transport time" Itinerary, I reduced my options to one period. I'll be able to cover some medieval and early modern history in the UK, so I want to go all out on this route. In fact, I want to just stand at the Parthenon and admire it. I want to walk on the Appian Way and know that track is used from millenias. This subject feel, of belonging to a civilization that goes back more than you can quantify.

Keiracaitlyn, I'm counting on this. Like I said, I know enough italian to work myself in Rome without recurring to english often. But I know I'll know, at least, some very rudimentar phrases in both greek and turkish. That's why I alocated more time to Istanbul: there are some places I want to go that are spread out (specially the Rumeli fortress, the military museum and the Chora Church), I don't want the headache of hurrying up in a place I don't understand 90% of the signs. I'm feeling Ephesus will be a sneaky top highlight. It's amazing how preserved it is, at least on the pictures. And, as a bonus, seeing the last column of an ancient (aka Original) World's Wonder must be something to contemplate. I'm looking forward so, so much.

PalenQ, Hadrian's Villa is also on my plans, specially on the "free slot" I have. I don't want to drop Tarquinia for it, but that could work as well. It's trading pizza for lasagna, both are terrific. In the ideal world, it would be on the route to Ostia and I would be able to fit both, but, in an ideal world I would be a millionare, devoting my life to travel haha

travelerjan Jun 23rd, 2017 03:06 PM

GReece will be no problem; for some years now, Greek schools have taught english starting in first Grade, so anybody under 30 can handle English and certainly Every greek u are likely to meet in Athens. You'll do better with your limited fluence in Athens than you will in Rome.

The one thing you'll find in common is that both Italians and Greeks applaud even stumbling attempts to use their language somewhat -- please & thank you, excuse me, Good morning, "hi ya" (ciaou in Italian, yiassas in Greek). And if you can learn the words for "delicious" "beautiful" that much the better. And if you can order "krasi" instead of "wine" the Greek waiter may say BRavo! and pour another glass.

You wouldn't have the same welcome in Paris (not all French, but alas Parisians, are language snobs and often pretend not to understand you) .. so best to wait on a Paris visit until you have a little international experience so you can brush it off. Have a GREAT Zoom thru European history and trust me, it just gets better every time.

kja Jun 23rd, 2017 04:22 PM

IMO, one should always prioritize the places that most speak to you and fit best in your budget. And from what you say, it sounds like Paris can wait. ;-)

I like your plan for Rome and would NOT try to fit Pompeii in – as spectacular a site as it is (and it is!), the cost in time and money to get there, all while skipping Naples (or seeing only the tiniest bit of it) would not make sense for this trip, particularly in light of the time you would lose in Rome. But that’s just my opinion; it certainly is worth considering!

And likewise, I would not plan a day trip to Delphi from Athens. You have, IMO, outlined a do-able, if ambitious, itinerary for Athens, and much as I enjoyed Delphi, I think you’ll get a wider and more comprehensive sense of ancient Greece by staying in Athens. JMO. If you find yourself there with time to spare, you can probably find a day tour at more-or-less the last minute.

As Keiracaitlyn notes, speaking English should not pose a problem for you in Istanbul, where MANY people will speak it, particularly in the areas you are most likely to visit. And I think you are right to give Istanbul at least 5 full days – I spent that amount of time there, and didn’t make it to some of the sites you mention! (And I travel HARD!!!) I also agree that Ephesus is truly an awesome site. Plan on the better part of the day there, and IMO, you would do well to splurge for the separate ticket for the Terrace Houses. Also plan on several hours in the excellent museum, which is in Selcuk.

Rather than planning a round trip from Istanbul to Iznik, consider booking from Iznik through to your home destination. You will almost certainly be routed through Istanbul, but if your flights are on the same ticket, the airline is responsible for figuring out what to do if your flight from Iznik to Istanbul encounters problems. If you do NOT do that, consider planning a route that takes you straight (which probably means with stops) from Athens to Iznik, putting all of your time in Istanbul at the end of your trip. Bottom line: If you are planning a final flight out of Istanbul, then you REALLY should be there the night before, so finding a way to avoid backtracking saves you one change of hotels and perhaps some travel time.

Perhaps I just missed it, but I don’t think you mentioned your gender? If you are female, I trust you are aware that Turkey is growing increasingly conservative and there are parts of even normally cosmopolitan Istanbul that might require a bit caution. Here’s a relatively recent thread from “otherchelebi,” one of Fodor’s experts on Turkey, a resident of Istanbul.

Should be a great trip! I commend you for the obvious care that has gone into your planning, and hope to hear something about how it went when you return. I hope these comments help!

cherie2125 Jun 23rd, 2017 05:02 PM

I did a tour to Miletius, Priene and Didyma from Selcuk several years ago. It takes 6 hours. Ephesus is wonderful and be sure to pay extra to see the Terrace Houses. I think the museum in Seljuk has reopened so don't miss that. I enjoyed my visit to Izmir which has a lovely seafront and some excellent restaurants.

rs899 Jun 23rd, 2017 05:26 PM

You really could do Paris on the cheap, as we just did. Time it to arrive early in the week and grab a Navigo Decouverte card for local transport. Stay in a air bnb apt just on the other side of the peripherique near a metro stop. Eat little else but baguettes and brie and saucisson sec from a hypermarche or aldi. I wouldn't let the lack of French keep you from going as long as you are polite.

Kathie Jun 23rd, 2017 06:23 PM

Yes, one can do Paris on the cheap. But it seems to me that the issue here really is more time than money. Overall, I think you have a good plan. My one caution to you is not to let others talk you into adding their favorite city. You have quite enough for the time you have.

frencharmoire Jun 24th, 2017 02:45 AM

Napoli is much cheaper than Rome so why not take time from Rome to stay there and see Pompeii?

Fly from the UK to Napoli. Ryan Air has a 7am flight that lands at 10.20am. You can take the cheap airport shuttle into Napoli Centrale, and find a cheap b&b near Archeological museum. First day you can go to the archeological museum + plus a walking tour of the city. Second day, go to Pompei and, if you have time, Herculaneum. Or spend all day at Pompeii but the morning of the 3rd day, stick your luggage in the Napoli train station & go to Herculaneum then. Afterwards, go back pick up your luggage, & and be in Rome in time for lunch.

Do that & you can subtract Ostia Antica from your Rome itinerary.

frencharmoire Jun 24th, 2017 02:49 AM

I meant to add that if you are going to cut one city, cut Istanbul.

Traveler_Nick Jun 24th, 2017 02:57 AM

Paris is a lot more expensive then Rome. A week in Rome is more like three or four nights in Paris.

If you go Autumn then November is off season and prices in Rome can be quite cheap.

March will get you close to Easter and prices will have started creeping up.

isabel Jun 24th, 2017 03:24 AM

I really don't get what all this talk of one city being more or less expensive than others. They ALL have inexpensive plus more expensive options for lodging and food. I've been to most of Western Europe, including all the places talked about here, and there were only a couple of exceptions to this - Scandinavia and Switzerland noticeably more expensive and a few central/eastern countries less - but on average not a difference significant enough to make me go or not go somewhere.

What types of accommodation are you looking at and what do you 'require' for meals? My daily travel costs are far lower than lots of people cause I don't eat a lot of meals in restaurants with linen table cloths and wait service. I eat a lot of 'street food', self service type restaurants (and I don't mean McDonald's) and put together picnic meals from local markets. I stay in clean, well located hotels, usually small family run hotels (often cheaper than "B&B"). I walk, sometimes local buses/metros, almost never taxis. With this style of travel I did not find Paris or Rome to be more expensive than Athens or Istanbul.

Point being, pick where you most want to see and you will probably fit it into your budget, don't decide to spend more time somewhere just because you think it will be cheaper.

But having said that, it sounds like the itinerary you outlined is a really nice trip.

kybourbon Jun 24th, 2017 11:58 AM

>>>Pompeii was on my mind since day 1, but the costs of staying 2 days in Napoli (in order to see Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Archaeological Museum...with a not rushed napolitan pizza, because I'm a son of God too haha) would be expensive.<<<

No clue why you would think this. If you state a nightly budget, people will help you find somewhere to stay within your budget.

In Naples, you could get the 3 day (consecutive) Campania Artecard for 32€ which includes entrance to 2 sites (Pompeii, Herculaneum or the museum and many others) and 3 days transport (metro,trams,buses,Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii/Herculaneum). The card deducts the 1st 2 sites you visit as your free sites so you would want to go to the most expensive first. You get 50% off entrance to any other sites covered within the 3 days. The 3 day Tutta le Regione is the only Artecard that covers transport in the region (the 7 day does not). The museum is 12€, Pompeii entrance fee is 13€ and Herculaneum is 11€. Breaking even with the card would depend on how many times you hop the subway in Naples (1.50€ a ride I think) and how many times you take the train (2-3€ one way to Pompeii), etc.

For Rome, the Roma Pass doesn't seem as cost effective anymore (doesn't include Vatican).

There is a 7 day archaeology pass (23€) that might fit your interests more.

StCirq Jun 24th, 2017 12:06 PM

<<Paris is a lot more expensive then Rome. A week in Rome is more like three or four nights in Paris.>>

BS, unless you don't know what you're doing. Isabel is right; you can make do on just about any budget anywhere in Europe except Scandinavia and Switzerland.

But your trip looks great for what you are aiming at.

kybourbon Jun 24th, 2017 12:08 PM

Meant to add, I would fly to the furthest point and work my way back towards London. Get the most travel over on day 1. Check the budget airlines, but sometimes the full service airlines have similar prices.

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