Towards the end of last year, we partnered up with Southern Californian photographer and roaming nomad Laura Austin and inspiring fashion/travel/art Magazine – Live FAST and it’s Editor Vivianne Lapointe, for an all-girls adventure across the Mediterranean. The goal was to explore a side of Europe that often gets left off the itinerary when one decides to visit the old continent. From the bazaar’s and secret laneways in Istanbul, the hidden cities of the mythical Cappadocia, to the secret beaches that litter Croatia’s coastline; expectations were continuously exceeded and minds blown throughout the month-long expedition. We hope you enjoy Corona Journey No.31 – The Mediterranean, you’ll be scrambling for your passport and jumping the first available flight to Southeast Europe in no time.

Corona Journey No.31 – The Mediterranean

It has become a tradition to set out each summer in search of the ultimate, month-long travel adventure. After trekking the typical European backpacker’s route through London, France, and Italy, we decided round two should explore the lesser known parts and skirt the edge just a bit more.

We started in Istanbul, and I did not know what to expect, partly because there are so many things you can be told. Istanbul, Constantinople, the Silk Road, capital city to three of history’s most significant empires, half European and half Asian. All of its rich history, Muslim spirituality, Roman-Byzantium glory, center-of-commerce modernity and Mediterranean simplicity collide and coexist in a way that, despite being Europe’s largest city and at its very heart, each facet of its diverse identity is given room to flourish.

Perhaps it is no coincidence Turkey’s signature style is the mosaic, an artistic celebration of each individual piece existing to illuminate a greater whole. We saw plenty of them covering the interiors of mosques and temples throughout the country’s capital and were blown away each time by the uniqueness and complexity of each design.

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There are certain assumptions about Istanbul that hold true. The coffee is strong in a way that almost heals you, and should you decide to do as the song suggests and “put on the Ritz” you will not be disappointed. The Ritz-Carlton on the Bosphorus is a step above luxury, with its open-air spa and Turkish breakfast.

What I didn’t realize was that, for those with open and hungry eyes, this city will give you so much more than what you ask of it. We visited the neighborhood of Yenikoy one day in search of photo-ops amidst the elaborate and colorful Ottoman Era architecture, and instead found ourselves sailing out on the Bosphorus straight guided by local fishermen, sunning ourselves on their boat and dipping our toes in the waters separating two continents.

We left Istanbul a bit reluctantly, but with the suspicion that our journey would run along some sort of tectonic plate – there was an exciting energy and vibrancy teeming just below the surface of every step. And just like that, we arrived in Cappadocia and were mindblown.

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We stayed at the House Hotel, under vaulted stone ceilings and moody, lighting. The local scene buzzed with coffeehouses, barbershops, and museums that maintain an old-world authenticity despite the increasing popularity of their cultural practices to modern travelers. Hot air balloons take flight 300 days out of the year here, drawing tourists to a pink and purple sunrise decorated with tiny striped globes. The view is stunning; best enjoyed at the rooftop of the Museum Hotel, where you can take a 7 am swim in their pool as you daydream about all the ways you’d like to float away.

Next we drifted off to Dubrovnik for the type of rest and relaxation only a European coastal town could provide. Each morning we woke up early and scoped a seat at one of the bars dangling along the cliffside, then spent hours sipping beers and listening to the crash of the Adriatic against the rocky shores below. No rush, no hurry, just the promise of a long, leisurely day. Croatia is becoming a new “it” destination – at times the crowds would clog the streets, but not so consistently that you couldn’t steal a moment in between the rush, find an early hour to walk the city in peace and admire the sun glistening against the white stone building facades.

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The trip was winding down. No matter how far we had ventured from our reality, we would inevitably return. I needed a jolt of cosmopolitan energy, which our layover would thankfully provide. Suddenly I couldn’t wait to get home to my bed. I thought about the glorious first sleep I would have, curled up dreaming about blue mosques, balloons in the sky, and the hot summer sun.

Photos: Laura Austin & Ali Mitton / IG: @laura_austin @alimitton

Words: Vivianne Lapointe for Live FAST Magazine / IG: @livefast_mag