Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hustle, bustle, and tranquility.


M
y second full day in Istanbul started out with a lot of hustle and bustle and ended with a smidgen of tranquility.

After breakfast, I made my way back to the Grand Bazaar following my instincts since the maps I had were pretty much useless. At the Bazaar, I did my souvenir shopping - fending off one shop keeper after another! I finally managed to get the gifts that I had wanted to bring home with me. One thing good about coming during off-season - the prices are far more reasonable and the sellers more desperate to seal the deal so even though you still have to haggle, it's a lot easier.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Taksim.


W
hen I was reading up on things to do and see in Istabul, Taksim was always mentioned. Taksim is a neighborhood on the European side of the city known for its restaurants, shops and hotels. It is considered the heart of modern Istanbul and for some reason, the tourist books encourage you to visit the place so I put it on my itinerary.

I decided to head to Taksim after my visit to the Dolmabahçe Palace because according to the guidebook, I could get to Taksim via funicular from the Kabataş tram station. Exiting Dolmabahçe, I walked back towards Kabataş. For the life of me, I could not see the funicular - I was expecting to see an above ground cable car. Following the signs, I was led underground instead. Huh?? I bought my token and followed the signs to the funicular. Where the heck is this funicular? A single train came, it said Taksim on the front, the doors opened and so I got in. Am I in the funicular? Maybe, we start below ground and somehow surface. Nope. Less than five minutes later, the train came to a stop, the doors opened and everyone exited. The sign with an arrow pointing to the right said Taksim Meydanı ("may-dah-nuh" which means "square in English"). The crowd was going in that direction so I followed suit.

Ottoman Opulence. The Dolmabahçe Palace. Part 3.


A
fter touring the the Selamlık and the ceremonial halls, I exited the Palace on the side of the building that fronts the Bosphorus.


Ottoman Opulence. The Dolmabahçe Palace. Part 2.

The construction of the Dolmabahçe Palace was commissioned by Sultan Abdülmecid. The European style Palace was built between 1842 and 1853 at a cost of five million Ottoman gold pounds - the equivalent of 35 tons of gold. The Palace served as the official residence of several Ottoman Sultans in the 19th and early 20th centuries. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early part of the 20th century, the Dolmabahçe Palace remained empty till Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of Turkey, took up residence there. Atatürk stayed in the palace until his death on November 10, 1938.

Ottoman Opulence. The Dolmabahçe Palace. Part 1.


W
hen I planned my return trip to Istanbul, there was only one place on my "must see" list and that was the the Dolmabahçe ("Dol-mah-bah-chay") Palace. I had seen the palace from the outside as Lei and I did our boat ride up the Bosphorus but we never had the time to actually visit it. When I mentioned the Dolmabahçe to a friend of my who had been to Istanbul, his comment was that if I thought Versailles was opulent (which I did), the Dolmabahçe would take my breath away. Would it really? Hard to imagine as Versailles had always been the epitome of palatial splendor to me. This was the day I would find out how well the Dolmabahçe would measure up.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Today is Sunday.


I
n searching for a hotel to stay in in Istanbul, I decided to settle on a small hotel in Sultanahmet so I would be near all the major tourist sights. I emailed Hotel Kybele which was where Lei and I stayed back in May. They had rooms but wanted 80 euros for a single - a little pricey for me considering this is off-season. Then, by chance, I stumbled onto the website for Hotel Poem.







Adhan.


A
dhan is the Islamic call to prayer that is called out by the muezzin in the mosque, sometimes from a minaret, five times a day summoning Muslims for fard (mandatory) salah (prayers). Living in the US, I don't hear the adhan being called on a daily basis so the first few times I do hear it (no matter where I am in the world), it's jolting - especially the early morning adhan which is recited before the sun rises. But like every other thing of habit, you soon get used to it and you don't even notice it.

Istanbul. Rediscovered.



I
fell in love with Istanbul the first time I set foot on it's streets. It's a friendly city, full of history, culture and great food. Getting around is easy and it's safe (as any other metropolitan city is safe). I can't explain it except to say that it feels like home to me - a place that I can see myself living in.

The graphic image that opens this posting is the official logo for the city. You see it emblazoned everywhere - from park benches to vendor food carts.

I flew out of Kayseri this morning enroute to Istanbul. As before, I was sad to be leaving Cappadocia - there is something about this part of the world that has enchanted me.

On short leg trips, I like to sit on a window seat so I can look at the world below as we fly by.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I let the bed bugs bite.


Oh the experiences I have when I travel! Some good. Some bad. This definitely falls into the latter category.
I woke up this morning with scratchy and itchy forearms - and yes, that is my right forearm in the photo. To my distress, both my arms were covered with red welts. By mid morning, welts started to show all around my neck, chest, back, legs and face. Oh, horror of horrors!! What could it be? My initial reaction was fleas but from where? I had petted Catchup but I was certain it was not enough of a prolonged contact to result in this bad an outbreak.

Then, I thought about bed bugs. I Googled and found a slew of articles on the nasty little creatures. According to a few that I read, flea bites have little red dots in the center of the welt, bed bug bites don't and my welts are dot free. I have bed bug bites. EWWW!!

Apparently, bed bugs are common. Who knew? They basically "hunt" at night - search out warm blooded victims (like me) to suck on. Like fleas, they bite and inject an anti-coagulant to suck up the blood. They move on from one feeding site to another. What the leave behind is a red and VERY itchy welt. The welts can show up several minutes, several hours or even several days after the bed bug bites - reaction time varies from one host to another. In my case, I think it took a few days before I saw the signs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Weavers.


A
fter I spent the afternoon gathering wood with Şahin and Ersin, I made my way to Zeki's shop just to say hello. Zeki being the kind man that he is offered to give me a ride back to my hotel in Ürgüp. I quickly accepted but would have to wait a few miutes while he wrapped up his work day. I took the opportunity to look around the store. On the second floor, I came across a studio where the shop does carpet weaving demonstrations. There, two local women were working on weaving a carpet. They didn't mind my presence so I watched them weave and quietly took photos.

Gathering firewood with Şahin and Ersin.


A
t home, I burn wood in my fireplace purely for enjoyment and when I want wood for the fireplace, I either head for the store and buy the stuff that's nicely pre-bundled to fit on my fire grate or I call someone to deliver wood to my house. I'm a city girl and that's how we do it in the city :-)

But not so in the heart of the Turkish countryside. Here, wood is essential for both heating homes and cooking fuel and the luxury of buying wood is not an option. When the weather gets cold, you have to gather wood and you have to do it the "hard way". That is, take an axe to a tree and haul it home. Multiply that by as many trees and large limbs as you can fit into the back of your tractor haul and you call it a day. Wish I had known this before I accepted Şahin's invitation to go "gather wood' with him :-) Keep in mind that I'm also outfitted in tourist garb - completely not prepared to be a woodsman. But I'm always up for an adventure so what the heck.



Saturday Market in Ürgüp.


I
woke up this morning in Ürgüp to see a light dusting of snow on the ground outside my hotel window. The mountains in the distance were snow capped. Seeing the view reminded it is winter.

I had no real plans for the day; I was just going to play by ear.

After breakfast, I headed out - walking towards the town center which was probably about 6 km away. It was a beautiful day - sunny with a slight chill in the air.

While I was doing some window shopping, a man walked up to me - what started as the the usual tourist/local chit chat ended with him giving me very rough directions to the local Saturday market. Without a map to guide me, all I had were my instincts and vague recollection of the "left here, right turn after....? two blocks past....?" directions the kind gentleman had given me to try and figure out how to get to the market. And then I saw them.....bunches of people walking with bags of stuff in the hands. I walked in the direction they were coming from and sure enough, I eventually stumbled on the market. First up were all the household goods and clothing. Nothing that really holds any interest for me....at least not the foodie in me :-)

Friday, November 28, 2008

In honor of Turkish men :-)


I
know might seem odd to some people that I would have a posting about Turkish men but if you had spent the past 10 days in my shoes, it makes perfect sense to do so.

I have had a hard and fast education about Turkish men in my short visit back to Turkey. It is interesting what makes them tick. On the surface, machoism reigns as king - it's all about proclaiming your manhood in whatever way you can. But just beneath the veneer of machoism lies a very soft and tender heart - in particular for women. Tell them you are cold and they will build you a fire. If you are hungry, they will feed you. If you need help escaping from any situation, they stand ready to rescue you. I have known such men on this trip :-)

As Abdullah, who runs an antiques/carpet store that's housed in a former caravanserai told me, a woman can basically get whatever she wants from a man. I asked could a smile do it and he replied "Yes". So I asked him what I could get and he asked "What do you want?" I just grinned and said if I ever needed anything, I would know at least one person in town who would help me out. He replied "Of course" with a grin. Turkish men are charmers and I think they are born that way. But, do not break that soft and tender heart for that's when you will see the macho side appear. They stand ready to fight. It can be very scary to witness the wrath of a broken hearted Turkish man - I have seen it so I know!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dinner under the star filled Turkish sky.

T
onight, Şahin organized a barbecue dinner for Fabio, Virginia and I. We all met at Sahin’s shop at 7pm – I arrived earlier to have some quiet time with Şahin as we had not had a real chance to catch up since my arrival.

After Ersin arrived to join the group, we all piled into Şahin’s car. First destination – the market to pick up food. Virginia, Fabio and Şahin did the shopping. Ersin and I went back to his house to pick up the grill and other supplies.




Mustafapaşa.


T
he alarm on my cell phone rang at 9:30am. I had a hour to get ready before I had to meet up with Zeki at the coffee shop. He was going to be bringing me my rugs and I had to pay him. It was another 2 hours over coffee before we finally sealed the sales. Zeki then went off to get a car so we could go see the sights around the area. By the time we headed out, it was close to noon. It's been late starts each day for me - no need to rush :-)

It was a beautiful day today – fall weather with bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds. We headed down the road towards Ürgüp and one by one, we passed sights that I had already seen previously. Skipping all the fairy chimneys, we headed for the town of Mustafapaşa ("moos-tah-fah-pah-shah") which was, in years past, a predominatly Greek Ottoman settlement. Called Sinasos ("see-nah-sohs") by its Ottoman Greek residents, it is still called that today by many local people.

The homes in Mustafapaşa cling to the hillsides to Zeki had to carefully and slowly maneuver the car down r-e-a-l-l-y steep, narrow and windy cobblestone streets. The architecture of the buildings here is vastly different than what you would find in the surrounding areas – more Greek than Turkish in feel – lots of ornately decorated stone carved houses. Unfortunately, most of it is in a bad state of crumbling.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Oh, happy, happy, joy, joy!

My missing suitcase was suppose to arrive today but when it hadn’t by lunchtime today, Sahin called to track it down. He called Air France in Istanbul who told him to call their contacts in Nevşehir ("Nev-shuh-heer") who told him to call their office in Ürgüp who finally said that they have my suitcase and that it would be delivered this afternoon. I was not yet jumping for joy – need to see suitcase first.

This afternoon, when I heard the knock on my door and opened it to see Ali with my suitcase in hand, I finally jumped for joy.

I am now a clean AND happy camper!

....and to think, I had affixed a ribbon made of masking tape on the handle so I could easily spot it on the luggage carousel. Oh well, didn't need to do that after all.

…and the saz player took center stage.


L
ast night, Şahin and his friend Ali, Virginia,Fabio and I finally made it to Ürgüp to a music bar to listen to live Turkish music.

This time it was a different band and the saz player was definitely more talented. The band was already playing when we walked in. We found ourselves a spot to sit. Glasses of beer soon filled the table and cigarette smoke the air. I sipped on a Coke and Ali, the designated driver had his glasses of orange juice.



The Carpet Salesman. Part 2.


M
y cellphone rang at shortly after 10am this morning. That was my wake up call for the day. I looked at the number and didn't recognize it. I thought maybe it was someone calling me to tell me that my luggage had arrived so I quickly dialed back. It was Zeki on the other end of the line with an offer to have breakfast with him. It was a no-brainer decision on my part. Either coffee with a charming Turkish gentleman or by myself in the hotel kitchen.....hmmmm.

We made plans to meet at his shop and walk over to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast. Over two cups of coffee and some pastry, we talked for two hours about love and relationships. Not for a moment could I have ever imagined having such a conversation with a Turkish man whom I barely know but conversation seems to come easy to Zeki and besides, who am I to complain? I am enjoying my time with him. So far, he's been the ultimate gentleman, speaks English fluently, is very charismatic and if I might say so myself, easy on the eyes :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Carpet Salesman. Part 1.

T
he wind kicked up after dinner last night and never let up until sunrise. Just outside my hotel room is the terrace where, on nice days, meals are served. The wind blew with such ferocity last night that terrace tables, chairs, lamps and basically anything that wasn’t tied down were tossed around every which way. The sound of things banging around outside my room coupled with the sound of the howling wind and lingering jet lag meant that I watched the clock on my cell phone trip 3:40am before I even remember nodding off. I did manage to wake up at a decent hour – sometime around 9:30a. I took my time getting ready and then headed out. It was a slightly overcast day and the wind was still blowing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A change in plans and another lesson in Turkish hospitality.

Ş
ahin’s plan for tonight was for us (him, Ersin, Fabio, Virginia, Şahin’s crazy cousin Yaşar and I) to go to the nearby town of Ürgüp and listen to live Turkish music. Turns out Fabio is a music fanatic as are Şahin and I. Lei and I had done the same thing with Şahin’s and Yaşar months back and I really enjoyed it so

I was looking forward to the time in Ürgüp. On the other hand I’m absolutely bone tired and still feeling a bit of jet lagged. Turned out I wasn’t the only tired one in the bunch. When Şahin’s suggested we call it an early night and go to Urgup tomorrow night instead, there were no objections.

Virginia, Fabio and I walked back to the Dream Cave Hotel.

Back to the land of the fairy chimneys. Göreme.


M
y first visit to Cappadocia was six months ago - it was early summer and the valley was filled with verdant green vegetation and wild flowers in bloom. It is now early winter and although the backdrop of the surreal, rocky landscape remains unchanged, signs of winter are in the foliage - leaves have fallen off the trees and berries have replaced the flowers. It is still as an enchanting landscape now as it was back then.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The long road back to Turkey.

I
should have known that it was not going to be an easy affair getting to Turkey when my plane arrived late in to Paris. Originally, I had a two hour layover which is usually sufficient to transfer planes. This time however, I had only about 45 minutes which is barely enough time so I found myself running from one terminal to another, wishing there weren’t so many people walking in front of me and hoping that the security line would be short. Of course, it was not to be my lucky day so in the end, I was just about the last person to board the plane to Istanbul. Squashed in the middle seat, which I hate, I found myself seated next to a man who was obviously battling a bad cold. Thankfully, he knocked himself out with Sudafed but I’m still hoping he did not pass anything along to me. I don’t want to be sick on this trip.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What a difference a financial crisis makes.


I
just bought my plane ticket from Istanbul to Kayseri. It cost me 104 TRY (Turkish Lira). At today's exchange rate which is 1USD = 1.496 TRY that comes to about $69. The same ticket would have cost me about $88 back in January when the rate was 1USD = 1.18 TRY. Unbelievable price drop.

2008 will go down in history for two memorable events. The first is the nomination of an African American, Barack Obama, as the Democratic Presidential nominee. The second is the global financial crisis that started to unfold earlier this year when Bear Sterns collapsed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Turkey....I'm coming back.

I
'm going back to Turkey!.....and I can't wait! I left my heart in Cappadocia and I need to go back to find it ;-)

I just traded in 50,000 air miles today and got a round trip ticket from Washington Dulles to Istanbul Ataturk. It will be a short (okay, for me it's short) two week trip. I need to work out the itinerary and then get my visa. Very excited to be returning....and so soon!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Food, glorious food.

Turkish tea ("chai") which is THE symbol of Turkish hospitality. Everywhere you go - stores, hotels, restaurants - you're offered a serving and very often, for free. It's usually served as shown in the photo - in a very distinctively shaped glass, placed atop a ceramic saucer with a small teaspoon to stir in two cubes of sugar.

T
o say we ate well on this trip is an understatement. The truth is we ate like pigs....devouring each meal as if it was our last and we loved every single bite. In Turkey, we had an enormous variety of yummy foods to choose from - everything from meat kebabs and stews to seafood cooked in a variety of ways. There were plenty of desserts to satisfy our sweet tooth - from lokum (Turkish delight) to baklava to ice cream.

The Pearl of the Adriatic. Dubrovnik.

W
hat I will always remember about Dubrovnik is the stark visual contrast of rust colored terra cotta roofs set against the turquoise colored waters of the Adriatic. The cloudless blue sky simply accentuated the beautiful views!

Our first full and only day in Dubrovnik started with a walk along the top of the walls that surround the old city. From that vantage view, we had wonderful vistas of the medieval city and the surrounding waters.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Last views of Trogir, first views of Dubrovnik.


T
oday is the day that we left Trogir and headed down the Dalmatian coast to Dubrovnik. It will also always be remembered as the day that Lei got relieved of her duties as "clock keeper". We had an early morning departure - catching the 5:45am bus. As with all the other travel days. Lei awoke about an hour and a half before me to prep herself for the day and to do her last minute packing.




Friday, May 23, 2008

Šibenik.


Š
ibenik. Definitely not a tourist hotspot. It lacks the name recognition of Dubrovnik, the charm of Trogir and the hustle and bustle of Split. Georgraphically located where the Krka River flows into the Adriatic Sea, it was our destination this afternoon.

We arrived into Šibenik from Stradin. When we returned to Stradin from Krka National Park, we headed straight for the Tourist Information center. Earlier that day, the receptionist there had tried to call to book a taxi for us. Then, she did not have any luck getting through to the taxi service so we thought we would have her try again. She did and still not have any luck - the phone just rang and rang. She sent us around the corner to the ferry dock. There, we walked into the office of the local boating club. We explained our situation to the woman sitting behind the counter. She picked the phone and tried calling for a taxi. Again, no luck.

Into the Green. Krka National Park.


T
oday is all about the color green. I love visiting National Parks. These are the places on earth that each country has decided is worthy of protection; they are the places that represent the best of Mother Nature. Some places are so unique - like Cappadocia, Turkey - that they are even designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. As my daily surroundings are defined by concrete and metal, the more I want to seek out nature refuges when I travel. I have a strong need to feel, breathe and smell the earth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hvar Town....at last.


O
ur second full day in Croatia began with an early morning rise. I can't remember if we even ate breakfast or not but we had to scoot from hotel to bus station. We were headed to Hvar Island and the teeny village of Hvar Town. Thanks to help from the travel agency adjoining the Hotel Sikaa, we knew we had to catch the intercity bus from Trogir to Split. Unlike City Bus 37, the intercity bus would drop us off at the main dock in Split. From there, we would have to catch the ferry over to Hvar Island - about an hour long ride. The first stop of the day would be Stari Grad and from there, we would head to Hvar Town. That was the plan :-)

Hvar Town or bust.....with a stop in Stari Grad along the way.


S
ometimes what's most memorable about a trip is not the destination but getting there. This posting is all about the adventure of a journey. Our destination for the day - Hvar Town, located on the island of Hvar. Travel route - bus from Trogir to Split, ferry from Split to Hvar, bus from ferry landing to Hvar Town.

The night before, yours truly had read in the Lonely Planet guidebook that the little hamlet of Stari Grad, located on the island of Hvar was worth a visit. So the plan was to visit Stari Grad and then head to Hvar Town afterwards.

When we got off the ferry from Split, Lei, Doug and I confidently headed up the road towards Stari Grad - completely missing the bus to Hvar Town. Who knew we missed THE one and only bus to Hvar Town. Never mind, Stari Grad is suppose to be quaint so that's where we were determined to go. Poor Doug who had no specific travel itinerary in mind ....got dragged along by two crazy women who had absolutely no idea where they were going!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Split. The home of Diocletian.


O
ur first full day in Croatia was spent in Split - home to the palace of the former Roman Emperor, Diocletian.

The day started with breakfast at the hotel followed by a short walk to the bus station. There we waited for Bus 37 which we knew would take us to Split.  












We settled into our seats and enjoyed the local ride - we stopped to pick up passengers all along the way. Soon enough, city landscape of Split came into view. The bus pulled into the bus station and we got off. Now came the challenge was to try and figure out which way to go. We started walking, following the crowd and at the same making a mental note of places and streets we passed along the way - those memories would serve as "breadcrumbs" so we would know how to get back to the bus station later in the day!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Trogir. Oh so quaint.


T
rogir ("Tro-geer"). What a c-u-t-e little town! We had planned a 3 day, 4 night stay in Trogir as it was to be our home base for our visit to this part of the Dalmatian coast. The photos in this posting are a compilation of the shots we took over our entire stay in Trogir.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The markets of Turkey.


I
love going to the market - any market. I love the sights, the sounds, and the smells (good and bad)....and I love the hustle and bustle as buyers and sellers go about their ways.

Of course, Istanbul has the grand daddy of all markets - the world famous Grand Bazaar. Known in Turkish as Kapalı Carşı ("Car-pah-luh Jar-shee"), the Grand Bazaar is one of the largest covered markets in the world with more than 58 streets and 4,000 shops.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Harem Beauty. Topkapı Palace.


W
e're back in Istanbul! We got back this morning after an overnight bus ride from Selçuk. We're also back at the Kybele Hotel though this time, we've got a really nice room set away from the noisy interior courtyard. I look forward to a quiet night's sleep tonight. We quickly settled into our room and then headed down to the dining room. We helped ourselves to some breakfast - as usual, stuffing our faces with the typical Turkish breakfast fare - bread, cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and hard boiled eggs, washed down with orange juice (for Lei) and tea for both of us.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pide Man.


I
don't know his name....forgot to ask but no matter his name. What is more important is that this quiet, unassuming man made THE BEST bread that we ate on our entire trip through both Turkey and Croatia.

We encountered the Pide ("pee-day") Man and his marvelous bread at a restaurant in Selçuk. The waiter told us that this particular restaurant serves a special bread, ordinarily eaten during Ramadan, all year round. After I got home, I did a bit of research and learned that the bread is called Ramadan Pide (Ramazan Pidesi in Turkish) and it's eaten when the daily fast is broken at sunset. It tastes like a "lighter" and slightly chewier version of focaccia and it was the perfect accompaniment to the sheep brain and tongue soup that I had also fallen in love with.

Lei and I had just settled into our seats at the table and I spotted the Pide Man - making bread in a small open area at the back of the restaurant. I couldn't resist going back to watch him work his magic.

Ephesus. The Terrace Houses.


A
fter Lei and I walked the grounds of Ephesus, we back tracked to view the Terrace Houses. Protected from the elements by a permanent tent like structure, the Terrace Houses are a small complext of multi-level homes that are similar to today's modern town houses -- equipped with hot and cold running water, sanitation facilities, decorations and kitchen facilities. The rich decor and furnishings of these homes indicate that they were occupied by members of Ephesian upper class in Roman and Byzantine timeshe Terrace Houses were inhabited from the 1st to 7th century AD. They were then abandoned when devastating raids by the Arabs coupled with the continued silting up of the harbor forced the remaining inhabitants of Ephesus to move to Ayasoluk hill (near the Basilica of St. John).

Ephesus.

Lei and I standing on Curetes Street - main thoroughfare. In the distant background is the the famed Library of Celcus

T
oday was a day I have been looking forward to for months. Lei and I are visiting Ephesus.

Our day started with breakfast on the terrace at Homeros. Osman, who works in nearby carpet store, was going to give us a ride to Ephesus. After breakfast, we piled into the car. Less then 3 kilometers later and Osman dropped us off at the front entrance.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Selçuk. Day 1 - St. John's Basilica.


L
ei and I arrived into Selçuk late morning. After getting ourselves settled into Homeros Pension, we headed out to explore the town. We discovered that St. John's Basilica was less than a 10 minute walk away from the pension and that's where we headed after grabbing a quick lunch of soup and lamacun ("lah-c-ma-june).

Lessons in kindness.

A
s we travelled throughout Turkey, Lei and I found ourselves the beneficiaries of countless acts of kindess - from offers of cups of tea....

....to Şahin Mizrak in Cappadocia who arranged for a neighboring shopkeeper to look after his store so he could walk Lei and I to a vista point high above the village of Göreme to watch the sun set over the Rose Valley.

....to people actually walking us to a destination instead of just giving us directions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fethiye. Time to unwind.


O
ur time in Fethiye was delibrately planned with downtime in mind. With the exception of the paragliding we did in Ölüdeniz, Fethiye was all about relaxing with walks on the promenade along Fethiye Bay, shopping and of course, our favorite pastime - eating! It was just what the doctor ordered after a whirlwind time in Istanbul and Cappadocia.
















Flying high in Ölüdeniz.


T
his morning, I soared like a bird, high above the Aegean Sea....and what a fun and memorable experience it was!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

To Fethiye.

W
e left Göreme and Cappadocia last night. It was a bittersweet departure as I had really grown to love the little village and the surreal landscape that surrounds it in my short stay there.

Before we left Kelebek Pension, we said our goodbyes to the staff who had treated us so well during our stay there. We had gotten very spoiled by them. Lei and I retrieved our luggage out of hotel storage and and walked down the hill to town for the last time. By now, it was about 7pm. We stopped at Şahin's shop to say goodbye to him and his cousin Yasar and to pick up some Turkish (Anatolian) music CDs that Şahin had said he would burn for us. We then headed to the otogar (bus station) and waited for the 7:30pm overnight (13+ hour) bus ride to Fethiye - we had bought our tickets two days earlier.

The bus system in Turkish is EXCELLENT. It's a very extensive system so getting from point to another is a breeze. It's very affordable - our ticket to Fethiye cost around 40 USD. The coaches are very clean and comfortable and last but not least, the buses arrive and leave on time.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Is it Clint Eastwood or is it Lei?


W
hen I was kid, I used to watch a lot of movies with my dad. A typical guy, he's a huge fan of Western movies - particularly the "Spaghetti Westerns" that Clint Eastwood made famous. I think I've seen all of Clint's Spaghetti Westerns including the trilogy that got him on the map as an actor - "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", "Fist Full of Dollars", and "A Few More Dollars". The trilogy centered around a character simply known as "The Man With No Name", an anti-heroic gunslinger for whom money is the only motivation and the villains are merely obstacles to be removed. I was too young to remember any of the stories - probably a good thing since all three were pretty violent movies for the day and I was an impressionable young child :-)

Walking on the moon?


T
he surreal landscape of Cappadocia. We had floated above it in a hot air balloon, driven through it by car, ridden through it on horseback but now it was time to walk through it - a chance to see it from yet another vantage point.

By now it was mid afternoon and the walk through the Rose Valley was the last activity on our Cappadocia tour. Originally, Lei and I were going to bail out of the tour out of concern that we would not get back to the hotel in time to catch the bus to Fethiye. As it turned out, we had plenty of time so we joined the rest of the gang.

Poor Lei was a groggy from having taken a wee bit too much Drammamine so the poor thing - not sure she really enjoyed her time.







The wildflowers of Cappadocia.

S
uch a pretty sight! Wildflowers in bloom. It was, after all, springtime in Turkey. On our last afternoon in Cappadocia, Lei and I along with the rest of our small tour group, went on a two hour hike of the Rose Valley. We walked at a very leisurely pace which gave me the opportunity to snap photos of native wildflowers in full bloom.







Cappadocia. Day 3 - Devrent Valley.


B
y now, you would have thought that I had had enough of rocks but surprisingly not. Each area in Cappadocia has its own distinctive fairy chimney shape. The color of the rock differs from one area to another as well. With each stop to another valley, I was discovering a new landscape each time.

Known in English as the Imagination Valley, Devrent Valley is a small area of rock formations that beg you to use your imagination to describe the shapes. That one looks like a camel. Is that a dolphin? Looks like a....?? You get the picture.

Cappadocia. Day 3 - Paşabağ.


A
fter lunch, we piled back into the van and headed for a short drive to Paşabağ ("Pah-shah-bah") which is known in English as the Valley of the Monks. Paşabağ means "Pasha’s Vineyard", a name it received after the Byzantine Greek population left the region which is located in the middle of a vineyard.