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.

Cappadocia. Day 3 - Uçhisar and Kaymaklı Underground City.


I
'll explain this odd looking picture later. Let's wind the clock back about 4 hours. It's the start of our last day in Cappadocia before heading off to Fethiye. Lei and I were booked go on an all day tour of the region. Before leaving though, we had to pack our bags, check out of the Kelebek Pension, put our bags in storage and grab breakfast. Normally, I'm really excited about getting going on the day but not today. Not only did I have very little idea of exactly where we were going (except that the day would end with a 2 hour hike through the Rose Valley) but I was still trying to wake up. We had been out late the night before. I admit, I was only half awake when I got into the mini-van.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunset over Cappadocia.


W
hen Şahin offered to take Lei and I to a nearby vista point to see the sun set, we gladly accepted. That's how we ended our second day in Cappadocia.

We met up with Şahin at his shop at around 6pm. From there, we took a short walk that took us on a winding uphill walk through a neigborhood in Göreme.

It was a nice walk, kids were out playing in the streets - it was nice to hear their laughter. We meandered up the streets, chatting all the way. We peppered poor Şahin with questions about what it's like to live in this remote part of Turkey. He pointed out markers for us to use as "breadcrumbs" so we could find our way back into the village.






Music Man.


M
eet Şahin ("Sha-heen") Mizrak who owns a souvenir shop in Göreme which is the village that Lei and I stayed in during our time in Cappadocia. We had spent the morning hot air ballooning and horse back riding and by the time afternoon rolled around, we only had enough energy left to stroll the stores and do a bit of shopping.

We stepped into Şahin's store and the first thing that caught my eye was the rack of music CDs at the back of the store. My dad loves music and I inherited that love from him. Everywhere I travel, I try to catch a live performance of the region's music and if I can't do that, I will at least try and get a CD. When I'm lucky, I get the opportunity to do both and this was one such occasion.

After scanning the CDs on the rack, I asked Şahin if he wouldn't mind playing a few sample tracks from some of the CDs so I could pick out a CD for my dad. He gladly obliged and kindly explained the music that was being played so we could better appreciate it. In the end, Lei also bought a CD for herself.

Whoa!

A
n exclamantion I never had to utter because I was riding on the slowest horse on four legs :-) This is Yildiz ("Yil-does"), my mount for our two hour ride through the Rose and White Valleys in Cappadocia.

The day before, when Lei and I were walking to the Göreme Open Air Museum, I had noticed horses and riders galloping in one of the valleys. In planning for the trip, I hadn't come across any mention of horseback riding in Cappadocia so I never considered it. After seeing the riders, I made a mental note to check with the folks back at Kelebek Pension to see if I could arrange for a ride. Going on horseback through Cappadocia would be a memorable experience....and as our luck would have it, Kelebek could make the arrangements for us!!

From Kelebek, we were picked up by one of the ranch hands and taken to the ranch. Immediately, we were introduced to our guide, Ilkeş ("Ill-kesh), and the horses. Lei would be riding on Nuray ("New-rai") and Ilkeş on Çiçek ("Chi-check"). With help from the ranch hands, we mounted our horses and headed out towards the White Valley.



Up, up and away.


I
t was just before sunrise. There was a slight chill in the air and it was a bit overcast. I was hoping it wasn't going to rain. Lei and I piled into a minivan along with a few other people. We were on our way to the launch site, very near the Göreme Open Air Museum, for our hot air balloon ride. This is a day we've been excited about for months so I couldn't wait to get going.

A very short ride later - probably less than 2km - we arrived. There was a table set up with coffee, tea and breakfast food. On the ground nearby was the deflated balloon and a wicker basket, large enough to hold 20 people, lying on its side. With the help of a very large fan and hot air, the balloon was inflated and the basket brought upright. Everyone headed towards the basket to board. Just as I was getting ready to hoist on board, one of the balloon attendants whispered to me to not board because I was going on another balloon. Okay, I thought. So I stood back. He whispered the same words to Lei but she was a bit confused about what was going on. I told her that there was probably not enough space in this balloon to accomodate for us so we had to go on another one. As the main balloon got ready to lift off, we watched as ours was prepped.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Cappadocia. Day 1 comes to a close.


A
fter spending time at the Göreme Open Air Museum, we walked back into the village of Göreme, grabbed a quick snack and then headed to a nearby Internet cafe to send out emails. We took a slow walk back up the narrow streets of the hill that Kelebek Pension was perched atop. Back at the pension, we took time to relax and unwind from the day which had started out with a early morning flight from Istanbul. We were tired.















The Göreme Open Air Museum.

Painted frescoe in Karanlık Kilise (or the Dark Church) built in the 11th century.

A
fter we had settled into our room at the Kelebek Pension, we headed out for the Göreme Open Air Museum which is a complex of 10 painted cave-churches and chapels carved out by Orthodox monks between 900 and 1200 AD.

To Cappadocia - Göreme.


Early this morning, Lei and I took a Turkish Airways flight from Istanbul to Kayseri ("Kai-ser-ree"). From Kayseri, we boarded a bus for the hour long drive to the village of Göreme ("Ger-rem-mey") which is located within the boundaries of Göreme National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Göreme was our base for our days visiting Cappadocia.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dizzying dervishes.


O
ur evening entertainment for tonight was to watch a performance of the sema by the Whirling Dervishes. We had reserved seats for the performance held at Istanbul's Sirkeci ("Sir-kay-sea") train station. We were instructed to show up about 1/2 hour before the start of the performance which we dutifully did. We were then directed to one of the rooms located off the main platform. A room at a train station - most certainly an unusual location to see a dance performance. Luckily for us, we arrived early enough to score front row seats.

Here's lookin' at you.


L
ei is convinced that I am obsessed with Evil Eyes. Maybe I am as I found myself taking photos of them at every opportunity. When I compiled the photos that I had taken on this trip, I didn't realize how many Evil Eye shots I had actually taken and litle did I expect that I would be capturing little pieces of artwork and not just amulets. Setting aside the fact that pretty much every souvenir sells them incorporated into keychains, bracelets and as the traditional glass plaque which by the way, I now have two, I also I found them hung up on walls, hanging from trees, embedded into walkways and frequently, incorporated into other pieces of art.



Istanbul. The Galata Bridge and the Bosphorus.


F
or some extricable reason, Lei and I were drawn to the area on and around the Galata Bridge which spans the Bosphorus where it meets the Sea of Marmara. We were there on two separate occasions and we spent at least 3 hours on each visit!

The Galata Bridge is nothing special to look at and neither is the part of the Bosphorus that it spans. In fact, the area around the bridge is crowded, congested, noisy and smells of car exhaust....and the view of the water is nothing to rave about. Yet, there's an vibrancy to the waterside atmosphere that sucks you into relaxing and simply taking it all in. We both found it to be a great place to catch the cool breeze coming off the beautiful blue water of the Bosphorus, to watch locals enjoying themselves and to breath in the intoxicating smell of fish being grilled by street vendors.


Istabul. Yeni Camii.


I
t's only in a city with Istanbul's long history that can you call a monument that is nearly 500 years old, the "New Mosque"! That's how Yeni Camii ("Yen-ee Jahm-ee") translates from Turkish into English.
History
The construction of the mosque was begun by Valide Safiye, Queen Mother of Mehmet III, in 1597. After Mehmet III died, the building of the mosque dragged on for over 40 years due to water seepage, funding problems, embezzlement, and the death of the sultan, which temporarily shut down operations completely.

Six sultans later, Turhan Hatice, Queen Mother of Sultan Mehmet IV, took up the work and finished it in 1663.

Istanbul. Basilica Cistern.


E
ery calm. That was the atmosphere I felt the very moment I descended into the Basilica Cistern. Lei and I paid it a visit just before lunch today.
The Basilica Cistern which is known in Turkish as Yerebatan Sarnıcı ("Yera-bah-tan Sar-nuh-juh") is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that still lie beneath Istanbul. Built in 532 AD by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the cistern is located within walking distance of the Aya Sophia.

Istanbul. The Grand Blue Mosque.


T
he Blue Mosque is its popular name, Sultan Ahmet Mosque its proper name in English and Sultanahmet Camii ("Sool-tan-ah-met Jam-ee) its official name in Turkish. However you choose to refer to it, it is a spectacular mosque. On the outside, its six slender minarets and cascading domes distinguish it from all other mosques - not only in Turkey but around the world but it is the 20,000 handmade ceramic Iznik tiles that line its interior walls that gave it its popular name.