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.