Travel: Turkey

Turkey: Back to Reality

We are home from Turkey after a glorious vacation involving lounging on the beach on the coast of the Aegean Sea. We were near Assos and the Greek island of Lesbos dominated the skyline of our view across the sea. We stayed with our friends parents summer home and who were the most marvelous hosts. The sun shone bright and hot every day and we were treated to a full moon, it’s light shimmering like a bridge across the water. Every meal was lovingly prepared by our friend’s mother, every meal a Turkish feast. My daily itinerary was something like this:

Sleep in waking briefly for the sunrise.
Enjoy huge breakfast.
Lounge by the shore.
Go for a swim, snorkle with the fishes and octopi.
Read lounging by the sea.
Nap hypnotized by the sound of the water.
Light lunch.
Afternoon, more of the same.
Shower for dinner.
Fabulous feasts for dinner, complete with desserts.
Maybe a moonlit stroll, or gazing at the night sky, sometimes with a telescope.

We felt so welcome and genuinely like part of the family, complete with Turkish mom piling more and more food on our plates :) It wasn’t all lounging, we did visit some ruins. The are more details to write about later, the private traditional music performance by a neighbor who was a guest for our last dinner, the pile of kittens, special Ramadan dessert, the little things too are to come.

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Sad Realization…

I realized, the last time that either Mark or I experienced lots of sunshine and hot summer like temperatures was on our trip to Turkey last September. Well, it’s a good thing we’re vacationing in Turkey next week then, we’re over due. I predict mighty sun burns for both of us as our pale England-living skin fries to a crisp. But first we’ll be showing our friends around our village and adopted home for a few days.

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Buy Our First Book

After a weekend of the most annoying and irritating internet problems, I’ve finally been able to upload our Turkey book. If you are so inclined, you can order your own copy here. I only just ordered our copy so I can’t really comment on the quality of product just yet. But I can tell you I can’t wait to have it in my hands.

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I can’t keep quiet about Blurb

I’ve put in hours and hours of work, but 162 pages later, and two squinty head achy eyes from spending too much time in front of this laptop screen, I have created a book. This is a book that includes just about all the photos from our trip to Turkey interlaced with my blog entries and quite a few of those I expanded upon the writing as I went along.

Mark pointed me to this this book making tool: Blurb that works in conjunction with Flickr. I was able to upload the full photo set plus additional individual photos into the Booksmart tool. From there I was presented with dozens of page layouts for text and photos. I would pick my layout for each page, drag and drop photos into place and copy and paste my text out of my blog where I wanted it. I went with the 8×10 hardback version for this particular book, but there are several size options that can also be made into soft cover books.

Initially, I thought I would keep quiet about this book making. I was making them in mind for when we are home over the holidays visiting with family who do not have computers or for those who don’t visit our photo’s or blog’s, to see our adventures. But it is so cool, I can’t keep quiet. I plan to start working on two additional volumes, one that will be about our moving abroad and the things we’ve done around England and another for all our other European travels.

It’s exactly what I wanted to do with my travel blog posts anyway, only this way I can also include all the photos to go along with the story.

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Knitting: Turkey Yarn

Detail of Turkey yarn scarfI started the scarf made from the Turkey yarn on Monday evening and finished it tonight. It’s one of those lovely easy novelty yarns that makes a scarf lightning fast. It’s a burgundy (or I like to think of it as “Sour Cherry Jam” red) eyelash yarn. It’s lush and luxuriously soft.

17 stitches cast on my favorite size 10.5 bamboo needles. I would have had it done sooner, but I was at work at the BMNH today.

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Home from Turkey

We’re home from Turkey doing non-Turkish things and eating non-Turkish food. We made sushi for dinner and were watching the Steeler’s game over the internet.

Although, right now I’m snacking on Pistachio Turkish Delight and starting to create the entries for this trip. There is so much to write about and so many photos that it will take a while for these entries to be complete, but I will start publishing “work’s in progress” that I will continue to add to as I start to fully process all the experiences of this trip.

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Turkey: Back to Istanbul

Corn snack vendorWe flew back to Istanbul for our last night in Turkey. Mark and I, with Martin and his sister hopped on a boat and toured the Bosphorus, the same tour others took on the first day in Istanbul before we arrived. As we walked along the shore we were surrounded in a cloud of the strong smell of the whole-fish sandwiches the locals eat and the corn of the cob for 1 YTL snack vendors every twenty yards.

One last panoramic view of the skyline, palaces on the shore, mosques and minarets. One last float on the Sea of Marmara. One last walk through the city. One last cup of apple tea.

Haghia Sophia at sunsetOn our way back to the hotel we walked back through Sultanahmet Square, it’s Ramadan, and after everyone broke their fast for the evening the square took on a carnival like feel. Down by the water, a van was handing out free meals to people to break their fast. One of the five pillars of Islam is Zakah, or alms-giving, is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims based on accumulated wealth, and is obligatory for all who are able to do so. We people watched and ate popcorn. It was a little surreal. Last night I had turned on the television. In a rather New Years Eve style count down, they were showing people ready to break their fast while they waited for the evening call to prayer to finish.

I made sure to buy a couple jars of rişne re

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Turkey: By boat and Fethiye

The moment Mark broke his fingerOne last morning of snorkeling and enjoying the water, we were parked in a cove where there was a rope swing. The captain’s son was making the swinging look effortless. Mark swam over to go for a ride, I stayed back long enough to get some photos before I hopped in. On the first swing, Mark thinks he broke his finger from it. His finger got caught hanging on tight near a knot on the rope. He was hanging on tighter than he probably needed to be, thinking he was going to scrape his legs on the exposed rock surface of the hillside.

Deb in the waterI hopped in for a last bit of snorkeling in the impossibly clear blue water, you could see the bottom and it was deep. I kept encountering Gar! Schools of gar! They seemed to be following me. I would start swimming in one direction and turn around and see a pile of them behind me. I tried to keep up with them, but they are speedy little buggers. I wish to get a book of Mediterranean fish to help me identify all the fish I saw on this trip. Snorkeling without glasses, I’m limited to what I can actually see. Yes, I get some magnification from the water, but unless the reefs and fishes are within arms reach, I can’t really tell what I’m looking at. A reference book will help fill in the blanks in my minds eye. I would like to get goggles with my prescription in them at some point.

After lunch we boated into Fethiye and drove up to the hotel up in the mountains. Here I have pine forest clad mountains to the left and right of me, teal blue Mediterranean below me, paragliders are dotting the clear sky above me, we have an amazing room, it’s paradise, we could live here!

Turtles who wanted some privacyWhile Mark was at a clinic to have his hand checked out a few of us went to wander through the strange pine forest that blanketed the mountains around us. Inside it was dry and scrubby. Again it appeared to be all a single species of pine, the undergrowth dominated by a small leaf holly which sliced at our ankles like razors. Flipping a rock or two over hear and there, shuffling through the forest floor debris I encountered little evidence of bug life, a pile of eggs there, remnants of spun silk, were these from the Euplagia quadripunctaria, the tiger moths known for their large numbers here? Ahead of us we encountered two turtles, who clearly wanted their privacy, we could hear their shells banging off of one another as we walked away.

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It’s not over yet

Wow! Simply put: Wow!

I can’t wait to write about this Turkey trip! I’m currently in Fethiye, sitting looking out my hotel floor to ceiling windows, pine forest clad mountains to the left and right, teal blue Mediterranean below me.

The food, the history, Cappodocia and central Anatolia with it’s underground cities, cave homes and fascinating geology, snorkeling over the past few days while boating along the southern coast, Istanbul with a Mosque on every corner with the murmuring haunting echoes of the morning call to prayer at 5am looking out over a dark city (five times a day the mosques announce the call to prayer over loud speakers), we’re here for Ramadan, there’s a street festival we’ll be heading to in Istanbul tomorrow night when we’re back in town…

There is just so much to write about so many photos to share. I don’t know if we could have experienced so much of a country better than we have these past two weeks, and it’s not over yet.

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Turkey: By boat

Looking back at the Valley of the ButterfliesWe woke up, swam and snorkeled (notice a pattern here?) Our first non-stop, which I was a little disappointed by was the Vally of Butterflies. We didn’t stop here, we were told we needed to make better time with a front moving through bringing with it wind and chop. Poop. The captain also made an off hand claim that there would be no butterflies here at this time of year. I bet I could have found something. This valley is so named for the large populations of migratory Tiger moths (Euplagia quadripunctaria) that pass through the region by the thousands. This valley stands as an oasis on the line of dry scrubby mountains. A natural spring keeps this flat bottomed narrow valley moist and cooler, enclosed by towering cliffs. I’m sure this would be a haven year round for many local species, I’m sure I would have found butterflies here.

Mark diving into the MediterraneanOur next stop was at Ölü Deniz, an amazingly beautiful protected beach and lagoon. It is called the “dead sea” of Turkey because the waters so calm. The far side of this rounded cove had some amazing snorkeling. It was much more diverse and species rich than any of the other places we stopped, I wouldn’t have minded staying longer here. So many of the reefs were nice and shallow so I was treated to actually being able to see plenty.

Hearts on the boatWe ended up parking across from St. Nicholas island with its ruins in sight for the rest of the evening. We were here for so long, why didn’t we have time to stop in the Valley of the Butterflies? Poop. Anyway, more swimming, more snorkeling, more lounging, more relaxing, lather, rinse, repeat. Mark got a rousing game of Hearts going. He took the captain’s son under his wing, teaching him the finer points of the game. One last high stakes round brought out different strategies for everyone, no longer was it for fun, but a purchased drink out of the boats fridge (the boat had a strict “NO B.Y.O” policy for beverages, including water). The loser was to buy the winner the beverage of their choice, the most expensive of which was the 4 YTL large can of beer.

DSC_3972A couple times on this trip, when we’ve anchored for the day, our boat was approached by little vendor boats. One was selling ice cream. Another came by selling gozleme! Complete with Turkish woman expertly rolling and filling the dough, complete with hot round flat pan. They were making special dessert varieties including the nutella and banana filled one that Mark and I shared. It was a Turkish crepe! Mark was waiting for a kebap boat to float up, but one never came.

I must also include one of my usual natural history observations of how odd the forest along the water looks. Here we have pine trees growing on rock, so much so it almost looks impossible that the trees could have any kind of foothold here. The pines are so predominant I could smell the forest as we approached the shore, the air full of pine in sharp contrast to the salty sea air.

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Turkey: Southern Coast By boat

Our towels blowing in the windBreakfasts continued to involve olives, cheeses, tomatoes, bread with honey and jam. What turned out to be a morning favorite was the dry feta drizzled with vişne re

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Turkey: Myra and On a boat in the Mediterranean

Where's my seat?I lied, we had one more historic site in store for us. We stopped just south of Demre, in the ancient city of Myra to visit the ruins of a large Lycian amphitheater. Myra’s Greco-Roman theatre is the largest theatre in Lycia. Mark, with ticket in hand, made to look for his seat amongst the 38 rows of stone seats in this large semi-circular stadium like theater. Mark and I seemed to be the only ones participating in a “wave” in the stands.

On the mountain side were numerous elaborate tomb facades carved above and around the theater into the cliff face. These are Lycian house tombs, intended to be houses for the dead. Because of the plague that swept through Anatolia in the 6th century (Myra lost one-third of its population to it in 542-3 AD), Muslim raids, flooding and earthquakes, Myra was mostly abandoned by the 11th century.

Lycian tombs carved into cliffWe hopped back on the bus and started the drive on the very twisty and winding road right along the coastline to get to boat. We saw so many inviting crystal clear blue coves! Hinting at what was to come.

In the later part of the afternoon we boarded our boat, the Aya Nicola 1 and were on our way to several days filled with swimming and snorkeling in the Mediterranean, lounging, chatting with friends, eating, all and all doing nothing but relaxing :)

Dinner tonight involved fresh whole fish, it was tasty, but still creeped me out, that problem I have with eating things that look like the thing that they are. I don’t like to have to dissect my food to eat it.

The boat parked for the night in a cove where similarly sized boats were scattered. We went for a swim, the water marbled in temperature, ribbons of warm and cool water flowing past us. The water of the Mediterranean is extra salty.

Snorkeling MarkAfter dark Mark went for a night time swim, once in the water he realized he was swimming amongst a cloud of bioluminescent biota. Swishing his arms and legs caused a glow, moving his fingers after sitting still caused tiny sparks to fly from his finger tips. I would have hopped in, but I was too cold already. I couldn’t imagine getting wet when the night air was that cool. A couple other people hopped in too to experience the glow.

The rest of us remained on deck under the perfectly clear night sky filled with stars. We were laying on the deck staring at the bright Milky Way and counting the meteorites that streaked across the sky.

In our peaceful bubble, little did we know, back in the capitol Ankara, on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a terrorist bombing in the city was being foiled.

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Turkey: Antalya

Antalya waterfallWe woke at 4:00am to catch an uneventful flight out of Kayseri to Antalya (via Istanbul, all domestic flights route through Istanbul). Straight from the airport we made our way to one of the many waterfalls that are part of the character of this Mediterranean coast highlighted by the Taurus Mountains. This one was located inside a wildlife park. With helpful signs explaining how the small black corvid birds eat tons (literally) of grasshoppers each month.

This was just the beginning of the change in nature of this trip, our time in Antalya was very low key. There were no tours or learning, starting now it was about relaxing. We trammed and walked ourselves to the rocky pebbly beach and lazed about. Some of us went swimming, some of us stay on the beach. I had a bit of a project going on, piling and stacking the flattened rocks into towers. Walking along the waters edge involved a bit of work, our feet sinking in to our ankles into the pebbles as the waves hit.

Mark with the blue pool of waterfallAt the far end of the beach we stopped in to check out the Minicity. Here, dozens of Turkey’s historic sites and buildings are meticulously recreated on a 1/25th scale. Ataturk’s mausoleum, the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia, mini Cappodocian cave dwellings, many places we have seen in person and many we didn’t get to.

On the walk back to the hotel we were all trying to lose Martin and Gun. Today is their first wedding anniversary and we declared at lunch that they would have the night off. They didn’t need to plan anything for us or take us anywhere nor did they need all of us hovering around them. Come evening, we didn’t want to see them. All along the beach on the walk back were restaurants and clubs. We passed one with canopy beds on the beach, “you could be drinking cocktails in bed on the beach listening to the waves,” I commented. We realized this is their first anniversary, they might not know how it works. They paused to look at a menu and the rest of us bolted off. Trying to lose them we would hear Gun behind us, “we can still see you!” We did eventually shake them :)

Small plants on waterfall wallMark had stayed behind in our hotel that was located inside the Kaleici the Inner Citadel, where the older part of the city is located inside fortress like city walls. Impossibly narrow cobbled roads intersect on the steep hillside leading up to the rest of the town. I met up with Mark to figure out what to do for dinner. We ended up deciding to buy some simple provisions and eat back in our hotel room. These provisions involved cereal and milk (Gold Flakes! honey flavored corn flakes!) which we ended up eating and drinking separately as we didn’t have bowls or spoons at our disposal.

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Turkey: Cappadocia

Camel shaped rock formationToday’s first stop was Imagination Valley. Here we scrabbled all over the eroded rock formations and looked for shapes in the rocks. The first huge obvious rock formation was in the shape of a camel. There were penguins, seals, an eagle here and cat there. The rocks were just fun to climb all over. Of course Martin was off like a shot, before we knew it, we saw him across the ravine. How he gets so far so fast away from us at every site we visit is a mystery to me as I leisurely stroll and languidly drape myself over the rocks.

Lunch was at a restaurant that happened to be in, you guessed it, a cave. It started with a lentil soup, followed by a bean dish, the main course was a meat dish. The meat is cooked in a ceramic pot that has been sealed with bread dough over the top. (It does have a special name but I’m having a hard time finding it).

Climbing up the foot holdsDown the road we stopped at another carved out hide out that belonged to St. Simon. Here he lived a simple life, eating little and having little to no personal possessions, living in isolation, in his sacrifice trying to get closer to god. The bed and pillow were even carved out of stone. Mark shimmied up the chimney like stairs with foot holds in the wall.

We visited another open air museum at Zelve. There are two valleys here that are connected by carved out stairs and tunnels which we clambered through the dark. Fortunately we came prepared, we actually packed our headlamp. This valley was inhabited by a large population of Greeks until the 1922 “population exchange” when Greeks and Turks were “repatriated” to their own countries. This is all a nice way of saying the Christians were kicked out and the Muslims were brought back home. It was later inhabited by Muslims, and there is a small stone Mosque carved out near the entrance.

Martin with polish onyx eggWe made a quick stop at a jewelers that gave a demonstration of carving local onyx. The difference between marble, alabaster and onyx was explained, onyx is opaque whereas no light passes through the marble. Locally acquired onyx is carved into boxes and keepsakes. The craftsman quickly used a diamond tipped lathe to carve out and polish an egg shape within seconds before our eyes. Mark admired the machining skill done with such precision in two dimensions at once. We were corralled into the shop, where we were harangued a bit. It was amusing watching Mark try to explain the concept of “bling bling” to a woman who spoke little English but had asked about a word that describes jewelery she asked, “you know, two words together, like ‘tickle tickle’ or ‘giggle giggle’?”

Pinks, rose, goldenrodIn the early evening we went on a long hike in the “Red Valley” to watch the sunset as we descended into the “Rose Valley” Here we saw the brightly colored multi layered strata. A thick band of yellow blazed across the vibrant pinks that dominated this valley. All this contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and fluffy white clouds, the dark greens of the scrub vegetation. At the far end of the hike we encountered the largest cave church carved out of the soft tuff yet. On the way down we watched a few dung beetles doing their thing outside the holes they’ve dug. On our way out, the wind was whipping through the valley, pushing against us as we walked the the higher ridges.

That night a few of us needed to make a supply run, either to an eczane or market. It had been pouring down rain, torrential rain. As soon as it let up a little we ventured out. It turned out to be more of a brisk run in the rain. The sound track playing in my mind was, “run lola run” music as we went from place to place looking for directions to an eczane, then eczane to eczane trying to find one that was open, then on to a super market. There was a bit of mad giggling as we ran. It was a bit ridiculous. As we started back up the hill to the hotel, it turns out there was a market just a block or two away that we could have gone to. But, a run in the rain after days of walking and hiking about is just what we needed.

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Turkey: Cappadocia

Fairy Chimneys product of local geologyFirst stop today, the famous site of the Three Fairy Chimneys. These “fairy chimneys” are also a product of the geology unique to this region. The thick layers of easily eroded Tuff topped by the less easily erodible basalt results in tapering towers of Tuff with hats of Basalt. Is some places they look rather mushroom like, pale stems of Tuff with caps of darker Basalt.

We made our way to the Göreme Open Air Museum, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has half a dozen cave churches and a number of monasteries hand cut into the Tuff. Several well preserved byzantine style churches have walls with colorful Secco’s. Secco’s differ from Fresco’s in that fresco painting involves painting on wet plaster. Secco painting is on dry plaster. The primary color was red ocher made from the iron rich clay deposits found in the area. The colors were mixed with albumin from eggs to set the color.

Multiple arches carved into stoneMost of the carved out dwellings we visited had been inhabited until the 1930’s, there was a thirty year period where these places were not protected from looters and vandalism. An interesting bit of vandalism is in the form of all the eyes of Christian secco’s having been scratched out. Muslim’s were responsible for this. Fearing that only Allah had eyes to see into these places that were later used as mosques, also that whole idea of no living things allowed to be depicted in mosques led to scratching out of faces.

Forming a bowl with local Cappadocian clayOur next stop was a visit to a ceramics making place, Kaya Seramik Evi, which was located in a cave. Here the master potters throw clay found in the region, both the red iron rich clay and a smoother porcelain like clay. They painstakingly paint and glaze their plates in traditional Hittite and Iznik styles. The potters are all in the family, passing the trade down for several generations, they even have developed a personal family decorating style, pointillist in it’s detail.

After a tour and demonstration of a hand throwing style on a foot powered wheel a volunteer was needed to try their hand at the wheel. I did not hesitate. I’m glad I had the opportunity to throw and feel this clay. Having taken a number of pottery wheel throwing classes, using a variety of clays, it was interesting to compare the the feel and texture to what I was familiar with.

Deb's hands on local Cappadocian clayThe Cappodocian clay was finer than the clay I have the most experience with. It was not quite as smooth and fine as porcelain, but was similarly soft and malleable as porcelain. I really enjoyed myself. I wouldn’t say it was my best work, but it was really fun to do. Mark and I ended up purchasing one of the small family design plates. I think this is a unique souvenir, I will always think of how the clay felt in my hands every time I look at the plate.

We drove on, visiting a set of cave homes where people lived in up to the 1950’s. Here these rooms were still furnished as the people had lived there. I think Mark and I could live comfortably in carved out cave rooms. Think of how nice the temperature regulation is, maintaining the same temperature inside year round, feeling refreshingly cool in the summer and pleasantly warm in winter.

Whirling DirvishesAfter dinner at the hotel most of us, meaning everyone but Mark, went out to a Turkish culture night, hosted in a cave restaurant. This involved traditional music and dancing of Turkey and all the alcohol you could drink. The night started out with the whirling dervishes. Their white long robes symbolizes the white cloth the dead are wrapped and buried in, the spinning is a prayer bringing them closer to Allah. Photos were not allowed during the actual performance, I can imagine cameras and flashes would be really distracting. It was also performed in darkness, the white robes illuminated by black lights only. They had a brief bit of whirling afterwards in the bright light for photos.

Turkish bride escorted inThe rest of the evening was filled with dances and costumes representing different regions and aspects of Turkish culture. There was also a bride and henna ceremony, starting with the bride making an entrance on a donkey. There was quite a bit of audience participation dancing including a weaving dance that led everyone in the room outside and around a bonfire. The belly dancing had an interesting twist. Rather than it being all about objectifying this really hot women, she picked out a half dozen male volunteers for an impromptu lesson. The men then were the center of attention for the show, including Scott, who was a really good sport about it all. The place turned into a Turkish disco for a bit before we needed to go which was fun too. Yeah, Mark would have hated this :)

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Turkey: Ankara and Cappadocia

Deb on stairsOur first stop today was Atat

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Turkey: Ankara – Drive and Archeology Museum

Goddess worship figureToday was a long traveling day. We hopped on a bus and drove from Istanbul to Ankara, the capitol of Turkey. We drove over mountains, through fields of melons, pumpkins, passed by fig orchards and rows of grape vines. Through all this scenery we had hours of conversation with our friends, new and old, friends of friends. There were stops for more vişne suyu, but we had miles to cover, so driving was the order of business for the day.

Elaborate Sun discWe went to the Ankara Museum of Anatolian Civilizations late in the afternoon. This museum has a strong focus on paleolithic and Hittite culture with their goddess worship and their sun disc’s. The former symbol of the city of Ankara was designed after one of the elaborate animal sun discs featuring a stag. The museum was organized chronologically in it’s layout, we moved through Turkish history as we walked along. (more on this once photos are posted)

What doesn’t seem to be explained in this cultural museum is the origin and phenomenon of the ever present Nazar Boncuk, the Evil Eye Protectors. This symbol is everywhere, either painted on trucks or hanging from walls and windows, worn as jewelery, even our Turkish Airlines plane had a large one near the entrance.

Ever present Evil Eye ProtectorsThe stone is an amalgamation of molten glass, iron, copper, water and salt. This particular combination of minerals and metals is believed to provide a shield from the forces of evil. It is believed that with the evil eye amulet you will be protected from evil forces, that all the bad energy will be directed to the amulet and it will brake. No bad energy will reach you if you have the Evil Eye protector with you.

There is an odd creation myth about it, involving an immovable stone and a man with a nazar, but it still doesn’t adequately explain anything for me. The evil eye is non-denominational but is particularly popular with Islamic cultures. Muslims claim the Qu’ran says “to seek refuge from mischief of the envious” but that hardly clarifies anything about the stone either. It’s been a part of folk culture and mythology for thousands of years. I would have liked to see an explanation of this amulet in a museum of Anatolian cultures.

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Turkey: Istanbul – Heybeliada and Asia

Motor vehicles shunned on the islandMorning and Mark is feeling less miserable, still some symptoms but feeling good enough for a bit of an adventure. We broke off as a small group and took off across the Marmara Sea on a ferry to the Prince’s Island of Heybeliada. These islands where motorized vehicles are shunned and transport is by horse and donkey drawn carriages. This was also the place where I first encountered the traditional Turkish toilet which amounts to a hole on the ground over which you squat and is well advised to have tissues with you as they don’t usually have toilet paper in them.

We really had no plan coming to the island and once we solved the problem of finding a map at a bike rental place, we decided on renting bicycles for the day and circumnavigating the island. It was a particularly mountainous place, it seemed more than half the time we were walking our bikes up the steep hills. Although the downhill bits sure were refreshing. The map also turned out to be misleading and we ended up doing a bit of off roading to make it to the small protected sandy beach. The water was clear and warm and full of small jellyfish. I just needed a little more time to buff my feet in the sand.

Pine tree of Heybeliada IslandThe entire island is covered with the same species of pine tree and while peddling around I started noticing Lindgren funnel traps hanging in the trees. I shouted out to the others ahead of me, “Hey! Entomology is being done here!” I’m sure with a mono culture pine island there would be great concern for and need to monitor native and invasive bark beetle populations.

Taking a break on the hillLunch included a smattering of mezes, small shared plates of roasted eggplant, yogurt salad, sea bass in lemon and bread. Other than breakfast, we haven’t had a repeat of menu items at meals yet. All the food has been wonderful. I’ve also become a huge fan of Vişne Suyu, it’s sour cherry juice that is tart like cranberry. Discussions on how to market and import this juice unanimously agreed that anything with the word “Sour” in it would not sell well. I couldn’t get enough of the stuff while there. Breakfasts involved Vişne Receli, sour cherry jam which was awesome on breads and even better over the feta, it made the feta rather like having cottage cheese with fruit. It’s on my list of what to buy before heading home.

Today I added a new continent to my places I’ve been list. After the island visit, we met up on the Asian Side of Instanbul with everyone else where we walked through the area where our friend grew up and hung out. Along the long avenue of shops and restaurants we stopped for ice cream, it was only our first dessert for the day, but for everyone else, apparently this was their third. I ordered the Kesme which is a type of ice cream that has such a texture you eat it with a knife and fork. Three slabs on my plate, chocolate, vanilla and pistachio served with a variety of sauces and more pistachios. I missed out on the sahlep that was on the menu which I had read about and was definitely intrigued. But it’s a warm beverage usually only served in winter made from orchid roots. I’ve read it’s milky and sort of like hot chocolate but not chocolaty and often served with cinnamon.

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Turkey: Istanbul – Archeology Museum and Beyoglu

The chain that closed off the Golden Horn in the 15th centuryThis morning we awoke to find that Mark was not feeling well at all. Since the morning destination of a museum was on tap, Mark decided to sit this one out and we would regroup at lunch to see how he was feeling and what if anything he would be up for doing.

Photo for mom to make into a puzzle :)We headed over to the Istanbul Archeology Museum. This is an enormous museum, if I were here alone I would have spent the day here, we didn’t even make it into the third building. It was the beginning in understanding and learning about the history and culture of Turkey. Here we got to see a part of the actual chain that was draped across the Golden Horn to prevent invaders from boating through, but Constantinople was defeated when ships were taken over land to get around it (more on this when photos are up…)

Mark met up with us at lunch, not able to really eat anything without feeling sick and just was not up to the long day of trekking across town that was planned. Mark stayed behind. Two more of our party decided to stay behind to do their own thing and I asked them to check in with Mark later in the afternoon or for dinner in case he was feeling more like himself and wanted to get out. Mark later laid a huge guilt trip on me for not staying behind with him, but he would have wanted me out of the hotel room anyway :) He had us all worried, we even made a stop to an eczane to pick up a thermometer, just so we could make sure of his temp.

Looking up at Galata TowerAfter lunch we walked down to the waters of the Bosphorus and crossed the Galata bridge, to the Beyoğlu section of town. This bridge spans over the natural harbor that divides the city, so called the Golden Horn, with the Bosphorus connecting north to the Black sea and the Sea of Marmara spread out to the south. Here we climbed Galata Tower, well, actually, they don’t let people climb all the stairs, we took the lift to the “7th” floor and then took the spiral staircase up two more flights to the outer deck for a panoramic view of Istanbul. We were on Thrace, the name for the small percentage of the country that is on the European continent, we had a spectacular view of the edge of the country that is mostly a part of the Asian continent. The view back across the bridge we were graced with the famous skyline of Istanbul, highlighted and pierced by the minarets of mosques.

Blue Mosque as seen from Galata TowerWe meandered our way through Beyoğlu making our way along Istikalal Cad, lined with European embassy buildings and tucked away hidden Christian churches. There were plenty of shops and restaurants, on the way up the street we stopped to share in some dessert involving a decadent heaping pile of profiteroles topped with a chocolate pudding sauce. It was rich without being too sweet.

Tea in tulip shaped glassesWe walked further to Taksim parki and waited to meet up with a highschool friend of Gün’s, people watching while we waited. We paused for tea on the Bosphorus water’s edge near Dolmabahçe Palace. Çay again served in those simple tulip shaped glasses and a snack of tost the Turkish version of grilled cheese.

On the way back from Taksim we walked back down Istikalal Caddesi and found a place for dinner where we enjoyed manti, the marble sized meat ravioli served with a warm garlic yogurt sauce and g

Historic Sites & Monuments
Museums
Travel: Turkey

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Turkey: Istanbul – Sultanahmet and Bazaar Quarter

Sultanahmet SquareI was awakened quite suddenly by the 5:00 am call to prayer. Five times a day all the Mosques across Istanbul broadcast the mu’adhdhin’s adhan, the call to prayer chant over loudspeakers. I stood in the window in the darkness of the the early dawn and listened to the haunting sounds as a dozen chants rang out in a murmuring discordant chorus echoing through the streets. The lead directly across from my window was sharp as it pierced the quiet and the chorus. Once the quiet returned I was soon returned to my fitful sleep.

Haghia Sophia minbar and domesBreakfast was the traditional Turkish meal of soft white cheeses, olives, tomatoes and bread with jam and tea, sometimes there was melons or even hard boiled eggs. We would soon discover this is what all the places we stayed at served for breakfast. And later in the trip we would be fantasizing about having pancakes :)

Gün was determined to teach us some Turkish and one of the ways she did this happened to be a tracking system for us to use. We were each assigned a number in Turkish, 0-12, on this first day slowly we stumbled our way through the count, “sifir, bir, iki,

Travel: Turkey

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Turkey: Istanbul – First Night

Suleymaniye MosqueWe arrived late in the day to Istanbul. The taksi ride to the hotel was harrowing. We wound through impossibly narrow roads that had cars parked on both sides, traffic moving in both directions and improbable angle and pitch to the road itself. This is the state of all the roads in the Sultanahmet section of town where were staying. We checked into the hotel and were a little shocked. Istanbul is hot and sticky and we found ourselves in a non-air conditioned room with two twin beds on either side of the room and a bathroom emanating the aroma of an outhouse.

We were hungry and wanted to get outside to the relative cool comfort of the evening air and realized we had no way to contact anyone else we were meeting. We were able to communicate with the hotel staff just enough to find out our friend plus a large group had left for dinner a while ago. We set out ourselves and wandered around Sultanahmet Square past the obelisks in the Hippodrome and outside Mosques. As we made our way back to the main drag- Divanyolu Caddesi where we saw promising places to eat, I recognized a few faces, “Look! isn’t that one of Gün’s friends? Oh wait! Look! There’s everybody!”

Sending the rest of the jet lagged gang back to the hotel, Gün joined us for another late dinner. We went to a place that had only two dishes to order: köftes seasoned meat balls and fasulye piyazi a simple salad of white beans with olive oil, lemon juice and onions. With plenty of bread and spicy red pepper sauce this made for a satisfying meal.

We were not quite ready to go to bed in the sticky stinky hotel room so we planted ourselves at a bar around the corner, people watching and nursing our cold drinks until we decided to head in. We also were not nearly as jet lagged, Turkey is two hours ahead of England and we had a fairly short three and a half hour flight. We headed back to the hotel for an uncomfortable night of sleep and Mark getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. We decided in the night to find a different hotel.

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What’s next? Turkey!

Tomorrow we’re heading out the door for a couple weeks of vacation with friends in Turkey!

We’ll be in Istanbul for a few days (our friend grew up in the Asian side of the city), then Ankara, a few days in and around Cappadocia, on to the southern coast to Antalya, Fethiye and four days on a yacht in the Mediterranean to explore islands are all on the itinerary!

This has been a trip a year in the making and we’re both looking forward to it.

Travel: Turkey

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