Sunday, August 4, 2013

Last Day in Turkey

Well, yesterday was our last free day in Turkey before the long haul home. We decided to head to a beautiful little town just beyond Cesme called Alacati. 

We had planned to start out early, but (shockingly) left around 10:00 am, taking a cab for a short ride to Alacati's market, which we'd heard about. There was quite a lot going on!

Fabrics, clothes, toys, trinkets and jewelry were all in abundance. The produce looked fantastic as well, with fresh peaches, apricots, figs, spices, nuts, and so many more things. 

After several hours spent wandering the market, we explored the village, stopping in to visit all sorts of shops along the way. 

Eventually, we even stopped for lunch (expensive, but delicious):

Alacati was definitely a touristy town - but we didn't seem to encounter many native English speaking travellers here (or any kind of English speakers for that matter) Most of the tourists actually seemed to be Turkish..!  As usual however, all of the people were incredibly friendly, and where we needed to get ideas across, it was easy enough to do so. 

The day was hot (a theme of the trip), and we ended up getting back to the hotel around 6pm. A quick turnover for dinner at the hotel's outdoor restaurant, where we had a great meal of Turkish food while watching the sun set:


Following dinner, we had a drink on the hotel patio, before heading to bed for the night. 

This morning was an early one, as we had to be up for a 7:00 am pickup to take us to the airport. This truly will be a travel day - a connection in Istanbul and then Newark before reaching Edmonton. We should get in around 11 pm local time tonight, which by my count is about 25 hours travel time (this does not come close to the 40 hour travel record currently held by the trip back from Africa). 

Actually as I finish this, we are still in the air on our way to Newark, so I will post as soon as Internet is available (correction: free Internet). 

It was sad to have the trip come to a close, but we're both excited to get back home to enjoy visiting with family and friends, folk fest, and everything else that Edmonton offers in the summertime. 

That's it for this blog - thanks everyone for tuning in. It was fun to document the trip, and to share as well. 

See you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Party, Party on a Boat

Yesterday was a fun, but long day spent cruising around the coast of Cesme and various other Turkish islands..! 

The boat was set up just like a beach - with sun beds and covers to provide shade, and a bar, and cruised to a few secluded beaches so that people could have a swim. There was also a water slide, and about 12 massive speakers through which tunes were flowing. Oh, and the boat had its own DJ. Crazy. 

Aoife went swimming, but I did not (shock). It was beautiful and hot, though the breeze off the water was also very pleasant. 

I did take one shot of the boat, but something obviously happened with the panoramic photo, because it looks like there's a drop in the ocean (there wasn't)! Ah well, as it's the only photo we got, I'm going to post it anyhow:

Turkey has such a nice coastline in this area, and the water is completely clear and blue. So nice. 

Lunch on board the boat was mackerel which the crew roasted overtop of coals at a shore-side BBQ at one of the stops we made. It was delicious. 

At one port we even saw an octopus about the size of a soccer ball (which a member of the crew promptly captured -presumably  for his dinner - using a harpoon gun and goggles). 

Any time we were cruising, the DJ was spinning his tunes. Kids and adults were dancing. Our host for the trip was quite a character, and even got me up dancing at one point (when he personally called me out for not participating over those 12 massive speakers)!

On the way back, we passed a ritzy beach club, and our host got us all to stand up with towels. The DJ cranked up the music, and we all followed our host in a group dance which must have looked like a flash mob to the observers. It looked to me like everyone had stopped to watch us, and was actually quite a lot of fun. Aoife says she's going to bring this exercise to Pigeon Lake the next time we're out there on the boat. Ha!

We reached port around 6:00 pm, and went back to the room for showers, naps and some reading (and to cool down a bit).

Back out for a late dinner around 10 pm, where we tried some new kebabs at a different restaurant (plus dips, calamari, bread and a salad!) Both were in a creamy sauce and were delicious. Both were also on fire again!

After another stroll through town, we returned home. 

As I'm writing this, it's just after 10 am on Saturday. We're planning on taking a taxi over to an adjacent village as it's market day today. There should be lots going on. Other than that, it's a free day, so nothing formal planned. I'm sure we'll find something to keep us busy!

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

A Little Greek Island

Last night, just after I signed off, we walked in to town in search of a nice sit down dinner. We settled on a place and ordered what we thought would be similar to an oven baked kabob (oddly called a tasty kabob) we had in Cappadocia a few days back. Well it was oven baked. And delicious. And firey!

It even came with its own table. Wow. I have no idea how we finished that cauldron off by ourselves, but somehow we did. And still managed to eat some of the watermelon they brought out to us afterwards (that seems to be the custom in Turkey). Having been placed into a food coma, it was all we could do to walk back to our hotel to pass out!

Today though, we were up bright and early to catch an early ferry to Chios, a Greek island about 5 km or so off the west coast of Cesme (more passport stamps yey!). 

We didn't really have a plan before going there, but ended up renting a car and driving around the south half of the island for the day..!

Oh Hyundai. Why don't you put better air conditioners in your cars?

First up was a visit to an 11th century monastery Nea Moni - with incredible mosaics (I've said that before, but no eyes gouged out in these ones). 

It's actually a convent now (still apparently active with three nuns). The grounds were completely open, and we were able to explore anything we wanted. We even picked and ate some grapes growing overhead along a path.

We also learned about the Ottoman massacre of Chios, which left most of the Greek population of the island dead or displaced. In 1822. Touchy subject, but I would have loved to have learned the Turkish spin on that one! (The Greeks have no problem calling it a massacre) 

A quick drive further across the island brought us to some fantastic ruins of a town called Anavatosas high on a hill, which yes we did climb! 

After some water, we stopped for a late lunch near a beach town, called Lithi, with a beautiful view of the sea and tasty local, fresh fish. Then we tried to navigate our way around the rest of the island. 

A beautiful beach at a town called Komi was our last stop, where we tried some Greek beer (Alpha). Actually, Aoife wanted an Amstel, but the waiter wouldn't let us order it: "why don't you try Greek beer instead" (it was not a question). As the heat was getting to me and time was short (see note re no air conditioning in the car), we raced back to port, arriving back at the town of Chios just before 6:00 (our scheduled departure time). 

A nice shot of Cesme coming in to port:

As we were both exhausted from the day (Me because of the heat; Aoife likely because of my fast driving on narrow curvy mountain roads), it was a quick dinner at the hotel, and then back to the room for showers and an early night. 

Tomorrow we are scheduled to go on a swimming tour on a boat that will explore the coast near Cesme, dropping us off at various beaches to swim for the day. I will bring a book. And sunscreen. And a bathing suit to take a dip to cool off! Report to follow. 

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beach Days

I completely forgot to out a post yesterday; The last two days have been perfectly lazy spent sleeping in and reading at the beach club maintained by our hotel..!

Yesterday evening we ventured in to town for a quick doner (that's how donair is spelled here). Quite a lively little town - touristy, but visited mainly by Turkish people. 

Today was spent, like yesterday, by the ocean reading. Good stuff. And quite different from the pace we've been used to over the last week. Very relaxing:

Tough, I know. Also 36 degrees. Aoife was in her element.

Oddly, the last bus from the beach club (it's not located at the hotel) leaves at 5:30, so it's poolside after that. Not that I'm complaining, as the shade is cooler here. 

Tonight we'll try to have a nice (read sit-down) dinner in the town, and then see if we can catch a drink at one of the clubs which came recommended to us. Tomorrow we're off bright and early to a Greek island, where we'll spend the day. Not sure what to expect, but we shall see!

Pics to follow. 

Hope everyone is well - and talk with you soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Travel Day 2

Well, today was mostly a travel day, driving from Pumakkale to Cesme, and reaching the resort town just before 2:00. 

Before we left, we did manage to snap another cool shot of the mountains. As we learned, Pumakkale apparently means "cotton castle". The valley below it is apparently full of cotton farms:

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to our great guide Mete. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon. 

Not much else to report today, other than some time relaxing on the beach and reading poolside. 

Tomorrow we'll likely explore a bit more, but for now we are going to catch up on some rest after a busy touring schedule. 

Still lots to see as we'll be visiting a Greek island in the next few days, as well as going on a tour around this peninsula. We'll also try to do as much walking around his place as we can. Apparently there's a good market!

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

P.S.  I should mention that the internet is slow here for some reason (that or we just haven't found the sweet spot for it yet). Until it gets faster, I may have to skimp on the photos!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

There is no snow here!

We had a bit of a later start today, leaving at noon from our hotel - which was appreciated after the late night last night! It also gave us a chance to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, as well as relax by the sea. 

Our drive to Pamukkale (formerly Hierapolis in Roman times) is unique because of the incredible mineral deposits which are created there. It looks like snow!

It is most certainly not snow. Actually it was the hottest day of the trip so far - easily mid thirties or higher. 

There's actually hot springs in the area, the mineral rich water of which is carried by underwater means overtop of limestone cliffs. As the water evaporates under the scorching, I can assure you, sun, the minerals are left deposited on the rocks (it's calcium carbonate). Little pools have formed over the centuries.

In fact, Hierapolis was built by the Romans in this area especially because of the mineral rich waters, which they believed to have healing properties. Apparently people still believe this, and going for a dip in the water is supposed to be, at the least, therapeutic. So that's what we did:

The scenery in the area was beautiful, and unlike anything either of us had seen before:

There are also great ruins there, as the city used to be large - approx 150,000 people or so. In fact, the largest Roman cemetery ever found was discovered here. The ruins included a remarkable restoration of an amphitheatre:

The remnants of a gymnasium:

As well as a museum housing all sorts of artifacts, including one of the most ornate roman sarcophagi I've ever seen (short of being for an emperor):

Hierapolis is expected to cover the same area as Ephesus, but most of it remains to be restored. 

By the time we were finished up, it was nearly 7:00 pm, so we raced back to our hotel for a quick turnaround before dinner. 

After that, a quick tour of the market in the local village and then to bed. An early start and a long drive to the resort town of Cesme tomorrow. 

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ephesus is a Great Roman Ruin

9:30 came early this morning, but before we knew it, we were up and on our way. 

Our first stop was at the a house supposedly lived in by the Virgin Mary. There is actually some evidence to point to the fact she was living in the area of Ephesus, including stories passed down for generations that villagers brought food to her while she was there. The house is not spectacular, but does have an air of sanctity about it. Also, the Catholic Church has officially denoted it as a pilgrimage site, so check to that box. 

Mary's house is actually at the top of a large hill, a km or so away from Ephesus, a colossal roman ruin. I imagine it would have been quite a peaceful place (before the Chinese tourists started coming here). 

Following this, we headed down the road to Ephesus, a Roman city, and one of the largest Roman ruins ever discovered. What is available to see now is apparently only 18% of what they suspect is remaining of the townsite. More ruins from the city have apparently been discovered more than a mile away, and the estimates are that more than 250,000 people lived here at one time. A really incredible site, there is so much more to see there than what we can post in this blog. But some highlights:

The library facade:

Rich Romans' houses:

Crazy mosaics:

The theatre:

And public toilets. Because I found these fascinating:

Most of the original main street is there as well, paved in marble.  The scale of Ephesus is difficult to describe. We were there for nearly three hours, but I felt we could have spent longer there without a problem (it was about 35 degrees there though, and water was limited, so maybe not). 

After our tour, we stopped at a local home for lunch. Wow. Some more recipe ideas for sure:

We also saw the tomb of John the Apostle - around which Constantine built a cathedral (and later the Turks built a fortress). Very cool:

An earlier drop off to our hotel today (around 5:00 or so). Aoife relaxed Aegean Sea side, while Paul had a heat induced nap. 

We walked in to town to have a late dinner, and ended up in a section known as little Ireland..!  A place full of little shops and bars:

A couple of drinks at an Irish pub called Martin's, run by a Turkish fellow with an Irish accent (!), and we were on our way home. But not before checking out some genuine fake watches. 

Not sure if the photo will turn out, but I had to be stealthy when taking it. Sadly, the deals were not as good as the sign, so no fake watches today. 

It's quite late here now, so will be heading to bed right away (nearly 2:00 am). Long drive tomorrow to Pumukkale, which is ancient Heliopolis. Underwater ruins, as well as hot springs to enjoy. 

Pics to follow, again if Internet cooperates.

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Travel Day

Well folks, not a whole lot to report today, as we were on the move from Cappadocia (central Turkey) to Kusadasi (southwestern Turkey), and between the flights and drive times, didn't have a whole lot of time left over for touring (we usually pack our days as full as we can). 

We did see a few things though. 

First, we stopped at a little village called Sirince, which is unique for a few reasons, including the fact that the architecture has essentially been preserved from 1922 (an interesting year in Turkish history, as this is the year nearly all the Turkish Christians left Turkey - either voluntarily or at the point of a sword depending on who you talk to). 

A great little village which is quite touristy but also known for its fruit wine, which we were able to sample. Yum!

Some of the houses were a bit run down, unfortunately as a result of the growing gap between the people with money who are able to keep their places in good repair, and those who are less fortunate, but nevertheless in possession of these old homes. 

The village also houses the church of St. John the Baptist, who lived for a brief time in the area (not this village, but near Ephesus). It's undergoing restoration, but is beautiful nonetheless. 

Unfortunately the frescoes here are badly damaged, but are interesting as they depict the holy grail. 

Afterwards, we continued our trip in to Kusadasi, where we are staying at a resort on the Aegean sea, which is completely reminiscent of Mexico!  We were fortunate to catch a spectacular sunset as well:

Cappadocia was cool - In the high twenties. Here, temps are in the mid thirties, which is not cool. It's actually supposed to hit the high thirties later in the week. Too hot for Paul!

The bulk of the afternoon was spent relaxing pool side. A late dinner at the hotel (with another Turkish wine) and we are now ready for bed (nearly midnight here as we write). 

A big day tomorrow as we'll be touring Ephesus, Mary's house (yes, that Mary), more chapels, as well as another traditional lunch at a house in the country (we will take photos this time). 

Hope everyone is doing well: we'll chat with you soon,

Paul and Aoife.