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.