Monday, June 3, 2013

Istanbul at a Glance

We are being so negligent with our writing, but it's only because we are having so much fun! We spent 4 days in Istanbul, and we feel like we've barely scratched the surface of this wonderful city. We've been pinching the last of those pennies and doing most of our own cooking in our TINY little studio, but still managing to get in a good Turkish meal here and there. Having a blast seeing all the gorgeous mosques, churches, and skylines, but having to fight through many other hard core camera wielding tourists! 
Up next: Switzerland! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jake skips down cobbled lanes

For the record, I strenuously disagree with our editor for giving Katie the "Goreme" story and me the Safranbolu beat. While I thoroughly enjoyed visiting this UNESCO site, what words can I use? "Quaint"? "Little"? "Cute"? Ok, here goes:

This quaint little town is really cute.

Pulitzer, I await your call. Safranbolu is Turkey's best preserved Ottoman town. It was originally put on the map because of the large amount of saffron it grew (my guess is as good as yours but I think we can probably all agree that's where its name comes from). The homes are built from sun-dried mud brick, wood and stucco. I would recommend a google images search or looking at Katie's pictures even though the way I painted this for you, you probably feel like you were there.

Honey comb, butter and fresh bread good.

The way to Jake's Heart

My photo montage of Jake discovering they bring our free bread, butter and honeycomb to the table. 


By now you've seen some of our lovely Capadoccia photos that didnt do that amazing place an ounce of justice. It was a whirlwind four days, there was just so much to see and do, and we had already extended our stay an extra day, so we felt like we really needed to get the most out of it. There were so many activities to choose from, but mostly we thought we would try to do it on our own rather than give our money to pricey tour companies. 
Turkish night was exactly as Jake described it, ridiculous. I liken it to the Medieval Times restaurant experience only with Turkish entertainment. But it was fun, and I'm glad we did it. 
Capadoccia is this amazing mixture of old world turkey and a bunch of flukes of nature. About a billion years ago the whole place got covered in volcanic ash, which after another billion years of erosion and land changes the whole place is now covered in these crazy soft rock formations, which about 2000 years ago, Turkish people discovered they could shape the rock to make houses, churches, stables, and whatever else. They built their homes way high up whenever they were threatened, which sounds like it was quite often. There are about 9 valleys that have these amazing rock formations and houses.  Jake and I did our very best to see as many of them as we could in our short time.  This resulted in some very long walks.   In 2 days we hiked a total of 11+ hours. The first day was wonderful, gorgeous weather, and breathtaking scenery. The second day we weren't so lucky. I blame the crappy map we were given, but we managed to get lost for 2-3 hours.  No path, no idea where we were, and in the very bright midday sun. It got pretty frustrating. After we had given up ever finding the path into the valleys, and had started for home, we finally managed to stumble across something worthwhile, and did eventually find our way successfully. We found some incredible cave houses built into cliffs that we were free to climb and explore. They went up 3 or four stories into the stone and were all connected to other stone houses, sort of like a giant stone condo complex. We had so much fun climbing and exploring. 

We decided it was high time we get a little more info on "The Turkish Table," and took a local cooking class, an idea we stole from another Peace Corps couple traveling through Southeast Asia. Our class was very intimate with just Jake and I, our translator, and our instructor, an old Turkish mother, who was horrified every time we tried to clean anything. She didn't let us do much other than watch her cook, although we did get to sit and stuff the peppers and make little grape leaf spring roll things. They got a pretty big kick out of our sad final products, but they were quick to tell us how much better we were than other beginners.  Sure.  Then we sat down with the whole family and enjoyed our meal. It was a great experience. 
Our next stop is Safronbolu, a preserved Ottoman town known for its gorgeous houses and quaint streets.  From there we travel to Istanbul, and after a long weekend in Switzerland, we are headed back to America, and parties, and a move, and weddings, and a whole new life. I think we're both starting to realize our old adventure is over and our new one is about to begin. I hope I can maintain my sanity as I pull together a wedding in less than a month!! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Turkish Night!

Katie and I wanted to see the whirling dervishes while we were here and as we suspected there isn't a way to see them that isn't completely touristy so we embraced it. There was a more ceremonial option but just because they pretended it was a spiritual ceremony doesn't change the fact they were simply doing it for money so let's do the one that includes free alcohol and belly dancing! We were picked up promptly at the scheduled time and had to pick up one other party. Our driver seemed to be near tears that the other group wasn't ready on time which while refreshing after being in Africa seemed a bit over emotional given the circumstance. He drove like an absolute maniac and got us there in time to for the dervishes. We sat with our new Brazilian friends, three middle aged women who came to Turkey because a side plot of a soap opera takes place in Cappadocia. We were instructed not to eat or talk by our driver during the "ceremony" and especially no pictures. The Brazilians and virtually everyone else ignored this request. They spun for 2-3 min during two heavily produced new agey songs. The food and drink were all you can eat and they didn't hold back. Two 1.5 liter bottles of wine as well as ouzo were already on the table. Guests around us were ordering entire bottles of vodka at no cost to them. We had a selection of Turkish tapas that as expected were pretty mediocre. So we drank and learned all about the intricate plot lines of this Brazilian soap. We watched some dancing that was heralded as traditional but we suspected was made up because who would know better? We could swear the "dervishes" were also dancing in the napkin dance. The evening closed with the belly dancer. The crowd was good and drunk by this time and the hooting commenced. She seemed to be used to this, there's probably not a whole lotta variation of folks in this scene. She hand picked three spectators. A pot bellied Brit, an aging chinaman and a young Japanese girl. She dressed them up and toyed with them and the crowd ate it up. It felt like they had turned on a strobe light, the flashes were so great. As soon as her show ended, our soberish driver beckoned and 2-300 of us squeezed down the narrow hall. Our quick thinking Brazilian friend grabbed a half empty bottle of wine which we passed around and slugged down the whole way home to keep our minds off the speed of our vehicle. Made it home safe and sound and were sure to pack extra water for the hiking through the valleys today.

First Dervish Sighting

Cappadocia Part One

We just arrived in Cappadocia, land of the fairy chimneys and hot air balloons. Jake informs me that the balloon rides are not in the budget, but I'm sure we'll find plenty of other things to fill our memory cards. Just about to head to "Turkish night" with fire breathers, whirling dervishes, and sword throwers. Expect more pictures soon! 

Picture taking from the bus (11hour overnight bus I might add) as we sped by this morning.   I'm hoping to get up early another morning and try for better photos