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

Saturday, May 18, 2013


We spent today playing in Pamukkale's terraced pools created and warmed by calcium rich mineral springs!

Scrub a Dub Dub

Getting our culture on at a traditional Hamam (Turkish bath house)!

Blogger pulls it together

You may notice that we've just added about a million posts today. Blogger finally got their act together and made a much more user friendly app allowing us to beef up previous posts (we've made some changes to our posts from Santorini till now) and has now made adding pictures a whole lot easier, although it's screwed up our spacing and captions, our apologies. 
But Watch out; our blog is about to get good (really just meaning we might finally post with some regularity)!

Land of the Free (stuff)

In Malawi you would occasionally get a "maprizey," typically something like one free tomato if you buy  5 or an extra handful of rice. I love this type of thing.  However, I was never prepared for Turkey's maprizey culture. I love it even more. You get free bread with dinners (it's €1 in Greece), restaurants bring out free appetizers, free tea at the end of meals. Jake and I were walking through a square where they were passing out free Turkish flags, of course Jake eagerly went running to collect it (I seriously think I should start checking to make sure he hasn't secretly cancelled our tickets home). The hotel owner loves Jake so much that he made him a free omelet this morning saying that Jake's smile "brings him much positive energy and luck for his business." They bring out free popcorn or other snacks if you just order drinks, or free shots at the end of dinner. Sometimes they just wave you through instead of charging you for tickets. And, as the final and best maprizey of Turkish culture, the townspeople make free fried donuts for everyone to celebrate the anniversary of a loved one's funeral, which is pretty much every day. Can you imagine a bag of 5 donuts every day there was a funeral? Personally, I can think of no better way to honor the life of a loved one then with free donuts. Although, this tradition also explains the abundance of free outdoor exercise facilities.  

Our lemon cheesecake does a very good job expressing the way I feel about Turkey right now

Kayaköy (what could have been)

Jake and I made a special day trip to visit the ghost town of Kayakoy. This is where we had originally planned to have our tiny destination wedding, now of course we've moved it to Portland and are very excited to be able to include more of our loved ones in our big day. Anyway, we wanted to go see it both for sentimental reasons and because it sounded amazing. The basic backstory is around the 1920's, during the Turkish war, Turkey and Greece agreed to mutually expel their Turkish and Greek expatriates. As a result, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes in Turkey and Greece, some with no more than a days notice, and move back to their countries of origin. Kayakoy village was home to hundreds of Greek families on the Turkish coast who were forced out, and the houses were never resettled. The wood has now rotted and all the belongings are scattered, but the walls and foundations still remain. There are over 400 abandoned houses for tourists to walk through. Jake and I had a great afternoon exploring and poking around this strange, and sad but beautiful village. I'm afraid my pictures just didn't do it justice but I'll post them anyway. 

They are so cute from far away and so gross close up

   Houses on the Hill

The Abandoned church we had hoped to get married in. Strange, I know, but so cool. 

  The "never ending wine tasting" at the "would be" reception restaurant


Ephesus is the oldest city in the world (circa 8,000 BC) and the final resting place of Madonna; the mother of Christ, not the pop star (I cannot help myself making that joke). (seriously, I've heard this joke at least 4 times now) Selcuk is the nearest town to Ephesus. We spent three nights there which is 2-3 more than most. Our first full day we spent at the ruins and I spent the whole time (as I have done the whole trip) asking Katie what the Chewa (Malawi's largest) tribe was doing during this time. The crown jewel is the entrance to the library which is spectacular but we were blown away by "The Terrace Houses". This area of the world has been plagued by earthquakes and while it was clearly devastating, it also helped with preservation. The mosaic floors were being painstakingly uncovered as well as the layers of fresco on the walls. The knowledge of all the details of life is incredible. They had crates and crates of broken marble they were reassembling in the world's most insane/OCD jigsaw puzzle. We had a nice picnic outside with sausage, fresh bread, olive tapenade, pistachios and children's yogurt (it was the only one that came with a spoon).

The next day we took a couple minibuses to a nearby national park and spent the warm, but overcast, afternoon on a secluded pebble beach.

Today (5/17) we went to see a 14th century mosque before our train left a little afternoon. On our a way a salesman from a rug weaving co-op stopped us and asked us to come back by after seeing the site. We did, and were not prepared for the tour, the skill, and the time it takes to create each rug. We were the perfect suckers. I took comfort believing that we had no cash and no cards on us and virtually no time to retrieve them, that is until  Katie pulled out a Visa she's evidently been secretly carrying around (for emergencies only!). After the creation process was revealed, the show began. Rugs from across the country were brought in and unfurled before us, each with unique styles, colors, symbols, materials and characteristics. The silk shimmered and Katie's eyes got bigger and bigger. Each carpet snapped as it was being unrolled and laid before us, "Smiley" working his greasy magic. We were great customers. We both wanted one and we had a credit card.  We hemmed and hawwed and sipped tea. We fantasized about saying "Oh, this rug? We bought it at a cooperative in Turkey on our honeymoon." (Un)fortunately, we didn't pull the trigger. We'll have to save it for our trip to democratic Iran sometime in the future. (Persian rugs) 

     Ephesus drinking fountain 

   Frescos discovered in Ephesus' preserved terrace houses

Library facade

 Can you Find Jake? 

Refreshingly Fethiye™

Turkey is awesome!  We arrived in Turkey through the port town of Fethiye, which the lonely planet guidebook essentially ignored and breezed over, so we weren't expecting much, but I suppose that just made it even better when it turned out to be our favorite town yet! 
Fethiye is more like a small city, sprawled several miles down the coast, but only going a few blocks back from the water. The entire waterfront is gorgeous with sidewalks, benches every few meters, crazy topiaries, big city squares, great lighting, little outdoor public gyms, and even a running track that follows along the sidewalk. 
The Turks seem to be very concerned with good health, all of them jumping around on their outdoor gyms and speed walking everywhere.  When I went on a morning run I had not one but two people yell out reminders to " bring water next time!" 
Jake is so enamored with this place I'm pretty sure he's secretly picking out property to build on, and he seems very concerned with their marketing schemes and keeps muttering "you know what their slogan should be, Refreshingly Fethiye!" I had no idea I was dating a PR exec. 
     Jake has a go at the outdoor gym

    Look at that crazy topiary!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Rhodes Island

(sorry for our insane fonts, we are aware of the problem and have no plans to fix it)

We arrived the day after (Greek) Easter. We booked four nights at a budget hotel, The Parthenon. They appeared to have spent most of their money on flat screen tvs, glass elevators and empty pools rather than comfortable beds/pillows but that doesn't matter, we didn't come to hang at the hotel. We spent our first day wandering the old town. We were a little overwhelmed at how "touristy" it was. A lot of real estate was dedicated to hawking junk except for glazed shot glasses which Katie managed to root out, which I'm sure are one of a kind. (Jake pretends he isn't excited about them, lies) We found a wonderful seafood restaurant our guidebook recommended and had some more delicious mussels and shrimp. 

I had trouble sleeping that night (probably pouring over blogs, hostel websites or trying to figure out transportation) so Katie took herself shopping the next morning and I'm sure found some fantastic deals on high quality merchandise. We spent that evening bar hopping and eating street food.

On Wednesday, we went to Lindos, the most popular beach spot named and after the creator of the Colossus of Rhodes. We took an hour-long bus ride without our bathing suits to the best beach on the island so we had to see some ruins instead. After the climb to the fortress we arrived at 2:40 pm, the exact time of its closure. We spent the rest of our time slowly eating at a restaurant with a spectacular view.

Our hydrofoil left Rhodes/Greece in the afternoon so we had enough time to see The Palace of the Grand Master. It was a pretty impressive place; especially the mosaics. Of course, we didn't leave ourselves very much time to make our international trip across the sea so we had to run with our two backpacks each, purses, etc. and sweat through passport control. We boarded our vessel out of a Jules Verne novel and headed to Turkey.

Palace of the Grand Master

Katie getting camera happy

Street lined with stations of the cross and palm fronds for Easter

Old town

Blue truck

Old town



Katie insisted I add her artsy photo

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Off to Rhodes

We've really made a total mess of the bus system here on Kos, getting left, misreading wrong bus schedules, getting bad information. We just barely made it to our ferry in time. We left for Rhodes Island this afternoon. We hear it's quite the place to go with big castles and awesome beaches. Very exciting! On a side note, I have to give some credit to sweet Jake, who has been so great during this trip. He totally downplayed Easter day, omitting that we couldn't find the restaurant and ended up driving around in circles for an hour, with almost no gas in the car, until I got so cranky and hungry I couldn't take it anymore (I was the navigator and I failed miseraably).  I'm ashamed to admit how awful I was, but Jake took it all in stride asking me if I want to get ice cream to hold me over.  I kid you not I stood there in the street, a grown, almost 30 year old woman, and stamped my feet and yelled "I don't want ice cream!!" What a brat.  It was all ok I the end, and I did stop acting like an angry toddler.
Jake has also spent hours and hours researching all our planes and buses and hotels. I know he likes doing it, but it's made the whole vacation that much more enjoyable and relaxing for me.
Anyway, we made it to Rhodes, and thanks to Jake, travel was very uneventful, walked alomost two miles to our nearest hotel with all of our bags, but that's ok; I'll burn those calories anyway I can!! Doing my "arm workout" with two water bottles in the hotel room doesn't exactly seem to be getting me into wedding dress shape.
All smiles in my fancy new (giant) sunglasses, which are guaranteed to prevent corneal burns. 
Notice Jake has transitioned from his transitions. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Greek Easter

Greek Orthodx Easter landed on the 5th of May this year. Katie and I rented a little Suzuki soft top and drove around the island. Our first destination was a hot springs on the beach just outside Kos Town (we were staying in a little beachside community). It was a very pleasant and though popular, not too crowded. We spent an hour or so soaking in the spring and then cooling off in the sea. We had a difficult time finding gas but did manage an open station after some hunting. Drove in to town for a late lunch and found a restaurant open with a lamb on a spit. I had the lamb and Katie had a giant bowl of steamed mussels. We were both very happy. After finding another beach and returning the tiniest four wheel drive ever made, we had a nap and went back out to eat. Finished around 11 and headed to church. We sat in the lobby? vestibule? And could not see any of the service leaders as they droned on in a chant. Almost all of the parishioners simply came in, purchased a prayer candle, kissed an icon, lit their candle, placed it in the designated sandbox-like receptacle as another woman blew it out and immediately disposed of to make room for the new prayers. We watched people jostle and greet in this tiny room for over an hour. A procession made its way down the aisle and out the church. By this time, the entryway was jammed and loud explosions started to occur. Counterintuitively, we shoved our way through the crowd, out of the church and towards the 1/4 sticks of dynamite, yes dynamite, being ignited. Outside, the priest was continuing his prayers but nothing could be heard over the demolitions going on all around us. We decided that a drink was in order and made a hasty retreat.
Statue of Socrates who lived on Kos 

Driving for the first time in 2 years!

"working donkeys are living donkey" 

Hot Springs


We finished our lovely touring and boating by getting on another boat, only this boat was scheduled to leave at 1am. We planned to just go to the port around 9pm, get dinner, and just camp out at a table for several hours, something that appears to be totally acceptable in Greece.  Of course, the transportation industry had other plans for us, and we couldn't find a bus that left for the port until midnight.  We had already checked out of our hotel, had all of our bags with us, making moving around a little awkward and uncomfortable. I left Jake with the bags and went to scout out a place that wouldn't be appalled at our gross backpacks, and wasn't a ton of money (Santorini restaurants charge about $12 per olive).
We found an acceptable parking spot for us and all our crap, had a nice dinner, dragged ourselves to the bus depot at midnight, got on a bus, sat on a concrete slab at the port got on the boat around 2am, and tried to sleep a little. Jake did really well, I'm guessing drugging him with Benadryl helped.  I eventually moved to the floor of the boat and let the soothing voice of Ira Glass and his tales of Chicago School violence rock me to sleep.
Many very uncomfortable hours later found us on Kos Island.  Kos is probably going to be the least touristy of our destinations. We're planning to get out of the city and stay in another studio apartment on a quiet beach. It's Easter weekend so we're hoping to soak in some good Greek Orthodox Easter traditions and culture; we've been told that the Greek Islands are the place to be for Easter.  We are very excited!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

By Land or by Sea

A bit tired of finding our own fun, we decided to be real tourists for a day and let someone bring the fun to us. We booked a tour that included a few hours exploring the volcano lip, a dip in the nearby hot springs, followed up by a sunset cruise that was described to us as"THE life affirming sunset."
Turns out the most fun part of the day was actually getting to the tour company, which was waaaay down at the bottom of the caldera (look it up), and since we were running late we took the donkey taxis down.  Awesome! Jake managed to be very poorly located when a certain donkey decided to relieve himself.
The volcano was... hot, shocking. We were total wimps and sat in the shade for most of our allotted exploring time.
The hot springs were quite an adventure, a little reminiscent of the dolphin incident. It was 5:30pm by the time we made it to the hot springs. The boat parked about 100 yards away from the springs and they told us we would have to jump in and quickly swim the rest of the way. This is a problem for two reasons.
1. My aforementioned swimming abilities
2. That water is cold! It is only early May, and the Mediterranean does not stay at bath water temperature all year (a fact Jake neglected to mention when planning this trip).
Jake didn't think he could convince me to come along, so he hopped in the water and just left me! This total lack of faith, coupled with some serious heckling by the Japanese passengers (seriously, they were taunting me!) found me spluttering and frantically dog paddling towards warmer water. Unfortunatly, these were less hot springs and more like luke-warm springs, but at least I can say I experienced them!
There is real fear behind those sunglasses 

Jake about 8 seconds before he was pooped on by another donkey

I risked my life on the back of my donkey to take this photo. 

Tour boat. 

Tour boat in front of lava

Volcano hole

Our lives were indeed affirmed with this sunset