Sunday, July 11, 2010

Turkey Day 16 Istanbul

Suze didn’t appreciate our getting up at 7:30 (we didn’t hear the muezzin from the hotel which was remarkable given all the mosques in Istanbul!) The hotel breakfast was served on the enclosed top floor terrace, but since it was raining hard, the view was lost on us. The breakfast was substantial – the largest Suze had ever seen at a hotel!

We took a cab to the Blue Mosque. Phil argued with the driver about the rate, and the cabbie set the meter. However, he clearly added several kilometers by going too far on the Kennedy Boulevard and doubling back! We made our way to the mosque which closes at noon on Friday. It continued to rain as we waited in line. Taking off our shoes at the entrance without getting our socks wet was a challenge! We didn’t take a tour, but listened in on several around us that were given in English. Suze bought a 10 lira clear umbrella from one of the hawkers.
Blue Mosque

I wanted to find a geocache entitled the Blue Mosque which was supposedly close by, but we ended up in a rather bleak neighborhood and I couldn’t find it. Long trudge back to the Hagia Sophia. On the way we stopped at a shop and bought a bunch of little tapestry purses. The Hagia Sophia Museum cost 20 TL each and had almost nothing in it, though its history of being a Christian church converted to a mosque was extensive. It is undergoing massive restoration and needed it. I ran into Dick and Susan Brown from St. Olaf at the entrance and we chatted.

After the Museum we headed off looking for an ATM and a bite to eat. We stopped at a lovely café where Phil and Suze got mains – Phil had eggplant stuffed with chicken and smothered in yummy cheese and Suze had chicken, both with rice. I shared a bit of theirs and had tea. Suze also got a very rich chocolate baklava which she shared.

Then it was off to Topkapi which we couldn’t afford. I looked for another geocache there (and found it just as Susannah said I wasn’t very good at geocaching.) I took a travel bug and left and English coin. In order to get money, we trudged back to the Hagia Sophia museum where we found the row of ATMS just outside. Back to Topkapi where we headed for the treasury. Suze got bored with the crowded rooms. I loved the sultans’ clothes display, but the room was very hot. Phil and I were rewarded by seeing the Topkapi dagger and even Suze liked the Topkapi diamond. I wanted to see the harem rooms (an extra 15 lira each) so Suze went with me after we all had a soda. It was huge!
Then we set off walking to find the Grand Bazaar. On the way we saw a near collision of a tour bus and a tram that took a lot of maneuvering to untangle. We also walked through a cemetery for important sultans and pashas. The bazaar itself was noisy and full of pushy sales people. We bought a few things, including a nice pair of evil eye protector earrings for me.

On exiting the bazaar we tried to head for the spice bazaar. We wandered for a long time through a crowded shopping area where the locals shopped. Stores full of linens, long coats for religious women, scarves, cheap suits, shirts, underwear and frilly bride dresses --- no tourists. Phil’s sense of direction was good and we ended up in the spice bazaar which we liked much better than the Grand Bazaar. Again we bought a few things and headed for the Galata Bridge.

We walked under it past many restaurants all trying to convince us they had the best deal. We sat at one and all ordered fish meals. Because it threatened rain, and the sun was peaking through, the views on the Bosporus were stunning.
Phil forgot our hats and had to go back. We then made our way after a few false moves to buy jetons for the tram and funicular to go to the hotel. After we got to Taksim, Suze needed to shop so we hit a few stores including getting some snacks. Back to the room for a final pack and check of the internet and bed.

See more pics.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Turkey Day 15 Ephesus -- Istanbul

Phil and I packed. I made a big breakfast with the eggs I had bought and found out they were almost all double yolked. While we were eating Susannah decided to not eat and instead swept the house with a handle-less broom!
Phil and I walked down to the Isa Bey mosque and were intrigued by huge variety of the prayer rugs. We looked at several of the shops and returned back to the villa where I took a last dip in the pool and had a glass of wine. Rob took the little girls to a water park – Fantasyland.

The driver came to take Suze, Phil and me to the airport. We were a little late, but he stopped for gas on the way out of town. He was the same driver we had when we came (and had forgotten in the confusion to tip him) so we gave him 20 TL and thanked him in Turkish when he let us out at the Izmir airport. We had never seen such a big smile!
Surprised to see the Turkcell ad in the airport featuring Google, many of whose apps are blocked

Our plane was over an hour late, but we made up time and were only about a half hour late getting into Istanbul. It was a very long walk to the metro and I got confused getting the tokens, but we made it. The train got more and more crowded as we headed in. We stayed at the same hotel the Buteras and Phil had stayed in on the way, the Eresin Taksim Best Western. Our room wasn’t ready when we got there, so I went across the street to get a 5 liter bottle of water. Internet in the lobby was free (Gwyneth had paid something like 30 TL a day for it) so we used it as well. The wait was well worth it. Nice big corner room on largely pedestrian streets.

We decided to explore and walked down the big shopping street that Phil had been on before.

I got tired and cranky on the way back as we looked for a place to eat. I did stop to get some milk for my morning coffee. Finally we decided to eat in the hotel. It was a good thing we stopped just then because it began to pour. We had several mezes before Phil got spicy kebabs and Suze got chicken. I ate a bit of theirs.

See more pics

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Turkey Day 14 Kuşadası and Chloe's Birthday

Chloe got up early and helped me bake cupcakes for her birthday. (Instruction video Dr. Oetker Princess Lillifee Muffin mix)

All of us but Gwyneth and Camille walked to town to pay the bill for the car and villa. We then went to the Ephesus Museum which was lovely. It consisted solely of artifacts from the local sites well laid out.

Then we went to lunch at Mehmet and Alibaba’s. It took forever, but was very good. Rob took the girls for a pre-lunch ice cream while we waited!

It was after 2 when all but Camille and Gwyneth set off looking for a geocache at the pirate castle in Kuşadası and a day at the beach. It was incredibly hot in Kuşadası and we didn’t find the cache. We had great views though. Getting out of the city was awful – we got crazy lost. We drove through two smaller resort towns before arriving at the Dillek Peninsula National Park that was our destination. Lonely Planet said the last beach was the nicest and least crowded, so we headed for it. The park is known for its scenery and lynx, wild boar and birds. Phil and I did see a wild boar! The beach was crowded but we got there just as most folks were leaving, so we got an umbrella and chaises. The beach was like the on at Nice – stony. The water was a beautiful blue.

When we tired of swimming (Chloe said she was “sea logged”) we headed back, stopping in Guzelcamli for groceries. I made quesadillas (the store had tortillas!) and pasta for supper. Suze made a big salad.

Chloe did birthday challenges a la Mindy. She jumped into the pool with her clothes on and sang happy birthday outside the villa and made noises like a chimpanzee! Gifts and cake and a pool party ended the day.

See more photos of the day

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Turkey Day 13 Ephesus Sites

Phil and I walked to town to find the larger grocery store (Tansas). We learned that the citadel overlooking the town has been closed for 5 years. Our first stop was the Kiwi Carpet Shop where we met Alison’s ex-husband and arranged for a driver to take us up to the Ephesus site later in the day when the tour busses would be gone. We wandered into a few gift shops looking for birthday gifts for Chloe. A particularly aggressive shoe shiner managed to polish one of my sandals before I escaped, looking slightly askew with one shiny sandal and one very dusty one! We did find the store eventually and bought a whole lot of heavy stuff, trudging back to the villa in the heat.

All of us except Chloe and Susannah walked to St. John’s Church. As soon as
Phil started taking pictures, he realized I had left his SD card in my computer so I hurried back to the house to retrieve it. Good thing we were only a few blocks away. In fact we were just across the street from the villa when we took some of the pictures, only we were about 50 feet above it and separated by the enclosing wall!


Suze bought Chloe a coin decorated skirt she wanted for her birthday (but Phil and I had bought the same thing earlier)! Oh, well, she can play with a friend.

When we all walked down to town (except Rob who brought the car), Mustafa showed Chloe carpets and served her “apple tea.” Another young man drove us and our van to the south entrance and left us off. We then toured the site which was so empty that I sang happy birthday to Chloe when she was in the small amphitheater and I was on the stage. There was no one else but us in it at the time! The ruins were definitely amazing – to think Paul had walked the same streets!

Our walk back to the villa was long – a little over two miles and the little girls did a great job of not complaining. The path followed an aqueduct so it was nicely shaded. We stopped at the Temple of Artemis where we were pestered by a little girl who wanted to sell us fake coins.

Back home I made pasta for supper which was a big hit.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Turkey Day 12 Pamukkale and Hierapolis

I made a big breakfast of eggs for everyone which we ate outside on the picnic table.

We didn’t get a very early start but Rob drove us all 3 hours to Pamukkale and Hierapolis.

We got to walk in the travertine pools at Pamukkale, and then we scrambled among the wonderful ruins at Hierapolis (all one park).

Camille and Chloe by the Travertine Pools

Phil Scrambling on Ruins

For an exorbitant fee, Rob, Suze and the girls went swimming in the ancient thermal pools. The rest of us sat in a noisy outdoor area with lots of smokers. Later Gwyneth and I ate Gozlemer in a pretty place where we sat on low carpeted benches.

Camille accidently ordered a meat sandwich so I gave her the half of the Gozleme I didn’t eat in trade for hers. Gwyneth wanted to go to the Afrodisias temple. The route we chose was over mountain passes and we saw many different terrains. Beautiful. When we got there it was too late, so we just headed home, arriving about 10pm. I had wine, bread and cheese and went to bed.

All pics of the day

Turkey Day 11 Ephesus, Beach and Mary's House

I was awakened by the muezzin at 4:15 right across the street – loud. After breakfast Rob drove us up the mountain to “Mary’s House” – the alleged place St. John brought

After a short tour of the house/chapel, there was a spring from which people filled bottles of water and Suze washed her hands and face. Just past the spring was a wall filled with little cloth prayer requests.

. We ate lunch at the Denizli Restaurant where we chose by pointing at foods in the kitchen. Suze and the little girls swam afterwards and I put my feet in the water.
Dinner was pick me up bread and cheese.

Slideshow of the day

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Turkey Day 10 Ankara/Bilkent to Izmir/Ephesus

We got up when the muezzin sang at 4:15 and I finished packing and re-packing. The van to pick us up was early and then went to the hotel to get two others.

Within Turkey you can’t have nail clippers or any size scissors, so I had to repack. The plane boarded early, so I didn’t have a chance to drink the coffee I had bought so I poured it into an empty water bottle. People on the plane had almost no carryon luggage. The baggage came at Izmir almost immediately. We waited about a half hour for Suze and the driver loaded our luggage and then came back with the minivan for her. She had unknowingly checked in with first class so her bag from Istanbul was marked “priority”.

The trip to Ephesus took about 50 minutes. Our villa is literally across the street from St. John’s church where St. John is reportedly buried. The villa is even lovelier than the pictures.

We had fruit and cheese that Alison (the rental agent) left for us and then Phil and Suze went for a little walk. When they got home, Phil got violently ill. Rob, Suze, Chloe and I headed to the weekly open market for food and to the pharmacy for over the counter Cipro for Phil. We had a super time. Rob and Chloe took the food home, and Suze and I bought some more staples like coke and chips before heading back to check on Phil. Soon, Gwyneth, Suze and I headed back to the market for photos.

I made pizza from fresh veggies, bread rounds and cheese. After dinner we walked behind the mosque across the street to watch a wedding reception.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Turkey Day 9 Cappadocia Balloon and Tour

All of us but Phil got up very early to assemble for a hot air balloon trip at 4:45 am. The organizers took us to a place for coffee and tea and bill paying! The trip was just incredible. I have never done anything like it before. The scenery was phenomenal. One of the most remarkable things was that we landed right on top of the trailer used to transport the balloon back to storage. We were served champagne with cherry juice at the end.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and then we went to Goreme to see the churches at the open air museum.

This included St. Barbara’s church. She was an Egyptian whose father had her killed for being a Christian. Then on to a carpet center where most of the group spent far too much for rugs, including me.

The on to lunch at Dede Effendi Restaurant where we ate outside. I had a local wine.

Our final stop was at a pottery place where we had a short lesson and then on to the over-priced pottery store. I bought a small tile for 10TL.

The bus ride back seemed interminable. I was really cranky packing. We went to bed and then heard a lot of fireworks.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Turkey Day 8 Cappadocia Tour

The bus picking us up at the apartment was late – they had to wait for the woman from Spain. We hopped on and then went to the hotel to get the others. Turns out that we had to wait again – this time for a couple from Scandinavia. But we did get on our way, stopping twice for bathroom breaks. I had coffee with John in a lovely garden.

Our first tourist stop was outside Goreme for lunch in a cave house. Drinks were really expensive (3.50TL for a bottle of water). Afterwards, the bus backed up in order for us to get a geocache at Pasabaga.

We visited a town (Uchisar) with a remarkable citadel and a tree with eil eye decorations. Then we went to an underground city, Kaymakali, where the Christians had hidden out. Liz Adams got really sick in the cave. Joyce Little’s watch had stopped and lo and behold there was a man with a watch battery business run from a motorcycle at the entrance to the underground.

Our final stop for the evening was the hotel Burcu in Ortahisar. It had a lovely zero edge pool, but it was too late to swim. Camille stayed with Phil and me. Dinner was a very large buffet.

Gwyneth, Rob and children went to see the Whirling Dervishes, but Phil and I went to bed.