Saturday, July 31, 2010

adopted in Antakya

Lovely Antakya wasn't nearly as hot as Antalya, which suprised me a bit as it's inland. I had been in Antakya twice before. The first was in 2001 when we spent the summer in Ankara for Mom's research. The second was in 2007, when I took the bus from Istanbul to meet Mom there so she could help me through the Syria border so I could spend Christmas with her and William in Aleppo (see for more).

We arrived and took a service bus into town to the old otogar. For some reason they keep making new otogars for all towns and cities which are on average of 6km from the city. From the old otogar we found many hotels, which all seemed overpriced at first, but we eventually settled on the Divan hotel. It had airconditioning, but there were no rooms with double beds left, so we went for lunch while the guy took our stuff up the stairs and pushed the beds together. We had lovely pizza and slightly cold fries and felt better. Overnight buses leave one quite hungry. Returning to the hotel we basked in the airconditioning before venturing out to the internet and then the market. We found more slushies and some pancake things and then bread with pepper and cheese on it. The market area is awesome and has everything. We found the Habibi Neccar Cami. Habibi Neccar was from Antakya but was a christian or something and is buried in the mosque with two saints. I'm a little confused about the story, but the mosque is very impressive.

Feeling we should eat dinner we found the best iskender place in Turkey. I had been there in 2007, but none of use could remember the name, just the general location. I remembered what the upstairs looked like, so I went upstairs in a couple of resturants (which confused the waiters greatly) before finding the one we had been to. The Iskender was superb, although some of the old photos on the wall were missing - apparently they were stolen. And then it was time to sleep in a stationary bed yay!

The next day we ate a breakfast of pastries from little shops on our walk to St. Peter's church - the first cathedral and the place where christians were first called christian. And by going on a pilgramage there one also gets a plenary indulgance. It's a pretty amazing place. Back to the center we shared some Kunefe, the famous dessert of Antakya. It's made of very thin hair like wheat noodles with cheese layered on the inside, baked and then drenched in syrup. Maybe it sounds weird, but warm and fresh from the oven it's amazing.

Mom and William's friend and fellow couchsurfer Koray met us with his car at the PTT (post office) and took us around. We went to a place called the Anadolu House for lunch. The resturant is in a restored old Antakya house, and Koray ordered a selection of traditional dishes. We had wild thyme salad, olive salad, hummos, ali nazik (a bed of eggplant cream with meat on top), an eggplant salad, a very spicy paste of red peppers and walnuts and I think that's all. It was absolutely amazing. Koray had gotten married a few days before, and had only gotten back from his honeymoon the night before. He works at the university and is also the founder of the Antakya youth center. He was great to talk to and knows a lot about Antakya. After lunch he took us to the salkıev (hidden house) cafe. We tried a very strange neon pink drink called haytali. It's made from rose oil as well as sugar water and has sort of tapioca cubes and ice cream in it. It's refreshing, but at the same time a little strange. We sat until 4 with Koray, and could have sat and talked longer, but it was time for our next visit.

We went back to the hotel, collected our stuff, and were picked up by Mihriban Teyze. Mihriban is my friend Ömür's aunt, and Ömür told us we should go visit. The family lives in the old part of Antakya around a courtyard, where all the cousins and more distantly related relatives live. When we arrived we were taken out into the courtyard for tea. Melik, Mihriban Teyze's son was playing a game with three of his cousins. Mihriban Teyze's cousin and her two grown daughters were staying at the house while theirs had work done on it. Ömür's mom and her grandfather also lived in the house. Tea of course was not just the drink. There was pepper bread made by Mihriban Teyze, some cookies from the nearby town of Salmandağ, and some from Syria. Relatives, hearing that we were visiting, kept dropping by to say hi, getting up, and being replaced by more relatives. One was Erdem, who lives in Bahrain with his family, and learned English from the American soldiers at the base there.

After many cups of tea and cookies, we went up the hill to another relative's house to have coffee. We sat in her courtyard and she served Turkish coffee. There was an orange tree and some other kind of fruit tree and a couple of turtles, which we looked for but couldn't find. After a full evening of Turkish, we were shown the upstairs flat, helped to take the dust covers off, an fell into bed.

The next day I awoke late, it seemed had everyone else. We had breakfast around noon. To get freshly baked bread the family doesn't even have to leave the house - they just call the bakery accross the street, which delivers. Breakfast was fantastic, and included a Syrian specialty which one of the women named TNT. It's eggplant stuffed with hot peppers and perhaps pickled a little. Mark loved it. I thought it was good, but maybe a bit too spicy for breakfast. As we were finishing Cemile and Hatice, Ömür's younger sisters arrived from Istanbul.

Soon after, Erdem came over, and we walked to the minibus which took us to Samandağ. We thought we were going to meet Ömer's mother, and so were a bit surprised when we got out at a resturant. Erdem talked to one of the guys and then we got into his car. Turns out he was Erdem's uncle. Erdem's uncle took us to the school where Ömür's mom is principle. We had some tea, and at Mark's request visited a kindergarden class. Then we got back in the car and she got into another car and we drove out to see the titus tunnel. First there's an archway over the river. Samandağ apparently had a problem with flooding, so the emporer Vespasian started and his son Titus finished a tunel that would control water flow. The water today is almost non-existant, especially in summer, so we could walk through the tunel. It was a bit dark, but really amazing. The best part though was the cradle cave or Beşikli Mağara. It's a cave with three or four arches at the front, and completely filled with rock-cut graves. Sadly everything has been stolen so there's nothing left inside the graves. The place is absolutely fantastic, and yet it's not in the lonely planet, even though it's just a few meters up the path.

A bit muddy, we returned to the cars. It had been Erdem and his uncle's first time visiting the site as well. We went a few hundred meters down the road and then stopped at a resturant where Ömür's mom ordered us balik ekmek (fish sandwich), which turned out to be amazing, and far more exciting than the stuff in Istanbul. Back on the road again they had to go get petrol, so we stoped at the side of the road, watched a very full tractor go by, as well as a guy on a donkey, watched the lizards Mark found, ate a bunch of grapes we stole and waited. Soon they were back and we continued up into the hills. The view over Samandağ, the mountains and the sea was stunning. Our next stop was the Moses tree in the village of Hıdırbey. The tree is around 1500 years old. It is supposedly on the spot where Moses visited with Khid (the green man). The tree is hollow, and supposedly at one point there was a little market set up inside it. The inside has many strings tied as this is supposed to grant a wish. We had a glass of tea in the shade of the tree and then continued on. At this point Erdem's uncle needed to return, and so we crowded into the backseat of the other car.

Somehow we missed the turnoff to the last Armenian village in Turkey, and continued on to another village that had a church that had never been finished. It was dated 1134, but didn't look that old, but perhaps it was. Ömür's mom said that because it was built on stone instead of soil it wasn't damaged in an earthquake like so many of the other buildings of area. The sun was setting and it was quickly getting dark. We continued along, going down now. The man driving the car, another relative whose name I have sadly forgotten dropped us off at the main road. After eating very fresh fried dough soaked in syrup and getting very sticky we managed to find a minibus with space which took us back to Antakya. When we got there Cemile and Hatice were waiting for us with the car. We went back only to go to Erdem's family's house for coffee. And soon after we arrived so did many other family members. Soon we left, exhausted from the wonderful day.

Flames from A Mountain

Olympos was not quite what I expected. I expected a few hippi treehouse places out in the middle of nowhere, near the sea and the ruins with no cars, birds singing, and lots of flowers. Maybe that's how Olympos used to be, but it's not anymore. Turning off the main Fethiye-Antalya road, it's another 11km twisty and narrow road with mini buses going far too fast. Past the first few camps/pensions/tree house places the road is paved, but then it becomes a red clay mess with too many cars, and parked cars and pedestrians. It looks like a one road tourist town mess, and that's what it turns out to be. Our driver insisted on driving us all the way through to the tiny V-Go hut, where we told the guy there we had arrived and then walked back up the road to the place we were staying - Şaban. To be fair, Şaban is awesome. It has lots of places to sit in the shade and read books and have cold drinks. It has hammocks. It has free internet in a hut with airconditioning, and it has little wooden huts on stilts - tree houses in the olympos sense. We had a tree house to ourselves, with matreses on the floor and breakfast and dinner included for 30 lira each.

Dropping our stuff in the hut, we went back to the main area to have a drink and the manager Meril came over to chat. I had apparently gotten very dehydrated and was fairly out of it until I had drunk 1.5 liters of water. We used the internet and waited for dinner. Everyone lines up to get their food - it was very remenicent of summer camp as kid. The food, however, was much better. We had salad, an eggplant salad, mucver (fried zucchini patties), pilav, and fried fish, with enough for seconds. After dinner we went for a walk, found the Canadians from the boat, discovered the tatoo place only did Henna tatoos, and I got some very exciting earrings. We then collapesed into bed, discovering that the way to keep the place cool was to leave the door open.

The next day we did almost nothing. I say almost because Mark and I seem incapable of actually doing nothing for an entire day. In the morning we read, wrote, used the internet, had lots of beverages, ate breakfast, wandered around a bit and read some more. Around 4 we decided we ought to go see the beach and the ruins, and so joined a crowd of people going in that direction. The beach was packed, and it seemed packed only with Turks. The water was lovely, but the beach, like most Turkish beaches was very rocky. We swam a bit, not that swimming is necessary. The water is so salty that you can float in a standing up position without moving arms or legs. After floating around we decided to climb up to the ruins of a tower or castle thing. The views were amazing, but Mark's hat blew off, and landed at the edge of a sheer drop, and so we had to leave it there, in that beautiful place, and hopefully it is resting happily.

Down from the tower thing we walked back along the very empty river, through very cold springs and pools, on a trail through the woods under an arch to see some sarcophogi and broken mosaics and then back to Şaban for another lovely dinner. We then boarded a very full minibus, and took the narrow twisty road back up to the main road and after less than 50m on the main road turned down another narrow twisty road, went through a little town, and stopped. We were at the enterance to the Chimera, a site where gas comes out of cracks on the side of Mt. Olympos and burns upon contact with the oxygen in the air. As it's best viewed at night, that's when we went. It was a steep uphill walk for 15 minutes in the dark, by the light of Mark's very bright head torch. And then we were there. There really aren't words to describe how cool it is to see fire just emerging from the earth. A few guys were cooking sausages over one of the fires. And everyone else was just wandering around and staring. We couldn't stay too long though because the bus was leaving, and soon we were headed back down and gulping water, then back on the slightly scary journey and to our home sweet tree house.

The time had come to leave major tourist areas, and so the next morning we caught a bus after breakfast up to the main road, another very crowded bus (people sitting on stools in the aisle) to Antalya, and from there booked our 15 hour overnight bus to Antakya in the province of Hatay, which is still considered part of Syria on some maps. For more information read my mother's book which will be in print in February. With a few hours to spend in Antalya we took a bus into the center, got a map, and walked back out to the museum slurping blue slushies. The museum was amazing. They have more statues and sarcophogi than they really know what to do with. And they are all in amazing incredible condition. At the end of two hours looking at things from the paleolithic period to the present, my eyes were a bit glazed over.

We had a picnic of crackers and sardines on the grass nearby, took a look at the crowded beach and decided we had no desire to go there, and took a tram back in the center to look at the old town. It was nice, although perhaps a bit too nice to be real. We found a lovely cafe with a view of the harbor and sat for a bit to escape the heat, and then had some pasta before returning to the otogar and boarding our bus. It was a surreal ride. I listened to hours of Harry Potter 6, and then when that messed up Harry Potter 4 on Mark's Ipod. Mark read my Harry Potter 3 book. It soon got dark, and we started to doze off. I would wake periodically to road construction on the very very windy coast road with views of the full moon, sea, fog, and mountains. It was very eery and surreal. We stopped twice, the second of which was at a place on the sea, where we could see the yakamoz (the light of the full moon on the sea - 9 words in English, 1 in Turkish). We were very glad to arrive in Antakya the next morning. 15 hours is too long on a bus.

a very blue sea

Brenden drove us to the V-Go office Tuesday morning where we checked in, and then waited with an ever increasing number of people and bags. After looking at booklets of all their offered tours and thinking we might never leave, it was time to go to our boat. Our boat was Ömer Kapatan 1, and the captain's name was indeed Ömer. The rest of the crew included his wife and his 12 year old son Ismail. There was also their 5 year old son Hasan and 13 year old Osman, a friend of the family who would be going with us as far as Kaş. After being instructed by the V-Go representative that there were no shoes to be worn on board, no toilet paper to be put in the toilets, and that we should shower off when getting back on the boat after swimming. And then we were off! Although the boat was a sail boat, the sails never went up. We didn't have enough crew to sail anyways.

We motored to a small bay near Fehtiye where we went for our first swim. The water was crystal clear and oh so lovely. When lunch was ready the bell rang and we all sat down at a large and very solid wooden table at the back of the boat for salad, green beens, bulgur pilav and yogurt. The other people on the boat - there was an Iraqi family with two daughters - one in medical school and one hoping to start medical school in a year or two, a brazilian girl, and four candians - a mother and daughter, as well as the mother's best friend from highschool and the daughter's best friend.

After lunch Ismail pulled up the anchor and we departed. The water was a bit rough and the boat rocked a bit and I got a bit sick. And then realized I had motion sickness medication in my bag. We went around a large point, past Ölüdeniz, saw a bunch of paragliders, and went accross the bay to kelebek vadesi (butterfly valley). The water was incredibly blue - like the color of a blue crayola crayon. We anchored there and swam ashore. Brenden told us that the famous waterfall had no water in it and was a waste of time and money, and we didnt't have time to walk there anyway, so we just walked around the little hippi tent village. And didn't see a single butterfly. Back on the boat we went back the way we had come and stoped next to St Nicholas's Island for the night. As soon as we were anchored among about 15 other boats, a boat came by with ice cream and Gözleme (like crepes). And old lady was sitting there in the boat with a big cast iron griddle rolling out and filling the Gözleme. Mark and I were sharing a lovely chocolate and banana one when the bell rang for tea time. By this I mean tea the drink, not tea the meal. So very civilized having tea, coffee, and buscuits on a boat.

After our tea, the captain took us over to the island in the little dinghy. St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) spent some time on the island, and as a result it's completely full of ruined churches, which are amazing. There's the long remains of a tunnel which used to be a procesional way connecting the palace at the top of the island and the church at the bottom. Mark also found a bat cave with hundreds of bats inside. They freaked out a bit as we looked in and started to fly out just past our faces. We reached the top as the sun was setting and then returned back to the little peir where the three kids came to pick us up in the dinghy. As soon as we got back it was dinner time - I guess they had been waiting for us. We had grilled fish, eggplant salad, salad and fruit for dessert. The mother of this family is an amazing amazing cook! I was exhausted as soon as it was dark. We all slept on beds at the front of the boat, bringing our pillows and blankets up from the cabin as it was much much to hot to sleep inside.

We were awoken at 5am the next day by the sound of the anchor chain and the motor starting. Soon we were yawing from side to side and, with my bed at the edge, I was feeling I might slide off. Switching with Mark I had a bed on the inside, and managed to sleep a bit more over the next 4 hours as we went along. Finally, we stoped at Firnaz bay where we immediatly got in to swim and then had breakfast and swam some more. The bay is also named Aquarium bay, and after breakfast we went snorkeling. It was amazing! The water was crystal clear, and visibility was great. Paddling around we found lots of plants growing on the rocks, fish and more fish, and then I spotted an octopus in a rounded hollow in a rock. Two fish next to it seemed to escort it to another rocky outcrop where it dissapeared. And Mark found a small moray eel. I felt like I was doing well with my go-fish with real fish on the cards game tally. Have you got an octopus? Yes!

After leaving the bay we went towards Kaş. We stopped a bit outside the town to have lunch, then went into the harbor. We had about an hour to explore the town, but it was very hot, and I had adjusted to the boat so well that the ground seemed to be rocking if I sat down anywere, and especially if I went into a small space like a bathroom. We wandered around, sat in a tea garden, looked at lots of tourist stuff and earrings and then got back on the boat. Osman left us to go back to his family. Happily back on the boat we left for another bay, more swimming, more snorkeling, and a lovely dinner with barbequed chicken once again falling asleep just after sunset.

Day 3 fortunatly did not start with the sound of the anchor chain at 5am. Instead, we all slept as late as we could with the sun up and blazing, and then swam and had breakfast. After breakfast we motored to a small cove filled with daytrip boats. Told we were only going to stay here 2 hours, but instead staying about 4, we didn't actually go into the cove until the very end as we kept thinking we were leaving. Grrr. When we did leave, we went past and over the partly sunken city of Kekova, which was cool, but not as impressive as the name sunken city would lead one to believe, and were going to the village of simena we spotted a huge amount of smoke. Heading back we saw that one of the day trip boats was on fire. We think everyone jumped overboard and was safely rescued, but there was no hope for the boat. We all stood and watched as it burned and part sunk. The family stood at the prow with horrified looks on their faces. The mom said she had never seen a boat on fire before. We could tell they were thinking about their family - what if this had happened to them, their family livelyhood could be gone just like that.

Turning away we went to Simena. With no room to dock we dropped anchor and went ashore in the dinghy, 4 at a time. The Iraqi family choose to stay on board. They hadn't swum either, most likely because they didn't know how. The village is very cute. We followed a group of obnoxious astralians from another boat up up and up to the castle, which has amazing views out over the water and the rest of the village. The views would have been better though if there hadn't been three girls sitting in the place with the best view and complaining about everyone on their boat. Back down again we explored a bit, visited the sarcophogus in the harbor and then got back on the boat to go into a bay with a small enterance and many branches - perfect they said for pirates. We snorkeled more, but visability was not great as cold water and warm water kept mixing. We could see the density waves in the water. The evening passed the same as the others - swimming, snorkeling, dinner and bed. I now have quite an impressive tan (for me). Hasan, the 5 year old has just warmed up to all of us, and has discovered he has a lot of new playmates.

The last day we woke up latest of all and were still in the same place long after the other boats had departed. All a bit confused I asked the captain, who told us that we were waiting for the place to become a bit less crowded. Good to know, the problem was that the family spoke very little English and I found myself translating quite a bit. Not that I mind, and maybe they would have spoken more English if I hadn't been there to translate. We went past the pirate's cave and had 10 minutes to swim around inside it before heading off to Demre where we pulled in, had a last lunch and most delicious lunch, filled out evaluation forms and got a small boat to a small bus. There was supposed to be an opportunity to visit the ruins of Myra and St. Nicholas's church in Demre, but in reality there was time for neither. Just time to get a popsicle, look at the outside of the church and go to the bankmachine. And then we were off on the bus to Olympos to stay in a tree house.

Monday, July 26, 2010

a village and more pork

Our bags when opened tend to explode. In our last two days in Fethiye our stuff had managed to get all over the house, so we spent Saturday morning convincing everything to go back in our bags, and taking out what we would need for our next adventure. We were going to the village of Minare, near the ruined lycian city of Pinara. Brandon and Ayse had a house in the village, and Brandon had volunteered to drive us out for a few days when they returned from Marmaris. After packing we returned to the beach for another lovely full English breakfast. On our way back we bought food for the village (no shops there) and pork sausages at the pork shop. Everyone had returned from Marmaris when we got back to the house, but we had to wait until about 5 when the Danes returned, as only Brandon's car could make the trip to the village. So we sat around. And talked. And read. And I learned to make Gozleme. And then the car returned and we loaded in our bags and all our food and the very fat dog and headed out of town. On the way we narrowly missed three people who decided to run out in the road, and after a very narrow windy road arrived at the village.

Brandon's house is at the top of the village. And it is absolutely amazing! I still haven't seen the promised photo of what it was like when they bought it, but I think it was pretty ruined. Now it's amazing. The building is stone and has two floors. But there are no interior halls or stairs. All the rooms open to the outside, not onto eachother. The stairs are also on the outside. Half of the top floor is a covered terrace and the other half is two bedrooms. The downstairs has a kitchen, a bedroom and a livingroom complete with TV and DVD player. The garden is wonderful, and after we got there Brandon put out two benches, a hammock, hammock swing, and another swing. The toilet is in its own little building. After goldie sniffed everything and Brandon set everything up and had a cup of tea, they left. Mark and I went for an explore around the place. Everyone was highly confused as to why we were still there when they had just seen Brandon drive off. Everyone I could understand that is. I found teethless village women a little bit difficult. We passed a very noisy cow that wanted to be milked immediatly and a guy walking around wıth a shotgun on his back. Back at the house the neighbor who was hanging around earlier didn't want to leave. And he didn't seem to realize Mark was there, talking only to me. I thought somehow having Mark around would make it okay to speak Turkish without sending the wrong signals, but this doesn't seem to be the case. After getting him to leave we made mashed potatoes and sausages...mmm pork!

The next day I woke up without an alarm when I got really hot. So moved out onto the terrace and read there. It was a thoroughly lazy and lovely and hot morning. Which stretched until 5 when we decided it was cool enough to go look at the Pinara ruins. Mark mostly remembered the path, although we took an accidental detour to visit some lycian rock cut tombs that he hadn't seen the year before. Then it was up to the ampitheater and along the ridge to visit even more tombs. The tombs are amazing, but were all broken into ages ago, and now nothing remains inside. We went into the site the back way, and stayed up on the ridge. As we were finishing and nearing the main road we heard a car. Hiding behind the trees, we watched the site caretaker/ticket takers drive past, saving us from paying the site fee. The natural setting is just as amazing as the tombs themselves. Returning back to the house I made spagetti for dinner and read to the sound of cicadas.

The next day was more lovely reading and doing nothing. And sewing Mark's ripped shirt while he surveyed the territory which was very amusing. Brandon arrived with John and we packed up the place and he drank some of the sweet tea I had made (I think the first sweet tea I've ever made). Then we were off in the car in a new direction. Up and around and through and then parked the car at the edge of the lycian way and walked up to an abandoned house for a spectacular view of the sea. And Brandon, on his return to the car asked Mark what he thought of a chuck of land nearby. Nice was the reply. Good, said Brandon, because it's ours. We continued on to a village and then on a very sketchy road to the yediburun lighthouse botique hotel with an amazing view of the seven noses or seven points. A lovely place for a beer, or to spend a weekend, or to write a book. And then it was back to the house, to meet the new Turkish guests staying in the house next door, and another barbeque, even more massive than the first. And there was an adorable 2 year old that drank too much coke and got very silly and giggly and dogs wanting the chicken bones. And after all that one last swim in the amazing swiming pool before going to sleep with thoughts of boats in our heads.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mud baths and gorges

Fethiye was lovely. And the reason it was most lovely was because of our hosts Ayse, Brandon, and their daughter Aylin. One of our good friends Simay is the nice of Ayse and Brandon, and Mark had visited them the year before with Simay. Brandon told him to find a girlfriend and come back, and Mark had taken him at his word.

We arrived at the otogar not knowing how to get to there place, having a vague idea of where we were going. Waiting at an intersection for a dolmus a man stuck his head out of the window of his old blue station wagon to ask where we were going. Hearing we were going to Calis beach, he told us to get in. He pointed out the bar where he worked on the way past, and dropped us right at the beach before going to have a beer there. He refused our offer to buy him a beer, so we started the trek away from the seaside to Ayse and Brandon's house. Mark remembered the road, and so with no wrong turns we arrived at their house soaked in sweat. Although they already had five visitors they were very happy to see us, and we arrived in time for the barbeque.

Brandon's cousin John was visiting, as well as one of Simay's other aunts, who now lives in Denmark, her husband and two of their friends. Ayse invited us to come with them on their daytrip to Dalyan the next day and we happily accepted. After moving tables into the garden and watching Ayse grill mountains of chicken we all sat down and ate and ate until we could eat no more. And then the happy dog goldie got to eat the remains.

The day trip to Dalyan was incredible. Mark, John and I were in Brandon's car, and as Brandon doesn't like the new tunnel that they've built under the mountain so tourists can avoid the narrow windy mountain road, we took that narrow road. And the views were spectacular, although we got into a small amount of trouble later. At Dalyan Ayse negotiated a boat for us, and a young looking captain in a pink shirt with a mullet crazy looking hair cut took us out in his boat. Although he didn't look it, he did turn out to be a good captain. He first took us through the reed lined chanel (supposedly used in the shooting of the film The African Queen) to the sandbar beach which separates the lake and fresh water from the beach and sea water. Lots of sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach, and no one is allowed to be there after dark. On the way there we passed some spectacular lycian rock cut tombs on the cliff face. The beach was amazing - clear blue water, sand going out forever, small waves. Boarding the boat once again we went over to the crab boats to pick up our crab order, and to watch as guys threw crabs on lines out into the water trying to lure turtles up to the surface. One did pop up for a short time, but was apparently too full to reemerge. But still, I saw a leatherback sea turtle! And then sat on the boat and ate some amazing crab.

Our next stop was the mud baths. Basically, you go in, laze about in a warm muddy pool smelling strongly of sulfur. Then cover yourself and others in mud and wait for it to dry before rinsing off. Then you are sprayed down by a guy with a pressurized hoze before going into the very hot hot pool, which smelled even more of sulfer. And at the end the hot air feels cool, and your skin feels like a baby's. This is the mud that they export and sell for lots of money as facial masks. And it's oh so fun to play with. The final stop was a swim in the lake before going back to shore for some food and ice cream before returning to Fethiye and a dinner of leftovers and chips (fries).

I should clarify - Brandon and Ayse have two houses that share a well. So the Danes were staying in the other one. And the second night we slept in our tent in their garden after stealing their daughter's room the first night. But the next day all the inhabitents of the house we were in went off to Marmaris to visit relatives, and left us with the whole house to ourselves for two days, which was great. Our first day we went into town to explore Fethiye, and it's pork products. Calis beach is full of brits, which means it's also full of all day English breakfasts, complete with bacon and pork sausages. For a teacher living in Istanbul and very pork deprived (Mark more than me as I'd just been in France and the UK) this was food heaven.

Convincing ourselves we could move after our breakfast, we walked along the beach, and then took the water taxi into the center to research our boat trip. Lonely planet gives dire warnings about what can happen if you don't research your trip well enough, and we were scared. We walked on two boats and asked lots of questions, but in the end those boats didn't have space or weren't going on the right days. In the end we chose V-go, which had been reccomended by one of Mark's friends. That task down we wandered the center, visited the fish market, got some fish for dinner and went home. Mark cooked the fish to perfection.

The next day we visited the natural wonder of Saklikent. It's a canyon that's been cut into the stone, and is so narrow at most points that they daylight doesn't penatrate. We took a dolmus through villages before arriving at the entrance, renting plastic shoes and hurring in to be ahead of the large group that was massing. The first bit is a wade through an icy stream where they take your photo, but after that the water is shallow, and it's a bit boring until the canyon narrows, and then it's over rocks, up small waterfalls, all the time walking in the water. At time bolders are stuck above between the walls of the canyon. It's an absolutely incredible place. We hiked a couple of hours before deciding it was getting a bit too difficult, and we were getting very hungry after only sharing a toast that morning. We were a bit slower on the way back as we lounged in pools of water and found an amazing natural rock waterslide. The way into the gorge is on a walkway but for the brave of heart (or crazy people) for the return you can be swept away in the freezing river for a few hundred meters. Of course we went this way. Then you pull yourself out of the river onto the platforms of the resurant located there. We sat on a platform overlooking the river and shared quail and omlet before returning to Fethiye. Back in Fethiye we went for a swim in the sea at Calis beach and then had fish and chips to bring back a bit of Mark's childhood.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

ruins galore

It's been a very ruin filled week. After leaving Ayvalik we headed to Selcuk. The buses don't go directly there though, so we had to take a bus to Izmir and then change to a mini bus to Selcuk. Selcuk is the closest town to the ancient city of Ephesus, which is why we were going there. After calling the local camping place, which refused to tell me the price of camping, we decided to stay in a hostel. The room was lovely, and it had a shower and air conditioning, both of which were very welcome after one night on a bus and two camping. Our first day and a half in Selcuk, Mark started and finished at least one book, we visited the Ephesus museum, the ruins of the impressive basilica of St. John, found a camping pad, saw the remains of the aquaduct and its nesting storks, and wandered the market. And this was the day and a half we had given ourselves for down time. Apparently we are horrible at doing nothing.

Ephesus is about a 4km walk from the center of town. We got there fairly early in the morning, so it was empty when we started. It didn't take long though for large groups of tourists led by guides bearing umbrellas started to flood in. The area is absolutely amazing. There's a theater, a smaller theater called the odeon, the library of celsus (the image seen on all postcards) which has been reconstructed by the Austrians, the latrines, the baths and more. By far the best place was the terrace houses. There is an extra charge to get in, but it's well worth it. The houses were built into the side of the hill, and seem to be part of an ongoing archeological restoration. They've been piecing together various bits of the marble wall siding and frescos that fell off the walls. There mosaics on the floor are just as incredible as the decoration on the walls. Walking up the hill, we passed more ruins, which are in a more ruinous state than the ones below. Only an arch or a pillar remains standing.

The road back proved longer than the road there, and we had enough time to get our packs before walking to the bus station. When our bus turned up, however, there wasn't enough room for everyone. The bus station in Izmir had oversold the bus. And so we had to wait for the next bus, which turned out to be a half sized mini bus, and more like a dolmus (shared taxi) than a bus, stoping for everyone by the side of the road. But it had airconditioning, and it got us there.

As we got off the bus in Pamukkale (cotton castle) we were mobbed by people wanting us to stay with them. Fortunatly we had called ahead, and one of the guys in the crowd was for the dort mevsim pension where we were planning to stay, so he put us in his van and drove us there. It was a good deal - 7 lira a person to put up the tent, as well as use of the internet and swimming pool.

Pamukkale was created by a very calcium rich spring which now puts forth 260 liters of water a second. It used to produce even more. When it comes in contact with oxygen the calcium precipitates out of the water as calcium carbonate, which then settled on the hill making white pools and just generally covering the place. The romans thought the water was healing, so they built a spa city named heiropolis above it, and so now you can visit the natural wonder of pamukkale, and the roman ruins as well.

We spent the entire day there. The entrance is at the bottom of the hill, and then you walk up through the white area. Shoes are not allowed because it damages the site, and so as Mark pointed out, we saw our first barefoot security guard. We visited all of the ruins, including the octaganal temple of St. Phillip the Apostle, supposedly built on the site where he was martyred. It was up a large hill, and there was no one else around. We saw the theater and the ruined temple of apollo, and were shocked at the price to swim in the ancient pool and so didn't, and visited frontius street and a bit of the necropolis while consuming about 5 liters of water. It was hot. On the way back down we watched the sun start to set as we swam in some of the man-made travertines (pools).

Our second morning in Pamukkale we spent most of the time in the calcium rich swimming pool - fed by the same spring up the hill. I feel I should somehow have stronger bones after sitting in all that calcium. Midday we caught a ride back up into the village to catch a bus to the seaside town of Fehtiye.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The cat goes to class

Sometimes things don't start quite as you thought they might. This was one of those times. We arrived at the Anzak House hostel in Canakkale at 1:30, and being suddenly wide awake went off exploring for a bit. Returning to our room Mark got a message that the girl who had taken Greta (the cat) just the day before was freaked out by her and she was no longer willing to keep her. She was our second person to take Greta, as the original person fell through at the last minute. But at half past two in the morning there was nothing to do.

After a restless night, Mark got another message saying that a friend of a friend could take Greta for three weeks, solving the problem for now. We took the noon tour of Galipoli. As Mark is Australian, Galipoli is sort of a pilgramage site. For those of you who are American, and therefore didn't learn about this in school, Galipoli is a peninsula which is at the entrance to the one sea route between the Mediteranean sea and the Black sea. During WWI it was therefore a very strategic point. Brits, French, Australians and New Zealanders attempted to control the penninsula for 8 months before escaping from the Turks. The tour took us accross the dardeneles (the first bit of the waterway) to a resturant with a horrible lunch. Poor people on organized tours never eating good Turkish food! Our tour guide was great though and the bus had airconditioning. We went to the small museum, Anzak cove, where the force originally landed, lots of cemetaries and monuments for various countries, and even got to walk around in the trenches. Although I don't usually like tours there was no way to get to all the sites by public transport, and the guide had lots of stories, and put the places in context instead of it being just another monument.

We had a lovely supper, odd ice cream, and a good walk before sleeping. The next morning, however, we were awoken by beeping - the next place for the cat had fallen through. We were running out of options. We could leave her with a vet for 6 weeks, but she would be in a cage the whole time and crazy by the end. Tramatized by various houses, putting her with another friend wasn't really an option even if we could have thought of someone. Then there were the future problems of what to do with her when we continue to travel, and the torture of the 10 hour flight to america. So we decided to take Greta to her brothers - to be a very scholarly cat at Bogazici University. But I didn't want to let someone else take her. Which is how we found ourselves on an 11am bus back to Istanbul. Arriving at Istanbul at half past five we did a mad dash to galata, picked up a freaked out cat and took her to the university. When we got there we saw Chaucer sitting on a step, and a few minutes later, Hendrix. Both looked happy and healthy, and both remembered us. No longer feeling worried about Greta, and knowing this was the right thing for her, we said our goodbyes and dashed back to the bus station for a night bus to Ayvalik. We arrived at 7am to start the holiday again.

Since then everything has been lovely. We set up our tent in a foresty bit of the town overlooking a bay of the Agean sea, went swimming twice, and visited an island and had amazing seafood. We also went on a long search to find methylated spirits for the camp stove (which we found) and a sleeping pad for me (which we still haven't). It was a bit frusterating, because for the first time in a while I found myself not able to explain what I wanted in Turkish. But in the end we got the idea accross.

Today we took a day trip to Bergama (formerly Pergamom) to visit the amazing acropolis and red basilica. The red basilica in particular is amazing! It was so big that insead of converting it into a church they just built the church inside it. Amazing to think that those towering walls have been standing for over 2,000 years.

UK, moving, and off again!

After the rest of my Paris experience I went to visit Tom, and his lovely flatmate Derik and girlfriend Roja. We went to see Britain's Got Bhangra, a new musical produced by a friend of mine, which was funny and full of great music. So much so that once we got home Derik was Bhangraing around the flat. I got to see lots of art with Roja, and she taught me how to make some Iranian food. And had lovely beer with Tom at a couple of pubs in his neighborhood, as well as exploring the area where the industrial revolution started, which has since become the first area of urban regeneration in Europe. It's called castlefield, and has a lovely canal (europe's first again) running through and warehouses turned into flats with lovely pubs outside.

After Manchester I took the train to Wales to see Charlie and Tim in Swansea. They now live in a flat with a spare room with a very comfy futon. I arrived a bit sad that I was going to miss the barbeque and pimms that Tom had planned for Sunday, only to discover that Charlie had pimms ready at the flat and had planned a barbeque for Sunday as well. Pimms is an british alcohol mixed with lemonade (sweet fizzy water) and cucumber, peach, lemon, orange, strawberry and mint. It's like fruit salad with alcohol, and I drank a lot of it with Charlie over three days. We also watched Fantastic Mr. Fox (amazing), walked to the Mumbles, had sunday lunch and a barbeque and sat around in pubs. One day I went on the train to Cardiff with Tim where we discovered that the museum was closed, and that while Cardiff has lovely arcades and neon blue ice cream (which we couldn't find) there isn't that much else to do. I also did some walking along the coast of the Gower Peninsula.

Very sad to leave Swansea, I got on the 8:30 evening train to London, arrived at nearly midnight, took the underground to Heathrow, slept on the floor for four hours, checked my bag at 5 am, and got on the plane at 7 to arrive in Istanbul at 2. Mark met me at the airport which was very exciting. And then began about 4 days of packing and crazyness. We didn't do much on the Wednesday, but spent the time until Sunday at 1 in the afternoon packing the house, throwing things out, giving things away, visiting people, making arrangements at the last minute for the cat and thinking we might never leave. But on Sunday at 3pm we arrived at the otogar after putting all our bags in a friend's house and returning the keys to our flat. We were free! And then told the next bus was at 7. But never fear, IKEA was there, and so we ate swedish meatballs and had free refils and cake, as well as testing all of the beds and couches before boarding our bus to Canakkale. The traveling had begun!