Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hieropolis and Pamukkale, Turkey

The hour ferry followed by a 6 hour bus ride from Bodrum to Danizli made for a long day. The bus stopped every hour and each stop was at least 15 minutes. By the third stop I was getting frustrated. I wanted to scream! Why was this bugging me so much? I knew it was all the long stops an I just wanted to arrive in Denzili and get the dolmus (minivan bus) to Pamakkale. I arrived in at 5:45 PM. It had been a long day of travel from the island of Kos. I needed a drink and was ecstatic when the owner of Ozbay Guesthouse, Öner, brought me a complimentary glass if wine. Yay! It tasted so good! A hot dinner and I was ready for bed. But, Öner  talked me into an evening walk to see the Nature park in the evening.
I returned to the hotel cold and tired and went straight to my room. Luckily, it was cozy and I slept well.

The next morning, I went to explore the ancient ruins of Heiropolis and the Pamukkale pools. Öner offered to give me a motorbike ride to the top and then told me to walk back down the hill through the turquoise travertines. I jumped off his bike and waved goodbye as I made my way to the ruins. The city was destroyed years ago by an earthquake. Restoration work was ongoing and the theater was amazing. 
I explored the ruins of the north gate and enjoyed the views. On this trip I have grown to love the peacefulness of exploring an area solo. It is just me with my thoughts and the sound of nature.  
 I also explored the sarcophagus surrounded by flowers or resting in dried travertines. 
Then I decided to be a tourist and go for a swim at Cleopatra's Pool. Why not? It supposedly makes you look 20 years younger and it is cheaper than Botox!
The spring filled pool was warm but crowded with tourists. I looked around and realized whoa! I could wear a bikini in this crowd. I saw tummy fat everywhere and wondered why is it that Americans feel so ashamed by any fat bulge but Europeans embrace it and put it out there? Are out body images that much worse? I have found that European men are more appreciative of my curves and like a little more voluptuous woman. I love the attention and the fact that they are willing to wine and dine women still. Don't get me wrong, they are talkers and I have met my share of Casanovas but they are handsome here in Turkey!

After soaking in the warm hot springs and enjoying the people watching, I dried off and changed my clothes for the walk down the Pamukkale travertines or the "Cotton Castle". The travertine terraces were formed by hot water that is 320 meters from the terraces. The water falls into terraces and forms the travertines. This water comes out at 35.6°C and contains high concentrations of calcium carbonate. Over time, the formation gets stronger and forms the travertine terraces. It is a stunning sight.

I continued the walk down the hill to the Ozbay Guesthouse. I realized I had been gone all day and it was 4:00 PM. I was hungry. I sat down at the restaurant and ordered a glass if wine and dinner. That was when I met Shannon, a young Canadian woman traveling that has stayed and worked at Ozbay Guesthouse  for the last 3 months. We laughed and bonded immediately. We enjoyed some drinks and wine with the guys and decided we would go to the Red Rock Springs tomorrow.

The next morning was a special day at Ozbay Guesthouse. Their father had died over the summer and according to Islam and Turkish tradition, the family provides lunch for the entire town 52 days after his death. It was a time for remembrance of their father and thanks to the community. Öner and his brothers invited all of his guests to the lunch. I walked over to the open park and he told me to find a seat while he got me a meal. I noticed the men and women were sitting separate so I followed suit by sitting with the women and girls. An older woman immediately brought me a bottle of water and a meal. I thanked her and started to eat. The young girls practiced their English with me and attempted to teach me Turkish. Everyone laughed a I slaughtered the language and could not remember all of the words they taught me. The girls explained that the man was singing the Qur'an. It was beautiful. I watched and smiled to be invited and welcomed into this community event. Women came over to say hello and smile as they pinched my cheeks or touched my hair. I felt so blessed to have another experience like this during my travels. 

The next morning I got up and met Shannon for breakfast and then we took the afternoon bus to Red Rock Spring. 
We both giggled when we arrived because we expected it to be huge and it was just a small little area. We wandered the area and stuck out feet in the water with the Turkish women. 

Then we walked over to the mud bath and decided we wanted to bake in the sun with some mud. I got in the mud bath and covered myself from head to toe with the black wet mud. Then I sat baking in the warm sun. Shannon did the same. As we sat there enjoying the afternoon sun, we became the tourist attraction. Turkish families walked by and took photos of us. We giggled. Then, two old women walked up and pointed to our bucket of mud. We thought they wanted to put some on themselves. We handed them the bucket. They grabbed a pile of mud and started rubbing it on us. What a surprise! They giggled as much as we did. We were so thick with mud that I knew it would take some work to wash it off. I walked over to the shower and started scrubbing my body. When I was mostly clean, I walked over to the hot spring pool to soak. I stepped on the first step and about wiped out. I decided immediately to sit down and slide into the pool. The heat was fantastic. I soaked until the man came to get me for my massage. I love spas am have tried one in all of the countries I have visited. I consider myself an expert on the art of relaxation. This massage was different. I was told to remove all my clothes and lie face down. There was no sheet or dry towel so I covered myself with my wet towel. I lay face down as instructed. I heard someone walk in and his deep voice. He removed my towel and put it to the side. Brrrr! I was shivering and cold! I asked for a dry towel but he did not understand English. I was shivering and had goose bumps. A few minutes into it he grabbed a towel. Thank goodness! But it got taken away when he had me turn over. I asked for it back but he didn't understand. Or pretended to not understand. I was not certain which. I was trying to relax but I was so cold. Then he started to massage my boobs! I wasn't sure if he was just feeling me up or this was how they did massages in Turkey. I started to laugh. I was too cold and it was just odd. I shook my head no and covered my boobs. I was going to have to compare notes with Shannon. Otherwise, the massage was uneventful. When I finished, I was offered tea and a heater to warm up. Shannon decided not to get a massage so I still did not know if that was normal. We took the dolmus back to Ozbay Guesthouse and sat down with other travelers to chat. I loved my time at Ozbay. We laughed and relaxed. I was tired from the fast paced travel of the first 7 months and could tell I was really slowing down. The staff and owners at Ozbay talked me into staying an extra day, I did. I decided to get a flight back to Istanbul to meet my mom and see Ephesus when I travel with her. 

My last day was spent laughing and chatting with all of the local people. I was relaxed and happy. The family included my in their delicious evening meal of grilled fish. Mmmmm! It was a fantastic time with with the laughter of new friends in Pamukkale. I said goodbye with a heavy heart and waved to everyone as my bus pulled away. 
On the bus to the airport,  I met three Malaysian women traveling Turkey. They asked about my trip and were excited when I told them I had spent time in Malaysia. They were so funny and sweet. I laughed as one of the women told me about the handsome Turkish men she had met and how she was sad to be returning home. We giggled and laughed like only women do with old friends. Then they asked me a question that saddened me. They asked if all Americans hate Muslims. I explained that was not true. There are people in America that live in fear and propaganda but not everyone is that way. The three of them wanted badly to travel to America and their eyes lit up as they talked about cities and sites they would like to see. They were afraid to do so because the wear head scarves and had heard how badly Muslims are treated in America. I was sad. I am not preaching but I want to remind everyone that what a few people do does not make everyone from that group bad or terrorists. Be open and learn about other religions and understand extremist groups exist in all races, religions and political groups. That small portion is not everyone. Take a moment and open yourself up to the different cultures, races and religions and find the positives. Welcome others of all backgrounds into your life. Please. I promise you will gain much more than you ever expected. The world is small and we are all much more alike than we are different.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Greek Island Getaway

After a few days relaxing on board a boat, I decided to hop over to the Greek Island of Rhodes. As I boarded the ferry, I ran I to one of the guys from the sailing trip. We chatted on our way over and he decided to follow me to my hotel on Rhodes. As we arrived at the harbor I thought of the Colossus which was one of the ancient 7 wonders of the ancient world. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BC and was supposedly the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty. Too bad it is not standing. It would have made an amazing welcoming into the harbor. Instead, I was greeted with a beautiful view of the castle. 

After gathering my backpack and passing through passport control, I maneuvered through the crowds to my hotel and checked in. Then I was off to explore the cobblestones streets of Rhodes. This is a shoppers paradise. They have beautiful clothing, jewelry, scarves, leather handbags and carpets. Being on a budget, I window shopped and appreciated the items but was strong and did not purchase anything. 

After lunch, I headed towards the castle. I wandered around the castle on the path that use to be the moat. 
The large balls are stone catapult balls.
I sat and listened to a young boy playing his accordion while his puppy came over to play with me. They were so adorable.
I walked back along the streets to meet Bill for dinner. We laughed and joked about the joys of travel. He was ready to party and I was ready for bed so we parted ways.

In the morning, I got up early to get a few photos. I wandered the city enjoying the beauty at dawn. 

I was lucky I had risen early, a rainstorm rolled in. Ahhhh... a perfect opportunity for an afternoon nap!

The rain continued into the evening and was forecasted for the next few days. I decided it was time to leave the magical island of Rhodes and move on to the next Greek isle of Kos. The morning I left it was raining which meant the sea was rocky. People were getting sea sick. I stepped outside to enjoy the light rain and fresh air when we arrived at the island of Symi. It was a beautiful sight with the rain clouds hanging over the mountain and pastel colored homes.
I finally arrived at Kos as the rains stopped. I walked and explored the harbor town until it started to rain. It looked like rain was scheduled for the next week so I made the decision to spend a night and then return to Turkey. 

Kos at sunrise

I love early morning exploring my surroundings. The sun rising over the ocean and shining through the arches captivated me.
Kos was also the home to the father of western medicine, Hippocrates. I visited the symbolic Hippocrates tree where he taught his students. Then on to a town square and the local mosque.
 It was a beautiful morning and I was starting to regret leaving. Oh well, I had the ticket for 9:15 AM. I arrived at the ferry dock and got in line for customs and passport control. As I stood there, I saw familiar faces..the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants! I waved to them and we motioned we would talk on board. It was fun to see them and catch up on their adventures. It is a small world! Who knows who I will run into next! 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sailing Mediterranean with V-Go Gulets

V-Go arranged a bus to pick me up at my tree house at 10 AM and transfer to a bus to Demre. On board the bus, I chatted with a Colombian guy that gave me a list of places to visit in Columbia! He talked and I became more excited about my trip to his homeland. I have a few cities/villages to visit when I make it to South America! I also met the Australian couple and an American man that would be on the boat with me for the next 4 days. When we arrived in Demre, I had 10 minutes to get cash and any supplies for the trip. Then we went to the harbor to board our boat, the Bluekey. I got lucky, no roommate as there were only 8 of us on a 16 person boat. We were introduced to the others on the boat and the crew. They did a quick rundown of the rules and showed us to our cabins.
We all laughed and bonded over drinks and were off to a great start. We sailed a few miles and stopped to swim at Pirate's Cove.
As we were relaxing and enjoying tea and biscuits, we saw sea turtles surfacing a few yards away.  I was shocked and not expecting to see a sea turtle! I kept my eyes open and saw another surface a few meters away. I was looking forward to snorkeling to see if I can see any more on the trip.
The captain asked if we were ok with spending the night in the bay. No problem, whatever he wanted. No mutiny from any of us! We swam and enjoyed a delicious meal.
Life was great! I could get use to this lifestyle! All of us drank beers and laughed as we learned shared stories from home and our travels. The stars were out and I contemplated sleeping on the deck but decided my cabin would be nice. I curled up and fell to sleep with the gentle rocking of the boat. 

I awoke in the morning to sunlight streaming in my window. I looked out my window to see sunrise. 

Ahhh! It was going to be another beautiful day sailing the sea. Yes, this is the life! I got up and went on deck for an early morning coffee. I sat reflecting on the amazing trip I have had to date. Turkey is fantastic! Each day is more beautiful and amazing than the last day. Yes, this country was winning my heart also! Slowly, everyone started to wake up and the boat became more lively. We joked that the captain had slept in and we had a 2 hour late start. Oh well. All of us were relaxed and enjoying our time. We were served a delicious breakfast (French toast, cheeses, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, jellies and honey) and then set sail for Kekova Island. As we sailed into the harbor, we could see the remains of an ancient castle. After our carb-loaded breakfast, I was ready for a quick hike to explore the area.
I walked the steps to the top and explored the ruins with two couples. The views from the top were magnificent with the boats drifting in the harbor, ancient sarcophagus and ruins of the castle.
We returned to the harbor and went back to our sailboat then a quick sail to the sunken city before setting sail in the open waters toward Kas.
As the boat glided over the smooth waters, I wrote two of my Bali updates. Put me on a boat with nothing to do but relax and look what gets done! I would be able to update my blog when we arrived in port. Yipee! We arrived at a swimming spot outside Kas to snorkel and relaxed in the warm sunshine.
We spent the afternoon and night at the harbor in Kas. The sea was rough and the captain thought this would be best. Another delicious meal, conversation and an evening walk around the village before bed.
I awoke at 6 AM and got dressed. I could hear the crew preparing the anchor. I went up on deck with the 2 Ahmed's and Tom. We drank coffee as the guys fished. Today was going to be our lucky fishing day! In 30 minutes, they caught dinner. We were all excited! I tried my hand at fishing but got bored and handed it back to the captain. Luckily he caught a second fish. Everyone would eat well tonight!

As we floated, I found myself getting into a habit of eating, swimming, sleeping, swimming, eating, swimming and eating. I was getting lazy but it was nice to just relax. These past months of traveling were catching up with me. 
We sailed to Butterfly valley and the Blue Lagoon. We spent time swimming at each of the beautiful bays before we finally came to out destination at St. Nicholas Island for the evening. We were greeted by the most wonderful sight! 
Banana-nutella pancakes made at our boat! Yummy! We all devoured them and then decided to hike the island before dinner.  Our first stop was one of the churches.
I turned to look back and our boat was floating in the bay as the evening sun enveloped the bay in a golden glow.
We hiked to the top of the island and watched as the sun set behind another island. Ahhh. Another end to a beautiful day sailing on the Mediterranean.
Our last night on board, we celebrated Tatiana's birthday and played with a local dog that swam out to our boat. Oscar was a cutie and loved by everyone except the captain (hair and saltwater everywhere did not please him).
I decided to spend my last night sleeping on the deck. I grabbed my pillows and 2 blankets and fell asleep under the stars and moon as the boat softly rocked me to sleep. 
I awoke to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains. 

It was a beautiful and relaxing voyage along the coast. I am delighted I followed the recommendations of others and took the V-Go cruise. Our journey ended outside of Fethiye. We were transferred to a mini-bus and into town. I loved sailing and will do it again on another leg of my trip.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Olympos, Turkey

I arrived in Olympos after a long bus ride to Antalya and then a mini-bus ride to Olympos and a shuttle bus down to the town. The last driver thought he was a race car driver! We flew down the mountain, around hairpin turns and screeched to a stop at each pension. Olympos is very small with a hippy/backpacker vibe. All of the places advertise their tree houses. Of course I stayed in one!
The only disappointment was the house was 3 ft off the ground. I guess I was kind of in a tree house. It was in the middle of an orange grove and the trees are short so I was in the trees! I liked my rustic tree house and was happy to have a hippy beach to relax for a few days. I arrived at 9:30 so first on the list of activities was breakfast. But first, I dropped my dirty clothes at the laundromat. Then I found a tree to relax under and enjoy my free breakfast! 
I love the low tables with pillows. It reminded me of SE Asia. I don't understand why we don't have more places like this. It is a comfortable place to relax and check in emails. (Maybe because they are always trying to turn the tables at home. I love being allowed to stay as long as I want without that rude sneer from wait staff!) I was full and warm from several cups of apple tea. My bum was falling asleep and I had to move or nap. I decided to move. I went to talk to the guys at V-Go Yachts. Time to see if I can get a 4 day cruise to Fethiye.  

I was told by several people to take a Blue Cruise with V-Go from Olympos to Fethiye. I had assumed the cruise would be expensive and a single supplement would kill me so I didn't put it high on my list of must do's. Until I met four girls from America that I nicknamed the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. They arrived  in Goreme and had just finished the cruise. As they showed me photos and raved about it, I decided to look into the price. Wow! It was about $275 for 4 days and included all meals. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants suggested I negotiate a lower price when I arrive in Olympos. I took their advice and negotiated my price ($225) and agreed to share a cabin with someone else. Yippee! I was going sailing along the coast! 

Olympos is a small town. It is 500 meters from the beach but to get there you have to walk through ruins. 
The beach was beautiful but I realized I have been spoiled by the soft sandy beaches and warm waters of SE Asia. The Mediterranean was rocky and cold! This was going to take some getting use to! 

I spent 2 days lying on the beach and reading. i am tired and find myself traveling slower. I quickly learned to lie in the sun and get warmed by the pebbles before daring to swim in the cold, clear sea. It was refreshing! I was ready to board my gulet and spend a few more days relaxing and enjoying the Mediterranean Sea.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Cooking with Muso at Ocak Restaurant

I was welcomed into the home of Ethem and Muso at Ocak Restaurant and Guesthouse in Goreme. I made the journey to explore the Cappadocia area and was welcomed into the home of a wonderful Turkish family. I loved them as soon as I met them. Ethem explained his home had been in his family for 5 generations. I had read the reviews on and new that I was going to enjoy my stay.  Etham greeted me at the bus station and we jumped on an ATV to his guesthouse. Muso was there to greet me and show me my room and offer me breakfast. The food was fantastic. A Turkish breakfast that I looked forward to each morning. I tasted my first golzeme...which was a delicious thin bread filled with potatoes and herbs or cheese and herbs. As I watched Muso preparing the vegetables for the day, I asked if I would be able to cook with her. "Of course, no problem" she responded with a smile on her face.
I helped her prepare vegetables for the pottery kebabs and realized I am not good at peeling garlic or tomatoes. But I worked my way through it. When I finished chopping all of the hot peppers, red peppers, green peppers, tomatoes and garlic. She took me to the kitchen where we added the lamb to the mixture.
We added a few spices (salt, pepper, paprika and a special herb mix). Everything was mixed together and then placed in a ceramic jar.
The jars were topped off with a little bit of purified water and a small pat of butter. Then the lid was placed on the jar and I carried it to the fire pit (tandoor) to cook. It cooked for about 2 hours and then was ready to eat. The meat is very tender and delicious. It tasted great on the cold evening!

favorite dish that Muso cooked was acili, a spicy red sauce. It is a delicious, spicy sauce that is only made at the end of the tomato season. I watched as she cleaned and chopped vegetables and eventually joined her with chopping. Afterwards everything was put into a food processor and chopped down further. Muso cooks like my grandmother, by taste. The acili was made of hot peppers, green peppers, red peppers, tomatoes (skins removed), garlic, olive oil, a little sugar and salt. The peppers and oil were added first and cooked and then the tomatoes were added with sugar and salt. She cooked all of this on a huge pit over a fire in the courtyard.
The smell was enticing. As I sat writing my blog, Muso brought me a beer, a basket of bread and fresh hot acili sauce. I was in heaven! I ate so much bread that I was full when it was time for dinner. I decided to have a salad and lentil soup. Another perfect meal!

I told Etham and Muso they should offer a weekly cooking class. He showed me how they could cook an entire lamb in a tandoor he had built himself. Ah, if only we could do that during my stay but it is a 2 day process and is too much food for the few of us staying here.

Well, I have to go. I see a huge bowl of vegetables and want to help Muso on my last day! She is making homemade cake and stuffed peppers tonight. Perfect meal before a bus trip!

I went for an evening walk with Kitmir and the neighbor Abo and his 2 dogs. I completely lost track of time and we hiked further than I had realized. I missed my bus! Abo was nice enough to walk with me to the bus station and change my ticket for the next night. Stupid me! But Ethem and Muso were excited that I stayed an additional night.

I spent my final day relaxing, hiking the area and helping Muso cook. I was not missing my bus again. It became a joke around the neighborhood that I would be staying another week. I made them promise to get me to the bus on time. Muso packed me a can of Acili and stuffed peppers for the road trip. Ethem and the neighbor walked me down to the bus stop. They did not need to do that but it was very sweet. They even carried my bags and waved goodbye as my bus pulled away. I was sad to leave and promised that if my mother and I had time, I would bring her down to meet them in Goreme.