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Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category

Turkey – Impression Two

Just an added note to the previous post about our overall impressions on our time in Turkey.  Two words: Oil Wrestling.  We stepped on a nice sail boat in Fethiye to chat about boats and see how nice the boat was.  The three people on the boat were only momentarily distracted by us.  And then they went back to intently watching two beefy guys covered in oil with tight black leather shorts grope each other on the flat screen TV.  T- and I were pretty surprised when on of the two oiled up jokers slipped his hand and forearm into the shorts of the other guy as they were both kneeling on the ground.  I won’t describe any more.  It was bizarre from our perspective.  The captain of the boat (who noticed the disbelief on our faces) tried to explain that reaching into the shorts was all part of the game because, well, if they are both all oiled up it really helps to have something to grab onto.  Enough said.  We didn’t take any boat trips on that boat.

Of course Turks also seem to enjoy soccer (football) so there is some hope.

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Turkey – Impressions

As some might know already, we are no longer in Turkey. Our visit there which started with the cheapest flight tickets we could find to Europe, lasted one month. I was not sure what to expect, but now I can say that I definitely recommend a visit to Turkey.

The Country has it all, a lot of history, great landscapes, good food and affordable prices. We did all we wanted, rented scooters, took a hot air balloon ride, stayed at cozy pensions and still managed to be within budget. Our average daily expenses there was 50 USD per person.

I felt safe on the streets, that were generally clean and free of drunks and druggies. I was amazed on how “OK” the public toilets were (I am from Brazil) and my hubby really enjoyed the modern Turkey toilet (old style is OK too).  Also, we were very happy to find out that free wireless was everywhere, at the pensions, some public squares, train/bus stations, etc. The transportation system is well-organized and easy to figure out. People are quite friendly, helpful and they like soccer – every town we went we could see kids playing it.

One thing called my attention however was that we saw no Blacks. After a month in the country, we only remember seeing one Black woman in Konya. Coming from Salvador, BA where more than 80% of the population is black, this called my attention. We only traveled through the West part of the country, which from what I heard is more open-minded, but I really enjoy the mix of people types – you could see completely covered women holding hands and talking to friends in short skirts and tops.

I must say though that after a month of tea, boiled egg, feta cheese and toast for breakfast (add sliced tomato and  olives to my hubby) and kebabs, I was ready to move on. Next stop: Greece!!

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Selcuk Rest-up

We ended up staying a while in Selcuk.  We stayed at the Kiwi Pension and liked it.  (We spent one night at another pension but we switched back to Kiwi immediately.  The owners of the other pension were the ones who stiffed us on the ride to Ephesus – a ride we had never asked for but were offered and then never showed.)  We really liked the Kiwi.  We hung out a bit with some other travelers.  We also figured out that we could make our own dinner.  We each ate dinner on two successive nights all for less than 10 TL.  Yeah cheapskates.

One sad note was that we watched Brazil lose to Holland in Selcuk, que pena.  On the up side, it was here too that we watched Germany destroy Argentina.  Another interesting day was when we visited the ruins of St. John’s Church.  It is on the hill where he is thought to have written some of the New Testament. We also visited the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, but only one pillar stands.

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In our month in Turkey, with the exception of the mad house Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, all the places we went were pretty light in tourists. Actually, in most of the trekking we did we were alone in the trail, which I think is fantastic! We understood that this was about to change as Ephesus is major attraction and known to get really crowded. However, even here we managed to see the site without crossing by a single person – although I do not recommend the route taken.

The adventure began when we arranged a ride to the high gate of Ephesus for 4:30PM, as we were told that this time it would not be so hot and there would be less visitors in the site. The plan was to get out at the high gate and walk our way down to the lower gate, where we could get a dolmush back to Selcuk. Now, what actually happened:

We arrived at the arranged place at 4PM and got started at a backgammon game. Couple of games later and much talk, we realize that it is 5PM and our ride has not showed up yet. So we decided to go to the station and take a Dolmush. We arrive at the lower gate at 5:30pm to learn that the ticket was twice what we thought it would be and that the place closes at 6:30PM. Hum… bummer. Not knowing that once you are in you can take your sweet time out, we decided to try again the next day.  So, we started walking back to town and, of course, we decided to venture a little in our way.

We basically walked around the base of the mountain so that we were on the other side of it in relation to Ephesus. Going this way should have led us to some minor archaeological site.  Then we noticed what seemed to be a trail uphill.  So, we thought, “hey let’s just walk up there and take a look.  Maybe we can get a nice perspective of what we’ll see when we come back tomorrow.”  Well, we hiked up for a bit and reached a plateau and then there was another hill ahead of us and we thought: “hey we are already here, let’s go ahead. The view most be nice. We might see the sea and Ephesus.” So, we kept going and got up there.  We got some nice views of the site, the sea and the valley.  Then we got a little frazzled on the way back down.  I was too bashful to just walk down into the site and out of the gates, which in hindsight would have been best.

So we walked back over the mountain – in a different direction of course – making a big circuit.  Only problem was, on the way out we somehow got hemmed in by fences.  After skirting around a bunch of massive holes in the mountain and crawling along some animal paths through brambles, the crux was getting around the last section of the fence line by some rock climbing, with ample cussing, good old US style encouragement and pulling on a few branches. We did, we got out of the fenced area and to a small country side road.

We walked a bit on the road and reached the Grotto of Seven Sleepers, on June 30th, where we sat and rested. Back then, we knew nothing of the site. Just that we were pleased to find it and that there were vendors and a restaurant nearby. Without eating and instead of keeping on the road that we knew it would lead us to town – this one was purely E- doing, T- did not approve it – we then walked through peach and citrus groves and vegetable fields. It was very hard not to steal a peach. They were so big and luscious. In the end, we only pissed off a few dogs.  We came out on the road back into town, exhausted. Here are photos of both the first and second attempts.

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There are other ancient sites to see around Selcuk.  More on that later.

PS- Note the photo of Eli taking Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door” Guide way to seriously.

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Bus ride – Selcuk

At the last-minute we decided not to go to Butterfly Valley, which is south of Fethiye. South was opposite the general direction of our circuit.  We would have had to double back to go on to Selcuk. So instead, we went straight to Selcuk from Fethiye. The bus was far and away the best we have been on. This one even had wireless Internet. But, our seats were awful and it didn’t go all the way to Selcuk. Instead, we were dropped off in Aydin (Eye-dun) and had to take a Dolmush the rest of the way. We had the seats at the very back of the bus and we both got car sick. T- already was not feeling well with a soar throat. The bus drivers at the station in Aydin were all smoking and the smoke and sewer gas cocktail was nauseating to her. I thrive under just these conditions of course.

So we were tired, hungry… you name it, when we arrived in Selcuk. The room we stayed in was pretty nice though. Selcuk is right near the ruins of an ancient town named Ephesus.

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We got into Fethiye in the afternoon and checked into our pension. It was the Ferah Pension, recommended in our guidebook. It was a kilometer or so away from the action, so every time we wanted to go and have dinner we had to walk a bit – good exercise. The town is well equipped for tourists. There are “twelve island” day cruises and many boats leaving for the “Blue Cruise.” It is easy to reach the beautiful beaches of Oludeniz and the ghost town of Kayakoy.  The coastal strip is packed with restaurants and cafeterias and T was excited with the variety. After a month in Turkey, we were glad to see more than the traditional Turkish dishes listed in the Menu.

The first night in Fethiye we walked towards town and stopped at the first restaurant we came to on the waterfront. We got a table in front of the TV and pretty soon, everyone around knew that I was cheering for the USA. It was a great game (I thought) and the US fought hard right up to the end. I’m proud of the team. They played well and they didn’t spend a lot of time complaining to the referee. I couldn’t be too upset about Ghana going ahead. (Did I put another post about this already?)

Our best day while staying in Fethiye was the day we visited Kayakoy and then hiked all the way to Oludeniz. Kayakoy became a ghost town after the war that ended with the creation of modern-day Turkey. There was a forced, peaceful, exchange of Christian Greeks who were living in Turkey and Muslim Turks who were living in Greece. Now the town belongs to the goats.  More than one of them eyed me suspiciously and two of them followed us around for a bit.  Once we got there by Dolmush, we were free to wander around in the ruined houses. At the summits of the hills there were great views of the valley inland and the coves along the coast.

In Fethiye someone had suggested to us that we could hike the trail from Kayakoy to Oludeniz/Blue Lagoon, because it would be downhill. Well, first you have to walk up for half an hour before the trail starts to descend to the sea. The water looked so tantalizing the whole way down. It was hot and exhausting. As usual, at some point we got lost and our typical drama begins. We have the tendency to get worked up on trails – we get tired, we run out of water and we start to fantasize what if we do not make it, how far are we and so on.  But then we arrive at our destination and after sitting down for a while and imbibing something cold we ask ourselves, what was all the fuss about?

This time was not different. After 2.5-3 hours of trail we hit a wonderful beach. However, it turned out to be private and they were charging 5TL per person for the privilege of getting in. The person at the entrance said the first public beach would be 20min ahead of us, which sounded like eternity. But things are get good for the ones that persist and after less than 5 min we were relaxing under the sun umbrella at nice private beach which did not charge entrance fee. The water and the ice cream felt so good!

On the restaurants, there is a fish market where you buy your fish and then have it cooked at one of the restaurants.  We were told that this was a cheap meal as most places only charge you 5TL for cooking your fish, and the plate come with sides.  In our case it was not a cheap meal, as we had never paid so much for dead fish and shrimp. On the other hand it was fun to choose our meal at the market and the fish (I had sea bass) was really fresh and tasty.  T- had shrimp and it was very good too.

Another highlight of our stay at Fethiye was the night we went into a cafe for dessert to watch the end of the Argentina vs Mexico match.  Sappy eighties music was playing. The menu and atmosphere made T-‘s face light up.  I swear that within five seconds of sitting down and opening the menu T- was transported to near nirvana.

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A Night in Egidir

Egidir is a tiny town in the Lake Region of Turkey.  It has a commando training center.  We went there after Konya because we could get a bus at a reasonable time in the morning and we would arrive in time to watch the Brazil vs Portugal World Cup game.  I kind of hoped to go fishing or boating and enjoy the big lake that the town is on.  When we arrived it was rainy and dreary.   I thought that the commando training school had a big effect on the general atmosphere of the town.  I don’t really know what it was, but something about the town repulsed me (Wife here – my guess to what repulsed him was that most of the inhabitants seems to be men. We did not see much women in the streets, which looked dirty too. Although not as dirt as one hotel we took a look at near the station).  We decided to leave as soon as possible, which turned out to be the next day.

After we watched the game (0:0), we bought bus tickets to Fethiye for the next day.  We found a pension on the island over the causeway from the mainland side of town.  We ate dinner (fried fish and fish dip) and went to bed early.  The next morning the sun was out and it made a big difference.  The mountains around the lake were impressive in the sunshine.  But we already had tickets to leave.  We walked around the island in about half an hour, and that was taking it quite slow.  Then we got a boat ride to the bus station.  The captain let me try out the oars for a minute.  It didn’t seem like we were going anywhere so we cranked up the engine again.

We caught a dolmush (minibus) to Isparta and from there a bus to Fethiye.  The bus to Fethiye was the smallest and most basic bus we took in Turkey so far.  No satellite TV, no WiFi…

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