Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category

Lost and found

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

At 8 pm on Tuesday night, we hopped on the overnight bus to Goreme. The bus had a lower cargo bay than the other buses and with the extra Bayram (Festival) traffic the bus was full, so our bags had to be unloaded and our seats removed in order to fit the bikes.

Bikes and gear squeezed into the short bay on the bus.

Bikes and gear squeezed into the short bay on the bus.

Since our three friends were all unavailable to guide us to the bus, Haktan was recruited to take us and negotiate the bike loading with the bus driver. He’s another cyclist, and we’ve met him a few times during our various visits here. He is PHD student in Izmir researching more efficient air conditioning. It was great he was able to come and guide us – riding in the dark and during rush hour to the bus station would have been much more challenging otherwise.

We have observed that we end up paying extra for the bikes when our Turkish friends help us get organized at the bus station. We wonder if this is because the driver or assistant has someone they can communicate effectively with in order to ask for the extra money. Both times we travelled with our bikes on our own, we did not need to pay the extra fee – perhaps a language barrier is saving us a little cash?

We arrived in Goreme at 9 am after a long 13 hour bus ride. Since Goreme was not a major stop, the unloading process was rushed. We quickly climbed out of the bus, unloaded our bikes, and ensured we had all of our bags. We then began loading our bikes as the bus drove away. It did not take us long to realize that we left our helmets on the bus – oops. Upon discovering this, Scott talked to the agent for the bus company and they said, no problem, the helmets will come back with the bus in about an hour. The hour turned out to be in the evening at about 8 pm, but that’s OK. We got them back, so we are very happy.

Incredible view from in front of our Pansiyon.

Incredible view from in front of our Pansiyon.

Since we arrived early in the day, we decided to do a tour of various accommodation options before making a decision on where we would stay. Since it is not a busy time, everywhere we checked had lots of space. We discovered that the prices at this time vary dramatically, and there is not necessarily relationship between cost and quality. In a lot of cases, I think they look at you and decide what the cost will be. We learned that if they quote in Euro, we are likely paying too much. Also, the places listed in the guidebook are invariably more expensive than the places that are not, even if they are of lower quality. When we stopped to get are bearings, someone asked if we wanted to see their pension. Scott asked “how much”? He said “50 Lira”. So we said, sure we will look (we were not in a rush). We were glad we looked because of the five places we saw, it was by far the best value. We did see one other place that was nicer, but the cost was significantly more. We think we may be the only guests at this time, but the place is clean, the water is really hot, they have Internet in the lobby, and the people seem really nice. Oh ya, and we have a million dollar view from our front porch!

We were quite amused by the number of places that are named after the Flintstones (Flintstone Café and Bedrock Hotel). Someone clearly has a sense of humor.

After finding accommodation, we took a nap and ate. Then we did some Internet and reading, went for a short walk, and ate again. Now we are ready for bed. Goodnight.

Scott checking out the fairy chimneys.

Scott checking out the fairy chimneys.

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The Crescent and Star

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008
Turkish Flag

Turkish Flag

On Sunday morning we took the bus back to Izmir for a short visit with Gul and Metin, to do some chores, and to pick up our bikes. We had planned to stay until Wednesday night, but Metin checked for us and discovered that all the buses to Goreme in Cappadocia were full starting Wednesday through Bayram (the Eid Al-Adha Sacrifice Festival starting December 8th). Our only option was the overnight bus on Tuesday, so with the help of Metin, Scott bought us tickets.

Monday and Tuesday were spent doing bicycle maintenance and making a couple of purchases. With the help of Gul, Becky finally bought a new pair of pants, and was able to visit a Salon for KUAFÖR (similar to waxing for hair removal). With the help of Metin, Scott was able to buy us a mobile phone, so now our friends can contact us while we travel.

Becky says:

On Monday after work, Gul and I went out to buy me a new pair of pants. On our walk back, I noticed that there was a planet near the moon, such that the night sky looked like the Turkish flag. Amusingly enough, Metin’s father phoned later that night to make the same comment.
Scott subscribes to NASA’s Astronomey Picture of the Day, and they have had several great photos of the scene, including the one here.

Venus and Crescent Moon

Venus and Crescent Moon

The trip to the Salon for kuafor was a definite cultural experience. In Canada, waxing is a common method for hair removal, and that is what I had expected in Turkey. I had heard that rather than a was a warm sugar is used, which is actually less painful that wax. However, when I asked for my eyebrows to be treated, no wax was used. Instead, the esthetician used something that looked like dental floss and felt like a razor. Once she was finished with this tool, she used tweezers to pluck out any stray hair. It was horribly painful. Fortunately, the waxing of the under arms used a similar process to at home and was less painful.

When all was done, and it was time to pay, I pulled the money out of my pocket. Fortunately, Gul had told me exactly how much it was to cost. Then a lady there returned the money to my hand and motioned for me to drop it onto the floor. Once I did this, everyone smiled and all was done. I asked Metin about this practice, but he had not heard of it before. I’ll have to wait until I see Gul again to see if she knows why this was done.

Our first Servas visit

Saturday, November 29th, 2008

We met our Servas host, Omer, after he finished work on Friday. We had planned to meet at the “Peace and Friendship” statue outside of the HSBC building where he works, but a security guard with machine gun was clear that we weren’t to wait there, so we moved to the sidewalk nearby. Fortunately Omer found us anyway. We quickly followed him to a company shuttle bus and were whisked away across the Bosporus (to the Asian side of Istanbul) to the neighbourhood in which he lives. Turkish law states that all companies with more than 1500 employees must provide shuttle service. This is true anywhere in Turkey, but is especially important in Istanbul, with people travelling to work in private cars the traffic congestion would be even worse than it already is. Instead, the worst congestion is on Friday nights and Saturdays. Seems like a great idea!

We had a quick, and delicious dinner at home with Omer, his mother, and two year old daughter Ilke. At dinner, Omer’s mother asked if we were married. Becky said “yes, for six years”. Her reply was “Where is the product?” We were amused and were able to use Friedel and Andrew’s suggested “Inshallah” (Allah/God willing) response. It is a much more effective response here than anything we’ve used back in Canada.

Band in Istanbul.

Band in Istanbul.

After dinner we were off to a performance of traditional Turkish music from the Black Sea region. Omer’s wife Evren was working late, but we picked her up on the way. The trekking and mountaineering group Omer and Evren belong to was doing a cultural meeting – for the first time getting together someplace other than a trail or mountain.

We were expecting some sort of club or similar venue, and were quite surprised when we arrived at a banquet hall. White table cloths, covered chairs, munchies on the table – it felt more like a Canadian office Christmas party than anything else. Fortunately people were not dressed up in fancy outfits, since we do not own any dressy attire. The room was full and two tables were reserved for the trekking group. We chatted with a few people, but only in English. Scott wishes his Turkish was better, but hasn’t succeeded in getting very far with it.

Ilke posing for a photo with mom Evern in the background.

Ilke posing for a photo with mom Evern in the background.

Included in the admission price was two drinks. We continue to be surprised at casual drinking in Turkey – it really is no different than at home. The stereotype of Turkey as a strict Muslim nation is clearly not true. We were also surprised that it is common to bring your children with you to these outings – there were many children at the party, mostly they sit with their parents and are exceptionally well behaved. We have friends in Ottawa from the Ukraine who do the same with their kids, and so we were not unfamiliar with the practice of just bringing the kids along when you go out.

The music was an interesting mix of modern and traditional instruments, with Tulum (like bagpipes), Saz (like a long-necked lute) and another bowed instrument mixed with guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. Not quite traditional folk music, but a recognizable derivative. Sort of like Spirit of the West during and after the Save this House album…

It was a late night, we did not get to bed until after 1 am, and we got up late on Saturday morning. We had both woken up early (7:30 am), but the house was still fast asleep, so we went back to bed and did not reappear until 10 am. Unfortunately, getting up late meant that we missed an opportunity to visit with Evren and Ilke as they were departing for a family visit in Bursa. Had we realized this, we would have gotten up shortly after they did to enjoy a short visit. Becky had a great time getting to know Evren a little bit at the party on Friday night.

The plan for the late morning was to go for a walk in the woods. Omer’s mother (who lives with them and provides childcare for Ilke while they are working) is an expert with local herbs. While we walked in the forest, she collected a variety of edible greens, some of which we enjoyed with dinner.

Muddy car, safely parked on the grass.

Muddy car, safely parked on the grass.

Our trip to the woods was not without adventure. There had been a fair bit of rain in Istanbul on Thursday. The path up to the woods was normally hard-packed dirt; however, when we approached it was soft rutted mud. It did not take long for the car to be stuck – attempting to climb a soft mud hill with two wheel drive and summer tires was somewhat ineffective. After several attempts at pushing, Becky got behind the wheel and helped to reverse the car out of the rut, down the hill, and park it on the grass. Driving on wet mud is a lot like thick snow with a layer of ice! Once this was done, we were able to enjoy a nice walk in the woods.

The walk in the woods was a similar tradition to at home; however, the woods had a lot of garbage in it. We were happy to see Omer bringing along a garbage bag, and Scott helped collect some of trash as we walked. After about an hour, it began to rain, so we made our way back to the car. We were both nervous about the ride out of the muddy fields, and we both felt a sigh in relief as Omer successfully navigated the car off of the muddy trails and onto pavement.

Wild strawberries.

Wild strawberries.

After the walk in the woods, we drove back across the Bosphorus to the Europe side. Omer was part of a football (soccer) team competing in an tournament against other HSBC teams. This was one of the elimination games. It was a 7 on 7 game, on a reduced-size field, and both teams were quite skilled to our Canadian eyes. (Scott played intramural soccer at Newbridge one year, but isn’t very good). The soccer field was covered, which was nice since it had started to rain. Unfortunately, it did not have full walls, so it was rather chilly sitting and watching. Becky went to get some tea, and she was successful in ordering three teas (oh-ch chai), although the folks behind the counter were amused with her pronunciation!

The soccer game turned out to be on the other side of Istanbul – north west of where we stayed on the Europe side. Unfortunately, the traffic was terrible on the drive home. It took us at least two hours to cross the bridge back to the Asia side of Istanbul. By the time we got home, we were all tired and hungry, but especially Omer, who got stuck with all the driving.

Initially Omer told us of a plan to go over to a neighbour’s house and watch a football match on TV after dinner. Immediately after dinner, we went upstairs to use the Internet to call and try to activate Becky’s new credit cards – a task in which we had limited success. By the time we had finished and returned downstairs to visit, Omer had fallen asleep on the couch, exhausted after not enough sleep on Friday night, and many hours of driving on Saturday. Not wishing to disturb him, we returned to our room to do some Internet tasks and reading. We were happy for the quiet night, but felt awkward not having communicated any plans. Since we were already on the Asia side of Istanbul, we decided to return to Izmir on Sunday.

Throughout our visit, we often felt a little lost and uncomfortable. We had several interesting conversations and a few cultural exchanges, but at the same time we were often unaware of what was happening or what was expected of us. At times, there was a lack of invitation that made us feel uncomfortable – this could be a cultural thing as well. We are discovering more and more about our Canadian behaviours – sit quietly and wait for an invitation, don’t ever ask for something you might need! We wonder if there was a cultural cue that we missed? In our reflections of our time with Omer and family, we noted that we were not questioned nearly as much as usual about our trip and our adventures or about our culture in Canada. Sharing our experiences and culture through stories is the only way we have to give back to our hosts (washing dishes doesn’t count in our eyes), so we left feeling like we were not able to contribute. We were often unsure if we were in the way or if we were doing something that was offensive. When we checked with Omer shortly before leaving, he assured us there was nothing he felt we should have been doing differently, so we hope we were able to leave the family with a good impression.

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Topkapi Palace

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Our day started with a visit to the Topkapi Palace. Becky was not too keen on the price (20 Lira + 15 Lira Harem tour + 10 Lira Audio Guide = 90 YTL), but we used the regret test. Is this something we would regret not doing? Our first answer was yes, and in the end we were very glad we went. For us, the palace had several must-see attractions. The palace was in use until 1924, so many parts are more modern than other places we have visited.

Fancy domed ceiling in the Hamam.

Fancy domed ceiling in the Hamam.

We began our tour with the Harem in an attempt to avoid any crowds. The Harem is the part of the palace where the Sultan, his family, and concubines, lived. The Harem had many incredible domed ceilings with amazing tile work that the pictures do not show well. When the sun shone just right, the gold in the designs shone.

Other than many groups of school children, the palace grounds were quite empty. We even had a few rooms in the Harem to ourselves – quite the contrast with what the guidebook told us to expect. A definite benefit to visiting on a cold day in late November!

We were very glad we had rented the audio guides (20 YTL for two). Scott felt a bit silly walking around with headphones on, but we found the explanations added a lot to our understanding, and the occasional music provided extra ambience.

Scott wearing goofy audio guide headphones.

Scott wearing goofy audio guide headphones.

After viewing the harem and walking around a bit, Becky was in need of a rest and we were both a little hungry. We did not really expect there to be so much to see, so we had not planned on being in the palace over lunch. Our visit to the palace kitchens and the explanation of the meals cooked for 10000 or 15000 people whetted our appetites even more.

We headed to the cafeteria to find a cup of tea and a snack. We were shocked by the prices (14 Lira for a donair which is usually 2-4 Lira on the street, and 4 Lira for tea which is usually 50 cents). Added to the horrible prices, the food was also pretty bad. We recommend that anyone planning a trip to the Topkapi Palace to bring along a picnic.

Huge pots in the palace kitchen.

Huge pots in the palace kitchen.

Our guidebook says that the treasury is an additional fee, but when we approached it was free. We were glad to be seeing the treasury with so few other people, as it is the habit here for people to stand as close as possible to the glass windows to view the items. This means that only one or two people can view them at a time. If you step back to allow more people to see them, someone inevitably just steps in front of you, blocking your view. Becky tried to be a polite Canadian, but found this to be rather frustrating! Scott quickly gave up and crowded up to the glass with everyone else.

Our vote for the most amazing thing we saw in the treasury were candle sticks made to sit outside the tomb of Mohammed. These did spent some time in Medina (Saudi Arabia) but were transported back to Turkey for protection during the first world war. They are about five feet tall and one foot in diameter and made of solid gold. If these items were in the Smithsonian in Washington DC, you would see armed guards very near. The security here seemed to be rather subdued given the value of the items on display.

Our second to last stop was the Sultan’s Palace containing holy relics of the Islamic faith. These include the turban of the prophet Joseph (Old Testament, Joseph and the coat of many colours – made famous in pop culture in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), the staff that Moses used to part the Red Sea, various vials of Prophet Mohammed’s hair, and an imprint of Mohammed’s foot. Adding to the ambiance of the holy relics, the Koran was being read and piped through this section of the museum. When read aloud in Arabic, the Koran sounds very poetic. We aren’t quite sure what to think of many of the relics – many seem to Scott like all the fragments of the “True Cross” which are found in Christian churches around the world. Prophet Mohammed’s relics seem most likely to be authentic, since Islam was a well-established religion by the time he died. Then again – what is real and authentic in this context? It was surprising to us to find all of these here, but Turkey is the successor to the Ottoman Empire, which was for many years the center of Islamic faith in the world. Perhaps it shouldn’t have surprised us.

Becky standing in front of some fancy tiles in the Summer Pavillion.

Becky standing in front of some fancy tiles in the Summer Pavillion.

Our final stop was the Summer Pavillion, built in 1640 by Sultan Ibrahim and used for circumcision ceremonies for the crown princes. Becky took great delight in calling it the Circumcision Room, and watching Scott cross his legs. The whole area is decorated with beautiful tile works and we took lots of photos.

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Sending parcels home

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Today dawned cold and wet. It was raining and the temperature was around 10-12 degrees. It was not really suitable for tromping around the Topkapi Palace, so we decided to leave that until tomorrow with hopefully better weather, and do some chores today.

Since we did not like our motel, we decided to move to one that was listed in our Rough Guide, the Hurriyet Hotel, that was close to the train station but still within walking distance to Sultanemet.

Before leaving the hotel, we made a stop to a couple of English bookstores in the Sultanemet. We were surprised at the number of books for sale on political Islam, secularism in Turkey and other political/religious topics. Since both stores had the same owners, they had the same selection of books.

Our chore for the day was mailing a couple of packages home for Christmas. This first required finding boxes and tape, which turned out to be more of a chore than we expected. The boxes were easy, but the tape required that we find an appropriate store. After much walking around, we entered a fishing store and asked. They did not have any, but they directed us to the general small appliance store next door, where we were able to get both packing tape and a permanent marker.

The funicular cable, with a reflection of Scott and Becky on the glass.

The funicular cable, with a reflection of Scott and Becky on the glass.

Once we had the boxes packed, we visited several different couriers. The cost quoted for mailing was much more than we were willing to pay (about 144 Lira – $120 Canadian), so we went in search of the government postal system, the PTT (equivalent to Canada post). There we learned that the larger of our parcels was over 2 kg, and so we had two options – split it into two or send it cargo (for around 50 Lira). The guy at cargo recommended that the box be split into two and he gave us two new boxes. Our other box was small enough, so Becky went to the kiosk she was led to and mailed the box. The box was just under 2 kg (the maximum for post) and cost 14 Lira to mail to Canada. After re-packaging, we sent the other boxes using the same method. We have no idea when or if they will arrive, but we have succeed in getting them posted.

For dinner, we decided to leave the Sultanemet area and check out Beyonlu – the neighbourhood that is popular with expats in Instanbul. We took the tram and funicular up to Beyonlu and walked from there to Taksim. We were surprised by the number of Starbucks and coffee shops along the pedestrian street. We stopped into another bookstore that has some English books. They also had a great selection of English magazines. We were amused that they had a section on “Islam” and another on “Other Religions and Myths”.

A typical hotel bathroom - note the lack of a shower stall.

A typical hotel bathroom - note the lack of a shower stall.

We discovered that Istanbul train systems are disjoint and challenging. To get from one place to another often requires different forms of transit (tram, subway, and funicular). You pay for each segment of your travel rather than paying for a length of time like most cities. For some areas this makes it less expensive and certainly less confusing to take a taksi (taxi).

Our room in the Hurriyet hotel has a funny smell. We are learning to leave the bathroom door closed, which reduces the smell but doesn’t make it completely go away. Possibly a combination of moth balls and stale smoke in the carpets.  The room is at least clean and free of visible mould, which makes it an improvement over the other guesthouse. Scott enjoyed the nice firm pillows. We were surprised at how quiet the place was given its proximity to the railway station – we did not hear any trains.

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Becky has had this foolish song going through her head since we planned our trip to Istanbul (lyrics from the They Might Be Giants version):

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Blue Mosque with ugly cables holding up the chandeliers

Blue Mosque with ugly cables holding up the chandeliers

We began the day with a trip to the Blue Mosque. When entering the mosque proper, the first thing we noticed was that the view of the domes is obstructed by the dark cables holding up the chandeliers. Unfortunately, that really takes away from the awe of the building. We also noticed many female tourists that did not cover their heads. Becky thinks that she would feel naked in a mosque without a head scarf. Fortunately, the buff (a tube shaped elastic scarf) that she bought in Patra works perfectly as a head scarf (as well as a neck warmer, head band, and light toque).

As we exited the mosque, there was someone collecting donations for its maintenance and upkeep. Scott put down a couple of coins, and he was handed a couple pieces of paper that looked like tickets. When we examined them, we discovered that we were give receipts for the exact amount we donated. We were rather amused with the process.

The tomb of Sultan Ahmet

The tomb of Sultan Ahmet

After we excited the mosque we made a stop at the tomb of Sultan Ahmet. Within were the tombs of many sultans, not just Sultan Ahmet. We were surprised to see the many small tombs (infant or toddler sized). Scott enjoyed seeing the tomb Murad IV (also known as Murad the Mad) – the sultan who reigned during the time of the 1632 books.

Our next stop was Aya Sofya (Haghia Sophia) “The Church of the Divine Wisdom”, originally built as a Christian cathedral in the sixth century and then converted to a mosque, and finally to a museum by Ataturk. From The Rough Guide to Turkey: “For almost a thousand years Aya Sofya, or Haghia Sophia, was the largest enclosed space in the world.” The 30-metre dome containing a tile mosaic was an amazing feat of engineering and architecture.

When we first saw the entrance fee: 20 YTL, we debated whether or not it was worth the price. We were surprised by it mostly because the mosque and tombs did not have any fees, and since Aya Sofya was a church we did not expect a fee – however, it is now actually a museum, so it makes sense. After a brief discussion and validation that we would regret not doing it (the regret test), we paid the fee and entered. We did not regret our decision, the Aya Sofya was Becky’s highlight of Istanbul.

Glowing Jesus mosaic at Aya Sofya

Glowing Jesus mosaic at Aya Sofya

At the Aya Sofya, the mosaics with gold glow when the light is just right. This is typical of Byzantine mosaics, which were designed to be viewed from flickering lantern light, and give the illusion of motion. As we were standing under the front dome mosaic with Mary holding a baby Jesus on her lap, the baby glowed. It was quite a spectacular site, that we would have been missed if the sun was not just right. We recommend seeing the church on a sunny day, and watching.

There is a large scaffolding in the main dome, which is in place as the mosaics of the dome are restored to their original glory. We like the suggestion to “Look at it from another point of view: over 120 generations of men and women have seen the interior, but very few have seen it this way.

Scott was reminded of Guy Gavriel Kay’s “Sailing to Sarantium”, a fictionalized account of the building of the Aya Sofya by Byzantine Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora, through the eyes of a mosaicist. Reading and loving that story made the architecture and mosaics of Aya Sofya much more meaningful and real for him. It’s unfortunate that we’re travelling to so many places that we couldn’t read the stories of each place before arriving. We have read some, and all the stories we have read have enriched our visits.

The Hippodrome, which also features prominently in the life of the Byzantine Empire would have been another high point for Scott, but unfortunately there’s nothing left but three columns and a park. The rest of the massive stone structure was used to construct other walls, houses and monuments in Istanbul. Recycling of stone in other structures is common, and much more noticeable here than in Canada – a much longer history!

After so much walking around, Becky was in need of a break. We had noticed a Starbucks, so we decided to indulge in a coffee. We have found that Starbucks provides a full size American style brewed coffee at a price much less expensive than the Turkish cafes. They also provide herbal tea at a more reasonable cost. Becky was extra delighted to learn that she could get her favourite Soy Chai Latte – and it even tastes the same as at home. In some ways it seems wrong to enjoy a taste of home while away, but when you have been travelling for many months, it is nice to enjoy an occasional comfort of home – and when that comfort is actually less expensive than the local equivalent, then it is a real bonus.

While walking between the Blue Mosque and the tram station, we noticed a new phenomenon – a cooperative call to prayer (Adhan). The muezzin (the guy that performs the Adhan) at the Blue Mosque would start the call, then the muezzin at a nearby mosque would start his call. It was almost like an echo, with each waiting for the other to finish a phrase before going on to the next one. As they progressed through the call, it almost seemed like a competition (Becky’s interpretation), with each adding vocal frills and holding notes longer. Perhaps that was just our western imagination. In any case, we continue to enjoy the musical beauty of the call, even though we don’t understand the Arabic. Similar to a Christian Mass in Latin or German, if it were in English, it likely wouldn’t be so mesmerizing.

In the evening, we decided to go for a walk and check out The Grand Bazaar. It wasn’t as grand or as teeming with people as we expected, probably because we arrived shortly before 5pm on a weekday. We spent most of our time in the indoor section, which is huge. It was very easy to get turned around while walking the twisty streets and narrow alleys. There were several shops where we looked at merchandise and no one came to talk to us – we ended up walking away rather than purchasing something. Eventually, we found a few things we liked and a person at the store to help us, so we were able to complete our Christmas shopping.

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Going to Istanbul

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Our first long-distance trip on a bus in Turkey was remarkably painless, mainly thanks to Mehmet, who was going to Istanbul for a job interview. We were able to tag along with him, which made navigating the ticket purchase, shuttle bus, and transfer very easy. Mobile phones are banned on long-distance busses in Turkey, which made for a quiet and relaxing ride. They use an excuse similar to airplanes – that they interfere with the brake system, which we find amusing. We can’t imagine what the ride would be like with everyone chatting on their mobiles – it seems to be a very common Turkish pastime, so a good thing they aren’t allowed. Because Turkish buses have assigned seating, loading is a much more civilized activity. There is no need to rush to ensure you have a seat next to your partner or friends. If per chance, your assigned seats do not match, you can always ask the bus attendant to re-assign seats, and he will oblige if it is possible.

The bus attendant serving drinks - civilized bus travel.

The bus attendant serving drinks - civilized bus travel.

Once we got to Istanbul, Mehmet got off at the first Asian stop, but we were going to Sultanamet, on the Europe side of Istanbul, across the Bosphorus. We had two choices: stay on the bus until the Europe-side bus terminal (Enesler Otogar) and take the Metro, or get off at Kadikoy on the Asian side and take a shuttle. We opted for the shuttle, but it got us only as far as Taksim. It’s on the correct side of the Bosphorus, but across the Golden Horn from Sultanamet. From Taksim we took a taxi, but the driver apparently didn’t know Sultanamet very well, and we weren’t able to convince him to look at our map, where Scott had clearly indicated the location of our hotel. Finally, after asking for directions twice, we just paid and got off – near the other Mavi Guesthouse which Becky had spotted as we passed. We confirmed our directions there, then walked the last 500m.

We’re staying at the Mavi Onur Guesthouse, which is inexpensive, has a simple ensuite bath, and has both heat/AC and hot water, and we are able to use the kitchen – nice features in this weather. Unfortunately, it has had enough water damage in the past that our room is quite mildewy. The mildew is not ideal for either of us, and it’s also not as clean as we’d like – Becky noticed that there was something in the garbage can, indicating that it was not emptied, and the towels that were hung in the bathroom looked used (there were clean folded towels in the room as well, which are the ones we used). We’ll need to be a bit more careful when inspecting rooms.

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Back in Izmir

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Saturday

We decided to make a quick stop at the carpet / souvenir store prior to taking the bus back to Izmir. We really enjoyed our carpet lesson and felt that Mehmet (2), Ali, and Harry have been very honest so we feel comfortable with making purchases from them. Our brief stop turned into two hours, as Mehmet (the expert salesman) needed to show us all the different options available us. After what Becky felt was a painful negotiating session, Scott was able to get us what seemed to be a good price, with our purchases shipped to Istanbul for us to pick up there. We will mail out our Christmas packages from Istanbul once we complete our shopping.

We decided to ride out to the Otogar in Kusadasi. This decision was based on an assumption that it was only 10-15 km away. The wind was blowing like crazy with gust over 50 km/hr. Mostly it was coming from our rear quarter, but occasionally we would get a cross wind that made it difficult to ride in a straight line. For the first 6 km, we followed a side road (dirt) that was somewhat protected from the wind by tall shrubs. Unfortunately, the side road ended and we needed to get on the main road. The main road was not that smooth – the surface seems to be made of gravel with a bit of tar to hold it together – so our rolling resistance made riding a little more difficult than on smooth asphalt. When we made it to the intersection and needed to turn into the wind, there was a sign indicating that Kusadasi was another 15 km away, and we were riding straight into the wind. It did not take long for us to decide that this was a bad idea, so we headed back to Selcuk to catch the bus from there.

The otogar in Selcuk only had the small Dolmus type buses – minibuses. The moment we arrived on bicycle we had many people surround us to see our bikes, and a couple of touts trying to sell us bus tickets. Once we showed them the bikes it did not take long to determine that they would not fit onto the mini bus. One of the drivers/touts said he could make it fit if we took the wheels off. We decided that rather than disassembling our bikes, it would be easier to call the large bus company and have them pick us up in Ephesus, where we were dropped off on Thursday. So, we headed back to the carpet/souvenir shop, and Mehmet called to make a reservation for us.

Since we had a little bit of time before the bus, and we were getting hungry, Scott went out (with Mehmet) to the Bakery to get some buns and to the market to get some oranges for the trip. Becky was tired from the windy 15 km ride, so she stayed sitting on the couch at the carpet shop relaxing. Scott decided to also get some baklava as a gift for our hosts back in Izmir, which took much longer than expected. Becky started to get nervous about missing the bus, and Scott and Mehmet ran back to the shop with less than 10 minutes before the bus pickup – which was at Ephasus 3 km away, not in Selcuk. So, we quickly said our goodbyes one more time, jumped on our bikes, and raced to the bus stop. At one point, we saw a bus approach, so we changed sides of the highway, so we would be on the correct side to catch the bus. The bus passed – it was a tour bus and not our bus. Scott rode ahead of Becky, and just as he reached the bus stop, the bus approached. Scott flagged the bus down, while Becky was still riding to catch up. The driver wasn’t too happy about loading our bikes, and tried to show Scott that the cargo bay was full, but he just pointed to the other side, and said “no problem”. In fact it was no problem – we’re getting much better at loading the bikes, and the longer, lower profile of the recumbent may even make it a bit easier than a loaded upright bike. We quickly loaded our bikes and hopped onto the bus. Arriving at the bus in the last minute seems to be a theme with our bus rides in Turkey!

Friends at Gul\'s party

Friends at Gul's party

We arrived back in Izmir on Saturday afternoon to preparations for a party at Gul and Metin’s place. We also had an invitation to a large home cooked meal at Mehmet’s (1) mother’s place. So, after a brief visit and some chores, we enjoyed a large home cooked dinner. Dinner involved more types of food with names that Becky can’t remember. The meal included a delicious corba (soup), dolma (stuffed green peppers), a spicy beef patty with potato and tomato served with Mehmet’s mothers famous rice, and several “olive oil” dishes. The latter were dishes where similar to some of the side dishes we had at restaurants. They included baked beans and a broad bean paste dish. Dinner was followed by a dessert of baklava and traditional Turkish tea. Since Becky was coughing during dinner – clearly her cold is still hanging on – Mehmet’s mother made her a special cup of herbal tea that helps with colds. It turns out this was the same tea that we served to us in Selcuk – Sage leaves with a squeeze of lemon.

After dinner, we returned to Gul and Metin’s place to a party of work friends from Gul’s hospital. When we arrived, Metin was peppered with questions about our trip. Some of them he answered immediately, and others he asked us to answer. We both felt like our ears were burning several times throughout the evening. We both observed the interactions between people at the party. Becky found herself needed to re-assess the lens in which she saw the different interactions. In Turkey, there is a much higher level of social touch between friends of the same gender. In North America, you would not see male friends put arms around each other on the couch or put a hand on their neighbors knee without it being construed as a sexual advance. Here is it just a sign of friendship and nothing more. It was also interesting to see that the couches were mostly gender-segregated, with women on one couch and men on another.

Sunday

Gourmet meatballs

Gourmet meatballs

Sunday there was a celebration in honour of Gul’s birthday. Nine of us packed into two cars and drove 100 km to a restaurant on a hill with an incredible view and a large variety of side dishes – sort of like appetizers that you eat before the main course. The restaurant was called “Kaplan”, or Tiger, and named after the village. It is apparently quite famous, and was at one point named one of Turkey’s top ten restaurants. Some of the dishes we had were similar to the ones we enjoyed at the fish restaurant, but others were a new experience. Our main dish was a “meatball”, which turned out to be a large patty of hamburger and onions. We both enjoyed the flame grilled burger – our first in Turkey. It was interesting to observe how the meal was ordered. A sample tray of side dishes was brought to the table, and various people from the group selected which ones we wanted. Once the selections were made, enough were ordered for the whole table. The main dish and desserts were also ordered for the whole table – so we all ate the same food. In North America, usually food is ordered by each individual with perhaps one or two shared appetizers.

View of Tire during our walk

View of Tire during our walk

After lunch we went out for a well needed walk. The restaurant was at the end of the driveable part of a road – the road continued but was not really passable by car. We walked along the road into the woods. We both found it reminiscent of our Thanksgiving walks in Canada, with the ground littered with fall leaves and the trees full of yellow leaves. We knew we were not at home when we could see groves of olive trees bursting with ripe black olives.
Walk in the woods

Walk in the woods


Most of the people at lunch were also cyclists, so it was interesting to discuss our trip, and compare notes with them on their travels within Turkey. They’re all interested in long distance touring to various degrees, so hopefully we’ve inspired a few more people. We left behind our Adventure Cycle-Touring Handbook (http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Cycle-Touring-Handbook-Worldwide-Planning/dp/1873756895) and Silk Roads guide (http://www.amazon.com/Silk-Roads-2nd-Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan/dp/1905864000). Scott has carried both since disembarking from MSC Alessia in Italy because he couldn’t bear to just abandon them somewhere, so he’s glad to leave them in a good home.

Neither of us are feeling 100% well and we are wondering if we ate something in Selcuk that affected our stomachs. Scott’s stomach started feeling iffy as we were leaving Selcuk, and Becky started to feel crampy and queasy after dinner on Saturday night, which unfortunately hampered her enjoyment of Sunday’s lunch. We had thought we might go spend a couple of days at the Iluca hotel enjoying the thermal baths and trying to kick Becky’s cold once and for all, but everyone said to us – why do you want to stay in a hotel? You can stay here! We do not want to impose on Gul and Metin for too long – they are such gracious hosts. That being said, with stomach uncertainties, an hour bus ride and soaking in public pools does not make the best plan, so for at least a day or two, we will stay here, relaxing while Gul and Metin go to work during the day. And we will try to ensure they are not worrying over us or feeling that we need to be entertained.

Monday

After a relaxing day of Internet and reading in the apartment on Monday, we decided that if we stayed in Izmir too much longer, we would both end up in sour moods and start to get depressed. We really need to get back to living our nomadic lifestyle, so we planned to head out to Istanbul on Tuesday morning. Not long after making the decision, we received an email from Mehmet (1) that he had a job interview in Istanbul on Wednesday, so he too needed to go to Istanbul on Tuesday. So, we again are travelling with the assistance of our friends from Izmir. It has been nice to not have to worry about how we will get to where we need to be, but we are also feeling that the challenge has been taken out of the experience – things have been too easy with friends to help. So, at least a part of us is looking forward to being on our own and working through the challenges of meeting our basic needs in a foreign country again.

In the afternoon, we went for a short walk over to the grocery store to pick up some fruit and snacks. We had noticed in the morning that Gul and Metin were out of dishwasher soap, so we bought a box of what we thought was dishwasher soap. It had a picture of clean dishes on the box! It turns out what we bought was salt that is used to soften the dishwasher water. This caused quite a few giggles when Gul got home.

Note on names:
Mehmet (1) is the Mehmet we met through warm showers, who has been an excellent tour guide and host in Izmir, and will be going to Istanbul with us.
Mehmet (2) is the brother of Ali and a host at the ANZ guesthouse and salesman at the carpet and souvenir shops.

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Ephesus, Selcuk and freighter update

Friday, November 21st, 2008
Becky and Scott at Ephesus

Becky and Scott at Ephesus

We actually got moving relatively early on Thursday, but did not leave for the bus until 10 am. Mehmet made the process immeasurably easier. First he guided us to the bus station, then talked to the various people to figure out which bus we needed and the logistics with our bikes. There are many Dolmus (small mini-buses) going to Selcuk, but they cannot take our bikes. The larger buses go to Kusadasi, which is about 10 km from Selcuk. Since the bus actually passes right by, Mehmet talked to them about letting us off at Ephesus (about 2 km from town). They also agreed to pick us up (as long as we make a reservation in advance) for the trip back to Izmir.

Upon arrival in Selcuk, we discovered that they had a lot of rain – the night before and more that morning. It was probably good that we did not come earlier, as the rainy morning likely would have meant that we did nothing. By the time we arrived, the rain had passed. It was not gloriously sunny, but it was nice enough to be out and about.

Running water Latrine

Running water Latrine

We headed up to the Australia New Zealand (ANZ) Guesthouse, choosing them from our guidebook and a few phone calls. We had the option of a double room with shower or a double room with a Jacuzzi tub for 15 Lira more. Given Becky’s cold, we decided that a soak in the Jacuzzi would be nice – especially after dark when it gets pretty cold. The ANZ Guesthouse is run by Harry, who has spent some years in Australia and speaks fluent English.

After a necessary nap, we headed up to Ephesus, taking advantage of a free ride from the guesthouse. Since it is winter, the site closes at 5:30 pm. We arrived at 3:30 pm, and unfortunately, it was too late for the audio self-tour. We decided the cost of a tour guide was too much at 60 Lira, even after we bargained down to 50 – so we just wandered around the site and read the various placards. The size of the site is quite amazing, more than 2 km long, and formerly one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. The amphitheatre is quite impressive: it would be super cool to see a concert there – although you would need to bring a cushion, as the stone seats would feel awfully hard and cold within the first few minutes. Going near the end of the day, in the winter, meant that there were only a couple of tour buses. The site did not feel overcrowded, which we have heard is a real problem much of the time. The largest group of people were doing team building – rushing around the site in teams, answering questions and collecting puzzle pieces. An interesting idea!

Amphitheatre at Ephesus

Amphitheatre at Ephesus

After a nice dinner at the Amazon restaurant, we were both ready for bed. We planned on taking on nice hot soak in the tub. We also asked for the control for the heater in our room, as our afternoon nap proved to be quite cold. This turned out to be our saving grace. The hot water at the guesthouse was lukewarm at best – typical of solar hot water a few hours after sunset on a cloudy day. They do have a gas backup system, so Becky asked for some hot water. Unfortunately, the water never heated up.

On Friday morning, we took a walk around Selcuk. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, which is just on the outskirts of town. We went to see it, but were really unimpressed. At this time, it is just one pillar that has been resurrected from many small chunks. We can only guess how fabulous it was in the past. It is not much to see compared to the city of Ephesus – but it is definitely a stop on the tour bus circuit. When we arrived there were four bus loads of people looking over at the single pillar, with associated peddlers selling postcards, guidebooks and other trinkets. From the site of the Temple, there is a great view of the Isa Bey Mosque and Castle, so we took many pictures of the view.

Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders

Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders

Mosque in Selcuk

Isa Bey Mosque in Selcuk

After the Temple, we walked up to the Isa Bey Mosque. This mosque was built in 1375, and since then completely lost one of its minarets in an earthquake. The top of the minaret still standing is also missing. When you first walk inside, you enter a large outdoor courtyard. The mosque has a separate women’s entrance to the side of the main men’s entrance. The women’s area is separated from the men’s by a temporary wall. I guess they could easily adjust the size of the areas if necessary. Both the women’s and men’s areas are filled from end-to-end with Turkish carpets. We were there 10 minutes before the noon call to prayer on Friday, so we cut our visit short to avoid imposing upon prayer time.

Baptistry at St. John's Basilica

Baptistry at St. John's Basilica

We then continued walking up to the Saint John’s Basilica. The Basilica was an important church in the sixth century after Christ. If it were to be reconstructed, it would be the seventh largest cathedral in the world. At one point it was converted to a mosque. It is believed to be the burial site for the Apostle John. Today it is a rather impressive set of ruins. Becky was particularly interested in seeing the Baptismal area, which involved a walk in bath, similar to what is found in some evangelical Baptist churches. We were not able to continue up the hill to the castle, as it is closed for excavation work.

Ruins of St. John\'s Basilica in Selcuk

Ruins of St. John's Basilica in Selcuk

After lunch, Scott went to check out the Ephesus museum while Becky came back to the guesthouse to rest and write. We both wonder where the ancient ruins are best kept. Many have been moved to museums where they can be kept in a relatively safe environment. Those that are left in their natural state – or restored – are out in the open, subject to the natural environment and erosion. It is definitely more interesting to see them in their natural setting. Scott didn’t find the museum particularly inspiring, although it did have some interesting statues and other artifacts. There was also a special exhibit on gladiators in Ephesus during the Roman Empire, with analysis of 120 skeletons retrieved from the Ephesus gladiator’s graveyard.

Overall, Ephesus and the museum were interesting, but not stunning. Neither of us are finding great rewards in seeing ancient ruins – we’re getting much more out of meeting and talking with people, and learning about their lives and cultures.

On our return to the guesthouse, we passed a family making doughnuts on the street outside of their house. We were each offered one to try, and Scott was able to use some of his very limited Turkish “delicious” and “thank you”. They were warm and coated in sticky sugar – indeed delicious afternoon snack.

After an afternoon nap – still necessary as Becky’s cold is not improving – we went to visit Mehmet at the carpet shop. He taught us about the different types of carpet that are available and how to identify good quality. The shop had many different types of carpet with a variety of qualities – so you could definitely find something that matched your price/quality criteria. We certainly aren’t experts, but we can now identify: natural versus artificial fibers, kilim versus carpet, single knot versus double knot, and know to ask about chemical versus vegetable dyes. (If you’re interested: artificial fibers are sticky when burned, kilim is a flat weave, carpet has pile, double knot has loops visible if you know where to look, vegetable dyes age better).

Mehmet also mentioned that just outside of Ephesus is a “carpet factory” where the tour buses all stop. He said that the carpets there are much more expensive because the tour companies get a commission on everything sold. Also, the factories are not real operating factories, rather they are setup just for the tourists. The folks “making” carpets there are paid to be there only when tourists are coming through. The cost of all the sales people and carpet makers plus the commissions for the tour companies mean the prices are significantly higher (at least double) what is charged at Harry’s carpet shop. He also mentioned that the sticker price (no bargaining) is the price you pay if a guide brings you into the shop, because they must pay the guide 20%. Because we are staying at the ANZ guesthouse, we would get a discount if we wished to buy anything, and likely a further discount related to being here in the slow season. For some of the more expensive carpets, the prices are listed in US dollars, and we were offered the same price in Lira – seems a significant discount, especially with no bargaining on our part. Since we’re on our bicycles and not heading home anytime soon, no carpets for us though.

After another good dinner at Amazon, we tried out the tub again. The hot water was OK for a quick bath to clean yourself, but still not warm enough for a soak. We borrowed an electric kettle and used it to heat up several kettles of water. With the enhancement of some boiling water, we were both able to enjoy a luxurious soak in the tub.

General observations about Selcuk and Turkey

Selcuk is a small town in tourist Turkey, and somewhat similar to Cesme. It is full of little pansiyons and budget accommodations. In the summer time, it is packed with tourists, but in the winter most of the pansiyons are empty. Each evening we noticed an acrid tang as we walked about town, and soon discovered what it was. They use coal here, mixed with wood, to heat the houses. Electricity is expensive, so electric heat is only found in some of the guesthouses – fortunately, ours is one of them. The coal stoves, similar to wood burning stoves, provide a nice heat source, but the fumes from the chimneys are rather unpleasant.

In our wanderings today, we stopped by the grocery store. This was the first time we had been in a grocery store in Turkey – apparently we have been eating out a lot! We discovered that lactose free milk and soy milk are both readily available. Given the amount of smoking here, we were amused that the cigarettes are stored in locked cabinets and that there are signs saying that you must be 18 to buy them. It felt very similar to a small grocery store at home.

We have also found that the pharmacies carry most name brand medications that we can get at home. Becky was happy to discover that she could get the same brand of asthma inhalers here. We have recently discovered that mailing medication to us in Turkey, Syria, or Italy will be difficult (oops, we should have checked that before we left). Fortunately, so far we can get everything we want here in Turkey except Cold FX.

Where ever we go in Turkey, we have noticed a large number of feral cats. This has been especially the case in the smaller towns (Cesme and Selcuk). When you are eating at an outside restaurant or on a patio, they can be a real nuisance. At one restaurant, the owner had a small electronic device that he clicked and the cats ran away – we guess it was similar to a Dog Dazer, which emits an uncomfortable high frequency sound. He was very discrete in using it, but we were happy to not be pestered while trying to enjoy our meal.

Freighter update

The voyage of our ship from Naples/La Spezia to Port Kelang (Kuala Lumpur) has been cancelled. We are guessing that the economic downturn is causing shipping companies to their traffic between Europe and Asia. There are a number of other ships on similar routes and we are now looking into alternatives, which is actually giving us a little bit more flexibility and will likely cost us less than the ship we had originally booked. Such is the nature of freighter travel.

Celsus Library

Celsus Library at Ephesus

Model of St. John's Basilica

Model of St. John's Basilica

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Making new friends in Izmir

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

20 km across Izmir

How many people does it take to load a bicycle on a bus?

How many people does it take to load a bicycle on a bus?

On Monday morning, we packed up to move to Izmir. We had spend enough time in the Pensiyon in Cesme and it was time to move on. Becky still was not feeling 100% so we decided that it was best to take the bus, an 85+ km ride was a little more than she could handle at the moment. We loaded up and headed to the Otogar (the main bus terminal in Cesme). Fortunately, this did not involve climbing any hills. Becky was OK on the flats – although a little slow – but hills would likely have been a real challenge.

Upon arrival at the Otogar, there was some urgency in loading our bikes onto the bus. Five or six men helped Scott put the two bikes into the lower bays and we hopped on. We were confused at first, as we had not bought a ticket. They just shuffled us onto the bus and say later. The bus was empty – us and one other person. We took a nice front seat and we were off.

The first stop was the Cesme town center – just outside of our Pansiyon. We knew this, but figured it was easier with the bikes to go to the Otogar. As we approached, we were told our seats were 5 and 6 – apparently, all seats are assigned on Turkish buses. After 3 or 4 more stops, the bus approached the highway and we were on our way to Izmir. There is a person in addition to the driver, who is responsible for managing all the seats, collecting the fares, and handing out little cups of water. He will shuffle passengers if necessary to ensure that a women travelling alone need not sit next to a strange man. We thought this was all very civilized, especially for a 45-minute ride.

By 1 pm, we safely arrived in Izmir. Just was we were pulling up into the first stop, Scott noticed a cyclist with a helmet and clipless pedals – the first local we had seen with clipless pedals in Europe, and one of the very few with helmets. Upon disembarking from the bus, we discovered that it was our host – Mehmet – who we met through Warm Showers (http://www.warmshowers.org). Within a few minutes we had the bikes back together and we were on our way.

We are staying with Mehmet’s friends Gulistan and Metin. Like Mehmet, Metin is a mechanical engineer and Gulistan is an anesthesiology technician. They have a lovely two bedroom apartment, which is much nicer than most apartments back home.

Upon arrival, we were fed a wonderful assortment of home cooked foods. Our bellies happy, we sat down to visit. Becky was still not 100% and tired from the 20 km ride across Izmir (although it was flat), so she took a nap while Scott explained more about our bikes and our tour plans.

Our hosts brought us out to a wonderful Kebab restaurant (http://www.ramazanusta.com/ ) for dinner that served food that was traditional in the South of Cappadoccia. We had Kebabs that are from Adana and a dessert that was sweet and included cheese from Antakya. Scott really enjoyed the meal, but unfortunately, the primary source of protein is lamb. Fortunately, Becky mentioned that she could not eat lamb soon enough that a special plate of chicken and beef was ordered for her. We tried a drink called Shalgam, which was definitely an acquired taste – to Becky it tasted like the brine from an olive jar. We wonder if this is the same drink that Friedel and Andrew tried: http://travellingtwo.com/492? Scott was not too fussy on it either but he did enjoy the Ayran (a watery yogurt drink with salt). Becky gave up on the cultural experience from the beverage perspective and had a Sprite.

Mehmet at a teahouse in the Izmir Bazaar

Mehmet at a teahouse in the Izmir Bazaar

On Tuesday, after a lazy morning, we headed out to see the second largest bazaar in Turkey. We took the subway across Izmir and wandered the streets of the bazaar, stopping several times to try out some new treats. We discovered the original dessert restaurant the spawned a chain that can be found throughout Turkey (Ozsut) (http://www.ozsut.com.tr/).

Becky reflects that Izmir feels a lot like a Canadian city, except that all the food kiosks serve Turkish food – in Canada the kiosks would serve food from a variety of different places. Mehmet mentioned that the city is not too crowded, and that might be part of why it feels familiar. We do still see many couples holding hands in the streets, and it is completely acceptable to walk arm in arm with a friend of the opposite gender in Izmir.

Yummy little fish

Yummy little fish


For supper we went to a seafood restaurant a little out of town called Umit. Here, you purchased your fish directly from the fish store and then told them which restaurant to send it too. The restaurant prepared the fish and other courses, and provided the service. We had a wonderful meal that began with stuffed mussels (mussels stuffed with rice and spices), many different appetizers, a wonderful salad, and many grilled fish. With our meal we enjoyed Raki, a liquorish flavoured alcoholic beverage that is the national drink of Turkey. It is similar to Ouzo and Sambuca, but that’s like saying Scotch and Irish whiskey are similar. Don’t ever say they’re the same! Three other friends of Mehmet’s (also cyclists) joined us for dinner, so we were a large crowd of eight.

We had planned to leave for Ephesus on Wednesday, but by the time we got moving, and had consumed the wonderful breakfast Gul prepared, the weather had turned, and heavy rain was expected for the rest of the day. Oh well! We spent a relaxing day catching up on email and reading instead. Ephesus can wait a day…

The gang at dinner

The gang at dinner

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