Archive for September, 2010

Turkey Wrap Up

Turkey truly exceeded our expectations and turned out to be one of our favorite countries that we’ve visited so far. Most people back home are surprised by this and ask us what was so great about Turkey…well, here’s what: 

The Landscape 

With beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean coastline, emerald green hills, and poppy-strewn fields, and the magical scenery and rock formations of Cappadocia, what’s not to love?

The People

Turkey is a secular, democratic county where 95% of the population is Muslim; as a result Kelly and I did not interact with a ton of women while here. In many of the small town local cafe’s, it was rare to see two Turkish women leisurely having coffee…clientele mainly consists of groups of men drinking tea and playing backgammon.

Speaking of Turkish men – they are SMOKIN’ hot, especially if you like the tall, dark, and handsome type. They are also very passionate and flirtatiously aggressive…and man, did they love Kelly! We had to quit walking down one particular street in Istanbul because practically every man we passed would profess his love to Kelly and ask her on a date. Seth and I ended up dubbing her the ‘TP’ (Turkish Princess).

Basically, everyone that we met was extremely friendly, kind, hospitable, and helpful.

The Costs

Kelly and I found the costs to be pretty reasonable, especially when compared to other places in Europe. It was about $13 – $15 for a dorm bed at a hostel and a typical meal would run $5 – $10.

The Food

Surprisingly, we were not all that impressed with the kebabs here…the ones back home are much better in our opinion (or maybe just what we are used to). We did enjoy the amazingly fresh seafood here though.

Some of the other local dishes we loved were kofte (minced lamb meatballs with herbs), manti (small meat raviolis served with yogurt and chili oil), and menemen (a breakfast dish, much like migas without the tortilla chips).

The Booze

Efes beer was definitely our favorite. Raki is the local liquor of choice, which Seth drank too much of at Turkish night and basically blacked out, if that tells you anything.

Random Thoughts

-Although annoying to some tourists, Kelly, Seth and I loved hearing the call to prayer drift through whatever city or town we were in (it plays five times a day from the local mosque). There’s something really exotic about it that you don’t experience in other European countries.

-The sheesha pipe is super popular here. Even if you aren’t a smoker and you visit Turkey, be sure and try one…the flavored tobacco is super mild and smooth. Plus, you can pretend you’re the caterpillar from Alice and Wonderland and who doesn’t like to do that?

Sheesha Pipe

-Don’t talk smack on Ataturk (the founder of the Turkish Republic), or his awesome eyebrows. The locals don’t like it.

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To wrap up our time in Turkey, Kelly and I spent some time being lazy in the resort town of Bodrum with our friends Doug and Luke before heading back to Istanbul for another couple of days. There was still one cultural activity here that we had yet to experience – the Turkish Bath. 

A Turkish bath is a spa-like treatment that basically involves sitting in a steamy marble-floored room, sluicing warm water over yourself out of a basin with a plastic bowl, and then laying on a marble table where a large hairy Turkish man (or woman) scrubs you down, massages you for a bit, washes your hair and sends you off to sweat it out in a steam room. Our hostel made an appointment for Kelly and me at a female bath house (men and women typically bathe separately at different facilities) and our taxi driver dropped us off in front of an unassuming building where an authoritative looking Turkish woman was waiting for us outside. 

Most people receive their bath nude; however, we had heard from fellow travellers that it is perfectly acceptable to wear your bathing suit or underwear if you are a little modest. Kelly and I were planning on sporting our bikinis until the Turkish woman led us into a lounge and commanded us to ‘take off EVERYTHING’ as she showed us our respective dressing rooms. It seemed wrong not to listen to her, so take off everything we did. 

We were then shown into a cavernous marble room with a low marble table located in the center. The walls were lined with water basins and Kelly and I took a seat to our assigned spot and began to pour warm water over ourselves. Several other women were already in the room awaiting their baths. I’ve always been a little modest, so while we were a little uncomfortable sitting naked in a room with several strangers for a couple of hours, we had to laugh it off. ‘When in Rome’, right? 

The bath itself was awesome. The Turkish woman (now in her bra and underwear) motioned me over to the marble table and instructed me to lay .on my stomach. First, she forcefully scrubbed me down with a loofa…I could literally see the dead skin coming off, which was pretty disgusting. When she was ready for me to flip over, she indicated this by giving me a hard slap on the bum. After a rinse off, she soaped me up and scrubbed me all over – even getting between my toes and behind my ears – and gave me a leg and back massage along the way. All the while, I slipped and slid over the marble table as the Turkish woman pushed and pulled my limbs in order to get to those hard to reach areas. Finally, I was taken to one of the basins where she washed my hair and give me an incredible head rub. 

After Kelly and I had each had our turn, we were shown into a small steam room, which we didn’t spend much time in. ‘It’s like a sauna’ in those things. We left the bath house with our skin feeling as soft as silk and our bodies completely rid of the backpacker dirt we had accumulated over the past year. We headed back to the hostel to get a good night’s sleep. The following morning, Kelly and I would be splitting up for a couple of weeks on separate adventures…

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Ruins and More Ruins

Kelly and I said good-bye to Seth and spent a few more days in Olympus checking out the local ruins, lying on black pebble beach, drinking copious amounts of Efes, and hanging out with new friends. We eventually managed to peel ourselves from the treehouse hammocks and made our way to the small village of Pamukkale. 

Pamukkale, meaning ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish, is famous for the ancient ruins of Heirapolis, its hot springs and travertines – terraces made of carbonate mineral deposits left by the flowing spring water. The travertine pools hold hot spring water, which people had been bathing in for thousands of years for their medicinal qualities until it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Apparently, some jerks built a hotel above the travertines, and all of the construction and foot traffic did significant damage to the terraces. In 1988, the hotel was torn down, the road was removed and now no swimming is allowed except in the fake, man-made pools. 

Kelly and I were also disappointed to find out that in order to help rejuvenate the carbon deposits, the water had been drained out of most of the natural pools…the visuals weren’t quite what we were expecting. Nonetheless, we had a great day wandering amongst the beautiful white terraces and checking out the ruins of Heirapolis. 

White Terraces

Some of the natural pools have a little water in them

Ruins of Heirapolis

The Theater at Hierapolis

Our next stop was the town of Selcuk, the main purpose here being to see the ruins of Ephesus. Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, which later developed into the second largest city of the Roman Empire. The ruins were very impressive and we spent an extremely hot morning meandering through the old theatres, temples, and roadways, which were packed full of awesome looking tourists. 

How incredible is this guy???

Library of Celsus at Ephesus

The Theater

That afternoon and the next day were spent lounging at the pool of our fantastic hostel. The owner, Atilla, kept us stuffed with homemade Turkish cuisine cooked by his own mother and spent the evenings entertaining us at the hostel bar serving us too many drinks, playing old 8o’s and 90’s tunes, and giving us wigs to wear. Don’t ask. 

Since there wasn’t much else in town to see, Kelly and I hopped a bus over to the resort town of Bodrum to meet up with a couple of friends we met in Olympus.

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