Monday, August 13, 2012

Turkey and Greece 2012 - Part 4

Note: As I travel to different coffee shops around town it reminds me that later I will do a post about the best and the worst of these little hipster hubs.

But today, it's back to Turkey. Epic! I know. I've beaten a dead horse saying over and over how spectacular this trip was but I cannot overemphasize the nature of these grand places! And, what made them even more special was being there with family!

After a really fun trip to Ephesus (the most fun was our niece - but that's a different story) we made our way to the The National Park Beach. Absolutely stunning clear Aegean waters where you can just picture Jason and the Argonauts and Ulysees running their quests on the rocked shores of this amazing Nationally preserved park.

My sister in law asked what our favorite part of the trip was...though it was difficult to pinpoint any singular thing, the National Park Beach was an exceptional reprieve from the heat, from people, from reality itself.

We had a picnic with cheese and watermelon and pastirma. We tossed rocks. We drank Turkish Coffee and laughed. A lot.

And with scenery like this you can understand why...

It was a perfect afternoon.

As if things could get any better.... Roadside figs!!!!

And then.....

We drove into Bodrum at Sunset.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Turkey and Greece 2012 - Part 3

We woke early the following day to get a jump on Ephesus.  Being a history teacher makes this place extremely appealing. The ancient structures, the clever engineering, the unfathomable arches and a string quartet?! Yes, there were lovely fellows playing for the droves of tourists. I love imagining being present with the Ephesians. When you walk these ancient marble paths you wonder, What did they eat? How did they engineer aquiducts? How did they carve marble columns?  And how did Paul come to be here? Obviously they didn't have the technology we had but the structures facilitate something so sophisticated! They had toilets with plumbing. Houses with chambers that were attached to kitchen as dining rooms and bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and the mosaics...oh my, the mosaics. Ephesus is even mentioned in the Christian bible several times. It was quite a romantic place and it was sensational to be there with my family and husband. It was hot but the reward was a trip to the seashore before wending our way to Bodrum.

The Temple of Artemis

This is a 3000 year old structure!

Yeah. It's me. I think I'm more focused on the hat than the ancient avenue behind me. Still, it is a pretty nice hat.

After visiting Ephesus we travelled to the Virgin Mary's house. It is said that after the death of Christ, Mary fled to Turkey to avoid persecution. Such a pilgrimage...

The entrance to her modest home.

Prayers written on primarily T.P. and tied to the fence.

Ok. so I'm extended my original 5 day post schedule of Turkey and Greece to now, six. Five posts just aren't enough to really give you the feeling of grandeur that I experience. EPIC...I know I already said that but I can't help but emphasize the awesomeness...

So, next post, The National Park and BODRUM!!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Turkey and Greece 2012 - Part 2

I figured I'd start you out with the same map of Turkey I used previously. Other maps simply did not show what I want you to see. Pamukkale is in a region called Denizli. It includes Heiropolis and a host of other ruins. It is extraordinary and beautiful.

The drive from Afyon took a few hours but was painless with the inclusion of the iPad, Sekker Pare and the fam.

The day was hot and we were all exhausted but such is the life of a traveler....



Pamukkale is a place that tourists save their whole lives to visit. It was great but even better and rarely visited by Americans was a little place called Sirince (Pronounced Shir-in-jay). Sirin means cute - and oh, it's cute. But it was first called "Ugly" by it's Greek inhabitants because they did not want to be disturbed by outsiders.

The locals live a simple life. 

Vendors are out selling wares all over this village. Can you believe cars drive on these roads?

A sweet little church tucked in the Turkish hills.
We found a covered courtyard. So simple. A dirt floor, low tables and mismatched chairs. We ordered our tea and enjoyed the view. The gentleman that owned the tea house sat down and told us the entire history of Sirince. My husband translated for me...In not these exact words the man told us that the Greeks were here as slaves and set free to start their own lives. They found this little hillside and called it ugly to ward of unwanted guests. Then the Greeks left and this quaint hillside was re-found by the Turks. The name changed and folks settled, they struggled to make a living. So they opened up the "cute" place and began selling home cooked meals and local wines. Visiting "cuteville" was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. After, we ventured to Kusadasi (pronounced "Koo-shaw-de-si") to find a place to stay for the night.

This is a sweet memory for me. We stayed at a clean, small hotel which happened to be hosting a HUGE engagement party. The sun went down and we went into town to see the sights. I loved being in a place that my husband remembers so fondly. He talks often of summers in Kusadesi. It has been since overrun with tourists but it is still a charming place to visit, regardless.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Turkey and Greece 2012 - Part 1

This is the first of a five part post, y'all! And I'll end the five parts with a giveaway! Directions for the giveaway will be on the final post and I have to get 20 or more new followers (your picture in the box) in order for the giveaway to follow tell your friends!

I have been to Turkey twice before since I met my husband. Before I met my husband, Turkey is what I ate at Thanksgiving. It sounds silly I know but I just never really thought about the land region that is so rich in amazing history and a bridge from Europe to the Middle East. Now, I think about all the richness and wonder why I never knew about the wealth of this nation before.

Everyone wants to go to Spain, France or Italy. I am guilty of the same having moved to Italy in my youth and staying as an expat for a while! I wish I had known about Turkey.

The language is rooted in Balkan/Eastern Europe and Arabic with a touch of Latin thrown in, making it tricky to pick up but very cool.

Turkish customs are amazing and the cuisine sensational. As I go on I'll expand on these things.

This trip was EPIC!

When you see this view - Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque - you know you've arrived!

We started in Istanbul. My sister in law lives in a gated community on the Asian side of the Bosphorus. Her view from her terrace is amazing and gives a great view of the water way. At dinner on our first night we saw a huge freighter passing through and a fireworks show!

Don't let "gated community" stray you. A gated community in Turkey is a community in which there are stacked apartment buildings with tiny balconies and terraces not tract homes with gardens and lawns.

After our initial day in Istanbul we had one day to piddle around the city. I requested Istinye Park...I'm American what can I say, I love a mall. But let me tell you, Turks love their malls too! And this shopping mecca is nothing to scoff at! At the mall I was thinking and thinking of a store I loved when I first came to Istanbul. I kept calling it Mada Style. It was actually Mudo Collection and after half a days searching my niece figured it out. When our time at the mall was done, we got in a taxi to venture home. I always thought that Italian cab drivers were the dcariest and most dangerous. I was wrong. We got in a cab with a very polite, young driver who sped around nearly killing us several times. So the verdict: Turkish drivers are WAY more sketchy than Italian drivers.

We went back to the house and sat down to a sensational supper of Patlican Yemegi (the husband loves this and I finally learned to make it thanks to Berrin, my sister in law) and other meze. By the way, the recipe I have here is not our family recipe. I will add a proper recipe at a later time. This is just for your reference. It includes nutritional content as well; I love that...nevertheless...a traditional recipe is going to follow!

After dinner, we prepared for the the long trip ahead of us the following day. On the map above, you can see Istanbul. If you look South and East you can see near Ankara, a town called Afyon.

Afyon was, perhaps, my favorite part of our trip. It was my first experience with a Turkish bath which was amazing. Actually, there is no word with enough emphasis to say exactly how it was. In Afyon, I experieced true unfettered Turkish culture (men sitting around while the ladies ran around setting the table and cooking) and in Afyon, we were invited to a circumcision/after party. I am quite sure not many other Western ladies get to say that!

 More from Afyon:

Afyon is famous for their Sucuk.
Dried peppers and eggplant and spice. 
Dried Okra

Tulumba Cheese
Sausage casings

There is a castle up there!

The view from Teyze's terrace.

After touring Afyon and having a delicious sweet treat and speaking in sign language wishing to the heavens that I could speak Turkish, we headed back to Tayze's house where she had prepared a sumptuous meal. Thus ended our trip to Afyon. There aren't any real words to explain the feeling of the place; of the people. It is somewhere that Westerners infrequently visit but a town of great history and charm. Turkish independence was won here. The international delight of Soucuk was invented here and perhaps the most notable of all, my husbands mother was born and raised here. And thank goodness. My husband is extremely bias here, though.

Photo 1 (upper left): Pideli Kebap. Photo 2 (upper right): The ladies prepare for dinner. Photo 3 (lower left): Berrin {my sister in law} Tayze {my husband's aunt} and Bulo {my husband}. Photo 4: The grapes in this picture are not extraordinary but the apricots, my word, they are like sugar in your mouth.  These apricots are why "Turkish Apricots"  are so famous - the delectable Sekker Pare.

We spent the night. Tayze gave up her bed for us. Imagine my alarm and guilt when I woke up to seeing Tayze on the sofa still in her little dress. After a very early breakfast, we got on the road again and headed to Pamukkale. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Turkey and a Giveaway

Our trip to Turkey (and Greece) was amazing. An absolutely unforgettable journey with the love of close family and the joy of great sites...and, oh, did I mention the cuisine?

I'll be doing a four part post about our trip. If you are on your way there, the little tips and suggestions may prove useful. Or perhaps, I can pique your interest enough to launch you into embarking on a trip of your own to Turkey?

Also, in the next couple weeks, I'll be doing my first giveaway. So stay tuned.

Today I leave you with an enchanting tourism video...

Friday, July 6, 2012


After the US, I have the highest readership in Sweden. Ironically Sweden is at the top of the travel list. I wish the husband was on that page with me. He's quite interested in Spain. I could take it or leave it.

We are leaving for Turkey on the 11th of July and I am in full on travel mode. Trips to Marshall's for little gifts for everyone. Travel size everything. Stocking up on sunscreen because in Bodrum it's $50 for a 6oz. bottle and washing the clothes figuring out what wont wrinkle and deciding whether I care if it does or not.

So next year, for our 5 year anniversary...Do we do Spain? I would much prefer Sweden. In fact, an entire Scandinavia trip would be exceptional. Romantic fantasies of vikings and the sound of a sweetly touched Swedish language and tall blonde men are a real draw for me.

I would love to stay at Treehotel and bask in the summer sunshine with a good Swedish drink.

I want to see Sarek National Park. The naturalist in me finds sanctuary in open spaces and peaceful environments. This is one of the natural wonders of the world I would venture to guess.

Photo: Johannes Jannson

Photo: Johan Assarsson

When I was small, my mother would take me to a wonderful store. It always smelled like spiced tang and had an air of wood nymphs and a spirit of Gnomes (although Gnomes are actually of Swiss origination). In any case this store was called The Orange Horse. It was a little proprietorship of all things Swedish especially the beloved Dala Horses. I want to bring back several of the little orange horses as treasures. 

Simple Virtues

And let's face it. The Nordic cultures are ancient and creative. They've had to be since they have survived harsh winters for millennia but these elements have provided for great art and antiques. I would love to go to a Swedish art and antiques auction at their famous (and very old) Auktionsverket.

Sweden sounds very appealing, doesn't it? Perhaps we can cross our fingers in hopes that the husband will concede to a trip to Scandinavia!