Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kas is King

After spending the last couple days in Kas (pronounced like "cash"), we took an overnight bus back to Istanbul. In Kas, the weather was great - 70's and sunny during the day - and we were finally able to scuba dive. Visibility was lower than usual due to storms earlier in the week, but we were still able to see lots of fish as well as plenty of ancient pottery strewn across the sea floor. Our divemaster also spotted an octopus hiding in the rocks, and, going against standard scuba practice, beat on the rocks and threw empty shells at it to get it to move. Fortunately, this didn't happen to her.

We also hiked around Kas, a pretty town nestled between the cliffs of southern Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea. The Lycian Way runs through Kas, and we hiked a few miles down the shore, stopping by a small pebble beach and catching some nice views of the sea. We also explored the Lycian Rock Tombs around Kas. You can check out all of our pictures in the "slideshow" sidebar.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From Bodrum to Kas

Abby can't post right now because she has a content little kitten in her lap, so it's up to me tell you all about our Turkish travels. We spent yesterday in Bodrum, although we were out of luck as far as diving goes - season is over there. Instead, we went to see what's left of the Mausoleum (answer: not much), in the process scratching another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World off the list.

Although we weren't able to dive, we were able to experience what it is like to discover ancient underwater wrecks at the excellent Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. In addition to excellent preserved shipwrecks with glass and amphorae from as far back as 14th Century BC, the museum, housed in a Crusader fortress constructed from the remains of the Mausoleum, has live peacocks and Roman statuary. A little of everything.

Today, we travelled by bus from Bodrum to Kas, another small town on the coast (this time, the Mediterranean instead of the Aegean - we've turned the corner). I've got to say that the Turkish bus system is pretty awesome; we've made our way down the coast without any hiccups, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that continues.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

My Day is in Ruins

Well, it looks as though Phil and I have some catching up to do. On Friday, we explored Ephesus, the best preserved city from Greek and Roman times in the Eastern Mediterranean. Check out our slideshow for more ruin-y goodness.

On the way back from Ephesus, we walked along a nice, shady lane and shared a fresh picked orange on our way to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. All that remains is one impressive column and some wild geese.

Yesterday, we loaded up at a Turkish snack shop and took the bus south to Bodrum in search of warmer weather. We’re hoping to do some diving, but we may have missed the season by a couple of weeks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The road to Ephesus

On Wednesday, we took a ferry up the Bosphorus and spent a few hours in Andalou Kavagi, a small town located where the Bosphorus meets the Black Sea, on the Asian side of Turkey. We walked up to a castle at the top of a hill overlooking the Black Sea, taking in the views and also checking out the local livestock.

Yesterday was a travel day - fast ferry from Istanbul to Bandirma (across the Sea of Marmara), train from Bandirma to Izmir, and then bus from Izmir to Selcuk. 13 solid hours of budget travel. Selcuk is within walking distance of Ephesus, one of the best preserved towns from antiquity; we're headed there this morning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aya Sofya and a Turkish Bath

This morning was rainy, so instead of the scenic ferry ride, we opted to stay indoors and visit the Aya Sofya. The Aya Sofya (also known as the Haghia Sofia) is Istanbul's most famous monument. Built as a Byzantine Christian church in 537, it served as a mosque during the time of the sultans, and now as part of modern-day secular Turkey, it serves as a museum. The building encapsulates much of Turkey's history and unique east-meets-west culture; for example, in this picture, I tried to capture both the Mihrab (at the bottom), which points Muslim worshippers to Mecca for their prayers, and the mosaic of the Virgin Mary and Jesus at the top of the alcove.

Later in the day, we went to a hamam (turkish bath). We opted for Cagaloglu Hamam, and after shuffling off to the seperate men's and women's baths on ill-fitting sandals, we were each treated to a hearty massage in a steamy room. I relaxed on the heated marble slab in the middle of the bath, and tried to burn away some of the knots from our travels. Abby said her (female) masseuse was almost as hairy as mine, though to her credit she didn't have a moustache. The only negative part to the whole thing was when my masseuse came by when I was done changing and decided what tip I should give him, but in spite of that I would still highly recommend the experience for anyone going to Turkey.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whirling Dervish

Last night, Abby and I went to dinner at Cafe Mesale Restaurant in a market behind the Blue Mosque, and they had a whirling dervish show during dinner. The dervish spun in one place for the duration of each song. Sounds simple, but it looks impressive.

The good news was that we were seated right next to the show; the bad news was that people kept crowding our table to get pictures while we were trying to eat. Abby politely asked one woman who camped out for half an hour to please not hover directly over our meals (she did so in Spanish - muy impresante).

Today, we wandered through the Spice Bazaar. I remembered the camera but forgot the memory card, so such memorable photos as "giant jar of leeches" will have to wait until our visit to the Grand Bazaar. We eventually found the highly-recommended restaurant Hamdi et Lokantasi, and I had a very nice Iskender Kebap for lunch, while Abby stuck with the always-reliable shish tavuk (chicken).

In the afternoon, we made our way over to Valens Aqueduct, built around the 4th century AD. Tomorrow, we will most likely make our way over to the government ferry up the Bosphorus.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday and Sunday Activities

Yesterday afternoon, Phil and I successfully evaded our ememy, the Princess Cruise group. We took sanctuary in the Blue Mosque, then hid out in a tea shop for a few hours playing backgammon. This morning at the Topkapi Palace, we marveled the number of stray cats and admired the patterned tiles and elaborate bathing set-up in the Sultan's Harem. Inside the treasury, we saw the Spoonmaker Diamond, an 86 carat rock found in a dumpster (hey, maybe my dad's got the right idea!) in the mid-19th century and purchased by a peddler for three spoons.

After the palace, we broke out of the Sultanahmet neigborhood and explored the Ortokoy and Beyoglu areas favored by the locals. Thanks to a brief hop into Topshop, my suitcase now boasts three pairs of socks, which takes a lot of pressure off the single pair I packed, in my infinite wisdom. We sampled some delish Turkish Delight at Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir, listed in Time Out Istanbul as one of the best. Phil and I happily agree.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Basilica Cistern

This morning, we went to the Basilica Cistern, an underground cavern constructed using 336 columns from ruined buildings. It was built in 532 and rediscovered in 1545.

Although we were there around 10 AM, an hour after it opened, the Aya Sofya across the street had a line down the block, but we didn't have to wait to get into the cistern. Once inside, though, the cruise line crowds caught up with us - we're going to try to avoid them the rest of the day.

One of the best parts about the cistern was the medusa heads. Two of the columns near the back are supported by giant medusa head blocks. One of the nearby tour guides asserted (in Spanish) that these heads may have come from the Temple of Apollo.

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Glimpse of Turkey

Phil and I made it safe and sound to the hotel, so our moms can stop worrying, at least about the flights. During our layover in Amsterdam, we first glimpsed Turkey, along with his friends Cheese and Salami, all items that one should not bring into the European Union, at least in oversized forms.

Tomorrow the sight-seeing begins!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sultan's Inn

We are spending our first six nights in Istanbul at the Sultan's Inn in Sultanahmet.

Mustafa Pasa Sokak No.50, Kucukayasofya Mahallesi, Sultanahmet - Istanbul
Tel: +90 212 638 25 62 / +90 212 638 25 63 / Fax: +90 212 638 39 22

Our flight info

Date: Thursday, November 13 Flight: KL 670
Departs: Dallas/Fort Worth-Int'l, TX (DFW) at 3:55PM
Arrives: Amsterdam-Schiphol, Netherlands (AMS) at 8:00AM on Friday, November 14

Date: Friday, November 14 Flight: KL 1613
Departs: Amsterdam-Schiphol, Netherlands (AMS) at 9:10AM
Arrives: Istanbul, Turkey (IST) at 1:35PM