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Doin’ That Turkish Tourist Thing

August 26, 2010

Early Morning Hot Air Ballooning

07.26.10

Goerme Turkey

So if you are to believe everything you read in travel guides, there are only really 3 places in Turkey that are “must see” destinations…Istanbul (did you know that it used to be called Constantinople?) Ephesus, and Cappadocia. So here we are, 2 weeks into our 3 week adventure and we are in the thick of it…Cappadocia! Our first impressions were really favorable as we entered the town…nice climate, cool rock formations and the place was dripping with fun sounding activities. After a few days relaxing on the farm, our crowd was ready for some fun and excitement, Turkish style.

We are staying in the most fabulously cool place in country, the Kelebek Hotel…not a cave hotel we were quick to point out to Taylor, who now suffers from a rare disease called cavehotelophobia. We assured her that this hotel was merely carved out of the rock and was not a true cave hotel. This seemed to reassure and she never asked about why the room had no windows on the sides or in the back. What she didn’t figure out did not seem to hurt her. But the place is truly amazing…lush gardens with a hammock, shady patios, a swimming pool and even an ancient golden retriever to slobber all over you when you lay down on the grass…just like home!

My sister Debo had hooked up on-line with the in-house travel agent Jules from Heritage travel and our first stop after a wonderful breakfast at the hotel was Jules’ office. Now there are no dearth of really cool, exciting and fun activities to do in Goerme…the problem was figuring out which ones we wanted to do and when. So after a couple of hours with Jules, we had a whole itinerary planned out for our 3 day here. The list of activities sounded like an adult version of summer camp. Dancing, horseback riding, hot air balloons, a cooking class, more fun with mud pottery, a shopping excursion to the local market, a jeep tour and a few minutes in between to hit the pool and the hammam. Too many activities and not enough days was our problem. So we bucked up and headed out for adventure.

Our first activity was a very touristic night time version of the “whirling dervish” ceremony. It was called Turkish nights and had the requisite huge parking lot filled with even huger tourist busses, all lined up very neatly in a row. The show came with dinner and dancing and had all the hallmarks of another blue-haired, if-this-tuesday-this-must-be-Turkey, cheesy, packaged tour bus kind of place. And it was, but in a nice way. The dinner was OK, the wine was passable, but the dancing…ohh the dancing…it was amazing. Whirling dervishes spinning til they should puke, a belly dancer who danced with a real sword balanced on her head, folk dancing, and the famous lantern dancer who disappeared before our very eyes into a twirling, whirling, and incredibly colorful skirt. It was nothing short of amazing and the kids ate it up.

The Market in Nevershir

The next morning we went to visit the local market in the nearby town of Nevershir with our guide Unal. Unal was great as he spoke very good english, lived most of his life in goerme, and was great with the kids…Mac and Lucia and he became fast friends in the few days we spent with him. Unal had spent a few years in Las Vegas, but we didn’t hold that against him. He walked us through the market with the spices, the knives, the leeches for sale in little plastic bags, rows of clothing vendors…you name it, you could buy it at this market. And the produce section blew us away. Mounds of everything! Watermelons, egg plants, apricots, cherries…it looked like a farmer’s market on steroids. As we walked our way through the market it was simply hard to believe the amount of fruits and vegetables they had piled up in the stalls. We walked away with a pound of cherries and about a thousand pictures. Unfortunately for me, my camera messed up and I seem to have lost most of my market pictures…the risk of digital photography I guess.

Our Turkish Coking Class Instructor

And that was only the start of the adventures. We had massages by a Kurdish family that looked more Chinese than Turkish. We took a jeep ride with Unal where we revived a small bird that hit the windshield of the truck. In the back country we were stopped by a local and he asked us to take a picture of him and his kids and send it to him. We had a cooking lesson in the home of an old Turkish lady who taught us how to make Dolmus, red lentil soup and a variety of other things I couldn’t pronounce. We saw the 10th century Byzantine churches. Deb and Colburn got up at 4:30 AM to go hot air ballooning. I went out at midnight on my own little photo safari. We rode horses that caused the older folks in our group no end of aches and pains…it will probably be my last horseback ride…ever…if I am ever able to walk upright again. Taylor and Lucia went to a “hair museum” where this guy has been collecting little snips of women’s hair for more than 20 years…yes, it is too creepy for me to even contemplate what happens there after the museum closes. Pottery making, rug shopping, turkish coffee making lessons, multiple visits to the hot Turkish hammams, fancy kid-free romantic dinners complete with traditional Turkish music…I am getting tired even writing about it.

Unal asking for directions in the Turkish back country

In short we had the best time in Goerme. Jules, Unal and Denise made us feel like we were friends in town for a visit…friends we had to pay for sure… but they really took great care of us and they made the whole experience way more enjoyable than if we had done the same activities on our own. One night as Laura and the kids and I were walking back up the hill to the hotel after dinner, Unal drove by in his car, saw us walking and quickly turned around and drove us all back up the hill to the hotel…it was just that kind of place.

After 3 full days of non-stop fun, we were done and ready for a break. Only too bad for us as we are heading out on the final leg of the journey to Istanbul. A 5 hour bus ride, a cab to the train station and the overnight Turkish Express from Ankara to Istanbul. I really think I may need a vacation to rest up from this vacation. But the kids are troopers and they had sooo much fun in Goerme, I think they may actually sleep all the way to Istanbul. Everyone drifts off to sleep in the not-a-cave hotel to the sound of the call to prayer one more time in Goerme.

Take the Midnight Bus Going Anywhere

August 23, 2010

Cappadocia Turkey

07.25.10

Goerme, Turkey

“Just a small town boy…raised in West Santa clara…Took the midnight bus going a…neee whereeee” …Come on now sing it with me all you closet Journey / Glee fans! But it was true…we took the midnight bus going to Goerme…and what a ride it was!

After our last fix of coastal Greek and Roman ruins, it was time to head inland to experience a little bit of what is Turkey’s second largest tourist destination right after Istanbul. Cappadocia is a region in Central Turkey that is famous for its byzantine era christian churches carved into solid rock, its old houses carved into solid rock, and the ginormous geologic foundations known as “fairy chimneys”, you guessed it, carved into solid rock. In short, it was a tourist destination with a rock solid reputation, so to speak, and we were heading out to see it.

Our research had indicated (OK, in truth, it was my sister’s research that indicated as she took on the lion’s share of planning this trip for us) that the best way to get to Goerme, the central city in Cappadocia, was to take the overnight bus from Antolya. Ohhh Kayy…night bus…9 hours…Turkey…4 little kids…3-star or better wife…Hmmmm. But my research confirmed that it was either the 9 hour night bus or 12 hours in Ahprowhitey with the kids singing “noventa y nueve bottellas de cerveza en el pared” for at least 6 of those hours and the dreaded question that strikes fear into even the most seasoned of parental travelers, “are we there yet?” for the remaining 6 hours. So hot stinky chicken crate infested midnight Turkish bus going anywhere here we come!

Like I have said, if you set your expectations low, you will rarely be disappointed. In this case we were not disappointed at all. The Turkish bus system is very well developed and the busses seem to run on time, are clean, spacious, and flipping cold! Apparently they think the passengers will sleep better if they are in the first or second stages of hypothermia and have the AC cranked up on super max for the whole frosty 9 hour drive. But it was a huge bus and felt more like an airplane than a bus. We dosed the kids up with a shot of Dramamine, all the warm clothes we could pull out of the suitcases and headed out of town… and without a crate of chickens anywhere to be seen on the bus.

The trip did have an auspicious start though as we were witness to the untimely demise of a small, slow doggie who had an unfortunate, and fatal, encounter with a very fast and large car as we were stopped at a light heading out of town. The trip also had an auspicious middle as few hours later, we were jolted awake by a sudden stab of the brakes, a slight swerve of the bus, and a rather loud THUMP” as another slightly larger slow moving dog met its demise under the wheels of our very large and very fast bus. Tonight was not a good night to be a slow moving dog on the road to Cappadocia. “But other than that Mrs. Kennedy, how was your trip to Dallas?”

The one thing we did notice as we boarded the bus was the lack of any visible type of “services” on the bus. On a 9 hour bus ride, through the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, I kind of expected to see the small closet in the back of the bus. I did not see it. My bladder did not see it. None of us saw it. We are traveling with small children and a soon to be 50 year old man, for 9 hours on a bus…we may need the closet. We asked the spifilly dressed cabin attendant about this in our best version of Turkish and he indicated that there was not a restroom on the bus but that we would be making a couple of rest stops along the way. “Good to know” I thought to myself as I poured out the water from my small plastic water bottle onto the pavement outside the bus and carefully replaced the cap and discreetly tucked into the seat back pocket…better safe than hydrated was my philosophy! Girls, you’re on your own but Ricardo Eduardo is prepared!

So the trip gets going and the kids are asleep, Laura is dozing painfully as the seat is too tall for her tiny legs which dangle precariously and uncomfortably about an inch off the floor. The seats of our Mercedes bus must have taken the design concepts from some old Turkish prison torture chamber as they are impossibly uncomfortable for all of us. But the arctic conditions take hold and we drift off into a drug, cold, and exhausted from traveling all day semi state of dozing, but not quite sleeping. The kilometers roll by, Laura’s legs go numb, and I am dreaming about 99 bottles of beer on the wall sung entirely in Spanish.

We awake to the sounds of the bus stopping on the first of the “rest stops” promised to us by the very spiffily dressed cabin attendant. Not one to miss any opportunity to empty my bladder, my brother-in-law and I sleepily head out to the bus stop in search of relief. Now most of the restrooms we have encountered in Turkey require a use fee of between 25 to 50 cents per visit. In my stupor, I neglected to verify sufficient funds in my pocket until it was time to exit the facility through the turnstile. “No cash, no pee pee” was the word from rheumy eyed ancient manning the toll booth. I was in a pickle as the line of fellow travelers grew quickly behind me, all impatient with the relieved, yet lira-less, foreign traveler stopping up the works. Fortunately for me, Colburn came to the rescue… with cash.

Only too bad for us…he handed the fossil a 20 lira note to pay the 1 lira toll. He got his change and started to walk away when he realized that the geezer had shorted him 10 lira (about $7.50.) It is 3:00 AM in the middle of Turkey. We are in a crowded bus stop. We had just paid 75 cents to take a leak and now were about to be ripped off for $7.50. So we went back and tried to pantomime our way into convincing the relic to cough up our extra 10 lira. He didn’t get it. The line began to grow. We pantomimed peeing and then paying for 2 pees with a 20 lira note. He didn’t get it. The line continued to grow. His equally rheumy eyed boss came over and we started the process over again. Finally the line grew to overflowing. The boss threw the 10 lira note at Colburn and shouted what could only have been “Get out of here you foreign scum and don’t ever come back here to pee again” in Turkish. We left quickly, a bit “pissed off” but with our 10 lira note comfortably back in Coburn’s wallet. Score one for the village idiots.

I think we might like this place!

The rest of the trip was uneventful and we woke up in Goerme to a brilliant sunrise that slowly illuminated a breathtaking landscape. Hot air balloons were lifting off in the distance and the air had that crisp dry cool high desert feel to it. As we left the bus, we were greeted by the driver who took us up to the Hotel Kelebec, carved into the solid rock on the upper edge of the canyon. We had arrived early in the morning but they had just put out an amazing breakfast that we enjoyed as we looked over the city of Goerme. We have quite few activities planned as my sister had been working with Jules of Heritage Travel to help plan our stay here. First impressions of Goerme are phenomenal…I think we are going to like this place.

“Ruining” Our Vacation

August 19, 2010

Really...What's Not to Love About This Stuff?

07.24.10
Various and assorted ruins strewn about Spain, Morocco, Portugal, The Netherlands, Croatia, Bosnia, Italy, and Turkey

I may have “ruined” our vacation. Not ruined in the “OMG, I made the flight reservations for yesterday, not today” kind of way. But ruined in the “I really like this shit and you’re going to come along with me…and you’ll like it too…dammit! Ruins fascinate me. It doesn’t really matter where, from what civilization, the degree of ruin-ness…it just doesn’t matter as I like them all. Unfortunately for my family, they do not share  equally in my fascination with ruins. Too bad for them!

In our year of traveling through various and assorted European, African, and Asian countries (wow, 3 continents and our kids are only 8 & 10) I have drug my family through countless Roman ruins, Iberian Dolmens, Phoenician fish salting factories, Moorish castles, Visigothic churches, Greek amphitheatres, Lycian tombs, Byzantine monasteries and the remains of a few other culturally and historically significant civilizations whose names escape me at the moment. They truly have been good sports about t too, sitting patiently in the ruin-side café while I wander aimlessly through the centuries of rubble and take pictures of really old rocks! I love my family!

"You're right daddy...Asian ruins are MUCH more interesting...now can we go for ice cream?"

Since I had pretty much exhausted the ruins in Andalucía during our year there, it was with great glee that I changed continents and moved my ruinous adventures to Asia. What better a place to explore ancient civilizations than in Turkey, cross roads at the intersection of western and eastern cultures, land of the Sultans, Troy, and Alexander the Great? To make matters even better, for me at least, I had “fresh meat” as my sister Deb and her husband Colburn were going to be joining me on my ruinous adventures. They both could be considered as “enablers” to my addiction to ruins as they are also intrigued by the concept of lost civilizations …and, unlike my immediate family, they have not spent the entire past year with me looking at every old pile of rocks along the side of every random road in Europe.
Thus enabled, it was with great anticipation of a daily ruin fix that we started our tour through the western part of Turkey. I was shaking from the excitement of it all! Or it could of been that I was just reliving “the terrible earthquake that destroyed the city in 365 AD, after which it was abandoned by the….” Our first experience was in Istanbul where you can be standing next to an 800 year old mosque and looking at a glass and steel hotel right next to it. We then moved on to Troy where I was able to envision the Greeks landing, the battles on the plains of Ilium, the death of Hector, the Trojan horse, and the sacking of the fine city.

We then were able to fast forward a few thousand years to the Greek ruins on the coastal city of Priene. Not on many of the tour bus routes, the ruins at Priene were nothing short of amazing. Left over from the “golden age” of Greece around 500 BC, the town was a thriving seaport, but came to ruin as the harbor silted in and the town got whacked by a major earthquake. The town was abandoned and luckily, no other major city took over near by. Thus the city was not used as “quarry” for stones and other building materials. The result is a fairly well preserved site where you can clearly make out the town layout, distinct buildings and most of the parts and pieces are still there, albeit strewn about like a bunch of 10 ton marble and granite dominoes.

"Yeah Dad...Great ruins...now can I get my ice cream?"

We also took a boat tour out to a smaller Greek ruin called Knios. Built on the tip of a peninsula, you could see the natural harbor and with the breeze, it was not difficult to imagine the sailing ships loading up wine, wheat, pottery, and fish. The Romans had also used this site and there were the remains of a few of the earliest Christian churches in the world here. Taylor put up with the hot dusty walk, but only with the promise of an ice cream after we explored a few thousand years of culture. Riley could not be convinced that it was in her best interest to see this old pile of rocks so she and Laura found a cool spot at the kiosk…always the kiosk…in the shade.. to contemplate the Greek and Roman civilizations over an ice cold soda.

The list of what we have seen and what we have learned about these ancient civilizations could go on for pages but the common theme for a life-long ruins freak like me is to imagine what life was like for the common folks who lived here, who built theses wonderful cities, who raised their families here and whose earthly remains are scattered in the sands that we are walking our Teva clad feet over. I would love to travel back in time for a visit to see the city, to eat the food, maybe catch a show at the amphitheatre.

I suspect that their lives would not be so different from ours…I’d be working on the new “temple to Apollo” project…behind schedule…over budget…the stone sculptors threatening to go out on strike next week,  and the priests keep changing their minds on the altar design every time they kill another chicken, the butcher clamoring to get paid for the bull we sacrificed last week at the party, me forgetting that Laura had asked me to pick up a couple of amphora’s of wine and a few new slaves on my way home from work…you know, the usual stuff of life in the 5th century BC.

Whenever I see the stone steps smoothed and worn by countless feet passing over them for centuries, I can’t help but think of our homes, towns and cities. The buildings I am building today may someday become the “ruins” that those that come after us…wayyyyy after us…will stop and wonder about. I can only hope the voice on the hand-held audio guide of the future will be nice to us:
“And here on your left, you see the remains of a late 20th century dwelling, probably used by an upper-middle class family of 4. The walls were made from wood and plaster and most of the house used an ancient form of energy called “electricity.” The family who lived here spent a good part of their day away from the home hunting and gathering an ancient commercial trading media called “money.”  In the evenings, many would gather in a special room devoted to the to worship of the God they called “TV” and over here in the glass case you can see the votive figurine they used to summon the TV God. In their day it was called “The Remote.”

The author, pondering the daily existence of civilizations past

Yes, I do hope the archaeologists and tour guides of the future are good to us! But for now, I am content to spend these days looking into the lives of the generations past, to imagine what their lives were like, what their dreams were and what they feared most in the night. I have found that the less visited sites are more interesting to me as it is possible in some of these places to sit for a few minutes, in the quiet and listen to the same sounds that ancients would have heard a thousand years before. The waves below, the wind in the trees, the birds, the small children playing in the streets and then shouting “Daddy, are you done ruining our vacation yet? Come on, let’s go…Mom’s waiting in the car …and she’s hot…and we want to get the ice cream you promised us if we let you stop and look at this old pile of rocks…again!”

My dreams thus interrupted, it is in fact time to head out for the kiosk…always the kiosk, for an ice cream before we all pile back in the car and head for the next culturally enriching experience. But I have had a few moments to ponder civilizations past, present and future and the trip is still young. There will be many more opportunities for me to “ruin” on this vacation.

Travel Update

August 18, 2010

Baaaack in the U-S-A, We are Baaack in the U-S-A

08.18.10

Los Gatos CA, USA

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we have landed safely back in the good old USA! Our return trip from England via Dusseldoef was uneventful but still really long. We landed in SFO on August 4 but we were not able to get into our house right away due to the re-finishing of the hardwood floors. So we packed up everyone, once again and headed for the hills for a few days of R&R at our cabin in Arnold. We walked into our cabin, where we spent much of last summer preparing for the adventure, and immediately stepped back into our normal lives.We slept in our bed, spent time with our friends at the lake, cooked meals on our BBQ…just like Dorothy says, “there’s no place like home!”

We recovered from our jet lag, left the girls with Grammie for a few days, and Laura and I headed back home to tackle the more mundane part of  “Livin’ la Vida Lowell”…painting , carrying boxes, moving furniture, getting the cable / internet turned back on…all of the necessities of life. It was refreshing though to the be able to do all these things in a culture and language that we fully comprehend.

But, in short, we are back! The kids start school next Monday, I have my first work related meeting this morning and am back full time on Monday, and Laura is quickly filling up her Outlook calendar with calls and appointments. I still have a few more posts to share with you as we are still in the middle of of our Turkish adventure (at least in my mind we are!!) so please stay with me a few more days so you can see how it all turns out.

Family Fun on the Farm

August 18, 2010

Gettin' Muddy on a Hot Turkish Afternoon

07.22.10

Pastoral  Vade, Near Fethiye

When I was growing up, we did not have a lot of money …my parents were hardscrabble technology workers and did not, for instance, take the whole family to …say…Turkey for vacation. But we did manage to have a lot of good old-fashioned family fun. One of the activities that we all took great pleasure in was playing in the river, any river…it didn’t really matter where, how big or how small. We floated down the river in inner tubes. We spent hours building dams. We loved splashing, skipping stones, and making leaf and stick boats.

So fast forward a few years, both my parents have moved on, we have changed continents, but some family fun is timeless. We have booked the last few days at a great family style farm / camp / resort called “pastoral Vade” located a few miles up from the coast in a small, steep walled valley at the end of a dusty dirt road. The place is part working rural farm, complete with horse drawn plowing going on in the orchard, chickens, geese and ducks milling about, and vines, vegetables, orchards and sheep all living out their days in the sun. It is also part old style family camp, with a stream fed swimming pool, lots of kids running around, and home cooked family style meals served in the communal kitchen / dining hall. It is also part eco resort using ash based detergent in the camp laundry, using all locally grown produce in the meals and practicing sustainable subsistence farming techniques on the farm. In short, it was great!

In addition to being great, it was also hot…really hot…hot to the point that all we wanted to do was lie around in the shade…ain’t vacation grand! We did have a few activities planned but our first day here, Karem, our camp host, offered to keep the pottery instructor on for an additional day if we wanted to make some clay blobs on a foot powered pottery wheel. We jumped at the chance to get muddy and the kids were having so much fun running around with the other kids on the farm that we opted to do just that… let them play in the mud and then we could lie around in the shade and sweat!

The kids got muddy while making some beautiful clay lumps, we lied around and sweated. The kids swam in the stream fed swimming pool, we lied around and sweated. The kids ran around the camp with the other German / Turkish kids who were staying at the camp, we lied around and sweated…well, you get the picture…the kids were having a lot of fun and we were lying around a lot…and sweating.
After lunch, the kids wanted to go play in the river. Some previous guests had piled a few rocks across the river to make a small dam. As the kids splashed around in the water, I saw a small breach in the dam and tried to float my way through it. It was fun, but it needed to be a bit deeper…and if we piled a few more rocks over there, we could force a bit more water though the channel, and if we piled a few more rock along the sides, we could make a small water slide…so we started to dig.

The kids loved it! They dug up rocks, they floated through the rapids, then we dug some more rocks out and then we floated through the rapids, a few more folks joined the group, and together, we moved a few big rocks and we made the dam taller, the channel deeper, and the rapids longer. This must be a part of our American culture…modifying nature to suit our whims and desires. The German / Turkish family looked on with a curious gaze. The more we worked at it the more more water rushed through the opening and the longer the channel became and the more squeals of delight we got from the kids…and the parents too!

I watched the development of the plan, the execution of the work and how the general level of fun increased as we all played and splashed and swam in the river. I could see my folks smiling down from above and laughing along with us, knowing that they did indeed do a good job raising their kids to be good parents. This was exactly the type of thing that our family did so many years ago and it made me feel good to see my family, and my sister with her family, making the same kind of simple, pure fun in a river on a hot July afternoon. These types of experiences are what make spending time and traveling with family so much more fun.

The stay at the farm turned out to be a very relaxing few days. As a part of the stay, we woke up every morning to the sounds of the farm, of the pots and pans in the outdoor kitchen and the smell of the wood fired stove as the local Turkish women made a huge, family style breakfast for all the camp guests. Local cheeses, boiled milk, olives, fresh bread, fruit, yoghurt, tea…a wonderful feast spread out in the Summer kitchen every morning. Lunch was also provided if you spent the day on the farm, and dinners were magnificent as everyone returned from the day’s activities. It was really cool for us and the kids to see the Turkish women preparing the day’s food using traditional methods in the old style over open fires. The cooking went on all day, much like it must still go on in the local farms in this small valley. It was obviously quite a bit of work, but we all truly appreciated their efforts every time we sat down to eat the wonderful meals they had prepared.

Mermaids of the Coast of Turkey

In our original planning, we had a few activities that sounded interesting to us…a boat rip out to the islands, a tour to “butterfly valley” to see the nature reserve, and maybe a small side trip to see some more Greek / Roman / Anatolian ruins. But plans have a way of changing when you encounter a special place like this. We did make it down to the coast one day for a boat trip out to the islands for some swimming, some sunning, and a break from the heat, but we had so much fun just lying around that none of us felt any strong need to get up and go…anywhere…and so we didn’t.

We also wanted to prepare ourselves for the upcoming travel day as we have a doozey planned. A day of driving to the not-so-small city of Anatolya where we say “adios” to our trusty white 8 passenger steed “Ahphrowhitey”, then its the overnight Turkish bus to Goerme…should be fun and it sounded like a good idea at the time, but we’ll have to see how it turns out. We said goodbye to Karem and Ahmed and put our jolly band of travelers into the van and headed off down the dusty dirt road in search of more adventure, on the mid-night bus going anywhere (Journey sound track not included!).

The list of Travelers “Must Haves”

August 3, 2010

07.20.10

Datca Peninsula, Turkey

I hate being sick. I hate being sick when you are traveling. I hate being sick when you are traveling and it’s really hot out. But today, it is really hot, I am traveling and I am sick. I hate today! It is bound to happen when you change countries as your system just seems to get a bit “dis-oriented” so to speak as in “OMG my system is really dis-oriented and I need to find a clean well lighted place to… (fill in your least favorite bodily function here)! My sister had it for a week, I have it now but, thankfully the kids are still OK…must be nice to be young.

So today, while the rest of the gang headed down to the pool, I stayed in my room with the bottle of ibuprofen and Imodium within hands reach and contemplated this little adventure, how hot you can be even with air conditioning, the value of spring water, and my own mortality. I also thought about a few things that I would advise any world traveler to take with them on any trip of significance.

The most indispensible thing I have in my travel kit is ibuprofen. It can make a bad situation, like my current state, just a bit more bearable. It can ease the pain of the overnight bus trip, the bad mattress, the horse who knows how to gallop when the rider doesn’t, the random sprained ankle and the morning after the bottle and a half of the ever-so-easy-to-drink vodka tonics. I think it is the wonder drug of my generation and I wouldn’t consider leaving home without it.

The next pharmaceutical is the traveler’s friend, Imodium AD. Again, laid up as I am this is another miracle of modern science. Try as you might, you simply cannot avoid the random bug that might be on the salad, the piece of fruit, the sour cherry juice from the gas station juice type product dispenser, wherever. Sooner or later you, or someone in your party is going to get the calling and these little pills, while they are not a cure and you’ll still be a bit uncomfortable for a while, can at least provide you with a basic level of security. Pop a couple of these babies in your system and your good to go for at least a few hours…or not depending on the situation.

Another of my recent additions to my little blue backpack was a collection of the discreet wax paper bags you find in the seat back pocket of the seat in front of you along with the safety instructions for this Boeing 737…yes, you know what I am talking about, the barf bag! Laura, Riley and Taylor have each had more than fair share of “problems” this past year (see post titled “Hurling your way through Southern Spain and Morocco” a few months back.) This trip has the added benefit of another cast member in this barfumentary.

My little niece Lucia (7) has been the star of this episode with appearances in each mode of transportation…this poor little girl has hurled on the plane, the taxi, the bus, the boat, and the car. I actually think if we walked down a twisty windy street she may even blow. But what a trooper…not once has she cried or made a fuss after losing in her lunch on some random form of transportation. She also has had company with Laura, Riley and Taylor all bringing up the rear and providing content (so to speak) for this episode. But when you travel with this group, I have been prepared each time with the discreet little bags, that is until we ran out. So half way through the trip, we had to switch to the quart sized ziplock bags. Hopefully we’ll find another stash on our next flight so I can re-stock for the sequel.

Another item that has come in…how shall we say…handy, is the 100 count handi-wipe packets. These have proved indispensible for cleaning up after a variety of “events” (see above). They are also useful for wiping down your seat on the airplane, cleaning your hands after walking through a museum, before eating lunch, after eating lunch, after spilling (fill in the blank with your kids favorite food product) down the front of your shirt, and generally “freshening up” after a long trip on any type of public transportation.

We have also found them particularly helpful when using the “public facilities” here as most are apparently what can only be described as “toilet paper free” zones. We have grown accustomed to the toilet free toilets here where you are provided only with a “target’ on the floor and a couple of foot rests, but just can’t seem to acculturate to the concept of toilet paper free toilets.

But, armed with your trusty pack of handy wipes, the whole family seems to be getting on quite nicely, thank you very much. So add “handy wipes” to your “don’t leave home without it” list. But most of all, I think the most important thing to take with you on a long trip abroad is a good attitude! The art of travel is really predicated on flexibility, an open mind, patience, and the ability to take in all the experiences that the world, and its people have to offer. Yes, today is a not-so-fun day, lying in bed sweating with my insides feeling like a wet towel being rung out every few minutes, but the travel is wonderful on the whole. Seeing the kids enjoy the food, the language and the overall experience has been nothing short of amazing. So, if the mood strikes you, sally forth for your own version of adventure…go some place you’ve never been before, eat something deep fried with the eyes still on it, see something that you have only dreamed about, but most importantly, don’t forget the handy wipes.

The Garden of Eden

July 23, 2010

The stairs leading to the garden of eden

07.18.10

Sirince Turkey

I am not a very religious guy. I would say that I am spiritual, but I don’t prescribe to any organized religion. But after a year of visiting more churches, cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, and Greek & Roman temples, I now have a better feel for the power of faith. I have seen a 10th century mosque on top of a wind-swept hill. I have seen the Holy Grail. I have seen the world’s largest cathedral, the press office for the Holy see, a temple to the goddess Athena, and more saints, cardinals, bishops and martyrs (both dead and alive) than you can shake a stick at. But the clincher for me came today…I got to see the Garden of Eden.

Some religious scholars think the “real” garden of eden was located in the middle east…Jerusalem, Iraq, submerged under the Persian Gulf… but they are wrong. The Mormons think it is located in hills of Missouri. They are wrong too.  In reality, it is located in Turkey, just outside a little town called Sirince…and, for about E130 a night, you can book a room there…breakfast included!

A small Greek Village..in Turkey

So how exactly to you get to the Garden of Eden? If you are us, you start out with a rain soaked tour through the very old pile of rocks that used to be Troy. Then you drive a few hours up the coast until the kids get so hungry that they start gnawing on each other’s arms. Then you stop at a really cool little Turkish seaside town called Ayvalik that is more Greek than Turkish. You find a great open air restaurant right on the water and point to the things you want to order off of the wall mounted menu, complete with faded pictures of what you hope you will get to eat. You then eat an incredible variety of fried sea life and wash it down with more than one huge, ice cold bottle of Efes beer…uhhh…who’s turn is it to drive? And then you walk through the old Greek village and take a whole 2 gig card full of pictures of old doors and windows and watermelons. Then you get back in the car and drive for a few more hours until you get to a small one lane road…you follow this road wayyyyyy up into the hills until you see the snail of the snail. You then follow the signs for the snail up a less than one-lane dirt road until you see the sign that says “reception” and then you are there…at the Garden of Eden. At least that’s the way we got there, but you might be able to find a short cut.

The Garden of Eden was purchased a few years back by a wonderful man named Sevan who, seeing the commercial potential for such a wonderful place, has created a small chunk of paradise and has named it Nisanyan Everli …and it truly is the garden of Eden. You do actually drive wayyyy up in the mountains and you do actually follow the snail signs on a really steep, windy and less than one lane dirt road, but once you get there, wow…what a place!

Our piece of heaven on earth

As you enter the reception area, you are greeted by a huge fountain carved from a single block of white marble. You then walk up a stone and gravel path through the lush gardens to the sounds of the spring fed stream and fountains that line the path. You emerge from the gardens at the white marble swimming pool that overlooks the steep canyon walls. If you are the kids, you squeal with delight at this sight. A few more meters up the hill you come to the outdoor sitting room furnished in typical Turkish style with carpets, pillows, and the low round metal table where you see glasses filled with ice cold nectarine spritzer. These, you drink these quickly.

After quaffing you drink, you are led to your room…ours was the pink house! Again…wow! Since we are a family with kids, we opted for the 2 bedroom suite and what a place. Built from native stone, brick and wood beams, they could be 100 years old, 500 years old, or 1,000 years old. Here, in the garden of eden, it’s kind of hard to tell. The bathroom looks like our own private hammam complete with domed ceiling, small skylights, and cool marble floor. The rooms are nothing short of amazing and we decide that we don’t really want to leave. So we don’t!

Laura and Debo effecting the art of travel

Our plans for the next few days have us traveling down the hill to see the roman ruins at Ephesus and a wide variety of other ancient ruins from civilizations long past, but the siren song of the white marble swimming pool, the cool, breezy Turkish sitting area overlooking the valley below, and a day without driving proved too strong for our intrepid travelers. One of the techniques we have learned about effecting the art of travel is to be flexible and listen to your heart…and today, our hearts were not into looking at old piles of rocks. The kids played with reckless abandon in the cool blue waters of the pool. The parents read, napped, sat still, drank peach nectar, and sipped hot tea. The breeze drifted by, the cicadas crackled, and the sun wound its course through the sky, and on this day, we all rested.

What a great day we had doing not much of anything, relaxing in the garden of eden