Saturday, July 30, 2005

A journey's end

In utter style, I might add...

It is done. I have left Turkey for greener (?) pastures... actually I have left Turkey for a small dose of reality. A 1 hour flight, a night in a bunk bed, and 14 hours on a bus later I am in Thessaloniki, Greece with ThunderGod, the Norwegian Goddess, and Svingy - the gang from Kosovo. We all had a hell day traveling yesterday and have rightly checked ourselves into the Hyatt Regency (at the special UN rate) for some serious luxury and R&R. After sleeping with 25 other people in the same room for the past 5 weeks, I don't particularly care what it costs per night. After a late night sushi feast, I awoke this morning surrounded in a cloud of down comforters and pillows... couldn't have been happier. The bathroom itself is a glass shrouded palace - bigger than most people's apartments in Prishtina, and the pool area a lush garden replete with waterfalls and poolside massage tent. There are some advantages to having a bit of cash I suppose, and it's a real treat to splurge every once in a while even when you don't.

I do promise you all that I will complete the story of my trip once sagely home and at the comfort of my own keyboard. There are some things that really just cannot be explained with out the pictures. I only have about 400 to post (no, that's not an exaggeration)... so be patient with me.

So in 10 days I will set foot on American soil for the first time in a year. I am terribly excited to see everyone, and at the same time I'm having trepidations about being back in the land of convenience. It's a hard adjustment to make sometimes. Even in Turkey I was overwhelmed everytime I walked into a grocery store. I felt like I needed to buy things because who knew when I'd ever see it again... silly. I hope that impulse doesn't hit me when I go into Central Market or I'll be the proud but poor owner of a large selection of rare fruits and vegetables and jars of exotic condiments. I'll be flat broke in my first week home. My true fear is that I will try to satisfy all urges and cravings for fast food in a matter of minutes and will explode quite like the guy at the end of The Meaning of Life. It could happen. Taco Bell beware!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Turquoise Waters, Treehouses and Beyond

The past 12 days have been unbelievable. I'll do my best to do them justice, but I am afraid I won't even come close.

We'll start way back in Fethiye (it seems like ages ago!). It didn't take long after my arrival to realize that Fethiye is even more touristy than some of the other places I had been. It was an immediate assault on the nerves as vendor after vendor tried to sell me boat cruises, tours, carpets, belly dancing costumes, and various other useless objects in my life right now. What the hell would I do with a carpet? I don't even have a home right now. Sheesh. I checked into my dank little hotel, with one redeeming quality - AC. I have never been happier to have AC in my life. While I have been a bit warm in some of the places I have been, Fethiye took the cake by far. I thought I was gonna melt (being as sweet as I am, that's not such a stretch - stop laughing, all of youse!!). Anyway, ran into some friends from Atilla's and had a good couple of days lying around on the beach with them, all while having a good laugh at being stalked by the same puppy dog-eyed Turkish English teacher named Jimmy. (He was working at the Chinese restaurant in town, and I guess at some point in our stays we all had decided that it was necessary to eat something other than a kebab. From the moment I sat down and told him I was an English teacher, all he wanted to do was discuss theory. It wasn't until I ran in to him later that night that he decided to follow me around with very sad eyes because I wasn't interested. Did I mention he was 19?? lol)

After two days of Jimmy-dodging, I got on the boat for Olympos. It was an interesting mix, a Canadian family, a Turkish family, five Aussies and another American(from SF no less, older than me who had also dropped out of the advertising scene recently to travel the world. I guess that little life can fatigue just about anyone) We all had a BLAST. Who wouldn't aboard a big ass sailboat (even though we motored the whole way) in the beautiful turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, with nothing to do all day but snorkel, nap, drink beer, swim, drink more beer, sleep some more... Honestly. How could that be bad?? Leave it to the families to find a way. The last night of our trip was the designated "big party" night. We anchored in this tiny cove consisting of nothing but rocks and a bar. We were all water taxied to the club to dance the night away.. I'm sorry, I believe the proper term for what were doing was "Caaaaaaahhhving" up the dance floor (must be spoken with a heavy Aussie accent). SuperTool (our nickname for the annoying guy on the boat) managed to pass out on the deck of the bar within an hour of arrival. Way to go dude! We all took pics, and had we had a Sharpie the poor guy would still be trying to erase the tatoos from his forhead. So as the night wound down and we were shuttled back to the boat, we turned on the music on deck, cracked open a couple of beers and continued harrassing ST. Within seconds, Bonnie the Superlibrarian from Canada comes bounding around the corner and without saying a word to anyone, turns the music off. Now granted, I understand that they were trying to sleep, and it was late, BUT, if I were a family and wanted a peaceful boat cruise, would I book it through a company called BIG BACKPACKERS, who touts their "good times" attitude? Not really what I would look for in a family vacation, but to each his own. After a heated discussion with the captain a compromise was reached and all was happy. However the whole backpacker experience turned the Librarian and family off of staying in Olympos for a few days. But not the rest of us.

We all piled into a hostel together and spent the next two days hanging out on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. The mountains dropped directly into the sea, save for a few meters of polished stone beach. The cliff walls around the beach were dotted with ruins from one of the many ancient civilizations in the area. This whole country is a bit surreal. I've been to cities that were founded in 7900 b.c. for crying out loud. American history? Can we even call it history at this point? Isn't more like the recent past? lol Just a different perspective I guess. We alos took a hike up to see the Chimera flames, which is basically random flames shooting out of the rocks on the side of the mountain. Our hostess gave us a bag of marshmallows and some roasting sticks and sent us on our merry way. Quite an experience.

As we were heading out of Olympos, we stopped by one of the older hostels just to check it out. The big draw to Olympos is supposed to be this whole "treehouse" thing, except that the majority of the pensions didn't really get the concept. A house made of trees two inches off the ground does NOT constitute a tree house. Kadir's, however, got it right. They had honest to god treehouses built in the trees. We couldn't resist and booked another night in the only treehouse in Olympos with its own bathroom. Sweet.

The next night we all ventured off on an overnight bus to Goreme, Cappadocia to see some of the most unbelievable scenery I have ever seen in my entire life. When I said I felt like I was living in a movie set, I wasn't kidding. This place is amazing. More on that soon...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Is it really week 4 of this trip??

It has been 10 days since I have posted anything. So much has happened I don't even know where to start.... so I don't think I'm going to right now. Honestly, I'm just not in the mood to write today, but I didn't want anyone to think I had drowned on my boat cruise (which was FANTASTIC!!) I swear I'll write all about it later.

I am now in Goreme, Cappadocia which is one of the coolest places I have ever seen. I feel like I am in some weired movie set 24 hours a day. Houses carved into cave walls, chuches carved out of solid rock, weird rock formations everywhere... it's so trippy. Yesterday we took a long hike through some of the valleys to look at the 8th century churches that are built into the rock, complete with intact frescoes... pretty insane. Afterwards we all went to a Turkish night, some tourist set-up all you can eat and drink with folk dancing thing, that was totally fun. We stayed out way too late and between the heat, the hike and the hangover (Triple H killer combo), we have opted to spend today by the pool instead of doing any heavy duty sight seeing today. (I am still traveling with a good portion of people from the boat cruise, we just can't seem to get away from each other... but we're having a blast.)

I have 10 days left in this little journey of mine. I can't believe it's almost over already. Craziness. In 19 days, I'll be in Texas with a hell of a story to tell, and I promise to get all the little details thrown up here as soon as I can. Photos included. It's time to go back to the pool now. My tan is fading as we speak. I can feel myself getting pale. (hahahha)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Days 14 - 16 Dalyan & Fethiye


I can truly see why people would come here and never want to leave. It is absolutely gorgeous. For the past two days I have been in a small town called Dalyan, famous for being a nesting site for loggerhead turtles (not that they're running around all over the place or anything, but they nest at night on the protected beaches). Dalyan itself is nestled upriver about 13 km from the beach, facing sheer rock cliffs that are dotted with ancient Lycean tombs carved straight into the faces - huge temples to the dead hanging hundreds of feet above the banks of the river. It's quite stunning at night to see them all lit up. On my first night in Dalyan I took a cruise up to the lake guided by a Scottish astronomer. I got to see Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, as well as many other cool things like star clusters and red giants and binaries and other geeky stuff like that, through high powered binoculars (boat isn't steady enough for telescopes, plus most of their equipment is hung up in customs). The guide, Duncan, evidently made quite a bit of money back in the 70's off a book he wrote claiming that he had been able to interpret a message from outer space. He also must have spent a lot of that money doing some serious drugs, because he was a little "out there" himself. Definitely one of those "off the beaten track" activities, but worth the money spent. I had an absolute miserable nights sleep, as the window of the hotel room I was in was blocked by a large bureau, and there was no air whatsoever. I seriously thought I was going to suffocate. At 7:30 the next morning I got up and moved to another place and was a much happier girl.

So after settling into my new hotel (same price I was paying for a twin bed in a stuffy closet for a double bed, ensuite bathroon and swimming pool! You don't realize how much those little extras start to count until you have suffered a little), I headed off to the river banks to jump on an all-day boat tour of the the ruins at Kaunus, the Turtle Beach, the lake and the mud baths - also worth the money spent, even though the mud baths were overflowing with people. It made it a little difficult to relax in the grey muck when there was 100 other people in the small pool with you. It's also like walking into a room full of aliens - as everyone is walking around covered head to toe in muck at varıous stages of the drying process (girls, this is the ultimate full body mud pack treatment) and speaking a million different languages, none of which are English. Surreal. So after your whole body is dried and crackling, you herd off to the group alien hose-down, a bit like the Coca-Cola Cool Zones at Six Flags, but with the water pressure of a coin operated car wash. You need it though to get all of that gunk off of you, and suddenly the aliens emerge as fully human tourists once again. I think I still have some mud in places I don't want to talk about... That night I went for a nice dinner all by my lonesome at a lovely spot by the river. I tell ya what, as much as I am enjoying traveling alone and not being tied to anyone else's schedule, Dalyan is a bit of a romantic spot, and I would have given anything to have someone there to watch the sunset with. Some days, your own company just ain't enough. I got over it though. Had a glass of wine with dinner and got a great night's sleep.

This morning I headed out to Fethiye. After nearly sweating to death waiting for the dolmus (mimi-bus) to take off, I had to endure a 10 minute diatribe by an aging Englishman on the problems of the world all being caused by the "overpopulation" (yes, he actually used that word) of blacks and the Pakis in the cities. I thought I was going to puke. Let's not take a good look at reality or anything, Mr... Let's just blame it on the blacks and Pakis. Welcome to the 21st century, where racism is alive and well. People like that don't deserve my energy. Once he shut up, the rest of the ride was absolutely breathtaking. Turkey is far from the desert I had exiected. The climate is arid, but the countryside is unbelievable. Mountains spring up from the flat valleys seemingly from nowhere and are covered in crisp smelling pine forests. We snaked around and around the hills, passing tractors pulling cartloads of watermelons on blind curves with no guardrails in sight, until though a break in the trees we were able to catch a glimpse of the turquoise waters below. I damn near cried from the sheer beauty of it all. A Turkish couple sitting behind me said, "It's like a dream, isn't it? The most beautiful place in the world." I chatted with them the rest of the trip, and was offered a place to stay in Bursa anytime I wanted to visit. The people in Turkey are even more beautiful than the countryside.

I booked my 4 day boat cruise to Olympos for Tuesday, and will spend the next couple of days seeing the sights around Fethiye. The mountains here plunge directly into the sea, and the city itself hugs the shoreline of an insanely beautiful bay. About 7 km away is a Greek villag ethat was mysteriously abandoned in 1923 called Kaya Köy that should be interesting to see. Then I'll head off to the beach for the afternoon at Ölüdenız. Who knows what from there. I'll keep ya posted!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Days 7 - 13 Bergama and Selçuk

I am a lazy cow. Really. I spent another day in Bergama, compliments of the hostel owner (he erased everything on my iPod on accident and felt terribly guilty about it), then headed off to Selçuk and Ephesus. I decided to stay at a hostel a little outside of the town, called Atilla's Getaway for a night or two to avoid the gazillions of people on the tour buses and relax for a bit. I was meant to stay one, maybe two nights... I've now been here 5. I am officially leaving tomorrow, but I am so glad I found this place. It's run by a Turkish-Australian family, meals are included, there's a pool and volleyball courts, and I can't say enough about the people. Alex, Lisa, Donna Lee and Carlos have been like family this week. We're having a ball - I was going to leave today, but Alex and Carlos "swore" there were no buses running today. I didn't really need an excuse to spend another lazy day.

So here's how my week went: The first day I lounged by the pool and read a book. The next day got up and went to Ephesus for the day. A word or two about Ephesus - STUNNING. You could almost feel what it must have been like to live in the city. In it's height, it had a population of 250,000 people. The marble streets are virtually intact. The houses had hot and cold running water, there's a complete underground sewage system, and many of the major buildings, like the library, have been carefully restored. If any of you ever come to Turkey (which I highly recommend), this is an absolute MUST SEE. That night danced and drank at the bar all night. Spent the next day lounging in the cushioned area, swimming, sleeping by the pool. Day 4, whıch just happened to be the 4th of July, I got up and went to Pamukkale for the day. I've been here nearly 2 full weeks now, and have hardly run into a single American (lot's of Aussies and Kiwis tho). Somehow, all 10 of us on the shuttle to Pammukale were American. I ended up spending the day walking around with two girls around my age, maybe a little younger, and their mom, on a "last chance" girls' trip as the daughters live on opposite coasts, and mom lives in Chicago. They were truly delightful company, and it felt really nice to be a part of someone's family even if was just for the day. One of the girls lives ın San Diego (and speaks 6 languages!), so we swapped emails with promises of exchanging the photos we took all day. Pamukkale itself was pretty spectacular, even though many of the mineral pools no longer have water in them. You're driving along in the middle of no where on a dirt road, then suddenly you turn a corner and the whole hillslde looks like it has been frosted for a wedding cake. Thousands of years of calcium deposits from the natural spring have turned the hills into a blinding white terraced sculpture dotted with small blue pools whose waters are touted to have healing powers. Pretty damn cool. Next day, lazed by the pool all day. I'm getting quite a tan at this point and I've got nothing but beach ahead of me. Yeah! Today, I'm just hanging out in town trying to catch up on email (the internet has been out all week at the hostel). I'm about to head back and take a nap by the pool. Life is realllllly rough.

Tomorrow I'm heading out to Dalyan, where loggerhead turtles come in to nest, and from there... not really sure yet. I'll keep ya posted. :)