Monday, 19 October 2009

Turkey Part 1: Tracing the footsteps of history...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after our first day back in the UK. Okay, as promised, tonight will be a recap from our first 4 days in Turkey. Before, however, I simply must comment on two items:

1. Running tally on the "Chub-o-meter": 5K in 25:45 today, baby! Granville Six – It’s not a gut – it’s a fuel tank for the next generation of Kenyan. I can now store 15 years worth of carbs in my belly. Tell me that Paul Tergai can store that much - I think NOT. T-bone – I am pained that BJ has replaced me as your preferred race partner for the Cow Town (especially as a blond...). I will have my vengeance on this. Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war…

2. So I’m walking to the Tube today, and I happen to look up as I cross over Bond Street, and what do I see? CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS. Really? REALLY? CAUSE IT’S OCTOBER 19TH. Hey, at least they weren’t lit up yet…oh wait…but it's coming. Can't we at least get ONE DAY of Diwali lights? After all, it IS the Indian Halloween ("The Office" reference for those junkies out there).

Okay, so enough UK news – let’s talk Turkey – literally.

Day 1: Remind me why we fly before UPS again?

Okay, so this morning started EARLY. And by early, I mean a 4:30 AM taxi to Heathrow. My body still hurts thinking about it. The good news was that there was no traffic (imagine that), and we got to the airport easy. Which is a good thing, becase we arrived to a line LONGER THAN THE LINE OF ANIMALS CLAMORING TO GET ON BOARD NOAH’S ARK. Come to find out, the “highly advanced and technical” security checkpoint wasn’t working, resulting in EVERY TICKETED PASSENGER PROCESSED THAT MORNING BEING SENT BACK DOWN FOR ANOTHER TICKET. Awesome…

However, we did eventually get on board, and 3 hours later we were in Istanbul. However, the ultimate destination wasn’t Istanbul for the start of the trip, but rather Kusadasi (which is NOT how you pronounce it, for the record), the closest city to the historical city of Ephesus. We had a 3 hour layover, but the flight was super-smooth. I will say that Turkish Airlines is AWESOME – these cats feed you on EVERY flight, including the 45 minute puddle jump from Istanbul to Kusadasi.

After landing and an hour cab ride, we found our way to Kusadasi and the Villa Novak hotel, which was SUPER-CUTE. So we get dinner that night at the “San Marco,” where I have my first of 57 kabobs on the trip (and YES, Shogun – I did have more than one Donner…) and the local beer of Turkey – Efes (let me spoil the drama for you – there is only ONE type of beer here, and it’s really just brewed for foreigners).

That night we slept like rocks, only to be woken up at 4:15 by the Call to Prayer. Yeah, apparently Mohammed thought it would be a great idea to put a minaret about 9 feet outside my window. However, since I get up every hour to pee anyway, my body just took it as some assistance with the hourly rotation.

Day 2: In the Footsteps of History…

This day we rolled to Ephesus, riding in a bus called a Dolmus (basically a mini-bus) to the site. Folks, this place was AWESOME and DID NOT disappoint. We spent 5 hours in Ephesus – some of the highlights:
1. The first church to ever be named after the Virgin Mary and perhaps the spot where she was (initially at least) buried.

2. The amphitheater (24K strong, baby) where Paul preached against paganism (and was summarily run out of town).

3. This really wicked library (check out the photo).

After that, we rolled to the only other of the “7 wonders of the ancient world” still in existence outside a museum – the Temple of Artemis. Honestly, I’m sure it was impressive in it’s time. Now, it’s a pile of rocks. Mom – I couldn’t help but think of what Nanny would have compared it to, especially considering that standing at Mather Point, she referred to the Grand Canyon as “nothing but a big hole.” I mean seriously - they even STACKED the bloody column, for crying out loud.

We then rolled to a mosque and then the Basilica of St. John. This church, now in ruins (albeit impressive ruins), was where John wrote the 4th Gospel and was buried. We actually saw the spot where he was buried and the chapel erected on top of the spot. Honestly, it’s a lot of history to process – and truly amazing.

We had dinner that night at a great little spot and tried dinner “in the tile,” which is Turkish for in a skillet, basically. SO GUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUD.

Day 3: Um, is that a glacier in the desert?

Having struck out trying to book a Miletus/Didymus tour, we opted instead for a trip to Pamukkalle. Okay, so let’s review what we knew about Pamukkalle before booking this trip.

1. It was named Pamukkalle.
2. Pamukkalle is in Turkey.

3. Yep – that’s pretty much it.

When we got picked up for the tour, I looked at JT and said: “Well, at least this way we won’t be in the car all day.” 5 minutes later, our guide Farouk tells us that it’s a drive of THREE HOURS EACH WAY.” Jenny didn’t say anything, but I could certainly feel the vein shaking in my temple.

3 hours and a glass of pomegranate juice later, we arrived at some hotel with a thermal bath. Okay, let me translate what that means in Turkey:

1. Thermal bath = 1 foot of dirty water with a mud bottom.

2. You are supposed to rub the mud on your body for “healing properties.” Not sure what those could be considering that every wad of mud we pulled up was covered in human hair.

3. To rinse off, you get in even hotter water that boils your leg hairs off until you look like Tom Price.

4. When it’s over, you shower in arctic water without soap – anyone else feel refreshed yet?

We then went to the “Open Bar Buffet,” where we found the food free but all drinks (even water) had a price tag attached to them. Hmmm….someone should work on their marketing campaign…

The next spot, however, was a highlight of the trip – Pumakkalle Cascades. This place looks like Mammoth Hot Springs looked like ages ago – AMAZING, totally white rock formations, filled with gorgeous Carolina Blue water. We had 2 hours here, and we spent most of it flopping around in the water. The rest of the time we spent wandering around the ancient swimming pool of Cleopatra – she actually built this thing and swam in it with Mark Anthony.

The drive home resulted in a minor shouting match, with me ultimately telling Farouk to shut up before I burned his house down. I really wasn’t going to do it, but I would have absolutely stabbed all 4 of his tires if he’d said one more word to this poor lady he was berating for being late (whom he then later tried to mack on, for the record).

Dinner that night was a Turkish pizza – dirt cheap and uber-tasty. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Day 4: Being Manly at Ladies Beach

This day was a trip to Ladies Beach, some of the prettiest water that you’ll ever lay eyes on. Despite some stormy weather, the water was super clear (and even shaded in blues and greens). So, I figured the best thing to do was pull up my pants, tie my shoes around my neck, and wade out as far as possible. The result was three words: "Macho, Macho, Maaaaaan..." Tacy has the uggs, but I have pants rolled up to look like Speedos. That, ladies and gents, is just how we roll.
After that, it was into the bazaar for some shopping. Honestly, this experience is SO MUCH BETTER than Egypt or India, simply because you don't have people pawing you CONSTANTLY. Instead, dare I say that folks were actually civil, and the "haggle" truly was more of a conversation than the 4th Crusade attempting to sack Constantinople.

We caught a 7 PM flight and crashed that night in Istanbul at this CUTE place called the Saruhan. Granted, he had to drive through Baghdad to get to it, but we emerged on the other side in a very cute little hotel.

Okay - that's the Kusadasi portion. Tomorrow I'll roll through the exploits in Istanbul, including perhaps the most "interesting" experience of my life - the Turkish Bath.

That's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!

Sam and (currently sweating out a week's worth of kabobs in body combat class) Jenny

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