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Zadar’s Sound and Light

As far as we knew, Zadar was an omelet with ground beef, home fries and American cheese that you could order at Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City.

Zadar old town entrance

poodle on a boat

As it happens, Zadar is also the name of yet another beautiful city on Croatia’s coast.

Ship in the sunset

(A quick Google search reveals that the omelet was not named after the city.)

dog playing fetch

Zadar is most famous for its sea organ, a series of pipes imbedded in the waterfront promenade that make low, mysterious sighs and tones that fluctuate with the waves and wind. There’s nothing to see but a series of small holes in the stone, and its continual song can be both mesmerizing and unsettling as it up hums up from below.

crowds at sundown

And then there’s Sun Salutation, a representation of our star and planets that collects solar power during the day and lights up and pulses at sundown.

blurred silhouettes

blue sun

We sat and listened to the sea organ and watched kids cannonball off the edge of the promenade (click for the video).  When dusk came, families hopped and danced and chased the changing colors on the giant LED sun.  Public art that is perfectly integrated with nature and recreation, and is sustainable and accessible to all is a beautiful thing.  Good job, Zadar.

26
Oct 2012
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On the Beaches of Brač Island

We decided to take the ferry from Split to Brač Island.

Brač map

Tony attempted to pass the time by drawing in a sketchbook. This attracted the attention of some 10-year-old boys who hovered over him and then clapped every so often.

Boats in Split harbor

Once on the island, a bus hauled us to the other side, and we caught glimpses of lime and olive groves, goat herds and white stone quarries. Some of that stone has made its way across the globe and was used to build a certain residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.

bus window scenery

We also got glimpses of things and places on the island that we wanted to avoid.

Mankini poster

View from our room

The Adriatic is colder than the eastern Mediterranean. A lot colder.

goosebumps

sailboat silhouette

Tony on the beach

Alicia

But, that didn’t stop us walking through the pine trees to discover hidden coves, or from snorkeling and swimming through schools of silver fish and finding chartreuse coral and black spiky urchins.

Zlatni Rat

shoreline

Crashing waves

more waves

One afternoon, we came across a pair of young Slovakian hitchhikers who were sleeping under the pines. They kindly shared with us a few pulls off of a powerful bottle of homemade sherry. We found them again on our last day and left our snorkels and masks with them. They were so happy, it felt like Christmas.

The best stories rarely come with pictures.

So here are some sunsets.

sunset

another sunset

25
Oct 2012
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Palace-City on the Adriatic

As much as we were amazed by Dubrovnik, we had to get out of there as quickly as possible. It was just too much. Too many people crammed into a small area starts to feel like a box. A shiny, lovely box from which you can jump off into a perfect blue sea… but still a box. So we took the next bus up the Dalmatian coast.

The Roman Emperor Diocletian built his palace on the sea about 1700 years ago. Apparently at the time it was so beautiful that Diocletian actually voluntarily retired. He preferred to enjoy his gardens as a civilian so much that he rejected a later invitation to return to Rome to rule. Over time and the flux of empires, the palace was abandoned and then repurposed into a city. The city’s name has changed along the way, but today it goes by Split.

fountain

As you might expect a palace-turned-city to be, Split’s courtyards and alleys are just as picturesque and romantic and as you can imagine.

Bishop Gregory

tower

green shutters

outer wall

shady street

pigeon napping

hostel courtyard

laundry

Cat and car

We loved the breakfast at this cafe so much, we went back several times.

Breakfast

It was easy to linger.

courtyard cafe

The view was worth the few extra kunas. Or, in this case, tunas. (Check out the two kuna piece on the left.)

tuna kuna

Split’s Riva promenade was bumping every night, just like in Dubrovnik, but since it was outside the city walls, we didn’t get the same hemmed-in feeling.

Riva promenade

Still, we were feeling the need to press on… maybe find an island somewhere?

25
Oct 2012
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White Stone, Blue Sea

Croatia at last! This was one of the countries we had on the “for sure” list. Although our timing was perfect for beach weather, it also coincided with sweltering heat, cruise ship hordes, high prices and limited availability.

Still, Dubrovnik — at least the section of old town that we visited — was easily one of the more stunning cities we’ve visited so far.  Towering walls, white stone streets polished smooth, dramatic fountains and steps, narrow winding alleys… it all feels a little unreal.

Red roofs

Western wall at sunset

Church - from the side

Harbor

Little fish in the harbor

Big fountain

row of houses

Main street

plant on the wall

Church bells

Anno 1834

Guard station

Swimming hole-in-the-wall

Guard tower - vertical

Neglected walls

Walking up

shadowy alley

laundry day

steps

Sunset

Alley at night

14
Oct 2012
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14
Oct 2012
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What We Ate in Bosnia

Bosnian cuisine is Turkish-meets-Central Europe. Hearty, simple, way too filling. If you’ve recovered from our run down of Turkish food, here is a little taste of Bosnia.

Dveri

We dropped some coin at Dveri, a restaurant a little more upmarket than we usually visit. Goulash with beef, mushrooms and plums. Polenta with smoked beef, cheese, tangy cream and an egg. Flaky, buttery rolls. So rich. We actually did not finish it all, if you can believe it.

Dveri

carrot ginger soup

Carrot ginger soup.

burek

Burek – flaky pastry filled with your choice of meat, cheese, spinach or potato. Best for breakfast, as long as you don’t plan on moving for the rest of the day.

Dolmas

Grape leaf dolmas – just as good as the ones we had in Turkey, but served in broth and smothered with sour cream.

omelet

We don’t remember the Bosnian name for this, but the English menu called it a “mince meat omelet.”

Sogan dolmas

Sogan dolmas – little onions stuffed with minced meat.

ćevapčići

Ćevapčići – little beef or chicken sausages stuffed into an incredible flatbread (warmed by being grilled in the sausage fat), with chopped onion, sour cream and kajmak (a type of clotted cream).

doughnuts

Fresh friend doughnuts with a side of kajmak… topped with regular cream.

pivo

Sarajevska pivo. (Fun fact: the Sarajevska Pivara supplied the city with fresh water during the war.) Živjeli! Cheers!

13
Oct 2012
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Stari Most – Mostar’s Old Bridge

Stari Most from below

“The bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other. …I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky.” – Evliya Çelebi, 17th Century

No photos

“I was in my office, working to the sound of mortar fire, when we heard the cries in the street—cries that the bridge had fallen. And what happened then was so impressive that I will never forget it. Everyone came out to see. Grenades and bombs were falling everywhere, but still they came out of their hiding places: Young, and old, weak and strong, Muslim and Christian, they all came, all crying. Because that bridge, it was part of our identity. It represented us all.” A. Bubić, 1995

Walking over

shoreline

Dog chasing rocks

Dive practice

Cat begging at a restaurant

Bridge at dusk

Although we were vaguely familiar with Sarajevo before we visited there, Mostar was a huge blank.  Several people we had met along the way said we needed to go there.  So we made plans to visit on our way through Bosnia to Dubrovnik.

Mostar was yet another urban battleground during the wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia.  The pieces of its destroyed bridge were hauled out of the river and the span was made whole again in 2004.  Mostar itself is still decidedly not whole, as the broken shells of buildings remain untouched and the impossibly blue Neretva River separates most of the minarets from the steeples. Maybe a future generation will make the symbolism behind the the bridge’s reconstruction a reality.

Bombed-out Razvitak department store

As visitors just passing through briefly, it’s easy to look at the reconstructed center of town, the amazing bridge with its daredevil high divers and the cobblestone streets and miss noticing the separation.  We missed it.  It wasn’t till we were double-checking place names and doing research to get our facts straight that we learned these things.  How much more would we have noticed if we were looking for it?

One conundrum of travel is the question of whether or not to do a bunch of research in advance.  If you don’t do any research, you might end up reaching ignorant, superficial conclusions… or if you’re lucky you’ll come away having your own fresh and unbiased perspective.  Do you risk accidentally overlooking “important” things, or do you experience a place through a lens of what another traveler said you are supposed to see?

Stari Most from the banks

12
Oct 2012
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Seeing Sarajevo

chimney?

We met some fellow American travelers (so far a less common animal) and a few Australians (they’re everywhere!) when we met up with Jasmina to see the airport tunnel. We spent the rest of the day visiting the now-indefinitely-closed Bosnian National Museum, sampling a pint at Sarajevsko brewery, and wandering the hilly neighborhoods of Sarajevo.

'mericans

Walking up the hill

It was a long, relaxed, full day.  And what can make you feel quite so right with the world as a puppy?

one fuzzy puppy

(Answer: two puppies.)

two puppies

The puppies followed us, and a few blocks later we met a guy named Fudo who told us that the puppies were called Brownie and Blackie. Naturally.

Fudo

Graham

Hilly neighborhood

cat graffiti

Sarajevo Brewery

Later that night, we discussed important sociological issues like the merits of in-home hookah usage.

Sarajevo hills

Martyr's Cemetery

Sarajevo had a serene, subdued feeling to it, at least during the week we spent there. It was easy to see hints of the worst of what was, but there was a definite flow of life moving on. It’s difficult to describe.

Sarajevo street

Yellow VW Beetle

Pigeons swarmed Sebilj Fountain.

Sebilj - the fountain in Baščaršija

Cafes filled and emptied day after day.

Giannini Cafe

Ladies who lunch

Dogs were walked.  Sometimes they had ice cream.

dog eating ice cream

Parliament and the Holiday Inn, buildings that would have seen engulfed in flames on nightly newscasts less than two decades ago, stood shiny and whole.

Parliament

Holiday Inn

Ammunition boxes found a new purpose as beer garden seating.

Ammo boxes

Eid, the end of Ramadan, arrived so quietly, we hardly noticed.

Eid

And the Miljacka River, shallow from a summer of no rain, crept past the Latin Bridge.

Franz Ferdinand bridge

Hello, and goodbye, beautiful Sarajevo. We were lucky to have met you.

12
Oct 2012
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What Happened in Sarajevo

Our families usually had the national news on tv while we ate supper, so we had vague memories of the Bosnian war and of Sarajevo. Explosions, buildings on fire, wounded people being carried through the streets. But we were in middle school and high school when it all started, and the evidence of war that still remained on the drive between the airport and the city center reminded us of how much we didn’t know.

IMG_4603 Sarajevo Bosnia war images
Image courtesy of Ulicar

So if you’re like us and need some background information, here is a crash course in what happened in Sarajevo two decades ago.

Yugoslavia was a country that unified six ethnic republics in the Balkan region. Following the death of leader Marshal Tito in 1980, many of the republics tried to become more autonomous, but Serbia, which had held most of the political power, wanted stronger federal control. The situation deteriorated and Yugoslavia began to break apart.

In 1992, Bosnia declared independence. The Yugoslav federal army exited Bosnia, but left its arms with the Serbs, who used them to attack Bosnian cities. The Serbs entrenched themselves in the mountains surrounding Sarajevo, which gave them the perfect vantage point to bombard the city with heavy artillery and sniper rifles for nearly four years. Over 10,000 adults and 1,500 children were killed, an additional 56,000 Sarajevans were wounded.

In Bosnia, and over the entire breakup of Yugoslavia during the 90′s, hundreds of thousands of people were killed in acts of war and genocide, and millions of ethnic minorities across the six republics were displaced.

(**That’s a hugely oversimplified version of a complex period of history on which we have no expertise other than Googling skills, so please don’t quote us.**)

IMG_4604 Sarajevo Bosnia war images
Image courtesy of Ulicar

Even though the war ended nearly 17 years ago, you can see it everywhere.

In the city parks that were turned into cemeteries, with most of the inscriptions bearing years 1992… 1993… 1994… 1995…

Gravestone

Martyrs' Cemetery

In buildings never rebuilt.

building next to cathedral

abandoned houses

In the Sarajevo Roses – shell craters filled in with red resin where people were killed – now fading and chipped all over the city.

Sarajevo Rose - Cathedral

Sarajevo rose - street

In the damaged World War II memorial.

WWII Memorial

In the evidence of reduced population and industry and an economy that never fully recovered.

closed store

abandoned building

In the official memorial for the children who were killed.

Childrens' memorial

In the National Library, whose 1.5 million volumes were incinerated.

National Library

In the bullet holes that speckle so many buildings, even underneath bright graffiti.

bullet holes

bullet holes - neighborhood

graffiti

One thing that particularly made an impression on us was when we visited the Tunnel Musuem. During the seige, the only way to get food and supplies in and out of the city was the UN-controlled airport. But to get between the airport and the city was practically a suicide mission due to sniper and rocket fire. A tunnel over half a mile long was dug from a civilian home, underneath a field and the runway, and 20 million tons of food passed through to keep the city fed.

Kolar house

Tunnel Museum sign

tunnel1

tunnel2

airport

newspaper article

Jasmina, the woman owns the hostel we stayed in, was a student at the University of Sarajevo before the war broke out and was trapped in the city. Her family lived in Dubrovnik, which was also heavily attacked, and neither she nor her family had any way of contacting each other. Food was scarce and no one knew what the next day would bring, or if they would live to see it. By the time the war ended and she was able to return to Dubrovnik, her parents were no longer living.

Jasmina

soldier photo

After all that, you might think that our visit to Sarajevo was extremely depressing. But it wasn’t. We’ll post more later.

-A

04
Oct 2012
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Sarajevo Bound

After two months in Turkey, it was past time to head north. We were losing the summer and still had more to see. We thought we should head straight to Croatia so we could enjoy the beaches while it was still warm. After a lot of research, we found that the overland options would be expensive and time-consuming… but the flights were pricey too. We started looking at major cities in neighboring countries that had easy ground transportation to the coast. Winner: Sarajevo.

Sarajevo

Since it was a morning flight, we decided to save some money on accommodation and sleep at Ataturk International. The tone was set for the journey when a man, who had been standing too close for most of the tram ride, reached back for a little pinch before rushing out the door at his stop. I had heard from several unaccompanied female travelers of having multiple similar incidents in Istanbul, but I hadn’t had any problems. It’s nice to have a husband who looks intimidating. Unfortunately, Tony’s presence didn’t deter the creep and it happened so fast that he was out of sight before I could shout and shame him. Besides the icky feeling that comes from something like that, I was more upset that after two months of coming to love a place, the actions of some anonymous perv would be my very last memory of Istanbul and Turkey.

At the airport, we used some carabiners to attach our packs to each other, and pushed some plush chairs together at a deserted cafe. I’m pretty sure these chairs are specifically engineered to be usable only for sitting bolt upright. I found an uncomfortable position that allowed me to lay flat, but required my neck to be twisted at a funny angle and my legs to dangle over the side. A few hours of fitful unconsciousness followed. I don’t think we can exactly recommend this cost-saving strategy.

Finally, dawn came and we are able to check into our flight. We have always been able to take our bags with us in the cabin as carryon luggage, but according to the Bosnia & Hercegovina Airlines website, they would be too big. But the woman at the desk didn’t bat an eye and said checking the bags would not be necessary. A bright moment at the end of an otherwise all-around bad night. We trekked to our gate which ended up being somewhere in a nearly deserted section of the terminal. Nearly deserted, except for our fellow passengers whose size and number of carryon items far exceeded our own. Then I grumpily paid $4 for a Lipton teabag and some hot water. We didn’t actually board the plane from our gate; we boarded a shuttle bus which took us to our plane. Our aging, twin propeller engine, rear loading plane. Interesting.

B&H plane

dirty windows

The inside smelled of stale cigarettes and was about as comfortable as an old school bus with half the leg room. The tiny overhead compartments might have served well as glove boxes, but there was no way our packs were going in. We put them on the floor under our feet, which did nothing to enhance the comfort level. But somehow our attitudes changed, despite the tram groping, the airport slumber party, and sketchy plane. We found a cheap flight! To a new country that we didn’t expect to visit! Even through the plane’s dirty windows, Istanbul looked beautiful and mysterious from above in the morning fog. It would be another scorching day there, and we were headed for the Bosnian mountains.

Istanbul

Bosnia

After a few hours, the plane passed the border from Serbia to Bosnia, and a group of ladies behind us began singing. They continued until the city came into view. We landed smoothly. It was a smaller airport than we expected, and there were no other planes in sight. Before the exit hatch was even opened, the B&H maintenance crew drug out a ladder, popped open the engine cover and began pouring in fluids. We googled the airline out of curiosity later, and found that not only was B&H on the verge of financial collapse, but that we had ridden on its one and only plane. Good things to know once you’re safely at your destination!

B&H ground crew

B&H ground crew

We got a cab and headed for the city center. The bullet holes sprayed across almost every building we passed reminded me that I was only a little girl during the years that the video clips of fire and explosions and misery in Sarajevo filled the evening news. I’m sure I never dreamed I’d actually walk down those same streets one day.

-A

bullet holes

Sarajevo

03
Oct 2012
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Istanbul B Side

Here are some pictures we wanted to share that didn’t relate to any particular story.

Galata Bridge
Galata Bridge

Beyoğlu
Beyoğlu

Galata Bridge, New Mosque
Galata Bridge, New Mosque

Tram tokens
Plastic tram tokens

Bosphorus soup
Bosphorus soup

Kadıköy ferry
Kadıköy ferry

Eminönü ferry
Eminönü ferry

Beyoğlu hamam
Beyoğlu hamam

İstiklal side street
İstiklal side street

İstiklal side street
İstiklal side street

Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya

Aya Sofya
Aya Sofya

Spice market
Spice market


Spice market

New Mosque
New Mosque

Graffiti, Karaköy
Graffiti, Karaköy

Kadıköy ferry
Kadıköy ferry

Kadıköy
Kadıköy

Karabatak Karaköy Cafe
Karabatak Karaköy Cafe

Galata
Galata

Thimbles, Grand Bazaar
Thimbles, Grand Bazaar

Port and Haydarpaşa train station
Port and Haydarpaşa train station

Beyoğlu
Beyoğlu

Karaköy
Karaköy

Kadiköy (skyline: Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya)
Kadiköy (skyline: Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya)

02
Oct 2012
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Eating Our Way Through Turkey

So we thought we’d leave all the food for one post. Brace yourselves.

Our first impressions of Turkish cuisine were good. But after several days in country, we felt like we were waiting for something to happen. Waiting to find the perfect dish or the right type of restaurant, or maybe just trying to identify some flavor profiles that made Turkish food Turkish. Maybe we were expecting the food to be spicy or saucy or… something.

Grilled awesomeness

Turns out Turkish food is really simple. Meat. Fresh vegetables. Maybe an egg. Done to perfection and, with a few exceptions, without a lot of sauces or fuss. The meat is always grilled to perfection and if you don’t like eggplant, you probably haven’t had patlıcan that came out of a Turkish kitchen. It’s a fertile country that doesn’t import much food, so eating fresh, seasonal, and local is the default.

Let’s start with breakfast. The standard Turkish breakfast includes bread, hard-cooked eggs, fruit, cheese, olives, garlicky sliced sausage, tomato and cucumber. If you’re lucky, there will also be plain yogurt, honey, nuts, dried fruit, and various sweet and savory pastries. It took a while to get used to vegetables for breakfast, but it definitely helps keep your daily consumption at a healthy level.

Egirdir breakfast

Breakfast at Shoestring

Gözleme – a flaky pastry that’s stuffed with savory things like cheese and spinach, or sweet things like honey and banana or Nutella. Somewhere between a flour tortilla and an egg-heavy French crepe.

Gözleme

Menemen varies from place to place. It’s basically scrambled eggs with onion, peppers and tomatoes, but soupy because the tomatoes usually make up at least half of the contents. It’s served in the little pan it’s cooked in and is filling and delicious.

Menemen

Ok, breakfast is over. How about a mid-morning snack of the most delicious peaches, oranges, lemons, berries, melons you’ve ever had? Practically a religious experience. A glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice costs less than a can of cola. Treat yo’ self.

Fruit at the market

Melon stand

Citrus

If you are hiking in Cappadocia, you might come around a bend and find people selling every kind of dried fruit imaginable.

dried fruit sellers

And now for lunch. Actually, you probably started breakfast late and are still so stuffed that you skip lunch and hold out for dinner. So let’s ease in with some starters.

Lavaş. Comes fresh from the oven all puffed up like a balloon. Crispy on bottom, chewy on top, best with liberal amounts of butter.

Lavaş

Lentil soup. Consistently simple and delicious from coast to coast.

Lentil soup

Lahmacun, a crispy flatbread baked with minced meat. Köfte güveç, meatballs baked in a clay dish.

Lahmacun

Dolma refers to any sort of food-stuffed-in-food. In this case, the dolmas are grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb, rice and tomato sauce.

Dolmas

The inescapable döner kebap. Our favorite places incorporated bell peppers and carrots into the stack.

kebap

As the man expertly slices off the perfectly roasted bits from the rotating meat log, you try to not remember what the raw drippy mess looked like at 8 o’clock in the morning.

raw döner

Pide. It’s translated as “Turkish pizza” on most menus, which is a fair enough comparison, although tomato sauce rarely enters into the equation and cheese is only present half the time. This one has eggs and veggies.

Egg pide

Balık ekmek – freshly caught fish, grilled and served with a bit of salad on a baguette.

balık ekmek

Pilav and grilled köfte… usually called “Turkish meatballs” on the menu, but they’re a lot closer to mini burger patties.

Pilav and köfte

Testi kebap – stew baked in a clay pot.

Testi kebap

What’s available to add some kick to all those dishes? A few options.

First, açili esme. I think it’s fair to call this a sort of pureed salsa, because it’s full of roasted red peppers, tomatoes, onion and herbs. It ranges from totally mild to genuinely hot.

esme

Sumac is always on the table alongside the salt and pepper. It’s the dried fruit of the sumac plant ground into a tangy, salty, slightly bitter spice.

Sumac

What are you washing all this down with?

How about slightly fermented watery yogurt drink? Our introduction to Ayran came from our friend Brooks who needed his fix just before we hiked around the deserted cave city of Zelve. Tony’s first reaction was “I could think of nothing better on a hot Turkish afternoon than this sweaty cup of cottage cheese juice.” But soon enough, addiction set in and we shared one with almost every meal. Because most Turkish food tends to lack sauces, Ayran is a perfect pairing. Most bufes will bring you a a single-serving container with a straw to jam through the foil top. Some classier places have a fountain that constantly keeps it frothy.

Ayran single serve

Ayran

Şalgam – You might have seen this on the menu and tried it out of curiosity. You wouldn’t really like it, but you’d continue to sip away, trying to identify all the strange flavors. Then you’d go to Wikipedia later that day and learn that, “although the Turkish word şalgam literally means “turnip”, şalgam is actually made with the juice of red carrot pickles, salted, spiced, and flavoured with aromatic turnip (çelem) fermented in barrels with the addition of ground bulgur.” You might even buy it again, but would learn your lesson the second time.

Şalgam

Made it through all that? Now on to dessert. The options are many.

We’ve already gone into extensive detail about dondurma ice cream.

dondurma

Antep fıstıklı– pistachios everywhere. Back home, these are expensive. Here, they go in almost every dessert.

Pistachio

pistachio pastries

Locum, Turkish Delight. Like our friend Kelley, our knowledge of the stuff began and ended with a certain C. S. Lewis tale. It’s soft and gummy, sometimes a plain sugary gel and other times stuffed with chopped nuts or flavored with rosewater. A dusting of powdered sugar or coconut flakes keep them from sticking together.

Turkish delight

Not done yet. You’ll need a caffeine infusion to stay awake while you digest.

Turkish coffee. Sweet, sludgy, delicious Turkish coffee.

Turkish coffee

And, of course, çay. Strong black tea.

Tea

With as much sugar as you care to add.

Tea closeup

For the the perfect late night snack head for the ıslak vendors at Taksim Square. “Wet burgers” are small and slathered in tomato sauce that soaks both the burger and the white bun. It hangs out in a steamy little sauna box until you order it. They are wonderful, delicious little inventions that are not filling enough to make you regret eating a drippy burger, and cheap enough that you’ll probably grab a second one a couple vendors over once the first one is gone. But judge not, for they’re Anthony Bourdain approved.

ıslak

02
Oct 2012
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Ticket to Paradise – Olympos

Pegasus

Hey, remember Sean and McKinze? We may have mentioned them once in passing. Here are the four of us back in Georgia:

Akhaltsikhe

Well, they were headed back to the States, but first they were traveling around Turkey for a few weeks. We met up with them in Istanbul and they invited us to go with them to Olympos, a.k.a. backpacker’s paradise. We had considered going there ourselves, but decided to skip it and head straight to Istanbul from Eğirdir (but not before a brief stop in Pamukkale).

But we had such a good time with Sean and McKinze in Istanbul, that the day after they left, we booked tickets for Olympos on the wonderfully cheap Pegasus Air and reserved a bungalow at the same pension. But we didn’t tell them, and they just assumed that it wasn’t possible for us to join them. We got there the day before they were scheduled to arrive and used the extra time to listen to the cicadas and teach ourselves how to play backgammon. Then we positioned ourself at a table near reception to casually say hello to them when they arrived on the afternoon dolmuş.

Saban Pension

bungalows

cicada

hangout platforms

Olympos is not a real town. It’s a series of dozens of backpacker pensions — sprawling compounds of wooden bungalows, “tree houses” (sounds better than shacks-on-stilts), hammocks and gazebos — built along a gravel road about an hour south of Antalya. If you walk a little further down the road, it passes through some Roman ruins, and then deposits you on the beach. Since there’s no actual town, all of the pensions include breakfast and all-you-can-eat dinner in the price of accommodation. We had some of the best meals ever there, and dinner itself was a highlight of each day.

dinner

hammock

As usual, our friends had great ideas (and initiative!) to get us off our hammocks and we had some incredible days together.

We went sea kayaking one afternoon and saw a sea turtle on the way to the cove, and then snorkeled off the beach before returning. The water in this part of the Mediterranean is really warm and clean. The area we were in isn’t really known for underwater beauty, in fact, it probably looks pretty barren compared to tropical reefs, but it was still so much fun diving after the little fish and looking for shrimp and barnacles on the rocks. Is there a more fun and relaxing way to enjoy the outdoors than snorkeling? I submit that there is not.

As a life-long Midwesterner who hadn’t done much traveling before, Olympos was the very first time that I swam in salt water (not counting wading in the Black Sea). I thought the vastness of the sea would be terrifying, but I was completely at ease floating in the crystal clear waters, letting the little fish nibble my feet, and gazing at the bottom far below.

The night after we kayaked, I didn’t sleep well because it felt like I had micro-shattered every millimeter of bone in my arms. But the pain was gone by morning and we embarked on what the four of us called “The Pleasure Cruise.” For a stunningly cheap price, we spent a whole day on a boat that took us out to an uninhabited island. A big local family had reserved the rest of the spots and took control of the sound system, which cranked out Turkish party music all day. (Go load that link on another tab if you want a soundtrack to the rest of this blog post.) The ladies would spontaneously break out into dance circles.

anchored for a swim

the island

Fishing for lunch

perfect blue water

rocky island

swimming

The captain would take the boat from beach to beach, drop anchor, and we would all jump off the boat and swim until it was time to move along to the next place. We had freshly caught fish for lunch, and tea and watermelon in the afternoon, all included in the price. We saw dolphins and another sea turtle. The Pleasure Cruise was a difficult ordeal, but we drew from an inner strength and managed to soldier on.

lunch

hole in the island

Alicia

Sean and McK

Destination Unknown

On our final day, we rented some cushy beach chairs and paid way too much money for a waiter to bring us Diet Coke. It was a little bit of a sad day, because we were about to part ways and we didn’t know when we’d be together again.
-A

beach day

01
Oct 2012
POSTED BY admin
POSTED IN

Turkey

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