Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun!

By Claire and Chuck
Our hope is that our second decade in the 21st century will be one of peace and understanding in the world. We are so grateful to everyone who has supported us in this adventure, most especially:

Jim and Stephanie—Jim for being our perfect property manager and allowing us to be able to travel worry-free. Stephanie for all the little deeds she does for us throughout this year (receiving our forwarded mail, forwarding mail on, biking past our house, and much, much more). How could we have done this without you two?

Merlyn and Tom for storing our two cars for the entire year! We know they are in good hands and we so appreciate your generous offer to do this for us.

Tai for all the computer support and movies. We’re into Season 4 of Dexter, one of our all time favorite series. It’s fun to watch a movie, cozy inside of Homer, every so often. Being able to see Roman Holiday again and the scene with the "Mouth of Truth," priceless.

Diane for suggesting the idea of ordering another purse like the one that was stolen and letting me have it delivered to her house and storing it until I get home. That sure took the sting out of the loss.

Carol for being generous enough to offer to let us store a sofa and exercise bike. For that and the use of her truck on the several occasions we needed it, we are very grateful.

Guerren from the Benefits Office at UC Davis for arranging to let us get an entire year’s worth of prescription meds. We know he went above and beyond for us and that took a huge load of worry off our backs. We may have been able to get the prescriptions filled over here; but finding pharmacies, and worrying about whether or not they would fill what we needed was not what we wanted to be focusing on.

Penny, for being there with Mom when we are unable to be. And, for printing and reading out the blog to her; we appreciate it so much.

All the wonderful people we have met during our travels who have gone out of their way to befriend us—sharing information, maps, printed materials, time and energy to help us along the way. Thank you!

And thank you to all the friends, relatives and strangers who have followed our blog. We love to get your comments and feedback.

We spent the day revisiting some places we love in Kaș and visiting some new sights we just found out about:

Ancient theatre one block from Homer

What a view with our buddy the cat at my side!

Our buddy the cat

We found this sarcophagus at the top of a very pretty street. I guess they’re used to it, but we were impressed.

I found out that giving red lingerie for New Year’s is considered good luck in Turkey. We saw several displays.

We hiked around and found this Lycian tomb, not far from the theatre and not far from our campsite.

High up on the hill, we also spotted a Fiat place and decided to try once again to have someone look at the transmission, especially since things are much cheaper in Turkey. They were very nice at the small Fiat service and called someone who could speak English and let Chuck talk to him so that he could then communicate to the service manager.

They thought a heavier oil might help so we brought Homer to them. They looked under the hood and determined it wasn’t the oil. Then, the service manager took a test drive with us but said he could not fix it; we would need to go to Antalya. It’s 5 hours away so we will think about trying Istanbul. After the test drive, he had one of the guys adjust the clutch, in case that would help. It helped a little but the main problem, the syncromesh, continues. Chuck asked what we owed and he just waved his hand away indicating we owed nothing. He then put his hand out to shake, and said "Ciao."

While this was going on, I was wandering around and found another sarcophagus. I also found a produce market.

We ended this gorgeous 70° day back up at the top of the ancient theatre watching the sunset on the last day of the year.

I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and the new. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back in Kaş

By Claire
Yesterday and today were eventful days—for us anyway. We walked into town to talk to Mehmet (Ali Baba) about paying the speeding ticket. He greeted us all smiles, shook our hands and asked us to sit down. When Chuck showed him the ticket he thought about it for awhile then went next door to the bank to find out what we should do. Turns out we need to go to the tax office but it was almost noon so we would have to do it later.

Walking into town

Next problem on the agenda was getting the passenger door lock fixed on Homer—the one that was damaged during the robbery. Chuck asked Mehmet if he could help us find someone to fix the lock. It took a little while to make it clear that the key wasn’t broken and he told us he would take Chuck to a locksmith. It was decided that I could head back to Homer with the groceries we had bought. Not long after I was back, Chuck showed up and we had a quick lunch since the lock guy would be coming after lunch. Next thing I knew, Chuck jumped up and was saying “Merhaba” to Mehmet and the locksmith. The guy worked and worked on the lock while Mehmet watched closely. It was windy out and I could see that he was cold so I asked Mehmet inside. Pretty soon it became clear that the guy could not fix the lock. So, Mehmet called someone else who showed up within minutes on his motor scooter. There were now 4 guys hovering around the damaged lock. Pretty soon I heard a hammering sound, then Chuck saying, “It’s a miracle”. I knew it must be fixed. Chuck asked Mehmet how much he should pay the first guy but Mehmet said “Nothing, he didn’t fix it.”

Chuck came back inside and told me that the new guy had hammered away with the blunt end of a very large screw driver, pounding the punched out part of the lock back into place. “Miraculously”, it now works! He paid the guy 20 TL and gave 10TL to the first guy who had his hand out with expectation. After all, he did come to us and time is money. It takes a village to fix a door lock.

Today we went back to Mehmet to deal with the speeding ticket. Again, smiles, “Merhaba”, we shake hands and sit down. He pointed to his assistant, Mustapha, and told us he would take us to the tax office. We walked across town, entering an administrative building we would never have found, with the police station on the bottom floor. Up the stairs we went to a room reminiscent of the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles for those of you outside the U.S.). Long lines at 4 different stations. Mustapha went to the first one—no dice. Then the second one, nope. Finally, he took us to the third counter and it was the correct one but the computer was down. So, outside we went for a cigarette break—Mustapha’s. We chatted for awhile then went back upstairs to find the computer working but we now had to go to another line after this guy did some administrative thing to bless it or something. While Chuck and Mustapha waited in line (it was 10 minutes until noon at which time they would be closing), I went out to the lobby to examine a large wall map of Turkey and try to plan our route to Istanbul.

Inching along, they made it with a few minutes to spare and we even received a 20% discount for paying the ticket within 10 days! We saved 26 TL. Love it! Mustapha took us to his office and made a copy for us. Chuck gave him 10 TL for his trouble and then we looked at a wall map in Mehmet’s office so that he could show us how to get to Istanbul. It can be done in 2 days but we’ll probably do it in 3. We’d like to arrive early in the day since it will be a white knuckle drive into the city.

We ran a few errands: bread, bakery items for Chuck, additional clothes pins, and a replacement plastic breadboard for our backpack (the other was lost in one of the stolen backpacks) and now we’re back enjoying the warm, sunny afternoon at home, reading our latest book on our Kindles: Istanbul, by Orhan Pamuk, author of Snow, which we read a few weeks back. Thanks to Chuck's daughter Natasha, who gave us a gift certificate to Amazon for Christmas, we immediately ordered this book.

We make a daily stop at this bakery

Street in Kaş

Time for a nap.

A small key opens big doors ~ Turkish Proverb

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keşlik Monastery, Cappadocia

By Chuck and Claire
December 27-28

One of the highlights of our day trip to southeastern Cappadocia was our stop at the Keşlik Monastery. It had been raining and the path was muddy; but, we decided that we would check it out. It was a very simple place and we were the only ones there—not even the ticket taker was present. This rock-cut Byzantine complex housed hundreds of monks. There are 16 houses with chimneys, fireplaces, bookshelves and vandalized frescoes—actually they are “drycoes”: they don't use a true fresco technique. And, you can see the grey nicks left on the rocks by metal chisels.

We enjoyed being able to roam at will around the rooms and to move from chamber to chamber, even up and down levels. Most other rock-cut sites we have visited have quite prescribed inner paths to follow or are simply rooms that overlook other off-limits areas.

Note our friend the cat at Chuck's feet

It sprinkled and rained off and on so we decided to take a driving tour of the area with a stop at several villages and the Keşlik Monastery.

We drove through Mustafapașa, a nice village that has an Ottoman Greek legacy and used to be called Sinasos. We wandered around for awhile with our main goal the Old Greek House, a good choice for lunch, according to Sergio. I also knew that Diane and David had stayed there and we wanted to check it out. We loved the building and decided to head to the Monastery and come back later.

Old Greek House

What a beautiful place! We had another wonderful meal, 5 courses including lentil soup, a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, some chick pea balls (delicious, especially if you like falafel), a main course of vegetables, pilaf, and lamb followed by homemade Helva for dessert. The Helva was very different from what we had tried in Bergama and delicious in its own right. I’m sorry I didn’t get any photos! We staggered out and decided to head back to Göreme and our room to relax. The power went out while we were reading—no problem, we had our book lights—and soon a knock came at the door and there was Sergio with a candle for us. It wasn’t long before the lights were back on.

Much later, we wandered out into town and returned to the first restaurant we had tried. I wasn’t hungry but Chuck can apparently eat at any time. I ordered a bowl of soup, hoping for that green minty kind that was supposed to be lentil; alas, they only had tomato. It was good and it came with the hot bread. Chuck ordered a pide (the Turkish pizza) to go with his soup.

This was the last night of our Christmas getaway (from what?). We are really going to miss this place. The Pashahan Hotel and Sergio have made this a really memorable time for us. I can’t say enough about him. He was attentive, polite, fun, interesting, intelligent and kind. We felt like we were staying with a friend. He put in long days, arriving at 7 am to prepare breakfast for us and staying late into the evening. At our last breakfast we talked a lot about Islam and the Koran. I have so many questions and thought of many more after we left.

Our plan was to drive beyond Konya on the way back and hope to find a hotel closer to home so we could do most of the drive on a Sunday, the best day to drive. It was raining pretty heavily at times and we were so glad we weren’t driving Homer over the mountains and that we had very little traffic except in the cities. Out of nowhere, we saw another police check and were waved over to the side of the road. The cop came over to the window and Chuck told him he was American, assuming they would wave us on as before. Not this time. We were 10 km. over the speed limit. Oops. After 15 minutes of difficult communication, Chuck was handed a ticket for 128 TL (€58.96). We thought the speed limit was 120 km. when in fact, it was 90. That's 62 miles per hour. We felt like we were crawling along, which is what we did for the rest of the trip.

Getting hungry and trying to find a decent place to eat when what we mostly saw was gas station fast food, we finally pulled in to a place next to a gas station that definitely had other people eating and a few cars in front. Walking in I was again the only woman. This was clearly a working man's eatery. There was a huge brick grill in the center of the room with a guy cooking up various cuts of meat. Huge plastic containers loaded with bread were set at each of the tables where the men sat. We felt a little awkward but decided to just grab a seat. Not much happened until a man with very good English started talking to us and asked us what we would like, explaining that we needed to go up to the glass counter and choose what kind of meat we would like grilled. He took care of ordering for us after we told him what we wanted. He wanted to know where we were from and when we told him California, he told us he was a Geologist and had been to Nevada 5 times. The lunch was simply amazing and the grill guy was very nice and even gave us extra pieces. We also received a basket of bread rather than the big plastic container. For 8 TL (€3.60) each we had this lunch, including two cups of tea and a bottle of water each!

We managed to make it to Side (See-duh), a smallish town on the sea. It was getting dark and we were slightly frantic to find the place that Lonely Planet recommended and said was open year round. It took some missed turns and frustration before we finally came to a place that had a "no enter" sign. We pulled over, Chuck got out and went to ask someone where the hotel was. Are we lucky or what? He found a cop who not only knew where it was, he moved a barricade so we could drive through what we now saw was an ancient theatre. The “road” appeared to be a walking lane. We did find the place but the guy told me they were closed. He was kind enough to give me directions to where other pensions could be found. Just a few blocks later, feeling a bit anxious in the dark with nowhere to stay, we pulled up to the Hotel Sevil. I was about to go in when a man appeared on the balcony in his bathrobe with wet hair, clearly having just stepped out of the shower. I asked if he had a room, we negotiated a price and he said, give me 5 minutes. He let us choose among 3 rooms and assured us that everything was very clean. It was and it was a great place to stay. Only 50 TL, including breakfast (€22.50).

We decided to walk around and find a place for dinner. We were in tight, narrow alleyways but found a place where the guy came out and talked us into coming in. After dinner we decided to take a walk down the lane by the sea and came upon more ruins. What a romantic surprise! I mean, it's not like we haven't seen this stuff before, but never at night, overlooking the Mediterranean with the sound of the water slapping against the rocks.

Temples of Apollo and Athena

We began to walk around, mostly to figure out how to get out of this place in the morning, and stumbled upon an incredible amount of ruins all over the town, all lit up and beautiful.

The man made us a lovely breakfast the next morning and we were on the road by 8:45. It was great to see Homer again and the weather was at least 20 degrees warmer that when we left Cappadocia. How will we ever leave Kaș?

I met a lot of people in Europe. I even encountered myself. ~ James Baldwin

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas in Cappadocia

By Claire and Chuck

We woke to a gorgeous day of blue sky—how lucky can you get? It’s Christmas after all! We drowsed in bed for awhile, wishing each other a Merry Christmas in our wonderfully romantic room, still not quite believing we were here. Breakfast was upstairs in the Terrace room. We found Sergio bustling about putting together a beautiful breakfast and tea—apple for me, ҫay for Chuck.

Sergio sat with us and we talked for quite awhile; his English is so good we were able to ask lots of questions about Turkey, Islam, culture, food, politics and more. He asked what our plans were for the day and we told him we were going to an underground city and on a hike through the Ilhara Valley. He gave us a tip about getting a ride from one end of the hike to the other by having lunch at a place on the river at the end of the hike and asking the restaurant owner for a ride to the beginning. He suggested we bargain for the price of the ride.

One of our intentions in visiting the Cappadocia area was to visit an underground city. There are a number of these to choose from. Some of them date back 4000 years to Hittite days and they were used to make and store wine before they became alternate living spaces. Byzantine Christians used them to escape marauding Persian and Arabic armies in the 6th and 7th centuries AD, armed with an early warning system of beacons that could send messages from Jerusalem to Constantinople in a few hours. Warned, the Christians would escape into hidden tunnels leading to vast underground cities. 37 cities have been opened and there are at least 100 more. 10,000 people lived in Derinkuyu; fewer lived in other cities scattered throughout the region.

There are seven levels at Derinkuyu (claustrophobics beware!); you can walk all the way to the bottom and look up to see the sky through the air ventilation shaft.

The air shafts of the cities were disguised as wells; when someone tried to poison the well, they only poisoned the floor at the bottom; the shafts also served as an excavation route for debris as the city was dug to deeper levels. There are rolling stones intended as a last ditch defense to block the passages if Muslim soldiers should find their way into the cities.

We did run across a sign advertising another underground city, Gaziemir, claiming it was the largest underground city. We had already seen our city, so we did not stop. We have read that it had churches, a winery, food depots, hamams (bath houses), and tandoor fireplaces; there is also evidence that it served as a subterranean caravanserai—with space for camels!

Didar, I hope you notice your contribution to making the cold weather in Cappadocia in general, and the caves in particular, more bearable. I refer to the scarf you gave me upon a return from Scotland; it is both beautiful and warm and has been gratefully worn during this season. Further, it was Claire's head covering while in the Mevlâna Museum in Konya.

The underground city was much larger than I expected. I was sure I would have to flee to the top due to claustrophobia; but it never happened. The rooms were quite large (for an underground city!) and I could imagine people living down there—but not 10,000! The tunnels leading down and connecting rooms were rather tight. I’d hate to think of everyone trying to get out at once.

We drove through this beautiful, interesting area to the Ihlara Valley. Our mistake was seeing the underground city during the peak of the day’s sunshine. By the time we started our hike in this deep gorge, the sun was almost gone.

We started at the river restaurant since by now it was past lunchtime for us. We asked about a ride and agreed on a price of 20 TL. We would be driven to the start of the hike. We both decided to order the trout since this area is famous for it and we had a view of the river rushing by us.

The food was good but I’d forgotten how much work it is avoiding the bones for little reward. I think I’m done with trout. We gathered our things, locked up the car, and hopped into Ekrem’s car. The drive was 9 Km away and we were dropped right at the start—360 steep stairs leading down into the gorge. What a way to spend Christmas day! So many things to see, including the ubiquitous cave houses.

We had to squeeze through some tight places

I try to imagine this huge rock falling from above. It’s the size of a two storey building.

Tea house along the way

We arrived back at our car just before it became too cold; but the shadows were deepening. It was only 3 pm!

We drove back to Göreme with the idea of resting up for our Christmas dinner and a Whirling Dervish Semâ. But first, we had to get some tea! Back to the “boys club”, now a comfortable place and only .50 TL. We love this town so much and enjoy just walking around. There are very few cars and it almost feels traffic free. Arriving back at Pashahan, Sergio greeted us and invited us upstairs for tea. How could we refuse? We chatted for awhile and he assured us that we could come up for tea anytime and to treat it like our own home. We tried to rest for awhile then left for dinner at The Orient, a recommendation from Sergio. What a perfect place! The ambience was just right, cozy and warm, yet elegant. Our glasses steamed up just as we walked in. The service was formal but comfortable.

Chuck ordered a fixed plate, 4 course menu. I ordered a meze plate (assorted appetizers) and a mixed grill. What can I say? Fabulous! We were also brought a plate of marinated tomatoes and olives and toasted bread. I think I died and went to heaven.

Unfortunately, it was now 8:20 and our ride to the Semâ was coming at 8:30. We hurried through dessert, rushed back and off we went on another adventure!

We finally were able to see the Whirling Dervishes, but at the relatively high price of €25 each. This was arranged by Sergio, our innkeeper and (now) friend. This included transportation both ways and an opportunity to see the 1249 caravanserai at night. I like to think that Marco Polo rested here with his camels along the Silk Road.

The Semâ (unification with God) ceremony that night was done in a fairly intimate setting with about 50 people in attendance inside the caravanserai. There were 5 whirling dervishes, a “performance master,” and four musicians (flute, kanun (zither), large tambourine [without jangles] and drums); the performance lasted about 45 minutes. There are 7 stages of Semâ, which represents a mystical journey of the spirit to union with God and return to the world. You may skip the numbered stages of the Semâ, which I include for the curious:
1. A eulogy to the Prophet, who represents love, and all prophets before him; to praise them is to praise God, who created them.
2. A drum sound symbolizing the Devine order of the Creator.
3. Improvised instrumental music representing the first breath, which gives life to everything.
4. The dervishes greet each other in a thrice repeated circular walk, with musical accompaniment; this represents the salutation of soul to soul, concealed by shapes and bodies.
5. The whirling in 4 salutes, each initiated and ended by representing God's unity. a. Man's birth to truth by feeling and mind—representing God as Creator and his own state of creature. b. Man's rapture witnessing the splendor of creation, before God's greatness and omnipotence. c. The dissolution of rapture into love and the complete submission of self to and into the loved One, a state of unity. d. Following the end of his spiritual journey and his “ascent” he returns to his task and his state of subservience—to God, the prophets and all creation; this is demonstrated by placing arms crosswise, representing the unity of God.
6. This part is a reading from the Quaran (The Koran): Unto God belong the East and the West, and wherever you turn, there is God's countenance. He is All-Embracing, All-knowing.
7. The ceremony ends with a prayer for the peace of the souls of all Prophets and all believers. At the end of the Semâ ritual the dervishes silently return to their cells for meditation.

The dervish's headdress represents the ego's tombstone, his white skirt the ego's shroud. By removing his black cloak he begins his spiritual journey. The whirling causes the mind to participate in the universal revolution of God's creations—the sun and planets. Crossed arms represent the unity of God. While whirling, when the hands are open, the right hand is raised to the heavens to receive God's beneficence and the left hand is lowered to convey God's spiritual gifts to the people; he thus embraces all of humankind and all of creation in love.

This is the part of Islam that the American media, unfortunately, never finds occasion to report. For a warmly readable, but wholly secular, tale about another part of the Islamic world, I highly recommend Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea; this true story describes how an American helped bring education to Islamic girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I was thrilled to be able to visit an actual caravanserai (caravan palace). How romantic to imagine people following the route of the 13th century silk road. These staging posts were built roughly a day’s travel (about 15 km to 30 km) apart to provide food and lodging and offer trade.

Fortunately, we had bundled up. All the attendees gathered in the open-air courtyard, most of us snapping pictures as best we could in the dark. The lighting was wonderful. Soon, we were taken below to an indoor room and seated right in front of the floor where the performance would take place. The dervishes quietly walked in and the Semâ began. I was fascinated and found it very soothing. I recommend seeing one of these performances if you visit Turkey, keeping in mind, that not all performances are alike. After the performance, we went back to the courtyard and enjoyed a spice tea in the cold night air. What an experience!

Being chauffeured to and from was very nice. Sergio was waiting for us when we returned and wanted to know how it went. We pretty much headed straight for bed. It had been a long and wonderful day. This will be the most memorable Christmas day of my life. How did I get so lucky?

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. ~ Seneca, Roman Philosopher

Christmas Eve in Göreme

By Claire
With great anticipation we continued our journey to Göreme in the region of Cappadocia, arriving 2.5 hours after leaving Konya. We chose Göreme because of its central location in the area and we were really pleased with our decision.

Our first view of Cappadocia as we arrived in Göreme

Squealing with delight and with our heads on a swivel, we found the Pashahan Hotel easily and received a warm greeting from 33 year old owner Sergio, (real name Sedat). His name is a nickname he picked up while an exchange student in Rome. His real name is Sedat but he is Sergio to everyone. We were ushered to our fantastic stone room then invited upstairs for tea.

He sat with us and, using a map, explained the area—there are three main regions within Cappadocia—and marked his recommendations of activities for our 3 days. First up: The Göreme Open Air Museum. We set off on foot, somewhat bundled up. It was a bright, sunny day, but cold, and we felt like we were in the mountains. Along the way we were constantly thrilled and fascinated by what we saw, marveling at what nature and humans can do.

Motorcycle parking

The Open Air Museum was a huge surprise in spite of our high expectations. It looks like another planet. We spent about 2 hours hiking around and going inside the cave houses and churches from the 10th to 13th century with well preserved frescos, especially The Dark Church which had an extra charge to go in. Well worth it but no photos allowed!

One of several churches we were able to enter

Chuck in the refectory

Pictures and words really cannot capture the views in this area. I simply recommend that you get on a plane and come to Turkey and visit Cappadocia.

These looked like Christmas trees to me. One was decorated with pots, the other with prayer notes. We were definitely in a Christmas mood and kept pinching ourselves that we were here and that it was Christmas time.

Next, we noticed these horse stables, making use of the caves.

One of the reasons we loved being in Göreme is that it is surrounded by cave houses. Here’s one with a garage.

By now it was time for lunch. Walking around this cute, small, friendly town we chose a place that offered pide (Turkish pizza) and soup. Naturally we started with tea. The soup we ordered was lentil but what came was light green, delicious with a hint of mint. We don’t know what it was but we loved it. We were also given a huge basket of very hot bread, the best we’ve had in Turkey so far. The vegetarian pide was wonderful. They are made in the shape of a long canoe, about 2.5 feet. It arrived cut up and ready to eat. Yum! A fantastic lunch for 17 TL (€7.65).

We wandered around town, once again almost tourist free due to the time of year. Have I mentioned that this is a great time of year to travel? Soon it was time for tea again so we went into a place with lots of people. As it turned out, I was the only woman among about 25 men. Some were playing a game we later found out was called “OK” using tiles similar to Mahjong but with numbers on them. Others were just talking or reading the paper. I felt a little uncomfortable wondering if I had wandered into a “boys club”. But, a handsome man bowed to me, saying “merhaba (hello), welcome.” I was touched by that as I often am of the many kindnesses I have experienced in this country.

The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, as long as you were in the sun. We eventually went back to our room and both took a bath! What a treat. We relaxed and read our Kindles, Chuck attempting the 1734 George Sale translation of the Koran (Al-Qur’an). I’m reading a Sci-Fi novel called Bad Monkeys.

Later on, we went out for dinner and found a cozy, warm little place with a wood stove going full blast. I wasn’t very hungry so I ordered soup and this time had real lentil soup. Chuck ordered a kebab plate that looked delicious for 8 TL (€3.60).

We visited with an Australian fellow who has been traveling on his own for the past 15 months. It was fun to find someone speaking English.

Back in our room, we slept like well taken care of babies.

Chuck in front of our room

Reverse hallway view

Downstairs lounging area

I am so glad Diane let me know by email that Cappadocia was the highlight of her trip to Turkey. We were wavering about doing this trip. Many miles, hotels and meals out. I can't imagine not having seen this. Thank you Diane!

A wise man remembers his friends at all times; a fool, only when he has need of them. ~ Turkish Proverb