Monuments, Memories and Many Miles!

This post is originally from June 21, 2014

The last five days have been a whirlwind of travel and sightseeing. After leaving Selcuk we headed north to the layered cities of Troy. Apparently Brad Pitt starred in a movie about what happened here and some people were super excited to get into the giant wooden Trojan horse that was used in the movie.

By the time we reached the city of Canakkale I became pretty ill. I think the combo of heat from the previous day and the winding roads threw me off my A-game. Needless to say I sat one night out of festivities and jumped back on board the next day.

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Watching World Cup Football/Soccer with the gang!

On our way back to Istanbul we stopped off at Gallipoli – ANZAC Cove where many Aussies and Kiwis lost their lives in the First World War. Rows upon rows of mass graves definitely puts life into perspective.

 Coming back to Istanbul has been bitter sweet. It is a beautiful city with so much see and do. But this is where the group tour ends and again this has left me with more than one soaked Kleenex. You sure become close to people you’ve only known for a short period when you travel. I am so lucky to have been able to travel with yet another amazing group. There has been so much laughter and memories made with these people and it breaks my heart when I have to say good bye.

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a snapshot of the Princes Island

Yesterday I was able to take a ferry to a nearby island called Princes Island that sits in the Bosphorus straight that leads to the Black Sea. When getting there you literally have one land mass of Asia on one side and Europe on the other. This island was seriously super cute. No vehicles exist on it and people get around on horse drawn carriages, bicycles and the most authentic of all…a handicapped motorized chair thing that you see in shopping centres.  One was the ultra delux version that was pimped out in extra seats and a plastic
covering for rainy weather.

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She’s staying healthy with a cigarette hanging from her lips.

I have to say that I think Turkey is the cleanest country I’ve ever visited. Wherever you go people are constantly picking up garbage, cleaning the streets and even washing the public vehicles. For a city of a ridiculous population as well as the most tourists in the world this place is pretty immaculate. But what is difficult are the Syrian refugees. Families wearing bits of rags are sprawled out on the ground with their Syrian passports open so you can see they are ligit. It breaks my heart to see these people.  The image of a five year old looking boy barefoot while rocking a tiny baby will be one that will be difficult to shake from my mind. Unlike other places I’ve been these children are happy when you give them food. I bought corn from a vendor for a bunch of them and the looks in their eyes were simply
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Anyway, these past few weeks were truly unforgettable and like all my adventures not only do I learn about the place I’m visiting but I learn and grow as a person too.
As they say in Turkey “sherrifay” (spelling is def wrong) which means CHEERS!

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Pamukkale & Selcuk

This post is originally from June 17, 2014

Every day is seriously a new adventure. Life at home can pretty much be the same from day to day, but traveling is just so unique and eye opening. There is just so much out there that the world has to offer and it’s a shame we can’t see it all!

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Magnificent Pamukkale!

Yesterday we made our way to Pamukkale. This is again one of those places you just need to google to understand how crazy and beautiful it really is. I remember seeing a photo on the internet a few years ago and thinking ‘where in the world is this?–I have to see that one day!’ And here I am!!!!!

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Basically the famous white cliffs of Pamukkale are 2700 m long and 160 m high, and are visible from 20km away. There are about 20 hot water springs which are these picture perfect blue pools, and the cliffs have been formed by calcium carbonate deposits that harden over time. Being able to relax and swim in the springs while in this magnificent
place is simply surreal.  Freaking amazing!

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Later we went to see the ceremony of the Whirling Dervish. I have heard of this and that it is  unique to Turkey, but to be hones I thought it was a dance. In fact this is a form of meditation. With music and prayers to Allah these men dressed in white robes and a large hat (the hat represents the tomb stone of the ego) twirl in circles while praying. They almost look as if they are in a trance but the twirling signifies the fundamental condition of our world, particles and basically existence in revolving. They follow a poet, Rumi’s teaching from the 1200’s – but pray to Allah and the Muslim faith. It was definitely
interesting, but an hour of spinning men was definitely enough! …

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The cute winery town of Sirince

… It’s been a few days since I last wrote the above so I will carry on now…Yesterday we traveled to the city of Selcuk. This has been our home base for two nights. Yesterday we drove about a half hour to this tiny winery town of Sirince.  It was built long ago by the Greeks so the architecture looked a bit different than it’s surroundings. High in the hills overlooking plateau after plateau of vineyards, the scenery was picture perfect. We were able to sample many different fruit wines. Strawberry, apple and pomegranate were my favorite. But then I tried this cherry port and I have to admit I got a bit tipsy. When drunk all reasoning seems to escape my mind and I bought a bottle of port …did not consider how difficult it would be to bring it home in my backpack. Lord help me!!!!

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Me and my gals doing a little tasting!

Today I went to the beach with my friend Denise. There were hardly any people and I just wanted to soak it all in as I know this will be the last time on this trip. Before leaving we had lunch at this shack of a beach cafe. While there, a horse ran through while we were eating. Not something you see every day! Then I dropped my wallet and this puppy
came and picked it up and ran away with it. I had to chase him and the smart little effer knew to hide behind a table. So bloody cute!beach

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We later went to the ancient Roman town of Ephesus. One of the foremost cities in the world at its time, with a strategic location on a trade route – it was another amazing example of how old this part of the world really is.

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And then there was the fashion show…who knew this was part of the itinerary???  I wanted to buy leather so we stopped off at a leather place. Their sales tactics were definitely unique. We entered a room with a catwalk and the music and lights were flashing. We got a full on cheesey European fashion show. They had me at the reversible
leopard print  trench coat!!

I can’t help but think my trip is nearing the end and I’m getting super sad about coming home. Tomorrow we move on north – one day closer to departure. 😦

Dalyan

This post is originally from June 15, 2014

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On our way to another cute town of Dalyan we stopped off for lunch. Throughout the trip getting freshly squeezed orange juice has been quite a treat. Turkey produces a massive amount of oranges and is a huge exporter throughout Europe. So today, like any other day I treated myself to another glass of freshly squeezed juice. This glass was like no other. When it came, I downed about half the glass because it tasted so good. Thankfully my attention was caught by cat so I stopped drinking my juice. All of a sudden one of the girls screamed out that there was something moving in her juice. Then another and another…bloody freaking hell – all of our orange juices were laced with maggots!!!!! I picked one out of my glass and it was wriggling around!!!! Let me tell you that I am pretty freaking sure that will be my last glass of orange juice in a very long time!!!!!
Today we hired a boat and it took us to this little island that has natural mud pits and thermal pools. The first thing we did was get into the mud pit (which was nice and warm) and cover our bodies in mud. When we were coming out of the mud pool we looked like green monsters. After that, the sun dried the mud on our bodies. The feeling of the mud pulling on your skin as it dries feels super weird. Then we went to the showers…
but it was like a bunch of super power hoses shooting from above. One  Aussie friend, Denise  yells out ‘I just popped a nip’ as the force was so strong it ripped her bikini top right off. After this, a man stood there with a hose and if we had any leftover mud residue  on any orifice on our body he shot it straight at us. Once our inspection was
all clear we made our way to the thermal pool. Wow!

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Our boat then took us to a fresh water lake that has channels that lead to the sea. On our way out we were able to see tombs carved into the side of the mountains. They are as old as 400BC. It is so crazy that this stuff still exists. Honestly I can’t comprehend the extent of how  old things are because at home 100 years is pretty ancient!

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Eventually we made our way through the channel to an area where these massive turtles unique to this area breed and live. They are called Caretta Caretta. We docked at the strip of beach which had lake on one side and sea on the other. The sand was soft and the day was pretty freaking magnificent !!!

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Moving down to the Mediterranean Sea

This post is originally from June 13, 2014

The other night after being slathered in olive oil (at the hamam), we basically slid our way onto the overnight bus. This time it was a ten hour ride south to the Mediterranean coastal town of Cirali.

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As soon as we got to the town we made our way to the beach. Ahhhh the ocean. Seriously I feel so happy when I’m near the ocean. Why do I live in landlocked Alberta again?
beachThe day was full of sun and sea, and when the sun set I was in for another unbelievable experience. We were picked up by a tractor that had a cart hooked to the back. All 14 of us piled on the back, and like a herd of cattle we were taken to our secret destination. I honestly had no idea what we were about to do. We got to this mountainous area and began our hike. It was pretty rocky and extremely dark. This was the first time our guide had also been there so he didn’t forewarn us to bring a headlamp or proper shoes. Thankfully everyone is addicted to their cell phones so we were able to use this as a flash light. After a treacherous 1 km climb to about 250 meters above sea level we reached the strangest phenomenon… It looked as if there were about a dozen bonfires. Literally flames  were shooting from the ground. I think this is unique to only this one place in the world. Basically there is natural gas under the earth’s crust and whereever the rocks had cracked and made an opening, flames would shoot out. So what better activity to do around an open fire? Roast marshmallows. It was such a bizarre and  amazing experience. This world is sure full of incredible things!

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Now going down perhaps was not as difficult physically, however the slippery rocks and navigating in the dark made for a bit of a treacherous feat. While laughing at one of my friends because she had sat on a sticky marshmallow stick and the stick was standing straight out from her arse, karma quickly dealt me my card. I landed straight on my ass/arm by slipping down a rock. I stood up with only minor cuts and bruises…but seriously, my trip wouldn’t be complete without one mishap under my belt!

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This morning we drove another two hours to the coastal town of Kekova. Here we embarked on our sailing adventure. Sailing in the beautiful blue sea, we then got to swim in caves and watch sea turtles swim by. Tonight we will sleep on the deck of the boat under the stars. Sounds pretty dreamy now doesn’t it?!!!

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Cappadocia part deux!

This post is originally from June 11, 2014

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The stunning view from the hot air balloon.

Yesterday was an early start. Instead of being woken up by an alarm clock, it’s far more peaceful to listen to the call to prayer at 4 am. Honestly I love it. Five times a day the prayer is sung for all to hear (and pray obviously)!  It makes me really feel like I’m in a far
off land that is so totally different from home. So there is a reason I actually got ready at this ungodly hour…the hot air balloon ride. In one word it was simply MAGICAL. About 100 balloons are flown daily in this area because there is no better way to get this magnificent view. With the sun rising over the rock formations I felt like I was in some
fantasy world. There are some things that I’ve seen over the years that I tell myself I wish I could trade places with my parents so they could see what I’m seeing at this moment… this was definitely one of them. Navigating the balloon around the cone shaped rocks and then floating about 500 meters in the air… I just can’t describe how truly perfect it was.

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The rest of the day was completely full. Visiting tunnels and rooms deep below the earth’s surface; we were able to walk (more like crouch) through an underground city that was used before Christ.

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Then at night, we went to a tourist trap where we ate the local cuisine while watching dancers show us their mad Turkish dance skillz! At one point I was pulled on stage and I had a dance off with the Turks. Apparently my running man and roger rabbit moves are a big hit here in Turkey! Perhaps they will add it to their dance repertoire in the next show.

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Today has been another awesome day. I’ve been able to do one of my favorite activities-shop! The town is so cute and the people are so kind. I bought some leather sandals from a shoemaker who didn’t speak a lick of English. He had the most enormous smile and wanted to take a photo with me. In all the commotion of photos and such I walked away without my change. After I had left the store this lady came running down the street yelling ‘lady lady’! She came to give me my change back. After she gave me my money she
hugged me. So adorable!

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My little shoe cobbler!

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I can’t stop posting photos from the balloon ride…amazing!

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Later in the day I experienced my first Hammam/Turkish Bath. I was a bit hesitant…but I mean who wouldn’t be…getting naked and scrubbed down in a large group. It’s a completely uncomfortable experience! So first things first –

1.  We disrobe and wrap ourselves in a mini towel. Perhaps this towel would okay for someone with short stature, but being 5’8”, it was a challenge to cover all my bits.  (I have to tell you I didn’t do the full camando… I left my bikini bottoms on as protection against the possibility of the Turkish ladies grazing my crotch with a loofah).
2.  While we sit in a typical Turkish room with pillows and traditional music playing a lady takes a paint brush and paints my face with mud.
3.  While it dries we are then ushered into a sauna. For 15 minutes we sat there while every pore sweats profusely.
4.  Next we showered and washedthe mud mask off our faces.
5.  Now comes the piece de resistance…the washing. As I opened the door to the baths I didn’t really know what to expect.  It doesn’t usually take much to shock me but I felt like a cartoon character where their eyes pop out of their heads. Here before me was this large tiled room with an octagon like bench in the center. Laying there stark naked, were women of every size and shape being rubbed by strong hairy Turkish women. But what got me the most was the naked women right by the door laying face up. I literally had to have a double take as I could have sworn there was steel wool between her legs!!!!  Now to wait my turn at the guillotine – I had nowhere to look but at the naked bodies before me. It was not a pretty sight and really made for the apprehension and anxiety to get worse and worse. Finally when it was my turn I literally had butterflies. Really Heather why have you put yourself in this ungodly position???

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6.  The actual washing –  Once I closed my eyes and just pretended that I was in a room alone, it was totally amazing. It was more like a massage than anything else. Apart from the ass slapping when she wanted me to turn over and the wedgie pulling when she wanted to wash my bum I really was in heaven. They do this bubble massage where they have this pillowcase like sac and it balloons out, but when she squeezes it an enormous amount of bubbles comes shooting out. So bizarre and so uncomfortable, but also amazing all mixed together.
7.  After being scrubbed squeakie clean it was time for the oil massage. Pure olive oil was poured all over the body and because all your pores are open your body absorbs the oil pretty quickly. My massage was fantastic.
8. And finally when done we were given the customary apple tea while we relax.

Pretty fantastic I would say!

More of Istanbul and Captivating Cappadocia

This post is originally from June 9, 2014

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The last few days have been full on when it comes to  seeing new sights. Yesterday we walked around a fair bunch capturing many of Istanbul’s amazing mosques and bazaars. It is simply amazing how these massive structures were built so long ago without the modern tools that we use today. They still stand more grande than anything that today’s man could ever produce. The art in every structure is also so intricate and amazing – it truly is hard to take it all in.

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Customary washing before enter a mosque for prayers.

Can I just say that I’m getting my ‘cat fix’ in. There are so many cats running around and the locals here treat them like their own pets. Yesterday while having dinner our waiter asked us to feed our leftovers to the cats. Pretty soon we had them walking on our table. CRAZY CAT LADY is alive and well! When I get home my friends will be like ‘let me see all your photos from Turkey’, and all I will have are pictures of cats.
So last night was the dreaded 13 hour overnight bus ride to the region of Cappadocia. Although it was incredibly long, the public bus was super nice. My seat however, happened to be at the very back. This meant bumpy and non-reclining seats. I popped a Gravol and tried my best to get through. At one point I woke up and my head was a mere
inch away from one of the girls’ ass. I guess I’m like a dog – making friends by smelling others nether regions!

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One of many stunning shots from Cappadocia

The bus ride was definitely worth it though. Driving into Goreme was like driving into a fantasy world. It is difficult to explain but if you google Cappadocia you will be able to see this bizarre and picturesque place. Basically a bazillion years ago three volcanos
erupted and covered the area in cone shaped rock formations. When man discovered the area they began building homes into the rocks. It is absolutely surreal and like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  Today we visited a UNESCO World Heritage Sight of about 10 churches carved into the formations. Each about 1000 years old; paintings are still vibrant
on the walls and skeletons still lay in the ground next to where you walk.

For lunch we had the most amazing meal yet.  A five course meal and the main course was cooked in single clay pot per person. You literally had to hit your pot open with a mallet to get into your dish. I’m sure that woman on the tv show ‘My Strange Addiction’ who ate
terra cotta pots would love this, as she could eat the clay pot as well!! And the food didn’t end. Later today we went to visit with a local family where they had us in their home and cooked us a meal. This is truly an amazing place and one I wish for your eyes to see in
person.

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Is it Thanksgiving? Because I sure do smell Turkey!

 This post is originally from June 6, 2014
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The magnificent Aya Sofia

I am here safe and sound…
It’s always a little daunting when I first arrive in a big city. What
will I discover? Where will I go? How will I get there? Istanbul is no
exception. It’s estimated that nearly 20 million live in just the
city itself!  It is rated one of the most visited cities in the world and you
can tell by the slick sales tactics of every shop owner calling out
after you. I have to remember that a little white lie is ok now and
then. So YES I do have a boyfriend. I have learned in the past that
when you say you don’t, the harassment ensues at a whole new level.
The time difference is 9 hours so basically I’ve been trying to get my
bearings and get on the Turkish clock. Yesterday while walking around
the area I was invited into a man’s carpet shop for tea. Although we
all know where this could be headed I decided to step inside. I really had
nowhere to go so why not listen to his carpet shpeel. He lead me down
the stairs into a dimly lit room … Hmmmm is this sounding fishy??
And yet… I still followed. It didn’t end badly. He made me the customary apple
tea and actually didn’t mention a carpet once. In fact he helped me navigate a
map to help me understand the area. It is people like this that make
you appreciate the kindness around the world.
This morning I went to one of Istanbul’s top sights called Aya Sofia.
Built in 537 as a church and converted in 1453 into a mosque this
massive structure with a dome reaching 56m is literally jaw dropping.
I opted out of hiring a guide or buying the headset. Instead I
wandered around capturing the awe inspiring magnificence of the common
tourist. The fashion sense of different nationalities really are quite
fascinating. Russians seem to like boots with cut out toes – they are
quite practical you know. Warm enough for a cold day but ventilation
to keep the toes from sweating. Or how about the Japanese wearing
t-shirts that say nonsensical words. My fave – COLLAGE MUSIC NEW.
Hmmmm I wonder what she thinks it says?? Makes me wonder what all
these Westerners getting Chinese tattoos really mean.
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Inside the Aya Sofia

After seeing all that I could possibly see, I decided to leave and
explore more of the sites. Just as I was leaving the heavens decide
to open the flood gates. It was pouring rain!  And what could possibly be a
tad more irritating than tourists en masse?  Tourists holding open
umbrellas en masse. Not all cultures are forgiving and aware of their
surroundings. Navigating around open umbrellas whilst trying not to
get poked in the head became a challenge. Maybe just chilling at a
cafe and listening to the call to prayer over the intercom was a
better idea for the afternoon!

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The Famous Blue Mosque

In the evening I met the group that I will be traveling with.  I am traveling with a G Adventures group and there will be 14 of us on this tour. I didn’t ask for a
single room but it looks like they have me flying solo anyway. Now I
can run around naked all I want. 😉 Just kidding! Tomorrow we have one more full day
in Istanbul and then take a 13 hour overnight bus to Cappadocia. I am
really looking forward to the day and all the discoveries this city
has to offer.
Until next time…

Ready Set Go

319turkeyThis post is originally from June 3, 2014
Hey there everyone,
Just thought I would send a quickie off to let you know that I am about to embark on another adventure. First I will be flying out east through Toronto, and then the 10 hour journey across the pond to Istanbul. Not sure how this geezer will do with my decrepit hips…nothing that drugs can’t fix right?!
Anyway, I will try to stay safe this time. Note to self, don’t go off alone with strange Indian men to try on saris (ok, maybe that only happens in India), or don’t get lost finding my way back to the hotel in dark streets only to talk my way out of possible purse snatching, kidnapping and who the hell knows what else (perhaps only in Vietnam)…Anyway, I will do my best to keep you updated, as this serves not only to keep my family at ease, but also to use as my personal journal to look back on.
Better get packing now…Cheers!
The G Adventures Tour I will take – Turkey on a Budget