Friday, May 15, 2015

Life on a Gulet

We have just arrived in Antalya, after disembarking our gulet this morning.  It was a long time to be on a boat with the same folks, in the small spaces of a boat, sharing all meals with the same twelve people.  This was peaceful, but definitely a little boring.  
We just moved from one cove to another cove, the scenery gorgeous but pretty much all the same, spent our days finding cozy places to curl up with a book, or sitting around a table chatting.  The beds were not particularly comfortable--we weren't provided with real sheets, just a kind of rough blue bedspread, and a thick red and green blanket.  I went swimming off the boat practically every day, into the cool (but not freezing) water and once I took a kayak out and paddled around the cove.  

Internet access was iffy and when it was available, only a few could use it at the same time.  There was a certain tension in the air concerning internet hogs.

A few times in the last five or six days, we were ferried to shore in the motorboat to take a short hike, once to visit a family of so-called nomads living in a shack and selling trinkets, and another time in Kale to climb to a castle on a hilltop and then hike back to a cove where our gulet was waiting.   

Yesterday we boarded the bus and began two days of hiking and visits to fascinating ruins of ancient cities, the rock tombs of Myra, the flames of Olympus (a steep hike up a hillside where escaping methane gas combines with oxygen to produce mysterious flames rising from the rocks.  Today was perhaps the most spectacular hike of the trip, up to the ruins of Telmessos, another ancient city in ruins, but with a spectacular theater overlooking an impressive mountain.  Our guide, Jasmine, treated us to lunch at her home outside of Antalya.  She's an expert on wildflowers, and her garden, predictably enough, was full of them, and roses too.  

A farewell dinner takes place tonight, and tomorrow we'll be on that nonstop flight from Istanbul to San Francisco.  It's time to go home and do the laundry...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday on the A. Candan

Breakfast soon on the A. Candan.  We'll all sit around a big table on the back of the boat and chat about all sorts of stuff, some serious and some silly.  Our travel companions form an interesting group. A few folks have traveled all over the world.  A few will continue to travel after this tour ends, Anne will go to Sicily and then to Spain, to walk the 500 miles of the famous pilgrimage route, the Santiago di Compostela (I hope that's the right name).  Herb will go on another tour with Jasmine for a week of wildflower photography, and then to the Czech Republic.  I, for one, will be happy to be home again at least for a while.

We've mostly stayed on the boat, except for little shore excursions on the rocky hills.  There are lots of ruins on the shore, some Roman ruins, but also the abandoned rock houses of the Greeks who were ordered back to Greece in 1924 as a condition of the peace treaty between the Turks and Greeks.  
I've gone swimming right off the boat; the water's cold, but not so bad once I take the plunge.  Larry's been doing less of the hikes, because, although it isn't far in distance, there's a degree of difficulty with steep slopes, and lots of loose rocks.  Both Larry and I fell; I scraped my knee and Larry banged his head, which sounds bad, but he's fine.  Thick skull?  

The sparkling and calm blue sea is all around us; as soon as I can get hooked up to wifi, I will post some of my pictures.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Previous blog retrieved from cyberspace

Friday morning, our group packed up, ate breakfast, and left in our bus for the ride to Kayseri, the local airport.  From Kayseri, we flew to Istanbul, and quickly transferred to a flight to Izmir.  In Izmir we once again boarded a bus and drove to the town of Selcuk where we had lunch, mezes and kebabs.  Mezes is the Turkish word referring to the delicious array of appetizers preceding a main course.  Since it was so late, our tour guides decided to adopt Plan B, and postpone the visit to Ephesus until the following morning.  The weather in this part of Turkey is much warmer than Istanbul or Cappadocia, and I was grateful not to do extensive sight-seeing in the heat, and especially after so many hours of airplane and bus rides.  We drove to our hotel of one night, a luxurious place called the La Vista Hotel.  Luxurious it might be, but there were a couple of problems.  We couldn't get into our room with the card key, so Larry went downstairs to ask for another one.  The new one didn't work either, so once again, we asked for help.  This time they gave us an actual key and promised to remove the metal plate hiding the actual keyhole.  After dinner we came back to the room, and still couldn't gain entry.  Finally, the metal plate was removed, and we entered the room with the metal key, only to find that we couldn't operate the lights, because we'd given back the nonfunctioning key card.  Well, that said, the room was pretty nice, with a beautiful view of the Aegean Sea.  

We had a nice dinner outside on the patio, overlooking the Aegean, and a belly dancer, too!

Saturday morning, at 6 AM, an annoying beep began somewhere, woke us up and sent us scurrrying to our electronic devices to see if one of them was responsible, but the beep was from somewhere else, and persisted for fifteen minutes or so.

But for the good and exciting news, we had a wonderful visit to Ephesus, and ancient city on a hill in picturesque ruins.  The weather was fine, not too hot, and the crowds were manageable.  I took lots of pictures which I'll try to post later when I have more reliable internet access.

We drove many hours to the port where the A. Candan was waiting for us.  Larry and I got probably the best room on the gulet, with a little sitting area as well as a big, comfortable bed.  I'm thinking the next few days will be the best part of the trip.  It's beautiful on the water, surrounded by islands, the weather is very comfortable, and I even went swimming off the boat this morning.  We're going to go on a hike on shore this afternoon (in about an hour).   `

Attempt to Post Blog

I wrote a bunch of stuff a couple of days ago, but it seems to have disappeared into cyberspace.  I thnk the wifi connection on the Gulet is limited and touchy.

The boat is really elegant, and Larry and I have the best cabin on the boat.  I don't quite know how we wrangled that.  But right now we are sailing away from thunder and lightning, and the boat is rocking.  Scopalamine for me is doing its job.

We saw Ephesus a couple of days ago.  Not too crowded, not too hot, it's an enormous site, a whole ancient city in ruins.  The day before we went to the museum in Izmir (Smyrna that was) and saw many of the statues that had been in Ephesus, including two astonishing statues of Artemis decorated with multiple breasts, eggs?  Some kind of fertility symbols.  Ephesus is interesting for women, because over the millenia it's been associated with Cybele, the earth mother, Artemis, and even the Virgin Mary.  

I've got more pictures which I should post, but I don't want to go downstairs to retrieve my iphone (with all my pictures) because the boat is too rocky!  So, later...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Intrepid Larry, lazy Carol

The day started with brave Larry wakening at 4:15 AM before the morning call to prayer, boarding the bus to a field of inflating balloons, hot burners filling the bags with glow.  After an awkward scramble into the basket, the balloon soars in the early morning over surreal landscapes of rock formations and hundreds of, balloons.  The pilot brings us down through a valley and up again.   We land with a gruadual descent until ropes are grabbed by the landing crew and the basket holding 20 people comes to rest on the back of the truck.  Victory, celebration, champagne!  We congratulate ourselves.  There are hundreds of balloons with twenty to thirty people in them every day.  But it is spectacular.  Return to the hotel for breakfast.

After more snoozing, and searching for Tylenol for Carol, begging for Tylenol, we drive to what is reported to be a homestyle meal, but very similar to foods we've been eating all week followed by a brief and awkward shopping experience.

Another silent bus ride (no chatter) we arrive at the underground city, a place recently discovered, many stories of passageways and tunnels, more like an anthill, an ant farm or rabbit warren, carved who knows how, inhabited for how long nobody knows.  Why here and not other places?  Because the sone is not so hard and easy to remove?  That's all.

(above dictated by Larry)

I spent the day in bed reading on my ipad, finishing other posts and sleeping, trying to ward off a cold, which I probably caught in Amsterdam, from the cold afflicted on that trip.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Transit to Cappadocia

Let me see if I can get my days straight.  Today is Thursday, May 7 and we've been in Cappadocia since Tuesday.  Tomorrow we drive back to Kayseri, and take a plane somewhere else! 

Tuesday morning we checked out of the Arkadia hotel in Istanbul and drove to the airport for a short flight to Kayseri, a center of agriculture and sugar factories in Turkey.  We boarded a bus and drove to our hotel in Cappadocia which, as you can see from the pictures below, is a magical place.  It is full of tourists of course, but they are spread out among the little towns, full of ceramic shops, rug dealers, souvenir shops, restaurants, fresh squeezed orange juice kiosks.  It's all fun and truly I've never seen anything quite like it.  We took a short hike right from our hotel through one of the valleys.   We hiked some more on Wednesday and visited what Michael Ellis calls the "Willies of the Valley".  Can you guess why?  Later, we visited some of the old churches carved out of the rocks and decorated with frescoes, which unfortunately the powers that be won't let anyone photograph.   I had the first signs of a cold yesterday, and today am resting with a sore throat in the hope of making a quick recovery.  

Oh yes, I forgot the visit to the rug cooperative, where I expressed a mild interest in a pretty wool rug, and was immediately surrounded by four eager rug salesman, who tried to convince me that my life was not complete without the rug.  Intimidating, but I firmly resisted.  Larry was proud.

I was very glad to get emails, finally, from the three boys back in California, who it seems, are doing fine.  I was especially concerned about Alan, who had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his shoulder while we were in Amsterdam. 

Backtracking to Sunday

Sunday was the awful day, the day I wondered what we were doing on this trip.  Larry and I kept reminding ourselves that this was NOT Stanford Travel Study, but something else entirely.  Honestly, Stanford Travel Study's high standards kind of spoils us for other trips, because they are so attentive to  details and solicitous of the participants.  The guides all seem to be selected for charm as well as knowledge and articulateness (is that a word?).  Jasmine, bless her, is probably a wonderful woman.  She has written books about Turkish wildflowers, is a mountain climber, and is quite kind, but she is very difficult to listen to, and her voice is a kind of irritating singsong, interspersed with "how do you say" and "let's take a look" and various hemmings and hawings.  It's also a quiet voice, and unless we cluster about in a tight knot, hard to hear.  I did spend Monday anxiously trying to follow her through a long recital of Turkish history, but by now I am more at ease with just wandering away on my own (but careful not to get lost).

We started out Sunday with a two hour cruise on the Bosphorus, but the weather was overcast and the water rocky, and it was hard to see much.   Just before we got back, I had a touch of Mal de Bosphorus.  Jasmine marched us into a Turkish cafeteria for lunch, but after a shouting match with the owner, we left and went elsewhere.  We descended through the crowds to the impressive Roman cisterns, a dark and forbidding world of ancient columns rising up from a reservoir of water filled with strange grey fish.    Next up on the agenda was the Topkapi Palace, filled with thousands of tourists, and accompanied by chill winds and pouring rain.  Foolishly unprepared, I got soaked.  Jasmine had us sit around a table on the grounds for a long, long time while she gave us the Turkish history lecture and I shivered.  Then a slow visit to the grounds of the palace, all four courtyards, including a forty-five minute wait to use the ladies' room.  

I don't remember much of the rest of the day.  I think we did have a nice dinner.    The first photo below is of the Medusa head down in the Cisterns, on the upper left are tourists!  The second two photos are of the Bosphorus cruise.  I haven't figure out how to put captions under the photos yet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Monday in Istanbul

Let's skip over Sunday for the time being, I am very behind.  Sunday was a very unpleasant day mostly, because it started to rain and I was freezing all day.  The Turkish part of this trip has improved considerably, along with the weather.  Monday was bright and sunny, and I figured out that I could ignore Jasmine, our guide, and enjoy the sights we visited without paying much attention to her.  We walked to the Aya Sophia, and rambled around the impressive gold mosaics of Christian figures (partially destroyed, because the gold was too tempting to leave on the walls), including a giant mosaic of a cherubim with an eerie face.  The crowds were much thinned out, because the bicycle race of the day before was over, and the three cruise ships parked in the Bosphorus had sailed away.

We also visited the Blue Mosque.  All the female visitors had to wear head scarves and everyone had to take off their shoes and carry them around in little plastic bags.  Michael Ellis said that he'd never seen this mosque so empty, but there were still several hundred folks there.  

Blue Mosque visit was followed by a walk through the Hippodrome, where chariot races took place long ago and where an ancient obelisk brought over from Egypt stands, covered with hieroglyphs.  Apparently, the obelisk lay on a beach somewhere for three hundred years before someone bothered to have it lifted up once again.

We went shopping after lunch (lunch was in a Turkish cafeteria).  The Grand Bazaar is a huge interior labyrinth of little shops, lots of jewelry and rugs, but much less sleazy than I expected.  I bought a pretty silver ring and got talked into overpaying a bit for a necklace of more silver and stone, but pretty, and it seems exotic to me!  Better souvenir than a refrigerator magnet, perhaps.  

We ended this very busy day with a cooking class, where a young Turkish man enthusiastically led us through five different Turkish dishes.  We skinned garbanzo beans, slivered chicken, chopped parsley and tomatoes, and then ate it all.  Nothing I would necessarily try at home.  We learned about the various Turkish cooking styles, kebabs in one part of the country, fish and olive oil in another part, and then the Grand Ottoman cooking, which was the stuff prepared in the kitchens of the Topkapi palace for the four thousand residents of that place.  We saw those kitchens on Sunday, with enormous cooking pots.

We're in Cappadocia now, I'm sitting out on the terrace, it's a cool, sunny day, and we;re about to go hiking.  Larry will stay behind and enjoy a Turkish bath.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Istanbul at last

Surprisingly, a big comfortable plane for the flight to Istanbul, and still surprisingly, a beautiful flower lined ride from the airport, until we arrived near the old city and then...gridlock.  The taxi inched its painful way along through narrow streets where traffic moves in both directions at once, accompanied by much hand-waving, rude gestures, shouts, honks, and general pandemonium.  Our taxi driver couldn't explain the situation to us in English, but I am assuming it is a pretty normal state of affairs.  I was a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to get to the hotel in time to meet up with our new group of travelers in time for dinner, but when we very eventually arrived at the hotel, there was a note asking us to take a taxi to the restaurant where the group was having dinner.  Imagine my horror at the thought of another taxi.  However, we did this, and with the help of Jasmine, one of the tour directors who guided the taxi cab driver via a cell phone call, and who met us at a corner, we joined our group.

We ate outdoors (the weather here is much warmer than in Amsterdam).  Lots of mezes (appetizers) like in a Korean restaurant, little bits of octopus and calamari, and a choice of sea bass or anchovies for the main course.  I memorized the names of all 14 fellow travelers.  They seem to be a nice bunch mostly, although one lady seems to have a touch of dementia.  She reminds me of my mother in the early stages.  Her husband seems a little confused as well.  Another lady was suffering from perhaps a bladder infection, and desperate to get antibiotics to treat it even though its a weekend and the pharmacies are all closed.  Jasmine was spending lots of time on her cell trying to sort that one out.  

After dinner, we walked (thank goodness) back to the hotel passing through the magical blue Mosque, beautifully illuminated, and listened to the evening call to prayer and watched the birds fly overhead in the dusk.  The walk was a complete maze, we're going to have to stick close to the group to avoid getting hopelessly lost in this confusing, chaotic city.  

This morning, we're going to take the tram or train to the Bosporus for a two hour cruise, and then visit the Topkapi palace this dinner.

To any of my dear readers, wish us luck!

Friday, May 1, 2015


Today we began with an early morning, boarding the bus at 6:30 AM to ride to the big flower auction that is held in Amsterdam just by the airport in a huge warehouse (actually, multiple warehouses) where flowers are bought, sold and delivered to trucks and/or airplanes to be transported all over the place.  We walked on a catwalk above the floor where hundreds of people drove carts full of flowers in all different directions, seemingly a completely chaotic scene, but actually orderly.  Our guide says it is rare that any of the flowers go missing.  Our guide was a young woman who runs a rose growing business out of Kenya, with 600 employees.  Her African workers cut the roses and they arrive in Amsterdam within 48 hours of cutting--200,000 stems, or something like that.  I find it hard to even imagine.

We returned to the boat for a Dutch Brunch (since we hadn't had much breakfast before) and the barge began its voyage back to Amsterdam.  Since the weather was better than ever before, chilly but not awfully so, we went out to the prow of the boat and watched her pass through thirteen bridges on the way to our docking position in Amsterdam.  Most of the 13 bridges had to be raised to allow our passage, and as we waved to the cars and bicycles, everyone looked pretty annoyed.   Getting into Amsterdam took quite a while, so I took time to pack up my suitcase for the flight tomorrow to Istanbul.  

Our last excursion was to the modern art museum of Amsterdam,  right back to where we began our tour at the Conservatorium Hotel.  We had an excellent tour from a young man who was perhaps one of the best guides of the trip--we saw some of the so-called degenerate art that the Nazis so despised, some late Matisse, Mondrian, and a video art installation.   I left Larry at the cafe and went downstairs to the Matisse exhibition, and found our faculty guest, Wanda Corn, leading an informal tour of the exhibit.  Wonderful, she's go so much enthusiasm for art.  I think she knows everything about everything in art history.

Now, we're back at the barge, preparing for the final festivities of the trip.  Tomorrow, it's off to a completely different part of the world.

Our next to the last day in the Netherlands

Let's see...we had dinner in Gouda and then, hmmm, the next day we walked back into Gouda and learned how Gouda cheese is made.  In the marketplace, there was a kind of living history performance of the ancient cheese market, and we saw the weighing house including a big pair of scales where cheese wheels were weighed and sold.  The square around the city hall was full of vendors, selling produce and clothes and all sorts of stuff.  We went shopping, and I bought a couple of sweaters (it's been so cold and windy!) on sale, and Larry got a sweatshirt too, to stay warmer.  I'm not at all sure what the weather will feel like in Turkey.  We'll wait and see.  

The barge then took off for our next stopping point.  About halfway there we took to the bicycles again and rode for about two hours along the canals, through some narrow city streets, across little bridges, and we even at one point boarded a little ferry with our bicycles to cross a lake and continue on the other side.

Sometime during the day we also had a lecture about the Netherlands and their relationship to water.  They have amazing engineering constructions designed to protect against the 4000 year flood, including one enormous gate that has only been closed once since its construction.  

After the bike ride, we had a beer and cheese tasting.  I know more about Gouda cheese now.  There are some small dairies where they make raw Gouda cheese, where the grass is sweetest and the cows are the happiest, then there is the immense industrial production of Gouda cheese, which can still taste pretty good.  

Let me see if I can find some pictures to post.  These are the city hall of Gouda, which was built free standing in the middle of the square to protect it against fire,  one of the windmills we cycled past, and two pictures of Gouda cheese, with a view of the weighing house in the background of the last picture.  

We go to Istanbul tomorrow.