Monday, May 9, 2011

looking back

Well, we're home. There were so many things that could've gone wrong our last day, but almost nothing went awry. We got up early, drove from Cirali to Antalya (check, no problems), bought gas (check, no problems), found the airport (check), returned the rental car (check), confirmed that our seats were reserved for both flights and that our bags checked all the way through to JFK (check), flew to Istanbul (check), left the airport for 3 hours or so and found a restaurant and then found a cab back to the airport (check), and flew home.

Marc had looked at Google Maps, to see the area around the airport. He picked out a little spot along the water that had a bunch of restaurants, but that's really all we knew about it. It was a residential area, turns out, and since it was Mother's Day there was a lot of family hubbub (although maybe it's always like that on Sundays, who knows). There was a van with a loudspeaker, and people handing out two red carnations to the women (who looked like mothers? I have no idea, but I took the flowers). We wandered around for an hour or so, then picked a gorgeous little restaurant called Figaro's with wisteria hanging from the arbor. I can't remember the name of what we had, but it was GREAT -- a kind of Turkish spanakopita, I think.

me with my Mother's day carnations, which matched my red shirt
and our YUMMY lunch, with the ever-present Turkish tea
Leaving Istanbul, though, was very upsetting for me. When we got to the gate, we first had to be grilled by a gate agent, who demanded to see our full travel itinerary for the day, and who asked more than the standard questions about who packed our bags, etc. One question was if we had anything on us that could resemble a weapon, and I volunteered that I had knitting needles. After a debate with the supervisor, I was allowed to take them (note, it hadn't been a problem anywhere else on this trip). Then a stop at one desk for a lengthy something with our passports, then a stop at another desk for something with our passports, then the body and bag check. While I was being seriously physically examined by a female agent, two others were going through my bags. They came to the knitting needles and told me they were forbidden. I told them that the supervisor said I could keep them and they just said no, they're not allowed. I tried to argue but they were insistent. I pointed to the supervisor and told them that he said they were OK, and they said no. So I pulled the needles out of what I was knitting, and I was so upset. I was handing the needles to the idiot woman and the supervisor came over and said oh, sorry, that's my fault. You can keep them.

I don't know why this was so very upsetting to me. We sat down to wait, and I was crying and my hands were shaking, and then my nose started bleeding. I put the stitches back on the needles, to deal with it later, and it took me a long time to calm down. Something about the total randomness of their complete authority, I think. Just someone's whim. The flight took off late, but the rest was uneventful....though it took us an hour to get through the passport check at JFK.

So now it's a memory, our Turkish vacation. It's a bit confusing, because this was more like a fall vacation; usually our 1-week spring vacation is to a beach somewhere, where we stay in one spot the whole week, and our 2-week fall vacations are to somewhere far away, and we travel around the whole time. So coming home, my head was kind of expecting to return to cold late-autumn weather. I'll adjust. :)  It was a great trip. One thing I'll always remember is how the fathers tended to hold the small kids, the babies, and their utter delight with them. They'd squeeze them and kiss their little cheeks like they were the sweetest sugar. And the old men would watch, and smile.

Below is the entire slideshow of pictures we took; I'll be expanding the posts below, with more information and photos, so even if you've seen them before, take a quick peek down the blog because there might be something new.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I don't want to leave.

Here are a few reasons why:

scenic splendor -- this is on the Mediterranean beach at Olympos
here we are in our little lemon grove
ancient old stuff, like this sarcophagus at Olympos
and more ruins -- still at Olympos
these brilliant orange-red poppies everywhere
this woman made us Turkish pancakes for breakfast this morning -- mine was banana, Marc's was lemon and sugar. She had an ingenious rolling-out method, and cooked the pancakes on that large flat surface on the left side of the photo. We didn't see Turkish pancakes in Istanbul or Antalya. The pancake is kind of chewy, like a wrap, but it's used like a crepe. There are both sweet and savory pancakes, and we really enjoyed them. I had a moment with this woman, who had been aware that I was watching her make our food. When she brought Marc's pancake, our eyes met and I smiled at her and gave a little nod that I meant as a thank you. She gave a little nod and put her hand on her chest, which I read as saying she was glad to make them for us. It felt like a moment, and it made me happy.
Turkish pizza, which I LOVED. With an Efes dark, it was a great great meal. In Antalya, the "Turkish pizza" was more like plain old round frozen American pizza, and badly prepared. But this is really Turkish pizza, and it's as far-removed from what we got in Antalya as it could possibly be. The bottom and edges are crispy but they don't shatter. This one had both meat and tomatoes; others have a kind of more finely-chopped meat filling, and others are mainly just cheese.
the scenery -- Marc captured this amazing cloud stuck on the mountain behind our hotel
We had a truly wonderful vacation together -- I am glad we came to Turkey, and I have a lot to write, filling in the spaces, when we get home. We just had such a good time, I'm sorry it's over. There's always another vacation to come......


We stayed in Cirali, and we kept hearing that the ruins of Olympos were walking distance from our hotel, just down the beach. Well, while the beach was beautiful, it was hell for walking -- very deep, whether rocks or sand, exhausting to walk on without snowshoes -- and we couldn't get any information about other ways to find it. When we pulled into Cirali, we had seen a tiny little yellow sign with an arrow, pointing to Olympos. It was faded and didn't look all that helpful, but it was all we had. So on our last full day in Cirali, we drove to the parking lot at the entrance to Cirali, and took off on foot.

see what I mean? THAT is the sign to Olympos!!
this giant boulder is right on the beach; as you round it (coming from our hotel), there you are at Olympos. I absolutely love this giant boulder. I wonder who all has walked through the opening.
these ruins are just on the beach -- no idea what they were.
this was a church, with mosaic floors
architecture and ruins aren't really Marc's thing, as they are mine, but he really enjoyed the water and aqueducts. I enjoyed him enjoying them.
OK: to orient you. That's the Mediterranean in the distance, Olympos is behind me as I took the shot. I don't know what that ruin is in the foreground of the photo, but it was at the beach entrance to Olympos, so maybe a gate?
ah -- here's the mosaic floor I mentioned in the photo above, the one with me in it
I absolutely ADORE this sarcophagus. There's a story written on the face, in Greek of course, something about the ship taking the dead person. And the sun above.....Helios, I assume. Helios, who adored his cattle, if you believe The Odyssey.
Another sarcophagus -- this one was for one of the top guys in Olympos. Sorry not to be more precise. :)
Antimachos' sarcophagus -- enlarge the photo below, to read about it:

the Roman Temple gate - pretty tall and impressive!
no idea what this was -- but what a magnificent setting, right?

if you enlarge this, you can read about Olympos
It was an absolutely perfect day to do this exploring; the sun was out, the sky was blue and it was warm, but with a cool breeze. The ruins were in such a beautiful setting, it's easy to imagine the city that was once here. Marc was so patient, exploring all the old stuff with's definitely not his bag, but it's mine and I loved seeing it.

Apparently there are several different Mount Olymposes scattered around this part of Turkey and Greece; of course Mount Olympos was the home of the Gods -- Zeus, Ares, that whole gang -- so that just added another layer of pleasure to it, for me. On the flight to/from Turkey, and while we were there, I read The Odyssey and just loved it so much more than usual. The legend is that this Mount Olympos is where Poseidon stood when he threw the giant storm at Odysseus as he left Calypso's lair, enraged because Odysseus blinded his son, the Cyclops. We didn't go see Chimaera, the mountain with fire coming out, because it was a pain to get to and we heard that the fires are minimal now, and that there are loads of tourists there, but its presence gave another layer of imagination to how the ancient Greeks and Romans lived in this beautiful place.


the pretty little seaside town of Kumluca
Since we have this car, we took a roadtrip yesterday, down to Kale. Kale is the original home of Saint Nicholas (who knew!), but we went because of the ruins. It was a nice little drive down the coast, and since it was Friday, all the Turkish families were out having picnics. Friday is the holy day, and it seems to be what families do. They're big ordeals, with lots of cooking gear. One thing I'll always remember about Turkey is how much they love their flag; as a Texan, any people who love their flag feel like my tribe in some way. We read that you can be imprisoned for saying bad things about the flag or Ataturk. Anyway -- the abundance of flags in the photo above are just so Turkey.

the flag is even painted on the rock, on the side of this mountain
and they don't have ratty old rugs hanging over the balcony -- look at those gorgeous Turkish rugs!
Anyway, one of the things to see in Kale is the Lycian rock tombs at Myra. They're among Turkey's finest mountainside tomb ruins, and there is also a pretty sweet ancient Greco-Roman amphitheater. There were scores of giant tourbuses carrying German and Russian tourists (and, by the way, the town is pretty heavily Russian for some reason....more signs were in Russian than Turkish, it seemed!). Still, the site is so large it never felt too crowded to see what we wanted to see:

Three smiling faces -- well, I'm smiling anyway.
crawling around behind the theater
oops! Out of order.....we stopped along the side of the road for this beautiful panorama shot. So this is en route to Kale.
gorgeous stone carvings
here's a panorama shot I stitched together
but this also shows the theater
These honeycomb Lycian rock tombs. The dead were buried in these tombs up on the side of the mountain so they'd be closer to heaven. As Marc pointed out, it's not really all that much closer.
 but here, you can see their placement. there were others above the amphitheater too.
We didn't stop to see the St Nicholas museum in Kale, but we did stop at a little restaurant for lunch, and had Turkish pizza which was really great. It's shaped like a football -- oblong, pointed on both ends, and the edges are slightly folded over the filling, which is a kind of ground meat and spicy business. It's really good. When we asked the restaurant guy if he had an English menu, he smiled and said he's the English menu. We had a table on the sidewalk, and he walked me indoors to the food, and just described each item to me. It was sweet, and I liked him a lot.

Later we scouted out the location of Chimaera, the fire mountain, and had a nice little dinner, with Alanis Morissette as the soundtrack. Marc told the waiter that we're Canadian, so he seemed especially smiley as he asked us if we knew who was singing. We went back to that restaurant a couple of times, and the waiter always told us about the other Canadians who'd been there -- the night before, earlier that day. He was funny, and very nice, and seemed to enjoy talking to people. He told us he'd read something in the newspaper about how Canadians are the 3rd happiest people in the world, with Sweden ranked first. I asked where Turkey was ranked and he frowned, and said it was very low on the list, and he didn't know why. He launched into his philosophy of happiness, I think; I couldn't understand much of what he was saying, though I wanted to. He smiled, and I really liked him a lot.

Friday, May 6, 2011


We rented a car in Antalya and drove down the coast to Cirali, a tiny little town right on the Mediterranean coast. Our hotel is charming, the Arcadia Hotel -- we have a little bungalow in the middle of a lemon grove, at the base of craggy mountains -- but the internet connection is weak and sketchy, and very slow.

our little bungalow, in the middle of the lemon grove. the lemons are so huge, sometimes as big as a grapefruit.
see three bungalows, all lined up? The setting was really so beautiful -- lemon groves, orange trees, loquat trees, roses and other beautiful flowers, chickens everywhere, mountains behind, big blue skies, and clouds. My kind of place.
our hotel's version of Turkish breakfast -- very nice, with fresh yogurt and homemade jams, in addition to the traditional olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, breads, and eggs.

The drive from Antalya was breathtaking, once we got out of the city. The highway hugged the coast, with tall rocky mountains and pine forests to our right, and the glittery Mediterranean to our left. I always do the driving on our trips, since I'm more comfortable with a stick shift, so I don't have any photos but I'll always remember it, anyway. We rounded one bend and I got choked up and my eyes filled with tears; it's so hard to believe that I am here, just driving around Turkey, seeing these views.

Marc, walking in the edge of the surf. The beach is so rocky, but the rocks are all beautiful and rounded; some look like eggs.
the coast to the right; one of the mountains in the distance is near the ruins of Olympos
the beach, to the left
I wish there was another adjective for these mountains; "craggy mountains" is such a cliched way of saying it, but dang it, they're craggy.
What'cha reading? The Odyssey, of course. Sing in me, O muse.
Lots of chickens, baby chicks, and roosters running around.....and crowing all night long. If it's not the call to prayers interrupting a night of sleep, it's crowing roosters.
it kind of looks like this -- mountains behind, old buildings overgrown with ivy and morninglories and flowers.
More to say, but we're going to get in the car and drive down to Kale, to see some ruins and to see more of this beautiful countryside. It's not as hazy today -- just clear blue skies, thick white clouds, and birdsong all around.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Antalya is the biggest Turkish city on the Mediterranean, and it has an old city section, around the harbor. It's much bigger than we thought -- 1.2 million people -- but we're sticking with the old city and its no-car, walled-in charms. Here, though, the shopkeepers and restaurant people are much more aggressive in trying to capture us, and it borders on a feeling of being assaulted. I don't like that one little bit. One evening Marc went to the hotel to get something and I sat on a bench to wait for him; the shoeshine guy who was sitting on the other side of a parked car between us kept trying very hard to get me to come sit on the bench next to him. I mean, very hard he was trying. After several rounds of discussion, it seemed to end; suddenly, though, there was another guy sitting on the bench by the shoeshine guy, who commented on the prayer beads I wear around my wrist. He started asking me to come sit next to him, and again there were several rounds of increasingly-hard discussion. He said he just wanted to tell me about the American Sufi community in Richmond, Virginia, and said that when my husband returned, we should see him so he could tell us about them. Marc came back, and as I stood up, the guy was waiting on the corner. I should say that he was frightening-looking -- he looked like a snake, coiled at the corner, with hard red eyes. Marc had to be aggressive to get him to leave us alone, and it took a couple of different encounters before he finally let us be as we passed his corner. Every time we passed, though, he was there, stopping female tourists who were walking alone. It was kind of upsetting, and creepy, and I was so glad to have Marc between me and that guy.

The food here was mediocre, as TripAdvisor suggested it would be, but our adorable little hotel, the Deja Vu Boutique Hotel, was absolutely charming, with the warmest and friendliest staff. I smile when I remember the man we dealt with. We were just here one full day, which was plenty.

But the scenery really was beautiful:

Antalyan fishermen, on the rocky Mediterranean coast
the ancient Roman harbor, now filled with cruise boats
also, regular old fishing boats
the harbor at night -- with the old Roman wall
I'm on the Mediterranean!! My first time.
the view from our room -- one side, anyway. the other side is a view of the Mediterranean
our sweet little hotel -- we were welcomed to "our house" and told to feel as if we were in our own home.
We stopped at this little bar and cafe for a mid-afternoon Efes (the local beer) and a listen to live music. This was a 3-piece group (guitar player off to the right) and they were WONDERFUL. This was the best part of the day for me.
Here's the standard Turkish breakfast: olives and cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers, a boiled egg, some bread with sour cherry jam, and cups of tea. Really good, I loved it.