Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Turkey. Show all posts

Monday, March 21, 2016

Alanya, Turkey ~ On the Turkish Riviera

It appeared we were docking below a medieval fortress and that pirate ships – the tourist variety -were plying the waters around our Oceania Nautica as we approached Alanya, Turkey.

Approaching Alanya, Turkey aboard Oceania's Nautica
These first scenes from the ship - when you aren’t quite sure what you are seeing are what we think keeps cruising exciting and will bring us back time and time again to the sea.

Nothing like fortress walls to spark the imagination - Alanya, Turkey

It was day 33 of this cruise that had begun in Bangkok, Thailand and taken us on a Magic Carpet Ride to new and exotic places in the Far and Middle East. We were headed to Istanbul, Turkey where most of the passengers would be leaving the ship.  We had made arrangements to disembark a day early* while the ship was in Rhodes, Greece, so this was our last full day of the cruise.

PicMonkey Collage
Ships of every shape and size - Alanya, Turkey
After the rushed and people-intense whirlwind tour of Israel the day before in Israel, we were looking forward to exploring this town on Turkey’s Riviera on our own. The ship was docked so that it was an easy walk into the heart of this tourist city. No metal detectors to walk through as we disembarked as we’d had in Haifa, Israel, no taxi drivers to negotiate with as we’d had in Oman, or tuk-tuks to climb aboard as we’d done in Phuket, Thailand and Cochin, India.

Oceania Nautica docked at Alanya, Turkey
Alanya, a very popular seaside resort town, according to legend was given to Cleopatra by Mark Antony back in 44 B.C.  It was during the Middle Ages that it rose to prominence under the Seljuks, who built the castle with its more than 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) of walls, 93 towers, 140 battlements and 400 cisterns. The Seljuks were a Sunni Muslim Turkish confederation that ruled much of Central Asia and Anatolia between 1071 and 1194.

The walls which once encircled numerous villages now have some spectacular homes within them.

Numerous homes are found within the old fortress walls - Alanya, Turkey
Not ones to shop for souvenirs, we had weakened our resolve a bit and set off to buy some Turkish rugs, as our Stone House on the Hill in Greece, was in need of floor coverings and it was our destination after the cruise. And when in Turkey, why not? Right?

PicMonkey Collage
Tourist town - no doubt about it - Alanya, Turkey
Located on beautiful gulf and  framed by the pine-forested Taurus Mountains, white sand beaches, caves and sea grottos are easily accessed from this town on the Mediterranean Sea.  Its location in the Mediterranean basin means rain comes mainly in the winter and summers are hot and dry. It’s Tourism Board uses a slogan, “Where the Sun Smiles” and that was certainly the case on our springtime visit.

The day and our cruise comes to an end - Alanya, Turkey
On board the ship, a pool party – “Sheik, Rattle and Roll” – the final event of the cruise, began at the same time as our 9 p.m. departure from Alanya. As we watched the lights fade into the distance it was time to start saying goodbyes friends we’d made among both staff and fellow cruisers. 

Our bags were packed - we were ready to go - Alanya, Turkey
As for those Turkish rugs, three of them were folded up inside that bag on the lower left in the photo above.  The large suitcase was filled with items for the house – many of which had been purchased along the way.

* Note: It was possible to disembark a day early but arrangements to do so were made before we before we started the cruise. Port authorities and cruise folks had to approve it. When they send the authorization, they remind you that you don’t get refunds for unused nights.

The route of our Magic Carpet Ride - Oceania's Nautica
Thanks for joining us on our Tales of the Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise. We’ve enjoyed your comments and the conversation our posts generated.  The cruise was an excellent way to see many countries that would have otherwise been difficult and costly to visit. We often use cruises as introductions to areas and then return later as was the case with Egypt. The cruise was our introduction and we returned for more last December.

So now -- like at the end of this cruise last spring -- we are off to The Stone House on the Hill.  We hope you’ll be back again next week as we have a lot to tell you about our little slice of Greece.

Happy and safe travels to you ~

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Istanbul: One Sweet Taste of History!

Our four nights in Istanbul came no where near satiating our sensory experiences. Although we made a valiant attempt. Too many sights, sounds, smells and tastes will simply have to wait until ‘next time’!

On our quest to ‘see everything’ we logged 9.5 miles on our pedometer our first day in town and agreed that we had earned a visit to the popular confectionery  “Hafiz Mustafa 1864” just off Taksim Square.


At the time, we didn’t know anything about the place other than it tempted with confectionery treats that made your mouth water just looking at them. The photo below is only one small section of one of the many displays:

From a history page in the menu, we learned that this candy store got its start 150 years ago during the early years of Sultan Abdulaziz’s reign of the Ottoman Empire.


Founder Ismail Hakke Zade came to Istanbul to be a money lender. He began making a candy called, “akide” a type of rock candy in the basement of his shop.  It wasn’t long before his son Hafiz Mustafa came up with another creation, ‘pogaca’ – palm-sized buns served with or without filling. The two items were hits and the rest, as they say, is history.


Hafiz took over the business and by the early 1900’s had won 11 European medals for confectionery creations. Over the years the location has been renovated and updated but still has a wonderful historic feel to it. During our brief visit we watched the tables pictured below fill completely and lines three and four people deep were continuous at the take-away counters.

The menu itself was a treat - a small volume complete with photos and descriptions of candies, cakes, pastries, teas, and coffees. Its cover features the Hafiz Mustafa logo with the word, “Istanbul” written in Turkish.


So, in what did we indulge? We had a ‘filter coffee’ (meaning regular coffee) and a cappuccino and. . .


This is chocolate mousse with sponge cake at the bottom. The sprinkles on top are chocolate, coconut and pistachio nuts. The picture doesn’t show the size of this serving - it was a bowl, not a dish – it was huge and easily shared by two.

If you find yourself in Istanbul, be sure to visit this ‘historic site’ for one sweet taste of history! For hours, menus, location and time visit their web site:  We are linking up today with Inside Journey’s Foodie Tuesday.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Road Warriors need a Bath. . .Turkish, that is!

We’ve been on the road (or in planes, ferries, buses or trains) for nearly six weeks now. One of our longer European expeditions is coming to an end with our return home on Tuesday.

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The image you probably have of us -- with more than a month in Greece --  is that of a deeply tanned Apollo and Venus with sun-streaked hair; each emanating a golden glow – poster children for boomer-age rest and relaxation. Not so, this trip.

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TravelnWrite does Ios Island

We have more of a wind-blown look about us, like the photo above (my hair was pretty much always standing on end).

On this final afternoon in Istanbul we’ve scheduled Turkish baths at our in-hotel ‘hammam’. The thought of having someone else scrub our bodies from head to toe and then massage us with a magic elixir of restorative oils seems the perfect way to end this exhilarating, but sometimes tiring, adventure.

We’ve felt at times – and probably looked like as well - road warriors. Our hair has grown long and certainly is lighter, but not sun-bleached. (You boomers understand that one.) Joel has visited barbers twice along the way. Our skin has been both sun-kissed and rain-water washed resulting in a nice reptilian scale effect.

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Slow cooked beef in tomato sauce with feta cheese
We’ve eaten and drank far too much fabulous Greek food and wine. I don’t plan to weigh myself for at least 10 days after returning home.

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Loading up in the Lobby of Hotel Nef - Nafpaktos, Greece

We’ve lived out of those 22-inch TravelPro suitcases and the limited wardrobe they contained for what seems a l-o-n-g time. Even with limited clothing we brought, we’ve both been saying we must cut the weight of those on future trips.  Hauling them up subway steps or onto ferries, just has to be done on trips like this one, so the lighter the better.

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My newly adopted cousins, Eva and Sofia in Kardamyli, Peloponnese
 This trip has renewed and rejuvenated us – just like the Turkish bath will do to our bodies. Our brains and hearts are on overload and in overdrive. Too many wonderful experiences, too many drop-dead-gorgeous-views, too many wonderful people along the way. A road trip in a foreign country is not necessarily a relaxing one – but it certainly is one that awakens your ‘life-sensors’.

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Venetian port - Nafpaktos, Greece
At times during the trip we’ve remarked that we felt decades younger and at other times, decades older. We believe we have grown from our experiences.  We’ve chased those daydreams I wrote about in an earlier post; we caught them and released them, depending on the day and our mood. Our world of friends has expanded. Our passion for travel has intensified.
So we will repack those bags after being rejuvenated in the hammam and prepare to return to the other world in which we live. . . I suspect it won’t be long before we are planning another road trip in this part of the world – there’s still a lot left to discover. . .and we are not quite done with those day-dreams either!

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Thanks to those of you who’ve come along on our adventure, especially those who’ve taken the time to write emails or jot a comment. They’ve been most appreciated! Please stay with us as we have some wonderful people and places to introduce you to in future posts.

 Note: We’ve just returned from our Turkish baths (reptile skin is now baby soft and we can’t remember being this relaxed). . .an incredible experience. If you get to Istanbul you really should try it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Booking it with Argonauts and Turkish Tales

We still bring a paperback or two on trips and save room in the suitcases for any that we might purchase along the way. (Eat your heart out Kindle, you're not yet invited.)
Searching for books is a highlight of our travels, but one place we didn't expect to find a fun read was in Vikos Marine Supply store in Poros, Greece.  

Ferry arrival on the island of Spetses
Julian Blatchley's Adjacent to the Argonauts, a voyage of discovery in Greece (Matador, 2010) caught our attention because we'd learned about the Argonauts when our cruise ship had stopped  in Volos, Greece, the place from where Jason and his Argonauts are said to have set out from on their ancient world adventure to find the Golden Fleece. The modern town has built a replica of the mythical Argo ship. (Click the 'things to do' link on Volos for full story

And we'd also cruised the Bosphorus to and from the Black Sea, which is thought to have been Jason's routing. But the book sale was a done deal simply because the store owner said, 'It's a good book. Julian is a friend of mine."

Actually the book has nothing to do with Jason and his crew; it's a comic travel memoir about Julian's misadventures on a sailing holiday through Greece's Saronic and Argolic islands in the late 1980's with his friends Malcolm and Rex.

Blatchley's First Law of Nautical Recreation:  "The brilliance of the manoeuver is in inverse proportion to the number of people watching it."

It's an engaging, entertaining yarn that I still suspect prompted our visits to the islands of Spetses and Hydra, as neither were on the radar screen when we had headed to Poros. We also went to Perdika, a harbor town, the motley crew had sailed to on the island of Aegina. Amid the chuckles, the book provided great insights into sailing -- it isn't as easy as it looks.

A post script:  I scribbled, on the back of a business card, a note telling Julian (who doesn't live full time in Poros) how much we'd enjoyed the book and left it at the marine supply store.  Julian emailed this week - he'd received the note.

A harbor cafe in Perdika, Aegina Island
The book we'd brought along for cruise ship reading was Turkish Reflections, A Biography of a Place by Mary Lee Settle (Simon and Schuster, 1991).  Settle's detailed writing led us through Turkey, its customs and beauty of its cities and countryside (far more than we saw on the cruise) as she wove a tale of her past life in Turkey in the early 70's with her nostalgic return in 1989.  A sample of her observations:

"Turkey is more than ruins, or armies, or great-fawn-colored spaces of central Turkey, the mountains, the wild shades of green in the northeast.  It is a cared-for plant in a window, a geranium as tall as a small tree and covered with red bloom against a white wall, the controlled tumble of a grapevine, the economics of food and shade together on a trellis above a tabled in a hidden courtyard, a pot of basil in the captain's cabin on a fishing boat."
Another book we wish we'd read before the cruise, but learned of from fellow cruisers was, Black Sea - The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism by Neal Ascherson (Vintage, 2007).  This this non-fiction paperback about the culture, history and politics of the Black Sea countries their people came highly recommended.

Note: These three books can be found on our carousel on the left-hand side of the blog home page.  They are also available from  Book DepositoryPhotos are the property of Jackie Smith and can't be used without permission.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Turkey: Bazaar, simply. . .Bazaar!

Bazaars for thousands of years have served as commercial hubs and meeting places in Turkish cities.  Some, such as Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, have become popular tourist destinations and others operate without fanfare, serving as both market and meeting place for locals - wonderful places to be 'discovered' by tourists such as ourselves.

Our HAL cruise allowed us 'snapshot stops' in Turkey's Istanbul, Kusadesi and Trabzon. And at each place we explored at least one bazaar. Each was a different size and shape; the common denominator being that they are refreshing alternatives to the uniformity of our U.S. 'big box' malls.

I must admit that we skipped, (for a second time), Istanbul's enormous Grand Bazaar, today a tourist shopping mecca of sorts, that got its start back in Byzantine times. The place grew to be the trade center for the entire Ottoman empire. This colorful, maize of a market place continues to be on our 'next time' list, but with limited on shore time and many other places to see, (not to mention four other cruise ships in town - each with bus loads of cruisers heading to the Bazaar) we decided to save that experience for a future trip. After all, with 4,000 vendors  I might need more time there than a cruise stop would allow.
           A Different  Spice at the Spice Bazaar
Instead, we headed over the Galata Bridge to Istanbul's mid-17th century Spice Bazaar.  After all, our Pacific Northwest travel guru Rick Steves' "Istanbul" guidebook had described it as a place where "the air is heavy with the aroma of exotic spices." 

Okay, so I did find some displays with small canisters of open spice and if I stood close and breathed deep, I could smell them, but this market, like the Grand Bazaar, has  'gone tourist.' The first two shops we passed sold knock-off designer sun-glasses and postcards . . .and little packets of spice  - convenient for tourists to tuck into a suitcase. There were samples of Turkish Delight candies and offers of all sorts of items, but we weren't enveloped in the exotic, heavy air ambiance for which I had hoped.

Of course, if adding spice to your life instead of your food was your goal, you could pick up a nice belly-dancing outfit.

Just a short walk from where the ship docked, we made it through a gauntlet of vendors who lined a narrow passage way, once a cobbled street in the old city (now covered with green carpet to keep tourists focused on product and not footing).  Here, even the slightest pause to look at a display, resulted in vendors calling out,  “Hey, Lady! What you want?" “Hey Mister, from America? Come and write a check, I need money."  "May I ask you a question? Where you from?" They were a good-natured, but persistent, bunch. And, I might add, the shops were stocked with tourist items.

                  A street in Trabzon's bazaar district
We found our favorite bazaar here.  The bazaar (Carsi) district's streets were teeming with shoppers on the Saturday morning we visited. And real shops sold real things to real people: hardware, pottery, clothing, foods, dry goods and linens, scarves and (of course there were plenty of gold jewelry shop for the tourists who made it to the area, as well).  We would go back to Trabzon for many reasons and the town's bazaar area is definitely among them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Turkish Tea and Toilets

We don't take the land tours offered by cruise lines because we prefer to explore on our own.  Sometimes we have a destination in mind and other times we don't. 

And often times the most ordinary of experiences make for our most memorable travel treasures.  Such was the case with the Turkish tea and toilets in Trabzon.

                                                      A Trabzon street scene
We realized that on this, our third stop in Turkey during our Black Sea cruise, we had not yet sipped Turkish tea from those fragile looking cups that look like miniature drinking glasses served on  tiny saucers with tiny spoons.  We chose a place that for decades had been selling tea and offering a vast array of those walnut-honey pastries, baklava.

The one thing it didn't offer was a toilet.

Toilets, our waiter said, were across the street about a half block away. And then he led us to them: Down a long hallway and some steps at the back of a banquet hall. He directed Joel to the "Bey" room and then ceremoniously opened and held the bead curtains at the entrance of the "Beyan" room for me.

What happened next makes me laugh now; but at the time it was quite perplexing: 
The ladies room was modern with motion-activated lighting in stalls equipped with an eastern-style toilet (think toilet in the floor, a 'squat-pot') which was fine until . . .
I squatted and the light went off. 
I stood up, the light came on.
I squatted and the light went off.
I did this three times thinking,"Is this "Candid Camera"?
Finally, I took aim and did what I had to do - in total darkness.

When I came out, our gracious waiter was still there  and again opened the curtains for me.  He escorted us back to the street, shook our hands, thanked us again for having tea. 

He returned to his shop while we tucked away another travel treasure.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Open. . .Sesame! Those Street Treats

The temptations, it seemed, were on every street corner, at every ferry dock, bus or tram stop in Turkey and Greece. They were stacked high on tables in the open air or in glass enclosed colorful carts.

                              Lunch in Sinop, Turkey
We called them, 'those sesame circles' but the proper name in Turkish is simit and in Greek koulouria. By whatever name, they are some of the tastiest, cheapest street food we have ever eaten. I sometimes ordered by smiling at the vendor then drawing a circle in the air, pointing to the stacks, holding up two fingers for the quantity - I call it the 'point-and-smile' method of ordering in a foreign language.

It took a bit of time to convince ourselves to try them as they looked somewhat plain. I mean, there was nothing fattening to add to them or dunk them in - a practice to which we Americans have become far too accustomed.  Think large bread stick or small loaf of bread twisted into a circle and topped with sesame seeds.

But once we did sample them, we were hooked.  Some were sweet and others more like a cracker with the sesame seed topping providing all the flavor needed.  They made for several inexpensive lunches as we never paid more than .75E or TL (that's euro or Turkish Lira), often paying much less than that. The one I am eating in the photo above was still warm from the oven, as we purchased it at a bakery in Sinop, Turkey during our cruise stop there.

We eat on shore every opportunity we get when on a cruise (we welcome a break from ship's cuisine no matter how good it is).  And half the fun of exploring a new city is trying the new flavors and foods it has to offer even if it means ordering by my 'point and smile' method.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the Road to Rhodes. . .maybe?!

The island of Rhodes
opened like a flower
from the watery depths,
Child of Aphrodite,
Goddess of Love,
and then became
the bride of the sun.
With that kind of description on a hotel web site, am I ready to head to Rhodes; land of the Knights of St. John, with a history dating back 2,400 years? Yes!

And maybe - just maybe - we will get there this year. It was on 'the list' last fall as part of our kick-back, go-where-the-winds-blow-us (and ferry schedules allow) vagabonding trip through the Greek islands. But Cretan travel gods cast a spell, captivating us and we found ourselves spending three weeks there -- on Greece's southernmost island -- and not having enough time to get to Rhodes.

As we consider proposed itineraries for future explorations we are continually drawn back to Greece. It's Dodecanese islands, that loop around Turkey's southwestern coastline are calling out for exploration. Will be fight off the temptation to return to Crete and its smokey, dark thyme-flavored honey? Will we pass up favorite stops among the Cyclades islands to pay return visits to the small inns and the many wonderful folks who own them and who made us welcome in previous visits.

Symi, a neighbor island to Rhodes, will be a stop if we reach the Dodecanese. The blogosphere has allowed us to armchair travel there-- we've watched the winter storms raise havoc with ferry landings on the island and in recent weeks have watched the cyclamen and lavender blanket its hillsides. We feel we have a new friend in Adrianne who writes a blog as part of the Symi Visitor web site. We want to meet her and explore her jewel of an island that she has brought to life via the Internet.


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