Friday, December 24, 2010

Home, Sweet Kaş -or- Everyone Needs a Break from Traveling

Posted by Melissa

Kaş harbor
October 10, 2010
After many weeks of traveling we have reached Kaş, the little town on the Turquoise Coast of Turkey, that will be home for the next three weeks.  If you've been following us for a while, you already know, we like to travel slowly. We generally like to stay a minimum of about 3 days in any place and prefer about a week or so when possible.

Even with such slow travel, we knew we wanted to break it up with a longer term stay. We feel that we are better able to meet local residents and get to know the culture when we really slow down. As budget travelers we also appreciate the lower costs of longer term stays such as one week holiday rentals or longer term apartment rentals.

After considering many small towns, we chose Kaş. We found and rented our apartment on a visit here a week earlier and are now very excited to be arriving at our new home! This time we arrive by bus and get a different view than our earlier visit by boat.

It is near the end of the season and the town center is not as busy as it would be in mid-summer.
Restaurants on town square
Restaurants on town square
Our apartment is above a jewelry store on a street of small shops, just up from the harbor. That's us on the left side of the street - the green balcony!
Uzuncarsi Street
Our landlord's shop with fabulous silver jewelry - some of his own design, some Ottoman style, some imported. I'm not much of a shopper, but I did find a beautiful Ottoman design pendant I just couldn't live without.  Stop in if you are ever in town and please tell Coskin (pronounced Josh for short) that Melissa and Thane say "Hi."
Ah, home . . . .
Our front balcony looks over the shops and cobblestone street below.

My own kitchen!!!! - A refrigerator, 4 burner stove and a WASHING MACHINE!!!! It will be such a treat to wash our clothes in a machine after weeks of bathroom sinks. We even tried washing them in the shower a couple of times. You know, dump dirty clothes in shower, drizzle shampoo on clothes, stomp naked on clothes until feet and clothes are both clean. A washing machine is just so civilized!

We also have a lovely patio at the back of the apartment. Oh, there's Thane using the "small broom." We've seen these brooms all over Turkey. Lots of people, young and old, uses them. The first time we noticed them was in a store. We thought the handles must be sold separately, but no, they are used just as they come, sans handle. We asked a couple of people about them and were met with blank stares. "What's wrong with the brooms??" I think I'll stick with a long handled broom myself.

The peaceful view from our rear deck. Ah, curl up on the cushioned bench, read a book, and watch the light change on the hill as the sun goes down. I LOVE traveling slowly....

The small street behind our house. Quaint isn't it? That's what we thought too. . . before we discovered that the bar on the right, with the little stone walls, plays loud American disco every night. They start at about 10 or 11 in the evening and go until 2 or 3 in the morning. Did I mention "LOUD"? It's summer and we sleep with the windows open. Since there is nothing that we can do about the music, we change our schedule to match theirs. We have no where to be early in the morning, so we stay up quite late every night, although not always until they are done playing. I even discover that, after a few days, I am able to sleep through the music. I've always been a light sleeper who needs quiet to sleep. I am delighted to find that I can change!

After unpacking our meager bags (we travel with one backpack each which includes our clothes, books, shoes, and bathroom stuff plus a small daypack each for computers) we head out to do a little grocery shopping. Kaş has a couple of supermarkets that are similar to American markets, although considerably smaller. We also discover there is a weekly market where we can buy spices,
Spices at Kaş weekly market
fresh produce, honey, eggs, olive oil, clothes, DVDs, shoes and . . .
Kaş weekly market - with the handle-less broom
every metal gadget that a man could want that is related to cooking over wood. Wood fired samovars (you saw one if you read my blog about our picnic with Ahmet), round gözleme pans, wire flip baskets - perfect for cooking chicken wings. Shiny metal objects and fire - every man's dream!
Kaş weekly market
One of the fun parts of shopping in a new country is seeing all the things you can't identify - here's one. This seems to be a fruit, it was about 5" long with bright red, juicy seeds. Anyone know what it is? We sure don't.

Here's another interesting item - Our butter comes packaged like this.  It has a clear plastic lid that covers the butter when not in use.
Turkish Butter
The shopping is finished and we have our first home cooked (well, maybe I should say "cooked by me") meal in weeks. It is all cooked Turkish style (we really love Turkish food!). Green beans cooked with tomatoes and onions, but no water. Rice cooked with orzo and plenty of butter. A loaf of bread, fresh from the bakery and costing about 50 cents! And a Chicken Stew, so thick it goes on the plate. Yum. Happy us. . .

Now a glass of wine and a game of backgammon on our little front balcony overlooking our new home town. The shops stay open until about midnight. Soft breezes, voices drifting up from the shoppers below, the sounds of dice rolled and backgammen pieces slapped down on the wooden game board, glasses clinking at the bar across the street, sweet life. Sweet indeed.
Evening on Uzuncarsi Street
Up Next:  More adventures in Kaş (we stay for 3 weeks)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Magical Mystical Olympos and the Eternal Flames of the Legendary Chimera

Posted by Melissa

October 8 - 9, 2010
After sailing on a small boat with about 17 people for 4 nights, we were ready for a little more privacy and space. Olympos was the PERFECT hidden gem for us! This idyllic village began life as a hippy hideaway with little tree houses tucked into a forested valley. It's matured a bit, of course, but retains the same, laid back, alternative, hippy vibe. Our shoulder season visit was perfect! Crisp weather and no crowds.

Check out "main street" Olympos. Well, really, it's the only road and it appears it is only passable in decent weather as it crosses a significant wash area in the middle of the village.  The term "village" is used loosely, as the area includes only some treehouse and bungalow pensions, a few cafes, and a couple of very small stores.

The accommodations in the valley are all generally pretty rustic with significant variations in the level of partying.  Some are laid back and quiet, while others have loud blaring music and cater to the late night party crowd.  After reading reviews we decide to stay at Saban Treehouses in a little bungalow.  It sounded like it was one of the quieter establishments, perfect for a couple of peaceful days of hiking and exploring.  Although the treehouses were cute, they were only semi enclosed and the nights were just a bit too cool for that. Our little bungalow also has it's own bathroom which is worth the upgrade to us.

Our expenses here are some of the lowest of our trip so far.  We paid 80 Turkish Lira (about $68 US) for a private cabin with heat/ac, bath, breakfast and an absolutely wonderful dinner prepared each night by the very talented and gracious manager, Meral.  The same delicious meals are available with a treehouse stay for 60 TL, or in a small dorm for 25 TL per person.  Breakfast and dinner are served on the covered patio, in raised Turkish style cushioned platforms, or tables under the trees. 

The valley itself is beautiful and reminds me of a small Yosemite, with tall trees, big boulders, steep rocky walls, and FEWER tourists.  We spotted these climbers across the valley from our cabin.

We explored the "village" a bit, stopping in for an afternoon snack at a little cafe.  Momma prepared fresh gözleme for us while Grandma fed the sweet baby girl.

As we continue our stroll through town, we came upon this little celebration.  We had been hearing drums and music for much of the morning and Meral explained that a local couple was getting married. The celebrations were to continue for two days.  I soooo wanted to join these guys, but it appeared to be a "men only" group so I decided to take a video instead.

Nestled between the treehouse pensions and the Mediterranean sea lie the ruins of the ancient city of Olympos, one of the leading cities of the Lycian federation. What is unique about these ruins is the setting. All of the ruins we've explored in Greece, Egypt, and Turkey until now, were set out in hot, open spaces, devoid of much greenery or wildlife and frequently over run with tour groups. These ruins, conversely are hidden away in a valley, overgrown with wild grapevines, lush fig trees, fragrant bay trees, and flowering oleanders.  The ruins span a quiet freshwater creek and climb up the sides of the valley.  It is so quiet that the only sounds we hear are the birds singing, the breeze through the trees, and the trickle of water flowing through ancient aqueducts.
Roman Bath
With almost no one else in sight, we explore to our hearts content.  At times I feel like Indiana Jones, discovering these magical ruins, some covered in vines, some with their feet now sunk in murky water.  We explore without restrictions, walk through still standing rooms, and peek into ancient tombs (all with holes in them from earlier grave robbers).
Anything still in there Thane?

Crumbling tile mosaic floors
Several times we spot little signs pointing us towards another tomb or building but we soon run out of trail and begin scrambling through the brush. We find many ruins almost completely hidden including this stone structure with it's feet now in dark, murky water.  After 20 minutes or so, we decide we better head back the way we came, it's been too long since we've seen a trail and it's getting a bit late.
Ruins in standing water
We both agree that these are our very FAVORITE ruins - and Olympos is a sweet, relaxing gem.  This stopover makes our Top 10 list of places/experiences in Turkey! 

The next day we set out to explore the rest of the area.  This beach is just beyond the the ruins and again it is very quiet with very few people this time of year.  The water is a bit chilly and we have a hike ahead, so no swimming for us.  We want to see the Chimera and Meral tells us that if we want a bit of a hike, we might enjoy walking along the beach rather than taking the shuttle bus.  Sounds like a good idea, so off we go.
Olympos Beach
We find several small cafes, beach chairs and umbrellas for rent, and
Cafe on Olympos beach
kayaks for rent along the way.
Kayaks on Olympos beach - Mt. Olympos in the background
The hike turned out to be a bit longer than we anticipated (maybe because we took a wrong turn or two), but a stop at a little store along the way for a snack and drink provided us with the stamina to continue. 

After about a 4 mile hike along the beach and another 1/2 mile up the hill we spot several bunches of flames bursting from the ground.  The Chimera are natural gas flames that sprout from the rocky flanks of Mt. Olympos. Centuries ago they were much taller, easily visible by sailors who used them as a landmark. The story of their origins though are not so mundane. This spot is considered to be the very place where, according to Homer's Iliad, the hero Bellerophon battled the mythical Chimera, a fire breathing monster that was terrorizing the local area. The flames that erupt from the flanks of the mountain today are proof that Chimera remains, still dangerous, under the mountain.

A short video of the flames - get your marshmallows ready!

Thanks for traveling with us! 

Up next: Settling in to our new, temporary home town and our sweet little apartment in Kaş.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blue Cruise on the Gorgeous Mediterranean and a Visit to St. Nick

Posted by Melissa

October 4 to 8, 2010

After many cruises with our friends from BN, we find ourselves preparing for a cruise without them. We'll miss them, but it should be fun being a passenger with no staff duties for a change! We arrived in the little coastal town of Fethiye the night before the cruise and met up with our soon to be boatmates for a seafood dinner. We enjoyed a beautiful view from our room.

This time we are heading out for a Blue Cruise on a Turkish gulet.  A Blue Cruise is generally a short cruise aboard a small sail boat with about 6 - 8 cabins and a crew of 3, including captain, cook, and general deck hand.  The cabins are quite small and not air conditioned, so that most people sleep on deck at night.  We are cruising rather late in the year, so the cabins are relatively comfortable.  I understand that during the heat of a Turkish summer, they are pretty much unbearable.  Good news for us then.

Day 1 - Depart Fethiye mid day. Stop at Butterfly Valley for a swim.  (note the light colored bluff on the left of the pic - we stayed at a small pension in the little village of Faralya located at the top of this bluff about a week or so after our cruise).
Butterfly Valley and beach - over 100 different types of butterflies and moths live in the valley
A little time for swimming before lunch.
The water is amazingly clear - and just a bit cooler than perfect
And a little hammock time with a self portrait by Thane!

And of course, there is always tavla!!  Looks like we both take this very seriously - no smiles at all.

We spend our first night tethered to St. Nicholaus island.  Turns out that ALL the gulets spend the night in the same place.  By the time it gets dark, the place is starting to look a little bit like a campground for motorhomes.  The other boats are so close that you can hear them and smell their food.  I don't much care for the parking lot vibe of this setting.  The sea is so beautiful with such a dark starry night - it would have been so much better to be in a quiet little cove with just our boat.

Day 2 - Off we go to more beautiful bays.

One of several small boats that approached our boat selling goodies such as ice cream, gözleme and pashminas.

Also on Day 2, we stop at Kaş.  Kaş is where we hoped to find an apartment to rent for the rest of October, so we were very excited to check things out.  We found an apartment within the first 20 minutes!  Our soon to be home has the little green balcony that you can see in about the middle of this pic.

Day 3 brings us to Sunken City of Kekova (this Lycian-Roman archaeological site is protected, so only looking!) Kekova was partially destroyed by an earthquake which left some of the city underwater. 

We stopped at the quaint village of Simena, a very small traditional fishing village accessible only by boat and located across from Kekova.  It is topped by a Byzantine/Ottoman castle.

We took off immediately for the top of the hill and passed this tiny school on the way up. It is the primary school in town. Five students, three grades, and one teacher.

Lycian tombs are scattered down the hillside from the castle to the water.  These olive oil trees are several hundred years old.  The tombs, much older!
As we walked up the hill, a local woman joined us.  She told us about the school, the tombs, the castle and was generally good company.  We liked chatting with her, but at some point would have enjoyed being alone for a while.  Try as we may, we were unable to get away.  As we walked back down to town, we found out why.  Of course!  She wanted to sell us something.  After having her as our unofficial "guide" I felt obliged to purchase one of her lace edged sarongs.  Although I have very little room in my backpack to add souvenirs and don't generally buy things, I'll now have a beautiful memento of this island when I use the sarong next summer!

One of just a few small walking streets in "downtown" Simena.

Day 3 also included a bus transfer to Demre for the St.Nicholas Church.  St. Nicholaus, the inspiration for Santa Claus, was born in this area .
Church of St. Nicholas - Interior fresco
Church of St. Nicholas - Interior fresco
Church of St. Nicholas - Interior
The Tomb of St. Nicholas
The cruise ended on day 4 with a bus transfer to Olympos. A very sweet place, and our next blog entry.

Overall the cruise had it's high and low spots. The scenery was great but it would have been much better in hot weather when the sea would have been much more inviting and refreshing.  It was also fairly expensive, the boat never sailed, it only used it's noisy diesel motor, and it had a bit of a motorhome caravan feel since each night was spent in view of adjacent gulets.  We don't think we'd do it again, although keep in mind that we do frequent cruises as our side "job."

Up next: A delightful stay in a little bungalow in Olympos, and a hike to the Chimera, an ever burning flame erupting from rock on the side of the mountain.