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.

Kaleici: A "Steamy" Hamam Tale, Ancient Maze of Streets and the Best Ever Sarcophagi Collection

Posted by Melissa
Evening in Antalya - Hıdırlık Tower on the right
September 29 - October 3, 2010

Kaleici is a small, walled, tangle of ancient, narrow streets surrounding a natural harbor in use since Roman times.  It is the original Antalya and has been inhabited since the 2nd century BC.  Modern Antalya has grown up outside the city walls and is now a sprawling city of over 1 million. The ancient city walls are still in place however, and are still protecting the old quarter, now called Kaleici.
Hadrian's Gate
The difference in architecture and tempo between the new and the old cities is quite distinct.  Outside the gate and walls, modern Antalya moves at a quick pace with scooters, cars and trolleys zipping past.  Modern buildings and large sidewalks line the street.

We even spotted this Mickey D's built right up against the wall - that stone wall on the right side of the picture is part of the ancient city wall. No, we did not eat here.

While inside the quarter, ancient Ottoman style houses with secret courtyards line the pedestrian only streets. We understand that just a few years ago, this area was not desirable and that some of the houses were abandoned and left to the wind and rain.  That has changed recently with many of the old houses newly renovated and turned into upscale hotels and restaurants. As you can see though, there are still plenty left to be renovated, but they are no longer inexpensive. 

We've learned that we need a good amount of "down" time on our extended travels.  We have learned to take it easy and see the sights on our schedule.  That means quiet walks on cobblestone streets with stops for fresh squeezed pomegranate and orange juice from sidewalk vendors like this.

And checking out the goods at the local carpet store (although this also required that we learn the art of rebuffing the sales people). 

And strolling through town just to enjoy the view!
Harbor in Kaleici, Antalya
And discovering new sweets like acibadem, my new FAVORITE, an amazing almond, macaroon, meringue type cookie.
Photo from Wikipedia
Or this nifty invention - the flip top beer bottle.  Generally here in Turkey, beer means Efes.  You order a beer, you get Efes.  We rarely found anything else.  So it was with a little bit of excitement that we ordered Tuborg.  When it arrived we discovered this cool pull top.  Efes is decent, but it was nice to have something different.
Tuborg at sunset
And enjoying a dreamy hour or two at the 700 year old Balık Pazarı Hamam where I was turned into jelly after a steam room, rough scrub to remove dead skin, soapy scrub, hair wash, and oil massage.  All this for only 40 TL ($28 US)! - sorry no photos allowed.

Just picture an ancient, domed stone building, a maze of marble tiled rooms edged with marble benches and a steamy fog which blurs everything. Naked ladies stretched out on low marble benches, light streaming in through multiple small round holes in the dome roof, each sound echoing loudly off the marble walls. The women are resting their heads on upside down copper bowls, periodically dowsing themselves with cool water, relaxing in the steam and waiting for the bath attendant. This is a traditional hamam with men and women in different areas, in case you were wondering.

After steaming sufficiently, the attendant commands me (she doesn't speak English) to lay on the central, elevated marble slab where she proceeds to rub me down with a kese (a coarse cotton mitten) and scrubs away a good amount of dead skin. This is followed by a full body wash. This is no ordinary "grab a bar of soap and wash" wash. This feels like being washed by an Angel. The attendant puts olive oil soap into a cloth pillowcase, blows into it filling it with air, then twists it shut and presses this giant air pillow onto me so that warm soap bubbles smother my body. She then massages/washes the soap over me from head to toe. An enchanting experience. The rest went by in a blur, shampoo, rinse and an oil massage. All in all, a wonderful experience and my favorite hamam so far!!

And of course, there is always time for good food.  This is part of the mezze buffet at our hotel.

We stayed about a block from the water at a small, family owned hotel.  We usually prefer to choose our own dining options, but when we checked in to this hotel, the manager offered us a half board option for just 30 additional lira for the both of us ($20 US).  The dinner included the self serve mezze buffet above plus the chef's choice for dinner. Since mezza's typically cost 4-5 lira each, this proved to be a great deal, AND delicious! We are so glad we chose this option. 
Pool side dining area
Pool side relaxing - almost finished with this book.
Although we spent most days wandering through the old quarter and talking with fellow travelers at our hotel (we met a great young couple traveling the world for a year - hi Bart & Sarah, and another couple on holiday from London), we did manage to find our way to the Antalya Museum. As many travelers know, museum and "ruin" burnout settles in after a few weeks/months of travel and we are no exception. Something about the description of this museum caught our attention though so we took some time off from wandering, reading and sunbathing to check it out.  We soon decided this was our favorite museum of the trip so far.  The collection is amazing and it only takes an hour or two to see most of it. 
Saint Nicholas relics
Glass items in the Hall of Small Objects
The Hall of Gods had an amazing collection of perfect, larger than life size, marble statues. We found ourselves alone in this gallery and quietly strolled from statue to statue. As we approached each statue, an individual spotlight lit up the white marble - our own private show.
Statue of the Emperor Hadrian in the Hall of Imperial Statues (117-138AD)
From the Marble Portraits Hall
And finally we arrive at our favorite room - The Hall of the Sarcophagi.  There were maybe 20 or so unbelievable carved sarcophagi.  Simply incredible!

As I mentioned earlier, this is our favorite museum. I haven't even included photos from the Pre-History hall with its neanderthal remains and stone age artifacts, the Byzantine Icon art, or the Ethnographic Hall with still life sets showing a typical Anatolian house and a Yörük tent.  This gets a "don't miss" in our book.

Well 'tis time to bid Hoşçakal to Antalya.  We splurged on drinks at a nearby rooftop cafe for our final night here.

And because Thane is always the one behind the camera, I am slipping in this photo of him up on that rooftop.  Did you enjoy your Tuborg?

Up Next: A night in Fethiye and a 3 night "Blue Cruise" sailing the Mediterranean on a gulet.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kizkalesi - Lazy Days in the Sun

Posted by Melissa
September 23 to September 28, 2010

After a busy week of sightseeing in Göreme, we headed to Kizkalesi on the southern coast of Turkey.

Our plans ? ? ?  Lay around, get some sun, eat, sleep, repeat.  We did a fine job of it starting with our room with a view of the castle and beach.

It was very easy to laze around here.  Just about everything you could wish for is brought to you right on the beach.  Here are two of the sarong sellers.

Then the simit seller strolls by with his wares balanced on his head.

The çai man and his son.

Ah, hot çai at the beach!  There was also vendors selling hot ears of corn on the beach, and beer and icecream vendors on the boardwalk.  Not a bad life at all!

A little swim for me (in my new bikini!)

and one for Thane too!  The water was just cool enough to be refreshing and it was so shallow that we had to walk out about 300 feet to get up to our shoulders in the water. 

A relaxing day people watching on the beach - cute little ones,

babies with their grandmas,

naked - just perfect for the beach!

Or fully clothed, depending on your preference.

Or dressed somewhere in between.

A little tavla before dinner.

Walk to a nearby cafe for dinner with fresh, hot from the wood fired oven, bread.

Then stroll the boardwalk in the evening after dinner.

Repeat for 6 days. . . . .

Good night moon, goodnight castle, goodnight beautiful warm Mediterranean water.  I've loved being here.

Up next:  9 hour bus ride, on cliffs, to our next destination, the old town, Kaleiçi area of Antalya.