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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 6 & 7 - Keep on Truckin' Down to the Aegean Sea

March 25 & 26 - Moving on Down to Canaakkale

Today was moving day - moving from the big city of 14 million to the much smaller city of 108,000.  It seems to be a younger, trendier city because of the university there.  Wherever you walk, night or day, you see the young people walking, talking, smoking, and enjoying each other's friendships. The first inhabitants of the city, which hosted many civilizations, lived  6000 years ago. However, very little is known about the identity and lifestyle of these early settlers. According to some excavations and research, the earliest settlements in the region were established at Kumtepe.  The real history of Çanakkale started with Troy between 3500–3000 BC.  (But we'll go there tomorrow!~)

Ferry to Canakkale

We went by bus and then transferred onto a ferry which was fun as we crossed the Darnelles.  We had intended to go to the Gallipoli fields, a very historical site from WWI, but it just didn't work out.  It took about 6 hours by bus from Istanbul, and we were tired, so we just hung out with Ozgur, a high school psychology counselor, our next couch surfing host.
YUMMY Turkish Buffet

Ozgur - All teachers must dress up for work

He took us to his favorite Turkish buffet for dinner.  It was very nice!  We went on a walk by the waterfront and saw the Trojan Horse that was built for the movie "Troy", starring Brad Pitt.  After the filming, they donated it to the city of Canakkale and it stands in the center of the waterfront.  Very cool!  And it WAS cool and breezy this evening by the sea.

Athene, goddess of war gave Ulysses the idea for a plan to end the 10 year war between the warriors of Greece and the people of Troy. They built a big wooden horse which they put in the middle of their encampment. Next they pretended to abandon their camp. In reality many soldiers hid inside the wooden horse.
Once they thought the camp had been abandoned the Trojans went out to check. They needed to know if the war was really over. They walked through the abandoned encampment and eventually found the wooden horse. They couldn't decide what it was. Some wanted to take it into the city, others thought that it was a gift to Zeus and feared touching or moving it in case they upset Zeus.  Some Trojans decided to take it back into the city. They called a large group of troops, attached ropes and pulled it into the city.  A huge celebration started. The city was free from war for the first time in nine years. Everybody feasted, drank and danced until eventually the merriment was over and they all went to sleep.

This was the moment that the wooden horse opened a big flap hidden underneath. Out crept Ulysses and all of his men. They killed the sleeping troops, rescued Queen Helen, met up with the rest of their army and set sail for home. The story of the return journey is told in The Odyssey, a collection of poems piecing together the bits of the story from the many different places where the story took place.

Fresh Mussels anyone?

All along the waterfront, you'll see certain things: fresh mussels with lemon, fresh fish (still wiggling), simi (like a pretzel), people sitting and drinking chai tea, and many people walking and talking.

Which one of these is named "Dopey?" mmm......

"Not sure there is room for you, too, Rich on this couch."  (But of course, there was!)

It is custom for Turkish families to take their shoes off at the door.  Many people offer shoes for their visitors to wear while at their home.  We enjoyed wearing these while staying in Turkey.
Shari poses with beautiful Spring flowers in front of the Clock Tower very close to Ozgur's home.
A Mosque lit up beautifully at night

Ozgur played some beautiful music on his mandolin/zither.  Video clip will come later.  It was a like a lullaby for us as we went to bed shortly afterwards.

DAY 7 - Our Visit to Troy

"The science of archaeology takes its start from Troia; the most ancient tale fof a city.  It's now a site of peace and tranquility.  Canakkale is a meeting point of different civilizations and cultures."

The layers of ruins in the citadel at Hisarlık are numbered Troy I – Troy IX, with various subdivisions:
  • Troy I 3000–2600 BC
  • Troy II 2600–2250 BC
  • Troy III 2250–2100 BC
  • Troy IV 2100–1950 BC
  • Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BC
  • Troy VI: 17th–15th centuries BC
  • Troy VIh: late Bronze Age, 14th century BC
  • Troy VIIa: c. 1300–1190 BC, most likely setting for Homer's story
  • Troy VIIb1: 12th century BC
  • Troy VIIb2: 11th century BC
  • Troy VIIb3: until c. 950 BC
  • Troy VIII: around 700 BC
  • Troy IX:  1st century BC

 We took MANY pictures - it was so exciting to be walking amongst the people of Homer's "Illiad" and Odyssey" and so many other historical people as well.  After taking our excursion to Troy, we came back for a rest on our couch, then our host took us to the waterfront for some famous Canakkale fish.  The dinner was FANTASTIC!  We met one of his friends and after dinner we all went to a night club and listened to some good music - it sounded a bit like American light pop and rock.

Big Fish - "Cupsa" / Little Fish - "Mezgit"

Which one looks better?  Actually both were AMAZING!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 5 - By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

March 24 - Bosphorus Cruise

Sunday in Istanbul...the 2nd city that NEVER sleeps! It's amazing how much traffic one city can have and the cars, trams, taxi cabs, and buses RULE! The speed is as fast as they can go with no care of anything standing, walking, or running in front of them even if the light is not in their favor. Police don't seem to be around issuing any traffic tickets – it would probably be impossible because everyone would get ticketed. Somehow the pedestrians manage – they walk VERY fast and dodge for their lives. We haven't seen but only a handful of a little bit overweight people. They are always on the run, hustling here and there, so they are a very fit and healthy culture.

Today we took a ferry on a Bosphorus Cruise.  

What a beautiful day for a cruise!

The Bosphorus is the 32 km (20-mile)-long strait which joins the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea in Istanbul and separates the continents of Europe and Asia. It runs right through the heart of Istanbul past the Modern Art Museum, several Ottoman palaces, at least two fortresses, forested hills, and shore villages with Ottoman architecture.  It was a perfect day...sunny and beautiful! It took 1 ½ hours and we went north to the Black Sea and ended up in the village of  Anadol Kavagi, a cute little village with cobblestone pavements. 

The Bosphorus Bridge

The Sultan's Summer Home

The Rumeli Fortress

  It took 1 ½ hours and we went north to the Black Sea and ended up in the village of  Anadol Kavagi, a cute little village with cobblestone pavements.

We had a light lunch eating grilled mackerel, a salad, and bread. Later, I realized I had left my daypack back in the restaurant's “toilette”. Rich ran back and found it high on the hook where I had left it. WHEW! (Carolyn, he said he would make sure he does a checklist from here on out, like you always do for me) :) Then we climbed up to Yoros Castle belonging to the Roman period. It was very steep, but we were tough! 

The Arch to the Castle

The Yoros Castle
We walked around the square and then I got stuck in the middle of this one road because vehicles were all around me turning right and left and doing U-turns and I couldn't move. Eventually I did – 2nd "whew" for the day!

 Three hours later we were back on the boat to come home. We met Mert and his fiance, Palin, and Mert's sister along the waterfront. They bought us some roasted chestuts which were delicious. I sang them the song of “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire....” After all these years, I finally get to actually taste them. They were quite good!

They took us to a lovely Turkish restaurant where we had Karisik Manti ( ravioli & yogurt with garlic and walnuts). It was fantastic! They had us add the spices of sumak, mint, and a touch of hot pepper. Ooh-la-la! We also ordered a Mediterranean Salad which was amazing with the dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and pomegranate syrup. Mmmm....!
Palin & Mert

Rich & Shari
Karisik Manti ( ravioli & yogurt w/garlic) - YUM!!

We found out that 65% of all nuts produced come from Turkey, 75% of all the Olive Oil also comes from Turkey. The north is famous for its tea, the west for different kinds of melons and olive oil, the south for the citrus and bananas, and of course fish.  So for all of you out there who like yogurt, Mert gave me many ideas of what they do in Turkey with yogurt. Such a great staple in their life – I'm glad I make my own yogurt so I can try them out.

CATS....this must be the city of cats! We see them running around throughout gardens, alleys, and then both of our couch surfers had them. We brought some deer jerky from home and had a sack in our daypack. Kemal's cat discovered it and a nice little feast, then yesterday Mert's cat was getting into it.  We stopped her just in time. This cute little cat was just about ready to pounce on the fish of the day. HA! 

No!  No Kitty!

What are you lookin' at?

We walked through downtown Istanbul at night and the city was crazy with people and everyone bustling about.  We stopped in at an Art Museum, which was very interesting.  Mert showed us some fun techniques of this modern art as he is an artist.  His mother is a very famous artist in Turkey.
Shari, Mert, Palin discuss art techniques.

This is an excavation where they found the kitchen of the Dolmabahce Palace and just built over it with glass.

A very fun day, but our last night in Istanbul - off to new adventures tomorrow!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

DAY 4 - "Oohh - those "Fresh" Turkish Men!

March 23 - The Grand Bazaar

Saturday morning began with sleeping in, then we prepared a breakfast with “Bear” pancakes – banana eyes, grape nose, apple smiley face. We also made a Denver omelet, but it turned out to be glorified scrambled eggs. Then we had a fruit salad with THE BEST Turkish yogurt! By the way, the Turkish people invented Greek yogurt, but somehow the Greeks took credit for it, and the Turks are NOT happy about it.

Our Last Breakfast - we cooked and cleaned up
We want to thank Ela, Kemal, and Mine for a wonderful 1st couch surfing experience!

We went to Old Istanbul again to visit the Old Baazar today. First we took a quick tour through the Yeni Cammii (New Mosque). The construction began in 1597 and wasn't completed until nearly a century later – 1663. The women have to cover their heads to go in and everyone takes off their shoes. The moment I went in, I felt a sense of “awe,” and literally the sight took my breath away. I was moved to tears and really could hardly contain myself. I felt such a reverence for the Muslim religion and for all of the people who had come before me. 

When Muslims pray at the mosque, they stand very close together in long lines. Muslims all make the same movements together, at the same time and they always face East, towards Makkah. Makkah is a holy place for Muslims where they make a pilgrimage to at least once in their lives. We took a video which I will add tomorrow, but we have the beautiful ezan recorded for you to hear.  The ezan (call to prayer) summons the faithful to the mosque for prayers.  The first morning in Istanbul, we were awakened at 5 a.m. with the drone sound of a male voice, then we heard another and another, and soon the whole city was singing.  It is quite interesting as there are mosques about every 1/4 of a mile dotted everywhere throughout the city.  There are over 3,000, so you can imagine what it sounds like 5 times a day.

Two beautiful women pose for a picture

A sweet couple so in love

Men in front of a small mosque at prayer time - 6 x daily

 The Grand Bazaar is right next to the New Mosque (some call it the Spice Market) and is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It employs 26,000 people. We unfortunately went at noon on a Saturday, the busiest day of the week. 

"Beans, Beans, Nothing but Beans!"

"Which leech is the fattest and cutest?"
There were aisles of different foods, seeds, plants, flowers, birds - we couldn't even take it all in.  What was crazy, though, was that on nearly every aisle, there were  BIG containers of leeches to purchase.  Evidently the Muslims believe that if you have a sore or open wound, one must put a leech on it to suck out the poison and you would heal much quicker.  I guess it's true - who wants to try it to see if it works?

So we had our backpacks on as we hadn't yet settled down at our next Couch Surfer's home.  I noticed a man standing quite close, listening to us talk about going down one of the aisles to check it out.  As we walked further into the Bazaar, it got more and more crowded.  In fact, we were packed in there with a two lines of people going both ways.  I noticed this same man standing right behind Rich and thought it odd that he seemed to be following us.  Then we couldn't hardly move either direction and all of a sudden I felt a hand on my rear.  I turned and he was right beside me with a grin on his face.  I sternly said, "No, No."  - Rich said to turn quickly and just start making a move, so I did and with our packs on, we rammed our way through the crowd.  Oh my, that was crazy!  That man was crazy and I felt like I had gone crazy!!  We decided we didn't need to see any more of the market.

We couldn't meet our next Couch Surfer until 7 p.m., so we killed some time, then went up a very steep hill to where we thought we were to meet him.  45 minutes later, we realized we had gone up the wrong hill, so we ended up taking a bus to the right place and met Mert, a 39 year old single man living with his sister.  He took us to dinner to a cute little place where we had meatballs, fries, and bread.
Next time we'll get an amazing Turkish Salad Bar

  We became acquainted with him and found out that he spoke VERY good English.  We had many questions for him and he really helped us to understand some things we didn't know.  He lives close to the "hub-bub" of the city.  Another day gone and only 200 left to go!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

DAY 3 - Do I really want a Turkish Rug for $24,000 OR What to Sing in the Pouring Rain?

March 22 - Downtown Historic Istanbul

Today we enjoyed a day downtown and our first museums.  It started off with an amazing breakfast with THE WORKS!!  Mint, parsley, and dill were added to the eggs.  mmm...3 kinds of olives, three types of cheese, and in the 4 small covered bowls were blackberry preserves, honey butter, raspberry jam, and berry molasses for whole wheat bread.  It was delicious!
In the back are juice, candied oranges, cucumbers,yummy bacon

We drove with Kemal for 30 minutes as he had a work appointment downtown (Asian side).  We then caught a ferry across the Bosphorus Channel -beautiful ride although it was cloudy. Istanbul is surrounded by three seas - The Agean, Black, and Marmara.  Rich was designated to be the one to ask the questions or for directions. He would find the prettiest woman, asking if they spoke English. :)  It saved us several times, however.  We followed the first one off the ferry to the tram station, did another connection, and finally ended up where all the historical part of Istanbul is.

Basilica Cistern - 500 A.D.
Medusa Head Pillar
 As we were wandering around trying to decide what to visit first, a young Turkish man came up and was so kind to give us some tips and told us what we should see.  He insisted we see the Basilica Cistern because it wouldn't be very crowded at the noon hour, then we should come look at his shop. It is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. The cistern was built in the 6th century.  It provided a water filtration system for that area and has the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water, despite being virtually empty today with only a few feet of water lining the bottom.  Ancient texts suggest that the tears on one of the columns pay tribute to the hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the Basilica.  (7,000 slaves were involved in building the cistern.)

Back to the young man....he was waiting for us outside the Cistern (an hour later).  Turns out - his job was to haul in "would-be" buyers to a rug shop, then turn them over to his boss who would convince the tourist they just had to have a rug from Turkey.  Granted....they were beautiful, but $24,000!!!  We said "bye-bye" and left as quick as we could....lesson learned!
Shari admires this rug which is only 4 inches and has already taken 5 months to make
 We visited the Topkapi Palace next. This palace was home to Ottoman sultans for many centuries (1465-1856) and is the main attraction in Istanbul. It was built in the mid 1400′s.  Rich enjoyed the weaponry display the most.  It was amazing how many different weapons have been used from the beginning of mankind.
 We also saw the Prophet Mohammed's belongings.  95% of the 15 million people in Istanbul are Muslims, so this is a very important place to them.

Rich stands beside a 600 year old original pillar from Topkapi Palace
The Topkapi Palace
Hagia Sofia is a former Orthodox Patriarchal Basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.   From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.. A masterwork of Roman engineering, the huge 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The church was looted by the fourth Crusaders in 1204, and became a mosque in the 15th century when The Ottomans conquered the city. It was converted into a museum in 1935.  The mosaics are simply amazing.
Inside the Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia - the most visited site in Istanbul

 We went to the market place to buy some groceries to breakfast to treat our hosts.  It was funny watching Rich ask for where to buy flour and salami and cheese when we had no idea what the Turkish names for it was.  Quite an experience!

Shari learns to do a Turkish folk dance with Mine & Ela

Our host family expected us at 7 p.m. and we tried to get back by catching a fast mini-bus....wrong choice as we stood in a line for over an hour waiting for it to come.  We were drenched as it poured rain the whole time.  BUT...we did come back to a lovely dinner, singing, dancing, and playing the piano by candlelight.   Their 8 year old daughter, Ela was so cute!  Shari even learned a Turkish folk dance!

Shari finally gets a picture of Ela!

Tomato-Herb soup, Meatballs, Semizotu, Sarma, Salad,