Cabin Fever!

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If you’ve been around awhile, this blog post might seem a bit familiar, as well, I’ve written about it before.  A LONG TIME AGO IN A PLACE FAR, FAR AWAY I had another blog, who’s life was tragically cut short by hackers (okay, okay, fine posts were getting few and far between, but still!).  My last few meager posts on were blurps about our Turkey and Greece trip, but in perusing one titled Cabin Fever! I was reminded of our last full day on the yacht boat.

And literally, it was a FULL day on the boat, as we were stuck in the middle of the Aegean Sea. Not to worry, we were within swimming distance to the shore.  We were “in” Knidos and yes, I’m using quotation marks because we weren’t in Knidos, we were in a small docking bay at the edge of Knidos.  The problem was that by the time we arrived, there were no more docks available (I think there were a total of three available to the public).

Docked for the night was the official term, however, I cannot reach landfall without getting wet or rowing myself in—and even if I did, there’s not a lot around except one dodgy looking restaurant, a lot of sheep, a few passing headlights, ancient ruins and a huge sundial…so I will stick to my story of being stuck.

The day didn’t start out so bad—we left Greece to make our way back to Turkey. We got to Datça, a city in the middle of the Datça peninsula, which was directly in our path back to Bodrum. Once again, the Captain and our passports left the vessel. This time we had no instructions to stay on board, so we disembarked and rambled about the town for about an hour.

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Our passports magically returned, we had lunch, and then headed back out to begin our sail northwest. We were to spend the afternoon/stop for the night at what we believed to be another small sea-side village at the tip of the peninsula, called Knidos. The bay was pretty full by the time we got there, so we dropped anchor in the middle and were going to moor on the empty side. Turns out it’s private property and we can’t tie down there. Also we discovered that our dingy boat motor no longer started.  The poor crew members had to row all the way to shore, get yelled at by the locals, and row their way back to the boat to convey the message–however, since the owner was shouting loudly and gesticulating excessively, we didn’t need to speak Turkish or Greek to get the gist.

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Another boat kindly offered us use of their dingy for the price of 4€ each person. No thanks! So we spent the afternoon napping, reading, writing, playing cards, backgammon, etc, anything to distract from the fact that we couldn’t (without much effort or money) leave the boat. At this point, I know you’re thinking why not just pay the 4€? It was the principle of the matter!  And the Captain wasn’t offering to pay either, which was a rant for a very long informative email to the tour company, since it was his non-working dingy that left us stranded.

Overall, I really can’t complain, as it was very a relaxing day and a complete opposite of the jam-packed beginning of the tour or life in NYC in general.

As I lay listening the lapping of the water, I realized that–with proper phone and internet service, of course–I could easily pack it all up and move here. There is something inherently charming about the laid-back lifestyle of a small sea-side village, miles and miles of sea from anything resembling a city. No hustle, no bustle, no worries–just so long as I don’t have to spend any more nights anchored in the middle of a bay, with limited options for getting to shore.

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It’s All Greek to Me!

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Can I just tell you how long I’ve been waiting to use that phrase as a title?  Pretty much ever since our yacht boat cruise took us through the southern Greek isles–the Dodecanese as they are known. SIDE NOTE:  Dodecanese literally means 12 islands; and the Dodecanese is made up of 12 larger islands and approximately 150 smaller islands of which 26 of these are inhabited–so 12 is really more of a figurative number.

While we were in Turkey, we had Osgur, our amazing guide who GUIDED US and kept us from getting lost and made sure we were where we needed to be in a semi-timely fashion, providing of course, the bus was cooperating.  However, then Osgur handed us over  to a Captain, Cook, and Deck Hand on a yacht boat who spoke very little English and the only guiding they did was with the yacht boat.

It was a complete 180 degrees from the first 10 days of our trip!  And don’t get me wrong, it was great to be able to explore on our own, however, after having everything in Turkey so organized (and by organized, I mean we didn’t make decisions about what to see and where to go), we were a bit flummoxed at our first island stop–Kos.

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First of all, while at breakfast the Captain tells us to stay onboard until he gets back, we then watch him get off the yacht boat with our passports and walk away.  I’m not gonna lie, it was a little disconcerting to see a man I only met the day before leave me on a boat while he walks away with my passport.  But soon he returns and says “Okay, you go, you be back by 6pm.”  And motions to the shore.  So we go.  And it’s pretty obvious we were dropped into a touristy part of town, so we follow the masses of people for awhile and then decide “hey! let’s see what’s down this street.”

We found some ancient Roman ruins.  We can’t tell you what they were because…well…we don’t speak Greek!

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We wandered around for a few hours, down little streets, around hidden corners, exploring areas that didn’t seem to see a lot of tourists.

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We eventually found our way back to the touristy areas, when we happened upon a museum dedicated to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who was believed to have been born in Kos.

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This is Hippocrates tree, which is believed to be where he taught and practiced medicine.  The tree is so old, it is now supported by scaffolding to keep it from toppling over!  And in case you’re wondering how old, Hippocrates lived in the 5th century!

From there we wander back along the shoe, getting great shots of both the city walls and the stunning blueness that the Aegean is known for.

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We finally found our starting point, however, since we still had a bit of time we decided to have a drink.  No, not alcohol, but Hellenic coffee for me and hot chocolate for April.  It was amazing.  Her hot chocolate, that is.  Oh don’t get me wrong, my coffee was good.  But her hot chocolate was everything-you-could-ever-want-in-a-cup hot chocolate.  It was thick and dark and smacked you around a little.  This was definitely not your watered down, overly sugary hot chocolate that caused me to not really like hot chocolate.

And it was at this moment that time stood still.  Sitting outside, basking in the sun, watching people amble by, listen to locals laughing and enjoying life, looking out on the sparkling blue water.  In that instant, I fell in love with this lifestyle and this landscape.  And when my reverie was finally broken by our waiter asking if we’d like anything else, we did the only thing we could: ordered another round–this time, all chocolate.

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Healing Waters and a Cemetary

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I know it sounds like a crazy combination, but that’s essentially what you have at Hierapolis.

Near the town of Pamukkale is a hill, and at the top is the ancient city of Hierapolis–or it’s ruins, I should say.

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While there is not much left/excavated of the ancient city itself, it’s the hot springs of the ancient Roman baths that have been attracting people for thousands of years.  You can still swim in the pool and hundreds, if not thousands, do every day!  In fact, part of the reason that the ruins of Hierapolis are so limited is because of damage caused by hotels built on the site at the turn of the 20th century once the tourism potential of the hot springs was realized.  They were later removed when Hierapolis-Pamukkale was listed as a UN World Heritage Site.

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We opted out of swimming and headed for the terraces, made of travertine from the calcium carbonated water flowing down the hillside.

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These waters are also said to be healing, so of course, we went wading–which was pretty much our only option, as shoes were not allowed when walking on the terraces.  It felt super silky and very soft–however, it made for walking along the terraces rather tricky and very slippery!

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On the other side of the Roman baths and down the other side of the hill is the Necropolis, which at one time laid outside the city walls–you know, back when there were city walls!  It was by far the most impressive and extensive necropolis that I have ever seen.  Graves, burial mounds, sarcophagi and temples all served as tribute to Hierapolis’ population.  The Necropolis extended down the hillside, stretching well over 2km with over 1200 tombs excavated!

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Thanks a Yacht!

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Let me sum up an email chain while trying to organize our Turkey trip.  Please know this is a very liberal translation, as those emails are hopelessly lost in an email account that was viciously hacked causing me to start over with a new email and all that jazz…but I’m not bitter.  At. All.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, emailing:

April: I found a tour that encompasses ANZAC day activities and Istanbul and several historic sites like Troy and Ephesus….and…IF we wanted, we could add a yacht cruise through the southern Greek Isles.

Me: Hell yes we want to add a yacht cruise through the southern Greek Isles!  Don’t we?

April: yes, of course we do (NOTE: April has much better sea legs than I do, but I have a much better sailor’s mouth than she!!)

Now when I think of yacht, I think:

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And I knew KNEW there was no way our yacht was going to look like that.  However, I was NOT prepared for the S.S. Minnow.  Okay, so it wasn’t that bad…but it was close.

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Granted it’s a cute little boat.  But it was not a yacht.  NOT A YACHT!  And it had 10 very tiny cabins.  Thankfully the fabulous and wonderful Osgur, our Turkish guide, talked the Captain into letting April & I have our own separate cabins since we were not a couple.  Good thing too because these cabins were the tiniest spaces, with beds slightly bigger than a twin.

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my tiiiiiny little window

my tiny little window

One thing the yacht boat did have going for it was that we had the best chef.  Every meal he prepared was amazing.  I even ate eggplant–and liked it!  And for the record, I don’t like eggplant and tend to avoid it like the plague…but his eggplant was delectable.  Turns out he was using baby eggplant and through a series of gesticulations and a very broken English and Turkish, I believe he said that only baby eggplants were worth eating.  Now would be a great time to mention that between the Captain, Chef, and Deck Hand, they spoke maybe 20 words in English, which of course, was much better than our 3 words in Turkish!  Sorry, no pictures of the food–we were way too busy eatin’ to even think about snapping pictures!!

Our aft-side cabins smelled like diesel any time the yacht boat was in motion, which was a great motivator to be outside taking in all the fresh air and stunning views of  the open waters of the Aegean Sea.  More than once I was awoken way too early by the sounds and smells of the motor running, so I would just grab my blankie and went to nap on the deck.

strike a pose!

strike a pose!

best place for an early-morning snooze

best place for an early-morning snooze

The water was so blue and clear it was stunning.  We did have a couple of swim stops, but as the water was fr-r-r-r-r-reezing, April and I abstained.

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One final note: we had a fellow tourist who was continually lamenting about how the “haze” was completely messing up his pics…The HAAAAAZE!!!….but I rather think it gave some of our pictures a nice air of shrouded mystery, which I feel is perfectly acceptable when you’re on a yacht boat in the middle of the sea.

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Ephesus

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Normally for me the hardest part of a post is figuring out how to start. However, for this post it was trying to narrow down the pictures!

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Ephesus was at one time one of the huge port city and connector of several large trade routes between the East and West. It was home to the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.

Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis

It played a huge role in the beginnings of Christianity–and is thought to be where the Gospel of John was written and is where the apostle is buried. It is the city where Paul wrote 1 Coronthians and the city is cited in Revelations.  All around the city, signs of Christianity could be found.

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Basilica of St. John

Basilica of St. John

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The excavations of Ephesus are massive and ongoing, unearthing history back to when the city was started in the 10th Century BC. We visited on an overcast and rainy day. However, that did not dampen the spirits of the masses of visitors seeking to look upon the ruins of old, especially the Great Library, which is considered modern-day Ephesus’ crown of glory.

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And sights we saw winding down the well worn stones to the library facade did not disappoint!

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talk about getting to know your neighbor!  here are the public toliets--for those who could afford to use them!

talk about getting to know your neighbor! here are the public toliets–for those who could afford to use them!

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As per usual, the amphitheater was huge–and while originally created for plays, with the Romans also came the Gladiators.

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Overall, it was an amazing day–even if I did end up shackled!! Of course, April will tell you that I happily volunteered…and well, she wouldn’t be wrong! ;- )

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Beware of the Tojan Horse

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If I can admit my geographic ignorance for a moment, I didn’t realize that a lot of the ancient Greek cities are in what is now Turkey.  Honestly, I’d never really given the geography of ancient Greece much thought prior to this trip.  Then lo and behold, there in Turkey–I found myself smack dab in the middle of ancient Greek ruins, such as this:

Our tour group pose for the token Horse shot

Our tour group pose for the token Horse shot

Okay, okay…obviously this isn’t the real Trojan Horse, but you have to admit it’s size is pretty impressive!  Thanks to Helen & Paris, the story of the Trojan Horse is probably one of the most well-known Greek stories.  But archaeologically, Troy is a gold mine.  As was tradition, new cities built upon older city ruins.  There are 9 levels of Troy (it’s estimated that the Trojan War occurred in either Level 6 or 7)–and as we walked amongst the ruins we saw them all.

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As you can see the amphitheater is the most compete structure, which was definitely the case in most of the ruins we visited on our trip.

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According to our guide the “horse” was most likely a battering ram–perhaps with a horse head–that was romanticized into what we think of today as the Trojan Horse.  And while seeing the horse might lure one to visit Troy, it’s the archeology that will make it worth all the while.

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Lest We Forget

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It is dark and cold and with bated breath everyone seems to be lulled into a sense of stillness.  The streaks of the sun peak over the horizon and a lonely trumpet plays.

Dawn Service.

Two powerful words and of all the ones I have been to, there are two that stand out vividly in my mind: the first one I attended and the last one I attended.

The first was at the War Memorial, overlooking Canberra.

The second was at the site of the battle, in Gallipoli.  It was a very cold morning.  We arrived at ANZAC Cove at 3am, so that we could pass through the appropriate security check points and walk to the place where the service would be held.  As we sat and waited, the gravity of the day and the symbolism slowly descended until at last…at last it was time.  We were there to tribute the men who selflessly gave their lives to fight a war so far from home, as well as those who fought to defend their home.

On April 25, 1915 Allied forces, lead by Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) troops attacked the Gallipoli peninsula in order to secure the Allies passage through Dardanelles in the hopes of conquering Istanbul and thereby contolling access to the Black Sea.  The ANZACs landed on a small beach, under heavy gunfire, and faced a nearly impossible climb through an abundance of brush and hills.  It is estimated that 2,000 men died on the first day alone.

The battle waged on for over 8 months with a staggering death toll of 87,000 Turks and 44,000 Allied soldiers, including over 11,000 ANZACs.  But the Turks held on, in what is considered one of their greatest victories–despite their huge losses.  It also solidified the place and role of the ANZACs on a world stage and today ANZAC Day serves as a day of remembrance–Lest We Forget.

After paying tribute in ANZAC Cove, we then followed one of the trails up the hilly slopes, visiting the gravesides of men who died way too young and so far from home.

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Through the trenches we walked, over paths that were created to ease our walking, knowing that those who were here nearly 100 years ago did not have the luxury of such trails.  Up we walked, stopping, taking pictures, talking, taking in the view.  Up we walked, up to three different memorials:

 The Lone Pine:    Ironically, not the original pine after which the hill is named. This one was planted in honor of that Lone Pine that remained after the bloodiest battle in the entire campaign.

The Lone Pine (AUS Memorial):
Ironically, not the original pine after which the hill is named. This one was planted in honor of that Lone Pine that remained after the bloodiest battle in the entire campaign.

59th Regiment (aka Turkish Memorial)

59th Regiment (aka Turkish Memorial)

Chunuk Bair (NZ Memorial)

Chunuk Bair (NZ Memorial)

 

I can’t remember exactly how far we walked that day.  All I know is that at the very top of our trail, I saw some breath-taking views and as I stared over the picturesque landscape and gazed down to the sea, I had to stop and wonder how many soldiers would have had the luxury of doing the same.

Overlooking the northern shore of ANZAC cove

Overlooking the northern shore of ANZAC cove

Looking to the south

Looking to the south

 

ANZAC Bikkies

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Ooohh!  Ooohh!  Super-special post today!  What makes this post so special you ask?  It’s written (well not this introduction, of course!) by April.  There are several things that come to mind when I think about ANZAC day, such as Dawn Service, Two-Up, poppies, and ANZAC bikkies to name a few.  The bikkies (aka cookies) are where April comes in.  IF a better than April’s ANZAC bikkie exists in the world, I have yet to experience it.  I’ve witnessed first hand the slight jealousy in Australians at the thought that a Yank could make their beloved treat better than they could.  Their jealousy is short-lived, mind you–usually by the second bite, at which point they just enjoy the delicious goodiness!

And now, ladies and gents, may I introduce the lovely and wonderfully fabulous April and her ANZAC bikkies:

If I am honest, Anzac biscuits were never a treat I had much when I was living in Aus; Tim Tams were my go-to for indulging. When I found myself stateside and wanting to bring in some homemade goods for my workmates to celebrate Australia Day, though, I knew there was no way I could make Tim Tams. So I searched online for some recipes I could do, and I found this one for Anzac biscuits. Fortune must have been smiling upon me because these bikkies are a hit wherever I bring them, and they are the number one requested treat from my coworkers.

Anzac biscuits first made an appearance during World War I. Australian wives, mothers, and girlfriends were concerned about how nutritious the soldiers’ rations were so they developed a recipe for a treat full of healthy ingredients like coconut and rolled oats. The components also did not readily spoil which allowed for the biscuits to remain edible after the long non-refrigerated transit to the frontlines. While normally a fan of cookies fresh from the oven, I actually find Anzac biscuits much tastier a few days after I baked them, which kind of ties in nicely with the end of my bikkie ramblings…

While preparing for my trip to Turkey in 2011, I got it into my head that it would be great if we could actually have some Anzac biscuits to eat when our group did our overnight vigil at the Gallipoli peninsula. So right before my departure I made two batches and packed them carefully in a place of honor in my suitcase for the long journey east. They survived intact, and several days into our excursion my travel companions were pleasantly surprised when I brought them out for Anzac Day. Sherry and I were the only Yanks on the tour so I think it was even more startling for everyone that the biscuits were delicious! I had more than one compliment that even in Australia they had not ever had such a tasty bikkie. So without further ado, here is The Recipe:

  • 1 cup rolled oats (NEVER quick oats)
  • 3/4 cups desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 oz butter
  • 2 tbs golden syrup (I use Karo syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (aka baking soda)
  • 1 tbs water (boiling)

Mix oats, flour, sugar, and coconut together. Melt syrup and butter together. Mix bicarbonate of soda with boiling water and then add to the melted butter/syrup. Add to dry ingredients. Place by 1 tablespoonfuls on greased tray and allow room for spreading. Bake for 20 minutes at 300F (150 C). The yield is around 3 dozen depending on the size of your scoops.

That is the recipe I acquired from Aussie-Info.com more than 10 years ago. I haven’t made any modifications to it–why mess with perfection?–though you can get a fabulous treat using brown sugar instead of white. I can’t decide which one I like more so I always just make one batch of each. So happy baking, and remember, it’s always a biscuit and never a cookie!

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tasty enough to eat as is!

 

what a difference the sugar makes!

what a difference the sugar makes!

nom nom nom!

nom nom nom!

Coffee Break

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I’ve been sitting here thinking about Turkey and Greece; trying to figure out where to start by looking through photos and old blog posts. Naturally I begin basking in my trip down memory lane, so much so that I’m actually having trouble focusing on exactly what I want to write.   This trip was spectacularly epic.  I think, in part because it’s been so long since I’ve been somewhere so out of my element and so completely, well, foreign.  Not that the entire trip was out of my element, but the majority of the last 10 years has been spent traveling around America and Australia–so it was exhilarating and revitalizing getting to visit a place where I could sit and relax and be completely immersed in anonymity and not understand one single solitary word being spoken.

I realize that probably sounds outlandishly bizarre, as most people I know would be slightly panicked at the thought of being in a place where communication wasn’t guaranteed.  It was also very evident that April and I were, in fact, not Turkish.  Not that we really felt out of place–on the contrary, both countries were so warm and welcoming–but well, people kept stopping us to ask.  We also realized that Turkey doesn’t get many American visitors, or perhaps if they do, they don’t hang out where we hung out.  Everyone we met were generally amazed that we were Americans.  English, Australian, German, Dutch, Kiwi, South African, Swiss, and Canadian were all guesses, but never American.  In fact, our second afternoon in Istanbul we exited the Egyptian Bazaar (aka Spice Market, which has THE BEST TURKISH DELIGHT ON THE PLANET!) to a very busy plaza area.  As we head down amongst the throng of people undoubtedly on their way home from work, I felt someone poking my arm.  I turned to see this 90 year old woman sitting on the ledge, glaring and shaking her finger towards my face and she asked “Armenian?”  I was in such a state of shock that she had taken the time and effort to poke me to confirm my Armenian heritage, all I could do was shake my head and yell “American!”  She responded with an equally confused look and finally there was a shoulder shrug followed by a “HUH!” and then went about her day.

So what was the equalizer? The one thing everyone spoke was coffee.  You know…that stuff I affectionately refer to as nectar of the gods!  If you enjoy a robust cup of coffee, then let me tell you that Turkish and Hellenic coffees are amazing!  They are very similar–in case you’re wondering–although Hellenic coffee is usually a bit bigger than Turkish coffee.  The first time I had Turkish coffee in Turkey (and yes, it was something pre-trip I was soooo excited about experiencing) I felt fireworks in my head!  I feel quite certain my eyes rolled back and I asked April to give me a moment with my little demitasse cup!!  I also learned that it’s traditionally served with sugar.  My first few coffees I ordered without sugar and I would get stares by everyone, which I thought were because this crazy American is actually drinking proper Turkish coffee. However a few days into our trip, a waiter informed me that Turkish coffee is usually served with sugar, which is how I had it from then on (but I still got a lot of stares, so I’m still going with my crazy American theory!)  For Turkish coffee, I will happily deal with the stares.  It’s breathtaking.  Like a great shot of espresso, but with a lingering sweetness that caps any meal perfectly.

It is usually prepared in an ibrik (a tiny pot with a long handle–ibriks are usually just big enough for 1-2 servings) by adding cold water, finely ground coffee (hello, Turkish grind! 1-2 heaping teaspoons), and sugar (usually 1 heaping teaspoon).  NO STIRRING until the sugar starts to melt and the coffee starts to settle.  You then give it a quick stir or two and allow the coffee to come to a boil, pull it off the heat, then repeat the boiling and pulling off the heat at least two more times (depending on the site, they suggest reboiling anywhere from 3-4 times).  Afterward it is poured into a demitasse cup and voila!  a bit of sunshine for your day!

Şerefe!

 

My very first Turkish-in-Turkey coffee!!

My very first Turkish-in-Turkey coffee!!

Oh Happy Day!

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They say a picture is worth a thousand words…so here two thousand to sum up my morning. Btw, did I mention it’s a gorgeous spring day here in NYC?? Well, it is–and that’s not just the cawfee tawkin!

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