Pergamon

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Today Pergamon is known for the extensive amount of  ancient ruins still in tact high on the mountain above the modern day Turkish city of Bergama.  In its prime, however, it was known for its great library, considered to be second only to the Library of Alexandria, and its Asclepeion, which was considered to be the greatest therapeutic and healing center in the entire Roman Empire.  The Pergamenes were also the inventors of parchment from calfskin, created when papyrus became scarce and the Ptolemies stopped exporting it, and it’s believed that the Library contained over 20,000 parchment scrolls.

In order to reach the ancient city, we had to travel up the mountainside by gondola and then wandered around the ruins, much of which were temples and tributes to the gods, Zeus, Hera, Athena, Demeter, and Dionysus to name a few.  There was a lot to see and many, many pictures taken (read: I could have added a TON more, but figured you probably didn’t want to spend 3 days looking through pictures!).

up, up, up the gondola we go!

up, up, up the gondola we go!

Even at the top, there are stairs to climb!

Even at the top, there are stairs to climb!

An arch way and a view of the town below.

An archway and a view of the city below.

April contemplates

April contemplates the ruins around her

Statue of a soldier...but all I can think is "doth mother know you wearth her drapes?"!!

doth mother know you wearth her drapes?

The most impressive structures--towering over everything else in the city

The most impressive structures–towering over everything else in the city

Pergamon has the steepest theatre, with a seating capacity of 10,000 people

Pergamon has the steepest theatre in all of Ancient Greece, with a seating capacity of 10,000 people

That's a long way down to the stage!

That’s a long way down to the stage!

Osgur (our guide) telling us about the theatre--asking if anyone wants to venture to the bottom...alas, no takers! No one wanted to make the climb all the way back up!

Osgur (our guide) telling us about the theatre–asking if anyone wants to venture to the bottom…alas, no takers! No one wanted to make the climb all the way back up!

columns, schmolumns--they made for good seating!

columns, schmolumns–they made for good seating!

Inside the Trajaneum/The Sanctuary of Trajan

Inside the Trajaneum/The Sanctuary of Trajan

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walking on a wall to nowhere

a look down the well...

a look down the well…

a bit of reconstruction

a bit of reconstruction

peek-a-boo!

peek-a-boo!

On the road to the the Temple of Zeus

On the road to the the Temple of Zeus

The temple of Zeus

The temple of Zeus

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100 Happy Posts

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I interrupt this blog to bring you a shameless plug for another blog of mine…

Shezza Speak!

I’m not the most trendy person on the planet–by any stretch of the imagination–but recently I’ve been seeing friends on social media post fun pictures with the following hashtag #100happydays.

Finally, curiosity got the better of me; I googled it and found this website 100 Happy Days.

It’s pretty simple: for 100 days, log 1 picture of something that made you happy that day–and then watch the magic happen!

According to the website:

People successfully completing the challenge claimed to:
– Start noticing what makes them happy every day;
– Be in a better mood every day;
– Start receiving more compliments from other people;
– Realize how lucky they are to have the life they have;
– Become more optimistic;
– Fall in love during the challenge.

Even when the challenge is over the collected 100 happy moments can always remind you about the beauty of your life.

I think…

View original post 167 more words

Assos

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Since I spoke briefly about it in the last post, I thought I’d follow up with a few pictures of Assos.  Assos is a present day seaside resort, known best for its Temple of Athena and the Academy of Assos, which was founded by Aristotle.

We actually didn’t spend a lot of time in Assos, or Behramkale, as it’s also known.  It was just where we spent a few nights at the Hotel Albena, while we were in Gallipoli/Çanakkale. Since it was still part of the low season, there wasn’t a lot in the vicinity that was open (so thankfully the teenagers were able to push start the bus and we didn’t have to call in a mechanic from who knows where).  Of course, lack of places to visit didn’t stop us from exploring during our free time.  The remoteness and solitude of the place was very evident on our walk–we only ran into a couple of locals that were out and about and nothing seemed open, not even anywhere we could stop for an ice cream or a cup of çay!  When we commented about it, the hotel staff said that soon they–and all surrounding hotels–would be completely booked for the summer season with hundreds of families seeking respite from city life and searching of a bit of serenity that comes from only from being seaside.

Our balcony...

Our balcony…

view from the balcony, part I

view from the balcony, part I

view from the balcony, part 2

view from the balcony, part 2

do we go south?

out for a walk, should we go south?

or should we go North?

or should we go North?

not much around but a few houses, a couple of hotels, and these horses, which freely roam the countryside...

not much around but a few houses, a couple of hotels, and these horses, which freely roam the countryside…

 

Turkish Time & A Wonky Bus

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Oh the wheels on the bus go round and round…

round and round…

round and round…presuming, of course, the bus actually starts.

Finally--a way for the teenagers to use up all that pent up energy!

Finally–a way for the teenagers to use up all that pent up energy!

But I’m jumping ahead, so let me rewind a bit.  When April and I arrived in Istanbul, we were happily greeted at the airport and taken to our hotel.  Everything in Istanbul went smoothly–more or less, I mean there were times when we were running a bit late, but there were a lot of us to wrangle and traffic and all that jazz.  But then…then it came time to leave Istanbul and we were introduced to Turkish Time.

The morning we were set to leave, while we are waiting for our bus to arrive, our guide Osgur explained Turkish Time:

“In Turkey, things run on their own time–we are never in a hurry, so if we’re late, we’re late.  And we’re not really late because meeting times are only suggestions–everyone knows that!  You know, as long as you arrive within, let’s say, 3 hours, it’s good. It’s good…it’s good, it’s fine.  Don’t worry, the bus will be here soon.”

So there we sat at our hotel in Istanbul and we waited…and we waited…and we waited some more.  Now, I would just like to point out that the night before we had an information session where we went over the itinerary for the rest of the trip and Osgur explained to us it was very important that we were packed, had eaten breakfast and were ready to go at 8am because we had a full day of driving ahead.  Osgur neglected to tell us about Turkish Time during this information session.

Finally around 9:30am, our bus arrives.  Our teeny, tiny…uh, what?  Osgur seemed to flip out a bit because they sent a bus that had just enough seats for everyone in our tour + Osgur and absolutely no room for luggage.  NONE.  ZIP. ZILCH.  NADA.  HIÇ.

After much talking, shouting, and gesticulating, we watched our bus drive away.  And so we sat and sat and had a cup of tea and sat some more. Finally another bus arrived, which looked a lot more promising.  And by promising, I mean it least it has an undercarriage for luggage.  Or, rather, most of our luggage.  You see, nearly half of our group were teenagers who each had several large bags and thus not all of the luggage fit underneath the bus.  That’s okay because we can just stack it on the back seat and in the stairwell of the back door of the bus.   Hopefully, we joked, the bus wouldn’t catch fire and we’d need to exit quickly.

Another fun fact about the bus: not all of the seat backs stayed in their upright position. And I will say they were definitely made worse by teenagers climbing (yes, climbing) over them (BIG SIGH and a slight prayer that I wasn’t that obnoxious when traveling Europe when I was a teenager…no, I feel certain I wasn’t…hopefully).

Another fun fact about the bus: it never went over 55 mph.  I’m not sure if there was a governor on the speedometer (transmission?) that kept it from going faster–all I know is that grannies on mopeds were passing us.  It seemed even the bus liked to work on Turkish Time.  Not that I am complaining about that, mind you, especially once I found a seat that didn’t have me permanently reclining into the lap of the person behind me. The only time it got, well, annoying is when we would have full driving days without many pitstops.  AND THEN, honestly, it had nothing to do with the speed of the bus, but rather being cooped up with hyperactive, whiny teenagers (I should interject that they weren’t all hyperactive and whiny…just most of them).  But, I will admit that the slower pace did allow for better pictures of the countryside…and more time for…well, napping–at least for me–I feel like April got a minimum of 20 shots of me sleeping on the bus and I only caught her sleeping once and I was in such a state of shock, I didn’t even think to take a picture!

green fields on one side...

green fields on one side…

...water on the other!

…water on the other!

One of MANY pictures of me sleeping on the bus!

One of MANY pictures of me sleeping on the bus!

Meanwhile, April never slept...

Meanwhile, April never slept…

Look!  I'm on the bus and actually awake!

Look! I’m on the bus and actually awake!

We did lose one bag, when the bus driver ran over it.  Since it was dark when we got to that particular hotel and the bag was black, no one noticed it fell under the bus.  Fortunately, the owner of the bag, Tom, just salvaged what he could, chalked the rest up to la vida loca, and within a day we were all laughing about it.  Perhaps it was something about that hotel (The Hotel Albena) because that is also where the bus would not start.

oh and yes, those are just horses that roamed freely about the countryside.

oh and yes, those are just horses that roamed freely about the countryside.

I personally think the bus was tired and annoyed because the teenagers were begging to be taken to town (the hotel sat along the sea).  The driver, who was also thoroughly annoyed at the teenagers, said that they only way they could get the bus started was, well, to push it.  So they did (to the amazement of all!).  The rest of us just sat back with a drink, cameras at the ready, and watched the spectacle!

The one great thing about the bus was the driver.  Okay, the whole Tom’s bag incident aside, he was really nice–he always had a smile on his face.  He tried teaching us some Turkish and never laughed too loudly at our horrible accents and mutilations of his language.  One of our group members got sick and he made a special stop just to get her medicine. And he played the best music [sidebar: when in a foreign country you should definitely listen to the local radio!] By far the bus favorite was this:

At first everyone was enjoying the beat and trying to figure out where we heard it before and then she sang “something something jailhouse rock.”  well, at that point we were all hooked and starting singing with the chorus!

Memories, that’s what this wonky bus and Turkish Time created.  I know there was a lot of grumbling amongst the tour group about both, but trust me when I say these memories brought so much laughter and bonding within our group–and those are truly priceless!

Mother’s Day

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We interrupt our tales of Turkey and Greece to bring you Mother’s Day.  So, first and foremost: Happy Mother’s Day! to everyone out there who (biologically or not) is a mother.

Now, if your mom is anything like my mom, she has several signature dishes.  You know, the ones everyone requests; the ones she could make in her sleep, blindfolded, and with one arm tied behind her back?  Yeah, those dishes.  My mom has 3.  Now, if you know my mother, you might argue that she has two…but no, it’s actually 3.  The confusion, of course, stems from the fact that she hasn’t made her lasagna in probably close to 30 years–so even she might not consider it her signature dish.  But I remember it well–the ooey, gooey, cheesy, tomatoey deliciousness that exploded flavor in your mouth when you ate it.  Everything was fresh and amazing and it seemed to take her forever and so it was a very rare occasion when Momma would make lasagna.

What she does make frequently–and at everyone’s request–is her Chicken Spaghetti and her Dorito Gook.  Gook?  Yes, don’t ask–if you’ve had it, you love it and if you haven’t it just sounds weird and like something you’d never want to try, even though yes, yes you do.  But the Gook is not why we’re here.  It’s the Chicken Spaghetti (and celebrating mommas!) that bring us here today.

NO ONE on the planet makes Chicken Spaghetti like my Momma.  I’m not even going to argue this point with you, so save your breath and your emails.  The problem with Momma’s recipe is that the ingredients aren’t always the easiest to find when traveling the globe.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but it took forever to find a replacement for pimentos when living in Australia.  These days, I’m on a quest to make it a bit healthier by substituting some of the ingredients, like switching to whole wheat pasta.  Mine is still very tasty (IMHO!) and made with lots of love, but nothing will beat Momma’s.

A quick shout-out before I begin to Super Healthy Kids, where I found a simple and easy recipe for a substitution for cream soups.  And while it’s not low fat, at least I can pronounce all the ingredients!  If you’re looking for a gluten-free version, One Good Thing by Jillee has this one!

And now, let me present:

Chicken Spaghetti à la Shez

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10oz (1 package) of white button mushrooms, washed and diced into chunks
  • 12oz (1 jar) fire roasted red peppers (or you could use a large can of pimentos), sliced
  • 16oz  whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/2lb grated cheese (I like to monterey jack)
  • 1 cup of cilantro + more for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cream of Soup recipe:

3 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup of milk

salt & pepper to taste

Make a roux by melting butter in a saucepan and whisking in flour until paste is smooth.  Add broth and milk, stirring continuously and cooking at a slow boil until mixture is thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now, for the spaghetti: saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a stock pot for a couple of minutes until translucent.  Add chicken breasts and enough water to cover chicken by about 2 inches (I usually use about 8 cups).  Add salt and pepper.  Honestly, I never measure–a good sprinkling of each (I know, I know it’s not helpful, but honestly I never think to measure it out so I can share it with you).

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Bring to a boil and let it boil for about an hour until chicken is cooked thoroughly. Once chicken is cooked, carefully remove it from the pot (it’s hot, yo!) and place it on a cutting board to cool off.  DO NOT THROW AWAY THE WATER!!!  In fact, bring it back to a boil and add the pasta.

adding the tasty stuff!

adding the tasty stuff!

While the pasta is cooking, make the cream of soup recipe above and then add it to the pot (or you can use 1 can each cream of chicken and mushroom–just give the pasta 5 minutes to cook before adding them in).  Dice the mushrooms, slice the peppers, grate the cheese and adding them in as you go (put in the cheese last).  At this point, the chicken should be cool enough to handle (although maybe not, so be careful) chunk or shred the chicken and add it back to the pot.  Give it a few good stirs to incorporate all the ingredients and ensure that the cheese is nice and melted.  Right before serving add the cilantro (or you can use parsley, if you prefer) and give it one final stir before dishing it out.  Garnish with more cilantro (or parsley) and dig in!

mmm! mmm! goooood!

mmm! mmm! goooood!

Thanks Momma–I LOVE YOU!!

 

just us girls!

just us girls!

 

 

 

Turkish Bath

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We didn’t actually do much in Kuşadası, which was a coastal resort town, but it was a nice place to a stopover on our way to Bodrum.

HOWEVER, we were offered a chance for a Turkish Bath.  April wasn’t interested, but I certainly was!

The first rule of the hamam is that men and women are kept separate–and men had male bathers and women had female bathers.  This rule seemed only to be a guideline at our hamam, as we (me and one other female group member) were sent in with the men.  The bathers tried to make sure all the men were out of the room before starting on our baths, however, the men in our group chivalrously refused to leave us alone with the male bathers (not that they needed to worry: the bathers were not all that comfortable bathing women).

But let me start from the beginning.  When we arrived at the hamam, we were asked to completely disrobe–although we ladies were asked to keep our knickers on–and were given cloth wraps and flip flops to wear from that point on.  We were then taken to a sauna where we sat relaxing for about 15 minutes before we were taken into the hot bathing room.  The bathing room was all stone with a large circular table, göbek taşı, that had hot water running on it.

turkishbaths

Once inside the bathing room, we laid down on this massive stone table, where you were scrubbed from head to foot…sort of.  Since we had male bathers, we were scrubbed head to foot only on our backsides!  We were then rinsed and given a light massage.  I would like to interject here that the men’s massages were much more in depth (read: not as gentle as ours).  After the massage we were given a final rinse with cold water.  Again, we ladies were gently rinsed, almost apologetically, whereas the bathers seemed to take great delight in dousing the men in cold water!  After the final cold rinse, we were lead to the soğukluk, where we got dressed and had a cup of çay (aka black sweetened hot tea) to complete our hamam experience.

Afterward, a fellow group member confessed it was ‘okay’ but the ones in Istanbul were much better.  I’m not complaining, as it was a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours…but a little tip? Make sure you bring a spare set of dry knickers!

BTW, in case you were wondering what did April did during this time–she wandered around looking a views of the coastline, for which Kuşadası is known:

 

Hotel with a view!

 

A poolside view of the Aegean Sea

 

Kuşadası Hotel Options

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#wordlesswednesday

Theatre, Salon, Disco, or….Poo?

Olive You.

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The one thing that was conspicuously absent from all of the hundreds and hundreds of photos that April & I took were pictures of food. And I’m not sure why…I feel like it had something to do with us being unsure if we would be offending anyone by whipping out our camera at each meal.

When I thought about what food (other than raw sea urchins) I should write about, I realized I should definitely talk about olives and hazelnuts. And as I was about to write this post, realized I had already a quick blurb about olives, so I decided I would cheat save time and just reblog. Plus I have a LOT more followers now than I did almost a year ago when this first posted and this saves you from having to scroll so far back.

In regards to hazelnuts, Turkey grows nearly 75% of the world’s supply of hazelnuts. And they are everywhere, mainly roasted for sale in the markets and in a chocolatey spread (think Nutella, but much more flavorful). Of course once I had tried this amazing deliciousness, I indulged every morning for breakfast! I even tried to bring some back. I COMPLETELY ignored April’s advice to pack it in my checked bags because those bags were already filled with bottles of Turkish olive oil. And I thought because it’s a solid, I could carry it on. The kicker? It wasn’t until our 8th (and final) checkpoint in Istanbul that it was confiscated. NOT HAPPY. NOT HAPPY AT ALL. Even after all this time. I mean, c’mon–it’s food and it’s me, so you know it’s serious!

Happy (re)reading!

The Epicurious Texan

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Olives.  One of the healthiest foods on the planet–their oil is touted as a miracle worker.

I have never been a big fan.

Ever.

Except maaaaybe when they were marinating in gin or vodka.  And then only occasionally.

Then it happened.

A trip to Turkey and Greece, where every meal–including breakfast!–included olives.  Of all shapes, sizes, and colors.  And by colors, I don’t mean red, purple, and teal, but black and varying shades of green from a very light, almost in the yellow family to a very dark, well, olive color.

For 18 days, I would force myself to eat a handful of olives at each meal–even breakfast!  What I discovered is that the olives we were served tasted so much better–milder, but more flavorful.  I know that seems like an oxymoron and perhaps it is, but the pungent-ness experienced with my former associations with olives was no longer present…

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Black Sea Urchins

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If you don’t mind indulging me, I’d like to continue regaling you with our Turkey & Greece trip.  I know, I know–everything is out of order because we actually started our trip in Istanbul and I have yet to write about that.  I’m just saving the best for last!

Not to worry because today you get some photos and a story about the island of Symi.  We actually docked in two places on Symi–the first was by an 18th century Greek Orthodox monastery.  Fortunately for us, our dingy was working at that time, so we dropped anchor in the small harbor and were taken to shore.  We wandered around for about an hour or so–exploring the monastery, the beach, and the odds and ends that were available to us (although, there wasn’t much on this end of the island!).

a working dingy!

a working dingy!

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I was completely in love with all the stone work in the walkways!

I was completely in love with all the stone work in the walkways!

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probably one of my most favorite shots!

probably my most favorite shot!

We did meet a local: a young boy who was fishing for urchins. One of the guys in our group started talking to him and before we knew it he was eating raw urchins fresh out of the sea!  While I love to do this with oysters, I was a bit more hesitant with urchins.  I’m not sure why–perhaps it was the random giggling by the local kid.  When we finally got him to stop giggling, he declared that there were certain urchins you didn’t eat raw.  Which ones?  The black ones, you know, the ones our tour friend had just spent the last 15 minutes indulging in!  He declared it was a tasty way to go and we all boarded the yacht boat laughing, but wondering what truth there was in the boy’s declaration.  We tried to ask the Captain and the Chef…and all we got was a “it’s okay, it’s okay.  yeah, yeah, fine, fine!”

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Taking Epicurious to a whole new level!

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We then sailed around to the main (aka populated) part of Symi, which was it was amazingly beautiful–as per usual in the Greek Islands.  A quaint, picturesque sea port, where we were allowed to wander for a couple of hours.  We did a bit of shopping, stopped for coffee, and then I saw it.  A house for sale.  I stopped, looked at the house, looked at April and just asked her to send me the pupcicle because I just found my new home.

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