Hungover.

Well, Turkey and Greece are, for all intents and purposes of that specific trip, done.  Of course, I could continue to write ad nauseum about the trip, but I need to move on because I have other great things to share and well, I need to leave some hope that I will return to both places someday.

To me, it is always bittersweet writing about a particular place that you’ve only visited once.  When you write about someplace that you live or have lived or visit frequently, there is always a sense of nostalgia for what is familiar and what is comfortable.  And when you write about someplace you haven’t been, it is with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm.  But these in-between places that you just pass through are–for me–the most difficult to write about because once your story is told, it’s done.  It gets put into a box and you may revisit your pictures or your stories about it, but the likelihood you’ll actually return to that place is fleeting.  Or, even worse, that you’ll go back to visit and it won’t be as magical.

As such, wrapping up a big trip (like Turkey & Greece) leaves me feeling a bit lost–a bit hungover, if you will.  Drunk off reminiscing about 3 amazing weeks in such an astonishingly beautiful place and how could I ever find beauty elsewhere in the world?!?!?  Which of course, is ridiculous because beauty is everywhere and sounding like an angsty-emo teen is not going to win friends or influence people…

With some inspiration from Uncle Spike’s Adventures, who has been posting pics of Hawaii in the 80s, I started perusing through some of my older pictures that I have on my computer and came across a few of my first vacation to California to visit my friend Matt.  Since it’s been 10 years, I think it’s definitely time to share!

As I wasn’t there for very long, we hung around in Matt’s ‘hood: the Palo Alto/San Jose area.  If you’re unfamiliar with California geography, it is about an hour-ish drive south of San Francisco.  We did get one day to drive north, but Matt made me pick between Napa Valley and San Francisco–as if that was a choice (no offense, San Fran!).  Of course, since San Francisco is in between Palo Alto and Napa Valley, I still got to see some of the sites 🙂

And with that, off to Cali we go!

dipping my feet in the ocean in Santa Cruz

dipping my feet in the Pacific in Santa Cruz

ooops...didn't see that wave coming!

ooops…didn’t think the wave would be that high!!

Matt on the boardwalk while we were walking around waiting for my shorts to dry!

Matt on the boardwalk while we were walking around waiting for my shorts to dry!

 

The Big Island

Remember when I said that I did NOT want to leave Simi?  Well, multiple that by 100 and that’s how I felt about Rodos (aka Rhodes).  It is the largest island in the Dodecanese.  It is home of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and its Old Town is listed on the World Heritage Site.

Now, before I begin the barrage of pictures, please note: a lot of these don’t have captions.  It is because either the pic speaks for itself OR I have no clue/can’t remember what it is…[it was a lot to take in!]

We sailed into the harbor, where Colossus once stood, and once we docked, we walked to the nearby market area.

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We weren’t quite sure what we were going to do, however, we came across a trolley tour and decided it was a good way to get our bearings and see a large chunk of the island.

All Aboard!

All Aboard!

No one could explain why there was a big ball of rocks...

No one could explain why there was a big ball of rocks…

Temple of Apollo

Temple of Apollo

Local school kids stopped playing to wave hello!

Local school kids stopped playing to wave hello!

A look at the coastline from the trolley

A look at the coastline from the trolley

After the trolley tour had ended, we then wandered through the huge city walls and into Old Town.  Old Town was quite expansive and we literally spent the majority of the day strolling down the cobblestone streets, peeking in shops, and admiring the old architecture.

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We found a spot for lunch and thought it best to have an authentic Greek Gyro.  It was an experience because, well, it was filled with fries!  A bit odd, at first, but eh…you just learn to roll with the punches!  Oh and sorry, no pic of the gyros!

Again more wandering–this time through a more residential area.  We both admired the plethora of decorations we found on the doors.

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We even found a quiet park–an oasis within an oasis, if you will.

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After we were sure that we had seen all of Old Town, we then went outside the Old City walls into the newer parts of the island.

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Of course, it didn’t matter where we went–my favorite things were the patterns in the cobblestones!

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All too soon, our time in Rhodes had ended. And you should know that if I had found a place that was for sale/rent, I just might be sending you this from Rhodes.

An Active Volcano and Generations of….What?!?!

According to Greek mythology, when Poseidon took a part of Kos to throw at the giant Polybotes to stop him from escaping, the island of Nisyros was created.  But we were not there for Greek Mythology.  We were there for a volcano.  An active volcano.

And what does one do when on an active volcanic island?  They drive to the crater, of course!

Now, I should also mention that we nearly did not make it to Nisyros, as it was so windy and the waters were so choppy we had a very difficult time docking.  In fact, only one person made it to shore before the rope broke and we started drifting out to sea.  After about 30 minutes the winds died down enough that we managed to securely dock and everyone made it to shore (although, I think we all said a secret prayer that we could get back aboard later in the day).

As per usual, nothing formal was planned for the island.  There were a couple of shops near the dock, but nothing to keep us entertained for the 5 or so hours we would be docked there.  There was one couple, Brian & Ruth (also on the Turkey part of our tour), who decided to rent a car and invited us along.

Everyone assured us that it was safe to visit the volcano, as it had some activity a while back, but hadn’t erupted in “a very long time.”  Well, that’s reassuring (NOT).  My thinking is that if it has been a very long time since eruption, then it was due.  And of course, my first thought was:  who’s going to look after the Princess if this island suddenly reenacts Mount St. Helens or Pompeii? FYI, I’ve since looked it up–the last eruption was in 1888. Up we drove on narrow, winding roads to the middle of the island, following the signs to the crater, until at last we found it (kind of hard to miss, actually).

At the crater

At the crater

The crater

The crater

A closer look at the side of the crater

A closer look at the side of the crater

A brave restaurant at the crater

A brave (or crazy) restaurant at the crater

Hi from The Crater--wish you were here!

Hi from The Crater–wish you were here!

After the crater we drove all around the tiny island (the area of the island is 19 square miles).  This took a lot longer than you’d think since the roads were full of twists and turns and, well, we had no clue where we were going.  At one point, we got out just to have a look at the flora (the only fauna we saw were goats!).  The most striking thing about Nisyros were the intricate terraces all throughout the island, created in order to grow things along the steep mountainside.  The confusion, however, is when you’re staring out of the window concentrating on not getting carsick from the windy roads and the Western Australian driver is talking about generations and generations of, well, to me it sounded like terrorists.  I honestly spent the better part of an hour thinking “what the hell is he talking about terrorists for??” and then I realized: TERRACES.  Generations and generations of TERRACES!  oh.  right.  that makes much more sense.

terraces

terraces

lots of terraces

lots of terraces

a side view

generations and generations of terraces!

typical (to me) Greek house

typical (to me) Greek house

wondering where this road leads?  A dead end.

wondering where this windy road leads? A dead end.

the town, which we didn't go to because the road in was closed and well, we had no idea how to get in!

the town, which we didn’t go to because the road in was closed.  We drove around thinking we’d find another entrance, but instead hit the end of the road (aka the sea!)

One of 4 monasteries on the island

One of 4 monasteries on the island

no idea what these were, but they were beautiful!

no idea what these were, but they were beautiful!

the lavender was in bloom and spectacular!

the lavender was in bloom and spectacular!

trees don't care about trifling things like walls...

trees don’t care about trifling things like walls…

rocky coastline

A not-so-inviting coastline

Finally the time had come to return the car and head back to the boat.  Of course, the wind picked up again, which made for exciting (read: nerve-racking) time getting back aboard!

All hands were on the plank to make sure no one fell overboard!

All hands were on the plank to make sure no one fell overboard!

I think the locals were taking bets on whether anyone would fall overboard!

I think the locals were taking bets on whether anyone would fall overboard!

But we all finally made it on and were soon back out in the Aegean Sea, sitting down to dinner, watching a beautiful sunset over the horizon.

No pictures of the gorgeous sunset, but here's another of a house we saw!

No pictures of the gorgeous sunset, but here’s another of a house we saw!

Black Sea Urchins

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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Cabin Fever!

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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Thanks a Yacht!

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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yacht 4

yacht 7  yacht 3 yacht 2 yacht 1

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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Coffee Break

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!!

April…for April

I got an email from April today where the subject line read *cough* BLOG! *cough*

I’m more than happy to oblige for two reasons:

  1. When I started this blog, I gave her my express written consent to harass me if I wasn’t posting enough–so really, she’s just doing her job.
  2. This month, I’m going to be blogging about a trip that we took together to Turkey and Greece a couple of years ago.

If you look down the left column you’ll see a blurp entitled “PICS BY APRIL” in where I call her my wanderlust alter ego–and it’s so true, except she’s been to more places than me…but I’m not…jealous…nope…I mean, well perhaps a bit ;- )

April and I met when we were studying in Australia, became fast friends and travel buddies.  Since we both lived in Australia for several years, we got to experience ANZAC Day (April 25th) and during one of a gazillion conversations we confessed to each other that one year we’d like to go to Gallipoli for ANZAC Day celebrations.

Since neither of us spoke a lick of Turkish or Greek, we opted for a guided tour that would encompass a few days in Istanbul, ANZAC Day celebrations, various Turkish historical sites and concluded with a yacht cruise around the southern Greek islands.  Not a bad way to spend 18 days!

Of course, nothing went according to plan and the only certainty seemed to be that nothing was certain.  Once we anticipated that, things went smoothly–and by smoothly, I meant we just went with the flow and tried laughing rather than crying when random things happened, like our yacht being nothing close to a yacht or our bus needing a push to get started.

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Olive You.

 

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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.  Miraculously, after a few days, the forcing became less and less and the olive eating and enjoying became more and more.  I still do not like black olives, and honestly, probably never will.  But I have become a fan of green olives, especially the smaller Spanish variety.  I now seek them out in grocery stores–especially places like Whole Foods, where there is an olive bar.

They also serve as a reminder that “when in Rome…” because you just never know.

Of course learning to develop an appreciate for olives doesn’t have to include a trip to the Mediterranean–while fabulous, it’s not always practical. Many grocery stores (even the one in my very small hometown) are starting to carry olive bars–try a few types this week, then a few more next week.  You’ll soon find that you’re truly an olive aficionado with not much effort.