Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tea for Two and Two for Turkey

Merhaba! (Hello in Turkish - one thing is for sure, with all of my travels this year, I have learned many ways to say hello! 

Overlooking Sunset Valley in Cappadoccia

Tara and I just returned from an amazing spring break in Turkey! In order to avoid a boring retell of our entire trip, I'll attempt to hit some of the highlights.  
Tyrik - Tyrik was our first couchsurfer in Ankara and made our first day in Turkey much less stressful! On this trip, we did a mix of couchsurfing and staying in hostels.  We love couchsurfing and had great experiences being guided around several cities, but we also found that we loved staying in hostels on this trip and meeting fellow backpackers/travelers along the way.  However, our coolest form of housing on this trip was most likely the tree houses that we stayed at in Olympos, a beach city along the southern coast of Turkey.  

Our awesome tree house in Olympos
Transportation - we ended up utilizing MANY forms of transportation on this trip with the exception of a train.  We managed to entertain ourselves for the 18 hour bus ride from Georgia to Ankara at the beginning and master the art of sleeping in cramped up places.  We also took an amazing ferry ride at sunset across the Bosphorus Sea from the European side to the Asian side in Istanbul.  In Cappadoccia, we rented bikes and rode around the beautiful valleys filled with fairy chimneys and caves.  We took advantage of dolumus's (Turkey's version of a marshutka) as we skirted from city to city.  We were also pros at riding the Metro in Istanbul and unfortunately we had to pay for a very expensive cab ride to the airport to fly back across the country on our last day. Oh, and we were driven around Antalya on scooters for a whole day.  That was fun. :) 
Tara and I getting ready for our long bus adventure!

Biking through Love Valley in Cappadoccia

My quad driver, Odem (we're about to go down a really big hill!!

We made it to the top!


Tea - Tara and I quickly discovered that it certainly pays to have tea with Turkish people.  As I mentioned earlier, we rented bikes from this company and when we got back, they offered us their famous Apple Tea (which ironically they only serve to tourists - Turkish people don't like it).  As we were chatting and drinking away, they offered to take us quadding to watch the sunset later that evening.  Of course, we accepted and we had the best time quadding around from valley to valley, taking tons of pictures and learning how to drive ourselves.  As the evening wore on, we discovered one of the guys with us was a balloon pilot and he offered to take us up the next morning for free since there was space in his group.  We had originally been planning to take a night bus that evening to our next destination, but we were of course unable to pass up this incredible opportunity!! So, the next morning, Tara and I had the time of our lives oooing and ahhhing over the 50 some balloons that were flying above one of the most beautiful lands I've ever been in.  I think the best part was the fact that we joined this retired Finnish group, so we clearly looked out of place.  But that didn't make us think twice about coming along!  After our amazing experience in Cappadoccia, whenever someone asked us if we wanted tea, we said YES!


We are so excited to be in the air!

So pretty :) 

Turkish Delights - There were sooooo many yummy treats to eat in Turkey that Tara and I dove head first into our share of Turkish Delights and Baklava.  I had never really been a huge fan of Baklava, but after eating it in Turkey, I am officially addicted.  It was also hilarious because similarly to tea, Turkish people hand out little pieces of Turkish delight everywhere. In the Bazar, shopkeepers often offer small pieces as well as little evil eye pins, in the hope that you might purchase something in their shop.  I didn't complain.  Another delight we discovered in Istanbul was Starbucks.  After 8 months of drinking instant coffee, I'm not ashamed to say that we went to Starbucks every day we were in Istanbul.  I can't tell you how delicious that first sip was.  I felt like I was in heaven! We also enjoyed our fair share of fish and wine dinners as we kept traveling to cities on the coast where the fish was simply divine and too good to pass up.  

I do love Starbucks.  
Tourists - This was definitely the first country we've been in where tourism is a huge money-maker for the country. Everything was very tourist friendly and Tara and I had no problems getting around anywhere.  In the cities we were in, many people spoke at least a little English (at least enough to attempt to sell us something).  Being in Istanbul though was crazy.  There were SO many tourists.  We were of course hitting up all the touristy sites, such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and Isketili Street.  We enjoyed all these places, but being among that many tourists from all over the world definitely took some getting used to.  Isketili Street especially was absolutely crazy.  Apparently over 4 million people walk along this street every day.  It resembled Times Square and was quite overwhelming at first! 

Tara and I in front of the Blue Mosque

Outside of Topkapi Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus

Trena - Remember my friend Trena from Luther who has been volunteering in Israel for the year and who I spent Christmas with in Bethlehem? Well, I realized how small the world has become when we were sitting under a tree outside of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.  As Tara was frantically deleting pictures from her memory card to create space for more, I looked up and I saw Trena walking with several of her friends toward me.  I called out her name in disbelief and we both just laughed for several minutes at the irony of everything.  Neither of us had any idea that the other was traveling in Turkey now and it was completely random that we ran into one another.  Such a fun coincidence!! 

Tara and I with some adorable children in Antalya
Giggling after putting our feet in the freezing cold water!

We look Romanesque, right?
Turkey was such a wonderful country to explore.  There were so many places I would have loved to see, but there was just simply no time.  I highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for a great vacation! It was a much needed break from Georgia.  However, now that I'm back here and it's already May 4th, I'm in disbelief that I'll be going home in just 6 short weeks! We have lots to look forward to in that time period, but I'm filled with such strange feelings of being so incredibly excited to go home and see family and friends that I miss dearly, and being so incredibly sad that I'll be leaving Cici, Lela, Mishiko and other good friends I've made here.  I've once again realized the importance of balancing my thoughts and feelings about the future with enjoying my present life in the here and now.  Let's hope I can keep that balance up and enjoy the rest of my time here!


  1. Oh my gosh Em! What are the odds you'd run into people you know from Iowa in the middle of Turkey!!! HOW COOL! I can't believe you come home in 6 weeks, this year must have flown by for you - its gone fast for this blog reader. Since you're becoming such an expert traveler, you should voyage to the great land of Oregon this summer and visit your cousins!!

    much love, rachel

  2. Wow, what fun reading and agree with Rachel; how do you find a Luther friend in Turkey. You could write a "Where's Waldo" book about your adventures and become a Castle of travel tales. Make sure you thoroughly enjoy your last weeks in RG and spend time with your many friends you have made over some wine and food. These memories are ones to treasure and never let go of. We look forward to your return and celebration of your birthday with many of your friends. Be safe; be Kool. LYL Dad