A Travellerspoint blog

Best baklava and another museum in Istanbul

sunny 32 °C
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For someone who isn't really into really sweet things I've really taken to the baklava here. That is, the baklava sold just over the Galata Bridge in a place called Karakoy Gulluglu. Rachel wanted to buy some to take back to London and I was more than happy to sample some more. The chocolate baklava was pretty spectacular. I'm now sold on the idea of buying some before I go and hoping that I can get it through Australian customs. I can just see myself sitting at customs eating the baklava rather than allowing them to throw it away. But they vacuum pack it an everything so they better let me through!

So there we were at 10am eating baklava - Alicia would be proud of me!
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Today we headed to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. I think it is one of my favourite places in Istanbul. I know it was probably influenced by the fact that there were very few tourists in there but the exhibition was beautiful. Lots of carpets which I don't think I would have really appreciated if I hadn't gone to the talk in Cappadocia. There were also books which I always have a soft spot for.
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After such a cultural experience we decided it was appropriate to have a fistik Magnum. Why not? It was Rachel's last day. Back at the hotel Rachel managed to get everything in her bags and we said goodbye. So sad to say goodbye to my new friend but I'm sure we will meet again. I did manage to get a photo of her dropping her water bottle which was a daily occurance throughout our travel together.
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An afternoon spent on the internet (first time since Konya) had me discovering that my obsession with Fistik Magnums has got me top listing in a google search!

Tonight I met up again with Pam and Harry from Melbourne for dinner. So amazing to come all the way to Turkey to meet two people who live only suburbs away from me and know so many people I know through St Aidans. We have decided to meet up in Sydney road for some Turkish coffee when we get back to Melbourne.

An early night for me...

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 08:26 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul shopping 'til you drop

sunny 32 °C
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Today was all about shopping. It was Rachel's last full day in Istanbul and she had a list of things to buy. Not relishing going to the bazaars by myself I decided to tag along.

I think the trick with shopping in Istanbul is to not try and get the best price because you honestly have no idea what that is. The idea is to just get YOUR best price. Whatever you are willing to spend. That way you don't get upset when you realise that you paid double what someone else was willing to give you.
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I, for instance had no intention on buying ceramics...well I bought some. I had been interested in a lamp but never intended in buying one...I did. Oh and the guy who sold us the lamps, he asked if we were sisters (we look nothing alike). And he assured us that all Australian girls have blue eyes 'I've seen it on facebook'. The authority on what Australians look like obviously!

Rachel and I got thoroughly lost more than once and I managed to purchase more scarves - honestly, you can't have too many! I'm going back to an Aussie winter afterall. Hey, Rachel bought a hand sewing machine! Something I'm sure I've seen in the Innovations catalogue. They started at one for 25TYL and ended up offering 2 for 15TYL. She bought one for 10TYL.

We finally found the spice bazaar and bought some Turkish delight to take home. Vacuum packed an all!
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Oh should I share some of the lines? Yes.

'Oh spice girls!'
'You dropped something. My heart'
'Hello my darling'
'Can I ask you something small?'
'Just one moment, your father must be a jeweller'
'This is a good place to spend you money'
'You from Japan?'
'I guess, Australian? Holland? American? etc.'
'You like Turkish boy?'

and so they go on.

Where was I? Oh, we were shopping and very very tired and hungry. We finally found our way back to somewhere we recognised and walked into one of the really touristy restaurants to have a gozleme. Yes we were tired but this restaurant was the worse yet.

Firstly, the prices were outrageous - but we expected that on the main strip. Then when the food arrived it was pretty pathetic. It wasn't spinach it was silverbeet. I don't like silverbeet. The cheese was pretty hard to find and poor Rachel ended up with literally just hot sausage. They hadn't cut it properly so Rachel asked for a knife. They refused to give it to her because 'you eat with your hands'. Then the music started. Oh, the music! Soooo loud! Four instruments and not what we wanted to listen to for our break from the crowds. But it gets worse! I asked for our bill just as the band stood up. They evaded us like they didn't understand what I had asked for. Then I realised what was happening and my patience disappeared. Especially when the band stood right in front of us playing a whole song and gesturing for us to give them 5TYL. I shook my head. Then they played another song!!!! The bill arrived and I saw they had already included a tip in the cost so I shook my head again to the tambourine man and happily received a dirty look before they moved onto the next poor table.

Back to our room for some quiet and for Rachel to try the impressive effort of fitting everything she bought into her small pack. Did I mention she bought a carpet in Cappadocia?

Out again for dinner we found a little place with a very very attentive waiter called Genge (however you spell it). Again for some reason the attention was on me. The young Genge kept telling us jokes but had to tell us he was being funny because we couldn't understand what he said. It was very amusing. But the best part...

...as seems to be tradition we were given complimentary tea at the end of the meal. And I mean apple tea (aka tourist tea). I really can't stomach it any more. It's just too sweet. So when it came out and it wasn't just a small glass but basically a mug of it I was distraught. I didn't think I could drink it and would it be rude not to drink it? Clearly my brain was in fine form as I had an inspired idea. When Genge wasn't looking I would just spoon it into the iced tea can I had had earlier. So little by little I spooned the very sweet drink into the can. That is until I realised that it was really heating up the can. Genge came back to the table flirting and talking (really it took no input from us to keep the conversation going) and then it happened. He reached across and cleared the table. When he picked up the can his face registered confusion but he kept talking. We pretended, with difficulty, that nothing was amiss but his confusion continued until finally he stopped his flow of words and exclaimed that the can was hot. How did it get hot. I admitted that it was me. Rachel pipped in to say that it was too hot and I was using the can to cool it down. How that would work I don't know but he seemed to accept it and even praised me for being a clever Australian.

Leaving the restaurant was hard work as he pretended not to understand what 'can I have the bill' meant but eventually he let us go with a hand shake and a kiss on both cheeks. Such a bold boy for 18 years of age! And the end of a day that was rich with laughter!

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:58 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

To the islands we go

Princes' Islands

all seasons in one day 31 °C
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Being in a hostel that has very thin walls, it was unlikely I would sleep through the call to prayer. Even still, I slept like a log and rolled the same in my slanting bed. We (Rachel and I) climbed three flights of stairs to our breakfast which was not the most flash but the view? First class! Rachel was brave enough to try one of the fluorescent coloured granules which we think were sweet tea. The choices? Fluro yellow, orange or pink. I stuck with the less than impressive Nescafe. I swear if I come back craving nescafe I'm going to sue Turkey!

From our hostel we walked to the tram which took us to Kadikoy for a quick dash onto the ferry that was just leaving. Ahhh....Princes' Islands here we come.

The first island we jumped off at was Heybeliad. We walked the long (and mostly uphill) way to the Haghia Triada Monastery...it was closed so we sat amongst the pine trees where I cracked open my stolen boiled egg from breakfast. After 45 minutes we headed back to Haghia Triada only to work out (with sign language) that it wasn't open to the public anyway. Hmmm...that's a long hike to look through a fence. But it made me feel better about the baklava I ate the night before.
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Oh I forgot to mention that part of the attraction for the islands is that it really only has two forms of transport. Bike and fayton (horse drawn carriage). Now for those of you who know of my unfortunate history on transport with two wheels - imagine my reluctance when it was mostly uphill, on hired bikes of dubious stability and on uneven cobbled stones. Now I'm happy to laugh at myself but that would have just gone beyond funny. So the other option fayton? Well, the health of these horses were varied and some where down right distressing. And seeing these oblivious tourists being pulled up steep hills by horses that were more skeletal than meat...well it was nauseating (whichever way you spell it!).

So on foot we were and on the way down we decided to do some old fashioned Aussie bush bashing. Generally in Turkey I've been so impressed with how clean it is. Not so in the bush bashing expedition. There was rubbish everywhere and poor Rachel had an unfortunate encounter with an atrophied very much dead cat. She was a little jumpy after that - understandably.
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The cat and rubbish aside the walk was beautiful with butterflies flittering everywhere and loads of wild flowers. Have I mentioned how glad I am that I came here at this time of the year? After a little worrying moment when we thought we had gone way off track we found the road and even a place to squeeze through the barbed wire to get to it.

Now such a trip surely deserves a Fistik Magnum! Well we thought so. Back in the town we enjoyed our Magnum as Rachel told me again of her friend who works in the department of Magnums and how she was going to insist she bring it out in Australia. I'm not so sure though...I'm not sure a diet of Fistik Magnum would be so good for me. I'm averaging one a day here!
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A quick lunch at one of the many restaurants on the water we then jumped back on the ferry to the next Island Buyukada. I can't put the accents on the letters with this computer but it is pronounced booyookada. So I had that annoying song in my head - barakuda. Actually that has been an strange development whilst I've been travelling. I seem to be experiencing things in song! Someone says a line and I get the corresponding song in my head.
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Back to Buyukada. Walking was the name of the game on this island too. This time we were walking passed houses that looked like they would be better situated in the deep south of America. Apparently this is a holiday destination for rich Istanbul residents - sort of like Portsea in Melbourne.

Still more skeletal horses ran passed us looking like they belonged more in some wes craven animation than in Turkey. But we still managed to enjoy the beautiful walk through pine trees. Even when the hill got ridiculously steep. Rachel compared me to a boot camp instructor. We trudged up this hill passed trees with all sorts of things tied to them. At first glance they may look like someone trying a whole lot of rubbish onto the trees since most of it was toilet paper, water bottle wrappers and random string. But in actual fact each of them represented prayers. We were making our slow and arduous journey to the top where the monastery of St George was situated. Hence the prayers. We have been told that most of the prayers are of couples praying for the gift of a child. Suddenly the many ties of toilet paper became beautiful dreams of thousands of couples.
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Still...our journey continued. When we finally reached the top it took us probably ten minutes before we could even bring ourselves to focus on anything but catching our breath and falling into a chair. Once that passed we saw that the climb was truly worth it. The vista was magnificent. And this monastery you could enter!
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But the treat for us was sitting at the top of this climb enjoying an Efes in the shade. Well earned and very well appreciated.
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Our walk back was considerably less tiresome. We watched (or tried not to) the numerous faytons galloping past us up the hill, obviously for a wedding.

Oh and look at that - we got back into the town with enough time to enjoy another ice cream. But not a Magnum. Boysenberry, lemon and pistachio. Sigh....I watched a family playing with their two dogs and waited for our ferry to arrive.

We jumped on and relaxed into our seat as we took off...

...um, where are we? Did we get on the right ferry? We seem to have been on here a long while. I'm sure it didn't take us over an hour to get to the islands. Don't we need to be over there?

Ahh the joys of travelling. It took us 2 hours to get back to Kadikoy! (it took us about 20 minutes to get to the islands)
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Two hours later we did arrive at the port we first left - obviously just by the scenic route. What a big day. We found a lovely restaurant which was written up in the Lonely Planet. Though we were a little concerned about it being on the 6th floor after doing so much climbing but they had a lift!

I had the speciality which looked like sausage rolls but tasted so much better. We had a single musician and a stunning view - what more could you ask for?

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Waking up in Istanbul

sunny 32 °C
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Did I say wake up call?

Well, no wake up call but there is nothing like a panic 15 minutes from waking to having to get off a train. Almost as effective as a cup of coffee! Poor Alya had 5 minutes. Apparently most people had been awake most of the night with all the stopping of the train and the noisy men and women throughout the night. I slept like a baby:)
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A quick ferry ride with a Turkish tea in hand got us to the shores of Istanbul where we walked the remaining 15 minutes to our end hotel where we had a room to dump our stuff. Breakfast at another hotel then we all headed out for the morning. I took Alia and Mari to the park I discovered my first day in Istanbul. It was to be a peaceful chance to chill out in the beautiful setting of green grass and tulips. Well all the tulips have gone! And as for the peaceful rest...

...we were swarmed by children. It is Museum week in Turkey where all museums are free for Turkish people. That means lots of school groups. We must have had a whole school surrounding us. It is funny trying to have a conversation in two different languages...it is even funnier with kids. Apparently my hair was rather a treat for them and by the end of the...experience they were poking it, touching it and pulling it. I got pinched on the cheek by one girl which I later learned meant she thought I was very sweet. There was a lot of 'Dom tek tek' which is the Turkey entry into Eurovision. There was many questions but strangely they were the same questions. What is your name, what is your name, what is your name, how old are you? What is your name? etc. etc.

Finally their English teacher appeared and did some translation. I looked like their music teacher from last year. One boy seemed to think I should be with him and another girl sat closely beside me and held my hand. All three of us were feeling very overwhelmed by the time their other teachers came to shoo them away. Then there was a lot of 'I love you' and 'bye' and kisses on the cheek.

After that I had to go try the fortune teller. Not your average fortune teller either. A chicken. Yep, I paid 3 TYL (bargained down of course) for a chicken to pull out my fortune. Then I got a photo taken with a bunny rabbit who had poop on his paws.
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After this excitement Rachel and I headed to our hostel right near the blue mosque. We stumbled across an art gallery with some gorgeous art and a very character rich artist within. I don't know how he took it that I liked his wife's art more than his.

Dinner was with Mari, Lindsay, Alia, Yusuf, Pam, Harry and Rachel. A rather swish restaurant which made me glad Rachel and I had had a late lunch so we just had soup and shared a mixed meze. I had also brought along my treat of a drink I bought at lunch. It's all experience! Fermented purple carrot with chilli. Yes, it was pretty rank. It tasted like juiced pickled cabbage with chilli in it. Had to be done - even though the waiter looked at me when I ordered it and said - 'I do not recommend for you'.
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After dinner we jumped on a tram to the other side of the Galata Bridge for the best baklava I've ever had. Then back to say goodbye to everyone as we all went our separate ways. The tour was well and truly over :(
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But Istanbul had so much more to show me...

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:27 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Cappadocia secrets and more bus travel

all seasons in one day 33 °C
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Another early morning - woken by the morning prayer at about 4.20am. I'm so going to miss that alarm...well, maybe not! I did enjoy the addition of the dog calls though :)

My first point of call after a quick shower was to head off to find coffee again. Espresso is a rare treat around Turkey and one I wasn't going to miss whilst I knew where to get it. Back at our caves we had to have all our stuff ready to go before we headed with our new local guide Mehmet who took us to one of the underground cities. Now, this is not an exaggeration...it was literally a city. We walked down five levels! They had an entire civilisation down there for years and with over five thousand people. I was again amazed as Mehmet talked at how advanced the civilisation was. What happened to that knowledge? I didn't really get any photos down there because there really just wasn't any point. So I contended myself with just walking around the schools, the stables, the churches, the sleeping quarters, hoping that the stone doors didn't close on us.

Back on the surface again the sun was well and truly making itself known. I can't imagine why anyone would want to travel through Turkey in summer. It was so hot. It felt about 40 degrees though I'm sure it was just felt that way because it was mostly stone, rock and sand around us. Though it was also surprisingly green too.

Back in Goreme we had lunch - yep gozleme again! - then Rachel, Sally, David and I joined another intrepid group for a Carpet talk. I have to say I'm really glad I went. Now, I didn't buy a capret but I can understand why people would want to. They are even more beautiful when you understand them a bit better. It helps to be told about them by someone who is passionately obsessed by them.
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But the fun was to be over soon. It wasn't long before we were all back at our caves to jump on a bus to Ankara.

What can I tell you about my travel there. Aside from the stunning scenery (Turkey certainly doesn't disappoint there!) it was just travel. For the first time we had clouds and rain. Actually I lie. At lunch we had a mini dust storm (I may be exaggerating a little) which blistered its way through the middle of town then just stopped. But on the road it was stormy and grey which just made the green that more vibrant. It took me a while before I realised that the green hills I was staring at looked like the Windows desktop background. You know that ridiculously green hill that you think would never been seen in the flesh, so to speak? Well, I've seen it now!
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Ankara is...well...not my favourite place in Turkey. It was noisy, busy, ugly and chaotic. At the train station we had dinner with canned vegies and packet mash potato. But we did have live music. I taught the girls gin rummy with my new Turkey playing cards. We continued playing once we got on the train until we were all a little delirious with tiredness - especially me. You know when everything becomes funny? And I think I'm pretty funny at the best of times so I was just hilarious that night...or so I thought. But as Rachel said. Happy is he (she) who can laugh at himself for he will always be amused. That's me to a tea!

Tired as I was I had no problem falling asleep on the train...nor staying asleep until our wake up call - hmmm...wake up call?

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:07 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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