My Kind of Castle– Bodrum, Turkey: Day 14 of Europe 2011

24 06 2011

June 24, 2011

Highlights: Castle, Mausoleum,   

 Bodrum is not all that big and there aren’t a lot of sights to see in this city… it’s more of a party and relaxing town I think – still very beautiful all the same. Although there’s not a lot to see, what there is…there is a lot of!

This castle we saw was HUGE and it took us forever to get through. F and I both agreed though that it was hands down the most beautiful of all of the castles/palaces/mosques/museums etc that we have seen so far. Firstly, it was right along the water so no matter where you are in the courtyard, you have a view of miles and miles of open space and water all around you. The castle was filled with flowers and it was so open. I still can’t get over the fact that in a much simpler time, these grand structures were built and lived in. Fascinating to see the ‘English Tower’, ‘French Tower’ and the ‘Torture Chamber.’ Imagine having a home with a torture chamber in it. WTF! And giving someone a tour… ‘Hi welcome to my home. This is the living room, here’s the kitchen, that’s the restroom. Oh that? That’s just the torture chamber. I hope you like dinner!” Ahh the advantages of being Royalty!

We did make an attempt to see the Mausoleum but unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot of it left. The sight is still there with bits and pieces of it on display to view, but nothing really remains.  It’s a little sad to see that none of it could really even be restored, especially since it is one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. I don’t have a lot to say about this because there wasn’t really anything to see. It cost 8TL to walk in and see the remains but we didn’t bother. What we could see from the door was really all there was to it… not worth it. I’d rather buy ice cream.

 The walk to the mausoleum was actually more scenic than the sight itself. We walked along the west side of the marina… in between rows of shops, restaurants and clubs on one side and the water on the other. What more can you ask for in a pretty city with 35 degree weather.

After spending hours and hours and hours outside walking through the castle and making our way to the mausoleum and then walking home, in the scorching heat we were so thoroughly exhausted. I know it’s going to sound insane… but even though we were in the party town of the country on a Friday night…. this was the night F and I chose to order room service and just stay in. He is officially full blown sick with a cold of death. Pointless to go out when all we will be thinking about is wanting to come home anyway. And I’ve become a bit of a home body these days so it suited me just fine to stay in. When you’re travelling for a month… you gotta have a couple of days where you can just recoup and recharge. For us, that was tonight.

Even though there was no crazy partying, Bodrum has been a blast and we’ve loved every minute of it… even getting here! We would definitely come back here for a few days in the future!


‘Isle of White’– Bodrum, Turkey: Days 13 of Europe 2011

23 06 2011

June 23, 2011

Highlights: Road Trip, Broken Bridge, A Budding Relationship  

Okay so it is now June 23rd, we are just about at the half way mark of our trip and what an adventure it has been!!

We perused around Fethiye one last time in the morning and then started to make our way toward Bodrum since it is a pretty long drive and I don’t think we would have been able to tolerate that level of heat two days in a row anyway.

While drive from Fethiye to Bodrum was beautiful and maybe even more scenic than our first road trip a couple days ago, it was definitely a different experience.  A word of advice….if you decide to do a road trip like we did – ensure the gps is updated completely instead of assuming so. This damn thing dearly got us killed multiple times over the near five hours in ended up taking us to get to Bodrum.

We started out quite on the highway as expected and then all of a sudden we were on an inside road. The first thing we discovered was that these ‘back roads’ were barely big enough to be walk ways. I am not exaggerating when I say that I had more room walking to school on the sidewalks of Rundle when I was 8, than we had on these roads. While our GPS did lead us to drive right along the water, which was breathtaking, it took us on a one way street going the wrong way to get there!!! As we were turning the corner on this narrow road we see a car coming right at us, flashing its lights. We didn’t know what to do since there was NO ROOM to move. Luckily, we were able to back up ever so slightly so the car could barely scrape by us. We had to continue on the one way up the curvy mountain for a few metres because there was no other option. Thankfully there weren’t any other cars on the road or we would have been in some serious trouble.

So we’ve been driving for about 3 hours now, and the GPS says ‘Turn Right.’ So we do and a minute later F says ‘OMG wtf!’ I look up and we are now facing a completely torn apart broken bridge. Not gonna lie… I was more than a little scared out of my mind. If we had driven even half a metre more, our little Hyundai Accent would have fallen right over and I’m confident we would no longer be. My first few thoughts were ‘Okay, we are alive, it’s fine. Everything will be fine. I really hope we don’t have to drive back because that would suck badly… How the hell are we going to re-route this? Damn u idiot gps.’ My next thought was ‘Agggh I have to pee so badly and I just can’t hold it anymore! There have been no gas stations for miles. Unlikely we’ll see one anytime soon. Faaaaaak.’

Well, as unnecessary as it may be to share this, I am a blogger of full disclosure, so I can now say that I have officially had my first ‘squat to pee’ experience.’ Gross I know… but it actually wasn’t all that bad. Thank gawd we took a toilet roll from our last hotel and had plenty of anti-bacterial gel to spare!!! 

Okay, back to our dilemma. We have one broken bridge, a stupid gps, a nervous wreck driver – Farhan and…. another bridge just another kilometre ahead! Phew!!! As I was walking back to the car, I noticed a car driving across the water. My sharp intuitive thinking allowed me to decipher that the car was not that of Moses, but another bridge serving the same purpose as this silly broken one should have! Hooray we’re saved. And naturally, as soon as we got back on the road, we saw three gas stations all which I’m sure had bathrooms… ah well – it’s nice to be one with nature? J

Now I know I have been talking about this road trip for a while, but seriously… I think it has been one of the highlights of this trip. On top of everything else as f was zipping around these hairpin bends, he all of a sudden slows down dramatically. Why you may ask… because there is an itty bitty turtle waddling across the street! After everything we have seen, I would not have been the least bit surprised if I had seen a hare follow it a minute later.

We drove through so many small villages and towns on our way to Bodrum, towns we never would have seen otherwise and it was just such a cool experience to see local farmers…farming; cows feeding their baby calves, women in their headscarves and long flowing skirts hanging clothes to clothespins waiting for them to dry on the roof and of course the kids. What would a village description be in there were no kids playing in the street? I sort of felt like I was on the set for that movie ‘Three Amigos’. You know the one I’m talking about… with Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short.” Remember when they first stumble upon the village and the all meet three hot women and soon learn they have to duke it out with ‘El-Guapo’’ and “Hefeh”? Well anyway… the drive into some of these villages reminded me of the village scene on the Three Amigos. I’m just trying to help you relate to my experience!

Finally I can stop talking about the madness of our road trip and tell you about this city! Bodrum the land of the party! Or not?? As we approached the city limits, all we could see was hills and hills of White Houses and buildings on top of a huge body of bright blue water with tons of yachts and little boats sailing somewhere beautiful I’m sure. What gets me is how different every single city we have been so has been so different from the other. Everytime I think ‘okay this is my favourite city’ we go somewhere else and I have the same thought. Though I have never been to Greece, I would imagine that Bodrum is the Greece of Turkey. My humble apologies to those reading this if I am wrong.

‘El-Vino’ was the name of our fabulous hotel that was engulfed in trees and pretty pink flowers. This time I sort of felt like…Little Red Riding Hood in the middle of the forest. All I needed was a basket of goodies since the cat greeting me at the entrance was my wolf. Have I mentioned how much I dislike and am afraid of cats… and they were EVERYWHERE in Turkiye!

Our first night in Bodrum was pretty low key considering the intense drive we had earlier. We spent it having dinner on the roof – a must if you visit Bodrum, even if you aren’t staying at this hotel. The food was fabulous and the staff was so friendly. We had quite the chat with our waiter, ‘Ahmed’ about his views on religion, praying 5x vs. 3x vs. 1x a day. His view was ‘If I am not in a good mood, and I have one drink, it makes me happy… that’s not Haram. It’s okay.’ It’s a good thing he thought that too as we had just ordered a bottle of wine for our table.

Funny story – during dinner, we saw a woman dining alone. At the table next to her was a man, also dining alone working away on his laptop (and checking facebook – I peeked J ). At the start of the night, it was clear that the two did not know each other; however this slowly changed throughout the course of the night. I didn’t see how it started, but I’m going to assume he started to chat it up with her. Their conversation became quite intense over the next hour and it was about this time that I wished I understood Turkish. The waiter takes his plate away, and brings him dessert moments later. Right then, he moves over one seat to be a bit closer to her (it’s a four person table – 2 on each side obv. There was initially one seat between them). We notice that they are both guests of the hotel as they have left their hotel keys visible on the table…interesting! Now although this conversation is going strong, it appears pretty clear that he is feeling this chat more than she is. Not to say she isn’t, because she is… he was just more ‘excited.’ I will also mention that both were fairly attractive individuals. Although F and I didn’t stay to see if they left together or not, I predicted that they did and a year from now they will be happily ever after… we just witnessed the budding of a new relationship. However, F predicted that it will end badly as he is married with children and she is a home-wrecker. Shame on you for thinking the worst F…. and blaming it on the girl! If anything, he seemed more into her… I’d blame the home-wrecking on him. Jerk.

We ended this night checking out the ‘city center’. Even though there were no plans to party or go to the bar… we could hear music from our window so we needed to see what it was all about. For a Thursday night, this place was pretty crazy. Clubs were full, shops were still open and people were still shopping… at midnight! After a little exploring, we decided to call it a night… it’s been a long day and my delicate little flower is just getting sicker by the day. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day! Goodnight!!

‘Paradise At My Feet’ – Fethiye, Turkey: Days 11-12 of Europe 2011

22 06 2011

June 21-22th, 2011

Highlights: Road Trip, Oludeniz, Duck Pond Restaurant,

So we got our rental car, finally figured out the gear shift (standard is a little different here, need to lift some sort of lever for reverse? I don’t know), got some road trip munchies, gps is all set up, our bags are packed and we are ready to go!!

The road trip to Fethiye was really nice and very picturesque… It was kind of like driving from Calgary to Vancouver through the mountains except it seemed that these mountains were bigger and there was so much greenery all around us. Maybe we just felt that way because we’re in another country, who knows. What I do know is that taking this mode of transport is very different from flying anywhere. And while taking a plane may be quicker, nothing beats what you can see and experience when you’re in a car or on a bus. If you are planning on visiting Turkey, I highly recommend using one of these ways to get somewhere at least once… of course I am bias to doing it along the coast because that’s what we did and we loved it! I will mention that the roads along the mountains were pretty intense… super windy and somewhat narrow, and they go up quite high so make sure there is a confident driver between you and definitely don’t drive alone… that’s just silly.

F and I had a good chuckle along the way because as we were driving on the highway, we discovered that as different as things can be between one country and the next, gestures of kindness and courtesy seem to be universal. A smile or a wave to say ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ when you’re driving, moving out of the way in the fast lane when you see someone speeding like crazy behind you, and even an oncoming car flashing his lights at you as a warning that there are policemen up ahead. What’s not universal is what the cops are doing as they are waiting for a speedy mcspeederson to fly by. In North America they snack on donuts; in Turkey they sip on chai.  It’s true… as we drove by F noticed that behind the little white shield covering the radar gun, a couple of them were holding little glasses of turkish chai. How civilized!!

How do I begin to describe Fethiye? This little city is all about beach time. And from what I have read, it has some of Turkey’s most beautiful beaches as well.  We spent the one full day we had here in Oludeniz which is about a 15-20 minute drive south of Fethiye. As soon as we got there, we understood exactly why it has developed the reputation for being so stunning. I don’t really have any words to describe this place. The water was as blue as blue gets and if you get tired of looking at the water, just look up and take in the view of the mountains. It was so pretty and perfect. 

Oludeniz is essentially an island where you can spend time right at Oludeniz beach when you first enter the area,  or if you want to go to the Blue Lagoon which is on the other side you can pay a bit of a fee like we did. The fee is because it’s a national park and is the protected part of the beach. They call it ‘Blue Paradise’ because that’s really what it is. On one side of the lagoon the beach is a bit more pebbly and rocky. The other side is where you will feel the sand under your toes when you go into the water. We decided to park ourselves on some beach chairs in front of the pebble side of the beach because it was much quieter and just as pretty. I will warn you though…when you go into the water, go slow and stay close to the ground or you will slip on a rock for sure.

Though today relatively uneventful (since we spent most of it sleeping), it was a little funny when F came out of the water and realized that he went into the ocean with his wallet in his pocket…oops. Everything dried as quickly as it got wet so life wasn’t over, but it definitely felt that way when he first took our soaked marriage licence and Alberta health care card out of his pocket. Ahhh what doesn’t hurt you always makes for a good story in the end.

After spending the entire day getting a few shades darker, we came back to our hotel (which was great by the way –Yacht Boutique Hotel. Great service. Great location too), freshened up and went for dinner in town…about a 10 minute walk. The main ‘downtown’ area where all the restaurants, clubs and shops are was so lively and quaint. It’s not a very big area and all of these places are really close to each other… very cozy type of atmosphere. You can’t help but be in a great mood and feel like you’re really on vacation when you’re in this city.

Like the other cities we have been to so far, as soon as we’d walk by a restaurant, a waiter or owner would rush us and try to convince us to dine at their place. We finally settled on the ‘Duck Pond Restaurant’ because…well the ducks in the pond were cute and gave the restaurant an ambience the other places didn’t have. Another meal to go on the top ten list… the fish casserole. Turkish casseroles are not the same as north American casseroles. It’s more like a curry here and its oven cooked in a clay dish. So yummy!!!!

Well that’s all for Fethiye… this place was all about relaxing, eating and soaking in the sun. We may try to do a little shopping tomorrow and then make the trek to Bodrum. The guide says it will take us about 4.5 – 5 hours to get there by car, hopefully we can cut that down by a few since poor F is starting to get a little under the weather.

“She was born on September 13th, 2003” – Days 9-10 of Europe 2011

20 06 2011

June 19-20th, 2011

Highlights: Suat, Sand Castle Festival, Leman Kultur, Lara Beach

Antalya – The name of a small coastal city in south west Turkey. It’s also the name of my seven year old niece… Antalya Kabani. While this isn’t the sole reason we made a stop here, it was a factor in planning our route. Now I can say I’ve been to the city that is my niece’s namesake… and the poor girl can finally have a pencil with her name on it; definitely won’t find that in the stationary section at Toys R Us!

We arrived in Antalya on the night of the 19th… greeted by our hotel host – Suat. Suat was a very special character indeed. While no description I give will do him any justice, if any of you have seen the movie ‘Borat’ imagine Suat’s personality and voice as practically identical to the main character of this movie… our first moments in this city were definitely more than entertaining.

Being in Antalya has been quite a change from the last 4 days in Istanbul. There is no mistaking that we are clearly in a resort town on the coast. The city is slower, the air is cleaner the energy is calmer… and there is a beach!!! Now we can take a little time to re-charge!

Since we didn’t arrive until later in the evening on the 19th, there wasn’t a lot for us to do in terms of exploring here… so we took a stroll down the street from our hotel in search of somewhere to grab dinner because as usual… we were starving! We ended up at this very trendy outdoor restaurant called ‘Leman Kultur.’ It was a Monday night, at about 11pm and this place was packed! Picture a place where you walk in and there is green grass and flowers all along the ground… and of course walk ways in between. Some of the seating were bean bags, some were chair swings, and some were picnic bench chairs. Funky R&B turned jazz music playing in the background… believe it or not, ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis actually sounds pretty good when sung with some soul to a saxophone and piano.  This may sound like any other restaurant to you, and maybe it is… but for us being from Calgary Alberta where winter is 8 out of 12 months– having huge outdoor restaurants with this kind of atmosphere is always a novelty. We were served by Salih who was the nicest dude ever… he even downloaded their music collection onto our usb key for us because we liked their tunes so much. And of course, F thinks he looks Ismaili. Gotta be one in every city!  

Even though we stayed in the city for two nights, we only really had one full day here and it was spent doing what we came here to do… visit the annual Sand Castle Festival and relax on the beach. Because the city is so small, it made sense to take the bus to get to the festival… not realizing exactly where we were going though, and not really understanding the language, made what should have been relatively simple, a bit more of a challenge than we anticipated. When we left the house, we didn’t really plan for the beach because we thought the festival would take up most of the day, especially since we started the day at practically noon. Oh and did I mention the other difference between Istanbul and Antalya… the weather. It was 40degrees in Antalya and not only are my strappy tank tops /short shorts days behind me, but my suitcase was mainly geared towards relatively conservative culture. T-shirts, knee length capris, the odd pashmina, thicker tank tops. What I didn’t really realize is while this is important in Istanbul, in Antalya… nobody cares! Grrrr!! I did manage to find one pair of shorts and some summer dresses that I will definitely be getting a lot of use out of. It’s times like this when ‘over packing’ can be a good thing because 1.options are important and 2. You just never know what you’re gonna get.’

Okay, we have our maps, shorts, sunglasses, bus money… I think we are set! Finally we leave the house, only to discover that we aren’t 100% sure where the bus stop is or what bus exactly we are supposed to take. I mean as helpful as Borat was…there was only so much guidance he could give us. Eventually we reach the bus stop and then we wait. The first bus stops in front of us and we ask the driver ‘Does this go to Lara Beach? Lara…Beach? no. ok tessekhur.’ The second bus rolls around…’Lara Bea… no? ok, tessekhur. After the fourth bus parked in front of our stop, we decided – we’re not going to ask, let’s just get on, clearly we are saying something wrong…we are now officially on our first bus in Turkey!

Not realizing ours was the last stop, we started to worry when there were only 3 people left on the bus, two of them being F and me. We asked the bus driver where Lara Beach was and he said not to worry, it was still a few stops ahead. So a few stops later, we get off the bus. Yay we are at Lara Beach!!! Ummm, but no sandcastle festival. We see two ‘security guards’ sitting by the curb chilling and soaking in the sun so we ask “ Sandcastle festival?’ and we get nothing. After a little back and forth broken interpretation, we began to understand each other and the soon learned that we were still another 4km away from where we needed to be! Arrgghhhhhh!!! There was noooooooo way I was walking in that heat. It was too hot even for me – the girl who likes to blast the heat in my car during the summer!

After taking a very short cab ride, we did manage to make it safe and sound to the ‘Kum Heykel Festival’ which is how you say it in Turkish. I wish we had known that 2 hours ago. Not realizing we would need to take a cab for 3 minutes that would cost us more than necessary, and that there would be an admission fee to get in, and that they didn’t take credit card or US dollars, and after all of the drama to get here, we didn’t have enough TL to get in! Clearly poor planning on our part. Note to self… always carry a little more cash than you think you’ll need and assume that most places won’t take cc – even if they do for the most part.

The lady at the front desk was nice enough to let us in anyway since we were barely a couple of TL short and what a sight it was when we walked through the door. The theme was ‘Famous Hollywood Movies’ this year… how fitting for us! These Sand Castles were jaw dropping… so so well done and massive. We saw The Matrix, ET, Alice In Wonderland, James Bond, Jurassic Park, Superman, Toy Story, Lion King and the list goes on. I can’t even imagine how long it must have taken these artists to complete these. And the detail… oh the detail! Even Harry Potter’s glasses were made from sand!

One of the workers at a kiosk inside told us that at night all of the sculptures are lit up and it looks really cool. Seeing as there wasn’t a long list of ‘to dos’ on our list for this city and this was a major highlight, we figured… we may as well just stay close by and check it out at night, especially considering how much of a hassle it was to get here…. not practical to go all the way home and come all the way back again in the evening.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Conveniently enough, the festival was pretty much on the beach, and right outside of the doors were huge white inviting cabanas just screaming our names. We may not have had our swim gear or iPods, or books, or laptops, or anything else we may have needed for the beach… but we had our shorts on, sunscreen and tons of time to kill…. and this place took credit cards! So we got a cabana, some chips, Efes fruit soda and relaxed for the next few hours until the sun went down and the lights went on!! Batman looked great in the spotlight!!

By the time we were all done with the beach and the sandcastles, we had just enough energy to take a taksi home (we had plenty of TL by this time) freshen up and head over to Leman Kultur for a late night meal. If we had been there on a weekend and had the gusto to party, we would have considered staying on the beach because there were a lot of cafe turned clubs along the strip… in particular ‘Angel’ looked like our type of place. Ah well… if we are ever in Antalya again, maybe we’ll check it out!

 Time to get ready for the start of our coastal road trip tomorrow… first stop – Fethiye!!