Maguires in Turkey, Oh My!!

Trip Start Aug 25, 2003
Trip End Jul 18, 2004

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Wednesday, June 2, 2004

After nine long months of not seeing my parents (Ed and Peg, for those who don´t know), they decided to check up on us during our time in Turkey. I´m happy to say that they look great too (I´m assuming we looked great to them). Of course having not seen them in nine months made seeing them even better. My parents looked excited to see us, and didn´t look too shocked when we said that the large 20+ kilo backpack that I was carrying was the one we wanted to send home with them (thanks again mom and dad). Another plus of travelling with parents is that we feel we can let them treat once in awhile. For example, the first two nights we stayed in Istanbul my parents treated, they had even reserved the room ahead of time (something we don´t do that often). We got to our hotel and it was beautiful, right in the heart of the Sultanment (old town) area; quite a change from what we were used to. We checked in, found out where the good fish restaurants were (Kumkapi), and hit the town. My parents filled us in on what was going on at home and we started Day 1 of boring them with our travel stories.

At breakfast the next morning we discovered what a huge part of the Mediterranean diet was: bread, cheese, tomatoes, olives... mmmm... These were served at almost every meal until we left Turkey, but somehow we never got sick of it. I think being starved of cheese all that time in Asia has affected my brain somehow. Our first full day in Istanbul and we were off to the Grand Bazaar, a huge covered open market with
thousands of shops. So, shopping isn´t really my thing but the architecture of the bazaar was pretty cool and Sarah did end up with a really nice coat my parents bought her (for a missed birthday). We saw the other Istanbul sightseeing hotspots; Aya Sofia that first full day, Blue Mosque the next. Both are worth all the hype, with beautiful vaulted ceilings and marble as far as the eye can see.

After day 2 in Istanbul we caught a night bus out of Istanbul to Efesus (Efes). Our first bus in Turkey and I must say I was impressed. They run more like airplanes, serving coffee and snacks; the only snag was that there must´ve been some celebration in Istanbul that night (maybe from a football game) because the streets were absolutely filled with people celebrating. The few stops the bus made early on were extremely
long due to these huge crowds of people. We were still used to busses with boards as seats, so these air-con busses seemed like luxury to us. And they were always right on time, something else we still weren´t used to.

Efesus is an ancient Greek city and is uninhabited now, which meant we had to stay at the nearest city, Selcuk. We were only there for one night. The ruins were impressive (Roman streets, theater, lots and lots of columns...) and the landscape, although right on the Aegean coast, was pretty dry and rocky. This is probably why the ruins look so intact. Another surprise to me was that Mary (as in the Mother of Jesus) was said to have spent here last days here. In fact, a house was found near Efesus that is said to be hers. My parents coughed up the overpriced taxi fare for us to check it out. It was a small stone house surrounded by some nice landscape. Very peaceful.

Our plan to go from Efesus to Saklikant and on to the southern coastal town of Kas was somewhat thwarted by a late start the next morning in Selcuk. We ended up staying one night in another coastal town called Fethiye. This turned out to be one of my favorite places to stay in Turkey; it was a small coastal town with great atmosphere one the
largest makets we have experienced yet (mmm... fresh cherries...). The next morning we were on to Saklicant Gorge; tiny gorge in the sense that it was very narrow, but a huge gorge in the sense that it was over 100 feet tall. Following a few other tourists we saw, we walked up the sides of (and sometimes the middle of) the river led by my Dad, who
seemed to enjoy leading us into river. With his hat he could´ve been likened to Crocidile Dundee of the midwest (or would that be Turkey?). We managed to make it into and out of the gorge with no one falling in, pretty good consdering the swift current.

On to Kas, our ¨relaxation stop¨ we picked as a place to just hang out after a few days of heavier traveling. With the mountain in behind the town dubbed ¨sleeping man mountain¨ we thought it sounded pretty relaxing (my Dad seemed drawn to that name for some reason). While we were there we took a day trip to a nearby beach (the area surrounding the beach was scattered with more Greek ruins, but it was too hot to explore). We discovered why most Europeans wait until the really hot months to hit the beach - that water is COLD! We also took a boat trip touring the surrounding islands near Kas (more ruins and plenty of
stops for swimming). Finally, we had to move on, but it wasn´t that difficult since Kas was a small, touristy town and I think we had experienced all that Kas had to offer.

Our final stop before heading back to Istanbul was Goreme, in the heart of the Cappadocia region. Cappodocia was home to some ancient civilizations including the Hittites and the Troglodites. The natural landscape is of bizarre stone formation, which early civilizations carved out cave homes and entire underground cities. We found a cave guest house with a family sized room. Our room was nice and cool during the heat of the day, but a little cave-like (I wonder why?) when we got up in the morning. With lots of caves and underground cities to explore in Cappadocia we did our best trying to take in what we could in the time we had. There seemed to be endless churches and chapels in and around Goreme. One, dubbed the Dark Church, had incredible frescos that were preserved extremely well due to the little amount of sunlight that could make it inside this carved cave church.

We also took a short bus ride to Devinkuyu, one of the underground cities, to see what
they were like. Wow, these were no Cu Chi tunnels (see first Vietnam travelogue). The tunnels and rooms were, for the most part, huge. This particular underground city had seven levels - it was DEEP!! These cities were built as a means of defense and we were told that the people who lived in them could survive up to six month without needing to go
outside. They even suspect that one tunnel connected Devinkuyu to a city several kilometers away.

Our last stop was with my parents back to Istanbul to see my parents off. Well, we saw a few more sights first, like the Spice Bazaar and Topkapi Palace. More importantly my Uncle Bill and Aunt Mickey treated the four of us to what ended up being two fabulous dinners back at the Kumkapi area (thank you Uncle Bill and Aunt Mickey). Have I mentioned
how good the food in Turkey is? We, of course, finally had to say goodbye to my parents, but it was only goodbye for seven more weeks when we´ll be home again.
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