Istanbul, Turkey – 2019 – Day 10-11

02/22/19

Our final full day in Istanbul. Woke up, tried to see if we could watch the sunrise from our rooftop – it was cloudy. We had breakfast before walking back over to Arasta Bazaar to revisit Jennifer’s Hamam to purchase a towel for a friend.

We then went to Topkapi Palace Museum – 60TL – $14.82CAD. Topkapi Palace use to served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman Sultans. Topkapi means Cannon Gate. Over the years, Topkapi was left behind by the Ottoman sultans and moved to Dolmabahçe Palace as the sultans of that period liked being on the Bosphorus side. The Harem is apparently a not to miss but we didn’t purchase the additional ticket to see it. My favourite part of this palace was the Third Courtyard – The Audience Chamber. The different types of marble pattern and colours made this place super special and hands down my favourite. ALSO NOTE – there are many rooms where photography is NOT ALLOWED. I believe Dolmabahçe Palace is also a place with many rooms where photography is not allowed.

Amanda had heard of a particular leather goods store that she wanted to take a look at for a potential leather jacket purchase. We arrived at the mall to find out that the store no longer existed. From that location, we decided to walk 30 minutes to our next destination – Balat / Fener Neighbourhood. Didn’t realize that the walk would be on an incline. It was still fun and interesting to walk to this destination. Balat was traditionally the Jewish part of Istanbul on the western bank of the Golden Horn. The Fener neighbourhood beside was traditionally of Greek inhabitants.

We had lunch at Cooklife Balat which is inspired by Kinfolk and has their own magazine – Cooklife. I ordered the Acai bowl and a Pimento Ginger beer (40TL). The cafe is super cute and relaxed feel. The Balat & Fener neighbourhood is full of history and falls under the UNESCO heritage sites. The homes are still quite colourful and distressed looking with the slanted streets of cobblestone adding so much character. Nowadays, you can find a resurgence of young people opening cafes in this area.

After taking a bunch of photos and just wandering the streets, we took the bus back towards the Grand Bazaar with a slight detour courtesy of the bus we took. We ended up across the bridge to Karakoy but then hopped on the tram with the last bit of money we had on our Istanbulkart’s.

We ended up back at the Grand Bazaar to get our last minute souvenirs. Amanda got a leather jacket from Tyfoon at Best, a scarf and finally we grabbed some loose tea (Natural apple, pomegranate and ottoman teas) before walking home. The store owners constantly are trying to convince you to come into their store. They always ask “where are you from”. Today was slightly different in terms of where we were from. I got American – Hawaiian and even Cherokee.

We did a quick look through at the grocery store to pick up a few snacks and then stopped by a restaurant on the way back to our hotel for dinner. We had only 40TL left so we ordered our dinner based on the price and left with no more lira. We ate kofte (meatballs), chicken doner & pilav.

We spent the rest of the night relaxing and slowly packing.

02/23/19

Our airport van transfer came to pick us up at 230AM – 6 euros. If we were to order a taxi, it would cost relatively the same amount in Lira. Our flight was at 655AM and we had tons of time to check in.

Our flight was pretty smooth to Kyiv, Ukraine. 1 hour time difference. 3 hours stopover then a 10 hour flight back to Toronto. It was a little rough but not too bad.

Our whole trip however, the timing was absolutely perfect as there was no rainfall during our trip (which we prepared for). The weather was pretty good all around and even got up to 16C in Pamukkale. The day we left was the only day it rained. When we landed in Toronto, we had heard from our new friend Danee that it had snowed in Istanbul.

Amanda and myself realized that we spent at most 15 minutes apart each day – when we were in the washroom (but proximity wise, we were always in the distance of hotspot). We created our own “spaces” by being beside each other but doing our own thing whether it was on our own phones and chatting with others. We didn’t murder each other. I guess we have compatible personalities and can consider each other good friends.

I have to say that 9-10 days was definitely not long enough to take in all that Turkey has to offer so I guess I will be back one day. The land of beautiful people with amazing symmetrical facial structures and the land of amazing food.

Kusadasi – Pamukkale – Istanbul, Turkey – 2019 – Day 9

02/21/19

We met up with the rest of the group at 730AM at a nearby hotel. From Kusadasi, we drove 3 hours to Pamukkale. We drove through a few towns such as Nazili where the average age of life expectancy is 88 years old with oldest being 100. There are no fumes and mountains all around with sustenance being natural nuts. Pamukkale translated in Turkish means Cotton Castle.

When we arrived at the ancient city of Hierapolis, Guray walked us through to show us the theatre, Hades Gate and eventually brought us to Cleopatra’s Ancient Pools. The government protects Cleopatra’s bath. The entry fee to enter the baths are 50TL with a 10TL for lockers and do not include towels. Cleopatra’s bath. The natural waters come from Cleopatra’s bath (36°C) filled with mineral-rich thermal waters that flow down into the white calcium carbonate travertine terraces.

Guray gave us 1.5 hours to roam the terraces. Depending on the week, they choose which portion of the travertine terraces the water will flow to. There are no shoes allowed. The ground is full of so much textures and can be abrasive to walk on at certain points. Be aware that there are patches that are slippery! It was absolutely a perfect day with temperatures reaching 16°C and we finally could soak in some sun. The actual terraces are filled with mineral riched waters but also freezing cold. There is a hot stream of water that flows down which is flowing with the same water coming from the thermal pools of Cleopatra’s Pool.

Our plan was to walk down as far as we could then take photos as we went back up. We decided half way through to not walk all the way down because we would lose the effect of the terraces and it was just so beautiful in every direction so we didn’t need to go further. The sun was out shiny so at certain points we didn’t know if are photos were over exposed or not.

We took our time on these terraces but the path back to the buses is something you should try to take a moment to see. The view from above is different and you can see it all. We went directly to lunch and afterwards like all the other tours, we stopped by a jewelry store.

We got transported to the tour office and since we had time, we went nearby to have a coffee and tea break with Danee and Paolo. The ride to Denizli airport seemed so long but we all fell asleep. Into the airport we went and we all took time apart to just disconnect and connect to social media. A 45-minute flight later and back in Istanbul. Our tour company had arranged rides back to our hotels and it just so happened Danee and Paolo were riding with us back to Sultanahmet/Ortakoy area. Allegra their daughter has a lot of emotion and doesn’t like to say goodbye. We said our goodbyes and our hearts broke when she said “ I don’t want my friends to leave” and tears came rolling down her cheeks. She blew us a kiss and off they went.

Prior this trip, I applied for this travel experiment called Yuujou. It started as an idea to see if we would be able to travel the world from Berlin to Tokyo in 100 days but only travelling through friends of friends. A week before this Turkey trip, I was the first to make it to the Top 10 out of 30,000 applicants in 167 countries (which is still wild to me). Since then, I have many people within the Yuujou community that have been following me on social media. While I am travelling, I tend to post daily on social media (since all the information is fresh – helps me keep organized). I had chatted with another person who lives in Turkey but in another town too far away from Istanbul or the other towns we visited. I did get a message from another Yuujou applicant name Jidechukwu (Jide) and he wanted to meet up if we had time. I had messaged him and originally planned to meet up Friday but we had time Thursday night so we arranged to meet when we arrived back to Istanbul.

Now, back to the night we returned to Istanbul from Pamukkale. We met with Jide for a late dinner. We had taken the tram to the Taksim Square area for a late dinner but by the time we had made it to that area, the restaurant decided to close early so on the metro we went. We arrived at Pehlivan, which was a 24/7 restaurant. You can pick what items you want and just ring it up. They had employees who even carried our food upstairs for us. Jide is originally from Ebu, Nigeria and was a Computer Engineer. He moved to Istanbul about 2 years ago and now is working in the Immigration protocols industry. We ended up talking until 230AM about a whole bunch of things including yoga, football and the correct pronunciation of hippopotamus. It’s a strange but wonderful connection that Yuujou has been able to do and the actual journey for Yuujou hadn’t even begun yet. The Yuujou adventure will take place starting March 31st – with a 2 week workshop in Berlin and the official start date will be April 11th, 2019 – July 20th, 2019. Two teams of 3 will split up (one goes East and the other West) starting in Berlin in hopes of meeting the other team in Tokyo in 100 days. Watch the adventure as it unfolds! YUUJOU

Ephesus – Kusadasi, Turkey – 2019 – Day 8

02/20/19

We had booked a 2-day tour of Ephesus and Pamukkale with Road Runner Travel. They picked us up at our hotel at 5AM to drop us off at the Ataturk Airport to catch our flight to Izmir. A short 45 minute flight with Turkish Airlines with a meal included!

When we arrived, we had a driver waiting for us with my name on a piece of paper. We also had a family of 3 from Argentina and a family of 3 from Philippines joins us. The driver dropped us off at the tour office and we moved to another van to take us around for the next 2 days. For the day, we also had an Indian couple who live in Washington DC and a pair from Korea.

We became good friends with the young Filipino couple and their daughter. They have lived in China for a year and moved to Istanbul 6 month’s prior. Danee is originally from Saudi Arabia (speaks Arabic, Tagalog, Turkish and English). She is currently volunteering to work with Syrian refugees – more specifically working with women coming from abusive environments. Her husband Paolo is also originally from Philippines. He is a Journalist and a director and moved from China to Turkey for his work that is written and produced in English. Their daughter Allegra is 2 years old and has her lovely stuffed Ikea dog name Zaza.

Fact – There are tons of Tangerine trees around but people don’t really eat it off the tree as they are too bitter. The use the tangerines to make it into juice and marmalade.

Our tour guide was Guray. Our first stop was House of the Virgin Mary – The House of the Virgin Mary is a Catholic and Muslim shrine located on Mt. Koressos in the vicinity of Ephesus, 7 kilometres from Selçuk in Turkey.

We continued to the Ancient Greek city of Asia Minor known as Ephesus (Efes). The city still features a 25,000 seat amphitheatre, the Celsius Library (my absolute favourite spot. You can pay an extra fee to see the Terraced Houses. You can also see one of the world’s oldest advertisments. The carving features an image of a cross, a woman, a heart, a foot, a money purse, and a library, plus a hole dug into the rock.

One interpretation of the carvings is as follows: up at the crossroads, on the left, you’ll find women whose love can be purchased. But please, only stop in if your foot is at least this big, young men, and you have enough coins to fill this hole. Otherwise, we kindly direct you to the library on the right. At least they suggested a more enriching experience for those who were too young to enter the brothel. Ephesus use to be a port town however the port has dried up and now only has a small pond.

One of our guides was asking if Amanda and I were best friends and we both looked at each other and hesitated and said acquaintances. But considering the furthest we’ve been apart is Hotspot distance for the entirety of this trip I would have to say we’re pretty good friends now. But not best friends.

We stopped for lunch at a buffet then onto a Leather goods factory. They had an elaborate setup with a fashion show. We walked through but the salesman where surrounding you anytime you touched a jacket or item and would follow you everywhere. Turkey is known for their leather goods and the products seemed nice but the minimum for a jacket at this place was $250USD.

After the leather factory, we had the option of going to a carpet factory or stop for figs and nuts – the figs and nuts were also a store where we could buy souvenirs. We took a break at St John’s church but hung out in the park with some ancient ruins that was littered with garbage in the aquaduct.

Back into the van and to a mosque we went to learn a little more about the culture.

Our final stop for the Ephesus tour was to the UNESCO site – Temple of Artemis. There is only 1 column left standing. The land is swamp land and so they laid layers of coal on the bottom as their foundation to help with the shifting and moisture. They built the roof out of wood and as a donation to the gods, the people would give olive oil which was stored in the building. One day, the temple caught on fire and it was the perfect storm.

Afterwards we drove to Kuşadası (beach town) where we would stay the night. We stayed at the Istankoy Hotel. Glorious 15°C along the coast with such a lovely view and even lovelier people. We sat on the rocks to soak in some sun when a mother and her 3 children sitting beside us offered us sunflower seeds. When we left the rocks and started walking to the fish market, we bumped into the family again. The mother asked me if I was from Kazakhstan but with a language barrier I was able to tell her I was Canadian and the rest of the conversation was just interpreted in smiles and hand signals. We walked into the Kusadasi Bazaar and that is where you will find some decent knock offs of designer goods. We ate some half bread chicken doner for dinner.  We had enough time to walk back to the pier to watch the sunset with beautiful hues in the sky along with a partial red moon that was so large. And finished the night off with some Dondurma (5TL).