Wisconsin: Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving with Josh’s family in Waukesha. His grandpa owns a huge, beautiful house by a gorgeous lake and we spent the whole day there chatting to his family and going out to play a little in the snow.

The lake looked like it had a thin layer of ice but when we tried to break it with stones they skittered around a made a weird noise. Lots of fun!

Josh was doing all the cooking and wouldn’t let us help at all so we watched from a couple of bar stools. We sat with his cousin Nick and learned a bit about American Football (I’ll be honest, it still makes no sense to me) and talked about the differences between Australia and America. I tried to convince him that Australian animals weren’t that dangerous but I’m not sure I succeeded.

Josh’s cousin Megan dropped off an apple pie and stayed to chat for a while but didn’t stay for dinner (the pie was ace, by the way!), and a few other people came and went. It all had a really nice family vibe that we haven’t experienced much of this year – except for when my mum was in the UK and when we were with Andrew’s family. I always find it fascinating to see how other people’s families interact. It was also a pleasure meeting Josh’s sister, who has three cute cats -amazingly, our allergies didn’t seem to flare up too badly, which was a relief.

So here’s some photos of the food!

A very nice looking bird – Josh soaked it in brine overnight before cooking it, leading to extremely succulent flesh. I’ll definitely be trying that at home!

The buffet. Croissants and jelly with a roast dinner! Only two people had the jello… some things are too strange, even for me ;-).

My contribution – some mead that I’d brought from the UK. Everyone seemed to like it.

Everyone at the table, right after I went back for seconds. Such tasty food!

My favourite photo of the day – Josh and his grandpa.

I wish I’d taken more pictures of Josh’s grandpa’s house. He practically rebuilt the place himself and the design and craftsmanship is just beautiful. The whole place has lots of exposed wood and feels really warm and inviting. Many of the walls were painted by a couple of artists. They did each room with a different theme but in the same colours. The lounge wall has a topographical map of the lake outside the house and it’s done with such elegant detail and lettering that’s it’s a real feature. There’s also heaps of photo collages of various family members and pets throughout the place that make it feel like it’s the hub of a really close family.

We really valued the experience and enjoyed the day immensely. So thanks Josh – and all of the family members reading this! We couldn’t have had a better Thanksgiving.

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Turkey: Ephesus and Selcuk

So far in Turkey we’ve managed to stay in a range of pretty lovely hotels and apartments. Maybe it’s just because we’re still slightly awed by the regular appearance of toilet paper in the bathrooms post-Africa, but everything’s been pretty good up til now. Selcuk, however seems to have conspired against us in the fact that, for each of the 3 nights we’ve spent here there’s been some kind of extremely loud event happening right outside our hotel window.

Night one was people busking with something that sounded awfully like bagpipes, night two was a concert with huge speakers pointed directly at our windows (and less than 100 metres away) and today there’s been a great deal of industrial noise which has now abated, no doubt to lull us into a false sense of security for this evening.

All that aside, our bathroom door requires pliers to open from the inside and breakfast consists of slices of cucumber, tomato and a hard boiled egg. I like eggs, but not every morning for two weeks.

But the reason we’re here is not the dubious charms of Wallabies Hotel but Ephesus, one of the largest and most-intact Roman-period archeological sites in the world.

Romans built things for keeps.

Lucas visited yesterday, Luke and I went today as yesterday we spent all day planning our next leg in Italy.

Ephesus is a short bus ride from Selcuk – in fact if it wasn’t for the heat it’d be more than walkable. Maybe 4kms? We took the bus because we’re lazy. We also took drinks from town – apparently a bottle of water on site can be as much as $5 (AUD) but a litre of peach iced tea was about 50 cents (AUD) in the local shop. BARGAIN. I’m probably going to cry when I get home and can’t live on it like I do here.

But Ephesus! Lucas had warned us that the best plan was to walk through the ruins to the top of the hill then wait for a break in the tour bus groups and walk between them, thereby seeing the ruins without crowds of people in every shot.

I’m pretty sure this says something about buying carpets.

Boy was he right. At some points on the way up I had to almost shoulder people aside just to get past and the walkway was several metres wide. Also, for the prospective visitor – wear shoes with grip. That goes for all of Turkey, in fact. They have this thing about paving everything in super slippery marble. I’ve nearly fallen several times and watched at least three people nearly fall while we were there.

Still, once we’d found our space and realised that the groups don’t go off the main track, it was possible to look at the view, touch the inscriptions and get some nice shots.

Look at the colour of that sky! Perfect day to be out taking photos. No Photoshop required;).

I used to love Ancient History. Mostly because I loved my teacher (in a platonic way (see what I did there?) hrm… are brackets within brackets ok?) and he made it really interesting. He’d tell us stories of Greece and Persia and Rome as though it was some kind of soap opera, which in many ways it was. The whole subject is also full of pointless yet interesting details that my brain latches onto like a mouse onto cheese. And yet coming to places like this, while I appreciate the antiquity, history and probably know somewhat more about it than half the people there that day, it just didn’t really do it for me. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the number of historical sites I’ve seen this year but I couldn’t help wishing I had my friend Oli by my side, someone who was much more knowledgable and passionate about the subject than I could currently be and who would fill me with his enthusiasm.

This building was destroyed by an earthquake nearly 2000 years ago and is in the process of being rebuilt.

Column detail.

This is our last night in Turkey and it’s been great. We’ve had fun traveling with friends but tomorrow we’re saying goodbye to Lucas (for now) and heading to Rome via Istanbul. Lucas doesn’t know where he’s going but will work it out at the bus station tomorrow.

Since Luke and I have done the touristy thing in Rome already, this time it’s going to be about the food. I’ve already got a few places picked out. Roast pork, red wine and gelato here we come!

Turkey: Pamukkale

We headed from Antalya to Pamukkale, a bit of a one-horse town half way to the coast. The Romans built a very large city there, Hierapolis, at the top of the travertines. What are the travertines, you might ask? Well, it’s a bit of a complex answer and I didn’t really know until we got there. Even when we got there it wasn’t quite obvious what the place was about.

The travertines are white cliffs of calcium carbonate that is constantly being deposited by the hot springs along the top of the cliffs. The town of Pamukkale is at the bottom of the springs and you walk up the travertines to get to the Roman ruins.

Everyone takes their shoes off to walk up the hill because it is mostly white and almost entirely covered with running water. From a millimetre deep to ankle deep. There are pools built into the slope which you can sit in (the bottom is quite like clay sludge but white) or walk past. Although it sounds as though it might be slippery, the surface is very easy to grip and the deposits of calcium make beautiful patterns.

One of the less-white bits. The water is occasionally diverted to let the sun bleach different areas.

I visited twice. First Luke, Lucas and I walked up the first afternoon and looked around (it’s 20 TLR/$10 to get in) , enjoying the novelty of the place and the views at sunset where the white cliffs turn a gorgeous pink.

Pink – but not this pink. Since I got Photoshop re-installed on my laptop I’ve been going a bit crazy with colour. It was very beautiful in real life though!

Then Lucas and I walked up the following morning but he kept going to the ruins and I sat in one of the pools with my kindle observing the other tourists and, surprisingly, being asked to be in a photo with a couple of young fellows from Istanbul.

Obviously not a photo of me, but it gives you a bit of an idea what the pools are like. I don’t know if you can tell but there’s water running down the cliff-face. Sunglasses are NOT optional.

I have done some calculations based on my observations of the people there and determined the following:

10% of people were there to swim/bathe.

10% were there purely to walk the length and take photos of the view.

80% were there to take pictures of their girlfriends/be photographed by their boyfriends in the smallest bikinis available, perched in precisely the same back-arched, one-knee-drawn-up, reclining position that seems incredibly popular everywhere in Turkey. I like to think of it as the ‘men’s magazine’ angle.

In fact everywhere we’ve been the numbers are pretty much the same. Go somewhere scenic, get your girlfriend into as small an amount of clothing as is socially acceptable in the situation and then snap away – preferably at an angle where she’s on one side of a busy thoroughfare and you’re on the other so traffic grinds to a halt and everyone has to pause and admire the impending melanomas.

Nevermind, I’m just jealous because tanning in Australia is a life-threatening hobby whereas everyone here seems oblivious to the existence of hats and old age.

The beginning of the walk, where you take off your shoes. There’s a channel for the water to run into where it goes down to a duck pond in a park. It’s maybe hard to see here that the whole slope is covered in water. Made for a cool feet on a hot day!

Behind Luke you can see a bit of Pamukkale and the aforementioned duck pond, in which you can paddle about in those swan-shaped boats that work like pedalling a bicycle.

Pamukkale wasn’t a terribly endearing place. People start shouting at you the second you get off the bus (to eat, buy, stay) and it’s obvious that most people here survive off tourism, which must contribute to the general sense of desperation. However I was really charmed by the travertines and I would say they’re definitely good for at least a day’s visit and it’s really worth being there for sunset. There’s only about 5 minutes of magical light but it’s worth it, and despite the signs saying it’s only open til 8pm people were up there under floodlights quite late. Although because it’s all white hardly any heat is absorbed and the pools cool swiftly at sundown leading to very cold feet by the time you climb down.

I’m glad we went and it was nice to have two opportunities to walk up the hill. With my growing issues with chlorine in pools (massively itchy skin afterwards) but my deep love of water and swimming, I take my chances where I can get them and the travertines were certainly unique!

 

 

 

Turkey: Antalya

I was going to write a post about the charms and loveliness of Antalya but first I’m going to rant at you (in a nice way!) about the Turkish bus system.

We’re about 20 minutes out of Antalya, heading for Pamukkale and, quite possibly, in a bus from the future.

When you get on and the bus is on time, smells nice and there’s nary a hole nor tear in any of the seats you think ‘hey, this is nicer than home’. Then you see the screens in the back of each seat and you think ‘hey, this is as nice as the better domestic planes at home’. Then you realise there’s wifi, the screens connect to the internet and there’s a guy handing out ice-cream and cake and drinks and you think ‘Hey! I’ve been magically transported into a Utopian future from which I never wish to return!’.

Lucas checks out the features.

Really, nice one, Turkey. You win at public transport.

Now, Antalya.

It was like a present that you get out of the blue, expecting nothing and then suddenly, hey wow! There’s something really great in front of you and everything about it is a pleasant surprise. Well, nearly everything. Because I was sick in Istanbul, Lucas and Luke booked this bit of the tour and based a stop in Antalya on a photo they saw. Lucky for us because it turned out to be clean, charming and our lovely accommodation was only a few minutes from the beach.

Our room is up on the left. In the courtyard was a little pool and some beanbags.

The ‘old town’ part where we stayed was a maze of cobblestone streets but the buildings were a weird mix of European and Oriental features. There were blossoming explosions of bougainvillea festooning the hotels and at night the sleepy, hot streets came alive with people out partying.

POW! Bougainvillea.

Antalya is on the southern coast of Turkey, at the apex of a bay that is surrounded by steep granite peaks. The little beach we went to was down a steep set of stairs and was more rock and pebbles than sand. Lucas and I rented a snorkel to share and there were lots of little fish to look at… when one wasn’t gawping at the leathery old people who were tanned an astonishing shade of coffee-brown and wearing white bikinis.

Adriatic-tastic!

In the evenings we went for a strolls through the streets, enjoyed some drinks, declined some carpets.

I could very easily spend a week or more in this lovely town doing very, very little.

Things I Like About Turkey

They love their flag… and you gotta admit, it’s pretty cool.

Obviously there’s going to be things I don’t like (I’m that kind of person). Sometimes they’re the same as things I do like. For example, how friendly people are, which you’d think would be a good thing until they persist in trying to have a conversation with you despite not knowing more than 10 words in English. But it’s hard to fault people for trying.. unless they’re trying to get you to buy a carpet, in which case a kick in the fork is tempting.

Mosques. That’s also in the ‘don’t like’ basket – but Turkey’s not alone here, if that makes any difference. And they’re fine buildings (if you like your women in a tiny box at the back of the room where they can’t … god, don’t even get me started) but the noise. ALL THE TIME. Well, ok not all the time. But just once at 4am is enough. And you’d think Allah would deserve some decent speakers but mosques seem to have made a bulk order sometime in the 70s, so they’re more tinny than a B&S Ball in Dubbo. If you don’t get that reference then you haven’t been to a B&S ball in Dubbo and are free to congratulate yourself on a life well lived.

Tonight we’re in Pamukkale and there’s one right outside our bathroom window (a mosque, that is, not a B&S ball.. thank god. I’d chose calls to prayer over Cold Chisel any day). As we left to walk up to the travertines (more on those later) the call to prayer started with an ear-splitting shriek and we seriously contemplated some kind of criminal action after sundown. Honestly, I’d love an opportunity to find out exactly how many muslim people are hitting the mosque at 4am compared to, say, midday. Although I have this image of Muslim people as far more reliable in that regard than all the Christmas-Christians I know.

Aaaaannnyway, I hear you – this is a post about what I like about Turkey, not religious intolerance (which, by the way, I feel equally towards all faiths. Churches can keep it down too, particularly on Sunday mornings).

The delicious iced tea. I may never be the same again. I found peach iced tea in a large bottle today (rather than a can) and rejoiced. That’s right, Jess, Amanda rejoiced about finding more tea. You possibly won’t recognise me when I get home.

The tiny little cups of hot apple tea. If I have to drink a hot beverage it may as well be super sweet and in tiny quantities. Turkey *gets* me.

Lanterns. Like I haven’t raved enough. I have a certain electrician friend who might want to avoid my calls when I get home.

Want.

The food, obviously. I mean, who doesn’t like Turkish food?

tee hee.

The landscape. It’s so god-damned dramatic. Steep mountains, azure seas, fairy chimneys. Sometimes I read my kindle just to give my eyes a break.

Just some ol’ beach, you know. Nothing special.

The price of stuff. Things are so cheap here. The boys got kebabs (like the ones at home) for $2 each tonight. Most meals are around $5. Getting back to $30 restaurant meals at home is going to be a sad shock.

The way everyone comes out at night, even on a Monday night. Every night is time to socialise and sit out and have a few drinks in Turkey. I’m still not on ‘siesta then stay up late’ time… but I wish I was.

Plus I can’t help noticing that Turkey has taken on about half a million refugees from Syria. These people have big hearts and with all the ‘stop the boats’ rubbish going on at home, I can’t help feeling more than a little impressed by the way people here open their country to others in need.

Don’t go changing, Turkey.

Turkey: Land of Home Furnishings.

I don’t shop for shoes, I rarely shop for clothes, but I love shopping for my house. I’ve always been quite focused on one day having my dream home and Turkey is where I’ll come when I win the lottery. The shops here are like Aladdin’s Cave. Everything glows, sparkles or looks soft and touchable. It’s all in either bright, rainbow colours, like the lamps or deep earthy reds and browns, like the carpets. God, just writing about it makes me want to grab my credit cards and get out there.

Not only that but it’s so *easy*. You like this lamp? Sure it looks huge but we’ll ship it for you! DHL! FedEx! Straight to your door! The more you buy, the cheaper it gets… come on lady, this would look great in your house! Now have some apple tea, sit down and we’ll show you everything we have.

The last few days of our tour have involved trips to bazaars, lamp shops, carpet factories, pottery warehouses with beautiful plates… it is a soul wrenching experience for me to say no to something that I think would add to the vision I have for my place.

Carpets galore!

Some things are easier to say no to than others – like the 20,000 euro rugs that we watched being hand woven (some had over 1000 silk knots per square centimetre).

Look at that detail!

Bug to rug!

Apart from my few trinkets I think the main thing I’ll be adding to my lifestyle once I get home is Turkish tea. I’ve never really enjoyed tea and only briefly drank coffee but Turkish tea is right up my alley. Tiny little glasses of what is essentially hot apple juice but made from a powder. This is something I could get on board with.

Apart from breaking all kinds of biblical laws about coveting Turkish people’s handicrafts, we took it somewhat easy on our last day in Cappadocia. I’d show you photos of that but I’m pretty sure you can imagine what 3 people surfing the net for 8 hours looks like. So instead here’s a crappy photo of our hotel, taken form a bus rather than, say, me getting out on foot and taking a decent one from the road.

Don’t worry, with years of practice you too can take photos this awesome. Never forget – a light post adds to ambiance.  Our room was in that cone of rock.

Here’s a bunch of loosely-related photos that I want to show you from our three nights in Cappadocia.

Alien landscape.

So many cats in Turkey.

All the epic views!

On a 30+ day I want to sit at a table in a stream.

Our tour guide looked like our friend Leah and had the same beautiful smile and bouncy attitude.

Evil eye tree!

Turkey: Cappadocia, Pt 1

Firstly, let me begin by saying it’s Cap-ah-doe-kee-ya. I hate reading words and not knowing how to say them. Like the town we’re staying in – Goreme. Which I’ve only just worked out is ‘Gor-eh-meh’, not Gore-eem or Gor-eh-may. Urgh. Turkish is not so easy. Fortunately, language aside, the country seems to be about as well set up for ignorant tourists as Thailand and people here speak many languages. Like our hotel manager who speaks Turkish, English and Japanese (and that’s just what I’ve heard) and our tour guide who spoke Korean as well as English and Turkish. Being monolingual overseas is always a bit embarrassing… I think I’ll start telling people I speak a bit of Swahili – they’ll never be able to test me!

But back to Cappadocia. I wanted to come because our friend, the delightful Ms Muppet, recommended it so highly and she was right – this place is like some kind  ‘Labrynth meets fairyland in the desert’ landscape. The photos will tell it best.

Pigeon Valley at sunset.

Unfortunately Luke has now come down with the same sickness I had and spent the day on the bus suffering greatly. I felt a bit sorry for everyone else.. there’s nothing like being forced into a confined space with people who are coughing and spluttering (I’m still a bit sick too) while you’re on holidays and really not wanting to get ill. I tried to save my great, honking, nose blowing for outside the bus but… well, it wasn’t pretty.

What else wasn’t pretty was me having a panic attack at our very first stop.

We were scheduled to visit an underground city and I didn’t really have any qualms. We lined up, went down a narrow flight of stairs, turned a corner and some part of my brain screamed ‘GET OUT OF HERE’ and I muttered ‘I can’t do this’ to Luke, back up and raced out towards the light, adrenalin racing, almost bursting into tears.

I have no idea where this comes from – I’ve never really enjoyed confined spaces or caves but I think the super-narrowness, and knowing we’d be going down 8 floors just triggered something primal and I could barely hold it together to get out. At least I know to avoid those situations in future! I spent half an hour sitting on some grass, patting a dog that, apart from being white rather than black, was the spitting image of my dog, and generally cursing myself for being a wuss.

Everything else we did was fine though. We went for a walk down and along a canyon, had a nice lunch by a river, climbed to some fairy chimneys and saw the landscape that inspired Tatooine in the first Star Wars movie (scenes eventually filmed in Tunisia because the Turkish government at the time was monumentally short-sighted and didn’t give them permission), saw some epic views over landscapes that have barely changed in centuries and just generally soaked up the foreign-ness of it all.

Near the place that inspired Tatooine.

When we got back to the hotel Luke fell into bed and Lucas and I stayed up blogging, got some dinner and were serenaded by the sound of dozens of cars honking their horns because a wedding party arrived here and then left. We told the hotel owner that people only honk their horns in Australia when they’re angry and he laughed. “Cultural differences!” – yes, and thank god we live in a place where if you’re happy and you know it you don’t make a huge amount of noise. Apparently there are many weddings here on the weekends – it’d drive me mad!

The wedding car.

Speaking of our hotel, we’re staying in a fairy chimney – our room was carved out of a cone-shaped spire of rock. Pretty neat! This is what the hotel looks like. I think the first room photo that comes up on their header is our room. We had a big terrace in front of our room and one morning I counted 25 balloons in the sky. sometimes there’s over 60!