Pamukkale

Attractions, i.e. things to see, while travelling fall into a few general categories. There are the old and man made (temples, pyramids, ruins*), new and man made (big buildings, bridges), events (whirling dervish show, circuses*, and natural attractions (canyons, waterfalls, caves).

Pamukkale* definitely falls into this last category, but not in any subcategory that I've ever encountered. What looks like snow covered hills is actually eons of deposits of calcium from natural hot springs that flow into naturally terraced pools and down the hillside. When visiting, you take off your shoes and climb up the hillside, wading through the successively hotter pools (making friends along the way). Being that it was a cold day, we headed straight for top pool to wade and dork around. After making it to the top, it is back to category #1, with some spectacular ruins of which I won't post any more pictures*.

Yep, Pamukkale is a great spot. I planned on spending one night. I'm working on my third now. But tomorrow it is back on the road, another amazing set of attractions waiting to be discovered.
Tuesday April 5 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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Salep

I've found my drink. For a long time, I've been searching for something to serve as my version of tea or coffee*, to warm me in the morning or for slow sipping after a meal. Here in Turkey, I've found the answer: Salep!

Wikipedia can do a better job explaining what exactly it is better than me, but the version I'm familiar with is essentially hot milk, sugar, cinnamon, and a special dash of whatever it is that makes it what it is (some flower, supposedly). Occasionally, it comes in a powder form that you just stir in water (which they sometimes serve on long distance buses).

But now my time in the cold weather is coming to an end (I hope). I'm progressing farther south and the the sun is progressing farther north*. The weather forecasts say that I have at least another day or two to enjoy a warm beverage without needing to find an air conditioned room to enjoy it in. If all goes to plan, that's plenty of time to have a few more good mugs* of salep.
Sunday April 3 2011File under: Turkey, food

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The Absolutely True History of Ephesus

Late in the summer of 4212 B.C., Greek city planner and part time musician John Stamos set sail with a dozen of his closest friends to find a new city. Or was it found? He could never remember and his Greek to English dictionary was woefully uninvented yet. Either way, he and his pals were going to build themselves a home based on truly greek ideals, ones that Athens had forgotten or ignored: toga parties and really good gyros.

Only hours into their voyage, however, a great storm arose from the sea. "That's the last time I pay tribute to Poseidon with generic brand ouzo," John thought to himself as he lashed himself to the mast. The storm raged on for 11 and a half months, with waves as tall as a two story building (which was the tallest thing invented at the time.) Only due to great fortune did they and their precious cargo of rotisserie meats survive.

The story continues...more?
They landed on the first beach they saw and immediately set to work. "We gotta do this quick, boys, so we can send for our wives and start living!"

"You got it, dude" they all replied, creepily in unison.

For 3 long weeks, the men toiled, carving and building the roads, columns, statues, houses, and palaces that would be their new home. They even build a massive theater with hopes of starting up Greece's first stand up comedy club.*

Then, one day on his way back from the Marble Depot, a worker had a realization. He hefted the 37-ton block he had just purchased (Marble Depot was having their end of summer clearance) onto his shoulder and ran the 26.2 miles home.

Not wanting to cause a stir based on nothing, the worker set to work taking careful readings from the sun and stars. After checking and rechecking his calculations and cross-referencing with his GPS, he unshouldered his load and went off to share the bad news.

"Uncle Jesse [an affectionate nickname they had all taken to calling him], I have bad news. You know how we thought it weird that there were so many poultry shops around? I'm afraid I figured it out. The storm must have blown us father than we thought. We aren't in Greece at all. We're in Turkey."

The historian of the bunch, who had the fortunate habit of transcribing all important conversations, noted John's response tactfully in case history students of the future couldn't handle a little potty mouth. This censored response, when reviewed by historians many years later, was misinterpreted as the name of this now immaculate city.

"F*** us," John sighed.

Their wives, who were probably already pissed about them being gone for over a year now, really weren't going to like this. Learning the layout of a new grocery store was trouble enough. A new language, new currency, and a new culture's fashion faux pas would be enough to put John and the boys in the dog house for years.

After careful thought, they came up with a plan. They couldn't just abandon their city because they had invested too much. But there might be a way to recoup their costs and maybe even earn enough to buy their wives a little something.

"Fellas, as you know, ruins are all the rage these days." Pompeii, Chiten Itza, and Leman Bros. were in the news paper almost every day. "With some creative advertising and a few well-placed sledge hammer blows, I predict we'll have caravans full of aged tourists lined up from here to Izmir. And those tourists will buy anything."

Luckily for the men, most of their buildings had already fallen into ruins, owing to the fact that building with giant marble blocks isn't at all like building with legos, which was the assumption from the get-go. A few buildings mostly stood due to the ingenious use of super glue in the building process.

Satisfied with the site and having come up with a plausible origin story, they opened the doors to the public on Sept. 1, 4211 B.C. The commision from the postcard sales alone that first day made them all rich, not to mention the way the coins piled up from charging for the toilets. With their new found wealth, they boarded the train to head back to Greece. (There was no way they were going to chance crossing open waters again.) They each swore to never reveal the truth about their botched experimental Eden, and no one ever did.

The next 6000 years passed in a comfortable routine. Eleven million tourists entered the gates every day, trudged the paths while half-paying attention to their guide, stopping only to take obligatory pictures of themselves to prove they were there. Only when a clever young* solo traveller noticed a few discrepencies in the literature while on tour did the secret history of Ephesus finally come to light. But in a meeting deep behind closed doors, officials and the young* traveller decided that the real story was too much for the public to handle. The story that John and his buddies created to cover their colossal mistake was kept as the official word. And that's how it stands today.

Friday April 1 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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An Outing to the Black Sea

Scroll panorama using the scrollbar. I didn't have time to write a fancy click and drag scroller.
And I also haven't figured out how make good panoramas on my Linux machine. I miss Panorama Factory.

The Black Sea, along with the Caspian Sea and the Dead Sea, have always been on the fringe of my geographic knowledge. I knew they were over in Asia somewhere, and that some of them were big. But their exact locations and specifics of their size, which countries border them, etc. have always eluded me. Hopefully now that will change.

The other day, I took an outing to the Black Sea. Staying in Safranbolu in North Central Turkey, it was just a 1.5 hour drive (along a windy road) to the little seaside village of Amasra. Being low tourist season, we pretty much had the town to ourselves. A civil worker(?) who had the day off even offered to show us around (although I think he had an ulterior motive because he learned I was from Seattle and he has an ex-girlfriend from Seattle and he wanted me to pass along a message to her*).

We ended up exploring the village on our own, hiking up to the hillside (which was covered in wildflowers), strolling the beach, and getting our feet wet (if it wasn't so cold (both the water and the air temp), I might have jumped in, just to say I've been swimming in the Black Sea).

The verdict on the trip was that, while it was quite nice, it might not have been worth the $16 and 3 hours crammed in the back of a mini-bus, but it wasn't the worst way to spend a day. And now I can say I've been to the Black Sea...and even that I know where it is!
Thursday March 31 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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Little Stories

Travel blogging is funny. I'm always thinking of what to post next, how to keep things fresh, etc. etc. What sometimes gets lost in the process are the little stories, the ones that I might tell when I got home at the end of the day, but two or three days later, seem of minor importance. Anyway, I've collected a few of these littles stories, which, each in their own right wouldn't be a blog post of its own, and combined them to share. I hope you enjoy!

Two Forks, Two Toothpicks, and a Salt Shaker
I found a bunch of vacationing Peace Corp folks to pal around with and we were all out to dinner. As is my wont, in fidgeting to entertain myself and others, I did the old two forks, two toothpicks, and a salt shaker trick. While the peace corp folk were mildly amused at best, the waiters loved it. The first one saw it while clearing off the dishes and promptly examined it to the point of knocking it down. Then he handed me the pieces in an obvious do-it-again gesture. I did, and he ran off to get his buddy. Next thing I know, there are 3 waiters gathered around our table, excitedly speculating (I can only assume) in rapid Turkish on how to do the trick. They then take away the forks and salt shaker and retreat to the back room. We all have a good laugh and settle in for our dessert.

In two or three minutes, the waiters are back. They couldn't quite figure out how the toothpick goes between the forks so again have me show them. When I show them, one slaps the other on the shoulder in an I-told-you-so fashion and off again they run, all smiles.

While we are making our way to the door, the peace corp peeps encourage me to show them a rope trick or two*. I do, and they love it, having me do the more curious ones time and time again to try to figure them out. Once we are out the door, the head waiter chases me down and pulls me back in to show the boss man more rope tricks. One of the waiters shuffles over as I'm about to leave and gestures for me to hand him the rope, with which he busts out his own rope trick!

Pretty much awesome. Gimmicky "magic" tricks cross language barriers better than anything I've encountered to date, except of course a smile. I'm glad I'm travelling with my rope and my bag-o-tricks. The come in super handy all the time.*

My Cave
I've found my cave. The main room is maybe 6'x8' with 5' high ceilings. The short passage in is lower still. There is a large floor to ceiling window that looks out over the valley. I sit with my legs dangling out of it, 15 feet above the ground. Last night's lack of sleep on the overnight bus from Istanbul hits me and I lie back. My legs are in the sun and it feels good.

With my eyes closed, I start to develop an intior design plan for my cave, with schemes for heating and screening to keep the birds out. Yes, I could live here, for a while. Give me a broom and a bed roll and I'll start my lease tonite. The song bird landlords no doubt will accept my cookie crumbs as payment.

The call to prayer from the nearby mosque bring me back. Reality reminds me that we are no longer cave dwellers. Insurance issues, you know. But I could do it. I know I could. When the housesitting market falls through, and no more volunteer circuses need help in the kitchen, I will be back, to take up residence in my cave.

Spreading American Culture
Travelling is not only a good way to learn about the place you are visiting, but also about so many other places in the world. Every place I stay, there are other travelers from all over the world with whom I love talking and sharing jokes, world views, language tidbits, and more..

For the past couple days, I've been travelling with a wonderful little group consisting of a Canadian, a German, and two Croatians. The Croatian girls are fire crackers, always go go go with a joke, a smile, and quite often singing as they skip down the trail. On our last afternoon in Cappadocia, the three of us went out to explore euphemistically-name Love Valley, after the distinct shape of some of the towers of rock. Sitting on a hilltop with the setting sun casting the rock formations in an amazing light, I made a grave mistake. Thinking that I was sharing in a little cultural exchange, I taught the girls about the penis game.

For those of you that don't know the penis game, don't be scared*. It is a childish activity that consists of seeing who can (or is brave enough) to yell "penis" the loudest. Typically this is played by giddy teens in shopping malls, public squares, or anywhere else there are people around. Luckily for me, we were pretty much lost ourselves, so there wasn't anyone near to be affected. Needless to say, the girls took to playing the game with fervor.

Culture, esp. American culture, has its good points as well as its bad. And while I try to share my favorite bits with my new foreign friends, a bad one is bound to slip out now and then. So if you ever happen through Zagreb, Croatia and hear some offensive yelling, I'm sorry. My bad.

Tuesday March 29 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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Postcard from Cappadocia




Cappadocia is awesome. I'm staying in a town called Goreme, which is right the heart of the region. Valleys with cliffs covered in human-carved caves are around every corner, perfect for hiking and exploring.

I ended up on a tour yesterday that took me to a huge underground city (again, all hand carved caverns), to a monastery-turned-caravan stop (again, carved in the rock), and another beautiful valley. Tours aren't usually my thing, but this one worked.

I like this place so much, I don't want to leave. But so goes the nature of travel, I guess. I leave on a night bus tonite for places unknown. I'm fairly sure that smiles will await.

                                                             ~Wren
(Click to flip)

Saturday March 26 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

ISTANBUL
(NOT CONSTANTINOPLE)*

Thursday March 24 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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On the Way to the Blue Mosque

A funny thing happened on the way to the Blue Mosque...

Istanbul is a city full of mosques, many of them very very beautiful. I set out yesterday with the aim of making it to the Blue Mosque, one of the most famous. Being that it is one of the most famous mosques [in the world], I figured it must be the biggest one I see on the horizon so set off in that direction.

Once I arrived, after gawking at the spectacular innards, I realize that this isn't the famed Blue Mosque. Oh well. It's a wonderful sight I might not have visited otherwise, so I can't be mad. Instead, I take a gander around at the surrounding hills and spot the next most magnificent mosque on the horizon and set off on foot towards it.

Navigating by landmark in the distance in Istanbul leads to some less than traveled roads and paths, which is partially why I do it*. So while this second mosque also wasn't the Blue Mosque, not only was it again totally worth seeing, but it led me to some great out of the way places*.

Finally, I made it to the Blue Mosque, but so late that I couldn't visit the interior. But that's okay. Now that I know where it is, I will go back. Mosques are like cathedrals in Europe or temples in SE Asia—while they are all totally spectacular, seeing too many in a row can cause one's eyes to glaze over. So perhaps saving the Famed Blue Mosque for another day is what the universe's plan was all along.
Tuesday March 22 2011File under: travel, Turkey

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NYC Whittling

It feels like I've passed through New York City quite a few times in the last couple years. If I had to guess, it'd be about 5. In that time, I've slowly ticked items off the list of NYC activities. But it's a big city and it seems like my to do list grows despite my slow whittling.

While visiting wonderful friends is always highest my highest priority, I always seem to have enough time to throw a few other activities in the mix. This time around, I found a spare hour to ride the oft-touted Staten Island Ferry*. The highlight was a closer than expected view of the Statue of Liberty.

Another activity that was on my list for quite a while and am so glad to finally check off was a visit to Dube, Inc. juggling store. Over the years, I've bought more than a few props from them, all by mail order, and it was neat to simply be surrounded by props.

It was a low-key couple days in the big city, but wonderful nonetheless. Thanks to the friends that made it great, and thanks to the city itself for continually showing me something new (like these yummy donuts made with mashed potato dough from Wonder City Donuts!).
Sunday March 20 2011File under: travel, USA

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FC 138 - Remember Me...

Perhaps this comic is a day late. And perhaps even it is a dollar short. But either way, it is what it is and the concept makes me laugh, esp. as I saw people roaming around Penn Station in New York City dressed all in green with that "I'm going to go so drunk I can't even tweet" look in their eyes. Oh to be young and stupid...*

As per usual, this comic isn't meant to offend. I'm not trying to put down saints or Irish or hospitals or checkered floors. It's just a kooky idea that found it's way into my head that I decided to make into a comic.

Much to some of your relief, this will be the last Friday Comic for a while. It was a stretch even to get this one out (hence the late posting hour). But hopefully the lack of comics means more good stuff on the blog and more adventure for yours truly. But rest assured, once I'm back on American soil, Friday Comics will be back with me. If you need a Friday fix, check out the archives or maybe even go buy a copy of the book!
Friday March 18 2011File under: comic

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