Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 8: Pamukkale

In the morning our bus took us to Aphrodisias, the ruins of an artists' colony of sculptors, upon which a village had been standing not long ago. The man who discovered the ruins actually found the village built atop the old pillars, columns, fallen capitals, actually using some of the original marble furniture too! Here we saw a theater, bathhouse, that place where the council would meet and I forget what it's called, workshops, and the most awesome stadium. It's neat because the path leading into it at first only gives a view of one end, which just looks like another theater, but as you enter the stadium , and turn to the left, you gasp at the length of it; it stretches on forever! This stadium can seat 30,000 people, so amazing. On the walk through the ruins we saw by the path a flower, a smaller species related to the Titan Arum, on which I've written a piece in the past, which stinks of rotting meat, attracting flies and the like. Beautiful though and a neat find. When we reached the end, by the ruins of a temple and the tomb of the discoverer, Pleen and Barb and I saw sprinklers, and being as unbelievably hot as we were , we ran through the refreshing water, squeeling like children and thouroughly enjoying ourselves. It felt so good! At the site is a museum showcasing the sculptures excavated from the site. Ancient sculptures of the greeks and romans are by far my favourite, so I enjoyed seeing them. So beautiful, magnificent. With a bit of time left I went and saw photos taken at the time of the site's discovery, with village life built atop the ruins, then wandered over to buy an icecream. I pointed to the one I wanted, something with 'karamel', but he took out two cones. I pointed to the one I actually wanted, saying "just this one" but he said "promotion" insisting I take the second for only 50kurus more. Ok... it had a picture of cupid on it, and I ate it, too, haha. I couldn't guess at the flavour though. After seeing all the was to see, a trailer with seats towed by a tractor pulled us to where the buses were parked. Of course there were more stalls of wares. One of the things sold only here are little clay bird shaped whistles, which, when filled with a bit of water, make neat bird sounds. I bought an unpainted one, which looks more ancient/authentic than the tacky painted ones, for only 2TL, though I've yet to make it work very well. Oh well, still neat!
After wards the bus took us to a place for lunch. When we were all seated, a guy came by with a big trolley with examples to show us what we could order with Selcuk translating for him. They went through it a second time, this time we raised out hands when they named the item we wanted. Pretty efficient! I ordered the spinach and cheese pide. I'm not sure there was any cheese, but it did have egg in it, I'm sure, and it was tasty, with a bottle of water. The restaurant had peacocks at it, cool.
Then we headed to the hotel to pick up those who'd chosen not to go on the optional tour of Aphrodisias, and we rode to Hierapolis.
Hierapolis is an ancient acropolis. The mountain it is built on had one side covered in white calcification from the natural mineral spring that has formed terraced pools. To reduce the destruction tourism in the past did to the travertines, the portions open to tourists can only be walked on barefoot. The abundance of international feet in a variety of conditions dissuaded me from taking part, and I spooked Pleen too much for her to do so as well. The mineral water is said to have healing properties and a pool has been built on the site fed from the spring. for 25TL you can swim amongst topple pillars. Expensive, and honestly looked much like a fancy hotel pool, but kinda scummy. They have a cafe set up by the pool though, so Pleen, Jayde, and I enjoyed our free time drinking some Efes. On the way back to the bus we stopped into the museum's shop and I bought a gorgeous lavender, cream, and gold scarf and, since they accepted visa, bought a book on Turkey and its ancient civilizations' sites. As well as the museum that we didn't visit as it costed extra and supposedly not as good as Aphrodisias's there is the old roman theater and the largest ancient cemetery in Turkey, Cool.
Back at the hotel Pleen showered before dinner, we hit up the buffet, then I showered, more like trickled, ha, and then we went on a mission to find a corkscrew! Took a long time and was not unlike a scavenger hunt as we traced clues and rumours, but we eventually found one, thanks to James, whom we repaid with a glass of wine. Blackberry wine! Tastes like candy!! So with dinner, our water in glasses that just 'happened' to be shaped like wine glasses had followed us up to our room, and we brought these back down to the lobby topped to the rim with delicious wine. Sneaky! Haha, like ninjas. Then we lounged on the harem couch and wrote in our journals. Just as we finished up our last pages James' mum and her boyfriend let us know that the hotel's disco was open. When Pleen and I made our way down there just to see what it was like, they were the only ones there! Since the music didn't appear to be getting any better, we headed back to our room for the last few sips of wine left in the bottle and went to bed, but not before Pleen floundered about in the hammock quickly!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 7: Kusadasi-> Pamukkale

Breakfast buffet, but I only had a yogurt with a wee bit of chocolate cereal and a couple of buns with rose jam and sour cherry jam, with orange juice, a red juice, and tea.
The bus took us to Miletus which had an awesome theater and roman bathhouse ruins. While pulling into the parking lot we pulled right next to a tour bus with "Vancouver Island University" on the sign in the front windshield; the VIU liberal arts tour is here, small world! We caught up to them at the bathhouse and Pleen's friend and co-worker, and an old classmate of mine, Megan, was there. They had a boisterous greeting, but had to move on. Before we'd even began the tour of the ruins, we had a bathroom break, wherein the ladies washroom became organized into 4 different lines, those who had brought toilet paper and those who'd have to wait for a stall with some, and those willing to use a squattie or not. Knock on wood, but so far I've been lucky enough to avoid this experience...
I can't help but think that there ought to be some kind of security detail to keep people from doing these things...
Afterwards we stopped for lunch at a buffet, where our feet were swarmed by cats! Such a strange experience.
Then on to the Temple of Apollo at Didyma. Very cool. Once again we met up with the liberal arts class, who arrived after us, playing up the reverberations of the entrance tunnels, singing tones and sounding like 5 times the number of people and rather spooky. This was once a place of oracles and priests, so it was fitting and fun.
On the way back to the bus Pleen and I bought icecreams, I got a cappuccino flavour one, very tasty.
Also while at Miletus I saw at the stalls the most gorgeous bowls, I hope so much to find the same at the Grand Bazaar. I did find the most perfect Turkey shot glass for my collection, and even bartered him down from 5TL to 4TL! Sweet!
The bus ride to our next destination took a while and we stopped halfway at a gas station. I bought a bottle of water, a glass of amazing fresh-squeezed orange juice, and a bag of chips, the picture on the bag depicting I think yogurt and herbs. They were tasty, whatever they were.
We arrived at our next hotel in Pamukkale, and it is like a mexican resort! Pools, indoor and out, regular and thermal, bars everywhere, and a great view of it all from our balcony! Le sigh. The buffet that night was great, and then we checked out the lobby; they have cushions on the floor arranged around a central fireplace, with cute low tables; it's a harem couch, how cool! I want to do the same in my living room someday, haha.
We'd had a chance before dinner to sit by the pool with Karen and her husband to drink a beer and soak up the resort-like atmosphere with some good company. It was nice to enjoy a bit of the hotel as there wasn't much chance after dinner; every morning is an early morning!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 6: Kusadasi

Another early morning and another breakfast buffet. Not the best but not the worst. Bread, cheese, yogurt and strong black tea.
To Ephesus! More ruins, haha. Very elaborate ones though, with an administrative section with a small theater, a long ramp that would have been lined with shops, an incredible library. We had the chance to take an optional tour of the rich people's houses, super cool, lots of mosaic floors and frescoes on the walls. Extra neat were the public latrines. Pooping was apparently a social event, everyone got to sit next to each other, took their time, chatted, no walls to separate anyone. Oh my. The keyhole shaped holes led to a stream of running water to take all that business away, while a gutter ran along the floor in front of you with clean water for cleaning. Very interesting, so odd to consider. Lots of tour groups here, and our guide ran into another guide with whom he went to school! Small world? Also, this man looked like the Turkish Johnny Depp and I took his picture lots, ha! And we saw the big theater. HUGE. The awesome thing is that we convinced Barb, who happens to sing opera, to stand at the center to sing. She did and the theater filled itself with her voice. All the other tourists fell silent, but burst into applause, and the cheers of a hundred languages, when she finished. Way cool, what an amazing sound system, ha!
Then off to Sirince for some lunch and to soak up the atmosphere of a quaint mountain village. Unfortunately the place we chose to eat at was a mistake! Pleen and Jayde's meal took a long time but mine took even longer:over an hour and fifteen minutes! Pleen and Jayde had been done eating for some time before mine came, and not even what I ordered, meat and cheese pide instead of the mix pide I'd wanted. Lots of other people from the tour came here too, including Selcuk, who was not impressed. As our time here was limited, and it had also been an optional tour for an extra charge, I scarfed down half and took the other half while we went with Barb to do some frantic wine tasting. The guys on the shops were super friendly, very accommodating. We tasted lots, and I bought a melon wine that I hope makes it home to Thomas, and a blackberry wine, as blackberry wine always brings fond memories. Across the street we went to another wine shop. This shop is actually where the blackberry wine was from, but the first shop was out, the guy had had some brought from another shop, apparently they all like to help each other out. The second shop was very charming, and he had us sit at a little table to do our tastings. Such a cute atmosphere, with stone floors, rugs strewn about, pillows and tables, maybe almost authentic, ha! I bought a pomegranate wine since pomegranates abound in Turkey, so the wine seemed very Turkey-ish :) Unfortunately our time was up. I was sad and disappointed not to have been able to spend more time in this cute cobblestoned-hillside-cottage village. So quaint, and so full of neat shops and stands, the merchandise here actually differed from what we'd seen in Istanbul and at all the tour shops. Oh well...
Back to the bus for a ride up a different mountain to visit the House of the Virgin Mary. I had no idea what to expect. The house is small, reconstructed from the original foundations, and looks very authentic. It is cute, very pretty, in a gorgeous and immaculately maintained setting, gardens, etc. The inside was dimly lit, no pictures aloud, no talking, music softly played. Religious artifacts were in there, on altars and on the walls. And people were in there praying, very somber, but they were really into it! I felt almost as though I were intruding to be honest. When you leave the house you can light the candle available before entering it, and then there are three taps of holy water, one for health, happiness, and wealth or good fortune. Pleen washed here hands in all three, but I only chose happiness, and we pretty much just copied what we saw other doing. Beyond this is a wishing wall, a wall where people can put wishes they've written on paper. Apparently the most commonly available paper is toilet paper, so the wall has actually a pretty nasty look to it. I had a notepad handy, so Pleen and I wrote our wishes, tucked them amongst the others on the wall and took pictures of them. Hoping that the wishes work nothing like birthday candles, we went ahead and told each other what our wishes had been! (I wished for happiness :) ) At the entrance/exit are some shops, filled with, among other things, icons and holy water, and where bargaining is not done. I'm glad for this as I'm terrible at it. I found a beautiful scarf, browns, greens, a hint of blue, that matches the octopus cuff I've been wearing this trip, for only 7.50 Euro, which isn't too bad. The scarf is gorgeous, and bonus: what a story to tell when/if people admire it and ask me where I got it, lol. I also bought a novelty icecream cone of pistachio flavour. Finally some icecream, and super delicious!

Our wishes live here now.

My new scarf, finally some ice cream, and a sneaky Barb.


The bus then took us to a carpet place where we saw how the silk is unravelled from the cocoons and how the carpets are actually made, which is way time consuming! No wonder they are so expensive. We also learned a lot about the different kinds of carpets, like wool on wool, wool on cotton, cotton on cotton, silk on cotton, and silk on silk. They took us to a show room, offered us drinks, I had a cay and a raki, and they started unrolling carpets, first one at a time, while they encourage us to get right on them to see and feel, and then more and more until there were carpets everywhere with more coming, so fun! I never thought I was much for Oriental Rugs, but I saw more then a few that I truly loved. Some day! Most shocking was how a group of people that seemed so ho-hum about the carpet thing ended up spending over 17,000$ combined! Holy shit! Who are these people?! Also, the man giving us our demonstration was Turkish George Clooney, ha!

I want to decorate like this, multiple carpets strewn about. It's great for lounging!

Turkish George Clooney!


Back to the hotel for dinner buffet. Afterwards we walked down the street, Pleen, Barb, and I, to use an ATM (I've got less money then I thought!) and for Pleen to buy a skirt. It is hotter then we expected. In fact, Pleen and I have been smearing deodorant on more than just our armpits, shh! HAHAHAHA. Back at the hotel I did some laundry, just some undies, but the sink stopper wouldn't open, so I couldn't drain the water out after. Ew, it was so dingy, how can 5 pair of lacy panties be soooo dirty? How embarrassing! What a day though, so much seen and done, it was time for bed. At the House of the Virgin Mary Pleen had bought a journal with the evil eye on it with leather and a fancy clasp; I call it the scary book and asked her to sleep with it under her pillow, lol, but she wouldn't. Damn that thing is creepy!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 5: Canakkale-> Kusadasi

Another early morning, but the buffet was a little dissapointing :( Cheeses, olives, eggs, some breads, juices, tea and coffee, yogurt and fruits, some cereal. I guess I just really enjoy the sweeter pastries for breakfast!
And then it was bus time. After a few hours we stopped for a break at a gas station. I had a cay, which was of course lovely. Pleen and I also each bought a yogurt drink that we've seen people drinking everywhere. It tastes like salty yogurt and we didn't like it much at all. I also bought two bags of chips, an olive flavoured dorito and 'frito lay a la turca', I think tomato and poppy seed. Both flavours proved savoury and delicious.
The bus ride eventually brought us to the acropolis at Pergamon. It was amazing. When we had been in Berlin two years earlier we had visited the Pergamon Museum and saw the magnificent altar (?), so it was really something to visit the place where the massive structure had originally stood. I loved also seeing the theater, which is situated on a steep hill! Scary, cool, amazing, from the top seat it seems almost straight down to the valley floor below! I think it might actually be the steepest? My favourite part, maybe of this whole trip so far, was standing at the top of this mountain/hugely tall hill, seeing sprawled beneath me the town, and hearing the call to prayer ring out from all the mosques below. It was amazing, magical, almost spiritual to have such beautiful chants/ music/ exotic notes float up from such a distance, I can't even put this into words!
Looking down from the top of the theater. Those are all the stone seats, kinda scary steep, eh?
Back on the bus for a bit before stopping for lunch! This place must be used to buses of tourists, as they provided a quick but thorough explanation of the food provided. There was a bufe option or we could sit down to order meat and cheese 'pide' (turkish pizza) or kebap with chicken or spicy or not spicy lamb which would came with rice and salad. Pleen and I both wanted both kebap and pide, se we each ordered one and split them. I also ordered a Turborg. My meat and cheese pide was delicious and way better then Pleen's not spicy lamb kebap. The only unorganized part of this eatery was the paying, as it took a while for them to come to each person and finish the transaction. So I only had time to visit the washroom after eating and couldn't visit the shop for anything sweet for dessert. I really wanted icecream or baklava! Oh well, there's plenty of both around, though surprisingly enough I've yet to have a single icecream!
Another bus ride eventually brought us to our hotel. On the way I saw out the window the theater at Ephesus in the distance taking up the entire one side of a hill! Huge! I tried to imagine how incredibly awe inspiring it must have been for those in ancient times to have seen such a marvel when approaching the town! Wow! We'll see it close up tomorrow.
Our hotel room once again has an amazing view! Unfortunately our room was hot! And the airconditioning only works when we have the key fob in the slot. With only one such key, this means the airconditioning will only be on when we are in the room. I'm not sure the airconditioning even airconditions, it barely gets any cooler. By evening it's cooler outside so we might as well open the balcony door, which we did both nights we were there, even when sleeping.
Since I reached the room first, I threw all my stuff on the bigger bed, haha, dibs. Good times.
Dinner was at the hotel, another buffet of what I assume is traditional turkish food. Pleen and my favourite was the turkish pakoras with tzaziki sauce, though we didn't know what they were really called. The desert table was huge! I couldn't even get one of each on my plate! After dessert Pleen and I had more 'turkoras', sooo tasty!
After dinner Barb and Jayde came over to our room where I'd had our beverages from the night before cooling, to finally drink them! We'd had a drink each at dinner. I'd ordered my first Raki! It comes in a tall type of shot glass with a second glass or ice water. You pour as much water as you'd like into the raki, which starts out clear but turns cloudy white with water added. It tasted like licorice, but kind of sweet, so I don't hate it, ha, an appropriate drink when in Turkey, or when celebrating Turkey, hehe. So, having taken some chairs from Barb's room, we sat on the balcony enjoying the view as the sun sat, chatting, and drinking. Pleen and Barb each had some kind of cooler, an orange one and a green one, Jayde had a massive 1L beer, and I drank two Tuborg. It was nice! Then to bed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 4: Istanbul-> Canakkale

I don't know how to type the little doodle under the 'C' in Canakkale, so you'll have to use your imagination!
The call to prayer woke us again and we were happy to find that breakfast was available before the advertised time of 7am and thoroughly stuffed ourselves, no other buffet may compare later!
Our luggage and ourselves were loaded onto the bus for the 4 hour ride to Canakkale.
Our room at the Kent hotel had been so nice, very modern. When we had returned to it yesterday the maid had cleaned and perhaps unrelated or maybe not our toilet stopped flushing. It did not miraculously fix itself after some hours so on our way out to dinner I stopped at the front desk to ask to have it fixed. I explained that out toilet wasn't flushing.
"Out toilet is broken."
"Ya it won't flush."
"Why?!" with the weirdest look on his face!
"Uhhh..." really?
Hahaha, so awkward! But he did call up to have it fixed, which it was when we returned later.
Leaving Istanbul I marvel at the madness. There is no method here, traffic is without order as far as I can tell. Our tourguide told us that if we've a green, treat it as red. Tread with great care. The 'walk' light is even of a little green man running! On the roads, everyone seems to do as the please. The layout of streets and shops is without any sign of organization. Especially unusual is how shops appear stacked atop each other; second, third, fourth story windows crammed with manikins and merchandise. No wonder men work on the sidewalks to lure you in!Where is one to look first, everything is everywhere, and every space has ads plastered to it. It is disconcerting to understand none of these signs, I am lost in the chaos without the language to hold onto.
2 hours into our bus ride we stop at a gas station. 1TL to use the WC (water closet, hehe). Pleen buys baklava and I get an Efes, turkish beer, to finally try, and a bag of mystery flavour chips. The bag has a picture of 3 spices, and tastes like Mr. Noodle powder. The beer is tasty, but nothing extraordinary.
After more time on the bus we stop for lunch at another gas station. These places, like those we stopped at on our europe trip, are so much nicer than any I've seen in North America. I almost had a heart attack when approaching the WC, as another participant leaving the facilities asked us if we'd been practising our squatting! Oh no, I'm avoiding this as long as I can! But, relief beyond relief, there were both flushies and squatties, weird, eh?


There was a nice bufe to eat at. (Bufe has two dots over the 'e', and means like the buffet restaurants.) I ordered the 'mix plate' as suggested by our tour leader, Selcuk (squiggle under the 'c', which makes it a 'ch' sound as opposed to a 'j' sound), for 5TL and a bottle of water. My meal seemed to consist of rice, a chickpea dish, some kind of meatballs, fries with grilled eggplant, a potato dish, and a stuffed green pepper that I gave to Pleen. It was all just ok. Pleen and I also had a tea, a cay (squiggle under 'c'), for only 50 Kurus (squiggle under 's' for a 'sh' sound) afterwards. And since everyone else seemed to be buying beer at the attached market, Pleen and I got a couple of Efes, in funky stubby fat bottles.

After filling up, it was on to Troy! Very interesting learning the history of the real location, the legends, the discoveries, but the best part was being able to climb up into a trojan horse. Pleen and I were like kids clambering up the steep stairs/ladder, sticking our heads out the windows, posing for and taking lots of pictures. Extra fun and worth standing, walking in the heat of the day through the ruins. I was also excited to be able to catch a photo of a 'Trojan' squirrel scampering across stones and scaling sheer rock walls.


It was time to hop on the bus and head to our hotel back in Canakkale, which we'd passed earlier on the road to Troya/ Troia (Troy). Our hotel is right across the street from the waterfront, like a fantastic sea wall with merchants selling cotton candy, roasted nuts, grilled corn on the cob, icecream, and various trinkets. As we pulled up alongside the building our tour guide Selcuk pointed out that we were just next to "Brad Pitt's Trojan Horse"; just down a ways on the seawall is the actual trojan horse model from Brad Pitt's movie "Troy", so cool! Of course we got pictures, though we couldn't climb into this one :(


While strolling on the sea wall enjoying the view, the people, all the pictures we could take, along came a marching band/parade of men in costumes playing drums, horns, waving scepters with bells, and sporting magnificent mustaches, sparkly vests, curly toed shoes, and Aladdin pants. Apparently they are reenacting the guards of... something. Very neat, very unique music!


It was time to have dinner, at the hotel. A buffet! Lots of interesting choices, I can't even begin to guess what they all were. It was pretty good, though nothing struck me as absolutely fabulous, so I didn't get a second plate of anything, unless you count my plate of dessert: one of everything! A cake layered with chocolate, whipped cream and cherries, chocolate pudding, and some kind of cookie soaked in honey. Everything here tastes fantastic soaked in honey!I totally forgot to take pictures of dinner, but did get one of dessert.


After dinner Pleen and I went for a walk with Barb, Jenny, and Jayde. We stopped at a liqour store, though all stores seem to sell liquor... anyways I found some Tuborg! Four cans and a Tuborg beer glass for only 10TL, so cool! Everyone else bought a few drinks too. We had big plans, but after heading back to our rooms and showering, etc, we all proved too tired and retired for the night.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 3: Istanbul (part2)

We took the bus back to the hotel, napped, and awoke for a late dinner. We were on our own for this and so we wandered down the street in search of a good place to eat. We ran across another of the tour members who had already eaten and who said their dinner for two had cost 60TL (turkish lira) which they said seemed expensive but seemed at the time a reasonable price. Pleen and I eventually allowed one of the waiters on the sidewalk outside eating establishments to drag us to a table, pointing out items on the menu and saying "for you, only 8TL" when the amount listed below the picture was 11TL. Even the food can be bargained for I guess! Pleena nd I both ordered a lamb dish, and I also ordered a pomegranate juice. The juice came and looked fresh squeezed with pulpy bits and seeds. While the straw definitely looked as though someone had sipped my drink (we had a good, though nervous, laugh over this) I discarded said straw and the drink was delicious! Our lamb, which I guess had been cooked on a stick came with grilled pita bread, a tiny serving of fries, salad, rice, pickles, and sides of tzaziki and a red sauce with a hair in it, ha! Though ultimately tasty, some bits of meat seemed weird, fatty? so I skipped a few bites and left the salad, as our tour guide has warned us the tap water it may have been washed wiht may not immediately agree with us. The entire time we ate, our original waiter plus one other continued to stop by our table to ask how our meals were and to flirt endlessly and shamelessly with Pleen! Flattering, but kinf of exhausting. When we finished each of the waiters came by more then once to offer us tea, which we refused, and when we asked for the bill none came. Eventually, despite our multiple refusals, the brought tea. "a sample", "on the house" but also on the bill! Oh well, it was tasty! And served in very neat glasses; it would be nice to find similar ones to bring home as I think they might be the traditional thing.
In Turkey, to a salesman, "no" seems to mean "try harder". After the cistern, while waiting for our group to assemble, we had been approached and flirted with by a couple of very friendly waiters who seemed determined that we should have drinks, at the very least, at their restaurant. It took some time, effort, and little white lies to extricate ourselves from them only for poor Pleen to spend the rest of our time waiting, seated by a nice fountain, declining the offer for a book of Istanbul. He worked himself down to a very good price! before offering it to her as a gift, "for a small price", hahaha! Despite telling him repeatedly that she was positive she didn't want it and wouldn't regret not getting it, I really want a book of Istanbul now, as I haven't been able to get books for the places we've visited like I did on our last europe trip. They've either been too expensive, or too big.
Istanbul has cats like we've got pigeons! Eating the food dropped beneath tables, shooed by waiters, walking along sidewalks, fences, sleeping in the garsses. While they seem to like people, that are also... dirty!
The streets and filled with men. There are noticably more men then women and even the poorest looking of them still seem to make the effort to dress nice, in at least a suit jacket! They exude confidence and will not drop their gaze when you meet it. The call to women from the streets any english they know, either to simply flirt, or to sell you anything. "Hello pretty mama", "Happy birthday", You're break my heart", "Lady Gaga!". Pleen and I had some good laughs. Istanbul could be a place to come simply for the confidence boost; it's hard not to feel beautiful!
On the way back to the hotel we bought some baklava for a snack later, and visited another tour member's room to enjoy the amazing view! Pleen and I know that the baklava here is too amazing; back home it will never be nearly as good, it is as good as ruined. Our sleep then was sweetened sufficiently for pleasant dreams, our lips lightly honeyed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 3: Istanbul (part1)

Pleen and I awoke with the calling for prayer unable, either through hunger or excitement, to fall back asleep. Our tour of Istanbul was not to start until 9, with breakfast starting at 7, so we had several hours to leisurely get ready for the day.
Breakfast was amazing! I started at a table of sweets and filled my plate with shortbread, mini croissants, savory cheese filled pastries, chocolate cake, nut filled tarts and more! What little room was left I topped with a variety of cheeses, washing it down with coffee, cherry juice, and, as recommended by Pleen, "Cappucino with chocolate" from one of those wee machines. So yummy!
A short bus ride brought us to the Blue Mosque. We had to take out shoes off, carrying them with us in the provided plastic bags. So beautiful, every wall decorated with tiles, the dominant colours of the intricate designs being of course blue.
We had actually walked to the mosque from across what was once the hippodrome, of which only several obelisks remain. Men here sold scarves, funny hats, guidebooks, cameras of the disposable sort and accesories, spinning top-toys, and music pipes, walking amongst all the tour groups. In all of Istanbul, there are people selling anything everywhere, and any nook into which a store or stall can be tucked, crammed, or stuck, you'll find three or four.
From the Blue Mosque we went to Topkapi Palace, where once the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire lived. Pleen and I toured the Harem, which isn't as one would imagine. Life in the palace sounds so exotic and amazing and I'd love to learn more. The views of the rest of Istanbul was incredible! We also saw some interesting religious artifacts including Moses' cane and Muhammed's hat and footprint.
For lunch we were free to find our own place to eat, the guide recommending some meatball places and buffet type establishments. Pleen and I chose the latter, wherein one grabs a tray, points to several items, and pays before sitting to eat. I had a salad of lettuce, cabbage, carrots dressed with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, and grilled eggplant topped with chicken and mashed potatoes, which was amazing. A bottle of water and some baklava rounded out my meal.
From here Pleen and I went to the Basilica Cistern. So! Cool! It's an underground cistern, the roof held up by massive pillars, the water home to coy, some of which were huge! We saw the two mysterious haeds of Medusa and the pillar the grants wishes? Halfway through all the lights, every last one, turned off and the huge cavern near roared with the collective gasp of the possibly hundred people trapped within. It didn't last long though, so I was able to uncling myself from Pleen and continue through, though many of the "mood" lights were much slower to turn back on. Despite getting dripped on by water (eww...) this has so far been one of the most amazing sights!
Afterwards we went to Aya Sophia. We were lucky to be here at this time as Turkey, or perhaps just Istanbul, is one of the cultural capitals of europe for 2010, and so the scaffolding the normally limits the views of the incredible dome has been almost ebtirely removed witht he rest pushed aside to provide an unobstructed view of the wonderful dome. Aya Sophia is a great example of what started out as a byzantine cathedral and has since been turned into a mosque and then partially restored. The different ways that the art has been modified to follow the edicts of Islam is very neat to see. This place is also a good example of the evolution of byzantine art, just like I have seen in art history books! One of the pillars within Aya Sophia is the place where a miracle of some sort took place; there is a hole in it and the legend is that when you put your thumb in it and rotate your hand a full 360degrees and make a wish it will come true. The worn is worn deep and smooth and weirdly shaped, the area of the pillar around it worn colourless where countless hands have swept across it. Pleen and I were so busy having our pictures taken while performing this ritual by each other that we both completely forgot to make a wish! I knew what I wanted to wish for though...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 1/2: Victoria-> Toronto-> Frankfurt-> Istanbul

I'm back, alive, and sharing now with you my travel journal as written on busses, on planes, in hotel rooms, and in the more atmospheric hotel lobbies, unedited and complete with run-un sentences, spelling errors, and all the boring bits, with just a sampling of the 600+ photos I took that may make it onto Picassa, but only if I've the energy to caption them all, 'cuz otherwise what's the point? Lets us commence our adventures now. (Also as I'm vaguely fanatical about the spacing on this blog, er, and everything else in life, and I know photos will booger it up, you'll see lots of fancy stars, oh boy!)
* * *
"It's already tomorrow today."
The longest days are those that at some mysterious point while in the sky, the next begins before the first ever ended; when you find yourself already fast into the next day. This kind of travel is exhausting.
How many breakfasts can I possibly eat in a day? Coffee and doughnut before boarding the plane, muffin and carrots purchased one the first flight, full breakfasts served on both subsequent flights, with only the most random spattering of lunch/dinner tucked in with no regard to the general order these things are done in. Which breakfast signalled the start of a new day? I cannot say, I never can sleep while on the move.
Is it the food that fuels me, or the adrenaline/excitement of an escorted rush through Frankfurt airport in a deperate flight to catch a flight? Or the anxious moments spent filling out forms when your luggage didn't make it to the plane as you barely did? Or could it simply be love, of living a life travelled, of seeing the lives that exist on the other side of the world, or living out of a suitcase in (hopefully) fresh sheets each night?
Our first hotel is Kent, nearly across the street from a mosque and not far from the bazaar. With no luggage to deposit,we wandered the streets. Very few women to be seen, and well-dressed men everywhere. They openly stare at us, either because we are foreign, women, or possibly immodest in their eyes. The siewalks are hapharzardous, a strewn collection of cobbles and stones, steep, windy, and just as crowded. The traffic, even the parking, is without method. The stargest place I've yet been, nothing compares. I can't say I don't entirely enjoy the attentions, smiles, stares, comments of men, I'd been warned, and I'll enjoy it in the good humour it's meant.
A quick nap before dinner, out heads had barely hit the pillow when the call to prayer sang out from the mosque. Magical. The most exotic experience, to hear prayers echo though a city, bouncing over rooftops, through crowded streets, into every open window. I hope I never tire of it.
Dinner was what appeared to be authentic Turkey food! A cold salsa type mix served on grilled eggplant, a flaky pastry filled with soft cheese, breaded and fried white fish, and the best fruit salad for dessert: apples, oranges, cherries, pomegranate, grapefruit (which I ate around) amd kiwi! No stinking melons, I think I love it here!

The dessert was so good I forgot to even take a picture of all the good stuff that was in it :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

King Carrot!

"You go get one carrot and I'll grab four onions."

He says to me: "Ok."

An unusual amount of time later: "I got the biggest one I could find."

He wasn't kidding! I present to you: KING CARROT!

And of course my artsy photographing diminished his glory. So here's another take:

My cutting board is too small! FYI that's a venti in the background (V 1p WM CGT tea, lol)!

And then I had to grate the entire mother-- :D

On the menu for tonight: slow-cookered beef and lentil whole wheat soft tacos with spinach, salsa, and cheddar. A new recipe and my first experience with lentils.

Um, what is a lentil? Like a bean? A grain? Veggie? Mineral? They look like tiny tiddlywinks.

Also, I blame the blurry photos on the caffeine. Or the general excitement of King Carrot.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Now to be a 'whoo girl'.

I'm writing a poem!

I had plenty of other things to blog about but now, gosh, I'm entirely too busy which is unfortunate for all my millions of readers because this post was going to be awesome, with pictures and everything...

What's a 'twitter' for anyways?

Also, why isn't 'ashen' a verb? It would have been awesome, absolutely perfect. Damn you and all of google for not agreeing with me!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


a little something like this. How fantastic! If I had a million dollars, I'd commision a little something to go with every animal poem...

I imagine myself excelling in my program come September, racing through every project and leaving myself time to meddle with metal. Fool some scraps into being something fantastical. I may need to add a workshop to the list of rooms my dream house must have.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On hobbies.

I took up crochet years ago, but only ever seem to whip out my hook and yarn around christmas. I like to make cute or odd things like sushi and dinosaurs, and envision myself someday having the skills to go about modifying patterns to make even odder creations... dinosaur sushi? But, like writing, this is an activity that can only be accomplished at home, alone.

I have to count my stitches. Out loud. Every single one. I just totally lose track of where I am in my pattern otherwise and I can't really see what's going on with my stitches so undoing a row and starting over... gosh, I can't ever even tell where one row ended and the other started! So no, I can't have anyone around messing me up. I might be a bit of a perfectionist.

I like making things. And giving them away. I'd do it more but a part of me is terrified by how very few people seem to share my view of the world. What is so odd about crocheted brainslugs? You can't find a use for these?

I love seeing what other people make. And other people make wonderful things out of fimo!
Articulate Matter

I could make things out of fimo, too. Oh, but my perfectionist nature would forever cringe at the fingernail prints I'd no doubt leave embedded in every porno-styled dinosushi I dished out!

Friday, March 19, 2010

One step at a time.

Pick a subject. Make it small, tangible, concrete. Pick something you care very little about, or perhaps something that makes you vaguely uncomfortable, something icky maybe, or something you've never even heard of. Pick something around which you can craft a poem that avoids sentimentality. This will then become a poem that can attract a larger audience, one that needn't be familiar with you, your surroundings, your experiences. Pick something interesting.

Learn all that you can about your subject, recording anything and everything that is remotely fascinating. Try wikipedia. The knowledge you gather might not be factual, but it might be more inspired for it. No, scratch that last bit. It's the internet, once posted it becomes fact. Become a part of this phenomenon.

Write down in your file, page, notebook, spare bit of palm, the most interesting words you've found associated with your subject. Challenge yourself to think of synonyms for these words. Use a thesaurus when your mind has run dry as it can be your most helpful tool. Keep your eyes and ears open and be alert for similar sounds, spellings, structures. Explore this 'music'. Don't be afraid of puns at this point, and revel at those words found whose dual meanings you can sculpt. This is the point when a poems destination, narrative, crux, whole 'point', might be glimpsed, or forever altered.

Let all these ingredients stew for a time. Leave open your file, page, notebook, scrap of skin and jot down anything that comes to mind throughout the day/night, whether it be images, extended metaphors, whole lines, or random words. Any one of these might in time be the pinch of salt that rounds out your entire piece, or the poke that sends it in an entirely different direction. But of course, only time will tell, and at this point, your poem needs this time to marinate, ferment, rot a bit.

Have a cup of tea. Pair it with a chocolate chip hot cross bun. Marvel at the perfection that is a cup of tea and a chocolate chip hot cross bun.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's the final countdown! Dodododoooo deetdodododooo!

"So this is the magic trick, huh?"
"Illusion, Michael. A 'trick' is something a whore does for money... or candy!"

Tadaa! My countdown. Well, maybe just a rough draft. I'm tempted to make a new one. With even more stickers.

Oh sweet September, why must you tempt me by being so far away? My deposit is paid, my benefits are being taken advantage of while I still have them, and contacts have finally been successfully shoved into my eyes (only took three 45 minute appointments...) I'm ready. Well, except for all that other stuff that I have to wait to do. Student loan applications don't start until May and I won't get any more class info like a supplies list or class start times (like in case I need to buy a car if the bus won't get me there in time) until July.

Turkey is only 1.5 months away, though. Shouldn't that hold me over? I haven't been able to get excited though. Gah!

What to do, what to do.

Ugh, why do pictures mess up the formating? I'm very particular about my line spacing... I don't even know if I can post this in such a state!

I've been so bored. Especially in the evenings.

"Don't you have any hobbies?"

"I like eating."

"Everyone does. It doesn't count as a hobbie."


So then he says I should go write something. But I can't write when he's around. He's very forgetful and will forget to be shutted up. I don't even listen to music when I write, let alone participate in (or ignore) a conversation.

I wish I had art/crafting supplies, and lots of room for them to be spread out. I'd like to make something with my hands to go with some poetry...

Maybe I'll work on a spiffier countdown. With more sparkles and stickers... or candy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Eyeball beatings.

Dear eyeballs,
Suck it up! That's my finger, and it's coming at you whether you like it or not! Rawr rawr!
You and your stupid eyelids are not the boss of me, and I will poke at you until the end of time, so stop. being. difficult.

Blues beaters.

There's something about coming home to the smell of slowcooking that lifts the spirit. It smells warm, savoury, dependable, comfortable.

I'm this close to once again sending out submissions.

But I think I'll eat a scone, watch reruns of Project Runway, and then go to my appointment.

I'm not sure what sticking my fingers repeatedly into my eyes will do for my mood, though...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I peep on you, mailman!

I like to watch the mailman through the peephole. I race to the door when I hear him open the mail boxes and watch. I try to see if any mail is put into our box, but the silly peephole makes everything look tiny and far away. So... this accomplishes nothing. I'm just a creeper I guess.

I love the mailman.

Today he delivered some Dinosaur Porn. Gorgeous book! I flipped through and read some of the shorter pieces (of course). I love the cover, the paper, the eclectic work within, the unusual theme, the content warning at the beginning, the humour, and one poem in particular... ;)

The mailman also delivered an acceptance letter for the sheet metal foundations course! I guess that's what I'll take, as it beat the race against the electrical foundations acceptance letter that is no doubt on its way :D School starts in September, and donations* are welcome, nay, fully encouraged. I can find your excess monies a fine loving home, honest!

Dear mailman: please deliver my T4 and the letter I need in order to download benefits claim forms. Seriously. Don't fail me on this. I need all resulting cash. Now. No, yesterday. Or just soon.

Soon, all plans will be in motion.

*All donations will be accidentally spent on an all-inclusive to Mexico.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

'An opera is an absurd thing'

"It's fruitless to try to seperate them. Words and music are fused into one... One art redeemed by the other!"

Cue orchestra! Oooooooh soooo laaaaaaaa miiiiiiiiiiaaaaaAAAAAAAA!!!!

Oh, my goodness. Went to the opera for the first time. I wasn't sure it would be something I would enjoy, I get bored during movies, especially car chases and shoot-em-up scenes, and lots of german singing seemed along those same lines...

Oh, but it was woooonderful. The music! The set! The humour! The singing! The small bit with the ballerina! Even ze german!

Over 2 hours, no intermission, and marvellous.

Capriccio by Strauss, wherein a woman, torn between the love of a poet and a composer commissions an opera to help her decide.

I must do this again. I want to attend more cultural events, see more of the world of art and beauty. Ballets, operas, galleries. Maybe then I can connect again with my own art...

"...can you advise me, can you help me find the ending, the ending for their opera? Is there one that is not trivial?"

Monday, March 1, 2010

No :( Only :)

BSO= no go.

Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Which totally makes me crave chinese food. Again! Mmmm, fortune cookies. Chowmein. Soya sauce on everything.

So. Perhaps the simplicity of situation that arises from this news will set my pen (er, fingers on keyboard, just the pointer ones though, no fancy spider-hands-typing here :P) to twitching, though I won't be surprised if that waits a teensy bit longer. I need to hear if I've been accepted to either of the trades programs I've applied to, get that load off my mind too. And then!

And then! With only that single probably-september day to look forward to, and everything else set in motion, I can write and mail and receive and file and write some more.

I will write of tonsil stones.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cheap less of a cheat.

I look like a child trying on mommy's sunglasses, but I bought a pair of avaitors anyways. They were cheap.

Cheap like the thrills I get from

My head is too small.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hodgepodges and 'Penned'ing.

I need my glasses to find my glasses.

My least favourite part of 'Intervention' is the intervention.

I jog twice a week. I don't know how this happened.

People in this town walk their dogs at 5am.

I always leave less then a glass' worth of wine in the bottle at the end of a fun night. I don't know why I don't just polish 'er off.

I think I'll try to rock intentionally dorky glasses on my next spectacle purchase.

I bought myself this book, even though it was supposed to be my treat if I felt I did good on my interview. I had to get it though, either way. The cover is pretty. And the poems in it are animal poems, by some of my favourite poets. I've only lightly skimmed through it, but I like the cohesiveness of the collection and how all the pieces fit with the whole and play into and support themes of 'zoo-ness'. It feels dynamic but solid, finished, complete. I like it a lot, it's very much a 'me' anothology.

Confession: I've only read 3 poems in it. I'm a terrible critic right now. But the cover is pretty.

I want to devour this book. But I'll use it as a tool to get my own writing on track. No 'Penned' poems until I write a poem. Poems. Do it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Menage a....

Here's hoping good luck comes in threes.

Feb 9th, 2010:
1)Found five dollars at the bus stop. RICH!
2)Missed the (stressful and surprise) audit at work.
3)Interview went....

Well it went. 4-6 weeks for the results.

Either way, contingency plan: applied for Electrical Foundations, possible six month wait list, and I might as well jump on it now.

I don't want to be a welder.
Still to try: sheet medal, auto and heavy duty mechanic, carpentry, and plumbing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What. What is this? A 'blog entry'? No. Couldn't be.

I am formed out! And I wish I was talking about form poetry. Unfortunately, but probably, and most definitely probably, fortunately, I speak of the filling out of forms. Government forms. Like the type I am to bring to my job interview next week. Glee!

Ungleeful: the 3 plus hours of filling out obscure info about me and everyone around me. My poor friends, family, and coworkers must think I'm getting ready to heavily stalk them (heavy mouth breathing included) or perform mass identity theft, which might in fact prove more lucrative than my hopeful job... hm.

These forms. They are still not done.

And then there will be the photocopying. They didn't say how many bums they wanted in there though...

Well, ok, if you insist, one quick rant. Er, that's not form related:

Interesting headlines on the msn homepage? I shall click to read and learn more. But why must even the ones without a video symbol direct me to a video? I like there to be that symbol to warn me of the ones I don't want to click, because I don't like watching articles. I cannot passively receive my news. It takes too long. I much prefer to read, skim, linger, pause, and ultimately make it through the article in question quicker then anyone could read it to me. Seriously. What does it say about society that the masses wish to passively absorb all news? It seems that most people are only ever half-present. Where do the rest of their heads go?

Bonus: I totally spelled (oh crap, spelt?) 'receive' right on the first go up there. Go me, and blogger spellcheck. We make a fine team.