"Not all those who wander are lost." -J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, August 30, 2013

Turkish apricots in Turkey

We are currently at the end of a 9+ hour overnight bus ride from Istanbul to Izmir. From Izmir we will catch a smaller bus for a one hour ride to the town of Selcuk, which is located three kilometers from the ruins of Ephesus, one of the seven wonders of the world. Selcuk also offers a promising campground and access to beautiful beaches. We're excited to be out of the bustle of the city for now, especially after our experience catching the bus last night. The bus station was simply overrun. We were negotiating for inches to make it towards our indiscriminate bus. We're looking forward to a breath of fresh air.

The past two days we covered a lot of ground in Istanbul. We visited the cistern that at one time provided all the water to Istanbul, which was the capital of the Byzantine Empire. We also visited the Grand Bazaar, the Blue mosque, the Spice Bazaar and Taksim Square. We were awe-stricken, overwhelmed and underwhelmed by these well known sights in Istanbul.

The cistern was very impressive. It was all underground in a very dank environment. It was a magnificent array of marble pillars supporting this enormous space that used to be full of water. There was still shallow water, and there were plenty of fish swimming in it. A network of raised walkways has been added for tourists to navigate. 

The Grand Bazaar was not all that grand by our standards. It was full of new sights and smells, but those were countered by the bootleg purses, shoes and jerseys that one can come by in any major city. It was a sight not to be missed. It sure was grand in size, we got turned around multiple times, but that was the extent of the grandeur, not our cup of tea. We preferred the spice bazaar, which was much the same but full of perfumes, teas, spices and dried fruits. It seemed like a lot of locals were doing their shopping as well. We were eager to buy a snack sack of Turkish apricots because they're one of our favorite snacks, and, well, when in Rome, right?

The Blue Mosque was absolutely beautiful. It was gratifying to even be allowed entry in the visitors entrance. We had to take off our shoes and cover most  of our skin with scarves they handed out at the door. The stained glass windows and painted domed ceilings were gorgeous. Perhaps the most breathtaking view of the Mosque is from its outside. It almost looks unreal, like it's from a Disney movie, something a talented artist dreamt up.

Taksim Square was a little underwhelming. It was a long hike in the heat with our heavy packs to get there which might have tweaked our attitude towards it. We are glad to have seen it and the adjacent park because of their historical and recent relevance to Turkey as a whole.

Perhaps one of our favorite parts of the past two days was our dinner on the Bosphorous, a strait that splits Istanbul. We found cheap and delightful fish kebab, or a fish sandwich garnished with a tomato and cucumber salad, dressed up with some spices. The fish was caught right there, grilled right there and devoured right there by us.

We packed a lot into two days, but are glad to have done it all. We're looking forward to some rest and relaxation while camping and beaching, but there's still plenty to be seen within reach from Selcuk. We'll keep you posted on our adventures!


Katie and Will

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Safe and sound in Istanbul

Katie and I are safe and sound in Istanbul , and this is the view from the terrace bar at our hostel located in the old part of the city.
We did some minor exploring this evening, but for now we're content and exhausted. More soon.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer ends, ours begins!

After a less than relaxing summer full of summer school, nannying, farming, and cramming for the GRE (could have been fuller of the latter), it's time that we pack our bags and head yonder to Europe! Along with our clothes and personal items we have to leave ample space for our camping gear. We will be packing into two backpacking backpacks, literally living off our backs for the next two months. We've done a smart job of gearing up and paring down. We've acquired ultra light and compressible gear to save space and our backs as much as possible. We will be camping a lot, especially in the Mediterranean where it's very accessible. Camping is cheaper than alternatives, and, well, we enjoy it!  There's even one campground in Paris. Who'd have thunk it?

In shoestring-ing our trip together, we've purchased flights for our inter-European travel to create the skeleton of an itinerary. It will be our full-time job to fill in the gaps! We have several friends who have spent time in Europe this summer and some contacts and hosts on the ground. We're looking forward to checking out some of their suggestions and exploring for ourselves as well. We also have our trusty copy of Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring, which is chock full of some of the best deals in Europe. It will be helpful in getting oriented, but we hope to color outside the Lonely Planet lines.

In about 24 hours' time we will board our first flight en route to our first stop in Istanbul, Turkey. Expect colorful pictures and descriptions in the near future!