Turkish Delights

‘Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.’ – Gustave Flaubert

I found it helpful to view this country extensively from on, sometimes from under and most memorably…  from above! 

Flying high over Cappadocia
Flying high over Cappadocia

 

The Turkish scenery in places is quite unique.

The landscape in Cappadocia appears surreal and I think even the inimitable Mr Dali would struggle with imagining such a panorama.

 The local guide tells me that Spielberg was inspired by this location to take us to another planet in his first Star Wars movie but my comprehensive, peer reviewed research (ok, I googled it) can’t confirm his story.

 

Fairy Chimneys
Fairy Chimneys

The fact is that about 40 million years ago, repeated volcanic eruptions covered the countryside with a layer of soft rock called tufa while erosion over time has imaginatively created these large mushroom capped columns that the locals likened to fairy chimneys. But, it is man’s creativity and practical need for safe refuge that burrowed deep into the soft rock to escape the harsh climate and other persecutors, as evidenced by the early Christians churches established deep within the underground cities.

‘Please be a traveller, not just a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.’ –  Andrew Zimmern

This country is full of contrasts; exotically indulgent and scarily intense to every sense at times.

Visiting a hamam or traditional Turkish Bath highlights these contrasts.

Led into a warm room, my body is allowed to ‘perspire freely’. It has no problem doing this but I could probably better describe it as ‘sweat like a pig’!

What is left of my steamed carcass is then sacrificed onto a flat, warmed marble bench where I lay face up while my attendant gently splashes shallow buckets of warm and cool water over my now calming body. I realise in hindsight that this was just to lull me into a false sense of security before their real fun begins.

Ms Hyde subsequently emerges with a rough loofah to scrub every part of my relaxed remains to within an inch of my suddenly decreasing life. However, just in the nick of time she ceases and I am flooded with a sense of gratefulness.

This of course is instantly replaced with mounting apprehension as I sight the young Amazonian approaching me again and swinging a large white pillowcase. Memories of sibling and cousin beatings on holiday sleepovers come flooding back and I lay trembling and wondering what tortuous process must follow. As she moves closer, the pillow is dramatically shaken and tossed like a matador teasing his quarry… before being ceremoniously thrown across my now terrified torso.

Ohhh…. what a relief!

Dr Jekyll’s pillowcase is filled with bubbles.

Immediately all apprehension disappears and there is only this feeling of tiny, frothy bubbles popping continuously and I get to enjoy the most indulgent, soapy, slippery massage ever. And as if that is not enough, I sink into the depths of complete decadence with an oil massage and a facial that I never want to end.

‘The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.’  -Samuel Johnson

Pammukale 'cotton castle'
Pammukale ‘cotton castle’

Pammukale means ‘cotton castle’ in Turkish and is a natural site where water emerges from underground springs and deposits calcium carbonate to form travertine terraces. Myriad tourists wander never lonely upon these cloudlike forms and enjoying the cool water falling into pools and the nearby bubbling springs… just like their first Egyptian tourist Cleopatra did, centuries ago.

There is an earthy warmness in the rich, dusty colours that wrap themselves around you daily and cling to your heart. Aromatic spices hypnotically dance in the air around every restaurant and tastebuds are tantalised by aged olive oils, freshly dried apricots, creamy yoghurts and baklava dripping in dark, golden honey and dusted with pistachio. Hmm, but by the far, the best reward on a day when the mercury rises again, is a freezing cold mixture of goat’s milk, sugar and orchid root that magically transforms into a wonderfully thick, sticky icecream… and is always served with a teasing sideshow.

‘Time travel is such a magic concept.’ – Matt Smith

Ancient columns
Ancient columns

The Turkish story goes back to the beginning of time.

It seems the Hittites were the first, followed by the Persian, Roman and Byzantine Empires.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Blue Mosque, Istanbul

The Ottomans rocked in about the 13th Century and their sultans and sultanas enjoyed the fruits of their conquest until Attaturk declared Turkiye a republic in 1923 and dragged all his people into a brave and modern new world. Quite the dapper modernist, hero and reformist statesman, he encouraged the arts and women in education and died in 1937 about 20 years before my own current Prime Minister was born… hmm, interesting how opposite their policies appear. One would think it might be the other way around.

Johnnies & Mehmets

Australia and Turkiye share a tragic chapter in history together.

We will remember them.
We will remember them

The friendship between our peoples today has grown from a mutual respect and admiration of the young men who fort against each other so valiantly in the trenches at Gallipoli.  They called the Aussie Diggers ‘Johnny’ and themselves ‘Mehmet’… they were just normal, everyday guys; sons of mothers who  loved them dearly; brothers of sisters that missed them so much; fathers of children who cried for them and still do. It was a tragic campaign for the Allies in World War 1 and so it was with trepidation but a real sense of honour I made the pilgrimage to ANZAC Cove, Lone Pine and then on to the Turkish Memorial to remember the tragic consequence of war. We must remember because this is the only way we can avoid it reoccurring. We must learn.

I have loved my visit to Turkiye.

I have enjoyed seeing old friends, making new ones and finding new memories.

Ok, I didn’t love the heat… so when I return it will be in cooler weather.

I can’t wait!

Thank you Turkey!

Sana Turkiye ederiz!

My Big Fat Greek Holiday

♪♫Mamma Mia, how can I resist you? ♫♪♫ 

Of course there are no signs or directions!

So we asked around and played a bit of follow the leader before lining up…. at the wrong boat!

After a quick discussion made up of quizzical looks, Greek gesturing and s-l-o-w English (yes, it’s coming along well thanks but I’m not sure why others  are so slow to catch on), we were pointed in the right direction towards our downsized ferry to Santorini.

All good! We strapped ourselves in with cappuccino and croissants and slept, just waking one eye at each port of call to check weTourists arriving were heading in the right direction. No… we really didn’t have any idea!

Finally we arrived at Athinios, Santorini’s port at the foot of the cliffs.

The tide of tourists had definitely come in and there was a feeding frenzy amongst the local tour operators, car hirers and local buses. We were eaten alive!

Somehow we blindly followed the other lemmings onto a local bus and our luggage was stacked in the storage below. There was nothing to do but hold on and see what happened next…

Winding Road
Winding Road

Oh my! Our huge coach carried us up the side of the granite cliff face along this narrow, winding snake of a road. I can only imagine the goat track that had existed in days gone by and the number of non goats that had gone over the precipice that greeted us on every hair pin corner. I closed my eyes and only peeked out intermittently to find our final destination of Oia at the furtherest end of the island.

Ok, when I opened my eyes fully… what a wonderful sight awaited!

Oia
Oia

I had heard about quaint Santorini and its world famous sunsets but nobody had prepared me for the snow coned blue churches dripping in character and the winding laneways overflowing with grateful shopkeepers who made such easy sales. Their ship had come in everyday… and this time I was on board!

We filled our days sailing, snorkelling, sunning and hot springing before we changed back a gear to an even slower pace and repeated our sloth on the island of Paros. This time tho we added some historical kulcha with a guided tour of the ruins on Delos and a long lunch in Mykonos.

Sunset
Sunset

After several days of chart topping sunsets and  guilty decadence we were ferried back to whence we’d come… Athens.

Yes, we returned to our little hotel in the Plaka where we were spoilt with a breakfast view of the Acropolis and lulled to sleep at night by Michael Jackson classics adapted into Greek folk music wafting up from the restaurants in the garden square below. I fell asleep easily and dreamed of Zorba dancing and I’m sure he looked just like Anthony Quinn.

Since I had been a student at school, I had always dreamed of visiting Greece. I had enjoyed studying Art and Ancient History and was looking forward to pacing out the Parthenon, examining those Doric columns up close and finally understanding those bloody peripteral temple plans. I yearned to sit in the ancient Agora and feel where democracy had been born. I wanted to walk in the footsteps of Plato, Aristocrates and good ol’ Pericles.

Parthenon
Parthenon

But in the end…  what I have taken away with me is completely different!

I have a new found respect and great memories of an engaging people who have a wonderful way of living life. They truly live, love and enjoy the unhurried moment. One day they might even finish the Parthenon!

And it is beautiful!

Thank you Greece.

Σας ευχαριστούμε Ελλάδα

      ♪♫and so I say, thank you for the music… ♫♪♫

Revisits

Apparently, I don’t enjoy returning to destinations that I’ve visited previously.

I guess it’s like eating that second ice-cream. While the first may have been the classic, culinary experience of a lifetime, that second yearned for repeat performance never quite lives up to expectations.

2014-07-13 16.19.36I first visited London nearly 20 years ago and while I’ve used both Heathrow and Gatwick as bouncing off points at various times since, I’ve had no real desire to return and play ‘Which Line Is That?’ on the Tube since my first heady tourist days back in 1998… so when my young friends Megan and George decided to follow in royal footsteps and celebrate their own nuptials in London then I packed my bags and my daughter and we accepted their kind invitation to party hard and check out London in their summer.

I hoped to revisit Her Maj so I practiced my courtesy, packed my best gloves and got my wave on. I looked forward to once again watching the guards change places down at the front gate or at the very least, I hoped to catch a glimpse of Harry and possibly the family jewels. And to top all this, I couldn’t wait to sit atop a red double-decker under clouds with silver linings and play ‘Icon Spotting’ with Prue.                                                              2014-07-13 16.16.00

Yes, we would cross their bridge; climb that tower; drop in at the palace gate; see how big Ben really is; find that ever concealed circus at Piccadilly; check the time at 0 longitude and get pics with the royals in wax.

But we didn’t!

London Eye
London Eye

When it came time to play tourist in between imminent nuptial bonding, I just couldn’t raise the enthusiasm to revisit sites I’d seen before and instead we hit the South Bank of the River Thames and fast tracked a trip on the London Eye while I conveniently forgot that I loathe and detest heights. I am constantly surprised at the change that overcomes me when I travel and I begin to believe I’m someone else and therefore do things I wouldn’t dream of doing at home!

After all the excitement of being 135 metres above the Thames, we wandered down to St James park and found a squirrel before heading back to enjoy the little green park I’d spied across from our hotel. We watched locals in the pub up the road loudly give instructions to the World Cup refs and we ambled up to Portabello Road Markets on a lazy Saturday morning to hunt down a bargain. One day we even worshipped at the altar of modern art in its very own contemporary cathedral – the Tate Modern. Oh what a delight, thank you London!

I love London and I love that it does pomp under any circumstance and traditions better than most, like… white Christmases,

St James Park
St James Park

strawberries with tennis, towers, bridges, waxed people and even muddy rivers…  but I don’t love their summers. It doesn’t feel hot enough and it comes and goes on a whim. For the first three days of this visit, it just felt like a Sydney winter.

I will remember all this when I return next year tho, when I visit one of my nearest and dearest who is now planning on living here for a couple of years. I don’t really blame her because it really has been fun!

I’ve decided revisits just need a different approach. Thank you London!

Countdown

What things do you look forward to when you’re heading off on a trip?

I’m about to escape from an Aussie winter and wing my way to where the cockles of my heart shall be ignited by a young friend’s gorgeous summer wedding in London. The plan after that is to just play castaway for a while and laze in the sun on some idyllic Greek Islands before touring with a friend to discover the ancient and aromatic delights of Turkey.

So what am I excited about?

What things kindle my sense of anticipation??

What burning desires flare up my will for a travel thrill???

Here’s my COUNTDOWN… of  5 things.

countdown- of things

    5. The Little Thing

♫♪ I want to get away ♫♪♫ I want to fly away ♫♪  

Just the idea of leaving every little thing behind and not having to care about mundane chores or everyday living is my most basic joy in taking a holiday or travelling away. Once I’ve devoured any English mad cows, Greek salads or Turkish delights then I won’t care about what happens to the plate… yes, it’s the little things… I am really just looking forward to not washing up!

4    4. The Hidden Thing

♫♪♫ Food glorious food, we’re anxious to try it ♫ Three banquets a day, my favourite diet ♫♪♫

There is nothing better than chancing upon a busy restaurant full of locals enjoying a meal, buzzing with life and taking it all for granted. That’s when I walk right on past those golden arches, head for a back alley and get lost looking for a little hole in the wall eatery and the opportunity to savour a native delicacy or spend a long afternoon imbibing on the local interpretation of a good red.

3    3. The Familiar Thing

♫♪♪♫♪ Exit light. Enter night. Take my hand. Off to never never land… ♫♪♫ ♫

Even before Metallica took me by the hand, my dreams had always been about visiting faraway lands. I looked forward to overdosing all my senses on the exotic, bizarre and exceptional; all of which were a complete contrast to where I lived at home. Travelling does give me an appreciation for the strange and different but it also teaches me gratefulness for the familiar. So now I’m a fully-fledged travel junkie and while I’m addicted to the dream… I equally crave my return home! “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchet

2    2. The People Thing

♫♪ People. People who need people ♫♪♫ Are the luckiest people in the world ♫♪

I have a fondness for people watching. I enjoy meeting new people. I love ‘walking in their shoes’. I really appreciate having my eyes opened wider to how others think and I relish any opportunity to discover our similarities and to understand our differences. It’s the contact with people that starts a process of education. “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

1     1. The Challenge Thing

♫♪ It’s my life. It’s now or never ♫♪ I ain’t gonna live forever ♫♪

This first world lifestyle has made me very comfortable and to truly appreciate how really fortunate I am at having won life’s lotto then I feel I need to be challenged; to push my contented boundaries; to extend my complacent self. Yes folks, I feel I am now ready to once again take on the greatest travel challenge of them all…

… surviving 23 hours of mind numbing, boring, brainless inflight entertainment!

          ♫♪  ‘Cause it’s my life! ♫♪