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Turkey

Istanbul, Konya, Göreme, Anyalya, and Erdek

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9/23/14 at 1440 (London time)

My time in Turkey has come to an end and I'm on my way to Bangkok. My relationship with the country of Turkey was like a passionate love affair, filled with quarreling and "tussles". I loved the open fields and dry, lazy cities we drove through, the older Turkish women with deep wrinkles and leather sandals that always look too small, the vibrant food of the street vendors, and the ancient elaborate architecture of Göreme's cave structures. However, I was not as open to this beauty as I should have been after experiencing the aggressive nature of Turkish men in Istanbul. In this city alone, I was grabbed, my way was blocked, I was cursed at, and any time I was not walking with a man by my side, I was continually receiving attention. The attention ranged from wanting me to purchase a souvenir, wanting to scam me for a "guide" or "tour" of something free, to wanting a quick smooch or a date. Most understood quickly that the attention was not wanted when I declined or ignored them, but many continued to follow and some even told me that they would not stop, appearing angry that I would ask such a thing. While I did not feel physically or sexually threatened in all the variety of scenarios, I did feel harassed to a degree I have not experienced before.

I would encourage anyone to visit Turkey and to enjoy the culture; however, I would strongly discourage any woman to do solo travel to Istanbul. When by myself, I had exponentially more issues in Istanbul than in Konya, Göreme, Erdek, or Antalya. So, as previously stated, I ended up loving the country and appreciating my time there . . . however, it took me a while to relax my guard and be open to Turkey the way I had been open in Ecuador and Portugal. I find that unfortunate.

I ended up making a few friends in Istanbul. Alistair from Scotland, and Noel & Kevin from Denver. I went out with these boys on different occasions and in different surroundings. Each time, although I was looked at by the salesmen and restaurant hosts, I was not touched and barely addressed . . . I also had a fantastic time wandering and enjoying the city with my new friends.

I also stayed in the Taksim neighborhood of Istanbul, which in hindsight was not the best choice. It is the high fashion party-neighborhood with a continued flood of pedestrians each hour of the day. As I left my hostel at 6 AM, there were still crowds in the street, stumbling and singing, dancing and smoking. Even though the area was not my ideal, I fell in love with my hostel in Taksim (Chambers of the Boheme) and the charismatic owner Ahmet, who I'm sure I loved more because he was a "Konya original" and warned me of Arabic men.

If I were to come to Turkey again, I would travel inland. In the core of Turkey, I found the culture I craved. I am grateful to also have encountered Turkish men whose actions helped me to relax my guard and move past a newly found bias I was beginning to develop. Below are tidbits from my journal and photos from some of my experiences.

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Cooking gözleme in Ihlara Valley

9/12/14 at 1532 (Istanbul time)

Uganda: My name is not mzungu
Ecuador: My name is not gringo
Turkey: My name is not sexy lady, beautiful lady, pretty lady, German lady, Irish lady, Spanish lady, Canadian lady, lady with the beautiful eyes, let me touch you to see if you're real lady, lady, or LADY!!

It's starting to really get on my nerves and it's only the first day.

I've settled in to my hostel in Taksim, called the Chambers of the Boheme. It's my first time doing a dormitory-style hostel and my first action last night was to accidentally wake-up my roommates as I got in past 2 AM. Cheers.

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Turkish stew cooked in a clay jar is then cracked open tableside


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Relaxing cross-legged at a traditional Ottoman restaurant

On a side note, no one thinks I'm American unless they hear my accent when I speak. Success?

9/13/14 at 1811 (Istanbul time)

I'm not sure at what point I became the fat white American chick eating chocolate baklava in a Turkish park, but I think I'm OK with it.

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Feeling a little exasperated in the Topkapi Gardens . . . . baklava will make it better.

I am exhausted and realized I'm at about the halfway point of my trip. I'm taking the advice of many solo travelers and taking a day "for myself". I'm wandering around with no particular agenda, sitting in a park however long it suits me.

Today, I visited the Grand Bazaar and although I enjoyed walking around the ancient architecture of the area, I was disappointed to see that the majority is row after row of mass produced souvenirs and wares. The Turkish lamps and pottery are truly beautiful, however, and add a touch of the light and vibrancy I had expected to see.

I ate my first döner kebab and drank my first bit of freshly squeezed orange juice. I walked around the outer area of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, appreciating the obelisks and the beauty of Topkapi Palace.

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Ancient Egyptian obelisk, known as the Obelisk of Theodosius. Brought by Romans to Istanbul

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The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, more commonly known as the Blue Mosque

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Hagia Sophia ceiling

I'm delighted to say I tried fresh Turkish delight and actually love it. It's so incredibly different than the processed and packaged Turkish delights carried at grocery stores in the states. I purchased a bit of the pomegranate-grape-pistachio that the salesman promised was his favorite and enjoyed it while walking around. I also found humor in the fact that "Turkish viagra" was various roasted nuts (go figure). I explored and figured out a bit of Istanbul's public transit, and am now relaxing the footsies because (as Elena would say) my dogs are barking, boo.

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Fresh pomegranate, grape, and pistachio Turkish delight

Random note, but a Kurdish man approached me in the Grand Bazaar, saying that my Ecuador bracelet looks like the Kurdish flag. He shared a bit about his negative experiences as a Kurd in Istanbul, saying that he would be pushed to the back of any line and was hassled by police. He said that Kurds were not welcome in some establishments. He said, "But it is better now." He then offered to give me a good price on some hand-painted cow-bone ring boxes.

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Fishing along the Golden Horn

9/14/14 at 1140 (Istanbul time)

Last night, I went out for dinner and exploration with my bunkmate Alistair from Scotland. We had an overpriced fish dinner with Efes beer at a restaurant facing the main street in Taksim. We had a good view of a dondurma salesman, looking good in his shiny vest as he worked his magic and rang the bells over his ice cream cart.

After dinner, we discovered a bar that specialized in delicious shots. When we walked in, we were handed a menu with column after column of creative mixes. I ordered a few at random and enjoyed my bits of mango and passionfruit and unknown alcohol. To my knowledge, I had no tequila. =P

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One of the many animated dondurma (ice cream) men of Istanbul

This morning I slept in and am about to head out now. First, I will book my hotels for Konya, Cappadocia, and Antalya. I've been feeling a little down since my last night in Portugal but realized today that I was not listening to music . . . the most music was in Ecuador. It's time to change that.

I move on to another day, to a whole new town with a whole new way . . .

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Döner kebab

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Fresh pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul

9/15/14 at 0015 (Istanbul time)

Reflection:
Directions to my hostel could have read as "Take the metro, then the funikuler to Taksim. Walk down the street with the Christmas lights of snowflakes, the street with the Burger King in front of the mosque. When you reach McDonald's, make a left."

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Blue Mosque

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One of Istanbul's famous wet hamburgers

Today, I got a museum card and went around to see the interior of the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Harem Museum, the Istanbul Archaeological Museums, and the Blue Mosque. Unfortunately, the crowds were a bit overwhelming at the various displays and there was construction at multiple locations. Tomorrow, possibly a Turkish bath and a tour of the Bosphorus for my last day in Istanbul? Then, getting ready for my flight to Konya.

9/16/14 at 0102 (Istanbul time)

On the bus heading to the airport for Konya. I had a fantastic last day in Istanbul. There were less crowds in the historic area and the pace less hectic, possibly because it was a Monday. I visited the Basilica Cistern based on a suggestion from my Colombian roommates, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Basilica Cistern

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Medusa heads within the cistern. Their origins are unknown and although theories exist for why they're positioned unconventionally, no one knows for certain.

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The famous tears column within the Basilica Cistern

Alistair left the hostel this morning and I found a new sleeping roommate when I returned to my room in the afternoon. My new roomie was Noel from Denver and once he was awake & clothed a little more modestly, we chit-chatted a bit, then decided to get some dinner with his friend Kevin. The three of us hit it off right off the bat, laughing and having a good time wandering Istanbul. We picked a restaurant from the string of establishments underneath the bridge on the Golden Horn. Our criteria seemed to be "where we're not hassled to look at a menu". Afterward dinner and distracting fireworks, we wandered and found a relaxed bar with blues and 'possibly' Radiohead playing. We drank Turkish beer, shared bits of ourselves, and it was during this time that I realized how much I was missing conversation between friends. I had gotten a touch of friendship with Alistair before he left, but felt a more genuine flow in the conversations with Noel and Kevin about old pizza and stories of the male nether region.

I'm off to see Konya, then Cappadocia, and I'm not sure after that. I will be returning to Istanbul before my flight to Bangkok and it is possible my new Denver friends may be there because Kevin is waiting for a visa from the Indian embassy. Is it so terrible to say I hope the Indian visa doesn't come through too quickly so I can enjoy a drink with my new friends when I return?

Next time, photos with these friends . . . Kevin's right, it's hard to remember to take photos with the people you meet along the way . . . I'm happy that I remembered a group photo with my Sacha Yacu family. For now, on to catch some sleep during this hour and a half bus ride.

9/16/14 at 0146 (Istanbul time)

Soooo . . . that 1.5, maybe 2 hour bus ride to the airport?? Yeah, it took 30 minutes. Now preparing to sleep for a few hours in front of the Burger King and Popeyes in the chilly terminal. *sigh*

9/16/14 at 1416 (Konya time)

Made it to the Mevlana Museum, the resting place on Rumi and home of the original whirling dervishes. Sitting at the cafe on the museum grounds, drinking some Dergâh Serbeti, aka Dervish Sherbert. It's an apple vinegar drink with honey, which is quite excellent. The only downside was when an Afghani man came and sat next to me with a Sprite drink and proceeded to show me family photos and ask for money. This was all in a foreign language but the pantomiming was clear enough. Good to know in Konya you are not hassled as much, however, it is still present.

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Mevlana Museum

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Whirling dervish sherbert drink made of apple vinegar and honey

My hotel is literally one street away, which I'm grateful for. After this, perhaps a little exploration of Konya?

9/16/14 at 2051 (Konya time)

Sitting at a restaurant in front of the Mevlana Museum, which is lit up beautifully at night, waiting on my dinner. This morning, I visited the museum, then explored Aladdin's Hill before wandering through the streets of Konya. It's a simple city without much in ways of attractions or quirky shops. I'm still happy to say I've been here and was intrigued to see the clothing of Rumi, to feel the walls that housed the original dervishes. Tomorrow, the bus to Cappadocia . . .

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Alaettin Tepesi, or Aladdin's Hill

9/17/14 at 0944 (Konya time)

In the bus, getting ready to head to the city of Göreme and the region of Cappadocia. Free WiFi and only 35TL for a 3.5 hour ride? Yes, please. =)

I'll be staying in my first cave hotel, which has me pretty crazy excited. Hoping to see some traditional Turkish dance tonight or whirling dervishes if possible, then tomorrow an all day tour. I can't wait . . . to explore the Cappadocia region has been a dream for many years.

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9/18/14 at 1721 (Göreme time)

I love Göreme! The fantastic staff at Grand Cave Suites welcomed me with a complimentary beer and a no-cost upgrade. Based on their suggestion, yesterday I visited the Open Air Museum and explored the nearby cave dwellings. It's shocking to me that you can walk throughout these structures and actually touch history. I am used to areas of historic interest being barricaded off with "no flash photography, please". It was thrilling to jump, crawl, and climb around them. The Open Air museum had a number of churches and discussed the historical roots of the Cappadocia region.

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Grand Cave Suites grounds in Cappadocia


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After my bits of exploration, I finally saw a performance of the whirling dervishes! I visited the Saruhan Cultural Center, where we were also supplied with a complimentary tea afterwards. We enjoyed the tea as an elaborate and beautiful display show came on the side of the brick wall of the center to illustrate Turkish history and culture.

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Whirling dervishes at the Saruhan Cultural Center

Today has been fantastic as well. I booked the Rose Tours Green Line tour for 120TL with the help Gurcan at Grand Cave Suites. A full-day tour, we saw the underground city of Derinkuyu where less than 10% has been excavated. We went 8 stories beneath the ground and learned about how the people lived and the city worked when they were there hiding from threatening forces. We also did a mild hike through Ihlara Valley, where we also stopped for lunch. We learned of onyx and saw demonstrations of polishing. I stayed away from the expensive stuff and was happy to find a small pumice stone carving of the Fairy Chimneys that will be coming home with me. I am now back in Göreme for a little clay-pot cooked dinner before preparing for my overnight bus to Antalya.

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The morgue area of Derinkuyu

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Example of the many al frescos seen on our tour

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Filmmakers' inspiration for Tattoine in Star Wars films. Some guidebooks mistakenly say it is the filming location.

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Cappadocia region

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Learning how the wine pourers were meant to work

9/19/14 at 0343 (Antalya time)

Quick break on the overnight bus with Kamilkoc to Antalya. I have never seen a mosque in a bus stop before. Everyone is snoring, hooping I'll fall back to sleep once we head off again. Should be there around 7:30 or so, then get picked up by my hotel. *yawn* Back to sleeeeep . . . .

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9/19/14 at 2112 (Antalya time)

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Lara Beach

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Sunset in Antalya

My day in Antalya was pretty good. I'm getting ready to start the packing process, then will head out for some live music and late night dinner before I leave this little beach town. Today, I took the KL08 bus to Lara Beach on the Eastern side of Antalya. You can take the same bus back to the Western side to check out Konyaalta Beach, which I had heard is not as good (but looked the same from a distance). There are a couple rocky ocean areas between the two where you can pay for access and sit among the waves. Be forewarned, there's no shade!

I swam in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time, enjoying how calm the waves were and how far out I could go. I walked around and saw various ruins amongst the beautiful cobblestone street areas of Antalya. I had dinner in a restaurant overlooking the waters with boats passing by in the darkness and chit chatted for a while with a lady named Inga from Holland who started solo traveling ten years ago following a divorce. I find her lively and outgoing, and now she is here in Antalya for 13 days having a reunion of sorts with various couples and solo travelers she has met along the way. I told her about Solo Travel Society on facebook and we spoke for some time aboout the beneits of being along, marveling at how it ends up being more of a social experience than anything else.

Now to pack . . . again. =P

9/20/14 at 1128 (Istanbul time)

I've arrived safe and sound, now on the Havatas bus headed for Taksim neighborhood. Last time, it took 30 minutes to the airport. I'm assuming to Taksim it shall take much longer with all the drop off's we'll have to do. I heard from Noel and Kevin, who are visiting Bozcaada island in the Aegan Sea. They'll be back tomorrow afternoon to Istanbul and so will try to stay at the Chambers of the Boheme hostel as well so we can hang out on Sunday evening and Monday all day. We'll all be leaving Istanbul on Tuesday . . . I'm pretty sad, actually, wish I could join them throughout Turkey and experience the country a bit of a different way. Thinking about it now, that is an option . . . I could extend a flight. But I'm eager to see Thailand and get soaked by rain water and visit New Zealand.

9/21/14 at 1414 (Erdek time)

There was a change of plans and now I am relaxing in Erdek, awaiting the arrival of Noel from Bozcaada. Kevin is moving on to Istanbul so that he may pick-up his visa from the Indian embassy tomorrow at the right time. This is a sleepy little beach town, easily accessible by the IDO ferry from Yenakopi to Bandirma (two hour ride for 49TL), then hopping a minibus to Erdek for 5TL. My hotel was supposed to have a free shuttle from the otogar (bus station) but the phone number provided was no longer in service. After a quick 16TL cab ride, I was at my home for the night. After a little relaxation, I am now wandering the beach . . . and infinitely more happy than if I had stayed in Istanbul.

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Floating car, because why not?

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My second Turkish coffee of the trip.

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Mine: "Tuborg, the Turkish cyborg beer."
Kevin: "Tuborg, when one borg isn't enough."
(Kevin clearly wins)

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Wicker umbrellas decorate sand beaches in Erdek

9/22/14 at 1841 (Bandirma time)

Sitting on the ferry, ready to head to Yenokapi. Relaxing with a Kayisi Nektari drink. With Noel, going to meet up with Kevin and friends from Germany. Erdek was indeed a sleepy little town and we didn't do as much exploration as much of sitting and relaxing. Unfortunately no swimming in the water, although I did dip my feet within the first hour . . .

Looking forward to hanging out with friends, humored that it will be the third time returning to Chambers of the Boheme, excited to move on to Bangkok but at the same time going to miss new friends and connections that were made. Oddly going to miss Ahmet and his swagger-style.

9/23/14 at 0109 (Istanbul time)

Last night in Taksim complete, no more time at Chambers of the Boheme with the colorful owner Mr. Ahmet. Exhausted and about to go to sleep, had my last döner wrap with Kevin and Noel. Going to miss those crazy guys, wish we were able to hang out more. With the travel bug in place, hoping for more travel time in the future. Sleep time in a sweaty shirt . . .

9/23/14 at 1517 (London time)

11.5 hour fight to Bangkok on the exit row with leg space? Score!! =P

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Salt-baked sea bass

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Beer shots and freshly laundered clothes (that were put in a dryer!) make me happy

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Gourd lamp in Göreme

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Posted by WanderingWorld 05:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged cappadocia turkey istanbul rtw goreme konya foot_shot analya erdek cave_hotel

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