Kathy & Dave consider the Adirondack Mountains of NY our home. We love to hike and travel, exploring the world around us. Dave retired from the National Park Service after 30 years and had the opportunity to live in National Parks like Redwood, Shendandoah,Death Valley, Biscayne, American Memorial Park (in Saipan/Guam), and others. His last park before retiring was the Blue Ridge Parkway where he was actively involved with establishing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Kathy has extensive experience in the medical field, from pushing papers to working with patients. Currently both work for the same hospital: Dave as an Emergency Preparedness Coordinator and Kathy in the Revenue Cycle Division as the Director of PFS. (Kathy is now foot loose and fancy free, until she returns to the USA and has to get back into the grind, maybe!)
Today it is all about what is the same and what is different!! What is the same? Well, we can tell you that the bus seats are the same old bus seats. We have all staked out our spots and that does not seem to change to a large degree. The same driver and guide and the same cohorts in our Turkey adventure. It seems like the archeological ruins are the same, yet they are very different. Yesterday July 17th,we visited the city of Troy – you know the one that made Brad Pitt famous or is it the other way around? No matter, Troy is famous in its own right. It was written about in Greek mythology as the bronze age city that was attacked during the Trojan War. The city has been built and rebuilt multiple times and it was amazing to see the differences in the layers of buildings stacked upon each other like Lego blocks. While they did not “fit” together concisely they still felt balanced in their symmetry. So, while different yet the same and the differences just added to the awe of the site. The wooden horse from the movie Troy was located at the site and while we could not climb into the horse, we did get a chance to wander around it and see how grand and large it was. Our goal when returning home is to watch the movie. Dave might have to twist Kathy’s arm to watch a buff Brad Pitt in old small Roman outfits fill the large screen of our TV.
What is different? Well, we left the hotel Blanca yesterday after being baked alive in our rooms during the night. At no point could we get the temperature to drop below 85 degrees and we sweated, tossed and turned through the night, desperately wishing for some relief. After our road trip to visit Troy and the archeological ruins of a hospital we arrived at the coast along the Dardanelles. We checked into our hotel room. The room overlooked the water and we blissfully basked in the cool of the air-conditioning that actually worked in the room. Dinner was served at the early hour of 7 pm and consisted of trays and trays of appetizers and then a main course. A lovely time was had by all. We then walked along the river’s edge where we people watched and saw some local musicians entertaining the crowd. The biggest difference was in how well both of us slept that night. It was quiet, cool, and felt lovely.
While we have not loaded many pictures, we plan on uploading bunches when we get home. Today we get on the ferry and head towards Istanbul, our last stop before coming home.
Another difference, our numbers have reduced. We started the trip with a group of nine: a couple Algeria now living in France, a couple living in Austin that were originally from Iraq, and a family of three from Florida. We are now down to just the Florida family and us. The other two couples left with a group of Spanish tourists that were on a quest to get to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul to do some shopping. We started our journey with a short ferry ride and arrived on the European side of the city of Turkey. We headed immediately to the sites of the WWI battlefield of Gallipoli where we solemnly viewed the gravestones of the many Australians, New Zealanders, and Turkish soldiers who battled each other in 1915. The Turkish government has done an admirable job of honoring all those who died during the battles waged on Turkish soil, the only WWI battle site in all of Turkey (and there are no WWII battle sites as Turkey was neutral during that war.). After touring multiple sites, we boarded our bus to head into the heart of Istanbul, a long journey through mountains, along the straits of the Dardanelles and along the coast of the Aegean Sea, and by hundreds of fields of sunflowers
It is said that water is the fountain of life, that it has the power to heal, to strengthen, and is the foundation of all living organisms. After the last two days we have seen a lot of water in various forms, from the natural springs of Pamukkale, to the healing spring outside of the Virgin Mary’s last home in the mountains of Turkey.
We started the day bright and early on the 15th of July in order to reach our first destination in Pamukkale. Like many of our days on this tour, we stop and take breaks along the way. One such stop was an early travel lodge called Sultan Han Caravanserai, which served as a way point for travelers along the Silk Road and also protected the people and their animals inside. The site was built in approximately 500 A.D. and was still in remarkable condition. Dave met a young kitten who he picked up and loved on. Kathy wanted to pack him/her in our luggage. The kitten, though, was content in their surroundings and scampered away to play with his/her sibling.
Next stop was lunch at a place just by the side of the road. Like driving on the thruway going from Saranac Lake to Buffalo. Big difference: the food was good! Kathy enjoyed chicken kebab and Dave some marinated beef strips in a wonderful sauce. All in all, a great meal – one of the best we’ve had.
Next stop was Pamukkale which is a series of pools and hot springs fed by the underground springs that are heated up from their journey through the center of the earth. The magma heats the water as it journeys to the surface of the earth. We walked around the pools, stuck our feet in the lukewarm water and just enjoyed relaxing for several hours in the soothing water. On the way out, we spotted one of the ubiquitous cats here in Turkey. This one had a bird in its mouth. It brought the bird to its litter of kittens hiding in the ancient rock walls. It was a big hit!
Soon we were at our hotel, with an early dinner and an early bedtime to round out our day. The next day dawned bright and early and we were off by eight a.m. to see the sights. A drive through the high mountain regions of Turkey was very reminiscent of being in the high desert of Utah. Our first stop was a leather shop that specialized in high end leather goods. Dave was chosen to model a jacket and, always the willing participant, walked the catwalk with the professional models. He cavorted down the runway and willingly danced with the beautiful female model. No, we did not buy anything other than this memory dutifully recorded on Kathy’s phone.
Next stop was the last home of Virgin Mary near Ephesus. Many people believe that the Virgin Mary was taken there by St. Paul and she lived there for 9 years until the end of her life. The site was venerated by ancient Turks. Muslims also consider this a holy site. We stopped to wash our face and hands in the spring considered to have healing powers. It was spiritually awe-inspiring to walk the same ground, go in the same house, and touch the same water source as the Mother of Jesus.
On the way, we drove by the tomb of St. John. It is on a hill with a castle looking structure over it. Biblical history surrounds us everywhere we go.
Next stop was the archeological site of the Ephesian’s and is one of the most intact ancient ruins. The site housed an amphitheater and an ancient library. It was interesting to note that as large as this site, was and intact as it was, only approximately 15% has been excavated at this point in time. We marveled at the detail and ingenuity of the ancient builders. The Letters to the Ephesians in the bible was written by St.Paul to the inhabitants of the city. Water was very much on our mind as the heat of the sun and the long walk through the ruins necessitated we get some water halfway through our long walk. Ephesos Archaeological Site | World Monuments Fund (wmf.org)
It is official: we have landed in the world of Dr. Suess. From the trees from The Lorax, to the Salt Lake in Cappadocia that resembles the place where North Going Zax met up with South Going Zax, to the rock formations that we can only imagine the Grinch hiding and waiting to steal Christmas away from the unsuspecting people who live in Whoville. Even the buildings carved out of the stone looked like the homes of the innocents residing in Whoville.
Instead of being transported into a land dreamt up by Dr. Suess, we are in Cappadocia, Turkey. Driving through this country, we were reminded at times of North Carolina, sometimes Utah, and other times just about anywhere in the USA. Just when we thought we were back in the USA, we stopped and were confronted with the differences. This included squat toilets (Kathy still is very happy with her FUD), pizza that looks like pita bread with cheese on top, and the ever-present small cups of coffee being served everywhere. If that was not enough smoking in restaurants was a dead giveaway!! All-in-all, it is amazing here.
Yesterday we drove along and stopped in multiple sites marveling at the rock formations. We toured an underground city that was occupied as recently as the 1960’s. The underground city was a defense mechanism and a way of controlling the climate in the home during the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Yes, they do have winter in Turkey, and they get snow. There are even ski slopes! Exiting the underground city was a test of our will as women from the village hawked dolls by shrilly calling to you to come buy one. Kathy, unable to avoid the calls, broke down and bought one for the grand total of 10 Turkish Lira (about a buck twenty-five). Arriving late at our hotel, we ate dinner, went to bed.
Why to bed so early? We had a very early, like really, really, very early morning call to get up and take our hot air balloon ride over the rock formations of Cappadocia. As the photos will attest, it was well worth the 03:30 AM wake up call. The rest of the day was spent traveling through Cappadocia viewing the sites, a visit to a carpet shop, and then a stop at a jewelry store where Kathy again caved and purchased a beautiful ring.
Lunch was definitely a highlight. We stopped at a small café with our new American friends, Zack and Heather and their 10-year old son, Zack. We were the only patrons in the spot. We had a meal called testi kebapi. It is a beef stew that comes out in clay pots with flames leaping all about them. The server takes a sort of large Turkish knife and taps at the clay pot until it breaks open, then pours the boiling stew into small bowls. A barley-type grain came as a side dish. It was all delicious. Both of our meals together, including drinks, was 130 Turkish Lira, or about $15USD. We would have paid that amount just for the show that was the serving of the meal!
At another stop, there was a man hawking Turkish ice cream. A sucker for ice cream anyway, Kathy had to have one just for the show involved with this delivery! The man played “3-Card Monte” with the cones so that you often tried to get a lick of your dessert when it wasn’t even in your hand! Kathy laughed and laughed each time she thought she had a cone.
The day ended mercifully early today as we got back to our hotel at 4 PM. This gave us a good amount of time to rest up before dinner. Tomorrow, we set off at 7 AM for Pamukkale. Can’t wait!
Traveling movie quotes
“Surely you’re not serious!” “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” Can you guess the movie this came from? Do you need a hint? “Flight #136 has had a gate change. It is now arriving in Gate 11……now Gate 12….. Gate 13……… “ So, this is sort of how our entire day went. The day started off benignly enough. We were out the door again bright and early after checking out of our hotel room. Leaving our luggage in the lobby, we set off on foot to get in our last little bit of Greece. We needed more time. A quick walk to meet our bus and we had a morning tour of the Acropolis, Parthenon, Temple of Athena and the new museum. We met up with another couple, then a couple more arrived. The last couple was picked up first, then the next couple was picked up, while we waited at our “gate” to see the sights. Finally, victory!! We have been picked up, but then there were multiple sites where they stopped and picked up more people. One of the couples was from West Virginia, and they stood out!! Could it be the accent? Finally, we were off!! While we had visited the site already on our own, it was nice to have a tour guide with her knowledge to further fill in the gaps of the history surrounding the ancient sites. A quick tour around the city followed as she explained many of the historical buildings, some of which we did not get a chance to visit. (A good excuse to come back). Lastly, the museum which houses so much history, sculpture, vases, and artifacts. It was amazing to see. You could spend an entire day just wandering through the museum. Deciding to walk back to the hotel, we finished the tour and headed out to enjoy our last moments. Lunch in a café by the side of a road where we could watch the people passing by was fun. Soon it was time to get back to the hotel to meet our driver to take us to the airport.
Ahhhh, the airport. In case you did not guess correctly, the quotes above were from the movie Airplane! The first stop was getting our tickets and checking in our luggage. This was one of the most interesting moments in airport traveling we have ever seen. A man and his family were working hard at carrying on a menagerie of toys that were bubble wrapped and taped. These were not small toys, mind you, but what appeared to be large stuffed animals, some a couple feet long and a couple feet high. You could guess the animal, the most obvious was the small rocking horse. After half an hour, the airport staff had had enough, and a very animated and lively argument ensued between the ticket agent and the man. Mediterranean men can be very animated and passionate in their arguments. A supervising ticket agent was standing on a higher shelf arguing over the counter at the other man. Neither was giving an inch. The manager reminded us of Lindy Ruff, the former Buffalo Sabres coach, getting animated and leaning over between the team boxes screaming at the coach for the Ottawa Senators during the 2006 playoffs. Unlike hockey, though, the manager of the ticket agents didn’t get tossed out. The upshot of all of this, of course, was a serious delay in getting our luggage checked in and receiving our boarding passes.
But now, Kathy was fretting about missing the flight. Rushing Dave to the gate, she said, “You can use the bathroom when we find the gate!” Keeping his bladder in check, Dave appeased her and found the gate. He had time as the flight wasn’t scheduled to board for another 30 minutes. Grabbing a quick drink, salad, and some snacks we sat down to wait for our flight. Suddenly, Kathy noticed that the sign at the gate stated that our flight had a new gate! Where is our gate??? The sign just stated, “New gate,” with no indication as to what that gate was going to be. Kathy asked Dave and he said he had not heard any announcements about a gate change for our flight. Others? Sure. But not our flight. Nope, nothing announced, just the enigmatic sign, “New gate.” Time ticked by, soon we were supposed to be boarding. No gate, and no plane at the gate. Dave went to ask the gate agent, but she just said she knew nothing because she did not work for our airline. Getting up, we headed off trying to find some information on our flight. Standing around a signboard in the middle of the airport, along with a bunch of others also in our predicament, we finally saw the sign change from “New Gate” to “Gate A05”. We all rushed to Gate 05 so that we could….wait. There was no plane at this gate either!! Where is our plane? Dave spoke with a couple originally from Turkey, but now living in Sweden (where she is a nurse, in the middle of the pandemic, in Sweden, which did not close, use masks, or vaccinate people!) The couple had an app that showed where our plane was. It was airborne, but would be to Athens in an hour and a half. A little over two hours later, we finally were taking off. Next stop, Istanbul.
We should have said “layover” at the Istanbul airport since it took forever to get through passport control. The lines snaked around 4 times. While we waited the 1.5 hours to get our passports stamped, we talked with a young guy behind us. He was born in Russia, but lives and attends college in the US and has passports for both countries. He was headed to Turkey to meet somebody for business on a yacht. Why can’t we ever be heading to meet someone on a yacht?? Anyway, another hour and a half later, our passports were stamped, and we were officially in Turkey!
Finally with luggage in hand, we headed out to find our driver. Score! We have a ride!! Next stop…….. or should we say journey…was our hotel. We landed on the Asian continent and drove to the European continent. Istanbul lies on two continents. This took approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes driving over a bridge over the Bosporus River to get to the hotel. The driver graciously pointed out the sites, but Kathy was too tired to look. It was amazing that even at midnight, there was bumper to bumper traffic in this city of 18 million people. Finally at the hotel room, or sauna, where the air conditioner did not work, and the temperatures forced both of them to sleep on top of the covers. Morning came way too early!
We had asked the guy who picked us up at the airport what time the tour would pick us up. The time on the paperwork he gave us was blank. At 1 o’clock in the morning, and not getting a hold of anyone to ask, he told us that since the tour was a half-day tour, it would probably start at noon. Kathy’s suggestive powers apparently worked on him because that is precisely the time she had jokingly said she would be ready! Dave happened to ask the front desk clerk after breakfast about us taking the tour today. Good thing he did. Our tour guide was already here to pick us up. The day started out well with a walk through the Grand Bazaar, which is basically a great big outdoor mall, as Dave called it, the Galleria Mall. It has over 4000 little stores which are basically the same stores over and over again. Next stop was the Palace of Topkapi, which houses some amazing artifacts. It is originally the home and office of the sultan. Among the artifacts are items including the walking staff of Moses, bones from the hand and skull from St. John the Baptist, and items from St Joseph and the prophet Muhammed. It even had a sword from David, of Goliath-slaying fame.
Now on the bus heading to our next stop in our journey. See you all soon!!
We reached our goals today and boy were they good goals!! We managed to get up in time to exit our room on the cruise ship at the early hour of 07:00 and eat breakfast. Little did we know that we would be “cooling our heels” for hours while waiting for the passengers with the yellow luggage tags to be called to exit. Of course, the colors called went in order: fuchsia, green, pink, then yellow and blue. While we were not last, it seemed like it. We soon found our ride and were quickly back at the same hotel in Athens we left just a few days earlier. Not able to check in at this early hour, we deposited our luggage at the hotel desk and set off exploring. Our next goal was to see the changing of the guard at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier. We have a great video, but unfortunately, we cannot download the entire video to the website. Instead we recommend you watch this video, Changing of Guards, Athens (2017) – Bing video (less the music instead imagine lots of car noises)
Another goal reached, now what? Well, something to drink, a bathroom – always on Kathy’s mind – and maybe a bite to eat. Stopping by a small café, we had water, coke zero, a short stack of some amazing pancakes for Kathy and the best bathroom in all of Athens!! Sitting casually, we just enjoyed resting at the table, until, of course, one of the ubiquitous smokers came along and drove us away. We then walked to Hadrian’s Arch and the Temple of Zeus. Heading back to the hotel, we checked in and rested for a bit before heading back out to climb to the tallest point in Athens. Walking to the Lycabettus Cable Car, we rode up to the tallest point in Athens. This was a big goal achieved as the walk was uphill during the hottest part of the day, but oh! what a good goal. We were amazed at the top of the mountain to see the panoramic sweeping views of the city of Athens. Seeing the Parthenon across the valley, one side the sweeping views of mountains, and another view of the Mediterranean Sea. Wow!!! We also watched a small forest fire crop up on top of a far ridge. It was contained rather quickly and Dave lamented the days when the odor of forest fires meant big paychecks would be heading his way.
Deciding that we had reached our goals, we needed a new one and decided to hoof it down the mountain instead of taking the cable car back down. Sounds tough, huh? Not really, but we still accomplished the goal even though it was an easy one. Stopping on the way back to the hotel we had an early dinner of Mexican food. While on this trip we have had Greek, Egyptian, Italian, Mexican food and pizza. A trip around the world for our stomach!
Soon we were back to the hotel to chill again for a while. It was a nice pace for us today. Finally heading out to look for dessert, we headed out and soon found ourselves in Plaka, which is part of the old town. It is a series of small streets lined with stores and restaurants. It was a good way to end our day of reaching a goal of exceeding our heart points and steps on the Fit app. All in all, we walked over 9.7 miles with over 20,000 steps. Way to reach our goal! Tomorrow we spend some more time in Greece with a package tour in the morning and then in the evening, we head to Turkey. More than halfway through our trip!!
Today was a series of lasts: last full day on the cruise ship, last day to visit the islands, and last day for Kathy’s Z-pack series of antibiotics. The day started bright and early as we had to get up and get our PCR COVID test, which will be needed for the flight to Turkey in two days. Then we had a quick breakfast, went to the cabin to get cleaned up, and we were off for our next adventure.
The next adventure took place on the island of Crete. Crete is the largest of the Greek Isles and the 5th largest in the Mediterranean Sea. A full 48% of the Crete income comes from tourism. Most of the rest is agriculture, particularly from the millions of olive trees used in making extra-virgin olive oil. Since it is less than 200 miles from Europe, Asia, as well as from Africa, its strategic location has made it an attractive island to conquer for thousands of years.
Once the tour ended, we decided to stay on the island and stroll around the streets wandering through shops and eating lunch while doing some people watching. Lunch was a traditional Greek fare that had Dave trying for the first time souvlaki, which was not what either of us expected (Dave had no idea what to expect!). Kathy had a traditional gyro, which was not so Americanized. The meat comes in pieces, and you put your gyro together. We walked up some stairs, rounded some corners and soon we were back at the boat dock. Not yet wanting to return onboard so quickly, we decided to walk in another direction where we found some statues that detailed some of Greece’s famous mythological legends.
Kathy’s bladder finally insisted it was time to return to the boat and we boarded in the late afternoon. We enjoyed a quiet hour or so in the room just reading, dozing, and relaxing. In a quest to get in our steps we decided to stroll around the ship. We meandered up to the top deck where we watched kids play in the pool, mothers get mad at the kids who were playing in the pool, and old people chuckling (and, we are sure, saying like us, “Phew! Thank goodness we are past that!”) While it was fun watching it all play it out, we did not last long in that location, as we were driven out by the smoke from the boat smoke stacks. Instead, we went to the sports bar where the only sports were a bunch of kids playing Wii bowling – seriously!!! 😊 😊
Finally, it was time for dinner, but first we had to change. Dave knew better this time! He learned his lesson tonight and changed before arriving at the restaurant. While enjoying another wonderful dinner, Kathy noticed that a young boy at the next table was wearing shorts. On their way out, Dave had a lively discussion with the pants patrolman about sex discrimination and now age discrimination. The answer from the pants patrolman, “Put it in the comment section of your guest questionnaire.” The staff on the entire ship has been outstanding and their sense of humor matched Dave at every level! We had a wonderful time.