Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Listen to the Mockingbird

A few days ago, some Facebook folks posted a cheery little youTube video of a young girl jumping up and down on her bathroom vanity, shouting a string of wild affirmations into the mirror about herself and her world. It was striking in its intensity and spontanaeity, a moment of pure and innocent joy in being alive.

This morning, lying in bed listening to one of the many neighborhood mockingbirds that light up daybreak with their lovely and varied songs, and in-air somersaults, I thought of that little girl. I love our mockingbird morning concerts, because for me they are a reminder to rejoice in just being able to be awake, alive, and participating in what happens here on earth. They are a gift of pure beauty, a vibrant pulse in life's heartbeat. Thanks, little birds!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Love my iPad, for those who wondered!

Inquiring minds want to know! So many people have asked about how I liked traveling with the iPad. I thought it was the perfect little traveling companion. It is lightweight and so versatile. I was able to use it for email, internet browsing, reading books, writing blogs, listening to music, playing games, making travel plans, reading maps, checking on flights, navigating subways and buses, and so much more! There I am, above, on the patio in Kapadokya, iPaddling down the stream of consciousness.

The keyboard is very sensitive and takes some getting used to. I frequently switched from alpha to numeric keys when I didn't want to, and it has taken time to get better at avoiding that glitch. For the limited amount of writing I did each day, it was just fine. Someday I may get a little wireless keyboard, as they are now available.

The biggest drawback was not being able to download photos from my camera. We left the country before the photo card reader attachment became available. This forced me to use Daniella's laptop to download my photos, and often caused a lag on my blogs where no photos were available for a few days. Hated that part!

One fun and unanticipated bonus of carrying an iPad was being among the first in Europe to have one. They won't be released there until mid-June. Whenever I took it out, people swarmed around it wanting to feel it, try it, play with it. It was a real people-magnet, like having a puppy only not quite as cute! On our flight from Izmir, I sat with an elderly Turkish couple who now live in Munich. They spoke only Turkish and German, no English, but we were able to converse for two hours using only my very rough German and the iPad. We shared photos, maps, and used the drawing/art application to make words and pictures to get around the language barrier. It was engrossing and delightful to converse with the iPad as a helper! Neither of them had ever heard of it, and they seemed unfamiliar with computers. Yet the iPad is so user-friendly that they were soon enjoying it and easily able to navigate around on it. We had some great in-air bonding!

I can also report that Desmond, now age 22 months, loves to play with the iPad. He can turn it on and find his favorite apps. He begs to play with it. So for all those who are curious, I love my iPad! Go get one!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


For those who are interested, our tour was organized by Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), and in my opinion it was great value for the money, and super well-organized and exciting. I see on their web site that you can catch a last-minute reservation for the same trip we had for as little as $1995 per person!

It goes without saying that one's traveling companions can make or break the travel! We were fortunate to have a lovely group for our time in Turkey, and now seems like an appropriate moment to acknowledge that and say farewell to all of you! Most of these photos were taken by Daniella, who has the best eye!

First of all, our fantastic guide, Erol, who was like a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about Turkey, past and present, and who surprised us every day with new "discoveries". Amazing person!Judy and Joe (below)
Wendy & Roger (below)
The irrepressible Daniella (below)
Bob & Linda (below)
Edie and Nonie (sisters, below)
Marilyn and Mary Kay (below)
Don and Maida (below)
Thanks everyone for adding to our fun and laughter! Happy trails to you all.

Journey's End

We are back in Santa Cruz, after a long day and night and day, about 30 hours of travel over 10 time zones, stopping in Munich, Washington DC, and finally San Francisco. We were greeted by our doggies who gave us oodles of kisses to welcome us home again!

Yesterday was a bit of a fog, with the jetlag sandbagging us, although we did get to see Desmond, our grandson! One month away from him has been hard, and he has grown up so much and so quickly, many new words, taller, and running faster than ever! Lucky us!My little vegetable garden, that I left as dirt and a few tiny seedlings, is now fully flourishing, and we will eat good green things tonight!

I thought I'd share these photos taken in the airport in Izmir, Turkey, in the duty-free shop. In contrast, in the US any warnings on cigarette packages are microscopic.I also enjoyed this bit of "truth in advertising" at Ephesus.I have one more postscript to add about this trip (for now), and will do that in a separate post!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Gorusuruz Turkey

I don't have the right keyboard to put the little dots on top of all the vowels in that word, "so long" to Turkey. But check out this site: to see this amazingly gorgeous hotel where we are spending our last few precious hours in Kusadasi. We just got out of a dip in the Aegean and then the pool, and are getting ready for the farewell dinner in the outdoor dining room on the edge of the sea. You can see Daniella sleeping by the pool in the photo below, lower right corner!For our last excursion today we went to Ephesus. It is the second most popular tourist attraction in Turkey (after Istanbul) and it was pretty crowded with tourists. Nontheless, it was a magnificent site, a once ancient city known throughout the world, referred to often in the Bible, and a place that was first built up in the second millennium BC, and then grew to immense power and size (estimated population in Roman times was 300,000).

What remains is impressive in size and scale, for example a theater that held 30,000 people, a library that was ranked as one of the top three in the ancient world (below), wide paved streets, marketplaces, huge baths, walls, and lovely mosaic floors. What amazed me was how much of it is still unexcavated, waiting for teams of archaeologists to come in and unearth what remains hidden. In fact this is true at most of the ancient sites we have visited in Turkey. They represent a fragment of the historical area, and much remains underground. In the photos below, the light green areas that stretch on both sides of the city are unexcavated.My imagination was fired up thinking about what life must have been like in this city at it's prime, and wanting to know more about it. Our guide suggested we begin by reading Architektura by Vetruvius, and when I get home I may just start there! Other suggestions most welcome.

We were there all morning, and only saw a small part of what can be seen. We then went to the Temple of Artemis ruins nearby, where the Amazon women ruled. Here the site is completely broken down, but we could see the size and shape of the original temple and it was massive, on the scale of the Blue Mosque.

Lunch was at a Turkish style place out in the country (Cave of the Seven Sleepers) where we sat on cushioned benches around low tables outdoors and had the Turkish equivalent of quesadillas stuffed with vegetables and cheese. These women were rolling out the flat bread and baking it on a griddle on top of a wood fire.And now our trip is ended. In about 12 hours we'll be flying on the first leg of our journey home, Icelandic volcanos willing! We are happy/sad about this, happy to come home to all our loved ones, and sad to leave this fascinating country when we feel we have only scratched the surface. We want to know the language, taste more food, visit more villages, drink it all in deeply. We love you, Turkey!

-- Posted from my iPad

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Counting Down The Clock

Sadly we bid goodbye to our ship crew this morning, after a great four day cruise. We will miss the playful young Farouk, our serious Captain, the impish and lovable Emi, our chef and newest convert to Spite and Malice, the wiry and soulful Hassan.

It was a long drive to Ephesus, across high mountains, through a big agricultural plain (Meander River Valley) where honey and pomegranates and citrus and figs and olives are everywhere. We made a special lunch stop at Sirence, a tiny village high atop a winding mountain road. This is a Greek orthodox village, nestled deep in the heartland of Turkey. As with many of our stops, Erol had arranged ahead for a prix fixe meal, covered by the tour costs, and all we do is walk in, sit down and eat. No choice of menu, all a big surprise. Today we were surprised by an 11 course lunch of such extreme deliciousness we thought we would burst. I tried to photograph the entire thing, and I'll get something posted as soon as possible. OMG!!etc.......

Temp was in the 80's this afternoon, but we visited the Church of St. John Evangelist located at the very spot where the acropolis of Ephesus was once located. At its prime it was the largest church in Asia Minor. Supposedly John the Apostle is buried there, and it has a long history. We also went through the archaeological museum to prepare for tomorrow's visit to Ephesus. It was too hot and we were too stuffed to get much out of any of it, sadly although there were some amazing statues of Artemis. We watched some huge nesting storks, and tried to find shady spots or passing breezes. Yes, we are tired from all this fun.

In the late afternoon, we arrived at our final hotel, in Kusadasi right on the Aegean Sea, where we will spend our last two nights before flying home on Thursday. This is a five star hotel, quite new and luxurious. there is a lot of access to the sea right out front, plus an "infinity pool", a spa and sauna, gigantic restaurant buffet included (looked a lot better than it tasted), and internet access. yay!!! Tomorrow will be our last touring day. It will be hot again. We will love every minute of it and soak in how lucky we are to have had this phenomenal adventure.

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Gazi Beğendi Sk,Kuşadası,Turkey

African Queen? No,wrong movie!

We left the luxury of our sailboat this morning and boarded a little putt-putt river boat for a trip out of our cove, across the gulf, and up a nearby river. Both the boat and the river were, as Joe Stabile pointed out, very reminiscent of the African Queen. But our pilot fell short of Bogart's manly charms, alas. Daniella thought it was like the jungle boat ride in Adventureland at Disneyland, sans hippos and pith helmets. Anyway, we wound through a labyrinth of reedy marshlands, somehow following a main channel that would have baffled all of us. We were headed to another ancient site, Kaunos at Dalyan.This river was full of loggerhead turtles (huge) and blue crabs. Along the way upstream we encountered crab boats pulled up into the reeds where big turtles were circling for crab scraps, and men were BBQ'ing crabs. We put in an order, to be picked up upon our return downstream, and continued on upriver to our destination. Kaunos is a lovely spot, high on a promontory looking out over that gorgeous river/marshland area on one side, and on another down into a valley full of pomegranate and citrus orchards and red-tiled rooftops. There were a few shepherds up there with cows, and thousands of honey bees buzzing in the dappled sunlight. Turkey has a huge honey business, and we have had honey every day, some of it flavored with rose petals, divine. And yogurt three times a day, super divine! But I digress.

The amphitheater and mostly unexcavated ruins at Kaunos date to the 2nd century BC and were lovely small in scale compared to what we have seen so far, although there were some lovely chamber tombs. We wandered around up there in the heat of the morning, then returned to our river boat and back through the marshes, lazily, making sure to pick up those crabs to go with our lunch. Not that we needed more food.

Meals on the ship were lavish, succulent, and varied. Our lunch following the river trip was eggplant moussaka, greek salad, rice, mixed vegetables, bread, and fresh fruit for dessert. Every day at tea time we get tea with freshly baked cakes or cookies. Then there is dinner, a huge feast. Last night we had sauteed chicken breasts, shrimp, fried eggplant with yogurt, steamed cauliflower, Greek salad, marinated red cabbage, bread, couscous, and fresh green melons. As long as I'm digressing, I'll let you know that our typical shipboard breakfast consist of tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, a yellow cheese, cucumbers, yogurt, an egg dish, orange juice, tea, coffee, two kinds os honey, several jams, and muesli cereal. It seem impossible to ever feel hungry, yet at each meal, we rush to the table, mouths watering! Maybe the relevant film for the day is "la Grande Bouffe".

After lunch and a swim in the choppy blue sea, we pulled up anchor for a bracing two hour sail into the wind and spray to Marmaris, a party town, where we docked for the night near a pine grove at the foot of the mountain. We were within sight of the town, but out of earshot, so we fell asleep to the sound of owls in the trees and the gentle lapping of waves outside our porthole.

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Gazi Beğendi Sk,Kuşadası,Turkey


Never left the ship today. It was a day for total relaxation, sunning, swimming, eating super delicious meals, and soaking up this sunny sea. We've been gently rocking as if we were in a giant cradle, lovely! We sailed from the little cove where we spent last night, and came about 30 miles further west to Ekincik, another small cove. This one has a hotel or yacht club where many other sail boats pulled in all afternoon to moor for the night.There was great entertainment, almost Laurel and Hardy style, when a German yacht with 5 male passengers attempted to anchor itself to some rocks adjacent to our gulet. This is an operation that we have now watched our nimble crew perform many times with great efficiency in about five minutes. They race to the shore with a small dinghy, attach a rope to a rock or a piton, while simultaneously lowering the anchor from the bow. Then both lines are tightened holding the ship in place through the night. These Turkish crew members are totally shipshape. We have watched them and learned the meaning of "running a tight ship".

The German guys backed in next to us and spent an hour and a half trying to tie up. They first tried to attach to the same rock as we were using, and kept drifting perilously close to us. The engine on their dinghy gave up, and one ended up swimming back to the ship dragging the dinghy by a rope around his chest. None of them was able to tie a nautical knot. Their rope kept slipping, snapping, snarling, and coming undone. We watched in amazement as they struggled to attach the ship using a square knot, a completely futile proposition. Many times the rope snapped away from the ship and sank into the water. This meant that they had to paddle back to the rock, retrieve the rope, and start over ...and over... and over!

At one point they actually backed their ship right over the dinghy. Several times they backed up over their rope, lying slack in the water. They came perilously close to hitting our ship so many times that our crew finally hung bumpers around that side. And they never said a word to us, even though we were 10 feet from this riveting drama. Finally they gave up, yanked in all their rope and anchor, and pulled into the yacht club marina, which probably cost them a pretty penny, but maybe not as much as it would have cost them had they crashed into our ship. We were delighted to see them leave.

So that's all the drama from the high seas today, folks. Stay tuned for more tales of adventure in the few remaining days we have on this little journey! Life is really, really good here.

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Gazi Beğendi Sk,Kuşadası,Turkey

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Fantastic Day again

NOTE: no time to arrange photos today, on a very short time frame for internet use. You'll just have to do the work of imagining which photos go with which part of the story today!

Before setting sail this morning we had one more land excursion, to a very touching ghost town, Kayaku, high in the hills above Fetiye, our port town. This community once numbered over 300 homes and several churches. It was occupied by Greeks for hundreds of years, until about 1900, when the Greek and Turkish governments made a deal to force the repatriation of those Greeks, who had never lived in Greece, and replace them with a similar group of Turks who had been living in Greece and had never lived in Turkey. The heartbreaking stories we heard this morning were about people torn from their homelands without notice, not allowed to bring many possessions, and forced to leave their entire village behind. Many left behind their children's dowries, their hand hewn furniture, their livestock and food supplies. Some had to leave so quickly that family members who were away at the time returned to find the village empty and the family torn apart.

The returned Turks, however, did not like this mountainside village they were given, so it became abandoned while the Turks built a newer village in the valley below. As we walked the streets of this sad place, those stories resonated. We saw strikingly beautiful stonework everywhere, and the remains of painted walls and simple mosaic floors. Everywhere we looked we saw the work of human hands, unsophisticated and beautiful, and infinitely varied.

Finally at around 11 am we set sail on our beautiful 110 foot sailboat. The water in this area is clear and bright turquoise close to land, and then a deeper cerulean blue in the main channels. We went first to a small cove where we tied up for lunch and swimming from the boat. Then we continued through the afternoon to a second cove, called Cleopatra's Baths. Indeed there are some ruins of a small Roman bath here, and the story is that Marc Anthony gave this land to Cleopatra as a little love token. Here we have sheltered all night, in such beauty and silence you could hardly imagine. We are surrounded by mountains, some snow-covered in a cove the shape of an oriole's nest.

Last night, in Cleo's honor, all the women put on heavy eye liner and eye shadow for dinner and a photo op, and great laughter. Food on the ship is outstanding and abundant. We lie around on deck, sipping cool drinks, chatting, reading, dozing, and feeling like gazillionaires on holiday. Finished off a wonderful day with a rousing game of Spite and Malice!

-- Posted from my iPad

Location:Mermerli Sk,Antalya,Turkey