Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Halloween is not celebrated in Turkey, which is kind of sad for American exchange students studying here. Halloween's non-existance is a phenomenon in itself given how much Turks seem to like their sugar. Turkish students at any rate seem to subsist on a steady diet of almost pure sucrose: sugar spiked tea, sugar drenched desserts, sugar infused candy bars and the odd simit. Simit don't have sugar. But students eat them - to be fair I had to add that. Oh - and their mother's cooking. And cigarettes - but I don't think those are a food group...

Anyway - this particular Halloween I am actually glad I'm too old to trick-or-treat/it doesn't happen in Turkey because I would definitely get blown into next Sunday if I went outside. Well - I already was outside a fair bit today (go figure the second flood comes on the one day a week I have classes all day and on three separate campuses) but if I went outside again today I'd probably have to do it naked because I have no dry clothes left.

So that's a bit of an exaggeration, but when I say that the water coming from the sky is blowing parallel to the sidewalk I'm not stretching the truth one iota. And I'm talking about the small amount of sidewalk, where it exists, in Istanbul that's actually flat. It's so windy there are white caps on the puddles and the rain is blowing up under the umbrellas. It's an umbrella slaughter out there - I've seen more dead, blown out umbrellas today alone then all the rest of my life combined - including movies.

Everything that could possible be wet is wet and everything that wasn't nailed down before the storm started yesterday is at least in another neighborhood if not drifting off to sea. If you had a hundred bottles of paint that were all gray and dumped them out on the floor that's what it looks like outside.

It is so awesome!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Most of the Time

We had a great time - but this is what we did most of the time - sit around, talk, eat, and drink tea. Lots of straight, black, super-strong Turkish tea.

The Canyon

Looking farther in

Inside the slot canyon

Looking out

Looking in

After our hike Monday Alex and I hiked another kilometer or so down into an amazing canyon. It narrowed to be about 15 feet wide at the lowest part with walls that were over a hundred feet on both sides. It was really quiet inside and the sheer size of it was incredible.


On the trail

The top of my head - as evidence I was there - right after introducing Turks to the deliciousness of carrot sticks in peanut butter.

Monday, while a group of 6 attempted the Demirkazik summit, the rest of us took a day long hike in to a beautiful valley - there was supposed to be a lake but we couldn't find it. It was incredible, the lack of lake not withstanding, and we made up for it with snowball fights.


Emrah and Emrah B. leading knots

After rappeling all of Sunday the older group members taught everyone else how to tie knots.

The Belt

Morning craft project: Functional and hip braided cord belt for those belt-forgetters in your camping party.

The Village

The 8 tents of our "village" for three nights.


Onur, Alex, and 10 eggs cozy in their egg suitcases. Yes. Egg suitcases.

See - eggs!


Tent Group 6

Me, Alex, and Onur: Tent Austrokahve!

There were 22 of us on the trip, broken down into 8 tent groups. Our group:

Hande/Handan (ageless): me (my Turkish names - there is some dispute apparently about which is more appropriate).

Alex aka Iskender (27): American Cal grad studying for his masters in Political Science at BÜ with the ability to find peanut butter in Turkey.

Onur (23): Undergrad in Business Administration with a penchant for English cuss words and vast amounts of meat, and sugar.

The Hike In

Almost there...

Somewhere around 2300 meters

Hiking with sheep

Looking back down into the valley

We hiked up from the valley floor to the shoulder of the mountains just below snow level, passing through a flock of sheep and stopping to speak with their shepherd.

Ala Dağlar

My first view of the Ala Dağlar

Ala Dağlar Milli Parkı trailhead/someone's backyard

After arriving in Niğde around 9 am and waiting two hours for the minibus to show up, we boarded a very crowded local dolmuş. That ride took an hour and a half over roads paved in pot holes to dump us at the feet of an incredible range of mountains. The Ala Dağlar are about 50 km long and located south of Kapadokya and North of Adana with the highest peak, Demerkazik, measuring 3756 meters.


Sunrise somewhere between Ankara and Niğde

Ramazan is a month-long Islamic holiday, during which practicing Muslims let nothing pass their lips from dawn until sunset or the prayer calls that mark those times. At the end of Ramazan, is the three day long (often celebrated for a week) holiday called Bayram.

For Bayram, I went on a backpacking trip with the school's mountaineering club, Büdak, to the Ala Dağlar. We met at 6:30 pm Friday night at the club's room on campus. From there, 4 of us walked down to the bus stop about half a mile away. We took a public bus to Beșiktaș, where we got on a ferry for Uskadar. In Uskadar, Furkan called his father who came and picked us up with our large packs and drove us to the Harem bus station. At the bus station, we met Elias, from Kyrgyzstan, and all five of us piled onto the public tour bus to Niğde. That bus happened to have overbooked by six seats, so four people sat on the stairs and in the aisles and two people rode below in the cargo area. The rest of the group - 17 people and their packs - rode in an 18 seat minbus for the 11 hour drive.

More Waffles!

Jill, Me and (more) waffles.

Jill's family came to Turkey for two weeks and I went out with them one evening on a walk from Bebek to get waffles down to Ortakoy for kumpir. We're getting pretty pro at the "Foods One Must Eat While in Istanbul" tour.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Dark chocolate, bananas, strawberries, coconut, and hazelnuts

Strawberries, cherries, dark chocolate, hazelnuts, and chocolate chips

After our exhausting time at the hamam relaxing for hours, we caught the tram and a bus to Bebek (where, using my new Akbil - quick pay thing - I accidentally paid for four people. oops) where we got waffles! No - waffles are not breakfast here. They are any-time snacks that are packed with all kinds of toppings from fresh fruit and sugary nutella-like spreads to yellow and green cherries, pickled somethings, and sprinkles and then folded over and eaten like a taco. The waffles come looking like the ones Mom and Dad make on their heart shaped waffle maker at home - exactly the same! The actually waffle part is definitely not as good as homemade... but I wouldn't mind adopting some Turkish toppings!

Çemberlitas Hamami

Pretending to be the Herbal Essence commercial

Me and Amy post-hamaming in Sultanahmet

Saturday, Amy and I went to check out a hamam - the Turkish baths. They were really intersesting - a totally un-American experience (Amy's from North Carolina) involving lots of steam, scrubbing and marble slabs. Afterwards we felt so clean, a little man on the street must have noticed when he quipped "you are very clean!" when we breezed past his shop.

Deniz Muzesi

Me. Scary wax figures.

Uniforms from the early 1900's Turkish Navy

On Fridays, I have no class, and neither do most of my friends. Since Istanbul is a city of 16 million people, there is a lot that can be done on any given day. Especially a wide open and slightly stormy Friday when the internet doesn't seem to be working. This friday, we decided it would be fun to go see Istanbul Modern, an art museum. Since the internet wasn't working, we used our Turkish sources to find out that it was open and that it was in Karakoy. We didn't know how much it was, how late it was open, or even where it was really.

So we met in the lobby, 30 minutes later after collecting various people who didn't wake up until 2 pm - we got on a bus going in the general direction we wanted. After a quick change of plans (and the fact that the only boy in the group didn't want to go see modern art) we jumped off the bus, and after a quick stop at a deliciously fragrant bakery, we went to the Naval Museum on the wharf in Besiktas. It was awesome - I don't want to see another model boat for a very long time - but we definitely got a lot of bang for our 1 YTL.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Home Sweet Superdorm

We got back to Istanbul at 6:45 in the morning, and were back at Superdorm by 8 am Monday morning, just in time to put our stuff back in our rooms and head off to 9am class!


Tempe of Aphrodite in a middle of a golf course. No... not really - but it was a really nice lawn that we took a nap on.

Turkish Countryside

Jill, Erin, and Amy descending the Turkish countryside a la Sound of Music

An arch view out at Turkey


The Aphrodisiac Theatre! It sat 15,000 I think at one point.

Cool stairs

The Stadium!

The 'best' preserved stadium in Turkey - it could seat 30,000 people in its heyday

The gladiator addition to the East side of the stadium


Pretty, old stone

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Second Agora

Me in ruins!


Looking West

Looking North across the South Agora

Afrodisias is a huge set of ruins located less than 3 hours to the East of Ephesus. The site is much like Ephesus, only bigger, less controlled and less thoroughily excavated. You can pretty much walk wherever you want, baring a few rusty fences, and get up close and personal to the ruins. It's stunning!

Going to Afrodisias

Erin, Alex, Devin, Kendal, Max, Amy, Megan, Greg, and Ryan (Jill and I were in the front seat)

Walking through town in the morning, I stopped to talk with a man sitting alone in his shop and somehow managed to charter a 9 person van to drive the 11 of us the hour and a half to Afrodisias at 100 YTL cheaper than the peak tourist season price. Needless to say, after barely sleeping on the bus and the less than restful night in our hostel the ride turned into nap time.


In the 36 hours we were in Pamukkale, we became regulars at Mustafa's Restaurant where we spent literally hours waiting for falafel dürüm, döner, and gözleme - but at 4 YTL (not quite $3) for a full meal, why not?