Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lots of Gyros

A Happy Belated Valentine's and President's Day to you.

Michelle and I have been in Greece now for about 2 weeks and are off to India tomorrow! Tomorrow is also our 4 month anniversary of traveling. We're already 2/3 of the way done which is nuts.

Random news, we received a comment on our blog the other day from a fellow at a Turkish travel site. In short, one of our posts is now featured on their site. Give it a looksy here:

Ephesus:
To backtrack a bit, our last stop in Turkey was Selcuk (the home of Ephesus). Selcuk is a delightfully small town, and because it is the off season there, we basically had the town to ourselves. We had a few, very uneventful days there, but really enjoyed seeing the ruins, giving a mini-sermon in the amphi-theatre, and going on some bike rides. Below are some photos of us enjoying the ruins and a brief preaching moment.
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Oh and this last picture is of us trying out the public latrines, that were sometimes visited by up to 50 Ephesians at a time. We're not 50 men, but we made our presence felt.


We also forgot to upload this lovely little video from when we went exploring in an underground city in Cappadocia.
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Athens:
Our first few days in Greece were spent wandering around the streets of Plaka, the Acropolis, and sitting upon Mars Hill. We also began a marathon of eating anything and everything wrapped in a pita. This mostly included gyros. Pork, lamb, chicken, you name it. Plaka is a really quaint neighborhood, that is lined with tons of beautiful old homes, shops, cafes, and hoards of gypsies with their gypsy children. Greece also has lots of great doughnuts and other pastry goods. Not to mention two new flavors of Fanta never before experienced: Lemonade and Mandarin.


Nafplio:
For Valentine's Day, we took a jaunt over to the ancient capital of Greece, Nafplio. Unbeknownst to us, it was also Carnival. This was a nice surprise for us as we got to enjoy parades, concerts, and masked Greeks. We also enjoyed a gigantic crepe that was covered in chocolate, honey, and almonds. My oh my was it delicious. We were only in Napflio for a short time, but it was a short time filled with lots of memories and smiles.
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Santorini:
After Nafplio, we boarded a ferry for one of the Greek isles, Santorini. The island itself is the remnants of an old volcano, which makes the geography absolutely stunning. Santorini is also home to the famous blue domes, white-washed homes, and towns built into the cliffside. From a distance, you'd think the mountains/cliffs were snowcapped. Alas, they were small, peaceful towns.

While in Santorini, we celebrated my birthday, and my was it a fun one. We rented a snazzy Kia Picanto to cruise around the island, and spent most of the day eating or napping. Aside from gyros, we took a liking to chocolate filled croissants. Thankfully our neighborhood grocery store provided them in packets of 3, for only 1 euro. Beautiful. Michelle also gifted me with various acrostic poems, and drawings. It was certainly a birthday for the memory books. Here's a highlight video of all of the food we ate, as well as some photos of the black beach, red beach, and Santorini in all its glory.
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So tomorrow we are off to Mumbai. The plan for India is to travel north to catch the Elephant Festival on February 28th (elephants playing soccer, elephants in a tug of war with humans), and then the Holi Festival/Festival of Color on March 1st and 2nd.

Our internet may be a bit sparse, but we love hearing from you back home when you have the time.

We love you all and God Speed.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cappadocia, Turkey



Our last week in Turkey has been spent in the land of fairy chimneys...Cappadocia.

Cappadocia:
Day 1: This region is made up of a few small towns that are fairly easy to get to by say...scooter. So, even though it was FREEZING cold outside, Jonny and I decided on our first day to ride around "dumb and dumber" style to a little town called Avanos, which is famous for their pottery. We stopped at a shop where the owner gave us apple tea and a live demonstration of pottery making on a old fashioned kick wheel! His work was quite beautiful. Jonny then got up and gave it a whirl, literally, and created quite a lovely clay pot as well. We then continued on our way to explore a couple different valleys that were filled with the infamous fairy chimneys.
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Day 2: The town we were staying in, Goerme, has a highly recommended open air museum, filled with caves and fairy chimneys that are carved out into churches and houses. We strolled through, and then made our way to another little town, Urgup, by bus, which is known for their winerys. We stopped in one for a free wine taste (not the best wine, but a lovely experience). We then stopped at a local restaurant where the owner's wife cooked us up some bean stew, in their traditional clay pots, fresh bread, and lots of baklava! We LOVE Baklava.
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On this particular evening, we went to a local bar/cafe for some good ole turkish sheesha, live music (which was one man on a keyboard), and a drink. If we only knew what this night would become...
The place was packed, we were the only english speaking people, and our table was quickly overtaken by a group of about 7 Turks. The jolly woman sitting next to me, quickly began trying to set me up with several of the men that she was with. After she realized I was married, she settled with me doing a dance for the whole restaurant! She kept trying to make me move my stomach up and down like she was doing...I had no idea how to do this, so i tried to satisfy her requests with some spinning...it went over well i think. Soon after, Jonny jumped up to challenge some Turkish men to a dance off. Apparently men dancing with other men is quite a commonplace, so Jonny fit right in. After dancing, our new friends kept telling us with motions that we needed to eat more to look like them. So they started spoon feeding us cucumber salad and bread soaked in meat sauce. Although we were stuffed and tried to decline, they insisted quite forcefully. They were new friends after all, so we obliged. They also made us try the local liquor called Rakki, which tastes like black licorice (it was nasty!) After hours of dancing and eating, the night ended with every person in the restaurant, even people we hadn't talked to, wanting an individual picture with Jonny and me. I think the videos and pictures will give a better idea of the "night at North star."

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Day 3: Our last day, we visited the underground city of Kaymakli, which has 8 stories below ground (only 4 are open to the public). Many Christian refugees fled to this region back in the day, and expanded some of these underground caves because the rock is easy to carve into when wet. Jonny and I found some hidden tunnels and caves that were not marked and pitch black, so we explored them a little until we got scared and then we'd run back towards the ligh. It was fun...it felt like we were explorers about to discover either hidden treasure or a lurking monster. After a day of exploring, we settled in the kitchen/"restaurant" of a Turk who fed us delicious Tavuk shish and let us play with his dogs:) o happy day.

Stay tuned for updates on Ephesus and Greece!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Turkey

Dear Friends and Family,

We've been in Turkey for a little over a week now and have a lot to catch up on!

Istanbul:
We arrived in Istanbul and were greeted with a bounty of snow. Our hopes and plans of escaping winter were quickly thwarted by this Eurasian land. Which leads me to a quick trivia point. Half of Istanbul is in Europe, while the other half sits in Asia. So technically we visited 3 continents in one day (we left from Cairo), which is definitely going into the scrap book. Aside from being quite cold, Istanbul is an absolutely beautiful city. It's an interesting mix of Islam, ancient Christianity, Europe, and backgammon. Most of our first few days here were spent exploring the city. Some highlights included going to the Grand Bazar, Spice Bazar, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque. We've also eaten a lot of kebabs, sampled a turkish delight (which is a delicious candy treat and also nicknamed "Turkish Viagra") and turkish coffee (not so delicious!), and ate at an all you can eat Pizza Hut buffet to boot.







We also had the opportunity to experience a turkish bath house. The guys and girls areas are separate, so I had the privilege of hanging out with a lot of sweaty, hairy Turkish men all morning. There are basins with little dog-like bowls to splash yourself. In the center of the room is a hot stone, where you can lay down and look up at a huge dome, planetarium like ceiling. Michelle and I decided to do the works, which included my first ever professional massage and an exfoliating scrubbing glove. Afterwards, I stepped into the lobby and was immediately engulfed by towels. One man wrapped a towel around my back while another tied together a nice little towel turban. I could hardly move and wanted to laugh as I can only imagine how ridiculous I looked, but I could only waddle away. Sadly, cameras were not allowed inside so no photos are available.

Island Town:
The next day, Michelle and I took a ferry out to a nearby island where we rented bikes and cruised around. It was our first sunny day here, and the weather was absolutely perfect. Aside from the center of town, we hardly saw any people, and would only need to stop for an occasional stray horse that would plant itself in the middle of the path. It was quite a surreal place, and an incredibly peaceful and enjoyable day. Here's a little highlight video that includes a little ditty by Michelle at the end. It's really cute.

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Thermal:
After our bike day, we set forth to a small town about an hour from Istanbul. The town is centered around thermal, hot springs and has a camp-like feel to it. If you stay at a hotel for one night, you get access to all of the facilities which includes a thermal pool, giant hot tub, cold pool, sauna, steam room, etc. The coolest part (pun) was that our entire first day, it snowed like crazy, so we went swimming in the outdoor thermal pool in the middle of a snowstorm. We even had a snowball fight in the pool. It was a perfect way to experience winter. Below are some photogs of the thermal pool, as well as a sign with a picture that I thought looked like Conan O'Brien.





Tomorrow we head off to Cappadocia for a few days and then we'll be making our way to Ephesus before crossing into Greece next week sometime. We've been staying with some friends of friends here in Istanbul... they've been incredibly gracious and have helped show us around this great land. They're working for an artisan group that you can check out here: http://www.artisanslane.com/

We love hearing from you back home and greatly appreciate all of your thoughts, prayers, emails, and e-cards.

Love you all and to all a good night.