Thursday, July 19, 2012

Visiting Philly

It has been entirely too long since I updated this blog. I constantly find myself taking pictures or writing posts in my head, but haven't managed to actually post anything about summer yet!  I have plenty of garden updates since it is growing almost over my head, but I'll wait until we really have veggies for that post.

We have found plenty to do in Delaware, including our favorite local spots: Frisbee golf, the tennis courts and the UD pool!
UD Pool

But we also love escaping to Philly, especially when the Braves are in town (and sweep the series!).  One my birthday weekend we made the trek to Philly to check out a game (tickets from Stubhub) and had so much fun!

Braves @ Phillies, July 8
Our vantage point from the first base foul pole was really nice - I usually don't splurge on anything better than the nosebleeds.  The Braves won, making the whole trip that much better!

We then headed into the city to do something Boyfriend has been talking about since we arrived here ... can you guess?

That's right, climb the Rocky Steps! :)

Okay, some people call it the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but to us it will always just be the Rocky Stairs.

Boyfriend atop the Rocky Stairs!

We happened to arrive at the same time as a university orientation doing the same thing (sign that we are major tourists) but luckily we got to the top before the stampede!

 It was a fun escape from Delaware and a great end to my birthday weekend!  We are heading to VEGAS this weekend, so I'll be sure to update again soon with that adventure :)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Turkish Delights

I suppose it's been a while since I posted.  Even though I last posted with pre-Turkey plans, somehow I've been home for a month now and I'm just now having a chance to write something about the trip! Time flies when you are.... busy with school work!

I'll start with a few tales and a few photos from the first five days from Turkey, when my friend, Laura, and I traveled on our own for a few days before meeting up with our class.  We arrived in Istanbul on different flights about three hours apart, and even though it was rather hectic at the arrivals gate, we managed to find each other without a problem.  We headed on the public transportation to Katabaş after figuring out awkwardly how to use the subway system.

I was immediately aware that my travel (pantomiming) skills were rusty, but it didn't take long to warm them up again.  Two trains, one tram and four lira later we had arrived at Katabaş, the ferry dock where our trip would begin at midnight. 
The IDO ferry terminal where we arrived!

Unfortunately, however, it was only 6pm. We purposely scheduled in a long time before the ferry would leave because we knew if we didn't then flights would have been delayed, but at 6pm it suddenly didn't sound like such a great idea. I was tired, jet-lagged, sleep-deprived, and hungry (and I'm sure in a really good mood!).  We found a cafe next to our ferry terminal, ate some french fries, had a soda, and caught up on stories from our flights across the Atlantic.

It wasn't the worst place to hangout; you see, this cafe was right on the Bosphorus with a view like this:
Our view of the Bosphorus
We eventually wondered around the area, but it turned out to be mostly residential.  The streets were reminiscent of San Fransisco as sometimes the roads would just turn into a staircase.  We enjoyed the adventure though as we found places like this:
Wondering around Katabaş
And then we found a restaurant that decided to open just to feed us! Our first Turkish meal:
The ferry departed at midnight to Bursa (see the last post for a map - the second map on the page) at midnight and at 2pm we switched to a bus that would take us the rest of the way to Izmir (the ancient city of Smyrna).

We had hotel reservations that night in Selçuk, near Ephesus, and even though it was around 6am, we decided to go ahead and take another bus there and see if we could check into the hotel.  By 8am we had found our hotel and the staff ushered us upstairs to this cozy loft and insisted we eat breakfast (and even though they later charged us for it, the hospitality was unmatched).
The breakfast/dinner area at Homeros Pension.
We made the most of the day and after our room was ready we went back to the bus station to travel the 3k to Ephesus!  Here are a few pictures that tell the story of our adventure:

We battled with quite a few cruise tourists, but it was fun to be on our own without a guide.


Post-Sightseeing Deliciousness - Turkish Pide
We walked the 3k back to Selçuk and just beat the rainstorm which forced us to finally take a break and rest up before dinner.  That night we ate on the pension rooftop with some other travelers - one of my favorite parts of travelers' lodging :)

The next day we took a bus to Pamukkale, which was about a four hour journey, but definitely worth it!  Pamukkale means "white castle" which is appropriate since it is a mountain covered in carbonate minerals, making the whole thing white, and on top was an acropolis with fantastic ruins.  Again, pictures are better than words:

The "white castle"

There were pools along the way to take a dip

The acropolis atop the mountain

View from the amphitheater on top of the mountain.
 The view from the top was amazing, but I think my favorite part was the barefoot climb up there!

I do love barefoot activities :)
After our exhausting adventure I snoozed on the four-hour bus back to Selçuk.  We found a kebab place for dinner and enjoyed another Turkish meal. Yum!

Turkish kebab dürüm
This post is getting long, so I'll try to make the rest brief.  The next day we borrowed bikes from the pension and rode 7k to the beach. What a lovely adventure! It was so nice to have nothing to do. Pure relaxation for the first time in a long time!
A nearly empty beach on the Aegean Sea

Our little piece of paradise.
 We rode back after the sun started to descend, a little crispy from the beautiful day of sunshine.  Once we returned the bikes we walked through the peaceful dark evening to find this roadside restaurant with delicious food:

Dinner of Turkish wonders: pita, humus, olives, pide... yum.
The next morning we had a bit of a scare making the departure time for our reserved seats on the bus/ferry combo back to Istanbul, but by the skin of our teeth we made it! Phew! And treated ourselves with Turkish candy. I do love the pistachio-everything!

Road trip snacks!
Here are pictures from the rest of the day:

Off to the ferry!
Our ferry to Istanbul

Arriving in Istanbul we had a wonderful view of the Bosphorus, even if the window were gross.

A glimpse at the Aya Sofya and Blue Mosque
 That evening we rented an apartment from a friend of a friend for a cheap price and wandered around Taksim to find dinner. What we didn't know we would find was a night life unlike any other.  I was in awe of Istiklal street, alive and hopping way past midnight when we went home.  Music and clubs were kicking, but those wandering the streets weren't just the typical night crowd, but rather families, older couples out for a stroll, etc. It was wonderful, refreshing and it made me smile.
Adventures in Taksim: Istiklal street
Dinner: Lamb dumplings in a yogurt sauce and Turkish pancake. Again, Yum!
We hadn't had enough of Istiklal street, so in the morning we returned for breakfast and a bit of shopping before we were to meet up with our group that afternoon.  

Breakfast pastries: Looked delicious, tasted okay...
Istiklal street during the day. Still hopping with people.
Looks delicious, tasted heavenly. LOVE Baklava.
That afternoon we headed back to the airport, which was odd because it felt like the end of the trip, when it was really just the beginning the reason we came: to experience Turkey as a student of International Policy, exploring the political side of things.  But it was also appropriate to start anew at the airport since it was the end of our Turkey trip as adventurers.  The next ten days were filled with a different kind of adventure. Those tales will come, as soon as I find another moment to procrastinate further!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Packing for Turkey

I get to leave for Turkey in just three days! It's a little crazy just thinking about leaving for two weeks since we only recently moved in, but I'm excited nonetheless to have an adventure.  This trip is for course credit with my Master's program, so the bulk of it is planned for me, however a friend and I are going five days early to see a little more of the country on our own.

Five days by ourselves isn't a lot of time considering how large Turkey is, but luckily there seems to be a nice transportation system and a large tourism industry, so I don't think we'll have a problem getting around.  For the class credit portion of the trip we will be visiting three cities: Istanbul, Ankara and Gaziantep.  Here is a map to show you where we are going:

View Turkey in a larger map

We start in Istanbul, take a bus to Ankara, fly to Gaziantep and then fly back to Istanbul at the end.  We have information about all of the things we get to see with the group, but honestly I am mainly focusing on the first five days of travel since that is what my friend and I have to plan ourselves!  I will be sure to update along the way, or probably once I return about this portion of the trip.  For now, here is where my friend and I are going on our own for five days:

View Turkey2 in a larger map

We both arrive in Istanbul midday on Friday, and since we will have Istanbul time with the class portion, we decided to immediately head out of the city.  We have a ferry/bus combo booked for midnight the day we arrive, so after an evening in Istanbul we're setting sail towards Bandirma, and then bus to Izmir by sunrise the next day.  We have a hotel booked for one night in a nearby town, and we have our eyes on visiting Pamukkale which is a three hour bus away, but we don't have anything else booked.  We are hoping it will be clear where we should go and what we should visit.  It's only five days after all, so there isn't a whole lot of time to fill!

We will be back in Istanbul on the 15th at some point in order to meet up with our class group on the 16th.  Here's to a fun couple of weeks in Turkey! :) I'll update when I return, or along the way if at all possible.