wherever you go, make it an adventure
live like a tourist, even if you’re home
because that’s when you’ll find yourself really living
make friends, jump off bridges, soak it in
wherever you go, make it an adventure
live like a tourist, even if you’re home
because that’s when you’ll find yourself really living
make friends, jump off bridges, soak it in
my last day in Ortakent- how these views now feel like home
My Turkish Coffee Fortune-
Tonight, on my walk home from the sea, I stopped to see Aisha, one of our Turkish neighbors out in the country. She has become very dear to me as the woman who has cheered me up on multiple occasions with a hug, some tea, and the few English words she knows (all of which she learned from simply from being a hotel housekeeper).
This time, I was stopping to say goodbye, since I’m leaving tomorrow night. We sat outside under the full moon and talked for over an hour- I don’t even know how, considering the language barrier. Before I left though, she had to make me some Turkish coffee so that she could tell my future. You can read it in the leftover coffee grinds, apparently.
Pointing at the designs the coffee left on the rim of the cup, I heard the only English words that are really important: “family”, “beach”, “lots of friends,” and “boyfriend.”
Our arms were linked together as she walked me back to the house. Somehow we communicated the fact that I am going to get married and come back to Bodrum with this boyfriend (now husband) say “hello Aisha”, shake hands, and sit down to have tea and coffee in the exact same spot where she told my fortune this evening. Under the light of the full moon.
I rather like Turkish coffee, if it comes with fortunes and friends like this.
from Ephesus to Greece- all in a week! Some highlights from touring with Kayla on our days off in Turkey
And I could not have, in fact, ordered a more perfect day.
One of the benefits of being in Turkey is the near proximity of Greece and it’s islands. Kos is just a 20 minute boat ride away, but it’s still going to another country, made especially official by the passport stamp (which is always exciting for me- I say, keep the collection coming).
Once we pulled into port, Kayla and I decided renting a pair of bikes was the best option for seeing the most of the island. Note to self: get an international drivers license so that next time, we can rent the moped. But for now, the bikes would do.
Actually, they were perfect. Considering my already adamant admiration for bike riding, this excursion put me over the edge with glee.
Biking through the breeze on the coast of a Greek island literally feels like a movie. Blue and green water shimmering like crystals is the constant view to the left. To the right, the terrain changes from the shops and restaurants of the center of town to mountains and fields dotted with goats and cows. Fellow bike riders ring their bells as they pass by, a row of European boys being especially nice. “Good morning, ladies!” calls out an old, Greek man in front of his store. It’s an island, everyone here is on vacation. Or at least living like it. So why would you not be happy, friendly, and free?
We continued down the coast where it gradually became more secluded and rustic. Paths through Queen Anne’s lace led to the beach, beckoning me to return one day for what would be the perfect picnic. Riding by a quaint Greek restaurant that looked most authentic, we decided to pull over for a bite to eat. Overlooking the water while eating genuine Greek cuisine- I don’t want to take this for granted. But I already have, seeing how it’s now normal for every meal I have to come with a view of the sea. Nearly every restaurant I’ve been to since coming to Turkey has been by the water, making even the simplest meal a luxury.
Revived by the freshest Greek eatery (yum to olives and feta cheese) our bike ride continued back up the shore. Past the town again, all the way to the tip of the island. Following a trail through the grass to the beach, I simply wanted to ride my bike straight into the sea.
I love the secluded and rustic feeling. Standing by your bike with sweaty, tan skin, salty windswept hair knotted on top of your head. Bikini top and running shorts. You could care less how you look, you just want to feel. Feel your lungs breathing deep, your muscles exhausted from peddling. The sun blistering your skin, the salty sea air cooling. You just want to feel in those moments. Nothing more. You simply want to be.
Back to the center of town we were on a mission though, to fulfill a craving, for authentic Greek yogurt. Frozen with fruit, please. They had to have it. And we would find it. Although we thought it might be a lost cause, seeing only ice cream or loaded waffles as we walked the streets. The scenery along the way was pretty though, and the little boy sitting by the church singing on his little guitar? Priceless.
But apparently this day really was destined to be perfect, for as we turned the corner we discovered what might have been the only little shop on all of Kos that had precisely what we had ordered: authentic, frozen Greek yogurt. We ran in with squeals.
And. it was potentially the most delicious dessert of my entire life. No more words, this one cannot be explained. Craving, simply, satisfied.
With an hour left before our ferry took us back, a cat nap on the shore sounded best. Lying with our backs on the pebbles, legs in the water- the sun, the air, the sea was happy and fresh. The energy of the day simmered down around us into a blanket of warmth. Basking in the vitality of the day, each moment could be savored through reflection.
Sometimes you can’t completely absorb the reality of a day. Sometimes you just have to float in the feeling of it, not quite grasping the entirety of it. Just recognizing that it was one of those days that commemorates life being beautiful. Life being full. Life being free.
PS: riding on a bus completely surrounded by foreigners should never cause you to refrain from singing out loud while sharing an iPod. Singing and dancing in your seat to much missed American pop music might be enough to bring you to tears with happiness, so never stop yourself. Sometimes, you just really feel like singing and dancing. And Maroon 5 and Akon can seriously bring it out of you. Never, never hold back that feeling. Even if it makes you that obnoxious American girl that gets looks of disgust from the much more sophisticated European passengers. The joy that it brings is completely and utterly worth the embarrassment. So dance. on #lessonlearned
When you live in a country that is only 200 years old, 7000 years old ruins kind of blow your mind. Turkey is a place from where so many things originate, so history really is everywhere. Seeing the city of Ephesus was especially exciting for me though, considering the fact I could read in my Bible the letter Paul wrote to the church there, while walking the same street he had.
And as I was walking down those streets, surrounded by swarms of people, I couldn’t help but get a kick out of imagining everyone wearing togas or riding donkeys, just to get a glimpse of what it might have looked like a couple thousand years ago. To imagine the shouts of gladiators and lions fighting in the colosseum I was walking by. To think of people studying scrolls in the Library of Celsus, 1 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. It’s real life, these people were real. This place was alive. You have to let that sink in. And then it’s really unbelievable.
Driving to Ephesus from Bodrum was about a 3 hour drive, so having good company was a definite plus. Seeing the scenery change along the drive was beautiful, herds of sheep dotting the fields or people riding by on donkeys in the more rural areas. It was good to see a more antique side of Turkey…
When we first showed up in the ancient city, we were so excited that every rock, every pillar, was worth a picture. It might have been good to know at the beginning that the ruins got progressively better, because by the time we got to the end of the tour, we were so worn out that the final, great monuments didn’t quite get the admiration they deserved. At the beginning we would have shrieked over a 2 foot column. By the end? The mammoth colosseum got a nod and a shrug. Eh, it still looks pretty good from our seat in the shade, right?
But there was excitement throughout nonetheless.
The first colosseum we saw was actually a small theatre called Odeion, so it really was worth the pictures. This is where they would have debates and arguments (I relate it to my family living room). It can seat about 1400 and we were allowed to walk all over it (which still boggles my mind- how do these rocks not completely disintegrate?)
Continuing down the road there were some temple ruins dedicated to Emperor Domitian, which used to have rows and rows of columns, but is now just a big archway…
The street that keeps on going downhill, from the Heracles Gate to the Celsus Library, is called the Curetes street. It’s the main street in the very center of the city, so it has a lot of great monuments along the way. Fun fact: the Curetes it’s named after are a class of priests that were in Ephesus and story goes they helped cover up some drama for Zeus. Zeus must have had an affair with this gal Leto and got her pregnant with twins, Artemis and Apollo. Well, we can’t have Hera, Zeus’s wife hearing about this and getting jealous, so the Curetes made a ton of noise while she was giving birth to distract Hera. Nice guys, huh? Lets name a street after them…
The Temple of Hadrian is at the beginning of that street and real pretty, with intricate archways and a porch you can climb up onto. This was my favorite view of the city and gave a great view of the Library at the end of the street. Over the door is a carving of Medusa, so we got to hear the cool story of how she was killed (by her own reflection, since looking at her would turn you into stone- very clever).
Then there’s the great, Celsus Library, built in 117 A.D. by Tiberius Julius Aquila in honor of his deceased dad. Made of marble, it’s fascinating to see these two stories of intricate columns still intact. Between the doors are statues representing Wisdom (Sophia), Knowledge (Episteme), Intelligence (Ennoia) and Virtua (Arte).
This library survived a fire in 262 that destroyed the interior but left the outside. There are still crevices in the walls where they would keep the scrolls though. Scrolls. That’s what they were reading off of. And no library cards, most likely.
And last thing: Artemis, the Greek goddess, is very popular here in Ephesus (remember the story of her birth with cheating dad, Zeus?) There’s a statue of her here in the city and story is she’s a very fierce hunter and also the goddess of childbirth. Ephesus’ first inhabitants might have actually been the first feminists, the Amazon women. Go girl power! And Orion, who my favorite constellation was named after? He was killed by Artemis. With a scorpion. Talk about a powerful woman. This city is just filled with inspiration…
(tour info from) http://www.kusadasi.biz/ephesus/marble-street.html
I was warned before entering Bodrum:
“Don’t assume that you will leave as you came. The others before you were the same too. As they departed, they all left their souls behind.”
They are words from a famous poet, their ‘Fisherman of Halicarnassos’, posted on a sign I read driving into the city at midnight. Two weeks later, I understand.
Bodrum is literally stealing my soul. And no pictures or video I take could fully capture the emotional experience that was tonight.
I went on a walk from the country house to the sea, my iPod in as I made my way through the streets. I love graceful music that sweeps me into a silent world for exploring. Before I even made it to the beauty of the sea my eyes were tantalized with simple scenery. A little boy and girl chasing a kite down the dirt road. A man tending a garden. A boy running a loaf of bread to the neighbor. Slowly, country roads turned into small town markets which finally led to the boardwalk.
The view was breathtaking, dozens of heads bobbing in the glittering sea. Cliffs and mountains dotted with the Aegean architecture of white stone, flat-roofed buildings. This is Bodrum. Pure beauty.
I continued my exploration, lounges by the sea on my left, rows of restaurants and shops on my right. A few people made their way through my earbuds, reaching for my hand to ask my name. Where are you from? Come back! they said. But mostly I just looked and felt. The fabric of skirts and dresses hanging on racks. The salty sea breeze. The smell of smokey kebabs. I love the ethereality achieved when simply looking and feeling while moving.
I finally stopped at a restaurant called Zeferia. I saw a picture of a tempting seaweed salad. Little did I know that my small, appetizer order was going to turn into a doting dinner on the sea. They found me an English speaking waiter, he set me out on a lounge chair on the sand. I could literally dip my toes in the water. He brought me my seaweed order, plus a side of eggplant and Turkish bread, still soft and warm from the oven. As we talked he noticed I ate the garnish of lemon wedges. Minutes later he brought me some more. “You like lemons.” I said yes, how did you know. My simple meal had been transformed into a luxurious dining experience. All for about $3.50. When I said I must go, my waiter said, “no check.” I had to pay, I said, but refusing full price, just come back, he said.
Walking the roads back towards home, I felt a sob rise in my throat. With the sight of the sun setting behind the mosque tower, a Turkish family smiling as they walked by, I was suddenly crying. I couldn’t help it. Everyone I passed, the way they looked at me, the way they smiled. You feel so seen by everyone here. So blessed. It’s like everyone in this city just loves you, as a communal whole. They’re watching out for you. I had walked that evening alone, but the love and intimacy I felt was more warm then a room full of family and friends. That’s what it is, the strangers here make you feel known.
Then you add in the scenery, the majesty of it all. As a wannabe-world traveler, just being in another country is enough to make me cry. The realization of achieving a dream. By the time I made it to the cow pasture, just down the lane from the house, I was bawling. Literally sobbing with happiness as the golden grass swayed, rocky mountains their backdrop.
I barely heard my name, but finally looked behind me. Abdullah, the gate keeper, had seen me and was calling. Oh no, I thought. He saw me crying. He doesn’t speak any English either, so I couldn’t even explain. He’s going to think I’m crazy.
He beckoned me over, he and his wife had been visiting with the neighbor. Her name was Aisha, she greeted me in broken English. I tried to pull myself together, take a deep breath and hope my face wasn’t too red. They sat me down at the table outside and she asked me my name. I smiled and tried to politely mask my emotional state. But when I told her I had just come from the sea, and she asked “Do you like Bodrum?” I couldn’t help it, and there I was again, bawling.
This little American girl, sitting between three Turkish adults, just sobbing her eyes out. They all seemed so worried. Aisha, jumped up, “hush! hush!” and cradled my head. “You miss Mom? Dad? Boyfriend?” I laughed and shook my head. “No, no! I’m HAPPY” I tried to explain. I don’t think they understood. It made me cry even more as they started showing me pictures of their children “you miss your family?” and giving me bowls of nuts and chickpeas, hot tea, tissues. I kept laughing, pointing to my face that was smiling: “I LOVE BODRUM” I said. That was why I was crying. And they were only proving my point. These three souls, who couldn’t understand my words, who really were just strangers, bestowed all the love and care I have ever begged for.
I was wearing no makeup, I hadn’t done my hair in days. My eyes were puffy from crying, but Aisha cupped my cheeks in her hands. She said I was very beautiful, not fat, she laughed. Apparently she had lost weight while housekeeping. That’s how she had learned what she knew of English too, from being a housekeeper in a hotel in England. How in the world a woman learns a language from knocking on doors calling “housekeeping” is incredible.
It was like a game they played to cheer me up. Aisha trying to distract me with her broken English. It’s so funny playing the “guessing game” of communication, too. When they didn’t know a word they would jump up to act it out for me, to cheers from me when I finally guessed what they were saying. I was laughing through tears as I finally grasped what Aisha was telling me, about her husband, who she needs to “kick in the rear” to get away from the TV and take her to the disco to go dancing. How they’re going to find me a good Bodrum boy, “you like Turkey then” she said.
Abdullah brought the little boys from the house over on his motorcycle. They joined in our outdoor, evening chat, drinking tea with four extra scoops of sugar. Although the circle of laughter and conversation was mostly in Turkish, I felt a part of them and didn’t mind. Even when surrounded by people speaking another language, in a foreign setting, I felt at home. It felt like honest community. Warmth, acceptance, real family. Everything the human heart should long for. And it all happened just as I was walking home, sobbing my eyes out along the dirt road. I was taken in and made to feel true love and intimacy.
And this is what is normal in Bodrum. Everyone I meet. Even just walking the streets makes you feel like this way. You are seen, you are welcomed, you are loved. You are invited, you are comforted, you are embraced. By the people as a whole, by the countryside, the sea. The city of Bodrum gives you a love that makes you feel adored.
So how could I not love this place in return? Love it’s simplicity. Love it like home.
When I leave, I will not be the same. I will have been loved in a way I have never felt before. And I will come back. I always will. To feel love, to find love. To eat eggplant and seaweed on a lounge chair by the sea. To sit outside with new friends, playing talking guessing games while eating chickpeas. It’s in those moments that the entire world is at peace. God, I love this city.
Looking forward to each new weekend in Bodrum
So why not start it off with a good party? One being an exclusive brunch in the bay, where rows and rows of Mediterranean cuisine are set on the dock right on the Aegean sea. Platters of stuffed grape leaves, salmon, chickpeas, local fruit- apricots and peaches so fresh they were practically bursting.
A personalized omelet station, ice cream cones you can top with pistachios or pine nuts, tables upon tables of ethnic desserts, every kind of baklava…the food was not only abundant, but it reflected the surrounding culture with fresh flavors and rich textures.
All of this, directly on the water of Paradise Bay, filled with water so crisp and clear you feel as if you’re swimming in diamonds. The shore is the perfect gradient of three colors: clear water over smooth grey pebbles, then bright green water that turns into deep, azure blue. You float on your back and see mountains and islands in the distance. You never see just endless water, your view is always more diverse and interesting when you’re in the sea versus the ocean.
Besides the food and the view, you were are also surrounded by guests from all over the world (apparently the Prince of Saudi Arabia was somewhere nearby), so you never knew what language someone would begin with when they approached you. As everyone was brunching we watched a show put on just for us, featuring water acrobat teams that have traveled all across the world, from Paris to Dubai.
Water skiing, jumping, and dancing, they awed us with their extreme talents. Music pulsed along the shore as guests lay out on beds under white canopies, sipping champagne and eating grapes while applauding a human pyramid that zips by on water skis. It was the ultimate Sunday afternoon- place us on one of the world’s finest beaches, with crystal clear water, sunshine and breeze, surround us with people and endless access to excellent food, and while you’re at it, give us a show too!
I can see why they call this Paradise. And I was happy with just the view!
Today I wandered through an ancient castle for about 3 hours…
I could have been there for days.
It is such an incredible feeling trekking across stones that were put together as far back as 1402. A fortress built by real Knights, one that has been under attack by the actual Ottoman Empire. Hundreds of years ago, people lived and fought here- they walked these same steps! And now I’m just sitting on them. Taking pictures. It literally blows my brain.
Besides the mind-blowing history, the surrounding views were incredible too. The castle really was like a maze that just kept weaving deeper and deeper. I thought it would never end. And around each bend, I got more and more excited, pushing me forward to a new spot, a now tower, a new view.
You wandered through towers and across walls, into dungeons and inside mosques. And each new spot had another breathtaking view. If it wasn’t for the over 100 degree weather, I might not have ever left…
Outside the castle walls are great shops and restaurants with tons of touristsy things to do too. But the castle made a special impression on me. To be a part of something so old, so much bigger then me. It felt like the most valuable way to spend my afternoon.
It was honestly like living a childhood dream, getting to climb through a castle and into places that looked like they should have been off-limits. It was like the McDonalds play gym, except 1 billion times better.