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    Georgia on our minds

    August 30th, 2006 by steve

    İ have no pictures to offer you today, just a note on our whereabouts. We spent a week running across the Black Sea coast from İstanbul to the Georgian border. The land is mountainous and lush. There’s a stretch even covered in tea leaves. Who knew? We met a Spanish couple on the bus and travelled together into the Kackar mountains to do some camping. Talk about back woods. These towns are in the middle of nowhere on poor mountain dirt roads to begin with, but there is a lot of road and dam building (really, the kind that floods small Turkish villages to create lakes) going on so everything takes a day. Somewhere on my laptop there is a picture of us waiting for a backhoe to finish excavating the road that we are driving on. Really.

    We’re now in a relatively large (20k) person town called Artvin ın the mountains near the Georgian border again mulling over whether or not we are sufficiently interested in Georgia and Armenia to sit through a few more long bus rides to really get into the countries.

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    Here a mosque, there a mosque…

    August 20th, 2006 by steve

    Seriously, they are everywhere and they look like giants looming over a lilliputian town. The ones here in Istanbul are adorned with numerous domes and minarets so the roof line looks like a field of bubbles with toothpicks jutting out. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter but are required to remove their shoes and women must cover any exposed skin and hair. At the entrance I was adorned with a head scarf before let in. I find mosques to be very calming and restful. They’re dimly lit, quiet except for the occasional chanting, comfortably cool on a hot day, have wall-to-wall rugs, and you’re barefoot. All these elements evoke napping and some people definitely take this opportunity for their quiet time.
    - Mary

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    Stuffed (American) football or potato, you decide

    August 20th, 2006 by steve


    We went out on a limb and went to a baked potato bar for dinner one night in Istanbul. The guy reaches into the cooker and grabs two American footballs out. These tubers were Frankensteinian, something you would expect to win the county fair. After we got over that shocker we started pointing at all the toppings to add to our carbo 18-wheeler. There was butter, cheese (ewww), corn, olives, spicy salsa, bologne, pickles, mushrooms, lots of creamy stuff (eww again), pickled red cabbage, with mayo and ketchup (yuck and yuck) to drown it all. It was surprisingly good and not surprisingly very filling. These were seriously the biggest potatoes I have ever seen. You couldn’t look at them and not think growth hormones.
    -Mary

    edıtor’s note – no comments necessary about the ‘stuffed couch potato’ ın the background.

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    İstanbul not Constantinople and definitely not Damascus

    August 20th, 2006 by steve

    Depending on how you look at it, we had our first major trip setback here when we petitioned the Syrian consulate for a visa. They claim that starting July 1st, the only way for an American to get into Syria was by getting a visa through the Washington DC consulate. That’s a little bit out of our way, so after some half-hearted research we decided to just visit Syrian airspace on a flight directly to Jordan. Unfortunate, but perhaps somewhat safer. Although this does give us a bit more time to explore Georgia and Armenia. Azerbeijain also sounds interesting and untamed, but I can’t write blogs if I can’t spell the country…

    And in other news, Constantinople is stıll the home of Sultans. We ran into this kid on an outing with his family to one of the palaces. He had an entourage of tourists waiting in line to take a photo with him.

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    We start a Bookmobile

    August 20th, 2006 by steve


    It started out as just one book for each of us to pass the time on our long travel days. Since leaving London there has been a scarcity of English books so we try to grab what we can. Add to that our growing reliance on guidebooks and now we have the beginnings of a small library. No wonder our bags are getting heavier.
    - Mary

    Editor’s note – scarcity of English language literature is no excuse to punish me with Hemingway, Dickens and Cervantes. I paid my dues in high school. Sort of. How about some Archie comics? In Turkish is fine.

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    Gobble gobble…

    August 20th, 2006 by steve





    We both had lost some blubber in Greece but being in Turkey has plumped us right back to butterball status. The food here has been too good. We cannot get enough of their grilled spicy meatballs and kebabs. Pide, Turkish pizza, is shaped like boat hull and has meat, veggies, and egg as toppings. The doners, gyro meat, are flavorful and seared just right before they slice it off the cone shaped spit. A Turkish pancake is essentially a thin tortilla/pita spread with smashed potatoes, spinach, meat and cheese then folded and toasted. Mine was without cheese and very good. They do amazing things with eggplants including stuffing them with meat then baking them to a tasty perfection. Also very popular with us is the salsa type side dishes they make by mixing various veggies together, typically eggplant, tomato, onions, and peppers. And boy do they like peppers. They’ve got them decorating the food and drying on their balconies. Mmm, good stuff. Meals are usually capped off by watermelon or apple tea.
    -Mary

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    Snow Day!

    August 20th, 2006 by steve

    One of the bizzare natural sites in western Turkey is Pamukkale. It’s a spring bubbling up through calcium to create waterfalls dropping off stalagtite covered shelvess into travertine pools.

    It really just looks like a hillside covered in snow or cotton. The name Pamukkale means ‘Cotton Castle’, but that actually may have as much to do with the ancient local cotton and textile industries as the fluffy white calcium patches on the hill. The Roman resort town of Hierapolis was built here to make use of the pools’ rejuvenating affects and it is here that Marc Antony and Cleopatra honeymooned. We spent so much time laying in the warm pools and under waterfalls and playing in the mud that we never made it to the ruins, though.

    Yes, the sign says ‘hey tourist, get off the travertine’. That means we had to wait in a line to take this picture.

    FrankenMary trying out the mudbath

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    Splish Splash…

    August 20th, 2006 by steve


    Our first experience of Turkey was a water park. To mark Steve’s 35th birthday we had to do something unique. Adaland is touted as the biggest aqua playground in Europe (Turkey isn’t part of Europe last time I checked, but they really want to be). They had a good mix of twisting tunnels, speed slides and various pools, all of which were made even more fun, and dangerous, by the apparent lax in safety regulations and enforcement. Steve got some major air on one ramp, so much that you could see sky between his back and the slide. I thought he might actually land on the foliage. Towards the end of our 9 hours we had accumulated a gamut of injuries including lumpy heads, scratched backs, bruised elbows, stubbed toes and sore everything. Luckily the park was closing before we did any serious damage. We even managed to squeeze ourselves into their sand volleyball mini tourney and left unscathed. That night we were exhausted and, after stuffing ourselves with a cornucopia of grilled meats, slept more soundly than either one of us could last remember.
    -Mary

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    Being of sound mind and body…

    August 16th, 2006 by steve

    Now a little on our safari plans. The more we have learned about Africa the more concerned we are about traveling there, at least for the places we want to see. There are of course ALL the health issues, stories of unreliable public transportation leaving travelers stranded, and the fact that it’s HUGE. So for a plethora of reasons we decided to take an overland route using a tour company for parts of our journey to the southern tip of the continent. We would be stuck on a converted bus with 24 other people for 2x two month trips, camping every night, using shovels for toilets, and crossing through some questionable countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan and possibly Rwanda. We weighed the positives (yes, there are some) against the negatives until our brains were mush and both agreed this would be the best way. This is supposed to be an adventure, right? Now we just need to write our wills.
    -Mary

    editor’s note: Mary makes it sound so bad. We do get to stay in hotels every now and then. And they do provide the shovel to dig the latrine when we are camping. Here is the itinerary -

    Oct 29 – Dec 24: A safari from Cairo south through Ethiopıa and Sudan to Kenya. To Uganda and possibly Rwanda to Nairobi (Kenya).
    Dec 25 – Feb 8: On our own to explore the game parks and coast of Kenya and Tanzania in more detail. This is a good time to join us if you are intersted in Africa.
    Feb 9 – Aprıl 3: Safari of Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa

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    All Decked Out

    August 16th, 2006 by steve

    As soon as we landed on Mykonos we had a sinking feeling. Rooms were scarce and 3x the price of the other islands so we got the first ferry out of there. It happened to be 4:30am to Samos the next morning so we made plans to stay up til the wee hours. We explored the island, which was a disappointment after Paros and Santorini, then went to the port at midnight. There were people already sacked out on the long row of covered benches. We joined them with four hours to go. Steve stayed up and worked on the pictures for the website, powered by his Coke and iced coffee. I was ready to get in as much shut eye as I could so I laid down and drowned out the world. I was surprised how well I was able to sleep given the ruckus that was going on, including some drunkards playing soccer and ferries coming and going. The boat arrived and we were aghast to see the spectacle onboard. All available floor space was sprawled with people. Many had come prepared with sleeping bags or blankets, those that didn’t just slept sitting up or on any flat surface they could squeeze onto. There was even a tent pitched out on the deck. We were directed outside where a similar scene was found except the harsh elements of wind and wetness on wooden plank benches made the indoor mess seem like hot cocoa in front of a roaring fireplace. We got lucky and found a bench that Steve could lay down to sleep, equipped with eyeshade and earplugs. I sat up read and listened to my mp3 bundled in my hooded sweatshirt and watched the sunrise as we pulled into port at Ikaria three hours later. Steve was surprisingly still asleep and my eyes couldn’t fight staying open any more. After people departed at Ikaria I claimed a bench to lie down and slept on top of our bags.

    -Mary

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