Selçuk-Ephesus-Izmir

For Kurban Bayrami, the biggest Muslim holiday of the year (kind of like Christmas for Christians), 5 friends (Hanane form Norway, Yao Sheng and Ee Lin from Singapore, Rumeysa from Holland, and Kiran from the US) and I are traveling around the Southern Aegean and Western Mediterranean region of Turkey.  We started with bus tickets to our first destination and plane tickets home from our final destination, but with no real plan for in between.  This is a lot different than my normal habits of planning everything.  We also booked a hostel for the first two nights of our trip in Selçuk.  Selçuk is located just 10 minutes away from Ephesus, one of the best ruins in Turkey.

We started our trip by taking an overnight bus to Izmir, the third largest town in Turkey. After some miscommunications with part of our group that traveled on a bus that left one hour earlier, we met at the Otogar and ate menemen for breakfast. This is becoming my favorite breakfast dish.  It is egg cooked with chopped tomatoes and peppers. Kind of like a watery omelet. You eat it with fresh bread which is always delicious.  After a relaxing breakfast, we took a dolmuş to Selçuk where we found our hostel.  This place was recommended ın our Lonely Planet guıdebook and was defınıtely worth the small price we paid. My only complaint was that breakfast wasn’t included with our rooms. My throat and allergies acted up a bit because of the dust, but I had to keep reminding myself that we only paid about $13 per night.  Other members of our group weren’t as happy with the accommodations because the room was quite chilly when we arrived, but I kept reminding them that at least we had our own bathroom and weren’t staying in the dorm style rooms that the hostel offered. 

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Hanane, Kiran, Ee Lin, Yao Sheng, and Rumeysa

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Our four person room.

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The hostel where we stayed. There were many hotels and hostels around the area that had Australian and New Zealand names. Not sure why.

For the rest of the day we wandered around the sites in Selçuk and saw St. John’s Basilica where he is buried, a really old mosque, the remains of the Byzantine aqueduct, an old cistern, the Efes (Ephesus in English) museum. We also ate some some really great food because meals are always the highlight of our day with my friends and me. We went to lunch at a place recommended by our hostel where we met the really nice owner named Mehmet. He ended up helping us figure out the bus and train schedules so that we didn’t get ripped off at either place as well. Hanane and I shared gözleme which is called a Turkish pancake. It’s actually nothing like a pancake, but is more similar to a thin large quesadilla and is really delicious. It is filled with cheese (either white or yellow cheese) and sometimes potato and spinach. Ours was all three and it was DELICIOUS! Tavuk şış (Chicken shish kebab) is also quite popular with our group.

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Our lunch group. Two girls staying at the hostel joined us for the day.

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Some of the ruins at St. John’s Basilica. The guidebook said that most of the ruins here are reconstructed, but I still thought they were awesome.

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For dinner we went to a restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet. Everyone except Yao Sheng ordered tavuk şış which was good, but the mezes that we ordered were fantastic! Mezes are like appetizers, but are much smaller than their US counterparts. Some are hot and some are cold, and they include many very traditional Turkish items. We had haydari(thick yogurt with garlic and roasted eggplant), dolma peppers (stuffed peppers), cheese filled mushrooms, sigara böreği (fried dough with cheese in the middle in a cigar shape) and normal dolma (stuffed grape leaves). I especially liked the mushrooms and garlicy yogurt. After dinner we found a Turkish delight store that was much more reasonable than places in Istanbul and bought some lokum to take back to the hostel with us.

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The stuffed mushrooms Smile

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Sigara böreği, haydari, and dolma beber(pepper).

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Really good lokum from the store. It had nutella inside Smile

The next day we headed to Ephesus with help from Mehmet. His brother owned a big van and agreed to take all 8 (including the girls from the hostel) of us to the Virgin Mary’s House and Ephesus for 5TL per person. Considering that we would have had to take 2 taksis (taxis) for 50TL each to get to the Virgin Mary’s house, this was a superb deal. We got to see the house site, and the chapel at the Virgin Mary’s house site and then went to Ephesus.

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The house site

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Outside the chapel.

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Candles outside the church and the prayer wall. People write prayers on tissues handkerchiefs and pieces of paper and tie them on the wall.

EPHESUS (EFES):

After seeing Mary’s house we were taken to Ephesus. I didn’t really know what to expect, except that some of my other friends from the exchange said it was pretty cool. We were dropped off at one end and were told to call our driver when we finished at the other end several hours later. This was a great option because we weren’t rushed and took a TON of pictures through the whole site. Here are some of the best pics of the day:

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As you walk in it doesn’t look that impressive, but as you keep going, it is AMAZING!

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Showing some Phi Rho Love in Ephesus 🙂

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The columns

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We experimented a lot with the pictures 🙂

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The smaller of the two theaters

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Kiran with Hanane, Yao Sheng and Ee Lin in the background.

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I like arches and ceilings, and theaters…. and architecture in general.

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Hanane

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Me with another arch

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One of the smaller theaters that we’ve seen in Turkey.

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Pretty columns

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Some of the arches and columns have been reinforced so they are more impressive and safe. No problem for me. They still look amazingly cool.

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Hanane didn’t wear good walking shoes and her feet hurt a lot after our long day at Ephesus. Again and again I am reminded that I am a true Oregonian when I bring my rain jacket with me even when it doesn’t look like it will rain and when I bring running shoes as my one pair for the trip. 

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There were a lot of people at Ephesus, though it wasn’t even the busiest time of year. I’m glad we came when we did because there was beautiful weather and less people.

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Just pretend that they are in the right order Smile

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The Celcius library. SO COOL

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This was the giant theater towards the end of Ephesus. My camera decided to die after just a few pictures here. Oh well, I can steal from everyone else.

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Last picture and…. dead.

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After Ephesus that day we went to Pamucak Beach to watch the sunset. We were practically the only ones there so we decided to do some jumping shots 🙂 Oh so cool….haha

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After getting our train tickets to Izmir the next day, we walked around Selçuk. This is the aqueduct lit at night.

IZMIR:

The next day (the first day of Kurban Bayrami) we took the train to Izmir (9TL round trip!!!!!). It takes about an hour and a half to get there each way. Many things were closed because of the holiday, but we still had a good time walking around.

Sidenote: Kurban Bayrami is a holdiay centered around sacrificing a lamb or cow to share with your family and the poor who can’t afford one themselves. Since Muslims only eat halal food, the animal prayed over and then the throat is slit to let the blood run out. Blood is considered unclean in Islam so the blood should all be removed from the animal before it is eaten.  In the morning of Kurban Bayrami, the men slaughter the animal and prepare for it to be shared among the family and poor.  As we were riding on the train through the country side, I saw many circles of men standing around animals.  Though I don’t think I could handle watching the animal die, it was cool hearing about the traditions for the holiday from the three Muslims in our traveling group. The holiday lasts three days, but the first day is the most important so most shops and restaurants are closed so people can celebrate with their families.

Pics from the day:

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The view from the Kordon, the main walkway along the sea side.

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There were a lot of bikes in Izmir as well. Much safer to ride one here than in Istanbul.

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A very Turkish dress we saw in a shop window. Maybe for Miss Turkey???

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This picture has a long story that goes with it. This man came up to our lunch table with a baby bunny. We didn’t want to pet it (who knows what a rabbit in Turkey is carrying), but thought it was quite cute. He then proceeded to have the grown rabbit “pick our fortunes” from little slips of paper.  He didn’t speak any English, so Rumeysa asked what they were for. He said they were a Bayram gift (normally gifts are free). Rumeysa translated them all for us since they were in Turkish, but the man was still standing there. We asked what he wanted and he said that we had to pay him 2.25TL per fortune! We didn’t want to pay since we didn’t ask for the fortunes in the first place. Rumeysa tried to negotiate with him, but he got rather angry. We ended up paying 1TL per person and trying to ignore him. He started cursing at us in Turkish (which doesn’t really do much good, since Rumeysa is the only one who can understand) and storming away. He then proceeded to walk by our table and point and complain about us to other people. Rumeysa talked to our waiter, and he told the man to leave the restaurant area. After asking Rumeysa what the bunny man said, she told us that they were really bad things and that he wished we wouldn’t make very much money since we didn’t pay for the fortunes (which he took back when we paid the partial amount). Oh well. It makes for a good story at least.

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Turkish tea is delicious. It’s supposedly just black tea, but it tastes better than what I normally drink. It’s served in a tulip shaped glass with two or three sugar cubes and a small spoon on the side.

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We’re a little bad at timing the jumping pictures.

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We also did some perspective pictures Smile

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Yao Sheng is good at jumping. He is also really patient with all of us girls. Props to him for putting up with us for more than a week.

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A bit late…

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The Kordon

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One of the many Ataturk houses in Turkey.

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Guess what? More dessert! This one had lots of pistachios. Yum

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We found a carnival in the giant park in Izmir. So much like the county fair. Except that it was the place to be for people under 16. The girls were all dressed up in high heels and nice clothes and the boys stood around in groups really awkwardly. So funny 🙂 We were definitely the only tourists there.

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The prizes for the games were packages of cigarettes. Weird.

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My favorite, caramel Smile


Keep checking for the other days of our trip coming soon!

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Dedetepe Eco Farm

Since I am so far behind on my blog, I feel that I should just keep going and try to catch up a little. Right now I am on the bus to Pamukkale and it is November 6th.  Now, look several weeks back to the second to last weekend in October. I traveled with the CIEE crew to Çanakkale, Galippoli and Troy.  CIEE had us stay at an ecofarm which unlike my expectations was actually my favorite part of the trip.  I will start at the beginning of our trip so everyone gets a better idea of the amount of activities packed into 3 days. We left campus early on Friday morning (7am!!—haha this is probably the earliest that I have gotten up since being here) after some minor fiascos involving the alarm clocks and drinking habits of some of the other students. Let’s just say that we didn’t leave until closer to 7:35am and our coordinators were not happy. Ten minutes into the bus ride we were headed down the hill from campus and could see the beautiful view of the Bosphorus. This of course inspired me to take a picture, only to discover that my camera was sitting uselessly on my desk back in my dorm Sad smile!!!! Oh no! Though I was pretty upset with myself, I decided to make use of the other 17 cameras on the trip and hop into as many pictures as possible. (At this point you should realize that this post will contain a lot more writing than normal. The pictures below were not taken by me, so I give all the credit to the students that I stole them from.)

On the way to Çanakkale, we stopped at the Galippoli battle fields along the Dardenelles. image   Our guide was a very interesting older man who seemed to love what he was taking about and tried to give us a very good image of what occurred there.  (He was a Fulbright Scholar to the U.S. and studied at OSU!!!) This battlefield is from WWI, just before the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923.  Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, was a general for the Turkish army at this site.  Four nations were involved in the battles here: Turkey, France, Australia and New Zealand.  Australia, New Zealand and Turkey all have cemeteries and monuments around the site. The graves, statues and stories really reminded me of Gettysburg in the US.  We got to see the landing site of the Australians and New Zealanders (ANZAC), the trenches where the soldiers of opposing sides were no more than a couple yards away in some places, and the monuments to honor the soldiers that died there. Though I wasn’t affected by the war, I could see how moving the site could be for people with connections to the war. 

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ANZAC

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Walking in the trenches.

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The Turkish soldier cemetery.

Our next stop was the ecofarm which was several more hours drive.  Dedetepe (Grandfather Hill) is an ecofarm run by the Buğday Association which manages and promotes ecofarms around the region.  Buğday means wheat in Turkish which fits with the organization’s message of sustainable farming and as close to subsistence farming as possible.  Volunteers are the main source of labor (we were guests, not volunteers) and in return they receive home-cooked vegetarian meals.  At Dedetepe there is a flock of chickens, bunnies, a horse (with one eye), and many olive trees.  The couple that started and run the farm are very nice and laid back. When we arrived dinner was ready (cooked by the volunteers that were already there) and we sat down to eat. Of course the food was good. (Sidenote: Sometimes on the CIEE trips I feel as though we move from meal to meal instead of site to site. The food is always plentiful and delicious! I think I’m going to miss the flavorful dishes the most.)  We got to talk with the people staying at the farm throughout dinner and the campfire afterward.  Jesse, from Portland, OR, and I were so excited to see a campfire because we had both been Outdoor School counselors for middle school students when we were in high school. We attempted to lead a few campfire songs without much enthusiasm from the other students. Oh well.  We also really missed having s’mores. Marshmallows are outrageously expensive in Turkey because they have to be imported or made with beef gelatin instead of pork gelatin (Muslims can’t eat pork products). 

That night we were divided into groups for the yurts and cabins.  I shared a yurt with Jesse (Oregonians for the win).  It was unheated (something that wasn’t quite mentioned in the pre-trip e-mail from our coordinators), but comfy and definitely fun.  I slept with all my clothes on and three wool blankets to stay warm.  The showers and weekend schedule were a little inconvenient for showers, so our group mostly went without and looked extremely attractive by the time we headed home.  My OSU beanie and sweatshirt made me stand out in all the group pics just like normal. (Sidenote: everyone in Turkey owns either a dark brown or black coat, so when I wear my OSU sweatshirt, my Phi Rho letter sweatshirt or my blue rain jacket, I am always the brightest one in the crowd)

The next day we started with a fun Turkish breakfast filled with shooing away wasps from the honey.  We learned that the farm trades it’s products (olives and olive oil soap) with other farms for ingredients for their meals. So the honey we were eating was produced by local bees from another farm nearby.  We took a small tour of the farm and learned that it is disconnected from the power grid and produces all the electricity that is needed from a few solar panels, a wind turbine and a water wheel during the winter.  There is a river right down the hill that provides water for the bathrooms and showers. Drinking water is brought in from the nearest town.  The farm has many olive tress on the property and is also surrounded by cultivated olive groves.  I learned that all the trees are grafted so that the roots are that of the wild olive that is native, and the branches are from the preferred eating olive.  This way, the tree grows well in the climate and produces the desired product as well.  We took a trip to the sustainable farm cultural center where we learned about the philosophy of the farm.  They told us that their mission is to reduce the distance that food travels and keep everything organic so that it is healthier for you. Though this is great, I think we were the wrong audience because we were all students with limited budgets. Organic food is expensive!

Back at the farm we took a small hike to the top of the nearby hills to see the view. We also got to see an old grist mill and bridge that we climbed on. Of course there were no safety measures, as this is Turkey, and our residence director and her boss who was along for the trip looked rather worried a few times.  We also got to pick olives so that we could make our own to take home. We picked the fattest completely green olives, smashed them with flat rocks so that the flesh cracked, and put them in a jar full of water.  Erkan, the farm owner instructed us to change the water after each three days, for nine days and then change the water and add a good amount of salt.  This removes the bitterness and cures the olives when the salt is added.  My olives are now sitting in the salt water waiting for my taste test when I return from my weeklong holiday vacation.  Hopefully they turn out ok. 

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The old bridge near the grist mill.

 

 

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Smashing olives. Yes, those rocks are from the ground. Hopefully none of us get sick from the olives.

For dinner we got to help the volunteers cook!  (I was soooo excited!) Remember that there isn’t very much electricity available.  We made falafel, hummus, salad, rolls, apple and pumpkin tart and quince cake.  I was on the falafel and hummus team. We used a hand grinder to grind the chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) and herb mixture that were used for the falafel and then cooked the remaining chickpeas and ground those for hummus.  It took a little over two hours to cook everything for dinner, but it turned out delicious!

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The open air kitchen.

That night we joined in a Turkish wedding celebration. The farm’s owners had been invited to the wedding, and they asked if they could bring our group and the family agreed. This was really fun cause we got to learn how to do a traditional Turkish dance, learned about the henna night of the wedding (Turkish weddings last for three days) and congratulate the bride with our limited Turkish language skills.

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Dancing at the Turkish wedding! The bride was dressed beautifully! This was the first day of the wedding or the henna night.

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Ignore my face in this photo (I thought he was just taking a picture of our hands). This is the henna that the girls get at the wedding celebration.

Our last day of the trip included another great breakfast, receiving a lot of olive oil soap from the farm, touring an olive oil museum, and touring Troy! (see next blog entry)