From Jamie's Philippines Pics

We have also had the opportunity to travel to some amazing places in China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Bali. We have archived all of our travels and living experiences abroad; and if you wish, you can read about our adventures by finding the archives on the right of this page and by checking our Photo Album.

We appreciate all of our family and friends who have stayed in touch and emailed us with encouraging words throughout the year. We hope you will continue to keep us in your thoughts as we continue our adventure of living abroad teaching at an international school. For those who have stumbled upon our site, check out the "About Eric and Jamie" section on the right for more information.

Thanks for checking us out!

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."
- Mark Twain

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."
- Maya Angelou






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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 8 - Cappadocia to Istanbul to Bahrain to KSA

The title says it all.  We were picked up at 6:00 am and taken to the Kayseri airport and caught a quick flight back to Istanbul.  It took us the the Asian side airport, so we had to catch a bus back to the European side of Istanbul.  We finally arrived back at our hostel at 12:00, dropped off our luggage, and headed out to do some souvenir shopping.  We picked up some items for family members at the Grand Bizarre and a few items for ourselves.

After going back and picking up our luggage, we headed to Cembalitas, an old Turkish bath house.  I was hesitant about going in, but Jamie really wanted to go and I tagged along.  I'll cut it short and just say it wasn't my thing, but Jamie seemed to enjoy her body scrub and hot oil massage.

After our Turkish bath, it was a taxi/Metro ride to the airport, a 4 hour flight back to Bahrain, and an hour drive back to our villa arriving at 3:30 am.  Luckily, we caught a couple of hours of sleep on the plane because we were able to stretch out.

I always total up our expenditures to almost the very penny in a little notebook I carry around.  Jamie and I budget so much for certain trips throughout the year and had a very good idea of what we could do in Southeast Asia.  After going to Turkey, all I can say as far as the budget is concerned is... "This ain't Southeast Asia."

Overall a great trip.  We have 1 day to rest before heading back to school.  If you haven't already, check out our Picasa Photo Album for all of our pictures in Turkey.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 7 - Turkey - Cappadocia

From Cappadocai

Jamie and I woke early this morning and were picked up and taken on a hot air balloon ride over the area surrounding Goreme.  We had taken a hot air balloon ride in China over Yangshou, so we thought this would also be a great experience.  It didn't disappoint, but it was quite cold, there were 20 people in the basket, and it was partly cloudy. Overall, a great experience, the landscape was beautiful, but it was very pricey.

We then were picked up for a day long tour of the Cappadocia region.  We made several stops and you can see all of them in the pictures.

Our first stop was a panoramic view of Goreme and the famous fairly chimneys.  People do live in those coned shaped "chimneys" and when light shines through them, it apparently looks magical, thus the fairy name.  Nonetheless, they are all over the place and have become quite the tourist attraction.

Our second stop was to an underground city called  Derinkuyu. Dating back to the Hittites on 1500 bc, we visited one that could potentially hold up to 15,000 people.  We only saw 10% of the "city" but it was complete with churches, schools, living quarters, a winery, meeting places, roll away stones that could block tunnels from invaders, and ventilation shafts. It goes down 55 meters and has 8 stories.

We then drove to the deepest and largest canyon in Cappadocia, Ihlara.  We saw a small church that had been built during the iconographic era of Turkey (where it was illegal to paint Christian frescos, so they ran to the hills and caves and painted them there). We then hiked 3km along the bottom of the ravine where lunch was waiting on us at the end.

Our next stop was perhaps the coolest part of the day.  We visited a cave monastery very similar to the monastery and nunnery that we visited yesterday.  Only this time, the rooms were larger and we were able to climb all over the place.  Some sections were closed off and we were asked to not go some places just because it was too dangerous.  This monastery and nunnery was built during the 4th century and stayed active until the 11th century.  Pics and videos of this place are cool, so check them out.

Our last stop was the obligatory jewel "factory" that every tour in Asia forces you to go on.  Before that, however, we stopped briefly at Pigeon Valley to see the pigeon houses there.  Again, the people have lived in the fairy chimneys for hundreds of years.  They began building little holes and placing food for the pigeons.  The pigeons would then leave their droppings, and the people would collect the droppings and sell them to the local farmers as fertilizer.  Thus, "pigeon hole."  You can see them all over the place here and the peoples still apparently use them, although I haven't seen any pigeons.

They dropped us back at our hostel, we had a short break, then headed to a very tasty local restaurant for Turkish food.  I ordered the yogurt ravioli and Jamie had what was similar to Brunswick stew.

Long Long day tomorrow as we travel back to Istanbul for some souvenir shopping and then head back to Bahrain and home late late tomorrow night.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Turkey - Day 6 - Goreme

From Cappadocai

Jamie and I do almost all of the planning for traveling by ourselves.  We stay in hostels, ride public transportation, do very little tours, and eat in local places.  There have been very few times where we have been lost or completely clueless as to what to do next.  Many people pay extra for someone else to book everything for them, but that is just not our style.  It’ll obviously change when we have kids, but for now, we enjoy the way we travel.

With that said, we struggled today.  After catching a ride to the train station, catching a 50 minute train to the Izmir airport, a 70 minute flight to Kayseri, we found ourselves with no idea as to how to get to Goreme, our next destination.  We asked for the bus station only to be pointed to a bus stop.  We headed over there and attempted to ask a few people for the bus to Goreme, but with no luck.  Istanbul and Selchuk had many people who spoke English, but this town did not.  We finally found a young college student who spoke English and he directed us on 2 busses that led us through the city of Kayseri.  We departed from him with the instructions to stay on the bus til the end, then find the bus to Goreme.

We only found 3 nice men who eagerly wanted to help us but spoke almost no English.  The invited us in for tea, asked if we wanted food, and tried very desperately to tell us how to get to Goreme.  We think they wanted us to wait until the bus at 5:00.  Since it was already 2:00 and we had wasted half of the day riding the bus around the city, we really didn’t want to spend another 3 hours waiting.  We finally suggested a taxi, but they really didn’t want us to do that.  I believe they knew our frustration, so they led us to a bus, who after 5 minutes, told us to get off and pointed to some taxis. 

Relieved, we climbed in.  Unfortunately, the taxi fare was astronomical.  In fact, the taxi ride from Kayseri to Goreme was more than our flight half way across the country.  This was one of those times where we truly didn’t know what to do and our lack of planning really costs us. 

We made it to our hostel, which is called the Nomad Cave Hotel. The Cappadochia region of Turkey is famous for its odd landscape.  Our hotel is literally carved into the side of a rock face.  Our room is dug out of a cave.  See the pictures.

Since we arrived late and it was raining, all we had time for today was for the Open Air Museum, which used to be a monastery and nunnery.  Like other structures around here, it too is a series of houses, chapels, and churches that have been carved out of the mountain.  Again, check out the pictures because it is difficult for me to describe the landscape.

Tomorrow, we will arise early for a hot air balloon over the area.  Very pricey but it is apparently the “thing” to do here.  We’ll then take a tour of some of the surrounding areas including an underground city.  Check back tomorrow for an update and I’m sure what will be TONS of pictures.

Turkey - Day 5 - Selcuk

From Selcuk (Ephesus)

We fiddled with our itinerary and decided to catch a flight the next day instead of today.  We spent the morning in Selcuk again seeing the museum there.  I was able to get a haircut and shave and massage.  They did a fabulous job.  It was the first time I had ever had a shave with my haircut, and I really enjoyed it. 

After some lunch, we caught a dolmus to a small little mountain village 10 km away called Sirinci.  Best known for their wine, the streets are lined with small cafes and shops.  We bounced around from shop to shop taste testing some wine and enjoying the afternoon. 

We caught a shuttle back to the hostel, got some rest, ate dinner, watched more Dexter, and headed to bed.

Very relaxing day.  We probably didn’t need to stay there another day, but it was OK with us.  We saved some money on the flight to Kayseri and Atilla’s Getaway Hostel was a great place.

Turkey - Day 4 - Selcuk (Ephesus)

From Selcuk (Ephesus)

After breakfast, we were dropped off at the bus station and caught a quick dolmus (small bus) to Ephesus.  Ephesus is today considered to be best preserved remains of the Roman Empire in Turkey.  As you can see from the pictures, much of it has either been preserved over the last 1800 years or has been renovated.  As with any of these sites, there will always be more to do, but they have reconstructed enough to give you an idea of how the Romans lived so long ago. 

Of importance at Ephesus includes the ruins of the theater, mini theater, library, and villas.  We really enjoyed seeing the villas, which they had completely covered to protect against the elements.  Inside were amazing floor mosaics and wall paintings that were still intact.  There were 7 villas and they were quite large. 

We spent nearly 3 hours touring Ephesus, including St. Mary’s church which is also on the grounds but built after the original buildings.  It is said that the virgin Mary fled to Ephesus after the death of Jesus and spent her final days there.  The church was built to honor her and became somewhat of a pilgrimage site for Christians during the middle ages.  Outside of town, there was a house that was supposedly the virgin Mary’s house, but I’m not sure that is real or not.

Just outside the city of Selcuk is one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world, The Temple of Artemis.  It was once a magnificent building honoring the goddess Artemis, but it was destroyed by a mad man who wanted the glory.  It is said that Artemis was not present to protect her temple because she was the birth of Alexander the Great.  Cool story, but all that remains of the temple today is a few cornerstones and one of the columns.  It is still cool to have been there though.

Selcuk is a quaint little town that relies on the tourism of Ephesus.  The streets are very nice and there are tons of cafes and shops that line the streets.  On the hill overlooking the city is the ruins of St. John’s cathedral.  Jesus’ most loved apostle apparently came to Ephesus in his final days and wrote some of the New Testament here.  Like St. Mary’s temple, the ruins of St. John’s became a pilgrimage site for many Christians. 

We headed back to the hostel after seeing these sites, caught a nap, dinner, watched some downloaded videos of Dexter, and slept like logs for the night.

A great day overall with Ephesus as the highlight.  To be walking where the Greeks and Romans used to walk is pretty special.

Turkey - Day 3

From Istanbul

Jamie and I were flying out this evening, so we had another day to kill in Istanbul.  We had seen and done pretty much everything that we really wanted to and it was raining, so we decided to find a movie theater and catch a flick.  Remember, there are no movie theaters in Saudi, so seeing a movie is a treat. 

We made our way across town using the fabulous public transportation system (we really do miss that) and found a great mall.  We had hoped to see the new Lincoln Lawyer movie but we missed it by 10 minutes and opted for Little Red Riding Hood instead.  It was decent enough.  Great theater though.

We caught a shuttle to the airport when we got back to our hostel, flew a quick 55 minute flight Izmir, but were stumped about how to get to our hostel in Selcuk.  We knew it was about an hour drive, but we really didn’t know how to get there.  We found some wonderful information about public busses that go to Selcuk, but we couldn’t find the actual bus.  Instead, I stumbled on a private but operated by our airline, Atlasjet, and they offered a FREE shuttle to Selcuk.  It is now my favorite airline.

The bus dropped us off in the middle of the city.  We must have looked confused because a nice guy offered to help us find our way.  He took us to his friends restaurant until we called our hostel and they picked us up. Very good luck and very nice people.

We arrived at Atilla’s Getaway Hostel a little after 9:30 at night and tucked in for the night.  Long day tomorrow touring Ephesus.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Istanbul - Day 2

Jamie and I started our day today after breakfast walking past the remains (very very little) of the old hippodrome.  There is an ancient Egyptian obelisk there and they are restoring it as well as making a replica.  All of this is next to the Blue Mosque, so it is nice that you walk by it every time as well as the Hagia Sophia.

Our next stop was to the Topkapi Palace, the sultan's palace of the Ottoman Empire.  It was a typical palace complete with all of the fine architecture, furnishings, tile work, mother of pearl, and gold.  Of particular interest was an area where they supposedly had all the spoils of war, notably Moses's staff, King David's sword, Abraham's saucepan, and Joseph's turbin.  A harem was a completely different section, but we decided not to go in there, especially after I figured out that there were not any women in there any more.

It was colder today and overcast all day, so our next stop was the Istanbul Archeological Museum.  Artifacts from 5000 years ago have been restored and placed in the museum.  Artifacts from all of the empires, plus Troy and thousands of Roman artifacts are there.  It was pretty overwhelming and we ended up staying almost 2 hours just trying to wind our way through.

We ate a kebab plate outside the palace for lunch and decided to relax for the afternoon.  We booked an evening show of the Whirling Dervishes and napped most of the afternoon.

Our Whirling Dervishes show was interesting.  You have probably seen the pictures of them and we were able to see a performance.  It is a very spiritual performance,  complete silence is observed with the exception of the instrumental accompaniment, and photographs are forbidden.  This performance was performed by men who practice Sufi Islam.  I'll let you look up Whirling Dervishes, Sufi Islam, and Mevlevi Sema if you so choose.  It was interesting, but not what we expected.

We found a nice little Irish pub for dinner and ordered some fried stuff while I was able to watch the Phillies and Astros play.  We headed back for the night after stopping to take some night pictures of the Hagia Sophia  and the Blue Mosque.  Our hostel had a belly dance performing when we got there, so that was a nice treat (for me).

All for now.  We haven't decided our itinerary for tomorrow, but we do fly to Izmir tomorrow night.  

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