Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Turkey

June 19-24, 2014

Thursday, June 19
Joe left work a little early today so we could drive to Amsterdam to catch our flight to Izmir, Turkey. Joe's co-worker and friend Ulas (both him and his fiance Ezgi are from Izmir and live & work in the Netherlands) invited us to his wedding Friday evening. Joe also has a highschool friend from Charlotte that lives in Izmir that we are going to catch up with. Joe's boss Leopaldo is also going to the wedding and on the same flight as us. He has a reputation for being late. He said he was going to take the train at 5 for a 7pm flight. We never saw hum at the gate so we went ahead and boarded the plane when our zone was called. About 20 minutes until liftoff, Joe gets a phone call from him. Phew he made the flight and we spotted each other onboard. The funny part is he wasn't even the last one. The flight was extremely hot. We both fell alseep because it was just too hot to stay awake. We arrived around midnight. Joe and I got a hotel near the airport since we would be tired. 9 years ago we took a similar timed flight from Prague to Athens and to save money didn't book a hotel that first night. Joe ended up getting real sick from a combination we think of the lack of sleep and the water there. We were dead set on never having that happen again. We had a good night sleep. Money well spent for mommy and baby. Leopaldo was only staying until Sunday so he got a rental car and went to stay near the center of Izmir so he could explore Izmir Friday before heading to the wedding that night.

Friday, June 20
We made plans to meet Joe's high school friend Sheila at the Optimum outlet mall food court at noon because it was only 3 metro stops away from the airport. We left our luggage at the hotel front desk and made our way to the airport to figure out the metro. Turkey is not part of the EU. They use lira here. We had not gotten out any money yet from an ATM or bank before going to the metro stop amd trying to purchase tickets. Back into the airport we went, got the money and then back to the metro. The Izmir airport is quite big and nice but there is construction everywhere and things are really spread out all over. Good thing we had lots of time that morning before we needed to meet Sheila.
We got to Optimum Outlet Mall. Turkey is strange. At the entrance to public buildings there are always security people with a metal detector to go through. The weird thing is they do not care at all if you set it off. It's like some sort of false sense of security I guess. Very odd.
We spotted Sheila with her 3 kids in tow at the foot court. Olivia (a mini-Sheila) age 6, Hudson age 5 and Jackson age 3 were all very cute. We got some Turkish food and the kids some McDonalds Happy Meals. It was good chatting and catching up with Sheila learning more about their life here in Turkey. After lunch the kids went and played in the giant slide playground area while we talked more.

We had a security guy help us buy return metro tickets to the airport from the mall stop machine. We walked back to the hotel to get our bags and then back to the airport international arrivals terminal to catch a Havas bus to Ҫeşme. From the bus we had views of Izmir Bay and out to the sea. 

Once we hit a patch of rain Joe and Jackie were both soon asleep for the majority of the remaining hour bus ride. Google maps and our smart phones really come in handy while traveling. On this trip we did not get a prepaid phone card to use here. If we really needed internet or to make phone calls, we could use our Netherlands phone plans and just pay the additional roaming fees if necessary. Both Jackie's Galazy S4 and Joe's iphone 4S use satellite technology for it's GPS locator so we don't need to use data to pinpoint ourselves on the map. It’s a real lifesaver when traveling around in new places. Jackie saves favorite destinations to her Google map account so they can always have a star on the map to navigate to. From the Ҫeşme bus station (Otogar), it was a 1km walk to the bed and breakfast we were staying at for the next 2 nights. It's worth noting the difference in weather here. Eindhoven is similar to Seattle. Summer is typically 60s and nice days in the 70s. It's rare that it gets up in the 80s and even 90s. Izmir on the other hand was easily in the 80s most days. The humidity was no way near as bad as Charleston, but it's been 3 years since we have been accustomed to this kind of heat. Once we made it to the center of Ҫeşme we stopped for an ice cream cone. We then walked a little further to Koz Nese Hotel and checked into our room with the owner. We left our luggage and went back out to grab a bite to eat to tide Jackie and baby over until the wedding which started at 7pm. We walked along the water for awhile. The breeze felt great. The coast of Ҫeşme, Turkey is beautiful! 


We sat along the seawall edge and dipped our feet in the cool water. 

Mom and baby along the waterfront in Ҫeşme 
Jackie at the waterfront of Ҫeşme 
Ҫeşme waterfront where there were people swimming and fishing 

Clear waters at the rocky shore 
Looking back at the Ҫeşme waterfront, castle and marina 
Ҫeşme boats and castle 
Crazy guy jumping off the waterfront into the cool water 
Ҫeşme beach waters (Tekke Plajı) 
Ҫeşme Castle from the centrum 
We went back to the hotel to take a shower, clean up and change into a dress and suit for the wedding. Leopaldo booked the same hotel in Ҫeşme. Since we hadn't heard from him yet after 6pm, we took a taxi from our hotel to Grand Ontur Hotel where the wedding was. The wedding venue was beautiful. It was a very nice resort with a pool and beach access. The hotel offers seclusion without isolation and a beautiful panoramic view of the blue Aegean Sea. The hotel is situated on top of a cliff, 4 km north of downtown Cesme. 



We enjoyed the cocktail hour along the shore
We were given bike bells to ring when the bride and groom made their entrance. It was a cute Dutch touch. 
Ulas and Ezgi exchanging vows 

Leopaldo arrived about an hour late (bad GPS directions by car to Neze Hotel), around when the salad, the first course had arrived. There was also dolmas and cheeses.
Besides Leopaldo, Joe and Jackie; the 9 other guests were colleagues of Ezgi’s at Adidas in Amsterdam. There girls from Germany, Peru, Netherlands, Spain, Suriname and China. There were about 200 guests at the wedding. 
The second course was a kind of fried breaded meat mixture. The plate was covered in nuts so Jackie didn’t get to fully enjoy this course. 
The waiter showed our table how to properly make a raki drink, which is the national Turkish alcoholic drink. It is served straight with chilled water and ice cubes.
It was around this time that the sun fully set. Jackie caught the tail end of the sunset colors.
The third main course was a stuffed pepper chicken with rice. The fourth dessert course was great a fluffy tiramisu like cream inside a chocolate cylinder with syrupy raspberries. The wedding favors looked like a vile of little rocks that were actually chocolate. 

Saturday, June 21
Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC by the Ionia Greeks. It came under control of the Roman in 129 BC. It contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the eastern Mediterranean. The city’s importance as a port town diminished as the harbor slowly silted up by the Cayster River.
Ephesus is one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the Book of Revelation. It is believed that John wrote the Gospel here. In the 5th century, Ephesus was the site of several Christian councils.
From 52-54 AD, Paul lived in Ephesus working with the congregation and organizing missionary activity. He wrote 1 Corinthians and the Epistle to the Ephesians.
Harbor Street, which leads to the silted-up harbor. 



Great Theater, originally used for dramas, but during later Roman times for gladiator combats. It can still hold 25,000 spectators. 



Leopaldo chasing his receipt down Harbor Street 
Leopaldo, Joe & Jackie at the Ephesus Great Theater 

Great Theater 
The backstage of the Great Theater 
Great Theater 

Joe sitting at the Great Theater in Ephesus and you can see the Harbor Street out to the sea in the distance beyond 
Joe sitting at the Great Theater in Ephesus
The Agora Commercial Market and Library of Celsus beyond 
Ephesus arch ruin 
Library of Celsus 






The façade was carefully reconstructed from all original pieces built in 125 AD by Gaius Iulius Aquila for his father, the senator Tiberius Iulius Celsus Polemaeanus. The building had a small interior space due to neighboring buildings so it was designed with an exaggerated entrance to enhance its perceived size. The façade faces east so the reading rooms received the morning light. A flight of 9 steps are flanked by statue bases lead to a vestibule from which the library room could be entered. The library was destroyed during an earthquake in 270 AD. It was re-erected from 1970-1978. 
Walking among the ruins of Ephesus 
Architect admiring the work

Small Jackie, Joe and Leopaldo at Library of Celsus in Ephesus
Gateway to the Agora Commercial Market next to the Library of Celsus 




Column capitols in the agora 

Ephesus Agora Commercial Market 


The walls, arch and baptismal pool remain intact of Church of Mary.


This is possibly the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the world and the site of the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Ephesus was famous for the Temple of Artemis built around 550 BC, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but destroyed in 268 AD. The only revealed remnant is one inconspicuous column standing in a swamp.
The Basilica of St John was built in the 6th century AD over the tomb of John the Evangelist. It was a major pilgrimage destination in the Middle Ages.
We didn’t see everything piece of ruin in Ephesus but chose to move onto see the House of the Virgin Mary.
A litter of cats 
House of the Virgin Mary (Meryem Ana Heykeli) exterior 

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but I found one online
It is believed that Mary may have spent the last years of her life in Ephesus. Jesus’ instructions to John were to take care of Mary after his death and John’s presence in the city support this. Based on the visions of beautified Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich in 1812, this stone building is believed by many Roman Catholics and Muslins to be the House of the Virgin Mary. There is also a healing fountain. Poet Brentano wrote about bed-ridden Emmerich visions in The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. Ephesus had not yet been excavated, but the visions were used to discover the House of the Virgin Mary. Mel Gibson used Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions from her book The Dolorous Passion as a key source for the movie The Passion of the Christ.
We drove 18km to Kusadasi to grab some dinner before heading back to Izmir. The grilled octopus appetizer was amazing! 
Leopaldo seemed to love the curvy cliffside roads we drove back to Izmir on. He was impressed with a taxi van in front of us leading the pack to pass all the slower cars. Leopaldo dropped us at the Izmir airport so we could take a bus back to Cesme. 
It was a great day today in Ephesus exploring the old ruins of the city and then visiting what is believed to be Mary, Mother of Jesus’s last home.

Sunday, June 22
Turkish breakfast at our bed and breakfast in Cesme, Turkey
We climbed Cesme Castle today for great views of the sea for 8 lira.
Jackie admiring the castle
Window ironwork 
Gate ironwork 
Cesme castle 

The view of the sea from Cesme Castle 
Jackie and the Cesme marina beyond 
Jackie and the sea beyond 
Beautiful candle chandelier in the museum portion of the castle 
Candle wall sconce in the museum portion of the castle 
Jackie loved the 4 domed curving brickwork in this part of the castle. 

Momma at Cesme Castle 
A view of the town of Cesme from the castle 

Cesme marina beyond Cesme Castle minaret 

Joe and the sea beyond 
Castle lookout hole 
Cannon at Cesme Castle 
Amazing views of the sea from Cesme Castle 


Clay tile roof on Cesme Castle
Cesme Castle archway framing the sea 
Joe showing his Daddy’s sympathy baby bump 
Panorama of Cesme 
We walked along the Cesme waterfront 
Ҫeşme beach waters (Tekke Plajı) 
Jackie and baby wading in the beach waters in Cesme 
Further up the rocky shoreline 
Joe walking along the Cesme coastline
Coast of Cesme 






If Jackie had her bathing suit on she would have waded right into the water. 
We ate a Turkish lunch on the waterfront of Cesme before collecting our luggage and making the hot walk from the hotel to the bus station.
We took the bus from Cesme to Izmir (Uckuyular terminal) and then a taxi to our hotel for the next 2 nights, Swissôtel Büyük Efes. This hotel was really nice. It looked out onto the Izmir Bay, was in the center of Izmir, had indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and a spa. Our room was very nice, done in a very modern way with a California King massive bed, recessed indirect lighting everywhere, a directly overhead rain shower, and a bathtub. Jackie once again wished Joe had his bathing suit too so Jackie could go enjoy some weightless feeling swimming to relive some of the added pressure on her swollen hot feet from all the walking. 
We walked down to the Izmir Konak Clock Tower. It was built during Ottoman times to encourage Turks to adopt European time keeping habits.


Konak Mosque (Konak Cami) 


We then walked to Mavi Yengec for dinner because Jackie had read it had the best seafood in Izmir from TripAdvisor reviews. Unfortunately it was closed. 
Instead we ate a Turkish dinner of kebabs and salad and decided have our seafood dinner on the waterfront the next night.
We watched the sunset from our hotel room balcony in Izmir.





Feeling blessed. :)

Monday, June 23
For centuries Izmir was known as Smyrna.
Kemeralti Market or Bazaar is the city’s heart and soul.
This area contains the city’s largest mosque, Hisar Mosque.
We walked along Havra Sk, which was more of the produce and meat street of the market. It reminded us a whole lot of markets in Taiwan.
We had a wonderful seafood dinner along the Alsancak of Izmir at Birinci Kordon Balik Pisiricisi. We had grilled octopus, eggplant yogurt, bread, salad, some tomato and onion mixture, jumbo shrimp, and grilled seabrim. 

Views post sunset from along the Kordon & Alsancak, the iconic boulevard 



Kordon & Alsancak, the iconic Izmir boulevard 



Tuesday, June 24
We went for a short walk this morning along Kordon & Alsancak, the iconic Izmir boulevard. 


There are tons of jellyfish in the water beside the esplanade. I wouldn’t want to fall in that water! 



Jackie loves the tile work on and in the buildings in Turkey 
We took the bus from the bus stop outside the hotel to the airport. This airport seems to leave a worse and worse taste in our mouth every time we went there. We go to the Sun Express front desk 2 hours before our flight and no one is there. The only option for restaurants was Burger King and some other typical fast food you’d get in the US. The closest seat for pregnant Jackie was 100 yards away from the airline check-in desks. Finally 30 minutes later they were ready behind the desk to take passengers. We then proceeded to go through security. Jackie set off the metal detector today. The agent got a kick out of feeling our little girl kick her as she felt Jackie’s belly. 
The options for lunch once inside security weren’t any better: Burger King, Sbarro or pre-packaged sandwich shop. We decided on Burger King. They proceeded to try to pull one over on us twice. First she gave Joe the wrong change back. Then she tried to give us a small drink instead of the King size we ordered for the 2 of us to share.
We finally made it on board the plane to Amsterdam. We made it back home safe and sound in Eindhoven. It sure was odd at passport control to say we weren’t in the Netherlands for business or pleasure, but that we live here and show our residency cards. We went to pick up a new rental car. This time we ended up getting a Toyota hybrid which was an improvement from the crappy Skoda. The problem is there is no cruise control. Road trips just became a little more work.
Here’s hoping when we pick up Chance in the morning that she’s not too weirded out from her first stay at a Dutch kennel. With Chance being more of a people-dog than a dog-dog lover, I hope she had good interactions with the kennel workers who likely didn’t speak much English. She probably seemed like a dog that didn’t know any simple commands because she only knows them in English and not Dutch. Looks like I have some new words to try to teach her.
Chance ended up sleeping all day Wednesday which is usually a good sign she had a good time at the kennel. We’ll assume it’s from lots of exercise on the lawn yard and not from the lack of sleep from the other dogs barking the whole time.
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