Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cappadocia - a Hedonistic journey

Today's Google Doodle
Today happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the Flinstones and to celebrate it I'm going to tell you about a place that's something just like Bedrock.

Where will you be flying to today? asked the man at the airport check-in counter.
My grandmother promptly replied - Turkistan.
I never quite understood her obsession with that word.
That day we were actually taking a flight to Kayseri from where we were to drive down to paradise.



It's one of those po-tay-to  -  po-taa-to sort of words.

We had one of the 'usual' travel stories. I stared out of the window for most of the flight watching the clouds cast their shadows on the calm blue sea while being surrounded by the 'regular' people on the flight.

  • The loud family member - my grandmother - who laughed right through the flight while reading Absolute Khushwant, a book everyone came to read on the trip.
  • The random person reading something weird - this time it was a lady reading The Bastard from Istanbul by Elif Shafak. I wonder what that was about.
  • And lastly there's either one of the two - the crying baby OR the annoying American.

As much as I get irritated with the crying baby, you can never blame them for crying. I have also cried with ear pain on flights.
But as my luck would have it, I had an annoying American who wouldn't shut up about how the online car industry was going to be the next big thing to hit the world. I can't even say I loved her confidence. 

Driving down to Cappadocia made me feel like I had just fallen asleep and was a part of my very own dream. Rüyasi in Turkish (I can't help but show off about the few Turkish words I've learnt).

Truly breathtaking. It's one of those must-see places. It's basically made up of volcanic rock that was formed from the ashes of 3 volcanoes that erupted millions of years ago. This soft rock made it easy to carve out of and people built homes, churches and amazing hotels too.
It was more than obvious then that I would be soon buying myself an authentic pumice stone. Bye bye Dr. Scholl.

Wine at Turasan
It was one of those places you go to to relax. Not much to do besides basking in the sunlight, eating, reading magazines, drinking freshly squeezed orange juice, going for walks, eating more, playing cards, drinking wine and eating some more. 

And obviously drinking apple tea. 
My most amazing observation: When the granules of apple tea mix with the hot water, it looks just like the bioluminescent plankton in the movie The Beach

The highlight of being in Cappadocia was going for the hot air balloon ride.

We woke up at 4:30 am. It was so cold. Not a time for the bum shorts to make an appearance.

We got to an open ground where they were setting up 2 balloons.

Watched the sunrise as we went up in the balloon.

At one time I counted about 50 balloons. Try it.

Cappadocia from up above looks like a beautiful meringue made by Jamie Oliver. It nearly made my mouth water.

Weren't quite ready to land even after an hour.

Celebrated our flight with Champagne.

No checking-in, no immigration, no turbulence and a pilot with a great sense of humour - Undoubtedly the best flight ever!
And we even got a certificate.

Our wonderful hotel
Cappadocia was awesome. What made it even better was our hotel, Elkep Evi.
We had large cave rooms with big comfy beds, lots of magazines to read, a sit-in closet and a music system with a lot of cds. 
I was expecting to find a CD of Tarkan's Kiss Kiss but found and listened to everything from La Traviata to Christmas Carols and Kenny G.
Now La traviata isn't my kind of music but it was weirdly relaxing. Which made me wonder, did I enjoy it cause I'm from a different time?
As a child, I believed that I was from the future cause when I heard the Macarena for the first time, it felt like a deja vu. Does that make any sense?

Aku, Halil & me with
 a random Japanese lady
We also did a day tour of Cappadocia with our guide, Halil. 
He made Turkey seem even more beautiful than it was.
He told us about their culture. Turkish people seem quite similar to Indians in a way. Quite family oriented. It isn't a very strict Islamic country as people seem to be eating and drinking freely even during Ramadan. They also call Eid Bayram.

Another random fact about Turkish people : They're not much into junk food. They prefer to munch on sunflower and pumpkin seeds instead of chips.

Being scared away by Muhammed in Istanbul, we thought of going for a Hamam in Cappadocia but luckily Halil warned us in time and saved us from being bathed by men yet again.

Trying hard to make the
Will you Marry me sugar pot at Avanos
He took us to see
  • the beautiful churches in Goreme. All carved out. 
  • To Avanos, famous for its pottery. It is said that back in the day if a boy wanted to marry a girl, her father would ask him to make a sugar pot. Now, a sugar pot has 2 parts, the jar and the lid. If the lid fit the jar meant that the boy was a good potter, fit enough to marry the girl.
  • To a wine store - Cappa wines where we tasted wines - don't know what else we could've really done there. I also learnt the Turkish word for Wine from the paper bag. It's şarap.
  • A jewellery store where I learnt that Turquoise is called Turquoise because it's Turkish quartz. I think. And the men at the store were for some reason trying to find me a Turkish husband.

Why I loved Cappadocia
Waking up in Cappadocia everyday brought a smile to my face.

I felt like I was in a room carved out with love.

My sit-in closet
A room with a view

I was surrounded by the kindest of animals.

Ate lovely cheese pancake - like stuff for breakfast.

My hair looked straight everyday.

At breakfast here was jam, jam and more jam.

And they have the cutest ice-cream man who entertains you.

Hated to have to leave Cappadocia for obvious reasons.
While we were in Avanos, we visited a pottery store where we were shown a special bottle that the Turkish people would make to store their tears. This was used by women when their men were at war so when their husbands returned they could show them how much they were missed.
I thought this was just so beautiful.
To be dramatic I would've loved showing how much I miss Cappadocia in the very same way but then again I think my blogpost makes it pretty clear.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Carry on Turkey!

A funny photographic journey through the 3 places I spent a lot of time in while in Turkey.
Istanbul, Cappadocia and the Airport.

Why you must stay at Harmony Hostel.
Why should you eat here? Why Not?
Even better than Zoltar.
This is why people don't pee on the streets like Bombay.
Martina Navratilova lookalike on the Bosphorus cruise.
Is it a bird? Or a plane? Or a home? Hotel? Or Restaurant?
They say Bankasi for Bank. Isn't that cute?
I don't quite know how to explain this.

They are called fairy chimneys because they resemble umm... fairy chimneys.
Carpet potato cats watching football.
Counting them helped us take good afternoon naps.
Playing Rummy with Turkish playing cards. The belly dancers are the jokers.


The Indian Volleyball team. Yes, we have one.
Why should one go 3 hours early to the airport? For a haircut.

The truffles named after me that live at Duty Free.

Not my water bottle.

Naturally! Atleast Ataturk Airport agrees with me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Eylül in Istanbul

I thought noone enjoyed celebrating their birthdays as much as I did.
Well, I was wrong.
Ganpati seems to have had a crazy 11 day party which ended in him going deep sea diving like every year.

Flowers on the street in Istanbul
Bombay seems to be in its festival recovery stages at the moment and the silent streets make me want to finally sit and jot down a quick summary of my September in Istanbul before it gets washed away with new memories.

It all began with a very delayed flight to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. I managed to get through most of it passed out across 3 seats.
But no, they don't have individual screens so it doesn't quite pass my good airline test.
Then again, we got served breakfast. 80% of which was the special Turkish white cheese.
With the weird time difference I sort of forgot to brush my teeth till the evening that day. I know. Gross!

Turkish Coffee
Istanbul - it was definitely love at first sight.
Good blend of Asian and European. 
Love the cobbled roads.
Our hotel - Yasmak Sultan. Walking distance to everything nice.
Amazing breakfast. A variety of cheeses to choose from. Along with juices, teas, meats and jams in big bowls. I was actually pouring jam with a big serving spoon instead of spreading a thing layer on my bread. This was most definitely paradise.

Down the street from our hotel was a lovely restaurant called Faros.
Lunch at Faros
Amazing food. Great waiters. Very entertaining. They explained the origin of Turkish food and basically how the people of all the European countries were really lazy while creating their own recipes and just stole theirs.
This is where we had our first dose of Turkish coffee, apple tea and mezze.

Istanbul. A place with beautiful weather. I just loved walking in the sunlight. Something I can't dream of doing in Bombay.
Also a place where they call a blow-dry a blow wave.
Where U2 happened to be performing while we were there but I couldn't really care.
A place where you plan on going for a massage or Hamam and then get scared away by a big man called Muhammed.
And men shamelessly hit on you every 3 steps you take. Aku and I were called everything from Rani to India. We also got many paparazzo-stares. Was it our larger than life sunglasses?

Dinner at Kybel's Cafe
Everyone had a role on the trip.
I was the woman in-charge. The woman with the plan. Also the one with the camera.
My mom played the role of the lady on a mission to buy hazelnuts, teas and all things healthy.
My grandmom was hunting for Raki everywhere and would generally settle for Turkish wine.
Aku was the one trying to prevent everyone from buying too many souvenirs for the fear of having our home getting converted into a Turkish museum after the holiday. This happens pretty much after every trip. We live like the people of that country for a few months. Decorate our home with their artifacts. Drink their tea. Till stocks last.

The Blue Mosque
Now let me tell you about the fun part - the sightseeing.
We did a city tour with an amazing guide called Shakir who cracked many jokes along the way.
Visited the Blue Mosque and saw thousands of beautiful blue tiles. Blue is such a happy colour. After yellow. Also saw the Hagia Sophia. This was a basilica which was later converted into a mosque and is now a museum. Shakir really put things into perspective for us. He explained the changes that were made while converting it from a basilica into a mosque. Basically the Christians would face the East while praying while the Muslims would face the South-east. So the difference between Christians and Muslims is just about 10 degrees. That's all. It's that simple.

He also told us that going for a Hamam (one of the regular ones in the city centre) was one of the 1000 things to do before you die.
He said a question usually asked by many of the male tourists is "Will I be bathed by a beautiful young woman?" He said the answer is simple. The men are bathed by big men with big moustaches and the women are bathed by big women with small moustaches. Which makes me wonder - Why would you want to do that before you die?

Carpet store
Shakir also took us to a carpet store. The carpets were beautiful. I wouldn't buy one just cause I'm highly allergic to dust so unless I'm ready to sneeze all day I wasn't getting one. On the other hand, flying back to Bombay on a carpet seemed like an interesting idea. After seeing the prices I realised Turkish Airlines was a cheaper option. Plus there's the in-flight entertainment. I doubt Aladdin can beat that.

Fishing by the Bosphorus

That afternoon we took the ferry on the Bosphorus.
You look left and see Europe. You look right and see Asia.
It was amazing to know that people travel across continents daily. We saw some cool buildings by the river, the hospital where Florence Nightingale hung out during the Crimean War. All this while my grandmom told us all about Kemal Pasha and how he changed Turkistan which we thought at that point was just a person she had made up.

Spice Market
We then visited the Grand Bazaar - very okay.
And the Spice market - good for hazelnuts, apple tea and pretty pepper grinders.

Life couldn't be more exciting at this point.

And then we went for the Dancing Dervishes show which temporarily killed the wow effect.
So what do the whirling Dervishes do? Well, basically they whirl. Period.
My grandmom who finds it hard to sleep at night had her eyes shutting within 5 mintues of the show starting. She was having one of those Tom & jerry I-need-toothpicks-to-keep-my-eyes-open moments.
I guess it works better than counting sheep.
So that was an hour of my life spent in watching men do something that resembled Tibetan rites in big long robes.

The restaurant that cheered us up
after watching the Dervishes
To kill the sheer boredom of having to watch men whirling for an hour we cheered ourselves up with a good garlicesque meal. Followed by some Apple tea obviously.

Followed that by watching the US Open. The Tak Tok Tak sound was nice to hear.
Was more fun than watching Kyle XY, Grey's Anatomy & Everybody Hates Chris in Turkish. Surprisingly though, Everybody Hates Chris is much more tolerable in Turkish, cause you can't understand a thing maybe.

Men playing Tavla

Everyday in Turkey, we'd have a big breakfast, a bigger lunch and a ginormous dinner. I appeared to be one more month pregnant after every meal. I was pretty much on a cheese diet and was eating dolmas (rice stuffed in grape leaves) at regular intervals.

People in Turkey are so kind. So helpful. Even when they don't understand you. Everything works like clockwork.
It was like China but better. People are so happy, they play backgammon all day.
Overdosing on Apple Tea

Some may say I saw Istanbul through rose-tinted glasses. 
To be honest it was through apple tea-filled glasses.
Either way it was beautiful.

Incase you're wondering what Eylül is, well, it's September.
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