Turkey has been absolutely amazing, and several times a day I think (or say out loud, which I'm sure gets tiresome) - "this reminds me of _____". I've heard in the past that scent is one of the senses most directly tied to memory, and these two weeks I have definitely been witness to that. Really distinct memories, buried for years, have come to the surface in vivid detail just by the scent of a certain spice in the market, or corn roasting on the street. I have to say, this has been the part of the trip that I have missed my family the most, and as I travel through Cyprus, Israel and Jordan, I have a feeling that will just get stronger.
Spent 5 days in Istanbul exploring the Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cisterns, and a plethora of other things that were constructed forever ago. What an incredible city. You're just constantly in awe. Here are few shots from some of the sites...
One of my favorite afternoons in Istanbul was spent on the Asia side (much less touristy, calmer) wandering around a market around lunchtime. We found what would be the equivalent of a specialty deli with a case of all sorts of delicious looking salads and regional dishes. This was not a tourist spot, this is where the people that live in that area shop. The owner spoke zero English so all our communicating consisted of pointing, smiling, and handing me forks of delicious things to taste. After choosing grape leaves (of course), and 3 or 4 other things we sat at a table outside to enjoy our little picnic. The owner came out with a distraught look on his face and through sign language I discerned that he was upset because he didn't realize we were going to eat there and he would have put everything on plates for us. After assuring him we were just happy to be enjoying his delicious food, he disappeared across to another vendor and returned with fresh bread. Once we were completely stuffed, he reappeared again with dessert (Mom - it was kunefe, and it was delicious). What a great last afternoon in Istanbul.
From there, the next stop was a little town called Goreme in the Cappadocia region of Turkey. It is breathtaking here and even after 5 days the views still make me smile. The first morning I was awoken very early by an odd noise outside the window. It kept happening and when I finally moved the curtain and looked out, I caught my breath. The normal view from the window is the really cool lunar-esque landscape (which in and of itself is beautiful), and at 6:00am every morning it is complimented by tons of hot air balloons. Indescribable.
The next morning, I was in one of them, and it has been one of the highlights of this entire year. I mean, look at this....
I've also hiked one of the valleys, toured a really incredible ancient underground city with 7 floors, visited a monastery set in a cave, spent the day getting pampered at a hamam, and enjoyed several amazing meals. (Mom - every meal makes me miss you, not just because it reminds me of your cooking, but because I know how much you would love the food and desserts here. One day, we will visit together.)
Now I'm off to a city on the southern coast for a few days before taking a ferry to Cyprus. I am really excited for the next part of the trip because aside from the fact that Cyprus and Israel are really incredible places, I get to visit great friends in both of them. Diana & Oren - can't wait to see you guys!