Monday, August 17, 2015

Saklikent Gorge

The final thing on our Mediterranean Turkey to-do list was the Saklikent Gorge. This is a gorge (obviously) cut into the mountains by a river of snowmelt. You pay 3-6 liras to enter (kids-adults). Then you get to hike through the river up the gorge.

After the fast section, the water slows down.

They start you out where the water is fierce, where it has coming gushing seemingly straight out of the rocky side of the gorge cliffs. There is a rope to cling to as you pull yourself across and it is rather daunting and very cold. There are Turkish men in official t-shirts there offering their services to guide your party for a small fee. (Not actually very small in my opinion.) One of them helpfully took my hand as I struggled to cross that initial raging torrent. He assumed he was hired, but Kip sent him away when he started tagging along with us. I can't actually see why you would need a guide. I asked him what service he provided. He didn't speak much English and couldn't tell us anything about the gorge. His job was just to walk with us and maybe suggest ways to follow the river without getting hurt. Kip seemed a little upset at the idea that he couldn't lead his own family through a river-cut gorge without help.  And in all honesty, once we passed that initial rough spot at the entry, the rest of the river was not much more than a stream. The part at the entrance was where a second river joined the main one, making things deeper and faster just for a bit.

So we took our chances going unguided and it turned out just fine. The water was cool. The gorge itself was cool - in temperature and appearance. Perhaps in spring or winter the river would be higher, but for us it was a pretty, easy walk through a gentle stream, rarely even knee deep.

We ended our journey at a waterfall. It wasn't much of a waterfall. And it wasn't meant to be the end of the hike. It was a huge boulder beside a small waterfall with a knotted rope available to climb. It climbed about 11 feet up, with water showering down on the head of the person climbing.  We saw that as a good stopping place. We headed back down the gorge. After having walked the rest of the gorge, the entry rapids didn't seem as daunting. We all made it across the rope just fine and found a quiet spot to rinse our shoes.

Next item on the list was rafting down the river. You go out of the gorge for this and float down the river though the unshaded valley. We paid for the long ride, 1 1/2 hours. We got inner tubes, paddles, and life vests and helmets that smelled of tourist sweat. It took forever to finally get started, then we were off. Kip was tied to Anna. Bill and I were separate. We followed our guide with a group of short-ride tourists and their guide behind us. I was at the back of our family and kept paddling to try to catch up, but somehow I always ended up in shallow areas or heading off in the wrong direction.

It really was a lot of work. And Bill got tired and hungry. The last 45 minutes of our ride weren't the best. Our guide was a sun-browned, cheerful little man who sat high on his inner tube and paddled exactly where he wanted to go. He spoke to us mostly in gestures and seemed mildly discouraged by our inability to control our tubes in any way. They just seemed to go where they wanted in spite of our efforts.  The amount of soreness in my arm muscles the next day testifies to the fact that I was honestly trying. Eventually he gave up on us and had us all link together in a Killpack chain that he used his superman arm muscles to get where he wanted it to be. He took us down the last bit of our ride, splashing Bill sometimes in hopes of getting a smile (unsuccessful) or dumping water on my arms that were obviously burning (you'd think I'd learn). Finally, he dragged us into some shallows and we got to our unsteady feet. We hefted our tubes to the shore and the waiting van that drive us back to the entrance of the gorge.

Our waterside lunch restaurant.

That was our final big adventure. We hiked Saklikent Gorge, we rode the river. It was fun. Even William agreed once he's had some lunch. And my arms were only a little sunburned in the end.

Lycian Ruins

We couldn't visit Southern Turkey without seeing some ruins of ancient Lycian civilizations.  The first ones we went to were a place called Patara on Anna's birthday, August 7th. You pay to drive in and for a while I was hopeful that you could see the ruins from the comfort of your air conditioned car.  You can see some of them, but eventually you get to park and walk around for a better view. There is a huge amphitheater.  You can climb up it and imagine what it would have been like to watch a Greek tragedy there on a hot evening. There is a partially reconstructed assembly hall where the Lycian League met. We put on a mini talent show on the stage while Kip judged from the judges' seats. There are two bath houses. With how miserably hot it was, I could see why they needed those.

We dragged the kids around the ruins until they couldn't take it anymore. There was a lot more we could have seen, but the heat had bested us. We went to the beach.

Patara Beach is another sandy beach. It is a larger beach than Kaputas. This is one where you rent the chairs and umbrellas. We paid and chose ours and then Kip and I went to change to swimsuits. Yes, I had actually worn regular clothes for this sightseeing adventure. It was a mistake. My clothes were so soaked with sweat when I went to change that I could have rung them out. The sweat was dripping off my face as I struggled into my swimsuit in the stifling heat of the changing room.

Another excitingly hot thing about this beach was the sand. It was like walking on fire. Ok, for any of you that have actually walked on fire I realize this is an exaggeration. But it was insanely hot. It was hot enough to illicit a cry of 'Crikey!' from an Australian woman in front of Kip at one point.  We all left our flip flops and sandals back at our chairs and ran over to the water. Running was the only way to do it.

The water was delightful. The perfect temperature. Cool but not cold. And pockets of warmth would embrace you every few minutes, just for a second or two and then they were past.  The only problem was getting back to our seats when we decided to get out.

The next Lycian ruins we visited were Xanthos the day following Anna's birthday. Xanthos was a Lycian capital city. It had another big amphitheater, again frequently visited by goats. At Patara there had been goat droppings at the top of the amphitheater. At Xanthos there were actual goats. And a lot more droppings. Kip and the kids put on a little show for me and Wendy and Ferdinand, then we displaced the goats by trying to join then in the little bit of shade at the top of the amphitheater.

After getting our fill of the shaded, goat-smelly seats, we moved on to the necropolis. We climbed the hot mountainside and had a look at the tombs of the ancient inhabitants. The tombs we peaked into are filled no longer with the bodies of Lycians, but only with the strong scent of goat droppings. Those goats!

There's no beach in Xanthos. It's built above a river. So when we couldn't take the heat anymore, we decided the other sites of Xanthos were not for us. We climbed in our cars, cranked the ac, and drove home to our cool swimming pool.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Nephew Ferdinand

The Killpacks are bad news for Ferdinand.  Ferdinand is my 2-year-old nephew. He lives here in Turkey with my sister Wendy and her husband Willem. They are the reason we chose Turkey as our vacation spot this time. We had sabbatical and thought it would be nice to go somewhere exotic that also had family to visit. Turkey was the place.

We arrived in Ankara on Sunday evening, July 26th.  Wendy was at the ER with Ferdinand at that point. He had had his toe smashed by someone's chair at a dinner party. To be honest, we weren't actually with him when that one happened, so I'm not sure we can be blamed.

Becca on Ferdinand's Y-bike.

We had a good time with the Nassmacher family after that, mostly relaxing in their nice apartment. We played at the play structures and looked for the rabbits that live in the green space. We went to the mall across the street.

After our trip to Cappadocia, we came back to Ankara. On Saturday, Uncle Willem came up with a fun plan. We rented bikes to ride around a lake near their apartment. Things started out great. Becca was a little nervous, but got more comfortable as we rode. The lake has a paved road around it and some Turkish cafés here and there. There were lots of other bikers riding that morning, and a few cars from time to time. After we'd gone about half way, we had a pileup. Bill and Uncle Willem clipped each other and Bill went off into the bushes. Another friend riding with us stopped to see what had happened and Becca crashed into him and went off into the bushes on her side. I watched from the back in dismay. I saw Bill go down and then suddenly realized that Becca was also down. Then, I saw Aunt Wendy's bike go down.  She had slowed down and was looking in concern after my children and the top-heavy bike with toddler seat tipped too far and fell. It fell so slowly I thought Ferdinand would be no more than shaken, but he hit his head and was gushing blood.

For the second time during our visit, Ferdinand was off to the ER. He ended up with plastic surgery to try to minimize the scarring.

Now, Ferdinand is with us in Kalkan. One of the first days here Becca asked to ride with him in the car. She opened the car door on the slope we are living on and it smacked him in the face. At Anna's birthday dinner he was playing on his chair and it fell over. Kip caught it in flight, but it still fell. He scraped his arm, knee, and cheek.

We all hold our breath when he does his 2-year-old toddlering. Climbing around the ruins at Xanthos the other day, I was terrified he would fall. Trotting around the pool at our villa, we all fear he will slip. We all call out to him to walk, slow down, no running.  He seems to be getting hurt a lot with us around. But I'm hopeful that we've seen the worst of it.

The Waters of Kalkan

The last leg of our trip involved one more set of flights on Turkish Air.  We flew from Ankara to Istanbul and then to Dalaman on the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. My luggage is falling apart. I packed the outside pouches too full and one burst. Somehow we didn't lose anything that I can tell. After an insanely long time at the car rental counter, we got a lovely white rental car to drive two hours east to Kalkan.

We are again on a hill overlooking the water, just like in Istanbul. Our first morning we walked down the hill to the beach. The walk back up almost killed us. At least, it almost killed me and I almost killed Becca.  The humidity and heat had us melting and exhausted and Becca kept whining that I was choosing places on hills on purpose to make her miserable. I was not overly happy to have her complaining at me when I was so uncomfortable already.

Our house also has plenty of stairs. It has 3 floors and a roof terrace above those. We don't often go up there. But we're constantly up and down the first couple floors and frequently up to the laundry on the hot hot 3rd floor. But my fitbit won't be bragging to anyone about the steps I'm getting. I have a Fitbit One that clips onto my clothes but it isn't swimsuit friendly. And the weather and private swimming pool have meant that I've been wearing a swimsuit almost constantly.

We planned this part of our trip to be the relaxing part of the trip. Not so much sightseeing as lounging at the pool or the beach. But there have been little trips to see interesting things. There are a lot of Lycian ruins around. And there are some beaches worth leaving our private pool to see.

Beaches are interesting here.  In the States, the beaches along the coasts are mostly public beaches. You find a place to park, maybe in the public lot, then walk down and set yourself up with blankets, towels, chairs, umbrellas, and stay until you feel like leaving. That's not how things work here. Here, the beaches seem to be owned almost entirely by restauranteurs.  They set up beach chairs and umbrellas and you borrow them. Sometimes you pay to rent them for the day. Sometimes you don't. If you don't, the expectation is that you will buy some food and drinks there.

The beach down from our house is one where you don't have to pay for chairs or umbrellas. You can sit wherever you like and there's even a waterslide. There are servers going around delivering things like milkshakes and fancy drinks to people. The food is spendy, but it's convenient.

Another beach we visited was Kaputas. It's a beautiful sandy beach just to the east. You park up on the street and have to climb 200 steps down. We went in the evening when it wasn't terribly crowded. It was beautiful. But there were a lot of wasps that really liked my towel when I settled down to read while the rest of the family swam. So, it being almost dusk and closing time anyway, we didn't stay too late or get any food at the restaurant.

The other beach we've visited was at Patara, which is also a Lycian ruin. It's one where you effectively have to pay twice because first you pay to enter the archeological site of Patara, then you pay to rent the chairs and umbrellas.  It is the best, beachiest beach we've found, with soft (HOT) white sand and gentle waves. But expensive with the double entry fee and 20 minutes away.

The water at all the beaches is nice, but or private pool is nice, too. It is about 5 feet deep, so the girls can't reach the bottom. They don't seem to mind too much, especially since I bought them a few floaties. And cousin Ferdinand has developed a love for our pool, paddling around happily in his little floaty jacket for longer than any of the rest of us want to be there. And one of the nicest things in my opinion is that it has 5 available bathrooms.  In desperate times 5 of the 7 of us could pee all at the same time and it wouldn't cost a single Turkish Lira!  Oh, and it's nice that it has afternoon shade so we don't further burn our arms or shoulders.

It's a nice villa. It's a nice town. It's a good vacation

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Hot or Cold

I learned something about my headaches today, Friday, July31st. At least, I developed a new theory.

A few years ago a friend gave us an above ground pool. When the weather got hot, we set it up in the back yard. Unfortunately for the pool, our backyard is almost entirely shaded. The pool never managed to warm up. You'd think on a 90 degree day, a dip in a 70 degree pool would be refreshing, but it wasn't. It was torture. The kids frequently still wanted to do it, but I really didn't. I just felt like I should for safety reasons.

I noticed something during this time. If I got in the cold water on a hot day, I invariably got a migraine. I thought for a long time it was just a coincidence. Or that it was just the heat. But I eventually recognized that after a short time in the pool, my head would start to throb. It always looked like it would be refreshing, but I came to understand that it would cause me pain.

Something along those lines has been happening here.

We went this week to Cappadocia (kap-ah-doh-ky-uh).  It was hot there, near 100 degrees every day. But Cappadocia is known for its underground cities and 'Fairy chimney' cave dwellings that stay a constant, cool temperature. On a hot afternoon, we went down into an underground city. I came out of the cool refreshing darkness back into the hot glaring sunlight and realized soon after that I was headachey.

Today, we drove from Wendy's apartment in Ankara to the Gordion museum to learn about King Midas (he really existed, but probably couldn't turn things to gold) and the Phrygians and Hittites who lived historically in the Gordion area of central Turkey. Across from the small but fascinating museum you can enter one of the burial mounds that dot the landscape. It's called the King Midas tumulus, but archaeologists now believe it belonged to a different king before Midas. We walked from the museum in 100 degree weather, across the street toward the giant mound of dirt.

We entered the tunnel and were greeted by a blast of cool air. It was amazing and I joked about how, if I worked at the museum, I would always be over at the tomb. The farther down the tunnel we went, the colder it got.

There's not much to see at the end of the tunnel. They've barred it all off like the actual tomb is in prison.  Visitors can merely look through the bars at the wooden building that was the king's final resting place. The wood has been reinforced with metal supports and stone walls keep the piled earth from collapsing back into the excavation site. All the tomb contents are either at the museum across the street or in other museums, so it is only an empty chamber now. It looks like an empty log cabin buried in a mountainside.

After getting a good look inside, we headed back down the 86 meter tunnel. The closer we got to the entrance, the hotter it became. Coming from outside, the tunnel had been amazingly cool even just at the entrance. Returning from the inside, the entrance felt oppressively hot. The closer I got to the exit, the worse I felt. By the time we reached the entry, I was nauseous.

Back in the car, I started to get a headache. I cursed the hot, desert sun. Then, it clicked. Going from hot to cold and back gives me a headache. Maybe even just going from hot to cold. I'm not sure.

It's not like this is the *Only* headache trigger I have, but it was interesting to discover this new thing about myself. Of course, it's not actually a 'new thing.' It's a new discovery of something that has probably always been happening. Extreme temperature changes give me a headache. I'll have to pay more attention to this one to see exactly how it works. Or try to avoid it and have fewer headaches.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Goreme Sights

After the balloon ride was over we returned to the cave hotel. We had had our big adventure. We had flown over Cappadocia and watched the sun rise. (It was like this: we were down in one of the valleys and the balloon pilot asked if we were ready to see the sun rise. We said yes and he pushed the lever to shoot fire from the propane tank. We rose high into the air and the sun popped out from behind a hillside. Sunrise on demand.) We took a short nap and woke up for breakfast. We were tempted to sleep for hours, but the kids were ready to go, so we went out to see the open air museum. This is a collection of small Christian churches carved into the rocky hillsides. It's all really impressive. I couldn't understand why they wanted so many churches right by each other, though. Most had been decorated with beautiful murals. Over time, a lot of the paint chipped away or faded in the light. One, called the Dark Church, has held up better than the others. It's murals are still almost completely intact. You have to pay extra to go in and you can't take pictures, but I thought it was worth it. I took in Bill and Becca and we happened to enter right after an American man who did his graduate studies in byzantine history. He was explaining all the murals to his wife and we got to listen in. It was fascinating. The murals depicted events in Jesus' life, his birth, fleeing to Egypt, the transfiguration. Once he pointed them out, the images were obvious. I was glad he was there.

After lunch we decided to escape the heat by visiting one of the underground cities. We paid our admission fee then started down into the tunnel. We were followed by an enterprising young tour guide, offering his services to help us learn from the trip. I thought it would be nice, given that I felt I hadn't really gotten much from the open air museum until the American man explained the Dark Church to me. We hired him. He gave us a ton of detail we wouldn't otherwise have known. I was glad we had hired him.

Saying goodbye to the hotel dog, Panda.

The next day, Thursday July 30th, was check out day. We had our hotel breakfast and then decided we wanted to see the Ihlara valley. Only, not everyone wanted to hike in the heat. Anna really didn't want to. So we decided to have Kip, Bill and Becca hike it and I would drive with Anna to the end to pick them up. It was my first driving in Turkey and I was a little nervous, but the area was only little villages and very few people. I made it to where the trail ends, but I wasn't sure where the hikers would come out, so I drove around. The trail follows a river and at the end of the trail, people have built river cafes where you can sit over the water or even with your feet in the water and eat. After the last café is a little one-car bridge that leads into the nearest town, Belisirme.  I headed across the bridge, not sure where else to go. There was a little man with two walking canes crossing the bridge. He got my attention and asked in turkish if we were going to Belisirme. I said yes and he signed that he wanted a ride. I've heard stories of how kind and trusting the Turkish people are. I figured I could take a chance on this hitchhiking old man. He climbed in and we drove toward the village. If I hadn't had the GPS telling me I was going the right way, I would have thought we were driving through a ruin. And there are ruins along the way. The part of the village between the river and the main town is old and not in great repair. We climbed the crumbling streets until we finally reached a paved road and soon after that,  the more modern part of the town. My passenger let me know where to drop him. I was glad to have helped. It would have been a long hot walk with his canes.

Anna and I started back to the river. Only, I realized that I hadn't paid much attention on the way. I got turned around and asked some cute little girls on a doorstep for help. They weren't incredibly helpful, not speaking much English, but we exchanged names and shook hands and I gave them gum, the only candy I had with me. I eventually got my GPS working and figured out which little road to take, dodged the speeding tourist vans (full of people who paid for a day-long guided tour), and found my way back to the river and water cafés. Anna and I used the tiny bit of cash I had left on me to buy ice cream bars and sat at the last café to wait. Kip and the B's (Becca and Bill) arrived a little while later and we drove like the wind back to Ankara and Aunt Wendy.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Big Balloon Event

Our big event in Cappadocia, the one everyone is told not to miss, was a hot air balloon sunrise flight. I couldn't sleep that night. I was excited. I was nervous. I was upset that we hadn't brought our sweaters. Even central Turkey is chilly at 4am. I tossed. I journaled, I daydreamed. And I slept a little and had some unpleasant dreams.

4am finally came.  We loaded into a van and went to the balloon office. They fed us snacks while collecting all the passengers and finally around 5 am we headed out. We went to a field where 4 balloons from our company (voyager) were already under way filling with hot air. They put 20-25 people in each basket and we were off, up into the cool morning air above Cappadocia.

The flight was amazing. We went super hight with the landscape far below us. We went deep down into a valley full of fairy chimneys and brushed the rocks as we passed them.

The next morning I woke to a strange noise at 6:30 am. After taking some time for my mind to process it, I recognized that the hot air balloons were flying over our valley. I ran out to take pictures. Hundreds of tourists fly over Cappadocia every morning. It must be a good business to be in!

Goreme in Cappadocia

After our stop at the salt lake, went the rest of the way to our hotel in Goreme (Gor-em-eh).  Goreme is fascinating. This is the part of Cappadocia I saw in pictures with a rocky landscape littered with tall rock structures called fairy chimneys.

In the town of Goreme, people have turned the fairy chimneys into hotels and shops. They've built structures around them and hotel rooms that climb up inside. Our hotel was one of these. It was a maze of hallways and staircases and rooms and a big fairy chimney in the middle of it all. Our set of rooms were in the middle of the fairy chimney (pictured above, our door on the left and the windows going out to the right).

It was nice and cool inside even though outside was hot and miserable. We had 4 cave rooms. The girls were down a set of stone steps at the door. A wooden step ladder went up to a sitting room. Bill had a little alcove room behind that and then up another set of steep stairs was the master bedroom with bathroom. It was pretty comfortable. The kids loved the drums and instruments stashed in the alcove behind the sofa. When I was recovering from an afternoon migraine one day (with some 'migren tuzu' on my head) they did a full hour concert, filmed in time lapse on my iPad. It was appreciated by the neighbors, maybe as much as by me. The big drum was Loud!

On the way to Cappadoccia

We went from Istanbul to Ankara to spend some time with my sister and her cute little man. After a day relaxing there, we did a little trip to Cappadocia.  It takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive there from Ankara. We took a little longer because we stopped at the Salt Lake. It was a big lake.  It took probably half an hour to drive past it. The weather was hot. You walk past the vendor stalls to get out onto the beach. They put salt scrub on your hands as you pass then you have to go wash it in their sink and they try to sell you some to take home. I was tempted.

The beach is covered with what looks like bright white sand. But it's really white chunks of salt. As I neared the water, I  removed my shoes. The salt chunks were sharp, uncomfortable to walk on. I waded out a little way into the water, found Kip and the girls who had gotten out there faster than me, then turned back.

Walking in the salty water had splashed it up onto our legs. It dried quickly in the heart, leaving white salty residue up to our knees. As we walked back to the car, I saw a poster advertising 'migraine salt.' I never pass up a migraine remedy. I went back down, holding my hands up and out of reach of the men with the salt scrub and asked for the 'migren tuzu.' They directed me to the right spot and I bought some. It's some sort of stick of peppermint that you rub on your head when you feel headachey. I assume there's salt in there, too.  I got to try it out a few days later. It felt nice.