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It's Turkey Time

October 17

Departed to Amsterdam. Saw a guy getting his feet cleaned by fish at the airport spa. Caught a flight to Istanbul and then hopped on another flight straight to Kayseri where our drive was waiting to take us to the CaravanSerai in Goreme.

We checked into our hotel and then walked around the town a bit and then went to bed early after our long day of traveling.

October 19

- We were startled awake around 5am by the 'Call to Prayer' blasting out of a speaker attached to a mosque that seemed to be aimed directly at our window.

- Had breakfast at our hotel, and got some directions on finding Pigeon Valley. We wandered around, somewhat lost, throughout the backyards of the locals, and finally found our way to the Panoramic Viewpoint. We came back down from the viewpoint, and asked a local tour operator where we could find Pigeon Valley, and she directed us back up the hill again.

We walked along the top, which had nice views, but we still couldn't seem to figure out how to actually get into the valley. So we ended up walking to Uchisar Castle, the highest point in the area.

Walked back down and had some expensive Cokes which came with the benefit of a nice view of the Cappadocia area. From our higher viewpoint, we could now see how to get into Pigeon Valley. 3 or 4 hours after we started, we finally found the trail.

Hiked down through the valley and then backtracked out of it again, and went to find a new valley, Love Valley, which was much easier to find. After hiking through Love Valley we were exhausted, and a kind local saw how disheveled we looked and gave us a ride back to Goreme.

Freshened up at our hotel and went out for dinner to Anatolia Kitchen, suggested to us by an Australian guest at our hotel. We tried something called a 'kebab pot' where they cook the food inside the clay pot, and then seal it with dough. The clay pot is brought to your table where you hit it with a giant knife, breaking the pot,and releasing the food.

About half way through our anniversary dinner the lights in therestaurant went out. Luckily I had my headlamp with me in my backpack so it wasn't a big deal.

I could barely stay awake at dinner, after all the heat and hiking from the day. Came home, went to bed, and was fast asleep before my head hit the pillow.

October 20

Up by 4:45 AM to prepare for our 5:15 AM departure. We were on our way to a sunrise hot-air balloon ride over Cappadocia.

We stopped for a quick breakfast, and met our fellow ballooners. There would be 8 of us in the balloon, although there were to be nearly a 100 other hot air balloons launching at approximately the same time.

It was pretty cool to see the flames lighting up the hot air balloon while it was still dark out. You'd see the balloon temporarily flash.

Osman our pilot, started us off with 2 rules. Rule #1, no getting out of the balloon while in the air. Rule #2, you're not allowed to pilot the balloon.

It was a pretty incredible sight, soaring over the Cappadocia region with a hundred other hot-air balloons. First Osman took us up really high, around 400m or so, and then dropped us down into the valley, soaring just above the rock formations.

It can even turn into a hot air balloon traffic jam, but we only touched one other balloon during our ride.

Osman gave us a smooth landing, right on to the back of the awaiting truck. We were then given the traditional champagne toast. I caught the cork, which allegedly meant a free balloon ride the next day.

Came back to our hotel and had another breakfast.

Took the bus to Kaymakli, one of many underground cities in the area. A guy convinced us to use him as a guide, he claimed he had been guiding there since 1966. It turned out to be well worth it, as it otherwise would have just been some really tight passageways and a lot of ducking. Instead we learned the history behind the underground cities, and how they were used by Christians to hide from the Romans, or the local Byztentines to hind from their enemies.

Then we took the bus back and went for lunch at Borek Nazar, where we had Gozleme (potatoes and cheese) and a Boregi (deep fried pastry with cheese and parsley) and some apple tea (good) and a yogurt drink called Ayran (bad). It was pretty good value, as our lunch was delicious and cost the equivalent of about $9 CDN for 2 people.

Came back to our room and I glued myself to my laptop for four hours. I was finally able to tear myself away from it to go for dinner at Topdeck Cave Restaurant. We sat on cushions on the floor and were served by the family that owned the restaurant - including and extremely energetic teenage girl. We started with some yogurt soup and it was really good, we think it was made from yogurt, tomato paste, mint, spices, rice and chickpeas. Then we had a few mezes and I could not resist ordering the chicken!! I was stuffed afterwards! Chris ordered some apple tea and baklava for dessert. I was ready to fall asleep in the restaurant so we went home and Chris watched a show on the laptop while I crashed.

October 21

Headed around 6:30 to watch the hot air balloons take off. Took a lot of pictures - almost as many as when we saw peguins in Argentina!! Came back to our hotel for some breakfast and then headed out to hike Rose Valley. We made our way towards Cavusin and tried to find some churches in the rock on the way but didn't have any luck. Arrived in Cavusin and hiked up to the top of Cavusin old town and then continued walking to Pasabaglu to see some more hoodoos.

We backtracked to Cavusin and tried yet again to find the cave churches and walked for what seemed like forever. When we'd stop to ask people, they would tell us, "just keep going that way" but we never seemed to get there. Eventually we gave up and headed back to Goreme.

For dinner we picked up some pide, a Turkish version of pizza,from Fica** and some Efes beer and went and sat on the terrace back at our hotel. After dinner we played some cards and again I could barely keep my eyes open. I tried eating some coffee grounds to give me an energy boost, but by 6:30 i had to go to bed for a nap.

October 22

Took the shuttle back to the airport and caught our flight to Antalya (connecting in Istanbul). Picked up our rental car and headed through Antalya toward the ruins at Termessos. The first thing we noticed was how bad Turkish drivers are. They serve all over the road with no regard for lanes, they pull over in random spots, weave in and out of traffic and drive without lights on in the rain. We arrived at Termessos but since it was raining the guy at the gate told us it would be better not to go. We turned around and headed back towards Antalya. Of course, 20 minutes later the skies cleared and the sun came out.

We continued onto Olympos and found our hotel Daphne House. They seemed surprised to see us as they didn't seem to have record of our reservation (even though they had replied on 3 separate occasions to one email confirming they booked us a room). We sat in the main room and they brought us tea and cake and Chris snuggled with a very friendly kitten, that was 4 months old.

We were then shown into our room and then freshened up and came down for dinner. We sat with a couple - he was from the Netherlands, she was from Switzerland. For dinner we had a variety of mezes and some fish - Chris even ate it! We shared some wine with them and then our host built a fire for the guests to gather around. We met the other guests,they were friends of our host from Istanbul. We stayed up past midnight chatting around the fire. Headed to bed and Chris found the kitten again to bring into our room to play and snuggle with for a bit.

October 23

Got up and were disappointed to see it was raining again. Made our way downstairs for breakfast, traditional breakfast in Turkey seems to consist of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, bread, turkish tea and some fruits and nuts and an omelet if you're lucky!

We drove throught the town of Olympos and put on our rain gear to check out the ruins and the beach. The water felt pretty warm and the rain seemed to keep quite a few of the tourists away. We walked along the beach for a bit and then returned to our car and drove to Phaselis. We sat in the car for awhile in the parking lot and waited for the rain to pass. Evertually the sun came out and we got out to explore the ruins. The rain seemed to have kept all the other tourists away so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. When we got to the amphitheater portion ofthe ruins, a very friendly black cat came running out to greet us and pose in our pictures.

Since the weather was still nice,we changed into our swimsuits and went for a swim in one of the three small bays. It was a little chilly out still so the beach wasn't very busy! There were 2 other tourists there, apparently on nice days the beaches are packed and it's a popular spot to picnic.

We then drove towards the town of Cirali and made our way to the trailhead to walk up to Chimera, the eternal flame. Methane gas coming out of the ground creates small fires on the side of a mountain. After about a 20 minute walk we arrived. Serval fires dotted the mountain side and as it was almost dusk, we hung out for while to watch the flames at night. It was pretty nice, you could sit around the fire, there was no smoke, no wood to chop and it was nice and warm. We were wishing we had brought some mashmallows to roast!! After a bit we put our headlamps on and made our way back down to the car.

We drove into Cirali and grabbed a quick dinner at the Ceylan Cafe. One thing we've noticed about Turkish food is that the temperature of it is always nice and hot. We had some lentil soup followed by a gozleme for me, and Chris ordered macaroni - which ended up being spaghettiwith tomatoes and basil.

We drove back to our hotel and made it an early night as Chris was coming down with a cold. The cat was happy to come into our room and snuggle again.

October 24

Woke up, Chris still had a cold, with a runny nose and feeling tired. Our host gave him a Thai remedy consisting of mint oil and eucalyptus to put inside his nostrils. It definitely helped clear the sinuses!

We hit the road and drove to Patara Beach. Along the way we stopped in Kas. After driving the wrong way down a one way street we managed to find a parking spot. Sat in the car for a while, hoping for the rain to subside, but it never really did. Walked around town a little bit. The town was ok, but we never gave it a fair shake, since the weather was pretty miserable (windy) and Chris was still sick and not speaking very much, and was mostly grouchy about it.

So we just grabbed some cash from the ATM, and bought 30 mandarin oranges to try and cure him. Continued our drive and stopped at Kaputas Beach along the way. We walked down the 300 steps, which were really 100 steps, and were able to sit on the beach loungers for free, because the weather wasn't nice enough for the chair sellers to bother.

We relaxed there for a while and then walked back up, and made our way to Patara, to the Akay Pension.

Checked in to the hotel, and Chris had a nap to try and fight off the last of the cold. Then we went for dinner at our hotel, which was the clay pot dish we had encountered once before. The nice thing about the clay pot dinner is how hot it is, and how hot it stays while you're eating it. Chris's was a chicken pot with vegetables, while mine was similar, but without chicken.

For dessert we had hellia, which was basically just flour and sugar.

After dinner Chris went straight to bed. He tried to help me write the journal for a bit, but couldn't keep his eyes open. Another early night in Turkey!

October 25

Woke up to another cloudy day. After breakfast we prepared to head to Patara Beach, but just as we walked out of the hotel it started raining. To pass the time, we played some checkers. Each of us won one game.

The hotel owner gave us an umbrella, and we decided to try walking to the beach, despite the rain. We walked up through town, and saw a bit of sheep sacrificing going on, as it was the National Sacrificing Day in Turkey. It's basically like a Christmas holiday, where families get together, dress nicely, and eat.

We spotted the sand dunes in front of the beach coast line, and walked around those for a while. The beach turned out to be 11 km long, the longest in the Mediterranean. The beach was very sandy with lots of little crabs scuttling around. We relaxed on it for a while, reading our books and magazines, and then walked down towards the end where the other tourists were hanging out.

Along the way, some guy zoomed by in his crazy one man fan parachute machine.. I have no idea what it would be called (para fan glider?) but it was awesome.

At the tourist end, we climbed up on to a outcrop of rocks. Then we came down and walked back to the hotel, via a different route, past some of the local ruins. We had dinner at the hotel again, this time it was chicken and rice, and pumpkin for dessert.

October 26

Departed Patara and headed towards Fethiye, to Calis Beach. We were trying to find Caretta Apartments, but it was extremely difficult, since Google Maps was way off. We drove around in circles for quite a while, but eventually got the bright idea to see if our GPS unit had the hotel listed, and it did, which made life easier, as I don't think we ever would have found it otherwise.

We got to the hotel and Chris asked to check-in, but the ladies cleaning the hotel thought she was saying 'chicken', which lead to some more confusion, but eventually we did find someone to check us in and give us the key to our room. It turned out to be a very spacious apartment, by far the largest accommodations of our trip!

Went for lunch along the Fethiye promenande along the water at a place called Matisse. This turned out to be a very special occasion for us, as we chose it at random, without any prior research or reading any reviews. We sat in a comfortable booth, with a shaded awning over top, right on the water. We ordered pizza and a milkshake and some lemonade and took in the views.

Then we drove to Kaya to check out a restaurant that was near some ruins, or part of an old ghost town. We weren't really sure what the difference between a ghost town and ruins were in this case, as they seemed pretty similar to us.

Then we went to Oludeniz and sat on the beach for a bit, watching the paragliders land. Tried to figure out were we could book a paragliding jump, but figured we'd wait until we got back to the hotel. When we got back to the car we found what appeared to be a parking ticket on the windshield. At least we assumed it was, we're not really sure, and we didn't appear to be anywhere near a no-parking zone as far as we could tell.

Stopped at the grcoery store, headed home, met the owner of Caretta (John) and gave us a restaurant recommendation (Mozaik Garden or Bahace). When we got there, they offered us the Turkish corner. We had the meze platter and I had a giant chicken wrap of some sort, which came with a very large plate of hot peppers. The mezes were pretty good, the yogurt one was probably the best. The owner liked to help homeless cats in the area. There were also a lot of psychedelic 'mosaic lights' in the window which were pretty neat.

Walked home along the promenade and discovered that Fethiye had some pretty cool fountains and multi-colored lights. The walk home was around 6km.

October 27

Got up, booked paragliding through John,apparently through a company called Gravity. Took a walk to the Calis beach promenade. Found a place called Green Cafe and had some freshly squeezed orange juice and pomengranete juice while taking in views of the water.

Came back and got ready for paragliding. We sat and waited for the company to pick us up. And then we waited some more. And then some more. Eventually we got a hold of the company and were told they had as much trouble finding our hotel as we did the first day.

When we did finally get to Oludeniz Beach, we checked in and were told to sit. Not a whole lot of other explanation was given. But we gathered that we were likely waiting out the somewhat poor paragliding conditions that were developing.

Eventually we decided to just wait it out on the beach, and spent the day relaxing. Watched a few guys play around with paraglider chutes.

Went back to Gravity to see about gliding in the morning but were told they were all booked. We asked how to get a ride back and were given directions for local transport. The guy working there asked where we were from and we told him we were from Canada. He explained that he had been on a trip to Canada, and wanted to show us some pictures. We thought that he'd show us a few pics, which he did, but then continued to show us pictures from seemingly every trip he'd been on in the last however many years. He was a nice guy, but it seemed like the slideshow would never end.

Took the bus back to Fethiye and went for dinner at Cafe Park Teras after riding up 4 stories on an elevator. Shared some pizza and a few Effes, and took in the views of the brand new Fethiye square, in all it's fountain water lighting music glory.

After dinner, I crossed off one of my goals for Turkey, eating a McTurco from McDonald's. I have to say, it didn't taste overly great, but then again, what was I expecting?

October 28

Woke up early to again try to go paragliding off of Bagadag mountain. Today the weather seemed better, with fairly clear skies. We weren't sure exactly what time it was, as we thought there was perhaps a time change during the night, but weren't 100% sure.

SkySports picked us up and took us to their office in Oludeniz. We waited around for a while and then took a long bus ride up Bagadag mountain. Apparently to an elevation of around 6000 feet.

They didn't tell us too much on the way up. At the top we stepped out of the bus and, well, we were really high up! They paired us up with our pilots, and were told to put on a flight suit and helmet. We watched one or two people take off, and then it was Chris's turn to fly. Or so she thought.

Chris and her pilot tried to get off the ground, and they did, sort of, but came back down, skimming the runway a bit, which was mostly rocks at this point. Chris said her pilot took the worst of it, and was a bit shaken up.

Around this time, it was my turn to launch. Our launch went pretty smoothly by comparison. A short sprint, and suddenly my legs were off the ground, and we were hovering in the air, just off the edge of the mountain. The descent took about 40 minutes, most of which was spent in awe looking at the beautiful aqua marine water around Oludeniz Beach. At one point, my pilot asked if I'd like him to try a few tricks. I told him to go ahead and do anything he thought would be exciting, and he proceeded to spin us through the air like a top, and I could definitely feel the G-forces.

On the ground, my pilot informed me that there had been a problem during Chris's take-off (I wasn't able to see her takeoff crash) and that they were trying again. I waited around at the shop, and about 20 minutes later Chris arrived safe and sound and told me about her dramatic take off that went awry.

Made our way back to check out of our hotel and went for lunch at Akdeniz restaurant. We both had pide, and we watched the guy make it in his giant brick oven. It was very good pide, probably the best on our trip so far. As we were leaving I discovered I still had our hotel room key in my pocket and had forgotten to give it back. Doh!

Then we tried to set the GPS for Saklikent Gorge, but it led us astray. When the road petered out to what appeared to be a goat track, we decided to give up on Saklikent and headed to Pamukkale instead. The journey to Pamukkale was through a very mountainous area, with plenty of twists and turns and elevation changes.

Arrived in Pammukale just after dark, and checked into Melrose hotel. Our room had a very purple princess theme to it. We went for dinner at the hotel, and had stuffed vegetables and roast chicken. We felt it was average.

After dinner we went for a walk to check out Pamukkale at night. We discovered that the town of Pamukkale had a fairly sleazy feel to it, full of barking stray dogs, dark alleyways and discotechques that appeared to be empty, yet blaring music, with groups of men just hanging out here and there.

So our first impression of Pamukkale at night was not a great one, so we headed back home to give it another shot in the daylight.

October 29

Had breakfast at our hotel, fed a few stray cats, and made our way back through town to Pamukkale. It definitely looked nicer in the daylight. We paid our entrance fee and walked up to the base of the travertines (terraces of **limestone** rock with pools of water from a natural spring collected in them).

First we had to take off our shoes, in order to walk up Pamukkale. We made our way up the rock, as the water ran down it. Most places it was about the temperature of lukewarm bath water, so it felt nice on the feet. There was also a bit of sand-mud in certain places. The water there is claimed to have healing properties.

We soaked in a few pools on our way to the top, and we looked for the one that was the warmest. The pools seemed to get warmer as you went up. At one point we noticed there was a large group of people at the top, so we decided to stop ascending for a while to avoid them.

Eventually though, we did make it up to the top, and joined the tour bus crowds. Everyone was of course trying to take their Pamukkale pictures, and occasionally an overzealous tourist would venture out onto the rocks, past the area that was allowed, into a protected area. Whenever this happened, a guard would blow his whistle, which would get everyone's attention, and the embarassed tourist would head back. Throughout the day we heard this whistle blow at least a hundred times.

Then we decided to check out the Hierapolis ruins, which were bigger than we thought they'd be. We saw an impressive theatre, and then went to check out the 'sacred pool' which was too rich for our blood (25 lira). It was basically just a pool with some ruins at the bottom.

Then we walked along the path and went all the way down to the North side, and checked out the entrance to the ancient town of Hierapolis (the main street).

Walked around the perimeter of Pamukkale for a while and then decided to descend back down. On the way back down, we encountered a giant Japanese tour group that had just been let out at the top. We got a glimpse of what it was like to share Pamukkale with a million other people, which is probably pretty common during the peak season. It isn't pretty. We noticed there wasn't a lot of whistle blowing though, as the Japanese people seem to follow the rules really well.

We got to the bottom of Pamukkale just as the sun was setting. From morning to sunset, it was a long, and enjoyable, day!

Went for dinner at Travertine Pide. We looked to be the only customers of the day. We also interrupted their movie watching.

October 30

Got up early around 7 AM and had another one of our Turkish breakfasts. Hit the road and drove to Aphrodisias. Thought we had found the parking lot, but turned out to be the police station. Had to park down the road and across the street and take the tractor/wagon into the Aphrodisias site.

Once we got into the site, we noticed quite a few cats hanging around,vying for the attention of tourists. The first section of the site we checked out was the gateway into the city, which was pretty impressive. A tour group/army approached, so we moved on quickly to the Stadium.

The Stadium was pretty neat, estimated to hold 30,000 or so. They had Olympic type sports here, as well as Roman gladiator blood bath type events. Then we moved on to the Bishop's house, which was as large as a city block.

We kept ahead of the tour groups the entire time, so it was nice to have the site to ourselves most of the time.

As we approached the end of the site, there were quite a few large tour group armies entering, so we just avoided the start of the rush.

We got in our car and headed to Selcuk. At one point we entered a toll-road, which caused us some headache. It didn't accept money, only some sort of toll-road pass card, which we didn't have. We debated what to do, as a line of cars formed behind us. Eventually I made the decision to just go through it, while Chris was pleading with me to not go through.

At the next toll booth we were able to buy a toll-pass, so we're not sure if we will be sent a ticket or not at some point.

We arrived in Selcuk and checked into Homero's Pension. Got some apple tea and discussed our plan. Better to do Ephesus in the afternoon, or in the morning? We decided on the afternoon, figuring the tour bus crowds would have dissipated a bit, whereas the morning was a guaranteed traffic jam.

Bought our tickets and then discovered that our Rick Steve's audio guide started at the opposite end of Ephesus (the other entrance). So we quickly rushed to the other side, trying not to look at Ephesus and ruin it for ourselves along the way.

At the opposite entrance, we started our audio guide and toured Ephesus. We could be no further than 2 feet apart from each other during the entire tour, as we were sharing the same MP3 player with split headphones. The highlights of Ephesus for us were probably the Celsus Library and the Great Theatre, which held approximately 25,000 people.

When we got back we went for a drink of wine at the top of Homero's, met a talkative Chinese guy, and then went for dinner. We wandered around for a while, dodging the smooth talking carpet salesmen and the restaurant hustlers.

Eventually we found a place that looked popular with the locals, called Cabare. We started off with a spicy yogurt and red pepper mezes, which were really good. Chris had zucchini fritters, and I had Turkish tortellini, which had kind of like a yogurty sauce but was quite tasty. It was a little different than most of the other Turkish food I've had up until now, so it was a welcome bit of variety.

After dinner we came back to the hotel, and Chris adopted an odd looking cat with it's tongue sticking out, and a bit cross-eyed as well. Oh, and it smelled pretty terrible. So of course, we brought it into the room and cleaned it up with a wet-nap. That's what all normal people would do.

October 31

Had breakfast at our hotel and then headed to Pamucak beach. It was dark sand, and our first glimpse of the Aegean sea. We did some reading and then headed back into town to eat at Pinar Pide for lunch and it was quite tasty.

Drove to the airport and headed to Istanbul on Atlasjet. Took the bus to our AirBNB hotel, and met Serkan and Gushkoo the cat. Serkan explained things for us to check out in the area, and then we went out for dinner to Antiochia. To get there we walked along Istiklal Avenue and got our first glimpse of just how busy Istanbul is.

After dinner we went for Mado ice cream, as I was on my quest to find orchid based Turkish ice cream. Found our way back through the windy streets, without using GPS.

November 1

Got up, didn't have breakfast, and headed to the Galata Tower, through Istanbul's hilly streets. Went up the tower and enjoyed a 360 degree view of Istanbul. It was a little hazy, but gave us a nice overview to start our sight-seeing.

Walked across the Galata bridge, past all the fresh fish vendors, and into the Sultanahanment district. Picked up a simit from a vendor, which is basically a cross between a pretzel and a bagel. It was a little dry. Then Chris went to stand in the shade, but we lost each other for a while in the busy crowds.

Then we went and had apple tea and baklava at Mustafa Havis. Definitely delicious baklava!

Headed over to the Basilica Cistern, which is where they used to get their water from, thousands of years ago. It was basically a cool underground area with Roman columns. Oh and a James Bond movie filmed a scene there (From Russia With Love).

Then we tried to go to the Blue Mosque. Chris's first impression? "I thought it would be bluer." One of the 5 daily prayer's was starting, so we couldn't go in. So instead, we walked in front of it and checked out the Hippodrome, which used to be used for chariot racing and held 100,000 people.

Next we went into the Hagia Sofia, which was mighty impressive, with it's massive dome. Then we walked back to the Blue Mosque, and Chris was relieved to see that it was more blue inside.

After the Blue Mosque we began the hike home, back up the hill towards the Cianghir district.

Relaxed for a bit back at the apartment, played with Gooshkoo, and went for dinner at a place that Serkan recommended, called Pazi. It was ok, basically just a little diner. I had chicken and rice, and Chris had the usual mezes. Chris thinks it gave her an upset stomach.

Headed over to Istiklal, busy as usual. Tried some ice cream again, this time from Creamery Milano. It was more like the usual creamy ice cream, as opposed to the more stretchy, orchid based ice-cream of Mado.

November 2

Bought some buns from the bakery beside us for breakfast and headed to Topkapi Palace..Here we ran into a ton of tour groups, more so than at any other attraction (maybe because of the time of day, early in the morning). It was pretty annoying to try and check out the rooms of the Palace, when basically being shoved into small rooms with hordes of people and not being able to see much of anything.

After leaving the throngs of tour groups behind, we followed the walking tour from our Rick Steves book, which led us to the Mosque of Suleymaniye the Magnificent. It looked similar to the Blue Mosque, just a different color (more pink than blue) and the architecture was a little more subtle. By this point, we had probably seen enough mosques to get the idea.

Then we walked to the Grand Bazaar, which was basically a bunch of jewelery shops that didn't really interest us. We didn't even bother with the rug section, as I doubt that would have either.

Took some narrow back streets, heading towards the spice market, where people sold more....stuff. Fake watches, counterfeit clothes, you name it. By this point we were really hungry though and just looking for something to eat. To tide us over, we bought some ice cream from a street vendor, and this ice cream turned out to be the stretchiest of all.

Went to Furreyya Galata near the Galata tower for lunch, and Chris had a fish wrap, that she thought was excellent, and I had a Turkish coffee. The thing about Turkish coffee is that all the little grounds settle to the bottom, so after some tasty initial sips, it starts to taste like sandy water.

Went home and picked up some Efes along the way. Freshened up and headed out to Cafe Babel, a nice unpretentious restaurant with some really nice mezes (surprise!).

Walked along Istiklal yet again before heading home.

November 3

Got up and went to the Istanbul Modern Art Museum. Had to check my swiss-army knife at the gate. The paintings were a little boring, but some of the visual art exhibits were a bit more interesting, like the light-trees projected on the wall, and some giant light chandalier thing, and a bubble thing that was held up by a bunch of different strings. And the ceiling made of drop-down books was cool.

Left the museum and walked to the Ortakoy neighborhood, passing Dolmache Palace along the way and walking through the steep hills of Yilbiz Park.

Leaving the park, we had some nice views of Bosphorous bridge, and descended into Ortakoy. In Ortakoy we tried their famous potatoes, which are filled with cheese, some couscous-like orange grain, pickles, cabbage, yogurt sauce, ketchup, and mayo. And that was just our choices, we also could have filled it with a million other things. The potato ended up weighing what felt like about 5 pounds and was certainly filling.

Caught the bus home and relaxed for a bit before heading out for the evening. Walked down to the ferry and caught one immediately heading toward Katakoy (Asian side of Istanbul). At a cost of $2, it's surely the cheapest inter-continental cruise in the world. On the way we had some views of the sunset, and all the beautiful buildings that line the edge of Istanbul.

On the Asian side, we found that there were still a lot of people, but a whole lot less tourists. There were a lot of busy pedestrian streets and we started exploring them. We went to Sakerci Cafer Erol, a well known candy store. There we bought some Turkish Delight and some sort of ju-jube thing.

After that we explored some more, and walked down Moda street, towards a panoramic view point. By the time we go there, it was a little too dark to see much, and we headed back to our dinner reservation at Ciya Sofrasi. It was claimed to be the best restaurant in Istanbul in a couple of different places and had amazing reviews on TripAdvisor. We thought it was good, but perhaps not significantly better or different than anywhere else we had eaten on our trip. Maybe we were just getting tired of mezes! It was somewhat buffet / weigh-your-own-food style and it was also interesting watching non-locals walk up to the counter and try to figure out what exactly they were ordering from the guy behind the counter.

After dinner we went for dessert at Baylan Pastanesi, famous for it's 'Coupe Grille' a delicious dessert made from vanilla ice cream, caramel, hard chunks of caramel, and pistachio. Mmmmmmm.

Then we went and bought some Raki from the grocery store, and got some chocolate covered pretzels from the bakery beside Sakerci Cafer Erol. One thing we noticed was that the Asian side had *way* better bakeries and candy stores than the European side. Not sure why!

Took the ferry home, and saw the Bosphorous Bridge all lit up in multi-colored lights, as well as all the other famous sights (mosques, etc) bathed in light.

On the way home, we took the second oldest subway in the world, the historial 'Tunel' , which was built in 1875. It saved us a lot of steps up the steep hill towards Istiklal street. There, we caught the nostalgic tram, which is a one car trolley that plows through the crowded pedestrian street. It rings the bell constantly, to tell people to get out of the way, and passer-bys that have had a few drinks, often jump on the side of it.

At Taksim Square, we jumped off, and I wanted to try some soggy burgers from Kizilkayalar. It's the kind of food best enjoyed after a few drinks, and even ordering them was quite an ordeal, fighting the crowds inside the tiny shop to place my order.

Went to Cafe Babel again, to try and get a souvenir Efes goblet, which I did acquire, only to have it break in my luggage bag on the way home. Sigh.

Walked home, and got up in 2 hours to catch our plane to Amsterdam.

At the airport, we had some real trouble returning our car. The gate wouldn't open, apparently we need a card that the agency didn't give us, and a line quickly formed. Luckily a really nice Turkish guy helped us out and called the rental agency to get it sorted.

Top 10 Things We Learned About Turkey ------------------------------------- 1. They love giving out wet-naps. They seem to be available everywhere, from airplanes to restaurants to hotels to historical sites. It doesn't matter where you are, wet-naps are available.

2. Perhaps the worst drivers we've seen, ever.

3. Men get to do all the fun things, going out, drink tea, socialize, play backgammon. The women? We're not sure, as we rarely see them.

4 Call to prayer starts at 5:45 AM. All the mosques have megaphones attached to them, to ensure that nobody can possibly miss it or sleep through it, including tourists sleeping peacefully in their hotel rooms..

5. Everyone in a small town owns multiple roosters, which wake up even earlier than the folks who do the call to prayer at the mosques.

6. Cats are everywhere. Hard not to pet them all!

7. Cucumbers/Tomatoes are a breakfast staple. Every breakfast.

8. The blue mosque isn't all that blue. At least, not from the outside.

9. When you order pizza, they bring you ketchup and mayo. Not sure if the locals actually like this, or just think that tourists do.

10. Turkish coffee is great...for the first few sips, and then it starts to turn into sand-water.