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Published: September 9th 2014
This summer was epic and awesome! After a week in Bulgaria, I flew to Istanbul where my month in Turkey began. Alone in Istanbul for a few days, I explored some mosques, avoided endless carpet salesmen, and met a single male traveler originally from Iraq named Muha (Mohammed). He slipped a note under my hostel door when I was out one day and asked me "out" and I thought it best to accept for an afternoon over a cup of tea. His story is that he left Iraq, lives in Munich and works with refugees helping them to assimilate to European culture when they come from the Middle East. Assimilating to "western" views on gender, for both genders of Middle Easterners is a big deal. During my few days solo I also explored: Topakapi Palace, the amazing Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, boat ride on the Bosphorus, Grand Bazaar and spice markets. So colorful, grand, and different. Turkey is the most architecturally different place I'd ever been to. It is also the first Muslim country I'd been to. The call to prayer took some getting used to. I liked hearing it during daytime hours! Daybreak was a different story!
First a church, then a mosque, and now a museum
few days I met up with my tour group from Intrepid. We spent two weeks together. Our itinerary included:
Bursa. Known for its spice market. We went to a local teahouse where men stop by between work and home to sip tea and "jam" traditional music with other men. We also visited the Whirling Dervishes. We learned about how they train to "whirl". Women had to sit in the upper balcony, which included us.
Selcuk. We walked through the sprawling Roman ruins of Ephesus. At night, I learned backgammon!
Pamukkale. Calcium covered cliffs that we waded in. Cleopatra once bathed in the natural baths.
Kayakoy and Fethiye. We hiked through a ghost town. Went to a fish market, picked out fish, brought them to a restaurant and they cooked them for us. Yum!
Lycian Way hike. We were where the Mediterranean and Agean Seas meet.
Kas. We got on a sailboat for 2 days and 2 nights and slept under the stars. The snorkeling was amazing. We ate fresh Mediterranean food on the boat. There were one billion stars at night and we awoke to amazing sunrises.
Konya. We learned about Rumi, the
founder of the Dervishes.
Goreme, Cappadocia. We went on a Rose Valley hike to see fairy chimneys which never, ever got old to look at! We went quad biking to cover more ground and see more fairy chimneys. It was super dusty and I was grateful I had a bandana to cover my face! We also went to the Kaymakli underground city.
My tour group left to return to Istanbul. I stayed in Goreme for 3 more days at a hostel called Kose Pansion. I essentially slept on a mattress on the roof with 20 other people. We had plenty of space and the fresh air was wonderful. In the early mornings you could hear the hot air balloon rides going right over our heads as they went on fairy chimney tours! One day I went on a hike in the Ihlara Valley. I went with a tour group but I convinced them to let me skip the 2 hour lunch break and keep hiking. I had my destination to meet back up with the group in my sights ahead, but I didn't really know exactly how to get there. It was thrilling and beautiful. My only regret
is not wearing long pants. I was "off road" hiking and my legs got scratched up a bit. I met the group at Selime Monastery and then we went to Derinkuyu underground city. Another day I went on an organized tour to drive by Uchisar Castle, Cavusin, Pashabal, and Imagination Valley. That evening I walked on my own up to the highest point in Goreme to a popular lookout spot to watch the sunset. I saw Uchisar Castle in the distance. The next day I decided to walk to the castle and hike around it. In the middle of hiking down the castle grounds I stopped to listen to the midday call to prayer. So beautiful!
My next solo destination was Egirdir which is a town on a peninsula surrounded by the water of Lake Egirdir. At my hostel I met 3 other solo travelers and we did some things together, including a full day of exploring:
Kovada Lake National Park, random castle on the side of the road up a very thorny hill that we climbed, Yazili Kanyon and Kandir Kanyon where we ate lunch, hiked a trail, found an oasis and swam in freezing fresh water.
Another solo day in Egirdir I decided to hike to the top of the highest point in the town that was a very high hilltop with a Turkish flag in it. It took me exactly 3 hours to ascend and 3 hours to descend. I kissed the flagpole when I reached the top. I should have also kissed my trekking poles. I wouldn't have made it over the loose rocks without them!
On my last day in Egirdir I rented a rowboat on Lake Egirdir and rowed around Yesilada Island and spent the rest of the afternoon reading and swimming.
Next stop: Gocek to go to a week long yoga retreat at a place called Huzur Vadisi (Turkish for Peaceful Valley). It took me 6 separate buses, but I made it! Our daily schedule included 3 amazing vegetarian meals, 2 yoga classes a day each about 2 hours long, relaxing by a pool overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, and sleeping in a yurt! We did a few other things as a group, like a silent/sunrise hike, a trip to town to visit the market, and a day on a boat in the Mediterranean for more snorkeling! The yoga
was really, really great and it changed the way I practice yoga to this day, in a good way! I learned some interesting things about how our bones, muscles, and bodies work with each other and with gravity.
After the week of yoga, I spent 2 more days in Gocek. The owner of the yoga retreat owned a house in town and let me stay there for free! I had my first Turkish bath experience. I loved it! But it was a very HOT activity for a HOT time of year!
My very last adventure was a day trip to Saklikent Gorge. It was a hike through a shallow river that had steep cliffs on either side. It was so interesting and peaceful. This was my longest trip ever and I like how I alternated my alone time and group time. The yoga retreat was magnificent, and as you'll see I did another yoga retreat 2 summers later!
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