Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Often overlooked - the Ephesus museum

One of Turkey’s most famous landmarks and on top of every visitor’s must see list are the vast and impressive ruins of Ephesus. Located not far from the lovely coastal town of Kusadasi on Turkey’s Aegean Sea, people often come off the cruise ships which dock there and then go on a day trip to Ephesus. The site is immense and certainly well worth a visit, but what is often overlooked and, in fact, rarely included in organized tours, is a visit to the Ephesus museum. The museum is to be found in Selcuk . All visitors to the ruins of Ephesus pass through Selcuk anyway. So, if at all possible, go either by dolmus (minibus) from Kusadasi or else take a taxi and stop at the museum. It’s clearly indicated by a sign reading ‘Müze’. And here comes the secret: the best finds, statues and treasures excavated to Ephesus are not at the site but in the museum. The visitor is greeted by a reconstructed room of an ancient Roman mansion. Original tiles and mosaics cover the floor and walls and, to make matters a bit livelier, cut outs of Romans in their traditional dress populate the room. The museum only has a few rooms which are easy to negotiate and then you turn a corner and there she is: the famous Goddess Cybele, reproduced everywhere is actually standing in a niche in the museum. In duplicate, because a smaller statue was also found. A lovely courtyard with trees and a coffee shop allows for a rest and, equally interesting, a few rooms on the ground floor exhibit paintings by modern day Turkish artists. Don’t miss it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dress like a local--or rather not?

One nice aspect of travel is of course to admire the colorful local garments worn by women and men. Vibrant hues, shimmering fabrics, lace, flowers, elaborate gold ornaments, at the sight of all this abundance, the temptation is there to slip into the role of local. However, there is a fine line between blending in and making a fool of oneself. Of course, many of the most elaborate costumes are only worn on special occasions and celebrations anyway, so they are definitely out. But what about everyday wear like kimonos, saris, dirndls and, yes, Lederhosen?? Would or should you as a clearly Western woman don a kimono and cloggs and go shopping in broad daylight in Tokyo's Ginza? Should you squeeze yourself into the thight bodice of a dirndl and stroll across the Viktualienmarkt in Munich if you happen to hail from Ghana? Or are Lederhosen ok for a gentleman from Japan who enjoys a Mass or five at the Oktoberfest? I think not. The exception are, for woman, Arabic countries where they have to cover up. Saris and kimonos could be ok for evening wear if you are not a local. Headscarves, long sleeved blouses and baggy pants are often worn (and expected) by women who are engaged or married to a Turkish man. And the Lederhosen best fit the muscular bodies of the local lads. For fun I tried on the antique caftan you see in the picture. I couldn't have left the shop with it anyway, the price was skyhigh. Any opinons about the subject would be much appreciated.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Coming soon

I'm happy to announce that I'm currently creating a new blog, or rather a decent website with professional help. I already got the domani name: Glamourgranny Travels. The content will be similar to the current one but with more sections and directed at older women who like to roam the world but prefer to do so in some comfort. I'll feature hotels, spas, luggage, keep fit tips and look into some organised tours as well. It'll have more sections, a picture gallery and tons of links to other website also directed at older women but not necessarily dealing exclusively with travel. It's an exciting new enterprise and I only hope that many will find it interesting.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Getting into the spirit of Cappadoccia

Capadoccia, the otherworldy landscape more or less in the middle of Turkey is all about bizarre rock formations called chimneys or mushrooms, caves, hikes or going up in a balloon and looking at it all from above, accompanied only by the sound of the wind and the hot air keeping you afloat. On my way to Van in the very east of Turkey I stopped in Ürgüp which can be considered as one of the gateways to the wonder-world of Cappadoccia and what better place to get into the spirit of things than spending the night in a cave hotel. I found the ideal place in the Ürgüp Cave Inn. I couldn't have made a better choice. The hotel has only seven rooms and-as the name suggests-in partially built into the rock. Arriving you get already a stunning view of some rock formations and caves which rise up behind the hotel. The rooms are spacious and beautifully furnished with a lot of attention to detail. It's noticable that this is a family run place. Outside is a terrace with wines growing over it for use in summer. The hotel offers only breakfast which is served in the 'family kitchen' which is tiny, but if all guests are hungry at once, an ample tray is carried to your room. Imagine this, room service, a shower which works, particularly nice soap, free WiFi and central heating to take off the chill for EUROS 25 for a single room. Even more, Ömer, the owner, will bend over backwards to arrange trips for you and give you tips where to eat and what else to do in Ürgüp. Rarely have I found a more friendly atmosphere and better value for money, so the scene for my Cappadoccia adventure was set.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Participating in Blog Action Day

This year's theme is water and I just posted a blog on my nileguide/Lebanon page.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Finding the Van cats

For once one of the principal reasons for my recent trip to Van in the far east of Turkey near the border with Iran and Armenia was not to look at museums, archaeologial sites and breath taking nature (I did that too) but to find animals. Two in fact: one being the famous monster of Lake Van and the other, more realistic, the Van cat. These cats are very special and only bred and raised in Van. They are all white, have different colored eyes and their most intersting idiosycrasy is that they absolutely love water. That part of Turkey is not a prime destination for tourism which means that if you want to see something you very much have to find your own way there. I love that because it makes travel an adventure and so much more interesting. How did I find the Van cat? Well, my first port of call was the hotel manager. He brust into laughter when I mentioned the monster and said that he would call it at midnight so I could see it. When he was finished laughing he got serious and told me about the 'Cathouse' located within the campus of Van university. A map of the city revelaed the location. So, I took the dolums (minibus) into Van and then went about finding the next one which runs to the university. Not an easy enterprise but everybody I asked for direction were trying to be helpful, but...there was the little matter of communication. Nobody speaks English or any other language I know, so I got a crash course in Turkish and my limited konwledge of the language increased out of necessity. I got on the right bus and when we came to the entrance of the university, an armed guard (!!)got on the bus and asked me where I was going. 'Kedi evi', I beamed, proud to know the words. He beamed right back, motioned me off the bus and then accompanied me all the way to the cathouse...and stayed. There they were, hundreds of little, white, wooly balls, running around in their enclosure and looking at the foreign visitor with one brown and one green or blue eye. It is as if they know how special (and expensive) they are, because they didn't feel like posing for me. Just gave me a big, pink jawn. Nevertheless, I found my Van cats and managed to get a few pictures of these extraordinary and so,so cute creatures.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Striking a balance

The travel writer's life is a very busy one. First there is the travel itself, going off to all the fascinating places you wanted to see and visit all your life. But, being a travel writer means that you do not want to keep it all to yourself, you have the urge to share with others and, hopefully, to inspire them to go too and enjoy as much as you did. So, next you put finger to keyboard and write your stories, add your pictures and submit your finished product to either the sites which already publish you or to pitch to new venues. But, the best story does no good if nobody reads it or knows about it. Hence, you have to get it out there by making use of social networks like FB, twitter, TBE, tripatini, name but a few. Which leads me to the subject of this post. The choice is endless and adding your work isn't all. You need not only to promote yourself but others too who in turn might or might not return the favor. Then you start reading other travel writer's stories, get carried away and before you know it, your fingers cramp, your eyes close and its midnight! This whole situation, rewarding and interesting as it is, can be confusing at times, so your life needs streamlining and you need to strike a balance between your own productivity and the promotion and enjoyment of other people's work. I have decided to dedicate two days a week which I call 'mutual promotion and admiration days' where I do nothing else but socialise in cyberspace. Any thoughts of my own writing are put out of my mind and I can fully concentrate on that task alone. The days of the week vary, depending on looming dead lines or a trip I just HAVE to take, but on the whole it's a system that works for me and brings results.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Let the travel Gods guide you!

After a few exciting days in Van in the east of Turkey near the border with Iran I wanted to go back home which is right across the country in Didim on the Aegean Sea. As, on the one hand, I love to travel by coach, but, on the other, that entailed a 27 hour ride, I suddenly had the idea to interrupt the trip half way and have a look at Cappadoccia. The travel Gods spoke to me and suggested I stop over in Kayseri. I did and what a find it was. From there I took a minibus to the town of Ürgüp, the true gateway to Cappadoccia. On my way the first bizarre formations of volcanic stone, eroded by time, wind and rain and shaped into incredible forms, hove into view. The further I travelled, the better it got. A landscape like from another planet and to be found nowhere else in the world. Instead of a stop over I stayed 2 days and would even have gone on one of the famous baloon rides if it hadn't started pouring with rain and all flights were cancelled. Sitting snugly in a little tour bus and dashing out from time to time to take a closer look was nice enough.To top it all, the travel Gods spoke again and guided me to a romantic cave hotel with only 7 rooms and family run. Now I feel ready to continue my journey home, happy to have had another unforgettable travel experience to share with you. The picture was taken by my travel companion Bev Sanders from Brusseles.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When stone seems to talk

I love to visit museums and historical sites and, not surprisingly, one of my first outings in Van on the shores of Lake Van in the very east of Turkey was to the historical museum. I have often found the monuments, statues and stone carvings are impressive because of their sheer size but, on closer inspection, the faces often lack expression. They are, in fact, 'stony'. Therefore an involuntary 'oh' escaped my lips when I came face to face with these 12 stelae which were mounted in the museum's courtyard. They were found near the town of Hakkari and date from the 11th century BC! A find which is unique to Anatolia. Tell me if it is just my imagination or do they seem to 'talk' to you too?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Merit Sahmaran Hotel-a true find in Van

I decided to take a trip acorss the entire country of Turkey, from Bodrum in the West to the fabulous Lake Van in the east, close to the border with Iran. That took 27 hours and the tired single woman traveler needed to place to saty and rest. And, by chance, happened upon the Merit Sahmaran Hotel in Edremit, located just between the city of Van and Gevas where the boats to Akdmar Island depart. The hotel sits right on the shore of Lake Van and affords beautiful views. The rooms are comfortbale and offer strong box, slippers, hairdryer and, most importnant, free WiFi. Best of all is the spa with about 20 different kinds of massages and a gym as well as an outdoor pool. The stuff are pleasant and helpful and their English is quite good. Of course, the single woman traveler enjoyed the luxury of the spa and recharged batteries with a meal in the Turkish restaurant. Shuttle service is provided if you arrive at the airport and also to Van if you ask nicely.My single room incl. breakfast was very good value for money at EUROS 55.