Turkey Summer 2015: Arrival and First Day, 8/5/15 – 8/6/15


 

I decided this year that I was going to spend 2 weeks in Istanbul this summer! The trip is from August 5th to August 19th, with 2 mini trips to some amazing places, Çeşme and Cappadocia.

I headed out for my 5pm flight around 9:30am to the train station in Middletown, NY. I had a pitstop in mind. When I arrived at Penn, I took a subway to meet my friend Patrick for lunch. After, I headed right over to JFK.

JFK is a really nice airport, and security was quite fast. No longer had to take shoes off, which was a plus.

Minutes before departue

Minutes before departure

On my flight, I sat next to a woman named Talia, who was going to visit her boyfriend. She had a lot of adventure in mind, and we shared some stories and knowledge about Turkey. It was a great conversation and helped the time pass.

The flight was awesome, the duration was not. 9 hours in a plane is not the most ideal way to spend your “night”.

Upon arrival, I met up with Serra (my Turkish girlfriend) and she drove me to her family’s place,  a very nice apartment complex in a great location in Istanbul.

After getting settled in, we went to the beltas cafe on a bosphorus, a body of water that connects salt and fresh water. Across this body of water is the continent of Asia.

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This bridge connects Europe to Asia, all within the city of Istanbul

Delicious!

At this cafe, we had a stuffed baked potato. It had pickles, sausage, corn, vicious, and other ingredients. It was absolutely delicious.

After, we walked around the area and saw some cool stuff. There was a market, and we wound up at a nice specialty drinks cafe. I have a cucumber, tangerine and black pepper drink, while Serra has a strawberry flavored drink.

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Had some refreshing tea/juice after settling in

 

Beautiful mosque found on the water

Beautiful mosque found on the water

Later that night, we had dinner with some of her friends, and I had boiled veal brain, which had a very soft consistency. The taste was pretty good! Other foods included fried liver, octopus, a dough with meat and cheese in it, and some other amazing foods.

It’s cool, people order a ton of appetizer-like meals and share them.

Veal brain, tasted really good!

Veal brain, tasted really good!

We also shared we raki, a Turkish alcohol that tasted a lot like licorice and peppermint. You mix it with water and it turns cloudy white.

 

We spent the rest of the night hanging out. I was jet-lagged, so we called it an early night once returning back to Serra’s house.

Turkey Summer 2015: Weekend in Çeşme 8/7/15 through 8/9/15


 

This weekend in Istanbul was actually spent in Çeşme, a beach-like area in Turkey. We took an airplane to the city, since it was an 8 hour drive away.

Upon arrival in Izmir, we rented a car and headed right to our hotel, called the Tash Mahal Hotel. It was an awesome minimal place. Once we got settled, we went to the Before Sunset resort, a beach area that had very salty water. The water connects to the Medditeranian Sea. I spent most of the day relaxing in in a reclining chair.

Cool statue on the way to Çeşme

Cool statue on the way to Çeşme

This was Hacimemiş

This was Hacimemiş

 

Saw some goats!

Saw some goats!

 

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The place we hung out at

The place we hung out at

After a few hours of playing in the water and taking it easy, we went to a happy hour and enjoyed ourselves. There was some dancing and a few tropical drinks, which I enjoyed very much.

We headed back and walked around Hacimemiş. It’s a cute little town with a lot to do. There were shops, food, small events, and amazing places to sit and relax.

 

On Saturday we started with a Turkish breakfast, consisting of various types of bread, including Simit (an amazing tasting bread, kind of like a soft pretzel/bagel consistency, tomatoes, cucumber, various cheeses, and other delicioustypes of food. It was delicious!

 

First of many plates of food I enjoyed for breakfast

First of many plates of food I enjoyed for breakfast

 

 

The table

The table of amazing foods

 

We went to Küm beach for the day. This place was located on the Torquise Coast. The view was gorgeous. The water was freezing cold, but enjoyable in the heat. I also learned how to play Backgammon, losing horribly each time. Got to try some strawberry and apple lemonades as well.

Fun game. Wish I could provide a challenge to my opponent...

Fun game. Wish I could provide a challenge to my opponent…

 

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Breathtaking view

 

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We were assigned one of those umbrellas

 

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Crystal clear waters and such an amazing view

 

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Can’t wait to go back

 

After, we came back tot he hotel and got ready for dinner. We went to Paparrazzi Beach/Club. Serra and I shared some pasta and split a creme brulee. We left early to get a good night’s sleep.

The restaurant was on the shore, and was such an amazing view

The restaurant was on the shore, and was such an amazing view

 

Shoreside dinner

Shoreside dinner

 

Sunday, we got up and had breakfast, and headed to fly-inn beach, but it was too crowded and the seats were not optimal. Instead we went to Fun Beach.

Okay, here is where my adventure was not perfect. When we arrived, it was awesome. I saw a water trampoline and floating climbing wall. We went to check it out, and I got some great footage.

 

While playing on the water trampoline, I broke the GoPro camera over my head when falling. Initially I thought it was just a hard hit, but I ended up breaking the GoPro housing on the hinge. Luckily it still kept a water seal and my friend was able to get it. I however was told that my head was bleeding. The impact of the camera broke skin and did a little damage. After some medical attention froma  lifeguard, I was good to go.

Lunch was decent, and we had a few drinks while there. I spent the rest of the day lounging in our beach hut.

I wanted to do this so bad, but it was crazy expensive and required a lot of skill. I wasn't sure of my abilities after hurting myself that day.

I wanted to do this so bad, but it was crazy expensive and required a lot of skill. I wasn’t sure of my abilities after hurting myself that day.

 

Our beach hut

Our beach hut

More beach hut

More beach hut

 

So gorgeous, and so many inflatables!

So gorgeous, and so many inflatables!

 

We had to leave early for our flight, and caught it around 9:30. Got in around 11pm and passed out. It was a fantastic weekend. In 2 days we go on our trip to Capaddocia.

So long, Izmir!

So long, Izmir!

 

Turkey Summer 2015: Day of Tourism Before Cappadocia – 8/10/15


 

After getting back from Çeşme, we had one day before venturing out to Cappadocia. Today’s plans include the Hagya Sofia, Basilica Cistern, and visiting various areas around Istanbul.

The first stop was the Hagya Sofia. We arrived before the line got too long. It was stunning how beautiful the building was, and the history was also amazing. I’ll let the photos do the talking:

The inside was stunning

The inside was stunning

 

Bigger on the inside

Bigger on the inside

 

View from the top

View from the top

 

The hallways are gorgeous

The hallways are gorgeous

 

One last shot before leaving

One last shot before leaving

 

After, we decided to visit the Basilica Cistern:

There were dozens of rows of these pillars

There were dozens of rows of these pillars

 

The bottom had water. And fish it it!

The bottom had water. And fish it it!

This is known as a crying pillar

This is known as a crying pillar

 

This is one of the Medusa statues. She was upside down.

This is one of the Medusa statues. She was upside down.

Me in front of it

Me in front of it

 

This was the sideways version

This was the sideways version

 

 

Turkey 2015: 3 Day Vacation in Cappadocia – 8/11/15 through 8/13/15


 

On Tuesday, we had an early flight and had to wake up at 3AM to get to the airport in time. This airport was on the Asian side of Istanbul (Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans across 2 continents), so it was cool to finally make it to Asia.

We arrived at the Kamerhan Stone Hotel. We met the owner immediately, and he welcomed us in for a cup of coffee. He explained how he designed, planned and helped build the hotel for his business, and how he runs almost every aspect of it with his workers. No job was too small for him to do.

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Since we arrived early, he took our bags and we immediately started exploring the area. We visited the first stone city in Zelve Valley, where thousands of people carved their homes from the rock. The rock was very soft, and you could see how easily it was eroded by wind and rain.

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After exploring the areas, I saw the “trick icecream” stands, where they make it impossible to grab the icecream from the person serving it. They swap cones, steal the icecream, joke with you, etc. I’ll post the video when I am able.

 

 

Our next stop was seeing some more stone carved areas. The views were gorgeous, and every spot was different. It was really fascinating seeing how people designed their homes in rock, and how an entire group of people were able to live in a mountain.

We returned to the hotel a little early to prepare for the next day. We planned a hot air balloon ride and had to be up at 4am to catch the sunrise. We took a nap and then went to Han Ciragan Restaurant. Had some delicious food and called it an early night.

The sleep in was great. The bed was very comfortable, the cave kept cool the entire night, and everything was amazing.

Waking up at 4am is not fun. Fortunately, it was the only time we had to do it, so we forced ourselves up. Coffee helped a lot.

It was about an hour ride from the shuttle to the hot air balloon location. We stopped for a quick breakfast and arrived around 5:30am. The sun was just starting to turn the sky orange so we had to get into the balloon quickly to catch sunrise.

I never knew how they inflated hot air balloons until this trip. They have a powerful fan blowing air to inflate the balloon, then they use the burner to push hot air into it. It seems a little dangerous to play with fire like that, but I’m sure the materials were flame resistant.

Riding the balloon was awesome. On takeoff, the balloon slightly hovers, but then will start drifting in a direction. We were at a cliffside, so it was scary to just drift over it, especially when we started descending.

The view was amazing. Nothing can effectively describe the experience. Hopefully these pictures will:

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After the ride, we went right back to the hotel and took a nap until 10am. We woke up and went to an underground city. This is probably my favorite part of the trip. This city descended very deep into the mountain, and there were rooms everywhere. Aside from a little but of claustrophobia, I had a blast.

 

After our first time through it, I thought it would be a great idea to take the GoPro Serra bought and record a video of me quickly going through the city. I’ll upload that video when I get home.

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Next on our stop was Ilhara Valley. This was a 2-3 mile walk through a canyon that was flourishing with life due to a small river running through it. The views were breathtaking and the experience was awesome:

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For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant on the river. There were elevated huts that you could sit at and eat, and they were directly over water. It was a unique experience.

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We explored another cave-home area after lunch. We were so exhausted from this trip, we spent less time at this location.

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Afterwards, we stopped at Kervansaray, a caravan resting spot that provided safety to travelers along trade paths. The area was huge.

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Our last activity for the was the Pigeon Valley. In this area, farmers used pigeon droppings as fertilizer in the area. The view was beautiful, and we saw a tree covered with thousands of Evil Eye ornaments.

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Me at pigeon valley

Me at pigeon valley

 

 

That night, we went to a small restaurant to eat some quick food. We had Turkish Pizza, which had a nice spiciness to it. For dessert, we had a sweet cheese pastry. There is no way to describe it except for sweet cheesy pastry. It was a very dense and delicious food but I wouldn’t eat it every day for fear of gaining a lot of weight.

Turkish pizza

Turkish pizza

Delicious cheesy dessert

Delicious cheesy dessert

The next morning we packed our bags, took it easy, and had breakfast before boarding the shuttle and heading back to the airport. This may have been one of the best vacations of my life.

Turkey 2015: Last Days in Istanbul – 8/14/15 Through 8/19/15


 

After we returned, we were exhausted. It was such an amazing trip, but we ran out of energy (and money). We decided that we needed to get in some final tourism, exploring the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Other than that, Serra had some family obligations and small errands to run.

The Topkapi Palace was gorgeous, but way overpacked with tourism. Apparently the palace was featured in a popular TV show, and people wanted to see it because of the TV show.

Pictures were minimal for me, because security kept pushing people to move quickly to see exhibits, which was quite frustrating. I did get a few photos though:

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Entrance to the palace

 

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Another view of the area. This was one of dozens of palace buildings.

 

 

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One of the walkways

After, we decided to see the Blue Mosque. This place was gorgeous, and had some very interesting culture. Women covered their bodies, men couldn’t wear shorts, and you had to remove your shoes.

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The mosque was so gorgeous and quiet. You could feel the energy of the building.

After the Blue Mosque, we headed back home to take it easy.

 

The next day, we also rested and prepared for me to meet more people. I met some of Serra’s friends and we hung out at an apartment. The area was amazing, and we had a fantastic time.

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Fantastic view

 

Also, at one point during the travels in the city, we took a ferry. Aside from the ferry almost crashing into a rock wall(they had an issue with the rudder), we also passed the Maiden’s Tower, a famous landmark in the bosphorus between Europe and Asia.

 

Maiden's Tower

Maiden’s Tower

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Oh? What’s this? Is it a proposal?

She said yes!

She said yes!

This was seen from the ferry. It was a really cute event to witness, but now every guy on the ferry with his girlfriend now has to top that.

 

Friday night, I took out Serra’s family to thank them for the hospitality. It was a fantastic time on the bosphorus waterfront. The food was amazing and the people were awesome.

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Our table

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The view

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The awesome people!

Saturday night, we went to Taksim, a very popular area for shopping and celebration later in the night. Walking around, there were some great places to shop. I got some cool shirts and saw some neat stuff. I also tried Kokorec, which is lamb intestine.

It was delicious

It was delicious

We arrived at a bar that serves specialty shots, all of which were low alcohol and had a theme like fruits, sweet&sour, and other types of shots. I stayed clear of most of them and had some Turkish beer instead.

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These were shared among 8 to 10 people

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Their second round. I tried one but stuck to beer. Too sugary for my tastes. You can see the menu at the back.

 

At the end of the night, we grabbed some food for the ride back. We got something called a Wetburger, which was a greasy grilled/fried burger. Reminded me very much of White Castle, except much better.

Wetburger

Wetburger

That night ended fun. The areas played some pop music, and slowly turned more into Turkish music, which is awesome by the way.

 

On our last night, Serra’s parents took us out for dinner. This area was an island on the bosphorus that was on the dividing line between Asia and Europe. It was great to sit down and have conversation with them. They’re really nice people and had a great sense of humor. We spent the night enjoying great food and awesome company.

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Awesome people!

 

There was an awesome sign where you could stand on both continents at the same time.

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Close enough

Close enough

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This was an amazing experience, and I cannot wait to return to Turkey. Maybe next year!