Daily Wanderlust: Vendors in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul provides no shortage of ways to spend your money. There is the Grand Bazaar, where the whirl of colors, maze of ancient halls and vendors hawking their goods makes it easy to part with cash to the Spice Bazaar and the impending assault you know want to inflict on your tastebuds, playing tourist in Turkey is often times synonomous with dumping your wallet into the hands of vendors.

It’s no different on the streets of Istanbul.

Grilled corn. Bread. Kebabs. It’s all there, ready for you to enjoy a cheap snack en route to spending more money.

What’s your favorite street food in Istanbul?

Vendors line the street in Istanbul

Travel

Daily Wanderlust: Molla-Celebi Mosque in Istanbul

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Nic Freeman.

Istanbul’s European Bosphorus shore is so rich with inspiring structures, like the Dolmabahçe Palace and Ortakoy Mosque, that the smaller wonders are sometimes overlooked.

Sitting quietly by the waterside, near the Kabataş funicular and ferry stations, is the delightful Molla-Celebi mosque, also known as Findikli Camii or The Hazelnut (by Brandon). Quaint by Istanbul mosque comparison, Molla-Celebi was built by famous Turkish Ottoman architect, Mimar Sinan, in the mid 1500s and remains a popular place of worship today.

The lean minarets and elegant dome of Molla-Celebi are best enjoyed from one of the nearby waterside ice-cream cafes, as the dying sun reflects from the Bosphorus Straight.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Istanbul By Night

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post written by Nic Freeman.

As the sun sets in an amber haze over the horizon of lego-like buildings and mosque minarets, Istanbul transforms into a glowing mesh under the night sky. From one of the many rooftop terraces across the city, you can admire the sparkling beauty of Istanbul’s lights as they reflect off the mighty intercontinental Bosphorus Straight (by brandon). You can ponder how many millions of people are staring at the same starry view from terrace tops and how many people are wandering the neon-lit streets below.

To capture the essence of Istanbul in one night, enjoy the city views while eating mezze and drinking a glass of raki from a terrace bar in the thriving modern district of Beyoğlu.

Istanbul by night - looking over the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea

Istanbul by night – looking over the Bosphorus and Marmara Sea

 

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: artisans in Turkey

Turkey is known for many of its handcrafted items — rugs particularly. However, on this trip, I stopped at a factory that created ceramics. These intricately painted items are sold throughout the country and feature beautiful patterns and pictures.

Here, a girl painstakingly outlines the design of a plate in a factory just outside of Fethiye.

Destinations

Daily Wanderlust: Kusadasi, Turkey

Of all of the towns I have visited in my travels, there are very few I can say I did not enjoy. Sadly, Kusadasi, Turkey, is one of those towns.

What did I not like? The town itself is fine. It’s a total tourist town. Cruise ships on the Aegean Sea pop in every day or so, making it a lively place by night. And by lively, I mean drunk tourists looking to hook-up. And drunk locals looking to do the hooking-up. Which is fine.

But, for me, I had a hard time here. I took a job I should not have taken, was fired, and then, for the first time in my travels, truly scared. The cast of characters in my six days here was unique, and the stories, although not always good, are certainly ones I will remember forever. (For an added laugh/roll of eyes, be sure to read this note after you’ve read the other links.)

For me, this town was where I kind of unraveled during my long-term travel.

And while I would never return here, I have to say one thing: the sunsets … stunning.

 

 

Destinations

Escape of the Week: Goreme, Turkey

The view of Goreme from Shoe String Cave Pension.

Welcome to the country where east meets west.

A land entrenched in history, Whirling Dervishes, bazaars, spice-filled foods and a wide-range of landscapes to choose from. If you’re planning a trip to Turkey, take note — no trip here is complete unless Cappadocia travel is included.

The Cappadocia region of Turkey is in the middle of the country, but worth a stop. Here, visitors are greeted by sunrise of pinks and oranges casting their colors across white rocks, and fairy chimneys to spark the world of fantasy.

Some ancient and present day dwellings are the same in Goreme.

Formed from an eruption of Mt. Erciyes ages ago, the chimneys and valley are the permanent reminder of Mother Nature.

A fairy chimney in town.

While I was on my Fez Bus Tour, we stopped in Goreme, a little town in the region. For three days, I lived in the land of whimsical and ancient cave hotels (which used to be dwellings) and phallic rocks jutting out into the crisp blue horizon.

They are a bit phallic …

It’s an understatement to say the world of fairy chimneys and enormous rocks sprouting from the ground is cool. It’s mind-blowing.

While the town of Goreme itself isn’t huge, there is plenty to do since it caters largely to tourists.

Looking down from the pool at Shoe String to the cave rooms below.

One must? Sleep in a cave. There are plenty of options, from budget friendly hostels like Shoe String Cave Pension to more expensive lodging like the lush Sultan Cave Suites Hotel.

Shoe String’s pool includes lounge areas, grapes fresh for the picking, and stunning views of the town.

A luxe cave hotel in the distance.

By day, take time to explore the region. There are plenty of tours operating from here that whisk people away on treks, to explore the underground cities of Kaymakli and Derinkuyu, or local ATV rides through the rock formations.

Stop by the main street for fresh and inexpensive fruit to nibble.

For early birds, the sun rise hot-air balloon ride over the fairy chimneys is absolutely magical. For those who prefer to keep their feet planted on the ground, try visiting the Goreme Open-Air Musuem which takes people through tiny cave churches still in use.

Kebap slow-cooked in a sealed terracotta pot. It tastes much better than it looks.

Don’t forget about food.

During my visit, I stopped in at Dibek, a darling authentic restaurant where we sat on gorgeous colorful carpets and drank homemade wine and dined on flavorful testi kebap. This dish is kebap, sealed in a terracotta jar, and slow-cooked for three hours in a stone oven. Then, it is brought to the table and broken open and served.

Delicious.

Getting there:

If in Istanbul, take the night train. It’s between 11 – 12 hours, but the Turkish bus system is largely run very well.

From Anakara, the bus is 4 1/2 hours. From Antalya, the trip by bus is 9 hours.

 

 

Destinations

The A-Z of D Travels ‘Round

Happy 2012!

Well, Happy 2012 a few days early. While everyone is either dragging themselves into work for the short week, or spending time on a lil’ holiday, I figured now is the time for some fun travel stories. I’m not doing a “Best of” this year, but when the opportunity to participate in the A-Z post came up, I decided it would be a fun little read (plus, a nice trip down memory lane for me).

Thanks, Nomadic Samuel and Adventurous Kate for nominating me to partake in the A- Z Travel fun.

So, without further adieu, the A – Z’s of D’s Travels ‘Round! (PS — there are five of my favorite bloggers tagged below, so at least scroll down to see other bloggers you should definitely check out in 2012).

A: Age you made your first international trip

Don’t get mad, Canada. I totally heart you, but I’m not going to count you as my first international trip since back then, I didn’t even need a passport to cross into your beautiful, clean country.

Therefore, travel back with me to 1995. It’s summertime. I’m an actress with dreams of winning an Emmy for playing the part of drama queen in a (now canceled) soap opera on ABC. Despite being located in the middle of a cornfield, my high school, Magruder if you really want to know, is 1 of 10 schools chosen to participate in the first ever high school leg of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

We receive the packets announcing this opportunity to perform in a play “over there” and I somehow manage to convince my parents it’s the best thing in the world for me to do. So, half-a-year later, I’m getting stamped into the United Kingdom. We stop at Buckingham on the way, then fly on up to Edinburgh. I grace the stage. It does not result in any acting contracts, but it feels damn good. Then, we bop back down to London for a few days before we return to Maryland.

Quick trip. Bitten by the travel bug.

B: My first Guinness in Ireland.

B: Best (foreign) beer you’ve had and where

Well, B is not easy at all. I’m going to go with Guinness. In Dublin. At St. James Gate. Yeah. I didn’t like Guinness, or Jameson, for that matter, until I landed in Dublin. Then, my German – Russian – Romanian – Polish self became a bit o’ Irish at first swig. Love.

C: The brilliant and delightful Chef Maria Jose San Ramon at Monastrell

C: Cuisine (Favorite)

I’ve had some of the most amazing food in the world in Spain, courtesy of Chef Maria Jose San Ramon of Hospes Amerigo’s Monastrell. In fact, the entire time I was a part of #blogtripf1 (thank you, Land of Valencia for the amazing opportunity to see the region!), I ate well. Nay, damn well. I even wrote a post over at Matador Network on all of the damn well eating I was doing.

Other than that, I was a sucker for the fresh fish, homemade EVOO and jugs of wine in plastic bottles made by store owners in Croatia, particularly on Solta, a little slice of island heaven on the Adriatic.

D: Destinations. Favorite. Least Favorite. Why.

I operate in life without favorites, which is weird because, as my friend Katie says, I am in love with the hyperbole. When people ask me my favorite place, I spout off a list. Which is the same list I am going to spout out now, only with brief explanations.

Madrid: Vibrant, alive city with easy transportation. If I could live anywhere in the world, Madrid or anywhere in Spain would be the top of my wish list.

Berlin: Holy crap, the amount of culture, art, eco-friendly living here, just blows me away. I love the little nooks and crannies I discovered and the history. There’s something about WWII that really intrigues me.

Sarajevo: This one makes people scratch their heads. But, for me, seeing a city that is still so scarred from ethnic cleansing and a brutal war be so alive now, just warms my heart. The people here are friendly and kind. And, I just fell in love with the city.

Split, Croatia: Split is where my life changed. And, along with its beautiful Adriatic beauty, holds a very special place in my heart.

Least favorite? Now, that’s much easier. Turkey. Not because the country isn’t awesome, because it is. But, because I had a hell of a time there. Between a hotel owner and a restaurant worker who didn’t understand “no” means “no,” to nearly dying in an attempt to paraglide, Turkey beat the crap out of me. Would I go back? Yes. However, the first experience did one big number on me.

E: Living with elephants for a week at Elephant Nature Park.

E: Event you experienced that made you say ‘Wow’

Ah, one event that made me say “wow” is difficult, to say the least. That being said, the first thing that comes to mind would be the first time I fed elephants at Elephant Nature Park, just north of Chiang Mai, Thailand. At ENP, the elephants get to live the rest of their lives without having to give rides, perform in circuses or paint (if you want to know why you shouldn’t support such outlets, click here). I spent a week with these elephants and it was magical, life-changing.

F: Train or bus? I don't know ...

F: Favorite mode of transportation

I like planes because they get me to places fast. But, I like buses and trains because I can see the world at the ground level instead of thousands of feet up in the air. Of the two — buses or trains — which do I like better? It’s a toss up. I think it’s safe to say that in Western and Central Europe, I like the trains. But, in the Balkans, where they are unreliable and late, I opt for buses.

G: Greatest feeling while traveling

There are so many feelings I experience when I travel. But, the most spellbinding is the one at the beginning — the idea that anything is possible. Travel is an unwritten story, and I have nearly full control of what I want those blank pages to be filled with.

H: Hottest place I’ve traveled to

I’ve been to a few hot places. Europe in the summer, with no air-con is dreadful. I remember dripping, dripping, dripping sweat in many Eastern European hostels. The worst was in Istanbul and later in Varna. Being in a dorm room, with no air-con, in the dead of summer in thick summer heat is absolutely horrible.

On a completely different level, Chiang Mai during the rainy season was really hot. And humid. It was impossible to walk out into the Sunday Night Market without sweat trickling down my face and soaking my clothing. I know. Attractive.

I: Incredible service you’ve experienced and where

The people in Thailand are so kind, so considerate, so attentive. One instance that comes to mind was my recent visit to Chiang Mai. I found a spa and went to get a foot massage. At the end of the hour, my  masseuse sat me in a stool and told me she was going to do my arms to. The reason? She had no other customers and wanted to be nice. Yup. Great service.

J: Journey that took you the longest

Oh lord! The most recent long-haul trip was the longest I have ever experienced. Thank you, United, for the awesome itinerary. It went something like this:

– Flight from Las Vegas to San Francisco: Delayed on runway one hour. Two hour flight.

– Flight from San Francisco to (surprise) Narita, Japan: Delayed one hour. Nine-and-a-half hour flight. Five hour stopover. Which was not on my itinerary.

– Flight from Narita to Bangkok: A little more than six hours. Plus, overnight at the Bangkok airport. So, another six hours.

– Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: One hour.

THEN, on the way back, it was less painful, but still sucky.

– Flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok: One hour.

– Flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles: Fourteen-and-a-half hours. Overnight at LAX — an additional six hours.

– Flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas: One hour.

Yuck.

K: Hand-carved elephants at Elephant Nature Park

K: Keepsake from your travels

Because most of my travels are longer-term, I don’t really buy a lot of things. When I do, they are special and remind me of special moments. I have a bracelet with the Madrid Metro map plastered to it. I have a little carpet I bought in Chefchauen, Morocco. I have hand-carved wooden elephants done by mahouts at Elephant Nature Park. Those are probably the things that mean the most to me and conjure up detailed memories — the thoughts, the feelings, the smells, the atmosphere — of the moment I was in when I purchased each of them.

L: Let down sight. Why and where?

The biggest let down for me was Dubrovnik. Every traveler I spoke with when in Croatia sang such high praises of the city. Yes, it is absolutely magnificent, beautiful, charming … but it is also crowded and expensive. After spending a lot of time in the other cities in Croatia, Dubrovnik was my last stop on vacation and it was so built-up that by the time I got there, it wasn’t nearly what I imagined it to be.

M: The moment I fell in love with Spain.

M: Moment where you fell in love with travel

I can’t recall the first moment I fell in love, but I can recall a moment I was reminded of why I travel. After a day of traveling from Galway to Dublin to Madrid, I arrived at my hostel after dark. Filled with warnings about the city and getting my bag slashed, I arrived to the hostel after dark. My little private room had a balcony overlooking a bustling plaza. I flung open those doors and was greeted with the most magnificent view of the square, glowing with colors, pulsing with people. It was magical. And, in that moment, despite all of the negatives I heard about the city, I was enamored.

N: Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in

Kismet Dao in Brasov, Romania. It rocked. Free beers. Free nights if you stay a certain amount of time. Great staff. Chill travelers. Free breakfast. Common room with hundreds of movies to watch. A basement to party in. A backyard with a grill. Awesomeness.

O: I can't stop snapping shots of doors and windows.

O: Obsession. What are you obsessed with taking pictures of while traveling?

Doors, windows, street lamps and clothing hanging from clothing lines. I am pretty sure I could do quite a few essays of just these images. They tell stories landscapes and normal shots of places can’t.

P: Passport stamps. How many and from where?

This passport has UK, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Spain, Belgium, Rwanda, Belgium, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Germany, America, Thailand, America. I think. There might be a few more from train/car travel over borders, but I don’t remember.

Q: Bran's was a quirky let-down.

Q: Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where.

I don’t know how quirky it is, but Bran’s Castle in Romania was … interesting. They removed all of the old furniture and replaced it with antiques instead.

R: Recommended sight, event, or experience.

Pay to have a guide in Auschwitz. Take SA Guesthouse’s tour of Sarajevo. Madja’s Guest House’s tour of Mostar in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The free alternative tour in Berlin. They all rock and all are historic and fascinating.

S: Splurge. Something you have no problem forking over for while traveling.

It depends on my mood. Sometimes, it’s a good meal. Sometimes, it’s a bottle of wine. Other times, it’s just for the privilege of enjoying “free” wifi at an outdoor cafe with a cup of coffee or a Coke Light. Oh, and tours of places that really move me, like the ones I took in Bosnia.

T: Touristy thing you’ve done

The historical free tour I took in Berlin that took us to Checkpoint Charlie. Oh, and running through the Lourve so I could snap a photo of Mona Lisa but not sticking around the museum because it was so crowded with school children I thought I would pass out.

U: Unforgettable travel memory

So many! Kayaking in circles in Spain. Falling off a cliff in an attempt to paraglide in Turkey. A night of sultry flamenco in Granada. Teaching English in Spain and living with locals there. Bonding with elephants at Elephant Nature Park. I could go on and on.

V: Visas. How many of them and for where.

Turkey.

W: Wine, best glass while traveling and where.

Croatia. My last night of my trip. Sitting by myself at a restaurant enjoying homemade noodles and a view of Zadar’s harbor.

X: View of Goreme.

X: eXcellent view and from where

Coming in to Goreme at sunrise. The reds and oranges turning the fairy chimneys the same color as the sky, and hot air balloons beginning to lift off. Mesmerizing.

Y: Years spent traveling

Collectively? About one year. My longest trip was almost seven months.

Z: Zealous sports fans and where

The F-1 race in Valencia. Hands down. Oh, and every game I watched at bars during the World Cup, particularly the games in Spain with Spain playing. The passion and enthusiasm from those fans turned me into a futbol fan!

Now, the fun part! I nominate the following superb travel bloggers to share their A-Z’s:

Abby, The Jungle Princess

Lindsey, The Traveller World Guide

Erica, Overyonderlust

Bobbie Lee, Heels and Wheels

Jade, Our Oyster

30 Life Crisis