St. Mary and the Incredible Town of Ephesus

I’m thinking of Ephesus today and how much more of Turkey there is for me to share before I slip back into the wonderfulness of here. My wanderlust has me itching to venture out of town again. Out-of-town is a small bandaid for the gushing wound that is eternal wanderlust.

Something I don’t think I’ve mentioned while chatting about our Turkish adventure is that our Turkish trip was initially supposed to be a trip to Israel.

I was incredibly keen to go to Israel, but one thing was making me balk: religion.

You see, I’ve kind of lost mine. This thing that used to be a massive part of me has kind of dissipated a bit and I’m struggling to get a handle on it. When we went to India last year I had it in my head that maybe a little bit of spirituality might find me (Eat, Pray, Love much?) but while I was most certainly overwhelmed by a stronger connection to the here and now (as always happens when I travel) I can’t say that I found any of our gods while I was there. This is just a long-winded way of saying that the reason I decided to skip Israel and go to Turkey instead was because I am not yet ready to visit a place that is of such huge significance to the specific religion that I follow. (I’m having an overwhelming desire to delete this last bit, but whatever. Transparency, right?)

The basic point is this: Ephesus  and St. Mary’s house acted as sort of a mini-spiritual experience, which was kind of perfect for this confusion-plagued traveller.  (more…)

Take Me Back to Pammukale

The wind has picked up and it almost feels like winter today, a strange feeling in the wake of a summer that refuses to end. I find myself thinking of the winteresque calcium deposits of Pammukale and not only wishing to go back in time, but wishing that I could hit pause as well. As far as exceptional places go, I think this piece of heaven might be right at the top of my list. Up there with the Cappodoccian balloon ride and the joys I feel whenever I enter Birds of Eden. These sorts of spaces always inspire that overwhelming reminder of how crazy beautiful this world that we live in is.

As I understand it, the calcium shelves at Pammukale are the result of both nature and the actions of mankind. The excess water servicing the ancient city on top of the hill was rerouted down the hill where the calcium rich streams caused these beautiful white pools. Today they’re maintained by only opening small portions of it up to the public and by continuing with the steady flow of water. The sight is quite breathtaking.

And you know what else? It’s romantic as hell. Walking hand-in-hand with my man through those freezing cold pools was pretty freaking nice. Especially since so few folks seemed to be prepared to walk right down to the bottom. Sadly we didn’t take out cameras with us (for fear we would slip and drown them) but at least one of the trusty cellphones came with and we have a few pics to share.

But wow, what an experience.

PS: the water tastes weird.

 

 

Up & Away: I finally got to climb into a hot air balloon

I had a dream last night that I flew to Sweden in a hot air balloon with my cat, Weasley, and Morrison, my sister’s golden retriever. Sometimes I love my brain for its ability to bring back the exact feelings of a past memory. Of course I haven’t gone to Sweden in a hot air balloon with my cat, but I can finally say that I have been in a hot air balloon.

For as long as I can remember, climbing into a hot air balloon and experiencing what it feels like to drift among the clouds has been at the very top of my bucket list. In fact, I had this particular longing way before bucket lists were called bucket lists. I don’t know if the same sort of thing exists today, but back in the 90s I had these books of classics that had been re-written for children. I can’t remember exactly which ones I had. My cousins had them too so I read some of their as well. Little Women. Alice in Wonderland. And of course: Around the World in 80 Days. Granted, that sort of adventure seems just as terrifying to me as going around the world in a yacht (all those potential ways to die!) but a balloon ride could not sound more glorious. I want to do that one day said the child self. It seemed a safer plan than allowing a handful of helium balloons to take me.

I’ve twice considered taking a balloon ride in my own country. The price tag is a serious factor though, I must admit. Wow. And while I was in Chiang Mai I considered it again, but between breaking my knee and feeling like I didn’t want to have the experience without my husband, I gave it a skip. And then finally in Jaipur out hot air ballooning plans were cancelled due to the weather.

Finally, along the strange landscapes of Cappodoccia, I got to live my dream. I can tell you that it was, in fact, glorious, although to be most frank there’s a small bit of sadness that tinges the edges of a realised dream. This little nugget now lies firmly in my past and is not longer a wish to hold on to for the future. I can only hope that a certain dreaminess might return with each re-telling. I do feel it now.

There is, however, a small problem.  How do you even describe something so mesmerising?

It seems to me that possibly there is no point. Perhaps all I can tell you is that you don’t need to be afraid. That there is a godliness to be found in the skies that you cannot quite experience without leaving the earth. And that this godliness is so overwhelming that any predisposition for fear may very well melt away for you. It did for me.

I don’t know if any old balloon ride would be quite the same as our experience in Cappodoccia. My husband thinks it should be, though I have my doubts. There’s something about being in a balloon among other balloons that surely adds the most magical dimension to the whole experience. Folks don’t seem to quite believe me when I tell them that the hot air ballooning in Cappodoccia is what ultimately lead to me choosing to go to Turkey. It was the whole point of the trip.

And was it worth it? Was it worth spending all that money to trek across the world for one 45 minute balloon ride?

Yes. Yes it was.

 

Meet Ismael, Our Tour Guide

One of the things that has become very apparent to me when it comes to adventuring in different countries is this: tour guides are everything. And when your spoilt little English butt is traveling somewhere where English is barely spoken and you haven’t the first clue about the local language, well then you bet your spoilt-little-butt that The Tour Guide is a kind of saving grace that you cannot live without. Tour guides not only educate you with fascinating historical tales about the spaces that they share with you, but they also know where all the clean public bathrooms are. And the ATMs. If you get lost, they will find you. If you get hurt they will get you help. And if you get into a spat with a shopkeeper they will save you. They are worth all the gold, people. All the gold.

To that end I’d just like to take the time a pay a little tribute to our guide on the Neon Tours tour we did of Turkey last month. I’ve never done a proper tour before. Not one where you basically just pitch up and nothing is in your control. Of course I’ve done a ton of day trips both alone and with guides, and tour guides really do make a difference when it comes to understanding what you are and being shown where to look. But I was a little bit worried about doing one big tour with one guide and one group of people. My worry was for naught. (more…)

Turkey: 6 Reasons to Visit Right Now

Well, I’ve been back from Turkey for two weeks now and I haven’t settled back to real life yet. I have, however, spent hours and hours (seriously I’m not kidding — probably about 30 hours in total if not more) pouring over maps and trying to figure out how and where to next. Who even feeds my kids when I slip into this kind of obsessive state?

I’m also kind of tempted to organize a whole tour for my family and friends (with the help of Neon Tours of course because they were awesome!) because I am certainly of the opinion that everyone should just drop whatever it is that they are doing and go to Turkey right now.

Yes. Now.

I have wanted to go to Turkey for a long time, so I did expect to love it. But I have to admit that our trip far exceeded my expectations. The existence of Turkey in all it’s exquisite beauty now sits in my soul like a comforting balm. What an incredible place. How lucky we are as humans that it exists.

Here are some of the reasons that I think you should go to Turkey, and why I hope to be able to go back there one day… (more…)

The Introverted Traveller

I’ve been home from Turkey for a couple of days now, hiding my introverted self from real life and prolonging this hermit existence for as long as humanly possible, but I suppose it might be time to wade back into the real world again. If someone could remind me how to do that…

I mentioned to my fellow travellers that I’m very much an introvert and that even though they met me in the middle of Istanbul I am very much someone who barely leaves the house sometimes. I don’t think they believed me. Which I get. The homebody traveller character doesn’t really make sense, does it?

Anyway, I must admit: I kind of expected Turkey to take it all out of me, and it did. I should possibly have practiced being “out there in the world” a bit before I went. Ten days with an itinerary that left almost no down time ensured that I got home completely exhausted with an aching body, blistered feet, and a badly bruised shin that I got from the camouflaged side tables attached to the chairs at the Dubai airport. And I was peopled out. Good and proper.

But guys?

I have so many wonderful stories to tell about Turkey. What a magical place filled with incredible people and amazing food and incomparable scenery. Where do I even start? What do I tell you about first? I have no idea. I guess as I spend the next few days sifting through my photographs I will find my inspiration.

Until then I leave you with just one thought:

Go to Turkey. If you feel like you wish you could travel more but it’s too expensive and you don’t know which destination to choose, go to Turkey.

I knew I would love it because of the research I did before I left, and also because so many people have dubbed Turkey their favourite destination.

All that hype and expectation did nothing to steal from the wonder of this country.

Go to Turkey.

If you’re like me, your introverted self may be overwhelmed by all of it. But your soul will soar. And that’s what travel is all about, isn’t it? Taking your soul out and letting it soar…

5 Reasons We Chose Turkey

Can I admit something daft? I was supposed to go to Italy this year, not Turkey. Actually, even that isn’t quite true. If I take a step back from the idea of going to Italy I have to admit that what I was really supposed to do this year is not go anywhere outside of the borders of South Africa.

And yet here I am. Going to Turkey.

I think I can properly call myself a traveller now, although that still doesn’t feel true. Then again, I don’t feel like “a writer” or “a mom” or “a wife” either. And those things are true. So I’m a traveller now, whether it feels true or not.

This trip to Turkey has evolved from a trip to nowhere, to a trip to Italy, to a trip to Ireland, to a trip to Germany and Italy, to a trip to Israel and Egypt, and finally it settled as a trip to Turkey. It took a lot of ideas to get to where we are now. I feel for the poor folks who had to endure me bouncing all those ideas off of them! I can’t imagine everyone who travels does this, but I can’t be the only one. Am I?

It seems that, when it comes to travel, I have resigned myself to the idea that we will go where we go when we go there. And I’m weirdly ok with that for someone who has a tendency towards control issues.

So this time, we’re going to Turkey. And here are some of the reasons why: (more…)

We’re Going to Turkey

That’s right: We’re Going to Turkey.

I wasn’t supposed to do this this year. Really I wasn’t. We were supposed to stay put this year. Recover a little financially. Travel a lot more locally. And then jet off again next year.

I failed. Yes. I. It was me. And even though we both get to go to Turkey because of it, it is I alone who is weak. The husband would have been happy to tour the back yard with snacks. But no. The wife could not.

But that’s ok, isn’t it? It’s ok to spend too much time on flight apps and Google image searches and to click on Every Single Travel Link cleverly presented by Facebook.

Remember when we went to Zanzibar and our flight home was a nightmare and I said to myself I need a break from airports and flights for a really really long time because I really do hate flying and it will be nice not to be on a plane for a while?

It didn’t last.

And then my silly mom said “I’ll buy you some plane tickets” and now here I am and we’re going to Turkey.

We’re calling it a birthday present to myself.

That’s ok, right?

Oops.

(Ps: I’m aware that my husband should be in this selfie as well but he’s at work and I only took the pic just now so he’s just represented by his passport for now. Maybe I should ask him to send me a happy selfie?)

Update: He sent me his happiness….