Sirince

Sunday night at 7 pm we arrived at the Ulusoy bus station where we were catching our 8:45 bus to Sirince via Izmir.  After confirming our online reservation we took a seat and waited for our bus to roll into the station.  As 8:45 started to near we started to wonder if 8:45 was the arrival time or departure time and how we would know if our bus was here or not since we could not understand the Turkish announcements over the loud speaker.  Adam tried to ask the Turkish speaking man behind the counter when we should expect the bus, the man’s response was to take a thick red Sharpie marker and retrace the circle around 8:45 that he had already drawn at our check in.  The only thing that was certain was that something was happening at 8:45 (thanks for the two circles Mr. Attendent).  So at that point we went outside with our luggage and started to ask each bus driver if his bus was the correct bus by showing them our bus tickets. 

 

The bus arrived at 8:40 and took off not a second later than 8:45.  We were then in route to Izmir, which we thought would be a 12 hour ride, putting us there about 9am.  Between playing Nintendo on the built in TVs, checking email and snoozing off and on the ride really wasn’t bad at all. 

 At about 4:45 am the bus attendant tapped us on our shoulders to wake us.  He didn’t say anything but just walked away.  I was half asleep and my contacts were completely dry, but I could tell that the bus was pulled in front of a dark Ulusoy bus station.  I noticed he didn’t tap anyone else on the shoulder nor was anyone else getting up (or awake at the matter) so we just sat still in our seats.  A few minutes later the attendant came back to our seats and pointed at the dark building and said “Izmir”.  Confused, we got off, grabbed our bags from under the bus and asked the bus driver who had gotten off the bus “Izmir”?  He pointed to the dark building and said “Izmir”.  Still confused we walked towards the bus office just as an employee was unlocking the door and turning on lights inside of the station.  He asked us “Where you go?” and we told him “Sirince”.  He thought about it, corrected our pronunciation, and told us “2 o’clock”.   Adam pointed to his watch and asked the guy in a few different ways if he meant in two hours or at 14:00, but the guy didn’t understand and repeated “2 o’clock”.  Tired and still confused we decided to sit it out awhile at the station, wait till some other busses arrived and other customers.  At 6:45, 2 hours later, the station employee directed us to a bus that he told us would take us to the Otogar  where we would catch a “minibus” to Sirince.  Upon arrival to the Otogar we were able to confirm that a Otogar is a bus station, a hub for many busses and destinations.  After walking around the entire station we were able to find someone to point us to the minibus going to Sirince.  After about 30 minutes we arrived at the Seljuk bus station where everyone got off for us because we were under the conclusion that the bus we were on would continue onto Sirince(like the sign said on the bus).  The driver directed us to get off and pointed us into the direction of another minibus that had the words “Selcuk – Sirince” painted on the back side.  We hopped on our 4th bus within the last 12 hours and rode it into Sirince until they made us get off.  We had made it our destination right at 12 hours after we left Istanbul. 

 

Sirince is a very small,old village town so things we just about to get started at about 8:30 in the morning.  We asked the first man we saw if he knew were “Ali’s Panysion” was located.  He went inside of his store and came back with a torn piece of card board with the Turkish spelling of Ali’s written on it.  He handed it to us and explained to us with hand motions and pointing the direction of the place we were staying.  After following about 10 signs with the words Ali’s Panysion and a small yellow arrow leading up a steep hill on the edge of town (about a 5 minute walk from the “town center”) we found the small quaint  panysion.  Ali and his wife, the owners, were sitting outside.  Since it was only 8:45 in the morning the guests from the previous night were still asleep and our room was not ready.  So we waited till about 10 on the porch till we could get into our room and take a nap till about 1:00.  We probably could have slept all afternoon but we decided to wake up, explore the village and have a late lunch at Okubasi ( a restaurant our parents had enjoyed the Thursday before when they were on the excursion to Ephesus).  Later that night we were joined by our friends Mat and Kelsey who also had a fairly comparable travel experience getting out of Izmir to Sirince. 

 Sirince is known for their fruit wines.  All four of us being wine enthusiasts (in 2008 we all traveled to Napa together) we were excited to sample the wines, but we were quickly disappointed.  All of the fruit wines we tried had a sharp bitter taste, a finish not far from nail polish remover.  The man serving us had put about 10 different fruit wine bottles on the bar in front of us ranging from pomegranate, strawberry to melon.  After we would finish one sample, he would pour us another, each one tasting the same or worse than the one before.  We felt obligated to at least try all the other flavors, and we were also hoping that we would find one that tasted different, one that was good.  No luck.  After dinner we thought we would try our luck with their local grape wines, but we found the same disappointing flavor.  

After a great nights rest, Adam and I enjoyed a spread of delicious breakfast foods cooked by Ali’s wife.  Fried eggs and handpicked/homemade cherry compote were among one our favorites and firsts while in Turkey.

Tuesday the four of us took a minibus to Selcuk, a mini bus to Kusadasi and a dolmus (another minibus) to the Kismet Hotel where Mat and Kelsey were spending the night.  The only thing on our agenda that afternoon was to be at the pool- mission accomplished.  After sweating constantly and being in the heat being poolside was the perfect way to spend the most part of the day.  Late that afternoon Adam and I did the reverse trip back to Sirince (by now we have become pro at the minibus hopping city to city) shopped, had dinner, gave the wine a second chance (no bueno) and went to bed. 

After another great breakfast Wednesday morning we caught the 8:00 minibus from Sirince to Selcuk.  In Selcuk we hopped on a bus to Antayla.  Including several stops we have been on the road already for about six hours.  We should arrive in Antayla in about an hour where will catch a mini bus to Olympus/Cirali where we will spend the next four nights and meet up with the Hencys again. 

Looking forward to time in the water, good company and new experiences!

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A Busy Week in Istanbul

This past week in Istanbul has been very busy.  Not only was it Adam’s last week of summer classes, he had to prepare for and take three finals, complete On Campus Interview applications and we wanted to fit in all the best of Istanbul with our parents who arrived Saturday night.  The first three days we had a guide that showed us around Istanbul.  This was the best way to see ALOT in such a short period.  Our guide knew when and where to take us and we didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets or enter any of the sites.  Not only did we save so much time, but our guide Hakan was full of information about Turkey and its rich history.  Even though this was a very busy week for Adam (still having classes every morning until 12:45) he was still able to join us for about 80% of our tour around the city.   

 Our schedule looked a little bit like this…

 Monday

          A beautiful walk up the Bosphorus in the upscale neighborhood of Bebek among docked boats. 

          A quaint café stop to try Turkish Coffee

          Lunch at one of best places to try traditional lamb, Recep Utsa- one of my favorite meals from start to finish

          The afternoon at the Topkapi Palace

Tuesday we really hit the ground running…

          Dolmabache Palace, the home of six sultans.  I was in awe of the eclectic style, gold and crystal that covered every inch of the palace. 

          Lunch at Medusa

          The Basilica Cistern

          Hagia Sophia; largest Christian church, turned mosque, turned museum.  It was very interesting to see Christian mosaics that had been covered up with plaster when the church was turned into a mosque.  Now you can see parts of both religious symbols in the Hagia Sophia creating an interesting contrast of religion. 

          Blue Mosque

          Bosphorus cruise as the sun set.  It was a great way to see the city and buildings of Istanbul from a different perspective

Wednesday

          Pierre Loti

          A carpet store

          Lunch at Asalan, a great local spot by the Grand Bazaar

          The archaeological museum

          Dinner at Istanbul University Social Club with the entire program. 

Thursday

          Our parents took a day trip to Sirince and Ephesus while I took it easy and Adam worked all day to prepare for his finals.

Friday

          Adam took two finals and then continued to study for his Saturday final

          Everyone else visited the Grand Bazaar

          Dinner to celebrate Don’s birthday at Topaz.  Amazing food and with an amazing view!

Saturday

          Adam completed his summer study abroad program (we did a happy dance).

          Day at the pool

          Say goodbye to the Anthonys

 We were so glad that our parents were able to come and experience Istanbul with us.  We also feel very lucky to have parents who are friends with each other and can travel together and actually have a great time- we know that is often a rarity and feel blessed that we can experience it.   

Today, Sunday, we slept in, grabbed lunch with my parents and tonight we will leave Istanbul to begin the Mediterranean coast part of our trip.  We are excited for the change of pace for these last 9 days. 

          Leaving the busy city for some peace and quite

          Swimming in the ocean

          Meeting up with some of our best friends, Mat and Kelsey. 

          No work, reading or thinking required for law school for a whole week! 

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A Historical Excursion

Early Thursday morning 30 students, professors, and spouses loaded a tour bus with our tour guide Cenk and started on our three day excursion.  We headed East out of Istanbul and headed towards Gallipoli where we took a car ferry across the Dardanelles Straight and made our first stop at Troy. 

After a many hours on the bus and the heat at Troy we were anxious to get our hotel in Assos for some time poolside and at the beach.  The resort hotel was a nice escape from the hotel that has been our home in Istanbul.  We enjoyed a buffet dinner and time sitting on pier while looking at the full moon over the Aegean Sea.  It felt so incredible to swim in the water and take it easy. 

Early morning we visited the nearby site of Athena’s Temple overlooking Assos, the beautiful Aegean Sea and the island of Lesbos. 

That afternoon we drove to Bergama to visit the Acropolis and the Temple of Trajan.  There we saw the world’s steepest Roman Theater.  Friday night we stayed in a very nice hotel in Izmir. 

Saturday morning we woke up and headed toward Ephesus.  We spent most of the morning touring the large city of Ephesus.  It was incredible to see how much has been uncovered and all the sites you can see standing today.  We enjoyed imagining what it must have been like for the apostle Paul to visit these areas and address the people like you can read in Ephesians.  After a few hours of touring Ephesus we stopped for lunch at the Ephesus Carpet School and then had a lesson in Turkey’s oldest art, carpets.  Though Adam and I had already gained a great appreciation for this art from our visit in Gerome, it was really neat to see carpets being made: from the spinning of the thread from the silk worm, to the women weaving carpets to the finished product.  After a very informative visit we headed to the Izmir airport and headed back “home” to Istanbul.

Just a few hours before we arrived back to Istanbul both of our parents had arrived in Istanbul to join us for a week of exploring Istanbul.  It was great to see familiar faces when we arrived back at the hotel. 

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Small Adentures in Istanbul

Please excuse the lack of post in the past few days but we have been taking it easy.  The beauty of being in one place for three weeks is you don’t feel the obligation to go and do something grand everyday because you have a lot of time- which is good for Adam because he still has a lot of reading to keep up with.  Also we are trying to save some of the bigger things for next when are parents come so we can experience them together.  Some of our adventures from the past couple of days have included…

Being invited to a local professor’s home on Heybeliada  Island for the day.  The Prince Isles are a chain of nine islands off the coast of Istanbul, in the Sea of Marmara.  The island itself is quite charming, much slower way of life, and much quieter than the bustling and crowded city of Istanbul.  No cars are allowed on the island so when not on foot most get around on bike or horse and carriage.  We enjoyed amazing homemade meze (small plates) and a day by the Sea of Marmara.  There wasn’t a beach but the view made of up for the lack of ambience on land. 

 

After saying goodbye to Tanner and Andrew on Saturday, Adam and I went on an adventure to Pierre Loti Café.  This is probably a spot you would not venture to if you only had a few days in Istanbul, but again the beauty of being somewhere for three weeks is that you have more time to do things off the beaten path.  After a long bus, tram, hike/walk and cable car we made it to the cemetery covered hilltop.  Pierre Loti Cafe was the perfect place to spend a few hours drinking tea and to watch the sun go down over Eyup and the Golden Horn. 

Monday night we visited Galata Tower.  This tower has amazing 360 degree views of the city.  It was nice to people watch and watch the traffic on the water from tower’s top the while the sunset.

 

 

 

A Turkish 4th of July

In years past we have usually spent the 4th of July carrying on the tradition of spending time with some of our best friends.  But none the less we are in Istanbul this year and Adam started his classes today, (no complaints but will miss the comrodity of gathering with great friends).  Adam’s first class, Counter Terrorism, is taught by one of Adam’s favorite professors, Professor Corn.  This is partially the reason we chose the Turkey Study Abroad program because Adam had enjoyed Corn’s Criminal class so much the first semester.  His second class today was Copyright Law.  His classes start at 8:45 in the morning and go until 12:45, so we still have the majority of the day to go out (when he is not studying, reading, completing his Law Review application, or writing his resume/cover letters of course).  I am not sure what I will do every morning while he is in class, but this morning I took the luxury of sleeping in until 11 and doing a 30 minute yoga workout in my room before meeting AA for lunch.

 Watch some fireworks and eat some BBQ for us.  (insert Lee Greenwell’s “proud to be an American” song here)

Getting to Know Istanbul

On our first full day in Istanbul we set out to explore the area around us, specifically Taksim Square. Taksim square is basically a large chaotic traffic circle, where you can get on the subway or bus. It is near a small park and at the end of the bustling street of Istiklal Caddesi. On Istiklal Caddesi you will find hundreds of shops, restaurants and bars up and down this busy street of tourists and locals alike. Getting to Taksim was an adventure. Google maps told us it was about a 30 minute walk so we planned out our route and decided to take the stroll. If you ever visit Istanbul you will quickly discover that most things seem to be up hill (similar to San Francisco) and streets were not built on a grid pattern, as we learned on this adventure. We also quickly confirmed that the language barrier is huge. So far we had been able to get around since most restaurants have pictures on their menus or in the touristy areas there is usually someone who knows a little bit of English. But on the streets of a more local area it was a little more challenging. We knew we were generally going in the right direction because we knew that the ocean should be on our left side, but we had no idea how much further or which streets would get us to where we wanted to be. At one point I read a sign reading Tek On , thinking it was the direction to Taksim Square. The sign had an arrow pointing the direction we knew to be Taksim Square and was connected to a sign also reading Taksim Square. After following these signs in a circle we found out that Tek On actually means one way street. At this point we realized how completely dependent (and thankful) we have become on our Google Maps on our iPhones. Shortly after we did find our way to our destination and eventually back to our hotel. With burning calf muscles and tired feet we took it easy before having dinner with some of the other students from the University.

The following morning a local Istanbul woman who is working on becoming a Tax Law Professor gave us a great lesson on getting around the city. Despite the city’s maze of streets, Istanbul has great public transportation. She took us to the bus stop down the hill from our hotel and helped us buy a transportation card that is good for busses, trams, subways and ferries. We hoped on the bus to the Sultanhemet area where she showed us the best place to take a Bosphorus cruise, have fresh fish and many other helpful tips along the way (like how to avoid overpaying for items and where to be the most careful with your personal belonging that you are carrying with you and how to tell eager street vendors “No”). Then we rode the tram to Taksim Square, where she showed us the different routes we can use to get around very easily using the Tram. We walked up Istiklal Caddesi as she showed us inexpensive places to eat and shop. And then we took a bus back to our home area. We are very thankful for the time she took to show us around. We definitely feel like we have a better grasp on the city and how to get around without getting lost or to weary. With all that said my goal today is to find a very detailed map that I can carry around with me.

Cappadocia

 Tuesday morning Tanner, Andrew, Adam and I flew to Kayseri and took a van to our hotel in Gerome.  We arrived at about 11 in the morning, so we had the still had the whole day ahead of us.  After settling in and having our first real meal since leaving home—our first Turkish meal—we put our hiking shoes on and headed to the Open Air Museum.  The Open Air Museum is an area of cave churches, monasteries and housing used by the Christians who took refuge there in the 4th century.  It was interesting to explore the village while imagining people living, worshiping and working there.  In many of the cave churches you can still see vibrant frescoes painted on the walls from the 9th century, especially in the Dark Church and Buckle Church (it was worth it to pay the extra 8TL to see).  After a few hours of walking, Adam and I needed a quick nap.  Even though we were told to fight jet lag by staying up until it was time to go to bed, we didn’t think we would make it through dinner if we didn’t lay down for a bit. 

Dinner at A’laturca was very enjoyable.  We started with Meze, similar to tapas, of Cijik (savory yogurt with cucumbers and basil), beans with thyme, and cheese with fresh bread, and then Adam and I shared Panga Turca (white fish in clay pot with vegetables) as our main dish.  In Turkey, Raki is the national alcoholic drink, so we felt obligated to at least try it.    Let’s just say our first time to try it will be our last.  Even mixed with water, the suggested way to drink Raki, the licorice taste is still very overwhelming. 

 On Wednesday we took a great all day tour which included 

  • A small Greek Village, Justafapasa (Sinassos) Village
  • A hike in Soganli Valley: More cave churches, beautiful hills. 
  • Lunch in Soganli where my obsession with rice pudding was reawakened
  • The village of Sobessos: This sight is still in the process of being excavated, it was recently discovered by a group of people by chance.  So far, roman baths, a chapel and meeting hall have been discovered. 
  • One of our favorite parts was the tour of the largest and deepest underground city of Derinkuyu.  Extending 65-85 m below ground, Derinkuyu included a ventilation shaft, a water well, churches, school, wine press and refractory among many living spaces.  Christians would flee to the underground cities to hide from the Romans for days or months at a time. 

 

Later that night Adam and I enjoyed a BBQ at our hotel and great conversation with our hotel’s manager, Musa. 

Thursday morning we woke up at 5am to watch the sunrise and the hot air balloons take off above the valley, but the overcast skies and rain sent us back to bed.  Later that morning we went to the nearby town of Urgop to visit one of the bigger wine producers of the area, Turason Winery.  When we returned to Gerome, we visited a local carpet store suggested to us by our hotel.  We spent most of the afternoon learning the history and different processes of carpet making by the store’s owner.  After hearing about the process, we had such an appreciation for handmade craft and even purchased a carpet that we are very excited about.  After dinner, Tanner and Andrew caught a bus for the next part of their trip and we packed up our room and got packed up for the morning. 

 Friday morning we flew back to Istanbul to check into the hotel we will call home for the next 3 weeks. 

Tesekkur ederim (tay-shake-kur eh-de-reem) for reading this really long post.

Houston to Istanbul

On Sunday night, Adam and I flew out of Houston to begin our journey to Istanbul, Turkey where Adam will be studying abroad for the next 5 weeks. But before Sunday night we had a jammed packed weekend. Friday was Adam’s last day at his internship with Judge Werlein.

After we got off work and loaded up the car we drove to Corpus Christi to drop off Myla off at the Anthony’s, where she will be staying while we are abroad. We got in town just in time to catch dinner with Adam’s dad. Saturday morning we woke up and drove to San Antonio where my good friend Gina and Brian were getting married that night. Gina and Brian had such an incredibly beautiful wedding. We were so glad we were able to celebrate with them just before leaving the country. Gina and I have been mutual friends throughout college, but upon moving to Houston in August we have become great friends. I am incredibly blessed to have quickly become such good friends with her upon moving to Houston. Brian is in med school so Gina and I have spent many of nights together while the boys were working hard at school.

 Our time in San Antonio was short but we were able to spend time with some of our favorite people. After an amazing brunch at Bistro Bakery with the Vizuettes and the Duntons we trekked back to Houston. We made a quick pitstop on I-10 in Luling where my grandparents and dad met us to send us on our way. We were anxious to get back, get our things together and head out the door by 6 so we could be sure to catch our 8:30 flight that night. Our first flight was HTX to London. This was the longest flight either of us had been on, but it actually went by fairly quickly, as far as 9 hour flights go. I watched movies while Adam continued work on his Law Review paper, which he has been working on for the past couple of weeks. (Yes the busyness and demand of law school continues, even while we travel to other countries!) We landed in London about 5:00 am Texas time. By the time we got off the plane we had about a five hour layover. We strongly contemplated going into the city for an hour or two, but were afraid that we wouldn’t make it back in time. We couldn’t afford to miss our flight either, because it was the last one out to Istanbul that day and we were flying out to Cappadocia first thing Tuesday morning from Istanbul. So instead we caught up on episodes of Mad Men and had dinner in the airport. We are both slightly regret not attempting to see a small bit of London, but I think we will have enough adventure in the next weeks to come.

We landed safely in Istanbul at 11:15 pm Monday night. By the time we got to the hotel, showered and got to bed it was already 1:30 in the morning. We met our friends Andrew and Tanner in the hotel lobby at 5:45 this morning and headed the airport this morning to fly out to Cappadocia. We are currently waiting on our flight to the Cappadocia area where we will spend the next three nights.

Hear ye, Hear ye, Hear ye

This week will be Adam’s fourth week at his Federal Internship.  It is hard to believe that he is already half way through with his time there and soon we will be leaving for Turkey.  Some of his experiences as an intern at the Federal Court House include writing two memos and an order which was signed and used by the Judge in court.  (He is getting a lot of practice of writing and researching.)  He has gotten to sit on two civil jury trials, Rule 16 initial conferences and a jury instruction deliberation.  On Friday in court he got to deliver The Cry: “Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas is now in session.  The Honorable Ewing Werlein, Jr. presiding.  God save the United States and this honorable court”. 

Most days when I pickup Adam from work I learn a new term or a part of the law as I hear about his day (like what an order is or a Rule 16 conference).  I am also learning to be an early riser (learning but still not loving).  Since starting his internship I am setting my alarm at least an hour earlier so that we can be out the door by 7:45 and down town by 8am.  This hasn’t been so bad as where sometimes I have been making more time to read and workout before heading to work by 10 by having to get up earlier.  Even though Adam is still working incredibly hard, and often exhausted by the end of the day I am so thankful to have him home by 6:30 at the latest every day.  Just in time for him to come home and cook us something incredible and creative.   

First Day on the Job

After one whole week off from school, finals, books and studying Adam started his Judicial Internship with Judge Werlein today.  He had a great first day and is pretty excited about everthing he will get to experience.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for another guest blog post appearance from Adam himself so you can hear all about it first hand.   

Isn’t he dapper…

 The Federal Court House…