Turkey 2012

Visiting Turkey; Istanbul and Ephesus in 2012

Turkey 2012 Turkey 2012

Vietnam & Bangkok 2009

Vietnam & Bangkok- 17 days July 2009

Vietnam & Bangkok 2009 Vietnam & Bangkok 2009

Morocco 2012

Morocco; Marrakech, Fez, Volubilis, Meknes and Casablanca in October of 2012

Morocco 2012 Morocco 2012

Japan 2011

Sushi, Shrines and Shinkansen; 8 Days in Tokyo and Kyoto in April 2011

Japan 2011 Japan 2011

Rome 2009

Mozzarella, Museums & Macchiato; A Week in Rome, October 2009

Rome 2009 Rome 2009

A Visit to the Roman Ruins of Ephesus

December 30, 2012
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We visited Ephesus on a dreary rainy day, yet it was still spectacular to see where and how people lived more than 3000 years ago.

We were lucky in that our hotel offered free rides to and from the ruins, including instructions to go to a specific vendor’s stall at the exit to have them call for a pick up. We were dropped at the top entrance gate and walked down through the site to the bottom gate. I believe you can enter at either side. Both entrances have restrooms, but there are no restrooms or water or anything sold in the middle of the site. There are food stalls at the bottom gate.

At the time of our visit, the entrance fee was 20 TL (about $11 ). In addition, we opted for both the audio tour ( at 10TL each, not worth it as the explanation and language quality were

horrible) and extra 15 TL to visit to the current excavation of the Terrace Houses (worth every extra lira) which thankfully was covered and allowed us to walk around without the hindrance of umbrellas.

I wish I’d seen these references before our trip and I would have opted out of the rented audio tour:

Rick Steves podcast audio tour of Ephesus

Planning a DIY tour of Ephesus

Before you head to the ruins, you might want to check out the museum in town.


At the entrance there was this introductory sign:


Walking down the main street toward the Library…


Inside the terrace houses which are being painstakingly reassembled:









There are two amphitheaters and they still have surprising acoustics. In fact, we recorded people spontaneously singing. Watch the video here:


Sheep! On the hillside above the …

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There’s More to Selçuk Turkey Than The Ruins of Ephesus

October 28, 2012
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Most people visit Selçuk as a gate way to see the Roman ruins at Ephesus. Truth be told, that’s exactly why we were there too. But we figured if we were going to fly all the way there from Istanbul, then we should at least spend two days there. See this post about flying Atlas Jet from Istanbul to Izmir, taking the free Atlas Jet bus to Selçuk and staying at the lovely Hotel Bella.

Our first day was really only a half day, so after we got to the hotel from the airport, we took the time to walk around town and see some of the sights, all within walking distance of the hotel.

Before we even left the hotel we got a look at some of the town’s most famous residents, storks, who build their nests up on high platforms.

This was the view of the newer part of town from the hotel’s restaurant terrace.

Then there was this view from our room and the other side of the hotel. That’s the entrance to the ruins of St John’s Basillica.

Once we could tear ourselves away from the Hotel Bella, we set out walking in what was essentially one large loop through the town to hit the highlights. The first stop was the Selçuk museum which houses many artifacts from Ephesus.

The museum also includes recreations of rooms from Ephesus, several giant sarcophagi, reproductions of local industry shops, and some interesting ancient artifacts…


From the museum, we continued walking past the rather boring ruins of the Temple of Artemis (there’s only one column there) to the surprise discovery of the ruins of the Bey Hamam (an ancient bath house). It was fenced off, so we couldn’t explore inside, but it certainly looked interesting.

Up the hill from …

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The Other Side of Istanbul; Istiklal Caddesi, Galata Tower, Beyoglu

October 1, 2012
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There’s more to Istanbul than the old quarter’s Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Take just a short walk across the Galata bridge and find another, more modern world.

Don’t be tempted to power walk across the Galeta Bridge. Take your time, slow down, and look around, there’s a whole lot going on along the way. Restaurants line the bridge on a lower level and up top, there are almost always a group of men standing, smoking and fishing.



Once you’re on the other side of the bridge, look  to your left and below you’ll see a fish market. If you have the time, head down there, take a look and maybe grab a fish sandwich or some fried anchovies.

At this point you have two choices; walk up to see the Galeta Tower or take the historic Funicular to Istiklal Caddesi.

Look up with your back to the bridge and you can’t miss the Galeta Tower which dates back to the 6th century. You’ll walk up some very picturesque, but steep and winding streets, before you get to the tower’s base. By the time we got there it was late (ok, we were winded) so we didn’t climb the tower for the view.



Another option, instead of walking up the hill, is to take the funicular up to Istiklal Caddessi, Istanbul’s main pedestrian shopping street. The entrance to the funicular is down by the fish market at Karakoy, so taking it will bypass the Galeta Tower. Built in 1875 by the French, it’s worth it to take once, of only to see the beautiful tile work and ride in the historic underground railway.

Once at the top, head out of the funicular station to your right and you’ll be on Istiklal Caddesi which …

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Riding the Ferries in Istanbul and a Bosphorus Cruise

September 11, 2012
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One of the best parts of hanging out in Istanbul is riding the ferries to get from one part of the city to another. Where else in the world can you go from one continent to another, still be in the same city, and not even need a passport? This is just one of the many things that make Istanbul so special.

The Commuter Ferry

There are many options for getting on the water in Istanbul. The first is to simply spend 2TL and get on one of the many daily commuter ferries which shuttle kids to school, the local population to and from work, and tourists to the various sights around the city. Think of it as a big bus on the water.

On one of our days in Istanbul, we took the ferry from Karakoy to Kadikoy to check out the food market there (this is the trip which took us from Europe to Asia in half an hour). We picked up the ferry on the Northeast side of the Galeta bridge and bought tickets from a machine at the dock. Along the way we were treated to excellent views of all of Istanbul including the distinctive domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia in Sultanhamet.

The ferry makes one stop at Haydarpasa train station on the way over, but did not stop here on the return. If I were to do it again, I would have gotten off here to check out this old train station, the terminus for trains coming from Eastern Turkey and points farther East. From there I would have walked over to Kadikoy. We tried to walk over there along the waterfront after lunch in the market, but it’s not possible to get all the way there that way and …

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Istanbul Markets; Bazaars and Walking Streets

August 13, 2012
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Istanbul may be known for its famous mosques and as a cat heaven, but it’s also well known for its maze-like bazaars. At the intersection of Europe and Asia, Istanbul was long on the East/West spice and trade routes and of course became the place to buy and sell everthing from spices to fabrics to precious metals.

The Grand Bazaar is like a giant shopping mall, albeit an ancient one where you can bargain for what you buy. Personally, I found it a little more than overwhelming. I did end up bargaining hard for a few unique scarves and was happy with my purchase, but keep reading to see where we found the better options for souvenirs.

There’s over 600 years of history in this maze of covered streets and looking at the blue tiled arches and the glittering lanterns, it’s easy to imagine another, more exotic time. Now, the streets are crowded with knickknacks and vendors looking to make a tourist buck.

Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Bazaar wasn’t all bad, just crowded and filled (mostly) with things we did not want to buy. While we there, we did have tasty lunch at a place called Karamehmet Kebap Salonu located in the Ic Cebeci Han, a quiet courtyard on the west side of the complex. The restaurant, recommended in the fantastic Istanbul Eats book, had fresh kebaps and salads, and the waiter (guy in white hat below), upon seeing the book in my hands, took it from me to proudly show me his photo on page 46. Two kebap plates, bread, mixed salad, water, and fresh squeezed orange juice and Turkish coffee brought from the tea house next door was about 45 TL.

The Spice Bazaar feels much more manageable in scope than the Grand Bazaar. This …

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Capture the Color Photography Contest

August 5, 2012

I’m really not one for entering contests. Primarily because like most people, I think my chances of winning are so small, why waste my time? But this contest buzzing about the interwebs, Travel Supermarket’s Capture the Color, got me to change my mind. Plus, I was nominated by the awesome Christine Gilbert of Almost Fearless, so really, how could I refuse? The prizes of an new iPad 3 for individual photos or the 2000£ grand prize are a pretty nice incentive too.

Here’s the deal; there are five photos, one for each color; blue, green, yellow, white and red. Each color will be voted on by an individual judge (blue: Ken Kaminesky, green: Abi King, yellow: Dave & Deb, white: Christine Gilbert and red: Daniel Nahabedian) so don’t worry, you don’t have to do anything. You the reader just get to enjoy. And maybe, if you’re new here, you’ll find something interesting in one of the older posts from which some of these photos originate.


This photo was taken over a wall behind the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Turkey. I love the contrasts in this photo; the bright blue workman’s uniforms with the faded blue of the building and the softness of the white blossoms on the tree with the stone wall behind it.


These are leaf cutter ants in Panama. The sheer industriousness and organization of these ant colonies in the jungle is absolutely mind-boggling. They can completely dismantle a tree and move the it to their home in a matter of hours.


Cambodia holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve been three times in the last ten years and if I’m fortunate, I’ll make a fourth trip next summer. While most of my time in Cambodia …

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Visiting the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul

July 30, 2012
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During the planning process for this trip I did a lot of reading, both online and in the DK Eyewitness Istanbul guidebook. I also discovered Rick Steves’ app which I downloaded to my phone and then listed his podcasts on Turkey (and Italy) in my car. I’ve never been a huge fan of Rick Steves’ books or TV shows, but I’ll admit I really enjoyed listening to the podcasts. On one of the podcasts he interviews the couple who wrote his Istanbul guidebook. One of the things which stayed with my from listening to that program was that Lale Aran said she thought the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul is the Suleymaniye Mosque. So of course, I made it a goal for to see if for myself while we were there.

We walked to the Mosque after walking through the Spice Market. While a part of the walk is uphill, it’s not difficult and we wandered though a neighborhood which sells (wholesale) all the trinkets sold in the tourist areas (note, this is a great place to buy a set of 10 key chains for the same cost as 1 or 2 in the grand Bazaar, but more on this in a later post). I believe this street is called Uzuncarsi Caddesi, and if you stay on it, it will take you right to the Grand Bazaar.

We arrived late in the afternoon, right as the call to prayer was happening. View the video to hear the call to prayer and see the outside of the mosque where the fountains are for ablutions.

We checked out the courtyard and then entered the mosque from the main entrance as there was not separate visitor’s entrance.

Suleymaniye Mosque

It really is stunning inside. Built between 1550 and 1557, the mosque is a memorial to …

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A Visit to Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace and Harem

July 24, 2012
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Visiting the Topkapi Palace is like peeling back the layers of an onion. No, wait. It’s more like one of those Russian dolls, with one inside of another getting progressively smaller. Ok, sort of but not really, but you get my point, don’t you?

Most people enter through the Imperial Gate which is located behind and to the right of the Hagia Sofia. You then walk through the walled exterior palace grounds until you reach the ticket booth and along the way pass by the Hagia Eirene and the Archaeological Museum. At the time we went, admission tickets were 25TL per person.

The next layer peels back after passing through the crenelated Gate of Salutations which looks straight out of Disney movie. Be forewarned, you must go through airline style security to get inside (bags are x-rayed).

Once inside there’s a large grassy area and a number of pavilions and buildings. Many of the pavilions have been turned into exhibit rooms showing items from the Sultan’s treasury as well as imperial clothing and the Sultan’s arms and armor (this exhibit was particularly well designed).

While I enjoyed seeing all the bejewled and bedazzled kaftans, scabbards, even a baby’s crib, I was particularly fascinated by the Pavilion of the Holy Mantle which holds many holy relics of Islam and the Prophet Mohammed’s mantle. Twenty four hours a day there are holy men chanting the words of the Koran over the mantle through a microphone. Unfortunately none of these exhibits allowed photographs inside.

After visiting most of the exhibits, we headed for the Harem which requires a separate admission fee of 15TL at the time of our visit. Fortunately, with the price of admission, photographs are allowed inside.

The first thing you will learn when reading about the Harem is that “harem” …

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