Welcome to my travel blog! Over the next 10 weeks I will be travelling throughout Europe and will share my adventure here. The name of this blog is a Latin phrase which translates roughly to mean 'to gain, understand, perceive'. It explains perfectly what I hope to experience in this trip; a sense of understanding and appreciation for life all around the world.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Well the Museo del Prado was absolutely fantastic – one of the best museums I've been to on this trip. Obviously I have no photos to share – they were pretty strict on that – plus there's no point. I just bought the guide book – the pics in that are excellent.

I usually have a tolerance level of about 2 ½ hours in art museums – as much as I want to stay longer I find that I just am not appreciating the art any more. But at the Prado I lasted nearly 4 hours and saw it all!

My favourite pieces by far were by Velasquez. I am relatively unfamiliar with his work – but my goodness, it is sublime. The one painting I do know is the crucifixion – we have a print of it at home and my mum painted a copy of the face. Seeing the real thing was incredible. There are a lot of paintings of this particular scene that I have viewed in the past few months and this one tops them all.

This morning I went to the Cathedral for Sunday mass, only to find it is closed due to works being done in preparation for World Youth Day later on this year. No matter, I am in Spain after all so I had my pick of other churches for mass – I went to St Francis down the road – a dome like structure decorated with frescoes on the inside.

After mass I went for a walk of discovery – it was pretty cold today – only about 2 degrees so I had to keep moving to stay warm. I walked through all the main and little streets and placas and have decided that of all the cities I've been to, Barcelona and Madrid are the most beautiful. I exclude here places like Florence because I don't classify it as a city – it's more like a town. Here are some pics of what I saw.

The (closed) Cathedral

 A park near the royal palace and Cathedral
 The main placa - I think today was the collectables market or something - everyone was out with their stamps, coins and ancient figurines.

I went through the botanical gardens, which were a little bare of leaves but still nice, and here it started raining so walked back to the hostel.

Tomorrow morning I will see the royal palace – I really like going to the palaces in the various countries I've been to. They are always beautiful and I like to imagine what intriguing conversations the walls have heard through the centuries. Then in the evening I fly to Lisbon, Portugal.

I must say my patience with hostel life is growing thin quite rapidly. Last night the lights weren't turned off in our room until after 1am and then I had 4 hours before people started getting up and packing bags and rustling papers and all that. Then some girls in the room got up at 6am and started doing their make up with the lights on, talking really loudly. There's a Brazillian girl in my room who I made friends with who had enough and finally lost it with them.

So needless to say, I really, really cannot wait to be in my own bed with no one else to break up a decent night's sleep. Only have Portugal to go now in a hostel and then that's it!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I've been pretty tired the past few days so I've a few quiet ones. Staying overnight at Barcelona airport wasn't fun - I was there too early to check in so the security people wouldn't let me past the main access point without a boarding pass, so I stayed in the main foyer area all night. The chairs here all had metal arm rests of them so it was impossible to be able to lie down straight. I tried to sleep sitting up but with all the security staff on their segways (I don't know it that's how you spell it – like Gob in Arrested Development) and the guy driving the floor polisher, it was useless. A couple of guys near me managed to get some sleep but one of them starting shouting in his sleep, which thoroughly terrified a group of Asians girls on my other side. An eventful night.

By the time I got on the plane at 7am to go to Santiago de Compostela, I was feeling pretty wired. I fell asleep on the flight but it was only just over an hour so I woke up feeling even more tired and like I was outside my own body. Me and no sleep are not a good combination!

Despite this I managed to make it to my hotel without too much difficulty an luckily my room was ready so I collapsed and managed to sleep solidly for 18 hours.

By the way, I no longer have a mobile – I accidentally left it at Barcelona airport as I was going through security. I had no credit anyway but I was left without an alarm clock, so when I had woken up after my mammoth sleep in Santiago I found a 2 dollar shop with alarm clocks. I had to act out to the guy at the counter what I wanted but he understood and showed me the wonderful collection of Hello Kitty and other Asian style animal alarm clocks he had, all saying things like “When life is smiling, happy for we be”. I now have a cute one with rabbits.

After my few days in Santiago I am so inspired to one day walk the Camino pilgrimage – one of the main routes is from France, making your way east along northern Spain until Santiago. This pilgrimage is a popular one and has been for hundreds of years since the tomb of St James the Apostle was discovered. The end of the pilgrimage is at the church of St James, where his tomb is housed.

Now I hadn't walked the Camino so I don't really know if it's cheating that I flew in from Barcelona, but I spent an afternoon at the church and paid my respects to the tomb. Directly above the tomb near the main altar is a bust of St James that the pilgrims hug when they arrive. To be honest I didn't know about this tradition but there was a priest there who showed me. I have never hugged a statue or figure of a saint before so it felt a little strange but I quite liked it.

The Cathedral
 One of the quaint little streets of Santiago.

The museum at the Cathedral was also really interesting and I also went along to a presentation about conserving the outside work of the Cathedral – all the symbolism of various statues and artwork was explained and it struck me how important Beauty is for the transcendence of the heart towards God. History books usually tell us that pictorial depictions of religion were widespread due to much of the populace being illiterate and I am sure this is one of the reasons it was popular, but I also think that our culture severely underestimates the importance of beauty. The idea behind this kind of beauty is that it encourages contemplation of the heart on the mysteries of God. For this reason I bemoan the church architecture that the 1960s produced.

A few times I saw pilgrims with their huge bags and walking sticks making their way towards the Cathedral. I witnessed one man's reaction to finally seeing it after the trials of the pilgrimage, a sight that is impossible to describe with words.

I wish I had more time in Santiago – I feel like I saw so little of it and it has so much to offer. Of course, it doesn't help that everything in Spain is closed between the hours of 1pm-4pm. They take their siestas seriously here!

Some of the parks - it's a really really beautiful town.

I'm now in Madrid – I arrived last night. Today I'm off to see the famous museum Museo el Prado!

One last thing I have to say – my bags now are fairly heavy – the big one is about 20kg and my back pack probably another 7kg. I manage well with them though and have walked up a fair few hills with them. But I cannot believe the amount of men who can't lift them!! In Turkey, when the bus driver would go to pick them up, there would be much swearing as he dragged them to the bus, being unable to lift them. The same happens when someone at the hotel goes to pick them up. I am thinking of declining any further offers to help from porters or bus drivers to save the torrent of curses that come my way:) My response? Toughen up.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yesterday morning I went to Sunday mass at Santa Maria del Mar, one of the finest Gothic churches in Spain. I really like this style - it's so medieval!

Afterwards I had planned on doing some sightseeing however it seems that on  Sunday most of Barcelona shuts down! So I ended up finding a really nice bakery and getting some fig scones and then sat in a Starbucks (the only place open unfortunately) with a Chai Tea Latte listening to some cool jazz that was playing and reading. It was quite a nice way to relax for a while. Because most shops were shut, it was actually a perfect time to explore the old Gothic Quaters of Barcelona. These areas are all beautiful and as you walk through them, you can really feel the time difference between then and now. Until of course, there's a group of break dancers dancing up a storm in one of the placas and you know you're in the 21st century!

I remembered that Casa Batllo (the house designed by the famous Spanish architect Gaudi) was open every day so I walked up that way and checked it out. I honestly believe that if Gaudi had not existed, Barcelona would not be the internationally famous city it is today. That man is responsible for so much of the beauty in Barcelona, and Casa Batllo is just one part of it. The house is amazing - it was built in the early 1900s but the techniques used by him have stood the test of time and it actually appears very modern. Here are some pics of the house.

Looking out from the living area.

Up on the roof.

One of the nice things about Barcelona and coming out of the depths of winter is that the sun does not go down until 5.30pm. It's a fair cry from my days in London when the sky would start to go dark before 3pm! ANd there always seems to be music around the streets of Barcelona so it's very pleasant to walk around. It's also a really, really beautiful city. I'm surprised that it has managed to retain so much beauty given the amount of traffic and general busyness. For instance, it is as busy as Milan, but feels like it has far more of a quirky culture and less business like. I much prefer Barcelona!

Today I went to Parc Guell - monumental gardens on a high plane so it has wonderful views. This park also has a lot of architecture of Gaudi - he also lived in a house in the middle of the gardens. Today was simply a stunning day so wandering through the gardens was very pleasant. Everything feels so relaxed here so I tried to just slow things down and enjoy the atmosphere. In the kain section there were seats in the sun and a guy was playing the guitar and singing - he was very good so I basked in the sun for some time getting my doses of vitamin D and Spanish music.

At this point I have to say that after 8 weeks of being on the road I am starting to get really tired. I was feeling it a bit by the end of Italy, but Turkey really took it out of me - the days were long and jam packed so I am a little sleep deprived. I really want to have the energy to enjoy Spain - it has a wealth of history and amazing things to see and do, but I also have to take a break too. Thus the time in the sun was very lovely.

In the afternoon I walked to the main attraction of Barcelona - the Temple of the Sagrada Familia. This is the great Cathedral that was designed by Gaudi and is the only Cathedral that is being built today. Work has been going on for just over 100 years and it may take that long again for it to be finished. The Cathedral is financed solely by entrance fees and donations, so it is a constant struggle to find the funds to keep it going.

After travelling throughout Europe and seeing so many churches and buildings that are centuries old and wondering what they were like when they were built and how they were built, it was such a treat to see it happening before my eyes. For one thing, the architecture of Sagrada Familia is different to any other church in Europe - as is the style of Gaudi. He is inspired so much by nature and this comes through in all his work. But my goodness, when I walked inside and saw the design of the columns and windows, it was simply amazing. It's like you're walking into a cave of magical light and wonder. I've never experienced any thing like it in a church before - the use of light is phenomenal. So much natural light comes in - it's just beautiful. I wish the photos could capture the splendour of it.

The outside is also very detailed - 'Sagrada Familia' means Holy Family - ie, the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, so the Nativity Facade is dedicated to the stories of this family. It's really special to see.
The building of this Cathedral has been shrouded in controvery from its beginning. Even today, many people in Spain and all around the world really hate it because of either the design or because they are simply angry that a Catholic Cathedral is still being built in post-Enlightenment Europe. I'm going to go all out here and say that the importance of Sagrada Familia to Christendom in Spain and all of Europe simply cannot be underestimated. People say that Christianity is on its way out of Europe. Well, when you go to Sagrada Familia and see the work going on and how dedicated the workers are and see the wonder and appreciation on people's faces as they are inspired by the beauty of the Cathedral - hope is restored. I only wish that I were a millionaire so I could donate my money to building it. I may never see it completed in my lifetime - but I hope my grandchildren will.

Tomorrow is my last day in Barcelona - I have a flight to Santiago de Compostela on Wednesday morning but the flight was moved forward so it leaves at 7am. Because no public transport can get me to the airport by 5am to check in, I have to go there the night before and to an allnighter sleeping in the waiting areas. Ugh, to say the least. But when I get to Santiago, I think I might take a day off - feeling pretty tired!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

So here's what I've been up to the last few days.

Yesterday was my last day in Turkey - I had caught the day bus the day before to Canakkale which is on the coast near the Dardenelles. After 8 hours of windy, bumpy roads, I was very happy to arrive!

In the morning I went to the city of Troy. Now the place we went to certainly has nine levels of civilisation and its location seems to fit the description in Homer's Illiad. However, scholars have argued for years whether or not there actually was a city of Troy as such and whether the Trojan War even happened. Certainly, the legend of the Trojan War was extremely important for Hellenistic culture and the Romans also - it is constantly depicted in art and literature. But the jury is out as to whether or not the battle actually happened, and certainly whether it was over a woman. Now, these guys in Turkey have to make a buck, so all the tour guides speak about the site and the Illiad as if it is history. It's actually been really interesting going along on these tours because I'm a Classical History major at uni so I know my stuff. I learned early on though to not correct these guys when they get something wrong - they don't like it :) But come on, Alexander the Great was not alive after the times of Jesus - a high school student could tell you that!

Anyway, the trip to Troy was cool - some of the ruins of the city (whatever it was called) are over 5,000 years old. The guy who originally started looking for Troy was a German chap called Schliemann, who really was nothing more than a treasure hunter with a smattering of archaeological knowledge. This guy was obsessed with finding the treasure of Priam (Priam was the king of Troy in the Illiad when the Greeks attacked the city). Now he found some jewellery, which he smuggled outside Turkey and his wife wore them at all the parties back in Europe. But the damage that he did to the site while looking for the treasure is terrible. He destroyed buildings from over 3,000 years ago that were still intact and basically just went hacking away at the mountain. Needless to say, Schliemann is not a popular guy among archaeological circles.

There are about 9 levels of history here

Parts of the walls made about 5000 years ago - the wells and altar were made in Roman times.

At the site there is a big wooden horse that you can climb in - I got this shot. Yes, once again the guide had to get a shot.

In the afternoon, we met up with some other Australian travellers and took the ferry across the straight to see Gallipoli. Thousands of Australians go to Turkey each year to see where the Allied campaign took place along the Dardenelles. For those reading who are not Australian, the battle at Gallipoli from April to December 1915 is the most famous military battle in Australian history, and though it was an absolute military tactical failure from the get go, remains an intrinsic part of the Australian culture because of the bravery and comradery that the men showed in this horrific campaign.

We saw a fair few cemeteries and memorials and stopped at Brighton Beach, the intended landing place for the ANZAC troops, and then Anzac Cove, one mile north where they landed instead by mistake. The difference in position is starlting. The terrain at Anzac Cove is basically just a cliff, whereas Brighton Beach would have been a much easier place to gain the high ground from.

Anzac Cove

The cemeteries are well looked after and actually are very beautiful places. A lot of care goes into maintaining them. We also saw the trenches of both the ANZACs and the Turks. They were literally 8 metres away from each other. It was surreal to stand in the spot right between them. I was walking right where so many men were gunned down as they climbed over the top of the trenches.

2 separate cemeteries

A Turkish trench.

What is left of the windy ANZAC trenches.

I didn't realise this before I went to Turkey, but Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic in 1923) was the military commander of the Gallipoli campaign and his leadership lead to the Turkish victory (as well as many military blunders on the Allied side). The Turks today revere Ataturk very much and see him as the father of modern Turkey. I've asked a fair few people here about him and tried to get an objective view by asking innocent questions. No one I've met has anything to say other than he was basically The Man. There is a lot of propaganda surrounding him also, so I wonder how much of an objective idea of him I have been given.  I'l have to do a bit more research there...

I left Istanbul early this morning and got to BArcelona around midday. After I had offloaded everything at the hostel I caught the train back in the centre of Barcelona, Placa de Catalunya and went exploring. The main street there, La Rambla, is full of market stalls and people selling all sorts of things, as well as many street performers, so I made my way leisurely around there. I also went to the main fresh produce market, where I had the most amazing cocnut and berry smoothie. And for 2 euros I got a massive container of fruit salad so that was my dinner this evening.

La Rambla

Inside the market hall

I haven't decided yet what I'll do tomorrow - I'll see where the wind takes me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Finally, a good internet connection! Before I post about the last 2 days, I want to share some photos of Ephesus and my time in Kusadasi.

First, a shot of the main street in Ephesus.

A fountain dedicated to Emperor Domitian.

 A close up of a temple dedicated to Fortuna - the goddess of Fortune

The Library - such an impressive building!! I managed to trip over the front steps and fall off. Sigh.

I love this shot. It was such a beautiful day!

The theater where St Paul preached (and also where Elton John and Sting, among others, have performed). I like St Paul more though.

The house where Mary allegedly spent her last days with St John.

The surroundings of the house - it was such a peaceful place.

The only column left of the 122 that made up the Temple of Artemis. It's actually made up of all the different pieces though!

The view from my hotel room in Kusadasi.

The view from the little village where my guide took me. Most of the villagers work in the fields.

Some of the pillars left of the Basilica of St John the Evangelist. This is actually the tomb of St John, though his relics have long been removed and taken to Europe.

The Basilica looks down on the mosque that was built in the 14th century when the Ottoman Empire conquered Turkey.

A shot of the tombs in the mountain side where the Christians buried their dead during the Roman persecution.

Just a little snap shot of the views in the area. To make you jealous :)

I'll post more about my time going to Troy and Gallipoli today, but tonight I have to get some rest. I have an early flight to Barcelona tomorrow!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Well I did end up with another male tour guide today but this guy was great – really friendly but totally professional. No issues there. It was just us so I was a bit nervous at first but relaxed as the morning wore on.

Alas, no pics again. The internet doesn't like me.

First we went to a little village up high in the mountains – I actually can't remember the name of it – but it was beautiful. During the tourist season apparently it is full of people, but being winter now and quite early when we went, we got to see the real village life. As we walked through the village the guide was telling me about how hard it is to afford a house in Turkey now. People are resorting to using companies who lend a lot with little interest, but when they want the money back and you can't pay within 48 hours, they just kill your son instead. Scary stuff.

We also went to see the Basilica of St John the Evangelist near Ephesus, where St John's body was originally buried but later on the relics were removed and taken to Europe. However, there is still a tomb there and the ruins of the church show it would have been a very large and very beautiful place. There was a baptistery at the side with steps going down, so it was a full immersion baptism.

Down further on the hill, so that St John's Basilica overlooks it, is a mosque that was built in the 14th century. When the Ottoman empire took over Turkey, many churches were destroyed. The ones that survived had all the religious icons hacked off the walls. In this case, the mosque was built right next to the church and the church closed. The mosque is still used today. Just a point of interest, all of the tour guides, when referring to those muslims who go to the mosques five times a day, as is stated as an obligation for men in Islam (the women pray at home), refer to these Muslims as extremists. Turkey is far more secular than I had thought before I came here. Many of the younger generations, particularly revere Ataturk and are very supportive of him making Turkey a secular country in the 1920s.

After this we had lunch. Well I say we, but actually it was just me in this huge function centre that caters for tourist groups. Because I was the only one on the tour it was just me, and a really large American family at the other end of the room.

After lunch we went to the Sleeper Caves – these are old Christian tombs were people were buried during the times of the Roman persecution. Many Christians lived in the mountains (and I mean, literally 'in' them) so when they died they were also buried inside the mountains, as they were afraid of the bodies being removed from normal graves and abused as a warning to those Christians still alive of the perils of not worshipping the emperor.

And lastly we went to the museum of Ephesus, where many of the statues and monuments were stored after the excavations at Ephesus. Many are also in Vienna, as it was the Viennese who led the excavations. This statue is of the Emperor Domitian, a particularly nasty guy. It's notable for its size. His arm is taller than me.

This afternoon I had time to myself so after being dropped off at my hotel I went exploring. This place, Kusadasi, is very touristy but I was left to myself so I walked along the promenade and along the streets. It's very beautiful.
These are 2 posts I wrote yesterday about the previous 2 days. No photos unfortunately - the internet is being very tempermental!

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Yesterday I had another tour around the Cappadocia area. The day before, our tour guide was a very nice woman while yesterday it was a very nice man – a bit too nice to me in fact! Because I am travelling alone, in these larger tour groups people pair up with their travel buddies so I'm always left with the tour guide, which is fine, except when they take a special liking to you and and want to take your picture every five minutes and get way too close. I backed away a few times but it didn't matter with one guy - always popping up and making comments about me. At the end of a tour when he was giving me my bus ticket and made a huge deal about how we would be forever parted, I'd had enough. I'm afraid I wasn't very polite.

The day itself was amazing though. We started off by going to see what the locals call the 'fairy chimneys' – they are like mushroom capped rocks. It's hard to describe them so here's a picture. They were quite beautiful – there was a church inside one so I climbed up the top to see inside. The sky yesterday was clear so the photos came out quite well.

After this we went to a valley that has rock formations that look like animals and people – all natural I'm told!

Before lunch we went to a terracotta workshop in a village called Avanos. This village is situated right on the Red River, one of the longest rivers in Turkey and gets its name from the red clay at the bottom of the river. This clay has been used for thousands of years to make all sorts of objects and we were shown a demonstration of how the ancient 'kick-wheel' method is used. The guy made it look super easy, but when they asked for volunteers one of the Spanish guys showed us it's not so simple. There was many a joke cracked about the famous pottery scene from the movie 'Ghost' while the other Spanish guys sang the song in that scene.

We were of course shown to the room with all the finish products that we could buy. The work was beautiful, but I just don't trust getting back home with anything like that still intact in my bag, so I didn't get anything.

After lunch we went to see some more panoramic views of Cappadocia, where you could see the highest mountain in Turkey. There's quite a ski trade there apparently. And lastly we went to a town called Goreme, which has an open air museum because there are many 10th century and earlier churches in the tall rocks. You'd think that these churches would be pretty spartan and unsophisticated in design, but the frescoes inside some of them rival any church you would find in Italy from the Renaissance. Unfortunately when the Greek population left Turkey as part of the forced population exchange during the 1920s, no one was left to use the churches and many of the faces of the religious images have been hacked away by Turks since that time.

The tour ended up finishing quite early and as my bus didn't leave for another 4 hours and I had already checked out of my little cave hotel, I found myself at liberty. However, this is where the Spaniards came through for me – they were going to be on the same bus so we all found a really nice Turkish lounge/bar where they put on a fire for us and we lazed around chatting for a few hours. One of the Spanish guys, whose girlfriend was there too, has applied to work in Australia, in Melbourne no less! And piled me with questions about life there. He was telling me that the working conditions in Spain are very bad and economically it doesn't make sense to stay. We exchanged details so if he and his girlfriend come I can show them around. Likewise, when I am in Madrid in a few weeks his girlfriend offered to take me out. So, a profitable afternoon for both groups!

The overnight bus was painful but I arrived in Selcuk in one piece and am now waiting to be picked up by our guide for our tour of Ephesus – I am very much looking forward to seeing this town – it's over 8,000 years old!

Tuesday 18 January 2011 in the morning

I am really feeling the effects of the night bus this evening – nothing like being jolted around for 12 hours while getting bits and pieces of sleep to make you appreciate sleeping in a bed!

Today was really beautiful weather wise – I actually felt the sun burning my face at one point – the first time it's happened all trip! Our group today was about 9 people and we toured the ancient city of Ephesus, which was really cool. The Ephesus that stands (figuratively speaking, most of it is rubble) today was built in around 300 BC, but the city's origins are actually much older – dating back to 6,000 BC. During the Roman Empire, Ephesus was one of the largest and most thriving cities in Asia Minor. Our tour today took us past the main gate where there are Roman baths. Travellers had to wash themselves before entering a city – this was a fairly common Roman custom. Then we walked along the marble path through the city street, ruins of beautiful buildings all around us. Some of them have been restored so that they stand as they would have back in the day, while others lie in bits and pieces on the ground. The best preserved building is the Library. This has been restored and is very impressive. Right opposite it was the city brothel and there was in fact an underground tunnel that led from the library to the brothel, so men could tell their significant others they were studying, while off pursuing other interests!

One of my favourite monuments was the huge theater, where St Paul preached when he came to Ephesus. Of course, after he spoke, the people there wanted to kill him so he escaped through the tunnel exits. It was surreal walking through these same tunnels thinking he was once there. The theater itself is quite amazing – I climbed to the top and got a great picture of the surrounding area.

The area around Ephesus is very different to Cappadocia – Ephesus has very fertile soil and there are many fruit and olive trees everywhere. It's absolutely beautiful countryside – probably the most beautiful place I've been all trip. You just can't not feel relaxed when you're in such countryside, the birds chirping and the sound of sheep baahing and the cow bells clanging as shepherds move their flocks around.

After lunch, during which I sat with a couple from the US who were very nice, we went to the house where the Virgin Mary is said to have spent her last days. There are a number of sources as evidence for this, scriptural and historical and the previous three Popes have visited the site and declared it to be a holy site. There is also a spring there, which people have claimed has healed their various maladies. The area where the house is is absolutely beautiful – my idea of perfect serenity. The house is quite small and inside (where no photos are allowed) there are simple rooms, the main focus being an altar with a beautiful statue of Mary on it. I stayed in there for some time, then made my way around the corner to where the spring water was. It actually comes out of taps, so my romantic notions of a Lourdes like moment were squashed, but the water is cold and cleaner than most of the water here.

To the side of the spring was a wall where there was some kind of mesh and there were thousands of bows tied to it – all different colours. On closer inspection I saw that they were prayers, handwritten by people who have come on hankies, tissues and paper and tied to each other. It was quite lovely to see such a physical reminder of how many thoughts and issues we bring forward in prayer.

My tour mates had long gone by this time back to the bus so I had to get back there. I could easily have passed the whole day in the gardens.

After this we went to the Temple of Artemis, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. To be honest I was expecting a bit more than one column, which is basically all that is left now. But the temple had over 120 of these marble columns, so if you're good at using your imagination, it's easy to see how grand the temple must have been.

We also had some more 'presentations' today. One was blatantly a sales pitch, where we went to a leather factory and they played seedy music while teenagers came out on a small catwalk, modelling the goods. The Americans and I found the whole thing so hilariously crass so we laughed and at the end managed to escape without buying anything, but there were so Mexicans in the group who weren't so firm in saying no. Of course, this when you get pounced on so we waited while they bought some things. I just can't keep a straight face when some Turkish guy holds up a jacket that only Donatella Versace could get away with and croons, “So pretty, just to match you my lovely one” as he strokes it and looks at me suggestively. I think they realise pretty quickly that I'm not a serious buyer! Especially at 600 euros a pop.

I did enjoy going to the carpet weaving place though, because the people there actually showed us how carpets are made and how much effort goes into it, especially silk carpets. It's an amazing art form but there's no way I would spend thousands on a carpet. I just like it because we always get free Turkish apple tea, which I am fast becoming addicted to. Like Turkish food, it's the bomb.

The hotel I am staying in tonight and tomorrow night is actually right on the sea, so it looks a lot like St Kilda. I went for a walk this evening on the bank wit the waves crashing around me – such a nice change from all the time I've spent in cities these past few weeks!

Tomorrow there's been a change of plans in my itinerary – instead of going to Pamukkale which is a 3 hour bus ride each way, I'm going to stay local and explore more around here. It's only me on the tour so I am really hoping that I don't get another tour guide who likes to get too close. It's a shame that it's like this. I have been really surprised that whenever I am out on the street I never get hassled. The only time anyone addresses me is when I am walking past a restaurant and they ask if I want to come in. But I have had 3 male tour guides so far and two of them have taken far too many liberties in their behaviour towards me. I don't like having to have a confrontation with them so fingers and toes crossed tomorrow is ok.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Going to the Grand Bazaar again yesterday was lots of fun. The place is huge – and a maze! Most of the shops sell jewellery, from glass bead things right up to emeralds the size of a small country. I love emeralds but they are hideously expensive. If I one day have the money, I think I will come back to Turkey – I've never seen such well cut ones!

I actually managed to spend around 2 hours there with spending very little money in the end! Often when you go to these places the amount of beautiful things can be a little overwhelming – it's hard to now where to focus your attention! And the Western style of shopping where you browse and have to have a brain aneurysm in the shop in order to get noticed doesn't happen at all. In fact, I've never been called so many pet names in order to get my attention. Everything from “Miss! Madame! Lady!” to “Honey, Sweetheart, Baby, Gorgeous!” and then finally just “You! Hey You!!”. I found that walking around with one hand on my bag and the other in my pocket, while keeping a determined step (though looking around at everything of course) it was fine. It's when you look uncertain and touch things that they pounce :)

Some of the more unusual things people tried to sell me were birds – a little boy had a cage he was carrying around with them tweeting inside, a plastic stencil thing that made geometric designs but could have been made with gold for the price they wanted and finally, I saw a man who had a big bucket of ferrets he was trying to offload! Whenever I see animals like that overseas the word “Rabies!” flashes across my mind. They are most likely all fine but I did a subject at uni about diseases humans get from animals and it's not pretty.

I caught the overnight bus in the evening, praying that I would end up in the right place. However, although most people can't speak English, they are very helpful and polite and don't demand money when helping me out. Tipping always makes me anxious – I never know how much to give and no one it seems can break notes into smaller change around here so I can either give a paltry amount or a huge amount. I go the former with sincere thanks added :)

Needless to say I didn't get much sleep on the bus but I was sitting next to a really nice South Korean girl and we chatted for a few hours. She is making her way around Turkey by herself with no agency, which takes a huge amount of guts! There are lots of South Koreans here travelling – they love the mountains, I am told.

I am in the region of Cappadocia now, which is known for its mountainous valleys and stunning formations of rocks, due to this area being under water and full of volcanic deposits millions of years ago. Everything is built into the caves, including my hotel so as I sit and write this, I have cave walls surrounding me! It's very cosy and I quite like it. This morning at breakfast I sat up on the terrace and took in the views around me while eating a traditional breakfast of dried fruits, roasted chestnuts and Turkish tea. I could get used to this!

It's also quite cold in Cappadocia – usually at this time of the year there would be about 30cm of snow everywhere but it hasn't happened this year. There's a layer of frost everywhere though and we walked down a river today that had frozen over.

So, today we covered lots of ground and got to see the landscape. We went for a walk in the Rose Valley, which gets its name for the colour of rocks that surrounds the area. The rocks are beautiful because they are made up of quite a few different layers so you can see all the colours. It was a beautiful walk – but it was 4km mainly uphill so we warmed up very quickly in the cool air. At the top there is a very old church built into the rock – getting up there was quite a feat. There's no such thing as OH&S here so when climbing up the almost vertical rock to get to the church I was doubly glad I had taken out travel insurance!

But once inside, wow. This church would dates from before the 10th century and the frescos on the walls are still so bright and beautiful. I wasn't able to make it to Sunday mass today – finding a Catholic church is near impossible in Turkey – so I was happy I at least made it into a Church.

Most people will have seen parts of Cappadocia whithout realising it – this is the area that Star Wars was filmed – with the Jawas and Jabba the Hut. I had a very nerdy moment where I felt like I should be hearing Jabba's laugh but it didn't happen.

After this walk we went to Cavusin, which is an ancient city – here all the original Greek and Roman houses are still there, clinging to the mountain side. We walked through them and along the side of the mountain, where one wrong step and you could easily fall 50 metres down. But the views from up here were stunning and it was amazing to walk in a city that is over 1500 years old!

For lunch we went into a cave resturant. Turkish food is the bomb :) Though unfortunately my place at the table was in the couples section – where they only spoke to either other so I watched on as further down a group of Spaniards got very merry and looked to be having much more fun than myself!

After lunch we stopped at an old fort, which is the highest part of Cappadocia – there was a camel rider here who brought his camel with him. A girl in the group really wanted a ride but then she saw the camel bite some Japanese woman who was poking it so she lost her enthusiasm. And then lastly we went to an underground city called Kaymakli – there are around 100 various cities underground in Cappadocia but this is one of the biggest. It goes down over 80 metres, though we can only go down around 50. It was tight fit though! Mostly the cities were used as storage spaces and also in times of persecution when the people had to hide. It got warmer as we went down, following the maze of turns and tight squeezes. Here's a pic of how dark it was.

It was late evening by this time and the tour ended. I was having trouble staying awake on the bus back to the hotel so when I got back I had a glorious nap in my little cave room. Tomorrow will be spent again in Cappadocia seeing more and then I have another overnight bus to a place called Selcuk and will get to see the ancient city of Ephesus.