Barcelona, Barcelona!

Selling shells by the seashore—I can get you a discount if you’re interested.

The first thing you need to know about Barcelona is that it’s pronounced Bar-thay-lo-na.

The next thing you need to know is that when you lose a tooth in Catalonia (the region of Spain in which Barcelona is found), you don’t get a visit from the tooth fairy, but from Ratoncito Perez. So when your kid loses a tooth in Barcelona, you tell him to put it under his pillow and when he falls asleep a little mouse is going to crawl across his face a few times and rummage around under his pillow until he finds the tooth.

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The third thing you need to know about Barcelona is that there’s no Santa Clause here. Instead, there’s Cagatió. As Christmas approaches, families bring a large log into their house and paint a face on it. The log is named Cagatio. According to Wikipedia (and some folks here who explained the tradition to us):

Beginning with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), one gives the tió (Catalan for “log”)  a little bit to “eat” every night and usually covers him with a blanket so that he will not be cold. The story goes that in the days preceding Christmas, children must take good care of the log, keeping it warm and feeding it, so that it will defecate presents on Christmas Day or Eve (yes, that’s correct, and no, it’s not made up). 

No Santa Clause here! The kids are lining up to take a whack at Cagatió.

On Christmas Day or, in some households on Christmas Eve, one puts the tió partly into the fireplace and orders it to defecate. The fire part of this tradition is no longer as widespread as it once was, since many modern homes do not have a fireplace. To make it defecate, one beats the tió with sticks, while singing various songs of Tió de Nadal. The name Cagatio actually means poop-log (although I read that the Catalan word that is used is a much more coarse expression).

Nolan can’t wait to start this tradition in the US.

We stayed in a little town outside of Barcelona for about a week. It was another miserable night flight to get here, packing up until midnight and then leaving for the airport at 3am, but it’s been great to be here so far.

The weather has been cool but pleasant overall although today has been cold, windy, and rainy.

We’ve had a couple of beach days and park days here, but we’ve also been out and about in Barcelona some.

Barcelona is a beautiful old city with lots of Gothic architecture and narrow streets, sculptures, and fountains.

Barcelona is also a hub of the modernist architectural movement. Her most famous architect is Antoni Gaudi, whose architectural designs are extreme examples of the modern movement.

Although it looks like Gaudi may have been influenced by mind-altering substances when he designed his works, he was in fact a teetotaler and very dedicated Catholic who saw his architecture as a way to express the majesty of God.

As a boy, Gaudi was very feeble and was not expected to live to adulthood. He spent much of his childhood ill and in bed with only his imagination to entertain him.

He became a forming member of the modernist movement in architecture where using forms that reflect nature and using design to tell stories are key elements.

In his early career, he was lucky enough to win the favor of the wealthiest family in Barcelona and construct several houses for them. He quickly became one of the most famous architects in the city. Gaudi became frustrated though catering to the tastes of his patrons and eventually swore off commissions, focusing all his time and personal means on his masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia, a catholic basilica. Gaudi worked on the cathedral for 40 years, only completing about 10% of the building before his death. Of the slow pace of construction Gaudi said “my client is not in a hurry.” It is still under construction today with an anticipated completion within the next ten years.

This is the house that drove Gaudi to quit commission work. He wanted the house to depict the ocean complete with the waves of the sea in blue and green and seawead and colorful sea creatures. The family that commissioned it wanted the notoriety of a Gaudi house, but wanted a house in traditional style. It ended in a lawsuit.

We also spent one day visiting the Pablo Picaso Museum, the only museum we’ve dragged our kids through in Spain so far (we’ve learned our lesson about museums).

Pablo Picasso is widely considered the greatest painter of the 20th century. Books on art history contain more than twice as many Picasso paintings as any single other painter.

He’s of course most famous for his cubist works, but the museum showed a progression of his work from pretty traditional realism to expressionism to cubism.

The kids did pretty well in the museum all things considered. We have come up with a pretty fun game for them–in each room, we find some small detail for them to look for. If they find them all, they earn a small prize.

We’ve also found that everyone is more happy if Ashley and I take turns sightseeing in the city while the other adult takes the kids to the beach or a park. So we each had a day alone in Barcelona while the kids had a couple of free days.

Georgia Part One

It’s kind of funny that the name of a country in one language can bear no resemblance to the name used by those who live in that country. So it is with the Georgia, or as Georgians refer to their homeland, Sakartvelo, which in the beautiful and unusual Georgian alphabet is written საქართველო.

We arrived in the Republic of Georgia on November 5th and ended up staying until the day after Thanksgiving, November 29, so getting close to a full month.

Georgia was high on my list of places to visit, but we also thought it would be a good place to slow our pace a little, take it easy, and catch up on home school. To some degree we accomplished all of those goals.

Georgia is also a place a friend of mine named Kolya from Russia visits frequently.

Kolya met us in Tbilisi after we had been there about a week and we spent the rest of our time in Georgia with him.

Kolya with my crew (Ashley taking the photo)

The Republic of Georgia is a relatively small country, about the size of Ireland, situated on the Eastern side of the Black Sea. At a true cultural crossroads, Georgia shares borders with Turkey, Armenia, Russia, and Azerbaijan.

The brown regions show the areas of Georgia currently occupied by Russia (similar to the Russian occupation of Ukraine). Georgia has a complicated relationship with Russia.

The national language is Georgian, a language unrelated to any other major language group and only spoken by 4 million people in the world. The Georgian alphabet is also quite unique and beautiful and also not related to any other.

Georgian alphabet, although the letters can morph quite a bit in various fonts and in handwriting.

A former Soviet republic, Georgia suffered from severe poverty and corruption in the 90’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It pulled itself up by the bootstraps so to speak though, and has since become a fairly popular tourist destination. A large part of the Georgian economy is based on tourism and Georgia hopes to add to that every year. Unfortunately, strained relations with Russia have decreased the number of Russian tourists, which previously made up a large percentage of overall tourists to Georgia.

Mountainous and sparsely forested (at least the parts we have seen) Georgia reminds Ashley and me a lot of Utah. It offers some of the best and the cheapest skiing near Europe.

Confluence of two rivers as viewed from the Jvari monastery.
Mountains near Gadauri

Georgian cuisine is popular as much among neighboring countries as among Georgians. Our Russian friend said when Russians go out to eat, they go get Georgian food. We’ve liked the food in general, but like much of the food in the region, it is meat, cheese, and bread heavy. Well known Georgian dishes include kharcho (seasoned beef soup), khinkali (large meat dumplings), khatchapuri (various preparations of bread and cheese and sometimes meat), churchkhela (nuts on a string covered in dried fruit puree), and lobiani (bread filled with refried beans).

Making bean-filled lobiani
Khinkali
The rich soup kharcho
Colorful churchkhela for sale. It’s always sold hanging in pairs like socks on a laundry line. They call it “Georgian Snickers”.
Honey is also a pretty deal on Georgia. The dark stuff is chestnut honey, the white stuff is honey that has been aged 5 years.
Nolan tipping back a cold one. This is tarragon flavored soda

Aside from food, Georgia is also famous for wine. The earliest historical evidence of wine making was found in Georgia and dates back at least 8000 years. Over 530 varieties of grapes are grown in Georgia.

Most people here with enough of a garden to grow grapes brew their own wine. They also all seem capable of cooking up their own hooch called Chacha which they distill from the crushed grapes left over after making wine. I thought that kind of home distilled strong alcohol could make you blind, but I met a few old gents who drink quite a bit of it and they seemed to see alright. Homebrewed wine and chacha are for sale all over the streets and shops.

A fifty gallon drum of chacha in the making. I took a whiff of some homebrewed chacha and it smelled strongly of alcohol and nail polish remover.

Georgia was one of the first countries to adopt Christianity and religious sentiment among Georgians remains very strong. It’s common to see people stop and cross themselves when they pass a church.

The purported tomb of St Matthew near the Black Sea and within the ruins of a Roman fort. He and Andrew are said to have preached th8e Gospel of Jesus Christ in Georgia
Georgians visiting the Church of the Holy Trinity in Tbilisi
Youth choir rehearsal. Sounded incredible in person.

Saint Nino (female) is credited with converting the king and queen, and this the entire country, to Christianity in the 4th century.

Saint Nino and her distinctive cross.

According to tradition, the Virgin Mary gave Nino a cross made from grape vines which Nino secured using her own hair. Since grape vines aren’t very rigid, the arms of the cross sagged and thus the Georgian cross has droopy arms.

In our three months travels, we have seen so many churches, cathedrals, and mosques that is hard to get as excited about them anymore. But since many of the attractions both in and around Tbilisi are monasteries, we’ve ended up seeing our share here as well. The architectural style is almost identical from one to the next–so the buildings differ mainly in size, age, and inside decor. Many of the old monasteries are bare stone on the inside and it makes the feat of building the tall central dome out of cut stone seem more impressive when those stones are not plastered over.

Jvari monastery. This one is particularly old and important.
Kazbegi
Kazbegi
Gergeti Trinity Church in Kazbegi
Not a great photo, but it shows stone arch with arched ceiling.
Church of the Holy Trinity in Batumi
Monastery in Mtskheta that purportedly contains a bone from the foot of St Andrew.
Mtskheta monastery

I wish I had more photos, but many of the monasteries don’t allow photography inside.

Because of its small size and its location between major historic world powers, and on important trade routes, Georgia has experienced many invasions through the centuries and has had to form alliances with larger powers.

A large statue in Tbilisi, Mother of Georgia, depicts a woman holding a sword in one hand to fend off enemies and a bowl of wine in the other hand to welcome her friends.

Mother Georgia from the side with the wine bowl

It’s relationship with Russia now, the Soviet Union previously, and imperial Russia before that has been particularly complicated.

Georgia’s current governing party leans toward Putin and his cohort, while the previous party were outspoken critics of Putin, which drew economic sanctions from Russia that are still in effect. In a similar fashion to the occupation of Crimea in Ukraine, Russia currently occupies two significant regions of Georgia. Georgia is the birthplace of prominent Soviet leader and revolutionary Joseph Stalin. Prior to communism, Georgia was considered a protectorate of imperial Russia.

The birthplace of Joseph Stalin, who changed his name from Ioseb Jughashvili, in the town of Gori
Joseph Stalin still draws admiration from many in Georgia despite his harsh tactics. He was responsible for at least 20 million deaths, upwards of 40 million depending how you assign blame for Soviet casualties in the second world war, as well as a constant paranoia of being sent to the gulags for little or no reason.
Toilet paper did not appear in the Soviet Union until the 1960’s. Prior to that, newspaper was used. It is said that if you were not attentive to what was printed on the paper and used an image of Comrade Stalin for your business, you could end up in a prison camp.
Friendship monument built by the Soviets to commentate the cooperation of Georgia as a republic in the USSR. Under communist rule, Georgia was the only republic allowed to conduct official business in its own language.

The current political climate in Georgia is strained. Many people are fed up with the current ruling party, Georgian Dream, and what they see as its lack of any concern for Georgia or it’s people. Tbilisi had several demonstrations while we were there. Kolya and I walked around then a little and got a feel for the general climate. They were generally peaceful but I know later some of the protesters were dispersed with water cannons.

Protests in Tbilisi
Protests in Tbilisi. Georgian is a good language to sound angry in.
Protestors and yellow smoke on Rustavelli Avenue in Tbilisi

For such a small country, Georgia has a fairly varied climate. From sub tropical in the west along the Black Sea to more continental in the mountains in the north. You can pick mandarins and persimmons and take a dip in the Black Sea in late November in Batumi (I did both), and go skiing in the mountains in central Georgia (this year though they’ll probably have to wait at least until mid December for more snow).

A view of the Black Sea in Batumi just two days before Thanksgiving.
Mandarins in Batumi. You could buy these sweet little oranges for 15 cents a pound.
Making a snowman in the mountains
Reminds me of Utah mountains
Confluence of the White and Black rivers

The cost of travel to Georgia makes it appealing as well. Georgian currency is the Georgian Lari or GEL. Current exchange rate is about 3GEL/USD. A ride in the metro costs 0.5 GEL or about 15 cents. Most taxis we took around town were $2-3. A filling meal including a local Georgian soda (Georgian soda is delicious) in a typical cafe can be had for $3-4. A visit to the public bath house is $1.75. the nicest place we’ve stayed in by far on our trip was a spacious loft with a view in Old Town Tbilisi that we paid $40/night for, although I bet in the summer it will cost at least twice that.

So, if I haven’t convinced you to come visit Georgia, maybe I will with my next post on Georgia. I think we all had a great time there, and I was happy to visit and leave some money with the local economy.

Istanbul and farewell, Turkey!

Steep cobblestone street with laundry hanging in the Sultahnamet neighborhood

Although Turkey was not a country on our “to-visit” list, we ended up staying almost a month there. We left feeling like there was still so much to see.

Our itenarary ended up being Antalya–Kas–Istanbul–Cappodocia–Istanbul.

Our favorites were Kas and Cappadocia. Still, gotta say that Istanbul is a pretty cool city.

Few cities in the world are more historically significant than Istanbul.

Despite Turkey’s political vicissitudes over the last decade, Istanbul is still a top tourist destination with 2020 expected to have more visitors see the city than it’s population size–and it’s population is 15 million.

Istanbul is a diverse city–a melting pot of cultures and ethnic groups. It’s a city that never sleeps. It’s clean and modern and old and run down all at once. It’s huge and takes forever to get around–which was our least favorite thing about Istanbul. Our first stay in Istanbul was in the historic Sultahnamet district farily close to everything in the historic center. It was a unique experience. Our second stay was just a few metro stops away (or so it seemed when we booked it), but it took us nearly 2 hours to get to the sites in the historic district.

Walking the streets of Istanbul

For our 8 days in Istanbul, we were able to accomplish and see relatively little (at least it seems to me that way).

Here’s what we did see:

The Hagia Sofia. This ancient Christian Church was the architectural treasure of Christianity in the east (Istanbul sits on the very Eastern edge of Europe, on the border between Europe and Asia).

Man selling grilled and steamed corn with the slightly pinkish Hagia Sofia in the background

It’s a huge building composed of a series of domes. The Hagia Sofia is made of cut stone that has been plastered on the outside of the building–it almost looks like cement. To me the overall appearance of the building from the outside is squat and industrial.

Hagia Sofia. The minarets were added after the Ottoman conquest.

But that squat, domed building is very different from the inside. The architectural design allows for a huge open space without any central supports inside the building. The central dome is one hundred and eighty feet from floor to ceiling. It’s a pretty remarkable achievement in architecture for a building built entirely of stone almost fifteen hundred years ago.

After the ottoman empire’s conquest of the city in the 1500’s, it was converted into a mosque and its frescoes were plastered over. Now, only a few frescoes can be seen.

One of the frescoes still visible
Mosaic that wasn’t plastered over (or was restored, I guess I don’t know which for sure)

The Blue Mosque. After the ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the sultan wanted to build a mosque that would surpass the Hagia Sofia in beauty. He built the Sultanahmet Mosque or Blue Mosque. The thousands of tiles painted with blue designs that line the interior give it is name. Because it is still an active mosque, it is closed off and on throughout the day for prayer.

Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque–I thought I ahd a better shot of it than this. This doesn’t really show the domes.

The construction served very similar to me to that on the Hagia Sofia. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take get a true feel for how it looks because the interior was under renovation and we couldn’t see the large central dome from the inside.

One of the many small domes in the Blue Mosque

Topakapi Palace. From the 15th through the 17th cetruries, the Topakapi palace was royal headquarters of the Sultans in the Ottoman Empire. It is the second of three palaces constructed during the Ottoman dynasty. Amended and remodeled over the centuries, it contains several courtyards, a huge kitchen, an armory, and the Harem (which our guide claimed is not what you think it is). It also houses one of the world’s largest cut diamonds and a Topakapi dagger, a dagger made famous in a heist film from the 60’s. This was our last cultural heritage stop in Turkey. It was a cool place, but hard to appreciate after two and a half months of museums and cultural heritage sites.

Despite the beautiful blue tiles of the Topakapi Harem, we were all pretty museumed out at that point.
Inlay wood, abalone, and mother of pearl doors

The Bosphorous. Part of Turkey’s historic (and current) strategic location is its position across the bosphorous—one of two narrow passages of water that ultimately connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. As such, it is inherently important for both military and commerce.

Bosphorous cruise

We rode one of the many ships that ply the Bosphorous. No free hot chocolate aboard the boat was a real let down for Jane and Nolan, but we did see dophins.

View from the Bosphorous at night

After the boat tour, we stopped for a famous Istanbul staple–belik ekmek or fish sandwich. It was a mackerel fillet fresh caught and grilled on a boat tied to the wharf. I liked it but no one else would try it except Nolan who still talks about how good it was (I don’t think he actually got any fish in his bite, but the idea of eating fresh caught fish is appealing to him).

Belik ekmek

Turkish Hamam. I could write an entire post about my experience in the Turkish Bath. We had planned that I would go first while Ashley was with the kids and then she would go later. After my experience, she decided not to go. It was’t a bad experience though. I’ll briefly describe it.

I had heard that the baths were quite beautiful so I selected a historic bath designed by some illustrious architect. It was lined with white marble and had a domed roof with small round windows to let in natural light.

Inside the Cumberlitas hammam. Photo courtesy goistanbul.com

A Turkish bath starts in a steam room where your sit and warm yourself and bath with warm water from a basin. Next, an attendant calls you from the steam room to the bathing till and bathes you while you sit on a marble slab. Then he uses a loofah mitt to exfoliate you, again while you site on a marble slab. It’s a serious business. During the exfoliation process, you can see the skin peeling off like a sunburn. It was somewhere between mildly and moderately painful. I am pretty sure he forgot to exfoliate my back, but when I asked him about it he assured me he had. He offered to scrub it again, but I worried about the possible consequences of a double scrub in the event that he really had already done it .

After the exfoliation follows a frothy bubble soap down and massage while you lie on a warm marble slab. This was the only relaxing part of the experience.

At the end of it all, I asked the front desk how this differs from a traditional Turkish bath experience. “Since at this bath, 90% of our clients are foreigners, the exfoliation is much gentler.”

I don’t know if I could handle the native experience.

The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. One of the largest and oldest indoor bazaars in the world, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is a maze of small shops selling Turkish delight, jewelry, rugs, ceramics, “genuine fake” watches, and everything else imaginable. I think we made it out of there without anything besides a few toys and trinkets and a little bit of honey.

Nolan getting a personalized crossbow

I plan on writing one more post about Turkey, including one of our neatest experiences with a Turkish family we met. Here are some more photos from around Istanbul.

Trick ice cream

Cappadocia, Turkey

Morning horse ride near the town of Göreme

Early this week we left Istanbul and took a short flight to a region called Cappadocia–one of the 18 UNESCO sites in Turkey.

With a 1am take off, the flight made for an exhausting trip even though it only took an hour and a half.

Fortunately, Margaret can get a good night’s sleep just about anywhere.

At the Kayseri airport, we rented a car and drove another couple of hours to a small town in the region of Cappadocia where our host was awake and awaiting us.

Cappadocia is a landscape that appears a lot like that of Capitol Reef National Park–white stone formations and canyons.

The stone here is different though. It’s not sandstone but a soft volcanic stone called “tuff”.

Erosion has left irregular cones of the stone standing in the landscape. Some of them even have mushroom shaped caps like the hoodoos in Utah’s Goblin Valley, although the ones in Cappadocia are much larger.

Some of the formations made from erosion of the soft stone called “tuff”
This is the general landscaped of the region. This view is of a place called Pigeon Valley owing to the numerous dovecotes the inhabitants of the area carved into the rock.

The area was first settled in Paleolithic times–more than 8,000 years BCE. It lies along the Silk Road trade route and has been an important region for millennia.

What makes the area most famous is that into this soft stone, people have carved all sorts of caves and recesses.

In some places, the rocks literally look like Swiss cheese from all the caves that have been carved.

The caves first started with the Hittites, but where then occupied during Roman times, then Byzantine times. Later the Ottomans came and moved into the caves.

Although most of the people in this region now live in homes and apartments in town, some still live in the caves. Run a few power and water lines to a cave and they make a fairly comfortable dwelling.

Some of these caves have been inhabited without significant interruption for thousands and thousands of years–although they have changed hands a few times.

We met a man named Memo who still lives in the same cave his family had occupied for 400 years, although for the last four years, he only lives half the year in the cave. He let us come into his home and see what modern cave life looks like.

Memo in his modern cave home, fully equipped with a stove,a kitchen, electricity, and indoor plumbing. He says it’s quite comfortable. Follow him on Instagram: memo_peri_house

No matter where we drive in this area, there are countless caves visible from the road. They’re everywhere.

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This is one of the more elaborate churches carved into the stone. They wouldn’t let you take pictures inside the church, but it had vaulted ceilings covered in frescoes on a blue background. There were churches everywhere though. In exploring some small areas, we’d find 3 or 4 churches among the caves. These date to Byzantine times.
Church with a fresco of Christ. It’s part of an “open air museum”.
This is one of the churches we found exploring caves off the side of the road. You can see the cross carved into the ceiling
We found three small cave churches in the area.
Continue reading “Cappadocia, Turkey”

The Turkish barber

We’ve been in Istanbul for a few days now.

We ended up in a neighborhood about fifteen minutes away from the most well-known historic area of Istanbul.

It’s a colorful neighborhood. Definitely not overly touristy. Pretty working class. Which is neat really.

Narrow cobble stone streets. Five story apartment buildings. Little stores, laundry shops, small cafes, street vendors. And barbershops. Barbershops on every corner.

Turkish men take grooming seriously. Once I noticed how many barber shops there are, I also noticed how nearly all the guys here are sporting fresh fades.

And I was in need of a haircut.

One of the most cultural experience I have ever had was a trip to the Turkish barber.  Might sound boring, but it was a pretty exciting! 

At about 8pm, I popped into the corner shop.

I was invited to have a seat while the barber worked on the chaps in line ahead of me.

Some had come for a trim, some for a shave, some for both. While I waited, a few more stopped in. They appeared to be personal friends of the barber as they were greeted with “Salam walakum”, a handshake and the side to side head press that is the Turkish version of the cheek-to-cheek kiss greeting.

There was one barber on duty and a young helper whom the barber good-naturedly cajoled and hustled about throughout the evening.

The shop had three black barber’s chairs, each with a sink and a mirror in front of them. The shop occupied the first floor corner of the building and so 2 of the four walls were looked with windows. Under one row was a bench and table where we waited for our turn in a barber’s chair.

After about a forty minute wait, it was my turn. I took a seat in the chair. The barber spoke just a few words in English, so with the help of Google translate, we established how I wanted my hair cut.

The haircut was pretty routine, but with a little more attention to detail than I was used to. He used a straight razor around all the edges. To make sure the top was even, he used a blow dryer and a brush to tease my hair straight up and even everything out.

I indicated I was up for the whole experience, so he moved on to the shave.

He poured a little hot water into a cup, whipped up some foam with a shaving brush, and lathered up my face.

After each quick but careful stroke with the straight razor, he wiped the edge of the blade free of foam and trimmings on the back of the fingers of his free hand.

To shave smooth and the convex surfaces of my face, he carefully stretched the skin of my cheeks and chin with his left hand while he shaved with his right.

When he had finished the shave, he dipped a two-inch chisel brush into hot black wax in a pot on a burner in the corner. This was applied to my upper cheeks. It was hot, but not painful. Then two q-tips into the same pot and one up each nostril. Felt a little hotter in my nostrils than it did on my cheeks.

While the hot wax was curing on my cheeks and in my nostrils, he dipped a little wad of cotton on the end of a stick into alcohol and ignited it. He bounced the open flame against my ears and I could hear the crackling of the fine hairs on my ears being singed off (I didn’t think I had hair on my ears).

Once the flame was put away, he pulled the cured wax off my cheeks to remove any offensive hairs there. Not gonna lie, this process smarts a little.

Next, the q-tips in my nostrils . A couple of wiggles and a steady pull, and out came any and all nose hairs firmly cemented in the wax. Not gonna lie, this hurt a little more than the cheek wax.

If you think that the process up to this point is sufficient for removing all unwanted facial hair, you are mistaken.

Next step: threading. First he rubbed a palmful of talc into my skin. Then after pulling a length of thread from a spool, he formed a loop and twisted it several times.  With the loop in his left hand, one free end in his right hand and one free end clenched between his teeth, he laid the thread against my face. Opening and releasing the loop with his fingers, he bobbed his head forward and back.  With each bob, the loop tightened and twisted, grasping all the fine wispy hairs from my forehead and cheeks and jerking them out.

Now, with a smooth, clean face, I was ready for a nose strip and face mask. After 20 minutes, the mask had cured and the barber peeled it off my face.

I leaned forward over the sink as the my face and head were washed and shampooed. A short face, neck, and head massage followed.

A full blow-dry and style and three different face salves and ointments finished up the treatment.

So, 2 hours later and $20 lighter, I left the barbershop.

I was done, but the barber was far from finished. When I left at 10 pm, he was still going strong.

I had him leave the mustache because are you really a dad if you’ve never had a mustache.

Took Nolan in the next day for a cut. He just got a cut though. No hot wax or open flames for him.

Look at that handsome devil!

Kas (Kash) Turkey

If you ever drive a car in Turkey, don’t fret when you see a police car behind you with lights flashing–just drive on and they’ll probably pass you. And it’s ok if you overtake a police car ahead of you, again with lights flashing.

How do I know this? Because on Monday, we rented a car and drove down the coast.

Stopping for a break on the road to Kas. 

I was a little worried, but driving a car in this area of Turkey hasn’t been bad at all. Except that the traffic police drive everywhere with their lights on.

I’m sure the story is different in a big city like Istanbul.

We’ve been able to see so much more in a car, it makes me think about renting a car at all our destinations.

Kas is a little town on the coast about 3 hours away from Antalya. It’s beautiful. The old Town is situated on a steep slope that slides down into the Mediterranean. The narrow streets are cobbled with rough-cut stone. Little shops and cafes everywhere.

There is a much higher concentration of British and German tourists here.

Continue reading “Kas (Kash) Turkey”

Posts delayed!

We’re having a great time in Turkey. We’re now in the beautiful coastal town of Kas.

I’ve tried posting a few times, but the internet service here is so poor that I can’t get pictures to upload. We can’t even get the kids online school to work.

So, I’ll post again when I can.

Posts delayed!

We’re having a great time in Turkey. We’re now in the beautiful coastal town of Kas.

I’ve tried posting a few times, but the internet service here is so poor that I can’t get pictures to upload. We can’t even get the kids online school to work.

So, I’ll post again when I can.

Beautiful Antalya

We are still enjoying our time in Turkey.

The weather is still perfect–well perfect if you don’t mind being a little hot and sweaty. I’m sure it’s much cooler than in the summer, but you still get plenty hot riding in a car at night even with the windows rolled down, or waking in the open sun.

We spent yesterday in the historic center of the city checking out the some of the landmarks and perusing the shops along the cobblestone streets.

A lot of the old landmarks in the city were built by the Romans, some even by the Greeks.

A three-arched gate built for the Roman ruler Hadrian’s triumphal entry.
The clock tower

Ashley is having a hard time passing up the hand knotted silk and wool rugs and the hand painted ceramics.

Second rug shop. There’s probably more than a million dollars worth of rugs in there.
Ashley admiring the ceramic handiwork. This shopkeeper painted all of these. Some of them take over a week to finish.
This is a famous Turkish pattern. This particular rug is made only of silk. That means the knots are smaller than those of wool. 1000 knots per square centimeter. This partially finished, small rug (one foot by three feet) represents 7 month’s work. Another 6 months to completion (working 3-4 hours a day on it).
Noladdin
Jane, fashion forward as always, has given up her fake pony tail and now chosen this ear “grill”.

All I gotta say is thank goodness we’re all travelling with a carry-on per person, so there’s not much room for souvenirs.

For my part, I’m having a hard time passing on all the knock-offs. Every namebrand item in clothing and shoes, and they honestly look legit to me.

Apparently, Turkey is the capital of high quality knock-offs.

And what do I need with a fake Rolex watch anyway…….but it’s kinda hard to pass them up. They have them with Swiss, Japanese, or Chinese movements (cost is based on the source of the internal movement). From what I’ve read online, they’ve even paid experienced Swiss craftsmen to help them refine the quality of these “genuine fakes”.

This is one with a Japanese movement. The asking price is around $200.

But so far, I’ve been able to withstand the temptation and haven’t bought a knock-off item yet.

Margaret drinking from a coconut.  The coconut is imported from Vietnam.  But the $1 glass of fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice that took 2 pomegranates to make that we also bought was locally sourced.
Margaret utterly destroying a kebab, or doner as they are called in Turkish.
A view of a tower and the Mediterranean at dusk

Today has been mostly a day of rest, but we did walk down to the beach in the evening.

The beach in the evening
Moonlight over the Mediterranean

Tomorrow, on to the beaches recognized as the most beautiful in Turkey.

Hello, Turkey!

Since we only planned the first few stops on our travel adventure, after Russia, the door was wide open to new ideas.

And so, we’re in Turkey. Turns out Turkey is a popular destination for Russian nationals and so flights to Turkey from Russia are direct and inexpensive.

Turkey was never on the radar before, but after studying up on it and bring reassured that it is a safe travel destination, we booked a flight and here we are.

It’s been exceptional so far. We had a little rain on our first day, but other than that it’s been warm day and night, but so far not overly hot.

A little rain on the first day, but still warm enough to swim

It’s beautiful.  Citrus trees, pomegranate trees, flowering shrubs. Mountains, beaches, and turquoise waters.

Lots of stray cats that are friendly and appear well-fed. My kids can’t leave them alone and give them all names. Margaret named one of them “Let It Ring Out”.

My kids can’t leave the cats alone. It takes forever to get anywhere.

The food is tasty, fresh, and inexpensive. Lots of fresh vegetables and olives. My family of five can dine for $10-15 per meal and so far everyone is happy with their options. The Turkish delight, baclava, and ice cream are all first rate, too.

Jane’s lunch
Traditional Turkish breakfast
I couldn’t resist trying a bowl of ram’s head soup. My dream job is to replace Andrew Zimmern as host of Bizarre Foods

We’ve spent a few days at the beach. The ocean is warm and the weather is perfect. The beach close to our place is a gravel beach, but we can also take a cab or bus to a sandy beach.

At the sandy beach
This is what the gravel beach is like

The kids have been able to catch frogs and lizards, so the trip to Turkey is worth it in Nolan’s eyes. On our walk back home from dinner today, Jane spotted a hedgehog. It was dark and we couldn’t get a photo, but we’re all pretty excited about the hedgehog.

This one is dead, but it’s some kind of huge centipede
Jane caught this little tiny lizard
Nolan caught this skink
Couldn’t get a great image of this frog as it was dark, but it had red spots

Today was Margaret’s birthday, so happy birthday to the happiest, least-complainingest, eats-everythingest, best 3-year-old traveler I’ve ever even heard of.

Typical mood for Margaret–she’s up for anything

We went on an organized tour today and saw some beautiful waterfalls, spent a little time in old town, took a short boat ride, and rode a cable car up into the mountains.

Waterfall into the Mediterranean
This waterfall is from a giant underwater spring in a limestone cave
The water was very turquoise
Street market in old town
View from the boat ride
Cable car up the mountain
View from the mountain