Thursday, September 05, 2013


Today we're welcoming Abigail from Crabby Fox: life in this Brooklyn Apartment. Because her Twitter user name is so cool, I only refer to her as The Crabigail when I'm telling stories to Alan about my Twitter and blog friends. His response? "She's so cool." And she is. Picture a kind and witty lady from Canada making her way in book publishing in Brooklyn while raising a very cool kid. Doesn't that just sound like a movie or TV show you'd want to watch? Have I mentioned her amazing mid-century modern furniture? I'm kind of obsessed with about 10 different pieces in her place. And her cat? I love him. I want to be friends with him. Izzy is the best.

I was really excited to have The Crabigail contribute to this series because she's an international lady of mystery. Okay, I just made that up. But she is a seasoned international traveler and I just knew she'd provide some really great insight into a location that many people have at the top of their lists for places to visit - Turkey! Thanks Abigail. Take it away.

I’m so happy to have been asked to share with you one of my recent travel adventures while Becky is in Scotland (one of my favorite places in the world)! While it was a few years ago, I’m going to tell you all about one of the greatest trips I ever went on – Turkey!

Turkey is a fascinating blend of cultures, religions and continents, with an incredible history and friendly people. Turkey has had some bad press recently as a tourist destination, and it breaks my heart because it’s one of the most interesting places that I’ve ever been to.

We started our trip in Istanbul.

I’m thinking that everybody who goes to Turkey will stop into Istanbul at least once. Or they should stop there.  With 5,000 years of history behind it, Istanbul was once the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires, and modern Istanbul blends both modern Europe and the east.

We stayed at the Central Palace Hotel near Taksim Square, which was a nice little hotel for a good price. In fact, they even upgraded us to a suite, which made us feel pretty special and prompted us to take photos of ourselves living it up like royalty. Taksim Square is a bustling area with many shops and restaurants, and worked as a good starting point for our adventures around the city.

Obviously when you go, you’ll visit the Haghia Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar and all that. But we found a few off-the-beaten-path sites that you might like to check out. 

Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora was one of the most rewarding treks we made. The Church of St. Saviour is a small church filled with beautiful 14th Century mosaics and frescoes. To get there, we walked through the neighborhood of Fener, which gave us a glimpse of a normal (non touristy) neighborhood. I always enjoy seeing how normal people live in a city I’m visiting, away from the tourists traps.

Another treat, and a relaxing one, is taking a cruise along the Bosphorous. The cruise heads up to the Fortress of Asia, which is a bit of a hike, but worth it for the views across to the Fortress of Europe. Along the river cruise you’ll get to see many beautiful (and often decrepit) yalıs. If you’ve ever read Orhan Pamuk’s book Istanbul (and maybe you should before you go!), you’ll already know a thing or two about these river-side homes.

If you’re a history buff, you may be interested in the Theodosian Walls – the 5th century walls around the city. But a word of warning: go to the ones designated as parks, which you can walk along. H. and I just chose a random section of wall to explore, and it was scary. There were people living in the walls, and then a pack of wild dogs walked by and I knew it was time to haul ass out of there.

From Istanbul, we took an overnight train to Ankara, and hopped on a bus to Kayseri – a seemingly nondescript city, but a good home base for exploring Cappadocia. The overnight train was a treat in itself – something that seemed like the kind of old-fashioned travelling that doesn’t exist anymore.
We chose Göreme and the Göreme Open-Air Museum to explore a piece of Cappadocia. Göreme holds the greatest concentration of the famous rock-cut monasteries in Cappadocia – and it was pure magic.

Cappadocia will knock your socks off. It is truly spectacular and totally weird. And worth the travel (overnight train + 5 hour bus, as I recall) to get there.

Finally, since you made it this far, let me tell you a story. Turkey is as famous for its carpets as it is for its aggressive carpet-sellers. In Istanbul, you can hardly walk 100 feet without a carpet-seller approaching you. You quickly adapt to ignoring them.

One day while leaving our hotel in Kayseri (the Hilton), we were approached by a man asking if we were “businessmen” because only “businessmen” stay at the Hilton. We said no, we just chose it as one of the only big hotels in town. At first we were wary, thinking he was a carpet-seller. But he assured us he was just a guy who wanted to talk to visitors, and we talked about where we were from. He told us about a local version of the Turkish kebab that we had to try – called the Iksander kebab. He told us that about a restaurant that had the best Iksander kebab in all of Kayseri, and offered to walk us there. So we went, and we went into the restaurant, where he knew everybody, and he told us what to order and sat with us. I think we were blown away by how friendly it all was. And as we ate, he started talking about carpets. We told him we weren’t going to buy a carpet, and he told us that nobody thinks they’re going to buy a carpet. But we assured him we were not in the market for a carpet, and he said good-bye and left. The Iksander kebab was delicious though, and we would never have tried it if he hadn’t approached us.

As we were leaving, a young man approached us and asked us where we were from. We were wary, thinking he was trying to sell us a carpet, but he said no, he was just practicing his English. He told us he was coming from the market where he was buying fish for dinner, and showed us his bag of fish. He was friendly and told us all about Kayseri, and offered to show us the caravanserai – the 16th Century trading post that was still in use. So we went with him to this amazing caravanserai where we saw wool being bought and sold and dyed for the famous carpets. It was so interesting, and we would have never seen it if this young man hadn’t approached us. As we walked out, we passed a small carpet store, and our young guide stopped and introduced us to his friends at the carpet shop who proceeded to try and sell carpets. The whole thing was an elaborate sales pitch! They told us that a carpet is like love, it will find us. It was such an impressive sale pitch, if we had the money I would have bought a carpet.
Anyway, next time I go to Turkey, I will buy a carpet. If you go to Turkey I highly recommend you budget for a carpet.

I have only good things to say about a trip to Turkey. If you’re looking for an exotic but easy trip – Turkey may be the place for you!