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Magic through the Mist in Amsterdam


our arrival – not magic

Amsterdam greeted us with heavy rain that turned to hail, right at the moment of uncertainty when we were trying to figure out how to reach our apartment using public transportation.  As the raindrops got harder and heavier, we groupthunk our way to the taxi stand and hopped in.  Luckily the place was close and the cab cheap.

Then we (mostly Todd) had to lug our heavy bags up the steep narrow stairways to our apartment.  Classic Amsterdam homes were mostly built by shipwrights and include some features that you might recognize from ships, like stairways that seem like ladders leaning against the wall, with very narrow steps.  Our place also had a hook installed outside of the top floor front window, which was used to load large items into the home when they wouldn’t make it around the stairway corners.  Homes were also built very narrow, as they were taxed based on their width on the street, like shotgun houses in New Orleans.

Here are a few pictures of our place and others:

We had a very laid-back relaxing week in the city, which was partly due the rain but mostly because our apartment was so comfortable.  When we did get out, we did lots of walking, eating and shopping, but not so much straight-up tourism.  With the leaves changing colors for fall and the canals as backdrops, we walked almost everywhere.  Because we stopped so often and took lots of pictures, occasionally we had to hail a cab or call an uber in order to show up to our reservations kind of on time.

We did manage a walking beer tour.  We met our guide at the biggest beer store in Amsterdam, where they had an impressive array of bottles from most of Europe and even a shelf of American craftbrews.  We were happy to see that some of our favorites from San Diego were well represented.  Heineken ran the beer industry in Holland for a long, long time.  People took loans from Heineken in order to open bars, but then committed their bars to serving only Heineken beers for the lease period.  Nowadays there are some small Belgian breweries popping up with their own brews, and a general excitement about the American and Belgian craftbeers.  My favorite was a scotch ale, which apparently was the standard Holland beer before Heineken took over and started popularizing whatever you all their stuff.

Our beer tour guide also bought us a ginevre (Dutch liqueur) on our way from one brewery to the next, which is what most of the pictures in the gallery below show.  This is one of the oldest bars in the city, and was really small with people drinking from their tiny glasses spilling out onto the street.


Our attempts at tourism also included a visit to the Rijksmusuem, where we saw many works of the Dutch Masters, including the Night Watch, which is featured as the central work at the museum, kind of like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.  The Night Watch, in my humble opinion (and I’m no art critic) is way more interesting than the Mona Lisa from just about any perspective.  They’ve done a lot of research into the painting, and in 2008 even identified the actual people who stood for the painting.  My heart quickened its beat when I entered the Hall of Masters at the Rijksmuseum, and I remained blown away for hours after we left.  These guys really knew how to work the brush.


After the museum closed, we took a close-to-sunset canal ride, where we took even more pictures of the canals from the water.  Because we were among the last people to board the boat, we ended up in the back, outside, with no audio narration.  It was a beautiful ride through a beautiful city, but all of the history was lost to us.

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We had lots of amazing food, including a tasting menu at De Kas, which is Dutch for greenhouse.  The restaurant is inside an old park greenhouse in a residential area of the city.  Now they use the greenhouse to grow veggies for the restaurant, and source the rest of the food from in and around Amsterdam.  We had the three course lunch, which included lots of veggies, a salad with fish and beet syrup, and a fish main.  The dessert was one of the best spins on yogurt that I’ve ever had, especially since I’m no yogurt fan.  Since we were some of the last diners, they also brought us the extra wine to finish – score!

Since we loved it so much, if you’ve made it this far, I reward you with ANOTHER gallery of Amsterdam street pics.

First, the bikes.  It’s a huge bike culture, with bike lanes everywhere.  Instead of looking out for cars, you have to look both ways twice for bikes.  I had more than a few run-ins with them and never quite learned my lesson.


And some other random shots:

Beer and Other Indulgences in Belgium


Brussels, Belgium was the first stop of our big fall trip, which takes us on a big loop through Europe.  Originally we were going to spend four days or so there, but then I found a beerfest in the Ardennes, and everything changed to accommodate that.  We had a local friend, so our first meal in Belgium was actually pulled-pork sandwiches at an Irish Bar, which is also the last meal she ate before returning to Brussels from living in San Francisco.  We still managed start the tour of Belgian beers at the Irish bar.  One of the fun things about Belgium is that every beer is served in its own glass – which leads to some crazy displays and glassware shelves at bars.  I tried to take pictures of them, but I was also enjoying the beer, so you can probably guess how that turned out…

We also managed to do a mini-walking tour in Brussels, which focussed mainly on the Grand Place and Le Mannequin Pis but was really all about the amazing chocolate shops in the downtown area.  They actually have costumes for the pissing boy, and change his outfit weekly.  Unfortunately when we saw him he was only wearing the birthday suit.  Here are some scenes from around Brussels:


I even got to eat my mussels in Brussels!  The best meal, however, was fries from a street vendor.  As we were walking toward the Grand Place for a free walking tour, I saw the stand and knew that was the best possible lunch that we could have!  And it was.  I got the classic fries with mayo, Todd got a gyro, and our friend Janelle got fries with curry ketchup and Bernaise sauce.  They had maybe 20 options for sauces, and the paper cones have a little compartment to put your dip of choice.

Although I’d happily go back to Brussels to buy chocolate and other specialities, my favorite part of the Belgium segment of our trip was actually our drive to the Ardennes.  We went for the beerfest, Brassigaume, which is for small-craft breweries in Europe.  But since most of the hotels nearby were full, we ended up at a little country inn in Arlon, which was at the end of a road where villagers constantly set off for hikes in the fields.  When we arrived, there were hot air balloons in the skies at sunset.  When we left the next morning, Todd captured beautiful pictures of the low mist on the fields and surrounds.

Although I liked the beers we sampled at the beerfest, what I really remember was the fork-tender perfectly braised roasted pig leg that Todd got for dinner.  It was cooked in a beer/cabbage braise, and somehow turned out to be the most amazing beerfood I’d ever eaten.  I had a braised wild boar served with a tart berry jam which was definitely tasty but had nothing on the pig.  The rest of the evening was spent meeting the other English-speakers in the crowd: a beer importer from Michigan, an American beerlover from Berlin, and a chatty British couple from whose conversational chase we barely escaped in order to get our last beers before the taps were shut off.

Along with the fun of drinking beer with hundreds of other beer-lovers, we also learned quite a bit about the Belgian craft beer market, which helped us greatly when we returned to Brussels and went to bars with thousands of beers on offer: Delirium and Sudden Death.  If you make it to Brussels and enjoy the beer, check these places out!

Happy Bayram!

This weekend is Kurban Bayram, or Eid Al-Adha, or the Great Sacrifice Holiday, in the Muslim world.  This is based on the biblical and Koran accounts of Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son.  In the tradition of Abraham, each head of household sacrifices an animal.  One third of the meat is for eating during the holiday, one third is given to friends and family, and the last third is given to charity.  This ratio and what to do with the meat varies by tradition, but rest assured that the meat is generally eaten and not just killed. I guess it’s not much different than every American family eating a turkey or two for Thanksgiving, and there the meaning is a little more obscure.

Before the holiday, we saw a lot of signs advertising animal shares, where a bunch of brothers or friends go in together to get a bigger, fancier animal, like a cow.  As you can tell by the cartoons below, all of which basically say Happy Sacrifice Holiday, the common animals are either sheep or goat.



Ankara’s authorized killing fields are outside of the city.  Last night on the news I learned that the fee for killing an animal yourself, outside of the approved sanitary facilities, is 169 TL, which is about $73.  So, depending on your financial situation, it might be worthwhile to take the risk and just DIY.  A friend on facebook reported seeing lots of roadside sacrifices as she was touring the outskirts of the city today.  Thankfully I haven’t seen anything in my pleasant corner of Ankara.  I still remember the nauseating smell of the sheep being brought into Antalya, a resort town, days before the holiday two years ago.

Since the main purpose of the holiday has become charity, a lot of people choose to donate money instead of sacrificing an animal.

The other tradition of the holiday is to visit friends and family.  Today, this means take a vacation back to your hometown, or just take a vacation if you’re not so religious.  Like major holidays back in the States,  roads are busy and public transportation is both booked and more expensive over the holiday period.  From the news reporting on the country’s road situation, I also learned that police doing standard traffic stops are first offering chocolate, then getting to the business of discussing the fines.  It’s festive, right?

Bayram vacations

Bayram vacations

Since I have very few religious friends, I don’t have any personal experience with the holiday.  Last year I almost went to one of the sacrifice facilities with a friend’s dad, but decided on a vacation to a beach in the south instead.  Somehow I think I’ll always make the choice for sun over sacrifice.

Ironically, this year’s Kurban Bayram falls on the same day as World Animal Day.


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This Is How I Spent the Summer

Instead of exploring more lost civilizations and sampling the foods and drinks of offbeat destinations, I spent the summer, here, in my home office, writing my Master’s thesis.   Of course, I occasionally made trips to the library and to meet with my advisor, but it was all for the thesis.  Although I didn’t leave the city of Ankara, Turkey, I did learn a whole lot about the predecessors of this country, the Ottomans, the old-fashioned way – reading.


where I spent my summer

My thesis attempts to answer this question: Why did the Ottoman Navy wait more than a hundred years to develop and implement advanced technology, like sailing ships, during the sixteenth century age of exploration? Unfortunately the thesis is written in Turkish, and this blog is in English, so I won’t just paste the 100 pages in here – consider yourselves lucky! If anybody wants to read it in Turkish, please contact me, and I’ll happily forward it to you. For the rest of you, here’s a quick summary.

Basically, the Ottomans didn’t need to develop sailing ships or the accompanying technology.  The major development impetus for the Atlantic fleets was their desire to bypass Ottoman lands on the spice route.  Exploration came later, after they bumped into the “New World” on their quest to find a better way to India and realized the world of wealth it offered.  For the Ottomans, India and its spices could easily be reached via the ancient caravan routes – they weren’t trying to bypass themselves, obviously.  Furthermore, in terms of expansion of the empire, the Ottomans were always more concerned with gaining more land territory, while their major European competitors worked toward maritime domination.  In terms of military competition, the Ottoman Army almost always got priority over the Navy, including allocation of resources and attention.  And in their primary waters, the Mediterranean Sea, the Ottoman’s enemies were also using oar-powered vessels, so there was no drive for technology improvements fueled by competition there.  In the frontier, the Indian Ocean region, the Ottomans managed to compete with the Portuguese by controlling the routes close to the land while the Portuguese stayed in the open oceans.  Although they had several skirmishes and port attacks, neither ever gained much ground from the other during the sixteenth century.

Somewhere in these reasons fits the Ottoman practice of hiring corsairs to run the Navy, which can be considered either encouraging technological innovation or retarding it, depending on the individual and the day.  Even when they were running the fleet, the corsairs continued to operate like pirates on their off-time, and possibly even when they were on the Ottoman’s clock.  I didn’t delve too deeply into the Ottoman psychology as I think it would take way more than six month’s study to apply any understanding of it to an argument like mine.  So, although the Ottomans didn’t need to adapt to sailing ships in the sixteenth century, eventually they did, and by the time they realized it, it was too late, as England and Holland had already established their Indian trading companies and gradually dominated the entire trade.

If you find any of this interesting, I recommend reading The Ottoman Age of Exploration, by Giancarlo Casale. Although it doesn’t answer the question I researched, the book explains how the Ottomans managed to hold their own against the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean for the better part of the sixteenth century while relying on older, out-dated technology, and tells great stories of the palace intrigue and political manipulations by every side while trying to gain or hold on to positions.



Earlier this week I defended my thesis. It was mostly successful, although I have to make a few additions and revisions in order for my university to finally accept it.  Like me, the professors were all impressed with the fact that I wrote it in Turkish!  I have to admit, however, that it wasn’t my first choice to write it in Turkish, as I thought that a thesis in English would be more helpful if I chose to pursue an academic career in the future.  When I picked up the bound work at the print shop and held a fat 110 page document in my hands, I almost couldn’t believe that I had made this thing. I was so proud that I temporarily forgot about all of the run-on sentences and not-quite complete arguments that I knew it contained.  Still, I’m happy with the final results, and making the required corrections won’t be a major effort.
So, this Olmsted project of learning a new language and then completing a graduate program in that language is nearly complete. I started learning Turkish in November of 2011, and here I am in September of 2014, weeks away from getting my degree!  Honestly, when I started the program I wasn’t really sure I could get to this point.

Of course, now that I’m almost done, this traveling girl is aching to get back on the road.  We have a huge trip planned for next month, and I’m thinking we may take some short trips around Turkey between now and then.  In the meantime, I plan on writing about observations of daily life in Turkey and catching up on some of the trips that didn’t make it into the blog.  Stay tuned!

Out with a bust on the Black Sea Coast

We were stuck in the mud.  In our sandals and flip flops, we were walking around the car in the middle of nowhere, Turkey, looking for sticks.  This was the fourth calamity we faced on the not-quite-a-road that we were were taking to get back down to the Coast after a nefarious waypoint brought us to a tiny village at the top of a mountain. 

As usual, we followed the sense of wanderlust and freedom that we shared as two sisters driving driving along the Black Sea.  We blocked out reason and followed the same GPS that got us lost, stuck, or provided lovely 10 hour detours so many times before. 

When we checked out of the hotel in Sinop in the morning, I glanced at a map that showed that there was a road that rounded the peninsula. As someone who hates backtracking, I asked the clerk if we could take it all the way back to the main coast highway.  The scenery as we exited Sinop was probably the best of the day: green hills falling into a calm Black Sea with wildflowers and cows dotting the bucolic land.

Beyond evaluating how to best enjoy the scenery as we left Sinop, neither of us thought to look at a map to determine the route to Amasra, our next destination.  So as we left the city, we just kept turning in the direction we thought would take us nearest to the coast.  After one coast road ended in a beautiful seaside park, we put a waypoint on the GPS near where we thought the coast highway would be.  We traveled on a road covered in wet asphalt, which we could smell forming layers on the car’s exterior and undercarriage.  Then we ended up in a small town with serpentine one-way streets and picked up a stalker van full of Turkish teenagers throwing empty beer cans out the window.  I was actually happy to make lots of odd turns in the city, if only to lose the van full of drunk teens. 

Exiting this weird town, we followed narrower and narrower dirt roads up a mountain.  Although we could clearly see the sea, we couldn’t make out a road between the one we were on and the shore.  Maybe there wasn’t even a Black Sea Highway in these parts.

After cross-checking the GPS and Google Maps, we found a road a little closer to the coast and decided to take a 2 km connector to get there.  The connector was a village road, where we had to go very slowly in order to avoid the rocks and ditches, or stop altogether to coax a donkey out of the way.


donkey: a Turkish style roadblock

We finally turned onto our chosen road, which we planned to take for 13 km and then meet up with the highway that we were already desperately craving.  At first it seemed fine, but as we advanced the road quality deteriorated.  First, we had to open a cattle gate guarded by this weird mannequin:

IMG_4756Then we had to avoid mud puddles and ditches and drive around the far outside of a creek that had collapsed the other edge of the road.  The road material went from asphalt to gravel to dirt to a nice grassy surface, with plants growing to about knee-height in the middle.  After the grass were the mud spots, which I managed to avoid for a while.  We finally reached the point, however, where we could no longer drive around the mud and wedged ourselves right in the middle of it.

At first we tried putting the car in neutral and pushing, which is a pretty foolish plan until you get stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere. Then we tried using sticks to shovel the mud away from the stuck tire, which is about as stupid as trying to push the car.  Emily and I walked around the car the a few times and sized up our surrounding without much communicating.  Finally, she started collecting sticks and breaking them up into foot-long pieces.  I was out of ideas, so I just started gathering all the sticks I could find.  Finally, I asked her why we were breaking sticks.

Her plan was to place the sticks as traction behind all of the tires, and then back out of the mud.   As it was the only plan we had, it was genius!  After about 5 more minutes of breaking sticks, we started to arrange them behind all of the tires.  I got back behind the wheel and put the top back down so I could quickly respond to her directions.  The crack of every stick was agony.  Would our escape plan only pitch the car further into the mud? 

The sticks saved us, and I backed up another half kilometer or so until there was an almost clearing where I could execute a 20 point turn and get us the hell off of this non-road.  At this point, driving miles upon miles on wet asphalt would be heaven. 

We drove past all of the now-familiar mud puddles, took the far edge of the creek that collapsed the road, and passed the weird dummy by the gate and the donkey roadblock.  Back through the villages and onto the wet asphalt road.  This time, we happily followed the rest of the traffic, and found the actual highway that would take us all the way to Amasra.

The Lonely Plant said the road from Amasra to Sinop was like driving the Pacific Coast Highway in California.  I was so excited for a beautiful coastal road with cliffs and amazing scenery.  Instead, we found ourselves on several more dirt or gravel roads and faced hours upon hours of relentless switchbacks.  Although every once in a while there was an amazing view, for the most part the road was relentlessly curvy and graded.  Driving here required full concentration.  As the hours passed, we became less interested in seeing a scenic historic city and instead started to crave any hotel anywhere. 

I finally found a hotel that had alcohol and wifi right on the coast in Side, about an hour east of Amasra.  The best moment of the day was when we found jumbo Efes bottles in the mini-bar of our room!

sunset from our hotel dinner

sunset from our hotel dinner

I can’t say enough about Hotel Yali on the Black Sea Coast.  It’s comfortable and friendly.  And if you can’t make it all the way from Sinop to Amasra or vice versa, it’s a completely okay place to stop for the night.

On our way to Istanbul the next day, we tried to get the car washed at a filling station.  After about ten minutes with a power hose, the guy gave up.

So, moral of the story: look at map when planning your drive in Turkey.  This is a lesson that I just can’t seem to learn.  The flipside: arm yourself with endless optimism, and even when stuck in the mud on the Black Sea coast, you’ll feel confident that somehow, someway, it will all work out, as it always does. 

Driving the Black Sea Coast: Sumela, Trabzon, and Sinop


the view of the mountains in Altindere National Park

After about a week of relative isolation in the mountains, Emily and I were not prepared for the tourist invasion at the Sumela Monastery.  As we drove into the park, located south of Trabzon, we felt accosted by the crowds.  Bodies occupied every space available on the roads, and the quality of the road in the Black Sea Region had not altered in the park.  On the way up the mountain, we stopped or backed up many times at curves in order up to allow another car to pass on the narrow windy road.  Eventually a park ranger ordered us to turn off the road and park up on a gravel hill.  We would be hiking the next kilometer into the monastery.  Even though the path was crowded and we had to pass through some strong body odor clouds along the way, I enjoyed the walk into the monastery more than the monastery itself.  I think after two years of living in Turkey, I may be at the end of my interest in ruins and religious sites.  I keep visiting, through, because these sites always seem to be located in beautiful places, and now I go for the scenery.


look at the edge of the mountain, by the treeline, for the monastery clinging to the cliff

look at the edge of the mountain, by the treeline, for the monastery clinging to the cliff

Even though I’ve got the old stuff fatigue, I’ll give a quick history of the Sumela Monastery, which is known as one of the several Churches of the Virgin Mary (Meryema) in Turkey.  This one was founded in 386 AD by the Romans, and restored several times over the centuries by them, including a huge restoration and enlargement by the Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.  When the Ottomans captured the Trabzon region, the sultan protected the monastery.  The monastery was funded by the Greek Orthodox church.  It was taken by the Russians with their capture of Trabzon in the early 1900s and then abandoned in 1923 after the Greek/Turkish population exchange.  Until it was abandoned, it served as a holy place for Orthodox priests and a pilgramage site for the faithful.  It’s current state is a tourist attraction.  Here are a few pictures:

After the monastery we drove back north for a night’s stay in Trabzon.  Along the way, we stopped at many local roadside shops and helped support the economy.  Emily, an amateur beekeeper, was impressed with all of the hives we had seen in the mountains, so we stopped and bought some honey.  Along with the typical wildflower variety, we got chestnut honey, a much darker and richer variety.  The guys told us to use it as medicine, a cure for whatever the ailment.  We also got a pasa table (yep, like the ones in the harem) and some Black Sea style ponchos.

In Trabzon we couldn’t get to our hotel.  The Prime Minister was speaking in the central square, and most of the roads near the center were closed.  We spent about an hour trying to circumvent the blockade, then finally gave up and found a parking lot in a shopping area.  After sampling a local bakery (Trabzon bakers are famous all over Turkey), we found a bazaar and picked up some copper wares.  I wanted to buy everything in the shop but held myself to a Turkish coffee pot and a fish pan.  That night, we walked to the water for a pontoon restaurant recommended by Lonely Planet, but were disappointed to find that they no longer had meze (just green salad) and did not serve alcohol.  So, we walked back into the city and found a pub, where we got our much deserved beer on a hot summer night.  It was definitely the right choice, as we also got a highly entertaining waiter who kept bringing us extas, including a small sample size of beer with our check.  Score!

Before we left for Sinop, we spent the morning buying silver.  Trabzon’s signature is a light-colored woven silver thread.  You can get it in huge flashy pieces, rings, bracelets, or cute little silver knots.  We stocked up on gifts for friends and a few for ourselves, of course.  Besides the shopping, we didn’t see much else of Trabzon.  However, the friendliness and excitement of the copper sellers, the silversmiths, and our wait still left us with a good feeling about the city. 

One of our easiest drives of the road trip was from Trabzon to Sinop.  We were mostly along the Black Sea Highway, which is a four lane fast highway with no cops enforcing speed limits.  We didn’t have any problems until we faced our usual GPS location/actual location conflict when we were actually in Sinop and trying to find our hotel.  Thankfully we could rely on old-fashioned technology of parking and looking down the coast to see that our hotel was most likely on the other side of the peninsula.  When we finally found the hotel, we were rewarded with a great sunset from the comfort of our room:

I wish I had taken pictures of the amazing linen shop we visited in Sinop.  It’s in an old medresah (religious school) that’s been converted into a local crafts bazaar.  The owner-weaver sources linen thread (flax) from all over the Black Sea Region, and then weaves home items, clothes, and bags, and jewelry right in her shop.  I think we were both too focused on figuring out what to buy instead of tourist mode.  After shopping we made our way to the water and Emily got an introduction to a typical Turkish fish dinner.  Instead of sitting down with a menu and waiter service, you’re kind of accosted as soon as you enter.  The host shows you the meze, which you choose as you look into the refrigerated case.  Then you discuss the fish options, and then the drinks.  After all of this verbal picking and choosing is done, you finally get to sit down and relax.  I’m so used to this procedure that I didn’t even realize that it was a different system until Emily pointed it out.  I guess it is kind of weird to make a bunch of decisions in rapid-fire before you even get the comfort of a seat. 

Since we were by the sea on a sunny morning, we took advantage of the hotel’s seawater pool to soak up some sun before we hit the road again.  It was also nice to look back east along the coast, and see how far we had come.



Chilling in Camlihemsin


Hoşgeldiniz means Welcome

It was about 10 p.m. on the Friday the 13th and we had just driven straight through the tiny town of Çamlihemşin without seeing a single sign for our hotel.  We did see an Efes Shop, Turkey’s equivalent of an ABC store, and stopped there only to learn that it was closed and we would get no drinks tonight.  We had driven all the way from the other side of the Kaçkar Mountains, up to the Black Sea Coast, and then back down into the mountains.  It had been a very long day.

So instead of bravely driving around and trying to find it on our own in the darkness, we broke down rather quickly and just called the hotel for directions.  They said we should have taken the road right before the town, driven up the mountain, and then parked after we saw the big truck on the right, you know, after a few curves.  In daylight, we would have seen the sign, but now we were just looking for a big Toyota and counting curves.  

Amazingly, we found it, only to start our next task: hiking through the woods to find our lodge.  The voice on the phone said to just keep walking on the path until you find lights of the main house.  It will seem like you’re in the middle of the woods and can’t possibly be in the right place, they said, but just keep walking, and you’ll get there.


the path to our hotel, which we walked on in the pitch black

Sure enough, it felt like we weren’t in the right place.  I was tempted to call again to make sure we were walking down the right path through the woods in the middle of the night, but Emily seemed confident that we on track, so we kept walking.  We were sharing the headlight I laughingly threw in the bag as I scrambled to pack the week before without a clue that it would actually be so useful. 

After about 15 minutes, we indeed arrived at the lit up house in the middle of the woods.  After being introduced to the family running the place and a few woofers, they brought out a late dinner for us.  Although I was sort of annoyed about the difficulty of finding the place and hike in on the dark unlit path, after one bite of food I completely relaxed.  Ekodanitap, our hotel for the weekend, gets rave reviews for its food, and even with this cold, late dinner we joined the chorus.  We had some kind of soup, an amazingly delicious fresh salad and stuffed peppers.  Everything was seasoned and cooked perfectly and just what we needed. 

After dinner we went to our bungalow and crashed.  The innkeeper had upsold us from a treehouse to a bungalow, as he thought the tree wasn’t really suitable for two people (althought that’s not what the website said).  However, we were so tired that we just went for the bungalow and walked up the steep hill to crash for the night.

We had plans to go on a long hike the next day, but as it was the day after hours of exhausting driving we ended up just chilling at the lodge.  Since we had morning sun on our balcony and a view of the mountains all day, with the sounds of the river rushing by, lounging was a good choice.

our view all day

our view all day

We did manage a walk into the village to check out some of the local architecture.  Çamlihemşin is an Armenian village of a small cultural sect, the Hemşin.  Everybody is incredibly friendly and warm.  Here’s some of the local buildings:

At night, we met the the other lodgers.  Two guys from Istanbul brought one of their sons for a rafting weekend on the Tortum River, which they said was phenomenal.  A music group, Patlika, was staying there to provide entertainment after dinner.  And the WOOF Turkey manager was there with a seed expert friend to start a hike through the Kaçkars.  Because it’s the only place everybody eats side by side at the main house, it’s a pretty social area. We all got to know each other.  From the band, I even learned why Emily and I couldn’t drive through the mountains the day before.

The band’s name was Patika.  I have a habit of asking the meaning of names in Turkey, since there’s almost always a meaning and maybe even a story behind it.  Patika was no exception.  It’s a hiking road through the mountains.  The band is based on the Black Sea coast and sings classic Turkish songs as well as those of the Laz (Black Sea) and Hemşin people.  They played all night while all of the guests kept themselves lubricated with raki.  

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