Monday, July 27, 2009

Turkey Photos II

Driving along a random dirt track on the Marmara Coast that we stumbled upon accidentally. Adventure and "off the beaten track" just seems to find us...

The ampitheater at Troy. One of the best preserved buildings there.

Some building foundations at Troy and the view from Troy. As you can see, it occupied the high ground and allowed one to see for miles in all directions. For those of you who've read Homer, it puts his works in more perspective.
Troy is actually 9 successive cities built one after another, each on top of the one before it. This picture allows one to see three layers in one area. It's a bit like paleontology, finding the layers and the expected remains in each. Unfortunately Troy was discovered and initially excavated by a treasure hunter in the 1870's, so much of it was poorly excavated resulting in damage to the site and most of the best removable finds were taken away from Troy and out of Turkey.

We saw no fewer than five enormous versions of the Trojan horse as we neared Troy.

Turkish, while at least using a Latin alphabet with a few additional letters, was not particularly easy to learn on the fly. But the again, neither was Croatian (I'm sorry but Zwj is not a valid start to a word).

So many sunflowers.

OMG there were so many sunflowers.

A mountain pass on the small road to Amasra. Such a pretty, pretty road. They were also demolishing part of the mountain to build a larger road as we came through the pass so it got very smoky.

A cute mosque along a stream that followed the road to Amasra for miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers I suppose). There were so many cute villages with cute mosques and also, as it was Friday evening, a number of people dressed in traditional garb, some even with drums, walking along the road.

Turkey Photos I

[guest post by Ryan]

So we haven't written much about Turkey especially given that we spent 10 days there and drove around nearly the entire country. It was quite the adventure, even if it was frustrating at times. There was the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, scenic country driving and several seafronts to drive along. There was a day with 16-17 hours of driving in which we would up sampling only three dogs. We laughed, we cried, it was better than Cats. In any case, I think we've made a strategic decision to spare most of the details and instead will share several photos in this post and the next with a few short stories or details regarding some of them. Plus this way we can feel "caught up" and focus on blogging what we're actually doing now instead of staying two weeks behind!

One of the things we noticed driving around Turkey is that, more than anything else, Turks seem to enjoy two things: patriotic displays and funny hats. For example, there were flags EVERYWHERE (some buildings had a half dozen or more; any hill of more than three meters had one on top). Often they'd combine their two loves and have a statue of some patriotic figure wearing a funny hat.

This was a beautiful sunset in Cappadocia, which is a very beautiful area. This is specifically in Goreme, which is a World Heritage Site where all the houses, churches, etc were carved into the rocks.

These were our impromptu hosts in Cappadocia. They showed us around the random 5th century church (see below) and fed us a home-cooked meal with homemade wine. They also entertained us with some dancing. If any of you go to Cappadocia, we highly recommend looking for the Lemon House which is up past most of the touristy sites on the road through town.

See, the homemade wine is in the plastic jug on the table... (it actually was pretty good).

Here are some pictures of the 5th century church called the Church of the Reflection in Goreme. When you arrive there along a seemingly forgotten path past the touristy area, you're greeted by a very friendly guy who gives you a mini-tour, allows you to explore the church alone some with provided flashlights and, after it all, serves you tea. All for about $2 each. The church was built directly into the stone and had a couple decorative rooms at the front.

The church had tiny passageways to interior and 2nd floor rooms with Indian Jones-style rocks that could be slid across the passageways to seal them off.

I only just barely fit through the doorways....

Here's a picture of the old part of the city of Goreme, completely built into the stone.

Another photo from Cappadocia:

Here's a view of beautiful Amasra, Turkey, on the western end of the Black Sea coast. The water in the Black Sea was surprisingly warm.

Western Europe Trip in Pictures

[guest post by Ryan]

Some beautiful stained glass in a European church. The Catholic Church does know how to do imposing and grandeur. No arguments there.

Sacre-Coeur on Paris' Montmartre. Gorgeous. Pretty cool interior as well, though way too touristy for our tastes generally (but better than Notre Dame in that sense).

Ryan (me) at the North Sea, one of 9 bodies of water I've entered thus far on the trip (Persian Gulf, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Sea of Marmara, Dardinelle Straits, Aegean Sea, Adriatic Sea, North Sea, Coral Sea)

Saint Deny statue in Paris, featuring Saint Deny carrying his head up Montmartre after he was beheaded partway up it when his executioners became too tired to walk the rest of the way up. Legend has it he then picked up his head and hiked the rest of the way up before collapsing dead at the top.

Cori feeling very special drinking champagne out of a Paris souvenir mug in front of the lighted Eiffel Tower, waiting for the hourly lights show (which actually is just them randomly turning on and off white lights all over the epileptic's nightmare).

Cori with the Mons monkey. Mons is the town in southern Belgium I lived in for some of high school. They have a gorgeous Grand Place (town square) and an inexplicable little brown monkey statue on one of the buildings in it that you rub for good luck. Especially if you're a primatologist.

Chariot in the church in Mons. Every year they put the patron saint's body (in one container above the altar) and head (in another container on the side of the church) in this chariot, pull it to midway between Mons and a nearby city, have it meet up with a chariot containing her husband's body from that neighboring city's church and then pull it back to Mons. They have to pull/push it up a hill at the end to get it back into the church. Legend has it that when they don't succeed on the first try there's bad luck that year (as in 1914 when in September Mons featured the first shots of WWI...on November 11, 1918 Mons also was the scene of the last shots of WWI).

Canals in Brugge, cute...though many of the towns we went to had canals.

Beer from the ancient brewery we stayed at in Michelen, Belgium (though sadly the bar was closed during our visit but the beer vending machines worked and several nearby restaurants served their brew):

Cori's uber-girly Hoegaarden Rosee (which was what she switched up to from other uber-girly framboises):

Wtf, Australia?

Actually, more "WTF, Air Niugini?" the airline that canceled our 7 am flight to Port Moresby without emailing us or contacting us in any way. We showed up a full seven hours before their one flight today, which leaves at noon. Clearly I haven't spent enough time in airports in the past 48 hours, so the universe is sharing with me, again, the joys of mediocre overpriced food, uncomfortable chairs and severe sleep deprivation. Oy. We're hoping to use the extra couple hours of airport time to get some internet things sorted out--maybe those posts will show up after all. All and all, a less than auspicious start to our journey to PNG.

In the mean time, I bring you these random notes from Australian bathrooms: The toilet paper at the hostel we stayed at in Cairns was a brand called "Eloquence." I think I'll just let that speak for itself. Also, the airport bathrooms are labeled "Female toilet" and "Male toilet" as though the toilets themselves are women and men. I'm letting these little quirks amuse me, because the alternative is curling up in an exhausted ball on the airport floor and whining at a loud volume, which is still, somehow, below my dignity.

Photos from Croatia

Ryan with a very cute boar-hunting puppy from Croatia (well, the adult dogs, not that puppy, hunts boar).

OMG more cute puppies (we saw SO MANY in Croatia):

Sign seen outside our dorm in Zagreb:

Two local helpers from Bosnia where we sampled stray dogs around a particular town. They were great about showing us where all the dogs hang out and introducing us to the local dog owners. We've found the same thing happening in many places throughout the world---kids just love helping us out. At first they didn't want any pay but they finally relented and accepted ice cream. As a human interest story, one of them lost their dad in the Bosnian war and the other one's dad lost a leg. In fact in Bosnia we saw much more war damage than in Croatia---lots of buildings with RPG holes, etc. Lots of men missing limbs, etc. Our trip through a number of former war zones has been quite sobering.

More puppies! Trying to sample one of them its littermates just got in the way (while Ryan took pictures and laughed instead of separating them). Ah the joys of fieldwork.

Travel to Australia

[guest post by Ryan]

So we arrived (finally!) in Cairns yesterday and spent the afternoon on the beach (sadly it was too late to go to the Great Barrier Reef though the snorkling in PNG is supposed to be awesome). We completed a trip in less than a week that took us from above the 52nd parallel north to south of the 37th parallel south! It was only 40 degrees F in Melbourne, in fact. Anyway a quick update to our stats and then I'm going to try to post some pictures from earlier in our trip before flying to Port Moresby in a few hours.

14 flights
9 time zones
100:15 traveling hours [note this only counts flight-associated travel time]
33,527 travel miles
16 countries (counting all landings and time spent on the ground at all)
13 countries (counting only those countries we left the airport)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Still alive, and headed for the other side of the world.

Yeah, so that whole science thing got in the way of our actually writing about science. Sorry about the absence—we’re back for the second half of our journey and eager to get you up to speed ASAP. We are still alive, and very much still traveling. Even this post got kind of intercepted by a failed attempt at typing on a French keyboard in the airport, hence the strike-throughs....

Right now we’re sitting in Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris Changi Airport in Singapore, waiting for the longest flight that either of us has ever been on, from Paris to Singapore our flight to Melborne. The next part of our travels is taking us to Papua New Guinea. I’ll admit, I absolutely adored traveling through Europe, but I am also absolutely giddy at getting back to some place more remote—no where we’ve gone yet this summer has truly been off the beaten track, and I really miss traveling places where there aren’t Starbucks.

The downside of that, however, is that it might limit our connectivity with the rest of the world. In about fifteen hours, we’ll be Right now we are in Singapore for a quick stop. Then we fly to Melborne, then to Cairns, Australia, arriving about a day and a half from now. (Mom, that will be at about 9 pm your time on July 26, 2009). We’re pretty certain we’ll be able to find internet in Australia, but after that it may be less than convenient. We’re spending just one night in Cairns, and leaving on a 7am fight for Port Morsby, PNG.

I can come up with few places more remote or challenging to travel in than PNG. There’s not totally a government, barely any tourist infrastructure, and river valleys so wild that basically any entomologist or botanist who walks a mile in from the ocean is guaranteed to find something no one’s ever described before. This is the kind of adventure I miss having.

It’s also the kind of adventure that doesn’t do great things for one’s internet connectivity. I’m sure this is far more frustrating for us, particularly because I’m at the point in the journey where I want to snuggle every small child I see because I miss my son. Still, we both do really want to share our stories more with anyone who wants to listen, and hope that there’s a few listeners still out there. Either way, we’re hoping to send out posts about Goreme (a bizarre Cappadocian village carved into rock formations), Croatia’s very cool dog breads and Belgian breweries and beer in the next little bit. Look out for those, and for much increased travel stats in the next couple days

Updated stats, courtesy of my lovely husband:
12 flights
8 time zones
84:15 traveling hours [note this only counts flight-associated travel time]
27,854 travel miles
15 countries (counting all landings and time spent on the ground at all)
12 countries (counting only those countries we left the airport)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Just a quick update

[guest post by Ryan]

We're done now in Croatia and about to take a week off in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. Hopefully during that time we can catch up some on blogging. Things here have been hectic but great. For the moment I only have time to update our stats:

9 flights
7 time zones
56 traveling hours [note this only counts flight-associated travel time]
17,216 travel miles
11 countries (counting all landings and time spent on the ground at all)
9 countries (counting only those countries we left the airport)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

One last post about Lebanon

[from Ryan]

Yes, we're almost done in Turkey so we should blog about that, but we did enjoy Lebanon so much and were talking about this simile between ourselves for awhile so we figured we should post it. Driving around the rural areas of Lebanon is a lot like how the Godfather depicted driving around Sicily when their movies are set. I hope that conjures up nice images for everyone and explains why we liked it so much (especially seeing as we were treated as part of "the family"...)

Monday, July 6, 2009

What do you do when you can't weigh a dog in the sling?

You estimate it's weight:

Travel stats to Turkey

[from Ryan]

Just to keep things up to date, here are our current travel stats:

8 flights
7 time zones
50 traveling hours [note this only counts flight-associated travel time]
13,549 travel miles
6 countries (counting all landings and time spent on the ground at all)
4 countries (counting only those countries we left the airport)


[guest post by Ryan]

This is a long overdue post about Lebanon, which is a beautiful country full of very welcoming people and great food. For starters, we saw basically the entire country. We went north along the coast to Tripoli, south along the coast to Tyre (as far south as foreigners can go---even here there are UN tanks guarding the roads) and along nearly the entire extent of the Bekaa Valley an into the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. At times we were mere meters from the Syrian border (our GPS was unsure of which side we were on) and of course at times we were in the Mediterranean :).

Given the kind of people/travelers Cori and I are, we most enjoyed the remote mountains at the Lebanese-Syrian border. The views were breathtaking and the people were very nice, offering us to enter their tents/homes, giving us coffee and giving us great fresh food (goat meat, bread and mixed goat/sheep yogurt is great when it's served incredibly fresh).

We stayed across the street from the American University of Beirut, a thoroughly modern university regarded as one of the best in the Middle East. The area of town was nice as it was full of students (not tourists) and very alive. Below is a picture of one of AUB's buildings near its entrance:

While in Lebanon we also found some time to visit ancient ruins, which again were nice because they lacked the high volume of tourists found in such areas in Egypt, Turkey and the like. The ones pictured below are at Baalbek and date from 60 BC (or BCE if that's your style).

We also found some time to visit the souk (market) in Tripoli, pictured below. You could buy just about anything in the narrow alleyways there.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Europe meets Asia

Turkey so far has been a slightly odd and very interesting mix of east and west--very European in a lot of ways, but also very Asian as well. Just what you would expect from a country that's partially in Asia, partially in Europe. It's a very nationalistic country with HUGE flags everywhere (the Turkish flag is particularly striking blowing in the wind, so you can hardly blame them). At the same time, it's also a country clearly trying to get into the EU--whereas their Middle Eastern neighbors often quote prices in dollars, here things are in Euros. The country loves the internet--it's EVERYWHERE, and pretty fast--but the government (in a less than liberally European spirit) blocks It's a strangly ambivalent sort of philosophy--half the country seems to want one thing and half the country wants the other. Or maybe everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too, but they keep changing their minds about which they want more. None of which is a bad thing, really--it makes for an incredibly passionate and interesting experience. But it is unfamiliar and constantly surprising. Keeps you on your toes, hehe.

This is sort of like what it's like to visit here as well. It's beautiful, fascinating and enchanting, but also hard to predict. At least we managed to get 45 samples within nine hours of landing. Here's hoping we have more luck like that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The promised awesome pictures are up on the previous post. We've arrived safely in Istanbul, which is beautiful. We can see the Blue Mosque from the roof of our hotel.

Also, big props to Turkish airlines for fitting us in on a later flight for free when we overslept our alarm for their 340am flight. Thank god that worked out.