Flashback Friday: European Sunsets

Flashback Friday is a picture series where we “flashback” to some of our memories – from either from our prior travel or from home. We hope you’ll enjoy some of our remembrances! 

We’ve been experiencing some nice sunsets here in Asia, so naturally, we remembered some of our other nice sunsets from the road. During our self-drive safari in Africa, we saw some amazing sunsets almost every night. We shared some of those in a flashback Friday post. We were in Africa for only 6 weeks and came up with 11 photos we just needed to share. We were in Europe for much longer and saw much fewer nice sunsets. However, there were 14 pictures we wanted to show you. Enjoy some awesome sunsets!

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“The greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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A closer shot of the “greatest sunset in the world” in Zadar, Croatia

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Sunset over the Adriatic from the walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Sunset over a mosque in Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina

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Berat, Albania

Pretty sunset

Tirana, Albania

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Delphi, Greece

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Nafplio, Greece

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Fethiye, Turkey

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This one was so good, we had to show you two! Fethiye, Turkey

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Selcuk, Turkey

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Kas, Turkey

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Pamukkale, Turkey

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Antalya, Turkey

Monthly Recap: Month 6

Month 6 brought a lot of changes! We traveled half way around the world to visit home for the holidays. It was wonderful to spend the time with family and friends. Though, we weren’t sure we were ready for all the snow.

Here are our stats for this month.

Countries visited: 2 (Turkey, Ireland, and the USA)

Beds Slept In: 6

UNESCO Heritage Sights Visited: 0  Total on RTW: 34

We traveled by 6 planes this month!

We traveled by 0 trains this month!

We traveled by 0 long distance buses.

Top Moments:

~ We really enjoyed spending time with our families during the holidays. We had assumed we would be figuring out how to get festive on our own somewhere in Asia, but after a change in plans, we had the opportunity to spend some time at home. Lucky us!

~ During our layover in Dublin on our way home for the holidays, we got a chance to go on a Literary Pub Crawl. It was a great evening filled with laughs, history, and great beer.

Runners up for Top Moments:

~ We left Turkey very early in the month on our way home. We had a short two hour layover in London on our way to Dublin. It was enough time to grab a quick bite to eat… and a great beer! We were so excited to drink a beer with some flavor!

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Items Missing, Broken, Discarded, or Added and Packing Update:

We were excited to have the opportunity to really re-evaluate the contents of our packs. While we weren’t unhappy with what we had, we hope to adjust some of the clothes, replace things that are worn or stained, and unload some weight. We plan to write a whole blog post about this, so stay tuned!

Books Read: (Have you read any of these??)

Della has read Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Eric has read Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

Eric and Della have BOTH read nothing this month.

Oiy… bad month for reading…

Make sure to catch up on all our monthly recaps: Monthly Recap 1, Monthly Recap 2, Monthly Recap 3,Monthly Recap 4, Monthly Recap 5

Budget: Turkey

This is one of our Budget series of posts to give you an idea of how much we spent traveling around the world. Here we will look at Turkey. Check our posts to see what kind of activities we did and where we stayed!

*Note: We are writing this budget post for the time we spent in Turkey after the visit from Della’s family. This budget does not include what we spent with them. Keep in mind, on that note, that it does not include some of the most famous tourist attractions in Turkey.

In Turkey we used the lira. We converted to US dollars using the current conversion rates at the time of our visit. It was approximately 1 lira to 0.44 dollars.

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Total Spent (14 days): $1065.16

Accommodation: $357.50

We stayed in several pensions, one hostel in a dorm, and an airbnb apartment.

Activities: $103.91

This included entrances to a few sites, a couple of museums, and a Turkish hamam.

Alcohol: $31.73

This includes wine and beer purchased mostly at corner markets and grocery stores. Alcohol was relatively expensive in Turkey and not as easy to find as several of the other countries we visited.

Food: $314.96

We did not do a lot of cooking in Turkey except in Istanbul. We normally ate out once to twice a day. Luckily, breakfasts were almost always included with our accommodation.

Miscellaneous: $86.49

This is high for our miscellaneous costs. It included some souvenirs and Christmas gifts. We bought much more than we might have because we knew we were returning to the USA for the holidays so we weren’t as worried about buying things.

Transportation: $129.18

This included many buses and even a plane ticket! It was so nice to be back in a place where transportation was affordable!

Visas: $41.40

Turkey was one of the few countries that required a visa purchased in advance. It was easy though, just an online purchase!

This divides out to $76.08/day which is under our $100/day budget. However, it does not include the bigger tourist site attractions that we did with Della’s family during our first stay in Istanbul.

*We chose not to include the time spent with families in our country budget because it becomes harder to give an accurate version of how much it costs to visit the area. First, we are more than a couple so accommodation prices change a bit. We also end up traveling a bit faster when we are with them so we spend a bit more than we might chose to if we were traveling alone. In addition, our parents sometimes play the “parent card” and cover expenses that we would have paid for ourselves, so it just gets complicated! However, when we update our overall expenses and complete average per day of the whole trip we will include absolutely everything we’ve spent.

Istanbul Part iki (2)

We headed back to Istanbul after our time in Antalya. We were able to get a pretty decent flight on Pegasus Air.

Getting There

Booking our flight was easy, but figuring out how to get to the airport in Antalya was not. It was really a shame because we were pretty sure that we should be able to get there via bus or train from Kalieci. But the more we looked, the more we realized it wasn’t as easy as we might have hoped. It was going to be a long walk to a bus stop that we weren’t sure was there, or a trip all the way back to the the main bus station on the train and then a connection. No matter which way we though about it, it was going to be slightly unsure and take an awful long time. We had told our hostel that we wouldn’t need airport transportation, but in the end, semi-embarrassedly rethought our choice and asked for a ride. It was a little pricier than we would have liked, but it was a straight shot exactly where we needed to go.

Where We Stayed

We found a nice Airbnb apartment in the happening Beyoglu neighborhood of Istanbul. It was quite easy to find because our host (who seemed to run apartments for a living) gave us a helpful PDF of information and maps. The neighborhood we stayed in was slightly dirty and slightly sketchy, but we were very near Istiklal street (think long outdoor mall which was always, and we really mean always, morning, noon, or night, filled with people – tourists and locals alike) which was a huge plus. The apartment itself was quite pleasant though a bit small and dark. It was on an underground level so we didn’t have a great windows. On the bright side, it had an excellent shower!

What We Did

Shop Near Istiklal – We knew that we would be heading home for the holidays, so that meant that we finally had the chance to freely buy souvenirs without worrying about how we were going to carry them around the world with us! We also knew that it might be a great time to find some one of a kind Christmas gifts. We had originally thought we would head back to the Spice Market which we had visited during our first time in Istanbul, but after exploring the markets near Istiklal Street, we found everything we had hoped for at the most convenient prices!

Explore the Huge Media Markt in the Fancy Mall – As we mentioned above, we realized that now would be the time to buy some souvenirs for ourselves. One thing that had caught our eye was a cool double decker tea pot that we had seen used everywhere on the Turquoise Coast. We hadn’t seen if for sale in any of the tourist markets so we started exploring the grocery stores. We found one that seemed both too small and too expensive. Luckily, we remembered that we had seen this giant store called Media Markt in the fancy mall on Istiklal Street. The store took up 3 full levels of this place! We decided to check it out and found the teapot we wanted… on sale! Score!

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Watch a Movie – We were walking down Istiklal Street one evening trying to decide what to do. Suddenly our eyes alighted on the movie theater in the mall. It was showing Alayci Kus (Mockingjay)! Avid readers might remember that Della had been rereading the Hunger Games trilogy for just this reason. We had assumed we’d attempt to see the movie when we got home, but after a quick check, we saw that they were showing it here in Istanbul in English (with Turkish subtitles). It was an opportunity too fun to miss! We quickly bought tickets realizing that the show was starting about 5 min ago! We were stressed realizing that the tickets had assigned seats, and that the previews had likely already started. Luckily, this wasn’t a problem as there turned out to be an usher to take us to our enormous, comfortable, leather seats. We had never been in a movie theater this comfortable. It was fabulous! We settled down to enjoy the movie… Exactly one hour in, and in the middle of a tense action sequence, the screen suddenly went dark. We were expecting the other patrons to yell or throw things at the screen (we wanted to!) but everyone got up quietly, a patron flicked the lights on, and everyone went out to the Burger King to grab some coffee… After a quick double check with Google Translate, we confirmed our now growing suspicion that we were on intermission. The movie flashed back on (again in the middle of the intense battle sequence) about 10 min later. Overall, we loved the experience and really enjoyed the movie too!

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Visit Chora Church – Chora Church is a bit far from the larger sights of Istanbul, but we ended up being able to catch a bus from right outside our airbnb apartment which took us across the Golden Horn and dropped us quite close to this beautiful church. Its real name was Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls since its original location was outside of the city walls. The Church is mainly a tourist destination today because of the large number of well-preserved Byzantine mosaics and frescoes from the 14th century. Rick Steves had a walking tour that guided us through the most important of the works. The outer nave contains mosaics depicting events from the life of Jesus, while the inner nave depicts scenes from the life of Mary. The parecclesion, a small chapel on the side that held tombs, contained the frescoes which depict scenes from the afterlife. We were a little bummed that the main chapel was closed for renovation, but it sounded like we did get to see the majority of the interesting pieces of art.

Do Rick Steves’ Walking Tour of Istanbul’s Walls – The Chora Church is located right next to the remains of the Old City walls dating to the reign of the Emperor Theodosius II in the 5th century AD. Rick Steves also had a walk along these walls, so we decided to check it out. The most interesting part was at the very beginning, when we climbed some steep and slippery stairs to the top of the wall. This gave us impressive views in all directions (although they would have been even more impressive if the day wasn’t overcast). We continued the walk along the walls and finished at a Muslim cemetery located just outside one of the gates. The tour would have had us continue on through an interesting neighborhood, but we were wet and cold so instead just caught a bus back to Beyoglu.

Where We Ate

Since we were on Istikal Street on multiple occasions, we took advantage and ate out on the street a couple of times.

The first restaurant, Otantik Anadolu Yemekleri, specialized in authentic Anatolian food. They had a woman who sat in the front window and made fresh gözleme, a “Turkish pancake” made of thin dough filled with something savory. Our favorite dish was a mixed appetizer tray that had two different types of what they called dumplings and a thick wheat porridge.

On our final day we wanted to find something Turkish but also cheap. We found a small cafe on a side street that met these criteria. The most interesting dish was what Della ordered: a “kumpir'” or baked potato. What made this interesting was he toppings they put on it: a huge variety of items including hot dog, peas, olives, onions and different sauces. Dana had actually gotten one of these when she was in town and we thought it was just a fluke, so we were excited to see that we could find one as well!

Antalya, Turkey

Our final stop on our tour of the Turquoise Coast of Turkey was the city of Antalya. It is a large city, with a population of over a million people, so it was quite a different feeling than our visits to Patara and Kas! The biggest tourist draw is the large old city called Kaleiçi, which dates from the city’s heyday as a port during the Roman Empire.

Where We Stayed

We decided to stay in Kaleiçi itself in order to be close to all the sites. On booking.com we found a nice small place called the Marina Hostel that, as its name suggests, is near the harbor. We took a chance and booked beds in a 6-person dorm room… and lucked out and had the place to ourselves all four nights! The hostel also came with a nice Turkish breakfast every morning.

Our bunk beds in the dorm room we had to ourselves

Our bunk beds in the dorm room we had to ourselves

What We Did

Explore Kaleiçi – We wandered around the streets of the Old town on a few different occasions to take in all of the sites. As we wandered the narrow, winding streets past old Ottoman-era houses, we found a few of the older relics, including:

  • Yivli Minare (the “Fluted” Minaret): this tall distinctively-shaped minaret, built in the 13th century, dominates the “skyline” of Kaleiçi
  • Clock Tower: the clock has been modernized, but the tower itself is old. It stands on the square which marks the entrance to Kaleiçi
  • Hadrian’s Gate: the ancient gate which was built for the Roman emperor Hadrian’s visit in 130 AD
  • Kesik Minare (the “Broken” Minaret): In the middle of Kaleiçi you find half of a minaret standing over ancient ruins which have been the sight of a Roman temple, a Byzantine church and then a mosque
  • Hıdırlık Tower: we sat near this Roman -era tower and enjoyed views of both the water and of two different couples having wedding portaits done
  • The Harbor: The weather in Antalya was generally overcast, but one afternoon it cleared off, so we headed down to the harbor area, which dates to the 2nd century BC, and enjoyed an Efes beer while watching the tourist boats come and go

One thing we did notice when wandering around the district was that shopkeepers were pretty aggressive with trying to get you to come into their store. We thought they were more persistent than those in the famed Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, maybe because they were getting less business in the low season. We ran into one man in particular who was pretty interesting. He knew of a few towns in Colorado so he was able to get our attention. Of course he then invited us into his carpet shop but we had to decline as we quickly walked away. We ended up running into him the next two days as well, and of course he remembered us each time! The last day in town we purposefully avoided the area where his shop was so we wouldn’t have to again explain to him that we weren’t going to buy a carpet.

Antalya Museum – We took the Antalya’s “nostalgic tram” out to this large archaeological museum. By this point, we had seen a few similar museums, but we still enjoyed seeing the different exhibits that included the Stone Age in the Antalya area, ceramics, Roman-era sculptures and sarcophogi, and finally a small exhibit on life during the Ottoman era. Our favorite exhibit was a room with different sculptures of Greek/Roman gods found at the nearby site of Perge, mainly because each statue included a sign with extensive text describing the myths around the god.

Kaleiçi Museum – This small museum had a few different exhibits that we spent a couple of hours touring. In an old Greek Orthodox church, there was an exhibit of 18th century pottery from the Çanakkale region. Also, in the upstairs area there was a fascinating exhibit with pictures of old street vendors from Istanbul in the late 19th century. We really enjoyed just seeing all of the different types of vendors there were! Back in a restored Ottoman-era house, the main exhibit showcased life in Antalya during that time, with mannequins set up in different rooms showing scenes from preparations for a wedding: serving coffee to guests, a henna ceremony for the bride and a shaving ceremony for the groom.

Some Random Ethnographic Museum – When we were looking for the Kaleiçi Museum, we stumbled across a place that we thought was it. It was a restored Ottoman-era house, and the ground floor had mannequin displays of cultural artifacts from Antalya and its sister cities. The upstairs area also had a few rooms set up as displays. We were confused that there was no admission though, and there was only one person in the building, and she seemed to be doing something else. Since we found the actual Kaleiçi Museum, we aren’t really sure what this was, but it was a nice, free way to spend a little time!

Where We Ate

Kaleiçi had a good number of restaurants along its cobblestone streets, but some of them seemed to be shutting down for the offseason. One night we ate at a place near our hostel that the Lonely Planet had recommended called Yemenli. Eric enjoyed an appetizer of a local white bean salad where the beans had been mixed with tahini.

This is a picture of the entrees. The one in the foreground is a vegetarian stuffed eggplant served with rice

This is a picture of the entrees. The one in the foreground is a vegetarian stuffed eggplant served with rice

The best place for cheap eats near Kaleiçi is a string of fast food-esque restaurants near the main entrance to the district. Every time we walked by this area the waiters would try and entice us to come in. We enjoyed one of the streets of this restaurant area which was covered with umbrellas. It was a little bit of a walk from the hostel, so we only ate in one of these restaurants. We chose one that had a good soup collection since the night was chilly.

The restaurant row under the colorful umbrellas

The restaurant row under the colorful umbrellas

Final Thoughts

Antalya was a nice place to visit, especially with all of the dining and activity options offered compared to previous stops along the Turquoise Coast. However, even this large city felt a little bit of a low season slowness, so if we came back we’d aim for warmer weather.

Kaş, Turkey

After our time in Patara, we headed farther down the coast to the town of Kaş.

Where We Stayed

Santosa Pension – We had found this pension on booking.com. It was sort of amazing because as soon as we got off the bus, the first person who approached us happened to be the owner of the Santosa. He took us there and we had a nice large room which had a balcony that overlooked the town. The pension also served a delicious Turkish breakfast every morning included in the price. Again, we were the only tourists there!

 

What We Did

We experienced a bit more of Walking Dead tourism in Kaş, but it wasn’t as lonely as it had been in Patara since the town was bigger and had a good number of locals around. We didn’t do a whole lot while we there, but we did explore a few things.

Climb Up to the Doric Tomb – We saw a sign on the side of the road that talked about a Doric Tomb. We didn’t know anything about it, but we decided to check it out. We walked up the path and were a little concerned because it really felt like we were just walking into someone’s back\ yard. But we pressed on and did find the tomb, which looked like a big cube. We explored it and enjoyed the beautiful view over town. We hung out and decided to read our books for awhile.

Visit the Friday Market – No shortage of people here! The market was full of colors and smells and great hustle and bustle!

Go to the Beach – We decided to wander out on to the peninsula and followed a road that we thought would take us out there. Along the way, we stopped at the old theater and enjoyed it with some goats. Then we kept walking and found some exercise equipment, so we played on that for awhile, and finally, we found a nice, small pebble beach. We ended up not being the only ones there! In fact, several people came by and did some swimming! We didn’t think it was warm enough for that, plus we hadn’t expected to find a beach, so we didn’t have our swim suits. But we did spend some time wading, enjoying the views, and reading our books.

Visit the King’s Tomb – While exploring old town, you will probably come upon the King’s Tomb. We saw it at a lovely time of day, with the sun starting to set, glinting off the yellow leaves of the tree above it.

Explore Old Town – The old town was very cute, with lovely steep marbled roads. We felt like we were back in Croatia a little bit. There were lots of cute alleys and nice shops to explore. Because it was low season, we felt like we got a good deal on some scarves!

Watch the Sunset (preferably surrounded by fighting cats) – While we were out exploring town, the sun began to set. We headed out onto towards the docks where we found a lovely place to watch a gorgeous sunset. As soon as we had relaxed we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a clowder of cats (yes, that is the correct word for a group of cats!) Normally we might think this was cute, but this time, they were not friendly. They were attacking each other and no matter where we moved, they decided to make sure that we were always in the middle of their fight. That was a little annoying… but the sunset was grand!

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Where We Ate

Nothing that we ate here really stood out to us. The one exception was that we celebrated Thanksgiving on our first night in Kaş. We found one of the cafeteria style restaurants that we had tried several times in Turkey. There was no turkey to be found, but they did have a good looking chicken stew.

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The other thing that was fun at this restaurant was that they were playing a Turkish TV show. We spent almost all of dinner trying to figure it out. It appeared to be a dating show of sorts… but everyone was far too serious. It was strange. A man and woman would come in and sit down with a screen between them. They would seemingly answer questions from the very serious looking audience and the host. Then they would be revealed to each other. There might have also been people coming back from a date and talking about how it went?  We figured out it was called Esra Erol. But, we never could figure out what was really happening. Oh yeah… and there was a band too!

Final Thoughts

Kaş was a lovely town! We were happy to visit! There might have been some better day trip tour options if we had gone during high season. We had hoped to some of those, but didn’t find the tours we had hoped to see. So, perhaps, another place where, if we visit again, we will go a little closer to high season.

Walking Dead Tourism

OK, so, despite the title, this post has nothing to do with the show or comic The Walking Dead… (We aren’t leaking any show secrets like we accidentally did in Dubrovnik, either!)

We mentioned in our previous posts about Fethiye and Patara that we could tell that it was definitely Turkey’s low season. We wandered around, often all alone. Sometimes it felt a bit… odd. Almost… apocalyptic.

As we wandered around places that would be bustling with activity during the summer, we started to feel like we were in our very own post-apocalyptic experience. We began to call it Walking Dead tourism.

Sound about right??