« October 2006 | Main | December 2006 »

November 30, 2006

Turkey III - Fete in Fethiye


We may not have had the luxury of celebrating with many friends and loved ones, but still it's hard to beat the day that Simon had to mark a new decade in his life.
Since we are often the only foreigners staying at the hotels at the moment (did I mention this is the off-season?), we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves talking to locals. So it was with their help that we planned Simon's big day.


First, we rented a scooter. We crammed our four hundred combined pounds onto this poor vehicle and headed over the mountain to the abandonned greek town of Kayaköy.


A little history lesson here: Atatürk, the most beloved, revered founder of modern Turkey --there are posters, statues, silhouettes in lights atop hills, streets names in his honour etc etc EVERYWHERE here-- managed to pull together the Turkey of today from the tiny region that remained unoccupied at the end of the first world war. However, in this unification process, Greece and Turkey laid out some clearly defined borders and all residents belonging to the other country were sent packing. Thus, this whole greek village was unoccupied from the mid 20's until it was toppled by an earthquake in 1954.



The highlight of this place was the remains of the church floor--a mosaic made of different shades of rounded beach pebbles laid on their sides.
After a good little wander here, we headed over yet wnother mountain to the fabulous beaches and blue lagoon of Ölüdeniz. This is the gorgeous blue water that you will recognize from any Turkish tourism brochure. Here we managed a swim, despite it clouding over. Rain moved through part of the valley (luckily not on us), leaving behind a beautiful lucky rainbow.





Back on the bike and over the mountain again, we touched down in the village of Kaya for dinner at the Oba BBQ restaurant. Each table is pushed up againstg a ventilated cubby where a small grill with hot coals is brought in for each diner to cook their own meal. How happy we were to enjoy a different version of our cheirshed fondu dinner!


The only slight hiccup to the day was after dinner, our surroundings suddenly in complete darkness, we drove round and round the valley, unable to see our road over the mountain to home. (I guess this is where the seemingly Turkish way of giving directions-- 'it's easy. you go right and then right again after a bit'--breaks down.) Still, we did get home.

Clearly, I needn't have worried about making the big guy's big day special. I think that he'll remember this birthday for a while yet!

Posted by psy2099 at 01:26 PM

November 29, 2006

Turkey Part II.5 - In Which Claire Eats Fish

With Olympos under our belt, we headed to Fethiye. The bus trip, at first entertaining just in watching the scenery go by (such mountains! so many greenhouses--entire valleys full!), quickly became tedious. Our discomfort grew, as the ride was hot and cramped, and we became hungry. At several stops we contemplated running for food, but unable to communicate, we could never manage to figure out how long the bus was stopped for and didn't want to risk being left behind (a la uncle-bob-stretching-his-legs-on-a-break-from-a-long- flight-only-to-have-his-luggage-and-speach-he-was-preparing-fly-away without-him).


We arrived in Fethiye in the dark, under a heavy downpour, with only a very poor photocopy in the way of city map. After a useless minibus ride that took us only a few hundred meters, and kind strangers at a loss to help in situating us and our place on a map (despite using their cell phone to call our pension---and ominous sign!), we decided that the best option at this point was to take a cab.
We gratefully escaped the rain into a taxi, only to feel that perhaps all was not on the up and up. After giving the impression that he knew where our pension was, the driver proceded at such a snails pace that every other car was passing him. We wound our way throught the streets to arrive at a hotel of some description, certainly not the one we were booked at, with the driver stopping and asking 'Here?'. After a couple of these stops, with us becoming increadingly aggitated, he stopped and ambled into a shop to ask for directions, which, thank heavens, led us to our pension.
But what now? The pension appears to be closed!!!
At this point we decided to follow our guide book's advice on dealing with an out-of-hand taxi situation: stop at a fancy hotel and have the doorman argue on your behalf. Thankfully, while I was eliciting the doorman's help, Simon unloaded our bags and the cab driver departed without taking any payment.


Next, we enjoyed the good nature of the friendly, fancy hotel people who called a budget place, negotiated their price down, and made us comfy as we awaited a ride to our new accomodation...


...which was fantastic! This was a comfortable hotel on a hill with an unbeatable view over the hearbour and a cozy rooftop bar that was home to a smattering of friendly locals. At this point, wet, tired and hungry, we asked if we could get a meal there, to which they were most agreeable. As we waited for our food to come, not having seen a menu of any kind, Simon glanced at the ocean below and wondered aloud if we ought to be concerned about what we were about to be served.
And what do you think should appear, but two plates, each bearing a glistenning, silvery fish, their tails and fins laying limply, their mouths inert, and their eyes mercifully black.
If you know me at all, you know that I have spent my life avaiding eating fish at every possible opportunity. I didn't like it as a kid and I certainly haven't changed my mind on the subject upon any instance where I've tried it in adulthood. It is the kind of food that i can only swallow given a tall glass of milk with each bite and a certain amount of queasiness. So what to do?
With our free pick-up/rescue, our reduced room rate, our warm welcome, and accomodating kitchen hours in mind, I had no choice but to choke some down. Simon, my hero, helped out, making it look like I had at least consumed a polite portion.


As it turns out, I made the right decision in not offending these people, as they provided us with good company, fantastic hospitality, helpful tourist advice, and even Turkish lessons throughout our stay.



Posted by psy2099 at 01:30 PM

November 24, 2006

Turkey Part II: Olympos---Whoa Dude!


This well-known ancient metropolis is now no more than ruins over-run by nature, and a tiny town of ramshakkle, hippie retreats.


But the view over the beach from the old Akropolis can't be beat. And the chimera natural flames are rather cool, too (it was tempting to catch the bunnies hopping by to roast them over the flames!).



A note on toilets, as I was on the subject earlier in the blog. Things are done very differently here in Turkey--it's all about squatting over a bowl embedded in the floor and using a small pail with water to clean yourself with your hand. Toilet paper should be used only to pat dry and should then be deposited in the trash.
Thankfully, most spots frequented by tourists have at least one western toilet. For the Turks,though, this can create a dilemma---how does one use one of these foreign contraptions? I only learned this upon discovering a rather disgustingly soiled toilet. When I expressed wonder at how it could have arrived at such a state, Mike, our host, explained. Some Turks, confused, attempt to use our western toilets in the same manner as their own. Thus, they climb up on the seat, crouch down, and do their business, predictably missing the mark in this precarious, contortionist pose. Ah me! I giggle to picture it!





Posted by psy2099 at 11:46 AM

November 22, 2006

Turkey Part 1 - Antalya: Home Away From Home


Europe may seem like a small place, sometimes, but when you make your way from Cesky Krumlov to Vienna, to Antalya Turkey in a day it can seem far too large! We even whimped out by buying a relatively cheap flight rather than training it through Hungary Romania and Bulgaria. (airfare on this continent will make any Canadian drool...). The trip was not the smoothest- as the day started out by spending an 1 1/2 pre-dawn hours shivering at the frosty bus stop trying to figure out wht, despite what 5 different schedules said, no buses were showing up. Eventuall we made it, just before my brain seized up completely from the cold.


One bus, five trains, four hours at the airport & one flight later, we arrived in Turkey, where our hearts melted at the sight of palm trees and fountains. We made our way to the pension in the heart of the old town, where we haven't wanted to leave since. Upon waking at dawn to the broadcast call to prayer a haunting sound in the dark, all there was to say was "Welcome to Turkey".


This place has restored so many energy packs, that we stayed on for
three days rather than just one night. We finally feel absolutely too lazy to go on. This despite the guide book taunting us with so many sights to see in this country.


First of all there is the sun, that old forgotten buddy. Even though winter still comes to the south of Turkey & evenings still find me with a fleece on, day time is in the low 20's and so far we've had nothing but beautiful blue skies. Simon even managed a swim, though the water wouldn't be considered all that warm.


Second of all, is the relaxing pace and welcoming atmosphere. Our pension, Pension Dedekonak is run by a fantastically entertaining and helpful Austrailian guy named Mike and there has been an aussie woman staying here as well, both firecrackers in their own right. So we've had some company, a nice change from the isolation we went through in the Czech Republic. Both of these elements have been good in particular for me, as I've been dealing with a nasty cold. (It was only after two days and two million tissues that I discovered one is NOT to blow one's nose in public in Turkey. What bad timing!)



Finally, what we've really appriciated, is the change of scenery. Europe sure is fabulous to behold with it's gorgeous cities, etc., but I wouldn't recommend what we did, the all too common, often Eurail, DOING EUROPE. The scenery blends together after a while and it becomes easy not to notice all of the beauty as it is all around. But no more of that complacency here in Turkey.


The water and mountains, courtyards full of orange trees, windy old streets, and randomly found ruins all make us most obvious tourists with our mouths wide open.


This, of course, does make us the subject of the infamous Turkish tourist harrassment, but it really is done in such a friendly way that it's hard to resent it too much. We've even had tea in a rug shop, declining to purchase anything after enjoying a lovely conversation with a quintessential rug-seller, We're learning how to say no the local way - head back, eyebrows up and a "tsk" of the tongue in order to not have a chat with every single tour operator around the harbour!


No time for that or we'll never manage to move out. If we can get our acts together, Olympos is in the plans for tomorrow!

(spoiler alert!!!)

We got our acts together

Posted by psy2099 at 10:43 AM

November 18, 2006

Cesky Krumlov


After track delays, mid-route switch to a bus and then back again, missiıng connections and a long wait in a bare-ones station, we arrived in the south of the Czech Republic with the conclusion that perhaps the czech train system is cheap for a reason.


Never-the-less, we did finally arrive in the glorious Unesco World heritage town of Czesky Krumlov. This town is so very quaint that you could pinch its cheeks. Check it out (I swear it's no model):


Our hostel is a neat 200+ year old artists' retreat on the river. It was apparently inhaitted by the artist Egon Schiele at one point, and people come here specifically to soak up the town's creative energies.


Even Simon has been lured in, on the prowl now for a small sketch book (though this is mainly attributed to our lack of space and money to keep up with his reading pace). We are disapointed, however, that for all the fantastic art and artisan work that is in every establishment, the wares that are peddled to tourists who aren’t in the know are the standard Czech offerings.


The little gem that we did find, however, thanks to many a recommendation, is the former 15th century prison, now fantastically atmospheric open fire restaurant.


What a delicious meal of various meats we ate, cooked right in front of us at the fireplace. We later enjoyed the heavy feeling we had previously only known as 'fondu stomach' but now have other pleasant associations for.


As far as other delectable delights go, Simon puts in a special request for a mention of the beer. At a dollar for half a litre in the restaurant, and fifty cents in the grocery store, it is by far the cheapest thing to drink...and delicious!


But as for the other Czech culinary staple, I have had my fill. I wish to eat no more cabbage for a VERY long time!




Posted by psy2099 at 12:05 PM

November 13, 2006


When your guide book warns you that train ticket vendors in the Czech Republic do not speak english, and that conductors will try to scam you for a supposed 'fine' by insisting that there is something wrong with your ticket, well you would hope that you had the proper ticket, wouldn't you?
Well, what if you didn't? What if, say, your train from Munich missed its connection and the woman in Nuremburg mis-directed you so that you find yiourself on a route that you don't have a ticket for? And what if you realize this right as you spy a pack of cops and border guards heading your way? Well, you might swear a little, and develop an instant headache. Fortunately, only our passports were checked on this leg of the journey, which left us to fumble our way through buying a ticket from the non-english speaking ticket vendor in the next station. Such was our entry into the East meets West country of the Czech Republic.


All warnings aside, though, we have had an easy go of it in this city. Aside from the people at the train ticket counters (??!), english is widely spoken and written. Though eastern european influences are visible, it is easy t osee why this part of the Czech Republic considers itself West.


Our accomodations here in Prague have certainly not been what you might call 'homey'. But I would say that our extensive experience in seedy treeplanting motels has certainly prepared us well for this kind of travel. Besides, if we had proper bedside lighting to read by, instead of the overhead fluorescent light, we wouldn't have the opportunity to play shadowpuppets with the flashlight, now would we?
Moreoever, we have the amenities we need, we're safe and warm, and we are nearly on budget.


Budget. This word is a staple of our conversations, sadly. We're still struggling with the bare-bones guide lines proposed by our book. It seems unhealthily obsessive to think about money as often as we do, even resorting to writing down every expenditure--including the WC payments! It is, however, reassuring to talk to other travellers and fınd out that they are doing the same thing! Also, it's a necessity as we will ultimately go a year with no income. I imagine it may be a good exercise for us, as we are quite used to disposing readily of our disposible income, however, I have a vague worry that it will be hard to shake this mentality and we will become Scrooges, counting and recounting our pennies!


Sowith money on the brain, we've been attempting to do some self-catering when possible. I can hear the gasps even accross the ocean! But don't worry: we still treat ourselves to some fine meals out (not to mention a little wine or beer on occasion to wash it down). But breakfasts have largely consisted of any of the following: croissants, yoghurt, muesli, bagels, juice, fruit, and granola bars. Generally this is consumed after a leisurely late rising and we are thus able to skip lunch, snacking instead on nuts, fruit, granola bars, crackers, baguette and cheese, or delightful pastries! (You wondered until those last ones why we haven't lost weight, didn;t you?)
Though it's well known that I love to make lists, I don't offer up this information to satisfy this pleasure, nor for some future anthropologist's sake. What i'm looking for is advice. Can anyone suggest other available, nutritious options? Perhaps you have a favourite breakfast/snack while on the go. Keep in mind that our refrigerator is often our window ledge and that we can only buy in very small quantities, as we move around too much to lug it all around with us. All contributions appreciated...


So beyond grocery shopping, countind our money, and walking in the cold and rain, what, you are wondering, have we been up to in Prague?
Just the usual--visiting some churches, taking a walking tour, checking out the vistas from atop hills and towers, and enjoying the view from the downtown Charles bridge.


We also took a trip to see the fantastic bone arrangements at the ostuary in Kutna Hora (if you didn't have a little immature and highly inappropriate word play with that last sentence than you are a far better person thatn either of us).



While there, we took the opportunity to don white cloaks and helmets and head into a medieval silver mine. This was a highlight for me, despite it seeming a strong possibility that Simon would have to be left behind, wedged into one of the short, narrow passages.



We've also had some time to spare in the past two ports of call, which has given us some time to think. Our main conclusion from this herculean effort is that we have planned this trip all wrong. Instead of starting in Australia and New Zealand in their summer and winding up in Europe just in time for some warm weather in spring/summer, we have gone the opposite direction. Thus we're not done with the cold weather yet.
I know that nobody wants to hear the world travellers whine, but I must say that I've been cold and often damp for almost two months straight, and it is starting to get me down. I know, I know, it's cold in Canada, too. But when I lived there, I got to spend lots of time in warm heated buildings. Here we spend our entire day prowling about in the elements, our accomodation usually too far for a stop-by, and our budget sadly even precluding a warm up in a cafe.


So... We've revised the plans once more. After a few days in Cesky Krumlov, we will catch a flight from Austria to the south of Turkey. This means, unfortunately, no reunion with our friend Phil in Budapest (Yes, the same Phil from Paris--this guy really gets around!). But, alas, it's time for a wee bit of warmth and a little less city. Our warm layers (which we've been wearing ever one of, simultaneously) could sure use a wash...

A final image to leave you with: when they tow your car in the Czech Republic, they really mean business!

Posted by psy2099 at 10:57 AM

November 12, 2006



First of all, Welcome to Bavaria! Please follow the following advice and you will be guaranteed a delightful stay:

DO come with the Bavarian Stereotype in mind. You really WILL find beer ordered with just that one word, and served mainly by the litre. You will also not be disapointed if you arrive with a longing for dry, salty bread, as pretzels are available on every corner.



DON'T be fooled by appearances. Munich may look like a historic, old city, but as 80% of it was destrozed in WWII, most buildings are less than fifty years old.


DO drink beer. Even on the street, and especially on the UBahn

DO plan on spending each night in the best restaurant imaginable: Prinz Myschkin. You will find an extensive menu, every item drool-worthy, offered up in a lovely atmosphere by handsome/beautiful German waiters/waitresses.

DO take the free walking tour (thanks, Val!). You will be well entertained, learn about the cradle of Naziism, and see the beer stein locker at the royal beer gardens...hard to say which speaks louder about the area you are visiting...

DO drink beer.

DO take advantage of the english cinema by going to see Marie Antoinette. You will especially appreciate this if you have just come from Versailles.

DON'T eat crappz tex-mex food thinking this will be a quick, cheap meal before racing to your movie. Instead,
DO take advantage of cheap Donair and Falafel on offer just about everywhere.

DO drink beer.

DON'T be surprised if you find yourself to be the only J walker on the street; not only is it illegal, but it is enforced!

DO visit Dachau concentration camp.
DO bring tissues, and
DO see the short movie presented on the site.
DON'T give yourself anything less than a full day to spend at Dachau...the museum is VERY extensive.


DON'T bother to brace yourself for the horric images you will see, or stories you will read. One cannot prepare for this depressing barbarism.
DO take in the beautiful sunset over this awful place.

DO drink beer.

DON'T forget the otherside of the pendulum: outrageous fun and oppulence at Neuschwanstein--King Ludwig II's palace on the mountain.




DON'T spend the exorbitant fee on the 5km bus ride from town to the castle. Instead,
DO enjoy a lovely morning walk through the woods.
DON'T let your visit to the castle be the end of your day.
DO walk to the bridge in the mountains for a breath-taking view of the castle, and
DO walk the path along the waterfall gorge.

DO solve the mysteries of whether king Ludwig II was a) gay, b) mad, and c) murdered and
DO let me know the answers.
DO enjoy another sunset over the alps on your train away from Fussen.
DO drink beer.
DO eat wurst in the market place.
DO climb the 300+ steps to St Paul's tower to admire the cityscape and watch paper airplane races.
DON'T forget to eat at Prinz Myschkin again.
and finally,
DO drink beer.


Posted by psy2099 at 01:11 PM



No matter how many accounts I read, or movies I see, I will never be able to imagine the awful scene that was Juno Beach sixty one years ago. I know that this is the way it should be, that peaceful, fulfilled existence is the reason that our country was fighting, but i tend to feel guilty, rather than purely lucky. This could have something to do with the sheer quantity of World War II terror that we've taken in in our short time over here...


The Juno Beach Centre, headed by and 87 Year old veteran, is well worth a visit, and can easily eat up hours of your day. We even learned stuff about Canada! (though you may want to skip the Nat Resources propaganda video on forestry in the Canada Now section!)




Posted by psy2099 at 12:41 PM

November 01, 2006


Since being in the city of love, we have reconciled ourselves to a new way of thinking about this trip; it is a reconaissance mission. Yes, it is too fast in some places, but we can't fathom eliminating any destinations from our list, and our return date and finances are firm. So we keep moving with the idea that later, we will have a better idea of where to spend our vacations. Talk about planning ahead!
Would we return to Paris in the future? Absolument!!!



So we arrived here late one evening with empty bellies and no plans for our stay. Armed with suggestions from Bob and Ruth, and Val (thanks all!), we were able to take care of these issues. And there's no better place than France to take care of an empty belly. We were duly impressed with our first meal, even more so when the server insisted that we hadn't ordered the proper wine to complement our dinner and proceded to tell us what we should be drinking.

(Paris rooms --and even elevators---are renowned for being tiny! now imagine SImon in there with me...and our packs!)

The only difficulty I'm having food-wise is that my canadian school french is not serving me well enough when it comes to french menus. The French are vey particular about their cuisine, and so have come up with very particular terms for every item. As a picky eater wishing to avoid fish and items such as veal's head and pork hooves, I'm not quite brave enough to wing it without understanding. I tell you I'm already being as adventurous as I can!
Day one in France was spent at Versailles. Again, the crowds of toursits, and long line-ups in the rain made this initially a bit of an irritating experience. But it quickly made up for the initial frustration. As you've witnessed on our blog, we've seen our fair share of palaces in the past few weeks. This one did not dissapoint. With its built-in chapel and opera house, it truly lived up to the grandeur of dear old louis the IV.


(Simon loves that the Janet Jackson nip-slip seemed to once be so popular. Everything's been done before, I say...nothing's original, not even the Jacksons...)



Perhaps the highlight of the place, though, were the incredible grounds (this despite the fact that the statues had been covered and the fountains had been shut down in preparation for winter---yet they still charged us high season entry fees!??). The difference between French and English lanscaping is immediately clear. Though both formal, the latter is all about geometric shapes, and is quite impressive (I'm not trying to get overly horticulturally upity here, just was surprised to be struck by such a difference!). I've never seen such square trees in my life...

Not only was the style interesting, but the sheer size of these grounds is incredible. So big, in fact, that the louises and their families had vacation palaces at the far end of the property. what a commute!



As is to be expected with that kind of ground to cover, we soon ran out of daylight, and so did not have time to discover Marie Antoinette's play village quite as much as we would have liked to (though I did note that one of the village houses had a ridiculously formal garden. if she thought this was how the other half lives, no wonder the poor girl was so removed from real society!).



On the other hand, the rapidly dimming coutryside and gathering fog did provide for a very interesting atmosphere. With the gates closing sometime after dark, a couple of kilometers to walk, and absolutely no light on the grounds, we sure did scurry! I'm not big on spooky situations, and this was beginning to look like a pretty cliched horror movie. Europeans sure do seem pretty lax on the whole being held responsible issue. I just can't imagine the same circumstances in North America...someone might sue for the mental trauma!



Being in France, we thought we should do the right thing and eat a lot of cheese and baguette. So I bought some at the market in Versailles. And I have this word of caution to offer for those in similar circumstances: taste the brie before purchasing! it may say brie. it may LOOK like brie. But it may taste like sewary brocoli! (And you know how simon hates broccoli!).

But this stinky cheese situation was soon to be righted. Again, we have experienced the extremely generous, warm welcome of european hospitality, this time through our friend Phil and his girlfriend, Benedicte, and her friends Nicholas and Laure. Benedicte is a French cook like you would dream of. I salivate just thinking of the nibblies she so generously packed into us. Not to mention the libations...we ARE in France, after all! To top it all off, Bene provided us with a wheel of brie, this time, good and proper stuff. It has kept us going for days....Thanks, Bene!xo


With some not so stunning French on my part, and some english to keep Simon in the loop, we all had a spectacular time. We finished the night by wearing out our welcome at the bar accross the street, with the door locked and lights turned off (despite the drinking cuture it appears that they are very strict about closing time).


Ahhhhh....what and evening in Paris. But ahhhhhhhh. What a hangover in Paris! I spent some time appreciating our wee hotel room, while simon dragged himself about town and through the Catacombs. Perhaps just as well, as they sure seem creepy, and I've already told you how I feel about that...
Coming soon: Munich, followed by Prague!

Posted by psy2099 at 06:43 AM