By , February 3, 2013 8:00 am

Myra was an ancient town in Lycia. Today what remains is the impressive rock-cut-tomb necropolis and the equally impressive Roman theatre. The site is compact, but has some of the most impressive rock carvings we’ve seen in Turkey. Very detailed and clear. Entrance is 15 Lira ($7.50 CAD) per person.

Myra was also the home of Saint Nicholas, who was the bishop of Myra in the 4th century AD, and later went on to become known as the jolly fat fellow, who lives in the North Pole and delivers presents to all the good boys and girls once a year. If you believe that sort of thing.

Despite being in a predominantly Muslim country, the town of Demre (the modern name of the modern city surrounding the ruins of Myra) knows a tourist attraction when it sees one. For 15 Lira ($7.50 CAD) you can visit the church of Saint Nicholas. Something we didn’t do. I know it’s old and religiously significant and all, but we’re just churched out. As in we’ve seen a lot of churches since we left home, and we really don’t care if we see another one. The church is just the start of it. The town has erected several statues, restaurants, and shopping centers in his honor. If you have time, I found this writeup on the four different Santa Clauses of Demre interesting. You may too.

Anyways, Christmas has come and gone and so has Santa’s time in this post. Without further adieu I give you photos from our walk through the Myra ruin site.

The Famous Necropolis

The Necropolis

The Necropolis

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Rock Carvings

Rock Carvings

Rock Carvings

Rock Carvings

By , January 30, 2013 8:16 am

After reading through our 4 part journal of the Lycian Way and some of the comments we received (thank you by the way, we love comments), it became apparent that our description of the long distance trail may have sounded… well… um… rather unpleasant. And that worried us, because that’s entirely the wrong impression. To clarify, here’s the message we wanted you to take home.

All together, we loved our time on the Lycian Way. The scenery was stunning, the people were amazing and we had a huge sense of accomplishment each and every day. We took home a tonne of stories as evidenced by our 4 part journal, enjoyed beautiful campsites, shared bread and cheese with the friendliest of people despite lacking a common language, became attached to our canine companion Mayhem, saw impressive ruins of ancient cities, and so much more.

Had the nights not become too cold for us, we would have completed the trek. They did though, and we chose to stop early. Now we really do want to go back and finish it, and maybe even attempt some of the other long distance trails that Turkey has to offer.

Our private clifftop sunset

So why did it sound so bad in our journal? Well, I guess the stories of wild pigs in the night, getting lost multiple times, and the added pains of the flu and headaches are the ones we thought were the most entertaining. They are the stories we tend to tell when were swapping stories with newly met friends.

I suppose we could have taken the time to write a paragraph on every amazing vista, the refreshing taste of fresh spring water sampled from the stream on its way down the mountain, the peaceful breaks we took under olive trees and ancient fruit orchards hidden in majestic hills, and all of the not-so difficult parts of the trail we walked while completely healthy and in good spirits. Had we done that our journal could easily have tripled or quadrupled in size. But that wouldn’t be good storytelling.

If you were thinking about doing the Lycian Way yourself I really hope that we’ve inspired you to do it. It’s an amazing experience, just don’t go into it thinking it’ll be a walk in the park. It’s not, but the challenge is half of the fun.

P.S.  There are oodles of options to walk the Lycian Way.  If schlepping about with heavy backpacks like we did isn’t your cup of tea, you can walk many parts of it as a series of daytrips carrying only water and some snacks.  Another option would be to bring your clothes but leave the tent at home and plan your route to stay in pansions(guest houses) every night.

Hiking on the edge of the world

By , January 3, 2013 12:22 pm

The landscape in Cappadocia is out of this world. Today, the remains of 700 and some odd churches, 40 underground cities, and many more rock cut dwellings are scattered throughout Cappadocia. In the middle of all this is the town of Göreme, catering to tourists, where we spent the better part of a week.

These rock dwellings, churches, underground cities, and monasteries remained in use right up until 1922 where Greece and Turkey had a population exchange, and the last of the Christian Greeks were removed from the area.

The Open Air Museum

The Open Air Museum is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is a monastery site full of churches from the 10th to 12th centuries. This is “the” thing to do in Cappadocia, and tonnes of buses arrived at the open air museum daily. We spent the better part of an afternoon walking through it for 15 Lira ($7.50 CAD) each. Not included in the ticket price is admission to the Dark Church which costs an additional 8 Lira ($4 CAD). We didn’t see it. Mostly because of the additional charge, but also because we had already seen so many rock cut churches by the time we got there…

We took the unusual move of purchasing the audio tour at the gate for 10 Lira ($5 CAD). That was a mistake. While the tour went into great detail on what was depicted on the frescoes found in each of the churches, something that I’m sure would be of great interest to a religious practitioner or scholar, it frankly was not interesting to me. I had hoped for more information on the method used to carve the churches, when they were occupied, a description of what daily life would have entailed, etc. Unfortunately none of this information was included. What’s worse, most of the information provided in the audio tour was written on the placards which could be read for free.

The churches themselves were quite something to see. A lot of the artwork is still intact. We snuck a few photos, but not many. Photography was prohibited in pretty much all of the churches that had something to take a photo of. There was also a viewing time limit on many of the churches. I’m sure this is to facilitate the continuous flow of tour buses arriving. Naturally each bus formed into a tour group of 50 or so people, large enough to completely fill any of enclosed church spaces. As individuals, we had to be on our toes to manoeuvre between all of the guided tour groups to get in and see something.

All in all, it’s worth seeing. Especially if you are into religious art history.

Walking Around On Your Own

This was more my kind of thing. Surrounding Göreme are several valleys each loaded with their own unique sets of rock formations and rock carved spaces. They are free, and small enough that you can start and finish the day of walking at your hotel. No need to hire transportation. Surprisingly, for all the tourists that go to the Open Air Museum, almost nobody walks around in the free parts. We spent a few days hiking through Rose Valley and Love Valley, and can count the number of other tourists we encountered without having to take off our socks.

There are trail maps available for the nearby valleys, and the trails are marked. However, in our experience, the markings are deliberately falsified to ensure you walk past the coffee shops and miss the trails you are actually looking for. In some places, where the signs have not been filled with false information, or turned to point the wrong way, markers were simply missing, or partly destroyed like this one.

Typical Waymarkers

The best thing to do is leave yourself plenty of time to get in and plenty to get out. You’ll get lost, but the area is small enough that you’ll also find your way back out again before too long. Just don’t rely on the maps or way-markers. Don’t worry about bringing emergency trail rations either. There are plenty of places to buy nuts and figs from the many vendors who setup shop along the trails.

Love Valley. I have no idea why they call it that…

Rose/Red Valley

Rose/Red Valley

Rose/Red Valley

Exploring a Pigeon House

By , December 22, 2012 1:54 pm

Mosques are everywhere in Turkey (at least the parts we visited). They are not all old either. We saw several still under construction which surprised me. Coming from the prairie lands of Canada, where religion is more or less fading out of the social fabric, I was quite shocked to see how important it still is to people here in Turkey.

Mosques remind me a lot of the orthodox churches we were seeing in Bulgaria, without the inside frescoes but with the addition of carpet. I suspect that’s partly to do with the fact that many of the original mosques were made by converting old Christian churches. They tend to be a large open spaces covered by a dome roof. Outside there is a courtyard, complete with hand/face/foot washing stations and of course, a minaret or two.

All the mosques were free to enter, but you need to be dressed appropriately. That means wearing pants and shirts with sleeves. Women also need to cover their heads (scarfs supplied at the mosques popular with tourists). Last but not least, it is essential that any footwear is removed before entering.

Another interesting feature of the mosques are the loudspeakers mounted on top of the minarets. Five times a day, beginning at around 5:00 AM and finishing up around 6:00pm [These times are approximate, and vary with the time of sunrise (or at least that’s my understanding)], the call to prayer is sung. It’s performed live at each mosque, and is belted out at volumes so high, that we could usually hear two to three different mosques at one time. I actually really grew to like the sound of the call to prayer. There’s something majestic about the heartfelt melodies. I’m not sure what it was, but they somehow moved me every time I heard them, and that was nice.

However, if you are planning to visit a mosque, prayer times are best avoided. Many of the mosques popular among tourists close their doors to visitors during prayer time, and those that don’t do not allow photographs while prayer is in session.


Blue Mosque


Blue Mosque


Blue Mosque


Nusretiye Mosque


Rustem Pasa Mosque


Fatih Camii


Fatih Camii


Mosques at sunset


By , December 16, 2012 2:29 am

This is the closest we came to a Halloween atmosphere in Istanbul. It was October 31st, and we heard not screams of trick-or-treat. Candied apples, popcorn balls, and hay bales set ablaze were in absence too. No rotten eggs, tossed rolls of toilet paper, nor roving gangs of children. It’s not surprising really, as all of those traditional memories of my childhood Halloweens in Canada don’t really exist in this modern age back home either, so it would be unfair to expect them in a country like Turkey where Halloween is more or less unheard of in its entirety.

But there was the Basilica Cistern. It was constructed in the 6th Century AD to collect water transferred from the Belgrade forest 19km away. The Cistern covers an area of 9,800 m2 and is supported by 336 9-meter high marble columns. It’s dark, dank, gloomy, and especially suited to a Halloween visit. Of course there was a fee that needed to be paid. In this case 10 lira per person ($6 CAD).

One of the two famous Medusa carvings

By , December 3, 2012 12:52 pm

Turkey is different from Western European and North American countries in a lot of ways. That’s why it’s been so fun for us to visit. Here’s just three examples from Istanbul of how we were treated to a level of hospitality far greater than what we’ve grown to expect more westernized places.

1. The Bookstore

We came to Turkey wanting to walk the Lycian Way, but we knew little to nothing about it. Naturally we were quite intent on finding a guidebook and reading up on what to expect a little before we got started. For most of one morning, Ashley and I strolled through the outdoor stores, and several English bookstores looking for an English copy of the guidebook. We weren’t having any luck.

Sometime around 12:00 pm we wandered into a small store located down a flight of stairs on a side street just off Istiklal Caddesi. At a quick glance we could tell that this was actually a Turkish Bookshop, not an English one. We were about to back ourselves up the stairs when the owner piped up and asked if he could help us. We explained what we were looking for, and he informed us that he didn’t have it. Then he made us an offer. He said that he would speak to all of the other bookstore owners who were his friends and find us a copy of the book if we would come back in 6 hours to purchase it. It seemed like a good deal, so we thanked him and said we’d be back.

Six hours later we returned to the same underground bookstore. The population of the store had increased slightly from earlier in the day. A small crowd of men were gathered around the desk. Some were in chairs, some were standing. All were involved in a discussion that neither of us could understand. There in the middle of it all was our man. The moment he saw us we could tell – by his expression and the way he started to blame everyone in the room – that he had forgotten all about our book.

He quickly apologized and offered us some tea. We began to tell them a bit about ourselves, and they told us a bit about themselves. When our tea was done our host asked if we wanted another. We politely declined at which time he responded by serving us coffee and stating, “I could tell your no was really a yes.”

At some point, the discussion turned towards street food and our host asked, “Are you hungry now?” By this time it was already 8:00 and we were a bit famished. He sent one of the other men out to the corner shop to bring back some traditional Turkish food for everyone, or so we assumed.

When the food arrived, we saw that they had only bought enough for us. Chickpeas and rice, bread, a tomato and bean soup, and a salty cucumber yogurt drink. After serving us, everyone got up and left so they wouldn’t be staring at us while we ate our meal.

“Now we just need to serve you a Turkish Coffee, and our mission will be complete.”

Before parting ways some 5 hours after arriving, we had learned a great deal about Turkey and what it’s like to live there. We had a tea, coffee, a meal, and a Turkish coffee all for free. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and were told that if we had any trouble, or needed anything while we were in Istanbul, we should not hesitate to give get a hold of them. Considering we didn’t spend a penny, I’d say that was some darn good hospitality.

2. A Man on the Asia Side

We took the ferry across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Turkey. After stepping off the ferry, we unfurled our map to get a bearing on where we were. Then we heard the all too familiar “Excuse me, Excuse me,” from what we assumed to be a crafty undercover salesman. You know the kind. First they make small talk, ask you where you’re from, then tell you about some store or tour you absolutely have to see.

But what he said next shocked us, “Can I help you with anything?” That was it. He genuinely just wanted to help us out. He had nothing to sell us, and was only being kind. He helped us figure out where we were, and gave us some tips on what we could see nearby.

3. Fast Food Bathroom Attendant

Here’s one of our dirty little secrets. In both Central America and Europe, public bathrooms generally cost money. Washrooms at fast food chains however are generally free for paying customers. We however have no scruples against sneaking into a chain restaurant’s bathroom and sneaking out without spending a dime. But it doesn’t always work. If you get caught, you are either denied entrance to the bathroom or forced to make a purchase.

It looked like things were headed that way for us when Ashley was stopped by one of the employees on the second floor of a fast food doner shop. He knew that we weren’t customers, and we knew that he knew. The moment was tense for just a split second until finally he said, “Toilet. Upstairs,”  and pointed us to the stairs.  We did our business and left. No questions asked.

These are just a few examples of the different hospitality we’ve noticed in Turkey that we have not seen anywhere else. The Turkish people are doing a very good job making us like them and their country.

By , November 22, 2012 8:08 am

This post is about long distance overland travel; part of our healthy, road weary diet. Sure, we could always hop on a plane, but that’s just not cost effective. After 500 and some days on the road, we’ve come to realize that when it takes 9 hours or more to get from point A to point B night travel is the way to go. Our rational should be obvious. We save on a nigh’ts accommodation,and, as an added bonus, we arrive at our destination in the morning. Always preferable to arriving somewhere unfamiliar late in the evening.


Trains are the king of overnight travel. Spend the couple of extra dollars (literally) and make sure you get yourself a bed. We took the overnight train between Belgrade, Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria. It was bliss. We were given a shared berth with 6 beds. We lucked out and ended up with 4 English speaking teachers. We stayed up late drinking wine (which you are allowed to bring on the train with you),comparing travel tales and talking about the differences and similarities between the North American and European educational systems. Ashley was a high school math teacher before we left home, so she was right at home with the topic.

The beds were actually quite comfortable. Surprisingly they were even long enough for me to stretch out on, and I’m 6′ 1″. That’s more than I can say for half the dorm beds I slept in in Spain. The room was well ventilated, and the train was way smoother starting, stopping, and switching cars than I could have imagined. I slept like a baby and didn’t get up until 6:00 AM when we went through the Bulgarian border crossing. We didn’t even have to leave our room, the border guard came right to our door, stamped our passports, and wished us a good night’s sleep. A few hours later we arrived in Sofia well rested and in good spirits.

The room

I fit!

Some nice scenery before falling asleep.

About to arrive in Sofia


In Central America, overnight buses were always 1st class buses. The seats reclined slightly, but were still uncomfortable. The A/C was blasted so high that despite the fact that the ambient temperature outside was almost 30°C, wearing long pants, a sweater, and a fleece jacket was a requirement. The good news is that once we left the bus terminal, the lights went out and the bus didn’t stop again until morning. So we had a chance to try and sleep.

In Eastern Europe, the buses are a bit fancier. There’s usually a TV in the back of every seat, and most of them have wi-fi on board. Surprisingly, night time tea and coffee service seems to be the norm. The bathrooms onboard don’t seem to work, so the bus stops every couple of hours to let people out at a rest station where they can pay for the privilege of relieving that midnight coffee. It seems the idea is not to sleep on these overnight buses. I don’t really understand that.

Either way, all the overnight buses we’ve taken have one thing in common. They are incredibly uncomfortable, you don’t sleep, and you arrive worn out and exhausted. If you are debating between the two, trains win every time.

Night Bus to Antalya