Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Whiter shade of pale...

On the road again, through the countryside of Turkey, Ersan noticed my giving roadside strawberry stands a longing look, and being a bit of an enabler, he pulled over so we could pick up more strawberries...a "snack for the kids", of course.

The berries in the boxes were perfectly fat and gorgeous and smelled of summertime. I bought about 2 pounds and we set off again on the road, intending to wash and eat them later, sparing the van's upholstery in the process.

We also stopped in a small town and drove (and drove and drove) around looking for a place to eat lunch. Finally we settled on a little neighborhood place and devoured what Ersan enthusiastically described to us as "traditional home cooking".

I couldn't tell you the name of any of the dishes we ate...but it was one of the better meals we've ever had. Spicy and saucy, textures and flavors complimenting each other perfectly. Not a word of English spoken in there, except by us to each other. That qualified as a great experience abroad.

When planning this leg of our trip, Colleen had one request; that we should go out to see the "cotton castle" known as Pamukkale. So, there we went. If you look at any brochure of Turkey, it's a, if not the top destination, up there with Cappadocia and Istanbul.

Looks like a glacier, doesn't it? But that, my friends, is not snow.

It's rock. Hot spring waters which contain tons of calcium flow from the mountain. As the water cools the calcium precipitates out and is deposited along the hillside, creating the beautiful white formations known as travertines. The mineral waters are thought to have curative powers, and from the Romans of old on, the area has been a spa destination.

Which means, of course, that there are Roman ruins there too. Of course there are! They're everywhere!

This was the city of Hierapolis, built around a sacred pool that even today you can swim in, for an additional fee, among the scattered marble columns of yesteryear. Sadly, now it is more than a bit commercial, and we contented ourselves with wandering around the ruins and then, gingerly over the sometimes rough, sometimes slippery surface, in our bare feet, (shoes being banned upon the actual white travertine), wading in the warm, chanelled waters up to our ankles,

or in Thomas' case:

Now, here I have a confession. I seem to be throwing them out at an appalling rate these days, but nothing hellworthy, so I guess that's OK. Here it is:

When I take (and subsequently put on the blog) photos, I am almost always looking for a shot like this:

Look, empty and beautiful. We had the place all to ourselves, right?

Occasionally there will be a few stray tourists in the background, but you barely even notice them and I will use the shot anyway, deeming it important to establish who when what why how or something humorous or meaningful to the story.

Bethy photographing Colleen and Pat, Mike looking on

But the truth is, the wading pools at Pamukkale were packed. And while I might take a crowd photo on the rare occasion if that's the point of the place, I would rather poke myself in the eye with a pencil than make you look at a photo of a a bunch of less-then-fully-clad tourists, most of whom were wobbling and trying not to fall along the wet pathway and in the pools.

So now you know my dirty secret. I spend a good amount of my time waiting for that split second when there is a clear shot between people, and planning creative cropping.

Forgive me.

This is not to say that being at Pamukkale wasn't fun. Someone took a header, hopefully not a painful one, on a pretty regular basis, and the security folks had their hands full keeping people away from the edge (and that, my friends, would not have been a survivable fall!) and from wearing shoes on the travertine. There was the male or female rare eye candy cavorting along, and, amusingly, fellows trying to sneakily (and a bit creepily) snap photos of the bikini clad girls.

Also in the entertainment department were lots of tadpoles in various stages of becoming frog in the pools for us to catch.

Now able to check off the "been there, done that" box, we hiked back out,

some of us more reluctantly than others. Back near the parking lot are the inevitable stands to buy postcards, and the thing to buy at Pamukkale is a travertine pipe with the bowl carved into the shape of a Romanesque face, usually a bearded god.

As they fell into the "have absoloutely no use for that whatsoever" category, we managed to resist buying one, somehow.

Time to eat the strawberries, washed with bottled water. But what were these? The beautiful fat berries on the roadside display were not the ones that had gone into the bag. The ones in the bag were small and kind of squishy, just this side of being suitable only to be made into jam. The kids ate most of them anyway, but Ersan was mad.

"We will go back and teach them a lesson!" He declared. "They did not expect us to come back this way, but we will and I will make them replace these strawberries."

And that's exactly what he did. Many miles later he parked the van, saying again "I am not usually this stubborn, but..." while we giggled. He strode purposefully across the street to the roadside stand and with much gesticulating, saying who knows what in Turkish and pointing to the berries that not even the kids would eat, he energed after a few minutes beaming and triumphant with another bag of berries.

I was really nervous that the produce sellers would see Colleen taking photographs of the proceedings, feel humiliated and take it out on Ersan in a Jerry Springer Show sort of encounter. Rumble at the Turkish Strawberry Stand. Great. Consequently I got in trouble with Colleen for hissing at her one too many times and with increasing volume and frequency to put the camera away, for God's sake! -trouble which I undoubtedly deserved. Fortunately she is a forgiving sort and could see that I at least meant well.

Our last adventure of the day was at McDonalds. Yes, we caved under the pressure of those golden arches.

I guessed the lower sign said "billions served" but actually it says "car service': drive thru.

Rarely seen in that neck of the woods, (in Cappadocia, I had said something about how we were from Seattle, where Starbucks coffee is from, and our guide Eda said she'd never heard of Starbucks!) McDonalds was a nice treat for the kids, and especially for Pat, who had been good natured about trying all the strange Turkish foods but really plowed though some good old-fashioned American fast food when we got our order.

The kids had fries and nuggets, (happiness magnitude scale of about 8.7,) took off their shoes and had a good hard play in the kid area. I managed to order hot fudge sundaes all by myself (the Turkish for chocolate is ├žikolata, this I could remember).

The kids were so pooped out we carried them back to the van. Young boys who had just been rooting in the dumpster tried to sell us packets of tissues as we approached. Ersan swore that they were only going for the pity factor with the dumpster bit and shooed them, even as they pressed the tissues to the windows and begged, keeping pace as we tried to drive away.

They probably got something out of us though. When we got back to our cottages, we realised we'd left Bethy and Thomas' shoes at McDonalds. Down to one pair apiece.

Whoops. Ah well, a small price to pay for a full day.

And I kind of like the idea of their shoes being worn there, making some Turkish kids happy.


Mumsey said...

Beware those Rainier Cherry sellers in the Pacific Northwest, too. $5.00 a pound and they molded very quickly. Eeugh. I was tempted to go back myself so cheers to Ersan.
Beautiful photos. Glad you aren't paparazzi

Mom2ABJ said...

Ersan is my idol. Some day, I will have to tell you of how my hubby got all of us all the dessert we could eat at Outback Steakhouse in Festival City! maybe an irate Arab man is all it takes! ;)

AKBrady said...

Yeah, but those pictures look sooo good without people in them. ha.
Sun looks fab, compared to our dreary Alaskan summer. Blech.

*Paula* said...

I'm cracking up at your confession -- I have wondered I might add! Sorry about the shoes. :)