New Blog!!

It has been quite a while since I have posted, and I am still not even close to finishing writing about our Turkish adventures, but I have actually been writing more than ever before to prepare for…. LAUNCHING A NEW BLOG!! Yup, something else I am going to ask (beg or plead really) for you to subscribe to so you can read up on our globe trotting.

I have been pouring so much time and energy into this new project and I am really excited to show off what I have been working on. I am back to working full time (ish), so I am still figuring out how to find motivation to write when I get home from a day of teaching, but I have written over 40 posts since August and I am getting better and better at busting them out. So far I have mostly been going back through old blogs and improving them (sometimes vastly). So for a while there will be no new countries featured, but most of the new blogs look nothing like their old counterparts, so I encourage you to re-read them.

I bought a real domain name (versus this free one through WordPress) and am learning how to edit photos and do all this tech-y stuff to make my blog look the way I want. We can now be found at howesintheworld.com. Notice the extra “s” after our name, the .com without the “s” was already taken.

How the site looks now is NOT how I want it to look, but I am learning more and more all the time so hopefully you will see some aesthetic changes in the near future. Thanks for sticking with us and I hope you enjoy the new blog!!

 

New website: http://howesintheworld.com/

Do-Over Anniversary

Things do not always go as planned. Sometimes you just need a do-over. Our anniversary was not so excellent, so we decided to have a do-over day, and it was awesome.

My last post was all about the travel woes of two twenty something travelers celebrating an anniversary. And then losing/breaking stuff and then fighting. This post is a lot shorter and a lot sweeter.

Recipe for a “Do-Over Anniversary”

  1. Wake up and decide your fight was dumb and get over it.
  2. Road trip with the car you are slightly overpaying for.
  3. Go out to a delicious dinner and order whatever you want. Even that second desert.

Turns out all we really needed for our anniversary was quality time together and delicious food.

Literally all we did was drive all around the island, stopping once and a while to take some photos and read on the beach.

Olive tree stop

Olive tree stop

Beach stop

Beach stop

Then we went to dinner at a restaurant in the smaller town of Pefkos called Tsambikos (which was, ironically, the name of the beach where I lost my phone and the rental car key got ruined).

We sat on a huge glass balcony overlooking the town of Pefkos and the ocean. We shared a carafe of local wine, gazpacho, and mussels.

View for Anniversary dinner

View for Anniversary dinner

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Logan got cuttlefish risotto and I got steak in seared truffle oil.

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We got crème brulee for desert. It was so delicious that we ordered a second one.

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This was the Greek anniversary we had hoped for.

(Un)Happy Anniversary!

­For being less than a quarter century old Logan and I go WAY back. Technically we probably met 1996 when we were in Kindergarten, but boys had cooties back then so needless to say we were not friends. For thirteen years we were classmates, and eventually friends, in our tiny 50-person graduation class. In 2009, right before high school graduation, we started dating and four years later we got married. We have spent over a quarter of our lives as a couple and that percentage grows with every passing year.

Graduation 2009!!

Graduation 2009!!

Our anniversary present to ourselves this year was hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, but we spent our actual anniversary on the Greek island of Rhodes, exploring, swimming, and, very unfortunately, fighting. Yep, the biggest fight we’ve had in a long time happened on our anniversary. While on vacation on a beautiful island. Such is marriage sometimes.

Rough place to spend an anniversary.

Rough place to spend an anniversary.

Rhodes is a pretty large island and since we had forgone visiting other Greek islands we decided to fork over the extra euros and rent a car for a few days. Activity numero uno on our anniversary was picking up our car and figuring out where we were headed first.

Rental car

Rental car

Stop one ended up being the Valley of the Butterflies, where thousands of Jersey tiger moths (yes, moths not butterflies) migrate to each year the island to reproduce. It’s their own personal love valley. Perfect for an anniversary visit. The number of moths reaches its peak in late May, so we were a bit late to observe the phenomena, but there were still some moths flying around and the valley itself is lovely. There are, however, TONS of tourists, which means a slow walk up the narrow-ish paths.

Valley of the Butterflies

Valley of the Butterflies

Stop two was Seven Springs, which looks a lot better on Google Images than it does in person. It was pretty, but honestly it looked just like any other stream in the woods, which there are a lot of in our home state of Colorado. Maybe we are just stream snobs?

Seven Springs

Seven Springs

After feeling underwhelmed by the Valley of the Butterflies and GREATLY underwhelmed by Seven Streams, we were beginning to wonder if we had simply run out of anniversary luck (how can you beat hot air ballooning in Cappadocia?). Hoping our fortunes would turn we headed to beautiful Tsambikos beach for an afternoon of seaside lounging.

Anniversary beach time!

Anniversary beach time!

After grabbing a quick lunch at one of the beach bars (we were saving our money and our calories for a multi course dinner) we headed as far down the stretch of sand as you can go to get away from the crowds and find a sliver of sand all our own. We spent hours swimming, reading, and relaxing on the beautiful beach, blissfully unaware of the nasty, rage filled nosedive our anniversary was about to take.

Happiness before the storm.

Happiness before the storm.

It all started when Logan realized that he had accidentally left the rental car key in his pocket when we went swimming. No big deal, right? Wrong. This is 2015 people and apparently we now put electronics in our car keys that, when destroyed, prevent you from actually driving the car. As in you CAN NOT start the car with a wet/ruined key. Why? Um… because we can? Really I suppose it is for extra security or something, but if you do anything to damage the key you may end up stranded at a beach in Greece in a fight with your spouse because losing/destroying valuables in the pocket of your swim trunks is actually a fairly common problem for you. Maybe that’s just Logan…

Anyway, I was not too happy about the whole car key thing, but that was really nothing compared to the fact that approximately 3 minutes after discovering the car key was broken I discovered that my iPhone was missing. Lost, stolen, whatever. Point is it was in my bag and then it wasn’t. Our cell service was suspended for the trip and there was a lock on it so it is unlikely that anyone could have accessed my information, but I had photos on there I’ll never get back and I was really not looking forward to replacing a $600 Verizon specific phone when we got home. Luckily I had been backing up my photos fairly regularly, so I was only missing the most recent shots.

 

One of the bars at the beach let us borrow their phone to call the rental company for help. Logan was taking care of getting us back on the road while I scoured everywhere I had been looking for my phone. By the time we were rescued (because we were in so much danger waiting on an idyllic beach) we were not really speaking. We were both just so frustrated and mad and annoyed with how our day had turned out.

So what did these two ultra mature married adults do to remedy this shitty situation? Why we got super drunk of course! Which led to yelling (me), and crying (also me), then some lovely puking (yeah, me again). Good times.

In the grand scheme of things underwhelming tourist destinations, broken rental car keys (which cost 75 euro to repair as opposed to 150 to replace) and lost iPhones are laughable reasons to get into a huge blowout. We are well aware of this fact. Maybe some other underlying issues we were having with travel and each other finally bubbled to the surface. I’m sure our anniversary being “ruined” (according to drunk Heather anyway) did not help. And even though the crappiness of the day felt insurmountable at the time we quickly got over it and woke up the next morning full of apologies and agreements to just let everything that had happened the day before go. It’s only money (and a few photos).

I am so lucky in so many ways, but getting to live my life with Logan is what I am most thankful for, fights and all. Traveling is not always easy, and I think traveling with a loved one can be even more difficult than going at it alone. We get to share magical and wonderful adventures, but we must also deal the ups and downs of any relationship while navigating the stress and confusion that accompanies being on the road (especially on a budget). But he is my family and I love him and I know that at the end of every drunken shouting match he will be there to hold my hair as I regretfully cradle the porcelain bowl. I am one lucky girl.

 

PHONE UPDATE

We are not in a position to drop $600 on a brand new phone and we are still a year away from our upgrade, so I ended up spending hours scouring Craigslist for an affordable phone. Unfortunately Verizon (the service we use) is the only service which requires you to buy phone specific to their company (meaning the thousands of unlocked iPhones available in San Diego we unavailable to moi). Something to do with dual antenna munbo jumbo. I briefly considered getting a different kind of phone, but I quickly remembered that I am one of the brainwashed masses than simply cannot live without an iPhone. Pathetic. I finally found one and promptly began overpaying for insurance on it.

Goodbye Turkey, Hello Greece!

Initially the plan for our “Greece and Turkey” trip was to split our time evenly between the two countries. After spending a couple weeks busing around Turkey the goal was to spend a couple weeks island hopping around Greece. Then we looked up ferry prices to the various islands. Wow-za! Greece is not an expensive country to visit, but the ferries between the islands cost more than our daily budget. At 30-60 euro EACH WAY (in high season, which is when we were visiting), we just couldn’t justify blowing our budget to get to different islands within the same country. Maybe options coming from Athens are more affordable, but coming from Turkey your options are pretty limited and are not very budget friendly.

The luxurious Greek Islands

The luxurious Greek Islands

So we switched gears a bit and decided to focus on one or two islands and travel the much cheaper and easily accessible Turkish coast instead. After a lot of research and adjusted expectations we settled on one island, Rhodes. Why Rhodes? Honestly, location. It is one of the easiest Greek islands to get to from Turkey and it is large enough that five days there didn’t feel excessive. There are beaches and good restaurants and wine and history.

Welcome to Greece!

Welcome to Greece!

We had hoped to take a ferry from Fethiye to the island but for a reason still unbeknownst to us all the ferries from the Turkish city to the Greek island were cancelled the week we were in the area, so we ended up having to backtrack a bit up the coast to Marmaris, spend an unplanned extra night in Turkey and get on an afternoon ferry the next day. We were joined by dozens of day-trippers who had taken the morning ferry over from Rhodes to spend one day in Turkey (because you can absorb SO MUCH CULTURE by shopping in a tourist market for a few hours).

Most of our five days on Rhodes were spent exploring the island by car, but we did spend our first night walking around very cute, but VERY touristy Rhodes Town. The medieval city is the oldest inhabited in all of Europe and despite being stuffed with shops and restaurants catering to the literal boatloads of tourists packing the streets there is a certain charm to the cobbled streets and centuries old architecture.

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town

Rhodes Town

Hello fellow tourists!!

Hello fellow tourists!!

We attempted to get away from the crowds and were rewarded with some romantic exploration of tourist free side streets.

Also Rhodes Town

Also Rhodes Town

Staying inside the medieval walls in Rhodes Town is pretty expensive (although we found a pretty okay deal for our one night there, only 40 euro), so we had booked an Airbnb in a town called Faliraki, which is one of the main party places on the island. Being the old married couple we are, we had no intention of parting and had chosen this spot solely based on the $28/ night room I had found. Plus there is a beach in Falaraki, which should be a given in picking a place to stay while on a Greek Island.

Our first full day on Rhodes was spent doing a whole lot of nothing at the beach in Falaraki. Some sun, some lunch, some swimming, some more sun, some reading, some dinner, some sleep. A vacation from vacation.

Ephesus

I love history. I love it so much that I chose to get my BA in the subject. I am the dork that binge watches The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents on Netflix. Six hours in one exhilarating afternoon. When I got a Kindle and gave away most of my books, 90% of the survivors are non-fiction historical anthologies or biographies. I love the drama and the personalities and way one decision can have a ripple effect that changes the whole outcome of the world. For me learning about history is like watching a reality show. Except that is it is, you know, reality.

My love of history is one reason why I like to travel so much. I love hearing about events that shaped the world from different perspectives. Any historian will tell you that history is not just a list of static facts, although history classes often present it that way. American perspective on World War II is obviously very different that Japanese perspective. I’m sure Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell would not agree on how exactly the founding of the Church of England came about (nah man, it was MY idea!).

All that being said, I have to admit that ancient history just doesn’t do much for me. And I am not really sure why. According to Wikipedia History of the World (which I am sure is SO accurate) my historical interest falls into what they are calling “modern history”, meaning history that happened after the middle ages. Basically 1500 to present day. With the notable exception of The Mongol Empire (Genghis Khan was a BADASS), history that occurred before the invention of the movable printing press just isn’t my jam.

But if you are in Sorrento, Italy, less than an hour away from Pompeii, do you skip it? Obviously not. If you are in Guatemala and you have access to the ruins at Tikal do you opt to pass on by in search of more “modern” runis? Haha, nope. So when our path in Turkey took us near the Greek ruins at Ephesus we had to take the opportunity to wander around the ancient city and take in a history that I am not very familiar with.

Terrible picture of Library at Ephesus

Library at Ephesus

Ephesus was once located along the Aegean Sea and was a very important port city for the various empires which controlled it during its long history (including Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires). Famous for the Temple of Artemis (which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) and an extremely complete and awe-inspiring library (well the façade of the building anyway), the ruins are a huge draw for tourists in this part of Turkey.

Terrace Houses

Terrace Houses

Ephesus is also important in the history of Christianity. Paul the Apostle lived there and wrote Corinthians in the city that was, at that time, a center of culture in the empire. There is even a legend that claims that Mary (Jesus’ mother herself) retired here with Saint John and there are tombs near Ephesus that bear their names.

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The harbor at Ephesus filled with silt so now the ruins sit inland a bit (8 kilometers). Many visitors come to the ruins via the cruise ship port at Kusadasi or from the larger town (with an airport) of Izmir. We chose to stay in Selcuk, the town closest to the ruins, which is surprisingly not touristy. We did get an audio guide for the site, which we usually do at ruins since the buildings are incomplete and it is often difficult to know what exactly you are looking at as you walk around. The Library of Celcus and the Terrace Houses (which you pay for separately) were the highlights of the visit. The gobs of other tourists was the lowlight.

Crowded Ephesus

Crowded Ephesus

So did visiting these ancient ruins wake up a passion for ancient Greek history? Nah. Ephesus is pretty cool, and I am really glad when went, but a few hours was plenty for us. Honestly, my favorite part of our day was returning to Selcuk and finding a local market winding through the cobbled side streets. We bought a huge sack of cherries, a few peaches, olives, and some fresh undies. I have only three lines written in my journal about Ephesus and seven lines written about shopping and wandering around the Selcuk market. Priorities.

Pamukkale: Beautiful or Bust?

Have you ever seen a picture of somewhere amazing looking and thought to yourself, “I bet tourists have ruined that by now”?

Are you for real?

Are you for real?

Unfortunately that is part of the reality of this super connected world we live in. Pristine beaches and far-flung temples that were untouched 50 years ago are rapidly becoming more and more accessible to hordes of travelers with unprecedented access to the world around them. It’s awesome and disheartening at the same time that there are so few places untouched by DSLR toting tourists wanting to experience different cultures and histories. Popular places are often popular because they are great. That is how they became so popular. But sometimes that popularity can ruin what made a place so special and unique in the first place.

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Pamukkale was a destination that looked too cool to still exist as seen in pictures on Pinterest. No way the beautiful white pools are really that color. No way you can soak in peace and solitude.

 

Pamukkale is a natural site in Turkey where mineral hot springs have flowed over the centuries, leaving behind carbonates and creating a super white, cotton ball looking hillside with natural pools. Visitors cannot actually swim in the naturally occurring pools, but you can sit in manmade versions with naturally occurring carbonate mud and mineral water. On top of the hillside is an ancient city called Hierapolis, and visitors can visit the ruins of the Byzantine City. There is one entrance fee for the pools and another for a mineral pool in the city of Hierapolis where you can swim amongst ancient columns.

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When we are faced with situations where we are unsure about whether or not to visit “can’t miss” places we always turn to one of our favorite travel friends, TripAdvisor. Like most popular places, TripAdvior had very mixed reviews on Pamukkale. “Awesome” some people claimed, “overrated” just as many reported.

So what did we think?

We honestly loved it.

We took an overnight bus from Goreme to the sizable town of Denizli, where we were allowed to check in super early in the morning (thank you Yildirim Hotel). After dropping our bags in our room we headed right back to the bus station (which was literally across the street from our hotel) and we able to get to Pamukkale early in the day. BEST DECISION WE MADE. When we arrived the beautiful white travertine’s looked like this:

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Empty.

 

This of course did not last long, but by the time the tourist buses began to pull up we were sitting comfortably in the Hierapolis pool. The entrance fee to this pool is pretty steep, but how often do you get to swim in a pool with ancient Roman columns while surrounded but huge Russians with their beautiful skinny wives and rambunctious kids? The water in the pool at Hierapolis is crystal clear and warm.

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Technically you are only supposed to stay in the pool for two hours, but I’m pretty sure we stayed a lot longer than that. I’m not sure how they would check something like that…

Maybe too long?

Maybe too long?

After our long soak in the Hierapolis pool we decided to go back down to the natural pools to people watch and soak a bit longer. We tried to sneak photos of the women we saw posing for ridiculous Facebook profile picture shots, but our creepin’ skills were not quite up to snuff.

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Creepy photo #1

Creepy photo #2

Creepy photo #2

Before heading out I made sure to give myself a nice relaxing mud bath, which the kids hanging out in our pool thought was pretty hilarious.

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TripAdvisor warns of a high entrance fee, tons of tourists, hard, slightly painful rock, which you must traverse barefoot, and an unnatural feeling that accompanies the manmade pools where you are actually allowed to swim. This is all true. But Pamukkale is beautiful and unique and like nowhere else we have ever been. And we loved it.

Yeah, We Don’t DO Hiking

We don’t hike. We like to walk, we like to explore, we love to camp. But hiking? Nope. Basically never. We both grew up in families where the outdoor lifestyle is highly valued, and while some of those values stuck (like camping and visiting National Parks), neither of us appear to have inherited the hiking gene. One or two miles is fine, but I could probably count on one hand the amount of times in my adult life where I walked farther than that with the sole purpose of going on a hike (versus for sightseeing purposes).

Many of our favorite destinations would have been made even more amazing if we had any desire what-so-ever to pull on some hiking boots (which neither of us have owned since we were kids) and hit the trails. Nine weeks in Central America and how many volcanoes did we climb? That’s right, zero. Long weekend in Yellowstone? One hike in four days. The number one thing to do in our college town is to hike “the Flatirons”. I lived less than an hour from the trailhead for 22 years, but have I been to the top? Nope. Never even thought about it.

Here is a picture of a volcano we never even considered hiking,

Here is a picture of a volcano we never even considered hiking,

So, based on our history we were unsure about how to tackle the amazing landscape of Cappadocia. Do we rent a car? A motorcycle? A guide? Or do we suck it up, save tons of money, and really experience our surroundings by taking, yep, you guessed it, a hike?

Guess what? We hiked!

WOO HOO! Hiking!!

WOO HOO! Hiking!!

The owner of our hotel offered to drive us to the nearby town of Cavusin to start on a loop that would take us through the Rose Valley and Red Valley and then back down to Goreme. We were told that this loop was about ten miles, so after our hot air balloon adventure we took a nap, loaded up our bags with water, and prepared for the longest hike we had taken a couple years.

Cavasuin

Cavusin

Cavusin itself looked like a really fun town to explore, but we were burning daylight so we headed out of town and down into the Rose Valley.

Goodbye Cavasun

Goodbye Cavusin!

Our hike was INTENSE. We had a hand drawn map from our hotel that was basically useless so we spent the whole day guessing which way we were supposed to go. I’m pretty sure we ended up taking the most difficult path through the valleys, but it made the experience even more adventurous.

Part of the trail?

Part of the trail?

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Random staircase.

Random staircase.

See that rope? We had to climb that to get out of the valley.

See that rope? We had to climb that to get out of the valley.

So are we converted? Are long mountain treks in our future? Um…. No. Probably not. But we did have a really great day hiking the Rose and Red Valley’s and maybe we will not be so quick to dismiss hiking opportunities in the future.