Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Travel Diary: Turkey’

9 years, 9 stories: Travel, music, and world domination

September 27, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Music, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling, World Domination Update No Comments →

From 2013: Turkey Travel Diary, featuring some of the handsomest cats we’ve ever seen


From 2008: Sad, Sadder, Saddest, in which we wound up at a “Lost 80s” concert.

Either all the ticket-holders had already gone inside, or they were all late, because there were no queues of any sort. Ernie went up to some people standing by the flower beds and asked them if they needed tickets.

Sad: They all said, “Hindi kami manonood niyan (We’re not watching that),” with matching expressions of loathing.
Sadder: A woman glared at Ernie and said, “I already have tickets.” What she meant was, “Extra tickets to an 80s concert is a problem I don’t need.”
Saddest: Later, Grungella realized that they probably mistook Ernie for a scalper.
Positively funereal: Being mistaken for a scalper to A Flock Of Seagulls show.
Lugubrious: They literally could not give the tickets away!

World Domination
From 2012: Let’s Buy Spain. We can afford it, it would be our revenge for three centuries of colonial oppression, and we can call them our muchachos and muchachas.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 9: Going home, plotting return trip

March 13, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 25 Comments →

1. breakfast9
Last full day in Turkey. Went down to the breakfast buffet and made up a plate of sauteed mushrooms, potato croquettes, sausages and a Spanish omelet. The usual yogurt, this time with fig jam. And two coffees, one of which is a double espresso so that’s three cups.

2. gygesmorning
Gyges was already waiting by the door for his morning toll. As he was eating a quarter of my breakfast one of the staff came out and gave him more food. That cat is the lord of the hotel.

3. more chimneys
Had another look at the fairy chimneys.

3. fairy chimneys
Rorschach test: What do you see?

At the roadside stalls I bought trinkets for me and my sister. I may have overpaid, but I think of it as supporting the unofficial economy. Then again maybe the purple agate ring (if it’s real agate) has magical powers.

4. uranos
Lunch was at a local restaurant called Uranos Sarikaya. It’s in a cave, and it features musicians with traditional instruments and folk dancing. (Kind of like Josephine’s. Do they still have folk dancers?)

5. uranos2
We had a choice of shish kebab (skewered) or pottery kebab (cooked in a pot), then baklava or figgy pudding for dessert. Best meal of the trip.

6. forum
Our last stop was the Forum mall. The end of season sales were on, and it took great strength of will not to incur excess baggage charges. I checked out the supermarket for cat treats. Same assortment available in Makati groceries, but CHEAPER. That bag of Whiskas costs Php270 at my neighborhood supermarket but only Php157 in Turkey. Their canned catfood costs more though. (And their shampoos, way less.)

A liter of the ubiquitous lemon cologne, which the Turkish use the way we do hand sanitizer gel, goes for Php270. And I bought tubes of olive oil cream for Php31 each.

7. cafe
I had time for a coffee, which I took at an outdoor table. Tomorrow I’m back in the tropics. I’m going to miss the cold.

Back at the hotel, Gyges met me at the bus to collect his evening toll. As we were leaving for the airport this other cat showed up to say goodbye.

She’s the mirror image of the cat I saw at the Hippodrome in Istanbul.

* * * * *

And that was my tour of Turkey. I’m home with my cats, who huddle around my pillow—either they miss me or are trying to suffocate me.

mat and doll
Mat with the rag doll I bought from a little old lady by the tree of evil eyes. Baka puedeng pangkulam.

I’m already planning my return trip to Turkey—I spent way too little time in Istanbul, and I need to visit Troy and Trebizond. Tell you what—if we can assemble a group of 12 or more, let’s all go in the fall (or next year). Field trip! We’ll drink too much coffee, try every flavor of tea, visit bookstores, geek out on the ancient sites, go shopping and have too many desserts. I’ll post costs later (USD2900 should cover the whole shebang, but we can probably bring it down. Will get official best rates).

* * * * *

For inquiries on flights, call Turkish Airlines at (02)864 0600; 864 0801 to 05 loc. 208. For inquiries on tours, call Meteor Philippines at 687 1743; 986 5137. Tell them you got the information from this site, thanks.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 8: Rocks, Arts, Crafts

March 12, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Design, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 9 Comments →

1. breakfast 8
Some of the people in the tour group went for a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia. Pickup time was 0500, no thank you. I decided to laze around my hotel room and order room service. The menu promised a big Turkish breakfast.

That is not my idea of a big breakfast. A big breakfast is sinangag, beef tapa or longganisa, two eggs sunny side up, atchara, orange juice and a pot of coffee. Or a stack of pancakes with maple syrup, crispy bacon, two eggs, orange juice and a pot of coffee. Not this with one little cup of coffee that I finished even before the tray hit the table. And no water. I had to send for another cup of coffee, and a liter of water.

2. morning toll
“You shall not pass.” The hotel cat demanded the toll. I gave him the white cheese from breakfast.

3. evil eyes
We stopped to take pictures in front of the strange rock formations called “fairy chimneys”. A vendor had ornamented this tree with evil eyes, amulets to ward off bad luck.

I had warned the trip organizers that I cannot be counted on for group photos, or photos in general. Lucky I did, because I was traveling with extremely enthusiastic takers of pictures. The trick is to vanish before they pick a view.

4. carpet coop
Next: a cooperative that produces beautiful Turkish carpets. I know a little about carpets, having attended the carpet auctions of my friend’s NGO In Touch. The In Touch auctions feature carpets from Iran, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey. The manager of this coop said Persian and Turkish carpets were the finest in the world. He took us on a tour of the facilities,

5. silk pupae
and showed us the process by which the pupae of the silkworms are turned into silk thread. See those white things in the container? Those are cocoons. The room smelled like food.

6. coffee and raki
Before they brought out the carpets in the showroom they offered us drinks. I had Turkish coffee and raki, the local alcoholic spirit they call lion’s milk. It’s clear like vodka, with a 45 percent alcohol content. When water is added it turns milky white. Alternate sips of thick Turkish coffee (no sugar) with raki, and you can feel sobriety and intoxication dueling in your head.

7. carpets
According to the jocular manager, these carpets fly. To activate, sit in the center of the carpet, close your eyes and say the magic words: “American Express Visa Mastercard.”

Important information for people who live with cats: To dissuade your cat from destroying your beautiful, expensive carpet, sprinkle a bit of black pepper on the surface.

If you buy a carpet at this coop, they’ll take care of all freight charges, including whatever taxes are imposed at the destination. Delivery takes 4 to 6 weeks. Prices depend on materials (wool, silk) and size (mousepad to massive).

9. goreme
At Goreme we saw more fairy chimneys, and churches hollowed out of the soft volcanic rock.

10. frescoes
Inside the rock churches are Byzantine frescoes, many of them undergoing restoration. The churches are tiny and dark. Visitors are not allowed to take photos of the paintings, as I discovered after I’d already snapped these. (This Xperia phone is brilliant, best camera I’ve ever had.)

11. frescoes
Painting of a hermaphrodite saint. Medieval Christian tradition is full of wacky legends of saints. There’s Uncumber, a girl whose father planned to marry her off to a pagan. She had no intention of marrying, as she had already taken a vow of virginity. So she prayed that she be made ugly, and the next day she woke up with a full beard. Her betrothed ended their engagement instantly—apparently they’d never heard of shaving. Uncumber’s furious father had her crucified. They went for overreaction in those days. After her death she became a patron saint of women who wished to be disencumbered of their lousy husbands.

Simpler to get a divorce, no?

12. demo
We had lunch in the town of Avanos, which is famous for its earthenware pottery. The residents of Avanos have been making ceramics out of the silt of the Red River since the Hittite period.

This is the Guray pottery workshop, literally a cave. Check out the dish. The one he’s holding up to show how their ceramics are produced. Everything in this factory is handmade and hand-painted, and it’s an exacting process. One mistake and the piece is ruined.

13. not ghost
The master potter at work on the most difficult form, a Hittite wine jug. He’s smiling, but it’s intense. It has to be perfectly round and hollow, like a big doughnut.

I wanted to post a sign: Anyone who reenacts that scene from Ghost will be shot. (See the Community episode.)

16. hittite drinking vessels
Hittite drinking vessels. Your arm goes into the round section so you wear it like a shoulder bag. Easier to pour. Hard to make.

14. ottoman
This I coveted: a plate with an Ottoman design. The designs are raised; you can read them like Braille. And it glows in the dark. Price: About 1,000 Turkish lira, or Php22,540. Oops, not sure about the price, their website says $2700.

17. art
The factory also produces contemporary designs, such as these pieces by a modern artist. Too beautiful to eat or drink from.

18. jewelry
Last shopping stop (for the day): a jewelry workshop and showroom. Gorgeous, and affordable enough if you’re into real gems (which I’m not).

19. evening toll
Back at the hotel, the cat demanded his evening toll. I don’t know what his official name is, but I’ve taken to calling him Gyges.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 7: To another planet, by land

March 11, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Cats, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 7 Comments →

1. breakfast
The daily breakfast of yogurt with honey and black coffee, plus cereal. Of course the buffet at the Ozkaymak Hotel in Konya offered other choices, but this is the only food I can ingest so early in the morning. Aaaaaa morning sunlight. Never had so much vitamin D, and I live in the tropics.

2. mevlana
First stop: the Mevlana Museum, shrine to the 13th century Persian poet and mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, known throughout the world as Rumi. (In his lifetime part of Turkey was under the Seljuk Sultanate.) Rumi advocated absolute tolerance and positive reasoning, qualities we tend not to associate with religion today.

3. dervishes
No photography is allowed inside the main building, but the outer rooms display artifacts from the daily lives of Sufi mystics, including the Whirling Dervishes.

Rumi said: “Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.”

4. caravanserai
Outside Konya is the Sultanhani Caravanserai. A caravanserai is an inn for traveling groups and their horses, camels, donkeys, (caged) lions, livestock and assorted baggage. Note the very high clearance—if you’re traveling with elephants, as merchants did on the Silk Road, they’re welcome, too.

5. caravanserai 2

Thanks to Turkey’s immense highways and our excellent driver Sabatin, we got to Cappadocia (Kapadokya) ahead of schedule. Kapadokya was the capital of the Hittites. There’s Old School; they’re Old Testament. Genesis.

6. kapadokya

It was as if I had arrived on Arrakis without the services of a Navigator. Dune without the sand. Or the sandworms, although some of the weird rock formations rearing up from the ground could be Shai-Hulud. (The emperor of the Ottomans was called the Padishah Sultan.)

The entrance to the underground city of Kaymakli was lined with shops guarded by my usual welcoming committee.

7. kaymakli
The Turkish take care of their cats and dogs. According to Fulya, strays are rounded up and spayed/neutered. As the facilities cannot accommodate all the animals, they are released and given food and shelter by the local residents.
8. kaymakli 2
Clearly an arrangement that works for the cats and dogs.

Kaymakli the underground city is a network of tunnels, and as you go below temperatures can be subzero. I’d borrowed a friend’s The North Face goose down jacket, which is the greatest winter gear known to me. People climb Mt Everest in these things, they weigh next to nothing and can be compressed into 8 x 5 packs you can throw in your luggage.

9. tunnels
The tunnels are narrow, and often you have to walk in a crouch. It’s like doing squats, except that you could slip and pitch headlong into the next “room”. After 10 minutes of walking on your haunches you work up a sweat. Conclusion: the residents of Kaymakli had quads of steel. Which was useful, as many of them were early Christians on the run from persecution.

10. tunnels
The living spaces gouged out of the soft volcanic rock are arranged around ventilation shafts so people could live comfortably while avoiding detection. To close the entrances they rolled giant millstones across the openings. No one could get in; the only way to dislodge the residents was to flood the tunnels, which would take too much water.

11. gyges
Just before dark we checked into our final hotel in Turkey, the 5-star Dinler Park in Urgup. This cat thought he owned the joint.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 6: On the road to Konya

March 09, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Cats, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 8 Comments →

1. breakfast6
I really am not a morning person. Breakfast at the Colossae five-star hotel and thermal spa in Pamukkale. Lots of European and Asian tour groups. At mealtimes the huge dining room is a reenactment of the Tower of Babel. Which is not here but in Iraq.

1. jacuzzi
My room has a jacuzzi. The water just sits there, though; it’s more like a small swimming pool.

2. Hierapolis
First stop, the necropolis of Hierapolis, a big Phrygian city in Greco-Roman times. Sarcophagi in assorted shapes, some as big as houses. (Yes, we have bigger (much newer) mausoleums back home, fully-furnished with functioning kitchens.)

3. Hierapolis2

Then we stopped at the travertines of Pamukkale. That’s not snow on the mountains—the rocks turned white from the mineral deposits of the hot springs.

4. travertines
You can walk barefoot in the hot spring water. I was too lazy to take off boots, socks, leggings, get my feet wet, then put my footwear back on.

5. yogurt with poppies
During a stop in Afyon I had a coffee and the local specialty: yogurt with honey and opium poppies. “Afyon” means opium, which is their primary crop. Opium is grown under government supervision in Turkey, for medicinal purposes.

The yogurt with honey and opium poppies is delicious. I don’t think I got high, but I can’t tell the difference between my “normal” state and intoxication.

7. cats
This family of cats lives outside the restaurant where we stopped for lunch. The cats I’ve seen in Turkey are very friendly, or maybe I just reek of cat.

6. road
This was the view from my seat for most of the day. We’re driving to Konya, capital of the Seljuk empire. Why is it more exhausting to sit in a bus for an hour than to walk for the same period? I’m almost halfway through the Moby Dick podcasts but I keep drifting into unconsciousness.

This is the “filler” part of the trip; things pick up once we get to Cappadocia. On the other hand I’ve communed with the highways of Asia Minor. This song kept playing in my head.

By the time we got to Konya it was nearly closing time at the Museum of Mevlana (more familiar to us as Rumi) so we put off the visit to the next morning.

Turkey Travel Diary, Day 5: The Indiana Jones tour of antiquities

March 08, 2013 By: jessicazafra Category: Antiquities, Places, Travel Diary: Turkey, Traveling 4 Comments →

1. breakfast5
Buffet breakfast at the Blanca Hotel in Izmir. It’s a boutique hotel, small and elegant, from the looks of it renovated recently. Rather boring view of the highway.

This whole day felt like an extended course on Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (not Alan Moore, though that one’s good, too): visits through the remains of great cities from the classical age. I’ve always wanted to be an archaeologist—I already have the whip, the fedora and the leather jacket which, unfortunately, are not as useful to an archaeologist as a teaspoon and a brush.

2. sardis
If you’re interested in history, you don’t see just chunks of marble, ancient graffiti and headless statues. You imagine what used to be there.
This is all that’s left of Sardis, capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. Lydia was part of the Persian empire, then the Roman, then the Byzantine. It’s also mentioned disparagingly in the Book of Apocalypse. Croesus, as in “rich as …” was king there. You could say he invented money. Listen to the BBC History of the World in 100 Objects podcast.

3. sardis synagogue
The old synagogue.

Lydia is also mentioned in Herodotus. Here’s the tale of Candaules and Gyges as told in another movie about explorers and archaeologists, The English Patient.

Ganyan ang pronunciation ng “chair”.

sardis gymnasium
The gymnasium of Sardis. I didn’t see any cats in this site, although there was a dog who followed us around.

All these photos were taken with a Sony Xperia acro S phone. Saved on luggage space and left my camera.

5. another artemis
Then we visited another Temple to Artemis. That’s our guide Fulya, whom my companions have taken to calling Sandra Bullock. I pointed out that she looks more like Paulina Porizkova. (Hindi nila naaalala si Paulina, ako lang yata ang bakla dito.)

6. laodicea
The ruins of Laodicea, one of the seats of early Christianity.

7. varol
On the way to the hotel we stopped at the Varol textile store. We had reached Pamukkale, where cotton is grown. “Pamuk” means cotton, so Orhan Cotton. Turkish fabrics, especially towels, are of a very high quality. I’m not sure what this is exactly, but it’s pretty.