The road to Uzungöl was a lot more pleasant than the place itself.  We had heard it was a lovely lake, pictures with places to hike and bike ride. It was a lake, and there was a walking path, and bike rentals.  That is about as close to the description as it came.

We left the lovely snow capped Kaçkar Mountains and the Ayder Plateau, for Uzungöl.  We decided to do some sightseeing along the way.


We stopped by one of the Fırtına River bridges on the way.


Built in the Ottoman era during the 18th or 19th century by local stonemasons, they are still architecturally sound, and very charming.



After that we traveled deep into Fırtına Valley (Stormy Valley), we went to Zilkale, or Bell Castle.  It was only about 20 km but on the winding steep road, it took almost an hour.  We kept seeing villages up on the steep mountain sides.  They were amazingly isolated and beautiful, with their dark wood buildings, surrounded by the deep green of the tea bushes.  P1017087

Almost impossible to reach by road, some of them only seemed accessible by funiculars or teleferikler

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After we made our way through the mountain passes we finally reached Zilkale.  It was striking, high up on the edge of a cliff the castle had been restored and was worth the trek into the wilderness.  From its vantage point we were also able view of the deep canyon and the waterfalls from the castle walls.


From here we went to Uzungöl.  On the road to Çamlıhemşin we had been struck by the green mountains, covered in tea plants, the clear water of the rivers and streams, and the mountain vistas.  In contrast, the road to Uzungöl was industrial, the river muddy and filled with silt from the mining and hydroelectric dams.  In comparison to the mountain villages, with their wood houses high up on the hills on the Çamlıhemşin road, on the way to Uzungöl the roadsides were filled with typically Turkish concrete multi-storied buildings and tea processing factories.

Uzungöl (Long Lake) is no longer a natural lake, dammed up and the embankments covered in stone, it actually resembles a man made lake more than anything else.  The lower end of the lake is built up, pensions, restaurants and neon lights creating a hodge podge of tourism.  The area is fairly conservative as well, catering to more devout foreign tourists.  I was surprised at the number of women wearing full covering, or burkas.  While Turkey is an Muslim majority nation, and some areas are more conservative than others, full covering with only ones’ eyes showing is not typical.

We also had a major issue with our hotel.  We stayed at the Aygün Motel, the accommodations were clean and it was a spacious bungalow, with plenty of room for all three of us for a decent price.  However, when we woke up in the morning it was very cold inside our room.  See your breath cold.    There was also no hot water.  Reception kept telling us the heat would come on soon, in two hours.  In an hour, in 45 minutes…  After huddling in our room, wearing our jackets for several hours, we went out to eat just to warm up.  After hours and hours of a freezing cold room, the heat finally came back on.  It never really warmed up though.  We tried to change our tickets to fly out that night, but the plane was full, instead we paid the penalty just to move our tickets up by a few hours.  The next morning, the room was frigid again,  it was then we learned that they actually turn off the heat each morning, and turn it on back at night.

In the morning we planned to leave at 8 am to be to the airport 9am, at for our 10 am flight.  However, when I woke up at five to use the bathroom, I saw outside there was at least 6 inches of snow, with more falling steadily.  Uzungöl had been transformed to a winter fairy land, but we still didn’t want to stay.


Afraid we would be trapped there if it kept snowing, we left the motel by 5:20 am to make sure we would be able to make it down the mountain.  The switchbacks  were a little hairy at first, but once we were halfway down the mountain the snow turned to rain, and we were all relieved.

Bülent and I were talking last night and we honestly have not had a trip with so many challenges and unfavorable conditions.  We have traveled all over Turkey for the last five years, staying in five star hotels, motels, pensions and even hostels, and have always had a great time, with warm and hospitable hosts. It was certainly a memorable birthday trip, one that none of us will forget in the future.  We still had a great time though.  I was with my two favorite men, one who had flown thousands of mile to surprise me!  I felt lucky and beloved to have such a grand adventure planned for me, and an adventure it was!

Birthday Week!

My birthday was in March, but Bülent “gave” me my present a few days ago.  We flew to Antalya for the weekend!  It was a whirlwind trip but we enjoyed ever minute of it.  We flew in Friday night and visited my sister-in-law, who recently got engaged.  It gave us a chance to meet her fiancé before the wedding in September.  Saturday morning we left the city of Antalya for what has to be one of the most scenic drives in Turkey, full of cliffs, rocky beaches and dazzling blue sea. This area is one of the only places in Turkey you can get blue crab, so for lunch we stopped at a seaside restaurant. 

Fresh grilled crab!

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We followed the coast to Demre, and then climbed up into the mountains.  Bülent surprised me with a night in a gorgeous B&B.  High up in the mountains, with a view of the sea, it felt like a different world.  The hotel, Hoyran Wedre, is in a remote, small köy.  Its grounds were scented with with rosemary, thyme and sage which were planted all over the place. 

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The hotel is actually located right on the Lycian Way, so we hiked part of it that afternoon, and the next morning.  As if we could resist. 

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It wasn’t hard to navigate, along the trail of the Lycian Way there are red and white tags showing the way. 



The village of Hoyran is very isolated and remote, with a very long history.  Over time, many tribes and cultures migrated through this area which created an complex linguistic situation.  The villagers have their own dialect, as well as Turkish.  Their language is a mix of an accent and a dialect, and while some things are understandable, and others are not.

The scenery was amazing.  Yes, these goats are actually eating a field of flowers.  We met the shepherd, who told us that some days he walks 30 km herding his sheep.  Though he assured us that the goats didn’t need him to find their way, his job is to keep away the wolves and keep them out of fields.  He told us about Antalya’s flora, boasting that his goats’ milk and meat was especially tasty due to their diet of wild herbs.  He quoted an old saying,“Antalya’nın taşı toprağı altın” (Antalya’s rocks and soil are golden).  We were informed that during his military service he traveled all over Turkey and never saw anywhere that rivaled Antalya’s fertile land or botanic diversity.

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We had a great time talking to the locals and hiking in search of ancient ruins.  We didn’t have to look too hard for this cistern, it is right on the village road. 

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It was an amazing birthday present, and very memorable for my last birthday of my twenties.   The area was so scenic and beautiful I felt rested just being there. 

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Next year…the big 30!

Birthday Week

Last week was my birthday.  I was very lucky to have many friends who want to celebrate it with me!  Bülent took me out for a lovely romantic dinner.  His gift to me is a romantic trip to Antalya, planned in April when it will be a bit warmer.  Another friend had me over on my actual birthday for a delicious dinner.  We also went over to Bülent’s parents and had a family diner with his parents and aunt an uncle.  His mom knows I love fish and made a special dinner for me. 

The day before my birthday I went out with my friend Terry from Adventures in Ankara, and had an adventure!  We went to Cer Modern, a modern art museum, for lunch.  Lunch was great, the museum very nice, and time with Terry—always fun!  What made our outing an adventure was that we got a traffic ticket!  I was driving and she was navigating from the GPS on her phone.  It told us to take a right, so we did, but turns out it was an illegal right on Ataturk Bulvari.  So we were sitting at the intersection and I was trying to figure out how we were going to make it across the traffic with no light when a police man waved me across.  I was very thankful to make it across in one piece, but then he asked for my license and registration.  We explained we didn’t know the area and were following the GPS.  He nodded knowingly and said, Ah yes, GPS…”   and then gave me a ticket.  It is kind of a novelty.  I don’t know anyone else who has gotten a traffic violation ticket from a real life police man.  It just doesn’t happen here.  Most people get tickets from cameras, even though I have talked myself out of one of those before too.  This office was very polite and apologetic but would not budge.   So ticket it was! 

For my birthday present to myself I made cupcakes.  Two kinds.  The first a carrot cake with labne frosting (tips coming soon on how to substitute Labne for cream cheese) and the second, devil’s food cake with peanut butter frosting.  I have to say, carrot cake is my favorite, but the peanut butter frosting was decadent on the moist chocolate cupcakes. 


It was an amazing week, so filled with friends and family we had to rest all weekend to recover.  It made me feel so appreciated that so many people wanted to celebrate my birthday with me, I definitely have a community here.   It was fun and uncomplicated, my last birthday before marching into my 30’s, which seems a little bit daunting!

Ode to a Man

My brother Elliot is a MAN.  Clearly he is a man, but now he is super macho.

EllHe is in his early 20’s, so he’s no boy.  He has always worked and studied hard. He has always dealt with difficult situations well, and has taken care of any shit that has come his way.   On Saturday he did both of those things, literally.   Friday night our septic system failed, and we were reduced to pre-indoor plumbing circumstances, or as my husband would say “sub-optimal.”

So on Friday –I went down to the basement where I discovered the extent of the “situation”—which was all over the floor.  After that, Elliot and I promptly uncovered the septic tank, we thought it looked kind of full.  We thought maybe that was why when the toilets flushed, it dumped in the basement instead of the septic tank. However, it was not the tank, it turns out the pipe leading from the house to the tank was pinched.

So, Saturday while my mother and I had an early Mothers’ Day visit with my Nana—Elliot took care of the “situation.”  What I mean by that is that he spent all day digging up the broken pipe, which also included shoveling out a hole filled with human waste.   Anybody who can do that is an adult, so for him,  he is a MAN. For Mother’s day he gave my mother her indoor plumbing back, kind of hard to top that one.   Also, I was pleased to have it back myself.  Yay for flushing!

Birthday FUN!

I am not closer to 30 than to 20.  It feels weird.  Though I was still the youngest (adult) at my birthday party.  There was a 4 year old, but of the people who have learned to read in that room I was the youngest by 6 years.  So. Still a baby.  Which is good, because I don’t always feel like a grown up.  I think that is normal though.  In a chat with my Nana, who is 97, she says she still feels like  young woman.  She is only tethered to age by her body.   As are we all.


My party was a blast.  It was not a “birthday party” but a party for my birthday.  That is what I wanted, fun with my friends.  And we had a great time.  There was wine, and food, and wine and beer and cake and wine.  055

The spread was quiche, Mac-n-cheese, kisir, Polish apple and leek salad, tuna veggie salad, white cheese borek, chocolate cake, cinnamon rolls, kadayif and carmel cake.

Yes, I am still waddling.

The Beloved Chick Magnet

See the faces of those people behind me in line?  They are disapproving because they think we are flirting in front of Dolmabache Palace, Ataturk’s residence.  In reality, what the are seeing is me being manhandled by my younger brother.  He loves that he is bigger, and likes to prove that to me.  He has no mercy.P6112409

He also does not lie, cheat or steal.  He is kind to children and animals.  He is witty and erudite.  My friends also tell me he is handsome.  Or in NH, “Wicked hot.”


He is my baby brother, a great guy, and a good friend.  He is also turning 22. Happy Birthday Elly.Elly  I love you.


Even though you have no mercy.

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Birthday Food

Oh YUM!! Bülent wanted to go to a Kebab house for his birthday, he had heard about a local one that was tasty.  The word of mouth was right!!

We had cop sis, and all the accouterment.   In a Turkish restaurant, mezes usually come with the meal. In this case, bulgur pilaf, small lahmacuns, roasted onions, peppers and tomatoes, fresh lavash bread, a onion/sumac salad along with arugula and parsley.

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Here is the main deal, cop sis, grilled lamb.  It is super delicious, usually pulled off the skewer and eaten wrapped in the lavash with any of the aforementioned accouterments.

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We also ordered eggplant salad, which was amazingly tasty.  It was pretty simple, mashed eggplant, garlic, salt and pepper, and just delicious.

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Here is my plate before the meat pops got to the table. As you can see, there is already a bite out of the lahmacun.

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And for dessert, kunefe.  Kunefe is a pie of shredded pastry, soaked in a sweet syrup with cheese in the middle.  It is amazing, sweet and savory, served warm.

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The food was great, the company wonderful, and it was a good birthday for him, if I do say so myself.

He Rocks My Socks

We have been together for five years, and every night is still like a slumber party.  He still opens doors for me and carries my bags.  It is just how he is.  In the beginning, I was not old enough to go to bars with him.  He  bought me my first legal drink.  When he learned I was a feminist he took me on a date to see Benazir Bhutto speak.  In the grungy student apartment in Cambridge, he braved the kitchen to make me breakfast in bed every Saturday.

When I went back to school at night, and was working full time during the day, he made me breakfast and packed me a lunch and dinner.  Every. Day.  When I need to cry he hands me a tissue, holds me until I am done and pours me a glass of wine.  If we don’t have wine, he will go out and buy it.

Today is his day, and it will be a good one.

Happy Birthday Aşkım, the 5th together so far, with many more to come.


With lots of love, from me, and Butterfinger.

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