Romantic Getaway: Büyükada

Bülent wanted to make my last weekend in Turkey special, and so planned a lovely getaway for us.  We drove up to Istanbul and took a ferry to Büyükada (Big Island.)  It is the largest island in the Princes’ Island group in the Sea of Marmara.  The ferry ride was only about 20 minutes, and then we were there!

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There are no cars allowed on the island except for emergency vehicles.  People, who don’t wish to walk, zip around on bikes, or ride in horse drawn carriages.

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There were many beautiful old mansions and houses with sea views.  Walking around there was something lovely in every direction.

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We had a great time there. There were no cars—so no traffic.  It was very relaxing to have no place to go, nothing more important to decide than which of the water front restaurants we would eat at.  We just sat at the water, watched the sun set and meandered off to dinner.  Certainly a romantic evening!

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I can’t wait to go back!

Romantic Getaway: Bolu

One of the romantic weekends Bülent and I planned was to Bolu.  We had an amazing time, but it wasn’t actually in Bolu.  We had planned to stay in the Bolu city area and take day trips to Abant Gölü and Yedigöller, however the place we stayed was actually two hours from both, in Bolu province.  In the end it all worked out, and we had a wonderful time.   The drive there was very pretty.  There was still snow on the hills lining the freeway!

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We arrived at Hindiba Pansiyon, an ecofriendly resort with small bungalows.  It was really lovely.  The bungalows and outdoor tables straddled a clearing in the woods which a creek ran through.  There was a full service restaurant, and breakfast and dinner were included in the price of the bungalow.  The eals were great, produced with locally available foods.

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There were two types of bungalows, stone and wood. I would recommended the stone. The wood bungalow was very cozy, with not much floor space, but since we were on a romantic weekend, the size of the bungalow didn’t really matter.

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We relaxed, read, rested and took walks.  The best part of walking was that immediately after leaving the pension we were deep in the country.

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We did take a day trip to Gölcük, a small lake up in the mountains of Bolu.  The drive was gorgeous, and once we got there—there was water!  That is always a focus for people who live in Ankara.  Water, since our city is sort of arid, we all prefer vacationing in areas that are lush and green, preferably with a body of water nearby.  In this respect Hindiba was perfect for our needs.

Even though it was not what we were expecting, we had a great time.  The focus was on time together anyway.  It wouldn’t have mattered if it was a dive motel—but that is a post for next time…

Romantic Getaway: Safranbolu

I have been in the U.S for the last three months, so when I flew back to Turkey for a few weeks, Bülent and I decided to plan some romantic weekends away.  So far we have been having a great time.  We decided to head to Safranbolu.  It is an easy three hour drive from Ankara.  After getting there we grabbed some lunch at Hanim Sofrasi.  I am a sucker for women-run establishments in Turkey.  This was pretty typical.  An older woman was supervising while her daughters, and maybe sisters or sisters-in-law (not sure which) cooked the food.  What was unusual was that while the matriarch sat outside smoking and chatting with tourists, her husband was the waiter, taking orders and running food out.  He only joined  his wife for a cigarette after all his work had been finished!

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We had “Safranbolu Manti” or “Peruhi.” Instead of your typical meat filled bites, they were more like triangular ravioli, very thin pasta filled with a white cheese or maybe yogurt.  However, while eating them I detected a floral note, I am not sure, it could have been a hint of saffron or maybe a spice.  Either way, it was a little different and delicious.

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After our lunch we walked around and stopped at Cinci Han, it is a old Caravanserai stop on the Silk Road.  Built in the 17th century it is now a hotel and a café.  You can still see the old iron rings where they used to tie the camels.

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There is a tower, which they allow you to climb with refreshingly few safety precautions.

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Safranbolu is a fairly small town, with quite a few pazars, however the really lovely part is just outside of the main square.  There are many old Ottoman houses, many of which are charming private residences rather than just hotels.  Safranbolu also has many streams and rivers which run through it and have carved canyons and ravines.  This particular camii (mosque) was built over a small river.  As a place of worship, one that spans running water and you can listen to the gurgle of it over stones while you pray—seems like a great idea—not that I would know much about prayer or worship.

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Along the same stream were many little gardens squeezed between the retaining walls and the water.

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During our walk we saw some local children  climbing a beautiful grassy hill.  So like any well adjusted adults, we were jealous and climbed it too.  We had a blast, and the kids thought we were pretty funny too.