Transitions

It has been a while since the last time I have posted.  I have been dealing with some challenges and logistics.  I have bought the tickets, began the paperwork at work and organized my kitchen.  It is official,  I will be returning to the U.S. by the end of January (at the latest) for a six month leave of absence.   As I wrote previously my father was diagnosed with a rare cancer last April.  He had chemotherapy over the summer and things were looking positive.  However, the circumstances have changed, and the situation is less positive.  I will be home to spend time with my family during this period.

My last post was about Thanksgiving.  There are many things I am thankful for, my family, my husband, and my friends.  I am so thankful to have a husband that knows what family means.  The minute I told him about my father’s situation, he was willing to put me on a plane the next day—no matter the cost.  Being away from him for a significant period of time will be unfortunate, but I am so glad to have this time with my father, and with my family.  I am so lucky that I can take 6 months of unpaid time, without losing my job or being homeless.  There are many things I am thankful for this year.

My blog’s name is “Far From the Sticks.” In New Hampshire, the “Sticks” is slang for rural areas.  I am far from where I come from and where I grew up.  My life has taken paths I have never imagined and I have had many adventures on the way.  While I am going back home, in some ways I can never return to the “Sticks.”  When I was growing up, my parents made sure to provide me with a childhood.  My friends and I used to climb trees and canoe in old prom dresses, playing “Little House on the Prairie.” On Friday nights, my Dad would turn on the Temptations and we would all dance in the living room.  My brother and I would play in the stream in the rain–with galoshes and umbrellas.  I can never return to my childhood in the “Sticks,” but I can go home.  I am counting the days until I can get there.

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Mini-Moons are Awesome

This year for Kurban Bayram we decided to take some time for ourselves.  Usually during the Bayrams Bülent and I normally do things with his family, but this year we decided to do something by ourselves.  We decided on driving down south and having a leisurely tour of the coast.  We headed out of Ankara and spent a night in Pamukkale, then drove to the coast and stayed in Fethiye.  The next day we drove to Kalkan, on the sea, and stayed with some friends at a gorgeous villa, and finally on to Antalya to have a visit with my amazing sister-in-law.  What is great about her is that if I had met her without being married to her brother—I would still hang out with her.

Bülent and I had an amazing time, we just meandered along from place to place, taking scenic back roads and stopping at any historical sight we passed along the way.

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Pamukkale was amazing.  First, the pension we booked was adorable.  Family run, it was clean, restful and had an cozy restaurant out of which they served wonderful food and wine.

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The travertines were amazing.  The thermal waters comes out of the ground and runs over the ridges.  The chemical reaction between the water and the air creates the calcium carbonate.  It was so lovely, on a cool fall day, to walk barefoot on the white terraces, our feet bathed in warm water.

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The pools were a gorgeous shade of blue against the white travertines.  I had expected the terraces to be slippery because they are wet, but the composite of the floor was really solid and not slippery at all.    At the top of the hill there are the ancient ruins of Hierapolis, a city built in the 2nd century for its proximity to the hot springs for their healing properties.

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We had a blast wading around and then exploring the ruins.

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Next stop, Fethiye…

Birthdays and Beypazarı

In February both my Mother-in-law and aunt-in-law had birthdays.  We weren’t quite sure what to get them.  We decided instead to treat them to a day trip.

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Beypazarı is about an hour from Ankara towards Istanbul.  The city known for several things.  It produces 60 % of Turkey’s carrots, has beautifully restored Ottoman houses, and the renowned 80 layer (it is normally 40) baklava.  The pazar in town was lovely with lots of dried herbs and spices.IMG_1612

There were also beautifully handmade soaps and lots of carrot products.  There was carrot juice, carrot jam, carrot lokum.  The history the city is very rich as it was a stop on the silk road between Istanbul and Baghdad.

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While there we went to Tarihi Taş Mektep, a historical restaurant with traditional Beypazarı foods.  This includes very tasty tarhana soup, a special type of sarma, a very delicious and rich guveç ( a meat and rice stew) and an 80 layer baklava.  I tasted everything but the baklava which contained walnuts, and it was fabulous.

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It was a lovely trip and both Bulent’s mother and aunt really appreciated the trip.   We might be going back in the future just for that rich, lamby, delicious guveç.  I may have been have been tempted to lick the clay pot it came in.

Home Again and Back

Last Sunday I flew home to the US for a whirlwind visit.  We had many plans to do many things.  While  was able to do most of those things, we had to plan and re-plan ad revise our plans.  This was because of the snow! DSC_0055

I love snow and I miss snow so I didn’t mind.  My parents have so much snow that the mounds from pushing off the deck are snow several feet higher than the four foot deck itself.  The snow now needs to be lifted and thrown.  DSC_0039

When I was home I was lucky enough to see a lot of my family, including several cousins, my parents, grandmother and my darling  brother.  My parents thought it would be fun to take a trip to New York.  One of my aunts lives in NYC, so we headed down to see her.  It was lovely.  My parents and I took the Acela (fast) train from Boston.  It was wonderful and quick, only about 3.5 hours.  There was one small issue though.  On the way home it took 7 hours instead of 3.5 to get back to Boston.  This was because our train derailed less than a mile outside of Penn Station!  We had to be evacuated from the train, they built a staircase and shoveled a path to transfer us from one train to another.  We then had to go back to Penn Station and get on the next train a couple of hours later. No one vas hurt and it certainly spiced up the story.  Why was your train late?  Oh, no reason– it just derailed, slid off the tracks and we were evacuated.  (It was only the first two engine cars actually, but sounds better that way.)

Train wreck aside, the visit was wonderful.  I had an amazing time just hanging out with my parents, going snow shoeing and shopping.  It was so nice to spend time with my family and friends, I really enjoy these trips home. I think the time with my family seems so precious because it is so limited.

I am now sitting in an airport waiting for my plane back to Ankara.  I am happy and excited to be going back, but also glad that the plane has no rails to have issues with.

Trip to Niğde

A few weeks ago we took a trip to Niğde, where my husband’s mother is from. Niğde is know for its apple production, and his family owns a small apple orchard down there. We were going to watch the harvest. We drove down Saturday and were greeted by chilly weather and rain. We did manage to see Kapadokya’s most intact and well preserved Byzantine Monastery, Gümüşler Monastery. After trudging around in the freezing rain seeing the historical site for several hours, we had a lovely dinner with some extended family.

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In Niğde in mid-October there was already snow on the mountains. Niğde is nestled into the plains surrounded by inactive volcanic mountains.

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When wewere there we were supposed to go to the apple orchards and watch the harvest, but we ran into some trouble. We spent the afternoon in a small village looking for a mechanic, then for a tow truck.

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While we were waiting I took a look around the village.

We saw puppies…we always do.

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Plums drying in the sun.

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Farmers harvesting cabbage.

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That last photo was taken from inside the car on the top of the tow truck. We needed a new radiator and by the time it was fixed it was time to head back to Ankara. It was a whirlwind trip. While we did have some fun we have since decided that we will save trips of five hours of driving or more for long weekends only.

Amasra: Last Road Trip with the FamFam

Before the wedding, when my parents were in Turkey we took the opportunity to see as many parts of Turkey as possible.  We went to Cappadocia and saw the fairy chimneys.  Then we started on our Black Sea tour.  The first stop was Safranbolu, and the next was Amasra.

Amasra is a small town on the Black Sea,.  The industry is primarily fishing and tourism.  The trip there is pretty amazing.  You have to drive through the mountains, there are one lane bridges and high passes through the mountains when the road ends six inches from a hundred foot sheet drop with no guardrail.  While the driver has to have their eyes glued to the road the passengers can enjoy the troop.  The drive is incredibly scenic.  From the last mountain you drive up and over there is an amazing view of the town of Amasra.  AmasraIt is on a protected cove with two small peninsulas shielding it from the main sea.  Amasra is best known for its delicious fish and the “Amasra Salad”

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A mix of lettuce, arugula, green onions, green garlic shoots, dill, radishes, parsley, pickled beets, carrots and some other delicious and spicy additions.

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We were there in the off season so it was nice and quiet.  We were just there to enjoy the sights and the fish.  What was interesting was that people were trying to pick us up.  There were some older women waiting on the streets, and when we parked the car they raced up to us, competing over offering us rooms at their pensions or homes.

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We ended up staying in a hotel right on the water.  The pensions offered by the women who were cruising us were well priced and safe, but not on the water.  We were only there for one night and so we wanted to be able to appreciate the sea.

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We had a fantastic time and it was a lovely trip with my parents.  We headed back to Ankara the next day to see some of the local sites and get ready for the Turkish wedding.

Visit to Eskişehir

A few weeks ago, before my life was consumed with correcting exams, processing grades and nailing down details for my upcoming wedding, we took a trip to Eskişehir.   It is about an hour an a half on the fast train.  The train was great.  It ran frequently all day, was clean and convenient.

The city itself is fun, but certainly a day trip—no need to stay overnight.  We walked around all day and were able to see most of the city.  Eskişehir has a university and was considered to be a supporter of Ataturk as the city sacrificed itself during the Independence war, holding off the invasion of the British.  The city was razed then later rebuilt.  I was very surprised considering it liberal past, that there was such a conservative religious community.  While religious people aren’t against Ataturk, and those who support Ataturk don’t deign religion, there tends to be a correlation between liberalism and Ataturk supporters.  Most of the women I saw in Eskişehir wore headscarves, a few did not, but they were the minority.  Though the closer we walked to the university the fewer “covered” women we saw.

The first stop was the creek that runs through town.  Now it is touristic and cute however, twenty years ago the creek apparently was rancid and stank and the cafes by the waterfront were ramshackle.  The current mayor has done an enormous amount of renovations in town and it has made a huge difference.

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The next stop was boza, a fermented (nonalcoholic) wheat drink.

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It was slightly sweet, and very thick.  You could eat it with a spoon.  The shop sold only boza, and you could sprinkle cinnamon on top if you wished.  It apparently has a lot of protein and vitamins and is healthy—though caloric.

FIRST WITH BOZA ESKISEHIR, MAY10 I was not nesaccarily a fan, though I could see the appeal.

Later we went to visit the city’s real attraction.  The restored Ottoman Style houses.  P5010037

The Ottoman style houses have been preserved and restored.  The neighborhood has turned into a tourist area with cafes and chai houses, though many locals still live in the houses, above the businesses.

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From Ankara it was a fun, inexpensive, quick day trip.  The fast train takes only an hour an a half to reach the city.  Everything in within walking distance from the train station so there is no need to tax about.  The round trip train tickets are 32 liras for one person.  It was a very lovely trip and a fun weekend activity.

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Kapadokya

We went to Kapadokya a few weekends ago, taking advantage of the long weekend. It was children’s day, a day to emphasize that children are the future of the nation. I had Friday off, so we hit the road Thursday after work. Bulent, his mom and dad and I all went down to Kapadokya, and it was amazing.

Capedocia 009 The view from out hotel’s restaurant terrace.

Kapadokya is a region where rock formations formed by volcanic activity have been carved and shaped by erosion and people for millennium. All throughout the area are amazing rock formations into which churches and monasteries and villages have been carved into the soft rock. There are even underground cities 9 stories deep where villages would go underground with their animals to resist invaders who who trying to conquer the fertile land. Capedocia 058

We stayed at a lovely and inexpensive hotel called the Arch Palace, it was wonderful. Mustafa Bey and his wife run the place. They are wonderfully warm and welcoming, and their children are adorable. Mustafa Bey was wonderfully knowledgeable about the sights to see, not only in Göreme, but the entire region. We were able to visit the best parts of the Kapadokya region, thanks to his guidance, and I can honestly say—We lucked out. We stayed in the most adorable, friendly and geologically jaw-dropping village, with an awesome host. The other towns and villages were lovely but they were overrun with buses of tourists who crowd up all the sights and clog the roads. We refer to them as…“The Buffalo.”

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We also tasted some superb local wine and tried some of the local foods, which varied from the food in Ankara. It was a lovely trip. There will be some more posts coming up from my recent travels, including food from Göreme and this weekends visit to Eskisehir.

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Tired and Excited

This morning, at scary early hour I will be heading to the States on my semester break. I cannot wait!

This week has been incredibly busy.  The end of the semester grading period just finished.  Along with the fun came lots of grading and paperwork.

On top of that my cousin and her husband came to visit Ankara.  They were in Germany and decided to pop over. It was a blast.  We had foodapalooza, hit up kebab houses, bakeries and cafes. We literally stuffed our faces, and it was great.  From Ankara they are touring Istanbul and sound like they are having a great time.

I am really excited to be going home, though pretty tired, and it is not going to get better soon as I have about 20 hours of travel ahead of me.

In less than a day, I will be seeing my family!  Wheee!  Updates on food and family will be coming are forthcoming.