Turkey: Ankara, Cappadocia, Antalya, Izmir, Istanbul

The next few posts will consist of narratives from my and Alex’s GRAND ADVENTURE OF 2014. But I’ll begin with our reunion. So if you wanna skip that boring mess, scroll to “our first day.”
July 6th was a crazy day, filled with anticipation, excitement, and packing last minute items. The day marked my reunion with my dear honey bunny, 349 days since parting ways at St. Louis Lambert. I really despise the military spouse stereotypes, and I don’t like the ones who put themselves on a pedestal because of what his/her military spouse does, but being a military spouse is damn hard. I’m not sure how many times this year I’ve had to hold my tongue when I heard or read, “I won’t get to see or talk to Brad for a whole week.” WAHH, BITCH. Heck, sometimes I NEED a week away from everyone. But 349 days? Heck no. And Alex was gone for a shorter time than usual. The military is great sometimes, but it’s not good for families. Even Air Force, which offers the best services for families, can take a toll.
Others I got tired of hearing were, “Oh, but after this your marriage will be so much stronger” or simply, “You’re so strong.” In regards to the first, if any couple does long-distance you have to have a strong relationship to begin with. I think the most important thing is trust; we’ve never doubted—or had reason to doubt—one another. But both of you have to have faith in one another, because it’s going to suck sometimes, and you’ll have huge fights (via text message) over nothing. Seriously, there were times we were fighting, then I realized I was so upset simply because I missed him. I got mad at him because I missed him, and there was nothing I could do.
In regards to the second, heck no I wasn’t. I had it easy; we were very close time-zone wise, never had major problems with Skype, HAD SKYPE, and thanks to KakaoTalk, we talked nearly every day. I think of my mom and grandma and what they went through when they were alone… my mom was newly married with two kids, living in a new state all by herself. And letters by mail?? Yeah, romantic of course, but not having the ease and convenience of talking as much as Alex and I did— THAT’S strength. I was also lucky to have really great friends and a CrossFit to keep me busy. It also pissed me off that THAT is why people would say I was strong. You think I’m strong because I can be away from my husband? Well poop on you; you are insanely mistaken (does anyone ever say things like that to males by the way??) …
I digress.
I had spent a while prepping Alex on the terrors of Ataturk Airport. I don’t understand why there is no shuttle service to connect the international and domestic terminals. No matter how long I give myself in that airport (3.5 hours once!), I always end up running to my gate. But of course, he got through passport control and security with no problems, and had over an hour to chill. What what what. I was happy and outraged to hear that.
I arrived at ESB airport to meet him, misjudged the timing, and arrived 1.5 hours early. So I got to sit and wait and stare at the arrival board. The longest five minutes of my life was between the moment the screen said his plane had landed, and the moment when he walked out. I felt like everything was going to exit my body from every orifice, at the same time.
To be honest, I was a little scared that our reunion would be awkward and I wouldn’t know what to say or do… like first date all over. So I hid and let him stand there for a while before jumping out and attacking him. That broke the ice. And then I started talking so much that I think everyone around us became fluent in English.
Our first day consisted of the “sites” of Ankara. For a city as large as Ankara, you can see it in a day. Half a day. Ulus / “the Castle,” and Anitkabir are the only things one needs to see in Ankara.
The next day we took a bus (5 hours!) to Kapadokya (or, Cappadocia). It’s an area of Turkey known for its “moon-like” landscape and unusual peaks formed by volcanic / geologic activity and wind. There are also cave cities and hotels, so of course we stayed in one of those.
We only stayed two days, but golly did we pack in a lot. The first morning consisted of a 0330 wakeup call… for our hot-air balloon ride over the valleys and peaks! I had kept this a secret for Alex, so that was fun. When he’s not doing his job, he is oblivious to most things. We had passed so many advertisements for ballooning, and so many people do it there, and our cave hotel guy gave me a reminder right in front of Alex, so I was SURE he knew. But it wasn’t until we were in the van that I told him and he responded with, “No we aren’t. What?” J Anyone who goes to Cappadocia NEEDS to do a balloon ride (but do research and go with a reputable company-we went with Butterfly Balloons- there are a lot of dodgy looking ones all about). You’re already there, and you get to see a good chunk of the landscape. Even if you’re scared of heights, like me, don’t worry. Riding in a balloon is weird; you just coast with the wind velocity (which is very low), so you are really just floating. And we were right in the peaks, so it didn’t feel like we were super high up.
After, we took a nap and biked to the “Open Air Museum” which has nothing to do with airplanes. Later, we did a THREE-HOUR ATV tour. At the time of scheduling, it sounded great. Never again. Plus our guide was crap (Oz ATV tours for those curious). However, we saw some neat views and a sweet sunset.
That same night, we took a 10-hour bus ride to Antalya. Again, never again. AWFUL is an understatement. But we saved like $300 by not flying. I didn’t have much planned for Antalya though, so we took a long nap upon arrival. We actually stayed in Olympos, in a “tree house.” It was really just a raised, dry cabin. I guess since it was made out of trees it counts as a tree house… breakfast and dinner were included, and it was a nice place to just relax.
The neatest experience we had there was a hike to Yanartaş (flaming rock). It’s a bunch of eternal flames, created by natural gases from inside the mountain. Not as scary as it sounds, but super awesome to witness. It’s hard to find marshmallows sometimes in Turkey, so I brought these marshmallow-cookie things that were covered in coconut and sprinkles, and we had ourselves a little roasting party.
Our next leg of our Turkey journey was Izmir; my favorite city in Turkey, and one of my favorites in the world. It’s really unlike the rest of Turkey. Istanbul is cool, but so so soo busy and crowded. If you want quite city, Izmir is perfect. Oh and there are beaches and walking / bike trails. I’m also a bit biased because I lived there when I was 11. It was so surreal to retrace my old paths, find my old apartment and church (YEAH, A CATHOLIC CHURCH IN TURKEY), and see some of the same stores as I did 13 years prior. Aside from a day trip to Ephesus (or Efes), we mostly relaxed in Izmir. There is a great Chinese restaurant if anyone is interested; the street left of the Hilton when looking at it from the front. I’m normally not a fan of Chinese food, but it was nice to have something other than Turkish food, and it was REAL Chinese (as opposed to Turkish Chinese…).
The final city we visited in Turkey was Istanbul. I don’t see the hype (maybe because of my airport woes), but you can’t skip it. There are a lot of historical sites, and I do love that it’s so diverse. Different cultures, religions, and all kinds of ways of life collide here, and it’s on TWO continents for crying out loud.
We of course visited Aya (Hagia) Sophia (basilica-turned-mosque-now-museum), the Sultan Ahmed (Blue) Mosque, and Topkapi Palace (where most of the Sultans lived), as well as took a quick Bosphorus cruise. However, my favorite places were the Galata Tower and Suleymanyie Mosque. In my opinion, Suleymanyie is better than Sultan Ahmed in terms of architecture and beauty… and there was NO line and it was really peaceful. The Galata tower is just neat and you get a great view of the Bul. We tried to visit Dolmabahce Palace (Ataturk’s primary residence and where he died), but it was “closed for cleaning.” I call baaaaloney, because as we were walking around the gardens, fresh flowers were being delivered and escorted cars were being allowed inside. Next time, I suppose…
Picking him up!
The Castle
Anıtkabir
Mount Erciyas
I got doubles 🙂
Inside a cave
Hadrian’s Gate, Antalya
Yanartaş
Atatürk Square, Izmir
My old stomping grounds.
The Library of Celsus
Nike
Taksim, Istanbul
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia 
Blue Mosque
Topkapi Palace
Dolmahbaçe Palace
Ortaköy
Süleymaniye 

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