My “wtf?” moment of the day

Today we went on another walk, and discovered new parts of the city… again. It is good to see that the Mouraria part of Lisbon is getting a well deserved makeover and that mid-October, the tourists are still merrily walking the streets, handicraft stores are filled with really interesting and new ideas, whilst others are selling small, adorable pieces of Lisbon’s history (I really had to contain myself not to go wild and start buying stuff I have no room to put in).

It was in a church in the Mouraria that I had my “wtf?” moment. I photographed it with my mobile phone as it is was more discreet and silent than my photo camera. Here it is, in all its amazing splendor: A steering wheel in a church altar.

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Lisboa, Lisboa…

Yesterday I went out for a long walk with my better half, a sort of commemorative promenade to celebrate our five years together. The night was hot, but with some kind strokes of cool air to help us in our way.

The city was quite beautiful, if one would ignore the plague of fucking tags that has not so recently assailed it (seriously, António Costa, you really would make my day if you started punishing these disrespectful, ungrateful, useless and degenerate pricks for ruining my beautiful city). It was alive, more than I had ever seen at night. It was alive with music, colours, smells, foods, children, tourists, immigrants, dancing, art, and it was calm, pleasant, happy.

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My boyfriend and I enjoy these long walks, and we tend to try new paths, most of the times they surprise us. It is so wonderful to have lived here most of my life and still have secrets to find. Last night it wasn’t the paths that surprised us, it was the multitude of people walking around us in such harmony, with so much to see and so much to do.

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Overall, a wonderful night, with a wonderful visit to a local Turkish restaurant to kill my “saudades”… 😉

Day 3 – Cappadocia

Day three was the day I had been dreaming of the most. As mentioned on the previous post, anything dug into the ground has always fascinated me and often visited me in my dreams, more often in my childhood than now though.

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We woke up nice and early for our visits. Our first stop: Göreme Açikhava Müzesi (Goreme Open Air Museum).

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Goreme is believed to have served in part as a necropolis to the people of Venessa (Avanos today) in Roman times. There is a huge funerary monument in its center, tombs and all. It was also and important location for Christianity during the second half medieval times (many Christian paintings, some well preserved, some vandalized for religious reasons, almost all well protected), and was an episcopal center from the 11th to the 13th century.

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The open air museum was wonderful, with lots of rooms to visit, ancient refectories, churches, and burial chambers. The view is stunning and you can see even more constructions, including ancient pigeon coops (pigeon excrement was used as a fertilizer) in a nearby yet inaccessible area. Its been a week since I was there and I still make myself fall asleep imagining what life was like for the first people of Goreme.

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Mind you, this was only a museum. This area of Cappadocia is filled with these smooth sandy marvels, some built into, some not. After we left the museum we were able to feast our eyes with more stunning views by walking amongst some of these areas. It was a day I will never forget!

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The rest of our day included a visit to a Turkish rug place, pretty neat, especially compared to the ones I saw in Morrocco. We were kindly offered apple tea and the traditional Raki (wooooooooo!!!).

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Day 2 – Ankara to Cappadocia

Day two was a mixture between Ankara, a loooong drive through fields, mountains and salt planes and underground villages 🙂

Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi – Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

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The Anatolian museum was small yet filled with unique artifacts that were beautifully preserved and displayed. Some pieces, such as the Cappadocian tablet, the golden burial patches and the Neo-Hittite Winged Griffon-Demons really caught my attention, along with some other items I added above and below.

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Ataturk Mausoleum

Next came the visit to Ataturk’s mausoleum… Which started of rather weirdly… we were told to exit the bus, pass through a metal detector, and then allowed back into the bus (no inspection was performed to the bus 0_o), and then drove up to the mausoleum.
The mausoleum itself was massive, spacious, simple yet impressive, and it truly conveyed the love many Turks still feel for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and what he represents. The area was well guarded by the military, yet there was a great feeling about, kids were laughing and playing, tourists exploring and admiring, and ceremonies were taking place.

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Then came the long drive to Cappadocia, this was where I started to realise how big Turkey is. The fact that cities like Izmir, or Ankara, or Istanbul have more people in them than there are people in my own country should have prepared me (yes, and looking at the good old map), but you only truly grasp the dimension of the place when you are there.

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This part of the day included the only ghastly meal I had, trout, that seemed to have been cooked four days ago and then microwaved. This was in a roadside restaurant in the middle of nowhere, and the upstairs floor was exclusive for passing tourist groups, where a coke cost the same as an entire meal. The ground floor was for the locals/ natives, and had normal prices… found that a bit rude, but “oh well”.

Özkonak

Just before arriving at our hotel, we visited an underground village dug into the vulcanic granite of Mount Idis. We were received with smiling faces and laughter.

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I love anything underground, and quickly abandoned the group and the boyfriend to explore on my own. I even found one of their toilets! The Özkonak village was great fun to explore and learn about. This particular place was different from similar locations in that it has a defense system where the inhabitants could pour boiling oil on top of their enemies.

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Day 1 – Lisbon to Ankara

I am back from my long overdue holidays to some place outside of my own country. Destination: Turkey.

Day one was a whole lotta flying, from Lisbon to Istanbul and then from Istanbul to Ankara. The flights went well, had the best meal on air I had ever had (and also one of the best genuine Turkish meals I had during the holidays, weird, I know), and we sat next to a very nice Turkish gentleman who spoke to us about all the places we were going to visit over the course of the next week. Also, the airplanes had some good movies on, and I could play some games against my boyfriend, this made the flight much easier and seem faster.

Once we arrived at Istanbul, we realised we were the only people of the group that did not have their boarding tickets to Ankara with them. This was the beginning of a frantic race, from Turkish Airlines guy to Turkish Airlines guy, flapping e-tickets in their faces and each one telling us that we’d get our ticket further on. Good things our bags had wheels, we boarded to Ankara just in time, and a little sweaty.

This is the first time I was traveling with a group of strangers, all with the same travel agency. I have always done things without groups, and thus was a bit worried, if all those other people would get in the way of what I wanted to do and feel. They seemed nice enough, so after a while the concern stopped bugging me as much.

So finally, Ankara. Our bus dropped us off at the Ankara Swisshotel (it was dark by the time we arrived, but the city seems clean, (er, way cleaner than Lisbon) yet lacking personality (easy to say when you live in Lisbon). We took our bags up to our room, opened the door and I was like this:

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Because the room was like this:

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When I travel, I don’t do it for the hotel unless it’s one of those holidays where you just want your brain to melt into the horizon, where all you get is comfort and wonderful food, and walks by the ocean, blady bla… I actually never had one of those, but I bet that in a few years I’ll be needing one. I always value the cultural aspect of traveling more than the comfort aspect, but if I can get both, then who am I to say no?

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Let the vacay commence!