There are several places on our planet which call themselves ‘End of the world’, because once there, you get the impression that one step further would lead you into the nowhere of beyond.
One such place is to be found in Turkey and that’s the one I chose for a belated birthday party with my friends. The village is called Doganbey, located on the Aegean Sea. The village consists of two parts: one high up in the mountains and the smaller one down by the sea. Doganbey proper is fascinating and somewhat eerie. It has been abandoned for a long time and the big stone house have fallen into disarray. However, since a year or two, Doganbey is experiencing a survival and the houses are being lovingly restored.
The mountain part of Doganbey
One of the restored houses
But, my destination was the part by the sea because my friends and I wanted to eat fish. A winding road leads down the mountain and then comes to an abrupt end. You literally can’t go any further. A gendarme post puts an end to the world, because beyond just lies the sea and then…Greece.
End of the road
Karina, a well known fish restaurant marks the final stop of civilization. Utterly romantic, isolated, rustic, simple and unspoilt, what else could you wish for?
Still empty table
Doesn't it look romantic?
We are. after all, in the land of statues!
And then, of course, there is the fish, Fresh out of the sea, you take your pick, the charcoal grill is fired up and, in due course, the succulent fish is served to you. No fancy stuff, no sauces or elaborate garnish, just the pure taste with lemon juice and a selection of mezze for starters. Accompanied by a huge salad with many of the greens which are so typical for the area.
Enjoyed with a glass of wine, bread, breathing in the sea air and fooling a round with the ducks which live on the beach and a little monkey which is a mascot…nothing can be more relaxing.
My friend is an artist who makes the most wonderful pottery which resembles lace. She gave me a candle holder for my birthday and I took it with me. The candle burned whilst the sun was slowly setting. A wonderful way to celebrate a birthday, belated or not.
Posted by inka on May 30, 2012 in travel history
In my previous post about my visit to Greenland, I explained, that the name ‘Greenland’ was an invention by Erik the Red. Whilst researching this, I have to admit that I got hooked by Erik’s personality and I thought it would make a nice follow up to the previous post to tell his story.
Born in 950 in Norway, Erik was probably called ‘the red’ because of his hair color. His father was banned from Norway for killing a man and the family settled in Western Iceland, farming and doing quite well for themselves. But, feuds erupted and in the process, Erik, just like his father, killed two man and was sentenced to be banished from Iceland for three years. Having an inquisitive mind, Erik had heard of mysterious islands west of Iceland and, in 982, he set sail with a crew and a few ships to explore what lay further west.
He landed in Julianehab, then rounded the southern tip of Greenland, explored Erik Fjord and several smaller islands. His three years of exile were spent exploring the ice and glaciers, but he also found the green fringe quite fertile.
In 985, he returned to Iceland, but found that he still had a lot of enemies. Erik wanted to start a new life and settle in a place where he would be surrounded by friends, not enemies and he thought up a scheme to entice friendly settlers and farmers to come with him. Correctly thinking that the idea of living on eternal ice would not find many enthusiasts, he called the island Greenland’in hopes that the new name would conjure up images of fertility, farmland and new opportunities. He specukated correctly and managed to assemble some 500 settlers and 14 ships which all set sail for a new life in Greenland.
For some years, the settlers did quite well, but then excessively cold winters got the better of them. Some returned to Iceland, some died of epidemics and some, it will appear, were murdered by the Inuit. In effect, the Norseman vanished forever from Greenland after having been the first settlers.
Posted by inka on May 28, 2012 in Animals
, Day trips
, Travel tips
My brush with Greenland happened a few years ago. I call it a ‘brush’ because it was no more than a half day excursion during a cruise through the North Atlantic from Hamburg to Toronto. It was, by the way, the famous cruise where I abandoned ship ¾ of the way in New Foundland because I felt trapped and was bored to tears. I made it to Toronto in the end, but under my own steam and enjoying myself thoroughly along the way.
Kalaallit Nunaat is the Inuit name for Greenland, the world’s largest island. According to legend, the name Greenland goes back to Erik the Red, who fled Iceland because he was wanted for murder and set off with his family and tribe to find a legendary island at the Arctic circle. He settled in Greenland and named is thus, because he hoped to attract other settlers thinking they might find a Nordic but fertile and green new home.
The cruise ship docked off shore and we reached the town of Qaqortoq by tender. The Danish name Julianehab is much less of a tongue twister. With approx. 3200 inhabitants, the location is the biggest town in South Greenland which gives you a good idea how sparse the population is as opposed to the vast mass of land, or rather, ice. But, Julianehab has a lot of surprisingly green pastures and sheep farmers make a good living. I loved the quaint, brightly painted colorful wooden houses and the little museum which features mostly Inuit clothing and products made from seal skin.
Talking of which: I was very taken aback with the aspect of the harbor. Gutted fish were lying around as were half-skinned seals. A few rather ramshackle boats were moored along the kai and fishermen were rather listlessly mending their nets and praising their latest catch.
Between the wooden houses and around the market square, the ground was littered with empty bottles and cans and broken glass. Not a sight which invited to strolls further afield and, as I couldn’t see the tender back, I got lucky and hitched a ride with a police launch. They needed to go to our cruise ship to stamp our passports and were kind enough to take me. The lawyer in me got interested in their job and they told me that indeed, the biggest problem was alcohol and alcohol related fights, injuries and even murder. Not surprising really if you are stuck in such a small place, surrounded by glaciers, icebergs, bitter cold and long months of either darkness or never setting sun in the summer.
But, of course, there are other more pleasurable aspects to Greenland. On Greenland’s east coast you will find the stunning Scoresberg Sund, the world’s longest fjord. Nuuk is the capital and, as I have found out in the meantime, the starting point for many fascinating tours, sledge excursion, glacier climbing, hiking, a visit to an ice hotel and, what I would like to do most: experience the miracles of Northern Light from November to March.
Greenland is certainly a destination for a very special vacation and, if you are interested, my research resulted in the discovery of this tour operator who has a great variety of offers.
Disclaimer: this post is not in any way sponsored by Greenland or the tour operator mentioned.
My friend Mandy and I share a birthday. Born under the same astrological sign, it doesn’t come as a surprise that we have a lot in common, among other things an unconditional love for travel and adventure. Each year, we celebrate our birthday by going off to another dream destination.
Last year’s trip started in Marrakesh where we booked ourselves into the most romantic and picturesque hotel imaginable, a converted riahd nestled deep in the winding alleys of the medina. An unremarkable thick wooden door, set into a high wall opened up into a scene right out of a fairy tale: a green and blue tiled courtyard illuminated by copper lanterns and a crystal chandelier handing from an iron chain. A fountain surrounded by potted palms and rose bushes in full bloom whispered in the middle, birds in silver cages twittered in the niches, benches covered with plush silk cushions invited to rest and enjoy steaming mint tea. The rooms are arranged on galleries around the court yard and offer four poster beds, carved furniture and a bathroom with copper basins and an array of lotions, potions and rose water in silver containers. Candles and vases with fresh roses completed the picture.
Our dream hotel
After a night of happy dreams, followed by an enormous breakfast spread served on the roof terrace with views all over Marrakesh’s medina, we started to plan the adventure we had really come for. A trip over the Atlas mountains to the desert city of Ouarzazate, also known as the ‘Gateway to the Desert’ and home to one of the most beautiful and important Kasbahs in Morocco: Taouririt with its massive rose colored walls and towers and sin fin of workshops, stalls and restaurants within.
Assessing our chic clothes and age, the friendly receptionist said: ‘Madame, we can arrange for a nice car and driver to take you to Ouarzazate. Air conditioned and very comfortable.’ ‘Thank you,’ I said, ‘but we want to go by bus.’ Shock spread over her face, but she recovered quickly. ‘Hmm,’ she said, ‘yes, there are I think some organized coach tours, I can make enquiries, if you wish..’
‘No,no,’ Mandy jumped in. ‘What we mean is local buses, you know those used by people from here who want to visit relatives etc.’ Now the poor girl was really shocked. ‘ Yeeees, there are two per day from the bus station. But, they are crowded, noisy, no air con and quite slow.’
‘Splendid,’ I beamed, ‘just what we want. Point us in the right direction, tell us departure times and we are off.’ Still shaking her head, the girl did as asked, and the next day we made our way to the bus station located a 10 minute walk from Djemaa-El-Ina near Bab Doukkala.
Pushing through the milling crowd of women in pastel colored dhellabahs their faces covered with black veils, men with silver daggers in their belt, boisterous kids, live chicken in wire cages and other men humping sheep carcasses on their backs, we located our bus. Luckily, nearly everybody in Morocco speaks some sort of French, which helped. Ensconced in the back seats and surrounded by chattering locals who threw a few curious glances at us, we were on our way.
The first few miles out of Marrakesh led through elegant suburbs, palm groves and lemon tree plantations, until the road got steeper and the landscape became more barren as the ascent into the mountains started. The views which awaited us were spectacular. The higher up we got, the more we could see of the valley du Draa, a river slowly meandering along, with oasis after oasis at its banks, cutting its way through sheer rock forming a massive canyon. Soon it became clear why this road is known as one of the most scenic and hair-raising in all of Morocco. Hair bent turn after hair bent turn, with rocks on one side and sheer, bottomless drops at the other. Definitely not a ride for the faint hearted, especially when the bus from the opposite direction thundered down the road, passing us with an inch to spare. But, what a thrill!!
Men and women are seated separately on the bus and soon the ladies around us overcame their original shyness. Food baskets were brought out and we were invited to share home made meat filled pastries and delicious sweets. They told us about their relatives who lived in France or Belgium and their Berber villages high up in the mountains. We got to hold babies and to admire the henna tattoos on the hands of a recent bride. When we reached the snow line, we all got off for a break and they made sure the mint tea vendors came over with their silver pots and we got our share of hot drinks.
Finally, the city of Ouarazate, rising out of the endless sands and dunes of the desert came into view, with the red walls of the kasbah glowing in the last rays of the sinking sun. We parted company with our new friends, having gained invaluable insight into their lives and their respect for having chosen to travel like locals.
A few camels along the way
Our home for the night was the splendid Hotel Berbere Palace which not only features lush gardens but also many original props from movies like ‘Gladiator’, ‘Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, all of which were, at least in part, shot here.
One of the movie props in the hotel
Posted by inka on May 23, 2012 in art
, Travel tips
, Turkey Travel
Turkey and carpets seem to be something of a synonym. It’s true, there are beautiful specimens around, particularly those made of silk, but after the umpteenths carpet dealer has jumped out at you, trying to lure you into his shop with promises to have the absolute best and cheapest, you somehow develop an aversion to carpets. This is closely followed by leather goods. How many handbags, jackets and coats do you need or even want to look at? So, I hope you don’t mind if I skip carpets and leather and turn my attention to lesser known, expensive and extremely beautiful things which I absolutely adore.
Silver filigree from Mardin and Urfa
Mardin and Urfa are cities in Turkey’s east and both have a long tradition of the craft of silver smiths. You only have to enter one of the many, tiny workshops and watch the artisans, bent over their worktables and, with nimble fingers, forge long, thin silver threads not only into jewelry but also ornaments and even sculptures. The skill and patience involved is outstanding, not to mention the need for eyesight. The finished objects gleam and sparkle and my fingers are itching to touch them and take at least one home with me. As you can imagine, these things don’t come cheap but a smaller item may be within the budget and you will have a ‘souvenir’ or gift you won’t find anywhere else.
Ceramics from Cappadocia
Izmit tiles are among the finest to be found in Turkey, but, as I discovered on my recent trip to Cappadocia, they make a very different kind of ceramic. No color, just white or gray and they depict the rock formations, caves and cave dwellings which are so typical for the Cappadocia landscape. These sculptures come in all sizes, some are also tinted yellow or pink which I find deplorable, but the grey or white ones are unique pieces and, contrary to the silver, not very expensive. I also liked the animals, they make. I think, they are cute.
Meerschaum from Eskisehir
Meerschaum is a white mineral, mostly found floating on the Black Sea, hence the name. But it’s also found in the mountains around the city of Eskishehir in Anatolia, half way between Istanbul and Ankara. Meerschaum can be carved like ivory and hardens when exposed to heat or sunlight. Equally like ivory, the pieces take on a yellowish tint through use, time and heat. It’s mostly made into pipe heads and the heyday of the craft occurred during the Ottoman empire when truly marvelous and gigantic pipe heads were made. The cravings are as fine as filigree. I was delighted when I discovered a Meerschaum Museum on my visit to Eskisheir a few weeks ago. But, it’s not only pipe heads that are made, but also ornaments ad jewelry. Antique pieces are displayed as well as more modern ones because the craft is alive and well in Eskisehir. You can order replicas of the antique pieces if that is what you fancy and if you have a few thousand $ to spare. Otherwise, you better settle for a more modest, modern set or content yourself with just admiring the beauty of it all.
So, you see, there is more to Turkey than carpets and leather.