March 9, 2010
Overcast, showers in the morning. Mid-forties
Turkey has seemed so easy in comparison to the rest of our trip – I leisurely woke up around 8:45 this morning and took a hot shower and ate breakfast. We took a two hour bus ride (read: two hour nap) and ended up in the most gorgeous quaint island town that had been fought over by the Greeks and the Turks for hundreds of years. We visited an old Greek Orthodox church and walked around the cobblestone streets. Cats and dogs were everywhere, and many of the dogs had the strangest eye color: it was a very light blue, almost white.
From there, we drove another hour to an olive oil factory, where we toured a museum of old olive-oil making equipment and tasted some extra-virgin olive oil right out of the aging tank. It was some of the best I’ve had in my whole life: at first, it was grassy, but it finished with a spicy kick at the end. The whole factory smelled like olives. Then we drove down the road to an olive farm and ate lunch in a wood-stove heated rotunda surrounded by orchards. Olives and oil from that farm were served with grilled chicken, fresh pasta, a local salad, and homemade meatballs with fresh fruit for dessert. It was easily one of the best meals of the entire trip. Turkey had been a culinary heaven, especially in comparison with Egypt where food seemed solely for the purpose of making hunger stop. At hour intervals along our day trips, we are fed snacks of fresh fruit, freshly roasted nuts, and chocolate.
After lunch, all eighteen (one person was at the hotel sick) of us piled into a single four wheel drive safari jeep and made the dangerous drive up the washed-out roads of Mt. Ida until it was no longer possible to traverse the roads, then we got out and walked up to a huge waterfall. It wasn’t a tall waterfall, but the sheer volume of water rushing through it was shocking. In the last six months, a year’s worth of rain has fallen in Turkey and in many places there are signs of inadequate drainage, especially outside of the city. Many fields are flooded and the trails in the mountains are more like creeks.
The other interesting thing about the Turkish hills is the similarities between the flora and fauna here and in California. I always hear the term “semi-arid Mediterranean” being used to describe the climate of California, and it is definitely an accurate description. Even though we are on the other side of the world, there are many of the same plants growing here. Walking through the hills yesterday was like walking through the hills surrounding San Jose.
We went back to the olive farm after our hike to have some tea before returning to the hotel. Dinner at the hotel was like every meal I’ve had in Turkey so far: multiple delicious courses so vast that it is impossible to finish. You think you’ve beaten the food, but in the end another plate is placed in front of our and the food beats you. The dessert here was surprisingly like a variation of two Indian desserts we ate quite frequently. There were gingerbread lumps soaked in syrup that were very similar to Gulab Jamun, and a baked pasta pudding that was similar to a liquid pasta pudding we had in Sariska. Also, whenever someone offers you tea here, they ask if you want chai, but then bring you a sweetened strong black tea that tastes nothing like the milky masala chai from India.
Denny would be proud that I’m doing integrations in my personal journal – I’m certain that comparing food is as important as comparing observations from different biomes.