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    Hiking in Kizilcahamam

    Two of our teacher friends told us about Kızılcahamam and we went to check it out. Kızılcahamam is a small town about 50 miles north of where we live. It’s still a part of the Ankara providence, but it is far outside the city and feels like a completely different place.

    Getting there was a breeze! We took a 2TL dolmuş ride from our neighborhood to ANKAmall. Outside the mall, we walked under the overpass, called a number to “reserve” our bus spots, and then paid 7TL for the hour and a half ride into Kızılcahamam. (That’s less than $10 USD round trip!)

    We spent our Saturday hiking in Soğuksu (translation “cold water”) National Park with five of our friends.

     

    Trees

     

    It felt so good to slip away from the city for a little bit.

     

    Hiking in Kizilcahamam

     

    The view of the mountains was beautiful. Our weather just started to turn cooler, and it was the perfect day to be outside.

     

    Kizilcahamam Mountains

     

    Colorful leaf

     

    Kizilcahamam view

     

    Kizilcahamam view

     

    Hiking in Kizilcahamam

     

    We saw petrified trees and some vultures (apparently this is part of the tourist attraction for the park?) on our hike. And aside from me falling down a hill and almost breaking our camera (miraculously it didn’t break – and neither did I), it was a perfect day!

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    The Black Sea: Çakraz & Amasra

    Friday, August 30 was Victory Day in Turkey, and we had the day off of school. We decided to take advantage of the long weekend and planned a trip north to the Black Sea.

     

    Ankara to Çakraz

     

    Five of us rented a car and David braved driving in Turkey. We left around 6 am to avoid as much traffic as possible, and it worked really well. Once we got out of the city it was smooth sailing. The drive was absolutely beautiful with mountains and trees. It took us about four and a half hours to get there.

     

    David driving

     

    Our friend helped us make hostel reservations. We called several places, but hardly anyone spoke English and if they did, it was super limited. (Surprisingly, we were asked several times if we spoke German.) We ended up staying at Deniz Motel, which was right on the beach!

     

    View from our hostel

     

    Çakraz is a tiny town nestled in a cove between two bluffs. Most of the action is on the “brickwalk” area by the sea. There are several hotels and restaurants and a few bakkals. I don’t think we ran into any English-speaking tourists, though there were a lot of Turks on vacation. It was much more a vacation spot than a tourist spot. We loved relaxing in such a chill atmosphere! Our hostel even had lounge chairs for us to use on the beach.

    There were several gözleme stands by the restaurants. Gözleme is kind of a cross between a crepe and a calzone. There’s different fillings you can order. We love the potato kind. The beef ones are also good – they have finely ground meat with spices and onion. Our favorite is the honey and walnut gözleme. The gözleme only cost 2,50TL and we ordered about 12 between the five of us the first afternoon.

     

    Gözleme stand

     

    After some beach time on Friday, we drove twenty minutes over to Amasra to meet up with some friends who had also traveled to the Black Sea for the weekend. We stopped just outside of Amasra for some pictures:

     

    Outside Amasra

     

    How’s this for the view next to the parking lot?

     

    Amasra, Turkey

     

    Our friend who made our hostel reservations recommended that we eat at Canlı Balık, a popular fish restaurant in Amasra.

     

    Canli Balik restaurant

     

    There were 12 of us. We had a super long table right next to the sea.

     

    Seaside table

     

    The Black Sea region gets a lot of rain and is well known for its produce. This salad was as tasty as it was beautiful!

     

    Amasra Salad

     

    Our table ordered several plates of fish. It was all fried and included hamsi and at least one other type of fish I didn’t get the name of. Hamsi is apparently known as the European anchovy. I avoided the bones and heads, but a several people ate the little fish whole!

     

    Hamsi fish

     

    We walked around Amasra for a bit aftewards. Amasra was a hopping little town with plenty of shops, restaurants, and touristy things. They had some really yummy street food – we got mussels, ice cream, and fried spiraled potatoes on a stick. We’re glad we got to check it out and say hello to our friends:

     

    Group shot

     

    Back in Çakraz the next morning, we went on a little hike.

     

    Seaside old dock

     

    We started on the left of our hostel and climbed around on the rocky bluff.

     

    Climbing rocks

     

    The Black Sea

     

    Then we walked through the town to get to the top of the bluff on the right.

     

    Overlooking Çakraz

     

    That night we ate at the restaurant connected to Özmenler Otel. The food and service was even better than at Canlı Balık. Plus, the waiter spoke some English. We ate family style and ordered some delicious meze – calamari, eggplant with a garlic yogurt sauce, a vegetable dish, and a cheese plate. We ordered hamsi again and another fish they recommended. This time, the fish was not fried and it was so good. They also gave us free fish eggrolls and a beautiful fruit plate. The entire meal was less than 35TL (around $17 USD) a person!

     

    Fruit plate

     

    Also that evening, we bought some paper lanterns from a street vendor and set them off over the water.

     

    Lighting a paper lantern

     

    After the Turkish breakfast provided by our hostel, we drove back to Ankara on Sunday. We loved the Black Sea!

    Staying In Touch While You’re Overseas: Calling & Texting

    Whether you are living overseas, studying abroad, or traveling for an extended period of time, it’s important to stay in touch with family and friends back home. The internet and our many electronic gadgets have made communication amazingly easy compared to how it was even just a few years ago.

    David and I spend about 10 months out of the year teaching in Turkey and the other 2 in the States. Apart from Facebook, email, and our blog, Google Voice is one of our favorite resources for keeping in touch with our family and friends back home.

     

    Staying in touch when you're overseas

     

    Calling and Texting: Google Voice and Talkatone

    If you have an iPod (or any iOS or Android device) and an internet connection, your iPod can be used as a cell phone for calling and texting:

    1. Create a Gmail account if you don’t already have one.
    2. Set up Google Voice. I did this on my computer, but you can probably do it through the app. (I got to choose the area code of my Google Voice number!) Note: I believe this must be done in the States before you travel.
    3. Install the free Google Voice app on your iPod. 
    4. Install the free Talkatone app on your iPod. During the set up, you’ll link it to your Google Voice account.

    And that’s it! Your Google Voice number + the Talkatone app + Wi–Fi = an iPod that can call and text for FREE! (Note: You will want to use headphones if you are in public. Otherwise, you’ll be walking around on speakerphone.)

    I use Talkatone on my Barnes and Noble Nook to text. (I can also make calls with the Nook, but I prefer to use my computer for calls.) David has a 5th generation iPod and often times, we’ll make our calls from that.

    Google does have international calling rates, but since we set our Google Voice numbers as U.S. numbers, we can call any U.S. number (or Canada) for FREE!

    We can also send and receive calls on our computers when we have our Gmail email accounts open:

     

    Calling while on your Gmail

     

    What is also great about Google Voice is that it allows you to set up call forwarding. When we were home over a break, we purchased a T-Mobile prepaid phone. We can only use that phone and number when we are in the States. However, we give everyone our Google Voice number because we set it up to forward both calls and texts to our T-Mobile phone. When we travel back to Turkey, we change the Google Voice settings so calls and texts do not forward and we don’t get charged by T-Mobile. (The only “problem” with this is when we call or text back, it shows our T-Mobile number rather than the Google Voice number.)

    Do you use Google Voice or another free calling/texting service?

     

     

    Picking Michigan Blueberries

    While we were camping in South Haven, we stopped at DeGrandchamp Farms to pick blueberries! DeGrandchamp had a great you-pick area. They charged $1.75 a pound. After we got our buckets, we headed to the blueberry bushes. I think this was my first time picking blueberries – at least that I can remember!

     

    Degrandchamp blueberry you-pick

     

    Blueberry Farm

     

    Aren’t these berries just beautiful?

     

    Michigan blueberries

     

    Ben picking blueberries

     

    Fallen blueberries

     

    Blueberries on the bush

     

    Holding blueberries{shirt}

     

    Ripening blueberries

     

    Sam and David picking blueberries

     

    Our buckets of picked blueberries

     

    Bucket of blueberries

     

    DeGrandchamp also has a cute country store with lots of blueberry and cranberry products.

    We picked about 20 pounds of blueberries! We enjoyed snacking on them and made blueberry pancakes the next morning. Yum!

     

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    South Haven, Michigan at Sunset

    We spent 5 days camping last week in Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan with David’s family. South Haven is on the coast of Lake Michigan.

     

    Southwest Michigan map

     

    David’s family used their fifth wheel camper, but we had our own private camping suite. The Christmas after we got married, David’s parents gave us camping supplies including a huge 8-person Coleman tent. They also gave us a queen air mattress that takes up about half of the tent. It’s a great set up!

    The first day was really overcast. When we went to check out the water, it was hard to find the horizon! We had some rain the next two days, but it made for good sleeping weather in the morning.

     

    Foggy day at Lake Michigan

     

    We spent our days biking, looking at shops in the downtown area, and swimming at the beach. David’s dad had to work during the day, but joined us in the evenings. After we made campfire and RVQ dinners, we’d head into town for ice cream. We ate twice at Captain Nemo’s for their delicious Sherman’s Finest ice cream! (We weren’t as impressed with Kilwins… it was good, but really overpriced.)

    One evening we walked down the South Haven pier to catch the sunset.

     

    South Haven, Michigan

     

    South Haven, Michigan

     

    South Haven, Michigan lighthouse

     

    We are so spoiled by Michigan beaches! Unsalted and so beautiful!

     

    Lake Michigan with ducks

     

    Family on the pier

     

    We watched the sailboats come into the dock for the night:

     

    South Haven, Michigan sunset

     

    South Haven, Michigan Sailboat

     

    Pure Michigan:

     

    South Haven, Michigan Sunset

     

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    Detroit Tigers Game

    My dad lives in Georgia but was visiting Michigan for vacation. He invited us to the July 26 Detroit Tigers game. They played the Philadelphia Phillies. David, Mary, Patrick, and I visited with Dad and his family and then headed to Comerica Park.

     

    Outside Comerica Park

     

    Outside Comerica Park

     

    Comerica Park is across the road from Ford Field:

     

    Ford Field

     

    We arrived early and got a free fan towel.

     

    Field at Comerica Park

     

    The weather was beautiful and it was a sold-out stadium.

     

    Detroit Tigers vs Philadelphia Phillies

     

    Pure Michigan:

     

    Comerica Park at night

     

    Detroit Tigers July 26, 2013

     

    Tigers won, 2–1! We had a great time catching up with everyone, especially Dad, my brother Matt, and his wife Anna.

     

    Family at Detroit Tigers game

     

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