Browsing Tag:


    Fall Break: Pamukkale

    Pamukkale is so unreal! It felt like a bizarre theme park in the middle of nowhere – only it’s a completely natural site.




    Pamukkale means “cotton castle” in Turkish. From far away, it looks like a snow capped mountain. The white landscape is created from a type of limestone deposit. Water flows from the hot springs at the top of the hill, carbon dioxide evaporates, and calcium carbonate is left behind. The water from the springs flows throughout the town of Pamukkale:


    Pamukkale water


    Pamukkale Park


    Pamukkale is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Entrance costs 25TL or is free with the Müzekart. (We love our Müzekarts! They have saved us so much money… especially since we visited this site twice! I think you must be a teacher or student in order to get one. Make sure you have your Turkish ID number and you can purchase it at any major site.) The travertine only comes so far down the entrance path. Once you get to the white, you must take off your shoes. The ground was easy to walk on, and the texture provided needed traction.


    Pamukkale ground






    Pamukkale travertines


    People have traveled to the mineral spas since the 2nd century B.C. They say there’s several health benefits from soaking in the water.


    Pamukkale pool


    The ancient ruins of Hierapolis are at the top of the hill. I was surprised how big the city was. We could have spend a lot more time exploring. Heriopolis is mentioned in Colossians 4:13. Phillip was martyred here. The archaeological museum costs an extra 5TL or is free with the Müzekart.

    The reconstruction of the theater was impressive:


    Theater at Hierapolis




    Legend has it that Cleopatra sent men around the land to find healing waters. The water that was brought from Pamukkale yielded the best results. They’ve made an attraction called “Cleopatra’s Pool” (a gift from Antony to Cleopatra) and you can pay to swim among some of the ancient ruins. We got changed and opted for the free mineral pools on the way back down the hill.


    Cleopatra's Pool


    Pamukkale travertines


    Pamukkale ground


    The natural terraces created the most perfect pools. There were even ledges around the edge:


    Pamukkale pool


    Bathing in the mineral water


    Bathing in the mineral water




    Other notes on Pamukkale: Between the Kurban Bayrami holiday and it being the end of summer, there wasn’t a lot to see or do in the town itself. We ate at White House Restaurant & Cafe and Lamuko’s Lokanta; both were tasty. Pamukkale can easily be a day trip.

    I loved Pamukkale! So much, that we went up again a few days later. (More pictures from that soon.) We left around 5pm to head to our next destination – a coastal beach town!



    Summer So Far

    We’ve been back in the States for about two and half weeks for our summer break. Here’s a peek at some of what we’ve been up to…

    Eating fresh berries from Sam’s patch:


    Summer strawberries




    David grilling


    Spending time with two of our favorite people:


    Grandma and Grandpa


    Meeting our niece Claire:


    Dad with Claire


    Hanging out with her brother Jonah and family:


    Jonah sliding into the pond


    We drove to Tennessee for my sister’s wedding (more photos from that soon):




    Seeing my mom’s new property in Arkansas and the progress on her house:


    Mom on her new property


    Enjoying the lake near my mom’s:


    David fishing


    Arkansas Lake Shore


    Meeting up with dear friends from college:


    Heber Springs with friends


    Enjoying a Michigan summer at its finest:


    Deer in a field


    Pond at sunset


    Seeing David’s brother play ball:


    Ben in the Gus Macker


    What are your summer plams?




    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!

    An Afternoon on Mackinac Island

    Since we were so close and it’s probably Mom’s last summer in Michigan, we decided to do a quick day trip to Mackinac Island. We were there last year for the Lilac Festival 10K.

    It’s about a 15 minute ferry ride from the mainland to the island. We passed the Mackinac Bridge, which connects the lower peninsula of Michigan to the upper peninsula. (We drove across it last year with David’s family while on vacation!) The Chicago to Mackinac sailboat race going on that day:


    Mackinac Bridge


    As you approach the island, you can see the Grand Hotel. It’s the setting for the movie Somewhere in Time:


    The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island


    We spent the afternoon walking around and looking at the cute shops. Mackinac is unique because no cars are allowed on the island. I think they might have a fire truck and an emergency vehicle, but other than that, you get around by foot, bike, or horse.


    Mackinac Shops


    Mackinac bikes


    You have to watch out for horse pies when you walk across the street!


    Horse drawn carriage


    Mackinac Island is known for its fudge:


    Fudge Makers on Mackinac Island


    We had lunch at Mary’s Bistro:


    Mary's Bistro on Mackinac Island


    David got a lamb and bleu cheese burger, I had a crab salad sandwich, and Mom had crab cake sliders. Yum!


    Mary's Bistro Lunch on Mackinac Island


    The island is absolutely beautiful! It was a gorgeous, sunny day.


    Mackinac Island


    We walked up to the Grand Hotel. Mom, Mary, and I have stayed at the hotel before. It’s very fancy and formal. After 6 pm, they require women to be in dresses or skirts and men to be in suits. There’s a fee to look inside if you’re not a guest.




    However, there was no fee to eat at the new Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor connected to the hotel!




    More Hudsonville Ice Cream! Mmmm!




    Mackinac Island is one of my favorite places in Michigan!


    Kites on the Mackinac Island pier



    Life is Better at the Lake

    My aunt and uncle own a lake cottage and invited us up north last weekend. (Up north is a very Michigan term… it usually refers to the top of the mitten.) Oh, the memories we’ve made at the cottage! My family has visited the cottage during summers and Christmases for as long as I can remember. There’s 10 cousins on that side of the family and the girls are all stair step in age to each other.

    We had lots of fun playing with my cousin’s daughter, Cammy! She’s 2 and a half and absolutely precious. She loves to swim, build castles, play with Yo-Zoe (Zoey the dog), and blow bubbles:


    Blowing bubbles with Cammy


    We laughed and laughed that she had named her doll Lois. Here’s Aunt Lois and Baby Doll Lois:


    Aunt Lois and doll Lois


    It’s tradition at the cottage to write your name on a cup and reuse it during your stay. We had two Davids this weekend, so my David got a little creative with his cup:


    Weekend cups


    David purchased a fishing license and woke up early to go fishing with Uncle Marv.


    Sunrise while fishing


    They caught 4 or 5 fish the first morning:


    David holding a fish


    We had large mouth bass for dinner and they were delicious. David learned how to fillet them!


    Uncle Marv holding a fish




    The weather was perfect and we enjoyed swimming, boat rides, and tubing. My arms are still store from hanging on so tight:


    Wiping out while tubing


    It was the first time my cousin Kendra’s boyfriend had gone tubing:


    Kendra and David tubing


    Cammy loved, loved, loved her watermelon. She had 3 big slices one meal. “I need more watermelon, Yee-ah!”


    Cammy loves watermelon!


    We had so much fun catching up with everyone, playing games like Four on a Couch and Loaded Questions, sharing meals together, and getting some sun. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or company!


    The family at the cottage



    Spring Break Part 1: Amsterdam

    Our school’s spring break was the last week in March. David, Daniel, and I traveled with 4 of our friends to the Netherlands and Belgium. We flew into Amsterdam Saturday night and spent 2 days there.

    I was super impressed with how modern and clean Amsterdam was in comparison to Ankara. Europe is so efficient! When we looked up the weather, we saw it was going to be cold. We had no idea it was going to be freezing. I wore tights under my jeans, double layered socks, had a scarf, hat, and gloves, and was still cold most of the time! We road the tram a lot to escape the cold.


    Walking in Amsterdam


    We shared a 9-person room with a private bathroom at Hotel Van Gogh. The hostel was very modern and provided clean sheets and towels every day. They had a fantastic €5 buffet breakfast. Some of the desk workers were rude, but we  would recommend staying there because of the amenities and location.

    We spent our first full day walking around and checking out shops. Holland is known for its cheese, and we sampled a lot.


    Sampling Amsterdam cheese


    We never really ate “traditional” Flemish food, aside from a croquette appetizer at one restaurant. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican, Thai, Italian, and English food! Another place to note was Bagels and Beans. I ordered their avocado, tomato, and lettus bagel sandwich. Their honey and walnut cream cheese rocked my world. I told my friends I wanted an ice cream cone filled with that cream cheese it was so good. (I also loved their branding – just take a look at their menu!)

    We also visited the Van Gogh Museum, which was temporarily in the Hermitage. No pictures were allowed in the exhibit, but we saw many of his most famous works including Sunflowers and Almond Branches in Bloom.

    Amsterdam has bikes, bikes, and more bikes! David read there is roughly an average of 1.5 bicycles per person in Amsterdam. We didn’t rent any because it was so cold, but would have liked to. I thought for certain I’d get hit by one, but luckily  most of them had bells and let you know they were coming.


    Brains travel on bikes


    One of my favorite things we saw was the Anne Frank House. This was the annex in her father’s business building where they hid for 2 years. I was surprised how large it was – I had always imagined it as a small, cramped couple of rooms. I was also surprised it was in a row of buildings right beside a canal. It was a moving experience to walk through the house and experience a piece of history.

    Before we started traveling, I purchased The Fault In Our Stars by John Greene. I heard good reviews about the book and several of our students read it this semester. I had no idea that part of the story took place in Amsterdam! It was really cool to read the part about the characters visiting the Anne Frank House after having seen it myself.


    Anne Frank House entrance


    The canals were so picturesque:


    Standing in front of a canal in Amsterdam


    The architecture was beautiful, too. This is Amsterdam’s Grand Central Station:


    Grand Central Station Amsterdam


    I was super disappointed the weather was so cold, because I was hoping to see the tulip fields and the windmills. I doubted the fields were in bloom, and it was really too cold to take the day trip outside the city. We did visit one windmill within the city:


    Windmill in Amsterdam


    And I did see a few tulips in the tulip market:


    Tulips at the tulip market


    And the canals were especially beautiful at night:


    An Amsterdam canal at night


    After a few days in Amsterdam, we took a train to Bruges, Belgium. More to come on that soon!