Monday, December 22, 2008

Walking Across Wales

With just a few days left before our return to Istanbul we are still spending our days wandering the dunes, beaches, hills and valleys of Wales. We have kept track of our rambles and in our few short weeks here we have walked or hiked over 80 miles...and yet I have managed to maintain my robust 12 stone frame with pub meals and roasted beef baps.
We are simply longing now for good Turkish food and the cheeses and olives of home. Thanks for letting us take some down time.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Welsh Report

My Babe, Navigator, Boss Lady

Just a few windows into our week...

Elle & Stanley at Dyfi Estuary

Furnace Falls

Elle at Bird Rock

The Summit of Craig y Aderin

Dysini Valley


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Merry Christmas

Hey thanks for the gift you are giving us this year! A whole month off from updating our blog....How did you know?
We are not yet halfway through our month in Wales and are spending our days hiking through the rain and sleet and getting lost in the mountains and hills.
We will keep you updated as whimsy dictates......

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Welsh Christmas

The Rooftops of Coastal Wales

With Christmas fast approaching we Stewards are heading off to our ancestral homeland for our annual kilt refit.
I know that the holiday season in the states has some of you weary with its commercialism and cost...but when you live in our little corner of Istanbul it comes early every year.
With our first vacation in a year just 10 days away we are full of Christmas spirit, the decorations went up weeks ago and Bing and Bob have been singing their way through our flat and into the hallways of our building all week.
We will box up the Christmas decorations in a few days so our flat will be Christmas free when we return from a month in our little cottage in Wales.
Just a few pics from last year to fire up our daydreaming. Thanks for allowing us to bring the season into the mix a few weeks early.

Steward Christmas Hideaway

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Vacation on the Horizon

Just a note from the frequently absent hippie posing as a writer....we are pretty whacked after a busy and difficult year. BUT....our annual get-away to Wales is just a few days away and excitement is in the air. This time a full month in our hidden cottage in the "suicidally desolate village" on the coast. Why is that good? No phone, no internet, no interruptions....just our crew of four and the Christmas Season.
We will get some updates to you within days and lay out our schedule for the rest of the year soon. The Steward Travel Organization thanks you for your loyal readership.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Republic Celebrates

Ercan, Stanley & Elle

A few days ago Turkey celebrated its 85th birthday with a party for 15 million in Istanbul. While the culture of Asia Minor is one of the oldest on the planet, the Republic of Turkey was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on October 29th, 1923.
Even today Ataturk is revered by Turks as their founder and the man who saved the country from being absorbed by the allies at the end of WWI. It is illegal to even say anything negative about him...his legacy grows constantly. The truth is that without Mustafa Kemal, there would be no nation of Turkey today.
Wednesday night we headed down the street a few blocks where millions of Istanbulus had gathered to was mayhem. We have never witnessed the love of a country the way the Turks expressed it. It was the most nationalistic display I have ever witnessed. We had an amazing time celebrating with neighbors, friends, our Turkish family and total strangers. Here are a few vignettes from the evening...
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk Remembered

Reyhan & Ann

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chipping Away at Life

Stanley Praying at the Halilurrahman Mosque (Urfa)

Blogger was released from detention today and is back up and running. We are not optimistic that this will last for long, but will keep the flow running as long as we can.
The Turkish government is still navigating the merge of free speech and its core values and the arena where they clash causes quite a bit of uproar. After watching this dismal run for the presidency from abroad...I understand the dilemna the Turks are facing.
The Masters of Urfa Stone
In other news...A few weeks ago we made a run to the Syrian/Turk border and visited Harran and Sanliurfa. We met two stonemasons sitting in piles of Urfa stone chips who have spent their lives carving the stone into amazing ornamental blocks for Balikli Gol...the legendary place where Abraham and King Nimrod clashed. I won't bore you with the legend here, but this site has to be one of the top destinations we have visited in Turkey.
We will keep you in the loop as we watch where this Internet mess is going.
Just 32 days till vacation. I am leaving early, mentally.
Balikli Gol...Abraham's Pool

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shutdown in Istanbul

Within the last day or two our platform for blogging "Blogger" was banned in Turkey, along with our alternate "Wordpress". With the ban of YouTube leading the way some months ago testing the Turks tolerance for cyber-censorship, it looks like we will no longer be able to update this site from within Turkey using any of the mainstream blogging platforms.
We will be looking for other, legal platforms to publish our adventures and our love of Turkey...until then keep your fingers crossed that things will change. We have anticipated this for some time now and have kept our activity low-key. Now it is simply No-key...we are locked out.
This posting is courtesy of some great friends in Frankfurt.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Normal Life

A Return to Normal Life

Things are slowing down a bit for us this week. Our fellow travelers from the states on this last SRE are gone, our visas are in and except for some lingering bureaucratic issues we are on the long coast off this hill.
Our annual exodus to Wales is just a few weeks (5) away and then February will see us flying to the states for the first time in 3 years. We will be home for most of 10 months but will be keeping our Istanbul flat open hoping to be back by the end of 09.
This week we are wrapping up some issues with banking and tax registration in Istanbul and getting back into the swing of normal life, which for me means back to Ann's amazing Turkish cooking...and that translates to full stomachs and a busy living room.
I love this place...have I mentioned that before?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Wrapping Up the Season

Our Crew Chief

As we drove from the airport to home a few hours ago it sure felt good to be close to home, when we turned down our street the smells of Istanbul made us smile...we love this City. With this last trip being the final SRE of the season we had mixed feelings about the wrap up. We had a great SRE but the schedule was pretty tight with fitting in our guest's travel dates and the territory we needed to cover.
We have meetings tomorrow in Taksim and will bring you up to speed once we take care of some business next week. For now we will leave you a few windows into our weeks on the road.
At the Tell of Ancient Lystra

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Dusting Up

Cool Digs in Parts East
With our first chance to update since we hit the road 7 days ago we are taking this opportunity to check in. Today we found the Biblical Lystra which has been a point of contention between competing guide books and guides.
The "tell" is just that....a mound of rubble several acres across at the top and sitting 8 miles NE of the "site" where most guide books place it. We found pottery, finished marble, inscriptions and figurines littered across and poking through the soil along with an amazing number of hibernating turtles...something that I am going to put to the test now. More......coming.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Playing Marco Polo

In a little over 40 hours we will be off on the last SRE of the year...we think. Taking a few friends from the states who wanted to live on the road and see what all the fuss was about with our Silk Road Expeditions.
We will hit Antep, Urfa, Harran, Antioch of Sryia, Kapadokia and wind up passing thru Konya before arriving in Smyrna.
We are already booking for our next SRE in August 2009, if you wanna wander with our crew...drop us a line.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Silk Road Expedition 08-Fall

Exploring Forgotten Villages

In just two weeks we kick off what may be our final SRE of the year. Trying to catch up on the endless summer with no permission to travel, we are heading out on October 8th.
This time we are leading a small group of adventurers from the States on a 10 day trip to the interior and southeast of Turkey and back. Just a few picks to whet your appetite for another armchair adventure.
Picking Up Parts of our Truck in the Outback

Abandoned Nomadic Village SRE08

Want to travel with us? We are putting another group together for August 09,now is the time to get your name in if you want to help us as we explore the villages and tribes along the Turkish, Iranian and Iraqi borders!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Tasting Ramazan

Now that some of the pressure is off and we only have a half a dozen more offices to visit to wrap up our paperwork, we will begin to bring you up to speed with the small stuff of our lives.
Ramazan started a few weeks ago on September 2, a few days before that our apartment was filled with the smell of baking bread and cheese. Wondering where it was coming from I followed the smell down 3 flights of stairs until I hit the basement.
There our Kapici's wife and friends were making Borek village style over an old gas burner with an upside down pan on it. They used the curved bottom of the pan to lay the wet dough on and then stacked up the Borek's starters that were finished.
Stacks of Borek Await Ramazan

Cooking Borek Village Style

Borek is a thin crispy dough with a variety of fillers added. Cheese borek is the most popular, followed by meat borek and occassionally a sweet borek with milk and sugar. It is almost always served hot and has become a staple in our own kitchen.
Our friends and neighbors had gathered together to make a month's worth of borek. They would then be stacked dry in the house and when needed, would be dampenend with milk and water and cooked again in order to crisp it up and be served hot.

As the only male in this harem in the basement it fell to me to be the taster and approve or advise on the different seasonings being used. Kinda hard to believe we are still losing weight when these responsibilities involve such amazing sacrifices as health and weight...but as I have always said "I want to give something back to the community.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Road Trip to Hell

Well, those of you that are creating a fuss about our infrequent postings as of are right. We have been off the job. Just a few notes of news as to the why;
  • We did receive confirmation that our first attorney took our 5k and skipped town on us
  • For some crazy reason that affected my normal "cop mode" stress free life and my BP spiked 190/174, apparently that is something bad
  • We scrambled a bit to borrow 4k to apply for our Visas, since we gave our attorney a free trip
I know...sounds like I am making a big deal out of nothing and for that I am sorry.

NOW for the good news, 3 days after applying for our Visas last week, they were approved and we picked them up this AM and the most important step in the process is finished! Thanks for standing alongside us as we have taken a road trip to hell and back.
Ikhametler Aldik!

Three steps remain;

  • Re-register the jeep in our name-1200USD
  • Get my Turkish driver's license-700USD
  • Apply for our carnet de passage, the permit to drive the jeep overland and across borders and hopefully into Iran, Tajikistan and onto China-200USD 

So if all goes as planned we hope to have all this finished within the next two weeks. Soon as my Valium cocktail kicks in I will bring you up to speed on Ramazan in Turkiye and the food fest that has descended. Thanks for being so patient as we have juggled the plates in our crazy little circus:)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Serenity Now

If your not a Seinfeld fan our title today makes no sense. We heard from an attorney who did some snooping for us this week regarding our now appears our first attorney may have "borrowed" the funds we gave him and never filed for our Visas. This is not yet verified but a look through the Visa Application files by good friends this week came up zilch for our name or funds.
And you are upset with me for not posting more frequently? Hah! I knew you were just joking. Give us a little space here while we navigate thru this train wreck. We will give you updates as we get them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Off the Edge

Village Sunset

It probably seems like we dropped off the edge of the world with the shameful lack of updates...we agree and the view from the bottom is not worth reporting. We still have no news regarding our Visas and are a bit weary after the thousands spent and months waiting with no news. This is the hottest time of the year in Istanbul and coupled with the humidity (88% today) everyone is hiding during the daylight hours and sweating buckets in the evenings.
All is well...but you will have to wait for the uummph to return before we can bring you up to speed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Butcher's Bill

This travel journal has always been about our experiences as we travel along and through the countries that make up the fabric of the ancient Silk Road. We want to bring to you, in living color, the sights, smells, cultures and characters we encounter as we wander…and for that reason we have worked hard to avoid the politics of the day as we weave our way though Turkey and on through Central Eurasia.
This last week I have written and deleted thousands of words expressing our thoughts and feelings after the cowardly attacks against Turkish families and children in Istanbul on Sunday evening. 17 people were killed after two explosions rocked Istanbul, 5 of the dead are children. After letting this simmer for a few days to try and keep my “tone” somewhat bearable… here is the view from our corner of Asia.
The terrorists that committed this crime used the bait-and-blow tactic, setting a small but loud explosion to attract a crowd, and then detonating a powerful, nail and ball-bearing laden explosive that would rip through those who ran to rescue.
One of the stories we heard from Sunday evening was that of a 12 year old girl who heard the first explosion and ran to her balcony to look down to the street…she died moments later when the second bomb was detonated. Another image indelibly burned into our memory is that of a mother whose feet had been blown off, ignoring her own life-threatening trauma to tend to the minor injuries of her children.
As I have said before experience is the best teacher…no degrees, university course work or eloquent discourse can impart some of the lessons that life has to offer. 3 days later Istanbul is still somber and shaking the bone chips, blood, and images from its shock-waved senses.
I have been besieged this week by my Istanbul friends and family to both write and refrain from writing about this hate driven attack. Some are concerned that standing for what we believe would endanger us, others say that if we ignore this, we are ignoring the people we love. I agree with the latter, if we won’t stand to be counted now, will there ever be something worth standing for?
Our bottom line? Turkey has shown amazing restraint against the almost daily acts of terror against its core, beliefs and people. At the urging of our own country and others in the EU, Turkey has had to tread a fine line to defend their borders. They should be praised for their calculated, patient, and careful response. Once again Turkey pays a costly butcher's bill in the search for peace.
Those who should be condemned are the hate-filled and terror-driven cowards that have to resort to targeting the young and defenseless because they lack the strength of conviction in their own beliefs to engage in reasonable and peaceful discourse. Fear will work for a season, but you cannot live by it or enact lasting change through it. Fear is the weapon of the weak.
Today along with our Turkish brothers we stand as family and friends in the face of those who hate. We grieve with you.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Working in the Dark

Yep, I have been neglecting you again. Sorry. Things are still crazy with the Visas and car registration and we have been busy holding it all together while we wait for news.
This last week some "improvements" have been made in our apartment building. As a rule, you can count on all Turkish apartment corridors to be pitch black with the light switch on a short 3-10 second timer...just enough time to make it to the next stairwell where you can hit the switch again, so you can look back and see what you just tripped over.
Yesterday Turkish ingenuity showed up in the form of an old candle that the electrician was propping up against the gas lines to use as a work light. He just moved it, his tools and ladder from spot to spot until he had installed all 18 fixtures in the building.
I found him when he had just started working and offered him my flashlight, but he just smiled and said that his candle was easier to work with and didn't need batteries.
Six hours and one candle later he finished up and headed off to his next job...nailing 50 feet of 220V electrical cable to the sidewalk outside to put in walkway lights.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Knots of Knowledge

Making do with what you got is a big part of our lives. This last week Elle & Stanley had a several-day marathon Monopoly game in play. As they were cleaning up yesterday I laughed when I saw the money pile neatly stacked and held together with a rubber band that had been repaired by tying a knot in it.Yes...we can get rubber bands here if you know where to look for them, but Elle's experience with living on the far side of the world has taught her to go with the flow and exercise a little ingenuity. A little knowledge of living cross culturally has served her well. It seems having crazy parents may have an upside after all.
Please don't send us boxes of rubber bands in response to this posting...we still have a spare in case Elle's repair fails.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Turkey Bleeds...Again

The American Consulate in Istanbul was attacked a couple of hours ago by terrorists...3 Turkish Policemen are dead, 3 terrorists are dead and others are hurting. The attack took place at the main gate to the Consulate which sits some ways back from the road.
Turkey guards the entrance to our Consulate and paid the full price of today's butcher bill...for that we are humbled and grieve along with their families and children.
Shortly before the attack, and 1000 miles east, 3 German climbers were kidnapped by 5 terrorists as they camped with their 13 member climbing party on the slopes of Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey.
After all that is said and discussed about the "war on terror", it really boils down to being grateful for friends like the great nation of Turkey who stand alongside us.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Home is Good

Waiting for the Ferry

We made it back home to Istanbul last up a 5am and crossed the border around 12pm. Once we got across and were waiting for the Turkish Immigration Police, Stanley wandered away from the bus and I saw him kneel down and put his hand on the ground...he looked at me and said "Ah, Turkey, it is good to be home!"
We are hoping to have the truck ready to roll by August with the new registration and requirements completed and then we will be off on our Silk Road Expedition-08 II.
Today, paperwork, grocery shopping and catching up with the neighbors.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Unexpected Decompression

Ok, maybe having to hit the road wasn't the worse thing that could happen. We bought the cheapest bus tickets we could find that would get us out of Turkey and jumped off at the first stop the bus made in Greece. We found ourselves in a little town that is so hot it is almost deserted, but the hotel rates are really low compared to the high-season rates.
As we left Turkey the Custom's Police told us we couldn't return until at least Friday so we are forced to sit and wait...not too bad a place to do that though. We are enjoying an unexpected "decompression".

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wandering in Limbo

Closets...Steward Crew Style

A few years ago I made a comment about living out of my backpack, and while that is not the case in toto, everyday there seems to be something that I need to get out, or put back into it. The rational for that was evident again yesterday when we realized we had no choice but to leave Turkey...again.
There is still no word on our Resident Permits, so we are forced to leave the country for most of a week and will (hopefully) be returning to Istanbul next weekend...If we are granted new tourist visas.
With just a few hours to go until our current visas expire we are ready to bolt and have spent the last few days scrambling with trying to find a place to go to while waiting for the "5 day clock" to run out. Right now it looks like we will bus into Greece and stay just 20 kilometers from Turkey in Alexandroupolis. However, since our plans are last-minute, we aren't quite sure if we are going to end up when or where we intended.
Wandering Again

We had really hoped that our Residence Permits would have been approved this week and that we could could have avoided the expense and hassle of a Visa Exit, however, this type of travel seems to be the norm for our crew...we will be doing what we do best, flying by the seat of our pants.
We will do our darnedest to keep you in the loop once we find a place to sit for a few days.

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World

Living, Traveling, and Wandering on the Far Side of the World