Amsterdam – Friday

We took the train to Amsterdam today.  I thought Portland was a bike city — it’s really a bike “wide spot in the road” compared to Amsterdam.  Here’s the bike parking structure at the Amsterdam Centraal train station:

2017.04.21.1 Bike Parking

We walked to the Rijksmuseum, the only museum that was on our “absolutely must-see” list for Amsterdam on this trip.  On our walk, we passed this apartment with pictures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in the window — most likely a Turkish ex-pat who is not overly fond of the current regime:

2017.04.21.2 Turkey Politics

The Rijksmuseum:

2017.04.21.3 Rijksmuseum

My 3 favorite works were:

– Van Gogh’s self portrait

2017.04.21.4 Van Gogh Self-Portrait

– Rembrandt’s self-portrait as Apostle Paul

2017.04.21.5 Rembrandt as Apostle Paul

– and a very Dutch picture of a mother checking her daughter’s hair for lice (in 1660) – A Mother’s Duty by Pieter de Hooch (some things never change!)

2017.04.21.6 Mothers Duty Pieter de Hooch 1660

It was also interesting to see a 1636 painting of the Grote Kerk in Harleem (that we visited yesterday), after it had been whitewashed by the Protestants in the 1500s to cover up the Catholic images.

2017.04.21.7 Grote Kerk 1636

After two hours, we were over-saturated, and enjoyed a stroll in the garden and park behind the museum.  Tulips are everywhere — even in the ponds.

2017.04.21.8 Tulips

2017.04.21.9 Rijksmuseum garden

We decided to sightsee sitting down for a while, and took a canal tour in a small open boat.  It was a bit chilly, but worth it to be able to see the sights without the enclosures of most of the canal boats.

2017.04.21 Canal 1

2017.04.21 Canal 2

Real estate is so expensive along the canals (1 million euro per floor, according to our guide), that houseboats have become expensive as well.  There are over 2,000 houseboats permanently moored along the canals.  Our guide pointed out one unimpressive-looking houseboat that was for sale for 1.2 million euro, including the permanent moorage spot (which was probably at least as valuable as the boat).

Notice the black house below, listing to the left.

2017.04.21 Canal 3

On our small boat, the guests spoke Dutch, French, Italian and English, so the guide gave the tour in English (since everyone understood it).

2017.04.21 Canal 4

Lunch was a cheese and veggy pannekoeke (large, very thin, crispy crepe) and more fresh mint tea:

2017.04.21.10 Pannekoeke

Haarlem – Thursday

We arrived in the Netherlands this morning and took a bus to Haarlem, which will be our home-base for 3 days.  We’re staying in a small hotel (Stempels) in a building that was used from 1737-1940 as a printing press and later as a mint to print bank-notes and stamps.  The location is ideal – a 5-minute walk to the bus to the airport, a 10-minute walk to the train to Amsterdam, and right next to the Grote Kirk (Great Church) and Grote Markt (central market square).

Here’s the view of the Grote Kirk from our room:

2017.04.20 Grote Kerk from hotel

2017.04.20 View from hotel

Other than a short nap to make up for losing a night of sleep en route, we spent the day poking around Haarlem on foot (logging 14400 steps per my pedometer app).  Haarlem is beautiful, quaint, non-touristy, and easy to explore.

The Grote Kerk was the highlight. It was built over a 150-year period (1390-1540) to replace an even earlier church that burned down in 1328.  Originally a Catholic church, it was converted to a Protestant church in the late 1500s.

Here’s the fan-vaulted cedar ceiling:

2017.04.20 Grote Kerk ceiling

On the barrier surrounding the original choir (worship area), there are two wooden carvings of “pillar biters”, apparently to remind overly devout Catholics (“more Catholic than even the pope”) not to go overboard in their devotion:

2017.04.20 Grote Kirk pillar biter

The most impressive part of the Grote Kerk is a magnificent, 5,000-pipe organ, completed in 1738, and apparently played by a young Mozart in 1766 at the end of a three-year tour of Europe:

2017.04.20 Grote Kirk organ

Here are some of my other favorite shots from today.

The De Adriaan windmill, originally built in 1779, burned down in 1932, rebuilt in 2002:

2017.04.20 De Adriaan Windmill 1

A few of the many interesting buildings, some of which lean noticeably.  The first one below was built in 1692 on one of the canals for a merchant, and includes a pully at the top to hoist goods up the storage in the attic:

2017.04.20 Haarlem leaning bldg 1692

2017.04.20 Haarlem BldgCanals and very low bridges:

2017.04.20 Haarlem canal bridge 1

2017.04.20 Haarlem bridge

A cheese shop:

2017.04.20 Cheese shop

The (really fresh) mint tea that we enjoyed on a break:

2017.04.20 Fresh mint tea

… and my favorite urban-art photographer:

2017.04.20 Urban art




Our trip to Turkey was wonderful – exciting, challenging, beautiful, relaxing, rewarding.  The very best part was being able to spend time with Onur’s family – Ömer (whose name I mispronounced the entire visit), Sevgi and Berkay.  

Things I’ll miss:

  • Turkish hospitality 
  • Turkish food (so fresh and delicious, enjoyed with friends, often outdoors)
  • The Mediterranean (beautiful blue, clear water, perfect temperature for swimming)
  • The coastal scenery

Things at home that I’ve developed a better appreciation for:

  • Hot morning showers, not dependent on solar-heated water
  • Widely-available high-speed reliable internet access
  • Being able to drink tap water
  • Relatively sane drivers

I’m looking forward to our next trip to Turkey, which will definitely involve visiting Kaş and learning more Turkish.

Day 13 – Istanbul to San Francisco 

Saturday was a 34-hour day, as we followed the sun through 10 time zone changes.

A few comments on security:

Security was very much in evidence around Istanbul. All of the major attractions that we visited in the city had metal detectors, and a trio of AK-47-armed police patrolled Sultanahmet Square.

On the coast, there were police checkpoints on major roads, but we were never stopped – these seemed to be more for show than anything else.

The Istanbul airport is now probably one of the safest airports in Europe. All cars are checked before you get to the airport, followed by a metal detector and bag check to enter the building, in addition to the normal screening to get to the gates.

Our passports were checked 7 times at the airport – 3 times in a single bag drop-off line (once to enter the line, again before reaching the counter, and at the counter).  Some of this was simple inefficiency, and some was probably due to the desire to stop Gulenists from leaving the country during the post-coup state of emergency.

Notes on the Istanbul airport:

The airport was very busy, and was full of families seeing off people leaving for the hajj. (It took us a little while to figure out why there were so many older men wearing what looked like large bath towels at first glance.)

In Turkey, you’ll see a blue eye-shaped design everywhere you go – in jewelry, hanging over doorways, even embedded in street tile. This is the nazar, a traditional amulet to ward off the “evil eye”. Here’s the nazar that is hanging over the passport control checkpoint in the airport:

We stopped in the duty-free shop to unload our last lira.  It’s clear the tobacco companies don’t have as much lobbying power in Turkey as they have in the U.S., because the anti-smoking warnings on tobacco products are far more serious here:

Unfortunately the warnings don’t seem to make any difference.

One of my favorite sights at the airport were the motorized wheelchairs driven by airport workers to help people with mobility limitations.  They zipped around so fast that it was hard to catch photos of them:

Off to San Francisco:

Day 12 – Fethiye to İstanbul 

It was very hard to say goodbye this morning to Berkay, Sevgi and Ömer, and I’m sure it was even harder for them to see Onur leave. I look forward to our next visit with them.

We drove to the small town of Göcek, which is quite a yachting haven.  There are 5 yacht marinas, and every 3rd store in town is yachting-related (rentals, sales, equipment, clothing, etc).  

The streets were pretty, immaculately clean and empty of the street dogs, cats and chickens that we’ve become accustomed to. 

I felt like I was on the set of the Truman Show, but with a very small cast of extras.

The upside is that the non-yachting stores have really beautiful goods.  We contributed to the local economy.

To ensure that riff-raff like us don’t stick around, the one beach in town charges 100₺ per person between 9am & 9pm.  (It’s free between 9pm-9am.)  I’ll take Kaş over Göcek any day.

Now on to the Dalaman airport…

Day 11 – Fethiye 

Like yesterday, today we explored ruins in the morning and headed to cooling water in the afternoon.

This morning we explored the abandoned city of Livissi near Kayaköy.  The area was inhabited from the Bronze Age, but the oldest remaining structures (rock tombs) are from the 4th century BC.

Most of the stone  buildings now on the site were built in the late 19th & very early 20th centuries.  The city had a population of about 2,000 by 1900, primary Greek Christians.

At the end of the Greco-Turkish war (to define the shape of the new Turkish Republic), an agreement was reached for 1.2 million Greek-speaking Christians living in Anatolia to be resettled to Greece, and for 400,000 Turkish-speaking Muslims living in Macedonia to be resettled in Turkey. Depending on the source you read, the removal of the Greeks from Livissi was either peaceful (though compulsory) or violent. In either event, Livissi was abandoned by the mid-1920s, and is now a ghost town.

Jen has much better photos at

After buying a few crafts from two sweet old women in Kayaköy, we drove to a beautiful secluded cove and pebbly beach at Gemiler Köyü.  I’ve decided that pebbly beaches are my favorites in Turkey, because they don’t attract tourists (and the garish development that follows them).

After a restful afternoon in the shade (for Keith & me) and swim in the ocean (Jen & Onur), we headed into Fethiye for a little browsing & shopping, before going home to some delicious grilled levrek and çupra (fish bought early this morning at the fishmonger’s).

Day 10 – Fethiye 

We had a delightful evening last night – Berkay cooked 4 different kinds of kabobs (kuzu şiş, kuzu bonfile, kıyma, and ızgara köfte) over a small grill outside, which we ate on the patio.  The grill was low on the ground, so he had to keep chasing off the neighborhood cats, who were quite interested in the delicious smells.

We sat around after dinner over raki and water chatting with Ömer and Berkay (thanks to Onur’s invaluable translation skills), learning more about their family and family history.  

For example, Ömer’s great-grandfather was stationed in Yemen during WWI, returning to Istanbul with the collapse of the Ottoman empire.  From there, he made his way back to Gaziantep on foot, about a 6-month journey.

By the time he got home, he had been away and out of contact for over 10 years, and was presumed dead.  (The great-grandfather’s brother had already named a son in the great-grandfather’s memory.)  It was a wonderful evening.

We had another picture-perfect breakfast on the grass this morning.

After breakfast, we headed to the ruins at Tlos, an area that has been occupied since the Bronze Age.  Although the ruins of an Ottoman-era fortress and Lycian and Hellenistic tombs had been known for centuries, ruins of a larger settlement dating to the 2nd century & earlier were discovered in 2005 and are still being excavated:

I was intrigued by the use of recycled column segments in this wall: 

After several hours in the hot sun, we enjoyed a delicious fresh trout lunch on a covered platform in the trees over a small waterfall at the “Orjinal Tlos Yaka Park“: 

After lunch, we drove to Saklıkent Gorge, an amazingly deep slot canyon with a spring-fed (cold!) river at the bottom. 

Keith, Sevgi and I got as far up the canyon as you can go without wading across; Jen, Onur, Berkay and Ömer continued up the canyon further. Check out Jen’s blog for more photos.

On our way home from Saklıkent, we stopped at a local carpet cooperative (no purchases resulted) 

…picked up some figs and cooked corn from a roadside stand 

…and came home and crashed.