Let It Snow

I hate winter. I don’t like shivering with cold, I don’t like thick, bulky winter clothes and I particularly don’t like the overcast skies that dampen my mood. So it’s ironic that when I travelled to Turkey to escape winter, it was the first time I saw snow falling.

When I was studying in Italy, I had a 3 week break over the Christmas and New Year period. I have an extensive travel list and so understandably I spent a long time trying to decide where to go. I was torn between two things: 1) having an authentic European winter and white Christmas and 2) escaping to somewhere a little bit warmer. In the end Turkey won due to the average temperature in December being 8-15C (and by leaving the EU for 2 weeks meant that in total my time there came under the 90 day rule so I didn’t need a VISA!).

4 days before I arrived in Istanbul there was a storm that completely covered the city in snow, but by the time I arrived the snow had melted, there were blue skies and glorious, glorious sun! Apart from crazy wind in Troy, the sun followed me all of the way. Until Cappadocia…

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On the drive from Konya to Cappadocia was when I saw the snow. I had only seen snow three times before (when mum and dad took my brother and I when we were little, when I went skiing in the Pyrenees and on the best day of my life at Zermatt) so I still get overly excited!

We stopped at the Agzikarahan Caravanserai and sure enough there was snow. My tour guide talked about the Caravanserai but I could barely listen, and this is saying something because I am a history nerd! Instead, I was too busy staring at the whiteness and nudging it with my foot. I contained my excitement until he finished talking before I started to play with it.

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First things first: make a snowball. Touching snow still fascinates me. I always imagined it to be soft and powdery, like a cloud, and this statement is probably really obvious to all you snow experts but it’s more like ice. Or a slushie you get from the service station. And it’s not always white. Again, it should be obvious that when there isn’t much snow it will mix with the dirt, but please cut me some slack! When you read books about Santa at the North Pole or watch Frozen there are no brown bits in the snow.

I think it is beautiful how it nestles on the tree branches. I think it is even more beautiful when after a few good shakes of the tree it breaks free and slowly dances to the ground. A few of us snow novices stood under the trees and pretended it was snowing.

And then it DID start. It was falling so lightly I didn’t even notice until someone nudged me and whispered “It’s snowing.” “I know,” I replied, “We’re shaking the trees.” “No. It’s REALLY snowing!”

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Sure enough if you concentrated you could see the tiny white specks. They were like raindrops. But lighter. And softer. And they don’t make you wet.

I tried to catch one but to no avail. Another misconception: they don’t look like this:

I didn’t want to get back on the bus as I was enjoying the little winter wonderland but I did and we continued onto Cappadocia and Göreme. Unfortunately/fortunately by the time we got to the    Open Air Museum it was sunny.

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The next day was a different story.

When I woke up it was -10. The hotel I was staying at did not have adequate heating, I actually wonder if it had any heating at all, but at least it gave me an idea of what to expect that day. I knew I’d have to rug up. The thing is, Australia doesn’t do winter. My brothers host mum in Belgium laughed at my warm “Winter” jacket and said it was something they would wear in Spring. A family in Prato laughed when I came inside their warm house and had to shred about 4 layers of my Australian “Winter” clothes. They called me a ‘cipole.’ I didn’t understand why I was being called an onion until the famous line “onions have layers” came flooding back to me. I can quote that whole scene in English but my Italian is not that sophisticated… (Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. What about cake? Everybody loves cake!”)

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So this is what I wore on my second day in Cappadocia: 1) tights 2) second pair of tights 3) socks) 4) a pair of long socks 5) Jeans 6) Lined (Australian) boots 7) singlet 8) long sleeve thermal 9) long sleeve top 10) second long sleeve top 11) ballet wrap 12) jumper 13) cardigan 14) thick jumper 15) my spring/winter coat 16) scarf 17) beanie 18) gloves.

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I felt so fat and padded. I could barely move. Was I warm with my 18 layers? HELL NO! I have never been so cold in my life. My fingers and toes were numb. Actually I take that back. They weren’t numb, they HURT!

Normally I will stay out all day, doing and seeing anything and everything I possibly can and if I am on a tour I am the last person back on the bus. Not this time. I lasted about 20 minutes at each stop before I climbed back on the bus and huddled in a ball.

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Despite this I loved Cappadocia and I am really glad I got to see it covered in snow. I went to Turkey to try and escape winter and for the most part I did. If I had my time again would I change anything? No way! I may have almost frozen but I still loved it and still think snow is magical. But maybe only in small doses…IMG_6428

Turkey: Ephesus

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Oh I do love a good ancient city! If I thought Troy was good, well Ephesus put it to shame! 20 – 30 thousand people visit it PER DAY in Summer and we got told that you often don’t get to see much at all or spend long here because the crowds are just ridiculous! Benefits of travelling in winter means there weren’t too many people here which means more ancient city for me!

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Ephesus was a city where each time we stumbled across something I thought, this is it, this is the highlight of the city, and then we walked around the corner and there was something better – this happened right until the end! There are so many lovely columns with such ornate decoration and we got taught about the different types of them.

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One of the Agora’s is near the enterance of city as is a little amphitheatre, which served as the political centre. Ok it wasn’t little, but bear with me, you will see why I call it little later on. I climbed right to the top and watched everyone down below. I also admired the hills – Ephesus is nestled in between hills and back in the day it was a port city – now the sea is at Kusadasi. Perfect spot for a city – seas on one side, hills on the other, makes it very difficult for your enemies.

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The main street runs downhill and there are heaps of different things to see along here – the old pharmacy, the brothel, the baths, the toilets – a lovely long slab with holes in it (apparently back in the day you used to get your servant to sit on it to warm it up for you! And fair enough, I can only imagine how cold it was in winter!) and then one of the things Ephesus is famous for The Library of Celsus. It is stunning! The columns and the details and carvings and statues just blew me away. I thought this was remarkable and then the final thing we came to was the amphitheatre.

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Oh my gosh. It was HUGE! I climbed right up to the top and sat up here for ages watching the people below, imagining there was something on the stage or gladiators and I also wanted to enjoy the sunshine. It was fantastic!

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Ephesus also is full of cats. They are everywhere. They sit on the columns although they are famous Greek statues, they walk through the streets like they own them. Apologies to all my cat loving friends out there, please don’t disown me, but I hate cats. But these cats don’t care. You can hiss at them, you can clap at them and run at them to try and get them to go away but they are fearless. They stare at you although they are an emperor and you are just a slave.

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Next we drove up into the mountains to visit the home of the Virgin Mary. It is a little humble house (more like a room) but this is apparently where she lived after Jesus died. It’s sweet. There are also fountains here with natural and blessed water.

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Back down the hill to visit one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Temple of Artemis. Or was. Unfortunately there is one coloumn left. But back in the day it would have been spectacular. This is clear by the people who stand there trying to sell you pictures of what it looked like. And then try and follow you on the bus because “you are so beautiful just like Diana herself!”

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I got lunch in Kusadasi and had a great time exploring the streets. It is much more lively in summer when all the cruise ships are coming in and can be quite a party town. Phew! Busy day!

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