Month: December 2017

Touched a Weeping Column and Met a Coequal Villain at Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern as a tourist spot at the tourist-infested Sultanahmet area of Istanbul seem to have always been overshadowed by the more grandeur, more magnificent and more historically ornate Sophia Hagia and the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque). All these three spots surrounding the Sultanahmet Square are within short walking distances only.

But the Basilica Cistern seem to have always been the last choice that tourists would go to if the 3 places to visit in Sultanahmet would be Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Cistern Basilica.  This is why it dawned in me that it would be smarter to start with the latter before heading to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  Making the Basilica Cistern my first spot to visit would make me avoid the hordes of noisy and annoying tourists who later in the day would flock the underground treasure of a place after their respective visits to both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

still with puffy eyes… need to drag myself from bed…
eerie yet majestic
no wonder Istanbul does not have an underground train system… treasure lies beneath…

My temporary smartness actually paid off.  On the morning I visited, there was actually only one Caucasian and a family of four Chinese tourists inside the cistern.  The rest of the tourists that morning I suppose were at a long queue at the gates of both Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque.

Without seeing yet and not yet been overwhelmed by the magnificence of the Istanbul’s icons (Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque), I was able to fully grasp, value and appreciate the historical richness and structural splendor of the Basilica Cistern.  I was at awe as soon as my eyes were able to adopt to the underground darkness.

One mini-highlight was the Hen’s Eye column.  It is the only column of the site engraved with what looks like numerous eyes which appears to be weeping as dripping water from the ceiling runs down to this column.  The dripping water has left its mark over the years, turning this specific column into a medley of blue, brown and green hues.  The Hen’s Eye is also known as the weeping column which is said to be engraved in tribute to the thousands of slaves who died during the construction of the cistern.

weeping column
need to touch it

And since I had limited time to read about Basilica Cistern prior to going to Turkey, only when I reached the end of this ancient water reservoir was I surprised to realize that this place houses the head of my co-villain Medusa!  After giving some imaginary greetings and salutations to the giant Medusa heads, I never missed my chance of taking a photo with her.

Now I understand why Dan Brown has chosen this Byzantine-made murky, eerie and creepy expanse as the final site in one of his famous novels.  I truly marveled at the sheer engineering magnificence of creating such an expansive underground cavern below the colorful ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul).  I was so thankful that there were few tourists around for I really got to see, smell and digest the beauty and richness of the place.  It made my Medusa and Basilica Cistern visit such a very gratifying and enriching experience.

co-villainous
medusa!
the wicked tandem!

Nagkamustahan bigla kami ng gagang Medusa!

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Hot Air Balloon Ride in Capricious Cappadocia

Flying a hot air balloon seem far fetched and was never in my bucket list.  It is because I keep my list achievable, rational and realistic.  Though part of my bucket list is to visit the transcontinental country of Turkey, my flying a hot air balloon in Cappadocia was just in one of the plenty of things to do that I would not regret in case destiny would not let it happen.

And when I stepped on the tarmac of Kayseri Airport (after a domestic flight from Istanbul), I already concluded that flying the hot air balloon would be next to impossible.  It was snowing!

Prior to going to Turkey specifically in Cappadocia, one travel tip I read in various blogs which I realized to be very significant is to book for a hot air balloon ride as soon as you arrived and checked-in in your hotel.  Since hot air balloon ride is synonymous to Cappadocia, I suppose all hotels in Cappadocia has contacts to hot air balloon operators.  A tourist must request/book for the soonest possible day of the ride because not all days in capricious Cappadocia would permit flying because of erratic weather conditions.

And since Cappadocia just experienced the first snow of the upcoming winter, I already gave up the idea that I would be riding the world famous hot air balloon in this part of the planet.  The hotel owner told me that it would be impossible for operators to fly for the next couple of days.  He nevertheless told me that I am booked on the day hot air balloon flying resumes.  On when it is, only the weather knows according to the hotel owner.

But on the last night of my 5 days stay in Cappadocia while I was packing my bags for my return to Istanbul, the hotel owner was knocking on my door to inform me that hot air balloon ride resumes early tomorrow morning.  That I got to be ready at 5:00 AM because a shuttle van will pick me up at the hotel so as to bring me to the site where all the preparations and flying happens.

When I told the hotel owner that I may not be flying anymore because my flight back to Istanbul is tomorrow after lunch, he gleefully told me that all flying happens in the morning and that I will surely be back at the hotel by 10:00 AM.

On the last night of my stay in Cappadocia, I concluded that part of the heavy snow that fell on my first day in Cappadocia must probably be fragments from a lucky star that were sprinkled by the heavens.  I got to ride the hot air balloon! 

When our balloon was landing on the plains of Cappadocia, I have already concluded that riding the hot air balloon was one of the unforgettable highlights of my Turkey journey.  It was so surreal, the exhilarating experience was actually more than achieving and crossing out an entry in my bucket list.

Jusko, jusko, jusko! Salamat!

The Gift of Laughter Every Christmas at Nengkoy’s

One of the greatest gifts that a person can receive this Christmas (and for every Christmas for that matter) is the gift of laughter.  And each year, this is one precious gift that I receive from my family.

Every year at Christmas Eve since their childhood days, my nieces and nephews would group up and do a presentation at Nengkoy’s house.  Each group would got to compete for a prize money.  I am always one of the judges along with Nengkoy and my elder sister.  And since my nieces and nephews got their funny bones from their grandmother Nengkoy, all their presentations always turns out to be something so hilarious!

These year though majority of my nephews and nieces are now professionals and some has even gone married, each one of them still never failed to give the family some very good laugh.  All these glee and hilarity really adds up to the joyful and happy spirit of Christmas every single year at Nengkoy’s house.

happy!

they’re all grown up!

Merry Christmas!

Sakit sa panga!

The Angel at the Love Valley Owns a Phone (Final Part)

I stepped out of the store to look around, but I noticed that it was only me and the man inside who were there in The Love Valley, all the rest of the Chinese tourists has left along with their big van.  Feeling like a captive, I muster the courage to inquire from the man inside if taxi cabs passes by that area of Cappadocia.  He says never.  He relayed in broken English that taxis that goes to the Love Valley are at all times with a passenger who rented the cab to be driven around the sites of Cappadocia the whole day.

the lovely love valley
this suddenly became the tastiest tea ever!
unleashing the power of the selfie stick

With teary eyes, I asked the man if there would be a possibility to call a cab and ask its cab driver to pick me up in The Love Valley.  Without any response, the man then stepped inside the inner confines of his store (for authorized personnel only area I suppose) and when he reappeared, a calling card of a taxi was in his hands.  He then pulled out his mobile phone from his pocket and started pressing the numbers.

When the man ended his conversation in his mobile phone, he told me that a taxi would arrive in about 30 minutes to pick me up and drive me to my hotel.  He then told me that the whole taxi fare was worth 30 liras.  I instantly agreed with the price.  I was actually willing to pay more than that! Hahaha!

The man then told me to sit, sip my tea and patiently wait for the driver.  I instead, walked out and started to see again the beauty and magnificence of The Love Valley.  I took another set of selfies of me with the valley and walked again inside the shop.  I was so happy I wanted to buy all the merchandise inside the store.  I could not control my happy feelings, I told the man that he is such an angel!

While waiting for my cab without any tourist or buyer around, the man and I got to converse.  I learned that his name is Darius, he is a Christian, living by himself in Turkey and hailed from the Muslim country of Iran.  He talked about how he misses his family back in Iran and even relayed how difficult it was to be a Christian there.  And when the taxi cab arrived, I could not control myself but to give Darius a big warm hug!  I whispered to his ear… “You take care and may God bless the people like you” before finally bidding goodbye.

While the cab was moving away from The Love Valley, I was humming Madonna’s 80s song entitled Angel.  And when I was near my hotel only then did I realize that indeed an angel can appear in unexpected ways. And when I entered my hotel, I looked for the owner and thanked him for not letting me book the Red Tour option.  He asked me why but I refused to answer.  I gave him a nice smile and told him I need to get to my room to take some nap.

Yu mast be an eingel… Ay ken si it in yor ays…

The Angel at the Love Valley Owns a Phone (Part 2)

I also noticed that there was no other person who was hiking during that time from Uchisar to Love Valley. After much contemplation and being so pissed off on myself for not just getting a cab from Uchisar, I concluded that maybe hiking in this area is only done during summer and spring time and never on the time I was there, the start of winter.

winter in uchisar!
useful google map! notice, there are no alternative route neither a short cut.
a common view between uchisar and the love valley. this starts to look ugly to me when my legs starts to fail me

But when I checked Google Maps and showed that the remaining time for me to reach the Love Valley was only 5 minutes of brisk walking, I took a deep grasped and told myself that I will not die in that deserted place and can make it to Love Valley. And when a big stray dog barked at me and I saw a shed with a signage signifying that such structure is a store I started to grin. And a full gleaming smile emanated from my face when I saw a big van parked and a bunch of Chinese tourists alighted it and took photos of one of the most beautiful sites on the planet called The Love Valley.

I marveled into the erotic looking rock formations below the valley and upon scrutiny of these rock formations only did I understood why this valley is called The Love Valley. I took a couple of photos and went right inside the store because the temperature has further dropped.

the magnificent love valley
those rock formations says it all why it’s called the love valley
selfie time!

The first thing I looked for inside the store was a chair for me to rest. And when I was starting to feel relaxed, only then did I noticed that the store is a souvenir shop manned by a neat and well-mannered looking man sipping a hot Turkish tea. I looked around for a possible purchase but instead of buying an item, I asked the vendor if the store serves hot tea like the one he was sipping.

The gentle-looking man confirmed then pointed me to a small and humble-looking dining table. In less than a minute, I was served with the tastiest tea that I ever had. And while sipping my hot tea, I searched Google Maps on how long would I have to walk again for me to return to my hotel.

And when Google Map indicated 55 minutes, I wanted to cry! I started blaming myself for agreeing with the hotel owner of not booking the Red Tour. I was finding faults in myself for not hailing a cab that can drive me to that place when I was in Uchisar. And I was starting to hate the beauty of the Love Valley. To Be Continued…

Last na yung susunod… Abangan!

The Angel at the Love Valley Owns a Phone (Part 1)

When I checked-in at my hotel in Cappadocia, I was advised by the owner that Cappadocia basically has two major tour options.  The Red Tour and the Green Tour.  The owner advised me to book and pay for the Green Tour and that the Red Tour need not be arranged with a local tour company.  He explained that I myself can go and visit the Red Tour sites since I have four days to spend in Cappadocia and that the locations of the tour spots featured in the Red Tour are within a good hiking distance.

He nevertheless warned me that the longest walk in the Red Tour option from one site to the next would take me about an hour.  That was the walk from the rock tower of Uchisar to the sensual-looking rock formations of the Love Valley.

stop over at salkim tepesi panorama
took loads of photos along the way
smile!

From my hotel, I reached Uchisar after a 40-minute walk.  The walk was not incessant and continuous because I got to stop and do some detour so as to marvel at some of the most beautiful valley formations and breathtaking geological sites on the planet.

After getting around Uchisar and decided that I have to get to my next destination, I remember the hotel owner informing me about the 1-hour hike if I want to go to the Love Valley from Uchisar.  This was confirmed when I checked the information at Google Maps.

tour groups on shuttle would not be able to get a photo like this!
entrance to the pigeon valley…
marvelous uchisar!

And since I have nothing to do for the rest of the day but to gape and admire the natural wonders of Cappadocia, I gathered a lot of emotional fortitude and decided to walk my way from Uchisar to Love Valley.  But in the middle of my hiking my emotional fortitude starts to wane and it is instead being replaced and overpowered by my physical feebleness.  On the 30th minute of my slogging, my feet, my knees and my shoulders are starting to hurt.

Since my physical being is starting to fail me, the beautiful barren fields between Uchisar and my next site to visit has started to look like a severely distressing place to be at.  All I wanted at that time was a commuter bus or a taxi cab to pass by so that I could hail it and pay the driver whatever amount he wants as long as he will drive me fast to the Love Valley.  But except for one old rickety car that passed by, there was never a vehicle in sight during my hike. To Be Continued…

Itululoy… to bi kontinyud…

Holy House of Mother Mary in Turkey

Let me start featuring my Turkey solo journey posts not based on chronology of events.  Instead, let me commence by featuring one of the holiest spot in Turkey for the Christian Catholics like me.

I have been to the holy house of Mother Mary.

Hail Mary!

When the tour guide of the tour group I joined announced that the first site to be visited was the Holy House of Mother Mary, I got a bit worried.  I became so nervous and anxious because the guards of this pilgrimage site may see my invisible wicked horns and would not allow me in. Hahaha!

full of grace…
where are the pilgrims?

Anyway, the time of my specific visit to the House of Mother Mary according to our Tour Guide was something bizarre.  According to him, this Catholic pilgrimage site is often visited by hordes of tourists and pilgrims.  But on the particular instance that we visited, only me and my tour mates (a Singaporean couple, a Vienna-based Korean solo traveler and a Chilean lady physicist) were the only people at the site.

The Tour Guide who can’t seem to fathom that there was no people around justified that we must be some very special visitors of the house.  He mentioned that this must be some sort of a gift from the heavens so that our group would be able to deeply marvel and appreciate the beauty and sacredness of the holy site.

beautiful
and i was actually allowed inside the house… taking photos inside though is prohibited
pose muna kahit nakaka-paso!

Except for the Chilean lady physicist everyone in the group were non-practicing Christians.  But I was the only Catholic and was the only one who took the rare opportunity of lighting a candle and writing a note and tied it along with the bunch of other written wishes and prayer intentions on the humongous wall of notes.

When we left, the Tour Guide asked the group if someone wrote on a piece of paper and tied it on the wall of notes.  The Vienna-based Korean pointed at me.  The Tour Guide then told me not to divulge to the group the wish and prayer intentions that I have written on my note so that its realization would not be spoiled.  I then zipped my mouth and kept quiet.

But let me reveal what I have written.

salamat!
Mother Mary must be very busy… that’s a lot!
tied my thank you note…a wish fulfilled…

I actually did not wrote any request or any appeal.  I simply wrote a thank you note gor I consider my Turkey journey a gift from the heavens.  I did not wrote any desired intentions anymore because my being at the House of Mary and in Turkey (for that matter) is already a realization of a ginormous wish.

Heyl Meri!