The Smells of Colombia

I Smell

Tangy salt air from the breezes gliding over the ocean, envelope this coastal city of Cartegena, established early in the1500’s. Its advantageous location made it a repeated target by pirates with a nose for the smell of plunder.

Staying 16 floors up, we are saved from the car exhaust of so much traffic below. Instead, the pungent sea air surrounds us from 2 sides– Cartegena Bay and the Carribean Sea and I am reminded of all the many shores that I have been privileged to enjoy. I have always loved hanging out at marinas– a place for characters with never ending stories to tell.

Our hostess offered to take us where the locals buy fresh seafood. That fishy smell was quite a heavy dose, to say the least. And it gave us a peek into how tough life is for many people here. It is said that Cartgena has two faces–we just experienced the local one.

The mix of aromas from the open-air markets and street vendors can be over powering. Meat cooking on portable grills dominate the air. More subtle are the tantalizing aromas from the fresh fruit stands, offering bowls of delicious strawberries, mixed with chunks of sweet smelling papaya, thick skinned bananas, fragrant pineapple, juicy melons and other creative combinations upon which they drizzle a sugary, white syrupy topping. Is your mouth watering yet?

The flowers in and around the countryside of Medellin smell sweet enough to lure the bees into a drunken stupor. The contrast of these two cities, enriches my appreciation of its spicy bouquet.

Taking in the Sights of Medellin, Colombia

A city of 3 million filling a valley and sprawling up the encircling foothills of the Andes Mountains. During the day, the colors are warm orange, foliage .green and baby blue. On the eighth floor, our room is level with the distant mountains, offering a birds’ eye view of lush growth filling in any available space between and above the teeming array of terre cotta apartments, tenements and shacks. Thus far I have not seen 1 solitary home.

The metro system unites the villages above city-proper with cable cars like ski lifts dangling above the metal roofs which are often held in place (or not) by stacks of bricks, old tires and garbage bags full of what– I can only guess. It is surreal.

People, people, everywhere… Walking, bicycling, crazy wild on motorcycles, hanging out of impossibly crowded busses, standing room only on the metro, and disappearing into the swarm of yellow taxis all over the place! Even in jammed traffic, I am impressed with the lack of road rage– never a harsh word, have I heard.

Sounds of Colombia


The hum of the city that never completely stops becomes white noise after awhile. The brakes from the Metro just 2 streets away sound like jets taking off every 7 minutes — screaming late into the night then resuming at 4:00 AM. The metro is a big deal for people living up the mountain, enabling them to come down into the city where the jobs are– something that has changed lives for the better these last 20 years.

Music is constant, beckoning from clubs that are open until 4:00 am. Walking down the streets you will hear a mixture of Salsa, Colombian crooning and more modern hip hop-type rhythms which somehow create a harmony that makes you want to dance. And that Ellioto is a Salsa man!

There are construction sounds because Medellin is growing. In contrast, men pushing carts of sweet papaya, mounds of avocados and potatoes along with many fruits that are unidentifiable to me. They blare their bargains through old amplified megaphones, creating an eerie feeling, a throwback to old wartime movies when propaganda and decrees were announced throughout neighborhoods.

Horns beep, brakes screech and lives bump up against each other, shrinking personal space.
It’s interesting how easy it can be to tune conversations out, when you don’t speak the language; conversely, it can be a pain when you need to relate. I was embarrassed to be so limited in Spanish– it definitely is not a 2nd language here.

And now, we are on the coast in Cartegena where I add the hum of the air conditioning to my description– it is very hot here on the Carribean Coast.

But best of all, there will be the lapping waves– we’re off to explore that now!

Niagara Falls

I was looking for a quick-trip–something my granddaughter and I could enjoy together… something inexpensive yet impressive.
Something to  grab our attention and leave an impression.
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Niagara Falls, here we come!
                                                                                                     The hovering hovering mist announced the Falls even before its mighty roar, as 90,000 gallons of water per second make a deep leap, like maddened lovers plunging 100` into the unknowable depths below.  
Did you know that a 63 year old female school teacher engineered a successful plunge over the Horsehoe Falls in a pickle barrel in 1901?  Since then, 15 people have attempted it and 10 have actually survived.  It’s illegal now.  Impressive–but crazy!
 
We rode the Sky Wheel, 175′  up above the world so high, offering a night show of color, lighting up the frothy falls for a cheap thrill.   42 enclosed gondolas  make 4 revolutions per $12 ride, which lasts about 12 minutes and the lines move fast.
Niagara is a circus of attractions, but just a few miles away is a complete antithesis to the money-driven diversions–the Butterfly Conservatory which should not be missed (handicap accessible).  The surrounding gardens are a great backdrop for the indoor habitat which is open all year round.  I guess those monarchs don’t make the yearly trip to Mexico.

Who knew Butterflies could read?    Thanks for posing!

I was looking for a quick-trip–something my granddaughter and I could enjoy together… something inexpensive yet impressive.
Something to  grab our attention and leave an impression.
null
Niagara Falls, here we come!
The hovering mist announces the Falls even before its mighty roar, as 90,000 gallons of water per second make a deep leap, like maddened lovers plunging 100` into the unknowable depths below.  
Did you know that a 63 year old female school teacher engineered a successful plunge over the Horsehoe Falls in a pickle barrel in 1901?  Since then, 15 people have attempted it and 10 have actually survived.  It’s illegal now.  Impressive–but crazy!
 
We rode the Sky Wheel, 175′  up above the world so high, offering a night show of color, lighting up the frothy falls for a cheap thrill.   42 enclosed gondolas  make 4 revolutions per $12 ride, which lasts about 12 minutes and the lines move fast.
Niagara is a circus of attractions, but just a few miles away is a complete antithesis to the money-driven diversions–the Butterfly Conservatory which should not be missed (handicap accessible).  The surrounding gardens are a great backdrop for the indoor habitat which is open all year round.  I guess those monarchs don’t make the yearly trip to Mexico.

Who knew Butterflies could read?     Thanks for posing!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Hawaii, a state of mind

Nature is all around us, of course, always–in one form or another… but in Hawaii, it’s in your face.
There is never complete silence and yet, there is no noise.  Instead, there is a matrix of sounds–birds singing to each other and the background buzzing of bugs (I guess), never-ceasing.  It is harmonic and muted by the overall feeling of rightness and Peace.  It slips into the background and takes your worries with it.  And don’t forget the cute chirp of the occasional gecko who more than earns his keep by keeping down the cockroach community–not one creepy crawler have I seen.
At night, tree frogs create a frenzy to rival Joe Cocker. My advice is to not fight it–let the natural noises rock you to sleep. The eerie screech of the Francolin (big bird) can be disconcerting if you don’t know what it is– and don’t forget the ever-zealous cock-a-doodle-damn rooster who doesn’t understand the concept of waiting until dawn.  But all is forgiven when you wake up and remember–“oh yeah, I’m in Hawaii”, and you drift back to sleep until the sun calls you forth.
The air feels soft even when the sun is strong. Because of humidity?  It doesn’t feel sweltering, ever, because of the trade winds–the blessed trades.  Is anyone harnessing that for power?  Surely.

 

 Aloha is a frame of mind and it is fed by our senses.

Have I mentioned the smells?  Even when driving in city traffic, you’ll want your windows down to catch the scent of plumerias in bloom.  And I love how the ocean announces itself with that salty smell, a while before it comes into view.  I didn’t remember that the Macadamia groves have a sweet smell and who can resist the strong aroma of coffee beans, beckoning you to have a cup?

Rarely is it too hot–never as sweltering as Ohio-in-August, for instance.  Air conditioning is unusual here and the breezes gently rock you as you loosen your inner knots, allowing the Spirit of Aloha to sink in, working their magic as surely as the palm tress sway

 

Hawaii, The Big Island

Hawaii is the proper name for the Big Island, the largest in the chain.  It is also the youngest island and is gaining mass as Kilauea spits, spews and flows towards and into the Pacific Ocean.  Four other volcanoes have long ago blown their tops, but only Kohala, erupting about 60,000 years ago is considered extinct.  
While exploring off the beaten path–where tourists rarely tread, we met friendly locals who told us about Uncle Bob’s Night Market.  It’s at the end of the road that leads to a black beach–which is a very good study on how Nature is a work in process.  Lava flows then the air cools it into stone,  subject to time and erosion which further breaks it into smaller chunks and pieces.  It’s hard yet porous, sometimes you see colors–rusty red or copperish green.  The geology of the Big Island rocks (pardon the pun).
I don’t want to make light of how devastating it is to lose your home forever to an erupting volcano.  It’s very humbling to stand where a village once stood.  It seems fitting that Uncle Robert’s family would want to bring aloha back to the Earth in this elemental place where Nature will change again.  Already plants poke their heads between lava rocks–some planted by naturalists but many grow wild, unable to resist growing towards the light.
What started out as family gatherings has grown to provide good local music, dancing, crafts and art, incredible local food, a tiki bar, and friendly people –a throw-back to my hippy upbringing. 
 
You know that SnaZZy is ever on my mind and I found some locally made skirts and jewelry that I didn’t resist.  And that’s just the beginning…  I know the best resale shops on the island and tomorrow we go to Waimea.  (I believe each of the islands has a Waimea, which means reddish water. )
This one is a coyboy town (paniolo), heavily influenced by the Parker Ranch.`

Kauai

 
Blissed and Blessed
 
You may know that I once lived in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu which is best known and the location for its capital, Honolulu.  This trip however begins in Kauai, the northern most and oldest of the Hawaiian Islands, located in the middle of the expansive Pacific Ocean.
It doesnt’ take long to understand why it is called, the garden isle.  It could just as easily be known as the “Red Isle”, named after the amazing color of dirt, due to the presence of iron oxide that was belched from the volcanic events in ancient times.  In fact, the Hawaiian Islands are all the by-products of planet Earth’s inner turmoil, a boiling cauldron ripe for release.

Turkey–so polite!

“But, of course…”
I have never felt more welcome in a foreign country than I did in Turkey.  We were looked after, catered to and most questions were answered with, “but of course”.
With Mosques on almost every corner, this exotic city boasts 14.2 million people within city limits –and I swear they must all use the tram, which I call, “the crush of humanity”!
Spanning Europe and Asia Minor,  it is quite a amalgamation of cultures.  Dressed in traditional style, this woman sews amazing creations.
The city seems wedding crazy–with shops all over the city.
The Valens Aquaduct was completed by the Romans late in the 4th Century, and stretches over 155 miles.  It provided water for a growing population and now serves as a reminder of Turkey’s rich history and the blend of old with new.   
I expected more English signage, but many times we were at the mercy of genteel people, offering to help, whether they spoke our language or not.  Sitting in the courtyard of a local Mosque, a Muslim woman approached me with a shy smile, gesturing for me to follow her.  Finally, I realized that she was offering me an insider’s view.  After covering our heads and removing our shoes, she indicated holy relics, helping me to understand their importance.  Our communication was non-verbal but totally real. As we parted, I felt a lump in my throat and a smile in my heart that I’ll never forget.
Muslim history is young compared to Istanbul’s and the museums are overflowing with ancient evidence, dating as far back as 7000-8000 B.C.  The Archeology Museum was a true find–amazingly affordable and in the off-season of November, we practically had it to ourselves.
The descriptions are well written and chronoiogically in order, rendering a true understanding of how  civilization  unfolded. Did you know that Troy was Constantine’s first choice as the
new Rome in the East?  It didn’t meet the standards of location and resources and so Constantinople (now Istanbul) was designated instead.
The political clime is a concern;  what once was celebrated as a republic could be in danger.   It could hamper good relations internationally, not to mention the citizens’ quality of life.

Not to be missed, is one of the many boat tours at night.

Complete with belly and gypsy dancers, our 4-hour cruise had most of us on our feet, dancing to a fusion of traditional music–gone electric, having the time of our lives!
   

Anatolia, Aegean Sea–it’s all Turkish to me!

 
Sipping strong Turkish coffee on a terrace at the furthest reach of Anatolia, over looking the Aegean Sea, I am surrounded by groups of tourists, business types and conference attendees at this 4-star resort, Altin Yunu (Golden Dolphin) in Cesme, Turkey.
‘Though new to me, Turkey’s beauty is ancient history to those who would claim it over and over again.  Located on the Urla peninsula, this was once a Hittite stronghold literally thousands of years ago.  No small wonder, it is both strategically located with bountiful resources.
Outside the front entrance of this resort is Turkey’s first windmill.  On the hills in the distance is a bevy of them, like sentinels scouting, awaiting the return of Odysseus. 
 

I am mesmerized by the constant current from the deep Mediterranean, offering a sea of peace broken only by the sparkling diamonds reflecting the sun and the lyrical tunes from a distant radio on a boat moored across the marina..  This spot is known for its windsurfing but it is off-season now, with a windless calm.  Cloudless and serene, it is the perfect backdrop for cruising seagulls, reminding me that all coastline creatures marvel at such sights.  (Now I see the connection between marvel and marvelous.)
 
It’s interesting how the cacophony of languages fade into the background when you don’t recognize the words.  Like magpies, they add richness rather than distraction.  And I feel insignificant to the hills across the bay–luring me like Sirens to take photographs that never quite do them justice.
The marina below shelters the ocean-cruisers from the mid-day sun which has lost its bite in this fresh Autumn light–perfect for lingering for just one more cup of Kafir, a blend of bitter rich coffee beans with a delectable crust of sweetness from the raw brown sugar sprinkled on top.   
Why would anyone want to leave?
There must be big money here, if the yachts moored in the marina are a watermark of such.  They provide stark contrast to the poverty we witnessed in downtown Ismir-where the refugees from Syria have congregated and rest before hopefully fleeing to a welcoming shore. Guilty about the ease that I feel; I pray that they find safety. 
Close on the horizon looms  the Greek Island, Chios, the 5th largest of the Greek islands.  It’s tempting to hop one of the yachts and explore its
 rugged coast.  

Selcuk, Ephesus, Turkey

Next destination: Selcuk, known by the Ottoman’s as
Ayasoluk, the location of the magnificent Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
Close by are the remains of Ephesus, a city of amazing magnitude–the New York City of its time.

The 5th Avenue of Ephesus:

Nestled in the hills, this is purported to be the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus, brought here by Apostle John.
Christians and Muslims both revere her and pay homage.
 
The trip was a bit nerve wracking–since trains are the major transport for neighboring towns,  the cars were full, the seats were taken and we ( I ) had over-packed. (Only now do I realize the association between the words, “lug” and “luggage”!)
Nearly taking the wrong train, a young university student who noticed our mistake and held us back.  Speaking no English, how he knew our near-blunder remains a mystery–but thankfully we followed him as he helped us heave our baggage on the train and disappeared at one of the stops. ( I hope my blessings followed him home).
Fate seated me next to yet another young Turk who spoke good English and time flew along with the miles as we engaged in lively conversation.  A musician, he plays Santour, a type of dulcimer, which he uses to practice   “Turkish music therapy” (Turkish Music Therapy) which dates back 6-8,000 years.  His girlfriend is studying Sufi dancing and is a massage therapist! Synchronicity knows no boundaries, it seems.
Arriving at the Sulcek station, he actually gave up his seat in order to help us with our bags before the train lurched towards the next stop.  And through Facebook, we can maintain this friendship, I feel sure.
Looking around, we found nothing to indicate where we were in relation to the directions to our hotel.  Noting our confusion, people were quick to help.  One man used his cell phone to call our hotel, arranging a pick-up and then he, too, disappeared as though a genie returning to his bottle.
Within 10 minutes we were picked up by the manager of the Ayasoluk Hotel  who stopped to give a lift to a man on crutches.
It turned out that he is the owner and had Polio too when he was quite young.  Living in a poor Eastern Turkey village, they were not equipped to deal with his condition until much later in his life.  I couldn’t help but feel that synchronicity was at work (again)–  no one relates to Polio, like someone else who has had it.
His hotel was not only beautiful but he had built it only 2 years ago with ramps along side the stairs for easier access.  Not only that but it was located near the top of Ayasoluk Hill, very close to the famous Ottoman Castle. The view was as breath-taking as the hotel was tasteful –down to the smallest detail.
Our room had a view of the one remaining, lonely column from the Temple of Artemis, who was worshipped as the Goddess of Fertility, a huntress and Apollo’s first-born twin.
Strolling through the town, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be NOT TO BUY a rug that I have no desire to buy. These guys are intense.  The amount of energy they spend must be why they are slight in build–or maybe they are really suffering economically.  Once a confluence of carpet shops, Sulcek is reduced to a precious few.  Many of their sad-stories seem to be all too real.
But these people are friendly, and appear happy,  with a light that seems to shine through their wizened eyes.  In youth, they are beautiful like dancers.  In old age, they seem as weathered as the olives, dried in the timeless sun.