Monday, January 25, 2016

Skiing in Uludag

After spending a few weekends just hanging around Izmir, both Mike and I were going a little stir crazy.  We've done most of the sight seeing in Izmir and our social life leaves a lot to be desired (Mike's two friends were out of town), so we were faced with a weekend completely free and nothing to do.   We had talked about going skiing sometime and this weekend seemed like the perfect opportunity.

On Friday, we packed up our car and headed north to Uludag, which is about four hours from Izmir and halfway between Izmir and Istanbul.  About halfway through our drive, we started to see snow...

 Our hotel was in the town of Bursa at the bottom of the mountain. We arrived at our hotel in the late afternoon and decided to spend the rest of the day exploring Bursa.  Bursa is the fourth largest city in Turkey and, let me tell you, we were both surprised at how nice it is.  Izmir, the third largest city, leaves a lot to be desired in terms of aesthetics and organization.   Little things, such as the walk signals at each corner in Bursa make sounds so vision-impaired people know when to cross whereas, in Izmir, people seem to cross wherever and whenever and people with disabilities seem to just have to guess, made a huge impact on us.  Also, the buildings in Izmir look decades old and it seems as though people didn't give much thought into what the finished product looked like.   In Bursa, the city looked well-designed and was much more aesthetically pleasing.

Bursa is known for being the hometown of the Iskender kebap, which is what I think of as the Turkish equivalent to a cheeseburger.  Because of this, we found a restaurant that only served iskender.  It was delicious, although I think I've had better iskender before.  After we finished, we set out to find a place to have a nightcap before heading back to the hotel.  When we checked into the hotel earlier that day, we noticed a sign behind the reception desk that said that no alcohol was permitted on the premises.  We thought it was a little strange, but didn't really think much of it.  After dinner, we walked around for a little while before we realized that there weren't any bars around and none of the restaurants served alcohol.  We were shocked that such a large city so close to Istanbul and not in the more conservative parts of Turkey would be so...conservative! We weren't upset, more just surprised.  So, instead of grabbing a drink, we headed back to the hotel where we read for a few hours and watch 'The Pursuit of Happiness' in Turkish on the hotel tv.

Iskender anyone?
We may not have found any alcohol, but we did find a Turkish deer

Saturday morning, we bundled up and headed out for a day of skiing.  We really had no idea what to expect and I think both of our expectations were pretty low. In order to get from Bursa to the ski resort, you can either drive an hour up a snow mountain (pass!) or you can take the teleferik (gondola) up the mountain!!  It was amazing! It claims to be the longest gondola in the world, although after doing some fact checking, we found that almost every other gondola claims to be this way, as well.  It did take 22 minutes one way, so I can't imagine one being much longer than that!

Once we got up to the top of the mountain, we rented skis for me and bought us both lift tickets.  We were at the bottom of the slopes, so we had to take a lift up and then ski down.  From what we could tell, there were only a few slopes and the only lifts were the pulley lifts where your skis are on the ground.  We took it up and skied down a few times before we got bored.  It was apparent that these were the beginner slopes where almost everyone was.  We did a very Turkish thing and took a break for tea.  By that point, Mike's hands and feet were cold and tea sounded perfect for both of us (I think we're turning into Turks!).

When we returned from our tea break, Mike asked one of the ski resort employees where the advanced slopes were.  While he was doing that, one of the other employees asked me if we were professionals! HA! I wish! I'm perfectly fine on my blues and occasional black diamond.  I don't know if I was more excited about that compliment or the fact that he asked me in Turkish and I understood! Anyways, we found the intermediate slopes and were immediately ten times happier.  Not only were there less people and actual ski lifts, the slopes were probably the best condition that either of us have ever skied in.   One of the slopes was knee deep powder!  How crazy!! That's a whole new skiing experience for me.  The other slope was more skied on, but still was covered in snow without any ice.  So cool!!

The resort was small, so there were only a few intermediate slopes.  We're pretty sure there were more intermediate/expert slopes, but we weren't sure how to get there.  Despite being small and a little easy for us, we were pretty happy with the experience.  The conditions were great, there were super short lines and it was a lot of fun.  I'm not sure if we'll go back again, but it would be a great resort for people who want to learn to ski or want to just take the teleferik up and back down (which a lot of people do!)  After a few hours, we called it a day and headed back to the hotel to warm up.  It was super cold and our tolerance has definitely decreased since living in Izmir!

Sunday, we stopped to see the famous mosque there and the Green Tomb, which is also a big site.  I thought the mosque was really pretty and had a few unique characteristics for a mosque (Mike and I have seen our fair share of mosques and churches!), such as stained glass windows! So pretty!  After a morning of sight seeing, we hit the road and were back in Izmir by mid afternoon.

It was a fun weekend and I'm glad we tried skiing in Turkey.  I don't think we'll do it again, just because the resort was small and there weren't a lot of slopes for intermediate/advanced skiers, but I'll never forget skiing in knee deep powder or riding that teleferik!