A Travellerspoint blog

Journey to the coast

final days in Turkey

We are doing a loop trip - Istanbul to the coast involves a couple of solid days driving. We are taking a regional flight on our return to Istanbul, having a 3 day stopover in Dubai then home. I’ll try and get the map working so you can see our route.

All the felines in Goreme would await Oli’s pats and little morsels that found the way from our table, via serviettes, to their demanding mouths. We had to warn of rabies before he stopped this practice! To leave Goreme was difficult, but the thought of the coast lured us on.

We arrived late into Konya so literally found the hotel, had a quick walk around nearby streets, then headed to bed. It was a necessary stop so expectations weren’t high and rightly so. That said we were interested in seeing the Whirling Dervishes but were told they don’t perform on the night we were there - disappointing really because we got a lot of mileage out of stirring Oli about this not-to-be-missed cultural experience! Being ‘blonde’ seemed a disadvantage and the only place where I felt like this. I insisted on walking between Oli and Rex (who I allowed to hold my hand despite it being sweaty). Rex didn’t think the looks were overt and that they (men) were just interested because we (me) were of different skin colour. Hmmm.

What we saw of Antalya was lovely and a welcome stop after a day’s driving. We stayed in a family-run 150 year old Ottoman house situated in the historic area. Amongst the maze of cobbled streets there are beautifully preserved old buildings and many fine dining choices. We had our best meal yet, but I’m ashamed to say ‘Vanilla’ had an international menu and a British chef! Fairly pricey, but so worth it.

Sorry to be repetitive, but the road trip to Kas was beautiful, really beautiful. Massive mountains, some in the distance were snow-capped (how was this possible in the searing heat?). Conifer forests, wildflowers, aqua-coloured lakes, marshlands - a squirrel, turtle, wild horses. Shepherds herding goats. Almighty big rock on road, around corner heading downhill. Didn’t see. Grinding stop. By now we knew the drill. Don’t move from the location. Take photos and file a police report. Await pickup truck. Huge rigmarole, hours wasted, hot and exhausted. Car finally replaced.
Revived with a good flame-grilled Bream and Turkish smorgasboard from the hotel’s rooftop terrace. Jhan is a good-looking, personable, young waiter with a wicked sense of humour. He was really matey with Oli and kept us all entertained coaching one of the shy waiters in matters of the heart. Now at the coast we found a good swimming spot and spent plenty of time there with Rex and Oli climbing the cliff to dive. We all caught too much sun. Beaches comprise pebbles with little sand and make me homesick for Tasmania’s beautiful beaches. The water here is clearer and warmer however.

At Bodrum we mainly took it easy by the magnificent pool which we had mostly to ourselves. We visited the Castle of St Peter that now houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology(recovered pottery, coins, glass, jewellery) and admired all the luxury boats that were docked in the harbour.

The main attraction of Kusadasi is Ephesus - one of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world with remains of ampitheatre, chapels, houses, etc. A pilgrimage site particularly for Christians. Big names in history have shaped this place - The Virgin Mary, St Paul, St John, Alexander the Great. Such a significant place to visit. Kusadasi is also the departure point for our Greek foray.

Posted by stephrexoli 23:07 Comments (0)

Derinkuyu - Guzelyurt - Ilhara Valley

a blog entry finally!

The scenery on the drive to Ilhara Valley was worthwhile itself. Farmland with rich volcanic soil that could grow just about anything - and the Turks tend to eat what is in season only.

Our first stop was Derinkuyu underground city where 10,000 Christians lived for a few months at a time hidden from armies. The dark, damp, spaces extend several levels underground, although (thankfully) just two levels are open to the public. I felt a bit panic-stricken and had difficulty breathing, so wasn’t keen to hang about. I tried to exit but somehow got caught in the middle of a tour group so progress was slow in the one-way passages. Rex and Oli spent much longer exploring every nook and cranny, even the burial chambers that were in complete darkness.

Our next stop was Guzelyurt, which has its name spelt out in stones on the hill. We bought some savoury and sweet breads from the back of a bakery van then found some fruit which became a picnic en route. The peaceful town with a beautiful view overlooks stone houses and a lakeside monastery.

Onto Ilhara Valley where we escaped the heat of the day in the canyon. We walked below towering cliffs alongside the river through trees that echoed birdsong and harboured some sticky bugs that dropped foamy liquid on us (not so pleasant!). We stopped to pat the donkeys and a nice local lady offered us some plums from her tree. We had to turn back before Selime Monastery as daylight was running out, however we saw what we could of the lovely valley on the drive home.

Stretches of road did not make driving easy - narrow, often no centre line, big potholes and ditches to the side of the road that we had the misfortune to encounter. The result - a blowout which cost us a tyre and our last precious day in Goreme. Also lots of roadworks going on which has necessitated diversions from the main route and thrown the GPS. Despite the minor hitches, we are very happy to have our own wheels and the freedom to stop when and where we choose.

Now to the subject of food. The seasonal table includes green plums, cherries, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and chilli peppers. Add to this meat and more meat, fish, cheese, yoghurt and bread. What better way to start a meal than with a meze (or assortment of dips with fresh crusty bread). Doner kebabs are a quick cheap option for lunch. We’re partial to the sweets, particularly baclava and the soft-jellied jewels known to the Turks as ‘Locum’ and to us ‘Turkish Delight’.

Posted by stephrexoli 05:43 Comments (2)

Goreme, Cappadocia

our stay in a deluxe cave hotel

Taking a sleeper on the train was an enjoyable way to get to Turkey's capital Ankara. We collected our hire car and Rex drove the few hours to Goreme. The GPS made easy work of the navigating but Rex had to adjust to left-hand driving and traffic mayhem.

Goreme must be one of the most amazing places on earth - geologically and historically. The mystical landscape is a result of volcanic activity millenia ago. The massive cone-shaped boulders have been made into cave living and we are occupying such a building (in a 'fairy chimmney' room). The rock is rose and honey-coloured and the valleys are filled with wildflowers - red poppies, blue cornflowers, irises etc. There are mosques; underground cities; churches carved into the cliffs and frescoes from early times when Christians sought refuge here.

We walked into Rose Valley, or in the near vicinity! We followed an abandoned path which was overgrown and far lengthier than intended.
Oli and I felt quite uneasy but Rex was annoyingly in adventure mode. We eventually reached the plateau for incredible views and made our way towards civilisation once again. We came across families working their land who were clearly amused by us emerging out of the wilderness.

Rex and Oli were up at dawn for a Hot Air Balloon ride and champagne breakfast. The local pilot was hilarious and kept them entertained the whole way. Instead, I opted for a Foot Reflexology session that took me to different heights.

Posted by stephrexoli 09:19 Comments (7)

Re-count

last couple of days in Istanbul

We pretty much did all that was planned - a promenade down Istiklal Caddesi to window-shop and soak up the busy atmosphere of modern Istanbul. Rex and Oli tackling the steep ascent for a panoramic view from Galata Tower. Dotty (how I miss her) and Rex visiting the cool depths of Basilica Cistern where water used to be stored for the Great Palace. Different empires have occupied Istanbul and each has made its distinctive mark on the place. I've never been a history buff but can't help being impressed by it all.

We stumbled upon Arasta Bazaar and its lovely collection of shops. One buy led us to the owner's other four shops where every effort was made to sell us a Turkish rug over a glass of Apple Tea. It's always a good idea to exercise a little caution in business affairs!

Generally the Turks are so friendly and hospitable - it's hard to believe the branding that moslems often receive. It's been such a pleasure to stay at Sebnem Hotel where the lovely staff have become like family and the parting was sad. It was what made our stay in Istanbul so special - then there were the restaurant hawkers who we regularly came across (one who wanted to know if we ate crocodile, another had written on a piece of paper his proud lament of true blue kangaroo, the waiter who turned a serviette into a tulip).

We started our last day typically with a huge and impressive breakfast spread. The beautiful sunny day lent itself to a Heybeliada island visit. We explored the laneways and pine groves by bicycle and when the muscles tired, we hired a 'fayton' (horse drawn carriage). It was my birthday after all. That evening we departed Istanbul on the overnight train to Ankara.

Posted by stephrexoli 01:06 Comments (4)

Discovering . . .

ISTANBUL

There is no other place like it. Between the dusk and dawn calls to prayer we have just scraped the surface of this megacity of 15 million.

We have visited Topkapi Palace with its incredible gold and jewell-encrusted objects and experienced the immense beauty of the Blue Mosque with its stained-glass windows and Iznik tiles - my favourite. Rex reminded Oli that we were in somebody else’s very very very special place so no mucking around . . . it's been a great experience for him and us as children are liked and treated very kindly.

We’ve allowed plenty of time for ambling through markets, having a joke with the locals and fending off the enthusiastic. Am loving the ethnic wares and delicious exotic food.

Aya Sofia will be remembered as the mosque that spiritually moved Rex. In his words "on the upper floor close to the altar, I placed my hand flat on the marble balustrade. An incredible energy seemed to pass through my body, enough for me to drop my hat and place my other hand on the balustrade. I have just turned 50 so maybe it was a minor heart attack or stroke, but hopefully just enlightenment! I told the others to try but they felt nothing. Steph, whose thumb wasn't moist after placing it in the weeping column, said it was just brain freeze from the cold marble. Oli, whose thumb was moist because he sucked on it after he took it out of the hole, said don't be stupid, you're imagining things old man. Dotty, was the only one who believed with me.

The sisters spent far more time at the spice market than Aya. Dotty came away with spices, teas and turkish delights - all guaranteed to promote Alphie to unchartered sexual heights. Steph came away with a far more expensive delight, a silver garnet ring. My energy from the enlightenment was drawn from me into the marble floor of the jewellery shop. Never mind, it was a lovely high for half a day, Steph's high from buying the ring will hopefully last
far longer."

That's it for now, We promise more reliability with posts and photos from now on. xxx

Posted by stephrexoli 01:24 Comments (4)

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