Tag Archives: Turkey

Selcuk

We arrived in Selcuk early in the morning and after a bit of difficulty, we managed to get in contact with our host Veysel who brought along his roommate and business partner Reco. They are opening a hostel and so we stayed in the building that they are transforming into a guest house – it was beautiful, large and filled with antiques. It also had a beautiful view of the town and valley, but this meant is was up a hill and a pain to walk to from town. But no one can really complain about free accommodation! The first night we gathered stuff for barbeque and headed up the mountain in an ancient Jeep to one of the guy’s summer places where we met up with his uncle and a couple of their friends. It was quite the ride on some of the worst roads I’ve ever been on, but we somehow made it up. I was a little more concerned about how we were going to make it down again (again we somehow managed). We had a fantastic evening with lots of food, playing with their dogs and watching a sheep give birth – yay? Late that night we drove down to the beach and hung out for a while before crashing back at the guest house.

Main street

The next day Janice and I decided we wanted to explore the town, so we headed down to the old Aquaduct and the Church of John the Baptist, which if it was still standing, would have been one of the largest churches in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately it is in ruins now, but it is apparently the burial site of John the Baptist and thus a big pilgrimage. We were lucky enough to have it pretty much to ourselves, and the sky was full of threatening clouds making for some interesting photos.

Aquaduct

Resevoir ruins

Entrance of the Church of John the Baptist

Arches

Out the old main entrance

After the church, we wandered up the road to the Temple of Artemis – one of the seven wonders of the ancient world but now to do earthquakes and the pillaging of stones for the John the Baptist Church, is reduced to just a column and a half with a few scattered stones. Sad really but something about it still feels like an impressive site. On the way out, we ran into the Australian doctor we`d met in Goreme and had a nice chat with him – it’s fun running into people you know in new places! We decided to walk down the road to the Ephesus site, but we underestimated the time it would take to get there and by the time we arrived, we would have only had an hour to explore the site. We decided to come back the next day and were advised to wait for a minibus that would run us back into town for 2 lira. While we were waiting for that, a white minibus pulled up (which we thought was the minibus) and offered us a ride. I realised once we had hopped in, it definitely wasn’t the minibus and was full of broken furniture and five large tattooed Turkish men, who turned out to be very nice. One was in the process of getting his visa to move to the USA and had lots of questions for us! They dropped us off right downtown in Selcuk and we realised that we had accidentally hitchhiked again!

Single column

We stumbled upon the big market in Selcuk and wandered through for a while before picking up stuff to make a treat for our hosts (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles) and a couple bottles of wine. After a gruelling hike up the hill, we made it back and had a lovely evening with our hosts! The next day we got up and decided to go back to Ephesus just in time for the sky to open up and a huge storm to roll in off the sea. The house slightly flooded and so we spent the next few hours running around with towels and mops. By the time it cleared it was quite late so we just hung around the house, cooked with our hosts and had an easy day.

Church of John the Baptist again (the gravesite)

Archways

The next day however, we managed to find a clear day and off we headed to Ephesus. It was pricy to get in, but so worth it. It’s an incredible site with another big ruined church, an amazing amphitheatre, a bath complex, a couple temples and the amazing and iconic Library of Celsus. It’s all been so well preserved that it’s not hard to imagine what it would have looked like when the city was occupied. Again photos can never do it justice, but I’ll try. We played on the stage, sat in the city council seats (we would have made great councillors!) and walked along the old processional road. The only unfortunate incident was two Turkish guys we kept passing as we wandered around. As we were walking back towards the entrance to leave, we passed the one last time and I smiled, thinking that it was friendly as we’d been running into each other all afternoon. Unfortunately that was perceived as an invitation and they proceeded to grab my ass before running away giggling like 12 year olds… I can’t say I’m a fan of Turkish men.

Amphitheatre

The main processional

Library of Celsus

Two levels!

What the fountain used to look like

What it looks like now...

Follow the yellow (white?) brick road!

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Cool Geological Formations and Interesting History (Also entitled: Turkish Men Suck)

The overnight bus was not particularly comfortable but I managed to sleep quite a bit. We drove through the snow and cold (quite the change from Istanbul) to the middle of Turkey and finally arrived in Goreme, a small town in the middle of the Cappadocia region at around 10am. Our hostel arranged for us to be picked up and upon arrival informed us that we had been upgraded to a private room – actually a cave room carved out of the rock! It was really nice and we immediately passed out for a couple hours. When we woke up we headed out to explore and found (with some difficulties and much help from the locals) the Goreme Open Air Museum – an amazing old religious community that’s been carved out of the soft rock of fairy chimneys. It was pretty incredible to think of people living in these buildings! We decided to try to walk to Cavusin, a recommendation of the hostel owner but by the time we got half way there it was getting dark so we turned back. The beautiful coat-not-needed weather we experienced during the day quickly disappeared at night as it dropped to -3 and cold we went into a restaurant where the owner started about three fires in the place to try to warm us up. One was right behind me, which I very much appreciated! We had delicious lentil soup (heart lentils!) kebab of various types – pretty tasty! We walked back to our hostel and ran into the cutest puppy ever (again) that we would have stolen except that we found its owner just in the nick of time!

Our room

Most adorable puppy

Building at the open air museum

Outside one of the Churches at the open air museum

View out the door of the main kitchen

Ruins of one of the churches at the museum

The next day we signed up for a tour of the Cappadocia area that we couldn’t visit on our own – turned out to be a great value and an amazing day! First we collected all the members of our little group (12 in total) and drove to one of the highest points around the town, an area called the Goreme Panorama because of its spectacular views over the valley. Photos don’t do it justice, but you can see for yourself! Then we drove about forty minutes to reach Derinkuyu underground city – the deepest in the region reaching eight stories below ground. These structures were likely never intended for permanent occupation, but were fortified areas for the local people to hide in during raids and attacks. The city is highly complex in order to confuse anyone unfamiliar with its layout and has very small corridors to prevent easy movement of anyone carrying weapons. There were about 600 entrances to the city, many located within individual homes so people had easy escape routes. It’s not a place for the claustrophobic, but very cool.

View off the Panorama

Panorama

Tiny staircase going down 5 stories

The old meeting hall

Next we drove to Ihlara Valley, the deepest cut valley in Anatolia where there are the ruins of almost 100 cave churches. It’s thought that at one point 80 000 people lived in the valley, and everywhere you look there are openings cut high up in the caves. We walked about four kilometres along the beautiful river and stopped in at one of the old cave churches (The Church of St George) to see the very well preserved old frescos. After lunch where we made friends with an Australian doctor who was on our tour, we drove a little ways to Selime Monastery.

Church of St George

Ihlara Valley

The monastery was carved out of the rock by monks in the 13th century and is an incredible place to scramble around an explore (so long as you’re not afraid of heights). It has one of the largest churches in the area, a two story cathedral as well as extensive kitchens, but unfortunately most of the old frescos have worn away.

Monastery

Church at the Monastery

A smaller chapel

In the Cathedral

The next day we decided to walk to Cavusin again, this time with more success. However, as we set out along the highway accidental eye contact made us a friend – a very cute black and white dog that decided to accompany us the entire four kilometre walk, acting as our guide dog and making us worry when he chased and barked at speeding cars. In Cavusin we stumbled across this teeny restaurant with two men sitting outside (the owners) who called for us to come and have tea. Hoping to ditch our doggy companion, we agreed, and were brought apple tea. One of the men offered to take us to the church of St. John the Baptist, the ruins of an old and mostly forgotten church on top of the hill. The church was built in the 5th century and it is the biggest cave church of Cappadocia. Unfortunately an earthquake in Cavusin in the 1970s made the church hard to get to and drove away tourism, although the town is hoping it’ll pick up again in the next few seasons. We were lucky he took us, because it is quite tricky and dangerous clambering around the rock structures, but our guide knew all the best and safest ways.

How do we get rid of our friend?

Fairy Chimneys

Climbing around the ruins

Face of the old church

View out of the Church

When we got back we were pushed into staying for lunch which we were not allowed to pay for, and the other man played music for us and tried to get us to show him our musical skills (of which there are none). We were feeling like we should get going, so we said we were going to head to Rose Valley to see the fairy chimneys. Unfortunately it would prove harder than that to escape, as they said that they would come with us and proceeded to shut down their shop! We again tried to pay them for being our tour guides, but the absolutely refused to take the money. They walked us to the valley, which was incredible, but I began feeling a little uncomfortable. My feeling was confirmed when one of the men (who were much much older) started making inappropriate comments and getting touchy. We got out of there very quickly after that! Our bus was later that night, so we just went back to our hostel and packed before grabbing a quick dinner (Turkish ravioli) and getting on our bus to Selcuk.

Captive?

More fairy chimneys...

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Istanbul

We took a very long bus ride into Istanbul from Thessaloniki. It took about 10 hours, including our stop at the Turkish border where we got a pretty new visa! By the way, thanks Canadian government for screwing over those of us who travel! Bloody expensive 45 euro visa. At least we’re getting to spend two weeks in the country, which makes it more worthwhile. We arrived at 6pm and spent about 3 hours trying to get to our hosts’ place. Istanbul is a huge city – our only complaint while there is that its long and frustrating trying to get anywhere, especially anywhere out of the way. We finally arrived and our host, Bahadir was nice enough to order us adona kebab at it was late and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

New Mosque

In front of the Egyptian Bazaar

The next day Janice and I headed across Bosphorus to the main touristy section of town. It took over an hour to get there by bus but we finally got there and arrived at the fish market. After a couple minutes figuring out how to get across the street we finally made it to the New Mosque to look around. After finding a bank to break our enormous bills we headed into the Egyptian Spice Market to look around and pick up some spices and Turkish delight. I have never liked Turkish delight outside Turkey, but in Turkey it’s actually quite nice! Full of nuts and not too sweet. After the market we wandered up to Topkapi palace and looked around the magnificent buildings before heading to both the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque – both magnificent buildings. We also managed to sneak in a visit to the cisterns which were incredible. After a less than stellar meal in the least touristy restaurant we could find (which was lousy) we headed back to our hosts’ place for the night. After meeting him we headed out to the main bar district and saw a live performance of Turkish folk music (which was good but loud) and then wandered home through the busy plaza.

Inside Topkapi Palace

Aya Sofia

Interior of Aya Sofia

The cisterns

The next day we headed back to the touristy side of town and wandered through the outdoor market first and then into the Grand Bazaar – the biggest indoor market in the world. It’s enormous and we couldn’t find our original entrance so we exited at the opposite side of the building and wandered into a café (we tried to find the least touristy) but we still ended up eating over-priced unappetizing food (wet kugel being the worst). We met Bahadir later than evening and he took us on a tour of his favourite mosque before taking us to a cool shisha café with an amazing over the city and the Bosphorus. We sat on the balcony in the warm evening air and had rose and mint flavoured shisha – which was actually pretty nice! Then we went to a bouza store – yes, there is a Turkish version of the Bulgarian drink, but its much sweeter and eaten for dessert, not breakfast. It tasted a bit like rice pudding without the rice, which I very much enjoyed (for everyone who knows about my rice pudding obsession!) We went back to Bahadir’s place and met up with a friend of his (Ondatje) who drove us down to Bebek (a posher neighbourhood of Istanbul). On the way, we had a little accident as he was backing the car out of a very tight alley; Ondatje sideswiped another car and took off its side-view mirror. Once we got to Babek we stopped for a common street food – a baked potato topped with the most outrageous items – pickles, peas, couscous, hotdogs and cold potato salad are all options. It was enormous but very tasty and we drank tea before walking along the river.

Blue Mosque at Night

In front of Aya Sofia at Night

Epic Baked Potato

Our last full day in Istanbul was mostly taken up with a cruise of the Bosphorus – very pretty and we saw the sunset – and then walking among the fish stalls and restaurants. We had delicious lachmacun for dinner (like Turkish flatbread pizza) and hung out with Bahadir and his roommates for the night playing Turkish monopoly. The next day we had to leave on an overnight bus to Cappadocia later in the day, but we wandered through a couple more mosques, looked at the ruins of a bath complex and headed to Galata Tower where we were able to see the sunset from nine stories up before collecting our things and heading back to the bus station headed for Goreme.

Bosphorus Cruise

Sunset over the Bosphorus

Bath Ruins

View from Galata Tower

Last sunset in Istanbul

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