Turkey is in the news for all the wrong reasons lately and unfortunately for Australians wanting to travel there, DFAT advice isn’t encouraging:
Exercise a high degree of caution; Ankara and Istanbul reconsider your need to travel.
Such a shame because Turkey is intoxicating with its incredible historical and geographic sights, a zillion beautiful mosques and bazaars, a strong culture of tea and coffee making and taking, the freshest food, efficient transport and friendly people – the list goes on.
We arrived in Istanbul via Kuala Lumpur on a Malaysian airlines flight, a few months after a second Malaysian plane met its fate; this time over the Ukraine in 2014. Malaysian Airlines did offer to refund our money and to be honest, for a brief time we considered it, but at the time we were working insane hours and it all seemed like too much hassle. On board, we were the only westerners amongst a sea of black clad burqa wearing Muslim women and equally sombre men. Westerners were sending a clear message. The flight was faultless, the crew stoically committed to their ‘stay strong’ mantra. Our hearts went out to them.
We were spending six weeks in Turkey and I had prepared a jam packed itinerary which began and finished in Istanbul. I quickly realised that one doesn’t just like Istanbul, one falls head over heels for this vibrant, heady, historic city once called Constantinople and Byzantium. The Bosphorus Strait splits Istanbul into an historic area (Sultanahmet) and a modern area (Beoglu) and it’s worth staying in both to get a grip on where this moderate Muslim country came from and where it’s headed.
I’ve trawled through hundreds of pics (digital photography ensures you take way too many) and picked the best!
Blue Mosque – stunning.
Tunel Tram on Istiklal Caddesi
Hagia Sophia – built between 532 and 537. Once a Christian church, then a mosque and now a museum.
Istanbul – city of a zillion mosques. The call to prayer 5 times a day is heralded by loud music and wise words from a muezzin through a loud speaker – it’s loud!
Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar
Straight out of Ancient Egypt is the Obelisk of Thutmosis III in the Hippodrome of Constantinople.
Ortakoy Temple along the Bosphorous.
Istanbul’s famous Spice Markets
The ubiquitous pomegranate juice – a Turkish staple
Turkish delight – the genuine stuff.
So easy to eat healthy in Turkey. Fresh food markets everywhere.
Galata Bridge across the Bosphorous. Restaurants on the lower deck.
Shopping in the area around the Grand Bazaar
We ate enough gozlemes to sink a battleship. Turkish flatbread filled with feta, spinach, mushrooms, minced lamb and zucchini- delicious.
Turkish towels galore. Bought quite a few and shipped them home.
Out and about on the Bosphorous Strait which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. A wealth of history along its banks as well as plenty of cafes.
We thoroughly enjoyed Istanbul and when the Syrian issue settles, we aim to return and stay awhile in this enchanting city.
After Istanbul, we bussed to Amasra on the Black Sea. Our mode of transport for all our travelling in Turkey was by bus. Turkey’s bus system exceeded our expectations. A number of bus companies operate and the buses we chose were modern and sleek with uniformed and competent staff. TV screens in the back of seats and a food and drink service plying the aisles completed a comfortable travel picture. We found we didn’t have to book too far ahead. A day or two before departure, it was easy to find a bus station and book forward tickets.
Amasra is beautiful and the Black Sea is actually a brilliant blue. For the 4 days we spent here, we never heard English spoken. Lucky we like talking to each other! Amasra is a seaside town and a popular holiday choice for Turkish families. The town lends itself to walking, and we walked and walked. Swam too, although the Black Sea is quite cold, even in August! Lots of fish restaurants dominate the culinary scene and there are some good bars to enjoy an uplifting raki. Interesting how anyone can talk the language of food and drink!
I had booked a fabulous apartment with a balcony that looked out over a small but active town square as well as the harbour. This is the view from our apartment in Amasra.
Downtown Amasra – really lovely
Went swimming in the Black Sea!
From Amasra we bussed to Safranbolu, a UNESCO heritage listed Ottoman town with winding cobbled streets and stone/timber houses. Very photogenic and would look beautiful in winter. It is quite relaxing here but a tourist spot it is and the tourist buses roll in and out with regularity. We stayed a couple of nights in an authentic Ottoman house complete with lots of Turkish rugs on timber floors. Very comfortable.
Freshly brewed Turkish coffee
Ankara, Turkey’s capital was our next stop. It lacked the charm of Istanbul, but we were here for two reasons. First, Ataturk’s mausoleum and second, the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. Australians are very familiar with Mustafa Kamil Ataturk. He was the man whose strategy and courage led his Turkish soldiers to victory at Gallipoli against our ANZACs. He was also the humble man whose moving tribute to our dead diggers still makes the heart skip a beat:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
When the Ottomans lost their power after World War I, Ataturk initiated his transition to president of the newly established Republic of Turkey. His mausoleum stands high on a hill overlooking Ankara and it covers a vast area. The atmosphere here is a reminder of the high esteem in which the Turks hold Ataturk; respectful and reverent beyond measure.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is world renowned and contains many Turkish treasures from centuries past. Half a day is easily spent here. My photos don’t do justice to this fabulous museum. The third pic is of elaborate safety pins.
I had always wanted to stay in a caravanserai which were popular choices of accommodation for Ottomans travelling trade routes in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Tired horses were housed downstairs and weary traders upstairs. The horses have long gone, replaced by open and comfortable lounges, bars and dining areas.
Found this great fresh food market in Ankara.
Very close to our hotel were a number of Turkish tea and coffee houses. Particularly liked the simplicity of this one.
But there’s more ….
Turkish Delights 2 coming soon…….