Turkey Moments 2

Back with a vengeance with part 2 of my Turkey trip.

From Turkey’s capital city Ankara, it was an easy bus ride to Goreme in Cappadocia. We were here to see the famed fairy chimneys – huge phallic shaped rocks whose interiors were carved out by Byzantines and transformed into churches, hotels, houses and other dwellings. The landscape is stunning.

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There are excellent hiking trails around Goreme which took us to some more fascinating sights.

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In harmony – the very old and the new.

Turkey is a treasure trove of archaeological digs and Soboses, smack bang in the middle of farmland, is a fairly recent dig (discovered 2002) and dates from Roman time. Soboses is small at the moment, but the thinking is that an entire city is hidden here. We saw Roman baths with heating intact as well as fabulous mosaics. Sadly, excavating has stopped due to a lack of funding, a common problem with many of Turkey’s digs.

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Back in Goreme; the locals make good use of their rooftops. Tomato paste is drying in the photo below.

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We desperately wanted to go up in a hot air balloon early in the morning to capture the fairy chimneys from above, but for two days in a row, the winds were strong and the company had no option but to cancel all flights. Yes, safety standards are comfortingly rigid. Never mind, we will simply have to return. Might need another Turkish carpet by then.

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We could have spent longer in the interior, but time wasn’t our friend. We hit the road (by bus) and headed south to the Mediterranean. We were craving a beach and Side (See-day) fit the bill to a T. A beach plus ancient ruins… I was in hog heaven. The Vespasian Gates beckon visitors to enter Side, a town that is heaving with Roman and Greek ruins. We had read about the treasures here but didn’t realise how expansive they were. The Temples of Apollo and Athena are on show as well as a spectacular theatre. The Side Museum is also full of wonderful antiquities. We spent mornings walking around taking in the ancient sights, and afternoons lapping up the warm waters of the Med.

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We ventured for a day into Alanya despite hearing that the town had sold its soul to tourism. Alanya’s pride and joy is its 13th century castle and fortress and neither disappointed.

By this stage, we’d been travelling constantly for three weeks and I was ready for some serious R and R. We found our way (via a smaller bus) to a beautiful little place called Cirali. The dirt road into the village did not prepare us for this gorgeous laid back place that welcomes weary travellers with a long, stunning beach flanked by several restaurants and pensions. Cirali was just what we needed and we fell into the easy swing of lazing in hammocks under a cloudless September sky, swimming in the crystal clear waters at the pebbled beach, eating more stuffed dolmas, mezes, eggplants and kebabs than we needed and fine tuning our raki skills.

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A short walk along the Cirali beach and inside a cool and heavily treed valley, we found the ancient 2nd century BC city, Olympos; a city devoted to Vulcan, the god of fire. Quite a lot of ruins remain and it’s easy to pick your way through them. An eternal flame burns from the ground higher up.

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Armed with renewed energy, we bid farewell to Cirali and hello to Kas. The winding coastal drive was very pretty and so too was Kas. It is quite touristy here. Lots of large white villas dot the landscape and British accents dominate. Restaurants regularly serve English meals and accept English pounds. But, there’s plenty to like about Kas; narrow cobbled lanes, stalls bursting to the seams with lanterns, Turkish towels and jewellery, an attractive beach and on its outskirts; well preserved historic sights.

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Fethiye was our next port of call. A couple of days here proved good value as the town offers some good sightseeing and excellent walking. Oludeniz Beach deserves its accolades as one of the best beaches in the world.

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From Fethiye we ventured to Pamakkale for a few days; an absolute must see. Huge brilliant white calcified, terraced pools (travertines) teeming with mineral water from the mountain above invite you to walk, swim and sit in them.

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Hierapolis, an ancient spa centre founded in 190 BC sits above the travertines and it is a prosperous archaeological dig. In its day, Greeks, Romans, Pagans, Jews, Christians and spa enthusiasts all coexisted here; a lesson in tolerance we could all heed. There is a spectacular 12,000 seat Roman theatre that is in such good shape that concerts are held in it today. Churches, temples, an agora and Roman baths are on show and there is also a fascinating necropolis (cemetery). Many of these people came to the healers at the spa centre seeking treatment. Sadly, some did not survive.

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After several days of treating ourselves to Pamakkale’s spas, food and friendly hospitality, we headed off in the direction of Bodrum. Rather than stay in touristy, busy Bodrum, we opted for a few days in nearby Akyaka. We loved it because it was small with all the essentials; hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, beach. Dinner one night at a family café was a delight. We were taken into the kitchen where a large table was laden with the night’s offerings: a smorgasbord of huge pides (pizzas), eggplant and lamb casseroles, fish, quails and platters of vegetables. We finished off with baklava and Turkish tea of course.

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We did spend a day in popular Bodrum, taking in the sights of Bodrum Castle, the old town and the harbour. It is a beautiful place. Many white yachts rest in the deep blue waters of the harbour and cruise ships anchor further out. Tourists are aplenty.

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Guidebooks will tell you that Ephesus is also swamped with tourists, but luckily, there’s plenty of space and we didn’t ever feel hemmed in by the crowds. One hundred and fifty years of excavation have delivered an incredible array of sights to soak up. Ephesus was once the wealthy capital city of Roman Asia Minor with a population of 250,000. Its history is fascinating and Lonely Planet’s Turkey did an excellent job filling in the gaps from my high school Ancient History studies. There is an agora, baths, Temples, Odeon Theatre, Town Hall, Treasury, hospital, fountains, libraries, latrines and even a brothel! So much to see. So much information to digest.

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We stayed in Sirince, a small village in the mountains outside Selcuk which we thought would offer a peaceful setting after a hard day at Ephesus. Not so. Small it is with some very nice, upmarket accommodation, but it is a tourist town and daylight hours heave with the hustle and bustle of camera laden, wide eyed tourists. I think Selcuk would have been a better place to stay.

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The art of making a good coffee.

Found these great tiles in Selcuk and inserted them into a timber coffee table.

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The Aegean is beautiful and there are so many places to visit. After Ephesus, we made plans to bus to Gallipoli, but couldn’t resist spending a few nights at Ayvalik, a fishing town. We struck gold here. The old town and its cobble stone lanes, wonderful little craft shops (found a boot maker to repair my broken sandal), berbers (my husband had a hot towel, sharp razor Turkish shave) and Greek orthodox churches are strong reminders of its Greek heritage. In the early 1920s, a formal population exchange took place between Greece and Turkey and approximately 2 million Greeks and Turks were forcibly moved.

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We made Canakkale our stop off point for Gelibolu (Gallipoli). With a giant replica of the Trojan horse front and centre in the lively town square and 3 Anzac hotels, we knew we were going to like this town. It serves the Gallipoli tourists well with some interesting walks and cafes.

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The boat trip over was interesting and we got to meet an older Turkish man dressed in military uniform going to Gallipoli for a Korean War memorial service.

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We spoke to each other via a very eager and clever young Turkish girl who was studying medicine in Istanbul. Like most Turks, they are surprised that Australians and New Zealanders flock to Gallipoli to spend time in a place of carnage, where they were soundly defeated all those years ago. Such is the stuff of the Anzac legend I tell them, that it is now considered a rite of passage for Aussies to visit the place which was our baptism by fire and responsible for inculcating us with a strong sense of mateship, loyalty, courage and dare I say it; a healthy disrespect for authority. I add, ‘Such was the wisdom of your visionary leader Ataturk in pulling at our heart strings with ‘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’, that we can’t stay away.’ I concluded by telling them that at my school’s ANZAC Day services, our students stand respectfully for the Australian, New Zealand and Turkish national anthems. The old man laughed heartily, the girl looked incredulous. Johnny Turk became our ally 30 years later during the Korean War. War…funny stuff. Gallipoli was sobering.

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We finished our Turkey trip where we started; in Istanbul. It was great to revisit this vibrant city. We are acutely aware that the country and its people face some dark political days ahead. With so much to offer, we sincerely hope the good days return soon.

Will leave you with some of my food pics. The Turks are a healthy lot – check out the fresh food!

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