Archive for the ‘Turkey’ Category

Thought I’d share the finished pages of my Turkey photobook, if anyone would like to see them. The book was created using Artisan software, and printed by Panstoria. If ou’d like to know more about creating photo books, let me know or visit my website at http://www.pixels2Pages.net .

It’s been a hectic couple of days, most of which was spent in transit of one sort or another. This is the first minute I’ve had spare to write, so I’ll try to catch you up with two posts at once.

The day finally arrived to leave Turkey. Given the political situation, it was probably good to go, even though it had not impacted on us at all, and I certainly wasn’t sorry to hand back the rental car – I loved the freedom of having our own car, but not the roads, the drivers, or the strain of driving on the wrong side of the road! But we loved Turkey, and I am looking forward to coming back one day with Keith, sharing the places we visited on this trip, and exploring more of this fascinating country.

Our task for the morning was to drive from Kusadasi to nearby Izmir (around 80km), return the hire car at the airport, fly from Izmir to Istanbul, and from Istanbul to Venice. Simple, right? With so many unknowns – will we get lost driving to Izmir? How much paperwork will be needed when returning the car? How far is the Avis drop off from the airport terminal? – we allowed plenty of time for contingencies. Well, we drove straight to the airport, dropped off the car with a single signature, and crossed the road to the terminal. We were so early that when we went to check in they offered us an earlier flight, which meant that we arrived in Istanbul over 4 hours before our connecting flight. Our luggage had been booked directly to Venice, so we had nothing to do at all. We walked all over the airport trying to find the Emirates Lounge (since there’s no Qantas lounge there), in the hope that they would let us in (they wouldn’t). But we did manage to find a cafe with comfy lounge chairs and free wifi, so we filled in the time reasonably fruitfully.

The flight was pretty good, as flights go. I finally got to have some Turkish Delight, as the flight attendant offered us a piece just before take-off! I had a pretty good view of both Istanbul and Venice, but unfortunately it was quite hazy, so the photos are very ordinary.

From Venice’s Marco Polo airport there’s a surprisingly long walk to the water bus stop (wheeling our big bags) and then a boat (vaporetto) trip of around an hour and another walk over cobblestones to our hotel. Phew – we finally made it, some 12 hours after leaving the lovely Pine Bay! We were probably tired enough to just go to bed, but we were in Venice! We strolled the short distance to Piazza San Marco, enjoying window shopping, taking in the sights, and just soaking up the atmosphere. The shop windows in Venice are one of the highlights – if I wasn’t limited by funds and luggage space I could shop till I dropped in this city.

In the footsteps of Paul

Posted: June 11, 2013 in Europe, Turkey

I was really looking forward to our visit to Ephesus, and it did not disappoint. It is such a famous city, and one of the best preserved Greek & Roman cities in the Mediterranean. It is a rather large site (it was a city, after all) with a gate at the top and bottom of the hill. We parked in the lower car park and rode a horse and buggy to the top gate! I’m pretty sure we paid too much, but it was worth it for the 10 minute ride, and not to have to walk back up the hill afterwards!

We had a Rick Steves audio guide, and let Rick guide us through the ruins. It makes such a difference when you have someone to tell you where you are and add extra details which bring the place to life. We wandered down streets that ancient Romans & Greeks walked down, past temples, fountains, statues, shops & houses. We saw the indoor theatre where the council met every week, the market place, the huge amphitheatre that seated 25,000 people, a bath house and even a public toilet. We saw street signs, and marble paving and indoor plumbing.

One area is currently being excavated, and that is called the Terrace Houses, a large area of homes of wealthy citizens uncovered relatively recently and in fact the work is still ongoing. There were some wonderful frescoes and mosaics they have uncovered, and it was fascinating to observe a working ‘dig’. There was a ‘floating’ floor of glass, with metal stairs so you were not walking on or damaging the site.

The library of Celsus is the best preserved building there. Once a huge library full of books made of parchment sewn together, it is elegant and beautiful still. The amphitheatre is the very one where Paul & his friends confronted the crowd in Acts 19:23-41 – and I was there!!  “The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theatre together”. 

I was a bit sad to leave, although the heat was wearing us down. There wasn’t much shade and the sun reflects well off all that marble I think!. We went back to the hotel for a rest. Dad planned a swim, and I headed back to the Ephesus museum, which is not at the site but in Selcuk, a nearby town. I waited till later in the afternoon, to avoid the crowds, and was congratulating myself when I got a park outside the museum, only to discover it was closed for renovations until September! Very disappointing! I managed to fill in my last afternoon in Turkey relaxing at the resort. Here are some photos (not very good ones) which give you a sense of the size of the buffet at Pine Bay Holiday Resorts.

PMD minus M

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Turkey

I have been in Turkey for more than a week now and still have not eaten any Turkish delight! This is a serious omission and must be remedied!!

Although it is good to see the famous (and therefore popular) places that are the “must-see” destinations, it is always fun to go a little off the beaten track to see some sights that perhaps are a bit neglected by the average tourist. Today we chose to do what the locals (apparently) call a PMD tour. Priene, Miletus and Didyma. Lonely Planet recommended these three sites as significant and under appreciated, so that seemed right up our alley.

Dad invited his friend Dick Goldstein (from Minneapolis) to join us, so with our trusty GPS, hats and bottles of water (it was quite warm today!) we headed off. First port of call was Didyma. Didyma was the site of the Greek Temple of Apollo, dating from the 6th century BC. It was a major temple in its time, and according to Lonely Planet was just pipped at the post for one of the seven wonders of the world. It is one of the best preserved Greek temples in Turkey and you could get a real sense of how grand and imposing the structure once was. To my delight not all of the carvings had been carted off the foreign museums, so there was plenty to enjoy and photograph. Well worth the visit.

Intrepid explorers that we are, one site visit had us ready for lunch and a sit in a shady cafe seemed just the ticket. We decided to bypass Miletus (we looked at it from the road – does that count?) and found the perfect spot near Priene. The cafe was next to an old Byzantine aqueduct, and had more than adequate food to recharge our batteries. Not to mention a trout pond and a duck.

We forged onward to Priene, once a bustling Greek city in around 300BC perched on the edge of a craggy hillside. It was not considered particularly important, and thus was not overtaken by Roman settlement, leaving much of the city relatively intact. You can easily see streets, houses, the Temple, a (later) Byzantine church, the theatre and gymnasium amongst others. An evocative sight, you could probably spend hours exploring it. We had a good look around, but the many steps, steep climb and rough terrain were a bit challenging for my companions,  and we were certainly grateful for the air-conditioning in the car when we were done.

After a welcome rest we ate dinner in the terrace cafe. I have never seen such an enormous buffet – it just went on and on. They have a different theme each night – tonight it was Far East, so there were some Chinese, Indian & Japanese dishes, as well as Turkish. Many ingredients I was completely unable to identify but interesting and mostly very tasty. Tomorrow is our last day in Turkey, and we have saved the best till last – Ephesus.

A lazy day

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Turkey

The main reason we came to Turkey in the first place was for Dad to attend a meeting in Kusadasi. That meeting was today, so after an early breakfast we said goodbye (‘Güle Güle’) to Bergama and headed for Kusadasi. For the first time we encountered no roadworks, and no scarily narrow roads, so we were here by 11.30. The meeting is part of a conference, so they put us up at the conference venue, a very upmarket resort called Pine Bay Holiday Resort. It’s right on the coast with fabulous water views from every room, several swimming pools, a beach, and lots of bars, cafes and restaurants. The tarrif is “all-inclusive” – you wear a wrist band, and then you can eat or drink for “free”. It feels so indulgent!

While Dad was at his meeting, I entertained myself at the resort. I found a spot with a view and a comfy chair and caught up on emails and my blog. I had a little “Face-Time” with my family hearing all about the great Sydney Swans win over Adelaide (AFL – Australian Rules Football –  for the uninitiated). Go Swannies!! Then I set off to explore the resort, which is seriously big. I was so worn out from my exertions I had to sit at the beach bar with a gin and tonic under the shade of a palm tree – it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it.

Our evening meal was a grand affair. It was part of Dad’s conference, so together with around 20 engineers from Turkey, USA, Japan, Russia, France and the Netherlands we were treated to a sumptuous feast at one of the waterfront restaurants here at the resort. I’ll let the pictures tell the story! Fortunately (for me) they hardly talked shop at all, and it was a very nice evening.

In the steps of history

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Turkey

The little harbour at Assos looked even more gorgeous in the morning light! I went for a little pre-breakfast walk, and watched fishermen readying their nets, and seagulls swooping in hope. The water was very clear and you could easily see many fish swimming around.

We had around a 3 hour drive from Assos to Bergama today. As we are becoming accustomed, it was narrow and winding for a good section, a 6 lane highway for a while, and of course, long stretches of the ubiquitous roadworks. But also very scenic, as we hugged the Aegean coast the whole way, driving past little villages and towns, upmarket resorts, camping grounds and summer houses of the rich and famous. We arrived at Bergama late morning and managed to leave our bags at the hotel and head for the ruins. Bergama is on the site of classical Pergamum, which was an important city in ancient times. They have (so far) uncovered some significant ancient areas – the mind boggles at the thought of what else might be buried under this city. Our first port of call was the Asklepion, which is ancient medical center built in honor of Asklepios, the god of healing. It was also the world’s first psychiatric hospital! Fascinating!! They used all sorts of treatments, including psychotherapy, massage, herbal remedies, mud and bathing treatments, the interpretation of dreams, and the drinking of water from a ‘sacred spring’ – which remarkably is still running, and we could have taken a drink if we so desired. There was a degree of frustration as the signposting leaves a lot to be desired so we weren’t always quite sure what we were looking at! It was amazing to be wandering the streets that ancient Romans walked so many centuries ago. We were hot, tired and thirsty by the time we finished, and were grateful for a little cafe, which served Gozleme and fresh squeezed orange juice, and had seats in the shade.

After lunch Dad opted to rest at the hotel rather than trapse over more ruins in the hot sun. Smart man! I pressed on, however, since we’ve come a long way to see these places! The main attraction of Bergama is the ancient acropolis or Pergamum, a complex of temples, and an amphitheatre on the top of a big hill just outside of town. To my relief I found a cable car to take me to the top, and spent a happy (if hot) couple of hours clambering over the site. The view was impressive, and the ruins really interesting. Most of the really interesting bits are in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, where they were taken by the original German excavators (with the consent of the Ottoman Govt, back in the late 1800s). Still, what is left is very evocative. I am always impressed by what they achieved with such limited technology. The amphitheatre is built into the side of the hill, and is quite vertigo-inducing. It seated 10,000 and must have been quite a sight in it’s heyday, with the city lights sparkling in the valley below! Although I rented an audioguide, I still spent half the time unsure quite what I was looking at. I think I should offer my services as a consultant – a decent map and a few little arrows to follow would make all the difference.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, which was next to the pool – very pretty spot, and the food was nice. We arrived at around 7.45 but the place was empty – people only started arriving after 8.30. They keep European hours here. After we went to bed there was live music – loud live music – thank goodness for ear plugs!

Ups and downs

Posted: June 7, 2013 in Turkey

After the grey haziness of yesterday we were relieved to see clear blue skies this morning. We had booked a private guide to tour the Gallipoli battle sites and he arrived at 9 to show us around. He knew the history and entertained and informed us all morning with stories of bravery and foolishess and senseless bloodshed on both sides. We saw the landing sites on the beaches, the ridges that were so desperately fought for. We saw cemeteries of young men cut down and mass graves of thousands never identified. We saw tunnels and trenches – apparently the Anzacs dug 300km of trenches all up. We saw memorials to Australians, New Zealanders and Turks who fell. It was an emotional morning but we were really glad to get a picture in our minds of what it was like (in a small measure) and to pay our tribute to those who lost their lives.

The tour lasted 4 hours and though it was not cheap it was well worth it. Being able to go at our own pace, and ask all the questions we wanted to ask was terrific. It seemed somewhat surreal to be touring with our charming, friendly Turkish guide the scenes where Turks and Australians were killing each other 100 years ago. But it is a different world now, thankfully, and the respect and honour that Turkey pays to the Anzacs (and vice versa) is wonderful.

After such an emotional morning neither of us really felt like lunch so we headed off for our next destination. We sustained ourselves with some cheese crackers bought at the service station while we filled the car. We crossed the Dardanelles in a car ferry and drove towards Assos, on the Aegean coast. Initially the drive was pretty easy, on well made 4 lane highways, but soon we came across roadworks which continued for around 100 km. The government must be spending a fortune on the roads, as we have seen roadworks everywhere, reducing the roads to single lanes. They seem to alternate which side they are working on, so every so often you cross to the other side of the road for a while. It certainly helps keep you awake, remembering which side you are meant to be on!

As we got closer to Assos the roadworks stopped, but the road became really narrow and very windy as it wound its way up and down some pretty steep hills. There was barely room for two cars to pass, and at times a precipitous drop from the unfenced edge of the road. Possibly one of the most nerve-wracking drives I have ever taken. I’m sure it was very scenic, as we hugged the coastline, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the road to see the view! We finally made it to Assos, to my great relief, but the roads didn’t get any wider. Assos is a tiny little town with tiny little streets (and not many of those!). The hotel is tiny, with tiny rooms, but a fabulous view that makes up for all of that! Assos is a quaint village with two distinct sections – a hill town around the ancient acropolis, and a tiny fishing harbour now almost entirely populated by waterfront hotels and restaurants. We are in the harbour section, and it is gorgeous.

We unloaded the car and headed up to the main attraction, the ruins of the old city and the Temple of Athena. I have to admit that the ruins were underwhelming, to say the least – not much there, and next to no signposting. But the view from the top of the hill was spectacular and worth the climb. Climb being the operative word. Finding the ruins was a little challenging as there were no signs anywhere that we could find, but we figured since they were at the top of a hill we would keep going up. The cobbled roads got narrower and narrower, until we figured we were at risk of getting completely stuck. We found someone who spoke a little English and discovered that we had to park in town and walk. It was a steep climb of about 20 minutes along uneven cobbled streets lined with ramshackle tourist trinket stalls. The only indication that we were headed in the right direction was that we figured the tourist stalls would be on the path that tourists use! The stalls were mainly run by “little old ladies” who were sitting and making traditional hand knitted shawls outside their shops – very picturesque (except I forgot all about taking photos while worrying if we were climbing that hill for nothing, and whether I was going to have to carry Dad the rest of the way!)

We made it down the mountain with relief and relaxed for a while. Dinner was another adventure – as all good meals should be when travelling. We ate at the hotel’s waterfront restaurant. All the hotels seem to have much the same menu – a huge array of Mezze dishes, and an selection of freshly caught fish. We ended up getting a big plate of mixed mezze made up for us (since we couldn’t choose between them) and had that for our main course, which I think amused the staff greatly.

Dad was in the mood for ice-cream for dessert, but the waitress told us they don’t sell ice-cream because there’s a great ice-cream shop along the way. She then headed off and returned with 2 bowls of take-away (but seriously delicious) home made cream for us! Now that’s service!!