A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

Istanbul!

Meet up with Findler-Bloor-Gormans...

We were pretty excited to see Istanbul, get resupplied with a few essentials and, of course have a lot of quality time with the 'rents!

The 2 Debs had been meeting to make plans for a few months and Rob had read his rough guide from "front to back". We'd booked accommodation months ago, so it was nice for us to have some time without having anything to plan. We had envisaged an emotional reunion at the airport, but it turned out we were arriving to airports at opposite ends of the city. Instead we rendezvoused at Frida suites, our home for the next 4 nights.

The Findler-Bloor-Gormans were chauffeured from the airport, while we took the bus and a short walk, but it sounds like our journey was easier... We arrived to find a locked door, no bell, note or anything, so I nipped into a local cafe to use a phone. A few minutes later, the characterful Ozzy arrived to show us in. It turned out that the others had to wait for 30 mins outside and a helpful passerby had berated Ozzy for his poor service, so we weren't far behind them. Ozzy found my mum on the stairs and informed her that we wouldn't be arriving until tomorrow, a hilarious rouse, which we kept up for a few seconds before having the wind squeezed out of us by a Mantis hug! Next was the Findlers where there were more hugs and a few tears...

Dinner for the evening was to be nibbles from the local supermarket, a couple of bottles of champagne, effes beer and a nice single malt. The food-drink balance was about right... We spent the night in Mum and Phil's room, which became the social area for the week, catching up, receiving my birthday cards and the odd gift (thanks everyone, you shouldn't have!), and generally having a laugh.

The next day was an 8am breakfast followed by a guided tour stating at 9am. We found a local breakfast place with fresh baked goods, a friendly owner and a menu with items such as "roasted with toasted" for us to try and decipher. It was all good so it didn't matter too much what we pointed to. Our private tour guide for the day was Urzu (apologies for any misspelling). Soph and I are usually too tight to pay for a guide and often like getting lost and finding things on our own, but for a group of 6, a guide was a good decision. It turned out particularly well as this was to be our only day of sunshine, so a great time to tick off all the main places. Urzu took us at a nice pace from our apartments, to sultanahmet, the Topkapi Palace, the hippodrome, a nice lunch stop, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and finally an underground cistern... No wonder we were all tired after! There is plenty in all the guide books about these places so I think the pictures show enough for the purposes of this blog. Needless to say, Istanbul is pretty incredible to look at and understand some of the history of.

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A few things that we can remember from Urzu:
Tulips originated from Turkey and bulbs were stolen by the Dutch.
No images of people or animals are allowed in a mosque.
Hagia Sophia was made a museum to prevent warring over whether it should be mosque or a church.

We felt lazy after all that, so took the funicular up to Taksim Square to avoid the steep walk. It was fairly busy, with what we assumed to be preparations for independence day celebrations. There was to be huge firework and light show over the Bosphorus that evening, however, a second mining disaster in a month lead to a last minute cancellation. It was a shame to miss it, but the chance to have a more relaxed evening wasn't so bad given the days exersions. The little fish restaurant round the corner was reasonable and the fish was very tasty. Rob's plate of dry mini burgers and chips was not so good. We all agreed that not ordering fish in a fish restaurant is a bit like ordering an English meal in a Chinese restaurant and had only a little simpathy as we tucked in!

Day 2 and we were on our own. We tried a different place for breakfast. It was a highly confusing ordering process... A well presented English menu, stylish interior, plenty of staff and no one else in - seemed simple... First the waiter decided to take our order without writing it down. Then he went away part way through to fetch a pencil, but no paper. We repeated the order. Then another man joined him and the first man explained what we wanted, getting about 60% of it right, which was more than expected. Finally it was decided to write down the order, but rather than start again, we were to correct the order that the first waiter had decided we wanted... drinks took 20 mins to arrive, but surprisingly we got everything we ordered, I think...

So after a rather trying breakfast, we hit the grand bazaar where Sophie and I planned to buy all of our Xmas presents to send back. This plan did not work out. The architecture is impressive, a warren of archways, pillars, domes, semidomes and quarter domes, but the shops... Not so impressive. We had visions of chaotic scenes of trading, locals buying all sorts of weird and wonderful things, handmade crafts, etc. We also expected to get lost. The Marrakech souks it is not. Instead, it's a grid of expensive souvenir shops, very easy to keep your bearing, but not so easy to find decent presents, so sorry everyone... The Findlers did however manage to keep up their tradition of buying xmas decorations from around the world. Debra was chief barterer and used all the techniques: the walk away, the "we've found it cheaper round the corner" and finally the fluttered eyelashes... Nice work Debra. Mum got in on the action too after Deb had beaten them down!

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Next we had a quick soup and coffee stop in a run down but friendly and tasty cafe, whilst sheltering from the rain, before heading through the backstreets surrounding the bazaar in the general direction of the spice market. The same tea sets, shisha pipes, etc were on display, but still we failed to find anything to purchase. The spice market was similar, though had a few better quality shops and a bit more atmosphere.

We had heard Kadakoy on the Asian side was worth a trip and a bit more of an authentic shopping experience, so we caught the ferry from the golden horn, across the Bosphorus. This incredibly exotic sounding trip costs less than £1 and gave us a nice perspective of the city, a welcome sit down, a bit of traditional music on the way and a warming cup of tea on the way back. An excellent way to travel. Kadakoy's highlight was the market street with fish, veg, spices, chocolate shops, a great yoghurt and honey shop and, at the end, a few bars where we could sit under cover with some nice warm heaters... Rob was a little disappointed he didn't have time to sample the fish fillet butties on our way back to the ferry though (they did look good and very cheap).

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Soph did a bit of research and found us a nice restaurant, Babel, for the evening. Plenty of mezze, wine and margaritas... all pretty delicious and a nice evening. On the way out we were given a caramel vodka shot which proved to be a bit of a hit with a normally fairly teetotal Debra Findler...

Day 3: more rain, seaside town of Ortakoy, the Bosphorus bridge, a photography exhibition and Friday night out... We had a pleasant day pottering around and seeing another side to Istanbul. We called it a day to head back and grab an afternoon tea (at last Yorkshire tea) and to get ready for a night out...

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We started at 360 bar, which had stunning views over the city and pretty good cocktails and then headed to another Sophie selected restaurant called Nineteen. Rather than make any decisions, we ordered everything and it was all good, washed down with a few carrafes of the house wine. Having stuffed ourselves, Debra felt the pull of the caramel vodka shots and dragged us into the place we visited the previous night (that's broadly what happened anyway)...

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Our time with the parents had come to an end and after much too short a sleep, we breakfasted and saw them off in their taxi. Seeing everyone had been great and being treated to everything while they were with us made it nice for us to not have to constantly check whether things were in budget. We had a lot of fun, thank you!

We returned to bed to sleep off some of our hangover, before heading to our more budget accommodation for the evening. Our parents had worn us out, so a walk and a meal was just about all we could manage with the rest of our day before getting in bed by 7pm!

Next stop, Tokyo...

Posted by bloorsontour 03:43 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

Turkey's Mediterranean Coast

Stunning walks, great beaches and friendly people

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I (jason here) had been reading about walking and getting away from the touristy areas, which are renowned for being a bit unpleasant and came upon the Lycian Way. A walk of nearly 600km between Ovacik and Antalya (across the south Mediterranean coast). The plan was to use dolmus' (local buses) and our legs to cover part of it, camping along the way. I loved the idea of camping in the wild with a stunning view for company. It sounded romantic and cheap... Sophie disagreed and we were limited to places with hot water, a restaurant and a toilet that you didn't have to dig for yourself - that was probably for the best really!

Having ditched Sophie's bag and as much stuff as we could, we were down to one big bag and a small one: you can guess who carried what. We arrived in Oludeniz, which was to be our first base before starting the walk. We had seen a couple of camp sites in the Lonely Planet so after a 10 minute walk in the heat, we were a little put out to be told there were no longer any campsites in town. Back in town, it was little Britain with strong regional accents, tattoos, sunburn, lager and English breakfasts. It was quite cool seeing the paragliders landing on the beach following a 2000m decent, but we decided to get out asap... The dolmus would be nearly an hour, but just as it was due to arrive, I had an extremely urgent call of nature (my 4th during our 50min wait). Having answered the call I ran to a pharmacy to get something - being in a tent, away from civilisation for the coming week, it seemed like an imperative... So we missed the bus despite Sophie's best efforts to make them wait and we had a short "disagreement", but in the end it was decided that it was best I went on the toilet rather than the bus and that neither of us wanted to wait another hour... (Please note: Sophie's view on this may differ).

It was all up from here, both literally and metaphorically. Faralya stands at the top of a huge valley a few hundred metres from the sea and is STUNNING. We headed to a guest house camp site that Sophie had found (George House) and it was perfect. For £10 each we had dinner, breakfast, pool and an incredible view. The place was really communal and relaxed. Having erected our tent, we negotiated the 40 minute climb down to Butterfly Valley and the sea. It was fairly hard going as we'd taken all of our valuables, water, snorkels etc and parts involved lowering yourself down on a rope. There was a pretty cool music festival on at the bottom and we persuaded the organiser that we would not be paying to sit on the beach. The festival was fairly chilled and featured some interesting characters to people watch that almost made up for the lack of tranquility that the beach would otherwise have had...

After the climb back and a nice shower, we watched the sun set from hammocks by our tent with the obligatory glass of red. The moment the sun sank below the horizon, a bell rang; dinner was served! It was really tasty, especially the unlimited quantities of local honey, yoghurt and cakes. After food we crashed out, exhausted from barely sleeping after our overnight bus from Cappadocia and our day's exertions...

Fighting fit from a good night's sleep and hearty breakfast (unlimited honey and yoghurt again) and with the pills from the pharmacy taking effect, we set off to do the first day of the Lycian Way, but in reverse. The walk was amazing with views over the med, backed by mountains, forest and little villages. There were thousands of bee hives along the way and the bees were pretty friendly. At one point they were down my back and stuck on my bag, camera and head. It was enough to distract us and we lost our way slightly, but not a single sting. We asked directions from a bee keeper who offered us a lift in his bee filled car (he and his son were in full bee keeping getup); we politely declined. We were soon back on track and filled our water bottles in Kirme, which was a sleepy little village with friendly locals. At the top of the walk we met an English bloke who'd hung back so we could get a photo with a view down to the blue lagoon and Oludeniz (one of the best views we've ever seen). I was a little worried that he was one of the Little Britain lot, but it quickly became clear that he wasnt. He had broken his hip and could no longer run and also informed us that he'd forgotten travel insurance. This made his slipping and sliding on the way down a little more "exciting". He had run many of the races that Sophie's dad had done as well as running 100km distance races for GB! We walked the rest of the way together without conversation drying up. Back in Oludeniz, we resisted the urge to have a cold beer and bought a bottle of red for another evening of sunset watching back at the tent instead...

After a good 20km walk in the heat the day before, I allowed Sophie a day by the pool! I spent a good few hours reading by the pool before getting itchy feet and heading off for a walk along the valley ridge- an incredible walk considering it only took an hour. after another stint at the pool, I still felt energetic so decided to run to Kabak and back. It was only a bit over 10km, I think, but 10% gradients all the way and baking sun made it hard work. Over dinner, we got chatting to a couple of American lads, one of which had been working in Turkey for a while. They were good company and were really interested in our motives for upping and leaving. Sophie spent most of the meal trying to convince Joe to do the same. We also had a semi-retired couple (Sue and Mike) on our table who were great! Sue had been everywhere we had been or wanted to go and they now spent time looking after people's homes and pets while they are away. Staying in multi million pound mansions for free and taking the family cocker spaniel for a walk each day definitely appealed, so we'll be looking into it!

Next we took the coastal path to Kabak from Faralya. This time we had to carry the tent and all. I thought it was great, but Soph wasn't so sure... There were many complaints about the weight of the bag, which given that I was carrying the tent, sleeping gear, clothes and all of Sophie's "essential" toiletries, I found it hard to sympathise with... The walk was beautiful and we had a midway dip to cool off in the crystal clear water. We also had a packed lunch that George House allowed us to make from breakfast.

Once in Kabak we headed to Touran camping, which had been highly recommended by a polish chap we'd met. Unfortunately his price guide was a bit off and it was beyond our budget. Next to Sultan camping, which was cheaper, nice but with rather cold staff and a poor evening meal. We were paying more for a much worse setup than we had at George house and thought about heading back...

The next day we sought out a new place to stay. Everywhere is half board and we managed to get the same £10 each a night deal with a place run by a guy called Touran... We realised the issue! This place was great and worthy of the recommendation - Kabak Valley camping! Food was delicious and the men running it literally ran around to make sure we had everything we needed. The beach at Kabak was great and I managed to get in some more swimming practice - it's coming on!

After another rest day, it was time to get Sophie walking again, so we did the next leg of the Lycian way to Alinca, but as a loop back. The walk didn't disappoint again, though it was pretty tough with over 700m of climb (at a guess) and well over 20km in distance. The guide we'd picked up in Oludeniz was deceiving, unhelpful and heavy so we got rid of it! We got some pretty good food with an awesome view in Alinca and I wished we'd carried the tent so that we could have spent the night. Another night in Kabak was no hardship though...

Reluctant to move on, we decided to head to Kas further east along the coast. Kas was a pretty little town that clearly would have been full of visitors the month or so previous. We had our pick of restaurants and felt very relaxed there. Can Mocamp was Sophie's choice campsite here and she did good again! Just opposite the marina was a colourful place with a cool bar and a great character as the owner. Can managed a blend of chilled-out attentiveness, never seeming in a rush or forceful, but making sure that everything worked well. One night Can persuaded me to play the guitar in his bar, with him accompaining on his flute. It went quite well. We had great food, our first introduction to scuba and a great time thanks to his efforts. We both really enjoyed our scuba experience and are discussing where we can do our PADI course...maybe Malaysia or the Phillipines. We did a 20 minute taster dive, 1:1 with a dive guide, and the water was so clear. There were a few fish and a bit of coral, not the best diving in the world, but still enough to get us hooked. The advanced dive group had seen the resident giant turtles. We did spot one of the turtles bathing on top of the water as we were sunbathing on the top deck. We met a Russian couple, Alex and Evgeniya, when diving and they were also staying at Can Mocamp. We all had lunch and evening meal together. Its rare to meet independent Russian travellers and it was interesting to get their take on the world! It's often the case that people you feel must be very different to us actually have very similar lives and outlooks. Best not to judge tour groups as a good representation of the general populous. They were great company and Sophie spent plenty of time persuading them to quit their jobs to go travelling.

The campsite had lost it's beach thanks to the new marina, but we managed to use the swanky resort for free so had no complaints! There was a huge, calm area for swimming, a nice pool and good food - a great place to spend the day!

The countdown to the Green-Wood wedding was now on and Ginge was getting pretty excited. We'd been able to see Rhodes on the skyline for much of the last 2 weeks and it was time to head over. We stayed overnight in Fethiye, which was a nice port town. We watched boys fishing while the sun went down and then headed for a cheap kebab. The place we stayed (Ideal pension) was awful and inspired us to leave a trip advisor review!

Sophie jumped out of bed the morning of the ferry, I think desperate for some company other than mine... We boarded the flying poseiden. Goodbye Turkey, for now...

Posted by bloorsontour 03:45 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

Turkey - Ankara and Cappadocia

5 star luxury to a tent

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I tell you what was needed after that journey...a 5* Marriott Hotel. Jason had used some of his points again for a one night stay and it was POSH! We arrived to a reception with chandeliers, grand piano and helpful concierge who helped us with our backpacks. Unfortunately they didn't have the room we booked so we got upgraded to a suite...amazing! It was huge; desk, sofa, massive bathroom, enormous bed. We'd arrived really late, midnight, so we ordered room service and snuggled into our free bathrobes. Relax! We didn't leave the hotel until the afternoon so that we could really make the most of our 5* luxuries. Jason went to the gym, swimming pool, breakfast in bed. It was definitely the nicest hotel we've ever stayed in.

We had to move to a cheap and cheerful hostel the next day. We didn't do that much in Ankara because we spent most of our time debating our next travel plans. We were a bit baffled about what to do. We were surprised by how much accommodation was in comparison to Asia and the Middle East, so we bit the bullet and bought a tent, roll mats and sleeping bags. A tent would be our new home for the next 6 weeks.

The only thing that we really did in Ankara was experience our first traditional Turkish kebab. There were tonnes of kebab cafes near where we were staying, in fact there was no other food options really. We had a kofte and chicken kebab to share, relatively cheap and filling.

After a brief stay in Ankara we caught a bus to Goreme, Cappadocia. The bus was great, loads of room,TV, movies, WiFi, drinks and nibbles. Jason found the name of the bus company particularly funny: kamilcoc (camel-cock). We set up our tent at Kaya Camping; swimming pool, kitchen, hot showers, sunset views...what more could we need.

We visited the open air museum that showcases some of the best fairy chimneys and colourful frescoes of the Byzantine period. The rock chimneys make up the landscape of Cappadocia and are formed from rainfall and sandstone movement years ago. A lot of the naturally formed rock tombs were made into churches, chapels, homes and graves. They make a spectacular view, especially at sunset. We spent an afternoon walking over and through some of the rock formations at Sunset Point and Meskendir Valley; a lovely afternoon and a picnic with a view. On one of our days we hired a bike and visited some of the surrounding towns; Uchisar, Urgup, Avanos and Ortahisar. We sampled some wine at a Cappadocian vineyard, stopped for Turkish coffee and wandered around cute little villages. Jason also said he had an amazing run at sunset through the valleys surrounding Goreme one evening.

Unfortunately we do have one big regret from our time in Cappadocia... not going on a hot air balloon ride and not seeing the balloons either. Everybody says it's a MUST...the sky is filled with 100 balloons for sunrise. We were on a waiting list for three days running and were unsuccessful. We then approached a different company who said that the balloons were probably not going to fly on our last morning there due to weather conditions. We therefore didn't get up in the morning to see the sky at sunrise, only to find out that they did fly after all. So sorry everyone, but we have no photographs of this spectacular sight. I think this is yet another place to come back to.

You will be surprised to hear that I took to the tent quite well...Jason didn't have to put up with any moaning. We even enjoyed cooking for ourselves in the campsite's kitchen; Jason made delicious veg and halloumi wraps. We ate out also and sampled the local cuisine, chicken hotpot served in a claypot that is smashed at your table. Overall camping was working out great and I'm looking forward to camping near the sea next.

Posted by bloorsontour 08:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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