Turkey: The West

After a night or two in Fethiye we packed our bags and jumped on a bus to our next destination, Pamukkale. Pamukkale is one of the top tourist pulls in Turkey, for good reason! We arrived in the late afternoon to the small township and were awestruck by the size of the white mountain reflecting the evening back at us. We didn’t get a chance to explore that evening but the next morning we were up bright and early to check it out.

We were in for a treat. A quick read of the signs told us the basics

  • The name literally means “cotton castle” in Turkish.
  • Pamukkale is located nearby the spa town of Hierapolis, at the end of the 2nd century B.C.
  • It has a rich history as Hieropolis was once an important religious epicentre following the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine and his establishment of Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in 330 A.D.
  • Pamukkale was formed when a spring with a high content of calcium bicarbonate cascaded over the edge of the mountain cliff, which cooled and hardened leaving white-coloured calcium deposits and aquamarine mineral-rich water.

What these signs left out is the contemporary draw of the place which is that Pamukkale one of titans of people watching in our global society. We spent quite an enjoyable morning watching people flaunt themselves and flout the law in sake of the perfect ‘gram in the serene backdrop of the cotton castle.

The best
… and the rest

On top of the hill of Pamukkale sits the old Spa town, which was a little emptier.


getting amongst

From Pamukkale we headed back to the coast. Izmir is one of Turkey’s major cities. We spent a few days here and enjoying the hostel and walking around the old city streets. We also experienced a fighter jet air show, which once we realised what was happening turned out to be quite the experience.

One of the main attractions of Izmir (and Turkey in general for everyone over the age of 55) is the ancient city Ephesus. This is a short train ride from Izmir, delicious baked goods being sold on the train once again reaffirmed our position that trains are the best way to get around.

Theatre of Ephesus
Library of Cesius

Ephesus It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the colonists. It flourished during both Hellenic and Roman times. Some of the other draws of the city are. Site of the temple of Artemis, Library of Celsius, the large theatre (seats 25000) and it is stepped in early Christian history.

Busiest library in Turkey
It’s still a city to this day

We explored the city, which actually felt like a bustling metropolis! And headed back to Izmir.

The next day we boarded another bus and headed North up the coastline to Canakkale. This is the major city on the south entrance to the Dardanelles, and the stepping off point to the Gallipoli peninsula. This is also near the (purported) site of ancient city of Troy.  

Trojan horse – Not the original

After a long day in the bus and a delicious kebab on chips on the water front, we spent a night in a hostel we set on a tour of the Gallipoli peninsula.

We went with a Tour that we had organised through our hostel (ANZAC hostel). This proved to be an excellent choice. The tour guide was a wealth of knowledge about the campaign and other historic events like Xerxes pontoon bridge and the Turkish independence war. We started with a lecture, then crossed the Dardanelles and spent the day going to the historic sites and cemeteries.

Lone Pine

After the sombre day we were ready to go elsewhere. The next day we caught a bus up to our final stop. Istanbul.

We spent a week in Istanbul and had a fantastic time. We visited the main attractions, the Hagia Sofia, blue mosque, Taksim, Galata tower.

Sheep on the streets of central Istanbul
Hagia Sofia
Bosphorus feat. seagulls

On a tour of the Tokapi palace (which was where the early sultans lived) we learnt about the reason the sultans had such large harems. It was so that they could have as many eligible heirs as possible, who could learn the cut throat business of leadership by competing against siblings for the throne. This survival of the fittest approach had a high number of victims.

Basicilia Cistern, an old water underground reservior, now site of concerts
Our favourite spot for a cup of tea

We visited a few museums, but were particularly impressed with the Archaeological museums, the age and scope of some of the collections was incredibly impressive. We attended a pub crawl, which was an interesting insight into the nightlife but left Issy a little lacklustre the next day.

Pickle market– Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Issy looking at the Hagia Sofia
Interior of the Hagia Sofia.
Turkish delight. Much less polarising than the one in a favourites box
Egyptian obelisk, in the main square.
Dolmabache palace. Under restoration sadly. This is a worldwide scaffold covering trend.

Some other sights of interest was the Dolmabache palace, where the sultans moved in later years, but accidentally bankrupted themselves and couldn’t even pay for furnishings and lost control of the state earning the empire the title of ‘the sick man of Europe’.

Jellyfish, Asian? European? who knows?

We also checked out the markets, went to the Basilica Cistern, ferried across the Bosporus, drank a copious amount of tea, ayran and ate altogether way too much. We left Istanbul at an early hour on a flight to London.

Galata Tower
See you in the UK!

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