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.

TBT

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
Fisherman
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!

Turkey: Lycia

From Anatayla we were carless, which meant we would be on the turkish bus system for our remaining time in Turkey. Our first taste was a journey to Olympos. This was in the heart of the Lycian region, which encompasses some of the southern coast of Turkey. Like the Olympics, Olympos has been ‘hosted’ by many ancient empires of its time. Persian, Roman, Hellenes, Macedonians etc.

Olympos beach

As a modern nation Turkey went through a lot of development of roads and industries in the 1960s under a lot of guidance from Germany. After the 1990s tourism took off. In 2019 51 million people went to turkey. (for reference NZ has 4 million arrive a year). This had led to the coastline being absolutely bombarded with hotels and resorts. Olympos is marketed to tourists as a remedy to this. It is a quiet town located on the coast with none of the major developments of say Antayala.

Beer courtesy of a man with a chilly bin for a backpack, belly courtesy of the beer.

We spent three nights here, mostly hanging out on the beach and checking out some of the surroundings. One of the natural highlights was the Chimaera flames.

Chiamera flames

These methane fuelled open flames have been burning since forever ago. Used as ancient lighthouses for the greeks and allegedly the inspiration for the chimera myth (Homer). It seems the chimera has been tamed by tourists as the ‘fire breathing, mythical beast with the body and head of a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake’s head’ now spends its days toasting everyone’s marshmallows.

Chimeramallows, hand of a human, arm of tree, blood of sugarcane

From Olympos, another bus. Complete with a complimentary (it was for free) cup of tea. We arrived in Kaş (ş = sh). This is a small seaside town surrounded by massive mountains and Greek islands.

Looking back toward Kaş
One of the beaches on the Kaş peninsula

During our time in Kaş we went on a boat trip. This was a relaxing way to spend a day. The tour took us through some of the nearby islands and stopped several times for a swim.

Issy had the camera, sorry viewers

We cruised past Simena, another ancient Lycian town. Simena had the added interest of being a sunken city. The clear waters allowed for incredible views of houses, docks and buildings which had been submerged since an earthquake in the 2nd century.

Simena

From here we climbed to the top of the island into an old fortress in Kekova. The boat decided to forgo chairs in lieu of mattresses which made it extremely comfortable to chill out. After a few more swims in the incredibly salty Mediterranean we called it a day.

Looking down from Kekova fortress

Our second day in Kaş involved a scooter hire. We drove around and had a thoroughly enjoyable day. Due to an overaggressive grip at the petrol pump we had an excess of gas in the tank. Kas peninsula has a loop road about 4km around. We thought we would host our own ‘Isle of Mann’ to get rid of the extra gas. We spent around 2 hours driving this loop having a great time.

One more bus, destination Fethiye. From Fethiye (Fet – E – ye) we decided to go on a walk. This would prove to be more difficult than we had anticipated. Our map was somewhere between suboptimal and woefully inadequate.

Photo captured by a cctv camera on a local water tap.
Issy making the most of usufruct
Looking down at Oludeniz

We spent 3 hours bush bashing up a hill in the middle of the Turkish summer. Despite the odds, we made it to the top only to find a road which we could have taken. We continued onwards and enjoyed the views. We spent the night in our trusty tent in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t have any sleeping bags or blankets, so it was a bit of a chilly night under our clothes. The next day we continued on to butterfly cove. This was pretty spectacular. We thought we might be able to climb down, but without ropes it was a bit much to consider.

Butterfly Cove

We caught a bus back to Oludeniz, where we were surprised to find ourselves in an English town. We had to do a double take but right there was George, a sunburnt Englishman eating an English breakfast in a pub yelling at the cricket, whilst holding a 10 quid note out to the waiter. The entire town was copies of this, the only changing being the sport, the accent, and the maximum size of the t shirts in the shirts next door. The largest we saw was XXXXXXXXL, not even kidding. I’m pretty sure it was a repurposed sail. For reference, Oludeniz is a small town outside Fethiye, with a great beach and paragliding, it is particularly popular with the English.

Fethiye harbour

After being talked out of trying on the t-shirt (white’s not my colour), we took a quick bus to an abandoned town named Kayaköy. In the 1920’s parts of this area of turkey were inhabited by Greeks. A massive repopulation of 1.6 million people post WWI due to the Ottoman collapse, rise of Turkey and numerous other political happenings occurred.

Looking down from the high point of Kayaköy

Turks from Greece and Greeks from Turkey swapped towns wholesale. The Turks who were moved to mainland Turkey refused to live in buildings which had been inhabited by Christians. As a result the town was abandoned.

It’s interesting walking around ruins of this age, as they are in much better condition than the older towns around. I was reminded of looking at Italian renaissance paintings and how the buildings look in much better nick than today barring the restored stuff. After a reflecting (read: pretentious) walk up here we returned to Oludeniz, where we went out partying. The next morning we had a delicious English breakfast.

Beer 3 of a few.
Paraglider, the sky was never empty while we were walking

Next bus: Pamukkale

Central Turkey

Trabzon is a city right in the North East of Turkey. It is one of the most important trade cities on the Black sea and home to just under a million people.

Trabzon

We got out of our marshrutka and were making our way to our accommodation when a fighter jet took off right next to us. It doubled back and was so low in the sky. It was incredibly loud and quite shocking. We spent 2 days in Trabzon. We saw the Hagia Sophia (not the main one) and started to eat a lot of Turkish food. Every meal we had in Turkey ended up being accompanied by an ayran which is a delicious yoghurt drink and a tea.

Tea
Trabzon Hagia Sofia
Sumela Monastery

We decided to do a road trip to the south and got a car. On the way out of town we went and checked out Sumela monastery. This is a really cool Greek monastery which is carved into the side of the mountain. We continued throughout the country and spent a night in Sivas. The roads were surprisingly good but eastern Anatolia had a rural feel to it.  It was the first time we had driven a car in 5 months, and felt a bit different on the right hand side of the road. Worse was to come.

In the countryside
On the road
Local transport
Cows; Turkish

From Sivas we went to Goreme in Cappadocia. This is a very famous tourist attraction in the middle of Turkey, best known for its geological formations and hot air ballons. The afternoon was spent on a quad bike tour and visiting the Uchisar castle. Our tent from Sziget had made the journey with us and we decided to spend a night camping in a field near by the city, with tasty pide from a local bakery.

Uchisar Castle
Up close, this used to be home to 1000 people in byzantine times
Cappadocia views from the castle.
Fairy Chimneys, from the quad bike tour
Camping spot

The next morning we rolled out of the tent early to watch the ballons, we followed this up with about 4 turkish coffees to offset the early rise and spent the dawn admiring the sky.

Apparently its 300 euro per person to ride these
coming down

We continued on the road to a famous underground city, which was neat.

From here we went south to the coast to a place called Kizkaleesi. From a quick google maps This looked like a small village on the mediterranian coast. We were surprised to find a massive resort town. Either the heat or trying to park in the incredibly narrow streets caused us to work up a sweat. We ventured to beach. Having grown up in NZ we are both used to a certain style of beach, notably empty. As far as we could see the beach was packed 10 loungers deep.

Beach with people

Once we were past the loungers we got to see the castle in the sea which was pretty neat.

Kizkalesi

The legend of this place goes; a fortune teller informs the king that his beautiful daughter will be poisoned by a snake. Shocked by the fortune teller’s words, the king tries to save the princess by building a castle on an island where no snakes live. He sends his daughter to live in the castle. But a snake hides in a grape basket sent from the mainland and poisons the princess. I think the modern rendition would be the same, but sub snake for beach goer and grape basket for jetski.

From a distance

We spent a night here and the next morning we set off on a long coastal drive to Antayla. This drive was very pretty, with mountains, coast and beaches comprising the scenery. We ate gozleme (cheese pancakes) at an roadside stall and had our first cactus fruit. Issy was particularly captivated by these treats.

Old Antalya harbour. there are big resorts down the whole coastline here

We arrived in Antayla in the evening. This is a reasonably popular city, especially with tourists. We spent a few days here and had a great time.

We checked out a few notable places including Termessos, an ancient mountain town which even Alexander the great didn’t manage to conquer. It was abandoned after an earthquake destroyed the aqueduct. The best bit about this was how empty it was. We were on our own to explore in such a nice backdrop.

The old bathhouse and gym Termessos
Enjoying the show at the ampitheatre
View from the top

We also went to Karain cave, this has been occupied by homo species for 200,000 years. Whilst some of the interior decor felt a bit dated, it was pretty amazing to visit see the layers of history.

Main chamber
Research digs

We visted Phaselis which is an old roman port and a great place for a swim.

Phaselis beach
Inside aspendos, considered the best preserved large theatre. they had a production of Carmen on that evening.

Aspendos was also a stop, where Issy was tempted by a delicious looking cactus fruit on the side of the road. In her haste she forgot the cactus part of the deal and subsequently had a hand full on spines. To her credit she managed to eat the fruit to settle the score. The local dairy owners, who spoke no English recognised exactly what had happened when we went to by a coke a few minutes later, much to their amusement.

Roman bridge over Koprulu canyon

From here we went to Koprulu canyon, where we had a bit of a swim and paddle in a raft.

Getting dunked in the waterfall, very cold
Hanging out
Our journey. It took us about 7 days to do the entire thing.