A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

To the islands we go

Princes' Islands

all seasons in one day 31 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

Being in a hostel that has very thin walls, it was unlikely I would sleep through the call to prayer. Even still, I slept like a log and rolled the same in my slanting bed. We (Rachel and I) climbed three flights of stairs to our breakfast which was not the most flash but the view? First class! Rachel was brave enough to try one of the fluorescent coloured granules which we think were sweet tea. The choices? Fluro yellow, orange or pink. I stuck with the less than impressive Nescafe. I swear if I come back craving nescafe I'm going to sue Turkey!

From our hostel we walked to the tram which took us to Kadikoy for a quick dash onto the ferry that was just leaving. Ahhh....Princes' Islands here we come.

The first island we jumped off at was Heybeliad. We walked the long (and mostly uphill) way to the Haghia Triada Monastery...it was closed so we sat amongst the pine trees where I cracked open my stolen boiled egg from breakfast. After 45 minutes we headed back to Haghia Triada only to work out (with sign language) that it wasn't open to the public anyway. Hmmm...that's a long hike to look through a fence. But it made me feel better about the baklava I ate the night before.
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Oh I forgot to mention that part of the attraction for the islands is that it really only has two forms of transport. Bike and fayton (horse drawn carriage). Now for those of you who know of my unfortunate history on transport with two wheels - imagine my reluctance when it was mostly uphill, on hired bikes of dubious stability and on uneven cobbled stones. Now I'm happy to laugh at myself but that would have just gone beyond funny. So the other option fayton? Well, the health of these horses were varied and some where down right distressing. And seeing these oblivious tourists being pulled up steep hills by horses that were more skeletal than meat...well it was nauseating (whichever way you spell it!).

So on foot we were and on the way down we decided to do some old fashioned Aussie bush bashing. Generally in Turkey I've been so impressed with how clean it is. Not so in the bush bashing expedition. There was rubbish everywhere and poor Rachel had an unfortunate encounter with an atrophied very much dead cat. She was a little jumpy after that - understandably.
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The cat and rubbish aside the walk was beautiful with butterflies flittering everywhere and loads of wild flowers. Have I mentioned how glad I am that I came here at this time of the year? After a little worrying moment when we thought we had gone way off track we found the road and even a place to squeeze through the barbed wire to get to it.

Now such a trip surely deserves a Fistik Magnum! Well we thought so. Back in the town we enjoyed our Magnum as Rachel told me again of her friend who works in the department of Magnums and how she was going to insist she bring it out in Australia. I'm not so sure though...I'm not sure a diet of Fistik Magnum would be so good for me. I'm averaging one a day here!
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A quick lunch at one of the many restaurants on the water we then jumped back on the ferry to the next Island Buyukada. I can't put the accents on the letters with this computer but it is pronounced booyookada. So I had that annoying song in my head - barakuda. Actually that has been an strange development whilst I've been travelling. I seem to be experiencing things in song! Someone says a line and I get the corresponding song in my head.
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Back to Buyukada. Walking was the name of the game on this island too. This time we were walking passed houses that looked like they would be better situated in the deep south of America. Apparently this is a holiday destination for rich Istanbul residents - sort of like Portsea in Melbourne.

Still more skeletal horses ran passed us looking like they belonged more in some wes craven animation than in Turkey. But we still managed to enjoy the beautiful walk through pine trees. Even when the hill got ridiculously steep. Rachel compared me to a boot camp instructor. We trudged up this hill passed trees with all sorts of things tied to them. At first glance they may look like someone trying a whole lot of rubbish onto the trees since most of it was toilet paper, water bottle wrappers and random string. But in actual fact each of them represented prayers. We were making our slow and arduous journey to the top where the monastery of St George was situated. Hence the prayers. We have been told that most of the prayers are of couples praying for the gift of a child. Suddenly the many ties of toilet paper became beautiful dreams of thousands of couples.
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Still...our journey continued. When we finally reached the top it took us probably ten minutes before we could even bring ourselves to focus on anything but catching our breath and falling into a chair. Once that passed we saw that the climb was truly worth it. The vista was magnificent. And this monastery you could enter!
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But the treat for us was sitting at the top of this climb enjoying an Efes in the shade. Well earned and very well appreciated.
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Our walk back was considerably less tiresome. We watched (or tried not to) the numerous faytons galloping past us up the hill, obviously for a wedding.

Oh and look at that - we got back into the town with enough time to enjoy another ice cream. But not a Magnum. Boysenberry, lemon and pistachio. Sigh....I watched a family playing with their two dogs and waited for our ferry to arrive.

We jumped on and relaxed into our seat as we took off...

...um, where are we? Did we get on the right ferry? We seem to have been on here a long while. I'm sure it didn't take us over an hour to get to the islands. Don't we need to be over there?

Ahh the joys of travelling. It took us 2 hours to get back to Kadikoy! (it took us about 20 minutes to get to the islands)
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Two hours later we did arrive at the port we first left - obviously just by the scenic route. What a big day. We found a lovely restaurant which was written up in the Lonely Planet. Though we were a little concerned about it being on the 6th floor after doing so much climbing but they had a lift!

I had the speciality which looked like sausage rolls but tasted so much better. We had a single musician and a stunning view - what more could you ask for?

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Waking up in Istanbul

sunny 32 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

Did I say wake up call?

Well, no wake up call but there is nothing like a panic 15 minutes from waking to having to get off a train. Almost as effective as a cup of coffee! Poor Alya had 5 minutes. Apparently most people had been awake most of the night with all the stopping of the train and the noisy men and women throughout the night. I slept like a baby:)
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A quick ferry ride with a Turkish tea in hand got us to the shores of Istanbul where we walked the remaining 15 minutes to our end hotel where we had a room to dump our stuff. Breakfast at another hotel then we all headed out for the morning. I took Alia and Mari to the park I discovered my first day in Istanbul. It was to be a peaceful chance to chill out in the beautiful setting of green grass and tulips. Well all the tulips have gone! And as for the peaceful rest...

...we were swarmed by children. It is Museum week in Turkey where all museums are free for Turkish people. That means lots of school groups. We must have had a whole school surrounding us. It is funny trying to have a conversation in two different languages...it is even funnier with kids. Apparently my hair was rather a treat for them and by the end of the...experience they were poking it, touching it and pulling it. I got pinched on the cheek by one girl which I later learned meant she thought I was very sweet. There was a lot of 'Dom tek tek' which is the Turkey entry into Eurovision. There was many questions but strangely they were the same questions. What is your name, what is your name, what is your name, how old are you? What is your name? etc. etc.

Finally their English teacher appeared and did some translation. I looked like their music teacher from last year. One boy seemed to think I should be with him and another girl sat closely beside me and held my hand. All three of us were feeling very overwhelmed by the time their other teachers came to shoo them away. Then there was a lot of 'I love you' and 'bye' and kisses on the cheek.

After that I had to go try the fortune teller. Not your average fortune teller either. A chicken. Yep, I paid 3 TYL (bargained down of course) for a chicken to pull out my fortune. Then I got a photo taken with a bunny rabbit who had poop on his paws.
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After this excitement Rachel and I headed to our hostel right near the blue mosque. We stumbled across an art gallery with some gorgeous art and a very character rich artist within. I don't know how he took it that I liked his wife's art more than his.

Dinner was with Mari, Lindsay, Alia, Yusuf, Pam, Harry and Rachel. A rather swish restaurant which made me glad Rachel and I had had a late lunch so we just had soup and shared a mixed meze. I had also brought along my treat of a drink I bought at lunch. It's all experience! Fermented purple carrot with chilli. Yes, it was pretty rank. It tasted like juiced pickled cabbage with chilli in it. Had to be done - even though the waiter looked at me when I ordered it and said - 'I do not recommend for you'.
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After dinner we jumped on a tram to the other side of the Galata Bridge for the best baklava I've ever had. Then back to say goodbye to everyone as we all went our separate ways. The tour was well and truly over :(
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But Istanbul had so much more to show me...

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:27 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Cappadocia secrets and more bus travel

all seasons in one day 33 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

Another early morning - woken by the morning prayer at about 4.20am. I'm so going to miss that alarm...well, maybe not! I did enjoy the addition of the dog calls though :)

My first point of call after a quick shower was to head off to find coffee again. Espresso is a rare treat around Turkey and one I wasn't going to miss whilst I knew where to get it. Back at our caves we had to have all our stuff ready to go before we headed with our new local guide Mehmet who took us to one of the underground cities. Now, this is not an exaggeration...it was literally a city. We walked down five levels! They had an entire civilisation down there for years and with over five thousand people. I was again amazed as Mehmet talked at how advanced the civilisation was. What happened to that knowledge? I didn't really get any photos down there because there really just wasn't any point. So I contended myself with just walking around the schools, the stables, the churches, the sleeping quarters, hoping that the stone doors didn't close on us.

Back on the surface again the sun was well and truly making itself known. I can't imagine why anyone would want to travel through Turkey in summer. It was so hot. It felt about 40 degrees though I'm sure it was just felt that way because it was mostly stone, rock and sand around us. Though it was also surprisingly green too.

Back in Goreme we had lunch - yep gozleme again! - then Rachel, Sally, David and I joined another intrepid group for a Carpet talk. I have to say I'm really glad I went. Now, I didn't buy a capret but I can understand why people would want to. They are even more beautiful when you understand them a bit better. It helps to be told about them by someone who is passionately obsessed by them.
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But the fun was to be over soon. It wasn't long before we were all back at our caves to jump on a bus to Ankara.

What can I tell you about my travel there. Aside from the stunning scenery (Turkey certainly doesn't disappoint there!) it was just travel. For the first time we had clouds and rain. Actually I lie. At lunch we had a mini dust storm (I may be exaggerating a little) which blistered its way through the middle of town then just stopped. But on the road it was stormy and grey which just made the green that more vibrant. It took me a while before I realised that the green hills I was staring at looked like the Windows desktop background. You know that ridiculously green hill that you think would never been seen in the flesh, so to speak? Well, I've seen it now!
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Ankara is...well...not my favourite place in Turkey. It was noisy, busy, ugly and chaotic. At the train station we had dinner with canned vegies and packet mash potato. But we did have live music. I taught the girls gin rummy with my new Turkey playing cards. We continued playing once we got on the train until we were all a little delirious with tiredness - especially me. You know when everything becomes funny? And I think I'm pretty funny at the best of times so I was just hilarious that night...or so I thought. But as Rachel said. Happy is he (she) who can laugh at himself for he will always be amused. That's me to a tea!

Tired as I was I had no problem falling asleep on the train...nor staying asleep until our wake up call - hmmm...wake up call?

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 07:07 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Flying high and walking low in Cappadocia

sleep is surely over-rated

sunny 34 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

So a morning that begins at 4am is never going to be pleasant. But it helps to be awake to hear the call to prayer accompanied by howling dogs. It was such beautiful morning. I love being somewhere when it is quiet because everyone is asleep. I feel like the only person on this strange planet of Cappadocia. I sat outside looking over the few lights that lit up the surreal landscape.

It wasn't long before I was picked up with Sally and David to be taken into the centre of town where there definitely wasn't sleeping people. Instead there was a multitude of half awake people from all over the world here to experience the treasure of a balloon ride at sunrise over Cappadocia.

We were driven about 20 minutes out of town to a wild flower filled field where they gave us a safety talk in both English and French and then as our breath clouded before us we got to watch these limp bags be filled with air to be transformed into magnificent balloons. There were 12 to a basket all with window seats.
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The balloon ride was beautiful. We lifted above the other 80 balloons out that morning then drifted below through the landscape that so fascinated me. We travelled for about 2 hours and to be honest as wonderful as it was...I think I could have done the hour long one for 120TYL cheaper. But what an experience. Once we landed - narrowly missing a Turkish prison! - we were treated to champagne and cherry juice and a slice of chocolate cake. None of this appealed to me so instead I enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
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Back in town I decided to walk back to the hotel knowing that when the sun had reached its zenith I wouldn't find the walk as pleasant. I passed some dyed wool drying in the morning sun. Did I mention I'm taking photos? Well, I might have a bit of a task on my hands when I get back to cull them all! But I promise my friends I won't make you sit through all of them.

Back at the hotel I had just enough time to find an espresso coffee and a banana for breakfast before we were off again. On foot we walked to the Rose Valley. Ali was our leader this time and we hiked through the landscape I had floated over just an hour before. The hike was one of my favourite things on this trip. Though there are so many favourites. Learning about the history of the landscape, discovering hidden churches, learning about the uses of pigeon droppings! It's all fascinating. I just loved being active too. It did get mighty hot as the sun climbed higher and higher and soon enough on our way out of the valley my enthusiasm was starting to waiver. That and my lack of sleep combined made a powerful drug for me.
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We got back to Goreme centre in time for lunch which I ordered but then was too tired to eat. I don't think I've ever been so close to falling asleep in my food. Especially when we were sitting on cushions. So I stumbled back to my cave and passed out for an hour...hardly enough but all I was going to get.

Poor Jeanne had her first Hamam experience (Turkish Bath) when they were doing them co-gender! Now that is a Turkish experience for you when you are a shy woman with three men!

For dinner we headed out to a restaurant where we sat on little seats that were more like little rocking horses without the rocking. Surprisingly comfortable actually - until you tried to get up! I was still pretty tired so I just had soup whilst everyone else tried the testi kebab. A casserole type thing cooked in a ceramic pot that was cracked open in order to get the delicious food out.
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I may have been tired but I wasn't going to miss out on dessert. We walked to the place we had lunch and I shared a gozleme (kind of like roti bread) filled with chocolate and banana. Now that is an experience everyone should have!!!!!!

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a small glass of sweet tangerine wine before I headed off to bed to sleep like a log. Long long day.

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 06:45 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Konya to Cappadocia - the epic journey begins

So where was I?

sunny 33 °C
View My Intrepid adventure around Turkey on JanelleK.Woods's travel map.

When I last left you I was in Konya. So much has been seen and experienced since then! Well, not in Konya. After leaving the internet desk with the guy smoking next to me I headed out with Yusuf (our tour guide) in search of coffee. The real stuff not the seemingly favoured nescafe that is available everywhere. Unfortunately no coffee was to be found but we ended in a little cafe of a Turkish style with people smoking the waterpipe - I think it was apple flavoured as I'm getting a bit of a nose for it now. We had just enough time to down a glass of Turkish tea before having to head back to the hotel for our epic journey to Cappadocia.

Let me start off by saying that the total time between Konya and Cappadocia was ELEVEN hours. It felt like it too. I was perched on the edge of a seat at the front of the bus for most of the way. You would think that being at the front would mean I had a better veiw of the scenery... well I thought I would. Not so. The wide vista was marred by the countless bug corpses splattered all over the glass. Well, I guess they were Turkish bugs so at least I was still seeing all things Turkey!

Bugs aside the scenery was so beautiful. This really is the best time to come to Turkey with all the wild flowers out. Fields filled with yellow, purple and pink flowers. The mountains in the background highlighted by snow completed the vista for me. But then the scenery would change over and over again. From open fields of green so green it didn't look real, to craggy rocks or smooth rocks, fields of dancing green wheat (or something like it). We passed gypsies and goats, shepherds with their sheep, horse and carts, women working their land and men on their tractors through the olive groves.
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But arrival in Cappadocia was the sight that took the cake for me. Honestly words are hard to find to describe the sight. As I still haven't been able to add my photos please do a google search for Cappadocia. You will then understand why I can't describe this other worldly landscape.

We were landed in the centre of Goreme where we cooked in the hot hot sun until a beat up station-wagon arrived to take our luggage to our accommodation. We were not to stay in a hotel but in caves! Now I did say our luggage was being transported to our accommodation but not us. So we walked through the cave dwellings of Goreme and climbed a rather steep hill to get to our sensational abode for the next two nights.
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Sleeping in a cave meant cooler environment which was good and a padlock for security. The dogs here were huge! I mean the size of a Saint Bernard but so much cuter. And they were everywhere. I learnt later why I loved them even more...I will explain when I get to the morning prayers at 4am!!!

After we had all excitedly check out each others rooms we headed into town where we had a short orientation (it really wasn't that big) and then Sally, David and I headed off to the Hot Air Balloon office. I'm such a sucker! I was going to go for the 1 hour trip but the woman was such a good saleperson that I ended up saying to myself...'how many times do I get the chance to do this?' So after forking out 490TYL I need a drink - a real one! I found Lindsay, Rachel, Mari and Alia and ordered a iced coffee (yes, real coffee) with no ice, no sugar and only a little milk (su). Yes, I'm strange enough that he remembered me again the next morning when I went to order the same again.
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That night was to be a very special treat as we all climbed into a minibus to be taken out of the touristy Goreme to be welcomed into the home of a local family for dinner. We got to see where they make their wine and then sit down as the sun set for a home cooked meal. The little boy (about four years old) took a little shine to me and gave me a flower. The young girl (about nine) took a shine to Lindsay and sat next to her all night. The food was lovely especially the herb and tomato soup. Of course at the end we were offered tea. I'm a little over the apple tea (or tourist tea as it is really called). Not being much of a sweetened drink drinker I wasn't too keen on it to begin with but now...I groan when it comes out with an expectant smile from a friendly Turk.
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Dinner ended too soon for me but we had to head back to our hotel and I had a very early morning ahead of me. 4.55am was when I was to be picked up for my balloon ride.

Posted by JanelleK.Woods 06:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged bus Comments (0)

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