Traveling in Turkey

Since well before we arrived in Europe, Turkey has been near the top of our “must visit” list. It’s a very interesting country in terms of landscapes, history, food and culture – oh and history, did I mention history? There’s a lot of it there! Turkey is also a huge place and we were faced with difficult decisions choosing which parts of the country to see! In the end we opted for quite a well worn tourist track from Istanbul down the western coast via Gallipoli, Ephesus and Pamukkale before finishing with a relaxing week in a small resort town called Kalkan.

In Istanbul we started our trip with a guided tour of the city. We had a local guide all to ourselves which was great especially in comparison to the dozens of giant cruise ship tour groups we passed by that day! We learned about the history of the city, saw the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia… it was a long day but a good intro to Istanbul and all its history. It was cool to look across the Bosphorus sea from Europe and see Asia right there. I have heard Istanbul described as the city where East meets West but didn’t actually realise that the city literally straddles both continents!
We spent our second day in Istanbul in some self-directed wanderings. We explored the Grand Bazaar (very pushy and unpleasant), the spice market (yum), and the more modern Istanbul around Taksim Square (a nice contrast to the historic parts).

From here we spent a day traveling to Gallipoli and seeing the memorials to both the Anzacs and the Turkish soldiers who bravely fought there in the war. It was interesting to see a piece of NZ history there in Turkey and we were both struck by the graciousness of the Turkish in welcoming the Anzac soldiers as sons and heroes after the war and allowing all the grave sites and memorials there.

Going much further back in history our next visit was to Ephesus. It was amazing to see such old ruins and imagine what the place used to be like. This is the same city that Paul visited and wrote to in the epistle of ‘Ephesians’. That’s really old!

We had a free day in Kusadasi then which was an overwhelmingly touristy coastal town. Unfortunately Matt ate a dodgy cheeseburger here which led to a very unpleasant night and a morning bus journey the next day which we will not speak of. By the time we arrived in Pamukkale we ended up spending our afternoon catching up on sleep and strength rather than touring the ‘Cotton Castle’ – natural white terraces formed by the flowing mineral waters. We still managed to get in a short evening visit to the terraces and it was worth it to see such unusual and pretty formations. Would’ve been quite romantic if we’d both been feeling a bit better! Pamukkale was the end of our touring and from here we headed to our week in Kalkan.

We enjoyed the first week traveling from Istanbul down the coast. We saw much, ate lots of rice and grilled meat, took loads of photos and traveled on a whole lot of buses. By the end of the week though we were both glad for a chance to relax in one place for a while and chill.

Kalkan is a comparatively ‘expensive’ resort town in Turkey, although its still a lot cheaper than dining out here in Dublin. We stayed at the Patara Prince which had an awesome view and beautiful grounds. Unfortunately the staff and services were pretty slack. I’m not sure if they were incapable or just didn’t care?… Not to worry though, we still had a great week. We took a boat cruise round the bay one day but mostly we spent our time in Kalkan sleeping in, reading, swimming in the pool and eating many delicious dinners. Pure, indulgent relaxation 🙂 Perfect end to a holiday!

You can flip through some of our photos from the trip – http://picasaweb.google.com/mattb.net.nz/Turkey or use the slideshow below if you’re in a hurry.

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