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Trip Report Our 4 weeks in Turkey - Trip Report

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We are just back from our 4 weeks in Turkey and this is the first installment of my trip report. I always like to report back to acknowledge the assistance provided via this forum, either by direct response to my queries , or through postings from others.

We arrived at Istanbul airport on time after an uneventful flight from Melbourne, Australia, with Malaysia Airlines – we were first off the plane which gave us a head start for the visa counter and then immigration and customs. The visa must be obtained from a separate counter to the right of the immigration queues and for us, the price was US$60. For Amercians it is US$20, and for New Zealanders zero! Apparently Australia imposed higher charges for visas a while ago and Turkey responded in kind.

Our accomodation offered airport pick up and our driver was waiting so it was a smooth transfer and we arrived at the Sultanahmet Suites just after 7:00am. We left our bags at the office and set off to get our bearings in Istanbul; hoping to stay awake until we could get into the flat around 1:00 pm.

We knew that Istanbul was hilly and we had that confirmed early as we made our way up to the Hippodrome and our first sight of the Blue Mosque. It was open to visitors, so we took off our shoes and went in to have a look at the magnificent space and the decorated interior.
We then just kept walking – past Hagia Sofia, through the public courtyard of the Topkapi palace, down the tram line down to the water and the Galata bridge and finally up the steep streets to the Grand Bazaar, where we had just a quick wander, then made our way back to the flat.

After a short wait we were shown into the flat which was fine . . but . . it was on the 3rd floor not the 1st which we had specified. We weren't happy but couldn't do much as the 1st floor flat was occupied so we settled in after the manager's promise to "do something tomorrow". We later moved down one floor; same layout but one less flight of stairs was an improvement. We were very happy with our choice of accommodation, despite the steep climb up to the main tourist areas, as it was roomy & comfortable and in an area with lots of local activity.
http://www.sultanahmentsuites.com/english

After unpacking we took another walk up to the Hippodrome and wandered for a while though some of the nearby streets before having an early and fairly ordinary dinner on the rooftop terrace of a café on Pierre Loti street. Walking back we came across the Arasta Bazaar, a former stable 'behind' the Blue Mosque, lined with good quality carpet, leather goods, and souvenirs.

Returning to the flat we went to bed about 8:00 pm but had a good night's sleep . . at least until the call to prayer issued from the speakers of the nearby mosque at 4:30 am.

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    Our first full day in Istanbul started with the steep climb to the Hippodrome area that we managed 2-3 times a day during our stay. We had a choice of taking the short & very steep path or to take a longer path around the hill to get a slightly less strenuous walk - usually we would start the day with the steep walk, but later in the day the slightly easier path was more attractive.

    Near the Hippodrome we found Denizen, a café that opened early, had good coffee and offered free wifi. The wifi was useful as were dogged with PC/internet problems for a large part of this trip. After coffee we headed back to the Arasta Bazaar area to visit the Mosaic museum. Excavation in that area uncovered 2000 year old mosaics and a small museum has been built around them. The mosaics are not extensive and many were damaged but we enjoyed this visit.

    Next stop was Hagia Sophia but the queues were very long so we visited the nearby Basilica Cisterns instead. These were remarkable & very atmospheric. They were built around 530AD to store water for the palace and are an enormous underground space, with rows of pillars supporting the vaulted ceiling, and still with a shallow layer of water (including fish).

    We then set off looking for the Beyazit mosque but ended up visiting a sultan's mausoleum instead before heading into the Grand bazaar again. It is said to house more than 3500 shops and is an amazing place. There is too much to take in with a single visit, so we just wandered around for a while, then emerged on the downhill side and set off to find the Suleymann Mosque.

    We became lost almost immediately as few of the little shopping streets were named and those that were did not appear on our map. Eventually, with a little help from a local, we emerged at the Spice market. After a quick look around we crossed the main road to the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn. The bridge is interesting in that only the centre section is actually over the water - the underside of the bridge on each bank is filled with shops - mainly fish restaurants - and I picked up a take way fish roll there for lunch.

    After a couple of false starts, we managed to buy tram tokens from the machine and took the tram up to Hagia Sophia where the queues were now much shorter. We bought a museum card there - a bit annoyed because the staff at the Mosaic museum had told us the cards were no longer available - and went in to take a look at the magnificent interior. The dome was spectacular, an enormous space, and the remaining mosaics around the walls were lovely.

    After a coffee at a nearby open air café we went in search of a restaurant, Doy Doy, recommended by a friend for its great view of the illuminated Blue Mosque from the roof terrace. It was too early to eat so we visited that well known Turkish establishment, McDonalds, for a refreshing milkshake on their terrace while we filled in a little time and rested our feet. Returning to Doy Doy we found the food was quite good but we were disappointed that the terrace was closed!

    We spent most of the next day at the Topkapi Palace, arriving at opening time to try and get ahead of the crowds as a little light rain fell.

    We had read that admission to the harem was at extra cost and by guided tour only, but while it still costs extra the visit is now self-guided. We decided to go there first and were glad we did as we pretty much had it to ourselves as most of the crowds headed for the main palace first. I found the harem very interesting and there were endless walls & niches of decorative patterned tiles. Emerging from the harem we had no choice but to battle it out with the crowds. We had a very expensive coffee & great views towards the Bosphorus in the palace café before tackling the palace itself. There are 3 courtyards inside the entrance and numerous buildings. some ornately decorated and some holding artefacts - Sultan's clothes, religious items, jewellery, weaponry & armour. We spent over 3 hours in the Topkapi and could easily have stayed longer but needed a break.

    After lunch in Sultanahmet we returned to the outer courtyard of the Topkapi to visit the Archaeological Museum. There were some very interesting exhibits in the main building, the Sultan's Tile Kiosk, and the Museum of the Ancient Orient but our energy levels flagged fairly quickly and we probably didn't do justice to this visit.

    On Thursday, using an unfamiliar public transport system, we spent more time & effort than we should have getting firstly to the Chora church and then to the Pierre Loti café but both were well worth the effort.

    The Chora church had lovely frescoes & mosaics and, while it was very busy, we did get a good chance to see everything.

    The Pierre Loti café is perched high above the Golden Horn and with great views of Istanbul. We took the funicular up and managed to get a good table to have a drink & a snack and to enjoy the atmosphere. It was here we discovered "elma çay" (apple tea) which quickly became our preferred drink when we needed a break, being both refreshing & cheap.

    We then walked through the terraced cemetery that stretches all the way down the hill, down to the waterfront and on to the ferry terminal, where we took a ferry to Eminonu, near the Galata bridge. The ferry made a couple of stops on the other side of the water giving us some nice views of Istanbul as we approached Eminonu.

    We had dinner at a local restaurant, Tarahi Cesme, which we enjoyed very much - especially as we didn't need to walk up the hill.
    http://www.tarihicesmerestaurant.com/

    For our last day in Sultanahemet we started with our now traditional coffee at Denizen then took the tram to Eminonu firstly for a closer look though the Spice Market, then to find the entrance to the Rustem Pasa Mosque. The mosque is known for its extensive Iznik ceramic tiles - which were quite spectacular. The entrance is quite unobtrusive, just some steps off a shopping street, and I was quite pleased to find it first go. We then wandered through some of the surrounding shopping streets before working our way steeply up to the Suleymann Mosque which was also well worth seeing for its lovely interior and impressive surrounds.

    After stopping for another refreshing apple tea we again returned to the Grand Bazaar where I bargained a 15TL sketchbook down to 10TL - probably still paid too much.

    We tried another restaurant in Sultanahmet - rooftop open this time - for dinner on our last night in Istanbul. The dinner was OK but the views were very good.

    Overall we loved Istanbul and I would be very happy to return. If we did come back I would be tempted to look at accommodation closer to the top of Sultanahmet but it was also nice to be a bit away from the heavily populated tourist areas.

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    On Saturday morning we were up early for our transfer to Ataturk airport and a very smooth flight with Turkish Airlines to Kayseri. We had a bit of a wait for our luggage but then transferred to the shared min-bus that we had booked for the 1 hour drive to Goreme.

    The countryside along the way was rather featureless but as we approached Goreme we started to see some of the strange formations for which the area is famous.

    We had chosen the Taskonak hotel as it had very good online reviews and we wanted to try a cave hotel. The lower level rooms, including ours, were all partially created from the rock so that was a bit of a novelty.

    We loved this hotel which was located up a very steep hill (seems to be a pattern emerging here) with great views over the town from its open air breakfast terrace. Angela the owner is Australian and very helpful. The room was excellent value at 80€ B&B
    http://www.taskonak.net/

    After settling in we first went for a walk around town to orient ourselves and later embarked on another very steep walk up to Sunset Point which has great views back over the town and also across the weird landscape around.

    Dinner was at Fat Boy's restaurant which is owned & run by Angela's husband. A bit of an Australian theme but we avoided the vegemite sandwiches and meat pie to have Turkish food which was fine without being great and very reasonably priced.

    The next day we woke early - call to prayer again - and went up to the terrace to see some of the hot air balloons drifting over the town then had breakfast on the open air terrace - great!

    We then walked the 1 km to the Goreme Open Air museum which was excellent. Plenty of others there, but the site had the capacity to absorb them without too much problem. We really enjoyed this visit - some lovely frescoes in the subterranean churches and interesting to see the layout of the community. We paid extra to see the Black Church and it was well worth while to see the frescoes The Buckle Church, located outside the museum area, was also very good being larger and more complete.

    We then walked back to town, intending to stop for lunch, but somehow instead took the local bus to nearby Uçhisar which features a very tall rock outcrop that has been hollowed out as a fortification. More climbing involved but great views from the top.

    After lunch at a sprawling open air café where many of the seats were just bean bags scattered through a grassy area we set off to find the path into the Pigeon valley. We needed a little help, first from our café waiter, then from a couple of locals, but then walked the 3km track back to Gorème.

    This was a fantastic walk - spectacular rock formations and a weird eroded landscape. In the bottom of the valley we passed several small plots of agricultural land, all being tilled/harvested by hand, usually by women. It was a hot day and we were pretty tired after the walk so had a refreshment stop in town before struggling up to the hotel.

    I had mentioned our computer troubles to Angela and, while we were out, she had asked (with my consent) Hassam a waiter at a nearby restaurant, but also an ex-resident of Silicon Valley, to take a look at our PC. When we arrived back he had re-installed Windows and the PC appeared to be running again - and he would not accept any payment. It did then take a few more days for things to settle down (as we then had to download 157 updates and new software etc) but we were very happy to be on the road to recovery with our technology.

    On Angela's recommendation we had dinner at Seten, across the road, and it was excellent. Great food, a nice view across the town and valley, and very pleasant staff. Hassam was our waiter so we left a little extra in the tip.
    http://www.setenrestaurant.com/

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    We had asked Angela to organise a car rental for the next day and, while we were having another lovely breakfast on the terrace, the car was delivered and we signed up over a cup of tea.

    We then drove to Kaymakli, one of the underground cities in the area. Kaymakli is not the biggest or deepest but it said to be less crowded and the lower levels at Derinkuyu are not open to the public anyway so we were happy with our visit. The town at its peak had around 20,000 inhabitants and there are living areas, food storage rooms, ventilation shafts, millstone-like rocks that could be rolled to act as doors in the event of attack.

    We then drove on to Ihlara Gorge through some very interesting and much more fertile countryside, with lots of more mechanised activity in the fields, and snow-capped mountains in the background.

    The gorge is about 16 km long and we decided to enter it from Belisirma, about 1/2 way along. We almost missed the nearly illegible battered sign pointing down a narrow road and then thought we'd made a mistake as we descended a narrow cobbled track through a very run-down looking village, but we did emerge at the river at the bottom of the gorge where we were offered free parking by several restaurant proprietors. Had no idea which way we would be going so we picked one at random and set off for a walk.

    We climbed the steps up to the remains of a church after about 750m and then continued about the same distance to the tea house where we turned back. After stopping for kofte & apple tea at the riverside restaurant we headed out the other side of the gorge and north to the Selime monastery at the northern end of the gorge.

    Another amazing visit with endless climbing (of course), great views from the higher levels and interesting remains of the living quarters and churches all hollowed out of the rock outcrop.

    Following the drive back to Goreme we were rather tired but decided to go another few kms to Pasabagi, known as mushroom valley, to see more rock formations. They are quite spectacular and it was well worth the extra effort.

    We then drove back to Goreme and handed over car keys to Angela. The delivery & pick up of rental car at our hotel was a great service and the price of 90TL was very reasonable (topping up a 1/2 tank of fuel cost us 100TL).

    We had dinner at Setef in the town - nice setting and food was good - then back to pack as our airport pick up was due for 6:00am the next morning.

    We were up nice and early for our pick up and enjoyed sitting out on the terrace watching about 50 hot air balloons drift across the town as we waited. I had thought about taking the balloon ride but Heather was terrified by the thought and I didn't feel like doing it solo. No doubt a great experience missed but we still loved our 2 days in Cappadocia.

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    Denizli by the direct route was only 140km but we decided to follow a route through the mountains, recommended by Other Chelebi on this forum.

    Only about 40km longer, it took more than an hour extra but was well worth it for some lovely scenery, but also for a glimpse of life away from the main tourist destinations.

    There was a lot of activity, cutting & transporting hay, as well a lot of cultivation and planting of crops and almost all the work was being done by hand or with the help of donkeys.

    Pamukkale is about 20km from Denizli on our way in and we had plenty of time so decided to go there first. There are actually two things to see on the one site, the ruins of Hierapolis, and the frozen white waterfall effect created by limestone precipitating out of falling water over many years.

    The ruins of Hierapolis are impressive and extensive but we didn't venture far into them as it was very hot, but the limestone formations were just amazing. Until relatively recently, people were permitted on the limestone, but damage was being done so now public access is restricted and the formations are recovering.

    Driving into Denizli was a worry as none of our usual technology was working at that time (although the PC was now functional we still had trouble connecting to the internet and my phone was also playing up; it was starting to feel like a conspiracy) and we had no detailed map. As a result we had very little information as to the actual location of our hotel and Denizli, with over a million people, was a very busy looking city.

    Almost by pure luck we found ourselves driving right past the hotel on a 4 lane divided road and we were able to find our way back. It is interesting that, in Turkey, the divided roads have very few breaks; if you miss an opportunity to turn it can be several kms before you get another chance.

    Our Denizli hotel was fine, a business hotel really, but they spoke very little English and we gave up asking for an iron to be sent up. We had booked 2 nights but, having seen Hierapolis/Pamukkale we didn't need the second night so cancelled that and booked into a hotel in Mugla, about 3/4 of the way to Bodrum.
    http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/north-point-denizli.en.html

    After checking out of our Denizli hotel we drove roughly south-west to Aphrodisias. This was a great visit, and we spent about 2 hours there. Parking was offsite and we were taken in on a trailer towed by tractor.

    The stadium, which held 30,000 people was very interesting, being a stretched oval rather than a circle. There was a lot to see and it was very hot again but we did manage to get around the suggested circuit. The museum was excellent and a recent extension housed friezes recovered from the processional way.

    Aphrodisias was about 40kms off the main Denizli-Bodrum road and rather than retrace our steps we thought we'd try a short cut through some minor roads. There were several uncertain moments, as the road deteriorated to a dirt track in places, but we held our nerve and eventually emerged on to the main Denizli-Mugla road. We had seen some really interesting little villages where, from the interest shown as we passed, tourists are rarely seen.

    Our hotel at Mugla, chosen at short notice, was another business type hotel and we were comfortable there for the one night. We decided to eat in town after we asked what was on the menu at the hotel restaurant and were told "soup, meat, sweet".
    http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/tuna-hotel.en.html

    We really enjoyed Mugla although it had no real attractions - it had a relaxed feel and we spent a couple of hours in town in the evening and again the next morning after we checked out. Looking for a car park in the morning we enquired at the tourist office and one of the staff jumped in the car and guided us there - very good service!

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    We had time to spare for a coffee and a wander around Mugla because our next stop, Bodrum, was only 110km away and we didn't want to arrive too early.

    We did get there ahead of the scheduled check in time, after easily finding the hotel, but we were able to get immediate access to the room. We had booked 4 nights at Bodrum as a break from driving, as we had not known in advance how difficult the roads would be, and we had chosen this hotel as a bit of a luxury; for its setting high above the town (where else?), character and pool.

    It was a good choice as our room was spacious and comfortable, the layout of the complex was charming, the pool & surrounds were beautiful, and the open air restaurant had panoramic views and very good food.
    http://www.elvinobodrum.com/defaulten.asp

    After settling we went for an exploratory walk, about 15 minutes down to the very busy and tourist oriented town with a lovely setting: the castle, now a museum, with a marina filled with expensive yachts on one side and restaurants & beaches lining the blue waters of the Aegean on the other.

    Returning to the hotel we spent some relaxing time around and in the pool before having a very nice meal at the hotel restaurant.

    The next day we wandered down to the town for a good coffee on the waterside terrace at Starbuck's of all places, then visited the castle & Museum of Marine Archaeology. The castle has a commanding position and excellent views of the town as well as over the water to the Greek island of Kos, but I was a little disappointed in the museum. It features wreckage and pieces from several ancient shipwrecks and what there was very good, I had just expected a bit more from the description.

    On Sunday we were picked up at the hotel for a day on Kos. We had debated whether we would do this trip but decided to go as a friend was born there and we thought we should take a look.

    While Kos itself was fine, the day turned into a bit of a trial. We were picked up early, the security process seemed to take forever, as did customs (because we were leaving Turkey and entering Greece), then the boat seemed very slow, and we had to go through the same customs etc processes on the other side. As a day trip to Kos is a popular thing to do and we thought maybe they would have a streamlined process, but not so. From pick up to the time we entered Kos was 2h40 -and basically the same to come back.

    On Kos we visited the castle, impressively built but really just the walls left, then stopped for a drink before looking for the Archaeological Museum . . . . which was closed for restoration. We had a ride on the little train around the town and took a look at the remains of the agora but after that there really wasn't much to do so we ended up filling in time waiting for the trip back.

    There was nothing wrong with Kos but for us it was a wasted day really; others may have enjoyed the beaches but we had a nice pool back at the hotel

    Monday was a very relaxing day, coffee and a walk downtown to start with, some pool time & another excellent dinner at the hotel.

    After not driving at all for 3 days it was now time to get back to touring. After a final coffee in the town we checked out and retraced our route for the first 40 kms then headed north-west past lake Bafa and turned off the main road to visit Miletus and Priene.

    At Miletus we called at the small museum first which had some good exhibits and was well presented, then drove a short distance to the site.

    Miletus had a largely intact theatre and there were extensive other ruins which we walked around and found interesting. Miletus was originally a sea port but is now several kilometres inland and faces a fertile river plain due to siltation. From the top of the theatre it was interesting to visualise where the coast would have been.

    Priene was just a few kms further down the road and also had its theatre intact but with more of the stage area remaining. Its location high up the slope gave it a commanding outlook and good views but also took its toll on us as we slogged up the path on another hot day. Most of the Priene site was fallen stones and, while it was possible to discern the town layout, we preferred Miletus.

    We then continued driving to Selçuk which was to be our base for our Ephesus visit the next day.

    Driving in to Selçuk we had another minor issue as we had no map, but we found the tourist office and got directions from there. Our accommodation, in a hotel of only 4 rooms, was comfortable and the owners were very pleasant and helpful. The hotel was not up a steep hill from the town . . . but of course there was a steep hill to go over to get to the town.
    http://www.ephesussuites.com/

    After settling in we took a walk into the centre of town, about 15 minutes away. We liked Selçuk, which has a small but bustling centre and some nice green areas. The remains of a roman aqueduct pass through the town centre and we were delighted to see that several of the pillars were supporting Stork nests, with young clearly visible.

    We had dinner at a restaurant under the same ownership as our hotel. The food was simple, tasty, and ridiculously cheap.

    The next morning we walked up the hill to see the ruins of the St John basilica. The fortress was closed for restoration but the remaining area was more extensive than it looked from outside and it was very interesting – we just had to be careful not to step on the many tortoises.

    Later we drove to Sirince, a formerly Greek village, up in the hills a few kms from Selçuk. An attractive village with quite a distinctive style of housing but the lower parts were very tourist oriented.

    On the advice of the hotel owners we left late to see Ephesus, our main reason for visiting Selçuk. Heading off about 3:00pm in 37 degree heat on a very windy day didn’t seem an auspicious start but this was a fantastic visit.

    We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked across to what was the Harbour Street – when Ephesus was on the coast - then to the impressive Theatre, before moving on to the other famous landmark the Library. From the library, the old street climbs the hill for about a km, lined with the remains of clearly discernible buildings.

    The highlight for us was the Terrace Houses. There was an additional cost to see these and they were worth every lira.

    The slope above the main street was lined with houses built up the hill and a sizeable area has been excavated and covered with a protective enclosure. Within the structure elevated ramps allowed us to look down into the remains of the buildings, many with walls paintings and mosaics visible.

    We spent just short of 3 hours on the site and by the time we left we almost had it to ourselves.

    We returned to the same restaurant that night because the people had been very friendly, the food good, and we didn’t feel like going through the process to choose another.

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    On Thursday morning we left Selçuk and headed for our next stop, Cesme.

    We were taking the coast road – slightly longer, but some nice sea views – but were diverted about half way as there was clearly a major military exercise going on. Ships offshore, army trucks, helicopters, camouflaged artillery along the hillside. Initially we had no idea where the detour was taking us but we returned to the main road after about ½ hour and then had an uneventful drive into Cesme.

    After a refreshing, but relatively expensive elmer çay
    we took a walk along the waterfront then visited the castle & its museum. Not a lot in the museum but the castle was interesting enough and its commanding position gave us nice view over the town and the Aegean.

    Our hotel was a couple of streets back from the old town and was a bit of a mixed bag. It was roomy, and was pretty much as described, with a lovely pool area but it had some odd aspects as well. It could sleep up to 4 and had a dishwasher, but there was only cutlery & crockery for 2 (in fact only 1 cup) and no tea towels; there was a range hood, but no cooktop under it. We were comfortable enough there even so.
    http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/captain.en.html

    In the late afternoon we took a drive to the nearby town of Illica which was said to have a nice beach. It proved a bit hard to find the beach but we eventually did get there to find nothing special.

    For dinner we tried Donica XII in the newish marina complex and found it very good.

    The next morning we took a short drive along the Dalyan peninsula for some great views, and to the village of Dalyan where we had an enjoyable stroll along the marina, past some very impressive boats, and followed up with another coastal drive along the western side of the peninsula.

    After returning to the hotel we had a short spell by the pool, and then drove to Alicati, another small village, this one noted for its windsurfing. In fact the beach where the windsurfing takes place had only a couple of cafés overlooking the water. We had a lunch there, watching a few learner windsurfers for a while, then returned to Cesme.

    On Saturday we set off for Bergama, going via the small fishing village of Foça.

    After some mixed advice about the cost of using the motorway we decided to use the D road and that went very well until we reached the outskirts of Izmir where we missed the double lane city bypass and ended up with some challenging driving weaving along a narrow road through a series of extremely busy shopping areas.

    Foça was a pleasant stop with a busy fishing port and relatively little tourist focus. We had a look around and a bite to eat then continued via a scenic coastal road which then joined the main road to Bergama.

    We’d looked up the hotel at Bergama on Google Maps and it seemed straightforward but proved quite tricky as it was up a steep hill in the old Greek part of town and it was necessary to take a circuitous route through very narrow cobblestone streets to find it.

    The hotel was excellent, we had a comfortable room which was not large but there were several guest areas to sit and read etc.
    http://pergamon.hotelhera.com/

    After checking in we walked to the red basilica which was really just some walls – it was closed for repairs but even if it had been open I don’t think there was much more to see.

    We then had a walk around the town, had a very ordinary pizza for dinner, and watched a modest demo in support of the Istanbul protesters, before returning to the hotel and sitting out on the breakfast terrace as night fell.

    The next morning we walked about 10 minutes to start of the cable car up to ruins of Pergamum and spent a couple of hours there. The city had a great strategic position with views all around and plenty left to mark layout of city . . . . even though large slabs of the site are now in various european meums.

    After walking around the ruins we took the steep footpath down in order to see some excellent excavated roman mosaics.
    About 2/3 of the way down I slipped on a loose stone and fell awkwardly . As I went down I had visions of those slow motion shots of footballers hyper-extending joints but fortunately there was no serious damage although it was excruciating at the time.

    We also walked back into the town to see the museum but that was a little disappointing as there were not a lot of exhibits.

    Later we drove through town and up to the other notable site at Bergama, the Askeplion, an ancient medical centre. The ruins here were less impressive, although still reasonably extensive, and the site gave a great view back to Pergamum.

    Following a recommendation from our hosts we dinedat Bergama Sofrasi, a local restaurant where meals were displayed on the counter for you to choose which ones you wanted cooked. The food was quite simple but very good.

    We chose Bergama in order to visit Pergamum but we really enjoyed the town as well. Tourist buses come in to take people to Pergamum but don’t tend to stay so there is very little tourist infrastructure and it was interesting to see a town basically just serving its own community.

    Our next stop was Assos, or rather the small coastal village of Behramkale. We chose to stop there as a break of journey on our way to Gallipoli and it turned out to be a really good choice. The tiny village sits at the foot of cliffs below the ruins of old Assos and it is little more than 3-4 hotels/restaurants and a small fishing boat harbour.

    Our hotel room was nothing special in itself but the guest areas, facilities, and the setting made this a very enjoyable stopover.

    We enjoyed a walk around the village and spent some time around the pool relaxing. The only negative was that restaurant staff were overly attentive – whisking plates away almost before we had eaten the last bite and hovering the entire meal.
    http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/assos-kervansaray-otl.en.html

    The next morning we left early for the 90km drive to Canakkale where we wanted to catch the 10:00am ferry to Eceabat on the Gallipoli peninsula. We made it in good time and by a little after 10:30 we were on our way to the Gallipoli battle fields.

    Our first stop was the impressive new visitor centre but this turned out to be very much geared to Turkish visitors, with very little English and surprisingly few exhibits. The collection of “bullets which hit each otherin mid-air" was certainly interesting.

    We followed the circular route which passes many of the key sites – Lone Pine, the Nek, the Turkish command area at North Point, and many others. At each location there were memorials and well maintained cemeteries. Interesting that, at the higher points it was possible to see both the Dardanelles and the Aegean – the landing objective was so close but unobtainable.

    We then took the road to Anzac Cove, the site of the dawn service on Anzac Day, and could really appreciate the task given to the landing forces as the cliffs there are both high and steep.

    I had quite a broad knowledge of the Gallipoli campaign already but the aspect that surprised me was just how small the principle area of engagement was, and how close together the various battle areas were. Quite a moving experience.

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    After leaving Gallipoli we returned briefly to Eceabat for fuel and lunch and then drove about 40km to Gelibolu and the Kalanora Resort, our last hotel before our return to Istanbul.

    The resort comprised a series of 2-story blocks, 4 rooms in each, spread out around a very nice looking pool. The room itself was roomy enough but disappointing as it was clearly overdue for a renovation and looked as though it hadn’t been properly cleaned for quite a while.

    This was the worst accommodation we encountered on our trip, but at least it was by far the cheapest at 48€ B&B.
    http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/kalanora-resort.en.html

    The next day we had a drive of just under 4 hours back to Istanbul Airport where we dropped off the car with no problem – always a relief to get the rental car back safely. Istanbul has a population of around 20m and the airport is only about 15km from the centre so we had quite a bit of town to drive through but signage was good and we found the airport easily.

    We took a taxi from the airport to our Istanbul apartment, this time on the European side of the water, in Beyoglu.

    Over the past couple of days we had heard about the protests in Taksim Square and the heavy handed police response but, had been re-assured somewhat by the owner of the apartment, and decided to continue with our last couple of days in Istanbul.

    The apartment was very good, roomy and comfortable, with the exception of a rather odd bathroom in which it was necessary to walk through the shower to get to the toilet & basin, and a sloping floor in the shower which meant we had to use a squeegee to clear the water after each shower. My approach would have been to fix the floor but that didn’t seem to have occurred to them.

    The apartment owners had prepared a hand-drawn locality map with their favourite cafés & restaurants marked as well as the main streets in the area so we used that for our first exploration – up some very steep steps and streets to the main street of Beyoglu, Istiklal Caddesi.

    Beyoglu has a much more European feel in its buildings & shops, as well as the dress of the people. We entered Istiklal Caddesi about ½ way along its length and walked first to Taksim Square where protestors were still in occupation despite the events a couple of days prior. We then retraced our steps and explored the other end of the street as far as the Galata Tower.

    We had dinner at Nizam Pide, recommended by our hosts, it was just pide, followed by rice pudding but was very good.

    The next morning we started with a walk down the hill to Istanbul Modern, Istanbul’s contemporary art museum in an old customs building. We thought this may be a brief visit but actually it was very good, with a wide range of work but mainly Turkish artists and we spent quite a while there.

    The gallery café faces the water and has great views so we stopped for a very expensive coffee before catching the tram across the Galata bridge to Sultanahmet to buy a souvenir that we had identified on our first few days in Istanbul.

    We returned to Beyoglu by tram and took the funicular up to the vicinity of the Galata Tower and then split up for some window shopping.

    We returned to the Galata Tower around 7:00 pm for the spectacular 360 degree views and then up to a Thai restaurant that we had seen the day before. Over nearly 4 weeks we had eaten some very good food but without a lot of variation and the idea of Thai cooking, was very appealing. Cok Cok looked like a quality restaurant and we really enjoyed the meal.

    Our last day in Turkey was largely spent wandering around, revisiting some places, looking for souvenirs, etc. and we spent time in both Beyoglu & Sultanahmet.

    For dinner we tried Sarnic, a restaurant back in Sultanahmet, and located in an old water cistern. The meal was good and the setting was impressive – although the wine list was a bit ordinary. It came as a 2 page folder with a range of Turkish wines listed but all except 3 were crossed out!

    On Saturday morning we walked up to Istiklal Caddesi for a coffee and s stroll through some of the adjacent streets then back to the apartment for our pick up for the airport.

    Our apartment owner had to go to the airport to pick up some incoming guests and he drove us out which was convenient . . . . and free. No problems checking in and we spent some time in the Malaysia Airlines lounge – a shared facility, OK but nothing special – then boarded for on-time take-off.

    We had a 4 hour wait in the lounge at Kuala Lumpur but eventually we were on our way home, arriving a few minutes early for a quick clearance through immigration and customs. We were through so quickly that we had to wait a few minutes for our car pick up but were soon on our way home to start adjusting to Melbourne temperatures of around 12 degrees.

    We really enjoyed our 4 weeks in Turkey. I would happily revisit Istanbul and would readily return to extend our coverage of regional Turkey.

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    I was in the process of putting some photos from our trip online when I realised that I had left a day out from my trip report so I am posting it now. Not our most exciting day I have to say, but it is here for completeness.

    From Cappadocia:

    After an uneventful drive back to Kayseri airport from Goreme we had another smooth flight, this time with Pegasus Airlines, to Izmir.

    Pegasus is a discount airline, and the flights were certainly cheap, but the plane & service were good. This is the first time for a long time that I watched the pre-flight safety video right through - check it out on You Tube.

    We picked up our rental car at Izmir and were soon on the road - the question was, which road, as we initially headed off in the wrong direction. We were able to turn around after not too long and negotiated our way around Izmir's ring road.

    A bit of a tense start as we were unfamiliar with the surrounding towns and Salihli, our destination, was not on any of the direction signs. Izmir is a city of 3.3m people and very busy but good map work on Heather's part had us taking the correct exit and then it was a fairly uninteresting drive to our hotel.

    We stopped at Salihli just to avoid a long day drive to Denizli from where we wanted to visit Pamukkale, Hierapolis and Aphrodisias so we didn't have much planned although we had read that the ruins of Sardes and the nearby Temple of Artemis were worth visiting.

    After checking in we went to see these ruins but apart from a restored facade from the Roman gymnasium there really wasn't a lot to see at either site and we didn't spend long there - the fact that we were by then quite tired and it was very hot 37, may have influenced our judgement a little.

    The hotel at Salihli was enormous, with several separate blocks of accommodation but it was nearly empty and, much to our disappointment, the pool was closed for maintenance. Our room was comfortable, and the staff friendly, but the atmosphere was a bit strange with so few people around.

    Dinner was included in the very reasonable price but we were just about the only guests in the restaurant and the numerous staff were watching us like hawks, whipping plates away the moment we took the last mouthful and then re-appearing within seconds with the next plate. The food was quite OK but it wasn't a great atmosphere.

    http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/lidya-sardes-thermal.en.html

    To Denizli

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    It was a great trip, nice to have enough time to see so much.

    Driving was easy and roads were generally very good with light traffic away from the bigger towns. A lot of roadworks in the country, with many roads being duplicated. It was a bit of a running joke that every time I would hand over the driving to Heather for a while, around the next bend, or over the next hill we would run into roadworks.

    Navigation was not a problem most of the time but we didn't have detailed maps and I had some problems with my phone so we did struggle a couple of times - in Denizli and Izmir - but overall quite easy.

    We were a little surprised to see drivers going through red lights but it wasn't done recklessly and it wssn't a problem - it did tend to keep us alert at intersections though.

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    I'm so glad I finally had the chance to read your engaging report! It brought some lovely memories to mind and piqued my interest in places I haven't yet seen.

    > the Blue Mosque ... was open to visitors, so we took off our shoes and went in to have a look at the magnificent space and the decorated interior. ... We then just kept walking – past Hagia Sofia, through the public courtyard of the Topkapi palace, down the tram line down to the water and the Galata bridge and finally up the steep streets to the Grand Bazaar, where we had just a quick wander, then made our way back to the flat.

    LOL, when did you realize you weren't wearing shoes?!?

    > the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn. The bridge is interesting in that only the centre section is actually over the water - the underside of the bridge on each bank is filled with shops

    Hmm... I thought that even the sections with shops were over the water, just not high enough for tall ships to cross....

    > Pergamum ... About 2/3 of the way down I slipped on a loose stone and fell awkwardly . As I went down ... fortunately there was no serious damage although it was excruciating at the time.

    OMG! I spent a bit of time on that hill and can't imagine what it would be like to loose one's footing. I'm so glad the damage wasn't serious!


    Again, thanks so much for posting!

  • Report Abuse

    Quite right about the Galata bridge - I knew what I was trying to say, I just didn't say it very well. For the record my photos show that there is about a metre or so of clearance under the shops.

    The fall at Pergamum was pretty spooky; we were about half way down and would have been really stuck if I hadn't been able to get up. My ankle was sore for quite a while after and I think it may have been a strain but I was able to continue fortunately. It could have made a bit of a mess of the rest of the trip.

    Thanks for your interest,

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