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Trip Report Turkey Trip Report 4/26-5/8/11 (1)

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Enclosed is my wife Debbie's trip report
TURKEY Day 1- We arranged through our hotel to have someone pick us up at the airport. We stayed at the Hanedan Hotel. It was no problem getting the visa. Get in line, pay your money and you are off. Our driver was waiting for us but before leaving we wanted to get some money from the atm and buy a sim card for our phone. This went smoothly, too. There is a phone place right where you exit and an atm machine right nearby, too. So our driver waited patiently while we did this and then we were off. When we were near the Sultanamet we got stuck in some very heavy traffic and ended up sitting still for about 20 minutes. People selling stuff would walk by the cars and our driver said something to one of them. We were two cars past an intersection and he helped the people behind us and then us back up and make a left turn up a side street. There was a lot of honking and people yelling from cars but we got out of there and then 5 minutes later he was pulling up to our hotel. We checked in and then went out for a walk. It was already evening and we didn’t know where anything was yet but it was too early for bed and we still had to get some dinner. We went down our street to where there is a t-intersection and made a right turn. We went past some stores and an open air restaurant and saw some stairs. We went up and we were at the back of the Blue Mosque. It was very cool to see it at night, lit up. We then headed back the way we came and there is a tree with green lights around it and that would be my landmark to find our hotel. There is a restaurant right on the corner by the hotel called the Rumist. I know it is crazy to talk about pizza in Turkey but I had the best pizza there. My husband had a kabob and he got a plate full of delicious food. Sometimes you look all over for a place to eat and the best place is right next door! So after that we headed in for some sleep. It’s funny, I was a little nervous about traveling in Turkey and this turned out to be one of our best trips. We set up the pick up from the airport because I was scared to take the train and I was nervous about driving in Turkey because you hear how dangerous it is and I’m afraid of heights, but I went on the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. And when we got back to Istanbul from our road trip we took the train from the airport and then back to the airport the next day for our trip home! And we drove from Izmir to Antalya! We did the train from the airport because we had very good directions from one of the posts. He even said how many stops before you get off. And the Turkish people are wonderful. So we were off to a good start. We would start our site seeing tomorrow.

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    Hi, James, your trip report is off to a great start but it is a little hard to read without any paragraph breaks. If you could put some in the next installment, that would really help.

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    If you need some encouragement to continue, here it is: Please continue. Future travelers need your experience. Old trip reports die rather young and need to be replaced.

    They do not disappear completely but become nostalgic pieces rather than informative ones.

    Also, i need to stress the point that trip report writers like me need to be appreciated.

    Thanks Debbie and James.

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    TURKEY DAY 2
    We had a great breakfast on the rooftop. They had the best bread ! And then we were off. We walked down the road to the left of the Hanedin and had no idea where we would end up. It turned out to be the Topkapi Palace. It is a narrow street going that way and a little dangerous. We bought our tickets and we got the head sets for this site. I wasn’t impressed with the head sets. We saw one couple sharing one, they each had one earpiece. This place was super crowded. It was full of kids on a field trip from school and tourists. You waited in these long lines to get into each building and then went quickly through them being pushed along with the crowd. So we were here for hours trying to see as much as we could. When we left there we just started walking toward the next building and we ended up at the Hagia Sophia. We waited in a line for the tickets but it was so big inside you didn’t feel the crowds like at the palace. We waited in line to put our thumb in the Sacred Column and then headed up to the gallery. We were so impressed with the Hagia Sophia but left for our next stop – the Blue Mosque. We took off our shoes and I covered my head with my sweatshirt and went in. WOW. It is beautiful. We were pretty tired after all our walking and site-seeing so we headed back to our hotel and a rest. We knew a shortcut from the night before. We headed down the stairs behind the Blue Mosque and we were back in our neighborhood. Later, for dinner we went to a placed recommended in one of the travel books. This did not turn out too well. It was as expensive as the first night but not nearly as good. We were on the street that the tram runs on. After dinner we just started walking along this street, looking at the stores and just enjoying the evening. It started to rain but not so much so we just kept walking. When it started to get a little harder we headed back and cut through the courtyard of the Blue Mosque. I love taking pictures and this was beautiful. The courtyard was shiny with rain and the building was reflected off the water and the lights were on and I just started snapping away. Digital cameras are fantastic. I got some great shots. We headed down the stairs going toward our hotel area and that is where the open air restaurant is. They had live music and there was a whirling dervish with the musicians and he would bow to them when the music started and he would begin to dance. I wanted to see this but at our hotel they said it would be 50 lira apiece to go to a whirling dervish show so we decided to forget it. But I was glad we happened upon this. The open air restaurant is just like a big tent so you can just stand there and enjoy the show or stop in for a drink. We had a great day and headed back to plan what we would see tomorrow.

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    I will mirror oc's thoughts about trip reports. Trip reports always reveal little travel nuggets that future travelers really value. Unfortunately, Turkey doesn't appear to attract a huge audience here on Fodors - which is a shame since it is such a great destination.

    So please continue . . . some of us are reading . . .

    Ian

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    Yes, please do continue. We will be following what seems a similar itinerary From September 13 returning on October 5. Your trip report is really interesting and fun reading and would be so even if we were not going to Turkey! Looking forward to more reading.

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    TURKEY DAY 3 – Breakfast on the roof and then the cisterns. We started walking toward the Blue Mosque and then asked for some directions around there. The cisterns is definitely interesting to see because it is different. We looked for the two Medusa’s heads and we got lucky cause on our way out a big crowd of people was just entering.

    We were going to go to Taksim Square today, too, and the Galata Bridge and anything inbetween. We started walking toward the Galata Bridge (we usually ask someone to point us in the right direction) and quite by accident we entered the Spice Bazaar which is right there. We wandered around there for a bit and came out by the waterfront. We walked over to the bridge and saw a boat serving fish sandwiches, but we didn’t try it today. We then walked over the bridge and watched the fisherman for awhile. On the other side of the bridge we walked down to see what was there and then headed up a street hoping to find the Galata Tower. The street was full of hardware stores? Or something like that and some of the streets were being repaved so it was muddy and a bit difficult to walk. And very steep at one point. But we found the tower and we decided to go up to the top. You pay a fee and the elevator takes you up. We enjoyed that but still had a lot of walking ahead of us.
    We finally made it to the street leading up to Taksim Square. I don’t know the streets name but it has all kinds of big name stores and it is very fancy. There is a trolley running down the center of the street. We walked to the top where the trolley starts its journey down and I was very happy because we were going to ride the trolley back down. You pay on the trolley and we were lucky to get a seat. We took this to the end of the line and then started walking back toward our hotel. We cut through the Spice Market again and decided to look for the Grand Bazaar. Asking for directions again, we managed to find the Grand Bazaar and had a good time walking around there for awhile. We decided to go out and walk on the street because we figured it would move faster and it was funny because we ran into all these people going in and we were all wedged together and couldn’t move. I just started laughing out loud because it was so funny and everyone was in a good mood, maybe because it was Saturday night and everyone was out for a nice evening of shopping and just strolling around. But we managed to get on our way and found the street with the tram and followed that back to our hotel. It was a good day in Istanbul! We would be leaving in the morning to go to Cappodoccia.

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    TURKEY DAY 4 AND BEYOND
    We left for Cappadocia on Sunday morning. We were flying into Kayseri Erkilet. We arranged to have a car through Life Car Rent a Car and we were told they would be at the airport to meet us. Everything went smoothly and they were there, but! they give you no gas for the car. And they said our credit card would not work and we had to pay cash. So we knew we had to find a gas station pretty fast and at the gas station they wait on you and we didn’t know how to say half a tank. So we ended up buying ¾ of a tank of gas. We were supposed to return it empty. The attendant did not speak English but we just said stop and he did, but we didn’t say stop soon enough.
    So we were on our way and only got lost once. We stopped at a car parts store and there were two gentleman standing out in front and we asked where the road was to Ankara. Out hotel in Goreme told us to take the road toward Ankara. So they went in and got some more people, but they didn’t speak English, either. But they pointed and we started to drive that way. Then we heard someone honk and they were driving along side of us and pointed to where we should turn. That was really nice and helpful and we were on our way.
    We were heading to Goreme where we had reservations at the Elif Star Caves. We found Goreme easily enough and we were pointed in the right direction for the hotel. This is a good place to stay with a car because you can park right outside on the road and you can walk to town. We had our hotel owner set up the balloon ride for us and they picked us up at the hotel at 4:50 in the morning. We had three other people going from our place and they stop at other hotels along the way till the car is full. This was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it. When we got back to our hotel they had a small menu of what you could have for breakfast and Jim had an omelet and I had French toast. And it was very good! We went to the Open Air museum and then drove all around seeing the different sites. Even with all the driving and the round trip between Kayseri and Goreme we did not use up the gas But this is a cool place to see and Goreme was a good base to see it from.
    Our next flight was to Izmir. We had no problem getting back to Kayseri and they were there waiting for the car. It went like clockwork and we were on our way to our next stop. In Izmir our car rental place was in the airport and we picked up the car in the airport, too. I heard another couple talking about a problem they had. They were told they would pick up their car in the airport and the rental place told them they had to go into town to pick it up. We had Budget (we got them through economy rentals.com) and we had no problem. We were going to leave the car in Antalya. We also paid extra for GPS. This did not help very much as it had us going in circles by the airport and we had planned on taking the toll road but never found it. Again we relied on the kindness of others and we took the regular road route to Selcuk and it was no problem and we saved on tolls. The GPS problem could have been us and we did not know how to use it correctly but at this point we thought it was a waste of money.
    We had reservations at Hotel Eski Konak Hotel (90-212-4587423) (eskikonahotel@venere.com) . I highly recommend them. We drove into town and this time the GPS did work and got us to the correct street. But we didn’t realize it at the time and we didn’t see the hotel so we drove back to the main road that goes through town and pulled into a gas station and called them. One of the brother hopped on his motorbike and came to get us. This is another good place to stay with a car. One half block away is a cark park and it is free. Plus we ate dinner at the restaurant on the corner and it was good and a very pleasant experience. The owner was there and very friendly. And if you look up at the pillars you will see the storks in their nests. This is located across from the car park.
    Our hotel was very nice and in a good location. We drove down the main street to the main sites and they were easy to find. We went to see Maryemana first – the house of the Virgin Mary. It is up a steep, windy road and I mean way way up. I do not recommend this trip. I really wanted to see the Virgin Mary’s house. And it is free. But the parking fee is extremely expensive. You walk up to the house and get in line and you are through the house in a few minutes. They keep moving the people through and you are not allowed to take pictures. And that is it.
    Then we headed for Ephesus. And this was magnificent. We spent the rest of our time there till closing and then went back to our hotel and dinner at the corner restaurant. We would be leaving the next day.

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    We didn’t know if we should stay two nights are move on the next day. But we had a lot to cover in a week and decided to play it by ear. So we made no reservations for the rest of the trip and just had an idea were we wanted to end up. So we decided to leave Selcuk the next day. I had read about Bodrum and I wanted to go to the museum in the castle. So that is where I wanted to go next. But we read that the museum would be closed the next day and decided to skip Bodrum and go to Fethiye instead. This was about a 5 hour drive. We drove down by the marina and along the street where you will see places to stay. We stopped at the Hotel Daffodil. It was a very nice place and they also had a pool. This is a good area to stay with a car. You can park right on the street in front of your hotel for free. The weather was too cool for swimming for us but this is a very nice place to stay. We walked to town and had dinner on the waterfront.

    We were going to Kayakoy and Oludeniz the next day. We drove up the winding road looking for Kayakoy. This is a village that has been left unoccupied. It is pretty up there and peaceful and I really enjoyed hiking around the area. We drove next to Oludeniz. We just walked around there and sat on the beach for awhile. It is very pretty there but it wasn’t hot enough for swimming although there were a lot of people there at the beach. We headed back to Fethiye and had dinner there on the waterfront again and it is very nice to sit there and watch the people walk by and look at all the boats.
    The next day we left for Patara. We wanted to see the big sandy beach. It was very windy when we got there but we walked along the beach for awhile and there is a theater there to see, too. It was kind of fun because there are goats all over and as you hike up the theater steps, you have goats hiking up right along with you. The town is very very small so we decided not to stay there but to move on to Kas. This was a very nice town and we drove up a side street as we entered town and we stopped at the Hotel Kekova. This was an excellent choice. He also provided an area for our car and we were walking distance from town. The price for this hotel was 70 Lira and it was beautiful. We walked all over Kas and really enjoyed this town.
    The next day we headed for Cirali. We wanted to see the Chemara. Cirali is the best place to stay for this. We stayed at the Hotel Canada and you can walk to town or use their bikes. They also have a nice pool. We took a dip but I couldn’t get all the way in. Still too cold for me for swimming. But you walk to town and then along the water front and you get to the ruins by Olympos. That was fun to walk around and see and then that evening we drove to the Chemara to see the fire coming out of the mountain. The walk up is very strenuous. You walk up some stairs that are uneven and it goes way up, but I made it and it was very good to see the flames shooting up. They say to go up right before dark and it is really something to see when it gets totally dark out. But the walk up was pretty hard to do and so uneven so I couldn’t see myself doing it in the dark going down. But on our way down there were so many people heading up and with children so it must not be that bad to do after dark. I was in town eating by that time. But I am glad we made this one of our stops.
    Our next stop would be Antalya for one night and then the airport. We drove to the old town and you go in through a gate and you take a ticket. You have to pay to drive in there or it is free if you stay in one of the hotels. We drove around and I saw a courtyard with a car in it. We pulled in there and walked over to the hotel to ask if they had a room. Again we got lucky with the parking situation. This street is very narrow and there would be no way to have a car here without this courtyard. I think the name was Hotel Antalya but I can’t remember. We spent the day wandering around and that night had our first big rain. We put on ponchos and headed out for dinner. This hotel was expensive but it was an actual house turned into a hotel. It had a courtyard in the middle and all these rooms to wander around in and our room upstairs was very big.
    The next day Budget had someone there waiting for us. He took the car, dropped us off by our airline and it was no problem at all. We flew to Istanbul and this time we took the train from the airport. It saved us a lot of money and we knew where our hotel was from our previous stay . We got off by the Blue Mosque and walked over to our hotel. We stayed in a different one this time. It was just down the street from the Hanedin. It was very nice, too.
    We wanted to take a boat ride. We followed the tram tracks to the water front and bought an inexpensive ticket for a boatride . We wandered around for awhile on the Asian side and had the fish sandwich. Then headed back to Istanbul to wander around there for awhile longer, too. It was a great trip .

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