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Trip Report Two Fantastic Weeks in Turkey (LONG report...)

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Wow...what a fantastic time! I had planned this trip for close to a year, ever since visiting Istanbul in Sept. 2011 after spending a week in Greece. Let me post some key observations to start with, and I'd be happy to answer any questions that anyone might have.

Fri. Aug. 24: Fly from Minneapolis to NY-JFK and from there, to Istanbul.

Sat. Aug. 25: Arrive Istanbul. Planned to take the Havas shuttle to my hotel (Witt Istanbul) in Cihangir. However there was some sort of re-routing of the Havas bus at Ataturk airport. The (supposed) Havas employees pointed me to where the bus was supposed to arrive but it didn't look to me like it would stop there, so I ended up taking the subway and light rail/tramvay to my hotel. Checked into Witt Istanbul into the penthouse suite. UNBELIEVABLE views of the Old City and Beyoglu. Took a shower and immediately hit the city. Visited the Turkish & Islamic Arts Museum, re-visited the Blue Mosque to get some better interior photos of the blue Isnik tiles, and strolled the Arasta Bazaar. Stopped and chatted with Jennifer at Jennifer's Bazaar. Returned to the Witt and later had dinner at Hatay a few blocks away. Picked up a bottle of Narince (native Turkish white wine) and enjoyed it on my balcony that evening while admiring the lights of the Old City and listening to the evening call to prayer. CRASHED!!

Sun. Aug. 26: Re-visited the Spice Bazaar. Debated buying some alleged Iranian Beluga Caviar (50 euro for 200g) but in the end, decided to pass. From there, visited the Rustem Pasa Mosque and the Sulyeman the Magnificent Mosque. (for my $$, even more beautuful than the Blue Mosque!). From there, spent about 3 hours at Topkapi Palace, although didn't make it in time to visit the Harem which closes at 5:00. Later that night, took a cab to Ortakoy. Had a stuffed baked potato and strolled around. Unfortunately the Ortakoy Mosque is still draped behind scaffolding, but the close up view of the Bosphorus Bridge lit up at night was beautiful.

Mon. Aug. 27: This was meant to be a day taking a ferry up the Golden Horn, stopping at St. Stephen of the Bulga'r Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, before heading off to the Chora Church. For some reason that I still don't understand, the Golder Horn ferries were not running. As near as I could tell from speaking with the gentleman at the ticket booth, the "bridge was too low". Now in late Aug. I can't imagine the river was too high, but I could see that the bridge immediately upstream from the Galata Bridge looked to be a low, little wooden bridge that didn't look like ANYTHING could pass under it. I'm still confused what the issue was. (Otherchelebi--maybe you could explain?). At any rate, I caught a bus to the Chora Church which was AMAZING. From there, I had lunch at Asitane (immediately next door) and then took a cab to the Eyup Sultan Mosque. After spending 30 minutes or so there, I walked to the Pierre Loti Cafe and caught the cable car up to the top. Enjoyed an apple tea while admiring the incredible views and listening to the call to prayer. Cab back to Eminonu. Had reservations for dinner at Antiochia in Beyoglu but with a thunderstorm, couldn't get a cab so just grabbed take out from up the street and enjoyed it on my hotel balcony while watching the Old City lights framed in rain,

Tues. Aug. 28: Fly to Izmir and meet my guide from AboutEphesus for a day tour of the Ephesus area. All I can say about Ephesus is WOW!!!! Even with the crowds, this was one of the top 2 highlights of my trip. The Library of Celsus is one of the 5 most incredible things I've seen on this planet. My tour guide was very good in the morning. However, things went somewhat downhill after the inevitable visit to the carpet shop. During lunch, my guide asked me what sort of car I drove and whether I owned my home. Being the straight shooting Midwesterner that I am, I answered honestly, at which point I realized I was being sized up. My guide actually said to me "I think you are going to buy me a big carpet" (!!!!). After I DIDN'T buy a carpet, my guide seemed to lose interest in explaining the sites to me. Whatever! In addition to Ephesus, we visited the House of the Virgin Mary, the remains of the Temple of Artemis, St. John's Basilica, and the Ephesus Museum. Catch the early evening flight back from Izmir to Istanbul.

Wed. Aug. 29th: Free day in Istanbul, primarily devoted to shopping. Bought a cool leather bomber jacket at Prens Leather. (NOT CHEAP, but love the jacket). Gave the Grand Bazaar one more chance. (still hate it!) although picked up a few Turkish Evil Eyes for my nieces and some olive oil soaps for my Mom. Dinner that evening at Mezze by Lemon Tree.

Thurs. Aug.30: Take a 7:00 a.m. flight from Istanbul to Neveshir to meet up with Euphrates Tours for a 2 day tour of Cappadocia. Spent the next 2 days on a tour with 7 cool South Americans. Euphrates Tours did an EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT job. I highly recommend them. We visited the Goreme Open Air Museum, Pigeon Valley, Pasabagi (fairy chimneys) and the Dervent Valley that day. I hit the sack by 8:30 that night as I had to be up at 4:00 a.m. that next morning for my hot air balloon ride.

Fri. Aug. 31: Up at 4:00 a.m. for a 4:30 pickup by Royal Balloon. After a hot breakfast, we drive to the launch site. 12 of us in the balloon for the 90 minute "King" flight. WHAT A TRIP! This was so incredible and peaceful. We glided over valleys and fairy chimneys. We saw them in different lights as the sun continued to rise that morning. I was grateful a gentleman at my hotel (Garimasu Cave Hotel) lent me his jacket because I didn't bring one and it was chilly at dawn.) The balloon ride is an ABSOLUTE MUST and along with Ephesus, the Chora Churck and Saklikent Gorge (coming up) was one of my favorite parts of the trip! Remet my guide and the South Americans and visited Mustafapasa (ancient Greek city), Uchisar Castle, and the Red Valley. Cappadocia was incredible. Dropped off at the Kayseri airport for the evening flight back to Istanbul.

Sat. Sept. 1: Spent the morning in Istanbul strolling and shopping in the Galata neighborhood. This is a cool, somewhat transitional neighborhood. Bought a few old-style black and white Istanbul photographs to have framed. Caught the 3:20 flight to Trabzon to get to my hotel for the next day's visit to Sumela Monastery. HATED Trabzon--it's ugly and congested. No reedming value (although wanted to visit its Hagia Sophia church but it closed at 5:00 and I didn't get to my hotel until near 6:00)

Sun. Sept 2: Catch bus with Eyce Tours to the Sumela Monastery. I was sooo looking forward to this day but in all honesty, it was a bit dissapointing. Not the monastery's fault. It was so drizzly and foggy on the mountain that all but the lower third of the outer view of the monastery was fogged in. The frescoes inside were still beautiful and the mountain atmosphere was very beautiful, albeit with the large crowds. Return to my hotel to catch the flight to Istanbul and from there, to Dalaman to spend my last 4 days on the Turquoise Riviera. Arrive at my hotel in Fethiye around 12:30 a.m.

Mon. Sept 3: Explore Fethiye. Explore the incredible Lycian rock tombs (Telmessos) above the town. Bag a few rays at the marina at my hotel. Take a dolmus and visit Kayakoy (abandoned Greek village after the population exchange in 1923).

Tues. Sept. 4: Take the dolmus to Oludeniz Beach for a much needed day of relaxation. Beautful beach area. Hang out at the lagoon on my chaise lounge, under my umbrella and just enjoy the gorgeous Turkish coastline.

Wed. Sept. 5: Take a hydrofoil from Fethiye to Rhodes, Greece. Spend 5 hours exploring the Old City of Rhodes. I was afraid to venture too far on foot into the Old Town for fear of getting lost, but did later hop in a tourist tram and saw the remains of the Acroplis of Rhodes and a brief view of the Palace of the Knights. Returned to Fethyie around 7:00 p.m. that evening.

Thurs. Sept 6: The final highlight of the trip. Hooked up with an ad hoc hustler tour that drove past Tlos (incredible Lycian rock tombs) and Yakapark trout farm, before dropping us off at the entrance to the Saklikent Gorge. Saklikent Gorge was INCREDIBLE. Wade through the rapids at the entrance before beginning my hike throught the riverbed and gorge. Gorgeous scenery that changes with the sunlight. Although the gorge is 18km long, I only walked an hour inward (perhaps 3km) before deciding that I no longer wished to risk dropping the camera in the river or twisting my ankle climbing over the slippery rocks, so turned around and headed back to the entrance. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Saklikent Gorge as an activity on the Turquoise Riviera as it combines scenery, physical activity and great photo oppoturnities all in one.

Fri. Sept 7: Time to leave Turkey. Fly from Dalaman to Istanbul and from there, to Paris. Dinner that evening at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. (I was somewhat dissapointed, in all honesty, although the wine and a few courses on the tasting menu were very nice.)

Sat. Sept.. 8: Fly home from Paris to Minneapolis. By 10:00 p.m that evening, CRASH like I've never crashed before!

In summary, an incredible trip to an incredible, diverse country. I so recommend Turkey to anyone with any interest in the country. One of the greatest cities in the world, Roman Ruins, incredible nature, Byzantine monuments, beaches...Turkey has got it all!!

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