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Trip Report My first ever trip Report – Istanbul and Cappadocia, Turkey.

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This is our brief report of our recent trip to Turkey in November, 2015.

Istanbul and Cappadocia, 12 nights – six nights each…we had perfect weather - blue sky, crisp mornings, warm afternoons and pleasant evenings.

Our trip was beyond expectation – but it almost did not happened. Three weeks before our trip, the twin bombs went off in Ankara, pressure from family to cancel was intense… But we hung in - all because of the encouragement from Fodorites, their positive comments and reasonable assessment of the situation – special thanks to otherchelebi, Sassafrass, wtm003, KTtravel, Travel_Nerd.

Airports – Ataturk and S. Gokcen, both are new, modern and efficient.

Airport transfer – we had our hotel arrange our transfer from and back to Ataturk for 20 euro each way and took 25 mins in the morning. Took the airport shuttle bus from/to S. Gokcen took close around 60 mins in the afternoon.

Two security screen, once at the entrance second after Airline check in. Both efficient.

Domestic Airline - Flight from Ataturk to Kayseri and back into S. Gokcen on the Asian side, our experience with both airlines were very good!
Turkish airline – Ataturk to Kayseri.
Check in - cool stoned face agent that didn't speak just used his head motion to answer questions including his response to good morning in Turkish and English...service was quick with short line, boarding was also efficient, on time, friendly flight attendants.

Pegasus airline – Kaysari to S. Gokcen and S. Gokcen to Barcelona.
B737-800 older plane than Turkish Airline, clean and good service, relatively smooth flight.

The check in girl at Pegasus airline, allowed us to carry on two extra bags and were slightly overweight, this had never happened with discount airline anywhere! Both flights were on time.

Hotel in Istanbul – we stayed in two different hotels, our first three nights in Sultanahmet, and our last three in the new district after our six nights in Goreme, Cappadocia.

Grand Peninsula - Clean basic room comfortable bed, a double bed, gray worn out towel but clean, 501 facing East with direct access to roof top sitting, stairs are narrow and steep, no elevator. Excellent wifi, water pressure, excellent staff - everyone, basic breakfast - terrible coffee like dish water Fantastic location 10 mins walk to tram station T1, 10 mins walk to Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet, walkable to Grand Bazar and Eminono where you can catch the ferry!

Jakaranda hotel – off Istiklal, About 1 Km West from Taksim Sq. Excellent location with shopping, restaurants and entertainment.
It only has nine rooms, 24 hour front desk; 45euro cash includes a light plated breakfast of cheese, bread, condiment, egg and small sausage...
We asked to be on the higher floor, at 401 we had minimal noise with the windows closed, basic everything including safe, nice bed, comforter and clean enough...
We walked from the Point hotel NE of Taksim took about 20 mins, 1+ km all down hill, on our return trip we took to city bus to Taksim on the Main Street just North of the hotel for just two stops, then it was just a five minutes’ walk to the point hotel for the airport bus...otherwise it would have been a long uphill with luggage in tow...

Goreme, Cappadocia.

Kelebek hotel -
Top rating on TA, #1 with Lonely Planet, this hotel was excellent in every way, it sits up on a hill overlooking the valley, fantastic breakfast buffet, friendly and helpful staff, shuttle service, everything works, clean and roomy.
Some rooms are not cave rooms, ours wasn't but nicely done; only thing missing was a fridge and safe! Speaking of safe, first day before we went on our hike, we deposited our money and passport in a pouch in the office safe. Phillis - the receptionist put a sticker note with our room number on it, locked away in the safe, we asked for a receipt, she said that's not their practice. Upon our return, another guy at the reception went into the office (in full view from the reception area) picked up a big white envelop in front of the safe on the floor and pulled out our pouch, handed it back to us, we went back to our room and all was accounted for – no harm done, but worrisome that our money and passport were just sitting on the floor?

Notes and Things that we enjoyed –

During our entire trip, we felt safe everywhere we went, including our hikes in Cappadocia…
Nice folks in Turkey - almost everyone we came in contact with were warm, hospitable, and helpful - on four separate occasions, folks went out of their way and walked us to the right direction instead of just pointing......Smiles and Merhaba from strangers on the street, windows and yards of their homes everywhere we went.
The area around Sultanahmet, the old town area, main Square, hippodrome between Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia are all very nice, and is much nicer and relaxing after hour when the big bus tour has left...Kiosk on South side by Sultanahmet tram station sells Istanbul card, further West slightly uphill you will find Vodafone, book store, McDonald's, all kinds of stores, better exchange rates (4%), cheaper and more choices of restaurants - two tram stops or 15 mins walk!

Aya Sofia – one word, incredible!

Blue Mosque, also magnificent - we arrive on our second day at 2pm, ran out museum card but was available the next day!

Ferry ride to Asian side – relaxing and enjoyable.

Bosphorus cruise by public ferry, Bogaz Iskelesi – our last stop at Anadolu Kavagi before returning was too long, three hours. Otherwise an excellent trip, it took seven hours for the round trip with stops on both sides, three bridges, dozens of mansions, hotel resort and even a few palaces along the shores of the Bosphorus strait that connects the Marmara and the Black Sea...this is a good way to appreciate the massive size of Istanbul and its many outstanding landmarks, we did it on this perfect warm day with beautiful scenery and amongst a United Nations of boats...

Grand and Spice Bazar - big, somewhat interesting in parts but over rated…

Sulaymaniye - we hike up from Ominono, the view to the North over domed roof top of the Bosphorus and the new district was well worth the effort..

Kakaikoy, Asian side - Ferry from Ominono was painless, machine to buy token (4tl), ferry has three decks with some outside sitting, clean, modern high tech. Asian side – residential, few tourist, we walked around the local market and to the train station, enjoyable walk and ferry ride.

New district - Hardly notice any tourist, I am sure they are in the mix as there are lots of hotel rooms here. Lots of shopping, dining at all price points, Bars with wonderful entertainment/music and cheap happy hour prices ($2 beer), 19 th century European buildings, certain area was a bit hilly but it adds ambiance esp at night...

Old town vs New district - You can't go wrong either way, we are glad that we experienced both....three nights each – new district offers more dining, bar with entertainment, cheap beer at happy hour, but try to get away from Istiklal a bit because of the noise...Cihangir is nicest, if we can find suitable accommodation. Or around Galata tower, just short hop over the Golden horn and onto old town, easy cross over to the Asian side as well.

Rick Steves guide to Istanbul - There were many others walking around with them, excellent walking tour and museum tour, good detail information, audio guide would still be better choice...

Istanbul traffic - not nearly as bad as expected, only hectic around golden horn...
We arrive on Tuesday morning, was quiet the first two days, Friday was noticeably much busier on the streets, teams, sights and even restaurants, we walked and took tram to most places, no taxi.

Hotel, guest houses and restaurants - so many choices...even little convenient stores are all over, no 7/11

Cappadocia - I first saw images of the area about 7-8 years ago, it looked like a scene of another planet, a mirage of stone of the most strange rock formation, the spectacular landscape belongs to pages from book of science fiction – many come to Turkey to see Istanbul and Ephesus - Cappadocia is not to be missed.

We stayed in Goreme, Visited Uchisar, Urgup, Cavusin, Mustafapasa, Avanos, Kaymakli, Nevsehir, by Dolmus...

Goreme is a good choice - nice atmosphere day and night, the right size, good restaurants and hotels of different price points, walkable, easy access to most other towns with good public transport, excellent hiking - easy access to Red n Rose, Love and Pigeon valley for hike...Goreme open air museum is a bit over one Km from our hotel, hotel Kelebek shuttled us there and Trail head of Red n Rose( about 500M past Open Air - a very steep climb) Uchisar is 3km up the hill North of Goreme on route to Nevsehir, it sits on a big rock overlooking Goreme valley…more beautiful as night.

In Goreme – take a hike if you can, best way to appreciate what Cappadocia has to offer!

Red n Rose valley -
The trail head starts SW of the entrance of Open air Museum in Goreme, about 500m to the left (east) - a fairly steep decline for 500M, then it's easy walk, just enjoy the scenery, we saw no one till last km except a pottery and coffee stand..

Love Valley -

The trail head could be difficult to locate, we were taken there by hotel shuttle - there were more people on this trail, we saw 6-7 hikers, there were two trails most of the way going the same direction, close to bottom of valley floor or up the rock with nicer view...we turn East upwards just before reaching Uchisar and hook on to the trail head of Pigeon valley - here we saw most action a dozen of so hikers and a few fruit pickers...

We did red n rose in less than 2 hours, a bit longer time in Love n Pigeon, we were in a slow but steady pace, stopping often the whole way taking picture and admiring the beauty that engulf us..

Kaymakli underground city via Nevsehir

Bus (25 seats) with signs on the front (to Nevsehir with transfer to Kaymakli), taken in town centre bus station kitty corner of ATM
Bus driver was very helpful in pointing out where of Dolmus once we arrive Nevsehir
We spent 30 -40 mins underground, there are a couple hundred of them all over, some had 30,000 people, many are still to be unearthed...
On our way back - stop at Uchisar, small hill town with hotels and restaurants, shops lined the street going up, nice view of Goreme valley and beyond, took the same bus back to Goreme...

Nevsehir, Avanos, Urgup, Cavusin, Uchisar Ortahisar and Mustafapasa.

Our favorite was Mustafapasa, Uchisar and Ortahisar besides Goreme where we stayed..

Mustafapasa - we took Dolmus to Urgup, just South of where we arrived, go down to another bus parking lot, Dolmus to Mustafapasa, runs every 30 mins, on top of the hour, A Greek village with hills on both sides, cave homes and newly built house, couple of museums, restaurants and hotels - nice view up top of near by and back of town center, very friendly local, nice feel!
We left Goreme at 9.30' spent a couple hours in Mustafapasa, left at noon back to Urgup for lunch.

Ortahisar - newer town with stylish houses, very quiet, a few corner stores and a mosque..
Attraction is their Castle, just the church and a few rooms are accessible, sits about 500m from the main road between Goreme and Urgup, down into the valley, the hike back wasn't too, nobody around at 1pm spend about a couple hours here and walk into town for 15 mins, caught the same bus back to Goreme, we didn't know there was a direct Dolmus to Ortahisar from Urgup, we took the same Dolmus

Restaurant in Goreme -

They are everywhere - we ate almost all our meals in the five days there at a small little place call Maccan across the ATM and the bus station in the town center - Soner is the owner, he has two staff - a cook and a PT waitress, he helps out in both front and back end, my kind of guy - place is clean, comfortable, food is excellent although nothing fancy...we decided to stay with what's not broken - it all started on our first day we had lunch there of just soup and meat ball sandwich, soup was delicious and hot, the flat bread was outstanding and meat ball was cooked just right and very tasty...we had two dinners at hotel Kelebek for twice as money and was nearly as good.

Couple of negative notes -

Some (80%) of their Carpet salesman, shop keepers and restaurant staff who try to get you in their door were too aggressive to our liking, they won't leave you alone when checking menus, more than just a nuisance.

Big disappointment at St. John church of Cavusin - it looks beautiful and unique from the outside, (Swiss Cheese) but just has two small rooms, and nothing else inside?
I went back to the ticket office and ask where the church was – is this it? Yup!

Nice touch at Hotel Kelebek, most enjoyable -

Tea available all day at restaurant/bar for free, Hatch - the restaurant manager made us some special potatoes for dinner and packed some pastry for us to take on way to the airport.

Shuttles to red n Rose, love valley and Goreme open air museum was totally unexpected.

Hatch, Tuna, Ali, Phillis and many others - all wonderful, very helpful, the only other time we got close to hotel staff like this was in a small hotel of old town Hanoi, Vietnam.

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