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Some Observations on a Fantastic Journey through Western Turkey

Some Observations on a Fantastic Journey through Western Turkey

Jun 10th, 2012, 05:04 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,572
Some Observations on a Fantastic Journey through Western Turkey

I loved my time in Turkey!!!

Many thanks to all who helped me plan my recent trip to Turkey, whether by responding to my questions or by sharing information through other posts – you all contributed to what was, for me, a fantastic journey and a very successful itinerary.

In lieu of a trip diary, I offer some observations. Please feel free to ask questions at any point; I’m no expert, but I will at least offer my opinion based on my limited experience.

Basic info:
• This was a 25-day trip, mostly by car, through western Turkey.
• I’m a solo independent female traveler.
• This was my 1st visit to Turkey.
• Before the trip, I learned just a few very basic Turkish words and phrases.
• I reserved all of my lodging in advance.

Here’s the itinerary I actually followed:

Days 0-1: Flight, arriving in Ankara in the evening – 1st of 2 nights in Ankara
Day 2: Explore Ankara
Day 3: Pick up rental car, drive to Boğazkale, explore Yazılıkaya and Hattuşa -- night in Boğazkale
Day 4: Drive to and visit Avanos and Sarihan on my way to Göreme – begin exploring Cappadocia – 1st of 2 nights in Göreme
Day 5: Explore Cappadocia – hot air balloon and a very long hike
Day 6: Ürgüp, Mustafapaşa, Keşlik Monastery, Taşkinpaşa, and a brief hike through part of the Soğanli Valley before driving to Güzelyurt – 1st of 2 nights in Güzelyurt
Day 7: Hike the Ihlara Valley from Ihlara to Belisirma; backtrack (by car) to visit Kaymakli, and briefly roam the town of Güzelyurt
Day 8: Visit Ağzikarahan, Sultanhani, and Çatalhöyük on the way to Beyşehir -- night in Beyşehir
Day 9: Explore Beyşehir, drive to Antalya (taking the “old” road through Derebucak), with stops in Aspendos and Perge – 1st of 2 nights in Antalya (after a delightful Turkish bath)
Day 10: Explore Antalya
Day 11: Visit Termessos, take cable car from a bit south of Kemer to the top of Mt. Olympos and back down, and visit Phaselis on my way to Çıralı; visit the Chimaera (Yanartaş) -- night in Çıralı
Day 12: Visit Adrasan, Arykanda, and Myra on my way to Üçağız -- night in Üçağız
Day 13: Glass-bottomed boat ride to Kekova and thereabouts; visit Xanthos and (briefly) the beach at Patara; go to an explore Kaş -- night in Kaş
Day 14: Drive to Pamukkale; explore Hierapolis and the travertines -- night in Pamukkale
Day 15: Take a brief dip in the Sacred Pool before heading to Aphrodisias; drive to Selçuk – 1st of 2 nights in Selçuk
Day 16: Explore Selçuk and Ephesus
Day 17: Drive to Bergama to visit Pergamon’s Acropolis; drive to Iznik -- night in Iznik
Day 18: Explore Iznik; drive to Bursa, return rental car, and begin exploring the city -- night in Bursa
Day 19: Continue exploring Bursa, then take ferry to Istanbul – 1st of 6 nights in Istanbul
Day 20 – 24: Explore Istanbul
Day 25: Flight home

I had wanted an itinerary that would maximize the diversity of my experiences, and I loved the incredible mix of things I encountered on this trip! Although otherchelebi was correct in warning me that I could not be or see all things on this trip, I did experience most of the things he included on his list of the things from which I would have to choose – basically, I did everything except see “every place mentioned in major guide books.” (I managed to see quite a few of the mentioned places!)
• (from other’s list): I pursued interests in architecture and archeology and history; had some wonderfully memorable adventures (and misadventures); found many photographic opportunities; enjoyed nature and natural sights; experienced some engaging and memorable interactions with locals; took long drives and long hikes (which were, in both cases, sometimes as long as planned and sometimes, quite inadvertently, much longer, but all worth every moment); and spent some time as a slack-jawed tourist.
• I also ate well (savoring a variety of delicious foods, including some that were new to me); visited colorful markets (not just the covered markets of Istanbul and Bursa, but also many small local markets and food stands); admired some awesome works of art created from ancient through modern times; attended some very enjoyable performances (including the sema, folk and belly dancing, and the Ottoman Military Band); met myriad cats who not only allowed, but actually invited, my attentions; and discovered how thoroughly relaxing a Turkish bath can be.

That’s a lot of diversity!

And it didn’t stop there – there was also incredible diversity within each of these various domains. The natural scenery alone was so diverse that I feel like I visited a dozen (or more) countries on this one trip – I saw high treeless plains and high plains with trees and deep lush valleys and rugged mountain ranges and snow-capped volcanoes and mountain-edged seas of impossibly turquoise hues and the varied incredible blues of the Bosphorus and lake-side marshes complete with water fowl and that doesn’t even count the unique topography of places like Cappadocia or Pamukkale or so many other places. The only largely common elements were that they were gorgeous, filled with wildflowers, and topped by some of the most dramatic skies I have ever seen. WOW!

The ancient ruins I visited were also wonderfully diverse. I had worried that they would seem similar enough to blur into each other. Not so! There were (of course) some overlapping features, and I could see, and was glad to be able to identify, some things that were more common to (say) primarily Hellenistic sites than to primarily Lydian-Lycian sites, but I was also well aware of unique elements that set each site aside from the others.

I could go on ….

Bottom line: I was thrilled by the diversity of things I saw and experienced on this trip! My sincere thanks to all of you who helped me plan this journey.

Additional comments to follow….
kja is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 06:54 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,324
I love your enthusiasm, I'm dying to go to Turkey!!!

I love that you went alone and had a great time.

Please, tell me more!
susanna is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 08:24 PM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818

It's a pleasure to contribute some travel ideas to posters like yourself who truly appreciate the efforts of fellow Fodorites. Keep on truckin'...

Note: Syd is playing in Frederick, Cafe Nola, on June 30th...end of his summer touring. Drop in and say hello.

tower is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 10:49 PM
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thanks much for this report. sounds fantastic and nice to hear that you were so comfortable though you were going it alone!
kawh is offline  
Jun 10th, 2012, 11:17 PM
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I am flabbergasted that you could actually fit in so much. Heartfelt congratulations. i wish, I had known and maybe we could have tried to meet such an intrepid traveler in Iznik or Istanbul.

It is seldom that I meet travelers who can stick to tight itineraries like you. Your willingness to share is also very laudable, and I hope other potential travelers make good use of your experience.

here are some practical questions, to start with :

- what make car did you rent? from whom?
were you pleased with it in terms of comfort, economy, power?
how much did you pay for how long?

- was there any lodging you would warn against or specifically recommend at any of the places you stayed?

- Any menu items you specifically recommend or warn against?

- Who is Syd? and why is Stu giving you this information?
otherchelebi is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 06:41 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 6,818
OC....after they took your laptop away at "The Istanbul Home for the Terminally Bewildered and Confused", how can you still be posting?

No matter, it's always pleasureable to have your astute comments especially to an exemplary poster like Kja. Relieved if you've been paroled from the "home"...will look good on your "risk" resume'.

If you're still coming to NYC, I'll be there July 12-14, so maybe we can all meet with Adu and Andrea. He's buying.

Sorry kja..awaiting your further comments. (Feel free to tell OC just who Syd is. I'm not sure I've ever told him).

tower is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 08:11 AM
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Posts: 714
kja, I totally share your enthusiasm. I also had a fantastic time in Turkey.
Can you tell me more about hiking in Ihara Valley? We went there on a very wet day and we were mostly inside the car, from the little I saw the valley is beautiful and we are thinking of going back. How difficult and how long is the hike? I read the deeper into the valley, the more beautiful the scenery gets, is that the case? I am afraid to say I am not a hiker but that looks like something I can get into.
mohan is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 03:29 PM
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mohan..particularly the walk along the river is pleasant and quite comfortable. Sorry the weather prevented you from experiencing it.
tower is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 03:51 PM
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Adu's buying. Stu, can Anne and I come? Sorry 'kja'.
iris1745 is online now  
Jun 11th, 2012, 04:49 PM
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Posts: 21,572
susanna - Thank you for your kind words! Turkey is definitely a worthy destination.

Stu – I do, indeed, appreciate your efforts – you and other Fodorites provide a wealth of information so generously! While at the Pierre Loti café, I enjoyed raising my glass of chai to you as the muezzins began their calls. And was that you who suggested the swordfish kebabs at Mercan in Kas? Delicious!

I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to Frederick - I don't have a car, and it's a little difficult to get there without one. But I haven't given up and I do have it on my calendar!

kawh – I am a committed solo traveler: It gives me the freedom do whatever I want, whenever I want – it is really quite an indulgence!

otherchelebi – I did fit a lot in, didn’t I? It wasn’t so much that I stuck to a tight itinerary, as that I had enough good information in advance from you and others to come up with a reasonable plan. As usual, once my journey began, I used my plan as a guideline, not a “schedule” and once I decided to visit something, I took whatever time I wanted. So I sometimes ended up a bit “behind” or a bit “ahead”, but my time estimates worked out pretty well. I only skipped a few things (e.g., the Duden falls), and I had time to add in a few others (e.g., Patara beach).

It will please me if my experiences prove useful to other travelers - I'd like to pay back a little to the Fodorite community.

My rental car was a Renault Symbol rented through Europcar and arranged by Gemut.com. (I learned about Gemut through Fodor’s forums some years ago, have used them 4 times now, and have always been pleased with their service.) It was a 4-door manual that felt solid, handled well, was comfortable, and had enough power to handle all but the longest and steepest hills with reasonable ease. I paid about $750 US for 16 days, plus $150 US for a one-way drop-off fee – more than I would have preferred, but less than I found when I checked into my options for booking directly rather than through gemut. I had just 2 small problems with it:
- First, the cigarette lighter had been disabled, which meant that the portable GPS system I had brought with me nearly ran out of battery power every day. I ended up turning it if off whenever I could, so (for example) if it told me to keep straight for 20 kilometers, I’d turn it off and then, after 19 kilometers, turn it on again until I heard directions for my next step. That was a bit of an unexpected pain!
- Second, returning the car in Bursa was quite surprisingly difficult. For starters, as you know (and warned me) driving in Bursa is not a fun experience. Even so, my GPS got me to the address with little trouble, but I couldn’t see the office from the street, and ended up in a maze of hilly one-way streets before I could get back to the right area. I parked and walked around. And around. And around. Several very helpful people called Europcar for me, and sent me in various inconsistent directions. It took a very long (and tiring) time to find it. Eventually, a man from a different car rental agency helped me. Turns out that Europcar had recently moved. There was a man – but no sign - at the “old” location; he had to call someone from the “new” location to come and take charge of the car. That didn’t take too long, but it was decidedly inconvenient and confusing! To state the obvious, it would have been much easier if I had been given the correct address.

As a rule, I was pleased with my lodgings, which were by and large what I expected based on what I had read in advance. Nothing fancy, but places that suited my needs. I’ll be entering my comments about lodging on another website and don’t want to enter double reports, so I’ll refrain from commenting on them here.

In general, I ate some very pleasant meals. There was only one dish I wouldn’t try again – some kind of sausage-like thing that was WAY too greasy, but was the only dish available at the by-then only open restaurant I could find near where I was staying in Bursa. (I wanted to have a glass of wine with dinner, but couldn’t find a place to do that, and in the end, was just glad to find a place where I could sit down for something to eat.) Throughout my travels, I had some absolutely luscious fruits and would urge people to try whatever is in season. I'll try to remember to include some restaurant notes later in this report; if I forget, feel free to remind me.

Syd is a very talented musician and Stu is giving me the information because he knows I would like to see Syd and his fellow musicians – Hotels and Highways - again.

Mohan – Turkey really is an amazing country, isn’t it?

I thought the Ihlara Valley very beautiful. How long and/or how difficult the hike is depends, I think, on how many of the churches you visit, because seeing them generally means climbing up and down some fairly steep paths. It also depends on which entrance you take. I believe many people take the stairs that have been nicknamed the Devil’s Staircase (or something like that) by the main entrance – some 360 or so steps cut into the rock. Not for me! I had arranged with my hotel to go with me to Belisirma, where I left my car, and then take me to the Ihlara entrance. So I entered near Ihlara Village, where there is a bit of a steep path down to the river valley, but not too long and not too difficult and made especially interesting by a shepherd and his small flock of sheep (including a few very young lambs) at the entrance. I ended at Belisirma, which is riverside. As I recall, I spent about 4 or 5 hours in the valley, taking my time to explore quite a few of the churches and stopping repeatedly to take pictures. You could spend far less time if you skip or curtail those activities. And there’s another stretch of the valley from Belisirma to Selime (where there is another entrance) that I didn’t explore at all. The scenery did vary from Ihlara to Belisirma – there were stretches where the steep rock walls were very near and some where they were further and some where i couldn't see them at all; places where the narrow river rushed downhill and others where is rushed over barely sloping ground; places that were open and filled with wildflowers and butterflies and places that were rock-strewn and places where trees stretched out over the water. I wouldn’t dare to say which area was more beautiful.

At this point in my life, I’m not much of a hiker, but I’m very glad to have spent time in this valley. Once in the valley itself, most of the path that I walked was fairly flat, but there were some stretches where one needed to climb up and over boulders. If you go, do bring plenty of water. You might find some additional helpful information in these other posts:



Richard - you are always welcome to hijack one of my threads!

Still to come – what I liked least and most, some specific observations…..
kja is offline  
Jun 11th, 2012, 06:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2011
Posts: 809
Very exciting kja. I would like to hear about your hot air balloon experience in Cappadocia. I am reserved with Royal Balloon at the end of August and can't wait! Which company did you use and did it meet your expectations?
MinnBeef is offline  
Jun 12th, 2012, 06:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 785
Thanks for posting this, kja.

I spent a month in Turkey nearly 20 years ago and it remains, to this day, my favorite place in the world. I'm in the early stages of planning a return trip and it can't come soon enough.

I loved the art, the architecture, the archaeological ruins, the scenery, the food and most of all the people -- the friendliest, warmest folks I've encountered in my travels.

So glad you got to spend a few weeks there to soak it all up!
NanBug is offline  
Jun 12th, 2012, 08:43 PM
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MinnBeef: For my balloon ride, I chose a deluxe tour with Kapadokya Balloons and it not met, but exceeded, my expections!

I based my selection on 3 considerations. If what I learned in advance is correct, then:
(1) Kapadokya is the best-established hot air balloon company in the area and the one with the best safety record.
(2) Kapadokya has more take-off/landing sites than any company with the possible exception of its “daughter” company; more take-off and landing sites mean that the company has a better chance of being able to respond to unusual weather, so it is more likely to be able to take off and to take off on time and more likely to be able to stay aloft for a long time.
(3) A hot air balloon ride of any length and with any company was a splurge by my standards, and as a splurge, I decided that I would rather pay the extra for the longer ride in a smaller basket – I didn’t want to land after spending a lot of money, only to wonder whether the extra cost would be worth it.

I was VERY, VERY pleased with my choice. The time seemed to fly by! (No pun intended.) I couldn’t believe that it had been nearly 2 hours when we landed, and it seems I would have missed so much if the ride had been only 1 hour long. I had read one comment that people who take a 2-hour ride end up with sore feet from standing that long, and I had worried a bit about that because my feet no longer endure just any old treatment with grace. But I didn’t notice any discomfort and didn’t hear anyone else complain. Too, I managed a 6-hour hike later that day, and although my feet hurt a lot at the end of my hike, I don’t think it had anything to do with the balloon ride!

Being in a small basket definitely contributed to my enjoyment: There were 12 of us in 2 rows; each of us had an unobstructed position at the outside of the basket and we could all easily see in other directions (which wasn’t really necessary because the balloon turned frequently). There was noise on occasion as our pilot heated air to adjust our altitude, but when he wasn’t doing that, we could easily hear him when he spoke about what we were seeing or when one of us asked him a question. And we had plenty of time sailing silently over some of the most amazing landscapes imaginable. And as an example of our pilot’s skill, he landed the basket squarely on the flatbed truck that the company sent.

Bottom line: My hot air balloon ride was amagnificent experience and it was, IMHO, worth every penny.

NanBug: I know what you mean: there is SO much to appreciate about Turkey! It would be incredible if only because of the art, architecture, archeological ruins, scenery, and food; the people – their sincere friendliness and warmth – make it so much more special and memorable!

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had my time there and I’m sure you will find much to treasure in your return visit. Will you be visiting the same places you visited before, or new places, or a mix?

As promised/warned, here are some comments on what I liked least and most, in no particular order other than to starrt with what I like least:

- Turkish drivers – they are even worse than I had heard! As a pedestrian, the only strategy I found for crossing a road – even in a marked pedestrian crossing area – that didn’t seem completely suicidal was to walk next to the oldest person I could find who looked like they knew where they were going, not because I thought anyone would be respectful of the person’s age, but because there was a chance, however slim, that someone who had lived that long might have learned a way to cross a road without injury. As a driver – defense, defense, defense! I found the major east-west road from about Manavgat through and beyond Antalya particularly hateful, with numerous drivers ignoring lane markings and weaving in and out and cutting people of and ignoring warning lights and even driving straight through red lights without the slightest reduction in speed.
- Audio guides that began each segment with the same few bars of music.
- My failure to find a restaurant where I could have wine with dinner near the market in Bursa, and elsewhere, waiters who didn’t bring my wine until after my entrée was served.
- The absence of plugs for the drains in hotel sinks.
- The overly aggressive sales people I encountered. Thankfully, they were VERY few. The vast majority of merchants I encountered were courteous and kind.

- The gracious, generous, and dignified hospitality of so many people, including people who had nothing to do with the tourist industry.
- The children who smiled at me from a distance or came close and/or tried to speak to me, and the older women who tried to tell me about their children and grandchildren who now live in the U.S. or otherwise welcome me to their country.
- Astonishingly diverse and stunningly gorgeous scenery throughout the areas I visited – definitely not only in the places I expected it -- with dramatic, and dramatically changing, skies, and rainbows, so many rainbows! -- brilliant or dim or single or double or full or partial and invariably lovely.
- The wildflowers everywhere, in every color and every size from tiny Alpine-like blooms to 7-foot-tall hollyhocks, and the birds -- magpies and storks with their nestlings and ducks leading their ducklings and magnificent birds of prey and so many others.
- Glimpses into traditional lives as I passed through villages or waited for herders to accompany their goats or sheep or cows across the road or noted the comraderie of men who had gathered for their daily coffee or tea and gossip or watched women chatting to each other and minding their children as they picked herbs….
- The sounds of the muezzins, even when they awakened me.
- Deliciously fresh juices and the guard at a museum in Ankara who saw me watching people pick fruit from a tree and then came to offer me a handful of eriks (which I believe are a type of plum) and savoring them and other fresh fruits and vegetables that I hadn’t previously encountered and walking through colorful markets of fruits and vegetables and teas and spices….
- Seeing groups of young women garbed in black with their incredibly expressive eyes and their stunningly brilliant, jewel-colored, silk scarves.
- The incredibly turquoise seas off the Turquoise Coast, seas that turned to teal or emerald or ultramarine as the lights shifted, and the vibrant colors of the Bosphorus, and the clarity of the waters of both, clear enough for me to see through the water.
- The friendliness of the many cats and what that signifies about the kindness of the treatment they receive from people they encounter and the sight of a cat sleeping cozily only feet from one of the blazing vents of the Chimaera and glimpses of kittens who were discovering how to catch insects….
- The magnificent vistas from ancient theaters and the mind-boggling distance of Ephesus from the current seashore and the evidence of the human and technological feats that would have been required to create the acropolis of Pergamum and the paintings of dancing figures from catalhoyuk and the lovely terrace and odeon of Arykanda and the nymphaem of Perge and library and terraced houses of Ephesus and, well this is a list that could go on and on and on….
- Gliding above the unique and awesome terraine of Cappadocia in a hot air balloon.
- Experiencing a Turkish bath in a 600-year-old hamam and soaking my feet after long hikes that were worth every step and soaking in the pleasant warmth of the thermal bath at Hierapolis.
- and SO much more.

If it isn’t already clear, let me state, for the record, that the things I liked least were a few minor irritants (or, in the case of dealing with drivers, at least non-fatal incidents); the things I like best were for more numerous and infinitely more memorable. It was, indeed, a fantastic journey!

Coming soon: some observations about very specific things and/or places.
kja is offline  
Jun 12th, 2012, 10:21 PM
Join Date: Jun 2004
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great report. Will we be be able to see the hotel recs.. where if not here?
lincasanova is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 05:42 PM
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Hi kja. Glad to hear you loved the balloon trip. As I recall, several of us had to "talk you into it" as you were planning your trip. Glad it exceeded your expectations.

I booked with Royal because I am doing a two-day tour of Cappadocia from Istanbul, through Euphrates tours. Both Euphrates and Royal Balloon are 5-star rated on Trip Advisor, so that is very encouraging. I did book the 1 1/2 hour tour as I figured I'll probably never do this again in my life, so take advantage of it when I can. The balloon ride is one of the top 3 or things I am most looking forward to, along with Sumela Monastery, taking a ferry cruise along the Golden Horn, and finding a cool leather jacket and/or carpet in Istanbul. Oh, and also the paragliding at Oludeniz if I have a drink or two first!

By the way, where did you do your hamam? I've read that the most beautiful ones in Istanbul are actually rather poor on service and many people leave dissapointed.
MinnBeef is offline  
Jun 13th, 2012, 08:50 PM
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Thanks, lincasanova! Once I have time to compose them, I will post my hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.

MinnBeef – Yes, the balloon ride was definitely a winner! I’m sure you will enjoy your ride.

I envy your visit to the Sumela Monastery – it was very difficult for me to cross that off my itinerary, and hope to see it on a future trip. Do report on it once you return!

I loved my ferry ride along the Golden Horn. After walking from the Pierre Loti Café down through the cemetery to the waters’ edge, I came to the ferry dock and had about ½ hour before the next ferry. There was a seller of tea and pretzel-like things there who was particularly engaging, coming by several times to give me more tea. And then the ferry came. It isn’t a long ride – a bit more than ½ hour as I recall; very pleasant and some lovely views.

I hope you find whatever it takes for you to paraglide if that is, in fact, something you want to do. I must admit that I love, but have rarely engaged in, air sports. (Translation: There was no way that I could afford these activities for most of my life.) I’ve taken one sky dive; it was solo and so awesome that I still don’t have words for it even decades later. It remains one of my most vivid memories. I didn’t realize that there were paragliding operations in Antalya until it was too late for me to take advantage of them – darn! I defintely hope to paraglide some time! But that’s me. You are obviously someone who “does his homework,” so I’m sure you will check out the companies that offer paragliding and then decide. Its YOUR vacation, MinnBeef, and you have the wonderful freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want!

My only experience with a hamam was in Antalya. I had a wonderful experience there in a female-only facility, so I can’t help you with hamams in Istanbul.


• Turkish has 2 different characters for what in English is the single letter I, and the one with a dot is not the one where an English qwerty keyboard has an i. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that fact until after I inadvertently convinced my e-mail provider that I was not me, and I ended up being locked out of my e-mail for several frustrating days – including the days when I was trying to let my family and friends know that I had arrived safely. (I don’t travel with a phone.) Be forewarned! I you have an “I” in either your user ID or your password, make sure you know which key to press!

• I generally did not work with guides (other than audio guides), but I was very glad to work with a guide at the Hittite ruins in Bogazkale and the underground city of Kaymakli – I don’t think I would have understood what I was seeing at either place without a guide, and I definitely would have missed some of the fascinating things that can be seen and appreciated at these places. BTW, there were a few passageways in Kaymakli where one has to stoop substantially to get through, but they were SHORT passageways.

• FYI: Sarica Kilises monastery was closed when I was in the area.

• OMG, how could I have forgotten, when composing my list of things I liked best, all my olfactory experiences? The incredible scent of lilac at the Keşlik Monastery and pines at Phaselis and Iznik and honeysuckle in Selcuk and roses in ... was that Bursa? … and the aromas of teas and spices in markets in Antalya and Istanbul and – even though I didn’t eat any street food or any doner kebab – the mouth-watering aromas of various doner kebab stands.

• Despite my efforts, I could NOT find prehistoric Aşıklı Höyük. I hadn’t programmed my GPS with its latitude and longitude; instead, I had noted that it was near Dogantarla. I found Dogantarla easily, but didn’t see any signs for Aşıklı Höyük. No problem: there was an interesting local market there and I was able to get directions from a police officer. I followed those directions without finding Aşıklı Höyük, and eventually stopped to get directions at a gas station. And then I followed those directions unsuccessfully for a while. Eventually, I gave up. Instead I visited Çatalhöyük, which I found fascinating. And ultimately, I was glad I saw Çatalhöyük because the artifacts I saw at several museums that were from it – I got a better perspective on both the site and the artifacts for having seen both.

• I had planned to try to visit the Chimaera (Yanartaş) after sunset, as several of my guidebooks recommended, but instead accepted the advice of the owner of my B&B to go a little before then – and I am glad that I did! For one thing, it was much easier to get there while I still had natural light. (I had a good headlamp with me, but still….) For another thing, I was able to see a bit of the view from the hillside where the flames emerge before the light completely faded – was that actually a bit of the sea I saw below the indiscernible horizon line? And watching the flames as darkness set in was VERY cool. The “red light” setting of my headlamp was more than enough to get me down the hill when I was ready to leave, and I was glad to avoid disrupting my mood (and interfering with others’ night vision) by using the red light setting.

• I had read that walking the travertines at Pamukkale would be easy on one’s feet. Well, some parts were smooth and even soothing to the foot; other parts HURT, so be prepared! I also hadn’t realized how few places there are for people to enter the travertines, and would recommend that those interested in walking them find out which parts are open and where the access points are before exploring marvelous Hierapolis.

• The audio guide at Ephesus is a touch-screen device that I could not, for the life of me, see in the sunlight, and I couldn’t even manage to see it well enough in shade to use it effectively. I returned it, and am pleased to report that I was immediately given a full refund, without even asking for one. I must admit that I eavesdropped on several English-speaking guides as I made my way through this amazing place. And I was fortuntate to enter the terrace houses – an absolute MUST-see area -- just after a family of four with their English-speaking guide. I did my best not to interfere with their visit, and they were kind enough to tolerate me as I hovered nearby. I think a guide for Ephesus, and the terrace houses in particular, would be a very good use of one’s resources.

• If you have any interest in shadow puppets, do stop at the covered market in Bursa and find the Karagoz Antique Shop – someone should be able to help you find it. There, if you ask, you might be treated, as I was, to a brief Karagoz puppet show and maybe even a glass of tea. As I understand it, shadow puppetry is a dying art at both ends of the Silk Road. Having seen it in Xi’an, I was glad to see the variant practiced in Bursa – great fun! And I found it fascinating to see the differences between them. (My purchase of a copy of the Chelebi character seemed a fitting memento of this trip.)

• In Istanbul, I stayed in Sultanhamet rather than the area in/around Taksim Square and I cannot understate how VERY, VERY glad I am that I made that choice! I admit that Sultanhamet was filled with tourists, but I liked being within easy walking distance of many sights and near the tram for places that were a bit further afield. On my Friday evening in Istanbul, I walked from the Galata Tower through Istiklal Caddesi to Taksim Square. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing several street performers and I appreciated the energy of the area, but it was decidely MUCH too crowded and MUCH too loud for me. Vive la différence!

• For me, the museum pass in Istanbul was well worth it for the time I saved by being able to skip lines. It doesn’t cover the Dolmabahce Palace, but it does cover quite a few major sites.

• At the far end of the Bosphorus, I stopped at Anadolu and climbed to the castle, where I found all the gates closed. There was a place where a fence had been separated by human intervention from the wall, and people were squeezing their way through and finding their way into the castle. I was tempted – sorely temped! – but I do try to respect the limits that are set on tourists. And really, I couldn’t complain because the views from the area in front of the closed castle gates were fabulous. Finally tearing myself away, I started back downhill and found that an entrance to the castle ruins that had been padlocked when I first passed (I know because I took a brief respite in that very gate) was now open! I’m so glad, because there were some very special (if not necessarily “better”) views from within the ruins. For example, it was interesting to see the arched stonework of the old castle walls and the fields of wildflowers that they enclosed and, perhaps best of all, to find a place from which one could look down at the water’s edge and realize that I was seeing through the waters of the Bosphorus to the rounded rocks beneath the surface. How is it possible that this ship-filled stretch of water retains that degree of clarity? Stunning! And then, as I left by the once locked gate, I saw a man who held the key to the gate. I had been on the 1st ferry of the day, and I hadn’t stopped for food, so even though I made my way up the hill rather slowly and others had arrived before me, I was probably a rather “early” arriver. My guess is that the gatekeeper probably timed his appearances at the gate to the ferries and was just a tad late on that particular day. So, if you climb up to the castle at Anadolu, don’t “sneak in” if you can help it – wait for at least a little while to see if the site is opened to you.

I hope these comments help!
kja is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 12:38 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 367
I'm sorry you missed Aşıklı Höyük, you got the wrong village, it should be Kızılkaya, about 2km south of Doğantarla, here - http://wikimapia.org/#lat=38.3490273...2&z=14&l=0&m=b

I think the guy at the petrol station should have known better (if it's the same station I'm thinking of).
Croesus is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 01:22 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 367
I also missed it but eventually found it, there was a market by the river at the entrance to Kızılkaya village and the stalls had obscured the brown sign.
Croesus is offline  
Jun 14th, 2012, 05:56 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,572
Thanks for clarifying, Croesus - let's hope that future travelers see this post and figure out how to get there! I have no reason to doubt that the policeman and the man at the gas station gave me accurate directions. Unfortunately, my Turkish is so very limited that I probably misheard and/or misunderstood - or maybe I simply gave up when I was really, really close.
kja is offline  
Jun 15th, 2012, 04:34 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 367
At least you managed to see Çatalhöyük, which is probably the better site.
Did you stay at the Ali Bilir Hotel in Beyşehir?
Croesus is offline  

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