Talkin' Turkey - Trip Report Part 2

Old Oct 29th, 2008, 11:29 PM
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Talkin' Turkey - Trip Report Part 2

Well, after your encouragement here's a bit more for you.

By the time we arrived in Urgup it was very late afternoon and after we checked into our cave house accommodation we headed straight out to meet a Turkish friend of D & L that we had heard so much about. He owns a local restaurant and our friends spend a lot of time there. It was a great night and after a couple of Efes (beer) my DH was offered a Raki, then another and another and so the night went. We had a great time meeting all the locals and it was lovely to see how well our friends had become part of the local community. It seemed like everyone knew them!

But the bad news, D is a hot air balloon pilot remember? So up at 5.30am and DH went with him every morning – so they took their sore heads with them and up, up and away. I would be flying in a couple of days time and was more than happy with just the one flight, though I had flown with D before, of course.

Cappadocia is just the most amazing place with its Fairy Chimneys, underground city, beautiful valleys such as Rose Valley, Love Valley, Pigeon Valley and fantastic rock formations not to mention the cave systems where people used to live.

Our friends spend a lot of their time in Urgup walking. And so they took us to some of their favourite places. We were in Love Valley, truly in the middle of nowhere when what do you see but a folding table, tablecloth, juice squeezer, fruit and a man and his two sons ready to squeeze a fresh orange or pomegranate juice for you. I really got a kick out of that and the juice was delicious. Other areas we explored were the old cave homes in the mountains. It is just so hard to describe this place but it is truly amazing to think of all those people living and existing in these caves.

One highlight was a visit to the rug store. The owner prepared dinner for us, local dishes he cooked himself and then after dinner some music and singing and a little bit of dancing and then back upstairs to see if they could sell us a rug (they didn’t! But we did end up buying one but a bit further down the track – more later). The rugs were beautiful and we particularly liked a couple of silk rugs but to be honest they were a little out of our budget and so we told the owner we would sleep on it and get back to him in a couple of days. We did go back and told him we wouldn’t be buying and he took it very well, but I could feel his disappointment just the same.

Before I left for Turkey I had been having Turkish lessons with a young man who owns our local kebab shop – he is mates with our son and a really lovely fellow who is from Ankara. I think it really paid off and the locals seemed duly impressed with my annunciation and the more time I spent in Turkey the more language I was able to learn. It really is an ice breaker and gets a conversation going when they want to know where you learned to speak such good Turkish! Tell them you learned from Al, the kebab shop boy in Australia and everybody has a cousin/sister/uncle/brother somewhere in Australia!!!! We had so much fun with this and it certainly side tracked all the local dealers etc from trying to sell us anything as well!

Back to the sites – I really enjoyed the Underground City. If you go, I think it is truly best to spend a couple of bucks and hire a guide (There are plenty onsite) to take you through. Some people thought it was a bit ho hum but for myself I found it quite fascinating to think so many people could survive underground and how they survived was incredibly interesting.

One thing about Cappadocia to be aware of is the altitude – it just about killed me! I don’t think it would really matter how fit you are but once you start to exert yourself physically you are huffing and puffing like an old woman! Oh I’ve just remembered about The Evil Eye. I suppose you could call it a Talisman, and they are everywhere. Usually affixed to the house, sometimes painted onto the backs of trucks, pinned inside clothing, on chains but trust me, everyone has them. The Evil Eye is working overtime for you to make sure nothing bad etc happens to you. Oh I am so lovin’ that! We came back with a truckful of Evil Eyes and I’ve got nothing but good coming my way for the rest of my life!

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Old Oct 29th, 2008, 11:32 PM
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We spent 6 nights with our friends in Urgup and it was a wonderful time but it was time to head for the coast. Our trusty Fodorite friend Murat Ozguc actually is a travel agent in Urgup and so we caught up with him. Can I say now that at no time did he push his business on to me but as it turns out his prices were excellent and we needed a car and so a deal was done. Murat and his wife were two lovely people and we probably spent about an hour in his office just chatting etc.

Well, that's Part 2 - There is Part 3 if you want it featuring our trip up the coast from Side to Istanbul - let me know if you want more!!!
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Old Oct 29th, 2008, 11:50 PM
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Terrific report stormbird!

One suggestion - it does make it more difficult when trip reports are broken up into different threads. It is usually better to add each installment as a post to the original thread so your report doesn't get separated.
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 01:21 AM
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Thanks for the tip Janis - with that in mind here is the final part of my report.

As it turns out we got an upgrade on the car and we set off from Urgup to a little place call Side (pronounced Seeday) near Antalya. We left early morning and arrived safe and sound in the afternoon. Driving in Turkey is a breeze (even though it’s on the wrong side of the road!!) The roads are all in excellent condition, garages everywhere (petrol/diesel about $3 bucks a litre – ouch!!!!) Most garages, no really, all garages, had excellent facilities – at least three attendants come out at once to actually put your fuel in your car for you, café/restaurant/ rest room facilities – too easy!

Back to Side, the site of an ancient town and we actually stayed in the Old Town. Again, I must say that our accommodation was budget pensions – about 50-70 lira a night with breakfast included. They were all small but usually very clean and comfortable and the owners pretty much without exception were just a joy to meet. So in Side we stayed at Ehmirs Pension. We were planning to stay at another but it had closed for the winter and Ehmir, his wife and son, Ehmir jr. looked after us very well. Getting to the place was very difficult as it is right at the end of streets and streets of markets and shops etc. We weren’t even convinced we were supposed to be driving in there but with lots of help from the shopkeepers we got there in the end.

Turkey is a place that is a full of ancient ruins – and this is what Side is and the old town featured an amphitheatre, shops, homes etc. Well worth a look and of course it is right on the water so a beautiful location. We strolled around all afternoon and again after dinner and really enjoyed our stay here but the next morning we were up and at ‘em on our way to Kas (pronounced Kash). It was not a long drive and we really, really liked Kas and stayed for 2 nights at the Hotel Kash for 70 lira per night with breakfast. We took a gullet trip from Kas to Kerkova Island. This was an all day trip and we had a wonderful time. There were many nationalities on board and we had our best Turkish meal on this little gullet. On board was the owner, his wife and the boats captain. Those 3 didn’t stop all day and the owner and his wife prepared a simple but beautiful meal of chicken shish, salad and a delicious seasoned type rice. On the way home there was afternoon tea/coffee and the wife had even baked a chocolate cake (3 lira extra per slice).

In Kas the first night we just had gozleme for dinner – simple crepe like dish filled with potato or cheese. The quality varied around Turkey and our best gozleme was at the Open Air Museum in Cappadocia but they were all nice just the same.
The second night in Kas DH had a doner and I had nothing as I was absolutely chock full and couldn’t get one bite down if I tried.

The next morning we were off and really destination unknown. We were heading for Marmaris and I’m afraid when we got there it was not what we were expecting – it was incredibly busy and really too much for us so we jumped in the car and made it to Bodrum that afternoon. Bodrum was a good deal quieter and we had a really fantastic time there and were so glad we chose there to stay. We were crossing the road at the waterfront and there were bench seats and a couple of old fellas were sitting there chewing the fat so we said hello how are you in Turkish and well that got them going. Couldn’t believe we spoke Turkish and where were we from and as it turned out one of them had been to Australia. It was like we were long lost cousins – with spatterings of Turkish and sign language we had a lovely time with them and lots of laughs.

Whilst in Bodrum we stayed at the Albatross Hotel, 50 lira per night, breakfast extra but we decided to have an early start and have brekky on the road. We did have a very beautiful dinner in Bodrum at a restaurant called ‘Ali Kestaneci’ – upmarket and silver service but excellent food and the owner was extremely kind to us. When we arrived we had nowhere to park the car and he offered us his space for the whole time we were there. At dinner that night there were two young men beside us and I would have sworn they were speaking Dutch but as it turned out they were Scottish! (Very strong accents) Whilst we struggled to understand everything they were saying we did have a nice time chatting to them until it was time to say goodbye.

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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 01:23 AM
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Next morning we were headed for Selcuk and it was an easy drive. In Selcuk we stayed at the Pension Homeros – 55 lira per night with breakfast. Dervis is the owner and his sister Oya and their mother all run the pension. Dervis arranged a vehicle to take us out to Ephesus and to pick us up 3 hours later. Our driver was Osman, a really lovely fellow and we actually ended up buying our Turkish rug and saddle bag from him. More on that in a minute. Efes (Ephesus) is a must see and I also recommend availing yourself of the audio guide as well – there’s a lot to learn. In Selcuk we also visited the Basilica of St John. There actually is a lot to see in Selcuk and we honestly didn’t give it enough time so I would recommend probably at least 2 nights here.

We had pre dinner drinks on the rooftop terrace of our Pension and then downstairs for dinner that Mama and Oya had prepared – absolutely delicious and I think only about 13 lira each – all up about 6 courses. Osman, who kindly dropped us at Efes also owns a rug shop and so we popped in there after dinner and we purchased our beautiful rug and saddle bag – which arrived home yesterday! He sent via Fedex and it took only 5 days to get here and the Fedex charge was extremely reasonable.

On our departure from Selcuk, Oya, from the pension, set us off with a water blessing – as we drove away she had a dishful of water and passed it under the car thereby making a river for us to travel safely along (well, something like that – I think some of that got a little lost in translation) not to worry – we felt very special and it must have worked because we got to all our destinations safely!

Our next major destination was Gallipoli with one night before we got there. We thought we may stay in Izmir but upon arrival there we decided to drive straight through – sorry for those of you who love Izmir – that’s great but it didn’t appeal at all too big really – so we pushed on and spent the night at Ayvalik, a busy little sea side town and we had a very pleasant meal there and got all my laundry done for 5 lira!!!

On our way to Gallipoli we stopped in at Troy and I’m afraid we hadn’t allowed enough to time here really. But we did see the highlights I suppose but would have preferred another couple of hours.
We arrived at Canakkale and negotiated our way to the vehicle ferry to take us across to Gallipoli. Gallipoli is a very, very special place to all Australians. It is the site of the Anzac landings at, what is now known as, Anzac Cove on 25th April 1915 and the horrible battles that ensued. It is extremely sombre to say the least. So many lives lost, so many young lives – young boys who thought they had signed up for a great adventure.

Anzac Day is celebrated each and every year and many Australians were worried that as our last Anzacs passed away the momentum to remember would fade. They could not have been more wrong. Each year the numbers that attend the dawn services around our Country are increasing and it seems that each new generation continues to keep this special day alive.

The cemeteries are beautifully attended to but a lot of the graves are facing out to sea – to home – and well, there’s not much more to say really. We drove onto Gelibolu and spent a somewhat melancholy night there and up the next morning for a last night in Istanbul.
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 01:25 AM
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We dropped the car off at the Airport and caught a cab to our Hotel, The Alzer and pretty much headed straight out to the Grand Bazaar. My DH was bored after about 5 minutes but I made him suffer for at least two hours I think. Nowhere near enough time and I was quite disappointed that we didn’t have more time there and we didn’t even get to the Spice Bazaar – DH is not a shopper folks!

Anyway, we had a quiet dinner and early to bed for our big flight the next day. So it was Istanbul to Dubai and Dubai to Singapore – we arrived at 7am and flew out at 3.45pm to Hong Kong for our 5 night cruise back to Singapore.

We stayed at the Marco Polo Hong Kong Hotel – very flash – even by Fodorite standards! This was the big lash out – but the main reason for staying there was that the ship departed basically from the Hotel’s back door. We had a beautiful limousine pick up from the airport and on arrival at the hotel you do not check in - rather you are met at the front door and escorted to your room and you do the tawdry business of handing over credit cards etc there in your room. Anyway, we were going to have a lovely morning hanging around the hotel, having breakfast etc etc so in the morning DH woke up and said guess what the time is Stormbird – 7am says I – no 11.30am says he!!!OMG!!! We’d slept through our beautiful hotel stay. Completely missed breakfast (which wasn’t included in the price anyway)Doh!

Anyway, we boarded our ship the Superstar Virgo which had stops at Sanya in China and Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam. We decided not to visit Sanya but did go into Ho Chi Minh but the experience wasn’t a good one. Our tour was supposed to cruising the Mekong River but it took two hours on a bus to get there and we really only had about 15 minutes on the river, a quick tour of an island on the river where the locals made candy, handicrafts etc and then back to the ship. We probably would have been better off just staying on board.

But the cruise was fantastic, we had a great time and met some really, lovely people – some from Australia whom we really hope to catch up with again. We’d cruised on the same ship before and we weren’t disappointed in the standard onboard.
So on our arrival in Singapore we spent a bit of time on Sentosa Island before heading back to the brand new Terminal 3 at Changi Airport – it really is a beautiful airport – all glass and granite. Mmm very spectacular.

So we’ve been home for about 6 days, we’ve been back to work and I’m still suffering a little bit of jet lag! It was good to see our eldest son again of course, but our youngest is now in Europe on a trip that could last up to 12 months. It was weird to come home and him not being here. Buddy, The Wonder Dog, still has me in ‘coventry’ a bit for leaving him for so long but I’m sure he’ll come around.

So that’s all folks – I hope this (rather lengthy, I know, I’m sorry) trip report will encourage you to think about Turkey as a destination where the food is fantastic and the people are among the friendliest on the planet.

Happy Trails!
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Old Oct 30th, 2008, 05:34 AM
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Wonderful trip report! It makes me want to go tommorrow
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