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Trip Report The Road to Ruins - 25 Days in Istanbul & Road Tripping thru Western Turkey

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Gottravel and I have just returned from 25 days traveling around Istanbul and Western Turkey. As always I wanted to thank all the fodorites who helped me in planning our itinerary. I especially appreciated the great advice given by otherchelebi & Croesus, who both added some richness to our travels by suggesting some interesting places for us to visit. We were fortunate to meet otherchelebi & his wife and enjoyed time with them in Istanbul. Turkey is an incredibly scenic country with wonderful, hospitable people.

First the boring, but necessary logistics for this trip that I was typing up as we travelled.

Flights – We flew roundtrip on Turkish Air on a direct flights from/to IAD to/from IST Ataturk Airport. Both flights were comfortable and left & arrived on time. Very good airfares are available from IAD to IST. Our hotel in IST, Dersaadent, picks you up if you are staying with them more than 3 days. It was nice to get off an overnight flight and be met at the very busy airport with a person holding up a card with your your name on it. It took about 30 minutes to get from the airport to Dersaadent that is in the Sultanahmet quarter.

Internal flights – We ended up with both our internal flights to/from IST to/from Izmir on Pegasus. I compared the one-way fares on the various budget airlines and Pegasus had the best times and prices. Fares were incredibly cheap. One important note is NOT to fly out of or into the airport on the Asian side, Sabiah Gokcen. I made that mistake on our outbound flight from IST to Izmir. I saved a few dollars on the air fare, but the distance to the airport (approximately 90 minutes) and the cost to get there via a private shuttle was ~ 60€ over twice the taxi fare to Ataturk.

For auto rental we used Auto Europe, the European site, which saved several $100’s versus using the Auto Europe US site. I have rented autos using AutoEurope sites other than the US one for sometime now and always save money on the auto rental. One enters all the correct information in terms of address, credit card, residence etc and I have not a problem with using the foreign sites. Our rental was with Budget. We had 4 doors, diesel fuel, Fiat Punto that served us well. As has been mentioned on Fodors fuel is very expensive, ~4.4 TL per litre, in Turkey. Primary roads are in excellent condition and well signed. Secondary roads, not so much. The conditions and signage varied once you left the main roads, but then for us getting lost can be half the fun of travelling! There are lots of gas stations everywhere. We never could get a very detailed road map of the country and the one we used was fine for the main roads. We used google maps on my iPad or iPhone a lot and it was correct maybe 75% of the time.

While having planned out an itinerary with both places to visit and stay and number of days, we found that we were constantly changing how long we stayed in many places. We changed for a variety of reasons. Fortunately the places where we stayed we were allowed these changes with no penalty and we appreciated the ability to be flexible.

Listed below are the towns where we stayed, number of nights and which hotel I have reviews of the hotels under dl on Trip Advisor. As a side note all the places we stayed offered very good to great breakfasts. The breakfasts were so varied and plentiful they kept us going to late evening for dinner.

IST – 5 nights on the front end at Dersaadent Hotel in the Sultanahmet area ( – perfect location for visiting the touristic area. Nice staff, lovely rooftop with great views of the Blue Mosque and Bosphorous. Recommend
IST – 3 nights at the end of trip at Lasagrada Hotel
Absolutely loved this place. This was the perfect hotel for us to stay after close to three weeks of traveling. Our good rate on did not include breakfast, but lots of place to grab something nearby. Steps from the Osmabey Metro stop so easy to get around IST. Very happy not being near all the tourists in the historic district. Gave us a chance to see other parts of IST and glad we did. Highly Recommend

Bergama – 1 night + 1 night at the Hera Hotel Boutique Cute little hotel with wonderful owners. This small hotel is on a hill and is about a five-minute walk into town. Nice room, small bathroom. Recommend

Assos -2 nights at Assos alarga Another place we loved and hated to leave, but it got very cold and windy so we cut our stay short here. Ece, the owner, and her helper are just terrific. We stayed in the Orsa room and it had a wonderful fireplace that we actually used one night. Highly recommend.

Parmukkale – 1 night was more than enough for us at the Ayapam Hotel
Ugh! a charmless hotel in a charmless town. The original standard room we had booked was so small & for a few dollars more we moved to a larger room. But after staying at some lovely charming places, this was just a white cement building and didn’t offer much to us. FIND SOMEPLACE ELSE TO STAY

Kas – 5 nights in lovely Kas at the lovely Hotel Cachet Hotel in a superior room with a spectacular sea view Hotel Cachet is another winner of a hotel. It is not right in Kas, but on the peninsula, which means it is VERY quiet – no commercial buildings (other than hotels & restaurants) including minarets are allowed on the peninsula according to the delightful owner. Probably need your own car to stay here unless you plan to pretty much stay at the hotel with its nice pool and small beach. It’s approximately a scenic 10 minute drive into town. There is a bus that runs every half hour. You would reach the bus by walking up a very steep incline. The restaurant in this hotel is excellent – one of the better dinners we had in Turkey. Highly Recommend

Datca/Mesudiye/Hayitbuku Bay – Serentiy Pansyion – 1 night
This was a very small place with small being the operative word. We travel very lightly each with a carry on, but we could not fit everything into this tiny room. Bathroom was the kind where you could sit on the toilet and brush your feeth and shower all at the same time. Owner was not around, but his mother was ever so helpful and took great care of us. Beautiful location on a bay on the Datca peninsula, but we had to move on – it was just too small. Don’t recommend unless you don’t mind tiny rooms & bath.

Datca harbor – 1 night at Konak Tuncel Efe Brand new hotel on the waterfront in Datca – We were the only people staying in the hotel. Nice room overlooking the harbor. Breakfast had quite the presentation – Recommend

Lake Bafa – 2 nights at Pensione Selenes Nice pension right on the lake. We stayed in a premium room with a balcony. This is a farm and we had half board – nice dinners. Okay place and recommend if you want to stay right at the lake in a pensione

Selcuk – 4 nights at Ephesus Suites Hotel Because of leaving early from a couple places we ended up with four nights here and it was a nice place to hang out. Our unreserved night was in a Family suite that was very comfortable with a separate area with a sofa and chairs. The other 3 nights were spent in the King suite which was a large room with two comfortable chairs. Fantastically helpful owner.

Stay tuned for our adventures exploring Turkey.

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    Great start, looking forward for the details.

    We just got back, too so this will be fun to compare notes and impressions. All I can say for now, we loved Turkey, even though we had less time than you to explore it.

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    Yestravel, you and Gottravel come through again ! Your observations and descriptions, as well as your recommendations, are golden for those of us still (or back again) in the planning stages.

    Looking forward to the next installment.


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    Istanbul Part One

    In September, DC is seven time zones from Turkey. Despite sleeping in reclining chairs in Business Class on the ten-hour overnight Turkish Air flight, I arrived in Istanbul in the late afternoon in a state of dazed exhaustion, in large part due to the lingering end of a cold. YT, on the other hand, was feeling pretty perky. My first impression, on the taxi ride from the Ataturk airport to the Hotel Dersaadet, was that the minarets (usually in pairs) on mosques looked like missiles. The Dersaadet is on a side street of the tourist Sultanahmet neighborhood, almost (as we later found out) in the shadow of the Blue Mosque. We checked in, dragged our to suitcases to our nice, albeit small, ground floor room and headed out for some desultory wandering amid souvenir shops and tourist cafes. On the recommendation of the hotel, we had dinner at the improbably named “Little Havana” a couple of blocks away. The tables were set up in the street outside a narrow restaurant. The owner was an amusing character and the dinner – mezze, manti (a kind of Turkish ravioli with a yogurt sauce) and stuffed eggplant – was very good. Afterwards we shared some baklava at the nearby Tamara. The Tamara rooftop had a stunning view of the floodlight-lit Blue Mosque. Fantastic!

    The next morning we had the buffet breakfast on the rooftop terrace. It was our introduction to the array of foodstuffs that comprise a Turkish breakfast: Slices of tomato, cucumber and pepper; several kinds of baked goods, including bread and simit; a selection of Turkish cheeses; a variety of olives; two kinds of butter; honey, yogurt, cereals, juices, fruit and a half-dozen jams and marmalades. The rooftop had a great view of the Bosporus as well as the Sea of Marmara, both filled with a countless number of boats and ships. The terrace had, as well, a partially blocked, but still superlative, view of the Blue Mosque.

    After breakfast we headed to the Hagia Sophia Museum. Our walk introduced us to the scale of tourism in Istanbul. Many of the major sights – the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi, and the Archeological Museum - are located in close proximity in the Old Town that includes the Sultanahmet quarter. The result is a massive influx of tourists in busses and from cruise ships. The sheer volume made the streets close to impassable. The crowds overwhelmed the sites; the Hagia Sophia had at least half a dozen tour numbered tour groups being led by umbrella-wielding tour guides.

    The Hagia Sophia had once been the largest church in the world – built by the Byzantine emperor Justinian; it had been the Saint Peter’s of the Sixth Century. It is now undergoing maintenance, and the entire left side, as one enters, is a mass of scaffolding. Nonetheless, the Hagia Sophia is simply overwhelming, stunning in its radiant majesty. The immense central dome seems to float unsupported. The surviving Byzantine mosaics are gorgeous. The stonework is radiant. Not even milling tour groups or the five or more levels of interior scaffolding could distract from its beauty. Few buildings have ever created this kind of impression on me.

    After visiting Hagia Sophia, we did some wandering through the nearby Arasta Bazaar then headed to Mosaic Museum. The mosaic – it is all of one piece – had been part of the flooring of the Byzantine imperial palace. The work was exquisite, largely depicting hunting and pastoral scenes. The absence of Christian iconography was notable; stylistically, it is not different from other mosaic works of pagan antiquity. Like many Roman mosaics, it displayed a strong sense of artistic realism – these were depictions of real people and real animals doing recognizable things - that would disappear from human history in the early years of state Christianity and not reappear for a thousand or more years. We loved it, this last gasp of the old Roman world.

    Afterwards, via the ministrations of a carpet tout while we walked the old Hippodrome, we visited the Blue Mosque. The exterior rivaled the grandeur of Hagia Sophia. The interior was covered with beautiful blue ceramic tiles from Iznik but it somehow seemed to lack the transcendent radiance of the Hagia Sophia. As we toured Turkey and visited various domed mosques, it seemed as if the Ottomans had tried to recapture the beauty and architectural audacity of the Hagia Sophia again and again. Afterwards, we visited a rug shop, talking to the owner and viewing various carpets for an hour; we learned that our taste ran to “tribal” (Kurdish) rugs. Although we didn’t buy anything, it was an educational experience that we were to repeat many more times over the course of our trip before we actually did buy a rug.

    We napped after our carpet seminar; we had plans that evening for dinner with Istanbul Fodorite otherchelebi and his wife. We met up with them by taking the incredibly crowded tram from Sultanahmet to the end of the tramline at Kabataş on the other side of the Golden Horn just before the Dolmabahçe Palace. They picked us at the adjacent gas station and we drove north parallel to the Bosporus for a bit before pulling into a hotel/restaurant area along the strait. We had a nice dinner at a “fusion” restaurant very near the Bosporus Bridge – from our table we had a superb view and could see the beautiful ever-changing colored lights on the bridge high over the busy waters between the Black and Mediterranean Seas. The food was inventive, particularly a steak au poivre that used Szechuan peppercorns in lieu of the regular black peppercorns. We shared a bottle of delicious Turkish rosé. OC and his wife were charming. We spoke at length of American and Turkish politics, Turkish history, Chicago, our lives and our upcoming road trip through western Turkey. After dinner, we took a drive up to neighborhoods near Taksim Square; even on a weeknight the square and the neighboring streets were filled with young people. Then we went to their magnificent Bosporus-view apartment. We talked longer and it was as if talk took away our jet lag. It was midnight when we left, taking a cab across the Golden Horn via the Galata Bridge to our hotel.

    The next morning we had another gigantic breakfast at the rooftop terrace and then set out by cab to the Church of Saint Savior in Chora. Located just inside Istanbul’s old city walls, the Chora contains some of the finest Byzantine mosaics extant. The murals cover such ecclesiastical topics as the genealogy of Christ from Adam to King David (an odd lineage for someone purported to be the son of God), the life of the Virgin Mary, and the infancy and ministry of Christ. In the nave, there are murals devoted to the Virgin Mary taking a nap surrounded by devoted on-lookers. Snarkiness aside, the mosaics are gorgeous, the church is splendid and the sight well worth seeing. We returned to our hotel by cab. While the cab out to the Chora had taken us along the shore of the Sea of Marmara and then along the road outside the old city walls, the return ride took us through the heart of the Fatih neighborhood. This is something of a fundamentalist neighborhood comprised of the government’s strongest supporters. It gave me an understanding of the fear and distrust – later expressed on numerous occasions by middle-class Turks whom we talked with over the course of our trip – of the increasingly authoritarian Erdoğan government and the Justice and Development Party.

    Once back amid the tourists of the Sultanahmet neighborhood, we attended two more impromptu lectures at carpet shops – I drew some comfort from the fact that, no matter how outlandish or variable the prices, we were being told the same thing in each shop regarding the origins, weaves and dyes of various types of carpets. After our carpet seminars, we headed on foot to the spice market. The spice market has devolved into a general-purpose market; we found exactly two stores still devoted solely to selling spices. We bought some Persian saffron as gifts and then headed back to the hotel.

    That evening, we went out to the Giritli Restaurant. I don’t think we would have made it without the mapping app on YT’s iPhone. Turkish cities and towns are pretty much devoid of street signs. Moreover, the Giritli was literally on the other side of the tracks – separated from our hotel by a train line that had few overhead crossings, only one of which was near us. We wandered and backtracked, wandered and backtracked, using the device to map our current position against the walking route. All the wandering and backtracking was worth it though. The Giritli was a nice outside courtyard restaurant with a fixed price menu and a half-dozen watchful cats. We started with eighteen mezze, all delectable. Then a second course of delicious grilled octopus, a spanikopita-type pastry and fried calamari. The third course was a choice between grilled sea bass and sea bream, with little in the way of seasonings other than lemon. The meal was wonderful, although we were full by the end of the second course and couldn’t finish the third. It had taken us the better part of half an hour to get to Giritli; it took us the lesser part of five minutes to return to the hotel.

    The next day we ventured across the Golden Horn for the second time. We took the tram to the Kabataş stop, then the funicular up to Taksim Square, then the metro to Cevahir Mall. Our destination: A carpet store on the lower level that catered to a largely Turkish clientele; OC had had recommended it. We looked at carpets and identified a finely woven Afghan that we liked; in terms of pattern it looked not dissimilar to the Kurdish rugs that we’d become fond of, but was plusher and had a slightly more refined appearance. We added it to our catalog of photos on YT’s cellphone, noted the price and vowed to return at the end of the trip if we didn’t find anything more attractive in the next three weeks. We were spared a lengthy seminar because of the language barrier. (This was at least the seventh rug store/merchant we’d visited so far.) We hit the mall Starbucks (!) for an espresso and the bathrooms, and then returned via Metro to Taksim Square.

    From there, we walked down the long, crowded Istikal Caddesi pedestrian street, pausing to examine a couple of surviving churches and a record shop where I bought a CD. We had our first lunch of the trip – the breakfasts had been filling and we’d subsisted on the occasional simit until our 8:00 p.m. dinners – on Istikal Caddesi. I had köfte – Turkish meatballs – and a coke and we shared some sautéed stuffed grape leaves. Both were pretty tasty. The restaurant adjoined a bookstore and was book-themed. They even presented the check in a hollowed-out book – I was briefly tempted to pocket it as gift for a bookstore-owning friend back in DC. We took a second funicular – the “Tunel” – down to the Karakoy tram stop and crossed back over to Sultanahmet to briefly check out the Grand Bazaar. We had a couple more rug seminars there and then went on to the Topaki Palace where we toured the harem area and then the rest of the grounds. Some of the rooms had gorgeous tiles; others had fantastic views of the confluence of the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. The Topkapi is pretty spectacular. It was late afternoon by the time we returned to the hotel. It had been a long exhausting day. Much later, we decided to return to Little Havana for an al fresco streetside dinner of stuffed grape leaves, stuffed eggplant and lamb stew. I had a glass of wine, which was served in a colored water glass. I asked the effusive owner if he had ever been to Cuba. He said no, but that he and his wife planned to go there in 2014. He also told me that men in Turkey always have the last word in family discussions – and that it usually consisted of “yes, dear.” Bad humor is universal.

    The next day, Sunday, was our first rug-free day other than the day we had arrived – the rug touts must have slept in. We took the tram from the Sultanahmet stop down to the stop near the Galata Bridge, found a boat tout and signed up for the morning Bosporus Cruise. There was a bus shuttle to the nearby departure point and we soon found ourselves on the water, motoring north near the west bank of the Bosporus. Istanbul is, if anything, more beautiful from sea than by land.

    An hour and a half later we returned and docked and walked across the Galata Bridge – almost impossibly and impassibly crowded with fishermen – to the Tunel funicular and returned to the Galata neighborhood. There we checked out the Mevlevi Lodge near the Şişhane metro stop. The Mevlevi Lodge was a former a Dervish lodge that still had Sunday afternoon Dervish ceremonies. We thought we’d give it a whirl, but, unfortunately, that afternoon’s ceremony was already sold out. Nevertheless, we paid a small entrance fee and checked out the grounds. It had a shaded old Ottoman cemetery and a building that explained the history of the dervish sect. The grounds were quiet, with a peaceful contemplative aura - an oasis after the throngs on Istikal Caddesi and the Galata Bridge. I spent some time photographing old Ottoman headstones; the lettering was in pre-Ataturk Arabic and the headstones were topped with replications of various forms of headgear – fezzes and turbans of varied sizes - that had indicated one’s social status in life back in Ottoman days. (The bigger the turban, the higher the status, an Ottoman analog to Baltimore's "the higher the hair, the closer to God.") After our late lunch, we returned to our hotel via the funicular and tram and packed. We were flying to Izmir the next day.

    That evening, we took a cab to the Hopjapasha Cultural Center for a whirling dervish performance that we’d arranged through the hotel that afternoon. It was visually spectacular, but on some level one recognized that this was devotion, not a tango show, spectacle or entertainment. Afterwards, we walked back up to our hotel, stopping at a likely looking restaurant for a snack of mezze. We went to bed early. We had a flight to Izmir – and the beginning of our Turkish road trip - the next morning.

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    Well, Gottravel, I just stopped laughing-and copying-long enough to thank you for this informative, and really enjoyable, post. Lots of good ideas and descriptions...and the history and commentary are invaluable.

    I want to travel with you and Yestravel :)

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    We would have been more careful if we even had an inkling of the depth of your memory.

    Good writing, good narrative and useful detail and not appreciated mostly because you wrote well of us. -:)

    Deserves everyone's stamps of approval.

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    Two addenda to the above:

    Firstly, We’d bought an Istanbul Museum Pass in advance through our hotel. It cost 85 Turkish lira and covered our entry to the Chora, the Hagia Sophia (technically a museum), the Topkapi Museum/Harem Apartments and the Istanbul Mosaic Museum. The pass is valid for 72 hours after initial use. I’m not sure whether we had any net savings relative to purchasing individual admissions, but the card does allow one to bypass any admission lines, which can become quite long mid-day. By sheer happenstance, we’d visited the two most popular museums, the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi, immediately after opening and in the late after noon, respectively; there were no lines to bypass. On the down side, the Museum Pass will determine what you visit for 72 hours; the result for us was what seemed to be a very briskly paced three days of trying to fit in sites the pass covers.

    Secondly, I omitted the Basilica Cistern, which we visited on our second full day in Istanbul. The Cistern is a vast underground reservoir dating to Justinian’s day. There are over 300 columns supporting the vaulted roof, most of which appear to have been looted from old Roman temples and reused. One walks on raised paths, listening to the sound of dripping water in the dim light. The effect is eerie. Not to be missed are the two Medusa heads in a remote corner far from the entrance. Both support columns, but one has been turned sideways and the other inverted, probably for religious reasons. As we headed to the exit, I thought I saw a group of monks, but it turned out to be people dressing in Ottoman costume for a photography booth, not unlike the period costume photo places one sees in the American West. I wish that they had been monks – there’s nothing quite like some brethren at the cistern.

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    On our fifth morning, we awoke early, had a quick small breakfast at the terrace buffet – they were still setting up – and caught a 45€ shuttle to the Sabiha Gökçen Airport at 8:00 a.m. The Sabiha Gökçen Airport is on the Asian side of the Bosporus. We’d booked our Pegasus flight to Izmir out of this airport because the ticket was slightly cheaper. It turned out to be a false economy: The cab fare made the total price of the flight higher. Moreover, it was long, grueling drive through hellish traffic on crowded streets and highways to get to the distant airport. It took us an hour just to get from our hotel to the immense lofty span of the Bosporus Bridge.
    The traffic thinned once we were on the Asian side, but the airport was still another half hour away. Paradoxically, we’d made good time as we’d scheduled two hours to get us the airport and our noonish flight. We learned our lesson; our return flight almost three weeks would take us back to the Ataturk Airport on the European side.

    The flight itself to Izmir was brief – less than an hour. We located the Budget auto rental counter at the Izmir airport easily. Finding the lot with our rental car took a bit more effort. Our car was a five-speed Fiat Punto hatchback, a model that I’ve driven repeatedly on various European trips. Although we checked the car extensively for any pre-existing scratches or dents, we failed to notice that it lacked the shelf-like plastic piece that hid the contents of the hatchback compartment from view. (This made us reluctant to park in any but the most well-tended parking lots whenever we had our luggage in the car.) Soon we were on our way north to Bergama. The main roads were well marked and relatively uncrowded. Roadwork seemed to be ubiquitous everywhere we went; Turkish highways seem to be one large infrastructure project. Turkish drivers – once outside the pressure cooker of Istanbul traffic – were sensible and courteous. It was a little over a two hour drive.

    We arrived at the town if Bergama without incident. Once there, finding our hotel (the Hera Hotel) proved a bit problematic. The Hera has good signage throughout Bergama and we made it most of the way through town without difficulty. There was a critical sign that had collapsed though. We then embarked on an extended comedy of errors. First, we took the riverside road out of town until it became apparent that we’d left Bergama. We returned on the same road to become stranded for twenty minutes behind a huge truck carrying an immense piece of poured concrete; the truck was so big that it had stopped traffic in both directions. (Traffic only started again following the temporary relocation of a stand selling melons.) Then we tried to take a Roman bridge into the old town, only to be foiled by the increasingly narrow streets once we’d crossed over the river. Since there was no room to turn around, I had to back out over the bridge to the riverside road, causing my own traffic jam as I attempted to back into the busy street. Eventually, we found the right bridge and navigated our way to the hotel by driving along the river and backtracking into the old town. The Hera is wonderful and comprises two buildings with some beautiful enclosed grounds between them. It’s located in the old part of Bergamo, on the lower slopes of the Pergamum acropolis beyond the new town and the river. The main part of the hotel had been a former upper class Greek home. The current owners had rehabbed the house and excavated the underlying wine cellar, which had once housed livestock. Like everyone we met, they were pleasant and extremely helpful in all matters great and small. Our room the Demeter - was in the newer section of the hotel and pleasant with a smallish bathroom and the tiniest sink I’ve ever seen. The Wi-Fi was spotty - but this was a minor issue, something to be expected in the thick stone-walled old houses we stayed in throughout this trip. We were beat and decided to postpone our visit to Pergamon acropolis above Bergama until the next day. I bought a bottle of wine – a good Turkish cabernet sauvignon (“Sevilen Parsel No. 9”) – from the owner’s cellar and had a glass in the open-air “lobby” while YT napped.

    Later, based on the recommendation of the owner, we walked into town for an early dinner at the Bergama Sofrasi restaurant next to the old hamam. We had a stuffed eggplant starter, köfte and chicken shish kebab with Turkish rice and a salad, as well as a glass of wine, again served in a colored water glass. The eggplant and the köfte were good, the chicken a tad dry and the rice tasty, a bit like perfumed Mexican rice. The weather was perfect and we ate outside. Around nightfall, about halfway through the meal, the muezzin in the mosque across the street began the evening prayer call. For once, it was live, not pre-recorded and not being broadcast on tinny loudspeakers, and the man had a wonderful melodic voice. It was the only time that I actually enjoyed hearing the call to prayer during the trip.

    After dinner we walked around town. We resumed our rug habit via visiting an antique store that sold rugs. We were shown a couple dozen and I began to develop an appreciation for the differences in design, technique and even color between the various types of regional Turkish rugs. We then walked to the nearby Kizil Avlu, an immense stack of floodlit red brick ruins that had served as a temple for an Egyptian religious cult, then as a church, and was now closed for repair. It also seemed to be bedding-down ground for all of the town’s dogs – there were half a dozen scattered, sleeping dogs on the nearby grass. They’d open an eye but otherwise pointedly ignore us as we walked by. We went back to our room and our bed via the old Roman bridge, this time on foot.

    We slept comfortably and awoke the next morning to the drumming of rain, the first since our arrival. We had a late breakfast in the Hotel Hera’s incredible breakfast area – it has a floor-to-ceiling glass wall with a view of the entire lower city spread out below us. Breakfast was great, the usual immense array of goodies; by the time we finished eating, we knew that this day was destined to be another lunch-less day. After breakfast, we drove the winding, guardrail-less road up to the Acropolis. It was shrouded in fog and mist with eddies of recurrent light rain. We decided against entering; however atmospheric the site might be in the gray mid-morning, it was too chilly and wet.

    We returned to our hotel and revised our plans. Assos – the next stop on our itinerary – had better weather. We called and found that our planned room was available that night. So we checked out of Bergama a day early and soon were on our way to Assos. Our hosts at Bergama were totally untroubled by our change in plans and premature departure, and wished us bon voyage. Our route – the same we’d mistakenly driven out of town on the previous day – took us first through suburbs and then sparsely populated tree-covered hills in near-constant rain, rain, rain. I mentally compiled a rain-themed mix tape as we drove. At one point, we arrived at a line of unusual conifers so perfectly rounded that they looked like topiary rather than natural vegetation. We were so struck that we stopped to take photographs. (We never identified the trees, but later discovered that we’d driven through a Turkish national park.)

    Once, we rejoined the larger and busier coastal roads, we somehow lost our way in the Edremit sprawl and drove through side streets for half an hour. Frustratingly, we could see our highway, elevated, and a block or two off to our right. What we didn’t see was an entrance to it until we’d driven all the way through Edremit. The drive was otherwise uneventful and the weather slowly cleared. We made it to Assos mid-afternoon ad found Assosalarga without difficulty, driving the last bit on a small coastal road past farmers selling honey and nuts at roadside stands. Assosalarga was another lovely old stone building with a walled garden area. It had a fantastic setting in an abandoned quarry right off a road into town. Our room, the Orsa, was huge and wonderfully decorated, and had great views across a valley. Best of all, it had a king-size bed, the first we’d had since arriving in Turkey. The owner, Ece, was delightful, as was her one female staff person. She gave us all kinds of tips about what to see in the area.

    Assos, aka Behramkale, is actually two towns. One, where we were staying, is spread out over a small hill under an old Greek acropolis. The other is down the hill on a beautiful small harbor, a picturesque small stone warren of homes, hotels and restaurants. We explored both towns a bit, checked out the immense ancient stone walls around the area and then returned to our wonderful room. We later had dinner in the hilltop town, on the balcony of a restaurant with beautiful sunset views. The staff were nice, all the fellow diners were British tourists, but the food was non-descript: A mezze of cold stuffed squash (“courgette”) blossoms; a tasty but oily veal casserole with peppers, onions and tomatoes; a chicken shish – dry – and an Efes beer. We skipped dessert and made our way back through the tiny town to our room and a great night’s sleep behind drawn shutters with a howling wind outside.

    The next morning’s breakfast was lavish – and superb - even by generous Turkish standards. We spoke to length to Ece about local sights and places to dine. She gave us all kinds of tips about what to see in the area, even guiding us – she was driving to Çanakkale on business and guided to a rug cooperative in near Ayvacik ; en route she stopped and pointed out a drive that was supposed to take us near an award-winning modernist house. It turned out the rug collective had just received a visit by a dealer. He’d purchased a two foot high stack of rugs that were pushed aside in a corner. The remaining selection was nice but nothing fit our needs. We then tried to find the modernist house but couldn’t identify anything specific amid the new development that covered the slopes down to the sea. The route did take us through some charming little villages above the sea.

    We ended by driving to Babakale, a fishing port south of Gülpinar and the westernmost point in Anatolia. Babakale is so small that it’s not even on my detailed 1:1,100,000 road map of western Turkey, although it does show a coast road looping south of Gülpinar in the general direction of where Babakale was. Ece had recommended a restaurant there. We followed her directions west towards Gülpinar, but made a premature left turn when we spotted a “Babakale” sign five or six kilometers outside Gülpinar. We soon found ourselves on the worst road we’d ever driven. Once paved, time, the occasional gravel patching and the recent heavy rains had converted the road into a cross between a grandiose goat trail, a broken washboard and what resembled a broken upturned ice floe of rock and old asphalt. By the time we decided it best to turn around, the road was too narrow to permit it. So we proceeded onward at perhaps five kph, moving back and forth across the rutted ruins of the former road to avoid scraping bottom. It took us the better part of an hour to descend to Babakale. As we neared the town, we spotted the fine new two-lane coastal road between Babakale and Gülpinar. The final stretch of our drive took us on a rugged near-vertical descent into Babakale before we finally joined the other road just inside town. Babakale was a sweet town, small, with a crenellated fortress facing the sea front and an immense, nearly empty parking lot. Per Ece’s suggestion, we had a superb small lunch at the Uron restaurant: Fried calamari, grilled octopus and a nerve-soothing chilled Efes beer in a small sea-view dining room. It was so good that it was almost worth the bone-rattling drive. Afterwards, we explored the old fort, circumnavigated the parking lot on foot, examined our car for loose or missing parts and took the sea road back towards Gülpinar. For much of the way, it ran along cliff-tops and we had superb views of the deep blue Aegean.

    Back in Assos, I walked up to the Assos acropolis, pausing to photograph a turkey on the way. Passing by the immense walls, I paid a small admission and entered the acropolis area. Little of the acropolis remains after twenty-five centuries, just a platform and handful of upright Doric columns (Assos has the only surviving Doric-style architecture in Anatolia) from the Temple of Athena. It did have an incredible view of the countryside, the sea and the nearby Greek island of Lesbos.

    That evening, initially in pursuit of a sunset view, we went to the Okin Motel – another Ece recommendation - for dinner. This involved driving twelve kilometers in the direction of Gülpinar, taking a left at the “Okun Hotel” sign, then driving down towards sea level. Immediately before reaching the sea, there’s a road – again signed Okun Motel – that went off to the left. By the time we arrived it was dark, and the motel didn’t have a single light on. However, there’s a drive-through through the building that then turns immediately to the left and a sea-side parking lot. About a hundred meters down a dirt trail there was a brightly lit dining-room. We had arrived! As we approached, the lights on the trail were turned on and we could actually see. The dining room was small and homey, and we took our place on cushions propped up against a wall behind a table. The meal that we had restored our flagging faith in Turkish cuisine. We had an eggplant mezze, fried eggplant rounds, stuffed courgettes, a yogurt/mint/garlic sauce/dip, a huge salad, good bread, grilled sea bass (YT) and grilled kofte (GT). This was followed by delicious slices of melon and some tea. It had been a dark drive into a dark parking lot - and the best meal of our trip to date. We returned to Assosalarga and another night in the wonderful bed as the night wind again howled around the building.

    The next morning, we cut our stay short at Assosalarga. (We’d originally been scheduled for only two days, but had arrived a day early.) The weather had cleared back in Bergama and we wanted to see legendary Pergamum acropolis. So we called the Hera. Yes, they had vacancies; we could even stay in our old room. And we had a long drive the day thereafter to Pamukkale, and starting in Bergama instead of Assosalarga promised to cut hours off the trip. We called the Hera. Yes, they had vacancies; we could even stay in our old room. So, we had another great breakfast and hit the road. Ece and the female staff person (I’ve forgotten her name) tossed water at our car as we left, a traditional Turkish custom indicating that they wished that we’d return.

    We chose another route for the return trip. Instead of turning right and driving the coast road after Edremit, we would continue onward to the interior and drop down and approach Bergama from the north as opposed to from the West. Unfortunately, one of the by-products of the ever-present road construction is that both paper maps and Google maps are never entirely up-to-date. Coupled with the fact that Turkey rarely has street signs and secondary roads have minimal road signs and no route numbers, driving the back roads can be an adventure and a challenge. In our case, we were flummoxed between a non-existent road on Google Maps and missing place names and roads on our big western Turkey map. We eventually wandered narrow roads with sparse signage through hilly Turkish farm country, passing countless roadside stands selling a variety of produce, nuts, honey, home-bottled fruit juices and home-canned items. We picked up some dried apricots, grapes and almonds – variations of this were going to be our “on the road” lunch until we returned to Izmir two weeks hence. Our wanderings took us through numerous small towns; the women’s head scarf quotient increased the further we got from the sea. Cafes filled entirely with men stared at us blankly as we drove by. We eventually made it back to the Hotel Hera in Bergama, threw our luggage into our room and immediately headed off to the acropolis. The acropolis was spectacular. The highlights were the Trajan Terrace, the amphitheater and the walls. The Roman-era ruins were much larger and in much better condition that those of Assos and, like Assos, had spectacular views.

    Back at the Hera Hotel, as we checked our emails and the days’ photos, we met some fellow American travelers, the first that we’d met since leaving Istanbul. They were ending their trip of eight weeks – their last destination was Assosalarga and then they were on to Istanbul, then Barcelona and then home. They gave us some tips about our upcoming destinations and we gave them the details of our culinary quests in Assosalarga. They also turned me on to menomen, a Turkish scrambled egg/tomato/pepper mixture that would become a breakfast staple for the rest of the trip. We talked for an hour and agreed to stay in contact by email going forward. We had different dinner plans, so we bade farewell. It had been cold since we left Istanbul, so YT and I went into town to buy some socks (YT) and a scarf (me). We had a quick and early dinner of a meat/cheese pide (a Turkish pizza), a coke and a bottle of water for the princely sum of 12 Turkish lira. The owner watched with some amazement as I put spoon after spoon of mild Turkish hot pepper powder on my portion of pide. Then it was back to the hotel. We had what promised to be a long day on the road the next morning.

    Note: Because of our split stay in Bergama, we didn’t have the time to visit either the Archaeological Museum or the Asklepeion, which I regret. I also would have liked to have done some more walking in the old part of town where the Hera is located; there were some beautiful old houses there and the area had the feel of a Greek village.

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    In some Terry Pratchett novels of the Disk World there are little imps which can be carried along to record everything. I bet you had one with you.

    but I caught one error. The flight from Istanbul to Izmir is actually not less than one hour but about 65 minutes. Hah!

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    Just catching up on your wonderful TR - thanks for posting, YT and GT. Sounds like it was quite an adventure! Nice that you were able to be so flexible, too.

    I hope we will get to see pictures of THE rug at some point. :-)

    Looking forward to more...

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    Hi YG -- thanks for following along. Funny about the photos of rugs. At some point during this process I realized there was no why I could keep straight all that we were seeing that we liked. I started taking photos. For the rug we finally bought for some reason I took the worst photo--distorted colors and bad angle. I didn't notice this until after we had bought the rug and gotten it all folded and packed for travel. Consequently when I looked at he photo of the purchased rug I pretty near hated it. I went the last week or two of the trip fretting that once home the rug wouldn't work.

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    Two days on the Road

    We had a quick breakfast at the Hera. As we were leaving, we again ran into the American couple. They had recommended that we visit Aphrodisias in addition to the Hierapolis ruins at Pamukkale – reinforcing our plans to somehow add this site to our trip. We were on the road by 9:30. Where earlier drives had taken us past farm stands with an array of produce, we were now on the melon route: no nuts, no dried apricots, no raisins, no honey. Just melons, stand after stand of spotted or striped yellow melons. At some stands they appeared to have been deposited via dump truck; at others, they were as carefully stacked as 19th Century cannonballs.

    It was a longish drive on mostly narrow roads through beautiful countryside. We saw no signage for Pamukkale en route, even as we approached our destination. We instead headed for the nearby city of Denizli. As we approached Pamukkale via a road in a wide valley, we saw it off to the left, a distant white patch in dun hills. We thought for a while that our GPS routing was off. It showed us driving down a major road for ten or more kilometers and then doubling back on the same road to exit. The GPS was correct; it was a divided highway with some road work on the other side of the barrier. We did indeed have to exit and then reenter the highway going the other direction before exiting towards Denizli. A quick conference with the attendants at a gas station pointed us towards Pamukkale and we were on our way.

    We arrived at Pamukkale around 2:00 and managed to find our hotel, the Ayapam, after ten minutes’ search. Pamukkale gave the impression of a town devoted to tourism: hotels, tour buses, souvenir stands, groups of Japanese burdened with multiple cameras per person. A line of tourists threaded their way up the face of the white cliff and its travertine pools. I’ll be the first to agree that authenticity in the historic sense is extinct in the modern era of mass travel. That said, neither of us are particularly fans of the hyperbolic artificiality of tourist towns – and Pamukkale reminded us of a summer beach town…Ocean City transplanted to the hills of Turkey.

    The Ayapam hotel was modern, white, empty and a tad antiseptic. The staff were cheery and helpful. After examining the room we’d booked, we opted to switch for a larger room with a king-size bed. Even the larger room was a relative bargain at 90€ a night. We dropped our luggage off, plugged in our devices for recharging, played around with the Wi-Fi a bit, and then drove to the entrance to the ruins of Hierapolis above the pools.

    In a sense, Pamukkale has been a tourist town since antiquity. In Roman days, people had come here to “take the waters” at the travertine pools. A temple/spa complex had grown up on the hilltop above the cascading series of pools. The resulting ruins cover a vast area. The site also offered superb views of the valley and hills as well as of the highest levels of the travertine pools. By careful maneuvering, I was able to get some nice shots of the pools that excluded the tourist hordes.
    The impression the pools gave was at almost that of an arctic landscape, the pools and the white stone appearing from some angles like banks of melting snow.

    The ruins themselves were impressive as was the surviving statuary in the museum. Several of the major streets had been uncovered, so one felt like one was walking in the footsteps of the Romans. (You actually enter the town through an old Roman gate.) A number of buildings were well-preserved, notably the public latrines. We watched with some bemusement as a Turkish bridal couple posed for photographs outside the old Roman “latrina” on an ancient street lined with two rows of columns. We actually were a bit overwhelmed by the size. We spent over two hours there and covered perhaps half the site, forgoing the far gate as well as the amphitheater. We also skipped on the healing pool near the museum, having neither urgent health requirements or swim suits at the moment.

    We drove back though touristy Pamukkale to our hotel. The Ayapam is on a “half board” basis – we would eat dinner there as well as breakfast. Dinner started serving at 7:00 and we arrived promptly. However, dinner at the Ayapam was a bit like dinner in an assisted care facility. The waiter waved us to a table with two saran-wrapped plastic plates with small portions of salad, melon slices and a larger plate with a selection of cold bland mezze. The meal itself consisted of a combination of chicken, köfte and rice, none of it particularly bad.

    We had a quick breakfast and left early – before nine - the next morning so we could visit Aphrodisias en route to our ultimate destination of Kaş. The route to Aphrodisias turned out to be much easier than it looked on the map and we made it in perhaps 90 minutes, stopping in route to buy a memorably tasty simit from a man with a cart at a gas station. Once at Aphrodisias, we parked the car in a parking lot across the road from the entrance and took a shuttle (you can also walk) into the grounds. The admission was inexpensive – a mere ten Turkish lira per person for magnificent ruins that rivaled those of Ephesus. Our walk inside the grounds took us first to the Sebasteion, with its wondrous outside statuary. After that we veered left and visited the amphitheater, the remains of the baths, the portico of Tiberius and baths of Hadrian. We then walked past the temple of Aphrodite – now just a few standing columns – to the gigantic stadium. The scale of the stadium is simply jaw-dropping, larger than some modern football stadiums. Then we backtracked to the temple of Aphrodite to view it from another angle, moved on to the Odeon (a small outdoor amphitheater) and finished at the Tetrapylon. The Tetrapylon served as a ceremonial gateway into the grounds of the temple of Aphrodite. It is in very good condition – almost all of the roofing is intact - and stands as a representative of Roman architecture at the peak of the Roman Empire’s power. It is, in a word, fabulous. Our next destination was the museum. It housed a fine collection of Roman statuary and bas-relief and we spent almost as much time there as we had on the grounds. Overall, I would rate Aphrodisias, in all its Greco-Roman glory, as one of the high points of our trip.

    The ride on to Kaş required some backtracking – via Tavas to a large highway – but was both easy and enjoyable. (YT particularly enjoyed the mountain scenery on the drive as I had to concentrate on driving.) We made it in about four hours after leaving Aphrodisias in the early afternoon. There are no signs for Kaş; instead we followed the signs for Fethiye until it came time to turn east towards Kaş. After the Kaş turn-off, the road winds down to a cliff-top drive cut into a rugged coastline that somewhat resembles the Amalfi Coast (without cars or tour busses). We stopped occasionally for cliffside views of the lapis-colored sea. Eventually, we turned around a headland and there before us was the new marina on the west end of Kaş. We had arrived at another of the highlights of our trip and what was to be our home for the next five days.

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    You obviously missed the gate to the underworld at Hieropolis. It was discovered recently by Italian archeologists that many used to believe that this was the place because of the sulphourous fumes escaping out of the large hole among the rocks.

    You would not have been in any danger though. The Roman beliefs, unlike the Semitic ones, do not involve Satan and his minions pulling innocent people in to their own domain.

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    We seem to have an infallible ability to take the longest possible route to any destination. I started to take the exit by the new marina, but we decided to go on to an exit closer to the center of town. I did a quick u-turn and returned to the highway. It went up and up, until we were way above Kaş. We then entered the town on the eastern side, via a series of switchbacks that led us down through residential neighborhoods. Far below us we could see a harbor, a waterfront and a minaret. We headed to a hotel-rich area adjacent to the waterfront. We had no idea where our lodging, the Cachet Hotel, was. Nor did the first three people we asked. Finally, a desk clerk summoned a hotel manager. He indicated that the Hotel Cachet was “about three of four kilometers away,” out on the Peninsula just before the new marina. This kicked off a series of vertical drives that took us back up to the route on which we’d arrived, then back to the exit we’d bypassed on our initial arrival forty-five minutes earlier. We soon spotted a “peninsula hotels” sign and turned onto the adjacent road. After that we saw our first “Cachet Hotel” sign and were on our way.

    The peninsula seems to be the foreign quarter of Kaş. There were numerous expensive houses and villas perched on cliffs above the sea. “For sale” signs were in English. There wasn’t a mosque in sight - we were to be blissfully beyond earshot of electronically-enhanced muezzins for five tranquil days. The Hotel Cachet was almost at the very end of the peninsula. We arrived at it by going down a 45º drive slope on the narrowest of roads to Meis Hotel’s parking lot and then making a sharp upward right into the Hotel Cachet’s parking lot. (The layout was so confusing that we initially had tried to check into the Cachet at the Meis Hotel office.)

    The Cachet was a modernist boutique hotel owned and managed by an Anglophile Pakistani. It was constructed so that all twelve of the rooms had sea views. Indeed, as the owner proudly pointed out, “even the car park had a sea view.” The interior layout was superbly designed, with two stories of glassed open space that flooded the ground floor lobby with light. The small car park was on the first floor immediately above the lobby. There had apparently been some unfortunate “incidents” in the current season, as the glass had been cracked in a couple of places from incautious parkers. The car park, as well as the first and second floor rooms, was accessed via a circular staircase. The hotel also had a ground floor restaurant, an outside dining terrace, a pool underneath the terrace and a further series of smaller terraces below the pool. On the horizon, about a kilometer away, was the Greek island of Kastellorizo, the easternmost of Greece’s many islands. Our room was comfortable and, after five days in living-out-of-the-suitcase nomadic mode, it felt good to unpack. The king size bed was comfortable. However, the bedding – both the sheets and the blankets – seemed to have been made for a smaller bed. This resulted in a night of somnolent struggle over the covers; we resolved this by getting a second set of sheets and blankets the following morning. Henceforth, to each his or her own.

    It had been a long day. We’d driven from Pamukkale to Aphrodisias, toured Aphrodisias, backtracked almost to Denizli to pick up the road to the coast and Kaş, and then wandered Kaş for the better part of an hour in search of our hotel. The roads had been in good – albeit near-constant – repair, well signed and had taken us through the most spectacular countryside so far this trip. We were exhausted and opted to dine in at the hotel’s Manzara Restaurant. It was a good decision. We started with stuffed “vine” [i.e., grape] leaves, smoked aubergine and spicy sautéed haloumi cheese. All were great. The cheese, studded with sesame seeds and in a sauce of peppers and tomatoes, was particularly good. We then had ali nazik (lamb slices sautéed with onions, pepper and tomato served atop smoked aubergine and topped with a yogurt sauce) and hunçar begendi (lamb on mashed aubergine with yellow cheese). Both dishes were wonderful; for me in particular, it was great having something that was robustly seasoned. We accompanied dinner with a good red wine (“kalecik kamsi,” if I’m interpreting my handwriting correctly). We split a superb baklava with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

    We spent our first day in Kaş exploring the delightful little town on foot. We fingered ceramics, tried on clothing – half of ours was either in the hotel laundry or hang-drying on our balcony – and poked our heads in a couple of rug shops, where we were pleasantly surprised to find the prices lower than what we’d seen elsewhere. We took some photos of some likely candidates and moved on. We ate a small lunch (fried calamari and some eggplant dip) at Zeitoun, a nice restaurant near the waterfront. Much later, on the recommendation of the Cachet’s owner, he made us reservations for dinner that night in Bahçe (“Garden”). Specifically, he made us reservations at the right Bahçe, since there are two nearly adjacent restaurants sharing this name. Ours was an open-air garden. In lieu of choosing from the menu, I went over to a large array of mezze and indicated what I wanted. We had: hummus (less garlicky than, and not as silky as, the Arab kind – almost like a coarsely ground garbanzo paste); feta cheese with green peppers; a mildly spicy cheese; superb fried calamari; great stuffed mushrooms; fried pastries stuffed with pastirma and cheese; and the ubiquitous smoked eggplant puree. And an Efes. We definitely over-ordered, but somehow finished everything off. Funnily enough, our waiter that night at Bahçe was the same waiter we’d had that afternoon at Zeitoun.

    The next day we drove to Myra to see stone-carved Lycian tombs and the Roman amphitheater. The Lycian tombs were literally carved right into a cliff without any apparent overall plan. The openings are modeled on temple facades. A few had hand-carved scenes. Some of them now serve as storage rooms for houses in the village that has grown up to and sometimes around them. The adjacent amphitheater was well preserved, but by now we’d pretty much gone off amphitheaters. (Ancient amphitheaters seem to have survived the turmoil of the passing ages better than any other ancient structures; however there’s not much in the way of differentiation among them.)

    We skipped the semi-obligatory visit to the nearby Saint Nicholas Church in Demre, home to the bishop now known as Santa Claus. After our excursion, we returned to Kaş and our hotel – both the town and our hotel were so pleasant that we were becoming reluctant to leave them for any length of time.

    That afternoon, we returned to one of the rug shops and began some serious negotiations for a rug we’d been eyeing. After some apple tea, and back and forth, we settled on a price to be paid in cash. Our acquisition – a slightly vintage 5’ by 6’ red and blue “tribal” carpet with natural dyes and a subdued pattern – was folded and tucked into a black carry bag. It’s a perfect fit for our living room. I think the combination of being in Kaş late season, paying in cash and carrying – rather than have the seller ship – the rug all contributed to what we feel to have been a favorable price.

    That evening, we ate at Mergan, a seafood restaurant near the waterfront. We had some rubbery calamari and a piece of overcooked desiccated swordfish. Not recommended – this ranked as one of the worst meals of our trip.

    A description of Hotel Cachet would be incomplete without describing the breakfast bar. I had my first menemen there the morning after our arrival; I liked it so much I had it every day thereafter. Since the breakfast buffet also contained cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, a variety of olives and a feta-like cheese at breakfast, I also made myself a little breakfast salad every morning. The coffee was excellent, not the Nescafe that seemed to have regularly popped up elsewhere. For traditional breakfast eaters, there were also cereals and breads. I found out the first morning that every guest at the Cachet, other than ourselves, was from the UK. Later, I spent some time talking to a Scots couple that had retired from the jewelry trade and moved from London to Scotland. They thought it was hilarious when I asked if they had moved there for the climate.

    Our third day was spent on a boat trip to Simena, Karakoy and Kerkova Island. The American couple we’d met in Bergama had given us the names of the captain (Abdullah) and the boat (Azrum) they’d taken on a sail from the small fishing port of Üçağiz a couple of weeks earlier and whom they’d highly recommended. We’d written the name of the boat down on a slip of paper and, when we arrived at the dock in Üçağiz, we’d asked for Abdullah and showed the slip of paper to some people on the dock. Unfortunately, the initial attempt to write “Azrum” – “Arzu,” apparently a viable word in Turkish – was on the other side of the paper and one of the people on the dock had a boat of that or a similar name. So out we walked on the dock, the person ignoring our questions of “Abdullah? Abdullah?” as we walked past a boat clearly labeled Azrum. When we arrived at the Arzu, it became immediately apparent that this was not our boat. A surreal dockside comedy then ensued, with us pointing to the word “Azrum” on the slip of paper and Captain not-Abdullah turning it over and pointing at the word “Arzu.” Finally, YT took the piece of paper and tore off the portion with “Arzu” written on it and crumpled it up, which displeased Captain not-Abdullah. We started walking back towards shore (and the Azrum) with a gesticulating Captain not-Abdullah and a crowd of on-lookers. Fortunately, a woman had hunted down the real Captain Abdullah in the interim and we met him on the dock. There was some back and forth between Captains Abdullah and not-Abdullah before not-Abdullah gave way and we boarded the Azrum.

    We hoisted anchor and were on our way. Our first stop was Simena, an ancient fortress town. As we sailed along the shore, we noted numerous Lycian tombs, these free standing but also carved of what appeared to be solid pieces of rock. Although he didn’t speak any English, Abdullah was wonderfully attentive, serving us grapes and water and dried apricots. Abdullah docked and we set out to explore the town. YT by then had developed a blister, so I was on my own ascending to the fortress. I was thankful for the shaded narrow streets as I ascended the hill; it was getting hot. The fortress itself wasn’t that interesting. The adjoining Lycian stone tombs were. They resembled gigantic versions of the old-style post boxes you see in the American countryside. We returned to the boat and cast off for the half-sunken ruins of Kerkova. An earthquake had tilted this ancient city on its side and slid part of it into the sea. There were still some standing ruins on land, but also gates at, and stairs leading down to, the water’s edge, as well the submerged foundations of ancient buildings visible through the shallow turquoise sea. We were only out for maybe two hours, but I cannot recommend this mini-cruise more. The ruins were interesting and the surrounding landscape rugged and spectacular. We returned to Üçağiz, paid Captain Abdullah and headed towards our car. The last time we saw him, he was standing on the dock responding calmly to a gesticulating tirade by Captain not-Abdullah.

    We had a nap on our return to the hotel in early afternoon and then set out on foot for an early dinner (we’d again skipped lunch). Tonight we had made reservations at the restaurant Ruhi Bey. It took an effort to find the place; we asked repeatedly in the old town. Most people hadn’t heard of it. Finally, a man who owned a tour business googled it and sent us off in the right direction. Ruhi Bey was lovely, a nice small outside restaurant on a small side street. The meal was superb. We had four mezze chosen from an array in the kitchen – the marinated fish and the rice with mussels were particularly sublime. Our mains, a moist sole şiş and köfte, were also superb. We had a bottle of excellent Turkish sauvignon blanc “Majestic.” We loved this artsy little place. I photographed a large painting of Ataturk with a glass of raki in his hand. And we both fell in love with the background music by the exquisite Turkish jazz vocalist Birsen Tezer. We highly recommend this restaurant. We walked around a bit after dinner – I went to the folk music record store to see if they had any Birsen Tezer CDs (they didn’t). We ended the evening with baklava with vanilla ice cream back at our hotel restaurant.

    The next day – our last in Kaş - we headed west along the coast, stopping first at Kaputaş beach overlook for the views far below of the shallow turquoise waters and the small sandy beach. Then we were off the see more ruins - Patara and Xanthos. Patara was fantastic. It had a superb standing city gate, a nice amphitheater and a partially reconstructed assembly hall that offered a glimpse of life into the ancient past. YT’s blisters were still hobbling her, so she remained in the car while I quickly explored. Unfortunately, I’d missed the turn-off for the Patara ruins parking lot and had instead parked at the Patara beach parking lot. I had to backtrack from the beach parking lot on foot to the ruins. It was a kilometer of trash, goat dung, broken glass and low thorny plants - but worth it.

    Xanthos was next. It consisted of another amphitheater and an elevated Lycian tomb with a nice frieze around the top. These nice roadside ruins had free entry – a rarity. On our return drive to Kaş, we stopped for a late lunch at the roadside Gümüş restaurant. It sat atop a cliff with a view of an immense expanse of sea and some small islands. We took a table under an arbor and ordered a couple of mezze, some fried calamari and a bottle of delicious rosé. It was a delightful sunny afternoon and we had this beautiful place to ourselves once a nearby table of touring Germans finished their meal. Nothing could be more perfect than sitting there, sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the spectacular view. We could have lingered for hours.

    But we had to pack. We took our unfinished bottle of wine and headed back to the Hotel Cachet. We had our final meal in the Manzara Restaurant of the hotel that night, a semi-repeat of our first meal there: fried cheese, vine leaves, ali nazik and lamb şiş, accompanied by a bottle of yakut red. It was good. We looked forward to the next day’s drive to the Datça Peninsula with a mixture of anticipation and sadness.

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    A quick note: I’m writing this trip report in Word and then copying it, by completed segment, to post on the Forum. Word’s spell-check keeps trying to change the word “aubergine” to “aborigine.” To date I have caught and corrected these changes, but I’m concerned that one may slip by. So, for the record, we do not eat aborigines. Indeed, we find the very concept quite distasteful.

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    gottravel, those who have acquired a taste for aborigines would be disappointed in Turkey. The Lykians, or the Hittites may have eaten them all up when they conquered Asia Minor at a time when cannibalism was considered haute cuisine. Various Middle Eastern governments and rebel groups supported by civilized Western powers such as US and EU still practice this possibly ethically and religiously acceptable ceremony.

    I can understand why fried calamari has such an emphasis in your report after seeing you sneak pieces from Yestravel's plate.

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    CORRECTION - there is a small fee for Patara. One must drive thru a gate on the road towards the beach and the ruins. We paid an admission fee there. Patara looked like it might be a delightful village to stay for a few days.

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    OC - Perhaps that's why they substitute "aubergines" on the menus in Turkey nowadays. To your second point, I've seen videos of said practices occurring in one of your neighboring countries.

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    Still following along, too! Glad to hear you got to stay awhile in Kaş - sounded wonderful. I'm not a fan of moving around a lot, but totally understand why it just makes sense for some trips.

    Loved the Captains Abdullah and not-Abdullah story!

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    Datça and Lake Bafa

    We were on the road towards the Datça Peninsula immediately after the next day’s breakfast at the Hotel Cachet. We made a brief detour near Fethiye to visit the Salikent Gorge. We were fortunate to arrive before too many tour buses. The Salikent Gorge is every bit as beautiful as it’s billed to be, a deep narrow shaded canyon filled with a rushing stream tinted bluish-green from dissolved minerals. The entrance is at the downstream end of the canyon; the lower part of the canyon walls here are smooth and cursive through erosion. We took a suspended walkway maybe a couple hundred meters up the gorge, but skipped renting plastic sandals and going further up the rugged gorge in the chilly waters.

    After Fethiye we took a nice road onward to Datça and further misadventures. After Marmaris, at the base of the Datça Peninsula, the landscape becomes largely empty, extremely rugged and very picturesque. We stopped for photos. At some of the higher points, the seas on both sides of the Datça Peninsula are visible at the same time. As we approached Datça town the landscape become lower and more populated, an expanse of olive trees and vacation homes. We passed little roadside farm stands selling almonds and all things olive.

    Our destination was the Serenity Pension in Hayitbükü. Unfortunately, we didn’t have directions and couldn’t find the town on our maps – digital or hard copy. We’d noticed recurring signs for a spa/resort place called the Olive Farm as we’d approached Datça town. We figured an English name meant English speakers and we were right in a way – enough to get directions to Mesudiye, which is either another name for Hayitbükü or close enough to it geographically that it didn’t matter if it wasn’t. This ended up being expensive advice as we bought a large tube of olive oil skin lotion while we were in the gift shop getting directions.

    Having directions and following them are two different things. We followed the instructions to go right at the circle and then go right again when the road split. We ended up at the dock for the ferryboat to Bodrum (which is on the next peninsula north from the Datça). This was somewhat disconcerting, as we understood Hayitbükü/ Mesudiye to be on the south side of the Datça Peninsula. After some roadside consultations with a passerby, we determined that we’d taken the second right prematurely. Back we went, rejoined the old road, took the right fork and promptly became lost again, eventually driving through a tiny town with streets so narrow we feared encountering any oncoming traffic in any form – on foot, hooved or with two or four tires. Eventually, our route did take us to Mesudiye – in retrospect, it had been the equivalent of a big detour around Datça town – and we found ourselves rolling down a big hill to small beach far below and followed the signs to the Serenity Pension.

    The owner was out of town and his irrepressibly cheerful mother greeted us. She showed us our room on the second floor above a restaurant. It was simple and spotlessly clean, had two single beds and a window that overlooked the beach across the street. But it was very small. Our belongings at this point consisted of two carry-on size rolling suitcases, my daypack, and two gym-size bags, one YT’s and the other containing the rug we’d bought in Kaş. We barely had space to fit them in the room. We eventually built what amounted to a baggage barricade between one of the beds and the wall by the window. The bathroom was microscopic – small enough so that you could, with minimal effort, shower and use both the toilet and the sink simultaneously. In addition to the bathroom’s unusual efficiency, it was also low-ceilinged; I hit my head on the top of the low bathroom entry doorway. After stacking our luggage, we walked around the town. The beachfront was beautiful and, this late in October, almost empty despite the gorgeous weather. At the restaurant next door, staff were setting up a band for a wedding party. We sat in the outside part of the downstairs restaurant and used the WiFi to catch up on friends and the news – we found that we were still without an operational government. Later we had dinner in, fixed by the owner’s mother: mixed mezze, grilled fish (YT) and excellent manti (GT). The beds were comfortable. We went to sleep listening to the delightfully raucous Turkish wedding music and awakened to the sound of the Aegean lapping gently on the beach.

    As much as we liked Hayitbükü, the lady at the Serenity Pension and the Serenity Pension’s budget charm, we had decided to move on. The room was just too small; perhaps we’d been spoiled in the Hotel Cachet. (That said, I would nonetheless recommend the Serenity Pension for solo budget travelers; it has everything going for it except room size. And Hayitbükü would be a wonderful town in which to spend some down time.) After our delicious breakfast, we guiltily informed the lady we were leaving a day early, paid up and were on our way.

    We had repeatedly changed our lodging on this trip, departing (and arriving early) several times without a word of complaint from hotel owners. It was low season, and I cannot speak for summer travel, but I think we could have made the whole Aegean portion of our trip – from Bergama through Lake Bafa – without reservations. Selçuk, due to the popular Ephesus ruins, would have made the sole exception.

    We’d identified a modern hotel in downtown Datça, Konak Tuncel Efe, the previous evening. And they had a free room. In fact, as it turned out, they had numerous free rooms – we were to be the only guests that night. We arrived too early to check in, so we dropped off our luggage, parked our car and wandered the town. Datça is a prosperous town, perhaps from the summer domestic tourist trade. The street outside our hotel was lined with gourmet shops selling local products including olives, olive oil, various honeys and an array of nuts and jams. On the other side of the hotel there was a beachfront walkway that curved around the harbor. We returned, moved our luggage to our (spacious) room and undertook an automobile exploration of the Datça Peninsula. As we drove further west, the rugged mountains returned. We marveled at the spectacular views as we drove out to ruins of Knidos on the tip of the peninsula. On the way back, we stopped and bought a huge bag of almonds from a be-whiskered roadside vendor. Then we sought out the ferry boat (“feribot”) landing at Karakoy to explore the possibility of taking a ferry to Bodrum rather than driving the curvy mountain road back to Marmaris and then undertaking a lengthy drive to get us to Lake Bafa. The two hour ferryboat ride represented a savings even if the 105 TL fare didn’t. And there was a 9:30 ferryboat departure the next morning – perfect for us.

    We had an early dinner that evening – we’d again skipped lunch – at the highly-recommended Papatya, which was within walking distance. We had good mezze, a so-so shrimp casserole and an ali nazik that was good, but not as good as the Manzara’s. Afterwards, we again walked the romantic waterfront – crowded now - before heading back to our room. We laid in bed with the window open and listened to a guitarist singer playing what sounded for all the world like flamenco. Then we turned in.

    We were ready to roll after the next morning’s breakfast, made it to the ferry with time to spare, charged our ticket, and drove on to the largely empty boat. We were soon crossing Homer’s wine-dark sea. I spent my time catching up on notes and had just finished by the time the Bodrum waterfront and the Castle of Saint Peter came into view. (The Castle contains a highly-regarded Museum of Underwater Archaeology.) Bodrum, as well as the Bodrum Peninsula, has a number of ancient sites in addition to the renowned museum. Had we had more time, we would have spent a couple of days there. But we didn’t and we didn’t – soon we were on our way out of town to Lake Bafa, our next destination, via Milas.

    What is now Lake Bafa had once been part of the Mediterranean, but had been sealed off by silt deposited by the Meander River in late antiquity. Since then, it has lost its salinity and become a fresh water lake. It’s dotted with ruins from both the Roman and Byzantine eras. We were staying at the Selenes Pensione, which is located on the upper shore of the lake in farm country shortly before the place where all paved roads end. The Selenes Pensione is comfortable and locale is bucolic. The grounds – it’s actually a working farm – overlook Lake Bafa. Our “premium” room came with an extra bed and a nice balcony. The second bed was a blessing as the first was too small for the two of us. (I’m 6’3” and tend to sleep somewhat diagonally.)

    We’d arrived mid-afternoon and, shortly after we deposited our luggage in our room, went for a walk. We made it maybe 100 meters – it was way too hot for a walk. We bailed and took a drive instead. The countryside is both physically spectacular – rugged stony hills – and has a seemingly endless number of Roman walls, some in very good repair. We headed up to a small village in the hills where we chatted with a gentleman who was a relative of one of the Selenes’ owners or the wife of an owner. We were on half board so we had dinner on the outside terrace restaurant: mezze, salad, grilled chicken and köfte. All were good and the portions were too generous to finish. We lingered. We loved the sunset view. Donkeys brayed, chickens clucked, cows lowed and muezzins wailed. Country life.

    The next morning we had a walk and then a breakfast that was huge even by Turkish standards. Then we drove to see the spectacular ruins of Didmya, less than an hour away. Didyma was a temple complex, not a city. The ruins largely consist of one well-preserved temple of Apollo that had been constructed on a colossal scale. The surviving pillars are immense in circumference, dwarfing those of the other Greek and Roman ruins we’d seen. We’d arrived fairly early in the morning and had the ruins almost to ourselves for a while. We wandered around, taking photos until the tour buses showed up. Then we drove around the surrounding town, which seemed to consist largely of new, oddly-colored apartment buildings.

    We skipped lunch (again) and returned to the Selenes Pensione for a boat trip to the Byzantine monastery and fortress on an island on the lake. The shore along the route was incredibly rocky, with some spectacular boulders. The ruins were awe-inspiring, if only because someone would build a monastery in such a remote and unlikely site – and then have to build a fortress to defend it. Byzantine architecture, by the way, is almost instantly identifiable once you’ve seen it – they built with alternating rows of brick and rough-hewn stone. We spent most the remainder of the day on our balcony, relaxing among the last of our drying laundry. Dinner the second night was mixed mezze (some different from the previous night) and a kind of mixed grill. It was again good and we were treated to another vivid sunset.
    Later that evening, we had the bug debacle. Contrary to instructions, we’d forgotten to turn the room light off when we sat outside on the balcony. When we opened the balcony door to re-enter the room, we had dozens of tiny uninvited guests coming with us. They were harmless – they didn’t bite – but uninvited company can be irritating. We spent some time hunting them down and shaking off the bedclothes. Country life. We were ready for some thing a tad less rustic.

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    When will you admit that this is all imaginary and that you wish you had taken such a trip?

    We have a friend from Atlanta who lives in Bafa town about four months of the year and owns the olive grove above the water cistern and pumping station about a kilometer down from the fork towards Kapikiri. Would have told you but he was back in the States at that time.

    Don't you think that those cube shaped boulders just before Kapikiri look like dice from a game the Olympian gods played with their markings eroded or washed away?

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    Wow, GT, I have really enjoyed your travel log. You are a wonderful "word picture" painter. I've also enjoyed OC's editorial comments. Fun reading. We are going to Turkey next March, but I'm afraid we will be part of those "touristy hordes" you mention with polite disdain above. No offense taken, believe me. If we had any experience in this part of the world, we might have been brave and attempted an ad lib trip, but chose a Gate 1 tour for our maiden trek there. Hopefully, they are among some of the less obnoxious groups.

    I did have a question for either/both you and OC or anyone else who cares to chime in. I read some banter at the top of this thread about "touts." Having traveled extensively in the Caribbean, Mexico and South America, we are used to vendors who are eager to share their wares and relieve you of as much of your money as possible. We usually smile, say "no thanks" or "just looking" politely in the local language, unless of course, we are ready to part with our money for some treasure we can't live without. Is that sort of approach ok in Turkey or is there a better way to see what's available without giving any sort of false hope to the vendors? We have absolutely no idea what things we may fall in love with once there, so if you also have any hints on what is good to look for (or avoid), I'd appreciate that too. I love textiles and ceramics, as well as spices and coffee from anywhere. My husband likes art in all forms.

    Thanks again so much for a wonderful read - you really should go pro. :)

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    Thanks. Caribbean and some Mexican touts we found to be much worse than those in IST. In IST they are soft spoken and polite and don't pressure you. We would just say, "no thanks" or "not interested" and that usually stopped any "touts." Since we wanted to buy a rug we did acquiesce to several and would go into their rug shops. We made it clear we weren't ready to buy which did not seem to dampen their hospitality or their enthusiam. I think your approach sounds just fine, but maybe OC as a local can comment. Once you leave Sultanahmet quarter no one will bother you.
    Have a great trip!

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    One note: All the touts we met were for carpet shops. They were all very civil. And we like apple tea and looking at carpets. We had a mini-education in Turkish carpets by the time we left Istanbul.

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    Selçuk & Ephesus

    We left the Selenes Pensione for Selçuk early the next morning. Early for us, that is. About 9:30 or so. It was to be one of those days on the road that makes road trips the wondrous things they are. Our coastal route took us first to Miletus and the large, well-preserved Roman amphitheater there. The true find of the area was the nearby Ilyas Bey mosque. We’d parked immediately outside the grounds, awakening a guard who waved us in. We had the place to ourselves! This mosque was built in the pre-Ottoman era (1404) using marble taken from Miletus and is a model for beauty in simplicity. There’s little in the way of ornamentation, but what ornamentation there is, is extremely well done. The Arabic-style stone calligraphy over the door is particularly exquisite. Simple, beautiful and empty – except for us. Highly recommended.

    Next, we drove through cotton fields to Doğanbey, then out the Dilek Peninsula in search of a national park. We never found the park. The road hugged the low south shore of the peninsula and we drove all the way to the end out of sheer curiosity. We arrived at a seaside restaurant, the Karina Balik. The tables were under palapas on the beach, literally two or three meters from the sea. The kitchen was in a largish stone building across the road. We looked at each other; it was lunchtime and the place was largely empty. We parked, walked over and took a seaside table. A Turkish foursome sharing a bottle of J&B scotch at a nearby table looked at us with some amazement. They asked how we found the restaurant – “not even Turks know about this place.”

    A guy from the table took me to see Paşa. Paşa was a foul-tempered monkey tethered to a wall next to the stone building. The turquoise-colored plastic tether was the exact same shade of turquoise as Paşa’s vivid testicles. Somebody – clearly not Paşa - had put some thought into this exercise in color-coordination. We went inside to look at mezze and chose three from an array of twelve or so. We also ordered some fried calamari and a glass of white wine. Everything was delicious.

    After our impromptu seaside lunch, we backtracked to Doğanbey and the cotton fields and then took the road on to the ruins of Priene. Priene is a purely Greek site without Roman influence. Although it was easy to figure out the layout of the ancient town, there wasn’t much of it left besides foundations. The one exception was the Temple of Athena, which had few columns standing. Much of the nearby area was scattered with regular segments of the fluted columns, most in fine condition. They had a hole in the middle and the area gave the overall impression of the aftermath of an explosion in a stone cogwheel manufacturing plant. Before visiting Priene, we had briefly stopped by a open-air restaurant for glass of pomegranate and orange juice. We talked a bit with a San Francisco couple who were on the second day of their third trip to Turkey, a ten-day food tour. Although they seemed in fine form, I had a passing bout of sympathy jet lag.

    After Priene, the rest of the drive to Selçuk was entirely along the coast. We passed endless multi-storied modern apartment buildings. We passed Kuşadasi, then turned inland to Selçuk and our hotel, Ephesus Suites. Ephesus Suites is a small four-room hotel located on Anton Kallinger Caddesi near the Isabey Mosque and the ruins of the 16th Century hamam, four or five blocks off the route that leads to the lower entrance of the Ephesus ruins. It has a small enclosed garden and four large luxurious rooms. We instantly loved this place, and settled in for a four day stay. After we’d deposited our luggage, we explored old town Ephesus, first having an espresso and a pastry at the pleasant St. John Café, then crossing into the pedestrian section. I found a record store and bought a copy of the Birsan Tezer CD I’d been looking for since hearing her in Kaş. Some of the stores in the pedestrian area were closing down early, as the next day was Kurban Bayrami, the Feast of the Sacrifice, a Muslim religious holiday. (For a couple of days now, we’d seen sheep and goats being carried to various public sites or tethered to people’s homes for the upcoming sacrifice.) Because of our lunch, we skipped dinner that evening, although we did share a dessert at Amazon, a restaurant down the street from the Ephesus Suites – a delicious nutty cake with vanilla ice cream.

    We missed almost all of the holiday carnage. After breakfast early on the morning of the holiday, we’d driven to the upper gate of Ephesus only to find it closed; it was opening late due to the holiday. We returned to the hotel. We went to the ruins of the Basilica of Saint John in the late morning and saw a deconstructed sheep in a family’s bloodied courtyard en route. The Basilica of Saint John is the ruins of an early church devoted to, as well as the alleged burying place of, Saint John of Patmos. This Saint John – there are many - was the author of the Book of Revelations, a thinly-veiled screed against the Roman Empire included in the New Testament. The Saint John ruins were extensive and interesting, with a view of overlooking the Isabey mosque. The building must have been enormous in its original form.

    By early afternoon, government pickup trucks were driving through the neighborhoods with loud speakers periodically playing a message urging residents to bring out their undesired animal parts. The bed of the pickup truck was a bloody mess of skins, hooves and shiny sheep innards. Shops were reopening.

    We returned to the Ephesus ruins in the late afternoon, again driving to the less-crowded upper gate. We really enjoyed the ruins, in particular the roofed terrace section (there’s an additional charge) where we were on a suspended walkway above roofless old Roman houses viewing their mosaic floors and painted walls. The public latrines at Ephesus were also fascinating – we briefly eavesdropped on an English language tour guide explaining how they were a public gathering place and town business was conducted there. The much-photographed Library of Celsus is stunning. Since we’d come in late afternoon, the ruins were not very crowded and became less crowded as the afternoon progressed. The late afternoon light was great for photography and I took dozens and dozens of photographs of largely people-free ruins. All in all, I’d rate the Ephesus ruins as being up there with those of Aphrodisias – and Ephesus is a lot easier to visit.

    When we returned in the very late afternoon, we briefly stepped inside the Isabey mosque courtyard – it had high walls, old columns and slanted shadows - and vowed to revisit it in full daylight. That evening we ate at Wallabies, near the aqueduct in the Pedestrian area. There are people of Trip Advisor who like it. We didn’t.

    The next day we decided to return to the Dilek Peninsula and the Karina Balik restaurant. We started immediately after breakfast, stopping at an outlet mall in route. I had an espresso at Starbucks; Neil Young was playing on their sound system. We wandered a bit – I found a copy of Birsen Tezer’s other CD – but an outlet mall is an outlet mall is an outlet mall. We left. We arrived at Karina Balik right on time for lunch: More mezze, calamari, an excellent grilled sea bass and some white wine. It was every bit as superb as before. Then came the long drive back to luxuriate in our room. We had a small dinner at Amazon that night: fried cheese, spicy adana kebab and a baklava dessert.

    Next morning, we slept in, had a wonderful late breakfast, wandered the pedestrian mall, bought some snacks from a bakery, and bought gifts. Then we undertook a drive to Sirence, a nearby hill village. It turned out to be market day and a tour bus hell – narrow impassable streets filled with buses, cars, tour groups, Turks on holiday, and vendors. I can see Sirence’s attraction and believe that it is a pleasant town most of the time, but we found it nerve-wracking, particularly since we drove through the crowded town once only to find that we had to return by the same route! We finally parked on the outskirts of town, walked around a bit, bought some last minute gifts and then left. Back in Selçuk, we returned to the Isabey mosque. We talked to the kindly former imam – he ran a ceramics shop just outside the mosque – and then checked out the mosque. The actual interior was sparse, undecorated and not very interesting. The courtyard, however, was as beautiful as I remembered from before – much of the construction recycled stone from both the neighboring Basilica of Saint John and Ephesus. Since The Basilica had also extensively recycled stone from Ephesus, there are probably elements at Isabey that had previously been in both sites.

    Later, we packed – this was our last night – and went out for a superb dinner at Ejder’s Restaurant, across the pedestrian street from the lamentable Wallabies. Everything was good...stuffed grape leaves, mushrooms with cheese, adana kebab – probably sourced from one of the sacrificial victims - and a perfectly grilled sea bass. And an Efes. The perfect end to a perfect stay in Selçuk.

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    And a perfect addition to your excellent, and oh-so-helpful, TR.

    You seem balanced in your reactions to sites and restaurants and drives....and towns, which provides one the opportunity to modify plans and expectations. And just reading your descriptions is a terrific travelog in itself. Just great !

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    Last Days in Istanbul

    We had a late breakfast and a late morning drive to Izmir and the airport. This was our last view of the beautiful mountains of Anatolia. We returned our rental car without issue. Despite our dilatory tactics, we were still early for our flight so we checked into the “CIP Lounge” for 25 TL per person. The WiFi and snacks made it worthwhile, particularly since it turned out that our flight was delayed for almost two hours. Eventually, we boarded our plane and were off. The flight was short and uneventful.

    Our hotel this time was La Sagrada, on the other side of the Golden Horn. We’d chosen this hotel for the large rooms and enormous beds as well as its proximity to both the Osmanbey Metro stop and the stylish Nişantaşi neighborhood. We checked in and were soon ensconced in a luxurious room overlooking a broad avenue. We changed clothes and headed out. We had 8:00 dinner reservations this evening at the Leb-I Derya Restaurant on the roof of the Richmond Hotel at the far end of the Istikal Caddesi pedestrian street. This entailed taking the subway one stop from Osmanbey to the Taksim Square stop, then walking down the Istikal Caddesi pedestrian street. The subway portion worked effortlessly. We hadn’t counted on the Friday night crowds on Istikal Caddesi; it was slow going. We arrived a little late.

    It felt odd eating in a high-end restaurant after weeks of informal dining. After initially being seated away from the windows, we’d scored a window table with an incredible view of the city falling away below us down to the Bosporus Strait. The food was superb, a modern take on Turkish cuisine. We had eggplant puree with goat cheese, lamb şiş with pomegranate marinade served over risotto and a mixed lamb and chicken kebab with grilled peppers served over eggplant. We accompanied it with a glasses of rose and white wines. The meal came at DC prices, but it was worth it. The foot traffic had thinned on Istikal Caddesi by the time we left and we made good time returning to the Taksim Square Metro.

    The next day we breakfasted on simits from a nearby bakery and had espresso at a coffee bar across the street. We briefly explored the Nişantaşi neighborhood as we turned down Rumeli Caddesi and stayed on the same street – but followed a sequence of name changes - to arrive at the waterfront near the entrance to the Dolmabahçe, the “new palace” built in the mid-19th Century. We checked out the grounds around the entry way and then bought tickets for the 12:00 English language Selamlik tour. The Selamlik tour focuses on the state rooms and the ceremonial halls. It also includes a visit to the room where Ataturk died in 1938. Unfortunately, once the tour started we had a hard time following our soft-spoken guide, in part due to the size of our group and in part due to the energetic noises made by several small children in it. The Dolmabahçe – I’m not quite sure how to put this – feels almost imported, rather than Turkish like the Topkapi. There’s a kind of lavish rococo extravagance to it. Coupled with the immense scale (it’s one of the largest buildings I’ve ever been in), it borders on the overwhelming. The most interesting section, in my opinion, was Ataturk’s bedroom in the three room section of the immense palace that the founder of the Turkish republic had sometimes stayed in. The clock is stopped at the hour of his death and his deathbed is covered with a Turkish flag. After the tour, we walked the grounds by the Bosporus; it was easy to see why the Dolmabahçe had been built where it was. The views were stunning.

    To avoid the long uphill climb, we took a cab back to our hotel. We had a late lunch at one café – I had my first döner kebab in over three weeks - and then pastries and tea at the nearby House Café. (Perversely enough, the best döner kebab I’ve ever had was in Halifax, Nova Scotia.) We walked around some, but rather than undertake extensive Nişantaşi explorations, we had a nap that afternoon.

    That evening we took a cab to our dinner at Lokanta Maya. Lokanta Maya (Kemankeş Caddesi #35) was in a small waterfront neighborhood close to the Galata Bridge; our cabdriver was unfamiliar with the street and we had to show him our destination on YT’s iPhone. Once we got there, the traffic was so heavy that we paid off our driver a couple of blocks from our destination and went the rest of the way there on foot. The meal we had that Saturday night was the culinary highlight of our trip, a testimony to what can be done with what may be the world’s freshest ingredients. We started with crispy fresh anchovies and zucchini fritters. Both were sublime. We followed with caramelized sea bass (!) and a lamb leg with polenta. Both were superb, simply superb. We accompanied dinner with a bottle of nice local merlot (I didn’t note the name in my prandial stupor). We finished with a shared dessert of mattique pudding, ice cream and sour cherry sauce.

    We decided to take the metro back. Rather than take the funicular (the “Tunel”) up to the Șişhane metro station, we decided to scale the heights on foot. It was an exhausting walk up from the area near the Galata Bridge. We paused for breath once, looked about and found ourselves a block from the Galata Tower, one of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks. We considered visiting – it’s open at night and is supposed to have a fantastic view – but shook our heads and continued our ascent. We almost jumped for joy when we saw people entering the Șişhane metro stop. All of our southbound metro trains had been marked for Taksim Square; we didn’t know if the trains even ran one stop further to Șişhane. We thought perhaps it had been closed. It turned out that, due to what I can only assume to be track work, the train from Șişhane only runs one stop to Taksim. Then one can transfer to another train for onward stops, including Osmanbey, via the simple expedient of walking through a tunnel to the opposite side of the platform.

    The next day was the final day of our trip. We had a last breakfast of simits and made our now familiar way on foot down to the waterfront near the Dolmabahçe and walked to the Istanbul Modern Museum – we paused at one point to take photos of one Istanbul’s colored staircases. After four weeks of constant visits to historic sights, it was a pleasure to visit the Istanbul Modern. This is a superb collection of 20th Century painting. As fortune would have it, the adjacent building was hosting the last day of the Istanbul Biennial. I’ve a generally dubious outlook about contemporary (as opposed to modern) art, but the Biennial show was one of the best of its kind I’ve seen. After our visit(s), we walked up the Bosporus to the Kabataş to meet otherchelebi and his charming wife at 3:00 for a mid-afternoon lunch/dinner. I was amazed in the number of people who now crowded the strait-side park; it had been close to empty three or four hours earlier.

    The four of us took a ferry from the Kabataş waterfront to the Asian side of the Bosporus (I think to Üsküdar, judging from my map) for the grand sum of 3 TL per person. From there we took a cab to the Ismet Baba restaurant. Ismet Baba was a fish restaurant housed in an old weathered wooden building. We had mezze – I didn’t take notes, but the tuna and the calamari were memorable standouts - and grilled fish, accompanied by some tasty Yeni Raki. After our meal, we wandered around the colorful Kuzguncuk neighborhood, taking photos of the old Ottoman-style houses and the brightly painted walls. Then we took a cab to the ferry and the ferry back to Kabataş. OC gave us a ride back to our hotel.

    That evening, we tried to go to our hotel rooftop to see the full moon. As it turned out, the La Sagrada rooftop was closed Sundays. We rushed down Rumeli Caddesi to the Sofia Hotel, a beautiful modernist hotel with a rooftop lounge. There we were treated to the view we had been seeking: the full moon above the ever-changing colors of the Bosporus Bridge. This is how we will remember Istanbul.

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    Oh my goodness Gottravel, what a wonderful trip report. I am so eager now to get to Turkey...whew. I bookmarked all the suggested hotels in the towns you visited, and will revisit the itinerary as we get closer. Am I correct that you did not make it to Troy or Gallipoli?

    and your description of the driving sounds a lot like our adventures in Portugal, so reassuring that this would be doable for us. Thank you for your detailed and amusing descriptions. How were the aborigines cooked? sauteed or broiled (:

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    Hi! Spouse of GT here. you are correct we did not go to Troy or Gallipoli. We did meet a couple along the way who had and very much enjoyed it.

    We visited Portugal the spring after our trip to Turkey. By and large we thought the secondary roads in Portugal better than those in Turkey and there was better marked routes. Our GPS worked much better than in .tureky. But as you read, we had no real trouble in Turkey that couldn't be corrected.

    Glad you found the Te useful. Have a great trip.

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