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Trip report Instanbul, Cappadocia, Cirali, Selcuk

Trip report Instanbul, Cappadocia, Cirali, Selcuk

Old Apr 6th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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Trip report Instanbul, Cappadocia, Cirali, Selcuk

Trip Report for 2 ½ weeks. Took this a year ago with much planning based on this site but always takes a while to complete my report. Sorry for the length but always use this for my own records. What a memorable trip. Email me if you have any questions alederberg at yahoo.com.

Five Nights in Istanbul. We took the advice of others and stayed in Istanbul for 5 nights (4 days) in the beginning of the trip and we are glad we did. Saw the normal sights. Won’t repeat them. Only mention some things might miss. In addition to the Aya Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topaki (we got there when it opened and got harem tickets right away then spent 4 hours wondering. We could have gone back but didn’t have time), other sitest not to be missed that might be overlooked Suleymanii Camii (beautiful) the amazing and beautiful Cistern off the Meyden on Isik Sokuk, My son loved the Beyazit Camii which he went to when he sought out the second hand bookshops at Sahaflar Carsisi to buy a Koran for a friend back home. The one thing we took a taxi to was the Church of the Saviour in Chora. Don’t miss this! Unbelievable frescos and mosaics that survived because they were plastered over after it was “turned into” a mosque. The taxi drive was interesting.. the taxi drove down a one way street the wrong way to get there and waved at the policeman sitting in a café at the end of the street. Had a snack at the Cigdem Patisserie daily (on the Divanyolu cad just up from the Aya Sophia). Bought lovely gifts (pottery at the state-run fixed price shop off the Meydani) just before we went home. Very reasonable and good gifts for everyone home. We really hated the aggressive sellers so didn’t buy anything else in Istanbul except some headscarfs so we can be dressed appropriately to enter mosques.

We went on the ferry ride up the Bosphorus from ferry docks in Eminonu to Anadolu Kavagi. Although we got there ½ hour before we did not get a seat outside. The inside was very big, stuffy, and noisy and at first I was very disappointed (though my son thought it okay to sit inside). Instead of sitting inside, we stood out front leaning against the sits and eventually were able to find a place to sit. Lovely trip. Got off at the farthest part and walked up to the park and had a picnic. Was a bit scruffy but beautiful view to the Black Sea. Then took the last boat back. Defintely recommend it. On the way back at the ferry docks, realized my small purse was missing. I think it was stolen, my husband thinks I dropped it. In any case, hotel was very helpful (validesultan) to help us cancel the card. We were very lucky that we had brought to visa cards. AMEX is useless in Turkey. Especially since our ATM card didn’t work for half the trip (we think we overdrew it). Would bring to ATM cards to two accounts next time I travel.

We stayed in three hotels in Istanbul. Although we usually like to stay in the same place, I’m glad we did because each was different and because they were close together moving was not a problem.

We arranged a pick up from the airport through Kybele hotel and stayed there 2 nights. The décor of the hotel was fun (antique lamps from the roof) and the folks were especially nice at the front desk. Breakfast was the best we had in Turkey. Expresso machine for coffee. There is a nice internal courtyard. 100 EUROs/night

We then moved to Hotel Valide Sultan for three nights. www.hotelvalidesultan.com
We found a discount rate for this hotel through Orbitz and contacted them directly. They matched the rate (85 Euros). This hotel looks like a fake Ottoman hotel and is not as atmospheric as Kybele. On the other hand, the rooms are nice (if the décor is a bit much). We had a beautiful view from our room of the Bosphorus. The rooftop restaurant was wonderful. Views to the Bosphorus. Breakfast was great on the rooftop. The folks on the frontdesk were warm and friendly. We definitely would stay here again. (but beware of problems with overbooking reported on Tripadvisor).

We did not have great luck finding good restaurants, mostly because we were trying to save money (4 of us and weak dollars). The one recommendation I’d say is the one I got on the website. Lipsos. About the midpoint of Istiklal cadessi, near Galatsaray Square is the Cicek Pasaji, the old Flower Market (which nowadays seems to sell fish.) Turn left off Istiklal pass by Cicek Pasaji and then turn left on first street Nevizade cokak. The fish was wonderful, mostly local folks eating, and great live music started about 8. (we sat upstairs). You can make reservations which I wish we did. We did not like Beyoglu (Istiklai Cadessi) Taksim Square. I know some people stay up here but we were glad we didn’t because it was so busy. But is definitely the place of action in Istanbul. Local young adults cruising on Friday night. Again never felt unsafe. So I would definitely go but was glad we had not stayed here.

Cappadocia
Flight on Turkish Air to Kaiseri Airport from Istanbul (booked on the web before we left. About 100 Lira). Booked the car through Proper Travel. We had booked through Eurocar but it was expensive. We contacted Proper Travel (of Murat on Fodor’s talk forum) due to the information I picked up on the Fodor’s website. We were met at the airport by a nice man who did not speak English, (his second language appeared to be Russion) but was fine. The only misunderstanding was we did not know that when you drop off the car at the airport you call the company and they come and get it at arrivals. Luckily when we got to Ismir there was a porter who volunteered to call them. It was a good example of how Turkish people go out of their way to help you (without necessarily sharing a common language).

We drove to Gamirasu Hotel. Was a wonderful hotel, if you have a car or are going to hire a guide to tour the area. especially for a family ($150 for a cave suite that included 2 rooms that open into the hall, with a Turkish table, and small bathroom). Rooftop terrace sits across a ravine where kids play in the caves, women make bread once a week. The hotel is the only tourist place in the village was the most traditional (untouched) of any place we stayed. And the owners and staff are delightful. However, traditional means gender segregated so my daughter and I did not feel comfortable going into the village shop. It was clearly a male world, with the women clustering on the street and in their homes. Not that we felt endangered just not part of the customs for women to be in there. So was a good view to rural Turkey but I actually enjoyed Avanos better.

Gamirasu Hotel www.gamirasu.com

First day: We got recommendations from the front desk. Although we did some of the regular touring we went to great lengths to avoid tour groups so this is suggestions for those who are similarly inclined. Cappadocia was everything people said about it. My only complaint is that there is not a “hiking” guide. Instead recommendations were really for classic touring and trekkers I think are expected to take a guide. Not a bad idea and at the Gamirasu Hotel, there was someone who had Suleymann as a guide. He was very nice. The hotel says there is hiking from it. I walked up the ravine but it really isn’t great. On the other hand, there are nice walks near the hotel. Turkey does not seem set up for independent hiking/walking and camping. That said we enjoyed poking around and enjoyed the beautiful landscape. This was my husband’s favorite area and he would have liked to have spent longer. I too but wouldn’t have missed anything else to stay longer.

We poked around and found two great places to hike:

Stopped and walked through the landscape on the right on the road between Urgurp and Avanos (across from a tourist stand).
Secondly, take the road south from Urgup toward Mustafpasa (or Ayvali where Garmaisu is), turn right toward Pancarlick Churches. A wonderful walk to see churches and monastery. We went at twilight so it was empty. We also stopped by the side of the road between Urgup and Avanos, just before a tourist stand on the left and meandered through the strange rock formations.

Avanos. We really liked this town. It felt like people really lived there and were very friendly. Spent the afternoon in a carpet shop (Galerie Yoruk). Compared to the one place we went into in Istanbul were good prices. We love our rugs so who cares. Two brothers, one speaks English other French. We speak both so we had fun. The only carpet shop we genuinely liked being in and did not feel pressured or taken advantage of. They have a website www.galeriyoruk.com

We also went into a couple of shops buying nuts and scarfs. Avanos is known for its pottery though we didn’t care for it. The shopkeepers did not speak English and the customers were clearly local. A nice experience. Children returning from school to go home (across the river) to the new part of the town. I would think about staying here if I had a car and wanted something that was rural but not touristy. Clearly more “modern” than other small towns, less gender segregation, but not at all industrial.

Walk up to the castle in Uchisar at sunset. Incredible. Ate in French restaurant from a guide book in Uchisar. Excellent food and would heartily recommend it. But can’t remember the name and don’t have the guidebook with me. Sorry…

Visited the underground village of Kaymakli. The drive there is boring but the village is not to be missed (I’m sure similar to other). But my son fell into a hole and hurt his arm. Entirely his fault.. you’d think he’d grow up by 18. These underground passageways have holes to the passageways underneath. Most are lit but some arent’.. he went into one that wasn’t and fell to the next level. We thought he broke it. He fainted from the pain and the men around the entrance were very caring. The small town was evident. They knew the owner of our hotel and were very solicitous. They were going to call an ambulance but we decided Philip had just fainted and could be driven. We took him to the hospital at Neveshir. They took good care of us (found a security guard who spoke some English. She stayed with us the whole time. Took an xray and told us it was sprained. Even walked us to the pharmacy to buy an ace bandage. Cost us $30). Turkish Hospitality again.
Had thought about going to Ilhara Canyon. Given time press glad we didn’t because just exploring the area around the hotel was great.

May 31 through June 1 Drive 7 hours to Antalya. Decided not to make reservations. Was a long drive. Did not have time to stop in Konya. Only part of the drive was boring, as others have noted (only between Nevishir and Konya about 3 hours). Definitely stop at sultanhani where there is a stunning selcuk caravanserai. The trip from Konya to the coast was really nice.Went from Konya to Seydenhir down the mountain to Side. As we drive through the mountains it was really surprising how no place to stay was in the area. Just a few industrial/commercial towns. Great road and good gas service. Stopped to get gas in seyideshir (I think) and was offered tea. Gas station owner gave us some state brochures in French and german (had used up English) and refused a tip for his hospitality. I had thought we might stay in Beyeshir when looking at the map in the US, but it turns out it was out of the way and we didn’t have time. Someone in cappadocia recommended Egirdir but not instead.

We got to Side without reservations and stayed in very inexpensive hotel recommended by Rough Guide. Good breakfast with Okay rooms. Nice view of the harbor. Definitely a good choice since we were passing through though would not have liked to stay long. Side was a good location, easy to find, and not the traffic Antalya would have had. It also made us appreciate the rest of the trip. Talk about a tourist trap. The ruins were really nice but the husslers come at you without stop because there is no admission to get in. Then the tourist in the “car free” zone were really obnoxious. Was the only place we felt really overwhelmed by both husslers and tourists. Boy were we happy to get out of there.

Did not go into Antalya. It really is a big city and we were told by Carrie (from Hotel Canada) that our car would have been a pain. Instead we went to Termossos. Boy was that terrific. Spent the entire day wondering around the ruins on the mountaintop. By the end of the day we were the only ones there. Weather was perfect, sunny, 70s. Our only regret is we did not bring lunch because we thought it would get too hot (but the elevation keeps it cool I think). So starved but couldn’t leave until 4.. One of the best memories.

June 2 through 5 Cirali Olympos (on Mediterranean Coast)

Canada Hotel
[email protected]
http://www.canadahotel.net/
It is listed as Kemer in tripadvisor but it is really in Cirali/Olympus. You can walk up the beach from Cirali to Olympus and see the ruins or just sit on the beach in lounge chairs that belong of the restaurants that line the beach. They do not hassle you to buy anything, though we always bought drinks from the one that owned the chairs we were in for the day.

This is really the only place that is “unspoiled” along the coast that we saw. The hotel is on a road leading down to the beach. The hotel has a lovely garden. Road/ hotel is between two rock “mountains” just beautiful. Owners are incredibly nice. (posted pictures on tripadvisor)
The hotel is everything people say it is. I was a bit nervous about staying in a hotel named Canada in Turkey. Carrie is a Canadian but lives in turkey with her husband, Saban. It was a nice balance hearing about Turkey from an expat (carrie) and getting to know the wonderful Turkish staff. Saban supervises the fabulous food at dinner, some of the best we had in Turkey. Definitely worth buying dinner with room. Breakfast was just okay with instant coffee.. our only complaint. We just went to the beach for our fix mid morning.

The whole area is laid back and simply gorgeous.. We spent two days biking to the beach (the hotel lends the bikes to you), hiking to Olympus in the evening. Wish we could have stayed longer. I think having rooms on the second floor facing the garden are the best. Nice little patios to sit on and gaze out over the trees to the mountains. Carrie and Saban and their staff will do their best to make your stay perfect. Go up to see the flame at Chimaera at night (though we went too late and stumbled down in the dark. It would have been better if we had a flashlight). Other thoughts.. had thought about taking one of the boats on the Mediterranean. Glad we stayed in Cirali instead. Was a nice break from sightseeing. Water and air temperature was perfect.


June 5 Decided to stop half way to Selcuk. Looking at the map Fethiye seemed the place and Carrie recommended an inexpensive hotel which we thought was on the coast way but which was, for us, a good half hour out of the way. We seemed to take twice as long to drive this coast road as Saban did. Probably took about 5-6 hours to go from Cirali to Fethiye. So to then have to drive more than ½ hour out of our way made us grumpy. Anyway we didn’t like what we saw so we turned around (I posted an honest review on Tripadvisor but people got cross so I won’t say anything here. I think if we had had the time to use it as a base it would have been okay). Went on to Gocek which is an upscale marina/coastal town right off the road. A great advantage if you’re just trying to get from Cirali to Selcuk and don’t have the time to explore. We were nervous about arriving without reservations and asked around for a place to stay for 4. Someone in one of the hotels which was too expensive for an overnight stay (for two rooms) recommended check out thethat aparthotels. Stayed in Leventin Apart Hotel which was a really good deals (I think about $60 for a two bedroom apartment). Was basic, but reasonably clean, comfortable beds but we never figured out the hot water. Still perfect for an overnight stay for us.

Next day we got up and drove to Selcuk via Didyma (Temple of Apollo), Millet, and Priene. Was not a difficult drive and seeing the ruins were well worth it. Actually went into Didyma and Millet but by the time we got to Priene we were over the top with ruins and decided to just look at it from the outside.
Arrived in Selcuk around 6 and went to look at the Basilica of St John.

Stayed in Hotel Akay

http://www.hotelakay.com/
We stayed here based on a recommendation from Carrie from the Canada Hotel. I couldn't imagine a better place. We did not make reservations until the week before. There is an old and new hotel portions (different prices). We stayed in the new hotel with two rooms on the top/third floor. We had our own patio that looked out over the pool and surrounding countryside. The rooms were spacious and very comfortable. The food at dinner was really good. We almost didn't eat here because our experiences at hotel restaurants had not been very good (except at Canada Hotel). But both nights were excellent. Diamond, the one in charge, is a bit crusty but we really liked him.

I had been concerned that Selcuk would be a tourist trap since it was next door to Ephesus. Instead it was an unspoiled town with lots to see and very friendly but not pushy locals. The hordes of tourists are bused in from the coast. It was one of the only places (outside of Avanos in Cappadocia) that we weren't pressured at the stores so it was where we bought presents for ourselves and others. Very interesting history with modern statutes.

Price was 80 lira a night pre room. This is less than what was posted so you might need to bargain for it.

Ephesus. Make sure you get there early and start at the bottom of the hill. The only negative is you don’t get an audioguide. But the difference in crowds is unbelievable. When we started (probably about 9:30 I couldn’t get my family moving fast enough) there were really only a few people around. In fact, I got some pictures of the famous library with no one in them! 20 minutes later the hordes came (literally) down the hill. We ducked into the roman villas then which you pay extra. Luckily we had met some people in Olympus who told us it was worth it. It definitely was. Beautiful and again empty because we had beat the rush.


June 6 through 9
Flew back to Istanbul from Izmir.
Istanbul
Sergun Firidin
Hotel Sari Konak

www.sarikonak.com

Was the most disappointed with this hotel of all places we stayed in. Location was good, rooms just okay though clean. The service was really unfriendly and impersonal, especially compared to other hotels. They didn’t wake us up on the morning we left and acted like they did not remember we were to have breakfast early (they did give it to us). It also seemed to cater more to Americans than the others.. the computer had an American keyboard. On the other hand, the roof top patio was good (though not as good as Valide Sultan). Did not serve breakfast in it which seemed odd but also there isn’t a restaurant so you can sit up on it all you want. We sat up there on our last afternoon, played checkers and looked out over the Sea of Marmara. What a trip!


I also hardly recommend planning through the Tom’s Turkey trip planner

http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/







Millie64 is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2008, 07:59 AM
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Great report.

When we went last March, it was the 2nd trip for me and my younger son, but the 1st for DH and older son. I also suggested we start at the bottom of the hill and the amphitheater and library were empty! Great photos!!

And - yes - the terraced houses were worth the extra cost!!!!
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Yes, darling, I do agree that Chora is fabulous and most people skip this gem.

I hope you toured the Dolmahbace Palace.

Thingorjus
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Old Apr 6th, 2008, 10:12 AM
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actually I missed the palace though saw it from the ferry. Always good to save something for next time! forgot to mention the archeology museum in Istanbul. Easy to miss next to Topaki but well organized with just the right amount of information for neophytes to make it interesting.

In the interest of completeness found hotel in side. yasa motel http://www.sideyasamotel.net/. Would only stop if you're doing the drive we did and want a cheap stopover. good breakfast.
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Old Apr 7th, 2008, 01:46 AM
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Hi Millie64,

Nice trip report and happy to hear you were satisfied with your general trip. Really nice and fine details.....Thank you for sharing.

I personally learn from every trip report something new and different....

I was surprised the car rental guy was speaking Russian I just figured out reading your trip report regarding car rental.....

Amex is a difficult issue in Turkey as the bank charges are so high ( like 3,5%) thats why usage is low except at big shops & vendors for higher amounts only.

I have a comment on Tom's Turkey Travel Planner....One may not use all the services and information on his site but as far as I know he provides a lot of general information and he updates frequently....He has more pages on spesific information than even our tourism ministry does on its web site......

I fely sorry for your son what happened at Kaymakli... I wish you did call us or owner of your hotel. Locals knowledge and influence on vendors makes a difference one would definately come and help you further. Here I would like to advice fellow travellers, if they come accross to a difficulty not to feel difficult on calling one of the persons they know as point of reference in the place they are staying. This can be comforting and sometimes life saving....

Carrie is really a nice person so his husband and very helpfull. ( Ihave similar feelings about Fethiye with few exceptions So I wonder what was written in trip advisor.

If you went to Nevizade in Istanbul during a weekend I can imagine the traffick at the restaurants which adds a different character to its atmosphere.....

Take care and greetings from Cappadocia,

Murat





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Old Apr 7th, 2008, 07:26 AM
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Thank you Murat. Your postings helped me plan this trip (not to mention your great job in arranging for our car hire). I did not mean the rental agent spoke Russian as his first language. He spoke Turkish, which we did not. It was just his second language was not English so we had to communicate through non-language means. But he was very nice and it was a great experience.

Re my son. Actually we did not need to call anyone because the vendors (who did know the owner of our hotel) were so terrific and gave us all the help we needed. They spoke English and were willing to help us in any way we needed. They brought water and ice for my son, and were very concerned about his welfare. Luckily we didn't need anything except directions to the nearest medical facility (but they offered to call an ambulance).

Thank you Murat for all your contributions on this message board. Locals like you make our trips more enjoyable.
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Old Apr 13th, 2008, 11:56 PM
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Thank you Millie64 for such a wonderful and detailed report...
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Old Apr 19th, 2008, 11:45 AM
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you're welcome. Sometimes it takes almost a year to do but I get so much out of other trip reports on fodors that I feel it's so important. Plus I get to relive the trip months later. In fact, i've spent the last week in Turkey (though I've been at work).
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Old Apr 19th, 2008, 12:33 PM
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bookmarking
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Old Apr 23rd, 2008, 10:34 AM
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Fun to read this. We were in Turkey a couple of years back (second trip) and loved it. We also stayed at the Hotel Canada in Cirali. In Cappadocia, we stayed in Goreme, but took a day trip to Avanos - people spoke French to us there, which was interesting. (I don't speak much French, but growing up in Canada, you learn some by osmosis.) Anyway, this brought back great memories - thanks for posting!
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Old Apr 26th, 2008, 09:22 AM
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Yes. interesting that residents are oriented to both French and English (though many people spoke neither. which was fine with us. Although I understand they have some "foreigners" who own houses in the area, there was less of a touristy feeling, while still having interesting places to see to the place.
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