Category Archives: Israel & Turkey 2013
Well 3 actually……Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian and Thai and we will then be in Brisbane.
Yesterday we had a wander around and saw a bit of Turkish life beside the Mamara sea, BBQs, sunbaking on the rocks (no Russian chicks Harry), fishing, bread venders and the Spice Bazaar. Leanne also got interviewed and videod twice by school children wanting to speak to English-speaking tourists.
Not a lot more to add as I must close down and get ready to go.
But I must say something about food. Buffets, buffets , buffets. I think have had my fill of buffets. After 4 weeks going around on buses in Israel and Turkey the gulet trip was a relief from buffets. The food on the boat was simple but very tasty. Two grilled sea bass meals were excellent.
BUT there has been no bacon for 6 weeks, not a pig to be seen. So I have declared war on the pig and will set about it on our return. Bacon and eggs for breaky, ham and tomato sandwich for lunch and a roast pork dinner with baked vegies.
So I know sign off until next time.
Well, I am still catching up on the blog sitting here in Istanbul. We leave tomorrow for home so there is still a little bit more time to go before we hit the long drag to Australia, via Amman and Bangkok, about 36 hours all up with stop overs. Too long, better planning required next time.
We headed off for Oludeniz at 5am so as to cross the Fethiye Gulf before the wind got up and roughed the sea up. Heard the gulet get going but rolled over until 7am. Breakfast is about 8am each morning so there is no need to rush.
Oludeniz is one of those magic sort of places where the ocean laps at the shoreline and then spills into a lagoon across a pebble beach/spit with colourful umbrellas and beach chairs. Lots of people lounging about on the sand. We paused here for a swim, the Captain always announces swim times with a loud ‘everyone swimming’.
After awhile here we backtracked into Fethiye Bay and stopped over the next few days a various islands and coves for swims and exploration. Gemiler Island where it is believed the original tomb of St Nicholas is located, along with the remains of several churches from the 4th to 6th centuries.
Tersane Island which showcases the ruins of a number of cottages from the early 1920s when the island’s population was shifted to Greece following the Turkish war of independence. There is now a farm covering the area with sheep, goats, cattle and donkeys wandering around getting fat. A major operation for the farm though is operating a bar and restaurant for travellers like us to have rest at.
We also called in at the submerged ruins of a Roman Bath house reportedly where Mark Antony seduced Cleopatra. We went ashore here and also snorkelled around the complex.
We returned to port at Mamaris , farewelled our fellow travellers and after a night in port returned to Istanbul aboard Turkish Airlines.
As I mentioned in the last entry we have been on board our gulet sailing (actually under motor all the way) down the Turkish coast from Mamaris to Fethiye and back. We have been out of internet range for this time, although at Mamaris we could have got onto free wi- fi. But we didn’t.
So here we are back in Istanbul trying to remember what we have done for the last week! The cruise was excellent, although in the latter half the weather was not as good as earlier. We still enjoyed it though along with the rest of the gang on board. For the run own to Fethiye, we had on board 4 Australians, 4 from the Netherlands, 2 from Turkey, 2 from the US and 1 from Canada. The North Americans, Canadian and 2 of the Australians (not us) left us at Fethiye. For the return trip we were joined by 4 Australians and another 2 Turks. What a gathering. A fun time was had.
We are onboard the gulet Ugur Kaan. This is a wooden hulled vessel of 132 ton and a length of 26 metres. Also 26 meters at top of the mast. 2 decks (one step!). 7 metre width.
There were no Russian chicks on board. In fact on the whole trip we saw few Russian chicks, although they were supposed to be around.
Leaving Mamaris, after sleeping on board in port for the night, we stopped in at Dalyan to see the famous Iztuzu Beach and Lycian tomb caves high up in the cliffs looking down on the river. Iztuzu Beach is a nesting beach for logger head turtles. It is also a long beach covered in umbrellas and beach chairs. How on earth the turtles survive is a mystery. We lay at anchor here for our first night.
At Dalyan, Allthego and good number of our fellow travellers enjoyed a mud session in the thermal pool. This mud is claimed to have numerous medicinal and rejuvenation benefits. Some, including Leanne, appeared to see no benefit in trying this out and preferred to observe the process involved.
Allthego enjoyed the experience but does not appear to have benefited.
We set off early the next morning for Oludeniz and the famous pebble beach and blue lagoon.
We have now returned to Istanbul after a night in Ankara. Main game in Ankara was to visit the mausoleum of Mustaffa Attaturk Turkey’s first president in 1923 after the independence battles. This chap also lead the Turkish forces at Gallipoli. History treats him as an amazing leader who is still revered today in Turkey. He led the country into the western sphere by a wide array of cultural, economic and political reforms that our politicians look amateurs. Changed from the arabic to english alphabet (with a few minor variations), decimilization of currency and measures, separation of Islam and state, wide array of women’s rights in a Moslem country, shift of the Moslem holy day from Friday to Sunday and so on. There is a substantial museum recording his life and times as well as panoramas of the WW1 and independence battles against the Greeks.
Also some time at the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations. This focussed mostly on the Hittites and Romans.
We now head off on the 7 day Gulet cruise down the Turkish coast from Mamaris to Fethiye and return to Mamaris. First have to fly to Dalaman and then transfer by car to Mamaris. We will be onboard about 6pm.
Not sure about the internet on board so may be off the air for a week.
It was a long all day drive from Pamukkale to the Cappadocia region in central Turkey and the town of Goreme. This is where the main attraction is the strange rock formations shaped like fairy castles and into which the locals hollowed out caves to live in (and were still doing so well into 1980s). All a bit hard to describe but quite amazing landscape. Early Christians also hollowed out small churches many of which remain. The walls and ceilings are decorated with frescos showing various bible stories and events, some of these date to the 11 century and retain much of their colour.
We had also been starved of factory tours for a few days and made up for this by visiting a ceramics business and also a jeweler, who said he had the finest turquoise items available. Some pretty impressive ceramic pieces. Enough said about this adventure.
In the early hours of the morning, 4am to be precise, we were awoken for a hot air balloon flight over the formations. We were aloft a little before 6am and caught the sunrise. There were 50 or 60 balloons in the air at the time. We were one of the first off the ground and saw many of the others follow us up. Leanne stayed firmly on the ground and followed in the pick up truck. We were aloft for a bit over an hour. Great experience.
We now head for Ankara and Istanbul.
Leaving Kusadasi we next headed for some more Roman ruins at Afrodisias en route to Pamukkale. As with all Roman ruins there is a story to tell which makes these Roman ruins different to the last lot you saw. In this case the ‘big new thing ‘ is an almost intact Stadium complex with a seating capacity of 30,000 and the temple to Aphrodite. The stadium complex was not a Hippodrome, much narrower, longer and at one end there was a circular area where the Gladiators held combat. Much of the seating is still intact and unrestored, the top of it is long gone.
After an hour or so wandering around we headed off to Pamukkale which is famous for its Travertine formation, formed from carbonate depositing out of the region’s aquifer. Interestingly the supply of water to the travertines from the aquifer has reduced in recent years (in part due to increased draw down by the locals). So instead of it freely flowing across the whole formation it is now rationed to various sectors on a rotation basis. The pure white colour is also changing in places because of this. So the picture perfect postcards maybe a dying breed in years to come.
Allthego had an encounter with some fish at Pamukkale that eat the dead bits of tissue on your feet. A foot cleanup if you like. Scores of the little fellows nibble away between your toes, around the toe nails, up the calf and on the soles cleaning up all those rough edges and giving the foot a real nice work over. Very medicinal, relaxing treatment that has ones feet and legs, half way up the calf, immersed in fish tanks. Then a whole lot of these little fishes go at it for 20 minutes, even the ones in the tank alongside try to get at you through the adjoining glass panel. I can fully recommend this treatment to sort feet out.
Back at the hotel it was into the thermal pools for a mud session and wash down, little black caps were required for hygiene purposes. All shapes and sizes wallowed around in this very brown muddy water enjoying the ambience and company of their fellow travellers. It was almost Roman.
A long all day drive to Cappadocia awaits the dawn. Our tour group is now down to only 4 of us. We have a driver, and assistant driver and guide to keep us on our toes for the last 4 days of the trip.
While in Canakkale we have stayed in a hotel right on the Dardanelles and have seen two magnificent sunsets.
We now head off south for Kusadasi and along the way one of our main stops is at Troy were Peter O’Toole held off Brad Pitt and the Spartans for nearly 10 years before the poor old Trojans fell for the big horse trick. Now seriously Troy is an interesting place. As an archaeological site it has seen better times and is currently undergoing renovation work on the facilities and the trails around the site. If you like a 10th Troy is being built on top off the previous 9 habitations. The Trojan Horse Troy is believed to be the 6th Troy. Troy is now inland someway, its port silted up and it has become a fertile plain, below the site of the old city.
Along the way we have had two industrial facility tours checking out a Turkish Carpet complex and a Leather Coat factory. Really interesting stops these were as we were convinced of the regional authenticity and originality of a whole range of carpets and leather coats. Hmmmm
A highlight was the stopover at Ephesus and it was surely the best Roman excavation we have come across. Simply mind-blowing in its size. Much of the site has been reconstructed like a jig saw puzzle because of earthquake damage. The Library complex is particularly impressive.
In Kusadasi we are in the Charisma Hotel overlooking the Aegean Sea with Samos, a Greek Island just across the bay.
Not a bad camping ground this, great beach front. Allthego has had a dive into the Aegean. The top 10 centimeters nice and warm, below that well it was just cold stuff. The hotel pool then called me…………….and that is where I must leave you dear readers for the time being.
Well the last few days have been flat-out keeping me away from the keyboard until now.
We left Istanbul the day before ANZAC day and travelled down the Gallipoli peninsular for the Dawn service. This was an experience to say the least. We arrived at the Commemorative site around 9pm, after a bit of a walk from where the bus dropped us off. This is where the TV broadcast comes from. By this time all the seating on the grassed areas was taken. All the ‘young people’ lie here in their sleeping bags gazing up at the stars in the sky. The rest of us take seats in the stands. Now this might sound more pleasant than lying on the grass, but ahead of us was 8 or 9 hours of increasingly cold night air as the dawn approaches. Despite blankets and double layers it got a bit nippy and uncomfortable. The benches were a bit hard on the rear end.
The irony of all this is of course that nearly 100 years ago a whole pile of young Australians landed here and spent the next 9 months or so in far more horrifying conditions than we can ever imagine. Our complaints of cold seemed so insignificant. We can only thank our Turkish friends for keeping the place and memories so well-ordered.
There is a new Museum at Gallipoli, it opened in early April. It is a flash interactive type of set up. In telling the story it brings a strong Turkish perspective to the confrontation and makes one realise that the Turks suffered far greater losses than the combined Commonwealth forces did and also faced the same deprivations.
Following the dawn service we walked the 2km or so up to the Lone Pine Memorial and cemetery for the Australian ceremony at 10am. In getting up this ‘hill’ to Lone Pine from the shoreline Allthego and ‘Reality’ were almost Allbutgone. Lone Pine is the place where 2800 Australians were killed in an area about the size of a football field. Most of the ‘graves’ marked are symbolic as the bodies lie everywhere under our feet. What a walk. How tough it would have been 90 years ago!
After the services we returned to the bus and crossed the Dardanelles on the car ferry to Canakkale for a sleep. We had been allthego for about 36 hours and wondered why we were a bit tired and in need of shut-eye. We were all in good spirits though.
The following day we returned to visit various cemeteries on the Peninsular, including the impressive Turkish memorial.
The crowd was largely gone but the ANZACs remained behind to await another influx in a years time.
We are now ensconced in Istanbul in the Taksim area. This is the more modern side of the Golden Horn compared with the old side which is where the big Mosques, Grand Bazaar etc are located. Have spent our time so far just wandering around the place on and off the metro tram and funicular. Istanbul also has the worlds second oldest underground which opened in the 1860s, might have 1870s (it is pretty short but runs up the hill from the Golden Horn for a few hundred metres).
The city is very colourful at the moment, April is Tulip month and blossoms are all over the place. Have looked through part of the Archeological Museum, very focussed on the Roman period with much of its material having been collected in the late 1800s. It seems there were sarcophagus everywhere around these parts just waiting to be picked up and put in Museums. Later we went for a short round trip cruise on a local ferry up and down the Bosphorus.
On the other side of the old city in Topacki area is the 1453 Siege of Constantinople Museum. Now this was pretty good. It is one of those panorama displays. One stands in the middle surrounded by a circular painting, leading up to the painting though is open area with all sorts of scenery etc that merge in with the painting, it gives it depth. The difference with this Panorama is that there is also a sky dome over it which also merges in with the painting. You are right in the thick of the action it seems. There is some accompanying sound effects. The attached picture depicts one small segment of the scene.
Today we were out at the Princes Islands. Caught one of the public ferries out across the Mammara sea. It is about a one hour trip to the group of 4 Islands. The ferry stops at each one. We went ashore at the last stop, can’t spell the island’s name now! These Islands were a bit of a playground for the idle rich in 1920s/30s. Trotsky was exiled here by Stalin.
The ferry back from Princes Islands was running a bit late on the way back so we walked into our next tour briefing half hour late. The tour takes off tomorrow with a day around Istanbul and then onto Gallipoli for Anzac Day and then on around parts of Turkey.
Balagan did not continue to Istanbul with us choosing to return home with his fellow pilgrims to Brisbane. Balagan first appeared with us when we were in Galilee, having risen from a pile of wool Leanne had brought with her from Australia at the last moment following a suggestion from Allthego.
At first he was simply known as the Pilgrim Gnome, a lonely soul looking for friends and companions on the trip. Well he soon had a few friends and began to appear in photos in some unlikely places and poses. If the tour had been a little longer he might have even become a bit of a show off. You might be wondering what Balagan means? It is Hebrew for something like a ‘spot of trouble’. You can have ‘ big Balagans’ and ‘little Balagans’. Our Balagan was just a nice little guy with the wrong name!
So here are some ‘Best of Balagan’ moments…………..