10.07.2015 - 29.07.2015 40 °C
Within about an hour of arriving in Istanbul, I decided that it is a magnificent city and I'd love to live there. I really enjoy Islamic architecture and it was fab to see Mosques, Hamams and other interesting historical sites juxtaposed against contemporary architecture. Of course hearing the drums calling the faithful to breakfast for Ramadan at about 2am was a little irritating. We much prefer the lyrical call to prayer to drums beating up and down the streets. The first few days were spent dashing around the key tourist attractions before Scott headed home.
Fancy Turkish Delight
Inside the Mosque
Scott about to eat a yummy lunch
View of the Blue Mosque from Aya Sophia
Inside and around the Harem and Topkapi Palace
Scott on the Bosphorus
Out and about in Istanbul
After waving goodbye to Scott, I hopped on a plane super early the next day and headed to Cappodocia for two days of exploring the landscape. Now, Scott wanted me to do a kind of tour for a raft of reasons. I resisted. Naturally. But I relented to keep him happy and settled for an independent tour that organises all your transfers, transport, accomodation and guides. Some days it could be just you, the driver and the guide and on other days you might be joined by a couple of others. Anyone who knows me knows that I abhor any type of tour and over the couple of weeks, I've decided that yeah nah. Even a luxury tour is not for me. I laughed and felt like a royal twit each time my luxury leather clad Mercedes Benz picked me up and drove me around. I like getting lost. I like communicating with locals. I like trying to figure out my way and I love getting away from touristy things especially those god awful tourist restaurants that I had to eat at while the driver went to a way better place with local people. My best day was the one day they mucked up my transfer and I spent an hour sitting in a cafe with the owner who also owned a small guesthouse and campground. I happily sat there attempting to communicate to his entire family for over an hour. On a positive note, the accommodation was lovely and it was quite nice being picked up and dropped off and directed around as if I was a child - on occasion. Also, it was nice for Scott to know where I was at all times considering the situation in Turkey at the moment. Anyway, here are a few pictures of stop number one.
Views from my cave dwelling
The landscape around Goreme
After a couple of days, I set out for Konya to visit Rumi's tomb even though I didn't know that he was buried there until I read the inscription. I wondered why so many people were here praying and so on. On the way, my driver stopped off at a Caravanserai that served as an important trading point on the Silk Road.
The Silk Road stop
My final destination that day was Antalya. I was so looking forward to the pool. The temperature crazily climbed up to 44 degrees and stayed hovering around 42 degrees the whole time I was there. Sooooo hot! I did manage to walk around without dripping too much and it was lovely to bob up and down in the sea. Unfortunately, I had to bring out my India temperament and give them the 'look' that says 'stay the hell away from me'. No - I don't want dinner and it is none of your business where I am going or what I'm doing or if I'm married and no I don't want to you to show me something special.
After a couple of days in Antalya, I journeyed north to Turkey's Disneyland tourist destination - Pamukkale. I met up with two lovely young women from Melbourne and we spent the day despairing at the crowds but enjoying the scenery nonetheless. In particular, I thought the theatre at Hieropolis was the best I had seen as the skene was still mostly intact and I don't believe it is a reconstruction.
Pic of Pamukkale's Terraces
Hierapolis and the theatre
I was eagerly looking forward to the next stop because the hotel was super duper lovely with a rooftop pool and bar. It was gorgeous and I enjoyed spending time reading and swimming before heading out to visit the Virgin Mary's house, Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis and a carpet cooperative. I was really fortunate to have a brilliant guide who gave me and my companions, (a Turkish couple) loads of interesting information about the historical sites. Luckily, there were no cruise boats in port the day we visited Ephesus so the place was quite empty considering it was peak tourist season. Not only that, I managed at least two minutes in Mary's house alone.
View from the rooftop pool
Mary's house is a Christian and Muslim pilgrimage site
Images of Ephesus
Carpet mayhem - I can now spot a fake a mile off!
After all of that, I hopped back into my chauffeur driven car the following day and headed north again to Canakkale but first, we stopped off in Pergamon. I did have some vague memory about the importance of Pergamon but didn't remember it until I was there and I was reading about the Pergamon marbles from the Pergamon Altar. Yes, of course. Anyway, they are in Berlin as most of Turkey's treasures it seems or Moscow or Vienna. Pergamon is a fantastic historical site even if it is rather ruinous. The setting is stunning and a little scary if you don't like heights. It was made scarier by the driver constantly looking at the scenery as we drove up the steep, twisting road exclaiming 'wow' every two minutes.
Images of Pergamon
My booking manager emailed me to let me know that for Gallipoli, I would have to be with at least 20 other people and was I ok with that. It didn't really bother me but in hindsight, it would have been nice to do it on your own with a guide. In saying that, our guide was fabulous. He had maps, pointers and he used lots of gestures to convey the battles and plight of the ANZACS, as well as the Turkish forces. He also mentioned that Peter Jackson has visited Gallipoli nine times in the last 18 months. Hmmm - movie perhaps? As I mentioned previously, the day started with a mix up and I ended up sitting around for a while in the middle of nowhere in a little cafe which culminated in doing a rush job at Troy with a guide before literally running and leaping onto the ferry to meet up with my 20 other companions for the day.
Images of Troy
The Turkish Memorial and the grave of a Turkish soldier
The New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair - I lost my hat as I took the photo!
The Chunuk Bair ridge and evidence of trenches
An extract from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's famous speech
Why I adore Istanbul
Back in Istanbul for five days before flying home via Brisbane, I decided to take things a little slowly and try to explore attractions that are not on the hit list for the three day visitors. Istanbul is so fabulous because it has been ruled by three different great empires and it seems as if every monument or historical site has had multiple metamorphoses; a building may begin as a Roman temple to one of the pantheon Gods, a Byzantium church may then be converted into a mosque before then transforming into an art gallery or museum, for example. Where else in the world can you sit down and enjoy a coffee in a cavernous cistern that was constructed beneath a Basilica and now sits underneath a park? Stepping back a few streets from the hurly burly of the main markets, it is wonderful to discover boutiques owned and operated by people who have made the products and can explain to you where the materials were sourced and how, as well as who made them and when. Of course, if you want what you can buy in every major metropolis on the globe then you can do that, too.
One thing that never ceases to amaze me are the fabulous museums and galleries that sit very close to the 'big' attractions but are practically empty. This was particularly obvious in Italy, as well. The other day I strolled past a queue that would have easily been 50 metres long (if not longer) for the Aya Sofya to go to the Museum of Islamic Art and Architecture. There was just me and two other people in what I considered to be one of the best museums I have ever been in. The same could be said for the Istanbul Archaeology Museums and the Kariye Museum, as well as Suleymaniye Mosque. Here are a few pics of just a few of the amazing things I've seen in recent days.
More awesome tiles
Porcelain Sarcophagi and a giant head
A museum cat lounges on a cafe chair and tiles from Mesopotamia
Pages from the first Koran written in the time of the Muhammad
Mosaics and frescoes in the Chora Church also known as the Kariye Museum
Around Suleymaniye Mosque
The Blue Mosque
The last day of this monumental nine months of travelling ended with one of the best experiences of the trip. The Culinary Backstreets tour was so, so amazing and I had just the best day and it only would have been improved if Scott was here to share it with me. Nonetheless, I joined five other people with chef Benoit exploring many different eateries, shops and other sights in and around the Old City of Istanbul. What I love about these places is that wherever you go, you are meeting an artisan or a craftsperson who has been making the product themselves and sourcing the ingredients from their home region. Most of these people have kept their traditions alive by passing down the skills through the generations. There was a lot of information to digest as well as food! Not only did we totally stuff ourselves with everything from simit bread through to sumac, we were even taken to the family owned shops and small factories that produced the cooking implements in which to create the yummy goods. Totally fascinating. Here are a few photos from my day out.
It started with breakfast - simit, olives, homemade marmalade and rosehip jam, three different cheeses blended with honey and rosemary infused with oil and vinegar
After indulging in breakfast, we moved on to the spices and dried vegetables
Next was the regional cheeses and butter
All of the above was interspersed between visiting and eating a lot of lamb from doner operators and pide
We all couldn't get enough of the 40 layered filo pastry stuffed with pistachio and other varieties of baklava
After non-stop eating from 9.30 through to 1pm, we arrived at a Turkish delight shop where they make it upstairs in the family factory. They've been doing that for nearly two hundred years and let's just say they've perfected it!
As we were wandering around, we stopped off at an organic hand crafted soap store and observed tea and chat time
After all that gluttony, we then visited a beautiful small mosque
Six and a half hours after breakfast and feeling disgustingly full, I thanked Benoit for a fabulous day and stumbled home in a food stupor with my other Taksim tourist companions. Just before I got to the door, I saw that the local block cats were getting their charity feed. For those of you who haven't visited Istanbul before, cats are revered and are everywhere. Apparently, a cat killed a snake that was about to attack the prophet Muhammad and another story goes that a Sultan decreed that cats were to be fed, watered and always cared for. And they are. It certainly is the perfect place to be a cat!
The cats that live just outside my apartment getting their daily feed of biscuits, water and meat, as well as a cat casually lounging about
This time tomorrow I'll most likely be onto my second movie on the marathon journey home via Brisbane but it won't be the last of my travel blogs. After a period of reflection, I'll definitely be writing one final blog that will explore what this blessed time off has enabled me to really think about in the ways of living. See you then!