Day One – Istanbul

Nice flight – managed to sit in the row behind business which was still officially business so extra leg room – first flight – just croissant and juice, a little wait in Zurich airport then a small but nice meal of roasted vegetables and a cinnamon type cake on the second flight and the obligatory glass of wine!  And of course the swiss chocolate!  Why else did I book that flight! Arrived at Istanbul airport to be met by the company I booked transfer through – millions of names written everywhere but somehow managed to find mine.  Had a little wait in what seemed like a lot of confusion and being passed from group to group and person to person until finally I was in a car – the cost was 23E but I had 37TKL in my head as well so when finally arrived and was asked for 70TKL I disagreed – he then showed me the exchange rate and it worked out as 67TKL so think I was thinking of American dollars. The journey took forever (almost two hours) as there was a lot of traffic so now worried about how much time to leave on the way back but apparently it was the end of a national holiday so that might have been the reason – lots of frustration from the driver and lots of crazy driving including one couple sitting hanging out of their car windows and cutting everybody up.  Arrived on a street in Istanbul to be told that my hotel was down the street and to the right – remembering my experience of Macau and being dumped in the middle of nowhere you can understand my reluctance to get out of the car but he was in fact correct and the road my hotel is on is not accessible by car, just tram – must remember that when being picked up if I decide to stay in the same hotel.

Found hotel in the exact location the driver said and Hotel Ottoman Luxury is very nice – definitely not luxury but a very nice and new boutique hotel – the reception desk is part of a jewellery shop and the small lift (2 person) is at the back of the shop (I noticed that they had changed this slightly when I got back to Istanbul two weeks later so it makes more sense) – there are 5 floors with only 2 rooms per floor and it is all very quiet – the people next door had a baby and the only way I heard it was when I went outside my room to get the lift – room large – two big sets of balcony windows with views to the road below over the trams and to the walls of Gulhane Park/ Topkapi Palace. Big bathroom with great shower but square toilets – uncomfortable!  Breakfast is taken on the 6th floor during the summer with views over Istanbul and Gulhane Park – very simple breakfast but perfectly fine and tasty.  Breads, tomatoes, cheeses, meats, olives, a couple of cooked eggs and sausages, juices, coffee and tea and some sort of milky square cake thing which tasted lovely but I could never understand the name of – the staff there were lovely – guy and girl at reception at different times very welcoming.  Older man at breakfast who kept moving sunshades around so we were always in the shade which was nice as sun intense even at 9.30am.  He spoke almost no English but was always polite and even kept topping up my juice so I didn’t have to get up.  At around £40 a night it was a definite bargain.

When I walked to the hotel I saw there were plenty of restaurants in the area that I would feel comfortable in.  Went for a little walk as by then almost 7pm already, just to end of street then up a bit, thought I knew the direction I was going but then appeared somewhere I recognized so different angle altogether!  Found a restaurant called Diverma?? and had an aubergine kebab and a juice – was really nice and very filling.  They then offered me free tea and dessert – seemed impolite to decline even though I don’t like tea but then really glad I hadn’t as the apple tea they produced was really lovely (and now a staple in my cupboard at home!) and the baklava was to die for.  Afterwards braved a walk in the dark around the area – had to say no thank you a lot to other restaurants and shopkeepers!  Also went to check out location of the tour hotel and its just a 2 minute walk.  Also found lanterns!!!  Want them all!!  How will I get them home!

Day Two – Istanbul

Not an early start today as just wanted to sleep but so much to do! Breakfast first.  Then walked around the corner to the Topkapi Palace.  Did not go in Gulhane Park as thought can do later – climbed steep street to the palace past the archeological museum and some derelict buildings to the right – love those of course!  At top of the hill I went right and found entrance to the Church of Divine Peace – 20TKL – may need to look that one up and come back if it looks nice.  Apparently recently renovated and re-opened.  Then went along to Topkapi Palace – not much of a queue at all especially in comparison to what I saw the next day.  30TKL to get in and an extra 15TKL for the Harem.  Had to go through metal detector to get in.  Then went and got audio guide this was 20TKL for the palace of 30TKL for palace and harem – in my opinion it is not worth getting at all as the info it did give was very brief and the information could mainly be read on the signage that was in Turkish and English.  Headed to the Harem first, which was interesting enough and would definitely recommend the extra cost to go in, then out to the rest of the palace – as wandering around heard some sort of band and loud singing so headed in that direction to see people in traditional costume doing some sort of ceremony, very crowded.  Then headed to the next lot of buildings – saw a queue and being English I of course had to get in it!  It led to the Treasury – including a huge diamond 95ct?  Some pushing and shoving ensued and the wardens kept shouting at you to keep moving so could not get a good look at anything really – also no photos.  The Library is apparently lovely and I think was on the list of things to do but it was closed for renovation – this will be a consistent theme in Istanbul I come to find!  Then went into the place where they keep all the sacred relics – this was ridiculously crowded and here nobody had heard of a queuing system! I had to come out in the end as it was too claustrophobic – later heard that apparently Moses stick is in there, wish I could have seen it.  Wandered around several other buildings, nice fountains, mosaics and views over Istanbul – especially from the Treasury building.  After this headed towards the exit via the kitchens – great building structure, no photos allowed though.

Next headed to Haghia Sophia.  On they way saw some sort of very decorative ablution block and saw what looked like could be a great restaurant with nice views from rooftop terrace – Seven Hills Restaurant – might try to check it out.  Found the tombs first which were free to get into – shoes to be taken off in each tomb – had a heart attack when I came out of the first one and could not see my shoes but they were buried under a girls skirt – went back in and out 3 times pretending to re-look at the building or find someone but she was still there!  In the end went and moved her skirt!  Some pretty buildings but all the same really with the exception of the princes one which was more simple.  Did not really understand why it looked like there were lots of coffins but a couple of days later found out it was because once they came to power they killed all their brothers! Is this true?!  After this wondered around to Haghia Sophia itself – on the way found a stall selling cherry juice – fantastic as it’s been a while since I have found this – little did I know it’s a staple in Turkey and we even had it at breakfasts so got to drink a lot of it in the end.  Very small queue and was in within 5 minutes – 30TKL entry fee – could have bought museum pass for 85TKL including Topkapi, Haghia Sofia and others.  Inside was beautiful although a shame that they appeared to be doing renovations on half of it (although later heard that the scaffolding has been up for years) – after wandering around found a column that is called according to the sign either the weeping column or the sweating column – I think I was doing a lot of weeping that day!  You have to stick your thumb in the column and turn it around a bit in the hole – could not feel any wetness just felt a little cold.  Then continue to the front right hand side of the church (as if exiting) to climb the cobble stone ramp up to the second floor – seems a lot higher than this on the climb.  Lovely views from the top especially of rooftops although you have to tiptoe to look out of the windows. Leaving the place there was a cat laying in the shade – wish I could do that – sooooo hot!!

Basilica Cistern

Blue Restaurant?

Day Three – Istanbul

Bosphurus Ferry. Man from Iraq.  Amazing Views.  Goes from ferry stop Emìnönü to Besiktas, to Kanlica to Sariyer then R. Kavagi before stopping at A Kavagi – ticket 25TKL

Join Tour. Welcome meeting 6pm. Dinner in same restaurant I had been in the first night – loved the free baklava again!

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, so it will come as no surprise that this vast metropolis is home to a beguiling mix of different cultures and traditions, blending the influences of both east and west. Originally founded by Greek settlers over 2000 years ago, Istanbul originally went by the name of Byzantium, then Constantinople when the Romans made it the capital of their eastern empire. Today, intriguing Istanbul is a bustling mega-city with a population of over 12 million people and a rich history and food scene waiting to be explored.

Hotel: Golden Hotel Sirckeci – horrible, wet carpets, great view from restaurant for breakfast, good spread

Day Four – to Ankara

Guided walk around Istanbul Old Town. First stop is the iconic 17th century Blue Mosque.  Known as Sultan Ahmet Cemii in Turkish, the Blue Mosque is one of the wonders, and a centrepiece, of Istanbul.  Its unique six minarets dominate the skyline and can be seen for miles around.  The interior is lined with 20,000 blue tiles and 260 stained glass windows. Remember to remove your shoes and girls should cover their heads.  The ancient Hippodrome with Obelisk of Theodosius, Snake Pillar and German Fountain of Wilhelm II are also visited.

Late morning we left Istanbul and took a private minibus to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, where we will spend the evening.  Lunch in motorway service station on way, which I had read from previous reviews was a downside but this was certainly not like English service stations – huge buffet salad bar for the equivalent of £1!  And so much aubergine!

Dinner in old town – stunning views – shame could not explore a bit in the daylight as really quaint but bless Mahsum for letting us explore a little after dinner

Hotel – Akyuz Hotel, Ankara

Day Five – to Cappadocia

In the morning we visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations Ankara (Anadolu Medeniyetleri Müzesi) exhibiting a rich collection of archeological objects found during excavations in Anatolia.

Then headed to Cappadocia by minibus.  The trip should take about 4 hours.  We travel through the Anatolian landscape via a salt lake (tuz gölü), one of the richest salt beds in the world.  Approximately 300,000 tons of salt per year (60% of total salt production in Turkey) is produced by this lake.

Cappadocia fascinates all travellers.  Shaped by wind and water, its otherworldly rock formations have to be seen to be believed.  Cappadocia is an extraordinary region that has bewitched travellers’ for centuries.  It was formed a millennium ago as volcanic ash first settled, then hardened into soft rock, and finally eroded, forming the strange and fantastic spires, domes, pinnacles and gorges.  Rock hewn churches, cave homes and incredible underground cities wait to be explored.  In times of peace the people in this region lived on the land but in times of war or persecution they took to living underground.  Before arriving to Göreme in the heart of Cappadocia we stop to visit 13th century Agzikarahan Caravanserai, which was built by the Seljuk sultan, Alaettin Keykubad I.  ‘Caravanserais’ were developed along old trade routes to shelter and protect nomadic traders.  These centuries-old buildings were constructed of stone and housed Caravaneers, their cargos plus their horses, donkeys and even camels as they made their way along the old Silk Road trading route.

Arrived in Cappadocia and was in awe of this fairytale landscape – stopped amazing, not want to leave but promised so much more – long day – found bar, had a beer and took in the amazing views.  Evening – orientation and meal – found our own place in the end

Hotel – Heybe Hotel, Groom

Day Six – Cappadocia

Hot Air Balloon – E165 plus E10 credit card fee, 505TKL – http://www.kapadokyaballoons.com Without a doubt, one of the most amazing memories of this journey could be of a hot air balloon ride over the majestic landscape. This aerial tour of the region is guided by our experienced operators and is an incredibly memorable experience.

Red Valley Hike (Rose Valley?) – magnificently sculptured, red rock formations have created arguably the most beautiful in Cappadocia, dovecotes (wine racks) – approx 3 hour walk


Lunch in Women’s Place?

Free Afternoon

Dinner in home? – 25TKL

Whirlygig show in evening – TRY50? – E25? – opportunity to attend an original Whirling Dervish ‘Sema’ performance.

Day Seven – Cappadocia

Hike Love Valley

Goreme Open Air Museum (Göreme Açikhava Müzesi).  Cappadocia’s main attraction and the customary starting point for an overview of what the region has to offer, the World Heritage-listed Goreme Open Air Museum is a monastic complex composed of churches, rectories and dwellings, and one of the earliest centres for religious education.  The practice of monasticism was developed by St Basil the Great in the 4th century as a reaction to his increased disillusionment with the materialism of the church.  St Basil’s definition of monastic life, based on the idea that men should live in small, self-sufficient units with an emphasis on poverty, obedience, labour and religious devotion, took root in Cappadocia, later becoming the basis for the Orthodox monastic system.  There are at least 10 churches and chapels in the museum area, dating between AD900 and 1200, each one named after a prominent attribute by the local villagers who were exploring these caves long before there was an entrance fee.  The best of the churches are the, Chapel of St Basil (Aziz Basil Sapeli), Apple Church  Chapel of St Catherine (Azize Katarina Sapeli), Sandal Church (Carikli Kilise), Chapel of St Barbara (Azize Barbara Sapeli), the Nun’s Convent (Rahibeler Manastiri) and the Buckle Church (Tokali Kilise), Snake Church/ Church of St Onuphrius (Yilanli Kilise), Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise) – extra charge of 10TKL

In the afternoon we discover the local handcraft of the region and visit a carpet workshop, a tradition that reveals the nomadic origins of the Turkish people. – did we go to the one they said??!  Pay a visit to Tribal Arts Carpet where Ruth, who is considered an expert within Turkey on textiles and has been living in the region for over 20yrs provides free carpet educationals and can teach you a thing or two about carpets and this history rich tradition.

There is the option of enjoying a traditional Turkish bath to unwind from the day’s activities but did not partake as had done in Istanbul and there is another later option

Turkish night – such brilliant fun in another Kanavansarai.  Great memories and probably all came away quite tipsy!

Day Eight – to Konya

Next stop is the incredible underground city of Derinkuyu (Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri), with some dwellings containing rooms expanding seven levels beneath ground level!  So happy that we had left early as arrived before anybody else and were leaving when coach loads started to arrive – would have been quite claustrophobic in there if there had been lots of people.

Aksaray – Head towards the village of Belisirma in the Valley of Ihlara.  Here we embark on a walk along the Melendiz River.  Witness traditional village life, as we walk through the beautiful Ihlara Valley to Ihlara village.  There are dozens of Byzantine cave chapels to explore along the way and most of them are decorated with exquisite biblical frescoes (1.5 hour walk).  Magical – like I would imagine the Garden of Eden, white butterflies along the river, little café with river huts, stopped for a drink, more walking and stopped for lunch further along the river.

  • Underground city, , Ilhara Valley, Mervlana Museum, Konya

Woke early before alarm at about 6am to go to loo but looked out of window to see what the weather was like today to discover what seemed like hundreds of hot air balloons floating above the town, although slightly eerily took my thoughts to an ufo invasion as they seemed to just hang there. Opened the curtains, laid on my bed and just watched them floating by for about an hour. Usual breakfast up on the terrace, then prepare to get on the coach. Such a shame to be leaving this lovely area, could have spent a lot longer here, will definitely have to return.

First stop of the day was Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri (Derinkuyu Underground city). Fantastic place to walk around and luckily had got there quite early so we were pretty much the only people there, by the time we left there were hoards of minibuses and people, it would have felt really claustrophobic in there then, especially going up and down the really narrow stairs and through some of the tunnels (although they were anywhere near as small as the cu chi tunnels). Saw little sleeping rooms, big round stone doors where they could barricade tunnels shut, place to make wine (although they think this was added in the last 100 years or so), even a church although nothing church like remaining to see but could make out the cross formation, wells and the place where animals were kept which could be seen by the holes to tie up cattle and a trough carved into the rock for the animals to drink from. 7 levels and went down really deep – estimating approx. 40 metres and could see this when looked up and down the well shaft. Guide said about 1500 people may have lived here, guidebook says 10,000 think guide is closer or else it would have been really crazy down there! It was bad enough with just two groups of 15 in there! Built around the 4th or 7th century don’t really remember which. Also had escape tunnels up to surrounding hills in case of attack. Outside was a nice looking church although this is apparently now closed, not sure if for renovation or if forever. Also the compulsory touristy stands including one little lady who was selling dolls she had made herself for just one lira – that’s 30p – they were really ugly looking things but felt I should be buying just because she had made them and kind of shows the poverty here if they are being sold for so little.   Think entrance fee was 20TKL – open from 8am to 8pm.

Next headed to the Ihlara Valley for a hike – it was already hot so really not looking forward to this part but so glad I went as it was so very beautiful.   Wondered exactly where we were going as did not look like very much around and then suddenly there was this valley full of large vertical rockfaces and then the valley below. To do the whole thing is about 14km and would make for a great day walk – we just did 4km of it, entering at Buradasiniz & walked to Belisirma Gisesi. There are many churches in the valley – think Mahsum said around 100 but we did 2 – the frescoes in them are still quite vivid and easy to make out and see the stories they depicted. Valley used as a hermitage by priests & monks after 4th century. We saw Agacalti Kilisesi (Daniel Pantonassa church) and Yilanu church (Serpent church) – really beautiful – don’t really know why I bothered paying the extra to go into the Dark Church yesterday. You had to pay either 15TKL or 20TKL to get in, don’t remember. From the drop off point it was around 300 boardwalk steps to get down to the bottom of the valley. There were so many crazy people that were then walking back up again, not something I would like to do and the walk along the river was so beautiful. I overheard one person saying something about the Garden of Eden and looking around at the colours of the flowers and trees and vines overhanging the river I could so see this myself. Plus dad was there with me at all times with many white butterflies dancing around. So much happiness felt. Just a shame I didn’t take my phone so could instantly start depressing people on facebook with the shots!   Along the walk came across a little café with little hut type things on the river, looked idyllic to be able to sit on cushions in the shade of the huts and dangle your feet in the water, ducks and geese running wild, 2 headscarfed ladies in another hut making food and rolling out dough. Think the place was called Ozel Diker. Could also have orange juice freshly squeezed in front of you. Spent about 15 minutes resting here, really not sure why I didn’t get a drink, sit down and relax, all commented that it was a real shame that we didn’t stop here for lunch as was imagining a real touristy café at the end of the walk. Carried on walking for about another 30 minutes or so until we reached Belisirma Gisesi and to our delight more little hut things on the river, although a lot busier and we just sat in the main part but could see the river. Bombarded by flies and wasps which was not so nice though. Menu was great at 15TKL for whatever you had and there was around 6 or 7 choices. I had the beef stew which was okay – they also bought us lovely warm bread and some dips before this and watermelon to finish – drinks were then 5tKL each – nice to sit in this peaceful location by a river.

Back in the bus to drive for about another 2.5 hours to Konya to see the Mervlana Museum. I thought this would be the lodge that Mahsum had been telling us about where the guy actually lived but this was built after he died although his tomb is there along with lots of others. Had to put blue bags on our feet to go in but the area above his tomb is really beautiful to see, patterns with amazing colours but no photos allowed. Also saw some large Quarans from the 12th century with really intricate calligraphy. Also a really really small version of the Quaran that were given to soldiers so they could have it while fighting.


Then headed to Konya.  Celaleddin developed a philosophy of spiritual union, captured in his poetic writings, the greatest of which – ‘Mathnawi’ – is still revered today.  Mevlana (our master) as he came to be known, believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and divine union, and devised the whirling sema ritual.  You can visit the original Tekke of Mevlana (Mevlana Müzesi) which holds many dervish religious relics and is also the final resting place for the master himself.  There’s also an exhibit which explains the lifestyle of the Mevlevis.  Konya is the perfect opportunity to sample a traditional Turkish city where mainstream tourism is yet to arrive.  The city is closely linked with the whirling dervish sect of Islam developed by Celaleddin Rumi (or Mevlana) in the 13th century.  Rumi is considered one of Islam’s greatest Sufi mystics.  Celaleddin developed a philosophy of spiritual union, captured in his poetic writings, the greatest of which – ‘Mathnawi’ – is still revered today.  Mevlana (our master) as he came to be known, believed that music and dance represented a means to induce an ecstatic state of universal love and divine union, and devised the whirling sema ritual.  You can visit the original Tekke of Mevlana which holds many dervish religious relics and is also the final resting place for the master himself.  There’s also an exhibit which explains the lifestyle of the Mevlevis.

The first place in Turkey I had felt uncomfortable and were advised to stick together when leaving hotel – restaurant overlooking the Tekke of Mevlana

Hotel – Selcuk Hotel, Konya – wedding on CCTV

Day Nine – to Antalya

We then take a five hour drive to the coastal city of Antalya, one of the best known classical sites in Turkey.  A highlight here is the beautifully preserved theatre at Aspendos (Aspendos Ören Yeri) – one of the finest in the ancient world.  Pancake lunch.  Aspendos theatre – opera festival advertised – what a home from home!  Sweaty climb on the hill but other great ruins and views – saw remains of the aqueduct – threatened with a knife (sword!) for the second time!

A fantastic mix of city sophistication and old-world charm makes Antalya a great place to explore.  The relatively unspoilt and restored Kaleici, the old city area, is now a historical zone and protected from modern development.  With its palm-lined boulevard, internationally-acclaimed marina and old castle, Antalya is a popular destination.

Hotel – Aspen Hotel, Antalya

Lovely walk around the town and marina – rabbits!  Loved the old town and so happy to have spent the afternoon and evening here – orientation walk in the evening then great kebab dinner.  Of course I found an estate agents and fell in love with pretty much every property with a sea view that they had!  See here!

Day Ten – Kas

After breakfast we head towards Kas, stopping enroute in the Lycian city of Phaselis – Roman ruins and swimming!

Continue on to the seaside town of Kas.  With its cobbled streets and whitewashed walls, Kas has a distinctively Mediterranean feel.  The best places in town to swim are from the waterfront restaurants that have their own private water access.  For the price of an occasional drink, you get your own deck chair, umbrella and unbeatable views.  When the sun goes down there is the chance to explore the handicraft markets where you can find beautiful handmade wares with a distinctly Turkish flavour.  Pool!!!!!! Handwashing – lovely room, no wifi in room.

Dinner altogether – first taste of raki!

Hotel – Linda Hotel, Kas (think there are 2 of them!)

Day Eleven – Kas/ Kekova

This morning we drive to Kekova, where we will board our local boat for a relaxing cruise through a series of peaceful and picturesque islands, all with very distinctive rock formations.  Fantastic, beautiful, fun day full of laughs and beautiful sights.  Underwater city.  Church hike at top of island – Simena Archaeological site (Simena Örenyeri) – open April October 9-7 & November – March 8-5. Noodles!  Melon seeds!  BBQ chicken!

Beautiful sunset – kebab dinner, jewellery, drinks.

Day Twelve – Fethiye

Tombs in the morning.  This morning we visit the Lycian site of Xanthos, which was once the capital city of the Lycian Federation.  Because of its remoteness, Xanthos is usually not overcrowded with tourists and the place has retained a tranquil atmosphere – the one with the goats in the amphitheatre, parts in British Museum and archaeological dig.

Continue on to Kayakoy (Kayaköy Örenyeri).  Kayakoy was once a ghost village, its ancient stone houses abandoned after their Greek inhabitants left Turkey during the great population exchange of the 1920s.  Now protected by the Turkish government, it provides the opportunity to enjoy a quiet, traditional Turkish lifestyle.  This small village is a good base to explore the many attractions of this scenic section of the Mediterranean coast, including the resort town of Fethiye and the famous Blue Lagoon.  Open 24 hours, the ghost village has an entrance fee which helps towards the upkeep of the paths and rubbish clearance.  One church in the lower area of the village, Kataponagia, is of particular interest due to an interesting room out the back – it was used to collect the bones of the dead.  Wander the ruins and enjoy the solitude.

We have time to relax and enjoy the area before driving to the culturally rich town of Fethiye, situated on a bay full of islands and surrounded by pine forests.  No time to relax in Fethiye as got there late as had spent time at the Blue Lagoon at Oludeniz – not as we imagined and felt sorry for the rest of the group that had to spend hours at this tacky tourist resort while we went paragliding!  But the paragliding was amazing once finally got going!

This evening is free.  The rest had eaten at Blue Lagoon as nothing else to do – we were shown somewhere for dinner but went for a walk along the seafront and I ate something in a bar with live music by the sea.  Feature of all the statues of past leaders.

Hotel Atapark Hotel, Fethiye

Day Thirteen – Pamukkale

Did we go to the lunchtime place where we all sat on the floor?  With the donkey rides outside?  If not then when?  We travel inland through mountainous landscapes to one of Turkey’s most photographed sites – the gleaming white travertine terraces of Pamukkale; the best time to see them, of course is sunset.  Visible for miles, the gleaming calcium terraces of Pamukkale are a spectacular sight.  Created from limestone deposits formed when water from the hot springs loses carbon dioxide, these layers of white calcium carbonate have earned Pamukkale the nickname ‘Cotton Castle’ and the pools, now off-limits, have been famed for their medicinal qualities since Roman times.  Located at the top of the gleaming white travertines of Pamukkale is the ancient Roman site of Hierapolis (Hierapolis Örenyeri). Home to an oracle at one time, a well-preserved Roman theatre still remains here.  Wander the colonnaded streets and discover the necropolis with its many unique tombs, looking every bit like a scene from judgement day.  Long travel day, time for a swim in the hotel pool then to Pamukkale – sunset from the Roman amphitheatre – beautiful – but not enough time

Hotel – Pamuksu Hotel, Pamukkale

Lovely dinner in evening in a hotel garden

Day Fourteen – Ephesus/Selçuk

It’s an early start today as we travel on to Selcuk right after breakfast.  The drive should take approximately 4hrs.  Selcuk is steeped in culture and retains many Turkish traditions. The town itself is usually undisturbed, which gives the opportunity to experience the ‘real’ Turkey.  On the slopes of Ayasoluk Hill lie several historical buildings, including the Isa Bey Mosque and the Grand Fortress.  Selcuk is also home to one of the ancient world’s Seven Wonders – the Temple of Artemis – although, sadly, only a single pylon remains.  An orientation tour familiarises us with Selçuk, a sprawling town lying at the base of the ancient fortress on Ayasoluk Hill.  Those who wish can take an optional visit to the last home of the Virgin Mary, who as legend states came here accompanied by St John and lived out her days in this beautiful spot.  Went into ruins of St Johns Basilica (St Jean Aniti) – 10TKL

Ephesus (Efes Örenyeri) is the best-preserved classical city in the eastern Mediterranean and Turkey’s premier tourist site.  Once the capital city of Roman Asia Minor, the city has a fascinating history spanning over 1,500 years, which comes alive with a local guide to enhance the experience.  You will be awed by the sophistication of this ancient city, which had running water, public toilets, a renowned medical institute, a brothel and Roman baths.  The theatre is well preserved and regularly hosts concerts, but it’s perhaps the magnificent library that takes most people’s breath away.  Absolutely amazing, cannot believe had so little time here, so beautiful I almost cried! – we almost missed the merchants terrace houses (Yamaçevler) – you had to pay 15TKL extra for these but we only arrived at them 15 minutes before closing and they were definitely one of the 2 highlights.  If I had known what was in there and not gone in I would have been so upset!  Brothel indication.  Library ruins?

After this went for a group hammam – name of place? – brutal massage – then restaurant – shop they asked about tiles!

Outside restaurant overlooking ruins

Hotel – Hitit Hotel, Selcuk

Day Fifteen – Çannakale

Drive to Çanakkale.  The Iliad and the Odyssey have made Troy (Truva) one of the most recognisable mythological sites in the world.  Destroyed and rebuilt in its chequered history, today the ruins of several eras of settlements can be seen.  A replica wooden horse at the entrance stands as a testament to the fabled horse, and is a great photo opportunity.  Sorry to say that I loved the story but was really disappointed with what I saw – need to watch the film!  Historian’s are still at odds as to whether or not this fable or indeed the battle itself is stuff of lore or reality.

Arriving in Çanakkale where we have the remainder of the day free to wander around this vibrant waterfront town and perhaps view the Trojan horse used and subsequently gifted to the city by the producers of the movie Troy filmed in 2004.  Orientation walk – saw the Trojan Horse (Truva Ati) used in the film Troy and gifted to the town, Clock Tower (Saat Kulesi)  – local Turkish restaurant by sea front – food normal – could have seen Old Caravanserai (Yali Han), Cimenlik Castle (Çimenlik Kalesi), Naval Museum (Deniz Müzesi), Replica of Nusret Minelayer (Nusret Mayin Gemi Replikasi), Yali Hammam (Yali Hamami), Aynali Bazaar (Aynali Çarsi), Friday Bazaar (Cuma Pazan), Archeology Museum (Arkeoloji Müzesi), City Museum (Kent Müzesi)

Hotel – Grand Anzac Hotel, Cannakale

Day Sixteen- Gallipolli

This was the day that the Ozzies and Kiwis on my trip seemed to be looking forward to the most and I probably cared about the least.  We cross the Dardanelles and visit the Gallipoli Peninsula – a place of enormous significance to Australia and New Zealand.  Located at Turkey’s most westerly point, this area is now serene, but the role it played in April 1915 during the First World War is now firmly etched on the psyche of the New Zealand and Australian nations.  We visit the beach and cemeteries of Anzac Cove, then head up the hill to pay homage at the poignant memorials of Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair.  The latter was the highest ground secured in the campaign on the 8th of August, 1915 (by New Zealand and British troops) before being beaten back due to lack of reinforcement.  From the Ataturk Memorial at this spot we can view the Allied troops goal – the Dardenelles.  We can look down upon the rough and barren hills and gullies that became the graveyard for so many thousands of young men from both sides.  Around this area we can find remnants of trenches used by the Turkish soldiers.  Graeme had bought rum and milk and we stood in the trenches making a toast and singing Waltzing Matilda!  I have to say that even I was moved.  I could therefore not believe it when I got back to Istanbul and mentioned on Facebook that I had been there – only to get Uncle David reply to say did I realise my great grandfather had been sunk twice in the Dardanelles!  This info would have been useful and so much more meaningful 24 hours earlier!  Want to get back and do so much more research now!

After touring the former battlefields we head back to where our adventure began – Istanbul.  We will arrive back in Istanbul in the late afternoon or early evening and the remainder of the evening is free.  This unique city, built embracing two continents (Europe and Asia), is a great place to spend our final night together, indulging in a true feast for the senses!

Hotel – back to original and we had suites!  I was in Sophia http://www.thegoldenhorn.com

Final dinner

Day Seventeen – Istanbul

Left group in the morning after breakfast, always a difficult moment.

Visit the Archaeology Museum, which contains an incredible array of ancient exhibits – of particular interest are the artefacts from infamous Troy.  Did not do this but would have been great to see and artefacts would have made so much more sense!  You could travel over to the stylish Taksim Square area and stroll along the main street with the local hipsters.  Visit the atmospheric underground Cistern, a vast underwater storage tank built in 532 AD.  If all of this makes you a little tired, then an hour or two spent in a hamam (Turkish bath) will leave you rejuvenated at the end of your journey.


Sweaty walk

Hotel – lovely but could do better!

Nice meal – back to try one more of my favourite dish before I left – street – lots of activity & view over Blue Mosque – Rumeli Cafe http://www.rumelicaferestaurant.com Divanyolu Cd, Ticarethane Sk

Day Eighteen – Istanbul

A quick trip to the Grand Bazaar – really could have spent days there and a lot of money! Really lovely atmosphere and not pushy as I expected from Marrakech and Egypt experiences. Apparently not allowed to now and works so much better!

Then off to my local shop for the best tiles I had seen so obviously had to buy a few more lanterns too!

Then to lounge around by the pool for a couple of hours until time for the airport bus – don’t think my 5 star hotel expected that to turn up. Came to the main road where I would not have minded waiting.

Swiss Business Class flight back via Zurich.

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