A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about turkey

Göreme and Cappadocia

A break from cities and some amazing landscapes

sunny 10 °C
View Semester Break, pt. 1 on kmclean's travel map.

After Pammukale we caught the overnight bus to Göreme to spend a couple of days in Cappadocia. The trip really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Obviously it wasn’t the best sleep I’ve ever had, but I did manage to actually rest most of the night. Turkish busses definitely deserve their good reputation. We were pretty tired our first day in Cappadocia, but we headed to the nearby town of Uchisar to see a huge castle there, which is one of the rock formations which has been carved out, and to see the Pigeon Valley which ends right around the corner from our hotel. This trip has been nonstop, it’s tiring but it’s nice to be able to see so much in our short time here. Cappadocia is a really cool place. It’s different than any of the other traveling we’ve done, meaning not in cities. Other than the Canary Islands almost all of our travel has been in and between European cities. Here it’s much more rural and the thing to do is hike around. It’s also very not-European. The people are warm and open, it reminds me a lot more of home. Everything’s also really informal. It can make things confusing at times, but it’s also a nice break from bureaucracy hell.

We went on a couple of tours to see some of the sites which are quite a bit further from Göreme, like the underground city Derinkuyu, which was really cool, and the “Imagination” Valley, which is where we saw a lot of the typical rock formations of Cappadocia.

I’m sad to be leaving Turkey after such a great stay, but this is definitely a country we’ll be back to. The people are the friendliest I’ve ever come across – everywhere we go they can’t do enough to help us have a great stay. Also, the food is amazing and always delicious, not to mention really cheap – usually not more than $10 in a nice restaurant, easily $5 for a meal in somewhere off the busy streets. We also met a really cool traveller in a café in Göreme after noticing each others’ Canadian flags on our backpacks. He’s been on the road – literally – for a year and half from Toronto. He’s hitchhiked around the Maritimes and down to New York and then all across Europe and Turkey, couchsurfing and camping all the way. Inspiring. He also keeps a blog; really interesting for people looking to old-school backpack across and around Europe: drifteralley.com.

Anyway, I’m just as excited for Sarajevo as I was for Istanbul, but I’m looking forward to the day we get to come back and see more of this friendly, beautiful country.

Posted by kmclean 15:00 Archived in Turkey Tagged cappadocia turkey goreme Comments (0)

Pamukkale

Another interesting thing to see in Turkey

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View Semester Break, pt. 1 on kmclean's travel map.

This was another really cool place to see. We’ve been on a kind of “Turkey for tourists” trip of the country, but it’s been awesome seeing some of the huge destinations. This was another really unique, interesting place. The town is known for the travertines and the white hills you can climb up. At the top there’s also another ancient city, Hierapolis, which was really neat.

We’ve been getting really lucky with the weather and we had another beautiful sunny day to see this town. There weren’t that many tourists at the travertines, which is definitely my favourite part about travelling during the low season. We spent today just relaxing in Pamukkale, now we’re headed to Göreme on our first overnight bus trip!

Posted by kmclean 12:41 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey pammukale Comments (0)

Selcuk and Ephesus

Cute town and some epic ruins

rain 6 °C
View Semester Break, pt. 1 on kmclean's travel map.

After our stay in Istanbul we caught an early flight to Izmir and headed to Selcuk to see Ephesus. Luckily everything worked out like we had hoped and we caught the train from the airport, checked in and then went straight to the ruins. It was a hectic day, but totally worth it. It was especially impressive for me because I’ve never really seen any ruins before. There are some Roman ruins in Germany and the Rhine Valley, but they really are just ruins – a few stones still in the ground showing the footprint of a building. Ephesus is an entire city, really well preserved, and much of it has been restored relatively recently.

It was a cloudy day and a little rainy at times, so there were almost no people there. There were quite a few huge groups of tourists, but they went through the ruins together, so we got to see most of the buildings with no one else around. It was really amazing. Most of the buildings are from around the 1st or 2nd centuries CE, but there are some even older. It was unbelievable to see an entire ancient city almost intact. There are theatres, a library, basilicas, baths, latrines, and even some of the residences have been excavated and restored.

The most famous structure is the library, it’s the typical picture of Ephesus, but everything we saw was mind-blowing. After the ruins there still enough daylight left for us to see the ruins of the temple of Artemis. There’s really not much left, but I guess to know what used to be there is really amazing. Most of the ruins have been collected and are now in the Selcuk Ephesus museum, which we unfortunately didn’t have time to see. I wish we could have spent more time there, but we’re on our way to Pamukkale now, trying to squeeze in as much of Turkey as we can before we move on to Sarajevo next week!

Posted by kmclean 12:37 Archived in Turkey Tagged ruins turkey ephesus selcuk Comments (0)

A Different Side of Istanbul

We spent some time exploring what Istanbul had to offer beyond the tiny ancient peninsula, Sultanahmet

5 °C
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We spent a lot of time in and around Sultanahmet seeing the historical sites and buildings in Istanbul, but we managed to get out of it once in a while. We spent a half a day on the other side of the Golden Horn in the “modern” part of Istanbul, in Taksim and Beyoglu, and a day on the other side of the Bosphorus seeing the Asian side of the city. We also did a Bosphorus cruise and spent a few hours in a district at the very top of Istanbul on the edge of the Black Sea. It’s such a massive city. All of these districts were really interesting; it always felt like being in a new city. I guess in a city the size of Istanbul the separate districts really each have their own character.

Taksim and the surrounding area was really interesting, people call it the “European” part of Istanbul for a reason. Walking down the main street, Istiklal (Independence) Avenue, looked just like being in Vienna or Prague. They even have a “nostalgic” old-fashioned, restored tram running up and down the street. There are tons of chain stores but also a lot of boutiques selling local, or at least made-in-Turkey stuff. This part of Istanbul had a totally different feeling. The people on the streets don’t yell at you or try to get you to come in and buy their stuff, and when you do buy something it’s just in a shop or boutique, there’s no crazy mark-up and no haggling. Not even the restaurants have a guy standing our front trying to rope people in. It was kind of nice after shopping in the Grand Bazaar and spending quite a bit of time in the old city, although talking to the shop owners and getting them to give you a decent price can be a lot of fun.

We also saw Kadɪköy, a district on the Asian side of the city. It was completely different, again. It was really not made for tourists and felt a lot more “real” than the other parts of Istanbul. There were still a ton of little shops, great restaurants and a great market, but it didn’t feel like it was all only built for the tourists. Almost nobody there spoke English and the prices for just about everything were about half what they were in the old city. I guess that’s to be expected, but it would be worth seeing this part of the city early during your stay in Istanbul so you get an idea of what things should cost. At the Grand Bazaar we usually paid about half of what they originally told us, but if you don’t feel like haggling, once we told them we had seen the exact same thing somewhere else for a certain price, they’d just say “give me the money” and give it to us for that price without any questions or bartering.

We also took a Bosphorus cruise and got to see most of the palaces and mosques that are right on the water. At the end of the Bosphorus there was a break for a few hours and we got to wander around a tiny district near the Black Sea, I couldn’t believe it was still “Istanbul”. It took an hour and half on the boat to get there, but the city busses were still running all the way up there. It felt more like a rural fishing village that a subdivision of a massive city. The restaurants served mostly fish and there were only a couple small shops. If it weren’t for the Istanbul city busses driving around I would have thought we were somewhere in Nova Scotia.

Anyway, I’m really glad we had the time to see a few other parts of the city. There’s still so much we didn’t get to see – I think you would need a year to see every district and subdivision of this massive city, but it was great to get out of the Old City from time to time to see what the city was really like. The Old City is definitely the best place to start if you want to see the typical Istanbul sights, but to get a different idea of the city and maybe see what it’s really like for the people who live there, it’s great to be able to see a few other districts.

Posted by kmclean 13:06 Archived in Turkey Tagged cities turkey istanbul Comments (0)

Istanbul's Old City

Must be one of the coolest old cities in the world

overcast 5 °C
View Semester Break, pt. 1 on kmclean's travel map.

Istanbul is definitely my new favourite city. It has an amazing history and all the museums you could ask for to go with it, but there are so many other things to do, too. Another huge attraction in the old city is the Grand Bazaar. We spent a lot of time there and also at the Spice Market, or the Egyptian Bazaar. The Grand Bazaar is as old as the Ottoman Empire itself, and one of the biggest and oldest markets in the world. And after a long day of touring and shopping, a visit to a Turkish bath (hamam) was the perfect way to wind down.

The Grand Bazaar had already reached its current size at the beginning of the 17th century and was one of the biggest trading posts of the time because of the Ottoman Empire’s total control over the route from Asia to Europe back then. It has 64 streets and about 4000 vendors. A lot of them sell kitschy tourist stuff, but some have decent things and a few have art or other things they’ve made themselves.

The Spice Market is similar but a lot smaller, and most of the vendors sell spices, obviously, and also herbs, teas, and yummy Turkish treats. It was built using the tax money collected on the trade of Egyptian spices and herbs, so it’s also known as the Egyptian Bazaar. It’s starting to get overrun with tourist souvenir stalls, but there are still mostly food vendors selling all kinds of delicious Turkish teas and treats. We definitely spent too much money at both Bazaars, but where else better in the world to do it?

After our first day walking around the city and shopping at the Grand Bazaar, we tried out a Turkish bath. They're conveniently open until midnight so it's the perfect thing to do at the end of the day, although I heard it can get quite busy after supper. This time of year nothing is very crowded, though, and we didn't run into any crowds or have to wait long at the hamam. I had heard a lot of crazy things before going in and we were both pretty nervous, but it turned out to be amazing. Mike and I both went for the “traditional” bath, meaning you get scrubbed down and massaged by a little Turkish lady, or huge Turkish guy, in Mike’s case.

The building itself was really beautiful, and kind of looks like a Mosque without the minarets. The bath we went to was around the corner from the Grand Bazaar and has been open since 1584! Coming from Canada, I still can’t get over how old things in this part of the world are. We both had a really great, and relaxing, time. Not at all as horrifying as some of the things I read. I would definitely recommend doing it if you’re ever in Turkey.

The Turkish bath was the perfect way to end off a day of touring and shopping. We had an amazing time seeing the historical buildings and shopping at the Bazaars in Istanbul. The Old City of Istanbul has so much to offer and I think you would need a year to really see everything. We luckily managed to squeeze in a few of the major sites during our short stay, but it was also great to get to check out some other areas of the town.

Posted by kmclean 12:55 Archived in Turkey Tagged cities turkey istanbul bazaar hamam Comments (0)

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