by CameronM Tue, October 07 2003 07:48

Trying to spend as much time in Turkey, where it is cheaper, we decided to stay until the very last day of the trip and then catch the ferry to Rhodes, where we would kill some time before heading out at 1am (who thought that was a good time to fly?). As the grand finale and as a bit of a treat, we joined 40 other tourists, and about 20 other boats, whiling away the hours on a day long boat trip in Marmaris Bay.

The cruise, which only cost US$15 included breakfast, lunch and all the beer and local spirits you could drink. The poms were out in force and doing their best to consume as much of the free beer as possible while getting redder by the minute. Tan and I were content to swim in the clear water and sunbake. It was a nice day and not too expensive even when converted to Lira.

Tags: ,


Pamukkale - Marmaris

by CameronM Mon, October 06 2003 07:41

Leaving Pamukkale, we said goodbye to Jennifer, an Aussie we'd first met in Istanbul and who Tan was quite fond of, and Kari, a Canadian we'd met on the Gallipoli tour, who had been our companions for the last few days. The girls were going on for some more travel, while for Tan and I we were nearing the end of the road, for this trip at least. We headed to Marmaris, a coastal resort town, where we hoped to be able to catch the ferry to Rhodes.

Being back on the local buses was again a treat, although the buses themselves are exceptional, few of the drivers or on-board staff speak English, which can be quite interesting. We stopped at a bus station somewhere along the way and were told this was a 20 minute break. So it was with some surprise that 5 minutes later we were running after the bus as it headed out from the station. Luckily it had to turn around in the carpark so we were able to jump back on before it had gone too far.

Marmaris is everything you think of when you hear the words coastal resort. Expensive, filled with sun-burned tourists and about as Turkish as a Cadbury chocolate Turkish Delight. We met people on the third or fourth visit to Turkey, who had never ventured outside the town, and looked at you like you were talking Turkish when you mentioned some of the BIG tourist attractions like Ephesus and Pamukkale, which were only three or four hours away.

Tags: ,


The healing waters of Pamukkale

by CameronM Sun, October 05 2003 06:30

After spending several days in Selcuk, where the average stay is 2 nights top, we were ready to reignite the "don't stop moving" motto and headed to Pamukkale, about 3 hours away by bus. Pamukkale has been a tourist mecca since the earliest Greek times, as evidenced by the ruins at Hierapolis, possibly the world’s first spa town. The ruins are nothing compared to Ephesus, however there is a large cemetery, which contains all manner of monuments to the dead, who had obviously come for a week and stayed a lot longer.

The main attraction is the natural terraces of Pamukkale, created by calcium rich water flowing down the mountain from hot springs that would appear never to run dry. The result is a multitude of small pools where it is rumoured you can look 20 years younger after even a brief swim. Unfortunately, due to the heavy usage and resulting destruction of the site, authorities have stopped all swimming in the natural pools, although many hotels in the area have pools filled with the same water. The water itself looks bright aqua, set against the stark white backdrop of the terraces and the whole mountain side can be seen from several miles away.
Don't expect to get lonely, with up to 10000 visitors a day, Pamukkale is packed with tourists, who for some strange reason, feel very comfortable wearing not much, while walking around the site (and some of them really should rethink they current fashion choices).
We stayed overnight in the town of Pamukkale, situated below the terraces. I got the sense that this didn't happen often, as many of the locals were amused by us and the town lacks all the usual tourist trappings, like carpet shops. The people are nice though and we had a good discussion with the local bus agent, who was obviously bored out of his brain and invited us for a cup of tea.

Tags: , ,


Ephesus - some of the best Roman ruins

by CameronM Thu, October 02 2003 06:16

The town of Selcuk (Selçuk), like Canakkale is made famous by its proximity to greatness. In Selcuk's case it's the ruins of Roman Ephesus. The vast city, like Troy, received prominence because of it's access to the sea, which now lies a good 4 kilometres away (somewhere at the end of harbour street).
The ruins have been partially restored so that visitors can get a feeling for life in the metropolis. There is a large amphitheatre, the front facade of the Library and more columns than you know what to do with. During our visit, workers were busy restoring a series of town houses set into one the hills near the Library, so there's a reason to come back.

On the way back from Ephesus we stopped at a small village, where one restaurant sold pancakes. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised. The pancakes are prepared by several people, usually women, in front of you, so you can see exactly how they are made. One woman sits on the floor and rolls the pancake on a large board placed on her legs. The pancake is rolled until it is about 70cm in diameter (and nearly overhanging the board) before the contents are placed in the middle. You can choose from a variety of fillings including banana (my choice), egg plant, spinach or chocolate. The pancake is then folded into a square and placed on the fire, where a second woman tends to it until cooked. They were very filling and very cheap, which is always good, but overall it's the experience that makes the whole thing enjoyable.

Tags: , ,


Gallipoli - The birthplace of nations

by CameronM Tue, September 30 2003 06:01

We could have stayed longer in Istanbul, as there were still many things we hadn't done, but as time was short, we continued travelling. Tan had decided that our theme song for the trip would be "Don't stop moving..." and I think we both adhered to it pretty well. After a bit of comparison shopping with travel agents and calculating the cost of doing Gallipoli (Gelibolu) on our own, we decided to purchase a tour which included the bus to Gallipoli, a tour of the battlefields, overnight accommodation in Canakkale (Çanakkale) and onward transport to Selcuk (Selçuk).

It wasn't long before we realised the expense was worth it. En-route to Gallipoli, we stopped at a restaurant overlooking the Dardanelles and had a very enjoyable four-course lunch, which was some of the best food we'd had so far in Turkey. In the afternoon Ali, our tour guide, gave a captivating commentary on the failed Gallipoli invasion, highlighting all the key battlefields such as Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.

The tour bus follows the road along Anzac Cove on the same route as the supply road built by NZ soldiers. The cove itself is rather small and, as you may remember, it is surrounded by steep cliffs, which look absolutely impossible to climb, especially with the 40kg pack and equipment each soldier was required to carry. Ali told us how it was the climbing time of 1 hour 10 minutes that allowed the unsuspecting Turks to gain the upper hand in the race for the high ground, with the Anzacs arriving 10 minutes later. The cove and surrounding hillside is so steep that the official Anzac Memorial, the site of annual pilgrimage for tens of thousands on Anzac Day, is located about 5 minutes walk to the north.

For the next 240 days, Anzac and Turks faced each other in trenches barely 20m apart, but neither side could gain absolute victory, with attacks and counter attacks leading to little or no permanent gain in ground. Some of the trenches are still visible, although no longer as deep as they originally were. Some trenches have even been repaired so that visitors can grasp just how close the fighting was.
The Australian War Memorial is located at Lone Pine, a section of high ground located about a kilometre from the shore. This was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles fought between Australian forces and Turks, in which thousands from both sides died in a 4 day and night battle. The small cemetery hides the terrible truth that many thousands lay buried in one of the largest mass graves located directly under the memorial. The tree in the cemetery is a descendant of the "lone pine" that stood on the battlefield at the time of the invasion.

In spite of its bloody history, or maybe because of its history, the Gallipoli Peninsula is a quite and thought provoking site and few leave the area untouched by the events that shaped the future for both the Australia and NZ, as well as the Turkish people, who would gain democracy and radical social changes at the hands of their Gallipoli hero, and future president, Kemal Mustafa.

Tags: , ,


Istanbul is a cultural and sensory delight

by CameronM Sun, September 28 2003 05:53

Istanbul is a cultural and sensory delight. It truly is the place where East-meets-West. Where conservative Turkish culture mixes with the latest European fashions.

When we finally arrived at our hostel in Sultanahmet, we were surprised to find many of the inhabitants still in bed even though it was approaching midday. Over the next few nights the reasons for this became painfully clear. The hostel had a very loud and lively bar downstairs that entertained the residents until the wee hours of the morning. On our last day at the hostel in fact, we met a guy in our dorm you had stayed at the hostel for five nights, but had never slept on his bunk, passing out on the roof top terrace every night after a lively social agenda. The worst part was that many of them were Aussies, so no doubt we are again setting a terrible example to the world.

After a shower and a short nap we ventured out into the now bustling streets of Istanbul. The first thing you notice, besides the carpet shops, is Sultanahmet Square, a green oasis complete with a fountain and park benches, where you can relax and watch the world go by, while enjoying stunning vistas to the Blue Mosque and its older and a little more tired Aya Sofia. 
Many a evening over the course of the next few days I would wander down to the square, sit on one of the benches facing the well lit Blue Mosque, enjoying the atmosphere and the architecture, while sipping a cup of tea that I had purchased from the roving sellers, who I figure must be the Muslim equivalent of the beer sellers at football matches. During the day, the area around the square was filled with people, tourists and locals alike, and you could purchase food from street vendors and enjoy the slightly cooler sun Istanbul provided.

Tags: ,


Bodrum to Istanbul (Why I hate buses)

by CameronM Sat, September 27 2003 05:38

Whatever drugs we were taking when we decided to travel on the overnight bus from Bodrum to Istanbul, had obviously worn off by the wee hours of the morning, as I discovered just how few interesting things there are to see in the dark.

We arrived in Istanbul on a Sunday morning, but still the main bus station was crowded. The guidebook says there are in excess of 100 different agents and gates, and looking at the vast complex, I would say they finally got something right.

For no obvious reason, the bus station is situated about 20 minutes from the main city centre, so we boarded the clean and swift Metro rail system, which emptied us out right near a main junction for the tram network. After attempting to gain some sort of understanding into how to catch a tram and failing miserably, we turned to the guidebook for a little advice. Unfortunately either my map reading skills are terrible or the maps that are provided by guidebooks deliberately leave out countless minor roads and appear grossly out of scale.

Whatever the case we decided that Sultanahmet, the area that was the main focus for tourists didn’t seem more that a few blocks away. It actually turned out to be about 2 kilometres. After a long overnight trip on the bus the last thing we felt like was to walk 2k’s carrying fully loaded backpacks, but once you start you find yourself saying, “Oh it must be just around the next corner”.

Tags: , ,


Turkey via Rhodes and Kos

by CameronM Fri, September 26 2003 05:33

Kos was a smaller version of Rhodes, with fewer tourists, but an overload of night clubs, filled with young Brits. Like Rhodes, the city contains ruins of an old castle, however it is much smaller and more a museum piece than the lively Old City of Rhodes. The castle provided exceptional views of the harbour and nearby Turkey, as well as a large collection of coins dating back to Roman days.

After only one night in Kos, but with many Euros leaving our wallets, we were keen to board the ferry for the hour long trip to Bodrum, a coastal resort town in Turkey. We were among only a handful of travellers in the ferry, which was crowded with day trippers concluding an organised tour of Kos from Bodrum.

After docking, we headed to the small immigration station to get our tourist visa for Turkey. Thankfully, this was a pretty straightforward process and we were soon lugging our backpacks around the streets of Bodrum trying to find somewhere to stay. The ferry terminus is a short distance from town, so after a few wrong turns we eventually found our way to the main town and settled into our accommodation.

Bodrum, known as Halicarnassus in ancient times is a lively resort town located on the coast of Turkey in the Muğla Province. Like many coastal towns, Bodrum had a castle built to help defend the harbour. Bodrum Castle was built by the Crusaders in the early 115th century on the site of several previous strongholds dating back to ancient times.

The castle occupies a commanding position and is visible for just about everywhere in Bodrum. It is also well-preserved and certainly worth a visit.

We met a few other travellers at the hotel who had been in town a couple of days and gave us the full rundown on the nightlife in Bodrum. Apparently Bodrum is host to the world’s largest open air nightclub (or some such accolade) named HALIKARNAS, after the town’s ancient Greek name Halicarnassus.  The nightclub can accommodate thousands of people and has the ever popular foam-party. Although this sounded like an excellent way to do some laundry, Tan and I knew we were a little too old for the trendy clubbing-set, plus we didn’t intend to spend too long in Bodrum.

Tags: , , ,


Planning a trip to Turkey from Rhodes

by CameronM Thu, September 25 2003 05:33

Today we explored the island of Rhodes, well maybe not the whole island, but at least the Old City area. It was amazing. The walls withstood centuries of attempted invasions until the city finally fell during the crusades. They are huge and it's impossible to think that anyone got past them.

The old city streets are narrow, yet the moped riders still motored along with little regard for their own safety, or more likely our safety. The place was filled with the last die-hard tourist, milking every ounce out of the summer, swimming, enjoying the cafe scene and generally having a good time.

After much debating and haggling with travel agents, we decided to head to Turkey via the Greek island of Kos. This was supposed to be a cheaper alternative, although it would mean an extra night in Greece, which was turning out to be quite expensive. The choice paid off however, with a memorable 3 hour ferry trip, when we travelled with Greek islands on our left and Turkey on our right.

We stayed overnight at Alexi’s Pension, where our host Sonya made us feel extremely welcome, which was in stark contrast to our Ouzo drinking host from Rhodes. Sonya was even able to provide a guide to ‘good places to eat’ and I don’t think any of the proprietors were her relatives.

Armed with Sonya’s advice and a hand-written map, Tan and I went out to explore the culinary delights of Kos. The meal was nice and for the first time in Greece I felt that we were paying the same price as the locals. It is always nice to see locals dining at the same restaurant as you and getting the same menu – albeit in Greek instead of English.

The only detraction to an otherwise pleasant meal was my own fault. Having sampled Retsina, the resinated wine (resin-flavoured wine) produced in Greece, when I worked for a firm of Architects I had expected the local variety to be somewhat improved. I was however disappointed to discover that even here is Greece, Retsina still tastes like Mentholated Spirits. I guess I won’t be buying a bottle duty-free!

Tags: , ,