Tuesday, April 07, 2015

21 October: Istanbul

We woke up late-ish and had a slow morning ... we had a free day in Istanbul!

Showers were lukewarm, but I spose that's cause we were late. We had a quick breakfast and then The Trucker had to quickly login and sort some work stuff out. This is what he's been lugging our cute new slim little laptop around Turkey for!

After that we headed out. We borrowed a Metro card from the hotel and walked up a long hill to get to the station to load it with credits. 2.25Tl a trip. First we headed to Eminonu, the harbour stop to find out about Bosphorus Cruises. The ones the hotel was offering were 40EU, including a meal etc. I'd found one online for 12Tl. Unfortunately when we arrived they were closed. Ticket sales for their 14h30 trip would only open at 1pm!

So we decided to kill some time with one of my Istanbul picks, the Archaeology Museum. Unfortunately a large part of it (and many other things around town) was under renovation / construction. Not sure how much of a difference that made but, it certainly wasn't as impressive as I was expecting. And The Trucker was terribly bored.

I'd hoped for more (anything) about the Giant Heads at Mount Nemrut that were too far off our tour path for me to include ... and something on Gobekli Tepe! Didn't see a thing!

Just after 1pm we headed back to the harbour and bought our tickets for the 2hr cruise. Then we had to wait till 2pm before the gates opened for boarding. Luckily The Trucker and I split up so I got us great seats upstairs on the balcony and he got us the 10Tl Audio Guide.

I'm not exactly sure why everyone recommend a cruise up the Bosphorus. I didn't find it any more interesting than the museum. And my ears got tired of the Audio Guide around all the "Summer Residences"!

After that we wandered the Spice Bazaar and then walked back to our area. We ended up stopping at the Best Western for a drink on their terrace to watch the sunset (and play with our new selfie stick). And ended up having a little dinner there too. Biggest starter plate of chips I've ever seen!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

20 October: Kusadasi to Istanbul

We got collected by our next tour guide at 9am. I think this lady was my least favourite. Wish we'd had the guy from yesterday again!

She first took us to Mary's Church (or House). I didn't really follow it all. It sounds like somewhere along the way Mary swapped Joseph for John the Baptist (or did Joseph die?) and ran off to Turkey to hide (and apparently died here).

I will say it is surreal and a little hard to follow the history which overlaps with names we're very familiar with (Cleopatra, people from the Bible etc.).

We whirled thru the 2 room house that was clearly a religious experience for others (Catholics I presume ... apparently all the Popes have been to visit too). I quite liked the jam-packed wishing wall. Did consider wishing for a girl - haha.

From there it was off to Ephesus for a long day. Shewee. It was pretty cool but, I could've done with more unguided wandering on my own. The problem is, as fascinating as all the history is (and parts of it really are!), t is all very overwhelming to absorb or contextualise there and then. Impossible, even. It's amazing to see that so long ago, the Romans were so advanced ... central heating, saunas, plumbing in the communal latrines.

We walked thru a special section of terraced housing which had incredible mosaics. It was truly amazing. As much as we know tho, it's still hard to picture or imagine living then!

We saw the ancient library, which was very cool. And the much larger theatre, which although it seats far more than the one at Heirapolis, wasn't nearly as impressive (I didn't think).

From Ephesus, we went for lunch. Seriously, THE BEST lunch we've had on this whole trip! Finally, no touristy buffet but a selection of local dishes. Manti and Gozleme were my faves.

From lunch we stopped briefly at the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - probably the only thing impressive about it).

And then The Trucker and I decided to skip the leather & carpet sales-y portion of the day and got to spend an hour wandering the Kusadasi coast with a Starbucks caramel frappachino in hand instead. Yip, we totally scored on that one!

And then, at 5pm we left for the Izmir Airport to catch our flight back to Istanbul. We arrived back at the same hotel, checked in, got a different room and pretty much went to bed.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

19 October: Pamukkale to Kusadasi

Our experience with the hotel (Hotel Koray) just deteriorated. And after we looked it up on Trip Advisor, we were amazed at how many of our complaints were the same as people had listed there!

The wifi signal was rubbish. After I was already in the shower, The Trucker had to go and find clean towels! The breakfast was the least impressive we've seen so far (except there was watermelon :) ). The owners (or managers ?) were also not very helpful.

We're actually a little confused right now as they seem to have us registered as Graziela Someone-or-other?! Our itinerary says we're where we should be. Perhaps Graziela booked for us, but none of it left us feeling overly confident about this place.

We're being collected for Heirapolis and Pamukkale tour at 11h30. And at some point after the tour we have another "approx 3hr" bus ride ... let's hope it's better than the last one!

While we were waiting, we took a stroll around the area surrounding the hotel. The town seems in terrible disrepair. I would not advise staying here.

Needless to say, everything worked out and improved exponentially as soon as our tour arrived to collect us.

Our guide for Pamukkale was great! And again, we met some interesting people, for the day. We headed to the top entrance of Heirapolis and took a wander thru the unexcavated town up to the theatre. Which took our breath away!

Wow. Seriously, wow. It was amazing. I was completely in awe. I do think it helped that we watched Spartacus earlier this year. It really made the experience more real, imagining the people who lived here and attended the theatre (which was used for gladiators and animal fights as well as plays and other things).

On our way down the hill, we saw the tomb of St Peter being excavated in the distance. And then we wandered down to Cleopatra's Pool. Which wasn't at all what I expected. We decided not to pay the 32Tl to swim there but, rather visited the museum in the old bath house and then went down to the actual pools and "swam" there.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but it was pretty cool. The calcium deposit is just a large clump in the middle of perfectly normal mountains. Reminded me a bit of the stretch of fake snow in Lesotho at Afriski! Haha.

They divert the water regularly to different pools to allow others to dry out and kill the algae. But the pools we could go to were quite shallow so the water had lost it's warmth. The real fun was sitting in the canal with the warm water rushing past you!

After that our tour drove us to Kusadasi, our next overnight stop. The hotel here, Hotel Sozer, is awesome, with a sea view! Which definitely makes up for the last one. Reminds me a little of our experience in Nah Trang.

We checked in and immediately headed to the stretch of restaurants along the coastal road. We (oddly) settled on a Chinese spot and had a very nice dinner. I had Chicken with Satay sauce and The Trucker had Sweet & Sour Beef.

After dinner we headed to the Doubletree where the people we'd met on the tour had promised to leave some of their famous chocolate chip cookies for us. The Trucker is such a sneak! Delish :)

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