Turkey – Cappadocia – October 2017

Turkey is the “world’s largest museum” and even in Kalkan, our Turkish home town in an out of the way corner of Antalya, we have several ancient sites within an hours drive and many more within a few hours. Patara, only half an hour away, is perhaps the most interesting for us as it was the ancient capital city of Lycia and is still being excavated so that we get to  see more every time we visit.

We had wanted to visit Cappadocia for years and finally on Monday 16th October 2017 we left Kalkan for a 5 night trip along with 15 others and a driver, Murat, owner of Volume Travel, a local travel company.

The trip was organised by our friends Malcolm and Marion aka M&M, long term residents of Kalkan and serial trip organisers over many years.They had run this particular trip with Murat several times over the years but for one reason or another we had never been able to join it; either it didn’t fit with our holiday dates when we were working or, since we retired, we were travelling elsewhere. This time, with lots of advance warning from M&M, we were able to plan our travel itinerary to be in Turkey at the right time.

One of the most visited areas of Turkey, Cappadocia is a sprawling area in the Goreme National Park area of Central Anatolia. The main attractions of the area are its amazing natural landscapes and its ruins created by many different civilisations dating back to pre-history.

M&M and Murat had put together a super itinerary involving tours of the main sites of interest, some excellent valley walks, a visit to a local pottery and a Turkish night with belly dancer and whirling dervish dancers. However, the main event was a hot air balloon trip over Cappadocia which is the way to see Cappadocia. Unfortunately I suffer from vertigo and am seriously troubled by heights – in truth I struggle to look straight down to the ground from the second floor of our apartment! I had no intention of taking a ride in a balloon but happy for Ann to do it – she couldn’t wait!

Our base in Cappadocia was the Suhan Hotel in the city of Avanos but as Avanos is an eleven hour drive from Kalkan, around 750 kilometres, the itinerary included a stop off to visit  the Mevlana Museum at Konya and an overnight stay at  Aksaray.

Mevlana Museum

 

Mevlana Museum at Konya

 

 

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the main reason to come to Konya is to visit the Mevlana museum, the former lodge of the Sufi sect, a branch of Islam whose followers performed the ritual spinning dance and were dubbed Whirling Dervishes. This is one of the biggest  pilgrimage centres in Turkey and most of the visitors by far are Turks. The site contains the tomb of the founder of the order along with  lots of ancient artefacts going back to the 13th century but for us it was only mildly interesting and rather underwhelming albeit provided a useful break in our long journey and happily on the day we visited we did not need to pay an entrance fee!

Our overnight stay at the Grand Saatcioglu Hotel in the centre of Aksaray was pleasant with a convivial dinner which for some of us went on longer than perhaps it should have with a tad too much raki consumed.

 

Views from the Grand Saatcioglu Hotel in the centre of Aksaray

 

 

Selime Monastery

After our night in Avanos we stopped off at Selime Monastery for our first close-up experience of the amazing landscape and rock-cut structures found in Cappadocia.

The landscapes found here in Cappadocia were formed by deposits of volcanic ash, lava and basalt created  from multiple eruptions of three big volcanoes in the area millions of years ago. Subsequent floodwaters and erosion by wind and rain formed valleys, caves and  weird rock formations  of cones, pillars, mushrooms and “fairy chimneys” that can be seen today. The rock below the top layer of basalt is extremely soft, so much so that you can easily scratch it away even with a finger nail and so its easy to see how rain and winds have carved out these caves and shapes.

The soft rock created by the ash, called tuff – is tens of meters thick and since the area was first inhabited, by Hittites between 1800 – 1200 BC, rock dwellings, storerooms and churches have been carved out in the hillside by successive civilisations.

Selime Monastery is a huge structure carved into a hillside with several churches including one so big it’s referred to as a cathedral. In addition to churches the site included dwellings, kitchens, storehouses and stables.

Over time, this was home to Hittites, Assyrians, Persians, Romans and Byzantines.
The churches are interesting with still some evidence of  religious and decorative frescoes but sadly most are covered in centuries of soot from fires and kitchens or  have been scratched off and vandalised over the ages.

The square holes carved above the doorways towards the top of the cave are roosting places for pigeons.These are extremely common and can be seen throughout the region. Pigeeons were encouraged here for their guano used as a growing medium to supplement the lack of soil found in the area

 

It’s believed this site took over 200 years to complete and dates back to the 8th or 9th century.
It continued to be occupied for many many centuries and was expanded to accommodate more people as required. Around 5,000 people were thought to be housed here at one point but after the 11th century it became a caravanserai, a stopping place on the silk road where traders and their animals could stop over night on their journey. It was abandoned in the 16th century although small areas continued to be used by locals  for storage and some still are used to this day.

Kaymakli Underground City

This is one of over 30 underground cities dating back to the Hittite and Phrygians Periods around B.C 3000.

The underground tunnels carved in the soft rock were dug in this city to eight levels although only 3 or 4 are now accessible due to collapse. They provided refuge for the population to hide from invaders or from groups passing through to wage war elsewhere or simply travelling along the silk trail which went through the area. The cities contained living quarters, storehouses, stables and churches with entrancies/escape routes which could be sealed off  if enemies attempted to enter. In some cases there are tunnels as long as 5 kilometres  from one city to the next providing escape routes from invaders.

During the Byzantine era and the Arab-Byzantine wars (780-1180), Christians used the underground city to protect them from Muslim Arab persecution. After the region fell to the Ottomans the cities were used as refuges from the Turkish Muslim rulers, and as late as the 20th century the inhabitants, called Cappadocian Greeks, were still using the underground cities to escape periodic waves of Ottoman persecution.

We were given a very interesting tour by a local guide. Here are a few photos.

 

 

For our second, third and fourth nights we were based  in Avanos at the Suhane Hotel, a large modern purpose built hotel which looks amazing from the outside with super nice outside areas and impressive reception and bar areas. Unfortunately the rooms are tired and in need of upgrading and  fall  well short of the  supposed 5 Star status although more than adequate for us for only 3 nights. On the plus side, the food was fine and the staff are nice and the bar was amply stocked with beer and wine although a bar person did need to pop out to a supermarket nearby to buy tonic water! The hotel was fine for us but I couldn’t recommend it.

On our first night at Suhane, Tuesday the 17th, an early night was necessary due to the fact that we would be awake at 4.30 in the morning to get ready to leave the hotel at 5.30 for the balloon trip. I had changed my mind regarding the balloon trip and decided to go for it. Actually I had changed my mind en route from Kalkan and in the end all but one of our party took the flight. It was an amazing experience.

All was fine and we were picked up promptly in the morning and transported a short distance to a restaurant near the balloon take off fields. We were given a simple Turkish breakfast and then bussed over to the take off area for a safety drill, pre-flight photos and a sales pitch for the in-flight video that would be taken.

Happily and surprisingly I had no pre-flight fears or even nerves and enjoyed every minute of the hour long flight which started  just as day was breaking around 7am. There were many many balloons taking flight one after the other but we were one of the first to go. We started with a fairly low  flightpath over a couple of  nearby valleys actually descending into the valleys and within touching distance of valley walls and towering pillars – quite amazing and surprisingly good fun with the pilot showing a high level of skill in manoeuvring the balloon. We then rose to heights of 1,000 feet and above to give us  great panoramic views over the area and the other balloons flying below us.

 

We were 12 persons in the basket all from the same group and enjoyed good craic with the pilot who spoke good english. Everyone was impressed (and relieved no doubt) with his handling of the balloon which he manoevered by ropes and pullies and increasing and decreasing the gas supply to the burner. An hour passed by quickly before we started our descent into a field with the pilot landing on a basket sized platform ready to be transported away – an incredibly accurate landing followed by the presentation of flight certificates and a glass of bubbly to all the passengers. A memorable trip indeed

The rest of the morning was spent sight seeing with an early finish following our early start in the morning. Later that evening we attended an excellent Turkish Night which included a nice dinner with inclusive and unlimited drinks with the usual traditional music and dancing including the obligatory belly dancer! Normally I avoid such evenings like the plague but this turned out to be a great fun night – and more than a tad boozy……

Our time in Cappadocia was otherwise spent completing a couple of excellent walks along the  Ilhere Valley which included lunch at a riverside restaurant and also Rose Valley. We also visited a number of other locations, including Goreme Open Air Museum a huge area with a mega collection of churches (although in all honesty we were already churched out by now  and Uchisar Castle which gave us a bit of a work out climbing to the top to be rewarded with some long distance views over the region.

Here are more than a few more photos of Cappadocia

Ilhara Valley

 

 

 

This is Goreme Open Air Museum. A large site with a collection of cave churches carved into the
rock from around 900 AD. As elsewhere many of the frescos are badly damage but some remain well preserved but unfortunately by now we were rather churched out and bothered to look at only a few of them

 

 

 

Uchisar Castle

Uchisar Castle – quite a climb but worth it for terrific views

 

 

 

Rose Valley

This is a tiny winery we came across early into our walk in Rose Valley

 

 

Sultanhani Caravanserai

We set off on our return journey early on Friday 20th October driving firstly to the town of Sultanhani on the road to Konya to see a large 13th century caravanserai which was the biggest in Turkey built on the trade route leading to Persia.

From Sultanhani we travelled west through some fantastic scenery with a lunch stop at a service station high in the Tauros Mountains which are an “extension” of the Himalayan mountain chain that stretches across all of Asia. In Turkey the Taurus mountains stretch along the southern coast dividing the Mediterranean coastal region from Anatolia. After lunch it was a two hour downhill drive south to the coastal resort of Side where we broke the journey with a pleasant evening, dinner and an overnight stay.

The following morning we continued on our journey back to Kalkan calling at Phaselis,  an interesting Roman port city  built on three bays with the ruins of the city including an aqueduct, theatre and baths remaining. We had only an hour or so for this visit but we will  return visit to investigate some more.

 

 

With a brief stop for a lunch of baked trout , we were back in Kalkan late afternoon  in good time to see City beat Burnley 3-0 at the Etihad. All in all a great trip and highly recommended if you can make it – Im sure M&M will be running this one again!

And finally, a BIG THANK YOU to M & M for arranging this trip which was one of the most enjoyable and interesting we have ever been on. We can’t wait to do another!

A big THANK YOU to Malc & Marion for a brilliant trip!

 

PS This post was put together in December 2017 following our trip in October. My memory isn’t what it was and we visited so many places and took so many photos that there might well be some in accuracies as for some reason my camera GPS wasn’t always working!

 

 

Turkey – Kalkan – a trip to Kekova and the Sunken City

 

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Kekova is a small island off the coast at Simena (Kaleköy), a small village in the Demre district of Turkey’s Antalya Province. The village lies amidst a Lycian necropolis, which is partially sunken underwater and the village is overlooked by a Byzantine castle, built in the Middle Ages to fight pirates who were present throughout this coast.

Tour operators run tours several times a week from Kalkan involving a half hour coach ride to Kas Harbour and from there a boat trip to Kekova. Lunch is usually provided either on the boat or in a restaurant at the village and there are opportunities for swimming. A good day out. Here are some photographs….

Arriving at Kas Harbour
Arriving at Kas Harbour

 

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Approaching Kayekoy
Approaching Kayekoy

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There isn't a huge amount in the village but thats the beauty of the place.There is a pension or two ,a few shops and cafes/restaurants and a few stalls selling tourist goods.
There isn’t a huge amount in the village but thats the beauty of the place.There is a pension or two ,a few shops and cafes/restaurants and a few stalls selling tourist goods.

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If you take the time to walk to the castle at the top of the hill ( many don't in the heat of summer) you can take a tour for a small fee but you will find many ancient tombs such as these scattered all over.
If you take the time to walk to the castle at the top of the hill ( many don’t in the heat of summer) you can take a tour for a small fee but you will find many ancient tombs such as these scattered all over.

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Spot the goat in this one
Spot the goat in this one

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Turkey – Kalkan and the Bodrum Peninsula 2016

Kalkan Harbour 12th April 2016
Kalkan Harbour 12th April 2016

We flew from Bangkok to Dalaman via Istanbul on 25th February. Our Asian travels were done , at least for the time being. It’s 13 months since we left Istanbul in January 2015 and we have had an amazing time but it was good to be back home. The  weather is perfect, sunny with temperatures low to mid 20s centigrade and the town, for me, is at its best, very very quiet with very few tourists about. We will be here until mid May when we move north to Bodrum for a few days before leaving Turkey for Croatia and Montenegro.

This would be the first time we would stay in our apartment for more than a couple of weeks and we were looking forward to it. We did intend to use some of the time to travel but we enjoyed our time in Kalkan so much that we couldn’t be bothered going anywhere other than Bodrum except for a few shopping trips to nearby Kas and one overnight trip to Fethiye which is about an hour away.

We had some major home improvements done at the apartment over winter 2014 and this was our first time back since then. This was the first time we had seen the finished article  and we were generally delighted with the work done – it was like a new apartment – but inevitably there was a snag list to be drawn up and tackled.Also inevitably Mrs E  found other improvements to be done and purchases to be made to improve the look of the place and add to the creature comforts. Unfortunately none of this was in the budget but hey ho……

Needless to say a few jobs  remained outstanding even when we left Kalkan on 18th May but this is Turkey after all and the jobs will be done sometime – possibly, hopefully.maybe before we return in September.

 

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We enjoyed this first long stay in Kalkan very much. If it were not for the Turkey visa rules which currently allow a maximum stay of only 90 days, we would happily stay longer.     Although we did get a few stormy days here and there we found the end of February onwards to be an excellent time for walking with everywhere quiet and green and with lots of spring flowers to be seen.

For anyone interested, there is superb way-marked walk, the Lycian Way, which stretches around 540 km from near Fethiye to Antalya passing through Kalkan on its way. There is some fabulous walking to be done from Kalkan and there are one or two walking groups in the town run by ex-pats who welcome visitors.Unfortunately Ann’s knee was taking its time to recover following a nasty fall the night before we left Bangkok and so serious walking was out of the question for us on this trip.

This is 3rd April. Kalkan still very quiet but restaurants and shops getting ready for the season.
This is 3rd April. Kalkan still very quiet but restaurants and shops are now getting ready for the season. The Guy in the middle of the street is whitewashing the walls of his restaurant for the new season. If the street looks a little Greece – like, then it is. Kalkan  was originally a village settled by both Greeks and Turks and was once known by its Greek name Kalamaki. Kalkan retains its historic charm with lots of  old buildings and plenty of  Greek/Turkish Ottoman architecture in the tiny streets throughout the village. There’s more info on our apartment website for anyone interested in the history of this part of the Lycian Coast.

 

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Very few restaurants open but happily Salonika , one of our favourites , was up and running.Perfect place for lunch sat in the winter sun.
Very few restaurants are actually open yet but happily Salonika, one of our favourites , was up and running. Perfect place for a long Sunday lunch sat in the winter sun.

The apartment is in a quiet residential  district of Kalkan and although there is a shop and a couple of restaurants and hotels, all were closed for the winter. No worries, although serious walking was out of the question, an almost daily leisurely stroll into town  for mooching  shopping and the occasional lunch was a very agreeable way to spend our days.

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This is a great time to visit. Kalkan town itself is very very quiet indeed with most shops other than supermarkets and builders merchants closed – the latter because November to May is the only time when construction work is allowed in Kalkan so this is the busiest trading period for the building supplies shops. The same goes for restaurants with only a handful of “proper” restaurants open (Salonica, Aubergine and DoyDoy from memory) although almost all the locantas, eateries selling “local” food, remain open for the locals. This suits us fine. We didn’t expect to eat out a great deal and even when we did it would usually be in places where the locals eat – one of the pleasures of Turkey, especially out of season when the restaurant owners have time to natter.

So the period February to May 2016 in Kalkan was spent doing nothing much at all other than a little bit of walking most days and some work on the garden which needed clearing out and re-planting in places. We also spent a lot of time with Tamer, our Property Manager, getting  various works done in time for our first letting Guests of the season in mid May – forgive the plug but the place will still be available for letting in the future – see www.kalkanseaview.com if interested.

Here are a few photos of this visit to Turkey:

Kalkan

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This is 17th May .A beautiful day in Kisla.
Our apartment in Kisla. Picture taken 17th May. The top of Kalkan village can just be seen on the left in the distance.

 

A beautiful valley only a short walk from the apartment.The apartment is along the track and just over the brow of the first hill.
A lovely quiet valley nearby makes for a nice walk. The apartment is along the track and just over the brow of the first hill with Kalkan Bay beyond it but out of sight.

 

Rutting season for tortoises in Kalkan.This was taken 30th March in the local
Rutting season for tortoises in Kalkan. This was taken 30th March in the local “garden centre”

 

We found this little one on the road outside the apartment on 20th March
We found this little one on the road outside the apartment on 20th March

 

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DoyDoy , one of our favourite restaurants ,was open throughout the winter
DoyDoy , one of our favourite restaurants was open throughout the winter

 

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KAS

Kas  is a small town along the coast around 26 kilometres from Kalkan. The drive takes around 20 minutes but we invariably take a dolmus (local bus) which enables us both to enjoy the stunning views which many say are reminiscent of Italy. The bus ride costs less than £2 per person each way.

Kas, like Kalkan, is a fishing, sailing, diving and tourist resort and like most other places in the region there are lots of Roman remains to be seen in the town and the area. We find it a great place to find stuff for the apartment if we don’t want to travel further afield to the bigger Fethiye and usually we aim to get there in the morning, spend a few hours shopping and mooching and then enjoy a nice long lunch with a bottle of wine before returning home. Its a pretty, unspoilt town and  there are interesting boat trips to be had along the coast from here, including the Greek island of Meis, which usually start with a coach ride from Kalkan.

A couple of restaurants open on the main square in Kas
A couple of restaurants open on the main square in Kas

 

But most remained closed.
But most remained closed.

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Fethiye

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Fethiye is a port city around an hour or so from Kalkan. Its the biggest town in the region with a population over 140,000 and is a proper working town that is therefore “open” all year around which means that it is generally busy whatever time of year you visit. The harbour area and a shopping area next to it is particularly attractive with lots of restaurants and shops and boat trips to be had to and around outlying islands. Again  like many of the towns in this region , there are plenty of Roman and Greek remains to be seen.

 

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One of Fethiye's main covered shopping streets in the jewellery quarter - we have never seen it so quiet.
One of Fethiye’s main covered shopping streets in the jewellery quarter – we have never seen it so quiet though it is still early in the season for tourists.

 

Bodrum and the Bodrum Peninsula

We spent our last few days in Turkey at Gumusluk on the Bodrum Peninsula, not an area we have visited before.

Bodrum

Bodrum itself is quite a big town with a nice old castle and lots of history. It comprises a big marina lined with shops, restaurants and cafes and a market area. It’s a pretty town and we had great weather to see it at its best. There was a public holiday on the day we visited with events, markets and exhibitions (vintage VWs was one) taking place and a big stage being set up for music that evening. Vendors selling flags (the Turks are fiercely proud and love their flag which is seen everywhere) and other stuff  were doing a good trade. The town was busy with tourists and locals alike even though later, outside of Bodrum itself, the resorts were quiet like Kalkan.

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Gumusluk

 

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Gumusluk is a small fishing village on the Bodrum Peninsula  standing on the site of the ancient Greek city of Myndos and still referred to as Myndos on some street signs. There is a lot of evidence of the ancient city around the place and remains of paved areas and buildings can be seen in places in shallow water areas near the seashore and particularly in a shallow stretch of water which separates the town from a small island, Rabbit Island, just off shore. You can actually walk out to the island from the town along a submerged ancient street/footpath.

Downtown Gumusluk. This dirt street runs the length of the seafront .
Downtown Gumusluk. This dirt street runs the length of the seafront

 

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An every day sight in Gumusluk. Rabbit Island can be seen in the background.
An every day sight in Gumusluk. Rabbit Island can be seen in the backgroun

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The town itself is very small with a population of only a few thousand and is spread over a largish area. The touristic area is, of course, at the seaside end of town with the harbour overlooked by Rabbit Island. The seafront part of town stretches less than a kilometre with a dirt street running either side out from the central harbour area. The street is lined for the most part with fish restaurants and cafes but with very few shops other than a couple of  small supermarkets and a few shops selling pottery, jewellery, textiles, beach goods and the like.

 

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Although the town is undeveloped and actually quite scruffy in places with a very ordinary short and narrow dark sand beach, it does feel rather upmarket and the fish restaurants here are eye wateringly expensive although thankfully we did find an affordable one just away from the seafront. Balic Pirsime Evi is actually run by the owner of the town’s fish market. It’s very popular and does excellent fish and seafood (pick your own to be weighed) and super  mezze dishes  including many we have never seen before .We would return to Gumusluk just to eat here -we ate here three times in five nights !

There are many expensive seafood restaurants along the waterfront
There are many expensive seafood restaurants along the waterfront

 

This cafe , still on the waterfront , is run by the Belideye ( Town Council) and provides affordable drinks and snacks at street cafe prices - we tried it one evening for the sake of a taste of something different - very good too.
This cafe, still on the waterfront, is run by the Belideye (Town Council) and provides affordable drinks and snacks at street cafe prices – we tried it one evening for the sake of a taste of something different – very good too.

 

 

 

 

A pre-luncheon bira in the Belediye Cafe
A pre-luncheon bira in the Belediye Cafe

 

A night off fish tonight. Excellent meatball sandwiches , chips and a few beers....
Enough of that healthy stuff . A night off fish tonight.Instead an excellent meatball sandwich, chips and a few beers….

 

We stayed 5 nights at the Gumusluk Otel which describes itself as a boutique hotel and is only a very short walk, less than 50 metres from the sea. The accommodation was good and the hotel has nice gardens with a  pool and  restaurant that serves an excellent Turkish breakfast. The Clientele were virtually all Turkish people when we visited and in fact we got the impression this was largely a resort for fairly well to do Turks.

 

Gumusluk Hotel , our digs for three nights . Good facilities and a very nice traditional Turkish breakfast
Gumusluk Hotel, our digs for three nights. Good facilities and a very nice traditional Turkish breakfast

 

There’s really little to do in this small village other than walk, swim, hang around on the not so brill beach and generally chill out. However, even without a car its really easy to get around the peninsula using the excellent and cheap local buses .

We visited most of the other resorts on the peninsula, albeit briefly, during the course of our short stay and really enjoyed our visit to the area. The peninsula has some stunning scenery and the bus is a good way to see it – some of the  roads up and down hills are hairy to say the least.

We liked some resorts more than others but most were far too built up for our liking with resort beaches lined with huge numbers of sunbeds reminiscent of the Italian Riviera and with jazzy bars and restaurants often aimed at  an altogether younger party crowd. However, without exception, they were all very quiet at the time of our visit; the tourist season was definitely starting later this year!

Here, in no order, are some photos of our travels around the peninsula visiting Gumbet, Bitez, Tutgutreis, Yalikavak, Torba and Turkbuku.

 

Gumbet

 

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Hundreds of empty sunbeds at Gumbet
Some of the swathes of empty sunbeds at Gumbet

 

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Bitez

 

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Turgutreis

One of the biggest towns on the Bodrum Peninsula

 

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Typical beach restaurants
Typical beach restaurants

 

Less typical , Turgutreis Marina has a modern shopping with upmarket shops and a very pleasant entertainment area with some nice bars and restaurants.
Less typical, Turgutreis Marina has a modern marina with upmarket shops and a very pleasant entertainment area with some nice bars and restaurants.

 

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One of several interesting creations found in a small park area near the marina
One of several interesting creations found in a small park area near the marina

 

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Yalikavak

The most upmarket town on the peninsula with plenty of expensive restaurants.

 

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On 23rd May we flew from Bodrum via Istanbul  to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia .We will be returning to Turkey in September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re Off!

Our journey from the UK to New Zealand had started January 20th with a couple of nights in Antalya. We enjoyed the visit staying 2 nights at Villa Tulipan in a perfect location in the Old City. VT is an old fashioned Pension/B&B; a lovely old building with furniture and fittings in keeping but very clean and comfortable with en suite facilities and free wifi.

Antalya Old Town
Antalya Old Town

We had the best room in the house which was essentially an apartment with fab views over the old city, the sea beyond and the snow capped Taurus Mountains in the distance.

We were given the friendliest of welcomes by the owner and staff who came out to meet our pre-arranged airport transfer and take our bags. The hotel was great – it felt as if we were staying in someone’s house and the staff were always on hand with tips and recommendations. An excellent Turkish breakfast was included and we would definitely stay again.

Antalya itself is a big city and seems pretty unremarkable but we enjoyed a day wandering the old city and a day was about right.

After Antalya we spent a few nights at our Apartment in Kalkan to check out the home improvements we had organised in October (all good) and then returned to Antalya to fly up to Istanbul.

We spent to a couple of nights at Sultans Inn. This was another budget style Pension/Backpacker’s place but with all the facilities we needed including AC/WiFi/en-suite and again with a pleasant Turkish breakfast perfect for grazing. Bargain accommodation in a perfect location in Sultanhamet.

Istanbul is a fantastic city and although we spent a week there in 2013, there is much to see and explore and most of our only full day was spent visiting the Dolmabache Palace an amazing building which although not massively old is huge and ornate as can be expected of such places. Ataturk lived the last few years of his life there and indeed died there – we got to see the bed in which he passed away on.

Istanbul is a place I can see us returning to many times.

We started out travels proper with a flight from Istanbul to Christchurch on January 28th at 7 pm with stops at Dubai, Bangkok and Sydney. The journey was tiresome but uneventful but it was a relief to finally arrive at Christchurch Airport on January 30th at 3.30 pm. Passport control was a doddle as luckily we were randomly selected to use the airport’s recently introduced fast track electronic system and in doing so managed to cut out a long queue.

Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Blue Mosque, Istanbul

 

We had feared the worst in anticipation of the baggage check as New Zealand is more than fastidious in its attempts to maintain bio-security to keep out any kind of harmful bugs which might unwittingly be introduced by illegal imports of food or dirty fishing/outdoor gear which could be carrying didymium. None of my fishing tackle had seen a fish for some time and so I was confident our gear was “clean”. Thankfully the interview and inspection by the authorities was thorough but not OTT.

An airport shuttle service got us to our first stop – City Motel Apartments on Barbadoes Street – within half an hour of the baggage inspection for less than 30 NZD plus tip.

We crashed out for a couple of hours then went out for a quick pizza and beer at the CBD pub off Madras Street.