A Travellerspoint blog

March 2019

Back to Europe

Istanbul


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Edit from March 2019: The restaurant we went to was called Ahırkapı Balıkçısı - it's still going! Definitely a place I recommend! Piya Hostel is still going too and I recommend that as well.

Dave woke up not feeling well at all - but he made it OK to Istanbul. By the end of the flight he was feeling better. Instead of getting the bus, metro and tram to our hostel, we took the more unusual route of a bus to the Asian seafront (Sabiha Gökçen Airport is on the Asian side, but miles and miles out of the city itself), with a view then to take a ferry to the European side and lastly a tram and a walk to Piya Hostel, the same place we had stayed at before our Cappadocian and Aegean adventures.

Before we got on the ferry we had a great Balik Ekmek each for lunch on a café-boat. I really recommend Balik Ekmek - such a simple idea (freshly-caught fish boned, grilled and stuffed into a crusty roll with some optional salt and lemon juice) yet it works so well.

On arrival at Piya Hostel we went straight to bed for a nap - we had had an early start in the morning. Late afternoon we started out on a walk round the corner to the Arasta Bazaar and the Istanbul Handicrafts Market, but only about 100m away from the hotel Dave stubbed his toe and it was bleeding, so we went back to our room and I patched it up for him. The market would have started packing up by the time I finished, so we decided just to have some dinner instead.

We had tried to visit this restaurant before, but if was closed for Ramadan then. Ramadan has finished now though, so as soon as we realised it was open again we were there like a shot. It was a tiny seafood place just round the corner. I had a swordfish skewer and Dave had shrimp salad; the shrimps were massive and the chunks of swordfish on my skewer weren't far behind! We shared a cold (but cooked) aubergine and tomato appetiser as well, plus some baklava when it came to dessert and we still had space. The food was great and the owner/waiter was very softly spoken and charming, not pushy at all like some of the waiters are round here.

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After dinner we walked back to the waterfront in order to fulfill a long-held desire of mine; to at least dip my fingers in the Strait of Bosphorus. This was a little more difficult than it sounds, because the 'beach' consists only of big boulders piled up so closely together that there's no space on the ground to stand. I did, however, manage to get my hand in the water; mission successful.

Posted by 3Traveller 01:03 Archived in Turkey Tagged airport turkey istanbul hostel buses ferry bosphorus dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

Sunset and coffee next to the Aegean

Izmir


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This morning we took a train from Selçuk back to Izmir. Dave wasn't feeling very well, so when we got to our hostel room we just rested in bed for a few hours until about 6pm. We stayed at the same hostel as before (Shantihome), but this time we got a better room; bigger, with a nice balcony to sit in, and with a lock on the door!

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After his sleep he felt better, so we went on a walk to the park we'd passed through on the way to and from the train station. It was still sunny and warm, but the main heat of the day had gone. An ice cream kept us going on the way there.

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After strolling round the park, we walked to the seafront, passing through a market on the way. The market was a basic one, like a car boot sale without the cars, with people selling things from blankets on the ground. A lot of household objects, tools and things like that.

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We reached the seafront much further south than where we'd been the other day, so we just followed it north until we reached the area of Alsancak. The sea was much more choppy this time, but this hadn't deterred the hundreds of fishermen who had set themselves up all the way along the seafront. The sunset was amazing, the large, very red sun hanging lower and lower over the sea until it disappeared altogether over the horizon.

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It seemed that nearly half the population of Izmir had come to the seafront area - variously sitting on the grass in the stretch of park next to the seafront walkway, fishing, enjoying the sunset and filling up the seafront restaurants and cafés.

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As we got nearer to Alsancak we suddenly started hearing lots of chanting and some whistles... We noticed a long line of police officers stretched across the grass, from the restaurants to the seafront walkway. A flag-waving protest was making its noisy but seemingly peaceful way along the path next to the restaurants. We couldn't make out for sure what it was about, but I thought it might be related to the terrorist bombing in the town of Suruç (the other side of the country, near the Syrian border) earlier today.

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After passing that we continued to the same small restaurant we'd been to when we were here before. I had the same thing as before, because it had been so delicious; Dave had a tuna salad. We finished with some delicious Turkish coffee. In a plain cup without any accompaniments, unlike the stuff we had in more tourist-orientated places in Istanbul and Cappadocia, but the best tasting in Turkey so far.The other coffee I've had has been very nice, but this was the winner!

Posted by 3Traveller 15:07 Archived in Turkey Tagged trains market turkey izmir hostel dave procession turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Pamukkale and Ancient Hierapolis

Pamukkale, Ancient Hierapolis and Selçuk


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Day trip today to the dazzling white hot spring terraces of Pamukkale and the ancient site of Hierapolis.

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It turned out to be one of the busiest days of the year - a feast day for the end of Ramadan, all historic and tourist sites in the country were free entry for Turkish nationals. The place was packed, but I was still very glad we'd come. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason, after all - it is both spectacular, otherworldly and historically significant. I remembered seeing pictures of the terraces somewhere years and years ago (in childhood or teenage years), without knowing where they were or what they were called, and being transfixed. I imagined what a wonderful thing it would be to visit such a magical place.... it was only recently, when I was in Bulgaria and reading about Turkey, that I came across pictures of Pamukkale again and things clicked into place... here was my magical landscape again; this time a reality to visit!

We walked round Hierapolis first, a very open site with fantastic views of the landscape reaching up to mountains in the distance. Hierapolis was an ancient city within the Classical region of Phrygia. There were remarkably few people here considering the huge amounts around the mineral terraces next door. Very peaceful and pleasant, highlights being a restored theatre and the Nymphaeum Temple.

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The terraces themselves - well, what can I say! The stretches of white calcium carbonate reminded me (and surely most other people) of a glacier; the pools of light turquoise water, filled from hot springs and clouded with minerals, were a sight to behold. So surreal! First of all we walked around, looking at all the terraces people aren't allowed to touch...

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...before moving along to the ones which people are allowed to paddle and bathe in. I wished I had a swimming costume available so I could bathe, but as neither Dave nor I had any swimming stuff with us, we made do with a paddle. I saw one guy walk out of a pool with white mineral silt spread all over his face, chest and arms. Not a bad place to give yourself a facepack!

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It was an exceedingly hot day and by the time we had to leave the terraces we had finished the drinks we'd brought with us. We were so thirsty that although the drinks at the stands outside the exit were expensive, I had no choice but to buy a couple there.

Back in Selçuk in the evening, we had another delicious dinner next to the Roman aqueduct. We returned to the restaurant we'd eaten at the day before yesterday - the owner recognised us from before and was really friendly. While we ate we watched the storks on the aqueduct and noted all the cats and kittens that were wandering around the tables. One table near us had six or seven of them!

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After dinner we walked around the base of the aqueduct, hoping to get a photo of one or more of the storks taking flight from the nests on top, but with no luck. We also admired the view of the Basilica of St John on the hill on the other side of town.

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Posted by 3Traveller 06:38 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey dave storks selcuk pamukkale natural_wonder hierapolis roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site thermal_baths extreme_weather Comments (0)

Ephesus Museum

Ephesus and Selçuk


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At the north exit of Ephesus we savoured the air conditioning in the shop for a bit before leaving and taking a bus from the carpark back to Selçuk.

The first thing we did in Selçuk was head to Ephesus Museum, which was excellent. It not only holds treasures from Ephesus, but from the historic sites of Selçuk as well. Highlights included a bust of Socrates (4th cent. AD) and a magnificent statue of Artemis (2nd cent. AD)...

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...the gold and silver coins of the Ayasuluk Hoard (15th cent. AD)...

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...a bronze statue of Eros on the back of a dolphin (2nd cent. BC) and some Bronze Age swords and axe-heads...

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...bone spoons from the Hellenistic or Roman periods and some amber beads and pendants...

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...a curled-up bronze snake from the 1st century AD, an exquisite gold statuette of an un-named goddess (630 - 640 BC) and some gold-leaved diadems (1st-3rd cent. BC).

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Before we went out for dinner, at our hotel reception we arranged a trip for the next day. Ideally I would have loved to do this trip independently; to get a local bus to Pamukkale, spend the night there, look around the twin sites of Heiropolis & Pamukkale the next day and then get a bus back to Selçuk the following morning. But unfortunately we only had one day free, not three, and public transport looked very awkwardly placed for day trips. Oh well, at least we'd get lunch thrown in, and I was still incredibly excited to see the white calcite descending pools of Pamukkale and the historic site of Heiropolis, even if I knew we wouldn't get as much time there as I'd ideally like.

Like the evening before, we ate dinner at an outdoor table next to the aqueduct (at a different restaurant, though). The food was lovely and throughout the meal it was fun to watch the storks in their nests above. We also ended up cat-watching - lots of cats and kittens stalked around the tables and walls, hoping for scraps.

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:45 Archived in Turkey Tagged birds turkey museum dave ephesus storks selcuk roman_remains Comments (0)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Ephesus

Ephesus


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Edit from March 2019: The entrance price for the main site is 60 Turkish lira (£8/ $11/ 9.7 euros). One or two of the individual attractions have their own entrance fees, but no more than 30 lira each I believe.

After an absolutely fabulous day exploring the ancient city of Ephesus and looking round the excellent Ephesus Museum back in Selçuk, I have some tips for any future visitors who might read this.

Arrive at the south entrance and exit at the north, especially on a hot day like we experienced today. Ephesus goes downhill from south to north... we were glad we had heeded this advice when we saw people struggling up past us from the other direction.

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Buy your water from a supermarket in Selçuk first, not at the site itself. You can buy water at the north entrance, but needless to say it is more expensive than what you can get in Selçuk or another nearby town. You will need a lot! We stocked up on water and Diet Coke at a supermarket in Selçuk - between 6 and 8 litres in total - and by the time we left we had only one litre left.

Go independently if you can - unless you have very little time and need to just be zoomed around it by a tour guide, or unless you want a an individual or small group in-depth tour on a particular theme, in which case having an expert to guide you makes a lot of sense. If you've arrived in Selçuk by yourself, it's easy (and in my opinion better) to explore the site independently rather than with a tour group. Here's why;

- Ephesus is only about two km from Selçuk, so it's mega-easy to get a taxi there (or walk or cycle, if it takes your fancy).

- There are plenty of information signs dotted around the site.

- You get so much more time to wander around and see what you want, when you want. No regrets afterwards about things you didn't manage to see properly or at all.

- There are so many surprisingly quiet areas away from the main, crowded ones. Some only a few steps away, some down longer pathways. Dave and I loved this. Seeing as it was July, we expected the place to be jam-packed - we got there first thing, meaning that it wasn't that crowded at first, but later on it did become very busy.

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Sitting high above the Great Theatre, with the circle far below us and the beautiful scenery stretching in the distance beyond, was a highlight of mine.

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So were the Temple of Hadrian and the Temple of Domitian...

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...the Terrace Houses of Roman times...

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...the Library of Celsus...

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...plus just wandering around the peaceful, off-the-main-path parts of the site such as the Bouleuterion (a small auditorium used for musical performances and council meetings), the Water Palace, the Inscriptions Museum, the Church of Mary and more.

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I also loved the wonderful views.

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A couple of other pictures from the site. The first is of a detail from the Gate of Heracles, the second is of the avenue of trees by the north exit, the third is a general picture of the area just inside the south entrance, the fourth is of the Processional Way, the fifth was taken in front of the Great Theatre, the sixth is of the Varius Baths, and the final one is a shot with the Library of Celsus in the background.

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By the time we left, tired but happy, six hours had gone by! Then back to Selçuk to go to the museum, relax and have dinner...

Posted by 3Traveller 05:50 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey dave ephesus roman_remains unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

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