A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

Turkish Delight (Lokum)

Istanbul


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Edit from March 2019: Altan Şekerleme is still going and still appears to be very highly rated!

Today, our last day in Istanbul and Turkey, there were three priorities; A) to revisit the Spice Market, B) to go to a specific shop for some Turkish delight and C) to catch the correct night bus back to Bulgaria.

A) came first, after a typically satisfying breakfast at Piya Hostel. We were keen to return to the Spice Market to get some more spices for ourselves and some presents for people. No fake saffron this time!

Between the Spice Market and Altan Şekerleme

Between the Spice Market and Altan Şekerleme

One thing we didn't get at the Spice Market was the Turkish delight. I had been recommended a different place to buy that from instead. It was only round the corner, in a back street - a shop called 'Altan Şekerleme'. The Turkish delight, ('Lokum' in Turkish and Bulgarian) is hand made on site here. As soon as we stepped inside and started looking at the piles of Turkish delight on offer, some pieces of it were handed to us as free samples by the lovely old owner and younger female assistant. Delicious! I could taste the natural ingredients; it was not at all artificial-tasting, like some Turkish delight can be. I bought two kilogram boxes of different flavours; one for my family and one for us two to share. For his family Dave bought a kilogram box of mixed sweets - some Turkish delight, some marzipan pieces coated in dessicated coconut and some hard candies like boiled sweets. There was a funny moment at the end when I tried to take the bag of boxes from the owner - he shooed me away and gave the bag to Dave to carry instead!

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On the way back from there we got off the tram two stops later than usual so I could buy another two pairs of cheap trousers from the same stall outside the Grand Bazaar that I had been to before we went to Cappadocia. Once I had bought them and we had taken the tram back two stops, we walked back to the hostel on a rather circular route via Kennedy Caddesi, the road that runs along the seafront.

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On our way along that we came across the ruins of the Byzantine Bucoleon Palace; only some high walls remain now, almost completely taken over by climbing vegetation.

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Back at the hostel we rested for an hour or two in the communal area. The girl at reception, who turned out to be the daughter of the owner, was really nice and helped us by ringing the otogar (main bus station) and checking bus times for us. As I expected, there was only one bus to Veliko Tarnovo - a night bus. Apparently they couldn't reserve tickets for us over the phone, but they said that so long as we got there a decent amount of time beforehand, tickets wouldn't be a problem.

We arrived over an hour in advance. The main otogar is absolutely huge, so beforehand I was worried that it might take us ages to find the right bus company (Huntur). Almost as soon as we stepped out of the metro station we were accosted by a guy asking where we wanted to go. As soon as I told him, he insisted that if we followed him he would be able to get any ticket for us. My suspicions were raised so I said no thank you, we already know where to get our tickets from and how much they should cost. Just then I looked up and what should I see on the other side of the station but a 'Huntur' sign - so we headed off at a brisk pace, saying no thank you again to the dodgy guy.

Buying our tickets from Huntur was easy. We had a lot of time to kill after that so we went inside the main station building to explore. We bought some dinner, drinks and snacks to have on the long journey.

The bus was comfortable enough and we managed to get a decent amount of sleep. The journey took 12 hours this time and seemed to go smoothly. I remember waking up once and seeing that we were stationary at the side of the road, but thinking nothing of it and going back to sleep after ten minutes. Well, later on (after we'd arrived in VT) it turns out that the bus had broken down and we'd been there for about three hours!

Goodbye Turkey - we will definitely return!

Posted by 3Traveller 07:03 Archived in Turkey Tagged market palace turkey istanbul hostel buses dave turkish_cuisine Comments (0)

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)

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