TURKEY TRIP REVIEWS
Replies: 152 - Last Post: Dec 2, 2013 1:03 PM Last Post By: sarikanarya
Sep 5, 2012 10:13 AM
Sep 6, 2012 8:38 PM
In return for your and others helpful advice on this website over the years, I thought I'd post the diary of a September 2010 Turkey trip which I completed with my elderly father (a special needs passenger) and brother. Hopefully most of the details remain relevant. Despite some complaining we all enjoyed the trip. Feel free to edit out anything you consider superflous:-
8 DAYS: ISTANBUL - ECEABAT - ASSOS - BERGAMA - GELIBOLU - ISTANBUL
Wednesday 8 September 2010 (Air – Istanbul)
Arrived in Istanbul at 1.30pm. Immigration is dreadful with long queues. I made a tactical error, jumping off the plane first so I could get our bags from the carousel believing that “special needs” passengers are let off last and have to wait longer. Wrong! After I get through Immigration I find Dad & Peter who have been waiting for me over an hour. They were whisked straight through a different set of gates around the back where I couldn’t see them.
At the other side of Immigration our chauffeur is waiting with our luxury Mercedes stretch 4wd. It has lounge-style leather seats, woodgrain panelling and a minibar. The approach to Istanbul is not at all what I imagined based on photos seen. The streets are cobblestone, clean and tree-lined – all a pleasant surprise. Our hotel (Apricot Hotel) is a quaint narrow building with a steep rickety narrow staircase. Dad needs to take care here. Ironically I have the first fall as my shoe catches on the bedspread and trips me up.
The obliging manager Lynn is an ex-American from Hawaii who helps us plan our city sights visits and recommends a good local eatery. At about 4.30pm we go for our walk visiting the Blue Mosque (outside only and a 200m walk away). We also see the obelisks (from Egypt). Dad & Peter get some Turkish Lira from an ATM but not me as I haven’t set up a withdrawal facility with password.
The recommended restaurant, Tamara is not a disappointment. We are led up past praying Muslims (last day of Ramadan) to the rooftop eating area. Views are over the rooftops to the Bosporus, Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn. So impressive are those views that it is only some minutes later when I look away from the water that I notice our best Blue Mosque view so far.
We eat a lovely salad and thick Turkish bread followed by the house kebab, again nothing like what is available at home. It is a vegetable-laden (esp. tomato, eggplant & capsicum) with beef and lamb in a piping-hot steel dish. Delicious!
We eat and watch the sun set at 7.30pm before retiring early in our room at 8.30pm.
Thursday 9 September 2010 Istanbul
I an awoken at 5am to the sound of chanting/praying (Ramadan). I do however feel refreshed. After finally making sense of the complicated tap system I am showered, dressed and out by 6.15am just as it is getting light. Dad & Peter are still in bed.
The Ramadan worshippers are out in their thousands descending on the Blue Mosque. I keep a respectful distance and get some sunrise photos of the city, some in relatively uncrowded streets.
Dad & Peter are dressed when I return at 7.30am and we have a lovely breakfast downstairs. The free wi-fi internet works well here (it didn’t work upstairs in our room) and we catch up on our emails as we eat. The food is fresh bread, muesli and other cereals, fresh orange juice, olives, cheese, tomato, apricots (no surprise), sultanas, grapes, yoghurt etc.
We walk to the bus-stop near Aya Sofia and after a long wait in crowds hop onto to an open-topped bus for a guided tour of the city. The 90 minute journey is the Basilica Cistern-Sirkeci (Orient Express) - Galata Bridge – Karakoy – Kabates – and back through old Istanbul. Traffic is horrendous, especially near the cemetery.
It’s lunch at Sultanamet Park. We then split and Dad & Peter go inside the uncrowded Blue Mosque – quite a surprise to me as I thought that the huge morning crowds would impede admission. Dad however is tired when we return to the hotel so Peter & I venture out walking. First stop is the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul’s original water supply. Very eerie. Was the James Bond underground scene in “From Russia With Love” filmed here?
Next stop is Sirkeci Railway Station. One can easily visualise the past splendour of the Orient Express although the restaurant fare is not up to the standards of old. “Arrested decay” is probably too harsh a term but “concourse condition” is not appropriate either.
We cross the iconic Galata Bridge – a strong fish smell pervades. Feeling energetic we scale the hill to the Galata Tower. It’s a steep uphill climb that even a Tour de France veteran would find tough. After a 30 minute wait in the queue we are at the top of the highest vantage point in Istanbul and the views are worth it. Very rewarding!
On the way back we take a wrong turn and cross the Ataturk Bridge. Never mind, we can see the Bozdogan Aqueduct and head right for it. We discover a colony of stray cats on the uphill walk amongst a strong fish smell. No doubt their food source from the local shop’s garbage.
We stop briefly at the Sehzade Mosque and find an unusual cat – black, female, pregnant and with a permanently curled tail. Next stop is the Sulemayne Mosque which is closed for renovations. It’s bigger than the Blue Mosque but apparently not as pretty inside. We pass Istanbul University and stop briefly at an internet café for a failed skype attempt. We pass the Grand Bazaar and the floodlit Blue Mosque.
We wake up Dad and have a late dinner just up the road from the hotel. A black cat and a ginger cat ingratiate themselves and score some food scraps. “Blackie” leaves when the food finishes but “Meggsie” settles down next to us. Bed at about 10pm.
Friday 10 September 2010 Istanbul
An early start for me to the Blue Mosque at 7am – no crowds today. Slightly cloudy but no rain.
Back at 7.30am for breakfast and the prized “window seat”. Then to the Blue Mosque (solo) for the 9am opening time. Crowded by now, but nowhere as bad as yesterday. Very beautiful inside, possibly as attractive as Muhammad Ali’s in Cairo. It’s certainly cleaner.
At 10.30am we leave for Aya Sofia. It’s very crowded. Aya Sofia is much less imposing from the outside than the Blue Mosque but is much more ornate and attractive inside.
Annoyingly, just as with some Egyptian sights, the security guards at the gate confiscate my portable camera tripod. It is kept in their office for me to collect when I leave.
Peter & I walk to the top level via a cobble-stoned tunnel and notice that Dad who stayed below looks likely to collapse. When we get back to him some guards have tended to him and he looks much better, especially after having some water. I quickly return upstairs for some final photos and we have a cup of coffee outside.
We catch a “taksi” to Kabatas for 30 Turkish Lira (I think we have just been ripped-off) and then a local Bosporus ferry to the islands on the Asia side. A 90 minute cruise for 3 Turkish Lira - now that’s better value!.
We don’t speak Turkish so we momentarily panic when we are evicted at Buyakada Island which turns out to be the terminus for this journey. However, with little fuss we pay our 3L return fares and are on a Kebabas-bound return ferry. We meet a friendly local lady who is interested in getting a foldable walking-stick similar to Dad’s for her mother.
After disembarking at Kebabas we work out the tram system and catch a tram to Karakoy – much cheaper than the “taksi”at just 3TL each. We have a quick dinner at a local cheap café (11TL for 3 kebabs). It’s then back onto the crowded tram to Sultanamet Park. We buy some souvenir t-shirts, bookmarks etc and take some night-time photos. I exchange some USD for TL.
Back to the hotel to settle the bill and arrange a shuttle bus for 10.50am tomorrow. The damned internet connection is weak and frequently cuts off – very frustrating! Need to awake early tomorrow to ensure that the sat-nav is connected properly for Turkey. Recharge camera! Bed at 9.30pm.
Saturday 11 September 2010 (Istanbul – Eceabat)
A relatively late wake-up at 7.20am. We have a leisurely breakfast and I test the Tom Tom sat-nav. Eventually after I stand outside with the unit for 5 minutes the satellites pick up Turkey. Success!
It is sad to leave Istanbul but we catch the 10.50am shuttle. It arrives on time at Departures at 11.20am but the driver conveniently doesn’t understand English when we tell him that we need to go to the Arrivals! Peter & I leave Dad there with the bags and backtrack to Arrivals to pick up the car. This burns 20 minutes.
The Budget-Avis Ford Mondeo hire car is fine but the sat-nav provides misleading directions and perpetually leads us back to the airport. We eventually just follow the road-signs to Terkidag (“terror dog” to us) a town approximately halfway between Istanbul & Eceabat. This works and we have lunch there at 3pm.
Turkish drivers are dangerous, exceeding speed limits by 30+ kmh, not keeping on their side of the road, driving down one-way streets the wrong way and not moving over when being overtaken.
Eventually we arrive intact at Eceabat and find the well-hidden Crowded House Hotel after asking locals for directions. The hotel was named after the eponymous trans-Tasman band: a good marketing idea to attract all us Anzacs.
The rooms are small, simple and clean, Dad gets his own. The staff are friendly.
We have 2 beers each at the bar and at about 8pm have dinner. Just as with lunch it is traditional Turkish fare: kofa (meatballs), kebabs and shish kebab with lashings of delicious fresh bread. We decide to pay 300TL for a local guide and retire to bed about 10pm. I couldn’t find my snorestop device and have a dreadful night’s sleep, frequently waking up.
Sunday 12 September 2010 (Gallipoli)
Overcast and dry.
Our guide “Bill”, a friendly well-spoken local fellow aged about 40, meets us in reception at 9am. We head across the Gallipoli Peninsula stopping first at the Museum. Next is Simpson’s grave located in a small seaside cemetery. The sound of waves gently lapping by the shore is the only sound that we hear. It is hard to believe that any atrocities occurred in this now peaceful part of the world.
Starting from Eceabat we are well ahead of the day-tripper tourist buses and only see 1 or 2 all day – nowhere is crowded.
Upon reaching Anzac Cove I really appreciate just how impossible the Allied’s task was. Essentially it was a suicide-mission. Turkish machine-gunners occupied all the ridges. Our soldiers were completely out in the open the instant they left the boats – sitting ducks.
We visit all the major Australian battlefronts: Quinns Post, Lone Pine, The Nek, Baby 700 (the furthest inland that our troops got) and Walkers Ridge. Anzacs of course weren’t the only casualties. The Turkish memorials are popular with the locals today.
We have a late lunch midway between Anzac & Cape Helles. We return to the hotel briefly and then proceed to Cape Helles, the site of the major Turkish memorial – very impressive. There is a lot of mutual respect from both sides. All memorials are well-maintained and Ataturk’s plaque near Anzac Cove is very moving.
We arrive back late at the hotel at 7pm and tip Bill and extra 50TL. He saved us a lot of time and was very patient and considerate in waiting for us for photos and other delays.
It’s dinner at a local café – the usual delicious Turkish fare.
Although it’s now raining I drive carefully down to the old fortress/castle for some floodlit photos. On the way back I am overtaken by a lunatic in white van who is driving way too fast in the rain and generally poor road conditions. Bed at 10pm.
Monday 13 September 2010 (Eceabat-Cannakale-Assos)
After a delay we catch the 10am ferry to Cannakale, a far larger town than Eceabat. We fill up with diesel for 115TL. Very impressive 7l/100km fuel consumption. In Cannakale harbour we see the wooden horse used in the “Troy” movie but can’t find the Troy turn-off. The sat-nav doesn’t appear to accept “Troy” or “Troya” as destinations!
We have travelled too far to turn back so we will just have to look out for Troy in 2 day’s time. We locate Assos relatively easily and find the Tekin Pansiyon in the town centre for 90TL for a night for 2 rooms including wireless internet. Dad is tired and retires to his room and proceeds to sleep for the rest of the day and night. Peter who has had diarrhoea also sleeps so I venture out alone up the steep cobblestone streets to the mountain top and temple of Athena ruins.
The views are magnificent. The beautiful blue Aegean Sea and the seaside village of Behremkale is down below. Shimmering in the near-distance is the Greek Island of Lesbos. The mountaintop is noisy as the temple is being renovated by workmen using power tools such as angle grinders but the ruins and the views remain magnificent.
When I return Peter is OK so we return to the mountaintop for the views. The streets are narrow and winding, a little like Assisi, and the climb is taxing but the views are worth the effort.
We have some cakes and Turkish coffee at a local cafe. The owner speaks little English but his 10 year old son is a confident and friendly little character who is keen to converse with us and improve his English. No doubt he will be a worthy and able successor to his father if he wishes to follow in his footsteps.
Peter gets tired again so I venture out alone in the car down to Behramkale. The drive is the scariest 10 minutes of driving that I have ever encountered: wrong side of the road which is a narrow road less than 2 cars wide, blind corners, a steep drop to the ocean and valleys and no safety rails. I have had recurring nightmares like this and am genuinely fearful. Thankfully I encounter no other cars on the blind corners and those cars that do pass drive extra slowly.
The drive was worthwhile – this is possibly the most attractive seaside town that I have ever seen rivalling the French Riviera. It would be nice to have dinner here, but not tonight as you wouldn’t want to drive back up the mountain after some drinks.
Peter & Dad are asleep and have no energy so I dine alone choosing the same café we visited that afternoon. I make sure that I bring my Turkish translation book but “Junior” is there and communication is easy. I dine on dolmades (stuffed leaves) and enjoy Turkish coffee for which I am acquiring a taste while watching the sun set.
I return to the hotel room, backup my photos and catch up on the internet after realising that the owner gave me the wrong password! The hotel is great value but has some defects not noticed earlier: it is on a through road and the owner’s dog barks at every passing car (not really that many to be fair). The soundproofing appears to be weak. The rooms are modern, spacious and comfy and the staff good. Bed at 10.30pm.
Tuesday 14 September 2010 (Assos – Bergama)
The weather is fine and sunny again.
Slowly up today for a 9am breakfast. Peter & I realise that the apparent lack of soundproofing was caused by the windows being left open!
I witness a stand-off between the resident dog and midget tabby cat - the cat wins. At breakfast the cat begs at the table for food scraps and the dog makes do with whatever is thrown out the window.
Dad & Peter feel better and request to go to Behramkale. Lucky as Peter noticed the amphitheatre that I missed yesterday while concentrating on the dangerous road.
The first third of the drive towards Bergama is along rough narrow secondary roads that make for slow going. When we reach the multi-lane highway progress is faster and we arrive at Bergama at 1.30pm. This place is a madhouse: traffic isn’t fast but motor cyclists whiz around recklessly and cars double-park and don’t keep to their side of the road.
After lunch at the Asude Hotel, our place for the night, we head first towards the Askeplion. We could see much of it by driving up the hill and it looked rather underwhelming so we chose not to pay to go inside.
The Akropolis and amphitheatre in the old town of Pergamon however were something else. The old mountain-top ruins can be seen from way below in Bergama township. The drive up wasn’t quite as treacherous as that down to Behramkale but one had to be careful with some blind corners and road-side drops bereft of safety rails.
Dad rested in the refreshments area while Peter and I walked up from the carpark to the ancient ruins. The Akropolis is more extensive than Assos’ temple and the amphitheatre is huge and very steep – saw a turtle at the bottom. The views down to Bergama township are magnificent. I could have spent much longer than the hour or so time I allotted. The adjacent souvenir stands were the best so far.
We drove a local cop back down to Police HQ and returned to our hotel for an 8pm dinner. Dad however declined food. Beef shish kebabs, thick Turkish bread, Tuborg beer. Very satisfying. Bed at 10.30pm.
Wednesday 15 September 2010 (Bergama – Cannakale – Gelibolu)
Sleep was initially difficult for me because of 2 snorers. OK after sleeping tablet. Up at 7.30am.
We had breakfast in the hotel then a drive downtown to the ruins of the Basilica, a very impressive large building in a reasonable condition. Peter is driving today and is challenged as much as I was yesterday but the traffic is lighter.
The drive along the highway is uneventful and we discover Troy easily after finding out that the sat-nav stores the name as “Truya”. The sat-nav is working fine today.
We have a light lunch at 1.30pm and spend about 2 hours walking around looking at the 9 incarnations (at least) of Troy. The amphitheatre is one of the few structures with significant form remaining. Most of the others are just foundations and require significant imagination. It is worthwhile visiting but probably before Bergama which is superior and slightly cheaper. The good news is that Troy is flat and Dad walks the distance.
We use the sat-nav to get to the Tourist Information Office at Cannakale. The staff are very helpful and provide clear and detailed instructions to get to the Nusret, a retired and renovated (in 1999) WW1 mine-layer that wreaked so much havoc on the Allied fleets in 1915.
We arrived at the Museum/Fortress right on 5pm closing time. The Captain in charge sees us at the gate and lets us in for free as we only have 25 minutes and he arranges for the ship to stay open a little longer. It’s a generous and appreciated gesture and perhaps there’s some Turkish pride in his navy acquitting itself so well in 1915.
We finish inspecting the fortress and the non-ship relics at 5.55pm and hightail it for the ferry which we reach just in time for the 6pm departure across the Dardanelles. I drop my sunnies while taking a photo, return less than 5 minutes later and see that my sunnies are gone, along with a couple that were sitting nearby. Damnedthieves!
On landing we drive up the coast to Gelibolu. It’s a populous coastal town with plenty of eateries and accommodation. We choose the Istanbul Hotel. It’s undergoing renovation but is new, clean, centrally located and cheap at 75TL for 2 rooms. Dad gets the front (west) room us the back room. Peter & I have dinner (18TL each) of meatballs, Turkish pizza, salad and drinks. Dad stays in his room and eats a sweet bread roll and lemonade.
We visit an ice creamery and internet café where we book a room for the Apricot Hotel for tomorrow night. Rather than stop near the airport we will have time for more Istanbul sights.
The hotel doesn’t have free wi-fi. Bed at 10.45pm.
At 12.45pm I wake up with intense stomach pains, nausea and sweating. Apparently I fainted while sitting on the toilet as Peter heard a crashing sound as I fell to the floor. My first recollection is being shaken by him while I’m on the floor.
Thursday 16 September 2010 (Gelibolu – Istanbul)
The extreme pains finish mercifully with diarrhoea within the hour. Back to bed and upon awaking at 7am I feel fine. Obviously food-poisoning: probably the salad.
I take some early-morning harbour photos. We leave at 9am and have breakfast at a roadside petrol station seeing some caged animals that look like they are part of a circus act. We are running short of cash but can use cards for both the petrol (Amex) and the food (Visa).
The sat-nav seems to be working OK but we again become lost near the airport where we get caught on a motorway. We block the automatic-tollbooth and are ripped-off by a local who wants 50TL to clear the toll barrier for us. We have no choice as we are blocking an entire lane of traffic that is bumper to bumper. We waste another hour thanks to the sat-nav directing us onto endless loops but eventually make it to the Apricot Hotel.
The Apricot is booked out. The problem was that Lynn was not there last night when I phoned and the local didn’t explain that we had to quote a credit card number on the confirmation email. Never mind, Lynn scouted around outside and found a nearby hotel with a larger room at a lesser price. She promises us breakfast at the Apricot. Very impressed!
Peter & I have a quick lunch of a large bread roll and walk to the Topkapi Palace. Dad rests in the room. The palace is extravagance personified with gold-encrusted decorations and built on the sweat of slaves. From the heights of the palace we see the Orient Express passing by down near the water.
Dad has slept all afternoon and chooses not to have dinner with us. Peter & I dine at the same place as on night#2, just up the road from the Apricot. They accept credit cards and we have lamb kebabs.
It’s bed at 10pm after photobucketing and emailing, all possible despite our elevated hotel room.
Friday 17 September 2010 (Istanbul – Airport – Brussels)
I awake at 7am after a good night’s sleep even though our hotel (Moonlight Hotel) is located on a busy corner. This hotel has the best bathrooms and hot water shower so far.
After breakfast at the Apricot I say goodbye to Lynn. We surprise each other when I tell her that we visited Assos and she tells me that she and her partner own a property there, midway down the hill between Assos & Behramkale.
The first kilometre of the drive is dreadful – roads are blocked, cars go up one-way streets the wrong way, constant horn-tooting etc. Over 30 minutes is wasted. After minor confusion with the sat-nav we fill up with petrol at an ultra-modern Shell station and arrive at the airport at 11am. I waste another 15 minutes just walking to the Budget/Avis shopfront. After another 10 minutes a Budget staffer arrives, inspects the car and gives it a clean bill of health. Damage? Peter & I each put minor marks on the car: Peter at Gallipoli when he dropped it into a pothole and scraped the front underside; me when I parked on a corner this morning at the hotel and straddled the sill panel over the kerb. Nothing that a can of aerosol spray can’t make good.
It’s good to have finished driving in Turkey!
We change our Turkish Lira for Euros at Istanbul airport (2 for 1) and spend the last coins on a can of soft drink from a slot machine (5.50 TL!).
Although Dad is a special needs passenger we are admitted onto the plane last.
Being last on, the luggage space is limited. The flight leaves 1.5 hours late. The stewardess forgets to serve the three of us tea/coffee but the flight as such is OK ie. no turbulence. However, I won’t be rushing back to fly on Turkish Airlines if I have a choice of carriers!
Edited by: chris1953
Edited by: chris1953
Edited by: chris1953
Edited by: chris1953
Edited by: chris1953
Sep 6, 2012 10:13 PM
62Thank you for a lovely detailed trip review.The fact that your father has mobility issues is especially relevant as details about where was easy/hard accessible/not very accessible is useful info for others with mobility problems.
The situation is slowly improving here with many buses now having wheel chair lift access,buildings too are becoming better accessed but there is still a long way to go before it is truly good for mobility impaired people.Of course ruin sites by their very age are another problem altogether and what can be done there is very limited.
One other point;I am very sorry to tell you that Lynn from the Apricot Hotel very sadly died last year after a battle with cancer.A nice girl who was a one woman whirl wind in the hotel and much missed.
Sep 7, 2012 11:14 PM
63I'm really sorry to hear about Lynn. What a shock! Your comments about her being a one-person whirlwind are spot-on. In all my travels I cannot remember encountering a better hotel manager than Lynn. Sadly missed.
Ironically Lynn reminded me very much of a former neighbour we had back at home in Sydney. She was also an American with an almost identical physical appearance, age and accent ....... and she had just overcome breast cancer.
Although the other staff at the Apricot Hotel were fine Lynn was the one who held it all together and was the primary reason I planned to stay at the Apricot next year. I will need to carefully check out the www.tripadvisor.com reviews to see how they're managing today without Lynn.
Sep 12, 2012 4:17 PM
64Here's my account of our May 2010 visit to Amasya, which you asked me to re-post. It's a list of few extra bits of info which weren’t in our guide books.
· There’s a new 100 page locally produced booklet in English, ‘A Touristic Guide for Amasya’, which is being handed out free by the little tourist info booth which at present is near the Clock Tower. It’s very strong on listing every structure of antiquity in the town, covering much, much more than common guide books. But it needs a map.
· As well as the Hazeranlar Mansion, there’s now another old Ottoman house which is furnished for viewing – the House of the Shahzadah, the Ottoman crown princes who were sent to Amasya for training. It too is on the Pontic Tombs bank of the river, near one of the bridges.
· The impressive octagonal Buyuk Aga medresse is firmly closed to visitors, according to guide books. Well, it has plenty of naughty teenage theology students who think otherwise. Walk slowly near it and they may haul you in, take you into the holy of holies, quiz you on your religion, & pose for endless photos. They even wanted us to video them having a fight.
· At the Sultan Beyazit II mosque, the loveliest in town, don’t miss the side-building on your left as you face the mosque in its beautiful garden. It contains a huge, animated tableau of Amasya 100 years ago, water actually flowing through it & meteors flashing in the night sky. A nice bit is how the river used to be ingeniously divided by complicated weirs to channel water to drive various water wheels.
· The Kale (citadel / castle) high above town is an easy visit by taxi up, then walk down. But once through the gate make sure you notice the flight of steps to your right, which gives an easy, safe route to the summit. Don’t take the left path, like we did, which leads up hair-raising, rickety ladders.
· There are now ever so many restaurants and eating places in Amasya, especially on the Pontic Tombs side of the river. Good quality & prices. Live music at restaurants seems quite common. But at present it’s very much Turkish customers.
· Don’t get too excited if you see ‘hashish’ in English menu translations. Some local has been translating the Turkish word ‘hashhash’ as ‘hashish’, when actually it means poppy seed. You can buy a Turkish & English ‘Amasya Kitchen’ local recipes book with such dopey dishes.
· There’s an interesting coppersmith’s market (‘Bakırcılar Çarşisi’) where you can buy ornamented samovars, a local speciality.
Generally Amasya had a lovely atmosphere. We spent 3 full days there and would have enjoyed a fourth. Getting there and away was smoother than expected. From Istanbul by air to Merzifon, then an immediate airport bus to Amasya. Travelled back from Amasya by bus via a couple of days stopover in Safranbolu. First to Gerede, on the Amasya-Istanbul bus. Then from Gerede quickly on to another bus to Karabuk, & finally a dolmush to Safranbolu.
Somewhere else I posted a more detailed account of our eventual bus arrangements, timing and prices because these had seemed hard to work out before getting to Turkey. But I'd need to look further for this.
Sep 13, 2012 5:33 AM
65Buying my ticket from Istanbul to Macadonia saved me twenty five euros. But it's hard getting info about the octogar. You go out there and it's basically a big circular street with nothing in the middle, and the edge is full of travel agents and you walk around looking for your destination. My tips are:
1 - get the destination written in turkish and learn how to say it.
2 - do not connect at Aksaray.
3 - ask all the companies displaying your destination, and choose (if poss. all of the following):
a - the busiest
b - the one quoting lira not euros
c - the one printing tickets from a computer
4 - save a lira coin for the toilet
5 - be aware, I (eu passport) didn't get any passport stamps, that's normal apparently.
6 - try not to be too early as there's nothing pleasant to do there.
There's a more detailed thread of my report in the main forum, search for it if required.
Sep 16, 2012 10:50 AM
66It´s a week since I am back from SE Anatolia. Here are my memories:
the direct flight Stuttgart - Gaziantep landed at sunset. Airport bus was absent inspite of a functional website and well lit schedule at the bus stop. There was another info tablo telling how much a taxi should cost to popular destinations although it did not mention anything about day or night prices. As it was the only option I let myself to be transported to almost the right corner fo 45 TL. The young driver pointed me towards the wrong direction and left. There I was on a dark street with my idiotic Google print out map at the mercy of locals. Very soon there was a team helping me to phone the hotel, finding out the right whereabouts and driving me to where a porter was waiting all smiles. I would not want my kid to get into a car with strangers after darkness but as for myself it worked out well. Lesson learned - do not book a hotel in the old city if you arrive late. Apart from this Zeynp Konagi hotel is worth its good name on TA and other places. Boutique and all that for 78 TL a night, single.
Next morning I spent good 2 hours in the Zeugma Mosaic Museum and completely lost the sense of time. The exposition is above all expectations. Just go and see yourself! The old city of Gaziantep with the castle is not that special and soon I was exhausted - a thermometer is Sun was +55 C.
Checked out, got to otogar not without help of the nice locals and took dolmus to Birecik and from there to Eski Halfeti. Was taken to the boat - 40 TL for one hour. Expensive but there were very few other sailors. Usually it costs about 10 TL I was told later. Met an European Turksh family whose native home was now 30 metres under water. Life is strange.
The dolmus was waiting for me again as promised and took me back to Birecik where I boarded the next one to Urfa. I stayed at my friend´s there one night and they took me to Gobekli Tepe the next day. I was surprised how small and unprotected is this unbelievalbe place. What else is hidden under those hills around?
Some more time by the fish ponds and I was put on a night bus direction Tatvan. I have been to Urfa before. If you have not, do not miss Harran.
Arrived at Tatvan soon after 04 am just in time for morning prayer. Managed to wake up the night porter of the new and big hotel Mostar. All tiles and marble, big room, 24 hour service, spa and other things I never use. Lake view over a gas station and busy main street. Slept till check out time 110 TL and took a bus to Akdamar island boat about 70 km away. The island and the church is another place where time stops. There is a small cafe serving chai and next to nothing. I spent the rest of day swimming and sunbathing and returned to Tatvan. There was a camping and restaurant by the boat station but only for tents.
Hotel Dinc in Tatvan was less posh yet immaculate clean. 90 TL per night. The boys arranged meeting with the travel guide and next day I was his only client to the Nemrut volcanic lakes for good 5 hours. 140TL and a hook in my lip for a trip next year.
Right from Nemrut I was put on a dolmus to Batman. The road is a roller coaster from hell and the driver did it merry, smoke in one hand and phone in another. Plus I had the extra seat - a fragile plastic nonsense. Came to Batman shaking like jelly and after 30 min there was the next dolmus to Hasankeyf. I had been there before in impossible rain so now I decided to take my time. The only motel by its look is probably the most unhospitable establishment in all Turkey. I shared my opinion with a waiter in the first cafe and very soon got a better offer - could stay at the local guides place and pay what I feel right. The place was a freshly whitewashed house with a balcony and river view. A bed, a huge fan and bathroom with river temperature shower. And a good bolt on the door. Perfect for 2 nights. Next morning soon after sunrise the guide took me to a walk in the valleys, caves and canyons where people have lived since the start of civilisation till the middle of last century. The rocks are steep yet smooth and there is always a support for your next step. Finally we just walked through a rock wall and out to Tigris river where I bathed happy as a pig. Mother nature sent a sandstorm followed by thunderstorm. In the evening there was a live TV music event on one end of the bridge and a Kurdish wedding on the other. That´s the quite village life for you. Unfortunately the castles was closed to public due to a shaky stone. We contemplated climbing over the gate but found the stones too slippery after rain. Should I return to Hasankeyf again? Could cry my eyes out for what awaits this place in near future. The new village is ready. Apartment blocks close togeather, no greens, np place for animals, nothing to catch your eye. My guide was adamant to leave Turkey when Hasankeyf will be flooded.
Next morning a short dolmus ride to Midiyat. Beautiful place if only deserted. Had unpleasant encounter with a gang of very young kids throwing stones at me. Escaped into a hotel and the porter came out to lecture them. I left as soon as I could to Mardin.
One can see money pouring into that place. Lots of new buildings and nice boutiqe hotels in the old city all with a view over hills towards poor Syria. Unfortunately the city lords had decided to change the pavement and communications on the main street full length. I am sure Mardin will be very beautiful next year but right now it looks like an eathquake - walking on planks over ditches and all the little side streets up and downhill full of rubbish. There is plenty to do in Mardin area - Dara and MorGabriel definitely but for that you need a car. I decided against it. Spent the night at my friend´s and next morning went to Dyarbakir to Siverek and over the water to Narinci where a pick-up was arranged to me for the other (or the first?) Nemrut mountain. I lodged at pensiyon Karadut in the Karadut village. Went for a sunset tour, paid my respect to the stone heads and obediently waited for the Sun to go down. Next morning was taken to Kahta. All for 170 TL.
The SE part ends there. I bus hopped to Adana - Anamur - Side. I was going to overnight in Anamur but did not like the look of it. Perhaps another place where on needs a car to find the good places. I was surprised how developed is all the coast from Mersin to Antalya. Blocks and blocks where ever there is a flat place.
Last 2 nights in Belen hotel in a green corner of antik Side and spent most of the time in water.
I did not see the black rose of Halfeti. I did see a Van cat although it was not by the lake.
About buses and dolmuses - they do also deliveries and spend some time cruising around and fishing for more passangers. If you want to move fast look for an express bus. In big cities buses and dolmuses do not start in the same place. Dolmuses go to otogar or garaje which can be deep in the city. Buses mostly go to Terminal which is usually out of the city so you do not loose time in traffic. The drivers and attendants separate men from women and may ask you to change your seat. You may refuse if you have a numbered seat which you like. I was asked for my passport when bying tickets in Terminal. A dolmus costs about 10 - 15 TL for a 100 km ride. Buses seemed to be cheaper all the comfort considered. I spent about 100 TL for the Kahta - Side part.
About myself - I travelled solo, I am a 50+ female, all my backpack was 5,5 kg including the warm layer from Iceland and I could have done with 3 kg....
I lived mostly on water, chai, tomatoes and the wonderful lentil chorba. The heat is bearable if you move and breath slowly. I did not see any western tourists except one group in Akdamar, one on Mt. Nemrut and about 4 backpackers like me in Hasankeyf. I felt safe and welcome all the time and have the warmest feelings for my Kurdish friends old and new.
Thank you for your patience if you read it all!
Sep 18, 2012 1:36 PM
Trip review from forum member Imanyc,September 2012.
10 days Istanbul,Cappadocia,Çeşme.
Sep 20, 2012 12:30 PM
68Quiet beach town near Antalya
Hi, I will be flying into Antalya in early Oct. and will head on to Cappadoccia, but want to spend a few days in a quiet village on the coast. Any ideas? Somewhere where we can do some hiking, or exploring, and boats trips or just plain beach time.
Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.
Sep 20, 2012 1:32 PM
69Trip Review - Istanbul - Fethiye (11th - 19th Sept 2012)
A quick caveat, i was travelling with two other people who can be a bit challenging at the best of times, this definitely influenced how I travelled and maybe my perception of what I found when I got there and what is reported here. Some of the anecdotes may strike people as a bit irresponsible too, but it’s what my mates got up too. Also, this isn't going to be a blow by blow account of what we did, more reflections on the trip, highlights and low lights. It was my third trip to Turkey, having spent 6 weeks there in 2000, and 4 in the South and East in 2005. I used to think of my self as a traveller but this was definitely a holiday, just done independently. The trip report will reflect that.
Arrived at stupid o'clock (about 5am) to the main ottogar by means of metro bus from Varna. the host on the bus feigned ignorance about any kind of service bus and directed us to the metro, which didn't open for another hour. Metro to Aksaray and tram to Sultanhamet was easy enough at this time of the morning. The same isn't true if you’re attempting the journey during rush hour. We allocated an 1h 30m to do the return journey at about 6pm. We made it with half hour to spare but the tram at the time of the day was at first down right impossible to get on, and once we were on turned into a bit of an endurance test with the overcrowding. In hindsight, if having to do this journey again during rush hour I would look at alternatives.
Istanbul - seems to get busier, bigger and more expensive as the years go by...going for a 3 hour walk at 8am after an overnight journey, along the coast road down from Sultanahamet and up to the Eminolou ferry terminals was a shock to the system. Very Busy!
Sultanahamet - do not stay here, it's now like Disney World and prices reflect this accordingly. We'd not booked anything in advance so I decided to head there after an overnight as I know there's plenty of choice in the area. It was no problem finding accommodation even at 7am but other than that and it's proximity to the the major sights I can't think of any other reason to stay there. The queues for Aya Sophia, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace where horrendous by 10am, late afternoon seemed a preferable time to visit…Saying that, we hung left at the Hippodrome and ended up in a thoroughly Turkish neighbourhood after a 15 minute walk where things picked up a bit (Aya Sophia minor maybe?)
A friend struck up a friendship with one of the guys that spend their time lazing about on the sea front. Guy obviously had some mental health problems but took my friend to his house, introduced him to the seafront down and outs, schemers and chancers and took him to a mafia money laundering tekel shop with no customers. Here they enquired whether he likes to indulge (he’s in his 50s, has hair down to his ass and is covered in prison tattoos so it’s pretty obvious he does!), he was given something to smoke that literally knocked him off his stool. He had a rapport with them by then and so was escorted home safe and sound but I suspect it’s probably what they give other people to knock them out and rob them. Again, on the more risqué side another friend was stupid enough to accept a lift off a guy on a motorbike in the early hours of the morning at Eminolu. He had a grand tour of the city riding pillion until he had to refuse the guys advances and was dropped off at the side of a road, drunk, with no idea where he was. He then flagged down a cab where the driver told him he needed to pop into a bar to visit his sister and would he like to go with him? My friend walked in and was handed a glass, a girl sat next to him and was also handed a glass. By the time she started stroking his leg he realised he was in the shit.
When trying to leave he was presented with a 4000 tl bill, where the bar guys did the good cop, bad cop routine. One threatening and menacing, another one all professional and friendly and how can we fix this my friend. When it was apparent he had no money suggestions were made that he called home and acquired somebody else’s card details to pay. This didn’t work so they threatened police involvement, he seized this as a way out, drunkenly screaming call the police, you’re all gangsters, thieves, pimps etc at which point they tired of him and threw him out. A lucky escape all in all.
Things I liked this time round about Istanbul – caught a ferry to Kadikoy. Really nice, young, lively suburb to explore, no tourists, reasonable fish stalls, good bars…all in all a nice suburb to wander round, didn’t see any sights as such but wasn’t there for that anyway. It was the perfect antidote to Sultanahamet, people the time of day and the odd beer on the coast walk. Unfortunately it was too windy to go up in the balloon. Also, found a live music place in Taksim by chance that was excellent, the new smoking ban was ignored, the band were young and 100% entertaining, the music a mix a blend of fasil style stuff and rock and roll with the musicians good entertainers as much as musicians. Good entertainment and beers only 8 tl a pop. Can’t remember the name of the place but it was on the left of istiklal cadessi about a 15 minute walk up from the street with all the open air bars and fish places.
Istanbul to Fethiye, travelled with Pamukalle coach company, good service on board
Fethiye and surrounding
Fethiye is a good town to base yourself in. Nice mixture of beaches, cultural sights and more touristy activities to access. We did a 12 island trip on a boat called Happy Days, moored on the main strip opposite the bars, restaurants and narghill places. The tout is called Ozzy, very friendly and not too pushy. The clientele on the boat was a mixture of repeat older English visitors to the area, Turkish friends they’d made and Turkish tourists. About 30 on a big boat so not crowded at all, hour long swimming stops, music was ok-ish, think hits of the 60s as opposed to turbo folk/pop. The captain managed to avoid all other boats at every stop we made which has nice, had each Island to ourselves for swimming. 40 tl. My only complaint is we stopped mid way between two islands for lunch owing to lots of wasps at the original destination. We were advised we could swim there. Yes, if you’re an experienced open water swimmer. The current was strong and it was a bit of a chore to get back to boat once in. It would have been find to just jump in and climb back out but within 5 minutes you’d find yourself a fair distance from the boat.
Beaches in the area – went to Oludenzi, wtf has happened to that place? Blimey! Hisanoru is an abomination, Oludeniz just about saved by its setting. Dolmuses run back into Fethiye til about 2am. As for Oludeniz beach, we entered the national park bit but avoided the lagoon and opted for a near empty stretch of beach about 5 minutes after the toll both. The water was clean, despite reports I’d read and the nearest people were a good 25m along the beach. Not ‘the beach’ by a long shot by good enough considering how busy the general area is. Chalis Beach was OK, water a bit choppy and a steep drop off once you’re in the sea but stay on the dolmus til the final stop and it’s more Turkish tourism than package holiday crowd. Stunning sunsets too.
General reflections- Turkey seems to get busier and more expensive each time I visit, Oludeniz was barely recognisable compared to 2000. Prices seemed a lot higher everywhere I went, the last time I was there was 2005. The reception we received was sometimes frosty once people realised we weren’t on a package holiday and wouldn’t fall for the stock where are you from? line. I think if I wanted an unspoilt Turkish beach or Istanbul experience it’s more important than ever to do your research, pick wisely and try and get away from the maddening crowds. All in all I’d go back in a heart beat, but not solely on the strength of this trip.
Sep 20, 2012 1:48 PM
for anybody flying out of Antalya airprt there is a bus from the Ottogar that takes 45 minutes at 9.30pm, probably a lot longer in rush hour
also, prices in the airport are f*cking shocking. 14 tl for a beer, 4tl for bottled water, be warned and keep some money for the hanging around
Sep 24, 2012 1:00 PM
Sep 24, 2012 8:51 PM
Sep 25, 2012 7:34 AM
Oct 4, 2012 7:07 PM
74Trip report - Sept. 13 - 25 - Eceabat, Selcuk and Istanbul - Am doing this in pieces. Will edit this thread as I go.
Eceabat - Arrived @ Crowded House evening of Sept. 13 2 plus hours late after a hellish bus ride from Greece. It was funny in a very sick sort of way. Based on my experience, if you are entering Turkey from Greece, take a cheap flight from Athens or Thessaloniki or a boat ride from a nearby Island.
Crowded House was nice and clean with friendly and helpful owners. Paid 55 Turkish Lira for a single with bathroom, including breakfast.
Sept. 14 - The only reason to be there is for the Galipoli battleground visit. Took a group tour which was very informative. It ıs now a forested natıonal park and doesn,t look lıke anythıng lıke the war-ravaged place ıt was nearly a century ago. I got a souvenır - a pıece of shrapnel lyıng around the sıte on the ground. The guıde brought some Turkısh vıewpoınts to the attentıon of the group whıch typıcally are not part of the Wıkıpedıa versıon of the battlesıte.
The longer I am ın Turkey, the more respect I have for Ataturk. Truly one of the most amazıng and underapprecıated gıants of the early 20th century. Paid 60 Turkish Lira for the tour.
Sept 15 - Took the ferry to Cannakkale, from which I took the bus to Selcuk.
Sept. 16 - Ephesus ıs a must-see. People from all over the world come here. Even saw three Brasılıan tour groups at the sıte. The Ephesus prınted guide my pension lent me and sıgnage at the sıte were more than enough to see / understand the attractıons. If I had additional questions, I hung around a particular place until a tour group with a guide speaking a language I understood provided his / her explanation. You really don't need to pay for a tour and be rushed to boot.
The frescoes at the terraced houses - don't miss them - are well preserved.
I got there early, so I was able to get some photos of sıtes unmolested by tour groups. The most popular sıtes were the toılets and the whorehouse. The Romans were smart. The Library, whorehouse and public toilets were next to one another. Furthermore, there was signage back then dırectıng people to the whorehouse.
The town museum provıdes more ınfo re some of the things I saw at the sıte.
Spent 3 1/2 hours @ Ephesus. Stayed at the Hotel Antik on the main drag (about 1/2 mile from the otogar). Clean room with bathroom & breakfast included for 60 Turkish Lira per day. The owner is a friend of Dervis of Homeros Pension, which was fully booked.
Sept. 17 - Priene - Could not find a tour operator to do the PMD Tour, so decided to visit Priene via local bus. This way, I wouldn't be rushed and could see what I was told was the most interesting of the three places.
Not nearly as dramatic as Ephesus, but not a real zoo, either. Its highlights are the Temple of Artemis (there used to be over 100 pillars to this Temple, the ruins of which are everywhere and four are upright now), and the theater, well preserved and equipped with front seats for the "important people," at least one of which has writing in Greek which is still visible.
You're going to be on the dolmus for awhile if you do this. Selcuk - Kusadasi - Soke - Priene and back. Be aware that in Priene, a dolmus arrives every half hour. It stops in a spot for a minute, honks its horn, and leaves. So be there on time and be alert, or you'll be waiting for another half hour.
Sept. 18 - Pamukkale - It ıs a whıte travertıne mass wıth water runnıng over ıt. It`s a bıt lıke coral. You have to walk up wıthout wearıng your shoes through thıs thıng before gettıng to the Roman Ruıns at Hıeropolıs. Many people treated ıt lıke a day at the beach, as there were a number of pools you pass by. I was sımply tryıng not to fall on my face. Hıeropolıs, a sprawling Roman ruin at the top of it all, was ınterestıng. The Romans were bıg on publıc toılets (though unlıke Ephesus, I dıdn't see a whorehouse here).
The principal road was wide and went on for quite a while. Many interesting gates and monuments. Didn't have time to visit the pool up top or the museum.
Comment - I did a day trip here and back while staying in Selcuk. The guy @ my pension woke up late & I missed the 9 AM bus. Wound up getting there @ 2:00 PM, which imo, is too late. Fortunately, the last bus back was re-scheduled that day from 4:30 to 5:00 PM, which gave me just enough time to see what I wanted to see @ Pamukkale. I did not like rushing, trying to get down the travertine mass as fast as possible so I wouldn't miss the bus back to Selcuk (which I made with all of five minutes to spare).
If you are making a day trip from Selcuk, make sure you are on that 9:00 bus from Selcuk, or don't bother. I think a better way to do this is to stay in Pamukkale, go up the travertine mass and see Hieropolis at your leisure. Then see Aphroditis (I don't have my Turkey guide, so I don't know the proper spelling), and proceed to points east. You can't see Aphroditis in a day trip from Selcuk.
To be continued
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