Archives for the month of: July, 2015

We had luckily decided to drive into the port area in Fethiye, park the van, have some breakfast and board the ferry to Rhodes for the day. Very little opens in Turkey before about 10 o’clock so we ended up at a rooftop breakfast area of a posh hotel overlooking the bay. The breakfast offering was an excellent buffet with many Turkish specialties of large bowls of preserved fruits, olives and spreads as well as fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese as well as normal breakfast fare. We made our way down to the passport control on the dock and boarded the boat and that is where the trouble started.

The customs man on the boat wanted to know where our vehicle was and said we needed to have paperwork done before we could leave. We luckily had about 20 minutes so one of the crew rushed us off and up the road to customs to have our passports and vehicle documents photocopied and a form filled out and then they wanted to sight the vehicle which was then supposed to be locked in their bond carpark. Maurice had to move the van and then there was no room for it so we were told to park it in the street again and luckily found the only parking spot still available.

When we entered Turkey the officials stamped Maurice’s passport and the stamp had a picture of a car on it – we didn’t realise this until someone told us about it later. Apparently we could not leave the country and come back again if we left our vehicle in Turkey without all this paperwork. The customs manager was a very bored chap and was not going to hurry whereas the crew member was trying to rush everything so as not to delay the boat. We made it with minutes to spare and we sat down relieved that we had actually brought the van into town instead of using public transport. It was a blessing in disguise that we had decided to leave the “sugar beach club” earlier than expected.

It was another very hot day and we opted for the hop off hop on bus to get our bearings. It drove around the new city and to the ancient stadium and the Acropolis which overlooked the port area. It dropped us off at the harbour area where the Colossus of Rhodes once stood and where today stands the statues of the Stag and doe stand on huge columns. From there we avoided the touristy market area and walked through the north gate of the old walled city and marvelled at the size of the old town and extent of preservation of the most of the buildings. We found on our map a walking trail through the back alleys where there were no tourists so we enjoyed the peace of it all before we headed with the masses back to the port area to buy our new found acquaintance Erhan (who had helped us the previous day source some ice)some duty free Jaegermeister of which he is fond before boarding the hydrofoil back to Fethiye and Turkey.

Fethiye had a lovely harbour/marina area but it’s main claim to fame were the Lycian tombs found just above the city and carved into the hills. We got back to Fethiye from Rhodes after 6pm and had about 20minutes to drive to Kayakoy – an abandoned village to the south east of Fethiye. We drove around the narrow streets below the town where there were many luxury villas and some guesthouses and we happened upon “Muzzy’s place” (short for Mustafa). Muzzy was third generation Greek and his grandparents had decided to stay in Turkey after 1924 when there was an exchange of Greek people to Greece and Turks to Turkey. Apparently the Turkish people could not settle in the town and moved to the coast until in 1950 when the entire town was abandoned. The pathway to the town was opposite our guesthouse and Muzzy was well set up with extensive bar/restaurant area, swimming pool and two storey stone house accommodation.

There was no camping site so For TL150 including breakfast we stayed the night there. it would have been nice to have a hot shower in the morning but very few places we have stayed have actually had hot water in the mornings. Apart from that the meal at night was excellent and Turkish breakfast was provided in the morning. We got up early and had a walk around the abandoned village and after breakfast we skyped a service centre in Italy to make an appointment to have the fridge looked at. It was becoming tiresome to find a fridge or ice wherever we went.
Muzzy’s claim to fame was that he supplied the cast and crew meals for the days that they were there for the filming of the “Water Diviner”, Russell Crowes movie about a father’s hunt for his son after the first world war and after losing two other sons in Gallipoli.

We had to drive back via Fethiye so we parked and walked up the many steps to see the Lycian tombs carved out of the rocks above the town. The view across the town and to the harbour and peninsula were wonderful. From there we went on to Denizle where we had a lovely encounter with some very friendly Turkish people. Firstly at the service station where one of the workers brought us out a cup of tea while the van was being filled and wouldn’t take any payment for the tea. We needed to buy more ice (I was still trying to keep the last of the food in the fridge cold) and they didn’t know of anywhere so I had a brainwave and asked where the fish market was. Thank goodness again for “maps ME” so that they could show us on the tablet where to find it. Maurice parked in a side street and I went around the corner to the fish market where one nice man told me to come with him and he walked me around to a few shops. He however thought I wanted to buy an esky even though I told him in Turkish that we had a broken down fridge and wanted ice! Something was lost in translation! When he twigged to what I wanted he walked me back to the fish market and instructed two of the stall holders to give me a bag of ice. I tried to tip him and pay for the ice but they wouldn’t have it and just wished me well – such lovely people.
Meanwhile back at the van…someone tried to get Maurice to move on as they wanted to unload some scrap metal. Maurice with sign language tried to explain that I was gone and if he moved I may not have found him again so instead he helped them unload the scrap metal while he waited for me to return.

It developed into another 43 degree day after we left Fethiye so we stopped for refreshments and to buy some towels in Mugla before crossing over the mountains to Pamukkale where an area called the Travertines are found. I had always wanted to visit these since seeing them in a brochure many years ago. We got to Beydil campsite right opposite the travertines on dusk so got up early the next morning and were standing at the entrance for the 8am opening time. Shoes are not allowed to be worn when walking on the travertines but they cool to walk on and were not slippery. Water flowed over some of the formations.

We had been advised to get there early so as to avoid the huge crowds later in the day. We didn’t realize that it comprised a vast area including Hierapolis (ancient ruins, gardens and pools and a hot 36degree thermal pool which by paying TL32 allowed you one entry. We stayed in the thermal pool for over an hour and there were few people in it then. Many tour groups started to arrive so after drying off in the lovely garden area we took a long walk around the travertines and found another pool at the north end of the complex near some of the Hierapolis ruins where there were only two other people. We made it to the top of the amphitheatre before heading around and back to the thermal pool area (where many more tourists had gathered) for refreshing drinks before fighting our way through the huge crowds who were now all around the travertine pools. It was a wonderful day out because we could relax in the shade or in the “free” pool between the walks around the ruins and the travertines. Getting there early made all the difference.

There was a large pool and a bit of an aquapark as part of the campsite as well as a few chickens and a rooster walking around the lawn area and a large restaurant upstairs overlooking the travertines – a strange mixture. We overnighted there
again and drove on over the mountains where orchards of olives and fig trees grew on steep slopes. The wide valleys with very tall corn fields led us into the city of Nizilli where we needed to buy a new electrical plug for our power cord as the previous night our old one nearly burnt out. The Tom Tom took us into the city in front of a service station where Maurice plug in hand enquired about an electrician.

As it happened right opposite was an electrician who motioned us to wait, hopped on his scooter and ten minutes later he was back with a new plug and he proceeded to fit the plug and soldered the ends which took another ten minutes. When we asked how much it would be he said TL5 or $2.50! He chatted to Maurice in Turkish and Maurice back in English but they understood each other. We tried to give him 10 lira but he just would not have it and just wished us well in Turkish. Such a lovely man. When we left all the workers in the service station waved us off.

Stopping at Birgi which I had read about in the morning we visited a huge wooden mansion built by a wealthy merchant in the 1830’s. Birgi is also known for the attractive stone and wood cottages all over the town. A woman was cooking Gozleme – potato pancakes so we stopped and ate them and then went across the square to buy what they called “snow” which was shaved ice with grape syrup poured over it. That was delicious, not very sweet and very refreshing on a hot day.
On the road some of the stall holders selling food have a large hose pouring out water near the road as a means of attracting customers. We saw this several times and thought it was such a waste of water!

We headed further over the mountains and down to a plain where there was an abundance of apricot and peach orchards and roadside sellers of fruit and vegetables. I really wanted some watermelon but not a whole one so they kindly cut one in half for us and I also bought 2eggplant, 6 small capsicum, a kilo of potatoes and four large tomatoes all for TL5.50 or $2.70! The stall holders were very friendly although their English was limited to Hello and Bye Bye.

We saw a couple of brides and grooms on their wedding day – one lot in Pamukkale wanted to have their photo taken with us. We also saw a large set up for outdoor seating for a wedding amongst the olive groves out of town. No need to worry about what the weather would do at that time of year.

It was like old home week when we arrived at the campsite Derile in Pamucak (the closest campsite to Ephesus) where we met up with Polish, German and Dutch campers that we had met at several previous campsites. It was nice to see the same faces again
and have a chat with fellow campers. We parked between Spaniards and Italians and Hungarians. This campsite was a real league of nations that we hadn’t much encountered in Turkey. Of course everyone again assumed with the “GB” plates that we were British and they were always surprised to hear we were Australian.

Ephasus was an amazing ancient site where a lot of reconstruction is taking place under an 11 million dollar roof to protect
the ancient Roman terrace houses. We were advised to get there early so we caught the “Dolmus” local small bus to Efes (Ephesus) and got in the gate before 8.30am. The site covers a large area and to see the layout of an entire ancient city and walk it’s marble paths was wonderful. The tour buses arrived one after the other and we had luckily seen everything that we wanted to see so made our way through the seething masses to the local bus to Selcuk, a modern town ten minutes away. There many storks and their young in their nests on top of the reconstructed aquaduct. We had a delicious Meze lunch and walked in the 43degrees to see the museum before heading back to the campsite for a swim.

We travelled via Izmir,Turkey’s 3rd largest city with a lovely promenade around part of the bay to have lunch in Foca, a lovely little seaside village and onto a lovely neat “Altin” campsite on the sea at Burnahiye. It was the most well run campsite that we had found in Turkey and the only downside was hitting a tree stump as we left the next day which pushed our electric step sideways and made it unusable. Another job for the man in Italy!

We soldiered on the next day to Cannakale and across on the ferry to the Gallipoli peninsula landing at Eceabat. We saw a memorial for the Turkish soldiers and drove up to see the town of Gelibolu. We decided to drive back down through the unpaved roads of the centre to our Kum camping site. It is a beautiful peninsula and a shame that it is only known for the Dardanelles campaign and it’s ANZAC connection.

There was a huge amount of agriculture on the peninsula – sunflowers, grains, fruit and vegetables and the tastiest tomatoes and best peaches that I had tasted since my childhood. There were many roadside stalls selling these and a very popular backberry or mulbeerry jam and good honey. We visited ANZAC cove and the next day drove up the coastal side of the peninsula towards the border to Greece. It was a hot 45degree when we left Turkey on the 30th July. We found a nice new little restaurant and delicatessen next to their cheese factory for lunch where the chef came out and tried to explain the Turkish menu. We ended up with a delicious fresh pasta meal. I took the waitress and showed her our fridge as she didn’t understand that we wanted ice. Her face lit up and she disappeared into the kitchen and came back with a bag of ice. Another lovely memory of our last stop in Turkey before getting to the border town of Ipsala.

Turkey was one of our favourite countries with friendly, helpful people in general,spectacular and varied scenery, nice little towns,interesting ancient ruins, nice hot weather, good and very reasonably priced food and good infrastructure for the locals with modern appartment blocks, leafy parks, shopping centres and childrens’ playgrounds. Some of the campsites had fairly basic facilities,however was made up for by their beautiful seaside locations. When we looked at the distance we had covered it was quite an area but we feel we just scratched the surface of the country. We deliberately stayed away from anywhere near the border of Syria. we were a little apprehensive before visiting Turkey because of it’s proximity to Syria and also the impression of their conservatism but this was soon dispelled when we arrived in the country.

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Leaving Kaya camping we headed to Uchisar to peruse two carpets that we had seen two days before. We told them that we would be back and to keep them aside. The downstairs room was like a bomb site when we arrived with renovations and all of the 3,000 odd carpets thrown in a heap. Of course the ones we wanted were nowhere to be seen so three of them set to work to move about half of the carpets before they found the ones we wanted. After all that they gave us a discount and
we set off with our bag of carpets. We chanced upon a market around the corner and we stocked up with very fresh fruit and vegetables. We bought more of the very plump and delicious cherries for 2 Turkish Lira a kilo – about a dollar!

The toll roads and highways were avoided as we made the longer trip via Eregli. Our map showed a caravanserai there and we set about asking a few people for directions in sign language and showing them the map. Everyone was very helpful and they all shook Maurice’s hand. After much toing and froing we abandoned the search because we could not find a parking spot and as we had about another seven hour’s drive that day we continued along the plains full of sunflowers, corn and other crops and towards the hills and valleys covered with many poplar trees. We went further up into the mountains towards Konya where many more factories and seas of appartments suddenly appeared. Konya was a city of over a million inhabitants. We drove further over higher mountains covered with pine forests to find the caravanserai that Maurice had read about. It had been restored but much of it dated from 1206. It was a very atmospheric place and we could imagine the caravans stopping there with their horses or camels for rest and supplies for their further journey on the silk road so many centuries ago.

Maurice found the Turkish drivers (apart from the tour coach drivers) to be polite and people in general were most helpful even if we couldn’t communicate verbally. Open and closed hand movements were very successful for traffic lights and holding
up fingers for how many sets we should drive through worked as well. We stopped in Beysehir for some supplies at a very neat little supermarket and the whole shopful of assistants combined their efforts to assist us. Most people asked us if we were
American and when we told them we were Australian they usually raised their eyebrows and were very enthusiastic towards us.

We must have passed at least fifteen roadside sellers of honey on the opposite side of the road and not one on our side so Maurice stopped and I ran across the road to get a large jar. The road down the mountains to the coast was quite steep in
places with a few hairpin bends but there was little traffic.

It was a long day, about 11hours by the time we got to Osay Camping at Kizilot near Manavgat on the coast but it was so much nicer taking the secondary but still good roads down to the coast. The cool evenings that we had had in Cappadocia were no
longer with nighttime temperatures of 22-24degrees and daytime up to 35degrees. We were glad that we had bought the extra of an air conditioner when we bought the van and luckily all the campsites so far had ample electrical ability to run it. Osay
camping was nestled next to one of the many huge hotel resort complexes along the south coast. There seemed to be many Russian and German tourists there and the shopkeepers in the local stalls and shops were more versed in German than English.

Our campsite was very quiet with only three other campers and had lovely open huts with tables, chairs and tablecloths where we could eat our meals if we wanted to. The two older men who ran the place had no English but while we sat there one of
them brought us some melon and tea and they wouldn’t take any payment. Two more lots of Australians from Queensland turned up the next day at the campsite.

Kizilot was about an hour from Antalya so we decided to take the van the next day instead of using public transport. Maurice made a slight error with the time so we were up at 5.30am instead of 6.30am. We parked the van in the enormous parking area of the Migros cinema complex and shopping centre and caught the bus into the centre of Antalya where we overlooked the old port full of fishing vessels.
There were only a few things of historical interest to see in Antalya which was just as well as the temperature got up to 43degrees but at least it was a dry heat. We found Hadrian’s Gate, the clock tower and the restored old town. That part of
town was very pretty but overrun with small hotels, restaurants and shops. The dogs and cats in town are tagged and fed by the local population and there was also a booth was manned by a Turk and his dog (who jumped in and walked around the
fountain to keep cool). He collected of 2euros in order to feed the cities homeless dogs and cats who all looked in very good condition.

Many people waiting for a bus helped us with the direction of the bus back to the shopping centre and after walking a couple of kilometres we finally boarded the bus and dived into the nicely airconditioned centre where we had lunch and cooled down.
We left about 3pm before rush hour started for the hour’s trip back to the campsite. Unfortunately a problem with our fridge had us emptying it and putting all the food from it and the freezer into one of the campsite’s fridges. It had cooled then to about 35degrees and there was a pleasant breeze blowing from the sea.

There were many very large hotel/resort complexes in the neighbourhood and one was right next door. Stangely it was directly in front of a cemetary and we thought it odd that such a place could be built there. All in the name of progress!
We went in there for a drink and they had great trouble finding change for us as it all works on a band around the wrist.

There were many of these very opulent or garish (depending what you liked) dotted all along the coast from Manavgat to Antalya. There were many shops selling mainly Turkish produced clothing and footwear and I happened on a nice red leather
jacket and sandals which could be made to measure in 24hours. It was unfortunately not the colour that was chosen by me when it turned up the following day so a Turkish “Arthur Daley” took us at 10pm to his main store ten minutes away to chose another
model. In the end I was happier with the second choice. Everyone was looking for a sale and bemoaning the fact that business was down 40 percent on the previous year.

We had made plans the following day to return to the shopping centre so we especially got up early so as to visit Side (pronounced Cday) on the way. The ruins there were fascinating as there was so many of the ancient buildings still partially standing and many columns were dotted along the road in the town. Apollo’s temple which had been rebuilt was in a beautiful location overlooking the water. The old town was full of shops, restaurants and cafes and was a bit too touristy for our liking so we had a coffee and headed towards Antalya again. The traffic lights on the highway were back to being two sets (flashing orange lights about 100metres from the actual traffic lights) and most on the main roads had a box with the number of seconds to wait until the lights changed. The only problem with the Turkish drivers was that they always made three lanes out of two lanes and two out of one so Maurice had to keep his wits about him all the time. We did see an accident on the way to Antalya. There were so many old cars as well as new on the road in Turkey which we had not encountered in Greece.

We got to the shopping centre at midday ready to have a nice lunch and found it closed and not to open until 2pm because of the end of Ramadan. It was a nice warm 38degrees by then and we took the road around the coast trying to find a picnic place to stop the van and have lunch. We tried three off ramps with no luck so settled on the side of the road next to a large resort and went on to Kumluca where everything bar a cafe and supermarket were open so we had a walk and a coffee and left town for Kas. The road meandered around the mountains and down to the sea where we followed the coast road or Turkish Riviera as it is called to Kas.

There had been very few people at any of the campsites we had visited in Turkey until we came to Kas (pronounced Cash).
We had sent the preferred campsite an email a few days before but when we arrived on the 17th July they said they were full.
Luckily the “Olympus MoCamp” a couple of kilometres out of town had space available and was in a prime position. We had just to cross the road to the beach where we could have free sun lounges and umbrellas and could order food or drinks from the
restaurant on site. The water was a wonderful temperature and so clear. We spent four nights here and three days swimming and mainly lazing by the beach. A bus right outside took us into town in seven minutes. There were thousands of people in town, mainly Turkish enjoying four days Eid Mubarak holiday (the end of Ramadan or Ramazan as they call it in Turkey). Apart from a German family we were the only non Turks at the campsite.

Kas was a very attractive town (quite touristy) with a peninsula and harbour and directly behind it was Meis as Kastellorizo was known in Turkey. Many of the Greek community in Perth come from this tiny Greek island which is only about a kilometre off the coast of Turkey. We found Turkey a very westernized country in general. The muslim presence was only felt by the calls to prayer in the morning and evenings and by some of the women in traditional dress with long sleeves or coats and headscarves. Otherwise we did not find it as conservative as we thought even in the inland towns. No one looks if you wear a sleeveless top and shorts and many of the local women dressed as they wanted to.

I wanted to have a Turkish breakfast so we went across the road to the camp’s restaurant. It was a variety of small dishes with savoury and sweet foods. Pekmez, a tahini and grape molasses mix and cheese cigars (cheese filled fried rolls), olives, tomato and cucumber and tasty caramelized mulberries. We walked in to see the town later. Many of the buildings had been restored with their covered alcove balconies but most shops were full of souvenirs and the town was crammed full of bars, cafes and restaurants. Men advertising boat day trips covered the small harbour. We caught the local bus escaped back to the campsite. After another relaxing day swimming and lazing we went back to one of the restaurants in town as our fridge had given up the ghost and we had to buy blocks of ice to keep what food we had in there cold.

Leaving Mocamp Kas on the 21st July we set off for Oludeniz via Tlos.. Tlos ruins date from the 4th Century BC. They cover a wide area below the mountains and we climbed around the ruins in the 34degree heat for a couple of hours and
stopped at a cafe there for cold apple tea and complimentary Turkish delight. I bought some homemade pommegranate sauce which the locals use mixed with garlic on fish and alone in salads. It was only another 30 odd kilometres to Fethiye which
was much more of a local town with good fruit and vegetable market and many cafes. There were many more “normal shops” selling all sorts of goods as well as the tourist market which we avoided. We found a parking spot near the marina and a
local who spoke good English (with a Midlands accent) helped us to source some ice for the fridge which we could not get fixed until we landed in Italy two weeks later. Our campsite “Sugar Beach club” was about 25minutes away and on an estuary. We met up with a Polish/German couple who we had met at a couple of campsites but they had to move on as that camp would not allow pets. It also had no drinking water or hot water showers so we decided to move on the next day.

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I had a lovely birthday as we travelled from Ankara to Goreme via Nevsehir. We stopped for a coffee and ended up having a
wonderful lunch and being spoilt by the chef at the cafe next to the Shell service station who spoke reasonable English. He had worked in
a restaurant on the coast of Turkey for 27years. A strange place for a birthday lunch but it was the best we had had in Turkey. Sometimes the most unlikely places to eat have turned out to be the best.

We had 300 odd kilometres to drive to Goreme and it was a nice leisurely pace on the secondary roads via an enormous salt lake where some tourists were sitting on chairs in the lake. We passed through Nevsehir which was a large town and on to Goreme which is a very touristy town full of carpet and souvenir shops and incredible rock formations and what they call fairy chimneys in and around the town.

Kaya camping gave us a wonderful spot overlooking a canyon like landscape and a vineyard our friendly Adelaide couple just happened to
come back to the same campsite that night so we had a bit of a chat before they left the next morning for the north eastern part of Turkey. At 5am the next morning we could hear the hot balloons firing up above us so I got up, took some photos and retreated back to bed. Goreme is the hot ballooning capital of Turkey with over half a million tourists in a year taking the flights. Scores of companies were ready to let one part with between 175-250 euros for a one hour’s ride. I had always wanted to take a balloon ride so that was my birthday present. We could only get a booking for the 13th July and we understood why when we saw the number of tourists around the town, mostly Chinese and a few Italian tour groups. The previous day the balloons had been cancelled due to high winds.
Maurice chose Royal Balloons who were well recommended and the pilots were trained by Australians so considered to be the safest bet.

Many walking trails were located near the camp which was on top of a hill so we set off for a ten kilometre walk through the interesting rock formations and valleys which were planted with fruit trees and small market gardens. We visited the open air museum with it’s many ancient carved out cave churches from the 11th century.

A steep cobbled road took us into the town where we chatted to many shop owners and had many carpets thrown out in front of us. The Turks are very good salesmen, just chatting and showing you things without any pressure. We asked the last one we visited to call us a taxi as we couldn’t face the steep long walk back and he straight away got one of his guys to take us back to the camping site even though we bought nothing from him.

I had a second birthady dinner at Top Deck Cave restaurant where the Turkish chef and his South African wife served up delicious food.

Maurice was using his stick only if his ankle felt a bit weak and it proved very useful. We were waiting for the normal bus to town when a tour operator’s bus obviously took pity on Maurice and picked us up and deposited us in town and wouldn’t accept any payment. It happened on the return later in the day which was very opportune as we had done a lot of walking. Another day we took the bus to Uchisar and spent a few hours there walking to the up the hill castle and finding a particular carpet shop which was recommended to us. After looking at hundreds of carpets in a few shops we settled on a runner for the hallway and another colourful Sumac carpet.

Our hot air ballooning day started at 3.30am with a pick up time of 4am for firstly a substantial buffet breakfast for the 147 people before being transported in small buses to the take off site. We scored the chief pilot with Royal Balloons and it was an experience of a lifetime. We floated over the amazing rock formations sometimes very close and sometimes much higher and it was such a peaceful sensation with no noise, drifting with the wind except for the occasional rush of gas into the balloon. There were about a hundred balloons in the air and it was a fascinating sight. We were given champagne, caps and they kindly gave me a birthday cake after we landed.

The chief pilot told us that 21years ago when he started flying there were four balloons in Cappadocia and they carried 100 passengers a year. Now there are 200 balloons. He also told us that Cappadocia has 3 million tourists visiting in a year.

We later caught the bus to Urgup for me to visit the Hamam for a scrub and polish, have lunch at a nice little cafe and was the only one there and the it was a maseur this time but he was very discreet and gave me a great massage. I felt squeaky clean.

Maurice needed a haircut and we found a modern hairdresser’s salon (or saloon as it is usually written here) who also cut and treated my hair but the three young people there spoke no English so it was up to google translate again which won the day. It is very useful and we have found
it invaluable on certain occasions. Some things you can get away with sign language but not everything.

The bus took us back into Goreme where we bought a lamp and had the best coffees and cold chocolate at the Oze coffee house.
I guessed because of the 100th year anniversary there were more Aussies in Turkey and the shopkeepers confirmed this.
We had another nice treat before we left the next day with many hot air balloons flying very near the campsite again.

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We had a tranquil drive from Alexandroupolis to Ipsala in Turkey. The border crossing in Ipsala went smoothly and we passed through much land devoted to agriculture especially sunflowers which then gave way to expansive pine forests. As we approached Istanbul from the east we passed seas of appartment buildings, many of them new. We were advised to buy a vignette for the toll roads at a Shell service station so we stopped after five stations that either did not have them or had none left. Each one said we should go on a further 25kilometres to the next service station. As it was we only had to go through an underpass at the first toll station and buy the thing for about 40 Turkish lira which we attached to centre of the windscreen.
We joined into Istanbul’s freeway system that we were forced to take to reach our destination and it turned into a nightmare journey with hundreds of trucks and thousands of cars at rush hour along Istanbul’s various freeways to our campsite. We saw one accident and many potential ones with many drivers ducking and weaving and much squeeling of tyres on the many interconnecting freeways. The brakes needed to be applied suddenly on many occasions. Istanbul and it’s surrounding suburbs and towns are very attractive given that there are between 14-15 million people living there.
There were fast growing housing areas in the surrounding hills and in the countryside near large industrial estates and there was a real push on greening the land with thousands of new trees planted everywhere and re-aforestation of many of the hills. There were many large magnolia trees in the towns as well and many other varieties being planted. Many beautiful hydrangeas were predominant in the towns.
The last time we were in Istanbul about three years ago we flew in and took the airport bus into the city which takes a very scenic and calm route around the bay of Marmara. This time it was very different. The area in which we stayed was on the edge of a forest and the undulating hills were interspersed with a lot of upmarket two storey houses and appartment blocks.
There was no rubbish on the highways or in the towns. There were many black rubbish bags on the side of the highway ready for collection. Everywhere was clean and tidy.
We managed to finally get off the chaotic highways and made our way through the many towns along the way and up some very steep roads to “Mistik Camping” in Kilyos a small town right on the Black Sea about 35kms away from the city where an old Turkish couple were sitting inside the gate together with a large dog on a chain. This was the closest and only one of two camping sites near Istanbul.
They unfortunately spoke no English (like most of the Turkish people young and old to whom we spoke apart from those in the hotels and restaurants and that was quite limited) but we managed with sign language. I always asked if anyone spoke German but no one seemed to know that either. I supposed with a population of 83 million Turks there was little need to speak anything else!
We decided to rewarded ourselves with a fresh fish meal in one of the many seaside restaurants. I was in no state to cook after my navigational skills and Maurice’s driving skills had been stretched to the limit.
The roads in Turkey were similar to ones in Greece with most secondary roads in excellent condition. Smaller roads in the towns were a bit bumpy but nothing excessive. Greece has a good feature of flashing orange lights before the actual traffic lights to let you know when the lights will change. In Turkey the actual traffic lights flash orange for a very short time before turning red.
We opted for public transport to get back into Istanbul. We took the bus to the closest and northern most metro station which took about 45 minutes. The bus drivers were excellent and a lot of the roads from the hills were one way so they travelled at break neck speed. They took a very scenic route along the Bosphorus past nice little towns and seaside areas. The metro then took another 20 or so minutes to get into the centre of the city.
We made the mistake of not getting the official bus but a private bus to the metro station to take us into the old city. The small private buses were a great idea as they took their passengers to wherever they wanted to go along their designated route. Our only problem was no common language so we were dropped off in Sariyer, a nice town where we had coffee but didn’t know where we were in relation to where we should be going. Luckily the shop owner understood where we wanted to go so he stopped another private bus and put us on. He told the driver to drop us at a metro station which he did and we found our way into the old city. The bus driver was multi talented. He drove with his left hand while taking money with his right hand and giving the passenger change!
We thought that the Italian drivers the worst for parking anywhere they found a spot but when we were having coffee we saw a driver stop his car at a green traffic light, come into the coffee shop, buy something and calmly go back to his car and drive away . I thought had this happened in Australia, he would have been lynched but the motorists just drove around the car without without a bother.
In Greece there are many large dogs and cats living on the street and most of the dogs have collars and were ear tagged. It appeared to be the same here in Turkey. They all seemed to be well fed with locals leaving food and water out for them and patting them.
Smoking is prevalent in both Greece and Turkey as cigarettes are very cheap with many of the smokers older men and women. Smoking was allowed in the al fresco areas of both cafes and restaurants.
Many Turkish women wore traditional dress of long skirts or trousers with long sleeved blouses,long topcoats and a headscarf. There were quite a number of women dressed like that in Istanbul city and also in smaller towns but there were also a big percentage of young and older women in sleeveless tops and jeans.
The infrastructure in the city especially for public transport was excellent with very modern trams, trains and buses for the millions of inhabitants and tourists alike. The metro was also nicely decorated with murals and mosaics and the service was very frequent (every few minutes). As soon as some saw Maurice’s white hair, there was no hesitation, they immediately gave up their seats. We also found this the case in China.
We had missed seeing “Hagia Sofia” on our previous visit because of extra long queues and were pleasantly surprised that we did not have to wait to buy our tickets and see the museum which consisted mainly of a large mosque which had been a Catholic church centuries before. We found our way to a restaurant overlooking the sea of Marmara to which we had previously been but were disappointed with the food and service but at least the view was good. Leaving there we walked a long way around the bay of the Sea of Marmara to a tram stop and continued up into Sultanahmet and to the Grand Bazaar. It was teeming with tourists so we made a quick exit, had coffee and cake and a much needed rest and then walked to the nearest metro station which took us to the bus station and back to Kilyos with the help of a young man at the bus station who did speak good English. He luckily warned us that many of the buses did not have their numbers displayed so he kindly asked for us and put us on the correct bus. It took us about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get by metro and bus from the old city to the campsite but we were definately not going to take Van Mauriceson near the city again.
We wanted to go across the “Golden Horn” (a horn-shaped estuary that joins Bosphorus Strait at the point where the strait meets the Sea of Marmara) to Beyoglu, an area we liked very much the last time we visited Istanbul so we took the light rail across the bridge to the last tram stop and back to near the Galata Tower to wander around the suburb with it’s many art galleries and shops. An art gallery owner proudly told us that Cate Blanchett had bought something from his gallery. We walked up to the Galata Tower and then onto the main shopping street where we took the old tramway for a distance before getting out and walking back to the light rail stop. On the way we saw a protest which was in aid of the Uyghurs but luckily it was a peaceful one but just in case the riot police were out in force with a water canon and tear gas guns.
We got back to the campsite after 7pm and I cooked a meal for ourselves and a friendly couple from Adelaide who were staying in the campsite. It was nice to have a conversation in English and we learnt that they had shipped their 4wd vehicle to London and were on their way to Australia via Tajikistan, Iran, Pakistan, India and across to China and then down through Asia. They were in the process of sorting out all the visas required which was taking some time.
We were up early to take the 8am bus into Sariyer where we stopped for a pastry and tea and then caught the bus/metro and a taxi down to the ferry terminal. We were going to take the six hour local ferry at 10.30am up the Bosphorus but it had started to rain (luckily it wasn’t cold)so we opted for a shorter two hour ferry ride which took us along one side of the Bosphorus and up to a second bridge taking traffic from European Turkey to Asian Turkey and back again to the ferry port. It was interesting to see Istanbul from the sea and the sun eventually came out but at least it wasn’t cold.
People were very kind and just used their travel cards on the buses a couple of times when we had run out of credit and could not get to a machine to top up ours. I was able to do the same for a girl who just caught the bus in time but had run out of credit. The vending and top up card machines were not always handy. This seemed to be a common practice as we witnessed it a few times. Usually the offered coins were rejected.
We left Kilyos on the 6th July after having the van washed in the local car wash. Maurice used his google translate to talk to the cleaner who did a good job for 20 Turkish Lira or about $10. We did give him a tip but he didn’t at first want to accept it. We stopped for a coffee as we had done in the previous days in Sariyer (a nice seaside town) and found a manned parking area where they charged us three times that of a car so it cost us $10 for an hour. It was an expensive cup of coffee.
We took the northernmost bridge over the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Turkey. We saw a new bridge and freeway that was in the process of being built and which was much closer to the Black sea but it had not yet been completed. Travelling on the Asian side on the way to Ankara We passed many modern, new housing areas and vast numbers of new appartment blocks which were interspersed with large areas of pine forests. We avoided the tolled freeways and saw on the secondary roads an enormous amount of industry with huge factories and and an incredible number of new warehouses and commercial buildings. International companies like “Barilla” were also there. This industry continued along the 300 odd kilometres to Ankara where there were again large groups of new appartment buildings dotted around the surrounding hills and within the city area.
It looked to us like Turkey was the country of the future with a booming economy everywhere. Unlike in Greece and in Italy we saw practically no vacant or abandoned buildings or houses, only ones that were due for demolition and reconstruction.
Our camping place out of Ankara was an interesting one, being in the parking area of the “Esenboga Airport hotel” where power and water were supplied and we had the use one of the rooms for showering in their very ornately decorated hotel. It was very pleasant to have a bathroom to ourselves for a few days.
On the property were two families of mother cats with four cute kittens each. One adventurous little black and white kitten visited us and was very playful. The staff at the hotel fed the cats every day but I did give them a couple of tins of sardines and tuna to supplement the left overs that they were given.
There were many and various shaped mosques in Turkey in many different colours. Some had shops incorporated into the base of their buildings which we thought was a very practical idea. We didn’t really appreciate the two mosques who competed with each other at 3.30am with high pitched and loud wailing near the hotel on one night. They were much quieter the other nights. The arriving aircraft were by comparison a pleasure to hear.
Ankara was in complete contrast to Istanbul when it came to tourist information. We could find no tourist centre when we arrived in the city which on the private bus only took twenty minutes. The fare was only 2 Turkish lira each and very good value. The private buses are only small but very practical and there are hundreds of them. We walked around and found only people who spoke Turkish so we had a brainwave and went into the Radisson hotel near the bus station and they spoke some English and were very helpful giving us a map and printing out another map so that we could see the major attractions that Ankara had to offer. They also plotted the metro stops for us which was very kind of them.
We caught the metro with a transfer to the Ataturk museum and mausoleum about 20 minutes away. It was such an interesting museum and was located in a high position overlooking the city. We were lucky enough to see the changing of the guard and spent a couple of hours in the museum which gave a great insight into the man who not only was a clever military tactician but who transformed Turkey with his innovations for a common Turkish language, education, industry and most aspects of Turkish life.
We found the food in cafes and drink selections to be fairly limited. They had a good variety of baked breads which were very tasty with cheese, spinach or potato fillings or plain circular breads. They had a speciality of layered pancakes with a small amount of filling in between the very fine layers . Nearly all the breads are covered with sesame seeds or some with blackened sesame seeds. The bakeries have a limited range of breads with the round Turkish breads or Pides more common.
The apple tea was delicious however a cappuccino was more a Turkish coffee without the grinds with a dash of foam on top. All hot drinks were served practically at boiling point so you had to be prepared to sit and wait to be able to drink it. I did try the Turkish coffee but it tasted very earthy and thick so I stuck to apple tea most of the time.
There were scores of new unlicenced cars just sitting outside the hotel and down the road in an open area with no security or fencing. The nursery down the road had no space left inside so many trees in pots were just sitting outside it’s fence.
Our last day was spent walking up hundreds of steps again, this time to Ankara Castle. The surrounding park was very green and peaceful. The castle or citadel was only quite small but was a good viewing point for all of Ankara city. It was surrounded by many houses, some ramshackle and some beautifully restored. The path once we got to the top had no signposts and a small boy pointed the way between the houses and washing lines to the castle. We found a very pleasant man from whom we bought a tablecloth and who spoke good English and excellent German as he had lived in Cologne for many years. He told us that the municipality was demolishing all the old derelict houses around the castle and rebuilding the houses in the old style at no expense to the owners.
Other old and crumbling houses on the neighbouring hill were also due for demolition and the inhabitants were going to be rehoused also free of charge. He recommended a restaurant for lunch nearby and it was a beautifully restored three storey house with many antiques and traditional Turkish items decorating the walls. We had lunch overlooking the city and the food was delicious and reasonably priced. Thick yoghurt with a cress like green, fried eggplant with tomatoes and large layered pasta pancakes with eggplant and potato filling.
A trip to the museum was next and it was located in an old trading post for Angora wool, famous in Turkey. This was then transformed into the present museum and was a beautifully restored old series of buildings. The museum was full of artifacts, brass, carved stone, pottery and wood from many centuries BC and was extremely well laid out with good lighting and all descriptions in Turkish and English.
A wander through the local markets on the way back to the bus had us stocking up on fresh fruit and vegetables and some very inexpensive delicious Turkish delight. I unfortunately made the mistake of showing our hotel card at the bus station and they obviously thought we wanted to go to the airport (the hotel was called the Esenboga Airport hotel but was some distance from the airport) and sent us walking with our shopping a couple of kilometres down the road and across the busy freeway. When we discovered that it was not the airport bus that we wanted we had to walk all the way back to the bus station and then get the correct information and wait for the bus. Then the bus driver missed our stop and we had to walk another couple of kilometres back to the hotel so we were well and truly exhausted by this time with slightly bruised peaches and plums.
In our few days in Ankara we only saw about another dozen foreign tourists which was in direct contrast to the thousands in Istanbul. Ankara does however need to improve their information service for foreign tourists, that is if they want them.

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We left Athens after lunch on another bright blue sky day and took the backroads through the mountains and around the coast of the Korinthiokos Kolpos which was an enormous body of water of the inner Mediterranean which stretched from the bay of Corinth to the eastern bay of Patras.

We stopped at the lovely town of Itea and then wound our way up the mountain to Delphi which we reached about 4.30pm. It was an easy two hour drive. We went straight to the archeological ruins to see the Temple, the amphitheatre and Sanctuary of Apollo which stretched up the mountain side and across the road and further down the valley. There were few tourists there as we had decided to leave sightseeing until late in the afternoon when most of the tour buses had left for the day. In Greece most of the sites and museums are open from 8am until 8pm in Summer which gave us plenty of time take it easy in the morning.

We had probably the best view from the campsite (which was more like a resort) in all of Delphi with views down to Itea and to the bay and to the other surrounding towns. It was particularly beautiful at night with all the lights glistening below. A lovely pool and bar/restaurant area overlooked the amazing view and we made the most of it having dinner and breakfast outside.
The mosquitoes had been a problem previously as we had both got bitten so we made sure we had mosquito coils lit before nightfall. There were few campers at the site which was curious given the view and the facilities and at only 16euros a night it was a steal.

The next morning so we stopped at a quaint little town of Amfissa which had at least twenty bar/cafes and all with someone having their morning coffee or beer!
I dispensed with the Tom Tom which wanted to take either on the motorway or down goat tracks. We had to back out of a couple of them so I reverted to “ME maps” on the tablet and the paper map which proved more successful.

The spectacular scenery continued as we drove up into the mountains and it felt like being on top of the world. The wide There were vast crops of corn, tomatoes and other greens stretching for kilometres in the wide valleys as well as vast areas of olive plantations. We continued towards Volos and on to our next campsite of “Hellas Camping” at Kato Gatzea, another idyllic place right on the beach. The owners welcomed us with a handshake (the first we had had from a campsite) and showed us to a place a couple of metres from the water – bliss for the next three nights. The weather was perfect – around 30degrees and dry. There were quite a lot of people the day we arrived but by 9.30pm when it started to get dark all was quiet.

We had a lay day and just walked into the town about five minutes away to have a drink and then for some exercise in the other direction to the town of Kala Nera about fifteen minutes away which was far more touristy so we went back to our campsite by the beach to have a Greek salad (they all serve it with a slab of feta cheese on top)a large fresh cod, boiled potatoes and broccoli which was all delicious and with 250ml of red wine came to 29euros.

Following was another lazy day spent trying to sort of “wordpress” imaging problems and getting coffees from the restaurant. A bit of rain kept everyone indoors until late afternoon afternoon when the sun came out and people started getting into the It rained a little in the morning but by the afternoon the sun was out again. I bought some good red homemade wine for a couple of euros from the local small supermarket where we stocked up on peaches and nectarines that were very cheap,smelt wonderful and tasted delicious.

We made our way north past Volos and along yet another very scenic mountain road from Larisa which passed to the west of Mt Olympus and on to Thessaloniki. We saw no traffic for a couple of hours and being a Sunday no one was on the road before about 11am. There was much land devoted to agriculture and all the crops looked very green and lush.
Our most expensive toll highway which we took for ten minutes cost us ten euros, five times more than that for a car.

It was quiet driving through Thessaloniki on the Sunday as all the shops were closed as were all the large supermarkets like “Lidl” and “Carrefour” along the way. The only queues we saw were at a couple of ATM’s where people were lining up to get some cash. We tried about four different ones on the way into theh city until we found one with some money. The government closed the banks the following day for a week and limited residents to 60euros a day for the following week. They then advised that they would open the banks on Wednesday only for pensioners and those that did not have ATM cards. Foreigners were not affected by the restriction at the ATMs.

The campsite of Akti Retziki was in another prime location on the beach on the south east bay of Thessaloniki and which also happened to be the closest beach to the city. We arrived on a hot Sunday afternoon and the place was overrun with cars and holiday makers. The following morning the whole place was deserted and we virtually had the campsite to ourselves bar a couple of other campers. Monday was spent at the beach and doing the washing and cooking. I made stuffed eggplants with a rice mixture.

There was no bus yet (1st July it started) from the campsite to Thessaloniki so we drove the half hour to the enormous Ikea store where we could park the van and take the bus from the bus station next door. Diesel in Greece ranged from 1.13euros to 1.27euros a litre, much cheaper than the rest of Europe. It took us another half hour to get into the centre of town where we decided against the hop on hop off bus and opted to walk for a few hours and get the feel of the city. There were again hundreds of cafe/bars and restaurants in leafy side streets and a lovely wide promenade by the harbour.

It was a coolish, cloudy day, unsusual for the time of year (nearly July). There were several Greek Orthodox churches and a fewnew large ones being built. Some of the architecture of the old appartment buildings was beautiful but there were also many derelict and vacant shops in one section near the port. There were many interesting food and specialty shops in another area and the usual Zara and H & M stores as well as the Marks and Spencers in the main street.

we stopped to share a slice of spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) at a local shop where we used sign language. There were groups of locals in most of the cafes. We had several discussions with locals in cafes and on the bus about the crisis that the Greeks were experiencing.
We didn’t find too many shop owners that spoke English and then we would come across one who when we asked if they spoke English said “Of course” so we enlightened her that “of course” was not always the case. No one that we asked in the north seemed to speak any other language either except in the campsites. We caught the bus back to Ikea and the huge storm that had been brewing broke and the thunder,lightning and torrential rain continued for half an hour taking out a lot of traffic lights on the highway which made for hestiant driving. There was a lot of water on the road so we made our way slowly back to the campsite where by the beach where it had barely rained at all.

The 1st July saw us making our way east via Kavala to Alexandropouli. It was a cool and rainy morning with a lot of mist and low cloud in the mountains and clear but dull and overcast by the sea. Driving by the sea there were a group of archeologists excavating right next to the highway and across the road from the sea.
All over Greece there were many unfinished buildings – commercial and residential amongst the established houses and flash new two storey ones. A lot of houses had solar panels on their rooves and there were many in the fields although almost no wind turbines unlike in Italy.

We listened to a bit of Greek music on our radio but we could only take the bouzoukia for so long. A lot of the songs sounded almost Arabic.
We stopped at a large Carrefour supermarket and bought some “pink lady” apples from Chile under licence to Australia. They were as good as the ones from home.
The temperature rose from 16 degrees in the morning to 29 degrees in the afternoon although the day stayed cloudy. Spain and France were getting the temperatures that Greece should have been experiencing at this time of year.
Taking our time took us about seven hours to get to Alexandroupoli and our last campsite in Greece for a while. Off to Turkey the following day.

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