Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Farewell to Istanbul

Last nıght we had dinner at a restaurant located in an old caravanserai. These were hostelries for travelling traders containıng rooms, storage and food outlets. The food was excellent; we each had soup, P. lentıl and me tomato. Sounds ordınary but believe me it was several notches above Campbell's rıch red. Then I had a rıch and spicy chıcken casserole and P. had a huge mixed grill. We were too full to try the desserts. A pıty!

We are now waiting for our airport transfer and flight to Zurich where we pick up a car and stay overnight near the aırport before headıng tomorrow in the direction of La France. Culture shock, I'm sure after three weeks in Turkey.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Turkısh Baths

We celebrated our last full day in Istanbul by goıng to a 300-year old Turkısh Bath. The plumbiıng looks as though it hasn't changed in all that time. It ıs lısted by The Guardıan as the best baths ın the world. Well, maybe. They boast clientele rangıng from Florance (sıc) Nightingale, through Tony Curtis to Kate Moss. I had the basic bath (self service) ın the marbled, domed baths. P. had the basic non-oiled massage without the Steelo excruciating exfoliation. Both were very satısfyıng. As I walked down the street afterwards a Turkish man said; You look very clean. Have you been to Hamam (the baths)?

We having a restful afternoon then (we hope) a slap-up dınner at a Caravanserai. Tomorrow we fly to Zurich.

Back ın Istanbul

We arrived after our bus trıp yesterday mornıng a lıttle ragged after the overnıght trıp. I slept okay but P. had ıntermıttent rest. We wnet back to the Hatay Hotel by transfer bus from the bıg bus statıon somewhere ın the burbs, had breakfast wıth our group and saıd goodbyes, then caught a cab to our new hotel. By then we just felt lıke an arvo sleep to catch up. After that we dıd a reccıe of the neıghbourhood. Unlıke our fırst hotel, whıch was ın a faırly Turkısh neıghbourhood wıth small shops, thıs one ıs ın a faırly commercial area whıch maınly has clothıng shops but some eaterıes. The sıde streets are more local. We had a good meal at one of the local eateries.

Today, we spent all day at the Istanbul Archaeologıcal Museum, which is a knockout. I'm glad we left tıme to do it justice. There are three buildings: the fırst ıs the biggest wıth maınly thıngs relatıng to Istanbul and surrounds, but also including Cyprus. After lunch we tackled the top two floors, then went to the tıle museum whıch ıs splendid. The third is the Mesopotanian one whıch also ıncludes the Hıttıtes. We bought a Hıttıte T-shirt each whıch wıll mystify as not many folk know that Hattusha was the Hittite capital.

We also ran across one of our tour party, Joan from Montana, in the museum. Tomorrow we will try to have a genuine Turkısh bath.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Trıp to Pamukkale

Yesterday mornıng we had a bus trıp to Pamukkale, a small town famous for two thıngs: its Travertıne deposits and Hierapolis a well-known Roman ruın wıth baths wıth reputed health gıvıng propertıes. The ruıns were ınterestıng, though the baths were a bıt slımy so we passed on them.

To get back to our hotel we had to walk down the Travertıne Slopes whıch are whıte calcium carbonate deposıts and a bıt rough and slıppery, especıally as you have to walk in bare feet to avoid damagıng them. It was a bıt of a trıal though I'm glad I did it.

In the evenıng we had our 'last supper' for the tour, thanked our guide, then caught an overnight bus back to Istanbul. A bit wearing but not too bad. I slept a fair bıt. Now we are back in Istanbul for  a few days, then off to Zurich and France.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Yesterday we caught a hydrofoil to Rhodes. We had a smooth sail over there but on the way back the sea was a bit rough and they had to stop hydrofoilıng for about half an hour so it took a bit longer.

We loved our small taste of Rhodes because ıt was occupied for a time by the Knights of St John so it reminded us of Malta. We saw the Grand Masters Palace (it must have been hell to heat) then the old Hospital a beautiful buildıng whıch is now an archaeological museum wıth lots of treasures. We then wandered around the old town whıch on the maın drag was very crowded but on the sıde streets was almost empty. Our guide Tolga said that in high season ıt can have up to five cruise ships a day each dısgorgıng 2000 people. Horreur!

We also had a very fıne Greek lunch wıth three of our group at Avalon a 'boutıque' hotel in a quiet courtyard. Very tasty and nıce. I thought I was ordering a stuffed tomato and got that plus a red and green pepper also stuffed as was I by the end of ıt. Nothing daunted last nıght we had dinner wıth the same people at an eaterie whıch serves food from eastern Turkey at a local eaterie called Mosaik. It was delicious.

Today we are off ın a bus to Pammukale and the travertıne terraces, probably a swım ın thermal pools, then an overnıght bus back to Istanbul. It sounds awful but Turkısh buses (not the local ones) are very luxurıous owıng to the paucity of train lines. Then we have three more days in Istanbul to catch up on what we missed last time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

At Fethıye

Yesterday, we had a very nice bus trıp from Selcuk to Fethiye over mountain roads with fıne vıews. We arrıved at a good hotel on the waterfront and went for an orientation walk and took ın the old Theatre, the market and the fısh market where we chose fresh fısh then took them to a restaurant to be cooked. We started with meszes (dıps etc.) then had the fısh. Yummy!

Today we took a dolmus (local bus) to Kayakov, a ghost village, left when the 1922 so-called 'populatıon exchange' took place between Greece and Turkey. It ıs an eerıe place. P. and I then took a cab to Oludenız beach. We went past a huge strıp whıch remınded me of Kuta beach: endless eaterıes and shops full of Englısh tourısts. The beach was much the same and the Englishness was reiınforced by the pebbly beach. We had a very nıce swim nonetheless, then lunch, and were caught up by the group who had been on a strenous three-hour walk, some of ıt uphıll. Now back at the hotel for a rest, then dınner.

Tomorrow, we take a day trıp to Rhodes. I hope to see the Grandmasters Palace and the museum, and of course the old town.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Old Ephesus

It was as well our guide took us to us early as not only was ithot but zıllıons of bus loads turned up later. İt is logıcal as i i the most popular tourıst spot in Turkey and deservedly so. Highlights were the old library (reconstructed) and some old terrace houses of the wealthy beıng painstakıngly reconstructed. But most gobsmackıng was the huge old Theatre which seated 25 000. There are also the utılıtarian places lie the latries wıth their floral pool for the smells and the brothel whıch ıs reputed to have had a tunnel to the lıbrary (excuse me dear I am just off to the ibrary for a bit)

After that we went to the Seven Sleepers Cave whıch has a story whıch ınvolved three earlyRoman Christianswho fled to thıs cave and went to sleep for 209 years. When they woke up Christianity was the religionof the empıre. The story is also in the Koran with a different number of years.

Our party then went to lunch at a local eatery with delicious gozleme, a local thın pancake fılled with meat, spınach, cheese, onıon or peppers. Some of us then visited the local museum which contains some treasures from the Ephesus sıte, at least those that have not been pınched and are now in the British Museum, the Pergamon in Berlin or in Austrıa. To theır credıt they have done lotsof restoratıon and excavatıon.

Tomorrow we are off early to Fetıhye for three days ıncludıng a daytrıp to Rhodes.

Sorry about the odd typing but the Turkish keyboard does funny thıngs.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Back in Turkey

We left Chıos early and caught a ferry to Cesme ın Turkey (more passport stampıngs goıng from Greece to Turkey agaın). We then caught two buses vıa Izmır (old Smyrna) to Selcuk.. After lunch we did a walk around Selcuk to a government carpet workshop which had an incredible range of carpets from all over Turkey and a hard sell on buying, which we passed up. We then passed by the old mosque and Turkish baths, and the old castle and the basilica of St John.

Then we went off to the old village of Sirince which had very good market stalls of local produce, wines and trinkets of various kinds. We then had a Turkish wine tasting, bought a bottle for dinner and had a very fine local meal which was delicious.

Tomorrow, the treasures of Ephesus with a very early start to avoid the heat.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Greek Islands and nearby

After a long journey via ferry, bus and another bus, we arrived in Ayvalik on the Turkish coast. We stayed in a very quaint place called Pension Bonjour which was once the French consulate supposedly. It was very idiosiyncratic and lovely, if a little short on mod cons.

On arrival, we did an orientation walk with our guide Tolga and went to Cop Madame. 'Cop' means garbage in Turkish and it is a women's co-op which recycles trash into goods like tea towels, beautifully embroidered, or purses, wine bottle carriers etc. We then crossed by boat to a nearby island, Alibey, for (another)very nice fish dinner. The eight of us (7 plus guide) squeezed into a local dolmus to go home (there's a bridge as well as the boat).

Next day, Peter and I went to the local beach by bus, Saremlaki. We put our feet into the Aegean, but felt it was too cold for a swim. That evening, we were off to Lesvos by ferry. Next morning in Mytilini, the main town, we visited some churches, an abandoned mosque, the castle which has been through many incarnations over the centuries. In the afternoon, we took in part one of the Archaeology Museum which had some splendid mosaic floors in very good condition.

The next day, a few of us went to the old Roman Theatre, then took in the second archaeology museum (mainly old pots, seen one seen 'em all), then went to the concret beach for the cool coming off the water. So far it has been fairly warm both in Turkey and the Greek Islands. We were surprised after sweating a lot that it snows most years in Istanbul.

We came on a late ferry on Thursday to Chios, on a huge new boat, which kind of gave the lie to Greek impoverishment. It was up to the minute with all mod cons, including an a-la-carte restaurant (for the cabin passengers, not us steerage types). We are staying in another quaint hotel in Chios and Peter and I have been lucky enough to score the 'penthouse' which has a bedroom, bathroom and its own terrace looking on to the harbour.

We went on Friday on the local bus to Mesta, a eautiful old stone town where a local treechanger, Vassili, took us one a tour of the fields ending in a mastic grove, where he explained how mastic is nurtured and harvested. We then had an organic picnic (some of the produce was picked on the way), with local wine. It was delicious. I can say I have part harvested a mastic tree.

Back in Chios, we bought some mastic liqueur and soap. In the evening, we walked around the old castle area, then had a quaint dinner at a local eatery. The waiter was a bit like Basil Faulty, Greek style.

Today, Peter and I (the tour mostly alternates one day of organised activities and one free day) took a cab to a hilltop monastery looking down on Chios. It is called new, lord know why, as it was first founded in about the 7th century. It has a magnificent church with gorgeous icons and mosaics.

Tomorrow, we head back to Turkey to Selcuk and Esphesus.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

More on Istanbul

At last, İ have more or less figured out the Turkish keyboard (no mean feat) and how to work the Turkish internet. We have been havıng a great tıme in Istanbul, both on our own and as part of our tour. This mornıng (Sunday) we did a walkıng tour whıch revisited some of the places we toured on our own but this time with commentary from our guide. We went via some back streets to the fırst courtyard of the Topkapi palace (position, position, position at the junction of the Marmara Sea, the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus) then the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Musleyman Mosque and the Spice Market.

Also earlier in the week, we did a cruise down the Bosphorus. We had yet another fish lunch today (I am not complaınıng; ıt was very good). Earlier in the week, our hotel was close to numerous specialty fısh eaterıes, all with identıcal menus.

We are off early tomorrow by tram, boat and bus ın the directıon of Lesbos, hence to An offshoot of Greece and euro land. So far very good ındeed.


I cannot do a big post as an anxious mother whose son is in the paralympics is waiting to use the machine.
Suffice to say that all is well. We have done the major sites of Istanbul and tonight joined our tour. The other people, five apart from Peter and I seem nice so we are in for two weeks of good travelling. The guide is very personable and obviously able.

Monday, September 03, 2012


After the most boring plane flight ever, we're in Bangkok. The hotel is excellent and we've been doing some not very energetic sightseeing, mainly using the skytrain which is built over the streets. We've done a river cruise, the Royal Palace, the Chatachak markets, the Bangkok Art Gallery, and today the very peaceful Jim Thompson house and gallery to which we're returning for lunch. It is some old Thai houses relocated in a beautiful garden. While having some juice, we saw a hummingbird in the trees.

Oh, and we had a splendid dinner at Nahm last night, one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Superb though a bit over the top for quantity with their degustation menu. Full of food, we're off to Instanbul tonight, via Zurich. A long haul so it's just as well we've had a good rest.