Monthly Archives: May 2014

400 km from Pamukale to Kas and a visit to see the Turtles at Dalyan

Turkey is a huge country and today we have a ‘bus ‘ day. Departing by 8.30 we traveled south along the coast, passing extensive rice fields and more olives, figs, pomegranates and orange trees.
Up through rocky outcrops and tree covered hills the architecture has also changed – replaced with terra cotta tiles and whites washed houses. Most people in turkey seem to live in large high rise apartments in what looks like very high density.
We stopped at the Tourist town of Dalyan where we enjoyed salad and a variety of delicious Pide baked in a wood oven for lunch filled with lamb, cheese and tomato with chilli.

Following lunch we took a ride on one of the 150 boats transporting people from the the town through the delta of canals lined with rushes to the Mediterranean Sea.

On the way passing the impressive rock tombs of Caunos. Over 2500 years old they once held the bodies of kings from the thriving city of over over 4000 people.
Stopping in the delta to catch a glimpse of one of the huge turtles protected in this area.The 5 km long sandy beach is the site for the reproduction of the Caretta Cartetta turtles. It was complete with rows of sun beds and changing rooms by day full of tourists sunbathing and swimming. We enjoyed a quick 30 minute swim.


Our arrival in the early evening in Kas was just in time for our dinner reservation at a local restaurant in the heart of the town.
It was a fun night for some more than others ….

The Road to Pamukkale

Guess what the day was beautiful with clear blue skies and definitely going to be hot, hot, hot.
TravelIng for 3 hours by bus to the district of Pamukkale .
This region of Turkey is known for Fig production – 1 million tons per year and 80 % of the worlds production.
For many kilometres we pass not only figs but – olive, pomegranate, oranges,pistachio and walnut trees . Stalls on the sides of the road are selling terracotta ware and fruits that are obviously grown along the roadside.
We stopped at a small stall run by a delightfully friendly lady . Ali bought a tray of the most tasty strawberries and a bag of apricots – I must say Central Otago Moorpark Apricots do taste better.

Lunch was in an isolated restaurant surrounded by olive trees . We were greeted by a man playing a Saz .. A long mandolin shape with 3 strings. Our multitasking guide Ali who is actually a professional drum player accompanied him and they sang while we ate our lunch of Stuffed Pide Bread , kebabs , salad and bulgar wheat topped off with delicious yoghurt, honey and slices of orange .

Oh dear … Sadly our bus broke down after lunch. We had water gushing from a hose which chose this moment to perish.
While we sat under a tree and listened to Sheryl, Jenny and Ingrid singing – plus a bit of poetry reading, our clever driver – now covered in dirt and oil, made the repair and had us back on the road within 60 minutes .

The geography changed at this point and we passed vast wheat fields before being stunned by the sight of Pamukkale .
Brilliant white terraces flowing down the hillside like icing sugar on a cake. We were overwhelmed by the site and couldn’t wait to walk up the side through running water over the hardened calcium deposits to the pools, where some of the group were organised enough in swim suits, others in under wear and others !!! In their clothes.
It was worth the long drive – even though our day was cut short by our sick bus.
Next time we need a picnic and to stay all day .

Majestic Ephesus

The view from our hotel in Kusadasi – we are doing it hard here !!!!
Everyone is enjoying swimming in the pool or the Adriatic early in the morning or evening – plus the Turkish Spa.
Perfect after a long day in the heat.

The size, grandeur and extensive remains of Ephesus is so impressive
This is the best preserved classical city in the Eastern Mediterranean and gave us an insight into what life was like in roman times.
Ancient Ephesus was the Capitol of Asia Minor and at its peak had over 250,00 inhabitants. You can even imagine the streets and huge courtyards filled with people.
As we walked down the hill through the piles of unearthed remains and thousands of tourists Ali our guide helped us imagine the life of this huge city .Only 1/20 th of the city is excavated – it’s very hard to comprehend its enormity.
It was very hot, you had to watch your step on the original marbled roads and it was a feast to your eyes… I can see why this is a ‘ must do ‘ visit to Turkey.

High in the hills is the delightful town of Sirince – renowned for its for its fruit wines and lovely old houses.
This was our lunch spot under a pergola with a lovely breeze passing by.
We ate ‘ Gozleme’ – a thin flat pastry filled with spinach,cheese and parsley. Folded and cooked on a large griddle. It was delicious and reminded me of a quesadilla.
Lamb chops, bulgar wheat salad and tomato were served on a tin plate before baklava for desert.
Walking through the village past the quaint stalls I noticed many selling jars of preserves unfamiliar to us – mastic jam , black mulberry molasses, large bunches of herbs and flowers.


Troy, Delicious Food, Olive Oil and Ancient Medicine

We are all familiar with the well known legend of Troy and the horse used in the Trojan war which was depicted by the Greek poet Homer .
On a very hot day we walked the ruins scared by archaeologists – impressive by its size – Philip and I are standing by the ramp, still intact – where they wheeled the horse into into the city of Troy.

A short stop at a very lovely Olive oil producer was the prefect break.
They had a delightful museum and sold gorgeous products – not only delicious oil, but , jars of preserved olives, pesto, soaps, moisturizers and beautiful olive wooden kitchen implements. My group are good shoppers and we all seem to purchase some presents to take home.

I love the stunning food sold all over Turkey from small local restaurants to large hotels . Basically a selection of traditional dishes. You choose what you want plus help yourself to mezes – like broad bean salad, yoghurt and purslane salad or vegetables. This is healthy food . The only problem is the amount you put on your plate!!!!

Pergamon – I had never heard of this amazing historical site. Founded by the Greeks. It was favored by the Roman Emperior Hadrian.
Massive temples, a stadium, a theatre, a huge forum and amphitheatre were constructed.
This was also the most famous healing centre of the Roman World and the home of the physician Galen.
It was remarkable and humbling to walk amongst the ruins where these clever people worked and lived .


A very moving day visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula.
It has a calm serene atmosphere and our guide Ali was superb. His compassionate portrayal of the events on the beaches and hillsides which killed so many soldiers from the Allied forces and Turkish helped us understand this dreadful event in our history.


From the Anzac Memorial wall……
They lived with death and dined with disease – from an unknown poet.


I survived the Grand Bazaar

Sadly our last day in Istanbul. Under a clear blue sky we were transported by our bus to the recently restored Mosque Mihrimah sultan…..
A beautiful interior of stained glass windows, bright red thick carpet, ….
Vitually over the road we could walk to the Chora Church – built in the 11th century it features the most wonderfully preserved Byzantine mosaics depicting the life of the Virgin Mary .

Lunch was a real treat. Next door to the Chora church set in a private courtyard surrounded by lush green ivy was the Asitane restaurant .
Chefs at Asitane feature a menu comprising of dishes from the kitchens of the Ottoman Palaces.
Our lunch: Almond soup with chicken and pomegranate seeds / meze plate – fava and dill pate,goats cheese ricotta with red capsicum,hummus with cinnamon and pinenuts, vine leafed dolma filled with rice,currants and sour cherries / stuffed melon filled with minced lamb, pinenuts, currants and cinnamon / almond halva .
It was a delicious lunch – beautiful interesting food, great service and a relaxing setting in this frenetic city.
However, it was a bit disconcerting feeling the Earthquake that was centered off Greece.

I actually think Alison was setting us up in preparation for the Grand Bazaar . With over 4000 shops over several kilometers of lanes . This is the heart of the city and we spent a very short hour doing some frantic shopping – the Turkish carpet shops are stunning – a few of us did buy cushion covers – but there were shoes, dresses, jewellery, bags, leather jackets and a huge copper tray purchased by my group that are very competent shopping.
It was Saturday and the market was packed with people wall to wall. After 10 minutes of walking down the hill in a throng of women wearing long coats and head scarfs, with children and families we arrived at the spice bazaar – every spice imaginable in colourful piles, dried fruit, cheese wrapped in goats skin and of course Turkish Delight.
It was an amazing afternoon of the senses – too much to take in – which I suppose must mean I have to return .
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A day on the Bosphorous

Ali started out day again at 8.30 – traveling by bus through the dense traffic to the other side of the Bosphorous to visit the Dolmabache the last palace of the Sultans and where Ataturk resided and died after the revolution.
Opulence of stunning proportions – with the biggest crystal chandeliers in the world. ( sadly no photos allowed)

Time for tea, Simit (local bread covered in sesame seeds) and a chance to buy leather hats before spending the next hour leisurely cruising up the Bosphorus to our lunch spot beside the water and looking out at the Black Sea in the distance.

Ali quite liked Ingrid’s hat ….
On returning to Istanbul along the Golden Horn – we spent a hour at Eyup
This is one of Turkey’s holy places – a huge graveyard to many sultans and today little boys dressed in white we’re visiting prior to be circumcised.

How can you visit Turkey and not take a Turkish Bath.
It was hilarious and and real experience. Stripped down to nickers – we followed the ritual of – lying on a large hexagonal hot marble slab before being moved to the outside and scrubbed by women from top to toe.
You then spent time in a hot pool to relax . A fabulous massage came next for 30 minutes. We emerged refreshed and very clean.
This is a must do.

Sarah and Lorraine joined the tour today . The group is complete. They managed to keep their eyes open for another stunning Turkish meal – specializing in Kofta. We ate too much and laughed a lot.
What a fabulous day …

Day 4 – Istanbul in all it’s glory

How do you describe a city with over 12 .5 million people . That never sleeps. Everywhere you look the scene is full of people, food,traffic and the most wonderful sights.
Our first day was enormous and it’s hard to take in all the awe inspiring historical sites.
Aya Sofia , Blue Mosque with its beautiful tiled interior , Topkapi palace – so huge and home to Sultans for centuries, Basilica Cistern – an enormous underground water storage area under the ancient city.
Our guide Ali is so passionate and successfully transported us to a world where we have only read about.

My tour group is very good at socializing together and what better place than the roof top bar in our hotel.

Oh my goodness … finish our day off we travelled by bus over the Bosphorus to Taksim square …. Even as we emerged from the bus a group of armed Police with riot gear walked past.
The walk to our restaurant was a lesson in keeping up and staying together. The street jammed packed and full of people 24/7 . Shopping, eating at the hundreds of food shops and socialing. Ali was in his element and we enjoyed a typical Turkish meal with ‘ real people ‘ from Istanbul . This was a momentous day and a good sleep will see us enthusiastic for tomorrow .

Goodbye Dubai- Hello Istanbul


Even on the final morning my group all enjoyed the pool for the last time.
The last fabulous breakfast where we didn’t know when to stop eating the gorgeous array of foods offered .
And …. I had a quick visit to the little souk behind the hotel where the previous night I found the most delectable salads and platters of food.
I have only seen this once before at Ottolinghi in London. It turns out this chef here worked with Yotum.. I wanted to stay and eat everything…
Next time.


Arriving in Istanbul along with thousands of travelers was a bit disconcerting at first , but once you realised it was ‘follow the person in front ‘ to immigration control it was a lesson in patience .

Alison, Hasan and our guide Ali we’re patiently waiting where the whisked us off past the Edge of the Bosphorus to our hotel.
A short walk takes us right into the Sultanamet … Right in the historical heart.
We have started as we mean to go on and ate in a ‘Pudding House’
Delicious typical Turkish fare – served in full or half servings.

Oh my goodness what fun. A short glimpse before walking back to the hotel to the sounds of calling to prayer from the huge mosques surrounding us.


Day 2 – Dubai – scarf shopping, skiing, desert and relaxing…

How Dubai retains it’s colossal momentum of building huge architectural high rise buildings, a vast network of new roads and creating expansive waterways well into the desert seems incredible. It moves so fast and the changes since my last visit in August 2103 are considerable and very noticeable .
This juggernaut is moving into the desert turning sand into cities -creating life for people from over 231 nationalities . A massive number of companies from all over the world have offices here. It’s safe, very friendly and for many an opportunity to work and support their families back home – (where ever that might be)

On day 2 in Dubai with my tour group, I once again visited the Antique Museum owned by the Fakih group . These guys have now become my friends after taking many tours here over the past 6 years . It is certainly not on your average tour groups itinerary.
Actually it’s not a Museum at all. It’s found amongst the dusty industrial side of Dubai tucked up beside a cement works. (I’m sure my group wondered where on earth they were going) But… It put the true meaning into ‘ an Aladins Cave ‘ …. Goods here are bought from third word countries encouraging local handcrafts and sold through the group to tourist shops all over the region.
A labyrinth of rooms filled from floor to ceiling with ‘stuff’ from huge carved wooden elephants to scarves,ceramics, glittery clothing, and thousands of gifts….


The Fakih driver kindly dropped us off at the Mall of the Emirates where everyone got to see how the locals , who live in 40 deg heat can ski on a unique indoor ski field.
Today children were enthralled by a group of penguins and we could watch out through the vast windows at this white winter wonderland.
Dubai is now serviced by a new ‘monorail which sits high above the ground and provides a stunning view from the Arabian Gulf to the desert sand. We had ‘Gold Class tickets which entitled us to …. more seats and comfort at the back of the driverless train.

Our last night in Dubai provided a choice of a desert safari four wheel drive tour or a bit of …. shopping in the largest mall in the world, time by the glorious hotel pool with a wine and a meze dinner in the busy hotel restaurant.
The group from the desert returned with hilarious tales to tell of precarious driving in the sand Dunes accompanied by the screams of our NZ group. Riding camels, belly dancing,smoking shishe and eating Arabic food in the Bedouin camp.
We had a slower pace back at the hotel but it ended a perfect relaxed two night stopover in a city that has become a real favorite of mine.
Tomorrow is Turkey and time to meet 4 new members of the tour group and my guides Alison and Hasan and Ali.