We have renamed this Turkish tour – ‘ 17 days of Temptation.’
From Istanbul to Gallipoli, down the coast past Kusadasi and Kas, turning inland through Antalya to Urgup in Cappadoccia .
We have learnt so much from Ali about culture , history and the Turkish lifestyle . He has sung,told stories and been compassionate and kind everywhere we went.
My wonderful group embraced every day with energy and enthusiasm . They shopped exceedingly well, were eager to learn more about the incredible history,
loved the Turkish baths and massages! socialized with everyone throughout the tour and loved the wide variety of Turkish food eaten from large hotels to local restaurants with local people .
After many years of meeting with Alison and talking about a tour to Turkey it has come off…
Hasan’s knowledge of the country and expertise in touring meant all our bases were covered . They were always there to help , translate and being able to use their ‘ contacts ‘ meant we had a very unique tour.
This last Post is a little late.
To everyone who has been following my blogs . Thankyou for your comments.
This blogging business is new to me but I have enjoyed collating my photos and thoughts each day.. But I keep running out of space for the piles of photos.
Winter in Dunedin for the next 2 months then back to Italy and France in August..
I am looking forward to staying in touch.
Best Regards Judith
It’s our last night.. Party time !!!
Alison and Hasan have secured a facility out in the country – surrounded by horses.
Hasan once again excelled himself with the food. Making a huge … Taking it to an oven in the village to bake during the day.
We had a hilarious night full of laughing , singing and dancing. Ali and a group of musicians played and sung traditional Turkish music.
4 am .. Feet on the floor and out in 20 minutes for our first Ballon ride.. I am terrified…
Arriving back to the same place where we had our party the night before. It was surrounded by huge belly like figures as the 98 balloons going up this morning were being filled with hot air. They emerged standing upright in a glow of colour in the early morning light.
Up to 24 people in a basket and – after a lesson on the landing procedure we floated into the sky and silently glided over the Cappadocia countryside. The colourful balloons looking like dots all over the sky.
A chance to see the sheer enormity of the scars in the landscape caused by the volcanos that created Cappadocia
The sun rose, the colours became more intense and as my sister said
‘ I told you you would love it’
It was one of life’s memorable moments and if you get to visit Turkey – which you must – go to Cappadocia – take a balloon ride….
A bit late for the last day …
Our last full day in Urgup and these 9.30 starts are going down a treat. Many of the group are walking in the early morning and we have two very keen runners who have explored the hills around this gorgeous town.
Our starting point this morning was the village where Hasan was bought up – it was quiet and getting ready for a market day. We visited a beautiful building that his Grandfather built and an ancient Christain church from 300 AD.
Although the law won’t allow Christian churches this is still used occasionally.
I found a young man selling interesting dried fruits along with a lovey selection of apple, pomegranate and hibiscus teas and the delicious Turkish delight.
And … Oh my gosh we found an espresso machine.. So extra time for precious coffee. The Coffee in Turkey is thick and sort of muddy… And is an acquired taste not like espresso at all.
The Cappadoccia countryside is vast and everywhere you look the evidence of the massive volcanic eruption that changed this landscape is jaw dropping – the region is renowned for growing potatoes and huge storage facilities have been built into the hills with vents to the outside to store not only potatoes but also fruits vegetables and wine.
We stopped at a village called … Lying in rolling hill county . It was like going back in time and yet people still lived in these very sparse rock and cave houses.
The women were on the road side keen to sell their little dolls and knitted socks and gloves.
We walked for about 30 minutes up over the hills – stopping to talk to a lovely man tending his grape vine plants – he even let us look in his sparse house.
Of course Ali was just taking us on the ‘explore and marvel’ route to lunch – to a stunning garden setting which seems to be in the middle of no where…
Very basic kitchen, a charcoal barbecue and a lady sitting preparing Gozleme again.
Tomato and lentil soup! Gozleme – this time with tomato and green capsicums, salad and a plate of the tastiest grilled lamb chop and chicken.
Semolina desert with strawberries to end ..
What an amazing treat – to experience authentic local food in an natural setting with real locals preparing and serving… We are very lucky .
Ali, Alison and Hasan are in their element . This is their home turf and they want to show us everything, taste the great food and wine and have a good time. ‘That’ … is no trouble – being escorted by the experts has made our tour exceptional .
Today, we started with a visit to an underground city – capable once of housing over 7,000 people. – Scary as it was, we ducked and walked single file through the myriad of houses, olive presses, water shafts and tunnels . It was extraordinary and so clever. I feel so very humble to walk where these people lived in such confined conditions through extreme hard and dangerous times.
Cave dwellings are every where- many are still occupied and lived in but, thousands are derelict and unused .
In the past and when Ali was a child these valleys were full of pigeons. The pigeon houses were in the caves and the locals collected the excrement to sell as fertilizer .. ( before sprays.) consequently the pigeons have all gone, but the evidence is still very visible .
Local lunch – local food in Ali’s village – he played the drum – (he is a professional musician )
Sundried tomatoes, olives and Gozleme- toasted filled light pastry – with egg and cheese. Sitting at low tables on the floor we thoroughly enjoyed our casual lunch. I loved watching this local lady in the photograph – come in with her bag of beans and sell them to the restaurant owner.
Hasan used to manage carpet shops and is an expert. His best friend had a wonderful shop and he gave us a tutorial on Turkish carpets. He was excellent and 3 hours later we came away with a whole lot more knowledge and ready to buy ….. My tour group are amazing shoppers and they did we’ll. The carpet in the bottom right with the name on was made by a prisoner – a very rare carpet and bought by one of the group ….
By now is 6pm – next… Whirling dervishes – a religious sect who follow Sumi and Mevlana – the spinning enables them attain a high union with god.
It was a spell binding performance and I couldn’t help watching their feet as the spun round and round .
We finished our long exciting day at home ( hotel ) with dinner. We were to cook ourselves, but time ran out. Hasan with some help prepared a great meze dinner – relaxing with a few glasses of wine, it was the perfect ending to the perfect day
Don’t you love this young man on a donkey – talking on his cell phone !!
A morning walk for Phil and I gave us a chance to get to know the little town called Urgup where we are staying . It’s taking us some time to get our heads around all these caves where people live and work .
There are many derelict properties and abandoned houses, yet it’ s obvious new renovations are going on everywhere – gorgeous hotels and houses have been bought to life in this unique environment .
This fairy landscape of Cappadoccia covers 20,000 kilometers – It’s hard to comprehend its enormity and yet we are captivated by it’ s beauty and grandeur . Can you see the Virgin Mary and a Camel in the rock formations?
Each stop is full of tourist buses , bazaar stalls , fresh orange and today this lovely lady making Gozleme ( very thin light pastry filled with feta and spinach – toasted over a hot plate and served warm … truly delicious) – our answer to a toasted sandwich …..
Each stop shows off the landscape in a different way… Grapes are grown singly around the rock formations – mounded up to get water and nutrients in the dry hot summer .
We are all a bit overwhelmed by the attack on our sense of sight – everywhere you turn there is another photos and a ‘ wow ‘ moment .
Off inland today – leaving the coast for Cappadoccia .
Our departure was 7.15 am and arrived at 7.15pm – that’s a long day in a bus.
The landscape was amazing – at first we climbed up through a pass in the Taurus mountains – the home of many Nomadic tribes to this day. They work off the land usually in agriculture – wool , cheese making often wrapped in goat skins.
The summer school holidays here are 4 months – time for the nomadic children to come down off the mountains.
The landscape was harsh – lots of snow in the winter, the mountain hillsides are very rocky covered in pine and cedar trees.
Our lunch stop was in the burgeoning city off Konya. Heart of the bread basket of Turkey. Sitting on a giant plain it is surrounded by wheat fields.
It is the one of the fastest growing cities in Turkey and now renowned for light industry . It is known for its religious conservatism and we certainly noticed the the women in religious headgear.
Lunch was typical of the region – including an amazing long slow cooked lamb wrapped in eggplant ..
We were here to see the Mevlana Museum. This is the home of one of the worlds famous Muslim Mystic philosophers, Rumi. For Muslims this mosque is a very holy place and it was crowded . Following his death whirling dervish orders of followers began and we are looking forward to a display in the next few days .
Our trip ended – again climbing into the hills , this time to the fairy land of Cappadoccia – our hotel is exquisite – squeals of delight from everyone and some have a cave bedroom .
Our last 4 nights are going to be a treat.
Our Hotel was out in the tourist strip 30 minutes from Antalya. Alison said she had a friend who managed a high end Leather shop and was a lot fun, plus there would be no pressure to buy.
Well…. We were like kids in the candy store. The leather garments were absolutely beautiful. Two floors of coats and jackets in every colour you could think of from soft slinky lamb skins to fur.
We modeled exquisite garments and had a hilarious time while sipping champagne and finishing up with coffee and tea..
So much for the no pressure to buy ‘ our price ‘ was just too good and most of us came away with a stunning leather jacket or coat.
Our bags straddled over half way down the length of the floor of the bus.. Nothing like some good retail therapy …..
After a quick lunch stop at a local Mall, the afternoon was spent walking through the historical heart of Antalya – Once an unsavoury and unsafe place to walk around, it is now quaint and colourful – full of shops, hotels, restaurants and stalls.
I loved the derelict Ottoman building with the car sales yard at the bottom. Philip and George had their shoes cleaned and we drunk fresh orange juice while taking in the stunning view of the city as it wrapped itself around the coast.
In the late afternoon the spa centre did a brisk trade from New Zealanders taking advantage of the expert skills of the masseurs – some even had complete makeovers and emerged with new haircuts.
This is all new for me on tour – but I suppose when you’re visiting Turkey it would be rude not to enjoy this rather lovely tradition .
Today we only have a short distance to travel from Kas to Antalya. A lovely later start and many had their last swim in the pool or the Sea at this well situated hotel.
The route along the coast road took us past thousands and thousands of glasshouses growing tomatoes. It was like a blanket of snow…. They are grown hydroponically and produce up to 4 crops a year.
Our morning stop was at the rather scruffy village of Patara- famous for the birthplace of St Nicholas – the Byzantine Bishop who passed into legend as Santa Claus. We visited the ancient impressive church with the Sarcophagus of St Nicolas . The site is visited by many many Orthodox Christian Russians who revere St Nicolas.
One of the great treats on this tour is the stalls selling fresh orange juice.
$3 for a huge glass. George felt sorry for the young girl with a huge queue and ended up slicing the oranges for her…
Oh my goodness …. Everyone kept saying how each day has been amazing and how could it get any better?
Alison told me we were going to a Trout Farm for lunch – what she didn’t tell me was – we would be sitting come lying at low tables placed on top of a flowing stream. Food was carried down by young men with trays full of plates .
The best flat bread, salad, and a variety of meze, then you had the choice of trout or lamb. The trout was grilled and served with a salad of fresh rocket.
The lamb (mutton) was slow cooked – looked like shank off the bone and it came on a metal plate sitting on a stand with flaming charcoal underneath to heat the meat. It was amazing and tasted so…. Good – I did steal some of George’s!!!
We left laughing after our very happy time over lunch before 30 minutes in the bus to our hotel ..
A huge monster resort full of Russain tourists … We managed to be in the water very quickly and find the bar.
What a great group I have with me ….I am so lucky .
This town is Gorgeous… It is full of restaurants, and I suppose touristy shops – selling everything from beautiful Turkish towels, jewellery, pottery and of course carpets and Turkish delight along with so any sweet treats .
We did quite a bit if damage in the Turkish Towel shop – so look out in Harrowset Hall soon. Ingrid has done very well.
We spent the day cruising in the Mediterranean – a lovely couple with their son Mustapha looked after us on the their boat called Ghengis Khan.
A beautiful wooden vessel with decks full of lounger matrices for relaxing in the sun.
After traveling some distance we stopped for a refreshing swim in the clear deep blue water so salty you could float.
Mustapha was a dab hand on the charcoal barbecue – subsequently we had delicious great flavoured chicken kebabs for lunch.
Close by was the sunken city of Kekova. Now a quiet island full of traces of civilization, party sunk beneath the water. It was strategic a settlement for the Roman Empire but was tragically destroyed by an enormous earthquake which devastated the region in 151 AD.
500 meters away was the village of Simena – although on the mainland, for many years it’s only access was by Sea.
A grunty steep walk to the castle remains provided a perfect view of the surrounding area and the many Lycian tombs dotted around – even in the water.
Groups of women and young girls with basins of scarfs – all with embroidered edges plied their wares and encouraged us to buy and support their work.
What a stunning day we had – all feeling a little sunburned, it was such a wonderful opportunity to enjoy everyone’s company in a relaxed fun environment .We had many hilarious moments and our day was definitely one of life’s memorable adventures.