Mediterranean Europe - Turkey

Arrival in Marmaris was at the docks somewhat out of town. We re-oriented ourselves and walked into town. Although Marmaris is an unashamedly brash town, with lots of huge boats along the bay, all touting for business, we had the immediate feeling that we were going to enjoy being in Turkey.

This was the last week of our stay in Europe, so we didn't have time to linger. Despite this, we had most of a day to walk around Marmaris, only sorry that the fairly large bazaar was closed. We were surprised and pleased to see lots of honey shops in the town. Dinner was celebrated on a lovely roof terrace serving good seafood dishes; yes - we were going to like Turkey.

We took the bus around the coast to Antalya, where the bus station is much too far out of town to walk, so we ended up taking the local bus into town with no idea of where we were in relationship to where we might want to be. We asked directions from a man nearby, but for the only time on this trip found ourselves being hustled in a way that made us quite uncomfortable. Eventually we manages to walk away and take a very circuitous route to get back on track. We ended up in a lovely pension down in the old city, between Hadrian's Gate and the Hidirlik Tower. We had enough time to explore the area, go up to the clock tower and old bazaar, and get a good general impression of the town.

That evening we ate in another pension's garden restaurant, and got talking to some other travellers who recommended a place to stay in Cappadocia. It was in a town we hadn't intended to stay in, but a good recommendation is worth heeding, so we took note of it and considered changing our ideas.

Another bus, this time to Konya, with its wide street, large mosques and park up on the hill. This bus station was even further out of town, with a long taxi ride needed to get into the centre. We stayed in a family-run hotel where no-one spoke English, and where I started badly by swinging around and smashing my head on a projecting TV stand, drawing blood, but we all managed to sort things out. This was another town where we only had an afternoon and a night, but managed to see quite a bit of the central area before getting a taxi out to the bus station in the morning.

The pension recommended to us was in Avanos, on the edge of the area we would want to explore, but we decided to go there anyway. It was a good choice, but it helped that I could speak French, since this was a place favoured by French tourists, and we were the only English speakers staying there. Meals were wonderful, eaten in an underground cave, and our evening meals were accompanied by live music - qanun, drums and singing, all superb.

Avanos is quite an attractive place in its own right, with views across the river to Zelve. The wide river had a sand island, thickly littered with pots (Avanos is well known for its pottery) and geese. The weather was a bit threatening, but we took the local bus to a small village nearby, where there was a large church carved into one of the rock columns. A local man, seeing us walking by, invited us into his property, where he had a dovecote carved into a pillar, and the view from his back yard was a magnificent panorama of the cliffs of Zelve. He also gave us samples of his preserved fruits and an amazing thick grape syrup (pekmez), all kept in his garage. He also showed us a path that cut cross-country to Zelve, so we walked over there, accompanied by a local dog who seemed to want the company.

The formations in Cappadocia are amazing. We walked through some very non-tourist places, then suddenly came out into Zelve, full of buses and people, but that didn't detract from the sights all around us. From Zelve we re-traced our walk back to the village we'd come from, and caught the bus on to Goreme, one of the major tourist attractions in the region. Despite the crowds it was worth walking around the ticket-controlled area, where the most chapels and frescoes can be found, but the tour guides with their large groups of people were a real pain in the neck. You could, of course, walk freely around all of the area outside of the fence, and in some ways that was just as interesting, and relatively deserted.

Another bus ride took us to Uchisar, a mound of castle-like proportions, hollowed out into houses, chapels, stores and many things besides, with a town huddled around its base. We took our time walking around the place, then decided to walk back to Goreme rather than try to find the bus again. The weather had been changing, and we took our time walking, stopping to admire formations along the way, so that by the time we were on the outskirts of Goreme it began to rain. We only just reached the shelter of the shops before it poured down, and we had a long, wet wait for a bus back to Avanos.

We had time the next day to explore all around Avanos, noting how many of the buildings, like our hotel, had caves as an integral part of their rather organic design, and that were lots of caves that had collapsed, tearing their associated buildings down in the process. Looking down the hill to the river we watched while the island that had only two days ago held pots and geese was now denuded of both, and bulldozers and graders worked tirelessly piling up more earth to make the island higher. Perhaps they expected a flood. The pots had been carefully packed up under the bridge, and the geese floated on the stream, honking balefully. We assumed that soon they would both be restored to the island once the work was finished.

We took the bus to Ankara, then, after a long wait at the railway station, an unbelievably slow overnight train to the eastern part of Istanbul, and finally a ferry to the west. We stayed in Sultanahmet in a less-than-perfect hotel that was distinctly our second choice, but you couldn't fault the location. As with other large cities we stayed in, we took in all the attractions; Topkapi, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the cistern, Aya Sofya, the spice market, and much more. There was a bomb explosion at Taksim Square in the new part of the city on the day before we planned to walk over there, but it didn't stop us or anyone else from going there.

We celebrated our last night in Europe (well, sort-of in Europe) with a meal at a Korean restaurant. Perhaps not a good idea in Turkey, as we both subsequently had food poisoning, but that is another story. We spent two days with Thim and Cynthia in Singapore being very ill, then flew to Perth and drove another five and a half hours the same day, sick and tired and glad to be home.

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