A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sagbucks

Hierapolis - An Ancient Spa City ( Pamukkale )

sunny 38 °C

Day 51 Friday July 14 2017 Egidir to Pammukkale / 197 km
Day 52 Saturday July 15 2017 Pamukkale

  • We leave Egidir with a familiar feeling - wishing we could have stayed an extra day or so to explore the area. Walk a bit of the St Paul's Trail, strewn as it is, with ruins of bygone civilisations. Or visit during the rose petal harvest. The smell must be divine.
  • Today is a direct route to Pamukkale where we are lingering a second day to see the ruins of Hierapolis, Laodicea, and walk the famous white travertine slopes. Yes, we are now moving on from Christian churches & monasteries to Greek, Roman & Byzantine ruins. Turkey is an eclectic mix of many ancient civilisations.
  • We arrive in time for lunch at our hotel 'Venus Suites'. We have been to Pamukkale once before in 2010. But it was a flying visit at the end of October. The weather was so vile ( winds & torrential rain ) that we decided not to visit the ruins.
  • The weather is also against us this July - the temperature is too high & the sun too intense to do any ruin rambling between 11.30 and 5.30. This means half a day spent in the shade.
  • On this trip to the S. Caucasus, Turkey has been a thoroughfare rather than destination. However there is plenty to see & do in this vast country - but not in mid summer.
  • We use our enforced rest time productively: another oil change for the truck ( AG looks after his cars very well ) a laundry session & catching up with emails. At least there is no problem drying clothes.
  • We do not have the energy for Hierapolis and the travertine walk this evening and so decide instead to drive 8 km or so to visit Laodicea. Incredibly we have it all to ourselves.
  • The setting is exposed - hats and sunglasses are essential in high summer.
  • The ruins cover an extensive area (5 sq km )c- a sure indication that the city of Laodicea grew to be a prosperous place. There is known to have been a settlement here since 5500B.C. In Hellenistic times it became known as Laodikeia (3C B.C.). It fell under Roman control 1C B.C.
  • The site is poorly signposted, there are no audio guides and some places are cordoned off because of archaeological work in progress. Although W

we rarely see anyone actually working. But you know, each and every site we will visit over the next couple of days has its own unique appeal & justification. With Laodicea it is perhaps Syria Street, the Monumental Pool of Septimus Severus, the Main Temple and its remote setting.

  • And why now a ruined city? End 5C a massive earthquake razed it to the ground, a few more tremors in 7C, causing problems with fresh water supply, a general vulnerability to enemy armies - these are amongst the reasons that Laodicea never recovered its former glory or size.
  • We make for the very obvious Syria Street, nearly 1km long running westwards from the East Byzantine Gate. A kind of high street. Built in 85 A.D. ish in classic Imperial Roman style.
  • Heat & fatigue prevent us from doing justice to Laodicea. But at least we have the place to ourselves and that is worth a lot.
  • As the sun sinks behind the mountains, Pamukkale's travertine hill is bathed in glorious pink light. We watch from a restaurant terrace opposite. The waiter speaks good English. He comments that national politics is ruining the local economy. International tourists are staying away. Indeed apart from some Turkish visitors, we are alone here too. Business is obviously not good.
  • It's interesting to note that this same complaint is articulated in so many different countries - politics is an obstacle to efficient & sensible government and prevents the ordinary man from living his life in safety and prosperity.
  • Pamukkale is a veritable touristville - pensions, hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops & cafes - lots of them. How many seasons of downturn can they take before they must close down their businesses?
  • We opt to eat in an empty restaurant with large menu boards printed in major languages of the world. This is so very unlike us. But frankly they all look to offer a very similar fare. We have no way of knowing what the chef is like. But we warm to the waiter on duty this evening. He speaks very reasonable English, especially considering it is self taught & he left school without being able to read. Impressive and humbling. Actually the food is ok too. But Elbistan still ranks a very unlikely number 1.

Day 2 Saturday July 15 2017 Pamukkale

  • We must plan our day carefully. We do not wish to compromise our well being by staying out in the sun after 11.30. Younger, fitter, madder people could perhaps cope. But we have a long drive ahead of us during the next week. We cannot risk feeling jaded or worse.
  • After an early breakfast we drive up to South Gate of the Hierapolis complex. Once inside we intend to catch the shuttle bus from outside the Antique Pools up the North Gate. And then to walk back through the entire excavated area of the ruins. We have just missed a shuttle bus, they operate every 15 minutes or so. At 9.30 the heat already saps energy. Even SG is willing to change plans and confine our ramblings to the vicinity of South Gate. In any case there is more than enough to see before the 11.30 deadline.
  • The Hierapolis entrance ticket costs 5£ per person. You are only allowed one entry. In mid summer this is inconvenient. It would be fairer if the authorities allowed a double entry ticket during the hottest months of the year. On balance we would rather pay an extra £5 each for an evening visit than save £5 and expire! In cooler months you will not have this dilemma.
  • Once in Hierapolis, there are extra fees to pay - if you want to swim in the Antique Pool - but why would you ?! Check the photos and decide for yourself. The large 'sacred' pool has submerged sections of original fluted marble columns. The water emerges from its underground source at a constant temperature of 36C . It is rich in minerals that supposedly have wondrous curative properties. It's what the Romans believed and a hope we still cling too.
  • You also have to pay an extra fee to visit the onsite museum which is located mid way between the Antique Pools & the access point to the travertine hillside.
  • The human traffic flow walking between the Antique Pools and the Travertine hill is a spectacle in itself. All shapes & sizes and all types of swimsuit styles ( quite amazing since we are in a Muslim country ) People change at the Antique pools, then walk to the Travertine area for a dip before returning to the Antique Pools for another soak. You are allowed 2 hours of bathing so there's no time to lose.
  • You can also people watch at the Antique Pools without charge. Young people have perfected the art of posing - by themselves & for themselves. There seems to be a new boyfriend/ girlfriend ritual: girl agrees to have photo taken by doting boy. Girl poses sexily, confidently, boy does his best to make her look beautiful, girl checks result . If not good enough, boy must repeat & repeat. As if for their portfolio!
  • Beware, prices at the self service cafe at the Antique Pools are steep. £1.75 for a can of Diet Coke - in Turkey. It's the most we've paid to date.
  • Anyway back to Roman ruins and the museum. The quality of the sculptures excavated on this site and the sarcophagi from Laodicea are quite astonishing. It is worth the entrance fee. By the way there is a Pan Turkey Museum Pass for sale at £15. In retrospect it would probably have been worth purchasing. More hindsight to give you.
  • Time is getting on and temperatures are rising. We head back to the South Gate car park via the walkway adjacent to the travertine hill. The sun's reflection on the white slopes hurts the eyes. It is like one huge snowfield. Sunglasses are essential.
  • Another mediocre lunch at our hotel and an afternoon in the shade. SG has a swim in the pool - thankfully alone. She much prefers it that way.
  • Around 6.30 we take the hotel shuttle back up to South gate, pay another entrance fee of £5 and head to the famous travertine slopes of Pamukkale, adjacent to the ruins of Hierapolis which we visited this morning.
  • An hour or so before sunset, many day trippers have departed, the sun's heat is less intense and the glare of the white travertine more bearable. It's an altogether better experience.
  • On arrival at the travertine slopes you may initially feel a bit disappointed. Photos in tourist brochures suggest a landscape of white calcite shelves overflowing with warm mineral water that appears a beautiful pale green. But this happens rarely.
  • Nowadays the slopes are mainly dry, except for specific wet areas. The authorities now manage the travertine hill to preserve & protect. The water direction is changed regularly, a kind of pool rotation system. Apparently when the changeover happens or when there is heavy rainfall, the slopes once more look like the brochures.
  • But forget those photos & focus on enjoying today's experience. A downhill walk of a couple of kilometres, barefoot across the travertine landscape passing through and beside specially created pools of spa water. It's another great people watching opportunity. The pools are maximum knee deep so you can wear shorts if you wish. Others just get their clothes wet or wear swimsuits.
  • You are no longer allowed to wear shoes or socks of any kind ( even shower shoes which LP intimates are permitted ). It's barefoot or nothing. You do have to watch your step, but generally the travertine surface is smooth enough to make it pain free. If you are not too sure footed, a hiking stick might help with balance & confidence.
  • The water in the pools is not the 36C it is at its source; but it is still rich in the calcium carbonate which against the white travertine ensures a milky opaqueness & refraction of a beautiful green/ blue colour. Many visitors collect bottles of the cream coloured residue that accumulates on the bottom of the pool, or simply rub their bodies with it. A kind of sludge bath. Both the water and the 'mud' are meant to have curative properties. It is what the Romans believed, and is why the spa city of Hierapolis became so renowned in ancient times.
  • At the end of our very enjoyable hour's stroll, we repeat last evening's routine - a drink on the restaurant terrace to watch sunset - again we are the only foreign visitors. And then on down to Kayas, where we eat pretty much the same meal as yesterday. Why spoil a good formula?!

Afrodisias

Afrodisias

Classic Afrodisias Image - Temple Columns & Steps

Classic Afrodisias Image - Temple Columns & Steps

Via Syria, Afrodisias

Via Syria, Afrodisias

Ornamental Fountain, Afrodisias

Ornamental Fountain, Afrodisias

Via Syria, Afrodisias

Via Syria, Afrodisias

Classic Image of Afrodisias

Classic Image of Afrodisias

Example of Good Restoration - Showing How it is Repaired - Afrodisias

Example of Good Restoration - Showing How it is Repaired - Afrodisias

Antique Pools @ 9.30 a.m.

Antique Pools @ 9.30 a.m.

Antique Pools by 10.30 a.m.

Antique Pools by 10.30 a.m.

Baths Just Outside the North Gate

Baths Just Outside the North Gate

Interior of Latrines

Interior of Latrines

Northern Basilica Gate to Hierapolis

Northern Basilica Gate to Hierapolis

The Amazing & Beautiful Theatre @ Hierapolis

The Amazing & Beautiful Theatre @ Hierapolis

Central Baths, Hierapolis

Central Baths, Hierapolis

Nice Buttocks - Hierapolis Museum

Nice Buttocks - Hierapolis Museum

Wall Frieze  - 2C A.D. - Hierapolis

Wall Frieze - 2C A.D. - Hierapolis

Statue Entitled Attis - 2C A.D. - Hierapolis

Statue Entitled Attis - 2C A.D. - Hierapolis

Top of Column - Hierapolis

Top of Column - Hierapolis

Travertine Pools of Pamukkale @ 7 p.m.

Travertine Pools of Pamukkale @ 7 p.m.

Travertine Pools @ Pamukkale Rarely Look Like This

Travertine Pools @ Pamukkale Rarely Look Like This


Travertine Pools @ Pammukale - How They Look Nowadays

Travertine Pools @ Pammukale - How They Look Nowadays

A Sludge Bath in Travertine Pool

A Sludge Bath in Travertine Pool

Bottling the Precious Stuff

Bottling the Precious Stuff

Sitting on the Edge

Sitting on the Edge

AG Alone Beside a Travertine Pool

AG Alone Beside a Travertine Pool

Posted by sagbucks 22:09 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Egirdir - An Anatolian Lake District

sunny 35 °C

Day 50 Thursday 13 July 2017
Goreme to Egirdir / 447 km

  • The power of the Internet is both amazing and concerning. As SG logs on & writes her diary, a pop up advertisement distracts her attention - it is a Muslim dating site. Someone knows we are in Turkey and thinks SG might be interested in finding a Muslim partner. Actually a female partner at that, since there are only photos of women. But same sex relationships are not allowed by the Koran. It's re-assuring that Big Brother doesn't know everything.
  • We leave Goreme feeling like we often do - we could have stayed a bit longer. You can have the benefit of our hindsight. Allow at least 3 nights and 2 days sightseeing, more if you actually want to relax!
  • Near to the Kelebek entrance is a Nazar tree ( see photo ). We have no idea why this location has been picked. But it is now covered with Nazar charms tied to its branches. The Nazar is the Turkish talisman, an amulet to protect against the evil eye. Usually a dark blue glass or ceramic charm with an eye in the middle. Turks like to have them on display to protect against bad spirits. You will see them hanging in cars, at the entrance to houses, or as jewellery around necks & wrists. We have even seen a dog wearing a collar studded with nazars.
  • Our journey continues across the great Anatolian plains. Altitude is consistently around 1000m and temperatures extremely hot.
  • No detours are scheduled for today, but a quick look at the Sultanhani Caravanserai is. Located just off the main Aksaray to Konya road, you can miss it. Annoyingly there are signs for miles beforehand, but arrive at the crucial turning & there's nothing!
  • It is the largest in Turkey, originally built by the Seljuks in a smaller form in 1229 and then extended to its current impressive size in 1278. There is something fascinating about old Caravanserai - and we have now seen a few in various countries. Evocative of an era of overland travel & transport that actually was far from romantic.
  • The Sultanhani establishment is huge - it must have been able to accommodate many travellers & tradesmen at any one time. There is a covered courtyard for use in bad weather and an uncovered one for summer months. In the middle of the outdoor courtyard is a mosque. The eastern entrance gate into the large open area is large & impressively carved in stone. Decorations are reminiscent of Persian influence. If you are driving this route, it's worth taking a look.
  • Now it's on to Konya, reputedly the most Islamic city in Turkey. SG is not sure how this statistic is calculated. Mosques per capita? It has a large & very conservative university. And the Mevlana Museum. This is a pilgrimage destination for Muslims. The Mevlana is the former lodge of the whirling dervishes and considered to be a holy place. Celaleddin Rumi ( later known as Mevlana ) is responsible for the Mevlevi Worship ceremony, a ritual dance by men dressed in white robes that represent union with God. Google the word and you will probably recognise the images from magazine articles or TV documentaries. Muslims come to the museum to pray to Rumi, to pay respect to his tomb and admire the artefacts and relics associated with the Mevlevi movement.
  • Had SG done better research, we would probably be stopping in Konya too. You can benefit from this hindsight too!
  • Such is the efficiency of road planning and infrastructure around Konya, a city of 1.2 million people, we hardly see any of the actual city. We just whizz past.
  • We do not expect our first sight of Lake Egirdir. After days of Anatolian plains, suddenly we are blessed with gorgeous lake scenery. It's like being in the Lake District but without crowds. As we drive around a good 75% of the lake to reach the town of Egirdir it is clear that it is hardly urbanised, let alone commercialised.
  • The Nis Hotel is in the town centre overlooking the lake. When it was originally built as a large family home in 1905, its back entrance ( now the main access ) was directly on the lake. Land has since been reclaimed and a road built. Sadly this road is fairly busy with long distance traffic heading to Isparta. So if you ever reserve a room here, be sure to ask for one at the back of the house. Rooms with lake views are noisier places if you sleep with the window open. In summer, if the aircon does not work properly, this is exactly what you will have to do.
  • Hopefully the owner will take on board our comments about his malfunctioning aircon system. Because apart from this, the hotel is a little gem and the staff charming. It has only been a hotel for 2 years. The restoration work has been meticulous and the soft furnishings and general decor are of a very fine standard. Outside looking towards the lake are two large deck areas where you can have breakfast or enjoy a glass of wine at sunset.
  • Egirdir is trying to make a name for itself as a tourist destination. We meet a government official and professional photographer who are both staying at our hotel. They are here to shoot photographs for the next colour brochure.
  • Apart from the obvious attractions of the lake, Egirdir is also a great venue for outdoor activities: fishing, hiking, cycling, skiing for example. It lies on the famous 500 km St Paul's trail, an iconic way ( clearly marked ) walked nearly 2000 years ago when St Paul travelled from the coast near Anatalya to Antiocheia in Pisidia ( modern day Yalvac ), only a few kilometers from Egirdir.
  • Egirdir is the apple equivalent of Malatya. It is famous for its apple harvest in the autumn.
  • It is also only a short distance from Isparta, which is the centre of the rose oil industry. Petal picking happens mid may to end of june, so sadly we've missed that activity. But it is one that tourists can participate in and tours can be arranged.
  • Never mind, the hotel sells a selection of rose products: perfumes, cosmetics, household fragrances, jams & Turkish delight - yum!
  • Late afternoon we walk into town on the lookout for a suitable place to eat tonight's supper.
  • The old madrasa is unfortunately a work in progress and closed to the public. It was originally built in 13C as a Caravanserai and then converted to a place of learning a century later. The mosque opposite is also a conversion - from a Seljuk warehouse (dated 1237) to place of worship in 1308. And that's about all Egirdir has to offer in terms of interesting old buildings.
  • It's the gorgeous lake scenery that justifies our overnight stay. See photos. We walk along the man made Egirdir peninsula that leads to what used to be a small island. It takes about 30 mins one way. Since it was completed nearly 60 years ago, some houses, restaurants and bars have been built there. Lucky them. Such views, such tranquility, so few people.

*Fishing is banned at the lake between mid March and mid June. Any fish on the menu during these months will be either out of their freezer or brought in from afar.

  • We stop for a drink and plate of Turkish appetisers at a restaurant called the Big Apple. They have fish on the menu but we decide instead to head back to town for kebab & pide. Unwisely as it happens. Despite the bravado of the waiters who cajole us into their restaurant, our local meal disappoints. Elbistan still rules OK!

Magnificent Eastern Entry Gate of Sultanhani Caravanserai

Magnificent Eastern Entry Gate of Sultanhani Caravanserai

Ornate Stone Carvings at Entrance Door of Sultanhani

Ornate Stone Carvings at Entrance Door of Sultanhani

Mosque in the Middle of Internal Courtyard @ Sultanhani

Mosque in the Middle of Internal Courtyard @ Sultanhani

AG in the Large Interior Courtyard of the Sultanhani Caravanserai

AG in the Large Interior Courtyard of the Sultanhani Caravanserai

Work in Progress or Not! Egirdir Madresa

Work in Progress or Not! Egirdir Madresa

Egirdir Old Mosque

Egirdir Old Mosque

Egirdir is Famous for Its Autumn Apple Harvest

Egirdir is Famous for Its Autumn Apple Harvest

Lake Egirdir

Lake Egirdir

Wedding Procession Around Peninsula

Wedding Procession Around Peninsula

More Beautiful Lake Scenery

More Beautiful Lake Scenery

More Lakeside Scenery - Egirdir

More Lakeside Scenery - Egirdir

Gorgeous Evening Light on Lake Egirdir

Gorgeous Evening Light on Lake Egirdir

Turks Fly Their Flag Proudly & in Different Sizes

Turks Fly Their Flag Proudly & in Different Sizes

This is the Original Street Entrance of Hotel Nis

This is the Original Street Entrance of Hotel Nis

Hotel Nis - Renovated Just Two Years Ago

Hotel Nis - Renovated Just Two Years Ago

The Entrance Nowadays of Hotel  Nis

The Entrance Nowadays of Hotel Nis

Refurbished Bedroom in Style Sympathtic to its Period

Refurbished Bedroom in Style Sympathtic to its Period

The Turkish People Are Very Friendly & Hospitable - Even Without a Common Language

The Turkish People Are Very Friendly & Hospitable - Even Without a Common Language

Posted by sagbucks 07:12 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Up Up & Away in Kapadokia

sunny 38 °C

Day 49 Wednesday July 12 2017 / Goreme

  • For once we need the Mullah to wake us up. He does so at around 3.45. Interestingly it is a while before actual sunrise. His call to prayer coincides with the very start of the new day.
  • We have booked a balloon ride. It's the thing to do when in Kapadokia. Our last balloon experience was over 25 years ago in Africa. Should you prefer to view the balloons from terra firma, another option would be to go to Sunset Lookout @ 5 a.m. The sight of at least 50 multicoloured balloons drifting across the enchanting Goreme landscape against the dawn sky, would also be a photogenic spectacle.
  • There are many balloon companies operating in the Goreme valley. Different sources imply that Butterfly & Royal Balloons are still regarded as the best two companies. But they are not necessarily the cheapest. There have been accidents in the past, so it is worth thinking about safety as well as price. Another factor is the number of passengers that different companies squeeze into the baskets. More is definitely not the merrier.
  • Pick up from the hotel is 4.15 a.m. - we are taken just down the road to Butterfly HQ where the usual signature removes our rights. In return we are served a light breakfast of fresh fruit & cake. Then into the designated minibus for a 10 minute ride to outside of Goreme to the take off area.
  • We are not alone. All around, the slumbering balloons are being brought to life - at first slowly. But then suddenly & magnificently they puff up their gorgeous canopies - born again another day and raring to go.
  • The balloon ride lasts about 1 hour. Our pilot Farid speaks good English, has a sense of humour and is happy to answer questions, when not otherwise distracted. We rehearse the landing position to be adopted at the end of the flight. He spends time moving passengers around the 4 basket sections to balance our weight.
  • And then silently, gracefully, we are up, up and away. It is a wonderful experience and if you have never done it, Kapadokia would be an ideal place for your inaugural flight.
  • A pilot's skill is tested on landing his balloon. Done badly, it can be a bumpy experience as the basket hits the ground. Farid takes great pride in the accuracy of his landing ( on top of the trailer which is parked waiting for us ) and the softness of contact. We do not even have to crouch in the landing position. There is no need.
  • Inevitably there's a bit of touristic theatre post landing. Whilst the balloon is put to sleep again, the basket is decorated, the champagne poured, certificates presented.
  • In case you wonder, as we did - there are no sunset flights. Something to do with the wind conditions. Shame. It would be so much easier.
  • By the time we arrive back at our hotel we have been up 3.5 hrs. Our next activity on this busy 'rest' day is an organic breakfast on the valley farm that belongs to the Kelebek owner. It is complimentary for hotel guests. He purchased the land 7 years ago and has restored an old cave farmhouse. He is now in the process of rendering its agricultural land once more productive.
  • We are picked up at 8.30, together with a Canadian family and two English girls. Then it's a 10 minute tractor ride to the upper access point of the valley.
  • We descend a sandy slope and intermittent steps to the valley floor, perhaps some 75 m below. There we discover a kind of rural paradise - groves of fruit trees, sweet smelling lavender bushes, chickens, a long table laid up with a splendid traditional farmhouse breakfast - Turkish style. Home made bread is being baked over the outdoor fire by two local ladies who also ensure that our tea cups are regularly filled.
  • By the way Turkey is the world's 5 th largest tea producer but they export very little of their Black Sea brew. The Turks are very keen tea drinkers - they just do it in a different way.
  • We take a look around the restored house. It has been tastefully done. ( See photos ) We are not sure of the owner's plans, but he could certainly offer it as an accommodation adventure to hotel guests.
  • Hassan our guide explains that Goreme's primary raison d'être was previously agriculture. Now it's tourism. Few people still have the necessary skills & equipment to work the land. In any case they can earn more money in the tourist sector.
  • After breakfast and wine tasting ( one small glass -it's too early and too hot ) we walk through the short valley, observing the pigeon holes carved out high up in the rock face. This is very typical of the Goreme cave houses - they used to collect pigeon droppings to use as fertiliser.
  • We've now been up 7 hours! And it's still not yet midday. Time to rest in the shade before our next bout of sightseeing.
  • Mid afternoon we get a taxi some 35 km to Kaymakli, one of several underground cities located in the area around Goreme. In Kapadokia there are 35 such excavated cities; there are thought to be maybe 100 more. First documentary mention of a network of underground cities was made in 4C B.C. But it is believed that they were constructed much earlier by the Hittites who were powerful in this region from around 1800B.C.
  • The facilities were used during dangerous times for the local people. When under attack ( for example from Persian or Arab armies ) they relocated underground until it was safe to resume normal life. They hid for months at a time. It is believed that Kaymakli may have housed up to 3000 people and nearby Derinkuyu, more than 10000.
  • Much later in 6 & 7C Byzantine Christians used the same cities to escape persecution.
  • You only need to go to one. Kaymakli is the nearest to Goreme and for that reason can get busy. But again we are practically alone. The crowds mentioned in LP are definitely staying away.
  • The subterranean network of tunnels and rooms was extended over the course of several hundreds of years. The upper layers being the earliest. At Kaymakli 8 levels have been excavated but only 4 are open for viewing. It is sufficient to give you an idea of what life underground would have been like.
  • Beware if you are claustrophobic. In parts the tunnels are narrow and low. And don't go alone - if you get lost it's nice to have a buddy.
  • Our final sightseeing of the day is the Goreme Open Air Museum, rated with 'must see' status in LP. It is essentially a park of monasteries & churches that have been carved into the rocky pinnacles and walls. There are several notable churches with extensive fresco art dating back to 10 - 13C It is interesting to see the difference in artistic styles & Christian imagery between Turkish frescoes and those in Georgia & Armenia. No photography is allowed. It is worth paying extra for an audio guide. But do not relinquish it until you have crossed the road and walked 50 m downhill to the Tokali Kilise. It is covered by the same entrance ticket and the audio information will help you understand the 10C frescoes that embellish the walls & ceilings.
  • It may be the heat or just an understandable over indulgence of churches, monasteries and caves In the last 6 weeks. AG declares he may not have 'caved in' but that he is now 'caved out'. So is SG.
  • So the end of a hot & very long day. Time for another gorgeous sunset experience and dinner at a restaurant called Topdeck, just a short walk from our hotel. The owner and chef Mustafa has converted the cave room of his house into a restaurant. He returned from South Africa 10 years ago with his wife & 2 daughters. The eldest is serving this evening. She explains that when she moved back from Cape Town at the age of 12, she spoke not a word of Turkish and had a hard time adapting to life in small town Goreme. She has plans to study abroad so maybe her days working in the family restaurant are numbered.
  • Mustafa and his family are lovely people and we eat an excellent local meal of slow cooked chicken & lamb. Reservation is recommended but once tourist numbers recover it will be essential.

Being Brought to Life

Being Brought to Life

Preparing for Take Off

Preparing for Take Off

Up Up & Away Over Goreme

Up Up & Away Over Goreme

Yes We Are in the Air!

Yes We Are in the Air!

More Up Up & Away

More Up Up & Away

Our Pilot Fahid

Our Pilot Fahid

Coming in for Landing - Hopefully a Soft One

Coming in for Landing - Hopefully a Soft One

Back on Terra Firma

Back on Terra Firma

AG Helps To Put the Balloon Away

AG Helps To Put the Balloon Away

Post Landing Theatrics - Champagne on Ice

Post Landing Theatrics - Champagne on Ice

Happy Landings

Happy Landings

Above Farm Valley

Above Farm Valley

Walking Through Farm Valley

Walking Through Farm Valley

Lavender Bushes are Flourishing in Farm Valley

Lavender Bushes are Flourishing in Farm Valley

Farm Valley

Farm Valley

Restored Cave Farmhouse

Restored Cave Farmhouse

Cave Bedroom

Cave Bedroom

Cave House Kitchen

Cave House Kitchen

Cave House Dining Room

Cave House Dining Room

Farm Valley

Farm Valley

Boiling Water for Cay, Chai, Cha, Tea ....

Boiling Water for Cay, Chai, Cha, Tea ....

Making Traditional Turkish Bread

Making Traditional Turkish Bread

Lovely Turkish Ladies Who Cook Breakfast

Lovely Turkish Ladies Who Cook Breakfast


A Rare Moment of Relaxation

A Rare Moment of Relaxation

Nooks & Crannies in Kaymakli Underground City

Nooks & Crannies in Kaymakli Underground City

Stone Door To Close Off Underground City to Enemies

Stone Door To Close Off Underground City to Enemies

The Tunnels  in Underground Cities Like Kaymakli Are a Tight Squeeze

The Tunnels in Underground Cities Like Kaymakli Are a Tight Squeeze


Old Church Carved Into Rock - Part of Open Air Museum

Old Church Carved Into Rock - Part of Open Air Museum

Illicit Photo of 12C Fresco in Goreme Cave Church

Illicit Photo of 12C Fresco in Goreme Cave Church

Posted by sagbucks 20:50 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Nemrut Dagi - Beautiful & Bizarre

sunny 35 °C

Day 46 Sunday July 9 2017
Elazig to Nemrut Dagi / 170 km plus detour to Malatya

  • AG still has a slight headache but it's better. SG remains in passenger seat.
  • After our usual Turkish breakfast of yogurt, honey, eggs and fresh fruit we leave by 8. The blue skies promise another sizzling day.
  • As we leave Elazig, we note more road checks for traffic heading into the city.
  • Within 65 km or so of Malatya, we see the first of many acres of fruit trees, particularly apricots. Matalya claims to be the apricot capital of Turkey. Perhaps also of Europe.
  • Lady Luck is still with us - it's the middle of the apricot season ( end June / early July ) and we should see plenty of them in the main city market.
  • First we head to old Matalya, now known as Battalgazi, located 11 km north off the main road to Matalya
  • It's a charming little backwater, just a village, compared to modern Matalya which has a population of over 600000.
  • What is there to see in Battalgazi? A pleasant shady square with butchers, bakers, grocers, a pharmacy and plenty of people willing to show you the way to the village sights: the old street of restored houses, ( Sanat Sokagi ) a huge Caravanserai dating to 17C, Ulu Camii, the 13C mosque & remains of City walls with some of the 95 towers. Sadly, the restoration of all these places leaves much to be desired in terms of authenticity. But it's still worth the detour.
  • Now onward to Matalya. We recognise we have arrived when we see the roundabout decoration. ( see photo ) Not an equestrian statue in sight.
  • The market will be worth a look at any time of year, but most particularly during the apricot season. It takes a bit of finding but that's half the fun of discovery! During the course of our walk we are offered numerous free tastings. A kilo of apricots cost about 30p. And they look ripe and delicious in a way that we rarely see in UK supermarkets.
  • We also notice numerous shops selling honey and apiary equipment. We are on a mission to purchase some Turkish honeycomb whilst in Turkey. Eager not to delay doing so until the last minute of our trip, we enter one of the street's honeypots and start the purchasing process. Of course we bargain. But in the end the shopkeeper offers us tea and smiles broadly. This is the Turkish way of celebrating a good contract. It would be rude to refuse the tea, although we know only too well who has made the best deal.
  • Time to head to Nemrut Dagi. Satnav and our phone apps seem to contradict. LP directions are as usual less than clear. We have chosen to head up the Northern slope of the mountain which gives direct access to the eastern terrace. From Matalya this is the shortest and most convenient option. Alternatively you can drive Sent from my iPad
  • We think we have booked a room at Gunes Hotel which is located at the highest point beneath the summit and should give easy access at any time of day.
  • Shortly after a quick lunch stop and near a village called Tepehan we see a sign for Gunes Motel. And yes indeed they are expecting 2 English guests. But we are nowhere near the summit which lies another 13 km above us. Gunes Motel is evidently not Gunes Hotel.
  • Just for the record - from the turning off the main Elazig - Malatya road to the summit of Nemrut Dagi is nearly 80 km. To the Gunes Motel it is about 65 km. Then another 15 km to the summit with the last 2 km being a steep graded track. Many people park their cars where the tarmac ends and walk the rest. The drive up to Nemrut Dagi starts pleasantly amongst mellow agricultural land & extensive groves of apricot trees. It ends with spectacular mountain scenery for miles and miles around.
  • Prefering to see what Gunes Hotel actually looks like before we unload our luggage, we decide to continue to the summit.
  • It is mid afternoon, 35C in the shade & the climb steep. The truck makes it clear that it prefers to be parked up under a tree. Half way to the summit we decide to return to the motel & check in. We pass a leisurely 3 hours beside the flowing mountain stream that gushes from the rock just at the entrance to the motel.
  • The owner of Gunes Motel, Huseyin Aydin offers to drive us up to the summit at 6 p.m. AG readily accepts. Huseyin will know the way and be familiar with any formalities. (email: gunesmotel@hotmail.com)
  • He seems to run a good business, both for overseas travellers to Nemrut Dagi, as well as a local trade who come for his speciality - farmed river trout. He shows us the little farm he has set up - 3 rock pools full of trout of different sizes. As they grow, they are promoted to the next pool until it's their time for table. They live in the freshest of mountain water.
  • At 6 pm we set off with Hussein and his young nephew who is probably being given the opportunity to speak English. He says very little. Either in Turkish or English.
  • We pass the Gunes Hotel, the place we mistakenly thought we had booked. Thank goodness we haven't. According to LP it 'stands in gothic isolation' - whatever that means. Certainly the hotel building looks austere and run down, even unused.
  • But the hotel no longer stands in splendid solitude, gothic or otherwise. A new hangar like complex has been built in very close & adjacent proximity. It no doubt obscures some of the vista formerly enjoyed from the hotel grounds. Huseyin explains that these are new tourist facilities as yet unopened: a restaurant & shopping mall. (why?) He believes that a shuttle bus service is planned to take tourists from here up to the summit. If this is indeed the case, times are about to to change for Gunes Hotel.
  • Huseyin parks at the highest possible place and we walk up the remaining 200 m to the eastern terrace. The sight that awaits us is bizarrely beautiful - large decapitated stone bodies to the rear of the 45 x 50 m area, to the fore their clearly defined heads, all staring out to the eastern sky. Add to this the stunning mountain scenery bathed in evening sunshine and you may appreciate why Nemrut Dagi is definitely a tourist's must see.
  • Ok, so what is Nemrut Dagi? This now famous archeological site was only discovered in 1882 by a German engineer who was surveying transport routes for the Ottoman government. It was created in pre Roman times by a regional King called Antiochus 1 Epiphanes ( he reigned between 64-38B.C.) The king was somewhat of a megalomaniac. He believed that he was directly related to Gods such as Apollo and Zeus. To pay just homage to his status, he ordered that two ledges be cut into the mountainside (East & West Terraces ) and filled with stone statues of himself and his relatives, the Gods. Then he arranged for 50m of crushed rock to be piled between them, essentially creating a new man made mountain summit between the two terraces. The king and 3 female relatives are believed to be buried beneath.
  • East & West terraces are similar but with subtle differences. The eastern terrace is slightly larger and the bodies are more intact. The Western terrace sits about 10 m lower and is orientated towards the evening sun. Colours here are therefore at their best at sunset. But both sides feature the same heads positioned in identical order. Left to right: Lion , Eagle, King Antiochus, Commagene (Goddess of Fertility) Zeus, Apollo, Herakles, Eagle, Lion. The bodies of the stone figures measure 8-9 m and their heads range from 2.5 to 3 m tall.
  • The eagle represents the domination of Antiochus' Kingdom over the skies and the lion his supremacy over the earth ( or at least his part of it ). Antiochus believed the Gods were his relatives. He acknowledged Zeus as the greatest of Gods by giving him a central and slightly forward position in his line of fame.
  • Earthquakes, time & erosion have separated the heads from all of the figures. They are after all over 2000 years old. The placement of the heads that we see today dates from 2002.
  • We have come for this one evening of sunset experience. Imagine how many Antiochus and his entourage have seen since they were created!
  • After admiring the East terrace, we walk around the summit to the west side which is bathed in the most glorious light ( as you will see from the photos). It takes 10 minutes maximum along the designated wooden decking. This means that regardless which side of the mountain you choose to drive up, you can easily view both terraces.
  • We are not alone. As sunset approaches more and more people congregate, ready with cameras, mobiles and selfie stix. Many have carried up picnic hampers. We are offered numerous glass cups of Turkish tea. It is simply rude to keep refusing this most natural form of Turkish hospitality. So although we are not that keen on its bitter taste, we consume several cups of their brew. We are doing our best for Anglo- Turkish relationships!
  • Huseiyn has been very kind to wait for us. He seems proud that we are so impressed by the beauty of his part of the world. On return to the motel, our trout supper is being cooked. Thankfully the fish is a reasonable size. Mountain water obviously produces large & tasty fish.
  • Another long day draws to a close. But one that has been uplifting. AG rightly reasons you cannot know the high points unless you have a few low ones as well. And this is definitely the case with travel & sightseeing.

Apricots for Sale Everywhere

Apricots for Sale Everywhere

Apricot Trees Laden with Fruit

Apricot Trees Laden with Fruit

Battalgazi Has an Equestrian Statue Too

Battalgazi Has an Equestrian Statue Too

Caravanserai in Battalgazi Village

Caravanserai in Battalgazi Village

Restored Street in Battalgazi

Restored Street in Battalgazi

City Walls of Battalgazi - Just Too Pristine

City Walls of Battalgazi - Just Too Pristine

Apricot Roundabout, Malatya

Apricot Roundabout, Malatya

Malatya Brand of Apricots.

Malatya Brand of Apricots.

Market Man in Matalya

Market Man in Matalya

Apricots & More Apricots For Sale

Apricots & More Apricots For Sale

Honey Man is Very Happy with his Honey Deal

Honey Man is Very Happy with his Honey Deal

Our Accommodation in Tepehan

Our Accommodation in Tepehan

Our Hotel Terrace Beside Mountain Stream

Our Hotel Terrace Beside Mountain Stream

Looking Down to Tepehan from the Road to Nemrut Dagi

Looking Down to Tepehan from the Road to Nemrut Dagi

View to South of Nemrut Dagi

View to South of Nemrut Dagi

On Top of the World Feeling North Side of Nemrut Dagi

On Top of the World Feeling North Side of Nemrut Dagi

Sunset - We are Not Alone

Sunset - We are Not Alone

Nemrut Dagi West Terrace

Nemrut Dagi West Terrace

Nemrut Dagi East Terrace

Nemrut Dagi East Terrace


On Top of Bizarre But Beautiful World

On Top of Bizarre But Beautiful World

AG & SG on West Terrace @ Sunset

AG & SG on West Terrace @ Sunset

Posted by sagbucks 04:17 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Goreme - Another Bizarrely Beautiful Place in Turkey

sunny 35 °C

Day 48 Tuesday July 11 2017
Elbistan to Goreme / 326 km

  • We have seen little of Elbistan. It's not mentioned in LP at all. We chose it as a place to overnight for logistic reasons. Nemrut Dagi to Goreme in one day is too far - even by AG's standards. When researching our trip, tensions in Turkey were on the increase because of Erdogan's barely disguised intentions of extending his authority and dismantling the secular nature of modern Turkish society. This is still happening and has already been commented on. But it seemed best to avoid an overnight in Kayseri, one of Turkey's most Islamic cities. So we found Elbistan and supposedly a hotel with 4 star comfort (probably self awarded ).
  • One of the fascinating things about road travel is seeing at first hand how quickly scenery changes. Round a corner, over a hill, through a tunnel. In this case outside Elbistan the rapid transformation is from grain to fruit trees.
  • Turkey's road infrastructure continues to impress. There is not a day when we do not encounter major road building projects.
  • Out this far east in Turkey and driving our own truck, we are still very much a rarity, especially in places like Elazig, Tatvan and Elbistan. We are impressed by the willingness of locals to engage us in conversation ( if only through sign language) to help with directions, to offer us cups of Turkish tea at the first opportunity. Several times it has been made clear by individuals that they are Kurds rather than Turks.
  • We hear a lot about Kurds in the British media - sometimes as victims, sometimes as perpetrators of violent atrocities and other times as allies in the fight against Isis in Syria & Iraq.
  • There are obviously several simmering tensions in Turkish politics. SG does not believe the EU can seriously consider allowing Turkey membership whilst the current situation persists.
  • 15-20% of the Turkish population are Kurds. It is estimated that between 25-35 million Kurds live in the combined areas of eastern Turkey, Iraq, Syria & Iran. They are an ethnic group ( 4th largest in the Middle East ) with no permanent status anywhere in the region.
  • Remember the Treaty of Sevres 1920 mentioned with reference to the Armenia question? An allied attempt post World War 1 to sort out the problems of this region? The treaty that was going to return certain territory to Armenia, including access to the Black Sea? Well the same treaty made provision for a State of Kurds - a Kurdistan if you like.
  • The treaty never happened - at least not in its entirety. The Kurds were never given territorial independence; they remain to this day stateless and an irritant in the nation states mentioned above, where they happen to reside.
  • In Turkey there would appear to be great resentment by the Kurds towards their Turkish compatriotes. Post World War 1, having just perpetrated the first genocide of the 20C against its Armenian citizens, Turkey made harsh attempts to deny Kurds their ethnic identity. They were renamed Mountain Turks; Kurdish names were banned, as was the wearing of traditional Kurdish costume. The PKK was established in Turkey to politically represent the Kurds - it translates as the Kurdistan Workers Party and their reputation is mixed. A couple of days ago ( Day 45 ) we stopped at a war memorial honouring fallen Turkish soldiers, victims of an armed PKK ambush.
  • It is claimed that since 1978 more than 40000 Turkish Kurds have perished in hostilities of one kind or another and many have been displaced. During the 1990's the PKK abandoned their demands for full national independence from Turkey. Since then their aim has been, and still is, cultural and political autonomy. They have yet to achieve their ambitions. In the meantime many young Kurds seek work abroad and people like the spice shopkeeper in Elbistan explains that he does not feel safe here as a Kurd - a place he has lived in for 40 years.
  • Back to the road ahead. We have no sightseeing planned en route because once we arrive in Goreme there will be plenty to do.
  • Kapadokia ( easier to say than Cappadocia ), a geological oddity in the midst of the Great Plains of Anatolya. Its lunarscape scenery is much used in Turkey's national tourist brochures. For good reason, because it is both bizarre & beautiful, especially in the mellow light of sunrise & sunset.
  • Produced by volcano eruptions millions of years ago, people have long used the relatively soft stone to build their houses deep within the rock face of the volcanic pinnacles or underground. Even today many residents of the area have homes which incorporate a cave room. It is a sensible solution to the problem of comfortable living. In summer temperatures can exceed 40C and in winter can drop to -10C with snow cover. The temperature inside the cave room remains constant whatever the climate outside and minimises the need for air conditioning & heating. It's nature's ambient temperature and perfect for us delicate human beings.
  • Since being added to the Unesco World Heritage list, no new cave houses can be built and restoration projects must be vetted & approved by the government. This can only be a good thing because Goreme village has long since disappeared. It is now a sizeable town. Albeit still captivating because of its troglodyte style architecture and surrounding clusters of volcanic pinnacles. They are variably described as fairy chimneys, mushrooms or something rather ruder - resembling as some do, to the male body part!). Tourism has boomed over recent decades and Goreme is full of cafes, bars, restaurants, and accommodation claiming to be 'cave hotels'.
  • When choosing a place to stay you should do meticulous research and find a place to fit your particular criteria. We are staying in one of the original 'cave hotels' called the Kelebek. To find it is a challenge. The older part of town is a maze of streets & alleyways. But we are delighted with our choice - an elevated & quiet location with lots of shady nooks & crannies to sit and admire the scenery. A small dipping pool ( that SG immediately discounts as not worth getting her hair wet for) does not detract.
  • The staff are very helpful. A dinner venue is recommended and arranged, balloon flight for the next morning booked, breakfast at the hotel's organic farm is reserved and our afternoon sightseeing discussed. There is no time for idling on our trips.
  • We pass a couple of hours in the shade ( laundry chores, opportunity to catch up with emails after a couple of days of bad wifi connection etc ). Then, when the sun is marginally less intense, we venture out - we choose to do a hike through Güllüdere Valley, otherwise known as Rose Valley. It's an opportunity to get some exercise and admire Goreme's unique rock formations. Unexpectedly we have the trail to ourselves. The refreshment stops along the way are unmanned. A sure sign that tourism figures are down. Yes it's hot in July, but that would not normally deter the N European traveller.
  • We get back just in time for sunset on the hotel terrace, sipping a glass of chilled wine. Bliss! Then we walk a very short distance to Seten for supper. After the dearth of good dining experiences in the last few days, it is wonderful to be sat in such relative refinement. But actually for all that, the meal is not as tasty as our culinary highlight in Turkey to date - Elbistan @ 5£ per head.

Breakfast the Turkish Way - Honeycomb Honey

Breakfast the Turkish Way - Honeycomb Honey

Bakery in Elbistan

Bakery in Elbistan

Road from Elbistan to Goreme - Anatolian Plains

Road from Elbistan to Goreme - Anatolian Plains

Lunch Stop on Way to Goreme - No Shade

Lunch Stop on Way to Goreme - No Shade

AG in Rose Valley

AG in Rose Valley

Old Cave Houses of Goreme

Old Cave Houses of Goreme

Rose Valley

Rose Valley

So How Would You Descibe These?

So How Would You Descibe These?

Sunset Views from Kelebek Hotel

Sunset Views from Kelebek Hotel

Sunset Views from Kelebek

Sunset Views from Kelebek

Kelebek Hotel

Kelebek Hotel

Kelebek Hotel

Kelebek Hotel

Seten Restaurant - Refined Dining in Goreme

Seten Restaurant - Refined Dining in Goreme

Refined Dining is not Necessarily the Best

Refined Dining is not Necessarily the Best

Posted by sagbucks 22:52 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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