Monday, May 5, 2014

Turkey Part II: The Turkish Coast

Saturday 5 April
We were up early today and to the airport for our tour of coastal Turkey. Most people come to Turkey and do the same exact loop: Istanbul-Cappadocia-Izmir. We didn't do Cappadocia, which is a bummer, but we were flying to Izmir. We had a quick flight-only about an hour, but were again ASTOUNDED that we were fed in this short time. Haha. Airlines in America stink.

We were met by our laconic driver and a group of a few others. We all piled in the car with zero direction as to where we were headed or what the plan was :P

About 40 minutes later, we were joined by our guide and a few other people. The guide finally explained our itinerary for the day and we were off to the Virgin Mary’s House.

Supposedly after Jesus died, Mary was in the care of the apostle Paul. Paul brought Mary to this hillside near Ephesus where she lived in a modest house. That spot is now a shrine.

Mary's House (kinda)


It was quite peaceful, except for the very unruly school group that was also touring the site. We saw the shrine, drank from the holy fountain and Preston left a message on the wishing wall. People write their hopes and dreams on scrap pieces of paper that are attached this wall. He wouldn’t tell me what it was that he had written. :P


Unruly :D

Sweeping up people's wishes. Womp wa.

From there, we visited an old mosque and traveled on for a stop at a leather factory for a totally random fashion show. Many lambs are sacrificed at Ramadan and they use the leftover skin to make very soft and expensive leather. The fashion show was fun, but the clothes were too expensive for any of us to buy.




Fashion Show!!
We had a buffet lunch and headed to Ephesus-one of the most well preserved ruins from ancient times. Ephesus was one of the biggest cities in Asia Minor and served as an important area during both Greek and Roman rule.







The ruins were quite big and took us about two hours to tour. We took lots of pictures, saw the original symbol of Nike, walked into the library and sat in the theater. The library is the icon of Ephesus and it was quite impressive. It was also impressive that the streets were paved with marble!! It was actually quite slick and we saw a few people fall. I can't imagine what it would have been like in the rain!!





Marble roads!!




I'm sure a lot of business was done in here :D

The impressive library






It was truly an awesome place. I always enjoy visiting places that I’ve read about in books and seeing the setting of a story come to life, but when our guide mentioned Paul’s letters to the Esphesians…aka the book in the NEW TESTAMENT…it really hit me-like, WOW. We were visiting a place that is mentioned at length in THE book. Religious or not, this makes you think. Crazy.








Apparently, they used to hold modern day rock concerts (like, U2) in the theater at Ephesus, but found that the amps were damaging the structure and this practice has been discontinued.





We were taken to our hotel, which had a balcony overlooking the Aegean Sea. We are staying in Kusadasi, which is a busy tourist town. Even in this off season, it is full of people. We had a beer at the hotel bar, got our dinner at the buffet in the hotel and settled into our room for the night.





Sunday 6 April
We had breakfast in the hotel and I was quite pleased with myself for having a very Mediterranean breakfast of: hard boiled egg, tomato, cucumber, three kinds of cheese, olives, and some sesame bread. It was delicious.

We were picked up by our driver-again with no words or comments as to what we would be doing with our day. Since our trip had been planned by the travel agent in Istanbul, we had only a loose idea of what we were doing/where we were going. The travel agent had never provided us with an itinerary(ridiculous with that absurd cost!! Grr!!). We drove around picking up people again and then our guide explained that we had a THREE hour drive just to reach Pamukkale-famous for its ruins and warm pools. I was grateful to have brought my kindle.

We finally arrived at Pamukkale and had an amazing lunch of chicken shish, rice and salad alongside soup and bread. We ate with Stu from Australia and his girlfriend Nicole from Germany. Nicole is studying language and it was quite interesting to hear her talk about all the ins and outs of different languages.

We headed to the ruins on the hill. The theater remained and pieces of buildings here and there. The main attraction of Pamukkale is the enormous hill of calcite deposit-fed by a hot spring. The white land was like snow dispersed with creamy blue pools.







We had two hours of free time, so we waded in the pools with Stu and Nicole. We had to take off our shoes so that we wouldn’t damage the structure. It was slippery to walk around, very crowded, and you could only go in certain areas, but it was quite awesome, nonetheless. The water was full of silt and luke warm. It was beautiful to look down at the valley below.








Shoes back on…we hiked up to the theater. It was impressive and well worth the climb.











We met our guide again and returned in the van for the three hour drive to Kusadasi.

Dinner in the hotel was in the lobby restaurant and much tastier than the buffet had been.

We enjoyed the views and vibrant nightlife of this beach town before we went to bed.

Monday 7 April
We had a free day today and got to sleep in. We had breakfast and walked around the waterfront.



Our goal of the day was to find a ferry company to set up our trip to Greece.
We talked to a rather incompetent travel agent and after repeated trips to and from her office (she kept asking us to come back), we finally had our tickets to Greece!!

We spent our time waiting on the travel agent working on our own trip planning from Starbucks
We got a lackluster lunch by the water. The food here seems more tourist oriented and isn’t as good as the amazing meals we had in Istanbul.

More dogs!! :)


After walking around more, we had tea and baklava down by the water. We watched the sunset from the balcony in our room and had dinner in the lobby again.





Turkey has been just amazing. I would highly recommend ANYONE to consider this as a destination. We are excited to head to Greece tomorrow, as Greece has been high on my travel list for as long as I can remember :)

Final thoughts/facts on Turkey
You have to get a visa online to enter ($20)
The currency is the Turkish lira, which is about 48 cents American
You cannot access Youtube or twitter here (insane)
The people are amazing and friendly
The atmosphere here is peaceful
FULL of Ancient History
Turkey is CLEAN*
*and smells good :)
The tea is amazing and is served everywhere, often complimentary
The animals are content and well cared for
Easy access to Greece

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