A Travellerspoint blog

A final wrap!

Well, we are finally home. A long haul of 11 hours non stop from Istanbul to Toronto, being bumped off one flight and a final four hours to get home but it was worth it (except for the hole in our ceiling and drenched leather couch due to the storms last week) and we were in our own bed. Heaven.

Time to upload some photos to the blog. Enjoy some of my favorites which did not fit into the blog posts. If you haven't been to Turkey you should go! The number one question I get asked is what is your favorite travel destination. It is a hard one to answer, however Turkey is extremely high on the list!

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Our cave hotel in Cappadocia and the unique way to get service!
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Posted by jonaway 06:57 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul vs Antalya

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So I started this blog with some comparisons and thought it appropriate to finish with one final one. We spent 4 days in the old city of Istanbul and now 5 days in the old city of Antalya. Both cities offer lots of similarities and also lots of differences.

Istanbul is a city of 16.8 million people, spanning two continents. One minute you are in Europe and the next minute you use the "welcome to Asia" sign. No other country can offer the to a visitor.

Some would argue that Constantinople (as it was called back then) played a pivotal role in many of the past centuries. Hagia Sophia is a great example of this, built first as a mosque, taken over and then converted to a Christian church by the rulers of the day. Now a museum, it offers visitors a look at both religions.

Istanbul is busy, noisy, frenetic and crazy. It is hard to find a quiet oasis to escape the bedlam. Every shop keeper wants to be your friend and show THEIR carpets. No thank you is your favourite and most used words in the city.
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Antalya is a large and sprawling seaside city on the Aegan coast. The first and only word to describe our stay is HOT. While Calgarians are battling rain, hail and wind storms we are suffering through a hot spell where daytime temperatures have been between 35 and 40 everyday. I thought China was hot last year but this is hotter.

Our hotel, Hadrian's Gate Hotel is just a few steps from Hadrian's Gate. The marketers didn't need too much time to come up with the name for this hotel! It is a little oasis amongst the old walled city. Hadrian, a Roman Emperor cut a wide swath through Europe. Yes, this is the same Hadrian who built a wall in England. What a guy! His gate still remains intact despite being built in 130 AD.
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Inside the walls of the old city, Kaleici, is a charming community. Taxis barely have enough room to drive down the marbled streets. Shopkeepers are happy to show their wares but are just as happy to greet you with a smile and a wave if you aren't in a buying mood.

The favourite pastime is to sit in one of the many cafés and watch the people go by. With the exception of restaurant row, the cafés are not busy and offer a wide variety of "non-kebab" fare. We had a meal of arugula salad and pizza a few nights ago that rivalled any Italian town. Sitting in the garden we almost thought we were in Italy.
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Having been on the road for almost three weeks our hotel has become our oasis. The salt water pool is not busy and is always refreshing. The staff is always on hand to offer a nice cold beer, however when it is 40 degrees it doesn't stay cold too long.
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We ventured out yesterday to visit the Antalya Museum, partly to escape the heat. What a lovely surprise! This is a GREAT museum, offering a chronological view of history. Sometimes it can be a little overwhelming to figure out if it was the Hittites or the Ottomans that came first! The marble statues of the Roman gods and goddesses gave a lesson in Greek mythology. The sarcophaguses on display were like nothing I had ever seen. This is one place getting my "Trip Advisor" seal of approval.
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It has been a totally incredible trip. The Turkish people are some of the kindest and hardest working people we have met. Shopkeepers cover their wares by the side of the road and find them there in the morning. Tables, chairs and tablecloths are left out each night, even in Istanbul. The five times daily call to prayer is hypnotic and serves a a way to tell time during the day. The history and culture rivals any other destination in the world. While we didn't visit all of the country we got a great taste of Turkey. I hope you enjoyed reading about the adventure.

Posted by jonaway 00:34 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Once in a blue moon.....you have a bad travel experience

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So, once in a blue moon you will know you are going to have a bad travel day. July 31st was that blue moon and we had that bad day. It actually started out and was fantastic for a good part of the day. We met up with our group around 9:15 AM. By now some of us were fast friends. Tony and Jean from New York were on a adrenilan filled balloon ride high that I convinced them to take. How could you not take a balloon trip in Cappidocia? We did the ride the previous morning and true to my sales background I convinced them that this was not to be missed. They loved it! So did we!

Our day was spent, mostly outside, exploring the weird and wonderful rock formations in and around Goreme. It was hot and we kept drinking water to stay hydrated. the Zelve Open Air Museum was new to me and very insightful.

We also had a couple of shopping stops, one to see "Einstein's pottery and the carpet weavers at work. Despite the great sales skills of the carpet sales people we avoided purchasing a carpet. If you have been following the blog, you should know that the package from Jennifer's Hamam has already been delivered to Calgary, two days total, including time for the seamstress to custom make the bathrobe! Now that is service we don't get in Canada!

Now back to the blue moon story. At the end of the touring day we said goodbye to our tour guide, Utku, and were off to the airport. Let's just say that there are now 'texting, driving, talking on the phone laws' and there are no photo rarer cameras between Goreme and Nevsehir. Crazy driving is an understatement.

After paying the excess baggage fees to our low cost carrier, Pegasus we waited, and waited and waited. Flight was delayed 20 minutes, which was just a guideline to keep the customers calm. The 9 PM actually departed around 10 PM. The flight attendants did nothing for service, no food, no beverage cart, no safety checks. They just sat at the front in the jump seat and made the occasional announcement.

Did I mention that this is low cost carrier? Now, we only paid about 40.00 per person for this flight so we didn't have high expectations. Also, it seems the government doesn't tax air flights like In Canada.

Now we had to get a connection so it was getting a bit iffy to make it. Not to worry, we arrived in Istanbul for the connection only to find the next flight was delayed an hour. While waiting for the delayed flight, another flight to Kayseri was cancelled and I never, ever, ever seen an angry mob form so quickly. They had to bring in supervisors to calm people down. Wow, I wish I had recorded it.
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We left to get on the plane about 90 minutes late and then we sat in the apron, and waited and waited and waited. Crying kids, fighting brothers, an anxious guy with a bouquet of quickly wilting flowers were only some of the characters. At least this flight crew brought around water, for 3 Turkish lira (remember this is low cost). To add to my angst I was in the window seat and feeling a bit claustrophobic. The 11:35 PM flight finally left at 2:30 AM. It seems the early morning hours are the most popular for departures. Do these people ever sleep? In Toronto they have a "no flight" policy between midnight and 6 AM but not in Turkey.

Off to get our baggage and, you guessed it, no luggage. Perfect! It seems out luggage went to Terminal 1 and we were in Terminal 2. More time passes and finally the luggage arrives. Now it is 3:30 AM and the blue moon is looking brilliant but fading because dawn is about to break! We get a taxi who assures us he knows where our hotel is. Of course, that is not the case. He tries to drop us off at Hotel Hadrianus and we are booked at Hadrian's Gate Hotel. Back in the cab because we aren't letting this guy go before he delivers us to the right hotel! Two stops to ask directions and help from a hotel clerk at the Angel Hotel (Coincedence ? Maybe!) we arrive at our little oasis.

Only a delayed arrival time of about 4 hours but we are here in Antalya. No worse for wear, except for lacking sleep. The nice part of holidays is that you can sleep in and we did! Antalya is charming, authentic and friendly. A change from the frenetic activity of Istanbul. I think we will enjoy the stay.

Posted by jonaway 11:14 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

A Tale of Two Hamams

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So today I want to tell you about two experiences, both traditional but both very different. We were on our way to the Arasta Bazaar after our morning visit to Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Our Blue Mosque visit turned into a private tour with a guy Marty picked up on the street. There we are, minding our own business, and we have this guy wanting to take us to second entrance to the Blue Mosque. We thought he would show us the entrance and be on his way. No, he took us into the Mosque chatting the whole time, telling us about the tiles, etc. While we were going to be happy with seewithy he mosque ourselves, at our own pace, this was not to be. We couldn't shake him! At the end, of course, we ended up having to visit his carpet shop. After advising him that we weren't interested in his carpets we finally headed to the Bazaar.

Now this is a baby bazaar compared to the Grand Bazaar but that is a good thing. Yes, everyone still wants to sell you something but not at the pace and energy of the Grand Bazaar. We were in search of a store called Jennifer's Hamam. Now Jennifer is an Edmonton gal who has relocated to Turkey and is hoping to bring back the art of organic cotton weaving which, like many other places, is being lost as elders die. Her weavers produce phenomenally wonderful products. We spent a couple of hours in the warehouse and had a chance to talk with Jennifer about her passion for this. The purchases made will likely last a lifetime and be a wonderful reminder of our trip to Turkey.

The second story is about Cembirlitas Hamam, one of the oldest Turkish baths in Istanbul. Built in 1534 it boggles the mind to think about the sultans, princes, and members of the sultan's harem who have visited there in the past. Women and men are separate for this experience. Not much English is spoken; lie down, roll over and sit up is in their repertoire!

You are ushered into the changing room, given a traditional Turikish towel (a pestamel) and asked to lie on the marble slab. While relaxing and sweating you have a chance to marvel at the amazing domed structure. After about 20 minutes your attendant startyow itch a warm bucket of water thrown at you. Some of mine went right up my nose. She certainly had my attention at that point. Then on to the loofah scrub. At the end of the scrub there is not a dead skin cell left on your body. Then they slather you with a bubble and oil mixture. She has a gauze bag that she fills with air and bubbles, fluffs it up and distributes the bubbles all over. A vigourus massage, a trip to rinse off and have your hair washed and she is done with you. You are welcome to lay and relax as long as you like.

Marty's experience was similar but without all the bubbles and relaxing massage. He said it was the 'bull ride' of relaxation massage!
There is your tale of two Hamams, both which will have lasting memories of our trip!!!!

Posted by jonaway 10:21 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

One Greek island stop.....

And the poor attempt to save the Greek tourism industry!

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After two days at sea we were off the ship and onto land to visit Rhodes. This island, just off the coast of Turkey was once the home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Colossus of Rhodes. Now there is little more than stories to describe how big this statue actually was. Too bad they didn't have selfie sticks back then so we could know for sure!!!!

We ventured on a island tour that included a tour around the old city and put to the Valley of the Butterflies. Now no shore excursion would be complete without a shopping stop so we headed to a ceramic shop where they make something called a Pythagorus cup. It seems Pythagorus didn't want his students to drink more than their share of wine so he invented a cup that, if overfilled, would have the liquid come out the bottom. Clever way to keep your students at the same stage of sobriety during the lectures!!!!

It turns out that what we were about to see was actually moths not butterflies. I am sure some marketer felt people would flock to see butterflies more than to see moths. Off we went to a peaceful and serene part of the island. It seems there are millions of moths drawn to this area to the sweet trees between June and September. We saw hundreds of them and they were quite amazing, a bit hard to spot when they were in the trees but a stunning red when they were flying.
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And back to civilization and our encounter with the Greeks and beer and Wifi. Lesson learned - don't always pick the first establishment. We did and we're served up the "medium" beer which was actually a huge beer served in a glass boot. Now don't get me wrong. The beer tasted good even though they extracted 8.90 Euros for each of the beers ( about 15.00 CAD). It might have been easier to swallow, so to speak, if their Wifi worked. Finally, he signed into his neighbours Wifi and things were better. Sigh! Good luck with your economic recovery Greece.

Posted by jonaway 07:51 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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