Reflections on our time in Turkey
We had a long and exhausting day today, travelling back to Istanbul. We cut across the centre of Turkey, travelling back across the First Bosphorous Bridge from the Asian side of Istanbul back across to Europe. All together on this trip through Turkey we’ve done over 5,000km – that’s a LOT of travelling in just 16 days! The map below gives an overview of our route.
As tha map above shows, we barely scraped the surface of everything this country has to offer. There are so many places we would like to go back to (e.g. Safranbolu, Cappadocia), and so many places we did not get time to see this time around that we would love to visit one day (e.g. Lake Van and the Eastern part of the country). There are treks we would love to do (e.g. the Lycian Way, St Paul’s Trail), and so many islands and beaches we would like to enjoy (e.g. the Turquoise Coast, anywhere along the Turkish Riviera). For now, however, the Turkish leg of our adventure is coming to end. We took some time on the bus today to reflect on some of the highlights and most memorable moments we’ve enjoyed over the past 16 days – here’s our pick….
- Hot air ballooning over the Goreme Valley in Cappadocia has to be the absolute highlight of the trip. The views from the balloon were amazing and the silence up there, hundreds of metres above the Earth, an unexpected joy.
- Visiting Anzac Cove at Gallipoli was both touching and humbling. That such a beautiful place was the site of such horror and despair made it all the more poignant.
- Exploring the ruins of Ephesus was great fun – we got to walk on streets paved in marble that were laid more then 25 centuries ago. It made us feel very small and insignificant, in the face of so much history and time past. It also made us wonder whether anything we’re building and creating today will still be around in 2,500 years – will we leave anything of import for the explorers of the future to marvel at? (Our thoughts: doubtful; stuff these days is built to be replaced, not to last).
- Swimming in the crystal clear waters of the Blue Lagoon in Ölüdeniz was another magic moment for us. It was a tad chilly, but it was also AWESOME! We just love the beach and the sea, and Turkey sure does have some good ones.
- Istanbul’s old town of Sultanahmet was very cool. Our favourite stops were the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. Built across from each other these two spectacular structures are a testament to Turkey’s rich and fascinating history.
- The food was a major highlight for us. We liked Turkish food before we got here and everything we ate whilst in Turkey just confirmed our sentiments. Kebabs are the best – be they chicken, lamb or beef (by the way, we discovered kebab just means “grilled” in Turkish, and doner means “rotating”). We will have especially find memories of the Cappadocian clay pot kebab we enjoyed in that cave restaurant. The local desserts also deserve a mention – especially genuine Turkish lokum (translation = Turkish Delight). Real Turkish lokum is so much nicer than the fake stuff we get in Aus – it’s sweet but not sickly and comes in hundreds of flavours. There are a whole range of different desserts we got to try too, all of them sweet enough to keep even the most committed sugar addict happy.
- We also developed a serious liking for Turkish tea or çay. Served black and strong in tiny, fluted glass cups, this became a daily staple for us while we were here. On the days we were seriously fatigued however, Turkish coffee was the beverage of choice. More a medicine than a drink, Turkish coffee provides some serious caffination, though doses greater than 2 cups per day are ill advised. We also quickly learnt to leave the dregs in the cup, lest we develop a “Turkish coffee smile” (i.e. teeth coated in black coffee grits form the bottom of the cup).
- The landscape. Turkey is a never ending panorama of beaches, fields, hills and mountains. The scenery we saw varied from green and lush along the West coat, to dry and arid in the interior. We also passed huge saline lakes that dry up completely in summer, creating expansive salt flats from which salt is harvested; and vast olive groves and cotton fields where women (and only the women) harvest by hand.
- Istanbul drivers. Mad, the lot of them!
- Having your self scrubbed and pummeled and kneaded by a large, muscular stranger. The Turkish hamam experience is certainly memorable!
- Squat toilets. Public toilets with no loo paper. Need I say more?
- The pre-dawn call to prayer. Great way to wake up every morning,pity it’s just so early!
- Tourists. So many tourists! Russians, Germans, British, Chinese, Korean, Japanese – they’re everywhere and they come in their millions! (Note: Yes, we realise the irony here: us, as tourists, complaining about the plethora of other tourists.) We were just blown away by the sheer number of visitors we saw around Turkey. This is one seriously popular mass tourism destination!
We’ve had a great time in Turkey and have met some really interesting people, had some great times and seen some fantastic stuff in our time here. Below (click the thumbnails for larger images) are some of our favourite photos form the last couple of weeks too. Teşekkür ederim Turkey for a great 16 days!