Friday, 28 March 2008


Now, personally I didn’t really have a need to come here but then I did not want to go back to Istanbul either. Seeing that Ankara was only a 5 hour bus ride away the choice was an easy one to make in the end.
My hotel was near the old castle and the museum of Anatolian civilisation. These were really the only two places that I wanted to go to and seeing that I only had one full day in the city it would be enough to keep me busy.

On the Saturday I woke up nice and early and walked the short distance up the hill to the castle. The castle is kind of cool. Inside the fortifications was an old fashioned Turkish village. It had small winding lanes passing along houses in various styles and states of repair or collapse, depending on how you looked at it.

From there it was a short stroll to the museum.

Somehow back in 1997 it was voted the best museum in Europe! Not sure how they came to that conclusion…maybe tactical voting took place. Don’t get me wrong it was a very well presented but it was small. You would think that they would have loads of stuff to put in it. The Greek equivalent in Athens was about 20 times larger and Turkish history is just as rich and varied as anywhere else.

So…I had the afternoon free. What to do in Ankara with time on your hands. There is only one answer. It was time to go to the centre of the cult of personality that is Kemel Ataturk. His mausoleum is sited on high ground and looks out over the city.

And that is it for country please!

Friday, 21 March 2008

In the land of the fairies

Due to the changes in my travel plans, I had decided to hang out somewhere in Turkey for a whole week before flying back to London. The small village of Goreme fitted the bill very nicely thank you.

It’s in the middle of Cappadocia. Only a 12 hour bus ride from Istanbul, which when I left on Friday was cold and raining.

This area of turkey is famous for the landscape. The soft rock has been eroded by both wind and rain to form weird shaped rock formations. These tend to be very large, so large in fact that for centuries people have carved homes and churches out of them (and now of course hotel rooms).

This morning (Saturday) I walked the kilometre or so to the Goreme open air museum. It’s on UNESCO’s world heritage list (which is my travel destination guide of choice) and is found nestling in a small valley. It consists of an old Christian community’s dwellings from the 6th century onwards. On the site are several churches carved out of the rock and each one is covered in frescos. These reached an artistic peak in the 11th century.
One of these is called the “dark church” and you have to pay an additional 5ytl to see it. The reason behind the name is because it only has one small window that illuminates the interior. As such, the frescos remain to this day amazingly vivid. Also on the site are various other places like kitchens, mesh rooms (complete with benches and tables hewn from the rock), storage rooms and quite amazingly a 6 storey tower block!!!

After a few hours there instead of walking back to the village I continued 200 metres or so uphill along the road and jumped off.

I landed in a tiny valley only 10’s of metres across and started to walk downwards. I followed a small semi dry river bed for about 1000 metres. It got narrower and some scrambling down empty waterfalls was involved. Damn it was fun!
Once I had squeezed through the narrow point it slowly opend up into a valley about a mile across. Oh my…talk about a beautiful landscape.

This evening I thought that maybe it would be 3rd time lucky in Turkey for a curry….um…No! The Thai green curry that I ordered had, for some reason, potatoes, broccoli, marrow, carrots and runner beans in it. Mind you it was hot and spicy but I think you would have to call it a stew and don’t even get me started on my “green salad”


Today turned out to be Easter Sunday. A fact that I was only made aware of at breakfast when the Canadian lass asked me if the boiled egg was my Easter egg. A long blank look followed till she explained what this Sunday was. I really enjoy being in a non Christian country.

The plan for today was to get lost. I excelled myself!

About halfway on the road to the open air museum is a signposted valley (6km long) which caught my eye yesterday. Today I walked along it.

It started out as a nice dirt track which ambled along and across the valley floor. After about 1 km I was joined by a little stream that meandered across the dirt track. At its widest point it was an easy step from dry land to dry land.

As I made my way up the gentle incline, the valley started to get narrower and off to the side, small valley offshoots appeared. I checked a few out; they mostly went a few 100m before coming to an abrupt end.
Back on the main path the track and the now slightly bigger stream fought for dominance. The water shaped rock formations towered above me on either side.
My progress up the valley was slow because there were far too many views that made me stop, look and raise my camera to my eye.
At one point, following the now dominant steam it went through a natural tunnel (or a big bloody rock that had fallen from height and ended up straddling the stream as like to call it!)

Once under the bridge the track gave up and I was back revisiting my childhood days in Black Park, splashing happily upstream with the odd step into boot sucking mud. The last couple of kms were spent walking along a confusing goat path that, as the valley narrowed and the sides diminished in height, rose and fell from the bottom to almost the top.
At one point I ended up going uphill on all fours just to maintain grip and balance and then “foot surfed” down the other side on the loose gravel and sedimentary rock.
As I approached the end of the valley a track to the side caught my eye. The path led upwards and a few scrambles latter I was on the track to the top of the valley rim.

WOW…at the top I was slightly out of breath. I stood hands on hips breathing deeply, taking in the fresh air and the glorious views. The colour of the rock formations that spread out before me went from virginal white to whorish pick. The soft contoured rocks rolled out across the wide and open vista.

My lost thoughts were interrupted by the 1st man made sound I had heard since entering the valley. A bloody car! Why can’t people walk, they didn’t even get out to take pictures. Whether they were bored or my scowl made them do a u turn and leave me in peace once again I do not know.

I walked along the track for a few 100 metres and then thought…Nah!

I foot surfed down the side of a little valley and spent about an hour climbing up, down, along and in-between dried up water courses and the odd looking formations. I finally emerged up on the high ground and walked across fields before stumbling upon another dirt track.

I had no idea where I was…Fantastic!

I started walking hand in hand with gravity but after short while another little valley caught my eye.
Damn good choice (now at this point I would like to point out that you can get A4 size maps of the various walks in the surrounding area...the question is why would you want one?), the valley was just great.

It started out with a flat profile which abruptly ended with the 1st height change. The shape of the valley length has been altered over time by farmers building walls across the narrow points to trap the silt that is washed down with the winter rains. Yep, that meant having to negotiate 15 to 25 foot drops. At every occurrence there “just happened” to be a sturdy length of timber propped up against the side of the wall. Which was nice!

That wasn’t the only obstacle I had to face. At one point a huge 50 foot boulder lay across the river bed. I tried to scramble around it but the soft rock and earth wouldn’t give me grip or purchase. Sensing the misery that is “retracing ones steps” I had a look underneath.
There was a gap about 18 inches high. More than enough room for me to squeeze through. If there had been water flowing then it wouldn’t have been possible.

After the boulder , the valley gradient got steeper and the sides moved inwards. Following an extremely enjoyable 15 minutes I heard the bark of a dog. Now, when it comes to the bark of a dog I happen to be an expert. So, now with a couple of good size stones in my hand I turned the corner.

The 1st thing I saw was an old shack half built into the side of the rock face, with a “good old boy” sitting in an old chair enjoying the afternoon sun.
The 2nd thing I saw was a bloody big dog chained to a post! It was jumping, yelping and pulling at the chain just trying to release itself so that it could run across the 20 metres of arable land and bite me. Yeah, my two stones would have stopped it!!!
Once pass the shack I ended up waling along what could only really be called a ditch. This led passed a few more rock dwellings before the ditch became civilised and a pavement appeared along side it. Turns out I was in a village. The village had a name…it was Goreme, which was really nice because that’s where my hostel is!


Damn, after today’s exertions I’m knackered!
I left the hostel at 08:30 with the idea of walking to the open air museum at Zelve. It’s an easy 6km walk away. However I forgot that like the Greeks, the Turks ability to indicate the correct distance is somewhat flexible. So, after a 10km walk across a wide open plain and a twisting valley I ended up at the museum.
It’s less “polished” than the one at Goreme and that suited me just fine. The place, like the one at Goreme, was a Christian settlement. Its spread over 4 small and narrow valleys. I tossed a coin and went into the valley furthest to me right.
It wasn’t that wide, only about 50m at the start narrowing to 2m at the end (I know this because I followed the dried up stream under boulders and into the little canyon beyond the end). Back in the valley all along both sides were rock dwellings, churches, monasteries and even a mosque. The best thing about this valley was the tunnel through the rock dividing this valley from the next. I didn’t have my torch with me (damn!) but the flash of my camera showed the way through the darkest parts.
The 2nd valley was larger and longer than the 1st with numerous dwellings. Some just a single room, others a 2 storey condo.
The last two valleys, well they were ok.

The plan, once leaving the museum was to walk back to Goreme across the countryside. However after 100m along the road a right turn caught my eye. The signpost indicated that it was the road to Urgup. Now I knew the name but I had only a rather vague sense of the distance. Arh, what the hell, it was only 11:30 and I had the rest of the day free.
So off I went. The wind picked up and so did the dust. I walked along, leaning sideways into the strong gusting wind as shards of stone pinged off my face and head. (Free micro abrasion therapy…looking on the Brightside once again). Due to the dust swirling around the views of the surrounding plain was somewhat diminished but as my head was bowed down to keep my eyes free of dust I didn’t miss much.
About 3kms later I took a right turn and the wind changed from a headwind to a tailwind. Now standing straight my pace increased and the smile got wider as my feet travelled along the road at the pace they wanted to. The road rose and fell in keeping with the geology either side of me. After an hour and a half I reached the outskirts of the town of Urgup. Good guess on the distance!
I had a little sit down and thought about what to do next. I could either get a bus to Goreme or carry on walking all the way back. (This was only 8kms…allegedly). After a small bar of chocolate and a can of coke I was walking up the hill. Over the 1st hill and then onto the 2nd. By now the wind had returned along with the shards of rock. Halfway up the 2nd hill I guessed the direction to Goreme and went cross country, finding my own path across the undulating scenery.
I guessed wrong! Who cares…I did a semi cut back and returned to the Goreme road.
By the time I came to the turn off for Goreme I was starting to slow down. Good news, it was downhill all the way. 4kms later, passing the Goreme open air museum along the way, I got back to my hostel.

As I made my way up to the sun terrace I discovered there was a cold bottle of beer in my hand. Arse on seat, shoes off, bottle of beer on lips…and my head tilted back all by itself.

So, 8 hours on the road, 35kms covered. Damn, I haven’t walked that far in a day since I was a boy scout!
I was planning on having a nice long lie in tomorrow but instead I’m getting out of bed at 05:45 to go and stand in a wicker basket!


Inside a wicker basket was a nice place to be standing at 06:15 on a fresh, cold but sunny morning. What made it even better was the fact that it was securely attached to a hot air balloon!

As the pilot hit the propane we slowly and very gently left the ground. It was my 1st time ballooning and I loved it. We slowly climbed up to 1000ft above Goreme with the basket turning in the wind giving all of us 360 panoramic views of the little twisting valleys, the wide open plains and in the distance snow capped extinct volcanoes.
Around us were other balloons (about 15 in total) all at differing heights and speeds.
From 1000ft above the ground we descended to about 20ft and skimmed along a valley floor before climbing into the blue sky once again. At one point I was able to completely trace the route I hiked yesterday. It didn’t seem so far this close to heaven.
The flight lasted about 45 minutes before we softly hit the ground in the middle of a farmer’s field.

I was back at the hostel with just enough time for a shower and a coffee before I had to walk across the street to the otogar (which is Turkish for bus station). This was so I would be able to meet up with my minibus guided tour around Cappadocia. I was on the green tour (the other ones are red and blue) which was going to two places I wanted to see and a few places I could have done with missing out altogether!

The 1st place was the underground city. This started out in 2000BC as a place of safety and refugee in troubled times and by the 6th century AD it had grown from 2 to 8 levels.
In olden times the place was lit by oil lamps but now in the 21st century we had electric lighting. Good job to! The interconnecting tunnels between the rooms and levels were small, narrow and low. The local population weren’t hobbit size. The reason was purely defensive. As the tour group walked down a 100 or so steps to the lowest level all of us were bent over and shuffling. So imagine if you were an attacking solider, with just a burning torch for illumination.

The 2nd place was the Ilhara valley. It’s a 14km long canyon below a 3600m high snow capped mountain. Its current depth is around 125m but I’m sure that if you came here in 100,000 years it will be slightly deeper. Today I would get to walk around 3kms of its length.
All along the valley’s length are rock cut churches. Luckily we would only be looking inside one of them (by now I was rock churched out!)
The path was easy to follow and the canyon walls were mightily impressive.
The fast flowing river was milky blue in colour; fresh snow melt was slowly starting to mix with the soil of the riverbed.
On the downside, the town of Ihara (population 5001) was at the start of the valley and so I’m assuming it’s from there that all the plastic bags that littered the river’s edge had come from.

After lunch we went to a rock monastery. It’s just like a church but it has kitchens as well. The location was great and the views were very impressive.

The next port of call was an “onyx stone cutting demonstration”. This lasted 2 minutes and 21 seconds before we were ushered into the shop full of eager sale assistants. Not being big on jewellery I walked straight out and within 84 seconds so had everyone else.
This was our last stop for the day, although when I booked the tour there was one more place advertised and we arrived back in Goreme about 90 minutes earlier than the tour guide said we would do at the start of the day. I didn’t mention this as I had been to the place the day before and I was feeling sleepy…well I had been up since 05:30!

p.s: today one of the “guests” at the hostel did a runner owing over 200ytl for a balloon flight. Another reason why I dislike backpackers!

Saturday, 15 March 2008


Before I start to tell you the story that is Istanbul I feel a flashback coming on…

On my penultimate day in Canakkale I walked the 800 metres to the bus station to purchase a ticket for the following morning on the 10am bus. So, there I was the next day having walked what felt more like a kilometre, arriving with 20 minutes or so in hand. Half an hour later when no bus had turned up I went to the ticket office. Turns out the bus for Istanbul leaves from the ferry terminal only 100m from the hotel door!!!
I caught the 11am bus instead and arrived in Istanbul at the end of the “working day”. Good thing everyone was heading out of the centre and I was heading in!

Saturday 15th

It’s my 1st large city since I left London over ten months ago. Did I ever mention the fact that I am not the biggest fan of large cites.

The journey from the bus station to the hostel was easy. Tube (from the centre of the bus station) followed by tram. Now that’s an integrated transport system!

I arrived in the early evening, checked in at reception and then went up to my 5th floor room, slowly I might add. The hostel doesn’t have a lift. After a quick shower and of course a little lie down I was out bimbling.
The hostel is located in the oldest part of Istanbul so it’s close to all the main tourist sites. I’ll list them once I’ve been to them otherwise I will just end up repeating myself.

I did come across a book shop that sold lonely planet guides in English. Now there is one thing that I have learnt so far on this trip, if you need something, buy it at the 1st opportunity you have. (Cause you might not get another one) Out came the plastic and 190ylt later I was the proud owner of a guide book to India, South East Asia and the Middle East. The last one was a compromise. I needed a book for Iran and the only one they had left included the rest of the Middle East as well. So, it’s not too in depth with regards to Iran but it does have Turkey in it, which is nice but mostly pointless!

Sunday 16th

I was up early and out hitting the mean streets before 9am. After several meanders around back streets and alleyways I ended up on the seafront. So, why not walk around the Golden Horn? Damn good idea! Two hours later I stumbled across the city’s archaeology museum. Nice!…no really it was.

Following all that excitement I just had to have another lie down…afterwards, it was time to sort out all my lovely photos and upload the best ones. Now we are only at the halfway point of the month and so far, my pictures of Turkey have been looked at over 1000 times, shouldn’t you all be busy working when you’re in the office!

Monday 17th

Today was meant to be a day for sorting out my visas (for Iran and India). All went well at the Iranian consulate until the very nice man said I could pick up my visa enriched passport the in the morning.

Good news: I have a visa for Iran
Bad news: the Indian consulate will have to wait till tomorrow.

I’ve been told that it usually takes 3 to 5 working days from application to issue. So at the latest it will be next Tuesday (unless the have an express service!). The thing is I’m only booked in at this hotel till Friday, could be an issue, as they may not have any spare rooms after that day.
If this is the case I’ll be forced to changed hostels and sleep in a “dorm room” and I bloody hate dorm rooms!

Due to the fact that I had the rest of the day free I went tourist.

The 1st spot to visit was the Basilica Cistern built in the 5th century AD.

I) it’s underground
II) It stores water
III) Its 140m long
IV) Its 70m wide
V) Loads of columns
VI) Oh yeah…it has fish in it!

Once you go down the steps the levels of temperature and light decrease. The lighting is spot on for “atmosphere” and “ambience”. Sadly quite a few pictures suffered from me not having a tripod (i.e. fuzzy from the long exposure and my inability to hold the camera rock steady) and the fact that using a flash just didn’t do the place justice.

Once I had finished underground, I checked the time and saw that the midday prayers had ended…off to the blue mosque!
Now it’s called the blue mosque because it’s blue but only on the inside. With the shoes off everyone shuffled in. The 1st thing we all did was look up. All the domes, pillars and arches are tiled. If I was going to get picky I thought the most dominant visual colour was red and not blue. However, that’s just my opinion and I can’t see anyone calling it the red mosque on my say so.
A mosque, unlike a church is a big square but just like a church it has a pulpit. There isn’t an isle just a huge sea of carpet and at the rear is the women’s section (welcome to the cheap seats). The interior vista has been ruined by the 100’s of chains dangling from the ceilings which are used to support the lights.

The rest of the day was spent doing almost nothing…which I can easily do all day!

Wednesday 19th

Yesterday I went to the Iranian embassy nice and early as it was the 1st of 3 consulate visits planned for the day. I picked up my visa but the smile slowly turned to a slight frown as I saw that I had only been given a 20 day visa. So, I’ve got 3 weeks to see an entire country. Hopefully I’ll be able to get an extension when I’m there (if I want one).
From there I crossed the river and headed up the step hill on the other side, towards the Galata tower and the British consulate. Did I mention that it was only 11oc and raining! Going up that hill via mostly step, was like walking upriver over waterfalls.
After some confusion I found the British consulate. Would having a sign larger than a piece of A4 paper be too hard or expensive to do? Once there I gave them 150ytl and was given a letter of recommendation in return (well I suppose they have to try and make a profit somehow). I left that little piece of England behind (f.y.i consulate: buy a new flag the one you have looks like a rag) and headed to the Indian consulate a mile or so away.
I got there 15 minutes to late (the visa office shuts at 11:30 …which I could work those hours). With the rest of the day free I went back to the hotel because I was cold, tired and wet.

Today, Indian consulate take two.
It opens for business at 09:30 and I was there at 09:28. I was 3rd in the queue. All my paper work was in order.

• Application form filled out - check
• Two recent passport size photographs - check
• Passport - check
• Photocopy of passport - check
• Letter of recommendation - check

So I was confident there would be no problems.

Man…was I wrong!
Now a British passport holder can apply for a 6 month visa. Turns out that is correct…in England! In Turkey all I would be able to get is a 3 month visa… bugger
So, I now have 3 options

1. Apply for a 3 month visa now
2. Apply for a 3 month visa in Ian
3. Go back to England and apply for a 6 month visa

I should at this point let you know dear reader that the visa starts from the date of issue and not from the date of entry into India. Also I’m pretty sure that you can’t get an extension for the visa in India

So. What to do. 3 months in India really isn’t enough time and as I am at this point both time and cash rich I want the 6 month one. All I have to do now is choose

1. Go to Iran, then England, then India
2. Go to England, then Iran, then India

As option 2 involves less time stuck on an airplane…yep, you’ve guessed what I’m going to do. (I’ve already emailed my sister to warn her and request a pickup from the airport)

Now, As you know I’m booked into the hostel till Friday. As I am no longer having to wait around for my Indian visa I engaged “tourist top gear”

The 1st place to visit was the Dolmabahce Palace down by the river it cost 20ytl to enter and an extra 6ytl to take pictures. Worth every penny!
The sultans sure knew how to live in style. As I and the rest of the tour group followed the guide through room after sumptuous room each one making you look up to the gold leafed covered ceilings and gazing at chandelier after chandelier. The tour starts with the formal “state rooms” before going into the more private areas. There was a surprise at the end. We entered a huge hall (2000 sq metres) with a chandelier weighing in at 4.5tons hanging in the middle. This was the place where big impressions were made.
The second half of the tour took place in the harem. Very disappointing…it wasn’t at all sleazy

Once I had left one palace I walked along, across and along the river to another one.

The Topkapi Palace was the original palace of the Sultans. The Dolmabahce one was built in the 1800’s whilst the Topkapi started out in the 1400’s/
You 1st walk through an imposing gatehouse and into the 1st of 3 courtyards. In each of them are housed various exhibitions ranging from arms, pictures, clothing and religious artefacts. In the latter you have some items from the prophet (p.b.u.h) including his sword, bits of his beard and part of his tooth. Also there was the Rod of Moses, used to part the red sea! I took a picture even though that’s not allowed.

Personally I found it amusing:

• Moses crossed the “reed sea” not the red sea
• He must have been 5ft high on a tall day!
• Charlton Heston?

My last port of call was the Ayasofya. It started out as a church, then a mosque and after Ataturk had a quiet word it was secularised and turned into a museum. It’s the second Sofya on the site, the 1st having burnt down in the 4th century AD. This one was built in the 5th century by the Romans, 1100 years before St. Paul’s in London and it only took 5 years!
When I walked into the building I realized that I really needed a wide angled lens to do it justice. The dome reaches up to nearly 60m. The place is just awesome…look at my pictures or better yet come yourself.

Tomorrow, book a bus for Friday.

This evening I’m in a bar along the main “Backpackers Street” just behind the blue mosque. The beer is cold, wet and cheap. On the downside I can’t help but overhear 3 young backpackers talking about the quality of drugs across Europe. Personally I can’t stand backpackers, I’m a silver haired (if I had hair it would be silver) traveller, mature and cultured!? Plus listening to people go on about where they have been, what they saw and did is Soooooo boring!!!

Why are YOU reading this!

Go and ask your mum if you can go outside and play!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


The bus from Selcuk wasn’t all that bad. The guy sitting next to me was an English teacher among other subjects. (He takes home about 1000ytl a month. There are about 2.3 of those to one English pound…ouch!) and we enjoyed little chats along the way.

Once I have disembarked from the bus at the bus station I realised that my self drawn map for the hotel started at the ferry terminal…


800 metres later the taxi stopped outside the door of the hotel. Damn, I had just started to get comfy in the front street.

I’m in a hotel, 1st time since Greece last year. It’s only about 20 GBP a night. The room is large in both the vertical and horizontal sense. The ceiling must be getting on to 4m high. It’s got free wifi (which saves me having to spend 3 hours in an internet café) the only downside is the staircase. It’s a bit creaky and twisty and the motion sensor light doesn’t come on till you are half way up (or down). Apart from that, me likes.

The town of Canakkale is to be honest not that touristy. I think most of the Aussies and kiwis stay in the town on the other side of the Dardanelles strait so that they are closer to the war memorials.

On my second day here I wandered around the town. Along the seafront is a prop from the Hollywood film “Troy”. Yep!…it’s a big wooden horse. I bimbled for about an hour down quiet back streets (my favourite way of getting a feel for a place) before ending up at the local archaeology museum.

It looked quite good from the outside and I was somewhat disappointed when I was told that cameras were not allowed. That’s the 1st time that’s happened on this trip. However, as I spent a very slow 15 minutes walking around I was disappointed at what I saw. I was glad I didn’t have my camera because lets face it the lens cover would have stayed on!

The next day I went to Troy.

I left the hotel just after 9 am and walked the several streets to the minibus depot. I sat on the steps and waited. 20 minutes later I was on board the minibus moving out of the town. (If you ever need to catch the bus to Troy, it’s the blue one).

Troy is a 30 minute, 30km ride out of the town of Canakkale. You travel through a couple of “rural farming villages” before getting of at the main security gate. In exchange for 10ytl you get an entrance ticket and a glossy leaflet. Unfounately it doesn’t really tell you much about Troy or even have an explainable map of the site.
The security gate and the entrance to Troy are about 800 metres apart. As I walked along the road 2 coaches went passed. One was full of Germans, the other one Japanese. There are 3 types of tourist groups that an independent traveller like me doesn’t want to have on a site (the other one is of course the English) but luckily they were the only coaches there.

The city of Troy has been rebuilt on the same site several times and so it’s quite hard to tell the difference between say Troy 1, 3 or 6.

Troy 6 is of course the setting for the Iliad. It was cool thought to have when I went along the old city wall that Achilles chased Hector along the same path my feet were walking along now.
I easily managed to avoid the tour groups and I had several “sit down and look” moments.

When it was 1st excavated back in the 1800’s the guy in charge was just looking for treasure (which he later smuggled out of the country) so he just cut a big trench right across the middle of the site. I watch time team so I know that’s a big no no. The people that came after him did a better job of it. Even now they are still working on site during the summer months.

Due to the nature of the site in one photo you’ll have examples from across the whole history of Troy. No, I will not be explaining which is which.

At one point along the path you can leave the city and head 300m off the mount to an old well inside a cave. Most people don’t and so they miss out on a great view of the Troad plain heading down to the sea in the distance. Imagine 100’s of ships and 1000’s of men staying there for 10 years.

When I got back to the hotel I turned on the laptop. Whilst the photos were uploading (free wifi, so about 200 plus photos thank you very much) I made good use of the extremely comfortable and supportive bed

Its my last full day here in Canakkale today (the 14th) but I didn’t do much. Tomorrow I’ll be on a bus for the 6 hour journey to Istanbul.

Friday, 7 March 2008


Friday the 7th of March

Got up, caught a bus to Selcuk, got off bus and walked to the hostel.Sat in courtryard...another long day of doing almost nothing

Saturday the 8th of March

Today I went to Efes. It’s 3kms away and although the hostel has a free shuttle service I decided to walk there.

I entered the site just before 10 am and was lucky to have the place almost to myself. This lasted for only 45 minutes before the 1st of many coaches disgorged their contents and the masses tumbled down the main street like an angry river in full flood. I would hate to come here during the summer!

The site itself is very well preserved. The two main streets are intact with the original flagstone surface. Both of the theatres have been well looked after. For me, the best place was the library. The front facade was huge and richly covered with statues and intricate stone work.

I spent a hugely enjoyable three hours or so there. Afterwards as I made my way back to Selcuk I stopped off and the Temple of Artemis.

This was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World but now it’s mostly a big hole in the ground. Out of the 125 pillars only one remains, complete with a stock nest on top.

From there it was a short walk to the small but beautiful museum located near the hostel.

Monday the 11th of March

I have stayed an extra day here in Selcuk.

Yesterday morning after being woken up at 6 am (again) by the nearby Imam calling the faithful to prayer (which I have to admit I don’t mind at all) I dozed for an hour and then decided to go for a jog. As it has been about a month since my last run I did an easy 4km up and down the main road to Efes.

Later in the morning ( 1 shower, 2 coffees and 5 fags to be precise) I meandered over to the Basilica to St john., stood at his tomb (said hello) and then went to walk to the nearby castle, only to find, as I reached the boundary of the Basilica a sign saying “castle closed”…bugger! Therefore I went to the IsaBey mosque instead…nice!

For the rest of the day I sat in the armchair located in the hostel courtyard. Read a book and dozed. (My cousin Vikki could learn a lot from me)

Today, was a day to do things, well two if you want an exact number

1) Post some stuff back to England. If it gets there I’m sure those nice customs men will levy a heavy tax

2) Make a laptop bag! This took me back to my “blue peter” days. For this you will need the following:

A) Bubble wrap
B) Pair of scissors (ask an adult to help you with those)
C) Some shiny metal sticky tap
D) A laptop

If you want to know what the result is, email me and I’ll send you a picture.

Once I had gotten over my post completion
high of the laptop bag I checked my emails.

Happy news…those lovely people at the Iranian ministry for foreign affairs said yes. I have my visa to Iran, which I can pick up from their consulate in Istanbul (went to have a beer to celebrate…yes I can do irony quite well thank you)

My Turkish visa runs out on the 7th of April. Time to plan things. The general idea is this

Tomorrow of to Canakkale for 4 nights
Istanbul for a week ( need to get an Indian visa as well)
Ankara for a few days
Head to Goerme in the highlands for 4-6 days
Then to Van for the trip over the border to Iran (and yes sister if I see a Van cat I’ll take a photo)

However, plans always change so this explains why I rarely bother to have them.

So tomorrow, wake up at 6am! Pack my now slightly lighter rucksack (sure it’s just a mental thing really) and have a coffee. (If you like coffee, don’t come to Turkey. Turkish coffee is at best a poor espresso and if you go to the café and ask for a coffee you’ll get a bloody Nescafe and don’t even get me started on the cappuccinos I’ve had) then walk the 200m to the bus station to get the bus to Canakkale

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Hello Pamukkale

Last night after watching Fenerbache go 2 goals behind before half time I decided to leave Mr Blues and go to bed at a reasonable time. In the morning I went online to check out the result. They managed to get back into the match, draw level and win it on penalties! Damn…missed a good game of football.

Today I repacked my rucksack slightly better than previously but it’s still too heavy!

I thought about catching a minibus to the station but the taxi rank was just to close for me to ignore. Besides it’s only money.

The bus ride was an easy 3.5 hours to Denizil. Once again, the road snaked over the mountains and slivered across the valleys and plains. From the approach to Denizil down into the valley, I could see the reason for why I was coming here. Across the valley several miles away was the natural wonder at Pamukkale.
At this distance it looked like a seagull’s dropping on a khaki jacket. (Don’t worry the view got better)

Once I had disembarked at the station it was straight on board a minibus for the 20 minute ride to the village of Pamukkale.

I got off on “Main Street” and followed the signs to the hostel that I had booked online a few days earlier.

It’s the off season now for tourists and they are busy refurbishing the hostel in time for the start of the new season that starts next month. On the ground floor outside all the rooms were cupboards, dressers, beds and mattress lying around in various heaps and piles.
On the plus side, my second floor room had already been finished and the beds got a duvet…it doesn’t take much to make me happy these days!

I settled in and then went for a walk around the village. Ten minutes later I was back at the hostel. Yep! It’s a small village. I did come across somewhere to eat so, I am hopping back into “town” for dinner tonight. You never know might even find a place showing the Chelsea match…now that would be nice!

Two nights should be long enough here. The 6 nations are on over the weekend and somewhere in Selcuk should be showing it. In the morning I’ll once again be with camera.

Thursday the 6th of March

Today was a day for walking. The reason for my visit here in Pamukkale was to check out the old ruined city of Hierapolis and of the course the Travertines.

Firstly the travertines. The award for how to completely ruin the thing that has drawn people here for centuries goes to: The Local Turkish Government! Way to go guys!!! (In the 1990s the local authorities undertook a development campaign meant to improve the spa and increase tourism. Misconceived in some ways, the development, along with changes in Turkey's entire tourism picture, resulted in fewer visitors.)

Despite this it was still worth coming. The entrance is just across the road from the village. The day was overcast but bright so the sunlight was reflecting diffusely off the white of the calcium deposits.
It’s about a 300m walk along the path and you have to go barefooted. This I found out near the top when a tourist policeman shouted “Oi, shoes off”. Is putting up a sign Sooooo difficult!
Although the amount of water that travels across the escarpment is now zero (and you are no longer allowed to walk off the path) it is still an amazing geological event. At least it is still here unlike the one in New Zealand.

Once you reach the top the 1st place to go to is the small museum. It has 3 large vaulted rooms in what was the old bath house. The rest of the bath house is closed to the public due to ongoing excavation works.

From there you are free to roam and I did.

1st to the southern Byzantine gate, along old goat paths to the restored theatre. Then more goat paths to the church built on the site where Saint Philip was meant to of come a cropper i.e. martyred. After that, yep, more goat paths to the unrestored theatre (my personal favourite). Passing through the necropolis on my way to the northern end of the site.
After that a slow meander back down the travertines.

In the evening I went back to the travertines. The place is lit up at night and I hoped to take some adequate shots (notice I didn’t use the word good…for that I would need a tripod)