WONDERS OF TURKEY
INSIGHT VACATIONS

Wonders of Turkey is a 11 day Insight regional tour of Turkey, starting and ending in Istanbul.

TURKEY - TRAVEL LOG

Thursday
May 15
I landed at Istanbul airport and had to queue for over an hour and a half to clear immigration. This has to be the worst organized and least efficient airport I have seen, making phone calls whilst people wait in a huge queue. Again my baggage had come off the carousel whilst we were held up. We then waited for a further half hour with the Insight transfer to get all the people they were expecting. The transfers from the airport to the hotel was another hour and we arrived late missing the Insight welcome reception.
Friday
May 16
We set off on our sight seeing tour of Istanbul - first stop the Topaki Palace. We visited the palace treasury with its priceless artifacts and had a look at the various other buildings around the courtyard. The courtyard had numerous hollow trees. We proceeded to the Hagia Sofia museum, which was being restored, and then had lunch exploring the Grand Bazaar. The Bazaar wasn't as overwhelming as I was expecting and I was quite comfortable strolling through the stalls, however i didn't buy anything as I needed to get used to haggling and to the Turkish Lira.

That afternoon we set off an a charter boat cruise of the Bosphorus to see the buildings along its banks. Turkish Efes beer tastes very similar to Egyptian beer... very nice!
Saturday
May 17
Still in Istanbul we visited the Blue Mosque, before departing the city for Gallipoli.

On arrival we visited ANZAC cove, Lone Pine cemetery (the furthermost point for the Australian troops) and Chunuk Bair, the furthermost point the New Zealanders reached and where Ataturk was wounded. We continued on, catching the fairy to Canakkale in time to witness sunset over the Dardanelles.
Sunday
May 18
We departed Cannakale for Homer's legendary ancient city of Troy. I had been warned not to expect too much, but we got their early before the other tour groups and so was able to have what was there largely to ourselves. Excavations have concluded that nine levels of the city of Troy have existed. Each level replacing the previous. These include Troy VII of 1200BC as detailed in Homer's epic story. A giant replica of the wooden horse exists for the tourists.

We carried on to Pergamon where we visited the Asklepion, one of the healing centres of the ancient world. I was anticipating visiting the Acropolis as I had seen at Berlin's museum island just two weeks earlier, but they no longer offered that due to a new cable car being installed that no insurance company would cover tourists for. The Asklepion was situated beside an army training base and therefore photography was strictly limited. What we saw was very good, but it was not the big ticket item we were lead to believe. Why go to Pergamon if you don't see the Acropolis?

After Pergamon we carried on to our hotel in Izmir where we walked along the harbour to the Aegean and had a beer. That evening we had dinner on the 34th floor at apparently an altitude much higher than any window cleaner would dear to go.
Monday
May 19
Continuing on the tour, we arrived in Ephesus. Ephesus was much more like what I was hoping for. It was long and sprawling with many excavated treasures, a mosaic walkway, along with the famous theatre and library. We started at the Odeon and small Agora moving to the exit beyond the theatre. the main agora was rather empty and i managed to see (and hear) a snake there. We weren't able to visit the museum as it was closed.

We also visited the house of the Virgin Mary and St John's basilica overlooking what remains of the temple of Artemis and across from the Ayasoluk Fortress from the 5th century. That evening we arrived in Kusadasi where hotels are being built by the dozen. We had drinks and an introduction to our fellow passengers.
Tuesday
May 20
We left Kusadasi stopping off at a leather factory for a fashion show, apple tea and some pressure sales. The tea went down well the pressure sales didn't.

Next stop was Pamukkale and Hierapolis where the ancient Greeks had settled a community around the thermal pools for the healing powers. Outlets for one of the thermal gases once was poisonous and so the Greeks built the Plutonium around it believing it to be the gates of Hades. A later earthquake stopped these poisonous gases but one wonders how many slaves were lost erecting the building around it. The best preserved building in Hierapolis has to be the Theatre although other various ruins dotted the landscape. Pamukkale was where the sulfur was carried by water over the rocks forming these white marble like pools. Russian tourists seem to flock to these pools.
Wednesday
May 21
Today we had the long 9 hour trek from Pumakkale to Cappadocia. We had two main stops along the way the first was Konya, home of the Whirling Dervishes, to see the Mevlana Tekka museum.

We continued on to a caravanserai at Aksaray. This is the best preserved example built by the Sultan, to offer a safe haven for traders along the Silk road.

Another shopping stop. This time at a carpet factory where they demonstrated their double knot and explained the wool on wool, wool on Cotton, cotton on cotton and silk carpets. This demonstration offered another opportunity to sample the apple tea.

That evening we arrived in Cappadocia where I discovered the top of the Goreme open air museum near our hotel.
Thursday
May 22
Exploring Cappadocia we started off with the fairy-chimney rock structures of the Pasabag valley. We then visited the underground city of Kaymakli surrounded by a mini bazaar to catch the tourists as they left. Continuing on we visited the Goreme open air museum with the painted churches and various cave like dwellings. Two churches featured just red paint and minimalistic pre-iconic design. The other three had Byzantine influence with ornate decoration in many colours. One cave church had a green background for the first half and blue for the second half, carved out 100 years later.

That evening we were treated to a performance of various local dances. The whirling was very impressive with the performer continuing on without getting dizzy. After four beers that couldn't be said for me!
Friday
May 23
The day started with a visit to a pottery factory that had some very nice designs and apple tea. My main point of interest was next. The Museum of Anatonian Civilizations in the capital Ankara. Highlights for me were the neolithic collection from Chatel haruk and the Hittite collection featuring various types of written language.

We then visited the Mausoleum of Ataturk spending time in the museum and watching the changing of the guard.
Saturday
May 24
We departed Ankara for the 6 hour drive back to Istanbul. On arrival we had our farewell dinner down in the water front area of Ortakoy before heading back to the hotel where we preceded to the 14th floor for a drink.
Sunday
May 25
The group disbanded for their various other destinations or homeward bound. A small gaggle of us remained until our transfers in the afternoon. We headed in to town to visit the Roman Cistern. This wasn't as crowded as the main sites and was cool in the heat of the day. We proceeded to the Grand bazaar only to discover that it was closed on a Sunday. Darn - no last minute bargains. We had lunch before using the tram to return to the hotel for our airport transfers.

The transfers were early picking us up at 3:40pm which was good because the airport was a nightmare. I lost my watch in the first set of security x-rays. We then queued for 1 hour 45mins at the check in. Then a further hour at passport control before yet another xray scan. At this stage despite getting there early we were now running on fumes getting to the departure gate at 8pm, to find the flight had been delayed.

All up I really enjoyed Turkey and found the tour to be a good introduction to the country. Our tour guide Saba was awesome! The only let downs being Istanbul airport who's inefficiency and poor planning gives a poor first and last impression of the country, and missing out on the acropolis at Pergamon.

RETURNING HOME

The largest skyscraper in the world is found in Dubai. This shot from the van transfers back to the airport for my flight home.

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