Turkey 2015

My 1st "proper" overseas holiday in a long time - no computers to set-up\repair, just sights to see and photograph. 2 weeks before Christmas 2015 was spent in Turkey - 1st week a cultural tour of Cappadocia and the 2nd week a free week to do what you wanted (go all inclusive and never leave the hotel or breakfast only and do what you wanted each day).

Saturday 5th December

Departed Friday 4th December – arrived at check-in, thought I may have been charged excess baggage but managed to get away with not having to pay anything.

After a 4-and-a-half-hour flight, which did not take off until 2000 (expected departure was 1850), landed in Antalya. Flight was bit bumpy and some passengers appeared not to able to understand that when the seat belt light was on you were meant to stay in your seat and put your seat belt on!! No free in flight meal, but option to buy something – by the time the cart got to my seat all hot meals and most of the sandwiches were gone (only sandwiches left were veggie wraps) so ended up with a pot of instant noodles.

Arrived Antalya at 12.30, 2.30 local time, after clearing customs found the bus/tour guide (Gokhan) and after a further hour travel arrived at our 1st hotel – a golf resort!! Checked in and then attempted to find my room, place is maze and not the best signposted so went wrong once with a few other guests!!

Fortunately not too early a start, breakfast between 7-9.30, had mine ate about 9. Impressive breakfast – buffet style with widest variety of food I have seen for a breakfast buffet. Welcome meeting at 10.30, where those who wanted to book the additional “explorer” package could and Gorkhan took names for a hot air balloon ride (which I signed up for).

Shortly after the meeting we embarked on our 1st excursion to Aspendos Theatre, the best preserved theatre from ancient times in the world, able to hold 15,000 and such good acoustics you can hear someone speaking in a normal voice from the top, after a brief history of the theatre from our guide we were when allowed 30 minutes’ free time to wander round, explorer and photograph before meeting back at the bus. 1 of the other members of the party came up to me with problem with his camera – he had bought a new memory card and it was freezing his camera, after taking the card out his camera worked fine (I leant him 1 of mine and checked his when we got back, nothing wrong with it, suspect his camera may not be able to handle the size of card he bought – haven’t sen him since got back so will see him tomorrow). After this drove over to see old aqueduct (now mainly in ruins) that had provided water from the nearby mountains to the city around the theatre (now long gone – only remains are 1 wall of the library and the ruins of the bastille (unfortunately was unable to get any photographs of these). There is a village next to these that the guide advised we would not be stopping at to look round, as the 1’s in Cappadocia are more interesting and cheaper (if you want souvenirs). Stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a bridge that had replaced a Roman 1 that had collapsed in an earthquake – new bridge in “S” shape to help avoid undermining by the river current. All members of the group as well last the guide and driver impressed with my camera gear!

Returned to hotel and had the rest of the day to ourselves, I spent the time wandering round the grounds and outside the grounds to take photograph’s (got stopped by security on the way back in and had to show my room key as proof I was a guest), while wandering round had 2 men ask me to take they’re photograph! 1 was in an access road below me who whistled up and indicated he wanted his picture taken and the other was taxi driver who also had his friend pose with him (there is a taxi “office” outside the gate to the hotel). Dinner was served between 6.30pm and 9pm, so was in for dinner as soon as they started serving – as with breakfast huge choice of food and eat what you like (only drinks had to be paid for)

Tomorrow is an early start, departing 7am due to the fact we are now embarking on the main part of the tour – exploring around Cappadocia (a distance of 750Km, 466 miles) from Antalya. Will be interesting to see if the next hotel is as big as the 1 we have stayed at the past 2 nights – most of us keep getting lost and several are finding the distance from the main entrance to their rooms too far.

Sunday 6th

Drove to Cappadocia, left 7.15 arrived around 6pm. Crossed the highest point you can access by road, the Alacabel Pass (1825m). Stopped at Mevlana Museum & tomb (Mevalana & his own son are buried here) followed by lunch in Konya. Drove to Urgup, saw 1 of the 3 volcanoes (Erciyes, Hasan and Melendiz Dağları – all dormant) in the region – Hasan, frustrated as could not stop for photo’s till around the back of the volcano – photo’s not as good as if taken from roadside. During trip the guide gave a talk on the history of Turkey and on some of the customs\traditions of the country.

Arrived Urgupe, checked in and then booked balloon ride – another even earlier start than today, 5.30!!!!!

Monday 7th

May have been an early start but well worth it, the perfect start to a perfect day of exploration & photography of the area. Saw the 2nd of the 3 volcanoes Erciyes (unfortunately will not see the 3rd – Melendiz Dağları).

Balloon flight was fantastic – sunrise from a balloon is 1 of those special experiences in life that can’t be beaten! Balloon hold’s 20 and there were roughly 50 gallons in the air today.   During the flight the pilot, Mustafa, dropped the balloon into various valleys and climbed to a perfect height to see the countryside, afterward there was a glass of champagne, piece of cake and certificates given out (mine had the wrong name – spelt Clih not Cliff, advised the pilot and he arranged a replacement!! then back to the hotel for breakfast and off to explore more of Kapadokya. 1st stop was an underground house that is now a museum (privately owned but government funded), the region is covered in these dwelling’s – biggest can hold up to 4000 people in underground city’s. Then off to visit various valley’s for photo opportunity’s before lunch. Afternoon was a visit to an underground house still occupied (more of a shop than a house now), wander round this village, drove round to another occupied cave house (this 1 more of a summer house for the owner, who now lives in a town, but is happy to show the property to visitors and gives a really good impression of how the house’s would’ve looked at the time (last permanently occupied in the 1960’s), round to have a look at the fairy chimneys and then off to the whirling dervish show.

Tuesday 8th

A more reasonable start, 9am departure. Today is the final day in Kapadoyka – visited carpet co-operative to see rugs being made, visited Ortahisar (went up its castle – bit nerve racking as 1 point is a staircase bolted to the outside – not for the faint hearted!!), next on the agenda was the Goreme Open air museum (over 100 cave churches (only 6 accessible) some with Fresco’s (not allowed to take photo’s – guards in them).

Wednesday 9th

Left Urgup at 7.am, stopped at 2 caravanserai, 2nd had to pay for (more interesting inside). Coach pulled over twice by police roadblocks for spot checks. On drive down the guide gave a bit more info on history – more modern this time, about the issues between Turkey & Russia (due to Russia’s ban on food imports a kilo of tomatoes has gone down from 4tl to 1) and the changing relationship between Turkey and the Kurds (for the better).

Arrived back at the 1st hotel we stayed at on arrival, wasn’t meant to be the same but for some reason it is. Different room this time, no proper desk area to work on the laptop – but still a decent room (Wi-Fi still slow and unresponsive). Tomorrow another 7am start, no idea why as next few trips all in the area.

Discovered that the driver is not being paid – is only on a salary at peak periods, Gokhan advised of this and said that the driver relies on tips and what he makes from the bottled water (5tl as much as you want).

Thursday 10th

Today started with visits to a jewellery and leather manufacturer. Disappointed in both – trip information provided stated that would see jewellery & leather goods being made, neither was the case both were shops selling these items’.

After these 2 visits & lunch stop in Antalya, meant to be a guided walk but too many of the group have mobility issues (including the guide) so instead we were left to our own devices – I walked through the old town with a couple (1 of whom is a photographer also) – discovered that my camera had switched from shooting to the SD card to shooting to the CF card, no way to access and have not been able to find a way to copy the photos from CF to SD in camera!!).

Day ended with booking into the last hotel before the final 1 were we will spend our 2nd week – worst so far, my room has 3 power points not properly fitted to the wall.

Discovered today that my single room supplement may be invalid as has been added to the wrong part of the contract, this affects me & 3 others on the trip and was flagged up by another member of the group (Dave) who is involved in an advocacy group based on the isle of Lewis. Had a meeting with all of us and there are also problem’s with the T&C’s!!

Friday 11th

Lazy day today, no sites visited apart from a waterfall near the hotel (not advised of the by Gokhan as 4 years previously had told a group and 1 went off the edge!!!).

Only thing done today was transfer to the final hotel were the 2nd week will be spent. As we checked in bell boys unloaded so driver could leave quickly (several more buses were due on the same day). At 3.30pm had a guide of the new site by the resort guide (Emir – Gokhen’s job is now down and he has returned to his family and an 8 week break until the peak season re-starts).

New hotel very nice, my room is away from the main building, there are several room blocks dotted around the site, so have a short walk to get to the main building for food\drinks. 1st order of business was getting a laundry done so I have enough clean kit for the rest of the 2nd week, the Turkish people do not use plugs (I discovered this after asking Emir about no plug in my room, so had to use a sock to plug the sink to allow me to get a basin full for washing (now hanging up wherever I could find space (and had the heating on to dry as quickly as possible (though whenever I leave the room the heating switches off as door key doubles up as an energy saving device – goes in a slot inside the door and when you leave and take the key out switches everything off). Although there is a laundry service provided is quite expensive (1 t-shirt = €4 [£2.89], 1 pair of socks €3 [£2.17], 1 pair underpants €1 [72p]).

Have booked 1 excursion already, a trip up a mountain on a cable car, and am considering 2 or possibly 3 more (though will depend as 2 are on the same day so may not be doable).

Saturday 12th

A quiet, lazy, day. Walked into the nearest town for a look round – over 90% of the shops shut due to end of main tourist season and a lot of the shop signs in Russian. Booked 2 more excursions, so that is most of the rest of my time now organized (unless the organized walk gets enough interest and is re-arranged for Thursday).

Weather today has been cool, overcast and short rain showers.

Complaints about RSD and the current hotel are continuing to be made to Dave – problems with the tour\tour guides and issue with the hotel (window frames incorrectly fitted, poor service form hotel staff).

Sunday 13th

Walked into town again, as sunnier wanted to try some of the shots I had taken yesterday again with the better light. Rest of the morning spent by the pool and swimming in the pool (very cold water!! water is altered sea water – still has a briny taste\smell).

Afternoon spent, again by the pool reading until too cool to carry on so back to the hotel room to watch a film on Netflix (for some reason had not saved my password – worked fine yesterday!!). After dinner came back to the room to do photo’s (found a way to copy images in camera so am now up to date with my editing:-)) and get my bag ready for tomorrow (off up the cable car).

Monday 14th

Today had an excursion up Mount Olympos by cable car followed by a visit to the ruined city of Olympos. Another excellent guide (1st name unpronounceable, she told the group what it was, so uses a shortened version of her surname – Noor)

Trip up the cable car was great for views, not as cold as I expected (anticipated needing fleece, waterproof jacket hat and gloves at the top – but only needed the fleece and hat). Used super telephoto lens to take a photograph of the hotel from the top (most of the hotel is sheltered by trees so only had main building to guide location. Guide impressed with the super telephoto – her 2 brothers are photographers so knows a bit about camera’s.

After a fantastic lunch (freshly caught fish, restaurant has fish tanks on site and kills fish as required – so I believe) traveled over to ruined city of Olympos (which may be gone completely in a few years due to earthquakes and cost of restoring (too expensive to fully excavate and restore, also there are many more ancient site’s that require excavating – both current and new 1’s being found). Olympus are “ancient ruins, dating back to the second-century B.C., are all that remain of an important Lycian city that became abandoned in the 15th century” (source: TripAdvisor). The town also contains the grave site of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Most of the ruins are accessible but only for those with a good level of mobility (1 of the party took a shorter route direct to the beach which misses out the bulk of the ruins. Many interesting sites – different types of buildings, a fortress (which is too difficult to access), churches, homes (1 with original mosaic flooring still viewable though not intact. Last part of this was getting to the beach – great views of Mount Olympos (had the super telephoto out again, but also took wide angle shots.

Arrived back at the hotel around 4\4.30 – downloaded photo’s, had dinner and then back to my room to edit the photos.

Tuesday 15th

Excursion to Perge (Roman ruins, pronounced: per-gay)) and Kursunlu Waterfall. Different guide today, but again excellent (2 of the lady’s in the party he called “Lady Marshall” (real name Janet – she has no idea why he calls her this) & “Lady Queen” (“Why doesn’t he just call me Brenda”).

1st stop on today’s trip was to the ancient city of Perge, before entering the city had a look at the stadia (34×234 m. and it dates back to 2nd century AD with a capacity of 12000 people), there is also a theatre but this is currently closed for restoration.

Description of Perge from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perga:

Perga or Perge (Greek: Πέργη Perge, Turkish: Perge) was an ancient Anatolian city in modern Turkey, once the capital of Pamphylia Secunda, now in Antalya province on the southwestern Mediterranean coast of Turkey. Today it is a large site of ancient ruins 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) east of Antalya on the coastal plain.

Our guide gave us a tour of the stadia then 15 minutes’ free time before we entered the main city and a tour around part of this (the tour took in roughly a quarter of the actual city – this was enough to get a feel for the city and some of the group had ability problems so, also, enough for them to be walking around – we were given 45 minutes’ free time to look around so I managed to explore the rest of the site myself). Fascinating to see the stone that chariots had risen over (twin ruts in this), how the city was laid out (even today is unusual for the site to flood due to the drainage put in by the Romans), areas used for shops, bath house (a large building with different areas – changing, training\fighting, wash & relaxation area’s – there are 2 of these in the city, 1 near the main gate and another further in) and the “canal” running down the middle of the main street (used to cool the city, for traders to clean their shops and, when necessary, was plugged to “flood” the main street for cleaning). 2 hours was spent at this site before heading off for lunch (nice but not as good as yesterday’s), I got back to the bus nice & sweaty as weather is warm and sunny and I had been moving to see as much of the ruins as possible [guide passed me a packet of napkins to wipe away the sweat and said “I provide a full service”!!:-)].

After much next stop was Kursunlu Waterfall, before we went in the guide asked me if 1 hour would be enough time to look around (due to my camera gear I think the guides are trying to give the party’s I am in as much time as possible to get all the photographs we want, especially me!!!). After visiting the falls, on the way back up saw a bride & groom with a couple of bridesmaids and 3 members of the party I was in – groom invited 1 of our party to join them for a photo – I took a couple of shots and now have the grooms e-mail address to send him copy’s.

As at most places there are “official” photographers who will take your photo and then print out either on paper or a plate as a souvenir – I have managed to avoid most of these due to my kit, 2 today expressed surprise after asking if I was a pro and I replied no just a hobby. Waterfalls interesting (though would be more spectacular if there had been more rain (none since the weekend) but interesting enough.

Arrived back at the hotel at 6, after dropping of my kit returned to the main building for a drink and to check with Emir about Thursday (he caught up with me in the bar, advised that there was 8 people booked, that if I booked I would make 9 and he would be the 10th – so that is me booked on my final excursion (a hike – though just a short 1, leave the hotel 1300 arrive back about 1630\1700) and have also booked a massage for the final day also (after the hike – 1800). Had a drink with Emir in the bar then dinner and back to the room.

Edited the days’ photos and then tried attaching photo’s to an e-mail to send to the groom – but not having it, will try when I get back to Scotland.

Wednesday 16th

Excursion to Myra and boat trip (glass bottom – 4 openings to glass viewing points, all fairly dirty so not able to see much). 2-hour drive from Terikova, where the hotel is situated. Same guide as Tuesday’s trip, but different driver.   This led to an interesting confrontation between the 2, driver was regularly using his phone while driving, Noor asked him 5 times to stop, this led to an argument between the 2 and Noor phoning her agency and the driver’s to complain and see if we could get a replacement bus or driver, driver shouting at Noor while on the phone, driver then phoned his agency and Noor shouting at him while he was on the phone – we needed up keeping both the bus and the driver, but the driver had to apologize to Noor and not use this phone again behind the wheel (which is also illegal in Turkey – although everyone does it) – apparently driver was on his final warning for his behavior (not sure if it was only phone sue or not) so he may now not be employed by his agency.

Boat we were on is captained by a woman and her son acts as crew, tours leave from the village of Ucagiz.   Although the “glass bottom” was a little disappointing rest of the trip on the boat was well worth it – excellent views of Simena Fortress and ancient sunken city of Simena. Not able to see much due to state of glass on bottom of boat, but there are still ruins on the island (now uninhabited) and the old harbor wall is still visible under the surface.

Below description of the area from http://lycianturkey.com/lycian_sites/kekova_simena.htm:

Simena is a popular Lycian site, situated upon one of the most attractive spots of the Turkish coast.  The name “Kekova” is Turkish for “plain of thyme” and describes the region encompassing the island of Kekova, the villages of Kaleköy and Üçağiz and the three ancient towns of Simena, Teimussa and Tersane (meaning “shipyard”, as its bay was the site of an ancient shipyard, with mostly Byzantine ruins).  Both Simena and Teimussa have a large necropolis.  Teimussa is now the village of Üçağiz, where boats set off for tours of the area.

The Kekova region was declared a Specially Protected Area in 1990 to protect the natural, cultural and geographic richness of Kekova Island and surrounding coast. The Kekova Specially Protected Area is 260 km² and is managed by the Ministry of Environment, Authority for the Protection of Special Areas.

Kekova-Simena is an enjoyable place to visit for its great beauty and charm.  For this reason, it is popular with yachties (known to them as “Kekova Roads”) on their Blue Cruises along Lycia’s Turquoise Coast.  In fact, cruising yachts often anchor here for several weeks at a time.  It is a peaceful place of history, gorgeous turquoise water, sun, islands, un-spoilt nature, blue skies and wonderful(!!) swimming.

The ancient Lycian sunken city of Simena is often referred to as Kekova-Simena.   The city is a charming mix of ancient, medieval and modern history making it interesting as well as beautiful.  In ancient times Simena was a small fishing village and was later an outpost of the Knights of Rhodes (formerly of St. John).

The ancient city of Simena was once of two parts – an island and a coastal part of the mainland.  On the mainland the charming fishing village of Kaleköy (“castle village”) stands today, its buildings mingling with ancient and medieval structures.  The top of the village is dominated by a well-preserved castle built by the Knights of Rhodes partially upon ancient Lycian foundations. Inside the castle is the smallest amphitheatre of Lycia. At the eastern end of the village is a Lycian necropolis with a cluster of some very nice sarcophagi overlooking the sea and surrounded by ancient olive trees.  Near the harbor of Kaleköy is another sarcophagus, popping up from the water.  Across the bay, along the island are the half-submerged ruins of the residential part of Simena, caused by the downward shift of land by the terrible earthquakes of the 2nd century AD.  Half of the houses are submerged and staircases descend into the water.  Foundations of buildings and the ancient harbor are also seen below the sea.

This part of the trip was followed by lunch (during which the driver and guide settled their differences). Buffet style with drinks extra (as has been the norm on the whole trip), this restaurant had fresh orange juice, squeezed to order, 1st 1 we have been to that has this – which, considering this is a crop grown in the region, seems strange!

2nd part of the day was a visit to the church of Saint Nicholas and Myra, another ancient ruin situated about 1.5km (just under a mile) north of today’s Demre. Quote from http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/myra-church/:

The church to honor Saint Nicholas and contain his tomb was built in AD 520 on the foundations of the older Christian church where Saint Nicholas served as bishop. Over time the river changed course and the church filled with silt and was buried (the pictures show it is fifteen-to-twenty feet below ground level). In 1862 Russian Tsar Nicholas I restored the church, adding the tower and making other changes to its Byzantine architecture. The church is regarded as the 3rd most important Byzantine structure in Anatolia. It is noted for the remarkable wall frescos, its architectural and its religious significance.

Noor gave a short tour explain different aspects of the church, then 30 minutes’ free time to wander round and photograph as we wish (though Noor asked that no flash be used on the Fresco’s, as this can cause them to fade – I have no flash on my camera so no issue there).

After the church on to Myra, below description of Myra from http://www.lycianturkey.com/lycian_sites/myra.htm:

Myra was a leading city of the Lycian Union and surpassed Xanthos in early Byzantine times to become the capital city of Lycia.  Its remains are situated about 1.5 km north of today’s Demre, on the Kaş-Finike road. Most of the ancient city is now covered by Demre and alluvial silts, for it is located on the river Demre Cay in a fertile alluvial plain.  Today this large plain is almost covered with greenhouses stuffed full of tomatoes.  In ancient times this area was probably farmed extensively, for export and trade with the interior of Lycia.

The date of Myra’s foundation is unknown.  There is no literary mention of it before the 1st century BC, when it is said to be one of the six leading cities of the Lycian Union (the other five were Xanthos, Tlos, Pinara, Patara and Olympos).  It is believed to date back much further however, as an outer defensive wall has been dated to the 5th century BC.

The city is well known for its amphitheatre (the largest in Lycia) and the plethora of rock-cut tombs carved in the cliff above the theatre.

The origin of Myra’s name is uncertain and may be a modified form of a Lycian name, like Tlos and Patara.  The name was popularly associated with the Greek name for myrrh and the emperor Constantine Porphrogenitus described the city as “Thrice blessed, myrrh-breathing city of the Lycians, where the mighty Nicolaus, servant of God, spouts forth myrrh in accordance with the city’s name.”  However, Myra does not seem to be known for its production of myrrh, the only product actually recorded is rue.

Once again Noor walked us round giving a talk about the ruins and the history of the area, was not happy that a stone carving of Medusa, that had been in excellent condition, was now damaged (after she had finished her talk and advised when we were due back at the bus went off to have words with site staff\security).

During the drive back Noor have me her e-mail address and asked if I could send her some photographs that I had taken, as had problems yesterday will do this when get back to Scotland.

On the legal issues flagged by Dave, as mentioned previously, things are getting interesting – Someone back on Lewis has spoken to a Guardian reporter (that they know) for them to investigate. The person got hold of a copy of the T&C’s, showed it to a top advocate in Edinburgh who responded that they would be very interested in taking on the case (Dave is going to do it himself).

Thursday 17th

Easy day today – no excursions till this afternoon. Walked into town in the morning to get food and drink for the flight home tomorrow, bought 1ltr of juice 6 cakes & 2 packets of biscuits & was cheaper than a drink in a restaurant!!!!!

Afternoon was a walk up to the Chimera ”(Yanartaş), the eternal flames on a rocky mountainside above Çıralı village near Olympus is a fascinating natural phenomenon: about a dozen flames issue from a mass of rock with no apparent fuel to sustain them.

The flames are burning a sort of methane gas that has been venting from the earth on this rocky slope for thousands of years.

In ancient times, mariners passing by along the Mediterranean coast below used the bright flames as a landmark on their voyage.

Today the only travelers’ assistance provided by the flames is the ease of brewing tea for hikers along the Lycian Way, which passes the spot.” description from: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/go/med/olimpos/chimera.html.

To get to the start was a short bus ride from the hotel. Total of 10 people went, so a small group compared to normal for an excursion. Although was clearly marked as a hike only 2 people had the correct footwear (proper hiking boots), Myself and Tony (who was on the same bus as me around Kapadokya and has done 1 other trip that I have also done), the guide and shoes that were just suitable others had footwear that was completely unsuitable (1 person had slip-on trainers!). The hike is roughly 3 kilometers (2 miles) up hill, there is a proper path but the stone used to create the path is slippery and so avoided as much as possible. At the flames there is a ruined church, most still underground, with a fresco that is now faded by time and vandalism.

To finish off the day I had booked a massage. This involved:

  1. Being led in to the steam room by the masseuse and left for a few minutes to relax in the steam.
  2. Exfoliation scrub. 1st warm water was poured all over and then the masseuse rubbed you down with an exfoliation cloth.
  3. More warm water pored over.
  4. Sudsy wash.
  5. Shoulders in particular were tight so gave the masseuse a challenge (or so it seemed – masseuse was quite, he was Turkish and English was not the greatest)!
  6. Finished off with a face pack.

Friday 18th

Flew home – heavy security at Antalya International, security before you get to check in, security after check in and random bag searches before boarding the plane.

Uneventful flight – had to disembark and re-embark at Manchester before continuing to Glasgow.  Plane was pretty empty on the way to Glasgow – no other passengers had embarked at Manchester, as would normally be the case.  Landing in Glasgow was interesting – due to wet weather the runway was wet so the pilot had to “slam” the lane on to the tarmac to get a grip!