It’s fun to have visitors here, but it’s also fun for us to travel with our guests. While my sister was here we went to Croatia, we went to Pompeii with my parents and grandma, and at the beginning of Katie and Jim’s trip we went to Rome. For the end of Katie’s trip, we wanted to do another “excursion”, so we did a little research, got some suggestions, and booked a trip to Turkey for 9 days.
Usually we plan our trips ourselves, but Turkey seemed a little daunting to us, so we ended up finding a tour with G Adventures. They’re a really great tour company – they have small tours (there were only 11 people in our group), local guides, and a nice balance of scheduled activities and free time to explore on your own. One or two meals a day is usually included, and the rest you can do on your own. The guide will usually pick a restaurant they are going to go for dinner that night, and you can choose to go with them, or not. I did a trip with a similar company when I went to Thailand, and I think it’s a really great way to travel. They’re also very affordable.
Turkey was wonderful; all three of us were very happy with the trip. We didn’t plan well for the weather (we had to do a little shopping there for warmer clothes), but it was beautiful, the food is great, and we had a really fun time.
Plus, Turkey has TONS of cats everywhere. And they’re all healthy and well taken care of and friendly. Paradise for a cat lover.
We had been a bit concerned with everything we have been reading in the news about what’s going on at the border with Syria and other ISIS related things, but we felt absolutely no danger or threat.
Our trip started in Istanbul, which is an amazing city that straddles the European and Asian continents. It’s massive and full of history and beautiful mosques, churches, and other sights. We got in late and had dinner, and then left the next morning for the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Gallipoli is the site of the WWI battle between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied powers. The Allies, mostly New Zealanders and Australians, landed at Anzac Cove in April 1915, and fought a long, miserable, losing battle against Ottoman forces before evacuating in December and January. The battle is very significant for both the Turks and the Australians and New Zealanders for similar reasons. For both, the battle is a source of national pride and led to the formation of their own identities and nations. It is something of a pilgrimage site, and thousands of people come every year to celebrate Anzac Day. Thousands of men lost their lives there, and they are beautifully remembered.
From Gallipoli, we went to Canakkale where we stayed overnight, saw the Trojan horse used in the movie Troy, ate baklava, and wandered the city a bit.
Next we toured the city of Troy. It isn’t the best preserved of the ancient cities, but there are impressive layers (literally) of history there dating back over three thousand years. The city had been thought to be a legend until it was discovered in the mid 1800s.
In Ayvalik, we chartered a boat and went for a little cruise. The weather wasn’t ideal, but a few of us (not me) still swam. The coastline and water were beautiful. After the boat ride, we tracked down some Irish Coffee to help warm us up.
We stayed that night in an old Ottoman mansion that had been converted into a guest house. It was charming, and had amazing views.
One of the highlights of the trip was Pamukkale, white cliffs of travertine hot springs where we swam. They weren’t all full when we were there, but these photos give a better view of what they can look like.
That night we saw Whirling Dervishes. The Dervishes are part of the Mevlevi Order, and the “whirling” is part of a religious ceremony and spiritual connection. Since it is a ceremony, and not a show, we were not allowed to take photos. They came back out after the ceremony though and let us photograph. It was really amazing to see. It’s almost trance like.
The next morning we took an early flight back to Istanbul where we had a guided tour one day, and then spent another two days on our own before our flights home. We saw the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, the Basilica Cistern (which is huge, beautiful and amazing), the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, walked across the Galata Bridge, and saw the Topkapi palace.
So far I’ve said this about everywhere I’ve gone, but I’d love to return to Turkey. We only saw a small part of the country, and there is so much more.