we didn’t find any roast turkey in turkey - Istanbul, Turkey - 20 July 2012 

If I could only write about one aspect of my time in Turkey, it would be on the friendliness of the people. In all honesty, the Turks are the friendliest I have ever experienced, beating - by a length and a bit - the Cambodians or Thais. Without fail, they will strike up a conversation on the bus or on the street corner if you look lost, or merely unengaged. Whilst in India, or other unnamed asian states, I’ve always had a heightened sense of reservation or apprehension, the need for such a closed facade is dissipated in Turkey - only common sense required.

R (Australia) and I headed back to Istanbul from Gallipoli for the night before our early morning flights. We took the opportunity to stay in the modern area of Istanbul (Taksim Square) as opposed to the Old Town (Sulthanamet). This decision was a good one, and it reversed our previous fortunes of failing to find decent food in Istanbul. Travel tip - getting out of the tourist trap that is Sulthanamet is the key - and even if one wants to visit the sights in Sulthanamet, it is only a short tram ride away.

S (Turkey), who I met in Switzerland earlier in the year, had sent me through a list of ‘to-do’ places in Istanbul off the beaten track. Unfortunately, we couldn’t catch up with S because she was out of Istanbul for the summer, but we did try one of her recommendations - Kafe Ara - run by famed Turkish photographer Ara Guler. A really cool, hip, place with large Guler images on the wall - and great food for next to nothing!

The area east of Taksim Square has a real modern, cosmopolitan European vibe - with funky cafes, and fresh ideas.

After 10 days, and too many hours on the bus, that’s it for this Turkish jaunt. I’m off to Athens today for some more ruins and island hopping!

we will remember them - Gallipoli, Turkey - 19 July 2012



Gallipoli memorial at ANZAC cove.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…You are now living in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”—- Ataturk, 1934

Lone Pine

Gallipoli, Turkey         (19 July 2012) 

modern musings and ancient wanderings - Selcuk and Ephesus, Turkey - 16-17 July 2012

In the middle of summer in Turkey, with beautiful hot weather, one would anticipate a plethora of tourists soaking up the sun, food and culture.

Without a doubt the hoards of tourists are here. It only takes a few hours at the old Greco-Roman city of Ephesus to rub shoulder to shoulder with 50 different nationalities and languages. And by rub, I mean literally share sweat.  It is no surprise that Ephesus is such a big drawcard. It is, arguably, the best site for Greco-Roman ruins outside of Greece itself. The library is especially stunning, as are the remnants of the city centre itself - it allows the visitor to easily imagine the layout, structure and life of this great city of the past.

Ephesus is great and, intelligently, we made sure we visited late in the afternoon to beat the tour crowds and the beat of the sun. Result - less sweat shared.

Our experience in the neighbouring town of Selcuk, primarily geared for independent tourists visiting Ephesus only 3km down the road, was perhaps more culturally interesting.

Arriving off a hot, crowded bus from Pamukkale - on which the bus attendant (i.e. a person, but not the driver, paid to sit on the bus to make sure everything is ok - #cheapwagesftw) reminded R (Australia) and I of those obnoxious Lebanese-Australian homeboys in Sydney with his attitude - we arrived into this small touristic town surprised at its emptiness.  

As we found a local pension to stay in - private room for only 60 TL (30 AUD) for the both of us - we took the time to chat to the owner: a Turk with an Australian accent picked up from the hoards of Australians who have visited the town over the past two decades. Why was the place so quiet?

I had earlier posited one reason for the place’s quietness (and the relative decrease in tourists in Europe/Turkey)  - the economic crisis in Europe. This has resulted in disproportionately large numbers of Australians, Canadians and Americans compared to the local Europeans. A disproportion appearing epic given the already endemic trend of seeing more Australians and Canadians than any other nationality anywhere you go because of the penchant of these nationalities to travel more.

But the pension owner suggested another reason; the relative decrease in package tour prices.  Package tours are organised/booked in advance by tour companies - often a long way in advance to get cheap prices. When the economy is booming these package holidays can be sold quickly and at a premium, but since the dip they’ve become cheaper and cheaper. Real budget travellers can still beat the package holiday price - but with rising airfares and cheap (all inclusive) packages on offer, many Europeans are puckering up for a 10 day Turkey trip or cruise around the Aegean as opposed to going it independently.

The result: small tourist towns like Selcuk which cater for the independent traveller suddenly see a drop in numbers. Ephesus, located 3km down the road doesn’t. The big tour companies still stop there - either using day trips from the cruise ship port at Kusadasi, or as a stop over on the way to Pamukkale or Fetiya or somewhere else.  The family run restaurants and small five or six room pensions in Selcuk can’t, or aren’t given the chance to, accommodate or feed these tour travellers. Big companies opting for the larger restaurants designed specifically for busses, that sit conveniently next to large tourist-aimed emporiums selling rugs, jewellery and Turkish artefacts at ridiculous mark ups.

Nevertheless, we met a lot of the local business owners in Selcuk - and they exemplified my earlier observation that Turkey is probably the friendliest country I have visited.  We talked for ages with a Kurdish rug merchant who, after we admitted we’d never buy a rug from him because we have no house to put it in, invited us for tea and taught us much about the struggles of Kurdish minorities in eastern Turkey.

It happened that the conversation turned to social media and its impact on political activism and, as the Australian Democrats used to say, in ‘Keeping the Bastards Honest’.  He told of oppression from Turkish authorities and the suppression of freedom of expression in the years leading up to the internet, and more specifically, ‘youtube’. “They can’t do it to us anymore,’ he said.  ‘It?’ I asked. ‘They can’t tell the world media, what you read and see in Australia, lies about us - we have you tube.’  Life for this middle aged Kurdish man was revolutionised by the internet.

If you ever head to Turkey, be sure to check out Selcuk when you are heading to Ephesus.  The locals are very friendly and the food topped the Turkish charts for us.  Also, feel free to visit our Kurdish social commentator - ‘NomadicArtGallerySelcuk’ - on Facebook.

The chat came at a great time. I’m currently writing a paper on Social Media and International Youth Cooperation for the 23rd International Korean Youth Forum which I am heading to in Seoul, South Korea, in mid-August. After the arab spring, one reads many things about the impact of the internet on freedom and liberty.  It is an entirely different experience to hear first hand accounts. 

On the bus to Canukkale - for Gallipoli and Troy.

The library at Ephesus

Efes, Turkey        (17 July 2012) 

Ephesus

Efes, Turkey        (17 July 2012)

Travertines

Pamukkale, Turkey       (16 July 2012) 

water and ruins - Pamukkale, Turkey - 15-16 July 2012

On a balmy 30 degree night in Pamukkale, southern Turkey, we sit here with a nargile and some beer; writing, reflecting and overlooking the travertines.  Having escaped the confines of urban Turkey - one of the best decisions a traveller can make is to get into the country side - we revelled in a little town famous for two things; its travertines and old Greco-Roman ruins.



The travertines are limestone deposits created by mineral springs. In Pamukkale, they are located on the side of the hill reaching Greco-Roman ruined city of Hierapolis.  The travertine’s stunning white limestone contrasts against neutral landscape of rural southern Turkey. The pools created by the limestone are perfect for a dip when the sun is beating down at a cruel forty plus degrees Celsius.  

The ancient city of Hierapolis sits upon the top of the hill, its amphitheater being the clear highlight.


Rural Turkey is friendly and we’ve hit some much better food on this part of our Turkish travels. Off for some more ruins in Ephesus tomorrow!






 

TravertinesPamukkale, Turkey     (16 July 2012) 
TravertinesPamukkale, Turkey     (16 July 2012) 
TravertinesPamukkale, Turkey     (16 July 2012) 
TravertinesPamukkale, Turkey     (16 July 2012) 
TravertinesPamukkale, Turkey     (16 July 2012) 

Travertines

Pamukkale, Turkey     (16 July 2012) 

Why straddle two cultures, when you can ride a fusion horse? - Istanbul, Turkey - 11 - 14 July 2012

It is the city that divides the East and West.  The span of continents. It is the clash of cultures. But, these aren’t new observations. And, true to style, pick up any journalism on Istanbul and you will get some version of this rhetoric - a Lonely Planet devotes much more space than deserved to extended metaphors about the city’s location on the fence of Europe and Asia.  I could write a poem about this fence, this divide, this ‘bridge’. But, alas, I won’t. Not because it is not true to some extent, but because it really doesn’t reflect the fact that Istanbul has it’s own culture - influenced by the East and West - but particular to the place.  It is a melting pot, but out comes a unique product.

Istanbul. What’s the go? The city on the Bosphorous is beautiful.  It is modern, transport is efficient and its ocean setting is complemented by the calls to prayers and the stunning minarets piercing the sky line.

Cruising the Bosphorous. 

The architecture is fusion, but it is practical. It reminds me of asia - the hustle, the bustle - but is less dirty. It is a place where practicality takes importance over tradition (to an extent), but where the old is mixed with the new. Not only taking and adopting cultures of the East and West, but of the civilisations before; Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Christians and Islam. 

The people; incredibly friendly, chatty and welcoming. Always up for a chat about their country, their culture and life in general.

Instead of stray dogs, there are hoards of cats roaming the street.  And, unfortunately, we are yet to find the great Turkish food we have heard so much about - but maybe we just need to get out of Istanbul.
One of many tea times, looking so ‘A-for-artiste’ according to R.

Highlights obviously include the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and the Grand Bazaar - the big things! But just the wandering through the windy streets, finding cool lookouts and drinking tea in funky locations. 

I’m travelling with R (Australia), a mate I met in Copenhagen, and whilst we’ve been doing some serious swagger here - we thought we’d test a little bit of the Turkish culture - and our indulgence for the finer, more feminine things in life, such as washing.


A Turkish bath was the result. It is, what it seems. A big hairy Turkish man scrubs you. Soapy goodness. I have never felt cleaner in my life. Top experience, and very much enjoyed.

Off to the south of Turkey now. Plenty more culture, some a bit older. And lots of tea time to come! Mmm. Turkish tea. 

And, a gif for good measure…

 

gif maker

Looking south from the Galata tower.

Istanbul, Turkey      (14 July 2012)

View from Galata bridge at Sunset

Istanbul, Turkey       (13 July 2012) 

It’s a doves’ life…

 Istanbul, Turkey        (12 July 2012)

Tea time

Istanbul, Turkey         (12 July 2012) 

Hagia Sofia

Istanbul, Turkey          (12 July 2012)