Turkey Tour (Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Cappadocia, Pumakkale, Kusadasi) 2009

Lying at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Turkey is  a curious mix of East and West, Islam and Christianity. We decided to visit Turkey in 2009 after hearing a lot about it, and after some consideration, decided to join a tour from Chan Brothers (www.chanbrothers.com). This was actually our first time touring with them and our experience with them was quite good, such that if we needed to join any tours next time, we would look at their itineraries first. 

Istanbul

We arrived in Istanbul from Singapore via a direct flight. The city is the largest in Turkey and forms the economic, cultural and historical centre of the country. Straddling the Bosporus, part of the city lies in Europe and the other part lies in Asia. As in all tours, we immediately went sight seeing even though everyone was jet lagged after a 12 hours overnight flight. This is one of the reasons I don’t really like to follow tours.

To keep things slow, we were brought to see the Hippodrome Square first. This was a circus during time when Istanbul was known as Constantinople.
To keep things slow, we were brought to see the Hippodrome Square first. This was a circus during ancient times when Istanbul was known as Constantinople.
Several obelisks also stand in the square.
Several obelisks and columns also stand in the square.
We came to the Blue Mosque. So named because of the blue tiles used in its interior.
We came to the Blue Mosque. So named because of the blue tiles used in its interior.
A look at the interior of the Blue Mosque.
A look at the interior of the Blue Mosque.
A short walk across from the Blue Mosque was the Hagia Sophia. This is the most well known landmark in Istanbul.
A short walk across from the Blue Mosque is the Hagia Sophia. This is the most well known landmark in Istanbul.
The Hagia Sophia was a church until 1453 when it was converted into a mosque. In 1931, it was converted into a museum.
The Hagia Sophia was a church until 1453 when it was converted into a mosque. In 1931, it was converted into, and remains as a museum.
Tokapi Palace is now a museum and houses many relics from the Muslim world.
Tokapi Palace is now a museum and houses many relics from the Muslim world. It was once the palace of the Ottoman Turks.
A view of the Bosporus Strait from Tokapi Palace.
A view of the Bosporus Strait from Tokapi Palace.

Equally famous is the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. It is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world. with more than 3,000 shops.

One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar.
One of the many entrances to the Grand Bazaar.
One of the covered streets of the Grand Bazaar.
One of the covered streets of the Grand Bazaar.
Arabian lamps for sale.
Arabian lamps for sale.
The spice bazaar is part of a mosque and also near to the ferry point.
The spice bazaar is part of a mosque and also near to the ferry point.
Spices for sale. Besides spices, there are many other things like cheese, Turkish delights, food, etc.
Spices for sale. Besides spices, there are many other things like cheese, Turkish delights, food, etc.
The mosque beside the Spice Bazaar.
The mosque beside the Spice Bazaar.
Many tourists and locals take refuge in the mosque from the crowds in the bazaar.
Many tourists and locals take refuge in the mosque from the crowds in the bazaar.

Going on a cruise on the Bosporus Straits is a must since you will be standing on 2 continents (Asia and Europe) at the same time, and is a great way to see the city.

As we depart on the ferry, we can see the city's waterfront going past us.
As we depart on the ferry, we can see the city’s waterfront going past us.

 

The Bosporus Bridge that connects Asia and Europe together.
The Bosporus Bridge that connects Asia and Europe together.
Passing under the bridge.
Passing under the bridge.
In the distance we can see the skyline of Istanbul.
In the distance we can see the skyline of Istanbul.

We got off the ferry at Ortakoy. Formerly a small village, it’s now a hip place with night clubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and art galleries.

The Ortakoy Mosque with the Bosporus Bridge. This is also where we get off the ferry.
The Ortakoy Mosque with the Bosporus Bridge. This is also where we get off the ferry.
The hip streets of Ortakoy.
The hip streets of Ortakoy.
We found ourselves at Taksim Square. Riot police were getting ready for some trouble but nothing was happening.
We found ourselves at Taksim Square. Riot police were getting ready for some trouble but nothing was happening.
One of the past times of the Turks is to drink tea. Turkish tea is drunk from small cups and you can find them anywhere.
One of the past times of the Turks is to drink tea. Turkish tea is drunk from small cups and you can find them anywhere.

 Bursa

This was our second destination after Istanbul and we took a ferry across to save time.

Our tour bus being loaded onto the ferry.
Our tour bus being loaded onto the ferry.
Approaching Bursa.
Approaching Bursa.
The minaret of the Grand Mosque in Bursa.
The minaret of the Grand Mosque in Bursa.
Sandals for worshippers to wear while they wash their feet, before entering the mosque.
Sandals for worshippers to wear while they wash their feet, before entering the mosque.
Deep in prayer.
Deep in prayer.
A visit to the local silk market.
A visit to the local silk market.

As Bursa is famous for its Turkish baths and we tried one of the baths that was next door to our hotel. It was relaxing and felt good after being cramped in the plane and then the bus for more than 24 hours.

We bought some local fruits from the nearby supermarket. They were really delicious and juicy.
We bought some local fruits from the nearby supermarket. They were really delicious and juicy.
Next morning, we visited the Green Mosque.
Next morning, we visited the Green Mosque.
The green tiles inside the mosque gives the place its name.
The green tiles inside the mosque gives the place its name.
A street scene in Bursa.
A street scene in Bursa.
Antiques for sales by the street.
Antiques for sales by the street.

 

From Bursa, it was travel by tour coach all the way to the other locations. Along the way we stopped at one large souvenir shop where they sold all kinds of local delicacies like Turkish delights. They also had natural and organic Turkish Viagra…

The caption on the bottles claims that you can make love 5 times a night after taking this.
The caption on the bottles claims that you can make love 5 times a night after taking this.

Kusadasi

We did stay at a nice hotel in Kusadasi. Too often you’d end up in forgettable tourist class hotels when going on tours, but I must say that the hotels for this tour were pretty great.

The view of the coast and the hotel pool from our room. There was time for us to take a swim and followed by a poolside BBQ dinner.
The view of the coast and the hotel pool from our room. There was time for us to take a swim and followed by a poolside BBQ dinner.
Sunset in Kusadasi. A cruise ship had also docked in the evening.
Sunset in Kusadasi. A cruise ship had also docked in the evening.

Kusadasi is the hopping off point to visit the House of Virgin Mary, a religious site for Catholics. This is believed to the place where Mary spent her last days. After a winding trip up the mountains, we arrived at the house. It was packed with visitors from the cruise ship.

Everyone queuing up to enter the house. It's a small chapel now.
Everyone queuing up to enter the house. It’s a small chapel now.
You can see how small it is. You enter from the left and exit from the doorway on the right.
You can see how small it is. You enter from the left and exit from the doorway on the right.
Pilgrims would write their wishes and tie it to the lattice on the wall.
Pilgrims would write their wishes and tie it to the lattice on the wall.

Next, we went down the mountains and entered the ruins of the city of Ephesus. This is the same city that is mentioned in the Bible and where the Church of Ephesus was founded.

Entering the ruins of Ephesus.
Entering the ruins of Ephesus.
Remains of Roman architecture.
Remains of Roman architecture.
The Goddess Nike, and how Nike got their swoosh logo.
The Goddess Nike, and how Nike got their swoosh logo.
The Library of Celcius.
The Library of Celcius.
The amphitheater of Ephesus.
The amphitheater of Ephesus.
Truth in advertising at a souvenir shop near Ephesus. At least they are honest about it.
Truth in advertising at a souvenir shop near Ephesus. At least they are honest about it.

Pamukkale

The name Pamukkale means Cotton Castle. This is the place for hot springs and out of this world scenery. The ancient city of Hieropolis was also built here.

We had to walk past the ruins of Hieropolis to get to the Cotton Castle.
We had to walk past the ruins of Hieropolis to get to the Cotton Castle.
A map of Hieropolis and how it would have looked like at its zenith.
A map of Hieropolis and how it would have looked like at its zenith.
All that is left of its amphitheater.
All that is left of its amphitheater.
The terraces are natural and formed from travertine, a type of rock that is deposited by the hot springs.
The terraces are natural and formed from travertine, a type of rock that is deposited by the hot springs.
Some of the terraces have dried up to form these amazing structures.
Some of the terraces have dried up to form these amazing structures.
The mineral rich waters are believed to have curative properties and people were bathing or wading in them.
The mineral rich waters are believed to have curative properties and people were bathing or wading in them.
We came back to our hotel which had its own hot spring pool.
We came back to our hotel which had its own hot spring pool.

After Pumakkale, we travelled for 1 whole day to Cappadocia. Along the way, we got to indulge ourselves in locally grown cherries.

Cherries trees in the orchard. This was beside one of our lunch stops.
Cherries trees in the orchard. This was beside one of our lunch stops.
Buying cherries by the kilos. It's around $1 for 1 kg.
Buying cherries by the kilos. It’s around $1 for 1 kg.
Along the way we also stopped by an ancient hotel dating back to the 13th century, Sultanhani Caravanserai,  that lies along the silk route.
Along the way we also stopped by an ancient hotel dating back to the 13th century, Sultanhani Caravanserai, that lies along the silk route.
This ancient hotel was used by the trade caravans as rest stops. There are many of them but this one is the largest.
This ancient hotel was used by the trade caravans as rest stops. There are many of them but this one is the largest.
We exited through the back of the Sultanhani Caravanserai.
We exited through the back of the Sultanhani Caravanserai.

Cappadocia

We finally arrived in Cappadocia which is famous for its unique geological formations like fairy chimneys and  houses carved out of the mountains. One of the activities that you can do here is hot air ballooning. This is a fantastic way to see the unique scenery. However, we needed to wake up before dawn to catch the sunrise and the cost of this flight is not included in the tour.

Preparing the balloon for flight.
Preparing the balloon for flight.
Blasting hot air into the balloon.
Blasting hot air into the balloon.
We were the first to take off and had a good view of the rest of the balloons.
We were the first to take off and had a good view of the rest of the balloons.
You can see the ancient houses that are carved from the mountains.
You can see the ancient houses that are carved from the mountains.
The sky was filled with balloons as the sun started to rise.
The sky was filled with balloons as the sun started to rise.
Looking at the fairy chimneys that make Cappadocia famous.
Looking at the fairy chimneys that make Cappadocia famous.
After around 1 hour of flight we landed bumpily. We were given certificates for completing the flight and had champagne to celebrate.
After around 1 hour of flight we landed bumpily. We were given certificates for completing the flight and had champagne to celebrate.

After our hot air ballooning, we went to visit the Gerome Open Air Museum. This place is the site of numerous churches carved from the rock and dates back to the 10th century. It is also an UNESCO World Heritage site.

Walking into the Gerome Open Air Museum.
Walking into the Gerome Open Air Museum.
Houses and churches were carved into the rocks from the 10th to 13th centuries.
Houses and churches were carved into the rocks from the 10th to 13th centuries.
The churches are quite small but have very elaborate frescos on their walls and ceilings.
The churches are quite small but have very elaborate frescos on their walls and ceilings.
We stopped at a tea house to view the beautiful scenery.
We stopped at a tea house to view the beautiful scenery.
Lunch was in a cave restaurant.
Lunch was in a cave restaurant.
Not a small cave but a really huge cavern.
Not a small cave but a really huge cavern.
We also watched a performance by the whirling dervishes. This is actually a religious performance.
We also watched a performance by the whirling dervishes. This is actually a religious performance.
Of course there were the usual shopping stops for local handicrafts like carpets.
Of course there were the usual shopping stops for local handicrafts like carpets.

We also visited the underground city of Kaymakli. For those who are claustrophobic, this place is your worst nightmare. This is an ancient city that is underground with homes, stables, churches, storehouses all connected by tunnels. This city was built since 1,200BC by the Hittites and used by the local people until the 13th century AD.

The entrance to Kaymakli.
The entrance to Kaymakli.
One of the stops where our guide explained about the underground city. He also had to do a count since the whole place was a maze and anyone who got lost would be difficult to find.
One of the stops where our guide explained about the underground city. He also had to do a count since the whole place was a maze and anyone who got lost would be difficult to find.

I can see that caves are a big thing in Cappadocia. Everywhere we went, we could see shops and homes in caves. Our guide explained that the caves actually make good homes as they would be cool in summer, and warm in winter.

After leaving Cappadocia, we stopped at a salt lake. This was my first time to see a salt lake and I found it quite fascinating.

Visitors could walk out to the salt lake by a foot path.
Visitors could walk out to the salt lake by a foot path.
Salt is mined from the lake for consumption.
Salt is mined from the lake for consumption.

Ankara

Ankara is the capital of Turkey and the second largest city after Istanbul. We only made a brief stop here to visit the Ataturk Mausoleum. This is the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.

The building that houses the mausoleum.
The building that houses the mausoleum.
Inside the mausoleum. There is also a museum beside the mausoleum which tells visitors about the history of Turkey.
Inside the mausoleum. There is also a museum beside the mausoleum which tells visitors about the history of Turkey.
View of Ankara as we stood outside the mausoleum.
View of Ankara as we stood outside the mausoleum.

Of course we could not leave Turkey without watching one of their famous belly dancing shows. So for our last night in Turkey, we were treated to a gala dinner with belly dancers.

Saying goodbye, Turkish style.
Saying goodbye, Turkish style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s