Pictures in Istanbul

I think I have finally been able to download some of the many pictures I have taken during this trip. Here are the first ones, starting in Istanbul…

When we arrived in the early evening, we were hungry and looked for a place near our hotel to have a bite. The baklava shop around the corner was inviting, having some filo-wrapped meat and cheese treats, as well as ten kinds of baklava.

Baklava shop around the corner with outdoor seating.
Child-sized table and chairs at Baklava Shop
A typical evening in the old town near our hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our tour began with a visit to three of the most famous mosques in Istanbul, all within walking distance of our hotel. They are the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, and the Little Hagia Sophia. The Blue Mosque has been under construction for years now, with an expected completion date of “eventually.”

You can see the scaffolding around one of the six minarets. The Little Hagia Sophia is actually quite beautiful. All mosques have balconies for women, while the men are downstairs praying. However, there are times when women are allowed to pray separately from men.

You can’t escape a visit to the rug dealers. They make them on-site and we saw how the women tie the knots to make the rugs. It is painstaking and a medium-sized rug can take years to complete. Sorry that the videos didn’t download. They ship for free worldwide if you find something you love.

Entry Hall of Hagia Sophia
Interior of Hagia Sophia
Detail of Hagia Sophia sanctuary
Hagia Sophia chandeliers
Hagia Sophia background
The view of the Blue Mosque from the Hagia Sophia
Blue Mosque construction
The blue tiles of the Blue Mosque
Little Hagia Sophia interior
Little Hagia Sophia balcony
Little Hagia Sophia information
Some of the amazing Turkish rugs
More Turkish Rugs

 

 

The Trip Home – Another Adventure

On Tuesday, September 14, our alarms were set for 2:00 AM for a 3:00 AM pickup to the airport. We weighed our luggage carefully and were under weight.  How could that be?? I couldn’t help but think of the shopping I missed out on! Truthfully. we got all that we wanted and really didn’t miss a thing.

Just as we were going to our ride, I checked my email, and surprise our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt was canceled, routing us instead to Chicago Ohare directly from Istanbul on Turkish Airlines. The next flight would be to Houston, then on to Guadalajara.

As I mentioned before, on the United flight going to Turkey from Houston, we had three seats each to stretch out and get some sleep. We had great seats on our return flight on Lufthansa because we picked our seats. With this cancelation, we were at the mercy of the airline and they were merciless!

For 10.5 hours, we sat in middle seats, Jim with two big, brawny guys shoulder to shoulder and me with a Turkish woman on the aisle that absolutely wanted to sleep and didn’t get up to go to the bathroom until about two hours from Chicago. And, she was grumpy, too. If we had enough points, we would have upgraded but neither of us has sufficient points to do this.

I was hoping that the meals on the Turkish flight would be better than the ones on United. Sad to say, no such luck (another reason to upgrade when the opportunity presents itself). Despite the lack of comfort and the inconvenience, it didn’t diminish how much fun we had and our memories of this wonderful trip.

So, to continue our saga of returning home, when we landed in Houston, we only had 45 minutes to retrieve our bags, re-check them, and get on the flight to Guadalajara. Of course, the departing gate was miles from the arriving gate, leaving us one option… Just leave our bags on the carousel when they arrive and hope to get them eventually once home.

Jim sprinted and I followed to the gate, where we managed to board the final flight. It was only a little over two hours, making it a quick trip after so many hours of travel. When we got to the Guadalajara airport to see if our bags had made it, we were not surprised to see that they did not. Fortunately, a lovely man at baggage claim helped us and we filed a missing luggage report. He spoke perfect English and was extremely helpful. We grabbed a taxi and finally made it home around 9:00 PM – about 30 hours of travel from pick up to arriving at our house.

The next morning, around 10:00 AM, our bags were delivered by United. Had we known this was a possibility in the past, we would have “accidentally” left our luggage at many carousels and just waited for delivery directly to our house! If this had happened at the start of the trip, we would have really been in a pickle. At the end of a vacation, no problem…

Wednesday, September 15, we had some errands to run and Jim’s cell phone wasn’t working as it should. A quick stop at Telcel and he found out that his phone had been on roaming while he was tracking where we were on Google Maps in Turkey. This revelation cost him $7,500 pesos (about $375 US) in roaming charges. Then, when he was pulling out of a parking lot, he got a ticket for not putting his seat belt on quickly enough. He paid the ticket the next day to get the discounted rate, half price and avoided the full cost of $45 US.

Even with these nuisances, we were glad to be home, snuggle with Lola, who remembered us after two and a half weeks, and was so happy to see us. Travel can be onerous, frustrating, difficult, and maddening.

I remember the days when we dressed up to go on an airplane, the seats were generous, and the meals, even on short flights, were freshly prepared and delicious. Okay, I am officially old! Still, seeing new places, having new experiences, meeting new people is something that cannot be duplicated by staying home, sitting in front of a TV, or being online. Once everyone is able and ready to travel, we would encourage it as a mind-opening escape that only adds to your appreciation of what you have.

And travel doesn’t have to be going to foreign countries. It can be to destinations in Mexico, the US, or Canada, anywhere where you haven’t been. My next job is to get my photos downloaded. This hasn’t been easy but I will let you know when they are available. Thanks for all your encouraging comments. I feel like you have all been with us…

Overall Impressions of Turkey

Truthfully, it is difficult to find negatives about this trip. The Turkish travel agency (Altinkum) that put the trip together was found on the Tourradar site as one of the ten best trips to Turkey. It was very different from all of our previous tours in that they have individual tours that they string together to make two weeks in the country feel seamless. People can book one or more segments individually, which is why we had different people with us for each segment. It did make the trip more interesting and there were usually only no more than eight or just us traveling together.

Here is my list of awesome plusses (not in any particular order): 1. Traveling by comfortable Mercedes 15 passenger vans or domestic airlines; 2. Toilets with built-in bidets; 3. Turkish ice cream; 4. Knowledgeable English-speaking guides; 5. Responsive contact person at the travel agency; 6. Good food in general; 7. Good hotels; 8. Turkey’s well-maintained roads and updated infrastructure; 9. Very safe; 10. 80% of the population is vaccinated and all were masked inside, with many masked outside as well; 11. Kind Turks wherever we went; 12. Excellent weather and perfect temperatures (fortunately); 13. Most locals spoke some English; 14. Relaxing boat trip with a  helpful crew; 15. PCR test available in our hotel at a reasonable price ($35 US); 16. Everyone was amazingly on time for pick-ups; 17. The hot air balloon experience was better than we expected; 18. The hot air balloon ride was scheduled weeks before, as recommended by the agency, to ensure that there were spots available; 19. The reasonable price included the hotels, in-country transportation, the guides, entry fees, some meals, and in-country airfare (airfare from Mexico to Turkey was additional); 20. Tolerance of every level of religious observance; 21. Incredible ruins; 22. Stunning mosques; 23. Cats everywhere, fed by locals (either a plus or a minus, depending on your love of cats)

Here is the short list of negatives: 1. The boat was older, the cabins stifling, and the bathroom not very good; 2. On the boat, only two people spoke English making it difficult to communicate; 3. Heavy traffic everywhere and crazy drivers; 4. Cats everywhere…  That’s it!

We were surprised that there was little if any poverty visible, no graffiti, no homeless, no junker cars or people begging, Landscaping along the highways was beautiful, Neighborhoods were well-maintained with new construction all around the country. Turkey seems very progressive and is welcoming to all.

Day 15 – Free Day and Last One, in Istanbul

With no tours planned, after breakfast, we opted to visit the Grand Bazaar near our hotel to divest ourselves of the last of our Turkish lira. We could have gone to a museum or two but we both felt that we had exhausted our energy for another museum.

The Grand Bazaar is a monstrous place. We had a quick visit when we first arrived in Istanbul but wandering around, being assaulted by every shop owner to just go in, without any obligation to buy, particularly at the start of our trip, was easy to avoid. This time, we let ourselves be assaulted and if there was something interesting, we went into the shop. Their first question is always, “Where are you from?” The shop owners must say this 1,000 times a day. They all speak some English, as well as Spanish, French, and probably other languages. They will not forfeit an opportunity to get you in their shop.

Everyone wants to sell you a rug, fine jewelry, designer handbags, and leather goods. There is so much duplication of the wares in the shops, you wonder if there are only four or five owners who have dozens of the same shops throughout the Bazaar. If they don’t have your size or color, they send someone out to their “sister” shop and come back within minutes with something they think you will like in your size.

We found a few items that we decided to buy, especially now that we can bring back 50 pounds in our checked bags for the international flights. On the domestic flights we took, we were only allowed 33 pounds in our checked bags and 17 pounds in a carry-on bag. It is amazing how limiting that is.

We wore ourselves out walking the narrow streets, filled with shops selling towels, scarves (mainly for the religious women) but nice enough to wear at home, four-wheeled luggage everywhere at give-away prices (under $30 US for a large piece), and some last-minute spices and Turkish Delight to share with friends at home. Again, sweet isn’t sufficient to describe these nutty treats.

I am catching up on these posts since I have packed my bags. Jim is napping. We will have an early dinner, then crash because our driver is coming to take us to the airport at 3:00 AM for our 6:45 AM flight to Frankfurt, then on to Houston and Guadalajara. We are ready to be home.

I am downloading pictures, and there are lots of them. Google is a pain because it only allows you to download a total of 25 mb at a time. Some of the videos exceed that number. It looks like I will have to research a better way to get all the photos and then just post them separately from what I have written so far.

Okay, enough griping… We went to our favorite restaurant in Istanbul near our hotel. It has some traditional items but also some excellent western dishes. The other day, we shared a chicken Caesar salad and a hamburger. Both were excellent and a nice change from the local fare. Tonight, we shared mushrooms and shrimp in a well-seasoned butter/olive oil sauce and a steak burger. The slices of steak on the homemade bun were tender and the French fries (very common here) were crispy. The lavash bread served with the shrimp was perfect for sopping up the sauce. We had the local beer on draft, EFES, a delicious brew we have had often while in Turkey. The music on their sound system was Besame Mucho and other Spanish favorites. Perhaps this is a sign that we are ready to go home??

Afterward, we strolled just down the street to get a wonderful Turkish ice cream cone. The young man serving us did his fun bit pretending to take the cone away, then giving it back several times. You can’t help but be entertained. The pistachio for me and vanilla for Jim are absolutely the best. We planned pretty well and only have a few lira left. We will use them at the airport or give them as additional tips to the hotel staff.

My next entry will highlight what we loved about the trip and try to find something that we didn’t like… Time for an early bedtime.

 

 

 

Day 14 – Istanbul (without pictures)

Another beautiful day welcomed us this morning. We are staying at the same hotel as when we arrived in Istanbul two weeks ago. However, we are staying in a different room, a larger, nicer room, this time with a view of the Bosphorus River and many fishing boats. It is very charming.

Our first duty was to schedule a COVID test so we can travel through the US to Mexico. We travel from Istanbul, through Frankfurt to Houston, and ultimately to Guadalajara. Proof that we are fully vaccinated is required when traveling throughout Turkey and also to Frankfurt. As many of you know, this is not sufficient when traveling to the US. We need an antigen or PCR test to enter the US.

Our tour contact arranged to have someone come to our hotel and give us the test this afternoon after our morning tour. We only have a couple of things to see this morning. First, we went to the Spice Market, where our guide knows the best places to visit. I found some wonderful typical Turkish options, such as Turkish Delight (delicious treats made with nuts of all types and naturally sweet), natural hand-made soaps, unique teas (energy and relaxation), jasmine tea flowers, and seductive yet subtle perfumes.

We then went to the dock to board a large boat for our cruise down the Bosphorus. The day couldn’t have been better for this. It isn’t hot at all and there are gentle breezes, making the ninety-minute trip very pleasant. There are three bridges that cross the river. Two connect Europe with Europe and one connects Europe with Asia. As I mentioned before, almost all of Turkey is in Asia, not Europe. That was a surprise to me. As we went down the river, we saw mosques, fortresses, and dwellings of all kinds.

It was now time to return to our hotel for our COVID test. The young man who administered the test was very efficient and will send the results to my phone on WhatsApp, as well as an email so the hotel can print it to show at the airport. It should be ready in the early evening today.

Afterward, we walked from our hotel toward some of the most significant and touristy sites, including the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. They are only minutes away. But, lunch beckoned. We found a beautiful restaurant and strayed from Turkish food to a chicken Caesar salad and a delicious hamburger. Okay, call us ugly Americans! We just needed a change of cuisine.

Feeling full from lunch, we decided to relax in the afternoon and then go to Taksim Square. This Sunday night probably was no different than any other night but the traffic to the square was a nightmare. How taxis (taksi in Turkish) maneuver the roads is like Demolition Derby. They weave in and out between cars, vans, and buses with alacrity. It isn’t for the faint-hearted.

We heard that the Square is full of nightlife, restaurants, and interesting sights. It was not exactly as represented. We probably were some of the oldest people there, with an average age of about 30. There were lines at shwarma and ice cream stands. The only restaurants we saw were dessert places, with seating overlooking the square. They had baklava of all types, of course, sweets of every kind, as well as coffee or tea. Why Turkish people aren’t obese is a mystery, because they love their sugar treats. We settled on a cappuccino for me and cafe Americano for Jim, sharing some baklava. It was incredibly sweet, making Jim’s teeth ache. A few bites and we were off to grab a taxi back to our hotel.

Tomorrow is a totally free day, allowing us to visit the last of the sites on our list, without a guide and zillions of people like we witnessed today. We are hoping that a weekday will be quieter.

Day 13 – Cappadocia Second Day (without pictures)

Several people in our hotel were scheduled to have their hot air balloon ride this morning but there was too much wind, so it was canceled. That was very disappointing for them, which we truly understood. That would have been devastating if it had happened to us.

After breakfast, we were picked up by our guide and started this day’s tour with 12 other tourists. We were not pleased to have such a large group, although it turned out to be okay. Two women were from the Washington, D.C. area, the Pakistani newlywed couple from yesterday, a man from Canada, five women from Indonesia, and the two brothers from Mexico (actually McAllen, TX) who were with us yesterday. They are actually on our return flight on Tuesday, the 14th to Houston.

We started our day at one of the open-air museums with its rock-cut churches from the second half of the ninth century A.D. This one was in Goreme, one of the valley towns in Cappadocia. All of the valley towns in Cappadocia were initially settled by Christians, not Muslims. That was surprising to me. Although there are few churches in the area now, Turkey is mainly Muslim. This is evident by the number of mosques throughout the country.

Imagination Valley (actually Devrent Valley) is an outcropping of rocks that allows you to look at them and imagine animals, the Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ, and much more. It stirs your brain to see what these formations can represent.

Our next stop was Pasabagi, which means Pacha’s vineyard, also called Monk’s Valley. The hermitage of Simeon monks was here. A chapel dedicated to St. Simeon (Simon), and a hermit’s shelter is built into one of the fairy chimneys with three heads. You can climb into one of the chimneys and look out through one of the windows. Being a Saturday meant that there were many, many people visiting, crawling around the rocks. It was better to watch the chaos ensue.

Time for lunch… One thing you can be certain of, we will be stopping at a place for lunch, along with busloads of tourists. The entree buffet was loaded, as well as the salad buffet, and dessert/fruit buffet. It is so easy to load up your plates and just eat, mindlessly. The choices may look okay but they aren’t that good. When you are feeding hordes of people, it is not surprising that these places offer food, not cuisine.

The afternoon included a visit to a ceramic factory to witness the hand-painted examples. Some of the finished products sell for thousands and they ship to every country for free. We went to a leather factory, too. Again, the designs are beautiful but none in our group felt the need to buy, including us. This is part of every tour, it seems. We believe that the tour guide gets a commission for bringing people to their showrooms when they buy something. It is just a fact.

We were spent from going so many places and needed to get back to our hotel to get our bags for the drive to the airport and our short flight back to Istanbul. Our bags were packed that morning, allowing us to merely get washed up a bit and await our driver for our 8:40 PM flight. By the time we got to our hotel, it was after midnight. It was all we could do to get ready for bed and fall deeply asleep.

Day 12 – Cappadocia First Full Day (without pictures)

When you look at a map of Turkey, you don’t see Cappadocia. That is because it is a region, not a city or town. There are many towns in the area but none are called Cappadocia. We didn’t know that before.

To start the day, we had a pickup time very early. We got up in the dark and were shuttled to an area not far from us and met others who would be sharing this ride. I was very concerned about being high up in the air but my trepidation wasn’t even warranted. Even in the darkness, we could see the crew blowing air into the balloon to get it started, followed by the hot flame powered by propane tanks to lighten the air inside and allow it to ascend.

The basket was on its side, awaiting the inflated balloon to right it, with a little help from the crew. This basket held 28 passengers, plus two crew. Each side of the basket had four compartments, holding either three or four passengers. The balloon was huge, certainly large enough to take us all up easily.

As we floated up, the sky was brightening, ready to witness a beautiful sunrise. What we then noticed was approximately 50 other balloons taking off at the same time from our location. The sight was magical. There were all sizes and designs of balloons. Some had advertising on them of their balloon company, some had quilt-like designs, and others had happy stripes or dots. The smaller balloons had baskets that held only 2-4 passengers, medium-sized balloons a bit more. Ours was the largest we saw. We were told that the small balloons and baskets were private groups. They didn’t go as high either.

We gently took off, barely feeling the movement, other than seeing rooftops passing below. There were times when we thought we would crash into them but the balloon lifted just in time. As the sun peaked over the mountain, you could feel the warmth on your face. It was definitely an experience you do not forget.

After an hour, we gently landed on the bed of the truck that held the basket initially. The precision it took to land it squarely on the truck was aided by the ground crew, kept in constant communication with the balloon pilot via walkie-talkie. Once on the ground, a small table was set up with champagne glasses and bottles of champagne. We were asked if we wanted a champagne spray and of course, we said yes. We got pelted with the champagne, then enjoyed a glass to celebrate that we all survived this adventure. We even received a certificate to indicate that we were no longer hot air balloon virgins.

We were taken back to our hotel for breakfast and then our pick-up at 9:30 AM for our first-day tour of the area.

Our guide was a very nice man who definitely enjoys his job as a guide. We were a group of seven, a newly married young couple from Pakistan, a woman from Tunisia, and two men from Mexico (Reynoso). Our first destination was the Red Rose Valley, known for the pink tint to the jagged sandstone peaks, especially at sunset.

We hiked up a hill to get a better view of the manmade openings in the sandstone to hide from predators and enemies. How they got into the “houses” must have been difficult but they stayed there for quite a long time until the threat has passed.

Our next stop was Pigeon Valley. There are countless manmade dovecotes where the pigeons live. The birds are used to communicate between the houses, provide excellent fertilizer, and as a source of food. The pigeons are still treated very well.

The underground cities, once a place of refuge for 15,000 Christians, were of enormous value to the development of Christianity. They provided shelter and worship and were in use until the end of the 7th century A.D. We had to bend low to enter, which was by design. Also, the passageways narrowed as they got closer to the living areas, to discourage armies from entering. Enemies had to enter one at a time making it easier for the residents to spear them one at a time.

The first room is a meeting room, then a kitchen (very rudimentary), using a hole in the floor as a tandoor oven for cooking. The next room was for food storage. Since the dwellings are underground, they maintain a constant temperature, which is cool all the time. They had wine cellars and a place to mash the grapes with their feet. Most of the grape mash, however, was used to make molasses, rather than wine. This eight-story city was connected by 30 km of passageways and corridors, all with very low ceilings. They opened into larger rooms with higher ceilings and even ventilation chimneys. It was ingenious.

Lastly, we went to Ortahisar, famous for its castle-like rock formation, after which the town is named. We sat at a panorama point to view the grandeur of this area.

Dinner that night was at a recommended restaurant in Urgud, the town where our hotel was located. Cappadocia is known for something special. They have crockpots shaped like flower vases, covered with aluminum foil. The inside is filled with meat and a sauce that is revealed when they use a heavy knife to chop off the top of the vessel and pour the hot stew into a bowl. You eat it with bulgar and salad and it is a huge meal. The show is when the crockpot is beheaded!

We were sadly disappointed when we tasted the meat. It was what I perceived as braised brisket, but into cubes in a tomato-based liquid. The sad part was that we found it virtually tasteless, chewy, and the sauce too thin to absorb the bulgar. Looks like we will be giving the majority of the meat to the night manager at the hotel. Moustafa will enjoy it, to be sure.

The local Cappadocia red wine, famous in this area, is delicious. We had several glasses at a previous restaurant and wanted to try it again. What we were served wasn’t nearly as good as we had before. Another disappointment. It looks like we will return to the restaurant we enjoyed yesterday, along with their excellent wine. This long day has come to a lovely end…

Day 11 – Antalya to Cappadocia

It is amazing to me how well things have worked out regarding this trip, our connections, and the agency’s support. Whenever I had questions about pick-up times, tour information for the day, or general questions, my contact in the travel agency answered almost immediately. And, it always is as presented. Just an FYI…

Last night, we checked out the restaurant in our hotel. Their buffet was very extensive and fresh but way more than we wanted to eat. We decided to wander back to the square behind our hotel for a small supper, a shared pizza. The seating was abundant. Best of all, there was a two-man musical group playing guitar and an electronic drum, singing beautiful songs in Turkish. They had an admiring crowd enjoying their music, especially us.
We strolled from the square to the pedestrian street, where we looked at the shops and watched the vendor selling Turkish ice cream as he was putting on his show. I recorded it but am not sure you will see how much fun it was to see the surprised and laughing faces of those getting the ice cream. Personally, I like their ice cream better than the gelato. The gelato has more flavors to choose from but the texture is more gelatin-like rather than creamy. It was the perfect way to end the day.
We were ready for our 6:30 AM call. The 20-minute ride to the airport was traffic-free and check-in was very easy. A quick breakfast and we are ready for the one-hour flight to Cappadocia.
We crossed over mountains until we landed in Kayseri (KAY-se-ree), the airport close to Cappadocia, about an hour away. The flight was pleasant and totally filled with passengers. We were met at the airport, along with a few other people. Some were dropped off at their various hotels before we were taken to ours, the Heaven Cave Hotel. Almost all the hotels here have “cave” in their name because they are built into the mountains. The drive to our town from the airport took over an hour.
Our hotel is very interesting, with steep steps up to our second-floor room. The bathroom is very modern while the bedroom has its own charm. Since we arrived at 12:30 PM and have nothing planned for the rest of the day, we scheduled a Hamam Turkish bath and an hour-long massage. We are spoiled with the massages we get in Ajijic but were not familiar with a traditional Turkish bath experience.
If you have not experienced this, it is quite unique. Men go to one area, women to another. First, you strip down and have a Turkish towel around you to enter the sauna. Then, you go into the steam room. I could only handle about five minutes there. And, lastly, you go into the salt room, which is lined with bricks that are made of salt. It is cool, quiet, and has a blue tint to it. That was a five-minute stint.
Now, the “fun” part… I can’t say what happens on the men’s side, but you go  into a large, round room, with a raised marble (or onyx) platform. You lay down on your tummy while a woman in a bikini takes a towel and dips it into a sink full of warm suds. It is then draped over you. The bubbles feel good. She uses a loofa and washes and exfoliates you from head to foot. Time to turn over. More warm suds, more bubbles, and again, you are washed, but only with her hands, again from head to foot, including your hair and face.
This is followed by a shower with only one handle, hot and hotter. A dip in the tepid swimming pool and you dry off a bit, relax in a lounge area sipping apple tea, awaiting your massage.
The massage was very good, with emphasis on reflexology on your feet. I fell asleep by the time she worked her way to my back but I assume that it got a  good massage, too. When I turned over, there was a mirror on the ceiling, which was a little disconcerting. I watched her complete the massage, including my stomach area. It all felt good. Our driver waited outside for the full two hours to take us back to our hotel
Feeling totally relaxed, we showered, dressed for dinner, and found a little restaurant on the plaza, called Cappadocia (catchy, no??). I had their version of moussaka (absolutely delicious) and Jim had a lamb shwarma wrap. Of course, there was a chopped salad, French fries, and a glass of the area’s famous wine. It, too, was delicious.
A little walk around the plaza and we were back at our hotel early to get ready for our 5:00 AM pickup for our hot air balloon ride to see the “Fairy Chimneys.”

Day 10 – Antalya (without pictures)

Antalya is Turkey’s fifth-largest city, considerably smaller than Istanbul, Izmir, or Ankara but it is huge, spread-out, very busy with traffic. It has a whirlwind of energy, too. Located on the coast east of Fethiye, it has beaches that attract mainly Russians and Germans, but also visitors from all over the world.

Our guide, Gengis, is a free-lance guide who works for many companies, is a retired engineer, and loves meeting people, showing them the delights of Turkey. Normally, he does longer tours, seven to as many as twenty-one days but this one day with us was a special treat. He was funny, informative, opinionated without being rude, and had many stories about previous travelers.

For example, one story he has not forgotten, is when an American woman tourist was very excited to be visiting Turkey. Then, she asked when the group would be going to Argentina. Gengis told her, without blinking an eye, that if she starts swimming now, she should reach Argentina in a few years! She didn’t get it. Are all Americans so clueless about geography??

Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet, rarely seen so far due to COVID, with dozens of choices to eat. We had to don plastic gloves to go to the buffet and enjoyed everything we selected. After our meal, we met our van and headed off to our first destination, Perge.

Perge is one of the largest and most popular ancient cities in the Pamphylia region, where Perge was its capital. It came under Roman rule in 133 BC, where it flourished, and most of the ruins we saw are from that area. We saw the agora (market), Roman baths, colonnaded streets, a nympharium, and a grand theater, which supposedly held 15,000.

Gengis told us that it is fairly easy to tell which parts were built during the Hellenistic period and which by the Romans. The Greeks didn’t use mortar between the stones or bricks, while the Romans relied on arched doorways held in place with mortar. In some cases, the ruins had a combination of both, depending on when each section was built.

We then went to Side (SEE-deh), one of the most popular and classical ancient cities of Turkey. It also became an important base for the Cilician pirates and their slave trade. With the defeat of the pirates, Side fell under the control of Rome and became part of the Roman Empire, with its own large theater, Roman baths, and the Temple of Apollo.

Our next stop was the Aspendos Ancient Theater. Probably an earlier ancient theater was built in the 2nd century on this site based on the various styles exhibited. This theater can hold over 20,000 people and is currently being used for concerts, ballet, and opera events. As mentioned before, these theaters have the most amazing acoustics, allowing everyone to hear even the slightest sound perfectly.

Time for lunch. We stopped at a very local restaurant that seemed to cater to groups visiting the various ruins. You select a protein, either fresh trout caught in the nearby river, chicken grilled on a skewer, meatballs, or a mix of chicken and meat. There was a table filled with a variety of side dishes that you can add to your protein. Despite our initial negative impression of this restaurant, it proved to be an excellent, prompt choice.

The touring was not over, however. We went to the Kursunlu Waterfall, to enjoy the fresh pine scent of the many trees, cool atmosphere, and beautiful falls. They are not equivalent to Niagra, Victoria, or other spectacular falls. What they possessed was beautiful turquoise water, which gave them a very different look.

Lastly, we stopped at a ruin of a Roman aqueduct, that probably was built in the 3rd century. It provided water to the neighboring towns in the most efficient manner. Those guys were very smart and had engineering skills to rival anyone now.

Another bit of information from Gengis… only 3% of Turkey is in Europe, with 97% a part of Asia. The area south of Istanbul is actually Asia Minor and Anatolia. This is why Turkey is not part of the EU. Turkey’s first president gave women the right to vote in the late 1800’s, considerably earlier than the US, in addition to other rights not given to women for over 100 years..

Well, it is time to head back to the hotel, write this update, have a bite to eat, and pack for our early morning ride to the airport for our flight to Capadoccia.

Day 9 – Boat Trip Ends, Moving on to Antalya (without pictures)

After a delay in arriving in Gocek (go-chek), west of Fethiye, due to the unavailability of a slip, we were met by a driver who announced that he was taking us to Antalya. The beautiful Mercedes van was ready for us and off we went. By the way, all the transportation has been in luxurious Mercedes vans. This one even had USB ports to charge our devices.

The three-hour drive took us through mountains that are dead ringers for those in Colorado. Jim and I could pinpoint where these mountains looked identical to locations we knew over our many years traversing I-70 going west of Denver. Once over a couple of passes, the landscape changed to one reminiscent of the area in New Mexico, between Albuquerque and Taos, filled with scrub pine on beige rolling hills.

Our driver sped along, getting us to our hotel near the old city of Antalya, a Best Western, with a gorgeous roof-top pool, cabanas, and a happy hour menu that looked inviting. Taking a dip in the afternoon looked promising but we opted instead to wander around the area near the hotel and have a bite at a local restaurant.

There were many clothing and shoe shops, stores displaying the most elegant (and somewhat revealing) wedding gowns, every designer knock-off clothing, bags and shoes, maternity shops, and even a store that carried nothing but hangers! With shoes being my weakness, I did find a pair of sandals that somehow got into my suitcase for the trip home. I could have found half a dozen more but taking the next two domestic flights until we reach Istanbul again is more limiting in the weight allowed. It looks like I will have to do my last-minute shopping upon returning to Istanbul when the weight restrictions on the international flight home are more forgiving.

We stopped at an outdoor local restaurant and had some local fare. Jim opted for a pide again, the boat-shaped pizza-like dish with meat and cheese, while I had a chicken wrap. Both were delicious. The best part was that they had traditional milkshakes on the menu, made with ice cream with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. Boy, was that a treat. I could go for another one right now!

In the room, I did a little laundry and Jim got our cords connected to keep us charged. With only one outlet available, it is challenging to get everything attached. We did have a power block with four USB ports that had the European two-prong plug. However, Jim plugged it into a receptacle at a previous hotel that shorted it out immediately. They are wonderful to have and it converts the current as needed from 220v to 110v for our devices. We will order another one from our friend, Amazon when we get close to needing it again.

As I write this, I can hear the call to prayer to the mosque. While we were on the boat, there were no such calls. The sing-song chanting we are hearing now happens five times a day. However, we didn’t see anyone running to pray when the call went out. I wonder who fills the thousands of mosques we see all over the country.

Back to our room and time to collapse…