TURKEY     29 August – 5th September

29th August

Crossing the border from Greece to Turkey, we arrive to find border guards with large assault rifles.  We have our vehicle checked and registered, pay for visas, insurances stamped and we are off into Turkey.  Car insurance costs €52 for 3 months.  Our visas are €30.

The fuel prices at the border are 2.93TL p/litre-a lot more than we were expecting.  This is equivalent to 1.24 pounds, more than the UK at the moment.  This is not good news as we are planning to travel the breadth of the country.

We head for Terkidag to spend the evening before heading to Istanbul for the morning.

The land is barren with the temperature a respectable 35 degrees, not the 40 expected. However, we shall see, as it may get a lot hotter as we travel south east.  Wonder when or if we will ever acclimatise to this weather….

The music on the radio station suddenly turns more Arabic and sultry, certainly an improvement to the Greek tunes we have been listening to for the past weeks!

The highway seems to split the city in half as we approach it from the top of the hill.  We speed past the minarets, pointing heavenwards, of a grand looking mosque.

Locals line the side of the road, their trucks loaded down with huge melons and grapefruit.

People are crossing the motorways on foot, so must be extra vigilant when driving.

We decide to head straight to Istanbul tonight, a 3 hour drive from Tekirdag.  Our first view of the city is glimpsed from 20 miles away.  Arriving at the hotel, we are glad for a few days of luxury!

Istanbul    30Th August

Take a stroll through the Grand bazaar, selling everything from jewellery to bubble pipes.  It is heaving with people.  We stop and speak with a Turkish trader who asks us ‘what is the best way to get a sale? How you say in English?’ We spend a while with him teaching him new phases though he already knows so many!

We jump on a tram and head over the Golden Horn bridge towards the Galata tower. The signs take us on a walk up a steep hill, with a water stall at the top to reward us for our efforts!

On our way back down to the river, we pass small groups of shops, each group selling items such as electronics (where we buy a new laptop power supply), building tool & hardware (where we buy some drill bits) & plumbing.  The range of items available is amazing; in such a small area you can find everything you need at decent prices.  If only it was like this in the UK and there was no B&Q or PC world!

We carry on further where we find the fish markets.  Again, there is a large selection of fresh fish at good prices.

Walking along the Golden Horn bridge, we head down to its lower walkway, which is lined on both sides with restaurants.  The local speciality here is a fresh fish roll for 4TL.  We stop at a busy restaurant (after learning our lesson in Greece!) where I try the fish roll.

In the evening we head out for dinner and find a back street restaurant with live music. I go for a mixed grill and Nicole has some sort of diced chicken and spinach.

31st August

In the morning we decide today we will try to visit the sites, and firstly head to the Blue mosque, its name attributed to its thousands of blue tiles.   The Blue Mosque was built in 1609 during the rule of Ahmet I, with the vision of building something even more spectacular than the nearby Aya Sofya.  The mosque is a massive construction, with a huge central dome, held up by colossal pillars; a pretty awe-inspiring and imposing sight.

We take a stroll through the Spice bazaar. Suddenly there is all sorts of commotion behind us.  We spot a group of men holding back two Turks.  One is holding a machete, the other a long kitchen knife, who also has blood all over his face.  Spices and sweets are all over the floor and the two men are shouting at one another in Turkish.  We don’t understand what just happened, but the locals seem to sort it out without the police.

Just to the left of the spice bazaar we go through an animal market.  Everything is on sale from puppies and rabbits, to leeches and reptiles.

We have a quick stop for a late lunch, chicken on spit times two, and then head up to the palace to find it is closed on Tuesdays.  We decide to stop a at local bar for a drink instead.  When paying for our drinks (8TL), we pay the waiter with a 50TL note.  He subsequently returns with euros and a few Turkish lira, which in total amounts to 34TL, 8TL less than what we should have.  It would seem this is common practice in tourist areas to rip you off by giving you a mixture of currencies and claiming they do not have enough change. We insist quite loudly that we are paid in Turkish Lira, ensuring other customers around us to do not fall for the same scam.

In the evening we head back out for dinner.  Being Ramadan, the Turkish restaurants are full every evening, serving local food (soup, meat, salad, bread, followed by baklava & tea) as a set menu. To our surprise it was all delicious. At certain times during the day, we hear the adhan, the Islamic call to prayer from nearby mosques.

1st September

We wake up early to have our hotel breakfast and enjoy the amazing views over the Blue Mosque to find the sky overcast. We head out to the Aya Sofya.  On the way, we go into the free exhibition entitled ‘1000 Islamic Inventions’, where we learn how Islamic countries contributed to today’s modern world.  The exhibition was interesting and certainly conflicted with European history.

Aya Sofya, “The Church of Divine Wisdom”, was built in 537 (more than a millenium before the Blue mosque) by the Romans and continued as the “Greatest Church in Christendom” until the conquest in 1493, when it was converted into a mosque. The church over the years has been host to many including Richard the Lion Heart. Once inside the church you can appreciate the vast space of the massive dome above.

As we’re about to leave the building, the rain starts to bucket down.  It is a welcome relief to the heat, but we don’t have water proofs or even an umbrella!  We wait patiently for 20 minutes hoping the rain will die down.  However it doesn’t and we decide to make a run for it! Just outside the church, locals have arm full’s of umbrellas.  It’s their lucky day-they must have been waiting for rain for months!  We pick one up for 5TL. The roads at this point look more like rivers, with water gushing down the streets.  With so much rain we decide to grab some early lunch in a Turkish café.

After an hour the rain stops and we head towards the Topkapi Palace, built in 1493 and the Royal Palace for the Sultans until the 19oo’s. The palace and gardens are nice but we find the exhibitions on Islam the most interesting. The exhibitions walk us through the history of the religion and the various prophets, the same prophets who are also mentioned in the Bible.

In the evening we go to a nice roof top restaurant with views over the Blue mosque for dinner.

2nd September

We leave Istanbul around midday and drive for several hours to Gelibolu where we find a cheap hotel by the road for the night.  In the evening, we head to the port which is surrounded by lots of small fish restaurants, and even a fish market. We both go for the wild sea bass at 15TL each, which is much larger & tastier than the farmed variety we often get back at home.

3rd September,

We drive to Gallipoli (made famous by the film starring Mel Gibson) and probably the allies’ biggest defeat in WW1. We visit the small war museum, letters from soldiers, guns, ammunition, bullets, even bones and skull with a bullet lodged in it are on display.

We head to Anzac cove.  Along the way we spot a small gravel path heading up in to the hill, and decide to drive and have a look around.  The road takes us to Shell Green cemetery; a small cemetery for Australian soldiers overlooking the bay, immaculately kept. Each grave stone surprisingly has its own individual inscription. The gravelly path is surrounded by pine trees.   As we look down at the steep hills we can imagine the great difficulty the allies would have had in taking the area.

Further up the track we reach Lone Pine cemetery; again we are the only ones here. We head back to the main road and follow it round to several Turkish memorials to the war.

To make up time we decide to head Bergama, home to the Acropolis, bypassing Ephesus on the way as we had been here the year before.  We cross from Europe to Asia at the ferry crossing from Eceabat to Cannakale; the crossing has 2 little forts on either side.

We pass through the bustling town of Cannakale and head on to Bergama near Pergamum.

Driving into town we find a small pension mentioned in Lonely Planet-Gobi Pension.  We pay 70 TL.  To our surprise the pension is very clean and modern, with friendly owners.  We have dinner in the restaurant next door on the owner’s recommendation; I have a lamb shish and Nicole a chicken shish.

4th September

We wake up to a nice breakfast of potato in puff pastry, eggs, bread and fruit, in the pension’s garden.

After breakfast we head to the Acropolis ancient city.  To reach the city we have to wind up a single track road up the mountain to the top, at one point reversing to let a huge coach through!

We are surprised at the large amounts of the city which are intact. Walking around, we wish had a guide to shed more light on its history, as once inside there is very little information.

In the afternoon we drive to Bodrum for our final stop before we reach my fathers in Fethiye.

Looking for a place to spend the night and after seeing a few basic rooms we come across the Pacha motel in Bodrum- a nice, large room for 70TL. As we head out for dinner we are hounded by restaurant owners as we walk along the sea front.   With prices three times what they should be, we decide to try a traditional Turkish restaurant, in the hope of it being reasonably priced.

Nicole wants some wine this evening so we enquire about the price-it’s 70TL for a bottle, equivalent to £30. It was only €5-7 in Greece, so it’s beer and Coke for us this evening.  Nicole tries the Iskender kebab, highly rated by Lonely Planet, to be given probably the worst kebab she has ever had.  Imagine a doner kebab (with bread) put in a blender for a few seconds mixed with cheese, mayo and tomato, yuk! She makes me eat it and takes my Adana kebab!  After dinner, we find a quiet bar on the seafront and have a couple of cocktails before bed.

Fethiye     5th September

Drive down the coast from Bodrum to Fethiye, following the GPS wherever it may lead as it seems to have a mind of its own today.  We wind our way through lush pine forests and tiny tumbleweed villages.  As we drive through each small village, it is like a western movie; we can imagine the tumbleweed rolling down the street as the men stop and stare.  As we carry on, the road drops downwards until we hit the coast, where we drive along a scenic coastal road which zigzags around each cove around and around.  Another 100 mere miles to get to Martin’s dads. Wonder where the GPS will take us next…. We arrive in Fethiye and go for a Sunday roast.

Martin & Nicole