Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 157 - Fethiye and Oludeniz

I took an early dolmus from Kusadasi to Aydin, where I bought a bus ticket to Fethiye, another seaside town, but on the Mediterranean Coast.

It would be my first time at a hostel in all my travels in Turkey, since the Couchsurfing community is so large and available here. I would be on my own for the next couple of days without the help of an experienced local, who could suggest where to go and what to eat. Luckily, I had a clue on where to go because my Lonely Planet Mediterranean Europe book listed Oludeniz as the number one sight to see in all of the Mediterranean countries combined.

Upon arrival here, I noticed the large number of British people here. Like the Koreans and Taiwanese in Boracay, or the Russians in Pattaya, this was a very popular spot for the British to come and vacation at this time of the year. The city wasn't too crowded this month, but I could still see the touristic appeal in the area. Since I planned on being in Fethiye for 2 nights, I was initially planning on visiting Oludeniz tomorrow, but I arrived early enough to grab another Dolmus to take me to the beach and lagoon area.

Again, Lonely Planet has over-exaggerated on its praise of something, because I didn't really see why this beach should be the number one spot in ALL of Mediterranean Europe. It was a nice, pebbly beach to spend a day at, but I really didn't see that much appeal in the location. The weather helped though, as it was finally sunny enough to go shirtless and "tan" on the beach, which I quickly took the opportunity to do before the cold Winter came.

I spent the rest of the night exploring the touristy area of Fethiye, where there were the typical restaurants and souvenir shops to browse. I decided by the end of the night to catch another bus tomorrow to another city to see more of Turkey. Next stop...Kas

Fethiye Marina

Fethiye Roman Theatre

Oludeniz Lagoon/Beach

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Day 156 - Kusadasi and Pigeon Island

I decided to stay one more full day in Kusadasi instead of painstakingly planning my next destination, whether it be Bodrum or Fethiye. Just like some of the days in my college years, nobody woke up until around noon, missing some classes that started earlier in the day. In fact, a couple of the girls ended up not going to class at all today, opting to play hooky to tour me around their city.

We walked around the city in the afternoon after the skies cleared and the warmth from the sun filled the air. There was a small island off the coast that we visited called Pigeon Island, which some call the symbol of Kusadasi. On the island lies the Byzantine Castle, which was used to protect the city from attacks from the sea.

The day was short, since we left the house around 3pm, and after our visit to the castle, we had dinner at one of the seaside restaurants. I ordered Balik Ekmek (Fish Sandwich) with Salgam Suyu (Turnip Juice). The sandwich was good, but the drink was too salty for my taste, although it is a popular drink to accompany any seafood meal. Afterwards, we headed to a tea shop popular with the university crowd, where we smoked Nargile (water pipe), drank tea, and played some Backgammon. The game is probably the most popular board game in Turkey, and I felt so slow when I played against Elif. She knew exactly where to place each piece whenever she moved, where I had to take my time counting the number of spaces to move based on my dice rolls. I learned a couple more strategies to take when playing though, things I never even considered when I played the game when I was younger.

At the end of the night, I decided I would head to Fethiye the next morning since I was running out of time and everyone told me I should try and get to Eastern Turkey to see some of the more "Middle Eastern" culture of Turkey.

Byzantine Castle on Pigeon Island

Helping Make Breakfast!

A Tense Game of Backgammon with 20 Lira on the Line

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 155 - Ancient Ruins of Ephesus and the Village of Sirince

I set off early in the morning to get to Kusadasi in time to visit the classical city of Ephesus, where ruins lay that are over 2,000 years old. I set off my dolmus from Manisa to Izmir, and then took a larger bus from Izmir to Kusadasi. I contacted a couchsurfer in the city to see if he had a place available, but he was in the process of unpacking into a new apartment and told me his friends would be willing to host me. It's incredible how people can go out of their way to help someone they don't even know...

Upon arrival, I met up with Cagla, Elif, and Fatma, three university students who offered to host me for the night! They were a fun and energetic bunch of girls who were enthusiastic to host me and offered to be my tour guide for the day. I would be their first couchsurfing experience, and I hope I was a good surfer.

We met up with their friend Ahmet, who had a car and offered to drive us from the seaside town of Kusadasi to Ephesus. At Ephesus, we took a horse carriage ride around the sights in the area. Our first stop was the Cemetery of the Seven Sleepers, which was a graveyard area near Ephesus that was built inside a natural cave. The name comes from an ancient legend where six religious people and one dog hid inside the cave to shelter themselves from the pressure of Paganism and slept there for 200 years.

Afterwards, we headed to the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, which was once a Roman city that was populated by 250,000 people – the second largest city in the Roman Empire (after Rome) and also the second largest city in the world at the time. The city underwent numerous restoration periods due to earthquakes, wars, and time. It was also home to one of the seven ancient wonder of the world – the Temple of Artemis. Check the pictures below for further descriptions.

The last stop of the day was to the small village of Sirince, first inhabited by Greeks before the population exchange in 1922. It is known for its wine production and minor tourist draw. We had a wonderful lunch/dinner atop one of the hills, overlooking some of the houses scattered throughout the other hills and mountains. I also purchased a cherry/strawberry red wine for us to enjoy in the evening.

Later on at night, we walked around the city of Kusadasi with some of the girls' other friends, enjoying the cool weather after the long and hot day in the sun. They were all students at the nearby university and all were studying tourism, hoping to one day travel both around Turkey and internationally. I showed them some of my photos from my travels, and they especially liked the ones in Bagan, Myanmar, and the ladyboy caberet pictures from Bangkok.

Ephesus - Celcus Library (built 115-117 CE)


Kusadasi Street Vendor

The Cemetery of Seven Sleepers 

Ephesus - Small Theatre

Ephesus - Memmius Monument

Ephesus - Kuretler Main Street

Ephesus - Hadrianus Temple

Ephesus - Celcus Library

Ephesus - Great Theatre


The waiter wanted to feed me some dried red chillis since I was curious about them. He ended up forcing me to eat two whole ones, and afterwards, I needed a cup of Ayran (yogurt drink) to help neutralize the heat.

Wine Tasting with Elif

Kusadasi at Night

The Ladyboys were a Big Hit at Home

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 154 - Manisa and Izmir

Volkan, my CS host, and his friend Ahmet took me around some of the tourist spots in both Manisa and Izmir. It was a quick tour since I only had one full day to check out the two cities, which are only 30 minutes away from each other by car or bus.

Manisa is dwarfed in size compared to Izmir, which is the 3rd most populated city in Turkey. There were a couple of sights worth seeing, including the Weeping Rock of Niobe, which according to myth, is Niobe turned into stone by Zeus to end her suffering after she continuously weeps because all her 12 children are killed by Apollo and Artemis. We also visited the Sultan Mosque and the Hamam, but I think I'm too exfoliated from my first experience to pay for another one...maybe at the end of my trip in Turkey.

The city is also known for its special paste called "Mesir" which is a mixture of around 30-40 different spices. It's sweet and chewy, rolled into a long cylinder, like a jumbo tootsie roll. In the past, the paste was used to cure the citizens of various ailments. They were freely distributed to the citizens of the city.

After the short trip to Manisa, we headed to Izmir, where I visited the Clock Tower and the Kemeralti Bazaar. The city was so much more crowded and busy compared to the laid-back town of Manisa. Maybe because I was there during the weekend...

We walked around for a while before Ahmet and Volkan treated me to one of the specialty foods of Izmir - the Kumru sandwich, which contains a huge amount of meats and cheese. In the end, the sandwich won the battle as I couldn't finish it, but it was delicious nonetheless!

Tomorrow I head to Kusadasi (probably the hardest city to pronounce so far in Turkey!) to see the classical city and ruins of Ephesus...

Niobe Weeping Rock

Sultan Hamam

Izmir Clock Tower

Kumru Sandwich

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day 153 - Canakkale to Manisa

Another long bus ride that took about 8 hours to get from Canakkale further southwest to Manisa. I didn't expect the ride to be so long, especially when the bus company said it would take 6 hours, so those last 2 hours were somewhat agonizing. Still, it was a very comfortable ride, but all I could do was listen to music and sleep sleep sleep. I wasn't able to find a decent English book to read in Canakkale since I finished my other one.

 So far, people have told me to read "40 Rules of Love" by Elif Shafak to get a greater sense of the Turkish culture in a more contemporary perspective. Hopefully I'll find a book soon since my Kindle decided to die on me while I was in Nepal.

I arrived at my CS host's place at around 6:30 and the day was already almost over. We had dinner and conversed the rest of the night, planning what we would do tomorrow in Izmir and Manisa.

Breakfast - Borek (thin, flaky pastry stuffed with meat) and Turkish Tea

Lunch - Juicy Chicken Kebabs (definitely a favorite)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day 152 - Gallipoli Tour

Woke up early in the morning to get more information about booking a tour of Gallipoli, a war site during the First World War. I ended up booking an English speaking tour so I could get some more information about the battles in the area.

The tour would start at noon, so I took the opportunity to walk around Canakkale and see some of the tourist sights. I went to the surrounding park next to the Ottoman Castle, which had replicas of old cannons and underwater mines. Entrance to the castle itself and museum were closed today. Afterwards, I checked out the Cannakale city museum to get some more information about the history of the city and it's people. Lastly, I went to the Mirrored Bazaar, which was a small bazaar selling touristic merchandise, none of which I had any desire to purchase.

I boarded the ferry across the Dardanelles river to get to Eceabat, where I met with the rest of the people on the Gallipoli tour. They were mostly from the United States and Australia. Apparently, many Australians and Kiwis come to Gallipoli on a pilgrimage on April 25 (Anzac Day) in remembrance of the soldiers who fought and died during the 9-month fighting in the area. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp and there were many soldiers who signed up to fight in Turkey on the side of the British without really knowing what they were fighting for. At this time, Australia and New Zealand were still British-owned territories.

The tour was about 4 hours long, and we were driven to some commemorative sites as well as some cemeteries and key battleground sites. Much of the information was too detailed for me to remember too clearly, but it was all very informative and the tour guide seemed very passionate about sharing the history and significance of the war. You could always watch the Mel Gibson movie, but seeing and hearing about it is so much better. While the Turks were fighting on the side of the Germans/Triple Alliance and the Anzacs were fighting with the Triple Entente, the soldiers developed a sort of friendship and mutual respect for each other. Because of this, and because of the 130,000 people who died, there are memorials for both sides and there was a beautiful quote that was proudly displayed at the memorial:

Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away 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.

I think I would skip the tour if I were a backpacker though, maybe save it for war history buffs, or when I am retired. 

Gallipoli Tour

Replica of the Trojan Horse in Canakkale

Beers and Turkish Football with my CS Host, Aydin, and Gizem and Guzel