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Phespirit goes to Turkey
tour     April/May 2002

AROUND TURKEY

Map of Turkey

1 Tekirdağ

Located in the European region of Thrace, Tekirdağ is a fair sized town on the northern coast of the Sea of Marmara; a modern port and allegedly the production centre for the finest rakı in Turkey.

Rakı is the national fire water - a clear aniseed-based spirit which turns white when diluted with water, earning the title: 'Lion's Milk'. It isn't the worst drink in the world but Phespirit has tasted better.

Phespirit did not stop at the town, but paused at the O/Pet Petrol Station on a hill to the south for a nice panoramic view across the small vineyards thereabouts.

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2 Gelibolu

Gelibolu is a modest little harbour town on the main route south into the Gallipoli peninsula. Fishing is the primary concern here, although the bracing smell hanging over the docks is more from the diesel engines of boats than from the catch of the day.

Phespirit went wandering away from the harbour along a coastal footpath which eventually lead to a weathered headland sporting the word 'Gelibolu' writ large in elevated white letters.

Very Hollywood.

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3 Gallipoli

The peninsula is now classified as an 'Historical National Park'. It is much greener than Phespirit had expected and was apparently once heavily wooded, even in recent times, until forest fires hit.

Phespirit visited two Anzac war cemeteries: the small but gravely symbolic Arı Burnu Cemetery by the beaches of the first landing - where the solemn atmosphere was slaughtered by a radio playing on board a fishing boat moored about twenty yards off shore - and the large Lone Pine Cemetery, still edged with temporary wooden seating from the Anzac Day memorial service four days previous.

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4 Eceabat

Phespirit caught the Okmeydanı ferry from Eceabat to Çanakkale, leaving the Gallipoli peninsula and crossing the fabled Dardanelles in a mere twenty minutes.

The Dardanelles - or Hellespont to ancient Greek visitors - is deep blue, crystal clear and full of jellyfish, which could have been a bit off-putting for Leander and Lord Byron when they swam across.

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5 Çanakkale

Phespirit spent a night at the Hotel İris just to the south of central Çanakkale in an out-of-town resort area called Güzelyalı.

Whilst walking on the small stretch of pale, sandy, slightly scruffy beach in front of the hotel, Phespirit wrote down the domain name of this site, slipped it in a bottle and cast it into the Dardanelles.

Where is it now?

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6 Troy

In his ignorance, Phespirit had not anticipated seeing great things at Troy, he just anticipated being at a great place. Yet it turns out that the site is quite extensive. The excavations are multi-layered with recognisable, well-preserved structures festooned all around.

An early morning visit ensured that Phespirit was among the first people looking around. Coaches brimming with Japanese tourists did not arrive until Phespirit was about leave.

The Trojan Horse on site is risible tourist fodder. Around the ruins Phespirit saw a Trojan Dog, a Trojan Cat and a Trojan Squirrel.

Sad to say the legendary twin rivers of Troy - the Scamander and the Simois - cannot be seen from the city.

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7 Edremit

The winding hillside passage and surrounding olive forests on the coast road from Troy, bypassing Mount İda, are more noteworthy than Edremit itself: a medium town of half-constructed 3-4 storey flats, small shops and dusty back roads.

At the nearby Petrol Ofisi, Phespirit bought a tasty mini bottle of Turkish ruby red wine - Kavaklıdere 'Yakut' - to be downed on the road to Pergamon.

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8 Bergama

The eyes of all new arrivals in Bergama must immediately turn to the radiant white marble of ancient Pergamon, perched at the top of a mountain rising high above the modern town.

First things first for Phespirit, though: skewered chicken with rice and tea at the Sağlam Restaurant. Very tasty.

Pergamon was probably the most glorious of all the places which Phespirit visited in Turkey. In addition to fantastic remnants in the Upper Acropolis - the Trajaneum, the Precinct of Athena, the City Walls, the Great Theatre, the Altar of Zeus - the views across the surrounding terrain on a sunny day are completely captivating.

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9 İzmir

İzmir is the third largest city in Turkey (after İstanbul and Ankara). The traffic is heavy and the roads are broad. Pastel-painted tower blocks crowd the city outskirts - a building policy which could be considered rather risky in an earthquake zone. There is plenty of vacant development land between the encircling hills and the sea so İzmir will probably just get bigger and bigger.

Phespirit strolled along the seafront, overlooking the Gulf of İzmir, and up and down the main shopping street, Fevzipaşa, where the shops and shoppers are an epitome of young Turkish chic.

It is quite an appealing place.

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10 Şirince

Strict preservation controls ensure all that buildings in the village of Şirince retain their original Ottoman Greek character. Even so, the close proximity of tourist wallets up the road at Ephesus has not been without influence on the flavour of local businesses.

The village has three restaurants. At Ünal Pide Salonu, Phespirit ordered "Gözleme (Patatesli)" - a dry potato-filled pancake - with peach wine. It took over an hour for his food to arrive .....

..... so Phespirit now advises all visitors to Şirince:

Do not eat at Ünal Pide Salonu - the service is terrible!

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11 Ephesus

Ephesus was by far the most complete ancient city that Phespirit visited. There are shops and houses, avenues and baths, temples and theatres, spread out over a sizeable area. The centre piece is the two storey façade of the Library of Celsus, reconstructed from original materials (70%) and new matching stone.

The Ephesus theatre is a semi-circle of steeply-rising stone seats flanked on both sides by mountains. In its day it would have faced the city harbour but now it looks out across a plain of silted brown fields. St. Paul played here, as did Diana Ross, but performances ceased after Sting almost literally brought the house down, having gone 'One Louder'.

Away from the city a single re-stacked marble column in a field is all that remains of the Temple of Artemis. The ancient wonder has gone, but Phespirit did at least see a tortoise crawling about.

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12 Kuşadaşı

This simple fishing village turned over-developed tourist resort and cruise liner port is the main jumping-off point for visits to Ephesus.

Phespirit stayed two nights at the Hotel Taksim International. The hotel left a good impression on Phespirit and Phespirit left a good impression on the hotel ..... during a slapstick incident involving a glass door.

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13 Isabeyli

Just before Isabeyli, in the vicinity of Nazilli, Phespirit decided this would be a worthwhile place to go sliding through the undergrowth in search of the perfect angle for a landscape photograph.

Emerging from the scrub, having taken said photograph, Phespirit noticed blood on his left hand. Closer inspection revealed this had come from an inch-long cut to his right hand, probably inflicted by a razor-edged reed .....

So blood and reeds: Phespirit's memory of Isabeyli.

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14 Aphrodisias

Here is an outstanding collection of well preserved Graeco-Roman buildings. The star piece is the 30,000 capacity stadium, which is a little rough at the edges, but otherwise almost completely intact despite never having had the benefit of any restoration work.

Other ancient wonders of Aphrodisias include the Tetrapylon, the Temple of Aphrodisias, the Baths of Hadrian, the Double Agora, and the beautiful little theatre.

And a word too for the nearby Anatolia Restaurant with its toilets that wouldn't look out of place in the Rockefeller Center

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15 Pamukkale

Two sights for the price of one.

  1. The white crystal travertines: now on the UNESCO World Heritage List, these are intelligently maintained through a system of man-made waterways into which metal sheets are inserted at two metre intervals to effect an overspill of mineral-rich water at designated locations. Good work.

  2. Hierapolis: the remains of this Roman city are modest by the standards of those found elsewhere in Turkey, but the long trail of tombs and sarcophagi - the necropolis - along the road to Pamukkale is an impressive thing to behold.

So good value for visitors here.

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16 Denizli

Carpets for sale. Phespirit saw hundreds of carpets for sale at the Tavas Hali Carpet Weaving Center. It takes years of skilled labour to produce a single intricately-patterened double-stitch silk carpet and this great effort is reflected in the breath-takingly high prices. Phespirit declined to buy.

Carpet weaving is the work of pale young girls in headscarves and long patterned skirts. Their delicate fingers, as nimble as they are slender, move with such lightning speed and guileful dexterity that Phespirit would be bereft of all confidence were they to deal him a poker hand.

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17 Bozanköyü

A lunch stop at the Kaptan Restaurant on the dusty highway east from Denizli to Çay.

No more, no less.

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18 Dereçine

Cheese toasties and Turkish tea on the road from Çay to Konya. Outside stands a large fibreglass model of Nasreddin Hodja with his trademark turban, sitting back-to-front on his donkey.

Hodja was famed for his wit and wisdom. Many of his quips still survive from the 13th century, for example:

Neigbours were worried about Hodja's beautiful wife. They said,
"Hodja, your wife is visiting her young friends and wandering around all day in the village."
"I don't think so!" replied Hodja. "If she was wandering around so much, I am sure she would stop by our house too."

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19 Konya

Konya is another big Turkish city, which means more clusters of yellow, orange, pink, green and blue pastel tower blocks. Doubly incongruous is the huge glass Hilton skyscraper which stands in semi-isolation at the south-west corner of town.

Top sights in the city centre are the Mevlana Museum, including the mausoleum of Mevlevi Dervishes - spinning in their graves? - and the neighbouring Alaeddin Camii mosque.

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20 Aksaray

The gateway to Cappadocia.

There are good views to be had from Aksaray to the snow capped peak of Hasan Dağı, one of two extinct volcanoes in the area.

Phespirit had a bite at the Ağaçli Restaurant; he can recommend the chocolate chip cake with layers of cream and strawberries.

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21 Ağzikarahan

The Hoca Mesut Caravanserai, built between 1231 and 1239, was one of a string of fortified inns which offered food, shelter, stabling, craftsmen and prayer facilities to traders on the main caravan trail heading eastwards.

This particular caravanserai is in a pretty good state of repair. The ornately carved stone portal remains intact, while a small pavillion mosque still stands at the centre of the courtyard.

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22 Uchisar

Things to see and do in Cappadocia, part 1:

This bit of Cappadocia is dominated by a mountainous tufa stack strafed from top to bottom with cave dwellings and topped off with a mediæval fortress.

Down below is the delicately coloured Guvercinlik Vadisi - Pigeon Valley - with its curious sets of door-like carvings in the rock.

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23 Göreme

Things to see and do in Cappadocia, part 2:

Göreme, in the Avcilar Valley, is at the very centre of Cappadocia. Its top tourist draw is the Göreme Open Air Museum: a collection of cave dwellings and rock-cut churches which were excavated by monastic communities between the 9th and 11th centuries.

Christian churches, decorated with frescoes of saints and scenes from the New Testament, are especially popular with the crowds.

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24 Ürgüp

Things to see and do in Cappadocia, part 3:

Phespirit called into the Ürgüp area to see the two so-called 'fairy chimnies' - entirely natural tapering towers of tufa with wide rocks balanced precariously on top - which have been adopted as icons for the whole region.

Hereabouts too is the splendid Valley of the Birds.

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25 Paşabağı

Things to see and do in Cappadocia, part 4:

More pointy 'fairy chimnies' and lots of them. These are stumpier but arguably more impressive than the ones at Ürgüp, nestling in cosy family groups with the occasional church carved inside.

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26 Avanos

Things to see and do in Cappadocia, part 5:

Small village, pottery works, Phespirit's hotel.

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27 Özkonak

Things to see and do in Cappadocia, part 6:

The village of Özkonak has an underground city. Yeralti Şehri is a subterranean system of halls and passageways carved out of soft tufa rock. The caverns descend as far as ten levels, although only four of these are open to the public. Several of the passages have circular stone doors - hewn from the interior rock - which could be rolled across the entrance to seal the chamber.

Phespirit also visited the village market, for what it's worth.

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28 Ankara

Ankara's position at the heart of contemporary Turkish civilisation is confirmed by it having not only a McDonald's but a Wimpy too. Despite this, Phespirit took quite a shine to the place.

Having caught the Metro to the top city sights - the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and the Museum of Anatolian Civilisation - Phespirit walked on to the citadel to enjoy a panorama across the whole of the city.

A nervous moment came as Phespirit searched for a way through the fences around the Ak Kale tower. A large, roaring, fang-baring dog came crashing from the yard of an adjacent house and would have murdered Phespirit had it not been for a long tethering chain. And all the other dogs in Turkey had seemed so docile .....

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29 Gordion

At the ancient site of Gordion in the modern village of Yassihöyük Phespirit saw plenty of Phrygian burial mounds, called Tümülüsü, and took a peek inside the largest "Midas" mound. The interior is lined with impressively large cedar logs, but the burial riches have long since been relocated to the Museum of Anatolian Civilisation in Ankara - the top museum in Turkey.

Phespirit also saw the oldest mosaic in Anatolia (dated to 750BC) but did not see the two halves of the Gordion Knot which, alas, no longer survive. Indeed there are no surviving artefacts from the visit of Alexander the Great, which is a great pity.

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30 Bozüyük

A busy, built-up town on the road from Ankara to Bursa.

It was a market day when Phespirit visited Bozüyük. Maybe every day is market day in Bozüyük - who knows? Phespirit had a stroll around whilst munching a simit and browsing nothing in particular.

NOTE: 'Simit' is a tasty bread ring covered in sesame seeds. Street vendors sell it from small glass wagons or piled up on trays.

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31 Bursa

The great silk road from China terminates at Bursa. Phespirit took a look around the Koza Hanı - the Silk Bazaar - and inside the big and beautiful Ulu Cami - the 14th century Great Mosque.

Yeşil Cami - the Green Mosque - is the other noted local mosque. Phespirit arrived just as 5:00pm prayers were being called, joining in a synchronised cacophony that resounded around the city, and killed off any hopes of a visit. Next door is Yeşil Türbe - the Green Tomb - an octagonal building with green tiles decorating the lower half and faded green paint around the top. Mehmet I rests inside.

Other buildings in the vicinity of the Green Mosque are all painted in loud colours, creating a scene reminiscent of old Havana.

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32 Mudanya

Mudanya is a laidback coastal town with a pleasant promenade along the Sea of Marmara, where the wind blows straight up the Dardanelles.

Phespirit promenaded from the Hotel Montania to see .....

  • the submarine TCG Pirireis moored at a military quay;
  • rows of seemingly hybrid Byzantine/Hispanic houses;
  • a tiny triangular section of artificial beach grandly named "M. KEMAL COSKUNOZ PLAJI 2001";

..... and stopped on the way back for some chicken shish at the Ferah Pide Kebap Salonu - a most excellent establishment.

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33 Yalova

Phespirit caught the Topcular 1 ferry across the Bay of Izmit from Yalova to Eskihisar, but not before buying some boxes of Turkish Delight to be given as sacrificial offerings for the folks back home.

There seemed to be an unduly high number of garden centres per mile of road around Yalova.

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34 Eskihisar

On crossing the Bay of İzmir by ferry from Yalova, this is where the traffic disembarks .....

..... and quickly drives away.

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35 İstanbul

So what did Phespirit see and do when he reached İstanbul?

Four mighty mosques: one old, one new, one borrowed, one Blue. The borrowed one being the seminal Haghia Sophia which used to be Christian and is now a secular museum.

Bazaars - Grand and Spice ..... oh, tell them what you want, what you really really want.

The stately Topkapı Palace, including the multi-chambered Harem and richly bejewelled Treasury, wherein the Kaşikçi diamond is so bright as to require welders' goggles for safe viewing.

Plus a visit to the Çemberlitaş Turkish Baths for ninety minutes of slow-steaming and skin-shedding to the point of near-delirium.

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  1. Tekirdağ
  2. Gelibolu
  3. Gallipoli
  4. Eceabat
  5. Çanakkale
  6. Troy
  7. Edremit
  8. Bergama
  9. İzmir
  10. Şirince
  11. Ephesus
  12. Kuşadaşı
  13. Isabeyli
  14. Aphrodisias
  15. Pamukkale
  16. Denizli
  17. Bozanköyü
  18. Dereçine
  19. Konya
  20. Aksaray
  21. Ağzikarahan
  22. Uchisar
  23. Göreme
  24. Ürgüp
  25. Paşabağı
  26. Avanos
  27. Özkonak
  28. Ankara
  29. Gordion
  30. Bozüyük
  31. Bursa
  32. Mudanya
  33. Yalova
  34. Eskihisar
  35. İstanbul
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Tekirdağ Gelibolu Gallipoli Eceabat Çanakkale Troy Edremit Bergama İzmir Şirince Ephesus Kuşadaşı Isabeyli Aphrodisias Pamukkale Denizli Bozanköyü Dereçine Konya Aksaray Ağzikarahan Uchisar Göreme Ürgüp Paşabağı Avanos Özkonak Ankara Gordion Bozüyük Bursa Mudanya Yalova Eskihisar İstanbul