Turkey begun with a fun border crossing. It was recommended that we take a small “coaster” bus across and we’re glad we did or would still be at the border! There were columns of trucks miles long on either side of the border and the drivers didn’t always keep the path clear which resulted in us driving down footpaths, down the verges of roads and weaving between hulking trucks. At one stage our bus scraped a truck who had moved his truck the wrong way. Much yelling ensued, but no numbers were exchanged so we guess insurance isn’t the norm.
At one stage a happy Syrian border guard stopped our bus and refused to let us pass. Apparently our driver had left some paper work back up the road at another border station. Much laughter of the guards – and much sweating of the driver – later the guard asked us if we should let him pass or make him run all the way back (suggesting that the driver could lose some weight!). We saved him.
Smuggling is big business on the border and we thought we would miss this as we had a private bus. But our driver dutifully dropped off a box of stuff with a “friend” in Syria who we then met and exchanged goods with in Turkey!
We had a short overnight stay in Antakya then we were off to the Cappadoccia region. Our guide Sheref (not his real name) took us through the beautiful Ilhara Gorge and an underground city (where locals hid when their country was being invaded – by armies or tourists – which seems to happen very often). The city was 57 metres deep (8 levels), well ventilated which was a relief as some tunnels were a tight squeeze!
Off to Goreme for two days where we got to chill out, wash our clothes and find out Sheref’s real name, Joofuk (spelling???). Needless to say the aussie pronounciation brought a sly smirk. Can’t think why they changed his name. I (Craig) wondered why he kept ignoring me!!!
Goreme started on a low when we decided to go hiking but got lost and wasted 3 hours getting sunburnt and grumpy. The walking tracks are not marked and then are lots of other tracks used by farmers and the like so it was very frustrating. We made up for it the next day by hiring two 4-wheel ATVs and roaring around the whole valley with a guide and seeing everything quick smart!
After a lovely last dinner with our group we were off to Istanbul on a bus, overnight train and then passenger ferry. Lots of sad goodbyes but also good to have some time to ourselves
We have been in Istanbul 4 nights, in a room with the most magnificent view of the Bosphorus, Aya Sofia and Blue Mosque. We spent one day haggling our next trip to the Amalfi coast. We fly Alitalia today at 14:30 to Rome and then connect down to Naples. We then have to get our own way to Sorrento. Anna spent a few hours searching for a bargain and we got this place – Relais Regina Giovanna – for a song in the end and will be there for 5 nights, then head up to Rome for 2 nights before flying onto London as scheduled.
We did a day trip to Gallipoli and spent about 5 hours trekking around the peninsula. The guide, Murat, was excellent, and the experience reminded us of the futility of wars and also the unexpected bonding between Australia and New Zealand and Turkey which occurred because of this battle. There were too many stories told to mention them all.
I suppose the most amazing aspect was how close the trenches were to each other (8 metres) and also tracking down Jack’s (Anna’s grandfather) great uncle who has a burial stone at Lone Pine.
Turkey has left an impression on us and our stomachs. The food!!! Bread, Cakes, Pastries and great – but expensive – coffee. It is quite modern and stylish and easier to get around. The people dress very european style rather than middle-eastern and we blended in easily (except for the bloody restaurant touts in Istanbul who picked us a mile away). The country is very green and beautiful with rolling hills and pastures. If we had more time and energy it would be good to have seen more.