What We Did: We spent two full weeks traveling through Turkey. We began in Istanbul (three days there); then took the overnight bus to Goreme in the central Cappadocia region (three more days); took another overnight bus to Olympos, on the Mediterranean coast (two days); sailed on a “blue cruise” gullet boat from Olympos to Fethiye (four days); and then relaxed in Fethiye and Marmaris (three days) before catching a ferry to Rhodes, Greece.
Overall Impression: Turkey was easily one of our favorite destinations. (Of the countries visited so far, Amy ranks it third behind only New Zealand and Vietnam. Definitely a top spot.) There is a ton to see and do in this country, and we could have easily spent another week here.
Food & Drink: The food in Turkey is fantastic, often very simple but expertly spiced and marinated. We frequently had amazing lentil soup, enjoyed delicious kebab sandwiches on pita, and ate ridiculous quantities of bread at every meal. For beverages, we pretty much drank tea, tea, and more Turkish tea (with the occasional beer thrown in). Sorry, no more tea, please. I need a break.
The People: The Turkish people are exceedingly friendly and outgoing. (I’d rank Turkey and Laos as the two friendliest countries we’ve visited.) Shopkeepers routinely invited us in for tea, even when they knew that would not be buying anything. Restaurant owners would come chat with us during our meals and literally shake our hands when we said goodbye. And,on a slightly different note, Amy couldn’t stop talking about how attractive Turkish men are. (Enough already!)
Cost: Turkey is by no means cheap (not like Southeast Asia, for example). But good accommodation is reasonably priced, and the food can be very inexpensive---especially if you get slightly away from the tourist centers. For instance, at a small restaurant in Feyithe, Amy and I ordered lentil soup, Turkish pizza, a dip platter with pita, and beer---and our total bill was only 8 liras (about $6). And fantastic kebab sandwiches are widely available for less than $2 each.
Night Buses: We took night buses from Istanbul to Goreme and then, later, from Goreme to Olympos. Both of these buses left late in the evening (usually around 10 or 11 at night) and arrived at 8 or 9 in the morning. The buses are modern, air-conditioned and quite nice---but they are still only as comfortable as buses can possibly get. (Thank goodness for sleeping pills.) The photo below is from a shuttle bus (not a night bus) where the bus was overflowing, and I had to sit on the floor. (Thankfully, it was a relatively short ride.)
Istanbul: Turkey’s largest city is as fascinating and memorable as any European city we’ve seen. Our three days here weren’t enough. (We wanted to stay at least four nights, but we couldn’t find accommodation beyond our three nights.) Highlights included the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, and just aimlessly wandering the winding, cobblestone streets of Old Town.
Cappaddocia: The Cappadoccia region was probably my favorite part of Turkey. The rock formations here look like they are from a different planet; incredibly unique and often flat-out stunning. Much of the town of Goreme is built into these rock formations, and our hotel was actually a “cave hotel” with the rooms dug out of a rock chimney.
For activities in Cappaddocia, we hiked through canyons, toured an ancient underground city, and floated over the rock formations and canyons in a hot air balloon. Very cool place.
Olympos: Our next stop was the tiny town on Olympos, a small backpacker hangout located in southern Turkey on the Mediterranean Sea. We hiked the surrounding mountains, wandered through ruins, hung out by the sea, and generally did a whole lot of nothing at our bungalow. Very relaxing. Very nice. We also did a night hike to the Chimera Flames (a natural phenomenon that produces everlasting flames from the ground), where we had a bit of a scare---Amy fell and sprained her ankle. Fortunately, the sprain was slight, and it didn’t restrict it her much. And what better means of recovery then to spend four days relaxing on a boat? (That is exactly what we did next.)
Boat Cruise. From Olympos, we boarded a sailboat and spent four days and three nights cruising the Mediterranean coast until we reached Feyithe. There were 11 guests total on the boat, and--aside from several stops to explore coastal towns or ruins--most of our days were lazily spent sunning, swimming, and playing cards. (Luckily, the weather was fantastic.) The water here is crystal clear, and the mountains rising up out of the sea are extremely scenic.
Feyithe. Our boat cruise ended in the coastal town of Feyithe, where we spent two more nights. Throughout our trip, we had been reluctantly resisting the urge to buy many souvenirs (since we had almost no room in our suitcases and didn’t want to carry heavy souvenirs around for months on end)----but, here in Feyithe, we finally broke down and bought a few items. (For better or worse, we’ve visited 17 countries so far and yet most of our souvenirs and gifts will all come from a single country. Oh well.)
Marmaris. From Feyithe, we took a three-hour bus to the coastal town of Marmaris, which is a popular destination for Europeans. Very touristy. We had barely an evening in Marmaris before we caught an early morning ferry to the Greek island of Rhodes.
In Rhodes, we met up with Amy’s sister, Jenny, and Jenny’s husband, Rob. (Plus, their baby, Ethan). The plan is to visit the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, and Santorini before spending a short time in Athens. Greece is one of the final countries on our trip (only Paris remains), and we are definitely going out with a bang. More soon…