Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Beach Days

I completely forgot to out a post yesterday; The last two days have been perfectly lazy spent sleeping in and reading at the beach club maintained by our hotel..!

Yesterday evening we ventured in to town for a quick doner (that's how donair is spelled here). Quite a lively little town - touristy, but visited mainly by Turkish people. 

Today was spent, like yesterday, by the ocean reading. Good stuff. And quite different from the pace we've been used to over the last week. Very relaxing:

Tough, I know. Also 36 degrees. Aoife was in her element.

Oddly, the last bus from the beach club (it's not located at the hotel) leaves at 5:30, so it's poolside after that. Not that I'm complaining, as the shade is cooler here. 

Tonight we'll try to have a nice (read sit-down) dinner in the town, and then see if we can catch a drink at one of the clubs which came recommended to us. Tomorrow we're off bright and early to a Greek island, where we'll spend the day. Not sure what to expect, but we shall see!

Pics to follow. 

Hope everyone is well - and talk with you soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Travel Day 2

Well, today was mostly a travel day, driving from Pumakkale to Cesme, and reaching the resort town just before 2:00. 

Before we left, we did manage to snap another cool shot of the mountains. As we learned, Pumakkale apparently means "cotton castle". The valley below it is apparently full of cotton farms:

Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to our great guide Mete. Hopefully our paths will cross again soon. 

Not much else to report today, other than some time relaxing on the beach and reading poolside. 

Tomorrow we'll likely explore a bit more, but for now we are going to catch up on some rest after a busy touring schedule. 

Still lots to see as we'll be visiting a Greek island in the next few days, as well as going on a tour around this peninsula. We'll also try to do as much walking around his place as we can. Apparently there's a good market!

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

P.S.  I should mention that the internet is slow here for some reason (that or we just haven't found the sweet spot for it yet). Until it gets faster, I may have to skimp on the photos!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

There is no snow here!

We had a bit of a later start today, leaving at noon from our hotel - which was appreciated after the late night last night! It also gave us a chance to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, as well as relax by the sea. 

Our drive to Pamukkale (formerly Hierapolis in Roman times) is unique because of the incredible mineral deposits which are created there. It looks like snow!

It is most certainly not snow. Actually it was the hottest day of the trip so far - easily mid thirties or higher. 

There's actually hot springs in the area, the mineral rich water of which is carried by underwater means overtop of limestone cliffs. As the water evaporates under the scorching, I can assure you, sun, the minerals are left deposited on the rocks (it's calcium carbonate). Little pools have formed over the centuries.

In fact, Hierapolis was built by the Romans in this area especially because of the mineral rich waters, which they believed to have healing properties. Apparently people still believe this, and going for a dip in the water is supposed to be, at the least, therapeutic. So that's what we did:

The scenery in the area was beautiful, and unlike anything either of us had seen before:

There are also great ruins there, as the city used to be large - approx 150,000 people or so. In fact, the largest Roman cemetery ever found was discovered here. The ruins included a remarkable restoration of an amphitheatre:

The remnants of a gymnasium:

As well as a museum housing all sorts of artifacts, including one of the most ornate roman sarcophagi I've ever seen (short of being for an emperor):

Hierapolis is expected to cover the same area as Ephesus, but most of it remains to be restored. 

By the time we were finished up, it was nearly 7:00 pm, so we raced back to our hotel for a quick turnaround before dinner. 

After that, a quick tour of the market in the local village and then to bed. An early start and a long drive to the resort town of Cesme tomorrow. 

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ephesus is a Great Roman Ruin

9:30 came early this morning, but before we knew it, we were up and on our way. 

Our first stop was at the a house supposedly lived in by the Virgin Mary. There is actually some evidence to point to the fact she was living in the area of Ephesus, including stories passed down for generations that villagers brought food to her while she was there. The house is not spectacular, but does have an air of sanctity about it. Also, the Catholic Church has officially denoted it as a pilgrimage site, so check to that box. 

Mary's house is actually at the top of a large hill, a km or so away from Ephesus, a colossal roman ruin. I imagine it would have been quite a peaceful place (before the Chinese tourists started coming here). 

Following this, we headed down the road to Ephesus, a Roman city, and one of the largest Roman ruins ever discovered. What is available to see now is apparently only 18% of what they suspect is remaining of the townsite. More ruins from the city have apparently been discovered more than a mile away, and the estimates are that more than 250,000 people lived here at one time. A really incredible site, there is so much more to see there than what we can post in this blog. But some highlights:

The library facade:

Rich Romans' houses:

Crazy mosaics:

The theatre:

And public toilets. Because I found these fascinating:

Most of the original main street is there as well, paved in marble.  The scale of Ephesus is difficult to describe. We were there for nearly three hours, but I felt we could have spent longer there without a problem (it was about 35 degrees there though, and water was limited, so maybe not). 

After our tour, we stopped at a local home for lunch. Wow. Some more recipe ideas for sure:

We also saw the tomb of John the Apostle - around which Constantine built a cathedral (and later the Turks built a fortress). Very cool:

An earlier drop off to our hotel today (around 5:00 or so). Aoife relaxed Aegean Sea side, while Paul had a heat induced nap. 

We walked in to town to have a late dinner, and ended up in a section known as little Ireland..!  A place full of little shops and bars:

A couple of drinks at an Irish pub called Martin's, run by a Turkish fellow with an Irish accent (!), and we were on our way home. But not before checking out some genuine fake watches. 

Not sure if the photo will turn out, but I had to be stealthy when taking it. Sadly, the deals were not as good as the sign, so no fake watches today. 

It's quite late here now, so will be heading to bed right away (nearly 2:00 am). Long drive tomorrow to Pumukkale, which is ancient Heliopolis. Underwater ruins, as well as hot springs to enjoy. 

Pics to follow, again if Internet cooperates.

Talk to you all soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Travel Day

Well folks, not a whole lot to report today, as we were on the move from Cappadocia (central Turkey) to Kusadasi (southwestern Turkey), and between the flights and drive times, didn't have a whole lot of time left over for touring (we usually pack our days as full as we can). 

We did see a few things though. 

First, we stopped at a little village called Sirince, which is unique for a few reasons, including the fact that the architecture has essentially been preserved from 1922 (an interesting year in Turkish history, as this is the year nearly all the Turkish Christians left Turkey - either voluntarily or at the point of a sword depending on who you talk to). 

A great little village which is quite touristy but also known for its fruit wine, which we were able to sample. Yum!

Some of the houses were a bit run down, unfortunately as a result of the growing gap between the people with money who are able to keep their places in good repair, and those who are less fortunate, but nevertheless in possession of these old homes. 

The village also houses the church of St. John the Baptist, who lived for a brief time in the area (not this village, but near Ephesus). It's undergoing restoration, but is beautiful nonetheless. 

Unfortunately the frescoes here are badly damaged, but are interesting as they depict the holy grail. 

Afterwards, we continued our trip in to Kusadasi, where we are staying at a resort on the Aegean sea, which is completely reminiscent of Mexico!  We were fortunate to catch a spectacular sunset as well:

Cappadocia was cool - In the high twenties. Here, temps are in the mid thirties, which is not cool. It's actually supposed to hit the high thirties later in the week. Too hot for Paul!

The bulk of the afternoon was spent relaxing pool side. A late dinner at the hotel (with another Turkish wine) and we are now ready for bed (nearly midnight here as we write). 

A big day tomorrow as we'll be touring Ephesus, Mary's house (yes, that Mary), more chapels, as well as another traditional lunch at a house in the country (we will take photos this time). 

Hope everyone is doing well: we'll chat with you soon,

Paul and Aoife. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Grand Canyon of Turkey

We had another early start today as we continued our touring of Cappadocia. Our first stop was 1 1/2 hr drive away and is called Ihlara valley.  We descended down about 300 steps to the bottom of the canyon and walked along a stream running along the bottom.  We enjoyed a beautiful walk with stops along the way at some old churches carved into the stone, as well as for some hot tea. Historically, the area housed several monasteries as well as a village. Although the canyon is over 15 km long, we only hiked about 4 or 5 kms.

At the end of our hike we enjoyed a tasty lunch in a traditional hut over the stream. We enjoyed a selection of items, including yogurt with honey, baked trout, French fries (!), salad, and fresh bread. 

After lunch we drove to an area called "the cathedral", which was actually a series of multi-storey churches set in to high mountains near the valley we hiked. The caves there were incredibly complicated and ornate. Sadly, although there was evidence of former frescoes, it looks like almost all if the caves were burned out, destroying them. 

We then had an arranged tour of a pottery workshop, where Aoife got to try her hand at making a vase!  The artisans here were fantastic; the master being a 5th generation potter (who looks a lot like Einstein too). 

On the way back to the hotel, we inspected a few more cave dwellings, including an area used by St. Simon as his own personal monastery (away from everyone and everything else), and various other rock formations (one looked like a camel). 

There was quite a bit of travel/driving today, so we actually didn't get home until after 7:00. Both of us weren't hungry at all, owing to today's big lunch, so no dinner tonight. 

An early start tomorrow (leaving the hotel at 6:30 am), and heading west to the region if Ephasus and Ancient Rome. 

Tomorrow is primarily a travel day, so there may not be huge updates. Again, as we're changing hotels, Internet remains uncertain (though likely ok). It's going to be hot, hot, hot there. Hope we survive!

Talk to you all soon,

Aoife and Paul.