As I type we are on the ferry between Greek Islands. Ferry they say, but not as we know it! It is a HUGE ship. It must take thousands of passengers, although it is not yet high season, so there is plenty of room. Our seat numbers are in the 600’s. We are on a 5 hour journey from Samos to Paros, where we will stay for 2 nights (yes Janet – it was to be 3 nights, but a wee change in plans- see below). I have no idea how many horsepower the ship’s engines are but it is quite something to see her turn fast in the ports (we are stopping off at ports to drop people off etc).
We had a most amazing meal / dining experience in our last weekend in Turkey. Another Georgian meal, once again in their own home. But this time their home is actually an old British gaol. We went with Cherie (of course!) and some friends of hers. The food was good – Peter had goulash and I had a chicken dish. Hard to describe – something between a curry and a gravy, but with spices I couldn’t pick. Cherie informed us halfway through the meal that the lady of the house doesn’t like you to spill anything on the tablecloth, which was white linen. Well, of course as soon as she had said that we all spilt food, red wine etc – it seemed like the food was jumping off our plates of its own accord! It was hilarious to see us all shifting plates and vases to try and cover our messes up. Then the lady of the house started playing the piano and singing in a very high falsetto voice – it was a treat indeed. She then asked if any of us could play and one of our party did. So we had a good old kiwi sing along. The photo says it all!
Piano and dancing at Georgian Restaurant. Cherie, Patrick and friend
On our way to the restaurant Cherie took us to a swanky bar at the top of a high hotel (26 floors). We were both blown away by the view (not to mention the price of the wine!). It was nearly 360 degrees and we saw the sun set from there. Both of us are still talking about it.
Jo and Cherie 26 floors up - IstanbulPart of Istanbul from high up -at dusk
The last day in Turkey we went to the Blue Mosque and Cherie found a bazaar that was open so I could buy a pashimina. I got three! Two silk and one red and black cashmere silk mix. Then we went back to the restaurant we had the breakfast at before, that I talked about in an earlier “blog”, and sat for the afternoon in the sun, by the Bosphorus, watching all the boats go by. It was a friend of Cherie’s birthday so we were with a group that included kiwis (obviously!), Russian, British, Turkish, Georgian and French Canadian people. What a true mix! We ended up staying there for dinner and I tried pide (Turkish pizza) for the first time. YUM! Cherie came home with us for a wine, and then farewelled us.
Mosiac dome inside Blue Mosque, Istanbul
Leaving the apartment day. At 5.30am we trudged our heavy suitcases down the three flights of stairs of the apartment to face a 20 minute walk up hill, on cobblestones, to Taksim Square where we were to catch the tour bus at 6am. I was not too happy about the prospect of this walk, dragging our suitcases behind us. So imagine my delight when we opened the door to see a taxi just happening by. I couldn’t flag him down quick enough! It was hilarious watching the driver trying to fit our large suitcases in to his boot – and they just wouldn’t go so I had one as a companion in the back seat.
There were only 11 of us on the tour to Gallipoli. Aussies and Kiwis except for one UK couple. The day was hot and clear and the sea beautiful. We had lunch at the tour company’s hotel – well that was interesting! Talk about dodgy digs – but the food was OK (mint and chicken soup and then crumbed deep fried chicken and a semolina dessert, sticky with honey). At Gallipoli we saw the museum, ANZAC cove, various cemeteries and other points of interest, such as the trenches the ANZACS dug. We were really pleased to have been there and paid our respects. The guide was very informative and we learnt a lot. The Turks certainly have made it a very beautiful place of respect. Lovely gardens and massive memorials at each site. I didn’t find it as emotional as I thought I might but I did shed a tear when the guide was reading a poem one of the solders had written, about his mate who was killed and the impact on his mate’s mother.
Peter at ANZAC cove, GallipoliLone Pine Cemetery with lots of NZrs remembered hereJo and Peter - ANZAC Cove in backgroundMemorial to NZ soldiers, Gallipoli
From there we went back to the township and caught the ferry across to Canakkale. We were to be met by the tour company but they weren’t there (turned out they had been informed we were to arrive on the latter ferry). So we big travelers managed to walk to the hotel ourselves! Ha! It literally was a 7 minute stroll along the boardwalk in the beautiful sun.
One part of View from Hotel at Cannakale
The tour guide arrived after I called him and all was well. Of course he’d want to see us as we had yet to pay him! J It was like doing a “deal” handing over hundreds of euros in the foyer of the hotel……… The food was very disappointing at the hotel – but then again, typical for a buffet at a hotel, I think anyway. It was typical Turkish food but of poor quality – platters of white cheese, olives, cucumber, tomatoes etc, plus some hot dishes – meatballs and fried chicken. Oh, and don’t forget the bread. Bread, bread, bread everywhere in Turkey. Literally baskets of it at every meal, and many varieties. I have eaten more bread in two weeks than I did all last year. It is different than our bread and most delicious.
Up early the next morning to catch the next tour bus to Troy, Bergama (an acropolis) and then down to Kusadasi. Only 7 on the tour this time. Once again mainly Aussies and Kiwis and two people from Singapore.
Troy was fascinating. Saw the big horse and learnt that there have been 9 Troy Cities, the oldest over 2000 BC. As each was destroyed by a disaster (flood, fire, earthquake or war) they built another one on top of it. Today you can see the walls of all of the old cities. I was most interested when the guide explained about the “Sanctuary” that each ancient city had. It housed a chapel, hospital and the medical training school. They healed via three methods – reading the dreams of the patients, soothing water sounds and use of natural herbs. They also did some minor surgery using snake venom to anesthetize. I wonder if they ever overdosed anyone on it!
The wooden horse at Troy (replica of course!)Troy walls from all 9 ages / cities
Then we drove a looooooong way and stopped for lunch. What a restaurant. It is especially set up for tour busses and there was us and 3 large coaches all arrived at the same time. We all ordered, were served and ate within 20 minutes! There was a buffet but also a choice of cooked to order kebabs or pide. We were impressed! (Cherie – I forgot to tell you I had the best wine in I had tried in Turkey at that roadside restaurant!)
Then to Bergama. The ruins of another ancient city, with an acropolis, built around the same time as Troy. I was most impressed with the theater that seats 7,000 and the “shopping mall” – yes, a row of arches with shops on each side. Who would have thought! Of course now it is all rocks and rubble.
Bergama theatre for 7000 people - BC!Bergama Acropolis
From here we had a long drive (3 hours) to Kusadasi. In all we were on the tour that day for 12 hours! Once again met some lovely people. We just made it in time for dinner at Kusadasi and ate sitting by the pool overlooking the lights of the city. Kusadasi is a Turkish resort city and port on the shores of the Aegean Sea. Huge cruise ships come in there and the blurb in the hotel even admitted it gets crazy busy in summer. We had a beautiful day there – around 30 degrees again. When I went to confirm the ferry leaving time which we thought was to be later that day, the tour company informed me that due to the strikes in Athens, the ferry was not running. He was most apologetic and to make up for it he would arrange a night in the best hotel in Kusadasi and liaise with the other tour companies on the Greek Islands to sort everything out for us. He apologized profusely for making us stay an extra night in Turkey – oh what hardship – not! So within 30 minutes we were whisked away to the most amazing hotel I have ever stayed in. What views!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Here is the web site if you want to check it out www.hotelcharisma.com We had a wonderful day wandering the town, lunching by the sea and then lazing by the pool and swimming. The hotel had a private beach, 2 pools, ladders from the deck so you can directly climb in to the sea, 6 restaurants and bars, free access to the Turkish bath house, etc. Dinner and breakfast was included and was lovely.
Then picked up at 7.45am the next day to catch the ferry to Samos in Greek Islands. Peter has been amazed at the constant surveillance of Turkish airways by fighter jets. They certainly go fast! Also when we were leaving Kusadasi port there was a NATO American warship docked. It’s true – the war ships really do have tornadoes, cannons and machine guns on them; it is not just in the movies!! It was something to see!
So farewell to Turkey and a great big thanks to Cherie, who made our time so wonderful!
Poppies flowering at Lone Pine Cemetery - just after ANZAC day
Peter in the Helenistic shopping mall, Bergama
Paras built this for Helen……..
Jo on ferry from Turkey to Samos, Greek Islands - Turkey flag in background
Boy, you are enjoying yourselves aren’t you. Great pictures and very well explained commentary. We’ve read this one and the first Greek one so far plus the ones that have gone before. Excellent stuff. We feel like we’re on holiday with you both, wish it was as real for us as it is for you guys.
Have a great ongoing experience and we’ll look forward to further reports.