From Castles to Battlefields
12.07.2011 - 21.07.2011 40 °C
Kizkalesi was the first stop on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey for us. It was only going to be a one nighter, a stopover plus it had a floating castle about 500m off the coast which read really nicely in the Lonely Planet bible. To understand Kizkalesi you may need to refer back to the section on Budva (remember 80’s Gold Coast?) and you’ll get a fair idea of what it was like. The big difference though were the muslim women wearing swimming suits that looked like raincoats, full length, head covering, ugly patterned swimsuits. Mind you, the people were, once again, super duper friendly and couldn’t do enough for us. However after feeling the need to wear gloves when touching anything we were happy to leave the next morning.
After Kizkalesi it was on to Antalya, one of the biggest cities on the coast, where we had booked a room in the old town for three nights. With the coastline being what it was we made sure our hotel had a pool. A gorgeous little boutique hotel that saw a lot of us over the three days because lo and behold Sultan’s Revenge struck again (known as bali belly in other regions). Adam was the lucky victim this time and was laid up for a day getting familiar with the bathroom. We blame it not on a particular dish but on a nut vendor who offered us samples from his bare hands (I know, I know how stupid were we)and then proceeded to become slightly miffed when we didn’t want to buy the $20 worth of nuts he shovelled (again with bare hands) into brown paper bags. He was not going to let us walk away empty handed but relented when Adam requested that he ‘don’t touch’ him. He’d be happy to know we were both a bit delicate for almost a week. Adam fared worse than me because after working around snotty, sneezy kids (not you girls) my immune system can handle pretty much anything.
Anyway it gave us plenty of time to lounge by the pool while the overzealous cleaning lady basically rearranged our belongings to the way it suited her, right down to stacking our books and throwing our dirty clothes back into our suitcase. We did discuss giving her a stern talking to about touching our stuff but one look at her face sent us scurrying so we were all talk and no action on that front.
We decided to can the rest of the coastline and head inland to Pamukkale. This town is known as the ‘Cotton Castle’. For centuries volcanic activity has forced water full of calcium caltrate to flow out of the earth and as it has flowed down the hillside it has hardened. The hillside looks like it is covered in snow or ice but it is actually caltrate with naturally forming thermal springs all up the side of the hill. You can walk up them, bare feet only, and dip in the pools all the way up to the top. The water trickles over the hardened caltrate the whole way down and is something unlike anything we have seen before. It is a truly remarkable sight and yet probably only covers an area of about 5km2. At the top of the hill are the ruins of Hierapolis, a retreat built by the Romans, which took advantage of the so-called health benefits. One thing that did pique our interest though is the way Eastern European women feel the need to pose for photos. Compared to them our photos are tame and prudish. These women drape themselves over rocks, ruins, pools in provocative positions and often become the main feature of the photo rather than the scenery they are posing in. It is truly bizarre, some of the poses, unmentionables, have us shaking our head or laughing or both. Think Ralph models and you’ll be halfway there.
From Pamukkale it was off to Izmir and we had scored a five star hotel, the Swissotel Grand Efes, no breakfast included though. On the way to Izmir we stopped off at Ephesus, one of the best preserved Roman cities in the Roman Empire, we were a bit ho hum about looking at more ruins but knew it was a must see and we are glad we did. It covered an enormous area and had amphitheatres and the old latrines (that’s toilets for the uneducated). They sat pretty close in those toilets. It is amazing that even with their lack of technology and industry they were still able to build things that can withstand ‘life’ for 5000 years. Their ‘technology’ and ‘industry’ could possibly be better than our modern version. The heat was stifling and the paths were crowded but it was definitely worth the effort to see.
We arrived at Izmir hankering for the three nights of luxury we were about to enjoy; not much to report really except we spent a lot of time by their gorgeous pool. The hotel had a great feature in the rooms though, scales. Don’t scoff, these scales made you skinnier each time you stepped on them. I truly believe that I was getting skinnier every time I stepped on but Adam was cynical and so the hotel earned the name ‘Anorexia Hotel’. Izmir has a great promenade and we prowled along up to the bazaar area to look again at stall after stall of quality Turkish merchandise a.k.a junk.
Another location on the list was the ruins of the city of Troy. It was 9km off the main road towards Canakkale and knowing the legend we decided to stop in. There is hardly anything left just the bases off some marble columns. We were through in about 20 minutes and were not very impressed by the ruins. Ephesus gave a much better indication of ancient life. If you are wondering about the Trojan horse, well they have a very poor imitation of it in the main entry area. It looks like it has been constructed of fence palings and is only about 15metres high.
Our last and possibly our most important stop was Canakkale, which was the town we were based in to go to Gallipoli. Once again construction in the streets, not just one but all, hindered our search for our hotel but we finally found the Grand Anzac Hotel. We immediately booked a tour for the next day as this was not something we wanted to do ourselves; we were going to trust the experts.
TJ was our tour guide and we were on a bus with a small group of Aussies and Kiwis (about 15 of us). TJ is Turkish but is married to an Aussie girl who lives in Corowa (near Albury-Wodonga) and he is officially an Australian citizen who is the only person to take his citizenship pledge in Gallipoli. He has a passion for the region and really knows his stuff. He was fascinating to listen to and gave a great background to each sight as we pulled up. Perhaps the most poignant places were Anzac Cove and the Lone Pine Cemetery. Anzac Cove has suffered from erosion and now only has about six metres of sand left. To see the harsh landscape that the Anzacs had to scramble up and over really hit home about how terrifying this must have been for them. We visited the graves and were able to sign the visitors book at Lone Pine. Being there also highlighted how far the Anzacs were from achieving their goal and how they really were fighting an unwinnable battle. TJ had some great anecdotes from the time and he had everyone in the group hypnotized with his storytelling. It is difficult to really explain Gallipoli only to say that it made us proud to be Australian and to hear the stories of these brave soldiers. It is a pilgrimage every Aussie should make.
Another great thing about the day was being around other Aussies, and really understanding again how laid back we truly are. We didn’t have people pushing in front of us to take photos or be first on or off the bus. By the end of the day we were sitting with some of the guys from Curl Curl who are three weeks into their five month trip and so we were all swapping stories. It was fun.
So now it is time to leave. Turkey has been an enormous culture shock for us in many ways and even though we are ready to leave and head to our next country, Bulgaria, it has been a great three weeks full of friendly people and amazing sights, the good, the bad and the ugly.