September 12-19, 2013 - Turkey
This September I took a trip to Turkey. I had heard wonderful things about it from many seasoned travelers, so I figured I would go check it out. I went by myself and met up with an Insight Vacations tour. It was extremely fast paced - we saw so much in 7 days - but it was a great highlights vacation.
We started in Istanbul on our first night and had our welcome reception at the Barcelo Eresin Topkapi Hotel. The next morning after sleeping off some jet lag, we immediately packed up and headed to our second city. First we took a short ferry ride across the Sea of Marmara and then drove into Bursa. In Bursa we quickly visited the Grand Mosque (it was prayer time, so we could not stay long) and then we had time to eat lunch and walk around the Silk Market. Next we visited the Green Mosque (Yesil Cami) and the Green Mausoleum. The tile work in these places was just phenomenal! Lastly we stopped in a small village - Cumalikizik and walked through the cobblestone streets. It was like stepping back in time - very quaint and the buildings were just fascinating. That night we stayed at the Celik Palace Hotel in Bursa.
Our next day started with a drive through the countryside. The Olive trees and Vineyards were just beautiful to look out at. We stopped at the Sardis Synagogue and Gymnasium, from the 3rd century BC. A lot of it had fallen and was recreated, which to me wasn't as exciting, but it was still impressive never the less. Next we stopped at the Altar of Artemis in Sardis from 2nd century BC. Finally our last stop was what I had been looking forward to the most - Pamukkale - the "Cotton-Castle". It was just as amazing as I thought it would be from looking at pictures before hand. We made it there late in the day and getting to see the sunset over the "Cotton-Castle" was definitely a WOW moment! That night we stayed at the Pam Thermal Hotel in Pamukkale.
After leaving Pamukkale we drove to Ephesus where we stopped at the Carpetium to look at Turkish Rugs. They gave us a fun demonstration of the rugs, let us attempt to weave one knot (crazy that they hand weave those!) and of course suckered me into buying me. Next we stopped at the House of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, we made a wish on the wishing wall and then drove to the Ruined City of Ephesus, from 550 BC. We saw the Odean, the Great Theater, walked down the Arcadian Way and took a group photo in front of the Library of Celsus. That night we drive to Izmir and stayed at the Swissotel Grand Efes Izmir, which had a great view of the port. We walked along the port for a bit before dinner, admiring the houses on the hill, fisherman and the sunset over the water.
The next day we drove to Asklepion (4th century) in Pergamon. I enjoyed walking around the ancient healing center. After that we drove to Troy and walked around the site. We were pretty tired of ruins by this point, but seeing some of the original stones (not recreations) was actually interesting. I have to say though, much to our guide’s dismay, our group enjoyed taking silly pictures with the gigantic wooden Trojan horse more than seeing the ruins. That was fun... After leaving our last ruins for the trip, we checked into the Kolin Hotel in Canakkale. After dinner a few of us took a walk along the water, and managed to get back just as it was starting to rain.
We got up early the next morning to catch our ferry back to the European side of Turkey. Our first stop was Anzac Cove, the Lone Pine Cemetery and Anzac Hilltop. The Cove was a monument to the Gallipoli landing during WWI in 1915. There were a lot of Australians in our group, so it meant a lot for them to see that spot. It didn't have as much significance for me, but it was still a very beautiful spot. We made it back to Istanbul that evening and had the night free. 8 of us decided to take the train down to the water for dinner. It was really neat getting to see the city at night, as we were pretty sheltered most of the trip - staying at our hotels for dinner. We found a nice place to eat along the water and had fun listening to the musicians near our table. That night we were back in our same hotel from the first night.
On our last day we did the crash course exploring of Istanbul! We saw Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar and finally ended our day with a Bosphorus Cruise between Asia and Europe. Our farewell dinner that night was at one of the restaurants along Restaurant Row. We had a great dinner and all said our goodbyes from a wonderful trip!
Check out some more photos from my trip here - Turkey Photos