So finally my trip report is ready. It’s mainly aimed at documenting all places I visited,food I had, experiences. I’ve also listed down my favorites, it’s actually more of information than description, with what future travelers would want to about in focus.
For a more picture based page, you could visit: http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/my-solo-turkey-trip/
Day 0-Day 4: Istanbul, perfect amount of time, can’t think of spending any less.
Day 5- Day 7: Selcuk, Priene-miletus-didyma and Afrodisias.
Day 8- Day 11: Cappadocia
Day 13-14: Urfa.
For those who want a quick view, these are my favorite places:
5* places: Blue and Sulemaniye mosques, Ayasofya, Basilica cistern.
4* places: Chora church, Topkapi,views from the Asian side,Galata tower.,Rumeli hisari.
4*: Priene-miletus-didyma and Ephesus.
5* :Rose valley,Uchisar and Cavusin, all at sunset.
4*: Zelve, Ihlara, underground city.
Nemrut and surroundings : 5*
Gaziantep Zuegma museum: 5*
Gaziantep old city: 4*.
Accommodation: dormitories in hostels and occasionally single rooms.
Transport: Overnight buses.
Food: mostly at local places, but tried a few tourist restaurants too.
About me: I am 23 year old indian, graduated last year, interested in history,art,architecture and landscapes , especially islamic and Hellenistic, so Turkey seemed to be the perfect choice. And this was my first solo trip outside my country. I did have a tough time narrowing down to an itinerary, but ultimately with the help of several forum members and ofcourse making tough choices came down to the one you can see above, and I’m glad I chose these places, it couldn’t have been better. I skipped the Mediterranean ,so that I can all of it in my next trip.
Day 0: Arrived at the airport at 11am, and soon I realized it wasn’t going to be very easy communicating in English. Got a metro to Zeytinburnu,and then a tram to Sultanahmet, costs just 6 TL, seemed like a very nice and quick way of getting to the city,although the tram was more of a bus,stopping at every signal. Reached sultanahmet after an hour, and the Ayasofya stood right infront of me, never imagined it would be that big. Stayed at Eurasia hostel, was a good location,and the prices were excellent. Had lunch, an excellent mixed mezze plate with lavash at Elif Cafe,next to Arasta bazar,for just 10 TL. After some rest went out to get money changed,walked till the Grand bazar,but then I found the rates improving as I walked more, finally got the best ones near the Laleli university tram stop. I was surprised at how bright it was,seemed like midday at 5 PM. Spent the whole evening around Blue mosque, Ayasofya and the gardens that lay beside them and absorbing the sights and sounds of Sultanahmet. The light and the overall atmosphere got better and better as evening approached. I was completely overwhelmed by the Blue mosque,never imagined it would be so beautiful(Tip: dont look at pictures of any place before you go, you’ll be overwhelmed by every place you visit). Dinner was at Doy doy restaurant,again good food, just 11 TL for a vegetarian pide. Instantly fell in love with pide, I did not expect pizza to taste so good without the tomato sauce.
Day 1: Started pretty early,at 8, for the Topkapi palace,which was just a few minutes away. Felt good for getting the Muze Pass as I could see people standing in lines for quite sometime. The entrance to palace itself seemed brilliant, the park was very well done, can’t think of a better setting for a palace,with the sea on one side,and gardens on the other. For me Topkapi palace was Islamic art at it’s best, very well done tilework,with flowers and gardens being abundant everywhere. Harem was great too, I don’t understand why do people ask if they should visit the Topkapi palace.There’s a really long corridor on the right, which shouldn’t be missed. The treasury too was great,but I dont think it was the best part of the palace. Spent a good 3-4 hours at the palace. Then walked down the street towards Sirkeci, had lunch at Cafe Mese, again a mixed mezze,which was pretty good,and just for 9 TL, and the owner was really friendly.
In the afternoon I went to explore the Eminou area, walked till the Eminou Jamii or Yeni Jami(found out it’s not Cami,it’s Jami), wonderful local atmosphere, it seemed far away from the Blue Mosque. The interiors too were different and impressive. Then I went to the Egyptian bazar,strolled around,tried Turkish delight at various places, and soon I bumped into this local food market, everything here seemed to cost less than half of what they were priced in the Egyptian bazar. And everything was so vibrant, definitely a mood lifter,after traveling alone since 2 days. Then I got to Rustum Pasha Jami, and it asn’t very easy to find it,another impressive mosque, but with better tilework(atleast to my eyes), and it’s small size made everything look closer, especially the string coming from above. And silence in the mosque struck me..it had never been so beautiful.There was this local selling tiles right inside the mosque, never buy tiles from him,I realized I had paid triple the amount (3TL, vs 1 TL in sultanahmet), I was just assuming since the locality is non touristy, it would be cheaper.
Then I walked up to the Sulemaniye Jami, the walk was definitely no through the nicest areas of Istanbul, but the mosque blew me out completely. The atmosphere was so sublime, the stone had a beauiful grey shade, really different from the Blue mosque. And just locals,that too not many,just the kind of atmosphere I was looking for,and the mosque was huge.. And since it was nearing sunset, the light got better and better. I must say this was the best evening in my entire trip. Then I had kursufaliye outside the mosque, just for 6TL,with ayran and salad. Pretty similar to indian dal and rice. Came back to my hostel,was tired from the walking,so I just went to sleep. I realize I’ve written a lot for one day,but the days in Istanbul were large,and filled with many sights and experiences.
Day 2: Again woke up early,had the standard turkish breakfast, and marched towards Ayasofya. The lines were HUGE, but my Muze Pass got me across them,and when I entered I realized the building was so massive that all the crowds were easily accomodated. I was obviously overwhelmed by the interiors, and I wished the restoration work wasn’t going on(but then it has to be done sometime) and how I wish I was the only in the entire building. After spending a couple of hours I went to the Archaelogy museum, everything was great,however the sarcophagi collection completely overawed me. Lunch was at Makarna Sarayi,near Cemberlitas, well made falafel for just 6 TL,and pomegranate juice for 5 TL. After an afternoon nap, I walked down till Eminou and took a bus to Chora church( get down at Edirnekapi), the bus passed through the Valens Aueduct,so got a good view of it. Seems it was my Byzantine day, so Kariye(Chora) did fit in perfectly. Although I did not recognize any of the figures on the mosaics, the quality of the mosaics was great indeed. I was initially planning to skip this place, but I’m glad I didn’t. Bought
Came back to Eminou, the sunlight had turned golden, the whole place was just out of a fantasy book, ships sailing, mosques, people in traditional attire, the sky was great too,just the perfect amount of clouds. Took a ferry to the Asian side, have to say this was my best ferry ride ever. Views were changing every moment, the weather was crisp, and the mosques looked beautiful. Upon reaching Uskudar I walked up till I could see the Maiden’s tower clearly. Took out my tripod and stayed for quite sometime. Everything was just perfect,the light, the sky, the tower and views of Sultanahmet. The Dolmabahce Palace too had a gorgeous look. Time just flew by,I realized it was almost 9 PM and needed to get back to the other continent! Although ferries do run till late, I skipped my planned dinner at Ciya and left by the 9.30 ferry(a big shame,I know).
Day 3: Decided to go for the Bosporus cruise,went pretty early,like an hour before the cruise starts, still I could barely manage to get a place to stand(15 TL one way).The ferry was pretty overcrowded,but the views made up for that. The dolmabahce palace, the Rumeli fortress and the pink Jura forests all looked great on the way,and it was nice to have good think yoghurt after a long time. Finally reached Sariyer at 11.40, it had become really sunny and bright. So I took a bus to Emirgan, the bus stop at Sariyer as about 2-3 mins from the dock. The bus journey was quite interesting,with fishing villages and great views of the Bosporus. Reached Emirgan,had Gozleme at the entrance(just 4 TL for a cheese-spinach one) and explored Emirgan park. There were quite a few people,despite it being a monday. There were plenty of flowers,especially black and pink tulips,but most other tulips were done with their flowering. Nevertheless, a good place to spend an afternoon,although morning would have been nicer. Then walked to Rumeli fortress,a 20-30 minutes delightful walk along the coast and explored the castle. The views from top were amazing,especially those of the bridge,the ships passing below it and towers of the castle. A perfect seashore castle. Then I took a bus to Ortakoy, grabbed a giant plate of kumpir (12TL) and went to the sea shore again. Then got another bus to Taksim,walked through the Istiklal street ,which was vibrant but nothing that I would call crowded. The livebands,the mansions above the street,the tram all gave it a very European touch,nothing like I had seen before in Istanbul. I walked uptil the Galata tower, had to wait in queue for quite sometime,but still I managed to reach before the sunset to an amazing view of the city. Then I again walked backed to Sultanahmet,which was a long but scenic walk across the Galata bridge.This is where I got the best views of the Sulemaniye mosque.
Day 4: It was my last day,and I still had the Basilica cistern and Grand bazar left. Went to the cistern on the morning. It did a very mystique feeling to it, was well lighted and I could feel that empires have existed here before. A very neat place IMO. After sometime I realized I had spent more than 2 hours just in the Cistern. Then I just roamed around Sultanahmet and I realized how crowded it had become just in 4 days. Lunch was a t Neyzade restaurant, I ordered vegetarian Turkish ravioli, which came with a walnut based dip and bread , all of which was very well done(and just 13 TL). Do ask for the dip when you eat here.
In the afternoon I explored the Grand bazaar, the experience was quite different from the Spice bazaar, and I dont think the Bazaar is overrated by any standards. The photo-ops were especially great, the Lantern shops, the t-shirt shops, the hans were my favorite. Had an apple tea at one of the tea shops.
I realized I needed to get better shots of the Blue mosque,so I went for some view hunting. Hotel Blue’s view of the Blue mosque did not really excite me, then I just bumped into the Lady Diana hotel,went to it’s rooftop,and I got the best views of the mosque. Though I did not ea anything here, I would strongly recommend this place, because even the prices seemed to better than most restaurants on the main road. Later picked a cig kofte durum from Osman Cig koftesi ,between Cemberlitas and Beyazit tram stops, it was one of the tastiest things I had in Turkey, and one durum just for 3 TL.
I had booked a ticket for Selcuk with Hannaro Travels, they offered me the best deal, 60TL for the ticket with the shuttle. Other agents seemed to charge even upto 80TL, so dont pay anything more than 60 for Selcuk. The shuttle picked me up at about 8, and the bus to selcuk started at about 9. Was quite impressed with the bus service, everyone was helpful and courteous. I cant imagine something like this in my own country, however what annoyed me was,like the lights did not turn off for quite sometime.
The Aegean region: Ephesus. PMD,Selcuk and Afrodisias.
Day 5: Woke up in the morning to some gorgeous mountain scenery around Izmir. The Aegean Sea region Reached selcuk at around 7.30. Checked into Vardar Pension,which was just a couple of minutes away from the otogar.It was great to have a room of my own after staying in a dorm for 4 days. Had breakfast and left for Ephesus. I again took the walking route, but then I realized it was a bit too much. Finally I got to share a taxi with 4 other tourists at the turn for Ephesus. Paid 5 TL to go upto the higher gate. Although I reached at like 9.15, I was quite shocked to see such huge crowds, I had never seen so many people even in Istanbul. However, the views of the mountains on the sides were pretty good. Everything was quite uneventful till I saw the Library..and I had never imagined it would be so beautiful. Then I went up the Terrace houses, it was a great experience to see old(Ancient) mansions, wall paintings,mosaics, and it was so well preserved!! Coming out of the terraced houses, you get to see a good aerial view of Ephesus.
Then I waled till the palace where all the burial tombs were kept, got to see a live wedding too!! (or maybe a mock one), then a show conducted with Greek warriors and kings and queens,all dressed up like the ancient greeks. I was glad I came to Ephesus. It had started becoming warm, so I decided to leave, got a dolmus back,for 2.5 TL. Lunch was at one of the local Pide saloons, next to the otogar, a huge mushroom pide for just 7TL.
In the evening I decided to explore Selcuk, it seemed like a well organised city. Walked up to St.Johns’s basilica,waited till sundown, I got the beautiful golden light + ruins I was looking for. Te view over the mosque and the plains was breathtaking. Went down till the Isabey mosque, and came back meeting with several locals,who were very enthusiastic about getting photographed. Dinner was at Ejder restaurant, a huge mezze plate + lavash for 15 TL. So ended my first day in Ephesus.
Day 6: Had booked a PMD: Priene-miletus-didyma tour for 95TL, it was actually 45EU, which came about to be 105TL. I was planning on doing it myself but I was glad I took the tour because the guide was really good, I got to meet people and I could cover all the 3 sites. But note that PMD tours dont run on all days, even in May(shoulder season). Priene was brilliant, loved it’s location, the plains below looked amazing,and the columns here looked very different from those in Ephesus. And I could appreciate it even more because of the guide. I ad heard Miletus wasn’t the most impressive of the sites, but I cant disagree more. It was the best of all sites, the theatre was brilliant, it was huge,and plus it was enclosed, making it a very imposing sight. From Miletus we proceeded towards Didyma, we were taken to the buffet place. Seemed pretty good,plnty of vegetarian options, plus fresh strawberries for dessert.
We walked till the temple, and well, it seemed even better and bigger than what I had seen in pictures. Was completely overwhelmed by the structure,the huge columns and the inner part of the temple. But again, I wished we would have come here around sunset. After spending an hour or so, we began our journey back to Selcuk. We reached at about 5.30, and I had another evening left with me.
So I walked along the road o Ephesus,got amazing views of the castle, such a shame it wasn’t open.Had dolma and ayran at a farmside cafe and met some nice locals. I really liked Selcuk a lot, a lot “kiraathanesi”s ,tea houses, local markets and gardens. Then I walked uptil the castle, it was wonderfully lit and there were these boys who were prepared to show me the castle, but then I didn’t want to sneak inside the castle with some unknown person, you could try it if you are 2-3 people,but it’s illegal. Diner was at one of the places near Ejder, 10 TL for a large mixed vegetable and beans plate with pilaf.
Day 7: Left for Aydin by the 8 am bus,went further to nazili(13 TL for the journey), then a bus Karajasu(Karacasu),5 TL again. Had to wait for almost 45 minutes for the bus to Geyre,Afrodisias. So I had lunch at one of the local places, the tastiest kursufaliye I had in Turkey. Karajasu was a nice mountain town,infact the whole journey towards Geyre was great, plenty of olive gardens, farms ,orchards,mountains, even lakes and streams and forests. I wish I would have done this route on my own in a car. Reached at about 12, saw the museum because outdoors was pretty hot. It was a great museum,loved all the relics, and the sheer number of relics surprised me.
I instantly fell in love with Afrodisias’ setting, trees and mountains and farmlands all around, that too willow trees I guess. And plus wetlands and ponds interspersed. The site was much larger than I had expected it to be. The stadium was the most winning relic I have seen in Turkey,it just beats everything else. The Afrodisias temple too was quite a sight,and what it made it more eventful was that some women dressed in white were actually praying to the Aphrodite goddess, I believed it was a dead religion. So I spent good 4 hours exploring the site, out of which an hour was spent in the stadium. The bus back to Karajasu was at 5.30 but an employee of the Museum was going on the way,so I got a lift on a 2 wheeler. Back at Karajasu, I realized I had time because my bus to Cappadocia from nazili left at 8 PM,so I just walked a little outside the town, the olive and wheat farms were something nice to explore. Reached Nazili by 7, met a few local youngsters, and left Nazili for Cappadocia at 8 by Metro Turizm(50 TL,ticket booked at Selcuk itself).
Day 8: Woke up in the morning to some gorgeous anatolian landscape, huge plateau,villages,grasslands with snow covered peaks in the background. Reached Goreme, the guy at the Tourist centre called up my hostel(Dorm Cave) and I was picked up. Never seen anything so efficient and quick(for free). The cave dormitory was very well maintained, and it looked perfect. After breakfast I set out for the Open air museum,but it was getting really hot and I could see too many buses go inside,so I just dropped the plan and came back and relaxed at my hostel . I booked a hiking tour for the evening. Lunch was at Cafe Safak, potato gozleme and baklava(10TL total). The trekking tour started at 5PM, we drove towards the entrance of the Rose Valleyand hiked for about 2 hours till sunset. The views were absolutely fabulous,infact the best I was to see in the coming 3 days,the guide was pretty good too. Dinner was at one of the Pide salonu’s, Pide for 10TL and ayran.
Woke up early the next morning for the balloon ride, had booked a balloon with AirKappadokya for 230TL, there were people charging upto 270TL, I dont think you really need to pay anything more than 100EU/230TL. The balloon ride was absolutely great, with plenty of photo ops throughout the ride, right from the beginning. The ride was totally worth the price, but I wish we had some more sunlight coming in( ride before sunset would have been amazing when the rose red valleys become red because light falls on them).
I joined a “Green tour” for the day ,an Ihlara canyon tour, paid 120TL. Again, worth the price, we got a good guide and it would have been difficult visiting so many far flung places on my own. The landscape changed as we moved away from Goreme, and it was quite spectacular, with plenty of grasslands and mountains . I realized Cappadocia isn’t all about the rocks and caves. Our first stop was at the Selime monastery, which was a good climb up with spectacular views all over. Everything looked so different, it was so green(As compared to Goreme). The views on the rear side of the monastery were something to look out for,a and the rocks had got a perfect conical shape. I wish we had the time to walk inside the valley, this is what happens when you come on a tour. We proceeded towards the Ihlara canyon, which again was breathtaking,a good change of scenery. The 4-5 km walk was a pleasant one along the river, I never expected this kind of landscape in Turkey. Lunch was at Guzeylurt village, lentil soup, bulgur and mushroom curry and icecream.PErfect for the cold and windy weather.
The next stop was at Derinkyuyu underground city. Must say it was an amazing place,despite the crowds. Loved the long staircases that went down several storeys,but taking pictures was a little difficult because of the crowds. And even then it was supposed to be less crowded, later afternoon is supposed to be a better time to visit the underground cities,I was told.
We then stopped at Uchisar, and since it was only 5PM, I decided to hike down the Pigeon valley instead of going back with the tour. And this is where I went wrong, I took a wrong turn somewhere and I bumped into the canyon area. Everything seemed normal till I realized there was no road ahead and there was a pretty big canyon lying infront of me!! Beautiful that it was, I was beginning to get a little scared.And there were no people to ask..I retraced my steps back till I found a local guy with a dog,I eaved a sign of relief ,I guess he was the caretaker. But for the 20 minutes I couldnt find anyone, I was quite scared,and I was already far away from Uchisar. Finally I managed to get on the right track,and took more than 1.5hours to reach.
Dinner was early at 7 PM at Topdeck restaurant, had it prebooked. If you book in Goreme, you’ll have to settle for an earlier timing,like 6-7 PM. Ordered a mezze(20TL), which was the tastiest mezze I’ve ever had, and this was the most expensive meal I had in my trip. So wondering if expensive food=good food holds true. But ofcourse not all the time. So it was a long day, went to bed early.
Day 10: Took an early morning bus(8.15) to Zelve. The bus stopped in Avanos for about 20-25minutes, so I got to see a bit of the chramong riverside town. Reached Zelve at about 9.15. Again, I was overwhelmed by Zelve, even after spending 2 days in Cappadocia I was amazed by the rock shapes and caves.Zelve was nothing like I had seen before. The landscape was brilliant, and rock churches and houses too looked great. And everything was so big and tall. And staircases along the route added to it’s charm.
Left for Pasabagi at about 10.30,it was a 1-2km road along vineries. I was a little diappointed with Pasabagi, or maybe I just came at the wrong time, with a lot of group tours and the sun beating down relenlessly. Took a small walk around and caught the 11.15 bus back to Goreme. Luch was at Nazar Borek, a Spinach-peynir borek and then a spinach-cheese gozleme(both for about 7TL). I got addicted to the spinach-cheese combo.
Left for Cavusin(Javusin) in the afternoon,walked along the main road,and then took a turn and walked through the country road into the town(had to pass a graveyard,which was very photogenic).Walked up the church..and well,what a view it was. Spent quite sometime up there,later came down,and the rock structure of the Cavusin cave houses look spectacular bathing in the orange sunlight and the setting sun. Walked back to Goreme,about 3 kms, to save on taxi fare. Dinner was at the Anatolain Restaurant, had vegetarian ravioli,which was really ok(the only okish meal I had), a little too sour for my taste.
Took a late night tour to Saruhan/Sarihan caravanserai. Paid 50TL for the trip. Was more than impressed with the building.A lot more atmospheric than I imagined it would be,loved the courtyard. The music was great, the dervishes too were great,albeit monotonous,and I felt relaxed and refreshed after the show,expecially after having several cups of kahve(herbal spiced tea). And I found the whole experience very evocative,wish I could have stayed there.
Day 11: The morning was meant for relaxation, had a leisurely lunch at Nazar Borek, this time I had Aside,a flour based dessert,made with grape syrup,didn’t really appreciate the taste because it was a little too dry for me. Post lunch went to the Open air museum, loved all the paintings,and I did go a pretty good time,there weren’t too many visitors. Definitely worth a visit,but if you’re on a budget,then you could do without it. And the Tokali church outside the museum is the best of all,and I suspect you don’t need a ticket to go in. And such a shame photographs aren’t allowed inside the churches,I mean not even without flash? Later,took a bus to Uchisar,walked upto the castle,went up the castle,must say the view was among the best I’ve seen in Cappadocia. I wish I had more time to spend around the castle.
I walked down(towards the main road,from the rear part of the castle) till the main road, you get beautiful views of the castle all along. It’s a pretty safe descent,but you need to be a little careful. You shouldnt miss the rear part of the castle at around sunset. Caught a bus to Goreme at about 6, took my bags and caught the bus to Gaziantep at 7(bus from Nevsehir at 8PM),ticket: 50 TL. Had booked the ticket from Nevsehir bus company’s office at Goreme.
The Nevsehir otogar seemed to be in a different mood. Farewell seems to be a big part of turkish culture. Families and friends came in big groups to see off with big fanfare,with drums and music and cheering and hugs and kisses. Reminded me of mumbai airport where similar(but less dramatic) farewells happen.
The South East:
Day 12: Bus to Gaziantep: This was the only not so nice bus journey I had. The bus halted at several places, and the lights were on for quite sometime,and after Osmaniye, there were just 2 others in the bus with me. Reached Gaziantep at an ungodly hour of 3.30. Sat reading a book till 6.30, this was the first place where I was mistaken for a local and people were quite surprised that I wasn’t a Turk(or a kurd). Kept my luggage at the “Emanet”,5 TL for a piece.This was also the place where I got my first cultural shock in Turkey,it was really difficult to communicate with people, but somehow I managed to get a bus to the city centre, you need to ask for a bus going to “Bedesten” or “Shahinbey”.
Arrived in the old city only to find the fortress, or “kale” has been closed for restoration. Decided to have breakfast. Went to one of the baklava places, and got one of those cheese-spinach pastries. Met a gentleman having breakfast who could speak english,infact it was only because of him I got all that I wanted to in the baklava shop. He owned a shop in the Zincirli Bedesten,he also gave me a map of the Antep old city,without him it would have been difficult to get around the town. Using the map, I visited several museums and hans, the most notable being the Mevlevi museum and the Tarihi han, the food market was great too,with chilli powder,cheese,dry fruits and grains on the display,good photo ops.
Later I had katmer at a local place,really filling and heavy pastry that it was, it was basically batter stuffed with cheese,fried in butter,and then again in sugar syrup,served with hot milk. Reminded me of several indian sweets. I was so full after the katmer that I decided to walk it up to the Zeugma muzesi.On the way came across an old man who needed help with his luggage. And even after some sign language conversations,he did not seem to understand I was a foreigner,he kept on asking me an address,it wa actually fun interacting with him. I was equipped with a map, so did not have trouble finding the Zeugma museum, but the walk under a bridge,and along a big highway,and through some lonely localities, only adventurous single travelers should try this, and it was a slightly longer walk,about 20-25 mins. But not bad at all,if you dont want to spend on a taxi.
The museum was quite a place!! I never imagined the mosaics would be that big. And so well preserved. Spent a lot of time looking at every mosaic. And then there was a school tour,all the kids thought I was some kind of an exotic specie,none of them had probably seen an Indian ever. I was photographed by several kids,and they too did have a good time being photographed. Some of them did well at speaking in english. So Gaziantep was a great experience, the people experiences enriched it even more.
Since the museum was on the main highway, I did have a problem getting a bus to otogar,but then I got one after waiting for quite some time(about 10 mins),and I had to flag it down,there are no bus stops on the road. Took a bus to Adiyaman,and then one to Kahta(I also got a “student discount” of 0.5 TL). The journey was good,quite scenic. I had to wait at the Kahta bus stand for about 30 minutes for Kommagene hotel’s staff to pick me up. The hotel seemed to be nice,the owner was good,but he wanted me to shift to the driver’s quarter for a lower price,and to join both the sunset and sunrise tours,both of which I declined, but I would like to ad that there was no real pressure from his side.Dinner was at Sultan sarayi restaurant,ad pide and ayran and Gavurdag salatsi and bread,all for 10TL. Went to bed early.
Day 13: Woke up early at 3 am,left for Nemrut at 3.30,there were 3 of us,me and a Turkish couple. Reached the base of the mountain, bought a scarf because it was really really cold and windy. Trekked up the mountain(not a lot,just 15 minutes or so). Honestly speaking, I wasn’t really impressed with the heads and statues at the first sight,BUT, with the 1st sun rays, it was a different picture altogether. And it got better and better,for the 1st 20 minutes,and most of the crowds moved away to the western terrace and I had the entire place to myself. The bodies and heads looked really magnificent. Just the kind of place I wanted to be in, all mysterious and “kingdomish”. I would definitely recommend visiting at sunrise because although the heads are bigger at the western,the bodies are better preserved at the Eastern terrace. And the sheets of ice too looked magnificent with the sunrays on them. I felt I was at the high point of my trip,can’t recommend Nemrut anymore, and I heartily thank the megalomaniac Commagene king who got built this place, I realized megalomaniacs do the world a lot good in the long run.
Later we went to the Roman fortress, Eski Kale I guess, this too was quite a place. A big fortress with imposing over an old pastoral village, and having a delicious homemade breakfast in one of the homes, what else could one want in life? The breakfast was really good, especially the whole unleavened wheat bread, pretty similar to what we have in India,just a little thicker. The cheese and fruit jams too were well done, and all freshly made. We then proceeded towards the Seljuk bridge, which was quite attractive, and the gorge behind it made it even better,and there were actual pastorals with their sheep and goats crossing the ancient bridge. What a sight..the Roman bridge too was good,especially the rock formations behind it, I loved the whole Commagene countryside, it really felt as if a kingdom did exist here, the river,the gorges,the mountains,castles and ancient unmodernised villages made the whole area very atmospheric. Reached back at about 10 am, and immediately left for Urfa.
Had to change buses at Adiyaman, the total journey took about 3-4 hours,and about 20TL. Was picked up at the otogar by the owner of Lizbon GH,Mr.Aziz. He was quite an entertaining man, and it was quite amusing to listen to his views on many people(europeans,kurds,turks). The centre of the Urfa city was very atmospheric,chaotic, noisy, small lanes and streets..plenty of “burqas” or veils, unlike any other part of Turkey. It looked like an islamic version of Indian small towns. The guest house was pretty good,there was no one in the dorm,so I had the whole place for myself,plus there was a good courtyard. Mr.Aziz helped me out a little with moving about,he showed me around the old city, the Golbasi and restaurants around looked pretty good. Loved the mosque too. The restaurants up the way to the fort looked like a great way to spend one’s evening. Golbasi was wonderfully lit up at night,and the whole Golbasi area was teeming with turkish tourists, it was quite a vibrant atmosphere. Did a little shopping too,bought pomegranate extract, sumac and a pack of Urfa pepper.
Dinner was at the Lizbon GH, it was great to have Turkish home cooked vegetarian food, I dont know what I would have eaten in Urfa otherwise. And a meal at the GH cost me just 5TL. Had a tomato-pepper-aubergine dish with whole wheat unleavened bread..guess it’s only the kurds who have whole wheat bread.
Day 14: Had planned to go to Halfeti in the morning, but then I woke up late, and I realizedI felt too lethargic to go all the way to the otogar, get a bus,change a bus, haggle for the boat..a long day. So I instantly cancelled the plan to go to Halfeti, this was the first time in 15 days I felt too tired to travel, and plus the thought of changing buses too was intimidating. So I decided to do pretty much nothing,just sat in the courtyard of my guest house,read a book for sometime. But then I had to do something, right? Afterall I came all the way to Urfa, to the eastern end of the country. So I set off to Harran with Mr.Aziz, found it much hassle free to be driven point to point, rather than looking for buses. Reached Harran, was more than impressed with the ancient university tower. Had it not been for the university tower, I would have disliked Harran, because it was so much like the dusty, poor owns in desert regions of India,just an islamicized version, infact I do find such towns in India quite “atmospheric”, but here in Turkey they seemed pretty drab, I didn’t really want to see something I could see back home. Nevertheless, not a bad trip at all, paid 80 TL(a little steep, but worth avoiding hassle), what is normal on the 1st day becomes a hassle by the 15th day. I realized that you need to rest a little once in a while,while traveling, that too after 15 days. Came back, had lunch, spiced bulgur with aubergines, slept a lot in the afternoon.
Evening was spent at the Yildiz hamami, 25 TL for a complete scrub and massage treatment. The hamam itself was very atmospheric, plenty of marble beds, marble basins and marble taps and marble flooring. The treatment was pretty good, had a great chat with some locals at the hamam, although language was bit of a problem.
Dinner was again at the Guest house, spiced bakes pottoes and bulgur-yogurt soup. And it rained a lot that night,and it was in this rain that I lost my way in by lanes of Urfa. Couldn’t find my way back!!and it was so scary, there were no people on the roads at all..but I eventually found my way back to the guesthouse.
Day 15: Woke up pretty early, had to catch a flight to Istanbul, Mr.Aziz dropped me at the Havas bus stand, got a bus to the airport from there. The guy who issued had forgotten to give my change back, and it was quite difficult explaining him the situation. Then we struck upon a word common to both indian languages and turkish, which was was “hisab” which means accounts, and that’s when he realized what the problem was, it was an interesting experience nevertheless.
Reached Sabiha Gocken airport(I had paid 60 TL for the flight,which was a steal, I’ve never paid such a low amount for a flight in India,ever), took a Havatas bus to Kadikoy and a ferry to Eminou( 8+3=11TL only), a shuttle to Sultanahmet costs more than 20 TL, but it took quite a bit of time,almost 1 hour 40 minutes or so, not something to be attempted when you have to catch a flight and don’t have enough time(although I doubt if a faster alternative exists).
Kept my luggage at the Sirkeci metro station(10 TL). Walked to Karakoy Gulluoglu, and bought some baklva(a lot actually). This was THE baklava, just like the one in Antep, with less sugar syrup and more nut flavor(about 40TL a kg). Did a lot of food shopping at the market next to the Egyptian/Spice bazar, bought a lot cheese, made pides with this at home,they came out pretty well. Hazelnuts were great too, olives were a good choice, the turkish delight was fesh and cheap( 7 TL per kg for the simple flavors,20TL/kg for the nut flavors. I also bought another variety of turkish delight,one with a huge amounts of nuts, and believe me I haven’t had anything better in Turkey, worth spending exra bucks for(50 TL a kg). Also got a pack of Ottoman spice powder, pretty flavorful. Did food hopping again,had lunch at Neyizade Restaurant, a Gavurdag salatsi and bread(13 TL), then falafel at Makarna Sarayi and ice cream at Mado. Bought some traditional paintings(printed ofcourse) from a shop close to the Arasta bazar. Checked out Blue mosque again and returned to Sirkeci again, repacked my bags and got a tram and metro the Airport. It was the peak time for the tram, and my luggage was clearly inconvenient for all fellow passengers, so I would like to thank all of them for bearing with me(but then tram+ metro is the best deal you could get,so budget travelers shouldn’t think about any other option.
So now I’m back to work,back from my big holiday, have left Turkey, but I doubt if Turkey will ever leave, atleast not for quite sometime. Would love to make a trip back,to explore more of the East and the coast. I did get all that I want from the trip, visited some beautiful mosques and churches, got to see some amazing landscapes and sites, had great food, met some really nice folks, got reacquainted with history and did not really spend a fortune. What more could one ask for?