Friday, January 26, 2018

There are no turkeys in Turkey...and some other stuff.

Hello guys! So as you may already know, James and I went on a trip around Turkey. And it was amazing! We spent about two glorious weeks ...

Hello guys!

So as you may already know, James and I went on a trip around Turkey. And it was amazing! We spent about two glorious weeks in Turkey, travelling from city to city. We covered Istanbul, Cappadocia, Denizli, Izmir, and even managed Cyprus! And here's what we discovered along the way...
(Warning - Photo heavy post).

#1 It's cats galore.

So, I didn't know this was a thing, but apparently, Turkey is well known for it's cats. Like at least two people have asked me for my feedback on Turkey because they want to go, but are scared of cats. And really, they are EVERYWHERE.
Cats of Hagia Sophia.
Cats of Ephesus.

And these cats are seriously very well taken care of! They are fluffy and their fur is shiny, and they are all very well fed. And friendly! There were some cats who just followed us around entire attractions!
James' temporary Aphrodisias pet cat.

I guess it didn't help that I was trying to talk to them - which I totally can.
But if you're scared of cats, turkey is still a great place to go to. I mean I'm sure the cats would rather hang around people like me who pretend to talk cat, than weirdos who run away.

#2 People like to fish.

It's true! It's ridiculous. Like there's this bridge in the middle of Istanbul and people just stand around at all hours of the day fishing.

The Galata Bridge over the Bosphorus is packed with fishermen at dawn.
It is packed with fishermen at dusk.
It is packed with fishermen in when the afternoon sun is up.
It is packed with fishermen when the afternoon sun has set.
There were fishermen packed onto every bit of coastline, not just the bridge.
I tried my hand at fishing. I wasn't very good. I mean I did spot a condom.
As well as a sanitary pad.
But nothing edible. It was a good thing that they had lots of food on that bridge. I mean they need some cooking, but they were nevertheless food.
There were also of course, as in any country, street food available. 
Guy balancing Simits (Turkish bread) on his head.

Yeah. James and I couldn't figure out if the fishermen were fishing for pleasure, or work. Until we saw them there on New Year's Day. Like WTF? FISHING ON NEW YEAR'S DAY? It had got to be a job.

#3 Shisha is great.

Unlike the Turks who seemed quite content spending most of their waking hours fishing, James and I wanted something a bit less constructive and a bit less legal in Singapore. And then, it hit us.
The Straits Times: Shisha ban takes its toll on eateries, 28 July 2016

So, I don't have a big craving for shisha. But since it's ban in 2016, I've been dying to have some. You always want what you can't get. I say that, but not really. For example, I understand that I can't get smallpox anymore but I still don't want it.

Anyway! Here's us at the Fixed Hookah Cafe in Istanbul. We're not smokers, but inhaling fruity fumes can be fun!
We even got Turkish coffee to go with it. Because, why not?

#4 Tea forever.

Turkish coffee is really nice. But the problem with it is that you get to the bottom really quickly and you're left with the thick goopy residue at the bottom.
I mean, the Turks are aware of this tiny shortcoming and hence have taken to serving water with every cup of Turkish coffee but still - it's sometimes nice to drink a beverage without having to rinse your mouth after that. So here's the solution - TEA.
We love tea. I mean, not like how the regular Brit (not James) loves tea, but we still enjoyed having tea with every meal greatly. And sometimes we would have both coffee and tea. Because Turkish coffee seems to be the right touristy thing to do.
We'd have regular tea, or apple tea most of the time. Even though we were told that apple tea is only big among naive tourists like us. But I mean, Hi I'm Asian. I can get away with being touristy.
#asianstakingphotosoffood at İstanbul Türk Ocağı aka a Turkish cemetery.

It was because of this comment made to us that James didn't want to try some specialty peach tea that was offered to us at a local teahouse outside the underground city of Mazi, a short drive from Cappadocia. But then we were told that by our guide that this strange little tea house was only place in Turkey that made peach tea. And it's made with some old traditional recipe that was handed down from generations before.
It was very tasty. And weird. The tea house was full of men. Apparently, in this village the women spend their days working in the potato fields while the men just you know, sit around, smoke, play cards and backgammon while watching a fuzzy CRT television. It's a very surreal experience. 
Yes I was the only girl there. Our guide had apparently brought some media-stereotype Russian girls to the tea house one summer. You know, long blonde hair, tall and slim, mini skirts - the full Russian modelesque package. And some guys tried to buy them. I guess no one offered to buy me even though I am clearly Russian model quality because I had such a brute of a husband standing by my side.
My brute of a husband + my butt in one of the vertical tunnels in Mazi. 

Oh and by the way, Mazi is amazing. Lots of people talk about Derinkuyu Underground City, but that has been well manicured and tarted up over the years. In Mazi, you really get the opportunity to squeeze up vertical tunnels by just gripping on to grooves in the wall. It's AMAZING.
Of course, everything comes at a price. In this case, the price is your cleanliness. This is how dusty I was after stepping out of Mazi, AND after I brushed myself down a few times. 
But it was great fun and I highly recommend it! You get the whole place to yourself if you go in the winter - which was when we went!
Us and the UNESCO sign.

#5 It's always winter in Pamukkale.

Speaking of winter, Pamukkale always looks like its shrouded in snow all year round.
(Via Telegraph).

Except that it's not. Pamukkale, or "cotton castle" in Turkish are great formations of travertine and limestone dotted with thermal pools. It's very popular in the summer. I can see the appeal - I mean to run around some pseudo-snow-covered steps does sound rather awesome. Until you realise how many people have exactly the same idea.

I mean it's still very pretty and all in the summer, but...from what I see from the various travel sites, it doesn't look very appealing. Unless you have some kind of inexplicable fetish for crowds or something. My take on it? Go in winter. I mean it's 6 degrees, but the excitement will save you from the cold. Unless, of course, you are the tour bus sort. Then, I don't know why you even bother. Just go in the summer instead of standing around, taking up space and staring with pained expressions on your faces.
Me and my plastic bag of shoes.
Yes so if you look at the picture above, while the first pool of the travertine steps is packed with crazy people in their winter wear, if you venture further down, there's practically no one there at all! It's amazing!
And yes you might be sad because you wanted to prance around in your summer's best. But hey! A piece of good news for you - you still can!
So here are some tips when you go to Pamukkale (and I highly recommend that you do).
  1. Don't go in the summer.
  2. Bring a plastic bag to put your shoes - enter by the South gate at the top and walk down the travertines to the gate at the bottom.
  3. Stay at a hotel in Pamukkale - I recommend Venus Suites Hotels which has a free shuttle which goes to the South gate, and you can easily walk back to the hotel when you're done.
  4. And most importantly, don't be a pansy.
Before we went, we thought we might possibly die because we had read all these reviews about people complaining about the cold dripping water in winter, how your feet will ache for days after...and no one could tell me if I could venture into Pamukkale in a bikini or not. But I decided to try. And it was fine. My advice is, if you are the kind who complains about walking, feet ache, blisters, temperature changes, and in general, whines a lot, this bikini in the winter thing is not for you. But if you are like, a normal non-annoying person like me, then you should be just fine!

#6 Aphrodisias is the best.

So some people tell you that you know, while Pamukkale is great and all, many visit the thermal pools and forgo their wonderful ruins. Which you know, is great for losers like us, who live to go to ancient ruins. Look! Perfectly empty! And all the rocks lying around serve as great shelves to prop your phone up for a selfie on timer.
So yes, the ruins of Pamukkale are nice. But I can see why people forgo them. However, the ruins at Aphrodisias, are AMAZING. Like, they are almost intact. Like look at this stadium.
HOW WELL PRESERVED IS THIS STADIUM?! I mean I totally expected it to be like something like the Circus Maximus in Rome. But it was so much better. Like here's a photo of the Circus Maximus.
Yeah it's the largest Roman hippodrome, certainly one of the more famous arenas. But there's nothing there! Unlike Aphrodisias where everything seems so intact! And the best part of Aphrodisias? It's EMPTY.
James at the theatre in Aphrodisias.
Just us and cats which follow us around (see above for more).

Anyway, I found Aphrodisias while trawling through travel websites. The sites say that you can stay there for hours and just a short detour along the popular drive from Pamukkale to Ephesus. I was sceptical, but the sites do not lie. Aphrodisias was one of the highlights of the trip! It's even better than Ephesus. And apparently, it's empty even in the summer! You should go there. It's great.

#7 Imagination is key.

So there's a lot going around in Turkey, even when there seems to be nothing happening at all. Take Pamukkale for example - Cotton Castle.
Then there could be some valley full of rocks. But do they call it rock valley? No. They call it "IMAGINATION VALLEY". Or Devrent Valley if you want a name with a more mysterious ring.
Here's the Camel rock.
On the left you see a face, in the middle you see a fist.
And here you have Virgin Mary carrying baby Jesus.
Then we came here, and we were told "THIS IS LOVE VALLEY. NO EXPLANATIONS NEEDED."

Yup. Turkey is full of dreamers.

#8 There are proper GOT blacksmiths.

Call me suaku but I've never seen weapons being made. Unless you know, it's on Game of Thrones or something of the like. But when James and I were wandering around Denizli....
IT WAS SO COOL! Like cleavers, daggers, pick axes, pitch forks, and spears! (What?! I'm from Singapore. This is my version of bad ass weapons).
And I've never seen anything like it! So James and I had to stroll past this street a few times for me to take photos because, I'm a loser who thinks weapon forgery needs its place in my phone gallery as well as my blog.

#9 It's not all about the domes.

So! Before I went to Turkey, I knew only maybe two things about it - that there were lots of cats, and also lots of domes. My sources were correct. There was plenty of domes.

Hagia Sofia.
Blue Mosque.
Dolmabahçe Palace.
Sultan II. Mahmut Tomb.

But the strange thing is, we went to entered un-domed places of worship than anything. Most of them were just, churches or chapels. We were told that Cappadocia has one of the highest church to land area ratios. They are just, a little challenging to find.
Here's a picture of maybe five churches in the Goreme Open Air Museum.

Most of the churches that we saw were neolithic cave structures, like this one here in Soğanlı's Yukarı Valley, which is a short drive from Cappadocia. 
The paintings were very vivid and well preserved, save for some vandalism from more than 50 years ago. Which is, older than the founding of Singapore and hence, we can most likely count is as part of the historical structure.
Wall painting in Karabaş Kilisesi (The Big Church).

We much preferred exploring the caves and neolithic structures more than exploring the domed mosques, because you don't have to be cautious, keep your voice down, or be wary of what you step on. Caves are great! And you know, good for photo opportunities as well.

#10 Go in the winter.

So Turkey's a really nice place to go to, but we heard that the crowds can be heaving in the summer. I highly recommend that you visit Turkey in the winter. The prices of everything is cheaper, you get free room upgrades, and most importantly, no one gets in the way of your shots! Well, except maybe an animal or two.
One thing bad about winter is that if you plan to visit Cappadocia for some hot air ballooning, you might be thwarted by the weather. Hot air balloons aren't permitted to fly when there is wind. We were quite lucky! Our hot air balloon ride was the first after 19 days of cancellations, and was followed by another 5 days of cancellations.
Yes so Turkey is great! The only downfall is that I didn't manage to eat any turkey there. I hunted all over. I mean I was pouring over menus with kebabs, turkish pancakes, lots of turkish bread, stews...but never did I once see turkey offered on the menu. Perhaps as a sign of deference to their namesake bird.

OK! Hope you've found this entertaining/useful/a distraction from work. Let me know if you spot any typos. I'm sure this post is laden with them. In the meantime, here's some Iggy for you.

Okay that's all for today! TGIF guys!
❤ Jac.

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