Turkey Trip

A Journey Through Turkey…

On April 26th, 2003, Rachel and I set off to Turkey for a trip that would change our lives. We had decided to travel to one of the world’s most exotic countries and elope. After three glorious weeks, we accomplished what we set out to do and so much more.

Turkey is a country whose rich history and culture are only surpassed by it’s natural beauty. With our limited time, we could only see a small fraction of what the country has to offer and would someday like to return and pick up where we left off in our travels. We predominantly traveled in Western Turkey with a week in central Turkey, a week on the west coast, and a week on the south coast. The following is a photo tour of our travels that I hope you will be interested in seeing.

In the 3 weeks we were there, we took 1,100 photos. If you remove the ones of poor quality, your left with about 3. 🙂 But we put a few back and have around 600. Still a few too many, we’re slowly going through and discarding the repeats and the ones that you would find of little interest. Still 600 photos is far too many. And some of you have been ‘asking’ (more like threatening…) me to get these pictures up. So this is what we have done….

The trip can be broken up into 8 different chapters. As I complete a chapter, I will post a link to the web gallery here. I will also note the area of travel on the map above for those of you who are not familiar with the geographic particulars of this very large country.

I encourage all types of feedback. Not to make excuses… but the camera I had was new to me. The first set of pictures starts very grainy as I hadn’t realized that the Nikon was set to an ISO of 800. Oh well, live and learn. I would also like feedback on the web gallery itself. It is the first time I am using Photoshop for this and some people may not like the format, colours, picture size, etc… However, each chapter will have a different gallery style. Most photos have a small caption but for the most part, there is little information loaded for each picture. If you are interested in any more info on any particular photo, please don’t hesitate to email us.

So without any more babbling from me, this is Chapter One – Istanbul.

Istanbul.

We left Vancouver on April 26th and arrived into Istanbul the next day in the late afternoon. Our plan was to stay the night in Istanbul then take the night train to Ankara, the Turkish capital. We woke up the next morning, made the trip out to the train station where we stored our bags, then headed back to the European side of Istanbul. The full day in Istanbul was great. From having a Turkish Bath, to spending a few hours in the Topkapi Palace. We soon realized that we hadn’t planned enough time in this great city so decided to cut the rest of our trip short by a couple of days, and head back to Istanbul at the end of our trip. So there are two Istanbul chapters. One at the beginning, and one at the end.

no, they didn’t have mcdonald kebabs.

Ankara.

On the the next leg of the tour…

From Istanbul, we needed to go to Ankara, the Turkish Capital to visit the Canadian Embassy and the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ankara is an interesting place as no tourists really go there. It’s just a big city. And with us, obviously not Turkish, walking around with backpacks larger than us on, we got a few looks. I didn’t mind Ankara but 24 hours was enough. We went prepared to stay for several days as that is how long we thought the paperwork would take. But when we found out that we could have it done in one day… zoinks! we were out of there.

The Canadian Embassy was no problem because… well, they speak English. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is another story. It’s basically a big room with a window to another office against one of the walls. And lots of people just standing around… waiting. It was quite apparent from the moment we walked in there that we were foreigners. So after looking dazed for a few minutes (how dare there not be any English instructions anywhere…;-) several people started to help us in the broken English they new. The people there a very nice. Most of the time they want to sell you something but deep down, they are generally a very kind and giving race of people.

So to make a long story short, we got the paper work done, hung out downtown for the evening and left the next day for Cappadocia. The following is by far the smallest, weakest and most boring gallery of the group. If you can even sit through the only 10 pictures or so, I promise to get the Cappadocia photos up soon! Of course, there are about 100 of those!

Cappadocia

With Istanbul and Ankara behind us, we headed off to the area called Cappadocia. And in Cappadocia, we spent most of our time in a town called Goreme. Rachel had always wanted to come to this part of Turkey and though I read a few items about the area before leaving Canada, I had totally underestimated what we were in for.

Dated as early as the 2nd century, the history here is staggering. As we traveled through Turkey, especially in Cappadocia, we went through many ancient sights for which there were no formal process in place for preservation. Many places allowed anyone who was interested to walk in, walk through, walk over and touch whatever they wanted. At first we found this very strange. But after being in the country for three weeks we realized two things… 1) The cost for trying to preserve so much would be horrendous and 2) There is history EVERYWHERE. That might sound dumb but there are ruins everywhere you look. For example, there are a few pictures of the underground cities of Derinkuyu. Eight stories have been uncovered but it is thought to be as big as holding 20,000 people at one time. 20,000 people! The oldest parts of the ‘city’ date back to 8,500 bc. And this is just one city. Experts believe that they have discovered about 20% of the underground cities. That leaves a great deal left for discovery! But who can do it? It is one thing to get the money to excavate, but where do you get the money to preserve? We found this everywhere we went in the country. Canada is so young that it is hard to fathom something so deep and rich as the history Turkey has. For someone who is seriously into this sort of thing, they could go to Turkey and never leave…

In Goreme, like many other towns in the Cappadocia area, there are what they call ‘Fairy Chimneys’. Many pictures of which you will see in the gallery. In the larger Fairy Chimneys, people have dug out dwellings and live there today, passed on from generation to generation. Our pension in Goreme was beautiful and had us in a cave room. Very cool. ahhh… the name of the pension was The Kelebek. If you are interested, I found this on the web for a better explanation of Fairy Chimneys…

Millions of years ago, a series of fantastic volcanic eruptions showered the region with over 100 feet of hot ash. The ash eventually hardened into a soft pumice stone, locally known as tufa. Over the eons, wind and water had eroded much of the tufa in the valley, but certain sections of tufa were protected by enormous boulders that had been blown out of the volcanoes and onto the ash layer. The rocky debris prevented the rain from wearing down the tufa below it, creating tall columns of pumice with boulders perched atop. These tufa cones became known by the villagers as peribaca, or fairy chimneys. With thousands of giant fairy chimneys dotting its landscape, Cappadokia has become one of the most celebrated geological wonders in Turkey.

So, to start with the show, this is the largest gallery so far. 150 pictures in total! And I have deleted 2 for every one that I’ve posted. Hopefully it won’t put you to sleep… Due to the high number of photos, I have chosen not to add a comment to each picture. If there is any further info that you are interested in on any given pic, just email me and Rachel and I will try and answer them.

Selçuk and the Ancient Ruins of Ephesus

Well we are now getting closer to the real reason we came to Turkey. We have left the unbelievable region of Cappadocia and have chosen to fly to our next stay. Our original plans were to bus out of Goreme but we wanted to spend every possible second in that part of the world. Flying allowed us to stay an extra 3 days. But in the next several days, if all goes well, Rachel and I will be wed in the town of Selçuk (pronounced: SELL-CHUCK).

We flew into Izmir on the west coast but were only there for the few hours while we waited for our ride to Selçuk, about a 45 minutes away. Selçuk is a small town (i have no idea how many people) whose biggest claim to fame is that of being situated beside the ancient ruins of Ephesus. We had dreams of getting married in Ephesus but that is not very realistic. Besides, Selçuk is where everything happens and Ephesus is more like an outdoor walking museum.

We were in Selçuk for 5 days. We arrived on the Sunday and left the Thursday. The wedding was planned for Wednesday evening. Though we had done some paperwork in Ankara, this was still very unsure for us. We were getting help from Shannon & Steve Toparlak who owns the ANZ Pension in Selçuk but we were never sure if the wedding was really going to occur until it actually happened. They were incredibly helpful and none of this would have happened without them and their family. If you are ever in Selçuk, the only place you should think of staying is at their amazing pension. It’s featured in the Lonely Planet and the people there are great.

So, back with the picture show… I’m breaking this chapter into two different sections. i) Our time in Selçuk and Ephesus. and ii) The Wedding.

We arrived the Sunday and relaxed when we got there. Monday was spent walking the city with Mr. Toparlak (Shannon and Steve’s father) getting more government paper work done and blood tests. That was a long day but necessary (obviously). Mr. Toparlak is very well known in the community so it seemed like we stopped and talked to every 3rd person on the street. Everyone was very interested in why he was walking around with two foreigners. And all the shopkeepers, street vendors, restaurateurs, and carpet sales people left us alone! You have no idea how refreshing that was!! They can be brutal and unrelenting. But as we parted ways with Mr. Toparlak around 5pm, they moved in on us like vultures on fresh meat… but I digress.

Tuesday was spent walking throughout the ancient city of Ephesus with our new friend Simon (he’s Kiwi and coincidentally, a professional photographer!). I started to experiment with Black and White as you will see in the photos. This night, the ladies surprised Rachel with a Henna night. A Turkish tradition, they sit the bride in the middle of the room with a red veil over her face. The women participating danced around the bride singing a traditional Turkish song with a large plate of henna. The groom (that’s me) is called up and places a coin in one of the bride’s hands. A blob of henna is put in each of the palms and red sacks (or mittens) are put over her hands. She is to keep these mittens on till the next morning where the groom is to remove them and wash his brides hands. The coin in the palm represents a future of prosperity.

The area this all takes place (as well as all the meals and the planned wedding) are on the rooftop terrace of the pension. It is a public area so the henna night as well as the wedding and planned reception included everyone who was staying at the pension. Which worked out great! as it was always a party. Everyone was fantastic and very excited about what was going on. Several backpackers delayed their departure so they could be there. Hitoshi and Yasuko who we met in Cappadocia surprised us by traveling 12 hours on a bus to be there for the wedding. There are pictures of them in the gallery. So everyone got to participate in the Henna ritual by placing henna in their own hands and spelling out the first initial of someone that is special to them.

Wednesday was the big day. Simon, Steve (not Steve Toparlak but Steve from Oz) and I went out for an old fashioned shave. They had also taken me out the night before for a few drinks that turned out to be one too many. The JP arrived around 7. The wedding took place around 7:30 as the sun was setting. The weather was perfect. The people were great and we had a fun time. Someone told a few of the newspapers that 2 foreigners were getting married so some reporters showed up unexpectedly. We also did a couple of small interviews afterwards but we have no idea if they ever made it to print.

We hired a belly dancer which was a fun idea as it kept everyone entertained. I was nervous before the wedding but not so much about getting married but how the whole event was going to get played out. This was definitely uncharted territory for us. But it couldn’t have gone better. Many family members of the Toparlaks showed up so there was about 40 people there to witness the event. Many more than we had ever expected when we decided to elope. It was always suppose to be a very private affair. But alas, that was not to be.

So the pictures are in two categories. The first couple of days in Selçuk and the Wedding shots. The wedding shots actually start with the Henna ritual one night before the wedding. The pictures of the wedding are actually quite poor. The light was very odd as the sun was setting and I think it played havoc with the sensors on the cameras. Many pictures have been removed so there really are only a few. The second batch also contains our wedding shots in Ephesus. We were allowed in after they had closed the doors to the public to take some photos. In Turkey, you do the wedding shots before the actual wedding. So yes, I saw Rachel in her wedding dress before getting married… but while in Turkey…

The Pools of Pamukkale

As it was time to leave Selçuk and all the friends we had made, we headed off to the town of Kas. There we were to catch a boat and sail the Mediterranean for a week of relaxation. But before arriving in Kas, we stopped for a night in the town of Pamukkale (palm-a-call-ae).

This was probably the most uncomfortable part of the trip as the busses we were scheduled to take were small, overcrowded and with no air conditioning. We befriended this Spanish dude named Manuel heading for the same area so we traveled a bit around with him. Rachel had found herself in a ‘fight’ with a local Turk at one of the bus stops which was quite amusing. We were warning Manuel, who had just arrived to the country, about the hordes of… i don’t know what you call them, guys who try and get you to stay at their pension, or take their tour. Their main job is to jump on the tourists as they step off the busses. We discovered that if you go through the Lonely Planet and select a place to stay before getting off the bus, the vultures don’t bother you as much. Even if you don’t actually stay at the place you claim to be, at least you can get everyone off your back for a few minutes while you get your bearings.

Anyway, I’m digressing. As we were stepping off the bus, Rachel turns to Manuel and says something like “Remember the advice we gave you as these vultures can be really very obnoxious”. And wouldn’t you know, the Turk standing beside them spoke perfect English. He was even born in Saskatchewan! So apparently he took offense to this (I can’t imagine why…) and the next thing you know he’s all upset with Rachel going on about “why you say that???” “why would you tell him that???”. We were quite embarrassed at first then realized one important fact… they ARE very obnoxious. And we ended up telling him as much. i think he was more disappointed about losing the sale then getting the insult.

So back to Pamukkale… I had never heard of Pamukkale before going there but apparently, it is quite famous. Why you ask? Good question. I stole this paragraph from the internet so I hope it helps some:

Located 20 kilometers from the town of Denizli in the Aegean region of Turkey, Pamukkale is one of the most interesting places in the world, justly famous not only for the entrancing beauty of its unique geological formations but also for its historical remains. The calcium oxide-rich waters flowing down the southern slope of Caldag located north of the ruins have, over the millennia, built up deposits of white travertine on the plateau thus fully justifying both the site’s ancient name of Hierapolis (Holy City) and its modern one of Pamukkale (Cotton Castle).

Hoping to get there for sunset, we were about 15 minutes too late. Oh well. Rachel talked me into getting up before sunrise and going up to the pools then. That’s PRE-sunrise… on my vacation. Apres sunrise… oh well.

We snuck past the sleeping guard (can’t imagine why he was sleeping) and had the entire place to ourselves. It truly was beautiful. I would highly recommend going, you just don’t need to spend too much time there. I think a day trip is enough.

That day around noon, we jumped back onto a bus, and headed for the southern city of Kas on the Mediterranean Sea…