That time we drove the coast of Turkey and stopped off at the historical sites!
When? July 2015
With whom? Alone
From Istanbul, the first stop was Gallipoli. For obvious reasons, this was appealing as a stop off for its historical context. Unsurprisingly, every person I met in Gallipoli was an Aussie or a Kiwi. There is a museum at the entrance to the area, which has some back story and details of the history and costs only 3 lira (at time of travel). The artwork inside were impressive and I’m not usually one to look at artwork, so for me to admire them shows how good they were.
I entered Anzac cove; where the beaches of the battle are located. It was hard to believe that this had been strewn with bodies when it was so peaceful and beautiful. In everyday life, it’s easy to forget the sacrifices that have been made. It was so moving when I arrived at the memorial monuments and graveyards, each giving an idea of the magnitude of the number of people who lost their lives here.
My next historical site was Troy to marvel the ancient ruins there. As you enter, you’re immediately greeted with a giant wooden horse; the actual one used at the Battle of Troy! Kidding, but you can climb inside so I spent some time pretending to fire at newcomers as I had the high ground in my battle horse. Walking around the site was impressive – a lot of the detail had been preserved on the tops of the pillars and on some of the walls. One such pattern looked like Lego bricks (enter conspiracy theory here). There was so much to see and it all varied as Troy was a civilisation that had been built upon and added to over centuries by so many different generations and types of people. Troy was the New York City of its time, so almost every type of person had been through here (maybe that’s why the Turks are so beautiful). The ruins made it so easy to picture the streets bustling with people.
The next day, a group from the campsite and I organised some transport to Ephesus, and the best thing about organising your own transport is that our minibus dropped us at the exit. This meant that the hordes of tourists and bus groups started at the complete opposite end of the site, and we had this part all to ourselves. The grand finale of the usual tour, and therefore the part we explored first was the massive amphitheatre! We ran up to the top of the stairs to shout at each other to the bottom of the theatre, and one of the group even performed a Rihanna cover. The acoustics were excellent for a group game of Marco Polo, although with the uneven steps and rocks laying around, I wouldn’t recommend it. (We learned this the hard way.)
After more than our fair share of alone time with the amphitheatre, we left and shortly found the hundreds of tourists who had come in the entrance; it was manic. We explored the ruins of a brothel, the Temple of Artemis, the Church of St. Mary and some residential areas. It’s worth doing the complete length of the site and then doing an about turn to come back, as you see everything from so many different angles.
Lunch was a kebab because Turkey. For lunch pudding, we had something called Kunafe. It. Was. Divine. I immediately regretted agreeing to share this delicious deep fried cheese coated in crispy noodle things and doused in a vat of honey/syrup. I jumped on a bus back and had a long swim in the sea. The sea bed had a very small gradient so I was still in my depth about 100 metres from the shore (just about! A normal-sized person could have gone further). Dinner was a BBQ on the beach with a bottle of tequila accompanied by a beautiful sunset and shared stories of regret.
Another day, another hangover. I woke up to another camper telling me about her skinny dipping adventure resulting in the loss of her bra. Nightmare. It’s only a short drive to Pamukkale (Pah-moo-ka-lay) so I napped off some of the tequila headache and found a few people wanting to go to the baths. The baths at Pamukkale are its main attraction and basically involves walking up a hill made of calcium carbonate, so the entire walk is completely white. Over time, shelf-like formations, filled with water have grown and these are what people call the baths. We had great views over the town framed by the mountains behind on our bare foot walk up, and a milky water river ran all the way down. At the top we got swim ready for a dip on our way down. The water was really warm so it was a pleasant swim, although it is like sharing a bath with 20 other people so I’d recommend showering afterwards. People were scooping up the sediment at the bottom of the bath and smearing it all over their bodies and faces; I’m sure there’s some sort of exfoliation premise behind it. We gave it a go too, smearing it on our own and each other’s faces and having a bit of a giggle.
Info: The entrance fees of these archaeological sites were very cheap. The most expensive one was the equivalent of £3.50 and there was no limit to how long you could spend exploring other than closing times. Turkey’s political state might be more volatile than some people are willing to risk, especially now. We did re-route when we discovered a terrorist attack had taken place on our original road into Iran. It would be a matter of keeping a close eye on the news so you know where is safe to travel. At time of travelling, Brits didn’t need a visa in their passport but you did need to apply for one online and print out the confirmation. This was then taken off you at the border in exchange for a passport stamp. I stayed at Tepe Camping near the Pamukkale baths, which was a beautiful campsite, with a pool and a stunning view over the town. The campsite on the Pamucak beach was amazing, called Dereli Motel. It doesn’t have a website so I’ve linked the trip advisor page!
Product of the week: When you’re doing a medium amount of walking in a hot place, you’ll want a pair of decent shoes. I’ve recommended lightweight trainers and a sturdy pair of hiking boots in previous posts (here and here), but it wasn’t enough walking to warrant wearing hiking boots. Then I wear my wonderfully comfy trainers with decent socks. Don’t get cotton, as that just makes for sweaty feet and nobody wants to smell that. But also, hiking socks come up to mid-calf, which arguably looks silly and is also uncomfortable in the heat. If only there were some sort of happy medium…! Check out Blue Mountain weatherlam ankle hiking socks. They are my favourite socks.
Tip of the week: Consider other options to organised tours. I’m not saying don’t use them, but had we jumped on an organised tour of Ephesus we would have missed out on our escapades of having the amphitheatre to ourselves. Very few people will have been in there by themselves, so I think it was a great experience to have. It only happened because the driver of the transport we organised knew that he didn’t want to get involved in the frenzy of tourist coaches and buses at the entrance.