Istanbul: Lonely Planet Zombies
Istanbul is one of the world’s greatest cities. From the late fourth century it was the capital of the Roman Empire and then the capital of the Islamic Ottoman Empire from 1453. Ancient Roman structures sit neatly by palaces and mosques of the Ottomans.
And it’s like each emperor or sultan of the time was trying to impress their God the most with an elaborate, expensive place of worship.
To add to the “holy shit that’s stunning” factor, all these mind blowing structures are perched around the waters of the beautiful Bospherous Strait.
This legendary sea divides Asia and Europe.
In Istanbul, you can literally jump on a ferry to have lunch in Asia, then back in Europe for tea.
The problem with great cities though, is that there’s too much to see and too many other jerk travellers trying to see it too.
You become a slave to your Lonely Planet. You obey it to the death, mindlessly shuffling to all the sights it says you “must see”.
And you’re constantly surrounded by all the other brainless tourist zombies hungry to feast on history.
But some of it is pretty cool.
THINGS TO DO IN ISTANBUL:
Check out the Blue Mosque. It’s multiple domes and pillars are like something out of a sci fi film. And it’s free.
Also cruise up the Bospherus for a day.
And visit the Basilica Cistern.
If you’re not people-phobic, try your luck at bargaining at The Grand Bazaar.
I also visited the Topkapi Palace and The Sophia but if you’re short on time (and budget), I’d just visit the above attractions.
Best place to stay in Istanbul:
We stayed in the crowded touristy area of Sultanahmet. The blue house hotel was amazing with the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had the pleasure of gorging.
Oh yeah, it also has a great view of the blue mosque and is right in the heart of it all. However, if you don’t want to be part of the hordes, stay around the Taksim Square area and take the train/tram to Sutlanahment each day. That’s what I’d do if I return.
Canakkale: The Gateway to Gallipoli.
A pumping student town on a beautiful harbour. Good food, good people and it sits opposite the Gallipoli peninsula (20 mins by ferry) so it’s a good place to base yourself for a Gallipoli tour.
Check out the maritime mueseum on the water.
Best place to stay in Canakkale:
The Yellow rose Pension – cheap ($20), central, clean and friendly local family owners.
Gallipoli: Take comfort, you’ve never made a mistake this big.
The Gallipoli campaign was a fuck up of historical proportions. Well from an allies point of view anyway.
In World War 1, Winston Churchil thought he could break into Istanbul via a navy fleet in Gallipoli and open up a route to the Russian allies. Well, the first 3 ships that made their way up the strait were sunk and it just got worse from there.
The failed campaign lasted 8 months and resulted in over 500,000 casualities:
130,000 dead. 87,000 Turkish, and 36,000 allies consisting of 8800 French, 8700 Australians, 3000 Indians and 2700 Kiwis. All dead.
And even though less ANZACS (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) died than other allies, we commiserate this battle every year on ANZAC Day, April the 25th. These commiserations involve copious amounts of drinking, gambling and silly behaviour. Maybe that’s what the fallen soldiers would’ve wanted. Maybe.
I do wonder about ancient ruins.
Saying they’re so many thousands of years old. Claiming Caesar walked there. Or John the Baptist took a poo there. It’s hard to know the truth of it all with no real evidence.
It could all be a ruse to bring in the tourist dollar. Just like New Zealand with our Lord of the Ring Tours:
“um yeah, thus field was a part of the shire in the fulm The Hobbit”.
Whatevs bosso, that’s just your family farm in Matamata.
But To be fair, Ephesus is a very impressive ancient city from Greco-Roman times. There’s 1800 year old libraries, theatres and even whore houses. Worth a visit for sure.
To get to Ephesus, we based ourselves in Kusadasi and took a bus from there.
Stepping into the calcium carbonate terraces of Pammukale is like stepping into another world. Over millions of years of calcium build up has created limestone terraces with natural hot spring pools flowing down the cotton-like landscape. It looks like a snow resort on Saturn.
The super yacht, luxury beach town of Turkey. It’s a bit of a cheese fest to be fair. But there are some beautiful beaches around if you want to lie on a sun chair and binge drink all day. Seems most people are quite partial to that kind of thing.
One of the best things to do in Bodrum is a boat day trip. You’ll do a bit of snorkelling, see lots of other beaches and go to a natural rock pool where Cleopatra apprently bathed. All in all, good, wholesome times. Unless you get up and gyrate on the top deck to top 40 music. Nothing wholesome about that.
Cappadocia: Ancient Rock Cocks
Cappadocia is a large province which is the result of a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. With its red rock and surreal formations and ancient cave dwellings it’s what I’d imagine Mars to look like. I’ve never seen anything like it. These rock formations do look like large rock penises though so parental supervision is advised.
The many caves and rock formations were used from the 4th to 11th C AD by Christians hiding from Pagan persecution. They built and hind in large underground city systems. Pretty amazing stuff just quietly. Thousands of locals still live in these cave dwellings.
Best Place to Stay in Cappadocia:
I stayed at Yasmin’s Cave House. Was a pretty cheap, family run operation. Not bad, service was a bit sketchy at time but pretty cool to be living in cave for a few days.
BEST PLACE TO EAT IN CAPPADOCIA: The Old Cappadocia Cafe
Like many touristy places, eating can be a bit hit and miss. They know you’re only passing by and not concerned about return customers.
I’ll save you the trouble and disappointment of going to bad places.
The best restaurant in Cappadocia by a long shot is the Old Cappadocia Cafe. Once we found it, we ate there every day. Delicious, varied, great staff/owners, beautiful surroundings and cheap.
THINGS TO DO IN CAPPADOCIA:
There’s a lot to do in this region including Quad Biking, mountain biking, horse riding, hundreds of treks through crazy landscapes, hot air ballooning and tours of the ancient cave dwellings and underground cities. Stay at least a week if you can.