Page 3 of aidando Travel Blog Posts

Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul June 24th 2010

It’s not just the city’s location that’s split between Europe and Asia; everything is a mix between east and west. You might wake up to the singing of the prayer call but for every one Mosque you pass you’ll no doubt pass half a dozen Starbucks or Mc Donald’s. There are still quite a few women in veils but the younger generation seem to have their eyes firmly set on west. It’s quite funny talking to people who’ve been travelling in Europe; arriving in Istanbul they actually think they’re in the Middle East! Most of the accommodation is in the Sultanmet area where all the city’s major attractions are located: Haghai Sophia, The Blue Mosque & Tokapi palace. It’s understandably touristy and you definitely pay a premium at the restaurants etc but it can’t be beaten ... read more
Tokapi Palace
Asia & Europe
Tokapi Tiles

Middle East » Turkey » Aegean June 20th 2010

Look at any glossy tourist brochure on Turkey and chances are you’ll see photos of the Roman ruins at Ephesus and the hot springs at Pamukkale. I wasn’t really looking forward to either but they were more or less on the way the Istanbul so I decided to stop off. I’d heard the ruins were so packed you could barely move and that the springs had been more or less depleted thanks to over exploitation in the 90s. I took a bus from Fethiye and arrived in Pamukkale with pretty low expectations. The city contains hot springs and terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. Up until recently there were hotels right next to the springs draining the water and a road was even built over the terraces. Fortunately when the area was declared ... read more
Library of Celcus 2
No swimming unfortunately
Temple of Artemis

Middle East » Turkey » Aegean » Fethiye June 18th 2010

Take me to the beach! Time for a holiday from my holiday. I chose Fethiye as a base for exploring the area because it has about the best transport connections. It is right by the sea but there unfortunately there’s no beach, just a marina! It seemed quite touristy when I arrived but compared to some of the towns in the region it’s an unspoilt paradise You pass through some ridiculous towns on the minibus from Feithye to Olundeniz, basically the Costa del Turkey: complete with English pubs, English Breakfasts, Fish & Chips and even prices in sterling (reminded me of holidays as a kid!). Oludeniz is pretty touristy as well but the fantastic beach and blue lagoon more than make up for it. There were dozens of boat turns running from Fethiye, most visiting 12 ... read more
Butterfly Valley bay
Butterfly Valley from Faralya

Middle East » Turkey » Central Anatolia » Cappadocia » Göreme June 16th 2010

Getting around Turkey could not be easier, the bus service can get you almost anywhere. Nearly all the buses serve free tea, coffee, coke and some food. Some even have individual tvs and free WiFi. The bus trip from Kahta is quite long but it's a nice journey through mountains and valleys. We arrived quite late in Keysari and still had to get one more bus. We were very lucky and just caught the last minibus. I was travelling with a French couple I'd met at Nemrut. There were 3 free seats so obviously I took the one and let them sit together. This was not acceptable in Turkey though! I was sitting beside a woman so the bus driver asked me to move straight away. We didn't really know what was going on. In fairness ... read more
Uchisar Hill
Underground City
Uchisar Hill up close

I think I spent more money crossing the Syrian border than I did the entire time I was in Syria. I wandered into the duty free out of curiosity and was shocked to see they sold iPods and accepted MasterCard. So basically I'll be eating rice and drinking tap water for the foreseeable future, but I won't have to listen to anymore God damn Arabic music on buses. Pretty long journey to Kahta and the border crossing was ridiculously slow. Everyone (our car included) was trying to smuggle in cheap Syrian cigarettes so the Turkish customs officers searched literally every car. Then after a few bus changes made it to Kahta, the main base for visiting Mount Nemrut. It's immediately obviously Turkey is a more developed country than Syria. With that comes much higher prices! The ... read more
Fields near Nemrut
Mount Nemrut 5
Greek text

Middle East » Syria » North » Aleppo June 12th 2010

Don’t get me wrong I’ve seen some awesome stuff on this trip but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of finding a clean t-shirt you haven’t worn yet at the bottom of your backpack. On a less ecstatic note I had my first very minor and long overdue case of food poisoning. I’ve narrowed the source down to one of 3 dodgy falafel sandwiches, two dodgy shawarma, the ice or the tap water I drank. As I said: long overdue. Aleppo is Syria’s second city and like Damascus it claims to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. After several horrific minibus rides I could not believe the bus from Hama to Aleppo. Air conditioning worked (and was turned on), there were only 3 seats in each aisle and they threw in free snacks. ... read more
Ruins inside Citadel
Assad the dear leader
Old Town at night

Middle East » Syria » West » Hama June 10th 2010

Hama is most well known for the massacre that took place there in the 80s. It’s the single most violent act an Arab government has taken against its own people. At the time there was a growing movement to turn Syria into an Islamic state. The movement’s supporters captured government buildings in the town. In response the government shelled the town, killing up to 40,000 people and completely destroying the old town. Faced with this it’s hardly surprising there’s no appetite for political change in Syria. The town’s main attraction now is the many water wheels. The water wheels were built to scoop up water then drop it into aqueducts where it could be transferred to nearby fields. They’re actually pretty impressive and the town’s a great place to chill out, with lots of parks by ... read more
4 Nuirias
Syrian Kids who kept following me
View from hostel

Middle East » Syria » East » Palmyra June 8th 2010

It was a serious trek to get from Baalbek to Palmyra: one minibus to Beirut, another one from Beirut to Homs then finally Homs to Palmyra. Also throw in the fun of crossing the Syrian border and the fact the engine of the second minibus effectively exploded so we were towed for a few hours! The bus driver was great though kept loudly shouting in Arabic at the border staff, got me through in no time. Palmyra is Syria’s main tourist attraction, and guess what it’s more Roman ruins! It was an important city on the Silk Route and benefited greatly from rerouted trade routes after Petra was captured by the Romans. The city was left generally abandoned and hidden under a layer or sand for over a thousand years. It wasn’t until the 1920s that ... read more
View from hill
Sunset 2

Middle East » Lebanon June 7th 2010

Beirut is about 4 hours away from Damascus but it may as well be on another planet. There are expensive cars, western chain stores and banks everywhere. The downtown area has been completely rebuilt and it’s like any city in Europe complete with the standard clothes shops, Starbucks & Mc Donald’s. There are still plenty of reminders of the city’s tumultuous history: visible bullet holes in some of the buildings and the massive bullet ridden Holiday Inn dominates the skyline in part of the city. As well as this walking around the city during Friday prayers there was literally a soldier every metre around the mosque. Not to mention tanks in other areas. Other than the war Beirut is probably best known for its nightlife. The bars are centred around the Gemmayzeh area where we went ... read more
Temple of Bacchus
War Damage

Middle East » Syria » South » Damascus June 5th 2010

Leave your preconceptions at the border Syria, chances are Syria is not what you expected. The only immediate difference you notice when you cross over from Jordan is that the terrain switches from desert to farmland. I wouldn’t quite say it’s westernised but the people are very friendly towards outsiders and much more liberally dressed than other parts of the Middle East. At the same time there’s a definite sense the country is cut off from the rest of the world. Everyone’s a bit out of touch and dressed not quite right. There aren’t really any western chain stores and the internet is pretty restricted. It’s a bit like a “modern” version of a Soviet country I guess! I’d already organised a multiple entry visa in advance because I’m planning on going to Lebanon. Back in ... read more
Umayyad Mosque 2
Magic ingredients spice market
Khan Asad Basha Fountain

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