Library Of Celsus
Ephesus's trademark landmark evokes the facade of Petra's treasury.
Holed up in our windowless dorm in the hostel, it was only when we first stepped outside that we realised that the warm sun and blue sky of the previous day had been replaced by cold rain and a wicked gale, as we sprinted from the hostel to the small cafe on the pier at seven in the morning.
I had left all the organising the girls and in my sleepy stupor had no idea what was going on - one minute we were in the ferry ticket office, the next we were bundled into one of the local's cars on a ten minute drive to another pier.
We pass a small booth en route to the pier who demands a payment from us, one that we weren't expecting. The old man who had driven us here spots us - I feel bad for having him pay for us but simultaneously feel that it's justified as this was a payment we should have been told about.
The ferry ride takes all but ten minutes and when we arrive on the other side in Canakkale, it is properly lashing down, possibly the worst weather you could have when running around outside trying
The Terraces & The Mountains, Pamukkale
While the white in the foreground is white rock, the white on the mountains in the background is snow.
to find something - in our case, the bus station.
We eventually find the ticket office of the company we had bus tickets for and we are ushered inside, all of us completely saturated.
About twenty minutes later we are on a minibus and I'm still unsure about what is going on. We are eventually dropped off at Canakkale's main bus station where we board our coach to Izmir.
With a lack of decent trains in Turkey, they have high quality buses instead that are complete with aisle service, free tea and coffee, free snacks and even an entertainment unit.
The service and hospitality is excellent, a common theme on our journey through Turkey so far.
I was particularly impressed by the guy serving us on the coach. He was very kind and diligent, and particularly meticulous in arranging the snacks on his trolley. He seemed to take great care and pride in his work. If only all service workers were like him.
Another example of Turkish hospitality was a passenger who overheard our conversation about how to get to Izmir Airport from Izmir Bus Station, and attempted to give us written directions, despite admitting his English was poor.
Gateway To Hierapolis
Main entrance into the old city with the main street immediately behind it.
Arriving in Izmir, we eventually take a taxi from the bus station to the airport for 60TRY - a £20 fare between four of us for a 30-minute journey.
From the airport, we pick up our 4-door hatchback Hyundai Getz hire car, and make our way south to Selcuk.
I find driving on the wrong side of the road (which is in fact the right side of the road for everyone else except the British, Irish, Kiwis, Aussies and Japanese) is like riding a bicycle - once you learn it, you never forget it.
With the Turkish people, it seems that their excellent hospitality seems to stops as soon as they get behind the wheel. Let's just say, they are not the most law-abiding. Ridiculous speeding and reversing on motorways are just two examples of bad Turkish driving, but my pet hate for the entire time I was on the road was the fact that they would never stick to lanes, often driving directly over the lane dividers.
In little over an hour we arrive in Selcuk, and drive to our hostel a couple of kilometres along the highway south of Selcuk. It's so convenient having a car,
Dinner In Pamukkale
Rebecca, Penelope and Claire. Unfortunately the food didn't match the decor.
as you don't waste time waiting around for buses and allows you to travel where you, when you want.
Attila's Getaway is not really a hostel but more like one of those highway motels you see in American road movies. It has a pool, but unfortunately it is not filled up. It's only about 17 degrees anyway, so definitely not warm enough for a swim.
It doesn't take us long to look around Selcuk, and we're done in about an hour. The ruins of The Basilica of St John are pretty cool, where you can clamber about and just about make out what the place looked like in its heyday. You can also see the town's rather splendid mosque and the old closed citadel from the ruins. The old Byzantine aqueduct in town is disappointing - let's just say it has absolutely nothing on the aqueduct in Segovia
As we eat our hostel dinner later that night, the heavens open, thunder crashes and lightning flashes. We thankfully don't have to embark a ferry or find a bus station this time, but we still get pretty wet running from the hostel lounge to our rooms for the night.
Theatre At Ephesus
Able to accommodate 25,000 spectators back in the day.
we were staying in Selcuk was to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, just a short drive away, and our destination the next morning.
As far as ruins go the place is quite spectacular. I don't know how much restoration work has taken place, but for a city that is over 3000 years old, it is reasonably intact.
Founded by the Greeks and then ruled by the Romans, the Byzantines, and then the Turks, Ephesus has a long and storied past. Once home to 250,000 people in the 1st century BC, it was also one of the largest ancient cities in the Mediterranean. Walking around the complex, you could certainly tell it would've been a large city for its time.
The ruins these days are well signposted, with lots of pictures and illustrations provided which combined with the intactness of the place, meant that you could easily imagine what the place would've been like in its heyday. The highlights of the place were probably the theatre, the main roads, and the Library of Celsus, which is extremely reminiscent of the the treasury in Petra
Apart from the incessant amount of tourists, it is definitely worth a visit.
Sedimentary rock deposited by the hot springs in the area has formed these wide, white expanses in the hills of Pamukkale.
on some pide
, it was time to hit the road and make our way to Pamukkale. After a couple of hours, we could see the white hills of our destination in the distance, like a snow-capped mountain.
The hotel we were staying at was almost like a tourist office and the guy there could hook us up with just about anything, including transport, tours, restaurants, and even balloon tours in Cappadocia, our next destination hundreds of miles away. He certainly seemed to have a lot of contacts. We declined on the balloon tours but got our overnight bus from Antalya to Goreme sorted as well as a tour of Pamukkale itself.
For thousands of years, water from natural hot springs have gushed down the hill in Pamukkale depositing white limestone on the way down and forming the magnificent white terraces that you see today. The Romans established a spa town here called Hierapolis, the ruins of which we walked through on our guided tour.
I felt a bit sorry for our tiny guide - she was running on about three hours sleep and had already done a tour that morning and had to do a shift in the
No. But the travertine creates a surreal contrast of what looks like snow against the green backdrop of the land behind it, even though the temperature is about 20 degrees.
hotel reception that evening. She was the sister of the fixer who hooked us up with the tour at the hotel - it's all in the family.
Walking through the Hierapolis necropolis before walking through the main town gate and down the main street, it was easy to imagine what the place might have looked like back in the day. We then got to the main event - the terraces. It looks surreal - like a glacier in the twenty degree heat. 'Heat' is a bit of an exaggeration though, as it was pretty chilly when the sun got stuck behind the clouds - the black storm clouds that have followed us all the way from Eceabat were ominously looming on the horizon. 'Heat' however, could be used to describe the water flowing down all the way from the top of the terraces, straight out of the hot springs. On each level of the terraces were pools of water, tourists just like us wading around in them. On a hot summer's day people sunbathe and swim in the pools. Not today.
For a price however, you could have swum today if really wanted to, in the Antique Pool - a
Terrace Pools, Pamukkale
The water that created the terraces still flows down the mountain, albeit in a controlled, contrived and artificial way - for the benefit of the tourists, naturally.
warm outdoor hot spring pool where you can swim amongst some of the old ruins of Hierapolis.
We settled for the lukewarm 'jacuzzi' and sauna back at the hotel.
We had dinner at a local restaurant where the food unfortunately did not match the decor and setting.
I wasn't happy getting up the next morning. Unbeknownst to me we had apparently agreed to hit the road at 9.30am.
I've not done any long, self-organised trips with any of the girls before, so they weren't used to my schedule of doing things as late as I possibly can, and I wasn't used to them giving us way more time than is necessary. I mean, what do you need that extra time for? You hardly ever need it. After 46 countries and six years of doing these kind of trips, I should know. Things always work out in the end, so the girls just needed to relax. In some ways it was classic girl vs guy.
The theme continued on the drive to Antalya. From the number of times Claire pointed out turns I was going to make anyway, it seemed I wasn't trusted with directions either. Guys never ask for
A Pretty Pamukkale Picture
I like this one. The colour of the water, the white travertine - it's very serene.
directions, so as one can imagine, they don't particularly like being told them either.
I've hardly driven since moving to London so one thing the girls would never have seen before was my road rage. With the speed, danger and expense involved with driving a car, this can raise the blood pressure of most people, not to mention Turkish drivers. Just missing what seemed like fifty green lights before they turned red raised my ire even more.
"You know, we all have to stop at red lights Derek...", said Claire. She obviously didn't understand. Having read the paragraph above, I think one can probably deduce that the the source of my frustration was more than just a few missed green lights.
Despite the bad luck with traffic lights, we still managed to make short work of the journey and shaved one-and-a-half hours off our estimated journey time and arrived after just 2 1/2 hours. The roads were pretty good and there were very few cars on the road, allowing me to hit some pretty high speeds. Hey, if other drivers are going 200km/h (including cop cars), then why not average 140km/h yourself?
Having lunch in Termessos (where the cheese-filled
An earthquake destroyed Termessos and large slabs of rubble were strewn everywhere - the sight has been left relatively untouched so exploring Termessos was like discovering an ancient lost city.
spring roll thingees were the highlight) - where we sat in purpose-built, traditional Turkish dining area juxtaposed inside a bland, late 60s visitor centre - the place was crawling with local school children who had seemingly never seen Asian people before. Despite the variety of skin tones, eyes and hair that Turkish people come in, a group of three Asians and a blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl is still rather conspicuous. The school teacher in charge of the kids even asked for a photo with us.
As we started walking from the cafe to the old ruined city of Termessos, it was lucky that we spotted a sign saying that we had an eight kilometre
walk ahead of us. Back in the car then...
Termessos was described by Davies as the highlight of his trip to Turkey. What he failed to mention was the long walk up to the thing. We pass a few Turkish soldiers who were friendly enough, even with the machine guns they were carrying on their backs. Quite what they were doing up there I don't know. Some sort of training exercise?
Walking around Termessos was akin to discovering an old, ruined city - like Atlantis or
City Wall, Termessos
Looking towards the main city wall which looked like an ancient dam.
something. At an altitude over a thousand metres in the Taurus Mountains just outside Antalya, the city is famous for the fact that Alexander The Great could not conquer this 'eagle's nest'. What did for the city in the end was an earthquake - in such a high location, the earthquake must've been terrifying.
What is left today are an endless number of open sarcophagi and huge slabs of rocks strewn everywhere. While I could picture what Ephesus once looked like, up here I had no idea.
Just like Davies had said, you could climb up and clamber around the whole site, pretty much with no restrictions whatsoever - an exploratory free-for-all and a great chance to test out your climbing and traversing skills. There were hardly any tourists around either, giving the place a nice, peaceful atmosphere in contrast to what we experienced at Ephesus. The highlight of the place was the amphitheatre, built right on the edge of a cliff - a theatre in the sky.
Back on the road to Antalya, we endured a bit a debacle trying to drop off the rental car at Antalya International Airport. Firstly, ammissed turn resulted in us driving around
Theatre In The Sky
The location of the Termessos's theatre, built on the edge of a cliff against a backdrop of sky and steep mountains was breathtaking.
Antalya for a while, experiencing first hand the stress of Turkish city driving.
In contrast to their kindness in person, Turkish drivers are impolite and aggressive. I had to make some bold manoeuvres simply to get into lanes other drivers simply wouldn't let me into, which raised the hair of the girls at times. Don't worry, I got this under control girls. An event that really shook us up on the road however, was stopping suddenly at a traffic light to hear a loud screech of tyres behind us and seeing a car sliding sideways in the lane right beside us, the driver fighting to stop his car careening into the intersection. He fails to do so and ends up about a quarter of the way into the intersection. He was lucky not to hit any traffic - and lucky not to slam straight into the back of us.
Road conditions don't help though; traffic lights are poorly positioned, you often can't see lane markings (not that Turkish drivers stick to them anyway) and there are so many hazards when driving in the city.
Once we're finally at the airport, we spend about twenty minutes driving between terminals, following the
Main Street, Ephesus
The main thoroughfare of the city linking the upper part of the city to the lower part of it.
non-existent signage and drop-off instructions. All the workers we ask for help either didn't know where the car rental carparks were or didn't understand what we were asking for. We eventually manage to drop the car off without any further incident before taking a bus to the otogar
to catch our bus to Goreme. I was quite happy I wouldn't be required to drive again in Turkey.
After a bus station snack of burek, we get on our overnight bus, which wasn't the easiest place to sleep. Sleeping on buses can be difficult at the best of times, but when you have people reading with the lights on, smoking, talking and farting, it was nigh impossible. Plus it was so hot on board that is was akin to a mobile sauna. And I broke my awesome Sony headphones too. First world problems.
And so our tightly scheduled road trip through Turkey concluded. Ahead of us lay three days of relative relaxation in the alien-like landscape of what is for most people, the highlight of their trip to Turkey - Cappadocia.
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