Thursday, 1 November 2012

John's recent trip to Turkey - his thoughts

Distant Goreme and the entrance to the Valley of the Pigeons
 I have just returned from a wonderful 9 days in Turkey with my son Arran. While there I was preparing a new holiday for 2014 and he was practicing his photography, doing homework and playing on his Ipad – actually in the reverse order.

Anyway the good news is that we have met a great local guide with wonderful knowledge and fluent English. Together we explored Cappadocia, the south west coast and Istanbul. Cappadocia and Istanbul were wonderful – the coast was a horrible pile of concrete – or at least that’s my view!

We started by flying to Kayseri and after arriving at midnight awoke to a dawn display of 50 balloons drifting over the strange landscape around Goreme. Over the next few days we went in and out of dozens of hotels, walked peaceful paths through the eroded landscape of fairy chimneys and cave dwellings and took a lot of photographs. The good news is that we found a lovely village, away from the over-developed Goreme, to act as our base with a choice of three good hotels. The village is called Uchisar and it is famous for the hundreds of thousands of pigeons that were kept in the caves and whose guano was used to fertilise the fabulous Cappadocian wine. There are lovely walks up pigeon valley and images everywhere for the painter or photographer.  
Original frescoes in cave church - an inspiration
After a 12 hour transfer, passing though very varied landscapes including an apple growing area that made Gloucestershire’s orchards seem miniscule, we reached the hotel selected for us in Fethiye. Sadly it was raining which did not help but the place was a bit too Spartan. Visiting the coast the next morning showed me that we had landed in an area that has basically been built in the last 20 years. There may be burial chambers in the cliffs from millennia ago but there is no old village. I suppose the occasional earthquake has taken its toll but I suspect developers did their worst. Later that morning I ran away, choosing to spend the remainder of my time learning about Istanbul.

The one thing I did discover is that the boats known as Gulets are huge and a hundred times more comfortable than the old sailing boat I used to have. They can of course sail away from the concrete and there appear to be many pretty bays in which to anchor and swim. As the waters are protected there is no rolling and the en-suite bedrooms are really quite large. I wonder how many guests might enjoy them as a base for singing, painting, walking or photography. If it appeals to you do please let us know.

Then it was time for an internal flight to Istanbul – Turkish airlines are great.

Istanbul was a treat – masses of intense action if wanted (great images for photographers) but calmer quieter areas for others – Mosques, courtyards, gardens, seaside, bazaars both big and small, boat trips on the Bosphorus, sweet shops and hundreds of fishermen.

As ever days were spent in and out of hotels looking at the pros and cons but there was still time to discover the Blue Mosque, explore the Grand Bazaar, and eat great food in magical locations. The Galleta bridge is a wonderful location for a restaurant and as it is two stories high the road users and fishermen are on the top and the restaurant goers on the bottom. This means that as you sit at your table the weights of the fishing lines swung from above come surprisingly close to your table – it was all I could do to stop my son giving the lines a quick tug! 

In love on the Galetta bridge
While we there it was the festival of Ede which made things busier than usual. One wonderfully visual image (though ultimately a sad one) was of the makeshift shooting galleries on the rocks by the sea. These are made by placing bottles, beer cans and strings of balloons on the rocks by the water and then selling 4 shots with an air rifle for one Turkish Lira. The balloons constantly need replenishing – a job one by young boys. The image of the children amidst the balloons is initially wonderfully colourful but there is a sad poignancy about young boys working in setting where the balloons do not represent happiness and the bottles of Coke are all broken.

Children replacing the balloons in shooting gallery on the Bosphorus
The sea plays a huge part in the images and history of Istanbul and you can never forget its significance as there are so many ships constantly passing through the Bosphorus from the Mediterranean to the Black sea (or the other way). It’s great to hear the horns sounding and to see the constant movement of ferries back and forth across the water.  
Ships waiting to pass through the Bosphorus

After 5 days it was time to celebrate the success of our mission and the completion of Arran’s homework – so luckily we found that Galatasaray (Istanbul’s equivalent of Manchester United) were playing at home and we joined them in their 75,000-seater stadium. 
John's son Arran - a new supporter of Galatasaray

Fortunately they won 3-0 so it was all smiles on the trams back home and then next day, with smooth flights, we were walking our dog in rural Gloucestershire – what a rapid change!

Let us know if you would like to be updated on plans for Turkey.