This is the final leg of Jessica Sunter and Ian Knight’s honeymoon in Turkey that started and ended in Istanbul and included Cappadocia, Olympos, a Blue Cruise along the Turquoise Coast and, of course, Ephesus (which was a tad disappointing).
Our cruise along the Mediterranean Coast ended in Fethiye Harbour but the hotel where we stayed was in Hisaronu, a town about 20 minutes up the road from Fethiye. It is just like little England. All the signs are in English whereas everywhere else they were in Turkish. For breakfast the restaurants were serving ‘bangers and mash’. It’s not on the beach so it’s much cheaper to stay here and the beer is especially cheap. I think Europeans go there to party 24/7. There are bars everywhere. We were only there for one night but I am glad we saw it because it is so weird.
From there we took a bus to Pamukkale, which is in the southern section of the Aegean region. The water there is loaded with calcite and it cascades over these mountains and creates shelves and pools that are white and look like ice and snow. You can walk from one terrace to another and go swimming in the pools.
People have been coming here for centuries because of the hot springs. The ruin that are left—called Hierapolis—are neat and you totally don’t need to go on a tour to appreciate them. There’s a Roman-style theatre built on a slope of a hill that can seat 25 thousand people. And because so many people went there to purify themselves before they died, there is a huge City of the Dead. The whole place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We took another bus to Şelcuk and then a mini-bus to Sirince about 3km away. It’s a cute village in the hills known for its wine and steep walkways. They make all these fruit wines—pear wine, blackberry wine, raspberry wine. You could spend your night taste-testing and they don’t charge you anything. We went into this wine store and the guy just pulls out 8 bottles of wine for us to try. We really didn’t enjoy the wine in Turkey very much though. The traditional drink is raki, not wine. They would give us a shot of raki and pour water in the glass and it would get cloudy. It has an alcohol content of 43% so that’s probably why it’s called ‘milk of the lion’.
We were in Sirince because it is close to Ephesus, one of the best-preserved ancient cities around the Mediterranean. The people who ran the B&B where we were staying were suppose to make the arrangements for us to visit Ephesus but when we woke up the next morning they weren’t there because of a family emergency and by the time they returned (and insisted we eat a big breakfast) we’d missed the ride. So they got us on this huge bus tour.
The ruins were super great and we would have been blown away but it was packed with people and we just kept bumping elbows. It was also very hot. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like in July or August when there are so many more visitors. If we did it again, we would not go on a tour and would spend the whole day there.
Instead our guide got us through the ruins really fast because he wanted to take us to a leather factory. It was totally out of the way; we were supposed to be going to the place where Mary, mother of Jesus, may have died. Instead we were brought into a basement where models wearing leather coats walked down a runway. No one knew that we were going to stop there; I think they just tacked it on. It was so absurd that it was actually funny.
We flew back to Istanbul. The city is ginormous but the transportation is very convenient and we took the subway from the airport to our hotel in Aksaray, near the Covered Bazaar and outside the super, super touristy area.
We could have spent a lot more time in Istanbul because there is so much to see. The main sites are crowded with tourists and we must say that it is totally worthwhile to escape that and just walk the back streets. We wandered into a mosque next to our hotel and there was no one else there although it was totally beautiful. Topkapi Palace was so crowded. There was a line-up to even get into the room to see Mohammad’s beard.
We did the Bosporus ferry tour between Europe and Asia, which was interesting but perhaps not as great as anticipated. The Golden Horn, on the water, is a good place to spend the evening. There are some beautiful parks although they have been trying to turn one of them—Taksim Square—into a shopping mall.
Turkey is a very Muslim country and there were hardly any women on the streets. You go into a restaurant and there are like 30 men and no women. The people were very friendly though. And the food is terrific.
The Turkish landscape is beautiful. We particularly loved the Mediterranean towns and the white stucco houses with red-tiled roofs. I’m sure there are many places you can visit that are not touristy. But there are reasons why certain sites are so popular. Everyone wants to see them!
- Riding a hot-air balloon over Cappadocia, Turkey
- Olympos and the Mediterranean coast, Turkey
- Turkey from Fethiye to Istanbul
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Photo credits Jessica Sunter and Ian Knight
© Riding the buses 2013