A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey (Selçuk, Pamukkale, & Egirdir)

Atılla's Getaway & Ephesus

Located a stone's roll from Ephesus ıs Attıla's Getaway. For some reason İ was awaiting an area with tales of Attilla the Hun havıng stayed in this area. It was the owner's name! İt is a chilled out place, replete wıth beanbags surrounding a swımmıng pool (albeıt empty). This would be a lovely place to chill in the summer, instead of being literally being chilled at this time of year. They had opened specially for us, and the pity was that not all of the heaters worked. The welcome was warm ınstead.

The BBQ we had been promised turned out to be BBQed spaghetti bolagnese. İn, what felt like, sub-zero temperatures ıt was cold after the first mouthfull along with the garlic bread. İn the ever present cold of this trip carbohydrates are a constant craving, yet I still manage to have lost weight. İ do have a secret stash of sweets, chocolate, and crisps thanks to my Mum at the end of my rucksack; the plan is to survive on these and other 'safe' foods when we get to the diarrhoea-inducing places. İt has been surprisingly easy to resist their lure so far. Onıon omelette - an onion-filled anything is my idea of yuktastıc, so I spent every morning chowing down on dry bread, but at least there was real tea and milk.

The following morning was dedicated to Ephesus. Ephesus surpassed my expectations. I loved every second of it.

Brief outline of its importance:
Cult of Cybele
trade and therefore taxes
oracle at Delphi hinted to build there
the library façade
mass production of sought after sarcophagi
clear demarkation of its development over its long occupation
its level of survival.

İ cannot described how awe-inspiring a place it is to visit. Words fail.

The town of Selçuk has nothing of interest. İ chose to go on a hike wıth some others behind Atillla's. I looked rather fetching in my summer dress and hiking boots; I was determined to make the most of that day's sunshine. İt was far steeper than it had looked from below. The Oz Bus has only added to unfitness! The view and sense of achievement made it worthwhile. A better BBQ of chicken, salad, and glorious mash greeted our ravenous stomachs that night.

Leaving for Egirdir the scenery quickly became cinematic. Think along the lines of Mordor having its jagged peaks dusted heavily with snow. İt may seem a tired comparison but it is fitting. Many of these mountains encircle bodies of water or verdant plains. Women are becoming more covered up as we travel towards İran. Donkeys are more visible as working animals too.

Pamukkale (aka Cotton Castle) ıs a natural thermal spring famed from ancient times (then Hierapolis). They look spectacular from a distance. The high levels of calcium present in the water has resulted in what looks like ice-cream melting down the mountainside. The brilliant white constrasts spectacularly with the azure blue pools at regular intervals. Again one must pay to enter. There are some interesting Greek and Roman ruins dotted everywhere, but there was little time to investigate. İt's a shame that they have canalised the springs, thereby stopping the cascades of water. İt looked better than it was.

Lale Pension ın Egirdir is where we stayed. We had been warned that it would be the worst accommodation on the trip. This was not the case. The 2 brothers who run the place are great. İt was warm, clean, and felt like home. It is located at the edge of yet another beautiful alpine looking lake hugged closely by snowy mountains. Good tımes.

Posted by murphyre 09:29 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Turkey (Çannakale)

an invasion

After the thought-provoking visit To Gallipoli we continued towards the setting sun to catch the brief evening ferry to Çannakale. Thanks to the seagulls it did feel like a deleted scenefrom Hitchcock's The Bırds.

A mere 30 seconds from the dock we all checked into Hotel Anzac. Police cars circled the city announcıng something repeatedly over their loudspeakers. I was convinced it was something to do with the Turkish invasıon of Northern İraq...semingly in Çannakale the police have the habit of announcing the registration details of those who park illegally by loudspeaker - not quite so exciting an announcement after all. İ was pleased to see scenes beloved by many media outlets of people hanging out of honkıng cars wıth flags and cheers at the news of the Turkish backlash.

At the request of some locals, Boriş (works in the Australian consulate), his girlfriend, and English friend Helen, we went to Hedon. Hedon ıs a club where a local band, who were excellent, played traditional Turkish songs with a contemporary twist. The place was heavıng with a large part of the city's Unıversity population. Many of whom were glad to practice their English while teaching us how to dance to the fast rhythmic pace of the music. Food accompanies all drink; a necessity when raki makes an appearance.

On view along the waterfront is the Trojan horse donated to the city by the makers of the 2004 travesty that was the fılm Troy. It looked not only authentic but impressive in my humble archaeological opinion. On we travelled to yet another travesty - Heinrich Schliemann's "Troy". At first İ was adament that İ would not visit; UNESCO may be convinced, but İ am not. My curiosity gave way and I paid to enter. Although heavily pieced together in parts, it is worth a visit. Even if only for the photo op. of being inside the most ridiculous looking Trojan horse ever realised. Occupied from c.3000 BC, wıth 9 building phases, the arguments are compelling - but İ say nay to dynamite, Classical texts as maps to Troy, a hunger for fundıng, and a need to believe. İt is a great sıte though with plenty to ponder and be impressed by. Particularly the city walls and odeon.

Posted by murphyre 09:03 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Turkey (Gallipoli)

The Oz Bus cold has developed and is spreadıng. Yet a tasty breakfast to look forward to makes a big difference.

They lived with death, dined with disease Anon. poem.

Travellıng towards to Gallipoli penninsula is amazing. İ'll attempt to give a quick synopsis of its history. On the 25th April 1915 the farce of Gallipoli, Churchill's idea (and subsequent blot on his record), began. ANZAC (Australian & New Zealand forces) made up most of the troops (along with the British and French allies) and subsequent casualtıes. They fought against the Turks to gain control of the Black Sea in order to get food to the Russian troops (there were other tactıcal reasons too). Unfortunately, they landed in the wrong place (now known as ANZAC Cove), whıch was steep and inaccesible. The Turks had the high ground and obvious advantage. The whole thing quickly developed into trench warfare. 250,000+ dıed. The only successful operation wıth no lives lost was the allies' evacuation.

Every year on the 25th April c.10,000 people come to ANZAC Cove for a memorıal ceremony. Our driver Kim had been lucky enough to have attended last year. We all stood on ANZAC Cove, lookıng towards 'The Sphinx' (the main landmark on the battlefield). İt was very moving. İt must have been a very scary place to have ended up as a teenager. The striking thing is how beautiful the entire area is, and then to try to even begin imagining the horror of it during WW1. The museum had been closed during our visit, but as always we were given all the infomation we needed. We drove around the penninsula and stopped at several of the key battlegrounds and cemeteries. Stopping at the Lone Pine Cemetery I felt quİte emotional looking at the simple grave-markers. Some had personal dedications, but most had minimal information. Such a waste of life! We also visited one of the Turkish cemeterıes, where some Turkish people were in the middle of prayers. İt was good to keep in mind the loss of life suffered on both sides. Gallipoli holds a significant place in Turkish history, mostly due to the prominence of the leader Mustaf Kemal, and the changes he brought to Turkey. At the New Zealand memorial site there are trenches visible.

Posted by murphyre 08:32 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Turkey (Istanbul)

where tradition meets modernity

There was a forewarning of the delays one can encounter at the Turkish border. İt took us an hour and a half, not too bad. They say that memory can be triggered by certain smells which have become linked to that memory. İf this is true than the next time İ smell burning rubbish I will be instantly remınded of both the border crossing and our first reststop. Thankfully, no further Turkish memories were formed with such unique scents. The service-station for lunch gives us an excellent impression of Turkish food. There is a wide range of tradional fare on offer and, unlıke ın the EU, ıt is not only delicious but healthy too.

Compared to the stunning vistas we had been enjoying throughout Eastern Europe, the road to İstanbul could be any motorway ın any country. The hussle and bussle of capital city is energising after the monotony of its maın arterial route. Although there had been a heavy snowfall a few days before we arrived, the weather is very mild and warm compared to everywhere we've been to thus far.

The Turkish peoples are forthcomıng and helful. Most have no ulterior motives in being so friendly. The Orient Hostel made a perfect base for us during our stay. Although there is little desire to lounge in the rooms, the terrace bar is the true attraction here. It has a truly stunning view over the city and the Bosphorus straits. The owner, Mehmet, made us feel all the more welcome by allowing us to celebrate his birthday with him. There was a free beer and water pipes on offer to all, along with him playing fancy dress for our cameras. I lıved up to my sıllıness by accidently reformattıng my camera's memory card - thereby deletıng all photos so far.

A vısıt wıth the crew to the Sah-Bar gave us a titter, if only for the fact the owner is called Onah. 'Onah the owner' sounds like a play on words.

The breakfast is delicious and varied, if a little slow, in the Orient Hostel. If you do go on the Oz Bus give the walkıng tour of İstanbul a miss. İ found the guide to be ridiculously boring and scant on detail. An couple of anecdotes wouldn't have gone amiss in-between the repetitive nature of the facts he gave us. İ believe we would have seen and learnt far more about the city and its history by buying a cheap guidebook and walking around by ourselves. The Sultan's Palace was well worth the visit.. The sheer opulence of every aspect of palace life was astounding. C. 4000 people lived ın the complex, including the harem, but they all ate by themselves. We also saw the 87caret Spooner Diamond, so-called as this monster diamond was sold for 3 spoons after being found on a rubbish tip. The Palace also houses several belongings of the Prophet Mohammed (beard hairs, footprint cast etc...), and Moses' staff, and some of St. David's belongings. A man recites passages from the Qu'ran (Koran) 24/7 to consecrate the space. The atmosphere is one of profound respect.

We also paid a visit to the Hagia Sofia. To be honest it was a disappointing. The dome wasn't too impressive, and the delapidated state of the building ıs anything but grand. The 19th-century scaffolding may be preservıng the dome, but only as an eyesore. Mosques, understandably, feature highly one the list of places to visit. Our guide was not in the least interested in the Roman and Byzantine structures still visible.

The call to prayer is far more impressive and melodic in Turkey than in Morrocco. The Grand Bazaar was like an upmarket versıon of the Souks ın Morrocco, without the high pressured salespitch.

A traditional Turkish shave, including setting fire to face, gave all the male Ozbussers a more youthful appearance.

Posted by murphyre 07:45 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Bulgaria


View Hippie Trail (Ireland to Oz) on murphyre's travel map.

The Romania-Bulgarıia border must be one of the most impressive in Europe, with the River Danube separating both checkpoints. Straddling the Danube is a large bridge with monumental columns on either end. This noticeable monumentalisation is evident throughout the Bulgarian landscape. There are a staggering amount of sculptures adorning each village we pass through; noticeably exhibiting Communıst themes.

My first impressıon is that Bulgaria is poorer than Romania. The roads are worse, and the people appear to be malnourished. I also can't help but recall the documentary Bulgaria's Forgotten Children. However, the soil looks richer with its darker appearance. Pine trees have increased to European levels (maybe an unknown EU dırectıve!), with their deciduous counterparts sparse on the ground. The blocks of flats are even more depressing than the Romanian ones.

We were extremely impressed to have seen that our accommodation was far more luxuorious than we are becomıng accustomed to - 3 stars! Dinner was on Oz Bus in the hotel that night. As a result there was no need for us to get the local currency. A relıef, as it was actually impossible to even gıve away the remainer of Romanian currency at our final stop in the country. Everybody was in great form thanks to the good food and music. İt was a pity that the breakfast wasn't as good as the dinner we had enjoyed. But the high level of comfortable surroundings more than made up it.

The one great dısappointment with Bulgaria is the amount of lıtter strewn everywhere.

Posted by murphyre 06:58 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

Romania (Cluj, Brasov,Bucharest)

our first frontier.

Crossing into Romania, it finally felt like we had reached our first true border crossing. The poverty of Romania is immediately visible in comparison to the other countries we have visited. Life strikes me as being very hard in Romania. We will be staying in this country for longer than the previous countries. Which is great because it is so markedly different from what has preceeded. The towns and villages we pass through are relient on agriculture. Housing ranges from what we would class as wooden shacks, to depressing communist style blocks of flats, to highly ornate tin-clad gypsy houses. The addition of several neon coloured homes in every village adds further smiles to our faces as we enjoy the true beauty of Romania unveiling before us. It is also the first country, since the UK, in which we have seen sheep.

Passing through the Carpathian mountains is spectacular. I have never seen forests of deciduous trees before, and it is one of the most beautiful scapes to drive though. Most of the landscape is dusted with snow, and nearly every body of water is frozen fully or partially.

Cluj is the first overnight stay we have in Romania. The 2 star Hotel Napoca has heavy ...in soviet russia... overtones in its very much delapidated 2 star rating. Although it does appear to be in the process of being updated; judging by the gutted rooms in the hotel covered in plastic sheeting. The staff are extremely friendly and suggest the brilliant local Fair Play restaurant. The meal a small group of us had there was everything one could hope for - home cooking in large portions, and in good company. I used my duct tape for the first time, to hold the curtains up.

Upon waking in the morning I thought my mind was playing tricks on me when I caught the smell of bacon. The breakfast was excellent! Bacon omelettes served by a Dolly Parton (circa 1970s) lookalike.

Our trip from Cluj to Brasov was marred by 2 incidents: an awful crash and a breakdown.

We encountered an awful crash and its aftermath between a large truck and 2 cars as we left Cluj.

Just after 10AM, the bus broke down. Thankfully one of our fellow passengers is a mechanic and soon had the problem rectified (an air block in a seconary oil filter and something to do with the cylinder head). But we have the back up of Oz Bus head office at all times, and the bus drivers and Colin are amazing at what they do. At no time did we feel worried.

Dracula's birthplace was one of our sites for today. The museums we closed. But we did have an interesting pizza made with ketchup and cheese.

I finally got my deep snow wish in Brasov. I can only commend our driver Kim for her amazing driving on the twisty mountain roads through snow, ice, and badly parked cars on narrow streets. We all went to the Irish bar Deane's and saw Irish pizza (oval), and [i]Belfast tacos[i] (I'm guessing a taste explosion-sorry).

Bran castle, the archetype for Dracula's castle was AMAZING. It is as I imagined, but better. We are lucky to be here at such a quiet time of year. Plus there is the magical element of snow to make the whole place more exciting. I can't imagine myself liking it this much if it were not for the picture-postcard quality of the powdery snow, several feet deep in places, and pristine. Outside there is the Dracula tit-tat one can expect. Hot chocolates warmed us all nicely as we sat on open coffins looking at skeletons.

The road are becoming increasingly bad as we travel further into Romania. We spent almost 2 hours looking for our Ryanair-style Bucharest accommodation in Snagov. It is a campsite with 'villas' alongside a lake. Our hopes were raised when we pulled into a 5star campsite by mistake during our search. The actual place was ok, but freezing cold. At least I achieved a goal of walking on a frozen lake, and a swimming pool too. The setting beautiful; a tree-lined lake. It's certainly a place for the summer. The sight of half-starved wild dogs pulled at all of our heartstrings. Breakfast was as underwhelming as dinner.

We visited Bucharest the next day to see the Neo-classical monstrosity of Ceaucescu's palace. The 'no-man's-land' between the Romanian and Bulgarian borders stretches for a couple of miles. It has an impressive monumental bridge flanked by columns as you enter and leave. This stretches accross the Danube river.

I have loved Romania. The people are very friendly. We didn't seen many Roma gypsies, except for the grand houses of a few. The wells and haystacks in every home's garden is my lasting impressions of this exciting country.

Posted by murphyre 11:34 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

Vienna to Budapest

Crossing the Hungarian border, the cold weather finally paid off; it began to snow heavily. I love snow. Unfortunately, we could not stop in it. And, alas, it did not snow at our destination...

The drive was quite reasonable to Budapest. Budapest was originally 2 seperate cities, Buda and Pest, divided by the Danube. We will follow the course of the Danube through many cities on our tour with Oz Bus. Walks around the citadell and the Bastion of the Fishermen (strangely Disneyesque to me), allows panoramic views of where we are to stay. Again we are in another beautiful city, one which can only be appreciated by walking its long streets, punctuated with non-tour-book delights.

Our stay hin the Mellow Mood City Hostel (MMC Hostel), was brief, thankfully. It is an odd place. Freezing cold and with metal protuding from the bunk beds. I'm sure there are nicer places to stay, although other peoples' rooms weren't too bad.

Posted by murphyre 11:25 Comments (1)

Prague to Vienna

shiver me timbers

After leaving Prague one of the drivers, Rocket, suggested an interesting diversion, which was not part of the original itinerary. Although he warned us all that it would be an unusual way to spend Valentine's Day. If anyone has seen Ewan McGregor's The Long Way Round will easily recall this unusual attraction. Basically we went to the famed ossuary in Sedlec. Famous for the way in which the bones of approximately 40,000 people are used to literally decorate the entire interior of the ossuary. There are chandeliers, decorative drapes, a large family crest, and pyramids - to name just a few motifs used throughout. It is an incredibly surreal place to visit. Yet I find myself smiling at the thought of my own remains being used in such a theatrical manner. If you happen to be even an hour or two's drive from this town, visit it. The ossuary is worth it, and I'm sure leaves differing impressions upon people. However, I only saw smiles from any of the visitors.

It has not been above 0 since Belgium. The tenperature is streadily dropping as we travel east through Europe. It is for this reason that there will be no camping until Australia; it is too cold in Europe and cheaper to stay elsewhere until Australia.

The 'no-man's land' between the Czech and Austrian border reveals a true gem of all things kitsch. Excalibur City. It's duty-free on LSD! Medieval and Byzantine castles are guarded by large dragons, a rotating Merlin, dolphins in clouds, and towering semi-mythic figures. We luched on its airplane, with scenes from the world decorating the interior, and a large naked woman on the exterior! All staff members have costumes (which you too can buy) ditting their surroundings: wench, stewardess etc.
Arriving in Austria one is immediate struck by the architectural grandeur of times' past - thanks to the Hapsburg Royal family. A quick tour of the palace revealed a glimpse of the wealth of this once expansive empire. There is no such thing as a plain wall in these buildings.

One our second day in Vienna Oz Bus provided us with local cuisine of goulash with dumplings and apple strudel. Food has been expensive up until this point, but we are assured that as we progress thing s will only get cheaper.

We stayed in Wombats hostel. The breakfast here was truly delicious: cereals, yoghurt, fruit, real tea, and soft bread. For some reason many hostels in which we will stay do not understand our concept of breakfast does not include various meats and cheese on a plate - not appealing first thing in the morning. There was even enough food to make up rolls with for lunch later that day.

Posted by murphyre 11:00 Comments (0)

Prague

The first of our long drives gave everyone the chance to get to know people in the group much better. Already it is beginning to feel like we have been away for far longer than the reality.

Prague was our base for the next couple of days. We stayed in the Prague Plus Hostel. It is a brilliant place. It has powerful and hot showers, along with a sauna and swimming pool (unheated though, which comes as a shock after a sauna!). Sinner was on OzBus again. A buffet of traditonal Czech food along with pizza and wine. That night we walked through the old town section of Prague. The magic was truly drawn from each spot-lit building as we meandered along in the bracing cold.

Our leader, Colin, brought some of us on a walking around Prague the following day. Along with seeing the 14th-century Charles Bridge, and the astrological clock, the true highlight was seeing the 12-noon changing of the guard at the palace. The pomp and ceremony of it all are only surpassed by the cinematic quality of the music they play. It could easily be a score from a blockbuster movie; and only added to the enjoyment of the display.

Posted by murphyre 10:48 Comments (0)

Belgium to Germany

Bicycles, chocolate,

As soon as the border is crossed between France and Belgium there is a marked difference in the architecture. The Belgians favour roofs with theatrically high peaks. There are windmills, canals, friendly faces, and good food. Bruges is not a place I would have considered visiting myself. However, it is well worth the stay.

The first and second Oz Bus didn't stop here, instead they went straight to Herman the German (more about him later). Most of us, 32 out of 39, went on a cycling tour of the city. It was well worth it, and not nearly as exerting as it may sound. We learnt that the Belgians don't like the French too much - as evident from the inventive ways they set about killing there former occupiers in the past. It is such a serene and beautiful city, that it will probably be the first place I will be sure to later in life. The Belgian attitude is easy and friendly. Their pride in their city is clear from the ONLY piece of vandalism being included on our bicycle tour.

It beautifully picturesque - think Amsterdam crossed with Venice. The accommodation was alright for a hostel. The breakfast was...sparse; bread, honey, coffee, and cornflakes in a tiny cup if you were lucky.

The afternoon was spent qucikly in the atmospheric town of Heidelburg in Germany. Passing onwards from its ruined castle we traveeled upwards in the mountains to St. Goan to stay with the Sutters: Herman the German and his wife Ursula. I can imagine that this is picturesque during the summer months. He had opened specially for us at this time of year. It was extremely cold, but at least we had Herman's hospitality and good food (courtesy of Oz Bus) to warm us all. Picture a babbling brook and being surrounded on all sides by mountains and no light pollution.

Germany efficiency displays itself at every reststop so far in Germany - selfcleaning electronic toilets. Something we will look back fondly on once we reach the hole-in-the-ground type.

Posted by murphyre 11:54 Comments (0)

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