Showing posts with label turkey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label turkey. Show all posts
Sunday, 29 March 2015

Göreme

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I am sure that a lot of people are familiar with the iconic photos in Cappadocia with the hot air balloons at sunrise. Cappadocia is the region in central Turkey and Göreme is one of the main towns in the area for tourists. Göreme is pronounced as gu-ro-meh and is pretty much a tourist town. Back when I was in Sydney, I was convinced that I wanted to ride the hot air balloons at sunrise no matter the cost. Well, I knew the cost to be $150 for a 40 minute ride and I thought it was reasonable. However, halfway through my trip I didn't really think it was worth it anymore and in the end I didn't end up riding in the hot air balloon.

Turkey doesn't really have much of an internet/ online purchase presence as of yet and when I was doing research, there was only one company that allowed for booking in advance. The interesting thing I found was that the prices for hot air balloons are calculated in Euros as opposed to Turkish Lira.

Tip: Book through your hotel. The receptionist was endorsing this one company - I assume they receive a commission - and when I declined, they then offered a second company which was smaller but also cheaper. I think the cheapest one was €120 with discount.

Nonetheless, I still went to catch the sunrise at Sunset Rock. Now, this was very difficult for me to find information online. But pretty much from the bus station, you head East, and then head up behind the hotels and other lodgings. There are only a few paths, but they all eventually lead to the top, even if they don't really look like the right path. And more likely than not, there will also be people heading in the same direction.

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I went in low season and there were around 40 hot air balloons in the air. Apparently in peak season it can increase to around 100! That is insane since they are all somewhat close together.

Another thing I was to discover about Turkey was the amount of stray dogs and cats. Apparently this Shepherd mix is always at Sunset Point and is very mild and really likes humans/ attention. Anytime someone pet would her, she would just sit incredibly still.

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Watching the sunrise and the balloons too.

At one point the "pack leader" started to bark and eventually three other dogs joined her at Sunset Point.

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This is one of my favourite shots of all time.

After I took the photo above, something somewhat scary happened. As I was walking to head back to the hotel, one of the dogs (not pictured) was walking very close to my feet on the left and started to snap at my legs. Not biting but just snapping very close, too close for comfort. I kept walking as I didn't want to let it know that I was bothered by it. Almost immediately after, the pack leader (well I called her that) walked in front of me, the other dog flanked my side and the dog in the photo above was behind me. In essence I was boxed in. For a brief moment I was a little scared that I would get mauled. Which was "annoying" since I had pet two of the dogs (the one in front and on my right) and I thought: gee, thanks Karma. Oddly enough, the dog on the left (the annoying one) stopped snapping and my newly acquired body guards walked ahead and left me alone with my annoying friend. Cue snapping. At that point I just yelled, "go away". Not because I thought it would understand me but because it was the second loudest/ aggressive sounding thing I could think of that was appropriate. The first would be "shut up" but I didn't think it was appropriate to yell that out at sunrise with all the tourists. Luckily the dog walked off and I was left alone.

Moral of the story: Don't be scared of the dogs in Turkey. They really just do their own thing. But I have no idea what was wrong with that annoying dog. Nonetheless, don't be scared.

For the rest of the day, I took some trails in the area. My intention was the walk for Pigeon Valley (Güvercin Vadisi) and Love Valley (Bağlıdere). Well, in the end it was actually Red Valley (Kızıl Vadis) and Love Valley.

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Church which was unfortunately closed.

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The landscape was just incredible and so different to anything that I had seen. It was weird seeing the dry landscape and then snow (well it was ice by that stage since snowfall was a few days ago) and also icicles hanging from the side ledges. A very surreal place.

The walk through Love Valley was very long and difficult. It had rained (I believe) previously so the ground was incredibly muddy. I only had joggers (well a casual shoe that bore some similarities to joggers) which was not great for walking on such terrain. In hindsight it was funny. Sometimes the ground looked deceptively dry until you took a step and then proceeded to sink 5cm into the mud. It got to the point where I just picked up a stick to test the ground before walking. The most difficult part was walking down this quite steep incline on a super muddy path.

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This photo doesn't quite show how steep and muddy it was though. There was also ice which made things even easier. Not.

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A little hard to see, but that is Love Valley.

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Do you see why?

It was decided that it was better to walk along the side of the road back to Göreme rather than tackle the walk again. On the way back, I met another stray. This one was so fluffy. It actually went into this little hole in the rock, interestingly. Though what was even sadder was seeing all the paw prints on the side of the road as I walked back into town. I love dogs and seeing the old dogs just walking along the side of the road just made me sad.

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Sunset at Sunset Point

Food in Göreme was quite reasonable despite being a tourist town (I expected crazy markups) and they were all very tasty. Lunch was so good (not pictured) and dinner was equally amazing I really love Turkish food and definitely am missing it now that I am back in Sydney. I also like how there is really good quality complimentary bread (unlike Spain).

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Köfte.

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Turkish tea. Yummy.

... but wait, this wasn't the end of the day. After dinner, we collected our bags from the hotel and headed to the bus station for an 11hr bus journey. But that is for another post.
Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Merhaba Turkey!

Turkey was not originally on my countries that I would have considered for my grad trip. However I am very happy that it was suggested as it is probably one of my favourite countries that I visited. As expected, Turkey was very different to all the other countries that I had visited. The smog/ pollution was something that I didn't quite expect from Istanbul, although it makes sense naturally. First night was at an airport hotel in Istanbul since the plan was to catch a high speed train to Ankara before heading by bus to Göreme.

The highspeed railway line between Ankara and Istanbul is incomplete and the closest station is currently at Pendik, on the Asian side and closer to Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. Once complete it will be a 3.5hr train journey, covering 553km. Until then a cab ride is the only way to get to Pendik, especially at 6am. The one thing that was interesting / annoying were the constant bag scanners at train stations, bus stations, shopping centres and even simply entering the airport (I don't mean to get through security for the gates. This made me cringe since I also shoot in film and each pass through x-ray damages the film. The train journey was quite pleasant, and there was free wifi (although BBC was blocked, odd). I also witnessed one of my most memorable and beautiful sunrises. The journey went through quite a few different landscapes. Initially through residential and populated areas, to in between the mountains and also landscapes which were very desolate. Around halfway through the journey, there was a crazy amount of dust/ cloud/ mist which made visibility very very low. It was quite scary sitting in a carriage that was going at 150kmph and not being able to see anything in the distance.



Ankara took me by surprise. I really didn't expect it to look like what it did (it didn't look like the images on Google). What did it look like? Very dusty, beige and smoggy. This was when I also realised that people didn't follow road rules and cars are king on the road. In fact, it was even scarier than Rome since the roads I crossed in Ankara were usually 4 lanes wide in total! I originally had plans to leave our bags in the lockers at the station (which I did) and to wander and explore around Ankara briefly before heading to the bus station to travel to Göreme. Sadly what happened was a brief stop in a cafe for lunch before attempting to find the bus station.

Simit. It is a "Turkish bagel", although I feel that it is better than a bagel (I'm not a fan of bagels). It has a texture more akin to bread than a bagel. These are actually sold on the streets for 1 Lira (roughly, $0.50 AUD). Plain of course..

The trip to the bus station was a lot more difficult than what I had envisaged. The metro to the bus station was on the other side of the tracks of the main train station. Google maps didn't quite show how to cross the tracks. Twenty minutes later, and after much frustration from my travelling partner, finally made it to the metro station. I feel that I am less frustrated when travelling (in terms of unexpected problems) than when I am back home. Perhaps it is because I expect that there will be difficulties. The ticket machine wasn't very helpful, especially since I had been spoilt with choice in all my other countries with the option of selecting the "English" button. After some hand signing with the man behind the ticket window and butchering the name of the bus station (AŞTİ), I finally boarded the train.


The bus station was also completely different to what I had expected. I expected something similar to the ones where I've caught Megabus and other companies like that. It reminded me of the Amazing Race when the constestants are running to the whole row of airline counters. In short, there were a lot of people at the station and this is because buses are the main form of transportation between cities and towns since the trains leave a lot to be desired (from personal experience)/ are non existent. Sadly, the next bus due out to Göreme was in 4 hours. Four hours spent at the bus station where I caught up on my travel journal.


One thing I also didn't expect in Turkey were squat toilets. If you are unsure what they are, here it is. I originally included my own image that I took from the delightfully clean (sarcasm) squat toilet at the bus station. But I decided against it. I'm not a fan of paying to use toilets generally, but especially when I paid 1 Lira to use a horribly dirty toilet too. I hate squat toilets with a passion. When I was a kid, they used to be everywhere in Hong Kong and I always had a fear that I would topple backwards and into the ... mess.

The bus journey between Ankara and Göreme is 5 hours. The great thing about bus rides in Turkey is that they offer refreshments: water, tea, instant coffee, and a small snack. In addition to the man driving the bus, there is also a bus attendant who acts very similar to a flight attendant. The bus is also quite comfortable and there are tv screens at the back of the chair which played Turkish shows.

The thing I noticed is that English doesn't really get you by (which isn't a problem) unless you are in a super touristy area. The coach stopped at Nevşehir which was the nearest big city. It seemed that everyone was leaving so I also got off the bus and asked, "Göreme?" to the driver of the mini buses. The driver said yes, so I boarded. Luckily, the bus attendant ran out after us and took us back to the coach (btw, with 0 English spoken between the two of us aside from ""Göreme?") and the coach continued with the 5 passengers inside. I am very thankful and grateful that the bus attendant was so observant that we had left (at the beginning of the ride he asked us our final destination). Very happy. Moral of the story and advice to anyone going on bus journeys in Turkey: check with the bus attendant and not the drivers as they seem to just say "yes" even if it isn't true.


This is a very text heavy post since I don't feel inclined to take out my camera when I am carrying all my luggage. But it is a necessary introduction to my Turkey portion of the trip. In some ways, Turkey was the hardest country for me since quite a few problems popped up, but it was still an incredible experience.