Fez Bus Turkey
I believe by now we have established ourselves as independent travelers. So why do a hop-on hop-off bus tour you ask?? Because after travelling independently for 3 months, we needed a holiday! And it was great!
We joined the Fez Bus in Istanbul bright and early on a Thursday morning, very excited about our 10 day Turkish Delight trip. The first couple of days were very cultural with stops in the ancient cities of Troy (we kept an eye out for Brad - seems he was out), Pergamum and Ephesus. We also climbed into the wooden horse for the obligatory photo - couldn't resist! Walking around the ruins of these sites gives you a profound appreciation for what these ancient peoples had been able to accomplish: the grandeur of the theaters and temples, the ingenious architecture, complete with spas and communal toilets!
Then further down and around the beautiful blue Aegean coast to Fethiye. We went tubing down the coldest river imaginable, then jumped in a therapeutic mud pool at the end of it - just to have to go back into the river to rinse it all off. The guide dubbed this the "human washing machine": he grabs your hands, and then while you are lying on your back in the near freezing water he proceeds to wildly shake you around. He only does this with the girls though - when I was finished with this washing thing and realized that one of my breasts were not in my bikini top anymore, I understood why.
At Saklikent Gorge we walked again through the glacial waters and up the gorge - the mountain had literally been split in two by an earthquake, so it seems like you are walking into the mountain. Joey tried to video my expression going through the freezing water - I was near tears!
From Fethiye to Olympus where we stayed in a tree house (very Peter Pan) and took a night trip up to Chimera. Chimera in Ancient mythology is a fire breathing monster with parts from all kinds of scary animals, but the hike up the mountain revealed her to be gas leaking through cracks in the mountain that caught fire and never stopped combusting. They claim that the first Olympic torch was lit here. Quite a spectacular sight in the night - not as spectacular as the people using the flames to grill sausages though!
Of course the bus also stopped at the various tourist nests that display the local crafts and products with the idea that we should buy from them. We saw a carpet weaving place which showcases the incredible talent of the women who knot the rugs, a very surreal fashion show at a leather production house and the astounding workmanship of a ceramics master. We didn't buy anything, but we definitely appreciated their skill!
From there we were off to Goreme in Cappadocia, a very strange landscape so unique that George Lucas apparently used it as the set for the original Star Wars (turns out it wasn't here but in Tunisia). It looks like little mountains made from meringue on a desert plane, which the locals then carved housed into. They even carved whole monasteries into the bigger ones. And if that wasn't enough, they built an 8 level underground city to house 2000 people during invasions, complete with a school, baptism pool (this was during the Christian period), underground water, various kitchens, a morgue and of course, a winery - they had their priorities straight! Some of the connecting tunnels are impossibly small and scary, but it was a great experience to walk around in them. Brought back memories of Joey in a Roman soldier's skirt in the Kango Caves all those years ago!
In Goreme we actually stayed in one of these cave-dwellings, which was pretty cool - literally - but in the summer heat, it was very welcome. The grand finale to the tour was a Turkish night: an all you eat, all you can drink, singing, belly-dancing, Whirling Dervish festival from where we thankfully emerged fairly intact - some of the guys on the trip were not so lucky and were definitely worse for wear the next morning.
After Cappadocia, we found ourselves back in Istanbul after a 12 hour overnight bus.
We wish we had more time to spend a few days in some of the places on the trip, because what we saw of Turkey, we absolutely loved. We ate fresh seafood on the coast, and we bought cheese, olives and fruit from small grocers or markets and had found a decent brand of cheap wine to complete our dinner. We didn't have to worry where we'll go next, or how we'll get there or where we'll sleep. We met some wonderful people and exchanged travel notes and email addresses. We didn't have any expectations before we came to Turkey, but she thoroughly impressed us with her history and people. And to top it all off, we left her for Greece on the most luxurious overnight train we had ever been on: the cherry on the cake from the country that had been surprising us from the beginning.