Turkey...Istanbul & Gumbet
Where to start…. In a nutshell
Dubai airport! Quick drinks on our way to the gate, board plane, get 4 seats between me and the Italian. Sleeptime! He sits; I sleep across him and 3 other seats! How very noble and gentlemanly of him. Seriously!
4 hours later we land in Istanbul Atatürk airport. We have 3 hours from the time of landing to the time of our next departure. Enough time to pop into the duty free and grab a bottle of red! Next destination BODRUM!
Well bodrum airport to be precise, but of course that's not our final destination either... gumbet will be.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't have any problem with partying all night, but at this point with all the travelling I do and the nightlife in Dubai sometimes it's nice to escape to somewhere quieter!
Hence why we chose gumbet!
Just outside the madness of bodrum yet within easy reaching distance if we fancy going "on a mad one"
First impression after landing in bodrum! THE HEAT! It's perfect… its 7.30pm and it's warm yet not head sticking in oven warm! Not like Dubai… oh I think I'll like this warm weather (I didn't, more later on that)
So after a nice hour coastal drive we arrive in gumbet... a quick check in, a very very quick change of clothes and were off to explore the surrounding area to get a drink.
A few cocktails, the hotel barman inviting us to another bar, a walk on the beach to get to the bar, a fall on the beach on the way to the bar, IT WAS DARK! Hijacking the current game of pool in operation, another drink, another fall on the beach, and a few words with the security guard who I thought was a stranger following us and then bed!
There's music on either side of the resort we are in, pounding head splitting trying to sleep and cant music!
Its perfect background music during the day at the pool, our pool was enchantingly silent! But not when you have a 5:30am wake up call to go on a 3 hour bus journey to Ephesus. Again more on that later.
The resort was lovely, perfect for that nice week away by the sea, by the pool, eating as much as you can.
Fast forward a few more days, we spent 2 days lazing at the pool, in other words, sunbathe, read, too hot, jump in pool, sunbathe, read, too hot, jump in pool. I was like a yo-yo switching sun loungers at the pool for shade, then sun, then shade again…. Either way it was nice and hot. Scorching but sustainable.
So one night after dinner we decide to head on into gumbet town itself, a short 5 euro taxi and were there, immediately I spot the SHOES… OH THE SHOES! I'm distracted away from the shoes with a promise of a COCKTAIL… oh he knows me too well….
Anywayyyy I get bored watching him pick magnets, so I explain I'll wait outside, ha-ha, wait outside! As if…it's a quick hop skip and jump to the next shop where awaiting me are THE SHOES!
Shoes. Seriously... it wasn't shoes, not to my heel height anyway, anything below a 4 incher and I'm not interested… off point!
Back to the evening, I buy a cheap knock off pair of converse in peach. Pretty colour!
We head on down to check out the bars; on our way into gumbet on the airport transfer I noticed a neon sign --- CEAD MILE FAILTE (Irish for "A thousand welcomes")
And there you have it, an Irish bar in the middle of gumbet in turkey, who would have thought. Ha who am I kidding, everyone knows for every 5 pubs in any city at least 4 of them are Irish!
So we strolled off to the Irish bar, cead mile failte it wasn't!
The cocktail and beer took 15 minutes to arrive, after of course they went off somewhere to prepare my cocktail. Very suspicious but I drank it anyway. Who would leave a nice strawberry daiquiri to its lonesome?
The cheeky bar tender handed back the change to my Italian, but of course held onto 5 lira, saying "for me, for me"… eh no mate, you just charged us 6 EURO each for our drinks. I think we'll keep the change ourselves! Of course then informing the lovely bartender how I was Irish and in an Irish bar the prices were outrageous, he shut his mouth after that!
So we decided to have that one drink then head on back to the hotel. I didn't want to risk my sunbathing time due to alcohol consumption.
Next day: sunbathe, read, pool, food, sunbathe, read….end of!
On the 2nd last day we booked in for the Ephesus trip.
3 hours on a coach bus, very comfortable coach bus actually and extremely well organised, including a tour guide, who we decided to ditch 5 minutes after walking through the gate due to my impatience and not being able to wait for people posing in this position, that position, blah blah… my key to a good sightseeing tour is admire, take picture, read the information if any is posted in front of the site, take another picture (maybe), move on!
Ephesus itself was beautiful, huge! Went on forever… too long maybe for my Irish skin in the scorching sun, there was no hiding from it, trust me I tried, I hid behind ancient columns as we passed them, much to the bewilderment of my Italian, who had to keep searching for me. Much to my amusement actually! Made the day long trip much more enjoyable. I was like a little child hiding from her parents in an amusement park! Fun times!
It wasn't so funny when I nearly started to cry due to the heat, being so hot and failing to find shade. At this point I was ready to walk as fast as I could back to the bus, which kind of defeats the purpose of cooling down. Walk faster gets you there quicker but hotter. Go figure!
A quick distraction of a Turkish clothes shop on the way to the bus. 70 euro for a piece of cloth made to look like a Grecian dress. Grecian style in turkey, you say…yes probably because it's so close (my theory). Mmmm my response "I only have 15 euro on me"… my in head response "and it will cost me less to take down my mother's curtains and make one myself" …. Pretty dresses no doubt, but way too pricey for my liking and for the amount of fabric holding them together.
Of course as always we chased by the shop owner trying to bargain us down. I lied over and over stating I only had 15 euro, 15 euro or no deal. He opted for no deal; I went back to drawing up patterns out of curtains in my head.
And on we went to the house of the Virgin Mary. I am clueless! I thought she was born there, better start reading up on my Christianity. I'm informed by the Italian she died there. So it was nice to walk through the house, candles lit here and there, and a shrine in place.
NO PICTURES! Haha an IPhone doesn't look like a camera, so I do my very bond spy like swift movement of my hand with the camera on and snap. (Silent mode on) it fails to work. Utter failure!
Inside though, there's a very holy feeling to it. I like that, it's like when I walk into a church I feel a weird sensation, like all my sins are abolished...
Anyway we lit two candles outside and said our prayers, I won't tell you what I prayed for or it won't come true. Like wishes, I see prayers as the same, okay basically I prayed for the health and safety for all my family and friends, pretty much all my prayers consist of.
It was all in all an eventful day, a lot of walking and sightseeing and some interesting places to add to my travel list.
I'm observant; I like to put a nice ring to it, situational awareness! Not critical but observant. So I was having a field day when I OBSERVED a nice cabin crew lady with extremely YELLOW hair, not blonde but yellow and extensions completely obvious. Being cabin crew working for a company with HIGH HIGH standards it's nice to see the not so high standards of other airlines. I point it out the Italian, he asks me "where, what hair, what" typical man! No idea and no clue, oh to have a female with me now so we could debate whether or not she could do with a nice hair makeover! Not that were perfect, were not!
All in all though a nice flight, with nice crew, I would definitely fly with them again.
Landing into Istanbul: collect bags, jump in taxi, show taxi man address, arrive at hotel.
Hotel! Mmmm…apart hotel maybe, I thought it said 3* on the booking website. Anyway we sit outside the closed hotel door. The hotel beside calls the reception, he calls the owner. Nothing. So I call the number on the website, success!
They will be with us momentarily.
Inside it's a small hallway, no sign of a reception, nothing but a stairs and 2 closed doors.
So were shown to our room. On first inspection the room is fabulous. Small but fabulous, a very old town atmosphere. There's a double bed, single bed, small table and 2 chairs (which I use to stand on to see into the only small mirror in the bathroom) a flat screen TV (which we never turned on and that also has a weird camera like ball hanging in front of it, being the suspicious idiot that I am, I put it behind the TV, just in case the owners like a full frontal viewpoint) and a bathroom. Oh there's a balcony too with a sea view and a view of the train tracks below us.
And then I hear it, the train………I really hope it doesn't go all night, I'm wrong it does! (But after passing out later that night I didn't hear it anymore)
I start unpacking and deciding what I can wear in this stifling heat that will keep me semi covered for when it gets cooler that night.
ANTS! I hate them, I see one, I can feel them all crawling on me. I see them! Not one but them! All over the floor… oh crying time, I start to moan how we should have paid extra to book in to the 5* hotel that didn't have a sea view or balcony, but would have had at least a reception and maybe no ants. Im not spoiled! I love roughing it, even though this wasn't roughing it but felt like it, just a tiny bit!
But who am I kidding, ants get in everywhere, we can't escape them, only kill them!
So I did kill them! Done an antdance! Literally hopping jumping stamping all over the floor to kill what I could. Satisfied that I had rid our room of these little crawlers I took a shower. Only to be met by my new friends relatives on my exit from the bathroom. Whether they were holding a funeral for the ones I had stamped on or not, they were soon to be destroyed also.
Abolition mission complete, change of clothes and were off to explore Istanbul!
I was quite excited at this point.
Our first encounter of something interesting, THE BLUE MOSQUE. It is stunning, admirable, statuesque to name but a few words. We don't go in of course as I'm wearing shorts and being a Muslim mosque I doubt I will be given permission, let alone the fact it is also Ramadan.
So we take our pictures outside and move along to the sultanahmet square which is also beside the hippodrome... The Italian doesn't fail to always be my history tour guide, so again I'm subject to a very informative session of how and when the romans came to turkey.
It's always about the romans!
You need to have a very vivid imagination to stand in the hippodrome area and imagine what it was once like to have the horses racing through this vast space. A cultural buzz is taking place as we stand and admire.
And a further walk brings us just in front of the Hagia Sophia. Also an amazing masterpiece to behold. Why they don't construct superstructures like these anymore I don't know. Such a raw beauty experiencing these buildings that were constructed c.532AD.
The interesting thing about hagia Sophia is that it was an Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum.
Inside shows us the vast enormity of this structure. It is in a word HUGE! And after taking pictures with the Italian on the side of them, it just shows how big this place is. I'm in awe.
It is strange but fascinating to see both Christian holy relics and Muslim Islamic features beside each other, in one place.
There are a few beautiful mosaics on the walls in the upper galley, and we walk through to see all of these, no flash photography, so flash is turned off and we get some very nice pictures.
Leaving hagia Sophia and her beauty behind us we walk through the Gulhane Park beside the topkapi palace. It's too late to go into visit the palace and it's covered by large trees so we don't get any pictures unfortunately.
After exiting the park our aim is to head towards the galata tower. It requires a cross over the galata Koprusu Bridge.
Its rush hour traffic now, everyone is heading home from work and of course there are boats docking to sail people home.
So weaving in and out of people we make our way to the bridge. There are an abundance of fishermen on the bridge. Worms, yuck! Seafood, yuck! The smell is detrimental to my stomach but we ponder on.
At this point I'm ready to drop, I left the feeling in my feet and legs back at the hagia Sophia.Moaning time, I start to whine a little how I'm tired and the walking is a lot today after travelling from gumbet already. But I muster all my strength and continue on with the promise of food soon, which means a nice well deserved rest my weary feet moment. The Italian is set on seeing the galata tower and seeing the view from the top.
To say the hill to the galata was steep was an understatement. I feel like I was climbing a vertical mountain. We reach the top and pay our way in to get the "best view of the city".
And no doubt it is the best view of the city, I can see from where I started this perilous journey and where I left the feeling of my legs and feet and I can also see how far we have to walk back. Walk we will not. Taxi we will!
The view is immense, the sunset dropping slowly over Istanbul city, the skyline showing up the beauty of the mosques minarets.
So we take a lot of pictures and decide to head back down, we had a choice of restaurant at the top of the galata tower but it was 80 euro and there was a show included and we just wanted to eat something small.
We headed off back down towards the dockside. There are quite a few restaurants, the Italian wants a kebab, and I don't eat them. So we eventually settle on a nice little restaurant with comfortable seating. As I said before, the promise of resting my weary feet J
Dinner over, we jump into a taxi and head back. The taxi man nearly kills all pedestrians in sight. Bit of crazy driving in Istanbul, and then were back at the sultanahmet square and the hippodrome. It's all lit up, iftar has begun and the hippodrome is alive with people eating, praying, talking, and shopping. There is a bazaar set up right in the middle of the hippodrome, so I shout to the taxi man to drop us out and we walk through the bazaar, it's set up with multiple stalls and markets where local people are showcasing their many talents.
This is real turkey! This is real Istanbul. Getting to see the local people doing what they do best.
One of the amazing things I seen was a lady making old style guitars out of wood and kitchen pots! These people are extremely creative and I want to buy everything in sight. I settle of getting my niece some real Turkish delight.
Its time for home and the thought of the ants fills me with dread, although on entering the hotel/apartment/house room, it seems fine. They seem to have either taken my threatening behaviour of extermination seriously or they just went off to sleep themselves.
NO ANTS. WOO HOO. At this point I think I'm too tired to even care anyway. So we sit on the rooftop terrace (which I didn't know was there) for a quick beer (bought in the local shop) and then sleep time. Tomorrow is another early start!
Breakfast on the terrace! Yum and a very nice surprise! This place is turning out to be the perfect stopover for a day and night sightseeing in Istanbul. I've even recommended it twice to people since landing yesterday.
Sightseeing second tour has begun. Back past the blue mosque, through the sultanahmet square, past the Hagia Sophia.
As were on the other side of the blue mosque today were taking pictures again of the reverse side of the blue mosque, which in my opinion looks like the front. Either way what I didn't notice yesterday was the lovely fountain in the square in front of the blue mosque. And today it's working! Success! Pictures galore!
Our aim today is to get to the yerebatan cistern and the grand bazaar. The idea of plenty of market stalls enthralls me. So easily amused!
The cistern is of course roman. Built in the 6th century. It is underground and very eerie when inside. There are 336 marble columns 30ft high, and the way they are spaced apart makes it a very beautiful sight to witness. It bewilders me to think that water actually flowed through this cistern when there is only about a foot of water in it now. You can still see the water marks from the height the water flowed.
There are also 2 columns at the end of the cistern, both of medusas head, 1 sideways, and 1 upside down. It is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. It is widely thought that one was placed sideways only to be the proper size to support the column. The upside down Medusa was placed that way specifically because she would be the same height right side up. Interesting facts all the same.
The grand bazaar was interesting enough, plenty of shops to go through, over 3000 of them.
A quick walk through and we were done. But not without getting lost and walking through what seemed like a maze of side streets and stairs before emerging onto a street miles away from where we started, and so the journey back to our starting point began. A stop on the way for a kebab was needed, my first one and definitely not my last. I think I can say I like kebabs now. Much to the satisfaction of my Italian who is forever trying to get me to taste local foods in all the countries we travel to.
When we found our route back, we decided to stop in a little side street café for some local traditional Turkish tea and coffee. I drank neither. Instead I had some red poppy sherbet. Very, very nice. .actually id love some now, I wonder do they ship to Dubai?!?!
Back to the hotel, jump in the airport shuttle, wait an antagonising 2 hours to find out if were on the flight (staff travel standby) and yes we are on! Onto the place and 3 hours later were in Dubai. Home sweet home to where its 35 degrees when we land. Oh will I ever escape this heat!