See Black Sea

For our final couple days in Turkey, we find ourselves in Ağva. This is perhaps my favorite time in Turkey. There’s nothing historic here, there are no particular sights to see here, there are barely any tourists here, only a couple others in our hotel, and most of the other hotels look pretty empty. It’s just a nice, quiet town, with a couple rivers running through it, and the beautiful Black Sea. On our first afternoon in Ağva, we take out one of our hotel’s paddle boats, and it is a wonderful, warm afternoon (despite the fact my friend bundled up as if it was winter… maybe she’s afraid of the sun…). We paddle down to the shore of the Black Sea, walk around the beach, wade in the Sea, and meet a friendly dog that just likes to walk with us and hang out.

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We next make our way (via Uber, a flight, and a bus) to Cappadocia, a very large ancient settlement which was built into the mountains of the area, due to its rather brittle stone which could be easy carved away to make rooms within the stone. This made for rather defensible settlements, with doors hidden away, and no visible way in to most homes. Animals could be kept in farms made entirely underground. This was also a very active and significant Christian community in the early centuries of Christianity. The ability to defend the area led to it being great for hiding from invading marauders in earlier days and from religious persecution by the Romans in latter days.

“Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? … Judea and Cappadocia, … visitors from Rome … we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
– Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2, Verses 7 – 11

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, … Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
– First Epistle of Peter, Chapter 1, Verses 1-2

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Hierapolis and Pamukkale

Our tour stops at Pamukkale, adjacent to the ancient site of Hierapolis. At our earlier stop in Ephesus, we learned that the healing center at Ephesus was renowned for having an incredibly large success rate at healing those they accepted. The reason for this was that they were good at accepting only those who could be healed and referring everyone else to Hierapolis. Hierapolis was renowned for having an incredibly large graveyard. Continue reading “Hierapolis and Pamukkale”

Touring Turkey by Bus and Ephesus

As I mentioned in a previous post, my traveling companion and I joined a 5-day tour by bus along the Aegean coast area of Turkey. Overall, it is a pretty good experience, and it is nice to have someone else plan the transportation, lodging, and food in the myriad of places we stay. It is, however, exhausting, staying only one night in each hotel (except one), spending 3-8 hours on a bus every day, and having to worry a bit about not delaying the rest of the group when we might want to explore a bit more in a particular place, or would rather sleep in.

As we board the bus, meet the other 4 travelers, and get our overview, we discover that the 6 of us are actually on 3 different tours, that happen to be sharing 4 days. Four of them had been touring Istanbul the day or two before (we had too, but not part of a tour group), and on the last day of our tour, the other 2 sets of 2 people would also be venturing in different directions, one couple continuing for another day or two with the tour group, as we get shuttled back to Istanbul. On our final leg to Istanbul, we are pretty exhausted, and our tour guide graciously skips a bit of the tour (some silk market) and delivers us directly to our next hotel in the Asian side of Istanbul, which is about 1.5 hours away from where we were initially picked up (in the European side) and where we were originally supposed to get returned to, which is great. Our tour group is very friendly and a lot of fun. All 4 others are from Australia most recently, though one was Greek and another Italian, originally, I think.

749 Tour Group Photo
Our tour group

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Touring Ruins

Early in the morning we board a tour bus for a 5 day tour of a bunch of places around the Aegean coast of Turkey. We start with Gallipoli, the site of significant battles in World War I, not something we’re particularly interested in, but the views are gorgeous and the memorials solemn. The political rantings of our tour guide get a little annoying however.

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Eating in Turkey

Interestingly, perhaps the tastiest meal I had in Venice was in the airport as I waited for my flight to Turkey. It was just a wrap, but the lettuce inside was so cold and crisp, the bread outside so warm and crisp, with melted cheese, or perhaps something mayonnaise-based, and warm ham inside. It was a good start to a tasty segment of my travels. Though, admittedly, all of my travels have been pretty tasty. Meals in Istanbul started with some kebabs, one of the best (and cheapest, at just over a US dollar) was at a little hole in the wall place near my hotel. At the time, I had no idea what kind of meat “urfa” was, but it was delicious.

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Cathedrals and Mosques in Istanbul and Bursa

622 Cat CafeI have returned from my trip to Turkey, and will be posting the next few blog updates a little out of order so pictures can be combined more thematically appropriately with each other. This one covers the sights seen in my first couple days in Istanbul, and a short stop in Bursa during a group tour.

One thing I read about Turkey and noticed immediately is the cats. They’re everywhere, each neighborhood has their own set of cats, which roam and live freely outdoors as far as I can tell. Most of them are quite friendly, not a one cursed at me while I was there, and a few let me pet their usually flea-ridden heads.

I met up with a friend for this leg of my journey, and one of the first things we did was take what was billed as a “sunset cruise,” but was actually the exact same thing as the “Bosphorus hop-on, hop-off water tour”, just a boat that goes to about 8 stops along the Bosphorus – the large waterway dividing the European and Asian parts of Turkey. We showed up and took an earlier boat, so didn’t actually get the “sunset” part, but it was a nice ride with nice views. Continue reading “Cathedrals and Mosques in Istanbul and Bursa”