Istanbul, Selcuk, Bodrum and Gumusluk were the main cities we visited. Istanbul was amazing. It felt exotic. The skyline was not something I had not seen before. The Mosques were everywhere. The Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque were fantastic. We walked into the Blue Mosque courtyard and there was a small line. After taking a few pictures I walked up to the line and stood there. A young Turkish man walkup said “The Tourist entrance is around the side” and pointed. I had the hat and the camera around my neck and was obviously a tourist. He was so polite. I mean there have to be 10,000 tourists a day walking through there and it has to get old for the locals. It is still a Mosque that people use every day for their prayers. He was as nice as could be.
Which brings me to a point about Turkey: There are some fantastic sites in Istanbul and Selcuk, but the people we met and the people that helped us was what really stood out for me. I will finish Istanbul and then pick this up again.
Galata tower - WOW! The 67 meter tower has views that are stunning. This is where you really see the Istanbul skyline. You look over the Galata Koprusu Bridge (over the Golden Horn Waterway off the Bosphorus River) at the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi Palace Museum. It is fantastic. Just moving around the city by bus or train you see these 2000 year old walls and buildings and you just move right under or next to them.
We stayed near Taksim Square in a little boutique hotel. This was close to Alex and Justin as they were working and we had time. We were able to get a short tour from them for a couple days and then we were on our own. We did a half day bus/boat tour. The boat ride down the Bosphorus was a nice touch. There were river side Mosques and buildings that were impressive and a castle I would have gone to had we stayed longer in Istanbul. We walked all over as there was so much to see. After 5 days were needed to decide what the next step was. That was the extent of our planned time. We knew we wanted to see Selcuk and Rhodes (Greece) but we only knew about Atilla’s.
So we booked a flight to Izmir and headed south. We landed in Izmir and had an hour before the bus to the Bus station arrived. “I can get you there, no need to wait” said the bus drive. That was the start of our adventure.30 minutes later he stopped in front of a Mall and said right through there. We got off and walked into the Mall. What are we supposed to do here? We walk through and there was a train station. We needed to get to Selcuk. The train did not go there. Take a deep breath and, hey a Starbucks. Let’s get a coffee. While we were sitting and drinking we starting talking to a nice lady. She worked for Boeing and was in Turkey working. Her cohort was Turkish. We got directions. HAHAHAHAAAA. We thought we got directions.
Get on the train heading towards somewhere else and we took it to the end. There was no bus station there. We asked at the little coffee place and he signaled to head back the way we came. We were lost. We asked one more time at the coffee shop to try to get a little more information. He did not speak English. We only had a name written down. He spoke to the gentlemen inside and one came out. He waved us to follow him. We did. He even helped Sally with her bag. We boarded the train and headed back. We got off in 4 or 5 stops. It was a residential area, so we followed him. After four blocks I started to wonder if he was taking us to his home. After another 3 blocks we hit a major street. We turned left and low and behold there was a bus stop. He walked in and spoke to the ticket person and we got a ride to the main bus terminal which would get us to Selcuk. This guy was amazing. He stayed and even spoke to the bus driver. All he knew is that we wanted to go to Selcuk. We went from totally lost to exactly where we wanted to be in 1 hour… with a little help. Rule #4 People are awesome. I loved Turkey and everything we saw, but the people made it great.
Selcuk was great there were several sites that were really great. Obviously Ephesus is the main attraction. But there were other site to see as well. However, the Temple of Artemis is not one of them. All the buses stop here. All the literature talks about it and it was every important in its time. Don’t waste your time. I know some of the site have been rebuilt, but a lone column does not make a temple. Walk up the hill to the St Jean Church and the Fortress on the hill. The Isa Beyl Mosque at the bottom of the hill had a cool courtyard and friendly people. We were not dressed to go in (I was in shorts) but we were invited in anyway.
We saw Kusadasi and then headed to Bodrum. The Castle in the Marina was a fantastic site. The marina had tons of boats and many for rent. We made arrangements for our stay on two Greek islands here as we ate and drank. We did tour the castle in the heat. It is worth your time.
Rule #5 - Do not wish you had done something after you leave. When will I be in Bodrum again? I don’t know. I might be back in two years and maybe never. There is so much to see in this world. Should we take the castle tour? YES, YES, YES. Why is this even a question? (irony) Don’t wish you had done something after you have left the area. When in doubt – do it.
We headed off to Kos and Rhodes in Greece. I will get to this on my next blog. I heard other traveler really like Turkey and I concur. It was our first international trip together and it was everything I could have asked for. Turkey is wonderful and the Turkish people are kind and friendly. If you have the chance, go to Turkey.
Go to the Destination page and select Turkey - April 2012 to see some pictures from the trip.
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