After two weeks touring the Black Sea, North East, Central Turkey & Istanbul, we headed back to the boat to catch our breath for just 3 days before heading off again (just ourselves this time) on our final Turkey adventure in a hire car to explore the West Coast and the North West, specifically three top sites we wanted to see being Ephesus, Pamukkale & Gallipoli.
Pamukkale meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish is a natural site famous for carbonate mineral left over from flowing thermal spring water. These thermal pools on the side of a hill are huge and impressive, the area is almost 3 km meters long by 600 meters wide, it can be seen from 20km away. The surface is shimmering white limestone shaped over thousands of years by the calcite rich springs dripping slowly down the mountainside. Turkish legend has it that the formations are solidified cotton (which is the areas main crop) that giants left out to dry. We also explored the ruins of Hierapolis an ancient Greek city located on the same site.
Phil (the history loving ruins specialist) had been looking forward to visiting Ephesus since we arrived in Turkey back in November 2021.
Ephesus excavated remains reflect centuries of history, from classical Greece to the Roman Empire, when it was the Mediterraneans main commercial centre, and where they spread the religion of Christianity. Paved streets wind past squares, baths and monumental ruins. Records of this city exist dating back to 129 BC. One of the most outstanding remains are that of the Library of Celsus commissioned in 110 AD. The library and its contents were destroyed in a fire that resulted from either an earthquake or a gothic invasion in 262. The facade was damaged by an earthquake in the tenth or eleventh century. It lay in ruins for centuries until it was re-erected by archaeologists between 1970 and 1978.
Nearby was also the House of Virgin Mary. It is often questioned how the Mary came to be living in Turkiye and there was some signage which attempted to explain this. Apparently it is written in gospel that before dying on the cross Jesus entrusted his mother to Saint John, who was to care for her for the remainder of her life. St John was then issued to spread the word of the bible across Asia and it is assumed he would have taken Mary with him. The evidence then is given that the tomb of St John is in Ephesus, assuming he lived and died here and therefore Mary lived here also. There was some other so called “facts” also written to attest to her living here, but will we ever really know?
In the 500 kilometres between Ephesus and Gallipoli we visited the small villages of Sirince and Birgi, both very Turkish and whilst Sirince had been taken over and turned into a tourist trap (with not much authenticity left), Birgi was an absolute untouched delight.
Cannakale is where you take the ferry over to the Gallipoli Peninsular. Whilst waiting for the ferry we visited the Trojan Horse Statue, which was built for the 2004 movie Troy (the village of Troy is located near by), we also visited the museum in the fortifications on this side of the water, including a replica of the Nusret Mayin Gemisi Mine Layer Ship.
The final site of importance for us to visit was the Gallipoli Peninsular. The site of the failed World War 1 military campaign in 1915. This place was not only hard to visit but I also struggle to write about it. I in fact didn’t take any pictures (however Phil did), I just tried to absorb all that was around me.
We certainly went through many emotions in visiting the area, it is very beautiful and peaceful, yet it makes you very very sad, it also made me extremely angry – especially that humans are still fighting wars today (so very close by). We were out of sorts during the visit, it is hard to describe, there were a few tears shed.
I can’t get the images of the trenches out of my head. The trenches are still there today, easily seen and in some places the opposing front (enemy trenches) are only 8 meters apart. Suicide – fighting in a foreign country!
Ataturk gets another mention here as one of the large monuments at Gallipoli are his words “Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore at peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … you, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well” Ataturk 1934.
I won’t give any history lessons here, just few horrific casualties and loss numbers below as I am sure we all know the fate of many Australian, New Zealand, English, French, Indian and also Turkish troops. The evidence of thousands and thousands of headstones spread over many cemeteries on the peninsular tell the story well enough. Lest We Forget.
Before leaving the peninsular we drove up to the “1915 Canaille Bridge” which recently opened in March this year. The bridge is 4.6km long and has 6 lanes of traffic and is currently the longest suspension bridge in the world and is the first fixed crossing over the Dardanelles. The longest span is 2023 meters. We didn’t cross it in the car however as being so new the toll is quite expensive, it was a lot more economical for us to catch the ferry back across.
On our return drive south we had planned to spend one night in Izmir, a large city on the west coast, big enough for an IKEA & Decathlon (massive sports store) etc. But once we arrived we changed our minds – city’s are just not for us. We lasted an hour before deciding to drive on and ended up stopping in both Didim & Bodrum, smaller seaside towns with a castle. Many of our boat friends had visited Bodrum last year in their yachts and we hadn’t so it was nice to see and enjoy the summer vibes that were well underway.
Despite the last three posts I assure you all our life isn’t one big holiday, this was an unusual and most welcome treat for us to do this much travel. A few things combining to allow it, one being the length of the marina contract (which was the most economical for us), secondly the Turkish vs Australian dollar and thirdly we were able to do all the travel on a very strict budget. We didn’t pay more than $30 Australian dollars a night for accomodation anywhere and the air travel was all around the $60 dollar mark. Car hire was also very cheap, however we did see a significant increase in the cost of fuel (same as the rest of the world) between our travels in Dec/Jan and the later travel in March/April.
Our final bit of travel was 5 days out of Turkiye and across to Greece – just a short one hour ferry ride to meet up with family from the UK who flew out to the island of Rhodes to spend some time with us (after two years in lockdown it was their first time leaving their village in the UK since covid began). We had a lovely time together at Lindos the perfect Greek village/island/beach holiday stay. Thanks to Clare, Annabel, William, James & Sophie for sharing your holiday with us. With us being so far from home, spending time with family means so very much to us and really lifts our emotional wellbeing filling our hearts with love, (nothing beats hanging with cousins, such a great relationship), it was a great start to summer for us.