I've been to Bozcaada (Tenedos), a small island near to the Anatolian cost of the Aegean Sea. I recommend you to stay at Üzüm Boutique Hotel - you can find best wines of the islands and delicious pilchard wrapped by fresh leaves.
Tuzburun Mevkii, Bozcaada
Bozcaada is around 15 miles from Canakkale.
Pamukkale has one of the most spectacular landscapes I have ever seen. On approaching it, one notices a rock rising up, with terraced slopes filled with natural basins of white water that seemed more like ice than a hot spring, because of the colour. When I saw the hill , I gasped - the place was breathtakingly beautiful. It was a waterfall in snow.
There are several ways to approach the place, but the best way is through the western gate, near Necropolis. UNESCO declared it a world heritage site in 1988 to restore the natural wonder which was being detsroyed by excessive commercialism and tourism. It was a mess, but concerted efforts of various agencies paid off and the place has regained much of its lost splendour. There is an entrance fee of 3 Euros. Ideally, this place is best appreciated off-season. Somehow, a lot of toruists wandering about the travertines takes away much of the magic. As the waters rolled down each terrace, they created magnificent white stalactitiles, and in the travertines the temperature of the water is around 33 degrees Celsius. It takes 20 mins to reach the top of the plateau - all barefoot.
You could take a dip in Cleopatra’s pool—the Sacred Pool (for a small fee), which is a nice experience and although it does not make you look a decade younger as it is often claimed, it is still fun. The water is supposed to have medicinal properties, but I guess a 15-minute dip is not the answer. The springs have been renowned for their therapeutic features dating as far back as the Roman era.
I was told that the calcium carbonate in the water as it flows down the hill, on reaching the surface allows carbon dioxide to be released and the carbonate forms the white sediment. These sediments create travertines where water collects and created this visual tapestry. The continually forming terraces and pools, allow for continuous movement of water and formation of stalactites. In winter, you can see a mist over the surface of the water. You can take off your shoes and walk in the water. The reason I suggest staying a night in Pamukkale, is that it is worth visiting the ancient city of Hierapolis and a few other places. You can get relatively cheap accomodation in this place - 20 USD for a double if you are really on a low budget.
There are a lot of good pensions and although a lot of them have swimming pools as an attraction, you are unlikely to use the pool - not the one in the hotel anyway. In winter, make sure you stay in a better place as hot water is a problem!! But in summer there are many good places. When you take a dolmus from Denizli to Pamukkale you can just tell them which hotel you want to go to. If you call the hotel a day earlier, giving them details of when you will arrive they will generally arrange for a pick-up. A couple of recommendations for pensions are Serin and Koray - very basic, but nice. The bigger resorts are in Karayhit, which is located north of the plateau. Wherever you decide, you will get a great deal with breakfast included, as there are too many hotels and too few tourists.
The best way to get to Pamukkale from Istanbul is by train. The Pamukkale Expresi, which has pullman seats, couchette and a sleeping car - depending on the level of luxury you need for the 15 hour journey - starts from HaydarPasa station in the Anatolian side of Istanbul and takes you to Denizli.
You can either book your seats online on the Turkish railways website (a bit of a maze) or book it from a TCDD authorised travel agent (it doesn’t cost any more). You could also combine it with a trip to Izmir and Ephesus.
You could get to Pamukkale by bus as well, in which case you go to the Otogar in istanbul and it is an 11 hour journey.
Almost a town in its own right, it's on the Asian side, a pleasant place reached by ferry from Kadiköy. A very Turkish resort and a stop-off point for the unmissable Princes Islands. It also has the best fish soup this side of Atlantic! Find it at the Yildiz Yakamoz restaurant right in the centre. The squid was pretty amazing too.
On the edge of the Sea of Marmara, on the Asian side of Istanbul.
Unique villa off the beaten track, approx 30 minutes drive from Bodrum. We were so pleased to find this stylishly decorated secluded villa with cracking views and swimming pool.
The highlight of our stay was when the villa owners offered to come and cook us a delicious and authentic modern Italian meal - such a treat! An unforgettable holiday - we hope that others get the chance to experience this idyllic oasis, but not too many so we can still go back!
Mazi, Bodrum Peninsula
As a non-meat eater I couldn’t help but notice the irony of eating somewhere where the only main dishes are kofte: meatballs and kebab. However, having been recommended by a number of visitors and with an especially carnivorous husband wanting to sample as many kebabs as Istanbul could offer I was happy to give Tarihi Selim Usta Sultanahmet Koftecisi a try. And, having visited once, happy to go back a second time.
Situated amongst the many eateries of Divan Yolu Tarihi Selim Usta Sultanahmet Koftecisi seemed consistently bustling and busy with a steady stream of locals and tourists. Inside it is basic and functional – but what more do you need – the same could be said of the menu which, apart from kofke and kebab offers lentil soup, rice (pilav), green salad, bean salad (piyaz), yoghurt and bread as accompaniments. However in no way does that do the food justice. It is what you might call comfort food of the first degree, unfussy, straightforward and flavoursome. Lentil Soup was thick and tasty, the bean salad - seasoned with mint and a little oil - lovely and fresh, both the kebabs and kofte were nicely spiced and well cooked and the yoghurt was delicious – again a wonderful fresh, palate cleansing taste.
Sit downstairs and you are right in the middle of things with waiters scooting about taking orders and delivering food from the grill, upstairs was quieter with excellent views over Divan Yolu. Service is friendly and fast and the price is excellent – between 20 and 30 YTL (£7.20/$13.80 to £10.80/$20.70) for a meat dishes, two or three accompaniments, yoghurt, bread and a couple of drinks. This is fast food at its tastiest and best, perfect for a lunchtime break.
12 Divan Yolu
Nearest tram stop is Sultanahmet
Between 408 and 450 Theodosius II constructed a wall arching round the city of Constantinople and providing a land defence running 4 miles (6.5 km) from the Sea of Mamara to the Golden Horn.
The walls served the city well protecting it from invading forces for nearly 1000 years until, in 1453, Mehmet the Conqueror breached the walls and entered the city.
The walls consisted of a main inner wall, 16 feet (5 m) think and 40 feet (12 m) high, a terrace, then an outer wall 7 feet (2m) thick) and about 30 feet (8.5 m) high, this outer wall overlooking a moat. The double walls also included a total of 192 towers plus 11 fortified gateways which gave access to the city. It was an amazing feat of engineering and must have been an incredible site to those approaching the city, especially if contemplating how to overcome this almost impenetrable barrier.
Now the ravages of time and neglect have meant that many areas of the wall have fallen into disrepair, though they are, as ruins so often can be, still very impressive, their shapes making jagged shapes, like broken teeth, against the sky. Other sections have been restored and these give a good indication of how the walls used to look.
We decided to walk along the walls from Yedikule Fortress to Edirnekapi before cutting inwards to the Kariye Camii Museum – a distance of about 3 miles. Walking ‘along’ the walls is a bit of a misnomer as though some guide books say it is possible to climb onto the inner or outer walls, access is not easy and the walls themselves, at times almost in a state of collapse, don’t always look safe enough to climb on. This did mean that for the first part of our journey following the route of the walls we were walking next to a busy main road and exhaust fumes are not the most pleasant accompaniment. However, next to the walls, in, I assume, the old moat are a string of allotments and the exhaust fumes were mitigated by the smell of growing vegetables and plants drifting across from them.
The old gates to the city are generally in quite good repair and close to one we were able to gain access onto the, reconstructed, outer wall and terrace, the latter also filled with allotments.
Though a bit ramshackle and rather a rubbish dump in places this part of the walk was fantastic as hidden from view we walked in solitude between the inner and outer walls watching butterflies flit between vegetables and trying to imagine what it must have felt like to be hunkered down in one of the towers waiting for an incursion or attack.
Later we passed through some more traditional neighbourhoods and stopped for tea at an outside café near the Topkapi Gate where we had a wonderful part English, part Turkish, part sign language conversation with some of the other customers who were interested to know where we had been, where we were going and how we liked Istanbul.
All in all it took us about 2 hours to complete our walk, arriving at the Kariye Camii Museum with a sense of achievement and some good memories. I wouldn’t recommend this walk for everyone it was tiring, it wasn’t always attractive – meaning the main road really – and certain sections of the walls are rather deserted and I wouldn’t want to tackle them on my own, however, it provided some of my most abiding memories of Istanbul and I am really pleased we did it.
You can join the walls at various places – bus 80 goes from Eminonu to Yedikule and buses 37E and 38E go from Edirnekapi, near the Kariye Camii Museum
The Fortress of the Seven Towers was built around the Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) constructed circa AD390 by Theodosius I and through which Emperors entered the city. The gate became part of the city walls, buolt during the reign of Theodsius II, and then after the Ottoman capture of Istanbul, Memhet the Conqueror began remodelling the fortress adding 5 towers until it took the shape that it retains today.
The fortress was originally used as a treasury but then became a prison in which foreign dignitaries, members of the ruling elite and deposed Sultan’s were held – and executed. Now as well as being a historical attraction the fortress is used as a concert arena.
You can still see the remains of the Golden Gate - now bricked up – and also the aptly descriptive Well of Blood into which served heads were tossed. The great pleasure of Yedikule though is scrambling up and down the fortifications, in and out of towers and gazing out over the Sea of Mamara and towards Sultanahmet in the distance.
Its not for the faint hearted, there are no guard rails on the fortifications or ramparts, it’s uneven underfoot, quite vertiginous and some of the metal stairwells in the towers are a little rickety. So be careful, however, it is also fantastic – we had the place more or less to ourselves and it was great fun exploring the different levels in the hollow towers, scaring ourselves by peeping over edges or just leaning on the walls and staring at the distant ships making their way across the Sea of Mamara.
Open: Mon, Tue and Thurs-Sun 9.30am-4.30pm
Yedikule Meydani Sokak, Yedikule
Take bus 80 from Eminonu or the train from Sirkeci station to the stop at Yedikule
Built between 1316 and 1361, around an earlier church, the small brick building of St. Saviour in Chora (now called the Kariye Mosque Museum) contains some of the most wonderful and best-preserved examples of Byzantine art anywhere.
The church’s patron, Metochites, a Byzantine scholar and politician ended his days as a monk at the church having been allowed to return after falling from power and spending two years in exile.
The mosaics found in the church portray scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, the Day of Judgement and Heaven and Hell. The colours in the mosaics seem as vibrant and fresh as they were when first created. When the church was converted to a mosque in the 15th Century the mosaics were covered over with plaster rather than destroyed remaining so until the mid 19th Century, and this covering may have helped to preserve their appearance.
They are also intricately detailed and one of the pleasures of standing in front of them is being able look deeper into the images picking out different things with each sweep of the eyes, for instance one small beautifully realised scene where water is being poured from a pitcher into large earthenware pots.
Although slightly off the beaten path it is well worth taking a trip to the Kariye Camii to see these magnificent pieces of art.
Open: Mon-Tues, Thurs-Sun Closed: Wed.
Kariye Camii Sokak 26, Edirnekapi
Bus 37E and 38E from Eminonu
A 15 minute taxi ride over the pass from Fethiye, the tranquil and scenic Kaya valley is well worth taking time to visit if you are tired with all the hustle and bustle. The main attraction is the "Ghost Village", a ruined village that was deserted during the war (made famous in Louis De Berniere's "Bird Without Wings"). There are plenty of restaurants around if you want to get some hearty authentic Turkish cuisine, or just fancy a drink and relaxation.
Kaya is about 15 minutes in a taxi from Fethiye over the mountain pass. If you fancy a walk it will take a good hour - look out for the ancient cliff dwellings carved into the mountainside on the road out of Fethiye.
Housed in an old palace overlooking the Hippodrome the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts charts the history, influences and changes in Islamic art through the use of pottery, tiles, artefacts, calligraphy, glass and metal work, manuscripts and friezes.
There are some wonderful exhibits, especially the beautiful calligraphy and decorated manuscripts, vibrantly coloured tiles and also the exquisite, elaborate pins and brooches used to decorate turbans.
The later galleries and the Main Ceremonial Hall contain one of the world’s foremost collection of antique carpets. The exhibition explains the different types of carpets and how some styles are named after certain artists i.e. Holbein, because they were featured in paintings by those artists. In the west Turkish carpets were so prized that they were used as table coverings rather than on the floor, thus showing the wealth of those who owned them.
The museum also has an Ethnographical Section which includes a reconstruction of a traditional Yurt dwelling and also details of how natural dyes are made from such things as plants, dried flowers and even crushes insects.
All the exhibits are well displayed with descriptions in Turkish and English. There is a lot to take in however the museum also has a lovely tea room where you can refresh your senses and feet and, in summer, sit out on the terrace with beautiful views over the Blue Mosque.
At Meydani 46, Sultanahmet
Overlooking the Hippodrome, opposite the Blue Mosque.
Tucked in a busy street of bars, restaurants, hotels and hostels, Albura offers a large selection of Turkish and International dishes at very reasonable prices.
Wooden floors and ceiling are offset by orange/ochre walls and exposed brickwork, the walls also decorated by interesting metal lamp fittings. Seating is on iron or wooden chairs and some very comfortable leather banquettes.
The menu is extensive with traditional Turkish dishes – such as mixed meze, kebabs and fresh fish – on offer next to wider ranging fare such as crepes, salads and pasta. There are also a number of vegetarian options.
The food was well cooked and very tasty, more along the lines ‘comfort food’ than modern or fusion cuisine but nothing wrong with that, as attested by a number of people in the restaurant who were visiting for a second time. Indeed had we not wished to sample as many restaurants as we could we may have returned as there was a number of different things on the menu I would like to have tried. We had a couple of criticisms, the salad we ordered had a bit too many pickled/bottled vegetables, making it rather less fresh and more bland then I would have liked, and the baked potato accompaniment with one of the dishes was slightly cold, however, these are really minor caveats and didn’t effect our overall enjoyment of the meal.
Combine all the above with friendly staff and a price tag for two starters, two main courses, a dessert, two beers and a coffee of 83 YTL (approx. £34.00) and you’ve got a good evening out.
Yeni Akbiyk Cad. 26
Walking into Balicki Sabahatin is a little like walking into a favourite Aunt’s front parlour – white linen tablecloths, white lacy coverings at the window, cream and sea-green walls with a few pictures - all neat, tidy but not off putting.
The restaurant specialises in fish and seafood - there isn’t a menu as such – although I believe you may be able to ask for one which includes hot starters. After showing you to your seat and taking an order for drinks (raki is a good accompaniment though we went for beer, they do have a wine list but we found it a little on the expensive side) a waiter will present a tray of mezes from which you make your choice. These include salads, marinated fish – the sea bass was delicious – mussels and rice (a speciality of the restaurant, a great mix of textures and flavours) dips etc.. If you are unsure what to have – and there is a wide choice – ask the, very helpful, waiting staff for their recommendations.
A little later, while enjoying your choice of meze, a waiter will bring a platter of fresh fish of the day from which you select your main courses, again if you are unsure - or indeed you need some pointers, as we did, to what fish is which - ask for a recommendation. Once your choice is made sit back, relax, finish your meze and wait for the fish fest to arrive!
The fish is either grilled or fried ( we went for red mullet and swordfish kebab) and simply presented with a small garnish of tomato, a slice of potato and a slice of mooli – the latter three acting more as palate cleansers than an accompaniment. Not that you need any accompaniment, the freshness and taste of the fish is what’s important and all you really need.
After that you may not feel the need for dessert but, if you do, there is a small but tasty selection of cakes and other traditional desserts.
Round this of with Turkish coffee and maybe even a liqueur and you have a great dining experience. In summer you should also be able to take advantage of the outside tables. Reservations are recommended, we went mid-week and it was pretty busy then.
Cost for four meze dishes, two fish dishes, 2 beers, water, a Turkish coffee and a dessert was 110YTL (approx. £39.00).
Seyit Hasan Kuyu Sokak 1
Near Cankurtaran Caddesi - a short-ish stroll from the Blue Mosque
Gallipolini is an important world war one battlefield where the British, French and Anzac (Australian and New Zealand) troops suffered a monumental defeat in 1915, which cost 65,000 allies and 75,000 Turks their lives. The consciousness of this haunts you when you walk on the steep hills of the Anzac beachhead or see the unbelievable proximity of the allied and Turkish trenches in the Helles sector.
The old front lines have been turned into Commonwealth war cemeteries and carry evocative names like Lone Pine, The Vinyard, The Farm, Chocolate Hill and The Nek, the latter of which was the subject of Mel Gibson's 1981 film "Gallipoli" and showplace of a battle in which 650 Anzacs fell. The Farm is equally an important former battlefield though many details remain unknown.
Today Gallipoli looks lovely. The blue Aegean lashes against the beaches and the pine trees have long shrouded the carnage of 1915. Pay your respects but also detach yourself from the events and have a Raki and mezes with the friendly local Turks. Listen to their unlikely tales and bask in the sun. As you leave this place, you may still be wondering what on earth it was all about back in 1915.
Gallipoli is about 30 minutes drive from Canakkale.
It costs 1.3 lira (50p) for one journey on the modern funicular between Taksim Square and Kabatas and it is much better than taking a taxi. The trams and the ferry costs the same amount and the ferry, crossing from Europe to Asia, is a must.
Taksim Square, Istanbul.
Freshly-caught fried fish, sandwiched between crusty bread, onion optional. Eat it while sitting at infant-sized tables facing the Golden Horn. Costs less than a pound, tastes great.
Get off the tram at Karaköy, turn around with Sultanahmet behind you, cross the road, walk past the fish market and jetty until you come to tables and chairs set out on the grass. Sit down and wait for the server to notice you.
This huge beach (some say 18km, some say 23) is beautiful. I have never been to such a peaceful secluded beach in the Med - lovely.
If you are feeling energetic take a walk from the 'town' centre past the bread and water restaurant and follow the road. Eventually you come to the sand dunes. Time it right and take a bottle of wine to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
For accommodation, rent a self-catering apartment at the beautiful Patara Prince resort, get the "best of both worlds" with the freedom and convenience of self-catering, but having all the many fantastic facilities available.
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