When we got off the tram in Sultanahmet, Istanbul we knew we were going to like it! We had moved from Amman, Jordan, one of the armpits of the universe, to a beautiful albeit touristy European city in the matter of a few hours. Our friends, Carmen & Geoff had recommended a cute and well located hostel and we were quick to ditch our bags and explore the city.
We spent three and a half days in Istanbul exploring the sights. The Turkish government has decided that basically every attraction in Turkey costs 10 YTL (about 8 CADs) for entry regardless of its size, importance, etc. The other strange thing that they do is charge you to enter an attraction within and attraction… (like the Topkapi Palace when they charge you a second 10 YTL to get into the Harem, needless to say this scam made the Topkapi Palace and the Harem my least favourite parts of Istanbul). Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, on the other hand, were grand and beautiful. However, the highlight of Istanbul attractions was the Cistern. As we had come to expect, entry was 10 YTL but it was a very novel attraction and, though moderately overpriced, well worth seeing. The slow music and dripping water was aptly described by Carmen and Geoff as Disneyworld-esque.
The rest of our time in Istanbul was taken up with the Grand Bazaar (a much tamer experience than I remember from my brief visit in Grade 9 before I had ever been to Asia when mom thought I was going to get kidnapped), the Spice Bazaar, trendy Istiklal Street and the side streets off of it, and an amazing day ferry ride up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. The highlight of the Black Sea adventure was certainly when the ice cream guys asked to “taste” (try) Jon’s sunglasses and then calling me and our new friend Heather behind the counter to pose for photo ops!
We took an overnight bus ride from Istanbul to Göreme and it was a great introduction to the amazing long distance Turkish bus system. These busses include a bus attendant who brings you water, tea, and a cake before bed – they also have an incredible order that is lacking in the bus system of every other country I have been too. On a later bus ride we needed to change to a different part of the terminal for a connection there was actually a man waiting when we got off the first bus to help us find our way!
Göreme in Kapadokya is an amazing place. The small town vibe was totally welcome after the hubbub of Istanbul and the scenery is out of this world. It literally looks like you stepped from your bus onto the moon.
One of our days in Kapadokya was taken up with a day trip where we went to a huge underground city that gets as deep as 55 meters underground, we got a chance to hike in a gorge and enjoyed a tasty lunch in a really neat over water restaurant. My favourite day had to be when we independently hiked through Rose Valley, and along the aptly named Love Valley:
So far, Turkey has been amazing. We have just arrived in the backpackers mecca of Olimpos. We came directly from Kas where we spent two very fun days with Carmen & Geoff. Those two days deserve a post on their own so expect to hear more from us shortly, I’ve been too busy catching up on my reading!