Turkey: Pamukkale, Ephesus and Izmir

This part of the tour has been busy. Early starts (6am wake up calls are the norm) – with long days spent driving across a landscape reminiscent of Australia – vast and arid – and walking around Roman/Greek ruins when we do get off the bus. I need a holiday from my holiday, or at least a sleep in!

Pamukkale

Hieraoplis is a UNESCO protected site, that is home to a large number of interesting – and quite intact – ruins. I could easily have spent a whole day exploring this site, because it is absolutely fascinating. The travertines were just breath-taking. I have never seen anything quite like it.

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What was also fascinating – from a human study point of view – was the number of people of all ages, shapes and sizes wandering around in swimsuits, bathers and bikinis. Izzet told us they were mainly from the Ukraine and Russia, here to take the thermal waters and indulge in some therapeutic healing. This makes such an interesting statement about Turkey as a country of contrast: it is predominantly Moslem, with its women dressing quite modestly*, but women of other cultures wander around UNESCO sites leaving nothing to the imagination! (My eyes burned on that day!)

After a full day, I was eager to get to the hotel. Unfortunately, the rooms were old and tired, despite a gleaming facade. There were four or five tour buses full of passengers staying, including ours, so the buffet dinner was served on the basketball court adjacent to the pool. It was dark, and I couldn’t see what I was eating, so I stuck mainly with salads and veggies. It was both a dodgy and odd set-up, and a number of people ended up with stomach** issues.

Ephesus

Ephesus was the Dubrovnik of this trip for me. The ruins were fascinating, but the experience itself was marred by a gazillion people from cruise ships traipsing around the site. What should have been amazing was downright unpleasant, culminating in my being served undercooked chicken in my doner kebab. I sent it back, and the owners still tried to charge me, but I refused to cave. I settled for an ice cream and a chat with another handsome, charming Turk who owned a couple of jewelry stores*** at the Ephesus exit point.

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I was, therefore, not in the mood for the pushy – bordering on aggressive! – salesmen at the very expensive leather outlet we visited later that afternoon. I told the salesmen that I was a Vegan, and escaped via the exit that was extremely hard to find (surely that’s against some sort of fire regulation?). Some people bought, and good luck to them. It just wasn’t for me.

Izmir

I only spent a night in Izmir, but I really, really, really liked this city. It’s a big – 3.4 million people and the third largest in Turkey – and sprawls along the coastline of the Aegean Sea. The thinking here can best be described as progressive and liberal, and not particularly religious.

When I had checked into my hotel – which was just lovely – I went for a walk along the beachfront, to clear some cobwebs and freshen up my ideas.

There were lots of cats hanging around the beach, waiting patiently for food scraps, particularly fish. Gypsies were cooking freshly caught fish on outdoor barbecues, families were picnicking on the grassed areas near the boardwalk, and couples sat smooching on rocks as the sea gently lapped the shore.

Before we departed the next day, I took some gorgeous pictures of the early morning light over the bay. And as we drove through the city, which was shaking off the sleep of the night, I was impressed by how well maintained Izmir is: parks, lawns, flowers are clearly tended with love. New buildings meld easily with the old, particularly on the mountains – part of the Toros Mountain Range – that hugs the city.

And the long beach front was perfect for early morning exercise: I saw lots of people out and about, taking their morning constitutional. And fishing. There were lots of people fishing. It was lovely seeing so much positive activity that early in the morning.

Izmir now joins Ankara on my list of places I would have liked to have spent more time in.

* The more coastal the cities, the more liberal the thinking. I noticed many Turkish girls wearing a headscarf with skinny jeans!
** A number of my fellow travellers have had stomach issues, and I think the hotel food is to blame. Touch wood, I’ve been fine. Interestingly, I’m drinking the tap water, when most are buying bottled, and drinking alcohol in the form of a could of glasses of wine a night.
*** We were warned by Izzet that vendors were like the mafia, and very pushy. They were nothing compared to the salesmen who were let loose on us at the leather outlet.

3 Comments

  • Susan Cooper October 1, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    How wonderful it must be to see so many wonderful places. I am sure it is fascinating on a human level to see so many different people. Thank goodness you only ate the veggies and salad while others got ill. 🙂

    Reply
    • dileeshus October 1, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      The people are almost as fascinating as the places, Susan!

      Reply
  • My second visit to Santorini | The Travelling Homebody October 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    […] we got to Oia. As lovely as it was, I found it mostly unpleasant (just like Ephesus) because of the tidal wave of tourists that disgorged into this tiny […]

    Reply

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