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Journal #38 - Türkiye

A series of successive blue domes overlooking the Bosphorus
Istanbul Rooftops by Mr. Wanderer

Merhaba from Türkiye! 

Our adventure in Türkiye started a little earlier than originally planned. We moved on from Jordan, adding Izmir to our itinerary before we traveled to Cappadocia, Pamukkale, and Istanbul. We covered a lot of ground during our time here and enjoyed the diversity of geography and cities we got to experience. Türkiye mixed our love of history with the outdoors and melted them together with a unique blend of cultures in the capital.  

Two story columned facade of an ancient library
Ephesus Library by Mr. Wanderer

We began in Izmir and since it was not on our original itinerary, we did not have a lot of things planned. Rather we kept to ourselves enjoying a lovely view from the hotel and taste-testing as much of the Turkish cuisine as we could get our hands on. We then used Izmir as a launching point for some of our historical/religious tourism and took a visit to Ephesus.

This ancient city is in the process of being restored by the archeologists and much of it is still in heaps of rubble; however, the parts that have been reconstructed are rather beautiful. This includes a reconstructed library with two stories of columns and four statues of qualities (wisdom, intelligence, knowledge, and virtue). This is the most recognizable structure from the city as it was by far the most beautiful. The most impressive though may have to be the “Great Theater of Ephesus”. This giant monument is intact enough to be repurposed to host modern events still today and boasts the title of the Largest Ancient Theater in the world. 

Disassembled rubble in the foreground with the great theater set into the hillside in the background
Great Theater of Ephesus by Mr. Wanderer

As a part of our visit to Ephesus, we were also taken to two additional sights. Firstly, Mother Mary’s house, a quaint structure in a quiet grove on the hill above the city. It had a peaceful aura to it and the whispering olive trees added to the overall ambiance. The second sight we saw was another Ancient Wonder of the World – the Temple of Artemis. Once an impressive construction, today this more closely resembles an empty field with one lone column holding down the fort. Our guide was able to show us what historians believe it would have represented; however, it is hard to truly imagine the magnitude of an Ancient Wonder.  

Small stone structure surrounded by trees
Mother Mary's House by Mrs. Wanderer

From there, we moved on to one of the top highlights of our whole Odyssey, our time in Cappadocia. In this region, we stayed in Göreme. Our flight landed after nightfall, so when we were driven into the city everything around us was dark. Occasionally, we could catch a glimpse of a natural tower, but the actual city was obscured from view. This was particularly impactful because we began that following morning with a 5 am wake-up call. We were swept into a van and driven up into the hills before the sun rose. It was there that we met our pilot and the rest of the group planning to ride with us in a hot air balloon.  

Hot air balloon mid-inflation with an overturned basket
Inflating Hot Air Balloon by Mrs. Wanderer

As we stood on the hillside under the cover of night, we could look out over the valley and catch glimpses of other balloons inflating. Their gas tanks ignited in bursts of flames that gave the impression of fireflies lighting up and then disappearing into the dark. Before the sun rose we had piled into the basket and lifted off into the morning air. Meaning that while we floated we could watch the morning rays break the horizon and we were awestruck by the sheer beauty of the region. Floating along we were enchanted by the fairy chimneys, pigeon holes, and grey stones smattered with yellow-green foliage. The other balloons in the air, all without engines, looked like they were frozen in time, hovering in the atmosphere without sound or movement. The entire experience felt like magic or something you would narrate in a fairytale. We truly loved it, and have already tried researching where we can try and fly again. 

Green valley with white cliffs and a smattering of hot air balloons suspended in the air
Cappadocia Balloons by Mr. Wanderer

Besides the gift that was our hot air balloon flight, we also toured the greater region on the ground. We were taken to visit an underground city (Derinkuyu) which had been carved into the mountain and housed entire villages for months on end. We got to see their areas for wine production, schools, and other facilities. I am glad that we can see this relic of civilization so well preserved. From there we visited the Selime monastery, with pyramidal buildings also carved out of stone. It looked like a scene from a foreign planet in a Sci-Fi film.  

Yellow-green valley with fairy chimneys
Göreme by Mrs. Wanderer

One fun quirk of our timing here in Türkiye is that we got to catch the nation on the one-hundredth birthday of its Republic. In honor of this momentous occasion, there were strings of flags hung up all over the place. Each hotel had one hanging on its side, there were hundreds of them across the streets, we even had one hung from our balloon as we took our flight.  

White Calcite dried-up pools
Dry Travertines by Mrs. Wanderer

When we had wrapped up our visit to Cappadocia, we traveled to Pamukkale. This site, sometimes called a “cotton castle” is filled with white travertines. The carbonate mineral build-up from thermal water has created a cascading series of white pools over the cliffside. Historically this involved thousands of pools each spilling over with aqua colored thermal waters. It was a restorative place for healing in the ancient world. In the modern day though, due partially to global warming and partially to man redirecting of the water – many of the pools have dried up. Instead of a hillside of mini pool-based waterfalls, we were instead taken aback by a cliffside carved in shell-shaped divots, that were all bone-dry.  Now the park does preserve some of the pools and manually directs some additional water in for the tourists to get the experience, but the photos we took do not match the cascading glory this site used to be.

A singular filled calcite pool reflecting its surroundings
Pamukkale Pools by Mrs. Wanderer

Afterward, we traveled to Istanbul, where we settled in for a nice visit of the city. We were in love with the vast amount of quality food we indulged in. That is not to mention the nightly runs we made for fresh baklava, Turkish delights, or some (most) nights both. Besides eating, we also enjoyed taking in what was probably the most modern “old” city we have ever visited. With thousands of years of history sitting side by side, it is hard to fully appreciate all of the footsteps that have trod through that specific Grand Bazaar. We enjoyed viewing the unique construction of the Blue Mosque and marveled at the broody design of the ex-church, now mosque, that is the Hagia Sophia.  

Covered Market with interweaving strings of Türkiye's flag and a large central flag of Türkiye's President
Istanbul Grand Bazaar by Mr. Wanderer

We filled our days walking all over the city and enjoyed several trips on the ferries that run along the Bosphorus. With café-culture being so prevalent we were able to find little hide-aways to tuck into at any time of day. Often, in these cafes, we were able to make new friends - feline ones. There are cats absolutely everywhere in Istanbul, and the city makes sure that they are all vaccinated and safe. So, not infrequently, we found ourselves working in a café with an overly friendly kitty perched on our laps.  

Seagull flying over the blue water with Istanbul skyline in the background
The Bosphorus by Mr. Wanderer

One experience we were determined to try while visiting Istanbul, was a day in the Turkish Baths. Renowned worldwide we wanted to get a firsthand experience. We found ourselves dipping into a non-descript doorway and tucked behind – segmented by men and women – were halls, with three-story high ceilings, and a slab of marble resting in the middle. Inside we were scrubbed, doused in bubbles, had our hair washed, and were able to enjoy a massage. We felt truly pampered, and it was a different world from the bustling noise and action of the city streets. We were granted a tiny haven of peace for which we were grateful.  

Small Turkish coffee cups with blue/red/green floral patterns
Turkish Cafe by Mr. Wanderer

We enjoyed so much of what we did in Türkiye. The nation has a vast array of experiences for every traveler. Even having visited an assortment of regions and cities, we only scratched the surface of the opportunities available. As a particular Turkish Air ad liked to repeat “Türkiye has it all”. This has been a delightful visit for us and so we are sad to be moving on but excited for our next stop. The next country we are visiting is home to the world’s first mechanically drilled oil well and is known as “The Land of Fire”. Any guesses where we are off to next?