Canakkle, Istanbul & Kusadasi

We had a lovely 3 days in 3 different cities in Turkey.

As we achieved so much on our first day on the peninsula, we decided to make use of the time to see some of Canakkle, the launch point for anyone visiting the battlefields.
This is a lovely little town which survives on a combination of agriculture, university students and, of course, tourism. We caught the battlefield tour bus and jumped off just outside the port. We didn’t have any specific plans, other than to have some local food and possibly take in the Naval museum.
We didn’t have the camera bag with us and we’re dressed in very casual clothes.  We must have looked like locals as at one point I was approached by a local selling newspapers, he was speaking Turkish to me, then later on, someone approached Kath asking for directions in Turkish.  Also, any shop we went into we were greeted in Turkish.  It was nice not to feel like a tourist even though the guise was over as soon as we opened our mouths.

We walked along the waterfront and went to a cafe.  Kath had a coffee and I had a caffeine free tea. We went for a long walk along the water front and after a couple of hours we were getting a bit hungry.  In search of something to eat we stumbled across a place that seemed to be pretty popular with the locals.  The waiter didn’t speak much English but was very happy to try and help us.  Kath ordered Sish Kebab and I ordered a Pide.  Both were pretty yummy.

From here we went back out on the street to find some baklava, which wasn’t that hard and before we could blink I was munching down one of my favourite sweets. 

After this we wandered into the town area in search of a Pharmacy (Eczane). We luckily stumbled upon one where the son spoke good English and we were able to get most of what we needed.  In need for some additional supplies, we asked the young fella for directions to a supermarket, where we picked up everything else we needed.

The day was drawing to a close and we were looking for a taxi to get us back to the ship.  We knew there was a Taki rank at the port so we headed back there.  Kath had a thought that we might be able to jump on a tour bus that was heading back to our ship. We spotted a bunch of other Gallipoli Cruisers waiting at the gate of the port so obviously a few others had this idea.  The first bus that came out was full, however the other ones had seats so we jumped aboard and we were on our way back to the ship.

The next day we spent in Istanbul.  I was picturing Istanbul to be a dark and mysterious place and the weather didn’t let me down.  It was cloudy all day, the temperature was freezing and is was drizzling rain. This didn’t dampen our spirits though and we set of on our own to explore the city.  A lot of cruisers took a tour however Kath had done a bunch of research and we were heading off to catch a tram.

This required a short walk, trying to avoid all the taxi drivers looking for a fare. We probably could have caught a taxi to our first destination, and it may have even been cheaper than the tram, but the tram was fun and took us through parts of the city that taxis can’t get to.

Our first stop was the ‘Blue Mosque’.  The moment we got off the tram there was a local fellow offering us advice on how to get to the blue mosque. He also had a carpet/art store behind the mosque and advised us that the mosque would be closed in an hour so we should go to his shop and line up again after it opens.  He was a nice fella, not pushy at all, but we had no need for Egyptian carpet so we politely declined his offer and headed to the mosque. 

This location was chosen due to the fact that the line gets longer throughout the day.  We checked out the timing and the mosque wasn’t about to close anytime soon, and although the line was quite long, we only had to wait about 40 minutes to get in.  It is a very impressive structure, with high dome ceiling, well worth a visit.

From here it wasn’t far to visit Hagia Sophia, which has had a few roles in its long and tumultuous life. It’s been rebuilt a number of times.  It started out as a Christian Church in the Ottaman era, then as Islam moved through Turkey, it was changed into a mosque. Today it is a museum and while there aren’t a lot of artworks to speak of, the building itself is a work of art.

There was a very long line that stood between us and the entrance, but we lined up anyway. While we were in line a registered tour guide was walking along offering a guided tour for 30t (Turkish Lira). There was 4 of us, and another couple in line were also keen so we asked how much for 6 people and he dropped it to 25t per person. If you include the 30t entry that made it 55t per person. We thought this was a small price to pay to get an extra hour in our day, and a guided tour!  We were sold, and within 3 minutes we were inside and soaking up a mountain of info.

There’s quite a few interesting things about the building but I’ll touch on just 2 of them. Firstly, some of the columns used to construct the building are over 2700 years old marble and granite. They were brought in from other countries, including 12 pillars from Lebanon that pre date the construction of this building by 100’s of years.

We found out that art in the form of paintings and pottery is banned during the holy period in the Islamic religion, so for my second fact I find it interesting that when the Muslim religion took over they didn’t destroy any of the frescos or mosaics, they simply plastered over them. This means that behind all the plaster and calligraphy style drawings, which are allowed, there are amazing mosaics and frescos that have survived over the centuries. Example below of the plaster removed.  They have been working for years to uncover some of them, and there is also a constant process of restoration going on due to humidity damaging the painting.

Getting a bit peckish now so we headed out to the street to find something to eat.  There was no shortage of restauranteurs trying to coerce us into their establishment. We settled on one and had a greasy kebab and chips.

After this we jumped on the tram again and headed to the Spice Bazaar.  Unfortunately, being a Sunday the Grand Bazaar was closed, this, combined with the fact that there was 4 cruise ships in port, meant that the Spice Bazaar was busy to the point of busting, you literally couldn’t move on many occasions.

It was all good fun though so we walk around for quite a while, looking at all the items on offer. We picked up a few things, and despite what we were told about haggling, there is no point, the shop keepers wouldn’t budge on any prices.

We had a couple of hours to get back to the ship so even though it was freezing cold and drizzling with rain we decided to walk back to the ship instead of catching the tram. This was fun and we got to walk under the bridge that we saw on an SBS food show where all the seafood restaurants are.

The ship was so close, yet the streets we were on wouldn’t allow us to access the port. We walked down a side street and just happened to stumble upon a famous baklava store that Kath had researched. This was a miracle, and of course we stopped in to purchase some.


It didn’t last long after we arrived back into the warmth of the ship and a hot chocolate. 

Our last day on mainland Turkey was spent in Kusadasi. Kath had arranged tour privately for us, L&G and the Gallesio clan. We were off the ship bright and early and caught our guide, Nafia, just finishing her breakfast.  She was embarrassed but we didn’t care and insisted that she finish up before worrying about us, we were early anyway.

She took us the the vehicle that we’d rented, which was a 14 seater Mercedes van driven by Ali, her good friend. He is a top bloke who runs a small business with just 2 vans doing tours. We’d booked through a larger company but luckily we got these guys as they were awesome.  Our day consisted of a trip to Ephesus, which are some remarkably well preserved ruins from an ancient city that used to be the main port city of Turkey, long before it was called Turkey.

Nafia said that as we are all fit and able bodied people we should be able to get through the ruins in 90 minutes, but 3 hours later we were still going. It is an amazing place and so we took our time, as one can do on a private tour. Anyone who has been on an organised tour will know what I mean. No rushing back on the bus today.

Most of the upright structures have been reconstructed meticulously over the past 20 years by a team of archeologists from Austria, with the help of sponsors. There is way too much to talk about here, but suffice to say that these are some of the best quality ruins we’ve ever seen and really give you a picture of living in ancient roman times.

After we left here we headed to a small village in the hills called Sirince. This is apparently one of two towns that was to survive the Mayan calendar ending a couple of years back.  We had a bit of a walk around this cute little town purchased a couple of trinkets and headed to lunch.

Lunch, what can I say about lunch, other than, Wow!  We were treated to what seemed to be a never ending smorgasbord of local delicacies.  Stuffed zucchini flowers, stuffed peppers, stuffed vine leaves, Sish Kebab, wine, Turkish coffee. It was just incredible, and taking out the price for the drinks, it cost 15t per person, which for simplicity is about AUD$8. We were just amazed.

A little more browsing around the town before heading back into town.  On the way we decided we’d like to visit a local pottery making place, where they would show us how their special pottery is made, which is impregnated with Quartz to make it stronger.  The quality of the work was outstanding and we purchased a set that we will no doubt make use of.

After here we opted to go to a local silk carpet manufacturer to see how silk is extracted and woven and tied into carpets, some which can take months and even years to complete. After showing us how to extract the silk (from mulberry worm cocoons) we were offered a drink, which it is polite to accept, and we were shown at least 50 different carpets. It was a little over the top, and although they were nice, we weren’t really interested in buying any, although much to Robs concern, Sharon was looking at one pretty closely!
After this we headed back to the ship and had a bit of a wander around the shops. Lots of A Grade Genuine Fake Watches on sale, yes Genuine Fake, whatever that means. At one point were were looking hats and Normie Rowe popped in to have a look, I told him he’d look good in that particular hat and he said that he wouldn’t.  Then he grabbed Kath’s hat, put it on and said, “see, it looks like a pimple on the arse of an elephant!” He’s a funny bloke.
Back on the ship and off to Santorini the next day for a self guided tour largely centred around Yiros and Mythos.

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