Istanbul’s Sweetest Side

Istanbul’s Sweetest Side

I have something of a sweet tooth and adore anything sweet and sugary. Turkey didn’t disappoint when it came to sweet treats and confectionery, some of it too sweet even for me, and that’s a first…  The Spice Bazaar in Istanbul had stalls piled high with endless varieties of Turkish sweets and sugary scrumptiousness.

Sweets in Istanbul's Spice Bazaar

All sorts of varieties sold by this stall (below) note the Turkish Viagra right in the middle – also seen elsewhere labelled Ottoman Aphrodisiac!

Sweets in Istanbul's Spice Bazaar

Turkish Delight

Lokum, to use it’s Turkish name, has been produced since the 16th century and it’s basically made of solidified sugar and pectin.  Turkish Delight in Turkey is firmer than I’ve had in the UK, slightly more chewy and much subtler.  As well as the lemon and rosewater flavours there are dozens of variations on a theme; pistachio, almond, walnut, chocolate, ginger, clove and coconut to name but a few.  My particular favourite was pomegranate with pistachios.  Scrummy.

Baklava

Baklava is a highly syrupy pastry made with layers of phyllo (filo) pastry, chopped nuts, syrup, and cut into cubes. It comes with a variety of luscious fillings, such as pistachio, hazelnuts and almonds.  There’s also Kunefe, a ‘shredded wheat’ variety, of Baklava which looks like little bird nests or rolls stuffed with nuts and other goodies.  Are your fillings screaming yet?

Baklava Pyramid, Istanbul

There are many confectioners in The Sultanahmet where you can try different varieties of Turkish Delight before having a box made up of favourites.  Prices ranged from 38TL – 68TL per kilo and boxes could be bought in various sizes from a quarter to 1 kilo.  And, in case you’re wondering, they did all make it home to friends and family!

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istanbul-sweets

Bodrum, Boats and a bit of a Barter

Bodrum, Boats and a bit of a Barter

From Pamukkale, we said goodbye to our host Mehmet and the amazing food at Melrose House hotel and took a coach down to the Bodrum Peninsular on the south-west coast for the third stop on our mini Tour of Turkey.  This was a shorter daytime journey of just 4.5 hours so we were able to see some of Turkey’s beautiful scenery en-route and with cold towels and refreshments it was a much easier journey than the night bus to Pamukkale.  We’d booked five nights in Bodrum; time to see the town and surrounding area and to kick back and relax after the previous full-on five days.

Bodrum Harbour

We arrived late in the afternoon into the port at Bodrum; white-washed buildings bright with the sunshine, glorious blue skies and all presided over by the impressive 15th century Ottoman Castle of St Peter.  Such different scenery from the dry volcanic rock in Goreme and the travertines of Pamukkale.

Bodrum Harbour

At the far end of the bay is a modern marina crammed with sleek, white yachts, smart shops and eateries.  As the bay curves round towards the castle the yachts thin out and all types of vessel jostle for space along the quayside.  Fishing boats display the day’s catch in wooden crates packed with ice – the gleaming fish and seafood is as fresh as you’ll ever hope to eat.

Catch of the Day, Bodrum

Gulets, traditional Turkish boats, with varnished wood, polished brass and crisp, soaring sails moor alongside smaller vessels which hug the harbour walls.  Fishermen tout day trips to passing tourists and it’s worth checking out the prices for some great deals on day trips here.


Check out tours, trips and activities in and around Bodrum here


Bodrum Gulets

Bodrum Castle

Sightseeing in Bodrum was to have included the Castle of St Peter built by the Knights of St John and the town’s main landmark, the Museum of Underwater Archaeology, The Mausoleum – one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, a boat trip and some general meandering through the town.  First stop, however, turned out to be the clinic.  Mister’s foot and leg up to his knee were now seriously swollen from the wasp sting and so he spent the next day attached to a drip and was finally discharged at midnight.  As always we had travel insurance and were covered for everything from taxis to and from the clinic, treatment and food whilst there and, of course, the medication for the next week.  I’d like to know what type of wasp was the culprit because from what seemed to be just a minor sting caused a lot of problems and the scar remains months later.  Not just your average wasp it would seem.

Bodrum Market

Due to the Big-foot situation we kept the rest of our stay in Bodrum fairly relaxed and didn’t get about as much as we’d planned.  We had a wander around the town, with frequent Efes stops to help the swelling. All types of ‘genuine fake’ designer goods, souvenirs, rugs, cushions and local handicrafts overflowed into the shaded alleyways and we spent a fun half-hour perfecting our bartering techniques – or so I thought as I’m sure the shopkeeper ultimately got one over us but he was happy, we were happy and my Mum now has a delightful pair of Turkish slippers – not sure she’s so happy…

Bodrum Beach

Beyond the shopping area is ‘bar street’ filled with bars (obviously!) and restaurants which look out onto a narrow shingle beach. Many of the bars and hotels have tables and chairs placed right at the water’s edge. Great for a drink whilst dipping our toes in the water and taking in the views across to the castle. Halikarnas, the largest outdoor nightclub in the world is in this area of the town – there’s something for all ages in Bodrum.

Bodrum Boat Trips

A day out on a boat is a must-do when on the Aegean and the deck of our smart wooden Gulet was kitted out with comfy cushions. A cool breeze fanned the heat and a good supply of Turkish Efes beer, and a delicious seafood lunch kept all seafarers happy. The sea was the purest blue and so clear we could have counted the pebbles on the bottom. Shoals of sparkling fish darted through the blue and we moored in a secluded bay, backed with pine-clad hills, and swam in the wonderfully warm waters.

Bodrum Gulet

We didn’t see as much as we’d originally planned in Bodrum but our few days there turned out to be exactly what the doctor ordered!

 

Pictures from Pamukkale

Pictures from Pamukkale

Pamukkale means ‘Cotton Castle’ in Turkish and perfectly describes the white terraces, known as travertines, which tread their way down the hillside. Each pool is created from startling white limestone deposits filled with water from 17 of the natural hot water springs in the area.

The travertines, Pamukkale

The terraces are like hundreds of mini infinity pools that hug the hillside leading down to the town below.  The shallow water reflects the cobalt blue skies above.

The travertines, Pamukkale

The travertines, Pamukkale

People have bathed in the pools for hundreds of years and at one time hotels at the top of the travertines used the water from the pools. This took a serious toll on the site which was in danger of being damaged beyond repair. The hotels have since been demolished and visitors are no longer allowed to wear shoes in the pools. The the water is now channelled in rotation as there is not enough to fill the whole site at any one time. Fortunately the travertines are now slowly recovering.

The travertines, Pamukkale

We spent a couple of hours exploring the remains of Hieropolis, the ancient town built at the top of Pamukkale. Afterwards we paddled in the travertines. Whistles were blasted at offenders not removing their shoes before walking on the limestone – yes some tourists still actually do this. Travertines, Pamukkale

Up close the limestone was a miniature version of the travertines themselves and just a little rough to walk on – by the time we got to the bottom my feet felt really soft after the buffing they’d had.

The travertines, Pamukkale

As the sun slowly started to sink the light reflected off the limestone giving it a soft golden glow and the moon rose in the sky above.

The travertines, Pamukkale

The travertines, Pamukkale

Travertines, Pamukkale

Travertines, Pamukkale

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Sunset at Pamukkale

This was the second stop on our mini-tour of Turkey. From Goreme we travelled eight hours on the night bus to Dinizli and then by Dolmus to Pamukkale itself arriving in the town at dawn.

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travertines-pamukkale-turkey

 

Love Valley and the Evil Eye Tree

Love Valley and the Evil Eye Tree

The first leg of our mini tour of Turkey in Göreme was coming to an end.  We’d floated over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon and explored the depths of Derinkuyu underground city. We visited the Open Air Museum and slept in a fairy chimney in a wonderful boutique cave hotel. We’d done a lot but had one day left before leaving for Pamukkale. We wanted to get out into the countryside and see some of those towering fairy chimneys up close and visit the evil eye tree.

Fairy Chimneys, Goreme

The valleys and volcanic rock formations around Göreme make for some interesting hiking. Hassan from the hotel gave us directions to the nearest fairy chimneys in Love Valley. It’s on the road to Avanos and about a 20 minute walk. We set off with a sense of adventure and plenty water.

Evil Eye Tree

Out of town on the Cavusin road we passed a lone Aussie bar which had a tree laden with nazar boncuğu or evil eye talismans. Blue glass against a cobalt sky. The Evil Eye Tree. In Turkey, and Greece, the Evil Eye has a deep cultural symbolism. The talisman is fixed to anything perceived to attract greed, envy, or ill-will to ward off the evil eye. We noticed the nazars all over Turkey; secreted over doorways, nailed to the masts of boats, embedded into thresholds and displayed in shops, bars and restaurants. There was even one on our hotel key fob. The evil eye tree dripped with glinting glass eyes which looked like small shiny fruits ripe for the picking – at a small cost of 1TL.

Evil Eye Tree Turkey


Get your own evil eye here


We carried on through the shimmering heat and turned right at the ‘Tourist Hotel Goreme’.  We followed a dusty track heading for the chimneys towering in the distance.  On rounding a capacious bush we came face to face with a pop-up café, Turkish style, which an elderly couple had set up, selling cay (Turkish tea), coffee and souvenirs. More evil eyes winked at us in the sun. 

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia

The chimneys were calling, looming larger than they looked from the road and casting long cooling shadows across the pale volcanic rock.  We were faced with steep mounds which we clambered up on all fours to reach an inner set of chimneys. The stacks were much taller than we expected, reaching skyward with thick lines of horizontal strata and erosion.  Some were grey and wide, others were taller and skinny the colour of sandstone and on a distinct lean.  The picture of me sheltering from the sun in the shadow of a chimney will give you an idea of the heights involved.

There were caves in some of the structures but they were high up and we resisted the temptation to rock climb. After all, once you get up there you’ve gotta get down again!  As we stopped for a breather and to take some photos we discovered that the chimneys weren’t the only pointy things around. A nasty little wasp decided to embed its sting in Mr Jone’s foot and by the language spouted I’m guessing it hurt. I squished the culprit before it got me too and I’m glad I did because that wasp sting was to have lasting repercussions. You can read about what happened in my Bodrum post. We’d had two chances to buy a talisman and hadn’t. There might just be something in this evil eye protection!


For more Turkish delights read on…


Rose Valley

View to Rose Valley from Goreme

The views to Rose Valley opposite were magnificent.  Although we’d planned to go back the way we came, via the café for some refreshment, we couldn’t help but climb higher and higher. We made it to the top of Görkündere Ridge which overlooks the valley. It took about half an hour but when we finally made it we could see over the chimneys and far across to the amazing panorama beyond. Well worth the climb.

Fairy Chimneys, Goreme

It soon became clear that Göreme was on the other side of the ridge. We pushed on trying to find a shortcut back.  As we walked we realised that the ridge led to the ‘lookout point’ where people gathered perilously close to the edge to photograph the sunset. As we stood looking down over the town the sound of the muezzin’s echoing call to prayer wafted in the air. One of those moments when you just have to stop and quietly soak it all up.

We trecked back down the other side of the ridge and through the town. We’d had an amazing few days in Goreme and would have loved to have stayed longer. But we had a schedule and needed to be at the Otogar by 7.30 that evening for the next stage of our Turkey Tour and the night bus to Pamukkale.

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A hike through Love Valley, Goreme, Cappadocia

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Hot Air Ballooning in Cappadocia

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia is still high up on my list of epic travel memories. Cappadocia in central Turkey, is known for its valleys and unique rock formations shaped centuries ago by erupting volcanoes. Rose Valley with its pink-hued rocks which deepen as the sun descends; Pigeon Valley; Ihlara Valley and Goreme Valley home to the Open Air Museum. The beauty of the valleys can be appreciated in two ways, either by pulling on a sturdy pair of boots and hiking through them or by drifting, gently above them at sunrise during a hot-air balloon flight on a Cappadocia balloon tour.  Which would you choose?

Hot Air Balloons, Cappadocia, Turkey

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Goreme – Fairy Chimneys and Cave Hotels

Goreme – Fairy Chimneys and Cave Hotels

Goreme, a town of troglodytes, cave hotels and fairy chimneys was the first stop on our mini-tour of Turkey. Located in Cappadocia, Central Anatolia, it sits slap bang in the middle of the country and is home to rock-cut churches adorned with ancient Christian frescoes, underground cities and unique volcanic rock formations.

Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

After getting up at ouch o’clock, two flights and a dusty bus drive later, we were more than happy to arrive at our Cappadocia hotel, The Kelebek Special Cave Hotel (kelebek means butterfly in Turkish). We’d booked late but managed to bag three nights in this gorgeous boutique cave hotel; we’d have to change rooms after the first night, but this wasn’t a problem; in fact it turned out to be a bonus. Hassan welcomed us and, as we checked-in, he dropped into the conversation that we’d been upgraded to a fairy chimney for the first night. Result! But wait, the website said the two fairy chimney rooms had shared bathroom facilities – this would be a major problem for Mr Jones. There was no need for concern, though, we’d been upgraded to the Presidential Fairy Chimney suite, the mother of all Fairy Chimneys. With en suite. Excited? Me? You bet!

Goreme, Cappadocia

View over Goreme

What is a Fairy Chimney?

You’re probably wondering by now what a fairy chimney is, so here goes with the topography. Cappadocia and the area around it is made up of valleys, canyons and large areas of volcanic rock. Over time the soft lava covering, known as tuff, has been eroded by strong winds, weather and flood-waters to create bizarrely shaped peaks known as fairy chimneys. These come in various shapes; cone, pointy, capped, pinnacled and in some cases remarkably phallic. The rock is soft, like pumice stone, and has been hollowed out for centuries to form these unusual dwellings.

Fairy Chimney Hotel Room

Fairy Chimney Hotel Room

The door on the right leads to our room, which was originally the wine-press – somewhat proper we thought! The Fairy Chimney was much more spacious inside than we’d imagined; it housed a seated fireplace area, balcony, en suite, entrance area and bedroom. I just loved the quirkiness of it all.

Kelebek Fairy Chimney Room

Our bed for the night

There were some lovely decorative touches to the room; locally made Turkish rugs and artefacts, a pair of traditional leather boots hanging on the wall and hand-carved wooden furniture. We were absolutely delighted with our unexpected stay in a Fairy Chimney – and the reason for our upgrade? The previous occupants didn’t like that there was no television in the room…

Fairy Chimney Room, The Kelebek, Goreme

Our Room

I can’t recommend The Kelebek Special Cave Hotel enough, the hotel itself is totally charming with a lovely restaurant and bar offering stunning views over Goreme town which is about 5 minutes walk away. There are 31 rooms including cave rooms, arch rooms, suites and fairy chimneys and prices vary per night and include breakfast. There is a small outdoor pool with sunbeds, a quiet garden and Turkish bath with various treatments available. The service at the Kelebek was excellent, food superb and attention to detail second to none. The staff was incredibly helpful recommending which tours would make sure we got the most from our visit. Staying at The Kelebek was one of the highlights of our trip to Turkey and is a Goreme cave hotel that I’d definitely recommend.

Check rates and availability for the Kelebek Special Cave Hotel

Kelebek Cave Hotel, Goreme

Kelebek Cave Hotel, Goreme

There are many types of accommodation available in Goreme from boutique cave hotels, rooms and backpacker hostels; something to suit every budget. The bus station in the centre of town provides extensive transport links to many areas of Turkey and Kayseri airport is just over an hour’s drive from the town. Many accommodations offer a free one-way airport transfer with the purchase of tours and balloon flights. Although Goreme is a small town there is no shortage of restaurants, cafes and bars and we ate some excellent food during our visit. More posts to come covering our stay in Goreme include our dawn balloon flight, exploring Derinkuyu underground city and the perfect Turkish breakfast.

Fairy Chimneys, Goreme

Fairy Chimneys, Goreme

Fairy-chimney-hotel