A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: jonaway

I am just going to the Grand Bazaar to buy one evil eye....

Yeah, right!!!!!!!!

sunny 28 °C
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Hello and welcome to our last main post to the blog. The first comment this morning from a student was, "I don't want to leave." I am sure we are all going to say the same thing.

After a sleep in we headed off to Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum. The original structures, built in the 4th century were both destroyed by fire - some of the marble from the second structure is displayed in the garden. This is an unique structure as it began as Byzantine church and later became a mosque. Once again it is hard to describe the magnitude of this structure. It far surpasses the Blue Mosque in size, mosaics, marble and stained glass. Some of the photos might help.


From Hagia Sophia we were off to the Grand Bazaar and I must say it was GRAND. Over 4,000 shops under one roof. Under this one roof you can buy just about ANYTHING! Scarves, towels, t-shirts, purses (real? Perhaps), jewellry (gold and silver) - you name it they have it. One of my best memories of Turkey will be the vivid colors that surround you every day. Something as simple as oranges and pomegranates pop with color.


While we only went to the Bazaar to buy one or two last items, we all seem to have come home with bags and bags of goodies.

The other memory of Turkey, for me personally, is the people. They are kind, sincere, generous and genuine. They truly want you to come into their business but if you don't want to that is okay too! Today at lunch our waiter, Justin, brought us fresh watermelon for dessert (not ordered by us) and then after we tipped him he brought us each a fresh carnation. And, oh how they love having their pictures taken with you.


The food has also been amazing and delicious. Everything is fresh and so very tasty. This blog cannot adequately describe the tastes we have savored on this trip!


Most of the group is off to dinner and a belly dancing show tonight. It should be a fun way to wrap things up and hear about everyone's adventures from today. A few are off to see a Whirling Dervish show.

We hope you have enjoyed our blog. I am sure you will be anxious to greet your loved ones at the airport on Wednesday. I will upload some more photos when I get back.....I have a 'few' to share!

Posted by jonaway 05:21 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

"To find yourself....you must first get lost!"

A quote from one of our travellers trying to find our way from the Grand Bazaar to our hotel.

sunny 27 °C
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A 'free' day in Istanbul - so many things to do - so little time. I think the idea of of today being 'free' is a bit of a misnomer as there were bazaars to visit and bartering to be done.

Some of the group ventured out on their own so I will report back later on their adventures. Our small group took a tour to the Spice Bazaar and then a cruise on the Bosphorus.

First the Spice Bazaar, where we were greeted in the first store with Pomegranate Tea and samples of Turkish Delight! Turkish Delight here is nothing like the Big Turk candy bars at home! Fresh and delicious and not very sweet! There were all sorts of flavours to try - before we bought! We also put a dint in the credit card with our spice purchases; curry, saffron, mixed peppercorns, breakfast spices and more! You could even bring home some Iranian Caviar! The spices were all vacuum packed for their safe journey home.


Off to the cruise. The Bosphorus a unique body of water as it has two tides, one on the top of the water and one below. This creates a unique situation as there are no high or low tides, unlike any other seaside city. We passed both the European side and the Asian side of Istanbul. We also learned today that Istanbul means 'city of Muslims'. It was a great cruise that included views of the 100,000,000 million Lira homes on the waterfront.


We ventured on to the local tram to the Grand Bazaar for some pre- shopping as we are going there again tomorrow. I will give you some more details of the Bazaar tomorrow but it is best described as a maze of 4000 shops. As we exited it was pretty evident that we were in the 'local' side of the market where you could buy thread, buttons, guns, knives, pots, pans, clothes, textiles. You name it - they have it!

With six people all supplying their own opinion on the sense of direction we had a blast finding our way back to the hotel. While we were never lost we did see some interesting sites and arrived safely back at the hotel.

The group attended a presentation from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism this evening. We expanded our knowledge base on how Turkey is marketed to North American. Currently, they spend $78 million dollars to advertise around the world. This brings in over $200 billion in tourism dollars. This is expected to grow to $500 Billion dollars by 2023. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is a government department that actually turns a profit for the government.

Tomorrow is our last day in Istanbul. I am sure we will make the most of it

Posted by jonaway 12:38 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)


was here.......

sunny 20 °C
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Imagine being able to travel the same route that Marco Polo took to bring his spices and wares from Asia to Europe. That was our experience today. I am not sure how many took the time to reflect on the significance of the route we followed today. The Silk Road opened up trade routes between the two continents and here we are in Turkey at the connecting point of this famous route.

This was a very long travel day today taking us from central Turkey back to our starting point of Istanbul. We are about an hour away from Istanbul and have been on the bus for 9 hours already. While it seems like it took us a long time I can only wonder what Marco Polo endured. (As an aside, we hit Sunday Istanbul traffic which added a further 90 minutes.

The landscapes that we travelled through were very spectacular and sometimes very simple. With mountains on both sides of us for most of the trip we also saw small villages and lots of very fertile agriculture. We have just now come upon the Marmar Sea only this time on the other side (last week we traveled to Troy on the north side of the Sea).

It has been a good day for everyone to relax, read and, for many, sleep. We have had a busy week and it is hard to believe that with just two days left of our trip that we will be home soon. For those of you with loved ones on this trip I hope you will ask them how it felt exploring civilizations dating back 4000 years. We have certainly been filled with so many incredibly interesting history lessons this week. What an opportunity.

We had a rest stop this morning at Tuzgolu, Turkey’s largest lake which covers 1500 square kilometers and also happens to be a salt lake. Many waded in the water and came out with a nice salty look to their legs. The lake is the 14th largest in the world and supplies Turkey with over 65% of its’ salt demands.

Our only excitement today was at the last rest stop where a group of rowdy soccer fans (all male) got off their bus as we were getting on ours! Thankfully we were mostly on the bus when they arrived. They are enroute to Istanbul for a big soccer game tonight. The young men were pretty excited to see our bus of mostly young ladies. Pictures were taken by both groups. You can only imagine the stir we caused!
We have a free day in Istanbul tomorrow. Most are headed to the water, specifically a cruise on the Bosphorus and a trip to the Spice Market. The sun is shining and it already feels warmer which will be a first for this trip. I am sure there are some who will be headed to the Grand Bazaar for some pre shopping in anticipation of our last tour on Tuesday to Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar. I already know we will be coming home with more luggage than we left with, even before that trip to the bazaars!IMG_6904.jpg

P.S. – check out yesterday’s blog again as I posted some more photos from our day in Cappadocia

Posted by jonaway 10:17 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Cappadocia....land of weird rock formations, pottery

and carpets!

sunny 18 °C
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So to continue our day which began extra early for some who went hot air ballooning, we were off to explore Cappadocia and the surrounding area. I must tell you that we saw SO MUCH we are having a difficult time remembering everything we have seen.

Here is a run-down of some of it. I will try and post some photos to help with the descriptions.

Our first stop was at the Underground Cities, located 55 meters below ground (four stories). This city is where Christians lived underground for up to four months at a time. They lived underground to stay safe from enemies. They survived with dried foods and a winery or two or three! We only saw 10% of the area and saw two wineries. For some of the group it was a little claustrophobic but everyone passed with flying colors.

It was on to Pigeon Valley for a photo op with lots and lots of pigeons and a tree with hundreds and hundreds of evil eyes. The views were spectacular. Our guide, Omer, tried to curb the purchasing at the photo stop but that was a challenge. Perhaps it was the euphoria of the hot air balloon that led us to buy so much today! That is our story and we are sticking to it.IMG_6614.jpg

The next stop was for another photo opportunity at Uchisar Castle. This really isn’t a castle but another rock formation on the top of a hill which gives it the name of a castle. This is where the shopping kicked into high gear. It is amazing how much a group of 25 can buy in 30 minutes. One of the necessary purchases for many will be another suitcase. Some of also fortified our early morning with a nice Iced Coffee – one of the best I have tasted!IMG_6639.jpg

Today our lunch was at a ‘cave’ restaurant. I believe the name was Biz Café – if you are coming to Turkey let me know. I have a card! It was the best lunch we have had to date. My favorite was the beef and veggies cooked in a clay pot. Today was a special day as we celebrated a birthday with a beautiful heart shaped cake! Happy birthday Jodi! What a place to celebrate a birthday.


In every country you visit there are always opportunities to learn about the local arts and crafts. We had two of these chances today. First was a pottery demonstration where we learned about the red clay (from the Red River) and white clay. Melissa and Justin showed their pottery skills – it was pretty evident that this wasn’t the first time they had thrown a pot! Showing true hospitality we were plied with wine and tea, a method used to encourage us to buy more pottery. I know that there were some credit card purchases – all which will be greatly treasured when we get back to Canada, right Carla?????

The sun finally came out today and so it was off to the Goreme Open Air Museum. We visited three Orthodox churches carved into the rock formations, all with original frescos showing the stories of Jesus. We visited thereof the churches; The Apple Church, the Dark Church and the Sandal Church.

The coolest thing about this area is the variety of rock formations. You feel that you are on another planet. We saw Fairy Chimneys and Mushroom formations that looked more like something from a Smurf cartoon!

It was on to Imagination Valley where we used our imagination to conger images of Jabba the Hut, a camel and a seahorse. Picture the last Star Wars movie and you will have an idea of what we saw today. I am not sure it is the lack of sleep but we were certainly were imaginative.
And if this wasn’t enough for one day our last stop of the day was at a carpet demonstration. We watched artisans worked at breakneck pace to create intricate, beautiful silk tapestries. We were shown how the silk is harvested from the silk worms. It was on to the large display room where we were shown an array of carpets; silk, wool and cotton (and enticed with more wine). While we didn’t buy as much as at the pottery place there was one or two purchases.

We are hearing the call to pray – which for us tonight is ‘call to dinner’. It will be a challenge to write such interesting things tomorrow as we have a 9 hour drive back to Istanbul. I will try my best……….

More pictures tomorrow as we are back in Istanbul. The Internet is not working well here and I need to sleep! Please check this blog entry tomorrow for more photos!

Posted by jonaway 11:01 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

A marriage proposal on our balloon trip this morning!

Relax mothers, it wasn't one of our group!!!!

overcast 10 °C
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4:30 AM came pretty early but in the end it was SO worth the lack of sleep! We got our wake up call signifying the balloon trip was a go this morning. It is overcast and cool but that didn't deter us. On to the vans and then off to the launch site. There were so many balloons.

We watched the busy Turkish men unload the balloon and all the gear. Anticipation built and we climbed aboard - 14 of our group and 7 in another group. There was at least 40 balloons in the air as we cruised over the interesting topography of Cappadocia. It was quite a site - again a bit hard to describe. We have decided that with 22 people per balloon and 40 balloons a day that there is a very lucrative business in hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.



We ascended, descended to the tree tops and floated over the eroded rock formations. Later today we will be visiting the area on foot. Unfortunately, it got a bit windy and we had to land in a hurry. The captain taught us how to brace (not there was that much room in the balloon). The landing was probably the most fun part - it was safe but our Italian basket mate won our hearts. He got down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend - she said YES! Now that is a marriage proposal. We climbed out of the balloon (some of us more gracefully than others) and popped the cork!

By 7:30 AM we were back at the hotel and ravenous! Breakfast and off for another day of touring. More later.


Posted by jonaway 22:33 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

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