MY TURKEY ITINERARY
A couple of days on my own in Istanbul, and then fifteen days on
Intrepid's 'Turkey Encompassed' tour... which was, well... encompassing.
Friday, October 29 - A morning flight from Norfolk to Dulles, a looooong day tooling around the Dulles terminal (wanted to make sure I could drive it if the flight got canceled), then a late night redeye to Istanbul.
Saturday, October 30 - Arrival in Istanbul, a check in at my hostel with an incredible view of the Hagia Sophia, plans for dinner and a couple drinks... and then BAM! Hit straight in the face with jet lag. I pass out before I can venture out.
Sunday, October 31 - Getting lost on purpose (sorta) in the old city of Istanbul. I check out the waterfront, do some exploring, then take a Bosphorous sunset cruise. A nice dinner, then a few drinks at a makeshift Halloween party at the hostel bar.
Monday, November 1 - A little more exploring, a visit to the Hagia Sophia (incredible), then I go across the bridge to Karakoy to meet up with my tour. We have a nice dinner at a local restuarant... then it's time to rest up for the tour.
Tuesday, November 2 - And so it begins! After a quick look at the Blue Mosque (undergoing renovations) and the Hippodrome, it's onto the bus and off to the little town of Beypazari, which most of us suspect was chosen for its location halfway between Istanbul and Goreme. Another great restaurant for dinner, and our introduction to Turkish Raki.
Wednesday, November 3 - We walk through the outdoor market of Beypazari and visit a living history museum. Then, it's back on the bus for the trip to Cappadocia, where we will spend the next couple of days.
Thursday, November 4 - Rise and shine! The weather is absolutely perfect for an incredible early-morning balloon ride over the canyons and fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. After that, we visit an open air museum, complete with Christian sanctuaries and cave chapels, where early Christians would hide from marauding armies between 900-1200 AD. After that, it's a hike to the aptly-named Valley of Love, a visit to an artisan pottery studio, and a demonstration from authentic Sufi Whirling Dervishes.
Friday, November 5 - Rise and shine again! We take a hike to Goreme's Sunset Point to get a view of all the balloons from the ground. Then, it's a nature hike, a visit to the Tursan winery in Urgup, and a day to relax, souvenir shop and relax in Cappadocia.
Saturday, November 6 - One last morning in Cappadocia, then it's off to Konya, with a stop at one of Turkey's ancient underground cities on the way. Once in Konya, we make a visit to the Mevlana museum, devoted to the Muslim sect of Sufi (Whirling Dervishes), which has a piece of Mohammed's beard as one of its exhibits. Dinner at a delightful restaurant, but no Raki tonight... as Konya is the one stop in Turkey where alcohol is outlawed.
Sunday, November 7 - We drive across the Taurus mountains, stopping for traditional Turkish pancakes and at an ancient Roman theater, onto the beautiful Mediterranean city of Antalya. A wonderful outdoor seafood dinner and a few drinks. Maybe a few too many drinks, lol.
Monday, November 8 - After a stop at the Antalya Museum, with a treasure trove of ancient archeological treasures, we head to another coastal gem, the town of Kas.
Tuesday, November 9 - It's a beautiful day for a private boat ride on the Mediterranean, and that's exactly what we do, exploring crystal blue waters and ancient underwater ruins before returning to Kas for more exploration of its handcraft markets.
Wednesday, November 10 - Today, it's off to Pamukkale, exploring the natural hot springs with bright white calcium bicarbonate terraces, one of the most photographed spots in Turkey. Also there is the ancient city of Hierapolis, with a gigantic amphitheater and other ruins from antiquity, including the site where St. Phillip was martyred in 80 AD.
Thursday, November 11 - Off to the town of Selcuk, where we see the one remaining column of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. We also make a visit to the Isa Bey Mosque before enjoying a little time in the nearby mountain village of Sirince, with wine tastings and handcraft market.
Friday, November 12 - An early start this morning, as we successfully try to reach the popular ruins of Ephesus before the crowds. An amazingly well-preserved site that was part of both Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, and the subject of the biblical book of Ephesians. Then we head to a place where they make, and aggressively sell, authentic Turkish rugs. Later, I set out on my own to explore Selcuk, including the Basilica of St. John (where the disciple was laid to rest), and the Ayasuluk Castle.
Saturday, November 13 - Today, another journey into ancient history, as we explore the archeological remains of Troy, which isn't just one site, but nine historical Troys built on top of one another at various times in history. We actually get to see two 'Trojan Horses'. One, at the archeological site set up for the photo ops, and another more impressive one that was built for the 2004 film. A fun evening in the University town of Canakkale follows.
Sunday, November 14 - The final day of the tour starts off with a ferry ride back to the European side of Turkey, and the Gallipoli Peninsula, the site of a major battle in World War I and the final resting place of thousands of soldiers from Australia, New Zealand and (at the time) the Ottoman Empire. Then, we fight the Istanbul traffic to return to our starting point. One last dinner as a group, and this fantastic tour comes to an end.
Monday, November 15 - With a little time to explore before my flight, I check out the Galata Tower, which features panoramic views of the city and the surrounding waterways. From there, it's into a taxi and off to the airport for a 3:45 flight out of Istanbul, arriving at Dulles at 6:55. I spend the night a Dulles hotel.
Tuesday, November 16 - One last short flight back to Norfolk and a drive back to the Outer Banks.