Picking up from where we left off after being rudely interrupted by Covid over 2 years ago. This time, the tours organised by Intrepid, will cover Jordan, Israel and Turkey.
  • Day30


    June 3 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Drove to Cappadocia and spent 3 nights in the Splendid Cave Hotel. Unusual accommodation with the rooms dug into the side of a cliff. They always felt cool and perhaps slightly damp, while the walls continuously shed bits so that the floor was gritty. It was novel but certainly wouldn't want to live in a cave.

    Next morning (early) was probably the highlight of the trip - Hot Air Balloon flight over Cappadocia. Up at 4am, out to the balloons at 5am and the flight at 5.30am for an hour. When I say balloons, I don't mean 4 or 5, there are about 120 hot air balloons - quite a spectacle. We had a lovely morning floating over the peculiar landscape and even landed the basket back on the trailer. Highly recommended. We were lucky too, because the next day flights were cancelled due to a dust storm.

    We explored the Open Air Museum where monks and nuns lived in their cave monasteries/nunneries as well as several churches with intriguing names like Apple, snake, sandal and buckle Church. All identified by particular frescos within each church (no photos allowed)

    Wandered through Love Valley with its...ahem... rock structures known as fairy chimneys (which is probably a nicer name to what we are all thinking). We enjoyed lunch prepared for us by a local lady in her cave house. The meal was great and she was a delight. We also visited an underground city where early Christians hid. Then there were the trips to local artisans (the rug shop and the pottery place). Both had fabulous items but as they are all handmade, they have serious prices.

    This is the final entry in this blog as from Cappadocia we flew back to Istanbul and then back to Brisbane (we have arrived home). Travel in the covid era was successful although it has added another layer to travel organisation. There seem to be more forms that need to be completed before they let you on the plane, but it is evident that restrictions are easing, especially across Europe. Here's to future travel - next stop, Japan in November.
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  • Day28


    June 1 in Turkey ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Konya is really just a stop-over place as we make our way toward Cappadocia. We did stop at Aspendos which happens to be the home of (another) amphitheatre as well as a Roman aqueduct. The theatre is known to be one of the best preserved theatres for its age (around 2000 years) but was a little tacky with people dressed as Roman soldiers and you could get photos with soldier holding a blue and yellow macaw (a parrot in a Roman theatre...huh?) Anything to make some money I suppose. Turkey has suffered because of covid and lost a lot of tourism but they are on their way back.

    At Konya we visited The Mevlâna Museum which is the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, a Persian Sufi mystic. This is where the practice of whirling, or whirling dervishes started. We attended a whirling dervish show in a restored caravansy which is kind of like a fort that served as protection along the Silk Road for the travellers. Kinda like a Caravan Servo every 35km which I guess is how far they travelled in a day.

    The whirling dervish show was not quite what I expected. I have seen a whirling dervish in Egypt and he started spinning in quite a frenzy. This one was quite tame and more traditional. The other one probably was not authentic. There is a short video of them in action.
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  • Day26


    May 30 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    We continued along the coastline towards Antalya, visiting St Nicholas Church (Yes, THAT St Nicholas! ) on the way. Did you know St Nicholas was Turkish? I think I may have read that somewhere. He was born in SW Turkey and died in Myra where his church is located. It has some well preserved frescos.

    A little further along we saw some Lycian tombs carved into the rock as well as another amphitheatre. When we reached Antalya we visited the museum but as we had already visited here several years ago we only took a few photos. Had an orientation walk around the Old City but no pictures (because Brad didn't take the camera).

    Next day was nice - a drive up into the mountains to visit another ruined city called Sagalassos - and another amphitheatre! Seems to be a theme running here. The place is at an elevation of 1700m and had great views but was also a bit tough walking as we kept going uphill all the way. The fountain was very nice and still running. The rest of the day we just chilled out.
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  • Day24


    May 28 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Left Pamukkale and headed towards the coast to a lovely town called Kas (say Cash) located on the Mediterranean Sea. On the way we stopped at a ghost town of Karokoy which was abandoned after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and WW1. Interesting village - I imagine it was abandoned because the streets were very steep and difficult to get up and down. This area is now part of one of the major walks in the world - The Lycian Way - about 500km from Fethiye to Antalya along the coastline. Not that I'd be doing it!

    First views of the Mediterranean are beautiful. We were looking at the Aegean Sea before. Lots of secluded beaches and coves.. and the colour of the water is fantastic. The town of Kas is a tourist/ fishing town and has a lovely feel to it.

    The next day was brilliant. We spent the day sailing around the coastline and swimming from the boat. Just check out the colour of the water, it's amazing, and so clear. Had a seafood lunch on the boat and of course we had to do the Titanic moment with photos posting at the bow of the boat. It was a relaxing day and everybody loved it.
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  • Day22


    May 26 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    We headed inland (east) from Selcuk to the town of Pamukkale to visit the unusual rock formation known as travertine terraces or cotton castle. These are shallow pools of water said to have healing properties that cascade down the mountain. As they are heavy in calcium carbonate and leave white deposits that look like ice or snow from a distance.

    There is also another area of ruins known as Hierapolis which was a Roman bath that we started to tour but as a storm was threatening we went to look at the terraces/pools. We had only had walked into the pools about 20m when we felt the first raindrops so we quickly got out again. Within minutes the storm hit and the wind was ferocious. Everyone sought shelter against the buildings... so much for social distancing!

    Anyway, while we didn't get to walk in the pools, we were able to get some pictures with very few people in them. Pretty sure the photos in the travel brochures and on instagram have been enhanced to make the pools much bluer than they are. Tourism will probably end up ruining this sight.
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  • Day21

    Ephesus and Sirince

    May 25 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Based at Selcuk, we had a busy day starting with a trip to Ephesus. We had been to Ephesus about 8 years ago and nothing much had changed except it was probably hotter and possibly less crowded although there were still plenty of people there. Visited the terrace houses this time though which featured excellent examples of mosaics and frescos.

    Made the obligatory stop at a handicraft shop (no, not a carpet place although I think this may present itself later in the week). It was a leather goods place and we launched into a fashion parade of leather jackets. All good until a couple of us (yes, me!) were pulled up on the catwalk to model a jacket. Hardly model material but there is a picture of me strutting my stuff. At 60% off they were still out of anyone's budget, but I still wouldn't want one anyway.

    Checked out the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, then headed up into the mountains to the village of Sirince for some fruit wine tasting (meh!), a bit of shopping, and then to a cooking class making a typical Turkish meal which we then enjoyed at a local restaurant. Even had a bit of excitement when the roof of the BBQ area caught fire, but we were too busy taking photos of our food.

    All in all, a really great day!
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  • Day20

    Troy to Selcuk

    May 24 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Canakkale is close to the ancient city of Troy, known for the story of the Trojan horse. The wooden horse prop from the movie Troy (with Brad Pitt) was gifted to Turkey and is at Canakkale so we have photos of that wooden horse but not the one on display at Troy itself. The movie prop was possibly more realistic because the one at Troy had windows in it. Troy itself is an archaeological site with the usual amount of ruins etc. Won't go into any details here.

    It was a big driving day as we headed south to Selcuk - town that is close to Ephesus which we will visit tomorrow. At one stop we had the best tasting yoghurt I have ever tried. Topped with a thick local honey, chopped walnuts and poppy seeds- divine! Had an orientation walk around the town and the rest of the group went to St John's Church but as we had already visited this several years ago, we sat back with a pomegranate juice (quite popular in Turkey)

    Lovely little boutique hotel we are staying in. Certainly cannot complain about the standard of accommodation we have been experiencing.
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  • Day19


    May 23 in Turkey ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    A very civilised start to the day leaving Istanbul at 9am (often our tour days start at around 8am) as we headed west towards Gallipoli. Perfect time of year to visit Turkey - warm but not too hot, and the countryside is green and lush - looks beautiful.

    We have long wanted to visit the Gallipoli site and it did not disappoint. The Lone Pine cemetery was probably the highlight with its well maintained graves and the views out towards The Dardanelles. At Anzac Cove (the landing place), you couldn't go down onto the beach but it certainly indicated just how difficult the terrain was that the Anzacs had to climb. The Anzac Cove commemoration area just a little further on, was a pleasant area overlooked by a rock formation known as the Sphinx. We looked at a Turkish cemetery and also some of the original trenches which are now quite shallow due to the passage of time. Also visited Chanuck Bair which is very important to the New Zealand Anzacs.

    We boarded a ferry and crossed from Europe into Asia, staying the night at Canakkale.
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    Amazing trip. will have to try and do it.

  • Day18


    May 22 in Turkey ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    We had a 7.30am transfer from our hotel in Tel Aviv to the airport, which unfortunately didn't turn up so had to hurriedly organise a taxi. This was rather stressful as we had been told security at Tel Aviv can be very time consuming and we needed to be there 3 hours before our flight. Cost us 200 sheckles (almost $100) too which we will take up with the company. On arrival in Istanbul the transfer to pick us up was late/ didn't have an identifying sign and is an area that Intrepid need to improve on. The tours themselves are of a good quality.

    The trip from the airport to our hotel took over 2 hours mainly due to the traffic being at a standstill around the main touristy areas of Istanbul which is where our hotel is located. The Saturday was a free day for us so we wandered down to the waterfront and caught a cruise on the Bosphorus which was pretty cheap at 60 lira each (about $6). Wandered back to our hotel via the lovely park near Topkapi Palace and AyaSophia. For what was supposed to be a relaxing day we did a heap of walking.

    Sunday is the day we meet up with the tour group - 8 of us, all Aussie - 2 from Lismore, 3 from Melbourne and 1 from Adelaide. The hotel / guide surprised me with a birthday cake so that was nice. We walked down to the hippodrome and went into the Blue Mosque. That was a bit of a disappointment though because it is under renovation so had scaffolding etc. covering the beautiful tiled walls. Consequently we didn't take any photos and will have to use our pictures from when we visited several years ago. We did go into AyaSofya (the other Mosque nearby) and have a few pictures from there.

    Finished the day with a welcome dinner in a Greek Restaurant in Turkey overlooking the water - go figure!
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  • Day15

    Last day in Tel Aviv

    May 19 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Leaving Haifa we headed north to the Crusader town of Acre, known for its well preserved city walls and underground tunnels. Think Knights of the Templer and the guys in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

    Following the coast south we came to Caesarea, an ancient port with amphitheatre, mosaics and sculptures as well as the remains of a palace built by King Herod (he had a few around the country)

    Finally we arrived at Israel’s capital, Tel Aviv, where we spent a couple of hours exploring the Old Town area known as Jaffa. This ends our tour of Israel as we head to Turkey tomorrow (Friday) and have a couple of days to recharge our batteries before our next tour starts.
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