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  • The day began with a brisk stroll over hill to Kusadasi - one cruise ship in port today from Silver Seas. As a consequence the prices in the shops went up and changed to Euros. Turkish Lira much better for Kiwis as it's two lira to one NZ dollar.

    Spent a couple of hours on the beach after lunch, the water is crystal clear and calm like a lake. Plus it's warm so perfect conditions to relax. The temperature over the past week has ranged from 24 to 27, which is a bit warmer than usual apparently.

    We then went to collect the leather pants that Janine had tailor made by George Best Leather. Omg they are fantastic. Fit perfectly and quality leather. All for the price of a good meal out in Rotorua. While the transaction was taking place - Georgie spotted an opening for another goal and presented a couple of jackets for Gary to look at. Enjoy the photos of us in our new leathers. (George Best Leather was really a Turk, who was the spitting image of the real thing, but without the problems).

    Then Gary decided he needed a haircut so was keeping an eye open for a hairdresser. While walking along the shop owners always call out some thing friendly to attract your attention, and low and behold, a group of 3 at a side walk table said hello, do you want a haircut? How did they know? Well, Gary thought the hairdresser would be the woman inside the shop working while the others (men) sat outside drinking tea. No, it was one of the men, so naturally he thought it would be the younger of the trio, but no it was the oldest, scruffist, fat one! Too late, so off into the Turkish barbers with some trepidation. Well the haircut was fine but he nearly lept out of his seat when the barber produced two large cotton buds covered in hot pink wax. These were inserted up the nostrils, allowed to dry, and without warning ripped out. Next came the blow torch which was applied to the ears! This is similair to the method used by pig hunters to remove unwanted hair from the cacus of the pig. Gary could hardly contain the mix of laughter and pain. A new experience that he will share with Chris his Rotorua hairdresser, who is always looking for new ideas.

    Shopping here is notorious for its genuine fakes industry. You can buy any brand you want for a few dollars, clothing, shoes, watches, bags, you name it they copy it. It has got to the point where if you wear the real thing everybody just thinks it's a fake anyway. Some of the fakes are fairly good. Hence the photo of the shoe shop today, all sorts of sports brands, and shoes galore, so no Phil, my new Prada slip ons and IWC are the real thing.

    I like their aproach to things in this part of the world. Would you rather have Search and Rescue, or Rescue and Search? I kind of like the notion of being rescued before the search even begins.

    Sitting on the balcony now watching the sun set over the Agean. Such stunning part of the world.
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  • All good here, blast in Ankara is a long way from here, both physically and politically. Besides, we're off to Cappadocia tomorrow.
    Some pics though:
    Went up to the top floor bar tonight, should have done so earlier. Staggering views all the way to Asia (about 2km away), much of this huge city is on the Asian side. Just like the North Shore really, but there are multiple bridges and tunnels to take you across, not to mention the ferry boats. At any one time you can look out and count at least 10 ferries crossing, and at peak time 20 or so. Farouk our guide over the first days said they shift over 1.5 million people a day. Honest!
    Having Turkish coffee under the Galata Bridge, there are people above fishing off the street level, so occasionally you see a freshly caught fish being hauled up. ( that is not a fish in this shot, either that or there is a lot of lead pollution in the waters).
    We were walking back from the Spice Market, which is actually more interesting than the Grand Bazaar now. Bought some interesting nibbles, apricots stuffed with walnuts, figs with more nuts and dates with even more nuts. All delicious, more so with a glass of Turkish wine.
    And lastly, some of the fish on the menu at the cafe we stopped at for coffee. Customers poke and prod the days catch to decide what they'll have, and select by weight. We stuck with the coffee.

    We have discovered that Janine's cell phone camera has a broken lens making shots dull. Hence the general lack of photos to date. Yesterday however I managed to download all 1400 photos off my camera into Google drive, and can now share these with our followers (and believers).

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  • Just returned from an amazing day exploring the ruins at Ephesus. Sitting watching the sunset over 'Ladies Beach' - and really like this place. Interestingly they only have one tide per day and the difference between high tide and low tide is only 40 centimetres so they don't need to move the deck chairs on the beach!

    Ephesus was fabulous made even more special by the guide we had. Just two of us and this highly educated and intelligent guide - Kemir, who enlightened us with history from Christianity, Paganism and other political parties. As usual he was gentle, funny, happy and smart. That has been common amongst the guides during this trip. No ad libbing here. Also a common comment from these mostly Muslim guides is that their main concern is the uneducated and ignorant people being influenced by extremists. Think we all share that concern.

    A couple of 1st world problems we've experienced are lack of hot water ( lucky it's warm weather), and trying to buy wine. Alcohol is heavily taxed in Turkey, and also being about 90% Muslim - very few Turks seem to drink. As a consequence the wine for sale is placed randomly on the shop shelves with reds and whites all mixed up. So it's quite a puzzle working out what to buy. However they actually make some very good wine. And the figs are absolutely delicious. So juicy and sweet. Gorging on them!

    Well thats the important stuff written so will leave Gary to write the historical stuff!

    1. Outside the library
    2.. Gates leading to something important
    3. Road leading down to the port with shops on each side to keep the women happy
    4. The loos where the men sat around conducting their business - including doing merchant deals. Sometimes they sent their slave to warm the marble seat before they sat down!
    5. Photo of handmade clay pipes from around 3rd century BC. Pic especially for Tony
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  • Got here late afternoon, 2 hours before sunset. Sunset is very colourful here, the hills light up in shades of reds and yellows. Kate Rose may remember this, as there is a valley here called the Rose Valley for the colours of the earth. We'll see it tomorrow I think while on a tour. From what we have seen, this is a completely unique town and region. Oddly, on landing and making the drive from the airport to Goreme, the country side was very similar to Central Otago, dry rocky tussock land, minus the gypsies. There is even a town nearby called Gore but without the rolling r.

    Photo one and two are of our digs for the next 3 nights, quite literally. 3 is the entrance tonight all lit up on arriving back from a nice meze in town.
    Next of a rock formation right in town, could have been the mayor's office in days gone by, and 5, Janine and I off to evening beers.
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  • Today we did the day tour, only to discover you need several day tours, and in doing those, you would find even more to see. Amazing place geographically and historically. The original Silk Road passed through here.

    "Now, be my guest", - there are over 1 million of these rock formations in the region. If you think Richie says "you know" rather too often, our tour guide today dropped in "be my guest" once for every rock outcrop in Cappadocia. Translated, I think it meant 'listen up, I'm about to tell you something that you may find hard to believe, so you can take it or leave it if you want - be my guest.'

    Cappadocia was an important refuge for Christians from 3rd Century onwards who found safety in the caves they cut out of the soft rock. Goreme (the town we're in, and the closest to the Christian cave churches) means the 'hidden ones' in Roman - it may have actually meant the hidden ones with closed eyes according to the Oracle, which would make sense if you mostly lived in a dark cave.

    Some of these caves are actual churches which are adorned with painted walls, some of them are relatively new (only 800 years old) while other less colourful creations predate that considerably.

    These churches formed the basis of a monastary, and were still in use to some extent until 1924, when the Turks swapped their Greek Christians living in Turkey for Turkish Muslims living in Greece. (Confused?) A township nearby once populated by Christians (Greek Orthodox) has Greek architecture in the older parts of town, while the newer part is clearly Turkish.

    Had a tour of a carpet place today but walked out rather than flew out via magic carpet. Interesting all the same, they even use NZ Merino in some carpets. Even saw silk being spun from the cacoon .

    Yesterday we flew Turkish Airlines out of Istanbul to Cappadocia. They are emerging as a very big airline with nearly 300 planes flying to more countries than any other airline. They already have 2 airports in Istanbul, but need a much bigger one which is nearly completed. They certainly love building infrastructure here. It's like the new silk road passes through once again. However, we had to contain ourselves when we were offered Turkey sandwiches for the in flight lunch.
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  • 17 million inhabitants, plus 2 more tonight. Staggering drive into the city. This place makes the Balkin countries look very 3rd world indeed. It is no wonder they are looking over their shoulders at the re-emergence of a new Turkish economic powerhouse as the Ottomans once were.

    Long day on the road driving down from Bulgaria. But the sheer size and modernism of the city as you enter its distant out skirts is staggering. More about this later.

    Reasonably close inspection at the border, first you get checked-out of Europe as you leave Bulgaria, and then drive 500 metres across no-man's land to Turkish border control. Everyone else on our bus needed a visa, with the Canadians for example having to prepay CN$48 per person while we paid nothing. NZ is the only county they allow in free?

    Both worn out, but finished our dinner with coffee and baklava at Mustafa's - opened in 1864.
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  • As I said, this is a game of 2 halves, the down river trip, before turning into the wind for the second half in London. So here we are, half time whistle has gone and we are now in residence at Ladies Beach in Kusadasi Turkey. Looking out onto the Agean Sea and out towards the Greek Island of Samos, just a short boat ride away.

    But one last coment on Cappadocia, very special place, amazing in every way. We had to catch a shuttle at 7 this morning, and again didn't expect the balloons to be up as the conditions over the past 2 days were not good for hot air travel. I had to pop up to the upper deck of the hotel where the office was, and as I climbed the stairs there they were, balloons for Africa. I stopped counting balloons when I got to 100 balloons (not a typo) and more kept appearing over the ridges.
    Surreal.Now I know what Kate R was raving about when she said it left her speechless - not many things could do that.

    Pics today, number 3 is early leaving Cappadocia taken on cell phone out the window of a van. No.1 a well earned Peroni (what a find) empty by now watching the sun set over Samos. Also 5.
    View from the balcony in 2, view from seat 5A TL 2007 out of Istanbul today - you have to see it to firstly appreciate the shear size of this city, and secondly how well developed it is.

    Oh, and last but not least Janine having desert tonight, yes she shared them
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  • A day and night here. Off to see the city sights now...

    Caught the BigBus hop on/off and saw some city sights. Crossed the Bosphorus strait (?) which runs through Istanbul and separates the two continents it's built on ... Asia and Europe. Toured Hagia Sophia museum, which was a church from Byzantine era, now a museum. Mosaics inside amazing. It's the 3rd rebuild and many of the original ruins are visible. Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) the mosaics and decor is fabulous. Shoes off head covering on, this is a functional Mosque and closed for prayers an hour after we went through. Minarets everywhere ... 3000 mosques nearly 2000 churches, synagogues - seems the various religions exist peacefully together here.

    Huge city 20 million population, housing and buildings as far as the eye could see. Modern, old and ancient...of particular note the remains of the old sea wall all the way round the waterfront.

    Everything is "$$ normal price, for you I reduce it to $$" seems bargaining is a much loved game by the locals. We probably paid too much for everything. .. ah well, kiwis not so practiced at the art eh.
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  • After arriving at the hotel and checking in, the group headed to the hotel dining room for much needed food... The unfortunate part was that it tasted like it was ready three hours before, which was when we were expected - communication and subsequent adjustment could have done wonders. Oh well, maybe next time.

    A few of us went out after dinner to a lounge around the corner... I ordered raki (traditional Turkish digestif that's like Ouzo, but significantly more potent, as I discovered) and a highball glass full arrived, accompanied by a bottle of water. This was much more than I expected, so it went around the table for all to try this Turkish "treasure". After the trials were completed and there barely a dent in the glass, the proprietor came by and explained that you ship the raki and then take a sip of the water - we all tried that and it did help with the harshness, but by the end of the night, we still hasn't finished it. You've got to know when to fold 'em...

    I also tried sheesha (flavoured tobacco from a hooka). I tried each of the three flavours (grape and cherry, grape and orange, and apple and mint) that the table ordered throughout the night... I wouldn't describe it as bad, but it's not good and definitely not for me. Now I know. The other thing was that it turned into a very late night!

    Our full day in Turkey started with breakfast at the hotel followed by a walking tour around the oldest part of town. Then, my highlight of Turkey... A Turkish shave and haircut! Most of the guys of the group (most had bears or some level of scruff) stopped shaving about a week before, in preparation. The "Turkish shave" is really just a straight razor shave, but I've never had one before and it was fantastic to have one performed by such a professional! That was definitely an experience I would seek out again! The haircut was needed and I already love those, but the next two pieces were new and interesting, to say the least: wax applied to ears and nose, as well as threading. The customers being served while we waited both had it done, so maybe that's just part of the regular experience. There was a language barrier, but i think , while the nose wax was to remove pore impurities, while the ear waxing and threading goal was to remove stray hairs and/or peach fuzz. He applied the got wax very liberally with a massive tongue depresser-type wooden stick and started threading while the wax dried. I'd heard of threading before, but never really understood how it worked: thread is wrapped around fingers and hands, and twisted, then some rhythmic motion pulls hairs out... Magic! By the time that was completed, the wax was dry and could be peeled off - this was done rather aggressively, but it wasn't painful. The overall results: an pretty short haircut (good, especially for the hot, hot weather) and smooth skin! Success!!

    Next up was the Turkish bath experience: essentially a wet sauna, body scrub, and massage. You start of in a large, hot room by laying on warm marble slabs in a towel, which is quite relaxing. But then "aggressive" is the descriptor that dominates the rest of the experience. The scrub removes dead skin, which is great, but they want to continually show you how good a job they're doing, so I kept having to open my eyes, which disturbed my experience and caused me to almost lose a contact lens. Then the real fun began - the massage - a Turkish man brutalizes you for 30 minutes. We left with bruises, and I left with a knot in my left shoulder that was so mad that I could hardly turn my head and it took 4 days to improve. Needless to say, the Turkish bath was not a positive experience.

    We then went to check out the Grand Bazaar and have some lunch. The Bazaar is definitely grand, but my opinion would categorize it in the same manner as the Athens markets (Manny's vendors selling the same junk), except on a much bigger scale!

    Our last so of the day was the Blue Mosque... Surprising to me, it wasn't blue from the exterior, but rather the interior is decorated with thousands of blue tiles. It was free to enter and appropriate cover-up garments were provided to all. We arrived just after the mosque re-opened for viewing after lunchtime prayers. The wait time was minimal and the inside was quite beautiful.

    After getting cleaned up at the hotel, the group went for our official Turkish dinner and a show... Food was was mediocre, plus I want feeling particularly well, but the show was great fun! Historic cultural dancers, belly dancers, and a singer. He went through the entire audience to learn where people were from and then sang a song linked in some way to their country from memory... Oh Canada!
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  • Today we thought we'd take it easy so walked through the back streets down to the Dolmabahce summer palace of the Sultans. The opulence was out of this world. The rooms were highly decorated with French furniture, English crystal chandeliers and art from the masters. Plus it was a beautiful location on the edge of the water. We had to queue to get in as usual but the cruises ships left yesterday so much shorter waiting time.

    We have observed some interesting scams that the shoe shine guys try to engage you with. They walk past you and they somehow make their brush fall off their kit. You instinctively want to pick it up ( but we'd been warned so knew not to). When unsuspecting tourists do pick it up, they offer a free shoe shine. That's when you get ripped off. Also yesterday at the Spice market we heard this screaming that went on and on and on. It's what the gypsies do when they are being arrested for pickpocketing. As you can see from the photo - the local police are very obliging to tourists. We couldn't believe it when he was happy to pose for a quick pic.

    The second photo is of a lovely tower that reminded Gary so much of the famous water tower in Invercargill. Some minor differences, one is red brick with a large rusting tub of water on top.
    Janine under the Galata Tower, us and random outside Sultans Palace (the one he was using right up until the time of being exiled to France, which he liked anyway.) It is imposible (nearly) to get a shot without a random. We will be in millions of selfies being viewed in China right now, so much so that they will be going, "I see dem in votovua"
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