Word depressing me.com

Seems in this hi-tech era nothing is ever as simple as you’re led to believe it’s going to be.

WordPress has a simple process to move posts between blog sites, apparently.

I did as I was instructed and the first dozen or so posts are best described as a mash-up.

The older posts seemed to have moved over in tact so it looks like I’ll have a bit of editing to do. I did say it was going to be a work in progress but I had hoped for more progress and less work!


a work in progress

I’m consolidating my posts from our last few trips so there will some changes to my blog. There will be some new content but the first order of business is to consolidate all the posts onto one site.
Having a new site for each trip seemed like a good idea at the time but as I learn more about blogging particularly from other blogs that I follow it wasn’t the smartest way to organise my content.
I am looking at learning about self hosted sites but that’s a whole new level so consolidation to wordpress.com is the goal!

§  Europe and the UK – 2013
§  East Coast USA & the UK – 2015
§  Outback Queensland and New South Wales – 2017
§  Turkey and Europe – 2018

Will all have a new home soon!
Also, please stay in touch for posts about future travel to:
§  Darwin, Kakadu, Rum Jungle, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon and Uluru
§  China to Russia by rail and Iceland and the Northern lights

It’s all about the people, places, planes, trains and auto mobiles.

Ephesus, Aphrodisias, Pamukkale

23 and 24 July

After arriving at Izmir airport we were a little delayed leaving as my tripod got bundled in with the other odd shaped luggage and came out last, along with the umpteen prams. Tripod recovered we were met by our new guide Faisoullah and headed off to the house of the Virgin Mary. Very little of the original house remains but it has been rebuilt and the faithful can pay their respects. There is a small outside chapel where services are still held.

Just below her house is a spring  with cool drinking water and nearby there is also what I can only describe as a wishing wall. Thousands of prayers and requests for the Virgin to consider and grant….or not. Some people obviously thought that if they bundled up their prayer in a pretty bag it stood a better chance of being granted. Saint John was supposed to have taken her here after the death of Jesus to see out the rest of her life. The Catholic Church hasn’t officially accepted the discovery but several Popes have visited the site over the years.

A short drive away is the Basilica of Saint John. It was constructed over the reputed burial site of St John by the Emperor Justinian I who was a defender of the Christian faith and a great restorer.

As with the Virgin Mary’s house here’s not much of the original building left to see but the burial site is marked and we learnt a little bit about the changing designs of the cross into the form we know today. It had to be hidden as for many years the practice of Christianity was forbidden. The walk-in Baptistry was a highlight.

Just next to the remains of the basilica is the Isa Bey Mosque built 1374-75 it is still in use today. It was just a quick visit but as with most mosques we had seen it had an air of peace about it and a pleasant walled garden to escape the 41c heat!

Time for a late lunch which we took near the grotto of the Seven Sleepers at a delightfully named place called Askerin Yeri Piknik Restaurant. This loosely translates as the Soldiers Picnic Restaurant.

Faisoullah arranged lunch and asked if we were hungry? Hungry is clearly relative to the local culture and after 5 dishes came out we had to call a halt to proceedings. The food was locally sourced and delicious as has pretty much all the food that we have a had in Turkey. The ladies in the image are making Gozleme a Turkish pizza, sort of. We badly needed to get walking again after lunch!

Be careful what you wish for…..next stop Ephesus. First we stopped at the museum to see what had been recovered from the site then we moved to the site itself.

The site is simply spectacular. Probably best known for the Library, Theatre and the temple of Artemis (Diana). There has been a city on this site since 600 BC and there are Greek and Roman ruin to be seen everywhere. Unfortunately at the time of day we were there the sun was high and not the ideal time for photography so the images aren’t the best.

One of the things we enjoyed the most was that the ruins weren’t just a single temple and Faisoullah was able to explain a lot about daily life as we walked around the site. The public toilets and the footprint pointing the way to the brothel were just some of the indicators of day to day life. The little hole next to the footprint showed how much money you needed to be entertained!.

The final stop for the day were the travertine pools at Pamukkale. Cleopatra was supposed to have bathed here. They are very popular as you can see below. The top image is the way most people see them, the image below is taken from the lakeshore behind the small island in the top image. I thought they’d be in danger of being loved to death but our guide said they are well managed and still growing.

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Pools at Pamukkale

More Cappadocia

21-22 July

Started this morning with an energetic 4Km hike through the Red or Rose Valley thatwe saw from the balloon yesterday, Mustafa explained the geology of the area. In simple terms two major volcanoes erupted over thousands of years. The build up of ash then lava in alternating bands allowed the fantastic shapes to form. It was a warm and dusty walk but glad we did it and glad we did it first thing in the morning! A freshly squeezed orange juice at a roadside shack in the middle of nowhere in particular never tasted so good.

En route to our next major stop we visited this view. It was quite spectacular in its own right when our driver told us he’d been born in the caves in the rock tower! The mountain in the background was one of the two that had erupted over the millennia helping to create the landscape.


Next stop was Kaymakli which is an underground city that the Hittites first constructed and has been expanded by people living in the area up to the Ottoman period. It’s huge. 8 Levels capable of housing an estimated 3500 people. Only the top 4 levels are open to the
public. This accounts for about 10% of the total size of the complex. The Kaymakli
area was a crossing point for invading armies from the west and the east. It was never the target as such but a place the armies passed through. The inhabitants needed somewhere to hide so they went underground.

The occupants produced wine and ground flour to make bread in areas specifically excavated for the purpose. They also dug wells which gave them the ability to remain hidden for weeks as the armies passed through. Unfortunately for modern tourists the Hittites were quite small people so the caves and tunnels do get a bit squeezy in places! A visit is definitely not for the claustrophobic.

I used to religiously take an image or two of the hotels that we stayed at in our travels.After a few trips and a couple of years I realised I hadn’t really made use of the images so I stopped recording every room and hotel and just took images of the standouts. The MDC Cave Hotel at Urgup is one of those exceptions.

It’s not a true cave although part of the room is hewn from the rock part of it is constructed from more traditional block work. That aside it’s definitely one of the more interesting rooms that we have stayed in. Firstly it’s three separate rooms and two balconies. Secondly the bathroom is pretty much all marble. Thirdly it has its own in built Turkish hammam including a heated marble slab. The pictures can explain.

We’re leaving for Izmir in the morning to continue our Turkish travels.


21 and 22 July 2018

Ürgüp (Cappadocia)

Cappadocia is actually a state-like region not an individual city. If you looked at a map of Turkey it takes up the entire centre of the country.

After arriving the previous night, 2 hours late into Kayseri the airport for Cappadocia we had an early start for our balloon flight. A 04:00 pick up from the hotel. The flight was excellent but it was the combination of the 150 balloons in the air at the same time and the scenery that really made it. Balloons are aerostats which means they travel at the same speed as the prevailing wind. You don’t get a sense of movement because there’s no wind in your face just a sense of floating.

We were dropped back at the hotel in time for an 07:30 breakfast having had the traditional post balloon flight celebration of champagne and strawberries and birthday cake (special occasion for one of the guests.) The tradition of drinking champagne after a hot air balloon flight is supposed to have started when, in order to stop the farmers from destroying the balloon and harming them, the brothers Montgolfier supposedly promised each of them a fine bottle of champagne.

Our guide Mustafa, turned up at 09:00 and we started the first of a couple of days of local touring. When I made these arrangements it didn’t occur to me that we would have our own driver and guide. I had assumed that it would be private transfers and accommodation but that we’d be touring with others (seat in coach). But so far, for all of our touring in Turkey we’ve had a driver, guide and minibus all to ourselves! Makes for a much more personal experience.

Göreme – Open Air Museum

This was our first exploration of the history and iconic cave dwellings that are the reasons most people come to the Cappadocia region, below is some text I copied from the museum website.

It contains the finest of the rock-cut churches, with beautiful frescoes (wall paintings) whose colors still retain all their original freshness. It also presents unique examples of rock hewn architecture and fresco technique. The Goreme Open Air Museum has been a member of UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984, and was one of the first two UNESCO sites in Turkey.

The area covered by this Open Air Museum forms a coherent geographical entity and represents historical unity. There are eleven refectories within the Museum, with rock-cut churches tables and benches. Each is associated with a church. Most of the churches in Goreme Open Air Museum belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries. https://www.goreme.com/goreme-open-air-museum.php

The Hittites were the first to settle here but the underground churches  were the results of Christians escaping persecution.

The private residence we visited was once owned by the current occupant’s family, about 5 or 6 generations. In the 1950’s – 1970’s the government decided to evict all the people who were living in the caves at the time as the caves were declared unsafe. I suspect it was more about wanting to create the open air museum as the owners were allowed to lease the caves back providing they ran a small tourist related enterprise. So in this cave you can get a tea and some souvenirs. I love the satellite dish on the side.

Chez Galip

After lunch in Avanos we crossed back over the Kizilirmak river to visit a  Blog-DSC_7744

‘world famous’ potter, but to be fair the tour company did say visits to factories for some shopping would be included. Although it sounded like the beginning of a sales pitch it turns out he is actually very well known and a lot of prestigious galleries around the world have examples of his work. After a quick potting demonstration and an apple tea, aka “Tourist Tea”, and to demonstrate how tough his pottery is Galip got Chris to stand on a jug, it didn’t shatter and she was rewarded with a small signed piece. W were then shown past the mass produced goods to an area of original pieces by Master Galip Korukcu. I’ve never been a great fan of pottery but some of these pieces were truly spectacular and unsurprisingly well out of our budget. We did settle on a more modest purchase but didn’t buy it on the day instead sleeping on it overnight so the images you see below are over two days.

More of Cappadocia awaits us tomorrow.


Up, up and away….

Saturday, 22 July 2018

I’m going to let the images do the talking for the first part of this day’s blog. Not sure I have the words to describe the experience. Flying in a balloon is one thing but doing it in this location is something else again. I’ll make some comments in the images, you just need to roll your mouse pointer over them to reveal the text. So….enjoy!

Cappadocia region, Turkey

Not quite the last day

Friday, 20 July 2018.

We are leaving Istanbul for a few days and heading south west towards the Syrian border. Well, we’re not actually anywhere near it I just wanted to say it somewhere in my blog. We’re actually going to Cappadocia and then flying to Izmir and Kusadasi before a short road trip the Denzili for our return flight to Istanbul. But more about all that later.

Our guide for these last few days has been Delik and there’s nothing like having a local to show you around and she’s managed to get a good balance of history, local highlights and food into our days. This morning it’s off to the tomb of Süleyman the Magnificent, the Chora church, Pierre Loti Hill, a quick cruise on the Golden Horn,   the Spice Markets, and an old bank.

Süleyman the Magnificent (Süleyman I) or the Lawgiver (in Turkish  Kanuni)

Ruled the Ottoman Empire 1522 – 1566. Married a slave from what today we know as Russia. Died in battle in Hungary. The way Delik told the story it sounded like a TV soap plot to me. Apparently it did to someone else as well and his life was made into a series called the Magnificent Century (Netflix?). Prior to this series the tome of his wife which is right next to his own tomb was not that popular with visitors to the mosque but after the series aired her popularity increased dramatically. The reason for this trip was not soley the tombs but also to visit the magnificent mosque built by Süleyman’s architect, Sinan. and is credited with having built, 79 mosques, 34 palaces, 33 public baths, 19 tombs, 55 schools, 16 poorhouses, 7 madrasahs (religious schools), and 12 caravansaries, in addition to granaries, fountains, aqueducts, and hospitals.

Chora Church museum

Chora (Kariye) church was built in about 536 during the reign of emperor Justinian I but it got badly damaged in the Iconoclastic period (726-842). It’s been restored and expanded a number of times during it’s history. As with many other Christian churches in Constantinople it was converted to a mosque in 1511 and finally a museum in 1945.

There are beautiful mosaics and frescoes of the Byzantine Empire in the museum depicting the lives of the Virgin Marry and Jesus. As with churches in England many of the people who attended were illiterate so the main stories of the bible are told in picture form.

Pierre Loti Hill

Never heard of Pierre Lofti? No, neither had we until we travelled to Istanbul but that’s the whole point of travelling isn’t it? French naval officer turned novelist one of his better known works was Madame Chrysanthème  written as an autobiographical journal of a naval officer who was temporarily married to a Japanese woman while he was stationed in Nagasaki. It closely follows the journal he kept of his summer 1885 affair with Kiku (Chrysanthemum). Some parts of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly are based on the story.

The view from of the Golden Horn from the top of the hill named after him is quite relaxing. The coffee shop is where he is reported to have sipped his turkish coffee changed it’s name in his honour.

Golden Horn cruise

Not so much a cruise as a way of getting from one place to another. We caught a public ferry into Istanbul where we crossed under the Galata bridge on our way to the Spice Markets. For me the most interesting points of the cruise were a privately owned public transport museum including a WW II submarine and a beautiful cast iron “portable” church.

St. Stefan Church is a Bulgarian Orthodox church famous for being made of cast iron. The parts were manufactured in Vienna and transported via the Danube River to Bulgaria and through the Black Sea to Constantinople. The Church was inaugurated in 1898 replacing an older wooden church that opened in 1849.

The Egyptian Bazaar (Spice Bazaar)

Opened in 1664 the bazaar was the center for spice trade in Istanbul, the last few years have seen the traditional spice shops replaced by other types. The building itself is part of the New Mosque (1660’s) complex. Originally the revenues obtained from the rented shops were used for the mosque’s upkeep.

Although it’s much smaller and less chaotic than the Grand Bazaar but no less colorful.

The İşbank bank museum

This wasn’t on the itinerary but we had some spare time before out transfer to the airport so Delik asked if we were interested in a quick visit after lunch.

İşbank (more formally Türkiye İş Bankası) was founded in 1924 and was the first to be established in Republican era. One of the founders of the museum was Mustafa Kemal Ataturk the founder of Turkish Republic.

The image on the left is of the old safety deposit boxes. People who held them were contacted when the bank closed in 2004 and asked to clear them. For what ever reason some weren’t cleared and what is on display was found in the box when it was opened. Looking at these boxes was a strangely moving experience. I wondered why people valued these items so much that they placed them in a bank and then hadn’t collected them or told their families of the existence of a safety box and it’s contents?

The right hand image is nowhere as romantic as the first. It’s a picture of a light display in a corridor between two parts of the bank museum.

Airport transfer time and we’re heading to Cappadocia!


Old Istanbul

Old Istanbul contains most of the places that were used to film James Bond’s “Skyfall” or “The World is Not Enough” or Liam Neeson in “Taken 2” or “Hitman” with Timothy Olyphant.

Our hotel was in the Sultanahmet part of Istanbul and most of what we say today we got the by foot. Follows is the list of place we visited in order:

  • Topkapi Palace
  • The Basilica Cistern
  • The Milion Stone
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Sultanahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque )
  • The Grand Bazaar

All these sites have their own web page and the historical data can be accessed quite readily if you have an interest so this entry will contain some of my images of each place and anything unusual that out guide Delik shared with us.

Topkapi Palace

Built between 1460 and 1478 it was replaced by the Dolmabache Palace when that opened in 1856 but Topkapi remained a ceremonial palace. The Holy Relics bought to Istanbul by the Emperor Constatine bought to Istanbul are still on display.  The staff of Moses is on display. No photos allowed unfortunately.

The Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici)

Close to the Hagia Sophia this underground chamber is approximately 138 x 65m – about 9,800 square meters capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water. The ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns. The majority of the columns have been recycled from the ruins of older buildings brought to Constantinople from various parts of the empire.

The Milion Stone

Was originally a more substantial monument erected in the early 4th century AD in Constantinople. It was the Byzantine zero-mile marker, the starting-place for the measurement of distances for all the roads leading to the cities of the Byzantine Empire. It was rediscovered during excavations in the 1960’s. Think of it as another version of the saying “All roads lead to Rome…”

All roads lead to Constantinople….

Hagia Sophia

Constructed between 532 and 537 AD it was an Eastern Orthodox cathedral (Christian) until 1453 except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted by the Crusaders into a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 1453 until 1931. It was then opened as a museum in 1935. It was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years.
If you look closely in the last image you can see outlines of the crosses that originally decorated the door.

Sultanahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque )

It was constructed between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I and contains his tomb. 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles cover the mosque’s interior walls.  The Mosque has five main domes, and six minarets and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.

Being a functioning mosque there are some simple rules to follow when entering. You must be dressed appropriately. Shoes must be removed and you are provided with plastic bags to carry them during your visit. Sorry plastic bag police in Queensland they are all single use. Women need to cover their hair. Men should have knees and arms covered. Consequently I got to wear a particularly fetching blue skirt. There is no photographic evidence that this actually happened though.

The Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops. Somewhere between 250,000 and 400,000 people visit it daily. Not to mention the 30,000 people who work there!

Tomorrow is our final day in Istanbul before we fly south east to Cappadocia.

The “sick man of Europe”

The Ottoman empire began in 1453 with a successful military campaign by Mehmed II who took Constantinople by bringing warships overland on greased rails. This act bypassed the barriers to Constantinople harbour and he was able to launch his warships into the Bosporus river inlet known as the Golden Horn. The Ottoman’s then began to reclaim large parts of the former Byzantine empire.

By 1800 the rest of Europe was caught up in the Industrial revolution. The Ottomans didn’t keep pace with the new technologies and furthermore new trade routes to and from Europe had opened. As it sat squarely at the cross roads of Asia/Europe trade, trade revenues were the biggest source of funds for the Ottoman Empire and with new trade routes opening that bypassed Constantinople the empire’s funding was threatened. The two factors combined, old technology and falling revenue saw the empire decline until in 1853 Tsar Nicholas I christened it “The Sick Man of Europe”. It must have been a catchy phrase because most countries in Europe have been labelled with that tag at sometime in their history!

Early in the 20th century, the Balkan Wars, World War I and the Greco-Turkish War wiped out the remains of the Ottoman Empire. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne formally established the Republic of Turkey, which moved its capital to Ankara. Old Constantinople, long known informally as Istanbul, officially adopted the name in 1930.

Prior to its collapse things were crook in Constantinople. So what do you do to cheer up the peasants who are doing it tough. Well obviously you build a palace, or in the case of the Ottomans a number of palaces. This was where we started today’s travels around Istanbul – the Dolmabache Palace. It took 13 years to construct from 1843 – 1856. 14 tons of gold were used in its decoration and it’s home to the largest crystal chandelier in the world a gift to the sultan from Queen Victoria.

Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos inside the palace so I’ve borrowed a couple to give you an idea of the extravagance.

After the palace we walked to a nearby pier and took a very relaxing cruise on the Bosporus. It’s a very busy river with a mix of large container vessels, tourist craft and ferries. Here’s a little of the cruise.


A with most large cities riverfront land is at a premium and there was plenty of wealth on display down by the water front as the 5 houses and forest clearly showed in the little video.

We got driven to the centre of Istanbul, Taksim Square. The Monument of the Republic is there. It commemorates the fifth anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, following the Turkish War of Independence and features revolutionary leaders such as Atatürk and İsmet İnönü. Apart from that there’s not much there but it is the beginning of Istiklal Street one of the main shopping streets in the city. There are lots o famous brands ot be found here and it’s favourite venue of people from Saudi Arabia if the number of women in full black niquab is any guide.

We stopped for lunch about half way down the street here :

Suitably reinvigorated by a Turkish Meze plate it was off to finish Istiklal Street!

That’s it for today. Tomorrow we are walking through Old Istanbul, I’ll leave you with one more image of the Sultan Ahmet Camii (only tourists refer to it as the Blue Mosque)


Truva, Troya or Troy?

Woke up to the sound of the faithful being called to prayer. It’s just something you have to get used to especially in the larger cities where there are many mosques. So 4:37 it was. As I was awake anyway I went down to the docks for some early morning photography.

This morning we were collected and driven to Troy about 30 Kms from Cannakale where we overnighted. Our guide for the morning’s visit to Troy was the very entrepreneurial Uren. He was born within 500m of the site and he and his family run a pension, camp ground and general store. As well as these businesses he has being guiding for 35 years. He was very personable and we had a very educational couple of hours with him.

The site is about 30 acres but only a comparatively small section has been excavated. Homer’s Illiad tells the story of the last phase of the Trojan War, and how Paris, a prince of Troy abducted the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus the brother of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. The rest as they say is history.

According to Uren there is a lot of speculation among scholars that the real reason for the Trojan War was the incredible wealth that Troy had built because of it’s proximity to the sea. It wasn’t until the 1st Century AD that sailors learned the secret of sailing into the wind. Prior to then they had to wait at the entrance to the Dardenelles and wait for the winds to start blowing in the direction they want to travel. While they were waiting for favourable winds they had to eat, buy provisions for their ships and entertain themselves as only sailors know how! This is how Troy amassed its wealth.

Troy has existed on the site we visited since 3,500 BC before being abandoned in around 500 AD. The different periods in its existence are referred to as Troy I through to Troy IX. You can read more about the site and the history of Troy here Trojan History.

Troy was eventually abandoned and e ruins covered over by dust and sand. For more than a millennia people assumed the Troy had only existed in the legends of Homer. The discovery of Troy in 1871 is usually attributed to a German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann. He was not the first to look for Troy but he was the one who found it and a sizable treasure. The damage he caused to the site during his search are the reason archeologists today view him as a vandal rather than a scientist. There is more about him at the site I have linked above.

After lunch we swapped drivers and returned to Istanbul. Traffic was horrendous and we managed to survive one tyre squealing near miss, but again, all part of the experience. Some quick snaps on the way home.

We decided to grab a coffee and share a dessert and time for one more image from the rooftop restaurant at our hotel.

Sultan Ahmet Camii – The Blue Mosque