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Turkey


Officially the REPUBLIC OF TURKEY, Turkish TÜRKIYE CUMHURIYETI, country that occupies a unique geographic position, lying partly in Asia and partly in Europe. Through its history it has acted as both a barrier and a bridge between the two continents. 

Turkey is among the larger countries of the Middle East, in terms of territory and population, and its land area of 300,948 square miles (779,452 square kilometres) is greater than that of any European state. Nearly all of the country is in Asia, comprising the oblong peninsula of Asia Minor, known also as Anatolia (Anadolu). The remainder--Turkish Thrace (Trakya)--lies in the extreme southeastern part of Europe, a tiny remnant of an empire that once extended over much of the Balkans. 

Turkey is bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the northeast by Georgia and Armenia, on the east by Azerbaijan and Iran, on the southeast by Iraq and Syria, on the southwest and west by the Mediterranean Sea and the Aegean Sea, and on the northwest by Greece and Bulgaria. The capital is Ankara.


Maps courtesy of www.theodora.com/maps used with permission.


Rumour had it that there is a bus from Budapest to Istanbul for 90DEM. Too bad it's a 26h journey. The better method turned out to be to fly to Istanbul from Budapest and the cost was only $100US. A student card was required. Student flights to and from Istanbul are very very cheap. If you are deciding whether or not to buy tickets in advance it is really simple here. For example the price to Toronto from Istanbul was $330US one way. Others are also very cheap.
Anyway, we've been in and around Turkey for about a month. We've been on the West coast and some of the Central Anatolian regions. We were about 300km away from the last earthquake epicenter (in November) but didn't notice anything.


Turkey Information Links

The Turkey Holiday Guide - Has a lot of information on various parts of the country.
Focus on Turkey - Same type of site but prettier
The Turkey Traveller - Not bad info on specific cities
The Istanbul City Guide - Take a wild guess what this is about.
The Orient Hostel - Very popular hostel in Istanbul.
Karasu Green Hotel - also in Sultanhamet down the street from the Orient. Email them at: karasu@karasu.com.tr
Turkish Embassy Website in Washington DC - has lot's of information on culture, cities, history.


TRANSPORTATION

We'll be working with the local transportation as we go. Check the above guides for more info. We'll probably be going with buses between cities because they are supposedly faster and cheaper than trains.

We have taken at least 8 different bus lines around the country. Expect to pay about $3CDN for 100km of travel. You get hot (instant) coffee, tea, a snack cake, coke/pepsi/sprite or water for free.
For us the bus from Bursa to Izmir was the best and the company was Metro. In order from best to worst companies that we've found (and direction) are: Metro (Bursa-Izmir), Kon-tur (Konya - Goreme), Anka (Ankara-Eskesehir), Goreme (Goreme-Ankara), Kamil Koc (Selcuk-Denizli), Yesil Aksaray (Konya-Goreme), and the worst was Truva (Eskesehir-Bursa).
Metro was by far the best and Truva was definately the worst. The middle ones are all pretty good including Yesil Aksaray.
Once you are out you will probably end up taking many minibuses. THese are terrible. They go slow, are uncomfortable and you end up without all the frills the big companies give you.

If you are heading out of Istanbul and want to do an overnight trip to Goreme or Ankara go right ahead. Otherwise the best way is to go is by ferry to Yalova. It is one hour instead of a 3 hour trip along the coast of the sea of Marmara. The ferry port is on the European side of Istanbul very near Sultanahmet. The cost is a nominal 2.5mil TL at this time for students. Bursa is one hour from Yalova and there are buses waiting for the ferry. It cost us 1mil TL each. You can also get to Termal from Yalova. If you want to go elsewhere then you probably have to go through Bursa which has a huge bus terminal (but not as big as Ankara's or Izmir's).


Tourist Tips

Valuable Tip One

PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU ARE FLYING INTO ISTANBUL AND TAKING THE AIRPORT BUS INTO TOWN.
We have met three couples that have gotten scammed the same way as we have. Here is how it works. A man meets you where the bus drops you off. He will say he works for the bus line and he knows of a nice hotel. It sounds all fair and good because he offers the taxi fare to get there so it costs you nothing. As soon as he knows you are going to Sultanahmet he will take you to the Hotel Almina. You are not obliged to take a room there and if you do not want to you can go somewhere else. In that case you will have to pay for the taxi and give the man (who took you here) a tip. The prices will be posted on the hotel wall and when you here the price you will be happy that you got such a good deal. The rooms are fairly nice and you can get a decent breakfast there so it doesn't seem so bad. EXCEPT that the suburban train passes directly by the hotel and shakes the rooms. Also the call to prayer speaker is just about beside the hotel windows. So if you like to go without sleep by all means stay there. Your best bet is to just get in a taxi and tell them to take you to Sultanahmet or the Orient Hostel. There are plenty of places to stay right around the Orient so you don't REALLY have to go there.

Valuable Tip Two

When taking a taxi a common scam on tourists is for them to charge you the night time rate all day long. To check this, when he turns on the meter look for a light or something that says GECE. That means night and you are being ripped off. Point it out to get the proper rate. Night rates apply from 11pm to 6am.

Valuable Tip Three

(This happened to a friend). When walking down the street beware of any shoe polisher that asks for a light or a cigarette. He will take your lighter and not return it until you get a shine and then he will charge you a fortune. Its a simple scam but easy to avoid. Keep hold of your belongings. You can still be hospitible.

Turkey is comparatively lenient regarding the visiting of mosques--in many Muslim countries, non-Muslims are strictly forbidden to enter them at all. Most mosques in Turkey are open to the public during the day. Prayer sessions, called namaz, last 30 to 40 minutes and are observed five times daily. These times are based on the position of the sun, so they vary throughout the seasons but are generally around sunrise (between 5 and 7), at lunchtime (around noon or 1, when the sun is directly overhead), in the afternoon (around 3 or 4), at sunset (usually between 5 and 7), and at bedtime (at 9 or 10). During namaz, if quiet and still, non-Muslims are usually tolerated. Tourists should, however, avoid visiting mosques midday on Friday, when Muslims are required to congregate and worship.
For women, bare arms and legs are not acceptable inside a mosque. Men should avoid wearing shorts as well. Women should not enter a mosque without first covering their heads with a scarf, though some guardians will overlook it when a female tourist does not cover her head.
Before entering a mosque, shoes must be removed. There is usually an attendant, and shoes are generally safe. If you feel uncomfortable about leaving them you can always carry them in your backpack or handbag. It is considered offensive for a non-Muslim to sit down in a mosque (many tourists do sit down despite the signs requesting them not to). 
A small donation is usually requested for the upkeep of the mosque. TL 50,000-100,000 (approximately 50¢ to $1 U.S.) is appropriate. Some mosques heavily visited by tourists may also have a "shoekeeper," who will ask for a tip. You should not feel obliged to give him any money.


Hostels

There isn't much info on hostels. Other than the above link we'll be looking it up in Guide books over the summer and updating as we go along.

Other than the Almina Experience (tourist tip one) here are the places that we have stayed at.

Istanbul - A relatively decent place in the off-season is the Green Hotel in Sultanahmet (see link). It is right down the street from the Orient Youth Hostel, Star Hotel, Alp Guesthouse, etc. It is right by Aya Sofya and the owners are willing to haggle (remember, OFFSEASON!). The restaurant downstairs is also good and cheap. It has fully carpeted rooms, AC, WC and toilet, TV, terrace bar, and open buffet breakfast service. We paid 10.000.000 TL ($30CDN) per night for a big room with a double bed with private bath, breakfast and hot water. We also got a deal on laundry service (FOLDED AND DRIED AND BROUGHT UP TO YOU). THe attached restaurant is good and you get a 10% discount. You can put it all on the hotel bill at the end.

Bursa - Hotel Cesmeli. Located downtown it is a very clean and friendly place. THe bathroom was very good but the shower did not have a shower curtain. Double bed with single bed and TV, minibar, couch and excellent breakfast was 15.000.000TL ($45CDN) per night.

Selcuk - Hotel Nazar. A friendly and quiet place with a nice terrace. The rooms are clean and wood panelled and the owner (Osman) will meet you at the bus station in Izmir. You even get to meet his mother. THe bathrooms were clean but very small and once again without a shower curtain. The whole bathroom gets soaked. 7.000.000TL ($21CDN) for a double with Turkish breakfast.

Pamukkale - Hotel Turku. Family friends of Hotel Nazar. Pretty well the exact same thing as Nazar but with a pool (during the summer). The owner (Hasan) was even friendlier than Osman. We paid 5.000.000Tl ($15CDN) for the exact same room as at Nazar. The hotel is very near the travertines so getting there is no problem. Other hotels are a little farther and it can get pretty steep. THe roof terrace here had a nice view of them.

Fethiye - Ideal Pension. Well liked by everyone who stays there because it is very friendly. Quiet time from 11pm to 8:30am is very convenient because of the number of backpackers that stay there. THe roof terrace overlooks the bay and has a bar and sucks you in for hours on end. Free tea all day long and the owner (Sonner) is very friendly and will meet you at the bus station. Everyone seems to know him. (He likes Canadian whiskey.) Look at a few rooms because some are nicer than others. We paid 5.000.000TL ($15CDN) for a double with bath and balcony and breakfast.

Kas - Korsan Karakedi Hotel. Big bathroom with shower curtain but our toilet was a little problematic.Rooms are very clean and you can use the kitchen to cook yourself. They recently got a cute little scruffball of a puppy called Korsan (what else?). Very friendly and offered some of their dinner to us everynight but found them a little unprofessional compared to some of the other places. Also has a pool in the summer. The water pressure wasn't great. 4.000.000TL ($12CDN) for a double with bath and breakfast.

Konya - Hotel Sahin. On the main street. Big quiet rooms, BASIC english spoken. Fairly clean rooms with a hotel lounger bar. Kind of seedy at night and even during the day. Sarah saw a cockroach crawl over the cheese at breakfast. Make your own decision about eating here. A big double with a fantastic bathroom (bathtub!), shower curtain, hot hot hot water, water pressure, annoying toilet cost us 10.000.000TL ($30CDN) with breakfast.

Goreme - Kelebek Pension. A very good place very similar to the Ideal Pension in atmosphere. THe annoying thing is the trek up the hill to get there. Otherwise fantastic views, cave rooms, hot water, central heating, TV room with ENGLISH movies, and FABULOUS breakfasts (not included in price). 7.000.000TL ($21CDN) for the "honeymoon suite". An incredibly comfortable bed, soft pillows and beautiful quilt, small bathroom attached. Other rooms are cheaper but you may have to leave your room to get a shower and at night it is FREEZING!

Eskesehir - Otel Porsuk. Good place very similar to Hotel Cesmeli in Bursa. Cost was 10.000.000TL ($30CDN) including breakfast for a nice double with an excellent attached bathroom. THe floor will not get soaked no matter how much you try.


Carpets

There are hundreds of Carpet shops in Istanbul (more like 3000) and we've found a good one with very nice people and good prices. You can generally let them ship it for you unless you buy one in the Grand Bazaar (that is direct from a carpet salesman NOT trying to sell a carpet).

Anyway a good place we have found is on the north side of Aya Sofya on the tram line called CKM Carpet Warehouse. Ask for Jim and tell him the 2 Canadians sent you. We've already recommended him to a few people and he seems genuinly nice. He even bought us lunch. He also asks that you send a picture back to him of your carpet in your home. Ask to see his scrapbook. The official address is Alemdar Cad. No:6/C-D Sultanahmet tel. (0212) 522 51 63


November 14, 1999. KAS, KONYA, KAPADOKYA, TURKEY.

We have landed on the moon! Seriously though, Kapadokya must be the weirdest place on the face of the earth, no wonder they filmed part of Star Wars here. I guess I should start from way back in Kas, although there isn't much to write. Just another day of relaxing but we had a hotel with a kitchen we could use so we got to make some pasta. The bus ride to Kas was pretty frightening, I saw my life flash before my eyes several times. You go through winding roads that do 90 degree turns where the side of the road is a cliff straight down to the water. These turkish bus drivers don't really seem to mind that much though because they don't really slow down all that much! Kas is a really nice place, another small harbour town, and we just did lots of hiking around and cooking. After two nights there we decided to brave the full 10 hour bus journey to Konya which I believe is the third largest city in Turkey and VERY muslim. Almost all of the women wear head scarves and there were no tourists there that we could see, a very turkish town which was really neat. Besides the cockroach crawling on the breakfast the hotel was pretty good, it had an excellent shower which is something hard to find here! There is a great museum also that is still a very religious place and very interesting! We couldn't find internet there though so that's why it's been awhile. Before I move on to this wonderland we're in right now I must tell an amusing story. On the way out from Konya we ended up at the bus station three hours before the bus left so we went for a quick bite at a nearby restaurant. I was in my salad craving mood so that was what I wanted to order. On the menu was the beyin salad, Rocky in all his wisdom (and with the menu decoder in hand) told me that it was a big salad so I ordered it. Five minutes later a plate came to me with sliced tomatos on one side, grated lettuce on the other, and cold lamb brains in the middle. Ha! Ha! Everyone in the restaurant including Rocky thought this was amusing, I guess my face was priceless being presented with this meal. Not being that adventurous with food I sent it back and got my salad, Rocky is no longer allowed to be in charge of the menu decoder.

This takes us to Kapadokya (or Cappadocia whatever you prefer). This is the neatest place. It was all formed by volcanos and then eroded away so the landscape is all volcanic ash and very barren and rocky. Like I said before it feels like you're on a crater of the moon. Way back in the really olden days when there were lots of wars going on the people in the region carved homes, underground cities and hideouts to keep away from the enemies. So it is an excellent place for exploring and playing around. We are living in a pension at the top of a steep hill with a stunning view of the valleys. Our room is actually carved out of the rock (thank god they've turned on the heating though, it's pretty chilly here). We actually splurged the extra three dollars a night to stay in the honeymoon sweet which has the most comfortable mattress yet and big fluffy pillows along with a beautiful warm quilt, it is so nice and cozy. There is also great breakfasts, we actually had the most amazing french toast the other day (yes, french toast in Turkey, it just sounds wrong doesn't it?).

Anyways, our first day here we went to the open air museum which was an old monastary and is full of churches with beautiful frescoes all carved out of rock. It was neat but not overly exciting, once you've seen one, the other ten aren't that enthralling. So we left pretty early and walked down a beaten up path and ended up at some caves, homes and church rock formations that were free and there was noone else there (they're everywhere in this region but if you walk off the tourist path you can have a place to yourselves). We spent about an hour and a half just exploring tunnels and climbing the rocks, I think Rocky turned into a ten year old again at the rate he was climbing about, I needed some help. It was really neat and when we got to the top, all we could see was more of these rocks and caves and buildings, it was an eerie feeling, no people, no city. You just can't buy that kind of experience anywhere!

Today we went on a tour of the region which was just fabulous. We left in the morning and came back at night and I am absolutely exhausted! First we went to overlook a huge valley created by the volcano full of these weird eroded rock formation that were once homes to people. Then we went into an underground city and walked through winding tunnels, tight and dark spaces for about an hour. These cities were all carved out of the rock and were made to sustain 3000 people! It was full of food storage places, bedrooms, kitchens, lots of wine cellars (of course!) and was just absolutely fascinating. We peeked into the ventilation shaft that with a flashlight went down as far as you could see and up just as far. This was definetely not a place for people who don't like confined spaces but was so intriguing and fascinating how these people built these cities! After that we went to the Ihlara Valley which struck me as a small grand canyon, with a stream going through. Here we hiked for 3 km and did some off the path exploring into more dark tunnels and crevices, lots of uphill but I think I'm starting to get a little used to it. It was very beautiful and peaceful, we ran into very few people along the way. We also ate a fantastic turkish cuisine lunch after, and we were very hungry by then. Then we saw where some of Star Wars was made (remember the sand men in the third episode). It is a huge cliff with all the homes, churches etc. carved in and once again we did some serious uphill for a spectacular view from the top. I think I must of taken a zillion photos altogether. On the way back to the hostel we went to the valley of the fairy chimneys to watch the sunset. These must be one of the weirdest rock formations, they look like big giant penises coming out of the ground! NO KIDDING! It was a really beautiful view though as it's a large valley full of them and off in the distance you can see rose valley which is like a pink hued rock. Well, so far that's it. I think Rocky will be renting a mountain bike to boot around for a few hours and I'm going horseback riding tomorrow. It should be another great and awe inspiring day.

November 8, 1999. FETHIYE, TURKEY.

What an odd turn of events... Leaving Pammukkale for a 5 hour bus ride was delayed by a group of travellers who were being ripped off at the Hotel Mehmet (or something like that). So as a note, don't go there. Fethiye is on the Meditterrean Coast in a sheltered bay. We've spent 3 nights at the Ideal Pension although haven't done anything significant. The choice was between the Hotel Yacht Plaza or this place and price was not that different. Unfortunately the luxury place was a deserted wasteland, but phenomenal. The other place had character and at least some other people to talk to. (NO WE'RE NOT GETTING SICK OF EACH OTHER - but it's a nice change).

Rocky was getting annoyed typing so I get to say the rest (the letters are in weird places on these computers, especially punctuation and the i!). Anyways, we have really had a great time just relaxing and sitting on the terrace in the pension overlooking the harbour full of beautiful yachts and surrounded by mountains all around - it really is a tough life. We've also met some great people and lots of Canadians which was really fun. We spent our first night sitting with five Canadians, drinking beer, talking hockey and listening to the Tragically Hip. It was a great night. We did walk around and see the rock tombs here but that's really about it - the roof terrace really sucks you in for the long haul. There is supposedly a beautiful beach, a neat gorge for adventure and a deserted ghost town around here, but we were tired so we just took everyones word for it. Sometimes it's nice to do nothing. The Ideal Pension where we are staying is quite nice - a couple of fantastic Aussies helping out who we bugged for a day and the owner even got a birthday cake for one of the Canadians celebrating his special day away from home. A very friendly bunch, there is also a Turkish girl working there (who I must say has way too much energy in the morning) but we've had lots of fun teaching her how to swear in English (she's really trying to learn the language) and we got to learn a bunch of Turkish! I think she'll miss us a little - she has a thing for Canadians and keeps trying to get us to stay.

We are off to Kas today, another seaside place but even smaller than this one (which is pretty small) so I think we're in for more R&R - oh shucks!

November 4, 1999. PAMUKKALE, TURKEY.

Our adventures are really neverending and I think we picked the right places to visit (by the way there are 3 new updates so keep reading down after this one). Pamukkale is definetely a place to see. Driving there you pass cotton fields that look so pretty, plants wıth drops of snow at the ends (at least that is what it looks like!).Then you turn a corner and there is a giant white mountain in front of you that looks like pure ice, in fact it's not, it's calcium! We arrived at 2 p.m. so went for a bite and then straight to the park. Although it was beautiful we were a little grumpy because you have to take off your shoes and walk up - ouch! But it's all in the name of preservation of the landscape so we kept our grumbles to ourselves and did the painful hike, thank goodness it was only about 20 minutes or so! At the top is just a stunning view that cannot be descibed because it is so unique. It really looks like a mountain of ice with little pools and ripples made from the water. You have to keep reminding yourself that it isn't slippery, its rock! Also at the top are more ruins very different from Ephesus. It's called Hieropolis and is more scattered and rubble like with some beautiful pieces in tact every little while. Not the same but just as interesting and a little more adventurous feeling. We got some great photos (and lots of them and maybe when we get back we can scan some in to this website!). It really is impossible to describe what we've seen in the last few days and all I can say is that both of us are just loving Turkey. It has so much variety and things to see and we've only seen just a small part. We will be heading to the very south coast to see some small cities and then we will go to Cappadocia which is also supposed to be incredible - I think we could spend our whole 6 months here easily! We have a nice hotel here - owned by friends of the people we stayed with in Selcuk so we are happy well and will be going to sleep soon! Internet isn't that cheap here so we will be able to take more time for emails and things when we find some cheaper places!

November 2, 1999. IZMIR - SELCUK, TURKEY.

The plan was to go to Izmir for a day, but plans are meant to be broken right? First off taxi drivers outside of Istanbul are great, they rounded the fare down and never would take a tip! Buying our bus tickets I had 6 guys all yelling at me in Turkish to use their bus lines - it's pretty tight competition but we definetely chose the right one. We took a Metro bus to Izmir and the service was fabulous. There is a host walking back and forth to see if you want some spring water, coffee, tea, colas and at every stop they cleaned the bus etc. It was really a pleasant experience (we gave the hostess a Canada pin because she was really nice and talked to us for quite awhile). Once we got into Izmir we were trying to figure out how to get into town when we were accosted by a guy saying there was nothing to see in Izmir and we should go right to Selcuk, having heard that before we did and of course he had a place for us to stay. It was actually very nice so all was well and we decided to walk around (surprise! surprise!) and find a place to eat. We hadn't gone more than 3 minutes when a carpet guy came out and dragged us into his store, we thought we were going to be preyed upon for a sell but were pleasantly surprised. He actually took us in there to meet an American couple who were also staying at the same hotel as us (they both worked for the American military and were living in a base in Eastern Turkey for the past two years). They were very nice, they showed us a good place to eat and afterwards we went back and laughed for about 3 hours straight! One of the Turkish guys is married to a woman from New Zealand, so when he spoke English he had a Turkish-Kiwi accent - something that you just have to hear. He also broke the news to us that the All Blacks lost to France (which we didn't believe at first). We sat and drank beer and Raki with them until they could barely talk and we were very tired - all in all it was a fantastic evening and another side of the Turkish people that we were very lucky to see. They even offered us a ride to Ephesus in the morning (as our hotel had a shuttle but you have to go to a carpet shop on the way home - we took them up on their offer).

I can't stress enough how cool Ephesus was! I just fell in love with Turkey the moment we got there. Imagine walking amidst beautiful ruins, thousands of years old and being able to touch them and crawl around and play! It was so fabulous and just absolutely beautiful - the most fun we've had yet I think - something that everyone should experience at least once. It was indescribable and Rocky and I were like kids romping around! It took us about 2 hours to go through and we just couldn't stop talking about it. We took lots of photos so hopefully they turn out o.k. After we walked the 3 km back to Selcuk and went to a great museum that has many original artifacts taken from Ephesus. It was well done and there were some interesting pieces - being dirty Canadians we liked the God Bes piece best. He's a God of Fertility and his penis is as big as his whole body - we got a good laugh anyways! Then we sat on our terrace at the hotel and played backgammon over a few beers for a couple of hours and just had lots of fun relaxing (it was a pretty tiring day).

October 31, 1999. BURSA, TURKEY.

Well, we left Istanbul on a bad note. We took a cab to the ferry that was taking us to Yalova and he tried to rip us off. He had the fare on night time rates which are 50% more than the day rates - but, being the smart travellers that we are we caught him at it and got him to fix it before we left! Anyways, we took the ferry over and then a bus to Bursa. It really is a neat place - lots of hustle and bustle, but not the constant harrassment that we recieved in Istanbul. Our first night we did our usual, just walked around and got ourselves oriented and then planned our day for tomorrow. We got up and had a great breakfast at our hotel (we were staying at a pretty nice place for about a third of the usual cost) - we even ate grapefruits (the citrus here is excellent - we've been eating clementines like they're going out of style). We went to the tourism office to get ourselves a map of the city and went straight to the covered market, which was also neat and less hassling then we were used to. Didn't buy anything.....yet! Then we took a dolmus (like a minibus) up to the big mosques on a hill and walked down. There was a funeral going on in one of them so we decided best not to go in but the Green Mosque was excellent and on the way down we got to see lots of muslim tombs, some of them very beautiful (although in retrospect that does seem kind of morbid!).

After the tomb journey we went to a place that served Iskender kebaps (a specialty of the region) which is the kebap meat on pita bread covered in tomato sauce and browned butter - needless to say it didn't disappoint our ravishing appetites at the time! Then we headed off to the ironmongers market which was just fantastic, I'm still upset at the fact that I didn't get a picture of them at work. The ironmongers work in tiny shops all down little streets, it's a very colourful place with a unique atmosphere (and scent). It is a market where all the locals go to purchase items and I really wanted to buy stuff but it's pretty hard to ship big hunks of iron back home or carry them around.

After that we inevitably went back to the covered market and bought stuff. Rocky got a beautiful backgammon board, all hand made with mother of pearl (it is a very popular game in Turkey) and I bought a shadow puppet (they only make them in Bursa and they are made from camels hide coloured with oil so that they are translucent - I got a camel) and they even gave us a mini show in the store to demonstrate how they work. We went back to the hotel to rest a little and then headed out to a Turkish bath. Unfortunately I was hungry and really wanted a salad, the only place we could find one was at a four star hotel (with a great view) where I literally got a head of lettuce on a plate with lemon - it was still good though. Our first Turkish bath was a neat experience - they scrubbed so much dirt of me it was frightening and the massage was really relaxing. Unfortunately a girl went unconcious and that added to the no stress environment and so I left earlier than normal (things just aren't as enjoyable when medical emergencies are going on). It sounded like Rocky had a great time too, I think the mens side was much more beautiful and definetely bigger but also busier. It's neat to sit on warm marble! We went back home and played some backgammon - we must be getting older!

October 30, 1999. ISTANBUL, TURKEY.

We had some spare time today so thought we'd jump on to the internet again and give a quick update. I forgot an important part of our first day in Turkey, we went to explore Topkapi Palace. What an amazing place! We first visited the Harem, it's like a maze of extravagant rooms (4000 of them) and lots of interesting stories. In the Sultans bedroom there were two beds, one for sleeping and one for sitting....yah right! There were also lots of museum like places with treasury style stuff - lots of glitter, sparkle and oomph! There was a building of all religious artifacts which was fascinating, the cane of Moses, hairs and swords used by Mohammed (the big muslim prophet!).

Since the last update we've done lots of walking around (as usual) and are starting to get a little sick of shish kebaps! Only so many you can eat in a day before you're dying for a steak or something. We went to the waterfront to look at the Egyptian spice market, pungent smells everywhere and people selling everything from household appliances, brand name clothes, and even at times spices. On the waterfront there is the Pigeon Mosque which is just incredible to look at, in fact I haven't yet seen a mosque that isn't (except one we tried to look in today and some guy tried to charge us 500 000 Lira - forget that, I wonder where that money is going). We also went to the largest mosque in Istanbul, the Suleymaniye mosque. It was really fabulous and there were tombs of Sultans on the grounds. Rocky wants to add some history here, it was named after Sultan Suleyman the magnificent who was one of the greatest leaders in Islamic/Turkish history (bonus points for the history buff!).

We will be heading to the Asian side of Turkey tomorrow, to Bursa and onwards and hopefully will be trying out a turkish bath soon - I can't wait for that ultra clean feeling! Oh, and our new hotel is MUCH better!

October 28, 1999. ISTANBUL, TURKEY.

Well, we finally made it to Turkey and what an interesting time we've already had in two days. Our first place we found to stay we found out pretty quickly that our room was right beside the train tracks, with frequent trains. We'd already paid for two nights (they made us - I wonder why) but now we have moved on to what seems a much nicer place! We shall see, we haven't tried to sleep yet. It also takes a little getting used to the call to prayer at 6 am. Muslims pray at dawn, one, mid afternoon, dusk and in the evening. The call goes out over huge loud speakers all over the city. It used to be actual people doing the calling many years ago before technology "ruined" it but it's still really neat, and very beautiful sounding but for us non-Muslims not great so early in the morning.

So far in a day and a half we've seen Aya Sofia (just stunning, it has so many mosaics and huge domed ceilings like dominos one after the other), the Blue Mosque, which was just as beautiful but not as old or overwhelming - it is still used for prayer so you have to take off your shoes, be very quiet etc. We also went to the covered market where I got 4 pillowcases (turkish embroidery) for about $30, a silk headscarf (for mosques) for $3 and Rocky bought a nice vest for $4.50. The prices here aren't so bad. I also bought three carpets, one for me and one for my brother and sister on request - the carpet guy had me calling home (to Canada) to my poor sister who I think I woke up to see if she wanted one. It really is an awesome experience, we spent three hours in the shop chatting, drinking apple tea, he got us lunch and of course looking at beautiful carpets. If only I had more money, there really is good buys to be had. Well, we will be off to Bursa (or Izmir - not sure yet) and then to check out Epheseus. We will hopefully have another update or two before we head to Bali but these computer connections are pretty slow. NOTE TO FAMILY AND FRIENDS - Sorry noone got email (except a quickie to Lisa and Ken about their carpets) because for some reason I couldn't send any from my account right now - hopefully that problem will be fixed soon.

Happy Halloween Everyone!
 

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