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Cooler in Cappadocia

Turkey - Capadoccia

overcast 18 °C
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After last night's storm we had started to become a little paranoid. As we were flying into Kayseri airport, Chris asked if that was lightning he had seen outside. It was just the lights on the wing I replied - before looking out the window to find fork lightning! Going round and round in circles before eventually coming in to land, there were many more flashes and I just wanted to get on the ground sooner rather than later.

Having avoiding being hit, we arrived at the airport just minutes after another internal flight and so the tiny baggage hall was packed full of people. Eventually collecting our baggage after what felt like hours, we headed outside and met our transfer to Cappadocia.

Inside the hotel

Inside the hotel

An hour or so later and we made it to the hotel, where we were staying in a cave room built into the hills surrounding the small tourist town of Göreme. By now it was pitch black and so we took a quick walk around the corner to see night time views of the town lit up.

Nighttime views

Nighttime views

Originally we were supposed to arrive mid afternoon, but a few weeks ago our flight had been rescheduled, meaning we now only had one morning to explore the town. Therefore we got up early the following morning and headed up the hill again for views over the area.

Normally the sky would be full of hot air balloons, but unfortunately the weather was still not great, with risks of thunderstorms and so these had all been cancelled. It was also a lot colder than it had been elsewhere up until now, with us needing jackets all day long. In fact with a heatwave at home this weekend, it was actually hotter there! Nevertheless there were still nice views over the town, where we could see all the buildings built into the cliffs.

Views of the town

Views of the town

After heading back for breakfast before checking out of the hotel, we left the bags at the hotel and headed towards the Open Air Museum, where there were many churches carved into the rock. Upon arrival, even early in the morning it was full of tourists, and it was difficult to explore without people being in the way.

Open Air Museum

Open Air Museum

After an hour or so we had seen many of these amazing chapels, which from the inside looked like they had been constructed normally, rather than carved out from the rocks.

Inside one of the chapels

Inside one of the chapels

We then headed back into the town, which had now woken up and was full of many little souvenir shops. After buying a keyring, we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a last rest this holiday. The weather then perked up slightly and we enjoyed some final views of the town in the sun.

Göreme town

Göreme town

We were then picked up for our trip back to the airport and our final flights back to London via Istanbul Airport.

Although the holiday had been cut short by a week, we still had a nice break and got to explore new areas, as well as relax and spend time with friends, and would recommend it as somewhere interesting to visit.

Posted by kmmk17 11:13 Archived in Turkey Tagged churches hotel church cave plane turkey2019 Comments (0)

Coastal Comfort

Turkey - Antalya

semi-overcast 34 °C
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For the last few years we have had a relaxing holiday during September. However with the ongoing Brexit mess at home putting me off an EU bound trip at risk of cancelled connections, and having been invited to the wedding in Istanbul during this time anyway, we decided to have a big all encompassing holiday, visiting various different parts of Turkey, which would include a stop on the coast. So after doing a bit of research for the route we booked ourselves a nice hotel for a few days of relaxation in Antalya.

Having boarded a bus from Denizli, after four hours we arrived in Antalya which was noticeably more humid than anywhere else we'd been on this trip so far. After making our way from the bus station to the city centre, we walked past the Old City which we would explore again soon, before shortly arriving at our hotel for the next few days, which was shaped like a big pyramid.

The Hotel

The Hotel

Inside the lobby was also impressive, as the building narrowed as it got higher creating a pyramid effect.

Inside the lobby

Inside the lobby

We got the keys to our room and found we'd be upgrading to a suite with a sea view and huge balcony overlooking the Taurus Mountains on the other side of the bay. We had a sofa, a bath and shower, and even a walk in wardrobe.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

After settling in, we took a quick look around the hotel complex, before heading down the restaurant for our first dinner, choosing from the big variety of food on offer.

After a long day we settled in for the night and the following morning, awaking for the second day in a row with no stomach ache (the longest period in months), we headed down for breakfast before our first day getting to chill by the sea - finding it already a pleasant temperature even at first thing in the morning.

We started by getting a sun lounger by the outside pool, and were surprised to find that the pool itself was quite warm, even this early. After a few hours of dipping in and out of the pool, we headed down to the sea. The hotel itself was built on a cliff, and so didn't have a beach of it's own, but still had access to the sea via several staircases that wrapped around the hill.

Platform

Platform

Just above the access point to the sea was a platform full of sunbeds. After finding some to settle on, we headed down to the sea. It was slightly colder than the outside pool, and the sea was a little bit rough, with waves crashing against the rocks, so it wasn't the most enjoyable experience. I headed out for a swim and made my way to the floating platform the hotel had just off the shore.

After a while at the sea, we decided to head to the indoor pool, but when we arrived, found it was actually the coldest! Not enjoying the experience very much, after a quick go in the sauna, we headed back to the outdoor pool.

By now having spent all day in and out of the pool we decided to head back to the room for a shower and rest before dinner. However I made the mistake of holding my hunger for dinner, which caused me to feel shattered and too exhausted to really eat very much by the time dinner arrived. Heading back to the room afterwards I took an early night to try and get my energy back, and the next morning I felt more refreshed.

For our second full day we decided to explore some of the city, and took a short walk from the hotel to the Old City. We started off by walking through the park adjacent to the hotel towards the Hıdırlık Tower, one of the towers on the edge of the former city walls that is sometimes used as a lighthouse for the port.

Hıdırlık Tower

Hıdırlık Tower

We then continued our journey walking through the well kept streets of the Old City, past restaurants, bars and a few mosques.

The Yivliminare Mosque

The Yivliminare Mosque

We then arrived at the port, with many fancy boats offering tours of the area, before heading back up walking past shops and arriving the city centre.

Antalya Port

Antalya Port

We took a look around the Old Bazaar, before walking back towards the hotel, where we spent the rest of the day relaxing around the pool.

Our the following day (our last full day in Antalya) felt much different. Although technically warmer, it was much less humid, and slightly cloudy - from the balcony we could see the Taurus Mountains in their full glory, rather than being covered in humid haze.

Fancying seeing something new, we headed out of the city centre to see the Düden Falls - a waterfall that ends at the cliffs on the coast and tumbles straight into the sea.

Düden Falls

Düden Falls

After catching a bus back, we spent the afternoon around the hotel once again, before our last dinner. After this we took an evening walk into the old city to see Hadrian's Gate by night, the only remaining gate along the city walls.

Hadrian's Gate

Hadrian's Gate

The weather had been pretty good for us up until now, but it was suddenly about to change. As we were nodding off to sleep, we suddenly started to hear thunder. Taking a look a look outside our worst fears were confirmed - fork lightning in the bay that was headed our way, whilst we were in the tallest building around. Luckily we weren't hit, and it passed after around half an hour.

The following morning after breakfast we repacked our suitcases and left them at reception to spend a bit of time relaxing one last time. After a last few hours in the hotel we then made our way to the airport for our onward flight to our last destination in Turkey - Capadoccia.

Posted by kmmk17 06:15 Archived in Turkey Tagged waterfalls sea sun waterfall swim swimming relax turkey2019 Comments (1)

Pretty but Painful Pamukkale

Turkey - Pamukkale

sunny 24 °C
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After taking an internal flight from Istanbul we arrived at Denizli Airport for our transfer to Pamukkale. Pamukkale is an interesting village, thriving off tourism to it's two famous sites - the natural white travertine hillslopes caused by cooling salt water, which lead to ruins of an ancient spa city.

After an hour we arrived at our hotel, but by now it was already evening and so after a quick walk in the village to see it by night we settled in for the night.

We got up early the following morning to give us plenty of time to explore the sights, as we were only here one night. Heading down for breakfast, we were served a plethora of Turkish breakfast bites.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

As we were eating, a hot air balloon landed in the fields behind us, whilst we were being being surrounded by all the stray cats of the neighbourhood.

One of the stray cats

One of the stray cats

Not long later we checked out, leaving our suitcase at the hotel before heading towards the travertines. Whilst researching I had wondered whether being white, the ground would be burning hot after being in the sun. This was concerning, as all visitors need to walk on it barefeet to protect it from erosion - however no one had complained about it at all! After putting my feet on it, I was surprised however to find that it was not hot at all, but was in fact quite a painful experience - as parts of the white salt floor were quite sharp! And yet not one had mentioned this anywhere I had read!? I was expecting to have my feet burned or catch a verruca, not have my feet stabbed.

Entering the Travertines

Entering the Travertines

Being early it was still quite quiet, as a lot of visitors arrive on day trips from the resorts on the coast. This meant we were able to explore the pools without too many people in the way. It was an interesting experience as this is quite a unique attraction.

The reflective pools

The reflective pools

Arriving at the top there were beautiful views of Pamukkale village and salt water pools down the hill slope.

Pools down the hill slope

Pools down the hill slope

We were now able to put our shoes back on and let our feet recover a little, as we moved to start exploring the historic Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis. It wasn't the best of ancient cities, but it was certainly one of the more interesting given its setting.

We headed up to the amphitheatre, where there were views over the entire area, although as it was built into the hill it turned out to be harder work than expected.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

By now we had seen quite a lot, and yet it was not even 9:30am and so we were doing excellent for time. We headed back down towards the main thoroughfare and went in to see the hot pools.

The pool itself is quite unique as an earthquake in the 7th century caused a lot of the marble columns to fall into the pool itself which remain in situ to this day. Whilst this seemed really cool, it was somewhat impractical as you couldn't really see where they were as you moved around, causing you to knock your bare toes into them several times! Although sometimes they were useful to sit on!

The Pool

The Pool

After spending a little while in the pool feeling nice and relaxed we headed out and could already see just how busy it had become as there was now a queue back at the changing rooms. And as we headed back to the travertines it was difficult to get past all the people stood in the way whilst our feet were being stabbed again!

After getting back down to the bottom we headed back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our onward journey. We needed to get to the bus station in Denizli which was about a 15 minute drive away. Although having read there were buses, we hadn't seen one and with our suitcases in tow, we decided to just take a taxi and get there easier. After hailing one down we were on our way and upon arriving at the bus station and purchasing our tickets we boarded a bus headed for Antalya.

Posted by kmmk17 03:37 Archived in Turkey Tagged landscapes architecture water hill old pool roman spa relax turkey2019 Comments (1)

Eclectic Istanbul

Turkey - Istanbul

sunny 27 °C
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After a few short trips this year, this trip was to be our big holiday for the year. A mix of exploration, adventure, relaxation, sun and reunions. However the stomach ulcer and toothache that had plagued me all summer had another sting in their tail. Having worse pain than ever before just weeks before the holiday was due to start, I again visited the doctors and changed to a strict diet - hoping to be healed enough by the time the trip came around, but sadly it was not to be.

Despite everything having been organised, booked and sorted for the trip, just two days before we were due to leave we made the sad decision to cancel the first half of the holiday. We would no longer be visiting the Caucasus, hopefully being able to resurrect that part of the trip in the near future. Instead we would now fly directly to Istanbul, where we would be attending the wedding of two of my friends from my Erasmus experience in Germany back in 2012, and subsequently continuing the second half of the planned trip. I therefore cancelled all the bookings and rescheduled our trip, which would now begin a week later.

In hindsight this was the right decision to make, as sad as it felt at the time, and I still ended up having a sick day during this time which reiterated that I just wasn't able to have an adventure holiday right now. Having had an extra week to rest, recover and do the right things, by the time it came around to our rescheduled holiday I was much more ready for the trip.

Despite waking up still feeling a bit ill I was determined to just get on holiday and have a break from everything, so we headed down to Heathrow for our flight. And with it being a normal airline instead of our usual budget airlines we got the luxury of in-flight entertainment and food. After a four hour flight, we came in to land at Istanbul Airport just as the evening arrived. Although after all these hours, it was only now that my stomach pains had started easing - being on the go all day had probably not helped it to settle.

Istanbul Airport was new and had replaced the one that I had used on my last visit, but it was not yet fully connected to the city and so we still had to take a bus to get the hotel. By now it was getting pretty late and as we didn't want to wait an extra half hour, we rushed around trying to buy our transport cards and top them up as quickly as possible to make the next bus. Luckily we made it, and finally we were headed into the city.

Around an hour or so later we made it, and after a short walk with our suitcases up and down the subway passes we arrived at the hotel for our first night, which was also where most of the other wedding guests were to stay. Whilst checking in we bumped into my friend Daniel from Malta, and his partner José, who were also attending the wedding and would be exploring the city with us for the next few days.

After a well earned rest, the following morning we went down for breakfast, being joined by Daniel and José. Not long later, after heading back to the room to get ready for the day we left the hotel and headed into the city. With today being our only full day to explore, we decided to tackle the oldest part - the Historic Peninsular, south of the Golden Horn. Starting with the Grand Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest in the world. It was as to be expected, full of shops teaming with items for sale, as well as people everywhere. It was also something new for me, as I hadn't got to see this on my previous visits.

Inside the Grand Bazaar

Inside the Grand Bazaar

After a little wander around, we headed out of the complex walking past the Column of Constantine towards the real heart of the city - the Sultanahmet district. With it being Friday we knew the Blue Mosque wouldn't be open in the morning, and so after checking it's opening times we headed over towards the Hagia Sofia, viewing it from the park between the sights.

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia

After purchasing tickets for the Hagia Sofia, we headed around the museum, which was undergoing a bit of renovation, unfortunately lessening some of the impressive impact that would normally be encountered.

Inside the Hagia Sofia

Inside the Hagia Sofia

After exploring the lower and upper levels, we headed back out into the square, and with half an hour to wait, we decided to visit the Basilica Cistern. As we waited in the queue, we had some catch up conversations with Daniel, although it wasn't long before we entered the cistern.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

Unfortunately inside had been drained so we weren't treated to any reflections but it was still an impressive sight. By now, the Blue Mosque was almost open so we headed over and made our way in.

Entering the Blue Mosque

Entering the Blue Mosque

Unfortunately like the Hagia Sofia it was undergoing restoration, and so the enormity and beauty of the mosque wasn't able to be seen, but it was still a nice visit.

Entering the Topkapı Palace

Entering the Topkapı Palace

Still early afternoon we had time to also visit the Topkapı Palace, and so headed over to the northern end of the peninsular. Buying our tickets, we entered not long after and took a walk around the complex. After taking views over the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn, we entered some of the museum areas. However after a long day and still not being 100% we started to feel quite tired, and so left to grab food and head back to the hotel for a rest.

Views over the Bosphorus

Views over the Bosphorus

With Camilla and Onur checking into the hotel tonight, on the way back to the hotel I thought about how funny it would be if we saw them at reception as we walked in. By coincidence, as we reached the entrance there they were coming out of a taxi! Knowing that there wouldn't be a lot of opportunities to spend much time with them on this busy weekend, we said a quick hello and had a short catch up as they waited for their room to be ready.

With more of their other guests arriving, including some Swedes who I had met a few times previously, we headed back to the room to find that our keys no longer worked. After heading back down to reception via the ridiculously slow lifts, and the entire population of Turkey who have no idea how one works, we eventually managed to get a chilled few hours.

As most of the wedding guests were now at the hotel, during the evening a pre-wedding get together had been arranged at a local pub. We met Daniel and José in reception and headed down the road together. Finding the table, it wasn't long before we were joined by other wedding guests as well as the happy couple themselves. It was an enjoyable evening catching up with them but as ever it was over too soon!

The following day was the day of the wedding, although this wasn't starting until this evening. Therefore after breakfast we headed out once again with Daniel and José, this time for the Beyoğlu district on the north side of the Golden Horn. After taking the funicular down the hill, we arrived at the ferry port and took a boat over to the other side of the Bosphorus.

Ferry Across the Bosphorus

Ferry Across the Bosphorus

After a twenty minute trip, seeing the sights of the heart of Istanbul on the European side, we arrived in Asia. Although with time already catching up with us, and not much to see on this side, we walked back round the ferry port and boarded the same boat back to Europe. Asia had been stunning but 5 minutes was enough for now.

Upon arriving back in Europe, we started heading back to the hotel, saying goodbye to Daniel and José and walking up the hill past the Galata Tower.

Galata Tower

Galata Tower

This area was full of little tourist shops so we bought some postcards before walking back to the metro stop seeing the historic trams that run down the avenue towards Taksim Square. We then headed back to the hotel for a rest and afternoon nap to prepare us for the late wedding night to come.

Beyoğlu Trams

Beyoğlu Trams

After a good rest we then got ourselves ready for the wedding and headed down into reception to wait for the shuttle bus, where we caught up with some the wedding guests we were already getting to know quite well.

Not long later we boarded the bus and headed out of the city and into the woods to a lovely setting amongst the trees, which was where the wedding was being held. Upon arrival we were welcomed by the close family of the couple, and mingled with the other guests.

Wedding Venue

Wedding Venue

After waiting around for a while - the event was clearly being held in Turkish time, the happy couple emerged and walked towards the aisle hand in hand. After a very short ceremony in Turkish and English, which essentially consisted of them saying their names and the "I Dos", they were married, and we were led to the tables for a five course dinner.

Just Married!

Just Married!

We were sat together with the other Erasmus people, including our Turkish friend Merve, who I hadn't seen in 7 years, as well as a Turk who now lives in Germany who I didn't recognise, but had remembered me from the speech I gave on the last party night in Bremen back in July 2012. (I did later find a photo in which we had been photographed together, but that's hardly surprising considering the amount of people I met during that year!)

Dinner chats

Dinner chats

We had a fun time reminiscing on our shared experiences, and talking about the people we remembered, and sharing updates on how everyone was. As we had conversations, it was as if nothing had changed since the moment we had left. It was a really fun evening and showed yet again just how much of a unique experience Study Abroad is, as these were people we had spent up to just four months with and yet they were friends for life.

After eating dinner the married couple went round each table individually to say hello. Onur had studied in Bremen for the whole year, as I had, whilst Camilla had joined during the summer semester. Camilla was living in the same house as me, and one of their first meetings had been at a party I had thrown at our house the start of term, which Onur would himself move into a few months later. During the summer semester I was able to witness their relationship develop and so it was a real pleasure to be able to be here for thir wedding.

Photo with the happy couple

Photo with the happy couple

After some more chats on our table it was time for the traditional speeches and first dance, as well as a game of Mr & Mrs, which I now assume is a Scandinavian tradition, after seeing the same thing at a Danish Wedding.

After some Turkish music and dancing it hit midnight, and the older guests were heading home, whilst the younger guests were headed to the "After Party". This was a real change of scene, with more modern, western music.

After Party

After Party

The party was a lovely experience getting to spend some fun and slightly drunk times with friends, but as ever it was over too soon and before we knew it it had hit 3am. As we waited for the shuttle bus we chatted to the guests and happy couple for the last time recounting stories and reminiscing about our times together. We eventually got back to the hotel at about 4am, and said goodbye to everyone before getting a well earned sleep.

The following day was always planned as a write-off, and after waking in time for breakfast and seeing just a few of the wedding guests who had managed to wake from the night before, we headed back to bed for another few hours.

Waking at around lunchtime we spent the day lazing in the hotel, heading down to the swimming pool before heading out for some food at the local shopping centre. After three days of seeing everyone all the time it felt a bit strange not seeing anyone at all - but it was also refreshing just to relax.

The following morning after breakfast we checked out of the hotel and headed to Taksim Square, taking a look around our last sight in Istanbul.

Taksim Square

Taksim Square

Not long later we caught our bus to the other airport of the city, crossing the Bosphorus to the Asian side, from where we would catch a flight and continue our trip by exploring Anatolia.

Posted by kmmk17 13:26 Archived in Turkey Tagged architecture mosque wedding culture history city friends party drunk islam souq sickness erasmus turkey2019 Comments (1)

The Rest of Rome

Rome

sunny 37 °C
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After our first day exploring the Vatican City, the following day was spent at the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

Colosseum

Colosseum

Meeting up again with my aunt and cousin we entered the Colosseum taking a look round the huge complex before heading for gelato in the midday sun.

Inside the Colosseum

Inside the Colosseum

After grabbing a cool drink in a nearby restaurant, we then headed across the road from the Colosseum, and into the Roman Forum, where there were great views over the ruins of the heart of Roman government.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

After another hot day in the sun, we headed back to our hotel. The following day we decided to take easier. We got up later and headed north towards the Spanish Steps.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps


Sovereign Military Order of Malta

Sovereign Military Order of Malta

After walking down the steps we walked past the buildings of what remains of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, before another gelato in Piazza del Popolo. After a long day in the sun we headed up into the Borghese Gardens for a bit of shade, and views over the north of the city.

Overlooking Piazza del Popolo

Overlooking Piazza del Popolo

After heading back to the hotel for a few hours we then met up with my aunt and cousin who had gone on a wine tour, to have dinner on what also happened to be my cousin's birthday. We had a last catch up over pizza before saying goodbye to them both for the rest of their trip around Italy. We then headed to the Vatican quickly for night time views of St. Peter's Square, before heading back to the hotel for our last night in Rome.

Vatican by night

Vatican by night

Checking out of the hotel after breakfast we headed into the heart of Rome, starting off at the Quirinal Palace before walking down to the Trevi Fountain. This was the first time I'd got to see it, despite having been to the fountain before - as the previous time it had been covered in scaffolding. It was busy but truly stunning.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Walking past the Temple of Hadrian, we arrived at the Pantheon, which we also took a look around.

Pantheon

Pantheon

After cooling down inside, we made our way over the Piazza Navona for our last gelato, before crossing the River Tiber, taking in beautiful views of the Vatican.

Views of the Vatican

Views of the Vatican

Resting along the river bank with views of Castel Sant'Angelo the sun started to be masked by the clouds and there was also a bit of a breeze, giving us a bit of rest from the radiant heat.

Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant'Angelo

After a nice sit down, we headed back into the city, crossing the river and heading down to Piazza Venezia for views of the Altar of the Fatherland.

Altar of the Fatherland

Altar of the Fatherland

The last place we saw was the Trajan column, before walking back to our hotel, to rest and gradually get our bits together before our late flight home.

Trajan Column

Trajan Column

With temperatures over 35˚C every day, plus humidity making it more like the early 40s, it was quite a tiring holiday, despite having more than ample time to see everything! Nevertheless it was a good weekend seeing a very interesting city.

Posted by kmmk17 04:28 Archived in Italy Tagged ruins river city sun roman Comments (2)

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