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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.

Tips

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

Off to see the Wrestling

Lithuania & Belarus - Vilnius & Minsk

semi-overcast 27 °C
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After 8 months without any foreign trips, it was finally time for this year's to begin. The first being a trip to Lithuania and Belarus.

We began with an early start to get to Luton Airport for our flight just before 8. Annoyingly however as we waited to board our flight, our aircraft was given to the delayed Warsaw passengers and instead we had to wait two hours for a new aircraft to be flown over to us. This wasn't helped by the fact every morning I'd had terrible stomach pains from a virus I still wasn't over.

Two failed boardings later we eventually made it onto the aircraft. As with my previous flight to Vilnius, I was once again delayed and ended up having to change plans for the day.

Vilnius Town Hall

Vilnius Town Hall

We no longer had all afternoon to explore Vilnius, and instead only a few hours for a quick wander. It also meant that we didn't get chance to visit the KGB museum as this would be closed on our only other opportunity this weekend. A real pity.

Gates of Dawn

Gates of Dawn

The following day - our only full one on this short weekend trip - we made our way to Belarus to watch the wrestling!
I had wanted to visit Belarus for some time, with it being a blank on my map. However normally visas are required (unless flying in and out of Minsk Airport, which has no cheap flights). Meanwhile there are tonnes of convenient cheap flights to Vilnius, just across the border.

Back in 2014 Belarus had temporarily removed their visa requirements for the World Ice Hockey Championships. But as this was right at the time I got my new job I therefore didn't know whether I'd have the time or money to go, and so had missed the opportunity.

This time things were different. Belarus were hosting the European Games, and by purchasing a ticket for £4.60, the whole visa process was unnecessary. We were free and could have a cheap and easy holiday. Looking at the dates we could go and the events that were on so that it would look convincing, the best option was to visit Belarus on Sunday 30th, when the finals of the Wrestling were on for just two hours during the middle of the day. Did I know anything or care about wrestling? No. But it could be fun anyway!

After going through passport control we boarded our train with our breakfast in tow, ready for our two and a half hour train ride to Minsk. After around 45 minutes we reached the border, and Belorussian military-looking border officials boarded inspecting everyone's passports. We gave them our European Games tickets which they inspected, and accepted and not long after we were back on our way through the Belorussian countryside.

Eventually after a slightly rough train ride (which didn't help my stomach) we made it to sunny Minsk. We had several hours to explore the city before the Wrestling began - which we decided we should watch just in case we were checked on the way home.

After changing €40 into Belorussian Roubles, we headed into the city - beginning at the Gates of Minsk opposite the station, two Stalinist towers marking the entrance to the centre of Minsk.

Gates of Minsk

Gates of Minsk

[We then headed over towards Independence Square, home of the parliament and the city's iconic Roman Catholic church, where there were lots of flags and banners for both the European Games and the upcoming 30th anniversary of Belorussian independence.

Independence Square

Independence Square


Victory Square

Victory Square

After then taking the metro across the city towards Victory Square, dedicated to Minsk's time through the Second World War, we then headed down Independence Avenue towards the Palace of the Republic.

Having seen much of the city's Stalinist architecture, we were now headed into the old part of the city, which had more of a feel of Poland and Lithuania.

The Orthodox Cathedral

The Orthodox Cathedral

Stopping off for souvenirs by the town hall, we then walked past the city's Orthodox Cathedral, towards the Opera and Ballet Theatre.

Opera Theatre

Opera Theatre


Trinity District

Trinity District

Beside the beautifully meandering river, with it's parkland banks is the oldest part of the city, the Trinity District, with small old winding streets and houses that have mostly been converted into shops and restaurants. On the opposite side of the river is the Sports Palace where we were headed to for the Wrestling, as well as an open air fan zone with local entertainment, food, souvenirs and photoshoots with the Fox mascot - Lesik.

Local Entertainment

Local Entertainment

By now we were on track and the event was starting in just half an hour, so we entered the Arena and found our seats watching the build up before the event itself started. I had no idea what was going on, but nevertheless the chance to enjoy an international event, and mix up the long day in the city was actually pretty enjoyable.

Inside the Wrestling

Inside the Wrestling

Thomas Bach awarding the medalists

Thomas Bach awarding the medalists

After the event ended, we walked past Thomas Bach, head of the Olympics, who was attneding the event also, and headed out of the city towards Victory Park, where there is a more modern and grand monument to the city following it's awarding as "Hero City" following it's occupation during the Second World War.

Victory Park

Victory Park

The parkland beside the river was a pleasant place to spend time cooling down from the heat of the summer sunshine, and we walked further north towards the Palace of Independence, Expo Centre and Flag Square.

Palace of Independence

Palace of Independence

After a lot of walking we decided to take the bus back into the city. However despite my best efforts we still could not work out how to buy a ticket! Apparently we could buy one from the driver, but as he was in the front compartment we didn't pass him to buy one. After then abandoning the first bus ride we hovered around thinking whether to walk (but ruled out as being too far and too hot), or ride illegally (it was only 4 stops). Maybe we could just hop on and off the next few stops so we wouldn't be arrested! I mean we had the money anyway - maybe could we play at being stupid foreigners?

And then we saw it, a different bus passed by, and someone reached into the hatch and bought tickets from the driver! So there we were, let's take the next bus and ride properly. However when we got on it was packed and we couldn't reach the driver. Debating whether to get off at the next stop and board a quieter bus or push our way through, we arrived at the next stop when a local woman boarded and pushed her way through. We followed her and then managed to buy our own tickets! What a stressful experience!

Not long later we arrived back in the city centre. After buying some souvenirs we then headed back towards the station to grab some snacks and have dinner. After a long hot day of sightseeing we were ready to go home. Changing our money back and getting €35 returned, we waited for the train to turn up and board back to Lithuania. Three hours later we were finally back from our busy, but interesting day trip to Belarus.

It was a surprising experience, I had few visions of this generally forgotten part of Europe, and had expected it to be a tragic dump, but actually it was very beautiful, clean and green, and I would really recommend it to anyone who can be bothered to go through the process of getting a visa!

Posted by kmmk17 03:58 Archived in Belarus Tagged park airport river sport city old plane border sickness lithuaniabelarus Comments (2)

Sectarian Saturday

Ireland - Derry & Belfast

semi-overcast 20 °C
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After the first day of exploring the northern coast, today we spent the morning looking around Derry itself before making our way to Belfast.

After a well earned sleep, we had breakfast in our B&B before we headed into the city. Parking up beside the River Foyle, we then began our walk around the city, heading first up the hill towards the City Walls. As we made our way, we entered the only unionist area on this side of the river - the Fountain estate. This was unlike anywhere I'd ever seen. Not only Union Jacks flying, but the kerbs were painted in Red, White and Blue, and there were several political murals.

Fountain Estate

Fountain Estate


Derry Walls

Derry Walls

Walking just a bit further up, we walked through a gate and headed onto the walls themselves. These are some of the only intact city walls never to have been breached in the world. As we walked around the walls clockwise, we soon saw the fence separating the Fountain estate from the rest of the city. Not too much later we had a great view over the Bogside area - the main nationalist area of the city.

Bogside

Bogside


Free Derry

Free Derry

We then took a walk down into Bogside, past an Irish cross, before arriving at the Free Derry sign, a remnant of the three year autonomous area formed in the early 1970s. We took a walk around the area, past the many murals commemorating the Troubles, including those of Bloody Sunday, as well as more recent signs about interned community members and anti-Brexit/pro-unification messages.

Bogside

Bogside


Peace Flame

Peace Flame

We then headed back up the hill to the walled city, buying some souvenirs, before heading towards the peace flame and the Peace Bridge over the Foyle. Having now seen all the sights in the small city, we stopped by the local shopping centre before heading back to our car to head back to Belfast.

Peace Bridge

Peace Bridge

We dropped the car back off at the airport, before getting on a bus bound for Belfast, which after around half an hour arrived in the centre of the city. After grabbing our two day transport tickets, we got on a bus bound for the west of the city, where we would see the Peace Lines.

Peace Lines

Peace Lines

These lines are some of the worst examples of the sectarian violence in the city during the Troubles - a big metal fence separating the unionist and nationalist communities. We headed to Bombay Street, on the nationalist side, where the fence sits just metres from the back of houses, which have glass barricades over to prevent any damage from any objects thrown over the fence. This grim reality however almost seemed lost on a generally happy atmosphere walking through the area.

We then headed back and took the bus to the Titanic Museum - a museum celebrating the brilliant engineering achievements of the city that resulted in a ship it built sinking on it's maiden voyage! Nevertheless it was a very good museum, even if it was a bit overpriced, with lots of information and examples of what the ship was like.

Titanic Museum

Titanic Museum

By now it was already getting late, so we headed to a pub for dinner, before finally making it to our hotel on the outskirts of the city.

The following morning we headed back to the city, seeing a steam train pull through the local train station before we made our way to Stormont - the parliament buildings of the Northern Ireland assembly. This grand building sits imposingly on a hill over a grand park on the outskirts of the city, with an avenue leading from the road.

Stormont

Stormont

We waked up part of the road before heading back to the city, and took a wander around before our onward travel, stopping off at some of the shops, the docklands around the River Lagan, and taking a look inside the City Hall.

City Hall

City Hall

Inside City Hall

Inside City Hall

We then headed to the bus station for our onward travel over the border to Dublin.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:02 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged park city ireland old border Comments (0)

Tallinn

Baltic Tour - Tallinn

overcast 15 °C
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After a day in Riga, the next morning we woke and boarded our four hour coach that would take us to Tallinn by early afternoon.

City Walls

City Walls

Once we arrived at our hostel, we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening walking around the centre of Tallinn seeing the sights like the Town Hall and the city walls. The centre itself is very small, which was great as we had a very short amount of time in the city.

Town Hall Square

Town Hall Square

After seeing buildings many centuries old, our last sight was the "Linnahall", a Soviet built concert hall on the edge of the sea. Once you climb up the steps on top of the building, you get a great view of the Gulf of Tallinn and can see all the ships leaving the country.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Estonia Tagged history city old baltic Comments (0)

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