Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Adieus Istanbul

Finally our wonderful trip came to an end and it was our last day in Turkey. Topkapi Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has to be on one’s check list before you leave Istanbul. So in the morning we left the hotel to tick this box. The palace is huge and is built on a hill right next to the sea. The palace also has a museum inside where all the original swords, cloaks, bone china, manuscript, jewelry etc are kept.

So we entered through the Gate of Salutation which connects to the courtyard and the rest of the palace. There are tons of things to see but hard to remember once you have left the place. The Iftar Kiosk was one of the places where the Sultans were believed to break their fast after Ramadan and is an ideal place to take picturesque photographs. Later we headed to see the panoramic view of the Marmara Sea. Another interesting pic that we took was that of a hollow tree which became a victim to fungus but is still standing tall till date.

It was already twilight and we headed straight for Blue Mosque to see the fancy fountain lights. We were pleasantly greeted with the brightly lit colourful lights. We took our pics with the lovely display and headed for dinner at this beautiful restaurant on the top floor of a building with the stunningly lit Blue Mosque as our backdrop. We had traditional Turkish food and relished every bit of it. This was a beautiful way to end our trip to Turkey and it was all the more memorable coz it was our first trip with Gagan and Shweta.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Izmir – Unreal landscape

So we boarded our flight from Cappadocia to Izmir. The main attraction of Izmir is undoubtedly Pamukkale. Everyone stays in Izmir the third largest city in Turkey but not us; we decided to stay in a small town around 1 hour from Izmir called Kusadasi. Major reason to stay in Kusadasi was that we were not able to get a hotel befitting our budget and requirement in Izmir. This in fact turned out to be a blessing in disguise and was the best decision for us.

The scenic beauty of Kusadasi was breath taking and our travel agent did not disappoint us a bit. This small coastal town has the sea hugging it on one end and the mountains embracing it on the other. To surge up our excitement we found out that our hotel was on a hillock overlooking the sea. So we dumped our luggage and went straight to soak ourselves into the sea. We reached back to the hotel right on time to witness an amazing panorama of the sunset from the dining area which was overlooking a small island in the middle of the sea. After dinner we just decided to call it a night and straight went to bed.

We got up early in the morning, dragged the sleeping kids for breakfast and waited for the honeymooning couple Gagan and Shweta. We were losing our patience when they graced us with their presence and decided to have breakfast while we were ready to run out the door. Anyhow we finally boarded our vehicle to take the journey of 2 and ½ hours to the World Heritage Site - Pamukkale. The landscape was absolutely unique and breathtaking. I have never seen or experienced a phenomenon like that. The ground is as white as snow and water as blue as sky. Pamukkale the name says is all. In Turkish language it means cotton castle which is a perfect description of the place. The place is covered by hot water springs, travertine’s and terraces of carbonate minerals. People come here and stay for long periods in the hope of healing themselves from the therapeutic minerals. Make sure that you carry an extra pair of clothes when you go there. Shoes are not allowed to protect the deposits.

When it was time for us to move out Aakaash suddenly realized that the lens cover of our new camera which was in his pocket fell out. It is practically impossible to find anything in the clayey sand below the water. After trying to sift through the mineral soil we gave up and decided to leave. However my 5 year old Aan kept going inch by inch trying to find it. It was an impossible task, quite akin to finding a needle in a hay stack. While we were out of the water and persuading Aan to abandon the search and join us; we suddenly saw a victorious smile on his face and out came the lens cover from his hands. He had finally found it and all of us cheered for him a lot. Soon after that we went to change to dry clothes but we just did not want to leave the fascinating place. However we had to continue our tour by visiting Hierapolis which means the sacred city in Turkish language. After the tour we headed back to Kusadasi and went on a stroll on the Beach Street.

The next day was full of sightseeing and loads of monuments to cover in our itinerary. We started with the House of Virgin Mary. It is believed that Mary had spent her last days in this house. The story goes that a nun had a vision and heard some voices which indicated that Virgin Mary moved to Ephesus and this nun had the full description of the place and wrote all this in her notes.  Later when people researched on it finally found the place and in the 18th century this place was declared as the House of Virgin Mary. There is a wishing wall where people write their names on a piece of fabric or paper. We did that and moved on our tour to Ephesus. 

We saw the Odion – a small theater, Prytaneion, Temple of Hadrian and the Temple of Artemis which is one of the Seven wonders of the Ancient World. The guide also took us to the Latriana – the public toilet with no partitions, the Ephesus Library, Marble Street and the Ephesus Theatre which is believed to originally accommodate 24000 people. We concluded our trip by visiting the Isa Bey Mosque which is one of the oldest mosques. So yes there was a lot of walking; a lot of history and culture to see and by the end of the tour we were simply just exhausted by the overload of information and heat.

This was our last evening in Kusadasi and we wanted to make the best of whatever time we had left, so we walked around the town, did a little bit of shopping and had the feel of this small but vibrant town. Next morning we were ready to head back to Istanbul to bid farewell to Turkey.