TURKEY, UNEXPECTED JEWEL OF THE MIDDLE EAST
Flying into Istanbul on an August morning I was unprepared for what lay ahead. I anticipated conservatism laced with rigid cultural standards. Instead I found a country full of brilliant contradiction. Modern city malls compete with age old bazaars with cultural tolerance apparent in its existence.
Istanbul is a priority, effectively carved in two by the Bosphorus Sea as it makes its way north, Asia on its East, Europe on its west. Take in a cruise on the waterway viewing the spectacular palaces of old and summer residences lining its banks. Drift under the Galata bridge linking East with West and watch the fishermen haul in their catch. A stunning way to spend an afternoon or stay land locked and haggle over tea and spices in the Grand Bazaar, reverently wander around the Blue Mosque or head into the subterranean depths of the Basilica Cisterns. All within easy walking distance of each other I would highly recommend the experience of strolling cobbled streets and getting lost amongst the beautiful architecture of old. Istanbul is a city of surprises………..
Moving on from Istanbul will see you move through an assortment of landscapes and character. Gallipoli (or Gelibolu) with its relative recent history and offering connection to our ANZAC past, a sobering but essential experience for us all. Continue into the deeper history of Troy and the stories of Homer to Pergamun's amphitheatre before stopping at Ephesus and its breathtakingly preserved ruins. Marble streets still beautifully intact walk you through the city before ending in a shopping haven of market and craft. Ephesus is a restoration work in progress, take the time to visit the area's normally off limits. The Mediteranean Coast is punctuated by modern port cities such as Kusa Dasi linking Turkey to its closest Greek neighbors, Samos and Rhodes to tourist towns like Fetiye and Marmaris. Jump aboard a Gulet and cruise the Med coast to Kas over a few days viewing sunken cities on route.
Saving the best for last, Cappadoccia will astonish you with a lunar landscape and houses hewn from rock. The large open air cave museum still boasts preserved Byzantine frescos dating back to 900AD. A relaxed ancient town with the regular call to prayer acting as an aural base lulling the senses.
Turkey is a fun, vibrant, tolerant country that invites all into her heart. When planning a trip take time to talk to the experts and
to other travellers that have been. It is a country of diversity and unparalleled hospitality. The smiles are wide, the laughter infectious but unlike the Trevi fountain in Rome no coins need be exchanged for the promise of return.