This European summer, I chose to travel over to the beautiful country of Turkey! There’s been a lot going on in the world as of late and I’m going to admit – I was a little nervous about heading over there.
From the absolute beginning of my 10 day ‘Amazing Turkey by Gulet‘ tour with Traveltalk, I quickly realised that what the media has fed me back in Australia has been completely blown out of proportion to the reality of Turkey life. Walking through bustling public squares, past market stalls and having conversations with the locals – I personally felt safer in this country than I did in countries that are more similar to back home.
Our tour began in a hotel that was right by the Hagia Sofia – close enough that from the restaurant balcony you could see the iconic rooftop dome! After a quick welcome meeting where we met our fellow travellers and our local leader, Yavuz, we bonded over a traditional meal of Gozleme and Turkish tea.
It came up in conversation, over dinner, that there is was amazing roof-top view of the entire city which makes for incredible sunrise photographs. It didn’t take a lot of convincing and the entire group was on board to wake up 4 am to add our own little bit of sight seeing before hopping on the bus for the day. To get to this photo spot we walked the main streets of Istanbul during early hours of the morning, weaved our way through questionable side-streets and paid a guy 60TL to take us up on his rooftop for the sunrise. Boy, was it worth it. Sitting on the rooftop watching the sleepy city wake up below the breathtaking spectrum of colours that blanketed the sky was an experience I’m never going to forget.
Hopping on the bus for our first travel day, we headed towards our first stop off – Gallipoli. This was a place I’ve long looked forward to seeing as it holds such an important place in history, especially so to us Australians. For those unaware – Gallipoli is along the coast of Turkey and it’s where the ANZAC soldiers fought the Turkish in World War I. We were given the opportunity to stop at locations including Lone Pine & Anzac Cove to pay our respects to the soldiers who fought so bravely on the land we were standing on. To walk amongst the remaining trenches that they worked tirelessly to build and to visit the many graveyards where the troops came to lay was an incredibly humbling and surreal experience to have and I’m thankful I had the chance to visit Gallipoli during my time in Turkey.
Any Brad Pitt fans in the building? If so, I’m sure you’ve seen the movie Troy and are familiar with the wooden horse and the ancient city of Troy. With an early start to the morning, we headed out to the ancient city of Troy and beat the swarm of the crowds that were due to visit that day. We walked amongst the excavated parts of the city and climbed inside a reconstructed wooden horse that stood in the museum courtyard. The original horse, of course, has been destroyed over time. Fun fact: The wooden horse used in the movie was donated to Turkey after filming as America didn’t have any use for it anymore and we had the chance to see it for ourselves!
Before heading towards the coast – we had our fair share of visits to ancient Greek cities and the architecture and ancient technology that was still standing from thousands of years ago absolutely took my breath away! Most of the buildings had fallen but thanks to conservation efforts – the front face of a library in Ephesus was restored to appear as it did when it was used by the Ephesians and it was so beautiful! How they managed to lift and move the tonnes of materials required is beyond me but I’m impressed.
After our time exploring Turkey by land, it was time to explore it by Gulet! A gulet is a boat small enough to sneak into those smaller beaches to anchor, yet big enough to be our home for 3 nights while sailing the Mediterranean coast. It was 3 full days of jumping off the boat, snorkelling the ancient ruins along the coasts of secluded islands and eating our body weight in handmade Turkish delicacies which were to die for! It was such a different way to adventure through Turkey and I highly HIGHLY recommend the sailing!
The three days sailing flew by and before I knew it, we were disembarking onto dry land. Meeting up with the coach we headed towards the picturesque Pamukkale which is well known for its natural forming hot springs and terraces which look a lot like ice or snow. They’re created by the calcium rich water flowing over natural rock formations and leaving deposits of the calcium behind on the rocks! The combination of the pale blue water against the backdrop of mountains and the sky is a sight to see and makes for some incredible photographs!
Cappadocia is a destination I’ve wanted to visit for years now and to see that it was on the Traveltalk itinerary made me so incredibly excited! I’d seen so many photos of the unique rock formations left behind by volcanic activity and the sheer amount of hot air balloons that fly at sunrise which quickly made this place a bucket-list goal for me. It was the longest travel day we had on our tour from Pamukkale to Cappadocia which summed up to roughly a total of 13 hours worth of driving!
Upon arrival to Cappadocia, we headed underground to one of the many underground cities in the region. The winding tunnels that linked up kitchens, bedrooms, churches etc made us feel like tiny ants scuttling under the earth! There was a lot of ducking and weaving through the narrow passageways that got the residents from A-B thousands of years ago and I definitely hit my head more than once.
3:40 am was the call time the next morning as we were about to embark on one of the most incredible experiences I’ve had to date – hot air ballooning over Cappadocia! Don’t get me wrong – I have hot air ballooned before, however, this one went above and beyond. Hopping into the basket with the 15 other people I’d met on this adventure through Turkey felt like a bitter sweet moment with it being the last time we were all together to experience this incredible country. Floating amongst the 90 other balloons taking flight and hovering over the top of the ever-changing landscape of Cappadocia, I realised that Turkey has won my heart in being one of my favourite countries I’ve ever had the privilege to visit and will be sure to be back!