Turkey, Greece and Belgium

Hello Folks,

Well here it is, finally the long awaited next instalment of our trip.

There are many and varied reasons for the delay, including; waiting until after Greece so we could include both countries together, to $12/hr internet rates in Greece forcing us to wait until reaching a place where internet was not going to cost us more then a nights accommodation.

Firstly to answer the question that many of you will have straight up, no we did not get to Gallipoli for Anzac Day. We were not able to get on a tour and the chances of getting there independently are fairly slim so we waited in London until a few days after and then went on to Turkey. We will do Anzac Day another time. After getting the India and Nepal report out we proceeded to investigate Istanbul (not Constantinople) and the many amazing sites that the city has to offer. We were a little peeved to find that 3 weeks before we arrived the Government raised the price of admission on all tourist attractions. When Craig was there 7 years ago, things cost around $1-2 AUS, now things such as the Aya Sofia Church - Museum cost $20 AUD to get in and then another $20 AUD to get to the most interesting part of the museum. The combined $80 AUD was a bit rich for us so the view from the gate

was good enough. Unfortunately many sites around Turkey now carry these hefty admission prices, so we had to select our attractions carefully.

After Istanbul (not Constantinople) we headed to Gallipoli for the mandatory Australian pilgrimage. It was an amazing experience as anyone who has been there can confirm. There were only a small handful of people on the peninsula for the day making it quiet and eerie, the calm that hangs over the site is such a contrast to what it must have been like. It is so difficult to put into words what you see on the site, you really need to experience it for yourselves.

We were then off to experience the ancient cultural side of Turkey, visiting many sets of ruins at Bergma, Ephesus, Kas and Olympia and at every other little town we stopped at. Turkey has more ancient ruins then Greece, everywhere you look there is evidence of Greek and Roman ruins. It is truly fascinating to see, however after a couple of weeks of ruins, they do get very similar and you are all ruined out.

We loved the beautiful wildflowers popping out of every crack in the ruins, an array of colours from brilliant red poppies, yellow daisies, purple snapdragons and delicate pale pink thingies. And the roses here are outstanding, almost as impressive as Miriam's grandmothers. Huge bushes ramble over fences and gates. They are far bigger then we have seen at home.

Also enormous grape vines with girths as thick as trees that climb up over 4 story buildings to the terraces at the top, shading the roof top breakfast tables, divine.

Another treasure Turkey has to offer is biscuit shops. We must admit we reached overload after a while. The first few weeks we were obsessed with the Turkish delight. To the point we couldn't eat any more, even when they were offered free. That's when we turned to the biscuits, delightfully smooth and buttery home made ones-yum and whole shops devoted to them, about 16 to the dollar. The perfect way to finish a cucumber, tomato and feta sandwich.

Cappadocia is a must visit spot if you visit Turkey. Even if you have no plans to visit Turkey, you must make some and visit this place, it is truly gob smack material. Brief outline, Christian inhabitants built their homes, churches and underground cities in outcrops of limestone and underground.   There are thousands of cave dwellings wherever you look, very Flintstones and too complete the experience, we stayed in a cave while we there. The underground city we visited went 50 M deep,(so did we) and could support 8000 people for 6 months, incredible. The paintings in the Churches were amazing, all biblical scenes of striking colours and detail.

Turkey was a dream to travel in after Asia. Buses run regularly from everywhere to everywhere - except when they want you to take a tour of course. We once did a 12 hour journey on 3 different buses with no more then a couple of minutes wait at each change. And the buses are luxury, just after boarding you are served, cakes, tea, coffee and aftershave for all us smelly travellers. We were quite spoiled by the bus hosties.

The only negative thing about Turkey is that it is the cheap beach holiday destination for people that cannot afford to go to Spain or Greece. The Mediterranean Coast and Aegean Coast are frustratingly crowded. Fortunately we found a tiny little fishing village, that will remain nameless to protect its integrity, along the Aegean Sea. It was so peaceful we just sat enjoying the quiet for a few days.

To escape the frustratingly crowded tourist coasts of Turkey, we headed for the even more frustrating and more crowded islands of Greece. First was Rhodes, the best preserved medieval city in Europe. Amazing architecture and atmosphere. We spent days wandering around the old city, getting lost in the serpentine alleys and gaping at the stone buildings. We then moved from an amazing built environment to an amazing natural environment - the Volcanic Island of Nysiros. This was the classic white washed cubic buildings clinging to a seaside hill island with the highlight being our walk down into the hissing, steaming, stinking of sulphur, crater of the volcano. 

Needing some more ancient culture we moved on to yet another  frustratingly touristy island, Kos, birthplace of Hippocrates - the father of Medicine. Here we visited the medical/ healing complex and the tree where Hippocrates was said to have taught his students.

We then grabbed the overnight ferry to Athens and then straight on to Hydra, a beautiful island with no cars, all transport is via horse or donkey. It is an amazing island to visit, although the absence of the buzz from scooters and cars is made up for by the noise of wealthy tourists and yacht owners. It was really gorgeous though and there were plenty of places to escape to.

Our time in Greece was fast running out, so we left for the mainland and to Olympia, home of the ancient Olympics. It took a marathon effort to get there with buses and being stranded in a nowhere town one night but the next day there was a spectacular drive through beautiful mountain villages in the Pelloponese. Olympia was amazing to see, especially the Temple of Zeus, with columns that had collapsed and pancaked on the ground. The diameter of the columns was at least 2m. The engineering effort required to build these structures is mind boggling.

Athens was an interesting 2 days, we visited more ruins and wandered around the old city. We decided to do all of the ruins on our 2nd day there, with an all day ticket that would allow us to see all of the sites and would cost us 12 Euro each, or around $20 AUS each. The next day we returned to the ticket office, 24 Euro in hand to be told that it was a special day and that admission to all sites was free. We were certainly happy little campers as we quickly put the cash back in our wallets and went in before they changed their minds. As to be expected, the ruins in Athens are amazing, the Acropolis, the Parthenon, the Ancient Agora etc etc. Even more mind blowing then Olympia. When you connect all of the sites across the city up, it is amazing to see. At the moment there is a lot of restoration work going on at all of the sites as there is across all of the city in preparation for the Olympics in 2004. After Sydney, you can't but help feel a little sorry for them.

We have now settled in at Craig's sister and her husband place in Belgium, resting, relaxing and doing some washing before heading to Spain and Portugal. Craig's brother and his new wife are also here so we have had a fantastic mini family reunion, few days together all catching up.

As always best wishes, kisses and formal handshakes as appropriate,

Craig and Miriam

Comments: 2
  • #2

    M (Monday, 09 October 2023 20:22)

    I am in love with ur daughter

  • #1

    Miranda (Tuesday, 07 February 2023 22:07)

    Truly adorable!