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DOUG BONDE's Turkish Delights
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JEFF GROBERMAN's Road Trip to See the Eclipse

Posted May 14 2018

Doug Bonde’s Recommendation for sightseeing Turkey.

Where do you plan to spend your holidays this year?  Have you ever given a thought to Turkey?  It’s a land rich in history, folklore, ancient sites and natural beauty.  The best way to travel if you have the time is by car and that’s the way we saw Turkey for two weeks in the month of May from the Mediterranean up through to the Sea of Mamara and the Bosphorus. The weather was perfect. Here are 18 photos of places I particularly enjoyed and which I hope will interest you sufficiently to consider a visit to Turkey sometime in the future.

We started in Bodrum where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet.  The town is dominated by the impressive medieval castle of St. Peter, built by the Knights of Rhodes in the 15th century. It’s also the site of the birthplace of Herodotus, “the father of history”
  (485 to 425 BC) and the site of 4th century’s King Mausolus’ Tomb, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The harbour was contrastingly filled with luxurious modern yachts.

The advantage of having your own vehicle is that you can explore the countryside at your leisure and 14 kms from the main road with the last 8 kms on a rough dusty road high in the mountains led us to the totally deserted (except for one caretaker) Roman site of ancient Labranda, abandoned around 1000AD. The ruins were excavated by a Swedish team early last century and it’s known that the Olympic Games were held at this site!. The caretaker seen here didn’t speak English but we got by with sign language.


Easily the highlight of any visit to Turkey is Ephesus (Efes), the grandest and best preserved of all the ancient sites and classical ruins, and once Roman capital of Asia Minor. Surprisingly, only 4-5% of the site has been successfully excavated so far. It’s believed Amazon Queen Ephesia founded the city. In its heyday, Roman Ephesus had a population of 250,000. It was here St. John wrote his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul preached against the goddess Artemis, and Cleopatra and Mark Anthony rode in procession. The Arcadian Way leads to the Great Theatre, built to accommodate 24,000 spectators and, with perfect acoustics, still used for performances each Spring. That's it in all its magnificent glory at the head of this article.

Erected in A.D.110, Ephesus’ Library of Celcus is easily the best preserved of all the buildings. It held 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls. Incidentally, the streets are paved with marble!  It’s recorded that St. John brought the Virgin Mary here after the death of Christ and she spent her last days close by.  Next to the library on the right is the Gate of Augustus, which was reported to be a favourite place for Romans to "relieve" themselves!!

 Our next stop was at the vast Acropolis of Aphrodisias which is not a natural hill but a prehistoric mound built up by successive settlements from the Bronze Age (2800-2200 BC).  Aphrodite was called by the Romans Venus, the Goddess of fertility, fun and fornication.  As you can see, much of Aphrodisias lies scattered around the huge impressive grounds. Seeing it early in the morning when it is cooler. We were almost entirely on our own to explore ..  and that does take time.

The magnificent Tetrapylon or Monumental Gate was the entrance way for the pilgrims as they approached the temple. Among the sights worth seeing is the 30,000 seat Olympic stadium.  In case you were wondering, yes, we pay a fee for entering and parking at each site.  And Turks like to be tipped for any information or service rendered.  Be prepared for con-men (especially taxi drivers) in the cities where they are adept at sleight of hand when money is involved!

And now for something really different - and popular since Roman times!!! This is  Pamukkale (Hierapolis) – meaning Cotton Castle - a spectacular natural site, totally unique in the world.  Thermal spring waters laden with calcareous salts running off the plateau’s edge have created this fantastic formation of stalactites, cataracts and basins. As the hot calcium laden mineral waters cascade over the cliffs, the water cools, the calcium precipitates and clings to the cliffs, forming snowy white waterfalls. The hot springs have been used since Roman times for their therapeutic powers. There's also a Roman Theatre seating 7000 spectators in excellent condition. We stayed overnight at the Australian and New Zealand Pension and hated leaving this extraordinarily enchanting location.  

Back on the Mediterranean coast, we stayed at the Feryil Hotel in Fethiye.   Above the town called Telmessos are seemingly hundreds of Lycian tombs cut into the rock face!  In fact this whole area near Dylan and Pinara has a vast honeycomb of wonderfully crafted tombs in the Lycian style, some of which you can climb up to. Once the tomb was completed, the deceased had to be lowered down to the tomb for internment. Just look at this on the right. The magnificent Tomb of Amyntas (350 BC) reproduces the Doric façade of an ancient building, actually carved into the sheer rock face! It's hard to imagine how long it must have taken to complete this. 

North of Olympus and up 300 metres is Yanartas where, according to mythology, Lycian hero Bellerpphon, mounted on his winged horse Pegasus, slew the fire breathing monster Chimaera by pouring molten lead into its mouth. Olympians worshipped Vulcan, the God of Fire. The mysterions Chimaera has gas seeping continually from fissures, burning brightly with an eternal flame springing from between the rocks (look closely in front of me and imagine being surrounded by these pockets of flame).

Yet another unique location!  Cappadocia’s history began with the eruption of three volcanoes as much as ten million years ago. The eruption spread a thick layer of hot volcanic ash over the region which hardened into a soft porous stone called tufa. Over time, wind, water and sand erosion wore away portions of the tufa, carving it into shapes. Boulders of hard stone caught in the tufa and exposed to erosion actually protect the tufa. The result is a column or cone of tufa with a boulder perched on top! And so here you have a spectacular surrealistic landscape of rock cones, capped pinnacles and fretted ravines. These days troglodyte dwellings in rock cones and village houses of volcanic tufa merge into the landscape. Tufa was easily worked with primitive tools and sturdy buildings could be cut from it. Centuries ago when invaders came, Cappadocians disappeared underground, having carved elaborate multi-level cave cities, some as deep as eight levels beneath the earth!

Not only are there homes and guest houses in the cones but restaurants and shops.  Hard to believe, we stayed overnight in one of these Goreme "guest houses", and for a totally unique night's experience it's highly recommended! 

Shopping! So, as you can imagine, Goreme is a popular centre for visitors. Here the temptations include a vast selection of carpets and kilms.  The best carpets are 100% wool and of course you are expected to bargain. Beware of the charmingly over-friendly Turk who will start a conversation with you, leading to an invitation to a restaurant and along the way he will insist we meet a cousin of his who just happens to own a carpet shop where the prices are unbeatable.  Now how can one resist in just having a look?  Yes, that's me giving in to the sales pitch.

Next stop was at “the capital of the mighty Ottoman Empire,” Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and, before that, Byzantium, although Ankara is actually the present capital.  Our Hotel Park on the Sultanahmet had a wonderful sun deck from which when I looked to my left I saw the six minaret Blue Mosque (the blue comes from the Iznik tiles) now called Sultanahmet, seeming a stone’s throw away. Likewise to my right was the 14 centuries old Basilica of St. Sophia, now called the Aya Sofya.  And behind me was the ever busy Bosphorus. Absolutely stunning views!  Before 1973 and the construction of a bridge, the only way between the European and Asian parts of the city was by boat.  Other essential Istanbul sightseeing in the old town are the Archaeological Museum, Topkapi Palace and the massive Kapah Carsi or Covered Bazaar (see below). It’s hard not to browse here and be tempted to buy at least one souvenir.    

Finally, I recommend you take with you a copy of the Lonely Planet travel guide which gave me all the details mentioned above, and its Turkish phrasebook has words and phrases for travellers. Not everyone speaks English but wherever we went we found the people friendly and helpful. Turkey is a vast country and the variety of things to see and do is enormous, as is its history, extending for almost 10,000 years! And there you have it - highlights of our fortnight in astounding, surprising and fascinating Turkey.

Doug Bonde: In 1989 Doug joined CBC as a mail clerk and during his 2 ½ years there he eventually ended up as a production assistant. He left CBC and rejoined Mountain West Studios for a year as photography manager. Then for 15 years he was with BC Ferries, starting as a ticket agent and progressing to the position of Second Officer. He formed his own general contracting business, High Maintenance Contracting, employing around a dozen for 12 years, and is currently running a solar energy business called Synrg Renewal.  Doug is married and the Bondes have 2 children and live happily in Squamish.