Wondrous Cappadocia journey

Have you watched the Disney feature Fantasia? You know, as kids we were fascinated by Mickey orchestrating. And one of the most memorable sequence of the animated feature for us is the dancing mushrooms. Do you recall them? Ok, perhaps this one’s only for antiquated folks like us…

But you see, we came to this part of Turkey where it seemed that the mushroom in Fantasia must had called its home. They stand tall, and they look like they could break into a dance at any moment. Cue the music…

Yes. We were in Cappadocia. The land from which hundreds of hot air balloons take to the skies every morning. You simply cannot miss them unless the winds were unfavourable rendering it unsafe. As the morning air begins to warm, the ballooners (us included) floated over the mushrooms that we referred to earlier. You can almost reach out and touch them… collect them if you will. Heheh. Today most of them are abandoned – or at least the inhabitants moved out. Because it is a giant museum.

However it is not just the mushrooms that we came for. For there are vast underground cities that housed thousands of people. No. They are not catacombs, but real liveable quarters carved into the rock, some as deep as 4 floors below ground! Why were they built? Read on here to find out!

Enjoy the Turkish riviera

The word Riviera conjures up visions of luxurious hotel resorts, multi-million dollar beachfront homes and beautiful sand beaches. Hmm… it is definitely not that far off as we trudged along the southern coast of Turkey. You might recall we were just in the ancient city of Ephesus (here).

So what did we do here?

For one thing, we swam in the Mediterranean sea. It was a cruise, one that took us over sunken cities that could have been the likes of Atlantis. Who knows? But the reality was an earthquake shifted the land and brought parts of it lower. It was October, so the waters still relatively warm, so we jumped in! Guess you can say we’ve ticked one more item off the bucket list! Highly recommended in fact.

However the highlight along this part of the road trip is one of beauty. Heheh… You know some people swear that it has curative ingredients. Others say their skin feel more supple and smooth after applying it. Yep, we are referring to a mud bath. How about bathing in some that even Sultans and modern day entertainment “royalty” have supposedly patronized? Would you scoop up some mud to being home with you?

The riviera was fun. Not exactly living it up at the hotel California, but we certainly wished that we did not have to check out and leave… you will understand when you are there too. Piqued your interest?

Read all about it here!

Ancient Grecian influence

Now today’s post is a continuation of the journey that commenced when we flew into Denizli from Istanbul. We had just seen cotton castles and legacies of the greeks (here). It was time to drive on down along the coast to see yet more evidence of ancient civilizations that dwelled here a very long time ago.

The featured photo is from Ephesus. We decided not to show the library, since it is such as well known feature. Instead, we have Hadrian’s arch for you. You need to know this, that for the longest time, Hellenist (that’s Greek) culture was dominant as colonies and cities arose all along what is the Turkish coastline. The Greeks supplanted older civilizations and in the next instalment you will read about them.

Back to the city itself.

When you wonder about the city you will truly begin to be amazed at how advanced society was more than 2000 years ago. You will come across water pipes that once brought running water to people’s homes. You will find public baths and latrines, suggesting the city took it upon themselves to ensure hygiene prevailed. And it had such a large amphitheatre that they obviously enjoyed good night life too! Perhaps that’s why St Paul wrote his letters of exhortation?

Does this not make you wonder and want to read about our story here? This was like the cities that never sleep – for that time. Have you been to Ephesus?

A place they call cotton cascades

Actually ‘Cotton Castle’ if we recalled correctly.

Why did they name it as such? Probably because the calcite deposits left behind by flowing thermal waters are as white as snow cotton that is grown in Turkey. And viewed from a distance, the cascade can be imagined as a castle. Ok, it takes quite a lot of imagination to arrive at that we’d be honest. Obviously we ain’t spatially intelligent enough…

Btw, did you know that Turkey is one of the largest cotton producers in the world? That feeds the massive textile industry for which the country is also known for. Some people say that the cotton in Turkey is one of the best in the world (hey they said that too in Egypt). Heheh… never ask a barber if you need a haircut remember?

Anyhow.

Since time in memorial there has been folks coming over to bathe and/or soak in the mineral rich waters gushing out forming the cascades. And we are sure you will enjoy it too even if you do not have be naked like the thermal baths of Japan… Read more about it here (not the naked bath, the journey to Pammukale aka “cotton castle”). In case you are wondering, the naked bath one is here.

But it is much more than that. You might read in the link above that we touched quite a few Grecian sites too. And how can that not be? For millenia the greeks have extensively colonized the eastern of anatolia. This was the start of our road trip around the coastline of Turkey. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Until then, have you been to Pammukale? Do you enjoy thermal baths?

I always feel like… somebody’s watching me…

Did you know that the title of this post is a song too? Heheh. Yeah, what a blast from the past. But today we are talking about Istanbul. Again? you ask. Well, yes. Because the last post referred you to our story of exploring the city for sights. This one’s about looking for something to shop – be it eating it or keeping it.

The one thing that fascinates us in the mideast and north Africa is its markets.

Grand Bazaar6
This’s a smooth operator

Now in Arab countries they are called “souks”. But in Turkish and Persian they are called Bazaar or Pazar. Even as far east here in the little red dot we call them “巴刹” (basha in Hanyu pinyin). Simply because the Malay word for market is pasar. Fascinating isn’t it how languages can be shaped by trade and linkages of people across the oceans? Btw this is legacy of the Persian traders who stopped by on their way to Canton for the China trade.

Word of warning

When you are in Turkish bazaars, you have to be wary of suave and handsome Turkish men.

Grand Bazaar5
Friends, after price battle royale

Even as Mel drafted this post, he is reminded of the experience he had bargaining with a most persuasive salesman owner of a shop.

For Suan had already fallen for the charms of this smooth operator, mesmerized and unable to negotiate. So it was all up to Mel now who remains unhypnotized, to obtain the best deal. Now you have to know that Mel had to feigh disinterest, being upset and finally eagerness to strike a deal with such an “adversary”. And we got for 80 Turkish liras what was originally offered at a “bargain” price of 300…

We’d tell you there is more to see and shop, but of course you also need to stop for the beautiful snacks along the way too. Wanna go shopping and eating in Istanbul now?

Set amidst the Eurasian meeting point

The grainy picture as the feature is intended. For you see, to us Istanbul is a city of contrasts. It straddles two continents we are told, though the start and end of each one is not really that clear in any case. Hence the blurry photo. By the way that was the underground cistern, where the old Byzantine state drew water for the city’s inhabitants.

Yeah, byzantine indeed. For even as the word suggests complication, full of contradictions between the young and old, the have and have nots. Is it still secular? Or is it drifting away from that? But we digress.

For the last 500+ years, the city has been embellished by its Ottoman rulers. Palaces and historical landmarks aplenty to awe one. But it has also embraced modernity like any other European city. Walk in any of its central streets and you might not even notice the difference.

So here we were. Twice actually.

We came by sea and we came by air. We came, we saw and we left part of our heart there. Rhymes huh? There is so much to see and do. But being part of a tour group had its advantages, being whisked into sites on “priority”… saves time from queuing to buy and getting in line for the entry. Wanna know what WE did in Istanbul? Read all about it here.

Have you visited Istanbul?