Turning our backs on the coast, we made east for Pamukkale – famous for an amazing series of tiered lakes on the slopes of a mineral rich hillside and Roman ruins.
My cynical side bubbles to the surface quite often when visiting major tourist attractions such as these lakes. You feel like you’re just a mobile ATM machine that talks back! An arid and unimpressive location other than the main attraction has been made a lot less attractive with the investment in cheesy hotels offering bright blue swimming pools nestled amongst palm trees so that you forget where you are!
These ancient lakes are a geological anomaly that provided the catalyst for settlement to bloom around this area.
As usual, we were met with a throng of tourists – acceptance is the key! They are also entitled to be on holiday and enjoying such locations – apparently!
Keeping to cardinal east on the compass and via some stunning mountain driving and inland lakes, a few days later we arrived in the locality of Cappadocia. From the first moment, this collection of geological and man made oddities has you intrigued!
River gorges and limestone mountains have eroded into the most amazing structures and for millennia humans have carved everything from small food cellars to churches into this relatively soft rock culminating in complete underground settlements that could support up to 20 000 people for 6 months during siege or disaster!
The whole region is just plain weird and fantastic!
Travelling this area, you really feel like your somewhere other than Earth (Tatooine maybe?) – Staggeringly eye catching from every angle!
Arriving in the area of Goreme, we didn’t just find a campsite, we found THE campsite. With elevation on our side we were perched above magnificent columns of sandstone with our own private excavations to explore along with surreal views of Uchisar at sunset.
Alone for a little while, our camper gave us away! An Austrian in a ‘60’ series LandCruiser spotted us! With such exquisite views we camped together and relaxed into easy conversation with Chris and again swapped travel details with the like minded.
Hot air ballooning is ridiculously popular here. With cool solid air and landscape from somewhere outside the Milky Way, it’s easy to see why.
Just on daybreak, we were awakened by the loud roar of numerous fans inflating their balloons in readiness for their journey aloft. Exiting our home, we were greeted with a truly stunning sight, the landscape coming alive as it receives those first touches of morning sun.
As if they were themselves alive, these fabric monoliths began to blink randomly all across the valley floor like giant one million watt light globes being flicked on and off! Slowly they began to defy gravity and head skyward! I’ve never seen anything like it; the sheer quantity and magnitude of these floating orbs was unbelievable!
The sun’s rays making their presence more strongly now, the colours of early morning blending into each other, the cool desert air, the roar and brilliance of the flames. The complete spectacle was one of those memories that burns its way into your mind and stays perfectly clear for evermore! Beautiful…
By mid morning, the landscape had become less inviting – the colours dissolved, replaced with the shimmer of heat and call of the air conditioner.
We had seen what we came to see and been fully rewarded.
Istanbul enter, enter! GPS loaded, we had made it as far east that this stage of our journey would take us.
Northwest via Ankara was an incredible sprawl of urbaneness surrounded by large hills sporting scrubby bush and pale rocks. Concrete and apartment living are the modern Turkish vision here! Yes, there are the individual residences and suburbs, but extremely high-density living is in full swing.
Istanbul announces herself well before you can consider yourself within her environs. Hectic traffic and concentration required, you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in heavy traffic with the usual irrational lane changing and pushing, whilst creeping along the motorway at 2km per hour!
All in all, I found the drive into this metropolis not all that bad. Maybe I’m becoming a little more conditioned to using my vehicle’s size to force little Renaults to be courteous! Urban sprawl continues for many kms enroute to the area of main interest for tourists -the Sultan Ahmet District.
RV parks and campgrounds appear non-existent within close proximity to the Old City. As such, Jen had found a fantastically well-located guesthouse with street parking right in the centre of the old city!
It would be advisable, however, to use one of the campgrounds concentrated to the north on the Black Sea and accept the local transit implications that come with that decision if your vehicle is any larger than our Patrol otherwise a dent or 2 or getting stuck in a narrow street is a real possibility!
Entering the Old City is really just a maze of very skinny one-way streets, crawling with pedestrians and all manner of products loaded onto carts enroute to their retail outlets.
At one point, we were up on the kerb with our bull bar literally touching a building forward of us, whilst a Mercedes people mover squeezed past with mm to spare! You have to get used to it – that’s just the way it is!
With hotel located, we were again met with that Turkish hospitality! 2 of the hotel staff had parked their cars on the street right outside in order to keep a location large enough for us to park! Where else would that occur? Settled in, we began our explorations of this interesting city.
The city is massive and could probably replace the dictionary definition of “urban sprawl”. It is hemmed in to the North and South by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara respectively and the population has exploded east into Asia and west into Europe along the available land.
Having a portion of the urban jungle on either side of the Bosphorous Straight has afforded Istanbul the reputation of being the location where “East meets West” and it’s certainly true. The Sultan Ahmet District is without doubt worth a wander.
From underground Roman Cisterns to Egyptian antiquities relocated here throughout the ages, the largest and certainly one of the oldest undercover markets in the world, famous mosques and simply the colours, food and it’s people make Istanbul an intriguing destination.
Relaxed and happy with our visitation to Turkey we made west for Bulgaria over the next days with some interesting sights to come!