The Corn Flake Traveller in Turkey
I wasn’t all that excited about visiting Turkey, I simply went to claim it as my 58thcountry Corn Flakeified but after 6 ½ weeks travelling all over it became one of my favourite countries visited so far.
I was delighted and surprised to discover a country full of amazing things to stimulate the senses of any traveller. There is a fascinating blend of West meets East or Europe meets Asia with huge mosques, tourist resorts and a culture influenced by countries it borders such as Greece, Bulgaria, Iraq and Syria. I lost count of the number of times I was invited for tea, a representation of how warm and hospitable the people were and the scenery was diverse and stunning. The thing that impressed me the most was the history; so many ruins from so many empires stretching back over 10,000 years. I saw ruins from the Romans, the Greeks, the Lycians, the Anatolians, the Thracians, the Ottomans, to name but a few. Cappadocia was the icing on the cake and one of the most amazing places I have visited during my ten years on the road, it had culture, history, lovely people and some of the most amazing scenery.
I arrived in Istanbul and spent 3 weeks cycling roughly 1000 miles to get to Antalya in the South, where my wife met me and we hired a car for 2 weeks to be able to explore some of the far-flung areas of Turkey. During those first 3 weeks cycle touring I camped in a mosque, I saw natural flames coming from the ground, a town abandoned in the 1920’s, I received many acts of kindness like people giving me food and stopping in cars to give me water and I saw many ancient sites from various cultures like the ruins of Troy, Ephesus and Myra.
The morning after my wife arrived we were up at 9am for the traditional breakfast of boiled eggs, bread, cheese, olives, cucumber and tea, then we set off to Pamukkale, arriving about 4 hours later. We stopped for lunch at a roadside cafe and had a bit of an argument with the staff as we were told the kebabs were 5 Lira but when we went to pay they were suddenly 15 and the drinks went from 3 to 5. I was having none of it so shouted for a bit then paid our price and gave him an extra 5 Lira before driving off, I thought about getting a T-shirt made that said “I might be a tourist but I’m not rich”.
Anyway we got to Pamukkale, which means ‘cotton castle’ so called because of the minerals, deposited by a calcium rich spring coming out of the hill, have formed rock that looks like snow. The spring flowing down the hill was warm and the formations it made looked great, some shell shaped pools and some layered like shelves or terraces. We walked around, had some Corn Flakes, enjoyed the view and had a quick look at the Roman ruins of Hieropolis.
Over the next couple of days we spent a lot of time in the car passing some light blue lakes, a megalithic site and the boring city of Konya, where we stayed a night in a surreal hotel room with a bed of flowers inside and a chair on top of the wardrobe.
Then we arrived in the simply magical Cappadocia, not really knowing where to start as there’s so much to see, but we just went with the flow and started at Uçhisar, a fortress that has been carved out of a pointy hill and now looks like swiss cheese. You can climb to the top for amazing views over the valleys surrounding the area and you can walk through the hill to marvel at how they were created. This was our first taste of how previous tenants of this region used the rock to create buildings but it was not to be our last. We continued on to Goreme, a town with more rock cut houses many of which have been converted for modern day use to create houses and hotels.
When we arrived we found there was a competition in the town centre where dance schools from all over Turkey had come to perform traditional dances. Although the dances were not very exciting to watch, the costumes were fantastic and seeing them perform very emotive dances really helped sense the area’s history. Then we had a traditional Turkish meal with a kind of stew baked in clay pots on the fire that they smash open with a hammer to serve the tasty contents.