It would be difficult to top the view that awaited Harker and I as we stumbled out into the brilliant sunlight reflecting off the Egirdir Golu lake. We were almost overwhelmed by the temptation to sit back with a Turkish tea or two and recount on the time in Cappadocia to the extremely friendly staff (which included a middle aged lad from England who was living and working at the hostel as a part of a mid-life crisis).
Our adventurous natures won out and we strolled down along to the lakeside to hire pushbikes for the day (a steal at 12 lira or $6). Before long, we were boosting off – sun on our backs, wind in our hair with grand plans to reach a town around the lake some 25km away. The first big climb put an end to that idea and by the time we’d reached a smaller village after 12km of very hilly cycling, our legs were about spent.
It was a quaint little farming community – absolutely no bells and whistles to speak of, not even a café – and the locals seemed pretty bemused to see us panting and pedalling up the long slope to the town. Our brief breather was overseen by some curious little kids who waved us off when we mounted the saddles once more. Wish I’d taken a photo of the little gang.
The homeward journey was punctuated with magnificent views, 50 cent icecream (haven’t had that since 1994) and a swim in the lake – cold, but not quite so cold as New Zealand or Korea in the middle of winter. The worst part was the biting wind that had whipped up off the lake and that blew through the village at a million knots – a daily phenomenon according to Muslem – and one that he would take steps to avoid if he ever gets the chance to live in a new city.
The day was capped off with a fish casserole from a cheap little eatery back in town… not so much a casserole as just a whole baked trout that looked nothing like the pictures and was a bit muddy and disappointing. But for $3, you can’t complain about too much.
An interesting character greeted us the following morning as we waited for our next bus to Pamukkale. He was a Spaniad, dressed mostly in battered camos and hefting a small but tightly packed backpack and sporting wild, greying, curly hair and a salt and pepper beard with goatee. I wish I’d taken a photo – he was the epitome of the seasoned, lifelong traveller and spouted wisdom at us with just about every sentence: “You have to work to live, not live to work,” “buy a small pack – that way you’re not tempted to pack more than you need” and “to see a new sight every day is the only real romanticism left in the world.” He certainly made the wait for the bus fly past and before long we were back into the sweat-box on wheels for a much more manageable 4 hours to Pamukkale.
After dumping bags and indulging in a quick swim at the hostel pool, we set off for a short stroll amongst the tavertines and ancient ruins that are the key attraction in this tiny, dusty town. 5 hours later, our short stroll came to an end as we descended across the pleasantly grippy tavertines once more ahead of an ominous bank of dark clouds.
The ancient Greek and Roman Heirapolis were a huge highlight of the trip so far and included a 4th century ampitheatre, the tomb of St Peter (no longer present in it of course), a bride and staircase, cathedral and the main entrance gate.
Like so many attractions in Turkey, one of the most wonderful things about the ruins was the complete lack of restriction – we could wander amongst, climb on, explore and generally feel the history right beneath our fingers and toes. Add to that a beautiful sunny day, rolling green hills and a panoramic view of the valley with mountains in the background and we were well and truly awestruck by the place. The day was capped off nicely with a dram of the local amber (Efes), freshly made gozleme for $5 and some of that good old 50c icecream again.
The famed Turkish hospitality was on display again when we got back to our hotel and found old mate the owner having a little party for his birthday. We were promptly invited to join in and had some cake whilst all present spun yarns of varying truthfulness depending how many drinks the teller had downed. Harker and I were excited to be offered the chance to tour our host’s hobby olive farm the following day, so we hit the hay with some anticipation about tomorrow’s activities.
Unfortunately, these didn’t come into fruition – our man decided to make use of the favourable weather to carry out a bit of maintenance around the hotel. Harker and I took the opportunity to have a restful day – catching up on some writing and emails, heading into town for some more gozleme and messing around with a little Turkish tacker who was pedalling around on his trike (pimped out with tassell handles and spoke decorations).
When it came time to organise a ride out to the airport, we were somewhat dismayed to learn that our host had booked a shuttle picking us up at 12:30 for a 13:30 flight (with a 40 minute trip to the airport). Old mate assured us it was no problem and eventually we succumbed – trusting that the Turkish way of getting things done would come up trumps for us once more. And in fact, it did – despite leaving 10 minutes late, stopping for fuel on the way and bribing the police to avoid a speeding ticket. The asian tour group that shared the bus with us had multiple heart attacks along the way but on the positive side, it meant that we only had 10 minutes wait in the airport.
So, after a straight up and down flight, my sojourn in central Turkey came to an end and we enjoyed a reasonably uneventful ride to the ferry terminal at Kadikoy – a young, very lost and confused looking Yank gratefully accepted our help to navigate her way to her friend’s place along the way. If the bus trip was bland, jumping on the ferry and motoring across the Bosphorus was anything but and we got a good look at the sprawling, heaving mass of life that is Istanbul. Dozens of majestic mosques graced the skyline and Harker and I were itching to pound the pavement and explore the next morning.
I’ll finish with a fun fact about Istanbul – it’s the only city that spans two continents (Europe and Asia), with the Bosphorus marking the boundary.