Turkey Honeymoon

 (Warning: A photo-rich post, very long read)

Turkey, our choice city for our honeymoon! We have planned this since March 2014 but because it’s a group tour, there’s not much real planning on our side of things. What we did before this trip was just to read up on the places of interest and Turkish foodstuffs!

We got booked with BesTours which offered us an amazing deal from Matta Fair. And mind you, in these kind of places where English language is not the primary language and where places of interests is never in the reach of taxis, my advice (after returning from Turkey) is to NOT travel alone around Turkey, if it’s your first time there. I am not saying it’s not safe (it’s safe alright). I am saying, most touristy places are inaccessible unless you join their ground tour.

Us and our new found (tour) friends at the Bosphorus cruise. Left of boat is Asia; Right is Europe. Turkey has the best of both worlds!

Turkey is the country that has the best of both worlds. Asia on your left, Europe on the right. My hubby was saying that if Istanbul has a full marathon, you can boast to your friends about running from Asia to Europe! Hahaha, good idea. Turkey has been a critical part of the Greek and Roman civilization for thousands of years, therefore its history is extensive. Imagine, Istanbul (formerly known as Constantinople) was a Christian city before the Ottoman took over in modern history making Islam its official religion and churches were converted into mosques. And then in 1900s, revolution led by Mustapha Kamal Ataturk made Turkey a republic, making it a secular country. (Disclaimer: My version of history may skew a bit, as I was always napping in the bus. Go and wiki if you are dissatisfied).

Thousand years of accumulated histories allows this country to be decorated by buildings of architectures which leaves you in awe. Greek and Roman ruins around this countryside showed thousands of years of war and peace. The ample natural resources allows for many great armies and governments to want to be conquer Turkey and own every grain of soil and (hot) springs it has. Even Virgin Mary, accompanied by the Apostle John, has a home near Ephesus, Izmir.

So many nice architecture building but don’t ask me their names.  This is one infamous mosque situated next to the Bosphorus river that separates Asia and Europe.

We took Etihad Airways where the from KLIA to ISTANBUL via Abu Dhabi. We were lucky, as we’ve got upgraded to Business Class. Of course, that means, demand demand demand (no, I didn’t ask my peanuts to be served on a plate), and more leg SPAAAACCE! The Business Class at Etihad is simply different from MAS flights in a way that the former is more personal, but less romantic. My hubby was sitted next to me, but separated by the aisle, and because this is a honeymoon trip, I felt, ya… “separated”. But we both crave leg-space and so: leg-space, flat-bed and massaging-chair is what we got!

Transformers and my vodka with lime and peanuts served in a bowl. Phew! 😛

Weird, seat number says we sit next to each other, but it’s actually separated. So unromantic, Etihad’s Business Class sittings. Meh.

We visited many many many historical places. You may think historical places are boring. But no. Historical places here come with loads of great stories of mythical origins (these mad Greeks and Romans) and real facts. And historical places here come with scenic views. Major agriculture in this kinda wintry weather are olives and mandarin oranges. First time jakun see olive trees, thought it was grapes.

I would like to again emphasize why a tour is essential at Turkey because one great city to another takes between 4-6 hours by bus. The tour crosses farms, hills, agriculture area, hills overgrowned with (real) Christmas trees, and old cities that eerily resembles ghost cowboy towns. Our Turkish tour guide did tell us a lot of things about the country, its history and their way of live throughout the journey so we did learnt quite a lot (although I slept most of the time)!

Preparing their land for the next harvest. Towards Pamukkale

You cannot escape the thought of food or beverages associated with any foreign land you visit. In Turkey, it’s no wonder that the infamous Turkish black tea, apple tea, and their crazy thick brewed Turkish coffee was the first thing that comes to mind. I like the black tea a lot, which taste like Lipton anyway, but the turkish one has a little more ‘kick‘ in it. Well, I would say, I LOT MORE kick. Cause I had a major heart palpitation for the first time in my life at a cafe at Acropolis with a cup of black tea! My heart beat profusely fast that I had nausea and held on to dear life in the bus.

Tea MUST be served in curvaceous glass; Turkish coffee MUST be served in a banyak pattern punya cup. Just tradition, I guess. Then of course, other food may sound familiar to us Malaysians: Kebab, and Baklava. The lamb kebab is so delicious I almost cried (also because it was pricey). The cheese here is different from that of NZ or Aussie, and will surely decorate each and every bread I had here. This is because most cheese here are processed from goat’s milk. I never thought I would say this (because I am not a foodie), but I must return here for the cheese.

Enjoying our cup of Turkish black tea over the Aegean Sea

Turkish coffee is bleh!

Our lamb kebab near the Grand Bazaar. Pricey but worth every Lira.

Aegean Sea is the sea in Turkey associated with Greek mythology. Of course, crossing this sea to get from Istanbul to Bursa (west coast), and back, requires your vehicle to be ferried through this sea. The trip is 1 hour, and yes, felt like Penang ferry, but here’s it has a scenic view of the coast, and it’s realllllllly cold now. Don’t you dare stand outside the ferry. Your face sure frozen. No, I didn’t spot Hercules and Pegasus killing monsters from this sea.

At the ferry. Let’s get in before our face freezes.

He daringly face the cold outside , but I relented. Everyone else relented, as you can see.

Sunrise over Istanbul from the ferry

Aegean Sea over the coastal land of Kusadasi (a summer rich-man’s playground). View from our hotel balcony.

Animals are so fat here, we wonder if those strays are even strays. Maybe because it’s a four season country, therefore they develop great amount of fur, as Darwin’s natural selection precedes. Cats are everywhere, Dogs are everywhere. Dogs and cats hug each other. I don’t know. Everywhere in Turkey is dogs and cats that never fight. And yah, also, we spot a ‘horse’ at Troy.

Must be a cat’s gossiping ground. So many at Bursa vicinity.

Another black cat crossing me at Bursa.

At Acropolis, 3 dogs were playing near the ruins and one of them approached Fong. I am jeles.

My bus driver offered food to the dog and cats. One cat was riding on the dog’s back like horse at Troy.

You cannot miss this animal at Troy

Baa baaa.

This fat one I saw at Ephesus on top of the Goddess of Victory, Nike.
Like Malaysia, Turkey is a secular country. But people here are 60-70% Muslim, and others are “..dan sebagainya”. You can pray if you want, don’t want also can. Because if you Sunni, you pray 5 times a day in a mosque. If you Shiite, you don’t pray in the mosque because history says a Shiite leader was once killed inside a mosque (as I was told by history book), so mosque is not “clean”. But almost every corner city of  is filled with mosques, which is normal in Malaysia, but here, the mosque have super unique architecture: those oldy, moldy, Italian gothic type. Or Ottoman type(?). If they build a mosque in Turkey, they MUST follow back the same architecture or design. Cannot change. Like dat also can.

Several mosques worth a mention: Bursa Ulu Cami a.k.a. Grand Mosque (there’s a ski resort nearby), where there’s a beautiful fountain inside the mosque. The super famous Sultan Ahmet/Blue Mosque in Istanbul where it’s khat and ceiling design is incomparable to any mosques in this world. The pope came here to pray too in November 2014. And the Hagia Sophia, which if you read Dan Brown’s Inferno that describes this museum beautifully, is I dare say, one of its kind in this universe. Yes, Hagia Sophia is NOW a museum; no longer a mosque nor church it once was. Because Mustapha Kamal Ataturk said so.

Outside Bursa’s Grand Mosque

Bursa’s Grand mosque (Ulu Cami) in front of a fountain inside the mosque.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque at Istanbul.
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Design inside the Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Hagia Sophia featured in Dan Brown’s Inferno. Read that book to get more precise description.

Turkish lamps that can be found at Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

At Topkapi Palace where the Ottomans once lived. Now a museum containing loads of jewellery exhibits. That includes a 84 karat diamond, really.
And what are the Fongs without some adventure, kannn?

Hierapolis at Pamukkale has 2 special elements: There’s this natural wonder called Cotton Castle (a.k.a. Pamukkale) is only one of its kind in this planet. And because hot springs are associated with healing and cleanliness, the Romans (with bathing as their hobby), of course made this place their home for hundreds of years.  They create a city around the springs called Hierapolis, which includes Necropolis (for the dead). So, if you come to this place, it’s like super huge. Like from 20 km square (I guess nia, ok), Terraces of white hot springs sprung from carbonate salts, and surrounding it, the ruins of the Roman city of Hierapolis and Necropolis.

This is what I was looking fwd to, not the hot-air balloon ride.

Winter and hotspings are soo compatible. Felt so good, as the springs is not too hot nor cold: 38 degrees C

Apart from carbonate rock formations that what made Pamukkale it is today, there’s also yellow sulfur deposits which is a healing element.

LONELY PATH. No one ones a hike up the crazy path, only Mr. and Mrs. Fong.

Me and hubby performing alone at a theatre ruin. Because no one likes history in our tour except us, apparently.

We hiked up to this theatre, and we are alone in this vast stage !!!!!

Empty theatre. I like, cause no one kacau our photos. Can be creepy.

ALONE. Just you and me, Mr. Ruins!

A 6-hour trip from Pamukkale, is the great Library of Ephesus, which again we are all alone to visit this place. Crowd are thin in winter. But no crowd is good!

Another library, this one at Acropolis, is larger than Ephesus.  Must use cable car to get up here. That time was 1-2 degrees Celcius!
Selfies, oh Selfie! How can we not have couple pictures to end my already lengthy post:

At the Hippodrome where it was once a horse racing stadium. But Ottomans said that horse racing is gambling (true lah), so banned

Overall, I had a blast. My husband had his dream come true to visit Turkey. Let me just say, you need to love history to come to Turkey, but even if you don’t, you will surely like their tidbits, baklava, and tea. And the natural wonders too. No regrets of not going for something more “relaxing”, because I don’t want relaxing beach vacations anymore.

But say if I do come back to Turkey, I must try a couple of things: Aegean sun bathing in summer, Cave stay at Cappadocia, Pamukkale once again, Hagia Sophia, and Basilica Cistern/Medusa’s head. (http://yerebatansarnici.com/)

Must go:

1. Hagia Sophia

2. Sultan Ahmed mosque/Blue mosque

3. Pamukkale, Hierapolis, Necropolis

4. Ephesus, Izmir

5. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Skip: 

1. Topkapi palace

2. Hippodrome

3. Kebab restaurant at Grand Bazaar (cheater!)

THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for a great year!

Thank you so much for reading through this lengthy post. You’re a survivor.

Ivy-out.

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