Tag Archives: Altinkum

On This Day – Boat Ride to Bodrum

On 30th September 2014 I took an ill advised boat trip in Turkey.

After the debacle of the IMX excursion to Ephesus and Pamukkale and the road side break down we seriously considered cancelling our next IMX  trip to Bodrum because this was by boat and whilst breaking down in a car is bad enough, in a boat it could be catastrophic.

Read the full story Here…

On This Day – Pamukkale and Heirapolis

Continuing the tour of Ancient Turkey on 27th September 2014 I was at the site of Heirapolis/Pamukkale  an ancient Hellenistic and then a Roman city because it benefits from a rejuvenating spa of constantly warm water that the ancients were rather fond of.

The source of the spring is carefully locked behind bars because as it emerges from the earth’s core it brings with it a lethal cocktail of poisonous toxic gasses that will overcome and kill in seconds.

Read The Full Story Here…

On This Day – Bus Ride from Ephesus to Pamukkale

On 26th September 2014 I was continuing the visit to Ancient historical sites in Turkey…

The young man that sold me the tour assured me that the journey from Ephesus to Pamukkale would take two hours so I was shocked when the driver now said that it would take three and a half.

I was dreading this part of the journey with the noisy Lithuanian family and the darts team chimps but then at a short stop we had a stroke of luck and were transferred to a smaller more comfortable vehicle with two young quiet couples.  This was much better and we were so pleased about that because as the car pulled away we could hear that the the other bus had broken out into a spontaneous medley of classic cockney knees-up songs!

Read The Full Story Here…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio

Turkey Altinkum Shop Sign

There was a perfect blue sky when I was woken quite early by an invasion of sunlight bulldozing its way into the room through the gaps in the curtains and I lay still for awhile contemplating being in a new country.

I began to think of the most obvious things that I associated with Turkey – Turkish Delight, Turkish Baths, Turkish Tea, Turkish Wrestling, Istanbul, Magic Carpets, Uncle Spike, Kebabs and Belly Dancers and when my mind was quite cluttered up with all of these thoughts I got up and opened the balcony door and was greeted with a powerful aroma drifting in from an adjacent apartment that reminded me of one more thing – Turkish Coffee!

Read the full story…

Travel Postcards of the Year, 2014

Wroclaw Postcard

Guadalajara Province Map

Galway Ireland

Corfu Map

Turkey Postcard 3

Map of Hungary

 

 

Turkey, A Problem With Stray Dogs

Bodrum Harbour

An important pre-post message:

If you are a dog lover then I warn you do not read this post and if you do please do not send me comments telling me how lovely they are!

“It wouldn’t bother me in the least…if all the dogs in the world were placed in a sack and taken to some distant island… where they could romp around and sniff each other’s anuses to their hearts’ content and never bother or terrorise me again.”  –  Bill Bryson

After the drama of the boat ride excursion to Bodrum we were looking forward now to three quiet days to finish our visit to Turkey.

On the first of these we planned a long walk.  After the weekend storms the weather was perfect now for a stroll along the seafront and after breakfast we set off for the Marina about seven kilometres away around the other side of the bay.

I liked Turkey, the people, the food, the history, the weather but two things spoiled it (and they are not the IMX trips to Pamukkale and Bodrum) the first was the litter that I mentioned earlier and the second was the dogs because Altinkum, like most of Turkey has a problem with feral street dogs that wander around in pairs or packs and are quite simply a complete nuisance.  Today as we walked along the tourist strip a group of three of four followed us for a while and set my nerves jangling like a bell on a fire engine responding to an emergency.

I don’t like dogs, they frighten me, I probably mentioned that before, and I am fairly certain that I am not the only one and these mangy things that follow people about in the hope of food are just horrible.  My visit wish list has always included Istanbul but I read now that the problem there is huge with an estimated 100,000 stray dogs living on the streets and on account of that I have crossed it off the list.  Athens was bad enough.

Actually it is a World wide problem, The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than two hundred million stray dogs worldwide and the worst places are Bali, Bangkok  and Baghdad.  Three more places off my visit wish list, although to be honest Baghdad was never on it in the first place!

Someone will ignore my warning and read this and comment that they are lovely – they are not lovely – they are big, smelly, dangerous and intimidating.  Message boards are full of reports of dog attacks, animals running wild, ripping apart waste bags and howling all night long.

Actually, a law passed in 2004 requires the Turkish government to neuter and vaccinate all strays and then return them to the same area from where they were taken but with an electronic ear tag and a non-removable collar.  That seems like a lot of trouble to go to if you ask me, why take them back to where they will be a nuisance again? I would just collect them up and destroy them – that’s what we do in the UK.  Furthermore, by my highly unscientific survey of ears and testicles it appears that compliance is rather random and remains less than comprehensive.

Animal do-gooders would be outraged by such a suggestion I am sure but for me there is no place in a modern city or a holiday resort for packs of menacing animals wandering about.

If you think I am being dramatic or alarmist here then consider this – Turkey is unique in that it is the only European country in which the principal source of rabies is the domestic dog and it is also the only European country in which dog rabies from bites remains a serious public health issue because every year a huge number of suspected rabies dog bites are reported.

Consider this from Dr. Richard Smithson, a Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with the Public Health Agency of Northern Ireland: “In the past few weeks we have had several people returning from Turkey who have been bitten by animals and have had to be given anti-rabies treatment. This treatment is not pleasant as it consists of a series of injections. However, it is essential as rabies is always fatal and once it starts to develop it is too late to start treatment.  The message is simple: stay away from domestic and wild animals when abroad. It doesn’t matter how cute they look. If they bite you, you are going to end up spending a lot of time getting sorted out in a hospital casualty department.”

Anyway, thankfully the pack of dogs eventually lost interest in us and went off to irritate someone else and relieved by that we carried on to the Marina.

We spotted what looked like a short-cut across a beach and made our way across it only to be confronted with a security fence and no possible way around it unless we were prepared to swim about a kilometre out to sea so we were forced to turn back and find a way through a housing estate before rejoining the road and when we got there we couldn’t get in anyway.  Security guards barred our progress to the harbour and the boats whilst almost apologetically inviting us instead to stay as long as we liked in the public area as some sort of compensation.

There was no real point in hanging about the public area because we couldn’t see the boats over the high hedges and walls so disappointed by that we left the Marina and walked all the way back whilst keeping a keen eye out for the danger of stray dogs.

Walking in Altinkum Turkey

Turkey, Boat Ride to Bodrum

Bodrum Turkey St Peter's Castle

After the debacle of the IMX excursion to Ephesus and Pamukkale and the road side break down we seriously considered cancelling our next IMX  trip to Bodrum because this was by boat and whilst breaking down in a car is bad enough, in a boat it could be catastrophic.

We didn’t cancel but we both had negative premonitions about the trip and sure enough it started badly when the shuttle bus didn’t arrive to collect us.  We concluded that the reason may well be that after the Pamukkale fiasco and taking into consideration that the company was two vehicles down then this was most likely the reason.  We waited twenty minutes and then thoroughly irritated by this hopped on a Dolmus (a bus transport system) and made our own way to the jetty and the Bodrum ferry boat.

Straight away we were not absolutely sure about this, the boat was ancient, there were gaping holes in the rotting deck, the furniture was shabby old and worn out, we couldn’t see any lifeboats, the sun shades were ripped and ragged, parts of the vessel seemed to be held together with wire and string and the thoroughly unprofessional crew didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence.

If this was Greece then the rust bucket would have been decommissioned years ago and this thing had as much chance of complying with EU marine safety legislation as I have of flying to the moon.  On the other hand the sea was calm, the sky was blue, we had paid for it so what could possibly go wrong we wondered?

Well, quite a lot as it happened…

The scheduled nine o’clock departure time came and went and my already half empty cup of optimism was rapidly draining away but half an hour or so behind schedule the ferry eventually left the jetty and began its journey to Bodrum and the skipper steered the boat into open water.

It was a perfect morning.  Everywhere was blue, the sky, the sea, even the distant hills and mountains had a misty blueness about them and we settled down on the very top deck to enjoy the two hour crossing across the bay.

St Peter's Castle Bodrum Turkey

After an hour or so it is clear that the ferry was taking a curious route and didn’t seem to be heading in the direction of Bodrum at all.  Bodrum is around the headland but the boat was going straight on.  The reason for this was that the Bodrum ferry doesn’t actually go to Bodrum but eventually dropped us off on the other side of the peninsula and we were all transferred to a bus for the final leg of the journey and they didn’t tell us that at the IMX travel shop when we booked the tour.  IMX was beginning to seriously annoy me, I can tell you!

The bus leg of the journey took fifteen minutes or so and dropped us at the bus station which was a disaster for me because the bus station was next to the market and today was market day.  Kim was minded to pay a quick visit so I was dragged into the heaving mass of trading recklessness and spent a very uncomfortable thirty minutes negotiating the route from one side to the other.

Emerging from the exit we followed the road down to the harbour and as it was lunch time we looked for somewhere to eat.  It didn’t take long to be invited and then convinced to sit at a pavement table and soon we were tucking in to a lunch of spiced beef kebab with roasted vegetables and playing Russian roulette with a jar of chillies because just one injudicious selection meant a fiery eruption on the tongue!  The food was average and the bill was a shock so sulking about that we left the restaurant and carried on towards the castle.

St Peter’s castle was built by the Knights of Saint John in the fifteenth century as a defensive stronghold in Asia Minor.  Old photographs from the 1960s reveal that there has been a lot of reconstruction but a good job has been done because there is a lot of castle to explore here with several towers, fortified walls and high rampart walks as well as gardens, historical interpretations and the museum of underwater archaeology.

A walk around the harbour in the blistering heat of the afternoon took us now to another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Mausoleum of Mausolus.  This was once a magnificent forty-five metre high marble tomb, decorated with statues and friezes and built in the third century BC as a burial chamber for King Mausolus of Caria.  All that remains now are a few toppled columns and splintered stones and a hole in the ground where the burial chamber once was because all of the usable stones had been previously carted away by the Knights of St John who needed a convenient supply of stone to build their nearby castle.

The Knights of St John have quite a lot of lost architectural heritage to answer for it would seem and if the World Heritage Organisation had existed in the fifteenth century I think they may have had a great deal of explaining to do to the Director-General of UNESCO!

The afternoon was slipping away now so we returned to the busy main shopping street and made the souvenir purchases that we had promised ourselves and then had a drink in a shady bar before returning to the bus station for the ride back to the ferry.

Bodrum Harbour Turkey

Turkey, Pamukkale and Cleopatra’s Pool

Pamukkale Turkey

With the car now restored to temporary working order we now loaded our bags and pleased to be leaving the less than four star Grand Sevgi Hotel were relieved to see it for the last time in the rear view mirrors of the car as we made our way to Heirapolis.

This only took a moment or two but at the entrance Hagi (the gadgi) turned the engine off and then it immediately wouldn’t start again and this didn’t look very promising at all especially in consideration of the three hour journey home later today.

It was early and the visitor numbers were proportionately low but there were still a great deal of coaches in the car park and there was some competition to get through the entrance barriers and into the site.  We needn’t have worried however because it was big, very big and soon the visitors were dispersing in all directions and there was plenty of personal space for everyone to enjoy.

Our guide rushed us through several centuries of ancient history with rather indifferent haste and the reason for this was that few people were really that interested in the history and wanted only to get to Cleopatra’s thermal pool with its anti-ageing secrets locked in the warm waters of the spa.

“This site is exceptional by virtue of its superlative natural phenomena – warm, heavily mineralized water flowing from springs creating pools and terraces which are visually stunning. It is on this outstanding natural site that Hierapolis, an exceptional example of a Greco-Roman thermal installation, was established. The Christian monuments of Hierapolis constitute an outstanding example of an early Christian architectural complex.” – UNESCO

Heirapolis/Pamukkale  is the site of an ancient Hellenistic and then a Roman city because it benefits from a rejuvenating spa of constantly warm water that the ancients were rather fond of.  The source of the spring is carefully locked behind bars because as it emerges from the earth’s core it brings with it a lethal cocktail of poisonous toxic gasses that will overcome and kill in seconds but once separated from the noxious fumes the clear water flows down towards the edge of the mountain where it calcifies and forms startlingly white travertine pools of dazzling white calcium deposits like a fresh fall of snow that you mind find in Archangel, Alaska or Alberta.

Pamukkale Post Card

On its journey it is diverted into Cleopatra’s pool and visitors pay an extortionate amount (just my skinflint opinion) of money to swim in the naturally heated thermal pools in the hope of discovering the secret of everlasting youth.

All around this part of the Eastern Mediterranean there are all sorts of places that claim to be Cleopatra swimming pools and I for one am becoming rather sceptical about the claims.  In the days before Ryanair, high speed rail or motorways she seemed to be able to get around much easily than I imagine it really was possible two thousand years ago!  Actually, I have done this sort of thing before on Santorini in 2003 and I am convinced that you only need to do it once to achieve everlasting good looks and a second attempt might reverse the process so I declined to do it again here.

Cleopatra

At this point we parted company with the Lithuanians and the Dagenham Ladies darts team and left the thermal pool and choose instead to go and visit the ruins of Heirapolis.  And how glad we were that we did.  It was quite a slog to the top of the old city but at the end of the climb was a restored ancient theatre that surely has to be amongst the best that we have ever seen and that includes Segesta in Sicily and Merida in Spain and also (again in my opinion) the ruins that we had visited yesterday at Ephesus .  To miss this treat in preference to swimming in a dubious Cleopatra themed swimming pool was a cultural crime!

With everyone else splashing about in the water we felt rather smug about this as we made our way back down and after stopping for a coffee made our way to the edge of the mountain side and the pure white frost of Pamukkale.  A few years ago visitors used to wander all over this site and at Cleopatra’s pool they built a hotel but too many people meant unacceptable damage so with the assistance of funding from UNESCO the hotel was closed down and demolished, the damage caused by diverting the natural spring was reversed and visitors are now restricted to only a small section of the geological wonder.  Pamukkale is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along with hundreds of other visitors we paddled through the dazzling turquoise pools and winced as we made our way through hidden and sharp travertine surfaces and then we were glad to put our shoes back on and walk awhile through the site.  It was good, I enjoyed it but to be honest I am not sure that it was really worth the agony of an eight hour return trip bus trip.  And it is only eight hours on a good day but I will tell you about that next time.

Hierapolis Pamukkale Turkey

Turkey, Bus Ride from Ephesus to Pamukkale

TURKEY - Ephesus - The Library of Celsus

We didn’t go directly to Pamukkula however because now we had to endure two totally pointless factory visits.  Pointless for everyone that is except for the tour organisers who clearly get paid a commission for delivering vulnerable and unsuspecting people to these places.

The first was a ceramics factory and shop and after a ten minute demonstration on the potter’s wheel we were ushered into the show room.  I hate places like this, I don’t intend to buy anything and I always feel guilty about that and I am always concerned that Kim is going to let guilty feelings get the better of her and buy something expensive that we don’t really need.  I prefer to plan my purchases – usually about three months in advance!

Another annoying thing always happens in these shops and I can guarantee that within seconds a sales assistant will have attached themselves to me like a burr and I just cannot get away from them.  I have concluded that I either have the suspicious demeanour of a shoplifter or the face of a shopping mug and these people follow me round endlessly and I am like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who cannot shake off that posse that is chasing them across the whole of Wyoming.

After the ceramics factory there was a visit to a Turkish Delight shop where I was even less inclined to anything because I don’t like Turkish Delight.  On reflection I should not have signed up for the IMX Travel excursion and should just have hired a car instead.

The young man that sold me the tour assured me that the journey from Ephesus to Pamukkale would take two hours so I was shocked when the driver now said that it would take three and a half.  I was dreading this part of the journey with the noisy Lithuanian family and the darts team chimps but then at a short stop we had a stroke of luck and were transferred to a smaller more comfortable vehicle with two young quiet couples.  This was much better and we were so pleased about that because as the car pulled away we could hear that the the other bus had broken out into a spontaneous medley of classic cockney knees-up songs!

The bus now started to head east along a wide fertile valley on the way to the Provincial capital of Aydin along one of western Turkey’s most important travel and communication routes. To the north were the mountains of Aydin Dağs and to the south the mountains of Menteşe Dağs and in between in the valley were fields of olives, figs, cotton, grain and fruit but the progress was slow because of speed limits, frequent traffic lights and a very cautious driver.

At about mid distance he pulled into a service station and there was an unnecessary twenty minute break and during that time a team of men washed the car and the windscreen and then for some obscure reason opened the bonnet and poured water over the engine which sizzled with a fizz of surprise and which I thought was a rather strange thing to do – more about this later!

We left Aydin and carried on relentlessly east and soon we came across some thermal power energy generators similar to those that we had seen in Iceland.  Turkey, it turns out, is located on the Mediterranean volcanic belt and has one eighth of the world’s geothermal potential  – I didn’t know that!  We passed close by the Denizli-Kizildere geothermal field which has nine production wells and an integrated liquid carbon dioxide and dry ice production factory that can produce a combined total of forty thousand metric tons a year.

Soon after this Haji, the driver, pointed out a white scar running alongside the side of the hills in front of us as though someone had poured a tin of paint down the side of the mountain – this was Pamukkale, our destination.

It took another forty minutes or so to reach the village and when we left the car we were looking forward to checking in to our four star accommodation at the Grand Sevgi Hotel.

Four Star – No Way!  This turned out to be one of the worst hotels that I have ever stayed in ever (2 0ut of 5 on TripAdvisor and only 6.2 out of 10 on Booking.com, which is pretty bad). The room was like prison cell from Midnight Express, the public areas were worn out and shabby and the food at the all-inclusive buffet was just appalling.  We struggled through a plate of inedible, tasteless mush and then spent the rest of the night worrying about food poisoning.  On the up-side it did have free Wi-Fi!

After dinner we walked through the village, bought some wine from a nearby shop and went back to the room to drink it.  The next problem was that our room was next to that of the darts team and with zero soundproofing I was worried in case they had brought a dart board along with them and put it up on the adjoining wall and for an hour or so there would be a steady rhythmic thump, thump, thump of the arrows hitting the cork and the regular celebration of “One Hundred and Eighty!”   Fortunately we heard nothing, slept surprisingly well and woke early in the morning.

If evening meal had been bad then breakfast was several times worse.  The hot food was cold, the bread was stale and the tea and coffee machine was a whole six weeks uninterrupted work for  an environmental health officer and we were just glad to get the awful experience behind us, check out and rejoin the tour bus…

… which wouldn’t start!  Little wonder really given the surprise dousing down it had had with water at the service station stop over the day before and now there was clearly an electrical problem to be dealt with.  Haji assured us that it wasn’t a big problem, got it jump-started and we set off for Pamukkale and the ancient city of Heirapolis.

We were two hundred kilometres from our apartment in Altinkum and passengers in a dodgy vehicle but as I said before – more about this later!

IMX Tours Alktinkum Turkey

 

Turkey, Grocery Shopping and Self Catering

Altinkum Grocery Shopping

It was another glorious morning and after breakfast on the balcony we put our agreed plans immediately into place.  Kim stayed in the apartment sitting in the sun and I went food shopping at Carrefour.  I really must try and remember that Kim is so much better than me at seven card stud poker!

Carrefour was about three kilometres away along the Kemal Atatürk Boulevard and rather than wait for the Dolmus bus I decided to walk a while and see if one came along, which they frequently did but only between bus stops!

This reminded me of going to football matches with my dad in Leicester about fifty years ago.  Very close to my grandparents house where he parked the car there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares which he considered to be an unnecessary expense in life.  I have inherited that trait!

I eventually arrived at the supermarket and filled my wire basket with the items on Kim’s list and was feeling rather pleased with myself until I was suddenly aware just how heavy the trolley bag suddenly was and how uncooperative the wheels were when trying to steer it.  I really didn’t fancy walking all the way back with that because the town planners in Altinkum have done some curious things.  They have provided nicely surfaced pavements but then every few metres planted a tree in it, and trees so big that you are forever having to go up and down the kerbs to go around them and into the road so instead I waited at the bus stop until a Dolmus came by.

After only a short wait the bus turned up and the driver did that thing that bus drivers do everywhere and pulled up several metres after the spot where people were waiting so that they had to pick up their bags and walk to the door.  This is something that must be hard-wired into a bus driver’s brain at birth.

Altinkum Shopping

With the shopping completed and water supplies replenished it was time for a swim so we took a dusty track off the main road and made for a place called Paradise Beach and when we arrived we could only agree that it was so aptly named because here was a golden crescent of pristine sand shelving slowly into the sea.  A sea that was changing colours like a kaleidoscope – butter milk cream over the wave polished stones, vivid blue over the butterscotch sand and imperial purple over the swaying weed.

After the walk in the hot sun, the shopping expedition and the fight with the shopping trolley it looked so inviting so there was no time wasted diving in and taking a refreshing swim.

There is currently a beauty salon fad in the United Kingdom and elsewhere which involves parting with substantial amounts of cash, taking shoes and socks off and dangling them into a tank of fish which will nibble away at the dead skin and provide a natural pedicure.  The toothless fish are called garra rufa and are also commonly known as ‘doctor fish’, they come from the Eastern Mediterranean, mostly Turkey, and there were some in the sea today and when we stood still long enough they congregated at our ankles and shortly got to work.

Doctor Fish

While we enjoyed our free foot treatment it became obvious that the discerning little creatures preferred my feet to Kim’s and I could easily steal her fishy medical companions by standing close to her.  Kim became irritated by this so I explained to her as best I could that the only explanation I could think of was that while some men are ‘babe magnets’ I really couldn’t help being a bit of a ‘fish magnet’!

This alternative beauty treatment sounds weird but it might be considered positively normal compared with some others.  For example, bull semen, a moisturising hair treatment that uses the sperm of Angus bulls. Ox bone-marrow shampoo from Brazil, Nightingale droppings used in Japan as a facial cleanser, snail slime used in South America as a hand cream and snake venom in Africa which is claimed by some to have the same face-freezing effects as Botox – if you want to freeze your lips, simply kiss a cobra!

After the swim we walked back along the coastal track and came to a small cove with a shack made of driftwood and what looked like old canvas and curtains for shade.  This turned out to be Ray’s private beach and as we approached he came out to meet us and invited us to swim – so we did.  Having made use of his beautiful beach but not having hired a sun bed from him (5 Turkish Lira) it seemed only good manners to take a drink with him so we bought some beer (8 Turkish Lira) and sat and chatted to him for a while.

After the beer we wandered back to the apartment and as evening approached and the sun went down we now prepared for our evening meal and assembled a feast of barbeque delights and Turkish (Greek) salad and when it was gone we congratulated ourselves on a wonderful gastronomic effort (well, Kim’s mainly if I am completely honest) as we sat under the stars and reflected on an excellent day.

Ray's Beach