Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Aegean Coast

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From Istanbul we caught the ferry south to Bandirma, the weather had turned cold. We bumped into Gerry and Rachael on there way home from a year long tour of Europe. They had just cycled the route that we were heading down.

Gerry and Rachel heading homewards.

Gerry and Rachel heading homewards.

We had one of our coldest days with temperatures of only 3 degrees with heavy rain and headwinds and nowhere to shelter. Even with all her layers on Pip was soaking wet and frozen. Fortunately the weather cleared and by the time we reached Canakkale the sun was out again.

The Trojan horse in Canakkale courtesy of Hollywood

The Trojan horse in Canakkale courtesy of Hollywood

The Dardenelles with Gallipolli on the other side.

The Dardenelles with Gallipolli on the other side.

Canakkale had a different feel to it than the Turkish towns we had been through. It had a younger population and felt more western. We spent a couple of days exploring it and  taking a trip across the Dardanelles to look at the memorials to all the fallen in the first world war at Gallipoli. Hundreds of thousands had died in trenches often less than 8 metres apart.

 

The Anzac war memorial with the ridge at the top which the Anzacs got to on the first day but no further and withdrew 8 months later having lost 10,000 lives.

The Anzac war memorial with the ridge at the top which the Anzacs got to on the first day but no further and withdrew 8 months later having lost 10,000 lives.

The battlle was a success for the Ottoman forces under the command of Turkey's greatest modern leader Attaturk

The battlle was a success for the Ottoman forces under the command of Turkey’s greatest modern leader Attaturk

After a hard day riding a few cobble stones to finish you off. Assos on top of the hill.

After a hard day riding a few cobble stones to finish you off. Assos on top of the hill.

The coastal road south was small quiet and beautiful climbing through small villages with relics of ancient Greek cities in differing states of preservation. We skipped Troy as we had heard there wasn’t much left. The city of Alexandrapouli was a forgotten, overgrown ruin with no one around.  Assos was still impressive with the temple of Athena dominating the skyline and the remnants of Agora, a gymnasium and an amphitheatre on the steep slope down to the sea.

The temple of Athena

The temple of Athena

Stopping in the villages would often lead to being asked in for some cay and cakes. We met some lovely people including Omer and his morrocan wife and 6 month old baby. Omer used to be a windsurfing and sailing instructor but now was training to be an Imam and had been placed in a tiny village for his first job experience.

Tea and cakes

Tea and cakes

We headed to Bergama through the mountains with beautiful pine forests and after a day of up and down hills, were rewarded with 18km of downhill, passing laden lorries on our way into Bergama.

The amazing amphitheatre at Pergamon

The amazing amphitheatre at Pergamon

The temple of Trajan Pergamon

The temple of Trajan Pergamon

The impressive ruins of Pergamon were just on the outskirts of Bergama. These stretched from the top of the mountain with terraces all the way to the bottom. Most visitors just took a cable car to the top and back. We were in no hurry and walked down through the ruins seeing some amazingly well peserved mosaics and getting an idea of what an amazing city this must have been.

we met him on our way down

we met him on our way down

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We headed on through Izmir gritting our teeth through the 30kms of 6 lane highways full of traffic in a hurry to get somewhere. We made our way to Selcuk through a beautiful marshy delta full of pink blossom and flowers. This delta had grown over the years leading to the ancient city of Ephesus losing it’s connection with the sea and slowly declining.

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Ephesus were the busiest ruins that we visited with coachloads of guided tours being dropped off at regular intervals. Once again it’s scale was impressive and it must have been an amazing sight when it was built.

The library of Celsus Ephesus

The library of Celsus Ephesus

 

Ephesus

Ephesus

What remains of the temple of Artemis one of the 7 wonders of the world at Selcuk. Complete with stork's nest on top.

What remains of the temple of Artemis one of the 7 wonders of the world at Selcuk. Complete with stork’s nest on top.

The temple of Zeus Euromos

The temple of Zeus Euromos

Cycling through 1000km of Turkey from the border with Greece is a brilliant way to experience the history of the region. Where civilisations have been born and slowly crumbled, wars fought between empires and religions. It does make you wonder how much longer our civilisation will last.

The regional elections are on in Turkey with banners and pennants everywhere. Feelings are running high with demonstrations in Istanbul and the big cities. Eveyone we met had an opinion on the elections which contrasts sharply with the apathy you see in the UK.  Unfortunately the rhetoric from the main party is divisive in attempt to cover up the allegations of corruption that embroils it.

The mountainous roads had the beating of us.

The mountainous roads had the beating of us.

We carried along the mountainous coastline along small roads through villages that time appears not to have touched. People with a few sheep or cows and few cars and small plots of vegetables.

Perfect camping spot.

Perfect camping spot.

Why is it that when you are wild camping you pass the perfect spot an hour too early, or 5 km the following morning past where you have just camped.  We have camped in some beautiful spots so I guess it is just the law of averages that we plumped for a spot in an olive grove just as it was getting dark between a quarry and a cement works that carried on working all night. Only to be greeted by the farmer in the morning when he brought his cows in to pasture.

Istanbul

 

Itanbul from the Galata bridge looking across the Golden Horn

Itanbul from the Galata bridge looking across the Golden Horn

Our first Turkish city was Edirne just a few km across the border from Greece but completely different from any city in Greece. The skyline was dotted with mosques  and the roads were busy and the streets full of people. Most were in standard western dress but there were quite a few women wearing headscarves. It was also a lot cheaper. The speciality in Edirne was cigeri fried calf ‘s liver, a meal for two worked out at less than 30 turkish lira approx  10 euros. Although we did have a rest from the meat menu after discovering a wonderful vegetarian restaurant.

Edirne

Edirne

Selimye mosque

Selimiye mosque

 

Selimiye mosque

Selimiye mosque

We explored Edirne over a few days visiting the Selimiye Mosque which is held to be the best mosque in Turkey, designed by the famous architect Sinan in 1570, topped by the largest dome  of any mosque measuring 31.25 meteres in  diameter. We also visited the Beyazit complex http://www.3dmekanlar.com/en/health-museum.html which consisted of a mosque hospital and medical school built in 1480. The hospital had a progressive approach to treating patients using music in the treatment of patients with mental health problems. The western approach at the time was iron shackles. The accompanying medical school was set around a courtyard and had rooms for students to live in and rooms for teaching. It must have been a great place to learn.

The Beyazit complex

The Beyazit complex

We had been told that the best road to Istanbul for cyclists was from the north. On the map it looked flat and easy but we had discounted the many rivers crossing the route. It was a series of valleys and we spent the next 3 days on a rollercoaster ride against a headwind. It then turned into a 6 lane highway full of lorries moving earth for a huge new motorway heading south. We finally managed to turn off the highway and came into Istanbul from the north riding along the side of the Bosphorus. Past castles, palaces, bridges and huge ships heading up and down the Bosphorus. The traffic got heavier as we came nearer to Istanbul and you had to keep your wits about you.

the Bosphorus

the Bosphorus

We had booked a flat through airbnb for a few days which was very quiet but located 4 floors up with no lift. Istanbul was hectic,  it has a population of 15 million and like most big cities the car is king. Public transport is very good and cheap particularly the trams and the ferries. The bazaars are heaving with people.

 

The Suleymaniye mosque

The Suleymaniye mosque

Istanbul has an amazing skyline dominated by the Suleymaniye mosque also built by Sinan in 1550. We loved the exterior of this mosque with tranquil gardens and beautiful architecture. We were very impressed by the Hagia Sophia, now a museum built in 570 AD,  it spent its first 900 years as a Greek Orthrodox cathedral before being converted into a mosque for the next 500 years and is now a museum. The scale of the building is impressive as is the construction of buttressing which has grown around it to prevent from falling back into the earth.

Hagia Sophia Museum

Hagia Sophia Museum

 

The Roman cisterns

The Roman cisterns

The Roman Hippodrome with the Obelisk of Theodosius 1470bc.

The Roman Hippodrome with the Obelisk of Theodosius 1470bc.

 

After 4 days of sightseeing mainly in warm weather we took the ferry south to Bandirma heading for the Aegean coast. Istanbul is amazing but we were looking forward to quieter roads and the countryside again.