We finally arrive in Slovenia, the country where my Dad was born, and I manage to contact my Uncle Flavio (Zio Flavio) two days before our arrival in the capital Ljubljana. After a gruelling 24 hour train ride from Sophia to Ljubljana (complete with a 6 hour wait in Belgrade) we are met with my Uncle's warm hugs and smiles. We is wearing a cap with the Maple Leaf and his car is proudly displaying the Canadian flag! We immediately start speaking in Italian, which is our only common language. The region of Slovenia that my family originates from is bilingual. They all speak . . .
We sleep in a cave during our first night in Cappadocia . Yes, many hotels in the area have converted old cave dwellings into hotels for guests to sleep in. A quick and delicious breakfast and then we are off again visiting the northern regions of Cappadocia. We are fortunate to have the same guide, Effe, for the leg of our tour and we begin by visiting a nearby site where monks once lived but is now abandoned. Again our day was filled with a lot of information and site-seeing . . .
Now we hop on a night bus and head east to the interior of Turkey to an area called Cappadocia. Cappadocia is located in the centre of Turkey and it gets a lot colder as we move west. Again the bus ride was as comfortable as it gets and Birch and Allegra sleep effortlessly. That is the beauty of being young, you can sleep under varying conditions, for me, I survived!
Wow, Cappadocia is absolutely gorgeous, it consists of many giant stone formations that have been carved out over time. We go to . . .
After a refreshing sleep in a hotel room, the tour guide picks us up along with another family and we head to Pamukkale which is only a couple of hours away. This town also has a huge well preserved amphitheatre and many Greek ruins. Along with all this archeological beauty, there are many natural hot springs that have been running through the area which explains why it was once another large Greek centre. These hot springs contain calcium carbonate which eventually get deposited along the rock creating white hillsides and pools. As we approach . . .
On this leg of our trip we book a five day tour through local travel company near our hotel. Our time is limited so three popular towns to visit are suggested: Ephesus, Pamukkale and Cappadocia. The tour involves getting from town to town with tour buses that are pre-booked and travel through the night. The concept is that while travelling through the night we could sleep on the bus and when the bus arrives in the early morning we could freshen up and then be ready to visit each town. It is a good idea if sleep comes easily while travelling along and constantly being woken up for rest stops. Regardless we are happy with our choices which allow us to see a little more of Turkey (a large country to begin with for European standards). We leave Istanbul at . . .
We are standing at one of the many courtyards within the palace grounds
Today we went to Topkapi Palace. It was built by a sultan in the late fourteen hundreds, and was passed down from father to son, sultan to sultan until the early twentieth century. We saw the weapons room, which was really cool, and would've been my favourite, if not for the treasury, which we saw at the end. We also got to walk throughout the harem, which is a big building where the sultan kept his four hundred concubines. A concubine is . . .
What a great city!
I did not know what to expect before arriving and I am pleasantly surprised with the beauty and history of this city of 20 million people. We are in a hotel called the Hotel Hanedan, that is situated within walking distance of many Mosques, Churches and Museums.
The weather right now is cold, cloudy and wet - it feels like we are in Vancouver but instead of seeing the majestic mountians and ocean we see endless centuries old buildings and the sea. Istanbul spans both continents, Europe and Asia. We are on the European side and across the Sea of Marmara lies the eastern section of Istanbul in Asia only a thiry minute ferry ride away! The city is . . .
Turkey over-the-top exceeds our expectations - fabulous archeological digs in Ephesus, ancient caves with paintings, chic European cafes, gorgeous architecture from many ages, treasure-laden palaces, - once, we slept in a cave with candles and white duvets - really cool ...(we also slept in buses and on trains...) - really an amazing country that is keeping the best of the old and introducing the best of the new. We met up with a colleague of mine who lives in Istanbul and she showed us her favourite haunts - she has a son Birch's age, and we all enjoyed a turkish dinner together. Great food - and we had to try many varieties of Turkish delight. Clean, safe, (okay, except maybe for the bombs in the northeast, but we were never near there..). Of all the countries we have visited so far, Turkey is the one we would recommend to those of our friends who want something different, and prefer excellent hotels to rougher ways of travelling... (But the cave was pretty cool...)
Above, Allegra and Carolyn at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, built in 1616 by Sultan Ahmed I;