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"Turkey - a real delight"

NB These notes are intended to satisfy a number of audiences: casual viewers, people interested in Turkey, and motorhomers considering visiting this lovely country.. For this reason I have added information likely to be of interest to motorhomers only.  

"MSF" = "Miles So Far"

26th Aug     Left home 11.30, 1710 Sea France ferry to Calais, thence to Gravelines aire, MSF 195.5.

27th Aug     to stellplatz at Kehl, Germany MSF 583. Via Lille, Luxembourg, Strasbourg. Cut off corner of France, past Maginot Line museum

28th Aug     through Switzerland to St Gotthards Pass, MSF 776, via Lucerne 46degN33'25.3', E8deg34'01".

29th Aug.     Woke to a heavy frost - quite a cold & frosty night. Even so, a guy from a Swiss van was wandering around in shorts and a tee-shirt before breakfast. Long drive south to Ancona, via Milan and toll motorways. (Cost to Ancona, ???)MSF 1129.

30th Aug     Short trip inland, to Gubbio. Looking at the map we were certain this was a hill top town - but it wasn't. It did have a large, well signposted and excellent ADC. So lunch here, and a walk in the town. Gubbio is quite large, and moderately touristy, but worth a look. After Gubbio we went to look for an ADC at Genga, but failed to find it. We did drive through a spectacular gorge at Frassassi, and there is a cave there too- very Cheddarish. So, hot, tired, and sticky, we went looking for somewhere else to spend the night - some miles down the road at Mergo. This small village had quite a large tarmacked ADC, and electricity seemed to be available, too, but we didn't bother with that, MSF 1224.

Sun 31st Aug     Leisurely drive into Ancona. The ferry was did not sail until 1700, so the plan was to see where the ferry port was, then drive on to find somewhere for lunch. We found the port, but then got thoroughly lost in Ancona, drove down streets we should no0t have, and then couldn't find our way back to the port. We did in the end, and lunched in the ferry queue..

The ferry, Minoan Lines "European Palace", came in at 1500, and took a awful long time to disembark. Then an even longer time for us all to embark. Vehicles bound for Patras were loaded first, then finally those bound for the first port of call, Igoumenitsa. It became obvious that the loading crew were getting rather agitated, and as we embarked we could see why - they had run out of room! We were the last vehicle to reach the camping deck. Several other motorhomes and caravans had to stay on the ramp up to the camping deck, which meant fridges wouldn't work, and sleeping and eating would not be practicable. We just made it - our rear wheels were still on the ramp. .

230 volts is supplied to each camper  from reels slung overhead. Use of gas  is forbidden, but an electric kettle provided the main sustenance - cups of tea. We had prepared a cold meal beforehand. Wi-Fi is available, \u8364\'806 for 2 hours - amply long enough to check email both in the evening, and again before the ship docked in Igoumenitsa the next morning. .

We were on the port side, and all the breeze was on the starboard, so the night was quite warm. Coupled with all the lights being on, and the constant hum of a working ship, sleep was rather disturbed..

1st Sept      The crossing was smooth - well this is the Adriatic! and we docked on time at 0900. Igoumenitsa is the close to the Albanian border, and for much of the morning we sailed down the Albanian coast. There are no piers, and the ferries just berth stern to against the jetty. .

No passport checks at all, either boarding or going ashore in Greece, and we were straight onto a motorway. This Greek alphabet will take some getting used to! The motorway was new, smooth, and empty. The map shows it going most of the way across Northern Greece - THIS IS A LIE! On many occasions were we left to the mercies of mountain roads, quite as hairy as we've seen anywhere.  Suddenly, there is a view over the delta, and you drop down to sea level. Late afternoon we reached the ??? campsite near Methoni- a quaint family run site, 16 Euro per night. By the Aegean, and with a shop and good pool. MSF 1464.

Tues 2nd Sept    An early start, to get to the next site in time to visit the town of Alexandropoli, about 25 miles from the Turkish border. The site is large, well organised, with large shady pitches, and right by the sea. We walked into the town late afternoon, and had a so-so meal of sardines  & Greek salad. Most of the night was spent listening to boy racers and a nearby disco! MSF 1685.

Wed 3rd Sept.     Left the site at 0800, to reach the a Turkish border before it got busy. We had heard that getting into Turkey can be long winded and difficult. In the event, we reached the border about 0900,and were through within 15 minutes. Very few cars, but the inevitable long line of lorries waiting to get through. The process involved firstly buying visas - 10 each, then getting these stamped by passport police, then another check of passports, then a review of vehicle documentation, and vehicle details entered onto a computer and into the driver's passport. This then had to be stamped at another desk (nearby), then finally a customs post, who just looked at our passports. All the officials were smart, clean, polite, smiling, helpful and friendly, and compared with our experiences of getting into Bulgaria 3 years ago, an absolute breeze!.

Coffee time, and we're parked in a lay-by beside the Dardanelles, looking across a short distance to Asia, and watching numerous ships going past in either direction. Really interesting. All around us are the sites of the WW1 Gallipoli campaign. In fact, it was so nice we stayed for lunch, and watched a Russian submarine sail past. Then on to the end of the peninsula, presided over by a big British memorial - interesting to note that  the former HMS Bacchante and the former HMS Minerva took part in the Dardanelles campaign (I served on later ships of the same name). All around are numerous other memorials and graves, both Allied and Turkish..

Thence to the quaintly named Kum Hotel, which is primarily a campsite. Expensive, at 30 YTL (New Turkish Lira, i.e the old ones divided by 1,000,000 or so, about 13). "Adequate" sums it up. Swimming pool extra 7.5 TL, but there is a sandy beach. MSF 1831.

Thurs 4th Sept      A lazy start, then off to visit some more memorials, particularly around Anzac Cove, where the Australia, New Zealand .... came ashore in 1915. The Turks are proud of their defeat of the Allies, not unreasonably, and this is where Mustafa Kemel Ataturk became famous. Then on to catch the ferry to Asia - a half hour ferry trip across the Dardanelles. This is my first visit to Asia for 32 years. The ferry cost 34 YTL, about 15..

Once in Asia, at Canakkale, we considered visiting the workings at Troy, nearby. However, we've heard there are better antiquities elsewhere, so drove past to the coast. Here we found ourselves in another ferry queue, having missed our turning. We sorted ourselves out eventually, and found our road, and wild camped on the beach at  Odunluk Iskelesi. We ate dinner watching the sun set over Bozcaada, a small Turkish island. As we ate, a small lorry arrived, and a small family emerged to set up a picnic on the beach, just as the local mosque broadcast the end of the Ramazan fast for today. The son, a boy of 11 or so, presented us with a huge slice of melon. We responded with a plate of ginger nuts, and before we knew it we were sitting on a Turkish rug sharing another meal, in the dark. They were a lovely young family, they spoke no English (and of course we had no Turkish) but we did get along well, and swapped email addresses. (Unfortunately, their email address bounced when I emailed a photo.) Thank you, Mehmet Unsal - a great ambassador for Turkey. MSF 1893.

Fri 5th Sept.     Drove East along the coast road, winding our way to Assos (Greek name)/ Behramkale where we visited one of the 2 oldest Ottoman mosques, built before the Turks took Constantinople and learnt the lessons of Sancta Sofia. Also there is a temple to Diana, on top of the hill, reached by zig zag cobbled road. There's a great view over the Greek island of Lesbos - which is surprisingly close. Then a rather hairy drive down to the harbour, but that was a real disappointment - nothing but tourist hotels, restaurants & souvenir shops..

Drove inland, looking for somewhere to spend the night, and found a large flat area outside a village where we settled down for the night. MSF 1942.

Sat 6th Sept.     Got disturbed at 11.30 last night. Lots of noise of voices and engines - but it was only a bus disgorging passengers. Of course, we had the usual 0450 call to prayer - but we were expecting that..

On the road again, driving on towards Bergama. The road changed (eventually) from a narrow difficult country road to a 4 lane highway of varying quality. We arrived at Caravan Restaurant Camping about lunchtime. The site is long established, with about 15 or so pitches, well watered (i.e. green) grass, clean showers and toilets, an excellent swimming pool, and of course, a restaurant. At lunchtime this featured an all you can eat buffet for only 7 YTL (about 3), catering mainly for coach parties- several came and went while we were eating. Being Ramazan, it is closed in the evenings. We have had several hectic days, today was a day to catch up, do some washing, swim and chill out (if that's what you call it in this heat). Except for an old German couple who appeared to sleep in their car, there were no other campers. MSF 2045..

Sun 7th Sept.     Well that was a disturbed night! About 1130 several dogs appeared to start an ongoing argument. Then 0415 or so, loud drumming, which went on for 15 minutes. At 0450 the usual call to prayer..

There are some exceptional Graeco/Roman antiquities here, and we drove the 10 Km to the Acropolis. Much of the 10 Km is spent on a narrow road winding round a high hill above Bergamo. Narrow, steep drops, and much used by tourist coaches. .

At the top of the hill is the Acropolis, an ancient Greek city, with some later Roman parts. parking and entrance was expensive - 15 & 20 YTL respectively, and parking space is VERY limited. We were guided into place by Selim, who then explained he worked at the carpet co-op, but on Sundays someone from the Co-op came here to tell drivers of tourist coaches they were open. He then insisted on buying us tea in the cafe - of course he was trying to persuade us to visit the co-op, and buy a carpet. But there was no hard sell, and it was very pleasant. He says there is free camping at the Co-op, useful for future reference. The setting is spectacular, with long views in all directions. The amphitheatre, built into the side of the hill  is both steep and huge. (It is claimed to be the steepest in the world). I stood on the stage, and self consciously declaimed a few lines of Shakespeare, and it was loud and clear to Rosemary, near the top. At the highest point, many pillars remain of the Traianus temple, built by the Romans - probably Hadrian (he of the wall). Also here, the remains of a library that equaled Alexandria. The Egyptians banned the export of papyrus to prevent competition with Alexandria, so the Bergamans invented vellum instead. Mark Anthony gave the library to Cleopatra as a wedding present..

Back to the van for lunch, where we again met Selim. This time we invited him on board for a cup of English tea and a ginger biscuit, and a long chat about the travails of children, costs of university etc..

Driving back down the hill - luckily not meeting any tourist coaches on their way up, we visited the "Red Basilica". This is mentioned in the Bible as one of the first churches of Christianity, but was originally a temple to Serapis. Having paid 5 YTL each to go in, we found most of it fenced off, but ducked under that to get a closer look. .

Back to the site - in time to see a convoy of French motorhomes, a Dutch motorhome and a German m/h arrive..

Another swim, before another noisy night..

Mon 8th Sept.     As forecast, another noisy night! The Dutch couple, and 2 French motorhomes stuffed to the gunnels with the remaining French, headed for the Acropolis. We walked the 3 Km or into Bergama. We knew from Selim that all schools in Turkey reopen today. We saw several processions, all bearing flags, and quite a grand ceremony near the town centre. The national anthem was played - and traffic stopped and passers by stood stiffly to attention. I can remember when playing "The Queen" had the same effect in England! Bergama is a very bustly and likeable town, full of narrow streets. Today is market day, and we contemplated catching a bus or taxi to the market, which is some  way out of town. In the event, we walked backed to the site for another 6 YTL buffet, then drove to the market..

The market is HUGE! And all under cover. Fresh fruit & veg at ridiculous prices from several hundred vendors - it all got rather confusing. Found some loose  Ceylon tea at about 8 YTL/Kg. I bought 1/4 Kg, but wished I bought more - it was really high quality. Next market, perhaps? Fresh dates, figs, Turkish Delight, beans, broccoli, and more. Rosemary bought a black sequined scarf to go with her evening dress, only 15 YTL. We returned to the site to find everyone had left, and we were alone again..

Tues 9th Sept. Another disturbed night. This time Rosemary raced off at 0315 to see who was doing the drumming. It seems that there was just one drummer, although it sounded like a whole troop of them..

Left the site at 0900, and went to see Selim's carpet co-operative. Interesting place, but we weren't interested in spending several hundred pounds on a Turkish carpet, no matter how nice and how long it took to weave. Selim was still taking his daughter to school, so we left our regards and carried on east..

Izmir has the reputation of being difficult to drive through, and indeed it was. There is a motorway round it, but the road was diverted on the way in, and it was all downhill from there. Eventually, when the road became  a narrow side road, we asked directions from a taxi driver. We found the motorway, and although this added about 20 miles to the journey, at least we going the right way, and there were signs to follow. At one point the motorway sweeps down on Izmir, and there is  a vast view of houses. To our surprise, we found one section was peage, about 60p for 15 Km. We were heading for Sigacik, a small fishing village southwest of Izmir. After a brief venture down the coast, finding only holiday complexes, we returned to Sigacik for the night. Sigacik is quite a pleasant town, several good looking restaurants well frequented by locals. We stopped in a car park near the centre of the town, near the (manned) WC. There's a large population of semi feral cats, but these seem to be fed and watered by locals in particular the WC attendant. They are in the process of converting much of the port into a marina. Hopefully the new arrivals will fare better than the yacht we saw, sunk at her moorings! MSF 2187..

Wed 10th Sept      Continue east towards Ephesus. At one point we drove down a track to the sea to investigate possibilities for wild camping. We were flagged down by gendarmes, whose truck was stuck in sand - could we pull them out? I wasn't keen on that! we could get stuck ourselves, or we could burn out the clutch. So instead we tried our grip mats - but they were too well dug in. So the we attached tow ropes (several, so we could keep away from the sand), but we weren't strong enough - ad there was a smell of burning clutch- so we had to give up. They were impressed with how much gear we had - they had none at all. Later we saw a tractor pulling them out. Moving on, we pulled into the campsite (Garden Camping) at Selcuk, about a mile from Ephesus. Quite expensive, but good shade. We pulled in behind a tiny tent, and set up, Shortly after that the owner of the tent arrived on a small motorbike, His name was Mike, and he was heading home to Edinburgh after riding round the world! Makes driving to Turkey seem pretty tame, I must say..

So Mike stayed for lunch, and was invited to dinner. We went our separate ways, and we went to investigate the town. On the way we visited the Isa Bey Mosque, built 1375, and the museum, which houses the treasures from Ephesus. There were several Internet cafes, but they were  all full of children playing games, but in the end we did find one with space. The Turkish keyboard was a struggle. On our return to the site, we discovered the same convoy of French motorhomes we bumped into at the last site had arrived. Typically, they did not even acknowledge our presence..

Mike brought along a few beers, and the evening meal went well, not breaking up till after midnight- it's lovely air at that time of night. The whisky I found helped, too!  Driving in India & Pakistan sounds a real challenge - we might give this a miss. Mike's blog is on www.singapore-scotland.blogspot.com..  

MSF 2240.  

Thursday 11th Sept     This was the quietest night since we've been in Turkey. No drums, the call to prayer was some distance away, and in any case was a much more mellifluous affair, and the dogs had an early night. (But maybe that whisky helped.) We woke to the sound of  a cat in the van. We couldn't understand how he got there, and couldn't find him. Then we saw a kitten on the roof, looking in the Heki roof light. How he got there, we've no  idea, but it seemed he was stuck. I had to open the vent, climb on the table and half onto the roof, to grab him and bring him in. Gave Mike breakfast, then we again went our separate ways, Mike heading for Gallipoli, and we to Ephesus. We debated driving, but parking is  expensive, and the ruins are only about 2 miles away. There is a footpath shaded by trees for most of that, so we walked. We aimed to get there early, but got there at 8.30, after it had been open 30 minutes, and already the tourist buses were rolling in, many from cruise ships. (You can tell the parties from cruise ships. They go through at a rush.).

What can you say about Ephesus? Mind blowing! It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor, and had a population of 200,000 at its height. Visited by all sorts of VIPs - St Paul set up the first Christian church here, and preached in the theatre, Anthony & Cleopatra walked down the same street that tourists now walk down, St John the Evangelist was buried here - reputedly he brought Mary here after her son's death. Entry costs 20 YTL, about 9, it is jam packed with visitors, and is worth every penny. We were there about 4 hours, and returned exhausted. We took hundreds of photos, so prepare to be bored!.

Thursday 11th Sept.     This was the quietest night since we've been in Turkey. No drums, the call to prayer was some distance away, and in any case was a much more mellifluous affair, and the dogs had an early night. (But maybe that whisky helped.) We woke to the sound of  a cat in the van. We couldn't understand how he got there, and couldn't find him. Then we saw a kitten on the roof, looking in the Heki roof light. How he got there, we've no  idea, but it seemed he was stuck. I had to open the vent, climb on the table and half onto the roof, to grab him and bring him in. Gave Mike breakfast, then we again went our separate ways, Mike heading for Gallipoli, and we to Ephesus. We debated driving, but parking is  expensive, and the ruins are only about 2 miles away. There is a footpath shaded by trees for most of that, so we walked. We aimed to get there early, but got there at 8.30, after it had been open 30 minutes, and already the tourist buses were rolling in, many from cruise ships. (You can tell the parties from cruise ships. They go through at a rush.)

What can you say about Ephesus? Mind blowing! It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor, and had a population of 200,000 at its height. Visited by all sorts of VIPs - St Paul set up the first Christian church here, and preached in the theatre, Anthony & Cleopatra walked down the same street that tourists now walk down, St John the Evangelist was buried here - reputedly he brought Mary here after her son's death. Entry costs 20 YTL, about 9, it is jam packed with visitors, and is worth every penny. We were there about 4 hours, and returned exhausted. We took hundreds of photos, so prepare to be bored!

Fri 12th Sept     Left the site at 0900. 3 nights cost us 49 YTL - about 22. As we drove past the French there was not one flicker of interest. Usually we get nods and waves from fellow travelers, but then, rarely are the travelers French. First stop was the Railway Museum at Kamin, entrance 3 YTL. They certainly had lots of steam engines, but having seen the gleaming polished monsters at the UK railway museum  where most are in working order, it was obvious that these had been rescued from the scrap heap, and just painted up, over the rust, pistons, conn rods - everything. Many of the engines were arranged around the turntable, and I was pleased to find I could move the turntable by hand. At home that would have been spot welded to stop it being moved. The oldest engine was a little old British engine, built 1879 by Robert Stephenson Ltd. The most interesting exhibit was Ataturk's railway carriage, which included a large marble bath.

Next stop, another early Greek settlement at Prieme. Entrance was 3 YTL each, so we paid up and was about to enter when another man popped out of the woodwork demanding 5 YTL for parking. There was absolutely no indication of extortionate car park charges, and I was furious. He was not trying to sell us a car park ticket, it was purely a scam. The man was quite taken aback, and backed off.

These ruins were another Greek city. Unlike most, it had not been modified by the Romans, and comprised the usual theatre, and temple, and many other buildings yet to be excavated. The city was set on a hill, protected from behind by a large cliff - a spectacular setting.

Just one more set of ruins to see today, at Miletus. I'm beginning to be ruined out! This had a well preserved theatre, with many of the arches and tunnels still standing, and open to the public. The arches were huge, the audience could come in 8 abreast.

We considered spending the night in the car park, as the sun was now quite low. Others have spent the night here, but we got a firm "no" from a security guard. So on the road again, and pulled in to a "campsite" by a lake called Camici Golu. 20YTL, and everything is run down. None of the lights work, the showers were disgusting, and we were the only people there. However, it would soon be dark when finding somewhere to stop would be very difficult. MSF 2320

 Sat 13th Sept.     The road behind us was busy all night! Many Turks travel at night to avoid the heat - and they all passed the campsite! This really is a site to be missed! Quite as bad as any we saw in Bulgaria. Even the bins in the loos where used loo paper should be put had not been emptied for quite a while. When we got back on the road, about 0930, the road was largely deserted.

We were heading for Kiyikislacik, near Lassos, described as an unspoilt fishing village. Given the difficulty of the road, I'm not surprised it's unspoilt!! We enjoyed a brilliant meal of levrek, picked at random from trays of fish, tomato, olive oil, bread and beer, chay and coffee for only 34YTL, less than 15. Levrek turned out to be sea bass.     MSF 2353

 Sun 14th Sept      long drive today, to the end of the Marmaris peninsula. We shopped at a Kipa supermarket at Marmaris - to discover it was actually Tesco. Then we stopped for a cup of tea at a viewpoint halfway down the peninsula, beside a Greek motorhome, to discover they were Brits. The road down the peninsula is quite difficult & tiring, and I was pretty exhausted when we reached our destination. However the village we thought would be a little fishing port where we could park on the quay turned out to be a row of pansiyone along a dirt track. We had visions of having to drive back along the difficult road as it got dark - luckily one of the pansiyone had a small campsite - "Gulbahar Pansioyone Camping"- about 6 small pitches, and we slotted in beside a Turkish motorhome. This turned out to be a real Shangri-la. Quiet, informal, right beside an idyllic beach, run by a friendly elderly couple.

We had planned to stay just one night, but it was all so idyllic and relaxing we stayed for 3. The couple next door, Arhan & Yasmine, spoke excellent English, and we found we had similar interests. Arhan gave me the passwords to a couple of nearby wifi links, so I've had 3 days of good Internet. I have uploaded our Turkey website so far, and just a small selection of the hundreds of photos taken. The electricity supply has been pretty intermittent, but I gather this is unusual. The sea (Mediterranean now, not Aegean) is lovely and warm, and flat calm. On Tuesday 3 new vans arrived, friends of Yasmine & Arhan. They gave us lots of useful info about our itinerary.

So we spent 2 days doing nothing much, which we're not used to doing. Very relaxing, and I see I could get used to this way of life. MSF 2490

Location of "Shangri La" - N 36 deg 40' 52.3", E 27 deg 33' 31.8"

Wed 17th Sept     Left the site with along round of handshakes, cuddles, kisses and photographs. Such lovely people. Cost for the 3 nights - 53YTL, about 20.

As we were well down the Marmaris peninsula, we drove down a narrow coastal road to the tip, where there is yet another ancient settlement, with a small natural harbour. Cost to go into the site was 8 YTL. We were  feeling rather "ruined out", so admired the view, and returned. The scenery all along the peninsula is spectacular, but very difficult to capture in photographs.

Before reaching Marmaris we turned right onto the Bozburun Peninsula, another attractive road. Yasmine had recommended a Evcan Camping at Hisaronu, reputed to have a washing machine, and we could se it was a lovely site by the water's edge - no wonder it is Yasmine's favorite, but we carried on past that. There are a couple of yachtie towns along here, Selimye & Bozburun. At Bozburun we managed to find both an ATM & a filling station - supplies of both cash and diesel were running low. We are planning to spend the night on the seafront at Bozburun. MSF 2578.

Thurs 18th Sept.     Well no sooner had we gone to bed, than the heavens opened. Our 1st rain since leaving England. It didn't last long, but was certainly heavy. Of course, all our windows and vents were open, so there was a frantic rushing around to close those where the rain was coming in. Then the rain stopped and it got too stuffy to sleep!  

Thurs 18th Sept     Another fine morning, and we headed back via Marmaris. There is a by-pass, but we thought we'd head in to see what the city was like. It all looked very tourist tatty, and when saw "The Hollywood Fun Pub" we did a U-turn and came out again. We were heading for the municipal site at Koycegiz, situated beside a lake. The town is slightly touristy, but still feels like a local Turkish town, with local shops.

The campsite is about 1 mile out along a pleasant promenade. The site itself seems quite run down, and the toilets and showers were pretty awful (but that's why we have our own). There is a good amount of shade, and we caught up with 2 weeks of washing. (Hand washed, no washing machine here, but it all dried within a couple of hours). The site also serves as the town's picnic spot, and has a large resident population of various types of fowl that wander where they will. We then strolled into town to find some Internet access. There are cafes around with Wifi, but we failed to find any until we were on our way back. In the meantime I struggled with the restrictions at an Internet cafe, and at least picked up email and looked at the BBC - HBOS has had to be rescued by LLoyds TSB! MSF 2469

Fri 19th Sept     This has been our most disturbed night yet! The cockerel crowing matches started about 0130, and are still going as I write this at 0710! Then there were the drums and the call to prayer ....It's interesting to note our best nights' sleep have been when we wild camped.

So having filled up with water from a painfully slow tap, we walked back into town, spent an hour drinking tea at the Mona Lisa cafe on the waterfront and using their free Wifi connection - cost only 3 YTL. Moving into the old bit of the town, we had a "half loaf lamb doner" and yogurt drink for only 8 YTL, and it was delicious. It seemed the owner got his excellent English from many years in Brighton. Finally, we bought a Turkish/English dictionary. We have a phrase book, but the trouble with phrase books, you can never find the phrase you're looking for!

So, on to Dalyan Camping, at Dalyan, about 20 miles away. We must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because we found ourselves driving down a narrow pedestrianised street. But as that seems to be generally done here, no one seemed to mind! Dalyan has tombs cut into the rock face, overlooking the river. There is no access to them, only boat trips that sail beneath them. Fortunately, Dalyan Camping is directly opposite the tombs, and has a magnificent view. A gentle haggle brought the price of the site down from 25 YTL to 20 per night. And it has a free Wifi connection, too. Internet cafes have been such a hassle here I have resolved only to use my laptop and Wifi.

So, a cup of tea, then off to see Dalyan. The Mediterranean used to surround these hills, but became silted up centuries ago, and now the Med is miles away, reached by a narrow meandering river. Dalyan's fame is built on the tombs in the rock, first created by the Lyceans 400 years BC, and is now a thriving tourist town - I've never seen so many restaurants in one place! All had their menus in English, almost all had English "food" (e.g. "sausage egg chips and beans"!), and all were expensive. There are scores of boats taking tourists to see the tombs, and the Loggerhead turtle beach some miles away. (You don't get to see turtles, however.) There is a very pleasant walk by the river, and the tombs are certainly impressive. We are now into English tourism country, and we regularly heard loud English voices.

Back at the site, we find we are next door to the "Sweet Dancing Club", which starts at midnight. Such joy!

MSF 2666

Sat 20th Sept     Well the Sweet Dancing Club was not as loud as feared, but the heavy thumping continued to about 0500. And the skies are cloudy! It's surprising, coming from England where you can rely on it being cloudy, how quickly you come to expect constant sunshine.

Today was intended to be a gentle drive into Fethiye, where there is a fish market surrounded by restaurants. You buy your fish, then pay the restaurant to cook it and supply vegetables etc. We had under estimated how big the place was, and how much traffic there would be. Parking was difficult, so we carried on round the headland, on a road that got narrower, steeper & twistier every minute. We did pass a small campsite. Eventually we found a place to  park beside a small bay, and had lunch. There was masses of rubbish, being picked up by a group of people who we later discovered to be the British crew of a Turkish Gulet anchored in the bay. After lunch we continued along the hairy road, turning a blind eye to the precipitous drop a few feet from the driver's window. We joined a slightly larger road, and found ourselves back in the city.

Next we thought we would go to see Oludeniz, nearby, and maybe find a place to wild camp. Lonely Planet says this used to be an idyllic lagoon, but has now been built up into a resort. Someone we met said it had been done sensitively- and it was absolutely horrid! Quite the tackiest resort we've ever been too, seemingly aimed at Sun & Daily Star readers. (OK, I know, I sound like a snob!). It was so awful we just turned round and drove out again, back into Fethiye, before we could head out to our next planned visit (not due till tomorrow) to Tlos, a Lycean city with rock tombs. Belleraphon was buried in one of them.

The tombs are impressive, carved out of the rock. I asked the man in the ticket office which was the Bellorophon tomb, and he whistled up a 7 year old boy called Neil, who had excellent English. Neil scampered off with me struggling along behind. The track started off level, then started dropping down steep and dusty slopes - the slopes where your feet slide from under you - then a scramble up a rock face, climb a short ladder made of sticks, and along a ledge. Neil proudly pointed out the carving of the man on a winged horse, and consented to be photographed with it. He also took my photo, and showed me where to take the best shot of the tomb. Coming back was easier, being mostly uphill, and I was able to keep up with him. That had to be worth the 1 YTL I gave him. There are other Roman buildings around, but these are less impressive than the tombs. We are hoping to spend the night in the car park, and chicken curry is under way as I write. MSF 2756

Sun 21st Sept     Well the night in the car park was fine until 0530, when we were woken by a thunderstorm, followed at 0600 by heavy rain. So much for hoping to see the tombs in the morning sunlight! Historian John Julius Norwich said in "The Middle Sea" that historically there have always been storms around the equinox. He was right!

The rain ceased at 0900 or so, to be followed by heavy mist, either in the car park or in the valley several hundred feet below. Not wishing to chance wet and slippery roads in fog, we hung about until 11, then went to drive off - NOT! Despite lots of stones we had sunk into the clay earth, and were stuck. We tried all our usual methods of getting out, to the intense interest of the locals. In the end we had to call on the offer of a tractor. He arrived without a rope, and we thought we had left our good tow rope with the Jandarmes. However, as things began to look desperate, I found it had slipped under the boiler. This saved the day, and we were quickly out, but very muddy. It was the sort of mud that clings to your boots and you feel like you're walking on stilts. I did give our rescuers 150 YTL, but I felt they had earned it.

Thence we moved on to Salikent Gorge, a tourist spot where you walk up the gorge on boards above the river, then complete the walk walking in the water. One look at the mass of dirty grey water surging through the village, with a promise of more water to come, swiftly put us off that. We've done floods (Bulgaria 2005) and it ain't fun! So instead we carried on to Xanthus, a World Heritage Site, in time for a late lunch.

Today has been a tortoise day. We have stopped to let one cross the road, shielding it from oncoming lorries, and secondly, whilst I was under the van repairing the consequences of being towed out, one came face to face with me. I don't know who was the most shocked! And walking round the Xanthus ruins, we nearly  stepped on several more. There some interesting pillar tombs - hollowed out columns for coffins. Only the Lyceans used these. We managed to avoid being attached to by an unofficial guide - it's difficult to dislodge them without being rude, but he could sense we weren't interested, and another victim came along behind us. I spent sometime stalking some large and colourful lizards, but as soon as I got anywhere near them they would disappear in the blink of an eye. We considered spending the night here, until we saw the "no overnighting" sign.

So on the road again, heading for Kas. Although it's only 1730, shadows are quite long. I really don't want to be looking for somewhere to overnight in the dark. About 10 miles from Kas we reached the coast - a spectacular stretch of coastline. There is an island that seems only a stones throw from the mainland - and it's Greek! We passed a small campsite that appeared to have the French convoy we've encountered previously. It was a couple of miles outside Kas, so we continued. Just before reaching Kas there is a harbour with a large car park, and we noted that as a last resort. Then we passed Kas Camping, but didn't much like the look of that, and it's still a good walk into Kas. So we found ourselves in the narrow streets of Kas, and found the harbour, stuffed full of boats, gunnel to gunnel. Beside the harbour is a pay car park, right in the centre of time, beside the boats, 8YTL for 24 hours. Ideal!

And the town! Brilliant! It may be a tourist resort, but it is beautifully done. The whole atmosphere is relaxed, friendly, tasteful. Walking round in the evening was pure delight - balmy air, scented plants, no loud music. This is the first place anywhere that we would consider for a package holiday.

There are stacks of wifi links available, but all security enabled. Some have cafe names, so I will investigate these tomorrow. MSF 2821

Mon 22nd Sept     I've discovered we can empty the toilet cassette for 3 YTL, about 1.20, Expensive, but still cheaper than the campsite, and 2 minutes from the town centre. I've yet to find where to get water. - Later, there are taps for the boats, but these are prepay metered. A German in a little VW said he was told it was "nicht trinkwasser", but he filled up at the taps near the mosque. All mosques have quite ornate water facilities (and usually, toilets). So I carried 2 buckets of water 150 yards from the mosque. (Makes up for the 0450 call to prayer every day!)

We spent  today relaxing in Kas. In the morning we found a cafe on my list of wireless connections, drank chay and read email and news. We seem to be missing all sorts of financial disaster. This also gave us  the password for later use, though 3 chays only cost 3.25 YTL - about  1, and an hour's Internet access.  We could have stayed longer - there was no pressure to move on that we often get at home, but there were things to see! We lunched on lamb pide - Turkish pizza, only 5 YTL, say 2. Rosemary bought a belly dancing belt for 30 YTL, reduced from 50. We also sought out a Turkish supermarket (in contrast to a rebranded Tesco, or a Russian equivalent), and that was quite a different experience. Of particular interest to me, we bought Lokum (Turkish Delight) at an eighth of the price of the tourist shops (and I love Turkish Delight!).

We still had some clearing up to from our "stick in the mud" experience yesterday, so we trotted off to the end of the harbour with mud encrusted rescue kit (that didn't) buckets, and rope, and set about cleaning up with the aid of the Mediterranean. Messy!

We ate out in the evening, at Naturel restaurant, a Lonely Planet recommendation, and it was delicious. There are so many restaurants to  choose from! It is a lovely town to just wander in.

Tues 23rd Sept     There were a few large spots of rain last night, but they didn't come to anything. About 3 am the council came and emptied the rubbish skip near us. This involved banging it about to get the dregs out. They empty it 3 times a day!

We brought with us a book of walking in Turkey, and a couple of the walks are from Kas. We chose the walk up the hill, to see the views over the Med. It started off alright, on a road. However, at the point where it turned off the road and up the hill, what little path there was up a very steep slope with no hand holds or foot holds. We decided discretion was the better part of valour, and continued walking up the hill on the road. Towards the top (i.e. some way from the top!) we sat to have a snack before returning. Rosemary managed to tumble off a rock, bruising her face and getting some nasty scratches. Luckily the bruise did not turn into a black eye, or I might have got the blame!

Back at the van for lunch, and the wind has picked up into stiff breeze. Very tiring.

Another balmy evening, and we ate well in the Alper Restaurant for only 5 per head.

Wed 24th Sept     The dustmen came at 0100 again, then 2 calls to prayer at 0530. The first call was some distance away, but as soon as that finished the mosque 100 yards away started. Can't complain, though, we are getting our water from the fountain outside the mosque.

This morning we walked to the end of a small isthmus, only a couple of miles and flat, then back for lunch. The bread is delicious and costs only 30p! (But emptying the loo has gone up to 5 YTL.)

This evening we ate at Bahur Restaurant, excellent food - the beef was perfect, but the service was quite impersonal compared to the previous two.

Thurs 25th Sept     Big spots of rain during the night, requiring quick shutting of windows and vents, but it didn't come to much. Walked east along the Lycean Way, but not far, and back for lunch. After lunch, we drove to Ucagiz, and paid 10 YTL to park. From here you could get a boat to Simeha, but we chose to walk (1 hour), mostly on the Lycean Way and boots and a walking stick would have been useful. Simeha is a city that partly sank during an earthquake 2000 years ago, and is only accessible on foot or by boat. There is now a tiny inhabited village on the site, all narrow alleyways, and cafes for the tourists. Children played marbles (quite expertly) and a toddler mixed mud pies - takes me back 55 years! There is a Crusader castle, and lots of "sarcophagus tombs" including the famous one emerging from the water. A number of olive trees are said to have been planted when the tombs were created, so are at least 2000 years old. Returning, we got lost in the maze of unmarked alleyways, and must have ventured into the wrong area, because I became aware of a stream of abuse coming from an old man on a balcony. I had no idea what he was saying but his message was clear. He was incandescent with rage and foaming at the mouth (literally). Such a contrast to the friendliness and helpfulness we have encountered in abundance elsewhere in Turkey.

We returned to our car park on the quay as it was getting dark, and were welcomed like long lost buddies by the attendants. It was the quite late, so we ate at the Alper restaurant

 Fri 26th Sept     Time to move on- we've been here 5 days! Normally we get itchy feet after 2 days. We attempted to find, but failed, the Turkish supermarket we liked so much a few days ago. So no more delicious lokum!

Ever since we've been here it has been too windy for the advertised tandem paragliding flights from the top of the hill, and I had been wondering whether to have a go. Today they flew, and landed on the quay right beside us. We were shocked at their speed of landing, they came in a quite a fast run. Others we've seen touch down gently with no forward motion at all. That settled it - I wasn't doing it! - and that saved 100 a well.

 Before leaving we emptied the loo one last time - the man charges 3 YTL, the lady charges 5 YTL, I gave the attendant a bottle of English beer, and we left with lots of goodbyes and waves. Hopefully we've done our it persuade him that British motorhomers are OK. I just hope no one else undoes it all with boorish behaviour. (And we Brits seem good at that.)

 As we pulled out into the town, we found ourselves in the middle of a convoy of 12 British motorhomes. We reckoned it was the GB Tours convoy, whose itinerary we had downloaded. We left them when they all went into the same service station, queuing to get in, and presumably queuing to get out so they could form an orderly British queue on the carriageway - at any rate that's how they were when they swept past us when we stopped for lunch.

We carried on to Myra, where St Nicholas was bishop.  It seemed rather bizarre  seeing statues of Father Christmas in his best red Coca Cola outfit in a hot Muslim country. Here Rosemary looked at the ruins - I think I'm ruined out! Thence onward to find somewhere to overnight. The coast road east of Myra is spectacular, set into the side of the cliff above the sea. Sharp bends every 100 yards or so meant concentration was intense, but never have I seen such intense colours of the sea - turquoise close to the shore, and a deep midnight blue in the deeper water., and of course white surf. Unfortunately we don't have a picture - there was nowhere to stop safely. Eventually we ended up just 10 yards from the sea at Beldibi, on what was obviously the old road. It is now dark, and several cars of spooning couples have turned up. Obviously a popular spot. As we put on the water heater for our evening shower, our 1st bottle of gas ran out. Not bad, as we've been away from home for over a month, and have not had mains hook up that often. MSF 2965 Location  N36 deg 40' 49.", E30 deg 34' 12.7", on the westward side of Beldibi.

 Sat 27th Sept     There's something special waking up to the sound of the gentle Med waves breaking a few yards away, and the sun rising out of the water - magical.

Onwards, and we battle through Antalya and its suburbs. The seafront is quite nice - like a tidy Bournemouth, but elsewhere the traffic was appalling. It seems the driving gets worse the further east you go. So far it has been pretty good, if erratic. If this is Antalya, I'm dreading Istanbul.

We stopped off at Aspendos, another ruined city, but with an intact theatre. this was repaired in the  13th century as a caravanserai, then by Ataturk in the 20th century. Shows are regularly held here.

Entrance was 15 YTL each and parking another 5, but it was quite interesting. Rosemary found a snake on one of the terraces, and I took lots of photos of it. After the theatre we took a walk to see the very impressive aqueduct, and headed back to the van for lunch. As we left, I showed the attendants the photo of the snake and asked what it was. They got very excited, and wanted to know where I'd seen it, as it was dangerous. I went back in with a man carrying sticks and a scythe, but although I located where the snake was, not surprisingly it was no longer there. I was told its Turkish name was "kiri", but I shall have to look it up to see what's English name is, and how dangerous it really is.

The road east of Antalya is pretty good, mostly dual carriageway but with lots of traffic lights. These were a trial, as there was lots of jockeying for position. And it is definitely not wise to brake hard for an amber, lorries hurtle through on red, not expecting you to stop either. After Alanya the traffic eased considerably, and we found Sedre camping about 14 Km from Alanya, beside the sea. motorhomes were beginning to gather for next week's Caravan & Culture festival. So far we're the only non Turks.

 MSF 3087 and we have just about gone as far as we can before we head for home.

Sun 28th Sept     More vans arrived during the evening and night. The organiser is expecting 40 vans and we're the only Brits. We have been introduced to Koray Tezcan, chairman of the Association of Campers and Caravanners. He speaks excellent English, and will be our guide for the festival - so that's OK then! We have also met a Swede who is a long term Turkish resident, and speaks English. The water in the showers was cold last night, I think they were doing last minute changes to the solar heating, judging by the cutting & welding going on. The showers and toilets are spotless, and the chemical toilet disposal is excellent (these are important points, you know!)

Free wifi is available. Reception is patchy in the van, but fine in the restaurant area.

We attempted a swim, but discovered a line of slippery rocks along the shoreline, making it too risky to swim from. There are a couple of landing stages to get you past the surf, but we decided against trying them.  

Mon 29th Sept  More arrivals today. The festival starts this evening with a meal in the restaurant. We are beginning to make friends with people. More and more people are willing to try out their English on us. Some people's English is very good indeed.

Tues 30th Sept          Ramazan ends today, with a visit to the mosque for those so inclined. Some go, some don't. Then  breakfast, Turkish style, rather like an English lunch - salads, cheese, olives, eggs, jams, fruit, tea.

After breakfast, a meeting. Lots of speeches that went right over my head, followed by a ceremony where you get to shake everybody's hand. (And kisses if you're brave. I was only brave with the younger ladies!)

Free time till lunch, which wasn't until 2.30 because another party had the first sitting. We are now quite chatty with a number of people, and I can even remember some names.

The afternoon was games - "Okay" - same as Rummikubs, and backgammon. Personally, I hate games, but Rosemary was quite happy to join in.

After dinner, Turkish dancing. Quite a few of the women were surprised that Rosemary could also "shimmy her bits" whilst dancing.

Wed 1st Oct          Today there are trips to Dim Caves, Dim Dam, and a banana plantation. The caves are small, but spectacular. They were only explored in 1989, and opened to the public in 1999, so pretty well all their stalactites and stalagmites are intact. (Cheddar Gorge's, in contrast, were used as targets by Cromwell's soldiers.) Dim Dam has yet to be completed. The dam structure is in place, but not all the ancillary bits required to make it work. It was interesting to see what a dam looks like before it is filled with water.

Lunch was at a restaurant beside the river. It advertised swimming in the river, but it looked quite murky, and no one did venture in. Finally, a banana plantation, where I had it proved tome that bananas grow upwards, contrary to my expectations. Also there were papaya trees, inside green houses.

Evening, and more dancing. Different style this time, so Rosemary didn't get a chance to shimmy her bits.

Thurs 2nd Oct          Today's trip took us to Alanya, to see a ceramic workshop. This was actually much more interesting than it sounds, and some of the ceramic tiles were brilliant, although we managed to escape buying any. Thence on to a coffee stop at a village. Here Muharrem, a guy who looks like the happy Buddha, speaks excellent English and has an irrepressible sense of mischief said, to a large audience  "Andy, you seem to be taking on the Turkish way of life well. At the last night do on Saturday we thought we would make you a complete Turk by giving you a circumcision.", expecting me to be dumbstruck. My reply of "you're too late" brought the house down, and for once he was lost for words. However, the incident did seal us as one of the crowd, and Rosemary will treasure the memory of the look on his face for a long time.

After coffee, we went on to Sapadere Gorge - a rather nice narrow gorge recently opened to the public.

There followed a late lunch at a nearby restaurant, before being transported back to Sedre Camping, where there was a barbecue on the beach.

Fri 3rd Oct           An earlier start this morning. Breakfast at 8 to 9, and coaches at 9 (but which actually got under way nearer 9.30.) First stop, Alanya Castle, an impressive Seljuk/Byzantine/Ottoman construction on top of a very imposing headland. There are 6.5 Km of wall! And the road to the top is completely hairy. Tight hairpin bends, very narrow roads, coaches going both ways, cars parked, pedestrians in the road. I'm just glad I wasn't driving.  On the way there was a brief stop at a view point, with a view down on Cleopatra Beach, with just one sunbather - bravely sunbathing nude.

There followed a boat trip on what looked like a miniature 2 masted pirate ship. Although there are sails bent onto the boom, they are only for show, not for use. The boat takes you past the ancient Seljuk shipyard, past some caves, and anchored round the headland for lunch. Quite a few people swam, and a dog ("Chancellor") loved swimming so much he kept trying to jump back in. As we rounded the headland there was a sudden squall - strong gusts of wind, flurries of rain. Several large cushions were blown over the side, and a window smashed. All quite exciting for 10 minutes, then the weather was back to normal.

Sat 4th Oct           A day in the mountains behind Alanya. The contrast was quite marked - from the hot and humid Alanya to a cool fresh mountain air. Lunch in a really excellent organic restaurant, and then home.

There is a gala dinner this evening, but the mood was quite sombre because 15 Turkish soldiers had been killed by the PKK in Eastern Turkey. Lots of goodbyes as it ended, and los of email addresses swapped.

Sun 5th Oct              I've processed a selection of photos, and uploaded them to the website this morning. Already I have received an email with photos attached. Interestingly, I discover that typing in the url  www.pippins.me.uk doesn't find the site, but clicking on a link of the address does.

Many fond farewells - you wouldn't think we'd only known them a few days but they are such friendly people. Then to extricate ourselves from the site. Much to-ing and fro-ing, and gesticulations, then off. D400 west then D695 to Konya. Scenery inland is spectacular - like films I've seen of the Rockies.

We reached Konya, a large city of 1 million, in a plain beneath the mountains, height 1000 metres, late afternoon. We spent a while looking for the aire de camping car, then found we had driven past it half an hour previously. It is on the junction of the by-pass dual carriageway and XXXXXX. There are road works and currently can only be reached from the Ankara bound carriageway.

The aire, "XXXXXX" , was a real surprise. It has a barbed wire fence and a large metal gate. As we drew up an armed policeman opened the gate and ushered us in. When we parked the policeman shook my hand, said "welcome" and showed me all the facilities. The aire is fully paved, with marked pitches for 20 vans. There are numerous sinks for water, and numerous electric points. This is the first time we've had free electricity on an aire. And there is a small toilet block, squat loos only. (Later -we discovered these are locked overnight!)

As it was only 4.30, we thought we'd walk into Konya. However, try as we might, we could not find a way of getting across the dual carriageway. MSF 3270

Mon 6th Oct              We have had a very thin duvet on the bed for the last 6 weeks or so, because nights on the coast are quite warm. Last night it was cold! We said goodbye to our guard, and drove into town. It was along way down a long and boring road, so we couldn't have walked in  anyway. We were there about  0900, and parking was no problem. We parked outside the Mevlana Museum, which contains the tomb of the founder of the "Whirling" Dervishes, (died 1273) and many sultans. Entry was only 2 YTL.

We liked Konya a lot, a bustling non touristy town, with lots of interesting little shops. It has  reputation for religious conservatism, and there were certainly lots of women in headscarves. We came across a long queue. Intrigued, we followed to see where it went. The trail led to a bank. No other banks had queues so we presume there is a run on this bank.

And today our Nationwide credit card has been refused twice. Two expensive phone calls to Nationwide got me nowhere. They really are crap!

The road from Konya to Cappadocia is long, straight, and mostly boring. It is so straight your eyes begin to play tricks, asnd you fear wandering off the road. There are areas of outstanding scenery, as the road keeps rising. We stopped at a couple of caravanserai - buildings to accommodate caravans of camels and horse, set 15 to 30 Km apart, and built by far sighted sultans to facilitate trade.

We had  never heard of Cappadocia, and never seen pictures of it. It is Spectacular with a capital S! Words cannot adequately describe it, so look at the photos. There are houses & churches in pillars of rock, there are 36 underground cities, and the scenery is unbelievable!

We have stopped at Kaya Camping, right in the middle of Cappadocia, with views out of the cab window. Also on site is "Ozbus"- London to Sydney in 3 months. Some seriously raucous and foul mouthed young Irish women, a number of other men and women in their twenties, and a few couples in their sixties. One of these last said "it is a challenge, and we're only 2 weeks in!" MSF 3422

Tues 7th Oct              A cold night, and we've our thick duvet on! As we ate breakfast, we suddenly noticed dozens of hot air balloons rising from the valley in front of us. These bobbed up and down as they drifted over the valleys of rock formations in the still morning air. "That's for me!" I said. I took dozens of photos, so some whittling down is due.

It's about a kilometre walk to the Open air museum, an area containing a large number of rock houses, and rock churches. Some of the wall paintings in the churches still glow with colour. Another glut of photos to cull!

Then a walk into Goreme village for lunch, and  look into balloon flights. Goreme is a lovely village - touristy,  but done well and not spoiled by tourism. Lots of cafes and restaurants, and our lunch was excellent. Getting a balloon flight for me (only) proved more of a tgrial. We were seduced by cheap (ish) offer, but as we got into the detail, it became obvious I would be on the second flight of the day by this balloon, not safe practice, according to Lonely Planet. So I paid 30 (total 140)  more to a company called EZ Air, and I'm to be collected at 0550 tomorrow.

Wed 8th Oct              Standing at the camp gate (like Lilli Marlene) at 0550 is pretty cold! By 0615 I was wondering whether I'd been forgotten, when a dolmus turned up, with numerous nationalities already aboard. At the launch site the 2 EZ Air balloons had started to be inflated, and we lifted off at sunrise. I've not had a balloon ride before, so it was an experience. From all sorts of places balloons were lifting off. The basket was quite crowded (OK, very crowded), so you couldn't move around. Luckily the pilot continually turned it so we had a constantly changing view. I contained my vertigo, primarily because the edge of the basket was chest high, so falling out would have been a major achievement (in fact climbing out at the end was a major achievement!). We dipped into a couple of valleys, one quite deep,/but it was obvious that Sultan Balloons and KIA Balloons dipped into many more valleys - and that's the interesting bit.

The flight lasted an hour, and made a gentle landing on a local road. Normally the support team is there  already, and the pilot lands on the trailer.

Back at the van by 0900, ready for a full day of being a tourist. AM we drove around the local area looking at more amazing scenery. At one place we found another Jandarmerie housed in a "fairy chimney". Seeing us take a photo, the 2 Jandarmes inside came out to be photographed, then one insisted on taking a photo of us with his sergeant. Jolly policemen indeed!

PM,and we walked from/the site, looking for a footpath I had seen from the air (in the valley we had dipped into). This was a simply glorious path, down  "Rose Valley", so called because of the pinkness of the rocks. The valley is narrow, and the path went through a number of natural arches. Birch trees, and others, were turning to their autumn colours. Idyllic! Somehow both our faces have caught the sun,this after 6 weeks in Turkey.

 

Thurs 9th Oct              This morning we visited one of the 36 underground cities in the region. Fascinating, This one, Kaymakli, has rooms on 7 levels. The rooms are quite a reasonable size, and ample room to stand,  but some of the passages were narrow and low - about 3 ft high. Quite a few visitors couldn't face going into them.

The afternoon was spent at Soganli, where there are yet more rock churches. Presumably it was a monastery or similar. As well as the churches there are holes in the rock all over the place, and some seem still to be lived in. The churches are richly decorated, but have lots of graffiti scratched into the paintings - I saw one dated 1821. The first church we went to had singing coming from it, and I assumed it was a recording. However it was a Greek Orthodox priest (we presumed) and a small group of visitors, perhaps his parishioners. One church had a back room which still had the stone door - a stone wheel that rolls in a track to block the entrance. (As in "they found the door of the tomb rolled aside")

Angry email exchanges continue with Nationwide.

Fri 10th Oct              Paid our bill (27 YTL pn), and left at 0830. We followed the main road to Nevsehir, a 4 lane highway when it suddenly turned into a 4 lane dirt track. No diversion signs, so we carried on. After a while it became obvious we were going into a blind alley, turned round and "felt" our way to Nevsehir. Then , D260, D765 to the Ankara by-pass, the D140 to a small campsite near Beypazan. At several points along the road the carriageway became dirt track, as they extend the dual carriageway, and speed dropped to 20 mph. Mostly, however, the road was good.

The campsite is small, facilities are spotlessly clean, but they're not set up for tourers. They wanted 30 YTL for one night, more even than we paid at Goreme, but we got that down to 20, still expensive but acceptable. We need to get to Istanbul with full water tank and empty loos!  MSF 3770

The owner speaks even ess English than I speak Turkish, but has a smile that lights his whole face. 2 cups of chay have appeared, 2 big tomatoes and a plate of melon.

Sat 11th Oct              2 cups of tea have appeared again this morning, and a roll. We have been the object of interest for a number of veiled women and a child. Most sites seem to have resident cats and dogs. This one has resident pet rabbits. Stocked upin a supermarket in town - they couldn't believe I really wanted 2Kg of Turkish delight (cost about 3!). Then on to face the terrors of Istanbuli traffic.

We took a scenic road across the mountains. Scenic it certainly was, but painfully slow. In the entire 100 miles or so to Bolu, where we joined the motorway, I got into5th gear once! There were some very remote villages with old Ottoman houses.

The motorway from Bolu to Istanbul cost 10 YTL, for about 170 miles. It started off almost traffic free, and by Istanbul was pretty hectic. We were aiming for a car park in the centre of the city, and found it first time round. It took us 45 minutes to cross the Bosphorus bridge, as several lanes converged to 2. The scariest bit is Turkish lane discipline  - there  isn't any! Lanes are for wandering across with no signals, or for straddling, to get the best of both worlds! However, we are now safely back in Europe, and camped in a car park in the very centre of Istanbul, just 100 yards from the Grand Bazaar. Cost 40 YTL for 24 hours, but right in the centre of a major city! 2030 - and a large Slovenian motorhome has just joined us.  MSF 4004. We crossed the Bosphorus on 4000 miles exactly - very satisfying!

Sun 12th Oct              We are right underneath the Grand Mosque, and it has the most powerful amplifiers. The call to prayer at 0515 was deafening!

So an early start, and we were at the Topkapi Palace by 8.30, although  it didn't open until 9. Entrance  was 20 YTL. Entrance to the Harem (which is actually the sultan's living quarters) wa an extra 15 YTL, and we found the Harem disappointing, and not worth the extra cash.

There are thousands of cafes and restaurants, and most are fairly expensive, but we found one doing Turkish fast food very reasonably, 2 half loaf chicken doners, an ayram and a cherry drink only 7 YTL. Turkish fast food is not to confused with US/UK fast food - Turkish fast food is not only edible, it's delicious.

After food, a walk along the Bosphorus sea front. We counted over 60 ships anchored off Istanbul, but couldn't think what they were waiting for. (Later, we asked, and were told they were waiting for business, having brought goods down from the Black Sea they were waiting for cargoes to take back). The current in the strait is phenomenal. Swimmers were jumping in at one end, being carried by the current, getting out and walking back for another trip. I estimated one swimmer as being carried at at least 1 metre per sec. There was a very strong cold wind blowing, so we took a ferry to Karadova (?) and back. The 20 minute trip cost only 1.4 YTL, and as we didn't get off, return was free. Views of Istanbul from the sea were impressive, but by golly that wind was cold!

Back at the car park, we negotiated an extension to our stay. They couldn't understand why anyone would want to stay in their car park that long, and whilst they had no problemwith us doing that, they couldn't work out what to charge and what to put on the ticket. In the end we agreed we could stay till 0800 Wed morning, for 60 YTL, and we would pay as we left. All very complicated, but big smiles all round helped the process along. The Turks really are lovely people!

Mon 13th Oct              Today we visited the Grand Bazaar. This has to be the height of our Istanbul visit so far. We had expected the sort of tat you get in markets in Europe, but there was nothing tacky about it all. They obviously maintain some quality control because stalls outside of the market were very tacky. We managed to maintain strict control of our wallets, and spent very little. A hat, a card of Dervish pictures, & finger cymbals, & lunch. You would have thought the bazaar an ideal place for pick-pockets, but in fact it is very safe. Firstly, Turks are generally very honest, secondly, the market traders would give any pickpocket caught short shrift - their livelihood depends on the bazaar being a safe place to shop, and thirdly, every gate has a policeman on it. After we said thank you in Turkish to the cafe owner he gave us free teas. We have found saying thank you in Turkish brings surprise, beams, smiles and goodwill. All thanks to Selim the carpet salesman at Bergama, who told us to say "tea sugar dream" quickly.

After an early lunch we visited the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent and his mosque. The mosque was almost entirely closed off for maintenance, which was a shame. They are preparing to be "European city of culture" in 2010. And so on to the Spice Market- piles of varying coloured spices, and fabulous looking sweets and cakes. We just had to buy more Turkish Delight - and had eaten half before we got home.

We have been looking for a decent map of Turkey ever since we arrived. Lonely Planet gave the location of a government bookshop in Istanbul, which it said was good for maps. A long walk over the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn, snd a steep hill, to find it wasn't good for maps. However the nearby "Robinson Crusoe Bookshop" did have "Adim Adim Turkiye", a 1:400,000 road atlas, cost 50 YTL, MUCH better then the 1:700,000 maps available inthe UK. (ISBN 978-975-9137-31-1, www.mepmedya.com.tr, info@mepmedya.com.tr) Then a long walk back, and we got lost in the maze of streets behind the bazaar.

Back at the car park, today's parking attendants had different ideas on payment, and we had to pay 60YTL, which we agreed would take us round to Wednesday 0800. Phew!

Tues 14th Oct              We so enjoyed our ferry trip yesterday, and we still had two jetons to use, that we took the same ride again, this time in the morning so the sun would be right for the Blue Mosque & Haghia Sofia. The round trip os about 50 minutes. Next time we will take the full 5 hour tourist trip up the Bosphorus. To get an idea of the Bosphorus, think of the shipping in the English channel squeezed into a river twice the width of the Thames. Add lots of ferries whipping about, and you begin to get the picture.

Another new experience - griddled mackerel in half a loaf - seasoned with salt and lemon juice, cost 4 YTL, and unbeatable. If only our bread at home was as good as Turkish bread we'd do them ourselves.

Next on the tourist trail - Haghia Sofia. Topkapi was a let down, but Haghia Sofia more than made up for it. Built in AD 537,the dome, and the space it encloses is ENORMOUS! And all supported on fairly slender columns. How on earth could they build such a structure 1500 years ago? And the mosaics on biblical themes were amazing. The conquering sultan converted it to a mosque, and added minarets, almost 1000 years later, but the Christian mosaics remain. Ataturk made it a museum in the 1920's. As an amusing aside, when we went to find the toilets, there was a long queue for the ladies (bayan). In front of Rosemary in the queue were lots of American women, and when she got near the front she could see why the queue was so big. There were two Asian "squat" toilets, and only one UK/US style toilet. The American women refused point blank to use the Asian toilets, so everyone was queuing for just one toilet.

We had determined to look for the car parks by the coast, for future reference, so had a long walk along the promenade. One of the car parks (the last going towards the Bosphorus, looked eminently suitable.

Finally, the Blue Mosque. This is still a mosque, and we had to wait for prayers to finish before we could go in. It is a big, impressive space, and beautifully decorated inside with tiles. Interestingly, although it was built over 1000 years after Haghia Sofia, the dome is smaller and supported by massive columns.

 I have to say, Istanbul has overtaken Oslo as my favorite city. We loved the friendliness and good humour of the people, its dynamism, the Grand Bazaar, Haghia Sofia, the food, and the Bosphorus. A great place, and it gets the Andy Newton seal of approval. We WILL return!

Wed 15th Oct              Woke early - and it's raining! left our car park at 0730 and sallied forth into the Istanbul rush hour. At least this time we didn't have to face the Bosphorus Bridge. We found ourselves on the peage motorway, although we hadn't intended to. I was worried we didn't have enough YTL to pay the toll, so went to get the euros out of the safe, just in case. I did find Euros, and an extra 20 YTL, but not my passport! We emptied the safe, twice (once each), checked all my pockets looked in all the other hidey holes. In desperation, another emptying of the safe revealed the missing item wedged against one side of the safe. Phew! Panic over. And in the end the toll was only 2.5 YTL!

The Turkish border took about 20 minutes, but I have to say they weren't as friendly this time. The whole process is highly inefficient, and they could sped things up and reduce manpower considerably if they wished. Entering Greece looked formidable, the cars in front getting a good search, but we were just waved through. And so back to Alexandropoulis, the site we left 6 weeks ago, and we ended up on the same pitch. Looking back at the diary, I see we still have 1680 miles to go! I'd thought it was all over bar the shouting! That will make our total at around 6000 miles for the trip. MSF 4206

Later: walk into town to find an Internet connection. Flo Cafe has a reasonable connection.

Thurs 16th Oct              Well that was an expensive site - 15. However we need to recharge batteries, empty 2 loos, and refill the water tank, so needs must. Picked up the A2/E90, which runs all the way to Igmounista. At a road toll point, with numerous lanes, none of which were labeled, we managed to get in the lorry lane, and were charged as a lorry, though it was obvious to the attendant that we weren't a lorry. I was fairly cross about that! Then when we stopped for fuel, and after the girl had filled the tank, said she only took cash, not credit or debit cards, I became incandescent! That's the first petrol station we've met anywhere that only takes cash! If I hadn't been so cross I would have picked up earlier that there was no till, and no till recipt. This is obviously a VAT fraud. Luckily, we had sufficient Euros.

We bombed along an almost empty motorway, and we were decanted onto the same tiny mountain roads we battled with 6 weeks ago. We were heading for Metsova, where our directory said overnight parking was available. Metsova seems to be a resort of some kind, judging by the numbers of hotels down the steep and narrow road. At the bottom, lots of signs made it clear motorhomes were not welcome - yet another reason to prefer Turkey! So we struggled back up the hill to a pass where a number of lorries had parked, presumably for the night, and settled in there.  MSF 4453

Fri 17th Oct              Lorries came and went, but we had a good night's sleep until a departing lorry woke us at 0500 - that's not even a morning watch! In situations like this we always get the van ready to move at a moment's notice, put the securty chain between the front doors and set the alarm. But we have never had any problems wild camping, so these are just sensible precautions.

Left before sunrise, at 0745. Most of the lorries had long since departed. Patches of thick fog made driving difficult on the narrow winding mountain roads between sections of completed motorway. The Geocenter/Euromap map of Greece is absolutely worse than useless. Motorways, service areas, petrol filling stations on the map have not even begun construction, and motorways that are there don't show on the map. Apart from one or two larger towns, we never did find out where we were. And, cleverly, it doesn't show large areas of Greece around the Bulgarian or Turkish borders. Well done, guys!

At Igoumenitsa we narrowly avoided driving into the port, but turned left down the coast to Plataria, where stopped by the quayside. MSF 4627 (I.e. 400 miles across Greece, easily doable in a day when the motorway is complete.) Already on the quay were two German vans, and a Belgian van arrived shortly after us.  

Sat 18th Oct              During the night, 2 large trawlers arrived alongside, then left at 0600. As we prepared to leave, Rosemary noticed we had a flat tyre. The I noticed the other rear tyre was flat, too! We pumped them up again, but they are losing air slowly. As we drove towards Igoumenista we found a small tyre place in the village, however he was busy, and come back in an hour. We came back in an hour, and it was come back in another hour. However, we eventually reached the front of the queue. One wheel he could find no leak, the other there was a slow leak through the valve base. He replaced that with a rubber valve (the original was metal) and charged 15. Then we returned to the quayside, before heading to Igoumenista for the 23.30 ferry. While we were waiting a flotilla of sailing boats came in, and parked stern to the jetty right in front of us. That was quite entertaining, and  motor caravanners of 6 nations sat in their chairs alongside the jetty watching the spectacle. It was apparently the last day of a 2 week sailing holiday, but not all of them had got the hang of it.

At Iggy Squidgy (Igoumenista)  we entered the port, and were faced with half a mile of jetty with no indication of where to go. If you've been through the Port of Dover you'll know how you are marshaled and sorted into the correct lanes for efficient loading. Not so here. Eventually you realise by osmosis that you have to park, find your way to the appropriate ticket office, be given a boarding card and told which jetty the ferry will come to. When you get to the appointed  jetty you are faced with a dozen lanes to choose from. We were first there (so we could have dinner, and a shower, before embarkation) and chose the rightmost lane. After 2 hours we were politely told we had to be in the leftmost lane. So here we are, at 20.00, in the correct lane waiting for the right ferry to appear. MSF 4650

Well it eventually loomed out of the darkness at 2310. No one got off - it had come from Patras, and a scrum, or so it seemed, ensued to get on. Huge lorries seemed to appear from nowhere. Some reversed on, some went on forwards. The drivers seem to be able to manouevre these juggernauts like minis. Very impressive. The 4 motorhomes in the queue were loaded last, and we were getting nervous there would be insufficient space, like last time. However, we had  a good spot on the outside of the vessel, and turned in. The sea is like a mill pond, but we noticed the lorries alongside us were lashed to the deck.

Sun 19th Oct              "A white mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking" - and that's at 0830! We are right on the westward fringe of the time zone. In Italy, 5 miles away, it is 0730. Being Greek, the ship runs on Greek time.

1450 Greek time, and we are approaching the jetty at Ancona. I've had 2 hours of wifi this morning for 6, sending Rosemary's latest newsletter, and updating the website. Pictures of Istanbul took a while to upload.  

Unloading at Ancona was interesting. When we got off at Iggy Squidgy we just reversed down the ramp. This time everyone was directed into 3/5/7 point turns to go down forwards. As there wasn't a lot of space, this was "interesting".

Back to a land where we have sat nav for. We were heading for an aire at Bagno di Romano. When we got there the town was full of cars, and the aire was also full of cars, and unpleasant anyway. The next aire was at Santa Sofia, some 12 miles away. The map didn't show it was a narrow road with about 20 hairpin bends going over 2 passes. However, the scenery was spectacular (when I dared take my eyes off the road) and the aire fine. MSF 4779

Mon 20th Oct              A good quiet night - no calls to prayer, no dogs. OK, the dustmen came at 0600 but I was awake already. And it's a very chilly morning. We looked up various Swiss passes last night. St Gotthard's pass is usually closed by snow from mid October, so it looks like it will have to be the tunnel - 13 miles or so. We shall come out feeling like goblins!

Later, on St Gotthard's Pass - it is open, and free from snow, so we've decided to overnight here again. Let's hope it doesn't snow in the night! And when we stopped for lunch the same tyre that was "fixed" was soft again. Wifi is advertised at many of the services on the Italian autostrada. Upon investigation, it needs logon credentials. Don't know what the cost is- must find out for next time.  MSF 5085

Later - our nerve ran out as the mist came up, and we descended to Hospental in the gathering gloom, stopping for the night at a small car park on the road to the Furka Pass.  

Tues 21st Oct - Trafalgar Day             By golly that was a cold night! Continued the homeward trek, to a stellplatz at Frieburg. Quite large, costs 7pn, and has a wifi connection. 15 minute walk into Frieburg, where the heavens opened. We were rather disappointed with Frieburg, but maybe it was the weather.  MSF 5244

Wed 22nd Oct              The rain continues. Left the site and found a Real supermarket, to buy a stack of German wine, where we spent 200, mostly on wine. (As fine wines are wasted on me, I buy on price. If it's cheap, I'll buy it!) Thence on to the Rhine locks near Strasbourg for lunch (we often stop here for lunch. It's usually busy and interesting.)

From Strasbourg we took the same very attractive road across the corner of France that we came up on (past the Maginot Line museum). It really is very attractive, especially with the autumn colours. Then back into Germany, to Trier,where there is a large wohnmobil stellplatz. This costs 6 pn, and we also ordered bread for the morning. No wifi, unfortunately. I tried a nearby McDonalds, but they had no idea what I was talking about - and I came back stinking of grease after only 2 minutes inside! I think my last visit to Mc**** (insert own expletive) was in Prague 11 years ago, to use their loo, and I hope it's at least as long again!  MSF 5443

Thurs 23rd Oct              Well the bread was delivered spot on 0800, as promised. A grey day. We tried to walk into Trier, but found it was over 3 Km each way. So instead a scenic (very scenic) drive down the Moselle to Luxembourg. Here we found diesel at 1 per litre (cf ~ 1.5- at home), before picking up the motorway. Sally tried to take us via Brussels, but that's a horrible road. The road via Charleroi & Lille is much better, and quite scenic. After lunch we made a detour via Dinant & Namur, and scenic drive up the Meuse, in Belgium. Then back onto the motorway, via Charleroi & Lille to the same ADC we stopped at on our way out, at Gravelines. Walked into Gravelines, a rather charming walled town with more than its fair share of banks. MSF 5726

Fri 24th Oct                     Drove the 10 miles or so to "Le Tunel sous la Manche". We were intrigued about what we would find, following the major fire in the tunnel 2 months ago. Our original booking was for 0950. Now there are trains at 0944 & 0952, then no more for a couple of hours. The terminal is pretty deserted, hardly any cars or vans waiting. At the waiting area there is a strong free wifi signal, but when you are called forward for your train, and are waiting in your various lanes, and in the tunnel, there's nothing at all.

Only 45 minutes, and we were off the train. First stop, the Total garage within the Tunnel area to get some air in the rear tyres. We have driven right across Europe, with no difficulty in getting air into the tyres, but at the first attempt in the UK, it costs 20p for 2 minutes, and it didn't work! I did get my 50 p back, but ...!

Home at 1500 UK time, to grass 10" high, and a mountain of mail.

Total miles 5910  

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www.pippins.me.uk                                              Page Last updated:  07 November 2008