Topkapi Palace and the Hamam

Wow - what a fantastic day. We were up and eating breakfast today by 8:30 so we could get to the palace before the hordes. My Disney training is working well! We toured around the palace and spent a while wandering though the harem. The whole place was beautiful, and there were so many spots with cushions for lounging, and windows to gaze though. Maybe being part of the sultans harem wouldn't be so bad...

Now the hamam... It was very relaxing. The steam room was very hot, and it wasn't long before you are sweating profusely. Then a lady comes along and starts scrubbing you. Then comes the heaps of bubbles, and more washing. After a nice oil massage we left the hamam feeling very relaxed. I could get used to this...

James' comments - It was fascinating to tour the Topkapi Palace and get a glimpse of the splendour and opulence of the Ottoman Empire at its peak.

The hamam (a.k.a Turkish bath for those of you that have not been researching Turkish vacations for the last two years) was an interesting experience. I am not a spa and massage kind of guy but it was interesting to feel that I was experiencing a tradition of the Ottomans, in a location that has been a bath house for almost 500 years.

Part of the Topkapi grounds
Part of the Topkapi grounds

Istanbul!

Today we woke up early and had a one hour trip to Istanbul. It is an amazing city. After getting settled in and taking a short nap it was off to Istikal Cadesi the heart of modern Istanbul. We wandered through shops of all kinds and tried to deal with the fact that we had gone from walking with no one else around to being surrounded by thousands of people. Once we got over that we had a nice dinner by the Galata Tower then walked across the Golden Horn on the Galata Bridge which was beautiful at night. We ended the evening eating Turkish ice cream on a park bench in front of the Hagia Sophia. I think we will enjoy this week.

January - when James says "thousands of people" he really means millions. What a change! I think my favorite part of today, though, was being woken up from my little nap by the call to prayer. From our hotel room we can hear the call of a couple of different mosques, and they each sound different. It is haunting and beautiful to listen to. I may feel differently tomorrow morning at 5am...

A mosque at night (we need to figure out which mosque it is)
A mosque at night (we need to figure out which mosque it is)

A Day at Sea


We decided to spend our last day on Seref's boat, so our day went something like this:

- Lounge on a boat, and watch the coast go by.
- Swim in a bay and look for rocks.
Lounge on the boat.
- Swim. Watch James jump off a high rock into the sea.
- Eat lunch on the boat.
- Lounge.
- Swim through a cave and get picked up on the other side by the boat. Amazing to see the brilliantly lit turquoise water. I wish we had taken an under water camera to capture how bright and clear the water was.

We lounged and swam in a couple more bays before heading in to the hotel.

What a great week. We met a lot of great people from the UK, Australia, and even Canada. We went on nice hikes, saw amazing scenery, and even related! Now It's on to Istanbul!

Yes, the water really is that blue.
Yes, the water really is that blue.

The day January went up a mountain and down the other side

Today's walk was entitled 'Pirates and Farmers'. We started on the other side of the point in a beautiful bay call Pirates Bay and walked back up through a pass to the hotel. There was about a 300 m climb along a rough road to the crest and then the same back down again. There were nice views over the sea on the way up and and number of orchards and olive groves on the way down. It was a tough walk but Jan finished it. Once we were back in town we stopped for a drink at a restaurant set on stilts over the river which was very nice. We are planning on heading back to one of the river restaurants for dinner tonight. Hard to believe there is just one more day before we are off to Istanbul.

January - Yay me - I did the hike!
Also, dinner tonight was really nice. The restaurant, Arakanda, was quite pretty and the food was delicious!

Pirates Bay
Pirates Bay

Ottoman Palace Hotel

We are quite enjoying our time at the hotel. Today we took a day to relax, read in the shade and spend some time on the beach which is a two minute walk from the hotel. The hotel is fairly small (12 rooms I think), but it lacks for nothing. It has a fabulous restaurant with great food, very social guests, and fantastic hosts. Sue and John make everyone feel welcome and included. Every night they make the rounds at the dinner tables seeing how your day was, and helping to plan what to do the next day.

I can completely understand why we have met hotel guests that have been coming here for 10+ years. I would come back in a heartbeat.

James - I have been enjoying the restaurant which has a different special appetizer and main every evening which is a great way to try some different foods. So far I have had fish kebabs, steak, lamb shank and a chicken casserole dish which have all been great. I am also discovering that I quite enjoy a Turkish breakfast which is a selection of cheeses, fruit, tomatoes, olives, eggs, and fresh bread with honey and jam.

Restaurant area where we eat every night.

Restaurant area where we eat every night.

Olympos and the Chimera

Another history lesson today at the town of Olympos. It is a ruin that the Turks are working on rebuilding. It was very interesting to see the baths, the amphitheater and their necropolis. Tons of photo opportunities here, so I was in Heaven. This is my kind of walking, and and I could do it all day!

The ruins ended at a beach where we went swimming before taking off on a hike to see the Chimera flames. We didn't swim long because of the fish that were nibbling at our toes. After our swim, and some lunch, we set off for the flames. The first hour was walking along an asphalt road, and it was good walking but very hot - 33 degrees today.

The walk up to the flames was about 1km of stars - uneven and big stairs. There are two levels of flames, and I made it to the first level, and then turned around and walked back to the bottom. James carried on and continued the hike to the restaurant that was the end point of the hike. I took a taxi there instead.

The restaurant was at a fish Farm where they served us lots of cold drinks, delicious mezes (Turkish tapas), and a wonderful meal. Dinner took us about 3 hours, but it was great to sit around and chat with the other hotel guests - everyone at the hotel was on this hike today.

James - Another fun day with a mix of history and hiking with some good food tacked on at the end. Jan covered the big pieces. After she headed back down I carried on up the upper flames then over the mountain and up to the restaurant. It was a nice walk although there wasn't much exciting along the way. The meal was excellent and apparently and authentic meal for the area. My fish kept looking at Jan with it's head that was still attached.

Ruined wall at Olympos with Lycian windows.

Ruined wall at Olympos with Lycian windows.

Hike up Mount Olympus

While Jan sat by the pool today practicing her Turkish I went on a hike up and back down Mount Olympus. It was a good hard walk with a 900m rise over three hours to a plateau a half an hour across the top and then 2.5 hours back down. It was fun and challenging hike. At one point I got having so much fun that I walked about 20 minutes across a scree field then realized that the instructions were that you should turn before the scree and if you got onto it turn around. Fortunately I spotted and the group on the proper trail and could cut back across country to them. It was amazing again how the terrain could at time seem so alien and at times it felt like I was walking in Ontario.

Kekova and Myra

Our history lessons began today with a trip to Kekova and Myra. Kekova was a large town that was struck by an earthquake in 141 AD. Most of the town was destroyed when it sank into the Mediterranean. We went on a boat tour of the site, where you can still see the walls of the home and buildings, but there are walls under the sea that are clearly visible.

After the boat tour, and we had another 12km hike to another small town, and and it was hell (my words, the not James - although I'm sure he thought it was by the time we were done, practically having to drag me up the final bit. It was extremely hot today, and there was pretty much no shade along the trail. But it's done. Thank god.

After the hike, and we had a short drive over to the town of Demre, where the Myra Site is located. This Site has a huge amphitheater that they are re assembling. It also has tombs that are carved into the side of the mountain. This was amazing to see.

I'm taking tomorrow off from hiking, and plan on lazing by the pool and maybe having a nap. James, however, is going to climb Mount Olympus to say hello to Zeus.

James' comments: The history today was great but I think Jan has that covered so I will talk about the hike. It was very different then yesterday's hike without any Bruce Trail-esque bits to be found. We started out through a "meadow" which apparently grows heather in the spring but now at the end of summer appeared more like the surface of Mars than anything else. Then we follow a number of rocky paths around a headland and inland. It really did feel very middle eastern today.

Tombs at Myra
Tombs at Myra

Sazak Beach

Today was a great day. I have a feeling that James and I are going to say that a lot, so I'm going to say "today was a great first day".

Our hike start in the town of Adrasan (where the hotel is) and we hiked about 10km to Sazak Beach. The first half was tough for me - mainly up hill; but what goes up must come down! We made it to the beach and it was beautiful. The only people on the beach were the hikers, so fairly secluded.

A boat (guluk) picked us up at the beach, and took us on a trip to some other secluded beaches. We had lunch on the boat, and did lots of swimming. One of the good things about this exclusion was that we got to meet a bunch of the other hikes at the hotel. It's nice to socialize a bit in the evening. The highlight for me was swimming in the Mediterranean, and drinking my tea while swimming.

James' comments: Wow! What a wonderful day. The walk was great lots of different scenery including views of the Mediterranean and even a section the looked almost like we could have been on the Bruce Trail. I loved having fresh fish right on the boat for lunch but Jan wasn't to keen on it, particularly since the heads were still on ;-).

The view into Adrasan
The view into Adrasan