A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Kangatraveller


10 days of rest and recreation - unpacking once and laying back

30 °C

Monday 13 October, we boarded a Turkish Airlines flight back to Istanbul then on to Malta.

Malta is a southern European island country comprising an archipelago of seven islands in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km south of Sicily, 284 km east of Tunisia, and 333 km north of Libya. The country covers just over 316 km2, making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. The capital of Malta is Valletta, which is also, at 0.8 km2, the smallest capital in the European Union. Malta has two official languages: Maltese and English.

Malta's location as a naval base has given it great strategic importance throughout history, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Moorish, Normans, Sicilians, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British, have ruled the islands. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974. Malta was admitted to the United Nations in 1964 and to the European Union in 2004; in 2008, it became part of the Eurozone.

Malta has a long Christian legacy and its Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Malta is sometimes traditionally claimed to be an Apostolic see because, according to the Acts of the Apostles, Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked on Malta. Catholicism is the official religion in Malta.

Malta is a popular tourist destination with its warm climate, numerous recreational areas, and architectural and historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, Valletta, and seven Megalithic Temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world.

We were met at the airport by the owners of the apartment we rent, Mr and Mrs Galea. €220 for a three bedroom, two bathroom unit for 10 days was very good value especially as they would pick us up and drop us off at the airport.

On Tuesday 14 October we were bitten by a Holiday Club shark where by we attended an hour presentation (No, they said this wasn't a timeshare....it is a holiday club) but we didn't participate. Just for attending we got bus tickets for the next week. The buses in Malta are numerous, reliable and incredibly well patronised. Not surprising when a weekly ticket costs €6.50. Restaurants are plentiful and offer very good meals at excellent prices. As I type this, I am drinking a 500ml can of excellent Maltese beer, Cisk, at a restaurant that costs just €1.80.

We caught a bus to Valetta and walked down the Main Street, Republic Street. Valetta is a fortified and walled old town. The walls were built by the Grand Master of the Knights of St John after the island was under siege to the Ottomans in 1565.

The walls at the City Gate of Valletta
Gates to the city
Church of St Francis

Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge worked in this building, The Treasury of the Knights of St John, in 1804 and 1805
Arch leading into the Palace of the President of Malta
On the wall of the Presidential Palace is a copy of the letter from King George V of England awarding Fortress Island of Malta the George Cross for withstanding the siege of Malta by the Germans in 1942 in World War 11.
Square in Republic Street showing the Parliament Building
Narrow steets in the walled city. This is Republic Street looking down towards the tip of the peninsula.
The Church in Mostar, St Francis of Assissi, has the third largest unsupported dome in the world. It was built over an existing church which was then demolished and removed from the interior after completion. During the bombing by the German Luftwaffe in 1942, the dome was hit by a large German bomb which penetrated the dome when the church was full of people taking refuge there. The bomb didn't explode and not a single casualty occurred when the bomb fell through among the people.
The front of the Mosta Church, St Francis of Assissi
The dome of the church
Craft shops in the Nissan huts at the old airfield
Glassblower at work
Glassblower at work

Mdina, the Silent City
Swimming beach off the rocks at Sliema

Mdina the old capital of Malta. Mdina is a medieval walled town situated on a hill in the centre of the island. Punic remains uncovered beyond the city’s walls suggest the importance of the general region to Malta’s Phoenician settlers. Mdina is commonly called the "Silent City" by natives and visitors. The town is still confined within its walls, and has a population of just under three hundred, but it is contiguous with the village of Rabat, which takes its name from the Arabic word for suburb, and has a population of over 11,000.

The city gate to Mdina was constructed in 1724
The walls of the fortified city

Grand Master's Palace converted to a hospital
Signage on the Connaught Hospital
St Paul's Cathedral in St Paul's Square is built on the site where the Roman Governor Publius met St Paul after he was shipwrecked off the coast of Malta.
View from the walls back to Mosta
View from the walls back to Mosta

Narrow streets in the old city
City gate

For the weekend we pretty much stayed around our base at Qawra and rested up.
The sun rising at Qawra. I take a short walk down the road to Murphys Irish Pub to use their free internet to download our email and the Courier Mail. This is the view from the end of the street.
Here is a view of the Malta Car Museum from the other end of the street with this beautiful Bugatti on show on the footpath.

We have taken to using the buses here every day to get around. On Monday 20 October we took a different bus to the east coast to a fishing village called Marsaxlokkx
The fishing boats in the harbour of Marsaxlokkx

Tuesday 21 October was an early start with a bus pick up near the front of our place to take us to the ferry terminal to spend the day on Gozo Island.

The island has a population of around 37,000 people (all of Malta combined has 402,000), and its inhabitants are known as Gozitans. It is rich in historic locations such as the Ġgantija temples, which, along with the Megalithic Temples of Malta, are the world's oldest free-standing structures and are also among the world's oldest religious structures.

The island is rural in character and, compared to the main island Malta, less developed.
Beach near the ferry terminal to Gozo
On the ferry - a trip takes 25 minutes
Coming Island sits between Malta and Gozo but only has five inhabitants. This photo was taken of Comino with the Blue Lagoon on the right side of Comino.

The Harbour at Gozo viewed from a hill overlooking the harbour.
Colleen looking back at the harbour.

Azure Window is a remarkable geologic feature of the island; it is a natural stone arch that was formed millions of years ago when a limestone cave collapsed. There are many beaches on the island, as well as seaside resorts that are popular with tourists and locals alike. The most popular are Marsalforn and Xlendi Bay.
Azure Window at the Inland Sea
Beach at Xlendi Bay

After lunch we went into the capital city, Victoria. Colleen climbed up to the Citadel while I had an espresso at a little cafe.

Sign at the Cathedral on the Citadel


The Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
View from the Citadel
One of the old buses still in use on the island

Tomorrow, Thursday 23 October we leave for the airport in Malta at 6.30 am for a flight to Munich, Germany, then after a three hour wait we fly on to Dublin Ireland on a Lufthansa flight.

Posted by Kangatraveller 04:25 Archived in Malta Comments (0)


A life long dream to visit the Acropolis in Athens

sunny 25 °C

We arrived in Lavrion, the port of Athens, early on Friday 10 October for a three night stay.
Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. Classical Athens, as a landlocked location was a powerful city-state that emerged in conjunction with the seagoing development of the port of Piraeus. A centre for the arts, learning and philosophy, home of Plato's Academy and Aristotle's Lyceum, it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely due to the impact of its cultural and political achievements during the 5th and 4th centuries BC on the rest of the then known European continent.

Our first tour was to visit the Acropolis.

The long walk up to the Acropolis
View over Athens from the Acropolis
The Parthenon built 407 BC to 432 BC. Beautiful proportion and Doric columns being restored by archaeologists.
The famous Caryatids - the 6 maidens - of the Erechtheion built around 420 BC. This temple has beautiful Ionic columns.
The Parthenon - 46 Doric columns - 8 on each end and 17 along the sides
The Odeum of Heredotus Atticus built in 161 AD - venue for concerts, Maria Callas in 1957
Display showing the Parthenon
Northern end of the Parthenon
Colleen on the Acropolis
Roman Temple of the Olympian Zeus completed in 2 AD in Athens viewed from the Acropolis
Temple of Erectheion
Temple of Erectheion showing showing portico on the left
Monument of Agrippa
Panathinaiko Stadium built for the first Olympics of the modern era in 1896 holding 80 000.
Panorama of the Panathinako Stadium
Zapeion - the Exhibition Hall
Royal Palace built 1834 is now the House of Parliament
Home of Henirich Schliemann, the man who discovered the ancient city of Troy, is now the Numismatic Museum. note the swastickas in the iron work.
Recreation of the Parthenon in Athens
Emperor Hadrian's Arch 2 AD
View of the illuminated Parthenon from the roof bar at our hotel
Close up of the illuminated Parthenon from our hotel roof bar
Greek dancing
Greek dancing
Greek dancing
Our friends, Anne and Alan from New Zealand at the Greek night
The belly dancer with a sword
The belly dancer

On Sunday morning, we caught a bus down to Stigmana Square to see the changing of the guard. The Evzones, or Evzoni, is the name of several historical elite light infantry and mountain units of the Greek Army. Today, it refers to the members of the Presidential Guard, an elite ceremonial unit that guards the Greek Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Presidential Mansion and the gate of Evzones camp in Athens.

Though the Presidential Guard is a predominantly ceremonial unit, all Evzones are volunteers drawn from the Hellenic Army's Infantry, Artillery and Armoured Corps. Prospective Evzones are usually identified at the Army Recruit Training Centres during Basic Training; there is a minimum height requirement of 1.86 m (6' 1.2") to join.

The unit is famous around the world for its unique traditional uniform, which has evolved from the clothes worn by the klephts who fought the Ottoman occupation of Greece. The most visible item of this uniform is the fustanella, a kilt-like garment. Their proven valour and peculiar dress turned them into a popular image for the Greek soldier, especially among foreigners. We were told that each uniform costs 8 000 Euros.


The Hotel Bretagne built in 1842 as a house for a wealthy Greek business is now one of the most luxurious hotels in southern Europe.

The Church of Panagia Kapnikarea is a Greek Orthodox church and one of the oldest churches in Athens. It is estimated that the church was built some time in the 11th century, perhaps around 1050. As it was common with the early Christian churches, this was built over an ancient Greek pagan temple dedicated to the worship of a goddess, possibly Athena or Demeter.

Hadrian's Library was created by Roman Emperor Hadrian in AD 132 on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens.

The building followed a typical Roman Forum architectural style, having only one entrance with a propylon of Corinthian order, a high surrounding wall with protruding niches at its long sides, an inner courtyard surrounded by columns and a decorative oblong pool in the middle. The library was on the eastern side where rolls of papyrus "books" were kept. Adjoining halls were used as reading rooms, and the corners served as lecture halls.

We came across the library as we walked down the Plaka walking streets. The shops here are like souks or bazaars with many restaurants.

We leave in the morning for our ten day stay in Malta.

Posted by Kangatraveller 07:10 Archived in Greece Comments (0)


Aboard ship – Greek Island Cruise stopping at Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini and finishing in Athens

Aboard ship – Greek Island Cruise stopping at Mykonos, Patmos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini and finishing in Athens
On Saturday 4 October we joined the cruise from the Hotel Zurich. We had lunch on the ship, the Louis Cristal and pulled out of Istanbul at 9.00pm that night.

Last view of Istanbul
Our cruise ship, the Louis Cristal

Sunday 5 October

We arrived at Kusadasi at 3.30pm. Colleen and I walked off the ship and went to the Grand Bazaar. The Turks and other nationalities are great salesmen. Fortunately they do have a sense of humour and a good command of English.

We did not go on the tours to Ephesus as we had been there a few days before on the around Turkey trip.

Here are a few photos of Kusadasi.
The USS Bataan tied up at Kusadasi
The Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar
Sunset at Kusadasi

Monday 6 October

Today we visited the beautiful island of Santorini. The island is crescent shaped and this is the result of a massive volcanic eruption in 1650BC.The white washed towns (14 towns with Thira as the capital) are built at the very top of the mountain and the houses from a distance look a bit like snow. They cling to the cliff edge some 300 metres above sea level and hang almost into the Caldera itself.

This island has no water supplies at all. As well as a variety of fruits and vegetables there are quite a few vineyards. The vines are not irrigated at all. The vines are trained low to the ground and the pumice stop absorbs water through the night and releases it to the vines through the day.

Santorini is actually not one island but five and sits almost exactly over the point where the continental plates between Europe, Asia and Africa meet. The volcano is still active.

The island was occupied as early as 3000BC by a sophisticated group of people, with their civilization being a combination between Cycladic and Minoan up until the year 165BC when the volcano erupted.

Here are some pictures of this beautiful place.

The Caldera at Santorini
The towns are built high on the edges if the hills
This view is the most photographed in Santorini
Everyone has their photo taken here
The cable car down to the docks

Tuesday 7 October
We docked at Agios Nikolaos, Crete for our excursion to the capital city, Heraklion (Hercules in English) and the Palace of Knossos. We had an hour or so travel to the Minoan Palace of Knossos. Knossos was the capital of the Minoan civilization, was the first civilization in Europe. The hill of Kephala, which osts the Palace above a valley of pines a few kilometres outside Heraklion, has been continuously inhabited since 7000BC.

The Minoan civilization, which endured for about 2000 years was the most advanced in the ancient world, and Knossos is one of the instances where mythology might dovetail with archaeological fact.

The frescoed palace of Knossos comprises more than 1500 rooms and occupies more than 20 000 square metres. An Englishman Sir Arthur XXX discovered the site and gifted it to the government of Crete.

Minosa legendary king and lawgiver of Crete, was one of Europa’s three sons all born after her tryst with Zeus who appeared to Europa as a white bull and carried her off to Crete.
Layout of the Minoan Palace with 1500 rooms
The Minoan Palace
Some upper parts are reconstructions
Friezes -the originals are in the Museum

Original clay jars for storage of olive oil etc -3000 years old
Clay storage jars
The Bull was worshipped
The fountain in the main square of Heraklion, capital of Crete
Statue on the docks depicting Zeus disguised as a bull with Europa on his back

Wednesday 8 October
The island of Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese (means 12 islands) in the southern most part of the Aegean Sea. It is the capita of a group of islands which form the state of Greece named Dodecanese (meaning the 12 islands together). It is an area of 1398 sq klms and has a population of 100,000 people.

On arrival in Rhodes the first thing that is noticeable is the great walls that surround the magnificent castle that the Knights of St John built during the period of the crusaders six centuries ago.

Rhodes is the sunniest place in Greece and has more than 300 days of sunshine each year. This was the reason that ancient Rhodeans come to us with the legend of the sun god, Helios.

About 50 kms away from Rhodes town and somewhere in the middle of the east coat of the island, located in the unique town of Lindos is the Acropolis of Lindos which is dedicated to the goddess Athena Lindia. Most of the houses in Lindos open into spacious courtyards decorated with fine naturally multicolored pebbles.

The Acropolis is located 297 steps up the mountain and overlooks the bay and township of Lindos. The view and the ruins were well worth the increased heart rate to reach the top.
The Acropolis at Lindos
Some of the 297 steps
The donkeys also known as Lindos Taxis
The Fortress at Rhodes
The streets of the Knights of St John
Gate of the Fortress
Time for a coffee in a restaurant inside the fortress
Sunset at Rhodes

Panorama of the harbour at Symi
The plaque on the house where the Germans surrendered the Dodecanese
The house is now a restaurant
Some if the many luxury yachts in the harbour

Thursday 9 October

The island of Chios
Thursday 9 October

Today we arrived early at the island of Chios. Chios is the 8th largest island of Greece and has a population of 60,000. The island is famous for mastic which comes from a small tree that lives for 100 years. The mastic forms in tiny teardrops from a cut to the branches and then falls to the ground to be collected by the farmers. It is a very expensive product (up to 110 Euros per kilo) that is used in gum, ice cream, sweets and even used for a daily drink to aid the digestive system and whiten teeth.
The mastic tree

We visited the medieval village of Mesta, which still survives untouched by the passage of time. A Greek Orthodox church from the Byzantine times, Palaios Taxiarchis, in the centre of the village was built as a vaulted one-nave basilica but in 1794 was extended to become two aisled.

Houses use these colourful friezes
A Greek Othodox church
Inside the church
The town square

Next was a visit to the ancient village of Anavastos. It is built on a rocky elevation with sides so steep it can only be approached from one point. The natural defenses of the site make it probably that it was originally founded to control the island’s west coast during the period of piracy. The village is now completely deserted but the overall shape is well preserved and gives a picture of a ghost town surrounded by a wild and rough natural environment. A sole woman lives in the town.

The town was abandoned after the slaughter of the inhabitants by the Ottomans in 1822.

Our next island visit was to Mykonos. Whilst it is one of the smallest islands it is also one of the most cosmopolitan. It is very popular and has a reputation of being the ultimate fund and trendy place of the Aegean Sea. Mykonos has a population of 6,000 people in the winter but in summer increases to 100,000 per day. The entire town is whitewashed, the houses are all cubical and usually two-storied with brightly coloured doors and windows and wooden balconies.

As this is a very hot and dry island, the white washed buildings reflect the sun rays and angled flat roofs allow water to be collected in cisterns in the basements of the houses.
The harbour at Mykonos
The white washed houses of Mykonos
Panorama of Mykonos -the party island

Octopus hung in the sun to dry

We arrived in Piraeus, the port of Athens early on Friday for a three night stay before flying to Malta via

Posted by Kangatraveller 01:42 Archived in Greece Comments (0)


Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesus, Hierapolis, Pamukkale, Iznik and back to Istanbul

Monday, 29 September

We visited the colourful GRAND BAZAAR before setting out on our discovery tour of a country with the population of Britain and more than three times its size. We drove along the European shore of the Sea of Marmara and head westward through sunflower and olive groves to the Dardanelles.

We visited the WWI battlefields on the Gallipoli peninsula, where Allied troops, mainly Australians and New Zealanders, suffered heavy casualties in a disastrous campaign. We stopped at Anzac Cove. Our day overall was quite a sobering one with the respect the sites are treated by the Turks and the enormous loss of life on both sides.
Anzac Cove sign. The beach is a mere 600 metres in length
The famous quote by Kemal Atatuk, father of the Turkish Repurblic and former General of the Turkish Army at Gallipoli
View across Anzac Cove
So many young men killed. This brave young man at 17 years of age was one of them.

Later in the day we paid tribute to the heroes of those tragic months of 1915 at the Anzac Cemetery and the Lone Pine Memorial.

This statue commemorates the unknown Turkish soldier who risked his life by going unarmed in No Mans Land to rescue a wounded British officer and carry him back to the British trenches. Future Governor General Lord Casey personally witnessed this and reported it.

Lone Pine. All the trees had been destroyed but this was grown from seeds taken back to Australia.

Names of soldiers killed are on this wall. There are seven VC winners. Many names show the real names and the false names used by under age men to enlist.
View of the Monument and Wall
The Monument

We drove further up the road to Johnson's Jolly
Trenches at Johnson's Jolly. War historian CEW Bean reported:
… the dead and wounded lay everywhere in hundreds. Many of those nearest to the Anzac line had been shattered by the terrible wounds inflicted by modern bullets at short ranges. No sound came from that terrible space; but here and there some wounded or dying man, silently lying without help or any hope of it under the sun which glared from a cloudless sky, turned painfully from one side to the other, or slowly raised an arm towards heaven.
[Charles Bean, The Story of Anzac, Vol 2, p 161]

The Aegean Sea is in the background. The hills are steep with deep ravines and the battlefield was little bigger than a tennis court

Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish Commander was hit in the chest by shrapnel which shattered his watch that was worn near his heart
Kemal Ataturk's own words
More trenches
The Weeping Mothers' Monument

We travelled by ferry across the Dardanelles to the Troy area for our first overnight in Asia on the Aegean coast.
View from the ferry back to Europe
View from the ferry to Asia

Tuesday, 30 September
We had a very early start and enjoyed a guided visit of Troy , the perfect place to brush up on Homer's 'Trojan War'-hollow wooden horse and all!
View of the Dardanelles from the Asia Minor side from our hotel room

Depiction of what Troy looked like 2000 years ago. There have been towns built on top of towns with the earliest town discovered through the archeological dig being 2900BC right through to the Romans who left in 808AD

Troy around 2500BC
Original stone walls of Troy
View from the top of the hill out to the Aegean Sea
Depiction of the ramp, the only gate with a ramp believed by archeologists to be the ramp used to move the Trojan Horse
Ramp believed to be used to move the Trojan Horse out of Troy
Wells in the ancient city of Troy
Amphitheatre in Troy from the Roman times BC
Trojan Horse replica from 1973
View of the Greek island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea as we followed the shores of the Bay of Edremit

We continued south to Pergamum, an ancient centre of learning and the arts, and then a visit to its museum. After lunch, we visited the ASCLEPION, a shrine to the Greek god of medicine.

Sanctuary of Asclepius
Three kilometers south of the Acropolis down in the valley, there was the Sanctuary of Asclepius (also known as the Asclepium), the god of healing. The Ascelpium was approached along an 820 metre colonnaded sacred way. In this place people with health problems could bathe in the water of the sacred spring, and in the patients' dreams Asclepius would appear in a vision to tell them how to cure their illness. Archeology has found lots of gifts and dedications that people would make afterwards, such as small terracotta body parts, no doubt representing what had been healed.
Map showing the Sanctuary at Asclepion
The colonnaded sacred way. there were shops along the sides of the way.
The Amphitheatre
Tunnel leading from the treatment centres to the Incubation Centre and to the different hot pools.
Ruins at Asclepion with the Amphitheatre in the background
Galen, the most famous doctor in the ancient Roman Empire and personal physician of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, worked in the Ascelpium for many years.
From the Asclepion there is a great view up to the Acropolis where The Altar of Pergamon stood. It was dismantled and now can be seen in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. This photo shows where it originally stood on the Acropolis. It was sited where the two trees grow in the right of the photo
Model of the Altar of Pergamon in the Museum at Pergamon
Carpet of the Medusa
Dental instruments excavated from the Asclepion are more than 2000 years old

Late afternoon we drove on to Kusadasi for an overnight stop.

Wednesday, 1 October
Today, we left our hotel early to visit Ephesus, home of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and later, the capital of Roman Asia Minor.
View from our hotel room down to the swimming pools and the Aegean Sea
Our Tour director Izzet points put the areas of interest at Ephesus

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey. It was built in the 10th century BC on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Attic and Ionian Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. According to estimates Ephesus had a population of 33,600 to 56,000 people in the Roman period, making it the third largest city of Roman Asia Minor after Sardis and Alexandria Troas.

The city was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
All that can be seen of the temple today is the one remaining column

In 268 AD, the Temple was destroyed or damaged in a raid by the Goths. It may have been rebuilt or repaired but this is uncertain, as its later history is not clear. Emperor Constantine I rebuilt much of the city and erected new public baths. Following the Edict of Thessalonica from emperor Theodosius I, what remained of the temple was destroyed in 401 AD by a mob led by St. John Chrysostom. The town was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 614 AD. The city's importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Cayster River.

Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils (see Council of Ephesus). It is also the site of a large gladiators' graveyard. The ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport.

The gymnasium
The state meeting house - The Agora
The Agora
Panorama of part of the site
The symbols show this was a medical centre
Early Christian symbols - Christianity was allowed as a religion from 313AD
The meeting place
View down to the Library of Celsus
Main street - to the left of the street were covered shops
Monument to the Emperor Trajan
Fountain Monument to the Emperor Trajan

Monument to the Emperor Hadrian
The Library of Celsus - 200 000 books up top; a brothel down below
The Amphitheatre
The Amphitheatre
The broad avenue leading down to the harbour
Grooves worn by chariots in the street
The Church of Mother Mary
One view of the Church of Mother Mary who lived here at one time
Mother Mary lived in a house near here
Austrian archaeologists working beside the Church of Mother Mary
Basilica of St John
The ruins of the Basilica
The grave of St John - three popes have visited this site
View from the Basilica of St John across to Ephesus

Our lunch stop was at a carpet and craft centre. It was fascinating seeing the intricate knotting of the carpets and how the wool and the silk are .
Weaving a carpet that will take a year to complete
Carpet weaving
Dyeing the wool
Spinning the silk

Next was Pamukkale. The name means "Cotton Castle" and refers to the spectacular white lime cascades formed by its hot springs.

Thursday, 2 October

This morning, we visit the fascinating archaeological site of HIERAPOLIS, the thermal resort founded by a Pergamene king in 190 BC and greatly enlarged and embellished by the Romans.

Pamukkale, meaning "cotton castle" in Turkish, is a natural site in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The city contains hot springs and travertines, terraces of carbonate minerals left by the flowing water. It is located in the Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year. Menderes means Meander.

Hot air balloons over the valley
Valley overlooked by the Cotton castle
Our group arriving for the visit
Map showing the site of the travertine pools and the ancient ruins of Hierapolis next to the site

The following photos show the pools and the whiteness caused by the high Calcium Carbonate in the water
View from the bottom of the valley looking back unto the cotton castle - Pamukkale

The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white "castle" which is in total about 2,700 metres long, 600 m wide and 160 m high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away.
Roman ruins of Hierapolis
Tomb from 1AD
Tomb from 1AD
roman Latrine
The Basilica bath
The north Gate of Hierapolis
The Agora - the meeting place

Then, we left around 10.30am and enjoyed the ever-changing cultivated landscapes and timeless scenes of rural life on our way to Bursa. We saw some farmers working their fields or transporting produce in traditional horse-drawn carts. when we stopped at a servo for lunch we saw large modern tractors pull in to fuel up and have a tractor wash.

We had a further long drive to Bursa. Bursa lies in the shade of the Uludag-also called Mount Olympus of Mysia-a 2,347-metre ski mountain surrounded by lovely orchards. Founded by the Greeks, like most ancient cities in this part of the world, and hotly contested during the Crusades, Bursa had its heyday as the first capital of the Ottoman Empire. In the afternoon, some of us visited the Great Mosque (Ulu Camii).

Colleen and I spent an hour or so at the Silk Market. Bursa is famous for its silk scarfs. we made our contribution to the health of the Turkish economy.
The silk market
Shops all selling similar products
Street scene
Shops selling wedding dresses are very popular
Heading for our hotel at sundown
Our hotel for the night

Friday, 3 October

We visited Iznik, site of the first Ecumenical Council. We saw the city walls with some of the 100 towers remaining before visiting St Sophia church.
St Sophia church
The church has suffered earthquakes, destruction by invaders and changes from a pagan to Catholic church to mosque
Inside St Sophia
Ancient mosaic
Side street to the church

Later, we returned to Istanbul and enjoyed a leisurely private cruise on the Bosporus, the narrow strait that links the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara (the Marble Sea), and separates Asia from Europe.
First bridge over the Bosphorus
We took pictures of exquisite private residences along the scenic shoreline, and of strategically located castles that once protected the approaches of the city.
Old wooden houses built during the early Ottoman empire. This one is owned by the second richest man in Turkey
This house was bought by the richest man in Turkey in 2002 for $US43 million
Beautiful old houses along the Bosphorus
Dolmabahçe Palace was ordered by the Empire's 31st Sultan, Abdülmecid I, and built between the years 1843 and 1856. Previously, the Sultan and his family had lived at the Topkapı Palace, but as the medieval Topkapı was lacking in contemporary style, luxury, and comfort, as compared to the palaces of the European monarchs, Abdülmecid decided to build a new modern palace. The project was realized by architects Garabet Balyan, his son Nigoğayos Balyan and Evanis Kalfa (members of the Balyan family of Ottoman court architects).

The construction cost five million Ottoman mecidiye gold coins, 35 tonnes of gold, the equivalent of ca. $1.5 billion in today's (2014) values.

This palace is known as the Snake Palace as the Sultan wanted to confiscate it for himself. His Prime minister told him the place was full of snakes (it wasn't) so he decided not to do it. It has since been known as the snake Palace.
On our way to our hotel we had an unscheduled stop at the Spice Market
The Spice market has four entrances. It was built 1597-1664
Inside the spice market
Inside the spice market
A demonstration against Turkish involvement in the war against ISIS outside the spice market
Back up reserves of heavily armed police wait in the background

Tonight we had a farewell dinner at a local fish restaurant to celebrate the end of our Turkish adventure.

Saturday, 4 October

Posted by Kangatraveller 00:57 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)


Two days in Istanbul for the last tour then start the next tour of 8 days in Turkey with two more days in Istanbul


Our next trip is around Turkey and then a Greek Island cruise to Athens.
Here it is.

Today, Thursday 25 September, we leave Bulgaria and continue to Istanbul, founded by the Greeks as Byzantium more than 2,500 years ago, renamed Constantinople in 330 AD when the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great selected it the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and finally called Istanbul after the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century.

After a drive of 567km we reached Istanbul where we have two nights in Istanbul as part of this particular tour and then a further two nights in Istanbul as the start of the Tour around Turkey.

The border crossing at Bulgaria and then into Turkey took some time. Even with this we arrived at our hotel at 7.00pm.
Sea of Marmara
The outskirts of Istanbul - better roads in Turkey but loads more traffic. Istanbul has a population of over 12 million.
Housing in an outer suburb
Construction sites are everywhere.
View of the Golden Horn from our room at the Hilton
View from our room.
The Golden Horn in daylight

On Friday 26 September we had a city guided tour. First of all we visited Topkapi Palace. The Topkapı is a large palace in Istanbul, Turkey, that was the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans for approximately 400 years (1465–1856) of their 624-year reign.

As well as a royal residence, the palace was a setting for state occasions and royal entertainments. It is now a museum and as such a major tourist attraction. It also contains important holy relics of the Muslim world, including Muhammed's cloak and sword. The Topkapı Palace is among the monuments contained within the "Historic Areas of Istanbul", which became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

The palace complex consists of four main courtyards and many smaller buildings. At its peak, the palace was home to as many as 4,000 people, and covered a large area with a long shoreline. It contained mosques, a hospital, bakeries, and a mint. Construction began in 1459, ordered by Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Byzantine Constantinople. It was originally called the New Palace (Yeni Saray) to distinguish it from the previous residence. It received the name "Topkapı" (Cannon Gate) in the 19th century, after a (now lost) gate and shore pavilion. The complex was expanded over the centuries, with major renovations after the 1509 earthquake and the 1665 fire.

After the 17th century, the Topkapı Palace gradually lost its importance as the sultans preferred to spend more time in their new palaces along the Bosphorus. In 1856, Sultan Abdül Mecid I decided to move the court to the newly built Dolmabahçe Palace, the first European-style palace in the city. Some functions, such as the imperial treasury, the library, and the mint, were retained in the Topkapı Palace.

Following the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, Topkapı Palace was transformed by a government decree dated April 3, 1924, into a museum of the Imperial era.

Water fountain in the time of Ahmet 111.
Main gate into Topkapi Palace
Security at Topkapi
Topkapi Palace
The Diwan -place where people meet with the Grand Vizier
Cupola in the Diwan
View of the Bosphorus from Topkapi
View of the Bosphorus from Topkapi
Leaving Topkapi Palace

Hagia Sophia is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica (church), later an imperial mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its construction in 537 until 1453, it served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was converted to a Roman Catholic cathedral under the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum on 1 February 1935.

The Church was dedicated to the Wisdom of God, the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity, its patronal feast taking place on 25 December, the commemoration of the Birth of the incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Although sometimes referred to as Sancta Sophia (as though it were named after Saint Sophia), sophia being the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture and is said to have "changed the history of architecture." It remained the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years, until Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520. The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian and was the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site, the previous two having both been destroyed by rioters. It was designed by the Greek scientists Isidore of Miletus, a physicist, and Anthemius of Tralles, a mathematician.

The church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 15-metre (49 ft) silver iconostasis. The focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly one thousand years, the building witnessed the excommunication of Patriarch Michael I Cerularius on the part of Pope Leo IX in 1054, an act which is commonly considered the start of the Great Schism.

In 1453, Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Turks under Sultan Mehmed II, who ordered this main church of the Orthodox Christianity converted into a mosque. By this point, the Church had fallen into a state of disrepair. Nevertheless, the Christian cathedral made a strong impression on the new Ottoman rulers and they decided to convert it into a mosque. The bells, altar, iconostasis, and sacrificial vessels and other relics were removed and the mosaics depicting Jesus, his Mother Mary, Christian saints and angels were also removed or plastered over. Islamic features – such as the mihrab, minbar, and four minarets – were added. It remained a mosque until 1931 when it was closed to the public for four years. It was re-opened in 1935 as a museum by the Republic of Turkey.

From its initial conversion until the construction of the nearby larger Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque of Istanbul) in 1616, it was the principal mosque of Istanbul.
Hagia Sofia
Entrance to Hagia Sofia
The great dome
Frescoes in Hagia Sofia
View from the upper storey of Hagia Sofia
Inside the Hagia Sofia
Street stalls near the cathedral
Turkish carpets are beautiful. This one is from East Anatolia, the eastern half of Turkey.

Here are some scenes around the Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar built 1461
The whole Bazaar has many passages with tiny shops
Shops outside the Grand Bazaar
The Pudding Shop - Colleen introduced me to the phrase about "people have a pudding pocket" so they can eat dessert even when they are full.

View from the restaurant on top of our hotel

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is a historic mosque in Istanbul. The mosque is popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior.[2]

It was built from 1609 to 1616, during the rule of Ahmed I. Its Külliye contains a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. The Sultan Ahmed Mosque is still popularly used as a mosque.
The Blue Mosque

This obelisk is from the Temple of Karnak in Egypt and is more than 4 500 years old
The base of the Obelisk
The Million Mile Marker
The Million Mile marker

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The cistern, located 150 metres southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

This cathedral-size cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 metres by 64.6 metres - about 9,800 square metres in area - capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres or 100 000 tonnes of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns, each 9 metres high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each spaced 4.9 metres apart. The capitals of the columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric style with no engravings.
Inside the Basilica Cistern
Many different columns
This Medusa column is built upside down
As we left the Blue Mosque, we took this photo of the Hagia Sofia through the gate
Last view of Istanbul. This is the Bosphorus with its very busy shipping between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea

In the morning we visit the Grand Bazaar the travel across to the continent of Europe to travel down along the Sea of Marmara and then down to Gallipoli. Were are really looking forwarding to visiting Gallipoli and Lone Pine in the afternoon.

Posted by Kangatraveller 08:15 Comments (0)

(Entries 11 - 15 of 30) « Page 1 2 [3] 4 5 6 »