Sunday 28th June
Went into town again, after moving to a different campsite on the coast. Main item on the agenda was the Blue Mosque, which was amazing. The postcards of it don’t do it justice, the colouring is far more subtle. We spent some time in there, and then got dinner in a small kebab stall for about 4/-, much more like it. Back to the campsite with a bottle of Raki – potent anise spirit at about 17/- a bottle. We chased it with beer from the bar to drown the taste. Got talking to a Turk who called himself “Charlie”, who was quite a laugh.
Monday 29th June
Back into town, went to the Post Office to look for mail, then on to the Grand Bazaar. We were already prepared for what was to come by the stalls all over the city, but even so the inside was incredible. I should think you would buy anything there. We had a lot of fun as once again several Turks wanted to practice their English, and no-one minded if you didn’t buy or simply beat the price down. Particularly nice was one carpet-seller, an old English-looking gentleman, who was urging us to buy now as the prices would be much higher on the return journey! I told him we’d beat him down, whereupon he replied “Me, yes, but not the price”. When we enquired about magic carpets he told us he had some but that we could never afford them.
We also managed to buy some substitute mosquito netting, for there were a lot of mosquitoes about the campsite, biting all and sundry, particularly sundry (myself) who recorded 123 bites one morning. Found the local VW agent to ask him about our engine, which was rattling, but he said it was only the local petrol. Later George and I retarded the ignition, which helped.
Tuesday 30th June
The others went into town again. I was feeling a bit tired and sunstruck, so stayed at the campsite and did some washing. Cooked some of the local fish for supper, with cold salad consisting of green peppers, which are plentiful here.
Conversation that evening. George – “Did you know all the bogs here face Mecca?”. Pam (gullibly) – “Do they?”.
Odd notes on Istanbul. Lots of water-sellers, with ornate tanks on their backs and a flexible tube leading round to the front where they carry a couple of glasses in which they sell the water at 4d a glass. Also plenty of fresh drink stalls, selling strawberry, cherry, lemon and peach drinks at 4d a glass. Very nice indeed, and incredibly refreshing. And fresh cucumber stalls, where you buy a cucumber, have it peeled and then eat it walking along.
Hundreds of American cars, used as taxis, all full to the brim with people – ditto minibuses. The taxis deserve a short dissertation, as they form about half of Istanbul’s traffic, which now, having driven in it a bit more, I see as far more logical than in most cities. For instance, a left turn would take hours with a non-stop stream of traffic coming the other way, unless one adopts the Istanbul technique of just pulling out in front of it, whereupon everyone stops and lets you go, having expected you to do just that. It really works.
Wednesday 1st July
Early start, as we were leaving Istanbul. Called in briefly at the PO to have a last look for mail, and then crossed the Bosphorus by ferry. Climbing the long hill out of Istanbul when over the brow towards us came a coach and a lorry, side by side, both blowing their horns madly and neither giving way. And we thought Istanbul traffic was mad. We drove more-or-less non-stop to Balikesir, where we camped beside a local garage cum café. The proprietor fixed us up with a hookah, and I smoked myself sick – literally. I felt off the whole of the next day, and couldn’t face green peppers ever again.
Thursday 2nd July
Another early start, drove to Bergama (formerly Pergamum, Hellenistic city), and Pam and I slept in the shade whilst the others spent the whole afternoon wandering around the ruins. As everyone was feeling really tired we pulled into a Mocamp at Izmir and had welcome showers and clothes washes.
Friday 3rd July
Set off for Selcuk. The countryside is getting more attractive, and is covered with large hills. One view in particular was very nice. As we
came over a pass ahead of us lay a large plain, completely covered with silvery olive trees and surrounded by mountains. The countryside is, admittedly in the dry season, typically very brown, but with a lot of green bushes and trees. These the Turks make the most of by doing nothing but sit in the shade from about 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Sometimes the countryside gets noticeably drier, the hills looking distinctly desertish, and we have even seen a few camels.
Reached Selcuk about noon. This was formerly Ephesus, of biblical fame, and also has some magnificent Roman ruins, which we explored. We also stood on the former site of the Temple of Diana (or Artemis). This was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, until being destroyed in the 4th Century AD.
Went on to Denizli to look for somewhere to camp. We were told to go to Pamukkale, which we found to be the former Hierapolis, about 10k from Denizli. This was situated on a plateau formed by lime deposits from a swiftly flowing hot stream. The top of the plateau consists partly of shallow cascading limestone pools, filled with warm water and in which we paddled. There were also some ruins further up the hill, in which we camped. Got woken up in the middle of the night by sheep being driven past only a few feet away.
Saturday 4th July
Aimed to hit Antalya on the south coast, which we did after crossing the Taurus mountains – which apparently gave the early Christians great trouble in their journeys, being full of bandits. Had the usual trouble with coaches, which come round the bends on the wrong side of the road. They make full use of the coaches here, they are always full to the brim, and we have often seen Ford Transit minibuses with passengers lined up abreast on the roof-rack as well.
Reached Antalya early afternoon and found a very nice campsite on top of the cliffs, where the proprietor offered to let us camp for free if we ate at his café – which we did, after a long swim at his private beach. Later, singing round the camp fire (Camping Gaz light!) we were joined by the locals wanting to listen, and the café owner brought us a plateful of iced fruit as a thank-you.
Sunday 5th July
Made our way slowly down the coast to Alanya. Met two English students in the town who showed us a lovely beach where we could camp for free, which we did. Joined a German couple on the same beach for a campfire night with endless red wine (3/6 a litre). Went to bed slightly inebriated.
Monday 6th July
First thing, the German lady came over to join us for coffee (despite her hubby’s protestations from their tent, which I could understand, that English coffee was foul). Decided to spend the morning on the beach, swimming and sunbathing. We knew the sun was strong, but even so we underestimated it and all got sunburnt to varying degrees.
We had the previous evening met a Pakistani called Ali/Richard, about 35 years old and a seasoned traveller. He had decided to settle in Turkey, in Anamur about 100kms down the coast. He was apparently on good terms with a cheap restaurant there and knew of several good places where we could camp. We decided to take him on there that afternoon. True to his word, he found us a lovely picnic area in a wood right by the sea. However, I felt very feverish, and spent the evening trying to bring my temperature down from 101F and deal with my shoulders which were now covered in blisters from the sun.
We had remarked to Richard over a cup of tea on the way that Turkish men seemed to do nothing all day, and he told us that on the whole this was true – especially with crops such as bananas which just grow and don’t need much tending. As a result the men just sit all day in the local café, of which there are usually at least two even in the smallest hamlets, albeit often not consisting of more than a couple of tables under a tree, matting roof, grapevine or similar. What work there is to do is done by the women.