We landed in Turkey at the bustling tourist town of Kusadasi and quickly made way to the nearby quaint town of Selcuk. From Selcuk, we explored the ruins at Ephesus, the ancient calcium spa at Pamukkale, the waterpark Adaland and even ventured back into Kusadasi for shopping.
Our first stop in Istanbul gave us just enough time to take in a few of the major sites and try out some new foods. We were both surprised to see just how large the city is. The tourist area is relatively well confined and manageable, but the town holds 15 million or so people and just goes on forever. It makes San Francisco seem like a village.
We next headed to Safranbolu which is locally famous for its wood framed 'Ottoman' houses and then along the Black Sea Coast to Trabzon where we visited the Sumela Monastery. The coast itself didn't have enough for us to stop long, but we enjoyed the drive through the beautiful and lush intersection of the Black Sea and the Kackar mountains where tea and hazelnuts blanket the hillsides.
The Kackars are sprinkled with houses made from old Lincoln Log sets. We braved the sketchy bus, minibus and dolmus rides to the town of Barhal up in the mountains. From here we hiked up to Koragol Lake and camped.
We traveled along the Georgia, Armenia and Iran borders on the East through the frontier towns of Kars and Doguyabazit, down through Van and then near the Southern border with Syria through Diyarbakir, Mardin and Urfa. Along the way, we saw the ancient Armenian capital of Ani (now barely on the Turkish side of the border), the beehive houses at Harran, and Mt. Nemrut, home of the heads.
We can't say enough about Cappadocia. It was definitely our highlight for Turkey. All the hiking, rock climbing, underground exploring, and hot air ballooning we could ever ask for is packaged in one bundle right here. We spent a week exploring the hoodoo covered valleys, vast cave cities above and underground, and relaxing. But words don't do this region justice.
With some free time to spare before our flight to Jordan, and the need to refresh our tan, we jumped onto a 4 day cruise along Turkey's Aegean coast between Olympos and Fethiye. If we didn't have enough rest already, this certainly made up for it.
Our final week in Turkey was spent back in Istanbul taking in a last few sights and getting ready for Africa. OK, maybe we didn't do a lot of research or really see that many sights. But we did take a couple ferries on the Bosphorus, go to the archelogical museum, eat enough McDonalds for the next 4 months, go ice skating and see whirling dervishes whirl.