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Farewell to Turkiye

October 31st, 2022

Happy Halloween!

Monday morning we drove into Izmir, (third largest city in the country) where we wanted to see a couple of sites and maybe get the missing blood work done we couldn’t do in Kayseri.

We had a large parking lot in mind that took a while to get to in a traffic jam and then we saw street parking.  We got parked and then the attendant asked us to move to a different spot and after some finagling, we got moved and paid 25₺ for the day (about $1.25US)

We struck out on the blood work at the lab we found – they could only do 2 of the 5 tests we wanted so we didn’t do any.  Then we struck out on the Museum of History & Art that was recommended (it was closed)

but for a buck we strolled through the department of sculpture next door for a bit.

Here the periods of sculpture were explained:

Geometric was from 900-700 BC

Archaic was from 700-490 BC – no examples here

Classic was from 490-330 BC- no examples here

Hellenistic was from 330-30 BC

Roman and Antonin were from 30 BC to 395 AD

Then it was on to see the ancient Greek Agora  (a public open space used for assemblies and markets).  We could see it through a fence but despite following signs to the entry, it was locked.  We could people inside, but could not get in – very frustrating.  We took a few shots through the fence:

Our final visit was to the market bazaar area.  Here we bought a few things we needed wanted (dates, baklava, apricots, broccoli and socks!) before finding a place to have something to eat.  We opted for a chicken sandwich wrap made from a large tortilla like bread.  It was huge – 45 cm / 17.25 inches long and came with cold fries and a drink.  It was okay but it was too big for Fran to finish.

We walked back to Minou and got out of the city to find a mall with two large grocery stores to stock up on dry goods before leaving Turkiye as it’s much cheaper than Europe.  Then it was on to find a place to spend the rest of the afternoon and that night.  We found a small parking lot next to the marina north of Izmir in a small city named Aliaga.  There are no services except public toilets but a nice sea wall/boardwalk and a playground.  We got the spot closest to the water after Doug asked a fellow parked across three spots to kindly move.

There were many locals around until around nine and then we only heard light traffic sounds from the nearby main street.  The only real problem was we were parked partially under a tree so not much charging of the solar panels happened despite full sun.

We have decided to skip the next ruins site (Permagon) on our “list” when we learned that the most impressive part of it is now in Berlin so we didn’t want to get even more “ruined out”.

Our laundry bag was filling up and we figured, let’s get that done here before paying EU prices and Doug walked over in the morning and after trying 4 places he’d found on Google (2 didn’t exist, one closed and one wouldn’t answer the bell) he found a place to drop it off and pick up this afternoon.  So we moved to a place closer to it to get more sunlight and then after picking it up (all done: washed, dried and folded) we moved to the other side of the harbour where we had full sun next to a beach.

This town has a lovely long seawall/boardwalk that is very pleasant to walk along; there’s a wide concrete section, a bike lane and a running path.

Sunset our second night in Aliaga:

It turned out to be a pretty quiet night; we were parked with a bunch of trailers and a couple of camper vans near the beach with bathrooms and cold showers.  It was rather chilly come morning and our batteries (we hope to get new ones in Greece) were still suffering from yesterday’s lack of all-day sun so we decided to head up the coast some to a cheap campground outside the small city of Ayvalik that friends of ours had stayed at about six months ago.

Enroute we passed some water reservoirs with flamingoes in them!  We could not get a good shot but here’s one thanks to our friend, Google:

The flamingo population in Turkey makes up about 34% of the total population in Europe. The country is among the main destinations and habitats of birds, along with France and Spain. Up to 71,000 flamingos spend the winter in Turkey each year.  They are “semi-migratory” birds and some prefer migrating to other Mediterranean countries while others spend the entire year in Turkey. Flamingos usually stay in the Aegean, Central Anatolia and Mediterranean regions of Turkey though some prefer the Black Sea and Marmara regions.

Camlik Camping was definitely dated but they had hot showers and toilets and apparently a washing machine (which we now did not need).  They parked us by the water’s edge as the majority of the campground is for tents along the side of the hill.  There are six power posts down here and it’s a short walk to the showers and the Wi-Fi reaches just fine.  For about $11 night, you can’t complain too much.  We think we’ll stay two nights as Doug would like to do a marathon walk and we want to enjoy the last few days of sunshine and warmth before the weather turns this coming weekend.

The sunny warm day time weather continued through Thursday.  Doug did his MARATHON walk and Fran stayed back doing chores, catching up on photos, going for her own daily walk and blog work.

there were some large homes in this small town

We have less than 500 km / 300 mi left in this country with one last thing to see:  The Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park before crossing back into Bulgaria.

Friday morning we left Camlik Camping after dumping and filling and made our way toward the city of Çanakkale (stopping to get groceries and a shower for Minou).  She didn’t fit in the car washing area, so the fellow just had us park across the front and to reach the roof of Minou, he climbed up on his roof and sprayed and washed from there!

Here is where we caught a ferry back to the European side of Turkiye to the town of Eceabat.

And we spent the night on a side street after taking a walk along the waterfront with a large Peace Park:

We see literally hundreds of small jellyfish on the dirty beach:

Friday we passed through two nearly brand new tunnels; one was 4km long and of, course we took one ferry.

After a quiet night on the street in Eceabat, we started our day touring the Gallipoli Peninsula, a bloody battleground from WWI.

The Gallipoli campaign was a military campaign in the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkiye, from 17 February 1915 to 9 January 1916. The Entente powers, Britain, France and Russia, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire, one of the Central Powers, by taking control of the Ottoman straits. The main battles were:  The Battle of Gallipoli. 1915; Naval Operations in the Dardanelles Campaign. February 19, 1915 – March 18, 1915; Battle of Lone Pine. August 6, 1915 – August 10, 1915.

Gallipoli has become a defining moment in the history of both Australia and New Zealand, revealing characteristics that both countries have used to define their soldiers: endurance, determination, initiative and ‘mateship’. For the Ottomans, it was a brief respite in the decline of their empire.  By the time the campaign ended, more than 130,000 men had died: at least 87,000 Ottoman soldiers and 44,000 Allied soldiers, including more than 8700 Australians and more than 2700 New Zealanders.

 The first spot we wanted to see was the Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial – a Turkish monument near the end of the peninsula itself. 

The Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial is a war memorial commemorating the service of about 253,000 Turkish soldiers who participated at the Battle of Gallipoli, which took place from April 1915 to December 1915 during the First World War. It is located within the Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park on Hisarlık Hill in Morto Bay at the southern end of the Gallipoli peninsula in Çanakkale Province, Turkiye.  The memorial was depicted on the reverse of the Turkish 500,000 lira banknotes of 1993–2005.

We had this place to ourselves until we were about to leave; seems the mini tour buses we passed had not made it this far as they had stopped at a fortress on the way to the point just outside of Eceabat.

Then it was northward to the Kabatepe Presentation Centre & Museum which had two floors of exhibits with information about the campaign and the Turkish response to it.  Many of the exhibits showed the uniforms and medals of the various soldiers involved.

Part of the ticket we purchased included the “Cinevision” theatre.  We had wrongly read that it was an eight minute film about the battles.  Turns out it was more like an event!  You watch a short 5 minutes more or less film in one theatre and then move to the next theatre; you do this moving ten times for a total of 11 theatres!  Some even had “vibrations” when bombs exploded.  It was well done but very one sided, of course, showing Turkish pride and bending some stories to make the soldiers more heroic than they probably were.  (i.e. that they did not think of anything when in the trenches knowing they were going to die; that it was all done in the name of Allah; and more).  It had the feel of propaganda videos.

We took a drive through the National Park passing Anzac beach

and the cemeteries of the Aussies, Kiwis and others making our way to the Newfoundland Regiment Memorial located at Hill 10 Cemetery representing the Newfoundland Regiment who participated on their own as a colony of Britain (they did not join the Canadian Confederation until 1949 for those of you who do not know Canadian history).

The Gallipoli Newfoundland Memorial is a war memorial that commemorates the actions of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment during the Gallipoli campaign in WWI.   Located at the southwest end of the Gallipoli Peninsula, near Suvla Bay the memorial commemorates the participation of the Newfoundland Regiment in the landing at Suvla Bay on 20 September 1915 with the 29th Division. The memorial is one of six erected in Europe by the Newfoundland government following the First World War. Four were erected in France at Beaumont-Hamel, Gueudecourt, Masnières and Monchy-le-Preux and the fifth is at Courtrai/Kortrijk in Belgium. A sixth monument, a gift from Major William Howe Greene, OBE, who served with the Newfoundlanders during the war. stands in Bowring Park in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The memorials feature are all centrally identical, featuring the emblem of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the caribou, cast in bronze, as designed by British sculptor Basil Gotto. The Gallipoli Memorial is situated 25 metres northwest of Hill 10 Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Gallipoli, which is the resting place for eight Royal Newfoundland Regiment soldiers.

Hill 10 Cemetery:

The NFLD Regiment memorial:

It looked like today was going to be our last full sunny day with temps in the  mid 20’s C / low to mid 70’s F so instead of driving a long distance when we finished this tour, we decided to find our overnight spot early, go for a walk and enjoy the sunshine.  It took us a while to “find summer” but we’ve sure been lucky dragging it out! The best place in the direction of the Bulgarian border was a parking lot up high near a lighthouse in the small city of Gelibolu (we believe this means “Gallipoli”).  It had views of a beach below and the Dardanelles Strait across the Asian Turkiye.

Enroute we saw  the brand new bridge across the Dardanelles peeking out of the fog  (built to try and get rid of the ferries but apparently it’s hardly used as most people WANT to take the ferry!

We parked and had breakfast and then went for a walk down on the boardwalk along the water.

We again saw hundred, no this time, thousands of jellyfish along the shoreline.

Jellyfish generally spend their days drifting through the ocean, letting themselves be carried wherever the wind takes them — and unfortunately, that sometimes ends in their demise. Sadly, when they end up on the beach, the jellies die very quickly.  Often weather conditions are to blame for this widespread jellyfish.

 We spent a quiet afternoon and a not so quiet night; about 9pm people began playing music and adding bongo drums to it till about midnight.   Doug went for a long run Sunday morning, his best in a while but still experienced some butt pain.  We left our camp spot by 9 am hoping to make it to tonight’s last spot in this country by mid-day so Doug could join in a webinar meditation class and we’ll be close enough to the border to make an early run there Monday morning.

Enroute we stopped for diesel once to get it still under 26 ₺ and we thought it was close to time that we should be low on a propane tank and since that it too is probably cheaper here, we saw a good price and filled the tank we’d been using so that we can leave Turkiye with both banks full.

We found the spot we’d found on iOverlander but it was in a farmer’s field!  So we passed on that and just parked at the beginning of the short dirt road to have brekkie on a concrete area in front of some sort of agricultural apparatus and then Doug did his webinar but it closed down before he was done.  We decided to stay right where we were.

Fran got online and purchased our toll vignette for Bulgaria and we had a few LEV’s stashed away so we took them out along with our passports and our EE SIM cards in preparation for tomorrow (we’ll be back in the EU so they’ll work once again).

We had an undisturbed afternoon and night with just a few farm tractors going past before dusk.  We wanted to leave early Monday morning in order to hit the border with Bulgaria first thing in the hopes of avoiding the chaos that we encountered entering Turkiye (although we were heading to a different border post) and this one was used by truckers so we were not sure if that could be worse or not….

We were up and going by 6:30 and at the border by 6:40.  The Turkish side took a total of TWO minutes!  They stamped us out, Customs just confirmed who were we and a third officer did the same and we were in no man’s land.

We drove a total of 4704 km / 2922 mi in Turkiye.

Our thoughts on Turkiye:

  • We were very pleasantly surprised how lovely this country was; how friendly its people are and how great the weather was in October. We saw more ruins than we’d ever expected to find here and the history is long and sorted but interesting. 
  • The Turks are very proud, patriotic people and love to help out foreigners. It seems that we, as the tourist, often need to reach out first to say hello, but when you do, they respond so positively.
  • One thing we don’t understand is this: the country seems prosperous – good infrastructure, great roads etc. but we see so many businesses struggling and there are many unfinished buildings. Turkiye has the  3rd worst inflation in the world and a president running a low interest policy contrary to economic best practice – it’s quite hard to comprehend. 
  • It’s an easy country to travel in with the good roads, cheap prices and feels very safe.
  • We found most things we wanted but a few we struggled finding: broccoli and good cheese and some we never found: cider.
  • The petrol was the cheapest we’ve encountered in all of Europe and it was always full service.
  • They do make good ice cream!
  • Inflation is very high but prices are low.
  • We would definitely recommend a vacation in Turkiye especially if you have time to explore out and about and away from Istanbul; not to say Istanbul isn’t worth it, but like many large cities, it’s not “real” Turkiye.
  • We loved the weather but realize that can be different at different times of the year; we’d probably not enjoy summer on the south coast. We only had TWO rainy days in this country; one in Istanbul and one the day we left Istanbul so 36 out of 38 days of sunshine! We did have a few “cool” days but for the most part, temperatures were very pleasant.

 Fun facts about Turkiye:

  1. The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is one of the world’s oldest “malls” dating back to 1445 and having over 3,000 shops.
  2. The Turks love tea; yes you’ve all heard of Turkish Coffee but 96% of Turkiye’s population drinks one cup of tea, at least, every day. And they do this in a special way. When they drink their tea, Turks sip it from a small tulip-shaped glass.
  3. Pic
  4. Turkiye has 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkiye. But that’s not all. There are also 62 more that are on the World Heritage Sites tentative list.
  5. 99% of Turkish people are Muslims, which is why the number of mosques in this country is 82,693.
  6. The Turks have brought many products to Europe. Did you know that tulips were actually brought there from Turkiye? Tulips are native to Central Asia and they were in Turkish gardens long before reaching Central Europe.  Turkiye also introduced cherries and coffee to Europe. 
  7. Iztuzu Beach, which is near Fethiye, just west of it, is a big breeding ground for the endangered animal the loggerhead sea turtle. These turtles arrive between the months of May and October, planting a total of around 300 nests every year.
  8. Cappadocia is an ancient land where Early Christians hid in the underground cities and caves when fleeing the Roman Empire.
  9. The story of Santa Claus originated in Turkiye. Born to wealthy parents, Nicholas was a Christian saint and Greek bishop of Myra, who was born in Patara. Once his parents died, he received a large amount of wealth, which he would give away to the poor and needy. Legend has it that he would drop bags of gold coins down the chimneys of houses, and provide fruits to children. His good deeds spread through Europe, and locals began integrating it with their myths and legends.
  10. Turkiye has the EU’s largest young population. The average age in Turkiye is around 31, and only 9% of the country’s population is over 60.
  11. Oil wrestling is one of the oldest sports in Turkiye and its national sport. When wrestling with oil, the fighters douse themselves with oil beforehand and then face their opponent.
  12. Turkiye supplies approximately 75% of the world’s production of hazelnuts.
  13. A few hundred years ago, Turkish women had legal grounds to get a divorce if their husbands couldn’t provide them with something as essential as coffee.
  14. Turkiye is the largest apricot producer in the world with 750,000 tons production per year.