Friday, October 23, 2009

Turkish Delights

While looking back at some of the photos, I found many that bring back sweet memories of Turkey, very different from the usual tourist shots. So I thought it would be good to share them here to sum up my holiday in Turkey.

Faces of Turkey.

A grandfather(?) and his granddaughter flying a kite at Pigeon Valley, Cappadocia.

A grandmother(?) and her grandson at a lake below the Pamukkale hills.

A couple of shop assistance at a nut shop at a rest stop, between Ankara and Istanbul.

A group of school children at the Ataturk Memorial, Ankara.

School children outing in Topkapi Palace, Istanbul

Some unusual fauna.

Grasshopper at Ephesus

Lizard at Ephesus

Spider at Ephesus

Butterfly at garden in Mother Mary's house

"Dragonfly" in Pegamon

And finally some wild fauna.

At Pegamon

At Troy

At Troy

At Pegamon

At Ephesus

At Canakkale

And these are sure Turkish Delights, not the edible kind but just as sweet.

A note for Malaysian travellers. Turkey is currently the cheapest European destination for package tours and it is certainly best value for your money since you get the best of both Eastern and Western cultures. What more with MAS now flying direct from KLIA to Istanbul, the hassle of transit in the Middle East is now gone.

Ronald Kwok

Monday, August 17, 2009

Last full day in Istanbul - Eyup and Chora

Today is the last full day in Istanbul and I spent the early morning visiting some of the major tourists sights that I had missed earlier. First stop was the Column of Constantine but I was disappointed since it was under total wrap for renovation. Nearby was the historical Turkish bath, the Cemberlitas bath which I popped in to have a look and some shots.

My next stop was the Basilica Cistern which was built as a vast underground water storage tank. Quite a fascinating sight with the eerie lighting and shimmering water.

There were many columns, the most unusual is one with the upside-down Medusa head since the columns were reused from older Greek buildings.

Next stop was another Turkish bath, this time the Cagaloglu Hamami. I found this visually more appealing than the more historical Cemberlitas Hamami as the photos below show. This is one of the 1,000 places to see before you die as featured in the book of the same name by Patricia Schultz.

Since we had booked a tour to Eyup Mosque and the St.Saviour Church in Chora for the afternoon, my wife used the remainder of the morning to complete her shopping for souvenirs for friends and family members. so it was back to the Spice Market. Luckily, all the shops around the market were opened this time and she managed to get what she wanted. We had lunch at the restaurant Maestro, right in front of Erboy Hotel. It was something special, the kebab in a pitcher which was really beef stew to me. But it was very tasty, one of the best meal so far.

After lunch, our tour bus came to pick us up for the tour and when they dropped off two guests at the Old City, there were just the two of us so we had the whole tour to ourselves. The tour only covered the Eyup Mosque and the St.Saviour Church of Chora but I requested the guide to include Pierre Loti Hill and he obliged since it was along the way. In fact, this was the first stop. From the hill, you have a great view of the Golden Horn.

We took the cable car to the foot of the hill and it was just a short walk to the Eyup Mosque. Inside we found many young boys dressed like a prince and we learned that they were prince for a day before they go for their circumcision. This mosque is one of the holy places for Muslims since there is a footprint of Prophet Mohammad which attracts a lot of pilgrims.

From Eyup Mosque, we went to the Church of St.Saviour in Chora. The church is choked full of mosaics and frescoes showing scenes from the Bible, especially the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

The tour bus dropped us at the hotel where we had a rest before we ventured out for our last dinner in Istanbul. After dinner, it was last minute shopping by my wife. Then it was the task of fitting all the shopping into the luggage.
Ronald Kwok

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dolmabahce Palace and Sunday Mass in Istanbul

Today is Sunday and I have planned a day out to include Mass at St Anthony, the largest Catholic Church in Istanbul. To prepare for the trip, I bought the Akbil, the electronic ticket that can be used on all the public transport in Istanbul. Here's what it looks like and you press it against the receptacle on the station turnstile and on the buses. This cost 6 lira and is refundable (according to some) but others say it is not refundable. I did not find out since I took my back as a souvenir which I can also lend to friends going to Turkey for a holiday.

Since we'll be moving over to the Erboy Hotel, I got my luggage to the lobby after breakfast where the hotel will arrange to send it over from Oriente Express. From the hotel, we took the tram to Karakoy across the Galata Bridge and then the funicular to Tunel.

We took a casual stroll along Istikalal Caddesi, the main pedestrian shopping street in the new town where the antique tram still operates as a tourist attraction.

St.Anthony is located along this street but we almost missed it since it is hidden behind an apartment facade.

The Mass was in English and the choir members were mainly Filipinos. The singing was good but the acoustic of the church was bad with too much echo. The presiding priest was not too friendly as he did not say any word of welcome to the many tourists who were present at the Mass.

After Mass, we continue along the pedestrian street passing many shops and restaurants before we reached Taksim Square where there were some some Turkish cultural dances.

From here, we took another funicular ride to Kabatas and we walked towards Dolmabahce Palace. As it was near lunch time, we looked for something to eat but could not find any eating place nearby the Palace. I suppose they want to keep the area clean so they kept the food stores away. So we had to walk quite a distance (almost to Besiktas) before we reach an area with shops. Along the way there were many fans of the local football team Besiktas who were making their way to the Besitas Stadium nearby for some celebration since their team had just won the local football league.

We made our way back to the Dolmabahce Palace after our lunch, this time using the bus. There were two guided tours of the Palace and you get a very interesting taste of life within the palace in the glory days of the Sultans.

As we were rather tired after all the walking, we intended to take the tram straight back to the hotel for a rest. But since my wife had not bought what she wanted, we made our way back to the Spice Market. Though it was open, most of the shops around the area were closed, being a Sunday so my wife was rather disappointed.

After a rest at the hotel, we had dinner at the roof-top restaurant of the Erboy. Most of the hotels in the old city have some kind of roof top restaurant that will have a view overlooking the Bosphorus. It was a rather romantic setting and we had another sunset as well but not as beautiful as the one the previous night.

We did some more window shopping after the dinner before we adjourned for bed.

Ronald Kwok