A bridge between two continents this immense city is a rich combination of cultures and civilizations.
Original and adapted monuments of several epochs and religions are spread all over [http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/9eab8/1c0a38/
]Istanbul, with a special care in everything that borders the narrow sea.
A very beautiful city that I couldn't see deeply in the two days of my first visit but that i saw better this time during a week. Tips will come slowly (I still have dozens to post from somewhere else).
On our last day in Istanbul (New Town, Beyoglu) with some but not a lot of time to kill before going to the airport, we decided to go and get pampered.
Babyface Beautycenter did exactly that. Brows, manicure and pedicure set each of us 60 lira and 1½ hour back.
Do check out the amount of treatments they offer, it is extensive and I believe fairly priced.
The staff is friendly and skilled which more than make up for the minor language barrier. I highly recommend Ayse, she really knows her trade.
You can pay both cash and card.
We drove from Antalya to Aspendos, then on to Konya and took the road through the mountains to Beysehir where we stayed the night.
Was really happy we did as found a hotel that was a decent price - 100 lira for 2 with breakfast - with sea views and nice quality being 3 star and has only been opened for a year.
My guide book said that apart from the lake, the main attraction was the beautiful old wooden mosque which we went to visit and saw the sign there advising that the mosque is on the tentative list for listing with Unesco. The mosque was absolutely - wooden celiings and pillars, and stunning beautiful tiling and doors.
There is a covered bazaar next door which is also ancient - from the 12 th century. There were a number of old houses to see in this area.
There are public toilets here near the mosque and a few ladies selling handicrafts. I bought some crocheted roses!
Quite lovely walking back beside the lake before crossing the bridge and heading back to the car parked in front of the hotel.
There is a music shop just there in the main street so asked the guy serving what he recommended to buy of music in the area and bought one with very nice music.
There are tourist information boards elaborating on historic sites in the area - from this we drove to KOnya via a country road to Fasillar to see some ancient monuments and Hittite statues. The countryside along the way was very beautiful and we crossed a wide and deep fast flowing canal with very blue water. The village of Fasillar was a fascinating very old, farming village with interesting houses and chickens scratching around.
We spent a good week in Cesme, a nice beach (if you forget the wind...). Not far from Izmir, it is a touristy area, with all the facilities, some good restaurants but without any great attractions challenging the beach.
This was high on my list of "things to do". There are Turkish baths available pretty much everywhere. I had decided that I wanted an authentic experience, in an older building, and not the bright, shiny modern hotel experience that may have been a bit designed for the tourist trade.
I went to a very old bath house, (Hammam) named, Kalaici Hamam. It was a very, very old building. It looked nothing special from the outside, in fact, it was just a wooden door in a white wall along the street. As I put my head in the door, a man waved me in and guided me into the central reception area, and then to a changing room. The interior of the building was dark and felt "masculine" somehow. I don't mind admitting I was a little nervous, and felt somewhat vulnerable, alone, female and not having a clue what to expect.
Greeted by a seemingly HUGE guy, stripped to the waist and wearing, (what seemed to me) a table cloth as a sarong(!) I was lead to a steam room, wearing only my bikini. He had no english, but with a lot of pointing and patting, communication was easy. After fifteen minutes, he returned and bid me to sit on the marble slab, while he proceeded to pour cold water over my head, and wash my hair with a bar of olive oil soap. I felt like a child being scrubbed in my grandma's kitchen sink!!
I had not been prepared for that. As he rinsed the soap from my hair with jugs of cold water, I was sure I was going to drown!! I could hardly catch my breath. Lead to the central marble alter-like stone, the Navel Stone, I loved the domed ceilings, painted a vivid shade of blue and white with little circular holes up into the blue sky. I was bid to lay face down, soap suds were lathered all over my body. A slap on my rear end, signaled me to flip over, then had the same on my front. Then, what I can only describe like a chamoise, was wiped all over me. I was aghast at the dead, grey skin that was coming off my body.
As slippery as an eel, and feeling as clean and soft as a newborn, I was wrapped in towels and lead to another area where another man of gargantuan porportions, gave my body a massage, which I had agreed to at a small extra charge. Warning, don't expect large fluffy towels as in the hotels. The Turks used,cotton cloths, that felt like, what we in Ireland, would use to dry dishes with. These guys know how to do a proper massage!
They are doing their job. I avoided eye contact at all times. They are not there to flirt with the tourists and hope for a good tip. Firm and professional, it was invigorating rather than relaxing. A wonderful experience.
I was then helped to stand and wrapped once more in these "cloths" and shown to the changing room once more, where I was given an apple tea. When I left the hammam, I felt clean and elated and ready for anything!
A marvellous experience, and one I would recommend.
Buy a small bag of warm roasted chestnuts, some boiled corn and just walk around the streetss of Istanbul to drink in the sights. Whether day or night, the city looks beautiful. In the evenings the minarets, towers and other buildings are lit very aesthetically and are indeed a feast for the eyes.
This is another must visit in Istanbul. This was first constructed as a Church and then converted to a Mosque by the Ottoman Turks, later it was converted into a museum and is now a heritage site. It is indeed a beautiful structure that is rectangular with domes above. It is considered to be an architectural marvel. Lots of photo opportunities inside. One can also climb to the top floor and get an aerial view of the Hagia Sophia.
This is also called the Blue mosque due to the beautiful blue ceramic tiles that are on the walls of the Mosque. There are 21,000 blue tiles inside the mosque. This is a practicing mosque and is closed to tourists during prayer times and on Fridays.
You need to remove your shoes and socks while entering inside. They do provide you with plastic covers to carry your footwear, but if you are ecologically conscious you could carry a small bag with you to carry to your footwear and avoid the plastic bags that they give.
This is a must visit in Istanbul. Lots of photo opportunities outside the mosque.
The Valley of GÖREME-CAPPADOCIA with its Spectacular Landscape...makes it one of the Natural Wonders of the World.
The GÖREME NATIONAL PARK is one of the most visited places in the Central part of Turkey. The place is one of its kinds. It is like a valley filled with huge Mushroom-like Plantation of Rocks or giant Anthills extending up to 40 meters or higher. Also forming them like Fairy Chimneys or cones, pillars, giant obelisks also like pyramids. An interesting product of the joy and moods of nature after several volcanic eruptions in the valley of Göreme some hundreds of years ago, caused by water and wind seen as naturally occurring phenomena deforming these volcanic sediments into different spectacular rock formations.
Some of them are modified and used as commercial establishments like Hotels, or weird stores or cafe bistros and restaurants, storage rooms even used as normal dwelling places for the Locals. Many are used as religious places of worships. Until now there are traces of painted remains of holy figures on the ceilings and walls of the caves as evidences. First I didn´t believe until I saw it in my naked eyes these famous underground Cities and dwelling places being dug by the people to hide themselves from the Turkish-Arab invasions. Lots to see here and lots of things to do. Witness it by yourself. I was fond of it and until now I never stopped wondering. The place is really a great destination and you should not miss this!!
All my childhood books were true when it came to the Sultan's Palace: it was beyond mesmerizing. The Topkapi Palace is an absolute must for any traveler to Istanbul. This is a place to take your children and educate them about the Ottoman civilization, the customs of the harem, and the relationship with the West.
Come in late afternoon, around 2:30, when the crowds start winding down. Try to avoid crowds from the cruise ships, they are enormous and very loud.
A visit to Pera museum is a must for any lover of modern art. The museum provides a retrospective of Turkish modern artists, both print and media. The staff is very open and are open to make introductions to the artists.
Ephesus was another ancient Greek center - actually it predated the Greeks - along the coast of Asian Minor. It was the site of an ancient pre-Greek shrine to a local goddess which was updated in Greek times to a magnificent temple dedicated to Artemis. The Artemision was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - one lone column is all that remains today. Ephesus really hits its stride with Roman times becoming the capital of the Roman province of Asia. With some 250,000 inhabitants, Ephesus was the largest Roman city in Asia. Earthquakes and the silting of its harbor by the local river slowly killed off teh city. It lives on today in the form of the nearby small town of Selcuk and in the restored ruins visited by multitudes off of cruise ships. For much more see Ephesus.
Before Ephesus, there was Miletus. This was the ancient center for Greek culture along the coast of Asia Minor. The twin harbors at the mouth of the Meander River were first settled by colonizers from Knossos in Crete. The town hit its high point just before the time of the Persian invasions. On the eventual wrong side of the Ionian Revolt, Miletus suffered Persian vengeance dramatically. The town would recover - even being besieged by Alexander the Great - and make it into and beyond Roman times, but the silting up of its harbors by the river would finally give the town its death knell.
The city was the starting point for pilgrims who were on their way to the oracle of Didima located just south of here on the Sacred Way. When visiting Miletus you should also consider a visit to nearby Priene, as well. Priene was another Greek port city on the north edge of the Bay of Miletus - long since silted up and now cotton fields. This is where Alexander the Great stayed while besieging the Persian satrap who had set up shop in Miletus.
"Build it and they will come" goes the line in the movie "The Field of Dreams". One could say for this site, "Restore it and they will come!" Afrodisias was a major sculpture center because of the magnificence of nearby marble quarries. The site is just within reach of tour buses rundling in from the Coast - and the cruise ships - so you won't be alone here except early and late in the day. But the restoration of the townsite and the museum holding the restored facades of the local Sebasteion make Afrodisias a site not to be missed!
Cotton Castle in Turkish, as the white limestone formations seen from the hazy distance could easily be mistaken for such. The ancient city of Hierapolis extends above the white terraced pools, an ancient spa town for the rich. This is one of the main toruist centers in all of Turkey. Compared to the pools at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone, Pamukkale comes out second best, but the magnificent ruins of Hierapolis make up ofr the masses of tourists one encounters here. Nearby, not to be missed are the restored ruins of Laeodicea one of the seven churches of Asia Minor mentioned in the Revelations of John.
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