Road Tripping Turkey

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After our beach holiday in Antalya and Cirali, we set off cross country up to Gallipoli on the North Coast along the Dardanelles, a long strait running between the Asian and European continents.

We knew we had a long drive ahead of us, and weren’t entirely sure what to expect of the roads. Much to our surprise, the roads were fantastic – certainly the best we had driven in Europe, and better than most roads in the US and Australia as well.

We had two options for our route – the first was the scenic coast road that would take us along the winding coastline, dramatic scenery and up to Izmir, where we could overnight before heading up to Gallipoli in the morning.

On our last day in Cirali we had taken the coast road 40km to Kas, a resort town that had been enthusiastically recommended to us by the hotel manager in Antalya. The road itself was a big wide two lane highway, and easy enough to drive, except for the extreme curves, switchbacks, climbs and descents around the edge of the mountains alongside the Mediterranean.

We started out the drive having Austin read one of his reading books to us on the iPad. That is, until he asked for a plastic bag and thought he might be a bit sick. There is a first time for everything, and this moment was Austin’s first brush with carsickness. Needless to say, Car School is not an option we’ll be exploring again any time soon!

That 40km winding drive took two hours to navigate, and we pretty confidently ruled out the scenic route for our drive North! We opted for the inland route, up and over the mountains and through mile after mile after mile of crops — fruit and olive trees turned into cotton, corn and soybean fields, valleys covered in greenhouses growing tomatoes, and hillsides covered in grapes. Further north it was melons and then gourds.  Turkey’s bid for EU membership started to make more sense — they (along with Spain and Israel) are feeding us our vegetables!

Pamukkule 

We left Cirali just as that rooster was starting to crow, and the Imam in the Mosque across the road was about to sing. Luckily, the inland route took us right past Pamukkale, a place I had seen in dozens of travel guides for Turkey, and desperately wanted to visit, so we made a late morning stop to break up the journey (after an average of at least one comfort break per hour prior to that — we were certainly travelling in Turkish time.)

What we knew about Pamukkale is that it is a spectacular travertine falls, coloured completely white from the calcium that’s been deposited here for over 2000 years. What we didn’t know was that it’s also home to yet another extensive ancient city with yet another spectacular theatre (they all have pretty fabulous theatres), and a site so large they have mobility scooters and golf carts available to rent at the entrance. Had we done more research, we’d again have planned more time to see such wonders as the sarcophagus of the one and only Marcus Aurelius.

We did wander around the ruins a bit, but we were there for the falls. White terraces and dramatic drops completely covered the cliffs in layer upon layer of smooth shining white calcium, and dotted with aqua coloured pools where the ancient romans had bathed more than 1500 years ago. Much of the falls were off limits to the hordes of tourists heaving themselves off the tour busses, but a series of six or seven pools at the top were ready and waiting for the pollution of a million feet seeking magical healing from the restorative waters.

As a western woman in a predominantly muslim country, you are overly conscious of your modesty at most times. Not so for the Russians though. I guess in fairness they aren’t considered Westerners, but I’ve never in my life seen bikini clad women walking around the ruins of an ancient city high in the mountains before and after they go for a dip and a sexy pose in a knee deep pool. Like seriously, let me pose next to this old temple in my red bikini while people around me are walking around in Burkas — okay nobody was in burkas, but most of the Asian tourists were under umbrellas and fully clothed.

It was a great stop, but after that, it was back in the car and on the road for hours and hours of hard driving ahead until we finally reached the ferry crossing at Kannukule many (many) hours later than we expected to arrive.
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