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In Turkey Winter 2010/11 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

IN TURKEY WINTER 2010/11

Barry and Margaret Williamson
December 2010 - January 2011

After a summer-intoTurkey1_(37)[1].jpg-winter motorhome journey from the UK through northern Scandinavia and down through the Balkans, we entered the far north-eastern corner of Greece and drove south to Alexandroupolis. This was the beginning of a winter tour of the Aegean coast of Turkey, a journey now in the making. Our guidebook is to be Freya Stark's 'Ionia' (Tauris Parke Paperbacks 2010), an account of a journey she made in 1952. Just as she followed in the footsteps of the 5th C BC Greek historian Herodotus, noting all the changes since ancient times, so we plan to follow in her footsteps, noting the more recent changes. Not least, in many months of travel she met only one other tourist!

The image shows our crossing of the Dardanelles: from Eceabat to Canakkale; from Europe to Asia Minor. For many more images of this journey, click: In Turkey 2010 in Pictures

For a summary of our travels in 30 countries throughout the whole of 2010, have a look at our newsletter 2010: A Year of Two Halves, complete with photographs and maps.

For our journey south through Romania and Bulgaria into Greece, click: Romania and Bulgaria 2010

For previous journeys in Turkey, click: The Complete Circuit of Turkey 2008 and Tour of Cappadocia 1997.

Aegean_Turkey_2.jpg

Map of the Route in Aegean Turkey

DECEMBER 2010

Biser, Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis, Greece     Alexandroupolis Municipal Camping     €18.30 (after CCI discount)     122 miles     15 ft asl

After a month of mild weather, which felt positively tropical compared with news of exceptionally Arctic conditions in Britain, winter suddenly caught up with our corner of Bulgaria in mid-December, when the wind turned to the North. We left Camping Sakar Hills on a Monday morning (13 December) just as it began snowing, bidding Matt farewell as he set out for Harmanli to have winter tyres fitted.

Our first stop was 7 miles down the highway in Lyubimets for fuels. Petrol/diesel are now much cheaper in Bulgaria than either Greece or Turkey, and we also filled the LPG tank (for domestic use) as 'Autogas' is rarely found in Greece. The filling station did take credit cards but we spent our remaining Bulgarian currency. We also took the opportunity to renew the Bulgarian vignette in case of a border inspection, buying the minimum 7 day sticker for the equivalent of €5, much cheaper than a fine.   

Keeping on the old highway towards Svilengrad (rather than left onto the motorway for Turkey), we then turned right at 14 miles onto a well signed dual carriageway for 1.5 miles to the Greek border. The Bulgarian exit post (passport check and a quick look inside the motorhome) was separated by a mile of no-man's-land before entering Greece (with another passport check). We had some snow on the road through the border regions but as we went south into Greece, on the well shod E85, the snow turned to sleet, then rain and then dried up.

We crossed the River Arda, in full flow at 36 miles, then turned off 10 miles later at Orestiada North (the first Greek town). At Alex Pak, a large DIY store on the way into the centre, we bought a new fan heater to replace the one that Barry had mended – and a good buy it proved to be (much more heat for the same 1 kW setting). Squeezing through the town centre - busy with shops and shoppers - we turned right at the main square and drove a mile (keep left when the road forks) to Lidl and its generous car park. An hour later, after coffee and shopping, we walked back into the crowded centre of Orestiada for our second treat of the day – lunch at Goody's in the square, graced with an unlikely looking Santa and some fibreglass reindeer.

Back in the motorhome, we rejoined the E85 highway at Orestiada South (at 51 miles), just as it began to rain again. By the time we passed the exit for Didymoteicho, 9 miles later, it was sleeting. The next 10 miles of unimproved old road alongside the railway awaited roadworks, then the highway was good with 2 snow ploughs at the ready, though it was only settling on the higher hilltops. This is an agricultural area, with a sugar beet factory and a depot for the trucks that carry the cotton crop from the fields in autumn. It felt good to be back in a country that at least appears more prosperous than Bulgaria, with well-stocked shops, well tended cemeteries, nativity cribs outside the churches and warmly dressed people, whatever the financial news says about Greece. We were, however, shocked at the rise in petrol price over the last year – now a record €1.60 per litre (compared with €1.10 in Bulgaria). One way of forcing Greeks to pay their taxes, we guess. We also noted that VAT had risen from 9% to 11% on all food – and this even applied to medicines in the pharmacy.

After a total of 96 miles, we turned right onto the new A2/E90 for Alexandroupolis (rather than left for Turkey), also dubbed the 'Egnatia Odos'. This 4-lane toll-free motorway ran through some high country (max 575 ft/175 m) with mist and snow, until we turned off at the sign for Alexandroupolis airport and port at 112 miles. Dropping down to the coast, we met  and rejoined E85 after 6 miles (opposite another Lidl) and turned right (west) to drive through the centre of Alexandroupolis. A sign showed the temperature as 5ΊC at 3.45 pm.

The extensive municipal campsite (signed) lies along the Aegean shore, a mile west of the town centre (turn left into the entrance at traffic lights). It's open all year, with a town hall employee sitting in Reception all day with the standard Greek attributes – cigarettes, TV and little or no languages other than Greek. We have the entire site to ourselves, complete with clean hot showers and (new since our last visit) free WiFi, though there is still no washing machine. There is also a new ATM at the site – useful, as payment must be in cash Euros.

We parked with a sea view through the windscreen and settled in as darkness and rain fell. A text message from Brenda & Adrian, back in Biser, described walking through blizzards, their car snow-bound, while here about 100 miles south it's several degrees above zero! Thanks to internet weather forecasts, we left in the nick of time.

At Alexandroupolis     Municipal Camping

This campsite is described as being '7 verdant hectares' - that is, there are a lot of trees, complete with robins (and a pair of pretty ginger kittens for us to feed). We were joined in our splendid isolation by one English motorhome, carrying a friendly couple (Barrie and Margaret!!) on their way to Kusadasi on the south coast of Turkey, where they own an apartment. We had two pleasant evenings together, hosting each other to tell our stories and compare motorhomes (as you do) before they continued on their way, with an invitation to visit them if we pass.

The weather remained dry and cool, above freezing – apart from the day we walked into town to post some cards, when it sleeted! At this time of year Christmas emails and ecards start to arrive from friends far and wide. It's good to hear their news, especially those we haven't seen for some time, and we were kept busy on-line. We recycled an ecard from Dr Bob & Sandra in Spain, featuring Santa and his musical reindeer band – great fun. We also wrote our own end-of-year review, processed photographs, updated the website travelogue, wrote letters and cards to family, ordered on-line flowers for M's Mum, etc. It will be good to head for Turkey (very appropriate) with all correspondence up to date.

The campsite WiFi is good except that – a BIG negative – it cuts off every 30 minutes without warning, all day long, meaning you have to log in again every half hour, often losing work! What a crazy system (perhaps designed to prevent the downloading of films?) Naturally, we reported this to 'Reception' who claimed to know nothing about it (has no-one ever mentioned it to them before?!) and then decided it must be a fault on our laptop (both of them, different makes and ages?!) When we persisted, adding that the same happened to the neighbouring Margaret and Barrie, a phone call was made to the 'technician' but nothing happened. After all, this is Greece.

Alexandroupolis, Greece to Eceabat, Gallipoli, Turkey     Harbour Car Park    121 miles     26 ft asl

With fresh and waste water tanks filled and emptied, we headed east through Alexandroupolis, pausing at a fuel station (still slightly cheaper in Greece than Turkey), then at Lidl after 5 miles. Well laden (including bacon, ham and pork chops!), we took the next left along the (unsigned) road north past Amfitriti village, joining the E90/A2 motorway at 10 miles. We seemed to be the only vehicle heading for Turkey!

At 26 miles we passed the exit for the road north to Bulgaria, then 5 miles later we reached the Greek frontier and a passport check. Two miles of no-man's-land spanned the River Evros border, its marshy margins lined with empty stork nests, before we were halted at the Turkish frontier. The border post was remarkably quiet, just one car in front of us and no trucks - on a Monday morning.

The sequence unfolded: show passports to Police; walk across to buy 3-month visas in hard cash (€15 or a bargain £10 each); return to Police to have visas stamped; drive on to next booth for scrutiny of vehicle documents and the all-important Green Card insurance; walk across to Customs to have vehicle details entered in driver's passport (and a look inside the motorhome); and finally exit, with a final check of passports (and assurance that the covered bicycles on the back were not a motorbike – for which more documents and insurance would be needed). Somewhere during this ritual it began to pour with rain.

We were Turkey1_(10).JPGnow free to continue east on the quiet, if rougher, E90 past Ipsala to the Kesan crossroads at 49 miles, where 2 men balanced trays of sesame bread rings on their heads, selling their wares at the traffic lights. This important junction (left for Edirne, straight on for Istanbul or right for Gallipoli) is marked by a new Kipa (Tesco) supermarket on one corner and a shopping centre with Burger King, Migros supermarket and an ATM on another. We turned left to get New Turkish Lire (YTL, currently at 2.3 = £1) - and spent some of them on a fast food lunch, before turning right for Gelibolu (Gallipoli).

As we drove south on the E87/D550 dual carriageway, delighted at the lack of traffic (partly due to the extortionate price of fuel), the misty rain gave way to a watery sun. The empty road rolled through pine forest, with a view of the Aegean Sea from the highpoint at over 1,000 ft/330m – a climb we remember well from cycling this route on a summer ride from England to Istanbul over 20 years ago.

The dual carriageway reverted to single lane road at 73 miles, though it is being widened. 20Turkey1_(11)[1].jpg miles later at the port of Gelibolu we met the shore of the Dardanelles. Asia lay across the water as we continued along the eastern edge of the Gallipoli Peninsula, with the pine clad hillsides of the Gallipoli National Park to the west.

At 118 miles we passed the right turn for Kabatepe and the Gallipoli battlefields and memorials. However, we've explored these in depth in the past (see November 1997 and April 2008) and Kum Camping is closed at present, so we continued into the port of Eceabat aTurkey1_(14)[1].jpgnd followed the signs for the ferry across to Canakkale. The large free car park by the dock was empty, unlike previous summer visits when the whole area was a chaotic gridlock of trucks!

We parked by the water's edge, watching the shipping on its way to/from Istanbul and the Black Sea. A few fishermen on the bank packed up as dusk fell around 5 pm, the dark clouds illuminated by a full moon. With no WiFi or Radio 4 to distract us – and only Turkish TV channels – we settled down to read after supper. Barry is enjoying Freya Stark's 'Ionia' describing her journey on the west coast of Turkey in the early 1950's, while M is exploring a little further afield with William Golding's 'Egyptian Journal'.

Click: Images of Eceabat and the Ferry across the Dardanelles to Canakkale and Asia Minor

Eceabat to Troy, Turkey     Troia Pension & Camping     30 YTL (25 YTL for 3 days+)     26 miles     170 ft asl

After a warm night (no heating needed), we checked the times for the 30-minute crossing to Canakkale,Turkey1_(28)[1].jpg then walked round the impreTurkey1_(20)[1].jpgssive new 'Respect the History Park' next to the ferry. This memorial/outdoor war museum, with a model of the 1915 battlefields and a reconstruction of trench warfare, was funded in 2006 by Opet (Turkey's national petrol company) as part of a splendid project that involved rebuilding work in various villages on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Opet donated paint to residents to restore their homes, erected monuments and hung giant screen-print canvases which illustrated the campaign on the facades of buildings. This was all very well done, with the emphasis on the Turkish victory (don't mention the Germans) and the motto 'Everything is for a Modern Turkey'. The great man Ataturk himself would have approved.

We boarded the 10 am ferry (running every half hour) for a fare of 35 YTL and had a viTurkey1_(36)[1].jpgew over Eceabat from the upper deck. The boat was quiet (only 6 cars and no trucks) and the town peaceful, though a high-rise pension called 'Hotel Crowded House' reminded us how busy the area can be in summer, especially around 25 April - Anzac Day. As we cTurkey1_(40b).JPGrossed the Dardanelles (the Hellespont of antiquity), there was also a good view of Kilitbahir, south of Eceabat, with its 15th C castle built to defend the strategic strait.

Arriving in Canakkale, a large bustling harbour town that is a popular base for exploring both Gallipoli and Troy, we made the mistake of following the road signs for Troy and Izmir. Instead of taking you directly onto the southbound E87, they lead the hapless motorist several miles north and east, then circle back to meet E8Turkey1_(47)[1].jpg7 at Kepez, by a Kipa hypermarket. Next time we'll ignore them and trust the SatNav. Having driven 10 miles, thanks to this detour, we paused at Kipa for a few items, such as Turkish bread – delicious and at a price that makes the breadmaker redundant!

Continuing south on the E87 dual carriageway we had a good view of the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, with the tall Turkish war memorial at Abide. At 20 miles the new 'Troy Park Restaurant' overlooking the water sported the inevitable wooden horse. Then 4 miles later we turned right (signed Troy National Park) along a country road, edged by olive groves and ploughed fields. The occasional shepherds watched over flocks of sheep and goats, kept for Trojan cheese and milk.

Two miles along on the right (and half a mile short of the archaeological site of Ancient Troy),Turkey1_(53)[1].jpg the all-year ACSI-listed mini-camping/cafι/souvenir shop welcomed us, in the person of Grandma, waving us into the gate with her stick. She remembered our phone call and assured us that her English-speaking son would soon return. We settled in the small garden (complete with hook-up), watched by an extended family of tortoiseshell cats. See http://www.troiapension.com/ for more details.

After lunch we tookTurkey1_(54)[1].jpg a walk along the road as far as the entry box to Ancient Troy, passing more cafes and gift shops, as well as 'Schliemann's House'. This reconstruction of the humble cottage was built by a German TV company making a film about the Heinrich Schliemann, the German treasure-hunter who trusted to Homer and uncovered the site in the 1870's. He went on to excavate at Mycenae in the Greek Peloponnese.

We've visited the historic site twice in the past – the first time back inTurkey2_(51).JPG 1989 when it was unguarded and free! (See Newsletter for 1989, Diary for November 1997 and the Newsletter for 1997). Looking over the gate, we wondered what the Japanese coach party made of it all, as they photographed each other peering out of the windows in the giant wooden horse! Entrance is 15 YTL per person (guided tours extra).

Back at our peaceful little campsite, the owner turned on the cafι's WiFi internet, enabling us to listen to Radio 4 while we made dinner, followed by a DVD film on the life of Jane Austen. It seems that 'Pride and Prejudice' was almost autobiographical. The only disturbance was the call to prayer from a minaret in the nearby village of Tevfikiye.

Christmas at Troy, Turkey     Troia Pension & Camping

The weather Troy_Cycling_(55).JPGremained beautifully mild (17ΊC) and dry, with a warm wind – ideal drying weather. We duly did the laundry and cleaned the van, as well as making full use of the internet during the daytime. It was turned off in the early evening, once the cafι closed.

It's a short walk into the agricultural village of Tevfikiye, with a couple of mini-markets for bread (fresh daily) and a small produce market on Sunday morning.  The largest building is the mosque, painted in shades of green, opposite the tea-house where a few old lads sat over their glasses of cay – the equivalent of the Greek Kafenion where men retreat to play cards or backgammon and read the papers. A travelling greengrocer also called at the campsite, Turkey_Biga_(46).JPGselling local fruit and veg, and we saw a van selling fish in Tevfikiye.

In the larger village of Kumkale, a couple of miles north, there is a big market on Wednesdays, where we met a helpful German-speaking stallholder who had worked in Hamburg. Very little English is spoken, though the giggling schoolchildren like to practise 'My name is ...'

We finished our festive preparations by icing the cake (Barry's speciality), using the surplus egg Turkey_3_(105).JPGyolks in a leek and cheese flan. On Christmas Eve we opened a tin of cream of reindeer soup from Finland for lunch (don't tell Rudolph), and cooked a dish of white fish and prawns for dinner. For Christmas Day dinner we made a turkey and bacon pie, roast spuds, carrots and cauliflower (who needs sprouts?!) followed by Margaret's Xmas pudding, well doused in plum brandy. White Tokaj wine from Hungary and a large box of chocolates from Bulgaria completed the feast. We also thawed our last wedge of good strong Swedish cheese for the occasion. All that was missing was a big pork pie (don't tell our Muslim neighbours).

Apart from our own feasting - and the service of Lessons and Carols on Radio 4 – Christmas has indeed been non-existent here, showing clearly that these things happen only in our heads. Put there in childhood, we can very well do without all the superstitions and nonsense, though it's hard to be free of it and we simply carry it with us.

Uran Savas, the owner's son, manages the campsite/cafι/souvenir shop/two-room motel. He is also an official Troy Guide (as was his 86-year-old father, who began his career selling postcards at the entrance gate). On Christmas Eve, Uran walked us round the archaeological site on a 90-minute guided tour, bringing the very stones to life. Excavations continue here in the summer months and he knows all those involved and the latest finds and theories - he is a real find himself! Born and brought up in Troy, Uran claims to be the Last of the Trojans.

The previous day, we had taken a meal in the campsite cafι, cooked by Uran's mother. The food was somewhat disatroy_1.JPGppointing, being very simple and overpriced, but it did enable us to make more coTurkey2_(39).JPGntact with Uran. He entertained us with a film about the recent excavations, led by the late Prof Manfred Korfmann of the University of Tubingen, and we bought a copy of Korfmann's authoritative Guidebook to Troy (new edition 2010). On the left are two images of the Troy of Hollywood myth! On the right are two images of the realities of today.

Immortalised by the myths of Homer, who wrote the Iliad in the 7th century BC, Troy is the most complex archaeological site we've seen - a large mound with ten layers stretching over 4,000 years. Layer I (the oldest) to Layer VII are Trojan (VI being the timTurkey2_(16).JPGe of the attack and siege described by Htroy_2.JPGomer); VIII is Greek (including the base of a temple where Alexander the Great made sacrifice), IX is Roman (complete with Odeon theatre where a complete statue of Hadrian was recently found) and X is Byzantine. Looking out to sea across the reclaimed plains, we could picture the consternation as Agamemnon's fleet approached the beach below Priam's palace – 'feel the rush' as Uran said. We had the place to ourselves, apart from scampering red squirrels, since the coach parties did not stray far beyond the wooden horse and tiny exhibition room! Apparently a new museum is planned. To be built on an area of land opposite our campsiteTurkey2_(52).JPG, it will be the largest in Turkey.

No-one else came to stay or camp, but every day tourists on their way to the Ancient Site called at the cafι/souvenir shop by car, minibus or coach, some accompanied by our master-guide, Uran. The majority appeared to be Japanese or Chinese, along with an occasional Canadian, American or Antipodean. Most would leave disappointed, seeing nothing like the set of 'Troy' (with Brad Pitt as Achilles), which was actually shot in Malta and Morocco in 2004, though Uran remembered some of the crew visiting Troy.

The prevailing north-easterlies proved one of Troy's assets, forcing ships bound for the Black Sea to wait in Besik Bay for a rare southerly. The technique of tacking into the wind was not mastered until the first century BC and so, as Homer said, 'the wind brought wealth to Troy'. The north wind still prevails, fuelling a coastal wind farm on our horizon.

Click: Images inside Ancient Troy

Cycling

Troy_Map_6.jpg

Map of the Cycling Routes Around Ancient Troy

Click: Images of Cycling around Ancient Troy

The warren of quiet lanes that link the agricultural hamlets in the Troy National Park area were ideal for the bicycle. Troy_(27).JPGWe cycled to the next settlement, Kumkale (= Sand Castle, though we found no fort), lying 4 miles north, greeted by the astonished villagers, who live simply, with very few private cars, and rarely see strangers.

Just beyond Kumkale we came to a memorial cemetery for 14 local members of a Canakkale regiment, killed defending the entrance to the Dardanelles in 1915. Continuing a mile to Sehitlik at the end of the road, by the coast, we found a pair of gun emplacements rusting away behind barbed wire. They lie by a new fishing harbour, right opposite the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula, with the tall Turkish monument at Abide clearly visible across the strTroy_Cycling_(50).JPGait.

Another cycle ride took us west to tiny Kalafat, from where we made our way north on unpaved roads and field tracks, across the Scamander River, to meet a cobbled lane that bumped for a mile east to Kumkale. On this ride we saw great white heron and egrets by the water, as well as shepherds with their flocks of sheep, goats, cattle Troy_(34).JPG– and one baby camel!

Our longest ride began by cycling to Kalafat, from where we followed paths that swung south and east alongside the irrigation canals. We met the coast at Yeni Koy (= New Village, though it wasn't), which has a tiny beach and a fishing harbour. We managed to buy a drink of hot tea in the empty cafι, as a departiTroy_(20).JPGng customer summoned the cafι owner (presumably) from the neighbouring shop. Two tiny glasses of cay were poured, costing €0.30 each. The owner returned to the shop to fetch our change, then drove off without a word in a truck loaded with bags of cement, leaving us in charge or to help ourselves to another glass (there was nothing else on offeTroy_(36).JPGr)! Inscrutable. From here we rode north on an unsurfaced track through the hills that parallel the Aegean, leading to the headland marking the entrance to the Dardanelles. Below the modern shipping control tower we found a large First World War gun emplacement – an extensive complex of crumbling concrete bunkers and overgrown underground tunnels, with just one 120mm canon remaining. Then we turned west towards Kumkale, eventually meeting the cobbled lane that led into the village, from where a familiar road runs south to Tevfikiye and our campsite near the gates of Troy.

It's good to be here, a change from Greece which gets more crowded each winter. We hear there are 10 motorhomes on the site we have used at Finikounda – 5 British, 5 German. We suggested 5-a-side football on Christmas day, in the no-man's-land on the beach. Too many for us. We are better out on the road, with our website and a few special friends when our paths cross.

Troy to Babakale, Biga Peninsula, Turkey     'Otopark' (car park) by Fortress Gate     61 miles     150 ft asl

Click: Images of the Motorhome Tour of the Biga Peninsula

Away at 9 am, we returned 2 miles east to the E87 highway. At the crossroads, where we turned south, women laden with bundles waited for the Dolmus (minibus) – a familiar sight. It was a fine day; the strong wind had dropped and rain held off until late afternoon.

The highway climbed to 630 ft/190 m, then dropped steeply. At 15 miles we turned right into Ezine, a shabby working town, and managed to park in the street at the far end. Walking back, we found a baker's (with wood-fired ovens and the usual delicious bread) and an ATM. The small supermarket sold basic foods.

Rather than continue straight down E87 (as on previous journeys), we decided to make a detour round the Biga Peninsula, a very quiet area of narrow empty roads and some rarely visited ancient sites. Following a sign out of Ezine for Bozcada (a small Turkish off-shore holiday island), we drove west through lightly wooded hills. Every tree and bush was draped in the tatters of multi-coloured plastic bags and we soon passed the source – an open wind-swept municipal garbage dump, being picked over by a pack of stray dogs and (very sadly) an old woman. This could have been India. What a curse plastic bags and bottles have become in the poorer countries, away from NW Europe and its recycling schemes. There seems to be complete indifference to the eyesore of rubbish in the loveliest of landscapes – or the danger it poses when left in the open.

Keeping west through olive groves, we turned left at 25 miles in Geyikli, following a 'Feribot' sign. Two miles later we reached Yukyeri Iskelesi (Yukyeri Harbour), from where ferries make the 35-minute crossing to Bozcada (thrice daily in low season). Here we turned south, past a few holiday apartments and cafes (all closed up), down the west coast of the Biga Peninsula.

Just past the tiny village of Dalyan there is a car park and sign on the right, at 32 miles, on the edge of the widely scattered remains of Alexandria Troas. This coastal city was founded by Antigonus (one of Alexander the Great's generals) in 310 BC. It lasted for over 500 years, finally destroyed by earthquakes. Entry was free of charge and we wandered around enjoying the atmosphere, watched by a taciturn guardian.
 
Driving on, we found more substantial ruins further along on the left, where we parked once more, ate lunch and explored. Here were the enormous baths, restored by Herod Atticus (one of the richest men in Athens) after an earthquake during the 2nd century AD.

Continuing south down the coast, we passed a strip of beach fringed with pines and holiday homes for sale; then rural villages - Kosadere at 44 miles, Babadere at 46 miles and Tuzla at 50 miles, each clustered round a mosque with a pencil-slim minaret. The main crop hereabouts is the cauliflower, with fields of decapitated stalks, the leaves being gleaned by sheep and goats. Tractors towed expertly stacked trailer loads to Tuzla (the Cauliflower Capital), for loading onto trucks.

At 54 miles in the farming town of Gulpinar we turned right, down a short steeply cobbled lane, and parked opposite the busy olive mill by our next goal: the 2nd century BC Ionic Temple of Apollo Smintheus among the scant remains of Ancient Khrysa. Entry was 5 YTL (€2.50) each, though sadly the little museum is only open during the summer months when archaeologists from Ankara University conduct excavations (funded by the Efes Pilsen brewery). After looking at the site, we had to be content with looking at photographs of the unique reliefs with scenes of the Trojan war that are on the temple friezes in the museum.

A mile further on in Gulpinar, we turned right for Babakale (Kale = Castle), along 6 miles of hilly rough and pot-holed road, past an unlikely holiday development area and through olive groves, to the extreme south-west corner of the Biga Peninsula – the end of the road. This tiny village (also known as Lekton) has a fishing harbour, army post and lighthouse, all tucked below an Ottoman fortress. There is one small shop and a restaurant at the Uran Hotel, which only had fish or squid on the menu.

We parked in the square by the entrance to the restored fort, built to combat pirates and guard this strategic corner at the entrance to the Bay of Edremit, opposite the looming island of Lesbos. The massive gates were open, entrance free, and we had a quick look at the splendid view of the coast from the walls before it began to pour down. A very peaceful evening, reading and listening to the rain.

Babakale to Oren, nr Burhaniye, Turkey     Parking Area at Harbour     84 miles

Click: Images of a Quiet Night at Oren Harbour

Over breakfast we watched the younger children in neat uniforms (blue smocks with white Peter Pan collars, seen throughout Turkey) gathering at the small school across the square, wood smoke curling from its chimney. It stood next to the mosque but had a statue of Ataturk by the door – which path will they follow? A farewell delegation of 2 village men with a smattering of German bade us 'Gule Gule' as we left in the rain.

The rough 6-mile road back to Gulpinar was busy with dolmuses taking older pupils to school and adults to work, and bringing fresh bread to Babakale's shop.  Dodging potholes and climbing to over 400 ft, we found the road occasionally washed out by the overnight downpour. In Gulpinar we turned right, past a large senior school serving a wide area, and continued east on a better road.

Reaching the coast at 20 miles at Behramkale, the village below Ancient Assos, we turned right and parked a mile later, opposite the bottom gate (locked) below the substantial medieval city walls. By now it was raining heavily. It felt good just sitting in the motorhome with a view of the ancient stone sarcophagi of the necropolis scattered on the lower slope – and a good book and a mug of coffee each.  

After lunch the rain evaporated into mist. We drove half a mile back and turned right, to park and walk up the hill to the upper entrance. The site is not well signed and most of the businesses were closed but it must be very popular in the summer months, judging by the plethora of guest houses and cafes. The steep cobbled lane leading to the acropolis is lined on both sides with simple stalls, all deserted, but we could imagine the touts with their souvenirs and the village women selling knitwear and woven rugs. Best to come in December!

At the top (after a breathless climb) the 14th century Hudavendigar Mosque sits next to the entry gate for Ancient Assos, which again cost 5 YTL (€2.50) per person. We were clearly the only visitors of the day, as the guardian had no change at all.

Assos was founded in the 8th century BC by colonists from Lesbos, the island appearing and vanishing off-shore through waves of cloud and mist. The hilltop is dominated by the remains of a great temple to Athena (530 BC) but the walls, towers and cisterns are Byzantine. Aristotle lived here around 345 BC, marrying the ruler's niece shortly before the city fell to the Persians. Other famous visitors include Alexander the Great, who drove the Persians out. St Paul also came, walking down from Alexandria Troas to meet St Luke before taking a boat to Lesbos. He couldn't do that now, as the Turkish military have suspended the ferry service from Assos harbour!

Back in the motorhome, we turned right and crossed the river on a newer bridge next to the lovely 5-arched 14th century Hudavendigar Bridge. Our road north to Ayvacik climbed high (max 1,400 ft/425 m), mostly above 1,000 ft and in the mist. In Scotland it would be designated 'single track with passing places'! Luckily it wasn't busy.

After 10 miles of this we approached Ayvacik (at 935 ft/283 m) with relief, turning right at 32 miles for Izmir (not left for Canakkale). A mile later we met highway E87 again and headed south-east, our Bigar detour completed (and very satisfying). In the next 13 miles the E87 rises and falls three times on its way to the coast at Kucukkuyu, on the north shore of the Bay of Edremit. The highest pass was at 1,500 ft/ 455 m – and all in thick fog – before snaking down through forest to the sea.

Turning east along the coastal highway E87/D550, it was still rainy but clear of mist. Here the busy dual carriageway is depressingly built-up, with continuous estates of holiday homes and hotels for the whole 24 miles to Edremit We were looking for a chink in the walls of concrete to access the sea front, but it was impenetrable.

At Akcay you can shop at Carrefour (French) or Migros (Russian) on the right. In Edremit, 5 miles later, there is a Kipa (Tesco) on the left, with a much larger car park. We resisted these temptations, wanting to find a place for the night before dusk. At 73 miles, E67 swings south-west for Burhaniye, where there is another Kipa store after 6 miles.

At 82 miles, just past Oren, we spotted a right turn signed 'Limani – Iskele' ('port' in Greek and Turkish). This led to a fishing harbour with a large area of rough ground for parking – an ideal place for a rainy quiet night.

Oren to Bergama, Turkey     Caravan Camping     30 YTL     84 miles     120 ft

Dry but colder, with a stiff north-east wind as we returned to the E87. Before continuing south we backtracked 4 miles to the Kipa hypermarket, which had the usual huge car park, clean toilets, cafe and an ATM, as well as a good range of goods, both food and non-food. We found a couple of English language DVD films we hadn't seen, a frozen chicken (for a New Year's roast dinner) and one real bargain – the Christmas hampers, each beautifully packed in a wickerwork basket, had clearly not sold well (this is, after all, a Muslim country!) They were marked down to one-quarter the original price, so our lockers are now bursting chocolates, nuts, tea, coffee, fruit juice, fizzy drinks and a pack of paper napkins – not to mention a basket for a medium-sized puppy!

Continuing south, the part-finished dual carriageway followed the coast, with an occasional glimpse of the Aegean through the olive groves. At 27 miles we passed the turning for the beach resort of Ayvalik, from where ferries do cross to Mitilini (the main port of, and Turkish name for, Lesbos). The area is known for its Greek heritage, including olive oil (and by-product soap) production.

After the exit for Dikili at 48 miles, our E87 highway turned inland. 11 miles further east, we turned left onto D240 for Bergama (ancient Pergamon). Approaching the town you pass huge emporia with rows of onyx vases or kilims (woven carpets), aimed at coach parties. Look out for the all-year ACSI-listed campsite, 2 miles along on the left; make a U-turn, a mile past the campsite, and return.

The main business here is the huge restaurant, which provides self-service buffet lunches for coach parties. Behind is a garden, small open air pool and campsite. There was no-one else staying, which was fortunate as it was tricky finding a firm place among the olive trees, the ground being muddy after the heavy rain.

We persuaded the kitchen hand to light a gas boiler, miraculously providing hot water to the showers. The free WiFi was less reliable, providing both the miracle and frustration of modern communication. It was good to read that things are happening in our wake back in Bulgaria, following our involvement in the sale of Carol and John's property in Svilengrad, and with the Bulgarian Woolly Project – news of which has now reached Australia.

At Bergama, Turkey     Caravan Camping

The wind remained cold but the weather was bright – and well above freezing, unlike most of Europe. We took time to catch up once more with laundry, travel-logging, emails, etc, enjoying our New Year messages from many old friends. A short video made by Kaye & Alan James included our first meeting with them in Bucharest! The biggest surprise was an email from dear Cliff & Eileen, who are getting to grips with the computer at the young age of 80!

We sampled the campsite restaurant buffet lunch, which was a very good spread for 10 YTL (€5) per person, excluding drinks. A large coach party of German-speakers occupied about a third of the tables. Tomato soup, bread, salads, numerous vegetable dishes, chicken pieces, meat balls in sauce, rice, spaghetti, etc – all you can eat, hot and fresh – followed by sweet sticky buns, oranges and tangerines (most of which disappeared into coach party pockets).  Then a fleet of yellow taxis whisked the tourists away up the hill to the ancient site, leaving us to go round the buffet again!

On New Year's Eve a festive dinner and dance was held in the restaurant and (by the sound of it) a good time was had by all! We listened to the music (no choice), saw fireworks in the sky at midnight and finally fell asleep at about 1 am as the beat went on. Next morning the outdoor swimming pool was bobbing with escaped balloons!

We didn't revisit the extensive ruins of Pergamum, which we'd explored in depth on our first visit here, with the aid of the motorbike we carried (see 29 October 1997). There are two separate sites: the Asclepion (ancient medical centre, founded by a man who had been cured at the Asclepion in Epidavros in the Greek Peloponnese) is a mile or so west of the modern town; while the Acropolis is a couple of miles north, overlooking and clearly visible from the north end of town (and now accessible by a new cable-car, saving a long walk or taxi-ride up there).

Opposite the campsite is a small shop with fresh bread and even an English-language Turkish newspaper. We also strolled into the town and back (a good 45 minutes' walk each way from the campsite – or you could hail a Dolmus). Near the town centre we passed the excellent archaeological museum on the left, which was closed for restoration. Luckily we'd seen its treasures on our last visit (see 2-4 April 2008). The tiny Tourist Office further along was also closed, but no great loss.

Reaching the old Ottoman district at the end of town, from where there is a good view of the white pillars of the Temple of Trajan and the theatre high above on the Acropolis, we took a coffee break in a friendly little restaurant. They didn't actually serve coffee (not even Turkish coffee) but the waiter knew a man who did and soon returned with 2 cups of hot Nescafe with milk! We turned back near the Red Basilica (originally a temple to Egyptian gods, then converted into a Christian church, and now housing a small mosque in one tower).

A good range of birds also visited the campsite – crested lark, greater spotted woodpecker, chaffinch, robin and collared dove – and there were grasshoppers too. But only one other motorhome (Dutch) came for one night. Splendid isolation.

JANUARY 2011

Bergama to Sazlica Beach, Yeni Foga, Turkey     Sazlica Camping     20 YTL     52 miles    

It was 2.5 miles west to the E87, pausing for a fill of (outrageously priced) fuel on the way. Then south on the highway, meeting the coast at the port and oil terminal of Aliaga at 25 miles – an industrial town, but with a new promenade offering a  good foot/cycle-path, tennis courts, playground and moored tour boats.

After another 5 miles a brown sign on the right pointed to the site of Kyme, an ancient harbour city, but when we turned down the road it only led to the port of Nimrut Limani. Back on E87, we took the next right turn at 34 miles, signed for Yeni Foga and Foga, for a scenic detour.

 Once we were past the industrial warehouses and a vast scrap metal yard, the last resort of buses and trucks, the scenery did improve. Yeni (= new) Foga at 42 miles, on the north coast of the peninsula, is a summer resort on a bay. We parked for lunch in a development of empty second homes (or time-shares?), all shuttered up and haunted by sad-eyed stray dogs.

Continuing along (and mostly above) the coast, we dropped to a bay (home to the Mambo Beach Club), climbed to 240 ft/72 m, then dropped back to sea level at Sazlica Plajlari. Unlikely as it seemed, this scruffy little campsite/cafe right on the stony beach was open. As it had just begun to pour with rain, we decided to stay. With minimal facilities ('own san recommended'), there was at least a hook-up and it had a superb view of Lesbos, still looming off-shore.

Rain deterred further exploration – but not the 3-men-in-a-car fishing at the water's edge! They eventually cooked their catch at the outside barbecue, working by the light of their head torches, and went on to sleep in their car, waking us at 6am as they left!

Sazlica Beach, Yeni Foga to Selcuk, Turkey     Garden Camping     36 YTL (reduced to 30 YTL after many complaints)     101 miles     46 ft    

Wind and rain had died out overnight and we had a short walk on the beach – very short, as the cliff path was fenced and locked! The few stone buildings around Sazlica, including the campsite cafι, appear to be abandoned Greek houses from a pre-1922 fishing village.

Driving westwards, we passed a larger campsite (closed) on a better beach after 3 miles. As we rounded the headland at the NW corner (its lighthouse fenced off by military barbed wire) there was a wide seascape, with the Greek island of Chios now appearing to the south of Lesbos. Turning south the hillsides, green with olive groves, were scarred by military tracks. Below us each tiny bay had a few fishing boats and a cluster of newly built holiday homes.

At 11 miles we reached Foga, site of the ancient port of Phocaea to which Freya Stark devotes a chapter in 'Ionia'. At the time of her visit in 1952 the place was still empty after being abandoned under heavy fire 30 years earlier, when Foga and Cesme were the ports from which the last Greeks departed in the population exchange – imitating their ancestors, who fled to Chios as Xerxes arrived with an army of Medes and Persians.

Today the population of Foga stands at 27,000 (and much more in the summer season). Driving through, past the left turn for Izmir, in the hope of finding a place to park and wander the narrow streets (busy this morning with a market), we came to a barricade at the naval base and had to turn back, watched by a group of well-armed guards!

Backtracking for 2 miles, we then turned east for Izmir – a better and busier road than the one we'd driven to Foga. Over the next mile it climbed to 500 ft/150 m, high above the bay, looking down on a ridge with the remains of 3 windmills, before a swift descent. 5 miles east of Foga, prominent on the left of the road, stands a monumental Persian tomb, signed 'Pers Mezar Aniti'. A short lane leads to its open gate, with space to park (or run a flock of sheep).

It's astonishingly well preserved but lacking any information: not even a date. Freya Stark records “We stopped to wonder by a 'Phrygian' tomb – a thing chipped out of the natural rock with a curiously modern feeling for rectangular structure … It still expresses the pleasure someone must have felt in smoothing out surfaces of stone with the new-found art of iron.” An excellent description – so square it looked almost Art Deco, so substantial that its echoing internal chamber felt like solid concrete. This tomb was certainly not in the style of ancient Greek monuments.

We soon came to the village of Bagarasi, with an olive mill serving the surrounding groves, and paused to buy bread and fruit. After another 9 miles (at 31 miles) we rejoined the E87 and turned south on its busy dual carriageway. The bustling town of Menemen, 5 miles later, is named after 'Men', the Phrygian god of the moon. Yes, Freya Stark again! The highway then ran parallel with a new rail line and modern stations along the built-up route to Izmir (known to Greeks as Smyrna).

At 48 miles, just as the traffic grew denser, we turned off onto a new motorway bypassing the centre of Izmir, signed 'Ankara – Istanbul'. Climbing high above Turkey's third city, through a pair of short tunnels, we had a good view of the towering flats and urban sprawl that is home to nearly 3 million residents. Keeping south, we followed directions for Aydin (the end of the motorway).

At 62 miles we passed an exit for the port of Cesme (from which ferries cross to Chios). Two miles later there was a motorway toll barrier but, as the gates were open and all the traffic sped through without taking tickets, we assumed it was not working (but see later!) At 73 miles we stopped at a parking area/cafι to make lunch. After another 14 miles, past Torbali, there was a large service station with fuel and Burger King.

Our exit onto D550 for Selcuk/Ephesus/Kusadasi at 91 miles was preceded by an unmanned toll station, where motorists inserted a plastic card to raise the barriers! Luckily there was room to park and walk to a nearby office, where a man who spoke only Turkish demanded 20 YTL (about €10) for a card – with no explanation as to how long it was valid (in time or distance). This card has replaced the Italian/French type of system that operated here in 2008, when the toll on this section of motorway was very small. As soon as M queried the price of the card, it came down to 15 YTL (and was valid on our later return journey, too).  

With this hurdle behind us, the 9 miles of dual carriageway to Selcuk ran past orange groves (the first we'd noticed in Turkey), with fruit stalls at the roadside, but we'd already made our annual supply of marmalade with Greek oranges and lemons from Alexandroupolis. A peasant woman grazed a pair of cows along the grassy central reservation!

Entering Selcuk, dominated by the magnificent citadel atop Ayasuluk Hill, we knew the way to the campsite - turn right after passing the archaeological museum, down a street signed for the Isa Bey Mosque. Pass the mosque (built 1375 and still open) and continue 200 m along a lane to Garden Motel/Camping/Restaurant on the left. It's a large grassy site, ACSI-listed as open all year, overlooked by the hilltop citadel. We had good memories of our previous visit in April 2008, when the trees were full of blossom and the site well run by a local Turkish manager.

Now the Italian owners and their daughter are in charge – speaking only loud and frenetic Italian. There is no hot water (first they said it was only 'solar', then they flicked some electric switches, using a mobile phone as a torch, and promised a hot shower soon – to no avail). There is no drinking water ('problem with municipality'). But there are 2 noisy tethered dogs and the waterlogged ground only has hard standing by their kennel.

It was difficult to negotiate a reasonable price – we managed a reduction from €24 (high season price) to €21 (low season) to €18 (CCI discount), all with some difficulty. The price list was only in Euros, though they will generously accept Turkish Lire! The family (who also have an organic farm and a carpet factory here, plus a home in Italy) then vanished in their car, only returning at dusk. We should have followed them.

Unwilling to waste our precious drinking water on washing, and equally keen on a night's sleep, we tackled the owner about hot water and barking dogs when the family came back. He could not have cared less - the dogs remained tied up behind our rear window, the water remained cold. Why is this site listed as open all year by both ADAC and ACSI? Flicking through our Italian phrasebook, the best we came up with was 'Parto domani' (I'm leaving tomorrow)! A pity, as we'd intended to stay for a week or so. At least the WiFi worked well enough to file our comments on the ACSI website!

Selcuk to Pamucak (via Ephesus and Kusadasi), Turkey     'Aqua Fantasy' Car Park     30 miles     42 ft

Leaving Garden Camping, the owner's young daughter was the only person available in Reception. After further insistence that the agreed price of €18 (or 36 YTL) had included non-existent hot water – and we had hardly slept because of the dogs – the bottom line was 30 YTL. Protests might have lasted longer if we had been able to use a common language, but we were just glad to leave. Our view of Berlusconi's country sank even lower.

Deciding to try the pair of campsites opposite the marina in Kusadasi, we drove west past the huge site of Ephesus 2 miles along the dual carriageway. At 4 miles, just before reaching the coast, we turned south and climbed to 360 ft/110 m with splendid views of the extensive package holiday development (resorts, apartments and attractions with names like 'Pine Bay' and 'Aqualand'). Turning right at a roundabout, 11 miles from Selcuk, we dropped down into Kusadasi (signed 'Sehir Merkezi' = town centre).

A mile later the dual carriageway along the waterfront passes Yat Camping and its neighbour, Onder Camping. We made a U-turn at the next lights and returned to check them out, as both are listed in ADAC etc as open all year. Onder was open, price 22 YTL, but again with no hot water, no drinking water, no other campers – and the ground looked soft after rain.

The adjacent Yat Camping seemed better, with one Dutch motorhome on site, though the waiter in the restaurant said 'camping closed'. The Dutch residents insisted it was open, with hot water and WiFi, and encouraged us to stay. As we began to reverse onto the grass alongside them, the rear wheels started to spin and dig in alarmingly. Barry managed to get back onto the drive – and drove! Another place we were glad to leave.

Knowing from previous visits that there is no chance of parking in the narrow streets of the crowded resort/cruise ship port of Kusadasi, we retraced our route to Ephesus. After making lunch in the coach park, we walked the extensive and substantial remains of the harbour city that developed into the Roman capital of Asia Minor. To our astonishment, all the other visitors appeared to be young Chinese or Japanese – several coach loads of them – to whom the ruins meant no more than the backdrop to an afternoon outing.

We had visited Ephesus nearly 14 years ago (21 Oct 1997) and were disappointed to see virtually no development since then - unlike Troy, where excavations continue. The Turkish government's income from this site must be substantial – we paid 7.50 YTL to park, plus 20 YTL entry each. An audio-guide with headphones would cost a further 10 YTL. No leaflet or map is provided, in any language. The signage is minimal, mostly in Turkish and German only (since much of the excavation was done by Austrian archaeologists, who reconstructed the Library in the 1970s). There is no on-site museum - some artefacts are in Selcuk's interesting museum, which we visited in 2-4 April 2008, while many are in the Efesus Museum in Vienna. The only sign of ongoing work is an ugly crane poised above the Great Theatre, and an even uglier screen over a row of terraced houses, to prevent those unwilling to pay an EXTRA 15 YTL each from seeing them!! We only noticed one man go in to ask the attendant what was inside, but he was given no information. Probably mosaic floors and frescoes remain – and it's outrageous that they are excluded from the already high entry fee.

At the end of this tirade, we should emphasise that Ephesus is certainly a 'must-see' for those with any interest in Greco-Roman history, or in St Paul (who lived here, preached in the 25,000-seat Great Theatre and wrote Epistles to the Ephesians), or in taking impressive photographs of antiquities – but to avoid the heat and crowds, don't come in high season -  and read a good guide book. Even now, on a mid-week January day, with rain threatening, the number and noise of other visitors detracted from serious contemplation.  

In brief, we wandered round the (Hellenistic, Roman-restored) Great Theatre, still used for summer performances; along the Sacred Way to the Library of Celsus (several storeys high, thanks to the Austrians) adjoining the vast Agora; up Curetes Way, past the many-seated communal latrines near the Baths of Varius (where a famous statuette of the well-endowed Priapus, now in Selcuk Museum, was found down a well); to the smaller Odeon theatre near the top gate, taking our seat for a welcome break; then down again. It took us about an hour, at a gentle pace, reading what little information was to be gleaned at the site of each gate, temple, fountain or house, and taking photographs.

Back in the car park we ran the gauntlet of stalls, desperately vying with each other to sell packets of Apple Tea, Turkish Delight, post cards, picture books … even 'Genuine Fake Watches'! We feel strongly that they should all be cleared out and replaced with a decent shop selling quality books and souvenirs, and a decent cafe for refreshments. And the high entry fee should certainly include an explanatory leaflet/map in a choice of languages, which must now include Chinese.

Click: Images of a Tour of Ancient Ephesus

It was mid-afternoon, with only an hour or so of daylight left, so we drove 4 miles back to the coast at Pamucak, past one campsite that was closed up. The road came to a small beach, its deserted cafι guarded by a pack of stray dogs, with no firm ground suitable for overnight parking. Indeed, this wetland area (once the bay of the harbour at Ephesus) is a winter refuge for Flamingos and we did see a beautifully streamlined Grey Heron.

Taking a minor road leading south through the coastal development, past Dereli Motel/Camping (closed), we came to a huge 'aqua-fun-park' (also closed) with an empty car park, on the right. The security guard at the gates was friendly, spoke English and said it was no problem to spend the night under the eucalyptus trees. Even the Alsatian playing with a ball by its kennel was quiet! What a relief to find a welcome at the end of such a day.  

Turning North for Greece and the Next Journey

It was cool but sunny, 3ΊC in the morning after a touch of overnight frost. Returning 2 miles north to Pamucak, we noticed an open gate and a parked car at Dereli Motel/Camping. M went in (armed with Dog Dazer and walking stick) and found the German-speaking 'Director'. It looked a good site, with plenty of space right by the beach, but he firmly regretted that it was closed until April – even for parking, without need of facilities.

Turning our attention to our next journey, starting in Greece, we had looked into taking a boat from Turkey onto one of the offshore Greek Dodecanese Islands, as there is no direct ferry to the Greek mainland. We located 8 ferry routes, only 3 of which carried cars. The only one suitable for an 8 metre motorhome that runs regularly in the winter months is the Cesme-Chios boat. This journey of less than 45 minutes would cost us €210! An onward (overnight) ferry from Chios to Piraeus, with the cheapest 2-berth cabin, would bring the total to over €500! When will Greece and Turkey get their relationship back on an adult level? They are like squabbling children. Back in 1952 (in the days before cheap flights – and the Cyprus issue), Freya Stark was able to take a passenger ferry directly from Piraeus to Cesme. Even with the high price of fuel in Turkey (LPG costs the equivalent of €1.11 and petrol an astonishing €1.86 per litre), driving to Greece makes economic sense.

 David and Sylvia (see below) had the following alternative:

“In November, 2009 we managed to get a berth for our camper (5.95 m) and ourselves with Ulusoy from Cesme to Trieste. We were treated like royalty: run of the ship literally from bridge to engine room; an (OK quite tatty) suite which was huge; fantastic food which we ate with the officers and used their mess; along with the friendliest crew ever. Total cost of 640 euros the only difficulty being it can't be booked until 2 days before the trip. Having said this, they do sail 3 times a week.”

The website (which only leads to a phone call) is: http://www.ulusoysealines.com/roro_e.html

There is also a seasonal ferry between Cesme and Italy: to Brindisi (June to September) and to Ancona (April to October). See, for example: http://www.ankertravel.net/ferry2.asp?service=2

Conclusion

We are sad that our plan of staying in the Kusadasi/Selcuk area must now be postponed. We had hoped to find a base and hire a car (as we had in Selcuk in April 2008), to spend some time exploring the lesser known ancient sites described by Freya Stark in 'Ionia' on her travels in the early 1950's. This was to be the basis of our winter stay - but it wasn't to be.

On the positive side we have achieved our aim of motorhoming down the North and South Aegean coastline, revisited some ancient sites and explored fresh ones on our two peninsular diversions to Assos and Foca. We enjoyed a splendidly quiet and mild Christmas at Troy, followed by New Year at Bergama, away from the chaos of shopping and snow that gripped Britain and much of Europe. We celebrated the period of the Winter Solstice in our own way, with fine home cooking, BBC Radio 4, a little wine and a lot of chocolate! And we have our own great library of books and DVDs for entertainment. Coincidentally, 3 of the best films we watched were set in The Bronx in New York: 'Bonfire of the Vanities' with Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis; 'Finding Forrester' starring Sean Connery at his best; and 'Bronx Tale' starring and directed by Robert de Niro. And all found in the bargain bin at a Kipa (Turkish Tesco) supermarket!

In 4 weeks and 850 miles we have learned a lot about changes in Turkey since our several previous visits. We may return when the weather is warmer in our small Sprinter van, so that we can keep away from campsites and feel free to wander the back roads, finding accommodation far from the mass tourist trail, and perhaps using one of the above ferries.

Now in our 16th year of full-time travel, we are increasingly disappointed on returning to scenes of past happiness - and this includes our former haunts in the southern Greek Peloponnese. But there are exceptions (Scandinavia and Eastern Europe) and new countries to explore, particularly in the former Yugoslavia.

Obviously, others make similar observations. We have just heard from friends, David and Sylvia – motorhomers and sailors, who know Turkey well. They write:

“The commercialisation you found at Ephesus is also of concern to us and is pretty widespread around Turkey now. Sadly, the Turks do not understand that this will drive many people away. We are also finding that the costs in Turkey generally have shot up and it may well be that we seek pastures new for us and our travels. In short, long gone are the days when the friendliness and costs of staying offered a good exchange for the efforts involved!”

So, at the end of our 6-month 6,800-mile 18-country route to Turkey from England via northern Norway, we turn north and west again for the next journey.

JANUARY 2011: EN ROUTE FROM AEGEAN TURKEY TO THRACIAN GREECE

The weather was mostly calm, sunny and dry, with cold clear nights, as we headed north once more. We mixed overnight parking with return visits to the all-year campsites at Bergama (Caravan Restaurant) and Troy (Troia Pension & Camping). Both have free WiFi internet and a washing machine, and we enjoyed another buffet lunch at the Caravan Restaurant.

Whilst at Troy we cycled the lanes, visited the local markets in Tevfikiye and Kumkale, caught up with emails and completed our on-line tax returns before the end of January deadline. We tried the nearby Hisarlik Restaurant and enjoyed substantial bowls of chicken and vegetable stew, salad and roast potatoes, as they were catering for a German tour group.

Coach trips inspecting Ancient Troy passed our gate every day, some favouring the cafι/shop at our campsite, others its larger neighbours – the Wilusa Restaurant or the Hisarlik. We talked to one group who called, from South Korea. They seemed much more interested in a tour of our motorhome and we sympathised with one youth who faced the obligatory military service on his return home.    

We were joined on the campsite for one night by two young Australian women, Kate and Jacqui, who were cycle-touring their way from Istanbul down the Aegean coast. They aim to island-hop to Greece and ride back to the UK via northern Scandinavia over the next 6 months. We were very impressed when they proceeded to pitch their tent, despite the weather turning stormy. They joined us for supper and we had a good evening of wide-ranging conversation and Australian music. Barry helped to fix their brake problem before we waved them off, hoping they found accommodation round the Biga Peninsula, as the first snow we'd seen in Turkey fell throughout the following day! Large white flakes quickly covered the landscape, though it only lasted for 12 hours.

In Canakkale we called at the Archaeological Museum (entry 5 YTL), where the lack of heating didn't encourage a lengthy visit! There were very few finds from Troy, though the statue of Hadrian recently unearthed from the Roman Odeon was superb. Most of the artefacts were from ancient cemeteries – at Assos, Chryse (where the Temple of Apollo Smintheus lies near Gulpinar), or the two off-shore islands of Bozca Ada (Tenedos) and Gokce Ada (Imbros).

After taking the ferry to Eceabat, we made a detour to revisit the Gallipoli Peninsula. We've explored its monuments, battlefields and graveyards at length on 3 previous visits - after cycling from England in the summer of 1989, then again as motorhomers, reconnoitring by motorbike and bicycle in November 1997 and April 2008. It is a memorable experience at any time of year to walk among the 34 cemeteries on the Peninsula which hold 36,000 young Allied dead from 1915. You can't fail to leave without a renewed sense of proportion and relative values.

The turning for Kabatepe/Gallipoli is well signed, 2 miles north of Eceabat. There's a large car park just after the turn, opposite to the Gallipoli National Park HQ and Information Office. Continuing, the Kabatepe Information Centre and Museum that we remembered on the right of the crossroads (4 miles on) has disappeared into a huge hole surrounded by building work, where a new visitor centre is underway. (A left turn here leads to the harbour at Kabatepe and eventually to Kum Motel & Camping, which is seasonal). We drove straight on towards Anzac Cove, past a cafι (closed) and picnic area under the pines leading down to the shore.

We stopped a mile oAnzac_(26).JPGr so later in a large empty car park to the south of Anzac Cove, opposite tAnzac_(32).JPGhe entrance to a pair of small CWG cemeteries. In Shrapnel Valley cemetery, the first anemones of Spring had appeared among the lawns, opening their faces to the sun below a crisp blue cloudless sky. The bare trees threw their shadows onto the white headstones, many of which bore the fateful date of 25 April 1915 – now known as Anzac Day. We climbed the steep path to Plugges Plateau cemetery, 500 m above, named after the New Zealand commander who made his base here. From the cliff top there's a magnificent view across to the island of Gokca Ada (then Greek Imbros, the Allied supply base), the coastal panorama below, and the prominent rock pinnacle above Anzac Cove and known as the Sphinx.

After lunch in the Anzac_(33).JPGmotorhome, we walked round Beach (Hell Fire) and Ari Burnu cemeteries onAnzac_(58).JPG the shore. In Ari Burnu we noted 3 graves of 'Musulman muleteers' from India, recalling the role of donkeys taking supplies up to the trenches along the ridge above. Where possible, casualties were brought down for burial in these 2 graveyards throughout the 8-month campaign.

After the Armistice in November 1918, the Allies retrieved and buried the thousands of dead left behind. It's impossible to imagine the scale of this task, given that the British death toll at Gallipoli was over 20,000, in addition to Anzac casualties of just over 10,000. The French also lost about 10,000 and the French war memorial, at the south of the peninsula, has 5 ossuarieAnzac_(64).JPGs containing the bones of 3,000 mAnzac_(48).JPGen. 

Finally, we walked along the beach to Anzac Cove itself, so peaceful today with not a breath of wind. The information boards there tell the story, with poignant sepia photographs, quotations and copies of paintings by the soldiers. Ours were the only footprints on the sands, alongside those of a gentle stray dog that became a faithful companion in return for the 3 biscuits in Barry's pocket.

Settled nearby in the motorhome, we watched a gorgeAnzac_(66).JPGous sunset over Gokce Ada. As the golden orb slowly dipped below the horizon, it laid a shining ladder of light like a gang plank across the sea. Small wonder that Greeks and Romans alike worshipped Helios/Apollo. Then night fell, black as ink, with not a glimmer of light from earth or sky – until the red and blue flashing light of the 'Jandarma' (the national police force, equivalent but more militaristic than the French Gendarmes) patrol roused us from sleep at 1.30 am! The young officer was polite (despite carrying an automatic rifle) and we were escorted back along the road for 5 minutes, to the well-lit car park of the cafι near the crossroads, where we would be 'safer'. Amazing how quickly you wake up in such circumstances!

Click: Images of Anzac Cove and Surrounding CWGC Cemeteries

(to be continued)