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In Turkey: April 2008 PDF Printable Version E-mail

 

IN TURKEY: APRIL 2008

A Thousand Miles in the First Month of a Three-Month Motorhome Journey

From the Greek Border to Alanya along the Aegean & Mediterranean Coasts

Margaret and Barry Williamson

April 2008

This illustratedMap_of_April_A.jpg travel log describes a motorhome journey through Turkey in the spring of 2008. We started from Finikounda in the south-west Greek Peloponnese where we had spent the winter of 2007/08. For full details of this period of cycling, walking, writing and spending time in the company of good friends, click: Winter at Camping Finikes.

Our journey to Turkey took us first of all to Gythion (for the opportunity to cycle round the Mani peninsula). We then drove to Alexandroupoli on the Greek/Turkish border via Sparta, Corinth, Athens, Thessaloniki and Kavala. By the end of April, we had reached Sedre Camping, east of Alanya.

Our intention is to follow Turkey's Aegean and Mediterranean coasts as far as the Syrian border, before turning north across eastern Anatolia. We aim to cross Turkey to Hopa at the Georgian border and then follow the edge of the Black Sea west, through Trabzon and Sinop to Istanbul and on to the Bulgarian border.

Turkey_Map_MBT.JPG

In the map of the whole journey, given above, yellow is the track of the motorhome; blue marks other journeys by hire car from Seljuk and later from Kahta.

Our visa is valid for 3 months: this is the travel log for April, the first of those months.

To read the log of the May journey in Turkey, click: In Turkey: May 2008

To read the log of the June journey in Turkey, click: In Turkey June 2008

For images of the journey, click: Turkey in Colour

To see more maps of the journey, click: Maps of Turkey

For more details and images of our motorhome, click: A Flair for Travel

For more details of our touring bicycles, click: Paul Hewitt Tourers 

To read the log of our previous motorhome journey through Turkey, click: Turkey Log 1997 

30 March 2008   125 miles   ALEXANDROUPOLI, Greece to GALLIPOLI PENINSULA, Turkey   Kum Camping & Motel   €12.50 (YTL 25.00)

Across the Border into Turkey – via Kesan to Gallipoli

Correctly judging Flair_(50).JPGSunday to be a quiet time for crossing the border, we were away early - or so we thought, until we discovered the clocks had been put forward an hour this morning for 'Summer Time'! Still cold and dull, however.

After our last fill of petrol at Greek prices (about €1.10 per litre: much less than it was to be in Turkey), we were away through a sleeping Alexandroupoli. After 3 miles we turned left onto the A2 link road, to meet the new motorway (the Odos Ignatia which began life in Igoumenitsa) 6 miles further on. There is an exit 15 miles later for the road north, following the Evros River towards Bulgaria or the minor Turkish crossing point near Edirne; or south to the Evros Delta. We stayed on the motorway for its final eerily empty 7 miles, exited Greece with a cursory passport inspection and entered a No-Man's-Land, crossing the Evros River on a bridge guarded by a pair of splendid Greek soldiers in white kilts and pom-pom shoes.

Halting at the main Turkish border post, the entry formalities had been streamlined since our last visit and it took only about 30 minutes to: 1) Show our passports at a kiosk; 2) show them again at another kiosk; 3) park, as instructed; 4) walk over to the large white building issuing Tourist Visas (for ₤10 each, valid 3 months); 5) return to Passport Control to have the visas stuck in and stamped; 6) drive through Customs (no problems); 7) exit, with a final passport check. We only shared this performance with a group of Turkish motorbikes. Trucks formed a separate queue in both directions, their patient drivers shuffling slowly forward when called for paperwork and inspections.

The road was a bit rougher than in Greece, but with 2 wide lanes each way and very little traffic. Straight on at Ipsala, 3 miles into Turkey, we drove through a flat empty landscape at 220 ft asl, spotting a lone stork probing the bleak marshy fields. A shepherd grazed his flock along the verges.

At Kesan, 17 miles from the border, the major crossroads lead to Istanbul (straight on), Edirne and Bulgaria (left) or Gallipoli (right, for us). But first we stopped outside the Burger King/shopping mall on the left, impressed by the development and the large free parking area. There was an ATM for cash, which enabled us to buy fresh bread in the MM-Migros supermarket. The New Turkish Lire or YTL replaced the old currency in 2005, knocking 6 nought off so that it no longer costs half a million for a loaf. The present exchange rate is about 2 YTL = 1 Euro, much easier to handle. Bread, a subsidised staple food, is excellent quality and value in Turkey.

Then we drove south on a good wide dual carriageway, noticing horse & carts on the road round the edges of the town. We passed a busy area for taxis and the shared minibus taxis called 'dolmus', realising that private car ownership is only for the rich here. The high price of fuel (more expensive than anywhere in Europe, including Britain) limits their speed and journeys. Most of the traffic consists of trucks, buses and taxis, driven fairly slowly, and certainly more carefully than in Greece! Fuel stations are plentiful, most accepting credit cards and selling the full range of petrol (at about YTL 3.20 or £1.15 per litre), diesel ('Motorin') (at about YTL 2.8 per litre) and LPG ('Otogaz') in plentiful supply (unlike Greece).

Leaving Kesan, we climbed through wooded hills, with a strong north wind helping us along. From the summit (1,100 ft), 32 miles from the border, the road narrowed as we passed a large picnic area in the forest. There were good views of the Aegean ahead as we rapidly descended to sea level.

60 miles after the border we passed Gelibolu (Greek Kalopolis), the little port at the head of the Dardanelles which gave its name to the Gallipoli Peninsula. We could see the ferry ('Feribot') going across to Lapseki on the Asian side of the strait. The road now followed the eastern shore of the peninsula for 25 miles along the edge of the Dardanelles, to the right turn for Kabatepe, a couple of miles before Eceabat. This turning leads into the heart of the battlefields and the 34 cemeteries in the Gallipoli National Historic Park.

The narrow road (much too narrow for the large number of coaches and buses now visiting the National Park) crosses the peninsula at its narrowest point. Turning left after 4 miles (by the Kabatepe Museum), we reached the western coast a mile later, at the little port of Kabatepe, and turned left again for the motel/camping at Kum Beach. (The sign says 4 km, but it's actually more than 4 miles!) The road had been resurfaced but not widened, with a sudden drop into a ditch on our side. Several times, we had to pull over and stop, to get out of the way of fearless head-on coaches, hell bent on Istanbul before dark! 4 miles can be a long way.

The Flair_(55).JPGcampsite had deteriorated since our last visit but it remains in a good position for visiting the battle sites to the north or south of the peninsula. Our usual question about how many amps the electric hook-up might be, met with a blank stare and the assurance that it was 'free' (included in the price, whether you want it or not). The kitchen was out of bounds (being refurbished); the showers and toilets rudimentary, with a boiler belching black smoke and fumes; the only potable water at one kitchen tap; no sinks or machines for laundry; and frequent power cuts.

Compensations included a level pitch, an empty site and a dozen Greek TV channels (no Turkish ones!) from across the water, allowing us to follow the news and weather forecasts. There is also a restaurant and, in summer, a swimming pool.

31 March 2008   At Kum Camping & Motel   GALLIPOLI PENINSULA,   Turkey

A 33-mile Cycle Ride to Anzac Cove, Lala Baba, Chunuk Bair and Lone Pineclimbing a total of 1,700 ft

On a much brighterTurkey1_(11).JPG sunnier day, ideal for cycling, we packed a lunch and rode over the low hill (223 ft) to Kabatepe, from where ferries cross to the Turkish island of Gokceada (as we did on our last visit, 14 July 2003). This little port was almost certainly the object of the Allied landing on 25 April 1915 but the currents and winds carried the craft disastrously north to Anzac Cove, below high cliffs. Today there is informal camping for tents in the pinewoods near the port, across from an army base. (Anzac = Australia and New Zealand Army Corps.)

Continuing Turkey1_(12).JPGnorth, we passed the footpath leading to Shell Green and Lone Pine Cemeteries, high on the ridge above. After 6 miles we came to Shrapnel Valley and Plugge's Plateau Cemeteries, where we paused to pay our respects and admire the superb work done by the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

A CD-plated car arrivedTurkey1_(16).JPG carrying 4 men and we found ourselves in the company of the Australian Consul, based in Canakkale, his manager and friends (one of whom has been conducting battlefield tours for 10 years)! They were on a tour to inspect preparations for the upcoming ANZAC Day commemorations. We had a long thoughtful conversation with them, covering the history of the Gallipoli campaign and the problems brought by the escalation of Anzac Day celebrations. The controversial development of new Turkish monuments and symbolic cemeteries and the growth of local tourism is another issue causing concern – as we were to see forTurkey1_(14).JPG ourselves.

Following the coast for half a mile round a headland, next to Ari Burnu Cemetery we came to the Turkish monument with words from Kemal Ataturk's famous speech (of 1934, a little after the event!): 'To us there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets … after losing their lives in this land they have become our sons as well.'

A field of bright red now signalled our approachTurkey1_(19).JPG to the memorial reserve of Anzac Cove, below the eroded rocky pinnacle known as the Sphinx. Riding nearer, we saw not poppies but row upon row of red plastic seats, erected on temporary scaffolding stands in readiness for the Anzac Day Dawn SeTurkey1_(18).JPGrvice on 25 April (a crowd of over 20,000 attended the 90th anniversary in 2005). The road has been widened here to make more parking space, damaging the cove and reducing the beach, but we learnt that the 4-mile coast road planned for the Gallipoli Peace Park is to be redrawn, taking more account of the concerns of the Australians.

After another mileTurkey1_(20).JPG we turned left onto 3 miles of rough track, used mainly by shepherds, to the poignant little Lala Baba Cemetery. Set on a low hill, on an isthmus between Suvla Bay and a salt lake, it marks the landing site of the British army in August 1915. 216 of the men remain here and we kept silent company with them as we ate our lunch, looking out to sea through the half-open gate to the Turkish island of Gokceada (used as an allied base in 1915) – so nearTurkey1_(26).JPG, but beyond their reach.

Returning through a flock of sheep around the track, the ageing shepherd kept his dogs under some control (their spiked collars spoke to a possibility of wolf attack), but he declined a reward of 20 Marlboro Longs. Turning left onto another track after about a mile, we eventually reached a sealed road and rode on into the hamlet of Buyuk Turkey1_(32).JPGAnafarta. Near its small mosque and café there was a brand new life-size bronze statue of Ataturk, along with posters and bunting. The graves of 2 Turkish soldiers in the village cemetery bore new plaques and portraits. Islam and Ataturk continue their opposing attempts to capture and hold the attention of the population.

The road rose gently as soon as we lTurkey1_(41).JPGeft Buyuk and we turned off 2 miles later to climb more steeply up a track on the right with a No Entry sign. This is the old road, now closed to traffic, leading for 5 miles up and along the Chunuk Bair ridge, the spine of the peninsula. From the top (at almost 1,000 ft), Ataturk's vantage point in 1915, there is a view of the coast on both sides. The Dardanelles to the east, always a crucial link from Europe to Asia, the Black Sea and Russia, is busy with shipping and oil tankers.

At Chunuk BairTurkey1_(42).JPG itself, at 900 ft, the New Zealand memorial is overshadowed by a giant statue of Ataturk but we were more disturbed by the number of coaches, day trippers and market stalls at what is, after all, a war memorial site. It was hard to find a quiet corner to pause, eat some chocolate and contemplate.

The 10-mile ride back was mostly downhill, the wrong way along aTurkey1_(45).JPG one-way narrow road, starting with a swift descent past many more CWGC cemeteries and Turkish memorials. A length of battle trenches which had been preserved on opposite sides of the road showed how closely the troops, Australians and Turks, had to fight on either side of this ridge, developing considerable rTurkey1_(25).JPGespect for each other. At Lone Pine Cemetery, stands were again being erected to seat the Anzac Day visitors. 4,000 men, mostly Australian, died here, the youngest being 14. We couldn't bear to stay and read the gravestones again and rode quietly past, as the warmth began to go out of the sun.

(For a fuller account of these sites of the northern peninsula – and of another ride round the southern peninsula – see our diaries for 10, 12, 17 and 19 July 2003. Also our first visit on 3 November 1997).

For more images, click: In Gallipoli

1 April 2008   173 miles   GALLIPOLI PENINSULA to BERGAMA, Turkey   Caravan Restaurant/Camping   €10.00 (YTL 20.00)

A Ferry to Canakkale and down the Aegean Coast into Asian Turkey

As the weatheTurkey1_(30).JPGr had returned to being overcast with a strong cold wind, we decided to move on. Having explored the sites of Gallipoli thoroughly in previous quieter times, we don't like what is now happening to the area. The whole peninsula has been respected as a War Grave for almost a century, and so it should remain. Now, Aussies, Kiwis and British visitors wishing to remember and mourn the dead mingle with sunbathing Turkish holidaymakers, lines of coaches on narrow roads, market stalls – and many manifestations of Turkish nationalism and military pride in monuments, statues and flags. An uneasy mixture indeed!

Starting the motorhome, we retreated along 9 narrow miles to the maTurkey1_(56).JPGin road, turning right to follow the Dardanelles for 3 miles into Eceabat. Here there are banks, restaurants, hotels and battlefield tour offices, and an hourly ferry across the Dardanelles to the much bigger port of Canakkale. Joining the short line boarding the 12 noon boat, we paid YTL 29.50 = about £11 (including YTL 2.00 for 'parking' in the queue!)

Once on board,Turkey1_(55).JPG we could stay in our vehicle or sit on deck or in the small café for the 25-minute crossing. Waiting to leave, we observed the new park being built by the ferry terminal, with a huge bronze statue of Ataturk and his soldiers, information boards and a model of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The rising militarism is perhaps a reaction to the present political situation, with an Islamic President and ruling party (for the first time since Ataturk declared Turkey a secular state). Better not to discuss religion and politics here, then.

Alongside the cars and trucks on the ferry, there wTurkey1_(58).JPGas one patient horse with red woolly pompoms on his bridle and a nice carpet spread on the bed of the cart. We talked to a pair of German motorhomers in ancient motorhomes, one highly decorated in the Moroccan fashion with the inevitable rolled carpet on the rear carrier. They had come to Turkey1_(68).JPGTurkey via Portugal, Morocco, Spain, France, Italy, Greece – and so far they liked Gibraltar best!

Disembarking in Canakkale, there was no chance or need to stop. We crawled through the town, following signs for Troy and Izmir until they pointed in opposite directions! It's a very busy area, full of places to shop, eat or sleep: the main base for visiting both Gallipoli and Troy. Eventually, we turned right, across the Sari (= Yellow) River, and then south. About 4 miles later we stopped at a large Kipa shopping mall, with an ATM and an excellent supermarket (run by Tesco), supplying excellent fresh rolls and sticky cakes for lunch in the car park.

Continuing on E87, the main road south, from Antepe we had a view across the southern entrance to the Dardanelles. The enormous Turkish monument at Abide, at the tip of Gallipoli, was just visible in the mist. Rain threatened. The road then left the coast, passing the turning for the ancient site of Troy about 18 miles from Canakkale. We drove the 3 miles to the barrier and ticket office, well before the site. On our last visit (see 1 November 1997) we had been able to park for the night outside the site before visiting it, but now the area had been built over and had the stereotypical souvenir shops. We turned in the small space left for that single purpose and didn't stay. On our first visit, cycling from the UK to Istanbul in the summer holidays of 1989, the site was completely undeveloped and on open access: just the rubble left by Heinrich Schliemann, with ancient bits poking through.

Heading ever T_Street_(40).JPGsouth, the road ran inland, the Biga Peninsula to our right. There was nothing to stop for in Ezine, a town busy with trucks and buses: an impression of new mosques and Turkish flags flying. We climbed through hillsides of mountain pines to almost 1,500 ft, with a view of the coast below. Dropping to meet the sea, we zigzagged down through olive groves to Kucukkuyu. Roadside stalls sold jars of olives and oil; clearly an area inhabited by the Greeks until the fateful days of their debacles in 1921/3.

A wide road bypassed the town centre and turned east onto a good dual carriageway along the shore of the Bay of Edremit. We had driven 77 miles, it was 4 pm, raining and time for a break. We were amazed at the amount of new building – housing estates, apartments, hotels, second homes for Istanbulis – and there were several small campsites along the seafront (all firmly closed). Nowhere looked inviting to stop.

At Akcay, a working town 18 miles along at the east end of the bay, we passed more supermarkets (MM-Migros and Carrefour Express). 7 miles later at Edremit the road turned south-west for 6 miles to Burhaniye. Here we spotted a new sign for a right turn to 'Altin Camp and Park Motel'. No indication that it was over 2 miles away at the village of Oren on the coast – nor that it was closed until the beginning of May!

As we parked outside the locked gates, a caretaker appeared and beckoned us to follow him to the house of the 'Chef'. Politely asking in German if it was OK to stay the night (inside or outside the campground, paying if required), we were surprised to be told (in no uncertain German terms) that the site was closed and if we didn't leave he would call the police. Welcome to the North Aegean! Perhaps easy money from endless lines of summer tourists is eroding traditional Turkish politeness and hospitality. We drove along the waterfront, finding nothing but new building sites, and returned disappointed to the main road.

However, in July 2011 Melahat Altin, the manager of this family business wrote that he was away from the campsite at this time (April 2008). He therefore had no control over the activities of the resident who was pretending to the manager. He now writes that the campsite is generally open in April and it admits visitors from all over the world. He manages a friendly, relaxing and beautiful family place as usual, and he would be very happy to welcome all travellers to stay on the campsite.

Continuing to Ayvalik (port for ferries to the Greek island of Lesbos, now visible offshore), we passed olive mills and a salt-producing lagoon, as well as more high-rise building development. The road now followed the coast south-east and we turned off 35 miles after Ayvalik for Bergama (site of Ancient Pergamum).

About 3 miles along on the left, less than 2 miles before the town centre, is a new campground, open all year. It's a small grassy site, tucked behind the 'Caravan Restaurant' (try the lunchtime buffet), with good facilities, including a level pitch, good electrical hook-up, a washing machine and swimming pool! Next day the only other campers, two German vans, decided to leave the campsite to our sole occupancy. Splendid!

2-4 April 2008   At Caravan Restaurant/Camping   BERGAMA,   Turkey

Visiting Bergama Museum, the Old Quarter and the Red Basilica

On our first morningTurkey3_Tortoise_(6).JPG at the campsite, the sunshine brought a baby tortoise out of hibernation. It was also a fine day for catching up on laundry, filling our water tank, baking and general cleaning and mending (a patch on M's well-travelled cycle shorts!)

We found that Turkish Radio Three (or 'üc' pronounced 'owch') has a splendid programme of music, with the news in Turkish-English-French-German (5 minutes of each) regularly on the hour through the day. Also, one of the TV channels sometimes shows foreign films with Turkish subtitles – we enjoyed 'Sleepless in Seattle' (again).

The next 2 days were very showery, with a thunderstorm that sent the Turkey2_Bergama_(11).JPGcampsite dogs hiding underneath our chassis. As we had visited the ancient sites of Pergamum, at the Asclepion and high above on the Acropolis, before (see 30 October 1997), when the ruins were deserted and freely open, we now chose to explore the modern town of Bergama. We walked into the centre along the main road (Izmir Caddesi), soon passing the Hotel Berksoy behind which we camped 10 years ago (a site which has ceased to be). The modern town appears to have plenty of places to shop, sip tea, eat or use the internet.

Our first stop Turkey2_Bergama_(13).JPGwas the splendid museum, on the left shortly before the Tourist Office. For only YTL 2 each, we spent an hour admiring the exhibits, well labelled in English, with a small collection of pottery and glass and a large Roman mosaic floor with the fearsome head of Medusa at its centre. The highlight is a wealth of Hellenistic and Roman sculpture from Pergamum, including a fine statue of Emperor Hadrian and a copy of a bust of Alexander the Great (original in Istanbul museum).

There is also a scale model of the Altar of Zeus, with photographs Turkey2_Bergama_(15).JPGof the friezes which are now in a Berlin museum. This temple, begun in 180 BC, was largely destroyed during the Byzantine occupation of the Acropolis in the 10th century AD, when the marble friezes were used as building stone for defensive city walls against the Arabs. The German engineer/archaeologist Carl Humann found them and excavated the site under the auspices of Berlin Museum from 1878-1886, taking the marbles back to Germany (with the Sultan's consent). Interestingly, that is contemporary with Heinrich Schliemann's work at Troy. In 1930 the Altar of Zeus was rebuilt in Berlin's Pergamon Museum, complete with the restored friezes, and there it remains. Arguments surrounding this are similar to those about the Athens Acropolis and the Elgin marbles, likewise removed with permission and preserved, safe from further destruction or deterioration.

Ancient Pergamum Turkey2_Bergama_(19).JPGwas at the height of its power in the Hellenistic period - from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC until the kingdom was bequeathed to the Romans in 129 BC, becoming part of Roman Asia Minor. King Eumenes II, who built the Altar of Zeus, also added a great library, whose 200,000 volumes came to rival that in Alexandria. Afraid that their scholars would be attracted away, the Egyptians cut off Pergamum's supply of papyrus reeds from the Nile (used to make paper). Faced with this problem, Eumenes' scientists invented parchment (named 'pergamen' in Latin) for writing on. Animal skins had been used for writing material even earlier, but they developed a new, more thorough method of cleaning, stretching and scraping the hides. This made possible the use of both sides of a manuscript leaf, leading to the supplanting of the rolled manuscript by the bound book (codex). In a final twist to the story, when Alexandria's great library burnt down in Cleopatra's reign, Antony was able to restock it from Pergamum.

Walking on, past the Tourist Info (who supply a free sketch map oTurkey2_Bergama_(21).JPGf the town with a list of places to stay) and a new bronze statue of Ataturk as Elder Statesman on the left, then the Post Office on the right, the main street divides into narrower cobbled lanes, with a view of the ancient Acropolis, its theatre and remains spilling down the steep hillside beyond. We had reached the old Muslim quarter of the town: a warren of stalls and shops, cobblers and shoe-shine boys, tea-pot makers and umbrella-menders, little mosques and cafes full of old men. Not a tourist in sight!

Everywhere weTurkey2_Bergama_(30).JPG walked we were greeted with smiles, with 'hello' and 'welcome'. Occasionally we were asked to give our home country and 'England' was always greeted with approval. What a change to the haughty and xenophobic Greeks, hanging grimly onto their culture, which seems no more that a pale shadow of that they inherited from the Turks in the Ottoman period. When did any Greek ever display any curiosity about who we were, where we came from and how we got there?

We wandered through, buying fresh bread ('Ekmek') at the little bakTurkey2_Bergama_(24).JPGery, eventually coming to the strange roofless red brick building known as the Red Basilica. Surrounded by railings and a locked gate, it is on the site of a large temple dedicated to Egyptian gods in the 2nd century AD, by which time the city had spread below the hill to the plain. A Christian basilica was built inside it, and today a corner tower houses a small mosque. This being Friday, the faithful were being called to prayer as we passed by.

Turning for home, we strolled back to the campsite, arriving just before the second heavy downpour of the day after a round walk of about 5 miles. We liked the bustling market town very much, with none of the tourist tat or touts that are often found at more popular archaeological sites. Visitors are probably bussed straight to the Asclepion (about 2 miles west of the town) and/or the Acropolis (a 3-mile climb beyond the Red Basilica).

For more images, click: In Bergama

5 April 2008   119 miles   BERGAMA to KUSADASI,   Turkey   Camping Onder   €8.00 (YTL 16.00)

From the North to the South Aegean, via Izmir and Selcuk

Returning to the main road for Izmir, we turned south. The dual carriageway ran through low hills and small towns, all sporting a new mosque with a pencil slim minaret. Many were still being built, sometimes with extensive domed buildings (schools?) We occasionally met the coast, passing the port of Aliaga after 24 miles.

There were vineyards (the grapes mainly eaten fresh or used for dried fruit rather than wine) and shepherds. The older generation were usually traditionally dressed, the women in baggy trousers and headscarves, though the shepherds had donned bright yellow wellingtons! Younger people were more (or very) westernised and the children wore school uniforms - usually a tartan skirt for girls.

At 35 miles, we T13_Street_(10).JPGpaused outside a roadside restaurant/bakery, with firewood for the bread ovens stacked outside. By Menemi, 5 miles later, it was raining. The 4-lane highway, paralleled by a railway line with brand new stations, got busier as we neared Izmir. The inside lane was worn into grooves by the heavy trucks, making steering more difficult! Turkish driving, though, was less dangerous than in Greece, apart from the impatient 'dolmus' taxis which pull in and out without warning. The green fields gave way to an industrial area: a power station, a cigarette factory, an 'Otobazar' (car bazaar - the place to search for a mechanic, a tyre fitter, an oil change or any kind of repair).

After 49 miles we crossed the boundary into Izmir, the port which isT13_Street_(14).JPG Turkey's third city with a population of 2.6 million. Sadly, the northern end of the motorway which will bypass much of the conglomeration is still unfinished and we drove through 6 miles of chaotic congestion before escaping the traffic onto the E87 – a wonderful 6-lane motorway (now finished from here down to Aydin). Climbing to 830 ft above the city, we looked down on a pall of pollution before going through tunnels.

14 miles along the motorway, we took a toll ticket and 10 miles later stopped at a parking area (complete with cafe and toilets) to make lunch. After another 13 miles there was a service station (Burger King and Shell fuel), 4 miles before our exit for Selcuk. The toll was a mere YTL 1.75 (less than one Euro) for 41 smooth miles!

Entering Selcuk, 9 miles south, the town is dominated by the restored 6th century Citadel on Ayasuluk Hill. In the centre we turned right (well signed for Ephesus and Kusadasi), passing Selcuk Museum on the right, then the lane for Ephesus, 2 miles further along on the left. Continuing through 3 miles of peach and apple orchards, we then turned left for Kusadasi, along a new dual carriageway 200 ft above the sea.

The first sight oT3_Kusadasi_(10).JPGf this package holiday destination and cruise ship port was a shock! We were here before, waiting for a new tyre for our previous motorhome (see 19-27 October 1997), and have good memories of the resort and its food, but it has grown out of all proportion! New hotel and apartment blocks had mushroomed, along with attractions like 'Aqualand Dolphinarium'.

Follow the sign for 'Sehir Merkez' (Town Centre) for Ataturk Bulvari, the waterfront boulevard. There are 2 adjacent campsites, the Yat and the Onder, along on the left opposite the yacht harbour and marina, but you have to pass them and take the next U-turn back, as it's a dual carriageway. We looked at both and chose Camping Onder, as there was more level space to park. Both sites are fairly basic, with no hot water at this time of year, the showers relying on solar heating. Onder is open all year and we had a pair of Dutch motorhomes for neighbours, while Yat opens from the beginning of March to mid-November and had only empty caravans.

We manoeuvred onto a grassy pitch among the olives and pines and eventually sorted an electric hook-up with the help of 2 gardeners. Watching the birds out in the rain, there were Crested Larks, a Jay and a Woodpecker: Great-, Middle- or Lesser-Spotted? Consulting our book, we settled for Syrian Woodpecker, the most likely to be found here.

6 April 2008   At KUSADASI, Turkey   Camping Onder

Kusadasi Revisited – with Regret

A very wet quiet Sunday morning, ideal for writing and domestic jobs.

In the afternoon we walked along the boulevard to the harbour, T3_Kusadasi_(14).JPGlooking in vain along the way for the wonderful Indian Restaurant where we'd dined 10 years ago. It had disappeared under an anodyne row of bland eateries, bars and new estate agents (their prices given in British pounds or Euros).

The port is dominated by a new shopping complex with X-ray security entry, and the nearby bazaar caters only for foreign holidaymakers in search of cheap souvenirs. We did get an international phone card and the weekend edition of the 'Turkish Daily News', and found a small Dia supermarket (though it didn't have the digestive biscuits stocked in Greece!)

7 April 2008   13 miles   KUSADASI to SELJUK,   Turkey   Garden Motel & Camping   €14.50 (YTL 29.00)

A Day in Seljuk

A much finer T4_Seljuk_(11).JPGmorning: sunny and 3 degrees warmer according to Greek Radio 3 from the nearby island of Samos. Escaping the indignity of Kusadasi, we retraced our route for 12 miles to Seljuk, pausing only to buy 120 litres of petrol at 3.30 Turkish Lira per litre (about 1.26 UK pounds). On the way we saw our first nesting stork of the year, atop an electricity pylon. A horse and cart at the bottom of a muddy track waited for a tractor to collect the milk churn. The real Turkey lies just beyond the jaded resorts.

Seljuk is a very pleasant easy-going town, compared with the crowded T4_Seljuk_(42).JPGcities or brash seaside. Its population is currently 25,500 (and 2!). Apart from agriculture (olives, fruit, vines and cotton) the town depends on tourism, with a wealth of buildings and sites with historical and biblical associations, an excellent museum and a fine fortress. Despite this, it hasn't been spoiled and it's a pleasure to walk or eat in the pedestrianised centre, with plenty of shops and a big Saturday produce market.

We decided T4_Seljuk_(13).JPGto check out the new campsite, just a short walk from the centre. Follow the signs for the Isa Bey mosque, from which the camping is less than half a kilometre. As we negotiated a cobbled passage between carpet and souvenir sellers, squeezing past the coaches visiting the mosque and the nearby Basilica of St John, a motorbike rider emerged from the Karamese Café and led us round the corner and along to the campsite – we had met one of the managers!

The camping is splFlair_(66).JPGendidly sited, right below the citadel on Ayasuluk Hill, in a large grove of tall trees which gently showered us with pink blossom. We shared it with no-one: sole use of the hot showers and washing machine! It would be a different story in high season, when the bar, restaurant and carpet factory/salesroom would be competing for your custom!

After lunch, we ambled round the amiable town, treating ourselves to ice creams from 'Roma' and half a kilo of assorted prize-winning Turkish Delight from 'Tugba'. Delicious! We photographed the row of storks nesting on top of the columns of the Byzantine aqueduct, following its route on both sides of the railway tracks. We drank apple tea (elma cay), bought a box to make our own and began to feel at home.

We had visitedT4_Seljuk_(32).JPG Seljuk's many sights previously (see 21 Oct 1997), including the extensive and substantial remains of Ancient Ephesus (just 3 km or 2 miles out of town), which became the Roman capital of Asia Minor – now a favourite excursion for the cruise ships docking in Kusadasi. Ephesus actually dates back to at least 6000 BC, a settlement growing up round the nearby Temple of Artemis, which attracted pilgrims long before the new city was founded in the 3rd century BC.

Avoiding the crowds (and admission fees), we now walked to the site of T4_Seljuk_(46).JPGthe Artemis Temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Only one of the columns donated by Lydian King Croesus (he of great wealth) still stands, but the temple was once larger than the Athens Parthenon. Artemis was the Anatolian Mother Goddess Cybele, whose many-breasted marble statues can be seen in Seljuk's excellent museum, opposite the Tourist Office. Apart from the guardian (who tried to sell us an 'ancient coin' that he thought the British Museum might like!), we had the place to ourselves.

From the Temple T4_Seljuk_(26).JPGwe looked across at the Isa Bey mosque (built in 1375, using some of the Temple columns), its chimney-like minaret occupied by a doughty pair of storks, hardened to the call to prayer and the nightly floodlighting! We walked past often enough to get to know the woman painting plates, on sale at the entrance.

Beyond the mosque is the partly-restoredT4_Seljuk_(43).JPG Basilica of St John, built by Emperor Justinian in the 6th century over the saint's tomb, which became a medieval pilgrimage centre. It is believed that John wrote his gospel here, bringing the Virgin Mary to end her days in Seljuk. (A church at the house of 'Meryemana' or Mother Mary lies about 5 miles from Ephesus: another coach party destination.) Above John's Basilica rises the Citadel, a medieval fortress on Ayasuluk Hill, currently closed for restoration.

Walking back, we passed the domed roofs of an old Ottoman baths, then the smaller domes of an Ottoman tomb in the corner of our campsite.

For more images, click: In Seljuk

8-13 April 2008   At SELJUK,   Turkey   Garden Motel & Camping

A Car Tour of 8 Classical Sites

In Seljuk, we hired T5_Antioch_(21).JPGa Fiat Albea car for 5 days to explore the surrounding area and make leisurely visits to 8 ancient sites. We travelled to Pamukkale, visiting Antiochia and Laodiceia on the way out, Hierapolis above Pamukkale itself, and Afrodisias and Nyssa on the way back. All were new to us. On our return we had time to use the car to revisit Priene, Miletus and Didyma (south of Kusadasi).

Antiochia: Driving east from Seljuk, T5_Antioch_(19).JPGalong the Buyuk Menderes (Meander) River valley past Aydin and Nazilli, it's a short detour after 74 miles to the village of Basaran, beyond which lay the ancient hilltop city of Antiochia. The unexcavated but extensive ruins proved a quiet place to scramble over the fallen stones and picnic among the wild flowers, with snowy peaks above us and storks grazing the meadow below.

For more images, click: In Ancient Antiochia

Laodiceia: ContinuinT6_Laedikia_(11).JPGg to the busy city of Denizli (a textile centre), we turned north towards Pamukkale, pausing next at Laodiceia, about 120 miles from Seljuk. For a small entry fee, we explored the once prosperous city, founded in the 3rd century BC and destroyed by earthquakes in the post-Roman Byzantine era (a familiar pattern). The main street, lined with columns, and the larger theatre, its upper tiers still intact, were impressive. Among the remains of a stadium and agora lay an astonishing number of broken stones and columns, scattered where they fell or sorted into neat piles, like a jigsaw waiting to be done. The site, full of birdsong and bright red poppies, with a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, was delightfully empty of visitors.

For more images, click: In Ancient Laodiceia

Pamukkale: Reaching Pamukkale (= Cotton Castle), 130 milesT7_Pamukkale_(10).JPG from Seljuk and at 900 ft, we took a room in the friendly little Pamukkale Hotel, just 5 minutes' walk from the base of the 'Travertines'. This semi-circular petrified waterfall of white calcium-carbonate encrusted rock and pools has made the village a target for coach loads of day-trippers, though our aim is the Roman spa town perched above it. Our hotel (more of a family-run guesthouse) has a small outdoor pool, free wireless internet and a tiny campground with space for up to 5 campervans. More importantly for us, a double room with bathroom cost just YTL 100 (€50) for 2 nights including good breakfasts. Evening meals were cooked to order and a cake provided for Margaret's birthday!

Hierapolis: There areT7_Pamukkale_(38).JPG 3 ways to get to the extensive Greco-Roman site – a short drive to the southern or northern entrances, where there are free car parks, or on foot, climbing a path up the Travertines with a warm paddle as you go. Whichever way, the entry fee is YTL 10 (or €5) per person.

We spent 4 hours walking the city, founded T7_Pamukkale_(26).JPGcirca 190 BC by Eumenes II, King of Pergamum. The cure centre, based on the warm springs which formed the Travertines, prospered under the Romans and the Byzantines until a major earthquake felled it in 1334, by which time the town and its 13th century castle had been abandoned to the Seljuks. Left in ruins, it was seen only by shepherds until the German engineer/ archaeologist Carl Humann (who also worked at Pergamum) began to excavate the site under the auspices of Berlin Museum at the end of the 19th century.

Emperor Hadrian's spectacular 12,000-seat theatre was rebuilt after aT7_Pamukkale_(22).JPGn earthquake in the 4th century AD (using stones from the smaller theatre), and is once again being restored by an Italian archaeological institute, who are doing a fine job. Climbing beyond it, we came to the ruins of a big octagonal church built at the site of the martyrdom of St Philip, one of Christ's disciples, reputedly killed here in 70 AD – another medieval pilgrimage centre.

Beyond the northern gate is a vast necropolis – an area of amazing T7_Pamukkale_(61).JPGtombs and graves for all budgets. To uncover the mile-long Frontinus Street, linking the city's two monumental gateways, up to 2 metres of calcium carbonate deposit has been removed, revealing the foundations of many buildings including an oil T7_Pamukkale_(72).JPGpress, fountains, gymnasium, latrines and baths. One of the ancient pools is still in use for swimming, in a hideously inappropriate modern enclosure that also houses the café and souvenir shops. (Free entry to buy a cup of tea, as we did, or €9 to bathe.) Our only disappointment with this astonishing archaeological park was that the Museum was 'closed for lunch' for 2 hours when we got to it – on a site that surely had enough staff hanging round to stagger their lunch breaks.

Back in Seljuk, a Dutch couple in a campervan (keen bird watchers, who gaT7_Pamukkale_(67).JPGve us some useful information on Turkish wetlands) asked if we thought it worth driving out to Pamukkale. We had to answer 'not for the Travertines, but definitely for Hierapolis if you have an interest in classical sites'. We left them still undecided, but we did recommend staying or camping in the village atmosphere of Pamukkale, complete with a view of the Travertines, rather than the modern resort of Karahayit a few miles away.

For more images, click: In Ancient Hierapolis

Afrodisias: LeavingT8_Afrodis_(14).JPG Pamukkale, we drove south and west from Denizli through wooded mountains and over a 3,700 ft pass to Tavas, then north-west back towards Nazilli, in order to visit Afrodisias (58 miles). There were small entry and parking charges at the remains of the ancient city.

From the 6th century BC the Temple T8_Afrodis_(18).JPGof Afrodite here was a pilgrimage centre, growing into a prosperous Greek town. By the 3rd century AD, Afrodisias was the capital of the Roman province of Caria. Then the Byzantines dismantled the pagan temple, using its columns and stone to build a Christian church and defensive walls, and Afrodisias became an important cathedral town until it was abandoned in the 12th century.

The site was largelT8_Afrodis_(29).JPGy excavated by New York University's Professor Kenan Erim (1929-90), whose well tended grave lies in the shadow of the Temple's magnificent monumental gateway, reconstructed from the original marble blocks. The most memorable building is the huge and well preserved classical stadium: 30 rows of seats frame its oval, each tier taking 1,000 people – that's 30,000 seats, for a town with a population of 15,000 at its peak, suggesting the volume of visitors expected! One end was also used as a Roman theatre.

Wandering through the site, with the usual beautiful backdrop of T8_Afrodis_(78).JPGwild flowers, butterflies and bird song, we found the extensive ruins of baths, bishop's palace (formerly the Roman governor's villa), and a 7,000 seat theatre built on the side of an earth mound, with evidence of a prehistoric settlement.

The small museumT8_Afrodis_(85).JPG was worth a visit in itself, with a display of the excellent white marble sculptures for which Afrodisias was famed. We especially liked a headless Afrodite and a statue of one of her priests, along with a series of figures of Zoilos, who endowed much of the Roman building here in his native town. Apparently he was captured and sold into slavery, eventually becoming a slave of Julius Caesar. He was then sold to (or inherited by) Augustus, first Emperor of Rome, who gave him his freedom, to return home a wealthy man. A nice story! A modern bronze bust of Prof Erim stood watch at the museum door.

For more images, click: In Ancient Afrodisias

Nyssa: On the way back to Seljuk, we made one more visit, to Ancient NyT9_Nysa_(10).JPGsa (40 miles after Afrodisias), just off the main road near Sultanbisar, west of Nazilli. It was market day in the streets of Sultanbisar, making access difficult (eg avoiding a motorbike ridden by 2 lads carrying a live sheep between them!)T9_Nysa_(14).JPG

The remains of Nyssa are scattered along both sides of the road, with a small entry fee if the guardian is there. A mysterious 150-metre long tunnel disappears under the modern road near a substantial theatre, with assorted ruins among the olive groves higher up. A man passed by on a donkey, followed by an old couple leading 3 cows home. We saw no-one else at the site, before leaving to drive the remaining 54 miles back to Seljuk.

For more images, click: In Nyssa

Priene: About 16 milT10_Priene_(26).JPGes south of Kusadasi, the Dilek Peninsula juts into the Aegean almost meeting the Greek island of Samos. The peninsula is now a national park: a nature and hiking reserve (entry YTL 20 for a car + 2 people, more for larger vehicles). We bypassed it, via the city of Söke, driving further south to a trio of ancient sites (see 18-19 October 1997 for previous visit).

For the first of these, Priene, turn off the long stT10_Priene_(21).JPGraight road 5 miles beyond Söke (just before a huge mall of factory outlet clothes shops, complete with McDonalds). The remains of the Hellenistic town, which flourished in 300 BC (when the ancient shoreline reached its walls), lie about 6 miles along, on a mountainside overlooking the flood plain of the Meander near the village of Güllübahce. It was first excavated by Carl Humann (of Pergamum and Hierapolis fame).

For a small charge, we wandered among the city's remains, lying on successive terraces that rise from the plain to a steep hill upon which stand the columns of an Ionian Temple to Athena. The delightful 6,500-seat theatre, with throne-like seats for dignitaries in the front row, is unusual for its altar to Dionysos (god of theatre, as well as wine) in the orchestra pit. The only other visitors were a Turkish family having a picnic, sharing the warm stones with a few black lizards with long tails.

For more images, click: In Priene

Miletus: Continuing south froT12_Milet_(20).JPGm Güllübahce, it's about 13 miles to the larger site of Miletus, an important city and port from 700 BC to 700 AD (dates easy to remember!) Here there were parking and entry fees, stalls and a cafe (where we had glasses of fresh cold orange juice while watching the returning swallows build their nests). T12_Milet_(25).JPG

The 15,000-seat Great Theatre (Greek, enlarged by the Romans) scales a hillside topped by the ramparts of a medieval castle – a good climb. From the top we saw the extent of the city spread below. The remains, well labelled by a German institute, included the foundations of the agora, shops, stadium, baths and the formerT12_Milet_(44).JPG harbour, which eventually silted up. The sea is now 5 miles away. The ruins are partly flooded by the Meander, providing a home for hundreds of tadpoles, as well as irrigation for the surrounding cotton fields.

In a far corner of the site a Seljuk mosque (1404) was fenced off for restoration by Ankara University. This hadn't stopped a pair of storks from nesting right on top of the dome, with a ready supply of frogs to feed on.

For more images, click: In Miletus

Didyma: About 10 miles south of Miletus, near the modern town of DiT11_Didim_(34).JPGdim, is the smallest but most remarkable of the 3 sites – the massive Temple of Apollo. It fills a railed enclosure, well worth the small charge for a closer look.

It wasT11_Didim_(17).JPG the seat of an Oracle of Apollo, with priests from Delphi, who made prophecies after drinking from the sacred spring inside. The original temple was destroyed by the Persians in 494 BC. After Alexander the Great conquered Miletus (334 BC), the Oracle was resanctified and the city administered the cult, annually electing a prophet and holding a procession to the site along the Sacred Way. About 300 BC work began to build a new temple, intended to be the largest in the Greek world. The annual festival held there, the Didymeia, became Panhellenic in the beginning of the 2nd century BC. The new temple was still incomplete when Christianity became the state religion, but the height and girth of columT11_Didim_(13).JPGns – those still standing and those lying as rows of drums on the ground – are staggering.

It madT11_Didim_(37).JPGe a delightful finale to our car tour, with a tortoise munching the grass and a pair of storks trying to decide which of the columns to favour with a nest. All the ancient sites act as modern wild life sanctuaries.

Just a couple of miles beyond Didim is the beach resort of Altinkum, all packed and packaged, with no access to the sea front – and no ice cream! Returning via Söke to Seljuk (about 60 miles), we passed the ruins of Magnesia (another of Carl Humann's work places) scattered either side of the road near Ortoklar – but we have to leave something for next time!

For more images, click: In Didyma

14 April 2008   140 miles   SELJUK to KOYCEGIZ, Turkey   Köycegiz Camping   €5.00 (YTL 10.00)

Via Mugla and the Sakar Pass, from the Aegean to the Mediterranean at Lake Köycegiz

Back in our motorhome (how we'd missed its comforts while travelling by car),T13_Street_(15).JPG we drove 10 miles north from Seljuk to join the Izmir-Aydin motorway E67. We followed the quiet 6-lane motorway for 29 miles to its end at Aydin, which avoided a lot of climbing with its 2-mile long tunnel. The toll was once again YTL 1.75 (much less than a UK pound), which seems to apply to any size vehicle for any distance!

Road D550 took us south-east, through the town of Cine (20 miles on, at a low 300 ft), then a gentle climb to 1,640 ft. It was an oppressively hot still day, even high in the rocky hills where black & white cattle grazed among olive groves and a beekeeper was setting his hives. A flock of sheep was watched over by a peasant woman, wearing the usual baggy divided skirt and headscarf, with a pack-saddled donkey.

We passed Yatagan, a town 23 miles from Cine at 1,400 ft, then the provincial capital, Mugla, 14 miles later, up at 2,230 ft. Remaining above 2,000 ft for the next 7 miles, we reached the top of the Sakar Pass (over 2,500 ft), before zigzagging down. The 4-lane dual carriageway gave way to a narrower road as the hairpins got steeper for the last few miles. Oddly, every lay-by was occupied by a display of soft toys on sale (mostly black or white horses) - just what we needed at this point!

12 miles down from the top, almost at sea level, is the junction for the package resort of Marmaris. Instead, we turned east towards Lake Köycegiz, turning down to the lake after 20 miles, just past the village of Toparlar. On meeting the water, turn right (west) along the waterfront and in about a mile there is a shady wooded municipal campsite on the right.

We joined the resident hens, ducks, geese (plus a whole aviary of more exotic birds) for a peaceful night, once they had roosted, minding where to walk among the free range eggs!

15-16 April 2008   At KOYCEGIZ, Turkey   Köycegiz Camping

Working by the Lake

Two very proT14_Koyc_(89).JPGductive days on the quiet campsite, whose showers are hot as long as the sun shines: which it does - we're getting used to temperatures in the 70's F (20's C).

We worked on both laptops, catching up with diary and photographs for the website, as well as writing emails and postcards to send. It was a pleasant stroll by the lake into the small town of Köycegiz, which had all we need: post office, sT14_Koyc_(24).JPGmall supermarket, phone box and a waterside café with good wireless internet and freshly-squeezed oranges.

In the season (but not now) there are boat trips to various sites round the lake, from mud baths and thermal pools to Dalyan rock tombs and the ruins of ancient Kaunos. We simply enjoyed the view looking across the wide lake (popular with anglers whose rods are propped along the shore), linked to the Mediterranean at the far end by the complex channels of the Dalyan River.

17-18 April 2008   25 miles   KOYCEGIZ to ORTACA, Turkey   Acarlar Services

Re-tyred in Ortaca - or a Tale of 3 Coincidences

With a fill of 'city water' from the campsite, we set off SE for Fethiye over a steep 500 ft hill. Passing the small town of Ortaca after 15 miles, we spotted a supermarket and pulled into a service area, just to buy a fresh loaf for lunch.

As we steppedTyre_(6).JPG out we heard a huge BANG and a rush of air past our legs – a gun, an explosion? We looked towards the petrol pumps and saw everyone else was looking at us! Barry checked the LPG tank, then noticed the rear nearside outer tyre sagging a little. Getting underneath, he saw a gaping hole in the wall of the inner side of the inner tyre next to it!

Amazingly, we had stopped at a set of businesses all owned by one family, Yusuf Acar and his 3 brothers, which included 2 petrol stations, a supermarket, restaurant, good toilets, phone box, ATM, a 2-bay garage and a separate Pirelli tyre centre! Coincidence number one.

A flap in the wall of the tyre meant we couldn't move the motorhome withoutTyre_(3).JPG damaging something like a brake pipe, but a couple of tyre fitters came over and changed the burst tyre for our spare. They also found a nail in the tread of the neighbouring outer tyre (although it hadn't gone down) and repaired that. They said they couldn't provide a replacement tyre of the right size. After glasses of tea all round, we set off again hoping to get a new tyre further down the road in Fethiye or the larger town of Antalya.

About 5 miles down the road, we stopped to check their work and all looked OK - both tyres had stayed up and were only slightly warm. But checking the rear tyres on the other (driver's) side, Barry found a hot sagging outer tyre. The inner tyre felt soft and, crawling underneath, it had a similar hole in a similar place! Quite a moment. We couldn't believe it, checking with each other – was it really the other side last time? Coincidence number two.

Slowly returninGarage_Night.JPGg to the Acar Empire on the one good tyre, we set in motion the search for replacements. Yusuf Acar himself got on the phone, but his supplier in Izmir had a problem with their computer until tomorrow! We called the RAC in Paris (nice young female French voice, not much help but said she would look for a source of tyres - surely they could just ask Michelin, which couldn't be far away?). Motorhome Medics in Cheltenham were helpful with advice and started looking into the cost of shipping 2 tyres from the UK, should it come to that. If all else failed, we thought we might limp the 15 miles back to the good lakeside campsite at Koycegiz, to use the internet and a hire car to search for Michelin tyre centres ourselves. We spent an uneasy night, parked at the rear of the Shell fuel station, to see what the next day brought.

Next morning, after more phone calls and glasses of tea, Yusuf located Pirelli tyres available from the city of Denizili (near Pamukkale), about 150 miles away: size 245/70. Being about 3 cm taller than the existing 225/70 Michelins, they wouldn't fit well alongside the old ones, so all 4 rear tyres needed replacing (OK by us, as we no longer trusted them). Our 2 front tyres were changed in December 2005, so they should be OK, Insh'Allah, God Willing, Fingers Crossed.

Glasses of tea, served on little china saucers, were given freely anTyre_(8).JPGd regularly. Strong with sugar. One person was employed full-time to make and distribute it to staff and customers around the Acar Empire from their own little kitchen, alongside the barber's and toilets.

The 4 tyres finaTyre_(1).JPGlly arrived after 6 pm, but the team (Yusuf, plus his manager and 2 tyre fitters – none of whom spoke a word of any language that we know) stayed to do the work. To everyone's relief, they fitted easily – in fact, the senior fitter got a bit emotional (in Turkish) when questioned about his judgement (using drawings), showing us his Certificates hanging on the wall. Good technique, that.

Darkness had fallen by the time all this was finished. We can't thank Yusuf Acar and his staff enough for all their patience, help and cTyre_(9).JPGourtesy, ending in hugs all round. We slept more soundly for our second night on their premises.

And coincidence number three? We looked at the account of our last journey along this route, in our previous motorhome, coming the other way in 1997. We had written off a tyre on the 13 October near Kas, had it replaced with our spare at a local garage, and were travelling carefully westwards looking for a new tyre (which we eventually got in Kusadasi after an 8-day wait, sent from Istanbul!) We spent the night of the 14th camped at a petrol station near Ortaca and ate at the café there! It was a much simpler place in those pre-Acarlar days, over 10 years ago, with no tyre centre – obviously.

19 April 2008   15 miles   ORTACA to KOYCEGIZ, Turkey   Köycegiz Camping   €5.00 (YTL 10.00)

Return to Lake Köycegiz

After the events T14_Koyc_(29).JPGof the last 2 days, we returned to the lakeside for some Rest and Relaxation before continuing! The campsite had been taken over by a convoy of 11 French motorhomes, but peace was restored when they left for Fethiye in the afternoon.

That just left us, the local Jandarma (para-military national police force) playing football, local families having a picnic and feeding the birds (who have produced strings of chicks and ducklings in our absence!), and the campsite puppies who like to play with any shoes left outside … It's nice to be back – and the tyres have stayed up.

20-23 April 2008   At KOYCEGIZ, Turkey   Köycegiz Camping

By the Lake

We made good use of the T14_Koyc_(31).JPGfree wireless internet for customers at the lakeside Mona Lisa Café (amongst others), sampling their fresh orange juice, coffee, tea and toasted sandwiches while working. As well as working on our website, we renewed our Road Fund Licence on-line and extended the Green Card insurance cover for Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania with Bakers. We emailed friends, including Don Madge (MMM Travel Consultant) for information on Cyprus, and heard from Martin Wiltshire that he'd let us have a piece on the attempted robbery he suffered from 3 armed intruders while motorhoming in France.

Having sorted T14_Koyc_(39).JPGout the problem of our motorhome tyres, we had another mild shock. On taking the cover off our bicycles, which travel high behind us on a bike-rack, we found the outer cycle (Margaret's) had a dented front fork. We must have bumped against the corner of a building or tree unawares, while manoeuvring recently. Forced to abandon our planned cycle ride, Barry removed and checked the front wheel, which luckily had remained undamaged and true. He managed to knock the front pannier rack straight, but the front forks must be replaced. A phone call to Paul Hewitt in Leyland, who built the bikes for us, was very reassuring. A replacement, in the original colour (flame red), can easily be despatched to us once we supply an address.

The Monday morning street market in Köycegiz sold mostly T14_Koyc_(18).JPGclothes, shoes, etc rather than produce, but the small Sok supermarket supplied our needs, including the ever-fresh daily loaf at half a Lira (less than 20 UK Pence). The tiny Tourist Office handed out good leaflets and a promotional DVD in English, as well as complimentary chocolates. We like it here!

The 23 April is aT14_Koyc_(43).JPG Turkish public holiday – National Sovereignty & Children's Day – it's an international day but, for the Turks, it also commemorates the first meeting of the Grand National Assembly in 1920. The fun and games for the children from the town and surrounding area took place at our picnic/camping site, which the gardeners have been tidying up in readiness.

Each school put up a table and noticeT14_Koyc_(71).JPG board, displaying the children's art and craft work. The drawings and paintings were very good, including some copies of the Impressionists done by the seniors. Oddly, there was no needlework, but lots of models made from simple materials – egg boxes, plastic bottles, match sticks, wooden toothpicks and lolly sticks – all very colourful. A few items were on salT14_Koyc_(75).JPGe for school funds and M bought a pretty necklace. What really impressed us was the joy and enthusiasm of children who were, nevertheless, well controlled and orderly: hundreds of them! In another area, a little band (drums and flute) played while different groups of children in traditional costume danced energetically to the rhythm, watched by their proud parents.

There were plenty of stalls makiT14_Koyc_(78).JPGng and selling food (for which the children had tickets). We sampled the kebabs, stuffed vine leaves, Gözleme (savoury pancakes) and a plate of assorted pastries – but not all at once! As the afternoon wore on, family groups sat around on the grass, resting or eating. Boys played with footballs or the simple kites they had made, girls giggled their way through skipping games, taking us each back to our own childhoods. By 5 pm they were gone, on foot or taken home in school minibuses, and the ducks came out of hiding from under our motorhome. What simplicity; what naivety; what fun!

For more images, click: In Koycegiz

24 April 2008   17 miles   KOYCEGIZ to DALYAN, Turkey   Dalyan Camping   €12.50 (YTL 25.00)

Down the Dalyan River Valley

Before leavingT14_Koyc_(90).JPG Koycegiz, we had another shock – the toilet/shower block (mostly plastic) in the adjacent field had caught fire overnight, caused by an electrical fault. It was now a sodden blackened mess, being inspected by 2 policemen and a sad campsite manager. Another narrow escape for us, as it might have happened while taking a shower!

We drove into Koycegiz and parked by the lake beyond the cafes, for a last orange juice and internet session at the Mona Lisa. Then we took the main road SE towards Ortaca, turning off after 8 miles on a narrow route via Akcakavak to Dalyan. Thankfully, we only met pickups loaded with oranges as we wound our way through the orchards, until the busy riverside resort of Dalyan.

Squeezing through the crowded main shopping street (completeT15_Dalyan_(10).JPG with road works and parked cars), then past the line of restaurants and hotels blocking access to the river, we despaired of finding the campsite, or even a parking place. Finally we spotted a small sign on the right to Dalyan Camping, just round the corner. Brushing the name- plate on the entrance arch with the top of our air-con unit, we made it onto a small grassy site. The guardian emerged from one of the little wooden bungalows, asking how tall we were. '3.5 metres' - 'Good, now I know the height of the entrance!'

We had the T15_Dalyan_(11).JPGplace to ourselves, with a superb view of the 4th century BC Lycian Rock tombs, their facades carved into the high cliffs on the opposite bank of the river. The Lycians were one of the post-Hittite peoples of Anatolia, who established city-states across the area from modern Fethiye to Antalya in the 6th-5th centuries BC. They were eventually over-run by Xerxes and the Persians, then coloniseT15_Dalyan_(16).JPGd by Greece and finally Rome, when Antony was given control of the eastern empire. Lycians were the only Anatolians who were not derided as barbarians by the Greeks: they had their own language and script until Alexander the Great imposed Greek. We were to see more of their monuments further along our route, at Xanthos and Myra. See www.lycianturkey.com for a detailed history.

The high campsite price reflected its position, but we did get free use of the washing machine. Our clothes were dry in an hour, strung between the tall eucalyptus trees which showered everything in yellow pollen!

An afterT15_Dalyan_(10a).JPGnoon walk along the reedy river made us the target of the many boatmen, offering trips to the Roman ruins at the ancient harbour city of Kaunos, or to Izutzu (Turtle) Beach, 6 miles away where the river delta meets the Mediterranean, or across the lake to Koycegiz – all of which we resisted. This is package tourist territory (using nearby Dalaman Airport), reflected in the amount of accommodation, the 'Full English Breakfast' type menus and the number of boats, most of which were lying idle. We returned through the town, shopping at M-Migros (a Russian supermarket chain).

In the evening we watched Greek TV (Net channel), beamed across from Rhodes!

For more images, click: In Dalyan

25 April 2008   135 miles   DALYAN to DEMRE (or KALE), Turkey   Car Park at Ancient Myra   €5.00 (YTL 10.00)

Past Fethiye, round Ancient Xanthos and through Kas to Demre

Today is Orthodox Good Friday in Greece and we were woken by earth tremors at 7.45 am (any connection?) It was a Richter 4.8, epicentre Denizli, which has had a series of 16 minor quakes in the past fortnight. It is also Anzac Day, with thousands gathered at Anzac Cove for the 93rd anniversary of the dawn landings.

Leaving Dalyan on a wider road, we joined the main D400 after 8 miles at Ortaca, then waved to the Acarlar services as we passed, confident on our new tyres. The road climbed to 550 ft but a new short tunnel, 9 miles along, saved traversing a 340 m (1,100 ft) pass - €2 well spent. Continuing through rocky hills and rolling pine forest, we reached 800 ft before dropping to the coast near Fethiye: a yachting centre on a broad bay.

At 36 miles (from Dalyan) we passed the turn-off for Fethiye and the beach resort of Oludeniz (= Dead Sea). We had visited this area before (see 13-14 Oct 1997), including the ghost town of Kayaköy which inspired Louis de Berniere's 'Birds without Wings'. Today we drove by, east on road 400, pausing only for a fill of petrol. For some reason it came with a gift: 2 dusters and 2 small packets of Omo. Now, if they were giving free petrol when you buy Omo, that would be good!

At 49 miles we turned south for Kas and the coastal road to AntalyaT16_Xanthos_(15).JPG. (The inland route via Korkuteli is 60 miles or so shorter but very mountainous – we could see the snowy peaks in the distance.) At 73 miles we turned up a lane on the right, making a short detour to visit the extensive World Heritage remains of Xanthos, the capital city of Ancient Lycia (see yesterday's notes and www.lycianturkey.com).

The wonderful warm sunnyT16_Xanthos_(36).JPG day was perfect for scrambling among the ruins for an hour or so, exploring a fine little Roman theatre and the foundations of an early Christian church. Nearby were Lycian pillar tombs (one with a long inscription in their ancient language), but their sculptures disappeared to the British Museum in 1842. The necropolis had massive Roman sarcophagi. Climbing the hill above, we found more Lycian rock tombs cut into the rock face, some at ground leT16_Xanthos_(47).JPGvel, all broken open long ago by grave-robbers. Still impressive, they must have looked magnificent when freshly carved and brightly painted. From the top of the former acropolis we had a fine view of the theatre and agora – and over the sea of plastic greenhouses covering tomatoes and melons, now grown along the alluvial plain below. Lunching in the car park, we met a young Israeli couple walking part of the Lycian Way long-distance footpath.

For more images, click: In Xanthos

Returning to the main road (less than a mile), we continued south for 10 miles, climbing above 700 ft into the hills before a steep descent to the coast at Kalkan, an old Ottoman fishing village whose bay is now devoted to tourism, with a yacht marina and hotel complexes.

We followed the lovely coast road for 15 miles to Kas, another fishing harbour turned tourist resort, complete with Roman theatre and Lycian rock tombs. On the left of the road entering town we passed Camping Olympia, which looked busy, with Paragliders landing on the strip of beach opposite. We knew that overnight parking was possible at Kas harbour but it turned out that Friday is market day here, with stalls and traffic blocking the roads. Seeing no way through, we turned left for Antalya, rather than right for the centre/harbour/Kas Camping, and were relieved to climb the hill out of town. It was 3 pm and we'd driven 100 miles.

Over the next 30 miles, road 400 climbed inland through scrubby terrain, reaching almost 2,100 ft, before gradually dropping to sea lT17_Myra_(10).JPGevel at Demre (also known as Kale, meaning Castle), 30 miles from Kas. Approaching the town, we turned left at the sign 'Myra 3 km', where we hoped to find a quiet car park near the Greco-Roman theatre.

And so there was, by the 'Kivrak Orange Garden' café and gift shop, with a view of many more Lycian rock tombs cut into the hillside above the theatre, below the medieval castle walls. The parking fee included use of tap and toilets. The oranges had all been picked and the scent of blossom filled the quiet night air.

26 April 2008   130 miles   DEMRE (or KALE) to BEYPET, Nr MANAVGAT, Turkey   Beypet Mocamp   €5.00 (YTL 10.00)

Theatre visit in Myra, Shopping in Kemer, Motorway madness round Antalya

Demre (or Kale) was the Roman port of Myra, on a fertile river delta – one T17_Myra_(31).JPGof many places where St Paul staged on his way to Rome. The silting of the harbour, which led to its decline, now supports intensive vegetable farming and it is a busy market town.

The ticket-seller let us inT17_Myra_(39).JPGto the theatre when he arrived at 8.45 am and we had the astonishing auditorium to ourselves – apart from 4 goats (2 females tethered to graze the orchestra pit, while 2 males locked horns in battle, leaping up and down the tiers of seats!) A stone carving of theatrical masks was unusual. The Lycian tombs hewn from the rock came down to ground level and there was a thorough history in 4 languages, claiming that the Lycians were descended from Lyceus, banished son of a king of Athens, who came to Turkey from Crete in the 5th C BC.

By the 4th C AD, Myra was large enough to have its own bishop, one T17_Myra_(23).JPGof whom was to become famous as St Nicholas (Santa Claus). He died here in 343 AD and the Byzantine Basilica built to hold his remains became a pilgrimage site. Italian looters smashed the tomb and took the relics to Bari in 1087, where they remain. The remains of the basilica or 'Noel Baba (Father Christmas) Museum' were partly restored by Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. We visited it 10 years ago (12 October 1997) so didn't want to renew the disappointment this time!

For more images, click: In Myra

Back on the main D400, we continued eastwards along the flat coast: 5 miles of tomato farms on one side and fish/blue crabs for sale on the other. Then the road twisted up and down for 13 miles to Finike, but it had been widened since our last visit and the maximum height was 100 ft, with a constant view of the blue Mediterranean, fringed in turquoise along the rocky shore. Beautiful – and quiet.

Finike is another port with a large marina, and the start of a good dual carriageway eastwards. Crossing a fertile plain backed by tree-speckled mountains, the orange groves and greenhouses were interspersed with apartment blocks. Each flat had a balcony and satellite dish, the roofs covered in solar water tanks, and the pavements lined with the small palm trees that are also called 'Finikes' in Greek (as in Camping Finikes, Finikounda!).

9 miles from T_Street_(75).JPGFinike, the road turned sharply north for 3 miles to the large citrus-farming market town of Kumluca. We were soon through the centre on broad well-signed streets, but saw nowhere to park and shop (the supermarkets being on the far side of a dual carriageway).

Then the road climbed inland through pine forest, past a Forestry College and forest workers' camps at the roadside, where their women hung washing and squatted by fires making tea.. Entering the Bey Mountains Coastal National Park (our max height 1,837 ft), there were a few cafes and picnic places in the woods, with honey-sellers at the roadside. We passed lanes leading off the highway to the ruins of Ancient Olympos and the Chimaera flame – better explored in a small vehicle, as we did by motorbike (see 9-11 October 1997).

30 miles from Kumluca we detoured right, into Kemer, a purpose-built resort. At least it offered space to park at a Carrefour supermarket, making lunch while we waited for the spit-roast chickens to be ready!

Another 5 miles along the highway, we passed Camping Kindilcesme, in the forest on the right between road and sea. We stayed there in 1977 but now found it closed, with chains across the entrance. Disappointed, we continued towards Antalya, the coast becoming ever more developed.

Approaching Antalya (84 miles from Myra) along the seashore was a shock. The population of 776,000 all seem to have a car! The start of the highway running from Antalya to Alanya was badly signposted, with local place names, and we found our way by watching for the airport symbol at each junction. In addition, a small section was closed with an unsigned diversion!

The highway eastwards was very busy all the way along. After passing the exit for Aspendos (a Roman theatre still in use, restored by Atatürk himself), we looked out for the Beypet services and camping that we remembered from our stay (5-7 October 1997). Beypet restaurant and fuel station, 10 miles before Side/Manavgat, was still there, but on the wrong side of the dual carriageway which has replaced the simple main road. There was no indication that it still had a campground behind, so we doubled back to check, finding it sadly neglected but at least open (pay at the petrol station). The peaceful place we remembered now thrummed to the sound of traffic and the tourist shop had closed down, a few souvenirs gathering dust in the window: a dual carriageway obviously halves the passing trade. We were alone, apart from the gardener bravely tackling the huge expanse of grass with a little electric mower.

27 April 2008   66 miles   BEYPET, Nr MANAVGAT to DEMIRTAS, nr ALANYA,   Turkey Sedre Camping   €5.00 (YTL 10.00)

Along the Coast past Alanya, from West to East Mediterranean

The strangled cries of a chicken in the hands of the gardener accompanied our breakfast. We decided to move on!

The 4-lane coastal highway was quieter on this Sunday morning as we drove 10 miles to Manavgat, past the beach resort of Side which has swamped the Roman remains there (see 6 October 1997). In the village of Kizilot (also called Karacalar on our map) there were 2 campsites, each off to the right by the beach. The first, Osay Camping, looked OK but was deserted, with no sign of electrical points and no-one to ask. The second, the Swiss-run Nostalgie Beach, was very small and only accessible by a rough lane. We walked down to check but it was too narrow for us. It bore not relationship to its own propaganda.

The next stretch of cT_Street_(85).JPGoast is known as the Turkish Riviera or Turkey's Miami, to mix metaphors. We passed a continuous line of incredibly large hotels on both sides – all 5 star resorts, with names like Blue Bay Village, Dream Garden, White City … Groups of packaged holiday-makers were obviously British, German or Scandinavian.

This development lasted for over 30 miles to Alanya, where the highway bypassed the peninsula which is crowned by a Seljuk fortress built in 1225 (see 5 October 1997 for previous visit). Continuing east from Alanya, through an area of banana plantations, we passed Perle Camping after 10 miles but remembered it as cramped, noisy and Germanic.

Luckily, 3 miles further along, we saw a new campsite/restaurant on the right. T18_Sedre_(14).JPGPulling in, we had a warm welcome from Kamil Acar, the Manager, who sent a tray of tea and savoury pancakes over as soon as we had settled! This was followed by a plate of delicious baklava cake and a dish of fresh fruits (including strawberries), all from the feast taking place in the restaurant. Not a wedding celebration, as we thought, but a circumcision T18_Sedre_(22).JPGparty.

We discovered that our helpful neighbouring camper, Koray Tezcan, is President of the Turkish Caravan & Camping Club, spending his winter here! The campsite also has free WiFi internet, a washing machine, fresh bread for sale - all we need.

There is good reception here for a Greek-Cypriot TV channel, showing English language Euronews bulletins and evening films. Tonight (Easter Sunday)'s film was 'Camelot' with a very youthful Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave!

For more images, click: In Camping Sedre

28 April - ? May 2008   At Sedre Camping, DEMIRTAS, nr ALANYA,   Turkey

To read the continuation of this travel log, click: In Turkey: May 2008

For images of the journey, click: Turkey in Colour

For more details and images of our motorhome, click: A Flair for Travel

For more details of our touring bicycles, click: Paul Hewitt Tourers