Sunday, 30 September 2012

Athens, Greece (30 Sept 2012)

Today we spent the day in Athens, a city that needs no introduction. Our first stop – The Acropolis.


When we arrived at about 2pm, the place was swamped with tourist, coupled with the very hot weather meant that we did not enjoy our time here as much as we would have liked to. Every little bit of shade is occupied by tourist seeking a time out from the blistering hot sun.

Dad busy taking photo at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the Propylea.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Live music and archaeological findings in Delphi, Greece (29 Sept 2012)

Today we made our way to Delphi. We passed cotton fields and olive plantations on the way. 

Here are some pics en route to Delphi.

Came across this kantina on the roadside at noon. Since it is lunch time, we decided to try out the food.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Thessaloniki, Ancient City of Pella, Vergina Tombs and Dion – Greece (26–27 Sept 2012)

We spent 26th September travelling from Kavala to Thessaloniki. In the village of Amfipoli, we came across the Lion of Amphipolis.



Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tobacco and Ancient Aqueduct (25 Sept 2012)


The next morning, as we drove near the village of Polyanthos, we came across large fields of tobacco plant. At first, we did not know what type of plants they were. When we spotted a farmer and his wife working on one of the fields, we stopped and went to have a look. It was only when the farmer told us what it was that we knew. He was so excited to show us the simple machine he used to pull a string through the collected tobacco leaves, ready for drying out. 

Tobacco plant.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Canakkale and border crossing from Turkey to Greece (23-24 Sept 2012)

We reached Canakkale on 23 Sept 2012 and took the ferry across the Dardanelles to Kilitbahir.

Queuing up to board the ferry from Canakkale to Kilitbahir.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Aegean Coast, Pegasus, Zeus Altar and Alexandreia Troas (19-22 Sept 2012)

After Foca, we continued along the coast towards Canakkale. The views are simply breathtaking as we drove up and down cliffs and negotiated sharp bends along the coastal roads. We decided to skip Istanbul on this leg of the trip and will visit the city on our return journey next year.

Camakli Village facing the Aegean Sea.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Emirdag to Izmir, Turkey (16-18 Sept 2012)

We took the road towards Usak to our main destination of Izmir. We are surrounded by vast expanse of cultivated land – grapes, corns and olives. We passed by trailers full of corns on their way to the processing plant, spilling a few corn on to the road, treats for the goats or cows. There were lots of grapes farms in towns like Sart, Mersindere and Gokkaya but the grapes were all drying out. 
On 17th Sept, we took some time to rotate the tyres on Our Sorento, swapping round the new spare tyre as well.

We reached Izmir on 18 Sept 2012 and was greeted by a vibrant, busy city. The roads were congested. We had lunch and made our way out towards Foca.
Izmir city from a distance.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Onwards to marble country – Emirdag, Turkey (13-15 Sept 2012)

After the amazing landscapes of Cappadocia, the land turned almost completely flat and seems pretty uninteresting once we were out of the region. We drove through acres of corn and sunflower fields. After two days of driving through smaller villages and towns, we find ourselves in marble country, Emirdag. 
Turkey is located at one of the oldest marble production geography experiencing more than 4,000 years of natural stone production starting at the Marmara Island. Turkey holds more than 40% of the world’s marble reserves, making it the world’s most important natural stone manufacturer. Naturally, the marble cutting factories ran for miles and we drove through countless number of companies all the way from Iscehisar to Afyou Karahiser. We did see long trailers transporting one block of marble at a time on the roads the past few days. All those marbles were destined for the factories in Emirdag to be cut into marble tiles or made into water fountain, statues etc both for the local market and for export purposes.
Blocks of marble, as big as a van, are transported from the marble quarry one at a time on long trailers.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Cappadocia (Part 5–Selime), Turkey (12 Sept 2012)

Our last stop in Cappadocia is Selime, situated at the end of scenic Ihlara Valley. There is a church hollowed out from the soft rock called Selime Cathedral.



Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Monday, 10 September 2012

Cappadocia (Part 3–Ortahisar & Goreme), Turkey (10 Sept 2012)


Hot air balloon, a nice but very expensive way of exploring the sites of Cappadocia. They also start very early in the morning so you can watch the sun rise in the horizon from the hot air baloon.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Cappadocia (Part 1–Urgup), Turkey (7–8 Sept 2012)

Stepping into Cappadocia is like stepping into a whole different world. Cappadocia is located in the middle of the Anatolian region in the province of Nevsehir. The unique landscape we see here today came to be when three nearby volcanoes erupted frequently millions of years ago. Over the years, wind, earthquakes and other acts of nature caused the softer volcanic soil to be eroded forming “fairy chimneys” and other amazing rock formations. People living here a long time ago took advantage of this and made their home in the rock pillars and even underground. There are so many of these houses, churches and complete cities in Cappadocia. Today, some of these rock houses are still in use and quite a number have been turned into hotels and guest houses. 
We started our journey through the Cappadocia region from Urgup. 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Fasulye and melons in Kayseri, Turkey (5–6 Sept 2012)

The morning found us about 50 km east of Pinarbasi town, we got off the main road towards Karabogaz village, following a river and stopping at a vegetable farm taking shade under a tree with a stream nearby.The farmer use the stream to water his plot of maize and fasulye (green beans) the length of a palm. We joined the ladies in harvesting the beans. We took advantage of the free flowing stream to wash off the thick layer of dust on Our Sorento. We made and invited the farmer to tea. He obliged by plucking some corns and roasting it on fire. The corns were sweet and tender. We got his name as Cahit Tumuklu, a very hardworking man. He specialises in diverting and controlling the water stream flowing to his vast plots. We stayed and whiled our time away before moving on to Kayseri just before sundown.
Water wheel at Karabogaz village.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Apricot land – Malatya, Turkey (3–4 Sept 2012)

Malatya is a city located in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey and is the world’s largest producer of dried apricots. The apricots from this region is very sweet, both the fresh and the dried apricots. On arrival, we were greeted with different shades of orange, the sight of apricots drying on the ground under direct sunlight. The city holds an annual fair to celebrate the fruit and promote Malatya but we are just over two months late for it.
>> Welcome to Malatya, world’s largest producer of dried apricot!

>> Rows of fresh apricots laid out on the ground between the rows of houses and the road we were driving on. 

DSC_0604>> In Malatya, apricots are still dried using traditional means. Producers work tirelessly to sort the apricots and dry them out while the sun is still hot.


>> Fresh apricots (bottom) are more yellowish. As the fruit dries out in the sun, the orange colour becomes deeper.

>> More apricots at various stages of drying out.

The drive from Malatya to Pinarbasi took us through towns and villages such as Darende, Develi, Kurecile and Kozluca where the are more drying of apricots and selling of dried apricots by the roadside. It was hot, so we broke journey to rest under an apricot tree in one of the many orchards. Its almost off season, so there are no fresh apricots on the tree. We recognised the trees from the ripened apricots scattered under the trees.

At Yazikoy we stopped at a local eatery and had rice with kebabs and meatballs for lunch.
The views on the drive from Malatya to Pinarbasi were amazing, hills and valleys with stretches that are desert like, interspersed with shrubs. Here are the photos:

Decades of exposure to the elements uncovers these layers of compressed rocks.

Harsh landscape

Harsh landscape

>> Apricot orchards. It must not have been easy planting apricot in such a landscape. At this time of the year, all the fresh apricots have been harvested. We recognised the orchard by the rotten or dried up apricot scattered around the apricot trees.

>> Tohma Canyon in the village of Darende.


Shepherds, with the help of their donkey and dogs, have to walk for miles in search of grazing fields for their flock of sheep.

>> Our Sorento vs The Whomping Willow. Taking yet another short break from the blistering heat.




Sunday, 2 September 2012

Hospitality and kindness at every turn – from Kovancilar to Elazig, Turkey (2 Sept 2012)


Kovancilar is a small one street town located east of Elazig. We stopped at a bakery that was churning out fresh steaming bread. It is Sunday, the villagers, all men, were having their morning tea at the local café, some watching the morning traffic, most were chatting away till we came by.  We waved and gleefully they waved back, peering to have a look at Our Sorento, probably wondering where we are from. Dad bought two loaves of bread, just out of the oven. A few meters away dad spotted a man chopping vegetables and putting them into a clay pot. We stopped and got out of the car to take a closer look. No longer surprised, we were greeted with typical Turkish friendliness. Mr Ismail and his nephew Omer Faruk, gestured to us to come nearer to the clay pot and chairs were shoved for us to sit on. They were making “Kuzu Guvek”, a traditional Turkish dish made up of layers of aubergine, tomatoes, garlic, peppers and lamb (all cubed) cooked in a clay pot.

>> Mr Ismail (right) and his nephew, Omer Faruk (seated) preparing the Kuzu Guvek (claypot lamb stew), a traditional Turkish dish.

>> The final product.. Mr. Ismail topped his Kuzu Guvek with lamb fats and a generous amount of butter before taking it to the nearby bakery to bake for 2 hours. Once cooked, the dish will be shared with his baker and his friends.

 Just as we were about to leave, a young man carrying a tray of tea, “cay” in Turkish, and a flat bread walked towards us. Without us knowing, Mr. Ismail  had ordered tea for us and he immediately served us glasses of the piping hot tea. The flat bread was courtesy of the bakery. We obliged, with Mr. Ismail proudly continuing to tell us how he prepared the Kuzu Guvek. It will bake for two hours at his friend’s bakery. He invited us to stay for a lunch of the Kuzu Guvek stew (wish we could) but we politely declined. Dad wanted to buy the watermelon he picked which Mr Ismail was selling at his grocery store, but he refused to accept our payment even when dad insisted. We thanked him for his generosity and waved everyone goodbye. We felt very blessed to have met so many kind, generous folks on our journey through Iran and Turkey so far. Never fails to put a smile on your face. May God bless them all.

>> Group photo before we said our goodbyes. In the background is the small grocery store that Mr. Ismail operates with the help of his nephew.
L to R: Dad, Osman Bedretin Sonay, Mr. Ismail Sonay, Omer Faruk Sonay and Mum.

>> Turkish tea called “cay”. Tea drinking is an important part of Turkish culture. Turks drink their tea black, with sugar cubes or sweets. Milk is never added. The tea is strong, the taste of which is not at all the same as the Boh or Lipton tea we are used to at home.



We left the Sonays and made our way towards Elazig, passing by parts of Keban Baraji Golu (Keban Dam Lake). According to Wikipedia, this huge lake which is a reservoir created by Keban Dam, is currently the fourth largest lake in Turkey with a surface area of 675 sq. km. It was the largest man-made reservoir in Turkey until the Ataturk Dam reservoir came to be built.

>> This is the first few glimpse of Keban Dam Lake that greeted us as we drove along “Elazig Bingol Yolu”. This road runs along the south west part of the lake.


>> Near the village of Elmapinari, dad saw a fishing boat making its landing. We took the first dirt road towards the edge of the lake. A truck from a local restaurant was waiting to take the fishes, all trout, away. We took photos of the activities as the fishermen sorted the trout for the restaurant guys.

We decide to buy 3 trout for dinner tonight. The middleman misunderstood and thought that we wanted to buy 3 kilos! When we saw him enthusiastically putting the fishes in a large bag, we stopped him and with more signing and hand waving, the fisherman must have finally understood that we only wanted 3 pieces and not 3 kilos. We had our money out ready to pay but the fisherman absolutely refused to accept payment. We thanked the fishermen and said goodbye to everyone. 

>> Fishermen  working while the two boys take a dip in the cool waters of the lake.

>> Fresh trouts, 3 of which are our dinner tonight.

>> Another view of the Keban Dam / Lake.


We followed the dirt road along the lake to make our way back to “Elazig Bingol Yolu”. It is now lunch time and we started to look around for a place we could stop and have our picnic lunch. At about 1pm, we were nearing Elazig town. We decided to continue on Elazig Bingol Yolu (or D300), bypassing Elazig town centre. By now, we were very hungry and have no desire to maneuver around traffic in Elazig town centre. Unfortunate for us, the road in this stretch are like motorways with side barriers not much places that we could stop. So, as soon as we find some shady trees, we stopped. Just as we were parking, the owner of the orchard came towards us to shoo us off. We gestured to him that we are stopping for a short lunch and would be off soon. He realized we are travellers and invited us to use his gazebo instead. We thank him and he disappeared. He soon came back with tray full of grapes, apricots, peppers, apples and peaches and gave them to us. He disappeared again but soon came back to sit with us. We asked him to join us for lunch, but he declined saying he had his already. He did accept some curry chicken and bread to taste though. He thank us and disappeared again, this time we watched him. He walked in the direction of his house and moments later reappeared with his wife. By then we are done with our lunch and started to pack our things. Mr. Nejati Kanter and his wife insisted that we stayed and have tea with them. We obliged so as not to offend them.
As his wife made tea, Mr. Nejati gave us a tour of his orchard. He showed us all the veg and fruit trees he had. There were a lot of them but he said that he mostly planted them for his own consumption and gives them to his neighbours as well. Mrs. Nejati soon joined us again. She then took mum and I on a tour of her double storey bungalow. It has been recently renovated. We chatted over tea and Mr. Nejati and his wife told us about their family. They have a son and a daughter who are currently living abroad. They keep in touch through Skype. Through their daughter in the US, Mr. Nejati and his wife learned some basic English.

>> Our simple picnic lunch of chicken curry, bread and salad. Mr. Nejati Kanter gave us the tray of grapes on the right and the container of apples, peaches, appricots and peppers.

>> Mr Nejati happily giving us a tour of his orchard. Here he is showing us his aubergine plants.

>> “These are apricots” said  Mr. Nejati  proudly. Apricots grew abundantly in this region. Having only ever seen dried apricots so far, we mistook the apricots for plums that has not yet ripened. We are now a little wiser.

>> Family photo at the balcony of Mr & Mrs Nejati’s house. Mum is holding up dried peppers and aubergine. The extra harvest from their garden are cleaned and the insides hollowed out. The veg, especially chilli peppers and aubergine, are then stringed together and hung on the balcony railing or windows to dry in the hot sun. Once completely dried, Mrs Nejati cuts them to smaller pieces and stores them.
Stringed peppers and aubergine hanging to dry outside houses is a very common sight in Turkey. When they are completely dried, their vibrant colours are still intact, which makes nice decorations. On a windy day, they almost sound like wind chimes.

>> Here we are, almost done with tea, served with some sweets and sugar cubes.
L to R: Mum, Seher Kanter (wife), Bedri Kanter (Mr. Nejati’s brother, who stays in the next plot), Yasmin Kanter (Mr. Bedri’s wife), Mr. Nejati Kanter and dad. So ever glad to have visitors to their house for tea.
Mr. Nejati’s brother and his wife came over too.


With loads of fruits and vegetables, courtesy of Mr. Nejati and his wife, we left at 3pm and continued to drive for another 50+km on “Elazig Malatya Yolu” / D300 towards Kale. We took a slow drive and enjoyed the view. We made a short stop mid way to cook our trout curry for dinner tonight.

Just after 6pm, we crossed Komurhan Bridge and saw a spot along the edge of Karakaya Dam Lake where locals were fishing and having picnic dinner. We decided to stop and watch the sunset as we enjoy dinner. 

>> Komurhan Bridge at Karakaya Dam Lake.








>> Our dinner, trout curry with bread, fresh vege and fruits.


>>We are not yet in Muster or Colmar, France but we did come across this solitary nest perched on an electricity pole. Taken near the village of Yolüstü, Elizag.



>> Escaping the heat under shady trees we find ourselves right next to the railway tracks near Yolüstü village.


>> Make shift refrigerator next to the veg/fruit stall.
Waterholes like this are very common around Turkey. This is one of the larger ones we came across. The water is super cool, a nice contrast against the blistering heat. Excess water are channeled to nearby agricultural land. 
We were told the water is drinkable as they are underground water. Most of the time, we use the water to wash and cool the fruits we bought before we get to eating them.

>> Grapes on vine. Taken in a village near the Keban Dam Lake.

>> A fruit and veg stall near Keban Dam Lake. Note the old scale with weights here. They are now antiques at home.
We couldn’t resist the grapes and peaches, dad bought some to add to the fruit stock pile we have in Our Sorento. A healthy snack for when we feel like munching on something.