Traveling Through Turkey With a Friend

Hello Family and Friends,

We hope you are all doing well! This blog post is dedicated to our dear friend, Margherita.  She met us in Turkey for two weeks of travel and adventures.  We were in desperate need to see a familiar face so her timing was perfect. We spent two weeks sharing a room and we are happy to report that she's still friends with us!  

First, we met in Istanbul for five days in the big city. 

Entering the historic Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque).  This is one of the few mosques in the world to boast six minarets.  It is popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles that line the interior.

It is absolutely stunning inside.  However, the combination of carpet and hundreds of thousands of barefoot visitors makes for one smelly environment.

Margherita was interviewed by a local student.  When asked her age she responded with "never ask a woman her age!"  He thought that was funny and said he would remove that question from the questionaire.   Women around the world will be thankful for that!

We were told to pay a visit to the oldest water pipe (known as nargile in Turkey and shisha in Egypt) bars in Istanbul.  We checked out the scene the night before Margherita arrived to make sure it was all that it was cracked up to be.  As soon as we walked in our senses were assaulted with the sweet smell of the ever-popular apple flavored tobacco and our faces felt flush from the heat of the hot coals.   This was the place to be in the city.  Women and men alike were enjoying taking turns puffing on the pipe.   It quickly became one of our favorite daily spots in town.  Margherita approved!

Topkapi Palace - you weren't allowed to take pictures inside the rooms but one of the items on display was the Staff of Moses.

What should we do next, tour guide?

Why is Josh posing this way? He's in the circumcision room. Ouch!

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) - sixth-century Byzantine masterpiece that is a famous church-turned-mosque-turned museum.

After all of that sightseeing it was time to enjoy a great dinner on the water.

Guess who was in Istanbul at the same time as us?  Andrew and Liz, the wonderful couple that we met in Africa on our safari.  They met us for dinner and we introduced them to the nargile bar. It's such a bonus to rendezvous with friends we've met along our travels.  At the time we met, they had been traveling for over 9 months and Liz keeps a blog of each day of their travels.  That's so impressive considering we are over a month behind on our blog.  She does an incredible job capturing each day's activities and budget.  Check out her blog at A big pat on the back to you, Liz! Keep it up! We look forward to a third rendezvous.

Marghi getting her shop on at the Grand Bazaar.

Spices and Turkish Delight, oh my!

Leanne pretending to get her shop on. Really she's just holding Marghi's bags.  Leanne used her negotiating techniques and scored an amazing deal on a beautiful, silk bedspread for Marghi.  She got the guy down to a fraction of what he was originally took 45 minutes and a lot of patience but it was all worth it!

Basilica Cistern - an unexpectedly romantic attraction that offers insight into the complicated system that once brought drinking water into Istanbul.  It was remarkably beautiful and offered a cool escape to the outside heat.

Upside down head of Medusa

The following day we took a Bosphorus cruise down the Sea of Marmara.

We went to a nice dinner as a second celebration for Josh's birthday.  The restaurant that we went to on his actual birthday in Israel wasn't that good so we wanted to celebrate it right this time. Leanne was sneaky and when asked if there was a special occasion while making reservations, she told the restaurant that it was for Josh's birthday.  We got dolled up for the occasion.

The food was delicious!

As dessert time neared, the music changed to a loud version of "Happy Birthday".  Josh uttered the words "I feel sorry for that person that is celebrating a birthday.  This would be so embarrassing."  Then, everyone in the restaurant was singing and all of the waiters in the restaurant made their way to our table with a whole cake topped with sparklers.  With a look of horror on his face, Josh turned to Leanne and said "I hate you right now." Leanne started crying she was laughing so hard.  The cake was incredible...the most amazing dessert we've eaten on the trip.  Josh admitted that it was worth the embarrassment.

The next day, we rented a car and embarked on a 10-day road trip throughout Turkey.  What made the road trip even more adventurous was that we didn't have GPS or a map.  We were true travelers of the road.  After a few wrong turns, we finally made it to our first stop, Gallipoli.

Gallipoli is famous for the failed Allied offensive on Turkey in 1915 in World War I, known as the Gallipoli Campaign.

The Lone Pine - a somber reminder of the battle that was fought and the lives that were lost.

Anzac Day celebrations take place on April 25th, the day the Anzac troops landed at what is known as Anzac Cove.  We learned so much about Anzac day during our travels in Australia and New Zealand.  Josh mentioned that it would be really special if we could see Anzac Cove.  He was thrilled that he was able to see it in person while in Gallipoli.

We took a car ferry over the water and made our way to Troy.

One of the biggest attractions for some reason was this cheesy wooden horse.  It looked like it was made a couple of years ago but people sure lined up to see it.

You definitely had to use your imagination.  Some parts were intact but most of it consisted of little piles of rubble like the picture below.

We still enjoyed ourselves and many of the remains took you back to a period long, long ago.

Even without a shirtless Brad Pitt the girls were still happy.

What do you think that last sign says?  We were fairly certain is said: You can pull my finger, just once.

Yes, we even acted it out.

We contemplated staying at this motel for the night.  After about 2.5 seconds of contemplation, we decided to keep driving and settle in for the night at a slightly nicer hotel near Euphesis.

The plus side for driving an additional 4 hours was watching the sun set over over the ocean.

We then headed to Ephesus.  Ephesus is an ancient city that has been inhabited since 6,000 BC.  It once had a population of 250,000 people in the 1st century BC.  It was also one of the seven churches of Asia written about in the book of Revelations.  Also, many believe that the book of John was written here.  There was tons of history so we decided to just take it all in instead of getting caught up in every little detail.

The theater was one of the biggest attractions.  It was unbelievable to think that that many people so long ago attended events.

The rest of the day we enjoyed all the sights.

Leanne and Margherita enjoying the Temple of Hadrian.

Next stop on the road trip: Pomukkale!  Pomukkale means cotton castle in Turkish.  Travertine pools cover the entire area and it certainly is beautiful.  We spent the day walking around the pools and their blue waters.

Not only are there spectacular blue travertine pools but there were ruins all over the place!

This was one of our favorite places of the entire Turkey trip.  We had a great day enjoying gorgeous scenery with a great friend.

We reluctantly left Pamukkale to head for Cappadocia.  Cappadocia is an area with unique geological, historical and cultural aspects.  The skyline is full of structures like the one below.  It's pretty much a gnome's paradise so Leanne loved it! 

People of the villages at the heart of the Cappadocia region carved out houses, churches and monasteries from the soft rocks of volcanic deposits. 

The Dark Church, built in the 6th or 7th century is one of five ancient churches in the area and has some of the best preserved frescoes in the world.

Locked up abroad!

We spent the afternoon hiking a landscape of boundless gnome houses.

We made a pitstop for tea at this little old man's tea shop along the trail.

He was adorable.  He told us to climb up the tree to see his sleeping turtle.  Josh told Marghi to be careful because it was a little snappy.  The little old mad starting cracking up laughing after we had all taken a look at his sleeping turtle.  It was a clay sculpture of a turtle.  He tricked us and thought it was the funniest thing that has ever happened.  It was a reminder to us all to appreciate the little things in life and to not take things so seriously.

After spending hours driving around in circles, we finally found a winery for a wine tasting pitstop.

Look closely...Josh is in this picture.

Hot-air ballooning is very popular in Cappadocia.  Unfortunately, riding in a hot-air balloon was out of our budget (sorry, Marghi) but we woke up at sunrise to witness an unbelievable skyline of balloons.

Our last stop before heading back to Istanbul was a visit to Derinkuyu Underground City.  Derinkuyu is an ancient multi-level underground city that was large enough to shelter 20,000 people along with their livestock and food stores.  It is the largest excavated underground city in Turkey.

We were so proud of Marghi.  She battled through her claustrophobia and made it through all seven levels.

For our last night in Cappadocia we went out for a fabulous dinner, drinks and Marghi even decided she actually liked Turkish Delight.  Of course, Leanne had to put a damper on the trip by coming down with an awful GI bug in the middle of the night.  It's definitely not fun throwing up in gas station bathrooms during an 11-hour car ride back to Istanbul.  It took almost two weeks to get over that stomach episode. Poor Josh came down with it too a few days later.  Luckily, Marghi managed to avoid it. 

Two weeks in Turkey flew by and we were devastated when it was time to say goodbye to our dear friend.  We shared laughs, shishas, drinks, food and above all, wonderful memories.  We will cherish our fond memories of Turkey.  Margherita, we can't even begin to thank you for meeting us along our journey.  It was an incredible adventure!

Thanks for following!

Josh & Leanne