20-23 September 2013. We spent our last few days in Turkey relaxing on the North Aegean Coast. Out of the tourist season we were almost alone and it was a beautiful and serene place.
Roman Ruins and Russians in Turkey
18 September 2013. Suddenly we seem to be on the right track, the tourist track. And Marco, who never before showed any special interest in Roman ruins, suddenly seems culturally awakened!
14-16 September 2013. Kapadokya or Cappadocia is a geologically and historically special region in the center of Turkey. Since 2000 years ago, the local inhabitants have been carving houses, churches, animal shelters, storage rooms and whole underground cities out of the soft volcanic rock. And the wind and rain has been transforming the rock into natural pillars in strange and beautiful shapes. A nice place to spend a few days walking around the valleys.
The ground under the village of Kaymakli is full of holes like a swiss cheese! Here, the early Christians were hiding from the Romans, before Christianity became an accepted religion. There are 4 levels open to tourists but the whole complex is much bigger and much deeper.
The tunnels are long, low and narrow to make it very difficult for intruders (e.g. Roman soldiers) to make a successful attack. The early Christians could stay down here for months if they were threatened by the Romans. We were happy to get out after about an hour of crawling around the labyrinthic system of tunnels and rooms.
The Capital of the Baklava
13 September 2013. The best baklava in Turkey? This was the only hint we needed. We immediately changed our route and made a 500 km detour to the south, to Gaziantep, the capital of the baklava!!!
And then, without any further excuses, we went straight for the food! The southeastern Anatolian kitchen is apparently famous also in Turkey, so before diving into the fresh baklava we had to try one of the local dishes. And it was heaven!!!! The Ali Nazik Kebap: Grilled minced lamb served with grilled and perfectly smoky flavoured very smooth aubergine mixed with yoghurt and spices and topped with browned butter………..this is one of the tastiest meals we had on our trip!
Finally, the baklava! Apparently, a fresh baklava has to say “kshhhhh” when you bite into it. And really, it does!!! The baklava from Gaziantep is famous because of the high quality of the pistachio nuts grown in this region. And it was one of the most remarkable things about the baklavas we ate in Gaziantep, they really tasted of pistachio. Fantastic! We ate as much baklava as we could right there on the spot and then we bought 1 kg to eat in the car.
12 September 2013. We admit it. We are attracted towards the remote and slightly odd tourist attractions. Nemrut Dagi is a good example of this. Some 2000 years ago a pre-Roman local king decided to put large statues of himself and “other” gods on a remote mountain top in what is now southeastern Anatolia.
King Antiochus I Epiphanes (king from 64-38 BC) constructed the Nemrut Dagi site. The first thing you see from far away is the 50 m high artificial mound that the king had erected on top of the Nemrut Dagi mountain. On the east and west sides of the mound you find the fantastic stone heads of different gods and the king himself.
Enter Turkey – Eastern Anatolia and the Grand Ani!
10 September 2013
Our first destination was Ani! Ani is the site of a former Armenian capital some 1000 years ago. Now it is a beautiful, remote place to visit and to wander around the ruins of this long-gone great city of almost 100,000 people.
As we left Ani, the hills on the other side of the Armenian border had turned a deep golden colour and the sun was setting rapidly over the high plains.