A few years ago, my wife and I traveled to Turkey. It was an amazing trip and Turkey exceeded all our expectations with its history going back thousands and thousands of years, rich culture, delicious food, and super friendly people. Here is the diary of our trip! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!
Flew to Turkey via Barcelona
On our way to Turkey, we had a rather long layover in Barcelona. Our friends recommended an excellent cafe near Playa Catalunya, Granja Dulcinea so we decided to check it out; the hot chocolate was amazing!
Istanbul was another short stopover as we were flying to Cappadocia. Our luggage didn't come from Barcelona (oops), however nothing could spoil our day trip to Cappadocia!
By midnight we arrived at our cool cave hotel in Cappadocia, the Gamirasu Cave Hotel!
We started our day with exploring the Kaymakli Underground City. According to the Turkish Department of Culture, these ancient caves were first built in the 7th-8th centuries and was used in the Byzantine era for protection from Muslim Arabs during the Arab-Byzantine wars (780-1180). Throughout history, the underground city was used by people to escape persecution from the Ottoman Empire. When the Christian inhabitants of the region were expelled in 1923, the tunnels were fully abandoned.
Visited beautiful fairy chimneys — at Pigeon Valley, one of Turkey's most beautiful landscapes. The unique rock formations, known as fairy chimneys, are made from wind and water erosion on soft volcanic rock, rise high from the valley floor like chimneys and are dotted in their tops with birdhouses.
After seeing the chimneys, we had anther home style lunch at the Bizim Ev Restorant Avanos; we couldn't be more pleased with the food.
Back from our Cappadocia trip, we are off to Istanbul!
In Istanbul we stayed at a very nice family run boutique hotel, Osmanhan Hotel. The customer service was excellent, the accomodations cozy, and the hotel was centrally located in the historic heart of Istanbul.
During the first half of the day, we took a Jewish Heritage tour. We visited the oldest Ahrida, the largest Nove Shalom, an artistic Schneidertempel synagogue and an interesting Jewish Museum.
We then walked through Nostalgic tram line near famous Taksim square
Followed by a delicious lunch in the Asian part of Istanbul at Çiya Sofrası.
We absolutely LOVED the non-touristy Asian part of Istanbul, Üsküdar
Later in the evening, we had great kebab for dinner at Hamdi Restaurant followed by traditional Turkish coffee.
We had a magnificant historical tour of the Hagia Sophia, hand down, the most impressive building in Istanbul! Once a church, then a mosque, now a museum, it's a must see destination when in Turkey!
We also visited the amazing Topkapi Palace, Istanbul's largest palace that housed the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856). The palace is now a musuem and one of Turkey's most popular tourist attractions. It also became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985.
Also, we visited Basilica Cistern, the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. The Basilica was built in the 6th century during the Byzantine Empire. These glorious artifics may ring a bell as the location was used to film the James Bond classic, From Russia With Love.
After an awesome day of historical sightseeing, we enjoyed dinner and desert with Bosphorus in the background.
We took a Bosphorus cruise to the Black Sea...
... and hiked to the ancient Yoros Castle, a Byzantine ruined structure that sits at the confluence of the Bosphorus and Black Sea, with our amazing tour guide Zerrin. Byzantines, Genoese, and Ottomans fought over this strategic fortification for years. By the time of the Turkish Republic, the castle was no longer used.
After our castle tour, we had a super delicious lunch at Yosun, a seafood restaurant. You could feel the real smell of the sea while eating fish.
After our delicious meal, we awlked through the streets of the sleepy fishing village Anadolu Kavağ.
We then visited the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. As the part of our bargaining, I got an unexpected kiss on cheek; perhaps it was a selling technique (a rather odd one).
We ended our busy day by visiting the Ağa Hamamı Turkish Bath, one of the oldest Hamam in Istanbul.
We flew to Izmir, a city in the western extremity of Anatolia and the third most populous city in Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara.
We started off by exploring the history at the Basilica of St. John; it stands over the believed burial site of John the Apostle and was modeled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.
After visiting the Basilica, we ate at a super delicious place for lunch not far from Ephesus, the Bizim Ev Hanımeli restaurant. The food was truly home cooked!
Visited one of the ancient wonders of the ancient world, Ephesus. This historical site is one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. Emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt much of this city after it was destroyed by the Goths in 268AD but again destroyed in 401AD. Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation and it's believed that the Gospel of John may have been written here.
We then visited carpet manufacturers at Izmir Selcuk Yuksel and were truly fascinated by artisans passion. If we would ever to buy a handmade Turkish carpet, it would be from this place.
We finally finished our day in Izmir at the Mövenpick Hotel.
We ate simple, but delicious early lunch at a local place on the way to Troy at the Cengizhan Butik Hotel.
This historical wonder was names as an UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998; we were truly amazed with what we saw. As the setting for the Trojan War, one can stand there and see walls & buildings from various times starting 3000 BC and ending 500 AD.
After visiting Tory, we took the ferry back to Istanbul...