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mercoledì 30 novembre 2011

Turkish delight

I am not talking about the sweet, which I don't particularly like, but about the amazing time I had in Turkey, more specifically in the Eagean region between Izmir and Dalaman. One of my closest friends is from Istanbul and we manage to see each other somewhere in Europe every year or so. This time she offered me to join her and her friends for a week in an area of Turkey I had never been before. How could I ever refuse? It was one of the greatest vacations I have had, even because with a local guide like my friend I discovered places I wouldn't have found by myself. I was for one day and a half by myself in Izmir, which is not particularly attractive even because everything was destroyed and has been reconstructed. I had a terrible sciatica those days so I have quite a blurry recollection of the place since I was on pain killers and sleeping all the time . The temperature was unbearable : the heat was destroying me so I basically went out in the morning then went to sleep in the afternoon and then went out in the evening again. The hotel was extremely confortable and cheap although it was an Hilton (splurge splurge) so I didn't really mind. Hilton Izmir. You can go to visit the market which is one of the main attractions and it's worth seeing (even if the heat there can basically kill you) and going to one of the only original buildings in the city called Asansor which is a tower where you take a lift and go to the top where you can have a nice view of the city. There is also a nice restaurant where to have lunch. When the heat cooled down I took a stroll on the promenade by the sea where there was a very pleasant wind and had dinner in Deniz one of the most well known restaurants. Well it was one of the best dinners I've ever had believe me. Check out the review I wrote on Trip Advisor. For a cheaper alternative you can go to Kirçiçegi where you can have wonderful pides (local pizza),soups (try the lentil one:it's delicious)and kebabs for very little money.
Leeches at Izmir market
View from Asansor
Baloon shooting on Izmir promenade
Later my friends took me to a lovely, lovely , lovely place which is almost unknown to foreign tourism and it's the Turkish Saint Tropez. Its name, very difficult to pronounce for us Italians, is Alacati (pronun. Allcct ). Well apart from some pictures and the overall consideration of it as a wonderful place I would recommend that you read the post on this place on my friend's blog:Alacati on Travelmind. We stayed in a very pretty guesthouse called Adacati guesthouse which is a great bed and breakfast (and what a breakfast that is: see for yourself).
Breakfast at Adacati
Adacati's dining room
Outside view of Adacati
Basically we went to the beach during the day and have fancy dinners in the evening. There are many beaches around :very nice and clean waters and very organized facilities. A little expensive but we know that fancy costs money. In the evening we went to many places , the names of which are all in my friend's blog: one better than the other. There is also something really nice about this place and in general of all the places I have see during my trip. There are a lot of street dogs and cats: the dogs are all fixed and microchipped so the municipality can keep them under control. Besides they don't suffer from hunger 'cause everybody feeds them and even the inhabitants leave water outside their houses for them. All around there are signs on every wall inviting people to do so and compared to other countries I saw locals were very compassionate towards animals and this is something I really appreciate.
Seaside near Alacati
Asma Yapragi restaurant
Dinner with friends
Alacati by night
... and by day
After that my friend brought us to another place which resulted to be secluded and quiet for perfect relaxation. A great oasis of peace and tranquillity set on the outskirts of Karaburun.This town is not at all pretty in my opinion but the hotel Lypsos Ata'nin set just outside is fantastic. It is built right on a peebles beach and furnished a little bit like a ship or an old place by the sea. In the morning breakfast is served in the dining room and in the evening dinner is served on the terrace outside just by the sea. I probably repeat myself but the food freshly prepared and made with genuine ingredients is divine. Everyday there will be a selection of cold meze made of fresh vegetables and yogurth and then the freshest fried calamari and the fish brought directly from the fisherman on a boat. What more can you ask from life ? Also in this case check my friend's blog Travelmind Karaburun.
After this week of sleep,sea,wonderful food and relaxation my other friend from Turin and I, after saying goodbye to my Turkish friends, decided to rent a car and drive all the way down to Dalaman where our flight would depart in a week. So we visited Ephesus and surroundings which is just one hour away from Izmir airport. Of course you will find loads of tourist buses and millions of people int he archeological site but this is the way it is with such places. We went there in the afternoon when the heat was a little less and to see it at dusk is a really nice experience. Then we decide to spend the night in Sirinçe a village situated on a hill half an hour away from Ephesus, which as Lonely Planet also says is a really nice place but in the evening, when all the crowds of tourists leave the village in its quiet and fascinating atmosphere. Before leaving we also went to see Meryemana the place where the virgin Mary was said to live after the death of Jesus which is very interesting and I would suggest to visit if in the area.
Celsius library- Ephesus
And then we went to the Bodrum peninsula. The peninsula itself is very nice but I would definitely not recommend Bodrum city. We only went there for one night and it's a place where you actually go to party so I would suggest just to go to Bitez instead or a little further up to Gumusluck, which is a lovely place in the north. In Bitez everywhere is concentrated around the beach where restaurants and bars put out coloured cushions to lie on for free. The only problem is the loud music but if you want more quiet and a little more quality you should go to Sarniç Beach a very nice place with a good cafè. In the afternoon they also serve Turkish tea and cake for all guests. In Gumusluk there are plenty of places but we chose one which was very well advertised (by themselves) in a very funny way. It's a quiet and cozy place right on the sea. The peculiarity of the town is an island in front where you can walk to in the sea. So you will see a line of people just walking to the island and back like a pilgrimage.
Night out in Bodrum
Sarniç Bitez
Advertisement for restaurant in Gumusluk
Coloured cushions in Bitez
Our last stop was Oludeniz but on the way we stopped in Koyceziz on a lake:the hottest place I ever been in terms of boiling heat but a is a very peculiar place and people are very friendly and kind. We stayed at Flora Hotel, a very funny place where the owner has a eco-project and takes tenants into the forest to go bird watching. I had been in Oludeniz in 1995 and what I found was not at all what I remembered. I guess back then it was just starting whereas now it is a booming place with loads of people mainly British. You an get that from the menu in all the restaurants where they serve Yorkshire pudding and steak and kidney pie(!). Also Oludeniz can get unbearably hot and steamy especially in summer so to refresh yourself you can go to the fabulous Blue Lagoon which now is a natural park where you pay an entrance fee and you can find sunbeds and umbrellas kiosks and bars. I have to say that even if it's not just a free beautiful beach anymore and is built up it still has that natural spot flare. Another thing you can do is to go to Butterfly valley by boat which is very beautiful : it's a basically a semi-incontaminated beach situated in a valley where if you like camping you can also stay the night in a tent or a bungalow in a very hippy -like atmosphere. I actually don't particularly like it so we were staying in probably the nicest hotel amongst the medium price range (compared to Italy I would call it low) which is a little oasis in the crowd and the noise. It has bungalows in beautiful garden hidden from the street and it also has a very good restaurant. I would surely go again there if back in Oludeniz. Oba Motel
Butterfly Valley
Oludeniz blue Lagoon
Another place which I absolutely recommend is Kayakoy the ghost town so called because "after the Greco-Turkish War, Kayaköy was largely abandoned after a population exchange agreement was signed by the Turkish and Greek governments in 1923. Many of the buildings were damaged in the 1957 Fethiye earthquake. Its population in 1900 was about 2,000, almost all Greek Christians; however, it is now empty except for tour groups and roadside vendors selling handmade goods and items scavenged from the former village. However, there are a selection of houses which have been restored, and are currently occupied" (Wikipedia). I read in a website that the place is strange and unsettling but for me was extremely fascinating. It might give you the shivers at some point but it is also very suggestive. There's where I had my last Ayran of the journey(one of the most refreshing drinks you can have: basically yogurth and water but very tasty) and with my eyes on the sunset behind the ghost town I felt this sadness mixed with urge to return here. Gule Gule Turkyie:you'll definitely see me back.