Disclaimer: I have been putting off most of my travel files and these are the ones that I have to dust off. Thus you would most likely see Turkey in winter time.
Traveling to Turkey was a 50-50 / go or no go plan for me last December 2016. I was not sure if I would ever join my travel buddies for this Christmas break because my Mom had finally returned to the Philippines for her retirement. Knowing that I would feel left out at some point, I think, my friends urged me on and advised me to just cut my trip short from the usual 2 weeks to a week just so I could return home in time for Christmas Eve. So, I made a pack with my self that if I ever get my U.S. Visa I would book a flight right after. Well, I did get it come November and I had keep up with the promise to book a flight – so happens it was thousands of pesos more expensive than theirs, so much for my claim that I travel cheap!
Before we proceed, just a little PSA: this is how you get a Turkish Tourist Visa if you are a Philippine passport holder: you either get a visa (normal sticker visa) from the Turkey Embassy located at:
2268 Paraiso Street Dasmarinas Village 1222, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines
make sure you check the requirements here first: http://www.visa.gov.tr/
or the easiest way possible, within 5-10 minutes in my case, is if you have valid VISAs from countries such as the USA or UK, for full list of requirements you may check this link: www.evisa.gov.tr it comes with a certain fee, I think I had to pay about $20 for mine. I would tell you more about airlines, hotels and what not but this blog isn’t really much about them. You could reach me through the comment box down below or you can email me for further tips.
Now that we got that little PSA (Public Service Announcement) out of the way, back to the Traveling Turkey story. I knew this was going to be a bit of a long entry so I will be splitting this into two parts, this is Part 1: Ephesus and Pamukkale and Part 2 would be around Cappadocia (which has its own charm during winter).
We visited Turkey at the time of uncertainty (to put it lightly). Some of you might be aware of what had happened in one of Turkey’s busiest airports back in September 2016 as well as again in a bar come new years eve that same year. When I told people about my trip, they kind of got worried. Even my usual travel insurance provider had to decline my request for this trip due to the warning they have received. But still we pushed through and I guess that was one of the better decisions I have ever made when it comes to traveling – minus the last minute flight booking.
This country is beautiful, despite only spending a week in Turkey and mainly limiting myself to tourists areas I know it is a place that I would want to visit again. There is so much to see, so much to know and so much to talk about, may it be history or culture, you will never run out of questions and wonder. We were some of the lucky ones to truly proceed with our trip and enjoyed Ephesus and Pamukkale mostly to our selves. Well, there were two reasons why there were very few tourists that time, 1: It was winter and of course, 2: The safety and security concerns.
Travel Turkey: Ephesus and Pamukkale
There were a few places listed in our itinerary in our first 3 days in Turkey but both Ephesus and Pamukkale have now a special place in my heart. Watch the video above to see how beautiful these places are – I used my iphone to record these clips as I got tired of whipping out my other cameras every other minute.
We visited Mama Mary’s house or House of Mary in Ephesus where she was believed to have lived and died (sorry, we were not allowed to take videos inside the house). I never expected a lot but when we reached the house, I felt at peace and you would think that it was a play of the mind, maybe yes but being in a place where a holy person lived which I only read about in articles and in the Bible, an image that I usually see at home and in churches actually gave me chills and peace at the same time. The house was well preserved, as you can see in the picture the bricks used are evidence of how old the house is. The interior was quite small and you would ask at the time of where She slept, entertained visitors and actually had to eat the meal. In the video you would see the small area on the right and it was believed to be the kitchen. I wish I could have spent more time but that candle we lit was my promise that, given the chance again, I will go back to this house.
After Mama Mary’s House (House of Mary), we went around “Ephesus which was an ancient Greek city on the coast of Ionia, three kilometers southwest of present-day Selçuk in İzmir Province, Turkey” . Man, this place is amazing. I could not believe my eyes. The architecture, the arts, the intricacies of the columns and what used to be the buildings and the life this ancient city have had. I do not have much footage or photos of the place as I had to bask in all its history. One would wonder about the lives of the people that lived here, that built this city, those who thrived and those who were in the lowest levels of the society. Social stratification is so evident that it would take you hours to read your guide book and look around to validate what it says. We were even more lucky that there were only less than a hundred around the area, which actually gave you enough time to enjoy what this city had to offer. Travel winter tip in Ephesus: wear shoes that are safe for slippery floors/planks as snow is quite challenging. We slipped a couple of times.
Much to our guide’s wish to finish the itinerary, we had to head head back to our hotel and bid goodbye to Ephesus to rest because the next day was Pamukkale the “cotton castle” tour. We were to get acquainted the ancient city of Hierapolis and the great baths of Hierapolis antique city.
Pamukkale is famous for the Cleopatra Pool and the white terraces of travertine, a carbonate mineral and it is found in Denizli Province in southwestern Turkey. The walk to get to the hot springs is quite far. You had to pass by hundreds of tombs to get to the cotton castle. Again, the delineation of the rich and the poor were manifested in the tombs. I asked our guide who were buried there and he said mostly politicians, high ranking military and some are considered Royal as well as if they still had living relatives in the country. The bigger the tomb, the higher your status in the society, perhaps. I was a bit tired when we got here – I blame it on having viral cough that I thought was just some form of allergy due to the weather, so I did not really roam around the coliseum but I hung out near the Cleopatra Pool. We could take a dip but we did not have enough time. What we did though was walk from the top most of the cotton castle until the main road to where we needed to get our tickets. Our other friends decided to skip it and take the easier path but because we were all for adventure, three of us decided to take the “road less traveled by”. They said the water was hot, but boy it was a bad idea. One, we were not allowed to wear our shoes because the deposits needed to be preserved, second it was freaking cold – the moment the stream hit about 100 meters, the temperature changes, uhm winter! So after about 30 minutes of traversing, I could not feel my feet. The trick was to just dip them on the flowing water despite it being cold itself. All in all, even though I was cursing up until the very last step, it was one of the memorable experiences I had in Pamukkale, stupid but memorable.
The visit to Ephesus and Pamukkale made me realize that no matter how boring history was in school for me, it is still important to understand it and the only way to beat that thinking when you get older is learn it first hand. There is so much more to talk about these places but one thing is for sure, Turkey has so much to offer than those that were read on the news back in December 2016.
Up next Cappadocia: check out link to Traveling Turkey: Cappadocia