Istanbul – character explosion

We arrived into Istanbul quite late. We got dropped right into the area where just three days previous there had been big anti-ISIS riots where 30 people died. From what I gathered the Turkish government were letting them train near the Turkish border on Turkey’s side. We were worried as to whether the riots would affect our trip or not but asides from having to delay going out to the bars a few hours on Saturday night (due to riot police in the streets) we were unaffected.

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Best present for Mum from a traveller

Argh. Present shopping. Okay. Like any traveler I left all my present shopping to the end to avoid having to carry that extra baggage. So that left me with my final European stop, Istanbul, to pick up presents for Mum, Dad and sister. Dad and sister were easy enough with the over qualified gift provider of the Grand Bazaar. I got a quality replica leather belt with some designer name and a Turkish spice grinder for Dad. For my sister I got a pretty cool Michael Kors bag.

Mum loves dolls and has an entire room dedicated to them back home. We creatively call it the doll room. She is especially keen on national costume dolls so getting her a doll while abroad makes a lot of sense. However this was surprisingly difficult. There was no dolls to be seen. I picked up a nice tea set with tea bags out of desperation but still wanted something more special as all Mum’s love special gifts. I noticed some wooden Pinocchio dolls in one very overpriced tourist store. This didn’t seem like a great option as Pinocchio is from Italy, not Turkey and they were nothing special. Probably made in China. Plus being made from wood I wasn’t even sure if he would get through New Zealand’s strict bio security border.

Over lunch I decided to roll with my only real contender, Pinocchio, and just hope he makes it through the border. He’s a puppet so I proposed the idea to my travel buddy, Louise, to bring him along on our tourist stops for the day and take photos of him exploring Istanbul. With these photos I could create postcards using a cellphone app, Touch Note. The app charges about $1.90US/card and they print the cards and send them in the mail to the recipient. I’ve sent a few home in the past and they’re always a hit. So the concept was that the postcards should just beat me home as I have five day in Australia before getting home.

As predicted we had a lot of fun and made two cards into mini collages. So here’s the result of our days effort:

Card 1

Card 1. Pinocchio was a bit rude with the shadow image but he insisted on it making the cut.

Card 1 reverse. I blanked out my Mum's address though so you can't go outdoing my presents. It uses my FB profile photo for the stamp and includes the location I sent the card from.

Card 1 reverse. I blanked out my Mum’s address though so you can’t go outdoing my presents. It uses my FB profile photo for the stamp and includes the location I sent the card from.

Card 2

Card 2

Card 2 reverse. I may or may not have also been drinking at this time.

Card 2 reverse. I may or may not have also been drinking at this time.

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Cappadocia – Hot air balloons and fairy chimneys

We arrived by bus into one of the most unique areas I’ve ever visited. This place truly opened my eyes. The first thing that hit me was the cold fresh air. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt cold. Probably last time I got carried away with a rooms air conditioning a month back. Secondly was the landscape. At first it looked like there was great big rocks bursting out from between the buildings. I soon realised that it was the city that was growing out of the rocks. The line where regular houses became caves was blurred among the different structures. The town we stayed in was called Göreme with a population of about 2,500.

Turkish rug shop with the party mosque in the background.

Turkish rug shop with the party mosque in the background.

See what i mean about the houses coming out of the cliffs? Super cool.

See what i mean about the houses coming out of the cliffs? Super cool.

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Met strangers. Took a trip to White Cliff (Pamukkale)

There is a spectacular hillside in the Denizli province, in Turkey, that is covered by terraces of white carbonate and beautiful blue pools of water. It’s one of the three reasons I wanted to visit Turkey. With the other two being the balloons of Cappadocia and the city of Istanbul.

My initial plan was to leave Antalya, visit White Cliff (as we called it as the real name was too hard to remember), visit the balloon place then finish in Istanbul for my flight to Brisbane.

So yet again I got caught off guard by arriving in a new place during a national holiday. All of the Antalya->White Cliff buses were booked out (it’s about a 3.5 hour drive). So plan B was a return day tour from Antalya. However none of the tours were running the day I had to travel there. Plan C was to get a rental car. I was hesitant as it would end up costing a bit and it would mean a lot of alone time in the car then exploring by myself as well. I’ve already taken far too many selfies this trip.

This is White Cliff! So is this a self timer pic? Taken by a random tourist? Or maybe I made friends!?

This is White Cliff! So is this a self timer pic? Taken by a random tourist? Or maybe I made friends!? Warning: spoiler alert in the title.

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Turkey! – Planning effort has hit an all time low

So Turkey is to be my last European stop for the trip. I really wanted to get to Romania to see Dracula’s castle but the flights from Munich weren’t a good option. So I instead decided to fly to a city called Antalya on Turkey’s southern coast. I chose this place based on a beach I saw on a Google image search (which I never got to) and it’s only about 700km from Istanbul. That was all I went off due to time constraints on research.

I woke up, feeling slightly below ideal, on Saturday morning after my final evening of Oktoberfest and realised I had no accommodation booked for that night in Antalya and no idea about how to get from the airport to that non existent accommodation. I took five minutes to book a hostel based on a Google satellite view of the city. I then spent another two minutes realising Google couldn’t give me public transit directions from the airport to this hostel which was a worry. However I didn’t have time to look further into it so decided to put that problem off till I arrive in Antalya.

I had a stop over in a city called Izmir. I only got the one boarding pass in Munich so I went to the transfer desk for my second. None of the information there was in English and when I did manage to speak with an English speaker who could figure out where I was trying to go he said I needed to go to the domestic terminal. It was at that point I realised what country I was in, I’m in Turkey!

This stop over almost became a very long stop over when I had a little technology fail. I never really trust my phone as it’s rooted (when you install a custom Android version) and for some reason it sometimes drops a few hours when turning off an on again. So my analogue watch is the guy I always rely on. However while sitting in a cafe having some weird savory, sausage, sweet snack thing I realised my watch had stopped… Heart sink moment. Luckily I hadn’t missed my flight but it was very much time to make my way to the gate.

Old town Antalya. I never figured out why there was a laser coming out of the castle.

Old town Antalya. I never figured out why there was a laser coming out of the castle.

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Das Oktoberfest. 4 nights of debauchery

Well that was just mental. Oktoberfest was the only event I had planned on attending and made it to since first planning my trip. I knew it was going to be good, but it was so much better than I expected. I just loved the vibe there: people of all ages and all walks of life dressing up in the traditional Bavarian outfits, and getting drunk and merry together. I would liken it to the vibe in your home towns cover band bar. A bunch of people all just there to put their arms around strangers and sing along to songs they may or may not know.

Rocking my lederhosen. I got lectured on not having the correct color shirt

Rocking my lederhosen. I got lectured on not having the correct color shirt, at least I was easy to find.

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