Wild Junket » Turkey http://www.wildjunket.com An adventure travel blog that brings you on a rollercoaster ride around the world Thu, 27 Nov 2014 16:49:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Turkey: Where East Meets West http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/07/06/where-east-meets-west/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2012/07/06/where-east-meets-west/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 13:16:24 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=8960 *This article was originally published in WildJunket Magazine June/July 2012.  Uniquely straddled across Europe and Asia, Turkey encompasses a thousand worlds at one time. From spice-infused bazaars to envogue European enclaves, this multi-facted country promises to bring you across continents at one go.  By  Mike Dunphy / Originally published in WildJunket Magazine ew countries have a location as [...]

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*This article was originally published in WildJunket Magazine June/July 2012

Uniquely straddled across Europe and Asia, Turkey encompasses a thousand worlds at one time. From spice-infused bazaars to envogue European enclaves, this multi-facted country promises to bring you across continents at one go. 

By  Mike Dunphy / Originally published in WildJunket Magazine

F ew countries have a location as unique as Turkey, and even fewer crosses continents – from Europe to Asia – in just one big landmass. Turkey is simultaneously the east and the west, a country where career-minded women pray piously in mosques then shed their headscarves and zip to work on high-speed subways. Such is life in Turkey, an intriguing jumbled of advanced, forward thinking intertwined with faith and integrity.

However, the fusion of cultures in Turkey is modest compared to its geographical diversity. From the edge of Eastern Europe, Turkey spreads across the Bosphorus into Asia, along the Mediterranean shores and over the Anatolian plateau to the mountainous borders with Iran and Iraq. Landscapes transform dramatically from the lush green hills along the coast to the rugged, deserts and canyons of the interior and the steep sky-piercing mountains of the east.

And nothing reflects this diversity more so than the country’s world-famous cuisine. From the quintessential kebabs to tiny platters upon platters of mezes, the sheer array of Turkish food is enough to tickle your taste buds with a different flavor each day. For sea-bound Turks along the coasts, the perfect meal includes three essential ingredients: roka (arugula), balik (fried fish), and rakı — the anise-flavored liquor and unofficial national drink. In the hinterland, the classic beef and lamb kebab splinters into endless varieties. Tourism is fast becoming one of Turkey’s leading industries – in 2011, it received a record-breaking number of 31.5 million visitors according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, making it one of the ten most visited destinations worldwide.

It’s easy to see why Turkey has something for everyone: ancient ruins, natural wonders, white beaches – often at a fraction of the cost in Western Europe.

It’s easy to see why as it has something for everyone, and at epic magnificence: ancient ruins, natural wonders, white sand beaches, arts and crafts, and cuisine — often at a fraction of the cost in Western Europe.

The best way to approach a country as large and diverse as Turkey is to first determine where you interest lies. If it’s the iconic land you’ve seen in pictures, opt to base yourself in Istanbul, and wander through spice- infused bazaars and majestic mosques and palaces.

Archaeology and history buff should make for the Mediterranean coast, where well-preserved Greco- Roman remains continue to thrive. If it’s the postcard-perfect natural sights you’re seeking, the Aegean is blessed with the white travertines of Pamukkale and the ancient city of Esphesus. Those with a bent for the truly exotic should spend time in the central Cappadocia region, where a collection of bizarre landscapes, magical fairy chimneys and underground cities abounds.

The City of Extremes: Istanbul

Explore and immerse yourself in Turkey’s historical, cultural, and business capital. 

Duration: 5 days

A s the only city in the world on two continents, Istanbul is an itinerary on its own. With a population of around 15 million, this dynamic metropolis is jam-packed with centuries-old mosques and Ottoman buildings alongside glass-windowed skyscrapers and stylish malls. The massive Bosphorus River slices through the city, dividing it into the Asian and European sides: one end bustles with time-warped souks and palaces, while the other grooves to an upbeat contemporary rhythm.

The most visited area in Istanbul is Sultanhamet on the European side where Constantine first laid the cornerstone of New Rome in 330 A.D. Today, the neighborhood holds the majority of historical attractions including the iconic Hagia Sophia, Tokapı Palace, Basilica Cistern and Blue Mosque as well as the must-see Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. If time allows, proceed up the Golden Horn to Fatih neighborhood for the dazzling gold Chora Church (Kariye Camii) and Theodosian Walls, which kept out invaders until 1453.

To get a taste of the Istanbulite’s hedonistic culture, hang out at Taksim Square, with the extending İstiklal Caddesi serving as Bourbon Street. Morals swing, music pumps, booze flows, and young Turks dance the night away on rooftop terraces. Spend an afternoon exploring the ritzy neighborhoods along the Bosphorus from the seaside promenade.

A boat ride along the Bosphorus is a quintessential experience that gives new perspectives of the city. Catch a ride to one of the Asian neighborhoods of Istanbul, such as the hipster Kadıkӧy district, best known for boho Arabic teahouses and eclectic restaurants including the outstanding Çiya Sofrası.

As the cultural hub, Istanbul is also the best place to sample and immerse in Turkish arts and traditions – visit a hammam (Turkish bath) and experience what it’s like to be scrubbed down from head to toe by an attendant; spend your afternoons in a teahouse sipping up sugary sweetness with the locals; and spend the evening smoking nargilay, or water pipe, as a sultry belly dancer twirls before you.

Spellbound by the Aegean

Turkey’s shortest coast is its richest in archeological sights, agricultural bounty, and works of nature. 

Duration: 1-2 weeks

A great side-trip from Istanbul, the Aegean coast of Turkey offers an itinerary nearly every five miles, with a seemingly endless supply of ancient Greek, Roman, and Ottoman ruins, pristine coastline and world-famous UNESCO sites.

The Aegean’s most famous attraction is the biblical city of Ephesus, which has some of the most complete Roman ruins in the world – including the great library of Celsus and a massive 24,000-seat amphitheater. Ephesus is also where St. John brought Virgin Mary after the crucifixion of Jesus to spend the rest of her days. Her purported cottage is an important pilgrimage site for Christians and Muslims. Ephesus is located 50 miles (80 km) from the city of Izmir, but most people choose to stay the night in nearby town Selçuk.

An outstanding natural wonder lies a couple hours east: translated as “cotton castle,” Pamukkale features a large, terraced hill permanently covered in snow-white crystal travertines formed from cascading calcium-rich hot springs. Start at the bottom and follow a carefully marked trail (barefoot) up to the top, where the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Hierapolis and a dip in its sacred pool await.

The best seaside area on the Aegean coast is found on the Çeşme peninsula. In summer, thousands of tourists crowd its resorts, marinas, and restaurants – and for good reason. The beaches are naturally sculpted and blessed with long stretches of golden sand, especially in Ilıca and Çiftlik.

The Exotic Interior

Explore the fairy chimneys and whirling dervishes of magical Cappadocia. 

Duration: 1 week

S ome of the world’s most bizarre landscapes are found in Cappadocia, Central Anatolia – home to fairy chimneys, conical-shaped rock formations and whimsical cave houses. Formed by volcanic activity and thousands of years of erosion, the cave-littered plains of Cappadocia resemble scenes out of Star Trek. A constellation of frescoed churches – where 3rd century Christians used to seek refuge – still remain, with the best examples in the Gӧreme Open Air Museum.

The ancient inhabitants also went underground for protection, where they built entire cities. Twenty miles (30 km) south, Derinkuyu could accommodate as many as 30,000 people on eleven levels up to 280 feet (85 meters) deep with stables, storage rooms, churches, wineries and homes.

There are numerous towns that are easily accessible by taxis or rented car, but to explore the area thoroughly, strap on your hiking shoes and take to the hills through the red-rose valleys.

Outdoor lovers will enjoy the plethora of activities available here: from climbing to mountain-biking and canyoning. For a bird’s eye view, book yourself on a hot-air balloon ride and float amidst the whimsical rock formations for an awe-inspiring experience. Beautiful cave hotels are aplenty in the region – most retain the original nature of the caves, with modern furnishing added, including the stylish Yunak Evleri.

From the town of Gӧreme, the Ihlara Valley lies two hours southwest. The stunning natural beauty of this gorge is enhanced by sixty Byzantine churches, chapels, monasteries, and hermit hovels from the 12th century.

The population center of the area is three hours away by car at Konya, known for its apricots, piety, and Seljuk architecture. It’s also home to the Whirling Dervishes, who perform at the Mevlâna Cultural Center every Saturday evening. Nearby is the mausoleum of Jalal ad- Din Muhammad Rumi – the great Sufi mystic. Inside, the golden tomb is accompanied by antique prayer carpets, illuminated Qurans, and the rose smelling strands of the Prophet Mohammed’s beard.

Secrets of the Black Sea

Meander along the least-traveled coast and uncover 

Duration: 1 week

T urkey’s north coast is significantly less visited (and appreciated) than the others. The weather is cloudier, attractions fewer, and landscapes more rugged - but it also offers a different side to the country, one that’s sprinkled with lush, green terrain and charismatic, hospitable people.

Trabzon, on the eastern end, is the most popular base for exploring the region. Inhabited since 746 B.C., the city has several Byzantine churches of note including the heavily frescoed Hagia Sophia from 1263. But the main draw to the area is the 4th-century Sümela Monastery, cut into a cliff face at 3,900 feet about 30 miles (50 km) from the city.

East of Trabzon, the landscape elevates dramatically into the alpine Kaçkar Mountains but not before passing through acres of hillside tea plantations that serve as the main economy of the region. The village of Ayder, at 4,265 feet (1,300 meters), is a good stop for hiking, a dip in thermal baths, and gorging on the renowned pastries. Adventure seekers might like to try whitewater rafting down the Firtina River from the town of Çamlıhemşin. For history buffs, the village of Yusufeli is surrounded by ruins of Georgian churches, monasteries, and castles up to 1,500 years old as well as Savangin – a pre- historic cave with inscriptions in an unknown language.

The Mystical Southeast

The birthplace of Prophet Abraham, Turkey’s southeast corner remains biblical in character and attractions. 

Duration: 4 days

S uffering from occasional severe ethnic strife over the past few decades, the southeast gets few tourists in comparison with the rest of the country. Fortunately, things are calmer these days and the region is welcoming visitors to its numerous astounding historical sites.

The monumental Mount Nemrut is what draws most people to this region. The summit of this 7,000-foot mountain is filled with the impressive remains of King Antiochus’s royal tomb, originally adorned with seated, 30-foot statues of pagan gods and animals alongside the king himself. This site remains one of the country’s greatest mystery – how were the massive statues transported there? Nobody knows for sure.

The village of Kâhta is the most convenient base for the overnight trek up Mount Nemrut – accommodation and restaurants are available here.

Another major attraction is Urfa, the most historic (and interesting) city of the region. Formerly the crusader state of Edessa, the city dates back 3,500 years and is the reputed birthplace of the Prophet Abraham. The cave that witnessed the birth is a major pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Jews alike and today has a 13th-century mosque surrounded by a pool of sacred carp. Don’t try to catch one or, legend has it, you’ll go blind.

For a true biblical feel, make a quick trip south to Harran, a village mentioned in Genesis as and still living (at least partly) in beehive mud huts.

The hub of the region, Diyarbakir, may be gritty and not very charming, but it is the transportation center and a good starting point for the region.


About the Author:


Mike Dunphy began traveling in the Peace Corps. For ten years, he taught English in Estonia, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, and Turkey. After switching to journalism in Istanbul, he earned a master’s degree in publishing and writing at Emerson College before moving to New York City, where he now makes his living as a writer and editor.

 


If you enjoyed this article, read the rest of WildJunket Magazine June/July 2012.


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World’s Most Unearthly Landscapes http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/09/05/worlds-most-unearthly-landscapes/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/09/05/worlds-most-unearthly-landscapes/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2011 15:58:14 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=7146 Eerie, dramatic and enigmatic: certain landscapes on Earth can be so unworldly, they’re reminscent of scenes from outer space. Many of these hotspots have been sculpted by the hands of Mother Nature, moulded into intriguing destinations that have captivated the imagination of modern-day travelers. While space travel still seems to be a far stretch for [...]

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Eerie, dramatic and enigmatic: certain landscapes on Earth can be so unworldly, they’re reminscent of scenes from outer space. Many of these hotspots have been sculpted by the hands of Mother Nature, moulded into intriguing destinations that have captivated the imagination of modern-day travelers. While space travel still seems to be a far stretch for average travelers, why not check out these mind-blowing outer space destinations for now.

Cappadocia, Turkey

An expanse of sandy brown plateau topped by cascading cliffs, Cappadocia in Central Turkey features whimsical fairy chimneys, bizarre cave churches and maze-like underground cities. There are various ways to see it: on a hot-air balloon, on a jeep or by foot (the area has excellent hiking trails and open-air museums). Although its extraordinary landscape is now dominated by lavish cave hotels and restaurants, it remains a rather unique yet accessible place to visit. 

Click for more of my Cappadocia photos.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Spanning across an area of 13,000 square kilometres, the dazzlingly white Uyuni Salt Flats resemble landscapes from the Moon. The shimmering salt fields are so clear they reflect the sky in perfect symmetry. In the immensity of the desert, it’s easy to fantasize about space travel, or even aspire to visit the Moon someday.

Click for more of my Salar de Uyuni photos.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Affectionately known as the Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum is a rose-red desert, sprinkled with jagged peaks in Southern Jordan. As the backdrop of various epic films, the desert has long drawn on the imagination of curious travelers. Camping in the Wadi Rum desert is definitely an amazing experience – picture sliding down sand dunes, watching sunset over the cliffs then sleeping under the stars by night.

 Click for more of my Wadi Rum photos

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

A volcanic island by nature, Lanzarote features bizarre lunar landscapes dotted with lime-green lagoons, craggy underground volcanic tunnels and massive fields of tar-like volcanic ashes (as a result of previous eruptions). It’s a place unlike no other, and you’d least expect to see such extraordinary terrain on a holidaymaker’s playground. Here, you’ll also see contemporary art weaved magically into nature – a result of Cesar Manrique’s contribution.

 Click for more of my Lanzarote photos

Tsingy de Bemahara, Madagascar

Climb above the canopies and sharp rock cliffs of the Tsingy de Bemahara in Western Madagascar and enter the world of outer space as imagined by the Flintstones. Tsingy forests feature sharp, grey rock karsts that poke vertically into the skies; some growing as tall as 200m. Formed millions of years ago by tectonic plate movements, these rock karsts were believed to form the ocean bed. In the Tsingy de Bemahara, harnessed climbing is only possible with a local guide.

Click for more of my Tsingy de Bemahara photos.

White Desert, Egypt

Get spooked by the vast whiteness of the Sahara el Beyda, where oddly-shaped chalk rock formations are strewn randomly throughout the desert amidst brown sand. Found in the Farafra Depression in Western Egypt, this desert is blanketed in a off-white, cream color, thanks to the result of occasional sandstone in the area. Camp out in the White Desert under the stars, sipping tea while listening to Bedouin tales – the magical setting will stir your imagination.

 Click for more of my White Desert photos

Socotra Island, Yemen

As one of the most isolated islands in the world, Socotra is rightfully home to some peculiar lifeforms and habitats. A combination of the long geological isolation of the Socotra archipelago and its fierce heat and drought have created a unique and spectacular endemic flora. Over a third of the lifeform found here are exclusive to the island, including the striking dragon’s blood tree – an obscure umbrella-shaped tree with red sap.

Photo by Boris Khvostichenko from Wikipedia Creative Commons.

Been to any other unworldy sites? Charm us with more space-like destinations!

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Daily Travel Snapshot: Cappadocia, Turkey http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/07/18/daily-travel-snapshot-cappadocia-turkey/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/07/18/daily-travel-snapshot-cappadocia-turkey/#comments Mon, 18 Jul 2011 01:30:57 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=6665 As seen from above: Urgup, the gateway to Cappadocia.

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As seen from above: Urgup, the gateway to Cappadocia.

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Daily Travel Snapshot: Istanbul, Turkey http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/06/28/daily-travel-snapshot/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2011/06/28/daily-travel-snapshot/#comments Tue, 28 Jun 2011 01:30:34 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/?p=6561 Istanbul mosqueInside the impressive Blue Mosque in Instanbul, Turkey.

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Istanbul mosque

Inside the impressive Blue Mosque in Instanbul, Turkey.

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Tasty Turkish Travel Temptations http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/08/20/tasty-turkish-travel-temptations/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/08/20/tasty-turkish-travel-temptations/#comments Thu, 19 Aug 2010 17:14:58 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/08/20/tasty-turkish-travel-temptations/ Turkish spices in spice bazaarThis week’s sponsored post brings us more tantalizing Turkish fare as we dig deeper into Turkey’s culinary world. From aromatic spices to tender meat kebabs to bizarre eats, Turkish foods have gained quite a reputation for themselves and it’s easy to see why, when you’re reveling in its sprawling markets and street bazaars. We’ve taken [...]

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This week’s sponsored post brings us more tantalizing Turkish fare as we dig deeper into Turkey’s culinary world. From aromatic spices to tender meat kebabs to bizarre eats, Turkish foods have gained quite a reputation for themselves and it’s easy to see why, when you’re reveling in its sprawling markets and street bazaars. We’ve taken a look at where to find authentic Turkish food, now let’s check out these quintessential dishes that make up Turkey’s vibrant gastronomy.

Turkish spices in spice bazaar

The varied and delicious cuisine of Turkey is a major draw for tourists from all over the world. Thanks to the richness of Turkey’s cultural heritage, including Ottoman, Balkan and Turkic influences, a huge variety of exciting dishes are available for travelers to sample.

Cheap flights to Turkey are readily available at the moment, and food prices there are also very reasonable, making it the perfect destination for a culinary adventure on a budget! Below are classic Turkish dishes that are well worth the trip:

Mezes

Turkish Mezes, or appetizers, are a good way to get the taste buds firing, and restaurants will serve a huge variety of hot and cold small dishes.

Turkish mezes

Cold Mezes include stuffed vine leaves, aubergine salad and stuffed mussels. Vine leaves have got vegetable mash wrapped within them, giving a succulent flavor when eaten together.

Vine leaves

Hot Mezes will usually involve borek – delicious flaky pastry stuffed with meat, spinach or cheese. The nationally celebrated dish is eaten through out the day, and can be found everywhere – from simple pastry shops to fine-dining restaurants.

Turkish boreks

Main Dishes

Main courses in Turkey often involve meat kebabs, with sauces and flavorings varying according to the region. Casseroles and goulash dishes are also popular. There is a myriad of meat dishes to choose from, most of them are eaten with pilau rice and a cucumber-tomato-onion salad.

Kebabs in turkey

Fish is also a common main course option, and you will find extremely fresh swordfish, turbot, lobster and many other varieties on offer. Popular cafes in Turkey will also serve homely stews known as ‘ev yemek’.

fish in Turkey

Lahmacun, or Turkish Pizza, is a tasty and cheap lunchtime option. Barbecued bread is spread with minced lamb, coriander and other flavorings, then rolled with salad and lemon juice for a mouth-watering snack.

Turkish pizzas, or lahmacun

Desserts

Seasonal fruits form the core of Turkish desserts, including almonds, plums, strawberries, cherries, melons and more, depending on the time of year. There are plenty of dessert options in Turkey, ranging from baklavas to sweets.

Berries in Turkey

Tulumba is a tasty fried dough dessert, served here with buffalo cream (‘Kaymak’) and pistachio powder.

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Delicious Baklava desserts come in many shapes, but all involve flaky pastry sweetened with syrup or honey. The cakes are flavored with nuts and fruit and are sometimes served with cream and pistachios.

Turkish baklavas

Asure is a rich pudding which forms part of the history of the area. Legend has it the dish was created by Noah’s wife to celebrate the Ark coming to rest on Mount Ararat (in Turkey). The dish can contain up to forty ingredients, signifying everything that was left in the Ark’s kitchens!

Turkish dessert, Asure

Photo credit: Flickr images 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Information Source: Turizm

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Gastronomic Travel: Street Food in Turkey and Egypt http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/08/10/gastronomic-travel-street-food-in-turkey-and-egypt/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/08/10/gastronomic-travel-street-food-in-turkey-and-egypt/#comments Tue, 10 Aug 2010 07:32:11 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/08/10/gastronomic-travel-street-food-in-turkey-and-egypt/ Colorful spices in IstanbulWhile I’m out and about exploring India, this week’s guest post features the nearby shores of Egypt and Turkey. The Egypt Holidays team at Travel Supermarket brings us on a culinary tour through the street food culture and vibrant market scene of these two destinations. Although I’ve visited both countries on different occasions and scoured [...]

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While I’m out and about exploring India, this week’s guest post features the nearby shores of Egypt and Turkey. The Egypt Holidays team at Travel Supermarket brings us on a culinary tour through the street food culture and vibrant market scene of these two destinations.

Although I’ve visited both countries on different occasions and scoured their food markets, I’m no expert at Turkish and Egyptian cuisine. So if you’re as much of a foodie as I am, read more to find out these destinations’ essential eats and local fare and you’ll find yourself digging deeper into their world.

Colorful spices in Istanbul's food market

Where to Find Authentic Food in Turkey and Egypt

Take a stroll through a bustling marketplace during your Egyptian or Turkish holiday and you’ll be met with the smell of aromatic spices and freshly grilled meats from stalls, as well as the sounds of street hawkers trying to persuade you to purchase a portion of their delicious delicacies.

Throughout Turkey and Egypt you’ll find street carts selling a variety of delicious tidbits that you can enjoy as you peruse for a bargain or take in the sights, sounds and smells of a marketplace. These small meals are very affordable, so won’t break into your budget too much while you’re on your travels, and can help to fill you up for a day’s exploration.

Street food stall

Quintessential Egyptian Dish: Fuul

Egyptian cuisine tends to include a lot of vegetables and pulses, including chickpeas, which form the basis for one of the national dishes. Fuul is a dish of fava beans that have been cooked, crushed and mixed with onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice and lashings of olive oil. Often served as a breakfast dish with lots of bread as an accompaniment, it can be a great way of fuelling up for a day of exploring the Pyramids.

Ta'amiya frying Photo by khowaga1

Turkish Breakfast: Kahvalti

In contrast, breakfast in Turkey is known as ‘kahvalti’ – meaning ‘before coffee’ – and consists of a serving of strong black tea that is usually served with simit, a ring of bread that has been sprinkled with sesame seeds. Breakfast accompaniments can also include boiled eggs, melon, olives, spicy sausages (sucuk) and spicy cheese (cokelek).

Spicy Meatballs: Koftes

Koftes are a popular foodstuff that can be found on many a street cart in both countries. These spicy lamb meatballs are usually served with copious amounts of bread and cooling mint yoghurt, helping you to cool your palette of the onion and chilli flavors that add to the flavor.

Meatballs or Kofte

Kebab stand Most Popular Dish: Falafel & Kebabs

A favorite street food in Egypt is falafel, which consists of croquettes of a paste made from chickpeas and fava beans which have been blended with various spices. These are usually served in a pita bread with salad, pickled vegetables and a hummus-style sauce. This quick and wholesome vegetarian option is available for as little as 70p

For something meatier, both countries have a delicious selection of freshly grilled kebabs available, giving you the chance to pick up a filling shish kebab with all the trimmings for around £1.30

Egypt’s Classic Hawker Food: Koshari

For something more filling at lunchtime, the hearty Koshari (often spelt Kushuri) is one of the classic street hawker dishes of Egypt. Consisting of a mixture of chickpeas, lentils and a spiced tomato sauce served over pasta, this hearty dish will help to fill you up during lunchtime, the dish is very cheap and you’d be unlucky to pay any more than around £1.50 for a decent portion.

Turkish Staple Food: Pilav

In Turkey, pilav is another hearty dish that can help to sustain you until dinner time. Pilav is made using a mixture of spiced rice and added ingredients that differ from place to place, including meat and vegetable. So, if you’re feeling experimental there are plenty of variations of this dish for you to try. Pilav is a staple food that is a favourite for street chefs, so finding a portion shouldn’t be too difficult whilst you’re on your travels.

Pilav rice with condiments

Exotic Fare: Kokorec

If you have the stomach for it, there are some more unusual dishes available from street stalls, such as Kokorec, which consists of lamb or goat meat, spiced heavily and wrapped in intestine – most likely to disguise the taste. In the Aegean region of Turkey is another unusual street food of Kelle Sogus, made using various parts of sheep offal, marinated in oil and often served with lavas bread.

2463433491_148e36fa84_z Photo by auselen

Street hawkers can provide you with the opportunity to try exciting new dishes during your travels, and Egyptian and Turkish marketplaces certainly have a lot of foodstuffs to choose from and to enjoy, so be a little experimental in your travel eating!

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Photoblog: Seeing Istanbul Through A Kaleidoscope http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/25/photoblog-seeing-istanbul-through-a-kaleidoscope/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/25/photoblog-seeing-istanbul-through-a-kaleidoscope/#comments Mon, 24 May 2010 16:58:46 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/25/photoblog-seeing-istanbul-through-a-kaleidoscope/ tn_IMG_4675Istanbul is a city of superlatives: blinding lights, traffic noises and flashy sights amplify your senses, while the kaleidoscope of colors and aroma hypnotize you into a trance. Spanning across Europe and Asia, the metropolis is power-packed with distinctive cultures and flavors. Stepping foot on Istanbul for the second stop, I noticed how rapidly it [...]

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Istanbul is a city of superlatives: blinding lights, traffic noises and flashy sights amplify your senses, while the kaleidoscope of colors and aroma hypnotize you into a trance. Spanning across Europe and Asia, the metropolis is power-packed with distinctive cultures and flavors.

Stepping foot on Istanbul for the second stop, I noticed how rapidly it has changed. Within a short time span of 3 years, Istanbul has developed into a city of contradictions. Soaring skyscrapers vs aged shop houses, chic outdoor cafes vs old school teahouses. Here, old meets new and East meets West – I’ll let my photos bring you through the multi-hued streets of Istanbul for a closer look.

tn_IMG_4675 A gorgeous display of white tulips – Turkey’s national flower – contrasting against the grey backdrop of the New Mosque.

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Spice Market

tn_IMG_4682 Spices and condiments of every color you can imagine – heaped up into pyramidal piles. I had the constant urge to push one of them and see how the colors would blend.

tn_IMG_4683Rows and rows of rainbow-colored porcelain bowls all intricately hand-crafted and ornamented with jewels. Only fit for royalty.

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tn_IMG_4701 Brass and bronze utensils on sale at Spice Market.

Street Food

tn_IMG_4703   A kebab seller sharpens his knives and gets ready to strut his stuff. With two blades on hand, he whips up some outrageous kebab – the most popular street food ever.

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Quintessential Sights

tn_IMG_4525 The Basilica Cistern, masterpiece of the Roman empire, beautifully displays the works of yesteryears. Dim red lights give the underground water bunker a mysterious glow, gently lighting up the columns. In the darkness, you can see the reflection of the columns on the clear water surface.

tn_IMG_4730 The exterior of the Sultanahmet Mosque. The central water fountain is used for the purpose of cleansing your soul before entering the mosque.

tn_IMG_4503   The interior of Sultanahmet Mosque is bewitching – chandeliers hang from the sky-high ceiling while sunlight pours through the colorful stained glass.

tn_IMG_4515 In Hagia Sofia, the influences of both Byzantine and Ottoman empires can be evidently seen. Its dome-shaped ceiling, carved walls and Orthodox paintings represent the Roman Byzantine past while Arabic scripts are symbols of its Muslim present.

tn_IMG_4662 The Bosphourus Bridge connects Europe to Asia – two continents bridged into one. At Ortakoy, rows of sophisticated restaurants compete to see who has the best view and cuisine in town.

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Staying in an Unusual Boutique Cave Hotel http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/20/staying-in-an-unusual-boutique-cave-hotel/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/20/staying-in-an-unusual-boutique-cave-hotel/#comments Wed, 19 May 2010 16:43:28 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/20/staying-in-an-unusual-boutique-cave-hotel/ Exterior of Yunak EvleriThe two words ‘boutique’ and ‘cave’ rarely come together in one sentence, but Yunak Evleri manages to pull it off rather well. With impeccable service, exquisite furnishing and a hint of rustic au naturel ambiance,  Yunak Evleri adds special meaning to one’s travel experience. Blending nature and interior design into one perfect setting, Yunak Evleri [...]

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The two words ‘boutique’ and ‘cave’ rarely come together in one sentence, but Yunak Evleri manages to pull it off rather well. With impeccable service, exquisite furnishing and a hint of rustic au naturel ambiance,  Yunak Evleri adds special meaning to one’s travel experience.

Blending nature and interior design into one perfect setting, Yunak Evleri sets the golden standards for cave hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey. Having first opened its doors to guests 12 years ago, this luxury cave hotel was one of the pioneering hotels to be set in a genuine cave. Since then, it has maintained its reputation as one of the best cave hotels in Cappadocia.

Preserving Environment and History

Exterior of Yunak Evleri

Carved right out of towering cliff faces, these caves date back to the 5th and 6th century when Cappadocia was shaped by works of nature. These caves, rich in history and heritage, are now protected by the Turkish authorities. This is why although they are renovated and decorated with plush furnishing at Yunak Evleri, the caves are still kept in their original structure. Any sort of reform or overhaul is not allowed by law.

Cave hotel exteriorCaves form a quintessential part of Cappadocia’s landscapes – with magical fairy chimneys and mystical caves dotted all over its winding valleys and sprawling terrain.

To get an opportunity to actually sleep in a genuine cave inevitably makes one feel privileged.

And it’s not just a simple cave, it is fitted with lavish rustic furnishing, a right dose of traditional Turkish decor and a tinge of luxury.

At Yunak Evleri, it is easy to see how much attention they pay to details, and how much care they provide towards conserving the environment.

Lavish Greek Mansion

Main hotel lobby

Hotel lounge   At the foot cliffs stands the hotel’s main lobby. Housed in a 19th century Greek mansion, the main building exudes a kind of sophisticated charm.

Within the stone building, cozy meeting ooms provide a soothing atmosphere for some lounging in the evening. The music room has a wide variety of CDs you can borrow and the TV room is decked out in plush Turkish cushions and a million-dollar view of the surrounding cliffs.

Adjacent to the stone mansion is a rooftop terrace that is strewn with thick, comfortable pillows come summer. Candle-light dinners are held here.

 

 

Luxury Cave Suites

A labyrinth of narrow cobbled stone paths lead to the hotel’s 30 cave rooms. Each room is tastefully designed in Ottoman style and decorated with old kilim carpets and wooden chests. Polished teak flooring and handcrafted furniture give it a tinge of subtle elegance. Some of the best rooms are located a short climb away; with an unobstructed panorama of the Urgup mountain cliffs.

What’s special about the rooms is the television, or rather, the lack of it. Hotel manager, Abdullah Inal tells me the purpose of not having a television set in the rooms is to allow guests to completely unwind and soak in their surroundings. Instead, guests can chill out to calm, soothing jazz music and enjoy the alluring view within the comfort of their own room.

Standard twin room

Out of its selection of cave rooms, the massive suite has to be a honeymooner’s dream come true.  I had the opportunity to stay at its multi-chambered deluxe suite. Besides the massive living area, the gorgeous marble bathroom fitted with a jacuzzi jet-bath was enough to make me dream of coming back again with my other half. The sleeping area is cozily tucked behind the living area, furnished simply with a cushy double bed, a teak chest box and a rocking chair.

Yunak Evleri suite

Sleeping area within its suite

The hotel’s restaurant, situated adjacent to the stone mansion, is an atmospheric one. With classical music playing in the background and the fireplace burning, it sets you in the right mood for some romance. Its Victorian-style interior is enhanced by the hardwood ceiling, stone walls and velvet upholstery.

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Prices

The hotel caters to the well-heeled traveler, with room rates starting from US$130 (single room) to $230 (suite) per night. I’m accustomed to budget hostels or B&B, being a shoestring traveler, but for such an exotic setting and world-class furnishing, I think the price is rather reasonable.

Location

Yunak Evleri is situated in the town of Ürgüp, the main tourist base in Cappadocia. In contrast to Goreme, Ürgüp is calmer in terms of tourism and has a more quaint feel to it. Just a 5-minute downhill walk from the hotel is the center of Ürgüp, where most restaurants and shops are located. With tour operators and public buses easily available, it’s a convenient base for exploring Cappadocia.

Town of Urgup

*Disclaimer: my stay at Yunak Evleri was sponsored by the hotel, it does not affect my opinions in any way.

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Photoblog: Cappadocia Atop a Hot Air Balloon http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/10/photoblog-cappadocia-atop-a-hot-air-balloon/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/10/photoblog-cappadocia-atop-a-hot-air-balloon/#comments Sun, 09 May 2010 18:03:49 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/05/10/photoblog-cappadocia-atop-a-hot-air-balloon/ tn_IMG_4082As the hot air balloon slowly gains altitude, I float higher and higher into the red skies. Thousands of magical fairy chimneys poke out into the skyline of Cappadocia where green patches of plantations and red-rose valleys dominate its landscape. It is barely 6am and many other tourists like me have woken before dawn to [...]

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As the hot air balloon slowly gains altitude, I float higher and higher into the red skies. Thousands of magical fairy chimneys poke out into the skyline of Cappadocia where green patches of plantations and red-rose valleys dominate its landscape. It is barely 6am and many other tourists like me have woken before dawn to enjoy this special experience.

Cappadocia is one of the most famous hot air ballooning spots in the world: partly due to its extraordinary and strangely unique landscape and the favorable weather conditions. The balloons can only rise in the early hours of dawn because of the colder temperatures, explaining why flights only occur in the early morning.

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By 6am, the sun has already risen. The sky is still dim although radiated in a dark shade of red. I watch sleepily as thousands of balloons rise into the clear skies all at once. As our balloon pilot, Halis, pumps up the heat and gets us ready for the flight, our feet are all itching to take flight.

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Soon enough, 18 of us gather into our basket and slowly inch our way up, towards the clear skies. The balloon rises at a languid pace, as we all wow in amazement. At times, the basket gets so close to the pointed tops of the conical-shaped fairy chimneys that we hold our breathes and watch in bewilderment.

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At one point, we all gasp out loud as another balloon comes within inches away from us, but our pilot as usual steers us swiftly towards the clear skies. By the time we edge past the colossal cliffs and volcanic rocks, the sun is shining in its full grandeur, casting bright rays upon the landscape below us. The entire patchwork of slopes, valleys and meandering trails all seem to glow under the bright sunshine.

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The flight eases slowly and relaxingly, so much so that we barely notice that we are reaching altitudes of almost 3,000m above the ground.

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By the end of the flight, our pilot pops a bottle of champagne and celebrates! We all receive our flight certifications, already secretly planning our next hot-air balloon flight.

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For more hot air balloon details, contact Cappadocia Voyager Balloons at fly@voyagerballoons.com.

Address: Kagniyolu Mevkii 50180 Göreme, Nevsehir ; Tel: + 90 532 717 5050/ + 90 384 271 3030


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Cappadocia: Land of Fairy Chimneys and Cave Cities http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/04/17/cappadocia-land-of-fairy-chimneys-and-cave-cities/ http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/04/17/cappadocia-land-of-fairy-chimneys-and-cave-cities/#comments Fri, 16 Apr 2010 19:33:25 +0000 http://www.wildjunket.com/2010/04/17/cappadocia-land-of-fairy-chimneys-and-cave-cities/ tn_IMG_3852The sun is melting over the red-rose valleys in the distance. Ahead of me, whimsical fairy chimneys and cave churches  poke out sharply into the vermillion skies. The undulating slopes, meandering valleys and bizarre rock formations are all washed in a shade of orange. A land I could imagine hobbits and genies roaming in – [...]

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The sun is melting over the red-rose valleys in the distance. Ahead of me, whimsical fairy chimneys and cave churches  poke out sharply into the vermillion skies. The undulating slopes, meandering valleys and bizarre rock formations are all washed in a shade of orange. A land I could imagine hobbits and genies roaming in – has a setting fit for fantasy. While night slowly creeps in, the imaginary elves also hide in the safety of their cave houses. It is dusk here on my first day in Cappadocia.

I am here in this mystical part of Central Turkey and will be spending the next week exploring the country before continuing on to the Balkans. An exciting journey that’s taking me through starkly different landscapes and culture; I’ll be reporting on my voyage so keep a look out!

Goreme Panorama

Goreme is a popular base for many travelers in Cappadocia, with plenty of cave hotels and conveniences available. We head up to the panoramic point of the town, to get a bird’s eye view of the region. From above, it looks like a fantasy land with thousands of fairy chimneys dotting the landscape.

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Pigeon Valley

A deep valley entrenched within the cliff faces, this area is excellent for hikes. We catch a glimpse of the hilly town of Uchisaz (as seen below), with a castle-like cave house perched right at its peak.

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Soganli Valley

We explore the depths of the underground cave cities at Kaymakli, bending and crouching through narrow tunnels to get to a labyrinth of stone caves. Continuing on towards the Soganli Valley, we stop by various cave monasteries and pigeon-holed caves to investigate.

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Dervent Valley

Towards the last part of our journey, we find ourselves driving amidst the colossal fairy chimneys, coming face to face with these massive rock towers.

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Cave Hotel

This is a view from my abode for the night, Goreme House Hotel. Part cave part house, the boutique hotel is unique in its design and service. Halis, the hotel owner and my guide for the day, showed me what Turkish hospitality meant and I deeply appreciated his kindness. I spent an amazing time traipsing around the countryside of Cappadocia with him, getting to know the area and the country and I couldn’t thank enough.

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