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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Istanbul, Pamukkale and en route to Cappadocia

Istanbul has a huge selection of delicious restaurants, so we sought some guidance on where to go. We ended up at Pazarsade, one of the top 5 restaurants in Istanbul on Trip Advisor. Although we only called an hour before dinner for our reservation, we managed to get on their rooftop patio. We didn’t know what to expect when we arrived, and we were greeted with a beautiful vista of Istanbul – complete with views of Sultanahmet, the Istanbul skyline, bridges and the water. The wait staff was fantastic and the food was even better. We indulged in traditional Ottoman (not Ottawan)  cuisine, though we don’t think the sultans ate quite as well. We had some wine, which tasted oddly bubbly, and the waiter told us that all Turkish wines are carbonated. It was also at this restaurant that Sebastien and I discovered we actually like Turkish delight, when it’s done right.

Turkish Delight-ful!

Aya Sofia at night
We then took a stroll down to the Galata Bridge and enjoyed the touristy but entertaining show of a guy serving Turkish ice cream. 

The ice cream guy even gave me a chance to try and serve alongside him, but I didn’t have quite the showmanship he did! We arrived at the bridge to greet my namesake, the Aruna Cafe, which we were recommended by a number of people. It looked to be a fine establishment!

Trying to get that Turkish ice cream

The next morning, we headed to see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sofia, both amazing, and rightfully recognized as some of the man-made wonders of the world.


Inside the Aya Sofia

After having seen the main attractions of Istanbul (though there a many more awesome ones!) we were ready to hit the road towards Pamukkale. Even though we were driving on a Saturday, when you would expect less traffic, getting out of Istanbul was still an adventure and involved some of the classic traffic encounters such as people cutting us off, reversing when they missed their exit, creating four lanes when there are two, etc. We did manage to navigate out of Istanbul without getting lost, so we were very impressed with ourselves.

Turkish people are so friendly, which was a real change after a few days in Eastern Europe (although we did get a very nice note on our car in Bulgaria that said “Welcome to Bulgaria! We know about the Rally and want to wish you luck!”). 

Everywhere we go (even though we only know three words of Turkish) people will go out of their way to help us, offer us tea and coffee and show genuine interest in what we are doing. They also think that Sebastien looks like Tom Cruise (surprise, surprise!). The map on our car is really helpful to describe our journey and we generally get the same reaction of “Wow!” and “in that car??”. Our drive towards Pamukkale was through some interesting scenery and we finished the day about an hour away from our destination. The hotels we encountered were expensive (60 euro for a roadside hotel?? Really??), so we ended up just asking if we could camp near a gas station/rest area off of the highway. The people there were great, and showed us where to set up our tent and let us use the other facilities. And, of course, they gave us tea! J Our neighbours at the camp site included two geese and a rabbit. The geese were our alarm clock this morning, but luckily they don’t wake up as early as roosters. We had a good night’s sleep, a delicious breakfast and were en route to Pamukkale.

Pamukkale was a double whammy of awesome ruins and really cool hot springs/travertines.  We spent a few hours wandering around and relaxing, before heading in the direction of Cappadocia. (Pictures are on another memory card, and will be uploaded later!)

We didn’t end up on the road that we meant to take, but we still ended up going more or less the right way, and through some amazing scenery. We got a good view of what Turkish farmland looks like and dodged quite a few tractors on the road. Since our camping at a service station was such a success yesterday, we thought we’d try it out again! The first place we stopped one guy agreed to let us camp until his manager said no. Then we stopped at another gas station, where the guys informed us that there were a lot of “yilan” and we didn’t want to camp in the grass.

Our new friends on the way to Cappadocia!
Yilan are SNAKES! Scary cobra snakes based on the pictures that came up when our friend Ali googled “yilan” on the internet. However, our new friends showed us a spot that was not snake filled and said we could camp there. They then proceeded to ply us with tea, pepsi, sweets etc. They also showed us pictures of their family, described their Kurdish background to us and had Sebastien talk to their children. It’s amazing how you can communicate with other people even when you don’t speak the same language. They also have wifi which they are kindly letting me use! I’ve now been informed we can sleep inside on a couch, it just gets better and better ;)  


  1. So envious that you guys are doing this!!! sounds amazing!!! Istanbul traffic sounds JUST like Beirut traffic (especially the reversing to go back to your exit... saw that a lot). Turkish delight is always delicious.. can't wait to see more!! stay safe you crazy peeps, your favourite CelebuLeb, kinny

  2. Love your stories and can't wait for the next ones! You're really on an amazing trip, wow!

  3. Keep up the posts and be sure to stay away from "yilan"! I can't believe you are already in Turkey!