Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trip to Turkey - Istanbul > Bursa - Ulodag > Kusudasi > Izmir > Istanbul

Trip to Istanbul > Bursa - Ulodag > Kusudasi > Izmir > Istanbul It was cake walk to get the visa, applied online eVisa costed me around 12KD per person and got it within minutes via email. After checking lots of options I shortlisted to book return tickets+4 days (initially just to land somewhere) accomodation @Istanbul through Expedia. Prices were high due to peak season. So i ended up with booking Air Atlas (which in general was costing me around KD 230/pax) along with Hotel - Kumru (Sultanahmet area) for 4 nights - 11th Aug to 15th Aug. This in total costed me around KD 1200 (usd 3,712) Flight was at night, so be prepared to burn your sleep. Flight to Istanbul was around 3.50mts. We landed around 8 Istanbul, took around 20..25 minutes to get immigration process done (stamping, clearing baggage etc.). Next was to reach hotel, at airport I also checked various options of renting wifi which was costing around 120lira (13KD) per day and rent a car which was around 130 lira per day (15kd), just make sure you take something which was full insurance and unlimited mileage, because Turkey is huge and you may end up driving 1000's of kms from one to the other destination.Because we are very tired and the process is bit time consuming we dropped the idea of renting device and car temporarily and we started looking for option to reach hotel via shuttle, they charged us @100 lira (10kd) to drop us to hotel. From airport to sultanahmet area is 1hr+ drive with traffic in peak hours. We finally reached hotel, good reached before 10 the time when they end breafast serving :), next was to start checking around the city, so walked some and reached to THE SULTANAHMET mosque, amazingly beautiful, next to that was Hagia Sofia church/museum and that area is happening, restaurants, markets, trams. Amyways, we chose 'BIG BUS' it costed around 295 lira for 48 hrs. We checked many places, hopped in and out. Places like - Close to each other TopKapi Palace Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome) Aya Sofia (Hagia Sofia) Sultanahmet mosque (blue mosque) Close to each other Egyptian spice market (spice bazar) Grand bazar (Kapali Carsi) Sulamaniya Mosque Bosphorus cruise (cost around 40..50 lira person, you may also negotiate) ON way - what we loved - Rahmi M. Koc Museum (amazing collection of old cars, trains, planes etc.) Museums - http://greatistanbul.com/museum.html Bosphorous bridge Galata bridge Taksim area After 4 days in Instanbul, I took rental car and took a trip to Bursa. Around 180kms Drove from Istanbul highway towards Bursa (took ankara road) Drive until Yalova ferry, ferry takes you and your car. aprx. 40 minutes tour in huge normal ferry but very beautiful. From other side to bursa was 2+ hours drive. We then looked for some hotels in bursa and took shelter in Gold hotel which was very stretegic location, next to main market. They charged us around 180 lira/night around 20kd per night (with free breakfast). we reached in evening and same day we walked around bazar which was few minutes away from hotel. We drove and checked out following: Green mosque (Yesil Cami) - (Yeşil Cami, YESH-sheel jah-mee) includes the mosque itself, the imperial tomb (Yeşil Türbe) next to it, the Turkish & Islamic Arts Museum in a historic medrese (theological college), and to the east of the Yeşil complex, the Emir Sultan Mosque City Center (Şehir Merkezi) - stretches from Heykel, the plaza marked by the equestrian statue of Atatürk, then westward along Atatürk Caddesi past the shady Koza Park by the Koza Han (Silk Cocoon Caravanserai) and Kapalı Çarşı (Covered Bazaar), to the Ulu Cami (Great Mosque) Citadel (Hisar) - A ten-minute walk west uphill from the Ulu Cami, Bursa's former citadel is the oldest part of the city, with some fine old Bursa houses, the tombs of Osman and Orhan, founders of the Ottoman dynasty, and panoramic views of the valley below Uludağ : the Mount Olympus of the ancient province of Bithynia, rises 2543 m (8343 feet) to the south of the city, which is built on its slopes. One of the must see for hiking, skiing in winters (teleferic - cable car). ON way, lots of stop overs to relax, barbeque After 2 days in Bursa, we planned drive to Izmir around 340kms On way, we sighted beautiful scenic views, we stopped at some places, took snaps, you will find lots of roadside vendors selling sand made toys, sweet melons (local produce) and other fruits. we also stopped by huge restaurant - Koftec Yusuf, huge place with lots of staff working with good variety of Turkish, fast food, sweets, choclates etc. From there we continued our drive towards Izmir. Reached in evening and it was bit of nightmare because most of the hotels were booked and after finding reason we were even more surprised. It was because of Syrian migrants who have begun massing in the area before attempting to make a break for Greece across the water ! İzmir has become a hotspot for Syrian migrants, with many hotels running at such full capacity that they have begun constructing extra rooms to meet the demand. Many of those that cannot find room have opted to sleep in any shady place they find on the streets. Apart from the dark side, their are some nice places to check, few of them are as follows - Karsiyaka is one of the popular regions in Izmir. There is a pedestrian street full of shops and restaurants. You can take a walk on the seaside Kemeralti is the famous market area behind Konak Square. You can find many shops specialized in different trades. It's especially crowded during the weekends. Tourists also prefer this area. You can bargain with the prices of most items. There are shops to get some souvenirs and some cafés to rest after shopping. Konak Meydani (Konak square) is the centre of Izmir city. Due to the presence of such official institutions as the municipal and governorship buildings coupled with a concentration of shopping facilities in this square Clock Tower : This monument was built in 1901 by the Ottoman Grand Vizier Kücük Said Pasha to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the coronation of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamit II. The Agora was the largest of its kind in the world and was established in 333 BC by Alexander the Great on the slopes of Mt. Pagos but was ruined in an earthquake in AD 178 and rebuilt soon after by Marcus Aurelius. The Agora was originally partially excavated in 1932-41, revealing an open square (140x140m) flanked by porticoes and a huge civic basilica on the north side. After Izmir around 2 days, we drove to Kusadasi around 100kms. Unfortunately after searching for 1 hr, we couldnt locate Cuvercin Ada or Pigeon Island, later we dropped that location and we planned to check around city itself. Our sure visit, was Efus or Esphesus - Roman ruins The ruins of this city dates as far back as 3000 BC and excavations on the site is still ongoing. Around 12kms from here was House of virgin mary or Maryamnama located on the top of the "Bulbul" mountain 9 km ahead of Ephesus It is believed that Mary went to Ephesus with John, but could not stay down in Ephesus itself due to christians being prosecuted, hence she stayed up in the mountain in this 2 roomed house until her death.It's a truly facinating place to visit, whether or not you have any belief in religion or spirituality. Today it is a tiny Roman Catholic chapel made entirely from stone in Roman architectural style. People also come here for 'Votive' or 'wish', they often write it on paper and tie it expecting it to be fulfilled. Only God knows the reality, however it was great experience, wonderful and peaceful place to visit. Then we planned to explore further and visit Cesme Çeşme makes a pleasant base for exploring the surrounding peninsula and is the springboard for the Greek island of Chios, 8km across the water and also spot for illegal migrants heading to Greece/EU. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-syrian-exodus-refugees-cross-narrow-sea-passage-with-europe-on-horizon-1415950113) Apart from all these, its extremely beautiful place surrounded by small islands that can be visited and explored on various boat trips on offer. Alacati, Ildiri and the ancient city of Erythrai too are accessible from Cesme and worth a visit. We then drove back to Izmir and next day we had long drive back to Istanbul around 500kms. However you do have other options, what we did was we drove form Izmir to Bandirma (around 300kms) and then took IDO, which costed us around 345lira (3 pax + car) around 2.5hrs sea route directly to Istanbul. Our hotel was around 15 mts drive from the IDO port Finally we checked in back to same Kumru hotel for 1.5 day, next day was scheduled flight back to Kuwait around 10.50, landing at 2.25. Simply, unforgettable experience. Inshallah will visit again