Posts Tagged ‘Driving in Turkey’

I’m not sure I’d rent a car in Turkey again – the highway driving is perfectly fine but the city/town driving is a nightmare… Despite  this, there’s no doubt that one of the pleasures of having your own transportation is being able to set your own schedule… Today we were able to take our time getting out of the room and didn’t hit the road until just after 11am (check-out time). Our first destination for today was Aphrodisias – an old Greek/Roman town. Google maps had showed a route from the first town along the route that we never did see but fortunately we’d seen signs on our way to Pamukkale a couple days earlier so we knew we’d find the place eventually… We found the turnoff we’d seen earlier without any trouble and after an “interesting” 30 km drive along a narrow two lane highway we pulled into the parking lot for the site.

They have an interesting system here – you can’t actually park at the site, so you have to hop aboard (for 7 lira for the three of us) a little shuttle tram that ferries you across the highway and the short distance to the site… You could probably walk it yourself but why would you want to in this kind of heat??

Once you hop off the shuttle, you walk a short distance to the site entrance, pay your money (15 lira each), pick up a map and audio guide (10 lira) and start exploring. This site is fantastic… easily one of the most interesting Greek/Roman cities we’ve ever visited… The stadium is amazingly intact and the rest of the site is only partially excavated (they were still digging out the main bath complex (it was cool to see their ancient bath house floor was tiled exactly the same as the bathroom in our house) and working on excavating a huge pool in the south Agora) and there’s lots of stuff still buried in the forest (you can see bits and pieces of it sticking up here and there). We also saw some buildings/structures we haven’t seen at other sites before – namely the Bouleuterion (council house) and Sebasteion (dedicated to the Roman emperors who were worshipped as gods in the Greek provinces of the Roman Empire). We wandered around for a couple of hours (one of the nice things about this site is that there are some mature trees that provide some shade to escape the blistering heat).

After wandering through the ruins we also popped into the little on-site museum (included with your entrance fee and air-conditioned) and checked out their collection of statues and other bits and pieces from around the site… Then it was time to pile back into the car and make the 2.5hr drive to Kusadasi…

Once again, the highway portion was fine. The Kusadasi portion was nightmarish. We started off just using a google map route that we’d pulled up on the iPad before left but after a bit it became clear that google maps had no idea where the hotel was so we switched to Apple’s “Maps” app and it quickly got us back on the right (albeit not much less hellacious) path. Even using the navigation feature on my iPhone it was a tortuous series of insanity-provoking roundabouts (whoever designed these clearly hated humanity) with multiple lanes of traffic entering and leaving and criss-crossing from one side to the other… Then it was into a maze of single lane streets and 90° corners and twisting allies… Eventually,  we found ourselves in front of the guest-house/hostel and even lucked out enough to get a parking spot right in front of the entrance to the hostel… It’s a good thing the mirrors on our rental car fold in because the street is so narrow the street side one definitely wouldn’t survive a night if it didn’t.

We dumped our stuff, cleaned up a bit and had showers then headed for a restaurant (Esenday) recommended by our host. Turned out to be a great recommendation – off the tourist path about a block (so mostly locals eating there and much, much lower prices) and fantastic service and good food. Our server even joined in a couple of times with our Rummy game and was very gracious… Definitely got a big tip from Marie… After dinner it was back to the room and to bed after a long day of exploring the ruins and driving…

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Today we were up bright and early to catch our 6:10 shuttle to the airport for our flight to Izmir… Unfortunately, the bug Caitlin had hopped back to me and I was feeling pretty crappy (pun intended) and wasn’t moving too quickly this morning… Marie and Caitlin helped pack up the last things and we made it to the shuttle – more or less on time… We picked up one more set of travellers from another hotel and then the driver – apparently cognizant of being a couple minutes behind schedule – floored it and headed for Kayseri airport (about an hour away) at warp speed… Not a good idea in a fully loaded van driving on cobblestone roads and poor quality paved roads… After about 10 minutes at warp factor 9, a loud bang followed by a telltale thumpity-thumpity-thumpity ride signalled a blown out tire… We didn’t mind as our flight didn’t leave until 9:10 but there were some very stressed people on the bus as it dawned on them that they were going to miss their flights… We all piled out of the van (and a few of us pitched in and helped as best we could to speed up the process) and eventually the damaged tire was replaced and we were good to go again… Of course, we were even further behind so the driver cranked it up to warp factor 10 and did a passable impression of a Formula One racer as he darted in and out of traffic, around buses, through red lights, etc.

We arrived at the airport in a literal cloud of dust and squealing tires… Everyone piled out and joined the huge queue of people waiting to get into the airport (remember, here you have to go through security to get into the airport). Our luck held out as they opened up a new screening station right in front of us so we made it in before a lot of other people and headed for the Pegasus check-in counter. At this airport they did the check-in by flight (which made a lot more sense than the gong show we encountered in Istanbul) so we were able to check-in quickly and then headed for a completely deserted waiting lounge on the second floor… Where I promptly stretched out and tried to sleep… The Immodiums I’d popped back at the hotel were doing their job but I was still feeling lousy… Just as I started to drift off, a couple of kids arrived intent on testing the acoustics of the empty room by yelling and screaming at the top of their lungs (I’m not exaggerating here… they literally yelled, shrieked, screamed, etc. with abandon and a complete lack of parent supervision). Luckily Marie and Caitlin returned and prevented me from stuffing the screaming tots in a garbage bin…

We hung out for a bit longer and then it was time to board the plane… Air Canada take note… When a plane has exits at the front and back it’s super fast to load the plane (and unload it) if you use both exits… I know… It seems like a radical idea but it works! The flight was uneventful (save for a bit of confusion we created when we told them we didn’t want the chicken sandwiches we’d ordered… They were the same as the ones on the last flight and some things you can only eat once in a lifetime…). Then it was into Izmir airport to wait for our bags… I think they loaded each bag onto the conveyor one at a time… With a smoke break in between bags… Ours were among the very last bags to show up on the carousel (about an hour after the flight landed)… Then we made the trek to the International Arrivals level to find our car rental agency…

We picked up our car (given that the girl at the counter spoke very little English and we speak no Turkish, I’m not sure if we have insurance but it’s all good)… Only problem… they have no GPSs to rent… No problem… We’ll just use the airport’s free WiFi to google maps a route… No free WiFi… No problem… We’ll just drive around until we find a McDonald’s and use WiFi to get a route to Pamukkale…

Can you believe there’s an airport in the world that doesn’t have a McDonald’s right nearby… After driving white-knuckled for about half an hour (remember, I’m operating on little sleep and feeling crappy still and am now in Turkish traffic) we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere with no WiFi restaurants anywhere around… So we pull out the iPhone, fire up the cellular data and start roaming (at $9.99 per 20MB). We leave the data on long enough to get a route and use the iPhone as a GPS to get us out of Izmir and onto the right road to Pamukkale (about 3 hours away).

Partway along we stop at a Burger King (not by choice…we do our best to stay away from fast food both in Canada and while travelling but we were desperate for WIFI and it was 2 pm and we were getting by on baby cookies since 6:00 am – so a few chicken tenders would tide us over).  The Burger King restaurant itself was kind of cool – the restaurant was built spanning all 6 lanes of a 6 lane divided highway so you’re sitting and eating above the roadway… Definitely never seen that in Canada.

Once we got to Denizili things got a little complicated (helped, no doubt, by me feeling way under the weather by this point) as we missed a couple of turns and had to do some backtracking but eventually we made our way to the hotel where we checked in around 7 pm and I promptly crashed for the night…

Marie and Caitlin went for a swim, had dinner and played some cards (while checking on me occasionally) and then called it a night as well – but not before dosing me up with enough Gravol and Tylenol to possibly cash in on my life insurance.   Hopefully I’m feeling better tomorrow because I’ve been looking forward to Pamukkale for a long time.