Turkey In A Motorhome Part One: Gallipoli to The Mediterranean

After our tour of Romania (see the past two blogs), it was time to go back home to do the AutoQuest’s MOT (we had made our decision a while back, see the last paragraphs: Eastern Europe: The Great Plains of Hungary and Chy-Kara Camping). It was already beginning of August which meant that this time around we stayed home only for a short month to go out again on the road and drive as quickly as possible to be in Turkey for beginning of September 2014. Our rough plan was to do the whole (or as much as we could-) of Turkey and parts of Greece for the Winter and then the Adriatic coast and the Balkans. We weren’t sure how long we’d stay in Turkey and where we would be for Christmas. Time would only tell. This is part of the adventure.

We set off on the next part of our journey happy and ready to explore new territories... Or so we thought. We got as far as the Alsace when Jamie’s mum, Mary told us I had received the result of the cervical smear I’d done whilst home. The result showed some abnormalities. To see whether those were worrying or not, I was booked for a colposcopy at our local hospital on 10 September.

We didn’t know what to do, but had to act swiftly. Going all the way back home seemed expensive and such a long way at first, but, it soon became clearer that it probably wasn’t such a bad idea after all... Although there was nothing to worry at this stage, if I did have anything wrong and were untreated for months, those “abnormalities” could eventually lead to cancer.  We didn’t want to have this hanging over our heads whilst travelling. Turkey could wait, it wasn't going anywhere!  We enquired about doing the colposcopy here in France, but my NHS appointment wasn't transferable. Health centres and hospital departments I called in the region were adamant that I had to do a smear test in the country first and wait for the results. This could mean we’d potentially have to wait for weeks before getting a diagnosis. It didn’t feel right. I even spoke to the nurse in charge before making our final decision. In less than 24hrs, I flew back home, had the appointment and were given the all clear! It had felt like a roller coaster ride. 

Jamie was in Beauvais then, he’d been looking at flights for me and the best way which we hadn’t thought at first was for me to fly to Munich rather than Paris. It was significantly cheaper and made a lot more sense as it was a little closer to our final destination. It meant that instead of waiting in limbo, Jamie was able to drive a big chunk of the journey to Turkey and pick me up at Munich airport on 12 September.

So here we were on the road again. The last few days had been quite a scare with last minute decisions to make. We were very lucky to have Jamie’s parents at home then and our friends and family were very supportive. Over the next week, we drove for hours and slept on motorway service stations in Austria, Croatia, Serbia and Greece. We allowed ourselves two stops in campsites, first in Slovenia, outside its small capital Ljubljana, at the friendly Camping Smlednik where we ended up drinking more than we should with our newfound friend, Nejc. We chatted for hours about Turkey, travelling, Slovenia’s political and economical situation before and after the former Yugoslavia.

The river by Camping Smlednik. The water was high, we were told it'd been raining hard for the past few days.

Checking our route whilst drinking beer & wine at Vili & Vili bar by Camping Smlednik.

Part of Camping Smlednik. The ground was very wet, but we managed to find a more gravelled spot near the entrance.

The second stop was in Greece at the welcoming family-run Kryoneri Camping (click on the link to read our review of the campsite). We loved it so much there that we stayed two nights instead of one. After six days driving, it felt good to stop. We rode our bikes and swam in the sea the next day. Joanna, the daughter of the owner, and her partner had kindly showed us where to go the evening before as we’d sat and bitten heartily into our plates of local meat and fries accompanied with a huge Greek salad. Even though they were packing up for the season, our friendly and dedicated hosts had opened the campsite restaurant and prepared some food just for us to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We felt truly spoilt by their generosity.

A view of small Kryoneri Camping.

One of the many cotton fields surrounding the campsite.

One of the beaches only a short walk away from Kryoneri camping.

Winding down with beer and a lovely simple meal!

Our cycle ride along the coast via ruins and a little harbour.

The views were truly stunning and we were very lucky with the weather.

Very hot, we couldn't resist leaving our bikes and scrambling down the rock to the tiny cove for a dip in the sea!

The water wasn't actually that warm, but it was lovely way to cool down for half an hour.

To finish our loop back to the campsite and access a cute harbour, we had to walk on this long pebble beach.

Before cycling back to the campsite, we stopped for grilled sardines and cokes at this lovely restaurant by the harbour.

We would have liked to stay longer, but our minds were focused on Turkey, we said goodbye and on the same day we crossed the border on the E90/E84 to Ipsala. The border crossing went surprisingly smoothly compared to some of the horror stories we'd heard. Our green card pre-ordered from our insurance company seemed to be the only documents they wanted to see. We didn't get searched and Jamie didn't have any problems with his visa (French people don't need it). Paperwork sorted and a quick food shop at a big Kippa; Tesco's branding in Turkey, we drove all the way down to the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Today a beautiful national park, it is hard to imagine that the peninsula was once the sight of bloody battles, The Dardanelles also called TheGallipoli battles. From 6 April 1915 to January 2016, the Allied forces fought against the Turks to defend this important sea route passage between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. A defeat for the allied forces, the Turkish victory lead by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a precursor to Turkish democracy and the end of the Ottoman Empire. Amongst the casualties, many were ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) forces, but also French, the cemeteries and memorials are there to remind us of those who fought for their country.

Most of the battles I’d learnt about WWI were the ones in France and Belgium. Unfortunately we never really had chance to be taught what had happened beyond those borders. Reading about it and seeing the sites where all these men had fallen was like looking at an open-air history book. We cycled a loop around some of the battlefields and monuments passing quite a few tourist buses. We thought though we may not even start our tour as a few hundred metres on, my tyre exploded! A few minutes after Jamie got his bike tools out, five policemen were around us trying to help us fix the puncture. Most of them were quite shy and didn’t seem to really know what to do, but their commander spoke good English and wanted to help.

Our helpers at the start of our cycle ride through some of the WWI battlefields and monuments of the Gallipoli peninsula.

One of the first commemorative sights en route showing compassion; a Turkish soldier carrying a wounded Allied soldier to safety.

Walking down the steps to one of the Turkish cemeteries.

Down there, no tombs, but many names listed to remember.

One of the many monoliths commemorating events that happened.

ANZAC graves at the Lone Pine Memorial.

The biggest Turkish cemetery on our small cycling tour. Many Turkish tourists had come to pay tribute.

A lovely statue of the oldest First World War Turkish veteran and his great-great-granddaughter.

The view of the Aegean sea from one of the highest point on the Gallipoli Peninsula and one of the WWI sites, the Nek.

Our campsite, Kum Camping was in a good location, but didn’t live up to the small and friendly Kryoneri Camping. Characterless, it felt that the heyday of this 80s resort-style campsite had long gone. We left after two days planning to visit some of the wonderful temples and ruins scattered all along the Aegean all the way down the Mediterranean. Who knew there were so many?! That’s one of the things Jamie and I didn’t know about Turkey; in terms of historical monuments, it seemed overshadowed by its Greek neighbour. We weren’t sure which ones to pick, but with the help of our guidebook, online articles and trying to avoid the swarms of tourists, we ended up scrambling on some fine Ancient Greeks/Roman ruins.

A side view of our site at Kum Camping on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

On the Eceabat-Çannakale ferry to mainland Turkey, a group of men gather around Izzy, the Motorhome to look through the window!

During the 30/40mins crossing I take time to read a bit more about Turkey, our new home for a few months!

The first was the Ancient Greek city of Assos founded around the 7th century BC in the small hilltop town of Behramkale. We parked on the side of the road opposite the ruins. Walking around the old city walls and necropolis as the sun went down with views onto the Aegean sea and the island of Lesvos was a memorable experience. Before driving down to the aire of Assos on the seafront, that evening, we traded motorhome-cooked food with local Turkish specialities at the Panorama restaurant; we shared mouth-watering starters of stuffed vine leaves and stuffed pumpkins with aubergine salad and chicken shish!

In the distance, the site of Assos/Behramkale.

Walking along the large Necropolis towards the city walls.

Walking up the narrow cobble streets of Behramkale to the Panorama restaurant.

A very bright shop!

The next was the UNESCO World Heritage site of Pergamum in the modern city of Bergama. An enormous site compared to Assos, we were marvelled by its jaw-inducing amphitheatre on the mountainside, staggering Acropolis, temples and gymnasium. Spectacular it was, but we missed the modesty, charm and tourist-free zone of Assos/Behramkale. We’d done well to park at the city’s campsite as it took us a few hours and sweats to look at all the ruins of this once powerful kingdom.

The Acropolis of Pergamum is quite a way from the campsite and from here, it's up hill all the way!

The way up is through small narrow streets lined by old houses. 

Further up the main road leading to the site, a nice view of the Kestel reservoir on the Eastern side of Bergama.

Foundations of the Temple of Athena at the top of the Acropolis.

Pergamum's vertiginous 3rd Century BC Hellenistic theatre and Byzantine Tower and the modern town of Bergama in the background.

Running through the vaults of the Temple of Trajan or Trajaneum.

A view from the top, the Kestel Çayı reservoir on the Eastern side of Bergama and Pergamum.

Restored colonnades of the stoa of the Temple of Trajan.

The Temple of Trajan dates from the 2nd Century AD.

Is Jamie's trying to reproduce the statue he is stood next to? The headless torso of the Emperor Trajan.

A view of the ruins of Pergamum's Basilica and Upper Gymnasium.

Walking down to the exit, we take a closer look at the Gymnasium.

And out onto the back streets of Bergama down the Acropolis.

A dad and his kids are playing a game of football.

Some of the colourful buildings.

Our sort of van!

Situated opposite the main dual-carriageway on the outskirts of Bergama, the campsite was noisy and charmless, but it meant that we had time to buy a Turkish internet data SIM card. Jamie had researched it and Vodafone was the only network at the time selling SIM cards to tourists. We spent a comical half an hour communicating with the lovely shop owner and assistant via Google Translate on their desktop computer. The translation may not have been that accurate, but it worked! We left with a 4GB SIM Card to use within a month for the cost of 120TL (about 37Euros or £26.50).

We were lucky to have the small Caravan Camping Bergama for ourselves, but the noise from the traffic was constant.

After getting our 4GB data internet SIM card from Vodafone, we walk back down to the Acropolis to look at the ruins of the Red Basilica.

The carpet shops surrounding the Basilica.

A view of the Red Basilica/Red Hall.

Extensive archeological work was being done to bring it back to its former glory.

The huge 2nd Century Temple to the Egyptian gods of Isis and Serapis was built on the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

Back out onto the courtyard of the Basilica.

And onto the streets.

We weren’t sure where to go next. We’d read about other incredible monuments such as Ephesus and Pamukkale, but they seemed very much on the tourists radar and a lot more expensive than those we’d visited (Assos was free, incredibly! And Pergamum was 25TL each; about 7.50Euros or £5.50). Did we want to battle with crowds and pay a premium for some when we’d already had the great fortune to visit extraordinary ancient places? Plus, Bergama was very modern, and looking at the map it seemed that all the way to Izmir and Bodrum wasn’t the traditional Turkey we’d imagined, most of the towns looked very new with half built blocks of flats lived in and road constructions going on. We drove through very quickly, ending up paying toll roads (got a sticker to put on our windscreen from the post office) but still managed to find a nice wild camping spot by the sea.

I say “very quickly”, but we did have a weird incident which, to this day, we’re still not entirely sure if we were scammed or not. As we were driving on the main artery (E87) near Izmir, an elderly Turkish man overtook us in his Ford Transit Connect making hand signals towards the back of the van. He was obviously trying to tell us something was wrong. As we pulled up on the side of the road, we noticed liquid coming off our back wheel! Not a very good sign indeed. Once parked properly, our man took it upon himself to repair our van getting all his tools out of his car. A lack of common language and the whole situation unfolding so fast meant that we didn’t have a chance to discuss things. The problem was the bearing; it was “kapput” as our man showed us after taking off our wheel and other parts. He then went off for a while to get the part from a garage.

Our man telling Jamie the back wheel baring is "kapput".

We’d managed to talk by a mixture of hand gesture, Google Translate and common sense. So far our man had said that it wasn’t about money but, back from Izmir, he asked us for 300Euros. We couldn’t believe it. We felt betrayed and explained we didn’t have any Euros. We only had Turkish Liras. Luckily we had withdrawn our weekly amount the day before and so ended up giving him nearly all the cash we had between us; 600TL. Later on, we reassured ourselves that there had been definitely something wrong with our baring. Whether it was worth that much, we’ll never know, but it was better than having had an accident. We had to stay positive and see the good side of the events.

We slowly put the above event behind us making our way further down South via the Ancient Greek city of Priene. Before getting to the Mediterranean, we went to Selena Camping by the Bafa Lake, a secluded affair and our chosen alternative to the now over popular Bodrum peninsula. Although the location was perfect, we left after a couple of nights due to lack of sleep: the culprits... Mosquitoes! They only had a cold outside shower too and the restaurant was a little more expensive than we’d experienced.

Parked on the side of track leading to the sea, it was a nice wild camping spot after our wheel baring incident.

The paved path going up to the Ancient Greek city of Priene from the parking lot.

Priene's Agora.

Priene's main street lined with ruins of houses, shops and even a synagogue.

The well-preserved colonnades of Priene's Temple of Athena.

And Priene's Hellenistic theatre, one of the best preserved in the world.

The Bafa Lake and nature reserve next to Selene Camping.

Roman ruins in the small village of Kapikiri where Selene Camping's located .

We stumble across one of these cute ones!

Back to Selene Camping and Pension. Our small spot's on the left-hand side of the property.

Van shower as Selene Camping only has cold pool shower.

We wild camped for the next two nights including by the beach about 28km from Fethyie and in the small Kalkan harbour, our aim was to get to Kas camping (Click on the link to read our review of the campsite) and stay there for a few days to relax, explore the little harbour town, its area and scuba dive! The coastline was less built up and wilder down there. It was truly beautiful. We swam and cycled a lot. I actually got chased by some very angry dogs at the top of the hill behind Kas. It was scary, but I managed to cycle as fast as I could downhill. We made a few stops en route to Kas Camping including to the ruins of Patara and little known Euromos which we nearly missed after zooming past it. This was our very own discovery; no articles, no guidebooks, we'd simply stumbled across it. After all that had happened to us in a month, we were starting to fall in love with the country.

The empty ticket booth in the small site of Euromos.

The Temple of Zeus at the ancient city of Euromos.

The Assembly Hall at Patara.

The partially restored main street of Patara.

Walking up the sand dunes to the beach behind.

The small aire at the Kalkan harbour.

The beautiful coastline en route to Kas camping.

Our spot at Kas Camping. The small terraced campsite can be tricky to manoeuvre when parking a motorhome.

Ready to snorkel at the campsite's own diving platform and terrace by the sea.

From the terrace looking to the harbour and town of Kas.

Kas Camping scuba diving pier on the other side of the terrace.

The port of Kas.

In the nice back streets of Kas.

Kas's main square opposite the port.


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