Category Archives: Day Trips

Beat the Heat: Kabak Koy

0139f6284770bcf33043df0b697cf36542a63c86bcBeat the heat (and the summer crowds) with a short jaunt to Kabak Koy.

Literally named “Pumpkin Cove”, this secluded beach-front valley is just forty-five minutes from downtown Fethiye.  Drive southeast of town and head over the hills, passing street-covering streams, cliff-hanging village houses and bickering bunches of goats to reach a cove you would never guess could be so close to Fethiye’s commercial resorts and crowded summer streets.  Park your car in the small village atop the cliffs and take a jeep-minibus down deep-rutted dirt roads to the cove below.

reflections camp kababk koy

Outdoor Seating at Reflections Camp

Local zoning laws and the long winding roads (which offer breathtaking views of Fethiye and the surrounding shores) ensure that, while Kabak Koy is no longer quite so hidden, the summer crowds are still minimal and residential development near non-existent.  Join university student hippies hiking across the forests between bays, seclusion-seekers, nature-lovers and a few vacationing families in relaxing for the weekend.  Splurge and indulge in a bungalow at Sea Valley Bungalows, or even bring your own tent and sleep on the beach.  Stay closer the nature with a rugged wooden bungalow at Natural Life, sleep half-outside in a purple-painted tent and relax on shaded cushions in a sculpture-filled garden in Reflections Camp or Kabak Valley Camp encompassed in colorful murals a few hundred yards back from the beach, perch yourselves up on the cliffs at Shambala, PureLife Village or Olive Garden.

Sunset at Kabak Koy

Sunset from Sea Valley Bungalow’s Infinity Pool

While the beach is superb, with aquamarine waters protected by the cove and shaded sands, the area is also connected to Butterfly Valley and other sites by a net of hiking trails along the Lycian way. If you’re feeling tight from your travels, at least once a year the area holds a yoga festival (video here, article here).  Or you could just lie back and enjoy a book.


How to get there:  Go south-east on the coastline road out of Fethiye, climbing up and over the hills by either private car or Fethiye-Kabak minibus. Park where the road ends at the small village atop the cliffs.  By the general store there should either be a waiting minivan or people waiting for the next minivan to bring them down to the cove.  Transport is 5-10 lira/person.

Prices: There is a small store by the cove and most guesthouses have restaurants.  Food prices are about 20-30% more than in Fethiye, due to difficulty of transportation.  Nightly accommodation prices range from 60 TL for a 2-3 person tent to 300+ lira for a deluxe bungalow.

Bring: Sunblock, a swimming suit, beach clothes, a good book and a bottle of wine.

The blogging couple at Turkey’s for Life make a yearly birthday jaunt to Kabak from their home in Fethiye.  For more great recommendations, reflections and travel inspiration, check out these posts on their page:

One Night in Kabak: It’s Not Enough

Falling for Kabak

To Kabak: What Goes Up Must Come Down

OluDeniz to Kabak in Photos

Chakra Beach at Kabak Koy – Stay in a yurt!

Glorious Summer Feasts at The Olive Garden

A Day at the Olive Garden

Staying at Sultan Camp


Leave a comment

Filed under Beaches, Day Trips, Exploring

Exploring Ephesus

A Brief History:Ephesus Turkey

Ephesus (“Efes” in Turkish – same as the popular beer brand) is an ancient Greek city famous for its  Temple of Artemis, recognized as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The city itself is also renowned for its extensive and majestic ruins from the period of Roman rule and its role in biblical history.

The site became a Roman city in 133 BC and subsequently the capital of  Asia Minor under Augustus in 27 BC.  The population boomed to 250,000, attracting immigrants, merchants, scholars, and a great civil society.  Every year the capitol hosted the month-long spring festival of Artemis/Diana, which further drew thousands of visitors from across the empire. Jewish and Greek Christian settelers also flocked to the city, and St.Paul lived there tending his flock for several years in the AD 50’s.  According to tradition, St. John wrote his gospel here and the Virgin Mary also settled in the city until her death in the AD 30’s.

Ephesus TurkeyAt it’s peak, Ephesus was a major Roman port city second in importance and size only to the empire’s capital. By 100 AD Ephesus had an estimated population of 400,000.  Today you can still see the terraced homes of the nobles, grand stadiums and temples, and Library of Celcus (built in 123 AD) along the wide stone road that stretches across the city.

However, Ephesus slid into decline starting in 200 AD.  The once great harbor started to fill with silt and create malarial swamps, thus decreasing both population and trade; the Artemis/Diana cult diminished, shrinking the number of annual pilgrims and associated commerce; and finally the Germanic Goths sacked the city in 263 AD.

Ephesus lay largely forgotten on the hills above Kusadasi until European archaeologists rediscovered and began excavating the area in the 1860’s.  Excavation is still far from complete, as the ancient city is the largest excavation area in the world.

Basic Info: 

Open Times:
Summer (April-October): 08:30 – 19:00
Winter (November-March) 08:00 – 17:00
Admission: 30 TL
Car Park: 8 TL

Top Ten Spots:

Ephesus Archeological Museum Located at the entrance, the museum houses both the statue of Artemis retrieved from the temple and many other artifacts from the ancient settlements.

Temple of Artemis The Temple of Artemis (Turkish: Artemis Tapınağı), also known  as the Temple of Diana, was a Greek temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis, and is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  The temple was the size of a modern-day soccer field and had columns 30 meters tall.  It was rebuilt three times before its destruction in 401 AD at the hands of the Germanic Goths.  Today only foundations and sculpture fragments remain.  During Greek and Roman times, the temple was the center of a yearly spring festival that attracted thousands of worshipers from near and abroad.

Ephesus Library of CelcusThe Library of Celsus: The third largest library in the ancient world, the library of Celcus was built in honor of Roman Senator and General Governor of the Province of Asia Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus by his son in 135 AD.  The library was built to hold 12,000 scrolls – and the mausoleum for Celsus, who is entombed in a crypt below the foundations. Though the library was destroyed by successive earthquakes over the centuries, the facade was re-erected by archaeologists in the 1970’s.  You can still see many of the book niches and fanciful sculptures extolling the four virtues.
church of  mary ephesusThe Church of St. Mary:
This ancient christian cathedral dedicated to the “Birth-Giver of God” dates back to the 5th century.  The church itself is built on the ruins of the temple of the muses, and may have been built specifically for the third Ecumenical council (431), which gives rise to it’s second name,  Church of the Councils.  Councils held at the Church of St. Mary were of great importance in deciding the uniform theological underpinnings of Christianity.

The House of St. Mary:  Some believe that Mary mother of Jesus followed St. John the Baptist to Ephesus and spent the last few years of her life at this abode.  The home is treated as a sacred site, as is the fountain outside, which some believe has the power the heal even incurable diseases.  The house, which is located on Mt. Koressos, was discovered by Pere Poulin and Young in 1892. Visitors can see the restored house, the fountain, and a functioning chapel.
0133529321578018cd555a3ad491be49d69cdd70bcThe Cave of the Seven Sleepers: 
Legend has is that seven young men (Christian in some stories, wrongly prosecuted civilians in others) hid themselves and their dog in these caves when fleeing the emperor’s wrath.  One story tells that they were  found and murdered during the reign of the Roman emperor Decius in the middle of the 3rd century, and resurrected 200 years later during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II.  A second tale tells that they went to the caves to pray and fell into a 200 year long slumber, during which time the caves were sealed off by the emperor’s latchkeys.  During the reign of Theodosius II (408 – 450) a local farmer decided to open the sealed cave and use it as a cattle pen.  Inside he found the seven sleepers, who awoke believing they had slept but one day. The bishop was summoned to interview the sleepers, who then recounted their miracle story and died praising God.  In the Muslim world this legend is known as “Eshab Ul-Kehf”, and tells of seven men and women who hid in the caves with their dog and fell into a deep God-given slumber.  Centuries later they awoke, again unaware of the passage of time.  Felling hungry, one of their members went down to the village to buy bread, and was discovered only when he took out a centuries-old coin.

ephesus basilicaThe Basilica of St. John The basilica was constructed by the Christian emperor Jusitian I in the 6th century as part of his drive to revive the Roman Empire.  The basilica encompassed a small chapel that originally stood on the site and was believed to stand over the burial site of John the Apostle, about 3.5 km from Ephesus proper.  The basilica was modeled after the now lost Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), in the shape of a cross covered by six domes, with the tomb of St John under the central dome. The basilica was re-appropriated as a mosque in the 14th century, but shortly after mostly destroyed by earthquake.

marble street ephesusThe Marble Street: The main avenue of the ancient city stretches up the hill for several kilometers.  It was once flanked by columns 8 meters high and sculpted with graceful friezes.  While most of the columns are now broken, the broad avenue is still an impressive site.

The Great Theater: 
The theater once had a capacity of 25,000 spectators – still less than 7% of Ephesus’s total population at it’s peak!  It was constructed during the reigns of  Emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) and Emperor Trajanus (98-117 A.D.). ephesus ampitheaterUnfortunately, many of the stone seats were later carried away for use in other construction. For Early Christians, this theater held great symbolic importance, as it was the scene of the theological combat between followers of Artemis and followers of Christ that ultimately resulted in the expulsion of St.Paul from Ephesus.

The Church of St. John Many believe that St. John resided in Ephesus while writing the fourth book of the New Testament, which itself was compiled in this very church.  Excavations here have discovered five small graves around the tomb of St. John

Isa Bey Mosque The mosque was erected in 1375 by Isa Bey from the Aydinogullari (Seljuk) dynasty. It is situated just outside of the town of Selcuk were it dominates the Ayasluğ Hills.

Check out a longer review of Ephesus on Turkey Travel Planner here.

Summer 2013 3396Fun Facts:

  • Some of the columns in Hagia Sophia originally belonged to the temple of Artemis.
  • Two of the seven wonders of the ancient world are located in Turkey’s Aegean region: The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus in Bodrum, and the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
  • Ephesus is site of one of the ancient world’s largest public toilets (still visible today).
  • Though once a seaport, Ephesus is now located 6 miles from the sea.
  • The house of the Virgin Mary has been visited by both Pope the 6th Paul and Pope Jean Paul.
  • The Church of the Virgin Mary hosted The Third Ecumenical Council and  is known as one of the seven churches of the Apocalypse.  In fact, all seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation are found in Turkey: Ephesus, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
  • Ephesus wasn’t just a holy city; the first known advertisement of antiquity, which showed the way to a brothel, was found on Ephesus’ Marble Street.

Visiting Ephesus:

Ephesus is approximately 4 km from Selcuk, the nearest town.  Selcuk itself is situated on the road from Kusadasi, approximately 21 km from Kusadasi and 79 km from Izmir. From Kusadasi it is 72 km to Didim and 148 km to Bodrum. What this means is: if you have your own car, Ephesus is a very doable day trip from Didim or Izmir.  If you are residing further away, or plan to use public transportation, then consider the options below:kusadasi selcuk dolmus

  • Take the bus to Kusadasi, spend the day exploring the stone streets of the old quarters and enjoying the view of the harbor, stay the night (we highly recommend Villa Konak Hotel, which fully deserves it’s 9+ rating on Trip Advisor). The next morning, head to the Friday Market, and take the dolmus (R) to Selcuk.  Tell the driver to stop at the road to Efes, and walk 1 km to the gates.
  • Take the bus to Selcuk (direct bus from Bodrum is 3 hours, from Didim 1 1/2-2 hours; from Izmir 1 hour) and spend the night in either Selcuk or one of the surrounding villages.  The next morning walk, borrow a bike from the hotel, take a local bus, or take a ltaxi to Ephesus.
    • Selcuk: A small but bustling residential town of about 30,000 Selcuk is home to several guesthouses, winding old stone streets, a busy square, and lively farmer’s market.  Selcuk can be quite crowded in peak tourist season but, as an ancient Greek settlement and the 14th century capital of the Emirate of Aydin, has plenty of historic attractions of its own.
    • sirince ephesusŞirince: a quaint village nestled on the hills, famous for its wine and traditional Greek architecture.Sirince is 8km from Ephesus, and can be reached by dolmus (3TL).  Highly recommended is the traditional Gullu Konaklari B&B
  • Take the train from Izmir to Selcuk (4TL, train table here), visit Ephesus, and either head back on the train (last train leaves Selcuk at 20:44) or spend the night at Selcuk or in one of the surrounding villages.
  • Book a guided tour from Kusadasi.  These will generally pick you up at your hotel, drive you to Ephesus, and provide a half-day or full-day tour of Ephesus, House of the Virgin Mary, Cave of the Seven Sleepers, surrounding traditional villages or other sites before dropping you back off at your hotel.  Costs are usually 30-60/person.
  • From Istanbul: fly to Izmir, and take either the train or bus to Selcuk.  While you can make this a day-trip, you will probably enjoy yourself much more if you stay overnight in Selcuk, see Ephesus, and head back the next day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Ruins, Day Trips, Exploring, Weekend Excursions

Time and Money Saving Travel Tips: Turkish Museum Passes

Summer 2013 3376Traveling to Turkey? What are you most excited to see? The underground cities and cave carved churches at Cappadocia? The intricate and immense ceilings of the Blue Mosque? The once grandesque Temple of Apollo? The library or the Church of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus, reached by a two-thousand year old stone street? Hittite relics at the Museum of Anatolian Civilization? Lycian ruins at Olympos where beach-goers in bikinis mingle with relics of lost cities?

With hundreds of historical sites to see museum entrance costs can certainly add up, and the summer lines at Hagia Sophia can deter even the most intrepid of travelers.

But, no worries! In 2008 the Turkish government launched the Müzekart For 40 lira anyone with Turkish citizenship or a Turkish residence permit can have unlimited free access to museums and archaeological sites run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism over a period of one year. This is a great deal for students, retirees with residence permits, and other expats.  Unfortunately, if you are not a Turkish citizen, or do not have a valid residence permit, you are not eligible to purchase the card.


However, if you are planning to visit the sites in Istanbul or Cappadocia, the government offers two regional museum passes.

In Istanbul you can purchase a Museum Pass Istanbul for 85 lira (3 days) or 115 lira (5 days).  The card is good for entrance to: Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapı Palace Museum and Harem Apartments, İstanbul Archaeological Museums, İstanbul Mosaic Museum, Museum of Turkish and İslamic Arts, Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam, Chora Museum, Galata Mevlevi House Museum, Yıldız Palace, Rumeli Hisar Museum, and the Fethiye Museum. You can also use it to get discounts at a number of shops and entertainmnet venues.  The pass can be purchased at any of the sites, or at certain hotels (listed on the website).  The pass provides only single entrance (meaning you’ll have to pay full admission price if you make a second trip to the same museum), and slower sight-savoring travelers may find that it doesn’t pay for itself.  If you don’t plan on seeing all  the Istanbul sites, then the card’s main advantage is that it saves you from the lines, which can be quite long in peak season.

There is also a 45 lira Museum Pass Cappadocia.  This pass is valid for three days (72 hours from the time of first use) and covers seven spots in the Cappadocia region: Ihlara Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme Karanlık Church, Kaymaklı Underground City, Özkonak Underground City, Nevşehir Museum, Cavusin Archaeological Site, Hacibektas Museum, and Zelve-Pasabaglari.

All passes (and individual tickets) are available for purchase on this government site.  Just make sure to print out your tickets for individual sites before heading to the museum!

Individual tickets cost from 5 lira (Olympos, Temple of Apollo) to 30 lira (Ephesus).  You can view a list of all museums here.

Other time-saving tips: Go early! Especially along the coast passengers from docking cruise ships create heavy museum traffic between 10 am and 3 pm.  Hit the museums when they open to avoid lines, or after 3pm to have a quieter and less crowded experience.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancient Ruins, City Sights, Day Trips, Exploring, Holidays

Turkey: The Culture and History of Geography

A short jaunt through Turkey’s geography mixing culture, arts and history:
From Kevin Gould at The Guardian, here:
Nemrut Dagi, Turkey
Turkey’s culture and history, including sites like Mount Nemrut, is what makes the country so attractive today. Photograph: Peter Adams/JAI/Corbis

I’ve spent nearly 30 years travelling in luxury coaches, dodgy taxis, Dolmus buses, army helicopters, by boat and on foot and never fail to be thrown by the sheer diversity of a country that’s more like a continent.

Hip, cultural Istanbul is where many travellers start their voyages of discovery. Like New York isn’t America, Istanbul isn’t really Turkey, but a state in it’s own right. Unlike New York, Istanbul has 3,000 years of civilisation to inspire herself with. On the same latitude as Rome (and also built on seven hills), this was the perfect capital for the Emperor Constantine to establish the Eastern Roman empire from, just when old Rome was tearing itself to pieces.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Ancient Ruins, Day Trips, Exploring, Holidays

Turkey’s Best Beaches

Personally, we can’t decide between Olympos (Çıralı), where the adventurous can stay in tree houses (our old favorite is Orange Pansiyon for its grape vine-covered outdoor terrace and proximity to the beach), gorge on gozleme and fresh mussles during the day, and wander Roman ruins in between dips in the sea; Kabak Koy for the beach’s beauty and seclusion; and Iztuzu for the miles-long shallow water beach backed by an arc of protected pine forests. If you’re heading on the road to Bodrum (from Antalya) make sure to check out Kaputas Plaj too.  There’s no sign for the beach but the parked cars backed up on the winding road.  Head down a hundred cement steps and find yourself confronted with the clearest crystal water you’ve ever seen.

If you’re looking for great food to compliment your trip to the beach, check out Turkey’s Best Beach Food.

Gallery before the Guardian post is our own.

Originally posted in The Guardian here.

Winning tip: Çıralı, Antalya

Nestled in a valley, overlooked by the ruins of Olympos (Tahtalı Dağı), lies one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. Çıralı is so special due to its two-mile sweeping beach which remains undeveloped thanks to the loggerhead turtles that nest on the sands each year. At one end of the beach lies the town of Ancient Olympos, while at the other is the natural phenomenon of the constantly burning Chimaera flames. The tiny hamlet is full of charm, with each impressive garden full of pomegranate and citrus trees. Stay in one of the simple pensions: favourites are Hotel Villa Monte and Anatolia Resort. (doubles €60 B&B), (doubles €65 B&B)

Kelebek Vadisi, near Fethiye

Kelebek Valdisi beach, Turkey


Only accessible by boat, Kelebek Vadisi (Butterfly Valley), close to Fethiye, feels like a south-east Asian paradise beach. It has remained undeveloped, with just a few wooden buildings and a campsite dotting the lush valley. The stunning walk to a waterfall and the gorgeous beach make a popular day trip from Fethiye for TL10 (£2.50) return, but if you want to escape the crowds and totally switch off, this is your place. Camping and basic huts with restaurant and bar available on the beach.
Brid Doherty

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Beaches, Day Trips, Exploring, Holidays

Turkey’s Best Beach Food

Turkish Cuisine is most known for its fragrant, nutty desserts, succulent meats, and lavish breakfast platter.  But what do people eat when they’re hitting up the beach? Obviously not hotdogs and cotton candy.

Turkey’s many beaches have an abundance of food on offer, from the universally popular stuffed mussels to more unusual creations like melon icecream bowls. You’re likely to buy your beach food from one of three places: open-air cafes selling popular dishes all day, usually located just back from the beach; mobile food carts and village locals selling hand-cooked goods and cold drinks from baskets; and seasonal cafes set up on the sand.

Spinach Gözleme


Gözleme is the standby dish of Turkish beach-goers, delicious for breakfast, lunch, snack or even dinner.  Gözleme is made by rolling out thin sheets of dough, stuffing the dough with various fresh ingredients (traditional varieties include spinach, spinach and white cheese, yellow cheese, and cheese and potatoes), and baking it for a few minutes in a tandoor oven.  You will often see people carrying plastic tubs full of ready-made gözleme on the beach, and cafes selling oven-hot gözleme to order ring almost every watering hole.  Average price: 3-7 Lira.

Gözleme tent at Kaputaş Plaji

Gözleme tent at Kaputaş Plaji

Papery, savory gözleme is the perfect follow-up to an afternoon swim, best enjoyed from a shaded tent where you can get a little respite from the sun.


Fresh Vegetables and Ayran

Almost every outdoor cafe will serve up a side of fresh vegetables, or a simple mixed sheperd’s salad (Çoban Salatası).  Garden-fresh cucumbers and sun-ripened tomatoes are perfect when accompanied by a glass of cold, salty Ayran, especially after a swim (or sweating in the sun).


Ever seen a man walking around with a cloth-covered dish? He’s probably selling Midye – steamed mussels stuffed with mixed pilaf and eaten with a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Sari Kardesler Midye Stand, Bodrum

Sari Kardesler Midye Stand, Bodrum

Each town has their “midye barons”, the most famous probably being Bodrum’s Sarı Kardeşler Midyecilik, so well-known they even have their own facebook page. PriceL 0.5-1 Lira/mussel

Kavun Dondurma – Melon Bowl Ice Cream

If you’ve ever traveled to Turkey – anywhere in Turkey – you’ve probably noticed how popular (and prevalent) ice cream is.  Of course the tourists go for the blocks of ‘Turkish Ice Cream’ sold by men in red Ottoman caps.  But even beyond Istanbul’s most crowded thoroughfares, ice cream is everywhere, usually for sale in bright glass cares featuring twenty to firty flavors, from raspberry to blackberry to strawberry to chocolate to fudge to hazelnut to walnut to pistachio to caramel to…well, you get it.

But Turkey’s beaches offer something unique: ice cream scooped into a melon bowl.  The melons used are not as sweet or sugary as cantaloupe, and at least make your dessert choice seem a little healthier.  Price: 5 Lira


If you do want to skip the ice cream, and just go for the fruit, several beaches have stands selling cactus fruits ( hailed – without much scientific backing – as “Nature’s Viagra”) for around 2 Lira.  But beware – make sure yours is completely skinned before handling it yourself, or you could get cacti spikes embedded in your skin (trust me on this one).

*Really* Fresh Juice

And if you’d rather avoid the prickles, most beaches (along with almost every street in most cities) will have a nearby cafe or stand selling fresh-pressed orange juice. Many places will also make grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, carrot juice, and mixed juice for about 1.5-3 lira a cup, fresh-squeezed while you wait.

There are also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands (and fresh fruit juice stands) selling local organic produce by the side of the road.

There are also plenty of fresh fruit and vegetable stands (and fresh fruit juice stands) selling local organic produce by the side of the road.

süt mısır…delivery bicycle?

Steamed Corn (“süt mısır”) is also a popular snack, both in town and on the beach.  Look for small stands with closed stainless steel containers covered in white cloth or… a corncicle. Popular toppings include vinegar, butter, salt, pepper, hot pepper, lemon juice, and pomegranate sauce. Price: 1.5-4 Lira

Rakı Balık

Rakı Balık

If you’re more than a little peckish, and fruit and corn just won’t cut it, despair not! Turkey’s most famous beach food is of course fish!  A quick dinner can be made of balık ekmek (Fish sandwich, literally “fish bread”, see the video below), but fresh fish is often best  grilled and served with a squeeze of lemon, a tart side salad, and a glass of raki.  The dinner is so popular that it’s simply known as “rakı balık” – raki and fish. A trip along Turkey’s coast cannot be said complete without a dinner of rakı balık, preferably on a terrace as the sun sets over the sea.


Filed under Beaches, Day Trips, Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Culture, Turkish Riviera

“Turkey: A Gardener’s Delight” (Telegraph UK)

turkeypolars_3214520b“Turkey: A Gardener’s Delight”

By Mary Keen, 02 Mar 2015

Going to Turkey for the first time, I had hoped for almond blossom and tazetta narcissi. But this was a coach tour of ancient sites, several a day in Lycia (on the Mediterranean coast). Do gardeners ever go away without searching for how others grow things? It was too early in the year, nor was it meant to be a garden tour, but I could not help half hoping for a sight of snowdrops, hellebores, crocus or scillas. I was not quite naive enough to expect Ottoman gardens. That legacy barely exists and most Turkish gardens consist of pots, stone and water, within secret courtyards. Balconies are everywhere, with a few pots on them, and I imagined there would be even more in summer.turkeyblossom_3214526c

When travelling with family or friends in foreign places, a shout for a flower stop is allowed, although occasionally rationed. There are no flower stops permitted on a coach tour, but you can spot a scatter of scarlet anemones from the windows of a moving bus and the occasional almond blossom.


At Aphrodisias we saw the red Anemone coronaria growing with as much acanthus as the carvings on the capitols. At the Temple of Aphrodite, there were leaves of giant fennel growing in wet wasteland. Best sighting for those with symptoms of botanical withdrawal was a forest of the tree spurge Euphorbia dendroides growing on the island of Kekova. Bright acid green against grey rocks falling to aqua water that barely covered the ruins of an old harbour, it was an unforgettable sight. In the Mediterranean, where it is a native plant, this euphorbia flowers from January to March but loses its leaves in summer.


What we mostly saw, and were surprised by, were numbers of tailored trees planted along the sides of the road. On the central reservation there were trimmed ranks of cypress, fir and pittosporum and at Pamukkale hawthorn bushes had been carved into crowns. Wood seems a feature of Turkish life, with many houses built from the pines that grow in the hills. There are poplars in distant landscapes among olives. Another surprise, because I think of poplars as watery types and olives as dry-loving trees. But the Turkish poet Nâzim Hikmet writes “beeches are Russian, the way poplars are Turkish”.


Although the region we toured has a Mediterranean climate, it receives more rain per year than London. There were no signs of irrigation for newly planted trees, but it must be baking in summer.

On roundabouts, patterns prevailed. Spiny hedgehog cacti were used as dot plants among swirls of white stones. More pebbles were used to trace the outline of a flower, with the simple petals filled in by pansies. This may be a very diluted version of the Ottoman legacy of pattern making with pebbles.

Perhaps public gardening becomes less important when the hills in April must be studded with the tulips that Turkey is so famous for, as well as thousands of other desirable flowers.


The Meander valley, which we drove through, is fertile, but in an agricultural way, with fields of artichokes and cotton, and the river is sadly diminished by being used for irrigation. But in a high pass over the Taurus mountains where we stopped for an all too regular “WC break” (every one and a half hours and usually at a service station), we walked across fertile soil to a pear orchard and stumbled on a couple of tiny white ploughed-over crocus.


I loved the trip. My architectural companion and I saw wonderful things and travelled with interesting people; I swam in the Mediterranean and in a rust-brown hot spring in the rain under the stars. But next time it will be coach-free, in April, and dedicated to flowers. The celebrated Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter is half Turkish. I can’t wait to ask him where to go, because Turkey is definitely a place to revisit.

Mary Keen travelled with RSD Travel.

1 Comment

Filed under Day Trips, Exploring