Adonis Diaries

My 7-days bus drive tour experience in Turkey

Posted on: August 20, 2019

My bus tour experience in Turkey: 7 days in different hotels

I liked this bus tour and already missed this enduring vacation. I am looking forward to another bus tour to different regions in Turkey.

Note 1: I say it upfront that the worst parts in this tour is to “incarcerate” us in modern malls for 3 hours in each major city. These 5 unnerving visits highly upset me. Maybe many would like to visit a mall once or twice, but many of us would rather be in a zoo (if available) or a park with monster roller coasters., and would have settled for a place with babyfoot (fuzzball) , ping pong and dart throwing…..

We didn’t even visit any old souks where we could buy some items that peple back home wanted, like cotton abayaat and other exotic gifts.

My purpose of taking this “exhausting” trip was to test my endurance, hopefully for climbing the Himalayas (and I could take more physical traumas), but the repeated Malls visits took the wind out of my morale.

Note 2: There is no way to pay in other currencies but in Turkish Lira (TL) or credit cards. If you fail to exchange currencies you die of hunger since no shop would accept dollars or Euros: I think government restrictions are followed, except in touristic sites for buying gift. One person told me that he is using his credit cards for everything. Thus, once all my TL were spent, I bought a cologne bottle by credit for less than $3. And I kept using the card for eating.

Note 3: Truth is, none of the guides (Lebanese and Turkish) attempted to introduce us at the first meeting. I could have made this tour without knowing anybody if I didn’t force myself to introduce myself.

The introduction could be: “It is standard procedure to introduce ourselves at our first meeting, at least with our first name. If you feel uneasy, then say “pass” 

Actually, it was on the last day that I haphazardly knew that 2 groups were from my district and neighboring towns. Truth is that I felt alone most of the tour, like when I arrive early for breakfast /dinner, no one would join my table. And had to mingle without invitation.

Going out does barely change the habits of Not introducing ourselves: this habit of “tarkeez al tarboush”.

We landed in Izmir (Smyrna) on Monday morning around 11:30 am and had a “panoramic” tour around this big city of 3.5 million, stretched around an inlet of the sea. Izmir is an industrial city and the sea was badly polluted from former tanning factories and  is being cleaned up.

Smyrna was a destination to Athens philosophers’ (Protagoras and Anaxagoras) who were banned from the city, mostly  when condemned as heretics, and its close region of Milet by a river. It was a main province during the Farisi empire until Alexander defeated this empire. All the Greek city-states had trade contoires in this city in the antiquity,

We slept at the 5 stars Wyndham hotel and I enjoyed its indoor comprehensive spa.

It was the Adha Eid (the sacrifice in Muslim religion) and Turkish had vacation for 3 days and most businesses and pharmacies were closed. Many Lebanese take advantage to buy very urgent inexpensive drugs,  in large bundle, compared to Lebanon.

Once I entered a pharmacy with the group. I didn’t want to by anything. I inquired what kind of drug I should buy 3 years down the drain. I ended up settling for a B-complex vitamin bottle

We resumed to Ephesus and walked the vestiges of this vast ancient city. Apparently, the Austrian archaeologists barely excavated 10% in the last 100 years. When Austria will run out of funds, the German are in the list to continue the work.

The Turkish government reap the entrance fees without spending any money on the archaeology sites. It was hot and the sloping marble street was slippery and the tour was done quickly at my displeasure. Our Turkish guide for the tour was carrying a Turkish flag on a stick to follow. him I ended up following 3 different groups with guides holding the same flag.

One of the 7th most famous wonders in antiquity, the “Temple of Artemis”, is reduced to a single colon and badly repaired. Apparently, the Christians dismantled this “atheist” temple, as the Muslims later will dismantle Christian sites.

We resumed our drive to Meryemena on a hill, supposedly where Virgin Mary died, based on a dream from a bed-ridden German crippled woman. I strongly doubt this myth, since it was Not possible that Mary, who died at age 56, could reach this remote destination. The most plausible location is in actual Syria and on the seashore.

The next day we drove to Pamukkele and the Hieropark hotel. I enjoyed the open-air iron mud-like pool, watching as in the balcony the night entertainment of music and belly dancing. I then swam in the open-air pool and could Not share the belly dancer in my swimming trunk. I liked this supposed 4 stars hotel more than in the other hotels.

We visited the Roman ancient city of Hieropolis with chalk areas and spring pools and slippery low-level pools. A great visit. I think I experience a sudden kind of diarrhea and barely reached the far away WC. Excellent day to spend in that quaint town.

We resumed our trip to Konia, a 5 hours trip.  At one point I told the guide that there is urgency to stop at the first gas station and Not wait for the “programmed break”. I had to come forward twice for the guide to take my request seriously. Many stepped out of the bus and thanked me for my straightforward move.

The “program” made us visit the Mevlana Museum, a place where Imam Jalal El Din taught his students of dervishes. At night, a bunch of the group spent money to watch an hour of Whirling Dervishes. I had watched them in a TV documentary, which I had cut short. I didn’t like this Hilton hotel with its long corridors that reminded me of old hotel style.

The “program” wanted us to visit the Uchicar castle where disciple John was “buried’. I refused to visit this castle because it was apparent that its crumbling outside walls, haphazardly filled with little stones, were “renovated” with  plain sculpted stones. And it was hot and I was tired for these “archaeological” meandering.

The temple of Baalbak in Lebanon is far more majestic and far more ancient than any temple that exists or ever existed.

We proceeded to Cappadocia where over 150 flying hot balloons is performed about 250 mornings per year . The hot balloon morning was cancelled by the authority for climate  causes and reported for the next morning.

I also refused to share in that experience. 18 of our tour group were crammed in a single “nacel” but they experienced a wonderful event from up there. Our guide refused me to join the group, just to watch the frenetic preparation and procedure for the flight, a decision that has no reasonable foundation at all.

It seems that a ticket for a seat in a balloon is $50 if purchased in Turkey, instead of the $175. It was reported to me by one of the group when walking the main street in Cappadokya (as written in Turkey) , and being more curious than the rest of us. Obviously, if seats are “available”.

It is in this Goreme town that I got lost. The Turkish guide said that we will meet at a Chinese restaurant. I visited the first Chinese place and no one was there. I was told there were 8 other Chinese restaurants. One of them is across the main street, and it was closed. And I ended wandered around and checking on the other “closed” Chinese restaurants (probably they take siesta time?).

I got lost off the main street. Hard to find a Turkish speaking English or French or Arabic… I met a guy wearing a large back pack and speaks English  and he said he is a trekking person. He used his GPS but was of no help. After 30 minutes of walking I re-located the main street.

I was exhausted and it was hot and walked straight to the bus. It was locked. On my way back, I met 3 of our group and were urgently trying to locate a public WC. I told them there are none where they are searching. They ignored me.

I resumed my walk and sat in the first “restaurant” and ordered hot tea (chi) and used their WC.  One funny female member said: “So for ordering a hot tea you are waiting for another hour to go back to the bus?”

We visited several sites of these caves dug in the hills, like the Nevsehir valley, the Goreme Open Air Museum and the Red “canyon”. Our Turkish guide Levant flew his tiny drone to film the valley. I thought he was preparing a documentary on this area that he is most fond of. Apparently, Levant is a “professional” photographer and had exhibited some of his pictures in London.

We also visited this Kaymakliunderground city” of 4 levels, dug in a chain and series of caves and holes. Apparently, there are 8 more underground cities, one of them is of 13 floors deep. Most of them were excavated during the Hittite empire, 2000 years BC. Many claim that Christians at some periods inhabited these cities. I believe that these habitation were reserved for slaves and prisoners.

On Saturday we drove to Adana and were parked in a Ramada hotel, in the downtown, with no facilities, save a tiny gym.

A group were whisked to the Optimum Mall. Later, with nothing to do, I opted to walk 1.5 km to there and returned in the same bus at 8 pm.

A group paid $45 for dinner and for watching Turkish traditional dancing, an event that I opted to ignore: I prefer to participate in the dancing and Not sit and watch.

The group reported that they were invited to the dancing floor and many Spanish and Italians danced: a piece of news that I was not filled with, otherwise I would have shared in that event, instead of spending a much boring night. Actually, I planned to work on my laptop, but I could Not recharge it and the connection failed on me that night.

A video, shared to our Izmir group, showed one of our female members joining the belly dancer. In fact, she ignored the dancer and performed her our “choreography” and the official dancer had to step aside. Our group belly dancer added a section in her dance performance, bowed , bent over (mtayyazi) for a while.

I finished reading a book and then remembered that Maria, a young girl sitting behind me in the bus with her mother, initiated me to YouTube this day on the bus. I listened to 2 hours on these old musics of the 70’s.

On the bus that day, Maria connected me to the Rolling Stones at my request. I was so enthralled with the music that when the guide Natasha sounded on the micro: “I have something to say. Are you listening?” I removed one earplug and replied: “Only with one ear”

The next day we paid a visit to the marina in Mersin and I had bass fish with a large Efes beer.

Actually, two days ago, as we were roaming the streets of the town of Seljuk, in the Ephesus province, for a “free lunch”, meaning with our own money and I spent most of my TL on eating “for fee”, I patronized a small eating place and asked for a local Turkish beer. He suggested a very large bottle of Efes, claiming it was made in Seljuk. Later, the Turkish guide rectified: This beer is made in Istanbul.

We returned to Adana in order to fly from its tiny airport. But before that, we were parked in a mall to wait for 3 hours for the airport departure. That was a grueling ending for a good trip.

Our plane our delayed 2 hours because another plane was hired to pick us and the returning hajjis (pilgrims) from Mecca were hoarding all the available planes back to Lebanon.

My taxi driver had to take a nap in his car and I waited outside, hoping that he didn’t lose patience, but he showed after 15 min of worrisome wait.

(I learned later that mobile phones should be closed when boarding a plane to another country, otherwise, when we land we will not be able to receive contact on our mobile)

Note 4: This sentence “It is Not in the program” is what ire me most. In the last night of our tour, I suggested that all the group go to a club, a karioki club for example, and apply our talents in singing, dancing… The idea was good, but the guide replied: “This event is Not in the program”. We had a night off, even an afternoon off. What then? Extra expenses in gas bus? Extra expenses to the driver? Do you think anyone would Not have chipped in for the additional expenses? An event that would have gathered the group and had a great time to meet.

Note 5: Couples mostly remember to take a taxi to visit an old souk. But single people barely can come up with this ingenious idea. It is the guide responsibility to remind everyone of this possibility to schedule their “free time”.

Note 6: Asian tourists preceded us on every bus stop (break), every touristic sites, every hotel. They were from mainland China, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and even from Kazakhstan (I spotted two goddesses of them and had to investigate their origin). Canadian Asians were there and who were transferred by their companies to Japan, Singapore… and they insisted 3 times that they are Canadians. All of these emerging countries with large middle-classes who are on the move

Note 7: We drove miles in rich fields, trees of all kinds, and fruit trees that have been harvested. A vast country of plenty in the valley between the Taurus mountain chains. And even the dry vast plateau of Konya, where barely a tree could be seen, the fields of cereals were harvested.

Maybe because of the Adha Eid or the fields were already harvested, I didn’t spot a farmer or an agricultural equipment working the land.  Turkey manufacture most of the kitchen industrial products and export them to the EU, products that Europe desisted from resuming production because of expensive workforce. Turkey has many carries, mostly for white marble and extensive construction works for new towns and new building. The guide told us that Turkish “construction companies” were exported to many countries, especially in Libya, Qatar and Asia neighboring countries such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan…

Note 8: This is an ongoing updated article. I asked members to add comments so that I make a comprehensive article, but no one contributed or responded. One member wrote that this was her worst vacation and she felt a total stranger among our group. Maybe her feeling is founded.

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August 2019

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