Another month is in the books. On October 11, we actually marked 300 days of consecutive travel! We were really happy to celebrate this milestone here in Turkey, as it’s been one of our favorite countries so far. And while 300 days have gone by, it still feels like we’ve only just begun this journey. Now we’re hoping we can maybe make it 300 more days! Anyhow here’s how things went during the last 30…
Month #10 Travel Stats:
- Countries visited: 2
- Romania, Turkey
- City-to-City transport segments: 13
- Flights: 2
- Trains: 2
- Boats: 0
- Busses: 9
- Miles traveled: 1,546
- Beds slept in: 9 (we’re finally slowing down, lol)
- Local beers sampled: 27
- Breweries visited: 1
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites visited: 3
Month #10 Recap:
Roaming Around Romania
We wrote our Month #9 Update from Brasov, Romania where we concluded our stay with an awesome ropes course at a place called Park Aventura. Its reputedly the biggest one in Eastern Europe! Some of the challenges were just insane and the whole experience was certainly the hardest workout we’ve had on this trip so far. We left sore, bruised and even bloody – yet with smiles on our faces. If ever in Brasov, we highly recommend torturing yourself at Parc Aventura.
From Brasov it was on to Bucharest but not before making a quick pit stop at the very impressive Peleș Castle in the Carpathian Mountains.
Once in Bucharest, we hunkered down in an AirBnB apartment to catch up on some work and make plans for upcoming travels. Romania’s capital city was really a pleasant place to live for the week. We loved the restaurants, pubs, and the beautiful architecture all throughout the city.
We continued south, past Hungary, and directly to Istanbul where we began roaming around Turkey. We snagged some souvenirs from the massive Grand Bazaar and took a relaxing boat trip up the Bosporus Straight, which forms the boundary between Europe and Asia. Eventually we crossed over into Asia by ferry, which marked the fourth time now that we’ve traveled between continents by boat. (For those keeping score: 1) North (Central) America to South America, 2) North America to Europe, and 3) Africa to Europe.)
Yet it was seeing the Blue Mosque that was a highlight of our visit. All the mosques we had been to while in Morocco do not allow you inside, but here in Turkey we could enter and marvel at this historic Islamic landmark.
Captivating Cappadocia & Pamukkale
We soon pushed deeper into Turkey (and Asia) and found ourselves in the otherworldly landscape of Cappadocia. This entire area soon became a definitive highlight and a welcomed change from the last several months in Europe. We absolutely loved the novelty of living in a cave perhaps as much as the incredible recreation the region offers. We found that Goreme had a ton of value to offer too so last week we assembled a Budget Travel Cappadocia Guide that was posted on this blog. So if Cappadocia is somewhere you’d ever consider traveling to (and it should!), please check it out for some of our recommendations.
From Cappadocia we took an overnight bus to Pamukkale, the cotton castle. We arrived at around 7:00 in the morning, ready to beat the crowds and tour this natural wonder. Little did we realize that it was a national holiday in Turkey and visitors were not allowed in until 1:00 pm. “D’oh!” But it was certainly worth the wait, as Pamukkale really fascinated. We even got to swim around in the beautiful cliffside pools.
Then it was on to the port city of Antalya, which we were a bit surprised to find a big and modern city. Yet we still experienced plenty of charm in the old town and its harbor. It made us realize just how much we’ve missed the coast, as we hadn’t been by the ocean since in Spain in early June. Seafood was back on the menu and so were scenic views of the sea!
Riots on the Streets of Antalya
Leaving Antalya we ran into an interesting predicament. We were trying to catch the tram to the bus station. We wait and waited but the tram never came. Finally hoards of people came rushing down the street. Shop owners quickly began boarding up and the next thing you know there was smoke, fire and police in full riot gear!
Apparently we had got caught up in the middle of an intense Kurdish protest of the demonstrating against Turkey’s lack of action against the Isis/Isil situation. We later found out these October 5th demonstrations were widespread across the country and even lead to a few deaths (yikes!). This brief moment was pretty scary but we managed to hop into a packed dolmuş that got us safely to the bus station.
Turkey’s Turquoise Coast
While our next destination – Olympos – was only an hour or so away, its tranquil environment felt worlds away from the tense situation we had left. It was here where we had the unique experience of living in a treehouse! We used our unusual digs as a base to take in some beach time and explore the ancient ruins of the area. But what we really came here to see was the natural flames of Cirali. These vents release methane and other natural gasses are said to have been burning for the past 2,500 years and supposedly one of the largest emissions on land!
With all the time spent marveling at the nice blue water we needed to take a peak below the surface. So we moved onward to Kas to embark on some Scuba diving trips around nearby islands. There weren’t any proper coral reefs, so it was different from any dive I’d done before which made it interesting. Instead the rocky floor and cliffs provided alternate habitat to see both the marine life and ancient pottery on the ocean floor.
Then it was on to a town called Oludeniz, a tourism destination that seems to be quite popular with the Brits. We took a boat to a secluded beach called Butterfly Valley where we hiked up a gorge to get a glimpse at the waterfall that carved it. It was a short but fun hike that had us clinging to a rope in order to hoist ourselves up slippery rocks and underneath little waterfalls!
Lastly, we ended up in Fethiye where we boarded a sailboat for one of the popular 12-island tours. This ultra-relaxing island hopping excursion was filled with sailing, swimming and exploring remote islands poking out towards nearby Greece.
Month #10 Superlatives:
Favorite adventure: Mountain biking Cappadocia
The single track through Cappadocia’s awe-inspiring valleys was a white knuckled thrill ride!
Favorite UNESCO site: Goreme National Park and the Rock Sites of Cappadocia
It was difficult to choose among the three amazing UNESCO sites we visited this past month: Historic Istanbul, Cappadocia, and Pamukkale. But we have to give Cappadocia the top nod for a half-week full of adventure and astonishing landscapes.
Best value: Fethiye’s 12-Island Tour
This 8-hour sailing trip with stops at four islands, including lunch, is probably one of the best travel bargains in Turkey and perhaps the best $15 I’ve spent in a long time.
Favorite beer: Bosphorus India Pale Ale
The beer in Romania and Turkey hasn’t been the greatest. But we did manage to find a craft brewpub in Istanbul that had an expensive yet very tasty citrusy hopped IPA.
Heather’s favorite local dish: (Turkish) Moussaka
This is quite different from the Greek Moussaka. There’s no lasagna-like layering action here nor will you find any potatoes or béchamel sauce. Instead the ground beef comes cooked up with plentiful eggplant and other veggies like tomato, onion, and green pepper. And its always accompanied with plenty of bread to sop up all the juicy goodness left in the serving dish.
John’s favorite local dish: Kebabs
This is really hard to say because the Turkish food has been ridiculously great, but I’ll think I just go with kebabs as a favorite. I can’t quite figure out why the simple meat skewers are so good here. Is it the freshness of the meat, the proper cooking times and temperatures or perhaps the seasoning? At one restaurant, a server told me the spices were harvested atop a local mountain and used to season the meat to perfection. Was that the secret? I don’t know but I could eat those kebabs every day and be very happy. Oh wait, I think I did eat them everyday and I was quite happy.
Favorite local snack/appetizer: Turkish Yogurt Soup (or anything with yogurt!)
We had no idea how many creative uses of yogurt can be accomplished in cooking but Turkey has showed us dozens. There have been so many delicious sauces and dips that have made us just want to lick the plate clean. A tangy yogurt soup is a staple here that we simply couldn’t get enough of. Served hot and seasoned with fresh mint, it just seems like something that really shouldn’t work. But, oh, it does!
Where We’ll Be Roaming Around Short Term:
We were actually supposed to leave Turkey today and begin our brief odyssey through the Greek Isles. Unfortunately someone decided to cancel the ferry without telling us (ugh!). So tomorrow we’ll try again to get to Rhodes and from there we have a few nights in Santorini. We decided to bypass Mykonos and instead explore the less touristic island of nearby Naxos. Finally we’ll make our way to Athens where we have a jam-packed itinerary. Then we’re heading out to Barcelona where we’ll board Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas to hop around the Canary Islands before ultimately making our way to Florida. This awesome 2-week repositioning cruise was cheaper than a flight! (If interested, I wrote a post earlier this year on how to score a repositioning cruise for under $50 per day.)
Where We’ll Be Roaming Around Long Term:
Hmmm… we’re really not sure. Now, 10-months into this, we have really honed in on what we like in travel destinations. Time and time again it’s the outdoors and adventure activities that really gets us excited. So we’ve closed in on two destinations where adventure reins supreme. Yet with both being extremely attractive options, we simply just can’t decide.
- Option 1: Patagonia (Chile & Argentina)
- Option 2: New Zealand
So help us! We want you to weigh in. Please comment below. Shall we hike the Andes mountains and venture down to the southern tip? Or should we explore New Zealand’s North and South islands in search of our next adventure? We hope to make a final decision in about a week, so your opinion could really help steer us in one direction or another. We’ll announce our (err… your) decision on Facebook and Twitter once its all sorted out.
Until then, happy travels!