Visiting Kusadasi and Ephesus – Day 4 of our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise

After our cruise through the Greek Islands, the Azamara Journey arrived in Kusadasi, a popular holiday resort for the Turks and gateway port for the archaeological site of Ephesus. While most of the guests would undoubtedly be taking a tour of Ephesus, I had visited a few years ago and feared that the heat would be blistering. For something different we opted for one of the Insider Access excursions, which promised a relaxing day learning about Turkish food and culture.

On the way our guide, Elif, reminisced about the Kusadasi that she remembered as a child when she would stay in her grandmother’s summer house by the sea. In those days it was a quiet fishing town, famous for its peach trees and olive groves which have long since disappeared to make way for holiday apartments.

In winter, she told us, the summer visitors all leave and Kusadasi becomes a quiet place, but in summer the seafront is overflowing with Turkish families and the marina boasts expensive yachts and the shops and restaurants that go with them.

Heather tries out some Turkish cooking on Azamara Cruise Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather tries out some Turkish cooking

Our land discovery (as Azamara call their cruise excursions) was A Taste of Turkish Country Life and we arrived by coach to be greeted at a family house set in gardens by Asli, our Turkish host who ran these tours with her mother who had been a tour guide. We were welcomed with a glass of hot Turkish tea in a glass, “curved like a belly dancer” which is the custom wherever you go in Turkey. “If you stay longer than 5 minutes, in a shop or a home, you will be offered a glass of tea”, Asli told us. We observed how the tea was served from a double level teapot, with strong tea in the top which was topped up with hot water from the second pot below. The Turks drink tea several times a day and it should always be served piping hot, or your guests will ask you for a fresh cup.

Turkish tea is served as our taste of Turkish Country life Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Turkish tea is served as our taste of Turkish Country life

While we sipped our hot, sweet tea, we were able to watch the cook sitting in the floor making gozleme, a popular Turkish snack, which you will often see being made in cafes and street stalls. The Gozleme is like a Turkish savoury crepe, with a ball of dough being flattened and stretched then cooked on a hot-plate. There are many different fillings, but the traditional one that we tried is with soft cheese and herbs which are wrapped into the dough as it cooks – a delicious snack.

The cook prepares Gozleme for us in Turkey Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The cook prepares Gozleme for us

We were invited into the family home which was a modern house, designed for summer living and as a showcase of the most beautiful Turkish arts and crafts. Here Asli’s mother had brought together the best of Turkish crafts, in the carved stone fireplaces, the coloured marbles used in the bathrooms, the ornate wooden ceilings and the antique furniture and embroidered Suzani rugs and throws.

Beautiful traditional Turkish furnishings Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Beautiful traditional Turkish furnishings

In the living rooms we could see the carved wooden chairs from Southern Turkey that had been used in a monastery and the stained glass windows that had been part of a mosque in Konya. Since Asil’s mother had been a tour guide, she had visited many parts of Turkey and admired these things, which had subsequently been given to her as a gift when no longer required. Even though the family had been furnishing the house for the last 12 years, it was still not finished, since the craftsmen who had the traditional skills were dying out and they had to wait their turn for things to be made for them.

The ladies try on headscarves, Turkish style Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The ladies try on headscarves, Turkish style

As we sat outside, we were given a lesson in tying and wearing headscarfs like a Turkish women, since in each region of Turkey they would be tied in a different style. Although Turkey is a secular country, headscarfs are still widely worn, especially in the country, to protect the hair when working, cooking or to shield from the heat of the sun. A bride would have numerous colourful scarfs which she embroiders with a fine crochet edging in different designs.

Asil explained, that since a young married women would live in the same house as her mother in law, and it would be considered rude to speak out if she was unhappy with anything, there would be a scarf to express every mood. If you wear the colours of spring and summer, everything is happy in the house, but if you wear an edging of little peppers the message in your scarf is “Mother-in-law, you upset me today!”

Asil demonstrates how to make Turkish dishes Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Asil demonstrates how to make Turkish dishes

We moved into the kitchen to learn how to make some typical Turkish dishes such as stuffed peppers, creamy lentil soup and a cooked carrot and yoghurt dip and even had a folder of the recipes to take home with us.

In Turkish when they saute garlic or carrots they talk about ‘killing’ the carrots and when they say ‘”is it dead?” that means it’s soft and perfectly cooked. We learned the Turkish grandmother’s secrets for making perfect Pilau rice that will keep your husband happy – cover the rice in hot water for 5 minutes to let the starch come out and then rinse it 7 times more. This is the trick for rice where every grain is perfectly separate and not sticky.

Delicious Turkish Stuffed Peppers Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Delicious Turkish Stuffed Peppers

After watching how some of the dishes were made, we moved outside and learned how to stuff the small peppers with the rice mixture and how to roll the vine leaves and filo pastry to make small dolmes, the length of a finger.  By now we were getting hungry and soon an array of dishes was laid out for us to try at lunch, all previously prepared by the cook to high Turkish standards. “I’m tired from doing all this cooking” joked one of the guests as we left off stuffing peppers and sat down to eat, ” We worked so hard!”

After lunch we moved into the shady seating area where we had started with glasses of tea, this time to try some sweet, black Turkish coffee which is supposed to help your digestion. We also had a fun ‘fortune-telling’ session from reading the coffee grounds, which is a skill passed down to women from their grandmothers. Elif, our guide turned each cup upside down and interpreted the patterns and shapes she could see in the coffee grounds, “don’t worry, we don’t tell you the bad stuff”, she joked. Of course I can’t reveal all except to say that I am a patient person and everything good will come to me if I wait and don’t lose heart!

Fortune Telling With Coffee Cups

Fortune Telling With Coffee Cups

After our enjoyable morning, learning all about Turkish food and customs, it was time to head back to the ship to relax before the next highlight of the day, our evening visit to Ephesus. Another reason I decided not to do the Ephesus tour in the heat of the day was because I knew that we were to be there for the AzAmazing evening that was included as part of the cruise. On every Azamara cruise, there is a special event like this for all the guests, designed to be a unique and memorable occasion that guests will be talking about long afterwards.

Evening at Ephesus, Turkey

Evening at Ephesus, Turkey

Ephesus is one of the highlights of coming to Kusadasi, and as guests of the cruise we arrived after closing time and had the place to ourselves. Our special concert wes held in the stone amphitheatre of the Odean, sitting on the ancient stones although luckily cushions were provided.

Heather and Guy at the Concert in Ephesus, Turkey

Heather and Guy at the Concert in Ephesus, Turkey

Ephesus was built in the 10th century BC and was a thriving commercial city in ancient times, where St John the Evangelist and St Paul preached and where Mary, the mother of Jesus lived at the end of her life. Although we could not walk around the whole site, we could see the two storey library down below us as the sun set behind the hill.

Concert at Ephesus, Turkey

Concert at Ephesus, Turkey

With cocktails in hand we settled down to listen to the Camera Izmir Orchestra with a guest harpist performing Handel’s harp concerto, then well known pieces by Bach and Mozart finishing with an entertaining Brahms Hungarian Dance that reminded me of those gypsy violinists I had seen in Budapest.

Sunset at Ephesus, Turkey

Sunset at Ephesus, Turkey

Listening to the music in the warm night air in such a special setting was truly magical and we felt that the promise of an AzAmazing evening had been fulfilled. As we returned to the ship, we could see families strolling along the seafront promenade and enjoying dinners in the restaurants around the marina. Soon Azamara Journey was sailing away and the coloured lights of Kusadasi were left behind as we headed for Istanbul.

Azamara Journey at Kusadasi

Azamara Journey at Kusadasi

About Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara Club Cruises is a small luxury cruise line with two ships; Azamara Journey that Heather and Guy sailed on and Azamara Quest, each with a capacity of 686 guests. The smaller ship size means you often visit destinations that larger ships can’t get into and the ships can dock in more central locations. The emphasis is on destination immersion; enjoying the destination to the full, arriving early and sailing late so that guests can enjoy nights and cool places ashore, with insider access programmes and a unique AzAmazing evening included in each cruise. No itinerary is the repeated and each year the ships visit different destinations around the world. Azamara is part of Royal Caribbean Cruise group. Visit the Azamara Club Cruises website more information about a Mediterranean luxury cruise like the one Heather and Guy enjoyed.

You can also connect with Azamara Club Cruises on Social Media via:
Azamara blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest | YouTube | Flickr

Joining your Azamara Club Cruise

Heather and Guy flew from London Heathrow to Athens and back from Istanbul using British Airways, although obviously each cruise is different in the best way to get there.

Heather used the Meet and Greet Parking Service booked through Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) who offer airport parking at a range of airports across the UK as well as travel extras such as airport lounge booking and airport hotel stays.

Both flights and transfers from the airport to your cruise ship can be arranged through Azamara Cruises

Thanks to Azamara Club Cruises who hosted Heather and Guy for their 7 day Greek Island Cruise and to Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) who provided their airport parking at Heathrow.

Read More about our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise

Sailing into Santorini – Day 1 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Windy Mykonos – Day 2 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Charming Patmos – Day 3 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Istanbul the golden – final stop on our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise

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Read about our stop at Kusadasi and Ephesus with Azamara Club Cruises

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Istanbul the golden – final stop on our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise

I’m slowly sailing past the Golden Horn at sunrise, listening to the Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. The Blue Mosque of Istanbul emerges from the early morning haze against a back drop of what has, and will always be, one of the most important cities in the world. As Napoleon said, “If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”

Passing the Golden Horn Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Passing the Golden Horn

Even at this hour we are not alone. Behind and in front of Azamara Journey are many other cargo ships of various sizes transiting the straits, as we arrive at the cross-roads of Europe by sea. Built on two continents, Europe and Asia, located on the shores of the Bosphorus, Istanbul stands where the waters of the Black Sea meet those of the Sea of Marmara at the Golden Horn. Near the tip of the old-town peninsula is the compact district of Sultanahmet which is home to many of the city’s most famous sites.

Heather and Guy on the Asian side in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Guy on the Asian side in Istanbul

For first-time visitors the city appears to be an enormous metropolis but we found that the main tourist sites of Istanbul were manageable for our final day’s cruise stop with Azamara Club Cruises. Our ship, Amazara Journey, docked right in the heart of town, close to the Galata bridge and the Golden Horn. As we had only a day we decided to focus on the compact Sultanahemet district taking one of Azamara’s Land Discovery tours.

Ferries in near the Galata bridge in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Ferries in near the Galata bridge in Istanbul

Most people know that Istanbul was originally called Constantinople, named after the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who chose it as his capital. After the Romans came the Byzantine Empire and from the 15th century the Ottoman Empire took over, ruling through the end of World War I. Given the geography and history it is hardly surprising that modern Istanbul is a melting pot of ideas and cultures; a cosmopolitan and exciting world city.

We boarded our mini-bus for a panoramic tour over one of the major bridges to what the Turks call “the other side”, technically Asia. Despite the traffic and commuting time, this is a popular place to live since it is calmer than the European side where most of the businesses are located. Returning to the European side our first stop was the Spice Market near the Galata Bridge.

The Spice Market in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Spice Market in Istanbul

The Spice Market in Istanbul

The Spice Market was built in the 17th century and houses merchants dealing in spices, herbs, medicinal plants, vegetables, meat and fish. Tourists and locals mingle, with the smell of spices wafting enticingly throughout the area. We were offered samples of Turkish delight and pomegranate tea and whilst the salesmen were smooth tongued we were genuinely welcomed. Of course we bought some Turkish delight and Iranian saffron, then continued to walk around looking at the fresh fish stalls and the fruit and veg market.

For a foodie like me it was a real pleasure and I could have spent many hours tasting anything from walnuts through to caviar, fresh apricots, soft cheeses, spicy sausages. We found the Spice Market less intimidating than the Grand Bazaar, although you need to understand that it is fine to walk away if you find the salesmen too intense.

Fish on sale in the Spice Market Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Fish on sale in the Spice Market Istanbul

Lunch at Hamdi restaurant

Somewhat reluctantly we left the Spice Market to walk across the square to Hamdi restaurant where we had a table booked on the top floor. By now it was very hot and humid, so the air-conditioned dining room was a welcome retreat. It also provided a stunning panoramic view towards the Bosporus and the endless river traffic as well as the domes and minarets of the nearby New Mosque.

View of the Spice Market from Hamdi restaurant Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View of the Spice Market from Hamdi restaurant

Lunch was delicious and we tried kebabs of finely minced lamb and beef with pistachios and spicy chicken served with yoghurt. As mezes we had hummus, pinto beans and vine leaf dolma and a sweet taste of baklava followed by strong, sweet Turkish coffee.

The restaurant was packed with professionals taking lunch, discerning tourists and Turkish families out for a treat. Mr Hamdi started as a street vendor and I can fully understand why he now has a restaurant covering four floors and serving the same simple dishes using local fresh ingredients, both delicious and beautifully presented.

Hamdi restaurant in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Hamdi restaurant in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

After lunch we were back on our air-conditioned coach for our visit to Hagia Sophia, known as the greatest house of worship in the Christian and Muslim worlds. This is the Church of Constantinople built by the Emperor Justinian in A.D. 537 on the grandest scale possible – the dome alone has a span of 56 m! Since the Emperor was in a hurry, the church took just five years to build and if you ask how they did it, the legend is that it was built by angels.

Inside Hagia Sophia in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Inside Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Hagia Sophia served as a church for nearly a millennium and for 1000 years it was the greatest dome in the world surpassed only by the renaissance cathedral in Florence. The day the Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453 the building was converted into a mosque. Fortunately, they left much of the fine mosaic work, save plastering over the faces of the icons, since Muslims do not allow pictorial representations of the prophets.

Mosaics inside Hagia Sophie, Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mosaics inside Hagia Sophie, Istanbul

Kemal Attaturk, the founder of modern Turkey had the sense to convert the building into a museum in 1935, since it was such an important site for both Christians and Muslims. Whilst there was much to see, the images that left the greatest impact on me were the colourful mosaics of Mary and the Christ child. Above where the altar once stood were two enormous wooden medallions, one with the Arabic lettering for Allah on the right and the other of the Prophet Mohammed on the left. Given the current conflict between the Muslim and Christian world it is humbling to see three of the most important figures in world religion venerated in one place.

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Next on our tour was The Grand Bazaar, the “Mall of all Malls” with 4000 stores as opposed to the 150 in the Spice Market. The Bazaar was the centre for trade for the entire Ottoman Empire and remained Turkey’s commercial hub right up until the 1950s. The enormous covered market is bursting with everything you can imagine from jewellery (especially gold), to silks, copperware, spices, ceramics, leather goods and plenty of tourist tat. About 80% of the visitors nowadays are tourists and it is probably not the place to get the best bargains, although certainly an unmissable experience.

Painted bowls in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Painted bowls in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

We were looking for some hand painted Turkish bowls and we expected to have to haggle hard. However I was delighted to meet a lovely gentleman who’d had the shop for 40 years who not only allowed me to taste his tea but also immediately accepted our offer of four for the price of three. Our purchases were quickly bubble wrapped and we left the best of friends. While you have to visit the Grand Bazaar, I preferred the Spice Market for a less intimidating experience.

So what did we learn from our day’s cruise stop in Istanbul? Firstly, you should do your research if you only have a limited amount of time since there is so much to see, more than you could possibly cover in a day. Secondly it is worth taking one of the Land Discoveries with an air conditioned bus and guide since Istanbul is just too busy and you will waste too much time if you don’t. Thirdly you have to have an open mind. For example I enjoyed seeing headscarfed ladies, arms around the waists of their husbands doing their shopping. Everyone I spoke to was incredibly helpful and I didn’t feel intimidated at all. Of course one day in Istanbul is just not enough. Many of the other cruise passengers had decided to stay on after the cruise for three or four days and of that I was very envious.

View of Istanbul near the Galata Bridge Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View of Istanbul near the Galata Bridge

Listening to the fifth and final call to prayer as the sun sets I observe three young modern Turkish women, smart phones in hand, enjoying a chat in the evening sunshine. I can’t help but think that Napoleon had it right all those years ago. Istanbul could easily be the capital of the world.

Thanks to Guy for sharing his impressions of Istanbul. Guy occasionally writes for the blog, and is always happy to be Heather’s travelling companion, photographer and bag carrier!

About Azamara Club Cruises

Azamara Club Cruises is a small luxury cruise line with two ships; Azamara Journey that Heather and Guy sailed on and Azamara Quest, each with a capacity of 686 guests. The smaller ship size means you often visit destinations that larger ships can’t get into and the ships can dock in more central locations. The emphasis is on destination immersion; enjoying the destination to the full, arriving early and sailing late so that guests can enjoy nights and cool places ashore, with insider access programmes and a unique AzAmazing evening included in each cruise. No itinerary is the repeated and each year the ships visit different destinations around the world. Azamara is part of Royal Caribbean Cruise group. Visit the Azamara Club Cruises website more information about a Mediterranean luxury cruise like the one Heather and Guy enjoyed.

You can also connect with Azamara Club Cruises on Social Media via:
Azamara blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | Pinterest | YouTube | Flickr

Joining your Azamara Club Cruise

Heather and Guy flew from London Heathrow to Athens and back from Istanbul using British Airways, although obviously each cruise is different in the best way to get there.

Heather used the Meet and Greet Parking Service booked through Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) who offer airport parking at a range of airports across the UK as well as travel extras such as airport lounge booking and airport hotel stays.

Both flights and transfers from the airport to your cruise ship can be arranged through Azamara Club Cruises.

Thanks to Azamara Club Cruises who hosted Heather and Guy for their 7 day Greek Island Cruise and to Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) who provided their airport parking at Heathrow.

Read More about our Azamara Greece Island Cruise

Sailing into Santorini – Day 1 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Windy Mykonos – Day 2 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Charming Patmos – day 3 of our Azamara Greek Island Cruise
Visiting Kusadasi and Ephesus – Day 4 of our Azamara Greece and Turkey Cruise

Pin It

Read about our day in Istanbul with Azamara Club Cruises

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

The Delights of Dalyan: Family Fun in Turkey

Turkey is great as a holiday destination, as it’s very accessible, but there are still parts of the country that are off the beaten tourist path. The area around Dalyan, not far from Dalaman on the Turquoise Coast, is one of those parts. Plan a Turkish family holiday and you’ll have a wonderfully relaxing and unforgettably fun time. Here are five things to do on a holiday in Dalyan:

Take a Mud Batth at Dalyan

Take a Mud Batth at Dalyan

Get muddy

Mud, mud, glorious mud. There’s nothing quite like it for improving your skin tone and keeping the kids entertained. The area around Dalyan is probably best known for its unique sulphur mud baths. Turks and tourists alike flock to the natural pools to cover themselves in the stuff, and take ridiculous photos, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to wallow in goo.

Go white-water rafting

There’s no family bonding exercise quite as effective as the experience of being utterly terrified together. But don’t worry, in reality, white-water rafting isn’t actually scary when you’re with one of the professional guides that manage the trips in the mountains behind Dalyan. Sign up for an afternoon adventure, and you’re bound to have fun. You might even succeed in exhausting the kids enough that you’ll manage to squeeze in a civilised grown-up evening.

Iztuzu Beach, Turtle Beach, Daylan

Iztuzu Beach, Daylan

See baby turtles

As if the unspoilt Iztuzu beach wasn’t enough of an attraction by itself, it also plays home to lots of turtles, and even a turtle hospital to look after any poorly ones. If you’re lucky enough to be there at the right time of the year, you’ll get the chance to see the babies on the beach. But in any season, the turtle hospital makes a great visit, with lots of information and enthusiastic staff to teach you and the children all about the life of the native turtles.

Visit 12 islands in a day

This special boat trip leaves from the port of Göcek, just near Dalyan, and fills the day with island hopping. You’ll see all sorts of interesting sights, from caves and coves to mini-islands, and you’ll get plenty of chance to relax, soak up the sun, and appreciate the scenery. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear, as the sea life is well worth investigating. Trips usually include lunch and drinks on the boat, too, so it’s a real stress-free experience.

Rock Tombs of Kaunos, Dalyan

Rock Tombs of Kaunos, Dalyan

Explore some ancient history

It’s not only history buffs who will appreciate the magnificence of the ancient ruins of Kaunos. The hill top site is accessed by a short boat trip from Dalyan, and a bit of a climb, but it’s worth it. See the rock tombs, a Byzantine basilica, a Roman bath, and the ruins of a large Roman theatre. Then, on the way back down, stop off at one of the little stands lining the path where locals sell lemon and pomegranate juice for a refreshing break.

This article is brought to you by Monarch who offer flights, package holidays, city breaks and hotels to Europe’s top destinations.

More Turkish tales
A sun-soaked coastal holiday on the Turkish Riviera
Visit the Kozak Mountains on a Day Trip from Dikili Turkey
Sightseeing in luxury in Istanbul

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read more travel articles at Travel Blog Home

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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