Antalya – the final stop in Turkey

Heat, sunbathing and Grease. An all-inclusive week just outside Antalya at a beautiful resort is about as much as you need to know. Lou spent seven days horizontal on a lounger catching up on her reading. Dan spent five days listening to the cricket on a lounger while playing some friendly football (certainly in the veteran category now – the body is old but the mind is willing) for an hour in the evening. And we ate – often and well. The Grease reference was to a performance of the well-known musical which was the entertainment one evening, in German but the songs in English, so Lou turned it into a one-person karaoke.

Then we went into Antalya itself feeling very chuffed with ourselves as we took the local bus in to the city from the hotel which only cost 10TL each as opposed to 150TL in a taxi. The city is a walled Roman city with a pretty harbour and lots of windy, cobbled rabbit runs to explore. Tourism upped to the maximum with lots of ‘tat’ on sale at every corner, this is the more frequently seen side of Turkish tourism. Full of Russians, quaint old-town restaurants, pretty cafes, dingy dive bars and multilingual staff – totally different to Ankara.

Thanks Turkey ūüôā

Here’s a link to our week of relaxation in Camyuva and Antalya:¬†Anatalya Pictures

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Konya

Why Konya? That was the most commonly asked question when we told Turks we were going to visit. The city is a pilgrimage site for Muslims as the burial site of Jalal ad-Din Muhmmad Rumi, a Perisan Sufi¬†mystic also known as Mevl√Ęna or Rumi can be found in the grounds of Mevlana Museum. ¬†It was also the tekke¬†(house) of the Mevleni¬†order, better known as the whirling dervishes. Alas we didn’t see any dervishes but did get an idea as to the discipline and order in which they live.

Konya is a pretty city with a re-built market area, various museums and a pleasant well-maintained park on the hill in the middle of the city. There is also the attractive Alaeddin Mosque sitting in the main square. The culture is very conservative by Turkish standards but still not compared to life in the middle east.

Luckily one of our CELTA students is a Konya resident so she was able to drive us around for our final day in the area. Near Konya is the old town of Sille, which is a pretty little village which harks back to olden times in the Ottaman and modern Turkish era. It is one of the last places where the old Cappadocian Greek language was spoken (until 1922). The Turks and Greeks peacefully co-habited the village at Rumi’s (see above) request after he alleged to have witnessed a miracle at a nearby monastery. Pretty as it was the pouring rain did us no favours.

Here’s a link to pictures from our time in Konya:¬†Konya Pictures

Ankara: Part two

A lot of time spent at the cinema during the second part of our stay in Ankara. However, we did manage some culture with a trip to the Ataturk Museum (Anitkabir) where the founder of modern Turkey –¬†Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1881-1938 – is buried in a mausoleum that is a pilgrimage site for Turks. The museum is also the burial place of Turkey’s second president Ismet Inonu (died 1973) and the buildings were erected on what is known as Observation Hill because at the time of completion (1953) it was the highest point in the city and could be seen from all across Ankara. Those of you in tune with the mathematical side of your brain will notice the discrepency in time between Ataturk’s death (1938) and the completion of his final burial place (completed 1953). His body was kept in state in traditional Muslim style until the building was completed.

There are four main parts to Anitkabir: the Road of Lions, the Ceremonial Plaza, the Hall of Honor (location of Atat√ľrk’s tomb) and the Peace Park that surrounds the monument. As well as a number of portraits of war heroes and tales of Ataturk’s history (including some of the classic cars he used) the museum has a number of huge murals depicting the war for Turkey’s independence when they defeated the Greeks and their allies (UK included) to form the modern Turkish republic (1922) with Ataturk as it’s first premier.

Other than that we watched Baby Driver (great), Annabelle: Creation (scary doll), The Dark Tower (pish), Lady MacBeth (good), Atomic Blonde (kicky, fighty, god bless America), Planet of the Apes (a war movie with monkeys), in order to avoid the roasting day-time temperatures. We sampled various bars and restaurants after sundown for dinner, as you would expect.

Two CELTAs finished and now time to leave Ankara and enjoy Turkey as a tourist.

Here’s a link to some more pictures from our time in Ankara:¬†Ankara: Part two

Dan finished work…Part one

Finished! Hurrah, let’s celebrate by going on a walk and getting sunburnt – Feuerkogel it is.

So we headed out on the bus to Ebensee and walked up the hill to the cable car where we enjoyed the steep journey up the mountain accompanied by the restaurants supplies of fresh fruit, tins of goulash and frozen meat.

We decided to make a day of the walk by first heading up to Europa Cross and then hiking across country to a local restaurant stop. There was still some snow on the higher points of the mountain and it made going a little treacherous and somewhat reminiscent of our trip in Montenegro (Bobotov Kuk) when we started at lower heights in green meadows and ended in snow clad-hills.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful and we went through many different layers of alpine fauna as we hiked up the mountain, even had to pause on one of the trails to let a snake slither its way across the footpath.

Luckily we made it back to the cable car stop just in time to take the final transit down – which after 6-hours walking was really lucky as we had no idea that it was the last chance being only 5.30pm when darkness doesn’t set in until 8pm or 9pm. Then we remembered where we were – ah yes, Austria, everything closes early.

Here’s a link to some stunning Austrian scenery from our hike:¬†Feuerkogel Pictures

Happy Anniversary in Cappadocia

During our break between CELTA courses we decided to complete one of Lou’s bucket list entries and jump on the bus to Cappadocia to celebrate our third wedding anniversary.

It takes around 4 and a half hours from Ankara to get to Goreme, the local tourist hub which is the centre of Cappadocia. We checked into our hotel and immediately booked up for a balloon ride the next day, which was an early start, but at least we could get the early start out of the way and then relax for the rest of the holiday.

So, at 3.30am on anniversary day, we were picked up and headed to the registration office to await our flight. 30-mins passed, one-hour passed and then eventually out flight was cancelled – bugger. Dan headed straight back to bed and Louise went up the hill to take some photo’s of the sunrise. We were both still back in bed by 6.30am and up again at 09:00 for our second breakfast of the day! So, once we woke up we decided to head for the UNESCO-listed Goreme Open Air Museum to see what all the fuss is about. ¬†The complex consists of a mass of cave churches dating from the 10th – 12th century each containing frescoes in various conditions. The best of which is called the Dark Church, which due to the limitation of light entering the cave, is the best preserved of all the paintings – but as a result means we coudn’t take photos.

The following day we did a day trip which took us around the major tourist sites in Cappadocia region: Pigeon Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Selime Monastery and the Ihlara Valley. Pigeon Valley is a photo stop where you can look across the gorge and see the holes cut into the rock where locals used to care for their pigeons as they were vital for communication in the days before i-phones.

The biggest city uncovered for public admission as yet, Derinkuyu, allows visitors to get a taste of troglodytic life during the Hittite period. Only abut 25 per cent of the city is open to visitors and that consists largely of the upper two ‘floors’, which it is presumed, were used to store animals and humans. ¬†You get to see some of the old stables, bedrooms, church and graveyards and it is a really interesting spectacle. The best guess is that people only lived here for short periods (a couple of months) to escape invaders. Having seen the small ventilation shafts in the bathroom area (which doubles as as the stables) I expect the smell after two months may have been somewhat pungent.

The Selime Monastery was a missionary school complete with church and living areas. It was used between the 8th and 10th century. The site we visited is accessible via a collapsed tunnel and reveals a series of stunning complexes with high ceilings and intertwining footpaths which link all the rooms. Unfortunately, the building was protected by the government too late and a few rooms have been smoke damaged by local people who used the site to shelter before they understood the historical importance.

Ihara Valley is a beautiful 14km long canyon, although as part of our tour we only walked three. This included a visit to the¬†Ańüa√ßaltńĪ cave church, which was used between the 4th and 10th century and has some cave paintings which are still visible. The walk is very flat and you get to stop for a cup of tea halfway through and rest your feet in the cool river.

The next day we were up again at 3.30am with our eyelids closed but our fingers crossed. Luckily the weather gods were smiling on us and we did get to spend a beautful 60-mins floating above canyons, gorges and the unique rock formations which the area is so famed for. The flight is beautiful and made the early morning totally worthwhile.

Our top-tip for the region, get a room with air-con. Our room didn’t despite an upgrade (although Lou swears she booked a room with air-con) and it was really, really, warm. As for Cappadocia itself, it’s a beautful place (similar to Petra in Jordan in lots of ways) and was a terrific place to spend an anniversary.

Here’s a link to photos from our few days away:¬†Cappadocia Pictures

Ankara: Part one

Turkey has much for the tourist including magnificent beaches, high mountains, a stunning coastline, fabulous early Christian churches and busy rivers – however none of these are in Ankara. Hey ho, we are here to work ūüôā

Two back to back CELTA courses (4 weeks each plus an Eid holiday) mean we have around nine weeks in Ankara. Although we don’t have too much free time during the ¬†week we still get a chance to explore at weekends, so we’ve tried to make the most of it.

As well as spending a lot of time catching up with the latest films as there is a local cinema practically next to our house, we have checked out what Ankara has to offer. Essentially it has been Turkey’s political capital since 1923 and is clearly not a city designed to delay tourists for too long.

There is an attractive castle which sits in the older quarter of the city and gives nice views into the bowl into which Ankara sits. Also a pretty park, Gençlik, which attracts a huge number of people at weekends thanks to the funfair, man-made lagoon complete with performing fountains and lots of cafes selling typical meaty Turkish food and water,  liquid being essential as temperatures have been scorching during our first month.

We have also visited the Natural History Museum which is a new option to Ankara’s growing cultural scene. It’s not exactly a threat to the Natural History Museum in London but has some nice fossils and displays, one of them which tries to eat you (see pics for explanation).

Workwise the course was a great success and congratulations to all 18 candidates who passed and allowed us to join in their final day celebrations! Well done team.

Here’s a link to some pictures from our first month in Ankara:¬†Ankara Pictures

Beautiful Budapest

We decided to take the opportunity to finally get back to Budapest and catch up with an old friend before we headed off to Turkey.

So two train journeys and five hours after leaving Gmunden we arrived at Budapest Keleti. We stayed in a lovely AirBnB and were the first visitors to the newly refurbished flat, which led to the owner leaving us champagne and strawberries – very nice too. The accommodation was a typical Hungarian style flat with a raised platform containing the sleeping area built above the living room.

A couple of nights of exploring the brilliant nightlife, the beer festival and fabulous restaurants (Georgian, Hungarian and Middle Eastern) meant it was not an overly relaxing weekend but good fun was had and we did manage to explore Margaret Island and finished the weekend with a Thai massage to get rid of all the toxins!

Here’s a link to some photos from our weekend away:¬†Budapest pictures

Lovely Ljubljana

Dan never misses an opportunity to visit one of his, and our, favourite cities so on the premise of taking two students to get a visa he managed to blag a car for the weekend. 7 hours driving from Gmunden, via Wolfsberg, and then eventually the Slovenian capital.

We stayed outisde the city centre near the zoo and a huge park so we spent the first day wandering round looking at flora and fauna and marvelling at how cheap it was to get in the animal park as opposed to Munich, which was the last zoo we visited. Then we ventured back into compact, beautiful and atmospheric city centre: firstly to visit Lou’s favourite crepe restaurant and secondly, to sample some good and excellently priced beer again (Austria take note, crap beer, high prices).

The best thing about living in Austria? Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia!!

¬†Here’s a link to some pictures from our 24 hour trip:¬†Ljubljana Pictures

 

Castles and day trips to Slovenia …

As the countdown to the final day of this horrific work experience continues (8 days in case you are interested) any chance to get away from the main campus is appreciated so we both headed down to Styria (again) for a week. Dan for work and Lou for a break from the norm.

Purely by chance a project¬†was taking place that week at a well-known Southern Austrian tourist location and so Dan went to work at NMS Riegersburg, and Lou went to play at¬†Castle Riegerbsurg. I wonder who got the better deal out of that ūüôā

Located right on the strategic border crossing point to Slovenia, the old boundary of the Austro-Hungrian empire, the Schloss sits atop an ancient volcano and is now owned by the Princely Royal Family of Liechtenstein. Housing several museum with changing displays the witches exhibition was particularly interesting and the views from the castle out over the wine region are beautiful.

Another day brought a short-trip to Slovenian town Maribor. The town was European Capital of Culture in 2012 and is surrounded by the Pohorje Mountains on one side and wine-lands on the other and features some scenic squares, lovely architecture, the oldest grape-producing vine in the world (quite how they know that I have no idea), a city park and your typically unwelcoming central-European train station were enjoyed.

Evenings spent sampling various local Austrian restaurants (although we ate Italian food most nights) gave us a chance to relax in the evenings and plan our next career steps. (As this is being posted rather late am sure you all now about this news now).

For pictures of castles, vineyards and Lou wearing a knight’s helmet click here:¬†Riegersburg and Maribor pictures

Bad Ischl: walking and talking

With only one day of nice weather forecast for the weekend we decided we should use the time to get outside and, handily, meet up with our friend from Slovakia, Marya, who was over in Upper Austria visiting her family for the weekend.

Beautiful blue skies were a nice change but the surrounding greenery, hills and mountains are never far away in Austria and Bad Ischl is no exception Рinterlaced by loads of trails that take you up hills and mountains, along rivers and to waterfalls. So we headed along trail number three to the Hohenzoller Wasserfall which was a pleasant stroll in the afternoon sunshine.

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Green, green everywhere
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Hohenzoller Wasserfall

The rest of the early evening was spent cafe hopping, eating street burgers, strolling around the pleasant town centre and chatting with Marya who filled us in on all the gossip as we put the world to rights.

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Meeting up with Maria