Excursion was a BLAST. And it was absolutely chock-full of adventure. For the sake of your time (and mine), I will present to you the Abridged! version of excursion, covering all the cool stuff while being succinct. Hopefully. Let’s see how this pans out.
On the first day of excursion, we drove and took a ferry to the island of Gökceada. It’s a quaint island that prides itself on being 100% organic – all the farms on the island don’t use chemicals. We stayed at a beautiful resort that overlooked the mountains.
We walked around the island for a bit, specifically in the village of Zeytinli, snapping pictures and stopping in a tiny cafe for Turkish coffee.
The next day we piled in the Sultan Maxi (our trusty bus for the duration of excursion) and headed to one of the organic farms on Gökceada. There we toured the farm and ate the best fresh plain yogurt I have ever tasted.
We then headed to Gallipoli, where we went through an extremely interactive museum (think simulators, headphones, and 3D glasses) and visited a memorial for fallen soldiers during the Battle of Gallipoli.
The next stop was Troy, where we romped around the centuries old ruins of the old mystical city. Most of it looked just like piles of rocks at first, but our tour guide Aida (who was with us for all of excursion, what a trooper!) explained the different layers of Troy and helped us imagine what the city would have looked like way back when. There, we also took an obligatory Trojan Horse picture.
We overnighted in Assos, a tiny town right on the Aegean, and in the morning headed to the ruins of a temple of Athena. Walking up the steep streets to get to the ruins was just the wake-up call the group needed, and we had fun exploring the ruins and learning from Aida. We even did a little dance under the Turkish flag.
Then we headed to Bergama to see the ruins of Pergamum. This experience was particularly great, because the ruins were expansive and hardly anyone else was there. This time we really let lose and during the free time Aida gave us, climbed up and over everything in sight.
Some of us were even ambitious enough to walk down the many steps of the theater to get to the bottom and try out the acoustics. It was pretty crazy – those of us who were sitting in the nosebleed seats could hear those at the bottom perfectly!
The next day in Ephesus, we headed up one of the many hills to see the alleged House of the Virgin Mary. Aida explained to us that the house was built a few centuries after the Virgin Mary’s lifetime, so while it probably was not her actual house, it was cool to see the meaning it held for so many people. Lots of nuns were there, there was a mass going on outside it, and people sobbing uncontrollably abounded. The inside of the house was calm and peaceful, and I lit two candles outside the house. By the house there was a wall where visitors could leave their wishes and prayers, and I wrote some down on a piece of paper and left it with the others on the wall. It was a very cool experience and a peaceful way to start the day.
After that we headed to the ruins of Ephesus. There were tons of other tourists that we had to dodge while being led around by Aida, but it was my favorite ruins experience on the trip simply because there was so much to see. Ephesus is even more sprawling than Pergamum, and apparently only 10% of the city has been excavated to far. Crazy! We got to see an ancient library, housing quarters (where archeologists were diligently working on restoring the mosaic floors) and even ancient toilets! All I can say is that I’m thankful for modern plumbing.
We stayed the night in Ephesus and the next day headed out on a yacht on the Aegean for the day. Thank goodness for Bonine, because our boat was rocking a lot on the waves. We anchored in three different bays over the course of the day and jumped off the back of the boat to swim in the salty Aegean. A few of us even sprung for a banana boat ride! Best 15 lira I’ve ever spent.
Dilek National Park
Unfortunately for me, the after-effects of yacht day caused me to get sick over the course of the night. Residual rocking feeling = stomach problems. In the morning we went to Dilek National park, where most of the group went hiking. A small group, myself included, decided not to hike and sat down by the beach. We found comfy lounge chairs and settled in, only to be approached 20 minutes later to find out that you had to pay 20 lira to sit in the chairs. Too tired to argue, we all paid our 20 lira. Ridiculous, huh? At least the scenery was beautiful!
After the national park, we drove to Pamukkale and arrived just before dinner. Pamukkale, known for its natural hot springs, was my favorite place of the trip. The hotels around Pamukkale all get spring water from the hot springs to use, and our hotel had an indoor thermal pool in its basement. It was a relief to soak and de-stress from the craziness of the past week.
But it was all worth it when we walked through the ruins and came to the natural hot springs. Tourists from every inch of the globe were swarming around the natural pools and we all took off our shoes to wade in the hot springs.
Overall, excursion was crazy and involved a lot of bus time, but it was a ton of fun. We were able to see so much of Turkey and have so many unique experiences. I can’t wait to see what the excursion weeks in Morocco and Egypt have in store for us!
P.S. Uploading the pictures for this post took me a combination of 3 days. Expect more wordy posts in the future and less pictures.