The Lycian Way – Part Three

Whilst we were walking the Lycian Way we couldn’t help but compare it to our experience on the Camino de Santiago. The two walks couldn’t be more different despite the fact that they are both cross country expeditions through small (and larger) towns.

The Lycian way seemed to be easier on your feet because the terrain is much more varied, with lots of walking done on softer ground than the Camino. However our joints seemed to be suffering more under the weight of our packs and ibuprofen has been vital for reducing my ever-swelling knees and ankles.

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Also, the distances covered aren’t really something that anyone takes any notice of. On the Camino it was all about how many kilometres you would walk in a day. On this walk it seems to be in hours and minutes. Sometimes the smallest distance can take you the longest because of the terrain you are walking on.

Then there is the accommodation. Whilst you can camp on the Camino, not many people do as the albergue accommodation is so well set-up for the walk. On the Lycian Way, we have been camping the majority of the time so we don’t have to worry about making it to the next town. In fact, the better campsites are usually 1 or 2 kms outside of the town.

Day 5

Xanthos to Delikkemer

We woke up feeling rejuvenated and ready to begin hiking again. We planned to camp just outside of the town Akbel so we needed an early start. We left by 8:15AM and made good pace in the morning. This stretch of the walk was particularly interesting as we spent most of it following the aqueduct that used to supply the Lycian civilisation with water. Amazing to think that we were walking along a structure that is almost 2000 years old.

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We arrived at a place called Impinar spring where part of the aqueduct is still in use. It was there that we met a new friend, Jegor from Estonia, and it was also there that we lost the way markers.

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The three of us wandered around a bit lost for a while until we finally found the white and red stripes that show us the way forward.

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We walked almost 10 hours again that day but it didn’t feel as long with Jegor there to chat with. We made it to the Delikkemer aqueduct ruins at 7PM and made camp.

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Adam and I were impressed with Jegor’s one-man set up and the boys discussed cooking equipment while I made the fire. It was so good to have found another amazing campsite with a beautiful view of the green rocky hills that lead down to the Mediterranean Sea.

Day 6

Delikkemer to Patara and a taxi to Kalkan

Adam and I spent four hours the next morning walking with Jegor to Patara ruins and beach.

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The ruins were impressive and a nice place to rest after our brisk morning hike.

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After we’d finished exploring the 2000 year old Lycian capital city and beach, we parted ways with Jegor and caught a taxi up to to the small coastal town of Kalkan, where we were planning to start the next leg of our walk.

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Kalkan was a great stop. The pension was a welcomed change from the tent and the breakfast and views from the terrace were amazing.

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We washed our clothes finally and bought supplies for two more solid days of hiking.

Day 7

Kalkan to (2km before) Gokceoren

This was a long, tough day. We walked another 9 hours and most of it was mountainous.

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We knew we wanted to make it to Kas the next day so it was imperative that we make it as far as we could. The walk was beautiful but isolated.

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We thought we would be able to buy food for the next day on the way but we passed through two towns that seemed to be empty with no shops.

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We walked until we couldn’t walk any further and made camp next to an old ruined farm house.

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The place was beautiful and there was a lot of old dry wood for a fire.

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At first we had found it a little bit daunting camping in the wild, on someone’s property for all we knew but it was beginning to feel more comfortable. The noises we would hear in the dark didn’t bother us as much and we began to appreciate the ‘silence’ of nature.

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Day 8

(2km before) Gokceoren to Kas

Our 8th day broke me, I am sorry to say. It was another crazy-long walk with relentlessly steep climbs up slippery mountains and a hot sun bearing down upon us.

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It had rained on us during the night, but miraculously we both slept well regardless and the tent didn’t fail us. We broke camp very early and realised that we didn’t have anything substantial for breakfast. We hadn’t been able to buy bread the day before – a major issue if we were to last the 9 hours it would take us to walk to Kas. Luckily we had some dried cranberries and hazelnuts to snack on but our stomachs were growling after 20mins of walking.

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When we reached the small town of Gokceoren our relief was massive when a little old Turkish lady ran out of her house and offered us breakfast (for a price, of course). We gratefully accepted and sat down to the most amazing feast of omelet, bread, homemade cheese & strawberry jam, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and honey from the family beehives.

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We ate as much as we could, filled up our water bottles and began our long walk to Kas.

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A highlight of the day was the unexpected ruins of Phellos that sits perched up on a high mountain ridge above the small town of Cukurbag.

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We couldn’t believe that an ancient city once sat on this long forgotten mountain.

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We took a much needed break there and worked ourselves up to begin the last three hours of our journey for the day.

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The last three hours to Kas were hard but the views over the small seaside town were incredible.

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Getting down to Kas involved slowly descending a very steep cliff along narrow hairpins. Rocks covered the precarious path and Adam and I slipped over a couple of times each. My right ankle wasn’t dealing with the jolts and slides well and I was in tears by the time we reached the bottom.

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We decided to stay in Kas for a couple of days to rest my ankle (which seemed to be swelling a lot) and do a bit of touristy sightseeing before we began the next stage of the hike.

We found a gorgeous campground about ten mins outside of town where we pitched our tent and enjoyed the sun and the clear blue sea every day.

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But unfortunately my ankle continued to swell and was quite painful to walk on despite four days of rest.

After much debate, we made the decision finally to leave the next section of the walk for another time in the future.

On the bright side, we got to spend eight days on this amazing hike and we would absolutely recommend hiking the Lycian Way. It was a fantastic way to get to know Turkey and its wonderful people.

The Lycian Way – Part Two

Day 3

Gey to (2km before) Letoon

Our third day on the Lycian way was our most challenging so far. We didn’t make ourselves a coffee due to the fact that we only had one litre of water left between us and we weren’t sure if the spring marked on the map would be full or even exist. We also knew that it was going to be a difficult day of walking so we would need to stay as hydrated as we could.

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We couldn’t help taking a few last snaps of the view from our amazing campsite before heading down the trail.

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The beginning of our walk was actually quite scary. From our campsite we had to make our way across a valley pass along a very narrow goat track on the face of a large and sheer cliff. My heart was racing quite a few times as the rocks under my feet slid down the cliff towards the sea. It wouldn’t have been quite as difficult if we didn’t have our large, heavy packs on but after a long hour and a distance of only 1km, we made it onto a more solid and wider path.

Right on cue, a spring popped up, exactly where it was marked on the map. It was a full well and we were excited to sit down and make a coffee and brush our teeth with the precious water.

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Some of the springs on the walk are flowing and it’s easy to fill up. Others you need a contraption to get the water out. Adam has a lot of fun doing this.

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We walked almost 10 hours again that day, the terrain was varied and we passed a couple of small towns and greenhouses full of ripening tomatoes.

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The weather was hot and humid and we tried to rest in shade when we could.

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We were absolutely exhausted when we decided to set up camp a kilometre or two away from the small town of Letoon. We had just passed through kilometres of swampland that was obviously used to dump rubbish and hunt pigs. Adam saw loads of shotgun shells on the ground and there were four-wheel drive tracks everywhere. We had read blogs that described the wild pigs that come sniffing around campsites late at night so we pushed on even though the sun was setting fast.

Eventually we came to a sheltered area with clay ground that had a bit of grass on it to put the tent and only a few sheep chewing noisily on the surrounding bushes. We quickly set up our camp before the darkness set in. I slept horribly that night. I kept waking up to the sound of barking dogs and loud engines in the distance. Adam assured me that we were safe but at about 4AM it started to rain and then storm. As this was only our 3rd night ever in the tent we became slightly concerned about how it would hold up and whether the clay ground we were sleeping on was actually part of the wetlands. We brought our bags into the tent which made the already small area to lie in even smaller. Needless to say, neither of us slept much at all that night.

Day 4

(2km before) Letoon to Xanthos

We packed up everything into our bags whilst we were inside our tent quite efficiently and braved the downpour as we pulled down our tent. We packed it into its sack and carried it between us. We made it to Letoon an hour later and stopped for shelter at a little shop selling bread and other necessities.

We must have looked pretty sore and sorry for ourselves as we walked through on the road between Letoon and Kumluova and finally Xanthos (Kinik). The rain had stopped by this stage and we had made the decision to find a room to stay in Xanthos even though we had only walked 7/8km that morning.

Luckily for us there was lots to do in the small town, other than catch up on sleep. The weekly markets were on in the Main Street. There were stalls selling everything you could want and everyone was so friendly, saying hello and welcome as we passed. We sampled some prunes and apricots but ended up buying a huge bag of dried cranberries to carry on our walk and indulged in a cinnamon flavoured slushy – this was amazing!

In a few hours, the weather had cleared. We took out tent out to the famous Xanthos ruins and set it up to dry while we explored what was left of the 2000 year old city. Amazing that Turkey has some pretty impressive Roman ruins.

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That night we ate a mountain of delicious Turkish food and slept like the dead. The next day was going to be another long one.

The Lycian Way – Part One

Day 1

Ovacik to (2km past) Faralya

After a good night sleep, we got up, ate a big hearty breakfast and prepared to leave for the start of the walk. This was when Adam’s bag broke…

Not to worry, we had a sewing kit handy and he stitched the tear in a matter of minutes. It was a bit worrying though, considering we were about to begin a long hike but we were minutes away from starting so we decided to ignore it.

From Fethiye to the beginning of the walk, we caught a minibus that took about 30 mins. It was reassuring to see that there were other hikers on the bus ready to begin their journey as well.

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The walk was both harder and easier than we expected. Physically we aren’t as fit as we were going into the Camino so we really felt the steep inclines and declines and the loose rocks made us very wary of where we were putting our feet. The Lycian way is a mountainous goat track that follows the coastline of Turkey from Fethiye to Antalya.

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The views were spectacular and certainly brought the crowds. There were quite a few serious hikers that we passed and who passed us but there were also a lot of hikers who only had day packs on and were either on a day hike or had sent their packs ahead with a tour company to the accommodation they would be staying in.

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We estimated our packs to be about 10-12kg each. This is quite heavy and we started rethinking the amount of water we needed to have on us as we hiked. Fresh water springs were marked on our map but some of them were dry and we didn’t want to get caught out so we decided to push through the pain, knowing that it would get better after a couple of days.

After walking five strenuous hours, we found the campsite that the couple who wrote the blog had marked on the GPS. It was perfect with a fire pit and nice flat cleared area to put our tent. We set up, boiled some tea and had a piece of cake whilst taking in the scenery. Quite a few hikers passed us on their way to the next town, Kabak but we were happy sitting and stoking our fire.

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After successfully cooking our tuna and noodles we were very early to bed, absolutely exhausted but content.

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Day 2

Faralya to (2km past) Gey

More beautiful than the day before, day two was long but rewarding. We walked through so many different terrains, dealt with some nasty looking dogs and had some spectacular views.

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The walk started with a steep and rocky decent to Kabak beach which was a gorgeous place for a short rest. The water was as clear as it appeared from above but a little too cold to swim in.

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Once we had rested our aching muscles and fed our growling bellies we set off up the mountain. It was a tough climb but the views were absolutely worth it.

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The views over the mediterranean were out of this world. We found it hard to determine where the sea ended and the sky began.

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We walked for hours and hours passing through a few small towns until we reached Gey. We stopped in at a shop to buy some more snacks and they offered us a good price for dinner, breakfast and to put up our tent but we had our hearts set on staying at the campsite that the couple had marked on the GPS route.

This ended up being a lot longer than we had anticipated. Campsites aren’t always easy to find on the walk. Often the area will be too steep, covered in rocks or too exposed.

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But the campsite we found there was out of this world. Perched high up on one of the cliffs overlooking a rocky valley and the ocean was a semi-circle of cleared ground. There was a small fire pit and flat rocks to sit on.

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It was the most beautiful campsite either of us had ever seen.

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As it was getting dark, Adam and I set up our tent quickly and he cooked dinner while I gathered some wood for a small fire. It was heaven. All we could hear was the breeze rustling the olive branches all around us and the soft tinkling of goat-bells.

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The sun set at 7:45PM and it was then that we realised that we had walked almost 10 hours with only a few small breaks. Not bad for our second day.

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Preparing to Walk the Lycian Way

We first heard about the Lycian Way in Australia through a friend whose parents were walking it at the time. We already knew we were going to do the Camino de Santiago and decided to add this walk to our loose plans.

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In preparing for the Lycian Way, Adam and I started to realise that it was no Camino de Santiago. This was a much more technical hike and we wouldn’t always be able to rely on refugios/albergues and supermarkets being readily available. A lot of people wild-camp on the Lycian Way. This concept of camping where you end up was a little foreign and scary -so of course we had to do it. But we were going to need some camping equipment if we were to attempt the walk in this way.

We bought a two man hiking tent in Spain. At 2.7kg it was a steal at 100Euros – why is hiking/camping gear so expensive in Australia? We also bought two ultra light self-inflating mattresses for a little bit of luxury.

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Getting Kate Clow’s guide book was tougher than we thought. We were Istanbul for about 8 days and not one of the bookstores had seen it for about 2 years. Some even claimed it was out of print. Luckily there was a man staying in our hostel who had just finished the walk and gave us some very valuable advice. He had got his hands on a copy of the book in Fethiye (the town just before the beginning of the walk) and recommended a hostel we could stay in where the owner could assist us in our preparation. This was so fortunate as Adam and I were starting to lose a bit of hope about how we were going to go about everything.

We had been doing a lots of research on the walk to make sure that we were fully prepared. One of the most detailed and useful trip-reports on the Lycian Way was one we found on http://www.backpackinglight.com. This couple had walked the Lycian Way in 17 days and had suggested we use the iPhone app Gaia GPS. They had recorded their walk and marked the places where they had camped throughout. Adam is the technical genius between us so he downloaded it onto both our phones ready for the walk. It can be used without wifi as long as you have downloaded the map previously (and turn airplane mode off).

We spent two days in Istanbul buying the last of the necessary items for our trek. This included: stainless steel mugs, a MSR cooker, gas canisters and a small hiking pot set. We were planning to camp the majority of the trail spending only one or two nights a week in pansiyons (guesthouses) or home-stay accommodation. This meant that we had to be self-sufficient from the very beginning.

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We made it to Yildirim Guest House in Fethiye, a little bit nervous but also very excited. Umar, the owner, was lovely and gave us advice about the first few days of the trek and we bought a detailed map off him as well. We went down to the Migros supermarket and stocked up on nuts, chocolate bars, cake, long life cheese, instant coffee sachets, instant noodles and of course, water. We were ready.

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Istanbul – Part Two

Taksim —> Prince’s Island

Taksim has a completely different atmosphere to Sultanahmet. It’s still very touristic, don’t get me wrong, but it has more of a ‘scene’ going on. The night life, the quirky little cafes down the side streets and the shopping is second to none – not that we did much of that at all.

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The hostel we stayed in there was above a Turkish hammam. The hammams here are very different to Moroccan ones and Adam and I are yet to try one. The hostel was equipped with a kitchen, common room/dining room and a large outdoor covered terrace area. We immediately felt at home and made friends with a lovely Japanese couple who had been travelling for two years and a crazy Italian, ‘Enzo’. We liked it so much there that we stayed another 5 days.

I think we would have walked at least 15km per day over our time in Istanbul. There is just so much to take in that you don’t want to get on public transport unless you have to.

We took a ferry out to Prince’s Islands on one of the days when the weather was nice. We hired bikes for $2.50AU an hour and rode the 20km circumference around the main Island. It was beautiful.

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The water here is unbelievably clear and a lovely turquoise colour. We read that the restaurants were expensive on the Island so we packed our lunch and had a picnic in one of the gorgeous parks.

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Overall it was a wonderful day. Just the ferry ride itself was worth the $1.50 we paid.

We were eating our breakfast and dinner at the hostel every night. It was so nice to feel like we had a home to go back to at the end of our long days sightseeing. Cooking up our own meals with fresh ingredients from the grocery store was fun and much cheaper than eating in a restaurant. The kebabs here are delicious and cheap but it gets a bit much having it for breakfast lunch and dinner. So during the day would be our time to try all of the amazing street food that Istanbul has to offer.

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One of the ‘must eats’ at Galata bridge area just south of Taksim is a ‘balik’ or fish sandwich. They are sold everywhere and it is about knowing what the locals know and picking the right vendor to buy from. Luckily the Japanese couple from our hotel knew a secret vendor that does the best balik on the river. They gave us the directions and we went down to find Emori-san and his exclusive fish wrap. It wasn’t hard to find him as the line for his stand was about 5 times larger than any other in the area.

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Our mouths watered as we watched him work. Fresh salad, barbecued fish that had been carefully boned, onion, tabouli and a variety of herbs all with a dash of chilli paste and a squeeze of lemon were laid carefully onto soft flat bread and then wrapped up and placed on the barbecue. With each turn he would sprinkle the wrap with lemon flavoured olive oil and a herb mix that smelt wonderful. When it was deemed ready he handed us our wraps with a stiff nod. Words cannot describe how delicious it was. It will be the first thing we eat when we go back to Istanbul in a months time.

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Another little delicacy we discovered is the ‘kunafeh’. It is a coal baked cheese pastry made with shredded wheat and soaked in a sugary syrup. Sounds weird I know, but the cheese and the syrup melt in your mouth and the pistachios on top added to the taste sensation.

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Baclava and apple tea was a ritual we started in Taksim. It was such a nice way to take in all of the action happening in Taksim square as we sipped our apple tea and ate the layered honey and walnut pastry.

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Turkish juice stands are all over the place. The fruit here is delicious and the flavour is way more intense than Australia. I tried the pomegranate juice for a couple of lira and got my vitamin C intake for the next few weeks.

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Finally as the weather turned, it was time to leave Istanbul and begin our trip down the coast. Adam and I are preparing to walk the Lycian Way which is a 500km walk from Fethiye to Antalya on the south coast of Turkey but we have a few stops before we start that crazy adventure. First up, Gallipoli.

Istanbul – Part One

Sultanahmet

Istanbul is out-of-this-world AMAZING. I could seriously stop at those seven words because I don’t know how a blog post is going to do such an incredible city justice. So I will procrastinate and tell you about how we got there.

We landed at 10PM into Ataturk airport instead of at 6AM when our flight was originally scheduled. Our Egypt Air flight to Morocco, with a stopover in Cairo, was cancelled with no explanation. The rumour was that it was engine trouble but no one would tell us anything.

This turned out to be the best airline stuff-up ever. Despite not telling us anything, Egypt Air put us up in a fancy hotel in Casablanca where we relaxed, watched cable TV and ate delicious food until we got a wake up call the next morning telling us what time the bus to the airport would be leaving. When we arrived at the airport, they had organised a direct flight for us to Istanbul that afternoon flying with Turkish Air. Not only did we get to stay in a 4 star hotel instead of Cairo airport for the night, we were fed, pampered, put on a direct flight with a MUCH classier airline and arrived the same day as we would have anyway (albeit 14 hours later).

It was a promising start to our Turkish adventures.

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For our first three days in Istanbul we stayed in the old town, Sultanahmet. It is home to the most famous sights in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia, The Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace. Our hostel was literally 100 metres away from the main square that is home to all three. We couldn’t believe our good fortune as we had booked at the last minute and didn’t pay too much attention to its location.

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I have to say, the Ottoman Empire knew how to build some amazing buildings. All of the mosques in Istanbul are beautiful with their minarets peppering the city’s skyline. The most famous of these mosques, the Blue Mosque was beautiful. At night they light it up and it looks like some sort of Disney castle.

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It was free to enter provided you covered up your hair and wore appropriate clothing. The amount of people in there was crazy but it didn’t take away from the thousands of little blue tiles that adorned the walls and the ceiling. Even the carpet was an impressive feature in itself.

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We spent those few days exploring the sights around Sultanahmet. When our legs grew tired, we would lounge on the grass in the gorgeous gardens, eating as many Turkish delicacies as we could (more on that later).

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One thing I noticed as soon as we arrived in Turkey was the tulips. Tulips are native to Turkey and apparently used to have some negative connotations after an unfortunate incident in Holland. But now the Turkish embrace the Tulip and each year in April thousands boom for the Tulip festival.

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I heard that one of the most spectacular gardens for tulips was Gulhane Park so I dragged Adam along and took an embarrassing amount of photos.

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I’ve always been a fan of Turkish Delight but being here in Turkey has taken it to obsessive levels. There are literally hundreds of different types of Turkish delight. There are the ones made with a sugar base (cheaper) and ones made with honey (expensive). The shops specialising in the famous lolly sell it by the kilo and will often have plates of tasters for passers by. A few of the flavours I tried were pomegranate & pistachio, walnut & vanilla, almond & rose etc. etc.

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The Grand Bazaar and Spice bazaar rivalled the souks in Morocco for variety and salesmanship and we spent hours wandering through the rows and rows of different shops all selling similar things. I rewarded myself with a pair of pjama pants that I managed to get for $2.50AU and Adam picked up some very much needed socks and jocks.

By our third night in Istanbul we had seen most of the major tourist attractions but we knew we weren’t finished exploring this wonderful city. The hostel we were staying in in Sultanahmet was fantastic for sleeping, but that was about it. It didnt have a common room to socialise with other backpackers or a kitchen where we could cook our food. So we packed our bags up on our fourth morning and moved to a different hostel in a different part of town – Taksim.

Marrakech

Marrakech is a special place. I can see why people from all around the world come here and fall in love with it.

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We got it right with our accommodation thankfully. We stayed in a beautifully restored and colourful riad-hostel that was located right in the heart of all the action. Riads are old Moroccan houses that usually centre around a garden and a water feature. In the old times this allowed women of the house to feel the sunlight in a garden whilst maintaining their privacy.

Our riad had a pool and a garden in the centre that acted as a common room of sorts. There were always at least five to ten backpackers chilling out, on the internet or eating in the area. Moroccan tea was free and served frequently and the terrace was a space for sun baking or admiring the views over Marrakech. It was such a comfortable space that Adam and I decided to stay three more nights than we planned.

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Marrakech's famous Djema El Fna square is a sight to behold as the sun begins to set. This is when all of the street performers crawl out of the woodworks, the food stalls set up and the visitors and tourists all come out to play (and pay). We paid twice the amount we usually would for a coffee up on a terrace of one of a restaurant overlooking the square at sunset. The view and people watching was well worth the price.

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The other sights of Marrakech such as the tombs and the palace didn’t impress us overly. We made sure that we gave them the time but in all honesty, we found that the walk through the city towards these sights was more enjoyable.

Something I have wanted to do since arriving in Morocco is a cooking class. Adam and I had written it off as something that was a bit too expensive for our budget. Fortunately, the hostel we stayed in in Marrakech ran their own in-house cooking class for 30% less than all of the other cooking schools we had been researching. It was fantastic.

We started off the day with a trip to the markets where the women in the hostel usually shop. Joining us for the class were two Italian girls from a hostel down the road and a lady from Cornwall. The markets were great and gave us all a chance to get to know each other and swap travel stories. We watched as the butcher hacked up our lamb, we tasted the olives, dates and prunes before settling on the right variety for our meals and helped pick the best looking vegetables.

Back at the hostel we cooked up a feast. We started with Moroccan salad, which is simple yet so delicious. Next we prepared the vegetables and learned about the spices that flavoured our vegetable tagine (Adam and I have decided that a tagine will be one of our first purchases when we have our own kitchen again).

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Ayda, our teacher, showed us how to prepare the lamb for slow cooking and how much cinnamon and sugar to add before we caramelised the prunes that went with it. And we kneaded and pan fried the flat flakey pancake-type bread that we had eaten so often for breakfast and snacks throughout Morocco.

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To drink, they showed us how to make the avocado smoothie (jus d’ avocat) that I have fallen in love with since being here. For this, they blended up four deliciously ripe avocadoes, milk, a bit of sugar, dates and walnuts. It was absolutely delicious and I had to stop myself from going back for a third refill as it’s not exactly waistline-friendly.

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Once we had finished cooking everything, we sat down to eat. The food was some of the best I have had in Morocco and on this trip so far.

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It was sad leaving the hostel in the end. We’d made some friends there and the hostel managers and staff looked after us like nowhere else we’ve stayed. But it was time to move on to our next country… Turkey!

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