Istanbul, with over 15 million inhabitants meanwhile by far the largest European city, welcomes us with autumn temperatures and some rain. From our very central overnight location at a parking lot below the old town, directly on the Bosporus, we first do a few administrative things by foot.
The first way leads us to the Iranian embassy, where we pick up our medical visa for our next travel destination (normal tourist visas are not yet issued due to Corona and you have to look for other options). We have already received the confirmation with the electronic authorization code, but nowadays you never know … and Iran is geopolitically not that easy at the moment. The more pleased we are that after 15 minutes we have received our visas and can even pay with a credit card on site. We were again confirmed that the land borders are open and our confidence that we can drive the “total Iran-Arabian Peninsula tour” continues to grow. In the evening we reward ourselves appropriately for this small milestone with dinner in one of Istanbul’s top restaurants.
We were in Istanbul for a classic city trip in 2013, so this time we are only concentrating on selected topics: the bazaars, the Topkapi Palace, just strolling through the alleys and inhaling the atmosphere. The mixture of pulsating oriental life and the dynamism of a rapidly growing, multicultural and very modern cosmopolitan city gives Istanbul a very special flair. In addition to Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town, Istanbul is also a city where we can imagine living for a few months after our world tour in order to get to know the city even more intensively. We are totally thrilled again and Karin loves to chat with the traders in the bazaars all day.
We leave the greater Istanbul area via the most modern motorways and bridges … which naturally takes a while given the huge dimensions … All in all, it takes us three hours from west to east, without major traffic jams and delays. Inconceivably, more than São Paolo… our biggest city we have visited so far.
With the ancient cities of Pergamon and Ephesus, culture is back on the agenda. Unfortunately, tourism is in full swing again – from our second trip to Africa we are still “Corona spoiled” in this regard. The sintered terraces of Pamukkale are impressive … but we would have imagined them to be bigger overall, despite the fact that they are two kilometers long and 100 meters wide and deep. Many are no longer properly intact.
After the city and the ancient cultural program, we strive for nature, solitude and tranquility. We find all this at Salda Gölü, a turquoise mountain lake which is also called the “Maldives of Turkey” due to its color. Here we spend a relaxing day before heading down south to the Lycian coast. It is considered to be the most beautiful coast of Turkey, as the Taurus Mountains, with their mountains over 3,000 meters high, drop steeply to the rugged coast.
The Lycian coast leaves us with mixed feelings. On the one hand the highly touristy areas are disappointing (and especially the alleged “picture book beach” near Fethiye / Ölüdeniz, known from all travel brochures). On the other hand, there are still charming places like Kalkan, Kas or the 16 km long, unspoilt beach from Patara. The absolute highlight for us on the Lycian coast, however, is the medieval fishing village of Simena, which can only be reached by foot or by boat: especially in the evening after the tourist boats have left, you experience a great atmosphere that reminds us to fishing villages on the islands of Lake Titicaca or lonely Thai islands in the early 80s. The Lycian coast: without a doubt, a world of contrasts.
The further coastal road to Antalya can compete with the best in the world in terms of routing and view, before TUI coaches, uniformed travel hostesses and huge hotel complexes take over when approaching Antalya. In Antalya itself we only spend a little time for a service stop for Shujaa … there is always something to do on the vehicle, despite extensive wellness treatments before the start of our trip. And then we drive on quickly.
Western Turkey surprises us: we would not have expected such a booming, tidy, modern country with an excellent infrastructure. Europe, and especially Germany, really has to be careful not to lose ground … and you don’t have to look to China for that. We have approached Asia … but we don’t really have the feeling of being in the Orient yet. But we will be heading further east!