After some further beach side organisation and much help from all the familiy our parcel of documentation and missing phone was sent to DHL depot. With some level of confidence we decided that we could afford a detour into the mountains before our rendevous on Monday.

Having decided to stray away from the guide book's recommendations we found ourselves on a deserted route into the hills North East of Thessaloniki. Baked earth and olive trees gave way to pine forests as we made our way to the village of .... The map claimed camping but as usual nobody had ever heard of any camping nearby. We wandered through the village looking for refreshment and information and found ourselves recipients of yet more Greek hospitality. Jimmy, Anna and David, our new friends, fed us fantastic homemade food and filled us in on aspects of Greek culture we had been grappling to understand. After lazing away the afternoon Greek style with ice creams, we made a late night rush to the coast for camping on the beach, followed by a leisurely return to Thessaloniki where we collected our parcel off the plane. The people we met in Greece were the highlight of the country for me: endless offers of food and drink were given generously with no expectation and everyone was eager to help.

After finally being reunited with our belongings at the airport we started the long trip to Istanbul. The border crossing was quick, in spite of ever increasing bureaucracy, and we arrived at Mistik Camping near Istanbul to a friendly late-night welcome. Having expected Turkey to be the hottest destination on our trip we were surprised to enter the country in torrential rain, which only got worse. We woke up the following morning full of exciting plans to visit all of the sights of Istanbul, our mood only slightly dampened by the weather. The single day we had available could not do justice to the many sights, however after visiting the Golden Horn's attractions we vowed a return visit. The atmosphere, architecture and people were vibrant and varied. People's mood in particular varies according to the hour as it is currently Ramazan. Late afternoon grumpiness gave way to exuberance after sun-down when the fast is broken and everyone can finally eat and drink.

One of the highlights of Istanbul for both of us was the shopping. We visited the great bazaar and spice bazaar which were beautiful if a little tourist oriented, however the real fun was in the markets outside. After asking for a bead shop to buy stocks for my mum, we were directed to a han some streets away. After negotiating our way there past hundreds of stalls, like products all clustered into alleys and streets together, we arrived at the bead bazaar...all nine floors of it! All of our other purchases followed a similar theme, and we headed down bike-part street, left into sock alley and right through underwear square to find some buttons I wanted. My friend sally would have been in heaven, entire shops were filled with little cardboard boxes floor to ceiling, each with a different button on the front to display their wares.

The weather continued to surprise us with a night of violent storms. The rains were the worse Istanbul has seen in 80 years and we were as shocked as the rest of Turkey by the images we saw of the flood waters only a few km away from our camp. We were lucky that the worse we saw was a sleepless night, and our sympathies go to the people of Istanbul who lost lives and homes.

Our next destination was Safranbolu and a change in the weather meant we arrived to a damp sunset over pastel coloured timber homes. Safranbolu is a traditional Turkish town and a World Heritage site. For me however it will always be the place of my first Hammam. John and I decided to start our day with a traditional Turkish bath. As well as a chance to see some lovely architecture and to interact more closely with the locals, a really good wash was probably in order after 2 months on the road! I bravely opted for the scrub and massage option and left the baths with significantly less skin than i arrived with. The whole experience was probably pleasant... although being vigorously scrubbed by a semi naked Turkish matron who insisted on showing me just how dirty my feet were and washing my face as though i were a grubby child left me a little bemused as to why i was paying for this when she obviously derived more pleasure from it than I did?!

Comments (1) Comments are closed
1 Tuesday, 27 October 2009 20:01
Melissa, Simon, Ollie, Toby & Bear
Sounds like you are having an amazing time, we're loving the photos. Post soon with your news, nothing much happening here, had some ups and downs with 3 small children but think I'm getting the hang of it now!
Bear's Christening is 29th November, I've got my friend Beth (Toby's Godmother) to stand in for you Ruth, say a prayer for him on that day - wish you could be there with us but glad you're having the adventure of a lifetime (we'll need your notes for when we do it when the kids have left home!)
x x

Last Updated (Saturday, 03 October 2009 14:22)