On July 07, 2004, I decided to go to Turkey for a vacation during November of this year.  I had gone to Washington DC for my birthday in February and the Netherlands  Turkey Visa in May, Chicago and St. Louis in June, Tucson, Santa Fe and Flagstaff in August and Beverly Hills in October and thought I probably shouldn't travel any more this year due to my budget.  

But I saw an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle and it stated that a travel company named Gate 1 had a special package to Turkey for 12 days and I have always wanted to go there.  This tour goes all around the country and my friend Viviane told me Gate 1 has a very good operation.  

The package airfare roundtrip to Istanbul from San Francisco is $707.00.  Hopefully they will let me use my United Frequent Flyer card to add more miles to my mileage.  The airport Taxes, Fees and Security Fee is $105.70.  Wonder what the 70 cents is for?  The tour is around $800 so couldn't go wrong, four star hotels, breakfast and dinners most places, a tour bus and knowledgeable tour guide and great driver.  Plus a great group of fellow travelers, what else could one want!

So a total of 14 days to fly, tour, food and so on, is $1,731.70.  Not too bad for that kind of trip and so far to travel.  Little did I know we would travel over 2,000 miles to see the sights!  Check out the map for a view of our 2,000 mile odyssey!  Also check out the group photo of us in Cappadocia where the landscape looked like the moon!  

You can read about my adventures and check out each link in the following dissertation or.............  


You can click on this link ~ Turkey Photos ~ and view the photos without reading about my travels in Turkey!


Wednesday 04 

I flew United and Lufthansa as they are in a shared mileage program called Alliance.  It was 12 hours to Frankfurt and a four hour layover.  Then three and a half hours to Istanbul so it was a long day getting there.  

Friday 05

 I arrived at the hotel around five PM and went to my room and then to the overview of the trip in a conference room.  I sat in the back row with a woman from Seattle, Barbara.  She was traveling with a friend, Helen.   In front of us were two men from Washington DC, Joe and Rene.  Next to them was a lawyer from San Francisco, Jeffrey.  He and a friend, Maritza, from Modesto, shared a room on this trip.  They both work at the Superior Court House on Seventh and Mission, just two blocks from where I live!  Jeff came up later and asked how long we had known each other?  Barbara and I had a good laugh, we said, "We just met!"  That was how the trip went, everyone was so friendly and there were about 35 people on our bus and all got along just great together.

After dinner I went to my room and was in the bathroom and the phone rang!  Well who do I know in Istanbul.  It was Barbara and she asked if I could come over and get their air conditioning to work.  I put on my gym shorts and tank top and off to their room.  They were in their nightgowns, Helen in her pink night gown with of all things, paper slippers provided by the Hotel Bulva Palas!   We had left the door open and Joe and Rene came out of their room and saw the girls in their night gowns and me in my shorts and asked what was up!  Barbara said we were having a slumber party!  So that was how the trip started out and seemed we would have a great time together!

Note: And finally, this is a must read; I fell out of the bath tub and almost broke my hip and bruised my ribs in a horrendous accident the first night I was in Istanbul after visiting Barbara and Helen!  

Saturday 06

 This morning we first visited the Egyptian Spice Market and pursued the many different spices packed high in bags.  Then we went to the Istanbul bazaar and proceeded to check out the many things to purchase and finally decided to sit down at a local coffee house and have a delicious apple tea which Turkey is famous for, besides the Turkish Coffee.  We then drove out of Istanbul, (13 Million strong), and crossed the Dardanelles by ferry and drive to Gallipolis.   Then we then continue to Canakkale to spend the night before proceeding to Troy the next morning.  Canakkale now has the wooden horse used in filming the movie Troy, and is situated by the harbor.  It was a beautiful night so we walked around the down town area before turning in.

Sunday 07

This morning we toured the city of Troy made immortal by Homer's Iliad.  Like many sites, there are the walls and pottery shards and many guesses as to the actual layout of the various cities that were built over each other.  We had a good laugh as to the model of the famous horse, (if it ever existed in fact), the inhabitants of the city had to be pretty ignorant if they saw a horse with a house on top of it with windows!  I don't think so!  We got to climb up inside of the horse to view the surrounding landscape!  We also saw the first of many cats that seem to inhabit all areas of Turkey.  They are spoiled and friendly and want to be petted and of course, fed!

We then continued to Pergamum to visit the Acropolis and Asclepion and we continue on to Izmir.  Izmir is a great city, very modern, situated on the Aegean Sea and the biggest shipping port for exports in Turkey.  Barbara, Helen, Judy and myself  went on a private tour and saw lots of avenues and shops and palm trees but the weather took a turn and it started to rain.  We stopped at one of the outdoor restaurants on the coast and had a Turkish Pizza!  Then we shopped but got caught in another down pour so we went into an upscale coffee house and sat and listened to the rain as we had coffee.   Then more shopping at an outdoor bazaar and that evening we went out for dinner and found a small restaurant a few blocks away and had a nice dinner before returning to the hotel.

Monday 08

 We drove to Sardis to visit the rebuilt gymnasium and were told of the history of the city.  It was know for it's gold and one of the first places to mint coins.  The main building is the Marble Court of the Hall of Imperial Court and was build around 200 CE.  This was one of our favorite ancient buildings on our tour.  We then visited the  Temple of Artemis. This temple was visited by Alexander the Great and he refurbished the temple.  It is situated on a high hill and has beautiful columns and a large theatre.  Great stone volts hold the temple up and the rooms may have been used for storage or who knows what!  We then return to Izmir for another night of rest before driving to Ephesus.

Tuesday 09

We spent the  morning touring the house of the Virgin Mary and the Basilica of St. John. Drive through the town of Kusadasi en route to Pamukkale.  Then we visited Ephesus, Roman center of commerce and culture during the 2nd century BC. This of course is a must when visiting Turkey.  The main columned walk way is monumental along with the famous library.  We stayed at the Richmond Thermal Hotel and it was a great place.  There was a huge swimming pool and an inside volcanic heated sulfur baths and outside, two pools, one extremely hot, the other one, medium heat.  We soaked and talked for over an hour and talk about feeling clean and healthy!  Check out the picture of me looking very clean and refreshed!

Wednesday 10 

We visited Hieropolis and Necropolis in Pamukkale and the travertine pools clinging to the hill side.  This area is interesting as the volcanic waters filled with sulphur spills over and coats the tiered pools.  We had to take our shoes off and a bunch of us decided to walk  most of the way down.  I didn't realize Maritza was behind me and as I was walking along, a German man was standing on top of one of the pools. He was gossiping on a cell phone and suddenly started to kick water off the pool onto my ankles.  I was pissed and said very loudly, "Watch it!"  Well he just kept splashing and gossiping!  Maritza used this line for the rest of the trip, "Watch it!"   

Then the tour guide was having trouble getting people back to the bus and finally I got fed up and said very loudly, "Move it!"  Well that became another favorite of Maritza and myself.  Watch it, Move it!  The tour guide said I was going to be his second in command and would be a good backup to get those slow pokes onto the bus in a timely matter - Move it!

Note: I was walking around and for some reason, told some of the people; "I don't know why but, I feel very hyper this afternoon!"  Suddenly a woman in the group stopped, looked very strangely at me and said; "How would you know that, you are hyper all the time!"  Excuse me!

Then we drove to Konya and didn't get there until late afternoon so we just relaxed and had a nice dinner before retiring. 

Thursday 11

In the morning, we toured Konya, including a visit to the Mausoleum of Mevlana. This mausoleum is dedicated to the man who founded the Whirling Dervishes and we saw that ceremony in the evening.  This mosque looks the same as all the others.

We also visited the underground city of Kaymakli and the Agzikarahan Caravansarai. 

I have to admit, I didn't take this picture.  We were driving along before getting to the Richmond Thermal Hotel and as the sun was setting, we saw a woman baking bread out of an old mud oven.  The children were clustered around her as she took the bread out of the oven and then put it on a long board so she could carry the fresh baked bread on her shoulder.  I tried to get out of my seat to take a picture but I was too slow.  Barbara, from Seattle, got up and managed to get the shot.  I was jealous!  But she was kind enough to send me the picture so here is a real local photo of families still doing their daily chores in the same manner they have done for years!  Enjoy!

We continue to Nevsehir in Cappadocia and saw the Whirling Dervish Ceremony in an restored Caravan stop over.  The ceremony was an hour long and we were lucky as we got center, front row seats.  Maritza suddenly said she saw the master of the dancers standing in front of the building.  I had to admit, she has good eyes!  He was out of his white gown and dressed casually so was hard for me to notice but, we had our picture taken with him and then, he motioned us to follow and guess what, a private party of French in a cell smoking the famous water pipes.  We sat there for over half an hour but the tour guide found us locked in the cell and motioned for us to get on the bus!  He laughed and said he know where to find us!

Friday 12

Full day tour of the fairy chimneys and troglodyte dwellings of Cappadocia.  We also saw the historically rich towns of Üchisar, Göreme, Zelve, and Avanos.  

We then went to a rug making facility we saw how the silk is taken from the cocoon and used to create various weights of thread.  We then saw women creating fabulous rugs and we were shown into a display room where we saw many rugs for sale. 

Then we went to a pottery making factory and saw a man form a beautiful dish on a potters wheel.  We explored the sales rooms and saw many modern and ancient dishes.    

Here is another picture taken by Barbara along side the road as we stopped for another shopping spree which I am sure was organized by our trusty guide, just like the stops at the rug and pottery factories.  These women were selling various and sundry things such as hand made doilies and other crafts.  


Saturday 13

We spent most of the day driving to Ankara. In Ankara we visited the Mausoleum of Ataturk and the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and .  We had the best hotel of the tour here, the Ickale Hotel and after dinner we walked around the city, surprising as there were so many night clubs!

Sunday 14

 We then traveled from Ankara to Istanbul. It took most of the day and we had to stop several times for lunch and gas.  We stopped at one place and Jeff took a picture of the girls and he showed it to me after our vacation.  We had a good laugh about it and it is a must for you to view, enjoy the "Girls just want to have fun" link!   

Then back on the road to Ankara and the hotel, then after dinner four of us decided to take the tram to the Blue Mosque.  It was safe and easy and we happened to stumble upon a local fair with food stalls and lots of shops to check out.  They were located in the Hippodrome, the old Roman racing track!   I did most of my shopping here, so handy.  The mosques were lit up and it was a beautiful evening.

Monday 15

A morning tour includes the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace, including the Treasury Rooms.  We went into one room about 20 feet square, all covered with mosaics.  Our tour guide suddenly grabbed my arm and put his foot inside mine and pulled me one way.  He told Jeff to grab my other arm and pull my leg out!  Get this, he announced to the group, "This is how we circumcise a person!"  Excuse me!  Then Barbara had to announce, "You mean you circumcise 64 year old men!"  Excuse me!

Here is a great story, Jeff and I decided to go see the famous Topkapi diamond first.  It is in a large room filled with emeralds the size of pigeon eggs, gold, rubies and so on.  Well the diamond is around 86 carats and sits on a black background with a light hitting it.  It is surrounded by two rows of smaller diamonds with a small pear shaped diamond on the top!  We rushed over, and at the same time, we both said, "My God, look at that diamond!"   We gasped and Jeff said he was hyper-ventilating and needed to hang on to me so he didn't faint!   Then the two guys from Washington DC rushed over and said, "My God, look at the diamond!"  Then a man from Savanna Georgia who was on Bus C (he wanted to be on our bus), rushed over and said the same thing!  We ooohed away and then on our B Bus, Jeff told everyone, "Wouldn't you know it, of all the people in the jewel room, the five 'gays' would all converge on the diamond display and have the same reaction!"  Mai Oui!  Check out the photos of some of the emeralds and especially the 86 carat diamond!

We had lunch over looking Istanbul at a restaurant at the Topkapi Palace.  Jeff and I managed to get a table over looking the water way, ships, and the old wall surrounding the city.  Fantastic way to have lunch!

That night four of us, Jeff, Barbara, Helen and myself decided to take the Blue Bus line across town to the supposedly gay section of Istanbul in Taxim.  It started to rain and we found an Espresso Coffee Shop and sat under the awning watching the crowd to by.  The we found a Pakistani Restaurant on a side street and had a great dinner.  Jeff and I had a vegetarian dinner and the owner asked where we were from.  She said the British and the American Embassy used their restaurant for meetings and also to cater their embassy dinners.  So we had a great time.

Then we found out the Blue Line stopped at ten PM and the man at the bus station was great.  Jeff showed him where our hotel was and he went into the street and stopped a bus and told him I assume, where we were going.  The driver motioned for us to get on and guess what, over the bridge and the bus stopped across the street from the hotel.  What a nice surprise!

Tuesday 16

 -Today we visited the underground water cistern and the Basilica of St. Sophia which I was surprised to find is now a museum so we didn't have to take our shoes off.  It is being refurbished so we were lucky as in a year the interior may be full of scaffolding so it will not be as nice to view the enormous high ceiling, very spectacular!

Well our tour guide decided to take us to Taxim, that is where we four were the night before!  Well that was all aright as Jeff, Barbara and I checked out the shops an then Jeff decided to get a Turkish shave.  Barbara and I went for a cable car ride and stopped for lunch and then coffee at a fashionable hotel.  Then back to the bus for our afternoon cruise.

Jeff saw us and grabbed me and said I should have been with him.  He said the barber lathered his face as usual, very long and vigorous, then took a straight razor and shaved him and trimmed his hair. I personally though his hair looked rather short!  He said, yes, the barber was suddenly cutting his hair so he said "Stop!"  Next the barber took a long stick, lit the end and stuck it in Jeff's ear!  Then he did the other ear, Jeff said he wished I was there to either save him or take pictures.  We assured Jeff there were NO hairs in his ears now and I told him he was lucky the barber didn't stick the lit stick up his nose or worse!   

Then, even though it was rather nasty, we decided to take the boat tour around the Bospouros and the Golden Horn and suddenly Jeff started singing the song from Gilligan's Island.  We then tried to decide who was Ginger and who were the other cast member on our boat!

Then the traditional farewell dinner with wine on our last night in Istanbul and here is a picture of us at the dinner and some of the people that were on the tour.  Dinner was at a Greek restaurant with musicians and great waiters.   

Wednesday 17

We got up at two AM and had breakfast.  Then to the airport and not too long a wait for our flight.  Then to Frankfurt where I told Maritza I was going to buy us a real coffee and a large one!   She thought that was a great idea.  So I asked for two large coffees an gave the woman a $20 bill.  I got $8 back!  Excuse me!   $6 a cup!   I told Maritza she now owed me one!  I had a final picture taken of us at the Frankfurt airport to remember our flight together back home to San Francisco.  The trip back was great, I was sitting there having champagne before lunch, then Chardonnay with lunch and afterwards, coffee and brandy.  I told myself, someone has to do it and it might as well be me!  Jeff, Maritza and I last saw each other at the luggage carousel and there were hugs all around since we had such a good time together!

Thursday 18

Home at last and here are a few of the things I bought while shopping in Turkey.  I also have included a photo of some of the currency used in Turkey, Liras, and their current value is in the millions!

Return to the World Travels of Charles Walter Buntjer

  Charles Walter Buntjer

San Francisco California
Created on: 2004.11.25   

Updated on: 2016.04.20