Croatia, Croatia, Croatia… What more can I say?

 

So, we decided we would be super organised and arranged for a transfer from the airport to our hostel as we were getting into Dubrovnik quite late.  We were ready with a camera to take a photo of the guy holding a sign up with our names on it but as we walked in there was nobody… L  So, a super long story short, we watched 3 flights come and go, I became super pissed off and after 4.5 hrs we FINALLY made it to our hostel in the wee hours of the morning.  After an eventful night/morning and running on no sleep (a combination of arriving to hostel late and a hot room with zero air conditioning) we pushed through and did some sightseeing of Dubrovnik.  Our first stop was taking the cable car to the top of some hill to see the sights over Dubrovnik which is definitely well worth it if you get a good spot in the cable car plus you are also guaranteed to get the cable car cables in most of your photos as well (yay).  It was quite nice at the top though as you get an amazing view of Dubrovnik and there is a restaurant there too where we had a couple of drinks overlooking Dubrovnik.  We made our way down for a cheap lunch and then did the walk around the wall of Old Town which is another must do but in summer it’s best to do it during late afternoon or early morning as it gets quite hot and the walk is about 1.5hrs long.  Also be prepared for cruise ship passengers during summer as they just seem to fill up Dubrovnik.  The next day we went on a search for some sandy beaches and failed.  One thing to note about Croatia is that their beaches are pebbles or rocks (quite literally big rocks and then water).  We made our way to the Eastwest beach which is quite small and filled to the brim with tourists.  After a while we actually started sweating in the water (it’s that hot) and opted for a quick bite to eat before heading over to Lokrum Island.  Lokrum is a small island but it’s quite nice as you could easily take a picnic there and spend the day just relaxing by the rock beaches and napping.

We said our farewells to Dubrovnik and made our way to Split via bus.  Firstly I’d like to note that you pay for your bus ticket but if you want to store any luggage underneath it’s an extra 8 kuna!  We stopped off in Bosnia for lunch (oh yeah we can add another country to our list!!) and continued on our way.  Split was definitely our favourite place in Croatia.  The city is quite funky and small but there is so much you can do as Split is such a good base.  Our first night there we decided to go on a pub crawl to end all pub crawls with an American and some Brits from our hostel (FYI – Split is known for its pub crawls!).  Now the point of pretty much all the pub crawls is that you have an hour of power where you drink an unlimited amount of alcohol (shots, cocktails, mixers etc), you name it and you can drink an unlimited amount of it – there is no catch and I am not joking!  Now all that I’ve been given permission to say from here on is that it’s a night we will never remember but we will be constantly reminded of.  Sorry to keep you guys hanging but that’s it – so feel free to use your imaginations!!  It was physically impossible for some to move out of bed the next day (ahem not naming names *cough* Renee) so we’ll skip to the next day which was a bit more productive.

Today we organised to go out to the Plitvice Lakes National Park however we failed to realise that it’s a 3.5hr drive out there which was a biatch but definitely well worth it!!  There is no way that I can describe these lakes and the pictures don’t even do them justice but the whole area is just amazing!  We were lucky as our driver also guided us around the park (which was good because knowing Renee and I, we would have gotten lost and ended up in Serbia), but it takes a good 4.5hrs to go explore the main parts of the lakes (yep not even all over).  The downside is that obviously being peak tourist season you will be shoved, pushed and have to patiently wait for thousands of other people to take photos (you are on a narrow walkway over water so no way around it really).  I would definitely recommend going during the off peak season as you can go at your own pace and relax a bit more whereas we just got over it quickly.  After our massive day and on the drive back home we were all talking and laughing when suddenly our driver hit a little old lady… yes you heard me right, a little old lady trying to cross the road.  In fairness it was her fault as she stepped out onto the road in oncoming traffic but still!  WHAT!  So a few words were exchanged and she seemed to be fine and smiling (all the while she probably has internal bleeding) and we drove off… no police, no ambulance, no lawyers or court cases, just drove off into the sunset.  WHAT!  Obviously Australia has pretty strict laws compared to other countries…

 

Moving on…  We kind of made a split decision (haha get it) and decided to go to Hvar (an island off Split) for a night with some crazy but wonderful Brits from our hostel.  So the next day we jumped on a catamaran (we literally could jump because we took about a third of our entire luggage with us, joy!) and headed over and made our way to our apartment (yep, there was enough of us to afford an apartment – we lived it up for a night!).  Near our apartment was a very cool little beach, absolutely beautiful (pebbled beach of course) and a couple of nice restaurants but be warned, it is a hike down and a hike back up as the path is extremely uneven and rocky but well worth it if you are able bodied.  After an afternoon at the beach we made our way back to make dinner and have a few cheeky beverages before heading out.  Of course we chose the night to be in Hvar when all of the Sail Croatia cruises started so all of the clubs were packed to the brim to a point of it took you 10mins to get from one side of the room to the other (the clubs weren’t even that big)!  At about 2am all of the clubs close on Hvar, buuuuut we found out that there is actually another one that keeps going all night long on another island.  Yes that’s right, we took a water taxi to a club on a different Island (while in Hvar, why not)!  I would just like to point out that a bunch of drunk idiots on a water taxi with no real safety measures is probably not a great idea as one guy on our taxi actually jumped off the boat in the middle of the ocean (I’m assuming he got rescued but I’m honestly not sure).  So anyway after paying an arm and a leg to get in, it was one of the coolest things I’ve come across.  It’s literally just an island with a massive open air club on it and that’s it.  Be warned though, it gets pretty packed and after a while there is just glass everywhere on the floor.  I ended up back on a water taxi in the wee hours of the morning (in other words I watched the sunrise on my walk back to the apartment….).  After a big night we were ready to leave and get back to Split, however it’s more complicated to get out of Hvar then to get on it.  Definitely recommended to book your catamaran ticket the day before you want to leave, otherwise you need to catch the ferry (as the catamaran books out really quick) which means you need to catch a bus as well and it works out more expensive we learnt.  We eventually made our way back to Split in time to catch up yet again with our dear friends from Morocco for some cheeky drinks and an official farewell dinner as our paths would more than likely not meet again in Europe.

After our exciting times in Split we made our way to Zagreb which was a nice change of pace.  Zagreb is pretty much dead during summer as all the work is down south due to the tourist season but it’s a beautiful city and doesn’t feel like a typical capital city at all.  We saw all of the main sights in 2 hours, which included going through the new town and the old town and then we had our last Croatian meal in a traditional restaurant to say farewell to Croatia.

 

Stay tuned for our next instalment of our love affair with Italy!

 

Our Big Fat Greek Holiday!

After travelling for 2 months Greece was a nice little holiday for us to just relax however we of course started our holiday off on a roller coaster ride and ended with bang!

We flew into Athens and caught the metro from the airport to our station for our hostel and as we were trying to get off the packed train with our massive bags, Renee was all of a sudden surrounded by people and one lady was shouting at her in Greek.  In the meantime, I’ve been separated by a mass amount of people and in amongst the chaos someone who spoke English was saying check your bag, your wallet! And sure enough it had been stolen!  Some people actually tried to find the guy for us and even stopped the train but alas he was gone. So in our shock and disbelief we headed to the security point to report it and believe it or not the wallet was there and nothing was taken! An undercover policeman had caught the guy and he was there in handcuffs and after claiming the wallet a police officer started screaming at the guy and slapped the man in question and took him off to a small room – quite intense I know…. After waiting around for an hour we got told that we could now make our way to the police station to file a report. Of course the thief got a nice ride in a police car whereas we had to walk with our 20+ kgs of luggage in the heat for 25mins. We eventually got there and had to wait, yet again to file the report.  3 hours later we FINALLY made it to our hostel and could start our Greece adventure.

Our first stop was a walking tour of Athens which was quite interesting and a stop to the Acropolis and Parthenon; you know all the touristy stuff.  The Parthenon is definitely worth a visit but if you can’t afford it then just making your way to the Acropolis which is a good effort in itself, plus there are little spots that you can climb up to get a good view.  There are also some high points around the city that you can visit which will give good views of the Parthenon for those that can’t afford to get in.

Now I’m going to tell you another little story which balances out the first one.  I went in search of a post office to post all of my purchases from Turkey however none of the post offices had boxes big enough (okay, did I mention I went a bit crazy in Turkey?), so the next step was to find a box.  We came across this little bookstore and wondered in to ask for a box.  There was this little old man who didn’t speak a word of English and he was looking at us talking and we were trying to mime the word “box” in which he just looked at us amused.  So we went to walk out but he stopped us and called to his son who thankfully understood English.  He said he could help us and told the old man what we were in search of and off he went to some back room and came back with a box that was a bit too small (a lot of purchases okay).  He then came back with one that was the perfect size!  He put everything in for me and wrapped some stuff up and then he put in a t-shirt for me (no idea where it came from) and gave us some bookmarks and even gave Renee a free book!  They printed off my to and from addresses to stick on the box and even sealed the box completely for me and finished it off with a string handle.  Both the little old man and his son were so helpful to us and didn’t expect anything in return – he was just happy enough that he could help us.  He then pointed to Renee’s camera and deemed it necessary to take a photo of us in his bookstore.  Sorry for rambling on but I thought this just such a nice gesture and I wanted to share it.

So, after our day of sightseeing and good gestures we went to meet up with our Busabout group for our Greek Island adventure and then met up with some old friends from Morocco (they are stalking us FYI) and of course had a nice night out drinking and staying up until 4am when we had to be at the ferry terminal at 6am.  I can honestly say that we are pros at running on no sleep now which is probably why we are always sick come to think about it.

Our first Greek Island stop was Mykonos – yep the party Island, how fitting.  Mykonos is known for its churches, white buildings (it is mandatory that all buildings are white), quad bikes (however DO NOT ride quad bikes here as the roads are really dangerous), windmills and of course partying – expensively.  We stayed at Paradise Beach which was nice as we had the beach right at our doorstep but we did have to stay in kennels.  Not literally it’s just what we nicknamed them but it’s a wooden tent almost with two beds and a side table and no air con, you just wake up drenched in sweat – delightful I know, but it’s all we could afford (just).  Another thing to note is that Mykonos is well known for its handsy Italians which we experienced a fair bit and yet they always seemed shocked and insulted when you politely move their hands away – as if every girl should enjoy whatever they were trying.

Our next night out was a bit more tame but still kind of crazy.  We started off with some dinner by the beach and moved on to have some drinks on some lounges by the beach which is where the night got interesting.  Partying in Mykonos is pretty crazy and if you dare to go to Paradise Beach at night, be prepared to see people having sex on the beach in front of you.  I am not lying to you one bit.  We were innocently sitting down having some drinks when all of a sudden a couple have just plonked themselves on a sunbed in front of us and started going about their business – we were honestly all in disbelief.  Next thing you know another couple are occupying another sunbed and then another.  People having sex on the sunbeds in front of us wasn’t the only thing that shocked us but we also witnessed some creepy guys taking photos of people having sex and they even made themselves comfortable on the sunbeds to watch the show. So warning to those that do go off in the night to the beach, you will be watched and photographed!

After doing Mykonos justice (partying wise I mean!!!!), we made our way to our next destination – Paros.  Paros is the second largest of the Greek Cycladic Islands and is well known for its marble and octopus and it’s just a really nice island to relax in.  There is a little island off Paros which I highly recommend visiting (we didn’t have enough time unfortunately) called Piso Livadi and on this island you can see them catch octopus and then bash it around a bit before hanging it out to dry across the city.  Even if you don’t eat seafood it would still be fascinating to watch.  For our first night in Paros we headed to the Krios Lounge Restaurant located at Krios beach. We enjoyed a beautiful dinner and then made our way to the beach to watch the sunset with cocktails and wine in hand.  Afterwards, we joined in on some traditional plate smashing and a lot of Greek dancing including the Zorba which I consider to be my workout for my whole journey!  The next day we opted to go out on a boat trip for the day where we sailed around some small islands stopping every now and then for a swim and snorkel.  We then stopped off on a small beach for lunch and a very bad game of volleyball.  The captain of our boat had nicely prepared some octopus (freshly caught that day and hung up on the boat to dry out for lunch) in which we tried dipping octopus into a shot of ouzo and eating it (quite tasty) and of course then having a shot of ouzo (not so tasty).  We got back to the mainland to get a cheap dinner (Nicks Burgers are a fantastic feed and cheap too) and sat on the rocks to watch the sunset.  In all honesty the sunsets in Paros are on par to those of Santorini, so if you miss out in Santorini like we did, Paros will not disappoint.

The next stop on our Greek Island hopper was the famous Santorini!  We stayed in a town called Fira which was quite nice and has a lot of shops and restaurants.  Like with every night, we started out at a nice restaurant overlooking the ocean and watching the sunset and then moved on to the Highlander Bar which was the most amazing experience!  We met ‘mom’ who is from Scotland and has a full Scottish accent but she has been living in Greece for 30years and owns the bar! It started out as a quiet night but it soon picked up as there were so many different things to try on the menu.  For example, if you could drink 12 different cocktails or do 10 shots you got a free t-shirt and the menu itself had so many unusual drinks that you just wanted to try them all! This was a pretty crazy night and we loved every minute of it and I’m realising now that everyone probably thinks we are a bunch of alcoholics so I’m just going to run with it as we were in the Greek Islands…

The next day we had our bucket list of Santorini tour. Surprisingly we weren’t too shabby (we are pretty sure we have become immune to hangovers) however we met our group to find out one of the guys in the group had fallen over the night before and tore a ligament in his foot – not such a good ending to the night! We started the day by visiting the highest church in Santorini and then made our way to Perissa Beach.  Perissa beach or “Black Beach” is named as the “sand” is made up of black volcanic rock and the sand is literally black!  It’s a beautiful place to just relax.  We stayed at the Waves Beach Restaurant section (all along the beach there are different restaurants) and here you just made yourself comfortable on a sunbed and you literally didn’t have to move for the next few hours.  There is wifi on the beach plus you press a little button and you get sunbed table service!  That’s right people; you will be served like a queen here!  We had lunch on sunbeds here and the food was amazing, but sadly we had to move on.  Our next stop was the Minoan City of Akrotiri which is an ancient underground city that has been preserved by volcanic ash and one of the world’s most important archaeological places – kind of like the Pompeii of Greece.  I would definitely try and stop here if you have time as it’s really quite impressive.  After our history lesson for the day we made our way to the Red Beach which is named because of the red and black slabs of volcanic rock behind it.  Red Beach is a bit of a trek to get to but well worth it as the colour of the rocks with the water is just amazing!  After some more beach time we made our way to Santo Wines winery to taste the best of what Greece has to offer and then what better way to end our time in Santorini than visiting the famous Oia town.  This town is famous to watch the sunset from and you will find all the little spots that are pictured on postcards here; it’s also renowned for being a very romantic town and a lot of marriage proposals happen here at sunset (just a hint for any guys or gals out there).  We made our way to a cliff edge and had a wonderful picnic while watching the sunset (no marriage proposals if you were wondering). Unfortunately for us, both nights we were in Santorini the sunset was covered by cloud, so we didn’t really get to see it but the Paros sunsets made up for it.

We then made our way to our last stop – Ios!!  At this point I’d just like to say that we stayed at Mylopotas Beach which is quite pretty like all beaches in Greece and we stayed in a little place called Galaxy Hotel.  It’s less than a 5 min walk to the beach and gives you the quiet you need as on the beach seems like party central.  Now we fell in love with this hotel because as soon as we walked through the door we were hit with the smell of home cooked roast lamb and it’s a very nice family run hotel where they will go out of their way to help you and make sure you have everything you need.  So if you are ever in Ios, I’d definitely recommend staying here!  Anyway back onto less important things… Now we soon learnt that Ios is a party island and after hearing what our tour leader had in store for us, we were slightly scared.  Of course we caught up with our Moroccan stalkers plus an extra (you know who you are!) and all I can say is thank goodness they were there!  Our insanely epic night out started off with lining our stomachs with all you can eat pizza and then we made our way to town.  The aim of the night was to stay awake until sunrise so essentially you are drinking for 10 hours and we had a game plan that would see us last until sunrise – unfortunately we don’t stick to plans that much…  We started off in Fun Pub where they have giant Jenga and other games and here is where things went wrong (yep, in the first pub).  Our tour leader organised for everyone to get a throwback shot (so, in this instance you place your head on a comfy pillow on a bar while the bartender pours vodka and lime into your mouth) which was a whole new experience.  After Fun Pub we made our way to Flames where things kept going downhill and some face painting was acquired. Our next stop was Blue Note and then onto Orange Bar which is this amazing place that does chocolate infused shots.  You can get twix, strawberry cheesecake, tim tam, cherry ripe shots and so much more!  After this we went to Rehab, Jaeger Bar and Slammer Bar.  Slammer Bar is just crazy as you put a motorcycle helmet on and do a Tequila throwback shot and then the bartender decides what to hit you with.  I kid you not, I got hit in the head by a mallet and someone else got hit by a crate and I also saw a bowling pin being used.  So you can probably guess that we didn’t watch the sunrise but we had an amazing night all the same!  The next morning we made our way to another beach on Ios to go Kayaking.  The hour and a half bus trip was probably the worst experience in our lives and we were regretting every second of it but once we got out on the Kayaks the world was right again.  Renee and I aren’t exactly the most co-ordinated people in the world and we looked pretty spastic kayaking but we got to where we needed to be without tipping over – yay!  We stopped pretty much in the middle of nowhere and jumped out to go snorkelling around some rocks and through some caves.  We then jumped back into the kayaks – okay that sounded way too easy, I meant we struggled for 10mins to get back into the Kayaks before making our way to a secluded beach for lunch.  From here we caught a banana boat back to shore and then slowly made our way back to our beach.  Running on very little sleep and exhausted from the day we got ready for round 2 in Ios (no idea why we do this to ourselves).  We started with a nice meal and a couple of drinks before making our way to town again where we started at Fun Pub again.  Everyone was pretty shattered so it was definitely a quieter night but the highlight would have to be Circus Bar where our tour leader organised a little surprise for us!  One of the bartenders performed a fire twirling show with two bottles of alcohol behind the bar and it was definitely something you had to see!

So, by this stage our livers obviously hated us and it was probably lucky that we were on our way back to Athens!  We got back quite late as we of course got lost (what’s new) trying to find our hostel and we were too cheap to catch a taxi so we naively thought we could read a map while carrying our humongous bags.  Our last day in Greece was a Sunday so all the main shops were closed (thank god) because we still managed to spend a crap load of money each. Of course we found the only street with shops open – ergh.  Once again someone tried to buy me off  from Renee (I think I must have a ‘For Sale’ sticker on my forehead) but thankfully she said I wasn’t for sale, although if he offered enough I’m pretty sure based on Renee’s question of ‘how much’ she would have said yes!

Anyway Greece was such an amazing place to visit and I wish we had so much more time!  Next stop Croatia, where hopefully we don’t turn black and leathery!

Turkeys in Turkey!

Everyone always asked us why are you going to Turkey?  Our response was always because it’s something different and of course Turkey did not disappoint.

We didn’t read up on Turkey at all so we really didn’t know what to expect when we got there but after travelling to a Muslim country previously, we of course assumed that the ladies would have to be covered up.  Imagine our shock when we arrive in Istanbul and there are girls walking around in shorty shorts and singlets.  We soon learnt that Turkey isn’t your usual Muslim country and they are very open-minded and contemporary.

For our first night in Istanbul we met our group and had dinner at a local restaurant to get to know one another.  We experienced our first Turkish sheesha (waterpipe) here as well and let’s just say it was a little intimidating compared to what we have seen previously and we also got a taste of how crazy the Turkish can be!  Istanbul is quite unique as it straddles the Bosphorus Strait and is situated on two continents – Europe and Asia! The top sights to see in Istanbul would have to be both the main mosques, the Sultan Ahmed mosque (aka Blue Mosque) and Aya Sophia, as well as the Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace and I would also recommend a visit to the Grand Bazaar.  We didn’t get a chance to go there but if it’s anything like the shops we saw outside of it, it’s definitely worth a stop!  At this point I would also like to note that apparently the guys here aren’t that subtle when it comes to women either.  Both Renee and I didn’t experience anything bad but we heard that girls were getting their butts grabbed (on multiple occasions) by both old and young men and even one girl said a guy tried to put his hand up her pants.  Obviously we aren’t what the Turks like (which is good) but just a word of warning for the ladies travelling to Turkey to be on your guard.

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We made our way onto Ankara which is the capital of Turkey (yep, it’s not Istanbul!) and saw the Ataturk Memorial which is dedicated to the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey.  We then journeyed to the Cappadocia region which was definitely the highlight of my trip.  For our first night we visited a local family for dinner (homecooked Turkish food is to die for FYI) and afterwards we participated in some traditional Turkish dancing with the family and learnt to play the wooden spoons – we are pros now!  The next day I was up early to experience my first ever hot air ballooning trip at sunrise!!  This is highly, highly, highly recommended by me so if you are ever in the region – DO IT (no pressure of course)! We started the morning being driven to some unknown area where we got a nice light breakfast and watched the balloons being blown up and before we knew it we were up in the air.  Now the sunrise is nice and all but what really makes this special is firstly the Cappadocia region itself and secondly seeing all of the other balloons silhouetted against the sunrise.  We landed safe and sound on the back of a trailer (which was pretty impressive in itself) and we even got a glass of champagne to celebrate not crashing!   If you are planning on doing this, I would recommend doing it during peak time so you don’t miss out on the effect and I would also do some research about the companies and even spend a little bit more money if needed.  We spent an extra $20 AUD or so but that was quality safety and pretty much getting us up in the air on time.  I’ve heard so many stories about people completely missing the sunrise as they were waiting for the balloons and we even witnessed people not even getting off the ground, not flying high enough and running into trees and rocks so in my opinion it was definitely worth the extra cash. 

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 I was pretty pumped after this amazing experience and our next stop was to explore the Devrent Valley to see the “fairy-chimneys” which are quite unique rock formations that punctuate the landscape.  This is definitely worth a stop as well as the Zelve Open Air Museum and honestly the whole Cappadocia region is one of the most fascinating places I’ve seen!Image

That night, we had another Turkish experience where we indulged in traditional Turkish food, Turkish beverages (vodka and cherry juice and the DANGEROUS Raki) and watched some traditional Turkish dancing. It was also Renee’s 28th birthday at midnight that evening so she was treated to a great birthday present!!! Our awesome tour guide Tarik had done the sneaky and organised a delicious birthday cake for Renee much to her surprise (especially when the host grabbed Renee, picked her up and carried her down the stairs to her birthday cake to blow out the candles in front of a good crowd of about 200 people.) Renee also got some keepsake Cappadocian wine and she was treated to a decent round of beverages – an awesome way to spend your 28th!!

The next morning (with a slight headache in tow), we had the opportunity to visit a pottery gallery and were able to witness the entire pottery process – from the moulding of the clay, to the firing, drawing, painting and glazing of each unique piece. Much to our surprise, a member of the tour was selected to mould their own unique piece of pottery using the traditional non-motorised clay moulding wheel (your leg gets a work out with this!). The person selected was none other than the (slightly hungover) birthday girl herself – Renee! As Renee sat in front of the group it was revealed that she wasn’t the most clay moulding savvy person in the world!! It was a very entertaining moment especially when the slightly uncoordinated Renee (she has allowed me to say this!) got some assistance from the pottery expert in moulding her clay and then all of a sudden – queue in song that played in Ghost during that oh so romantic clay moulding scene – thanks Tarik! A blushing Renee finished her piece following this slight moment of awkwardness and presented her work of art to the group. The group then had the opportunity to view (and purchase of course) all the finished products in the gallery.

Our next stop on this day was Kaymakli where we got to explore the multi-levelled underground city.  This was indeed another great stop as a few of us ‘naughty kids’ strayed from the pack and explored the city on our own.  There are that many pathways, hidey holes and short cuts to explore that we just went wild and had so much fun!  Of course our tour leader for the underground city probably wasn’t that impressed as we didn’t really learn much from it and we kept losing the group but it is definitely worth a visit – perhaps learn a bit about it though.

We slowly made our way to Konya which is the capital of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate.  This city is a little bit more conservative so for the ladies it was better to cover up.  We only spent a night here and didn’t really get to spend much time looking as it was just a halfway mark before we got to Fethiye. The following day we made our way to the Saklikent Gorge which is Turkey’s longest and deepest canyon.  This was quite a nice stop as the ‘lounges’ are located right beside the river but they are also in the water so you had to walk through ice cold water to get to them.  It is such a relaxing place to be though but make sure you hold on to your shoes and water bottles as everything just gets swept down the river! 

We excitedly made our way to Fethiye which is another highlight of our trip.  After being told the previous night we were staying in a hotel in Fethiye that was equipped with two pools, a restaurant and bar, a gym, a spa/beauty centre and a mini golf course, we could not believe our luck – we were poor backpackers, this type of stuff should not be happening!!! We started our first full day in Fethiye by jumping off a cliff and paragliding down to the beach.  This was such an amazing experience and if you ever wanted to try paragliding this is the place to do it as the views are stunning! From the skies we hit the water and had our own private boat for the full day and once again – amazing!  We travelled the beautiful Mediterranean waters of Turkey and at our first stop; the water was an amazing crystal clear aqua colour.  Here we got our second adrenaline fix for the day by going on tubes dragged by a speedboat (the next day our arms were so sore from holding on for dear life from these things!).  Our next stop was our lunch stop which was prepared by the crew and consisted of beautiful chicken, fish, salads and pasta.  We also got a chocolate, banana and honey pancakes from one of the passing boats.  These little pancake boats generally have a guy and a little old lady on them and she makes the pancakes fresh right in front of you and they are such a delicious big snack that leave you wanting more – I actually want one right now as I’m typing this!  We had such an amazing day on the boat swimming, jumping, eating and sunbaking (We are now officially a very dark brown colour) and it’s something that I would definitely recommend but of course good company always makes a trip better!

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We sadly said goodbye to Fethiye and made our way to the Pamukkale region which translates as ‘cotton castles’.  These ‘cotton castles’ are formed from the abundant hot springs in the area which have left amazing terraces of white carbonate material.  Another must see sight in my books but I will warn you that during summer it does get extremely hot and there is very little shade so I would recommend going in the late, late afternoon or very early morning.  We were drenched in sweat after walking around for half an hour (50 degree heat we are talking about!) and after a while we didn’t really care about seeing any of the other sights of the area as we just wanted to find shade and wring out our shirts.  Be prepared to see a lot and I mean a lot of girls in bikinis posing and getting their photos taken – a good little spot for the guys but it gets annoying when all you want to do is take a photo of the springs!

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Our next stop was Kusadasi which is a beach side city with a lot of nightlife and shops!  Kusadasi also hosts some amazing sunsets so grab a cheap kebab and sit by the beach to watch the sun go down.   We got to visit the Roman city of Ephesus which is believed to be one of the most beautiful ancient cities of the world and unbelievably they have only uncovered 15% of the city, which is mind blowing to think of how much more is buried!  Word of warning though, buy some frozen water before you go in and take a hat or umbrella to keep the sun off you.  It can get extremely hot here and there are no places to buy water or go to the toilet once you are inside the gates. 

Of course we also had to have at least one great night out in Turkey and tonight was that night.  We made our way to the city centre and were taken to a little Irish club for some free shots on entry to get our night started.  The one thing that we noticed about Turkish clubs is that they serve you unlimited little bowls of popcorn and when drinking an unlimited amount of alcohol, they really hit the spot!  I would definitely recommend going out here but again just be on your guard like everywhere else. We kicked on til the early hours of the morning with our group and proved how crazy those Aussie people are!

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The following morning after a feed of the largest Macca’s meals we have ever seen (a large coke was seriously 2 litres!), we continued our journey onto Bergama which is known for its gold, cotton and carpets!  Here we took a cable car up to the Acropolis and explored a wealth of ancient ruins which lies at the heart of the Greek and Roman cultural centre of Pergamon.  There isn’t as much to see as Ephesus but it’s definitely worth a visit as well – I can hear you all sighing and going “another ancient ruin site” but it’s pretty cool so check it out if you have time or are ever in Turkey!  Our long day ended with a visit to historic Troy which is home of the legendarily beautiful Helen (the face that launched a thousand ships).  This is the site where the Greeks deployed their genius Trojan Horse tactic which was recounted by the famous poet Virgil.  Now for those of you that don’t know the story of Troy – go watch the movie and get some history into you.  In all honesty, the site itself isn’t all that impressive but there is a massive wooden horse that you can play in.  I would only recommend this site to people that know their history and want to visit Troy just to say they have been there like myself.  If you don’t go in (and even if you do) there is another massive wooden horse in the town of Canakkale which is the actual horse that was featured in the movie Troy and is much more impressive than the one in Troy.

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For our last full day in Turkey we visited Gallipoli which is quite a special place mainly for Australia, New Zealand and Turkey.  It was here on 25th April 1915 that troops from the fledging nations of Australia and New Zealand landed as part of an offensive against the Ottoman Empire during World War 1.  It was the first major military action undertaken by both nations and where a combined total of hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in the battle but the tragic losses served to galvanise a sense of national identity in both countries.  We crossed from Canakkale to Gallipoli by ferry and as you cross you can see the Dur Yolcu memorial in the hillside which roughly translates in English to “Stop Wayferer!  The soil you tread once witnessed the end of an era”.  You can easily spend a whole day here going to the different cemeteries and memorials plus you can see some of the original trenches and it also has some amazing views.

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We travelled back to Istanbul feeling a sense of pride after visiting Gallipoli and went out for our last dinner in Turkey which of course included some sheesha and shenanigans.  We sadly had to say goodbye to some amazing people we met while in Turkey including our tour guide but alas the Greek Islands await us!  Stay posted for our big fat Greek holiday!!