Category Archives: 2022 – Turkey

Cappadocia – Land of Balloons & so much more Part II

Wherever you are in Cappadocia you will see Uchisar Castle standing out on the landscape. It is 1350 meters above sea level and is at the highest point of the region. It’s not known when the castle was built.  It was created by hollowing out the natural caves in the rock into rooms. 

From here we took a walk through Pigeon Valley where we ended up in the town of Goreme, which is the main tourist town in the area. The valleys were deep and looked like curtain plinths on top of the mountainside. 

We next opted to go the Zelve open air museum. We took the bus back to the hotel, we’d walked far enough, and collected the car as Zelve was a bit of drive.  There are three valleys here.  The first has a mill, church and a winery.  The second valley is where the Church of the Holy Cross is situated.  The third valley has a village square, mosque and a monastery complex. 

After a long walk around Zelve we were all fading it had been a long day so it was a fairly early night.

The following day we headed to the Ilhara Valley which was just over an hour away from Uchisar where our hotel was. On our way we visited the underground city of Derinkuyu.  There are over 200 underground cities in the region. The city was a place for the local Christians to hide from persecution from the Romans.  When there was no fear of attack they lived in homes above ground and tunnels connected the homes to the underground city. Some parts were a bit claustrophobic so I took a deep breath and off we went.

The city dates back to the 8th century and was only discovered by chance in 1963.  A local was was renovating his house and apparently his chickens kept disappearing into a gap created during the renovations, never to be seen again.  After investigation a passageway was discovered.  It was the first of hundreds of entrances found in private homes leading to the underground city. 

The city was large enough to house more than 20,000 people and extended to a depth of 85 metres over 18 levels.  You had to crouch quite low to get through some of the tunnels.  At various sections of the tunnels there were large round stones which would roll across the entrance to keep the enemy out as they could only be opened from the inside.  There were chimneys for ventilation and water.  Everything was catered for underground, food storage facilities, stables for cattle, wineries and also a chapel.

There were communication tunnels in the walls which they would use to tell those living at the lower levels the enemy was approaching so they could then shut the tunnels off. The city also had a a school where the teacher sat at the top and the children sat in front on stone seats. There was a tunnel that only the teacher could use if he needed to escape quickly. Not sure why only for the teacher.

The Ilhara Valley had come highly recommended. Having walking nearly 20,000 steps the day before Ian decided we’d take the shorter walk. We dropped David and Sarah at the beginning of the Valley and we headed to Besilrmi village where we would meet them later. We took a stroll along the valley which has the Melendiz River running through it. It was very peaceful and serene. The valley is 15km long and up to 150 metres deep.

There are a number of churches along the valley.  One was St George’s cave church which was built inside a burial grotto up some steep stairs.  It was completed in 1290 and was the last cave church to be built in Cappadocia.   There are approximately 100 graves lining the church floor.

There was a tea shop along the route so we obviously stopped there as Ian needed his fix of tea. There were so many different ducks which were amusing. Suddenly half a dozen of them appeared rushing along in a line and then back again they went, like sheep but they were ducks! The stream was running so fast that the ducks just zoomed along. As well as ducks there were chickens, peacocks, peahens and a turkey.

Next we went to the Selime monastery which is cut into the rock and situated at the end of the Ilhara valley. It was surprising how big it was, it was stunning. It was built in the 8th century.  The Kitchen was large and so indicated that there were a lot of people who lived on the site. 

There were two halls, the first had an upper level, which Ian insisted on climbing up, even with his dodgy knees.  The second hall was huge.  It was 17 metres deep, 6m wide and 8m in height.  This was the main hall for receiving guests and conducting ceremonial meals.  There was also an upper gallery. 

The Basilica Church was impressive.

Goreme is the main town of Cappadocia and as a result is full of restaurants including three Indian restaurants which you don’t see very often in Turkey so when in Rome, well Turkey actually.

Our final day in Cappadocia.  Ian and I were going to walk around Rose Valley. David and Sarah were going to do one half of Rose Valley and then venture into the Red Valley which was a longer walk. Well best laid plans and all that, so no didn’t quite happen like that. We started completely in the wrong direction and ended up walking three hours through Sword Valley. “Let’s go and look at the chimney houses over there”, said Ian and David. We ended up walking in between the cave houses, clambering over rocks and then going through tunnels, some very narrow.

In one tunnel Sarah, AKA The Mole, went through I followed, crikey I just made it through it was so low. The boys had no chance and managed to get outside and go round. Sarah enjoyed the crawl so much she went through twice.

We made it all the way to the top, stunning views and we could see the Rose and Red Valleys over the other side. We followed the trail back down on the outside. Ian and I had gone much further than we anticipated.

Our final day but there were two games of rugby to be watched. So, a late lunch and then off to our hotel. Luckily, we had a big hotel room so a few beers and watched the games. Sarah having not done enough walking or exercise that day so went for a run into Goreme which was 4 km away.

We now had the long drive back to Finike, about nine hours. It was a grey cold day. How lucky had we been. We had the right winds for the balloon ride, lots of warm sunshine and no rain.

On our way back to Finike was the Sultanhani, the largest caravanserai in Turkey built in the 1229 on the Silk Road.

It has sections for summer and winter periods. The courtyard is surrounded by storage rooms, stalls, kitchen and bedrooms where animals and people were accommodated. In the centre of the courtyard is a small mosque. The covered courtyard was for the winter and during cold weather people and animals stayed indoors to keep warm. In fact in one of the rooms we saw a dog sleeping. 

One final stop at Side where we had a quick look around some of the ruins.  We didn’t have much time so it was a real flying visit. 

Cappadocia is an incredible place to visit.  Turkey is often thought of a place to go for a beach holiday but I would recommend taking some time to fly up and stay a few nights to see this spectacular place.  You won’t be disappointed.  Definitely a highlight of Turkey for us and we’ve seen a lot of Turkey. 

March 2023

Our trip to South East Turkey Part II

Our next stop was Sanliurfa, known as Urfa for short. On the way we visited Halfeti, which is situated on the Euphrates River.  We took a boat ride along the river up to Halfeti of which some parts became submerged after the construction of the Birecik dam that was built-in 2000.  Legend has it that the name, Halfeti, was taken from two young sweethearts, Halil and Fatma, whose families did not approve of their relationship and refused to let them marry.  So Halil and Fatma threw themselves into the raging waters of the Euphrates River.  In their memory, the area was known as  Halfeti, an abbreviation of Halil and Fatma. Rumkale fortress overlooks the river.

Just half an hour’s drive from Urfa is Gobeklitepe built 11,000 years ago.  To put this into some sort of perspective Stonehenge was built about 4,500 years ago.  So this site is very very old.  The site comprised of monumental structures and was discovered in 1963. Excavations began in 1995 by German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt .  He discovered more than 20 monumental round structures

Schmidt believed that the site was a ritual centre where small nomadic groups from the region gathered as part of their beliefs.  They built things at regular intervals, held banquets, and then dispersed again. Following Schmidt’s death the excavators had to dig deeper than Schmidt had done for foundation work of the canopy over the central structure.  They discovered there were houses and residential areas under the monumental structures.  So it was more than just a site for rituals but a growing village.  

We visited the town of Harran which is just 20km from the Syrian border.  This area was quite different to the rest of Turkey that we’d been to so far and we’d covered a lot of Turkey by this time.  Harran is known for its traditional mud brick beehive like houses which are believed to be around 3,000 years old.  We were shown around by a lovely young lad who as well as showing us around was very excited about a band who was playing in the town.  We also visited the ancient city ruins of Harran.

The Pool of Abraham, Balikli Göl, is in Sanliurfa.  The story goes that the Prophet Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod.  The fire turned into a pool and the firewood into fish.  As a result the fish in the pool are considered sacred and are protected so there are a lot of them.  You can buy food to feed the fish, bit like feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.  It was quite a frenzy when we threw the food in the water. 

We stopped off on a walkabout around the town for cay in a caravanserai.  There are youngsters walking around selling treats.  One of them about eight of nine years old was selling candy floss.  In perfect English with no trace of an accent he asked if we would like to buy some to which we said no and his response was ok thank you, sorry to have disturbed you.  We got chatting to him and discovered he was a refugee from Aleppo in Syria and he was missing his home and hoped to return one day.  He was such a lovely lad and from the way he spoke and how polite he was well educated.  So terrible he and his family had had to flee their homeland. 

We were walking along the street looking at the various shops and was surprised and shocked to see a gun shop.  Ian had to go in and have a look, as you can see it was very busy.

On our way to Mardin we visited the Mor Gabriel Monastery which is the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world.  It is still in use and is a working community.  It is in pristine condition and is continually maintained.  So much so the toilets were like something out of a really expensive hotel! And no I didn’t take a photo.

We went into the town of Midyat and did some wine tastings and then bought some Syrian wine as we thought Mardin, our next stop, would be devoid of wine.  Little did we know every other shop was selling Syrian wine and soap.  Mardin is a touristy place and some of the streets are decorated in very brightly colours.

The final day of our trip had dawned and so we were heading back to Diyarbakır for our flight back to the boat.  But … not before we looked at another bridge.  When we arrived a week earlier it was raining and yes you’ve guessed it, was raining again.  The Diyarbakir Dicle Bridge, aka On Gözlü Köprü (Ten Arches Bridge) sits across the Tigris River. It was built between 1065-1067.  The bridge has had a number of repairs over the years, so the original construction may have been partly altered from its original state, possibly a bit like “Triggers Broom”.

It was pouring with rain and we had some time to kill before our flight.  We managed to find a pub called the “North Shields Pub” (it was part of the Ramada Hotel so that would explain why we found a pub) where we had a traditional burger and a pint.

We had covered about a 1000miles in a week and seen so much of this part of Turkey, an area where not so many western tourists travel to but it was definitely worth the trip.  Mount Nemrut being the hightlight. 

October/November 2022

Our trip to South East Turkey Part I

We had been around most of Turkey apart from the South Eastern part.  Sadly, this is the region that was hit by the devasting earthquake in February this year. We had been to some of the towns that were hit and it was awful to think of those people who lost their lives and homes.

It is quite a way from Finike, where the boat is, so we flew up to Diyarbakir and then hired a car for the week as many of the places were quite a distance apart.  We covered about 1000miles.


This is the largest city in the region and is situated on the Tigris River.  We visited the Grand Mosque which Muslims consider to be the fifth holiest site in Islam.  It was built in 1092 and can hold up to 5000 people.  The design of the mosque is based on the Great Mosque of Damascus. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to visit the Fortress as it was closed on Mondays.  We did take a walk around the city walls which had four gates that were restored in 349AD during the reign of Constantinus III of Rome. The walls are the the second largest in the world after the Great Wall of China.

Kahta and Mount Nemrut

We next made our way to Kahta and on our way we drove over the Nissibi Euphrates Bridge, a cable stayed bridge which was completed in 2015.  It spans the Atatürk Reservoir on the Euphrates River. Ian liking bridges, don’t ask, we had to stop for a look. 

One of the reasons for our visit here was to go up Mount Nemrut.  We decided to do this on a tour which included a few other sights.  First stop was Karakuş Tumulu, which means Black Bird in Turkish.  It is an artificial mound, 35 meters high, located on the top of a natural hill.  There are three columns remaining and are about nine metres high.  It was built by Mithridates II, son of the magnificent king of Commagene I antiocho as a burial site for the female members of his family.  The views from here were stunning.

We then visited the Cendere Bridge which was built in the second century AD in honour of Emperor Septimius Severus and sit across the Chabinas Creek.  

Next on our tour was the Old Kahta Castle which was used until 1926.  Unfortunately, there was an accident recently at the castle and it was closed to visitors.  So, we had to look up at it on the hillside.  It looked rather steep so wasn’t too disappointed we didn’t have to hike up there.

From here the highlight of the trip was Mount Nemrut, the burial site of King Antiochus I Theos from the Kingdom of Commagene. Mount Nemrut is part of the Taurus mountain range and is 2150 metres high.  As well as being the burial site of the King it is full of statues of Greek and Persian gods built in 62bc by King Antiochus I Theos.  The heads of the statues now sit alongside their bodies which originally were about 33 feet tall. It has been reported that the structures survived the earthquake that hit in February 2023. 

It was really cold up there but it is a highlight to watch the sun go down (or sunrise but that was far too early for us).  The sun has never taken so long to go down so we could get back down to where it was warmer. We didn’t expect to be wrapped up in our winter gear in Turkey.

One of the largest dams in the world is the Ataturk Dam which was built to generate electricity and to irrigate the plains in the region. We stopped for a cuppa here and a cow wandered along and stopped for a bit of a munch on the tree leaves.  It’s owner sooner appeared and dragged it back to where it should be.

Not happy with seeing the front of the dam, we had to go off-piste to see the back of it. Off dirt track roads, just hoping the car didn’t break down as we were a long way from anywhere.

Our next stop was Gaziantep where the biggest collection of mosaics in the world can be found.  There are about 2,500 sq m from the Roman and late antiquity periods.  There is one particular mosaic called “The Gypsy Girl” that is in a very darkened room of its own and is nearly 2000 years old.  It was discovered during excavations of the old city of Zeugma in the late 1990’s.  However, there were pieces missing which had been looted and smuggled out of Turkey in the 1960’s and bought by the Bowling Green State University of Ohio in the US who displayed the pieces until 2012.  The pieces were eventually returned to Turkey after tough negotiations in 2018. 

We visited Gaziantep Castle which is now closed as it was badly damaged in the earthquake.   The castle sat on a mound in the centre of the city. 

It’s easy to get lost in places when visiting but we had no problem finding our way back to the hotel as it stood head and shoulders above everything else. 

Turkey amongst other things is famous for Turkish Baths, known as the Hammam.  In  Gaziantep there is a Hammam museum.  I hadn’t appreciated that the Hammam is not just steam rooms and a place for a massage but it is also a place of entertainment.  It is common to visit a hammam before a wedding or a religious holiday.  There is a Puerpera Bath ceremony which is held 40 days after a woman has given birth.  Food and gifts are prepared for the ceremony.  Salt is put on the baby’s body and then washed with 40 cups of water.

We packed a lot into our trip, too much for one post so the rest coming soon!

Pamukkale, Permagon and up to Istanbul

We hopped along the coast to Kusadasi and met up with David and Sarah on Wandering Star.  From here we took a trip to Pamukkale. (Cotton Castle).   Pamukkale is famous for its travertines which look like snowy hills but they aren’t.  The travertines were formed when a spring with a high content of dissolved calcium bicarbonate flowed down the cliff.  Once cooled it left hardened calcium deposits creating pools and ridges.  Three of us took a dip in one of the pools which were hot.  You are not allowed to wear shoes walking on them and they do hurt your feet a bit. The others didn’t think so but I’m a sensitive soul!  They can be slippery in places. 

At the top of the Travertines is Hierapolis.  It was a bit of a trek to the top, at least for Ian and I, not for David and Sarah, this was nothing to their usual hikes.  The theatre at the top was definitely worth the uphill walk as it was stunning.  It could hold between 12,000 and 15,000 people.  We’ve seen a lot of piles of rocks over the last five years and this was a good un!

Virgin Mary’s house

On the way back we thought we’d visit the House of the Virgin Mary.    It was a very small church.  A Roman Catholic nun, Anne Catherine Emmerich, had a vision that the Virgin Mary returned to Ephesus with Saint John.  Anne gave a detailed description to a German writer, Clemens Brentano, of the Virgin Mary’s return, her life and the house even though Anne had never been to Ephesus.  Clemens Brentano published these visions in a book after Anne’s death.  In 1891 priests and historians from Izmir read about the vision and discovered the building which matched with the nun’s descriptions.  Catholic pilgrims visit the house based on the belief that the Virgin Mary was taken to this house by Saint John and lived there until she passed away. 

We had the pleasure of some dolphins on a number of occasions and they are still magical, no matter how many times you see them.

We next made our way to Ayvalik which is about 130nm from Kusadasi stopping at a few anchorages on the way.  There are lots of street animals, cats and dogs, in Turkey and they are generally quite well looked after.  It always astounds me how they sleep anywhere with everything going on around them, they don’t butt an eyelid.

We met up with Colin and Maggie on Serafina and took another trip inland from Ayvalik to Permagon because it was on the list of places you should visit in Turkey.  We hired a car and then took the cable car for the final part of the journey to the acropolis.  Pergamon was founded in the 3rd century BC as the capital of the Attalid dynasty. It was an important cultural, scientific and political centre.    The city came under control of the Romans in 133 BC and was the capital of the Roman Province of Asia.  The theatre is very steep and it was suggested it could accommodate up to 10,000 people. 

In the distance we could see the remains of a Roman aqueduct from the second century AD.  It supplied the growing population of Pergamon and the Roman baths. 

Next stop was Morto Bay at the entrance of the Dardanelles where we’ve anchored before with lots of Jellyfish.  This time we anchored in a slightly different place, big mistake!  There was lots of swell overnight and so neither of us had a very good night’s sleep. 

We left Canakkale the next day and the landscape reminded us of going along the Thames, it is  so similar.  The last time we came along here in 2020 the 1915 Canakkale bridge was under construction.  It was now open.  The bridge spans 2,023-metres and symbolises the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey.  It is the sixth tallest bridge in the world and the longest bridge of any kind in Turkey.   The height of the bridge at 318 metres is a reference to 18th day of the third month, and 1915 in the name represents the Canakkale Naval Victory on March 18th, 1915 during the Gallipoli campaign.

To give you an idea of how big it is.  The container ship “Oscar” was going under it.  Oscar is 395.4m long, 59m wide and with average 14tn containers it has a capacity of approx. 14,000 TEU.  (TEU is a measure of volume in units of twenty foot long containers).  When Oscar was launched in January 2015 she was the largest container ship in the world, she lost that crown some time ago.  But you get the picture she is pretty big, I’d say enormous!

Another place we didn’t visit in 2020 was Marmara Island.  This is well known for its marble quarries.  We moored up in Port Marmara which was rather quaint with trees lining the harbour and fishermen mending their nets and drinking tea.  We thought we’d take the bus to Saraylar at the top of the island to visit the marble museum.  It was very dusty as a result of the quarries.  Despite our best efforts we never found the museum or at least how to get to it.  We thought we’d try a taxi but the only one we found was empty and we couldn’t find the driver for love nor money. 

We’d at least had a ride around the island so off we went to the bus stop where we waited and waited and waited.  The scheduled time for one bus came and went as did the next one.  We waited for over two hours still no buses.  No taxis either.  A guy from one of the houses across the road came walking towards us, we asked him If he had a number for a taxi, as it looked like we weren’t going to get a bus.  He didn’t, so now what were we going to do, it was a long way back.  Anyway as luck would have it the guy said it’s ok I will drive you back.  We were so grateful and we gave him a good drink for his kindness. 

We headed to Istanbul where we met our friends Gary and Shelley who were staying with us for a week.  We visited the sights of Istanbul and had a great night out in Kadikoy, which is where we catch the ferry to Istanbul.  Found a bar serving Guinness and playing music and got the DJ to play lots of requests for us.  It was a late night/morning.

We didn’t have long now until the Black Sea Rally began but first Cuffysark needed a lift out to have some work done and clean up her hulls.  So, we spent a week in West Istanbul marina.  We weren’t allowed to stay on the boat here, so we had to stay in a room on site.  The most uncomfortable beds ever. 

October 2022

The Start to Season 6

Now we go back to the beginning. I missed out our adventures from when we left Finike to when we started our journey along the Black Sea so as to keep up.  It’s only now I look back I realise that we visited quite a few places before we reached the Black Sea. 

We left Finike at the end of April to start sailing season six.  Can’t believe it’s that many although, we don’t count last year as we were in the UK for a lot of the time.  Obviously our first stop, as is the norm for us yachties leaving Finike Marina, is Kekova, a beautiful anchorage that we do not get tired of.

We next called into Kas for a few days before setting off to Fethiye.  We met my cousin Sue and her husband Rick here for Sue’s birthday lunch at Gocek where we anchored in the bay.   The dessert here was amazing but it did beat me. 

Now without the marina facilities I’m back to my rotating bucket for doing the washing.  Gocek is lovely but it gets very busy during the year and we were thankfully just ahead of that.  We arrived and tied back to rocks alongside Dusk and a couple of other boats but before evening it was full.  Serafina joined us and we went to a restaurant nearby that served a nice meal but with quite a hefty price tag, but that’s Gocek for you.

We wanted to take a trip up the Dalyan River, so we headed to MyMarina and then six of us, Cuffysark, Dusk and Serfina took a local boat as it’s not possible to sail up there.  It gets very shallow in parts. 

There are some ruins along the river which we went and had a look at, called Canus.  The city was at one time on the coast but because of silting of the river it is now about 8km away from the sea.

Along the river carved into the rockface are rock tombs which date back to between the second century BC and the second century AD.  This area is also known for its mud baths.  So when in Rome, or Dalyan, should I say.  The mud smelt awful but it was very soft and we then washed it off under freezing cold water before getting into a warm bath.  It was a fun day.  It was a bit choppy and windier when we came out of the river on the way back to the Marina and as a result Ian managed to not hang onto his hat, he’d only bought a few hours earlier. 

Next stop is Sweet Shop Town, well that’s what it’s like for sailors with all the chandleries, obviously I mean Marmaris. We had some rain here which brought with it red sand.  I’ve never seen it so bad as this time, so nothing for it but it had to be cleaned and hope it didn’t rain again. 

 It was a Finike reunion here, David and Juliet invited us all on their boat for pre-dinner drinks.  There was quite a crowd of us.  Thanks to Catie on Alys for letting me use some of her photos.  We then went for dinner, it was nice to meet up with everyone. 

We next hopped along the coast heading towards Kusadasi where we would visit Pamukkale. 

October 2022

The Dardanelles and out into the Aegean Sea

We left Avsa Adasi and headed off. We anchored in a small harbour, Lapseki,  just before the 1915 Canakkale bridge as we didn’t fancy mooring up in Canakkale with such strong winds.  Yes, the wind was still with us, this Meltemi (very strong wind) was lasting for longer than usual.  We had two reefs in the mast and a reefed gib this time.  Our fastest speed on this trip surfing down waves was was 15.4knots.  Ian and John thought it was great, not me so much!

We arrived in Canakkale the next day in calmer weather.  John and Ian did a guided tour of Gallipoli, visiting the war graves.  As we’d already been before I decided to stay on the boat, put my feet up and enjoy the peace and quiet, I wish!!  The boat had so much salt on it from our time in Avsa and the inside needed cleaning so that’s was my day, cleaning inside and out.  Yes, I just sat down as the boys arrived back. 

We’d been to Cannakkale a couple of times before but we’d not been to the Naval Museum before.  We only chanced upon it so decided to pay a visit. 

Part of the wreckage of a German submarine, UB46, is displayed here.  She sank four ships during her six months career.  In early December 1916, in the Black Sea near to the entrance of the Bosphorus she hit a mine and sank.  The wreckage was found on the shores of Akpinar Village during open cast coal mining in September 1993. 

These are net anchors used to prevent submarines passing through the straits

A replica of the Ottoman navy ship, The Nusret, is moored here.  She was a minelayer during the Gallipoli campaign.  The Nusret laid 26 mines in an unexpected position in February 1915 and sank HMS Irresistible, HMS Ocean and the French battleship Bouvet, and left the British battle cruiser HMS Inflexible badly damaged. 

Within the museum is Çimenlik Castle.  The castle is located on the narrowest part of the Dardanelles and was built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1462 to protect the Dardanelles.

Ian always says that the cheapest beer in Turkey is in Canakkale.  The bar is basic inside but sitting outside with a table it’s no different to any of the other bars along the promenade.  So for 32tl (£1.50) we stopped for one, well perhaps a couple. The Turkish guys behind us gave it the thumbs up 😁

Whilst here we heard the news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth.  It was headline news even here in Turkey.  We paid our respects by dropping our flag to half mast. 

We wanted to go to the harbour at Assos, but the wind has to be fairly light as it’s very narrow and shallow so not the easiest place to get into but we managed it, mooring up bow to.  To get off the boat you have to step onto the wall next to the tables for the hotel restaurant.  The moon here was amazing unfortunately the photo doesn’t do it justice. 

Men at Work

We arrived at Ayvalik and managed to get a spot in the marina here.  The only available place for us meant walking through a building site, literally, while they were digging up the concrete, in the boat yard.  This is where Johnny would be leaving us after his trip starting at Sile in the Black Sea, down the Bosperous, to Istanbul, Cannakale for Gallipoli and to final stop Ayvalik.  He’d covered a good few miles with us. 

Here we met up with Serafina and we had dinner aboard Cuffysark.  Colin played a few tunes on his guitar.  We had a great night on Johnny’s penultimate night. 

The island of Cunda is connected to Ayvalik via the Ayvalık Strait Bridge, we’d not been before so we decided to make a visit.  The town is a very quaint.

The Taksiyarhis Church houses another of the Rahmi Koç Museums.  The Church was in a very dilapidated state but it was restored over 22 months and opened as a Rahmi Koç museum in 2014.  The restoration of the church is fabulous There are three Rahmi Koç museums in Turkey, one in Ankara, one in Istanbul and the other in Cunda.  We have now visited all three.  The museums feature mechanical and industrial objects.  The one in Cunda included a wide range of toys. 

September 2022

The final leg and back south we go

Fish from the fisherman

We were now getting near to the end of our Black Sea trip.  We left Amasra and headed to a fishing harbour at Kilimli.  The locals rushed to help us with our lines.  A little later a guy arrived with a bag of fish, freshly caught and he insisted we take it.  I had two on the bbq and made fish cakes with the remaining four.  We discovered that they were Palamut (Bonito) which is a mackerel type fish. 

We next arrived at Akçakoca which has a mosque that looks quite impressive from the sea.  It was different to the usual mosques you see, it was a white modern building with a roof that is inspired by the Seljuk Bristle Tent rather than the usual single roof system.  Construction started in 1989 and it was opened in 2004. 

The town was named after a 14th century, Akçakoca Bey, a Turkish chieftain who captured the area for the Ottoman Empire during the establishment of the Ottoman Empire. 

Along the seafront was a long row of head busts which there is no information about.  However, with some research on one of the busts we believe the head busts relate to people who founded Turkish states, not necessarily within Turkey and for how long that state existed. 

We next went to one of the two anchorages in the Black Sea, Kefken Island, which is in fact a safe refuge for boats.  We stayed here for a couple of nights taking in the tranquillity before we headed off to Sile where our good friend John was meeting us so he could take the journey down the Bosporus with us.

We were visiting Istanbul for the third time this year.  Everywhere was, very very busy lots of queues, not like when we visited in 2020 where we walked straight into places.  Much better for the local economy but not so good for visiting.  We did venture into the Blue Mosque but it was still being renovated although the roof has now been completed.  It was difficult to see as there is so much scaffolding in the building. 

We took John to the only bar in Istanbul we could find previously that sold a beer.  This is where you need to keep your hands in as the tram is touching distance. We also had a cay in the Grand Bazaar.

We’re headed back to another place we’d already been to, West Istanbul Marina, this was so that Ian could replace the fixed prop for a new folding prop replacing the one we, that’s the Royal we, managed to loose.  So up Cuffysark goes again but this time stayed in the slings for a changeover and then dropped back down again.  We saw some ducks have a meeting on the quay. 

There were some strong winds forecast and so we headed to our safe haven on Avasi Island.  The wind was between 18 and 25 knots, thankfully down wind and we were surfing on waves getting up to a maximum speed of 13.4 knots.  You can see how much of the sails are reefed, so those who know Ian, will realise it must have been very windy for him to reef this much! We saw a big group of dolphins.  One of the things we noticed in the Black sea was it was rare not to see dolphins on any trip.

The following morning the wind was so strong we were being pushed on the wall more than we liked so there was nothing for it but to move the boat to the other side of the harbour, which was no mean feat.  With the help of some locals we manged to tie up Cuffysark on the other side which was much calmer. 

The sun hadn’t been out much so Ian decided he would put the generator on which hadn’t been used in nearly two years so as a result he had to do a bit of maintenance.  I was cleaning the side of the boat as the other side of the harbour had lovely new black tyres which leave a big black mark on the boat.  I suddenly heard those immortal words “ oh f**k”.  Next things Ian’s stripping off and jumped into the water to retrieve the cover of the generator.  Panic over!  You’ll be pleased to know he got the generator working. 

We took a taxi into Avasi town and had a nice lunch along the sea front.  Still very windy but hot.  One of the local dogs dug himself a hole in the sand under a table to keep cool and out of the sun. 

September 2022

Sinop to Amasra

After five nights moored in Samsun we now had a long trip to Sinop, 70nm.  It took us 11.5 hours where we anchored up in front of the city walls in the fishing harbour.  We were woken at 1.30am to a boat hooting its horn and what we thought sounded like fireworks.  This couldn’t be possible it was 1.30 in the morning.  Oh yes it was. A fishing boat was arriving in the harbour and it also had it lights on full blare.  There is no fishing allowed until September to allow the fish to lay their eggs so not sure what the occasion was. 

Sinop castle and city walls were built around 800BC.  Surprisingly at the top was a bar and it actually sold beer.  Not quite what we’d expected.  There is a Statue of Diogenes, an Ancient Greek philosopher who was born in Sinop in about 412 BC.  The monument is 18 ft tall and shows Diognenes standing with his dog on his dwelling barrel 

One of Turkey’s oldest prisons is in Sinop.  It is undergoing renovations so it was closed when we visited.  It was opened in 1887 and closed down in 1997.  The prison was high security with no possibility of escape due to the fact it was within the castle walls. The prison guard would walk along the walkway on top of the walls patrolling the prison.

Sinop Hamam

During our walk we came across two mounds which looked of mud like construction.  Ian spoke to one of the locals and managed to decipher that the mounds were part of the hamam (Turkish bath). 

I mentioned before that anchorages are rare in the Black Sea, however, there is a lovely one just 12 miles north of Sinop.  It was so lovely to be in a bay somewhere.  So much so we stayed a couple of nights.

Akilman anchorage

We spent the next few days hopping along the coast popping into fishing harbours.  We didn’t have much wind, in fact one day it was like a mill pond.

Flat as a mill pond

Konakli, was quite picturesque and we anchored in the middle of the harbour.  Then onto Doganyurt.  A strange place in the fact it’s a small village and yet there was a wide array of shops here, kitchen showroom, bathrooms, car motor accessories, gas, petrol station, taxi rank and three supermarket chains.  Friday was market day with half a dozen stalls.  Although one greengrocer had his stall set out the night before, no worry that it wouldn’t be there the next day.  There were a lot of stray dogs here, not unfriendly but sad to see.  A common sight in Turkey and Europe.  Strays is not something we have in the UK.  It is automatically assumed in the UK if a dog is wandering about on its own it must have escaped from its owner, which is normally the case. 

Cide our next hop, is a tourist hot spot with a long beach lined with restaurants and hotels.  It is the birth place of acclaimed Turkish writer Rifat Ilgaz who was a teacher, writer and poet who produced 60 works. He was born in Cide in 1911and returned there to live in about 1975 however after being arrested in 1981, he eventually returned to Istanbul where he passed away in 1993.  The house we visited was where he was born and raised.  He was prosecuted for some of his work and as a result was sentenced to five and half years in prison, of which due to ill health amnesty did not complete the whole sentence in prison.

We were walking back down to the seafront to get some dinner and we saw a sight you wouldn’t expect to see.  Casually walking along the pavement, not the road, was a donkey. 

Taking a stroll

On the way back to the boat we noticed there was a wedding taking place on the beach and on closer inspection (being nosy) it appeared that anyone could go and sit and watch not just official guests.  We’ve seen a lot of brides and grooms on our travels.  They are often having photos taken in some unusual places. 

We were next calling into Amasra.  We moored up here going East on the Black Sea, but unfortunately the quay side was so high we didn’t get off the boat.  This time we were able to moor up right at the end, alongside and so we had no issue getting off.  Amasra wasn’t what we expected.  This is a big tourist town, with lots of tourists’ shops, pide restaurants and lots and lots of tourists.  The beach was just a mass of people, a very popular holiday resort.  There is an island here which is reached via Kemere bridge.  The one arch bridge was built in the 9th century AD. 

August 2022

Going West and discovering the little gem of “Amasya”

Giant Teacup

We left Hopa and headed to Rize.  There are lots of harbours, mainly fishing along this coast.  We went into the harbour at Rize, a short walk from a very large tea cup.  We were greeted with a warm welcome by the coastguard.  We were only staying the one night but while there the petrol station was close by so it was convenient to get some diesel.  It turned out even more convenient when the Coastguard very kindly took us across to the petrol station in their car after they gave us tea. 

Gorele Ice cream

We hopped along the coast to Akcabaat and then to Gorele which is famous for its ice-cream.  Along one side of the town square are stalls selling ice-cream with seating areas.  Lots of the town come along and enjoy an ice-cream.  Görele ice cream has a different consistency to other ice-cream, when it was held up it stretched as though it was stringy.  It was very nice. 

There was another petrol station close by so Ian decided to get another can filled while we were here.  This time he had to go under his own steam, or scooter should I say.

We were getting a bit of a stomp on over the next couple of days ending up in Fatsa.  From here we took a local dolmus (bus) to Boloman.  Overlooking the harbour is Boloman castle, the history is a bit vague but it is thought it was built by the Kingdom of Pontus as a watchtower anytime between 280bc and 63 bc.  In the 18th century, a wooden mansion, Haznedaroğlu Mansion”, was built on the inner castle.

From Fatsa we headed to Terme.  There was a harbour here but it was calm and so we anchored outside.  It was lovely to be out on anchor again even if for just one night.  Ian cleaned the hulls of Cuffysark here, unfortunately there were lots of jellyfish and they took a few bites out of him.

Our next stop was Samsun, we moored Cuffysark in the sailing club and headed off to Amasya for a couple of days.  We’ve been told this was a fabulous place and wow it really was.  This is one of those places that you’ll remember when you look back.  Going to so many places you do struggle sometimes to recall them, it’s our age.  Buses are a big mode of transport here and cheap so we took the bus and arrived in Amasya a couple of hours later.  We stayed in an Ottoman hotel, which we were informed was 200 years old and original. 

Ottoman houses from the 19th and 20th centuries line one side of the river. Above them carved into Harşena Mountain are the tombs of the Pontus Kings and Amasya Castle, AKA Harşena Castle.  The Pontus Kings ruled Amasya from 333BC to 26AD and it is believed they also built the castle.

We decided it was a long way to walk up to the entrance to the castle so we took a taxi.  We came out and saw a bright yellow car, thinking good, a taxi.  There was no driver inside or anyone around then we realised it was just a yellow car not a taxi so there was nothing for it but to walk.  We stopped for a nice cold freshly squeezed orange juice half way down.  The views over the town were worth the walk, down at least!

There are tombs carved into the mountain side that belong to the Pontic Kings. We’d just walked down from the castle and so decided not to go up to them.  But we managed a picture from one of the museums.

We visited the “Archaeological and Mummy Museum”.  Yes, the museum housed the mummified remains of eight people from the 14th Century.  The mummies were an Anatolian Minister and a Governor and his family.  Examinations were made of the mummies and it is possible to determine how they died and estimate their ages.  One of the mummies was “Isbuğa Nuyin”, he was the Emir of Amasya.  He died in 1320 and it was determined that he died at the age of 35-40 and that he had arthritis.  Apparently Egyptian mummies have no internal organs these mummies differ as these mummies do. 

The Sultan Bayezid II Complex is also located here and was built between 1482 and 1486 for the Sultan.  The complex includes a mosque, cultivation (workhouse), water-tank with a fountain, hospital and a madrasah (school for Muslim education).   

The hospital is now a museum.  There were instruments for various medical procedures.  This one was for removing the placenta after child birth.  Ouch!!

The hotel recommended that we go to one of the restaurants up on the hillside as to see Amasya at night is quite spectacular.  So we took his advice and it definitely was.  On our way back to the hotel there was quite a crowd sitting alongside the river.  There were water fountains dancing to music. 

There was even a waterfall here, albeit we believe man made.  Someone had a sense of humour as one of the Ottoman’s was taking a selfie, yes he had a mobile phone in his hand.

There’s lots to see here so more museums.  The Sehzadeler Museum, AKA Princes Museum, is in fact wax works. 

The Hazeranlar Mansion was built in 1865.  The house is arranged in haremlik and selamlık .  A haremlik was the private section of an upper-class Ottoman home and the selamlik, the public area or reception rooms, used only by men in traditional Islamic society.  There is also a model village of Amsaya

Amasya a wonderful town with lots to see and very picturesque. 

Final stop in Turkey and into Georgia

We had reached the last port we were stopping at on the Turkish coast of the Black Sea which was Hopa, a commercial harbour. 

We were visiting Ciha Castle. Up into mountain’s, another road, well it wasn’t a road more of a wide footpath or was probably built for horse and carts but definitely not for cars in particular mini buses. We stopped so far up and then we were to walk the rest of the way.  Ian, for once, had some sense and stayed with the mini buses along with some other sensibly minded people, already sensing this was going to be more of a climb.

We started the walk and then went off the dirt track road.  It got harder and harder with the track being some down trodden greenery and rocks.  I should have realised when I saw the guide with a very large knife in his hand needed to cut his way through that this wasn’t your usual trek.  I kept looking for David and Sarah of Wandering Star, as this walk was definitely one of those that you were told not far and it will be easy.  I got a stone’s throw from the top and where the castle was, but along with some others we had to retreat back down.  We were told later that no international tourists had ever been up to the castle, I now know why. 

Mencuna Waterfall

We next visited the Mencuna waterfalls which were spectacular.  They are about 90metres high and Turkey’s highest.  After our mountain trek earlier we were told this was just a 700metre walk, uphill mind you.  We’d been walking 10 minutes and then saw the sign which said 500metres to the waterfall.  It was worth the walk up though. 

We were heading to Poti in Georgia just for a couple of days.  We were leaving at 6am but we had to check out of Turkey first.  We got our passports back at 2am, so not much sleep. We had just moored up and a guy came up to the boat and said “Hi Ian”. Now Ian was a little taken aback as he didn’t know the guy.  It transpires he was from the port authority and was British and he had googled the rally when he heard we were coming and found our blog.  His name was also Ian, so Ian if you are reading this, Hi, it was great to meet you and chat.

We had a wonderful welcome from the town of Poti.  They put on a concert for us with singing from the elder generation to the younger ones.  It was a very enjoyable evening. 

The next day we were due to go to Batumi, which was just over 45 miles back near the Turkish border.  We weren’t able to moor up at Batumi hence the reason for being at Poti in the commercial harbour.  We had checked the start time for the trip with one of the organisers and told it was 10 o’clock.  Ian being slow in the morning, so I was trying to gee him up to get us to the buses as we’d seen other people leaving about 9.45.  We finally left the boat at 10am, rushing along as the buses were five minutes away.  We arrived and no buses or people in sight, so after a few choice words between us, we came to the conclusion that the buses must have already left.  Oh well it’s our own fault we were late.  So off we went to discover what Poti had to offer.  It turns out that the start time had in fact changed, which we weren’t made aware of and we were 25 mins early. But we had the day to ourselves which wasn’t such a bad thing.

All roads lead to Poti Cathedral which is in the centre of town next to the park.  The location was chosen by Niko Nikoladze , the mayor of Poti, so that it could be seen from every side of the town.  The cathedral was built in 1906-07 and is an imitation of the Hagia Sopia in Istanbul but on a reduced scale. 

We also took a walk down to Poti Lighthouse which was built by “Easton Amos & Sons” an English company in 1862.  It was then transported by steamship to Georgia where is was assembled by British engineers.  It is made of cast iron, is 36.6m high and has a range of 17nm.  There are 160 steps to the top.  Just alongside the lighthouse is a very large cemetery.  Each of the grave stones shows a picture of the departed and some had tables and chairs set in stone/marble for their loved ones to come and sit with them. What a lovely thing.

We were now off back to Hopa in Turkey.  By the time we arrived back at Hopa we had made the decision to cut short our participation in the rally.  Unfortunately, we didn’t obey orders, yes they were the words used, although we had informed the necessary person of our intentions and reasons.  Orders and obey don’t belong on a sailing rally.  The programme was very busy, plus a few other things and so we decided to do the return journey along the Black Sea coast solo and take things at our own pace.  We are glad we’d spent a month with the rally as we saw some places we wouldn’t have done on our own and we had the pleasure of meeting a great crowd of people.  We appreciate all the hard work that goes into putting a rally like this together and we thanked the organisers for doing so and we wished the group all the best for the rest of their trip.  

August 2022