Touring Turkey with the 'Vegetarian Girls'
Puja Shah travelled to the land of twirling Dervishes with her sisters and came back with fond memories.
It all started on a sunny afternoon, when three sisters bored and stressed with work decided to meet up for one of their usual evening hangouts. That evening, over a cup of coffee they decided they deserved a break and planned an all-girls trip abroad.
After getting consent from various family members and our bosses, we started thinking of destinations. All of us had travelled to the various Far East locations and no one wanted to visit there.
We were looking at a place that would be cooler than Mumbai, had a good party scene, would be safe for women travellers and was within our budget. After much research and discussions, we zeroed in on Turkey.
It was to be a six-nights seven-day package that would include Istanbul, Kudasi, Ephesus tour, Pamukkale and Cappadocia.
Image: Remains of the library in the ancient city of Ephesus
Photographs: Puja Shah
Great shopping areas and a good party scene
We started at Istanbul and were quite excited about the place as it is culturally and architecturally very rich and at the same time, it has great shopping areas and a good party scene.
The places we visited during the day were the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) , the Hippodrome, Grand Cover Bazaar, and Dolmabahce Palace. We also took the Bosphorus cruise, which gave us a panoramic view of the European and Asian sides of Turkey. Turkey is a Eurasian country and it is very interesting to see glimpses of both continents.
In the evenings we would hang around Taksim Square, a very happening place. We shopped a lot for flavoured teas and Turkish coffee. We also enjoyed the Turkish delicacy called locum, bought some Turkish lamps, a lot of 'evil eyes' and various silver accessories.
At Istanbul we stayed at the Grand Medya Hotel.
Image: Belly dance performances are very popular in Turkey
Have a drink while overlooking the waters
Our next stop was Kusadasi, a beautiful coastal city on the Mediterranean, made lively in the evenings by its numerous cafes. These cafes are an ideal place to unwind and have a drink while overlooking the waters. So we stationed ourselves for three days in this very beautiful city.
The first day, we went around this city on foot. The next day we did the tour of the ancient city of Ephesus. Even if you are not a history buff you are bound to appreciate the spectacular structures here.
We also visited the House of Virgin Mary, which was simply a splendid experience. Here we 'tied' our wishes on the wall, hoping they all would come true.
The next day we visited the town of Pamukkale, its nearby calcium terraces (from which Pamukkale gets it name. Pamukkale=cotton castle) and the ruins of Hierapolis. The view here was breathtaking. It was cold and to our surprise it started drizzling. This only made our visit even more interesting. We spent hours walking around this natural phenomenon and soaking ourselves in the waters of the natural springs. It was a mesmerising sight. By the time we reached our hotel in Kusadasi (Hotel Derici) it was dinnertime.
Turkey is a great place for vegetarians. Since we are veggies we enjoyed the fresh vegetables and fruits served. The chefs were very kind and served us lots of salads and even offered quite a few vegetarian options in the main course. By the end of our stay there, we were had earned a nickname -- 'The Vegetarian Girls'.
Image: Sunset in Turkey
Twirling Dervishes, a truly Turkish experience
Our final destination was Cappadocia. Here we visited the Derinkuyu Underground City and the Goreme open-air museum and stayed at the Star Cave hotel, which was really a peculiar experience.
In the evening we went for a Turkish night, which was full of twirling Dervishes, beautiful belly dancers, traditional Turkish food and drinks. We had a great time dancing to some Turkish tunes and enjoying the food.
From Cappadocia we flew back to Istanbul and then to Mumbai. We travelled to Istanbul and back by Emirates. Within Turkey, we took flights or travelled in rented cars. The total expense per head was about Rs 77,000.
Image: Just like belly dancers, the twirling Dervishes are much in demand too