Travels in the “Cradle of Civilisation” – part one

Even though we have been travelling more or less full time for six years we never quite get used to saying goodbye to our friends and family.

However, the sadness we feel at the parting of ways makes reunions all the sweeter – especially when you meet people again who you last saw in a completely different part of the world!

We sadly farewelled my sister Julia (right)

And so it was that we sadly farewelled my sister Julia who was returning to England and then the very next day, welcomed our friends Jan and Jack who sailed into Didim marina on their yacht S/V Anthem after crossing the Atlantic from Florida via Bermuda the Azores, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The next day we welcomed Jack and Jan
Tying up right opposite S/V Sunday

We hadn’t seen these two since February 2018 when they had joined us on our previous boat S/V Bali Hai for the Sail Thailand Rally. Such a long time between drinks but of course, as soon as we saw them it seemed as though we had met up just last week.

So good to see the crew of S/V Anthem
once again
The last time we had been together
was in Thailand

Fortunately Jan and Jack had arrived just in time to join us on a fantastic trip of South-East Turkey organised by travel agent Tarik Toprak.

Our itinerary for the incredible tour of
South-East Turkey

Tarik is based at Finike Marina where we spent a couple of months earlier in the year. He had already taken two other groups of yachties from Finike Marina on trips to this fascinating part of Turkey.

Finike Marina, where Tarik is based

We had first heard about the tour from Sue and John on S/V Catabella when we had just arrived in Finike Marina at the beginning of April. They had just returned from South-East Turkey and absolutely raved about it. From then on, we were determined to see this incredible part of the country for ourselves.

Sue and John raved about the tour

Tarik had very obligingly opened up the third tour to yachties from outside of Finike Marina. In addition to Jan and Jack, other recent arrivals to Didim Marina – Aussies Brian and Lyn from S/V Ariel – joined us on the new adventure which took us from Izmir in the South-west of Turkey right over to the other side of the country – 1421 km away in Diyarbakir where we started our tour.

We flew from Izmir (far left) to Diyarbakir, a distance of 1421 km

Because we had an eye wateringly early flight to Diyarbakir and the airport at Izmir is a two hour drive from Didim, we decided to spend the night before in an airport hotel. This meant we had the chance to stroll round the sprawling Kemeralti bazaar (which has been in existence since Medieval times) and then along the seafront in Izmir before catching an early night.

Strolling through the sprawling
Kemeralti bazaar
There were many places to eat
There were also lots of coffee houses
Or you could eat “takeaway” as you stroll through the bazaar

The bazaar is a maze of narrow lanes, some covered and some open to the elements, and covering a vast area. You can buy almost anything you want there from girdles and trusses to wedding dresses and everything in between.

Girdle anyone?…..
….Or would you prefer a traditional wedding dress?

In the middle of the bazaar we came across the 16th Century Hisar Mosque several times in our wanderings. This historical mosque is one of the biggest in the city centre and its interior contains one of the most striking examples of Ottoman Islamic artwork in İzmir.

Wherever we wandered, we seemed
always to end up at the
16th Century Hisar Mosque (in background)
The fountain at the Hisar Mosque where worshippers wash before entering
A very good handicrafts shop

Despite the early hour we made it on to our flight without too much drama although the flight was very full. Our guide Baran was waiting for us and suggested a quick breakfast stop at a nearby bakery while we waited for the Finike based group ( English couple Colin and Maggie and Canadian traveller Marje) to arrive.

Within minutes our driver Cezar delivered us to our breakfast stop and after a reviving coffee and various Turkish pastries shared between us we boarded our minibus once again for a whistle stop tour of Diyarbakir before we headed back to the airport.

Passing the bazaar in Diyarbakir
The 4th Century AD city walls of Diyarbakir

We drove past the ancient city walls which stretch almost unbroken for about 6 kilometres and surround the historic fortress of Diyarbakir.

The ancient city walls stretch almost unbroken for about 6 kilometres

We made a quick stop at the famous 11th Century Dicle Bridge built over the mighty Tigris River. The bridge is made up of ten arches and known as “the ten-eyed bridge” by local people.

The “ten-eyed” bridge over the
mighty Tigris River
We had the bridge to ourselves

The black volcanic stone bridge (built in 1065) is usually thronged with tourists but the early hour meant we had the place to ourselves.

Looking towards Diyarbakir- the city walls can be seen clearly on top of the hill
Looking back the other way
There were musicians performing
on the bridge

Then it was back to the airport to meet our fellow travellers for the first time and drive to our destination for the first night – the ancient Mesopotamian city of Mardin – such a wonderful place to start our adventure!

Mardin, a wonderful place to start
our adventure

This gem of a place has recently suffered from dropping tourist numbers due to it’s proximity (35 kms) to the Syrian border but I would highly recommend a visit!

I would highly recommend a trip to Mardin, it was a really fascinating, beautiful and atmospheric place

The town is dominated by a ruined Roman citadel, rebuilt in medieval times which rises behind the the limestone houses that cling to the side of the hill and look out over the famous plains of Mesopotamia which lie between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

The ruined Roman citadel

The plains stretch as far as the eye can see – all the way to Iraq and Kuwait.

We found this view captivating and
almost overwhelming – some of the most important developments
in human history, occurred here

Mesopotamia is known as the “cradle of civilisation” and it is believed that some of the most important developments in human history, occurred here including the invention of the wheel, the planting of the first cereal crops and the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture.

The famous plains of Mesopotamia lie between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers.

After we had settled in our hotel which had fabulous views over the plains, Baran took us on a walking tour of the narrow alleyways and cobblestoned streets, through the bazaar, stopping frequently to marvel at gorgeous buildings such as the Ulu Camil Mosque, and to buy local delicacies such as Elmali Kurabiye and other sweet delicacies tasting of wonderfully exotic ingredients such as almonds, cinnamon, dates, honey, pistachio nuts and sesame seeds.

Our very comfortable hotel room
Baran took us on a walking tour of the narrow alleyways and cobblestoned streets
The town was very atmospheric
It was also very colourful
So much to see in the bazaar
We loved these colourful lanterns
There were many shops selling shiny brass objects- I loved the teapots
Local delicacies (above and below)
We bought some to eat on the minibus!
Blue sugared almonds!
Mardin is famous for its beautiful Arab horses
Baran did a wonderful job of giving us a short history of Mardin and
pointing out interesting sights

We visited a 4th Century Assyrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church called the Kırklar Church by its congregation. One of the Church members talked about the history of the Church and the fate of many Assyrians who had fled to Sweden and Germany. He also explained that the Church members read the bible in Aramaic – the language that Jesus is thought to have spoken.

The Ulu Camil Mosque
Listening to Baran talking
about the Ulu Camil Mosque
The entrance to the 4th Century Assyrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church
One of the congregation of the Assyrian (Syriac) Orthodox Church tells us a little about the Church and the history of the Assyrian people

That evening we had a fabulous meal in spectacular surroundings at a restaurant called Bagdadi. Perched high on the hill that leads up to the fortress the restaurant was entered via a steep stairway.

The superb restaurant Bagdadi
The restaurant was entered
via a steep stairway

At the top of the stairs was a terrace where some people were eating but we were led to a private room where we were served a sumptuous meal of traditional dishes from Mardin and the region.

We were led to a private room where we were served a sumptuous meal of traditional dishes from Mardin and the region
The food was delicious ….
…and the surroundings gorgeous
This amazing samovar graced our table

What a great way to end an amazing first day on our tour of South-East Turkey!

Such a fabulous view from our
hotel room after dinner

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

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