22-Nov-2011

Neither Here nor There by Bill Bryson


Rating - Read

Bryson is one of the authors I love to reread. His travel books always work as a pick-me-up and many a time I have dreamt about travelling and writing like him (As have many others I believe. When I surfed a site on travel writing, the first warning they gave was that a miniscule few get as lucky as Bryson).

This book follows the author’s travels through Europe. Bryson starts with seeing the Northern lights in Norway and goes in a zig zag manner to finally reach Istanbul. Clearly it is not a guide book meant to tell people where to go in each country and city. It is a tongue-in-cheek observation of the locals. Bryson heaps praise when deserved but his ‘WTF’ observations are much funnier and there are loads of them.

As always, a funny read by a dependable author.

P.S. Maybe I should correct ‘dependable’. Ever since he started writing on non-travel topics, I think results have been mixed. I have still not been able to move beyond the first few pages of his ‘Shakespeare’


The Best American Essays 2009, edited by Mary Oliver

Rating - Read

I have mentioned this series before in my blog but I never thought I would put up a post on this. This for the simple reason that only books I complete find their way to this blog. Since this belongs to the category of books I only dip into, I did not anticipate I would finish reading all the essays in the book. However, being confined to the sick bed for a whole day with just one book can work wonders in making progress even with a book of essays. This makes me wonder if I should take a holiday where all I do is stay in bed and finish reading all the books in my bookshelf. But I digress.

I had earlier read a few stories from this series from some other year and realised most of them centred around the depressing topic of death or illnesses. Luckily this one had mixed essays and none of them too morbid either. My favourite one was Michael Lewis’s ‘The Mansion: A Subprime Parable’ that details the story of Lewis’s family renting a mansion and relating it to how American greed was surely a contributor to the financial collapse.


A Year in Provence


Rating - Read

After my introduction to Peter Mayle as an average author, I watched the rather pleasant ‘A Good Year’ and noted that the movie had been based on Peter Mayle’s book. So when I happened upon this one, I decided to take a chance.

The book is an autobiographical account of the author and his wife’s first year in Provence (and no doubt helped spin off other books based in the South of France). Like so many people the two long to live in constant sunshine, and unlike so many, actually buy a cottage that comes with a winery. Mayle faithfully chronicles each month’s activities – the weather, what the locals do, the progress in their house’s remodelling and so on. The observations are funny, yet show a real love for the neighbourhood and surroundings and a genuine interest in becoming a part of local life.

We learn about the famous lunches that almost always lasts a couple of hours and includes wine, the lack of punctuality, the strong work ethic (when they actually decide to do a job for you) and the weather which is not always sunny.

The book is a pleasant read and launches you into one of those daydreams where you hope to live a relaxed life in the midst of greenery, cultivating grapes or some other vegetable, knowing fully well that you would probably never go the Mayle way. Mayle’s strength lies not so much in concocting detective stories with wafer-thin plots but giving an account of things as they stand.


Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte


Rating - Read

Shoba De (or someone equally silly) had mentioned somewhere that every woman should have known a guy like Heathcliff sometime in her life. Curious, I decided that the book mandated a rereading. Besides, now that I am in love with my IPad and can download classics free of cost, I am quite motivated to read the ones I had read back in school and the ones I have never read.

So I read the book and at the end of it my reaction was (pardon my language) ‘What shit’. Who in their right mind would want to have met a psychopath like Heathcliff!

That apart, the book itself is quite interesting. It is set at a time when locals intermingled and inter married depending on their class and the world outside was a place to be visited if you had the means and the need. The story is told through Mr Lockwood, who decides to rent a house in this cold and depressing northern village, with a keen intent to rejoice in his isolation. He soon realises the need for company and get his housekeeper, Ellen Dean, to tell the story of his neighbour and landlord, Heathcliff.

The story takes everyone back by twenty – twenty-five years. Heathcliff is an orphan, taken in by landowner Earnshaw. Earnshaw’s daughter, Catherine finds a kindred soul in Heathcliff’s free spirit, similar to her own. However, when it is time for marriage, she goes with the sensible choice of her time and marries Linton, from the only other family in the same class. Heathcliff is jilted and has his revenge by marrying Linton’s sister. Meanwhile, Earnshaw is dead and his son Hindley is wasting away after the death of his wife, post-child birth. Heathcliff usurps Hindley’s wealth. Catherine has a child and so does Heathcliff. Hindley, Catherine, Linton and his sister, all die one by one.

The stage is set for Heathcliff to continue seeking revenge on the next generation, which is when Mr Lockwood becomes a casual bystander. The story continues as the saga of a man, driven by love and malice to wreck so many lives.

The settings match the story – the village is covered in dense snow most of the time, there are windy cliffs nearby and one needs to be hardy to survive in good health in the area.

The writing, character development and the story are all captivating. There is no doubt that Heathcliff is a special character indeed and fascinates for being so unapologetic about his intent and action. Yet, suggesting that every woman should have known such a character shows a tendency towards masochism.


From the Holy Mountain – William Dalrymple


Rating - Read

This was my travel companion for the Turkey trip. As I have probably mentioned before, I like reading books either set in the places I am visiting or those that give a historical context. The book’s subtitle says ‘A journey in the shadow of Byzantium’. While not strictly about Turkey, it still covers a huge swath of land that saw early Eastern Christianity.

Dalrymple sets out to trace the journey of John Moschos in The Spiritual Meadow. Moschos was a Byzantine monk from the late 500s who travelled through Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt, in the process documenting a lot of life back then.

For most of us used to pictures from Western Christianity, this is a fascinating journey. During my last year’s trip to Egypt, the Mediterranean looking Jesus was a bit of a surprise. Despite knowing that Christianity had its origins from thereabouts, actually seeing a non-cherubic baby Jesus is quite an eye-opener. This fascination continued in Turkey as well. Thanks to the book, I also began to notice the subtle features of frescoes that showed the transition from earlier religions to the monotheist Christianity.

Dalrymple traces Moschos’s journey but as can be seen from the list above, most of these are not easy countries to visit. Even in the relatively easy countries, the areas visited are not especially safe. Dalrymple gives a current day context to his travels. More often that not, it is quite depressing to read how current day politics and religious priorities have contributed to the slow decay of oriental Christian sites.

Some of the stories, both current and historical are wonderfully bizarre and provide much entertainment. Where the rituals have survived even now, it is amusing to note how much of oriental superstitions prevail in a religion more famous for western superstitions. Djinns and other such characters are happily believed in and the pope is a central villain for most of the orthodox types (One of them even sincerely urges the Catholic Dalrymple to change before it is too late).


And other books

Rating - Read if you have the time

I have been quite lazy about updating my reading list and begin by clubbing a couple of books meant for ‘timepass’ reading

By the water cooler by Parul Sharma – A breezy read about two girls who quit their jobs with an ad agency to move to the corporate world. The heroine (whose name I now forget) learns about office politics, taking responsibility and falling in love. Her friend learns about organising a wedding and finding her true calling. Excellent if you are taking a two hour late night flight and can’t sleep but can’t tax your brains either

My friend Sancho by Amit Verma – The premise is quite interesting. Journalist hero ends up being present at a staged shoot-out that has killed a possibly innocent Muslim. Instead of further exploring how such situations come to be, the story turns out to be a love story, with the Journalist hero pursuing the innocent man’s daughter. Cute read but it could have really been so much more.


14-Nov-2011

Puskhar Camel Fair 2011


We knew we were entering Pushkar when we saw a bunch of policemen diverting traffic that comprised doddering state buses, eager tourists in air conditioned cars, masses of locals footing it and the camels looking serene in the midst of all this.

The Pushkar camel fair is an annual melee that attracts people from all over Rajasthan. People walk through the deserts and villages with camels, horses and cattle and camp in Pushkar’s fair grounds. At the end of ten days, the animals would have been bought and sold. On the side, the stocking of vessels, clothes and knickknacks for the year would have happened. Everyone goes back home, ready to come back the next year.

It was sheer coincidence that we had ended up in Pushkar at this time of the year but what a good thing to have happened.

The driver dropped us off at the outskirts of the town. We made our way past the crowds and reached the Rajasthan Tourist Information centre (No doubt set up to cater to the burgeoning tourist crowd, who were luckily outnumbered 1 to 5 by the locals...yes, yes we were tourists too). The helpful volunteers handed us a brochure listing all the delights that were in store in the coming days.

A quick scan revealed that the camel dance competition had already taken place the previous day. We were disappointed but could not stay so given the huge rush of colour and action around us


Clutching our brochure with its map, we tried to figure our way around. It became amply clear after a while that the map's creator had used his artistic license. Where we expected a vast, paved main road, we noticed a tiny muddy road stuffed with people.

We managed to make our way through the crowds to our first stop, the Brahma temple. Pushkar’s avatar as camel trade hotspot is only an aside. On regular days, people come to visit one of Pushkar 400+ temples and famous ghats. The Brahma temple is especially special since there are very few temples to a god who has been cursed by mythology to remain temple-less

Sadly when we saw the crowds, we decided to quickly abort the visit and instead go in search of food

This also took us through a crowded street

But food has always been a bigger draw than religion and we stuck at it. Raju’s restaurant was tucked away on the first floor. Raju (or his Man Friday) made us scribble out our orders. After this unorthodox start, everything else went smoothly – the food, the calm above the streets and the undisrupted view of the ghats.

Fortified, we explored the ghats and noticed the stern sign issuing orders on decorum to ‘foreigners’ –

Lest you think that Pushkar is all work and no fun, there were also posters like this –

(Gleeful boys no doubt waiting for the belles to show up)

And this

Doesn't the gentleman in the middle look like the dictator of a minor country? Surely, the first gentleman is being sought by Interpol for some crimes?

Taking in all these little features of Pushkar, we finally reached the mela grounds where all action was afoot. We hired a young man's cart to take us through the camp

The sight was unbelievable. Tents, animal and people stretched for miles ahead.

Our young driver updated us on various aspects of camel trade. (If you are curious – a camel costs between 30000 Rs and 50000 Rs). I loved the cute designer motifs on this one and was nearly tempted…

There are also designer camel accessories –

Our day in Pushkar came to an end with a kabbadi match between locals and outsiders

The crowds could not have been more attentive or enthusiastic had it been IPL. D and I were drawn into it as well, and watched from the sidelines cheering along with the locals.

We were ready to keep going on but these darn timebound travels do put a stop to such plans.

Maybe next year?


p.s. We heard an advertisement on radio on the way back to Jaipur. Stuck innocuously between two romantic Shah Rukh numbers, the male voice laughed and said ‘In reel life, you can survive gun shots, but in real life can you?’ Then sobering, the voice continued ‘Bodyguards are of no use when bullets hit you’. Finally the radio ad concluded with ‘use so and so brand bullet proof vests’. Surely we were in the same country..

I’m not twenty four…I’ve been nineteen for five years by Sachin Garg

Rating - Do not read

When I signed up for BlogAdda’s book review programme, I had dreams of laying my hands on free copies of books. I knew they would be unknown authors, but then a book is a book, right?

Er..wrong.

Atleast if this one is anything to go by.

I have been hearing for a while that Chetan Bhagat has spawned a new generation of writers who appeal to the humongous group of people who can speak English but just about. Sachin Garg is clearly one such author. I have no qualms with Bhagat-repliacas and I agree that anything that makes someone read is worth writing.

However, there is a difference between writing stories that appeal to the average Joe and just bad writing. Simple–to-read sentences should not translate to bad grammar and bad spelling, both of which find a place in this book. At the very least, the editors should have cut out repetitive sentences.

The protagonist, Saumya Kapoor, is a B-School graduate (not again) who is posted to a factory in Northern Karnataka thanks to a HR mix-up about her gender. Saumya gets there, learns about safety issues in steel factories and falls in love. This sums up the story.

In the first half, Saumya sounds like the kind of flaky character that could have been dreamt up by men who have always seen Delhi University girls from afar but never actually had the luck to get to know one. Saumya spends a lot of time shopping or talking about shopping. Then spends a lot of time visualising how she would impress everyone with her sexiness.

After Saumya lands up in the steel factory, the story picks up. The author puts his personal experiences to good use, though the series of gruesome incidents that happen are given lesser space than Saumya’s shopping stories.

Finally Saumya is made to fall in love with a Hugh Grant-look-alike who is high on drugs and alcohol. (Again, author’s fantasy scenario on what sort of guys DU girls dig?). Saumya reforms him and turns him into a ‘good boy’.

The most interesting part of this book however is the bit where Hugh Grant-look-alike and Saumya sleep with each other. Has Chetan Bhagat finally reshaped the Indian youth’s moralities? Is it now considered ok to sleep with someone before getting married? Infact, is it ok to sleep with someone just because you love them and not because you are going to get married to them shortly? If this book is representative of today’s lower middle-class youth, then perhaps there is change afoot. Methinks it is an interesting sociological theory to be examined…

When you think about it, the story is really not bad. However, if this is what is being consumed by thousands and thousands of people, then it would be a huge favour to the nation if someone did a good job of editing the book.

p.s. This is the author's second book. What else can I say!


13-Nov-2011

Jaipur


Given how intensive a ten-day trip of Rajasthan can get, we had long decided to tackle one place at a time. Mount Abu and Udaipur are accessible by train from Mumbai if one does not mind the 14 – 15 hour overnight journey. Jaipur, on the other hand, requires some planning to get a good deal on the tickets. We did it over a three-day weekend.

Where we stayed –

Practically everyone in Jaipur has an ancient lineage and an old haveli which they have converted into a hotel. We stayed at the Deviniketan, which was quite well rated on Tripadvisor. We quite liked the non-fussy Admiral Singh who runs it and its central location in C-scheme, which is 2.5 kilometers from the Old City.

What we did –

Jaipur has phases to it. The nearby Amber area was where it all started. The Old City in Jaipur came next and then the rest of the city developed.

It is easy to hire cars to do a rushed tick-off tour of all the places in one day. However, we preferred to savour each place. This meant on the first day, we managed to get through exactly three places in the Old City – City Palace, Hawa Mahal and Jantar Mantar.

All three places have helpful audio guides and also regular guides with published rates. The good thing about audio guides is you can do the tour at your own pace. The downside is that the numbers are not clearly marked and that makes for a bit of running around trying to figure out where the next number is located.

The City Palace had some delicate carvings on the buildings and gave an overall feeling of being quite large. Inside, the two things that impressed me most were the clothes museum and the armoury. Some of the clothes were so large, you rather wondered about the size of the kings who wore them. The armoury had all kinds of weapons from them – state of the art I would say.

Hawa Mahal is quite pretty and amazing, mostly for the wonderful jaalis through which the queens watched the world go by.

Jantar Mantar, on the other hand, was a bit of a mental challenge. The place was filled with all sorts of astronomical instruments. It did not help that by the time we got there, it was nap time and we had just finished a heavy Rajasthani lunch. I was ready to snooze (which I shamelessly did for half an hour in the lawns under the trees). After that, trying to figure out the latitudes and meridians was a bit painful. I wish we had taken a human guide who would have simplified it for us, instead of taking an audio guide.

With just these three, we called it a day, without having visited the Birla Mandir, the Birla museum for personal effects of the Birla family (modest, wouldn’t you say?), any of the normal museums (which was a pity) and the sunset from a temple filled with monkeys.

The next day we went to Pushkar via Ajmer. Ajmer has a famous Dargah that is super-crowded. Pushkar has a famous brahma temple. Personally, I could have lived without seeing those. However, we were lucky that the camel fair was going on and that made the trip worth it (separate post on that)

On the last day, we set off early to see Amber Fort. Though the place was already crowded by the time we got there and we could not take up the elephants to go to the top of the fort and had to stick to our car.

Amber Fort is a good place to potter about with an audio guide. The first challenge is getting hold of one on a crowded day, since they have limited number of machines. The second is figuring out where each number is (it is worse than the Old City). The third is getting around the disjointed quarters accessible by numerous stairs and ramps placed in random order. It was great fun though. The complex was large enough to absorb all the tourists and you could have enough privacy to let your mind wander to what it was like back in the days of the yore.

We could have seen Jaigarh Fort after this, but got lazy and just decided to act like decadent tourists, spending a bomb on a luxurious lunch.

What we ate –

The Rajasthani lunch at LMB on MI Road is so filling that at some point, your stomach no longer registers the food. But a good experience.

Devi niketan was located close to Four Seasons (not ‘The’ Four Seasons) and Little Italy, where we got a chance to see how the upper middle class locals ate (dress up mostly in fancy Indian clothes and go out in large groups)

The splurge meal was at the terrace in the Rambagh Palace, run by the Taj. After the hustle and bustle of three days, it was shocking to be somewhere this quiet and classy. Not to mention, the palace itself gave us a glimpse of what it was to have been rich and owning those views.

How we got around –

We took autos to the Old City and within the Old City, one can even take cycle rickshaws. For Amber, a car is required.

Where to shop –

Jaipur is a shopper's paradise. MI road in the Old City has everything to cater to the tourists. You can pick up textiles, lac jewellery, silver jewellery, blue pottery, jhoothis and other stuff here. However, if you have the patience to go to the specialists, then here is a list to get started with –

Johari Bazaar – Jewellery and furniture and tie & dye

Sanganer village – blue ceramic pottery

Maniharon ka Rasta – Lac Jewellery

Pahar Gunj – semi precious stones and silver jewellery

There is also a state emporium run by the Rajasthan government opposite the Ajmer Gate, if you don’t want to bargain.

Of course, after all this research we did the tourist thing and let ourselves be lead into one of the many shops that have tie-ups with the travel agencies.


02-Nov-2011

Turkey Factsheet


Travel, both work and personal, has meant a long break from blogging. So I get off to a restart with my Turkey trip factsheet.

The trip to Turkey turned out to be a solo visit, thanks to D’s lack of vacation time. At any rate, he had been to the country before and was not keen on visiting it again yet. This meant that my itinerary was shaped to some extent by my desire to stick to a large group rather than travel alone. I contacted Backpacker Co. who did a very average job of putting together the trip. The itinerary worked out well but their service could have been better. Their partner on the other side, Fez Travels, was quite efficient and came recommended by the Lonely Planet.

This is how it went –

ISTANBUL – Spent 3 days here while going and 1 day on the return. Istanbul is a fascinating city – a crossroads of sorts where the new jostles for space with the old and where the European veneer hides an Asian heart.

Tourists normally stay in the old city, close to the central Sultanahmet area which hosts the Hippodrome, the Hagia Sophia, the Topkapi Palace and the Blue Mosque. You need one day for the old city tour. I did it with a group (Plan Tours) but it is quite convenient to do it alone. There is a good tram network that stops all the sites and I noticed audio guides were available at most places.

I spent one day on a Bhosphorous Cruise (highly recommended), which was combined with a visit to Dolmabache Palace (Can be skipped if there is no time).

I went for an evening to walk around the Istikal Street in the newer parts of the city to check out the local population and tourists browse through stores stocking contemporary brands.

One evening was spared for the Turkish Hamam experience (must do) at the 500 year old Cemberlitas Haman.

An acquaintance was kind enough to meet me for dinner at The House Café in Ortakoy, located on the Bhosphorus. It is mesmerizing to sit by the Straits, taking in the wonderful Turkish food. If one wants to spend more money and check out Istanbul's hip nightlife, popular nightclub Reina, also on the banks of the Bhosphorus is the way to go.

On my way back, I spent a whole day in the Eygptian Spice market and the Grand Bazaar buying various gifts and souvenirs. Both are worth exploring just for the bustle and worth buying in, if you are upto some solid bargaining (think half price).

I stayed at Hotel Polat Demir on the first three days. The staff was friendly and it was close to a tram stop. However, the air conditioning made noises and spewed dirt on all three days of my stay. This would not be my first choice for stay. On the last day, I was at the Q-Inn and quite liked the place. It was close to the Tram stop, walking distance from the old city and the bazaars. No noisy air conditioners either. Besides I have come to realize that the old city is full of hilly ups and downs and if you are not located on flat ground, just walking around can be painful on the knees.

GALLIPOLI – Since I was on a tour from this leg onwards, I had little choice on the places to visit. Though except Gallipoli, I would have definitely visited other places.

Gallipoli is the site of the infamous landings by the British and their allies in an attempt to access Russia via the sea route, during WWI. Many Australians and New Zealanders lost their lives here and it has become an important stop for these nationalities during their Turkey visit. I realized later that many Indians had also lost their lives there. Yet, unless one is a WWI buff, the detour is quite unnecessary.

We stayed the night in Cannakale, a small little town which I might have explored had the hotel been located somewhere centrally. The Iris Hotel where I stayed was comfortable and a good place for a night’s rest.

TROY and PERGAMUM– Ignorant me did not realize till I began planning for the trip that Troy is located in Turkey. There is nothing to actually see in the site, since it is full of broken walls which are still being excavated. Yet the idea of actually standing in Troy is fascinating and you can almost see the wooden horse in the green fields that now cover the spot. Besides it is UNESCO World Heritage site

Pergamum, on the other hand, is filled with beautiful Hellenistic and Roman ruins. We spent all our time on the top of the hill (reached by a quick ride on a cable car) which covered the famous temple, library and amphitheatre. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to see the Asclepion, the famous ancient medical centre from which the serpent sign for medicine originated.

EPHESUS – This is again filled with Hellenstic and Roman ruins and is only second in importance to Pompeii given the scale of excavations. A whole town lies, right from the wash area in the front, to the streets that lead past public toilets, libraries, rumoured brothels and amphitheatre. The special entry ticket to mansions of the Roman rich men was worth it. Ephesus is simply marvelous in its scale and the crowds spoke volumes about its popularity. Our meek-voiced guide gave up trying to keep the group together and offered snippets of wisdom to anyone who cared to ask her questions. An audio tour would be a good choice here.

We also stopped at the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World. Only 1 pillar of the 127 original ones stands today and it is a bit difficult to imagine the scale of the original temple. A visit to the Ephesus Museum helped us get perspective on some of the ruins.

We stayed overnight at Kusadesi, a vibrant little town with a lovely promenade and brightly lit restaurant area. I was at the Ozelick Hotel, facing the promenade but quite ordinary otherwise. A lot of people also stay in Selcuk, a smaller town.

PAMUKKALE – Pamukkale has been a medical centre since ancient times, when the ill and feeble came for a dip in the thermal spring atop the hill. A series of ruins exist here as well. But the star attraction is the cotton-like calcium terraces through which hot water springs flow. The sight is quite ethereal and not something that one would see normally. Pamukkale, alongwith Cappadocia, would be on my list of ‘sights which you can see only in Turkey’. Not surprisingly, both are UNESCO WH sites

I parted ways with my group tour here and took an overnight bus to Cappadocia.

CAPPADOCIA – The region is famous for volcanic rocks that have been eroded to pillars and mounds over the centuries. Early Christian monks made their homes in these pillars, inhabiting the caves that had been formed by the erosion of the soft Tuff rock, protected by a layer of the harder Basalt.

The tours are split into Northern and Southern Cappadocia tours and you usually do one on each day. I did the Northern Cappadocia tour, which included the famous Goreme Open air museum with its beautiful frescoes from early Christianity and the Pasabag Fairy Chimneys that make you pinch yourself to see if such things indeed exist.

The Southern Cappadocia tour includes a visit to underground cities. Being slightly claustrophobic, I decided to forgo the visit. Besides I was getting a bit tired of being on my feet daily.

There were numerous treks that one can do through the valleys. The highlylight of my trip was the hot air balloon ride. It is expensive (mine cost USD 200) but a wonderful experience akin to being on a magic carpet.

I stayed at the Cappadocia Palace hotel, an old Greek house converted into a cheery little hotel. This was based in the town of Urgup. A lot of people stay in cave hotels in the town of Goreme.

Cappadocia is not known for its efficient planning and organization unlike other parts of Turkey and it is better to reconfirm everything twice and assume people will mess up things. This way you won’t end up with your baggage having been dropped off in some other hotel or you getting off in Goreme when your hotel pick up is actually at Urgup.

GENERAL NOTES

Turkey has amazing food. Most hotel breakfast buffets have all sorts of cheese and you can just live on them. The kebabs are amazing too but better to stick to kebabs for only one meal a day since they can get quite heavy


Best time to visit is actually before and after the peak season of July, August. I went in end-Sep/early – Oct. It was rainy one day in Istanbul but otherwise the daytime temperature was usually 22 – 26 degrees C and the nights were around 15 – 18 degrees C.


Book for the Cappadocia balloon tour in advance. Or else you won’t get the first slot for which the pick up is at 5 a.m. Later slots mean you can’t see the sun rise and you get late for your day tour.


It is quite convenient to take domestic flights. Buses are good but the price differential between flights and buses should not really matter unless you are on a budget.


Souvenirs – The delectable Turkish delight made of nuts. Olive oil, apple tea and cheese are also good buys. If you are in the mood for expensive stuff, there are carpets, leather jackets and beautiful silver jewelry to be had. I saw some beautiful lace table clothes at the Cappadocia sights but unfortunately did not buy them and could not find them later on. Keep your shopping for the last day so that you are not travelling the whole of Turkey with fifteen boxes of Turkish Delight.


WiFi - Every hotel had free WiFi and that made all the diffrence to the trip. Thanks to an IPad, Skype and WiFi, staying in touch was no problem.


Turkey also has some wonderful beaches and if I had had the time or company, I would have definitely chilled out for a couple of days in one of them. Worth including in the itinerary.