Saturday 29 May 2010


had a good couple of days in Mardin sightseeing and recharging our energy cells.
the views weren't that good over the plain as there is still a lot of cloud around from the storm that raged through Friday night with a lot of rain also. Weather quieter and more settled yesterday but noisy again last night as a huge turkish wedding reception taking place outside on the front of the hotel. The music was good though !!
Checked out a couple of the syrian churches here as well as the mosques and medressa and there is also a church serving the depleted Armenian community but that was closed,
The syrian church was being renovated (apparently emigres made good in europe and the states are sending money back) but we were still invited in to look around in between the cement bags and wooden scalfolding dodging the chap who was slinging plater at the ceiling. No hard hats and safety my arse!!
Off to Tatvan now hopefully fingers crossed for the state of the roads!

Friday 28 May 2010

Mithridates I Callinicus and his mate Hercules
Corinthian columns on the citadel hill in Urfa supposedly from a 3rd century christian chapel
The pool of Abraham

nemrut to urfa

we looked at another site connected to the Commagene kingdom of Antiochos (68BC?) before leaving for Sanliurfa. this one used to be the capital of the small kingdom and was sited in the valley just below the burial mound . This was Arsameia and contained a couple of caves leading down to cisterns and a sizeable stone relief depicting Mithridates (father of Antiochos) shaking hands with Hercules, thus making both father and son both extremely vain. (Keep up Mr.chris and Will you can google the rest of the history!!)
Antiochus had Appollo,Fortuna,Zeus and Hercules surrounding his burial ground!
And here's one for Marsha...his wife was buried further down the valley with a smaller mound and only a couple of eagles for company!
So on to "Glorious" Urfa so called because they put up a magnificent resistance to. the French in 1918-20. We took the ferry across the Attaturk reservoir bit and then down an extremely bad road before finally getting to the city and once again our little (out of date) street map in Rough Guide plus our fantastic sense of direction (I jest not) found the hotel we were aiming for!
If anyone is coming to Turkey with any guide book they all seem to be out of date as the rate of change that is happening here at the moment is phenomenal.
We wandered around the streets for a bit and got lost in the bazaars very reminiscent of Egypt.
the city was once again bigger than i had anticipated and more modern with the old quarter being diminished bit by bit. There are a lot of middle eastern pilgrims especially syrian and Iranian in town to visit the cave of Abraham supposedly where he was born. Also the pools nearby which saved him when King Nemrut had him hurled from the citadel into fire below.
Cath visited the cave this morning which is now included in a mosque complex.
It was quite moving to be in there together with a few turkish women praying and then an invasion of Iranian(?) women in full black chadurs who were obviously overwhelmed to be there and went along touching the walls......I said a little prayer for world peace to whoever was listening and then left.
We made a detour to Harran this morning supposedly one of the oldest settlements on earth. Mud beehive dwellings in a settlement surrounded by a mud outer wall but we didn't stop as it felt uncomfortable to be there staring at the poverty. (martin ..I know they are probably rich in other ways and if i could have spoken to them I would have got out and wandered around...oh for the gift of language)
After an arduous journey due to the state of the roads ..we are now in Mardin and found a hotel at the third attempt.I thought this place was in the middle of nowhere but apparently a lot of other people found it as well though no Brits.
There is supposedly a wonderful view across the syrian plain from the tea gardens at the top of the hill but it just looks like a dust storm at the moment.

PS if anyone was bothered the place where Safak pensiyon was in the mountains (as i posted before filling it in) Camardi......nearest bigger town Nigde.

Nemrut Dagi and beyond

This stunning site deserves another mention; the view from the top must be 100km in every direction. What meglomaniac decides to build his final resting place on the highest mountain in his kingdom and top it off with the highest mound ever made by human hand. Because of this the place heaves with birds, flowers and butterflies. No good with the names of the latter two but Cinereous Buntings, White throated Robins, Red tailed Wheatears and Pale Rock Sparrows were all over the lower slopes and Snow Finches and Horned Larks were up at the top; a magic place . One roadside flower that I could identify was Hollyhock.

We are now in the desert like area, it is blowing a gale and verging on a sandstorm. I will be giving the binoculars a rest and trying to stop Cath filling up every memory card that I have with pictures of Mardin which seems wonderful from my hotel window, too windy to put up the tent!

Wednesday 26 May 2010

A wild bird , stone bird and a tame bird from my travels, if you see Clem he will tell you what was causing the Black Headed Bunting grief in the first photo because I managed his challenge. The bird watching has been amazing in line with the tremendous variety of ecosystems we have travelled through; cold mountains, semi deserts and lush fertile valleys. We are off for a bit of East Turkey culture near the Syrian border Sanliurfa and Mardin should be different and something we are both looking forward to.

Having left behind the tomato/aubergine growing valleys along the coast as we headed for the mountains we passed through vines and then cherry orchards.
We stayed for twonights at the Sabak Pensiyon whilst Pete and another group of birders got their totals increased! It was fabulous scenery and similar to the Picos so we had some lovely walks and cooled down a bit after the heat of the coast. The family were lovely and Cath had breakfast with them whilst the birders chased snowcocks.this was in the mountains behind Silifke at a place called
From there we went to Gaziantep (pistachio country) calling at a lovely valley on the way for more birds...met up with the other two groups we had seen before.
Finally found hotel recommended in Rough Guide more by luck than judgment..Cath did some brilliant driving through the city !Met a friendly policeman who was delighted to practice his english . Found somewhere for yet another kebab then turned in...was an exciting night with some altercation going on in the next room..a woman shouting and running out onyto the street finally the police were called and it all calmed down (don't tell Mum this bit !!)
It was a shame because the hotel had been really helpful finding us a parking place and people offering to get in the car with Pete to negotiate the one way system.
So off we went tne next day to Birecik near the Syrian border for more birding but also a lovely little town once we got the hang of it. Stayed in the motel by the petrol station ..strange place there was never anyone on reception !! Pete early birding produced a good list and we both walked up a little gorge later on then retreated to the motel to avoid the 33 degrees in the afternoon, Found the owls in the tea garden then went for somethingto eat. Next day more birding and ate at alovely place by the river lucky to be by such an historic river (Euphrates) had one of those moments watching the sun set on the little houses on the opposite bank. Went early this morning back to the gorge and managed to miss standing on a snake(DTM) and also had a surreal conversation with a man with a gun about peanuts we think he was probably after the birds we were trying to find...he was very pleasant though and gave us a vine leaf and pistachio fruit each,
We are now at Nemrut Dagi and have been up to see the burial mound of Antiochus and the famous heads. fabulous views from the top all around ...the flat plains of the Mesopatamia on one side and mountains as far as you can see on the other.
Must go now as the meal has just been put in front of me at our Pansiyon in Karadut village.

Thursday 20 May 2010

left Cirali and travelled east calling at Aspendos and Korprulu canyon along the way. decided to stop at Side and found (eventually) a small campsite attached to a pensiyon just by the ruins. had two nights here having a rest day. On to the Goksu delta via a dramatic coastal road sometimes tarmaced sometimes undergoing reconstruction ! Found a lovely campsite right on the beach just before entering Tasucu. Did a recce of the reserve (v. windy) before returning before dark. Pete did a longer visit early the following morning.
Off to the mountains looking for snowcocks tomorrow.

May 20th near Silifke

A couple of pictures from earlier on the trip after a couple of pictures from my early morning trip tp the Goksu Delta

Sunday 16 May 2010

Moving East

Haven't got too far yet left the cottage this morning and got to Cirali beach. Cath says she is going to stay for ever. The temp has dropped today, a mere 30 making life a bit easier. Saw the eternal flames of the chimera and have settled into a beach bar for beer and fish. What a life. When putting up the tent was disturbed by a family party of Kruper's Nuthatches, hope they come in range tomorrow before I go for an early morning dip.
called in at Kas on the way past to revisit old memories (for cath)
food all the way has been up to the usual standard for Turkey wonderful fresh ingredients..just about to attack a huge warm freshly cooked flat bread....bye for now!

Friday 14 May 2010

Kaya valley

enjoying our stay in the beautiful Kaya valley. From here we have visited Olu Deniz, Butterfly valley(no butterflies but a lovely beach and gorge plus a few old hippies left over from some time ago!) Kammukale, Gemiler(the local beach with wonderful views across the bay) Salikent gorge (walked up some way through the raging torrents....well it was flowing fast) Patara ruins and beach. At the moment sat in a cafe on the front in Fethiye looking at the mountains surrounding the really is a stunning coastline.
Sorry for lack of emails and photos on the blog but we can only access reasonable internet occassionally as the signal tends to be poor and the photos take ages to load.
thanks to all who have emailed us.
Apparently the comments for the blog does not seem to be easy to access so any comments are best emailed to
two more days of milk for our coffee and butter for our bread (access to a fridge!) then we'll be back on the road again looking for the elusive campsites.
over to the bird report: Nothing amazing yet, by my standards limited birdwatching so far, the star bird was the Kruper's Nuthatch tracked down in the local pinewoods and today an albino jay!! (running total now above 110)
football report....Still disappointed with the match, we did not do enough to win and lost to a sucker punch; will I ever see my team in a european final again. Only with some new players!
Pete is now looking like and driving like a Turk but fortunately is skilled at tortoise dodging which is our new sport when driving around.
All for now before battery runs out or I press the wrong button again and Pete abondons me..could be worse places to be!!

Recent Pictures

Can anyone name the tortoise and butterfly to species? The male butterfly was the most intense lilac blue I've ever seen, it had a thin black band around the wing and a white edge.

Monday 10 May 2010

May 7th-10th

one of the froglets that accompanied us on the path through the campsite and joined me in the shower

Enjoyed our stay in Selcuk. A lovely town with much history Ephesus actually moved there when the harbour silted up (forgotten the date sorry) and then back again to the other site. Also it is where the apostle John stayed and also according to some thought the virgin mary ( although no longer a virgin at this point !!) John took charge of her after the death of jesus and she travelled around with him. We visited the Baptistry and the ruins of the cathedral built in his honour to house his tomb. Also another lovely old mosque where we were shown round by the iman who was a liberal sort and didn,t want us to remove our shoes etc as he said allah was in our hearts. Also the museum full of the relics from Ephesus...the town is worth a visit Ali And Will.Also the laid back beach bar at Pamucak !
Had the campsite to ourselves apart from one night when joined by a french speaking couple from switzerland so we conversed over dinner in our best school french.
Then on to Fethiye via the ruins at Priene another interesting site very much quieter then Ephesus and in a beautiful location on the hillside.
We are now in our cottage at Kaya Koy overlooking the mountains and the abandoned Greek village. The owner is a primary school deputy head on secondment for the year and teaching at the local school (her husband works back in the Uk as an educational consultant) can,t get away from teachers !
Sorry everyone but it is very hot here in fact hotter than normal and this is curtailing our siteseeing somewhat although Pete is getting on OK with the birding as he is up at 6 and out in the forest .
Wonderful setting not only a bee eater colony nearby but also displaying roller in the village and Kruper,s nuthatch in the pine forest, hopefully pictures to follow.

Friday 7 May 2010

Bit of a catch up after the weak signals in the hotels. The mosques of Bursa were fascinating but were swamped by the more recent buildings. Now in Selcuck via the bird paradise (Kuscenneti) which had a thriving Dalmation Pelican colony. It seems that the numbers of Herons etc have started to decrease due industrialisation but they were still staggering. A reserve with just one hide, twice as high as the tower hide at Slimbridge. Cath discovered that she could digiscope down my telescope and so here are her first offerings.
We are off to Ephesus tomorrow having visited the museum and the cathedral of 'The Apostle John' which were both very interesting. Selcuck is a delightful and relaxing place, a good stop off point for two days. Had dinner at the campsite practising our French with the only other campers.

Wednesday 5 May 2010

not the bird version 5th may

did have a "rock" picture to post from Bulgaria as apparently Byron passed through Bicer/harmanli on one of his sojourns and there is a momument to commenorate this in the village...but no pics are uploading at the moment anyway !
Into Turkey and across the car ferry from Gelibou we attempted to order some lunch which ended upwith a french speaking turkish lady trying to help out and then Cath being taken to the kitchen to point out which filling we required in our gozleme! Very tasty anyway when we got it sorted!
On the road again we failed to find the campsite or rather we did find it but it was far from open. (at Edek) so pushed on to Bursa. Failed to find the hotel in the outskirts and after the second time onto the ring road were "glad" to see a sign for Holiday Inn....not quite the ethnic small pensiyon we had been looking for......however it turned out well as they offered a free shuttle bus service into the centre so we availed ourselves of that today and saw the sights.
Bursa was once the capital of the ottaman balkans and also has a thriving silk trade so plenty to see including three mosques and a building housing the sarcophagii of the sultan and family with spectacular turquoise tiles and gold islamic caligraphy.
picked up car again from hotel and came here to Bandirma for the night before setting off tomorrow to Selcuk/Ephesus via the Kus Cenneti bird reserve.
just been out for a beer and watched some backgammon played at great speed plus Trabzon football supporters driving through the town with horns blaring ...have yet to find out the significance of that!

5th May Turkey

Have been here for 30 hours, was going to blog last night but was let down by poor connections. Had a change of plans and got here from Greece via the Dardanelles. Churchill must have been mad to try and sail his fleet up this narrow channel, no wonder they were blasted to smithereens. Haven't done much birdwatching except from the car but seen all of those colourful ones; roller, bee eater and hoopoe. Wish I was a more experienced photographer as II would have had my camera with me on the ferry instead of in the car as flocks of Levantine Shearwaters flew across the bows!! The White Stork flew into the field next to the tent in Bulgaria.
Sorry folks the connection is too weak to carry photos, better luck next time.

Monday 3 May 2010

May 2nd Bulgaria

An hour from the Turkish border and having a rest, we have pitched up at a campsite for 48 hours to recharge the batteries. It is like stepping back in time; woken by quail in the dawn chorus, nightingales in every bush and corn buntings singing around the fields. Then you realise you are abroad when most of the larks are crested, the buntings are black headed and both white and black storks fish in the local stream. Clear blue skies and a temp of 30C+ help to make us realise this is not the UK in May. Still undecided where to stop tomorrow, could be Istanbul or we could go onto Bursa and 'do' Istanbul on the way back. We'll see what the traffic and the border crossing are like.
Can someone email me the Euopa Cup final date/time? I don't want to miss the game of the season .
went to a concert in the square at Harmanli last night with the campsite ownner and his parents plus their local village mayor ! The singer was a very famous Bulgarian diva (lili ivanova?) and the town were honoured to have her sing for their celebrations (a centenary of some sort 500 or 600 )She was truely amazing ! 71 years old but dressed like a 20yr old with the most fabulous stilletoed shoes and slinky little black dress ! Quite disconcerting ! However you couldn't fault her voice and she belted out some wonderful "eurovision" numbers and the crowd went wild !!