We've embraced the 'Slow' philosophy as a way of life - what's the hurry?. Taking time to smell the roses (usually on a glass of Viognier) is more our style. Having spent more then 3 years on the road, slow travel has become a way of life. We have revised our plans completely and now focus on quality, not quantity, slowly.
I’m sitting in a lovely hotel room in the Ottoman town of
Eskisehir in central (sort of) Turkey. As I write I’m watching snow falling and the
outside temperature is about 1 degree!! So yes, we are discontent. I know, I
know, we lead the life of Riley but the weather is really getting us down.
Anyhoo, we decided to splash out of this lovely hotel built
from a collection of beautifully renovated Ottoman houses with original wooden
floors and ceilings and HOT SHOWERS. Didn’t fancy camping in carpark in Ankara
in the snow.
Since Dubrovnik we’ve been plagued with poor karma for hot
showers. Reasons include; burst pipes (Dubrovnik), death in the family so not
open (Albania), campsite closed (Macedonia), no hot water for no good reason
(Kavala) frozen pipes (Edirne). So that, combined with lots of ‘wild camping’
and bad weather led us to some luxury in Eskisehir.
Our last points of call in Greece saw us in the Evros Delta
where we saw some interesting raptors, but not much in the way of water birds.
They seemed to be over near the Turkish border where you need a guide, a permit,
and 2 weeks notice (us, not the birds).
Next stop was the Dadia forest where the Visitor’s Centre
kindly let us camp in their carpark. Next morning they took us up to the bird
hide and we saw lots of vultures and other interesting birds*. It was really
worth while. The vultures get fed once a week, so hang around sometimes in hope
of a feed. I love vultures, so graceful in the air and so ungainly on the
ground, preying on the sick and the lame.
We then crossed the border into Turkey and camped near
Edirne. We didn’t know much about this town but it sounded interesting and we
were not disappointed. Once an Ottoman capital, it was heaving with beautiful
15th century mosques, covered markets, caravansaries and loads of
character. Plus we had a sunny day! Day one was so cold we gave up about 3pm
but the next day was lovely and we made the most of it.
Mosque - Edirne
One of the mosques still had the entire complex intact,
consisting of hospital, medical school, insane asylum and so on. They treated
the insane with water therapy, music and aromatherapy – wonderful. The Medical
school had brilliant, if rather amusing, displays.
Medical School - don't you love the hats?
Physiotherapy - Ottoman style
Scientific Experiment involving a rooster and a snake.
Next stop Istanbul and all the major tourist sites, we did
most of them but it was so cold that we really didn’t do Istanbul justice. It
was heaving with tourists and queues were ludicrous. We paid a guide 40 lira to just
get us in the door at Aya Sofia to avoid an hour long queue (at 9am). This is a
real show-stopper, built in the 6th century. It has ongoing
renovations, as you can imagine, so scaffolding man was there, but we could
still how amazing it is.
Grand Bazaar - Istanbul
The Blue Mosque was also fabulous but full of tourists, so
it really loses something. We were spoilt in Edirne with stunning mosques and
no crowds, allowing us to absorb the peaceful and serene atmosphere these
building exude. The Muezzin at the Blue Mosque must have had a REALLY big loud
speaker as he outdid them all, and woke us up each morning at 5.30am.
So that leads us to Eskisehir, town we hadn’t heard of until
3 days ago. The charming old Ottoman quarter has been renovated and a joy to
wander around, even in the snow.
We have now officially left Europe and have crossed in to
Asia. After 3 years, 8 months, 15 days and approximately 42,00 kms, we have
finally left Europe and are really starting on our trek home. Looks like we are
really going to do it this time!!
Next stop Ankara and the getting of Uzbek and Kazakh visas.
Update: We are now just outside Ankara, it’s so cold my nose
almost fell off and it’s going to be MINUS 7 tonight!