Review: On the Trail of the Apostles in Cappadocia
Escorted Tour - Coach
40 people found this review helpful
Tempted by a promotional leaflet in one of those mini catalogues aimed at us 'silver' folk we made an impulsive booking for this trip. Originally I hoped to book for the week to include my birthday but this was fully booked so we went a week later. This proved to be very beneficial. After booking we discovered a family member and also a friend had both made this identical trip so we had the benefit of for-knowledge. Both advised us that we should book the two recommended add-on packages, one for dinner and some evening entertainment and one for lunches and admission prices to be included. This put the 'head-line' price up considerably but at the end of the day still proved to be extremely good value. The tour was advertised as a B and B trip using 4 and 5 star hotels to local star-ratings. So to the trip itself. We flew from Manchester, arriving in Antalya at 11.30 p.m. local time. We were met and taken to our waiting coach. Unfortunately only 7 passengers for that coach were on that flight – the rest arriving from Glasgow and their flight was delayed for about an hour! Not the fault of the organizers! However we had the first inkling of what our guide would be like in the days to come. He explained the situation, introduced himself and also our driver and offered us a continual supply of Turkish delight. He appeared calm and courteous and even in that initial 'waiting time' made interesting conversation with us all. Once all the group had arrived we were taken to what proved to be the poshest hotel we had ever experienced. We had a family suite which was enormous and luxurious with a wonderful sea view. Even though it was now three in the morning the hotel had laid on a Mediterranean buffet thus putting new meaning to midnight feasts. Our guide told us he had changed the schedule slightly and as it was so late he suggested we did not travel to Cappadocia the next day, which would mean a very early start, but instead we would have a lie in and then a leisurely boat trip on one of the few navigable rivers, heading to the Mediterranean. Lunch would be included and there would be a small bazaar on the beach. We would then have a second night in the same hotel. This was an instant improvement on the experience of our relations who had warned us to be prepared for very little sleep the first night! That first day was indeed relaxing and of course meant a second night in luxury. One small disappointment at this point,for some though not for us. Our guide explained that a planned trip to the Roman theatre at Aspendos could not happen as very recently the government had started a restoration programme and the site was closed until June. We were assured there would be an alternative , similar site visited. The boat trip and lunch were most enjoyable and the day was suitably short for us to recover from our flights. We were back at the hotel before 5.00p.m. and able to rest before the evening meal. Dinner comprised amazing 'starter' buffets, a choice of hot dishes and sumptious desert buffets.Drinks were not included but there was a good choice at reasonable prices. So ended the first day! The next day we did make the long coach trip to the Cappadocia region. We were woken at 6.00a.m. as arranged. Breakfast was yet another extensive buffet, taken at leisure. Once on the coach and in transit, our guide proved to be extremely knowledgeable, and as the day progressed we also enjoyed his sense of humour. As a group, we found we had 'gelled' being like-minded and easy going. We were mostly pensioners and later I discovered some were well into their eighties! Some of the group were a tad younger and still working but we all mingled at the 'stops' and all watched out for each other, with a special eye kept on the two very elderly gentlemen who relied on their walking sticks but participated in nearly every walk at the various sites. i just hope to be as fit in 20 years time! Today we crossed the Taurus mountains which were stunningly beautiful in the sunshine. The roads were steep and winding, though well made up, and our driver inspired our confidence at all times. We had coffee stops at regular intervals but the first long stop of the day was at Konya. here we visited a beautiful mosque and museum. Our guide, a Muslim, was equally at home telling us of the Christian history of Turkey. Indeed by the end of the trip we felt we had had bonus lessons in history, archaeology, theology, philosophy, economy and languages. We also experienced his empathy, sympathy care and compassion on more than one occasion and were of one mind when we said he would make a good politician, with the emphasis on good in the true sense of the word! By now the weather had changed (with the altitude) and it was bitterly cold and snowing! The warmth of the Med was way behind us. Lunch was in the Turkish equivalent of a motorway service area but, boy!, could they teach us a thing or two! Coach parties were in abundance but so well catered for. Guides, pre-booked for their parties, which meant large groups were expected, led to reserved areas, and then invited to partake of more buffets! Three courses again. Waiters hovered to take drink orders and to clear away dirty dishes. We could learn a thing or two and I will hesitate to willingly use our service areas again. The next stage of the journey was over extensive flat plains and we were recommended to have a snooze. One of the stops later was at a caravanserai. This was fascinating – an early hostelry for the travelling folk with their camels etc. As we neared the next night's stop, we were warned that we could not expect the same luxury in the hotels in this area. Our hotel for the next three nights was four star (local rating, remember) and was not as good as the first. It was a series of apartments, each reasonably comfortable, but we found the rooms cold and it didn't help that there was always a walk to the building that housed the restaurant. Meals, too, were less sumptuous, though perfectly acceptable. Some of the group experienced other niggling shortfalls, but this has to be just my account! The next day was still bitterly cold, though it stayed dry. We set off at 9.00a.m. and visited some of the many amazing volcanic sites. The scenery is unlike any other in the world and we were spell-bound! Amongst these formations were also ancient dwellings and we all had the opportunity to try real Turkish coffee in one of them.We had another great lunch before visiting the famous open air museum at Goreme (a UNESCO world heritage site). Here there were many tiny churches dedicated to various saints all built into the rock face and many with amazing examples of frescoes still well preserved. Before dinner that day we were invited to a whirling Dervish ceremony yet another unique experience combining the theatrical with the spiritual. We had one more complete day in the Cappadocia region and this time we drove through some of the fascinating valleys. At the places we stopped our guide led us on some short, not too arduous walks to wonderful view points. There was also the opportunity to shop at some of the stalls set up by local craftsmen. Before lunch we visited a carpet factory. This was far more interesting that I had anticipated and I very much enjoyed this 'commercial' visit. This was followed by more valleys, more villages and an unscheduled visit to a larger bazaar. Our guide was good at fitting in 'extras' for us, always after consultation with our wishes. We enjoyed a real treat after the evening meal that day. we were taken to a Turkish Folklore evening. The setting was in a large cave and was a mix of wonderful ceremonial dancing and, in between these dances, a truly night club atmosphere where we were encouraged to join in the dancing. Drinks and nibbles were provided and continually topped up, all free. We all enjoyed this hospitality.The highlight was the belly dancer, enjoyed for her beauty by the men, no doubt, but from my perspective it was also a beautiful and very accomplished art form and delightful to watch. The downside was a late night followed by an early start to begin the long drive back to the warm and welcoming Mediterranean area. Another 5.30 a.m. wake up call and on the road after breakfast but the scenery was lovely in the early sun.Our first stop was one of the many underground cities that Turkey is famous for. again our guide had made an excellent job of explaining how they came about and bringing to life the concept of persecutors and the persecuted and how the cities were planned for survival and prolonged existence. History has never been so enthralling. On again to find another caravanserai which was a great contrast to the one visited on our outward journey. This was truly vast! We were told maybe 150 camels could be sheltered, fed and watered here with the attending herdsmen as they traveled the trade routes.. Lunch this day was not so good as the restaurant was very busy and less well organised. Ah well, we could not have a totally perfect trip. That would have been expecting too much. I doubt we'd have expected anything better had we not been so spoilt up to now. To compensate, the hotel that night was even posher than the original one! Shame we only had one night here. We woke to our 'last day'. Like all the rest it was full of interest and as ever, our guide was ahead of the game. He took us to another unscheduled place – the ancient site of Perge where we did see the ruins of a vast theatre and stadium. As on so many of the previous excursions we were the first arrivals so were able to wander around before the next coach-load arrive. We asked our guide how he managed this so often. He smiled and said he was just doing his job! Again his knowledge and command of English brought the past alive for us. From here we went to the old town of Antalya where we walked down to the harbour and back through the winding streets passing little shops and stalls before some free time to shop or have a coffee. Between coffee and lunch we were taken to a gold and jewelry centre. Although fascinating and beautiful we were subjected to some high pressure sales pitch. It was fun to be wearing four fabulously beautiful and highly expensive rings all at once but I was not allowed to take a photo of my hand!! We did escape without making a purchase. Lunch today was a little different with our guide taking us to a restaurant that provided a sit-down meal as opposed to the habitual buffet. The setting and service were more opulent but the menu less exciting! However it was yet another Turkish experience. from here it was a visit to a very exclusive leather fashion house where we were treated to a short but highly professional fashion show. The sales pitch afterwards was far less pushy. Indeed those not interested in buying just sat and chatted amongst themselves.We actually felt this visit was a waste of time for us as we would far rather have spent the time seeing more of the countryside or the ancient sites but no doubt such visits subsidise the cost of the trip and this had certainly been a bargain. From here it was onwards to our final hotel. This was once again a lovely place, though not quite as luxurious as the other coastal ones. Once unpacked we rested for a while before going for a walk round the town. We wandered happily through some of the shopping areas and also down some small side streets and then found our way to the sea front. This was not a beach area but the coastal views was lovely in the twilight. We then returned to our hotel for our 'last supper'. it had been a truly delightful holiday and our impression of our guide was that he was the best we've encountered. Indeed, we intend to return to Turkey in two years time to participate in a tailor made trek through the Cappadocia region under the leadership of our same guide who, as well as being a tour guide, leads a variety of treks. We have arranged to keep in touch and maybe entertain him and his family when they visit England next year! Our flight home was early morning so we had yet another early morning call and were back in England by coffee time! What a great week it had been!
40 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.