julia dimon/for metro toronto
Mom was nervous: Her only daughter was embarking on a solo mission to Turkey. Though she knew that Turkey is a modern, Westernized nation drawing some 14 million tourists yearly, she still had nagging concerns.
In order to stay safe, meet new friends and satisfy mom, I booked a pass on the popular Fez Bus.
A hop-on-hop-off coach tour, Fez Bus takes backpackers along a circuit from Istanbul towards the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, through Cappadocia, the capital Ankara and finally back to Istanbul.
Much like Europe’s Busabout, Fez Bus follows a loop, picking up and dropping off passengers every two days.
Fez Bus is backpacking made easy. It’s worry free transportation with organized optional activities and budget accommodation.
For the traveller who wants to relax, meet other young backpackers and hit Turkey’s hot spots without having to stress over the details, Fez is the perfect choice.
My first few days of tour bus travel were packed with history. We took an optional tour to Gallipoli’s battlefields, where half a million Aussie, Kiwi and Turkish soldiers were killed during WWI. Though I was just learning about them, these memorials were of special significance to the many Aussie travellers who dominated our bus.
Next day, there was a free guided tour of Troy and a giant wooden replica of the legendary Trojan horse. Our guide summarized the story of the Trojan War, a tale made famous by the epic poet Homer (not to mention Brad Pitt.) As we walked through the architectural wonder, we saw the ruins of fortified walls, collapsed columns and sophisticated ancient aqueducts. Since they were in shambles, it was hard to imagine what the city of Troy looked like back in the day.
In contrast, Ephesus, one of the world’s best-preserved classical cities, was a dream for the imaginatively challenged tourist. With its ancient theatres and intricately designed library façade, the ruins of Ephesus depict how a Roman city of toga wearing folk would have operated.
Though it was an incredible site and I’d paid 40 lira (about $35) for the half-day tour, I had a hard time enjoying the experience. Melting under the intense noon heat, it was near-impossible to concentrate on the tour itself.
At every opportunity, I scurried to find patches of shade and cursed myself for not bringing a bottle of water, a hat, an umbrella or a personal assistant to fan my sweaty body.
julia dimon/for metro toronto
From the ruins of Ephesus, our group travelled on to the calcium formations of Pamukkale.
We learned that this UNESCO-protected natural wonder was formed by warm mineral waters.
Over time, they cooled, leaving the rock-hard white calcium residue that continues to fascinate tourists.
Management insists that visitors remove their shoes, so I hiked up the mountain barefoot. The hard ridges were painful on my tender toes, but once at the top, the view was worth it.
Julia Dimon is editor of The Travel Junkie, an online magazine for independent travellers. She can be reached at www.thetraveljunkie.ca.
The “Turkish Delight” pass gives backpackers free range to travel along the extensive, one-directional circuit taken by Fez Bus through Western Turkey. The pass costs around $280 and is valid all season, from late April to late October. For more information on other bus pass options, prices and additional excursions, visit www.fezbus.com.