With our departure from Turkey slowly approaching, and our love of doner kebab's slowly fading, we embarked on the final few days of our voyage, hoping to check off the last outstanding items on our carefully-planned, yet probably overly-intensive itinerary (I tend to go a tad crazy during the "planning" phase of our trips):
1. Sleep in a treehouse (an obvious to-do for travels in an area prone to tree habitation)
2. Swim in a thermal pool of calcium carbonate (another obvious to-do for those who are strong proponents of CaCO3 bathing).
3. Visit the famous Greek/Roman city of Ephesus - The supposed final resting place of "the dudes" infamous mother. No jokes here. As the lord and savior of my future wife, and a once-proud-member of "the tribe" (until a disappointing "defection"), I would never joke about JC like that.
With 2 of the 3 items on our checklist boasting a "strong to very strong" tourism factor, we relished in the solitude enjoyed during our brief 18 hour "detour" to the first destination - Saklikent Gorge. Home to the longest gorge in all of Turkey (quite impressive until realizing it is really the only gorge in all of Turkey), Saklikent is almost unmentioned in any guidebook, and thus, is almost unheard of by anyone outside of the Turkish nation (aside from yours truly who has mastered the art of "internetting"). This "hidden gem" if you will, provided us with a great hike along the canyon floor, a post-hike fish-foot massage, and of course the intended highlight of the visit - an overnight stay in a treehouse. Despite lacking A/C or ensuite facilities to Julie's dismay (who would've known!?), our small tree-based abode did boast a very fruitful population of mosquitoes, who allowed us to enjoy the treehouse for an additional 8-9 sleepless hours. Generous little buggers!
Our next destination in the "checklist checkoff marathon" took us to Pamukkale - home to the ruins of Hierapolis, and the more well-known "cotton castle." Featured in many "do this before you die or else your life was pointless" type books, Pamukkale is a unique geological feature, boasting dozens of cascading natural hot springs, created from calcium carbonate run-off (everyone's favorite mineral deposit!). As the past home to baths of Roman emperors, Pamukkale is now home to what can only be described as "cluster-f*ck-central" (pardon my Turkish). Imagine Black Friday at Walmart, and then add about 2 feet of shallow warm water, and that my friends is your "hidden oasis."
Continuing along the "beaten tourist trail" (the endless Asian-filled tour groups kept us from veering too far from photo-worthy sights), we finally arrived at the last destination of our trip - Ephesus. As the supposed final-resting-place of the Virgin Mary, and home to one of the best-preserved ruins in the world, Ephesus did not disappoint. Providing the patented baths/theater/common-area combo seen at almost every other ruin, Ephesus added the extra bonuses of a library in addition to amazingly well-preserved Roman homes. Much obliged ancient builders!
With the checklist complete and only 24 hours left until our departure for home, we commenced our 14-hour journey back to Istanbul, attempting to involve every form of transportation possible (car, long-distance train, ferry, intercity train, metro, tram, hotel shuttle). As a few hours of daylight still remained, we opted out of visiting Taksim Square (water cannons & tear gas unfortunately did not make the checklist cut), and instead relished in the semi-awkward, muscle soothing experience of a Turkish Hamam (i.e bath/massage - more on this later). As only 12 hours remained until our departure back to the US of A, we ended our journey where any respectable trip should complete itself - the Istanbul Airport Courtyard Marriott.
And that folks, is that. Well, almost. I think I got a post or two left in me to "summarize" our adventures. The Hamam was quite hilarious.
For now though, onto the pics: