We thought it would be a romantic way to travel – sleeper trains usually are. The journey did actually start off OK, as you’d hope when departing from a station as opulent as the Ottoman-era Haydarpasa. On-board the cabin was as good as you’d expect, with narrow bunks and a tiny sink.
Following a rhythmically rocked-to-sleep night, we awoke nowhere near our destination. We should have been very near to our destination. Kayseri was, alas, still many hours away and when we did eventually arrive we had to sprint for a bus to Gorëme. This overnight train no longer seems to run (the Vangolu Express now only runs from Ankara), I wouldn’t have included it in the Western Turkey itinerary anyway as it was clearly just too unreliable.
Now the romance really did begin. Capadoccia is famous for its rock formations and caves, the hotel in which we stayed had rooms carved into individual caves and overlooked Gorëme in the valley below. I had to look up the itinerary I put together as I’d forgotten the name of the hotel (it was 9 years ago!) – it was the Kelebek Cave Hotel. I’d still highly recommend staying here, but in the itinerary I’ve advised that people stay in Ürgüp as it’s more convenient for transport.
It was amazing to go on a hike and happen across Byzantine paintings in remote caves. It was also amazing when it started snowing on our walk to Uçhisar. An eerily spectacular place made even more so when covered in white.
Istanbul was all you’d hope it to be; history everywhere, incredible architecture, breathtaking views and unforgettable sights. A highlight was taking a cruise up the Bosphorus and going down into the Basilica cistern – both had to be included in my recommendations. I’d have loved to have had the money to stay in the Four Seasons, this looked like one of those hotels that is as much a part of the experience as it is a place to stay.
Of course there’s much more to see in Western Turkey and, after much research, I added the highlights to the Western Turkey itinerary, trying to keep it within a two-week holiday period. Having now done this, I’m hugely tempted to visit Fethiye and its stunning coastline.