|Turkey||Termal||2001.03.22 - 03.24|
Getting to Bergama
After İstanbul, we chose to go to Bergama to see the spectacular Acropolis ruins. Located 200km south of the Marmara Sea below İstanbul, yet still 100km north of the huge bus transfer station in İzmir, Bergama was a challenge to reach in a day. Looking at the map of Turkey with our helpful hotel receptionist Erdal in İstanbul, we decided to divide the journey between two days with an overnight in Termal where a natural medicinal hot spring flows.
Termal is easily accessed by taking a 90 minute ferry ride across the Marmara Sea, departing İstanbul from Yenikapı Port and arriving in Yalova. From the Yalova bus station next to the ferry port, dolmuşes (mini-buses) regularly depart for Termal (12km south-west of Yalova).
Expecting Termal to be a small town, we were surprised to find that it's a self-contained resort with resort prices. Most locals arrived with towel and bathing suit, intending to lounge and swim for a few hours. We were the only guests walking into hotel reception on foot with backpacks, and after a stroll around the grounds, we discovered why. No more than 5 minutes up a pedestrian road from our luxury hotel is a town, Gökçedere, where the other backpackers stay for US$4-5 per night. Deceptively, the vehicular road makes a 2km distant loop down a much steeper slope between Gökçedere and Termal. Why the shorter, flatter, paved, and plenty wide pedestrian road is closed to traffic is a mystery.
Entering the public hot springs is about US$5 per person. Mineral water is also piped into private tubs on the ground floor of our luxury Çamlık Hotel where guests can bathe between 08:00-22:00 without cost. Being economically minded, we thought we could make up for the price difference between our US$40 room and a US$10 double room in Gökçedere if we bathed 3 times before check-out the next morning. Relaxing in mineral water is enjoyable, but enough is enough and 3 times in 12 hours is too much.
Food at Çamlık Hotel was overpriced, so we ate our meals in Gökçedere. Don't expect to find any quality cooking. Gökçedere has one Internet Café of similar quality to those we used in İstanbul. There is no ATM cash machine.
The next morning we were off to Bergama, or so we thought. A dolmuş took us from Termal to Yalova. Our only bus option from Yalova in the proper direction was to Bursa, just 70km away. From Bursa, we were told the only way to Bergama was via İzmir, the route we decided against before leaving İstanbul. By the time we reached İzmir it was 21:00. The last bus to Bergama left at 20:30. Bummer.
The bus from Bursa to İzmir was operated by Pamukkale and is the best bus service likely to be found anywhere in the world. The bus itself was immaculate. The attendant served soft drinks, water, tea, and coffee and offered a pleasant citrus smelling cologne - all included in the bus ticket price. And because the İzmir otogar (bus station) is 6km north of city center, Pamukkale offers a free transfer. By the time we discovered that the last bus to Bergama left, the İzmir city transfer had left as well.
At the otogar, we paid 350,000 TKL for the local city bus to city center. Confirming with several people that the approaching bus goes to the large central roundabout called Dokuz Eylül, we boarded. Looking out the bus window, we searched for cheap hotels to signal our point of disembarkation. 20 minutes passed and we were no closer to a downtown-looking area. Figuring that the bus was driving a circuitous route, we stayed onboard. An hour later we were concerned. The bus driver said Dokuz Eylül was further head. At 23:00, we were dumped off in the middle of nowhere - oh, we reached Dokuz Eylül University - about 15km south of İzmir. Searching through our Lonely Planet Turkish Phrasebook, we discovered there's no entry for "I'm lost" or "Where am I?" A nearby restaurant owner who spoke limited English assisted us. "Where are you trying to go?" he asked. "Any hotel," we replied exhaustedly. Looking at our attire, he deduced that we wanted a cheap place for the night and telephoned ahead. "My son will take you to the bus and tell the driver to stop at Oba Hotel." We were saved.
The minibus drove on and on. Finally we reached Oba Hotel out in the sticks. After a quick midnight dinner, we slept.
On day 3 of trying to reach Bergama, we first had to figure out how to reach the İzmir otogar. The Oba Hotel receptionist gave us instructions. We were a long way south of İzmir, and travel time to the otogar took 90 minutes. The first bus went from the sticks to city center, and the second took us to the otogar. Neither bus accepted cash payment. We were supposed to have pre-paid bus tickets but didn't. The driver of the first bus waived us in without pay. A fellow passenger paid for our second bus fare and wouldn't accept our cash in lieu. The level of Turkish hospitality continues to be beyond expectation.
At the İzmir otogar, finding the next bus to Bergama was easy. We made it.
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