Shamrock's Journey After driving the Silk road in 2017 from Bangkok to London in our 1969 MG GT and exploring the UK and Europe over a few years, we are ready to bring Shamrock back to Australia via a more Northerly Silk Road route.
On our way to Calais we travelled through the Ardennes forest, through fields, much to our relief we noticed the temperature dropping and heavy rain clouds gathered.
We stopped at Dunkirque and enjoyed a walk along the foreshore. Soon the rain began and the wind picked up -11 degrees what a contrast to the hot weather we have experienced. We stayed at the Holiday Inn which is near the border crossing and the rain continued overnight and into the next day our last day!
We had a delayed departure due to an incident in the Euro tunnel. But what an experience! Travelling underground, under the sea!
We arrived and drove off for Kimber House, beginning through small villages but the delays forced us onto the motorways.
Finally we arrived to a wonderful welcome and a delicious lunch at Kimber House the home of the MG car Club.
We made it and Shamrock did the badge of MG proud in her consistent and reliant performance. Well done Shamrock and well done Peter for taking me safely half way around the world.
We celebrated with a final dinner at the Dog house Pub where we reminisced about our adventures through presentations of our favourite photos. What a fabulous end to a once in a life time experience during which we made life long friends.
This part of our trip is only a quick run through Europe to Abingdon England, after departing the Silk Road in Turkey. There are many routes from the East to the West and we have explored one of the main ones.
Heidelberg is one of those cities you are immediately drawn too and even though we spent only a short time ther we would love to return on another journey.
We had a relatively easy run down the freeway but had to divert due to a freeway closure. This detour took us through thick forests, open plains of wheat and small villages. We reached Rochefort with plenty of time to cool off with a swim and enjoy the town and the small charming stone boutique hotel, Le Malle Poste we are staying in.
Rochefort Belgium to Calais France
We are almost there! It has flown by and it is hard to believe we have travelled over 25,000kms. We have a HUGE day tomorrow for our Chunnel crossing and arrival in Abingdon.
We left Rochefort early so we could enjoy a scenic drive on the back roads of Belgium and France. We travelled through the Ardennes onto Calais.
How lucky and fortunate are we to have this sensational opportunity to travel half way around our stunning world and meet so many people who are just like us and want to get on with their lives. Maybe all politicians should make this part of their societal obligation of meeting and seeing other worlds as they are and it may remove so much greed and power lust from them – that is if they are capable of seeing beyond their own ambition.
Despite the personality mixes, time and distance involved in this adventure we are a cohesive group who have remaind steadfast in helping one and all. We have meet wonderful people who have become our friends by sharing in a multitude of experiences and emotions. What else can anyone ask for…commonality binds us all.
The daily trips are around 350 – 400 kms this is the only way we can reach our destination in Abingdon and the driving is fast and furious the trucks are disciplined staying in their designated lanes and at their speed but the speed on the freeways ranges between 130 – 140 kms. Little Shamrock is doing a sterling job maintaining a very respectable speed of 120-132km but we are sitting on about 120-125km – not bad for a car from 1969.
The border crossing was very quick and the freeway smooth and well signposted
Budapest is a stunning city and one we would like to revisit. Highlights have included taking the tram into the centre of Budapest, a boat cruise on the Danube and a ride on the Hop on and off bus. This way was a terrific way of viewing all the major sites, buildings and attractions. All ready for a return visit.
A delightful surprise came from the Hungarian MG car club who stopped by our hotel for a visit bringing their immaculately kept cars with them including a Triumph Spitfire, a MGB roadster and a MG Sprite and MGB GT. Many photos were taken and will be shared. All could have taken out Concours prizes with their cars. It is a young club and we wish them will in their future growth of the MG family.
Once again we felt humbled by the efforts people have made as we have travelled the Silk Road, including Suzanne who made each car a little memento from Hungary. We hope to welcome some of them to Melbourne one day.
Budapest to Wein
Only a short drive today of about 2 ½ hours on the freeway at a rapid speed. Surprisingly it is still hot – in the 30’s. As we cruised down the freeway we were surrounded by conifer and birch forests, wheat and sunflower fields yet again, passing by castles and Schloss peeping above the greenery.. We were fortunate to be able to check in immediately and this gave us time to take the Metro into Stephanplatz the centre of this gracious old city.
So many coffe cafes and restaurants to choose from but we did go back to Demel for strudel and coffee. Here we watched the pastry chefs creating an amazing cake of a pond complete with a boy and his net, fishing for frogs, lizards and fish. Absolute work of art! After a walk and ride on the Hop on and off bus taking familiar sites of the Spanish riding school, the Belvedere, Schonbornn Schloss, and Shopping malls.
Today was a relaxing day enjoying good food, wine and friends as we wandered around – tomorrow we embark on one of the longest drives of the trip. 704 kms to Heidelburg!
Wein to Heidelberg.
Off early for a mammoth drive of just over 700kms, fortunately it was Sunday and trucks and heavy transports aren’t allowed to travel on the freeways! What joy! but other cars were passing us doing well over 150- 200+ kms but the good old MGs held their own. Peter was leader for the day and was vigilent about stopping every 2 hours for a break, rest and refreshments. We made it into Heidelberg 7 ½ hours later. This gave us a chance to explore this charming ancient university city. What a joy to walk around and take in the shops and restaurants, beautiful churches and buildings of this pedestrian oriented city.
Once again we were met by a MG car club member who enjoyed a meet and greet with us.
The morning was still warm as we boarded the ferry with our cars for Plodiv. We travelled across to the Peninsula and the Dardenelles, passing through fields of sunflowers appeared to nod their farewells as we headed for the border. Fields of gold, green and yellow wheat and sunflowers flashed by us as we travelled North West.
The Bulgarian border was dealt with quickly. To travel on the expressways and highways we needed to buy a viniette. The purple of lavender was introduced into the landscape, and provided a contrast to the increasing fields of gold and yellow.
The old town of Plodiv was enchanting with many of the wooden and stucco houses from the 1850’s were being restored. We viewed the ancient ruins of a Roman theatre, Agora, amphitheatre, and several churches including Virgin Mary and St Dieter where we saw an exhibition of superb icons painted by the graduates of the Art academy who spent up to 5 years studying how to write(paint) icons. This town is a walking town because the streets made of cobblestones and flagstones are very narrow and steep. After dinner, we stopped at the Agora to watch fireworks and a military display of machine gun fire and rifles. A charming city seeped in history – it is amazing to see how far the Silk Road and the Roman empire reached.
Plodiv Bulgaria to Craiosara Romania
Now we are on the final run to Abingdon and the little MGs seem to sense they are returning to their roots. What we thought would be a 3-4 hour journey finished up being about 7 to 8 hour trip due to the biggest multicar accident we have ever seen. 40 cars collided at 6.00am in dense fog and smoke on the freeway – at least 20 people were taken to hospital some in a critical condition, fortunately there were no fatalities. We came across the accident at about 9.30am and were diverted by the police on a 2 ½ hour journey through the country side along with thousands of other travellers. The border between Romania and Hungary is the Danube river which we had to cross by car ferry unfortunately it had a mechanical fault and was running 45 minutes late. We arrived in Craiosara around 6.30pm. At the hotel we enjoyed a refreshing swim, delicious dinner with Jazz. Just the thing after a very long and hot journey.
Craiosara Romania to Timisoara Romania
no camera here – doh…
Travelling on the way to Timisoara we followed the Danube and could see the Serbia on the other side of the river. We stopped for a picnic lunch in Orsavo on the banks of the river. Weird being so close to so many countries. This was another slow journey due to a single carriageway all the way and a multitude of heavy trucks and transport vehicles coming in both directions. But it didn’t spoil our view of the fields of sunflowers, wheat and mown hay stacked into conical bundles around old tree trunks or sticks. This left the bundles looking like scraggy scrawny remnants of scarecrows standing like tired sentinels in the mown fields and valleys. Along the way we were greeted by more storks in their nests perched on lamp posts or chimneys.
Some of these places we are travelling through we haven’t heard of, until Tony mentioned the revolution in 1989 and Ceausescu the dictator.
Timisoara is an old town with a beautiful Greek Orthodox Cathedral with towers and a detailed green, yellow and white tiled roof near the pedestrian plaza, where thousands of people protested in 1989 starting the revolution.
After a lovely dinner high up on a terrace above the town we walked back along the canal; stopping to watch a dancing competition. All the participants were dressed in their regional costumes, dancing their traditional dances to a very energetic band. The evening was very warm and people were enjoying themselves.
Travelling through Turkey at this time of year is perfect. Though the weather was hotter than expected the sensational ancient sites, towns green fields and wildflowers made up for it. On our way to Canakkale we stopped at Troy – again another 46 plus day. We had an excellent guide who took us over this vast site and its detailed history of the siege and battles over Helen. The sight of the sea made a refreshing change and the swaying Cyprus and silvery sage green olive groves reminded us how close to the Mediterranean.
Arriving in Canakkale we found ourselves at the finish line of a 3 day car rally,which was quite amusing. Our hotel had seaviews across to the Dardanelles and the destination for the next day – Gallipoli.
Near our hotel we had the Trojan horse which featured in Brad Pitt movie about the Trojan wars and Helen of Troy. The waterfront was alive with people enjoying the hot weather, food stalls and restaurants. We enjoyed a delicious seafood meal on a rooftop, watching the sunset and dolphins swimming by.
An early morning pickup due to the heat had been arranged for a tour of the Gallipoli Peninsula and its many memorials. The ferry took us across to the Peninsula where we visited ANZAC cove, Lone Pine, the Nek, Shrapnel Valley to name a few and several cemeteries. All the sites through out this Peninsula are maintained in pristine condition, equally remembering all the people from both sides who sacrificed their lives in this futile endeavour. It was difficult to imagine such peaceful waters and beaches witnessed so much death and horror. Truly an emotional visit and one every Australian should make.
This is our last day on the Asian side of the world and tomorrow we enter onto the European side of the Silk Road.
Our little MG Shamrock has been outstanding on this trip and coped most admirably with the heat – only thing I missed was some air conditioning – open windows just didn’t do it for me. Peter and I have shared the driving but he is doing most of it. The roads and drivers in Turkey have been great and we have loved this part of our Silk Road journey and would love to return in the near future to spend more time here.
Its 42 degrees and they are expecting 46 tomorrow for our drive to Bergama (Pergama).We fell out of the MGs, dripping with perspiration at a delightful boutique hotel in Selcuk, the Cella. The hosts were so welcoming, immediately handing us cold water and beers. The ambience and interior décor of the lounge and rooms was absolutely divine and the swimming pool was in immediate use.
Prior to arriving in Selcuk we visited the ancient sites of Sagalassos and Aprodisias where the Temple of Aphrodite was situated. Sagalassos above Agasun was destroyed by an earthquake in 3rd century AD. and was in existence from 5 century BC to 1200’s, being a small Neolithic community prior to this. There was an interactive education centre. The site is being restored with a functioning fountain with water supplied from the mountains 25 kms away, another drinking fountain, agora and a beautiful mosaic floor in the library. In Aphrodisiacs the Stadium is the best preserved example of a Roman Classical era structure seating 30,000 spectators, perfectly preserved. The council house, mansions, Roman Baths and Temple of Aphrodite were being carefully restored – only if 85% of the original structure is in evidence.
Pamukkale was stunning with its cascading white curtains of white calcium caused by the underground water. The water calcified against the rocky cliffs creating layers of white folds of minerals which appear frozen in time. This site was very close to Hieropolis another ancient city of at least 80,000 people. We saw Cleopatra’s pool supplied constantly with mineral rich warm water, and the Necropolis of over 3000 prominent people. We toured around this site in the evening after driving from Sagalassos in 43 degree heat.
Selcuk to Bergamo
After a great breakfast another very day was promised and it delivered, reaching an extraordinary 46 but we still enjoyed a guided tour of Ephesus, what an extraordinary site. The terraces were fascinating allowing visitors to visitors to see how citizens lived and the style of house complete with frescos and mosaics and graffiti.so much to see including the Iibrary of temple of Artemis the theatre and even the church of Mary . So much to see and so little time.
It was difficult driving in the heat but our welcome in Bergamo made up for it. We stayed in a restored stone boutique hotel Hera in the middle of the narrow streets higher up the hills. We waited until late afternoon before venturing up to the Acropolis via cable car.
The 1st and 2nd century ruins of the huge theatre which seated 30000 people was a highlight, along with the Agora complete with Doric, iconic and Corinthian columns; Peter is becoming an expert in identifying them. He had a lot of practice in Ephesus.
Our time is running out and the internet connections continue to be unpredictable. Some days have been quite long and hot and when we arrive in a place we are keen to explore it and enjoy the local delicacies.
Leaving Urgip was sad but we had to move on to new adventures and sights. No-one has heard of this place but it is in what is known as Turkey’s Lakes district. We passed several very large and beautiful lakes set amongst rolling hills carpeted with colourful wild flowers and lots of livestock.
But one is never prepared for the unexpected. In a remote town called Sultanhani, Tony one of our team said we must see one of the largest caravansari in Turkey. It was massive, beautifully restored and exhibited. No sooner had we arrived than a smartly dressed gentleman arrived from a neighbouring building and welcomed us. He introduced himself as the Mayor of this town and wanted us to have morning tea with him in his Chambers after we had completed our tour of the caravansari. We spent a pleasant morning with the Mayor who told us of his dreams and hopes for his town. A charming man who has the best interests of his town close to his heart.
After tea we drove across the Anatolian Steppes of rolling green hills and plains – some places there were bare sand and rock in others there were swaying fields of wheat, sunflowers in full yellow bloom and sugar beet.
June 29 2017
Beysehir to Pamakkale via a real treat Sagalassos
This, very ancient city is is situated in remote and high Anatolian mountains. Perfectly preserved due to its isolated position, only tarnished by time, earthquakes and mother nature. It is slowly being restored since the 1990’s after being destroyed by earthquakes in the 3 century AD. The most impressive sites were the 2 functioning fountains feed by underground springs, 25 kms away,providing drinking water to the many workers at this site. These springs also supplied the city’s water supply. The fountains have been beautifully restored and only done if they are 85 % intact and in situ with surrounding fallen materials.The mosaic on the floor of the Library was stunning. We were privileged to have the principal archaeologist dr Peter Taleon who has been on the site for nearly 30 years conducted us around this incrdible site plus provided lunch and recounted informative and detailed information of this ancient city. We were so humbled by this experience and felt so special because no-one was there.
Spending a long and hot day driving from Sivas to Urgip where we stayed in a cave hotel. We had dinner there as well outside under a clear and starry sky. A relaxing way to finish off a long drive.
We stayed in a delightful boutique cave hotel in Urgip. A lovely way to relax after a few days of long driving. But we were up very early (3.45am) for a 4.15am departure for our hot air balloon ride. The morning was still and calm, no clouds and surprisingly warm. The weather here in Turkey has been warming up and we are up into the high 30’s now. Nothing prepared us for the sight of 120 hot air balloons preparing to take off in the predawn. Our pilot was very experienced and skilful. He flew the balloon up to 1100mt and the view as the sun rose over the mountains was breathtaking. He flew the balloon down low over the valleys and over wineyards and rocky tuff pinnacles. We could see the different formations as we flew for an hour and half in an 8 person basket. when we landed onto of a trailer! we celebrated with cherry juice and champers!
Enjoy the photos. After breakfast we set off for a full day’s sight seeing of the Dervent valley, Pashabag or Monks valley, Pigeon Valley, Goreme Open Air museum, Esentepe,and Kaymakli Underground city.
Hot air ballooning over this fabulous region was a highlight.
Peter and I are the leaders for Turkey which means we organised this itinerary with the help of Jan from Hello World who put us in touch with a Turkey travel expert. It is a full on itinerary with lots of driving and ancient sites.
Ramadan finished today which means the shops are open during the day and into the night now. People weren’t eating until the sun had gone down during Ramadan and this meant around 8.30pm. But tonight the streets were packed with people. Lots of outdoor tables and chairs were set up with people eating and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
The landscape from Iran definitely changed from Iran to Turkey with barren plains transforming into green fields dotted with colourful flowers. In Erzurum there were many sites to see which we did before leaving.
We visited the Three Tombs, Twin Minaret Madrasa , the Citadel, The Madrasa of Yakitiye. It is interesting to note the differences of the architecture over time and the development of the floral and geometric patterns – more decorative than I imagined.
The Seljuk influence on the 13th century Twin Minarets and Yakitiye Madrasa is marked, from other earlier designs.
Tomorrow we exit Iran. We are driving up into the mountains again along challenging roads. The heat is increasing every day with temperatures into the high 30’s and inside the MGs it is even hotter. We are drinking litres of water. Today we stopped in some fields and our guides provided us with a typical Iranian BBQ of chicken, salad, cherries, watermelon and baklava. Nothing like setting up stones and cooking chicken over hot coals next to a babbling irrigation stream.
We drove on into the hills to the remote Black Church an Armenian church situated at about 2000mts, sheep, goats, walnut trees abounded near the border of Armenia and West Azerbaijan province which we are passing through . This church is reputed to be the oldest church in the world (43AD) and the burial site of St Thaddeus also known as St Bartholomew, one of the disciples. It is stunning in its simplicity and the older part is constructed of black granite blocks. Currently it is being carefully cleaned and restored in places.
Tonight we farewelled Pat and David and our guide Hesam in Maku and we are very sad to say good bye. We hope Pat and David have a clear run in sending Ginger back to Melbourne. Maku is very close to the border of Iran and Turkey so it shouldn’t take too long – we hope (3 hours?)
Maku to Dogubayazit to Erzurum TURKEY
At the border, legendary snow covered Mt Ararat nearly 5900mt high towered over our way. Home of Noah’s Ark…must have been a massive flood…..
The process at the border was very quick and our headscarves also came off very quickly. Dogubayazit can only be described as an untidy, noisy and chaotic frontier town and held a few small surprises for us as we drove through trying to find Ishak Pasha Sarayi Palace. Confronted by one way streets equipped with evil looking one way spikes, if we thought about going the wrong way, to young boys trying to steal our side mirrors at the traffic lights or reaching in through our open windows to steal the Garmin was a real surprise – not the friendliest place we have been in. But it was worthwhile – the palace was perched high up in the rocky mountains, behind the town. A vision out of the Forty Thieves. Beautifully restored it had it own Mosque, harem of 14 bedrooms, kitchen, toilets, ponds and bath and a very deep series of dastardly dungeons….one dungeon could only be accessed through its ceiling!
As we drove through the landscape the fields were full of mauve, purple, yellow white and pink summer flowers. Imagine all the happy cows and bees and the honey tasted delicious at breakfast.