Destination: Gaziantep, Turkey
Number of Days Spent: 2 days
Where we stayed: Hotel Gulluoglu - 60 lira per night ($40) with free Internet, breakfast & a very helpful staff (they even walked us to the tea house, let us borrow their personal guidebook for the city & helped us set up transport to Syria - without even charging us). Then they gave us a Syria and Lebanon guide book left behind by a fellow traveler.
Best restaurant: The Gulluoglu baklava was excellent! The pistachios were the best I have ever tasted but we still like the phylo dough at Jersusalem's in Denver better. It was very expensive but the 7 lira servings were huge, 2 people can easily share. Also be sure to try the lacmajun on the street, it's a spicy Arabic pizza which is rolled up and eaten like a sandwich. Delicious!
Best of: The mosaic museum gets our vote for the most impressive museum in Turkey (for mosaics we thought it was even better than the National Museum in Rome)! if you are in Gaziantep definitely visit, they are amazingly well preserved and intricate. Well worth the 3 lira - $2 admission fee.
Worst of: Strike two - the Syrian consulate in Gaziantep denied our request for a visa to Syria. Will we get in at the border? We also left our Turkey guide book in the van...good thing this is our last stop in Turkey!
Most Memorable: The food in Gaziantep is much spicier than the rest of Turkey...they put chilies on everything and it's all excellent! They also have a sweet tooth, serving up the best baklava in Turkey!
Here is where the beginning of the Middle East can really be felt. Leaving behind the coastal resorts, the tourist crowds in Cappadocia and cosmopolitan Istanbul, we spent a couple of days in Ganziantep getting prepared to hopefully cross the border to Syria. This area is a major source of pistachios and they make good use of them in the famous baklava. The food here is also spicier than in other parts of Turkey, particularly their Arabic salads & pizzas!
The town really only has one "sight", the mosaic museum just south of downtown. Not expecting too much and really just checking it out for the sake of having something to do, we were pleasantly surprised. Set in a modern building, well laid out and well labeled in English, the museum houses some of the best mosaics in the world, in our opinion. Most of the mosaics come from the "rescued" Roman sight of Zeugma. Termed "rescued", teams of archeologists work against the clock to salvage and save priceless sights from the crush of modernism. When construction began on the Ataturk Dam, some Roman sights would have been forever covered under the impending lake. Teams swept in and carefully, but hastily, took what they could from the sights and set them up here saving them from the floods. The priceless mosaics mostly depict Greek and Roman gods, but a few, including the famous "Gypsy Girl" are of ordinary day to day life. All are strikingly beautiful, particularly the gazing eyes of the mysterious girl.
Ready to cross the border, we got up and went to the Syrian consulate in Ganziantep to once again to procure a visa. After a moment of conferring with one another, the man came back to the window and said, "So very, very sorry...no. Come back tomorrow at 10am." Not wanting to wait around and see, we decided to take matters into our own hands and headed to the Syrian border. Will they let us in? Stay tuned!