This is the second part of my tour of Turkey in 2008 See Part 1
Feb 29, 2008
Last night I walked to the grocery store for bottled water. A 1.5 liter bottle is one or two lira, about 80 cents, at a grocery, but 10 times as much at the hotel. I was walking up the hill to the hotel at dusk and turned back to hear the echo of the call to prayer wafting over the Aegean Sea. I hear it at daybreak too. I am told they say “wake up! Prayer is better than sleep!”
We left the hotel (otel) this morning and in 20 minutes stopped at a leather outlet. We were given a fashion show and of course the very strong, sweet tea (cay). Then the buying! I am amazed at how much money people spend. They clearly are not state employees!
Today we drive through fig fields which are still bare trees at this time. Also pine nut trees, which are a lovely evergreen and smell heavenly. The fruit trees are just beginning to bloom, peach, apple, and apricot, cherry. The oranges and lemons are ripe. There are fields of cotton which are under water now. The soil has a high salt content and they flood them in the off season to dissolve the mineral salts.
Some random tips in case you visit Turkey. The bathrooms are mostly marked “WC” (water closet, a British term). Or ask for a toilet, which works in all of Europe as well. Man is bay and woman is bayan (bay YAN). As in Europe, you may have to pay a few cents to use, so keep small coins available in your pocket. Never miss a free pee! They rarely have toilet paper or towels, but will always have soap and water. Bring pocket tissues-I cannot stress this enough.
More language: Hello is merhaba (MER ha ba). No thank you, which you must say constantly as you walk the Grand Bazaar, is phonetically: higher, sowl. Please is lutfen (LOOT fen). The country is spelled Turkiye (tur KEY yah), literally, the land of Turks. People are very affectionate and kiss (particularly if you buy expensive items from then!). Two men will walk the streets arm in arm.
Next stop was the ruins of Miletus. Although the harbor once held 200 Geek warships, the water is now 5 miles away since the bay has silted in. We have gotten good at spotting alluvial plains, where rivers have filled in the shoreline to make flat plains. The theater here seats 15000. We saw a Shepard guiding his sheep through the ruins and it reminds me of the Lord’s Prayer.
Next a lunch stop at Didyma (did ee YA ma), a word that means twin. Apollo, who has a temple here, is the twin of Artemes. This temple dates from 800BCE and was used for 1400 years. The shrine was one of the leading oracles of the Geek world by 500BC. It has both a spring and a fissure that released a gas. The gas was inhaled by young girls who would then fall into a deep sleep and tell the future from their dreams. Alexander came here and he promised enough money to rebuild a temple, but it was never finished. When Christianity came into vogue, it was converted into a church, but toppled in an earthquake in 1493.
The weather is hot. Have not used a coat for 2 days and wish I had shorts. I packed for winter but there was no way to predict this.The week before I arrived there was snow, almost to the Mediterranean.
Tonight we stay in Pamukkle (Pam MOO ka lay). Tomorrow we visit a hot mineral spring that’s been popular since Roman times.
Mar 1, 2008
This is a short post because it is already late as I have been soaking in the thermal mineral waters of the pool at the hotel. Traveling out of season has advantages. We have not fought crowds anywhere we have gone. But today we are in Pamukkale and the hotel is full. Always full. We are the only English speaking group. Everyone else is German.
This morning drove to the Aphrodite temple at Aphrodisias. Let me just say I probably got my best photos here. Lovely temples and snowcapped mountains in the background.
Then to a Roman bath that used pools of natural calcium carbonate rich water. The pools are coated in the white rock and look like hills of snow. Then dinner and a dip in the hot mineral springs! This is the life. No wonder this is a popular tourist spot.
Mon, 3 Mar 2008
Today we leave Pamukkle and drive in the rain along the same roads that Alexander, St Paul and the Crusades took. We will stay in Antalya tonight. Antalya is along the Silk Road, that Marco Polo traveled. So much history and I am getting quite tired walking through several centuries and once. But would not miss this for the world.
Our drive is through the mountains and we see a few nomadic homes, marble quarries and spectacular views. A few of us on this trip are interested in future trips with the tour company. (Go Ahead Tours. This is my second trip with them) We may have enough to get a group rate. This is the best group of travelers I’ve found. Everyone is on time. No one complains about food. This is the point in the tour when people are tired and nerves are on edge. So far, so good.
Our guide, Mehmet, gives is little talks along the drive about Turkish life. He introduced is to his favorite snack, spiced chickpeas. He also spent some time on the geography of the area, politics and mandatory military service. To be a registered tour guide, you must have a degree, extra language and history training and pass examinations before licensing. It is a high prestige job.
For lunch, we went to a mall. Honest. It was just as large and tacky as all American malls and I even recognized half the brand names. I was able to get more computer memory cards for my camera and really cheap water. But I refused to eat at the McDonalds.
Then on to the Antalya museum (muse) where we saw some of the most amazing Greek statues, sarcophagi, coins and rugs. Even the bones of Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas)! Then a walking tour of the old city where our hotel is. I am tempted to drop out tomorrow and just wander around the city.
Mar 3, 2008
There is a mosque beside our hotel and this morning it sounded like the call to prayer was coming from my balcony! While it was a loud (and a tad jarring) for the first thing in the morning, it is actually pleasant. I could get used to it.
We skipped a 4th century church of Saint Nicholas. That’s right, we missed Santa Claus, but we had seen his bones in a museum yesterday. This morning we saw the ruins of Phaselis, which are located right on the water and it is breathtakingly beautiful. While not large, it is an ancient Lycian city with lovely bays, backed by snowcapped mountains and ringed in pine trees. The Roman aqueduct is prominent. We have seen several, but usually from quite a distance.
Then after a wonderful lunch of mezes, sort of the Turkish version of tapas, we went to a 2nd century Roman theater in Aspendos (ah SPEN dos) that is still used today. Then to the ruins of Perge (PEAR gay), which had an impressive entrance and agora, marketplace. The baths were reconstructed, but showed how the steam heating went through the floor, transferring heat to each bath. I also got some photos of nomads that are striking. I am taking something like 150 photos a day and I’ve no idea how I will handle them at home!
Tomorrow will be mostly driving, but we do have a stop in Koyna at the monastery of Rumi, the Sufi mystic. This 13th century poet has been the bestselling poet in the US for the last 10 years and I very much enjoy his work. The Sufis are better known as Whirling Dervish.
We cross the Taurus Mountains tomorrow and reach Cappadocia late tomorrow night.
Mar 4, 2008
We left Antalya at 7:30a this morning for a full day of driving. We turn away from the sea after an hour and began to climb into the mountains and the interior of the country. The mountains have snow and you can see the effects of the two tectonic plates that meet here. Sometimes the layers of earth are vertical rather than horizontal. Such a rough landscape. The trees are mostly Lebanese Cedar, which were prized by the Romans. They are now gone from Italy and Greece. We keep asking the tour guide, Mehmet, about the trees and he is bored with saying he does not know. Now he just says they are Roadarium Orientalis.
There is a chance that we will be able to take a hot air balloon ride tomorrow morning over the fairy castle landscape of Cappadocia. Our only stop today is in Koyna, to the Mevlana Museum, the monastery of the 13 century poet and Sufi monk, Rumi. This is a pilgrimage site, not only because of Rumi and the Whirling Dervishes, but because there is a single hair from the beard of Mohamed. There is a lovely fluted turret for the mosque, blue green in color. This color, turquoise, is named for the Turks. If you have not read Rumi’s poetry, get a translation! Beautiful.
In an email to my mother:
Yesterday I bought a necklace from a nomadic woman, maybe a gypsy. I took her picture, so did not haggle with the price. And she was not asking much money anyway. She was young, but clearly has a hard life. Such a picture. These people were lined up on an ancient Roman city street, each between the old columns. It is illegal, but I paid quickly.”
Mar 5, 2008
This has been an amazing day in Cappadocia. We were up early for a hot air balloon ride, were I managed to take 150 photos in about an hour. The landscape here is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Cappadocia is the central plains of the country, an area rather than a city. Once it was shaped like a bowl, bounded by three volcanoes. The earth here is made up of layers of basalt and tufa, originally lava and ash. The tufa is soft and wears away easily compared to the basalt. You end up with a cap of basalt perched precariously on a column of tufa. They called them fairy chimneys and they look like enormous mushrooms.
Then we toured the Goreme Open Air Museum, once an early Christian community of about 2000 people. Little is known, but they appeared to have moved here in the 8th century and a few of the homes were inhabited in the 1920s. They carved rooms into the soft rock, including a monastery, nunnery and several small churches.
Some of the poor of the city still live in houses carved out of the rock. Plumbing is an issue in these homes, but I noticed that one or two had satellite dishes!
After lunch we went to an Iznik tile factory, but I was so tired I simply slept on the bus. This was a demonstration and sales stop, so I didn’t feel bad about missing it. I had intended to go, but when it came time to rise from my seat on the bus I found I was exhausted and simply could not. The nap did me good.
Tonight will be an early night here in Urgup, Turkey.
Mar 6, 2008 Another Christian Rock community and playing hooky for an afternoon
This morning we drove to an unusual, early Christian church and community. This was another collective style community, although most of the homes and the church were connected from the inside with little exterior access. Very little is known about the history, but the architecture was superior to anything we have seen before with carved, vaulted ceilings, columns, domes and beautiful hand painting. We could take no photos inside, even without flash, so I was disappointed in this. The paintings date from the 12th century, but the community must have begun quite some time before. Locals say that the area was still inhabited in the 1920s.
I came to Turkey originally to see Greek and Roman ruins. I simply could not afford to go to Greece and just a little study showed that there are more ruins in Turkey (formerly Asia Minor) than Greece. But honestly, I’m over it. I can’t see another fallen column! This afternoon three of us blew off the afternoon tour and walked into town for lunch. It is about a mile and we were late for lunch, but the first place we passed was open. We stopped and had to yell to get the attention of the staff. The restaurant was not to open until the next day, but they gave us an amazing meal with beer three kinds of kebobs, salad and rice plus a huge pile of dolmas for $12 each. Then they gave us each a small wall hanging we had admired when we first came in as a gift. These are lovely people. The town seems very safe to me. We walked around the community and were greeted warmly. One lovely older woman stopped us and talked to us, but we didn’t understand her Turkish and she didn’t understand our English. Still, it was very sweet. The town is built along a mountain cliff, and the houses along the back are dug into the rock.
While at the restaurant, the three owners were very excited to find that I was interested in teaching English. They were trying to get an English teacher for the community. Though they had no money, they would give room and board to a teach in exchange for 2 hours of teaching a day!
Then after supper we went to a rebuilt caravanserais, a “hotel” for traveling caravans along the Silk Road. These were built to protect merchants traveling the routes through Anatolia (Turkey) and other countries from the 13th century. Here we saw a Whirling Dervish demonstration. I will have to read up on this whirling ceremony, but found the music and movement soothing. It was the first evening that was cold so I wore a woolen poncho I bought as a gift.
Mar 7, 2008
*sigh* I can’t imagine that I have to leave. We will be flying from a small airport in Cappadocia to Istanbul. If I have it figured right, we will get to the hotel at about midnight and then I leave for the airport to fly out at about 3am. Hardly worth the trouble.
A few of us are considering staying up all night so that we will be dead tired for the flight home. But of course it isn’t as simple as that. It never is. We are flying through Frankfurt to change planes and there is a transportation strike in Germany. The strikers may or may not include the folks who handle our luggage. We could get stranded in Istanbul, or Frankfort or we could be diverted to another airport in another country. And there is always the risk that other unions may strike in solidarity, as the weather forecasters already have. If the airline workers or pilots union ………but it does no good to speculate. Who can tell? Travel is not for the faint of heart. If you have to know exactly where you are going and when you will get there and what you will see and what you will eat…… just stay home. Personally, as long as I don’t get stranded at the airport-if you’ve seen one airport, you’ve seen them all-I will be fine. I even have Euros left over from my last trip. And I always pack clean socks and undies in a carry on bag because you just never know.
We stopped on the way to another underground city. There are maybe 25 of them in Cappadocia and some may have been dug by the Hittites as early as 2000BCE. The first written evidence is not until the 11th century AD, but they were clearly ancient then. This one would hold 5000 people, but it does not appear that people lived there full time. These seem to be a place for emergency use. Who were they so afraid of that they would carve tunnels and rooms to hold so many? Several passages can be closed from the inside with rolling stones. It is a mystery who built them, who used them and why. What seems clear is that they were used for centuries.
We fly out of Kaysari, a city with Roman walls that currently house the Bazaar. We must have been the only Americans they had seen in a while because everyone treated is to tastes of food and greeted us warmly. I love eating my way across a country!
Sun, 9 Mar 2008 All Good Things must come to an end.
Just a quick note to say that I am home, safe in my own bed tonight. The last 24 hours have been spent on three planes and in three airports. I would not wish this on anyone. And you know how I always tell you to pack light and carry on your own luggage? Well on the last day of the trip I made a purchase, a small rug, that simply would not fit in my suitcase and I had to check one bag. And…..you guessed it…..they lost it. I just got a call from the airline saying they found the bag and it will be delivered tomorrow (it wasn’t). But in the last year I’ve traveled in 8 countries and this is the only bag I’ve checked. Of course the things that really mattered I did carry, so if the bag had been permanently lost I only would have lost a few small gifts and a bunch of dirty clothes. Still, the man who took my lost luggage claim, told me he NEVER checks his luggage. Nuff said!
Oh yeah, one more thing: You must visit Turkey! Part 1 Part 2