Every trip seems to get a standard question asked. For Japan, it was, "Isn't Japan terribly expensive?" (No, it isn't, if you are careful. Of course, compared to Turkey it is expensive. Of course, compared to Turkey everyplace is expensive. But that will become clear.)
For Turkey, the sequence is something like, "Where are you going this year?" "Turkey." "For how long?" "Three weeks." "Just Turkey?"
Yes, just Turkey. Frankly, three weeks is not nearly enough time, but one has to make do.
My background reading consisted of the Lonely Planet guide (of course), Homer's Iliad, Heinrich Schliemann's Troy and Its Remains, Robert Payne's Gold of Troy, and Richard Stoneman's Traveller's History of Turkey, as well as a lot of Web sites.
Airline tickets were gotten by tracking the prices on the Web and grabbing a sale from Lufthansa for US$600 each from Newark to Istanbul.
As far as spellings go, Turkish uses a Latin alphabet
with a few letters not seen in English. I am not sure how successful
I am going to be in typing these in to my palmtop, then converting
them to RTF, then converting that to MSWord, and finally converting
that to HTML, so let me say this section is a work in progress.
The additional letters (and other symbols I use) are:
a with a carat over it ("faint "y" in preceding consonant"): â (actual letter) undotted i ("uh"): i umlaut o ("ur"): ö, Ö (actual letter) umlaut u (long "oo"): ü, Ü (actual letter) cedilla ("ch"): ç, Ç (actual letter) ticked g (silent, but lengthens preceding vowel): g cedilla s ("sh"): s umlaut e (not in Turkish, but used elsewhere): ë, Ë (actual letter) pounds sterling: £ (actual symbol) degrees: ° (actual symbol)
April 24-25: The flight from Newark to Frankfurt was long and extremely uncomfortable. There was not enough room for me and my elbows between my seat arms-and I am not a big person. I ended up getting hardly any sleep, but I did get a couple of hours on the Frankfurt-to-Istanbul flight.
Our first "sticker shock" was in the cost of visas, which had been listed everywhere as US$20, were now US$45. This was certainly not a big problem for us, but I suspect for the rock-bottom budget backpacker it will be a bit of a shock. We got our visas and were able to go quickly through immigration and customs.
Getting money from the ATM gave us a scare. We tried one card and at the end it said it could not process our transaction. Then we tried our backup and got the same result, at which point I made a guess that it just would not give us as much as we asked for (100,000,000TL, or US$400). Sure enough, a request for half that worked fine.
By the way, given how small a Turkish lira is, I will quote all prices in US dollars. The exchange rate when we arrived was 250,000TL for US$1. To be a millionaire in Turkey requires just US$4!
We decided to take a taxi from the airport, since it was only US$12, and trying to sort out buses, etc., seemed more than we wanted to deal with right then. Our taxi driver was-what is Turkish for Mario Andretti?
We arrived at the Berk Guesthouse (after the driver had some difficulty finding it-it is in a cluster of little streets full of guesthouses). It had been recommended by a couple of people on the Net, and by the Lonely Planet, and we took a double room for US$50 a night. (We had no reservations ahead of time, but this was not the busy season yet.)
The main problem with the Berk was not the Berk itself, but with the weather. Because the weather outside was so cold, the room was also cold. There was an extra blanket so sleeping was okay, but the room was very cold to sit in-at least until we discovered that we had to turn the knob on the radiator to get heat. Everything else in the room had instructions posted, but not this. Even so, the heat could best be described as "inadequate."
We dropped our stuff off, got organized, and then walked a couple of blocks to the main section of Sultanahmet, the Old Section of Istanbul. Here is where one finds the Aya Sofya (a.k.a. Hagia Sophia, a.k.a. Sancta Sophia) and the Blue Mosque, as well as the Hippodrome and the Tomb of Sultan Ahmet I.
We decided just to wander around outside rather than try to see any major sites. Outside the Blue Mosque, on the side between it and the Aya Sofya, there were a large number of touts, wanting to be guides, wanting us to go to their shop, wanting us to buy postcards, or wanting to shine our shoes. This was the thickest cluster, though there were others along the Hippodrome as well, including a young boy who wanted to sell us tops, 100,000TL each or two for one US dollar! Since 100,000TL is forty US cents, we can only conclude either that most tourists he meets are pretty clueless about the exchange rate or that he has not changed his prices since the dollar was worth only 200,000TL-but that was a while ago.
I had always thought of the Hippodrome as a circular stadium, like the one in Ben Hur where you see the chariot race. But what is called the Hippodrome here is a long boulevard. I suppose the horses could run down one side and up the other. In the center area are several monuments. There is a fountain jointly constructed by Kaiser Wilhelm II and Sultan Abdülhamid II, an obelisk brought from Egypt (the severe weathering of the much newer marble base proves that granite lasts longer than marble), a spiral monument from the front of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, and a rough stone obelisk of unknown origin. The bronze plates covering the last were ripped off by the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade, who thought they were gold. The crusaders were in the process of sacking Constantinople, a Christian city, as part of their plan to recover the Holy Land from the infidel. (Well, they may have thought it was part of the plan, though it does not make sense to me.)
By the way, when do think the name of Constantinople was changed to Istanbul? Based on the song (which I cannot get out of my head!) most people would think it was in the 1920s or so. Actually, it was in 1453, but the Western countries could not admit to themselves that they had lost this famous Christian city to the Muslims and kept calling it Constantinople for another five hundred years. It was only after the establishment of the Turkish Republic on 29 October 1923 that the name Istanbul was finally accepted by the West in 1930. (The Lonely Planet claims this is when it was officially changed, but other sources disagree, and why would a Muslim empire keep a Christian name for its capital?)
We walked down and saw the arches that supported one end of the Hippodrome. There was supposedly a nice mosque down this way, but the directions in the Lonely Planet guide were not completely clear, even after we found the street signs (blue plaques attached to the buildings).
It started to rain so we went back to the guesthouse, buying some bottled water on the way. The water in Istanbul is safe to drink, but so heavily chlorinated that it does not taste good. The water came to US$0.80, but when I gave the clerk a bill worth US$20 (which is what the ATM machines give here), she said she did not have change and to pay her tomorrow! We dug through our pockets and found a smaller bill, but people are obviously more trusting here than in, say, New York.
We had dinner at the Karasu Restaurant around the corner from the guesthouse. I had a yogurt kebab and Mark had a dish of chicken, tomatoes, and cheese cooked in a clay dish. He described it as pizza topping without the pizza, and in fact a large part of the menu was devoted to pizzas of various sorts. I think every country is adopting pizza as a national dish, but everyone's pizzas are different from everyone else's.
Back in the guesthouse we checked out the lounge.
There wasn't anything interesting on TV and the lounge was cold,
so we decided to go back to the room, where I fell asleep around
April 26: I woke up a couple of times during the night, but got back to sleep fairly quickly, and slept until about 7:30. We had breakfast at 8:30, which went well except for my mistaking circular disks of butter for cheese. There was feta cheese, olives, cucumber, tomato, hard-boiled eggs, bread, and coffee, tea, or apple tea.
It was raining, and cold. I had foolishly not brought a sweater since the temperatures here had been in the 70s Fahrenheit for a couple of weeks. I had figured on using my denim shirt as a jacket, but that was now my shirt, so I ended up borrowing Mark's sweater (he had brought both a sweater and a jacket).
We made a quick stop at Tourist Information, a rather sparse kiosk at one end of the Hippodrome. We got a map there, but they did not seem to have any of the usual tourist brochures and such. The map was delightfully inadequate, with an index to all the major sites, etc., indicating which grid they were in, and in each grid the number corresponding to that site. However, the index of sites had no numbers! So you had an idea of what area something was in, but no idea which number in that square was actually the site unless it was so isolated as to be the only one. (We found out later that the French version had the numbers, and since the text is not very important to most people, we recommend asking for that.)
Our first sight of the day was the Archaeological Museum (US$3 each). There are actually three museums, but two were closed. The open one was the main Archaeological Museum; the closed ones were the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Tiled Kiosk. Normally the former is open during the mornings and the latter during the afternoons, but maybe they are doing some pre-season preparations in them. The second and third floors of the main museum are also closed, these for long-term renovation.
There were three main exhibits open in the museum. The first was the Necropolis of Sidon, consisting of sarcophagi discovered at Sidon. Among these is the Alexander Sarcophagus, which turns out not to be connected with Alexander at all (other than having him portrayed in some of the scenes shown on it). One thing I noticed was that while painting from this period (4th century B.C.E., or M.Ö in Turkish) and for the next millennium and a half is fairly unrealistic-looking, sculpture is amazing life-like. The figures are in motion (contrary to, say Egyptian bas-reliefs of that time, which are very static). There will be a figure of a man stepping into a chariot, another caught in mid-step, an so on. Mark noticed that the expressions on the horses' faces were pretty much identical whether they were just running, or were being chewed on by a lion. It is also true that the human expressions seem to be less detailed, with body position giving the emotional information.
The mezzanine had a long exhibit of the history of Istanbul which looped back and forth in an S-curve, making good use of the long room and directing the viewer in a very orderly fashion. It is a reminder of just how old the city is, dating from 657 B.C.E.
The other wing of the museum had statuary, some of which was impressive, but most of which seemed out of place, lacking in any context and just sort of plopped there. This was especially true of the fragmentary pieces.
We finished here about 11:00, taking slightly more than an hour. I had figured we would have lunch between this and the Aya Sofya, but it was too early for lunch. That is because I seem always to allow more time for museums in other countries than is needed. Anyway, we proceeded directly to the Aya Sofya (US$4 each). (It used to be 500,000TL each. Inflation demanded that they double it to 1,000,000TL to keep up, but instead of printing new tickets with the new price, they just give each person two old ones.)
The Aya Sofya was built by Justinian in 537 C.E. on the site of an earlier Sancta Sophia which had been destroyed in the Nika riots of 532. (No, they were not over athletic shoes. And, yes, I know those are "Nikes.)" When Justinian first entered the completed building (then a Byzantine church), he is reported to have said, "Glory to God that I have been judged worthy of such a work. Oh Solomon! I have outdone you!" Robert Silverberg had a classic time travel novel, Up the Line, in which a character goes back to that event and reports that what Justinian really did was look around, look up at the ceiling, and scream, "Find me the mother-humper who left that scaffold in the dome! I want his balls in an alabaster vase before mass begins!" Who knows what the truth is, but I can never think of Aya Sofya without remembering that bit from Silverberg.
And who knows? Millions of tourists in the last five years may have said the same thing, because currently almost half the dome is obscured by scaffolding. I know that restoration work is needed, but why is everything we want to see being restored just when we want to see it? (Okay, that's not fair. Obviously we never notice all the things that are open. But so far today we had been two for two on restoration work in progress.)
Anyway, when Justinian had the church built, the interior was covered with gorgeous mosaics. They survived the Iconclast Wars of 726 through 787, but when Mehmet the Conqueror entered it in 1453 and took possession of it for Islam, they had to go. Luckily, the Turks covered them with plaster rather than destroying them. (It was probably a lot easier to do this, and they then decorated the plaster with geometric designs. I doubt they had artistic preservation in mind.) It is in part the removal of the plaster and the restoration of the mosaics that is going on, but there is also massive deterioration of the dome art due to rusting nails.
If the artwork is mostly covered (with only a half dozen mosaics revealed), then the Aya Sophia can still be appreciated as an architectural and engineering marvel. Its enormous dome, with no visible supports, seems unbelievable. And indeed the first dome collapsed during an earthquake only eleven years after it was finished. The dome has been rebuilt and reinforced since then, but is still supported only by pillars incorporated in the interior walls.
A switchback, cobblestone ramp leads to the galleries, from which the mosaics may be seen better, and which also afford a view of the entire structure that gives one a better idea of the size. (Somehow looking down, one can judge distance better, maybe because there are people there to use for scale.)
I have said that the Aya Sofya was a church and a mosque; it is now a museum, having been declared one by Kemal Atatürk in 1935. (One suspects this may have been as part of his secularization of Turkey; on the other hand, the Blue Mosque remained, and remains, a mosque.)
After this we walked up the street to a bank machine. Again, I had problems with my credit union card, even with a small amount, but other people got money out. So I tried my backup (bank) card and that worked. I think I need to have a talk with my credit union when I get back, and I am glad I had a backup.
We walked back to the room for a brief rest, then went out at 14:00 for lunch. We ate at the Meshur Halk Köftecisi Selim Usta (Chef Selim, Famous Popular Köfte-maker) on Divan Yolu. I had köfte (described as lamb meat balls, but not actually round, and grilled rather than in a sauce); Mark had sis kebab. We also shared a bean salad and Mark had a Coke. All this came to US$4.20.
Our next sight was the Blue Mosque. We approached this from the north (the Hippodrome) which is the main entrance, rather than from the east entrance, which is the one facing the Aya Sofya, hence the one most tourists use, hence the one surrounded by touts. (We had run into them the day before there.) This is not to say there will not be a few men trying to sell you carpets or become your guide at the north entrance, but it is not a mob.
Because the Blue Mosque is still a mosque, one must remove one's shoes to enter. They had slippers one could wear if one did not like walking around in just socks, but why bother? The whole idea is that the carpeting should be clean enough to kneel and touch one's forehead to, and if it is that clean, I have no problem with it. I started to take a headscarf to cover my hair, but the man at the door said that was not necessary. I wonder why not.
The Blue Mosque is so-called because of the blue tiles used on the interior. Because it lacks the scaffolding of the Aya Sofya, and also has more light coming in through windows, it is actually more beautiful (in my opinion) than the Aya Sofya. (The Aya Sofya reminds me of the Alcazar mosque in Spain because the latter was also very dark inside.)
It was still early, so we wandered down the main street, Divan Yolu. We bought our bus tickets for Çanakkale (cha-na-kah-LEH) (US$9 each for a six-hour trip, with the transfer from the Pamukkale Turizm office to the bus station on the edge of town included). We then walked further down (up?) the street, part the Çemberlitas Column and through the vendors who had set up outside where the covered market is other days of the week. We ended up a bit lost and came back via a different, slightly longer route.
One thing I concluded is that Istanbul likes sidewalks but is not fanatic about them. In many places the sidewalk is broken up or otherwise missing for short stretches; in other the slabs (about 40cm on a side) totter and tilt.
But Istanbul is surprisingly clean for such a large city, and for one which does not appear to have any wastebaskets. (We had a can of soda and ended up carrying the empty can all afternoon).
After resting and writing in the room a while, we went out for dinner at 19:00 and ended up back on Divan Yolu, where we ate at a "steam table" restaurant. However, we ended up getting sis kebab and acili kebab rather than the already prepared dishes. Mark got involved in a conversation with the (Kurdish) waiter, most of which I could not hear because the restaurant was noisy. The waiter must have liked what Mark was saying, because he offered us a sample of "Kurdish pizza," which was a piece of flat bread like a thick tortilla with spiced meat on top.
Then back to the guesthouse and sleep.
April 27: Today I had more cheese, a hard-boiled egg, more olives, and skipped the butter. The cheese is like feta, but less salty, and is called beyaz peynir. (Notice the similarity of the second word to the Hindi "paneer.") It is made from sheep's milk. Sheep are far more common here than cattle, so there are more sheep's milk products, and more lamb, than the parallel beef products.
Today was Topkapi. Yes, just Topkapi.
First of all, it is not pronounced "top-KAP-ee"; it is "TOHP-kap-uh." That final letter is an undotted "i".
We took the advice of the Lonely Planet and after buying our general tickets (US$4 each) went directly to the Harem entrance and bought the tickets for that section (US$2 each). That section is by guided tour only, and the groups are limited to thirty people every half hour. (Actually, it appeared to be one group of thirty in an English-language tour, and another group of thirty in a Turkish-language tour.)
The Harem was not an exotic area where the Sultan frolicked with his concubines-it was the Sultan and his family's living quarters or private apartments. These rooms and buildings are the ones whose interiors are the most interesting, covered with tiles and other decorations. There were furnishings in some of the rooms we saw, but many of the rooms were connecting rooms or hallways. We did get to see the Sultan's bath and toilet.
After the Harem tour we went back to the main entrance and started from there. Though it is called a palace, Topkapi is not a palace in the European sense of a single main building. Rather it is like a fort, with a wall surrounding various buildings and courtyards.
The first building was the kitchens. Most of this was dedicated to a collection of celadon and porcelain from the Sultans' collection. It was interesting to note that the Islamic prohibition against the depiction of animals was not observed very strictly by the Sultans, at least in their choice of porcelain. Many of the Chinese and Japanese pieces had dragons, animals, and even people portrayed. (Some of the decorative wall tiles around the palace also had animals portrayed on them.)
There were several reception rooms scattered around the palace for different levels-the Sultan receiving his ministers, the Sultan receiving foreign dignitaries, and so on. There was one room that was now an armory museum, with a lot of chain mail and swords.
The Dormitory of the Expeditionary Force housed a display of robes, uniforms, and other clothing, from both before and after the clothing reforms of the early nineteenth century.
The next stop was the Imperial Treasury. This is pretty much the main attraction, and certainly one of the stops of all the tour groups (along with the Harem). Here one sees a large number of garish and terribly expensive items of the sort that appeal to sultans, emperors, dictators, and people who live in Beverly Hills. These include the Kasikçinin Elmasi, or Spoonmaker's Diamond. At 86 carats it is the world's fifth-largest diamond (so far). There is also an uncut emerald weighing 3.26 kilograms. And there is the most famous item, a dagger with three giant emeralds on the hilt. This was the target of the plot in the film Topkapi. (I suppose I should mention that my pre-trip watching included Topkapi and From Russia with Love and we asked Kate Pott to record Istanbul for us while we are here. It is reputedly terrible, but maybe it will have good scenery.)
The dagger was originally sent as a gift to Nadir Shah by Sultan Mahmud I, but Nadir Shah was killed in 1747 while it was on the way, so it was brought back and kept in the palace. It appears to have either a clock or a compass in the end of the handle-we could not get close enough to tell exactly which.
Given the crowds that were here now, before the tourist season even really starts, I would hate to try to see anything during July or August when the tourists arrive in force.
By the time we finished the Imperial Treasury, we were tired and hungry. There is basically only one choice for food inside the palace: the Konyali Restaurant, though you can choose between the sit-down part or the cheaper self-service cafeteria line. Even the cheaper area is not cheap; we got a döner kebap sandwich, a chicken kebap sandwich, a Coke, an apple tea, and a pudding, and it came to US$11.60! That is probably almost twice as much as it would cost outside.
Apple tea was apparently introduced into Turkey a few years ago and has really caught on. It tastes like hot cider.
We sat outside overlooking the Bosphorus (Greek for "Oxford"), watching the boats pass by and under the Bosphorus Bridge. Luckily it was not raining, but it was still cloudy and cold.
After lunch we saw the Suite of the Felicitous Cloak, or the Sacred Safekeeping Rooms. These contain the cloak of the Prophet Muhammed, his battle flag, two of his swords, several hairs from his beard, a tooth, a letter in his own handwriting, and three of his footprints in stone. Overlooking the question of how heavy someone has to be to leave footprints in stone, I will just note that the footprints were not of the same size or shape as each other. There were also other relics, including the staff of Moses. (One of the Imperial Treasury rooms also had what purported to be the arm of John the Baptist.)
The last area was for gardens and kiosks for lounging, and had one of the more specialized rooms I have seen, the Serbet Odasi, or Room for Sweet Fruit Beverages.
Though the Lonely Planet guides are in general excellent, this one has more errors than they usually do. It says foreigners call Topkapi the Seraglio. Actually, I have never heard that applied to anything but the Harem. Mark pointed out that it said that Topkapi was the sultans' residence for almost three centuries, with the dates given as 1453 to 1839. In one section it is claimed that a description of a Turkish Bath can be found in the introductory material; in fact, it is not there. (It is in a sidebar in the section on Bursa, of all places.)
We finished about 14:00, but all that walking had
worn us out, and in any case we had seen most of the sights in
this area. After a rest-up back at the guesthouse we had dinner
at Altin Kupa: Mark had haydari, gulas, and two Cokes,
and I had çorba, yarpak dolma, and a Coke. With a dessert
of baclava, this came to US$12.20.
April 28: Today was a travel day, as we went from Istanbul to Çanakkale. I cannot say I was entirely sorry, as my legs were sore from all the walking we have done in the last couple of days. I am either getting old, or out of shape, or both.
We had hoped to reserve a room at the Berk for the last night of our trip, but they were full. We tried the Empress Zoe (also full), and ended up with a room at the Alp Guesthouse at US$40 for a double with bath. This will save us having to find a room when we get in on the overnight train from Ankara.
We walked up to the ticket office on Divan Yolu for our shuttle bus. They had told us 10:00, and we arrived about fifteen minutes early. Well, then they said 10:00 or 10:30, but it turned out to be about 10:15. In the mean time, they tried to convince us to buy a Gallipoli (Gelibolu) tour from "Hassle-Free," which they said we could do in Çanakkale, so it was not very high-pressure. That would be US$15 each for a preliminary video, a showing of Gallipoli, and a six-hour tour (probably slightly less, as the swimming part probably is only later in the season). We planned to check this out and compare with some of the other tours that we had seen mentioned. Luckily, we have just missed the anniversary of the landing, 25 April, for which thousands gather in Çanakkale and the surrounding area.
We got on the minibus and after picking up a couple more people (who were late), we headed out towards the Istanbul Otogar (bus station).
The Istanbul Otogar is one of the world's largest bus terminals, and I have been in airports smaller than it. Apparently the tram runs from Divan Yolu to the otogar with only one change, but I doubt we could have found our bus very easily, so the shuttle was a good idea.
The bus was a Mitsubishi. There was assigned seating, and no smoking. The seats are cramped (partially due to our bulky vests, but also because they are narrow seats).
They say bus travel is fast. This does not include the part getting out of the otogar, which is New York traffic jam at its finest.
From Istanbul we traveled west through Thrace. Apparently doing this and then taking a ferry from is faster than going through Asian Istanbul and around the eastern end of the Sea of Marmara. (Well, thinking about it, anything involving driving across all of Istanbul would take a lot of time right there.)
There were several other tourists headed for Çanakkale, as well as mostly Turkish travelers. A couple of people were carrying the Lonely Planet Mideast on a Shoestring, so we let them look through our Turkey guide, which is more complete on the various places (because it covers less territory). Some of the other tourists had come up through Africa and had various stories of traveling on buses that got broken drive shafts, of riding on top of canvas trucks smuggling illegal aliens, etc. (This is for the benefit of people who think we are adventurous.)
On the bus they bring around lemon-scented cologne which you splash on your hands and face to freshen up-it is like the lemon-scented towels on airplanes without the towels. They also served a snack: a chocolate-filled sandwich cookie and orange soda. And all the long-distance buses are now non-smoking.
The bus made a couple of rest stops. The first was around 13:45, so we got lunch from one of the vendors at the stop: spicy köfte, spicy sauce, and chopped onions stuffed in a quarter loaf of bread, for US$2 each. Probably a bit overpriced compared with in a city, but quite reasonable by our standards.
As we rode, the sun finally came out. Let's hope it stays that way.
We arrived in Çanakkale about 17:30 and got off at the docks rather than the otogar, which is about a kilometer from the downtown. We decided to stay at the Hotel Bakir, a middle-range hotel at US$50 per night for a double with bath. We could stay in cheaper places, but as Mark expounded Barbara Iskowitz's philosophy, "Tour hard, rest easy." Actually, what Barbara really said as we were stepping over a pile of garbage to get to a really cheap hotel in Bangkok was, "What are you, crazy?"
It is also true that while food prices seem to have held steady, hotel prices seem to have increased since the guide was written a couple of years ago. This is not surprising-the hotels are mostly for tourists, who can afford to pay higher prices for them, while food is sold to tourists and locals alike.
We then went out and, after walking around a bit to scout out the territory, booked a Gallipoli tour with Troyanzac Tours, recommended by the Lonely Planet. The one the agent in Istanbul was promoting was from a company that the Lonely Planet said some people had found disappointing, and the price (US$15) and duration of the two (six hours) were the same. This one lacked the video and film, but we figured that was probably okay. I am sure we can rent the film back home for a dollar or so. It turned out that because the season had not really started yet, we ended up on that tour anyway (the agencies must pool resources when there are not enough tourists to go around, and we were the only two who signed up at Troyanzac).
Everyone quotes hotel and tour prices here in dollars, except for the odd price listed in pounds. (The travel agency in Istanbul had a Gallipoli/Troy package for £30.) (Oh, goody, another special character to track through all the computer transformations.) But they will accept payment in Turkish lira. The Berk Guesthouse would accept travelers cheques in US dollars, but with a 3% surcharge. Hardly anyone (at the level we are dealing in) takes credit cards.
We had dinner at Trakya, a "steam table" restaurant. Fried sardines, köfte in sauce, mashed eggplant, and two Pepsis came to US$8.20.
After that, we did a little laundry and studied up
April 29: We had been using the phrase book Just Enough Turkish that we bought in a used bookstore in Anchorage, Alaska, but decided that it should perhaps be named Not Quite Enough Turkish, as the words we were looking for are never in the sections where you would expect them, such as "How often ...?"
Breakfast was the usual Turkish breakfast. After breakfast we went out to the tourist information office. Oddly enough, the man at the office spoke no English, but we were able to communicate that we were interested in dolmuses to Troy, and he could draw on a map where the stop was and we managed to ask how often (by pointing at watch) and get the answer "often" (by the man circling his hand rhythmically several times, as if it say, "Over and over and over ..."). Little did we know....
(Dolmuses are minibuses which run on shorter, local routes. They do not have a schedule but leave the end point when they are full enough. For runs between the bus stations-otogars-and the center of town they are pretty regular, but other routes vary a great deal.)
Neither of the two ATMs at the dock would give me money, or a reason why not. One did give me a receipt; on the other hand, one successful transaction earlier gave me no receipt.
Since our Gallipoli tour did not leave until noon, we decided to see the military and naval museums. These are small, but the admission for both combined was just US$0.40 each. The first building was (I guess) the Naval Museum, with photographs and some small items from the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915. (More information on this will be forthcoming when I write about Gallipoli itself.) The second floor was water-colors and drawings by Mehmet Ali Laga during the Gallipoli Campaign and the years that followed (1915-1918). He was influenced by Impressionism and appears to be one of Turkey's major artists of that period (though I admit my art history is weak). These were not always easy to see because the windows had translucent cloth over them to protect the art from sunlight, meaning the room was rather dim.
There was also a mock-up of the mine-layer Nusrat outside, which had a display of front pages of Turkish newspapers in it. Only for one or two did I have much of a clue what they were about (one was the eighteenth anniversary of Atatürk's death). The largest part of the "complex" is the castle, Çimenlik Kalesi, which has some exhibits of arms inside the structure and lots of cannon outside and in the courtyard.
After we finished there, we went to Halkbank to change some travelers cheques so we would have enough money to pay for the room without using up all our US cash. (We did not know if the hotel took travelers cheques.) Since we were going through the hassle, we changed US$500, which seemed to be a bigger amount than they were used to, but eventually we finished the transaction.
Mark asked why the boats had the Lucent symbol on them. I explained that those were red lifesavers on a white boat.
After a brief rest at the hotel we went to Troyanzac for our tour of Gallipoli. We were taken to a ferry where we were give our "box lunches" (actually bag lunches: sandwich, apple, and water), and where we met our guide Ali. From there we stopped at another landing to pick up ten more people who had arrived from Istanbul. There were four Australians, two New Zealanders, and two Scots. I think most of them, and Ali, were surprised to have Americans on what is somewhat of an Anzac pilgrimage. (There was also a Scottish regiment at Gallipoli, but only two Americans.)
In the fifth century B.C.E. Xerxes tried to build a suspension bridge across the Dardanelles. A storm destroyed it, so he had the sea beaten to punish it and after 300 blows it calmed. He had a pontoon bridge built across his ships, and it took his 700,000 men nine days to cross. The next century Alexander used the same method, sans beating, to cross in the other direction. A naval assault through the Dardanelles in 1807 inspired Churchill to try a naval assault on 18 March 1915 (before the Gallipoli Campaign), which failed because the large fleet became trapped between the entrance of the Dardanelles and the narrowest part and heavily damaged by mines.
The Gallipoli Campaign was part of World War I between the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austro-Hungarian, Turkey) and the Triple Entente (Britain, France, Russia). Turkey actually wanted to side with Britain, but Britain wanted to appease Russia by giving them Turkey so Turkey had to side with Germany in self-defense. The Gallipoli Campaign was the effort of the Triple Entente to get a warm-water sea path to Russia through the Black Sea.
First, some Gallipoli Campaign Statistics:
The campaign was from March 1915 until January 1916 (240 days). (It had been scheduled to take eleven days.) The major casualties were as follows (numbers vary from book to book):
Nation Served Casualties Deaths Turkey 500,000 275,000 (55%) 87,000 (17.4%) British Empire 469,000 120,000 (26%) 34,000 (7.3%) Australia 55,000 28,220 (51%) 8,709 (15.8%) New Zealand 8,556 7,453 (87%) 2,701 (31.6%)
In addition, 63,969 cases of sickness were reported among the Australians-more than the number fighting there, indicating many repeat cases. There were also French, Indian, Jewish, a few Canadians, and even two Americans. (I guess the Jewish soldiers were from British Palestine.) (Some of the figures the guide gave disagree with these somewhat.)
It is claimed by some that the British commanders used the Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) troops as cannon fodder for the most dangerous engagements. While this is disputed, the casualty rates do seem to support it.
We began on Kapatepe Hill which overlooks Brighton Beach (the original planned area) and the Hell Spit. The final planned landing was supposed to be at Anzac Cove (Anzak Koyu), which was around the spit and not visible from the hill, so it was safer. The Lone Pine Memorial and the New Zealand National Memorial were visible on the hill. (Most of the memorials were designed by the British architect, but New Zealand refused and designed their own.)
The actual landing happened at Bee Point, so named by Queenslanders who were attacked by wild bees when their hives were shelled. The Anzacs landed at the wrong place because the British commander saw a landmark that he mistook and misdirected the landing fleet. Even so, the Turks got to the high ground only eight minutes before the Anzacs.
One reason the Turks fought so well, according to our guide, was that the Turkish soldiers were selected from small farms and towns on the peninsula and neighboring area, so they were trying to defend their homes and families. Among those was his grandfather from Güzelyali (17km away) who died on 8 August 1915, leaving behind Ali's father, age eighteen months. In a letter to his family before he died, he said, "I feel myself obliged to fight until the end for the protection of my family."
On the other side was "the Anzac spirit": a rite of passage or coming of age of Australia and New Zealand as independent countries.
Our next stop was at the Bee Point, where we ate our lunches while Ali told us about the landing. We could see the precipitousness of the cliffs here and realize how impossible scaling them under fire would be. Nearby was one of the many cemeteries. This one had a separate section at one side for "Muselmen" from the Indian units. I noticed a couple of gravestones did not have crosses, but none had Stars of David. Someone on the Internet had observed this in World War I cemeteries in France-is it just that everyone got crosses regardless, or that the army did not have very many Jews, or what? All the cemeteries were full of flowers from the recent Anzac Day.
Shortly before Christmas 1915, one of the British soldiers snapped a picture of one of the admirals as he was going in for a swim in the nude (as was the custom). This was sent home and printed in the papers, and when the admiral started getting packages, he opened them hoping for fine cigars and such. What he got were 869 pairs of swimming trunks.
This campaign was referred to as the "Gentlemen's War." The trenches were separated only by the width of the current road. At one point the New Zealanders threw chocolate bars to the Turks, giving them their first taste of chocolate. One day a package of tobacco was thrown back to the New Zealanders with a note, "i you tobacco. you me paper. every day every day," and so they started having smoking parties. In fact, the casualties decreased as time went on, as they stopped shooting at each other and starting shooting at birds and trees. And when the British finally evacuated Gallipoli, there was not a single casualty.
Of course, this did not mean that there was not also ferocious fighting. This is also the campaign in which Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) told his men, "I am not asking you to attack, I am ordering you to die. In the time that passes until we die other troops and commanders can take our place."
We finished up about 17:00 and returned to Çanakkale. On the way we saw some dolphins in the water, which makes up for our not seeing whales in Alaska. Though the long-distance roads are not bad, many of the other roads are very bumpy-sort of like New Jersey.
In Çanakkale we spent a while talking to Sadak in the travel agency. He was studying English and was glad of an opportunity to practice.
Dinner was at the "Bizim Entellektüel"
("Our Intellectual") restaurant: Mark had squid and
I had lamb chops. With yogurt and beverages, it came to US$10.40.
The portions were a bit small, 150 grams each, but we did not
really want huge mounds of food.
April 30: We got up, had breakfast, and walked over to the dolmus stop, about a kilometer away, getting a little after 9:00. In the summer, dolmuses to Troy run every 30 or 60 minutes, but this is not the summer. We ended up waiting until 10:30. Someone offered to drive us, wait for us, and bring us back for 4,000,000TL, but it was not clear how long he would wait, and he had also said something about a taxi for US$100, so I was not sure what we would be getting into.
While we were sitting there waiting, we watched horse carts going by, a surprising number for a town, and even one or two people riding horses.
Eventually someone pointed out to us where the Troy dolmus was loading up. It took about thirty minutes to get to Troy. When the river dropped us and a French couple off at 11:00, he said he would be back at 12:00. We figured this meant there were be dolmuses every hour or so.
I could either write pages about Troy, or be really brief; it is hard to hit an in-between level. Until the middle of the last century, many people thought Troy as mythical as the gods who took sides there. Those who believed that it existed placed it at a completely different location. Heinrich Schliemann, working on information provided by Frank Calvert, as well as that of the Iliad itself, concluded it must be at what was then called Hisarlik. (For one thing, the other site was too far from the sea for the Trojans and the Achaeans to have battled back and forth between the town and the ships as fast as they did.) So he dug there and found Troy.
Well, actually he found nine (or so) Troys, numbered with the oldest (lowest) as I and the highest as IX. He was convinced that Troy II was Priam's Troy and was a bit cavalier in how he excavated through the higher ones, so ironically, when it was decided that Priam's Troy was really Troy VI, it turned out that Schliemann had partially destroyed it to get to the lower, earlier levels. And what he called "Priam's Treasure" from Troy II actually pre-dated Priam by a thousand years or so.
We walked from the ticket booth (US$2 each) down the lane to Troy. At the entrance to the ruins is a giant fake Trojan horse, apparently built because people complained that there was nothing to take pictures of. The idea that the ruins themselves were not enough seems bizarre. Here is the inspiration of the beginnings of European literature (in Asia, ironically), and that is not enough.
There is a small exhibit at the entrance to the ruins (which apparently has a video in the summer) and a well-labeled route around and through the ruins themselves. That you can actually walk amongst the stones seems unbelievable.
We met someone who had graduated from the University of Southern California (whose teams are called the Trojans) last year, and who had dreamt of coming to Troy when he was reading the Iliad there, but could not believe he was getting a chance to do it, and this soon. He had flown down from Istanbul for the day just to do this.
After a couple of hours, we walked back to the dolmus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. After about an hour and fifteen minutes, we started looking for someone to ask about when the next dolmus would come. One of the shopkeepers said they had no schedule and seemed very uncertain that would be another dolmus. He said his friend would be willing to take us back to Çanakkale for US$20, and since we did not appear to have much choice, we agreed.
What have we learned from all this? Dolmus service in the off-season is very iffy. One immediate change to our plans was to skip Assos. The plan when we arrived was to go to Ayvacik from Çanakkale, leave our luggage there, take a dolmus to Assos, sightsee, take a dolmus back, then continue to Bergama (BEHR-gah-mah) (a.k.a. Pergamum). This seemed to be a bad idea, so we decided to go directly to Bergama instead.
We had the driver drop us at the Arkeoloji Müsezi (Archaeology Museum, US$1 each), which was a couple of kilometers from the center of town on the Troy Road. This seemed to be a very new museum, with a small but choice collection of artifacts (also seen as "artefacts") from Troy and other excavations in the area. Mark wondered how sculptors made so many busts of the various emperors, all of which of the same emperor looked like him. He thought they must use molds; I pointed out you could not pour marble. I figure that they probably had apprentices/slaves who formed the basic human head shapes, then the more experienced sculptors finished off the features, possibly using another bust as the model.
Afterwards, we walked back to town. On the way we passed two men who were practicing oiled wrestling (Yagli güres). This is a Thracian sport (Thrace being just across the Dardanelles), and is described in the Lonely Planet guide. I think we distracted one of them, even though we were about twenty meters away-he seemed to be looking in our direction and then was thrown. So we did not stay very long.
By this point we were hungry-we had not eaten since breakfast (except a couple of cookies while waiting for the dolmus at Troy), so even though it was early (about 16:00) we went to the Gaziantep Aile Kebap ve Pide Salonu for dinner. I had a "Turkish Pizza": ground lamb, cheese, and tomato slices on pide bread (like naan more than like pita). Mark had a spicy soup and lâmacun-ground lamb on a very thin bread (like a crisp flour tortilla). With Pepsis it came to US$4.20.
We then bought bus tickets to Bergama. For a three-hour trip (240 kilometers), it cost US$5.20 each with Radar Turizm. We had our choice of a 6:30 bus or an 11:30 one. I would have liked something more like 9:00, but we took the 11:30 one. It cuts into the day a lot, but on the other hand, we were supposed to be on vacation, and given that seeing things does not take as long as planned, it would be foolish to get up at 5:00 to rush around. (Well, I suppose the fact that getting places takes longer balances that seeing them takes shorter. In fact, this bus trip ended up taking 50% longer than they claimed.)
After a rest in the room, we went and sat on a bench on the docks. This is right below our window, so the view was not different, but the weather was nice, and we could watch the sun set over the water. A cat came along and decided my lap was precisely the place to take a nap. Eventually she felt she had rested enough and wandered off, but in the mean time I got a lot of looks from people who knew that was not my cat.
After the sun set, we went inside, though we did
go out later and get dessert. 140 grams (about 5 ounces) of assorted
baclava was US$1.20, and Mark got an ice cream cone for US$0.40.
May 1: This was another travel day. I got up about 8:30 (I am glad we did not pick the 6:30 bus). We had breakfast, packed, and caught the bus at the ticket office. It was the actual bus, arriving from Istanbul by ferry, not just a shuttle bus to the real bus, so that was convenient. There is assigned seating, but the bus was pretty empty,, so we could move forward and sit in separate rows to have extra room.
The newspaper said that it would be sunny with a high of 24° Celsius in Izmir. Ankara had rain.
You may wonder why I am giving everything in metric units, etc. That is because that is what it is here, and it is easier just to think that way than to convert everything.
We had a brief lunch stop, where the meat I got turned out to be liver (at best-there may have been other things in it I do not want to know about). Mark had grilled eggplant and other vegetables in yogurt, and we shared a rice pudding, all for US$4.20. They had a sort of waterfall as decoration at the stop, but I noticed that they turned it off as we pulled out.
We passed lots of shells of buildings either being built or falling down-we cannot quite tell which. (I suppose rough window shapes indicate that the windows were removed, while neat shapes indicate they are going to be put in. But I am not sure.)
We were told the trip would take three hours; it took four and a half. And we got dropped on the highway (about seven kilometers from Bergama's bus terminal in town). The Lonely Planet warns about this and says you should ask if the bus goes to the otogar (which I forgot to do), but it also says that they say "yes" even when it does not, so I am not sure that asking helps. However, things are a little better than described. Rather than having to hitchhike, you can now use the taxis which wait for the buses. On the meter, we paid US$4.80 for the ride into town. (It was actually a little more, but the driver rounded down!)
And we were even luckier. The driver asked if we had reservations, and when we said no, he pulled out a card for the Böblingen Pension. This was a place highly recommended by someone on the Net. We had planned on trying one of the mid-range hotels (probably about US$50), but figured we would look at this first. The room (and bathroom) were spotless, it had a bigger bed than our other places, and it was only US$12 for a double with breakfast! (Okay, it did not provide towels, but I always carry one.) We took it, and also arranged for the taxi driver to take us around to the sights the next morning for US$20 (the standard price according to the Lonely Planet). So the whole package cost less than what we had thought the hotel room would cost.
We went up to the terrace bar on top, which was actually rather warm because it was enclosed rather than open-air. There was a guestbook with many favorable comments, but very few American ones. There were mostly Australians, New Zealanders, Germans, and Japanese. (I have decided that overall German would have been a more useful language to learn than Spanish. At least in our travels, we encounter more German speakers than Spanish.)
We bought bus tickets to Izmir for 14:30 tomorrow (100 kilometers, US$3.40 each). We were not sure we would need that much time but wanted to be on the safe side. The otogar was considerably further down the street than the Lonely Planet map indicated, another problem. While it is still probably the best guide, this Lonely Planet is not up to the high standards of many of the others, particularly the Southeast Asia and India ones.
We ran into the Canadian couple (Pat and Mary Lynne) who had been on the bus with us from Istanbul to Çanakkale. They actually managed to get a dolmus from Troy about 15:00 the day before us. They also went to Assos, which has more regular dolmus service than Troy. But since there is a lot of climbing at Assos, I am not too unhappy about missing it.
We ate at the Dostlar, one of a series of open-air "sports cafes" on the main street. We had a cucumber and tomato salad, deep-dried filo cheese pastry, two mixed grills, and three Pepsis for US$8. These were "sports cafes" not from any labeling, but because they had television sets playing the football (soccer) game.
After dinner we went back to the pension and up to the bar (there are no chairs in the room). Ahmed, the owner, came up and we conversed in broken English, German, and Turkish for a while, but it was pretty awkward until his son Finzer (?) came back with another guest, a Japanese. Finzer's English is quite good, and we all talked about movies (including Godzilla), sports, and a lot of other things. We were joined by a New Zealander who was clearly traveling on the cheap. He told how he got a free ride up to the Acropolis, then sneaked in with an English-speaking tour group and followed them around listening to the guide. When he heard we were spending US$20 for the taxi hire, he was appalled! (He had come for Anzac Day, thinking it would be a great party, but found out there was really a lot of history involved. He said he might even read a book about it when he got back.)
Though it had been hot during the day, it got cold
at night and so did we, and ended up sleeping in our clothes.
May 2: Breakfast was the usual. I am not sure why people rave about it in the guestbook, unless it is that it is unusual in pensions in this price range.
Our taxi driver arrived at 9:00 (we never did learn his name) and we paid for our room and left our luggage at the pension.
It was a long drive up to the Acropolis (4.3 kilometers) and a steep one. I suppose it is possible to climb it, but I can see why even the Lonely Planet recommends taking a taxi. They claim it was US$5 for a ride up, which has probably held steady. They recommend coming down through the ruins. However, they say the path is not well-marked, the Canadians (who did it) say it very steep and they slid down a lot, and given the amount of sheep droppings around, I would have opted against it even without our taxi. The road would be work enough.
The main structure on the Acropolis is the Trajaneum, named for the Emperor Trajan (no surprise there). It used to contain the Altar of Zeus, but during the German excavations of the nineteenth century, that somehow ended up in the Antikmuseum in Berlin. Turkish groups are now pushing for the return of that and other stolen antiquities.
But the fact that the Germans did a lot of excavation and (recently) restoration explains why the signs are in Turkish, German, and English rather just Turkish and English. (They were not of much help to the French and Italian cruise passengers from Festival Cruises, but they had their own guides.) The German name for this place, by the way, is Burberg.
The restoration consists mostly of anastylosis, or the reassembly of existing but loose parts. At present they are not filling in missing parts with simulations.
In addition to the Trajaneum there is also a Temple of Athena, a library, and an amphitheater. The library rivaled Alexandria's at one time, leading Alexandria to refuse to send papyrus to Pergamum. So Pergamum discovered how to make a writing material from something they had a lot of: sheepskin. Hence was invented "parchment." After the Library in Alexandria was burned, Marc Anthony sent to Pergamum (also under Roman rule) for manuscripts to replace those lost.
The Amphitheater is the steepest in the Roman world, but that is because they wanted to seat 10,000 people and all they had was this very steep hillside.
After this came the Red Basilica. The Red Basilica (Kizil Avlu) was originally a temple to Serapis, an Egyptian god. This built during the second century C.E., more recently than you might expect. Then it was converted to a Christian basilica, and it is claimed there is now a mosque inside, though I did not see anything like that. (Maybe it was it a different area, not where the tourists go in.) What I did see was a plaque with Turkish (in the pre-Roman-alphabet Arabic script) and Hebrew, dated in the Hebrew part 5630, which corresponds to 1878 C.E. I do not know what it said, but I took a picture and if it is readable, someone can tell me.
A sign inside said the temple was mentioned in the New Testament, John 2:12, but it would seem to postdate that book. I will have to check that out.
The constant re-use of this site for religious buildings led the Lonely Planet to opine that "sacred ground remains sacred," although that concept was portrayed better in the James Michener's fictional work The Source.
Spring is in full bloom here with brilliant flowers: red poppies, white and yellow daisies, yellow dandelions, and some sort of purple flower.
The books all talk about how during June, July, and August it is very hot and there are too many tourists. It is already too hot and there are already too many tourists for my tastes. Well, I suppose I want the sites empty except for us and maybe a few suitably studious other people. Instead, there seem to be a lot of people there on group excursions asking (about a fifth of the way up the path to the Acropolis from there bus), "How much more climbing is there?" The best exchange though was: "Have you notice how slender and elegant Turkish cats are?" "I thought they were just underfed."
Everywhere we go we see busts of Atatürk with his saying "Ne mutlu Türküm dineye" ("Happy is he who says he is Turkish") beneath. This got me thinking about how everyone views nationality and ethnicity differently. In the United States, an "American" is a national designation. There is no such thing as an "ethnic American." (Even the American Indians are ethnically Cherokee, Navajo, and so on.) On the other end, there is no such thing as a "Kurdish national." "Kurdish" is (presently) strictly an ethnic designation. Now, "Turkish" is both. One can be a Turkish national without being ethnically Turkish, and vice versa. One wonders which Atatürk meant.
After the Red Basilica, we went to the Asclepion, neither the first nor the only Temple of Healing in the ancient world, but one of the best known (Galen taught here until called to Rome). We drank from the healing spring; Mark hopes it fends off his cold. Here too there was a library and an amphitheater, something actually missing from most hospitals these days.
We finished up about noon, and were all hot and tired (it was about 25° Celsius). We decided rather than eat (we were not hungry) or wait for the Arkeoloji Müsezi to open at 13:00 we would get on an air-conditioned bus and proceed. So we picked up our luggage and walked over to the otogar, where we changed our 14:30 tickets for 12:30 ones.
The bus ride was comfortable and watching the scenery is also part of seeing a country. We were not sure how long it would take: the Lonely Planet says that Izmir to Bergama takes one and three-quarters hours, but that Bergama to Izmir takes one hour (in different sections). The one and three-quarter hours was probably the correct one.
Izmir (Smyrna) has little to recommend it, thanks to whoever burned it during the Greek invasion of 1920-1922. (The Turks say it was the Greeks and Armenians who set the fires; the Greeks and Armenians insist it was Turkish soldiers. No surprises here.) It is all new, and is basically a big, crowded city. We had thought we would stay here and go on to Sardis tomorrow, but we arrived so early (14:15) that we decided to go on to Salihli and stay there. (Salihli is the town nine kilometers from the ruins of Sardis.)
The Izmir bus station is big and I was glad we did not have to negotiate our way out of it to a city bus, etc. We were directed to a Salihli bus, which left about fifteen minutes later. For the hour-and-a-half ride (90 kilometers) to Salihli, it was US$2 each!
On the bus was a woman who seemed to have just gotten out of the hospital. She had some sort of dressing on her hand and was obviously not feeling well. She lay down with her legs across the aisle, which meant every time the "steward" came by with water or lemon cologne, she had to move. Her two daughters were with her and Mark gave one of them his soft-sided briefcase stuffed with his jacket for the woman to use as a pillow. We talked a little to the daughter-well, a little is about all we can handle in Turkish. She had a head scarf on, but did not seem too concerned when it slipped off and left it off until the bus arrived. We have seen a lot of women with head scarves, and a lot without. So far we have seen very few who have covered their mouths as well, but there have been a few, and I expect we will see many more in Konya, a very religious city and pilgrimage destination.
In Salihli we walked over to the better of the two hotels mentioned in the Lonely Planet, the Otel Berrak. It had gone from US$35 to US$70 for a double, and this seemed high. I suggested we at least look at the cheaper one, the Hotel Yener. We did and it seemed okay, and was only $9.60 a night, so we went with that.
After all, it had a sign that said, "Hotelize sarhos müsteri alinmaz" ("We accept no drunken customers").
Well, after we got settled we found all sorts of problems. The bathroom door needs to be locked to keep it from swinging open. No problem, except the lock (a slide) is on the outside, on the room side not the bathroom side! There also was not much hot water for a shower. The window that was supposed to open was broken.
Mark then declared this the worst room for the rest of the trip and not only admitted he was in a snit, but positively reveled in it.
(After we returned from dinner we got to look up another phrase in Turkish: "Elektrik kesilmis" ["The electricity has been cut off"]. Mark pointed out that this was not very useful, as the front desk probably knew that there was no electricity, but you never know. While some buildings around us still seemed to have electricity, I pointed out that the Otel Berrak was also dark, so we could have spent seven times as much to sit in the dark. Mark was unconvinced.)
After we had checked in, we went back out to the market we had seen going on between the otogar and the hotel. There was fresh food of course (meat, cheese, produce, etc.), but also household goods, clothing, and a lot of shoes. Mark bought a towel for any future hotels that did not have them. (This was before Mark had declared the Otel Yener the worst room for the rest of the trip-and it had towels, including big bath towels.)
We also bought some oranges. Originally we were going to get three, but when the man gave us a sample, we decided we should get six. Unfortunately he thought we meant six kilograms! After we did much frantic gesturing and leafing through the book, he realized the word we were looking for was "adet" ("units," as opposed to weight). We ended up with nine (two kilograms) for US$1, but we will eat them at some point.
Dinner was at the Kervan Kebap Salonu. Mark had
the special assortment, I had adana kebap, and we had two Pepsis,
all for US$8.
May 3: Breakfast was oranges eaten in the room.
The room was not cold last night. Even with the balcony door propped open a bit, it was somewhat stuffy.
I suppose I need to talk about those things everyone wonders about but does not ask. First, no, we did not get sick. (If we did not get sick in India, we probably will not get sick anywhere.) The toilets here (at least so far, and we have seen them only in our hotel rooms) have all been Western-style (sit, not squat). Many have a bidet sort of tube that is regulated by a handle on the wall, and all have toilet paper as well. And female hygiene products are readily available here (I saw Tampax, o.b., and Always, here called Orkid).
And now back to our regularly scheduled log.
After breakfast we walked over to the otogar and got a bus to Sardis (Sart). For some reason the driver went only about ten kilometers an hour through town, and did not close the front door. When he got to the highway, he did speed up though, and closed the door. The trip cost US$0.60 each.
When we got to Sardis, we paid our admission (US$1 each) and left our luggage in the ticket office. There was some other luggage there; it belonged to Pat and Mary Lynne, who were either following us or we were following them!
Sardis is known mostly as the place where coins were invented, but it has other claims to fame as well. It was the capital of the Lydian kingdom, and Herodotus tells the story of how Gyges came to found the Lydian dynasty. Croesus built his (unsuccessful) funeral pyre at Sardis. And there was a sizable Jewish population at Sardis. In fact, one of the main buildings at the site is the synagogue.
But the tallest and most noticeable building, visible from a great distance, is the gymnasium and bathhouse. This was probably the grandest building on the site, standing about fifteen or twenty meters high, and is the most restored. The synagogue has also been considerably restored, almost entirely by Jewish donors through a restoration fund. It has beautiful mosaics in the floor, inlaid stonework patterns on the walls, and some of the structure showing.
Also along one side of the site is the "Roman Way," with shops and offices. Some have been identified as "Jacob's Paint Shop," a hardware shop, and the shop of Sabbatios.
It seemed strange that the mosaics in the synagogue and on the Roman Way were not roped off or protected from being walked on. I suppose given that they are exposed to the elements, this additional wear is not much, as the site is not heavily touristed.
This took about an hour. We then walked a kilometer with Pat and Mary Lynne to the Temple of Artemis, never finished but still impressive. Luckily it was a bit cloudy which kept the heat from being too oppressive.
We saw a couple of tour groups at these sites, but I suspect they do not get as many as (say) Pergamum because they are sort of off the main road. (They are an hour east of Izmir and there is nothing further down that road of great tourist interest for several hundred kilometers.) But I bet all the Jewish tour groups go there. They can make up the time by skipping Mary's House and the Tomb of John the Baptist at Ephesus. :-) (Not entirely a joke, of course. When we went to Israel with an American Jewish Congress tour, we drove right through Bethlehem without stopping, and did not go down into the Holy Selpuchre in Jerusalem. But we spent a day at Masada. In fact, when we compared notes with someone who had gone to Israel with a church group, it was as it we had visited two separate countries-there was very little overlap.)
We returned to the ticket office for the main site and got our luggage. A bus for Izmir stopped just as we got to the highway, and two others had just gone by, so even not in summer, this is an easy place to get to.
There is not much to say about the ride to Izmir (US$2 each). In Izmir we changed to a bus to Selçuk and got a snack: a large filo cheese pastry and two bageloid objects called simit. The whole batch cost US$0.60! Of course, it was bus station quality food, so that may be about right. The simit were sesame covered and like bagels only slightly larger, but with a much larger hole, so they looked like giant teething rings.
The Lonely Planet warns about hotel touts at the Selçuk otogar, but they start even before you leave Izmir! A man got on and picked out the tourists, telling us about his brother's hotel, the Otel Nazar. It is recommended in the Lonely Planet as a mid-range hotel (which he pointed out). They said US$25 for a double, he offered it for US$20, and eventually dropped to US$16 including breakfast. We said we would look at it, and he arranged to have the driver drop us near there instead of later at the bus station (where of course all the other touts would be).
When we got there it seemed quite acceptable. (The first room they showed us was a bit dark (it had one small window that opened onto a ventilation shaft), so we asked for one with "more window" and got a lighter room at the front. It was noisier, but that was not a problem except for the night they had a big party going outside.
We sat up on the terrace for a while with one of the managers who spoke excellent English. He had spent two and a half months on the west coast and in the southwest of the United States and was planning on going back to see some of the rest. We talked a lot about what there was to do in the area. Apparently the minibuses are already running to Miletus, Priene, and Didymas, so if there are not enough people for a hotel tour, they could book us with a standard tour (getting a commission, no doubt). They could also arrange tickets to Samos, if we really wanted to add a second country to the trip. (But then our "just Turkey" would not be true anymore.) We also got some advice on Pamukkale, Konya, and Göreme, which we may or may not take. According to him, though the wading has stopped at Pamukkale, the hotels remain and continue draining the water off the travertines. (The former part is only partially true; see the Pamukkale section below.) The ruins are worthwhile, though. He suggested when we leave going to Denizli early, dropping our luggage there, going to Pamukkale for most of the day, then returning to Denizli, getting our luggage, and taking a night bus to Konya. He thought one day was more than enough for Konya, and then we should move on to Göreme. I am not sure how thrilled I would be with a night bus-the buses are okay, but no more comfortable than airplanes, though with perhaps more chance of an empty seat next to you. Also, other people have said Konya requires at least a day and maybe more. And if part of what you want to see is the countryside, a night bus will not do it.
We also talked about the European Union and the general economic situation in Turkey. Everyone we ask about the European Union seems to be glad Turkey was turned down and does not want to join. They think it is all a plan by the politicians to get rich by basically selling Turkey to Europe.
We freshened up a bit, then went out for a walk. I finally mailed our postcards (I had been looking for a PTT office or drop box for two days now). We passed the old Roman aqueduct and could see the storks nesting on top. (Some hotels in the center of town have as a feature that you can see this from their roofs.)
There were a lot of carpet shops along the streets in the center of town, and a lot of sidewalk cafes (all pretty empty this time of year). We walked over to the Tourist Information Center and discovered that the Citadel is closed, though you can walk around the outside. It had not been listed as a site in the Lonely Planet, but since it was sitting there so impressively on the hill, it seemed worth asking.
We sat in a park for a while and collected four children with whom we had a very limited conversation. (We established that we were from the United States and they were thirteen years old.) Mark folded some origami for them, which was a big hit.
Dinner was at the Okumus Mercan Grill &
Cafe. I had the local specialty, çop sis,
or small bits of meat grilled on a bamboo skewer. Mark had a
mixed grill, which was a good-sized portion. With two salads
(mushroom salad and haydari), three Pepsis, an apple tea, and
a Turkish coffee, it came to US$9.20.
May 4: Today was our day for seeing Ephesus.
Ephesus contained one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Diana (also known as the Temple of Artemis or the Artemision). (The seven are/were the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Diana (Artemis) in Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Bodrum, south of Ephesus), the Pharos at Alexandria, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and the Pyramids of Egypt. We would have gone to see the Mausoleum, but after surviving for two millennia, it was broken up by our friends the Crusaders for building materials for a fort they knew would not hold anyway.)
Ephesus is also one of the "Seven Churches" mentioned in the book of the Revelation of St. John (Ephesus [Selçuk], Smyra [Izmir], Pergamum [Bergama], Thyatira [Akhisar], Sardis [Sart], Philadelphia [Alasehir], and Laodicea [Laodikya]).
We were told breakfast was at 8:30, but we did not get served for about ten minutes. At 8:55, one of the managers came up to say the minibus would be leaving for Ephesus in five minutes. So we rushed through breakfast and I raced back to the room to change, because the weather was a bit cooler and threatened rain, so closed shoes and jeans seemed a better idea than sandals and a dress. (It turned out that if we had been up on the terrace earlier, we could have had breakfast as early as 8:15.)
I am not sure what the rush was-the minibus was taking just us and Pat and Mary Lynne to Ephesus. This was a "free" service of the hotel, and it was-except that when we got to Ephesus, the woman who drove us over said that she would be at the other end in two hours to take us to a carpet shop owned by some relative of the hotel owner (his sister-in-law's husband or some such). We explained we wanted more than two hours, and in fact, 1) did not know how long we wanted, and 2) wanted to walk back to see the sights on the way. She was not happy with this, but was very polite about it (not that she had much choice, having said the service was not dependent on anything).
As it was, we spent three hours at Ephesus itself, and another two walking back.
Ephesus was more crowded than any other place we have been outside of Istanbul, and probably even more crowded than those sites as well. They were mostly tour groups, both from cruises and land tours, and mostly French and Italian, though there were some Germans and some Spaniards, and even some English-speakers (I am not sure from where).
The tours mostly seem to start at the upper end and walk down. However, we were dropped at the lower end, closer to town. The first ruins one sees when starting from this end are even before the entrance, and are those of the Harbor Gymnasium (a.k.a. the Gymnasium of Vedius). (Everything seems to have several English names. Much of the labeling is primarily in Turkish and German with a little English added, because the Germans did most of the excavation and restoration.)
We missed the remains of the Double Church (a.k.a. the Church of the Virgin Mary, a.k.a. the Council Church), which is of great historic interest, as that is where the third Ecumenical Council condemned the Nestorian heresy in 431 C.E. (If you have never heard of the Nestorian heresy and have no interest in it, I am surprised you have read this far!)
After the entrance (US$4 each, a real bargain) comes the Arcadian Way, which had water and sewer lines underneath and streetlights along its length when Ephesus was at its height. From that branched off Harbor Street, which originally led to the harbor (now silted over).
The first impressive structure you see is the Great Theatre, reconstructed by the Romans between 41 and 117 C.E. Seating 25,000, it has excellent acoustics and is still used occasionally. It is the largest theatre structure in Turkey. The riot of Demetrius the silversmith (over the drop in sales of Artemis shrines when Paul started preaching) took place here.
From the theatre the Marble Way (a.k.a. the Sacred Way) goes past the Mercantile Agora (marketplace) to what is called the Brothel. Actually, archaeologists have decided it was really just a large private home, but it got its reputation (and name) when a statue of Priapus, quite impressively endowed, was found in it.
The Marble Way ends at the Embolos or center of town. Here are the most impressive structures, the Library of Celsus and the Gate of Augustus (a.k.a. the Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates). The façade of the library was restored in the 1970s, but the four statues in front (Wisdom/Sophia, Knowledge/Episteme, Destiny/Ennoia, and Virtue/Arete) are copies of the originals, which are in the Ephesus Museum in Vienna, Austria. (In addition to excavating and restoring, the Germans did a lot of carting off as well, at least in the nineteenth century.)
The street takes a sharp bend here, traditional in the Roman city plan, and becomes Curetes Street, the paving of which was last repaired in the fourth century. On one side are the public toilets (for men). These are sit-down toilets, not the squat variety.
On one side of Curetes Way are "Hanging Houses," or houses built on the slope. Beneath them along the street were shops, and a very well-preserved mosaic runs in front of ten of these shops.
One the other side are the Temple of Hadrian, the baths, and the Fountain of Trajan. At the far end is the Odeion, a smaller theater seating only 1500 people and used for government meetings.
We finished up about noon, and started back towards Selçuk. Several taxis passed us and asked if we wanted rides, but we still had things to see. It took almost an hour to walk to the Grotto of the Seven Sleepers. These were seven Christian youths (Maximianus, Malchus, Martinianus, Dionysius, Johannes, Serapion, and Contantinus [which could have been a typo for "Constantinus"]) who were being persecuted by the Emperor Decius in 250 and fled to a cave. The soldiers found them and walled them in, at which point the seven fell into a deep sleep. When an earthquake unsealed the cave over a hundred years later, they awoke and discovered that Ephesus was now a Christian city under Emperor Theodosius I. This is significant because although the Emperor Constantine had made the Byzantine Empire an officially Christian one in 325, it was Theodosius I who finally proscribed paganism in 392. (Again, the Lonely Planet claims they slept two hundred years, but Theodosius ruled from 379 to 395, so it was at most 145 years.)
There was a sign saying that admission was free, but the grotto itself had a locked gate across the front. I think in the summer it is open but there is a charge. Still, we were able to look in and see it somewhat.
We bought a 1.5-liter bottle of water there, having finished the water we had brought with us. It would have cost US$0.50 in town; there it was US$1. I guess that is like the high prices at the concession stand in movie theaters.
We walked the rest of the way back to Selçuk. Right outside the town is the Artemision, or Temple of Artemis, or Temple of Cybele, or Temple of Diana. As noted earlier, this was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but was destroyed first by fire, and then by having the materials used to construct the St. John Church.
By the way, as I suggested earlier, we did not go to two of the supposedly major sites of Selçuk/Ephesus. One was the St. John Church, which we saw from the outside. The other was the Meryemana, or Mary's House, which the Virgin Mary supposedly lived. Had it been in town we might have been curious to see the people going to it, but it is ten kilometers outside of town, and has an admission charge. It hardly seems fair to declare something a shrine suitable for pilgrimages and then to charge admission, but that is just my opinion.
By now (14:00) we were quite hungry, so we stopped for lunch at a cafe across from the museum. It looked even more touristy than the places in the center of town, advertising hamburgers (though they were out of them) and such. We had haydari, octopus salad, adana kebap, and three Pepsis for US$12.
The museum is small, but well laid out, with various finds from Ephesus inside and in the courtyard, and an outside ethnographic section. One of its featured pieces is the statue of Priapus mentioned earlier. There are also the remaining pieces of a seven-meter-high statue of Domitian, and two excellent statues of Artemis (or Cybele) as the many-breasted mother goddess.
When we got back to the hotel (about 16:00), we booked a tour for Priene, Miletus, and Didymas for the next day. Complete with guide and lunch included it was US$30 per person. (As I noted earlier, all these tours seem to be quoted in dollars rather than Turkish lira.)
I was a little hungry later in the evening, but too
tired to get up and go out to eat.
May 5: We were picked up at 9:30 for the tour. There were five people all together, so we were lucky they ran the tour. (One agency the previous day said that now they are running guided tours only two days a week.) There were two (different) Canadians (Peter and Shirley) and a Japanese woman (Yuki) traveling by herself.
We talked mostly to the Canadians. I mentioned that I had always wanted to go to Greece, and they said we may have made a mistake coming to Turkey first, because Turkey is much better than Greece and we would be disappointed when we finally got there.
Our guide was Hayreyyin (Hari) Hüner. He was very interesting, though he covered a bit less of the actual history than we would have liked. He talked a lot about how we did not know how the ancients managed to build all these structures, and seemed to think that they did it with "magic" (he seemed to mean telekinetic powers). This was similar to what our guide at Tula in Mexico had thought; Mark thinks guides go to the same school ("the Guides' School of Technical Hokum," I think he called it) to learn this stuff. Hari also talked about how there are cities in Central America from which the inhabitants just disappeared. Since everything is vibration (true in a way), he thinks they learned to vibrate differently and this made them invisible. He also professed belief in the Gaia theory (though he did not use that name), and that the ancients had a different sense of time. The latter is true in the sense that they would take a long time to complete a building, but then that was also true of builders of the medieval cathedrals.
A lot of this seemed to center around the idea that people were different then, and that their minds worked differently. This is similar to the thesis of Julian Jaynes in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, though I do not think this is quite what Jaynes had in mind, or that the guides have all read Jaynes.
We passed many wrecked and rusting cars by the side of road. Apparently they are left there as a warning to other drivers, but I am not sure how well it works, because the drivers still do not seem all that careful.
We arrived at Priene. The USS$1.20 admission was included in our tour. Priene is located high on a mountain and even after the bus ride up, it was a long climb to it. They have some steps, but they are for people with very long legs. In fact, this seems to be true of many of the reconstructions. If the ancients were so much shorter than us, why did they have these very high steps?
Most of the destruction of the structures in this area was from earthquakes rather than fire. (Well, I would think it would be hard to burn a stone building, but the books talk of some of the temples being burned.)
Hari pointed out one difference between the theater in Ephesus and the one at Priene: the seats in Ephesus end above the stage, with a separating wall, while at Priene they go all the way down to the stage. That is because the theater at Ephesus was used for wild animals (among other things), while at Priene it was used only for plays. I do not remember the wall at Ephesus being high enough to stop lions or other animals with any sort of leaping ability, but I could be misremembering. Or maybe they only had crocodiles.
After leaving the ruins, we stopped for tea. Hari said that the apple tea that everyone serves is a tourist thing. He also said that he regrets the change of alphabet from the old Arabic script to a Latin alphabet in the 1920s-it made everyone illiterate overnight, and all the old classics are unavailable to the current generation. (In addition to changing the alphabet, Atatürk also simplified [or Turkified] some of the words and the grammar.)
Most of the tickets here have pictures of the sites. The one for Miletus has a picture of a gate with the notation that it is "still" in the Museum of Pergamum in Berlin. I think that is a subtle hint that Turkey would like it back.
Miletus was a center of science, mathematics, and philosophy but never achieved its possibilities. In Miletus, in 580 B.C.E., Thales became the first person to predict a solar eclipse a year in advance. Demosthenes, Democrites, Hippodamus (the architect who invented the grid plan for cities), and the inventor of a method to heat the baths all came from here. But while every time Ephesus was threatened it would welcome its conquerors and avoid destruction, Miletus resisted both the Persians and Alexander and was destroyed by both. After the revolt against the Persians failed in 494 B.C.E., there was a "brain drain" as all the leading thinkers went to Athens.
In the theater here, as elsewhere, you can see part of what made the acoustics so good in the theaters: the parts of the seating between the seat and the "floor" of the row are parabolic-shaped to reflect the sound.
There were extensive baths at Miletus. Baths started over hot water springs; then as people grew to like them, they were built in cities. There grew up a whole "bath culture," which remained in Turkey long after it disappeared from other parts of the Mediterranean. In part this is because Islam requires a certain amount of washing as part of one's religious duties. One must wash one hands, feet, and mouth before prayer, and men must wash completely after sex (Hari did not say whether women had to).
We looked at the archways and talked a bit about the arch. Hari said that the Mostar Bridge was considered a perfect example of the "Turkish arch" and was built by an apprentice of Turkey's great architect Sinan (1491-1588). I am not sure why it is a Turkish arch rather than someone else's, since I have not yet heard it claimed that it was invented in Turkey.
Actually, what is interesting is that much of what we attribute to the Greeks is from Turkey. I have mentioned some of the philosophers, but another famous "Greek" is Herodotus, who was from Halicarnassus (Bodrum). In Turkey, this is referred to as the "Hellenistic" or "Hellenic" culture, rather than "Greek."
There was the remains of a harbor monument in honor of Pompeius, which led Peter to declaim the lines from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar:
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements, To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops, Your infants in your arms, and there have sat The livelong day, with patient expectation, To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome: And when you saw his chariot but appear, Have you not made an universal shout, That Tiber trembled underneath her banks, To hear the replication of your sounds Made in her concave shores? And do you now put on your best attire? And do you now cull out a holiday? And do you now strew flowers in his way That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood? Be gone! Run to your houses, fall upon your knees, Pray to the gods to intermit the plague That needs must light on this ingratitude.
Other than us, though, the only beings around to hear it were a herd of sheep.
Which leads me to wonder, why do we go places that involve slogging through fields full of sheep shit?
Much of Miletus has yet to be excavated or restored, but we did see several buildings scattered across the plain. This seems to be one of the few towns not built on top of a hill or on the side of a hill.
Outside Miletus was a souvenir shop selling, among other things, onyx. Shirley bought a small bowl, but onyx to me always seemed more like a Mexican souvenir, so I passed it up.
Driving along we noticed everyone makes hot water the same way: two water tanks on the roof with solar panels.
Didymas (Didim) is best known for its Temple of Apollo with its massive stone walls. The columns are so big as to take five people to encircle them and there is one piece that weighs 200 tons. (I do not know if that is English or metric.) This is very impressive, and most remained standing the whole time. Like the walls in Incan Peru, these are made without mortar but are fitted together perfectly and would be as hard to dismantle as to build in the first place.
We also saw a tortoise on the temple grounds.
The Lonely Planet suggests that a full-day (nine-hour) tour should spend an hour at Priene, an hour and a half at Miletus, two and a half hours at Didymas, and an hour and a half at the beach. Add in time for lunch and that is seven and a half hours, leaving only an hour and a half to get around all these widely scattered sites. They must think the tour company has that ancient ability to teleport. We spent an hour at Priene, forty-five minutes at Miletus, forty-five minutes at Didymas, and an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch and tea, and it took seven and a half hours, meaning driving around took four hours (and our driver was not poking along). We did not do the beach, and for that matter also skipped the listed stop at the Lee Jeans factory ("the first jeans factory in Turkey"). I cannot say I missed the latter, though it did sound better than a carpet shop, if for no other reason than it was unlikely the guide would claim it was owned by his brother.
I agree more with Hans from the Netherlands who said on the Net that the Lonely Planet seems to have things reversed. Didymas has just the temple-impressive, but compact in a way the other sites are not. I would say the site that needs the most time is Miletus, which is very spread out on a plain. That was the one site where I was sorry we did not spend a bit more time.
We returned to Selçuk and the man from the tour company (7 Wonders) met us to ask if he could help arrange tickets for us for the next day. Now, the Canadians said they had reserved bus tickets to Pamukkale for US$6 each, but we figured we would see what he could offer. He could offer tickets, lunch, a guide, and a hotel for US$50 each. If we did not want the hotel, it was US$40. If we did not want lunch and the guide, it was US$30.
At this point we said we were not interested because we could get bus tickets much cheaper, and he insisted those were not direct and we would have "trouble." Having already changed buses a couple of times in Izmir, we did not think having to change was "trouble," but he insisted and actually got somewhat overbearing about it, at which point we left. We thought the tour okay, but this left us with a bad feeling about the agency. (As it turned out, the story gets better.) And the coffee they served was not very good either.
We got dropped at our hotel, freshened up, and then walked in to town. We booked our tickets to Pamukkale (which they promised were direct) for US$6 each. I phoned home from the PTT office using USA Direct, which involves no phone tokens, Turkish phonecards, or other complications. We sat a while on a bench watching people go by, then walked up to see the outside of St. John's Church (which is really all that is left). There are several carpet sellers across the street from it, and we talked to one (about computers, Bill Gates, and the United States) for quite a while, even after we made it clear he was not going to sell us a carpet.
May 6: We got up and were on the terrace before 8:00, so we got served breakfast about 8:15 and had plenty of time to get to the otogar by 9:15. The bus arrived, not a large long-distance bus, but a small fifteen-seat minibus/van. We loaded up and it proceeded to ... 7 Wonders, where it picked up three people who had signed up for the tour they had been trying to sell us! Yes, the transportation they had been trying to sell us for US$30 and the bus transportation that cost US$6 that they had been so disparaging of were in fact one and the same thing!
The trip, which was indeed direct and did not even go through Denizli, took a little over three hours. We made one rest stop, at a place that served very bad (watery) Turkish coffee for US$1, a higher than normal price.
We arrived at Pamukkale and were swarmed by about a dozen touts for hotels. We had decided to look at the one recommended to Peter and Shirley (who were also on the bus), so we found that woman and walked the two blocks to the Öztürk Pansiyon. (Pamukkale Village is very small.) It looked acceptable at US$16 for two people without breakfast, US$20 with. We thought we did not want breakfast because we had gotten the impression that the bus for Konya left at 7:00, but this turned out to be wrong.
We walked back to where the bus stopped to buy a ticket to Konya (there is no otogar), but there was no one in the office there. After a few minutes of waiting, Mark asked in the store next door when the man would be back and was told we could buy tickets in the Koray Otel, right next to our pansiyon. So we walked back and bought two tickets for the 11:00 bus to Konya for $8 each (for a six- or seven-hour ride). I was thinking I would have liked to leave earlier, but then the man said to be at the Koray at 9:50. Ah, this meant that we were going to go first to Denizli, then pick up the bus there, so an 11:00 bus from there was reasonable.
Then we finally walked over to what people come to Pamukkale for: the travertines.
I am not exactly sure how travertines are defined (I think they are stone waterfalls), so I will describe what we saw. There is a hill/mountain. Warm mineral water cascades down the side, leaving white calcium deposits that have formed (or been formed into) wading pools. There is a trail leading up the mountain which goes over the deposits and beside one set of wading pools (which look to have been artificially formed). You can walk up this, but only barefoot. There are now guards to make sure you take your shoes off; apparently it used to be on the honor system and everyone walked on the trail with their shoes on. I can see why-the trail is covered with rocks and pebbles and painful to walk on. We made our way up slowly, looking for the smoothest path, in what Mark named part of the way up the Pamukkale Death March. It took forty-five minutes, and shoes and socks never felt so good as at the end.
The wading pools along the trail are open, but signs say they are only for wading and picture-taking. I gather that the others, the large circular ones shown on all the postcards, were for swimming and lounging as well, but those are closed now. There is some water flowing down the side of the mountain, but most seems to be pumped into the motels at the top or piped down to the town for pools there. In fact, the Roman Sacred Pool is inside the Pamukkale Motel and they charge additional if you want to see it or swim in it. The result of all this water redirection is that the white deposits are no longer white, as new minerals do not overlay the old. Given that this is a national park (admission US$3 each), I am surprised that this can go on, but the hotels at the top are fancy hotels and can manage to delay any shutdown almost indefinitely.
After reaching the top we rested and had some sodas while talking about, of all things, Shakespeare and the various interpretations of his plays.
We then walked around the ruins (Hierapolis) for about an hour-nice, but fairly low-key after all the others we have seen. Mark says that one problem is that we cannot interleave sights. If we are going to see ruins seven days and Ottoman architecture seven days, it would be better to alternate than see a solid week of one and then a solid week of the other. But the geography is against us (at least until they get that teleportation going).
After this we tried to find the road (not the path) down, but it eluded us, and also we were told it was either three or five kilometers. Someone offered to drive us down for US$6, which seemed reasonable for four exhausted people, so we opted for that.
This was not an official taxi, but the driver started by giving us all a spray of cologne, in a copy (parody?) of the buses. Then he put on Turkish music Mark, in the front seat, started to snap his fingers. The driver started to snap his fingers. Then he started to clap to the music. Since he came with only the standard two hands, this meant that while he clapped, the car steered itself. Luckily he did this only on the straight sections of this fairly curvy road. For the curves he settled for snapping his fingers.
We showered and then sat by the pool with our legs in it. We might have gone in, but we could not see how deep it was, and it was also pretty cold. (The water at the top of the mountain was body temperature-we stuck our hand in one rivulet and felt no temperature change.)
For dinner we had saç kebap and fish with side dishes of yogurt and tomato salad. The saç kebap was very good, lamb meat in a spicy tomato sauce (from real tomatoes, not out of a can) with an egg in the middle. The grilled trout was very fresh (they had a pool of them in the courtyard and sell them as well as cook them). I also had a glass of Pamukkale wine; I am not a connoisseur, but I would say it was fairly undistinguished.
May 7: We thought that Shirley had told the woman we all wanted breakfast (and so did Shirley), but there was some confusion, perhaps about when, and we had to wait while it was prepared. (And the eggs were soft-boiled rather than hard.) It was the usual, but also with "Turkish bread," a fried flatbread something like roti or puri.
The room and dinner were reasonably priced (dinner had been US$11.40 not counting the wine), but the Canadians were quite taken aback with a US$10 charge for the bottle of wine, and US$10 for laundry! The daughter reduced the laundry charge to US$6, still high for throwing laundry into a machine and hanging it on a line. (We have been washing stuff in the sink, and that works reasonably well.)
The pansiyon did give each of us couples one of the postcard sets of Pamukkale that seem ubiquitous there. They have twelve postcards. Eleven have the travertines, the pools, etc. The twelfth is one of those four-picture cards, with one picture of the ruins. I guess those are not considered the main attraction. I would say that if you are seeing other ruins, you can skip Pamukkale. The natural wonder is at present not very beautiful to look at, and the ruins are nothing special.
We went next door to the Koray, where we got into a van that rattled and creaked constantly. I wondered if it would make it to Denizli, but it was just taking us to the dolmus stop. While we waited for the dolmus we watched the mother and baby camel across the street. There are not all that many camels in Turkey (at least that we have seen), but there are some, all decked out for tourists to have their pictures on.
The dolmus was basically a school bus with a somewhat roomier seating arrangement for twenty people. It was marginally newer than the van. The trip to Denizli cost US$1 each.
In Denizli we had to have our ticket rewritten from a Kevtur receipt to an Aksel one. There seem to be a lot of travel agents in Pamukkale who are really just vendors for the various bus companies.
Our bus was a real bus-I had somewhat stressed this when buying the ticket as I did not want a seven-hour ride in a minivan. We made a stop around 12:15, but since not everyone got off, I did not know if this was the lunch stop. It turned out it was but we were not really hungry yet anyway.
We did pick up some snacks at a rest stop about 16:00. The rest stop seemed somewhat abandoned. For Kate's benefit I will say it reminded me of the dead mall, but I doubt anyone else will understand. One of the snacks was leblebhi, roasted chickpeas that have a very floury texture. We also got some cookies and sesame stix. The total came to US$2.70, or 675,000TL. I recognized it was six hundred and something, so handed the clerk a million-lira note. I got back only 225,000TL. I indicated this was wrong. He wrote down "675." I wrote the arithmetic "1000-675=325". He counted out the change again: (the coin) "seven," (100,000TL note) "eight," (the other 100,000TL note) "nine" (but in Turkish). He had no money left and had not reached a million. I looked at him expectantly. He got a look like he suddenly realized what was wrong, reached into the drawer, and handed me another 100,000TL note. I suppose he might have just made a mistake. After all, he could have quoted me a higher price and I would not have known the difference-nothing is marked. Then again, maybe he did.
Another two hours brought us to Konya, a city of over half a million with a lot of tourists, almost all Turkish. This is a pilgrimage destination for Muslims and a very conservative city. The book says ninety percent of the women cover their hair, and that seemed about right. It is also apparently difficult to find alcohol outside of the hotels, not that that mattered much to us.
We had one "recommendation" from the bus ticket seller in Pamukkale, but when we got to the dolmus (US$.024 each!) from the otogar to the center of town, someone there had another "recommendation." (It is only a real recommendation if it is from someone who has stayed there.) The second one was closer, so we figured we would check it out first. The lobby was up a narrow steep flight of stairs, and the room two more flights up. It was spartan but acceptable for US$16, though that does not include breakfast, which is US$2.20 extra each if we want it. It was listed as an open buffet so we figured we would see how it looked first.
We then went out and found two things we needed. First was a bank machine that would give us money. Second was dinner in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant (really narrow and small). sis köfte, adana kebap, tea, and a Pepsi was US$4.40. The meals here almost always come with bread, some grain, and a small onion salad.
We walked around the center circle. There was a McDonalds there. A Big Mac was US$2.10. We did not get anything there. There were also various kebap places and such that looked more inviting, but we had just eaten. In the center of the circle were the ruins of a Seljuk castle which we saw later, though there is not much there.
Mark wanted to see what the other hotel was like in case we wanted to change for the second night. We walked over there, quite a ways. The room was also on the fourth floor and comparable to what we had except with a small television, for US$24. We decided it was not worth moving.
Then back to the hotel for laundry, etc., and to watch the Turkish version of "Wheel of Fortune." Someone asked Mark if he spoke German, and the other hotel owner spoke French, so we think not many English-speaking tourists come here. I guess I am surprised about the French, though.
We also discovered that we seem to be very close
(within a couple of blocks) of three different mosques. The lack
of harmony when they are all broadcasting the call to prayer almost
simultaneously and with slightly different rhythms an speeds is
... amazing. I suspected that at 5:00 it would be a real pleasure.
May 8: Actually I was wrong about 5:00; it was more like 4:40. I forgot that, since we moved east, dawn is earlier.
Because breakfast was not included, Mark was in another one of his snits (that's a joke), and did not want to buy it at the hotel, particularly since the "open buffet" did not seem to be that at all, but something where they served you. So we ate some roasted chickpeas and sesame sticks, and planned on an early lunch. (Most days we have been eating either only lunch or only dinner.)
Mevlâna Celâledin was born 30 September 1207 and moved to Konya in 1228. He was the founder of the Mevlevis, or Whirling Dervishes. He is better known in the West as Rumi, and is known for his extensive poetry and other writings. In 1244, Rumi met Sheimseddin Mehmed Tebrizî (Shams), a meeting which changed his life. Before he died on 17 December 1273, he had written 25,618 mesnevi (poems in rhymed couplets), twenty-two divani kebir (collections of lyric poems and epigrams), as well as Fihi Ma-fih (lectures and maxims), Mecalis-i Seb'a (seven lectures), and 147 mektubat (letters).
The Mevlâna Müsezi is really a shrine as well as a museum. When you enter (US$2 each, though I think Turks pay less here) the main room contains the coffins of Rumi, his father, and several dozen of their followers. Atop each sarcophagus is a Dervish turban, with the largest on those of Rumi and his father. There were people there praying, and also tour groups-Turkish as well as foreign. I figured picture-taking was not allowed, especially with flash, until I saw a Turkish family having their picture taken in front of the sarcophagi by the guard.
The ceilings were interesting as well, with domes covered with calligraphy and geometric designs. One dome was sculpted in interesting geometric shapes rather than being just a plain dome. (Outside there is a turquoise-colored dome that is quite distinctive and apparently a symbol of Konya.)
There are also several robes, rugs, Korans, calligraphy, and other paraphernalia of the Dervishes. It is amazing how good the condition of some of the very old (thirteenth century) books is.
In 1927 as part of making Turkey a secular state, Atatürk banned the dervishes. To people in the United States, this will seem a bit strange (well, it does to me anyway), because we tend to think that not having the government endorse one religion over another is the definition of a secular state, not deciding which religions are okay in private and which are not. Atatürk also banned the fez and changed the alphabet. And until 1991 the Kurdish language, along with Lazuri, was banned. Again, I think even most of the English-only people in the United States would say that prohibiting people from speaking any other language at any time would be going too far. (For one thing, all the religions that use other languages would immediately object.)
In 1957, the dervishes re-formed as a "cultural association," though I don't think anyone believes that façade. But that is why there are "performances" for tourists. Actually, the whirling is used to induce a religious trance.
Outside was a little souvenir stand, selling postcards and such, but also music cassettes of Ney and Mevlâna music (we got one) and books of Rumi's writings. A couple were even in English. Most of the million and a half tourists that come here every year are Turkish, but we did see one group of German tourists. However, since I had brought a book of Rumi's poetry with me as reading material for the trip (The Essential Rumi, a new translation by Coleman Banks), I did not buy more.
We left and an old man outside seemed to be saying something to Mark about his vest, but we could not tell whether it was positive or negative. Certainly no one in charge of the museum seemed to object.
We walked around the cemetery to the Koyunoglu Müsezi. The Lonely Planet guide said the cemetery looks inviting as a shortcut but recommends against it. There is now a wall around it, and while it might be possible to cut through, it certainly is not obvious.
We arrived at the Koyunoglu Müsezi. Hans from the Netherlands said that it was closed when he went last year and seemed to have been closed for a while. Well, it is open now (US$1 for foreigners, US$0.40 for Turks-or maybe that was the student rate). It is a little bit of everything, with most of the labeling in Turkish. (Some sections had English labels, but labeling the room with coins in it "Coin Section" seems unnecessary.) There were prehistoric artifacts, stuffed birds, calligraphy, costumes, household items, minerals, clocks, miniature paintings, photographs, and musical instruments, all from one collector who donated it to the city for a museum. We looked at its carpet and kilim collection, happy that no one was trying to sell us one. There was even a carpet with a map of Turkey.
By the way, in case you were wondering about the cost of carpets, someone told us they bought a two-meter by three-meter sixty-year-old carpet for US$1500.
And kilims are woven, while carpets are tufted.
Also as a part of the museum there is a house furnished as it would have been a hundred years ago. We were the only visitors there and the guard followed us around, more to make sure that we saw everything than that we did not take anything. As we were leaving, three more tourists carrying the Lonely Planet walked up-I think this probably made it a busy day for them.
I am starting to pick up the "lingo": M.Ö. is B.C.E., YY is century (as in "20 YY"), and if the year has an "H" after it, add 622. If it has an "M", don't.
One thing I learned from the museum was that Muslim rosaries (if that is the right word) have either 33, 66, or 99 beads. One thing I did not learn was why. Mark had bought one from a boy selling them to tourist outside the Mevlâna Müsezi, but I counted and at least it has the official number. (The boy was claiming one of the ones he was selling for US$1 was amber and held a cigarette lighter under it to show it did not melt, but I think they have plastics now that don't melt either.)
After this we had lunch, even though it was only 11:00. We ate at the Yildiz (a popular name for places-it means "star") and had firin kebap and pilç. Firin kebap is the local specialty, described in the Lonely Planet as a rich, greasy joint of roasted mutton. It was a lot like pot roast in texture. Pilç is chicken and this was just a half a roasted chicken. Together with two Cokes, this came to US$6.20.
Walking around all day are tea delivery boys, who carry hanging trays with small tulip-shaped glasses of tea to shop-keepers. Apparently there is some standard arrangement involving small tokens that are used to pay for them, because I have seen the same thing everywhere in Turkey.
With our usual impeccable timing, we arrived at the Great Karatay Seminary at noon-it closes between 12:00 and 13:30. So we sat on a bench outside and caught up somewhat in our logs. At 13:30 we went in; it was worth the wait. The museum part is small, with a few dozen pieces, but the dome and the walls themselves are magnificent! The tiles around the base of the dome have the first surah of the Koran on them, and more tiles in the corners have the names of the prophets on them. Though the tile is missing (or covered with white plaster) in sections, it is still a beautiful sight in blue and white and black.
The seminary (or merasah, which they translate as "university") was built by Celâledin Karatay, who died in 1254, and his sarcophagus is in one of the rooms (labeled the "türbesi," which I guess is a room or building with sarcophagi). Many of the tiles displayed have animals and even people on them (Chinese-looking, but then the Seljuks were from Asia east of Turkey). Apparently even though they were Muslims, the Seljuks were not overly observant of the prohibition on images.
Our next visit was to the Seminary of the Slender Minaret. Since most of the minaret was destroyed by a lightning strike in 1901, the reason for the name is not clear from looking at it-(what is left of) the minaret now looks rather short and squat. This is now a museum of carving (mostly stone, but some wood). (Each of these museums were US$1 each.)
Now we tried to find the Archaeological Museum. We found the Ethnology Museum, which is supposedly next door (according to both the Lonely Planet map, and the map in front of the Ethnology Museum), but in reality was nowhere to be found. After a while we gave up and went back to the town center where we sat in the tea garden and had a drink. I think we were museumed out anyway.
On the way out of the tea garden, we met three girls who were studying English and wanted to practice, so we spoke to them for about five minutes. (They were only in their first year of English.)
Then we saw the Alaettin Mosque, which dates from the thirteenth century but has been restored and renovated so many times that it has very little character left. (They just finished a major restoration/renovation and in fact the work seems to be still going on even though the mosque has been reopened.)
Walking back we looked in the window of an office
supply store (they do not seem to have Staples of Office Max here-yet).
They had an electric typewriter in the window, and the keyboard
is completely different than our QWERTY
one. I mention this because most Western European keyboards that
I have seen are basically QWERTY
with a few keys added or changed.
This layout was:
When we got back to the hotel, we got to learn two new Turkish phrases: "Su kesilmis" ("The water has been cut off") and "ici havlular" ("two towels"). Service may be going downhill. (The water did come back about an hour after we got back to the room.)
Dinner was döner piliç sandwiches and
Coke for US$3. It was raining a bit, and rained through the night.
May 9: This morning started out gray, but at least not raining. We left the hotel, but no one was at the desk to take our money so we left the exact change under the key on the desk behind the counter.
We caught a dolmus to the otogar and bought tickets to Göreme (US$7.20 each) from a seller who spoke French but no English. With the help of the Turkish phrase book I was at least able to ask if we had to change, and he said, "No, directement." The dolmus driver also asked Mark if he spoke French. I guess this is somewhat off the beaten track for a lot of tourists, and mostly Continental Europeans come here.
Drivers here try to conserve energy. Dolmus and bus drivers try to avoid closing doors unnecessarily, and often drive many blocks with them open just in case someone wants to get on or off. And they try not to use headlights, or if they do, they keep them very dim. Since idling at stop lights wastes gasoline, they also consider traffic lights as advisory only.
We had breakfast at the station. Mark had a kimali börek, a sort of spicy pizza with only a thin amount of topping and we split a corn muffin. This came to US$1.20. The clerk was surprised that Mark was getting this for breakfast; I guess they have them this early mostly for people who are taking them on a trip or something.
Our bus (a Mercedes) was a newer bus than many of the others, and even had a television, but they did not turn it on for our trip.
Mark was trying to compare and contrast Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. These are all described in the Lonely Planet, on pages 155, 333, and 498 respectively. I would have put them on a single page, or at least indexed them.
On the way to Göreme we saw a volcanic mountain south of Aksaray. I think it might be Tepe Mutfak, because that was the name of a bank in Aksaray, and "tepe" means "hill" but I am not sure.
We got to Göreme about 12:30.
Göreme is a seriously nifty place.
All around the area are cones and hills of soft volcanic rock. Homes have been cut into the sides, or caves hollowed out for use as homes, storage areas, etc. It looks like something on another planet-the desert in Star Wars maybe, or something out of Dune. (I wrote the preceding before I discovered that part of Star Wars had indeed been filmed here.) Our hotel, the Cave Hotel Melek, is partially built into the rock. Our room is built to look like a cave. (It isn't-it has plumbing-but it does have a low ceiling which I hit a couple of times when taking off clothes.) The large balcony/porch outside has a view of some of the houses cut into the rock across the way. It is amazing. Science fiction fans must come here.
Now that I have that out of the way, I need to mention that the bus we were on was a genuine "chicken bus." We started using the phrase in southeast Asia, referring to the type of bus in which people bring livestock on (a la Romancing the Stone). Well, as we were getting off, someone was getting on, and putting a live chicken in the luggage compartment! They were in the process of trying to put it in a cardboard box so it would not be running around, but it was an old box and I think the lid did not completely meet and the string probably would not be sufficient.
This was our rest time after being on the go for two weeks. I showered and washed my hair (hot water at last!) and we sat on the balcony for about an hour writing and enjoying the view. Then we strolled down to the village and booked a tour of the Ihlara Valley with Flintstones Tours for US$28 each. Okay, the name is hokey, but it does fit. We talked for about an hour to the New Zealand woman who was working there.
By then it was getting dark and starting to look like rain. Since it was 16:00 and we had not eaten, we went over to the Sedef Restaurant and had dinner while it rained. I had tuvak sote (chicken in a tomato and garlic sauce) and Mark had tuvak canak (I think), which was the same thing he had the first night. I also tried the raki, like arak or ouzo. Mark had an ayran and a fruit salad with yogurt and honey, and our bill was only US$12.
We went back to our cave (as Mark put it) and were sitting it the room looking out the window when we saw the hotel clerk showing another couple to the room next to ours. Who should it be but Pat and Mary Lynne!
This was certainly a coincidence, as they had gone off in a different direction from Selçuk. We compared notes on what we had been doing. (Mary Lynne said that when they checked out of the hotel in Selçuk, they were charged for their "welcoming drinks," but whoever checked us out forgot to do that.) Then they said they wanted to book a tour, and I mentioned we had done that, so they ended up booking the same tour we did.
All this is very synchronicitous. We met them on the bus from Istanbul to Çanakkale and saw them briefly there, then discovered that we were staying in the same pansiyon in Bergama, then met them at Sardis and went to Ephesus with them, then found them put in the room next to ours in the hotel in Göreme.
We walked around town a while (more like up and down
town a while-it is very hilly and the maps do not show this),
and then sat in the lobby and talked to the hotel owner, Nico
Leyssen, for a while about the future of Göreme and this
whole region. He is a bit of a celebrity for his efforts to get
the government to protect the area and prevent building that does
not maintain the natural beauty. He hates the otogar, which is
a concrete shopping center. Apparently the whole area, including
several villages, is a national park, but not nearly as controlled
as a national park would be in our country. And only some buildings
and areas are protected by being UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Nico is trying to get them to include others but not getting
much help from Ankara.
May 10: My body seems not only to have caught up with Turkish time, but to have shot completely past and be somewhere in Uzbekistan time-I keep waking up at 4:30.
Breakfast was the usual, but with a big glass of tea instead of the tiny ones we usually get.
We went to the travel agency at 9:15 for our tour and were taken to another agency to board the bus. As at other times, it appears that a bunch of agencies sell the same tour, then consolidate the tours so there is one full bus instead of five almost empty ones. In this case, it was very full-the guide (Buyamin Özheu) could not sit down.
After taking people on at the agency, the minibus drove up to a pansiyon where the guide went in and we sat and honked and sat and honked. After about ten minutes, eight twenty-somethings came out, carrying their breakfasts (some sort of sandwiches and coffee). This was not an auspicious start, and having them talk about how hung-over they were did not encourage us.
Our first stop was a photo stop and orientation at Pigeon Valley (a.k.a. Dovecote Valley, a.k.a. Güvercinlik Vadisi). When some of the twenty-somethings headed straight for the souvenir stands, I internally dubbed this "the tour group from hell," perhaps a bit harshly. They turned out nice enough individually, but were often late getting back to the bus, tended to wander off and to need to be tracked down, etc.
Pigeon Valley is so named because the locals have cut holes in the soft volcanic rock to attract pigeons. Then they collect the droppings to use for fertilizer. At the top end we did not see a lot of pigeons, but they may have been out feeding somewhere else during the day.
Our first real stop was at Derinkuyu Yeralti Sehri (Derinkuyu Underground City). There are several of these in the area. They were not usually as permanent living areas, but provided a place of shelter from invaders. Since Anatolia was a crossroads, there were a lot of invaders. The "underground cities" are thought to date from six thousand years ago (or perhaps even earlier), and were mentioned by Xenophon in his Anabasis (which took place in 401 B.C.E.).
Derinkuyu (admission US$2.20) is the deepest of these cities. It has eight levels and Buyamin emphasized that though the signs indicate "kitchen," "living rooms," etc., we should not think of this as a place where people lived permanently, and books that talk about population figures often also obscure this. Ten thousand might take refuge here for a few days, but it would be inaccurate to say the city had a population of ten thousand. It is also deceptive to call them "levels," however, because they are not as regularly spaced as floors in a building, and frequently you will see openings near the top of one room into the bottom of another.
The path is well-marked and somewhat lit in Derinkuyu, though there are side-tunnels that are not. It is helpful to have a flashlight (which everyone in Turkey calls a torch), because often the light will be blocked by other people. It is not for claustrophics, but it is a lot of fun if you like caves.
When we went in to Derinkuyu, Buyamin asked who had seen the movie Indiana Jones. Overlooking the fact that there is no movie with that name, several of us raised our hands. "It was not filmed here," he said. That was pretty much the level of commentary we got.
We spent about an hour here. When we came out it was raining, and since our next event was hiking in the Ihlara Valley, this was discouraging. But that was half an hour and many miles away, and by the time we got there the sun was out.
We entered the valley (US$2 each) via a long stairway of moderate steps, with only one steep part. (Stairs in ruins and at other outdoor locations here seem to have very high steps.) We stopped briefly for a look at the frescoes in the Agaç Alti Kisile (the Church Under the Tree). These showed the basic events of Christianity: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, and the Three Wise Men. There is a lot of damage to the frescoes, some of which looks recent, but I am probably not a good judge of that. While a lot of these are under some sort of "protection," they are too spread out and isolated to be supervised constantly.
We had been told that the walk was three kilometers on a path next to the river. And Buyamin said that eighty per cent of it was level. The other twenty per cent, however, consisted of scrambling over rocks and crawling through spaces so small that I would pass my vest through to someone on the other side and then go through.
A word about my vest is probably in order. It is one of those cargo vests with lots of pockets. In the course of the day, I produced from this vest a camera, film, binoculars, a water bottle, ibuprofen, a screwdriver, a flashlight, a sweater, an umbrella, a copy of the Lonely Planet, and a computer. I feel like one of those magic acts where the magician pulls far more out of a hat than could have fit in it.
After this walk (which took about an hour and a half), we had lunch: tomato soup, salad, and a main course. We shared two choices, the lamb and eggplant (a fairly greasy stew), and the fish (four small fried fish, much better than the stew). A couple of musicians came out and played some Turkish music, but Buyamin was unsuccessful in getting any of us up to dance, so this did not last very long.
The rain started again as we got on the bus. After a short drive, we arrived at the Agziarahan Caravanserai, a caravan stop on the old Silk Road. These were set up by the sultan every forty kilometers (the distance a camel caravan could travel in one day) for shelter and protection. Something similar was done in the Andes along the Incan roads, though obviously not for camels. The admission here was US$0.80, but there really was not much to see inside. (I mention the admission prices for reference, but they were all included in our tour. One drawback of a tour is that you do not get all the great-looking tickets as souvenirs. Well, on small tours the guide will often hand them out, but this tour was too large for that.)
I bought a souvenir booklet here of Nasreddin Hodja stories. He was a thirteenth century fablist like Aesop whose tales are that equivalent here. One sample is that Nasreddin Hodja goes into a shop. He is about to buy a pair of pantaloons when he sees a coat he likes better. So he hands back the pantaloons and takes the coat. He is about to leave when the owner says, "You haven't paid for the coat." Nasreddin Hodja replies, "But I gave you the pantaloons." "You didn't pay for the pantaloons," the owner points out. "Silly man! Why should I pay for pantaloons I'm not taking?" Nasreddin Hodja is portrayed as a man in a big turban riding a donkey backwards.
It was now 17:30 and one of our group had a 19:00 bus. But our next stop was on the other side of Göreme, in Avanos, at Venessa Avanos Seramik, a pottery shop. We had a demonstration of how pottery is made on a kick-wheel (if you have seen the movie Ghost you already know), one of our group tried it, and then we had a chance to buy. Given that the pottery was not cheap (a small tea cup like those in Chinese restaurants was marked US$6, though they offered a 30% discount because we were a large group), we did not buy anything.
The tour company had promised "no enforced shopping stops," so this seemed a bit of a cheat, though it is possible if everyone had said they did not want to go we would have skipped it. But more likely they would say that this was a pottery demonstration which just happened to have a shop as well.
Our last stop was at the Devrent Valley of the Fairy Chimneys, which I think is also called Pasabagi. I also think that this is not the same as the more famous Valley of the Fairy Chimneys called Peribacalar Vadisi. (The Dervent Valley is described, though not by name, in a different section of the Lonely Planet book from that of Peribacalar Vadisi.) These chimneys are very impressive and would be even more so were it not for the cluster of vendors around their bases. (One of the vendors across the street had a sign that said, "It's tobe started to look in the souvenirs' shop here" [sic].)
We got back to Göreme in time for the woman's bus (which was actually at 19:15-I think a lot of times get quoted a tad early to make sure people are there). Pat, Mary Lynne, Mark, and I walked over to the PTT office to try to call home. The office was closed, the "international telephone" did not seem to be working, and the regular phones gave busy signals when we tried to used Pat's Turkish phone card.
We picked up some water and some postcards (seven
for US$0.40, though one turned out to be printed badly), then
went back to the room. Mark's back had been bothering him and
he was tired and achy. At first he thought it might be a kidney
stone, which really had him worried, and I was checking the book
for information on doctors, but then he used some muscle that
told him it was just muscle pain. He took a couple of ibuprofen,
which helped, and he said the walking actually helped a lot as
May 11: We breakfasted with Mary Lynne and Pat, then walked with them to the bus station because they were not sure where it was. It is not easy to miss, but they did not have a lot of spare time. While we were there I saw a bus for Çavusin and Zelve, so we figured we would be able to get there if we decided to go.
On the wall of the breakfast is what purports to be a movie poster for The Wild and the Brave. It shows a man hanging out of a helicopter and lifting up a woman onto it, presumably out of some danger. It is actually an ad for Camels, and Mark was reasonably sure there was no such movie. In fact, Nico confirmed this later-it was actually part of the set dressing for a caravansary used as a railway station in a film made near here.
We went back to our porch and worked on our logs a bit. Then one of the other couples staying here came by (the porch is shared by four rooms) and we talked for a while. They are from New York state, and came here from their vacation in Syria for a few days, then are going back there before returning home. They have also been to Morocco, Burma, and Vietnam, among other places. I suspect I know the sort of reaction we would get if we told people our next trip was to Syria.
While we were sitting there, someone came by and asked if we wanted fresh towels. We said yes, so they dropped some off, but did not make up the bed. They did not make it up the previous day either; I wonder if this is slack housekeeping or just the custom here.
A lot of the music we are hearing here Mark describes (accurately, I think) as Turkish salsa. Speaking of which, Doritos are a popular snack here. We see them everywhere, with completely Turkish labels. Oh, and the large soda bottles (2.5 liters) have deposits on them.
In addition to the Turkish salsa, we also hear country-and-western music (in English-I have not seen anything to match the country-and-western music cassette in Lithuanian that I got in Vilnius), the music from Miller's Crossing and The Last of the Mohicans, other Celtic-inspired scores, and even Riverdance.
Around 13:30 we finally decided to go over to the Göreme Open-Air Museum and see the rock churches. These were built (or rather, carved out) in the 11th and 12th centuries as part of a monastery and are best known for their brilliant frescoes. Of course, some of them have been severely damaged since then. A lot of the damage looks recent (names of current cities scratched into them), but some of it is probably much older (the defacement of the faces was probably the result of Muslims from a few centuries ago who objected to the depiction of human beings). Now the half dozen or so major churches have guards at the doors during the day and doors that are locked at night, so it can be hoped that the defacement has stopped. I suppose one question is whether to try to restore the frescoes or just to stabilize them. The structures of the churches are being reinforced against erosion from the outside.
We saw the St. Basil's Church, the Apple Church, St. Barbara's Church, and the Snake Church inside the museum compound. They are actually in a fairly compact area, around the edge of a circle about a hundred meters across, but on a hill so the highest churches are perhaps fifty meters higher than the lowest.
The most famous church, however, is the Dark Church (Karalik Kilise). Here I am a bit confused. The sign at the main entrance said it was closed until the end of 1998 for renovations. But there was almost an entrance price posted (which I think was US$6, but might have been US$10!). The church itself had a sign saying entry by reservation only, but I suspect the entrance fee got you an instant reservation. The price in any case was bit steep, so we settled for some postcards of its frescoes.
I agree with Hans of the Netherlands who felt this was really a bit of a rip-off once you have paid for the museum to ask for more for its best-known section. Yes, I know this is done elsewhere (Ieyasu's Tomb in Japan comes to mind), and, yes, they do post it up front at the entrance, but it still irks me.
It was interesting to hear the Japanese guide telling his group about Christo-san and Mary-san. Even this early in the season we had to dodge various groups. (If you get too many people in one of these small churches, inevitably someone ends up blocking the doorway-and the light.)
As we were finishing up in the museum area, we met the New York couple (Clark and Rhea) arriving and arranged to meet them for dinner at 19:30.
Outside the museum area but controlled by the same ticket is the Buckle Church. This has the best and most extensive frescoes of the churches we saw. The biggest problem with the frescoes is that each church has a diagram outside of the frescoes inside the church. If there are only two or three one can identify them by memorizing the diagram, but the Buckle Church has two or three dozen, and many were unidentifiable by me. A better knowledge of Christian scripture and legend would help, especially in terms of Byzantine iconography. At least here many of the scenes were arranged in chronological order, which helped a little.
We walked back, admiring the magnificent scenery. Pictures will be put on our Web pages!
There were two other churches recommended by the Lonely Planet: the Hidden Church and the Snake Church. Unfortunately, someone has been allowed to build a cafe right in front of them so that they are part of the back wall. This is the sort of thing Nico was complaining about. He says that UNESCO declares these churches "World Heritage Sites" but actually does very little to protect them, and with these two being outside the enclosed area, they probably do even less. Maybe some of Ted Turner's billion-dollar contribution to the United Nations will go toward protecting all these sites.
We walked back to town and got a small snack to tide us over until dinner. Then we went over to the PTT and discovered that one needs to use the phone inside for USA Direct calls. At 17:00 (7:00 California time) Mark called his parents, mostly to wish his mother a happy Mothers Day. She was in the shower and they were both surprised to get a phone call from Turkey. (I had called my parents once before on a trip like this, from Malaysia, but Mark had not. The time difference is a real problem in Asia unless the telephone office is open late.) I also bought some phone tokens (jetonlar) as souvenirs. A local call is apparently US$0.04.
We passed someplace boasting Internet connections and "hotmail" (probably http://www.hotmail.com access, a popular free email service), but it appeared empty, not only of people, but also of computers and even furniture. It may be still being set up for the real tourist season starting in June or so.
Every trip we go on has some element of danger. This trip is was an angry turkey. No, not an angry Turk, an angry turkey. Coming back to our hotel, we saw two turkeys. This seemed like an interesting picture, so Mark took a couple of shots. It was somewhat dark from the clouds, so his flash went off. Like King Kong in the original movie, the turkey seemed to be enraged by the flash and started coming towards me. I backed away. I tried going around the turkey. It moved to block me. I pulled out the largest thing I had with me, the Lonely Planet book, and tried to use that to fend it off, but the book was too small. The turkey jumped at me a couple of times and I realized the danger was not from the beak but from the claws. I managed to zip up my vest, which I figured would at least protect my upper body, but Mark came to my rescue with a stick which he used first to attract the turkey's attention and then to fend it off and send it in another direction so we could proceed. I have titled this episode "St. Mark and the Turkey," which is definitely better than "Pecked to Death by Turkeys" (with a nod to Tim Cahill).
Around 18:00 we started hearing continuous rumbling. It turned out to be thunder, which went on for a half-hour, followed by lightning, and heavy rain. Luckily it all stopped by 19:30 when we went out for dinner.
We had planned on trying the Ufuk 2, but it had moved across the street and was not open for the season yet. So we had dinner at Tarelli's with Clark and Rhea, and talked about all sorts of things. Suddenly out of the middle of nowhere, Clark asked me, "Do you like Russell Hoban?"
I happen to like Russell Hoban's books a lot, and
have even reviewed several of them in the last few months, but
his name is not exactly a household word, and I have no idea what
possessed Clark to ask this question. (He had not seen my reviews.)
I told him about Hoban's three latest (not yet available in the
United States) and we compared notes on which of his books we
liked the best. In the realm of bizarre coincidences, I think
this beats even our running into Pat and Mary Lynne three times.
May 12: We had breakfast and then decided that there was not much reason to stay in Göreme another day. We could have walked through Pigeon Valley, but the weather was so unpredictable that this seemed like a bad idea. And while Çavusin and Zelve have more frescoes, Mark was getting frescoed out. So we decided to press on to Ankara.
We checked out, paying with a US dollar travelers cheque since we were low on Turkish lira and the price had been quoted in dollars anyway. Unlike the guesthouse in Istanbul, the Melek did not charge a 3% fee for travelers cheques.
We walked over to the bus station and discovered there was a bus to Ankara in ten minutes (at 10:45). Well, actually it was a bus to Nevsehir to connect with a bus to Ankara, but since we had thought we would have to wait until 12:15, this was great.
We got to Nevsehir and noticed a sign with prices. Ankara bus tickets with Kapodokiya Turizm cost US$4.20 versus the US$6 we paid with Göreme Turizm. Well, we did get the ride to Nevsehir as well. And a movie. Yes, this was a video bus. We saw a movie I think was called Gunah. Actually, I first thought it was called Palermo, because that was on the screen, but Mark said that was the production company. It was made at/by Fond Film Studio, one of the actors was Erkan Aktas, and people named Yurdatap and Tatlasas worked on it. (It was hard to see at times, between the occasional wavy TV lines and the steward standing in the way.) It seemed to be about a young woman who flees life in her village and (I think) an arranged marriage she does not want. The bus driver who takes her to Istanbul falls in love with her, sees that she has become a belly dancer, and rescues her from that life. She falls in love with him, they marry, and then someone from her village (the jilted bridegroom?) shoots her at the wedding. Okay, I just told the end, but really, what are the chances you will be seeing this movie? It is low on dialogue-good for a bus-and high on symbolism. For example, the driver sees someone selling birds so buys the whole cage and then frees them.
We got to Ankara, whose otogar looks like an airport terminal, only emptier, sort of like a semi-deserted airport terminal. Mark had to ask directions a couple of times but we finally found the bus stop for the city bus we wanted. (The buses for Ulus leave near gate 24, but on the other side of the terminals from the arriving buses. We took a different number than the Lonely Planet said (611 versus 198) but it said "Ulus" and indeed took us there. (Ulus is a district with a lot of reasonably priced hotels, and also the main square in that district.) This bus also went past the train station (gar) and since we had to go back there for tickets, this was useful information. Bus rides were US$0.24, but you have to buy them at least five at a time on a bus card. I think we can afford it.
I was tracking our progress on a map so we would know when to get off, and we did with no difficulty. Crossing the street afterward was tricky, mostly because we did not want to walk the long way to the light. Other people were also jaywalking, but they did not have large backpacks. We got across (obviously, or you would not be reading this), and found the Hotel Yildiz, which sounded good in the Lonely Planet. Their posted price was US$50 for a double, but they offered us one for US$35. We checked at the room and it looked okay. They wanted us to pay up front, unlike everywhere else we stayed. I guess this means we were in the big city.
When we got back to the room, we discovered the toilet would flush-once. But the tank did not refill. Mark went down to tell them. They knew. They said it would be fixed at 19:00. Meanwhile I realized that we could fill the tank from the hand-held shower head, so we did that. (I did not understand why the rest of the water was still running, but that became clear.)
We went out for dinner. The food at Çiçik Lokanta did not look that good, so we ate at Lahmacun Office and had two kinds of "pizza": lahmacun on a very thin bread with a little topping, and kimalyi pide, on a thicker bread and with more topping. Two pides, a lahmacun, and Pepsis came to US$4.54.
We walked around after dinner. There are far fewer
tourists here and no carpet salesmen. As a result, there is also
much less English spoken or understood, at least so far. Ankara
is not as scenic or even as historic as other places, but it is
more "real." (In 1920 it had 30,000 people; today it
May 13: We slept well but the toilet was still not working. After breakfast we went to the front desk and they sent someone to look at it. It turns out you need to pull up on the plunger in the tank after pressing down on it. Between toilets that need jiggling, toilets that will not handle toilet paper, and toilets that are just plain strange, we will be glad to go back to our own toilet-the one with the leaky pipe with the bucket under it! (Well, we were running around getting ready for the trip, and arranging for a plumber is hard.)
(And why the man last night said the toilet would be fixed by 19:00 we have no idea.)
We then took the bus to the train station, after finding out where to catch the bus, not the easiest thing to do when no one speaks English, though Mark has a fair amount of success writing things down on paper. We bought our sleeper car tickets for Friday. I had been concerned that they would be sold out (they were not) and that they would be expensive (someone had said something about US$45). They were US$17 each. This is definitely cheap. (They also now take credit cards.)
The train station (gar) is much smaller than the bus station (otogar) and when asking directions you have to emphasize you do not mean the bus station (also called ASTI). But the train station is fancier (probably because it is older) and even has a marble platform. It also has a left luggage office, which was handy Friday.
From the train station we took a taxi to the Anit Kabir, or the Atatürk Mausoleum. It turned out not be to very far, but we were not sure how far it was or how to get there, and since it was way up on top of a hill, the taxi was a good idea. (It was less than US$2 for the taxi.)
We could not go right in, though, because there was some sort of official function going on. Bernard Lewis arrived, and went in with an honor guard to lay a wreath on the tomb. (I have no idea who Bernard Lewis is, but his name was on the wreath and that is who the guard said it was when Mark asked.) So we saw the honor guard lining the entrance beside the carved Hittite lions and marching through, which I guess is not standard.
Atatürk died on 10 November 1938. His sarcophagus lay in the Ethnography Museum (which had been the building with his offices) until the mausoleum was finished, then was transferred on 10 November 1953.
Unlike at Mao's or Lenin's tomb, the body itself is not displayed. But like Mao or Lenin or Eva Peron, Atatürk seems to be the center of a personality cult of the sort that we have seen in the United States only for Elvis Presley. (There were brief ones for Lincoln and Kennedy, but both faded somewhat with time.) Recently, Time magazine decided to ask people to vote (in a non-binding referendum) over the Internet for their "Men of the Century" in various fields: world leaders, sports figures, scientists, etc. There seems to have been some ballot-stuffing going on, as Atatürk had thousands, or perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of votes in all categories, including rock stars.
One of the exhibits in the museum included in the complex was Atatürk's library. They had a Greek encyclopedia and an English (American) encyclopedia displayed. The English one was in the correct order, but the Greek one was not. There were, not surprisingly, a lot of history books, including such works as By Desert Ways to Baghdad by Louisa Jebb.
Another room had personal effects and also photographs that people had taken of clouds and shadows of mountains in the shape of Atatürk's profile or face.
It is ironic that although the Greeks take credit for much that happened in what is now Turkey, Atatürk, the Father of Modern Turkey, was born in what is now Greece, in Salonika.
In the souvenir shop were mostly lapel pins, medallions, photographs, and crystal etchings of Atatürk, but we bought a copy of a geometry book that Atatürk had written. We can add that to our copy of Marx demystifies calculus in our small collection of math books by political figures. (Well, Marx demystifies calculus is not Marx's actual writings on the subject, but a summary and analysis of them by Paulus Gerdes.)
From this vantage point on the hill, we also saw a lot of black smoke pouring up from part of the city. We did not see flames, but there must have been a big fire there.
After all this we walked down the hill and had lunch at a chicken place (Mudurna). Mark had chicken schnitzel and I had chicken sis. With salad and Pepsis, this came to US$10.40-actually pretty expensive by Turkish standards.
We walked over to the open-air steam engine museum across the railroad tracks from the train station. We were the only ones there; the light rain may have had something to do with this, but its odd location (on a dull high-speed road) may have contributed as well.
We then walked a fair distance along this dull high-speed road in the rain, trying to find the Ethnography Museum. First we thought we had found it, but all that was there was an exhibit of Japanese ceramics. That turned out to be the Fine Arts Museum, and not even the main part of that. Eventually we found it by circling around the Fine Arts Museum, and luckily we recognized it from the statue in front.
The Ethnography Museum (US$1.60 each) has clothing, embroidery, rugs and kilims, glassware, weapons, calligraphy, and wood carving. The calligraphy was interesting in that there were often words written in "forbidden" shapes: "Ya Allah, Ya Muhammed Ömer. Ali" written so that the shape of the letters forms a face, or something else as a bird. These were labeled "levha," but that may mean calligraphy in general.
After this we found the main part of the Fine Arts Museum. This is now all contemporary art, mostly painting, with no apparent organization to the rooms. Each room has many styles mixed together, and it is not chronological or thematic either. One can see definite influences by the major Western European painters: one painting will look very much like a work by Gaughin, another, one by Magritte.
After this I suggested we walk back past the opera house and see if they had anything while we were here. I thought the season would be over, but there were still performances, though other than Don Giovanni they seemed to be "lesser" works. Tonight they were doing Johann Strauss's Gypsy Baron (as Çigene Baron), and tomorrow was a ballet program to Ravel's "Bolero," a symphony by Schubert, and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. We had read that opera tickets were cheap, so we decided to get tickets for tonight if they were reasonable-say, under US$10. They were US$1.60 each!
We went back to the hotel, taking the bus even though it was only one stop (about 500 meters). Well, it was uphill, we were tired, and it was only US$0.24 each.
After resting up, we went to Kebabistan for dinner. A lot of the items were "finished" (no longer available) even at 18:30, but I had a mixed grill and Mark had chicken sis. With Pepsis and a dessert like shredded wheat and nuts in honey, it was US$6. (In the United States, the opera usually costs more than the meal, not less.)
Since the opera tickets were so cheap, we decided to get ballet tickets for the next night. These were somewhat more expensive (US$2.40 each), but they were fifth-row orchestra rather than the back of the balcony.
Unfortunately, the opera (really an operetta) was unfamiliar to me (and there were no supertitles), so I cannot give a summary. It was sung in Turkish, meaning I have now heard an Italian opera sung in Lithuanian, a German opera sung in Turkish, and parts of Porgy and Bess played as klezmer music. (Oh, and various English operas in German, Spanish, Hungarian, and Hebrew.) The production was certainly acceptable enough, and the cast even did an encore of the final song.
There are people who say you can see everything in
Ankara worth seeing in a day. This is true only if you define
"everything worth seeing" as everything you can see
in a day. While the Steam Engine Museum is not high on most people's
list, everything else we saw was certainly worth seeing, and we
still had major things to go.
May 14: We decided to take a taxi to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, since the book describes it as being uphill. And uphill it was and the US$1 taxi ride well worth it. (In the cities, where the taxis are metered, they are very reasonable. In the smaller towns, where they ferry people around to sites, the meters are not used as much, and they are more expensive, though not unreasonable.)
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is Ankara's premier museum, full of the monuments and objects found in excavations around Anatolia. (There was a sign that the Classical and "Ankara" sections would re-open soon in a new gallery downstairs.)
The central hall begins with statues of kings, lions, friezes, and so on from 850-700 B.C.E. There are large collections from Kargamis (Carchemish), described as neo-Hittite, and closely resembling what we think of as Babylonian. In fact, they are certainly related, coming from the same time period (950-700 B.C.E.) and relatively close geographically (about a thousand kilometers from Babylon on a trade route). There are sphinxes from Alacahöyök from 4000 B.C.E.
Around the outside is a very large U-shaped gallery with smaller pieces from all the eras. The finds start with Stone Age, then go through Çatal Höyük (7500 B.C.E., possibly the oldest human community), through Alacahöyök (early Bronze Age, with several gold swastikas, showing the antiquity of this symbol), through Kültepe (Kanesh) (1900 B.C.E., the first Hittite capital), and on to the Phrygians, Mycaeans, Lycians, and Lydians of the Hellenic period.
There were a lot of school children and Italian and French tour groups when we arrived about 10:00, but it really seemed to clear out (and quiet down) around 11:30. During the summer there will be fewer school groups of course, but lunch time is probably still the best time to get an unimpeded view of the pieces.
From the labels we got that the Turkish word "zarf" means envelope. I wonder if that is the source for the English word, which is applied to that (plastic) holder that holds a cup shaped like a truncated cone.
We bought two small souvenirs, imitation carvings of the Storm God (copied from 750-700 B.C.E. from Kargamis) and of a chimera (950-850 B.C.E., also copied from Kargamis). They had a lot of postcards of the smaller pieces but only a couple of the more monumental ones, so we bought a museum guide which included more. Mark really loved this museum.
When we finished here we walked up the hill to the Hisar fortress, where we met many of the same school children we had seen at the museum. They wanted to speak English, shake hands, and have their pictures taken. Inside the fortress were old Turkish houses. One of the features of this fortress is how the builders used whatever materials were at hand, so in the walls you see statues lying on their sides as building material, upside inscribed blocks from old monuments, pieces of lintels, etc.
We walked around a bit and then decided to splurge on lunch and go to the Zenger Pasa Konagi, a restaurant in a restored Ottoman house and museum. On the way up to the dining room, you pass women in traditional dress sitting on the floor forming and baking bread. On your other side, the maitre d' is working on his computer. If you have a group that orders pide (a long flat bread with toppings like pizza), a waiter dressed in Ottoman garb comes out with a short curved sword to cut it. It is a combination of historic and kitsch.
We shared Kelek Tursu (melon pickle salad) and Yogurtlu Mantar (yogurt with mushrooms). I had Pirzola (lamb chops) and Mark had Fileminyon Mantarsoslu (filet mignon with mushroom cream sauce). The portions were on the small side, but the price was certainly reasonable: with bread (I think it was called bazlama-it was like a large English muffin), beverages, and tip, it came to US$20.60. (I say bazlama is the bread because that was the only item on the bill I did not recognize.)
We left the fortress and walked down through the bazaar, picking up a couple of souvenirs on the way. We did not buy any of the colorful spices, nor any of the wool for which this bazaar is known, however. Mark did buy a pair of shoes; we are not sure if that counts as a souvenir.
We were not quite sure where we were, but then I spotted the revolving globe atop the Ziraat building on the main street, so we headed for that. We decided to go back to the hotel rather than do the Republican museums. (No, they have nothing to do with our Republican Party.) First of all, we wanted to leave some things for tomorrow. And second, we figured if we were going to the ballet tonight we should not be completely exhausted when we got there.
On television (our room has a television) they were showing The Legend of Mushashi (the first film of the "Samurai" trilogy). It was dubbed in Turkish, but they had dubbed a print with English subtitles, so it was easy to follow. After that they ran three of the Max Fleischer "Superman" cartoons. The first one was "The Eleventh Hour," in which during World War II Superman sabotages Japanese ships, always at 11:00. The other two did not have the titles attached. One dealt with sabotage at a munitions plant and the other had a mummy that came to life. Mark thinks he has seen the mummy one but not the others. These were dubbed in Turkish with no subtitles, so were harder to follow.
Around 18:00 we went out for dessert (we were not hungry for dinner after the big lunch). We went to a dessert place below Kebabistan. I got the tavuk gögsü, a pudding made from pounded chicken breast with cinnamon; Mark had a chocolate pudding with a cream-puff in the middle. I also had a boza, a fermented millet drink, which was very sour.
We walked down to the opera house. The program was actually described as "symphonic dance" ("Senforilerle Dans") rather than ballet and included Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Ravel's Bolero, and Schubert's Bitmemis Senfoni (which turned out to be his Unfinished Symphony). The program book cost US$2-almost as much as the tickets!
The choreography was very ... modern. The choreography also led to some confusion, when twice in the second movement of the Beethoven, the entire cast moved to the front of the stage, joined hands, and stood there, at which point the audience applauded, even though it was not the end of the movement. Well, when the cast seems to be saying, "Applaud us," audiences are likely to do so.
The music was nice, although one of the horns hit a really sour note at the beginning of the fourth movement of the Beethoven. The first two parts were very short, meaning two intermissions really quickly, and then a long last piece. Still, we were out earlier than from the opera.
The water was back on at the hotel when we returned. It had been shut off earlier, another less-than-ideal feature of the Hotel Yildiz. For a three-star hotel, it is woefully inadequate.
The sidewalks in Ankara are torn up in spots for
some reason. Near the opera house, where cars park on the sidewalk,
the existence of unfenced and unmarked two-foot deep pits must
make it interesting to park and depart, especially as the lighting
is rather dim. But the drivers in general are maniacal. I can
see why people in Ankara carry rosaries when they cross the street-and
they do carry them.
May 15: Today was a bit of a miscellaneous, fill-time day. We probably should have gone back to Istanbul last night, but we did not know that until late afternoon, by which point it was too late to do much about it. (On the other hand, resting a bit in the hotel and seeing the dance was nice too, and I do enjoy bookstores.)
We started with the Column of Julian, also dubbed (completely fancifully) the Queen of Sheba's Minaret. We then got moderately lost but eventually found the Temple of Augustus & Rome, next to the Haci Bayram Camii. There is not much left of the temple, but the mosque is a revered place and the streets along the way are lined with sellers of rosaries, Koranic plaques, religious books, and so on. We were set upon by a boy and a girl selling what we think are mezuzah-like charms on a cord-little sealed leather bags that say "Cevsin-üi Kebii Duas Büyu Zirh" and feel like they have paper or something inside. A little explanation came with it, but in Turkish. We bought two as souvenirs and the girl insisted we immediately put them on, then kissed us each on both cheeks.
We wandered down the street, looking at all the bookstores (of which there were a lot). We were trying to buy a science fiction book and a Sherlock Holmes book as we do everywhere we go, but there did not seem to be anything like that here. There were some American best-sellers in translation, and some classic European works, also in translation, but no science fiction, either translated or original. What Turkish novels there were seemed to be mostly historical or based somehow around religion (mosques featured prominently on the covers).
We ended up back at Ulus Square and the War of Salvation Museum. This was filled with groups of schoolchildren, with more lined up outside. I do not remember seeing this many lined up here earlier, so I do not know if field trips are a Friday thing, or this was just unusual. They smiled and laughed at us, saying, "Hello," "Tourist," and "What is your name?"
Inside the exhibits are labeled in Turkish, but there is an English booklet that explains the exhibits (except for the fact that they have moved a lot of them from the rooms they are described as being in to different rooms). Admission is US$1, with half-price for students, senior citizens, and a few others I could not figure out, and free for another set. I figure the last would include veterans, for example.
One of the exhibits was the "Kurtuluavasi Sirasina/Kullanilan Telefon Santrali." This was the telephone switch used during the War of Independence (1919-1923). It seems as if everywhere we go we find old telephone switches; in Stockholm we even went to their Telephony Museum. (Well, it is our profession.)
We were also going to go to the Republic Museum, but it was closed for filming. I think they were filming something called Cumhuriyat (if I was interpreting the sign correctly), or Republic in English.
After collecting our luggage at the hotel and checking out (really just dropping off the key, since we had already paid), we took the bus to the train station and checked our luggage for the day (US$1.20 per piece, a cheap price to pay to not have to carry it). As soon as we had done that, the sun came out, so my plan of having with me an umbrella and a sweater had its expected effect. Then we found a bus going to Kizilay. This is the name of a square in Yenisehir, or "New Center," and has the newer shopping area, including pedestrian malls.
We went into a few bookstores here and spent a ridiculous amount of money considering we cannot read any of the books. But I did find a Sherlock Holmes (a combined edition of A Study in Scarlet and Sign of the Four), Mark found a Golem, and we also got Leroux's Phantom of the Opera (Operadaki Hayalet) and a book by Jennifer Bassett which seems to be a simplified and shortened version of the same story. We saw J. R. R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert (Dune'un Çocoklari, or Children of Dune for US$8), Douglas Adams, Ursula K. LeGuin, Philip K. Dick, and others I cannot recall. We also got a couple of abridged Jules Vernes, Robert A. Heinlein's Kaybolan Miras (Assignment in Eternity), and David Brin's Postaci (The Postman) as a gift for friends who are Brin fans. All of these were in Turkish, of course. What was available in English seemed to be mostly those Wordsworth Classics and similar lines that are showing up everywhere. (I bought an Anne Brontë in that line Tallinn, Estonia.) Apparently the bookstores in Ulus are more "traditional" while if you want current or more Western books, you go to Yenisehir.
We also bought a couple of music cassettes, one of Adja, a popular Turkish singer, and the soundtrack for The Postman, which was not as cheap as we thought (the sign said cassettes were US$3 each), but still cheaper than in the United States (US$7).
Buying all those books made us hungry, so we stopped at a fish store and restaurant, where we had sandwiches of fried fish. The fish was not battered or breaded, but just dipped in flour and deep-fried. We thought we ordered halibut and sea bass, but Mark thinks one was neither of those. That one also came with a scoopful of fried anchovies on top.
We walked around some more. There was a movie theater showing Titanic, Seven Years in Tibet, and Great Expectations, three pictures we had already seen. Coming soon were The Edge and Picture Perfect, two pictures we had not already seen. However, the prices were not cheap-there was no price posted, but someone who bought a ticket seemed to pay 1,350,000TL, or US$5.40.
Near the theater were a series of outdoor book stalls which seemed to specialize in used books (including a lot of paperbacks in English) and textbooks (including a lot of computer books).
We still had a lot of time left, most of which we passed sitting on a bench on the pedestrian mall and writing and watching life go by. When it got too dark for that, we took a bus to the train station. It is a good thing our luggage had gone before-this bus was very full.
We availed ourselves of the facilities (as they say) at the train station. The toilets were Turkish-style (not a problem, just reporting). The ones on the train, though, were European-style, not what I expected.
In fact, the train was unexpectedly luxurious. Our compartment had only two seats, so we had a private compartment, complete with sink. For the night two beds folded down, just like in the movies. The one problem was that with the window closed it was somewhat stuffy; with the window open it was somewhat brisk. There was a thermostat, but since the heat in the cabin itself was not on, I do not think turning it down would have helped.
Because of the temperature problem, we did not sleep perfectly, but it was still probably more comfortable than most of our hotel rooms (which also had the same problem). The conductor came by ringing a bell about an hour before arrival to make sure everyone was awake.
Oh, I should mention tipping. People tend to leave
the small change in restaurants, up to 10%, but not in the cheapest
places. Taxis get rounded up about the same way. But when the
conductor showed up our cabin, We had no idea what to tip, so
we tipped 100,000TL (US$0.40), which is the same as we tipped
the bellman in the last hotel. It does not sound like much, but
because everything is so much cheaper, I figure it is the equivalent
of about a dollar tip. (Now people will write and tell me that
we tipped the wrong amount-and half will say it was too much and
the other half, too little.)
May 16: We arrived on time in Istanbul's Haydarpasa Station, on the Asian side. (Trivia: Istanbul is the only city built on two continents.) The book say the best way to get to the European side is via ferry, which leaves right outside the station door. You buy a token for US$0.50, then use it to pass through the gates onto the ferry. It takes about a half hour-much faster than going through traffic around the Sea of Marmara and across a bridge over the Bosphorus. If it had not been gray and chilly, it would have been a very nice ride, but even with the poor weather, we got some spectacular views of the skyline.
On the European side, we took a taxi to the Alp Guesthouse-carrying all those books made this desirable. Our rooms were not ready, so we dropped off our luggage and headed out for our last day of sightseeing.
At this point, the word "Byzantine" became the descriptive word of the day. Our plan had been to take a water taxi up the Golden Horn to Eyüp, and then work our way back, using the water taxi to get from sight to sight (or at least close). We started by taking a taxi from the ranks outside the Four Seasons Hotel (a fancy hotel) to the docks. When we gave the driver a larger bill than our fare, he gave up back slightly less change than one might expect, even with a reasonable tip. But it was not worth arguing about, since the difference was really only about US$0.40.
Then we discovered that the water taxi was not running because the water was too low. But there were several boat captains willing to take us on a "cruise" up the Golden Horn for US$15, then reduced to US$10. They were very persistent, and we were reduced to crossing a busy multi-lane divided highway to get rid of them.
This got us to a major bus stop, where we found a bus going to Eyüp and bought our tickets (as directed) from a ticket seller for US$0.50 each. The ride took us along the Golden Horn, and at least when we went up, the Golden Horn, or Haliç, was not scenic enough to warrant a "cruise."
Eyüp is the region of Istanbul containing the Eyüp Sultan Mosque and Tomb, one of the holiest sites in Islam. This is the burial place of the standard-bearer of Muhammed. This also had somewhat stricter rules for visitors. For women they said a long skirt and a head scarf were required. I had forgotten my head scarf, and could have bought one outside, but I was also wearing jeans, so I just looked in from the doorway and grill, which Mark said showed most of what there was to see. Even the courtyard was worth the visit, with the walls covered with Iznik tilework.
Because this site is holy, Muslims wanted to be buried here, so there is a large cemetery and many elaborate tombs in the area. There is also the "Pierre Loti Cafe," which may not even have any real connection with that French author of romances set in Turkey. And when the Lonely Planet said it was a fifteen-minute climb up a steep hill, that decided us. (One problem with the Lonely Planet guide is that their fifteen-minute walks usually take a half an hour.)
Of course, instead we tried to walk to the Kariye, which looked to be about a kilometer away. Hah! After slogging through a major construction along the highway along the Golden Horn for forty-five minutes, we flagged down a taxi and went quite a ways more, through unmarked back streets, to get there. Take a taxi there; it is easy to find the main street (and the buses) when you are done. We did get to see more of the old city walls, though.
The Kariye Müsezi (previously the Chora Church, and indexed that way in the Lonely Planet) is known for its glorious mosaics and (somewhat less) for its frescoes. One really needs a good guidebook here (even more than in the Göreme churches) for diagrams and explanations of all the frescoes. For example, one illustrates some story from the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, not on most people's reading lists. (I was eavesdropping on people reading from the Blue Guide and other better, but heavy (weightwise), books. If we had been going on a tour where someone carried my luggage, I would definitely have gotten the Blue Guide for Turkey. There seems to be a smaller one just for Istanbul as well.) The mosaics are magnificent, but I am curious how much is original and how much restored in the recent restoration.
Outside I can say that the postcards, bookmarks, and "woven carpet cards" are the cheapest we have seen them in Turkey. On the other hand, buying them in the museums contributes to the support of the museum, and the actual amount is trivial. Postcards are US$0.04 outside, US$0.20 inside. Five times as much, but still only sixteen cents difference each.
We had a quick lunch of döner. Without the water taxi, getting across the Golden Horn to try to see the synagogue was not really practical (especially on Saturday, as it would be closed to visitors), so we caught the bus to Dolmabaçe Palace. But Dolmabaçe cost a horrifying US$14 each (US$8 without the harem), and while prices close to this seemed reasonable at Topkapi Palace, that was 1) more historic, and 2) three weeks ago, before we realized how cheap things were in Turkey.
Instead, we walked north a bit and went to the Maritime Museum, actually two buildings and an open-air section (of cannons, not ships, though there is part of a German U-2 that either hit a mine or was hit by a torpedo (I forget which) in Turkish waters.
One interesting display was that of ships on coins, though it was not labeled as such. There was also a portrait of Barbarossa with black hair ("Barbarossa" means "Red Beard").
This was a big museum, and took us two hours to see completely, and for only US$0.80 each (plus one $1.20 photography fee).
We walked back to Karabas (the dock near Dolmabaçe). Big surprise, the ferry to Karaköy was not running. So we decided to catch a bus. When we caught the first bus at Eminönü, we had to buy tickets at a stand. Every other place (including here) we would buy tickets from a stand and then get on the bus only to discover one paid on the bus. I have no idea how one knows which buses are which. In any case, here a man basically bought our apparently useless-on-this-bus tickets from us (he took the tickets and paid our fare; I assume he can use them elsewhere). We thanked him, probably insufficiently.
But wait, it gets better. We caught a bus labeled "Topkapi," figuring that the entrance to Topkapi Palace was only a few blocks from our hotel. There is apparently a region of Istanbul called "Topkapi" which is nowhere near the Topkapi Palace, and people hopping on a bus labeled "Topkapi" will find themselves in the middle of a market nowhere near Sultanahmet, just as we did. At which point we declared ourselves defeated by the Istanbul bus system and took a taxi back.
We needed a bit more money to tide us over, but the ATMs did not want to cooperate. We tried two cards in two different ATMs, but with no success. We were just about resigned to lahmacun and no Turkish delight to take back when we passed an ATM being worked on and some of the folks from the Göreme tour in it trying to get money! I swear there is some sort of gravitational effect or Newtonian law or something in Turkey that says once two people meet, they will continue to meet.
This machine did now give us money, though only on our credit union card, not our bank card. Before, it was only the bank card that would work. I strongly recommend taking a back-up card, and travelers cheques, and cash. We paid for a couple of hotels and the airport shuttle in US cash. I figure if they quote the price in dollars, they should take dollars in payment. The strange thing was that at the Alp when we left a deposit, they seemed taken aback that we wanted to pay it in Turkish lira. When we paid the balance, they seemed taken aback that we wanted to pay it in US dollars.
We had dinner at the Altin again, but it wasn't as good as before (or maybe we had been spoiled in the interim), and took a long time to be served (close to a half-hour) and it was almost empty.
Leaving, we were greeted by the inevitable carpet
salesman. After we convinced him we didn't want to buy a carpet,
we talked for a while about crime in America, relative salaries
and costs between the United States and Turkey, and Bill Gates.
What is it about carpet salesmen and Bill Gates?!
May 17: We woke up about 4:15 for our 5:00 pickup. The front desk gave us a wake-up call at 4:30, and when we left gave us boxes of cherry juice and cheese sandwiches in a bag for breakfast! This is certainly friendlier service than in a fancy hotel.
Security at the Istanbul airport is nothing if not thorough. When you first enter the terminal, they x-ray your bags and you walk through a metal detector. Then the airline ticket agent checks your passport. Then the passport control checks your passport. Then a meter later, another passport control checks your passport and boarding cards. Then there is a check at the gate (five meters further on) of your passport and boarding cards, as well as another x-ray and metal detector, just in case you had found a gun lying on the terminal floor and put it in your luggage.
Warning: once you go through the passport checks, there is only duty-free and a Coke machine. Once you go through the second x-ray, there is nothing but the gate-no cafe, no toilets, no anything. Make sure you spend or change your money before any of these. We had less than US$4 in Turkish lira, so it was no big deal.
The flight home was uneventful, the most interesting part being where I attempted to help an Italian couple fill in the immigration forms available only in English and German by explaining the confusing parts in Spanish.
Our costs for this trip were:
1198.32 Airfare 338.43 Ground Transportation 741.54 Lodging 286.90 Food 233.46 Film 121.49 Souvenirs 430.25 Miscellaneous 3350.39 TOTALmaking this our cheapest foreign trip since I started to keep track in 1991, and the cheapest per day. (India had a cheaper ground cost per day, but the airfare was almost twice as much.) In fact, I think the increase in Lucent stock price alone while we were gone paid for this trip!
And this was also one of our most enjoyable trips. The historical sites are wonderful, the scenery (especially in Göreme) marvelous, and the people very friendly and very helpful. I don't know why more people aren't going here (though the crowds even this early in places like Ephesus indicate that someone has discovered it). People who keep saying they can't afford trips like we take don't realize how cheap trips like we take can be, and three weeks in Turkey is a lot more interesting than two weeks at the (New) Jersey shore. (Not as relaxing, perhaps, but then we didn't get to the Mediterranean coast and its beaches.)
Of all our trips, Turkey probably has the highest combination of accessibility and fascination. We found Thailand and Japan more "exotic," but the alphabet differences made them somewhat more difficult. India was more exotic as well, but really hard work (see our trip log for details). Strictly European countries, even eastern European ones, are very similar to the United States in many ways. (Turkey was at a saddle point, for mathematicians out there.)
East may be east, and west be west, but the twain
do meet-in Turkey.
Sailing to Byzantium
That is no country for old men.
In one another's arms, birds in the trees -
Those dying generations -at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick,
unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
William Butler Yeats
T H E E N D
Evelyn C. Leeper (email@example.com)