04/24/98: New Jersey Departure 04/25/98: Arrival Istanbul, Sultanahmet 04/26/98: Istanbul: The Museum and the Great Mosques 04/27/98: Istanbul: The Topkapi Palace 04/28/98: Transit: Istanbul to Canakkale 04/29/98: Canakkale and Gallipoli 04/30/98: Canakkale and Troy 05/01/98: Transit: Canakkale to Bergamo 05/02/98: Bergamo sites; Transit to Salihli 05/03/98: Salihli, Sardis, and Selcuk 05/04/98: Selcuk: Ephesus 05/05/98: Near Selcuk: Prienne, Miletus, and Didyma 05/06/98: Transit Selcuk to Pamukale 05/07/98: Transit Pamukale to Konya 05/08/98: Konya 05/09/98: Transit: Konya to Goreme 05/10/98: Goreme: Ihlara Tour 05/11/98: Goreme: Open Air Museum 05/12/98: Transit: Goreme to Ankara 05/13/98: Ankara Sights 05/14/98: Ankara Sights and shops 05/15/98: Ankara: Sights and transit 05/16/98: Istanbul Sights 05/17/98: Transit: Istanbul to New Jersey04/24/98: New Jersey Departure
Prologue: The Turks are a fascinating people with their own very original take on the world. They are a pragmatic and indomitable people who often think in very unexpected ways. Our view of them from the United States has been colored by anti-Turkish propaganda that has intentionally clouded our view.
This is actually being written a few days into the trip on the way in to Troy. My initial impression of the Turks was based on films like Yol, Lawrence of Arabia and Midnight Express. The author of the Lonely Planet book on Turkey believes that we see a lot of anti-Turkish propaganda. I almost believed that Turkish officials ran a sort of xenophobic police state. It went to the extent that I encrypted parts of this log where I talk about the Turks for fear that the authorities would read them as I came through customs.
After a few days I am sorry that I took that attitude and I gladly shed it. Turkey is the best country we have visited off the Pacific Rim and it is in large part because of the Turks. While the Turks are probably as capable as any people of negative actions when they have power are, I find them to be among the most likeable people I have visited. My trip is full of incidents of complete strangers going out of their way to be helpful in ways I cannot imagine Americans would do. We hear a lot of negative things about Moslems and I think more people should come to Turkey to see how positive and life-affirming the Turks are.
As an example, lots of people in other countries have forgiven their one-time wartime enemies. Americans get along with the Japanese now, for example. But who but the Turks would celebrate the courage of their wartime enemy the way they memorialize the Anzacs who came to attack them at Gallipoli? That is like Americans celebrating the courage of the Japanese at Midway.
I rather expect that someone will write me for politically incorrectly liking the Turks too much the way someone complained when I was too positive on the Sikhs of India. It is possible I am misled, but I am sincere. The Turks strikes me as a good, fun-loving people who have their own extremely original view of the world. Where one sees a lot of militancy coming from the Islamic world the Turks represent a melting pot nation which though mostly Islamic seems highly tolerant of many peoples with many beliefs. And Islamic women choose if they will cover their heads or not, there is nobody in government to tell them. They value that freedom.
I just wanted to get that said. Incidentally, our guidebook explodes the whole myth of Americans rotting in Turkish prisons. Even the convicted drug smuggler whose story was supposedly told in Midnight Express says that telling contains major lies and even he defends the Turkish government. The real story of what the Midnight Express is a jaw-dropper. I repeat the guidebook's explanation inside.
Now on to the trip log...
It is said that the Roman Empire fell for longer than most civilizations survived. When did the Roman Empire finally end? Well, there were people who were born under what was called the Roman Empire who heard in their lifetimes about the discovery of the New World. The last piece of the Roman Empire died in 1453 when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks under Mehmet the Conqueror. 9500 years ago there was a tool-making culture in Turkey. Ancient Troy was in what we now call Turkey, the Roman Empire moved its capital from Rome to Turkey, and today Turkey is both a Middle Eastern country and a European country.
We are visiting Turkey at an interesting point in its history, certainly a time of change. Turkey for the last few years has been trying to appear to the world as an exotic European country. They were anxious to become part of the European Union. They would like to overcome the image in Europe as a source of cheap labor and a backward country. I remember in the last year or so seeing in my newsmagazine paid inserts showing how forward-looking Turkey is. But most of Europe has not given Turkey much respect for a lot of reasons. There are long-standing prejudices. There is the mammoth feud with Greece, one of the longest continuing feuds in World History. Turkey has a human rights record that is certainly non-stellar. And, of course, it does not help that Turkey is Islamic and not Christian. Turkey had its work cut out for it when it wanted to join the European Union. On December 17, 1997, the European Union rejected Turkey's bid for admission. Now Turkey is probably going to turn to the United States for military alliances. Turkey currently is looking for better relations with the US.
Ironically, while Turkey is too Islamic for Europe, it is not enough Islamic for most of the Arab world, as it is willing to make alliances with Israel. Turkey was the first predominantly Islamic country to recognize Israel. That was 1949. And the two countries have remained friendly since. This has helped to make Turkey a pariah in the Arab world and among its own fundamentalists who want to take power. However, the Turkish Constitution requires a separation of religion and state. Constitutionally the state is secular. That is a rarity among Islamic counties and it must be a difficult balance to maintain. It keeps the country moving forward into the 21st Century while many of its Islamic neighbor countries are rejecting what we in the West consider to be modern ways. There is a war with the internal Kurds. They are fundamentalists, but also a separate ethnic group that wants to be their own nation. They have their own language and culture and would like to have a homeland of their own. In 1988 Iraq attacked its Kurdish minority with chemical weapons. The Kurds fled the country into Turkey increasing an already substantial population. Turkey tried to bring them into the mainstream culture, but they would not assimilate and still hold out the dream of being a separate country. This has led to a low-key civil war in the East. The PLO has allied themselves with the Kurds. That must put the Kurds in a peculiar position since they also allied themselves with Saddam Hussein in the war. But the Kurds must need an ally. The Turkish government, finding itself opposed by the PLO has even more reason to have military ties with Israel.
The methods being used by the mainstream are frequently undemocratic by Western standards. Political parties are abolished. Journalists are imprisoned. The Prime Minister promised to follow more democratic principles when he came to power. Journalists and editors have been released from prison, but to limited freedom and it they offend the government or criticize the military they will have to go back to prison to serve the rest of their terms. It may become necessary to destroy democracy in order to save it. It is a frightening dilemma. Consider that in Algeria the fundamentalists are in the minority but they still have the power to create the current bloodbath.
I suppose in the United States there are some Islamic Fundamentalists but they have not caused much chaos since we are a rich country, and we can afford Cadillac security. Where we have had terrorist acts like the bombing of the World Trade Center we could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to bear stopping one terrorist group. Terrorists are much less likely to attack in the United States because we can afford good security. This limits the number of terrorist groups and that means that even more can be spent tracking and stopping the ones that are in the country. Just from the point of view of economics it makes more sense to fundamentalist groups to chip away at poorer countries. Also in the poorer countries there is more discontent. For those who are poor and who have little hope fundamentalism offers an opportunity to be in the in-group. You may not have much comfort in this life and have little hope of getting it, but do things our way and you will have it terrific after you die.
Turkey is better off than many, but it has nowhere near the economic power of the US. This is not a defense of some of their tactics, but it is a fact of life. It is how the government will react. The poor will be drawn to fundamentalism. It also is very near Islamic states. Turkey is trying desperately to bring prosperity to their country because money is a trump card that keeps fundamentalists under control and allows them to be controlled in approved democratic ways. The prosperity will not come from a partnership with Europe. That was what Europe said last December. If the US rejects Turkey I wonder what they will do.
But as much as Turkey currently is hoping for the US friendship there also are tensions. There are alleged human rights violations in the war against the Kurds. Photographs allegedly showing soldiers holding the decapitated heads of Kurds have been shown on "Sixty Minutes." Six leading members of the Welfare Party including a former Prime Minister have been banned from politics for six years. We try to pick countries to visit that do not have serious human right violations, though few major powers are free from accusations.
Well, our last day at work was a somewhat nervous one. You always wonder if things are going to work out or not. I did my usual trick of sleeping all of about a half-hour last night. A good store of fatigue, ironically, is extremely useful for transoceanic flights. It acts as a natural sedative for the nerves and makes sleep on the plane a lot easier. It is 3:17pm locally but 10:17pm in Turkey. The Garden State Parkway to Newark Airport is bumper to bumper. Oh, I am Mark Leeper and my traveling companion is my lovely wife Evelyn Leeper. Evelyn has done most of the planning for the trip. We are just going by ourselves. Nobody expects us.
I nodded off a little in the car. When I am sleep deprived I tend to have vivid dreams. I was picturing the driver with a long and narrow three-fingered hand. It was almost like something out of War of the Worlds. Often we talk to the driver. This time we drove in silence. I was either writing or dozing off. I have switched to Turkey time and I was trying to put the flights into my calendar entirely in Turkey time. Eventually I will have to change the flights back to New Jersey time. By the time I return that is what I will be using.
The line at Lufthansa is huge. Apparently the desk opened late and a lot of people had already arrived. The line snakes around the ropes in front of the counter then stretches more than half the length of the terminal. It blocks the path of people leaving the counters. People in different accents and ethnic backgrounds are coming up shocked saying "Lufthansa?" A German group starts a second queue at the inlet to the roped section. It is feeding in as if it were the official queue, though of course they just arrived. I think on our trip to Egypt we were cut in front of by people from every European NATO country. This trip they are starting early. The Germans try to let more cut in. I casually rest my hand on the rope, just incidentally blocking their path. One of the Germans who otherwise looks like an amiable man in his 60s gives me a dirty look as if I was the one being rude.
Now I thought it had been smart after I packed my photovest and decided what pocket everything would be in to take out every piece of metal and put it in a ziplock bag. I then put the ziplock in my briefcase. I was sure there was no metal on me when I went through the metal detector. At least I thought I did. Nope. Beeeeeeeeeep! "Take off the vest and chest pouch and sent them through." I do and the human port lets me through without complaint. Must be the zippers. Well at least I know that there is no point in trying to put all the metal in my briefcase. I might as well resign myself to always taking the vest off. My last photovest fell apart on our Alaska trip. It was pretty tough finding more photovests for sale. I was all set to buy one over the Internet for something like $60. Literally I was going to order it after work when we were cooking dinner. With supreme timing as well as irony a catalog of hunter products was delivered in that day's mail. They had a hunting vest with even more pockets for sale for $29.95. It has something like 22 pockets. The only problem is that it is a hunting vest. It is the kind of catalog that sells t-shirts that say, "This is your woodchuck." [Picture of woodchuck]. "This is your woodchuck on hollow points." [Picture of a little piece of woodchuck and body parts splattered all over]. "Any questions?" Really funny stuff like that. Jokes for the ten-year-old in all of them. When I ordered the vest they asked me "Survey question... Do you hunt?" "Uh, no." How could I tell them I am a confirmed Bambiist? Good vest though. I call it "my vest of many pockets." I just wish it didn't look like a hunting vest.
Well, we are sitting in the waiting area and we are told our first flight has been delayed. But for now it is only 15 minutes delayed.
I have been pronouncing Frankfort "Vronkvort." It is very cosmopolitan, very jet set. Take it from me.
History lesson: This is a history of the lands we call Turkey
Okay, you may need a thumbnail history of Turkey for what follows. Don't try writing this on your thumbnail. The last person who did was caught and got zero for the exam. (This section has been revised as I have learned new history or thought of better jokes.)
There were inhabitants of Turkey as far back as 7500 BC. So like an iceberg that is 80% below sea, at least 80% of Turkey must be before C. About 1900 BC the Hittites were warring with Ancient Egypt, starting a long history of people in these lands warring with people who would be more dramatically represented in the movies. Hence they are almost always represented as the bad guys. 1250 BC the Trojans are fighting with the Greeks on their own home turf at Troy. The Greeks are, however, masters of PR and it is their side of the story that is remembered and once again the people of these lands, not really Turks yet, but of these lands, are labeled the bad guys. This in spite of the Greeks pulling that lousy stunt with the wooden horse.
1200-600 BC: more invasions and the Greeks are determining civilization in this area. 550 BC Cyrus of Persia invades to get a piece of the action. 334 BC it is Alexander the Great. It is painful, but nobody can stand up to the little brat. At least he has the courtesy to die young. By this point these guys have a reputation as easy marks and even the Celts invade them, believe it or not. 250 BC is the rise of the Kingdom of Pergamum. It has great warriors and great art but they fail to capture the public's imagination and no films are made about them.
129 BC: Rome establishes Asia Minor as a province. There is little chance to beat Rome and no movies to be made so they sit it out.
330 AD: We see what sitting it out gets you. Constantine decides the Roman gods are false, switches to Christianity, but just in case moves Rome away from the Roman gods to what will be called Istanbul, but he decides first it will be called Constantinople. Istanbul will have to wait.
527-565 AD: The Emperor Justinian builds the greatest and most grotesque church in the world, Sancta Sophia, an undying tribute to Christianity. Undying, perhaps. Christianity, perhaps not. For nearly 1000 years the Holy Roman Empire rules but fails to achieve being holy, Roman, or an empire. None out of three ain't so hot. Still they call it the Holy Roman Empire because it sounds good. For the first time it is commonly accepted that ketchup is a vegetable because that too sounds good. The rulers find the Turks to be good protectors. They live side by side with good friends the Seljuk Turks. The Seljuks raise armies and occasionally take Byzantine Emperors prisoner. But the Seljuks eventually fall. Well, it proves that Turks are no match for Europeans.
In the early 1200s Crusaders arrive to liberate the Holy Land from Islam. They plan to plunder Constantinople. "But we are Christian," protests Constantinople. "You're Christian??? That's funny. You don't look Christian." said the crusaders. "No prisoners." And the Christians won a much-needed victory against the hated Christian.
1453 AD: Mehmet the Conqueror, an Ottoman Turk, overruns Constantinople and turns the St. Sophia into a mosque, an undying tribute to Islam. He immediately foregoes Roman, settling for "Holy" and "Empire." He begins almost 400 years of Ottoman rule under Sultans. With the Turks powerful under the Sultans and considered a threat to Europe, Turkey was once again the bad guys and the Greeks told the world, "I told ya so."
For years the Ottoman Turks ruled well but corruption set in. Suleyman I brought the empire to its high point beautifying Constantinople (now Istanbul, but Europe refused to call it that) and rebuilding Jerusalem. But too many of the Sultans were clods, however, and the empire declined. Some would rebuild without democratizing; some were just weak. Subject countries with better press were kicking Istanbul's butt.
Then pretty much on schedule came the 20th Century. The Young Turks were a group of, well, young Turks who wanted Western-style reform from the Sultans. They forced a constitution to be again instituted. They were young, bright, clever, politically powerful, and they picked Germany to win World War I. When the war ended things were as bad as ever with the Sultan, now the pawn of victorious Western powers. The Ottoman Empire was chopped up.
Greece, recognizing that its old enemy Turkey was now down, decided to let bygones be bygones, but also decided the time was right to start kicking it anew. The forces under Mustafa Kemal (later Kemal Ataturk-when you like what a boy does you say "attaboy", people liked what this Turk did.) kicked back and harder. This made WWI commander Kemal again a hero. He went on to usher a new age into Turkey. Henceforth people would be loyal to Turkey first. No international organizations like the Communist Party or the Boy Scouts in Turkey. Religion is great like champagne. Politics is great like mayonnaise. Champagne and mayonnaise don't go together and neither do religion and politics. Turkey would have a secular state.
Well, that is just a view of Turkish History from a very high level. About 20,000 feet unless I miss my guess. People who find the foregoing offensive, well, it was not meant to be taken seriously.
04/25/98: Arrival Istanbul, Sultanahmet
They are only pre-boarding but everybody is lining up. They want to be among the first to board. I am not sure the advantage unless it is to grab overhead compartment space. In any case the boarding procedure is snafued.
The problem seems to be that they had automatic ticket-taking machines like the ones that work well in Japan. These don't work quite so well since they required a human to show people how to feed the ticket in and then remind the user to pick up the stub.
Our plane that was supposed to take off at 1am was still loading at that time. About 1:15 we had a Lufthansa innovation, the safety talk was done with computer animation to make it look like a puppet show. That way it is not surprising that the figure is smiling when he puts on an oxygen mask. A puppet cannot do anything else. It always looked unrealistic when a human put on one of those masks. It always looked unrealistic to have a happy smiling human slip on an oxygen mask to narrowly avoid death. Of course I am joking. We all know nothing can go wrong on one of these planes. But I would have felt better if they had not lost the picture on their safety tape.
The tape concluded we are now ready to take off. But 30 minutes later the plane still had not. I slept. I did feel the takeoff, but my eyes were closed. The plane was taking off about 45 minutes late. I slept another half hour but woke up when they started handing out beverages and "a snack" if you can call a half ounce of mini-pretzels a snack. I had an orange juice, no ice.
The dinner seemed slow in coming, but it was certainly better than what is usually considered airplane food. There was a salad with a nice piece of smoked salmon; the bread had sweet butter; then there was chicken on macaroni in tomato sauce, but it was longer spirals of macaroni. For desert there was a piece of cherry cake and some cheese and crackers. Everything was made fairly well.
Well, after dinner I got maybe a couple of hours of sleep. I woke up in time to see the last ten minutes of the in flight movie, The Rainmaker. I had seen it once already, but it has a fairly rousing conclusion from the moment that Roy Scheider is on the stand. The one problem with the story is that is awfully similar to Sidney Lumet's The Verdict. It basically is the same defense of lawyers. I don't necessarily like a lot of what goes on in the legal profession, but there are some good films that defend lawyers, starting with Inherit the Wind.
We are now over Cork in Southern Ireland according to the map they put up. Another hour and we land in Frankfurt. I am looking forward to Istanbul with a mixture of three parts excitement to one part dread. It will be a challenge. We have to do things like find a hotel in a country where we do not know the language. I take that back. It will become three parts excitement to one part dread. Right now it is three parts dread to one part excitement. But that will change. Most people don't travel because there is too much dread and not enough excitement. But as I tell Evelyn, any place you don's see by the time you die, you never get another chance. I have some idea of the variation of thought patterns that Americans are capable of, but not that humans are capable of.
Evelyn is sleeping on my shoulder and I try to type in the half-light without disturbing her.
They come around with breakfast. It is choice of a Danish or what sounds like a cappicola sandwich. More for health than for cowardice I take the Danish. We have passed over London and are now crossing from Dover to Calais.
I am also wondering if we are going to be able to travel like this in two years. I usually do not believe in Doomsday prophecies. I am betting that the Year 2000 computer problem will be bigger than most people think. There is only a relatively small part of the population guessing how serious it will be. I am just not hearing experts looking at the situation and coming away skeptical. There are lots of technical people concerned, there are a few trying to tell the general public, and the public is ignoring the threat. Well people were frightened of atomic war and it has not happened. People feel safe. The difference is that we did not have an atomic war scheduled for a specific date and time.
We landed in Frankfurt at 8:39. Evelyn and I both found we were nodding off toward the end of the flight. It is actually a fairly short walk to our outgoing gate with no security checks. Another nice touch is a selection of international newspapers you enter each plane. I got a copy of the Herald Tribune. It seems to be a collection of the international news from the New York Times and the Washington Post. I look at the price. For the US Military in Europe it casts $1.20. It cost 300,000 Turkish Lira. Yup, that confirms what I had heard. A quarter million Turkish Lira to the dollar. Turks get used to large numbers early in life, I think.
Well, there is the call for our plane. We are to go downstairs and board a bus. I wonder where the plane is. I didn't choose airfare to ride a bus, of course. Had I wanted to ride a bus, I would have taken the bus from Newark to Istanbul. The German voices are so pleasant, even in German. I wonder why they are played so nasty in those old war films. "Ladies and gentlemen, please proceed around to the front of the machine guns." I wonder what it must be like that in all the good adventure films, like The Guns of Navarone, your countrymen are the bad guys.
On the plane we met a nice couple who were going to Turkey on an Elderhostel tour. We talked to them about places they were going this trip and places we had been.
It is funny. I can remember when I was in elementary school I knew I was going in for science and especially math. The teacher would show us slides of her trip to France and I would be bored. I wasn't the traveler type. There was more fascination in what life was like in a drop of water than in France. I little suspected I would grow up with this hobby of travel and telling others about what I saw. I would probably go to far more countries than my teacher would. But not France so far. When we are old and tired we will go the easy places like France. First it has to be places like the Amazon and Turkey and India. Travel writing came as a complete shock to me. What happened there was when I worked for Burroughs and got a job offer from Bell Labs, Burroughs sent me to see if there was work I would have liked to do in Pennsylvania where Burroughs had some labs. My supervisor wanted me to report certain things from the meetings. Evelyn wanted to know other things. In order not to have to explain three different accounts of my trip, I wrote just one comprehensive account for myself and gave copies to other people telling them to pull out what was relevant to them. It struck me that account was a nice souvenir of the trip so I did it for other trips. But it was mostly for me. A friend was going to Britain, where I had been, and wanted to know what I had enjoyed seeing there. I gave her this illegible trip log and told her it would not all be of interest, but if she skimmed it she would find the parts that answered her question. She read it cover to cover and gave it to her husband to read cover to cover. It never had occurred to me that for anyone who had not traveled with me there would be much interest at all. But I started circulating my logs to friends and family. Big steps forward were the addition of an HP 200LX that allowed me to type the log as I went and Usenet and the Internet to make the logs available. The 200LX do a lot more for me than that. It keeps track of the sites we will be seeing; it tracks time past. I have programs for the phase of the moon and when sunset is. It is an amazingly useful tool.
Evelyn is sleeping and I just took the first picture of the trip, the ground from the plane.
I am a little afraid of what I put in this log since the Turkish government strikes me as being sensitive to criticism. And I am a guest in their country.
Lunch, which was at about 10:50am was a salad of ham slices, cottage cheese, and a cherry tomato; an omelet with mushrooms and a little potato pancake, German yogurt with an American flag decoration. It said "Fruit guaranteed to be from the US;" and something called "raspberry extra jam" on a croissant. Not quite as high a quality as dinner last night. The yogurt was some unidentified fruit and seemed to have nuts.
I slept more after lunch and we landed about 12:35. Now I had been expecting that anything to do with the Turkish government would be officious and very suspicious of strangers. I had considered not bringing my vitamin C because I could end in a drug hassle if I could not prove it was just vitamins. I went to the trouble of encrypting files in my palmtop about Turkish politics so that if they were examined nobody would see that I was carrying opinions against the Turks. So here it came. First there was buying a visa. The piece had gone up to $45, but otherwise no hassle. The man in line stamped my passport. Then to the area where we pick up luggage, except of course we carry all of our luggage. Here it comes, the inspection. A few people had to open suitcases but nobody bothered with us. Perhaps we have honest faces, but I would have thought the backpacks would have made us look suspicious. For whatever reason, Turkish security was hassle-free. We got out and changed some money and got a taxi for the hotel. We asked to be taken to the Berk Guesthouse. The driver said that he knew where it was but called it the Berak Guesthouse. The driver tried to tell us that if we did not have a reservation we were not going to find a room unless we let him find a place. "Every place you go. Full! Full! Full!" We were unconvinced, and it turned out rightly so. There is a season like that in summer, but not the spring. My mother didn't raise no children who were foolish enough to believe taxi drivers.
Driving we passed a lot of remnants of old Hippodrome wall preserved, with a fence around them to protect them. The Hippodrome was an old Roman racetrack and if you saw Ben Hur you know those old Romans took horse racing seriously. Turkey is a place aware of its past. You see also minarets all over, but they all look pretty much the same. Minarets have a uniform design in Istanbul. They look like pencils with balconies that all look much alike.
Evelyn mentioned to me that I should not call this an Islamic country. Yet as we drove it is clear that there must be something along those lines that should be said. There are two kinds of country you can visit. There are religious countries where the government is brought to you by the same fine folks who bring you the religion. There are secular counties where the government has nothing whatever to do with religion. Of the religious countries there are two types. The religious leaders can be the same as the government leaders, but so what? England is that way. Supposedly the queen is the head of the Church of England. Iran is the other type: "Our political leaders are all of our religion and by the way, Mr. Visitor, you are really supposed to be that religion also." Secular countries also have two types. One says something like he US says: "We are all kinds of different religions and none control the government, even if we do shut down on December 25." Then there is the one that says "We are all pretty much the same religion, but we try not to let that affect our government." That last is Turkey. The vast majority of the country is Islamic. In that sense it is an Islamic country. But the government does not check the Koran to find out how to govern. The Turkish police do not enforce the Koran. Catch me if I say this is an Islamic country. I mean that by majority demographics.
The taxi driver played on his radio American rock. I don't know if he liked it or if he thought we would. Most of the music you here on the radio here has an Arabic sound.
We got to the Berak Guesthouse and discovered it was almost the same name, but definitely the wrong place. We had to hassle and show him the name on paper. He had never heard of it. But we discovered it was just about a block or two away. We had pronounced it like burr with a "k" at the end. He pronounced it like bear with a "k" at the end. The reason for the coincidence that they were so close is that if you stay near the major tourist attractions you stay in a relatively small area called Sultanamaht after the Sultan who built the Blue Mosque.
So after the little confusion about the name we got to the Berk. I went up to see the room. I never really know what to look for in a room, particularly in a new country. It is never easy for the traveler to know if his hotel room is a good deal or not. In Tokyo we got a really good deal on a room that was about $90 a night and was about big enough that we could spread two pads on the floor for us to sleep on and no private plumbing. On our Southeast trip $55 was really overpriced for a room with two beds and cable TV with remote, a radio, and really good plumbing with free shampoo. By US standards the room here is pretty Spartan for $50 a night. One bed, a chair, a sink, a private bathroom, but with plumbing so primitive that you throw out rather than flush toilet paper. (I knew some places had the toilet paper deal, but this is the first I visited and it is hard to get used to.) I think travel is definitely worth the expense and with the exception of airfare can be done cheaply even to places like Japan. But it also reminds me again and again that in the late 20th century life in America for most people is incredibly comfortable. Our slums are incredibly luxurious compared to how most people in the world lived 100 years ago. I guess it is a matter of what you get used to.
We left our luggage in the room and went out to scout the area. One reason the hotels are so expensive and all together in one group is we are right near the Blue Mosque and Saint Sophia. We stopped at a corner shop for a cool drink. There is easily available Coke and Doritos. We got a local drink at 150,000TL (sixty cents). It turned out to be cherry drink. The brand name is Cappy (but it is really Coca-Cola) and it tastes really good, like liquid cherry pie filling. Prices, incidentally, are quoted in thousands. The woman in the shop said the price was "150" and that was what the can was what was written under the can in the cooler.
Near the mosques there are a lot of touts hanging around, who are medium aggressive. They come up to you and try to get you to come to their shop or try to sell you postcards, but they do take no for an answer. There are not as many as there were in India and they are mostly just near the really touristy areas. Also if you appear to be lost locals passing will without being asked stop and try to help you.
A lot of things you see are in a blue and green color scheme. Those were the colors of two political parties and they are sort of the unofficial colors of the country, though the flag is red and white.
What can I say about the city? This is the city of the "once-beautiful." Buildings are of nice design but are not well maintained. Buildings that in many different eras were new and nice-looking are giving way to the ravages of time. Houses are much the same. We walked around and could have gone in the mosques, but I preferred to get caught up on my log before we did too much. So we headed back to the room, stopping at the corner store to get bottled water for the room. We got a big 1.5 liter bottle and a half liter bottle. It cost 200,000TL, (I will use "TL" as "Turkish Lira") well under a dollar. Evelyn had just had her small bills present but had stuffed them in a pocket and could not find them. The woman behind the counter suggested we just pay her tomorrow. We almost took her up on her credit offer, but we found the small change. The woman probably figures that if American came this far, they are honest. She also generated good will. I will probably pick that store first for buying snacks.
I told myself I wanted to read up first. I did not actually do that, though I did make up some flashcards to get some of the language down.
Evelyn fell asleep and I worked on my log. I wrote a program on my palmtop to act like flashcards, but it was not as good as the real thing. I also scouted the bands on my short-wave but found little of interest though I did find the BBC.
About 7:15 we went out and found a restaurant. For about 2 million we each had a dish and a yogurt drink call Ayran. My dish was kiremit shish. It was called claypot chicken and cheese. It really was chicken pizza without the crust. Evelyn had yogurtlu kebap. That is lamb over yogurt drenched bread.
There are really three parts to Istanbul: Stamboul, Bayoglu, and Uskudar. Take a postcard sized piece of paper and draw in the two diagonals. You have four triangles coming together at the center. The lowest triangle is the Sea of Marmara. Continuing clockwise you have Stamboul, Bayoglu, and Uskudar. Separating Stamboul from Bayoglu is the Golden Horn, a long narrow bay and a port. Between Bayoglu and Uskudar is the Bosphorus. The palace and the great mosques are in Sultanahmet, the region toward the point of Stamboul. It is there we are staying and that is really the tourist section of Istanbul.
Going back to the room we crashed. Slept through most of the evening. At midnight I woke up and worked on my log, but then went to sleep officially. This is a noisy neighborhood.
04/26/98: Istanbul: The Museum and the Great
I slept all night long very soundly. Breakfast was a tiny buffet in the basement with hardboiled eggs, Dried apricots, olives, sliced bread, very good tomatoes, some sliced fruit, and jellies (which is more like a cherry sauce). There were dried apricots, each with individual toothpicks. Not a lot of choice, but sufficient.
Rain today. I expect it will rain most of our days in Istanbul. We cannot let that stop us. Our first stop is the Archeological Museum. As it suggests, it is art from the various civilizations that have lived in what is now Turkey. Now most of us would expect to find the name of Heinrich Schliemann around the museum. Nope. Not even a reference that I could see. That actually makes sense for multiple reasons. First of all, in the eyes of the Turks, Schliemann is a thief. He found archeological treasures and smuggled them out of Turkey. Further what did he find? The remains of Troy. (Actually he found the remains of an older civilization, going right past Troy. But why is Troy important? It was made famous in a poem by a Greek. The Greeks are a nasty vicious people, as any Turk knows. Troy? Who cares about Troy?
As you enter you see the chunky god Bes seated on a horse at the door. Because it is all done in sort of a cubist style, it is hard to actually find the horse. Bes's hair seems very curly. There is a sarcophagus with men and horses in a boar hunt, on the ends there are some nice sphinxes on one side and dragons on the other. Very nice. A sarcophagus on the other side features some very realistic battle scenes. Evelyn points out that while the painting was primitive 500 BC, the sculpture was very advanced and realistic. Much of the art is what we would think of as Greek.
It was strange to see statues of women wearing hoods, but the hoods were empty. It was as if we were seeing statues of the invisible woman. Apparently sculptors would do heads separately and then put them into the statue. That way a sculptor could change a statue of one woman into one of another fairly quickly. Another piece was a bust of a head with snap in noses.
The museum uses Turkish and English equally. Wherever something is written in Turkish it is also in English. Most places we have been are not so accommodating. Japan was not. Sweden was not. I think the Turks assume that few visitors will come knowing Turkish.
There was on allusion to the Trojan War. There was a children's room with a nice Trojan Horse that children could climb up into. Of course Homer does not talk about the horse. I believe that story came from Vergil who was Roman, not Greek. The route you follow takes you past artifacts following the history through the 15th Century. Perhaps there would have been more, but much of the museum was closed off. Particularly of interest was the exhibit on the St. Sophia, when it was built, repaired, etc. We would be seeing the mosque just a little later today. There is a nice painting of the harbor in the 15th Century including the chain that blocked the harbor. A length of the original chain is there also. I cannot tell if so much of the museum is always closed or if it is just early on a Sunday morning, though Sunday would not be a special day.
There had been a nice piece on the building of the Saint Sophia Mosque. From the museum we went to the actual St. Sophia. Shortly before coming we re-watched Topkapi, but the night before coming we watched From Russia with Love which has an extended segment in the St. Sophia Mosque also called the Hagia Sophia. Luck of Leeper says that we would see the Hagia Sophia on a rainy day. I would imagine it would look entirely differently with the sun streaming in. Instead it is a dark man-made cavern built in 548. It was fairly crowded now and this is not yet the tourist season. Luck of Leeper also says that there would be scaffolding under much of the great dome. The scaffolding itself is something of a marvel. It goes right up to the great dome covering the center and a little more than a quarter of the circle. You see gold-leafed mosaics, but through most of the cathedral they have been painted over. Human figures are blasphemous.
The site had been the location of Byzantium's Acropolis. The Emperor Constantine wanted it to rival the architecture of Rome. An earlier Sancta Sophia had been built on the same site but destroyed in 532 by riots. This one was completed in 548 and was the greatest church in Christendom until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
The mosque has much decoration in Christian style, most of which is covered up with Islamic decoration. Islamic art is generally non-representational and there are geometric designs and quotes from the Koran on what looks like shields that are stories high.
To get to the upper balcony, which in the Christian days was where the women went, there is a ramp corkscrews up. It is worth the climb to get a closer view of ceiling. There are a lot of groups there now and it is quite crowded climbing, it will be worse in the tourist season, which this is not.
It is nice having all this just a few blocks from the room. After the mosque we went back to room to get water and to write in the logs. From there we went to lunch.
There is a street with restaurants called Divan Yolu. We picked a restaurant, Meshhur Halk Koftecisi Selim Usta that looked good. Something about the restaurant reminded me of a White Tower hamburger restaurant. We ordered Shish Kabap ($2.40) and Kofte ($1.80), we shared a bean salad, and I got a Coke. The portions were small, but sufficient. We put the salad in the middle of the table and both tried to eat it. I don't know exactly what was wrong with the salad or the fork or perhaps the land had a subsidence, but the salad kept falling off the fork before it got to our mouths. It was quite embarrassing. Here we came to Turkey as ambassadors of good will and instead we were just being messy eaters. At least we did not vomit on anyone. Honest.
From here we went to the Blue Mosque. It is much nicer looking than the other mosque. Outside it is about the same but the interior is far nicer. Sultan Ahmet built it in the early 1600s to rival the St. Sophia. It is not actually blue but has blue stained glass windows.
After the Blue Mosque we continued down the street looking at some other sights culminating in an outdoor market. We walked through looking at goods. We were beyond the areas where the tourists usually go. From there we decided to walk back by a different route and managed only to get ourselves gloriously lost. We wandered around looking at shops and walking. Among the things that are not built to last very well are the sidewalks. In some cases they just put hard tiles on top of dirt banks. Many places the sidewalks are all broken up and pretty messy to walk on. We spent what must have been a couple hours wandering the streets. We began to get clues that we were back in the tourist area. We were pestered by touts trying to get our patronage. Our Odyssey was worth the effort, but our shoes were muddy and we were tired. Finally we found the way to the Hippodrome and from there back to the room.
I worked on my log some more and took another go at my flashcards in the hopes that more would stick. I think that as I get older my memory is not as good. I know the words for an hour or so than they just go away... Well, some of them. More stick each time but then they just fade. It is like writing them on a steamy mirror. It just steams up again.
For dinner we went back to the area near the mosques and Divan Yolu. We picked a restaurant and liked it. The waiter was a Kurd and wanted to know if we had ever heard of Kurds. We said some superficial things about how they lived in the East and had a hard time. I was not sure how touchy a subject it was. I did not go into detail about having second thoughts about coming to Turkey because of the treatment of the Kurds. In any case we had a reasonable dinner, again for about $4 apiece. We are getting much the same sort of things each meal, grilled meat.
We headed back to the room after dinner. Well, there may be more to do in Istanbul, but we haven't really found it. There was a woman behind the desk at the guesthouse. "Yirmi-iki," I requested. She handed me the key for 22. "It worked!" I said to Evelyn. The woman grinned. "T'shekurlar" I said to the woman. "You're welcome." I am getting a little Turkish. It does not take much. I guess there is the belief that the Turks are and aggressive and unfriendly people. They have a reputation as troublemakers. Well, much of our culture came from Greece. The Turks might actually be among the nicest people in the Middle East. Frankly, if they wanted that title there would be very little competition. Even the Israelis whom I agree with politically I all too often find are pushy and rude.
We tried listening to the short wave. I got a program I really did not understand. It sounded like a strange language lesson. It sounded like a woman was trying to seduce a man with provocative language and then the same thing was said in a foreign language. Was this some strange ploy to make language lessons more interesting? I did not recognize the foreign language, but were they trying to teach people how to make love to a woman in their language? Fascinated I listened on. The announcer came back on, talking in the foreign language. Finally the mystery was cleared up. He said something about Def Lepard. Then played a song with the exact lyrics of the phrases I had heard. They were explaining what the song lyric meant for their listeners who did not know English.
Well, it is almost 11:30 and I am caught up on my log. Tomorrow begins another day. Evelyn has pulled out an article about Jews in Turkey. There are about 20,000 Jews living in Istanbul and who have lived here since they were thrown out of Spain in 1492. Turkey has one of the longest histories of tolerance for Jews. Of course Turkey is all tied up in one of the strangest stories of Jewish history.
It occurred in the 1660s when a demagogue arose from the Turkish Jewish community and had perhaps half of the Jews in the world at that time believing he was the Messiah. The man was Shabbatai Tzevi, a rabbi from Smyrna, what is today Izmir. He was born in 1626 of a wealthy merchant family and early on showed a fascination in religion and particularly mysticism. A bright student, he studied to be a rabbi and became one as a young man, but he also suffered from violent mood swings. Today we would probably call him a manic-depressive, but at the time he thought he was possessed by demons. His behavior became erratic and increasingly strange. He performed a marriage ceremony on himself marrying the Torah. And he claimed he could levitate. He ate non-Kosher food, and he feasted on fast days. Tzevi declared that he was the Messiah but, not surprisingly, could summon few followers. Finally his behavior became an embarrassment and the Jewish community asked him to leave. He wandered the Middle East, being expelled from Salonika and Constantinople.
Traveling to Jerusalem, he heard of another young holy man, Nathan of Gaza, whom Tzevi thought could exorcise the demons that he still at times believed possessed him. Tzevi sought out Nathan and asked to be helped in 1665. Nathan, however, interpreted Tzevi's presence in a different way. It had been prophesied that the Messiah would come out of a period of great tribulation to the Jews. In fact this was such a period, as just fifteen years before had been one of the great pre-20th-Century holocausts for Jews. The Chmielnitzki Massacre was a furious holocaust in which Cossack troops in Russia and Poland had murdered over 100,000 Jews (out of a world population of about 1,500,000) in the most brutal and painful ways imaginable. Nathan had been expecting a Messiah to arise at this time, and Tzevi seemed to fit the prophesied description. He responded that not only was Tzevi not possessed by demons, but that Tzevi's occasional beliefs in his own divinity was, in fact, accurate. The two began traveling together proclaiming that Shabbatai Tzevi was the Messiah at last arrived. And where they could not travel, Nathan's writings proclaiming the Messiah could go. Tzevi's weird interpretations of Jewish law became what many people took to be commandments from God. Tzevi declared that he would throw the Turks out of Palestine and that the Jews would return there. Tens of thousands of Jews were electrified by his message, particularly after the recent massacres. Jewish communities were split into Shabbateans and non-Shabbateans who violently disagreed with each other. Generally the Shabbateans were the less educated who mistrusted the more intellectual Jews of the community. Rabbis who opposed the new movement might find their houses burned to the ground by mobs of Shabbatean zealots.
In 1666 Tzevi, with many of his followers, sailed for Constantinople to demand from the Sultan the return of Palestine to the Jews. If the Sultan refused Tzevi claimed he would have the Sultan deposed. En route he was arrested and imprisoned at Gallipoli. Through bribery he was allowed visitors in the thousands of loyal followers. Meanwhile Nathan continued to travel and write spreading the word of this new supposed Messiah in imprisonment. Eventually the Sultan decided that even in imprisonment Tzevi was still dangerous and presented an ultimatum. Tzevi could be tortured to death or he could embrace Islam. Tzevi chose conversion and took the name Aziz Mehmed Effendi. The ever-loyal Nathan declared to the world that Tzevi had already given his message to the Jews and had converted in order to spread his message through Islam. This too, he claimed, could be foreseen in the prophecy.
Tens of thousands of Jews were bitterly disappointed in their hoped-for Messiah. To have this hope destroyed so soon after the Polish and Russian massacres was a bitter pill to swallow. Some Shabbateans converted to Islam themselves, others insisted that they should remain Jewish and that only their leader should be Moslem. Tzevi lived another ten years, dying at 50. Nathan of Gaza continued to proselytize for the man he believed to be a Messiah and survived Tzevi by four years. What was essentially a new religion survived into this century. Nazis exterminated a community of Greek Shabbateans in 1943. There is still a Shabbatean community in Mashhad, Iran.
Evelyn has asked me to point out that back when I was in the 6th grade my parents complained I was not studious enough. I would like to think that they have changed their minds, but I don't know for sure.
04/27/98: Istanbul: The Topkapi Palace
We slept in until about 8:15, which is late for us when we travel. It is my tradition to give Evelyn breakfast in bed on the 27th of each month. When we travel it is often difficult, but usually there is a cookie or something of even a little substance. Today the choice was bottled water or a stick of gum. We each took a sip of water. Well, I guess we must have our traditions.
Today we go to the Topkapi Palace. I guess now I really am talking Turkey. This is the best known site in the country. Of course it was helped a great deal by the film TOPKAPI about the theft of an emerald-encrusted dagger. It is not clear to me why anybody would make an emerald encrusted dagger. The point of a dagger is to protect you. If you have an emerald encrusted dagger you need to protect yourself. And you need to do it with something a good deal more protective than a dagger. This is like making a fly swatter, encrusting it with sugar and dipping it in honey. Who thinks of these things?
The bathroom in our room is full of instruction. "Please put all paper & sanitary waste into the box ONLY." "ATTENTION! Shower drain is slow. Please TURN OFF the taps when you do not ACTUALLY use the water. Otherwise room may get FLOODED." Well, I guess it is part of the price of travel. I have seen some strange plumbing but this is the first toilet I have had to use that could not handle paper. Somehow I think a person's used toilet paper should be a matter for privacy. This is one of the bathrooms of the style that the whole floor is a drain. Usually this means that there is a thick barrier to protect the outer room from getting wet. Not so here. You just have to take a short shower. And afterwards you don't want to come in with stocking feet.
We went down to breakfast. There are three circular tables, each about a yard in diameter. Each had at least one person and one had a couple. We had to ask to sit at a table already partially occupied. Not really a problem, I suppose. Not compared to the toilet paper situation. CNN was running a piece on finger pumps. These are apparently things you put on the backs of your fingers in order to give your fingers more exercise. I was a little sorry to see this on CNN's International News. I mean we Americans know how bad the thing that passes for news is, but I hate to see it advertised abroad. I wish we could get BBC news in the US. Few countries have such fatuous stuff as their news. Of course the younger generation is becoming insular. If they watch CNN day and night they would still not know much of what was going on in other countries. Finger pumps are not the most edifying stuff.
After breakfast we headed off to our one and only site of the day, the Topkapi (TOAP-kap-ah) Palace. This was the combination White House and Capitol for almost 300 years. Sultans ruled Turkey from this exquisite palace among palaces. In 1453 Mehmet the Conqueror took Constantinople and made it his capitol. He built this place and lived there until his death. For about 386 years it remained where the Turkish were ruled. The first Sultan was Mehmet II and the last was Mahmut II.
Once again we were saved from the ravages of coming in season. There was just a huge mob coming to the palace, but not as bad as it would be in the summer. In the summer there would be hordes or legions. They have you go through a security check just to get in. I was a veritable pile of metallic objects, and as I expected the alarm went off as I went through the metal detector. I waited to be told to stop or to be asked my name or something. Nobody cared. I guess they just like to know if people are entering with metal on their person like a camera or a stray hand grenade.
There is a separate admission for harem. It costs a million to get into the palace and an extra half million to see the harem. I guess sex sells.
There are lots of cats wandering the palace and a few dogs. The cats are considered a very nice animal in Islamic countries and they are well treated. A dog is thought of as being just a sort of large friendly rat by many. When we were out walking yesterday we saw a girl scream at something she saw. It was a dog walking toward her. To avoid her the dog turned toward a sidewalk only to see us standing there and did not want to come near us so brushed past the girl and ran up the street. The poor dog was only trying to be inoffensive and get out of the situation without coming near to anyone. Humans clearly had not treated her very well in the past. If the girl had panicked it would have been considered the dog's fault.
Outside the palace the entry point is the Court of the Janissaries. It was there that they would eat. Janissaries are professional soldiers stolen/drafted at age ten. They were rounded up from Christian families and became the personal property of the Sultan in a private army. Most soldiers were soldiers only in the summer months, but Janissaries spent the whole year training and/or fighting. The boys would learn Turkish and Islam. These were the real muscle of the Sultan. They were a force 12,000 strong under Mehmet II, and they grew to about 20,000. Eventually celibacy was no longer required and this led to nepotism and corruption. If they turned against the Sultan they would overturn the cauldrons of their food. When the Sultan saw this happen he knew he had just hours to live. Mehmut II finally ended the system of Janissaries by first fielding a European style army, then provoked a revolt among the Janissaries reorganizing them without their permission. They revolted and he then had the army come in and destroy the Janissaries.
Inside the entrance is a broad tree-decorated grounds. The trees look Mediterranean to me, but I am no expert on trees. We had tickets for the first tour of the harem and waited for it to open.
Now you cannot walk through at your own pace. You can get in only with a guided tour in Turkish or in English. There are signs telling you what everything is, but the guides whisk you past them preferring to explain to you what everything is in their Turkish accented English. This means there is no good way to tell what anything is. I suspect the guides are hired for their knowledge of English and nobody tests their diction.
The West has romanticized the institution of harems. I think that in our imagination the appeal is really a return of a sort of infancy. When one is an infant one is cared for, fed, and pampered with little responsibility except to perform natural bodily functions. One has no freedom, but then it is not needed since the baby can get most of what it really needs. As one becomes an adult a new bodily function is added, that of sexuality. But it is not unwelcome. The harem girl returns to a sort of simplistic infancy. The harem girl gets all she needs in return for doing what is natural to her. So was Picasso. But then so is a cow.
I can't say I learned a lot about the harem since when our guide said what sounded like "Italian court," it was really "imperial hall." The harem quarters did not look very comfortable though one did have some curiosity as to what they were like. One really could have a contest like the one in the joke where first prize was a night in the harem quarters and second prize was two nights in the harem quarters.
But lest you think the harem quarters were too uncomfortable I will add that they were not at the time. After the harem we saw the carriages of the Sultan and Evelyn said they did not look comfortable. In fact they had the supreme comfort feature of that time or any time. They had windows the passenger could look out and see people less comfortable. That has always made people feel comfortable. There are certainly a lot of people who are living lives of luxury by previous centuries' standards yet who think they are uncomfortable. The reason is that they are not seeing anyone less comfortable.
As we were walking we passed a white rabbit. Honest. I told Evelyn that I didn't want her following the rabbit. She promised she would not follow it down a rabbit hole. I told her I didn't want to see her become the Alice of the Palace. (It is a film allusion.)
We continued on to the third court in the palace. Now we were getting to some of the serious stuff. In one pavilion we see the Sultan's throne. It seems to be made with a smidge more room in the seat for the Sultan who never gets out of the palace and has had a few too many sweets.
Another room has kaftans worn by the Sultan and some of his major ministers. Many are of rich color, either bright or deep like purple. Then we move on to jewels. Objects functional and objects abstract. Many have the symbols of different countries that they would have had at home. There would be Russian Tsarist stars with double-headed eagles, from England they have a cross in red, the jewels from the US spell out "Mazel Tov, Sydney and Bernice" in diamonds. (I was kidding about that last part. Sidney and Bernice would never let their stuff be given to a Sultan.)
Finally we got to the main event. Here it comes movie fans and jewel thieves, the emerald encrusted dagger of Mahmud I. It was a gift from him to someone else, Nadir Shah. Nadir gave Mahmud I a gold throne. So it was a happy exchange except that somehow Nadir Shah ended up dead and Mahmud ended up with both the throne and the dagger. Surprise! Okay, for those who have seen the movie and want to try getting the dagger, here is your update. It is no longer on the Sultan dummy. It is behind glass in the wall. But it is not all bad news. The good news it that it is in an outside wall. And there is something else that I noticed that I am not mentioning here. I will exchange what I noticed for just one of the large emeralds. Take it from me it is a bargain. But I need positive assurances that I will get the emerald or I will say nothing. Look, if I had experience with this sort of thing I wouldn't need you. One crummy inch-long emerald is not a lot to ask.
We stopped for lunch, which we had at the little restaurant in the palace. It was about what you would expect from a museum restaurant. The lines were long; the food was expensive, at least by local standards. It was cold by the time we could get through line. Still it did not taste too bad and we got a table with a nice view of the Golden Horn, the harbor. We shared a chicken sandwich, a donner kabap, I had a tamarind drink (very nice), Evelyn had apple tea, and we shared rice pudding. One of the rooms that follow has relics of John the Baptist, including hairs from his beard. Right. In this room there is a booth in the corner with a man constantly reading from the Koran.
Then there is the room with relics of Muhammad the Prophet. They have hair from his beard, a letter he wrote, a tooth in a box, casket for his mantle, his bow, and his sword. I am convinced this is an expensive and extensive set of relics. How many of them are really authentic I am less than sure.
Continuing on there is an arms exhibit. Well, every history museum has one, I think. There were arrows, and armor, and swords. Particularly notable was the armor, which was much more practical than European armor. Instead of a whole metal breast that was inflexible they linked overlapping plates like the tail of a lobster. Their helmets came to a point on top and had sides protected by chain mail. I am not sure if the point had a functional purpose or not. Maybe it just made them easier to identify on the battlefield. They had an executioner's sword in a hinged case. There was a two-handed European sword that looked to be about six feet long. It is hard to imagine that being a very effective weapon. It just seemed too darn big to wield. It was not a big exhibit, but it was certainly of interest. There is something about arms that defines the times a lot better than furniture or clothing or just about anything else. I guess weapons change faster and somehow you can understand the purpose better.
Another building has more relics of Muhammed the Prophet. There are actual footprints edged in stone where the Prophet Muhammed stood. One was from his left foot, one from his right. The faithful are not supposed to notice that his two feet were of very different sizes. I have to say I am not sure why they put both in the same case since it is just inviting skepticism.
Of course Islam is not alone in discouraging a skeptical analysis of religious materials. People all over the world claim to have seen the Virgin Mary. It would take just the barest modicum of curiosity to get these witnesses together with police sketch artists, one at a time to confirm that they really are seeing the same miraculous woman appear to all of them. It certainly would go a long way proving that they actually are all seeing the Virgin Mary. The only reason they are not is probably a lack of faith on the part of the investigating Church officials. They see all these sightings as an aid to faith but they suspect that these sightings are all useful hallucinations.
We pass the Baghdad Kiosk intended to commemorate a military victory. There are some nice domed rooms that overlook the city. There is the home of the Sultan's Physician. It was a position re-appointed when one physician retired. The sources I have seen contradict each other on whether non-Jews ever held the position. It is either rarely or never. Apparently the Sultans just did not trust a doctor who was not Jewish. The Sultan in 1492, Bayezit II I guess it would have been, celebrated the throwing of the Jews out of Spain. "You call this a wise king who impoverishes his kingdom and enriches mine?" The Jews in Turkey have been persecuted at times in Turkey. They have been heavily taxed, they have been forced to wear strange clothing to set them apart, they have been discriminated against in hiring, but they have never been thrown out. National policy is that they do not have equality with Moslems, but they are a welcome and valued minority. That has been the policy for 500 years and more. By American standards they are persecuted, but they are also accepted and after a fashion valued.
It was now about 3pm and we decided to take a load off our feet. We sit in a tulip garden and write and talk. We were there about 45 minutes before heading home. We passed through the courts with Mediterranean evergreens, then outside. There are groups with guides in French, German, Japanese, Hebrew, and who knows how many other languages.
We stop to get postcards. We buy stamps but two are required and they are more than a square inch. We comment and the postal clerk takes the stamps, tears two off and overlaps them so that only the price of the lower stamp shows. Okay, that works. We smile at each other.
Back to the rooms, a little early perhaps, I put on the radio to 88.2fm. My gosh there really is a local classical music station. I had asked the manager where he was getting the classical music that he plays. More working on the logs.
At 7:00 we went back to the same street for dinner and took one small turn at the end. There was a restaurant called the Altin Kupa. There was a tour group eating there which generally indicates the service will be slow (because there will be a lot of people there) but the food will be likely good (though they may just be giving a free meal to the tour leader). We found we liked what we go. We should say something about how to eat Turkish style. You get a big basket of decent bread. The bread comes in very standard loafs. If you say that a sandwich comes in a quarter loaf of bread, everybody knows how big that is. You have bread with every means and that is a big part of the meal. You use it to sop sauces and it becomes a major starch with the meal. For an appetizer I ordered Haydari. That was a very carefully chosen appetizer. Every other appetizer I knew what it was. This one I had no idea. Sounds good to me. Evelyn got soup and found it to be a sort of chicken rice soup. Mine was yogurt, mashed cheese, and herbs. You sop it up with bread, not unlike what you would do with humus. Yeah. I can live with that. My main course was little chunks of meat in sauce, as you might expect from something called gulashe. Evelyn had stuffed grape leaves. Neither came with starch or vegetable, but there was the bread. For desert we shared a baklava. It was enough to eat. And the restaurant had a nice warm environment with a tablecloth and an oil lamp on the table. With tip I paid 3,050,000TL. That is $12.20. And that was our last dinner in Istanbul, at least for now.
Maybe it was having a pleasant dinner under my belt, but I am starting to get a warm feeling about Turkey. I guess I had sort of formed my opinions based on films like Lawrence of Arabia, Yol, and Midnight Express. Also there was the belief they are considered troublemakers in this part of the world. The people seem a good deal friendlier than I would have expected.
04/28/98: Transit: Istanbul to Canakkale
Note: I will call the city Canakkale, but it is pronounced chan-i-KAH-le. The first "c" has a cedilla. If you don't know what a cedilla is, it is a caterpillar-like monster killed by Rodan.
Until now I have not had even a bit of jetlag. I am not this lucky even when I fly to California. I have taken some catnaps in the evening but I guess that I would call jetlag wanting to sleep and being unable, not vice versa. This morning I woke at 5am and was not able to get back to sleep. I am not sure it is fair to call that jetlag since it would have been as likely to happen at home. I have been sleeping to normal times more consistently in Turkey than I did at home. I would be curious to hear what Henry Kissinger did about jetlag, since he seems to have been known for having it not bother him. I don't really mind getting up early if I can have enough light to see my palmtop. I am going through my first pair of batteries very quickly, but then the palmtop is in constant use. I cannot imagine keeping my log on a Palm Pilot. That seems to be the most popular portable device these days. Even the current versions of the palmtop are not so hot since they have widened the keyboard to the point where you cannot easily thumb-type. But HP can get as many unsolicited testimonials as they would like from me on the HP 200LX. These days when I come back from a trip my log is almost entirely written and typed in. It would make for a very long and for you boring description if I explained everything the palmtop does for me on a trip.
The room is fairly cold. It is something like 67 degrees Fahrenheit. That was the one complaint that we had heard about the Berk, that it is chilly. Also half of the lightbulbs are burned out. Maybe that contributes to the cold. We were all packed up and ready to go by breakfast time. Breakfast was much the same. Good tomatoes. The cheese looks like Feta, but is rather tasteless. After breakfast we tried to book a room for May 16, when we return to Istanbul but the Berk was booked. We asked where else we might try and the owner suggested the Alp around the corner. We tried one other hotel first, but the Alp it was.
From there we lugged our stuff to the travel agent. We let him talk us into a tour of Gallipoli at Canakkale. We were planning on going, of course, but it might be for the best to book a day tour.
We got a shuttle bus to take us to the big bus terminal. On the way I was looking at people and noting the variety of different types that Turks are. More so than most countries that we have visited, Turkey seems to be a melting pot of different racial types. Some Turks could be Scandinavian; some are dark enough to be from South India. We see lots who are just swarthy. Big moustaches are popular, but there are relatively few beards. Particularly in Sultanahmet it is hard to tell who is really Turkish and who is tourist. That is a problem we have in the US, but I had not expected here. (Well, not really a problem, I can get in trouble for saying that. It is just hard to tell.) One more comment on their looks, nobody wears moustaches like the Turks. No stingy little pencil-line moustaches for the Turks. When you are Turkish you don't wear a moustache unless you are serious about it.
This is really our first trip outside the Sultanahmet area since the first day. Streets could be like Hartford, maybe a little run down, but seasoned with the tall pointed spires of minarets. As you look around, however, there are a lot of once-beautiful places. Some building complexes have broken windows and falling masonry. In the middle of the city are building gutted by fire and just left. There are also a lot of buildings that are in the process of being built, but it is a process that takes many years. That is one form of investment. When you have some money you put it into a building. Same day you will have a valuable building. Until then you may have nothing. Many of these buildings may never be finished.
The Turks seem very fond of small, traveling amusement parks. We see a bunch of them on the roads. At least most of the ones I saw seem to load on trucks and travel. Where we live the amusement parks are mostly more stable, except for the occasional carnival. But it is odd to drive through a metropolitan city and see all the spires for mosques and the occasional carnival.
Our shuttle bus takes us to the Otogar, the International Istanbul Bus Terminal. This is one of the largest bus stations in world and while we are on the outskirts where there is not much happening in the station, you can see the terminal just goes on and on. We climb on the bus and listen to the people behind us. These are Australians and they are real travelers, not like us. They are swapping stories about driving around the Zambezi and Kenya. Apparently they had planned to hike up Kilamanjaro but were too drunk. Pity. I would have wanted to know if there really is the carcass of a leopard near the top.
While we listen someone comes through and takes our ticket. They are telling a story about trying to cross some border on top of a truck. My best travel stories pale by comparison-or would if I tried to enter in the conversation.
The bus pulls out of the station among an entire herd of buses hitting the road. For a while it is bumper to bumper. There is little progress.
The steward-if that is the word-comes around second time asking for the ticket. We had a hard time explaining we had given it already. He did not understand our English. The woman behind said in a thick Australian accent "I gave it to you already." That he understood. We said us too and he was satisfied.
The steward comes around with same sort of lemon-scented aftershave like stuff so we could freshen up. After that he comes around with packaged cookies and with orange soda. This is apparently a music bus with refreshments.
We are traveling west along the north coast of the Marmara Sea. This takes us through Thrace, the home of Spartacus and the dragon from Dragonslayer.
At 1:50 we stopped for a rest top at a roadside stand. We bought some cookies and crackers for the bus. There was somebody selling grilled kofte sandwiches. Kofte is a lamb meatball in a finger shape. They took a quarter loaf of bread, sliced it open, painted the two halves with a hot peppery sauce, filled it with kofte straight off the grill, added minced onion and lettuce. That was 500,000TL or $2. One of the group labeled it a rip-off and said it should have been only $1. He went back for a second one though. I had only one and Evelyn gave me part of hers because the sauce was too spicy (!!!). If I had eaten any more it would have been unhealthy. But when I am hungry again, I know what I am going to be hungry for. These Turks know how to eat! Actually the Greeks get credit in the US for this cuisine. I am told they adopted it from their enemies the Turks.
Today was the first day we got any sunshine. Unfortunately we were on a bus most of the day. At one point in the afternoon I was actually caught up, but it is tough to stay caught up. I was writing a bit on the history of Turkey to include in the early parts of this log. Coming to Canakkale the last piece is a ferry across the Dardenelles. It gave us a chance to get some sunlight. We talked to an Australian woman of all of 21 who was spending a year just travelling on her own. Greece, Turkey, all over Europe, Thailand, Korea, on and on. She was traveling on the cheap, but really seeing a lot of the world. Australians supposedly seem to go in for these yearlong tours. If they are paying to get out of Australia, they are going to stay out. Interestingly her reasons for wanting to travel paralleled things I had said on my log. She is looking for culture shock and to understand how different people think. I think her year of travel will be more valuable to her than any year I will ever spend will be to me. I kind of wish I had done what she is doing when I was young enough to do it.
We got to Canakkale and booked a room in the Hotel Bakir, the oldest hotel that was recommended in the Lonely Planet. (Lonely Planet is the publisher a series of travel guides. They are indispensable in Asia. With the possible exception of the Rough Guide it is the best. It is by far the most popular.) I think Evelyn likes older hotels if they have some sort of a feel for a previous age. This one sort of does. Our room has a very nice view onto the water. The whole town has a very different feel from that of Istanbul. It is a sunny seaside feel I guess. You just want to sit and watch the rusty boats come in.
There is a restaurant just below our window. A boat is anchored in the water maybe 100 yards away. The room is not well maintained. The bottom of the bathroom door is curling and it is difficult to open. I am pleased to see that there is no little wastebasket next to the toilet for paper disposal. You never know if something like that is standard across a country or just in the first place you see. What is standard the same about this toilet is a metal tube under the seat but over the bowl. I think it is used to clean the toilet or it might be a bidet. This one sticks up a little high and sort of gooses the user. At the last place it was not set so high.
We were told to book a tour for Gallipoli at the Anzac House. We were not told where it was. Next chore was to go out looking for it. It took us some searching around but we found it. Then it turned out that the Lonely Planet cautioned against it, so we went instead to Troy-Anzac where they tried bait and switch to have us book a more expensive tour. No go.
Back at the room we were writing and reading a booklet. Our lobby had some free booklets explaining what Gallipoli was all about. I don't know if they have them all the time. Last Saturday was Anzac Day. Every year on April 25 the Turks celebrate the coming of the Anzacs. They came to defeat the Turks but instead learned to like them. The Turks show their love of the Anzacs each year and since the Australians and New Zealanders have fought no battles on their own soil; they come to celebrate in Canakkale every April 25. The place fills up with Aussies and Kiwis.
That was last Saturday. There were three booklets. One was from the Australian War Memorial and was okay. The other two turned out to be different editions of a guide published by the Turkish government. I had researched the battle before coming and written an account for this log. I had used the some of the best books I have including Dupuy and Dupuy's Encyclopedia of Military History. Ironically the best account of the battle I found was this booklet given away free in the hotel. It explains the fighting in more detail than the reader can take in one reading. You don't generally expect to find good writing in little stacks in your hotel, but these booklets are worth studying.
I also tried to find good radio stations. If there is a classical music radio station, I cannot find it.
Dinner was at a cafeteria style restaurant. It was just okay. I had meatballs in sauce, which I sopped up with bread. Then the toothpick broke in my mouth with the tip stuck between my teeth. I had a heck of a time getting it out. When I did I found it was a piece of wood maybe 3/16 of an inch in length. From now on I will wait and floss.
More reading in the room and then to bed at 10:30. One of the tours offers seeing the film Gallipoli with Mel Gibson the night before. It would have been nice but it really has little historical detail about the battle, if I remember correctly.
I just have film too much in my blood. I tend to go into film withdrawal if I don't see a movie at least once a week. I rather expect there will be a lot of film references in this log before it is finished.
04/29/98: Canakkale and Gallipoli
Today we visit the beaches of Gallipoli on the Dardenelles. A little history:
In World War I, Turkey sided with Germany and Austria. The Russians wanted a warm water port and had designs on Turkey. Turkey would have sided with the British, French, and Russians if they had gotten assurances that France and Britain would stop Russia from using the alliance to grab Turkey and a port. Britain and France would make no such assurance so Turkey felt it could not enter the war on the side of the very people threatening it. The other side promised to protect Turkey from Russia and so Turkey entered the war on their side.
The Russians, the British and the French saw Turkey as the Achilles heel of the enemy alliance. Austria and Germany and being Western and Christian they seemed more formidable than Ottoman Turks did. That was particularly true since the forces of Turkey were exhausted after the campaign against Serbia. The plan to take advantage of the situation came from Winston Churchill. Capture Constantinople and the ring around Russia would be broken. Constantinople was on the Marmara Sea, a sea almost entirely enclosed by land except for the narrow passage of straits through the Dardenelles. An Allied fleet was sent to the Dardanelles, to the neck of the bottle that was the Marmara Sea. Because of its strategic value the Turks had forts commanding the straits, but the allied forces thought of them as being held by a second class power that could be swept away.
On February 19 the fleet arrived and began the pounding of the forts. In Constantinople there was panic. By March the Allies had made significant progress and it looked like success was not far away. The German High Command saw the allied attack as a possible deathblow to their side and the Turks were demoralized. The forts that could defend the narrows were nearly destroyed. The largest armada ever assembled to that point was forcing its way up the narrow passage. A Turkish boat laid mines behind the fleet unknown to the invaders.
Then a mine destroyed a French battleship and within just a few minutes three British battleships were also destroyed by Turkish artillery on the land. It was decided that a navy action alone would not work. The attack was postponed with the commanders never realizing that the Turks were hanging on by only a thread. Most of the Turks had already run out ammunition and were fleeing. With victory in his grasp British Admiral De Robeck retreated. The Gallipoli peninsula west of the strait had to be invaded and the defending Turks routed. The British would lead this attack, but it was decided that the Australian and New Zealand ANZAC forces would do much of the fighting.
The attack was postponed for about a month when the Australian and New Zealand troops could be brought in.
There were several serious mistakes in the invasion when it came, but the gallantry of the Anzacs established a beachhead. Faced with overwhelming force the coastal troops began to scatter. But Col. Mustafa Kemal stopped them. "I am not ordering an attack. I am ordering you to die to save your honor." Seeing the attackers making for the heights of Chunuk Bair, which commanded the entire area, he grabbed the heights first. He rallied the troops. "There is the enemy and you are soldiers. You cannot run. Dig in." Well, to make a long story short, they dug in and the allied forces dug in. They fought for nine months. In August there was a major British offensive, but it also failed. Kemal was hit in the heart by shrapnel at this time... Or would have been but for a pocket watch that shattered but saved his life. It seemed like an omen.
Then the allied forces decided there was nothing to be gained. This was the beginning of the fame of Mustafa Kemal, known as Ataturk. Command by Kemal was decisive and quick. The command by the British was slow and telegraphed itself. Then men were just thrown at the enemy. There were large losses on each side but it was a great victory for Turkey. Battles of the Turks against the Anzacs were failing not accomplishing anything. After nine months there were 252,000 casualties on the allied side, 218,000 on the Turkish side.
The site of this fighting is our goal for today.
One of the peculiar things about this particular battle is the mutual respect with the two sides treat each other. We saw the same thing at the civil war sites in the US, but there you expect that because it was Americans on both sides. I guess this was a time when the Germans were using weapons like mustard gas. The British apparently half-expected the Turks to do the same. The only Turkish secret weapon was courage. Kichener in his dispatches takes the unusual step of praising the enemy.
Actually, I keep hearing good things about the Turks from unexpected sources. The author of the tour book assumes that most of the negatives you hear about the Turks are pure propaganda. The guy who was imprisoned in a Turkish prison says that the account was exaggerated. In actual fact it would appear to be a toss-up who is more enthusiastic about having Americans in Turkish prisons, the imprisoned American or the Turkish government. The difference is (or at least was) the Turkish government would actually do something about it.
The title Midnight Express refers to a train. The Turkish government did not want the expense and hassle of keeping Americans in their prisons. They made sure that Americans heard that they could sneak aboard this midnight train for Greece. They would end up in Turkey without passports, be arrested and would have to apply to the US Consulate for new passports. The next thing they would see would probably be the Statue of Liberty. It was a clever trick on the part of the Turkish government. It was an escape route for Americans and was absolutely pointless for a Turk to use. A Turkish prison escapee in Greece without a passport... well, there just would not be such a thing.
In this way the Turkish government could look like it was trying to punish the Americans, PLEASING THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT, but did not have to be strict. The book and movie Midnight Express was really mostly propaganda in America's drug war. At least that is what the author of the Lonely Planet book thinks. People will believe just about anything bad about the Turks. They have their faults, but I am finding them a friendly and accommodating people, miles better than their reputation.
I can almost believe that most of the negative things we have heard are wrong. It has been my belief that Israel gets much the same treatment. I hear stories that make opening up a door at the end of a tunnel that everybody knew was there is the cause for riots and Israel is found to be totally at fault. These are stories that even on the face of them sound absurd and I am not sure how our commentators can deliver them with a straight face. Right now people are blaming Israel for not making new concessions beyond the peace accords when the other side has yet to renounce its goal of the destruction of Israel. That was the Palestinian's most basic concession, it could be done with three sentences, and by now it is YEARS past due. Nobody in the press seems to have noticed. I can well see why Israel and Turkey might be making friends. They seem to be in the same position.
By the way I am not saying that Turkish prisons are actually pleasure domes. I have no doubt that Turkish prisons are bad. Whether they are as bad as Mexican prisons, which I have heard are very bad, I don't know. Any poor country is not going to have very good prisons. The question is who gets put there.
We did not know if breakfast was included with the room, but it turns out that it is. It is a fairly standard Turkish breakfast. Tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, olives, juice, and of course bread. Then we headed out. Wow, sunshine. Our first sunny day. Well, we had some sun yesterday afternoon, but this is the first of the real sunshine that doesn't go away when you start to enjoy it.
We stopped at the tourist aid to find out how often were the mini-buses to Troy. The man did not speak English (in tourist aid???) but showed Evelyn where to get the bus. Evelyn asked him "schedule?" No response. "When?" Same response (or lack thereof). She started digging through the phrasebook. I tapped my watch. He made a sign that said they run all the time. Sign language helps.
Following that we went to the Military Museum which is just down the street from our hotel. Everything of interest to tourists in Canakkale seems to be within a few blocks on the water. Admission to the museum is 100,000TL and there is a small two-story museum. It has just the sort of thing you would expect: uniforms, flags, grenades, and pistols. It also has magazine pictures from the campaign that sort of recreate the feel. They finish up with a display of books about the Dardanelles campaign and about Ataturk. Curiously, the famous painting of him shows his eyes to be very blue, an unusual trait for a Turk. However, the same painting also shows him with a narrow nose. Photographs show him to have a wide flatish nose. I suppose it is possible that his nose was broken in one of the military campaigns. The second floor is mostly pencil sketches of the area and landscapes by M. Ai Laga. It is a tiny military museum, but probably worth the 40 cents it cost to see it.
After the museum there is a mockup of a mine-laying cruiser. It is odd to see such a mockup and I am not sure if it was built for training or for an exhibit.
There is also a "castle" on the grounds. I think it would be more accurate to call it a fort. It is complete with its own museum. At this point Evelyn commented "Your 40 cents goes a long way." Naturally enough I was forced to agree.
In the museum are arms from various points of history. And there are sketches of Ataturk doing various historic things. Not a great military museum, but it delivers more than you would think.
Following that we went to cash some travelers' checks since the ATM machines seem to be of little help. I was surprised to see women working in the bank without headcover. They are dressed in business suits. I don't know what happens when one insists on traditional dress. We each came in wearing our vests with lots of pockets. They look vaguely military. I think people thought we were terrorists. They sort of stared at us. I think they were relieved when we left. I think we ought to try to look a little more normal.
I stopped by the neighborhood store across the street. Two Pepsis, a large and small water for $1.70.
At about 11:30 we went to the tourist agency for our tour. We were there a little early and were talking to the boy who works there. He is studying English and working in the agency during the day. He invites us to come around for tea after the tour. Someone shows up with some box lunches and takes us to the dock where I ask a few questions, but he seems not to know English. I hope he is not our guide. Nope, he is just bringing us to the dock. We meet our guide, Ali. He has us board a ferry and I ask some questions about Gallipoli. I notice a lot of places have the suffix "tepe." He tells me that means "hill." We cross to the other side of the strait where there is a bus of other people who had just come from Istanbul. They seem to all be Australian or New Zealander except for a Scottish family and us. Cheapskate that I am I ask Ali questions to get the most from the tour. I tell Ali that the British generals were impressed by the Turks and I show him the quote from Kitchener. He tells me I seem to be the most interested in Gallipoli.
Actually just about everything at Gallipoli can be summarized in two points that are made again and again. 1) In the fighting the Turks surprised even themselves by being able to defend their homeland against the strongest military force in the world at that time. 2) Part of that force, the Anzacs, actually became good friends with the Turks whom they had been sent to destroy and maintained, or nearly maintained, a separate peace. The tone of the park seems to be one I saw at Civil War sites in our last trip. It speaks of the courage and nobility on both sides, even when they were trying to kill each other. The enemy was the British commanders. I showed Ali the quote from Kitchener praising the Turks for being more honorable fighters than the Germans. The truth is probably that British were not as inflexibly bad and the Anzacs not as totally sympathetic as the modern myth would claim. Like the Anzacs, the British were given a job to do. Unlike the Anzacs they were given responsibility to see that the campaign worked if possible.
Our first stop at the site of the battle is a military museum. In front there is a statue of two dead soldiers, one holding the flag, one with a gun and a vine growing up the gun. From there we want to some maps just outside the museum where Ali told us about the battle. The point that Ali makes over and over is how much the Turks and the Anzacs respected each other. The British had made stupid mistakes, the Anzacs and the Turks showed great heroism and in the end learned to respect each other and had pretty much set up a separate peace on the battlefield, refusing to fight with each other. The Australians and the Turks had trenches just feet apart. The Australians stopped lobbing hand grenades when it was found the Turks were catching them and throwing them back.
More small facts that are not in the history books:
The museum is still being built but the sort of thing in it in labeled boxes was letters from soldiers to their parents and other artifacts found on the beaches including shoes, horseshoes, dentures, a skull with bullet, and uniforms.
We stopped at various historic points in the site of the fighting. Most of what there is to see is the lay of the land, graveyards, and memorials.
We had a boxed lunch as part of the tour package. It consisted of a cup of water, a cheese sandwich, and an apple. Ali picked up some cigarette butts while we were sitting there. I figured we were going to throw out the wrappings of the box lunch anyway, so I picked up some trash, there wasn't really much there to pick up, but it might have had some bearing on a later incident.
Another comment that I made that did not quite sit well with Ali was that the commanders must have sort have agreed to the friendship between the Anzacs and Turks. This creating a separate peace is at least insubordination and is probably a court-martial offense. Essentially it is fraternizing with the enemy.
We went to various memorials. At the one for the Turks, Ali asked Evelyn to place one flower of her choice on a statue. Evelyn pointed out that it said not to pick the flowers. Ali said "just one." Ali then gave Evelyn a souvenir. It was a keychain with an Anzac bullet, It also had separately a Turkish bullet and a piece of shrapnel.
Our last stop is a monument to Ataturk next to a monument to the New Zealanders.
Driving home past the strait I saw dolphins in the water. I went to Alaska to see whales and did not get nearly so good a look at them. Eventually we got back to the dock and the ferry back to our hotel.
Our nice clear sky turned gray and windy and cold.
I tried to give a 10% tip to Ali. He asked what it was. I told him it was a tip. He seemed to be undecided about taking it, then did and thanked me. I guess that tips are not the custom for tour guides. I had told the boy at the travel agency that I would drop over for tea after the trip. I did with Evelyn and we talked about travel, my flash cards, his school, movies, music, and eventually politics. He thinks that last summer the Greeks set fire to Turkish forests. The fires started 35 different places at once. The fires had to have been set and by the Greeks. He started to drift toward saying that under the Ottoman Turks the country was well run and that he would want to return to those days. I suspect that he was driving at wanting an Islamic State. Of course that reasoning is wrong for multiple reasons. It is not true that everyone was happy under the Ottoman Turks. And there certainly enough countries that are under Islamic rule that are finding it no bargain, at least those who protest are. We were interrupted before he went that far, but I suspect that was where he was going. It is hard enough to do a decent job of running a government when running the government is your first priority.
Well, it was back to the room after that and then to the restaurant next door for dinner. I had eggplant and yogurt and fried calamari. Evelyn had yogurt and peppers and lamb chop for dinner.
Then it was back to the room to work on the logs and listen to music in Turkish. The evenings are not so hot, but then it gives me time to write.
04/30/98: Canakkale and Troy
I have discovered that if you are washing your hands in the bathroom you open the door a crack. It is tough to turn the knob on the door enough to open it and with wet hands it is even worse.
I have a friend who is Romanian and who insisted when I first met her that Dracula was a purely fictional character and no such person ever existed. She left the country before the days of tourism. Nowadays I suspect Dracula is better known to Romanian school children learning history. Basically it was someone outside of the country who made Dracula the most famous Romanian in history.
Nobody is really sure which Pharaoh is mentioned in the Bible. If you look at the history of the Peoples of the Book: Jews, Christians, and Moslems, you find the captivity in Egypt to be a major formative event. But the Egyptians never even noted that the event happened. In Egyptian history it was a minor event and not really worth noting. Now, of course, it is a big deal.
In the region we now call Turkey, a ten-year war with part of Greece is really just another war with Greece. Sure, it may have happened there someplace in history. No big deal. Of course, to world literature it is another matter. And Turkey knows a good thing when it sees it.
Speaking of a good thing, I am getting used to Turkish breakfast. I had bread with sweet butter and honey, a hardboiled egg, some tomato, and juice. We sit overlooking the dock at the boats going back and forth. Every few moment a horse-drawn wagon goes by.
We see some of the people from our tour yesterday go by. They wave to us and we wave back.
We walk to the bus stop about a mile from the hotel. There does not seem to be any schedule. After standing around a while a taxi driver tells us that it will be another 45 minutes or an hour before the next bus. He offers to take us and wait for 5 million. It is probably silly, but we decide to wait for the bus. The problem is not the $20, but we don't know how long we want to stay. If we want to stay five hours we are not sure.
There are a lot of gruff-looking Turks hanging around, but you know I feel perfectly safe. Across the street from us two men start arguing about something. It looks like they are getting ready to have a fight. To separate them a bunch of other people run in like white blood cells to an injury. One seems a lot angrier than the other and continues to snarl insult or argue his side in Turkish. This goes on for about five minutes but they cannot get close to each other to fight so he gives up and goes away. These are really earthy people.
We sit writing. Across the street a fight nearly breaks out between two men. A bunch of people go in and separate the two men, and the fight is reduced to yelling. I think Turks must just look mean. They are so often swarthy and chunky with big moustaches.
No buses seem to be coming along for Truva or Troy. Lots are coming for Kapez. Two out of three buses that pass are for Kapez. This must be some place, Kapez, judging by the number of people who want to go there.
One driver offered to take us to Troy and wait for us, then drive us back for $20. Evelyn did not like that idea. For one thing we didn't know how long we wanted to spend at Troy.
I am just afraid we will discover Kapez will mean "bus." Or perhaps it is another name for Troy. About 10:20 a man came up and asked where we were going. We said Truya. He walked us to a bus. Sure enough it was the bus to Troy. We got on and it was about a 30-minute ride. It is kind of a nice drive with views of the water and the occasional stop for sheep in the road.
This lets us see a little of the countryside. The houses seem small and boxy Mediterranean style. Many seem to need repair. Still it seems pleasant and comfortable. At least it looks that way from the window of a bus. On a nice, sunny day.
We got off the bus at Troy along with a French couple. The price for the ride was just 200,000TL. They seemed nice. The husband picked a wild rose and gave it to Evelyn. As you get toward Troy, there is a large wooden horse with a ladder that visitors can climb. We didn't. Then there is a one-room museum with a tiny exhibit telling importance of Troy and how it was rediscovered.
Of course there is not just one Troy, there are nine of them on almost the same site. Troy 1 is the oldest dating back to the Bronze Age. Troy 9 is from the Roman era. I still don't completely understand how a whole city is buried and another built on top in just about the same place. Can there be 20 feet of fill so that one city is totally covered? Are there pieces of the old city sticking up? Suffice it to say that one city is built on top of another. The theater was built in the Roman times.
You walk through the ruins and do not stray from the path. Hard to believe you are really there. Even the Homeric Poets had not seen the real Troy. There does not seem to be a whole lot of Troy 6 left. I think most of what you see is a ramp. The most complete piece is a small theater complete with embanked stage. This is from Troy 9, the Roman period. They also had some columns from the same period.
While we were walking the guy behind us caught up with us. He had graduated from USC about a year before and had read the Iliad in school. He was all excited about being at the actual place where it all happened. We took several pictures of him, he took a couple of us, and we talked. We discussed the ruins, history, Turkish history, film, and dogs. By then we were pretty well done with the ruins and walked out to the road. We arrived at a little before 1pm.
Then began the wait for the bus. We waited and waited and waited some more. Here we were on a corner in the middle of no place. Most of the vehicles that passed on the road were farm implements. If you saw Bad Day at Black Rock, well, this was worse. There was a dead restaurant behind me. I went to ask when a bus might be along. "Any time." I was told. But you know I had no doubts about my safety. My intelligence I questioned but not my safety. I told Evelyn that we were here in the middle of nowhere. "It's not the middle of nowhere," she protested. "That's Troy." Great. When is the next chariot?
The experience of going to Troy is not all I might have expected. Basically you walk around a ruin of which there is not much left and look at some walls. The text does not add a whole lot to the experience doing little more then identifying which Troy you are looking at and what the object is. I suppose that is not surprising. What distinguishes Troy is not that great ruins were found there, it is that these ruins were heard of from another source. Apparently the government realizing that just seeing some old walls would be a letdown built a large fanciful Trojan horse (not on wheels, by the way) to help capture some imagination. But for the most part the ruins work by imagination. The visitor can tell himself that he was there where this great story came from. One has the feeling that actually being at the war would be even less impressive. Basically is a bunch of grown men acting in very childish ways. Everything in the poem is undoubtedly exaggerated. Earlier in the day we saw a fight almost break out while we were waiting for a bus. Your feeling is just a little embarrassed to be there when it is happening. That must be what it was like to be at the Trojan War. A Homeric poet could have probably made even that near street fight seem epic. Such is the power of words.
Finally at 2:15 after 75 minutes of embarrassed waiting we asked for information. A man told us that the bus is very irregular. He could arrange a ride for $20. We gave him 5,000,000TL, about the same. I think he would have preferred the dollars but accepted the Turkish equivalent. We went got into a Toyota and another man took us back to Canakkale. To please his American passengers he put on a cassette of Christmas carols.
We asked to be taken to the Archeology Museum. I think that made more sense than to be waiting the whole afternoon in the hot sun. The museum currently costs 250,000TL. Not so much for hotel rooms, but just about everything else is really pretty cheap here. Most of what is in the museum is what was found in Troy. They start with a nice diagram of the layers of Troy.
The holdings include-Grave stele in marble-Pots and vases from Troy-Not much from the famous Troy-Roman statue from Troy 9-Pins and mirrors-Statues-Headbands that look like roaring 20s
There was a bust of a Roman Emperor. It was recognizable. This led me to wonder. It is not every stonecutter who can make such a good bust. How many stonecutters have even seen the emperor? And copies of copies already start to look very different. How would they make so many busts of the Emperor? How did they get them all to look alike? The standard explanation just does not seem to hack it, unless there is something I don't know.
After the museum we walked back toward our hotel (here called an "otel"). Along the way I took pictures. I got lucky and passed a backyard wrestling match with oiled wrestlers, a la the film Topkapi. I continued snapping pictures of shops, horse carts, food in windows, etc. We stopped for a late lunch: soup, the local version of pizza (lahmacun), and Pepsi. Good stuff. From there we got a bus ticket for Izmir. We dropped things off in the room, and went to sit on dock and write.
As we were sitting and writing a cat came along. I tried to be friendly, but she preferred the unwilling Evelyn. She climbed up on Evelyn's lap and would not leave. All these women who have their heads covered and seemed so serious, even when I try to be friendly, come over to smile to see the cat sitting in Evelyn's lap. Cats have a special appeal here, I guess.
While we are sitting the boy from the travel agency sees us and comes out to invite us in to talk later. Frankly we are not anxious. Though I think I probably should go and argue against having an Islamic state in Turkey. I realize I am a bit out of my depth. What arguments would I give? I guess that I barely trust a government to make roads, I certainly do not want them interpreting what they think is God's Law and trying to enforce it. The countries that do follow that path seem to have followed it to a dead end. And they fall into that path in part because their attitude is getting people ready for the next life not improving this life. Religious states seem to be bred of despair. We cannot care for our people in this life so we will do all the spiritual stuff just perfectly. We will be one of the world leaders in getting the spiritual stuff right. Far better than apparently wealthy nations. Basically they are choosing to re-define the goals of the game so that they CAN win. And if you assume their religion is correct, I suppose they are winning, but really it is only a power play. Most counties have some fundamentalists who want to see the government enforcing the laws of their religion. They say what I see as the proper rules the government should apply to everybody. Then it becomes "what I see as the proper belief should be what everybody believes." That is not what government is for. And the governments that try to enforce spirituality fall into disease and poverty and misery. Yet every country seems to have some zealots who want to go that way. They think that is what will make God happy. I doubt it. I think that Kemal Ataturk agreed. He has strong separations between the religion and the state here. It goes beyond the separation in the US. For example, only secular marriages are legal. I hope this remains a secular state. Well, it is more than that. There are other states in the Middle East that are secular, but the religion still drives much of the policy. Not so here. That seems to make a difference.
Well, we got some snacks for the room and some postcards for our families and for work then went back to the room. The room did not appear to want the snacks so we ate some of them ourselves. At about 8 we went out to sample the baked sweets that are so popular here. We got some baklava and brought it up to the room to eat. Of course we had no utensils. I had to figure how to cut a block of baklava without a knife. I could have used my pocket knife, but it would probably never have been the same. I had to find a disposable knife. And a loop of dental floss worked very nicely.
Well, it livened up one evening. I did not bring my Walkman and cassettes this trip. With no classical station we can listen to the faint signal of the BBC or listen to local FM radio. The music is not great and listening to Turkish ads is the pits. I wonder what Paul Theroux for kicks.
Well, this is a special night. April 30 is the real Halloween, Walpurgis Nacht. This is when the witches' sabbat really is. And would you believe it, nobody invited me.
05/01/98: Transit: Canakkale to Bergamo
I don't know if it is Turkish beds, the fact I am doing more in a day, or what. At home I am not a good sleeper. I wake up in the night and cannot get back to sleep. I wake up at 5am. Who knows what all. I had no jetlag coming to Turkey and every night I fall asleep within minutes of hitting the pillow. I may wake up, but not for more than a minute or so. Then I wake up at 7am. One morning I woke at 5, but every other morning it is 7am. This is unique for me.
Your diploma was written on sheepskin because Alexander the Great died so young. Some history. Alexander the Great captured the known world but had little preparation for what would happen after his death, particularly because he died so young in 323 AD. One of his generals Lysimachus got a great deal of the spoils. He secured the spoils in Pergamum, posting Philatarus, a eunuch, to watch the treasure. He then went off with hopes to win the rest of Asia Minor by defeating Seleucus. Philatarus faithfully awaited his master guarding the treasure. Eventually word came that Lysimachus had been defeated. This no doubt came as a terrible shock to Philatarus. Here he was guarding all this treasure and, darn it, there was nobody left to guard it for. Philatarus his lost his whole purpose in life. So he decided to go into politics, setting himself up as governor of Pergamum. The city stayed in the family down to Eumenes II who really built the place up including the medical center and the library. The most controversial move was to greatly extend the library. It had more than 200,000 books and was drawing scholars from Alexandria, which had 700,000 books. Egypt got worried and said that no more papyrus would go to Pergamum. This caused a problem in Pergamum. Some substitute for papyrus had to be found. Animal skin was used. Parchment was invented, or in Latin "pergamen." Eventually however Pergamum became a province of Rome and when the library at Alexandria burned, Marc Anthony basically stole the library of Pergamum to restock Alexandria.
At 10:30 we decided it was getting late and we had to check out and get to the travel agent. At 10:36 we decided we had plenty of time and went instead to sit on the dock and take pictures. Things get done very fast here and most tourist-related things are very close to each other. Finally we are getting the sort of weather that makes you want to sit outside. Sitting on the dock and watching the rusty boats. This is a pleasant place to be if you are a rich tourist. Still this does seem to be a prosperous country. It has an active economy.
We go to the tour office and I work on the log. A young boy is scraping at the window to remove one of the destinations. When he is dome he comes over to see the little computer. I try to think what he would find interesting to see. Spreadsheets probably would not transcend the language barrier very well. I bring up the world map that shows what is dark and what is light right now. I show him where Istanbul is on the map. Now the clerk is also looking. The boy tells me to show him the map. I point out Istanbul. The clerk points out Canakkale on the East Coast of Africa. "Aegean" he says pointing to the Atlantic Ocean. I tell him no. Not quite.
Bus trips are a good opportunity to see how a wide range of people lives. There are people selling what I call bagels, but really are not like we think of bagels. They are about one inch in diameter and formed into larger rings maybe five inches in diameter. They are coated in toasted sesame. You see people selling things on sticks in the streets. They also are sold from glass-sided carts on the street. They seem very popular.
Maybe a third of the women wear head covering, even in hot weather. Only the husband may see his wife's hair. It is how we feel about breasts. Even more unfortunate is that women cannot appear to be happy or friendly. Any smiling seems to have a sexual connotation. Being pleasant to people is a character flaw, to have low morals. It is making life unpleasant to no good purpose. Do they think that the women without head covering are constantly being raped? I doubt it.
After we travel I start to see camels. I have never seen camels like we see here. They are shaggy here. They have coats like sheep or even more like bison. Their features seem really exaggerated. They have really big lips. The first one I saw I was not sure was a camel, but I have seen two now. I have to watch for more. This area is mostly farmland with the occasional fields of sheep. We also see chickens. The chickens in Turkey are all free-range chickens. I don't think it would even occur to them to raise a chicken in a box. That takes American genius.
At about 12:55 we stopped for lunch. Not as good as the Kofte Sandwich of our last bus trip, but still just fine. Evelyn has liver and rice;
I had fried eggplant and yogurt. For desert we shared a clay-pot rice pudding. A good meal for under $4 American. Evelyn took just about all the liver and left me just about all the eggplant. We were going to share, but at least at home I am not a big fan of liver. I was perfectly willing to eat half the liver, but she assumed I would hate it and took it herself. Actually liver is a nice surprise to me. It is something unhealthy that I am not fond of. There are so many foods that I like but are unhealthy or that are healthy but I don't like them. It is a nice thing to find that a food I don't like is unhealthy also.
At home I am not tremendously fond of eggplant, but here it is terrific. Put it in yogurt, add some red pepper, and sop it up with bread. Wow! I think when I go home I will eat more bread and yogurt. Eggplant made well will be a little harder to find.
I tried to tell Evelyn about the camels I saw. She didn't see them and does not believe me. I let it go. We will probably see more. Let her think I am kidding for now. Where there are two camels there are bound to be more. I hope. The road follows the water and is quite beautiful some places.
I don't quite follow what just happened. These buses have coolers with foil covered cups of water. People go to the back and pull out cups as they want them. I tried and the steward pulled my arm out and handed me one instead. He was keeping a Coke bottle in there and was probably afraid I would take that.
Tea is very big in Turkey. Pretty much wherever you go you see people drinking from little demitasse tea glasses. They are about three inches high, half that in circumference, and with a rounded waist. People have them delivered on trays to offices. You see a lot of delivery boys with tea trays carried with a tripod handle arrangement. There will be little tea glasses or Turkish coffee cups on trays. And yes, there is some Turkish coffee served but not nearly so much as the tea.
We each get a little cup of Fanta orange soda at 3:20. It is almost like airplane service.
Well, now. That was strange. That was very strange. About an hour ago I asked when would we get to Bergama. "Twenty minutes." Nope. About forty minutes later the steward comes to me and says "Bergama. Let's go." I pick up my briefcase. The bus stops in the middle of nowhere by the side of the road. Before we know it out luggage is out and on the ground. Somebody whistled for a taxi. A driver pulls up and starts talking to us in German. When he finds out we are American he talks in a combination of German and English.
He organizes us, saying that he has a cheap place to stay-the Boblingen Pension. I might have said no thanks, but Evelyn points out it is recommended in the guidebook. This is not just a fast shuffle. The price is 3 million a night. $12. We had been paying 12,500,000TL. Even the guidebook that recommends this place says it is more expensive than that. The owner lived for many years in Germany, it says in the book. Could this be him? (P.S. Actually no, it isn't. We never found out the relationship of the cab driver to the Boblingen Pension.) He talks about "Clinton sex scandal." I can make out only about two sentences in three. We get to the place and it is spotlessly clean, surprisingly cheap, the most comfortable-looking room so far. Okay, let's let him organize us. We don't even check in, he just takes our bags to the room. He arranges to pick us up the next day. I think I trust him. Evelyn has other information from the Internet about this place. People who have stayed here liked it. Okay, so we stay.
We went up to his terrace above the building. I read the guest book. I am now convinced that the owner runs pretty much the best guesthouse in Turkey and kidnaps people to it so that everybody knows it. To look at his guest book everybody really does LOVE this place. The guest book is full of praise and the last entries were three different glowing reviews from yesterday. The guy must like what he is doing. He busts a gut and then charges a pittance compared to the hotels.
After sitting up in the terrace for a while we decide to go back to the room and then head out to get bus tickets for the next day. What we discover is that the Lonely Planet's maps are not really to be trusted, but you can ask Turks if you are going in the right direction and they are happy to be helpful. The ticket-seller apparently knows English and has some good fun with our attempts to use Turkish to buy the tickets.
Next comes dinner. Well there are a variety of restaurants to choose from. As we are walking we run into a Canadian couple, the Sammons, who were on our bus to Canakkale, We also ran into them two or three times at the last site. He is a retired school teacher come to see Troy and other places he had taught about. Anyway, we run into them on the street. They are also staying at the same pension we are. We invite them to dinner but they just ate. We asked if they recommend the place and they did with some reservations. We decide to eat there. We share a cucumber tomato salad and some toasted cheese sticks. Then we have the mixed grill. They bring us chicken kabaps. We have some wait before they bring us what we ordered. It is good though.
From there we return to the pension. We met the real owner. He invited us up to the terrace for the nightly get-together. There is not much other entertainment so people get together to drink and talk each night. We figure if nothing is happening we can work on our logs. So up we go. We are the first to arrive and are happily working on our logs when the owner realizes we are up there alone. I think he thinks we really need someone up there or we will be disappointed. He does not know how far behind we are in our logs. So he joins us and tries to make conversation in Turkish, German, and just a bit of English. We have English and just a bit of German. That kept the conversation on the superficial level. He worked making air filters in Germany. I asked him how he was treated since I know that Turkish labor has a hard time in Germany. He did not understand the question and said he had been there 14 years.
Eventually the owner's son showed up with a Japanese guest. The guest was a gardener and a martial arts expert. Eventually Craig, a New Zealander, joined us. Craig was fun to talk to. He had a sort of light-headed quality almost as if he were just barely drunk or stoned.
Craig went to Anzac Day because he thought it would be a hoot. But he talked to someone who was really into the battle and told him what it was all about. Now he thinks he might even want to read a book about Gallipoli.
I talked to the Japanese gardener. He was born in Brazil where his father was a farmer. The son was working in the tobacco fields at age 3. I passed along a question from a friend at work. Why are we seeing no more new Japanese samurai films? These are great films. Well, the samurai story is still being done for TV, but the Japanese film industry is going broke. They cannot compete with American films. I guess the thriving far-east film industry is Hong Kong's.
We talked about sports, movies, camels (rare in Turkey, but there are some), vests, differences between British English and American English, and where water is safe.
As I was sitting there I fell prey to one of the real problems of travel for me. I felt a cold coming on. Vitamin C usually stops a cold dead for me when I am home. Not so when I travel. I don't know the reason for the difference. Part of it may be that I can avoid chills better at home. Still the Vitamin C is worth a try. When I got back to the room I took a heavy dose.
It was nearly midnight when I went to bed.
05/02/98: Bergamo sites; Transit to Salihli
This was the first night I had some problem sleeping. I woke up about 2:30 and started wondering is there more I could be doing to fight the cold. As I lay there Evelyn got up and started putting on clothing to warm up because the room really was cold. That seemed like a good idea so I turned on the light and got dressed except for my shoes, took an antihistamine and when back to bed. I fell asleep quickly after that and slept well the rest of the night. I woke up with the same tickle in my throat, however.
We went to breakfast at 8:30 and it was the usual Turkish breakfast. There was bread butter, cream (processed) cheese, jelly, hard-boiled egg, tomato, cucumber, and tea. The Sammons joined us at our table out on the balcony. We talked about places we had visited.
After breakfast I signed the guestbook with: "What can we tell you that you don't already know? You find poor travelers stranded on the road and whisk them to one of the best bargains in Turkey. Everything you do is the best it could be and at the same time it is the least expensive night we have spent. When you pick people up everything seems too good to be true, and then it proves to be both good and true. Thanks for a great time."
After breakfast the taxi was waiting so we went off to our first site, the Acropolis. As I explained about Pergamum this was a city built on the treasure of one of Alexander's generals after his death. It had ties eventually to the Roman Empire, not necessarily to the betterment of the city. There are all sorts of ruins all over the world, but when you picture someone visiting ruins; it is generally Greco-Romans with columns and capitols. We have seen ruins all over the world, but none have ever been Greco-Roman until now. This is the real thing, high on a hill overlooking Bergama. There are stone pillars; there is a hillside theater and a library (which I talk about elsewhere). There is a temple to worship the Emperor Trajan. At the base of the Acropolis there are arches that have grown old gracefully. Vines grow from the arches as if they were planned. It is a beautiful photograph. Now it is entirely the wrong period but as I walk around the ruins I hum Bernard Herrmann's music for JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. It is about the only film I know where ruins play an important part. Not the greatest film but a very good adventure that still captures my imagination. I wonder how far this is from Thessaly.
Evelyn goes to sit down since it is a difficult walk up, but I want to explore the ruins a little longer. They are partially reconstructed, but you do see the pillars and the capitol and get a feel. It gets a real polyglot of visitors. Our driver who is already hitting us for 5 million (which I understand is an incredible rip-off) has me pay the parking. Well, it is not much in American terms. Where it hurts is that it causes inflation, which hurts the common people.
On the way down the hill we stop at the Red Basilica. This is one of those buildings that have survived the Christian times and the Islamic times. I noticed that the lower brick looks newer so I suspect at some point the brick was propped up. Evelyn finds some old stones with Hebrew. When we translate the date, however, it is only from the 1870s. Everywhere there are bright red poppies growing. We think those flat plastic things that people give out for some charity are poppies, but the real thing has a bright, rich red, just slightly purple color.
Our driver told us take as long as we want, 30, 40 minutes. There just is not a lot to see at the Red Basilica and when we come out we find he has driven off somewhere on personal business. Well, we rest for a while. It is only a matter of five or ten minutes.
There is not a lot to see at the Asclepion, but it is choice. This was in Roman times a medical center founded by the greatest of the ancient physicians, Galen (131-210 AD). Having been cured and impressed by the Asclepion of Epidaurus in Greece, he set up shop here to do the same sort of wonders. He developed the science looking at the circulatory and nervous system and systematizing discoveries that had already been made. Pergamum became famous. But it was too good to last. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius heard of Galen's greatness and ordered him to Rome where he became the Emperor's personal physician, undoubtedly limiting Galen's studies.
That far back doctors used the snake, a symbol of the medical profession. Why the snake? He sheds his skin and apparently is young again. So should the patient. Here again we see a theater. Again some picturesque shady arches. There is a stream of water said to cure what ails you. I took a sip in the hopes it would do something for my cold. Somehow I think chicken soup would do more. We got back in the cab and road back to the pension. We got our luggage and walked to bus terminal. We traded our 2:30 ticket for a 12:30 one. The man at the desk looked like Treat Williams with a big Turkish moustache.
We went to a stand and ordered two Pepsis. We made the mistake of not asking how much and paid for it to the tune of 400,000TL. They saw us coming. Always ask the price first.
The current plan seems to be the best. We do the visiting of sites in the morning when we are fresh. Then we are exhausted we board a bus and see Turkey through a window while we rest. The only thing better is to take a night train or bus. That saves you a night in a hotel and the travel effectively takes no time from touring. You don't want to do too much of that however since you will die of exhaustion, particularly of you have trouble sleeping on trains or buses. I find we are taking this trip more leisurely than we used to. Perhaps it is age catching up with us.
The first leg of the trip takes us to Izmir, sort of a travel hub in Turkey. There is no stop for lunch along the way. It has gotten sunny. Izmir is a big bus station. We get directions for the bus to Salihli and find it in the dark terminal. We get on the bus to Salihli. It is dark in the terminal but I try to write a little. A family gets on with an older woman who has just had what appears to be breast surgery. Her family stretches her across the aisle. She is cold and they turn off her air conditioning and the woman next to me, her daughter I guess and is later confirmed, covers her with what appears to be a piece of cloth no thicker than a kerchief. I offer my jacket. The woman who is caring for her thanks me, but refuses. A little while later I draw a sketch of the seats of the bus showing the back seat is a bench seat her mother could lay across. She motions to me that her mother would get sick. But her mother is clearly uncomfortable on the seat. My briefcase is soft-sided. With my jacket inside it is reasonably soft on one side and would make a pillow. She gives this to her mother and her mother likes it. Well, at least I could do something to improve the situation.
The family seems to be somewhat happier. One of the men asks to lend him the Lonely Planet to see what is in it. I do. We try to talk but there is too much language barrier to get much across. They offer me a candy, which I take. The woman tells me the sick woman is her mother. Suffice it to say the family and I are friendly by the end of the trip. I think it is that they did not expect an American to take such an interest in their sick mother.
Our bus eventually pulled into the station and I waved goodbye to the family. There are two (2) hotels in town. One is the $75/night Hotel Berrik and one is the $10/night Hotel Yener. Guess which one we picked?
The condition of the room was surprisingly comparable to $10/night places from my own country. Okay, perhaps that is harsh. It was reasonable. Almost clean. The window is broken but none of the glass has fallen out. It just won't swing open. There is just a sort of sharp edge. But it will keep out the cold, of which there is little in Salihli there is little cold. It will also keep us from opening the window to let a little cool air in. There is an old puzzle section of a newspaper left in the drawer which would be entertainment if I knew Turkish and it wasn't mostly filled out. The bathroom door stays closed only if it is firmly locked; otherwise it swings open. Luckily it has a latch lock. Unfortunately, the lock is on the outside. You can lock it shut from the outside, but there is no way to close the door from the inside or to unlock it if it is locked. I guess there are different cultural assumptions as to why you would lock a door here. The Hotel Yener is one of the Top Ten listed in Historic Flophouses of the Middle East. I ask Evelyn how much $70 a night would really set us back. How about $80?
We dropped our stuff and went out to explore the streets. There was a sort of farmers' market between where we were staying and the bus station. Pretty much any town of any size will have such a farmers' market on the weekend.
Actually it is interesting that there is a concept of a weekend in Turkey. In Europe and the US the weekend is the Jewish and the Christian Sabbath. In a predominately Islamic country there is nothing particularly special about Saturday or Sunday. Having those days off was really part of the modernization mandated by Ataturk. He aligned the country with Europe, specifically ignoring religious considerations. That policy has helped the country economically but has antagonized religious fundamentalists. To me it seems like a good tradeoff, but it leaves unfinished business. It pits the government against what many Turks feel is the voice of God.
We walked around. I suggested we each buy an orange so we went to one of the many orange merchants who, before we could stop him had cut open an orange to give us samples. Now we said to each other we wanted six. I asked for six and he started weighing six kilos. No. Stop. Heyer! That stopped him. We finally settled on two kilos, 9 oranges. Well, our hotel does not serve breakfast, so oranges will be our breakfast. I also bought a towel for 400,000TL. Then it was back to the room.
We have one radio station with decent music. It also is the one station with a horrible hum, as if someone is jamming it. For most of the rest of the stations they seem to go in heavily for The Middle Eastern Beat. I wonder why.
I did some writing and dozed a little in the late afternoon and early evening. Then we went out to dinner. One of the clerks from the hotel looks like us as if he had caught us in a mistake. See you are going out, but you missed that there is a restaurant right in the hotel.
Probably offering food with the same high standards of the room. No, thank you. We find a restaurant a few blocks away. I order the special. The dinner is a few pieces of pizza (kiymali pide) plus a mixed grill with a different kind of bread, salad, and yogurt. [I discuss the two kinds of pizza in Turkey on May 12.]
We pick up a large (1.5 liter) water on the way back. Then we head back to room. We write and listen to the radio. From the street we hear jazz clubs. It is a real cacophony. You hear the kids in the street, the music from three sources blending together and street noises.
I was passing the time pointing out the wonders of our room and telling her that we really could afford better. In the middle of it all the power went out. "Oh, now that slices the bacon." Sitting in the dark I asked Evelyn, "Would you like an orange?" That required no power. After about 10 minutes the lights come on and we continue working on our logs.
Someone is practicing football down below our window. Every time they hit a store front with the paneling down it sounds like a large firecracker has gone off. This is our Saturday night in Salihli. Even in Turkey you have people who have to rev their engines and make as much noise as possible after most people are asleep. I don't understand the mentality that says I have the power use my engine to disturb people so I will.
I go to sleep trying to watch from memory the film Jason and the Argonauts.
05/03/98: Salihli, Sardis, and Selcuk
I slept fairly well. I may have been up for just a few minutes in the night. How is the cold? Hard to say, I am glad to say. Henceforth I take Vitamin C and an antihistamine. On the other hand it could be the waters from the Asclepion.
For my next problem I have to figure out what to do about the bathroom door. I grab the puzzle section of the newspaper. Evelyn looks at me like I am weird. I repeatedly fold it in half. "What are you doing?" "I am folding a doorstop for the bathroom." "Good idea!" Well, that is really a big part of what I do for a living. I look at the tools available and decide how to use them to make things better. Like the pillow I improvised from a briefcase yesterday. I am not saying it is a brilliant idea, but I am pleased I thought of it.
We have breakfast in the room. We share between us three oranges. One has very little juice and I suspect is a good deal older than the other two. After breakfast we finish packing and head for the bus terminal where we hop a bus for Sardis (a.k.a. Sart).
We get off the bus and walk to the ruins. We check our heavy backpacks at the ticket booth. Then we look at the complex. The first thing we get to is the Hall for the Imperial Cult. The next thing that we see is the Sammons, the retired school teacher and his wife. Once again our paths crossed. Actually they probably crossed several times, but frequently we would not see each other because we were at the point where they cross hours apart. We only really notice them when our paths cross and we are at the crossing point at the same time. That was what happened about now. Of course, if we consider time as if it were a fourth spatial dimension, then our paths would not really be crossing unless we were both there at the same time. So I guess the usual meaning for us seeing each other when our paths cross really makes a sophisticated assumption about space and time.
Anyway we said "hello" and compared travel notes. Then we continued on through the Hall for the Imperial Cult. It has swimming pool and imperial Ionic columns in front in two layers. Much of the decoration still has Greek text. Continuing on there is a Synagogue, but since its entrance is at the far end you must circle it around Jewish shops like Jacob's Paintshop, Hardware, Shop of Jacob, the elder of the synagogue. Entering the synagogue you do not see any stars of David. Perhaps that is a symbol established in a later year. The decorations are in large part geometrical ones made from arcs of circles. At one end there are statues of double lions facing in opposite directions. A large workbench-like object is said to be for offerings. (Offerings? Were there still offerings at that time?) It has lion paws for its feet. At a kilometer or two distance is the Temple of Artemis, a large ruin with two large stone columns and a good deal more. You have to climb the hill behind it to see the whole layout. We will be seeing another Temple to Artemis that will be more impressive; in fact it is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
On the way back to the ticket stand we see more columns and rocks by the side of the road that we must have missed when we walked by the first time. This must have been the temple district.
We talked to the Sammons in both directions. They are Pat and Mary Lynne Sammon. Pat taught Latin, but there was not much demand for this talent so he taught mathematics and other subjects. Part of what we talked about is how much popular Turkish radio stations sound like our pop stations and how the world is homogenizing. We picked up our luggage and the bus to Izmir was right on time. We grabbed it and paid for our seats. I worked on my log. It occurred to me that we were all thirsty after our walk. The buses provide chilled water in foil covered cups. I grabbed four and passed them out to the two couples. I think they turn the air conditioning on for five minutes each hour but after being in the hot sun it was worth it. We see an awful lot of American brands here. We pass a building decorated with an eight-foot mock-up of a can of Pringles Potato Chips. How do they fit into Turkish culture? About the only thing that seems Turkish about them is the moustache on the man on the can.
We get to the Izmir bus terminal and find the bus to Selcuk (actually someone asked us where we were going and then led us there). We paid our tickets and boarded. Evelyn saw a bread stand outside our window and since it was 12:30 and we were unlikely to stop for lunch she went and got bread. It was cheap, but not all that good. For 160,000TL she got two toasted sesame bagels (described on May 1) and a sort of cheese thing in phylo dough. It would have been good fresh, but it was all stale and dry. It was filling, however. (Later when I got one of the sesame bagel things that was closer to fresh, it was a lot better.)
Somebody got on and tried to sell us a room at a hotel called Nazar in Selcuk. I had seen hotels that that swarm you as you arrive on the bus, but it is really unusual to start trying to sell you before you even get to the city. The hotel business must be really cutthroat in Turkey. The place really was recommended in Lonely Planet and he was offering it at 4 million a night. We agreed to look at the place. How wrong could we go for $16? The Lonely Planet recommended it at $25.
There was a cute little boy on bus with a rash on his face. He was walking up and back on the aisle and whenever I saw him I made a different face. It calmed him down and tested my creativity. I napped a bit and apparently the boy came around to offer Evelyn and me a taste of his lollypop while I was asleep. Evelyn woke me up as we entered the town. There is a hill with a very large citadel. You can see it from the road. It looks like some of the walled forts in India. You can see it from the outside, but it is not open to the public. Ayasoluk is the name of the hill so I suppose you could call it it the Ayasoluk Fort, but there is no name for it given in the Lonely Planet.
Leaving buses can be a sudden affair here. We entered Selcuk and were sort of tapped on the shoulder. Moments later we were off the bus. I made one last face at the boy as I was leaving. We were met by the owner of our hotel and were led there where we inspected the rooms, found them to be reasonable, and were invited up to the terrace for tea. This was my first taste of the apple tea supposedly so popular here. It is quite good. It tastes a lot about hot apple cider. Some people claim that it really only a tourist-related item. Others say it really has caught on with the locals. It tastes better than any tea that I remember having at home.
A brother of the owner talked to us about conditions in Turkey and anything else that the four of us had questions about. We explained that were not really travelling with the Sammons, we just repeatedly ran into them.
Back at the room I took a shower. There are two taps. If you turn on the one on the left the water is always cold, if you turn on the one on the right the water is room temperature. Perhaps the water is not hot all day.
We went out to walk to get the lay of the land and found ourselves in a touristy section. This is one of two parallel streets that have a lot of restaurants and things set up to cater to the tourist trade. The other one street over has the remains of a Roman aqueduct. Between them they seem to be preparing for some sort of celebration. There is also a big outdoor film screen being put up. As we were trying some other street, I commented to Evelyn that what we had seen was probably part of the aqueduct. Like with the camels she did not believe me that we had passed ruins. She missed them entirely. I said yes we had passed some ruins. Hadn't she seen the stork on top of one? She hadn't but she knew that one of the attractions to the area was to see the storks nesting on top of the aqueduct. I hadn't read that, I just saw a stork on an aqueduct. Now she wanted to see so we went back. Indeed several of the aqueduct supports had stork nests. Most of the aqueduct is gone but the supports are still there. I got some pictures.
Evelyn wanted to find the tourist agency and only had a vague idea how to do that. We went searching and found it. Evelyn asked some questions and got a map. I got a sort of chachka, a woven map pattern. I will decorate my workstation at work. Now what. I suggested sitting in a park we passed. It is near a playground where some children are playing football (what you call soccer, Yank). As we write a couple little girls of 13 come around to watch us write in our logs and to ask about us. They want to see the Lonely Planet. Eventually conversation runs out and they just sort of stare at us. How can we be entertaining? I pull out my pad and rip off a square of paper and fold a flapping bird. I take it origami is new in their lives. There are four children and I fold each a figure. They go off, one at a time, and bring us rosebuds from the bushes. I am not sure they are supposed to be doing this, but they want to give us something to show their thanks. I fold four figures and we are given three rosebuds. I just wish it were larger paper. The figures are imperfect because they are too tiny and rushed. A couple of men see the tail end and say I should teach the kids how to fold the figures. I tell him I would like to. They ask how I learned and I say I have been folding since I was a small boy. Origami is perfect for a poor country like Turkey. There is a lot of paper available and otherwise children probably have a hard time getting toys. If they learned origami they could make their own toys. I should fold children more origami.
It is now about 5:20 and we just had some bread for lunch. We find a cafe with outdoor dining. I order a spicy salad and get served Haydari instead. Fine. Evelyn ordered and got mushroom salad. For main course she got lamb on bamboo skewers. I got mixed grill. For once it was a substantial portion. The wind blew up while we were sitting they and blew over flower vases, napkin racks, menus, etc. The cafe was a total mess. I had apple tea for desert; Evelyn had Turkish coffee. When the bill came they had charged me for the salad I ordered and not the tea or coffee. So the bill came to 2.3 million and should have come to 2.4 million. I could have tried to explain but decided it was not worth it. I left 2.5 million and had the waiter keep the change. We stopped on the way back to the room to get water. 150,000TL is a little high. I asked how much it was and the woman behind the counter showed me by pulling out a 100,000TL and a 50,000TL note. I gave her 250,000TL and she gave me back the 100,000TL note.
I think by this point I can declare victory over my cold. I am 48 hours into the cold and cannot detect symptoms. That is a real relief. The cold I got on our Southeast US trip lasted me four months! This one lasted me a day and a half.
We were sitting writing when there was a sort of ruckus in the street. It was sort of a rudimentary parade. There were a couple of people with a banner and a truck carrying children. Mothers were bringing children and putting them on the back of the truck. I think it was some sort of political campaigning. Evelyn thinks it is an ad for beer. Most likely it is a circumcision day celebration.
I wrote for a while longer, finally getting caught up about 9:45pm. I celebrated with the rest of the hazelnut cookies I bought in Canakkale and a can of Cappy Cherry.
Bringing the short-wave instead of a Walkman, speakers, and a few cassettes has been something of a bust. I can get only three English language short-wave stations: 15.575 for BBC, 15.640 for Israel, and 11.850 for Voice of Russia. Only the last comes in really at listenable strength.
05/04/98: Selcuk: Ephesus
It must be just by chance, but in the more comfortable rooms I tend to not sleep as well. This is one of the better rooms yet I woke at 5 and could not get back to sleep. It could be that I napped on the bus. I am at one of those felicitous points when I am caught up in the log. It does not stay that way for long.
Let's see, if this is Monday this must be Selcuk. Salihli was not really a tourist town. They had one site several miles away. So the accommodations were not very good. There were one low-end place and two middle to high-end hotels. Selcuk seems to have a lot of hotels and much more competition and as a result it is a lot easier to get a comfortable room.
The one thing that seems to be a universal problem is that the covers do not really cover the bed. A little tossing in the night and your legs or arms are uncovered. The other problem in many places is that you cannot sit straight on the toilet. It is too close to the wall or the sink or the cutoff for the bidet so you have to sit at an angle. These are all minor inconveniences.
Selcuk is set in a hilly region. Mary Lynne asked someone yesterday the name of these mountains. Turkey has mountains and they are name. This is just a hilly region and there is no name for the hills, they are too insignificant. It is interesting, but none of the people want to be in the European Union. The people I have talked to are all relatively pleased that the country was rejected. They think that the country has resources that have not been tapped yet and the do not want to give them up to the Europeans. They think that the country can become rich if it stays on its own.
The film Prince of Darkness was about alternate interpretations of Christianity and it talked about a mystical "Brotherhood of Sleep" who knew the true purpose of Christianity to fight an evil force. I wonder if the inspiration came from the local Grotto of the Seven Sleepers. The legend says that agents of the Emperor Decius, trying to suppress Christianity pursued seven Christian boys. The boys hid in a cave where they could not be retrieved. The pursuers could not get the boys so the cave was sealed so the boys could not dig their way out. Two centuries passed. One day there was an earthquake and the wall blocking the cave crumbled. The seven youths arose from a sleep and walked to town to find their friends and food. Instead they found the town was now Christian, but all their friends were long dead. They lived out the rest of their lives with these strangers and when they died they were buried in the cave. This could also be the inspiration for Rip Van Winkle.
We hear the people just outside the door going to breakfast. They sound Australian. It is funny how few Americans we see here. I guess it makes sense that we would see a lot of Australians and New Zealanders, but I would have expected to see a slightly higher proportion of Americans. We ran into one set of Canadians (whom I consider to be "Americans" coming as they do from North America, though they don't use that term to apply to themselves) but I don't think we have run into many other travelers from the US. At least none long enough to talk to for long.
We have to ask at the desk if there is a bus to the ruins at Ephesus.
We go up to breakfast. Everywhere Turkish breakfast seems much the same. It is bread, hardboiled egg, tomato, jelly, honey, butter, cheese, and in this case cheese. I am eating it leisurely and the owner comes to our table. You have less than five minutes before your ride leaves. Okay. I have a ride? Well they did say something quickly about a shuttle to the ruins. I had thought it was an option. Suddenly I have a ride leaving in minutes. Evelyn says to send them on, she cannot possibly be ready in five minutes. "Well, maybe we give you a little more time." I have a ride? Well, I am ready to go in the five minutes and it takes Evelyn a little longer but we are the in the lobby and there is a woman who will take us to the ruins. "We must hurry because there will be crowds at the ruins." It is just us and the Sammons. So we pile into the van and in a few minutes we are at Ephesus.
"We pick you up in two hours and take you to my carpet shop. I am married to cousin of owner of your hotel. You don't have to buy. You buy, we smile. You don't buy. We smile." So that's it. As far as I have been able to tell, since Turkey was rejected from the European Union, the government would like better economic relations with the United State. The individual Turk has his own desires. He would like that Mark and Evelyn Leeper would come and visit his carpet shop. Right now the economic plans are on hold and the country is working full time to get Mark and Evelyn Leeper into carpet shops. Turkey has more carpet salesmen than the US has lawyers but otherwise the two professions have the same standard of ethics. In the US lawyers actually have to chase ambulances while in Turkey carpet salesmen just lay in wait under the nearest rock for a tourist to come by.
Pat and Mary Lynne take over this delicate negotiation. "But we don't know how long we want to be at Ephesus." "That is Okay, two hours is plenty." "We want to go at our own pace." "Then we cannot know when to pick you up." "We don't want to be picked up, and we don't want to go to a carpet shop." "Will you take my card if you change your mind?" I take the card.
A street boy is selling books and maps of Ephesus. He wants a million for a map, I offer 500,000TL. I get the map. On the way in we see at the admission box the same map is selling for 750,000TL.
What is Ephesus? It is the best-preserved Roman Empire city in the world. If you want to know what life was like in the time of the Roman Empire, this is the place. It recovered from an attack by Cimmerians in the 7th century BC to become prosperous in the 6th Century. It was ruled by the Lydians and the Persians. Alexander captured the city with no resistance but when he died the city went to Lysimachos. He brought the city to new artistic heights. Rome later ruled Ephesus but it was attacked and destroyed by the Goths in 262 AD.
Our first stop is at the theater. It was built in the third century BC. It held 24,000. It was built in the shape of a huge parabolic reflector. The structure is good for the view and better for the acoustics. It was used for plays and for more violent entertainment like gladiatorial fights and wild animal fighting. We first sit up in the peanut gallery but also stand on the stage. Voices really carry to the audience and back. After a while we move on. We were wondering however how they convince a slave to die on stage. They used to really kill a slave for realism.
The next biggee was the Library of Celsus, built 117-120 AD. It is a big two-story affair with a facade with two layers of pillars. Across the street from the library was a building identified in all sources as a bordello. On it are signs saying it was falsely identified as a bordello, but was really just a fancy house with a lot of rooms. You can believe whom you wish. Being right across the street from the library may have led to interesting dilemmas as to which way to for knowledge.
The alleged bordello was where excavators found a small statue of Priapos, a little man with an enormous phallus. A little further on there was the Latrina. There are no dividers between the seats and commoners and Emperors used it alike, though presumably the Emperor on the go could go to the head of the line for immediate seating.
The academic baths feature rooms to heat up and cool off after baths: a tepiariam, a calidarium, and a frigidariam. Most of the third floor has disappeared, but the lower floors could be identified. By this point the other tour groups were beginning to be a pain.
We walked further ending up going through a field where we saw a particularly well-armored thistle. Mary Lynne looked at it and dubbed it a triffid. Evelyn and I looked at each other. "She knows about triffids." A triffid is a particularly nasty carnivorous plant from a novel by John Wyndham. One of my supervisors at one point asked me what the novel I was reading The Day of the Triffids was about. I stupidly said it was about man-eating plants and she sort of gave me a sour look. But actually that is not really what it is about. It is about societies and what makes them work and fail. A huge disaster leaves everybody but a handful of people on earth blind. Civilization immediately falls apart and small societies have to reform from start. Round 1 is whether your society falls apart of its own weight. Some do, some don't. Societies that are entirely unselfish and altruistic fail, for example. Round 2 is whether your society can survive conflicts with other societies. Then if you have survived the first two rounds the question becomes can you survive really nasty disasters out there, worse than people. That is really where triffids come in. It is a really good novel that was the basis for a very mediocre film version and a very good BBC television version.
The thing to do if you have to push past a group is you say "Pardon," in French with a French accent. If the group is French they know you are not, but they will like you because you are at least speaking their language. If they are German they do not forgive you, but at least they blame the French.
Toward the end of the visit is another theater, this one was at one time covered and had a capacity of about 1500 people. This one was used for concerts and for meetings. We were sitting in the theater when it started to rain. Evelyn and I whipped umbrellas out of our photovests. Mary Lynne was impressed. "Where did you hide those umbrellas?" I didn't tell her my canteen was in the same pocket. My vest carries a water bottle, an umbrella, field glasses, a camera, a walkie-talkie, spare batteries for my camera and palmtop, earplugs, notepads, a palmtop and the Lonely Planet guide, and I can stash my jacket in the back pocket. I may be missing something. But it all comfortably fits on me. I feel like Batman.
Well, from there we start walking back to town hoping to see the Cave of the Seven Sleepers and the Temple of Artemis along the way. It is a long walk in what becomes the hot sun. If that were not parching enough, I am still on antihistamine. Very quickly my mouth goes dry. When I take a drink of water it feels like pudding. Mary Lynne is shorter than we are but Pat is over six feet with longer legs. He sets the pace. Often he is a fair distance in front of the rest of us. He says he can't walk any slower.
We find the cave of the Seven Sleepers eventually. We cannot get inside as there is a grate blocking the way. We climbed up above the cave and looked down at it. People had written prayers on cloth and tied them around the grating above. On the way down we got some cold water. It was a bit overpriced at 250,000TL/1.5 Liter but it was good cold.
It was an even longer walk to the Temple of Artemis. The temple did not look its best today. In fact it had not looked very good since it was burnt down in 356 BC by headline-hound Herostratos. He wanted to be famous and he was like the guy who killed John Lennon. This was once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is lost to us in large part because it was disassembled by Christians who were building the local St. John Basillica. There appears to be a belief that of you are stealing for your religion it is really okay. A lot of our history has been lost by plunderers trying to please their gods.
A tout selling flutes asked me what country I was from. It is always a mistake to tell since they have a spiel in your language, whatever it might be. I looked at him strangely when he asked in different languages. I finally decided to tell him. "Magyar Repooblic. Hongary." Mary Lynne said smiling "Buda-Pesh." There was a little too much grinning and he knew we were lying. Well, lying is a strong word. My mother's mother was born in Buda-Pesh. Her father was born in Baja. That is Baja, Hungary. But the flute salesman knew no Hungarian.
We continued our walk to town. It was not a lot further beyond the temple. We wanted to go to the museum, but lunch came first. I had Haydari and Octopus Salad. I mean, where else can you get octopus salad? Evelyn had Kofte. We continued on to the Museum of Ephesus. This is a museum to display the are found at Ephesus, as excavations are continuing. The exhibits include statues found at the site. Among the ones more familiar was Eros on a Dolphin. This motif could be familiar to the reader for the Alan Ladd, Sophia Loren film Boy on a Dolphin. Well, they couldn't call the film Eros on a Dolphin, now could they? There is also the Priapos with the large phallus. There are various carved heads. There is an Ethnographic Section with exhibits of life in the country. There are farm implements, there is a barbershop, that sort of thing. There is the head and arm from an emperor statue seven meters high. It is truly of impressive scale.
We got some small gifts for people at the museum. Outside we sat around waiting for one person or another. A shoeshine boy came up to me. The material of my shoes is leather, but not with the usual finish and I would not trust a shoeshine on the street. The boy asked me where I was from, again I was from the Magyar Republic. He wanted to give me a free sample of what he could do for my shoes on the top of one shoe. Of course once I let him do that the shoes would never look right unless he did this to the whole of both shoes, perhaps not even then if he did not know what he was doing. This struck me as a particularly bad idea. I got up walked away from him. After all there is little point in getting these shoes polished if tomorrow they would just look dusty again.
The rest of the day does not bear a lot of description. It was farbling over what we would do the next day, what Pat and Mary Lynne would do, etc. We had different ways to do various sites to choose from. From about 6pm on we were in our room writing.
I finished writing about 10pm and read some article I had brought and saved on my palmtop.
05/05/98: Near Selcuk: Prienne, Miletus, and
Not a good night's sleep. There was a street fight beneath our window. Two local gangs of toughs clashed. The Rational Empiricists had a serious set-to with the Logical Positivists. All I really know is that there was a lot of barking as the two canine gangs had it out.
I have often wondered why dogs bark. In the wild, dogs never bark. It is only domesticated dogs that bark. I wonder if dogs are really imitating human language in about as well as they are able to coordinate. If wild dogs were domesticated by mutes, would they bark?
As I have noted before dogs are treated differently in Turkey than they are at home. I think they are put out at night and there are a lot more that are homeless and have to fend for themselves. People assume they are fierce, asocial creatures and so they become that way. The two or three dogs that I have shown some affection toward have turned immediately affectionate and responsive, though it could be the real toughs avoid people. The dog I encountered the first day apparently knew she (or he) was frightening the little girl, and was trying to avoid an incident. At least some of the dogs would be more domestic given a chance.
Well, that was something like 4:45. At 5am was the call to prayer. That is on a loudspeaker. You get that in any country with a large Islamic population, but in Egypt just about everything stops. This is a much more liberal country and I have seen no prayer times when lots of people unroll mats and pray.
After that Evelyn went into the bathroom and turned on the light but since the bathroom door has a glass window it sort of lit up the bed. It is now about 6:30. We are now about at the 3/7 point in the trip.
We have a fly in our room. I don't know if this fly is representative of flies in Turkey in general but she is particularly aggressive. Shoo her away and she just returns or goes to bother Evelyn. Perhaps she is trying to tell us something. "Please come to my carpet store." At home I have an insect net I would use to capture this beastie and put her outside. Here I have no such appliance.
I was a little surprised at how late I heard relatively young children playing yesterday. It must have been 10pm and they were still making noise and playing games. I am not sure what the school requirement is. You certainly see children out selling shoeshines on the street when their American counterparts are in school.
We are talking about what is Turkish to bring as gifts. Evelyn suggests Turkish Delight. French Fries are not really French, but Turkish Delight is really Turkish. In the late 18th century Ali Muhiddin wanted to make a candy that was easy to chew and swallow. The thing is that he had various sticky soft gums, but if you put two of them touching, they became hard to separate. He came up with the idea of using up all the stickiness holding powdered sugar. He coated the pieces and then it didn't matter that they were sticky and gummy. The candy was popular in the Imperial Palace with the Sultan's family. That was all it took to be popular throughout Turkey. Westerners discovered the candy in Turkey and dubbed it Turkish Delight.
The number of languages people seem to know here impresses me. I guess it is important if you are dealing with tourists, but the number is large even by European standards.
We had the same breakfast we have had pretty much every day. After breakfast I went down on the street for water and ran into the Sammons. I said goodbye to them once again. We seem to be forever wishing them a good trip. Evelyn stayed in the room.
Evelyn says this may be our cheapest foreign trip ever. At the current rate it is $3500 for everything including photography, room, plane, everything. That is 875,000,000TL.
Our goal today is three sites of ruins. Each was fairly important in history. Each for different reasons. A one-day trip will get them all.
We were waiting for the minibus pickup early, but it was there early also. We picked up Hari, our guide for the day and another Canadian couple, Peter and Shirley Faris. They are retired and do a lot of travel. He taught school and has an interest in the classics. He is interested in the Mycenian era. Peter said we made a real mistake seeing Turkey before Greece. Greece will be a lot more expensive and less rewarding. The people will not be as nice as the Turks. We suspected as much. Rounding out our group is Uki, a Japanese woman traveling on her own.
We drive through hilly country on the way to Priene. We go past a flood plain. I would not have known it was a flood plan but Peter Faris knows his stuff. We get to the site and it is a stiff climb to the site even after you leave the bus. Here we can see Greek structure because it was not later taken over by the Roman. Hence we are seeing the oldest ruins of the day. At 300 BC this was a meeting place of the League of Ionian Cities. In other words, it was a convention site. It has a theater for secular ceremonies and for plays.
We have sunny weather. The city was placed high on a hill with a rock ledge for support and serving as protection. The guide talked about the childish gods of the time saying it really was not much of a religion. I guess the gods represented little to respect besides power. The temples really became places of business, making loans and being places for merchants. The gold became a motive for the destruction of the temples. The Greek Gods really were a corruption of Babylonian gods and later were corrupted to become the Roman gods. The initial gods were female. To my mind this makes sense because the gods probably are recreations of parent figures we had as small children. Babies have parents who usually take care of them, and who are relatively powerful. That image is imprinted on us. When people grow up they recreate parent figures as gods. Anyway, that is what I think is for me a believable basis of religion.
The columns were fluted and I asked the guide how many ridges the Greeks used. He guessed it would be about 21. We counted and it was 24, the number I would have expected because of its divisors.
The valley below is the Menderes River Valley, but it was at one time the Meander River Valley, giving us a new word. I asked about not the foods in the diet-olives, grapes, and figs, some lamb-but how did they eat them. Given the ingredients of a cake would one necessarily figure out what a cake is like? Too often what we are told is the ingredients of a diet and not really the food that is eaten. He suggested there was little preparation. Simple grilling and frying. I am less than convinced. Otherwise he thinks of these as being highly creative people. Evelyn says that in the Iliad it says people throw meat on the fire and don't even eat vegetables. But I think we know that is unlikely because that is a very bad diet. I think that is the Homeric poet buying into "Real men don't eat quiche." It makes them sound more primal to say they ate that way. These are people who had dairy products and meat. I think we have just lost to history what it was that the ancients really ate. They also had short lifespans, of course. Dying at 50 was living a long time. The guide tried to get us wondering about how the ancients built these buildings. Slaves were not good for labor because you spent too much effort taking care of the slaves. (Of course if you don't care about your slaves dying on you it can be much more efficient to use slave labor, as the Germans discovered in the 1940s.) But the guide sort of hinted that there might have been mystical methods behind the construction. We saw the theater. We were told some of the basic aspects. This theater as not used for animal fights since the front seats were not raised enough to prevent animals from getting at the audience. You know how embarrassing that can be if the lion on the stage jumps out and starts tearing up the paying customers.
Leaving the site we have a stop for apple tea and to talk. I am not sure this is the best use of our time. We talk about languages and alphabets. Especially the trouble when Turkey changed to the Roman alphabet and the older works that can now be read only by experts. We talked about food. Shirley has a disease that is a problem with eating gluten. We talked about substitutes and eating rice.
Back when I was in the 7th grade I had to do a report on an assigned subject. I got Miletus. I was excited because I was hoping he was a classic scientist. I was always fascinated with the people who made advances in apparently primitive times. It turned out it was a city, but at least it had scientists. Our next stop was to see in the flesh the city I wrote about. Thales, philosopher and scientist from the beginning of the 6th century BC, lived here and made it a colony of philosophers known as the Milesians. He predicted the solar eclipse of 585 BC a year in advance of the event and it took place. Thales said that everything in the world is made of water. He also was a practical man, the first good businessman recorded in Greek history. He bought up olive presses when they were not in use, then when the olive crop was harvested he made himself rich.
Hippodamus of Miletus invented the grid system for city layout and Priene actually used it. A heating system for Roman baths was invented in Miletus. The Greeks who lived here grew tired of Persian dominance and revolted in 499 BC. Persia utterly destroyed the city five years later as well as the temple it controlled at Didyma.
Like Priene, Miletus was once a port city. These days it is a good distance from the water, something like nine miles, proving Mark Twain was wrong when he said they don't make real estate any more. Miletus has a theater and baths. Our guide threw into the discussion that Islam has a natural form of birth control that one must wash oneself after sex from head to foot and that is difficult to do in places like Saudi Arabia where there is so little water. Also we saw the remains of Pompey's house. It celebrated Pompey's defeat of the sea pirates. Pompey however became something of a pirate himself. (I think that story was repeated often later. It seems to me that it was one of the great pirates who was initially sent by the English government to fight pirates and instead became one. People who saw the film Cleopatra may remember what happened to Pompey from the beginning of that film. When he became enough of a threat, Julius Caesar was sent to kill him. Pompey fled to Egypt and was given friendly sanctuary by the feuding Ptolemys-Cleopatra and her brother. When Julius Caesar arrived to try to capture him, Cleopatra's brother wanted Caesar to side with him. He was presented Caesar with Pompey's head in a jar of oil. Rather than winning Caesar's favor he won only Caesar's disgust and anger. No Roman citizen, no matter how bad could be treated this way by a non-Roman. Pompey was a Roman first and a criminal second to Caesar. In the conflicts between Cleopatra and her brother, Caesar immediately started favoring Cleopatra. And the rest is cinema. Actually the film Cleopatra is overblown and at times dull but the history is really quite accurate.
Our guide takes us to an onyx stand but Evelyn and I are not interested. Shirley buys an onyx bowl for $8. Back on the bus. It is nice to talk and look at the scenery. I am expecting another big site like Miletus. Instead our site is almost like the town square, but it is the magnificent remains of a temple. Then Peter looks at the columns and says "nice Doric columns." I claim that the columns with the scrollwork at the top are Ionic. Peter, who seems to know what he is talking about insists they are Doric. A little while later I quietly ask the Hari what is the difference and why are these Doric? He says that Ionic columns taper. Since when? Peter, if you ever read this the tall columns had scrollwork like on page 333 of the Lonely Planet, not flat pads like on page 155. For those who are interested Corinthian are illustrated on page 498.
Before we see it, it is time for lunch and there is a buffet across the street. There is not much meat on the buffet, but this is a good way to try several different dishes. The best is the Haydari and the fried eggplant. I get a Cappy cherry nectar to drink. Over lunch we discuss travel and Turkish baths.
On to the temple at Didyma. This is a spectacular temple with an oracle who, like the oracle at Delphi, was expert at giving enigmatic and useless answers to questions. Once again the scale is spectacular. Five adults cannot reach around it. Hari again tells us that we have no idea how they could have built this temple. I comment to Evelyn that if we knew how they did it would spoil the trick. We see a holy well the drinking from which gave the oracle his power to answer questions or the chutzpah to sidestep them.
As we walked around Hari, our guide, told us that the people who built this temple may have had entirely different ways of thinking. He says that the goal of all religions is to make people Supermen. And it was the religion of the ancients that allowed them to build these temples. He said that they may have known about the vibrations in all matter and might have been able to use vibrations to control matter. The tight vibrations might actually make people invisible. They might be able to lift stone. Now what is interesting is that we had heard almost the same suggestion from our guide in Mexico. At Tula he told us that the ancient peoples had a horn and by striking a tuning fork and amplifying the sound with the horn, they could levitate solid stone. Yes, it sounded like this guide, like our Mexican guide, had been to the Tourist Guide School for Technical Hokum. Yes, these people attacked problems differently than we do. We don't know their techniques. But where do people get all these mystical ideas about vibration? People have the darnedest ideas that all things vibrate at different frequencies. Individual molecules may have motion. But it is not cyclical in the way that a wave is cyclical. You can force some objects to vibrate, but you get nothing mystical out of them. Ancient peoples did some wonderful engineering marvels, yes with minds very different from ours. But there is no reason to think that the means they devised for doing work was anything we would not understand today. There is a big difference between unknown and incomprehensible. I don't know how a Turkish woman makes fried bread. I cannot comprehend what goes on in her mind. But if I saw how she made breakfast, I would understand it. I don't assume she has mystical powers.
Supposedly we were going to stop at a jeans factory. That is dropped from the tour and it may be as a mark of respect. Most places tour guides get a kickback for taking tourists to someplace they can be sold to. Hari may have realized from the questions he got that these tourists were above that. Just a guess.
As we drive I notice how many olive trees there are in this region. I learned today to recognize olive trees. They really are olive drab. They have leaves a sort of gray-green. They almost look like they are in a different light.
I am half-tempted to take a picture of a soldier with a machine gun, but I probably won't. It would be fairly easy to snap a picture from the window of the bus. It is very unlikely they would notice me and even more that they would chase a bus for the image of one of their soldiers. You see these guys on the street all the time. But it would be breaking Turkish security. It isn't a crime to wanna; only to actually do it.
By the end of the day my canteen is fairly empty. We can get water in .5 and 1.5 liter bottles. We use the big bottles as stock bottles and the .5 litter bottles as canteens. Water is a gourmet item here like wine. You have experts who can taste a brand and know what spring it came from. I don't know the flavors, but really cold water is really good stuff. Between the meat meals and the exercise in the sun, cold water tastes really, really good to me these days. And it is healthy. The only problem is that it is heavy and filling. You don't want to carry too much at once. If you drink too much you are really uncomfortable and even more so if your mouth goes dry.
Well we got back to Selcuk. We let off Yuki at her hotel but she was almost immediately rounded up as were the four of us were dragged into a tourist office for a sales pitch on upgrading our $6 bus trip to Pamukkale to a $50 guided tour. It was never clear what the advantages were. Eventually Shirley was asking questions in a civil but animated way and our salesman thought he'd try another tack. "Madam, don't talk to me like that!" This was the last straw and Shirley responded "Don't you talk to me like that!" We all stormed out. I don't think this guy was a very good salesman.
We got back in our minibus and were taken back to our hotel. Evelyn wanted to call her mother so we went to the post office and with a little effort she figured how to phone. They did not have a phone booth but they had the phone behind the safety deposit boxes. I was a little surprised to see that the back door to the safety deposit boxes was locked with a bicycle lock. We decided to sit outside the post office and watch the passing parade. We talked to a couple from Colorado who were also making a phone call. Then we walked around the center of town, warding off restaurant hawkers.
We did do some talking to a carpet salesmen about Bill Gates and America. When it was clear we would not buy a carpet we became his evening's entertainment. He gave us what he called plums, but they are more like apples. It seems to be a popular local fruit. We talked to another salesman on the way back. I suggested to him that with five carpet shops in a row there is too much competition. He really should go into another business. He said it was the culture, but I assume he really knows what he is doing. A carpet can cost $1800. You don't have to sell many at that price in Turkey.
Back at the hotel we went up to the roof terrace, but found it mostly dark. So back to the room. There was a lot of noise in street, to me it sounded like a motorcycle rally. I preferred the dogs.
05/06/98: Transit Selcuk to Pamukale
I woke up at 3am with digestive problems. Apparently something at the restaurant last night did not quite agree with me. No muscle aches or anything of the sort that usually accompanies this sort of thing.
We went up early to breakfast. Meals are served on the roof terrace. Then down to get our luggage. I guess it called "luggage" meaning "that which is lugged." We went down to the desk to pay and there was nobody there. We rang the doorbell and still nobody came. I took off my pack and ran upstairs. I paid the owner. He asked where we were going next. I drew a blank. I could not think of the name of the next place. And he could tell I did not know it. "Konya," I said. That wasn't a lie. We will get to Konya eventually. "You have a ticket?" "Yes, we are all set." Now he probably knew no bus was leaving for Konya, but he let it pass. I got halfway down the stairs and the name Pamukkale came back to me. I could turn around and tell him, but that would seem even more stupid. One of the great joys of living is the knowledge that most people in front of whom you have made a complete ass of yourself will never see you again and don't even think about you. At least that was true until the Internet came along.
Well, I got downstairs got on my pack and we headed off for the bus station. We pass by a school. Instead of bells ringing they play Fur Elise when you go between classes. It sounds like a good idea gone bad. If they had different melodies that would be one thing. This way the kids will always associate Fur Elise with something painful.
There is a sculpture in front of the school showing a head split apart and held together by a blindfold over the eyes. It is about four feet from top to bottom. Evelyn's interpretation is that it is a human rights message. Amazing how when we first see artwork that is abstract we assume it agrees with our own philosophy. To me what is keeping things together is restraints placed by others.
We got to the bus station early and sat and waited. The Farises showed up a little later, also going to Pamukkale. We talked to them. It turns out that we are taking a minibus. There are only a handful of people going to Pamukkale. I thin that Evelyn is not really happy about this. A minibus cannot offer either the comfort or the service of the big buses. I think we have grown used to the big buses, which are really the most popular means of travel in Turkey.
Maybe it is a sign of age but I am enjoying the travel days more than I used to. You actually do learn a fair amount looking from the window of a bus. They are not such strenuous days. The thought of climbing long distances uphill as we are doing so many days of this trip is just not appealing to me. Turkish buses are a really enticing way to spend a day. Travel days even give me a chance to get caught up on my log.
In the bus the discussion turns to what a theologian really does. (Peter was first a theologian, then a school administrator, and then a high school English teacher.) He studies history but also looks at systems of religious thought. We have a discussion with the guy sitting next to us in the minibus. He is on a four-month vacation. They went to places we had been on other trips. They had been to Kenya. They saw lions trying to take down an elephant, or so they claim. The elephants were in the brush. The lions were sitting and just waiting for the elephants to come out. One came out of the brush, sensed the lions and trumpeted. The elephants formed a circle facing out so the lions would have to attack right into those tusks. Ah, elephant is tough meat anyway.
After a while we stop for a beverage. I have a cherry nectar, my favorite drink in Turkey. Apple tea comes second. But neither is really Turkish. We talk with the Farises about opera. As we go the roads get a lot worse. We are getting into the interior, toward the real Turkey though we won't see much of it firsthand on the tourist routes. We can see some of it from the bus windows. After a while we pull off the main road to a side road. We pass through some towns. I am a little surprised to see school children in jackets and ties in small villages, both because it is so formal and because it is so Western.
As we get to Pamukkale we see what looks like icy cliffs incongruously in the hot sun. It is actually a calcium precipitate. They are the big attraction in this area. As we pull in it is almost like being in Agra, India, again. Touts trying to get you to go to their hotel swarm the minibus. We and the Farises go to the Ozturk. They had it recommended by the owners of the last place. We have a bunch of people carry our luggage, unrequested. Shirley and I check out the rooms. It is pleasant enough and fairly Western in style. I tell Evelyn it is along the lines of a Ramadan Inn. She does not get it. It is going to be a long trip.
The staff of pension seem to be all on family. We get a very homey family feel. They have us choosing our dinner before we have even decided on a room. We pick fresh trout, Mother's special kabap, yogurt, and tomato salad. We don't even have a room number yet so they dub us the dark-hairs and the Farises as the gray-hairs.
We drop our stuff and get ready to go explore. Back on the street it feels like a dead New Mexico town. The sun is beating down, there is nobody on the streets but flies. We walk to the bus station. There is somebody resting out front. We go into the office. "Hello?" No response. We wait about 15 minutes and nobody shows up. Now what? We talk to the young man outside bus station, pulling Turkish phrases from the book. He looks at us but does not react. We ask next door at the little market (these little markets are not like 7-Elevens, they have about 16 square feet of floor space for the customer. They have just about enough space to get to the cooler. They tell us we can get bus reservations at the Koray. That is next door to our pension. As we are walking back we run into the Farises so go as a group. We go to the Koray to make arrangements. It is a little fancier than our pension. The man behind the desk makes arrangements. He also tells us that the Ozturk owners are lazy and do not run their pension very well. He gives them a list of hotels in other cities that are good, but he says do not show the list to the owners of the Ozturk. The capper was when he pulled out a half-inch thick stack of Koray business cards and asks the Farises to give them to their next hotel. I guess hotels are a cutthroat business.
We continue our exploration walking toward the white cliffs. It is a little problem figuring how to get in, but I suggest we go the way the tour buses are letting people off. We pay to get in. There is a long path up the cliff right through the white area. We climb part of the way up and have to get our shoes wet crossing one white pool. The water washes over the side of the cliff leaving calcium residue. A man with a whistle tells us we have to take our shoes off and climb the path barefoot. Peter is well-used to walking barefoot. He did it as a child jumping from rocks to rocks and running through fields. Evelyn had done some barefoot walking delivering mail. Shirley and I are complete tenderfeet. I have it worse than she does because I weigh more than she does by a fair amount and both she and I have dainty little feet. We step on something sharp and it hurts. A lot. And the way up has smooth patches moderately painful to walk on and gravelly parts which hurt like the dickens. It was about a 45-minute climb and it was painful. Great, I am spending my vacation ripping up the bottoms of my feet to climb a slime cliff. Evelyn tells me it is not a slime cliff. Sure enough the Lonely Planet corrects me. The water is scummy, not slimey. The European visitors must do more barefoot walking than I do. I was really happy to reach the top. Shoes are such a convenience. The pools are an interesting shape. They have walls around them from evaporation from the outer edge.
It was a real pleasure stopping for a drink of Coke. The topic of discussion was Shakespeare interpretations. Also movies. We continued on to the Hieropolis, and some very well preserved ruins. These had been Roman baths and a cure center. There is a Byzantine church, there is another latrina. There was some good photography here.
The time came to go down and we were not sure we could find the other route. Also we could not find how far it was. Eventually we decided on a cab. I sat in front with the driver while the others piled in the back. The driver gave us freshening cologne like on the buses. The driver put rock music on the radio. I asked for Turkish. First he put on a radio station, then he popped in a cassette. It had a really good beat. He snapped the fingers on one hand to the beat. I started snapping my fingers to the same beat. I did it with both hands. On the straightaway he took his hands off the wheel and either snapped with both fingers or clapped. I did a sort of modified Zorba the Greek dance only sitting down. The two of us were having a high old time. Evelyn asked how he was steering. I told her I would give her a hint.
When he clapped, that was not the sound of one hand clapping.
The driver left us off in town. He was still snapping his fingers as he drove away. Back at the Ozturk a shower felt very good.
Evelyn came out from the shower dressed for swimming. She thought it would feel good. Usually I am the one lobbying for us to swim. I was honor-bound to join her. Down at the pool it was another matter. The local water is full of calcium and is cloudy. There was no way to tell how deep he water was. I would have gone in up to my waist, but I did not want to dive in where I did not know how deep it was. And that went double for Evelyn. We t by the side of the pool and talked. The Farises went out to try to get money at the bank, but failed. We talked to them for a while and then went in to get dressed for dinner.
During and after dinner we had a discussion a long discussion with the Farises. We were there from 7 until 10. We talked about religion and books and deconstructionism.
I showed Peter my way of diagramming the plot of a story. It seems I went to see Richard II in London, April 1989, and had no idea what the story was. I tend to get confused about who is who in a Shakespeare play. The program had the plot, but on first reading I said I would never keep it straight. On the spot I invented plot diagramming. Each character is represented by a bubble in a diagram. The character's name is written in a bubble. Actions and relations are represented as arrows between bubbles also with labels. By thus making the plot visible on paper every character somehow was clearly delineated in my mind. I find this technique extremely useful reading novels, watching films, keeping straight the plot of stories I am about to see, etc. (I would love to hear from readers who try this technique and find it useful and/or have comments on it.) I thought this method seemed mathematical so I asked Peter what he thought our training was because we were discussing Shakespeare and literature so much I assumed we might have fooled him into thinking that was our field. Without hesitation he said, "You're mathematicians." "Had I told you already?" "No, but mathematics is very visual." I thought that was extremely insightful.
Peter had wanted to find books to complete his collection of G. A. Henty books. We told him about bibliofind on the web. We discussed science fiction and fantasy and Toyotas and the Y2K computer problem.
After a while Evelyn said it was time to pack it in. We headed up to our room. Evelyn went to bed fairly quickly; I worked on my log and went to sleep at 10:30 or so.
05/07/98: Transit Pamukale to Konya
Now we are well into the second half of the trip. I still have not finished my log from May 5. Luckily we have a seven-hour bus ride. Peter was commenting on one of the advantages of my palmtop while we were riding on very bumpy roads yesterday. It would be impossible to hand-write a log under those conditions. It is a bit more difficult to type a log, but it is still very possible. Another advantage is that I can write the log out of chronological order. I always did do that to a small extent, even when I wrote by hand my logs, but there it is a complex affair cross references to pages that were hard to find. It made the log hard to type in. The computer completely removes that problem. You cannot tell from the finished product that I am writing about May 7 before some of our activity on May 5. I have a different file for each day. The May 5th one is currently m05.txt. And I have a string of equal signs in the file indicating that it is complete up to that point. When the equals are pushed to the bottom of the file I delete them and I rename the file, deleting the suffix. I know the file m04 is pretty much complete but not necessarily unchanging. If I think of something I want to add to a previous description I can search for a keyword in the whole log. If it turns up in m04 I might still be changing that file.
I woke up about 6 but breakfast was 7:30. When we go down the Farises are already eating. The owner brings out special fried bread. Homemade, of course. The owner brings out gifts including a bracelet and charm. Also there is a pack of postcards. Then we have to pay for the rooms, etc. The Farises used the services more than we did. They were not happy with the bill. While they were discussing it the owners said that they may have charged high and start cutting some of the prices. After breakfast we bid farewell to the Farises, certainly two of the more interesting travel companions we have had. We pay our bill. Maybe a bit high by Turkish standards, but still fairly reasonable.
It is still a bit early for the bus so we wait in the room. At the appointed time we leave and the owners of the Ozturk wish us goodbye. They give us business cards for us to give other travelers. We go to the Koray to get our ride to the bus. It is almost ridiculous. They take us to what would be a ten-minute walk away. We could have walked it easily. It is a small drink stand with a table. There we wait for the next bus. That will take us to the big bus terminal. The man running it asks us "Would you like something to drink?" Basically it he lets people sit at his table waiting for buses in the hopes of selling something. The town has three or four layers of bus terminals and bus sub-terminals.
We have to be careful with our money. It is not because things are expensive. The money machines just don't want to give very much. Getting money is really difficult here. We don't want to use up our money. We are sort of artificially poor.
We have taken a pay bus to Denezli and are waiting in the terminal for the bus. Next to us a family is sitting on the tiled floor and eating the lunch they seem to have brought. They have a loaf of bread and a metal dish with vegetables. I am trying to find something unique about this bus terminal but aside from the language and the Islamic head coverings of the women this looks a lot like a standard bus terminal. It is a little more open air and it is lined with a lot more stalls serving drinks. I pass a large vertical turning spit of lamb, what we call gyros. Our bus pulls in and we start to board. Someone stops us and asks to see our ticket. He pulls us into the bus terminal to the bus company desk. They rewrite our ticket. Probably because it was a hotel who wrote the ticket it has to be re-written. Earlier we were assigned seats 15 and 16, now it is 5 and 6. There are layers of middlemen. We get on the bus and a few minutes after the appointed 11am it pulls out.
The woman ahead of me is reading a newspaper called Asabi. The front page features a wordless news story. It just has the picture. Apparently it is important news when an attractive blond wearing only the bottom half of a bikini looks over her shoulder to smile at a news camera. No other major newspaper seems to be covering the story. The reader has her head covered in the conservative Turkish way, in accordance with the laws of Islam. Turkey is a land of contradiction. What land isn't?
The buses are really the popular mode of travel in Turkey. What the trains are to India, the buses are to Turkey. And they make every effort to make bus travel pleasant. I don't know why they pour cologne in your hands on the buses. I suppose the people are poor and some may not smell good. This way the buses always smell fresh. Next they come around with water. Perhaps this is a Middle Eastern welcome. It seems like it could be. Then they come around with Coca-Cola.
We drive past a large stratified stone mountain. Little scrubby trees growing out of it. You could film a Western here. Not as many nice rock formations as Utah, but we could be in the Western US.
At about 12:15 we stop for a rest stop, possibly lunch. It is sort of a gas station and a large covered outdoor restaurant. A shop sells touristy items. There are bead-covered bags, calendars, scarves, and instant "Turkish" apple tea. A "market" has candy, racks of the ever-present Doritos. They seem to have more varieties of Doritos than we have at home. Also Ruffles. It would be interesting to know how much of this is bought by Turks and how much by tourists. I am not sure which would be the bigger pity. Here comes another splash of cologne.
I make faces at the little boy in the seat ahead of me. He must be about three. I thought I was helping to entertain him but eventually he is swinging his arms and crawling on his parents. I figure he needs some benign neglect. We are now going through some gently hilly farmland. Another three ounces of Coca-Cola.
More driving, more writing. We stop in a town for ten minutes as we go into a somewhat deserted otogar. We do find a stand open to get some snacks. The man counts up the cost of our snacks, tells us the value and short changes us by 100,000TL. Evelyn caught it. He could have told us the sum of the good was more and we would not have known. But if the price was alti-yuz-something and you expect to get at least 300,000TL back. Two 100,000 bills and a coin won't do it. Evelyn had to write the figures down and the man finally accepted that we could do Turkish arithmetic.
We got some cookies, some rod-like sesame crackers (really more breadsticks), and a bag of something mysterious. They were the size of peas, were brown with burn spots, and had very little flavor. Bite into them and they become a fine powder. Slightly peanut in taste. They turned out to be roasted chickpeas.
The steward comes around with the making of hot tea. I am not a big hot beverage person and on a bumpy bus even less so. The driver's tray is full and a teabag (in cellophane) falls to the floor. He goes down to pick it up and his stack of cups falls over and more falls off his tray. I pick things up for him and he thanks me. He asks me if I want tea or coffee. No to both, but when he offers cola I say yes. He is not serving cola now but because I was helpful to him, he brings cups for Evelyn and me. A small thanks for a small favor, but it reminds me how nice most of the Turks really are.
Well we got into Konya and tried a recommendation we went to the Otel Petek. It is a tiny room though it does have both a double and a single bed for $16 a night. The place is something of a dump and second only to Salihli as the worst room we have stayed in. But that seems to be how things are in Konya, which seems like an older city. In fact local legend would have it that this the oldest city. When the great flood receded the first place that the waters left was Konya. Actually it is a city about 7000 years old, so it may well be the oldest city I ever visit.
This is the first city we have been in that does not have a lot of Western tourists and you really can feel a difference. There are no carpet salesmen haranguing you. In fact there are still some touts, but not very many. In general you get left alone. Carpets are not the big thing here and I would never have guessed what it is. Believe it or not the really big sales item is cigarette lighters. That is the item you see being hawked on the streets the most. Not only that, there are a bunch of stands set up to refill empty lighters. What kind of economy has that as the main consumer item?
We did find some stands selling the worry beads also. You see a lot of people carrying them. Evelyn very cleverly suggested that they would make a good chachka item.
Well we went out to try to dinner, but first find a bank machine for money. Finding a bank machine has not been the problem. But this one would actually give us a decent amount of money. We are no longer poor. We are once again solvent. Our first thing to do is to find dinner. It was easy to find all sorts of shops including a few sweet shops but when you are looking for a place to eat dinner, that is not so easy. We found a kabap shop finally and tried to communicate. The place was dark and smoky. We ordered one thing off the menu and they were out. Two others they had out of maybe ten. Well, we picked the right thing. We translated some of the other things on menu and found they were things like trotters. We got a regular and a spicy meatball sandwich with coucous, grill tomato and pepper, and lettuce and onion salad. That a Pepsi and a tea came to $4.40 and they had to send out to get the beverages to two different places. But the meal was pretty good.
After that we went walking. We got some ideas for restaurants. This seems to be a very religious town. The vast majority of women cover their hair. Supposedly alcohol is very hard to find.
There seems to be a sort of Central Park. This is the Alaettin Tepesi. (A Tepe is a hill. This is the hill with the Alaettin Mosque.) We walked once around it looking at the shops across the street. Some seemed a little more upscale. Not like Manhattan, but not small and falling apart either.
I suggested we go find the other hotel that was recommended to us. It is a little further out. It takes us a while to find it but it is a pleasant clear night. We find it and while we are thinking of going in the owner practically pulls us in and insists we look at a room. I do and the room is just okay. It is nothing special. It is also three flights up (like our room) and costs $24 a night. We will probably stay where we are. We come down stairs and the owner has already made tea for us and is ready to give us a high pressure talk. Of course he is at a real disadvantage. He speaks only Turkish and French. And French is definitely not the Lingua Franca. We pull away and are out the door making a clean getaway.
Back at the room Evelyn starts a wash. We both drink water like fiends. We really need a lot of water in this climate. We have to buy a 1.5 liter bottle a day. The problem I run into is my throat and mouth are dry telling me I am thirsty, but my stomach is full. Maybe I should not eat such spicy food.
We went into the lounge. There were two men and a boy watching Turkish TV. The program almost seems like the old American idiot favorite "Queen for a Day." It seems to be some sort of panel program where a woman in tears tells some sort of story to dramatic music playing in the background and the panel discuss what she is saying. I think there has been more than one woman on, all completely in tears. They say nothing without crying. I have not figured out what the program can possibly be about.
This is the first real Turkish TV I have seen. What do they have on? "Wheel of Fortune." The Turkish edition, but easily recognizable. Another program comes on in Turkish but it is clearly Steve Gutenberg. I wonder if he knew he spoke Turkish. Another program is music video. Then they put on the news. That is quickly replaced by a situation comedy whose bad acting transcends the language barrier.
Back in the room I listened to Radio Moscow, now called Voice of Moscow. I hadn't realized they changed the name. The toilet, once flushed, makes noise for 20 minutes if it doesn't get stuck. If more than 20 minutes pass and it still sounds like a waterfall, then you go in and jiggle it. This room is somewhat overpriced for Turkey. Especially considering that this is one of the few places where breakfast is not included. The window is cracked. The bedclothes have stuff stuck to them like they have not been washed in the 1990s. In Goreme we will choose more carefully.
In The Grapes of Wrath Ma Joad asks her son about his days in prison "Did it make ya mean, son?" I was up past midnight writing in my log. At 4:36 I found out we were right next to a mosque that uses electric amplification to wake people up in a call to prayer. I wonder if I have found the reason there is so much anger in the Middle East.
Most religions have their mystics. In Judaism there is the Baal-Shem-Tov who founded Hassidism. In Islam it is Rumi, poet and founder of the whirling dervishes. The history of Konya is entwined with that of the mystic Rumi, known to his followers as Mevlana. Rumi was among other things a poet who wound his idea into poetry. He was the founder of the whirling dervishes. He was the son of an Islamic scholar and mystic and himself became an even greater Islamic scholar and mystic with extremely loyal followers. Their very loyalty would cause serious problems.
He became the very close and intimate friend of another scholar and mystic, Shams of Tabriz. Rumi was loved but Shams was so devout that nobody could stand him. One day he asked Allah who could stand his company. A mystic voice asked, what will you give in return? Shams offered his head. The voice told him of Rumi. Shams and Rumi met and began an uninteruptable mystic conversation. It is said to have gone on for months without need for sleep or food or any human necessities. The followers of Rumi became jealous. Shams saw what was happening and disappeared without a trace. Rumi's response was to return to his students but also to bury himself in his art but also to listen to music and sing spin for hours until his dizziness brought mystical visions.
Rumor came that Shams was in Damascus and Rumi sent for him. When they met again it is said that each threw himself at the other's feet (which is a little hard to picture) and began worshiping the other. Again with the long conversations. Again the student jealousies. One day a conversation was interrupted with a message that Shams was wanted at the back door. Shams went to the back door and was never heard from or seen again. That was Saturday, December 5, 1248. Rumi was inconsolable, but life goes on. Rumi named the next book of his poems The Works of Shams of Tabriz but people knew better. Rumi continued to write poetry, mysticize, and teach until his death on Sunday, December 17, 1273. It was called his marriage day because he was united with Allah.
Rumi's students picked up the spinning mania and are called the whirling dervishes. They wear distinctive robes with long skirts and fezes and spin as they meditate. These days they may just spin as a performance. The dervishes were to Islam much what the flagellants were to Christianity. They were an order with curious, colorful customs that wielded power. They were monarchist, archconservative, and xenophobic. Ataturk saw the dervishes as a force dangerous to progress and abolished them, having the monasteries turned into museums, as well as the shrine to Rumi/Mevlana.
The Dervishes have since become almost an act. I seem to remember seeing them on Ed Sullivan, though I could be wrong. They wear fezes, white jackets and long flowing robes. As they spin the robes fly out making them look almost bell-like. Most who see them do not realize the hat is really a symbol of a tombstone, the jacket a symbol of the coffin and the robes a symbol of the death shroud. They seem very much alive as they spin, however. It is interesting that while alive they have special headgear symbolic of death and Rumi's tomb has a large turban on top, the headgear of the living.
Breakfast is extra in a hotel already a bit dirty and overpriced. We snacked a little on cookies in the room and I drank some cherry nectar. I found something nasty-looking sticking to the blanket from some previous tenant leading me to believe they let things go from the days that prompted the Lonely Planet to say the place was clean.
Our first stop was the Mevlana Museum, a combination tomb, shrine, and museum. Here we have the sarcophagus of Rumi and his son and the Sultan a the time. As you come in there are the turbaned sarcophagi of some of Rumi's followers. The tops of each tomb are in the form of turbans. It is thought that April rains bring healing. April rains are collected and the ends of the turban on Rumi's tomb is dipped in the water then daubed onto the ill.
You pass by the sarcophagi and see a tiny museum of Islamic artifacts including more of the beard of the prophet. There are antique copies of the Koran. Visitors should not miss the ceilings. There is a painting with dervishes. There are two giant rosaries, each with 99 beads each about an inch in diameter. As I was looking at the rosaries a visitor clapped me on the back and said "Salaam aleichum" which is Arabic for either "Welcome, friend." Or, "move over I want to see also," at least in this context.
Part of the same museum is a shop that is part museum with classic carpets, some amateur paintings of whirling dervishes, etc. We went to a separate kiosk and got some souvenirs including another woven rug sample. Some music on cassette.
I got as our chachka a set of worry beads. This fits all the rules, it is small, cheap, closely associated with the place visited, and something a local might be likely to buy for himself. We had already bought a small piece of cloth woven in a carpet pattern. This was one more item for the chachka shelf.
An old man seemed excited by our vests, but I was not sure if it was positive or negative. He would point at the vests and then on one hand bring his fingers together as if trying to pinch something using all five fingers. He would say what sounded like "good." I had no idea what it was all about. It could be because they look vaguely military he thought they should not be in the mosque, but we were walking away from the mosque. Eventually it looked like we would not be able to communicate and we both gave up.
From there we walk the 3/4km walk to the Koyunoglu Museum. This whole museum is a private collection, in fact a large set of collections. None of the collection seems really large assuming we are seeing the whole collection, but there is a large amount on display. The admission is 100,000TL for locals and 250,000TL for tourists. It would be a little fairer if there was some in other languages, but the labeling is almost all Turkish. There is a collection of Neolithic tools, pottery, coins, fossils, rocks, stuffed birds, coins and bills. There is Islamic calligraphy including some long diagrams that could almost be kabalistic. There are historic photographs of Konya in the early parts of this century. There are collections of brass, a large one of carpets. After that there is a visit to a house from the late 19th century in Turkey. If the implication is that this was a typical house, one can only assume that the standard of living has dropped over the last century. I don't know if it is typical, but the guard follows you through the entire museum making sure you do nothing wrong.
As we left and walked back to the main street we passed a boy of ten or so and unusual frankness said, "Hello, money money."
As we were looking for a restaurant there was a sound like banging garbage cans and we could immediately see there was a collision of two cars. Both drivers immediately jump out and start arguing and gesticulating wildly. Like white blood cells people seem to come from nowhere to clog the damage site. We don't stick around but continue on to find a restaurant for lunch. We did not see the accident and certainly don't want to be witnesses.
We find a restaurant that sells a local specialty, firin kabap. It is basically mutton on bread. We also order half a roast chicken. While the food has been enjoyable for the time we have been here there is a certain monotony. We have had a lot of roast meat. We may not be getting the real Turkish cuisine. As in Scotland it may be difficult to find real local cuisine in restaurants.
When we are walking when people say hello to us it usually is a come-on for a sales pitch. We say "Merhaba" back, but not are really friendly. That is in part a mistake and we know it. When we stand in one place lots of people give us smiles and say hello and continue on their way. They are obviously just trying to be friendly. The Turks are a very friendly and fun-loving people. They are also aggressive sales people. And this creates a dilemma for the tourist who would like to be friendly with everyone and at the same time does not want to be pulled into a sales pitch. It is the identical problem we had in India, but there the percentages were a lot worse. Far fewer people tried to be friendly with no strings attached and I would guess there were four times as many aggressive tout contact per hour on the street. I think had we not been to India we would not appreciate Turkey and the Turks as much.
We went to the Great Karatay Seminary to see their collection of tiles but they were closed for lunch. We sat on a bench writing. A group of older schoolgirls in Islamic scarves sits down at the other bench and talk among themselves. I go off and get more water. We write a little longer. The school girls pick up and leave. One turns to us with a smile and says "good-bye." We smile back. "Good-bye. Gule Gule."
The Great Karatay Seminary was founded in 1251-1252. These days there is no seminary left, it is a museum of tilework. The first thing you should look at is the front door decorated with Koranic verses carved into the stonework. Very majestic. The museum is small, but it has a very impressive dome of geometrical designs. The first chapter of the Koran is written around the top. The museum has examples of all sorts of tile. It is interesting to see the sort of tessellation they use and how they hide it. (A tessellation is a covering of a flat plane always using one figure.) There are really only three kinds of tessellation. There is triangle, square, and hexagonal. You can recognize them by whether six, four, or three tiles come together at a corner. They have a tessellation alternating crosses and eight-pointed stars. That is really a variation on the square tessellation. Start with a checkerboard of red and black squares. Now for each red square, for each edge, add a little isosceles right triangle, its long side toward the edge. Do this all the way around and you have an 8-pointed star. But to do that you have had to cut a notch out of the neighboring black square. Each of the red squares neighboring the black square did that, so the black square becomes a cross. So you can perfectly tessellate with 8-pointed stars and crosses by deforming the checkerboard.
I would say these museums we were seeing were tiny, but there are things to see. The Seminary of the Slim Minaret was built in 1264 to be more impressive than the other seminary. The doorway is as impressive, but the dome is not so ornate. The slim minaret is not so impressive or so slim looking since lightning in 1901 knocked off the top two-thirds. The door is impressive, and inside is examples of decorative stonework. In Islam it is forbidden to show creatures with souls, but mythical creatures presumably do not have souls, or at least that seems to be what was assumed here. There are a lot of designs, Koranic quotes and a few stone images of fanciful creatures. Some of the Koran carvings look almost Celtic.
We spent about forty minutes looking for the Archeology Museum but concluded only that you cannot really trust maps in the Lonely Planet. This is not as useful a Lonely Planet Guide as the one for India. Tired, we walked back to the Alaettin park. There is a fancy tea garden and Evelyn suggested we stop for a drink. Somehow I always think these places are for other sorts of people. I had a Pepsi for 150,000TL and Evelyn had coffee 100,000TL. We sat for a while. The park is on a hill overlooking the street so it was a pleasant place to watch the passing parade. Eventually it was time to move on. We were continuing around the hill when three girl students stopped us to talk so they could practice their English. We talked to them about five minutes telling them that we liked Turkey and telling them what we did (and did not like). We continued on to the Alaettin Mosque on the hill. It was first finished 1221. It is in the process of being renovated. They are putting metal braces on the columns and the roofing. Inside it has lost a lot of the feel of the old mosques. You cannot really see the dome from the inside because a lowered ceiling has been put in. Now it just looks modern inside.
After that we headed back to our room. On the way we made a purchase. We decided to give the beads we bought this morning as a gift to a friend who requested we bring him back something from Turkey. We passed by a man selling Islamic beads and I after some discussion bought some beads that the seller claimed. I got his best beads and paid 600,000TL, about $2.40. He claimed they were carnelian, but I thought that carnelian was opaque and these are translucent. In any case they looked like they were decent quality.
The mystery of the man this morning is a little deeper. It made no sense that he was saying "good" talking about my vest. I had more or less ruled that out. But walking back to the room I passed a man selling the same hot pepper we see as a table spice in restaurants. Basically it is pepper flakes. I point it out to Evelyn and the man selling it says "good" and makes the same hand gesture putting all five fingers together as if trying to use all five fingers to hold a single poppy seed. So the old man was excitedly saying something about our vests and saying something about good.
We got back to the room to find the room had been made up, but there were no towels. It may well be that they think that there is no point in us getting towels since there is no water either so there is nothing to dry off. I start down the two flights to the desk to complain that we have no water and no towels. The unsold rooms have their doors open. I look into one and of course it has towels. Oops, no, my mistake. It is my room that has towels and this unsold room that doesn't.
At about 5:15 they turn on the cold water.
I started the short-wave listening to local stations on FM until the English language broadcasts came on. The BBC had a science program that talked about the recent detection observation of the largest space explosion ever detected. It was as if all the bright objects in the universe were compacted into a single location in space. I want to know more.
That ended at 7pm and we went out looking for a place to eat dinner. We found a place that specialized in chicken and had chicken on a spit like doner kabap. There is some sort of sports team eating there also. The waiter asks on of the girls to ask us whether we want the chicken as a sandwich or on a plate. She is wearing a Walkman. It is the same model Aiwa I have at home. Of mostly Islamic countries this one is one of the most liberal, and the standard of living, at least for some, is just about the highest. In most countries the military is the force of conservatism. Here it is the force keeping the country liberal and forward-looking. The non-poor do not want to see this become another Iran. The religious are free to be as religious as they want. The government does not want to let them force it on the unwilling. At least that is how I interpret things.
We each had a doner chicken submarine sandwich, effectively. Not a lot of chicken, but probably healthier.
Our hotel is just on the edge of a bazaar. Basically it is a lot of small shops in a small area. It is more convenient than what we would have since all the shoe shops are right together making it easier to compare. Elsewhere all the cloth shops are together.
It is now 8:55 and all the mosques seem to be competing with each other to chant. I am surprised anyone can make out the chanting from their own mosque.
Apparently a Swiss bank is being forced to turn over to Cambodia government funds deposited with the Swiss bank before the Marxist takeover, but the records of which have been lost. After the international grousing about Holocaust gold apparently Switzerland is getting very irritated at having to return deposits to both Jews and Cambodians and will ask the World Court for a clearer criteria. Just whose funds deposited in Swiss banks can the bank consider their own?
Voice of America is interviewing Basil Polidouris. The interviewer is just gushing over him as a great film composer. I probably agree, but Basil, what have you done for us lately? Independently of the quality of the film, if I had to choose the best single film score I ever heard I would have to choose Conan the Barbarian. For my taste it has the greatest spectrum of orchestral color. I can think of no score since Prokofiev that stands so well on its own. But you have not shown that degree of creativity in a good long time.
05/09/98: Transit: Konya to Goreme
I almost slept through the 4:40 call to prayer. Almost. If there is such a thing as aural chaos, it is having three mosques next to each other.
Well we were awake at 7 and the bus leaves at 9. If there are problems getting to the bus terminal, which I doubt, best to get them out of the way early. We put on full packs and head down to the desk. Nobody was at the desk. We knocked on the desk, but nobody came. I left 8,000,000TL on the desk with the key.
A mini-bus comes a way down the street and we run for it and ask "Otogar?" The driver shakes his head yes. Evelyn sits down in back. The driver gestures to me to take off my bags then to sit next to him in the front seat. This is sort of a place of honor. Drivers will frequently have a friend in this seat to talk to. Often the person in this seat will make change. He ask the usual questions. What language I speak. Where I am from. That sort of thing. Mostly we just drive and I see the streets and we listen to Turkish music. He has the money he has collected on a tray next to me. He moves it to the dashboard. Friendship is one thing, responsibility is another. When we get to the Otogar I thank him using the longer form. "Chok teshekul ederim." I get a big friendly handshake. These are the most friendly people in a country we have visited since China.
We got our ticket and sat down to wait. Our next challenge was getting breakfast. There were three stands in the bus station. All had almost exactly the same selection of baked goods. I went to the one near where Evelyn was sitting. I asked for a corn muffin and a pizza, 100,000TL and 200,000TL respectively. The boy behind the counter was surprised I wanted pizza at this hour. I nodded. Crazy American, I guess. I was told to pay the cashier first. You pay first and bring a receipt. I did. They grilled the pizza. Actually it was like a roll a foot long topped with meat, cheese and onion, though not much of the latter. Hot? Yes. So he folded it in half and grilled it on something like a waffle iron. It was pretty good. I wrote for a little while.
We get on the bus. There is a lot of arguing about something as the bus starts to leave. I suspect they have oversold the bus. They sell seats, not rides. A family of four can ride for the price of two if they keep the kids on the parents' laps.
We pass by a field where the army is training. The drill instructor sees the bus and waves at it.
Apparently if you total your car in an accident the state gets it and then leaves it at the side of the road as a ghoulish reminder to drive carefully. Usually you see this along rural roads but Konya had one in the center of town with a mannequin impaled on the broken windshield and basted with plenty of fake blood.
The radio playing on the bus has a time tone but time tones vary by as much as two seconds here depending on where you hear them,
The countryside is not really very interesting. These are the Steppes of Turkey. It is pretty flat. You see herds of sheep tended by shepherds.
There was a dead sheep by the road. I figure the shepherd leaves it there as a ghoulish warning to the other sheep to stay out of the road.
We stop at an otogar and the man ahead of me tells me that we will be here for ten minutes. I pass the word back to the English-speaking couple behind me. I bought a "bagel" at the stop and we talked to the people from behind us on the bus, a New Zealand couple who had not been to Anzac Day. They are also going to Goreme. We discussed the food and other pleasantries. They had been to LA, New York, and Israel. We discussed how friendly the Turks were compared to the Israelis. I wrote and napped a little.
At about 12:25 I saw an interesting rock formation in the distance and thought it would be good to get a picture. It looked like a big termite mound. The road took us closer and closer until we were in amongst what looked like a whole colony of termite mounds. The bus steward tapped me on the shoulder saying this was where I get off. Sure enough this was Goreme. By the time we were off the bus our luggage was on the ground. The strange squalling sound I had been hearing turned out to be a chicken who did not want to go into a small box in the luggage section. Frankly I am on the chicken's side. It would have to be a contortionist to fit in the box and certainly would not want to travel that way. I was rooting for the chicken.
Now I wanted to see where the heck I was. Goreme is a bunch of homes and hotels dug into strange Utah-like rock formations. Yup, this is where we are staying for the next few days. There is a tour and accomodation center. We heard about a place to stay, the Melek. Okay, we set out for it with full pack. It is a climb up a hill to get to it.
There is a local place called the Flintstones Hotel. Except that the rock formations are more pointed and conical and that the place is more hilly than Bedrock that is a pretty good description. You are either living in a cave or a rock building built into a hill.
We climb, having some problem finding the Melek in part because an arrow fell off one of their direction signs. Evelyn finds a souvenir along the way, the part of jawbone of a sheep complete with three or four molars.
We ask to see the room and find it a big climb up, even from the lobby. There is a common area like a porch for four rooms that looks like a piece of a grape orchard. The shade is provided by vines hanging over crossbars.
The rooms are the tiniest yet but the look and feel is amazing. If I wanted to put myself someplace exotic, this is it. Descrbing this place is just not sufficient. This is the kind of place I never expected to get any closer to than pictures. Evelyn says that this is our cheapest international trip yet. If you don't count airfare India was cheaper, but this was the cheapest all inclusive trip on a per-day basis. And as I look from our patio I cannot believe what it bought us.
Goreme is part of the region of Cappadocia. The Cappadocian Fathers who were the followers of St. Basil came to this region and here carved churches into what were really volcanic chimneys. There are hundreds of volcanic chimneys that are easy to hollow out to create buildings. These days the area has been discovered and there are efforts underway to protect the beauty. Part of the reason we chose the Melek is the owner is supposedly a leader in that preservation.
We probably should have run out right away to get some pictures but Evelyn wanted to wash her hair and I really wanted to get my log entirely up to date. I also want to take it all in. I feel like I have fallen into an issue of the National Geographic.
So we are sitting on our porch looking across at a cliff-dwelling family who seem to raise chickens. Every once in a while one of the chickens or people comes out of the home for one thing or another.
Well we had to make arrangements so we climbed down the hill and walked into town. That takes all of about 10 minutes. Evelyn stopped and talked to a New Zealand couple. They recommended Flintstone Travel to book a tour of the area so we did. That seems to be the most common nationality here. Actually the travel agencies all seem to off the same three tours and seem to designate them exactly the same way. There is the red tour, the yellow, and the blue. I bet they all charge the same for them. So it makes comparison between travel agancies very easy. And pointless.
The woman at Flintstone Travel was also from New Zealand. She was on her first day and we got into about an hour conversation about travel, local food, politics, and a number of other topics. I asked what was happening to New Zealand's currency. It seems it has been very unstable and headed very much downward.
After that it appeared to be ready to rain hard so we figured that we ought to get out of it. 5pm was early for dinner but we'd had little real food. We went to a restaurant called the Sedef. I had Ayran and a dish that turned out to be chicken, cheese, and tomatoes in a clay pot. Evelyn had chicken and couscous and Raki, an anise flavored liquor. While we ate the sky opened up for our benefit with lightning and thunder, though not enough of either to be exciting. For desert I had Fresh Fruit with Honey and Yogurt. That was fairly good.
After we eat we go to a grocery and get a package of Turkish Delight just to try it.
From there it was back to the room. We were sitting inside our small room when we heard people on the patio talking English with a North American accent. "Ah, someone to talk to," I think. I take a look outsiede the window and see someone who looks familiar. "Hey! I know him!" "Who is it?" asks Evelyn. I have to think for a moment. "Sammon. Pat Sammon." Yup, the people we met going from Istanbul to Canakkale, in Canakkale, in Sardis and again in Selcuk. They had gone their own way and had ended up at the same hotel in Goreme. I just caught a flash of him receding around a corner. I go to the manager's office. There is Pat registering. We are in room 20, he in 21.
We get caught up with them on what had happened since. They had gone to some more restful sites. I think Pat and I have both had digestive problems. They are not sure which tour to take. We suggest they join our tour. They agree it is a possibility and ask how to find our tour office. I suggest we walk them. So we head back into town and take them to Flintstone Travel. The woman is surprised to see us again. Not as surprised as we are to be here. One of the chimneys supposedly contains a pre-Christian church. We go to see it and it is in a restaurant. We look at the doorway in and it looks like a storage room for cleaning materials. The owner of the restaurant says that we should walk in. So we do only to discover he is decorating the inside like one would a van. It will be a music club. At least until the loud music damages the chimney.
After that the plan is to try to find a high place that we can see over the entire town. We do some climbing but do not manage to find any place easy to go. We are at 1000 meters or about 3300 feet. That makes breathing something of an effort. Though it is one effort we are anxious to make, at least considering the alternatives.
We find a relatively high place that gives a view. As we are admiring it a woman comes out of a house just to be friendly and talk to the foreign strangers who have come up her road.
We do a little more exploring and then go back to the hotel. We sit in the lounge, drink apple tea, and talk to the small, soft-spoken Nico Leyssen, the owner. He is Dutch with a close-cropped moustache and beard. He always seems have sunglasses and to wear jeans, a cream-colored turtleneck and a black vest. He is trying very hard to save this region from developers who would do things like put music clubs in the chimneys and who want to put of concrete buildings all over. He has political enemies and has been thrown out of Turkey twice and has had to sneak back in. Part of the reason he can get back in is that the "y" in his last name is a "j" in his own country and there is no "j" in Turkish. That causes confusion when he is looked up in the database. He has to leave but we continue to talk. I say the the big developers really should be stopped, but there are local people who are just trying to make a living here and they will be a problem. You really hate to tell them they have to lose their jobs to protect the feel of the area.
The conversation drifted and then settled on the Y2K problem. We told the Sammons some reasonable precautions to take.
Back at the room we opened a package of Turkish Delight and I had my first sample.
There is a classical radio station that we can just barely get. I listen to that until they switch over to jazz. Why do classical station have this tendency to play jazz, even here? Jazz stations don't feel compelled to play classical music. A lot of jazz seems to me formless and unmelodic. I wake up at 11pm and realize I had fallen asleep writing. I turn off the light and go to sleep in earnest. This involves going over to the door since that is the only switch that controls the light over the bed. That gets dust on my feet since like desert areas the dust seems to just blow in and cover things. By the time I am in bed I am fully awakened and it takes a good half hour to fall asleep. But I don't wan to turn the light back on and awake Evelyn.
05/10/98: Goreme: Ihlara Tour
It is really dark here at night. Evelyn says it is because we are in a cave. Not so. We have opaque walls at home; we just have clocks and VCRs that have displays that glow in the dark. There is light that comes in the window from the street. Here it is almost total darkness at night. It is a little disconcerting.
The door latch is really two large wooden bolts, either or both of which can be drawn from the inside. One of them has a rod sticking through a slit in the door so it can be manipulated from either side of the door. On the outside if you lock the door using this rod it will be far enough to one side that you can drop a vertical retaining bar through two screw eyes, holding the bolt in the locked position. The retaining bar is widened at the top so it does not fall all the way through the screw eyes. It also has a hole through it near the bottom on which you then put a padlock. Et voila, your door is locked from the outside. It has all the standard capabilities of a door lock but it is implemented in an entirely different way. Sort of low-tech.
The toilet has a problem. Toilets are the highest technology objects that come in any room you rent and are almost always the first thing to break. In this case when you pull the chain it has a tendency to flush but then go into an unstable state. It ends up squirting water for four or five seconds, then stopping for two or three, then starting again, repeatedly. It drives you crazy. The other problem is true all over Turkey. Toilet paper falls apart in use. I won't go into detail, but it is a real pain.
Breakfast is standard except the olives are incredibly salty. Then we have a walk to the travel agent with the Sammons. There were six people signed up for the tour. It was the Sammons, a nice New Zealand couple, and us. That should keep it nice and small. Right. The mini-bus takes the six of us to a pickup point. I ask the New Zealand couple what they do. When they finish traveling they will go to England and will work. Their field is Maths and Statistics. Oops. Wrong thing to tell me. Shall I let them enjoy their day or should I tell them about the function I discovered and other math I like to play with? I tell them that Evelyn and I were trained in math but I show them some mercy and do not show them my work.
We get on a larger bus and go to more stops. There are more and more people who will be on this trip. The majority are hung-over New Zealanders who are late for the bus. They are 20-somethings who it turns out want to shop. This day is not going well. Then the capper. I know that on this trip I sound like I have one ailment after another. But this really is the capper, I hope. Back in 1981 I had a kidney stone. In fact, the cancelled vacation that year was why we were able to do China in 1982. Once since that time I had a pulled muscle and it was right over the kidney. And it felt almost the same. Well, I got that self-same pain a third time. Turkey is not a place I want to get a kidney stone. Medicine is supposedly good in Turkey if you go to a hospital, but can you guess how I feel about that prospect? The odds are against something serious happening to you medically when you travel to very different countries, but there always is the risk and you can be a big loser. If this was serious having it happen while I travel made it doubly serious. I found myself sweating all over my body.
At about 10am we got to the Pigeon Valley. The most remarkable thing about it was that it had no pigeons (for the moment) and it wasn't a valley. It was really a crevice with holes dug into it for the express purpose of attracting pigeons. That makes it a sort of local cheap fertilizer factory. In this chicken shit existence the local farmers put pigeon shit on their crops. Our guide, whom you could never tell if what he was saying was serious or not, was telling us in his more serious moments that Cappadocia means "place of beautiful horses." He then let us loose to take pictures pretty much as long as we would like. Most of the people on our tour went into buying frenzy at the stands. All was not well. Our next stop was at Derinkuyu a sort of underground city dug into the stone. It goes down eight layers or something like 55 meters. He asked us several times if we were claustrophobic. And with good reason. This is a real tough place to get out of in a hurry. It is whole caverns dug into the stonework. They were sort of hiding places dug for living two or three days at a lime when enemies were near back in the time of the Byzantine. If you are coming for a visit, I suggest a bringing a hardhat. I hit my head on the ceilings many time, often in rapid succession. I discovered the secret was to keep my hands on my kneecaps. This was not comfortable, but it cut by 90% the number of head-bangs I got. My mind was still mostly on other pain and my possible kidney stone. When we got out it was raining to make matters worse. It took a while to leave as two of the Kiwi women had gone off shopping.
We stopped to take pictures of a nice volcano view. The volcanoes were the reason for the interesting geology. There were a couple of nice volcanic cones. They looked almost like Mt. Fuji. By this point the rain had stopped at least and it was only cloudy.
About 12:45 we get to Ihlara Village over what looks like a great canyon. There is a seemingly endless stairway down the side of the canyon that passes a Byzantine church with mostly worn-away frescoes. From here we were told it is a simple walk of about an hour along the valley floor. Now it is sunny again.
Parts of this so-called "simple walk" were through small holes in rocks, climbing over big rocks. I cracked my knee on a rock. Great. I needed this on top of the pain in my back? My back? What happened to the pain in my back? My back felt just fine. It either got a lot better or endorphins were just masking that pain. But suddenly this walk sounded like a much better idea.
I didn't think that this walk was very well managed. The group kept getting strung out going through the obstacles. Eventually they pulled us all together in a sort of clearing with rocks to sit on. It was beautiful. I was sort of grooving on the fact that my back had stopped hurting. Eventually we got to our bus and headed out.
The next place we stopped was to shoot at a distance some Star-Wars-looking scenery. One reason this place looked like something out of Star Wars is that it was. Scenes like when R2D2 is captured by Jawas were filmed against the sandy backgrounds of this area. Surprisingly the film did not use some of the more unearthly topography. After what the tour guide called a Japanese break. That was for taking pictures.
By this time it was about 2:30 and we stopped for lunch at a local restaurant. We are all sitting at a long table. I am sitting next to the woman mathematician. I ask her if she does her own mathematics. I show her some of what I had done with the function I discovered and some of homeomorphic equivalents of means. Well, at least it took only a few minutes. For my beverage I ordered Cappy Cherry. The waiter was not sure if it was available. But Evelyn looked at his list of beverages and found it. Unfortunately it came in a tiny bottle. Pat Sammon saw me drinking it and asked for a bottle for himself. He also discovered he liked it a lot.
The guide gave descriptions of the dishes. The problem was the descriptions did not jive with what waiters called dishes. And there were confused requests for drinks. Actually I was not very hungry and ate only about half my meal, in spite of the fact they had some excellent fried fish. After dinner the staff brings out musical instruments. A few of the New Zealanders dance. The rest of us sit embarrassed or bored.
This first stop after lunch is the Ag`ziarahan Caravansary. This was a stop on the Silk Road. Traders from the East brought silks and spices in caravans to these stops and traded with local merchants and traders. The guide's description is superficial.
Next we go to Avanos for a pottery demonstration. A fellow on the potters' wheel makes a vase and top forming and reforming the clay. We are each given unpleasant tea. Mine is apple, but it is just sour. After the vase is complete one of the Kiwis is given a chance to form something on the wheel. Then our host announces, now is the time to shop. I tag along as Evelyn looks a little bit, but we both are unwilling to pay their prices and we go outside to talk to the New Zealand mathematicians. Pat did not go in the first place because he refuses what is obviously a sales pitch.
Our last stop is the Valley of the Fairy Chimneys or at least one such valley as there are several. It is a valley punctuated with many volcanic chimneys, though few have been unspoiled by being turned into churches or by having the churches defaced by Moslems who believe that the Christian decorations have been destroyed by Moslem zealots. You can climb up into homes dug in the chimneys and see church function rooms. I wanted our guide to tell us how the chimneys were formed, but he was in the back of the bus on the way back talking to the Kiwis. The music the bus driver put on can best be described as "Turkish Salsa." As we got off the bus the guide asked us if we had forgotten something on the bus, like our memories. I think he was actually suggesting we had forgotten to tip him. Actually the day was okay but usually worked better the less the guide was involved.
Well, this was Mother's Day. I rather think that my mother had never received a phone call from Central Turkey. The Sammons also wanted to call their family so we went over to the PTT office to call home. This was now past 7:30 and the office was closed. There were, however, several phones outside, and we tried to make a call from them. We tried several different ways with home calling cards and with local calling cards. Eventually we decided that it was not to be.
We made a stop at the grocery. I picked up a new canteen sized bottle of water, half a liter; a stock bottle, one and a half liters; and two cans of Cappy Cherry for the room. Pat got the same except the half liter bottle. But he liked the cherry drink and got two cans for himself.
Then it was the long, hard climb up to our room. This was something we had not taken into account when we got the room. It is a real pain just climbing up from the center of town to get to the hotel and to get from the lobby level to our room is no picnic either. We got to the room to find out that this is the kind of place where you rent the room and then only get clean towels. Nothing was done for the bed. Well we can live with that. Actually what is a pain is that the only switch for the only light for the main part of the room is over by the door. That means that you have to get up and walk over to the front door when you want to go to sleep. By the time you get back, who knows if you are still sleepy.
The BBC short-wave band was running a documentary on the founding of Israel and its side of the story since this is the 50th anniversary of the founding of Israel and the Brits are being made the villain in a lot of retellings. The BBC is only slightly more favorable to the British. Everybody agrees that they made conflicting promises to the Arabs and to the Jews as to who would own Palestine. They asked for compromise and the Jews were willing to compromise on the offer. Better half of Palestine than none at all. The Arabs wanted it all. Both had lived in the area reasonably peacefully together for many centuries but the Arabs did not want to be told that part was not theirs. The Jews were anxious for what they could get and were willing to concentrate their people in half of the territory. In the end Britain found that it could not appease both sides. They could not win or break even. All they could do was get out of the game. They announced that they were going to pull out of the area and let the newly formed United Nations make the same decision they had been asked to make. The UN voted for partition. Israel claims that it tried to get the Arabs to stay; the Arabs claim they were forced out. (As I understand it the evidence seems to be that both are telling the truth on this one. In the chaos of fighting a war in the first hours of its existence Israel could not implement a completely uniform policy. In some areas Arabs were asked to stay but did not want to live in a Jewish state. In others Arabs who would have stayed were told to leave.)
The short-wave reception has been extremely fringey and I had to hold my hand on the short-wave to hear the half-hour BBC broadcast. It was now 8:30. I did not make it until 9. At 11 Evelyn started going to bed. I woke up. I suggested because I was now awake we might sleep one night with the light on so if I woke up and could not get back to sleep I would not wake her up. She readily agreed. I was up in the night and got a little more writing done.
05/11/98: Goreme: Open Air Museum
The backache was gone. I had had later twinges, but another night's sleep and things were good. The bed here is one of the less comfortable ones and I must have slept crookedly on my back the first night.
I must sound a little like a hypochondriac, what with colds that go away (real) and kidney stones that disappear (speculative). But I was concerned. Really I suppose the mileage is starting to show on this Indiana Jones.
We were up at about 6:30 and showered, and dressed until about 8. We had breakfast with the Sammons, this time for what I assume was the last time. There is little chance of seeing them in Istanbul. Pat noted that Mary Lynne tried the Cappy Cherry he bought last night and agreed that it was great. She drank a can and a half of it. This stuff is bottled by Coca-Cola but not available in the US. What a pity. They do have some fruit drinks in the Coca-Cola line in the US, but they are all under the apparent separate brand Minute Maid. I doubt Minute Maid has anything this good.
The back wall of the lounge where we have breakfast is a Camel cigarette ad that I find very funny. It is maybe four feet high and eight feet wide. It purports to be a film ad for a film called The Wild and the Brave though I sort of assume that no such film ever existed. On the right there is a picture of a man and a woman, both in their mid-30s, both in sort of African hunting gear. He is in the foreground with a big Camel cigarette between his fingers. She is standing behind him looking statuesque. To the left is the picture of them fleeing an angry bull elephant. He is standing on the landing strut of a flying helicopter. She is hanging over the side holding on only by his hand. The ad says, "Taste the Adventure." Wow! Now that is excitement. We didn't do that when we were in Africa.
We did not have a real itinerary planned for the day except that we wanted to go to the Open Air Museum. I think the idea was to take it easy. Pat asked us directions on how to get to the bus stop where he would be picked up at 9:15. I suggested we could walk them down and show them. Yet again we wished them well. This time I really think it was the last time. Then we climbed back up the hill to our room. Whoa, what a climb. One does not take it easy living up a hill like this, there are just varying degrees of strenuous activity. We decided to sit on our porch and write until we got our strength back.
We intended to head out something like 11 am after getting caught up in our logs. The day was clear. So we sat and wrote. An Australian family came through and we talked to them about what Anzac Day had been like and our plans to go to Australia. They left and some other guests came by. I noticed the woman was reading The Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence. Basically the film Lawrence of Arabia is based on this book and on a reworking of the same material, Revolt in the Desert. We talked about that Syria where they had visited. We talked about cinema. These are Clark and Ria Olson who live a little north of New York. She is Belgian-born and a translator. She looks a little like Vanessa Redgrave. Clark looks a bit like Richard Dreyfus with a neatly trimmed white moustache and beard. He does woodworking. Before we knew it was 1pm. I told the Olsons that we were going to the open-air museum and suggested that they join us but they had arrangement to make including setting up a tour for the next day.
We headed out for the open museum. Different countries have different things they call open-air museums. This museum was at one time all one huge church carved and hollowed out of the volcanic cones in this area. In a way I have not seen in any other region of the world volcanic force has pushed up cones of what looks to be a soft stone. A cone may be 30 feet to 100 feet high and maybe half of that in diameter. The rock is soft and crumbly. It is easily shaped. Here in this valley many small buildings were carved to make one church. There are crude geometric under paintings and in the 11th and 12th century there were still crude but more advanced frescoes painted on top.
We decided to walk from town to the open-air museum. It seemed to be just on the outside of town. It turned out to be about a 45-minute walk in the hot sun, mostly uphill. The scenery is otherworldly so that probably makes it worthwhile. It is sort of a cross between the American Southwest and Mars. But I realize as we are getting to the museum how much the walk has taken out of us. We each get a coke. The man gives us each a can and a yellow straw. The straw is leaky and what we are drinking is Coca-Cola foam. I give up and drink from the can.
The official name of this museum is the Goreme Acik Hava Muzesi. You walk in a big circle going into buildings. Even this time of year it is crowded with tourists. Since the only light for many of the rooms is through the doorway, people blocking the doorway is a problem. One climbs up rough steps to go through little doorways to get into claustrophobic rooms.
The cones have names like The Nun's Monastery, the Apple Church, and the Snake Church. The latter is so called because it shows St. George slaying a snake. We take some pictures for some tour groups. Joke with some Japanese. We spend maybe a couple of hours there. On our way out we see the Olsons coming in and make arrangements to get together for dinner. We head back out for town. Funny this road seems to be mostly uphill in both directions.
I want to belatedly wish my mother a happy Mother's Day. So at 5pm we want to call her. That will be 7am in California. It is now about 4 so we stop for a snack. I get a big kabap sandwich (to share with Evelyn) and a fresh-squeezed orange juice. There is nothing sweet about the orange juice, which tasted like lemon juice. Of course, I like it sour. More tourists go by carrying the Lonely Planet. Evelyn says next trip like this she want to put a different cover on the Lonely Planet just so we don't look like everyone else. I suggest we put on the cover of the Lonely Planet India book. That would really confuse people.
At about 4:30 we go to the PTT office and ask how we call home. We are told we have to call from this phone inside. We verify the access number with him. He wants us to dial it now, but I say that I want to wait until 5pm. So we wait and other tourists from our tour yesterday come along. We talk. At 5 we call. Wouldn't you know it, my mother was called from the shower. I should have called earlier. "Where are you calling from?" "Goreme. You know, in the Capadocia Region of Central Turkey." (Sure he knows. Right. Well, he can look I up in the atlas.) But it makes something of a hit to call home from someplace really exotic. We talk a little about Turkey and politics. Well, it will give them something to tell their friends, that they talked to Turkey.
Little did I know that I would have to fight to save my love on the way back to the hotel. We were climbing the hill (ugh!) and there in a little grassy patch were two turkeys. Yes, there are turkeys in Turkey. (I think I have heard they give them a different name.) I took a picture of the male. Good stuff for the photo album. As we were walking the male turkey stepped in front of us to take a closer look. Evelyn asked if they peck hard. I don't see how they could. They have that wattle in the way. I tried to step around and the turkey jumped at me kicking out with his claws. A minivan came along and suggested we wave a turkey steak at it. Big help. But as the van distracted it I walked by. The turkey went after Evelyn. The turkey actually jumped at her a couple of times as she tried to pass. Evelyn asked if I could find a way to ward it off. All I could find was a piece of wood bark on the ground. It would break if I tried to do much with it. But I whipped it at the turkey's head. The bird was not anxious to have its head whipped with bark and walked off. The threat was enough. I should have used my umbrella. That grows fast from a bird's point of view.
Back at the room we had some time before dinner so I put on the radio. It was playing American Country-Western music. I should have gotten some Coke and some Doritos and had them while I was listening. The storeowner would have been tickled pink to have me pay in American money. I would find it a lot tougher to go Turkish back at home.
Meanwhile the weather was changing and I went out to enjoy it. The sky goes like gray cotton. There is a constant rumble of thunder. Evelyn and I go out to watch the lightning on the sandy mountainside. The birds are reeling as if to get their last bout of flying in before the rains come. Perhaps they are looking for what they will use for shelter. Lightning scratches streaks in the sky. Across the way on the caved mountain women in veils to cover their heads rush around pulling in wash. The storm changes from sprinkling little drops to dropping heavy, pendulous bursts of water. Still there are parts of the sky that are blue. And some are white. But overhead it is a heavy gray. I am getting wet. I jump inside the door and clout myself on the head. This is the feel of Goreme, the feel of a clout on the head. I felt it again and again in the underground city. Again and again as I clambered under rocks I felt the concussion. Again and again as I climbed into low cave entrances in volcanic chimneys. And the low door of my room partakes of the tradition. This is the feel of Goreme.
At 7:30 we meet the Olsons and head down the hill for dinner. They had somewhat dressed up, but I knew it was still a long muddy walk to the restaurant. The Planet recommended the restaurant in the Hotel Ufuk II. We go there and it is a walk up a sort of muddy sandbank. We get to the restaurant and it turns out the kitchen is being renovated. The owner recommends another restaurant, Tardelli's. We decide to try it. Evelyn and I have lamb kabap. We get a salad and a Haydari for the table. Evelyn shares a bottle of wine with the Olsons. We talk about the usual: travel, food, movies, books. We compare stories of when the Olsons were in China with when we were there. They thought the Western breakfasts were great in the early 90s. In 1982 they were pretty bad and we were always better off if we could get Chinese food instead of Western. Clark is also a Russell Hoban fan, like Evelyn. We discussed the effect Ted Turner has had on film. I am less critical of Turner than most serious film fans. Yes, he colorized some films, but he also restored them to do that. If you say you lose the subtlety of lighting that the director of the black and white film intended, so what else is new? Even on film that changes with time and certainly the adjustment of the TV set affects it. And Turner has made a lot of nearly unavailable films become widely available. The damage he did by colorization is minimal compared to the good he has done for cinema fans. And Turner is giving a billion dollars to the UN. Bill Gates spends his money on himself. I think Turner's TV news is not very good, but overall I think very highly of Turner. I don't have much good to say about Bill Gates. Gates is just a selfish, immature little boy who cornered a highly profitable market. Compatibility has value to business so whoever made the operating system that American business standardized on would be very rich. That was Gates.
As we climb back up to our rooms the sky is partly cloudy. There is a full moon and it silvers the edges of the clouds. To stand at the base of one of the cones with the light glinting golden off of it and look up at it and the sky is a beautiful picture, but one I cannot capture with my camera, unfortunately.
We get back to the room.
Toilets in Turkey work about as well as turkeys do in toilets.
05/12/98: Transit: Goreme to Ankara
Evelyn looked out the window and said it did not look like rain. I told her that it would cloud up and rain a little late morning. Then it would clear only to cloud again and rain in the early evening. How do I know? Experience. That is what it has been doing all along in Goreme.
Breakfast was not ready when we arrived so we talked a little bit to Nico. First about the Camel ad. It apparently was used in a German film. The discussion turned to his battles with the Turkish government to preserve this area. He seems to have a set of abstract complaints and desires and I have not gotten a good idea of exactly what he does want. First he is saying that they want to buy the cone he restored and they should have been asking him six years earlier. Then he is complaining that they may not want to buy it. He wants the bus station and the stalls outside the open-air museum torn down because they were not designed by an architect. He complains they are "Door. Window. Door. Window. Door. Window." He wants the government to come in and spend a lot on the town. I don't know what exactly he wants things to be like.
We were worried the Olsons would miss their tour. They came into breakfast at 9, which seemed a bit late.
After breakfast we went back to the room to rest up from going back to the room. Evelyn asked me what I wanted to do today. Well, like yesterday it was already kind of a lazy day. I looked in the Lonely Planet and they had maybe two places worth going to. I dozed off a little, I guess and woke at 10am. Evelyn said the places I picked were really a bit far to go today. Okay, so now what? I suggested what if we were to check out and head for the less lazy area of Ankara. We would be going a day earlier than planned, but there would be more to do there. Evelyn said there was probably no convenient bus. Then she looked and discovered there was one about 12:30. So that was decided upon. The hotel never asked us how long we were staying. At least in this season things are a little loose. So we are off to Ankara. It took us about 15 minutes to me out the door. I cracked my head on the top of the door one last time on my way out. We had just flushed the toilet and we could not get it to stop so we just told one of the employees. Nico saw us and asked us a couple of times, "You're leaving?" He was also sort of mumbling to himself.
We got to the bottom of the hill at 10:35 and it turns out one of the bus companies had a 10:45 bus to Ankara. The bus pulled up early and at 10:38 we on both the bus and our way to Ankara. It is hard to imagine timing getting better than that. We seem to be on the bus with a somber group. It is just a small bus, larger than a mini-bus but maybe two-thirds or less than a full-size.
The bus takes us to Nevsehir. Here we will wait for a half-hour for the Ankara bus. The time comes and we board. This is video-bus, our first. It was built by Mercedes-Benz. They start a film and I tell Evelyn it is safety instructions (like on a plane). The joke turns out to be quite true.
But then they do have a movie. The movie is Gunah. The plot must be more complex than this, but since it is in Turkish I may be missing some of the subtlety. An inter-city bus driver is a good guy whom everybody likes. A mysterious woman running away from her village rides his bus, and she fascinates him. He keeps seeing her in the city at the other end of his route. He finds out that she has become a sexy belly dancer. He wants to save her from this life. Eventually he kidnaps her at gunpoint, drags her onto his bus and takes her to the ocean where he washes the makeup off of her. She melts into his arms. She tells him what she was fleeing in her village but it is lost in the Turkish. Presumably they are very repressive. They hug again. Flash forward: they are engaged and deliriously happy. Even the groom's mother agrees. They have a wedding ceremony. Everybody is happy. Then at the height of the ceremony the bride is shot dead by her family. In agony the bus driver grabs the dying body of the woman he loved.
Some of the things I learn from this film:
I think you learn the fastest about a country the first couple hours you are on the street and when you watch your first movie from that culture.
We stopped for lunch break. I did not know how long we had. I went to the steward and pointed at my watch asking "On? Yirmi?" ("Ten? Twenty?") He said, "Okay. Okay." Well that was not much help. We bought a couple of chocolate bars and talked to an Australian couple about travel, etc.
At this writing we are approaching Ankara. This is a city known for taking that which is tangled and making it straight and that which is straight and making it tangled. In the first case it is the hair from Angora goats. The city was once called Angora, in fact and is the center of the Angora wool trade. And making the straight tangled is obviously the chief function of government and Ankara is center of Turkish government.
The town was a center of trade going back to the Hittites at 1200 BC. It changed hands to the Phrygians, Alexander, the Seleucids, the Galatians, and in 25 BC the Romans. The Byzantine held the town, but it was captured by the Seljuk Turks. Tamerlane captured it and its Sultan. But when his state collapsed it became a sleepy goat-raising town again.
Ataturk made it his government in 1920. After his War for Independence it became the capital of his new Turkey.
Well, we arrived in Ankara and the first thing we needed to do was find the bus to Ulus. Evelyn tried to ask in broken Turkish how to find bus 198 to Ulus. I told her to never underestimate the power of the written word. I wrote on a piece of paper "Otobus 198 -> Ulus". I showed that to people and got conflicting answers but at least they understood the question. One man could not tell us where to go so walked us to the place to buy tickets for the bus and waited there with us until the ticket-seller arrived. We told him he could go, but he insisted on waiting with us. The Turks are a very hospitable people. We really should have taken a taxi, probably. We are saving ourselves a few small dollars, but people here are willing to humor us.
The bus comes and it is a double bus. It is really two cars with a sort of turntable arrangement between so people inside don't risk the floor turning under them and gaps forming.
We get off at Ulus. This is really a business street with banks, more up-scale stores, and crossing Cankiri Caddesi anywhere but at the light is taking your life in your hands. When you cross at the light it seems that all of Ankara is crossing one way or the other and perhaps both. We fight our way across. On the other side one street over we look for the hotel, the Yildez. Behind the counter there is a rather strange looking clerk with a falsetto laugh. Something has pushed his eye teeth forward of his other teeth giving him the appearance of an underfed and slightly swishy vampire. We ask to see the room, first he wants to see our passports. This does not sound good to me, but I insist on seeing the room before paying. The bellboy takes our stuff up to the room. Well, if he insists. The room does not look too bad. I test the toilet and it works. It is a reasonable room; it even has a TV. Okay, we pay for three nights on the room. I go back upstairs and start to settle in.
I tried flushing the toilet again. This time nothing happened. Terrific, we have now paid for the room and the toilet is broken. There was water in the tank the first time, but the tank did not fill. I memorized Turkish for "the toilet is broken." Down to the desk.
"Tuvalet yanmiyor." The desk clerk smiled at me. "Yes." That's it? Yes? "Tuvalet yanmiyor." "Yes." But this time he was searching for the right words in English. "Seven." "It will work at 7:00?" "Yes." He bent his arm and made a muscle as if to say, "Be strong."
We go looking for dinner and go to the Lahmacun Office, a pizza joint. It is decorated with a poster of Georgia O'Keefe and other flower pictures. We each get a different kind of pizza. I order Lahmacun, called Turkish Pizza. This is on a cracker-like piece of crisp bread, a circle about eight inches in diameter. On it is a think layer of ground lamb and tomato sauce. Then it is baked. Much more like pizza at home is Kiymali Pide. This starts with a crust a little thicker. It is covered with tomato sauce, cheese, and ground lamb. A rim is folded on the pizza from the top and bottom so it is no longer a circle but an eye shape. It is baked and then cut with parallel cuts the short way across. You get strips of pizza with rolled crust at each end. At this restaurant with each you get a little parsley salad, no utensils, but a salad. A slice of lemon is there as the dressing.
After dinner we walk around the shopping area. There are lots of more prosperous-seeming stores. Perhaps they are just more the style we see in the US and less like open and less formal mom and pop stores. You do have people selling battery-driven toys on the street. There is the car that drives to a wall, tries to climb it, falls on its back, and then rights itself. And runs in the opposite direction. There is also an electric dog that barks. There are sweet shops with open fronts.
We walk out into the square and there is a very large statue of Ataturk on a horse. Ankara, of course, idolizes Ataturk, at least officially. Here it is a punishable crime to show disrespect for Kemal Ataturk.
At the base of the statue there are kids playing soccer or hockey with an aerosol can cap.
We look in a bookstore window. I was surprised to see a Turkish edition of George Polya's mathematics classic How To Solve It? There were novels by Dean R. Koontz, Stephen King, and especially Wilbur Smith. But we saw no science fiction. That was something of a surprise. There seems to be no market that I can see for science fiction in Turkey.
This is really the least touristy section of Turkey we have seen. We haven't even seen a tourist since the Otogar. I also have not seen one carpet shop. There are no touts chasing tourists either. The closest you see is beggars who pick out foreigners.
Well, enough walking. We get back and the same clerk is behind the desk. I point out it is 7pm. I say "Yedi." He responds only by giggling. We get upstairs and there is still to toilet. We can use the toilet only by filling the tank from the showerhead.
There is not much on the television of interest. I work on my log. I think I will treat myself to my last on-hand can of Cappy Cherry.
I have to be a little negative on Turkey for more than just the tout problem. Just about wherever we go the level of service is a bit dishonest. Now the hotel knows they the toilets don't work and they basically lie about it rather than fix the problem. The desk clerk knew darn well there was no fix to the toilet coming. He just did not care.
I must have hit the sack about 10pm. I really don't remember for sure. What I remember is that I got caught up in the log and decided to play one hand of solitaire. I have Klondyke on my palmtop. It worked out for me and I decided nothing better could happen to me today. From the next room I hear the monotonous of a computer video game. They have it turned up too loud. But it does indicate these things are available here.
05/13/98: Ankara Sights
At an extremely efficient five feet six inches, I still like to think of myself as being fairly tall. But I have to admit that there actually are thousands of Americans (well, at least hundreds) who are actually taller (and Luck of Leeper says I usually get one sitting in front of me at a movie theater). One advantage of having hundreds of Americans taller than me is that I usually do not find beds to be too short for me. This is one of the rare places where my feet stick out over the end. I wonder what some of the few hundred whom I have met would do sleeping here. I guess they would just hang their feet.
After breakfast we had a bellboy come up and show us how to flush the toilet. There it a plunger that should come up on its own, but it does work if you pull it up by hand. There was a different desk clerk today and he was more serious. So why was the clerk telling us 7:00 and be strong?
We are back to cloudy, rainy days.
Our first chore of the morning is to get train tickets to Istanbul. (Now why does that still sound dramatic?) We went to a bus stop and could not find the bus we wanted. Evelyn asked a ticket seller and it sounded like Bus 200. There was no bus 200. I pulled out a pad of paper and asked the directions again. He wrote down "200 metre, ilerde ASTI bas." Seeing it written made all the difference. We walked a little way down the street, beyond the current grouping of bus signs and by itself. And there was a bus sign labeled "ilerde ASTI bas." And that was that. I now never travel to any non-English-speaking place without a writing pad. It is better than a phrase book for communicating. (In Japan when I went to restaurants I tried ordering orally only the first day. Once I figured out I could copy the names of dishes from the window displays it took about 95% of the hassle out of ordering.)
We took the bus to the Gar, the rail station. We got sleeper car tickets for the Friday night train to Istanbul. This saves a night of hotel, saves a day of travel, and costs little more than standard train tickets. In this case tickets for two cost 8,500,000TL. That is $17 a person.
The station has a Railway Museum. It is just a small museum of four rooms or so. There is not much English. Basically it is mementos of the railway trade. There are things like ticket stamping machines. There are models of whole trains or of individual cars. There are models of whole railway stations. To one side there is even the private railway coach given by Hitler to Ataturk. Hitler always hoped that Turkey would enter the war on the same side as Germany. Turkey did not make the same mistake twice. Some of the exhibits are hard to understand.
I went out and took a snapshot of the train in the station. I was at some distance but the engineer in the front car stood up, probably posing for my picture.
There is another museum at the railway, a sort of small art museum. We went in, but the guard seemed convinced we were in the wrong place and we wanted the railway history museum.
Next we wanted to go to Ataturk's Mausoleum. We hired a cab. It cost us a dollar or so and saved us a lot of walking. We rarely use cabs and it is foolish.
There were military guards standing at attention on the road leading us to the site. This seems excessively formal to us. On arriving there were a bunch of people in jackets and ties milling around. That explains the formality. Something is happening. Sure enough there were a bunch of tourists in the buildings waiting to see some arriving dignitary. I got my camera to the ready with the telephoto lens. One of what I think were plain-clothes men was eyeing my camera to make sure it did not mask a gun. I saw the man arrive and he was a little white-haired old man with a bent spine and an almost beatific look on his face. A ceremonial guard came out and presented him with a wreath that I later saw he carelessly left when he visited Ataturk's tomb.
When he had passed I asked the plain-clothes-man "Kim? Who?" "Bernard Lewis." I don't know who that is. He looks American. The wreath said "Prof. Dr. Bernard Lewis" in letters stapled on. There is no W in Turkish and they crudely stapled together two Vs. [Bernard Lewis is a historian and expert about the Middle East in general and Arabs in particular.]
Everywhere in Turkey a great deal is made of Ataturk, and nowhere like Ankara, and in Ankara so much is made no place but here. There is a long marble walkway flanked by stone lions. It leads to a big courtyard with the mausoleum at one end. All around the outside of the courtyard is a wall with buildings at the corners that constitute a museum of the life of Ataturk. Even before the walkway there are two small buildings whose subject is just the memorial showing alternate designs including an interesting and somewhat kitsch pyramid design. Inside the courtyard the walls are decorated with symbolic reliefs. When wet the reliefs are harder to see because they lose their contrast with the background. In the museums you can see Ataturk's library, the clothing he wore, documents he signed, gifts that were given him, walking sticks he used, and cufflinks he wore. There is even a case of photographs taken in Turkey in which cloud patterns look like his face or just his eyes watching over Turkey. I would say it is a little ostentatious, but it is a punishable crime to not show sufficient respect for Ataturk in Ankara. This was very much a gray sky day, but as we were walking between buildings I noticed peculiar billows of blackness rising up from the city. Something in Ankara was burning pretty fiercely. We will probably never know what.
The exhibit concludes with cars used by Ataturk and the caisson that carried his body to his funeral. Then there is a souvenir shop. Evelyn bought postcards, but I got a really unique souvenir, a little geometry book written by Mustapha Kemal. I should point out that Mustapha was his name at birth. One of his mathematics teachers renamed him Mustapha Kemal for his excellence in mathematics. Kemal means perfection. Later when he was named Ataturk, father of Turks, he kept the Kemal and dropped the Mustapha.
On the way back we discussed why our own leaders do not have nearly the personality cult of an Ataturk. Evelyn later pointed out that our only real personality cult is Elvis Presley. Perhaps if you are going to have personality cults, it is better it be of a singer than of a politician. But maybe not. I mean, what does that say about Americans?
For lunch we stopped in a chicken restaurant called Mudurnu. I had a Chicken Schnitzel, and Evelyn had Chicken Shish. I thought mine was pretty good. Schnitzel is fried a different way than things are fried in the US. I put some lemon juice on it and it was very nice in spite of being a fast food restaurant. Very different than the repetitive food we are having.
It is a fair walk from the mausoleum to the ethnographic museum but at least there is a Locomotive Open Air Museum along the way. This is where they have engines from the glory days of Ataturk building the railroads of Turkey. Unfortunately the locomotives are pretty much all from the same years, the 20s and 30s, and look a lot alike.
Walking from the open-air museum to the ethnographic museum turned into more than I had bargained for. We had a minor revolt in which I suggested that we really would enjoy the trip more if we took more taxis. I guess the long walk uphill to the open-air museum in Goreme convinced me that I was arriving at sites I wanted to see already exhausted. We should be more selective.
We got to the ethnographic museum and discovered it to be full of Japanese ceramics. We were in the wrong museum. Actually we had found the Fine Arts Museum. The Japanese ceramics were fine, but not what we were expecting.
Behind the Fine Arts Museum we found the Ethnography Museum. It is a nice collection of the expected sorts of things: wedding dresses, napkins, and ethnic clothing. There are guns, woodwork with inlaid mother of pearl, bookstands, the inevitable carpets, and brassware.
There were some historic photos. Turkish uniforms of the 30s look like French from WWI uniforms. They look like trenchcoats and hardhats with rounded work helmets. Officers looked like Nazis with broad flat-topped hats. Other helmets look like Nazi metal helmets with the rim that comes down to protect the ears and the back of the neck.
Continuing on there are decorated swords and guns. It is not clear to me why you would want these things highly decorated, but I guess they were for a different age and different values. I remember how beautiful was the carved work on the Wasa in Sweden. It was really very ornate. The fish must have been really impressed since it was top-heavy and had an active career measured in minutes. When it comes to weaponry I will take functionality over glitz every time.
They had a calligraphy exhibit with pictures in Koranic calligraphy, including sailboats, birds, human faces, etc. They also had a sepulcher decorated in woodwork calligraphy. Nobody venerates calligraphy like Muslims, not even the Japanese. And there is a sort of lounge. The Turks go in for horizontal living.
As we were headed back we saw there was the main branch of the Fine Arts Museum right there so we visited it. It has mostly European style art. There was a nice piece about a sword-seller in a marketplace with a very Arabian Nights sort of feel. They have a fair amount of modern art. Some of the art is very attractive.
After that we continued on to see if there was anything playing at the opera house. Sure enough tonight was a performance of "Cingene Baron" by Johann Strauss. We bought tickets and found them to be at the double-take price of 400,000TL. Yes, if you want a night at the opera they sock you $1.60 for a seat. For the price of one opera in New York you could see 25 or more here.
We got back to the room and found the toilet again broken. I figured out that the way to get it to work was to take the top off the tank and push the float down by hand when its own weight does not push it down.
We are watching a little bit of Turkish cable TV. The most popular station seems to be SHOW. This is a station that seems to show soap operas and Italian melodramas both dubbed into Turkish.
Kind of a risque ad for Turkish TV but funny. A man and a woman are kissing passionately on a beach. She lends him a coin and he goes running to buy a condom. He is ready to put his coin in the machine when he sees next to it another vending machine labeled "Magnum." He spends his coin on a Magnum Ice Cream Bar instead. I don't think we would have an ad that risque on American TV.
Interesting to see a lottery ad built around the song "If I Were a Rich Man." How many mostly Islamic countries would know the song from a play about Ukrainian Jews?
We had dinner at a restaurant called Kebabistan where I had chicken kabaps and for desert shredded wheat with honey and nuts, something I had had in Greek restaurants at home.
It took about 15 minutes to walk to the opera house. I mentioned before that people start buildings that they cannot finish just to show the commitment. I think the same thing goes for sidewalk repair. The sidewalks are in dismal shape but at many of the places where the sidewalks are falling apart are some of the materials for repairs. Most likely they are cement tiles. Now they may be eighteen-inch sand pits in the sidewalk waiting to catch the unwary, but there will be a pile of sidewalk tiles there showing the intent of the city to make this a whole and healthy sidewalk some day. There is always the hope for the future. Your children or perhaps your grandchildren will live to see this sidewalk repaired. The reason the sidewalks are always torn up is in part that cars are allowed to park on sidewalks. Heavy vehicles tend to really rip up pavement. Next time you see some big trailer truck saying this vehicle pays some exorbitant amount for road taxes each year remember he is on the road a lot more hours a year than you are. And for each of those hours he does a lot more road damage than you do with one of your hours. His road taxes probably do not cover the wear he causes and your cover yours and some of his. But remember also that he may be bringing food to your grocery store and part of what you pay is so that you can eat.
Anyway, so we walk to the Ankara Opera House. It is a nice little unassuming little opera house. We buy tickets for tomorrow's dance performance. Up we go to the balcony where our seats are third row from the back. This is a hot country and you should never assume that air conditioning someone else controls will be to your standard. It must be at least 80 degrees.
The opera begins with a stirring overture followed by the Entrance of the Late Arrivals. Once they are in their seats the story starts in a gypsy camp near a town. Don't let that fool you. This is an operetta by Johann Strauss. He could have Act One about peasants living in a Paris sewer, eating garbage, and being bitten by rats. By Act 3 it will be about Austrian aristocrats waltzing.
The operetta was performed in Turkish. At the first intermission I commented to Evelyn that under the circumstances it was surprisingly easy to follow considering I had never heard the story. Not that I had every plot point. When pressed I could tell her lots about the story. At one point someone thanks someone else. I happen to know the Turkish word for "thanks." Another point some colorfully dressed women bring out some baked goods to the crowd.
There was of course somebody selling cans of soda at the intermission. I got one more out of curiosity about the price than because I was really thirsty. It was 150,000TL, probably what you would pay at a kiosk on the street. The chime to call people back to their seats is the first 15 notes of Beethoven's 6th Symphony. Those are probably the 15 most gentle notes in music outside of a lullaby. There were two intermissions and each took a serious toll in attendance.
The third act, though short, was the spectacular finale. Gypsies and townspeople were back from the war in their grand uniforms and were waltzing around the stage. So much glitter was dropped it looked like the scene was taking place in champagne. Now I didn't think all that much of the film Top Secret when I saw it, but the humor has stuck with me and I still think I it is funny. One of its legacies is that I cannot see a ballroom scene of everybody waltzing without it looking just a little ridiculous. And that really is the function of satire.
One other thing did come to mind. In The Paths of Glory when Dax visits General Mureau on last time to try to avert the execution, Mureau is giving a ball in which they are dancing Strauss waltzes. It never occurred to me but that is the music of the enemy. France was fighting Austro-Hungary in the First World War. That is a very clever touch. If you don't know what I am talking about, I envy you but hurry before it is too late. Get your hands on Stanley Kubrick's best film, The Paths of Glory. Other than a couple of crime films it is his first film and he never made nearly so good a film again. That film is much better than this operetta, of course.
There are all degrees of skin tone one sees in Turkey but there were no dark Turks on the stage and few in the audience. I could be wrong but I think there are no women in headscarves either. What is interesting is that many Germans and Austrians look down on the Turks as cultural and racial inferiors. They are considered just cheap labor for the auto plants. But the Turks care enough about Austrian culture to want to put on Strauss operettas. It is sort of the relation between Korea and Japan. I have never seen a Korean restaurant that did not have a sushi bar and at serve a fair amount of Japanese food. The Japanese think of the Koreans as racial inferiors. Ah, such is unrequited love.
After the opera we walked back to the hotel and wrote a while.
05/14/98: Ankara Sights and shops
I awoke about 6:30 and wrote for a while. After all I did not have last evening to write and I don't have this evening. But the proximity of the opera house is really nice. Ataturk liked the opera. There is a statue of him outside. I guess it was part of his attempts to Europeanize Turkey.
I think that most places where we have been having cheese for breakfast it has been kind of bland. I just realized that what we are getting here is Feta Cheese. It looks the same and probably is related but it a lot tangier and saltier. That is a good touch. Turkish breakfasts have very little variation. So do the other meals. We have been avoiding the steam-table sort of restaurant where the food is hours old and does not look very good. Oh, one other difference with this breakfast at the hotel. Here they have rose jam. Usually it is strawberry and cherry.
I wonder how many pedestrians are killed in Ankara each year. The drivers are not very careful and the walker is constantly in danger.
The Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is claimed to be the one world-class museum in Ankara. I can well believe it. I had always wanted to go to the countries where they worshipped the Babylonian sort of gods. Now the place you would go for that is Iraq. I am not going to go to Iraq. But the same gods were worshipped in what we now call Turkey. Most of the best have been removed from the original sites and taken to Ankara. It is here and it is beautiful. There are really two parts to this museum. There is a central hall and there is an outer hall surrounding it on three sides. The outer hall is a decent archeological museum. By itself it is worth the trip from the hotel. The central hall has what Howard Carter would call "wonderful things." It is worth the trip to Ankara. This has great stone wall decorations. It is a wonderland of lion-headed humans and human-headed lions. There are gods portrayed like men and men portrayed like gods. There are strange animals and battling gods. There are big stones with hieroglyphics. There are bulls bucking and demons with bird heads. There are lions and bulls and long horned sheep. There are boars being hunted with bow and arrow and deer. There are griffins and who know what the creatures are. There are warriors and kings. If it ain't wonderful it didn't make the cut. It is like a wonderland of ancient history.
There seem to be a lot of school groups. Children love to show off that they know "hello." As you enter the hall you are greeted by an eight-foot statue of a forgotten king. Soon you are looking at winged gods. You see eagle-men with bodies like men and heads like birds.
The outer hall shows a chronological collection of artifacts from many civilizations. It seems like every case for a stretch shows the evolution of deer figures. There is a lot, though it could be shown to better effect to play off the wonderful central chamber.
I bought two "fake antiquities" to use the term in the Egyptian guidebook. One was a tile of a chimera. It is a winged lion with two heads, one lion one human. It is an imitation of one from the Herald's Wall at Carchemish from 950 to 850 BC. The other is the storm god from a relief 750 to 700 BC.
After going through the museum we looked at the central room again and worked on our logs in fine company.
Walking around citadel was our next order of business. This is a fortress that overlooks Ankara built in its present form in the 9th Century AD. There is not a lot to see but some tall walls and gates. There are several groups of school children on field trips.
We keep running into groups of ten-year-olds who want to try their English making simple conversation. Sometimes they want me to take their pictures. Occasionally they ask for pens. (I wish I had brought some extras.) Usually they just want to be friendly. I photograph a couple of groups.
The heights of the citadel give a commanding view of city. For lunch we go to the Zinger Pasha Museum and restaurant. It really is just an old house with a restaurant on the top floor. It is a pleasant place to eat nice view.
They brought out a different sort of bread. It is like an English muffin only softer and fresher tasting. It is the same thickness but about 6 inches in diameter. For appetizers Evelyn ordered melon pickle salad and I ordered mushroom yogurt. The latter is just what it sounds like. It is yogurt and mushroom to be eaten with the good bread. Incidentally the one word that Turkey contributed to the languages of the world and it is always mispronounced. The "g" in "yogurt" has a little smile over it. That makes the "g" silent. The word is pronounced "yo-urt." Now, imagine a slice of dill pickle four inches in diameter and three quarters of an inch thick. There are no cucumbers you could take a slice like that out of, but there are melons you can. We got two pickled melon slices. The center was stuffed with peppers and diced tomatoes. That's Melon Pickle Salad. Next came the main courses.
I had Filet Mignon in a cream mushroom sauce. It came with peas, rice, parsley, a tomato wedge, bread, about ten perfect French fries, and a fiery green pepper. Was it the best meal of this trip? It was the best meal of this year. Evelyn had lamb chops. I had a Pepsi. This was a fancier restaurant and it shoed up in the bill. 5,150,000TL or about $21. The Turks tend to write the dollar sign after the number, by the way. They would say it was 21$.
Following lunch we walked through the bazaar outside. Little shops with spices, scarves, hardware, toys, bread, one after another, elbowing each other out. I got a piece of weaving for my office. Evelyn got two scarves for herself. Now my best shoes for work had also the best walking tread so I brought them. The problem is that they are suede, and the sidewalks of Turkey have pretty much done them in. I think I may risk having them cleaned toward the end of the trip in the hope that someone can find something that can be done with them. But in the meantime I am out a pair of shoes for work. Things are cheaper in Turkey. It was Turkey that grotted up the last shoes. Why not let Turkey save me money on the next? I passed a shoe store and saw a pair of suede shoes that suited me. How much? 4,000,000TL. $16. They seemed to feel pretty good. How am I going to turn down a pair of suede shoes I need for $16? The dance show tonight is $2.40. How can you beat these prices?
We had gone almost at random in the market and had now pretty well lost ourselves. However, Evelyn sighted the tall Ziraat Bank Building and with a little walking we were back at our hotel. Around the corner we stopped in a bakery and grocery. We needed water and were all out of Cappy Cherry. I asked Evelyn to pay. I took a picture of the different kinds of bread. With a grin the owner wanted me to shoot the back of his store and then the counter where he posed for me. Then he gave me the business card for his store wanting us to show it with the pictures. The Turks are a fun people.
Back at the room we wrote in our logs. I saw a little of Turkish TV. It is surprising how much Jewish music you hear in locally produced ads. They just ran an ad with "Eli Melech" as the background music. We saw the end of a "Cadfael" dubbed into Turkish. Now there is a Japanese Samurai film dubbed into Turkish but still subtitled in English. I wonder what it is. Well, it might as well be in Turkish as Japanese. Got it. The film is about Takezo but he will change his name. This is the first of three films that tell the saga of Musashi Miyamoto who is turned from evil to good and eventually fights Kojiro in a famous duel on an island whose name I have forgotten. Eiji Yoshikawa told the story in an epic novel called Musashi. The same filmmaker made a fourth film, Kojiro, told from Kojiro's point of view. This film was the first third of the story.
They also ran some old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons.
I went to use the bathroom to get ready to go out and discovered that there was no water. There remains constant water on the floor around the toilet. That is always there. I guess three stars does not buy what it used to in a hotel. Somehow there has always managed to be water at the base of the toilet. I suspect by the color it leaks sewage though I have not noticed a smell.
We were not hungry enough for a full dinner so went to a sweet shop. Evelyn had Tabuk Gogsu and a beverage Boza. The former is pounded chicken breast with cream sugar and cinnamon. The drink is fermented millet. I had a chocolate pudding, hearing that they were particularly good and having little idea how good chocolate pudding can be. It is cooked chocolate pudding with a small cream puff at the center and chocolate shavings over the top. It was a wower. Very nice. Cost for the three items is less than $3.
There is sort of a headwaiter. First a busboy walks to a corner of the restaurant behind me where nothing is happening but he can look over my shoulder. Then the headwaiter does the same. Both seem very concerned about what I am typing. They have not seen a lot of people come into their restaurant typing things before. He is behaving as if he thinks I am checking up on him.
Today has been a fairly good day. Now we are off to the theater to see what I am guessing is three ballets. They are Symphonic Dances. The music seems to be from Beethoven's 7th Symphony, Ravel's "Bolero," and Shubert's "Bitmemis" Symphony. I am not sure which Schubert it is, but I am guessing it is the Unfinished Symphony. In any case we will have a fighting chance to know what is going on tonight. I doubt they will be dancing in Turkish. Music and dance transcend the language barrier.
Last night the program book was 40 cents; tonight it is $2. I guess you need a lot more text to cover dance. We got to the theater at 7:05 and people are slowly arriving. People dress to varying degrees. There are kids of 12 who come dressed like... well, like kids of 12 insist on dressing. Sloppy pants, running shoes. He looks like he could be an American. Some people are dressed very formally in jacket and tie and some in tee shirts. I am dressed as well as I can be after travelling for two and a half weeks in Turkey. That is to say I am just a bit on the shabby side. The only thing really out of place is the fact my shoes need a cleaning (desperately). The crowd looks a lot like the crowd one might get for this event a Lincoln Center. Take a photograph of this crowd and you would never guess that it was taken in Turkey.
They use no ushers to take people to their seats. It is assumed to be a service that is unnecessary. Otherwise I saw nothing the slightest threadbare about the performance last night, in spite of the very low cost. The tickets are all printed in one book. As they are sold they are ripped out of the book. Crude but effective.
Every seat in the theater has a unique number. The row letter is useful information, but it is redundant. We have much better seats tonight. The fire curtain looks like a Turkish painting of musicians and a woman dancing.
A woman pushes past me on the row and says two or three sentences to me in Turkish. They sounded friendly enough. The couple next to me is dressed very formally, but the woman's suit smells of camphor.
The nice thing about dance is even if the dance conveys little to you still have the music. In this case it was indeed Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.
Now there are many people for whom their most meaningful experience with classical music was Fantasia. That is not the case with me. I did not even see Fantasia until I was in college. The film that fulfills the same function for me is The Black Cat (1933) with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. I cannot hear any of the vast array of classical music used in that film without being plunged into that wonderful sepulchral battle of mortal enemies. That is my idea of a great movie. Of course, hearing the first movement of the "Unfinished" and I was back on the battlements of Fort Marmaros in spite of whatever was happening on the stage.
Part of the problem was the man sitting in front of me was somewhat tall and had a short haircut which made his hair stand out like a brush. I think the dance had something to do with the nature of art. There were music stands as props and women in tights and men in frock coats a la Chopin, but without shirts. Well, even if one ignores the dance this can be considered a concert.
I admit I don't know a lot about modern dance. Years ago when we visited a place that no longer exists by the name of Leningrad we went to see a dance show. They were folk dances and at the height of the dance they brought a bear onto the stage. We really enjoyed the night. Since then my acid test for a dance piece is would it be improved by bringing a bear onto the stage. Few pieces of modern dance can stand up to the bear test. The next piece was done to Ravel's "Bolero." It had women in what looked like swimsuits and men in tight black dance outfits. The movement seemed abstract. Again, I cannot tell you what they were trying to say and at least for me, the performance sadly needed a bear on stage. A Bolero is a dance. If you are going to create a dance to go with the music, it had better use the music better than the original dance did. This did not. It had movements in time to the music, but it takes more than that to make a dance for the music.
At the intermission people step past me to get out of the seats or back in. The two people next to Evelyn first excuse themselves in Turkish. The second time out (there were two intermission) the woman said something in Turkish and the man said "sorry." Coming back in the woman said nothing and the man again said "sorry." He probably told her not to speak Turkish because we would not understand.
The climax of the evening was Beethoven's Seventh. This starts out more lighthearted and lively than the previous music. There were more dancers on the stage and they did a better job of representing the music, at least to me. When there was repetitive sound in the music there were enough dancers that there was a pair for each repetition. I thought they did a really good interpretation. In this case no bear was required. There was a problem. The audience seemed unfamiliar with the music. Twice in the third movement the choreographer brought lines of dancers to the front of the stage and the audience thought it was a curtain call. They started applauding and drowned out the music. The dancers stood at the front of the stage and waited for the applause to die down before continuing, but it must have thrown them off. Now admittedly much of the fault was that of the choreographer. But I think someone was assuming that everybody knew that the music of any (but the "Unfinished") symphony is not over until four movements have passed. At the beginning of the second movement Evelyn gave me a look. It was more great music from The Black Cat. It also was music that was used in Zardoz. I tell you every great dark piece of classical music from Romantic era shows up somewhere in The Black Cat.
Following the performance Evelyn and I walked home in a light rain. The water was back on when we got to the room. We had bought candy bars to eat at the intermission, but I had been busy writing about the performance. So we ate them in the room.
05/15/98: Ankara: Sights and transit
Well, our trip is rapidly coming to an end. My spreadsheet that tracks such things says we are now 7/8 the way into the trip, or will be in about 8 minutes, which is close enough for me. This program gives me a nice pie chart showing what percent of the trip is gone. It also tells me where I should be on my film. In the early parts of the trip I was using up film too fast, but now I am even just a bit behind. I may end up with a roll to spare.
More fighting with the plumbing, but in an hour or so it is someone else's problem. We went down to what might well be our final Turkish style breakfast. Frankly it is pretty much the same thing day after day and while I did warm up to it eventually, I won't be sorry to get some variety. The knife at breakfast was cheaply made. The handle was only a little sharper than the blade.
We go out looking for some of the local artifacts of ancient Rome. The first stop is the Column of Julian. It was erected for the Emperor Julian. It is not all that impressive any more. A stork has built a nest on the top.
We got ourselves a bit lost looking for the Haci Bayram Camil, the most beloved mosque. How impressive is a glass shop with a cracked picture window? We found the mosque and the small ruins of the Temple of Augustus. A man was feeding pigeons and had roughly an acre of them swarming around. I wonder how many of the pigeons six yards away really thought they were going to get anything at all considering how much competition there was. I guess you take your chances and hope to be lucky sometime. You take your chances going with the flock. Not a lot of pigeons are creative thinkers.
A little girl and what I assume was her younger brother were selling what I would call charms or Islamic Mezuzahs. It was something in a sealed leather pouch. She was so persistent and it was only 20 cents, so Evelyn and I each bought one. She kissed us each on both cheeks, but there was too much language barrier for us to understand even what we bought.
We took some pictures of the mosque, but did not go inside. We walked around. There is a sort of religious bazaar with most shops selling religious goods. We bought a book, the first apparent piece of science fiction we found in Turkey, but found out it was really a tract about Islam and Doomsday. We talked to a soft-spoken gentleman who asked us to see his bookshop and have some tea. We politely declined. He gave us a sort or religious talk assuming us to be Christians. He told us about how powerful God was, identifying God with Nature. He said that God was the greatest computer maker since He had invented the human mind. He said that a fly is far more complex than a fighter-jet. The sun is a much more powerful atom bomb than anything man has made is. If he were a Jehovah's Witness on my doorstep I might have pointed out the flaws in his argument. He believed things were going to come to a battle between believers and atheists. I really should have pinned him down as to why he thought that people with differing viewpoints have to battle. I respect both believers and atheists, though deep down I think both use flawed arguments for their viewpoints. The universe just does not provide the evidence for us to decide if there is a God. Deciding to be one or another is an emotional decision, not a logical one. But I really now wish I had tried to persuade him that atheists are not his enemies. At least they are not just by being atheists.
We walked from the bazaar through the streets until we saw the Ataturk Monument and that told us where we were. On to the War of Salvation Museum.
The War of Salvation Museum is in the building that housed the National Assembly and from which Mustafa Kemal commanded during the war of Independence. Essentially, as I understand it, you had a three-sided war. You had Greeks invading Turkey. You had the forces of the Sultan, and you had Mustafa Kemal. On May 19, 1919, Kemal took command of the Ninth Army ostensibly to fight the Greeks but instead taking on two enemies. Kemal was forced to resign but resistance to the Sultan was now official and a national issue. The resistance continued and gained support and by January of 1920 Kemal claimed his Nationalists were now the rightful government of Turkey. In March of 1920 Kemal set up this building as the National Assembly of Turkey. The National Assembly was slow to act but in August they counterattacked the Greeks and routed them, burning Smyrna.
If you know a little of the history the museum has more meaning. There is not really a lot to see. It is just a bunch of rooms where the assembly met and where Mustafa Kemal had his office. Perhaps because this was the Friday before May 19 there were hordes of school children whose classes had come to visit the museum. Many of them found us more interesting than the exhibits. We tried to discourage them, but we got lots of hellos and kids trying out their English on real live tourists. There were long lines of them waiting to get in and we could not even walk down the street without being treated like celebrities.
The Republic Museum is just down the street from the last museum. When the Grand National Assembly got too big for the first building they moved to this second building. However, when we got there it was closed to the public. A film crew was setting up to film a shot there and was preparing several cars out front to look like antiques. We watched for a while, then decided to go back to the hotel, just a few blocks away. There was a man on the sidewalk selling washcloths. At least I think that is what they were. I shook my head no, but he gave me a big smile anyway. The Turks are great people.
Back we go to the room. One last use of the ludicrous plumbing facilities. Then we pack our luggage on our backs and we are off. As we leave the hotel I tell Evelyn to take a last look. There is actually a fairly good chance she will never see it again. We catch a bus. I suspect that with this amount of luggage we should have taken a taxi.
A bus station is an otogar; a train station is simply a gar. We leave our luggage at left luggage. The man tells us they close at 11pm. No problem. The Ankara Express leaves for Istanbul at 10:30pm. If our luggage is still there at 11pm we are in serious trouble. From there we get a bus to downtown. This is the modern downtown from the new part of town. Ulus is really the old part of the city. Evelyn sat next to a woman studying to be a mathematics teacher. I had to grab a different seat.
Getting off the bus Evelyn got a Coca-Cola and I got a Cappy Cherry and we went to sit in a nearby park. Two shoeshine boys came by walking with a third boy. The third boy stopped to look at us with an over-exaggerated pained and pitiful look. When we would not give him money he pulled a smoking cigarette from behind his back and nonchalantly walked away. I commented to Evelyn that he needed a better pitiful look and the cigarette definitely did not help the act. A few seconds later he had picked a fight with one of the shoeshine boys.
The downtown section is called Kizilay for a square in the area. What I had called up-scale shops before should be taken down a peg. This is really a fancier downtown than most American cities have.
You see a lot of clothing and toys that use Mickey Mouse or Tweety-Pie. The two are very popular characters. I never see a copyright symbol. I suspect that the use is illegal.
We look in a bookstore window as we walk. One of the books for sale is The Diary of Anne Frank. Now how many mostly Moslem countries would you see that in?
There is an area opened only to a very minimum of car traffic. We walk around going to stores, mostly bookstores. I get some pictures of fish stalls. The fish are all laid out in parallel even rows. Each one has a bright red wound the size of a nickel at the base of the neck. It may be some sort of freshness proof, but I am not sure how it works. Maybe it changes color when the fish is not fresh. There are also some beautiful fruit stalls.
As yet we had seen several bookstores without ever seeing a science fiction section. You do see horror and some fantasy, but science fiction seems not to have made much of a mark in Turkey. In one bookstore I find some books that get about as close as I have seen. There is a Turkish edition of Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth. I get a much abridged version of The Phantom of the Opera also, just as a souvenir. We like to collect foreign language editions of science fiction books.
We went to another bookstore and they did have a science fiction section, but with only about 20 titles. Featured is what we have to figure out is Children of Dune by Frank Herbert.
It was getting toward lunchtime and later, about 2:30. We decided to look for a place to eat. There is no shortage of places to eat in Kizilay, but most look good and we took pretty much the first we found, a fried fish sandwich place. For 300,000TL or 350,000TL you get fish fried while you wait on a half loaf of bread, with lettuce and onions and a wedge of lemon. We ordered Bass and Halibut. I would swear one of us did not get what we ordered because both are fair-sized fish and Evelyn's was made of some small fish. Still it was good enough. I thought hers was a little bitter tasting, but she didn't think so. So we sat there watching the passing parade, eating fish sandwiches, and drinking Cokes.
We walk around the downtown area after lunch. We consider making some purchases, but don't. We go to a movie theater and you have your choice of four American films: Titanic, Great Expectations, and Seven Years in Tibet. We find some used book stalls and get some cheap editions of a couple other science fiction novels: Arthur C. Clarke's Fall of Moondust and Isaac Asimov's Pebble in the Sky.
We walked around and then sat in the public area and wrote and watched the passing parade. We sat in front of a restaurant with a huge spit of lamb meat. It must have started out three feet in diameter. As we sat there he sliced meat one sandwich at a time. It must have been down to two feet by the time we left. That is a lot of meat sold.
We probably could have gone to Istanbul a day earlier. The little bits that we are doing today do not add up to a whole lot. It would have meant missing last evening's performance and that would have been a shame. Still there is something to be said for just sitting in a park (we are now back in the park where we had the drinks early this afternoon) and noting cultural differences.
There are a lot of military men in uniform on the streets. It must be a bigger percent of the Turkish population than of our population.
Cigarette smoking is different. Almost everybody adult seems to smoke. Well, a very big percentage anyway. In Turkey people are much more likely to sit near you, light up a cigarette, and blow smoke your way. I guess we in the US have had our consciousness raised about smoking. However most Turks prefer Turkish cigarettes to American ones. In Bergama the son of the hotel owner explained why. He had a Turkish cigarette and the Japanese gardener had one. He bent the cigarette and the paper tore. He told the gardener to bend his cigarette. On the American cigarette the paper did not tear. They put plastic in the paper so the cigarettes are more durable. American smokers are inhaling burning plastic. I don't suppose it adds a whole lot to the dangers of smoking, but it does give one pause. I have been told that the Turks who do smoke admire people who don't. I think they figure they have had the strength to give up smoking.
Everywhere there are people selling flags to celebrate May 19, the Turkish equivalent of Independence Day. This was when Ataturk started leading the people in his revolt against the Sultan. You are nobody unless you are waving a big flag when the day comes, I think.
The time came when it was getting hard to read and we got a bus to the train station. It really picked up a lot of people. It was not as packed as the subway trains in Tokyo at rush hour, but it was packed by US standards. It was all I could do to hold onto the bar and stand. One of the banks has a big sign that shows moving pictures like Times Square.
We recognize when we are getting to the train station because of the amusement park across the street. Their parachute drop is a tall tower, sort of a landmark. We had to fight our way off the bus. We both had to use the toilets. The cost here is 30,000 for tuvalet. Well, I guess 12 cents isn't much.
We go into the waiting room. We still have a couple of hours until our train is ready. The train platform is one of the cleanest and most beautiful I have ever seen. The marble tile floors add a lot. We decide to get a little food. There is a restaurant and a pasta place in the station. Here pasta means pastry. They have a big menu on the wall. I order Pepsi and pizza, Evelyn orders cake and Turkish coffee. The waiter goes off and brings Evelyn her cake and me Pepsi. We wait.
Eventually I ask the waiter if pizza is coming. He seems confused.
His boss comes out carrying a second open Pepsi and a piece of cake. "Heyir. Pizza." I write down "pizza" on my pad. "No pizza." Okay, I take the cake.
We get our luggage and go out on the platform. There is a dog in the train station. I clearly was too harsh on the local populace. Just about everyone who passes the dog pets him or makes kissing sounds. One woman petted him. Made a one-minute gesture with her hand and went running off. A couple minutes later she returned with some wrapped cake that she gave the dog. "I know him," she explained. He chose to sleep on the marble floor near us until we had to leave him and board the train. Also it was a he. I don't know why but the vast majority of dogs I have seen have been female. Maybe it is my imagination. Having ridden sleepers in Southeast Asia and India I am prepared for the worst. I just hope we get put in with someone decent.
I get on the train and tell the steward our seats are "besh ve alta" ("5 and 6"}. No, we didn't get put in with someone decent. We have a private two-person compartment. Well, I would say the accommodations are comparable to what we had on the one time we had a sleeper in Scotland. Okay, get this Southeast Asia traveling companions. Our compartment has a full complement of electric lights, and an outlet. There is a thermostat. It gets better. There is a sink and a big mirror. There are two bottles of water and glasses. There is a wall with hangers and hooks. Come to think of it, Scotland did not have a sink. Hey, it isn't as nice as in Murder on the Orient Express or From Russia with Love, but, hey, it is way ahead of anything we have had in a sleeper car before. I just wish we could have traveled like this earlier in the trip. And it saves us a travel day. And it saves us an hotel night. But we have to pay $35 for a double. What luxury. You know, I like Turkey.
To enjoy the trip more I have myself some roast chickpeas from earlier and one of my two cans of Cappy Cherry. I didn't initially like roast chickpeas but I am getting used to them. I think they need salt. The other problem is they get a little charred in the roasting process, which comes off on your fingers in a brown powder.
The conductor earlier offered to open the beds, but we wanted to stay up a little longer. We opened everything ourselves. No problem. I expect the rocking of the car to help put me to sleep.
05/16/98: Istanbul Sights
I woke up at 4am and realized I had forgotten something very important about comfort. To a Turk, a comfortable room temperature is maybe 80 degrees. One discomfort about the opera house is that it was warm and stuffy. This car had its own radiator, and it was pumping away. Evelyn woke up too, perhaps because of my reading light reflected by the mirror, and suggested we open up a window. Yup. I will have to remember that the next time I am on the Orient Express or another train of its ilk.
Once I opened the window it got nicely chilly. The night averaged out to a comfortable temperature. Well, it is easier to sleep when it is too cold than too hot.
At 6am or so someone walks the corridor ringing a bell as a wakeup call. Outside we see the Sea of Marmara. There is a low mist on the sea the same color as the sky giving the impression that the hills in the distance are floating on air. We pass a modern rural area, one looking very Mediterranean, and every once in a while you see a pair of minarets towering over it like a pair of candlesticks. I wonder why Americans are not here in larger numbers. This is a terrific place to visit.
The sink has a little metal label that shows a faucet over a full water glass and an "X" over the water glass. Wash with water but don't drink it. Breakfast was the cookies we had since the trip to Konya and mineral water. The toilet on the train is sit, not squat.
We are once again dogged by cloudy weather. Some of these views would be a lot nicer in the sunshine. Still I guess there is nothing to be done for it but live with the bad weather. Well, this is the last day.
We pull into Istanbul station at about 8am. Istanbul station is a marvelous old building with stained glass windows. It has a feel of classic Middle Eastern architecture even if it is not a mosque. There is just a feeling of romance about the building.
We buy our ticket for the ferry, a cost of 125,000TL. We get on the boat. I have been told from my reading that this ferry across the Bosphorus is supposed to be something magical. I am looking forward to it.
Most people are unexcited by the trip across the Bosphorus. A few of us stand in the open area. We pass docks with boats loading and exotic buildings in the distance. Once again here and there you see minarets. A student sees that I am a tourist and wants to know about me. Another man joins in the conversation. We are making a short stop to let some passengers off and others on.
Now we are out on the water. Looking at Istanbul is indeed beautiful with its giant mosques. In the early morning there are sleepy fishing boats in the water and faster boats. This is certainly a nicer way to get into Istanbul than to come in by airplane on a gray and foggy day. Unfortunately the ferry ride lasts only a few minutes. We get out and they are selling fresh fish on the docks. The smaller fish glint in silver, and there are some very large fish heads.
Hmmm! This really is not going well. Maybe it is the fish heads. It really was a very exciting scene, but fish heads just aren't going to convince any one. You are probably reacting the way I would reading about how exciting it is to see a bin full of liver. Well, take it from me. It is a "ya have to have been there." From there we got a taxi to what was basically the same area where we had been three weeks before.
Drivers are really casual here. As we were driving one motions to our driver to pull up beside and the two start a conversation. He probably wanted directions. I already commented on how close they will drive to people. If a driver in the United States has to drive within two inches of where a person is standing he will stop and wait for the person to move or honk. Here the attitude is, "What's the problem?"
We leave our luggage at the Alp and take a cab out of the city to the dock were we hope to get a ferry up the Golden Horn, the port of the city. Naturally our cab nearly hits someone getting there. We get to the dock and looking for how to get a ferry we are pretty nearly flooded with touts trying to sell us rides up the horn in their boat. What we find out, which seems to be true, is that the water is low and there are no ferries up the horn. We still have to fight these guys off with sticks, but make our getaway across a busy road. That frightens them off, but nearly does the same to me.
We get bus tickets and while we are waiting for the bus I buy from a vendor a roll of egg bread. The cost is 20 cents and it is fresh and quite good. The Turks do like bread. I am eating the last as we find our bus.
Our first site is the Eyup Sultan Mosque. Eyup Ensari was a friend to Muhammed and one of the founders of Islam who died fighting for the new faith. His tomb was revered by the Byzantine as a mark of respect. When Mehmet the Conqueror took the city for Islam, he was obliged to treat the tomb with more respect than the Christians had. This mosque is considered a very holy day. We see at least two families with little boys dressed in white satin suits with red sashes, cylindrical hats, and capes. They look like they are ready to lead a circus parade. In fact this is one of the special days in their lives. Jewish boys are only a few days old when they are circumcised and at 13 they have the bar mitzvah for which there is a lot of study and commotion. Then on the day there is lot of cheek-pinching by sadistic aunts under the guise of affection. Moslem boys don't have to study for the event, but they are circumcised between eight and ten. And they do lead a parade of friends and family. I am not sure which is worse. Maybe it is better to get it over all at once the way they do here. The boys I saw did not seem to be very happy, but both had older sisters who were enjoying it immensely.
The tomb has not a lot to see. A tomb that you can see a little of behind an iron grating. There was an ornate chandelier and the room was decorated in blue tile. Women are expected to cover their heads and wear long skirts. Evelyn did not, but had the respect not to enter. I did enter, and I gave her a description. We walked around the area and there are other tombs and other graveyards. Some of the gravestones are pillars with Koranic verses.
Well, once again we were accosted by a group of schoolgirls wanting to test their English. It was all the usual stuff. "What is your name?" "Where are you from?" "What work do you do?" We asked about them. They asked about us. One of them made what I assume was a rude comment in Turkish and the others giggled and hit her.
Our next stop was to be the Kariye Church. Evelyn found it on the map and judged it to be one kilometer, certainly less than a mile. We set off to find it. This was one of those cases where we just walked and walked through non-tourist areas. Really non-tourist. After better than 45 minutes with no sense of getting any nearer, I insisted we hire a taxi. We did and the guy seemed to drive and drive and drive. Eventually we got there and the cost was about $2.
Kariye Museum (Church of St. Savior in Chora) known in the Lonely Planet as the Chora Church was originally called the Church of the Holy Savior Outside the Walls. When first built in 413 it was an outside place, outside the walls of the city. It was garishly over-decorated with mosaics. As the city grew it was surrounded by the city. Under the Ottomans it was defaced for the greater glory of Allah. What the Ottomans did not get to is still more than enough for a church several times as big. I will let Evelyn cover the actual art.
The next order of business was to find lunch. After our little disagreement over the whether walking or taking a cab was a better idea Evelyn suggested I take the lead in finding a restaurant. We walked a couple blocks to find a busy street. We walked a little further and found a nice-looking kabap restaurant. For me lunch was doner kabap and Pepsi. Evelyn had the Iskander Kebap. That is the same meat in a spicy tomato sauce with yogurt on the side.
After lunch we find the bus that would take us to the next site but as we go to get on the bus we see everybody else has a ticket. So we buy a ticket and wait for the next bus of the same type. We get on and they say it is the wrong kind of ticket. They sell us another one. Well, that's about half a dollar wasted.
I had heard that in Islamic countries that a woman would not sit on a bus next to an unrelated man. The bus filled with so many people I could not see Evelyn across the aisle. I later suggested that we should have used our walkie-talkies. I did get occasional views of Evelyn's hand, which reassured me that she was still there. Then the bus got so full I could not see that.
We had planned to tour the Dolmabahce Palace. This was the palace of the Sultan, but only late in history when it was no longer really time to have Sultans. This was the time that Turkey was called "the sick man of Europe." While the state of Turkey was going into a bucket, the Sultan was having this ornate palace built for him to impress the monarchs of Europe. The entrance cost was something like $14 per person. We decided to give it a miss. We could see much of the exterior from the gate and got the idea that it would be of the ornate French "lather on a little more gold" school of decoration.
In front of the gates are guards who are supposed to stand at attention and not react, no matter what. They stand like mannequins. To me it is not clear what this has to do with winning wars. We continued up the street to the Maritime Museum.
At one time Ottoman Turkey was the supreme sea power through the Eastern Mediterranean. Under Suleyman the Magnificent from 1520 to 1566, Turkey commanded the waves. The Christians could not allow that power to continue and destroyed the fleet in 1571 at the battle of Lepanto. The Sultan built another fleet, though never as successfully. Turkey failed to keep its fleet up to date and eventually lost its place as a sea power.
What we at first thought was the Maritime Museum was a small exhibition of art, all on themes dealing with the ocean. One piece seems to have a sailboat on cloth so that a background seems to move in Moire patterns. Pieces were done in a style of 1950s science fiction art. Some were done in bright cartoon colors. One nice piece was an abstract shark.
There was supposed to be a second building of the museum, but it turned out we hadn't been to either building. The first real building was mostly taken up with historical boats of the Sultans and their harems. From there you went through a garden that featured bronze busts of maritime governors and admirals of the fleet. It has cannons and mines from more recent history. The second building had more recent objects including Ataturk naval mementos, a captured Ottoman standard from the Battle of Lepanto. They had a collection of boat models, medals, coins with maritime pictures, figureheads, water lights, diving suits and pumps, etc. It was a much nicer museum than it first appeared.
We thought it might be a good idea to take cheap ferry twice across the Golden Horn. I would have liked Evelyn to see a view like I had seen that morning, but the ferries were not running. So from there we wanted to get back to the room. Since our room was in walking distance of the Topkapi Palace and the bus claimed to go to Topkapi, we figured we were all set. We asked how to get the bus. A man sold us a ticket and told us we had to cross the street. It was a busy street and we had to cross a "flyover" to do it. It was about a fifteen-minute wait for the bus, and when it arrived the ticket-taker claimed we had the wrong kind of ticket. Evelyn was getting frustrated and started to complain. Another passenger took our two tickets and left the price. It was a small thing, but typically Turkish.
We took the bus to Topkapi only to find ourselves at a bazaar that was nowhere near the Topkapi Palace. We had to take a taxi anyway. The driver was a disagreeable sort who kept making obscene hand gestures at other cars. He also shortchanged us and drove off before we could stop him.
We went back to the room a little tired and a little down. Actually we had not seen the room at the Alp yet. We rested and realized we had to change money for dinner. None of the cash machines would accept our card. We passed one cash machine that had rejected it before. Someone inside the booth waved at us. It was one of the Kiwis we met on the Goreme tour. We went to see if she was having any luck. She said the machine had just been repaired. It still rejected one of our cards. We tried the other and Voila. Magic. We could have a decent dinner our last night instead of pizza.
We tried the Altin Kupa for dinner. The service was just awful. First they served a group that came in after us first, then apparently were taking dishes to the restaurant next door before serving us. After about 40 minutes we finally got our food. I had mixed grill; Evelyn had lamb cutlets. I was irritated and had planned to get dessert, but did not.
Over dinner we discussed what were the highpoints of the trip for each of us. For me it was the collection of artifacts of ancient religions at Ankara. This may be one of the great collections in the world of religions whose country I always wanted to visit, but assumed it was impossible to get to it behind a political curtain as impenetrable as the Iron Curtain. It was a real discovery that there was a country that still had the originals.
Evelyn's choice was Goreme and there is something to be said for that. Certainly it is the most visually spectacular place we visited. There were two problems for me there. One is that I still have wounds on my head from cracking it so many times. A few times is funny and I should have learned to be more careful. But in the end I began to grow weary of the traps for the unwary. But I have another and deeper problem with Goreme. What happened geologically at Goreme is unique, wonderful, and beautiful. And I can even accept that some historic people might have hollowed out some of the volcanic chimneys for homes. But then the Christians had to deface it for what I consider selfish reasons. And then the Moslems had to come in and deface the Christian art, scratching out eyes of the images, putting theirs in its place. How would you feel looking at Yosemite if it had been totally defaced in a South Bronx style gang war and there was graffiti over everything? At heart I suspect a lot of what is done in the name of religion is trying to curry favor with what people consider to be the powers that be. People willfully confuse the concept of "done in the name of religion" with "good." That is at the heart of perhaps most of the evil in the world. I see evil done for this motive, evil done for greed (e.g. theft), and evil done for racial intolerance. They are basically a) greed for the next world, b) greed in this world, and c) instinct to preserve ones own genes (a la Dawkins's Selfish Gene). a and b are the same if you assume life after death. b and c are the same if you take a more biological viewpoint.
As we are leaving the restaurant a carpet salesman sees us and rushes to try to get us to his shop. The Sammons absolutely hated talking to carpet salesmen. The Farises convinced us that it was enjoyable and often did not involve buying a carpet at all. They just want to talk and find out about the world. This one wanted to know what we do. I said that I work with computers. He said this was like Bill Gates. Yes, computers but not Bill Gates. Gates is now the richest man in the world. He is the second carpet salesman we have met who is fascinated with Gates's wealth, at least after we said we were in computers. Both knew, however, that Gates was in trouble with the government.
Our salesman wanted to know what we made a month in salary. I told him. He was astounded. He said he could live very, very comfortably on that much money. I told him that was meaningless. You cannot earn like in the United States and live in Turkey. Really all he is seeing is that there is a high exchange rate. We do not live all that much more comfortably than he does. It is more comfortable, but our prices are a lot higher. He knew that was true saying that bread is very cheap in Turkey and very expensive in the US. He wanted to know if we each had a car. Yes, but that has been true only for a short time. Over the last three or four months for the first time we have had two cars. Before that we had one car 15 years old. And we own our house? Well, yes, but have a mortgage. He did not know about or understand mortgages.
He also wanted to know about violence in the United States. Five-year-old children had guns, he had heard. I told him it was very rare. Did we have a gun? No, but I know several people who do. Guns are very hard to find in Turkey. I told him it was a good thing. He agreed. I had hoped to buy some candy for my group at the corner store that had offered us credit the first day.
The carpet salesman said we could get I right there, but the woman had been nice to us and I wanted to be nice back. Now it was after 9pm and I was probably too late. Eventually we pulled away. The corner store was on he way. We passed it at 9:20 and it was open. The woman remembered us and treated us like friends. We bought candy for home and some peach candy for me (which turned out to be really good). We had about a million lira left. It occurred to me to make her a gift of what was left. Evelyn thought we might need it at the airport. We didn't. But we did say good-bye.
We returned to the room to pack. Evelyn went to sleep. I tried not to sleep, but did sleep maybe an hour.
05/17/98: Transit: Istanbul to New Jersey
(I will keep today's log entry short since there is no a lot of insight about Turkey left to make.)
Today is my birthday. I was up for an hour or so before we had to go. We got a wake-up call. He woman who ran the hotel had gotten up to wake us up. Since we were leaving early and could not stay for breakfast she had made us each a cheese sandwich on a half loaf of bread. She gave us those and two juice boxes of cherry nectar in a plastic bag. This was 4am she was up. Maybe she wanted our last impression of Turkey to be a good one. I cannot believe we in the US treat visitors as nicely. There are all kinds of Turks, but the country seems richly endowed with nice people.
Istanbul gives us a rainy farewell as we get in the dolmus to the airport. We get to the airport and find out the plane is leaving early to Munich. It will just give us more time in Munich.
There is a mob in front of the ticket desk. We have all sorts of strategies for getting through the lines quickly. As a result we are the last through. Well, we are really early for our flight so we have the time. Security is a little worse than arriving by having us go through two different magnetic checks. But it is little more than looking at the passport as far as asking questions.
We sit in the lounge and I doze a little. I am trying to convince myself it is around midnight even though the sun is rising, or would be if it weren't a gray and ugly day.
We talked to a woman from Denver about bookstores. I hit the plane, getting the news that Frank Sinatra was dead on the way in from a day-old newspaper. I was already dozing by the time we took off. Was half-awake for the takeoff. Then went back to sleep. I did not even notice if it was on time at 12:30am home time. I fell asleep again and woke up around 1:25 when they dropped in my lap a Turkish salad with a little corned beef, an omelet Florentine, some mixed fruit and a couple rolls. Also as much orange juice as I can manage.
It is nice weather when we approach Munich. The clouds are in tall billowy piles. The plane seems to take a path around them and we have a little fun turbulence. We land and have to take a trolley to the terminal. This is our first time in Munich. The decoration has a sort of Erector Set feel with you able to see how things are put together and a lot of open air.
We go to the gate and Evelyn goes off to explore. They bring two older people in wheelchairs into the waiting room. They are not having a good time. It seems he is blind and she is confused. Together they make a whole person. I listen in. They are worried about the next flight. They did not get seats together. It is a long flight and they are worried about being separated for so long. I did not want to act without at least telling Evelyn, but I knew darn well that when Evelyn came back we would exchange seats with them. There wasn't a chance Evelyn would say no. They were very appreciative. Heck, I just had 24 days almost constantly with Evelyn. And at work we share an office. With so nearly perfect a wife, who needs separation time? But this flight will give us each time to work on our logs.
Once again Lufthansa provides newspapers. I have been out of touch. Okay, there is rioting going on in Indonesia. The rioters are trying to get rid of Suharto. Until now I have been on their side. Not any more. Now I don't particularly care what happens. It seems they have picked out the ethnic Chinese as being particularly responsible for Suharto being in office. They have drawn this conclusion based on two important pieces of evidence. First, the Chinese are different from Indonesians. Second, some Chinese are wealthier than some Indonesians are. So the Indonesians are burning Chinese alive. Not all the Indonesians, but they are not stopping the ones who are.
Once again Lufthansa is boarding by zone. Zones 1 to 4 are boarding. There are some Zone-6ers a little concerned. I tell them they are going to Chicago.
As soon as you get on the plane, even before take-off they came around with boxes of orange juice. Again I was half-awake by the time we took off. I must have slept for half an hour. That was intentional since I could not work on my log during take-off. When I was awake they served a snack of a drink (orange juice for me) and a pack of kangaroo-shaped crackers called Jumpys made mostly from mashed potato powder.
On the TV they ran a short film about the making of Amistad. They said that filming it required historical accuracy while showing John Quincy Adams standing in front of the Capitol Building complete with the dome it would not get until the Civil War. Nice accuracy.
Lunch was a smoked salmon salad, tortellini a roll, fruit compote, and some nice cheese.
The movie is The Jackal. It isn't a bad film but with so good a film as The Day of the Jackal being based on the same novel there is no need for this stupid version. The first film is pure chess game. No gunfights, no chases, very little violence. It was just a search for a needle in a haystack and the clever way the needle hides. This is almost a parody of that film.
After, the film juice. And everybody gets a 35-gram bar of Toblerone Chocolate. After the film is a turkey, tomato, and cucumber sandwich. They are constantly either bringing food or picking it up. But I like it as an airline.
Landing was pretty much on time. Well, that's it. That's Turkey.
I am very fond of East Asia. But I think Turkey
has been the best and certainly the most surprising country not
on the Pacific Rim. I like the people, and much of the country
is spectacular. It is not always an easy trip but it was one
very worth making if for no other reason than to give me evidence
against Turkophobe myths.