Updates from the Road: Turkey
I'll be in Turkey from May 8th to June 5th, so I put up this page with the idea that if I have too much free time on my hands while traveling, then I'd spend some of it sitting in front of a computer typing in amusing travel anecdotes. In other words, don't expect too much. I don't know what I'll end up writing, but I hope it'll be a step or two above: "Hi, I'm in [city]. Having a great time." A note about special Turkish letters -- I can do the ç, ö, and ü, but not the s with the squiggle on the bottom, the g with the squiggle on the top, the I with the dot, or the i without the dot. Oh well. Turkish language purists will just have to deal with it.
07 May 2000 - Seattle
The Saga Begins...
Okay, I haven't left Seattle yet, but I've hit a major milestone: I'm fully packed! And it's not even midnight, so I might possibly get some sleep before I fly away tomorrow morning.
I've heard that Istanbul is chock full of internet cafes, so expect a real update or two later this week.
10 May 2000 - Istanbul
Hi, all. Sitting in an internet cafe, struggling with the just different enough to be really annoying keyboard. Over the last three+ days, I have had about ten hours of sleep. Maybe tonight will be better.
Most of the way through my second day here, I have only been given the hard sell by five or six carpet sellers. Great. In between the carpet touts, though, I have managed to pack in the Aya Sofia, Yerebatan Saray, getting lost in the grand bazaar, and a very pleasant Bosphorous cruise. (Note to Thayer: The rickety metal ladder is no longer to be found in or around the castle above Anadolu Kavagi, but I did see a fairly big snake slithering (fortunately) away from me while I walked through the cemetary between the town and the castle.)
The oddest thing I have seen so far is the weight scale street vendor. A somewhat resigned looking man will be sitting on the sidewalk with a weight scale placed in front of him. You can pay him a small amount of money and then weigh yourself. Apparently the only qualification for this job is access to or possession of a scale. Hmm... Now that I think about it, I do not meet this qualification...
Anyway, I had forgotten what it was like to have people talk to me because they want my money or because they want to practice their English. I am starting to get used to the former once again, but the latter is always enjoyable if a little time-consuming sometimes.
Um, well, I would like to wrap up this update, but the connection has gone down. Instead I get to type more and more while waiting. Aside: I hope the letter i shows up okay -- there are two in Turkish, one with the dot and one without -- so I get to juggle back and forth with this Turkish keyboard. Wow, I really hope the connection comes back soon...
Well, I can count to 5 in Turkish now. 6 through 9 are a little tricky, though. Hopefully I will get them down by the time I leave. Looks like I have plenty of time right now to learn them, though...
12 May 2000 - Istanbul
The Turgan Connection
Turgan's relatives are wonderful people. I went out to dinner at Borsa last night with his parents and a guy named Sami. Excellent meal. Had the Tuvak Söglü (sp?) dessert, which was quite tasty despite its unsettling description: custard with chicken breast.
I met up with his cousin Orhan this morning, and he knows pretty much everything about traveling in Turkey. A tremendous wealth of information, and he completely understood the way I like to travel.
Tomorrow I'll be leaving for Bursa. Then on to Ankara via Iznik. From Ankara I'll decide whether to head north to the Black Sea or south to Cappadocia.
This afternoon I plan to hit my first Turkish lighthouse, just southeast of the Sultanahmet area. It'd also be cool to arrange some kind of boat ride around Kizkulesi, which used to be a lighthouse a long time ago, and is now being renovated into a coffeehouse.
12 May 2000 - Istanbul
Exciting Change of Plans
Well, instead of going to Bursa tomorrow, I think I'll head straight to Iznik instead. Exciting, eh?
I don't think the main guy where I'm staying (Ottoman Guest House) likes me very much. I keep refusing to buy a carpet from him. Oh well. It's kind of an annoying place, and I don't recommend it. An odd detail about their complimentary breakfast: The first morning I got 7 olives as part of it, the second morning I got 6 olives, the third morning I got 5 olives. My guess is tomorrow I'll get 4 olives. I'll be sure to follow up in my next update. Exciting, eh?
So much for two updates in one day, and it was a mellow day at that. The hardest thing about these updates, actually, is it kind of cuts out what I can write in postcards to folks. Guess I'll just have to start doing more wild and crazy things. Later...
13 May 2000 - Iznik
Food for Thought
Well, I made it to Iznik, and it's completely different from Istanbul. The only traffic here is caused by the local farmers driving their tractors on the roads. The hotel where I'm staying, instead of having an attached carpet shop, has an attached internet cafe (the only one in town). In fact, I walked around quite a bit and couldn't find a single carpet shop.
The only similarity is food quality. I've had really excellent food in both places. Good food seems to be easy to come by in Turkey (if you're not vegetarian, that is). I wandered into a restaurant at random here, pointed at a couple dishes almost at random, and they both turned out to be wonderful. I'm not sure what the meat was in the second dish, but I know it's not pork, this being a Muslim country and all. So, I can deal with that. As long as it's not lamb's colon.
I talked to a couple women (one Aussie, one Canadian) in the Topkapi Sarayi in Istanbul, and they told me their wild Turkish nightlife story. They asked a couple of Turkish guys to take them to a cool place for drinks. Off they went to Taksim for a while, then the guys took them a ways away to some outdoor spot where a lot of young Turks were hanging out, drinking and eating some kind of grilled meat. After much anatomical pointing, they ascertained that the mystery meat was, in fact, lamb's colon. The Canadian woman then tried a bite, but didn't quite take to it. She was about to describe its taste, but I quickly said that I really didn't want to know. The obvious joke, of course, was that it tasted like shit, but I couldn't bring myself to say it. Just thinking about it gives me the shivers. I'm hoping it's just one of those comical language barrier scenarios. You know: You thought we meant lamb's colon? That's ridiculous! Ha ha! It was lamb's tail! Ha ha ha!
This morning at the Ottoman Guest House, I took my Turkish hat picture. The rooftop deck there has a pretty decent view of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya. So, the picture is: hat on chair by low white wall with the Blue Mosque in the background. I managed to exclude to hotel's metal chimney pipe that conveniently belched out smoke and soot during breakfast hours. Oh, and the breakfast today had five olives, not the expected four.
The plan for tomorrow is to head to the hills and hike around all day long. Then eat a lot of wonderful food when I get back.
Oh, another thing I like about Iznik: it hasn't grown outside its old Roman city walls. I think that is so cool. I walked up to a nice viewpoint and could see the entire town, ringed by the crumbling walls, then farmland spreading out from there.
I finally broke down today and checked DSCM. I was expecting it to go through the roof when word leaked out I'd be gone for a month. Ah well. If it takes two months, then I'm still willing to make the sacrifice... Anyway, I haven't thought about work for almost a whole week -- it's been great.
14 May 2000 - Iznik
The Water Pipe Trail
Turkish word of the day: Kayboldum (KAI bohl doom)
Well, I did some hiking today, but it wasn't quite what I had in mind. I ended up starting late (long story - maybe in another update...), didn't hit the road until 1:30. I walked up to the viewpoint just above the city where there's a tomb and small mosque. I'd walked up there last night for the sunset and found a dirt road that went further up the hill and what looked like a trail branching off from it. The sunset wasn't much as it turned out - too cloudy in the distance.
First, a little geography. The viewpoint is just east of Iznik. There are valleys stretching to the north and northeast as well as to the east just south of the viewpoint. Farmland everywhere.
So, I got to the top once again and kept going. Sure enough, when I reached the spot where I thought I'd spotted the trail, there it was. Score! Off I went, following the trail along the hillside up the northeast valley. The farmland soon ended, though, and up on the opposite hillside directly above it was the local trash dump. What a lovely view! As I continued along, I even saw a dump truck drive up and add some new rubbish to the already immense pile of garbage. The hillside below it going down to the farmland was gray from runoff. Mmmmm.
On I walked and soon saw something not particulary natural about the trail, something that could have been a buried pipe. A little bit further on, the pipe came out of the ground and ran along the trail in plain view. There was a slight leak at one point, water puddling up and running down the hillside. Just my luck: I lug up my own bottle of water, and here there's water pouring off the trail! Alas, I keep hiking.
I started to pass the area of the dump when I heard dogs start barking in the distance behind me. Looking around, I spotted a couple dogs on the other side just below the dump, barking away at some other dog down below out of sight. Hmm, I thought, wild (rabid?) dogs roaming around the hills - maybe this wasn't the best idea...
I finally got past the dump, but unfortunately, it wasn't one of those "out of sight, out of mind" situations -- now I was downwind of it.
Continuing on, I got to a fork in the trail, one path heading slightly up and to the right, the other slightly down and to the left. The left fork looked clearer, so I took that one. It eventually opened out to the little stream going down the valley and pretty much meandered up alongside it. There was lots of mint growing, so as I walked there was a curious mix of trash and mint. I concentrated on the mint.
Another trail came down from the side to the path by the stream, presumably from that fork some distance back. I keep going, the scent from the dump growing weaker and weaker.
Then I heard a dog start barking up the trail in front of me. I looked up and there it was above a small rise, barking away, making tentative moves toward me. Great. Then a head popped up from a depression on the other side of the rise. An older man, and I heard the sound of clanking metal, as if he was cleaning some pots and pans. The dog kept barking, but stayed put.
Was he homeless, or one of those nomads I'd heard about? A camper cleaning up a prime camp site downwind of the town dump? I didn't really want to find out, so, after we stared at each other for several moments, I turned around and headed back, a little dejected. I figured I could head back to the first dirt road and continue along that and see where it took me. For variety's sake and also to feel less exposed, I went up the other-fork trail.
After a little while I got to a clearing and decided to stop for a snack. I settled down on a nice rock, but before I pulled out my Snickers bar, I heard some faint metal clanging, as if the guy had packed up his stuff and was coming down the trail. The clanging was getting louder, and I still didn't want to meet the guy, so I hit the trail again, in a bit of a hurry this time. The trail gained a lot more elevation than I remembered, and pretty soon I had to admit that it didn't in fact hook up to the first one, the Water Pipe Trail. I didn't want to turn back, though, and I could still see the town from where I was, so I kept going.
It eventually let me out into a stretch of plowed land, a tractor trail leading up and to the left and around a bend. I imagined the roar of a tractor coming around, driven by a grizzled old farmer with a rifle in the crook of his arm, saying in a Turkish growl something to the effect of: In this country, boy, trespassin's a capital offense!
I crossed to the far side of the plot where I found another trail leading off. It went to a dirt road towards a transformer and a great view of the town, the lake beyond it, and all the valleys, but that was it. I had to backtrack a little bit before finding another trail that headed off to the east and, more importantly, down.
After an hour or so of crossing clearings and finding new trails, I finally got down to the top edge of farmland. But what to do if I did run across a farmer? I pulled out my phrasebook, flipped to the emergency section, and found: Kayboldum -- I'm lost. Perfect.
Went down some more and found a tractor trail. Even more perfect. On I went, and eventually heard up ahead some sawing -- a farmer up in a tree on a ladder, sawing some branches. I kept walking, and he eventually saw me.
"Merhaba!" I called out.
"Merhaba!" he replied.
"Kayboldum!" I said.
"Kayboldum," he repeated.
"Iznik nerede?" I asked. Where's Iznik?
"Arkadas (something)," he said. Arkadas means friend.
"Arkadas!" I responded.
He came down from the ladder and motioned directions how I could get back to Iznik. I thanked him and continued on, eventually getting back to the road to the viewpoint. This time the sunset was quite good.
17 May 2000 - Safranbolu
The Kindness of Tourists
After a long day of bus shenanigans, I made it to güzel Safranbolu. It's one of those World Cultural Heritage areas -- can't go wrong with UNESCO sites! It's full of old Ottoman style wooden houses in the middle of several (though not very deep) canyons. Lots of twisty streets to explore. They make very tasty Turkish Delight here, too.
Today I headed off to Yörük Köyü -- a very small village about 11 km away full of these old wooden houses. Very sleepy place, and I was the only visitor there. I hung out in a cafe, eating some gözleme (which, of course, turned out to have meat in it) and thinking about starting back to Safranbolu. Walking out of the cafe, I spotted a little tour bus pull in to town, and 15 or 16 Turkish women emerged from the dolmus, along with their guide -- a lively guy who invited me to join them. The women thought it was pretty funny to have an American guy tag along, so off I went.
We were let into the old Ottoman-style laundromat -- a couple of arched nooks with cauldrons for boiling up water, and a large circular stone table for scrubbing and cleaning the clothes. Then came the tour of the nicely restored house -- four stories, lots of couches and cushions, beautiful woodwork on the ceilings, nicely painted.
They then bought me tea while asking me all the usual questions: What do I do? Where have I been in Turkey? Where am I going to next? Do I think Turkey's beautiful (güzel)?
After the çay break, they gave me a ride back to Safranbolu. Nice folks.
Tomorrow I'll be heading to Amasra and do some town hopping along the Black Sea coast. It may be a little while before my next update...
18 May 2000 - Amasra
Black Sea Coasting
Okay, so I was lying when I said it'd be a while until my next update. Apparently you have to travel with the nomads in order not to have access to an internet connection in Turkey. Anyway, I made it to Amasra without much problem. The ride from Safranbolu was quite beautiful -- winding up and down lush mountain valleys to the Black Sea coast.
Tomorrow is May 19th, a national holiday here, and so I get to do the pansiyon shuffle in order to have a place to sleep. Amasra seems to be a hip place to go for the weekend, especially holiday weekends. So, I'm effectively at the mercy of the hotel/pansiyon owners here. In fact, the room I had in Istanbul was pretty much a better deal than I'm getting here. Oh well.
Amasra's a very picturesque town, what with its rocky outcroppings and islands and old castle walls and all. Lots of students roaming around trying to practice their English, too. Tomorrow I'll just start walking and see where I end up. There's lots of amazing coastline in these parts, so it'll be hard to go wrong.
I did a scramble down to the sea to get a feel for the water temperature, and it wasn't particularly warm. Think I'll wait until I get to the Mediterranean or Aegean before I go swimming. Another deterrent is what looks like thousands of jellyfish. I don't think I've ever actually seen a jellyfish, but these look close enough to what I expect them to look like that I don't really want to go swimming through them. They're all over the place, actually. In Istanbul's Golden Horn and up and down the Bosphorous. They seemed mostly dead in Istanbul and the main harbor here thanks to pollution, but were happily pulsating away elsewhere.
20 May 2000 - Kastamonu
Accidents Will Happen
Well, I was going to write a long, cynical update yesterday, but then something wonderful happened. I've ended up detouring from the Black Sea coast, though, and I'm not sure where I'll be heading to tomorrow.
Long, Cynical Section
It took forever to do the pansiyon shuffle. Wait, wait, wait. Find out there's no bus to Cide the next day from Amasra -- have to backtrack to Bartin and catch a bus from there. New pansiyon ended up not having a name, as far as I could tell, but its location was easy enough to remember: go to the noisiest street in Amasra, and it's right in the middle of it. Room had an odd but familiar smell, but had a sink with a nice spacious counter to spread stuff on and a couple of nice stools. Also, it was pretty much the last bed in town.
Headed off in search of a hike. Walked up to an apartment building next to a large patch of cultivated land and just under the saddle to the adjacent bay. I pointed towards the garden and saddle and asked some folks there, "Tamam?" (OK?) A woman answered, "Tamam." She motioned to a dirt road heading in the other direction and said, "Güzel." After a few more hand motions and güzels, I determined that no matter what direction I went it would be beautiful.
Went up and over the saddle -- nice view of Amasra and various sea cliffs -- to nice trail heading down, down, down towards the next bay. Eventually found a short spur trail to a small patch of tilled land. Then another spur towards the beach. I could hear the sound of rushing water -- could it be a lovely waterfall or spring?
A not particularly pleasant odor wafted up to me, and I emerged onto the top of a concrete sewage outlet, draining directly into the sea. The water was pretty much brown down the short stretch of beach and out for a ways into the bay. Çok güzel.
Built (well, "built" is too strong a word...) next to the concrete outlet was a makeshift shack. Beachfront property with a free methane gas line!
Hastily hiked back up the second spur and continued on to the other side of the bay, where the trail ended in a slightly larger patch of tilled land. Turned around and walked back.
At the apartment building, followed the woman's original güzel suggestion, and ended up on top of the dramatic cliffs facing the west harbor. Çok güzel! Surprised a teenage Turkish couple trying to have some alone time. I don't think they understood me when I said, "Never mind me." Oh well.
Back in my room, I finally realized that the odd but familiar smell was stale cat piss on the top blanket. And don't get me started on the bathroom. I also discovered a tick on my leg from the Sewage Beach hike. I successfully removed it, though -- it was still alive and crawling around until I squashed it with extreme prejudice. The tick, coupled with my first GI problems of the trip that had started a couple days previously and were only getting worse seemed like good enough reasons to start a course of Cipro. Mmm, antibiotics.
Lessons learned: 1 - Stop trying to find my own hiking trails. 2 - If a local recommends something güzel, take the advice.
Amasra was packed with visitors on Friday, and the three good restaurants I walked by that night were swamped. I asked about a table at one of them, and they had no idea when they'd be able to seat me. But then, the middle-aged couple at a table nearby motioned for me to join them. He spoke English very well, and I sat down. Turns out he and his wife were friends with the restaurant owner, and I soon had wine and a salad. Eventually the fish showed up. It was an excellent meal, and Yokhan and Iris (Ayris?) were great. He had a very dry sense of humor. They were planning to do a scenic drive east the next day, and they offered to extend the drive about 20 kilometers and give me a lift to Cide.
Went back to my room in the Cat Piss Pansiyon feeling much better -- met some great folks, and the cipro was working just as fast as I remembered. Could be worse, I thought. Could be staying in the sewage shack. Wasn't too concerned about the bed, either -- this was the reason why I packed along my own sleep sheet. No worries.
Had breakfast with Yokhan and Iris then next morning, then we hit the road. Stop off at a nearby village with a beautiful view of Amasra, at a pretty cool beach a little further along, then another village where they make wooden boats, at an overlook of an amazingly pretty inlet, and finally at Cide. The Black Sea coast is one magnificent view after another. We drank a final cup of tea, and I shook his stump goodbye. Oh, did I mention that he had no hands?
Rather than spend a whole day in sleepy Cide, I bought a bus ticket to Kastamonu. Three hour bus ride, leaving at 5:00 p.m. The Cide-Kastamonu road was under construction -- the first hour of it is currently a very good gravel road, but a little narrow in sections.
Heading up a slight curve on one of the narrow stretches, we suddenly saw an oncoming car speeding down the road way too fast. The bus veered to the right and stopped. The car had no chance and plowed into the side, pretty much directly underneath my seat.
The bus suffered a couple of dents. The car was pretty much hosed -- the three passengers were fine, but the driver had a long cut on his scalp and was bleeding profusely.
A lot of arguing ensued.
We all got back on the bus and gave the car driver a lift, presumably so he could get some medical attention. The cut didn't look too deep, but if they put in stitches he'll have a nice inverted mohawk for a while.
A minibus eventually caught up to us, and the car driver transfered to it because it's faster than the bus. Once the minibus pulls away, all sorts of lively talk erupted in the bus. The Turkish men were suddenly in their element -- sitting around and discussing things. All that's missing were cafe tables and little glasses of tea for everybody.
The bus pulled into a small town, and the police showed up. The bus driver, the bus, my pack, and most of the bus passengers disappeared for two hours. For some reason, they didn't want to hear the English version of what happened.
At 10 p.m., five hours after leaving Cide, I arrived in Kastamonu. Tomorrow I'll figure out where to go next.
22 May 2000 - Göreme
Buses, buses, buses. Spent a night in Kastamonu, a night in Ankara, and now I'm in Göreme (at an internet cafe with American keyboards!). When I got off the bus here, the first thing I heard was, "Rob!" I turned around, and there was Ives Chor, a guy I know from Seattle. He ended up not meeting Jonathan in Amsterdam, but did run into me, completely unplanned. He told me of a good place to stay, then hopped on a bus and disappeared. It was so quick I completely forgot to get a picture of us. Maybe we'll run into each other again in Selçuk.
Right, so after a week of hopping from small town to small town, I get here an
26 May 2000 - Malatya
Nemrut or Bust!
Hey -- what happened to my last entry? I was going to say that I got to Göreme, and I was suddenly surrounding by travelers instead of being the only one in town. English being spoken everywhere, U2 playing during dinner, and what looked like more tourists than locals. Experienced a bit of culture shock.
Of course, I also wished Sam a happy birthday, but that also seems to have disappeared (yeah, that's the ticket -- it disappeared!).
Anyway, spent three lovely days in Göreme, hiking and scooting and minivanning around. Cappadocia is an amazingly wonderful place -- I could easily spend a week there exploring the countryside. I've never seen anything quite like the rock formations spread so liberally about. The closest I can think of is Arizona, around the Sedona area, but only in terms of a small town set in the middle of incredible desert scenery.
Signed up for a little tour, and by the end of it got used to having other travelers around again. In fact, there was a great group of folks (Pete, Nicole, Simon, Titch, Kevin, Jennifer, etc. -- not to mention Halil) staying at the Kelebek Pension -- Ives steered me to the right place. Of course, I have to say they're great -- they may end up reading this... Especially Titch, he was the best (he's supposed to send me a picture he took of me way high up in a fairy chimney).
Minivanned to an underground city and the Ihlara gorge with Pete and Nicole, hiked through some beautiful valleys with Simon, and scooted around northern Cappadocia with Kevin and Titch. Jennifer earned commisions on everything. Took way too many pictures. Oh, there was some silliness with the one ATM in town eating my card, but Halil straightened out the bank. So, I eventually got my card back and was able to pay for my room. Always handy.
I'm now in Malatya, waiting for the shuttle bus for Nemrut Dagi. I came out here on an overnight bus, but didn't get a whole lot of sleep on it. Tomorrow's going to be one of those obligatory "watch the sunrise at a really beautiful spot" days, so who knows when I'll get my next good night's sleep. When I get back to Seattle, I'll have to take a couple days off to rest...
Nemrut's just a brief side trip, though. Tomorrow I'll catch a flight to Izmir and do a little exploring along the Aegean coast before returning to Istanbul. A month just isn't long enough for Turkey.
27 May 2000 - Malatya
Well, it seemed a little too easy to get to Nemrut yesterday. Simon (the Aussie guy from Cappadocia) and I showed up in Malatya in the morning, walked to the tourist office, and met one of the tourist info guys as he was going in to work.
There's a special minibus that leaves every day at noon that goes up to Nemrut in time for the sunset, then you stay the night in the one hotel up there and catch the sunrise. The tourist office assumes every tourist who comes in is interested in this tour, so we eventually ended up in the tourism director's office being bombarded with information by a whole slew of folks. Tourism is a little slow here in Malatya.
We showed up again at 11:30, and, sure enough, there was a problem. There were only two of us going, so we didn't qualify for the special express minibus, but the driver gave us a ride to the lot from where the public minibuses left, and hung around for an hour until the bus left. There were a couple of passengers who got off and on, but none of them seemed to pay for the ride -- maybe the tourist price covers the locals. Also strewn about the minibus were bags and bags of supplies for the nearby villages.
The scenery on the drive up was spectacular. Gentle mountains with sparse vegetation made rough by crumbly boulders covered with yellow-green lichen. As we continued to gain elevation, the plants gave way more and more to rocks.
It was cloudy and first, but the sun peeked through for a bit. Walked around the stone heads, statues, and bas reliefs. Great views of the surrounding valleys and mountains. Took lots of pictures.
Had some tea with the "ranger" -- Nemrut's a national park -- and an old soldier. They both live in a small shack on top of the mountain seven months out of the year. The other five months the park is closed. The ranger's been there for seven years now, and the old soldier 20.
I think if I lived surrounded by stone heads for seven months straight, year after year, one day while walking around the eastern or western terrace the head of Zeus would turn to me, clear its throat.
"I knew it!" I'd exclaim. "You're alive, aren't you?"
"Yes," Zeus would say, blinking his vacant, stony eyes. "There is something you must do for us. Something only you can do."
"Anything, great one! Your wish is my command!"
"Tomorrow I want you to shoot all the tourists."
"Of course! Why didn't I think of that earlier? You are very wise! Thank you for this honor!"
Or something like that.
Anyway, had a huge dinner at the hotel. Then got up bright and early for the sunrise. It was freezing outside -- I finally got to wear all the warm clothes I'd packed.
Warmed up in the ranger's shack drinking tea, who hadn't set up all his guns (but it's got to be just a matter of time before the Zeus head starts talking to him), then walked to the eastern terrace, which was packed with tourists. The sun finally peeked out above the horizon, and all the cold tourists cheered. The morning sun made the stone heads and statues look warm, but not quite warm enough to make me forget the cold...
Hung out, took even more pictures, then went back to the hotel for breakfast. Not too much traffic on drive back to Malatya -- just the occasional soldier riding a donkey and some wild horses.
My flight to Izmir leaves tonight at 7:30. Tomorrow I'll be in Selçuk.
30 May 2000 - Selçuk
Up to my Ears in Ruins
Well, I made it to the Aegean Coast. I've been trying to take it easy, now that I have only a week left, but I still managed to be busy the past couple of days.
Yesterday, went on a three ruin road trip with a Swiss couple staying at the same hotel (Hotel Akay -- great place, and cheap in the off-season). Priene, Miletus, and Didyma. Got rained on in Priene, but then the weather cleared up and turned hot for the remainder of the day. Miletus has an impressive old theater, and the Apollo Temple of Didyma is just plain awesome. Great places to wander around.
Today I went through Ephesus. Managed to avoid most of the tour groups, too. I think most of them were off eating lunch while I was there (12:00-2:00). Then came back into town and checked out the Ephesus Museum. Saw all the stuff that used to be in Ephesus. You know, all these old artifacts really get around. A big gate from Miletus is in Berlin, a row of lion statues are in London, statues from the library in Ephesus are in Vienna. If you want to see the complete site, you have to do a lot of traveling...
Two years ago in Berlin, I went to the Pergamum Museum, so I think I can skip the actual Pergamum here in Turkey. Ja, the Pergamum in Berlin is much better than the one in Turkey.
Oh, I managed to have two good vegetarian lunches in a row! Pretty amazing. I'm sure there must have been some meat hiding somewhere in the dishes, though.
I'm not quite sure what I think of Selçuk. It's very much a backpacker town, so in some ways it's good and in other ways it isn't. I've enjoyed myself here, but I won't miss it.
Tomorrow I'll be heading north, probably to Ayvalik, a quiet coastal town. I think they have some lighthouses nearby.
01 June 2000 - Foça
Ack! It's June already!
Well, I ended up going to Foça instead of Ayvalik on the recommendation of some folks staying at the hotel in Selçuk. It's a pleasant enough little coastal town, with fast internet connections. The one problem is there aren't any lighthouses to be seen. Harumph!
I was planning to do a boat trip today, but as it turned out I was the only person in town interested, so it didn't happen. Maybe some more tourists will show up by tomorrow morning. I think there might be a lighthouse on one of the islands the boats cruise by -- I'll keep my fingers crossed. Doing the trip tomorrow will make for some interesting logistics, though -- tomorrow night is when I'm planning to head back to Istanbul. Hmm.
Instead, I ended up spending the day lounging around on the beach. Pretty rough, eh? Finally used the bathing suit I packed. Unfortunately, I ended up getting a little bit of a sunburn in a few spots the sunscreen didn't quite cover. Finally get to use that little bottle of aloe I packed...
It's now an hour before sunset. The sunsets here in Foça are quite nice. The sun turns to a mellow red ball as it approaches the horizon and sets among several islands out in the bay. Sailboats along the waterfront make it even more picturesque. I think I'll go find a nice spot to watch it from. Later.
02 June 2000 - Foça
In Between Day
Well, the weather turned out to be partially cloudy and pretty windy today. In other words, no boat trip. No boat trip today! No boat trip tomorrow! Yes yes! Come back next week! Boat trip next week! Yes yes!
So, the potentially complicated logistics of getting to Istanbul are no worry at all. Spent the day wandering from restaurant to restaurant, writing postcards and in my offline diary. I think Foça might be a little too relaxing...
Had the most pleasant post office experience! Bought some stamps, and the lady filled up the stamp-wetting sponge for me and also gave me a cup of tea. I wonder if they serve tea to everybody who uses the post office here in Foça?
Some musings on Turkish cats. They're everywhere, and most have that life-on-the-street, semi-feral look to them. Fur somewhat matted and various scratches. I enjoy watching the cats here in Foça wander about the waterfront, hopping on and off boats and about the fishing equipment. They're your friends during lunch and dinner, when one or two show up at your table and sit, looking up at you hungrily, sometimes meowing to let you know you haven't fed them yet. Occasionally you come across friendly ones that'll come up to you as you're sitting down somewhere and stretch out, leaning against you, or just hop right into your lap. Not too pleasant. With all these cats around, it's not too suprising that I haven't seen a single mouse or rat here in Turkey.
Kittens, though, seem to be sought after by carpet shop owners. It's a great little ploy: get the tourist into the shop somehow, bring out the tea and kittens. Aren't the kittens cute! Look at the kittens rolling around on the carpets! Suddenly there are carpets everywhere.
Yeah, it's been a pretty low-key day.
03 June 2000 - Istanbul
Back in the 'bul
Well, the overnight bus from Izmir wasn't too bad. Actually got some sleep.
Didn't go back to the Ottoman Guest House. Checked out the Moonlight Pension after it was recommended to me, but it was pretty bad -- it's listed in Let's Go so that should have tipped me off. Ended up at the combined Arasta Hotel and Aladdin Guest House -- same price as O.G.H. but better in every way. Room's bigger and nicer, bathroom's nicer, has attached restaurant instead of carpet shop, rooftop terrace doesn't have exhaust pipe belching out soot.
It feels good to be back in Istanbul. Now it's time to start souvenir shopping.
04 June 2000 - Istanbul
Last Day in Turkey
Well, it's been fun.
Yesterday I spent a bunch of money. Ended up buying a carpet -- it's a small carpet, but a carpet nonetheless. About 20 or 30 years old, with all sorts of crazy designs. It even has the weaver's signature. Now all I have to do is fit it in my pack somehow.
Sundays in Istanbul are pretty interesting. It seems like all the streets in the old part of town become bazaars: table after table of clothing and other knick-knacks for sale. Everybody's outside milling around, buying stuff. The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market are closed, however.
Last night was pretty fun. Met up with Turgan's cousin Orhan and his girlfriend (I forget her name, but it's Turkish for "waterfall"), and we went out to dinner and then saw Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It was in English with Turkish subtitles, and so I think they got more of the dialogue than I did, what with most of the words being muttered and slurred and all. Odd film, but pretty funny, and I missed most of the cameos, it seemed. Afterwards, we hung out in a pretty cool club, drinking beer and having our ears assaulted by incredibly loud house music. The Taksim area of Istanbul is pretty hip. Didn't see any lamb's colon being grilled up, though, and I forgot to ask...
On the way back to my hotel (which, as I found out this morning during breakfast, does indeed have one of those exhaust pipes conveniently located right there above the terrace -- maybe it's a building code requirement here in Istanbul), the well-lit Suleyman Mosque seemed a little Disneyesque: hundreds of points of lights flying in circles above it. I'll try to get a picture of it tonight.
Tomorrow morning, I get to wake up early (7:30) in order to get the shuttle to the airport. No late night in Taksim for me tonight...
05 June 2000 - Seattle
Back in the Emerald City
Hi, I'm in Seattle. Having a great time.