urkey Blog


April 20 - June 5, 2006

We send out lots of email while we travel. In fact, of course, we send email much more often than we update the web. We can never quite remember who we told what to, so this page is meant as a sort of bulletin board for our most recent whereabouts, impressions, and comments while we work more slowly and deliberately on the permanent web pages.

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2006 Blog | Index

Saturday, May 29 —
Lightning Can Strike Twice

Well, we are a little shell-shocked but we can confirm that lightning can strike twice. Three days ago we came back to our hotel to find that the receptionist had absconded with our computers that we had given in for safe-keeping! We almost choked when one of the staff told us it would have been safer to leave them in the room because the cleaning staff have worked there for a long time. Of course in Ecuador we were told that we should have given them in to the reception.

Unlike in Ecuador, thankfully, the hotel owners feel responsible (after all it was their employee, albeit a very new one) and we have negotiated what we all feel is fair compensation. We will get half of the new value of our machines minus our hotel bill when we leave the hotel. In the meantime the owners have loaned us a laptop with which we can connect to the internet from our room.

The other news is that the day our computers were stolen, we bought airline tickets to Bangkok. We will be leaving Istanbul on Sunday June 4. Because of all that is happening, we are a bit behind on replying to emails and will be so until we manage to replace our computers which we don't expect to do until after we get to Bangkok. We're sure everyone will understand.

In spite of everything we have enjoyed and are enjoying our stay in Istanbul. The weather is nigh perfect, there is lots to see and do, and on the whole we like our hotel. The owners, by the way, are a young Korean couple. We are thankful they have a strong sense of responsibility. I think they are thankful that we didn't make a big scandal and threaten to sue the pants off them.

May 29,2006

Saturday, May 20 —
Istanbul Is Real!

We're in Istanbul! We're only three months late according to our non-estimate estimate of when we would get here. And we're here just a bit short of thirty-one years after our first "appearance" on the Istanbul stage.

First things first: In 1975 we drove a convoy of a car and van from Vienna to Tehran, stopping three nights in Istanbul. That was a long stop for us; everywhere else in our 3000 km drive we stopped only one night. We're sure that we visited the highlights, the famous places including St Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the Golden Horn, the Topkapi Palace and the great indoor bazaar, but our calculations show that we didn't have much time to linger anywhere. In fact our memories are radically different: Gerry remembers mostly a few names and certainly not the insides of any mosques or museums, such as the Topkapi Palace. Jan has distinct memories of certain places, but those memories don't match what we've seen in our first day.

This time we didn't arrive by car but by boat: We've been working our way north across the western end of Turkey: Pamukkale (Denizli), Usak, Kütahya, Bursa, and — final stop before Istanbul — Iznik. From Iznik we caught a mini-bus to Yalova, a port on the south side of the Sea of Marmara. It would be more accurate to say that the mini-bus (or dolmus) caught us: we took our bags to the corner of Iznik's main street near our hotel and waited for the bus; our hotel keeper had kindly called the bus station and arranged this, thus saving us the time, expense, and labor of dragging our mound to the the bus station. An added plus was a reserved seat. Half a dozen passengers stood for most of the journey.

Forty-five minutes after leaving Iznik we were at the "Feribot Terminal" (Turkish for "Ferryboat terminal" and were surprised to learn that it was a big, car-carrying ferry not unlike the Greek ones we had often travelled on and that there was a security check before going on. Both were surprises because we didn't expect a large ferry and we'd never, ever had a security check on a Greek ferry. That's the PKK (Kurdish indepence fighters) for you. The transit was just over an hour and mostly uninteresing. We'd had too many Greek ferries to care about one more giant "lounge" and the weather was overcast. On top of that, people couldn't go outside and it was hard to get a view from the few windows.

When we docked we immediately had the problem of getting a hotel room. We'd selected from Lonely Planet four in the Sultanahmet area and took a taxi to our first choice, Nayal Palace Pension (a bit of a contradiction in terms there). We looked at a room there and across the street and not finding much difference and finding the Nayal Palace a bit more friendly we checked in. Then we had our usual unpack. Since our room had four single beds in it, there wasn't enough space to put everything where we'd have convenient access.

Jan's had two problems for the last four days, consequently her energy level and ability to do much have been and are pretty down in the pits. So we weren't too anxious to run out and see everything all at once.

But we did go out, mostly to get some lunch. Imagine our surprise when just two blocks from the hotel and looking for a quiet place to eat we found ourselves dominated by the Blue Mosque. We knew it was nearby but not THAT close. And we didn't know (or, see above, remember) that it was THAT big. BIG! BIG! And handsome! Fortunately for us we found an outdoor terrace-garden restaurant, The Dervish, that provided not only a good view of the Blue Mosque but good food at a reasonable price. At the other side of the restaurant was the former church-mosque, Agia Sophia, now a museum, that contains just itself. We walked over there and found, rather a surprise, that today, Saturday, it was free. How nice! Did they know we were coming? The old price, the 2003 price, according to Lonely Planet, was $10 for simple entrance and another $10 to go up into the gallery, the better half of the place. Today there was that great, all-in price, of $0.

When we said that reality of 2006 did not match memories of 1975 we meant that St Sophia just did not match Jan's memories. Somehow over the years, the St. Sophia of memory shrank a bit. In fact, it's a huge place and super impressive. And to think it was built in 537 a.d. makes it triply impressive. The dome and mosaics (mostly 9th century, post Council of Nicaea, which coincidentally took place in Iznik where we had just come from) are of the highest quality. Its builder, Emperor Justinian, is said to have thanked God for allowing him to create something so wonderful.

After that visit Jan was plenty tired out. So we retired to our room and spent the evening sans TV reading and computing. The next morning we went up to the roof of the Nayal Palace and found that what LP had said was true: every hotel in Sultanahmet has a roof-top garden/breakfast area. From ours we could see 6-10, each with 6-20 people looking out as we were. Breakfast was the usual Turkish tourist breakfast: a basket of fresh white bread, accompanying small containers of butter, honey, jam, and cream cheese, some sliced tomatos and cucumber, and for us, hot water, since we've called it quits on tea and coffee. Most places give olives and a few pieces of fruit and/or fruit juice, but not here.

From the breakfast terrace we could look out at the sea of Marmara. Coming in an un-ending line were freight ships, carrying their goods, we suppose, to and through the Bosphorus. The largest ship was not a freighter but a luxury liner. By the time we finished breakfast those "lucky" people had probably disembarked and were on a whirlwind tour. Gerry overheard some French tourists sitting near him mention dolphins just off shore, breaking and breaking again on the water. Gerry could just see black spots appear and disapper; Jan missed this entirely as she'd gone to the room to rest after a hard excursion up the stairs to breakfast.

Later in the day we discovered that our hotel had wireless internet. Gerry has been trying over and over to "catch" some free, unprotected web time, without success. Now it fell into our lap. Consequently we took advantage of this to rapidly update our blog.

May 29,2006

Friday, May 19 —
Accident Prone?

Our goal for Wednesday had been to get from Bursa to Gemlik; instead we made it to Iznik, but literally the hard way. If we had less confidence in ourselves we'd think we were accident prone. Or if we were superstious we'd think a third accident in the current series is on the way. This second accident was much less dramatic and its effects will doubtless be less long-lasting than the first one, but it was physically more painful and more disruptive of our day-to-day life.

We were planning to take a local bus from the center of Bursa (just a block from our hotel) to the main long-distance bus station (10 km away on the northern edge of town) and then on to Gemlik, about 20 km. After manhandling our bags into and out of the elevator and then down two flights of stairs (please don't ask why the elevator starts on the second floor!), we had quickly trundled them the one block to the bus stop. When the bus arrived, Jan jumped onto the bus with a small bag and proceeded to place each bag in the luggage space as Gerry lifted them onto the bus. This operation was made a bit harder by the three steps needed to get up into the bus and by the hand-rail in the center of the steps, making the room available for loading the bags pretty narrow. All the bags but one had been passed up in this way and as Gerry climbed on board with the last bag, Jan bent down to move one of the smallest pieces of our luggage: a boot-box-sized container that we carry books and papers in. As she moved the box, she felt an exruciating pain in a muscle in her lower left back and knew she was in trouble. Gerry quickly helped her take off her computer backpack and from then on until we arrived in Iznik he managed the bags all alone.

That might not have been any major undertaking had we been taking a simple journey, but as it happened we took three bus-rides that day instead of just one. We started off by going to Gemlik hoping to find a small quiet town on the shore of the Sea of Marmara. Instead we found a polluted, noisy, industrial center and immediately decided not to stay. We had expected that we would catch a bus from there directly to Iznik but when we heard that the Iznik bus had to be caught a couple of kilometers away, we found it easier to get back on the bus to Bursa and there transfer to the Iznik bus than to find and negotiate with a taxi driver to take us to some unknown spot on the highway. We guessed that it would be a wash between the taxi fare and the extra mini-bus fares. It wasn't quite as simple as we'd assumed because the Bursa bus station is huge and arriving buses drop passengers off on the opposite side of the station from departing buses! Just as Gerry was about to undertake a massive relay operation to transport two carts, two backpacks, and one roller duffel to the far end of the station, the Iznik bus arrived to empty passengers and kindly loaded us up and gave us a free ride to the departure side. Another example of friendly Bursa!

Jan's muscle-pain is gradually receding. On the first day, nothing she did brought her comfort. On the second day, the pain was manageable but walking was very slow. Today, the third day, the pain is less, walking is a little easier, sitting is still very difficult, but the end is in sight. And tomorrow we move on towards Istanbul hopefully with Jan contributing in a small way to moving our bags.

Before we completely leave Bursa behind we should say something about it! Bursa is a very busy town that is rich with history and very Turkish. It doesn't get too many tourists which is a shame because we think it is well worth a visit. It was once the Ottoman capital and a half-dozen of its first sultans have their tombs there. They and the associated mosques are quite impressive and beautiful. Our first three days in town we saw most of them; the last day Gerry revisited all of them with his new camera to get pictures of them.

May 20, 2006

Thursday, May 18 —
Friendly Turks

Turks in general have proven themselves to be friendly and the people of Bursa proved this in spades. Here's how they give you that "little extra", Gerry writes:

I shopped around at three stores, getting friendly service at each, and then bought a new 6-megapixel camera (Sony S600) from the Sony Shop in the Zafer Plaza shopping center. After paying, the sales woman seems to have decided I had paid too much so she took a camera case off the shelf and gave it to me for free. Or maybe it is because I visited the shop three times and didn't buy the expensive video camera she had hoped to sell.

The same day we took the Teleferic (gondola) up the slopes of Uludag, a national park and ski area visible from the center of Bursa. (The bottom is at 356 m; the top of the ride at 2400 m; the top of the mountain at 3600 m.) On the way to the Teleferic base we caught a bus. When we got on we realized that tickets weren't sold on the bus; we should have bought them at a kiosk before getting on. A swing of hands and some coins showed the driver that we didn't have tickets; he said "Teleferic?" — knowing crazy foreigners must be going there. I nodded yes and he motioned us to the back of the bus. A free ride. (Coming back we bought tickets and paid.)

Up on top we were walking along and three 30-ish men stopped us, all dressed in black suits; hardly mountain wear. They wanted to practice English and have their photograph taken with us. Why not? We learned they were not from Bursa, but from Syria; they were in town to attend a Food Technology Fair. They didn't speak Turkish either and did their business in English. I told them I'm American and they assured us that we'd be welcome in beautiful Syria. Does the water here make everybody nice?

Further along, past the paved road and into a grassy area we saw a large group. As we approached they saw us and called us over. Share our barbeque they insisted! They were a Turkish folk-dance group come up to the mountain to dance in the meadows and then eat. So we had some nice kofte and saw a bit of their dancing. We asked one of them if he knew Uluuman Bey, the man who founded a wonderful costume and jewelery museum we'd seen the previous day; on our visit this wonderful, enthusiastic 75-year old man had showed us around and told us how he'd formed his extensive collection piece-by-piece. Among other things he had once been president of the folk dancing club and had also been president of the horse riding club. "Of course I know him!" was the answer. (Later we guessed they were practicing their performance for Turkey's upcoming national day.)

Two days later I went out to see some new places and get pictures with my new camera of some the places we'd already visited. Two blocks from our hotel I was studying a road sign giving directions to the ?? mosque and tomb. A city bus came by, the door opened — highly unusual since in Bursa they are very strict about only stopping at bus stops — and the driver waved me in. I read the placard on the bus front and saw he was going to the same place I — being a tourist — was obviously going. He was offering me a free ride. I smiled and declined.

At the end of the day, having taken many photos, I couldn't resist some more at a street fruit and vegetable market. I took one of an apple seller. He responded by giving me a free apple.

May 19, 2006

Wednesday, May 10 —
Kütahya Pleasures

We're in Kütahya, heading to Bursa, Iznik, and then Istanbul. Kütahya was long ago a capital of a small Turkish tribe which ultimately was absorbed by the Ottomans. Its old part is very quaint with lots of old, often decaying architecture. There is also a modern city of wide avenues and giant apartment blocks that looks a lot like communist China. Bursa was the Ottoman capital before they conquered Istanbul. By the guide book there is lots to see there.

We're experiencing surprising cool weather, pleasing for Gerry and troubling for Jan. In our last week in Crete and then in Rhodes it got hot enough to raise a sweat. But then we crossed over from Kos into Turkey and it has been getting cooler ever since. For the last week we've been in cities mostly around and above 3000 ft. Decidedly cool, requiring Jan to sometimes wear all of her layers of clothes. A fellow told us that he visited the ruins of Aphrodisias the day after us and that hail covered the road in a pass his bus went through on coming back.

For a week now we have been making a line north through Denizli/Pammukkale, Ushak, (now) Kütahya, (tomorrow) Bursa, and later Istanbul. The first three are at about 1000 m and are experiencing early spring. We are seeing trees blossom like we did in Greece two months ago. At Pammukkale we went out coatless, umbrella-less in the dry morning and found ourselves trapped by a change in the weather; we spent much of our walk around Hierapolis in a light rain that left us somewhat chilled. Here in Kütahya it has rained parts of everyday and we are often in our outer coats.

Jan continues to study Russian. After studiously avoiding anything but the accidental Greek she is doing the same with Turkish. Gerry tried and mostly failed at Greek and now is doing the same at Turkish. His theory is that he should be able to learn three words a day in a language. That should have given him about 600 words of Greek; he probably knows 200-300. After 20 days in Turkey he is about 40 words behind. He is also getting a surprising amount of practice in German. Because so many Turks have gone to Germany to work the German language is known by many. Just in Usak, in a short walk, two different men struck up conversations in German.

Gerry writes, "I find that whenever I try to learn a new language some old one interferes. It is often Farsi for me! I try to say something in German or Spanish and out comes a word in Farsi. The same thing is happening here in Turkey. The unusual and happy thing is that it might be the right or nearly right word! For example, "please" in Farsi is "lotfan" and in Turkish "lutfen". There was a lot of borrowing between Turkish, Farsi, and Arabic because the ancient Persians conquered Anatolia and then the Moslem Arabs and Turks conquered Iran. Ironically, because the conquerors were not as administratively sophisticated as the conquered Persians they adopted many Persian customs and much of the Persian language.

May 18, 2006

Tuesday, May 9 —
Looking for housing

We should be in Istanbul in about a week and we expect to spend a month there. We've been looking into renting an apartment and if we find the one we want it will be longer. After all, Istanbul was the capital of one empire or another for 1600 years. There are layers and layers of history and culture to study and absorb.

We've seen advertised in the Turkish papers a package holiday to Bangkok, our next goal. For less than the best airfare we've found so far we can get the trip and eight nights "free", four in Bangkok and four in Phuket. We wouldn't make the return trip. Instead we'd head south overland to Malaysia and Singapore, taking about a month to get to Indonesia. It has been long enough since we were on a beach or even in a pool that we'll make some additional beach stops after Phuket.

May 10, 2006

Monday, May 8 —
Pixels to Oblivion

Over any period of seven years — our travels are fast approaching that — you can expect that there will be accidents. We have experienced many of them; fortunately most were very small and inconvenienced us for only a moment or two. Others were more significant and not only slowed us down but even changed our trajectory. Such was the case when our laptops were stolen in Cuenca, Ecuador, late in 2004. Now, having been pretty accident free for a long while we have made up for it in spades.

En route from Denizli to Ushak, a minor town that we thought would be a good place to break an otherwise longer trip, our bus made a pit stop and so we both got off. Jan was going to the loo, of course, while Gerry, also of course, was off to take some photos of the bus station and its surroundings. We parted company just in front of the bus. Jan went left and down some stairs to the public toilets while Gerry turned around to head right when he literally fell off the sidewalk! He sprawled out, scraped his knee and his palm, and to his horror saw his precious camera bouncing onto the asphalt. As all this happened an old American Express advertisement about a similar event came to his mind: the ad showed things happening in slow motion. He saw his camera fly up in slow motion, tumble over and over in the air in slow motion, and come to rest 5 meters away. Unfortunately, his worst fears proved justified. The camera would no longer work.

Friendly Turks picked him and his camera up off the ground and, somewhat disheveled and very disgruntled, Gerry climbed back onto the bus. By the time Jan emerged therefore, Gerry was nowhere in sight and as it was a pleasant sunny day, she hung around outside the bus expecting him to return at any moment. When he hadn't returned before the driver she was a bit worried, but climbing onto the bus was surprised to see him in his seat. She didn't learn the full story until we arrived in Kütahya because as is often the case, we weren't sitting together — we each like to have a window seat if possible.

The physical scars of this unhappy event have almost all disappeared by now, but the camera is still not working. We hope that perhaps in Istanbul, if we are there long enough, we'll find a way to fix it. In the meantime, Gerry spent a week without a camera and in that time went into research mode to find a reasonably priced stopgap. His final choice was a Sony DSC S600 still camera. With 6 megapixels it produces higher quality still images than his PC-303E, incudes a VHS quality movie mode (640x480), and uses the kind of rechargeable batteries that we carry anyway and the SanDisk 1GB pro Duo Memory Stick which he already owns. It's also incredibly small. On the downside, the video quality is considerably lower, the optical zoom is only 3 times versus 10 times, and both video and still images have to fit on the one stick. It saddens us both to loose the use of all the accessories (multiple batteries, charger, assorted cables, blank DV tapes) and still to be carrying them around in hopes of repair. He's not exactly a happy camper, but is definitely less unhappy than he was at first.

May 9, 2006

Friday, May 5 —
Last of the Ancient Greek Sites?

We're in the town of Pamukkale, a tourist destination because of nearby travertine formations (reminiscent of Yellowstone) and the surrounding ruins of the Roman city of Hierapolis. The Romans, being hot-water bath freaks, built where they could take advantage of the springs. Thursday we toured the grounds, getting there by walking from our hotel and then up the sloping path through the cotton-candy travetine. You have to take your shoes off and Jan hated it. Gerry was uncomfortable but didn't suffer as much.

The travertine is formed by mineral-laden hot-springs water going over the palisades. Nowadays, the water is channelled and distributed on a rotation basis so as to maintain as much of the travertine as possible but that means that most of the pools are empty most of the time. It also means that the experience you get doesn't match one bit the photos you see everywhere. You can't bathe in the pools anymore, most of them are empty, and the path up the hillside is as much gravel as it is travertine and very uncomfortable underfoot. At the top there is a modern, hot-springs bath, which reminded Gerry of something he'd seen in Florida. These baths looked interesting, but not exciting to Gerry; given better preparation and a little warmer day, Jan would have taken a dip. The most astonishing thing to us was that more than half of the visitors were Russians. They seem to really lap this up. We talked to one couple (giving Jan some practice in Russian). They are staying in a resort a six-hour drive south of here and they (and their group) made a day trip just to get to take the waters here! Twelve hours! Too much for us!

Much more interesting to us was Hierapolis. The city is linear; about 2-3 km long (depending on what you measure) and only one-half km wide. There is the most astonishing necropolis, about 1/2 km long now with many interesting tombs with styles that changed noticeably over five centuries. There is a large theatre, not the best we've ever seen, but good. And the west gate and adjacent latrine are pretty impressive.

We'd meant to visit Pamukkale/Hierapolis on Wednesday but on the way we were kidnapped! Well, not exactly. We'd hardly set out to walk to the formations when a minibus stopped next to us. We thought we were going to be asked directions but instead were asked if we'd like to go to the Greek-Roman city of Aphrodisias, about 1.5 hours from here. The tour driver had only three passengers and was scouring the town for more people to defray his gasoline; three people probably just pay for it. On the edge of town he found us. We'd planned to go in a day or two and had already discussed it among ourselves. So we quickly agreed and jumped in. We had a nice time — it is a fabulous old city. Aphrodisias was a very important Roman city that got literally buried after it was sacked and abandoned. In the early 1970s an entire village was moved 4 km down the road, the brick houses pulled down, digging begun, and then the full extent of the ruins became known.

On the way back the driver took us to a small town to see a "carpet museum" which consisted of two rooms behind wall-size plate glass windows. It was closed (fortunately), so instead he "treated" us to a visit to a shop selling locally made textiles. Most interesting for Gerry was the street market, the covered market, and all the old men hanging around. They (as so many do) loved his beard and were happy to invite him to tea.

In Pamumkale we're staying at the Allgau-Melrose hotel. The first part of the name, Allgau, is German; the owners lived in Germany 14 years and liked it, but still came back to Turkey. The second part of the name, Melrose, is named after the song after the TV series. The owners, the children of the owners of the Allgau, liked that more modern, more catchy name. The two hotels/pensions share an outdoor dining area and a pool. For us it is a very pleasant place; our large, well lit room overlooks the swimming pool and has a balcony that faces the direction of the famous travertine formations; unfortunately they are too far away to see distinctly. The pool, as that of perhaps two dozen other places, is fed by the run-off of the hot, mineral laden waters that form the travertine bowl. We haven't tried the pool because we think it is too cold; by the time the run-off gets way down the hill it can't be called hot. We might have tempted fate today and gone swimming but it rained. That is no surprise; yesterday we were rained upon while touring Hierapolis and we were told that in the pass to Aphrodisias, where we went two days ago, it hailed. Besides having a very good breakfast each morning out in the open air, on our first day, Tuesday, we had a nice home-cooked meal (we were told it was the same as the family was eating). That was so good we repeated it today and it was equally good, although the dishes changed.

We've been in Turkey just over two weeks and in that time seen eight ancient Greek cities, in order: Halicarnassus (at Bodrum), Myndos, Priene, Didyma, Miletus, Ephesus (at Selcuk), Aphrodisias, and Hierapolis (at Pamukkale). (If you want to be picky you can call Didyma a "site" instead of a "city" since it was primarily a religous center. built around the great sanctuary of Apollo, with its oracle.) They were all great and we would travel a long way to see them but eight is enough for a while. When we leave here we'll be going to Ottoman-Moslem centers, in particular Kütahya and Bursa. That should be a welcome change. In addition we'll see Iznik, famous under the name Nicaea for two Christian councils that were held there.

May 8, 2006

Friday, May 1 —
Leaving Seljuk?

After four years we came back to Selcuk so that Gerry could take more pictures of Ephesus. If it had been a few hundred kilometers off the path that we wanted to beat we would have skipped it. But in fact, it lay just at the end of the path from Bodrum through Dydima, Miletus, and Priene, three Greek cities that we wanted to see. In 2002 we'd gone up the coast of Turkey from Antalya to Canakkale and, because we had only alloted two months to Turkey, we had skipped Bodrum, Dydima, Miletus, and Priene. This time we felt no time pressure and made sure we would see them.

We took a bus from Bodrum to Soke and made that our base for seeing the three classical cities mentioned. When we arrived we learned quickly that it was off the tourist circuit. People were very, very happy to see a foreigner. Soke is just 20 km from famous Kusadasi and 35 from Selcuk; thus most people who tour the classic cities use one or the other of those as a base. We, without a car and without a pre-booked package chose the closest place.

We arrived in Soke before noon and after a simple lunch took the mini bus to Priene. It enchanted us immediately. We wanted to wring the neck of the Lonely Planet author(s) for not telling us how wonderful it was and thus depriving us of seeing it for four years. Priene has a great natural setting below an impressive cliff (500 meters?) and for that alone we were glad to be there. But in addition, because it wasn't near enough to anything else, it seems that its stones, etc were not in the large robbed. Earthquakes did in the buildings, but the streets and stones are still there. Massive columns of the Temple of Athena Pollas. Walls of residential neighborhoods that give you a feeling "the people might just be right back." And we pretty much had it to ourselves for three hours.

The next day, Wednesday, April 26, we took the morning minibus to Didyma. Because it is 40 km and a third of the way back to Bodrum we regretted again that we didn't have a car and the ability to go along making stops where we wanted. We didn't have Didyma to ourselves, but the few tourists there were no real distraction. Most groups don't have time for anything but Ephesus and so Didyma, etc. are comparatively unvisited. The bus stops outside the temple and so you get an immediate view of it. So impressive. One of the largest Greek temples ever built, and a dozen columns are standing there. [Britannica says that the temple was never completed, but they must have come pretty close.] We visited every nook and cranny of the site and then went in search of the other buildings that once supported this religous center. They are there, but less excavated and hidden behind a wall that parallels the road through the modern village. We walked 1/2 km around and saw some of this up close.

We'd been told by the mini-bus driver that brought us to Didyma that there was no direct bus to our next goal, Miletus. So we stood by the highway thinking we'd take a bus to the next large village and change there. We were very pleased when the first bus that came along was a direct bus to Miletus. We knew, and had it confirmed, that you might trust the information given you, but you should verify it too.

We'd heard that the only thing of note at Miletus was the great theatre. That too turned out to be false. Perhaps if we'd had a good guide book we wouldn't have been so misled. But when we climbed to the top of the theatre we could see the layout of the ruins. There was plenty there to interest us for another two or so hours. Among them was the partially restored agora, flooded very romantically in the season of our visit and the giant Roman baths that became a church.

Unfortunately for us the last bus heading back to Soke had departed before our self-guided tour ended. So we set out to walk to the highway, hoping to catch some minibus or hitch a ride. Well before we reached the highway a car came from the archeological site and we hitched a ride. The driver and passenger were friends, both Turkish. One of them lived in London and spoke excellent English; he came back to Turkey once a year to see friends. To our surprise he preferred London's weather to that of Istanbul. When he learned that we were Americans he said he didn't want to visit there because of the hassle they (immigration) give Muslims. Gerry told him not to worry so much; every country can give visitors a problem. Our host was surpised when Gerry told him about Gerry's luggage being searched at entry to Turkey in Bodrum.

After two nights in Soke we went on, via Kusadasi, to Selcuk. Our plan, if possible, was to stay in a pension that in 2002 we had poked our noses into. We particularly wanted to use their swimming pool, located a kilometer out in the countryside. Unfortunately Gerry couldn't remember the name of it but he thought he knew where it was. When we got off the bus Jan would watch the bags and he would go look for it. Instead, a young Turkish man met us as we got off the bus and tried to persuade us to stay in his pension. He showed a photograph of it and Gerry knew immediately that it, the Kiwi Guest House, was the place. Since we took our look they had even upgraded all rooms to en-suite and so we had a fine room for five nights. Unfortunately the weather was so cold the pool was still drained.

Selcuk is the modern town next to Ephesus. Besides spending a full day at Ephesus, which is a crowd pleaser (and the crowds were there, unlike Priene) we saw the museum, St John's church ruins, walked about, and went to the mountain village of Srince (pronounced shirinjay). The latter once must have been very quaint; now it is filled with things for tourists to spend their money on. There had been a large Greek population, all gone now. It seems many of the tourists were most interested in the old church. The surrounding mountains are very attractive and we walked the entire 8 km back to Selcuk, enjoying the country air.

At the Kiwi we met Fritz, who had an interesting problem. He's about 70, retired, and from Seattle. Every year his wife teaches a course on the island of Iona in Scotland. He came to Turkey because after 35 years of such visits he wanted to do something else. His problem was that couldn't get money from an ATM using his credit card. It took him the better part of a day to sort it out: his card was blocked because charges were being made on it in Scotland and in Turkey, a red-flag to the issuer. Another fact about Fritz: he taught English in Tehran in 1962. Too bad we didn't get a chance to go into depth about that.

May 5, 2006

Monday, April 24 —
Bodrum is not Boring

We are surprised to find Bodrum more interesting and enjoyable than we had expected. It has a great medieval castle built by the Knights of St. John that is in very good shape. Built on the ancient Greek city of Halicarnassos, home to Hippocrates, it also contains the remains of the Mausoleum, one of the seven wonders of the world. (Can you name the others?) There isn't much left, of course, but the museum has a pretty good description of how it used to be. There's also an old theater which we have yet to see. We did manage to find the Myndos Gate, the site of a siege by Alexander the Great. Myndos, really its meager ruins, are 30 km west on the coast. We plan to go over by minibus and look for them.

Internet here is 40% of the price in Greece so we are catching up with the web  witness this posting. We also have international TV again, with a dozen French and another dozen German satilite TV channels, so we are relaxing with them. Yesterday we saw Phillipe de Villiers in a long interview. We saw him live last May in Paris at a rally he ran preaching the defeat of the referendum on the European constitution.

When we've satisfied ourselves with Bodrum it's off to see Miletus, Didyma, and Priene, three other ancient Greek cities. In 1974 we visited the Pergamun museum in Berlin and that inspired us to visit the Pergamun ruins in Turkey in 2001. In 2005 we returned to the Pergamun museum for a leisurly visit and were awed by the Miletus Gate. That's what is making us find our way to Miletus.

May 1, 2006

Friday, April 21, 2006 —
Soft Landing in Turkey

We can hardly believe we are in Turkey. On Thursday we took a ferry from Kos to Bodrum, Turkey which we could faintly see from Kos. Four years ago almost to the day we'd been on the Turkish Datcha peninsula, which is south and east of Kos. Bodrum is north of Datcha and north and east of Kos. We had a feeling of closing the circle as we made the ferry trip.

As we got closer and closer we could see the old castle of the Knights of St John getting bigger and bigger and more and more interesting. Little did we guess that our boat would dock nearly at its foot. We entered the old harbor, become one giant marina for tourist boats and docked at a small quai on the east side.

When we got off the boat it took us a few moments to figure out what to do; in fact, we might have walked away if we weren't trying to be law abiding. We went into the very small immigration office and made our way to the front of the line only to be told that as people entering Turkery (as opposed to returning after a day trip to Greece) we had to go get visas. When we did we were very pleasantly surprised to learn that Turkey had dropped its 2002 "sock-it-to-the-Americans" policy; our visas were only 14 euros each rather than the expected 40 or so euros.

After that we went through customs. We headed through the green "nothing to declare" line but Gerry was stopped and he had to partially empty his bags. Did the customs man suspect he was a dope carrier or even an islamofascist because of his long beard? We don't know. But we do know that as old bits of wire and blank DVDs and well worn boots came out of Gerry's case the man got less and less patient and finally rushed Gerry on. Another custom's official then appologized for the delay. Out of customs we walked along the quai past the castle entrance and in 100 m were in tourist-land: immediately there were restaurants and people who wanted to sell us stuff. We declined (of course!).

It being Gerry's turn to search for a hotel Jan sat down to read (Russian, of course!) and guard the bags. We were nearly unarmed as regards information. There is no place to buy a Lonely Planet guide in Greece, so we had no advice as to where to find a reasonable hotel. We'd gotten the name of one from our place in Kos and Gerry set out to find it the long way around: what else was lurking about? In five minutes he stumbled across several pensions just a block back from the water and the street filled with tourist restaurants. He examined one and it was a bit too grimy. We're not really backpackers anymore. In another ten minutes he stumbled upon three places together that were obviously a cut above. One had a pool — good sign, but it was dirty —bad sign, and there was nobody to talk to. But across the street, or more accurately, across the parking lot, there was the Hotel Akgun. As Gerry stared at it a man nearby sort of running the parking lot asked Gerry —in German —what Gerry wanted. With the man as translator from Gerry's insufficient German to his non-existant Turkish Gerry got us a nice room.

April 24, 2006

July 20, 2005