SYNOPSIS OF MY TRIP TO TURKEY 2006

On October 6, 2006, I had a flight from Athens, Greece, to Istanbul, Turkey, for the second leg of this trip, back-to-back tours, the Aegean Cruise and this fifteen-day coach tour of western Turkey. Once at the airport in Istanbul, I quickly found a taksi to the hotel for the one night. (There is no x in the Turkish alphabet and the word taxi is used worldwide with no translation. I didn't know that.) The bus left the following morning at 8 a.m. I stored a bag at the hotel, put together too fast, stuffing my library book and address labels in it by mistake. Then I forgot that I put the library book in the stored bag and fretted off and on about that for the next fourteen days, thinking I may have left it on the plane or in the hotel room, etc.

Our first day out, we visited Gallipoli, the site of the World War I battle where so many ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) soldiers lost their lives. The National Park includes the North Beach, ANZAC Cove, cemeteries of the various nationalities, and several monuments. This beautiful place was very peaceful and I was so moved to see such a wonderful memorial. We then boarded a ferry to arrive at Canakkale (pron. Chah' nah kah lee) and our hotel. Today I learned that Turkey grows white and yellow poppies for the “delicious opium” that is sold to the worldwide pharmaceutical industry.

The next day we visited the ruins of Troy and the ruins of Pergamon. The walking and the climbing were challenging. I have said that if these places were in the USA, barricades would be around everything with Warning Signs and people would be forbidden to walk there. Today I learned of a drink that I enjoyed in Turkey and will make at home:

AYRAN:
1/3 portion plain yogurt
2/3 portion water
Salt to taste
Stir and drink

The homes in the country have no lawns and are pretty much surrounded by sand/dirt. Occasionally a rose bush or a tree might be planted in front of the house. Satellite dish television reception is free in Turkey, so every house has a dish or two.

An entire day was devoted to the visit to Ephesus (pron. Eh' feh sus), a classical city of Roman times. The place was crowded, partly with busloads of people from the cruise ships. The ruins were very impressive, with so much having been excavated. The theater held 24,000 people. We then made our way to the House of the Virgin Mary with a lovely drive up a mountain to reach the site. Our hotel that evening had a large thermal pool and many of us had a dip. At that hotel there were a lot of minerals in the tap water and a lot of grit in the sink when I rinsed out my swimsuit. Lovely place, though.

The following day we were at the Pamukkale (pron. Pom' oo kah lee - the oo rhymes with boo) limestone cliffs, a beautiful place to wade in the pools and walk on the terraces. Pamukkale in Turkish translates to Cotton Castle. Lunch on this day was at a Turkish family's house. We removed our shoes to sit in the outside dining area. We sat on the floor on cushions and backrests. A cloth was spread to hold a ring and a large, round tray was set on the ring. The tray held finger foods. Very nice, except for the HOT peppers, which some enjoyed. Then we each were served, as the main course, fried flat bread filled with cheese and spinach or meat and potatoes. Very nice. We then drove through the mountains on our way to Antalya, (pron. On tile' yah) a lovely city on the Mediterranean Sea. Our driver stopped for special bananas, small and very sweet, and our guide bought carob for us to taste. The carob reminded me of dates and was very chewy. We were told not to eat the seeds because they are very hot.

We stayed in Antalya two nights, so this allows the hand laundry plenty of time to dry. Our days out included visits to Perge (pron. Pear' gah), the Antalya Archaeological Museum, the Anatolian Civilization Museum, and Aspendos. A concert was scheduled at Aspendos theater and some of our group signed on. They drove there only to have the concert cancelled due to rain and thunderstorms. The dining room at the hotel was surrounded by windows on three sides and we were asked to move back during the high winds that accompanied this storm. I rather enjoyed watching the lightning from our table. And this was the hotel that confiscated water and beer that people bought from the local stores and carried in grocery sacks. Guests were expected to use the mini-bars in their rooms at mucho $$$$$$$. Of course a large purse or backpack solved that problem. At the Aspendos theater our guide, a special young man, stood on the stage and sang his national anthem for us. And at our beautiful hotel, water bottles aside, I swam in the warm Mediterranean Sea and the hotel's outside and inside pools.

Our next drive took us through the Toros Mountains on our way to Konya (pron. cone' yah). I believe Konya was the first city where I awakened in the dark to the sound of drums banging loudly. Our guide explained the rituals of Ramadan. Briefly, Ramadan is the Islamic holy month and fasting from sunrise to sunset is required. The drums awaken people to give them time to prepare and eat their breakfast before sunrise. At sunrise chanting begins to mark the start of the fast for the day and at sunset we hear from the loudspeakers on the minarets more chanting to signify the end of the fasting for the day. The experience was awesome, especially in Istanbul, where the chanting came from many different directions at sunset.

On the next leg of our drive, we visited caravansaries, one in ruins and one in excellent condition. Caravansaries are inns found along the Silk Road, a trade route to China. The caravansary, a large walled area, had a courtyard, a fountain, stables for the animals, and rooms for lodging. Our guide said they were locked at night and in the morning after everyone checked their belongings, people could then leave. The caravansaries were free and people could stay up to three days. I found an open market next door and wandered through kiosks of household goods, clothing, tools, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Fun!

We then arrived in Cappadocia (pron. Cap pah doke' e ah), my favorite place of the entire tour with the exception of Istanbul. The geological formations are caused by erosion of the volcanic rock. It is a wondrous place. I took many pictures, too many to include in the album, but you will certainly get the idea of the beauty of Cappadocia. Dwellings were carved out of the soft rock and we visited one cave home, as well as churches in the Open Air Museum, where we saw beautiful frescoes.

We had the opportunity to attend a Whirling Dervish ceremony, which was fascinating. Absolute quiet and no applause were requirements. It was held in a caravansary stable that's maintained by the dervish monks. The lights dimmed and quiet followed. First the musicians with flute-like and guitar-like instruments entered the square area of hardwood floor, to line up on one side, followed by the dancers, who lined up perpendicular to the musicians. One man chanted (prayer) followed by music and singing. Then the dancing started. The dancers keep one foot on the floor and spin with the other foot. The leader would step out and circle one of the dancers and they all moved around the floor by one position. They all appeared to have their eyes closed, heads tilted at various angles, an arm raised to the sky (God), and the other slightly lower pointed to the earth. The ceremony was about an hour in length. The whirling lasted a very long time and the dervishes seemed to enter a trance while whirling. When done dancing the dervishes returned to the side of the stage, kneeling and prayers, then all exited, and the lights were raised. This experience felt mystical to me.

Our journey to the capital city of Ankara was in fog, rain, and drizzle. It's always good when this happens while we're on the bus. In Ankara we visited Ataturk's Museum and the Museum of Anatolian History. Ataturk was the founder of the Turkish Republic and its first President. He had tremendous vision to make his changes in Turkey at the time. His political, social, educational, legal, and economic reforms brought the country into the modern world.

On our journey to Bursa we stopped in the country to visit the Gordion Museum. In Bursa we visited the Grand Mosque and the Green Mosque as well as the Silk Bazaar. Nearly everywhere we went where there were shops, we saw Pashmina scarves for sale. I brought three with me and never wore one of them. So, needless to say, I wasn't in the market for pashminas. I did bring home some lovely lokum aka Turkish delight, pistachio flavor. The quality of the lokum varies widely and I felt fortunate to find some of the good stuff. I also brought home three dolls, a wool poncho with fringe, fabric which my oldest daughter has converted into kitchen valances, cute springy dolls, and bracelets.

We boarded a ferry to take us across a narrow arm of the Sea of Marmara heading back to Istanbul. My second visit to this grand city, we headed to the Grand Bazaar. We ate lunch there and later went to the beautiful hotel. I retrieved my stored bag and happily found my library book. On the road trip I had written post cards along the way. So once I had the address labels and bought postage the cards were mailed from the airport the day I left Istanbul. Better late than never!

We had a night out in Istanbul which included dinner and belly dancer entertainment along with a comedian/singer, fair to middlin' entertainment. The food was good. Our full day in Istanbul took us back to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and happily, Topkapi. At the palace I was able to see things I'd missed on the first visit and still didn't see it all. We had a cruise on the Bosphorus River. In the most narrow part of the river where the current was extremely fast, our boat had a hard go of it making any progress up the river.

Some of our group, including me, had very early flights out of Istanbul. The taksi picked us up at (yikes) around 3 a.m. My plane took off at 6:05 a.m., heading for Frankfurt, Germany. That airport is under construction or remodeling and was a mess, however the people were very helpful. The flights went on to Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. and then to Syracuse and home. I'm always happy to reunite with my family and pets.

The pictures of the Turkey 2006 trip are on my website:

Turkey Part One

Turkey Part Two

Cheers,

Joyce N. Church
Written November 2006
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