Chapter 36  September-October, 2007

 

In mid-September we returned from our annual trip back to the USA.  The weather in Turkey was still quite warm, and as soon as we could, we left the marina to seek some relief from the heat in the coves and bays away from the town.  Our “mini-cruise” took us down the coast to a lovely little bay where we stayed for several days.  Two family-run restaurants competed for the yachts’ business, one at each end of the bay.  We accepted the free mooring offered by one of the restaurants.  These people were so eager to have the chance to get business from us that they rowed their heavy, wooden boats out into the bay and called and whistled to each entering yacht with their offer of a mooring.  Once tied to the mooring, they came alongside and “invited” us to dine in their restaurant.  (In the several days we were there, we did not see the lights come on in the restaurant even once.)  When they discovered we were not interested in eating in the restaurant, they attempted to sell us various items from their gardens.  Honey, fresh and dried figs, dried apricots, olive oil and so on.  There was even some hand-made needlework offered for sale.  These people were working hard!  One time the man came alongside and asked to speak to “the woman.”  I told him Sharon was down below and would be with him in a moment or two.  After he waited for about 5 minutes, he asked if she were sleeping.  I finally had to tell him where she really was. (She was in the head.)   He waited!  And made a small sale.  On Saturday, he came by asking if we would like some fresh bread in the morning.  Wanting to give him some business, we agreed that two loaves would be nice.  In the morning he arrived with our two loaves of bread:  each loaf was over two pounds!  How we were going to consume this much bread we didn’t know, but buy it we did.

Now it was time to return to the harbor, and begin to explore Turkey by land.

Turkey. 

Just the sound of it is exotic.  Up until now, we have been in Europe, where we feel more or less at home.  But now we are officially in Asia, and everything is new and different.  Church spires have been replaced by minarets, and bells by ezan, the five-times daily Muslim call to prayer.  It is time to explore!

Our first foray into the interior was to Cappadocia.  This is a fantasy land.  Three nearby volcanoes covered the entire area with layers of ash more than 30 million years ago.  Wind and water erosion have created wondrous shapes as valleys were carved out of the plain of ash.  Men and women have inhabited the area for more than 3,000 years, and they added carvings of their own making homes and churches out of the soft tuffa.  The result is spectacular!  So-called “Fairy Chimneys” shoot up everywhere, many with mushroom-shaped “caps” of harder stone, and the valleys take on magical shapes and forms as the sun changes the lighting during the course of the day.  Early in the morning the sky is filled with hot-air balloons, adding even more color to the landscape.  We really loved or time there.  Even our hotel room was carved out of the stone; we slept in a cave!

              

You may have noticed some small, round holes in the walls, high up.  These holes are for pigeons.  Pigeons have been raised in this area for many years; the droppings are highly valued as fertilizer for their grapes.  Our guide told us that 50-60 years ago the pigeons were so plentiful that flocks would blot out the sun when they all flew together.  Now, all that is left are the roosting holes in the rock.

 

While in Göreme (our home village in Cappadocia) we visited a pottery factory, where they gave us a demonstration of their skills.  Sharon had a try, and that experience gave us an even greater appreciation of how skilled these craftsmen are.

 

In our tour of Cappadocia, we stopped to examine the tomb of Haci Bektas Veli, one of the great 13th century Islamic philosophers.  His teachings were revolutionary at the time (some Muslims consider them revolutionary even today).  He taught, for instance:

  • Even if you are hurt, don’t hurt
  • Whatever you look for, search in you
  • And Educate the women

 At the well, the water came from the mouth of a lion in repose.  We were told that the resting lion is a symbol of hospitality.  The meaning seems to be “Come.  Rest.  I shall not harm you, so long as you do not harm me.  But do not forget:  if you wrong me, I am a lion.”

 

For a while, our route followed the famed Silk Road, over which camel caravans brought the silks and spices of the Far East to Europe for 1,000 years.  We stopped to tour Sultanhani, the largest han (or resting place) built by the sultan in 1229.  Judging by the size of the storerooms, those camel caravans must have been huge enterprises.

     

Along the way we stopped to explore the beautiful valley leading to Lake Egirdir.  This area is famous throughout Turkey for its apples, and we saw the season’s apple crop being harvested.  There were mountains of apples, and after gathering them alongside the road they were sorted by hand for shipment.  We stopped to ask the people sorting the apples if they would allow us to take some photos.  We left not only with photos, but also with some of the best apples we had ever eaten!

     

The large lake provided a great setting for our overnight stay; our pension was right on the tip of the peninsula you can see jutting into the clear waters.

 

Istanbul was next.  John’s brother David and his wife Julie had come to visit, and we met them here.  We had a great time visiting as we toured the fabulous sites in Istanbul.  John has been talking about Istanbul ever since he first visited on a business trip many years ago, and it was exciting to see that he had not exaggerated about the wonders of Topkapi Palace and the Aya Sofya.  We had two days of rain, but other than curtail our photography, we were not very inconvenienced.

               

Of course we spent far too much time in the bazaars, but what the heck?  Our $12 designer chambray shirt was worth the visit. There are knock-off markets everywhere in the world! The spice bazaar is particularly colorful and aromatic.

 

Next we toured historical Ephesus.  On our way, we stopped in Izmir to meet up with John’s old friend, Ahmet Apkinar.  Ahmet was his usual, gracious self, and regaled us with a foreshortened history of Izmir and Turkey, as well as a few well-chosen comments on the state of the world today.

Ephesus is a really big site.  Over 200,000 people lived here at one time, and to date only about 15% has been excavated, but what has been unearthed is quite impressive.  Most of what we saw is from early-Roman times, but still with a very strong Greek influence.  Most of the writings we saw, for instance, are in Greek, and the Greek gods were worshipped rather than those of Rome.  The famous Temple to Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the foundation stones that can be seen today are testimony to its size and grandeur.  Normally situated in a swamp, the area is now high and dry after several years of drought in this part of Turkey.  The archeologists have reconstructed the façade of the great Library of Celsus; it gives a sense of the wealth and beauty of the city.

     

Tradition has it that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was brought here by John and later died here.  The “official site” of Mary’s house is not far from Ephesus, and we took the opportunity to visit.  The site is high in the mountains above the city proper, and is a quiet, peaceful setting for a reconstructed 1st century stone house.  If Mary and John did live here, they certainly selected a lovely place.

 

Back home in Marmaris, it was now time for us to leave again.  Our Tourist Visas are good for only 90 days, and our time has run out.  The “normal” way the yachties handle this is to take the ferry to Rhodes, get their passports stamped by the Greek authorities, and return.  The ferry ride is just an hour and many go and return the same day.  We had never been to Rhodes, so we spent a few days to take a look around.  The beginning of our tour was delayed two days by the weather; the seas were too rough for the ferry to run.  But once we made it, we were immediately elated to be back in Greece.  It almost felt like coming home to us.  (We were even excited about the availability of Greek bread!)  Rhodes itself is most interesting; it is the only medieval area of Greece we had seen.  We loved walking through the little streets and back alleyways.  The old city of Rhodes is one of the best-preserved medieval cities in the Mediterranean area.

          

Our accommodations were pretty nice, too.  We thought it was too cold to swim, but the sun-starved Brits who made up most of the guests thought it was a fine Summer’s day.

 

Naturally, all cannot be perfect with any trip.  Somehow we missed the return to Standard Time, and so we arrived at the ferry an hour early.  But much better this way than the other.

We are now ready to get on with the winter and our winter boat projects.  The “To Do List” is growing, so we’ll have plenty to keep us busy. 

 Cheers!