Istanbul, where the Middle East meets the West

April, 2022

As you may have noted from my previous post, I am in France not Turkey. However I have a special correspondent in Turkey at this very moment. I have adapted her notes and used her photos.

Istanbul was once called Constantinople for the Roman Emperor who did much to open the door to Christianity. His conversion came in 312 C.E. In 313 he helped create the Edict of Milan, which declared tolerance for all faiths. However it was Theodocius 379-95 who in effect made Christianity the official state religion, according to Professor Bart Ehrman

Yet today the city Constantinople, renamed Istanbul in the 1920’s, is swarming with Muslim tourists in a predominantly Muslim country. That change is the story of the Ottoman Empire’s conquest of the Byzantine Empire, the eastern part of the Roman Empire.

It’s Ramadan and everyone is on holiday. Working during Ramadan is difficult. Take restaurant workers. They are around food all day. In busy restaurants they are constantly on the move. One worker, when she heard the early evening call to prayer said, “Oh, thank goodness! Now I can eat.”

Although many do fast as required during Ramadan, it is pretty clear that the Turks are not generally fundamentalists. In Istanbul most of the fancier restaurants serve alcohol. In one restaurant a waiter said it was illegal to be seen serving alcohol. They moved us away from the window. He said the other diners would not appreciate anyone drinking wine until sundown, when at least they could eat. However they were already eating. Maybe they thought that if they could not see the sun from their seat it was the equivalent to the sun setting. Or maybe they were just ignoring the rules, not having to worry about enforcement. No Taliban here. You do see women in full burka, but it seems to be a very small number. Yet Turks treat Western women respectfully and kindly, and even will joke around. 

We visited the Tokapi Palace, one of the most sumptuous palaces on earth. You can visit many of the Sultan’s chambers, including the harem’s quarters. The kitchen, too, is now open for visits.

Coffee pot in the Topaki museum
Coffee pot

Coffee drinking was quite an important part of palace life. It was well established by the 17th century. It was served with sherbet and sweetmeats. There were numerous rooms dedicated to its consumption. Official visitors were served in special settings.

This coffee pot, you will notice, has a filter on it. It appears to work like a French press. You put the coffee in, add the hot water, allow the coffee to brew, and then slowing plunge the filter to remove the coffee grinds. This is notably not how coffee is served in Turkey, except in more Westernized cafes, where it can be much like anything you would get in, say, Europe. Turkish coffee is brewed in a special pot, frothed and then poured into the tiny cup in which it is served, transferring some of the grinds. The grinds settle to the bottom, so you don’t get too many of them in your mouth and none if you are careful. I dislike the flavor immensely as it is sometimes flavored with cardamom, mastic, salep or ambergris- I have no idea what the last three items are but maybe a reader will enlighten me. Per the exhibit, Turks have their own way of roasting the coffee, so perhaps this has something to do with its unique flavor.

Here are some items from the excavation of Troy, also in the Topaki Palace:

WhatsApp Image 2022-04-17 at 10.00.10 AM
From the excavations of Troy
Ottoman Helmut
Ottoman helmet, 1650

For much more on this fascinating city, see my posts here

Istanbul Modern

Istanbul Modern art — the official title excludes ‘art.’   I went there today.  It’s a 20 minute walk from our place.  On the way I came across some sort of angry crowd scene.  The cops had just arrived when I heard what sounded like 4 gunshots.  I retreated and crossed the street.  A security guard told me it was not gunshots so I went on.  The museum is a bit hard to find.  There are big signs on the street but only one with an arrow and it pointed down a lonely decrepit alley.  I walked past, looking for a more official looking entrance but there weren’t any.  I went down the alley and found the Museum.


I am glad I did.  It is small but had an excellent exhibit, mostly of Turkish painters, some of them trained in Turkey, others in the US and Germany,   Here are some photos of my favorites:


This is fabric on canvas!






Turkey, part 3 1998

Turkey, continued



Yesterday we checked into a hotel ($16) and spent the day just walking and hanging about, reading, etc.

Today we visited Selcuk, also called Ephesus V, the fifth and final site of the town of Ephesus.  It is named for the Selcuks, who were a tribe from Central Asia, as were the Turks, perhaps from the area now called Turkistan.  We got a ride here from one of the guys at the hotel, another example of Turkish hospitality.  Part of his job it to meet tourist boats to get people to come and stay at the hotel.

The Basilica of St. John is here. Emperor Justinian is credited with building the Basilica, 527-565 A.D.  It is in ruins but if restored would be the 7th largest cathedral in the world.  You can clearly see the outlines of the building.

Also in this town is the Church of Mary, also called the Double Church.  It is called the latter because two churches have been built on the same site.  Here in 431 the third Ecumenical Council was held. The main issue was whether Mary bore a man or God.  The church decided that Jesus was both man and God. In 449, this position was negated and the position of the Nestors adopted; Jesus was just God.  In 451, in the Council of Chalcedon in Istanbul, the church reverted to the
position adopted in 431, and so it remains.

While we were walking around, a young man offered to sell us some coins, which he said were very old.  I asked him why he did not sell them to the Ephesus museum.  He said they would not pay him anything. We declined his offer.  It is illegal to remove antiquities and we had not way of knowing if what he found was of any value.

There is a Selcuk castle from the early days but it is closed for visits.

On our way out of town we passed children and women carrying loads of oregano on their backs in heavy cloths.   There are lots of tractors in the fields and on the roads.  Grapes, figs, peaches, strawberries, wheat and other crops abound not only in the fields but in people’s yards and gardens.  It is early in the season but we can already seethe small fruits growing.

There are many carpet shops but far less hustling here.  Same with restaurants.  Only one guy approached us, smiling as if seeing a longlost friend.  We know the routine now- don’t look or respond unless you want to have to spend time talking.

We are leaving tomorrow (Weds).  First we fly to Istanbul.  We stay overnight there.  We fly to Bucharest Thursday.  I feel a toothache coming on.


To Izmir and Istanbul

In the morning we took the Dolmus to Izmir Airport.  The Dolmus drops passengers off about a mile from the terminal.  I guess not too many people using the Dolmus go to the airport.  There was a sidewalk part of the way, but the rest of the time we shared the road with cars and trucks whirring past at high speeds, Turkish style (pedal to the metal).

The flight is only about an hour.  We fly over the Bosforo, and are afforded a great view of the whole region, including Istanbul.

The airport bus takes us into the old town for less than $1 each, taking 45 minutes to do so, including time for a traffic jam.  We went to the travel agent to get the bag we left behind and to return the book we borrowed.  They were happy to let us try to connect to the internet.  No luck.  I think that the physical connection into their line was not good.

We found a cheap hotel nearby.  It turned out to be noisy.  No matter. I could not sleep due to the raging toothache.  I know this pain.  I need a root canal.  Our dentist friends Jaime and Maria Eugenia in Madrid told me that I had a suspicious looking tooth that should be treated when we get back to the states.  I figure that they were wrong only in how long it would take before it erupted.

The last (and only other) time I went to Eastern Europe, we were in Budapest when the same kind of pain got so bad that we left after a few hours.  We went to Vienna, arriving on a Saturday night.  Sunday morning, Grandma, in whose room we were staying, found us a dentist. The dentists in Vienna take turns covering the off-hours.  For $250, I got my root canal done.  Well, am I going to have to go to Vienna again?  But this time, I’ll have to go by plane, since Vienna is no
longer just four hours away by train.  Or will I find a dentist who can do the work in the little towns of Romania?  We are skipping

I must be nuts for agreeing to go to Romania when I knew I was going to have dental work done.  I knew that taking antibiotics was unlikely to work.  I have tried that before without success.  Lucky thing I refused to go to Bulgaria.

(end of Turkey entrie

Turkey part 2

Turkey, cont’d

The marina and its stray cats
On the boat
Jolly St. Nicholas
Spear Chucker
Staying in a chimney
Stunning views from the amphitheater
Cruise ends
Kushadasi and the Caravansary
10 on a scale of 10, the ancient city Ephesus
Squatters’ rights
The mother of all meals


Antalya and the first night on the boat

We arrived in Antalya about 6:00 A.M.  The bus station is huge and modern.  No tour representative was there to meet us, although we were told that someone would be.  We took a taxi to our hotel.  He went through so many narrow allies with increasing amounts of trash piled in it, and worsening housing.  We thought he was lost, just trying to run up the fare or worse, trying to find the thugs who would rob us.  It was none of the above, as he eventually found our hotel, a 17th- 18th century Ottoman style residence.   It has a courtyard with a pool, around which breakfast is served under the bright, clear skies. We had to rest in the lobby until we could get into a room.

Later we walked through the old town of Antalya and make a few purchases, including rain gear.  The harbor is about 100 feet below.  After a cold drink while overlooking it and the clear blue waters, we walked down to look at the boats.  Maybe we would see ours.  When we got there, we were set upon by men selling boat rides, mostly lunch cruises.  Another gauntlet to run!  One in particular was pesty and got too close, too intrusive.  I said “No,” harshly.  He said, “Don’t get mad.  If I don’t ask, I will get fired.  Who is going to support my family, you?”

At around 2 p.m. someone came to transport us to the boat, which is not in the town’s harbor but about 15 km away.  The vessel is moored in a harbor that also has a modern marina.  I think that the marina is called “Sectur Marina.”  After putting our bags on the boat, we walked around.

The marina and its stray cats

We spoke to an English woman who has been living aboard here for around six months.  She and other English speaking women have been caring for some stray cats, so common in Turkey.  There are about eight cats in the group, all neutered, which the women paid for.  The one we spoke with has been sailing for several years and enjoys the life style.  Her husband has been rebuilding their engine, having to travel quite a bit in the area to get parts.  Everyone is about to depart, having entered some sort of regatta, and they will not return. They are looking for people to care for the cats.

Peg and I visited the marina office.  The Turks at the desk speak English well.  As I recall, slip fees are around $150-200 per month. There are showers, laundry and other mod cons.  Living here would be quite comfortable.  There is a free shuttle to town that runs frequently.

In Istanbul I tried to connect to  I could not get an answer from their computer.  In Cappadocia I tried to reach the help line in Istanbul.  I was put on hold there, and had the same result here. Each time I gave up after waiting ten minutes.  The number is not toll free.  In Cappadocia I used our hotel phone.  Here at the marina I used a phone booth and a telephone card.  The card I bought cost about $4.00 and was just about used up when I gave up.

The operators who answer the phone speak very little English.  All they could say was, “Can you hold?”  I tried to find out how long it would be and they could not answer. I found out that there was only one person providing all the technical support.  A college teacher from the U.S., now teaching in Azerbyjan (sp???)) told us that he has not been able to connect to AOL in Turkey.

Back on the boat, we met our crew.  The Captain is Mustafa.  His wife, Nuri  is the cook.  There is a line under the ‘S’ so the name is pronounced ‘Nourish’.  The crew is Y suf, which is the Turkish version of Joseph.  I wonder if this version of Joseph is closer to the version used at the time of Christ than our version.  Mustafa looks like a mustafa, since the name sounds like ‘moustache’.  He has very wavy, jet black hair with gray streaks, stands about 5′ 5″ tall, and is solidly built.  He wears shorts and a polo shirt, and appears Greek to me.  Since the Greeks have controlled Turkey several times, this is not surprising.  He looks the part of captain on a leisure cruise, except that he has not trimmed his beard in a while, nor shaved the contoured areas.  Maybe he looks more like a pirate than a captain of one of these boats.  He speaks a few words of English.

Nuri  could be Greek also.  Or maybe Italian?  No, she somehow looks slightly oriental.  She must have Central Asian ancestry.  Turkish, Mongolian?  Maybe all of the above.  In Turkey, all have been here long enough to contribute many genes to the pool.  She stands about 5′ tall, as solidly built as her husband. Y suf is about 5′ 7″ and very slender.  His features are slender:
long, thin nasal bridge, long face.  He moves about the boat quite comfortably.  He brings drinks, sets the table, and helps with any other chore that needs to be done.

The other guests are Edward, Correy and Yvette, from Holland.  Correy is Yvette’s mother, but Ed is no relation.  Rima, Yurate and Eimutis are from Lithuania.  I think that they are just friends.  Yurate speaks English pretty well.  She is perhaps in her mid-30’s (since she is going to read this, I hope I am not wrong!).  Late to arrive are Yannick and Pamela.  She is Canadian and he is French.  They are married and live in Banff, Canada.  They are in their late 20’s, I think.

For dinner they serve thin roles that are filled with fresh parsley and cheese, deep fried.  They are excellent with the red wine.  There is a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers, as I recall.  After dinner, the Lithuanians share a sweet drink with us.  It is mead, but in the form of a liquor. One sip was enough for me.  There were several bottles to try, all variations on the theme.

Our cabin is quite comfortable.  It has a double bed.  One side of it is beneath the walkway on the deck.  There are sliding windows, but no screens.  We have a head with shower and sink. Storage is adequate for light travelers.  Correy and Yvette are not light travelers.  They have two bags each that weigh a ton!  They told us that they had to pay extra to get them on the plane.  I was surprised that the plane could get off the ground.


On the boat

Sunday rises gloriously blue yet cool.  Our week on the boat is beginning.  Just being on the water felt good.  It has been over a
year since I felt a moving deck, except the few boats we walked on in Holland.  Being near the water, seeing and hearing the noises of the harbor, feeling the breeze, smelling the salt feeds something deep inside me.

We left at 9:30 a.m.  Since the boat, a 25-meter gullet, has only one engine and no thrusters, we are helped from the dock by a powerful dinghy that pushes us away from harm and into the open.  This gullet, and all of the ones now in use, I guess, are not sailing vessels.  They do have two tall masts, but the sails are small. Sailing would not be practical for short trips like this, where people want to get places and see things.  The vessel is all wood.  During the winter the necessary and probably extensive maintenance is performed.  A new one was being built in the harbor.  We were told you could buy it for about $50,000.

We motored until noon.  The swells were soft, but still the boat rocked when the sea was abeam.  After anchoring at Olympus,  Mustafa or Yusuf took us ashore in the dinghy.  We walked around the beach and inland a little.  We saw a stone gate, overgrown with trees, shrubs, vines.  It is abstractly decorated, looking Islamic to me.  The gate is square, not an arch, with a heavy lintel made of stone.  There are some columns laying about.  This area is strong with the sense of age, of time, of success no longer, of a story hidden, of a treasure hidden.

Out from a cave rolls a large boulder.  I grab my whip and …Where is my Indiana Jones hat when I need it?

Yannick and Pamela are late for lunch.  They went exploring and found many more ruins.  After a while, Yusuf went to look for them.  When they got back to the beach, Yusuf was gone.  Mustafa held up a yellow card, like the referees do in soccer; Pamela and Yannick had committed a foul by being late.  Shortly, Mustafa dove in, swam to shore, brought them back, and then went to get Yusuf.

We anchored at around 5:00 p.m. a few miles away.  It was my first night on the water since we took our boat Meridia to the Manatee River in Florida, where we spent the evening watching the Hale-Bopp comet.  This coast is spectacular.  Hills sit watching us as the ghosts of Alexander and the ancient gods looked on, as if to ask us, “What do you want to know, and what are you willing to do to find out.”  For some people, these calls are Sirens, pulling irresistibly and deeply into the past.  Deep memories.  The Sirens tug as I settle into a deep sleep.


Jolly St. Nicholas

It’s the roar and stench of the diesel.  Mustafa fired up Old Stinker at 5 a.m.!  He didn’t tell us we were getting up this early!  The diesel fumes from the nearby exhaust come into our cabin so it’s out we go, easily in time to see the sun rising over the Med.
Small wonder so many early sailors plied these waters, for the beauty of the water, the stillness, the welcome, warming sun is enough to put sea legs on anyone.

At noon we anchored near Myra.  We have an optional tour of Myra and its amphitheater and St. Nicholas Church.  Yes, jolly St. Nicholas lived in these parts, taking a special interest in children.  Wonder what his interest was, other than giving gifts.  He is known also for performing miracles.

The Church of St. Nicholas was restored in the mid-1800’s’ but the original structure was built in the 4th Century A.D.  In the
restoration, part of it at least was not done in the original style. There are frescoes of saints on the ceiling of the dome.
I have no notes on the amphitheater.  This little journey, two hours total, cost us $12!  This included a water taxi, two 10-15 minute bus rides and admissions.  The admissions were about $1.00 for each of the two sites.  I thought it was very
expensive.  Others agreed.

Spear Chucker

After Nuri ‘ excellent lunch some guests swam in the cold waters.  Eimutis brought out his harpoon.  Well, I needed a better name, an easier name, for him.  So it’s Spear Chucker.  Spear Chucker loves to swim, snorkel and try to shoot fish and because he is used to swimming with icebergs, he can stay in these still cool waters for long periods.  The other Lithuanians do as well with these waters.  The Dutch come in second.  Peg and I are last.


We motored to Kale (pronounced Kal-ay, or Kal-eh), which sits on the coast.  It is a small town.  Women in traditional Islamic robes sell various hand made items, mostly scarves and jewelry.  Some are very friendly and helpful.  A little girl selling jewelry walks with our group, giving away small samples of fresh oregano.  Someone buys an ankle bracelet from her, making her efforts worthwhile.

Roosters, chickens and chicks wander loose around the town.  There is a fort about 100′ up, the rubble-strewn foot path taking you through the village.  There is no access to the village by car, but I think you can get to the fort.  The houses are stone, fair to good condition.  There are some satellite dishes on the roofs.

We are near the Lycian tombs.  Lycia is between Antalya and Fethiye.  The Lycians may have come here from Crete circa 1400 B.C.  They fought off Ramses II circa 1300 B.C.  Homer said that they were allies of Troy in the late 13th Century.  Pharaoh Merehpta reported that they attacked Egypt in 1230, but were unsuccessful.  In 545 B.C. they were
conquered by the Persians.  As a result, they had to provide fifty ships for the campaign against the Greeks.  In 480 B.C. they were ruled by the Greeks, but the Persians came again in 385 B.C.  Alexander the Great conquered the area in 334 B.C.  In 190 B.C. the Romans took over.  The Lycians were given to Rhodes to rule, but resisted successfully.  In 167 B.C. they were set free but under Roman rule.  In the 3rd Century A.D. they were Christianized.  Their earliest known writing comes from the 5th or 4th Century B.C.

They used the Greek alphabet plus some symbols for sounds specific to their language.  The language was not used after the 5th or 4th Century B.C.  The oldest buildings credited to them are from the same period.  There are many extant tombs, some decorated with Greek columns. The tombs are about 6′-7′ long, entirely of stone, of course, including the covers.  Most have been pillaged but I recall seeing one or two that were not.  We walk undisturbed among them with Pamela and Yannick.

Staying in a chimney

Pamela and Yannick stayed at a pension a few nights ago.  It is called Peri and is in one of the early Christian caves, of the type called “chimneys,” for they look like chimneys.  24 Sant Sicaksu, in Goerme, near the Fred Flintstone and the open air museum.  The phone number is 0384 271 2136.  They spent $20-25 including breakfast.  I think that they also had dinner there or nearby, and it was excellent, home-style cooking.  Fred is made of the volcanic rock but from the effects of wind and rain, we’re told.  Other images appear there also. Tonight’s anchorage affords us beautiful views of the stars.

5/26/98 (Tuesday)


The excellent weather continues and today we get to eat breakfast before we continue with our journey.  At 11:30 we arrived at a swimming spot near Ka  (pro Kash,) once called Antiphellos.  Capt. Mustafa gradually came to a stop, dropped the anchor and then backed off it.  Then he let the boat come into the wind.  He did not head into the wind first, then drop the anchor, as I was taught.  The wind pushes us 180 degrees so the anchor is facing us.  He is but a few feet from the next boat.

Turkey, A Phaidon Cultural Guide, lent to us by an employee of the travel agent in Istanbul that we used, says Ka  is among the most beautiful spots on the south coast.  It has one of the best amphitheaters in Turkey.  Ka  goes back at least to the 4th C. B.C., when it was the harbor of Phellos, which was in the mountains; thus the “anti” in “Antiphellos” means “before,” or in front of Phellos.  I wonder if there was a symbol for Phellos, and if there was, if it would be called a Phellos symbol; I also wonder if this can be called a good joke.

The water is still a little chilly, although there were warm spots here and there.  I spent most of the time in the water looking for
them.  The shoreline is still volcanic.  We walked about the town.  There are many small hotels, pensions and restaurants.  Many have great views of the harbor and the islands about 3/4 of a mile offshore. A strong wind some 40 knots came up about 5:00 p.m.  Crews scurried about securing canvases, throwing out additional lines and securing everything.  We now have two lines tied around the rocks off the stern.


Stunning views from the amphitheater

I awoke before anyone else, as usual, and Nuri  again got up with me to make coffee; instant coffee is the only type they have on board.  After the typical Turkish breakfast, we took a cab to the amphitheater.  The high speed ride up the curvy road takes us to a one lane dirt road.  The road goes past several inhabited huts, whose residents wave to the driver and to us.  There are no touristy things here:  no post cards, no souvenirs, etc.  There is a man in uniform who collects a small entrance fee, which includes his services as a guide.  His English is very good.

A more beautiful site for an amphitheater cannot be found.  We are on the side of a mountain, with great views of the valley below and marvelous views as far as the eye can see.  I do not remember if we could see the sea from here, but I do not think so.  The amphitheater is in wonderful shape, just as we were told.   Our friendly guide points out the box seats.  He tells us there are family names carved into the marble seat back.  These were reserved seats.

Above the amphitheater is a running track used for games.  It looks to be about 150 yards from end to end, and it is wide enough for the oval track he said was there.  The seats are on a long side of the track; on the other there remain portions of statutes and columns. I would have loved to camp here.  The mountains, the air, the stars would make for an unforgettable evening.

The hustle and clutter of Istanbul are behind me and I am seduced by the charms of Turkey’s history and landscape.
I want to bring my own boat here for months of glorious cruising.  Our anchorage is near a disco on the shore, which  appears reachable only by boat.  And some people have reached it, and the sounds of disco disturb an otherwise impeccable night.  The crescent moon (just like the one on the Turkish flag), sets over the mountains at 9:00.

At 6:30 A.M. Old Stinker fires up, and puffs reliably while our friends sun bathe on the front deck.  After lunch, we go farther along the coast, anchoring in the blue waters for swimming at around 5:30 P.M.  Dinner is beef with rosemary, tomatoes, and green peppers (called paprikas here), all slowly cooked.  As we eat dinner, goats walk the steep rocks lining the anchorage, their bells clanking in the growing deep stillness of the night, and again we watch setting of the crescent moon, cooling breezes flowing over and around.


Cruise ends

After a brief cruise we anchor at yet another set of ruins.  Yosuf (I am not sure if there is one dot over the ‘u’, or two) takes us ashore in the dinghy.  I forget to write down the name of this place.  The old city is on a peninsula and there are bays on three sides of it. The main street runs from the bay we anchored in to the other side where there are two more bays.  There are a Roman bath, angora (marketplace), and on the hill, an amphitheater.  We did not go to the amphitheater.  The area where it was located is heavily overgrown. The shore is home to many sea urchins, so we walked carefully in the water.

Sadly we returned to our point of departure and there we spent the night.  Fortunately it was quiet, and the mountains nearby are magnificent.  We will remember our new friends.  We enjoyed being with all of them.


Kushadasi and the Caravansary

Our morning goodbyes are over, we have everyone’s address and promise to keep in touch.  We are going to the coastal town of Ku hadasi.  Yannick and Pamela ride part of the way with us on the bus.  The steward is over-attentive.  He annoys me by turning the vent on when I want it off, and off when I want it on, and by raising my armrest though I want it down.  I was removing my shoes when the man on the seat across the isle from me touches me on the arm, and waves his
finger gently at me.  I guess it’s rude to take your shoes off here; given all the foot washing that goes on before people enter the
mosques, I wouldn’t think anyone would mind.

We say goodbye to our young friends, as they are going to Pammukele (sp?). Afterwards they are going to Aix en Provence.  A job awaits Yannick there.  Pamela is going to teach English.  Eight hours or so later, we are at the bus station in Selcuk (sp?).
We board a dolman, or it could be a dolmus, a little bus that seats about twenty people.  Of course, I called it a dolma, as in the
stuffed grape leaf dish, since people were stuffed into these little vans.  It costs about $.50 to go to Kushadasi, and a few more cents to take a second bus to our hotel.   We are staying the evening in the center of town, in a caravansary.  People on the bus answered our questions readily, and even offered help without being asked.  They passed money to the driver, and the change back to the passenger.

The hotel is a dream.  It was constructed in the first or second century of the common era by the Romans.  It was built for the spice caravans, thus the name “Caravansary.”   On the first level you find the arcades where the goods were displayed and the animals stabled.  On the second level are more arcades, which are now sleeping rooms. The rooms have been comfortably and handsomely done, beginning with the ancient looking wooden, rounded doors.

After you enter you walk a few feet through an pointy-arched hall.  Then you are in the main part of the room. The windows are also arched, I think, and we look over the main entrance.   This is a gigantic door (maybe 20′ x 20′) into which a normal sized door has been cut.

Kushadasi is built on several hills and is now a summer resort.  The Aegean Sea laps gently against one side of the town.  Everyone is hustling and bustling.  Around the caravansary are a few blocks filled with shops.  Sitting outside is a row of shoe shiners, mostly middle-aged men busily looking at the shoes of each passer-by.  Mine are always polished before I leave whatever room we are in, but I nonetheless get many offers here.  We walk a few steep hills with ease.  The eateries look great, but dinner is included in our tour.  The shops are stuffed to over-flowing, and the owners stand outside, ever ready for the next customer.  Even though the streets are narrow and laden with shops, the perfect gauntlet, we are not harangued.

10 on a scale of 10, the ancient city Ephesus

Mary’s Last House

Not far away from Kushadasi is the wonderfully preserved city of Ephesus.  For this tour we have a guide again.  The trip takes less than an hour.  First we visit Mary’s last house, near Ephesus.  She is said to have lived here with St. John.  Jesus asked St. John to care for her.  This site was chosen because it was well hidden, at the top of a mountain, and probably safe from their persecutors.

Mary’s house is tiny, maybe 500 square feet.  In it there are the usual Mary pictures or statues, perhaps both, I do not recall.  A monk in brown monk robes stands guard, admonishing silence in this site, holy for both Christians and Muslims.  The house and environs are an official holy site run jointly by the Vatican and the Turkish government.

A legend in France has Mary living her last days on the Mediterranean coast, near Montpelier. Which of these stories is true, or are they somehow both true?  This house was discovered and excavated in the late 1800’s, pehaps a little later.  A dying nun in Germany had a vision showing where the house was located.  After considerable efforts and just at the point of giving up, the searchers found the remains of a house.  The story has it that these remains were exactly where the nun said they
would be.  I do not know if this ‘vision’ or whatever it was is the only basis for believing that this house was Mary and John’s

After Mary’s house, we drive to Ephesus; there is a great view of the valley of Ephesus along the way.  Ephesus used to be a seaport and the valley that was created when the port silted up is beautiful and filled with produce.  The sea is now about 6 km away from where it was when Ephesus thrived.

Ephesus was an important city before the Romans came.  The Romans got it, I think, by marriage.  Well before the beginning of the Common Era, Ephesus was made the capital of the Roman province of Asia Minor.  It was part of Rome’s first expansion.
Heraclites was born and lived here 540-480 B.C.  I read some of his writings as an undergraduate.  When our guide told us, it made Ephesus something special for me, having read him without knowing he was from this city.  Everyone taught that Heraclites was an early Greek philosopher.  I guess he was Greek since the Greeks may have ruled this area at the time.

I recall that Heraclites is famous for his assertion, “Everything is flux,”  meaning something like “reality is
change, motion, movement.”  I read that Mark Antony lived and ruled here, and his presence added
to the importance and wealth of the town.  I also read that he came through here in 44 B.C., on his way to marry Cleopatra.  As a wedding present he took the valuable library of Pergamon (sp??).

As you enter the city, you are treated to a view of some of the town, which is downhill from the entrance.  Our first stop is the amphitheater.  It was carved from the side of Mt. Pion.  You enter through ancient arches and climb the ancient stairs to your seat.  It is still in use, the setting for concerts, plays, and the like.  Some seats still have their marble facades intact.  Now most people are sitting on rocks, but when the amphitheater was complete, the people sat on marble.

Nowadays they easily seat 25,000, and that does not include the top rows that are off limits!  From the top seats you get a good view of the city.  The acoustics are terrific.  You can stand on the stage and talk in normal tones with someone sitting at the top.

It was here that Paul was nearly stoned to death.  He was speaking to a crowd of residents, trying to convert them.  He broke a statue of Diana, saying that Diana was a false god and therefore could do nothing to harm him for his act.  Well, maybe Diana couldn’t harm him, but the crowd could, and threw stones.  The seemingly knowledgeable guide pointed out where Paul is thought to have stood while delivering his talk, and the passage through which he fled.

After my jaws closed again, we walked through a tree-lined avenue to the main part of town. We pass the baths, exercise rooms and a swimming pool.  The baths occupied 9000 square yards! There were cool rooms, medium hot rooms
and hot rooms.  Steam produced by burning wood that heated the water passed under the floors on the way to each room.  In this way the floors were warmed.  Some ceramic pipes used to transport the water are still intact and in place. I stepped on a few not knowing what they were.   This is a good example of the problems the Turks face in conserving their rich heritage.

The guide told us that the same boilers heated houses in the city. We stop at the latrines.  Running water served well-to-do customers, who could chat with one another or listen to live music as they heeded nature’s call.  Later, the women got their own latrine.  The water ran in two channels.  One channel was below the marble seats, carrying the effluent away, probably into the sea.  Another ran just below where your legs would be when you were seated.  This was used to wash, as
they did not have toilet paper.

Squatters’ rights

In Turkey, the toilets have been immaculate in most places.  A few had squatters, so-called Turkish toilets, where there are spots in the ceramic for you feet.  You place your feet in these indentions and then you squat as there is nothing to sit on.  Most facilities have modern toilets.  They are just like ours, for one exception. There is a second water line that empties into the bowl.  These lines were connected to a shut off valve coming out of the wall.  Therefore, I knew that water came out of them, but not when you flushed.  I did not know with absolute certainty what these water lines were for so I finally mustered the courage to ask the guide.  He said that they are there so you can clean yourself, in lieu of or in addition to toilet paper.  The purpose is identical to that employed in the Roman latrine here.

The Traian Fountain, built around 100 A.D.  It was dedicated to the Roman Emperor Traian.   The two storey structure was recently renovated.  Some columns have composite capitals and the others have corinthian.  There were statues, one of which was of the Emperor Traian.  Little remains of Traian.  Dionysus and Aphrodite are on in the Ephesus Museum.
The Domitian Temple, said the guide, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  It was built in 550-460 B.C. (Before Common Era).  The architects were Chersiphron and his son Metagenes of Crete and Theodoros.  It is 180′ x 377′.  It is 4 times larger than the Parthenon in Athens, and one and a half times larger than the cathedral in Cologne.  127 Ionic columns.  There is a blue tint to the marble.

It was rebuilt  350-250 B.C. The library of Celsus was rebuilt in 1970 by the Austrian Architecture Institute.  The books stored there were papyrus rolls.  In 262 A.D. it was destroyed either by earthquake or by our old friends, the Celts.  I was so busy gawking that I did not take notes during the tour.  Thus I have included the above that I got off the web.  I am still too
wowed to know what else to say.

GaryBob says CHECK IT OUT!

The mother of all meals

The dinner at the Caravansary was buffet style, yet ranks as one of the best dining experiences of my life.  Eggplant a million ways.  Some sort of paste, made perhaps with tahini.  Great bread.  Breaded, deep fried vegetables. Kebaps. The list goes on, and I only wish I had a list, and the recipes.

After dinner we were treated to an evening of dance.  There were three belly dancers, performing separately, all of them seductively athletic.  I marveled at how a culture that produced Islam also produced belly dancing.   I was more
interested in and especially enjoyed the folk dancers, about ten in number, of whom roughly half were women.  They dressed in traditional Turkish style, not Islamic, the men in long black pants, boots, the women in adorned dresses and boots too. I have seen Turkish folk dance before, and have even done one or two myself when Peg and I were members of a folk dance group in Dallas. I am always impressed by the dramatic athleticness of the dances, and this group was the best I had ever seen.

All the dancers were accompanied by a very good live band with a bouzouki (sp???) sounding instrument, an
accordion, and a flute which made the sound so exotically middle- eastern sounding to me.  The bouzouki sounding instrument looked like and was played like a dulcimer.  The band also had bongos and an electronic organ, subtly employed.
The large crowd of tourists, French, Russian, American, Canadian, German, etc., was very appreciative.  A more perfect setting could not be imagined:  a courtyard surrounded by the arcades of a building nearly two thousand years old, under the crystal clear night sky, making the exotic music utterly seductive.



We are still in Ku adasi but in a small hotel.  Our pre-paid tour had ended.  It costs $16 for the two of us including breakfast.  Lunch for two us is about $6, dinner with wine about $10 (also for two).  They told us that we could stay here in the winter for about $300 per month for two in a large room, maybe including breakfast but no other meals.

Up the street is another small hotel, called the Rose Hotel.  It advertises internet access.  We managed to connect our computer to their telephone and make the very cheap long distance call to IBM’s computer in Istanbul.  The Rose Hotel was the same price as ours, but Peg said it looked more appropriate for backpacking students.

We spent the rest of our time here wandering about, taking long walks and talking about the possibility of staying here some winter for a few months.  The locals tell us that the weather is usually agreeable and the prices low.


Turkish people are very honest.  If you give them too much money, they will give it back.  There is very little street crime.
But they will try to over-charge, or at least this is the way I felt sometimes.  They do this in restaurants by not posting prices and
sometimes not even having written menus.  You do not always know what is included in the meal and what is not.  They build the order by being very friendly and making you feel so welcome that you think that they will not take advantage of you.  So you start out expecting a $5 meal and you end up paying $8 or $10.  Ok, that’s still not much, but that’s not the point.  I just want to know in advance.

Some of the street vendors use similar techniques.  Yesterday we wanted two cheese pastries, for which we had paid about $.25 each in Istanbul.  He gave us the pastries and wanted 1 million, which is $1 each.  We started to give them back, since that was way too much money,  and he immediately cut the price in half.  Still $.50 each, twice what we expected to pay, but better.  Again the $.50 was not the problem, it was the fact that he tried to get away with excessive charges since he knew we were tourists.  He did not have his price posted.

Another problem we had was when we wanted to get more lira.  We saw a cash machine in some touristy town that we were visiting.  A man came out and said it did not work yet.  He said to come into the change place right next door.  The rate was posted at 252,000 TL per USD. That was a decent rate.  We gave them our credit card (really a debit card).  We said we wanted $100.  He told the woman we wanted $200.  We said no, $100.

When she gave is the receipt to sign, the amount was for 26,000,000 TL, not 22,500,000 TL.  We quickly recognized that they
were charging us a commission of 3,500,000 TL, which is $13.00, a whopping 13% commission!  I grabbed the credit card and my passport, and we left.  I forgot to grab the credit card receipt, unsigned, but they never tried to run it through.

Most people are poor.  The average wage is about $400 per month.  The woman in our hotel earns $175 per month, plus room and board.  She is from Iran, and comes here during the summer so she can enjoy the freedom that women have here.  She
lost her job when the revolution occurred, but was given a retirement income.  She wants to come to the U.S. to work, as do many people.

Several Turks have told us that getting a U.S. visa, even a tourist visa, is impossible.  One told us that you had to have at least
$20,000 in a bank account before they would let you in. Our visa for Turkey costs $45 each, compared to $10 or less for most
Europeans.  All the sources we checked stated that the visa was $20.  Bulgaria charges about the same, and $25 even if you are in a bus or train crossing the country without even touching the ground!

The water, fresh fruits and vegetables are safe to consume.  The water tastes fine.
edit 1/2002

Turkey: the glorious explorations of our history, 5/98


Topkapi Palace
Seeing the Black Sea
Agatha slept here
The people
The land of the zeros
The economy



Here’s us in beautiful Istanbul.  And here’s us in impoverished Istanbul.  We are staying in a two star hotel, one that might be starless anywhere in Europe.

After a breakfast of feta, olives, bread, butter, jam, tea or coffee, (the same everywhere we went in Turkey) we encountered a time-traveler cleaning our room:  a woman dressed as she might have 2000 years ago, long cloak covering all from the shoulders down, her head covered.  Then we ventured into this new land.  It is point and click time for us, as we know not a word of Turkish and have no phrase book, nor a guide book.

Nearby and visible from our rooftop are the Blue Mosque and the harbor on the south side of the city, facing the Marmar Denizi.  This sea leads to the Med.  To our north is the Bosforo, the channel dividing Istanbul in two, and Europe from Asia, while leading to the Black Sea.

Up the steep hill from our hotel lies the fabulous St. Sofia.  It was built in the 5th C. by Constantine, and renovated in the 6th C. by Justinian.  It was subject to further repairs for damages caused by earthquakes around the beginning of the last millennium.   I think that renovations were undertaken in the 14th C.  Now they are trying to save the mosaics of the dome, some 50-75′ above.

I have never been in a building this old that is this well preserved.  Its great dimensions are overpowering, adding to its stunning beauty.  Great arches support the tremendous dome and the enormous walls that are a pink, fleshy tone on the outside.

On our way there we climb a steep hill and pass through a crumbling neighborhood.  Some work is going on but  some people living in buildings that appear on the verge of collapse.  Some are wooden houses that date from the mid-19th C.  Peg thinks they look like they could be in San Francisco.

There are very few women on the streets.  It’s eerie.


Topkapi Palace

The Topkapi Palace, an easy walk from our hotel, served as the home of 36 sultans.  This is a huge palace built along the shore of the Marmar Denizi.  The harem, one section of the building, is where the family lived.  The family included all the wives, servants, and the eunuchs.  In the Ottoman Empire the last became politically powerful.

There is an exhibit containing:  a footstep (in mud or something) and part of the beard of Mohammed; some dust from his tomb; David’s sword with which he slew Goliath; Abraham’s walking stick; the arm and hand of John the Baptist;  a letter from Mohammed to a prince “suggesting” that he accept Islam or face the wrath of the Muslims.  The beard, footstep and letter may be genuine, but surely not the rest.  That they present these as actual reflects poorly on the curators or the Islamic faithful, or both; for this exhibit is a holy site.

We saw an 86-carat diamond, huge emeralds – one 2″ square that was about 2″ thick -, a 15″ plate encrusted with more emeralds.  Plush gardens.  Huge collections of arms.

Peg writes:

Diamonds and emeralds in gold pendants too heavy for most men to wear for long, jeweled daggers traded over the centuries between shahs, emirs and kings, fabulous caftans of fine embroidered silk, 10,000 pieces of the most valuable Chinese porcelain ever manufactured, imported over the silk road from China as early as the 16th century.

The Ottoman Empire was founded in the 1300’s and by the 1700’s it covered all of North Africa, the Middle East including Iraq, Syria and parts of Saudi Arabia, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary.   The Ottomans were knocking on the gates of Vienna before the expansion was stopped.  The Ottoman Empire came on the heels of the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, which was the eastern portion of the Roman Empire.  The western portion collapsed long before, in the late part of the 5th century (476 A.D.).  I never thought about it quite like this: part of the Roman empire remained until around 1300.

The Ottoman Empire collapsed after WWI.

People we have spoken with have all related unpleasant experiences in Bulgaria so I may not want to go there at all.

Today (Monday) we signed up for a week on a sailboat in Antalya, starting next Saturday.  We will also be going to other sites along the coast and returning to Istanbul on the 31st or the 1st.  After that we are undecided.

Dinner this evening cost us $6 for the two of us at a little joint nearby.  Very good mushroom and eggplant dishes.


Seeing the Black Sea

We took a ride  up the Bosforo on a derelict, foul-smelling ferry. About an hour and 1/2 later it dropped us for the two-hour layover.  I climbed a steep hill about 2 miles to the ruins of a castle that overlook the point where the Black Sea and the Bosforo join.  Clouds are forming low in the skies so close they seemed within rach.  Many important battles have been fought for control of this easy connection to the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.

Agatha slept here

We walked across the bridge that takes us to the newer side of town.  On the bridge there are only men, these selling small items.  One had a bathroom scale.  If you pay him a little something, he will let you check your weight.

Finally we reach the main street.  It is uninspiring but at least it is not decrepit.  There are many modern looking shops selling modern looking clothes, radios and other things, and many kabob shops selling gyros, which they call kabobs, or kabaps.

Nearby is the Pera Palace, a hotel with a 1920’s decor that claims it was made famous by the Orient Express.  The brochure says that the train stopped on the other side of the river, and the passengers were transferred up here for the night.  The room where Agatha Christie stayed is preserved.  She is said to have written Murder on the Orient Express while in residence.

We lunch at a kebab shop.  Our waiter here joked about Turkish millionaires.  Everyone is a millionaire here, he said.  A million TL is worth only about $4, enough to buy lunch at an inexpensive but decent place like this one.

The people

At 5:00 A.M. and again at 10:00 P.M. (and three times in between) we are invited to prayers by Muslims singing over the gigantic loudspeaker somewhere nearby.  You can hear the calls to prayer everywhere you go.

Women are scarcely seen, especially in the non-tourist areas.  Many but not all we see are dressed in traditional Muslim clothing.  A few times I did a double take on women dressed in black and white nuns robes.  They looked like living Marys with little Jesus’ in tow.  Men leading horses and wooden carts filled with vegetables passed through the narrow streets, shouting ‘Get your veggies…Veggie man.’  Or something like that.

The people are very friendly, perhaps too friendly.  In tourist areas the friendliness is a way to make a pitch for rugs, leather goods, restaurants or whatever.  They offer to give you directions, a ‘free’ tour of their shops, whatever.  They hustle you at every opportunity.  It can be quite annoying, especially since it takes at least three
refusals before they leave.  Only ignoring them completely keeps you out of a conversation with every Tom, Dick and Hasid.

Often the people are friendly for its own sake.  One night after dinner we asked for directions to our hotel.  The manager said it was very near and sent an employee to show us the way.  We said that this was not necessary but they insisted.  Hasid or whatever his name took me by the hand.  Not Peggy’s hand, but mine.  I bet men are not
allowed to touch women they do not know.  I gently tried to remove my hand but Hasid had a firm grip.  He walked in front of me on the narrow, construction-littered sidewalk.  Less than five minutes later we were in our hotel.  And so was Hasid. I thought he was hustling for a tip.  He was just making sure that this was our hotel.  Offering him money seemed like a cheap thing to do.  He was helping us out of the goodness of his heart.

I cannot remember the last time I held a man’s hand.  I must have been a child.  I felt uncomfortable.  Is this homophobia that I did not know I had stirred slightly from somewhere deep?

If you order from a menu, the waiter stands there right next to you the whole time.  None of this “Give us five minutes, please,” which is a way of telling the waiter to go away while you think about what you want.  They hover over you, at least that’s how it felt to me.  They do not do anything but stand there unless you ask a question.  They do not seem at all impatient.

In most countries, getting a waiter’s attention can sometimes take a few minutes.  Here they are sharply observant.  If you want something, they see you life your head up and over they come.  If a plate is empty, it is zoomed away as if a hawk were plucking a rodent from the ground.  Their philosophy, I decided, is to be there to serve your
every need.

Shopkeepers are at least as attentive.  None of this, “I’m just looking.”  If you are in their shop, they are your slaves while you are there .  They insist on serving coffee or tea in those shops that sell more expensive goods; they do everything imaginable to get your business.

I do not like the hustling salesman, the poverty, the occasional mounds of loose garbage on the streets, the endless open construction trenches (gas lines, telephone, etc.) in the streets.  Yet these are minor matters that pale in comparison to the benefits of being here with its marvelous and different architecture, culture, and people.

The land of the zeros

This is not only the land of the hustler, this is also the land of the zeros.  The smallest bill is 50,000 TL (Turkish lira).  Since there are 250,000 to the dollar, 50,000 is worth $.20 (twenty cents).  This is the price of admission to many toilets, where occasionally you have to do the Turkish squat.  !00,000 ($.40) buys a liter of water.  We buy these often; although the water supply is safe, it does have a bit too much chlorine.  250,000 TL ($1) buys admission to most museums and monuments.  One million ($4) buys most meals – delicious meat, wonderful and very well cooked veggies, with very good bread.

Our hotel lists its rooms for 15,000,000.   Do the math quickly, in your head, just divide by 250,000, go on, yeah, you got it!   Or you can multiply 15 times 4 and get the same answer, since 1 million is $4.  In dollars the cost is
$60, but you could probably get them down to 7,500,000 with a little bargaining.  One man we spoke with got a room at a Best Western, arenovated San Francisco looking building, for $40 per night.

Some merchants put the money they want us to pay for, say, bananas (grown in Turkey) on the counter.  All you have to do is match it .   Others write it out.  Some say it in English.  Point and click at work in its many forms.

The economy

The average income is about $3600 per year.   Inflation is running between 75-100%!  Keeping much money on hand is stupid even for travelers here for only a week.  Despite the high inflation, there are plenty of goods on hand, and thus there is little hoarding.  In fact, there is too much around for it all to be sold.

Many prices here are quoted in dollars or marks rather than TL.   Many consumer items are not marked, saving the shopkeepers from having to remark the prices constantly.  This makes shopping more difficult and ripens the environment for gouging the unaware.   It means that shopkeepers must be with you to tell how much things cost.

Telephone calls are very cheap, even between provinces.  For telephone booths, you buy a card and stick it in the phones.  The phone system was installed under a contract with Telefonica of Spain, my old friends.  In Istanbul we saw many using mobile phones.

Turkey manufactures F-16’s for the U.S.  It produces more figs than any other country,

Everyone is bargaining here, often even for petty things.  One night we were walking along the south shore his restaurant.  He offered us a free drink.  The meal prices are often negotiable in the fish restaurants.  We were not interested and wandered off.

Shortly we entered an area with about 10-15 seafood restaurants lined up.  Each had a man stationed in front.  As we walked through, each of them approached.  By the time we got to the end, we felt like we had run the gauntlet.  The last guy made an extra hard pitch and Peg told him that 35 people (an exaggeration but it felt that way) had already hustled us.  He said that maybe he should move his restaurant to the beginning of the row.  I was very annoyed.

I learned a lesson.  If in the future I saw a setup like this, where there were many ‘sale events’ in a row in such a narrow passage, I would try to avoid passing through.

The food

The tourist literature focuses attention on the complexity, diversity and tastiness of the cuisine, with good reason.  We have had eggplant (here called “aubergines”) several ways; the literature says there are over 50.  Eggplant is always cooked till it is completely soft, as are most of the vegetables.  Most eggplants, other vegetable and many meat dishes are casseroles.  They are flavored and colored with paprika, and paprika is on every table along with the salt and pepper. Vicky Terhorst aptly calls Turkish food “orange food.”  It is orange from the paprika.  There is lots of olive oil.  The Turks have huge olive harvests annually.

Kabaps (kebabs, gyros) are common.  The machine was invented, I think in Turkey, about 100 years ago.  A fellow noticed that the nomads sliced a piece of meat and stuck it on a sword.  They held the sword over the fire to cook it.  So the ubiquitous kebab machine was born to duplicate this tasty act.  The fire is on the side and not underneath the meat, and in Turkey is turned manually in most places.  When a piece is cooked, it is sliced off.  We saw not only lamb and beef combinations, but also chicken kabaps.

In many inexpensive places you pass by the food as you enter, laid out on a counter, under glass and kept warm.  You point to what you want, and click.  It then is carried to the table you choose.

We learned to ask the prices of things as some things did not look expensive but were.  This is a hard habit to get into.  But you will feel ripped off if you do not.

Roman aqueduct

From the Agatha hotel we walked about a mile to the Roman aqueduct.  We go back across the bridge to get there.  By the time we arrive it is raining, so we rest in a little hotel.  It is hidden by the weeds that they don’t find the time to cut down or remove.  Inside everyone is busy standing around; no wonder they can’t find time to deal with the weeds.  They are friendly as we drink a little Indian Tonic Water tonic water with a little lemon, use their rest rooms, and wait for the rain to stop, which it doesn’t.

Finally we emerge to look at the aqueduct.  It is remarkably well preserved, especially when you consider that thousands of cars, buses and trucks pass under it everyday.  Its large arches are on two levels.  The upper level is offset from the lower one, giving it an awkward look.  The stones are evenly and smoothly cut and laid without
mortar, as was the custom.


Turkey: Our life in ruins

At 8:00 P.M. last night we boarded the bus for Cappadocia, which became part of the Roman Empire in the first century B.C.  Along the way, the attendant gave us water and coke, and squirted a cleanser in our hands.  The cleanser smelled like the moist towelettes we use in the States.  They did not give you anything to wipe your hands on, so maybe they did not intend for us to get our hands clean.   Our attendant was very attentive, regularly circulating with the above items.  Considering the bus ticket is only about $8, it is amazing that there is an attendant.  We were later told that these are the luxury buses.  The cheaper ones are not new like our bus, and there are no attendants.

The 12 hours, 300 or so mile journey from Istanbul to Nevesehir (pro Nev-e-she-here) included stops every four hours.  We slept little.  This leg of our journey has taken us to Cappadocia, an ancient name that means Land of the Beautiful Horses.

By the time we arrived the rain stopped, but cold wind whipped through our thin clothing; El Niño follows us still.  We are met at the bus station by a young man whose round face is shaped like the Sultan in paintings we have seen.  He took us to a modern four star hotel.  Peg and I rested in the lobby from about 6:30 until 8:30
when the room became available.

After a wash up, Mr. Sammy called us down.  He will be our guide for the next two days.  We have never used a guide before so we are wondering what this will be like.  Mr. Sammy leads us to a Mercedes van with seating for 6.  It is just Peg and I today.  Tomorrow, another couple is supposed to join us.

Our first stop is Göreme.  Göreme, now an open air museum, means ‘nothing to see’.  This refers to the fact that the dwellings in the mountainside were invisible from the outside.  This old town was dug out of amorphous rock produced by one of many now dead volcanoes in this part of Turkey.  The caves were inhabited, and had been occupied for at least the last 2000 years, when the deaths and injuries lead to the condemnation.   They collapsed from combined action of the digging of the caves, which weakened the mountains of amorphous rock, and the forces of erosion.  Mr. Sammy said the government compensated the owners.

When you look at the cave dwellings, there appear to be some windows and large caves dotting or covering the mountains.  What you are seeing are not windows but shelves that were cut out of living quarters inside the caves.  The shelves were used for food storage or as a place to put statues or other items.  When that part of the
mountain collapsed, the backs of the shelves were shorn, and then you have what looks to like windows. The areas that now look like caves were just larger openings, such as living rooms, meeting halls, etc.

Most of the caves were dug by the early Christians.  They fled the Holy Land due to persecution by Roman authorities.  They took refuge here because they could hide for long periods in the cave dwellings already in existence, and they could dig more.  Before the collapses, you could not tell that there were any dwellings inside the mountains.  They looked like normal mountains.  There were surface dwellings as well but these were deserted when enemies were sighted. Underground there were adequate supplies of food and water.  The cries of children and the sounds of animals could not be heard.

The people in this area still grow grapes for wine and raisin production, potatoes, beets and pumpkins.  The wine is very good.  We have been sampling red ones that sell for about $2 or less in the restaurants.

Twenty-five minutes farther we visit Derinkiyu.  Along the way we see a grave mound from the 6th or 7th century B.C.  The people who made this mound are called the Tmulus and King Midas is their best known personage.  There is a 9th century Greek church in town.

Derinkiyu is our destination because here there is an underground city, also carved into the volcanic rock.  The city has a depth of eight stories.  The first two were dug by the Hittites around 1500 B.C., the rest by the early Christians.  We are taken into both large and small chambers used for living rooms, bedrooms, storage, and mangers for the animals that they brought down during times of danger.  We pass through some steep, narrow passages.  For air they cut ventilation shafts whose exits at the surface were concealed.  There are many exits to the surface.

Archaeologists have found tunnels, some stretching for miles, that lead to other inhabitations.  They have discovered twenty-eight similar cities thus far.  Sammy said that after not too many years this site will become unsafe.  More than 100,000 visitors come here every season.  That is too much wear, tear and humidity for the rock.  The authorities are not worried.  There are twenty-seven more like this one!

Then we went to a gorge called Pigeon Valley, which was formed by an earthquake long ago.  Volcanoes in the area produced additional earthquakes in the third through the 5th centuries A.D.  People then used the caves in the area to house pigeons, thus the name Pigeon Valley.  There are about 250 steps down to reach the valley floor.  After 10-15 minutes we came upon a church carved out of the rock.  Inside were the remnants of icnographic paintings.  They are unguarded and unprotected in any way.

We headed for a nearby village.  When we were within a mile or so, a little girl on a donkey came to meet us.  She offers tired tourists a ride for 4M TL ($1).  She was very cute and friendly, and knew how to control the donkey.  Her parents think that she will become very successful in business.

We stopped for an excellent lunch in a restaurant along the stream. There is a tiny village on the other side.  Some of its dwellings are about 50′ up, on the side of an outcropping.  A man and a child take their cow to the stream for a drink.  On the way back, the cow rushes ahead, arrives at the gate to their house, and moos to be let in.  We laugh.  The old man laughs.  The kid laughs.


Sammy explains that guides are licensed in Turkey.  This means that they must pass a difficult exam both in history and in, say, English, to be admitted into the school.  Then there is an intensive, eight- month course with an exam at the end.  He says most of what he tells us is what he learned from the literature.  He has also leared a great
deal from interviewing many older people, looking for and sometimes getting answers he could not find in the literature.  His father wrote a book.  Sammy wants to become minister of the interior and try to better protect Turkey’s marvelous ruins.  He gives us a brief on the history of Cappadocia.  Some notes:

Timeline: history of the region

2500 B.C. – 1250 B.C. Hittite period, so some cave dwellings we were in may have been 4500 years old.
1900-1800 B.C. during excavations in the 1960’s, found 3000 tablets with writing on them.
1000-900 B.C. nothing known; King Midas, he of the golden touch, lived in this era.
700-600 B.C. textile production began, first carpets, coin production, gold.
549 B.C. Persian period
333 B.C. Alexander the Great; he went next to Egypt
200 B.C. Cappadocian Empire began.  Later attacked by Armenians, and sought protection from the Romans around 100 B.C.

100 B.C.- 395 A.D. The Roman period.  In 395 the Empire was divided into western and eastern (Byzantine) portions.

395 A.D.- 11th century Byzantine period in Cappadocia.

1095 First crusade passed through.

1100- 13th century The Seljuks conquered the area and remained in control until the Mongolians took over.

1204 Constantinople conquered by Crusaders during the 4th crusade.

1403 Mongolian invasion

1433-1919 Sultan defeated the Mongols.  Ottomans took over and ruled until after WWI.  The Ottomans sided with the Germans in that war.

1919- 1923 War of independence led by Ataturk against the occupying western powers.  Founded Republic of Turkey.  Modernization program began.  Turkish language reborn, replacing Arabic, I think.  French linguists brought in to help decide what words to use for things that had no name in Turkish, like airport.  Thus we see many French words in Turkish.

It is very important to note that the spice route passed through Cappadocia, coming from the Far East.  This accounts for the many spices used in the cuisine, and the importance of Turkey, aka Asia Minor, in history.

Most of the frescoes we see are from the 11th century A.D.  There was a period before that when the Christians prohibited the depiction of any images.  Many faces have no eyes.  There are two possible explanations: 1) converts to Islam thought that removing the eyes would prevent the spirits from following them; they were particularly fearful of this possibility after the mass conversions from Christianity to Islam 2) some people thought that if you mixed the removed material with water you could use the result to cure ailments.  Both these explanations came, I think, from old people Sammy interviewed.

Afterwards we went to the Göreme Open Air Museum.

Here there are more cave dwellings that were last inhabited by Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Muslims.  They lived peacefully together in different sections.  Residences and the different sections of the city were connected by tunnels.  Standing in what was a kitchen, Sammy pointed out that there was no chimney.  Where did the smoke go?  I guessed correctly that it just went into the ceiling.  The material is porous.  Therefore, the smoke collected along the ceiling and was absorbed.  By the time it reached the surface, there was only colorless, odorless gas remaining.  Therefore the people who lived in the caves could cook even while surrounded by enemies without being detected!

He took us through a pitch black passage way.  I began to feel claustrophobic, but I fought off the panic.  If I had been in there another 10 minutes or so, I might not have remained calm.

This  reminded me of how many things they do here that would doubtless lead to the successful prosecution of a lawsuit in the U.S.  Here I noticed steep stairs well above the ground without an adequate rail and no warning signs.  Warning signs?  They do not know what they are!  As we were driving away, I saw a man, his wife and child on a moped driving on the main road.  The child was sitting in front of the man on the gas tank.  No helmets.

I learned a great deal from Mr. Sammy.  When you are on your own, you don’t always know what you are seeing.  You don’t always know how to get to where you are going and you waste time.  Sammy obviously knew this area well, having been a guide for more than ten years.  His English was not perfect but he was always understandable.  We did the things we were told we were going to do, maybe even a bit more and always on schedule.  He seemed quite knowledgeable and he was very enthusiastic.  Sammy earned his money.

More notes from our time with Sammy:

Ertogul’s successor “Osman,” (an alternate name of Ottoman) declared himself Sultan.  This was, I think, in the 13th century

1402 Sultan Beyazit was defeated and taken prisoner by the Mongol Timar-Leng (Tamer Lure?) at Ankara.

1413 Mehmet I reestablished the Ottoman Empire after 10 years of  fraternal strife.

1453 Mehmet II Faith conquered Constantinople (Istanbul)

1517 Selin I became the Caliphate, the spiritual leader of Islam, after conquering Mesopotamia, Syria, Lower Egypt, Mecca and Medina.

1520 -66  S leyman II the Magnificent conquered Baghdad, Belgrade, Rhodes, most of Hungary, Georgia, Azerbyjan (sp?) and parts of North Africa.

1529 First siege of Vienna

1683 Second unsuccessful siege of Vienna.  The Ottoman Empire is at its height.  From here on, it is on the defensive, retreating.

1699 Loss of Polish territories, Dalmatia, Hungary, parts of South Russia.

1718 More losses in the Balkans.

1768- 1812 Russo-Turkish War.

1829 Greece becomes independent

1839 Period of legal reforms begins.

1853- 56   Allied with western European nations against the Russians in the Crimean War.

1876 First constitution.

1878 European powers further reduced size of the Empire, following another war with Russia.

1897 Greeks declare war on Crete.  Turks lost after the western powers intervened.

1903- 18   Baghdad rail line built by Germans under contract.

1911- 12   Libya and Dodecanese fell to Italy, with little resistance by the Ottomans.

1913 end of Balkan War, Ottoman Empire lost the last of its European holdings.

1914- 1918 Allied with the Germans in WWI.

1915- 16   successfully defended the Dardenelles with the Germans.

1918 Turkey occupied by western powers.

1919- 20   Treaty of Sevres.  Unacceptable to the Turks, as Greece was to occupy Smyrna.  The government accepts the terms but nationalists do not.  The leader of the nationalists is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

1921- 22   Victory over the Greeks and the western powers.  Sultanate abolished.  The Ottoman Empire is no more.

1923 Treaty of Lausanne regulated population exchange between the Greeks and Turks.  Many Greeks in Turkey moved to Greece and vice-versa.

1928- 38   Abolition of the Caliphate.  Turkey modernizes under Ataturk. Turkish is revived as a language.  French linguists brought in to help choose words where none existed in Turkish, which had been dormant.  Women given legal rights.  Traditional dress no longer required of them.  Turkey became a secular state.  Education      system established.  Turkey now has a 90%+ literacy rate. Ataturk is now widely revered.  Statues and busts of him are in every town we have seen.

1929- 45   This time the Turks guessed right and sided with the Allies against Germany.

1950 Victory of the Democratic Party.

1952 Joined NATO

1960, 1971, 1980 Military took over.  Democratization continued.

Some important facts from the web, the Lonely Planet site I think:

Area: 779,452 sq. km (483,260 sq mi), Population: 63 million, Capital city: Ankara (pop 3.2 million), People: Turks (85%), Kurds (12%), other Islamic peoples, Armenians, Jews;

Language: Turkish, Kurdish Religion: Muslim Government: Parliamentary democracy

It’s a 1700km (1050mi) drive from Edirne on the Bulgarian border to Kars on the Armenian border and a 1000km (620mi) hike from the Black Sea in the north to the Mediterranean in the south. Ticking clockwise from the northwest, Turkey shares borders with Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. The country is no
desert-and-palm-tree album either: mountains, rolling steppe, meandering rivers, rich agricultural valleys and a craggy, beachy 8400km (5200mi) coastline all muck in to keep Turkey interesting.

There are still considerable forests in eastern Anatolia, the Black Sea area and along the Mediterranean coast, west of Antalya. Great swaths of wild flowers over the steppes in spring making fine splashes of color. Turkey has similar animal life to that in the Balkans and much of Europe: bears, deer, jackals, lynx, wild boars, wolves and
rare leopards. The beautiful Van cat is a native: it has pure white fur and different-coloured eyes – one blue, one green. You’re more likely to see cattle, horses, donkey, goats and sheep though. Turkish shepherds are proud of their powerful, fierce, Kangal sheep dogs which guard the flocks from wolves.  Bird life is exceptionally rich, with a
squawking mess of eagles, vultures and storks staking out airspace, as well as rare species such as the bald ibis.

The Aegean and Mediterranean coasts have mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers. In Istanbul, summer temperatures average around 28 to 30° Celsius (82 to 86° Fahrenheit); the winters are chilly but usually
above freezing, with rain and perhaps a dusting of snow. The Anatolian plateau is cooler in summer and quite cold in winter. The Black Sea coast is mild and rainy in summer, and chilly and rainy in winter.  Mountainous eastern Turkey is very cold and snowy in winter and only pleasantly warm in high summer. The southeast is dry and mild in
winter and very hot in summer, with temperatures above 45° C (113° F)
not unusual.

Turkey’s first known human inhabitants hung out in the Mediterranean region as early as 7500 BC, and the cycles of empire building, flexing, flailing and crumbling didn’t take long to kick in.

The first great civilisation was that of the Hittites, who worshipped a sun goddess and a storm god. The Hittites dominated Anatolia from the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC), clashing with Egypt under the great Ramses II and capturing Syria, but by the time Achaean Greeks attacked Troy in 1250 BC, the Hittite machine was creaking. A massive invasion of ‘sea peoples’ from Greek islands and city-states put untenable pressure on the Hittites and a jumble of smaller kingdoms (amongst them Phrygians, Urartians and Lydians) played at border bending until Cyrus, emperor of Persia (550-530 BC) swept into Anatolia from the east. The Persians were booted out by Alexander the Great, who conquered the entire Middle East from Greece to India around 330 BC.

It’s those Celts again!

Still from the web:

After Alexander died his generals squabbled over the spoils and civil war was the norm until the Galatians (Celts) [Gary writing: Do you remember Paul’s letter to the Galatians?  The same people established a capital at Ankara in 279 BC, bedding down more or less comfortably with the Seleucid, Pontic, Pergamum and Armenian kingdoms.

Gary again:

So little I knew of Turkey.  I know a little more now and my appetite is whetted for more.  Finding stuff to read now is difficult.  Travel stimulates but being in one place where there is a good library is necessary for further learning.  Perhaps a true educational journey with time for lectures would be as good, maybe better, than learning
on your own.