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Turkey

Ephesus - Pamukkale - Fethiye - Istanbul

Where do we go from here?

rain 22 °C

Since I wrote last, we've been on a cheap bus tour to Ephesus and Pamukkale, then back to Fethiye, and now we've flown back to Istanbul from the Dalaman Airport. I've taken so many photos in the last few days that I don't even know what to do with them all, but I'll put a couple in here.

We ended up spending two nights sleeping on the boat in Gocek, because Aziz from Budget Sailing found us a good price on an Ephesus-Pamukkale tour that left on the 16th (a Saturday) and told us we could just stay on the boat one more night. So at 7am on Saturday morning we were waiting on the side of the highway with our backpacks for the Pioneer Travel bus, which was only 15 minutes late. For about the price of one day in Istanbul (100 Turkish Lira), we got a two-day tour complete with breakfast, dinner, accommodation and entry fees to the sites at Ephesus and Pamukkale. Lunches were extra: 10 or 12 TL for all-you-can-eat buffets, which were pretty bland but filled the gap. Our tour guide, Yousuf, liked to say "No limit on lunch!" which cracked me up for some reason. He was a pretty good tour guide, although when we were at Ephesus I had trouble following his descriptions and histories, mainly because he listed off a lot of names of various kings and gods and his pronunciation of all of them was not what I was expecting. "Hercules" became "Heerculas," for example, and that was one of the easier ones to figure out.

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Ephesus was pretty amazing. It rained on us a little at the end of our time there, but we didn't get very wet. The fact that the streets (the streets!) were made of marble says something about what kind of city it must have been. We only spent a couple of hours there (that's the trouble with guided tours) and it would have been nice to be able to spend a bit longer wandering about. Also, there's a museum in a nearby town with artifacts and some more marble statues and things that we didn't get to see. However, getting there on our own would have been more expensive and way more hassle than our super easy cheap tour. You win some, you lose some. Never mind! It was definitely worth it. Here's a photo of the Library of Celsus, because that's what you go to Ephesus for:

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Our hotel was in the town of Karahayit, about 15 minutes outside of Pamukkale. It was called "Hotel Halici," which is pronounced "halee-jee," and sounds a bit like "Ali G," and the tour guide made the appropriate jokes. On the way there, we passed through a small village where our guide pointed out a couple of houses with glass pop bottles on the roofs. He told us that this was an old tradition where, when a girl is ready to be married, she puts a bottle on the roof of her family's house. If a young man can break the bottle (I think by throwing rocks at it), he can marry the girl. If her father catches him while he's trying to break the bottle, though, he's in trouble (the guide said, "he kills him," but perhaps that was hyperbole). And if he breaks the wrong bottle, well, then he's in even bigger trouble! Hardly anyone puts bottles on their roofs anymore, though.

Then we stopped by a cotton field so our guide could break off a cotton boll or two to show to us. There were cotton-picker's camps along the way, and a group of people were out in the field picking right near where we stopped. They waved and waved and smiled and held up big handfuls of cotton to show us. I would have expected them to be annoyed at the gawking tourists in the bus, but instead they seemed extremely friendly and happy to have an excuse to smile and wave and show us what they were doing. The sun was going down and glinted off the dome of the local mosque; we drove slowly behind a tractor with a man and wife going home; old ladies were walking the youngest children down the narrow dusty street. It was one of those moments where you just grin and look at everything in amazement - nothing is familiar, nothing is set up for tourists, everyone is going about their own business and somehow you happened to be passing through just then. I took a rather blurry photograph at one point which conveys something of what I'm trying to describe here:

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At the hotel we had free range in the Turkish bath, the sauna, the two swimming pools and the three thermal (mineral hot-spring water) pools. It was extremely relaxing. The next day we visited Pamukkale and the ruins of Hierapolis, which are on the same site. Pamukkale means "cotton castle" in Turkish; it's this huge cascade of white calcified terraces with hot spring water running through it (mixing with cold water in some places). It has something to do with calcium and carbon dioxide coming out of the ground, which has something to do with the volcanic activity in the area and all the hot springs around. Anyway, it's amazing and I wanted to stay there all day. Hierapolis was something of a spa town (the waters are supposed to give women more fertility) back in ancient times, and you can still swim in the "antique pool." Plus there are ruins all over the place and a museum and a restored amphitheatre that is really quite impressive.

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On the tour we met a lovely British couple, Robin and Steve, who co-own a condo in Fethiye. They offered to let us stay there when the tour brought us back to Fethiye that night, and we gladly accepted. We had dinner with them in a local restaurant, they fed us a Turkish breakfast in the morning and walked us to our bus stop to begin our journey back to Istanbul. We exchanged addresses and we'll definitely send them some kind of postcard from somewhere along the way as a thank-you of sorts. They were really kind to us and it was nice to sit around chatting over drinks with them. Thank you, Robin and Steve! Now we're in Istanbul again and it turns out that Jason's friend Ahmet, who we'd hoped to meet up with here, has been sent to London on business. So... perhaps we'll be off to Bulgaria quite soon. We haven't decided yet, but we'll try to figure something out tomorrow.

Posted by arwyn 10:35 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Last day, rainy and humid in Gocek

rain 24 °C

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That's the Aloha 27 we spent the past three weeks in. It was good, but now it's raining - good for the last day. Makes you not quite so sad about giving up your very small but very portable accommodation. We're back at the Budget Sailing office now, doing laundry and drinking coffee. We'll sleep on the boat tonight and hand it back tomorrow. Jason is researching flights to Izmir and Istanbul. We're not exactly sure where we'll go from here...

Posted by arwyn 07:09 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Tattooed Brits

sunny 24 °C

We're moored at the Marmaris marina right now, so we've got free wireless - but that doesn't necessarily mean I can upload lots of photos. It's not the best wireless. But here are a few photos for you.

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A rock tomb at Tomb Bay (Tasyaka Koyu). We were able to hike right up to these ones and poke our heads inside, which we couldn't really do at the more impressive Carian rock tombs in Dalyan.

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Rock tombs at Dalyan, as seen from our tour boat on the Koycegiz river. We shared a tour boat with four Brits, and had a great day going upriver. We stopped to see a sea turtle at the turtle beach (one that hangs around because local fishermen feed it crabs), we visited a sulfurous mud bath and hot-spring, and we got great views of those massive rock tombs. Apparently the biggest one took twenty-five years to build!

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The turtle's name is Ali, and he's 78 years old, apparently. Turkish shopkeepers tell lots of good stories, so I wouldn't put it past a tour guide. But Ali is a very large turtle, and could well be 78.

From Ekincik we sailed to Marmaris, and had to go directly upwind to get into the harbour. It was a very gusty day and I found the sailing to be a bit frightening, because every now and then a really huge gust would push the boat over about as far as it would go without actually touching the water. We had to motor in with lots of spray in our faces (mostly Jason's, since I went inside and ate bread and cheese to calm down). In Marmaris there's a whole lot of covered bazaar, where it's cool and shady and a relief from the afternoon sun. The shops are mostly the same - a pashmina shawl shop, a shoe shop, a bar, a tattoo parlour, wash, rinse, repeat. One sailor we met in Ekincik said Marmaris wasn't a very nice town: "It's just full of tattooed Brits." This may be true, but the old town at least isn't that bad. The ugly hotels all the way down all the beaches, though, aren't very picturesque. We stopped for some cold drinks at a doner kebab place and the waiter was ridiculously eager, pulling out the chairs for us, calling me "princess" and giving us a free sample of the chicken kebab. We'd already had lunch and weren't hungry, and only wanted one drink each (the fresh-squeezed orange juice was really good) so we disappointed him. I think it was a slow afternoon. Later we were lured into a carpet shop by a man who spoke very good English and immediately produced apple tea and started throwing carpets on the floor to show to us, all the while talking about natural dyes and girls spending 4 or 5 months making dowry carpets for their future husbands. We really didn't want to buy a carpet, but it was fun looking at them for the first little while. Then the shopkeeper became insistent that we tell him which one we liked best, so he could give us the best price, which he proceeded to cut in half when we assured him we didn't want a carpet at all. He kept saying, "Don't you want something like this to take home for your best place?" No, we didn't. It took us a few minutes to get out of there, but in the end he shook our hands and said goodbye in a friendly fashion. His assistant asked me what Istanbul was like - he said business is bad here and they might move up to the big city next year.

We're probably going to head back South tomorrow - we have four days to get back to Gocek and return the boat. If we make good time we can hang out in Ruin Bay or somewhere nice like that again. The small bays and islands around Gocek are really superb.

Posted by arwyn 11:43 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Frying onions on a rolling sea

We've got this very helpful pilot book on our boat: "Turkish Waters and Cyprus Pilot" by one Rod Heikell. It's quite useful for getting us to good sheltered anchorages - but every now and then it's necessary (because the sun is going down, or one of the crew fell down the stairs of the boat, or all of the crew is just plain tired) to anchor somewhere that isn't listed in the book. This can be rather "uncomfortable," as in, everything rolls from side to side all night so much that it seems like a huge effort to do anything at all. Luckily our stove is a hanging, swinging little gas number that stays mostly level no matter what.

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A turquoise boat on turquoise water...

In the last entry I mentioned this Ghost Town that we went into to have a wander. It was pretty crazy. Now I've got a piece of paper in front of me with some badly translated "official" history of the place. Perhaps I'll just quote, and you can have a laugh along with me.

"In 1924, on the basis of an exchange agreement signed between the Turkish and Greek administrations. The Greek orthodox population of kayakoy were sent to Greece while the Turkish living in Thrace asked to settle at the kaya village, upon arrial, the incomingsettlers could not adjust to life. Style in the village and moved down to the plains. The houses were taken under protection at a later. The ancient name of the village is Levisse The total population of the village was 15,000."

I have typed that out exactly as I read it - the mistakes are just bad enough that you can still get the general idea. The other quote from that info sheet that I liked described the Kayakoy houses as standing still "as if bound by the hush of long waiting." Anyway, here's a picture of Kayakoy (formerly called Levissi by the Greek Orthodox Christians).

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Since then we've been back to Gocek, then visited Tersane Island, Tomb Bay (Lycian rock tombs in the cliffs), and Ruin Bay (Cleopatra's Bath) before heading North-West to Ekincik. From here we can take a river tour up to visit a turtle beach (although it's not breeding season, so not as much excitement there), more Lycian rock tombs, the ruins of Ancient Caunos, the town of Dalyan and even a mineral mud bath. That's our plan for tomorrow, and then we'll spend a few more days going back South towards Gocek. There are more pictures on my Flickr site, although not of the most recent stuff yet.

Posted by arwyn 12:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Three Sheets to the Wind ><}}}}o>

25 °C

We've been out exploring the Turkish coast for almost a week and it's been amazing! Also, it's been a learning experience and it's taken us about this long to get used to the boat and sailing in strange waters. Arwyn was a little sea sick and I had to do some quick anchoring in the dark but the things we've seen and the places we've visited are just spectacular. We've even seen dolphins, flying fish, and birds chasing flying fish in mid-air!

Here's a picture from the ruins at Gemiler Island... (more coming soon)

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-Jason

At many of the popular anchorages, locals in small "putt-putt" boats (they sound like they have a really small, noisy moped engine) will approach you when you arrive. Sometimes they'll offer to help you with your stern line, and then suggest strongly that they come back later and ferry you across to their restaurant. "Best fish!" they'll tell you. Or, if they aren't advertising a restaurant, they're selling ice cream, fruit, bread, or "pancakes." The pancakes are more like a very thin, flat, chewy bread, like a roti, and the pancake boats usually have a man driving and a woman rolling them out, plus a round griddle to fry them on. They're great - and they come with fillings like chocolate, banana, cheese, lemon and sugar. One man in particular gave me a chuckle - he came around every morning hollering "Breakfast service!" and singing loudly and enthusiastically. His boat sold ice cream and pancakes - the pancake lady looked older, maybe his mother? We saw him at two different places we anchored, and once we bought ice cream from him for an exorbitant price. He kissed my hand and called me "sugar."

And the ruins! Good grief, ruins every which way. At Gemiler Island there are ruins of what was once quite a large Byzantine town, and two bays over from there we hiked to Kayakoy, a ghost town abandoned in the 1920s. Kayakoy is about 3000 buildings, some of which date from the 17th century, which were inhabited by Greek Christians until the Turks decided to kick them out (or something - ask me later about the details, I'll have to look them up). We hiked for about half an hour uphill in the heat to get there, and it was totally worth it. At the bottom of the deserted town we found a non-deserted restaurant, where we had cold beer and delicious mixed mezes (cold appetizers like hummus, carrots in yogurt sauce, roasted red peppers, eggplant with cheese, etc.). Apparently what I care about is food... but the ruins and the flying fish are pretty neat too!

-Arwyn

Posted by jcobham 09:48 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)

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