Monday, October 31, 2011

Turkey, Day 4: Ephesus

Cats of Ephesus

I think we saw one roaming dog as we strolled through Ephesus. We saw many cats including this calico sitting atop her pillar watching scores of people move on by. Roaming cats and dogs seem to be a natural part of the world of Turkish life as anything else.

Ephesus is about 100km north of our hotel but sadly that is as the crow flies and the roads forced us into a far longer journey. It took 2.5 hours to drive there. We did take a break at a convenience type store along the way. Stores like this, in fact many places, have a nice open design. In some ways they're best thought of as large pavilions with a few rooms under the roof.  The drive went easily enough even though it was a bit tedious. Our guide had some things to tell us as we drove along but to be honest I am not really sure what they all were now. Much had to do with giving something of an overview of all the places worth visiting in Turkey and that was done by describing, thumbnail sketch style, the history of the locations. We arrived at the site of Ephesus (sometimes spelled Efes which is the Turkey name) around 10:30 and found the place swarming with people. We had paused briefly at an aqua-duct to snap some photos just before arriving (it's just a handful of kilometers south of Ephesus and once provided her with water). Perhaps we should have started getting an idea of the scale of things after seeing that arched structure. I don't think we did. In fact at the outset Ephesus seemed kind of puny as we started our tour. But it did not take long before we started to really get a sense of the true size of the place. We gazed out upon the ruins as we walked down the somewhat slippery marble that I suppose formed the streets of Ephesus during its heyday over 2,500 years ago. You can't but be impressed by the fact that the streets are effectively cobbled and though they must have been dangerously slick when wet the fact that they would also avoid huge swaths of mud and keep dust down is a great advantage. When you then start to think about other things like the detailed plumbing this city of 225,000 people supported along with things like the large (for then) library, the amphitheaters where plays as well as less savory things such as animal fights and gladiator battles took place (and probably fights with slaves).  I can't really describe the scale of the place. Ephesus Aqua-ductThis aqua-duct is just a handful of kilometers south of Ephesus. It is hard to know just how big this water channel is but it certainly looks quite sizable to me. As I understand it this was one of four major aqua-ducts that fed the city. Ephesus First View

The streets of Ephesus are all cobblestone with big slabs of stone. Along the sides of the streets you see pillars that remain and some walls that also remain. In some cases there are even some hallways that link portions of structures such as a passageway that runs into an amphitheater.

Ephesus Ave 1Ephesus Ave 1

Two grand avenues of Ephesus. The avenue on the left is what we walked down for quite some time heading to an overlooking view that gave fine views of the library (and a suite of open-toilets that had a system for disposing waste). The second avenue was a merchant's way (I think) ran from beyond the library (perpendicular to the first avenue) to the truly grand amphitheater we would basically end our visit at.

Ephesus mosaicEphesus amphetheater

The mosaic in the stone is not uncommon here in Ephesus. We were told that the place was once a store and I expect that it must have been a store for fairly posh goods. My impression is that the more posh places were strung along this street and lesser places spread out farther afield (left). I believe that there are two amphitheaters in Ephesus. Here (right) we sit in the smaller theater that was used for minor events and, I think, political debates. The larger theater, that could hold 25,000 people, was meant for much more massive events.

We walked past old structures that show still some of the grandeur of what they must have been when complete. The library is probably the best example as you stand amongst the high arches and look upon the copies of reliefs (originals are in museums outside of Turkey and that is clearly a sore point).  But it is hard to imagine people from two or three millennia ago going about their business in these places. What was it really like in a bathhouse or a reading room of the library. What might go on in a shop along the stone covered street we had been walking down. I am not really able to imagine that all that well and I regret that because it makes it harder to appreciate an ancient site like Ephesus. 
Ephesus Library OverlookEphesus library archesEphesus street

(top left) Looking out across the spreading expanse of Ephesus. We had already walked through a fair bit of city street from wide avenues like the one above to narrow stretches (below). The photo on the right is us standing under the remaining arches of the former 12,000 volume library. This is one of the narrower passageways.

I am glad that we went to Ephesus. It is remarkable how much still stands after so long and it makes you wonder how much of any of the great cities of today will be around two or three thousand years from now. Of course, a lot will depend on what civilizations are still around a few thousand years from now as cities that are still actively inhabited will change and grow (shrink)  as people live in them. 

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Selcuk sarnic

The town of Selçuk is a hopping tourist spot. Many christians come here to visit the house of the Virgin Mary who it is believe lived there until her ascent into Heaven. Being just a couple clicks from Ephesus certainly doesn't hurt. The sarnic, a dome structure that gathers water, is quite a bit larger than I think any we had seen to that point.

I should write a bit about the town of Selçuk which is just a couple kilometers northeast of Ephesus ("sel-chook," I think). We visited briefly a mosque that looked both quite old and impressive in its austere way. We also spotted a sarnic in the distance as well as the castle, I think, that overlooks the town. I never really did see the one remaining column of a temple to Artemis. However, the highpoint was really lunch. We ate at a cafe that provided ample if not exactly piping hot food. Far and away the best lunch and perhaps dinner we have had to date. It all felt very local and I feel confident many local men take meals at a place like this. That was something we again noticed as we strolled the streets for a little bit afterwards: the vast majority (I don't actually think we saw any women) of people eating out or just enjoying a cup of tea were men.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Turkey, Day 3: The Mumcular Valley and Village of Etrim

Me and Mom above Mumcular Valley

Mom is leading the way. We are about to leave the ridge and drop down into Mumcular Valley and the hamlets that it contains.
—Photo by Jonathan Knight

Today started out rather slowly. The buses arrived 45 minutes late perhaps due to road work getting in the way though this seems a little odd to me. To add a bit of insult to injury at least one bus, the one I was in,  was driven by a driver who drove considerably below the speed limit even on the best of roads. It was as if he was trying to protect his seemingly new Mercedes minibus from any possible harm. It turned what should have been about a 45 minute drive into one that was much closer to 80 minutes. Today we had travelled something like 18km east across the peninsula for our walk around and above a large valley (the Mumcular Valley) that sported several small villages with their associated farms. We would be walking along country roads through pine forests and that made for an interesting change. As we proceeded along the gently rising grade we noticed that the forests were thicker than anything we had seen. Now and then we passed by very wide forest roads that could only be so wide to act as fire breaks we reasoned. It was easy going though uneventful.
Mumcular valley view

Looking down onto the valley below. Small hamlets dot the landscape below. I suppose most of the farms are growing grains and olives.

As I write this I honestly can't tell you much more about the walk than I just have. We curled around a farming valley but that is really all I can say. We were doing an alternative route because the originally designed one was being wrecked by some type of serious road and/or forestry work that was tearing things up. That meant instead of walking entirely through pine forests to at last descend into a small village (I think Etrim) to visit a local carpet factory we would instead head into the valley and pass through a couple farming hamlets along the way to the original endpoint of Etrim. Etrim mosque

I think the mosque minaret you see here is likely the mosque in Etrim.

I think this alternative route, probably about the same distance though with considerably less elevation change, was actually more interesting. Of course we wondered when we would pick up the dog of the day today (A blond lab Ian had encountered last week that was reportedly very friendly) and that thought rumbled around all day long until the very end. We moved fairly quickly, for a group of our size, along the roads (no traffic) taking just a few short breaks along the way. We did not find the olive orchard for lunch but the pine tree sheltered glade off the side of the road was quite a fine spot to eat anyway. When we dropped completely off the ridges above the valley we went into a village made up of numerous small homes with accompanying farm plots. Dogs moved about, you saw chickens now and then, cows in fields mooed as we passed. A simple, though probably tough, life. Still there did seem to be a tranquility about the place and it might be far less well off than many places but it also felt well kept and loved. We passed through the village and long worn sun baked paths passing a green colored turtle pond along the way. Maybe some of the numerous turtles will show up on the photo I took but I doubt it. Mumcular valley turtle pond

As we walked along the sun-baked paths that wind amongst the hamlets and their fields we came upon this rather unpleasant looking pond. Sure it is a pretty green but it isn't a water I would want to get too close to. However, the turtles that live here don't seem to mind.

The walk ended in the village of Etrim which we had driven through on the way to the starting point of our walk. This village sported a carpet factory which we were to visit. Factory makes it sound so industrial and that really is a bit unfair. It is perhaps better to describe the place as an artisan collective where the ladies of the village who have been making carpets and wall hanging textiles for generations. We were greeted by the owner (maybe) and an elderly lady of the village. The man was serving as the front man for the place and described what they did with pride. The woman  was the one responsible for providing tea and light foods of some sort of pancake-style (though not a pancake maybe more akin to a pita or nan) stuffed with veggies. We would learn later she was also one of the artisans who ever so slowly create the village's carpets. We also finally met the friendly happy-go-lucky lab Ian had told us about. Apparently after it arrived the previous week it decided to stay. We had our snacks before we were ushered into a large room festooned with carpets and wall hangings. They all had patterns of varying levels of intricacy and, for me at least, often too tough to really take in well. I have little doubt that the quality is high but it is hard to really know. carpet factory snack

I think it most be part of Turkish hospitality that if you are spending any substantial amount of time in a store or taking a taxi ride you are going to be offered something to eat and/or drink. Under most cases you don't pay for this but here in this artisan collective we did pay a couple lira.

After being shown what was being made and given chances to purchase something that caught our respective eyes we put our shoes back on and went down to where the older lady was now sitting on the ground (or maybe on a mat) in front of a loom working on a carpet. It takes a month to make a square meter of rug with its 36 knots per square centimeter and that must be extra hard when you realize the creator has to keep the pattern she is building all in her head and doing so over a long period of time. That speaks to dedication and knowing that this type of thing is a big part of the weavers life doesn't make it necessarily easier.  We spent a while observing this place and I am glad we were able to do it. Being able to walk through the couple villages we did (the last one with its very narrow streets with homes with a cows or chickens in the yard - subsistence farming again) really made what could have been a somewhat dull walk far more interesting.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Turkey, Day 2: Gundogan to a suburb of Bitez

Mom in the Aegean

Our day ended at a beach. Our first visit to an Aegean Sea beach of the trip. Calling it a beach is technically true but if you are conjuring up images of wide stretches of white sand banish that notion now. The sand is dark and only a few meters wide. And that sand is packed full with beach chairs and a little farther back the low tables with their chairs for people to sit around at the beachside restaurants.

We drove several kilometers northwest of the hotel (about 15 minutes) to the starting point of the day's walk. According to Ian the walk would be about 12km in length and ascend somewhere around 420 meters and descent around 300 meters. We were going to walk between some old Turkish villages somewhat more inland than we had yesterday. I really wasn't sure what to expect. The sky was dotted with a few wisps of lacy clouds but it was clear it would be another warm day for the 7.5 mile stroll. We left the village of Gundogan (Gan-doh-awn) without really ever seeing it. We began climbing into the hills along a shady gravel/dirt road that wound its way ever upward in gentle long switchbacks. The scenery really was not that remarkable though it was nice to have some shade from the sun. Our group slowly spread out with knots of people chatting as we travelled at various speeds up the mountain road past the occasional house. We were heading southernly and as we climbed now and then we got a good view of where we had come from. At one point, perhaps 30 minutes in to the walk, over the recurring blare of a fog horn (though why that was sounding I have no idea) a very loud PA system came out and something was called out. I suppose it could have been one of the five-times daily calls to prayer (we certainly caught that later in the day as we had lunch at a rather disused - though not wholly so - farm that was surely well over a mile from the nearest village).  Eventually we came to the point where we would take our big detour of the day.

Above GunddoganGundogan to Bitez group

Like yesterday today's walk was mostly upon mountain roads though they were a bit smaller overall. Certainly the road between Gundogan and Dagbelen though not long after passing the ruin at Site we did get a bit of what we would consider trail did make a short appearance just before lunch. I'm fairly certain the village in the background of the photo with Dad must be Gundogan.

The plan was to turn sharply west and hike down the hills into the tiny hamlet of Dagbelen (Da-belen) for a tea and coffee break. One of our group, Sandy, decided he did not want to bother with the detour so elected to wait for us at the shady spot where the road intersection was. Within a minute of our turning we encountered the folks doing the shorter walk coming up from that very village where they had started their hike. Sandy would join them for the remainder of the day. They in turn gave us the dog that had been traveling with them since they had begun. She was a modest sized mutt who was clearly bright and very well accustomed to being around people. I have no doubt she spent a fair bit of time with walkers like us. I have no idea who she might belong to if anyone at all. But she clearly is one self-sufficient dog and she definitely endeared herself to us rather quickly. I guess we are suckers, but that's not so bad. We walked down the mountain road, dog in tow, and paused briefly at a strange sculpture garden not far out of town. I can't say much for the carved stones that I saw but clearly they are someone's labor of love. Along the way we passed a donkey-train heading up into the hills. Maybe they and their master were going to an olive orchard a couple miles further up that we would pass later in the day. Who can say. Wall of Site

This is all the obviously visual ruin left of part of Site (Si-tee).I believe many other ruins are in the area but they're nowhere near as obvious. Even this rather tall imposing bit of well over 2,000 year-old wall. This shady area would have actually made a nice place for lunch but it was still a bit early for that.

The village we found was quiet with the most noise probably coming from a few children playing not far from where we sat drinking tea, coffee, or other cold drinks. When they got picked up by a school bus (half day I guess) that noise abated. I had a sense that this is a village where time has stood still, or at least moved much more slowly than elsewhere, for quite some time. Sure we were at a coffee and tea shop that had plenty of "modern" touches but the air of times gone by was present. I am sure many people do basic subsistence farming in the hills nearby tending to their cows, harvesting olives, and so on and give little thought to the bustle of a place like Bodrum. But I bet they don't ignore that bustle. We hung about for what seemed a rather long time before some of us (be fair, it was led by Mom and Dad) decided it was time to go. We took the lead and with the dog we had acquired trotting alongside we began the climb back into the hills. The rest of the group would not be far behind. We would pass the road intersection, dog still with us, and soon the road would turn into a single track. A bit more than a hiking trail but not much more. We passed by an olive orchard and then came upon a rather well hidden from view ruin. A bit of high wall that was once, perhaps 2,700 or more years ago (during the heyday of Pedessa), part of a watch tower. The tower may have been part of another ancient town called Site (Si-tee) but no one is sure of that.  Our path would narrow further turning into an old stream bed, at last proper trail walking, and we would ascend fairly quickly coming soon to an old water gathering object called a sardonic (sar-nitch). This is a dome that rises a couple meters off the ground and descends to a base wall that is a bit over a meter high. The whole structure is easily a couple meters in diameter and sits over a cavity that is fairly deep below ground level. At the base of the dome, at the top of the wall, are small holes. There may also be holes in other places on the dome itself. The holes let water flow through and drip into the pool in the cavern below. The water can be used for crops or to water farm animals. I suppose people can drink it too as long as they take care (doesn't a farm animal have to worry about water-borne diseases?). This tank also sported a small phallus at the apex of the dome. The symbol of fertility though I trust this one was once bigger having been worn down over centuries because it is rather tiny now - the size of a large pine cone perhaps. This tank was made of stone but they can be made of cement as was the one we would see later in the day at the old farmstead we had lunch at. The old farmstead may once have been prosperous but these days though it clearly sees some tending, we saw a couple donkeys and a person doing something in the distance, I believe it has been pretty inactive since the sad days of the 1920s. During that time ethnic cleansing of non-Turks (mainly Greeks) was taking place. Greeks were encouraged (that is probably being a bit more polite than was the reality) to emigrate back to Greece. The same thing was happening to Turks in Greece though I believe the numbers were much smaller in that particular case.

This female dog attached herself to the easier walking group almost at the start of their walk. When we met them she switched her allegiance to us as we hiked down to the village of Dagbelen.

A sarnic

This is a watering gathering place - a sarnic. Below the stone dome is a cavity the hold the water which is gathering through the numerous small holes that permit it to drip down into the space below.

We left the farm and began our descent down into a suburb of Bitez. We tromped down a loose gravel road that really seemed far more substantial than it needed to be. I believe it was meant to be a fire road of some sort but even at that it sure seems wide for an area of such sparse population. The industrial village we came out into was not much to look upon. We settled down, with the dog , now known informally as H.F., to await the buses that would take us to Bitez (Bi-tesh) proper and the beach. At about 14:30 the buses arrived and we piled in saying farewell to H.F. who trotted after us for a minute or two before being lost to view. I am confident she will do well without us but that did pull at the heart strings a bit. Ten or so minutes later we rolled up to the beachfront at Bitez and found everyone who had done the shorter walk happily settled down at a beachside bar and we joined them with pleasure. The Aegean here is quite clear and very dark. The sand is not particularly white. It is more a dusky brown and the seabed is similarly dark and dotted with small and midsize stones to stub your toe upon. However, the water though not exactly warm is quite easy to swim in once you take the plunge. Drying off under the beaming sun is easy enough even if you have forgotten to pack a towel. We sat at one of the low tables drinking our cold drinks of choice and enjoyed 90 minutes of quiet beach time. I suppose if anyone had wanted (maybe some did) you could have had a nice bite to eat too (I suspect the food would have been better than anything else we have had to date). All in all this was a nicer ramble through the hills. If there is a downside it is that we are not finding this trip to be all that obviously photogenic.

hammock at Bitez

This hammock was part of the thriving beachfront at the beach we ended our day at in Bitez.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turkey, Day 1: Pedesa and Bodrum

Inside Pedesa

My Father is standing amongst the ruins of the ancient town of Pedesa. The outer walls were well over a meter thick and judging by the remains of one watch tower they cared about their defenses. We strolled through many rooms and even saw what could have been a cold storage area (or a badly placed latrine as it was within one of the rooms).

We spent the day before flying from Boston to Bodrum. The flights went smoothly and this time despite some lengthy lines at various passport control points and security check points things went pretty smoothly. Of course, just because things went smoothly doesn't mean it was the most pleasant of trips. Their is something particularly wearing about hours-long flights squeezed into small seats with little leg room and no way to get out of your seat without disturbing your seat row mates.   However, we survived the trials and tribulations of modern air travel and maybe even dozed a bit on a couple of the flights. The food was lousy (worse than usual) but we arrived in Bodrum in good order and this time all our luggage came with us. After getting ourselves slowly sorted out into our respective rooms at the Zeytinada resort, which is located by the village of Torba, we had a bit of a chance to see that the physical layout of this resort which is not quite on the coastline but not that far away from the Aegean either is really quite something. It may well be the nicest place we have stayed at though it isn't perfect (I think the towels are a bit rough and I expect my parents aren't thrilled by the two single beds in their room). We dragged our tired bodies to dinner and that is where we learned that we were not the only people from North America. Eight fellow travelers came from Victoria, BC. They're part of a walking group and every now and then they go on a big trip such as this. This means that nearly half the people here are either from the States or Canada: definitely a first for us. We also met the two HF leaders Lonica and Ian. The buffet dinner itself, eaten at the very dark poolside, was nothing to really remark upon - the food definitely was not up to the same standards as the jasmine-scented physical landscaping of the hotel complex. Maybe breakfast and subsequent meals will be better.

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Rising before sunrise feeling much better rested though not completely back to snuff we wandered over to breakfast, greeting a couple of the resident cats along the way, arriving promptly at 07:30. Breakfast is also served buffet-style and I have to report that it was mediocre. We have certainly had far better. Tenerife, which you if you read these posts carefully may recall left us a bit cold as far as dinners went, definitely did a better job with breakfasts than they have done here.  But we found things to eat and I am sure we will get by even though we might not love the meal. The grocery store across the street will certainly serve our lunch needs adequately (figuring out what is what can be tricky and we are staying clear of the hard to identify meats in the deli case) though the bread is rather drier (as we learned at lunch) than I think any of of would prefer. Another small complaint is that the tables we have to sit around only seat 4 people so if we eat together we rather preclude any chance to talk with others. Perhaps that is the point, to force people to split up, but I rather doubt it. I think it is just the way things are here. The morning dawned clear and even a tad cool but we knew that would not last. Even as we waited for the grocery to open at 08:30 we could start to feel the inevitable heat coming. By midday it was easily 80 degrees in the shade at Pedesa. Zeytinada HotelZeytinada Hotel

A glimpse of the facilites of the Zeytinada Hotel located in the village of Torba. —Photos by Jonathan Knight

The walk we were going to do would be about 7.7 miles long and have an ascent and descent of about 1,000 feet (12.3km, 300 meters). We would take a bus a short ways, less than 5 minutes it would turn out, to the start of the walk probably  not much more than a couple klicks north-north-west of the hotel. The walking today would turn out to be entirely upon mountain roads. Dirt roads somewhat bigger than a basic two-track but not much and certainly not something you would drive quickly upon though any car could drive them.  We began a slow steady ascent  into the scrub covered hills (I suppose maybe at the peaks of the highest they might be mountains but that is being generous). There really was not that much to see at this point. In some ways the scenery reminds me a bit of high desert in Arizona except that here at the lower elevations you do not find cacti and other desert plants blooming. A few pauses for short breaks and once when Mom and I heard the bleat of sheep and the ringing a cow bell (turned out to be on a sheep or goat so I guess that isn't quite the right term) move across our field of views descending a hill to our left (west I guess). We missed the official turning point of our route and ended up taking a path that probably lopped off close to a kilometer but took us through a nice stand of pine trees as we neared the top of the hill we had been climbing and the location of Pedesa.

Hills Around Pedesa

The first half of the walk was along mountain roads much like this one. Except for the bit of pine forest we went through, and that was an error though I think a good one, scenery was much like this.

Pedesa was an ancient city of perhaps a few hundred thriving for a few hundred years some 2,500-3,000 years ago. It sits on top of a hill that is perhaps a couple miles away from Bodrum and the sea which seems a bit peculiar from a trading point of view and you would have to schlep material up donkey paths to the village but it definitely would be easier to defend against attacks. What remains today, including a meters thick outer wall (with one tower - well the remains of a low watch tower), are in some ways meager but it is impressive in its way. I suppose if I were properly trained I could imagine people living in the small stone walled rooms. We pondered places where pillars may have been: round foundation stones with holes in them. I wondered where farmlands must have been as we strolled through the maze of loose rocks and stone walls that remains.

Pedesa RemainsThe Aegean From Pedesa

Take a look at some of the foundations of Pedesa and the view of the Aegean Sea as seen from just beyond the remains of a lone watch tower.

Pedesa is pretty much at the top of a hill with distant views of the Aegean sea. The sea looked quite blue fading into the equally blue and still completely clear sky. We could see the junction where we were supposed to have turned earlier but did not. We had a brief climb before beginning a somewhat steeper descent than the ascent had been. The mountain road here was also a bit softer and a little more rutted than the rather hard packed dirt road of the first half of the walk had been. Perhaps the highlight of the descent was found at a couple of water troughs. As we waited for the rest of the group, all of the people in both easier and harder hikes since we had merged at Pedesa,  a herd of sheep with a few goats came tromping on through. They made a beeline for the water. Sadly, though we were not surprised as Lonica had told us it was coming, the end of the descent also took us through a bunch of garbage spots. People just tossed dry garbage out on the side of the road. Pretty gross though at least it did not stink. We were checked out by a couple local friendly dogs as we passed a few houses. We were at a main road which would take us into Bodrum proper within 20 or so minutes of steady walking. Pretty much everyone decided to head into town though a couple caught a local bus back to the hotel.

Sheep of Pedesa Bodrum Fruit MarketBodrum proved to be a bustling town. I am not sure what the permanent population is but I am sure it is vastly less than the population during the peak tourist season (this is now the tail end of the tourist season). We wandered through a pedestrian mall that had a wide assortment of shops and places to eat. The marina was full of all manner of boats for rent along with tour boats and other small craft. We wandered into a local neighborhood of small streets with buildings closing in on either side. They reminded me of some of the areas we climbed around in Seville.   All in all Bodrum seems like a cosmopolitan tourist town and I can see why people use it as a base.