A Travellerspoint blog


Scroll from a Legionnaire - Hierapolis AD 129

Translated from the Latin!

sunny 28 °C

Dearest Mater

I am sending this scroll to inform you of the wondrous and magical sights I have witnessed in the eastern provinces of the great and all powerful Empire of Rome. I am escorting our esteemed and fearless leader, Emperor Hadrian, and we have arrived in the city of Hierapolis. One hundred thousand citizens cheered us through the great gate and along the wide paved streets as we made our grand entrance...
The streets are lined with soaring colonnades and all manner of magical fountains from which spurt never-ending streams of pure hot water and the theatre soars high into the sky above us...
And then, and this is truly the work of the Great God Neptune, pure hot water pours from the earth all around us. But by some magic, which can only be understood by soothsayers and the gods themselves, the hot water freezes the earth and turns it into marble as pure as freshly fallen snow...
Wave after wave of this hot water freezes the landscape to the edge of the precipice and then turns the very mountain into virginal marble finer than any to be quarried in Carrara...
It is claimed by the inhabitants that this water has great curative powers for all manner of ailments, but judging by the number of sarcophagi here I fear that it will only hasten my demise. I will therefore just look at this incredible landscape and give thanks to Neptune...

Your son, Maximus

Posted by Hawkson 09:25 Archived in Turkey Tagged pamukkale_waterfalls_travertine Comments (4)

The Dawn of Time

Ephesus - a wonder of the ancient world

sunny 32 °C

Six thousand cruise ship passengers in nearby Kusadasi were just starting breakfast this morning when we arrived at the gates of the ancient Roman city of Ephesus and startled the sleepy girl in the ticket office. But being the early worms really paid off for us, and for you, because here are some rarely seen views of the totally deserted city at dawn...
This is the library of Celsus that once held 12,000 scrolls...
Roman Ephesus was the capital of Asia Minor in the 1st century AD and had a population of a quarter of a million. Three earthquakes and bands of marauding Christians eventually reduced the place to rubble and it is still being put back together.
This is the 25,000 seat Grand Theatre, circa AD 41, where for one sestertius (or an as for a seat in the gods), the good citizens could watch gladiators hack each other to death every Saturday night. But today is Friday and all we have to watch is the sunrise.

Ephesus is an absolute 'must' on any tour of Turkey as we discovered when the cruise ships' mobs finally swarmed ashore and overran us at about 9.30am, but by then we had wandered these ancient streets alone for more than an hour and had imagined ourselves surrounded by Roman citizenry in flowing robes. Here is the main street in the light of dawn... can you see the apparitions of Centurians and their wives?
We even got to imagine the early morning sight and the smell in this building...Yuk!
No prizes for guessing what this place was 2,000 years ago? Need a clue? We don't think so.

Posted by Hawkson 00:11 Archived in Turkey Comments (6)

Dolmabache Palace - Barely Mentioned in Lonely Planet

sunny 32 °C

The Tulip Guesthouse in Istanbul is a $10 a night backpacker's flophouse, and it rates 6 lines of praise in The Lonely Planet Guide. In contrast, this is the truly magnificent Dolmabache Palace on the banks of the Bosphorus...
This gigantic one hundred thousand square foot palace was built by French and Italian architects in the 1840s for Sultan Abdulmecid and is one of largest and finest examples of super-snobbery to be found anywhere. In the 'mine's bigger than yours' world it boasts a Great Hall that seats a thousand, 285 opulently furnished staterooms and 44 reception halls. It also has dozens of glittering crystal chandeliers - the largest, made in London, weighing more than four and a half tons with 600 lamps.The vastness of the place is impossible to capture on film, but here's a look at the beautiful gardens...
So - what has this to do with The Tulip Guesthouse? Nothing...other than the fact that there is barely a mention of this great Palace in the Lonely Planet guide to Turkey, (and no reference at all in the index), while The Tulip is clearly a place of great cultural significance! Go figure!

No visit to Istanbul would be complete without a cruise on the Bosphorus, the narrow waterway that joins the Sea of Marmara to The Black Sea. And so, after visiting the palace without the assistance of our guidebook, we took to the waves for a couple of hours and took in the sights...
Mosques and minarets are everywhere here, and although we're not subjected to in-your-face-Islam most of the time, every few hours the meuzzins fire up their five-thousand horsepower loudspeakers and battle it out in the air above us. The guy in the Blue Mosque usually wins - but just look at the size of his minaret!
The iconic 15th century Blue Mosque is breathtakingly vast, with lofty domed roofs and a central prayer space the size of a football field.
Pity this chap who has to vacuum it after each service...
Next door to the Blue Mosque is the Aya Sofya (which apparently can be spelled a dozen ways). This was the greatest church in Christendom in the fifth century before the Muslims invaded and turned it into a mosque. For a 1,500 year old building it is in pretty good shape and is more spectacular than its more modern neighbour...

Well - that's it for Istanbul. We've done all the sights including the Grand Bazaar, (the world's largest indoor market), and the Spice Bazaar and now we are flying off to Izmir to visit the ancient Roman city of Ephesus. Tesekkur ederim as they say here: Thank you Istanbul - you're great..

Posted by Hawkson 11:57 Archived in Turkey Comments (4)

Delightfully Turkish

sunny 27 °C

The Turks certainly have a collective sweet tooth. A bathtub full of golden honey weighs down the breakfast buffet at our hotel each morning and Baklava dripping with honey comes in numerous flavours and shapes with all types of nuts...
And every other store has heaps of Turkish delight. Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir, an Ottoman from the mountain region of Kostomonu, invented Turkish delight in 1777 and opened his first shop, (which still exists), in the old city of Istanbul. Here, in Turkey, Turkish Delight is called Lokum and can be had in more varieties than Mr. Heinz ever dreamed possible...
But food of many cultures is available in this cosmopolitan city and yesterday we breakfasted in Europe, lunched in Asia and dined back in Europe without leaving Istanbul. Here's part of the mouthwatering breakfast spread at our hotel,The Safir, in European Istanbul...
And so to lunch... A bevy of ferries scurry back and forth across the Bosphorus carrying locals and their cars between two continents with far less fuss and bother, and much less cost, than the Gabriola ferry to Vancouver Island. Imagine, dear Gabriolan friends, if you could plop $1.20 in a machine and simply walk aboard as the cars drive on without anyone to guide them. There are no life-jacketted crew on deck; no one tying ropes, lowering ramps or shepherding passengers around and, as the last car drives aboard, the ramp simply lifts and away we go. And the ferries...Wow! Plush seats, pleasant decor, televisions everywhere, smart cafeteria and clean loos - and all for $1.20. There are lessons to be learnt here, BC Ferries.
Our Asian lunch was meatballs in sauce, white beans, aubergine, mixed salad and drinks ...just $6 each (tax included).
Dinner back in Europe was a specialty from the region of Anatolia in eastern Turkey - a chicken stew cooked in a clay pot. And when the chicken was ready Yohan the waiter, deftly, like a a conductor flourishing his baton, tapped the pot and it cracked open to reveal dinner...
Thanks Yohan - it was terrific.

Posted by Hawkson 12:04 Archived in Turkey Comments (2)


Nothing here to frighten granny

sunny 26 °C

Here in peaceful, modern, Istanbul the streets are clean, the sidewalks are free of potholes and parked cars, the traffic is well-behaved, the people are warm and welcoming, the food is fabulous and life is laid back and rosy. It is difficult to believe that we are a just a stonesthrow from the volatile hotspots of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
This is the view of the Bosphorus from the Topkapi Palace. Europe is on the left ...Asia on the right - and the only thing stapling the two continents together are a couple of flimsy bridges. Turkey is in an unenviable geopolitical situation - to the west is Orthodox Christian Greece with whom the Turks have had many punch-ups, while just to the right, in the Middle-east, are a handful of countries hell bent on destroying themselves and each other in the name of Islam. But being piggy-in-the-middle is nothing new for Turkey - this land has the been the punchbag for religious extremists since religion was invented. Istanbul has seen the lot - The Pagans, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantiums, the Arabs, the Crusaders and the Ottomans - each bringing their own religion, culture and architecture. Here is the distinct Muslim style of the Topkapi Palace - the opulent residence built by Mehmet the Conquerer in 1460...
More opulent than the architecture is the enormous treasure of gold and jewels amassed by the Ottoman Sultans until their Empire finally collapsed in 1908. The Sultans may have gone, but their treasure remains. The enormous diamonds, rubies and pearls are simply breathtaking and there is enough gold to un-sink the Titanic. The most remarkable glittering artifact is the famous Topkapi Dagger - star of the 1964 Peter Ustinov movie. Photos aren't allowed, but here's a very similar one we found around the corner in a Turkish Lira store...

Equally remarkable are the crowds. Get there early - the guidebook told us. But all this lot must have read the same book....
After centuries of warfare Istanbul is still under attack - but now it's the hordes of holidaymakers streaming off the huge cruise liners that steam right up to the city's walls. Here is the SS Queen Victoria...Just one of the seven cruise liners in port today!
No matter - there are enough spectacular sights for everyone to enjoy. Tomorrow - the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya.

Posted by Hawkson 03:11 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

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