A Travellerspoint blog

Turkey

Flaming Mountains and Smiling Turks

sunny 31 °C

Everywhere we go in the world we encounter friendly people, but the ones we usually meet are those who have a vested interest in pleasing us. The hoteliers, waiters, taxi drivers and tacky souvenir touts all depend on us tourists for their livelihood so it pays them to smile. But readers of James' novels may remember that when his ace detective, David Bliss, visited Turkey in The Fish Kisser he was constantly warned that there was nothing more dangerous than a smiling Turk. So we decided to put this stereotype to the test with the help of a couple of smiling Turks.This is Zafer and Yildiz - authentically Turkish and genuinely smiling.
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But were they dangerous? Not in the least - other than Yildiz's fabulous meals that seriously threatened our already expanded waistlines...
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Thanks to their daughter, Ebru, who is a close friend and colleague of James' eldest daughter, we were given a royal welcome in their home near Alanya and can now say authoritatively that Turks are as warm and innocuous as their smiles suggest. Also warm and very welcoming is the eastern Mediterranean. While daytime highs have consistently topped out at a pleasant 30c under a cloudless sky for the past two weeks, the nights have been relatively chilly. But the translucent turquoise sea remains a balmy 28 degrees day and night and is like a tepid bath when we take our early morning swim each morning - once we have fought our way through the throngs on the beach here in Cirali...
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But the sea is not the only warm thing here. In Cirali, near the ruined city of Olympos, we climbed for seemingly hours up a rugged track in the moonlight high into the foothills of Mt. Olympos where the ancients believed that the gods made fire from the rocks. "Stuff and nonsense," we said, until we arrived, exhausted, and found roaring flames, two or three feet high, lighting up the rock face around us.
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These are the famous 'Chimaera' or chimneys of gasses that spontaneously combust and cannot be extinquished. They have burned for several thousand years and the Romans and others built temples around them in order that they could worship Vulcan, the god of fire. Today, people bring sausages, kebabs and marshmallows to barbecue over the flames - a different kind of worship altogether...
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We are now making our way westward along the rugged turquoise coast of Turkey that was once the home of the Lycians - a civilization that pre-dated the Persians and the Byzantians in the 12th century BC. We will be visiting the tombs and other monuments created by these people as well as marveling at the fantastic vistas along the way...
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Posted by Hawkson 07:37 Archived in Turkey Comments (3)

Around the World in 200 Blogs

Our 200th Anniversary Blog

sunny 30 °C

In the three years we have been writing this blog we have visited fourteen countries and written two hundred stories about the places we've seen and the people we've met. What began as a travel diary and a way of keeping in touch with friends and family has grown to the point where more than four thousand people have read some of our most popular entries. There have been more than 150,000 visitors to our blog in total. So, although we are currently basking in a sub-tropical paradise near the ancient city of Olympos in southern Turkey, through the magic of the blogosphere we thought we would take you on a whirlwind tour around the world to revisit some of our most treasured memories.

Let's start in London - our favourite city in all the world. Here's the London Eye that gave us spectacular views of the entire metropolis...
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France is a very special place for us - not least because of the two grandchildren who live there. But we will always remember our wonderful cruise on the Canal du Midi aboard the good ship Carmen with Captain David...
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In Spain we visited the great citadel of Alhambra which overlooks the ancient city of Granada....
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The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul is a bustling place full of exotic sights and sounds, and although we rarely buy anything we love the razzmattaz of markets...
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Luxor, on Egypt's Nile, is surely one of the world's greatest treasures, and sailing in a felucca at sunset was magical...
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Speaking of magic - our time by the river at Champakulam in India was just a dream...
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And then there was Thailand and the Royal Palace in Bangkok...
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Luang Prabang in Laos...
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Halong Bay in Vietnam...
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And the rice paddies of our friend Tony in Bali, Indonesia...
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However, many of our favourite places have yet to appear on our blog - Venice, Lucca, Rome, Dubrovnik, Paris, New York and Hong Kong are all places to which we will happily return whenever we get a chance. But there is one place to which we often return, and we know that it is the most beautiful place on earth. It is Gabriola Island, British Columbia - our home...
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This is the view from our front window.

Posted by Hawkson 23:10 Archived in Turkey Comments (7)

Beside the Sea Side, Beside the Sea...

sunny 29 °C

Side, Turkey, is very appropriately pronounced sea-day as it an eastern Mediterranean seaside resort that appeals to the egg and chips and "Kiss-me-quick" brigade and their German equivalents. The coastline is crammed with all-inclusive resorts and the narrow streets of the 'old' city are jammed with glitzy shops falling over themselves with flashy jewellery, swanky leather and more flavours of Turkish delight than Baskin Robbins...
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This once was a quaint little harbour, but now it's awash in beer parlours and excursion boats masquerading as old Turkish gulets...
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Somethings don't change; this Temple of Athena has withstood the test of time and the weighty crush of northerners...
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There are still quite a few tourists topping up their tans for Christmas, but the big spenders left more than a month ago and the hotels and restaurants are scrabbling to squeeze the last drop out of this year's harvest. But it is a harvest of another kind that interests us. As regular readers will know, we love wandering the markets - meeting locals as they go about their daily lives - and Selcuk market was an absolute treat...
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These cabbages were gargantuan, (though nowhere near the mammoth world record of127lb).

The stalls bowed under the weight of all manner of local produce, but it's harvest time and truck loads of pomegranates, melons, olives, bananas, figs and grapes are being hauled in before the wintry sun ripens the oranges and lemons and dries the dates. This is truly a fruitful land...
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For market lovers, Selcuk had it all. Stalls laden with everything, including the kitchen sink, spread throughout the town and we could have shipped a container full of Turkish delights home. The only thing missing was carpets. In fact we've seen relatively few carpets and, despite warnings about the persistence of Turkish rug purveyors, we've had no hassle at all - not even from this guy....
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Posted by Hawkson 01:18 Archived in Turkey Tagged selimiye_ayasoluk Comments (3)

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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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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...
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This is the library of Celsus that once held 12,000 scrolls...
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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.
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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?
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We even got to imagine the early morning sight and the smell in this building...Yuk!
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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)

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