Thursday, October 25, 2012

Turkey - October 15 - 25, 2012

We are roughly half way through our holiday in Turkey, and felt it was time to communicate to let you know we are still alive and well, and to tell you what we are up to.
We are now in the tiny town of Pamukkale, about 100 miles from the west (Aegean) coast of Turkey, where we are spending a couple of nights. Today is Eid Al Adha – a very important date in the Muslim calendar, so the local mosque has been bustling with activity starting with a very loud and long call to prayer at 4 AM. People are grilling lamb in their back gardens, as the festival commemorates Abraham's killing of a sheep rather than his son (for those of you who remember your Genesis).

Stone (travertine) pools and terraces in Pamukkale
Pamukkale is famous for two things – extraordinary white limestone terraces and clear turquoise-blue pools that spill down the mountainside, and a well preserved partially excavated Roman town, Hierapolis, complete with a huge intact amphitheater, shops, houses, temples, baths and a very impressive public lavatory.
We have just spent five hours walking up, down and all around. When you walk on the white travertine slopes you have to go barefoot, which is bit of an adventure. The rock is glistening white, with interesting ripples and waves, and warm volcanic water is constantly trickling down over it. It is reputedly full of health-giving properties, and people come from all over the world to be cured of heart and skin diseases, as well as rheumatism. 
A very impressive public convenience c 400 AD

The Roman city is huge and mostly still being excavated by an Italian university's team of archaeologists. It was destroyed several times by earthquakes and has been very little plundered, so the main buildings are being reassembled piece by piece, like a complicated three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces looking almost the same. Although there were many bus parties of tourists, they tend to stick to a few major buildings and most of the park is deserted. We climbed up the hill to the ruins of an ancient church (5th century) built where St Philip (one of the less known of the 12 apostles) was martyred in 63 AD. The views from the top were wonderful, and there were many interesting birds and wild flowers, including thousands of yellow autumn crocuses, and beds planted with roses, zinnias and rosemary bushes.
Istanbul -- mosques and buses
Our first stop in Turkey was Istanbul, where we will return at the end of our stay. It is a wonderful city that has been the centre of civilization and trade between Europe and Asia for millennia. We spent two and a half days walking all over, visiting palaces, mosques, museums, and markets and drinking in the sights and sounds. Bizarrely, in a city of 13 million people, we bumped into our Bala Cynwyd friends, Debbie and Bill Becker TWICE by accident, and once on purpose when we got together for dinner.
Lin and Turkish lady with large cabbages
We are greatly enjoying our encounters with the Turkish people, who are incredibly friendly and welcoming, especially when we try out our few words of Turkish. In the market in Fethiye, Lin was accosted by a large lady selling enormous cabbages, who insisted on having a photo taken with each holding a five kilo cabbage.

Speaking of vegetables, we are loving the food here. There is a vast array of fruits and vegetables in the markets and on all the menus. It is the height of the pomegranate season, and we have enjoyed glasses of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in the street. Another drink we have taken to is “ayran”, which is a thin salty yoghurt drink, both refreshing and filling after a strenuous day's walking round street markets or Roman ruins.
Pomegranate juice for sale
The warm, sunny weather we enjoyed for our first week has now returned after a few stormy days with heavy downpours. Our three-night boat -- "gulet" -- trip around the Mediterranean bays near Fethiye was luckily not spoilt by the bad weather, as the water stayed warm and relatively calm. There were only four of us on board for the last sail of the season with two crew, instead of a possible eighteen in total.
Calm seas and rainbows
Our cabin had its own tiny tiled bathroom. We mostly motored into the bays, inaccessible by road, to swim or snorkel, and walk on islands or peninsulas where goats were browsing among pine woods, with orange and olive trees, where thyme, sage, oregano and laurel grow wild. The boat stirred up schools of flying fish. The sea water was warm and salty, so swimming was easy. At night the only sounds were the lapping of the waves and the hooting of owls in the nearby forests.
We became good friends with the other two aboard, a retired couple from Toronto, and went out for dinner at the fish market in Fethiye together on our return to dry land. You buy your fish from the market stalls and the restaurants compete to cook it for you and serve it with salads, bread and drinks.
Our "gulet" anchored near
Cleopatra's Bath on the Lycian Coast
The Fethiye market was fun to visit, with colorful characters offering samples of fruit, olives, dried apricots or Turkish delight, and selling pancakes with a variety of fillings to eat at tables set with enormous jars of pickled vegetables.
In the hotels everything is clean and much of the water is potable. The breakfast buffets are plentiful and delicious, with lots of Greek-style yoghurt, eggs, cheeses, tomatoes, cucumber, many varieties of olives, figs and apricots, as well as fresh-squeezed juices, coffee and teas. The ubiquitous apple-tea is tasty and refreshing...something we will definitely want to take back home with us.
We travelled form Fethiye to Pammukale by an impressive long-distance bus on well-built, almost empty roads through the mountains. The bus had a “steward” who came around with complimentary bottled water and soda, and snacks, as well as lemon-scented sprays of hand-sanitizer.
Tomorrow we leave here for the coast, we are travelling by bus to Ephesus for more Roman ruins, seafood and hopefully more warm weather.

No comments:

Post a Comment