Published: July 14th 2009July 5th 2009
Turkey... how can we give you an idea of this diverse and fascinating country?
Turks smile broadly when they find out we are Aussies and then tell you about their aunty in Sydney, uncle in Melbourne or girlfriend in Canberra - that's before they try to sell you something!! But they do it so nicely....
The little we have seen has been amazing and we keep learning new things as we go. For instance, we always thought it a dry country, but Turkey exports lots of water to arid neighbours and in the south we got used to seeing standpipes near roads pouring water all day and night - to release the pressure apparently. Closer to Istanbul we saw many green and verdant fields with fat cows and goats. As drought conditions tighten in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon etc they are talking about a water based solution in the Middle East where water not land is the negotiating point and Turkey would be at the centre of such talks.
ANTIQUITY ISN'T JUST A PICTURE IN A BOOK HERE.
Ruins are often just lying beside the roads and bays. At Phaselis near Kemer
The view in Kemer
These rocks were the first thing we saw from our window the morning after arriving in the dark late the night before.
where an ancient Lycian seaport existed we wandered through the remains past the baths and the theatre and houses (where Alexander the Great visited and where the main avenue was named after Hadrian) and then swam in the Roman harbour bays with the remains of Roman stone steps and bathing areas! In Dalyian, ancient (3rd millenium BC) tombs were cut into the rock of the hills opposite our house and we could see them when we woke each morning. (The rock was carved to resemble the wooden dwellings they were so proud of). We sailed into a bay full of ruins on a cruise to find that it was used by ancient seafarers as a boat repair shop. All this was before we walked into the amphitheatres and climbed up through the restoration work being done on Roman houses at Ephesus and visited the magnificent Acropolis at Pergamon.
At Ephesus we saw the Bascilica of St John where he came after the persecution of the disciples. It is believed that he brought Mary with him to protect her. Her house on a nearby hill has been turned into a shrine.
THINGS CAN GET CONFUSING WHEN YOU DON'T SPEAK
Cable car near Kemer
From the bottom we were off to the very top. It is the longest in the word - 2.6 kms up and 4 kms long with only 4 pylons -- scary stuff.
One ruin we missed seeing was Aspendos when we thought we were going to see Carmina Burana (a ballet version) in a summer Festival at the ancient ampitheatre. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, our Turkish friends got us tickets to the new Aspendos theatre (adjacent to the old) where we saw a Turkish version of Riverdance!
LIVING IN A NEW COUNTRY:
Fresh fruit and vegetables are cheap, full of flavour and plentiful and the yoghurt is delicious. We have had great lamb and fish dishes and a highlight was a selection of vegetarian mezze dishes in a little river side restaurant in Dalyan. Pide, eggplant dishes, pizza, cherries, figs, peaches, yoghurt or mint drinks and long breakfasts are the order of the day against a backdrop of the sound of spoons as they are used to stir the sugar in Turkish tea (cay).
The temperature has hovered in the mid 30's but the sea was warm and inviting. Day trip cruises were cheap and plentiful - around $35 each for a full day trip where they pick you up by mini bus at 9am, take you out sailing around islands and bays, provide lunch
Our host's new car
Colin (another one) loves old Yank tanks. The main problem was that he was unsure if he could get it up the narrow tracks to his house!
and drop you back outside your door at 6pm or so. We can understand why so many people from colder climates holiday, live (or want to live) in Turkey.
We enjoyed two varied and fantastic homestays. The first at Kemer and then at Dalyan before we began the long drive to Istanbul. In 4 nights on the road we stayed at a small old hotel near Ephesus, a holiday hotel with a pool on the beach at Kisili for 2 nights ($115 for dinner, bed and breakfast ) and then in a cabin in an isolated beachside caravan park for $40 for bed and breakfast! At the last one we seemed to be the only foreigners around as it is a Turkish family holiday spot we'd been told about. We were asked- "How did you find it?" We didn't say that good Aussie commonsense told us that, after one of the hottest summer days this year which we spent being fried at Gallipoli, we were determined to find water before the day ended!
Everybody we have met has been gracious and helpful, apologising to us for not having much English as we felt embarressed at our lack of
Turkish. Driving over 1500 km, about 500 on expressways and divided roads and the rest on everthing from roads like that south of Nowra to goat tracks, we survived tractors, donkey carts, overloaded and unstable trucks. Sometimes we had them coming towards us on our side (forwards or backwards), going round roundabouts the wrong way and ignoring red lights. Many of these skills Colin has mastered and when he gets back into an automatic on the left of the road, watch out.
Those who have been there will understand how frustrated and helpless you feel as you look at the impossible terrain and try to picture what it must have been like in 1915. If only - we said that a dozen times- and I heard guides saying it as well. If only they had landed a bit further up the coast or if only they hadn't been left from April to January the next year. As at any war scene the futility of the whole thing is overwhelming. The Turkish revere Attaturk and he said in a message to mothers from all countries who lost sons on Turkish soil "Having lost their lives on this land
they have become our sons as well"
One welcome sight for us in the many war memorials that dot the landscape is at Lone Pine - the Australian memorial. To see something living and green silhouetted against the sky was somehow a comfort and bought a human scale to the whole place.
It was a relief to hand in the car at the airport in Istanbul and complete our journey to our third homestay by bus (particularly when the five lanes of traffic converged into 3 to go through a Roman aquaduct). We are in Taksim, in a beautiful apartment with a lovely courtyard. The weather has been kind and we are able to get across to the older areas using the funicular, or the nostalgic tram and "the tunnel", Europe's second oldest underground, and the fast light rail.
Oh by the way ...we bought a Turkish carpet!!!
There are more photos below