Published: May 22nd 2012May 21st 2012
We hang out here with Annie, Dave and our friends in good weather
With nine remaining days in Turkey, we are writing from our Antalya flat, which is already denuded. Each day friends and strangers come by to haul off items they have purchased during our moving sale, and they stay for tea and conversation. "What's the matter? Why are you leaving Turkey?" they ask. "When are you coming back?" In a culture in which plans are seldom made more than a few days in advance, the notion that we came for two years and that the two years are ending just doesn't cut it. So we speak instead--with complete truthfulness--of how much we long for our U.S. friends, children and grandchildren--mentioning that a third grandchild (Kate and Lisa's baby girl!) is due in September. "Tamam" (okay), they say. "But you will miss the sun and the sea and Turkish food too much. You'll be back!"
Well, we're not sure when we will be back. And bringing an end to this magical and rich two -year adventure is tougher than we imagined. Several of our blog readers have suggested that we will face "reverse culture shock" on return, and we suspect that they're right. We've thrived in a less scheduled life: we've become
Bill at his swimming hole
Volunteers have built this platform for FREE access to the sea.
more spontaneous, savoring time to admire a cloud formation or an unfamiliar birdcall. As in two previous years, we love hanging out in our friend Annie's rustic, flower-filled garden, surrounded by 200-year-old crumbling stone walls. We'll miss the endless explorations into the countryside and especially the jaw-dropping sites of history and pre-history (back to 12,000 B.C.) that have completely revised our sense of what is meant by the word "ancient." And the Sea--what will Bill do without his morning swims in the Sea?
And so, during March, April and early May, our travels with guests have had a special poignancy for us. As we visited again favorite spots with visitors, we were acutely aware that this would likely be the last time for us. And when we explored new spots with them, the thought was, "We're so glad we didn't miss doing this!" There were three sets of guests this spring, and we enjoyed each visit enormously. Rather than a log of each set of travels, though, we'd love to give a couple of quirky or memorable moments from each visit.
In March, Gayle and Bob Reid came to spend a week of their Turkish trip with us.
Gayle and Bob
Visiting the mysterious flames that --since pre-history--have arisen from the rocks at Chimera, on the base of Mt. Olympos.
(Gayle and Carol have been fast friends since they met at the beginning of college--50 years ago.) Though we had many colorful adventures, one especially conjures true Turkish culture. After a happy day of other explorations, we decided to stop by the gorgeous Roman theatre Aspendos on our way back to Antalya. (Aspendos, built in 2nd Century A.D. is considered the best preserved Roman theatre in the world, and hosts live, un-miked, opera in the summer.) But before we arrived, we were seduced by the aromas of an outdoor gozleme stand, where we have gone with guests before. A village woman was grilling a savory thin pancake that is stuffed with goodies: spinach, cheese, potato, meat. We luxuriated over lunch, then realized it was late--in fact, too late to get into Aspendos. We decided to drive by Aspendos anyway, and were hailed in the parking lot by what appeared to be an employee. He admitted that the theatre was officially closed, but he said "No problem, come in, come in. I have special price for you." Bob paid the price, which as indeed 5 TL per person lower than usual. Moments later, we were approaching the entrance, but the man
The guard at the Aspendos Roman theatre earned a little extra cash by supplying a ladder for after-hours viewing
guided us around the side of the theatre, indicating an after-hours entrance (or something like that). The theatre is built into a steep hill, with the back perhaps 8 - 10 feet higher than the top of the hill. We found ourselves following an irrigation ditch up the steep incline. Then Gayle said, "Wait a minute! Why is that man carrying a ladder?" Sure enough, we were being led to the back of the theatre, where we climbed up the man's rickety metal ladder onto the very top ledge of a 1800-year-old Roman treasure about 150 feet above the stage below. From there the view was spectacular--perhaps more so because it was a bit hard-earned.
With Gayle and Bob, we headed west along the Mediterranean, stopping at the village of Dalyan, a spot Bill and I had been wanting to see. We stayed in a small pension just across the river from some amazing, huge Lycian rock tombs carved into the opposite cliffs. The next morning we took a small boat down the river, heading toward the beach that is famous as a nesting place of endangered loggerhead turtles. In a major environmental accomplishment for Turkey, this beach is
Tombs of the Kings at Kaunos
These Lycian tombs are across the river from the village of Dalyan near the Mediterranean coast.
now off limits to visitors during the parts of the year that are crucial for mating, nesting, and hatching. When we were there, the beach was pretty but turtle-free. However, as our boat headed back down the river to Dalyan, some crab fishermen pulled along side and persuaded us to buy some freshly-caught, freshly-steamed little blue crabs. Oh my--they were so good!
In April, Ruth Otto (Carol's longstanding close friend and former colleague) came for another rewarding week. (Note: Our camera had a defective memory card on this trip so photos in this section were provided by Ruth Otto--Thanks, Ruth!)
We began with daytrips out of Antalya, but spent the last three days and nights exploring a region Bill and I had longed to see: Antakya, which is the ancient city of Antioch. (We'll call it Antioch here, just to avoid confusion with the similarity of the names of Antalya and Antakya.) Antioch is an hour's flight east of Antalya but still close to the Mediterranean coast--just 10 km from the Syrian border.
Antioch is famous for two things: its wonderful, Arab-influenced cuisine and its multi-faith/multi-ethnic culture--extremely rare in contemporary Turkey. We stayed in Antioch's oldest section in a
Old Section of Antioch
When Bill managed to turn the rental car around in one of these narrow alleys, a local woman screamed "Ilk defa!" (First time!)
handsomely-restored former convent beside Antioch's Catholic Church.
Finding our way to the convent made a mockery of our western reliance on aids such as Google maps, which were useless in the labyrinth of curving and extremely narrow alleyways that have no labeled names. The very idea that anyone would even try to take a car on those pathways designed for donkeys was laughable. As is usual in Turkey, the solution was to get help from a bystander. In our case, a young boy led Bill on foot through the intersecting alleys to the church where we were staying, and Bill later found a car-worthy route via more modern streets. Over the course of our days in the Antioch area, we found our way almost completely by asking directions, sometimes with touching or hilarious results. One man led us in his car to a special restaurant; another sent us on our way after presenting us with three oranges he had picked from his tree.
Of course, we knew that Antioch had figured prominently in early Christian history, but we were sketchy about the details. It turns out that Saint Peter had dug the world's first church out of a
1st Church of Christianity
St. Peter 'dug' this church out of a cave in Antioch. Ornate facade added in recent centuries
cave just above Antioch--the site where the word "Christian" was first used. Also, St. Paul spent considerable time there--as well as Matthew, Mark, and Luke. (It is believed John cared for Mary in Ephesus but never made it as far east as Antioch.) Maybe that's why those ancient narrow alleyways with ornate metal doors reminded me of paintings from a Sunday School tract! For Christians, this is, indeed, a second Holy Land!
This trip also provided our second befuddling brush with tollroads in Turkey. When we rented our car in the city of Adana (2.5 hours from Antioch), we were given a tollcard and told that we could put the necessary cash on it once we entered the tollroad. When we got to the first gate, there was no human around and no sign of a place to put money on the card, so we just drove through--to the expected sound of a brief siren. At the second gate, same thing, but there an arm came down, blocking easy exit. But without a way to put money on the card, what could we do? So Bill drove carefully around
the arm/barrier. A short ways down, we stopped to talk
to some men in police uniforms and asked where to pay. They pointed to a small square building on the other side of six lanes of tollroad traffic with two waist-high metal barriers (no gate) in the middle. We were incredulous that such risks were necessary, and Bill declined to race between the cars and climb the fences to fill the card. So we continued on to Antioch as jolly criminals, expecting to hear a siren at any moment. Mercifully, none came, and we were never stopped. On the way home, however, we found the identical situation, and Bill DID run across all lanes of the tollroad and climb the fences to pay. But that time, it was 5:00 a.m. so there was little traffic. Ah, Turkey, you never fail to provide us with memorable experiences!
Our last guests, Cindy Phillips and Eileen Stretch, are our Seattle friends--and also our doctors. And they were definitely not here to monitor to diet and health practices because we all ate like fiends--well, healthy fiends. A particularly enjoyable daytrip with Eileen and Cindy took us deep into the countryside, close to the mountains where there are more goats than people, very few
cars, a few picturesque villages, and certainly no tourists. It was the first time we'd made this trip, and what a pleasure! The translation of the region's name is Trout Valley, and we stopped at a little fish restaurant for lunch beside a river swollen with snowmelt. There was unusually large snowfall in the mountains this year, and the river had expanded so much that it was catching dozens of huge trees in its path--quite a sight. The fresh grilled trout had been stuffed with herbs and wrapped in grape leaves to preserve the succulence. And succulent it was. It was served with salad, grilled onions, and potatoes--a simple meal but certainly one of the best we've had in Turkey! Going home, we took the "back road," an extremely narrow path carved into the sides of mountains with some jaw-dropping views complete with adorable (but foul-smelling) goats and dazzling fields of poppies. There were also some terrorizing potential plunges--so we in the back seat focused a lot on goats and flowers while Bill kept the car hugging the verticle rocks to the right.
Later in the week, the four of us took a scenic route toward their last main
stop, Ephesus--the crown jewel of Turkey's ancient sites. Though only partially excavated, Ephesus is a larger site than most and has benefitted from a great deal of European money for professional-quality restoration. St. Paul spoke at the large theatre there, and of course, the Letters to the Ephesians were written to residents of the ancient city. We had been there earlier, and agree that it is a "must-see" in Turkey.
Since Eillen was reared Catholic and has the (secret) first name of Mary, we travelled to another nearby site--the alleged home of the Virgin Mary during the last years of her life. The story goes that just before the Crucifixion, Christ asked John to take care of his mother because it was very unsafe around Jerusalem. It is believed that John brought her to the coast of what is now Turkey, near what is now Izmir (once Smyrna). There is evidence that John was in what is now Selcuk, just beside Ehpesus, but the exact whereabouts of Mary were less certain. In the late 1800s, a German nun who never left Germany had a vision about Mary's house and wrote a tract describing in exact detail where it could
Courtyard at Mary's House
The Virgin Mary is mentioned 7 times in the Koran..
be found in the mountains above Ephesus. Some believers traveled to Asia Minor, following the nun's directions and excavated a ruin with a few feet of standing walls in the exact spot. The site was later authenticated and consecretated by two different Popes. The cynic in me was very skeptical about the truth of this story, but when we visited (twice, actually!), I found the experience quite compelling. There's a lovely quiet park there with a tiny chapel built up from the walls of "Mary's House." And--to our surprise--there is a plaque listing all the quotations about Mary from the Koran. As Cindy said, "When the Koran was written, Islam obviously revered both Jesus--as a Prophet--and Mary. So what's the deal about Christians being 'infidels' "? Bill thinks the little matter of several centuries of bloody Crusades fought around here may have caused the Christians to lose favor in this region. Could be.
Well, it's time to sign off of our last blog from Turkey. (If you want to see more photos, scroll down for several pages more of pictures with captions.
) After we leave next week, we plan to spend a month in various parts of Poland and
Germany, then back to Seattle on July 2.
As always, we're really so grateful to all of you who have followed our adventures and encouraged us to persist with the blog through your many comments. It's wonderful that we'll be able to see many of you in the flesh before long!
Affectionately, Carol and Bill
There are more photos below