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Published: September 16th 2018
A long Eid break and I was certainly not going to spend a single day in hot Kuwait. I packed my bags and planned a trip to two places in Turkey and 2 places in Greece which became a delightful three. Here is a story of my Mediterranean summer trip.
The pre booked taxi was late and it was my good fortune because I hailed a taxi at half the cost! I took Pegasus flight to Istanbul. I got out and took a visa on arrival; an air-conditioned Havas bus to Taksim and voila! I was in the trendy European side of Istanbul. The free walking tour started at Hippodrome, covering Hagia Sofia (church turned mosque turned museum), an Egyptian oblique transported by Constantine from Egypt, a fountain donated by German king, Topkapi Sarayi (the palace of the Ottoman rulers), a madrassa built by famous architect, Mimar Sina, an underground cistern among many others. I made a note of places to see on my return trip. I had an excellent chicken kebab roll, refreshing buttermilk and caught flight to Dalaman airport.
The old lady who had arranged my pick up, had told the driver that I was 50 years old. No wonder he could not recognise me! It was wonderful to drive along the countryside of rich, green mountains and an amazing moon looking over the dark mountains.
The next day, the old lady and I hired a car and drove to Gombe, a picturesque place
up the mountains. It had a small weekly market. We pottered about and had an ice cream. In the meantime, I scratched my car twice in the congested town.I returned the car and paid the heavy insurance. That was the end of the driving expedition. On second thoughts, it was not too bad as I had driven up and down the high mountains for the first time in my life.
I took Boungainvillea travels for a day trip to see the gorgeous canyon of Saklikent ( second largest gorge in Europe) and the excellent waterfall at the end of a easy trek of 1 km partially in water.
We were a wet lot of 25 where everyone knew Turkish and except the guide, no one spoke English. Guess what, I started to use French and connected with people. We shared Turkish tea and yummy parathas in an amazingly, rural restaurant under hanging grapes and long necked, dirty white pumpkins! We walked through ice cold waters as we crossed the river, a tributary of Esen Cayi (river) to explore the gorge. There was mineral mud at certain spots which we generously applied to our faces and hands; walking like green zombies as we did our free beauty treatment. We swam in the Patara beach where the turtles lay eggs from 8pm to 8am when the beach is closed to human beings. Then we went to Kaputas beach which
had amazingly therapeutic bubbles which broke at the sea shore and created very pleasant sensations on the skin as the water resided. Though the beach was tiny, the current was very strong.
The waters were a heavenly turquoise green and I almost imagined a pretty mermaid to spring out of the water
I walked to the Akcagerme (Turkish names are very long) beach. A local couple who were special education teachers in Kas were swimming and invited me over. It was a hot day indeed. I changed and did some swimming in the wild waters. Very warm people as they dropped me at the Roman amphitheater. It was a camping site and I saw with great interest how a group of young girls built their tents. I spent the hot afternoon sleeping under an Olive tree like a careless vagabond, overlooking the blue Mediterranean sea with not a care of the world.
In the evening, Kas bay was full of hustle bustle of tourists. I viewed the Lycian tombs and finished the day with chicken pizza shaped in the form of a boat locally called pida. It was lovely to hear the sweet and lively music from a marriage reception or a party float through the mountains as I slept.
I took a ferry to an
island named Meis (Kasteriolizo) and missed the connecting ferry to Rhodes because of complete and deliberate inefficiency of the Turkish ferry operator. Since ticket was non refundable, I took a chance. Meis ( Kasteriolizo) was a small island with about 2,000 residents but was very important as it was the eastern most part of Greece with a big naval base. It turned out to be a golden opportunity as I spent a lovely evening in the mountains with Greek beer called Mythos and listened to the gentle lapping of the blue waters of the Mediterranean sea. The boats rocked too and the thin, black fishes seemed to move aimlessly. I spotted a giant turtle too.
It was quite an experience, stepping out of my guest room, take a taxi and reach the airport, up the picturesque hill in 5 mins. It was my flight from Meis to Rhodes. The airport was only a room!
Rhodes was unexpectedly a very large island. I reached a 5 star hostel. Since I had missed the first day because of the ferry, the duty manager invited me to a free pizza dinner with other residents. The fine salad, wine and conversations with fellow travellers made me realise that the world is not enough
The medieval fort built by Knight Templars of St John, a UNESCO heritage center had cobbled streets and museums. Rhodes was strategic as it was on way to Jerusalem.
The sea was beautiful. The three course dinner with live Greek music really showed what it means to have a good life! (I felt the chicken in
soup was not well cooked and next time remembered to ask for well done and perhaps save all the trouble by ordering tomato soup instead 😊 ).
I took the first bus to Lindos and walked up to Acropolis. There were tiny dome shaped churches in the little coastal town. The old movie, Guns of Navarrone was shot in one of these coastal towns. A siesta and another evening walking along the beach and market place. I took to drinking Fanta lemon flavour which was most refreshing in the hot and humid weather. I saw blue fishes in the bottom view boat ride. Mediterranean sea is not rich in nutrients. That is why it is so blue as it hardly has any algae and so very little fish.
From Rhodes, I landed in Athens and it was a dirty, congested city.
The hostel was no class at all but very centrally located. I was glad to meet a young dental student from Israel who was planning to go for 5 day scuba diving course.
The Acropolis was huge but it was very hot and crowded. Again, it was a pagan temple, converted to catholism and protestanism so many times that I lost count. The area had ruins everywhere with partial reconstruction and I felt they could have done more to tell the full story.
I went to the Botanical gardens and was lunch for the happy mosquitoes. I met another Indian lady travelling alone and we chatted in the park.I discovered a book store in the city center and
bought an English translation of classic Greek plays by Euripides which was amazing. There were other books on politics and psychology but I found them dated.
On my final stop to Istanbul, I saw the grand Sulamaniye mosque and tombs of the Ottoman kings. It was fascinating to see that they were built around the same time that India was ruled by Akbar
The blue mosque with the blue artistry on ceilings and sides were pretty and so were the frescoes of Mary and Jesus in Hagia Sofia ( locally called Aya Sofia). My lunch was tasty poppy lamb kebab with salads. I drank a few glasses of buttermilk. It was undoubtedly hot.
I took a ferry from European side to Turkish side called Kadikoy. I ate some delightful Turkish ice cream and Backlava which melted in my mouth. It was wonderful to watch the sunset and listen to street music.
I knew I was at the right gate when I saw all the black tents and large families who were traveling to Middle East at Turkish Airport. I prepared myself for cultural change. Flight was smooth. I exchanged money and taxi (as good as flight) and was home.
As I nibbled on Lokkum (sweets chewer than Turkish delight) at home, I learnt that I do not like heat ( Israeli girl pointed that out), I was poor at directions ( I went to Acropolis twice and did not recognise it as it was a different gate) and my sense of proportion was poor (two scratches on the sides of big car on same day!). However, meeting new people, swimming
like a fish in the wild, enjoying public space and being comfortable in my own skin seem to be things I am good at.
Greece and Turkey have been fighting since the days of Troy over trivial issues. Even today they are fighting over ferry timings.I could not fathom why someone would want to fight when they had the blessings of nature and weather. Greek spoke of a cultured society and yet practiced human sacrifice and slavery. It was definitely reassuring to know that times have changed for the better.
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