A Travellerspoint blog

8: Empty eye's

sunny 24 °C
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Another morning of travelling this morning. Fortunately it wasn’t a super early start so it meant we could at least spend a bit of time before we had to get going. We left the beauty of the white terraces and headed to Fetihye a town down on the Med!!

Bus trip was as exciting as all of the others but the landscape has again started to change. The closer we got to Fetihye the mountains started to be covered by pine trees and there seemed to be far more vegetation. We arrived at Fetihye mid afternoon with our first stop being a very quick stop to see Lycean rock tombs (similar looking to Petra but not on the same scale). The Lycean’s were a group of people who lived here in this part of Turkey before the Roman’s moved in. In fact, they committed mass suicide twice after the Roman’s invaded to ensure they wouldn’t lose their identity!! Clearly the first time they weren’t successful so they had to come back and do it all over again!!

We are actually staying at a tiny village outside of Fetiyhe called Kaya Village. The village is in a basin that is ringed by mid sized rocky mountains and is at the base of a ghost village. It is quite surreal to see this abandoned stone town built up on the mountain side and then to see normal-ish (by our standards.. normal by Turkey standards) houses below in the basin! The city has been abandoned since the mid 1920s. It was abandoned by its inhabitants because they were forced by the govt to migrate from Turkey to Greece. What happened was that back before 1920 many people in Turkey were actually Turkish Greeks, and in Greece there were many Greek Turks.. Basically different language different customs in the same country. At the end of WWI, Greece invaded Turkey trying to annexe it as apart of Greece. The Turks fought back and eventually overcame the Greeks. The local Greek population in Turkey supported the Greek invasion and so were treated quite poorly after the defeat of the Greeks by the local Turkish population. Meanwhile, similar racial issues were happening in Greece with the Turkish community. After Turkey declared itself a republic (the Sultan was supporting the Greeks so he went at the same time!) under the famous General Attaturk (the same general that ran the Turkish campaign at Gallipoli) it was agreed to do a migration swap and all of the Greek Turks were moved from Turkey back to Greece and vis versa. When the Turkish Greeks returned back to Turkey they didn’t want to live up on the hill (where the Greeks used to live) so the town became abandoned. Today it is a big open air museum that you can wander through.

We spent our afternoon clambering around the abandoned town and climbed up the hill so that we could get our first glimpse of the Med. We’re going for a hike tomorrow over the mountains down to the Med for a swim! We had a quick dinner and turned in early for our big hike tomorrow first thing!

Posted by weary_feet 20:52 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

7: Dazzling White's and Brilliant Blue's

sunny 25 °C
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Early start this morning as we had a full morning’s driving on the bus to get to our next stop of Pamukkale, home to the white calcium terraces. Our bus trip was again very uneventful with us passing through a landscape of shrubbed but rocky mountains and arid flat shrubby/ rocky plains. Rock is definitely what Turkey is made out of!!! We arrived at Pamukkale just after lunch (about 1.30) and had a quick bite to eat (mushroom and meatball casserole) before we headed out to see the gorgeous white terraces.

The white terraces are world renowned and are deserved for their renown. Our hotel was about a twenty minute walk to the base of the terraces and as soon as we saw them we were just stuck by the beauty. If it wasn’t for the warmth you would swear that you are looking at a ski slope! The terraces are brilliantly white.. dazzling.. nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The cliffs have formed over hundreds of years (probably thousands) and are formed when the local thermal waters cascade over the side of a mountain. As the water evaporates the calcium is deposited onto the cliffs creating this natural wonder. You are fortunate because you can walk up and through the terraces so you can have a good look and feel of the cliffs. We arrived at the base of the park, removed our shoes (no shoes allowed on the terraces as they damage the cliff faces) and started the forty minute trek to the top of the cliffs. The calcium deposits are surprisingly rough which is good because water is constantly running down the hillside!

Unfortunately for us it hasn’t rained for a while so most of the calcium pools were completely dry. The spring water is now being managed so that some water flows on to most of the cliff at some part of the day. This means that many of the otherwise incredibly beautiful pools are just dried out creek beds! Regardless, the view from the top is pretty amazing!!! The spring water is aquamarine.. couple this with dazzling white… you can imagine the colours that hit your eye!!!!!

Right above the calcium cliffs is another ruined city this one called Hierapolis. We spent probably an hour clambering around this ruin. My main interest was the Necropolis (the cemetery) and so I spent most of my time in this area. To be frank, if no-one told you it was a cemetery you wouldn’t know.. more huge stone blocks just strewn about.. not that different to the city itself!! The other interesting part to the city is the Agora. The Agora was once a public meeting place. It must have been a pretty large building in its time because its ruin complex is probably 100m long! It is probably one of the better preserved parts of the city and really gives you a feel for the size and shape of the city. Above the Agora is the old amphitheatre, this one is slightly better preserved than the one at Ephesus but once you’ve seen one amphitheatre well……

The park is also home to a museum (we didn’t get time to see inside) and a thermal hot spring bathing area (again I did a pass as I wanted to take more photos of the cliffs as the sun was setting). Spent the reminder of my time shooting photos of the cliffs. As the sun was setting the cliffs turned a pale pinky/ orange… absolutely incredible. As it slowly turned dark we started back down the cliffs and managed to shoot more photos as the lights lit up the cliffs.. Honestly, Pamukkale must be one of the most photogenic places in the world! Photographic friends take note!!!!

Posted by weary_feet 20:36 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

6: Walking in History's Footsteps

sunny 19 °C
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I had a nice early start this morning as I had a full day of site seeing ahead of me! First stop was to the ruins of the St John Basilica. The church was built in the 6th century by the Roman’s to pay homage to the life of the apostle St John. Supposedly, he wrote the Book of Revelations not far from the town and was buried on the spot where the ruins stand today. It is also surmised that the Virgin Mary also would have lived and died in Selcuk as she was supposedly given into the care of St John by Jesus before his death. From what I can gather there isn’t really any evidence to suggest she was in Selcuk apart from the wording of the Bible. It is definite that St John was in Selcuk and died in Selcuk (Roman writings).

The ruins themselves span a good portion of the hill above the town. In its ‘hey day’ the Basilica must have been something to behold. Supposedly it was the third largest Basilica built by the Roman’s and based on what you can see today I don’t doubt the claim! St John’s grave is still clearly marked. The rest of the site is a ruin. Some colonnades and door frames still stand and you can clearly see that when they built the basilica they stole some of the stone from Ephesus or the Temple of Artemis! All in all probably one of the better preserved ruin areas that I’ve seen so far!

I walked to the Ephesus museum via the Temple of Artemis. As expected, there really isn’t anything to see anymore.. one pillar (that used to be a column supporting the roof) and a half broken down pillar with lots of random stone sitting on the ground. The temple was thought to be built in 550 BC as a temple for the Greek goddess Artemis. I spent very little time at the ruin (because there really wasn’t anything to see) before I headed back down the main road to the Ephesus Museum.

The museum was built to house the largely marble artifacts that have been excavated from Ephesus. The museum is filled with marble statues of emperors or gods/ goddesses as well as stone tablets. I was fascinated to see a section that is dedicated to medicine. There are inscriptions from a Roman doctor on how to treat flesh wounds as well as a selection of needles and other wicked looking implements used for sewing up people. When you see information like this it just goes to show how old the medical profession actually is!

After the museum I headed back to the hotel for a drink and some interneting before we headed out to Ephesus! Ephesus is about 15 mins outside of Selcuk and is a pretty large Roman ruin (it was once a Greek city but was later captured as a Roman city—the ruins we can see today are from the Roman times). It was once home to at least 250,000 people and was the main trading town in Asia Minor (Anatolia) for the Roman’s (in fact it was the second most populous city behind Rome!). As we entered the ruin complex I was immediately struck by the fact that people have walked these actual streets for thousands of years. People grew up, got married, got old and eventually died in this actual location and did so for hundreds and hundreds of years. All I could think of the whole time I was walking around is that I wished I had a time machine so that I could go back in time and actually see how these people lived!

The entire ruin is predominantly made of huge marble blocks and colonnades that soar to the sky. Honestly seeing a ruin like this one is a little overwhelming.. The streets are paved in marble and are still in pretty good condition (all things considered). Some statues are still in location in the city and these just add to the mystery of the place. We spent hours climbing through the ruins.. probably one of the more interesting stories our guide told us was about the latrine complex. Back in Roman times the lavatory area was actually also a social gathering area. It too was made of marble so when the rich Roman’s decided they wanted to journey to the latrines they would first send in their slave to warm up the seat for them so that they could sit on the loo in comparative comfort! Some of the holes are still visible around the edge!

The highlight of a trip to Ephesus is the Library of Celcus. Somehow the façade to the Library has been rebuilt to show how dominating it would have been back during Roman times. The library was once home to thousands of scrolls and was built after the death of an influential member of the city named Celcus- his body was laid to rest under the library.. (its long gone!) Regardless of the purpose of the building it is pretty impressive to see!

Ephesus is also home to a Roman amphitheatre (of course) and long roads lined with colonnades. Gosh it must have been impressive in the day! We rounded out our tour of the ruins by having a look at the ruined chapel of Virgin Mary which was also built within the city. Not much to see anymore but it was quite eerie to walk around because it was right on dusk when we were climbing through this ruin!

Rounded out our day eating Golzme (Turkish savoury pancakes) in a small family run shop with a cold drink. On arrival back at the hotel we heard that a large earthquake has rocked eastern Turkey killing at least 25 people (although the death toll will certainly rise). The earthquake has occurred over 1000kms away which explains why we didn’t feel any sort of tremor here in Selcuk. Here’s hoping that not too many people have been killed in the quake!

Posted by weary_feet 00:36 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

5: Fruity Vino!

sunny 17 °C
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Spent half of today in the bus as we travelled from Bursa to Selcuk. The day started early and the morning was completely taken up by our bus trip. First a local bus to the station and then on a longer bus to Selcuk. We arrived after lunch and immediately took off on a walking tour of the town.

Selcuk is the gateway to Ephesus and is the main stepping stone to the old ruins. It is also surrounded by ruins in its own right. The town itself is kinda what I expected Turkey to look like. The town is surrounded by rocky hills, sparsely vegetated with stumpy looking shrubs. The colours are very muted.. lots of pale oranges/ greys and the trees are a greeny/ grey in colour.. The buildings are mainly half finished and everything is covered in a fine coating of dust! Very interesting! It’s pretty much what I always pictured Turkey to look like.

The most famous of the ruins is the Temple of Artemis, which was once one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Today the site is in complete ruin and the only real remnant from the once proud temple is a pillar that is now home to a stork’s nest! The most impressive site in Selcuk is the ruins of the St John Basilica which was erected in the 6th Century in honour of St John the Evangelist (John the apostle from the bible). He was apparently buried on the site. The town is also home to the remains of Roman aqueducts and a very old Mosque (Isa Bey) as well as a museum with artefacts from Ephesus. I’ll be checking out all of this sites tomorrow!!

After a quick tour of the town we hopped on a bus and headed out to this tiny town outside of Selcuk that is famous for fruit wine. We had a walk around the town (although it was right on sun set so it wasn’t the longest walk ever) before we found ourselves a wine bar and tasted some of the local delights. By far the best wine we tasted was Quince (unanimous decision) and probably the worst was Cherry (which was quite reminiscent of cough syrup) so as a group we pitched in to buy a bottle of the Quince vino before we found ourselves a tasty Turkish restaurant and had some shish.

Early night tonight because we are off on a full touring day tomorrow with our conclusion being the walk through the Ephesus ruins!

Posted by weary_feet 08:11 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

4: Lady, Lady!

sunny 16 °C
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(This blog is named especially for Malia, Jacqui and Sue!!)

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Another early morning this morning as we headed out on a bus to Bursa. Bursa is about 4 hours drive south of Istanbul near the Aegean Sea. We firstly headed over the bay on a ferry for about an hour before we boarded a bus for Bursa. The bus ride was very uneventful and saw us arrive at Bursa about lunch time.

Bursa is a famous silk growing area so we spent some of our afternoon trawling the silk markets before heading to a thermal hammam (Turkish bath). I went with three other ladies from the trip and we were certainly in for a treat! It cost us 25 dollars for us to enter the baths, have a loofah scrub and a massage. The soak in the thermal pool was very pleasant (although slightly warmer than I would prefer) before it was my turn to be scrubbed and massaged. The scrub and massage occurred on a marble table within the pool complex. I had a lady that we nicknamed Helga because she was certainly well built and was very muscular. I hopped up on the table, had my swimmers hoicked up my bum and was then scrubbed within an inch of my skin.. I felt quite a bit like a prized piece of meat because when she was finished with my back she slapped me on the bum and indicated I needed to turn over. I then had my hands pulled up above my head and scrubbed all over my tummy, arms and legs.. The amount of dirt and dead skin that came off was pretty embarrassing (although apparently normal.. or maybe she was just being nice to me!) and I felt quite red raw! Next came this massage with soapy, sudsy stuff.. Again I wouldn’t class it as a relaxing massage but it did do the trick because once I was rinsed off I felt pretty damn good!

We headed out after dinner to see some local sites and sounds. First stop was to see some local Turkish men play traditional music in this little tea house. The men were playing with a bongo style drum and some stringed instruments which reminded me of lutes. The music probably wouldn’t be the next number one on MTV but its nice to hear that the locals still playing traditional arias. From here we headed to see a ‘Dervis’ prayer service. It was certainly an experience!! We arrived to hear the Imam droning (that is the only way to describe the way he was talking on the loudspeaker) on to his parishioners. Apparently he was answering theological questions for his flock. Whilst he was talking to his flock we were sitting inside this building (its not a mosque but it is a cultural centre where they all meet to celebrate Islam—I think) drinking Turkish tea and being preached to by a leader of the group. I have to admit that I didn’t understand a lot of what he said (mixture of poor English and the background droning) but from what I could work out the Dervis are Muslim and they celebrate daily in something similar to an Evensong prayer service that we would have in a Christian church. They play music and sing prayers (I think) whilst 7 men dance around in white dresses and brown felt fez type things. They spend about half an hour continuously turning in a circle around the imam. The dance signifies something to do with the belief that we are all turning around the sun and ultimately the universe is turning around Allah.. I think… I really struggled to understand the symbolism of the dance.. Taking away from the religious side of the performance it was pretty amazing to see these men continuously turn for half an hour and seemingly not get dizzy. They certainly didn’t fall over and didn’t run into each other which I think was pretty amazing.

I started to understand some of the differences between women and men during this service. For one the women had to cram into this mezzanine level above the dancers and musicians whilst the men stayed downstairs to see the service. To get upstairs we had to climb a very steep staircase and it was incredibly hot in the upstairs area… there was a couple of times when I felt quite unwell. At the end of the performance the men all left and then the women were allowed to come downstairs and then afterwards the women all met with the Imam to have their theological questions answered (the men had theirs answered before the show).. These are not broadcast! You do feel slightly like a second class citizen here.. I guess though you have to suck it up if you want to spend time in a Muslim country (and Turkey is pretty liberal and very moderate… Just imagine in Saudi or Iran!!)

By now it was well after 11pm so we went to bed as tomorrow we are off to Selcuk to see Ephesus.

Posted by weary_feet 07:07 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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