Archive for April, 2012

Red Sea, Dead Sea and now the Black Sea. (April 2012)

Friday, April 27th, 2012

About 80km north of Safranbolu is the town of Amasra, on the Black Sea. This very Turkish seaside resort has been home to Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Genovese and Ottomans. Today the population of 6,500 residents swells to over 20,000 during the holiday period.

Luckily it’s not holiday time yet so the streets were quiet.

We arranged with the local tourist office in Safranbolu to get a taxi, at a very special price, to take us to Amasra for the day. I wanted to get the best light while we were at the Black Sea, as the next day didn’t look too promising.

Safranbolu, despite being a world heritage site since 1994, is decidedly un-touristy, a bit like Amasra. English is hardly spoken and it’s difficult, but not impossible, to get a beer.

The souvenir shops sell items that cater to the Turkish tourists, like American Indian bow and arrow sets and very local arts and crafts.

And you hardly ever get asked to buy or try anything, apart from the Turkish Delight that is in abundance.

It’s this simplicity, along with the old Ottoman architecture, that makes Safranbolu such an interesting destination.

As well as the 19th century architecture there’s the Cinci Caravansary, built during the Ottoman period in 1645. It was a form of wayside inn or hotel for traders on the Silk Route. It’s still a hotel today and the rooms are open for you to view, that’s if they’re not occupied.

Everywhere you look in Safranbolu there’s history in the detail, and a few amusing sights as well.

Our run in with the law. (April 2012)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

This has nothing to do with advertising, marketing, photography or anything else I usually blog about.

So that’s a first.

On our ill-fated trip from Antalya to Göreme, where we nearly missed the bus, we met Dilaver at the bus station.

We met him again at our convenience stop during the middle of the night. He was on a different bus but traveling in the same direction.

We thought no more about this chance encounter until he turned up at our hotel in Göreme. He had tracked us down and wanted to have us back to his house, in the next village, for dinner on Wednesday.

Unfortunately we were due to leave on the Tuesday so we politely declined.

All this was communicated with his broken English and our non existent Turkish.

Not to be put off by this he decided to show us some of the sites that were off the tourist beat.

We went racing around the Cappadocian country side in his little Russian car, up and down dirt roads and reversing along major highways.

The communication between us was elementary and this was highlighted in a most unconventional way.

We told him we had visited Gallipoli and got into a discussion about how ferocious the fighting had been there.

He then produced a small service revolver and removed two bullets from the clip and touched them together.

We both immediately realised what he was demonstrating, recalling the story we had heard about bullets colliding mid air during the heat of the Gallipoli battle.

Now Dilaver is a Turkish policeman and one of the warmest, most welcoming people we have met.

We hope that any further brushes with the law will be equally rewarding.

The history of Cappadocia in three minutes. (April 2012)

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Cappadocia is famous for the Paşabağ and Ugup Fairy Chimneys, Uçhisar Castle, Göreme Open Air Museum, the Derinkuyu underground city, as well as Pigeon Valley, to name a few.

The water and wind erosion that created the Fairy Chimneys out of compressed volcanic ash called tuffs, has also been the cause of their destruction.

The houses carved out of this soft rock in Pigeon Valley, have become so prone to collapse that people are no longer allowed to live there. Many of the entrances have been blocked and replaced with pigeon holes.

Then there’s the balloon rides over all these amazing rock formations. During the height of the tourist season as many as 100 balloons can be seen over the area at dawn.

We arrived in Göreme on the Friday of a long weekend, and so did everyone else.

Tour coaches lined the road outside every major attraction and there were long queues at every entrance.

Apart from the geography, Cappadocia has a rich history of Hittite an then Christian cultures.

Christianity came to this part of Turkey first. The faithful, fearing persecution from the Romans, were forced to build their churches and monasteries underground or in caves built into the soft volcanic rock.

For two days our guide, Ilkay, showed us these early Christian hiding places, plus some Hittite ones as well, and told us their history.

Because of the hordes of tourists we were only permitted three minutes in each of the most popular sites.

So that way we learnt all about Cappadocian history in three minute grabs.

Ismet. (April 2012)

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Over the last few weeks in Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey we have visited some amazing Helenistic and Roman ruins.

But no matter how interested you are in history, after a while these ruins become just more piles of rubble, broken pillars and pediments.

This is where there is great value in a good guide.

A good guide helps you to see beyond the surface and makes you aware of the little things.

We had such a guide when we headed out of Antalya to Side, Aspendos, Perge and the Kursunlu Waterfall.

Ismet was knowledgeable about Turkish history, both old and new, and was anxious that we quiz him on any subject.

What made our day, clambering over more history, so insightful was his intimate knowledge of the details.

He showed us how the Romans constructed their columns, from the capital down, using iron rods and molten lead.

He explained, with diagrams drawn in the dirt, how the aqueducts could make water travel uphill.

However the highlight for me was a sign, carved in marble, lying near the Agora in Perge.

This butcher’s shop sign was about 1,800 years old but the simplicity of its design made it instantly recognisable.

It wasn’t all ruins as he did take us to the Roman theatre at Aspendos. This is the most complete structure of its type with an intact facade and colonnades.

Thanks Ismet.


A bit like Sorrento. (April 2012)

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

We have just spent three days in Fethiye, a resort town on the Aegean Sea, in the southwest of Turkey.

According to the guide books there are over 7,000 Brits living in Fethiye and a huge number visit here during the northern summer months.

When you see signs advertising ‘Real Sausages’ and they mean pork bangers, you know the Poms have a significant economic importance, especially when this is a predominantly Muslim country.

We visited the abandoned Greek town of Kaya Cukuru. This ghost town came into being when both Greeks and Turks were expatriated, back to their respective countries, after the Turkish War of Independence.

One of the main attractions of Fethiye is the beaches, especially Ölüdeniz or the Blue Lagoon.

The holiday season isn’t due to start until May and I get the feeling that the locals are taking a deep breath before the onslaught begins.

Everyone is busy preparing for the season, even the boat yard is buzzing, but they are more relaxed and there is little pressure placed on the few tourists who are here. The residents are just happy that the winter is over and they can start to earn a decent income again.

They also know this is their last few weeks of sanity before the tourists invasion.

It’s a bit like Sorrento in December.

Pamukkale and Hierapolis. (April 2012)

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

More destructive than a pilfering archeologist, that’s the fault line that runs through southwest Anatolia.

The ancient Hellenistic city of Hieraplolis was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 60AD. It was then rebuilt in Roman style and that’s what remains today. However a successive number of quakes have reduced most of the city to rubble.

The same fault line that destroyed ancient Hieraplolis, is also the main reason for its existence as a thermal spa.

Pamukkale, the Turkish name for the old Greek city, is renowned for a wall of white travertine that looms over the village, like the surrounding snow capped mountains, and the thermal pools filled with hot calcium enriched waters.

Legend has it that these miraculous waters can make you ten years younger.

We opted out of the full bathing experience, in Cleopatra’s Pool, and decided to walk down the travertine slopes in our bare feet.

I did have an extra spring in my step afterwards.

More opportunists than archeologists.

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

I wonder how much better many ancient sites would be if they hadn’t been vandalised by the archeologists who stumbled upon them?

Three Egyptian obelisks, misnamed Cleopatra’s Needles, now stand erect in London, Paris and New York.

Large chunks the Parthenon in Athens were stolen by the 7th Earl of Elgin, then shipped to England. They are now the pride of the British Museum.

Heinrich Schlieman, a German archeologist and fortune hunter, smuggled Priam’s Treasure, said to come from ancient Troy, to Berlin.

In 1945 it was stolen again, this time by the Red Army and taken to Moscow. It’s now in the Pushkin Museum.

Did they remove these treasures for the sake of art history or to enhance their own wealth and reputations?

Double take. (April 2012)

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

The luxury of having time is that you can return to a place you haven’t fully explored, a second time.

We did that at Ephesus.

On the first day the weather was miserable, dark sky’s and poor light.

That day I used the wide angle lens and tried to find drama in the panoramic views and gloomy grey skies.

The next day, after climbing over the ruins of the Basilica of St. John and a visit, by local bus, to the mountain town of Şirince, we headed back to Ephesus.

On our second visit the skies were blue and by late afternoon the light was magic.

I decided to look at this outstanding archeological site through different eyes and chose to use the long lens for the majority of my snaps.

Another advantage of having time to see places a second time is that you’re not always at the mercy of an over zealous Tour Guide.

You can go at your own pace and stop to ‘Smell the roses’ or even photograph them if you like.

Only having two hours to ‘Do’ Ephesus can take its toll on aging limbs.

Chasing Trojans, Romans, Christians and Greeks. (April 2012)

Friday, April 13th, 2012

There’s not much left of Troy, the ancient city made famous by Homer and plundered for treasure by German and English fortune hunters.

The weather was grey and overcast in Troy but brightened up for our visit to Pergamon.

Originally built by the Greeks and then modified by the Romans, the Acropolis at Pergamon is larger than the one in Athens.

Much to the annoyance of the local Turkish people, the best artifacts from Pergamon are located in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

The weather turned sour again for our visit to Ephesus, The House of the Virgin Mary and The Temple of Artemus.

The Temple of Artemus was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. There’s not much left here either, except a single column with a stork nesting on the top.

Gallipoli, the making of two nations. (April 2012)

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

We know the peninsula on the coast of Dardanelles as Gallipoli, while the Turks know it as Gelibolu.

Australians and New Zealanders come here in their thousands, especially around April 25.

The Turks come here in their thousands every weekend to picnic and pay respect to their fallen heroes.

The battle for Gallipoli defined the Anzac spirit but it was also a defining moment in the growth of the Turkish Republic.

Half a million men lost their lives on this peninsula and half of them were Turks.

They were lead by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a Turkish officer who had as much luck as he did strategic and military skills. Legend has it that his gold pocket watch saved him from a piece of shrapnel while he was watching the battle at Chunuk Bair.

Although he was only a Colonel he devised the strategy and lead the battle to defend the Dardanelles.

In 1924 Ataturk became the first Prime Minister of the new Republic.

The Turkish people have a great respect for Gelibolu and an admiration for the non Turks who died on their soil.

This is best expressed by these words, found on monuments that are everywhere on the peninsula. Words that were written by Ataturk in 1934.

“Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”