best of Turkey
DAY 1 - Dana - We began our tour at 4 pm. on the terrace of the hotel. As we introduced ourselves, we mentioned where we live, what we do and why we decided to come. We discovered that a few of our members have been teachers – they can raise their voices and give “the look”. We come from all across the US; some traveled pre-tour, and some are traveling more post-tour.
Tan gave a good intro to Istanbul, Turkey and Islam. As the muezzins chanted, Tan explained their words and their meaning. They are saying that God is the one God and there is no other. All believers are called to prayer.
I volunteered to be Journal master, which means that I get to hand over the journal each day to a lucky recipient. I also volunteered to take it at the end of the tour to type up and put together. We also chose buddies so we could do a buddy check before we head out anywhere.
Fifteen minutes later, we congregated in the lobby of the hotel to walk to the Blue Mosque. In the courtyard next to the unused fountain, Tan continued his explanation of Islam. Some things of note are the washing before prayer so that the person is clean before God, the five times a day prayers that can be done in the mosque or somewhere else, and the Friday noon service, which is the one to be done at the mosque with the congregation.
The architecture of the mosque is beautiful. We went inside, doffing shoes. The inside is incredibly impressive. Stained glass windows, domes, chandeliers, tiles – all elaborate and imposing, yet there is a calm air and it is inviting for prayer. The Namaz is a ritual involving prayer, the Koran and prostration before God. Some things of note inside the mosque are the Sultan’s Cage where he would pray apart from the crowds, and the Mimber, a staircase at the front. The Imam only goes halfway up the Mimber to preach, because Mohammad takes the higher position.
We went to a lovely restaurant for our first Turkish meal. We started with the famous Mezes – appetizers. They were all delicious! Salad, kabobs and rice pudding completed the meal. We all drank a toast to Joyce S’s birthday – Sherafe!
All in all, a promising first day. Good company, knowledgeable and friendly guide and a beautiful city and country. I’m looking forward to the rest of it!

DAY 2 - Diana - We gathered in the hotel lobby and walked up the street, past the ever-hopeful carpet merchants and beyond the Blue Mosque (officially, the Sultanahmet Mosque) into the ancient Roman Hippodrome. This remained an open space throughout the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, for 1,700 years in all. The Hippodrome contained three towers in a line at the south end of the ancient horseracing oval. The first was a spectacular Egyptian granite obelisk with carved hieroglyphics from the time of Tutrouse III (?). It rested on a newer but more worn marble base dedicated to Emperor Theodosius and depicting the seated emperor with his standing family and retainers. It showed him presenting the crown of laurel leaves to a winning racer and receiving tribute from some Persian dignitaries.
Next we threaded our way through lines of parked tour buses and entered the Ibrahim Pasha Palace on the western edge of the Hippodrome. This is now the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. This beautiful home is protected from the street by high walls. Inside is a lovely garden with roses and oleander. Tan took us through the Ethnographic section and explained the origins and ethnic mixture that makes the modern Turk. We then saw black tent homes made of woven goat hair. People who live in these are not truly nomads. The next display was a typical village home. Somewhat like Japanese traditional homes, there were low pieces of furniture. Bedding was stored in built-in cupboards in the wall. We then passed progressively more opulent and “Western European” looking rooms where the women wore silk dressed typical of the mid-nineteenth century in Europe and North America.
Then Tan led us across the courtyard to the museum proper. He reminded us to notice the room arrangement in the living quarters of a grand vizier of the sultan. The rooms were small. Each contained a fireplace but had no window piercing the outside walls. The artifacts were well displayed and were organized chronologically for the most part. Carved animal reliefs in stone, beautiful metalwork, precious carpets from the Seljuk period and dazzlingly beautiful calligraphy with much gold leaf fascinated me. Dana especially liked the intricate inlay of mother-of-pearl in beautiful wooden objects, such as Koran holders and reading stands. The last large room with its enormous red carpets hanging on the wall and the many objects, including fascinating miniatures, was absolutely beautiful. We gathered under a portico overlooking the courtyard and sipped tea, coffee or water while we shared our impressions and enthusiasms with one another.
Tan and Mary then gathered us together and we walked a short distance to the underground cistern. We descended marble stairs into a strange world of columns and watery reflections punctuated by isolated pieces of art or screened animation that seemed to be about the female body. There was a bit of a feeling that we had found the river Styx in the underworld.
The cistern was part of the Byzantine water supply that brought water from springs by gravity through aqueducts and stored in these huge cisterns or reservoirs. These in turn fed many running fountains where people could collect their water.
After lunch we walked to the Hagia Sophia, or Santa Sophia or Aya Sofia. This is the enormous church Justinian commissioned in 537 AD. I saw slides of this church-mosque-museum in 1968 and fell in love with it. It was a special pleasure to be able to see it. It helped that we were experiencing another bright autumn day in Istanbul, because the church carries more weight in its walls and has fewer windows and, consequently, less light than the Blue Mosque we saw yesterday.
The bus took us west to St. Savior in Chora. This formerly Greek church, turned mosque and then museum, like St. Sophia, was built on the outskirts of the city, near Justinian’s city walls that marked Istanbul’s western boundary. Now it is in the middle of this enormous city. On the bus ride home, we saw the old city walls and then drove along the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus. We had a welcome two hours to rest before meeting for dinner.
Dinner tonight was special. Perhaps it was the red wine several of us chose, but we ended up telling life stories. Adopted kids, a daughter born in Brussels, a sister who loves Vietnam, and lots of good travel tales were shared. Eating in the cool evening air in the garden of the Green Hotel with competing calls to worship and a nearly full moon - did Rick arrange all this us? We agreed we had made the right decision to come.

DAY 3 - Joyce N. - Many of us sighed as we left the roof top restaurant overlooking the beautiful Bosphorus Sea today, our last day in Istanbul.
Our sighs were soon replaced by huffing and puffing as Mary led us up the hill to a toe tapping morning at Topkapi Palace. The weather is really glorious and Tan gave us an overview of the palace by a large-scale model of the same. The first courtyard (a large park) was for everyone to visit and enjoy. Within the walls were the second and third courtyards and accompanying buildings. The third courtyard was secure from visitors to the Sultan and his Harem. Harem meaning "family." Various sultans added buildings over about 400 years and since the palace was redecorated in an eclectic Western style that is what you get: Eclectic! The kitchens (where, at one time, hundreds of people worked to feed the family, staff, visitors and sometimes the public) were vast. They are in the second courtyard and now hold porcelain and glass. The Chinese Celadon and blue and white china from the Ming Dynasty were brought by land and sea over the Silk Route, as was the Japanese Imari.
Luckily, Tan was allowed to lead our group on a tour of the harem, where the Valide Sultan (mother of the Sultan) was boss. The Sultan was allowed four wives and did not deign to dally with the concubines, as they were actually attractive, compliant recruitees to be ladies-in-waiting and companions to the wives and family. The rooms were large and lavish with tile and gold gilding. Beautiful Turkish baths. It was a treat to have Tan's enthusiastic and comprehensive guiding in the Harem.
Left on our own, many of us visited the "Relics," the "Treasury" and the "Costumes" buildings before heading back to the hotel for our bus pick up. Mary gave us our stamps and we boarded the bus for the Pera district where restaurants ("there's an old Turkish saying - you can't get bad food in the business district!"), ATMs and shops abound. FYI - at the end of the alley by the post office there is a fantastic Italian restaurant. Karl and Joyce, instead, made a run for the Galata Tower and its 360-degree views.
Adnan, our bus driver, took us to the Grand Bazaar. We entered through the Nuruosmani Kapisi (gate) and Tan oriented us on Kalpakcilar Street. Some of us raced and some mosied through the market looking at gold, silver, leather, fabric, costumes, t-shirts and the Old Book Bazaar. Then came the Spice Bazaar where we made a small dent in their Turkish coffee, saffron and honey, but not pets, supply.
On to the Bosphorus Sea and a private charter for a sunset ride down the European Coast and up the Asian side. Adnan took us to our train, the Ankara Express night train. We boarded at 10pm. The compartments were compact, comfortable and tidy. Mary and Nuri served us all raki - it just hit the spot. We chuckled and visited till the porter put us to bed. What a day! Tomorrow, Ankara.

DAY 4 - Reg - It was up early to see the sun rise on the train while having breakfast.The landscape was reminiscent of Eastern Washington, dry and treeless where not irrigated, and with high bluffs and rolling hills. Alongside the tracks on the power pylons, storks had built nests on the top around the power cables. These nests are huge structures and completely engulf the tops of the pylons.
We were off to see the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. On the way, there was a traffic signal, which gave a countdown in seconds to when it would turn green. No getting upset here about when a signal would change - the exact time to wait was obvious! Finally the museum high up the hill, just outside the original walled city, called the citadel.
Ankara is a mosaic of old and new with development going on apace. Since it was chosen as the capital a little over 80 years ago, it has increased in size maybe tenfold. The museum itself was a wonder. It described the very beginnings of known human civilizations. It had original Stone, Bronze and Iron Age artifacts found in the surrounding Turkey. The earliest of these being cave paintings, stone implements and fertility goddesses dating back to the 8th millenium before Christ, at least ten thousand years old. The workmanship is remarkable. The Bronze Age items were incredibly well made considering these were all hand fabricated - no industrialization to help here.
It was hard to break away from this fascinating place, probably the best of its kind in the world. But leave we did to go to the Mausoleum and Museum of Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in 1923. And what an architecturally impressive place this is - built on a grand scale with huge plazas, tall buildings and immense squares. This place was as grand as the old medieval palaces. It had pictures and memorabilia of Ataturk in the museum. We had the experience of seeing a changing of the guard while we were there. A very imposing and maybe intimidating place.
Off to the Cappadocia region. Cappadocia is not a place, as we found out, but an area. We start off in the arid country and the nearer to Urgup we got, the more green rolling hills and trees we saw, together with farming, animal husbandry (sheep, goats, donkeys and cattle). In fact we saw flocks of sheep on many hundreds being herded on the shoulder of the highway. Some of us noted the red tinges on the hills and speculated that this might be iron ore. Once again, a land of contrasts. New houses next to derelicts. Sprawling villages each with its own mosque, minarets dotting the countryside like lances pointing up to the heavens. A landscape that not many of us had seen before. And the weather, clean and warm.
We got to our hotel, the Greek House, and were welcomed by the proprietor and his family. A solidly constructed place that has unique rooms although well appointed. There will not be further description so not to spoil the excitement and joy of future tour members. Dinner was great, a tasty turvee and rice, washed down with a local wine. And, of course, platters of fresh bread and the ever present spring water. Dessert was a delicious fresh baked baclavar made by the proprietor's wife.
Dana completed a long eventful day by singing a song for us, after dinner, called "Ring Them Bells."(available on the recording “Liza with a Z” by Liza Minnelli – D). This was a great bit and was a fitting end to the day. We all climbed into bed to contemplate the next day.
PS - Woke up the next morning with the house cat sleeping on my feet.

DAY 5 - Jan - Urgup under clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Almost immediately we encountered tufa formations resulting from volcanic eruptions occurred several thousand years ago. The volcanic ash, tufa, splayed the valleys, followed by molten lava. The eruptions formed many layers. Rain and snow and ice cut into the fine soft rock, forming undulating shapes. The dome-like shapes are the "Fairy Chimneys."
We first viewed the Red Rock area comprised of sulfur, iron and copper, and had our first chance to walk around these formations. Our next stop was at Uchisar, which comprises an old town and a new town. The town overlooks the Valley of Pigeons. Here, many of us climbed down into and through the various cave-like areas noticing how cool they were during the warm midday sun. Throughout our drive we encountered breathtaking views of large expanses of these cave-like dwellings. Next we drove through Urgup and stopped to watch stone masons shaving the stone for building homes. The stone homes are owned by the wealthier people and cost $5 a stone for carving. We also noted 2 women, one harvesting beans and another cutting wood. By the way, the stones last a half-century, but must be maintained every 2-3 years as they are subject to cracking due to the weather.
At 12:00 we stopped at the Goreme Museum to view wall drawings and frescoes on the walls of monasteries and churches, many of which were located in Goreme. Prior to housing the monasteries, many of the structures were utilized for various activities including burial of the dead, wine making, etc. The colors used in the frescoes were primarily reds and blacks dating back to the 11th Century AD. This group ushered in the Iconoclast Era or the Banishment of Icons - no human figures. Designs were employed for religious symbols instead. We stopped to view St. Basil, St. Barbara and the Buckle Church. The caves (churches) were comprised of four columns and a dome-like ceiling to represent freestanding churches. We noted various depictions of Jesus the Pantocrator. These churches were built by donations from the people.
At 1:45, feeling quite hungry, we had the opportunity to eat lunch with a family in Uchisar. The hostess, Sevim, her spouse, Ismail, daughter in law, daughter and son were present. After a hearty meal of salad, beans & bulgar wheat, we sat around "conversing" with them, discussing topics including schools, our political situation, their work and Sevim's attempt to be mayor of the city. Many of us left exhausted, returning to our lodging, The Greek House, where dinner awaited us.
The evening culminated in three musicians who provided music and dance entertainment for us. This was a very full day indeed. I am struck by the contrast of the very ancient and the very new reflected in the landscapes with electric wires in the foreground and the tufa dwellings in the background; the difference in dress of the younger women and the older women; the modern day cars and the horse-drawn wagons - sharp contrasts difficult sometimes to comprehend.

DAY 6 - Karl - A few souls hit the streets early to observe the daily trek of the goat/sheep herd up to pasture. At 8:00am we gathered in the hall of the hotel for breakfast. Dana was saying goodbye to the kittens. At 9:00 we departed for Red Rock and en route we dropped off Mary's husband for a final visit to his village and family. Upon arrival, we are turned loose to play "find your way down the hill and through the Valley of the Imaginations." Mary frets about poor Bob who has trapped himself, but eventually escapes. Howard and Jan, our professional climbers, are observed peering from the highest caves.
After this adventure and a short "camera" stop to climb the hill and observe the Valley, we continued on to Avanos and the Red River. A stop at the Kaya pottery factory gave everyone a new appreciation of the skills of the artisans as well as much knowledge about quality pottery. Dana was quick to claim 1st prize (a teapot) and Joyce S. tested the "you break it, you buy it" policy.
The next stop found us at the underground city of Kaymakli, where Christians sought refuge from their enemies. As many as 8,000 people sometimes occupied the 8 levels of the maze of tunnels. This proved to be a severe test for Reggie and Karl, who have more height and less cranial protection. However, all emerged safely.
Our next bus jaunt took us past numerous potato fields and terminated at our monastery hotel, where the attractions included a pool and bovine lawn service. The cafeteria dinner was preceded by happy hour and deep discussion on our impressions of Turkey and other topics. Dinner concluded another enlightening day in our Turkey adventure.

DAY 7 - Mary B. - Our wake-up call this morning was given by a very handsome black rooster crowing on the terrace outside our window. Another beautiful day in Turkey - bright blue sky and less cool than yesterday. A breakfast buffet awaited us with the usual assortment of cheeses, olives, tomatoes, breads and jellies - also hard-boiled eggs and little muffins. Several of us enjoyed hot milk in our coffee today and an unusual condiment - rose jelly.
At 9:00am, we took off on a ten-minute walk (downhill) to the mosque - formerly the Greek Orthodox church of St. Gregory. The Imam, Halil, greeted us in his garden, and we entered the mosque (sans shoes) and seated ourselves on the floor in a circle. Halil, using Tan as interpreter, gave a history of the church. Frescoes have all been covered with whitewash. In the coming years, the whitewash will be removed from the frescoes and the mosque will become a museum. The present congregation is very small in the summer, but averages 50-100 in the winter. Many questions were asked - from children's religious training to prayer beads, to the recent terrorist attack in the US. The Imam was very emphatic in his condemnation of the act of terrorism - stating that neither killing nor suicide could be accepted or tolerated by Islam. We were impressed by his frankness, his knowledge, and his sense of humor (which showed his wonderful smile).
After a 1 1/2 hour session, we made our way (uphill) to the monastery, loaded our bags on the bus and had lunch. As at last night's dinner, we could choose from an array of many different salads plus several hot dishes and fruits.
As we left the little village, the children waved… and we waved back. Tan gave us another brief Turkish lesson and spoke of the education system in his country. Our bus sped on toward Konya and the terrain changed from the lava-strewn hills to a flatter countryside. Tan now talked about the caravanserais - important stops on the Silk Road at the peak in the 11-14th centuries. These were huge facilities - 8 hours of camel walk apart - which sheltered merchants, their families, servants, armed troops and camels - on the journeys that brought spices, tiles, pottery, gunpowder and especially silk from Beijing to Asia Minor. These were major institutes to promote trade. They charged no fee but took a percentage of the sales of goods. Trips took 8-9 months and were interrupted only by the Crusades and Mongolian raids.
We stopped to visit Sultanhani, one of the largest of the caravanserais. Built in 1229, it remains a real monument to commerce. Dark clouds have appeared and a light rain - the first of our trip - fell as we headed on past dusty fields, which gradually disappeared under extensive new industrial parks, grain elevators, and many commercial buildings on both sides of the highway. Lots of construction going on here - "rainbow rows" of multi-storied apartment houses in vivid shades of green, rose, bright blue and yellow.
Konya is a very modern city with a mosque on almost every block. Our hotel, the Seljuk, was just off the main street of the city. Birdsong and parrot "talk" greeted us as we entered the lobby. (Dana immediately went to investigate). Wonder of wonders - tonight we are indulged with elevators, AC, English TV and bathtubs! Free time after checking in gave the group time to check out the internet cafes, the post office and some of the shops on the main drag. Dinner tonight in the well-appointed dining room of the hotel was very good - beginning with a delicious chicken soup and ending with the ever-present rice pudding… We've really shifted gears from the small villages of the last two stops on this ever-amazing tour.

DAY 8 - Bob - Up in the morning - put on your money belt - tour like the devil all day. Breakfast at 7:30 consisted of the usual cheese, olives, tomatoes plus scrambled eggs and omelets - all served buffet style. Loaded baggage at 9:15 and off to Mevlana Museum. On the way, we passed through the center of Konya and saw the 13th Century summer palace. The surrounding grounds are now a public park with military clubs in the center.
The Mevlana Museum contains the tomb of Mevlana Rumi - the spiritual leader of the Whirling Dervishes. Mevlana was following his own path but many of his followers began to establish strict rules for the sect. The dervishes go into a trance when they whirl. The hand and arm positions signify heaven and earth. Music is provided by string instruments, flutes and kudum. The museum was very impressive with lots of color and beautiful exhibits.
On leaving Konya, we noticed many new apartment buildings - most with solar water heaters. Stopped for lunch at Tinaz Tepe restaurant and had a choice of fish (trout) or kebabs. The bread (lavas) was especially good. On the drive to Antalya, we passed through the Taurus Mountains (peak 12,000 feet). As we drove, Tan talked about immigration within Turkey (human tidal wave). Most villages people have access to many TV stations. Seeing what outside life was like led many people to move to the cities. However, lack of jobs and the end of terrorism has made many move back to their villages.
On arrival at our pensions in Antalya (part of the group at Villa Perla and part at Ninova Pension) and after a brief "free time" we walked to the Turkish Bath.
The bath was quite an experience. The men first lay on a hot!! marble slab to bake and were then scrubbed with a glove called bent, pounded and dried. This could be used for Marine boot camp. The ladies didn't have the hot slab, but the rest was the same except their attendants sang while they worked. Tea was served at the end.
Back to the hotel and everyone in a different direction for dinner. Mary and I went with Wendy and Reg to find the Kral Sofrasi Restaurant. Wendy led the way and we tramped through most of the city until a kind soul (a boat owner) led us through alleys and dark streets to the restaurant. The special dessert was as good as Tan said it would be. Our kind waiter led us back to our pension where "housemother" Mary was waiting up for us. The lucky old sun had set long ago!

DAY 9 - Leonard - This is our day to cruise the Mediterranean Sea. We followed Tan down to the docks and boarded the TCQ Harami. We later learned that Harami means burglar or thief (it may be just as well that we didn't know beforehand!).
Wouldn’t you know that we left our camera on the bus last night so we can't spice up this narrative with photos. However, having a photographic mind, I knew I could recreate our greatest moments. The bay at Antalya is like a giant crescent. As we sailed (actually motored) out of the harbor we got a great view of a very impressive skyline with hundreds and hundreds of high rise hotels and apartment buildings. One of the most interesting sights in Turkey to me is the high rise "skeleton" - the unfinished building. There were only a few of them in the crescent.
I stopped writing to have a glass of wine at the pension bar. Now that I have started again, I realize my writing is worse, but I care less. Back to the cruise. We dropped anchor at Rat Island to go for a swim. Great photo op! Water was warm and very salty. After getting all on board, we continued to Kemer, where we anchored for lunch. Lunch was salad, pasta and a fish called Kolyos. Everyone agreed that the lunch was delicious (this may have been because no one wanted to be keel-hauled by the captain). The fish were little guys cooked in their own oil. We watched some water skiers and para-sailors and generally loafed about.
We were given the option of returning to dock on the boat or riding the bus back. The captain belayed that option because the wind started kicking up and he thought it might be too dangerous. Actually, I think he didn't want to take a chance on us throwing up all over his boat. All in all it was an enjoyable day away from the bus.

DAY 10 - Joyce S. - We boarded our bus in Antalya. Headed north through the Taurus range. Stopped for lunch at scenic Lake Salda, it was a treat that our guides did arrange. The landscape was a mosaic of Turkey with goat herds, nomads and carts, cotton fields, horse farms and donkeys. Blend with mountain peaks, blue skies - nature's art. Pamukkale was our final destination which lay past ruins of ancient times, the cotton castle defies imagination. Another day spent in Turkey - oh so fine.
News of the US strike on Afghanistan lent a somber note to our group and Tan's Turkish newspapers did little to enlighten us about transpiring events. Mid-morning found us sipping herbal tea in Fatma's nomad tent of goat hair and marveling at the contrasting lifestyles in Turkey. Lake Salda beckoned and a few hearty tour members answered the call to test the clear, blue water. The hum of the bus motor was our signal to leave tranquility behind and continue on to Heirapolis. Bus discussions centered around terrorism and the current crisis. Concerns about Turkish reactions to the US action in Afghanistan as well as Turkey's position among its neighbors were expressed. Tan also educated us about the background of the current precarious state of Turkey's economy.
By the time we stopped for a photo op of the calcium cliffs, we were all familiar with Tan's favorite expressions: Come on - Estimated Turkish time - That's another story. And the fact we all could have been content not knowing - "sarcophagus" means flesh eater.
Pamukkale/Hierapolis, a sacred city of the Romans, proved to be a vast area of ruins of a city and surrounding area first constructed by the Greeks in the 4th Century BC and later occupied by the Romans. Calcium pools and white deposits border a sprawling Roman cemetery and avenues lined with columns, arches and fallen stones with intricate carving. The theater left many in awe and was where we saw one of the few fences in Turkey - one that foiled Dana's plan to supply the head for the goddess statues and create a photo for posterity. A swim in the thermal calcium pool has surely rejuvenated us for the remainder of our tour, or increased our toe bruises and bacteria levels. A large buffet on the terrace of our hotel concluded a most diverse day.

DAY 11 - Howard - This morning we left Pamukkale, passing again the "Cotton Castle" on our way to Kusadasi on the Agean Coast and our last Turkish city on our tour. We drove a couple of hours through dry, dusty farming valleys, bathed in yet another beautiful day of sunshine and warm temperatures. Tan wouldn't "make any promises," but he did deliver great weather the entire two weeks.
Our talk on the bus today was about women in Turkey. Today there is a large difference between rural regions and the cities. Traditions in the eastern part of Turkey particularly hold sway in family life for women. Their roles are wife, mother and housekeeper - yet this gives them the central head role of the family. Divorce, working outside the home in the western sense, and birth control are not much allowed. This lifestyle is heavily tradition bound and doesn't easily change. By contrast, western and southern cities provide women much more opportunities. Work outside the traditional home yields good pay and increasing opportunities in teaching, medicine, military, police and civil service. Also higher divorce rate, though much smaller than in the US. Over the past 20 years, both men and women have moved to the city from rural areas, selling off their possessions, only to find city life no better. With intense competition and few skills, they don't really succeed until 2nd/3rd generation - a very similar experience to immigrants to the US from abroad.
For lunch, we stopped at a very nice roadside restaurant - outdoor dining under grape trellises and hanging melons. We had pieda - a kind of simple pizza with meat or cheese, and mushrooms baked with sheep cheese - oh my - such good mushrooms! I could have easily climbed into one of the hammocks hanging about and slept away the afternoon. But alas, we had to move on.
About an hour later we arrived at Ephesus and drove up into the mountains above the ancient Roman/Hellenistic city - a preview of tomorrow's exploration spread out before us. On the way back down the mountain we could see the valley below - now all filled in with silt - that was a harbor in Roman times.
After checking into our hotel we had dinner in the hotel. Most of us walked down toward town after dinner but I had to come back early to do my duty with this journal. But it is so pleasant sitting on our hotel balcony looking out over the harbor town of Kusadasi, listening to the crickets sing that I can't complain at all. Tonight is warm and relaxing - it will be hard to leave this area of Turkey day after tomorrow.
Our other big adventure for today was the Roman town of Aphrodisias, dedicated to Aphrodite, Goddess of fertility, fun and fornication. This ancient city had its origins over 5,500 years ago in the Bronze Age and peaked during the Hellenistic era. The ruins are vast and only a small part has been unearthed - a long term project led by NYU in the US. I could go on and on about the details of the stadium, amphitheater and agora (central market), but I'm quite sure I'd bollox the many details from the barely readable notes I scribbled along the way. See the pictures! What I take away from the sites is the grand scale and marvelous engineering and beauty that must have existed when these structures were intact. The cost in human lives and labor must have been immense. It is such a shame that these cities could not have survived intact the ravages of time.

DAY 12 - Wendy - Down to breakfast at 7:30am. Eggs are "just right" today for Mary L! Keith is under the weather today. We are surprised to see four large cruise ships maneuvering in the bay. This does not bode well for our tour of the ancient city of Ephesus. It will be crowded! On the bus at 8:30am. All on time as usual - we're a punctual group. Tan gave us the run down of the day's busy itinerary; "w.c." information was high on the list and is gratefully received as usual. As we rode along the highway we could see peach and orange trees for the first time, lining our route. Blue skies, green hills and sunshine gave the promise of a lovely day.
I will not detail the history of Ephesus, except to say that this impressive site rests now at the 3rd and final location. Excavation has determined that Ephesus was originally on the water but gradual silt build-up has caused it to be now approximately 4 miles inland so had lost its usefulness as a port city. As we stood in the front agora, or open space, Tan detailed the layout of the city and points of interest we would cover. (Agoraphobia - the fear of open spaces, comes from the word "agora").
As he spoke, a convoy of buses arrived, disgorging a multitude of tourists that we guessed were from those boats in the bay! Many nationalities were represented and we caught British, Italian, German and French accents. As the open space became noisier and more crowded it was easy to imagine that this was just as it was when Ephesus was part of the Roman Empire, with the residents and visitors exchanging information as they gathered in the same location. Tan really needs a "brolly" (umbrella) today, or whatever, as he is hard to follow in his grey shirt among the crowds. I decided to keep a lookout for Dana or Jan, as they have bright tops on. ETBD guides like to keep a low profile so they don't subscribe to carrying flags, signs, etc. We just have to keep alert and close! The hordes keep arriving but everyone is interested in learning about the site and we move fairly evenly through the areas.
Tan talks of the water supply, vital, of course, which was obtained from the rivers and carried to the city by aqueducts. We see the red clay pipes underfoot that run throughout the living and bath areas. No bottled water for the Ephesians! Cats are present in large number here. Dana and Mary L. are happy to see these furry friends. I think Diana's a fan of felines also. We see one man taking great pains to get a photo of a little cat. He must have been a cat lover too, I'm sure! How many cats are there in Turkey, anyway?!
We walk the marble road, which runs the length of the site noting the grooves in the ancient stones. These were to aid wheel traction. Chariots were driven along here until the road was finally blocked off. Ancient drag racing? We wonder if so. The teeming crowds move past our little group as Tan teaches - the tramps of many feet pass by on the road, echoing the sounds of the past. Tan arranges for us to visit the Terraced Houses, which are being excavated and restored. These were built 3-4 Century AD and occupied by the Roman upper class, terraced above the marble road with stores on the ground floor to the front. These homes were huge with as many as 5 bedrooms. Elaborately marbled floors, frescoed walls, large clay pots, marble fountains, tables, etc. The homes included an inner atrium for light. Slave accommodations, kitchens, baths, theaters. Mosaics were set at an angle on the floors to reflect light. Much use of water also made inner rooms light and pleasant. One item of unique interest was a painted wall where perhaps children had drawn animals and soldiers (low down on the wall). Also a theater where wall frescoes depicted female masks. Tan suggested that these families were entertained by strolling players in their homes, for their guests to enjoy.
The terrace homes were followed by the crème de la crème of the site - the impressive façade of the Library. Flanked by the South Gate and another agora in front. We also visited the theater and passed the gymnasium. The visit to Ephesus was a long one so details I'll leave to the history books. Suffice to say it was an amazing day and one I'll never forget. Ephesus visit complete, we ran the gauntlet of the vendors! Many bought knick-knacks.
We then scattered to the museums, others to the hotel for a wash and brush up. Dusty feet, faces and hair, I'm sure! After this cool off time, down to the town to do, guess what, MORE SHOPPING!

Rick Steve's Best of Turkey, September 29 – October 12, 2001
Diana & Keith, Essex Junction, VT - Joyce & Leonard, Concord, CA - Jan, Kirkland, WA
Mary & Bob, SC - Wendy & Reg, Anacortes, WA - Dana, New York, NY
Joyce & Karl, St. Joseph, MO - Howard, Lynwood, WA.

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