Turkey tour journal
Collaborative Turkey Tour Journal --- June 16-30

Friday, June 16 & Saturday, June 17 --- Let the adventure begin!... Barbara Stender
The Ohio contingent gathered at church on time (a good omen for the coming days). British Air is definitely the way to go - - -charming people, smooth connections and GOOD FOOD (Why can’t the US airlines manage that?!). Fifteen hours later, flying in over the Black Sea and Bosphorous we had our first view of Istanbul from the air. Quickly navigating customs we were met by Iris (our official guide, and unofficial worrier, mother and teacher for the next 2 weeks). Driving along the Marmara Sea, we entered Istanbul through the old city gates arriving at the hotel, to find our East Coast Co-Travelers waiting at curbside. We walked/gawked our way to an exquisite garden restaurant for our welcome dinner (wonderful phyllo cheese pies, grape leaves and Turkish pastries)... We fell asleep to the sounds of Turkey (windows open/no screens/no bugs) - - - drums and flutes, boats waiting passage through the Bosphorous, and the final evening call to prayer.

Sunday, June 18
We left the hotel early to climb the narrow stoned streets with shops just opening and men sitting at small tables on the sidewalk drinking their tea or coffee. We navigated the steep steps on the sidewalk under window boxes of flowers and balconies that protruded from the buildings. Our reward at the top of the hill was to see St. Sophia on the right and the Blue Mosque to our left. With a bright clear sky above, long early morning shadows fell from the gardens of both holy places creating an air of awe.
Morning vendors, one balancing a tray of bread resembling on his head, others selling postcards and booklets were busy already. Iris gathered us around her giving history, information, and specific details to observe. By the time we reached the Underground Cistern we realized the day was going to be warm. We welcomed the coolness as we entered the vast depths of the cistern and its high multi-arched ceiling.
Rows of tall regal columns, lit at the base, a long wooden walkway just above the water, and an occasional drip from the ceiling’s condensation created a dramatic effect of ancient timelessness. We followed a long passage through the cistern’s massive arched columns. A platform angled off revealing a unique column, with unusual swirling designs on it. It was there we saw large fish in the water and a sign explaining that they kept the water clean by eating the algae. Further on at the end of the walkway were two other unusual columns. A mysterious stylized head of Medusa was at each of their bases, one head was upside down while the other one was placed sideways. Were the ancient architects playing a joke or was there another reason?
Returning to the heat and sunshine of the day, we ventured over to the St. Sophia Cathedral. Dating back to the Byzantine era this structure was once the center of the Eastern Christian church, comparable to the Vatican in Rome. The huge wooden doors had been used before in another ancient structure and contained symbols of Apollo along with the cross. Iris pointed out other symbols borrowed from long ago beliefs. The grandeur of the building – its flying buttresses, dignified heavy columns, tall arched windows, high domed ceilings, wide balcony, various colored marble walls, intricate mosaic pictures of Mary, Jesus, and early Christian rulers – shared space with many massive disks of Moslem calligraphy added later. This was an impressive building, full of heritage and tradition, inside as well as outside.
The Islamic Arts Museum displayed rugs, calligraphy, sarcophaguses, porcelain, armor, and war equipment through the ages of great rulers and nomadic tribes. Iris’s explanations of the symbolism on rugs and other objects along with the written information gave us an appreciation and a sense of varied cultures and history. The high balcony of the museum overlooked an obelisk in the hippodrome and provided us with a side view of the Blue Mosque.
Due to time we grabbed a fast lunch. Some chose shish kabobs from a street vendor and others ate a salad in a café patio with Iris, who hustled into kitchen speeding up our service. We quickly boarded our air-conditioned bus to head to Chora Church, now the Kariye Museum, with its amazing mosaics. This early church’s detailed artwork honored Mary depicting her sacred life along with Jesus’.
From there we cruised the Bosphorus observing the crowded hillsides loaded with many architectural features on the European and Asian sides. Amazing were the numerous and varied freighters traveling this major water connection from the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea and beyond. Different mosques, industrial areas, long bridges, and fortresses gave a sampling of life in Turkey.
Ending our trip on Asian soil, we wandered through a seaside market with small shops, an open-air restaurant, a boy pushing a cart full of produce along the stone street, a glass case containing iced, fresh fish for sale. Turning the corner and climbing a hill we stopped at a market displaying fresh vegetables that Iris helped up identify.
We indulged in an ice cream cone before boarding the bus to go to Lale and Tankut’s apartment for dinner. In route we saw the commercial district for wedding dresses. A wide variety of ornate gowns – most for brides, but a few for mothers and attendants – were displayed in second story windows. The multitude and showiness of the gowns in a Moslem nation surprised us. As if on cue, several cars passed wrapped from front bumper to trunk with a white or a red bunting. Crowded in the back seat sat a bride and groom!
Once at Lale and Tankut’s fourth floor condo, we took our shoes off, toured their city home, and relaxed. Lale’s simple dinner really was a banquet. We enjoyed sampling soft cheeses, yogurts, vegetable dishes, kibbe, breads, salads, crackers, grape leaf wrapped meat, fruits, and baklava. Our gracious hosts made us comfortable and answered our many questions. For Bill and Sharon it was a reunion with the guides from their first trip to Turkey.

Monday, June 19 - Jean
This was a jam-packed day of contrasts – the drama and intrigue of Topkapi Palace, the peacefulness of the Blue Mosque, the frenzy of the Grand Bazaar, and the spirituality of the whirling dervishes.
Another beautiful day began with our visit to Topkapi Palace. Through the Imperial Gate we entered a world of intrigue – eunuchs, concubines, wives, sultans – and all the stories and drama that went with them. The harem had private apartments, the largest being that of the queen mother. Beautiful tiles decorated the rooms. Pavilions were built in the courtyards and in the third courtyard was the treasury. Inside the treasury were jewels valued more than England’s crown jewels. Displayed were John the Baptists’s skull and hand(?).
Lunch at the palace was one terrace overlooking the Bosporus and the Golden Horn – both learned about many years ago and now brought to life.
Changing gears, we covered our heads, took off our shoes, and entered the Blue Mosque. Blue tiles everywhere! People were praying as we took in this vast space – men in the main area and women in a small area behind. This is truly a beautiful mosque, both inside and out.
The Grand Bazaar – WOW!! Pretty much sums up this covered market. It’s a virtual maze of shops selling everything imaginable. “Buy something you don’t need!” and “Am I next?” were shouted out to us as we passed by jewelry, souvenirs, bone boxes, rugs, clothing – you name it, it was there! It’s a bit overwhelming but fun, especially when you begin to bargain. It was almost a relief to leave the bazaar and sit outside, but how could you miss this part of Turkish life?
Our day of contrast continued when Lale brought a friend for a “Q and A” about Sufism and the whirling dervishes, which some of us were to see this evening. This was quite interesting and helped us understand the ritual which brings one to a higher level.
After dinner we took the bus to a neighborhood where we walked through narrow streets to a building where empty coffins representing Sufi leaders were seen through windows. The men in our group were sent downstairs while the women went upstairs. After removing our shoes and covering our heads, we sat on the floor behind a screen where we could look down on the floor below. This segregation of the women, while strange to Americans, seemed like being transported to another time and it was appropriate for this setting. However, we were invited to sit downstairs to see the dervishes.
Music and chanting began followed by the entrance of the dervishes wearing tall, brown felt hats and black robes over white shirts and skirts.
The whirling, done in four sections, was amazing! You could see the trance-like state the men were in as they whirled. There is a definite pattern to their footsteps and to their movement around the floor. Heads are tilted, one hand is turned up and one turned down. Between each of the four sections, the dervishes would greet each other and the two older men who watched. It was very easy to see how one could become mesmerized by the whirling. The chanting and music became louder and more of the seated men swayed and moved their heads to the beat of the music. The louder and faster the chant, the more the men swayed until the ritual slowed and ended.
What an experience and an honor to observe this ritual. This was truly a highlight of the trip!

Tuesday, June 20 - Kristi
This morning we flew to Cappadocia by way of Kayseri. This region is famous for its weird geological formations and cave houses. We were introduced to our driver Mesut and the big white bus. We headed off to our hotel, the Greekhouse in Mustafapasa. This is a delightful old mansion where the Greek mayor of the town lived until the 1920s. Suleyman’s family, who own the hotel, had a tiny white puffball of a kitten that pretty much ran the place.
We ate a delicious lunch – Suleyman’s wife is a wonderful cook – and set out for the Goreme Open Air Museum. The “museum” is a monastic settlement that dates from about 1000 AD. We went into several of the cave churches that had carved-out domes and decorative columns as well as crude red-painted artwork. The last church we visited was the newest and the biggest. It was well preserved, with complex frescoes that had a bright-blue background.
On our return to the hotel we stopped at an overlook too see a huge rock jutting up from the ground that was all carved out- like an ancient high-rise apartment building. They do like the high-rise! There was also a camel that you could take a ride on.
That night we had a village-style dinner – all of us sitting on pillows around two round tables. More delicious food was served – this was my favorite food of the whole trip – and we tried some of the regional wines. After a couple of days in Istanbul, it was nice to be out in the countryside and see a very different part of Turkey.

Wed., June 21 - Nancy Wellman
What a day! It began with a certificate and ended on one! Up at 4 a.m. with others for a bumpy, curvy van trip to Goreme for a balloon ascension. Coffee and a biscuit warmed while watching two balloons being filled with air and warmed with propane. A tight fit into the basket for 8 plus the pilot and then up and away. The air was filled with about 7 other balloons dipping and rising. Brushed bushes and tree tops then whooshed into space as the land dropped away and we found ourselves suspended over narrow tree-lined canyons which dot the valley of Cappadocia.
The sun rose glinting between fairy chimneys of tofa (ash and compost hardened into pumice-like rock toped with lava rocks). Interesting landing, bouncing on a squash patch. Farmer astride a braying donkey came to check the damage (none, if there had been a small fine would have been levied on our pilot). After celebrating with a glass of champagne, a few pictures and a handshake with our very able pilot (although he confided it was his first day we suspected otherwise), we piled back into a van to return to the Greek House to share a healthy breakfast with the rest of the Turkey travelers.
Suleyman, our innkeeper, escorted us on a village walk after breakfast. When an elderly woman opened her door to step outside Suleyman asked if we could explore her home – 3 houses cobbled together to enable generations to live together. She invited us to walk into her root cellar carved into the ground – very cool. In typical Turkish hospitality fashion she insisted everyone take an apple from the cellar (harvested last fall and still fresh). Poor woman had lost her 20-year-old grandson in an accident very recently. Walked through a building now housing a teachers’ school. Suleyman demonstrated custom of turning a column beside the outside door to determine if the building sustained any earthquake damage. The column is to the side of the door and fastened by pins at the top and bottom to the stone building. If the column can turn the pins are good and the building hasn’t settled. Rest of village walk was up and down but mostly UP! Town patterned after the Greek Acropolis, hillside homes, and town center below. Surprise stop at a Garden Café in a canyon – cold drinks all around as we sit midway up a canyon wall in large cave entrance. Honor system to put coins in to replace drinks and nuts taken from the frig.
Then on to Goreme Open Air Museum – a wonder of the world. Caves, churches, kitchens all carved in the hillside – country churches. Simple but beautiful. Entered one church (originally had been two but wall in-between had been removed) and picked out miracles from the Bible as painted on the walls and ceilings. Face of Mary with lovely eyes was arresting.
Off again to another village to visit Fahriye – a woman living with her mother (about 74) and father (deaf, no teeth) and taking care of her l ½ year old grandson. Neighbor lady helped serve lunch as we sat in their summer room overlooking the valley. The family owns a vineyard but it looks like a hard life. She welcomed our questions while her father remarked that we women were dressed very conservatively!.
Reluctant to see the evening end, many of the group decided to visit the “Mall” in the center of the village where the son of the owner promised to demonstrate the water pipe. Great fun – Diane was arrayed in dancer’s costume and many others took a turn dancing to music supplied by a townsman who dropped by. Others experimented with the delights of the Turkish pipe. After a major shopping spree all adjourned to the local tavern and sampled the local beverages. A short stroll brought us back to the Greek House and bed.
What a way to celebrate the Summer Solstice!

Thu., June 22
Most of us are finding the olive/bread/jam/cheese combinations we most like. I favor cherry jam on soft Italian style bread. Only Barbarians eat olives for breakfast.
11 of us bused to river hike. Much climbing gravel-ee 6’ hills---fast! Suleyman makes us keep our eyes on our feet. Finally Iris usurps the power; we can take eyes off our feet. (Priscilla”we know what our ft. look like.”) We see holes in 30’ walls & rows of pigeon houses.
The river we follow is a mere trickle, but gives enough H2O for trees & shade. Purple fuzzy wildflower like sm. Snapdragon, orange poppies, stinging nettles, goosefoot, sm. poplars. A sq. of stones marked a carbonated spring. Barbara, Al, & Joan drank and received extra powers of clairvoyance which I’ve always thought would be handy.
Then narrow path widened into 2 tractor wheel path. Some parts smooth stone w/ H2O carved rivulets, 60% mud, 20% oozing over our shoes mud. We fought off huge snake.
Mesut broomed our muddy feet before we boarded bus to proceed to Avanos where we got stuck on bridge not wide enough for bus-truck to pass. Truck should have yielded but ended up backing out with 6 cars which had naively followed.
Kaymakli is a maze of caves occupied for over 4 K years. We felt like mice in tunnels which opened into 8’x10’ rooms w/ various niches in walls & huge round foot thick doors which could be closed to keep invaders out. Some leaders gave “foreigners” a bad rep. Good-bye to cones & caves, hello broad grasslands (wheat & oats) w/ mtns in background.
We are heading for Guzelyurt We meet our first herd of cattle, ON THE ROAD! “At least they’re staying in their own lane” Diane. Two lil’ girls on a donkey follow the herder.
Our hotel is maximum quaint…church like dining room, adjoining 20’x60’ nave, airy vaulted ceiling, has 8 rooms on each side. Some(mine) has small vestibule w/ door to bath & winding hanging staircase. On second floor is dorm like setting. I’m in a fire station? There’s a pool.
Good buffet dinner-we all sat together at very long table. Setting favored conversation so we stayed until 10-ish. We are all getting along very well…no one too talkative or too quiet.
Fav. sightings...most involve overloaded donkey or horse carts. And dogs. I have fur craving. And ceilings! Signing off... this is Joan Kamm. Thank you all for your generous spirits & love.

Fri., June 23 - Carla Helmke
It makes you realize how truly young our surroundings are, when everything around us is ancient and/or recycled. We awoke to the roughness of sundried linens in very lovely rooms with foot and a half deep walls and bars on the windows. For the first time this trip, I did not hear the early call to prayer. Just glad that I didn’t have to deal with a midnight trip down the circular stairs in the double decker room.
Although the inactive volcano is visible in the distance , the dependence on building with tufa is less than in Mustafapasha. There is a greater abundance of underground cities in the area including an arched stairway in the town square that leads to (what is now) an eating area underground.
On the way to Konya, we stop in a short time at a caravan serai (Sultanhani-13th century Selchuk) that were traditionally a day’s walk apart (5-15 km). This particular one has been restored and is more elaborate than many. The caravan serai were a free fortress for travelers to wait to form a caravan going the same direction between Europe and the Middle East. The thick walls provided protection and coolness.
We continued on a long flat drive through wheat fields and migrant tents to Konya , very industrial and conservative city. Our hotel is a lovely urban hotel, although our luck with electrical systems has not been great and the air conditioner has not been as effective for us as just opening the window. Once again , we have a system that requires us to put our keys in the slot to turn on the electricity. One of the nice amenities at this hotel is free internet access and although accessing is not always easy, it is great to read and leave messages for home.
By the way, I let my kids know that I had a lovely birthday yesterday between singing on our 5 mile hike and the candlelit cake after supper. The hotel manager gave me a comic T-shirt from the hotel. Thanks to all of you for the surprise!

Sat., June 24 - Collective memories from Marge & Nancy
The schedule said Pamukkale but wow it was so much more!
The morning started where our trip began with a discussion of sufism. A short walk from our hotel brought us to the Mevlana Museum. One of the world’s great mystic philosophers was Rumi, later known as Mevlana or ‘Our Guide’ to his followers. Although sufism is not talked about much in Islam, Mevlana has been credited with bringing the values of a God of love and compassion to the religion. He promoted the ideal of brotherly compassion and love.
I’m reminded that I have a volume of Rumi’s poems and vow to find it when I get back.
The Museum was easy to spot with its fluted dome of turquoise tiles. There was a bit of a crowd and Iris had her work cut out for her getting us through the many Turkish tourists.
Inside is Mevlana’s sarcophagus (he died in 1273) along with other eminent dervishes.
The whirling dervish ceremony is actually a mevlevi worship ceremony representing union with God. The ceremony starts with a prayer for Mevlana and a verse from the Koran. After three circuits around the hall the dervishes drop their black cloaks to symbolize deliverance from worldly attachments and spin as they relinquish earthly life to be reborn in mystical union with God. With arms folded on their breasts to symbolize submission they move out into the floor and begin to whirl. By holding their right arms up, they receive the blessings of heaven, which are communicated to earth by holding their left arms turned down. The ceremony ends with chanting of passages from the Koran which signifies the sealing of the mystical union with God.
We soon had to leave to drive to Pamukkale. Many cherry trees and almost as many roadside stands selling cherries. And the poppy fields! We did have a nice stop for solid yogurt sold with honey dribbled over it! Everyone’s sweet tooth is satisfied! We see migrant workers in tents made for families. And then Pammukkale – looking like a cotton fortress from afar.
I remember the pictures of gleaming white calcium formations (travertine pools) from posters of Turkey and here we stand looking right at them. No wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. The warm mineral water, cascading over the cliff edge has cooled and deposited calcium forming shelves, pools and stalactites.
Of course Romans knew a good tourist attraction when they saw one and built Hierapolis to take advantage of the water’s curative powers. Founded around 190 BC by the King of Pergamum it was a cure center hosting a large Jewish community and early Christian congregation. Earthquakes took a toll on the city and after one in 1334 the locals apparently called it a day and left. However it was interesting to walk the ruins of the city streets, pass through their many gates and see the coffins that people had made up for themselves even before their demise. Sort of pre-paid funeral system I guess. Up a steep hill is a roman theater with seating for more than 12,000.
A short drive down the hill brought us to present day Pamukkale village. A modern hotel with pool awaited us. Here we found the red spa – the hotel boasted a rock cone about 7 feet high with iron laden sulfur water seeping down into a small round pool. Nice place to sit and watch the fireworks (celebrating perhaps a wedding or two) Of course we all had to rinse the bathing suits out with the water running a dark shade of red.
Marge and Barb experienced a Turkish Bath (rafia scrub, suds and rub/rinse) with HOT water. A massage with baby oil insured that they slept well that night. As did we all.

Sun., June 25 - Bill Chidester
Jarron and Kristi started the day with a swim, while Sharon took advantage of the flatness of the valley to run. Most of us enjoyed a leisurely start to the day. The beds were rather hard, but we slept well after the fireworks and music from the wedding celebration going on nearby.
Our first stop was at a textile outlet for a 15 minute stop. One hour later we got back on the bus with our “treasures”. Kristi waited outside and befriended a beautiful puppy. The dogs and cats of Turkey have been as welcoming as the people!
Our next stop, only 1 km away was Laodocia – a city mentioned in scripture. There is literally nothing standing there but a few stones. They are beginning to be put together so you can get a little idea of what things might have looked like at some point in time during the life of the community. One needs to realize there were almost always at least three or four different cultures that would have built on the same site. Iris told us about the prediction in Revelation that if the folks of Laodocia there didn’t change their ways, their town would be destroyed. Well, so have most other towns of that time, so I’m not convinced that the prophecy was fulfilled. Still, it was fascinating to see what evidence there is of the civilization that once existed there – clean water system and sewers, places of worship, businesses and leisure, homes of the wealthy, as well as an amphitheater for thousands of people. In this age of home theatre centers in every house, it was delightful to see how important community was these people. In most cities there was a theatre, an Odeon for musical performances and another gathering place for political concerns to be addressed. The citizens came from the surrounding areas to attend performances and talks. It must have encouraged participation by all in a way we fail to do today.
One member of the tour (name withheld to protect from prosecution in case ‘borrowing’ tile fragments is illegal) pulled some stone and tile fragments that were visible as part of the loose dirt wall. They were two different types of ceramic. One wonders if they were pottery of some kind from thousands or hundreds of years ago. The site was filled with this material. It gave me a sense of the challenge and excitement one must feel when participating on an archeological dig. Each new civilization built on top of the old one and used the fallen stones, no matter how beautiful or well carved for filler as paving stones or whatever need they might have.
We drove then to Aphrodisias and had lunch. Wonderful warm pita type bread was served along with salad, mushrooms and cheese, and meat and cheese pizza like dishes. During the time we were entertained by a man playing a stringed instrument called a saz, similar to the mandolin. His parrot was “singing” along and did tricks like getting a sugar cube out of a tall glass. He refused to eat the cube until the musician put some water in the glass. It was fun to see them work together.
After lunch I retired to the WC, a delightful place with showers and commodes, but also a trellis with greenery and flowing water. It was very clean and all done in marble. After using the facilities, I flushed and while watching most of my work go down, was startled to see a long thin black shaped object trying to climb out! It seems I was sharing the commode with a small salamander! Welcome to Turkey – always filled with unexpected surprises.
We had a fascinating tour of Aphrodisias, a Greco-Roman site with temples, schools, a stadium and much more. This is a famous site worked on by one archeologist for 30 years until his death – Kenan Erin. The site is slowly being uncovered and where possible being reconstructed. We stopped at an Odeon, a covered area originally where music was performed. Iris “encouraged” me to sing something, so I said a prayer and then led the group in responsively singing the Lord’s Prayer. Iris also invited me to “say something,” but I declined the offer since this is vacation and I was also worried about a rainstorm that was closing in on us.
I was amazed to experience rain – it was a Turkey first for Sharon and me. We are used to bright sun and cloudless days. The rain cooled things off a bit and settled the dust. It was appreciated by us all – locals and travelers alike. I am amazed by how much difference there is in temperatures by simply being out of the sun. Being inside, under a tree or even under the protection of a trellis can drop the temperatures significantly. When we toured with Suleyman, the owner of the Greek house, our hotel in Mustafapasha, he could always be found standing in the shade. No wonder! The direct sun light is oppressive.
Again the driving portion of the trip, now heading to Kusadasi, was beautiful. Iris is very informative and gives us in depth knowledge of whatever topic we think to ask about. We bid farewell to Jarron and Kristi who are going south to do a cruise. They will meet up with us on Thursday in Istanbul.
The land is hilly and filled with trees, a welcome sight after so many days of rocks and fields. This is a land with so many variations that each day dispels another myth and brings more surprises. We are also thankful to have Mesut, our driver, who handles the mountain and city driving with great skill and calm. We ended the day in Kusadasi, a resort city on the Aegean Sea near Ephesus. We enjoy the view from our hotel balconies and the feel of city life again. The only challenge here is the hill we must walk up from the waterfront to get to our hotel. It does not stop many of us from going out for a nice dinner by the shore. A wonderful ending to another wonderful day.

Mon., June 26 - Tom Helmke
From my balcony, high up, I can overlook Kusadasi and the Aegean. I feel as if I am in one those 1950’s movies such as “To Catch a Thief”. This is a truly gorgeous resort town stretching out for miles. As I watch the cruise ships coming in I am sad to realize in a short time, or maybe already, this beautiful place will be just another Cancun like tourist trap.
Breakfast was further proof of this feeling. Among the offerings was scrambled eggs and French toast. We are getting closer to a Denny’s grand slam breakfast.
Leaving our hotel for our daily journey we make a quick stop at the Artemis Temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Like many other sites we have seen, a nearby Mosque of the 13th century has been built from the ruins of this temple. The site is today a swamp surrounded by short walls and one pillar supporting a lone stork’s nest.
Our next stop is to the home of the Virgin Mary. Though one has to question whether this is the exact site, the knowledge that this general area is the location of the Virgin Mary’s final home inspires a feeling of awe. The entire site is small and delicate, a truly serene place. Many of us filled bottles of water at the well here.
Next we stop at Ephesus. HUGE! The main street easily stretches for a half mile. The marble road is nearly as long. As far as we can see, stones mark areas awaiting there turn to be excavated. As our bus leaves the site, the ruins appear to be following us. The size of this city is hard to imagine.
After a quick lunch at a locale cafeteria, we stop at the Ephesus museum. Here we viewed many small and fragile items, as well as a collection of statuary. Security was of interest here. We were unable to look closely at the coin collection because there was no guard to escort us and windows throughout had large holes in them.
In the late afternoon we arrived back at the hotel. Many of us hit the swimming pool and enjoyed the sea breezes that make Kusadasi an attractive site for cruise ships.
For supper we all head for the main street along the beach. Here I notice for the first time familiar western music, everything from rap to the oldies. Though the hustlers outside most businesses are quite annoying, the ordinary folks in the grocery store are as friendly as could be.
So ends one more day on this wonderful trip.

Tue., June 27 - Marge Cater
Tuesday began with a leisurely, 9:30, bus departure to a small mountain village, Sirince – Almost Cute. Originally these Turkish villagers lived in Greece and were part of a political exchange with the Greeks who once lived in this village. In route from Kusadasi, we passed high rise apartments, the multicolored tubes of two huge water parks, parachuters landing in a small airport, and hillsides full of olive, peach, quince, and pear trees terraced and framed with a protective half circle of rocks. An occasional tethered horse or line of bee boxes were tucked along the hair pin turns as the bus shifted gears up the mountain.
Once in Sirince our bus barely squeezed through the lower buildings. Parked, we walked the twisted narrow shop lined streets with vendors asking us to look or taste their wares – wine, purses, soaps, jewelry, and table clothes. Iris identified dried spices and soup mixes telling of their properties and how to use them. We zigzagged up stone streets to the abandoned Greek Orthodox Church. On uneven steps we passed terraced rose gardens to a high courtyard with the Virgin Mary standing in the center of a fountain.
To one side of the courtyard we were able to enter a home that was being remodeled. Inside there was a small kitchen with a two burner stove, one of the other two rooms had a stairway leading down to the lower floor. Back in the courtyard there was a café with Coke umbrellas overlooking the opposite hillside filled with two-story, Greek styled homes looking like white bee hive boxes with long rectangular windows and wooden doors.
A once blue wall led us into the church. Carved above the thick wooden doors, an ancient Greek passage greeted us as we went down a few steps in to an empty church. The ceiling had several small domes; the center one still had its painted design. New balconies were along the back. In the front several niches in the side chapels still had frescos now protected by clear plastic window. The restoration of this Orthodox Church is being sponsored by a Lima, Ohio group. What a small world!
We were on our own for lunch. Our group ate overlooking the entrance to the village bazaar area accompanied by a kitten, who knew we would willingly share our meal with it. Several lunches included a glass of ‘ayran’, a liquid yogurt. Some drank it while others used it as a dip for their spinach or meat pastries. Dessert was a huge succulent peach. Once finished with lunch we had a short time to wrap up our shopping before heading back to our hotel.
On the way down the mountain we stopped to photo what was originally thought to be part of an aqueduct. Closer inspection revealed it was the partial stone wall of an old structure that had arched openings. We wondered what stories it held of the past.
Down in town, some of the group went to the Tuesday Market while others stayed at the hotel to rest, lounge by the pool, or go to the Lady’s Beach. The Market had an assortment of booths and items to sale. Fresh produce – various types of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and lettuces – was arranged to attract the buyer. Stacks of grape leaves were held in place by a green pepper so the wind would not scatter them. Different types of honey and pomegranate oil filled some booths. Others contained potted flowers or herb plants while some sold dried herbs and spices. Pots, pans, tea glasses, plastic containers, toys, and all kinds of clothes were other options to purchase.
Women pulled wire carts filled with plastic bags of produce. Only a few children accompanied shopping parents, but a number of youngsters helped their families to sell goods. A few vendors napped in the heat, some drank tea being served by a boy with a hanging tray, while others actively worked the passing crowd.
For dinner , we were lured to two different fresh fish restaurants. In both places we could pick our own fish from an iced case, have it weighed to determine the price, and it was then prepared to order. Dining on the water’s edge with fishing crawlers loaded with nets close our table added atmosphere to the occasion.
After dinner on our walk back to the hotel, we realized the streets had come alive with people and activity. A few shop owners were still inviting us to look and buy. At one point we walked in front of a group of men, sitting on folding chairs at the edge of the sidewalk with their backs to the street, cheering the World Cup Soccer game on a small tv screen. The feeling of the night was festive and relaxed.
We stopped at a pasta shop for brownies and sweets. The water front, that had only a few people during the heat of the day, was now filled with couples pushing strollers, older folk sitting together, talking and watching others go by, and children enjoying playground equipment. Two young girls laughingly attempted to belly dance while their parents visited. The first stars were beginning to appear as we climbed the steep road to the hotel.

Wed., June 28 - Al
We have many kilometers to go before we sleep in Canakkale on the Dardanells this evening so we get an early start, boarding the bus at 7:30. We pass Ephesus on the highway to the north, admiring once again the stadium and the main street visible from the north. On through Izmir, the former Smyrna, according to legend founded by an Amazon queen who moved here from Ephesus, and the home to the blind poet Homer and the historian Heroditus. Izmir at 2.5 million is now Turkey’s third largest city and is largely an industrial city. It takes about one hour to drive through.
We head for Pergamon. Lyzimakos, a general of Alexander the Great, established this city with its Acropolis at the very top of a mountain. A narrow one-lane road winds its way to the top. Pergamon and the Acropolis are beautiful even on a windswept day. The sun is intense but the wind keeps us cool. It’s Mary and my 37th anniversary, but nevertheless somehow the group and I manage to lose Mary. I hustle back along the acropolis and find Mary engaged in intense conversation with a person from another tour group, under the shade of a large tree. She was unconcerned and fully expected us to pick her up on the way back. We have lunch in the lower city of Pergamon and then proceed to the Asklepieion of Pergamon which was one of three major health centers of the GrecoRoman empire (along with Epidauros, and Kos). We thread through the access road along the military sector, receiving a warning from Iris not to take any pictures of the military compound or training field. The Asklepieion is impressive. Asklepios, the God of Health was recognized with a temple built in the 4th century BC. This is quite an impressive place. The physicians clearly recognized the important relationship between the mind and the body. A theater for patients to perform plays that would help keep their mind off their physical problems, running water to provide a soothing background sound, and a health center with voice channels for the “gods” to reassure patients that they were being cured!
We hit the road again headed for Cannakale but first make a stop at an olive oil factory. This region is recognized for the very best olive oil in Turkey and the Mediterranian. Olive trees everywhere the eye can see! We pass through Edrimet, the birthplace of the father of Gov. Dukakis. The Greek Dukakis family had to move from here in the eairly 1900’s as part of the “exchange” that moved tens of thousands of Turks from Greece and Greeks from Turkey. We made a quick stop at the beach at Altinoluk at the request of Barb who wanted to dip her toes into the waters of the Aegean. It is a gorgeous beach with crystal clear water and smooth pebbles of marble. Almost everyone was seduced into picking up a few of the beautiful, multicolored marble pebbles to take home.
We passed Assos, home of Aristotle, teacher of Alexander the Great and sped on to Troy to try to reach there before the gate closed.
We arrived a minute or two before six p.m. and had an informative guided tour by Iris through this most impressive city of nine lives. We could see remains of the first Troy, established about 3000 BCE, and followed the various walls and structures built by the Hittites, Greeks, Romans, and many others. We had to imagine what Troy was like when the water lapped at the walls of the city, since the Dardanells is now about 4 km away due to silting of the river delta. We followed the story of the Trojans and the siege of Troy, some climbed the wooden replica of the famous horse.
Finally, on to Canakkale and the Anzac Hotel, checking in at about 8 p.m.. We enjoyed a group dinner that lasted until 10:30. Dinner included a tasty pastry at the end that was brought by Iris in honor of the 37th wedding anniversary of Al and Mary.

Fri., June 29 - Sharon Chidester
What we are learning today as we make our way across this land, waddling our way toward home…
• Travel with friends. As a group you can handle anything.
Carla came prepared with duct tape that we borrowed in Guzelyurt for sealing a bottle of water from the well at St. Gregory’s church. Bill wanted to take it home to put a few drops in baptismal waters to connect us with Christians in other times and places. He didn’t want anyone to accidentally take a drink however. Today Carla rolled out the tape again so I could repair my sunglasses that had popped apart. I think the heat at Pergamum finished them off and at the summit some force of the Gods threw Barbara to the ground and whipped my sunglasses off my face. Perhaps that is why there were little papers with prayer requests wrapped around branches of the small tree at the edge of the cliff. It was a fabulous view. The tape lasted a couple hours and then Priscilla gave me an extra pair of hers…much better.
• Time is relative.
We had a 7:30 departure time so we could catch the 8:00 ferry across the Dardanelles. At least some of us did. Bill was left on the 4th floor (and we didn’t start counting until the 3rd level) with all our suitcases, waiting for the less than speedy elevator to return for him. Meanwhile all the other luggage and people were loaded on the bus, and since it was a one lane road, Mesut needed to move toward the roundabout and get into the ferry line. So they drove off with Iris and me in pursuit, pulling suitcases, a bell boy pressed into carrying our other bag, Bill walking empty handed because Iris thinks he has lost weight and she doesn’t want him to start another nose bleed. I concur. We entered the roundabout pulling our luggage, blending with trucks, buses, and cars since there are no sidewalks, and we caught the bus as it stopped to enter the line for the ferry.
We missed the 8:00 ferry by this time, but what an adventure. Thanks to everyone for waiting for us. Masut’s wife Hulya joined him last night and we will drop her off at their home near Gallipoli. Mesut’s name means “happy” and Hulya means “dream wish.”
• I couldn’t bear the thought of loosing one of my children.
We visited the site where New Zealand and Australian troops came ashore at Anzac Cove in 1915 and met their death. Over 200 were buried there facing a large engraved stone cross. Three stones off to the side honored the nonchristians. At the entrance was carved this message.
“Those heroes that 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 the 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. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1934”
The top of the hill above us is called the Hill of Blood. Between the graves grow roses and other flowers. Some families have had an additional inscription engraved. Iris says that the museum exhibits are to help people understand how terrible war is. As I look up at the hill, I remember cross country meets on rainy days, the struggle to get up a hill after one race had gone before. I think how awful it must have been to step over the bodies of friends, slipping on the blood-slicked mud to a certain death ahead. My heart aches for them and for mothers, wives, and children so far away.
• This is actually an ice cream tour of Turkey.
At one of our relief stops, we toured a small zoo behind the gas station. It was (surprisingly) free and contained an interesting collection of animals: iguana, ostrich, angora hares, camels, pelicans, swan, fox, squirrels, monkeys… On the way to the bus I convinced Barbara that she could not leave Turkey without trying a Magnum Bar. So as not to eat alone, she bought one for me and offered a bite to Marge and Nancy, who thought they were heading to the bus, but instead joined Ann at the ice cream freezer. We must drive Mesut crazy bringing all this ice cream onto his bus. He takes so much pride in keeping it clean.
• This is a land of incredible variety and beauty.
We stopped for lunch in Tekirdag where we started with a delicious warm appetizer of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, and mild peppers. As we gazed out the bus windows, the rolling farm fields could be anywhere. We saw a patchwork of golden wheat, brilliant yellow sunflowers, green corn, small gardens, olive groves, orchards, but no houses. People do not live near their land here, but gather in villages.
Much of the day we have driven along the seaside: The Dardanelles, The Sea of Marmara, and our hotel in Istanbul overlooks The Bosphorus. We have returned to the place from which we set off, some of us with the same room, none of us with the same amount of luggage.
On the way here we stopped at the Spice Market to feast our eyes on the herbs and spices hanging over our heads to dry, and gathered in baskets and bins all around us. We tasted and purchased Turkish Delight, nuts, and spices to take home, along with a few other odds and ends.
On the way to the hotel, Mesut drove us past the Hippodrome and Iris explained the significance of what we saw. Dinner tonight will be in a fourth to fifth century cistern near the Hagia Sophia. As we walked there down a quiet stone street, we were treated to a great variety of 7-foot tall hydrangeas in every imaginable shade of blue, lavender, and pink. We could peer down into the cistern restaurant from small windows at the street level. The cistern was immense, with two to three foot thick walls. The interior was lit primarily by candles in large candelabra strategically place around us. A fan blew tissue paper in the fireplace to simulate a fire, but without the heat. A pianist played a variety of songs behind us.
The first course was a seafood crepe bathed in a light white sauce and drizzled with cocktail sauce. We had a choice then of lamb, grilled chicken, or chicken curry. The sides were the usual rice and french fries, hot and delicious. The vegetables were tender crisp and lightly seasoned. For dessert we were given a choice of ice cream with or without rice pudding. The ice cream was delicious. The chocolate version was not overly sweet, and was creamy and intensely chocolate. The rice pudding had a delicate but intense vanilla taste. Oddly enough this restaurant did not have Turkish coffee, although the guys at our table were all able to start out with the traditional Turkish Raki.
Iris some tokens of our homeland and our thanks for a splendid trip. Consensus at our table was that another trip to anywhere with this same group would be worth taking.

> back to top
Main Page | About us | Events | Tours & Travel Services | Tailor-Made Travel | Incentives | Contact | Site Map | Disclaimer & Copyright
© SRM Travel 2008