Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cappadocia at last

Memories and experiences are piling up. I am unable to get all of them detailed here so I'll skip a few. We got to Cappadocia yesterday home of the famous fairy chimneys. This area saw great volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The different layers have different densities. Over the years the softer material has washed away, often with larger dense sections left atop them. It's impressive to say the damn least.

This is a large area that at one time supported a large monastic community who carved several chapels into the living rock. Everywhere you look there a little windows. It's surreal and beautiful.

This morning at 5:30 am we took off for a hot air balloon excursion. I took over 200 pictures, so many that I ran down my camera battery. I'll upload these later but here's one or two.

The little sliver of land you see below is where we tried to land, but wind being a fickle thing we did not. We pulled up at the last second, barely cleared a small hill and quickly landed on an even smaller sliver of land without tipping or catching the balloon on any of the many small trees that dot the landscape..

I cannot describe how awesome this trip was. We visited several scenic overlooks over the course of the day and I took many more pictures, but the experience of seeing this landscape from the air was the best. Of course, we were also subjected to several shopping excursions today. I was less angry with the carpet shop because its a working shop and it was actually very educational. We actually got to see silk cocoons being unwound to make into thread, something I have always wanted to learn about. At last came the sales pitch, but its was a very good one. They laid over every conceivable type of floor cover, from crude kilims to three award winning carpets that simply took our breath away.

Panorama of the sales pitch

In the end we gave serious though to a "dowry carpet" which wasn't even made by the shop but is instead made by women to part of their first homes furnishings. These are fairly rare and of course, pretty pricey. They put one of their best guys on us and I will say that he was good. Sure, he was the first Turk who I had yet seen with a mustache AND goatee like mine, but that didn't sway me at all... We managed to get away without spending a serious chunk of change, but it was the closest I've ever come to buying one of these.

I'd dearly love to hike around this area for a few days, but as always, time is our enemy. We depart for Ankara tomorrow.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

By the Sea...

We rolled into Antalya two days ago. After so much go go go the group gets two whole nights in one place to get some wash done and catch up on sleep (must mornings start at 6am, hell there are times at home I don't go to bed until 3 or 4am).

The city is huge. It wasn't always so though. 12 years ago it was a small town with a charming old city (something rare in a country with so many earthquakes and a national obsession with modernization). Apparently the city has a kind of unspoken segregation. Russian and Eastern European tourists stay in the West part of the city, Everyone else uses the Eastern half. After hearing some horror stories of Russian tourists I am all to happy to let them have half the town.

We visit the old city, which is quaint with winding streets and some nice architecture. I would love to stay here at one of the small hotels. But the quiet days give way to raucus nights with loud bars, fights and prostitutes making it unbearable for anyone hoping to actually sleep at 3am. Too bad.

We visit the Perge museum which contains some amazing artifacts from Turkey's long history including some of the finest statues I've ever seen.

This morning we went to Aspendos, home of the most complete Roman theater in the world and it was truly a sight. Usually the elaborate backdrops are destroyed by time and material scavengers but not here. It's still in use today for operas and other large scale events.

Lots of things here are vast in scope so I took 8 pics and stitched them together.

Rossana backstage

We push on through the Taurus mountains heading inland along the ancient spice and silk trails. We stop at the grave of Rumi, the founder of the Sufi. In two days we'll get a chance to see actual dervishes (as opposed to the faux hotel shows). We shall see.

I took this picture during a brief roadside rest. It seemed to encapsulate three strong elements of Turkey. It's natural beauty, it's drive for progress in the form of the aluminum smelter and its ancient past.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Brain freeze..

There comes a point while visiting a country with vast natural and cultural beauty that your brain gets slightly overloaded. I think we reached that point yesterday.

Pammukale is not much to look at on first inspection. A shabby town in need of many civic repairs. Cheap pensions and the typical tourist stalls line the streets as you drive into town. The bus can barely make it up the narrow, rutted roads. Our hotel was comfortable enough and we turned in after a long day on the road. In the morning we drove up to the ancient city of Heiropolis in a light rain. What one sees there is another thing entirely. This was a spa town from waaaay back. And its not hard to see why. Natural hot springs deliver a mineral broth of calcium carbonate that over thousands of years has created a kind of frozen white waterfall down the side of the mountain. It is amazing to see. Pictures don't really do it much justice.

Especially mine. Hey, it was crappy weather. So take a look at some of these pics on flickr, which are much nicer.

Alas, earthquakes have shifted the natural water flow in the area. In fact, it must get 'a bath' once a week to maintain its form, and already iron is entering the system and staining some of the formations. You cannot swim or walk on the formations except for a small section.

I'd show you a cool pic of me but the net connection here is crappy and won't upload images for some reason. Just imagine it... it's pretty cool.

Hey I got it to work...

Luckily, there is an 'Antique Pool' on site which is quite nice. There you can cavort amongst fallen Roman Columns in steamy goodness amongst fat Russian Oligarchs and rude Germans.

The ruins of the ancient city are extensive, including many stone waterways that shunted the piping hot water throughout this city. There's a small museum build into an ancient bathhouse and a large necropolis outside the walls of the city. All warrant further exploration. Alas, time did not allow. We had to push through the Taurus mountains to get to Antalya. On the list of places I would expend the time and energy to return to Hieropolis is near the top.

Monday, May 04, 2009

double cross...

I'd like to talk at length about our visit to Ephesus, about this sprawling city-state with it's marble streets, it's library, it's colonades and more. But my phone is a clumsy platform for waxing poetic. Do a Flickr search and you'll find some great pics no doubt. We abandoned our group and struck out with an audio tour that let us explore some of the City's nooks and crannies. We also visited the excavation/restoration of
A large house with painted frescos and marble walls that in some ways surpassed Pompii.

It was a great visit. Our next stop was to be "the house of Mary" one of many homes the virgin apparently moved to later in life. We planned to just wait at the bus. But we didn't go to the house of Mary next, oh no. We were quietly diverted to a "leather factory". Shit. This is one of the oldest tourist traps around. You get steered to a friends shop and he gets a cut of any sales. Nice. We had to sit through a "fashion show" of overpriced jackets that would be useless in Ohio and a trip to their showroom. Rossana quickly bugged out and I followed suit. About half the tour waited outside. After almost an hour Rossana bust into the showroom, startling the salesmen, models, the shoppers and our guide put her hands on her hips and loudly asked

"Are we done with this nonsense now? There's at least half this tour that is unhappy, standing in the sun and ready to go."

It got very quiet. Then she left. The buss pulled out less than 5 minutes later.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


That's the only way to describe the countryside here. Yesterday we visited Galipoli, which was, on the whole, depressing.
I understand it's signfificance in history and to the Aussies personally. But it was still depressing to see the reminders of the folly of war.

Today was Troya or the city of Troy and after that Pergammon, which was quite impressive. This is where the Germans found the then swipped and entire temple, which they took back to Germany (now the
Pergamon museum).

We've stopped in Izmir for the night and will see
Ephasus tomorrow.