welcome to greece, please go away
2001.04.30, somewhere on the adriatic sea
from olympos, our plan was to take a day boat tour around the nearby kekova island. surrounding the island are sunken ruins, clearly visible just a few meters underwater. this sunken city may well be the source of the atlantis stories. alas, the weather was awful and we decided to 'make time' and continue along the mediterranean coast. when the weather cleared up briefly, we stopped by the beautiful waters of fetiyeh for dinner, then raced for the small town of mugla to wait out the coming storm and plan the next phase of our trip: the aegean coast.
the storm lasted a bit longer than we expected, but that gave me an uninterrupted morning of writing and editing to push out episode 11. the time consuming task is actually selecting and cropping the images: I have now taken well over 1200 pictures on this trip alone, and have adapted to the 'unlimited film' nature of my camera by taking several shots of the same subject. it is all worthwhile, though, because of the excellent feedback that I have gotten from so many of you!
we followed on the heels of the storm and arrived for a beautiful afternoon in aphrodisias. this city was home to many sculptors and their students due to the proximity of marble sources. the good statues seems to have been moved elsewhere, however, and the small on-site statue exhibit is not worth the extra fee. the most striking ruin was a tetraphon gate, which stood before the temple to aphrodite and later the bishop's palace. even more beautiful, though, was the accompanying natural beauty. whereas the mountains and high plains had just been starting to see the first buds of spring, the fields of coastal turkey are full of wildflowers in red, yellow, and purple. a 'shortcut' across the site to the stadium was not short, but it was worthwhile to be surrounded by a sea of color and sunbeams.
the next morning we took a small side-trip to the much-anticipated pamukkale waterfalls. these have never been waterfalls, really, but rather travertine formed by a hot water spring running through underground limestone and redepositing the calcium carbonate at the surface. (it is wonderful to travel with a trained geologist.) the circular pools that form from the slow buildup have attracted tourists for thousands of years, and todays hotels are built on top of a roman bath house. alas, the water flows much less today than it did in the past, and the pools are not as impressive as I'd hoped. the deposits are most impressive in minute detail, where the water still flows.
the morning was not really a letdown, however. we got an excellent sample of talcum-fine sand from the pools, and explored the nearby ruins. I attracted the notice of a pack of visiting high school girls, who liked my hair and wanted to take pictures with me. I had been thinking of getting a haircut, but this changed my mind. instead I decided to call myself "american rock star" since I think most people can understand at least that much english.
in the afternoon, we visited ephesus. this was a very large city, 250,000 people lived here at its height which made it bigger than most modern towns we had stayed in on our trip. it stretches across a few valleys between low hills, with an enormous theatre, stadium, and a large senate house which seems a theatre in itself. before the period of grand works, the city had been moved several times as the nearby river filled in successive harbors with silt. jesus' disciple john and mother mary are said to have moved to ephesus after his death, and we visited the site commonly recognized as the house where mary lived until her death. mary is also recognized in islam as the mother of the prophet jesus, but the site seemed catholic dominated to me. saint paul also lived in ephesus for a time, encouraging the local christian population and angering the then-dominant pagans. unlike the other ruins we visited, in ephesus quite a bit of common dwellings have been excavated: houses, storage buildings, etc. these are inconveniently covered by a big ugly shelter, which you must pay another large fee to enter. we did not. eventually the population center and civic power moved away, following the harbor and trade, and the city was abandoned. I learned later that many of ephesus' grand marble columns have been moved elsewhere over the intervening centuries: they can be found in both the hagia sofia and the blue mosque in istanbul.
we were the last people to leave the ruins, and did not arrive in our destination of izmir until well after dark. I mentioned before that none of the cities in turkey seem to have street signs at all, and this was especially frustrating in izmir that night. to be fair in assigning blame, the lonely planet city maps also suck. (my driving and sense of direction are perfect, of course.) after more than an hour of getting lost on twisty backstreets and getting shunted onto the same stretch of freeway without finding the area we were looking for, I gave up. I sped out of town and along the peninsula toward the small town of çesme ("cheshmay"). small towns are easy: there is usually only one square, and you can walk everywhere you need to go. no more driving in turkey for oliver: my dad returned the car to izmir the next day.
çesme is a great coastal town. in its center is an ottoman-era castle, home now to goats and chickens but offering a great view of the harbor. we settled into a few days of relaxation: drinking beers, reading, a bit of shopping. we stayed in a very pleasant hotel on the waterfront: only us$13/night for both of us. I'd had too much turkish food at this point, and was very happy to find a 'mexican' restaurant. I actually really enjoy seeing how different cultures influence each others' food. in my opinion, chinese food in india is the best in the world. mexico's chinese food is the worst. turkey's mexican food was definitely not what I think of as mexican: the cheese and veggies were all wrong, but the flavors were good.
now on the west coast, we saw some wonderful sunsets. looking out over the harbor you can see the greek island of chios, which was our destination. after world war one when turkey was divided all of the islands were given to greece, and they've never given them back. there are many of these islands which are just a few miles off the coast, and I assume that this is where turkey's greek population moved en masse after ataturk established the modern turkish state. we had heard that the greeks and turks hate each other, though I thought this was probably exagerated. it doesn't appear to be.
we left one morning on the one-hour ferry to chios. all of the passengers were americans or EU nationals. in the middle of the trip the captain changed the vessel flags from turkey to greece. when we arrived, a very angry official told us we could not step off the boat: there was a customs-workers strike across all of greece and we could not be processed. I didn't follow the conversation, but the gist of it was clear: welcome to greece, now please go away.
so we spent another day in cheap, laid back çesme. I saw another beautiful sunset, got an excellent shave at the barber, finally replaced my completely thrashed shoes. the second pair of shoes that I originally had was the most worthless and space-consuming item I brought with me. when travelling, multiple pair of shoes are useless: wear out one pair, then get another. the best item I brought, on the other had, was my bedsheet: it is like the towel from the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy. handkerchiefs also rank very high in my book.
eventually we did make it to chios, and after a couple of hours along to athens. my first impressions of greece: more signs of wealth, more expensive by far, a lot more english spoken, less meat-centric meals. really, though, the 'traditional' foods are very similar.