Travels to Turkey

My incredible travels to Turkey in 2007

Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

From Fethiye beaches to Selcuk ruins – Day 11 on the road

Posted by Mardee on May 15, 2007

Ayasoluk Hill - St. John the Baptist BasilicaAfter waking up bright and early, I finished my packing and headed for breakfast. The morning was perfect (as usual) and I was a little sad about leaving Fethiye. However, I finished up, grabbed my gear and headed down to the desk to do a quick email check and then check out. The car from the travel agency was supposed to pick me up at 10 but when it hadn’t showed by 10:15 am, I started getting worried since my bus was supposed to leave at 10:30. Just then, Burkhard and Ulle stopped by on their way to the beach and chatted with me until the car came. We each promised the other that if we were ever in the other’s neighborhood, we would look each other up (I’m not sure how correct these pronouns are but hopefully everyone understood what I was trying to say). I could tell they were a little worried about the car not showing up, as was I, but it finally got there a few minutes later. I got in, the driver took off and he zipped around the Fethiye streets like Mario Andretti, pulling into the otogar right on the dot at 10:30.

We were soon on the road to Aydin, where I would then change buses to Selcuk. The first portion of the journey was beautiful – we drove past gorgeous deep blue inlets and bays, and then headed up into the mountains. The rest of the trip was sort of a blur as I was pretty tired and the sun was making me sleepy. We pulled into the bustling Aydin otogar station around 3 pm and I grabbed my luggage and looked for the Selcuk minibus. It was around the corner – unfortunately it wasn’t leaving for another 45 minutes so I took a seat and waited. Eventually it was time to board. By this time, I’d learned one of the first lessons you should know when riding a dolmus – always sit near a window. Turks will rarely open the windows in buses even in 90 degree weather – which is why I sit near the window so that I have control of the air.

This ride was long and excrutiating – it was only about 50 minutes in length but seemed like 5 hours. The bus was cramped, very hot and smelled of male Turkish body odor. In addition, the bus driver felt compelled to honk his horn in greeting at every single passerby and bus. We were listening to honks every 30 seconds or so. To make matters worse, he stuck his head out the window every few feet or so to look for additional people to honk at. I appreciated the fact that he was friendly but by the end of the ride, I was ready to throw something at him, the horn, or the bus – or all three. During the last 20 minutes of the ride, one of the men on board decided he needed to get some groceries. He muttered a few words to the driver, who immediately zipped across to the other side of the highway and pulled into a little grocer. The passenger ran in then came out about 5 minutes later with a bag of bread. Everyone else seemed to take it in stride and I tried to curb my irritation. The bread did smell good – it must have been fresh out of the oven.

Eventually we pulled into Selcuk and I paid my 5 lira. As I retrieved my luggage I was immediately accosted by several men who assured me that their hotels were better than any of the others. I managed to ignore them and found a young man who pointed me in the direction of the Hotel Akay where I had made a reservation the day before. One taxi driver offered to drive me there for 5 lira and as I was debating whether to accept, I noticed a sign that the hotel was only 200 m. away. The hotel is on a quiet street near Ayasoluk Hill, the site of the tomb of St. John the Evangelist and his Basilica. After checking in around 5 pm, I headed up towards Ayasoluk Hill and toured the grounds. St. John died here in 100 AD and the Byzantine emperor Justinian built a huge basilica to honor him. The basilica was destroyed in the 1400’s by Mongols but much of the site has been restored by a religious foundation based in Lima, Ohio.

Sunset from Hotel Akay TerraceAfter that, I headed down and explored the town and had a bite to eat at a small family-owned restaurant named Seckin Cigerci that seemed to be feeding mostly locals (which is always a good sign). My next stop was Tugba, which makes Turkish delight in all flavors. I didn’t buy anything today but did try a couple of samples – one with lemon and one with walnuts. Both were delicious and I can see why Tugba has received national awards for its Turkish delight. I walked around, enjoying the sights. Selcuk is home to a Byzantine aqueduct, which now serves as a nesting place for storks. They return here year after year to lay their eggs in April and May and then stay through September.

Back at the hotel, I went up on the terrace and had a glass of wine – there is nothing like sitting up high watching the stars with a cool breeze and Turkish music playing lightly in the background. Even the occasional cat came up for the atmosphere (I’m sure it had nothing to do with the crumbs that may have fallen from the breakfast tables). Soon it was time for bed.

Tomorrow – Ephesus!

Posted in Ayuasoluk Hill, Basilica of St. John, Cats, Dolmus, Selcuk, St. John the Evangelist, Turkey | 3 Comments »

Cats and Whirling Dervishes – Day 3 in Istanbul

Posted by Mardee on May 7, 2007

There are cats everywhere – poor, skin-and-bones feral cats who desperately search every day for enough food to keep alive. My heart just aches for them but I’ve been told not to get near them since they will scratch – and are probably sick and insect-ridden. I do leave some food when I get a chance, although they seem to find food in the strangest places. Yesterday I came across a grey and white cat with a huge pigeon stuffed in its mouth who was heading for a bush to finish its feast in private.

My own breakfast on Sunday morning was a little tastier (at least, in my opinion). Same scenic terrace and same buffet spread. This morning I met some additional guests at the Hanedan – Robert, a doctor from Hawaii, his wife, Natalia, and his wife’s sister and cousin, Mindy and Alicia, who live in Manila. They were very pleasant and since Robert and I have many of the same geek traits, we hit it off very well. They invited me to join them that evening for a performance of the whirling dervishes, so we arranged to meet at the event hall around 6:30 pm.

My plans for the day involved seeing Kariye Müzesi (aka Chora Church), which as I mentioned, is an 11th century Byzantine church decorated with beautiful frescoes and mosaics. The church was fairly small but the art inside was exquisite.  But I digress – before getting to the church, I had looked at the map and thought I’d walk it since it didn’t seem too long. Obviously, I need a lesson in cartography because that walk was extremely long. My pedometer logged in almost 5 miles and some was uphill. It was worth it, though, to see some of the fascinating sights along the way. Part of the route took me through the Fatih district, which is a more conservative section of Istanbul. Almost all of the women I saw were covered, and I got more than a few strange looks (Turkish women usually do not walk by themselves).

The shop windows provided a strange contrast, however – there was about 6-7 blocks of shops that had nothing but wedding gowns and prom-type evening dresses. Very sexy, very frou-frou, and very silky-slinky. I can see the wedding gowns but I’m not sure how the evening wear fits in. The shops also contained an assortment of ornate boy’s ceremonial robes in white and gold, with an accompanying scepter and crown. These robes are worn on the day the child is to be circumcised.

Finally, the church appeared and it was every bit as gorgeous as I’ve described above. Afterwards, I headed for Ascitane, a restaurant next door that specializes in cooking recipes preserved from the Ottoman empire. While there, I ran into Robert and his entourage and we chatted about our day so far. They were planning on visiting another church nearby, but I was tired out from the walk and wanted to get back. This was the plan but it didn’t quite work out that way. It started with the city walls…

Part of Istanbul is surrounded by stone walls that date back to the 5th century and that were built by Theodosius, Constantine’s successor. The original wall was flattened by an earthquake in 447, but was hastily rebuilt within 2 months in preparation for an attack. A good portion of these walls are still standing. So I walked along them and marveled at the incredible history I’ve been seeing since I was here. I figured I’d get to the tram stop soon and head back. However, I was so wrapped up in the walls (and the 3 skinny horses that someone had left tethered near the walls) that I missed the street where the tram was. By the time I realized it, I was too tired to go back and just grabbed a taxi.

This was crash and burn time – 3 intense days of sightseeing and jet lag were finally catching up and I had to lay down for about an hour. After that, I made my way out for a quick dinner then walked down to the train station, which houses the exhibition hall where the dervishes would be performing. I actually got there a little early because I had a change in my itinerary – rather a drastic one. Instead of heading down to Izmir and then over to Selcuk and Ephesus, I decided to buy a ticket on the sleeper train to Ankara. Once I get there, I will then bus to Cappadoccia.

My reasons were rational – the thought of spending 7-8 hours on a bus was making my skin crawl. I wanted to be able to sleep in anything resembling a bed – and there’s no way a bus seat fits this description; even a reclining one. So I hot-footed it over to Sirkeci Station and bought a berth on the Monday night sleeper train to Ankara for 75 lira. This way I could have some time to chill in Cappadoccia and not feel like I was rushing to get there. The station I will leave from is actually at the Haydarpasa train station on the Asia side of the city (I’ve been staying on the European side – the only portion of Turkey that is in Europe).

Soon after, I ran into my friends and we all walked in to watch the dervishes. We were warned to be quiet and not to use our flash, as it is considered to be a religious ceremony. Of course, that didn’t stop some idiots from flashing away but at least the majority managed to restrain themselves. Lucky for me, I had taken a photography class a month before and had finally learned to use my camera to get the best effects so I was able to get some great pictures of them whirling without the flash. It is evidently a mystical experience to the dancers – they consider themselves closer to God when they whirl like this. It was pretty amazing and sent goosebumps down my spine.

After the performance, we split up – they went back to the hotel and I headed for my internet cafe (the manager knows me by sight now). Finally made it back around 11 pm and stayed up for awhile reading (which was dumb, since I have to get up early to pack).

Tomorrow – the Bosphorus cruise and onward to Ankara!

Posted in Ankara, Cats, Chora Church, Kariye Church, Turkey, Whirling dervishes | 3 Comments »