27 Oct 2002
All roads lead to Istanbul as the Anatolian saying goes, and so it is that I find myself in the land of
Turks. Ive come here to walk the path of enlightenment and roam like the itinerant
whirling dervishes once more common in this land. Behold Turkey.
Turks are a friendly lot, less concerned with the finite confines of personal space than comradely with
their fellow man. Robust fits of laughter erupt from the tea gardens where old men imbibe hot apple tea, chain smoke, and
engage in boisterous matches of backgammon. The jovial Turk strolls down cobblestone sidewalks fraternizing with his fellow
man arm on shoulder, the proximity of which would seem foreign and a bit awkward to the Westerner. By and large they go about
their daily routine with a smile on their face and a glimmer in their eye, this despite runaway inflation and a flailing economy.
The US greenback commands a healthy 1,6000,000 Turkish lira. The mandatory 18 months of military service is less than eagerly
anticipated by young Turks. The specter of Greece looms on the immediate horizon however, and the two nations speak heated
rhetoric and still are at odds over regions such as Cyprus.
Turkey is enveloped in rich history, the eons have brought
a series of rulers, conquerors and empires. Witness Constantine and the Romans , later the Byzantines, Alexander the Great,
the Gauls, Ghengus Khahn, the Crusaders, the Ottamans, and the Turkish Republic to name a few. The mighty Ottoman empire once
stretched from Eastern Europe to the Arabian Penisula with Istanbul being the
capital. World War One brought strife and devastation, the Ottomans hedged their bets and aligned with the Weimar Republic.
The 500 year history of the Ottoman Empire came crashing down and the imperial victors of WWI eagerly carved up the once expansive
empire. The present day republic was born when Ataturk led his nation in revolution against the imperialists and the republic
was born in 1919.
Glance to the north and the straight of Bosphorus spills into the black sea, to the south the Sea of Marmora.
Look west and Europe ends on a tiny piece of Turkey....head east and Asia and the Middle-East begin.
The weary traveler finds himself up at 5 A.M., chalk it up to jetlag. The cobblestone roads at this early
hour glow a ghostly blue and meander through sidewalk bazaars and impressive mosques. The streets are desolate save the peripatetic
legions of stray dogs. The Ayah Sofia Mosque was once the biggest cathedral in eastern Christianity, later it was converted
into a grand mosque. The 6 minarets basque in a sea of floodlights. Birds dart
about orbiting the towering poles while the heavy moon lingers above. Nearby
stands the looming Blue Mosque. At some point between the time the city lulls into a delicate slumber and the suns ascends
the eastern horizon begins the morning call to prayer. Alla ou akbar sings the Imam. The chant begins slowly.
First from one mosque, then another then another, then another like dominoes. The individual calls to prayer can only be appreciated
transiently, like the first few drops of rain before an inundating deluge. The chants then transfigure into a melodic soup
and come to an orchestral crescendo..... the chants can no longer be appreciated
piecemeal just as a single drop of rain is no longer audible in a storm. Istanbul
wakes up around 8AM and the expansive bazaars bustle with locals purchasing exotic spice and all manner of goods . The Topkapi Place was long home to Ottaman sultans and legendary harems are an impressive stop.
Equally majestic is the gleaming Dolmubache Palace sitting on the edge of the Bosphorus.
Halfway between Istanbul and the Syrian and Iraqi border one comes to the dreamy region of Cappadochia.
Truly one of the most breathtaking vistas I've come across. This is a land of unimaginable geological anomalies. One truly
has the feeling of residing in a different world. Prodigious red canyons surround
hidden valleys. In these valley huge mounds of volcanic rock sprout high into the crisp air. The formations are steep and
resemble numerous massive ant piles from afar. The dwellings carved into sides of these cone-like edifices once housed thousands
of people, in fact many are still inhabited. Many of the structures are 8 or 9 "stories" tall.
Subterranean Anatolia is just as fascinating. In an effort to hide from various pillaging marauders and bellicose tribes
the ancient people of this region build sprawling underground cities. Many of these have undergone recent excavation. The
one I had the opportunity to tour was boroughed 6 levels beneath the earth and consists of a series of narrow corridors, expansive
rooms, cellars, and warehouses. Truly amazing.
The white blanket covering the montiain is not snow but peculiar deposits of white calcium rock,
surreal to say the least. The multiple pools of calcium saturated turquiose water cascade down the slopes like a series of
giant steps. Ancient roman ruins and an elabarte amphitheater sit atop the hill.
Heading back toward the Aegean coast lies Ephes, where once stood one of the 7 wonders o the ancient world,
the Temple of Diana. The extant remnants of pre-Christian roman aqueducts and scattered ruins leaves a lasting impression
on the visitor. Further down the coast lies a village called Kas. This quit village sits along a scenic harbor. The clear
mediterranian water is inviting. Cafes overlook scenic coves filled with azure sea. A dip on the beach is a little frigid
but inviting none the less. Few things in life are as enjoyiable as toking on a gauloise and sipping a pint of ephes lager
while peering across a deep blue mediterranian sea.......the sun ebbs and the
last golden hints of sunlight radiate off the jagged rocks abutting the sea.
Further down the coast lies the city of Antalya. A pleasant stop on the way back to Istanbul. Rather a
large city with ample mosques, its a great locale to people watch as you eat your doner kebab and baklava
for desert. (n.b. I realize full well the inherant pretentiousness of italcizing foreign words in the
context of something infomal, however I shall obnoixiously continue italicizing for the sake of continuity )
GreeceThe greek island of Kastorellio lies just off the coast of Kas.
Well worth the trip by vessel the island charms with its brightly colored waterfront shops. Like Santorini this island has
its share of bright white-washed homes.
Wish I could stay.......unfotunately residency calls.