Monday, October 27, 2014

Two Helpings of Turkey!

Dear Family & Friends,

We set sail from Athens after an amazing visit.. Down the coast of Greece, around the southern tip and over to Turkey.
Our first stop in Turkey was a coastal city named Kusadasi.. It was our first site of Turkey and it was very nice. Much more clean and together than I expected. Since we really don’t know Turkey at all we took a bus tour to two famous sites.
The first was on top of a mountain behind Kusadasi and it was supposedly the place where the Virgin Mary moved to in her later years to live out her life… The site was beautiful, all wooded and lush green but what a tourist trap! First of all the only thing left from supposedly when Mary lived there was a watering hole that was supposed to have magical powers but honestly it looked like a mud pit…
Everything else was built in the last 50 years including the replica Byzantine church… It was said that if you drank the water from the spring it would cure what ailed you, but  the water was coming out a modern water tap and people were filling plastic water bottles with it to take home.. Does that sound like a miracle?? I guess it is the sceptic in me. I see people with strong beliefs and faith and looks very comforting but I just can’t buy into it.. I know there are many things in life I do not know or understand but I cannot substitute faith for science or factual proof.
The place looked like a southern US religious theme park….

From there we drove down the mountain and through a beautiful valley with olive tree groves and sheep herders with their flocks that looked like something from biblical times. I think when I retire I would like to start making my own designer oil oils….
Our next stop was an ancient Roman city named Ephesus.. This was an amazing stop and well worth the tour! What we saw was only about 15% of the city unearthed and it was still quite large and stunning.
Originally it was a Roman city of about 250,000 built around 200BC.. It was beautifully constructed out of stone and marble on the side of a rolling mounting so all waste and water would drain. It had a city center , a senate building, public baths. a library, a market place, a hospital, a stadium, and large multi room homes with beautiful mosaic floors, hot and cold running water, and indoor toilets! Far beyond what you would expect for the time.. Those Romans were cleaver..
One of the astonishing sites was in the middle of town there was what was left of a statue of one of the most noted local scientist  and under his foot was a ROUND globe of the world… This in about 100AD…. They already new the world was round..
With all the amazing design and engineering the town had one fatal flaw that no one planned for.. All the sewage did run down hill away from the town but in the valley below it collected for centuries until a large lagoon of filth became a huge breeding ground for mosquitos… This eventually spread malaria throughout the town and those that survived eventually just abandoned the city for fear of dying… For the next 1500 years the city lay empty slowly sinking into the ground.. How the archeologist unearthed and assemble what we say was quite impressive..

That evening we boarded the ship again and sailed all night to Istanbul, Turkey.
Since we were not familiar with Turkey or Istanbul we thought it would be prudent to take an organized tour.. It was one LONG day but well worth it.. Istanbul turned out to be one of the big surprises of the trip. We all loved it. A great combination of ancient, old, and modern.. A city that has been the center of trade between Asia and Europe for thousands of years. In fact half the city is in Europe and the other half in Asia. What a mixture of history and culture.
Our first stop was the Grand Mosque built in the center of town. Built by a very rich Sultan with cost no object. 
To enter the Mosque we had to remove our shoes, Bonnie had to wear a shawl over her head, she could not touch me (no public displays of affection) and she had to obey me… well maybe I added that one…. anyways she did well for a modern western woman in a very conservative repressive culture..
Inside it surely did not lack for grandeur. I am not a religious person but the beauty was very impressive. 
From there we walked across a park like area to the “Old Mosque”.  This building was originally a Byzantine church built around 600AD.. Then sometime around 1000AD Islam took over the area, but instead of destroying the church they just covered up the Christian icons and added Islamic ones.. Today it is being restored and they are uncovering the original Christian frescos in a very respectful way.

Turkey is a very unusual combination of tradition and modern ways. The Mosque still calls out to pray five times a day but most people do not go. Most people dress in modern western clothing but you still see some women in black burkas. I thought a very nice compromise were women in modern western fashions but wearing beautiful head scarves. They were so nice Bonnie event bought one.
From there we went to the Grand Bazaar. Quite frankly it was a huge  disappointment. It looked like any other modern shopping mall/ area. The only difference were the scarf and carpet street salesmen were down right brutal. They did not give up trying to sell you and sell you and sell you.
Bonnie bought a couple of small rugs. I thought we were done but as we left the carpet seller latched on to me. He showed me his carpets with his name tag and website on them. Then put his arm around me like we were best friends.. He said he would like to give me one FREE if I would promote his website when I got home so I said sure and started to walk away with my new free carpet. Then he came running after me and said he liked to so he gave me one more… I thought we were done but just as I was about to leave he gave me one more again but time he said they are were all free but asked if I would make a small donation to his charity for the last rug he gave me. I said no thanks and handed him back the last one and started to walk away with the first two “GIFTS” he gave me… BIG MISTAKE. He practically tackled me, grabbed all the carpets away from me and walked off in a huff!! So much for my gift. Amazingly we ran into him about a half hour later and even though he recognized me he started the same scam all over again! Even if he was extremely annoying you had to admire him for persistence.!!

From there we went to have a traditional middle eastern lunch. I have to say I really like the food from the middle east.!
After lunch we went to the Spice Market. An out door indoor market. Much more like what I would have expected a middle eastern bazaar to be like. I am not much of a shopper but I know Bonnie enjoys it. I have to admit this time I enjoyed it just as much.
First of all the merchandise was really Turkish goods, not some Chinese knock offs. Beautifully and so colorfully displayed they were a visual delight. Check out my blog for photos.
The name of the place, Spice Market is because it is a traditional place to come buy middle eastern spices. Again beautifully displayed. We went into one shop and one of the salesmen latched on to me in a very friendly way. He insisted I try various spices.
I wound up buying three different spices. For those that know me know I love to cook and especially BBQ. Expect some real delights next time you come over.
One spice they advertised was named “Mother-In-Law Chili”. I guess it was supposed to drive your M-n-Law away. Being a lover of spicy food and because the salesman dared me to try it. I took a pinch and swallowed it. The salesman asked me how I liked it and I said quite good with great flavor and not to hot…… He started to laugh so I knew something was up. He said give it a minute…. What started out as “HOT” slowly turned into a low grade thermonuclear reaction!!!! HOT, HOT, HOT!! My eyes starter to tear up so I grabbed a water bottle Bonnie had but the salesman said “No! No! No! water will only make it worse!!” He gave some Turkish candy and it almost immediately put out the flame…. All was good and a I bought half a kilo… Beware when I invite you over for some “Chili”!
After a delightful time at the Spice Market we finished off the day with a sight seeing cruise on a small boat up the Bosphorus River. This is the main river that divides Istanbul and the European and Asian continent. We left about 5:30pm so going up the river was later afternoon sun and coming back it was dark. Istanbul lit up is absolutely beautiful! The neighborhoods along the river are very prosperous and beautiful. One thing you learn as you travel is every country and culture has it’s 1% wealthy!
Over all we really fell in love with Turkey… I think Bonnie and I will be back someday and it may even warrant a motorcycle adventure here! I highly recommend the country.
Now we sail off to a small Greek island for a day of light site seeing and rest and then another full day at sea. After that we have four more days in Italy! Naples, Rome, Florence here we come!


“Creative writing unrestrained by Daniel Webster”!

Welcome to Kusadasi, Turkey!

"The Welcoming Committee"

The Holy Water of the Virgin Mary.... would you drink it????

Our tour guide. A very interesting and impressive young woman. Her parents were poor peasant uneducated farmers. Her mother worked weaving carpets and put all three daughters through college!

The hordes of tourists..

This part of Turkey was really green and beautiful.

A genuine fake Byzantine church..

If you fill your water bottle with this water it will make you healthy....and if you believe this I have a bridge I want to sell you..

Beautiful valley of oil trees.

Herding sheep the same way for the last 3000 years.. IF it works why fix it?

The start of the Esesephus City ruins.

Notice the city plumbing offering waste disposal and hot and cold running water.. All done almost 2000 years ago!

Archeologist have their work cut out to assemble this building..

This two rocks are signs in front of the "hospital". One says doctors here and the other says medicines here..

Nikki, god of sport...

The large two story building is the public library.

Carved into this stone was a backgammon game!

A water fountain in the center of town. A source of water for poorer people that could not afford indoor plumbing.

This is a ROUND globe of the world carved 1700 years ago.

A wealthy home with multiple rooms, plumbing, and beautiful tile mosaic floors.

City Hall

If you cannot afford in door plumbing this is where you go.. Rather hard seats and cold in the winter but the up side is you never have to worry about putting down the toilet seat....

The city Market Square...

The Stadium. Every Roman town has one for sport. The rule was a Stadium had to seat 10% of the cities population.

No tourist site is complete without a shopping and souvenir area..

Those Romans were pretty proud of themselves....

The most honest salesman here...

Only in Turkey can you find WiFi, food, ATM and Gladiator displays in one store..

A Turkish Steak house??

My brother in law is thinking of converting to Islam,,, with a last name of Cohen?????

The color Turquoise is based on French and refers to the sea water off Turkey..


Hand made Turkish carpets.

My Motto..

Welcome to Istanbul. This bridge connects Europe to Asia.

They have a place for everything....

Washing ones feet before entering the Grand Mosque..

New world meets old world.

Inside the Grand Mosque..Impressive.

Outside of Grand Mosque.

Byzantine Church and Mosque..

The center door was for Royalty, the next two doors were for government officials, and the outer doors were for public.

This hole was worn in solid rock by the guards standing there day after day guarding the Royal door. What a boring job!!

IF this police car was in your rear view mirror what would you do?? Pedal faster?

Downtown Istanbul.


Be prepared to be chased by carpet salesmen..

Even a classic car in town.

The Spice Market

This is HOT, HOT, HOT!!!


The last European Castle before Islam took over Istanbul.


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