It’s been a while since we’ve featured a “Where’s Aaron?” picture. Well, here are two from St. John’s Basilica in Selcuk, Turkey. This is near the ruins of Ephesus. One picture is a bit tougher than the other. Good luck!
The ruins of Ephesus are generally considered the best preserved ancient city in Europe. Turkey in general has more ancient sites and ruins than Greece and Italy. Amazing places with incredible history!
Selcuk is the modern day city near the ruins of Ephesus. Christ’s disciple John and Christ’s mother Mary lived in what is now Selcuk, after Christ’s crucifixion. The Basilica of St. John was constructed in Selcuk, over the tomb of St. John.
The ruins of Ephesus are magnificent. Having seen them nearly 20 years ago didn’t dull the anticipation of visiting the site again. The incredible Library of Celsus is one of the most photographed sites in Turkey. We spent several hours there in the hot sun (every day’s temperatures is in the 30s).
The Ephesus Museum holds a remarkable collection of artefacts from the ancient city. The stonework in marble is magnificent.
Our original plan was to bus from Goreme to Selcuk but when we saw that Pamukkale was on the way, we decided to stop and spend the day there before going to Selcuk. Pamukkale was a place Mary-Anna and I had visited last time we were in Turkey and were glad that going there again worked out so easily although it would require a bit of extra work getting local buses to and from the town.
Pamukkale is a town right next to a natural marvel. For millennia, calcite-laden water has cascaded down the slope at the top of the valley, forming a surreal snow white hillside with pools of blue water. It’s absolutely dazzling, especially in the blistering heat (about 38 degrees).
On top of the hillside are the ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis. This city was famous for its mineral baths and spas. Today, you can swim in the natural pool which includes toppled Roman columns in its waters.
We arrived early enough to avoid the bulk of the tour groups but once they came, they were everywhere. Pamukkale is a favourite vacation spot for Russian tourists. They came in droves.
After a day in the sun, soaking in the pools and wandering through the ruins, we bussed our way back to Denizli and then on to Selcuk, the city next to the ruins of ancient Ephesus.
As always, I’ve included the pictures above with many others in the Turkey picture gallery on the right side of the page.
When we were in Turkey nearly 20 years ago, we were impressed with the quality and efficiency of the bus network throughout the country. On this visit, we are impressed again. The highway buses are very modern and new. Many different companies run the routes. For routes between smaller centres, there are smaller buses. They are easy to take and run frequently.
The bus we took from Nevsehir to Denizli yesterday included WiFi and had individual TV screens for each passenger. Available to view are a variety of movies and TV shows (in Turkish), several genres of music, games like Suduko, and will take a USB stick if you want to view your pictures. Pretty cool!
The buses each have a steward or stewardess. They come up and down the aisle with drinks and snacks!
An exciting and often interesting aspect of travel is trying foods typically eaten in the areas you are in. I’m up for any kind of food and Mary-Anna and the kids have been pretty adventurous as well.
For breakfast, most pensions include a breakfast with the night’s stay. A typical Turkish breakfast consists of fruit such as watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, boiled eggs, salami, and bread.
When we have eaten lunch, we’ve usually eaten at street food stalls. This has often consisted of kebabs or donairs and fruit. Today, I tried a lamb intestine kebab (see pics). Not bad but a bit chewy. Each of the kids took a few bites as well.
Dinners have included shish kebabs, manti (yoghurt, chilli sauce, ‘ravioli’; see pic below), fried up veggies which usually includes a lot of eggplant, ‘stew’ (a chicken and veggie stew made in a clay pot which is broken open before you eat it; see pic below), and soup (often with lemon and rice). Desserts have included kunefe which is a fried cheese with a sweet coconut crumb layer over it.
We’ve also done a lot of meals from markets or stores. These have been interesting at times because you buy something thinking that you know the flavour but it turns out to taste quite differently. Reading the container may not help either if you don’t know the language (e.g. Turkish).
We’ve had great fun with the varieties of foods we’ve had.
Today is our last day in the enchanting town of Göreme. We spent the first part of the day packing up our backpacks and then hiked out of town to the Göreme Open Air Museum. This museum consists of several acres of fairy chimneys in which churches are located which each have bright and detailed paintings depicting the life of Christ and other Biblical stories. These paintings are stunning! The fact that they date from the 7th and 8th century A.D. makes them even more remarkable. Unfortunately, photography wasn’t allowed in these more ornate churches.
The kids got to ride camels near the Open Air Museum. This was a first for each of them (the kids that is). The boy who was in charge of the camels called me Rambo and Brad Pitt, called Mary-Anna Angelina Jolie, called Emily-Ann Jennifer Lopez, called Madeleine Hannah Montana, and called Aaron Michael Jackson. We all had a good chuckle about these names.
After a lunch of chicken kebabs (pic below), we took a local bus to a larger city nearby called Nevsehir and from there, another local bus to the town of Kaymakli. By asking others on the bus where to get off the bus, we found someone who understood our question and let us know the right location.
We walked to the Kaymakli Underground City where we hired a guide to show us the city. This is one of about 100 such underground cities. This one was originally started by the Hittites but was enlarged significantly by Christians in the first centuries after the death of Christ. The Christians made use of these cities in the face of attacks by the Romans. The Kaymakli underground city is 10 stories deep! When pressures arose from the Roman armies, the Christians would move underground where they lived for long periods of time until it was safe to resurface. The city is an engineering marvel and cleverly designed. For example, all cooking smoke was vented through a series of tunnels that came up into their houses’ kitchens above ground so that it appeared as if the cooking was happening in the homes above the underground city. Our guide had worked in this archaeological site since it opened to the public in the 1960s. Although there were passageways through which I had to crawl, we all really enjoyed this trip to and from the underground city.
We had a fantastic supper back at our hotel, the Rock Valley Pension, and then hung out there until our bus left for our next adventure. This time it’s an overnight bus. I hope we get some sleep.
Note: Mary-Anna and I had spent time in Göreme (as well as many other places in Turkey) back about 19 years ago. Much has changed but even more has remained timeless. The deja vu that we’ve experienced has been wonderful. I would never have imagined back then that we’d come back and visit these places with kids. Very cool!
The alarm clock woke us at 4:20 this morning. We needed to be ready for 4:50 to be taken for our hot air balloon ride. Yes, we all made it, albeit a bit sleepily.
Watching the balloons inflate in the chilly semi-darkness was exhilarating.
After being briefed on safety precautions and practising the ‘landing position’, the pilot fired the burners and we lifted off.
About 70 balloons joined ours in the sky over Göreme. We floated at varying heights into valleys, past fairy chimneys, and over fields of melon and vineyards of purple grapes. Our balloon’s basket brushed a few trees and grasses as we drifted along the valley walls.
We were up in the air for just over an hour. The sun rose over the hoodoos. The air warmed. Awesome experience!
In anticipation of landing, our pilot told us to brace for the impact. We hit the ground pretty hard and skidded along until we lurched to a stop, about 2 metres from a building. Pretty cool!
The unique landscape and rock formations of the region of Cappadocia is considered one of the ‘must see’ experiences in Turkey. The topography has been described as a moonscape, a surreal landscape of hoodoos referred to as fairy chimneys.
Although the area was originally settled by the Hittites centuries earlier, Christians hollowed out these rock formations and used them as houses and churches beginning in the 7th century A.D. As pressures from the Roman empire increased, the Christian inhabitants dug down into the sandstone to create cities up to 10 stories deep. As many as 10,000 people lived in one such subterranean city. When threatened, the Christians would go underground and live there in relative comfort, fortified from marauding armies.
Several days ago, after a 12 hour bus ride from Amasra, we arrived and settled into the town of Göreme, in the heart of Cappadocia. Göreme itself sits in amongst the fairy chimneys. Many accommodations still use the original cave dwellings.
On the first day here, we hiked through several valleys, creeping into long-abandoned homes and churches. The churches are still decorated with frescoes depicting Christ, his disciples, and other religious symbols. Many include empty tombs in the floors where centuries earlier, the faithful were buried.
Early this morning, we awoke to go up to a nearby hilltop to watch the 70 or more hot-air balloons taking off. It was a spectacular sight. We will ride one of these balloons tomorrow morning. We can hardly wait!
How many 16 year old guys do you know who want to become involved in politics in order to affect positive change in their country, are profoundly concerned with the welfare of their country’s citizens, are interested in the nuances of the world’s religions, are engaging and personable to strangers, and are generous, courteous, and gracious? We know at least one.
We met Yusuf in Amasra. On the evening we arrived, he came up to us and engaged us in easy conversation in a manner that was inquisitive and polite. He showed us where to get a quick bite to eat and when we didn’t immediately have the right change to pay the shopkeeper, Yusuf paid. With a wave and a smile, he left us for the night.
We met Yusuf again on the evening before we left Amasra. We spent several hours talking with him. Our conversations ranged from Turkey’s history and the current political climate to questions about Islam and Christianity. He hopes to become involved in Turkish politics. When asked whether he’d consider moving out of Turkey, he said that if he did this he wouldn’t be able to help improve his country.
“I think it’s easier for everyone to be happy in Canada than in Turkey”, he said. His reason for this is that in Turkey, you have to have to have money in order to be happy. Otherwise, your life consists of work and more work, running to keep ahead. For many, he says, sleep is a luxury.
He asked why, in Christianity, there are so many factions and interpretations of the same scriptures. In Islam, he says, it isn’t that way. He talked about the importance of prayer and dedication to one’s religion.
Yusuf was interested in the girls’ lives and asked them many questions about school, friends, and their interests. It was a great opportunity for them to learn about the lives of teenagers in another society. They exchanged Facebook addresses and talked about music other points of interest.
In the chilly breeze near the end of the evening, Yusuf suggested, “Let’s walk. I think this will be our last time together.” The five of us strolled down to the Roman bridge, chatting about simple and more complex things. Near midnight, we said goodbye. Yusuf crossed the bridge to the south and we to the north.
We learned a lot from Yusuf, not the least of which is a greater appreciation for the simplicity and complexity of the human experience.
We’ve arrived in a little bit of heaven last night. Amasra is a town of 6,500 on the coast of the Black Sea. It’s not easy to get to but once here, it’s worth the effort.
Amasra, which is made up of two small islands, survives as a fishing town and a tourist destination, especially for Turks from Ankara. It has a remarkably long history, dating back to several hundred years B.C. It was controlled in various eras by the Pontus empire, the Rus empire, the Roman empire, the Byzantine empire, and the Ottoman empire and is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad.
There’s a laidback air here. The people are warm and friendly. From our pansiyon (Turkish for pension), we see and constantly hear the waves crashing on the shore. The view from our balcony is fantastic (see pics below)!
Our walk around the town today took us to the sea wall and jetty. The power of the surf is incredible. We were walking on top of the sea wall, along with some other people, when a fisherman came over and, in animated fashion, said something emphatically in Turkish. A young woman came to tell us that someone had been swept off this sea wall yesterday so we should not be walking on it. Needless to say, we found a different way to get to the end of the jetty. The surf on the rocks and wall put on quite a show.
We spent many hours at the sea watching the surf, the ships, and the fishermen before sitting down for an incredible Turkish meal nearby. My meal consisted of homemade ravioli covered in a very garlicy tzatziki and hot pepper sauce. Incredible! For dessert, we all shared an order of künefe which is a traditional Arab cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup. Wow!
A much less exciting activity today was each of us doing our own laundry by hand. Yup, even Aaron. The wind outside quickly dried the clothes.
Later in the day, as the sun set, we sat on a terrace where Mary-Anna and the girls had Turkish apple tea and I had thick Turkish coffee (a small cup about 1/3 filled with coffee grounds and hot water).
As always, check out my pictures in the gallery on the right side of this page. I added those above and others to the Turkey gallery today.