Konya, Turkey – 5/2016

August 26, 2016

Welcome to Konya, otherwise known as Iconium, and yes, we are still in Turkey, and history runs deep in this part of the world. Excavations have shown that the Konya region was inhabited during the Late Copper Age, around 3000 BC. The city came under the influence of the Hittites around 1500 BC. These were overtaken by the Sea Peoples around 1200 BC. Then there were the Cimmerian invaders in 690 BC and after, it was part of the Persian Empire, until Darius III was defeated by Alexander the Great in 333 BC. Fast forward a little. During the Byzantine Empire the town was destroyed several times by Arab invaders in the 7th–9th centuries. During the Roman Empire, under the rule of emperor Claudius, the city’s name was changed to Claudioconium, and during the rule of emperor Hadrianus to Colonia Aelia Hadriana. See what I mean about history?

So you might be wondering, what are these Whirling Dervishes all about?

Today Konya is one of the most devote Muslim cities in Turkey, but in Christian legend, Iconium was also the birthplace of Saint Thecla. The apostles Paul and Barnabas preached in Iconium during their first Missionary Journey in about 47–48 AD.

For Muslims and non-Muslims alike, the main reason to come to Konya is to visit the Mevlânâ Museum and to witness the famous Whirling Dervishes. The Mevlânâ Museum is one of the biggest pilgrimage centers in Turkey. More than 1.5 million people visit a year, most of them Turkish.

The Mevlânâ Museum is also the mausoleum of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi-Rumi, a 13th-century Persian Sufi mystic also known as Mevlânâ or Rumi. At the entrance to the mausoleum, the Ottoman silver door bears the inscription, “Those who enter here incomplete will come out perfect”. We are now perfect!

Many of the exhibits are actually in small cells where the dervishes once lived, like monks in a monastery. Some rooms had life-size mannequins depicting everyday life scenes. There were examples of some of the traditional Turkish musical instruments we would hear later. In the mausoleum there is a casket containing strands of Mohammed’s beard, and a copy of the Koran so tiny that its author went blind writing it.

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Konya is an important pilgrimage town. Women dress according to their custom.

As interesting as the museum was, what we really came to see were the famous Whirling Dervishes. Just down the street we found easy parking at the modern Mevlânâ Cultural Center. So you might be wondering, what are these Whirling Dervishes all about? The members of the Mevlevi Order, named for their founder Mevlevi (Turkish) or Mevlânâ (Persian), belong to the Sunni or orthodox mainstream of Islam. Their ritual is an act of love and a drama of faith. The singing of poetry, rhythmic rotation, and music is mesmerizing, creating a synthesis that, according to the faithful, induces a feeling of soaring, of ecstasy, of mystical flight.

The basis of their worship stems from the belief that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve. Think about that. There is no object, no being, which does not revolve. The shared similarity between all created things is the revolution of the electrons, protons, and neutrons within the atoms that constitute their basic structure. From the smallest cell to the planets and the farthest stars, everything takes part in this revolving. Thus, the Whirling Dervishes participate consciously in the shared revolution of all existence. Cool huh?

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The Whirling Dervishes in the Mevlânâ Cultural Center in Konya danced to ever changing lights.

The Mevlevi Sema ceremony represents a spiritual journey; the seeker’s turning toward God and the truth, a maturing through love, the transformation of self as a way of union with God, and the return to life as the servant of all creation. One of the beauties of this seven hundred year old ritual is the way that it unifies the three fundamental components of man’s nature; mind, emotion, and spirit, combining them in a practice and a worship that seeks the purification of all three in the turning towards Divine Unity. But most significantly, the enrichment of this earth and the well-being of humanity as a whole.

The Whirling Dervishes played a vitally important part in the evolution of Ottoman high culture. From the 14th to the 20th century, their impact on classical poetry, calligraphy, and the visual arts was profound, while music was perhaps their greatest achievement.

Interestingly, unlike the hymns we hear in Christian churches, since the dogmatists of Islam’s orthodoxy opposed music as being harmful to the listener and detrimental to religious life, no sacred music or mosque music evolved except for the Mevlud, a poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammad chanted on high occasions or as a requiem. Mevlânâ and his followers integrated music into their rituals as an article of faith. In his verses, Mevlânâ emphasized that music uplifts our spirit to realms above, and we hear tunes of the Gates of Paradise. Consequently, the meeting places of the dervishes became academies of art, music and dance.

 

 

 

 

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Myra, Turkey 15 – 5/2014

August 15, 2016

Following our short visit to Patara, the birthplace of the man we know as Santa Claus, we couldn’t resist stopping in Myra to see the church where he spent much of his life and where he died. According to one source, the earliest substantiated records of Myra was in 168 B.C.

Fast forward to more recent times, in 325 A.D. the area became a Roman province district with Myra as its capital. The bishop of Myra at that time was Saint Nicholas, though he was not canonized until after his death.

St. Nicholas of Myra

St. Nicholas of Myra

Well, as time marched on, the harbor silted up and various earthquakes and invasions left the town and the church in ruins or the state of being rebuilt.  Saint Nicholas was and is of great importance to the Christian world, especially to the Greek and Russian Orthodox. In his lifetime he had a wide reputation for performing miracles and he was known as the protector of children, young people, seamen, travelers and the poor. The St. Nicholas’ tomb in Myra was a popular place of pilgrimage. As a significant religious site, Myra enjoyed considerable commercial benefit because pilgrims needed to be housed, fed, and otherwise provided for.

Italian merchants in both Venice and Bari, Italy, saw an opportunity to bring such advantage to their cities. In 1087 Bari sailors and merchants on their way home from Antioch broke open the tomb with an iron bar. The sailors spirited most of the bones away to the ship, escaping just ahead of the townspeople coming in hot pursuit.

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The once buried St. Nicholas church of Myra was amazingly well preserved.

Now here’s a weird part that I had never heard of. When the sailors first arrived at the church they asked the monks where the “manna” was extracted. What’s manna? According to the St. Nicholas Center’s website, manna is a pure water formed in the tomb of the Saint. One might guess that it is some form of condensation. What’s interesting is that after the remains of St. Nicholas were transported to Bari and the new crypt was built for the purpose, the “manna” continued to be formed and does so to this day. (In Christianity, the “translation of relics” is the removal of holy objects from one locality to another.) Every year on May 9, the Feast of Translation, (of the relics from Myra to Bari), is celebrated. The Rector of the Basilica, in the presence of a delegate of the Pope, solemnly extracts the crystal vial containing about 50 ml of the pure “santa manna”. The liquid is mixed with holy water and distributed to the faithful. Conserved in small ampules or beautifully hand-painted bottles, the liquid is taken as a drink or sprinkled on the part of the body that is suffering from an illness.

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The sanctuary (alter area) of the St. Nicholas church in Myra.

This phenomenon is not easily explainable. The possibility of infiltration of water from the outside has been absolutely eliminated and excluded. It has been proven that the casket containing the bones of the Saint is totally impermeable. Notwith-standing the various solutions that have arrived from numerous hypothesis, whether they may be supernatural or natural expla-nations for the phenomenon, the “manna” is an authentic relic, because it is a liquid that remained in contact with the bones of the Saint. This explains why there is such a great devotion to this day. (In religion, a relic usually consists of the physical remains of a saint or the personal effects of the saint or venerated person preserved for purposes of veneration as a tangible memorial.)

Apparently a similar invasion from a fleet of Crusader ships coming from Venice in 1099 also managed to find a copper urn hidden under the St. Nicholas church floor which was engraved ”Here lies the Great Bishop Nicholas, Glorious on Land and Sea.” It was the rest of the bones that the Bari soldiers had left behind.

The frescos surviving 800 years in alluvial silt were astounding.

The frescos surviving 800 years in alluvial silt were astounding.

Back to Myra, in the late 12th century or early 13th century a natural disaster, probably an earthquake, caused a shift in the bed of the River Miro’s that resulted in a terrible flood. The city of Myra and the church were filled with muddy floodwater and alluvial silts. Today, the new city of Demre lies approximately 6 meters, (20 feet!), above the ground level of Myra and St. Nichols church. So the church and all its amazing frescoes was completely buried for about 800 years. Some serious digging was needed.

In 1963 the eastern and southern sides of the church were excavated. In 1968 the former tomb of St. Nicholas was roofed over. The floor of the church is made of opus sectile, an art technique popularized in the ancient and medieval Roman world where materials were cut and inlaid into walls and floors to make a picture or pattern. Common materials were marble, mother of pearl, and glass. The patterns on the pavements in the interior of the church are examples of the skilled craftsmanship.

The beautiful opus sextile patterns on the pavements and interior walls of the church are examples of the skilled craftsmanship.

The beautiful opus sextile patterns on the floors and interior walls of the St. Nicholas church in Myra are examples of the skilled craftsmanship.

Wall paintings in the burial chamber of the church date to the 12th century. They contain 15 scenes in the life of St. Nicholas. The dome of the prosthesis chamber used by the clergy for preparation of worship contains 12th century paintings of the holy communion of Christ offering bread and wine to the 12 apostles. Numerous other frescos throughout the church would be best interpreted by a theologist, so let the photos tell the story. Just be amazed that they survived.

After all that, if you’ve read this far, you may still be surprised that Santa Claus does not really live in the North Pole with his reindeer and his elves. He actually came from Asia Minor. To quote the famous radio announcer, Paul Harvey, “And now, you know the rest of the story.” If you really want to know more, check out this fascinating website for all the details: www.stnicholascenter.org

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Kaş, Turkey 14 – 5/2014

August 8, 2016

Patara was interesting but we still had not dipped our toes in the inviting water of the Mediterranean. As we headed down the coast, any number of tempting peninsulas invited us to explore the unknown, though with our time schedule hanging over us, we headed straight for the town of Kaş.

The small harbor of Kaş was full of yachts, fishing and cruise boats.

The small harbor of Kaş was full of yachts, fishing and cruise boats.

Kaş had been discovered by the tourist trade but it still had a small town feeling. There was a cramped RV campground on the outside of town. It was clogged with a German motorhome tour so we continued straight down the frontage road that was actually marked “closed to through traffic”, and found a great place to park overlooking the bay and the offshore Greek island of Kastellorizo (Meis in Turkish).

Next to the Kaş harbor, Smiley's outdoor sitting area was pleasantly decorated.

Next to the Kaş harbor, Smiley’s outdoor sitting area was pleasantly decorated.

A short five-minute walk into town brought us to the little yachty harbor where we were immedia-
tely hailed over by the gregarious Ismail Inan, owner of Smiley’s, a cute little café restaurant overlooking the marina. After a complementary cup of Turkish coffee and a glass of wine and some nibbles, we knew we had found the place we had been looking for. When we told Ismail what we were doing and where we had parked our expedition camper, he insisted we move it over to the parking area in front of the harbor. Monika hopped on the back of his motor scooter so he could show her where we should park and where the hose was so we could get water and even wash the truck.

Strolling around town, the plaza was peacefully busy with children playing soccer and people just enjoying the warm afternoon. A guy with a truck was selling fresh produce and the small open market had some great shops for spices and other dry goods. Behind Smiley’s Café we discovered a historic cistern dating back to the fifth century B.C. Carved out of solid stone, it was 40 X 20 ft. The ceiling was held up by seven pillars of carved stone. In recent times it had been used for storing wine, olive oil and vegetables.

The pebble beach near Kaş was warmer than the water but we braved a dip anyway. It was still early in the season.

The pebble beach near Kaş was warmer than the water but we braved a dip anyway.
It was still early in the season.

Not that we were looking for more ruins but just a couple 100 feet from where we had parked our truck by the bay, a path led up to a small, well-preserved Hellenistic theater that could seat 4000 spectators. Monika couldn’t resist climbing up to the top for a picture.

The next morning, we drove around the peninsula to the west of town and found a peaceful pebble beach where we could lay in the sun and swim. We wish we could have stayed a month here, but our visa clock was ticking and the Whirling Dervishes were waiting for us at Konya.

 

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Patara, Turkey 13 – 5/2014

August 4, 2016

Leaving Ephesus, we headed south along the coast of the Mediterranean. We didn’t really want to rush but we could start to feel the pressure of our march route. We had to meet our guide, mandatory for crossing China, on August 28, and now here it was already the middle of May. We had a short four months to cross the next six countries. We could easily spend a year or more just seeing other parts of Turkey, but it was time to get to the water.

Patara-Blog-13-19Patara was not really on our must-see list, but one of the things the historical town is known for is its 18 km, (11 mile), beach along the Turkish Riviera. We soon found out there was more than just sand to explore. Patara is said to have been founded by Pataras, the son of Apollo. Like Ephesus, it had a beautiful natural harbor, and again like Ephesus, it was conquered by Alexander the Great and a half a dozen others including Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt. The city was finally annexed by the Roman/Greek Empire in 43AD.

One of the most interesting facts is that it was Christianized relatively early and was the home of several bishops from 325 to 879. Nicholas of Myra was born in Patara in 280. Who is that?

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We had to laugh when we found snails hiding in the shade of this lion in Patara.

He suffered persecution under the Emperor Diocletian who exiled and imprisoned him. After his release, Nicholas became the Bishop of what is today the Church the St. Nicholas of Myra. Over the years, stories of his miracles involving rescuing children and working for the poor spread to other parts of the world. He became known as the protector of children and sailors and was associated with gift giving, especially to children. He was a popular saint in Europe until the time of the Reformation in the 1500s, a religious movement that led to the creation of Protestantism, which turned away from the practice of honoring saints.

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A local restaurant was getting ready for the weekend crowd.

St. Nicholas, however, remained an important figure in Holland and the German speaking countries where his feast day was (and still is) celebrated with the giving of gifts to children who behaved well. Dutch immigrants brought St. Nicholas, known to them as Sint Nikolaas or by his nickname Sinter Klaas, and traditions of his feast day to their colonies in America. He became popularized in America as Santa Claus and his gift giving day moved from December 6 to Christmas.

On the way east we will visit the excavation of the Church of St. Nicholas in Myra, but now back to Patara.

We could still imagine a beautiful harbor but today it’s a swamp, choked with sand and bushes. The original site is currently being excavated by a team of Turkish archaeologists and many of the buildings are being carefully restored. A few pictures tell the story better than words.

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Turtle meets turtle. We wondered what they talked about.

We did take time to walk around town and explore the harbor. For several years we had imagined taking a sailing trip into the Mediterranean. I once read a statement in Nikos Kazantzakis’ book, Report to Greco, where he profoundly claimed that “Man could wish for no greater thing than to sail the Aegean in the Springtime”. We saw plenty of sailboats in the harbor that did tours but to our disappointment, we learned that most of them rarely raise their sails. They were basically waterborne tour buses that motored from port to port. Someday we are determined to go back and do a little more research.

 

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Ephesus 3 – Pottery, Turkey 12 – 5/2014

July 25, 2016

Even before recorded history, humans have been creating plates, pots, vases and other things from some kind of clay and decorating them for no functional reason other than their beauty. From the Danish Masters who painted the Royal Floral Danica set of dishes (hundreds of them) commissioned by Catherine the Great of Russia to the famous Delft tiles from the Netherlands, the Azulejo tiles from Portugal, the Moorish tiles from Spain to the Iznik tiles we discovered in mosques in Turkey, the art of painting burnt clay left hardly a culture or country untouched. Monika is particularly entranced by this form of art because her mother, Agnes Mühlebach-Flory, was a master porcelain painter in her own rights.

Turkey Blog Pottery 012When we arrived at the small town of Selçuk near the ruins of Ephesus, we were just looking for a place to camp for the night. We spotted a large parking area. In the back, it looked like a family of Gypsies was sitting around the camp fire. Hey! Our kind of people. We pulled in and set up camp. Turns out it was not a campground but we could stay the night for five bucks and there was even a guard.

Turkey Blog 12 007The next day after visiting the Ephesus ruins and later the wonderful silk rug factory we discovered another treasure. The parking lot where we had camped was part of a wonderful pottery factory and school called Ephesus Ceramic Production Center. The artist and teacher, Said Lemghir, invited us in for the tour. The quality of the art we saw was jaw-dropping. Each piece was hand thrown on a wheel and then meticulously hand painted before being glazed.

The photos here might show why we were tempted to buy some beautiful souvenirs at prices only found at the source, but prudence dictated our selections, knowing that many of these plates, while very usable for food, would be better off hung on the wall. When selecting such treasures on the road, we must always consider first, where we can actually display or use them back home and secondly, given the roads we have yet to follow around the world, will they survive in one piece.

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Ephesus 2 – Silk Carpets, Turkey 11 – 5/2014

July 12, 2016

Persian carpets have been treasured for centuries. Once when I was visiting a small village in a remote area of Iran I remember watching a young girl, maybe she was 12 or 13, sitting on a dirt floor in a small room, nearly in the dark because there was no electricity. She was painstakingly weaving on a loom, one thread at a time, carefully tying a knot and then trimming it to the correct length. I could already see the beautiful pattern she was creating but I guessed at the time it would take her a couple more years to finish the relatively small carpet.

Monika is trying her hand on the art of unraveling silk cocoons. The water is very hot.

Monika is trying her hand on the art of unraveling silk cocoons. The water is very hot.

Carpets are traditionally made in villages by family groups of women who work in their homes with primitive looms that lie on the floor and just three tools: scissors, a comb and a knife with a hooked blade. Most of the designs are created from memory and have been passed down to each generation from mother to daughter.

While many beautiful carpets have been produced throughout Central Asia including Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmeni-stan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. the tribes in the area we now call Turkey also must have been among the weaving masters, creating beautiful works of art from wool long before the magic material called silk came across the mountains on the Silk Road from China.

The long silk threads are wound up into skeins.

The long silk threads are reeled onto a spinning wheel.

When silk was discovered in China, it was used primarily for cloth. Silk carpet making was not a Chinese tradition. It was born of wool weaving done by Central Asian nomadic tribes. Separated by huge land barriers; deserts and mountains; different techniques evolved.

During our recent stop in Selçuk near the ruins of Ephesus, we were fortunate to be invited to visit the wonderful Carpetium Manufacturing showroom and weaving school. It was a fascinating experience to see the process of weaving silk, starting with the unraveling of the cocoon and going all the way to the finished product. While one can argue that silk carpets are better than wool, both greatly depend on the quality of material and skill of the weaver. Silk carpets are often lighter and more detailed because of the nature of the delicate strands of silk thread they are made with.

The lady is cutting the newest knotted strings to an exact length.

The lady is cutting the newest row of knotted strings to an exact length.

Part of the function of Carpetium Carpet Manufacturing is not only to produce beautiful carpets but also to teach artists the special techniques that result in masterpieces. A few students were working at their looms. Many of the carpets on display were worth thousands of dollars. Some were priceless. Among other things, quality is in part judged by the number of threads per square inch. Assuming that an experienced weaver can do 360 knots per hour, it takes 2 years to complete a 1,000-knot per square inch 3′ x 5′ size silk rug.

The Carpetium Carpet Manufacturing store had hundreds of carpets of all sizes and price ranges to choose from.

The Carpetium Carpet Manufacturing store had hundreds of carpets of all sizes and price ranges to choose from.

The difference between a machine-made rug and a hand woven rug is that its fringe is attached after the rug is manufactured rather than being an integral part of the rug. You also can pull individual threads from the pile because a machine-made rug doesn’t have knots.

The following photos may give you an idea of the difference between a $35 “Persian” throw rug at Kmart and a $3,000 carpet from Turkey or any of the Asian nations.

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Ephesus 1, Turkey 10 – 5/2014

July 2, 2016

Ephesus, the Ancient City in Anatolia.

Sorry, more ruins, but really, this one is amazing. Aside from its physical presence, its history is fascinating.

In the Neolithic age the area surrounding Ephesus was already inhabited about 6000 BC. Must have been a nice place even back then. As time marched on, Ephesus was built on the site of the former Arzawan capital by Greek colonists. During the Classical Greek era it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. Greek historians reassigned the city’s mythological foundation to Ephos, queen of the Amazons, a race of women warriors. Amazons, according to legend, also invented the Cavalry who fought mounted on horseback.

The famous Library of Celsus in Ephesus held 12,000 scrolls.

The famous Library of Celcus in Ephesus held 12,000 scrolls.

Then came the Romans, back to the Greeks, back to the Romans, the Cimmerians, the Goths, the Lydians, to the Persians, a series of tyrants, to the Arabs, the Ionians back to the Greeks, and finally to the Ottomans. All this following a number of wars and battles and sacks under the commands of a dozen or more generals, kings, queens, warlords, revolting mobs and emperors, including Alexander the Great. Even Genghis Khan may have stopped by for a piece of the action. Throw in a couple of major earthquakes and the list of conquests and disasters is longer than your arm.

Ephesus is one of the most important attractions in Turkey.

Ephesus is one of the most important attractions in Turkey.

Ephesus was one of the seven cities of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation. The Gospel of John may have been written here. The city was the site of several 5th century Christian Councils. The House of Virgin Mary has been considered to be the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus. It is a popular place of Catholic pilgrimage that has been visited by three recent Popes.

The city’s importance as a commercial center declined as the harbor was slowly silted up by the Kücükmenderes River. The resulting marshes caused malaria and many deaths among the inhabitants. The Turkey coastline is now 3-4 km (2 mi) away from the ancient Greek site with sediments filling the plain and the Mediterranean Sea.

The famous Temple of Artemis, completed around 550 BC, was said to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Goths destroyed the temple in 268 AD, but Emperor Constantine the Great rebuilt some of it only to have it destroyed by a mob in 401 AD led by St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (now Istanbul).

The Fountain of Trajan built around 104 AD is one of the finest monuments in Ephesus.

The Fountain of Trajan built around 104 AD is one of the finest monuments in Ephesus.

During one of its many periods, Ephesians were surprisingly modern in their social relations. They allowed strangers to integrate, education was valued, and the city became a bastion of women’s rights. Ephesus even had female artists.

The city had one of the most advanced waters systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes to supply different areas of the city. They fed a number of water mills, one of which has been identified as a sawmill for marble. Ephesus also constructed an effective sewer system and municipal latrines. A series of 36 holes designed to handle your business stretched across three long benches, and a trough where relatively clean water flowed near your feet.

The Grand Theater is the largest in Anatolia and has 25,000 seats. It was not only used for concerts and plays, but also for religious, political and philosophical discussions and for gladiator and animal fights.

The Grand Theater is the largest in Anatolia with a capacity of 25,000 spectators. It was not only used for concerts and plays, but also for religious, political and philosophical discussions and for gladiator and animal fights.

Today Ephesus contains the largest collection of Roman ruins in the Eastern Mediterranean. Only an estimated 15% has been excavated. As we wandered through the ruins that are visible, we could imagine some idea of the city’s original splendor. The names associated with some of the statues and monuments are evocative of its former life.

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Aezani, Turkey 9 – 5/2014

June 7, 2016

It was already early afternoon by the time we left Eskişehir. Our next destination was the famous Greek ruins of Ephesos south of Izmir on the coast but then we spotted a “ruin” symbol on our Michelin map. What a great discovery! It turned out that Aezani was an ancient city in western Anatolia on the Penkalas River.

Turkey Blog 8 53Just at the edge of town we found the ruins of the Temple of Zeus and the combined theatre-stadium complex built to honor him by Hadrian in 125 AD. Though we would be soon heading east into mostly Muslim countries, it never hurts to have the mighty Zeus on your side. As I previously mentioned, for thousands of years in what we now call “Western Civilization”, Zeus was the head “God”. There were other Gods and Goddesses beneath him, (He loved to delegate.), but he had the final word and he was worshiped by learned philosophers like Aristotle and Socrates and a major part of the world before they discovered it was not flat.

The city of Aezani (now called Çavdarhisar) really seemed more like a small poor village than the important political and economic centre it had been in Roman times.

Arriving at the deserted parking area at the edge of town we were first greeted by the local tourist dog. We bargained for permission to park for the night with a bowl of bread and milk and he immediately claimed us as his territory, sleeping outside The Turtle V the whole night and barking when any other dog approached.

The ruins of the Zeus Temple, amphitheater and Roman baths were literally in people’s backyards. There were no guards or ticket booths, so we enjoyed the freedom of wandering through the huge blocks of stone, tossed about like so many pieces of an impossible jigsaw puzzle. Some of the architecture had had withstood the test of time. We sat on the steps of the amphitheater and tried to imagine a performance.

Turkey Blog 8 51Beyond the amphitheater were the lavishly equipped Roman baths with exercise and relaxing areas. We could still see the remains of the rich marble fittings of the bath hall and the water and heating channels. At one end of the hall there was a marble statue of the goddess Hygieia. Interesting, even if you were fortunate enough not have taken Latin in high school, Hygieia was the goddess of good health. (Sounds like “hygiene”, New Latin hygieina, from Greek, neuter plural of hygieinos healthful,) She was a daughter and attendant of the medicine-god Asklepios, and a companion of the goddess Aphrodite. Her sisters included Panakeia (All-Cure) and Iaso (Remedy). Nice ladies to have hanging around the bathhouse.

Many of the beautiful rock carvings that were too heavy for looters to steal lay scattered on the ground, made more impressive when you realize that each piece had been hand-chiseled.

Turkey Blog 8 54Beyond the baths and the amphitheater, the impressive pillars of the Zeus Temple rose proudly on a grassy hill. Despite earthquakes, vandalism and a few thousand years of weather many of the pillars were still intact.

Beneath the temple we were surprised to find a huge crypt, believed to have been the seat of the cult of Cybele, the mother goddess of Anatolia. Anatolia is often considered to be synonymous with Asian Turkey, which comprises almost the entire country. Its eastern and southeastern borders are widely taken to be the Turkish borders with neighboring Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, in clockwise direction. An arched ceiling towered over the room giving it a feeling like it had been built yesterday. Birds floated in and out through openings in the walls. A pigeon sat on her nest keeping a baby chick warm.

With a salute to Zeus and final pat on the head of our private guard dog, we headed southeast toward the famous Greek ruins of Ephesos.

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Covercraft Custom Vehicle Protection – 5/31/2016

May 31, 2016

During the next few of months as we continue our blogs all the way to China and onto Mongolia, Russia and South Korea, I thought it would be interesting to our readers to throw in an occasional little tech tip. These will cover products or techniques that we have found over the years to be valuable during our 40 years of exploring the world.

Not really a mechanical thing or a driving thing, but certainly when our truck is on display at big events like the SEMA Show in Las Vegas and the Overland Expo in Arizona, a question often asked is, “Oh my God! How do you keep these trucks so clean after all the places you’ve driven? Well, the truth is 90% of the roads we drive don’t have a lot of overhanging brush; the exceptions have been few, like the Camino del Diablo, (The Devil’s Highway). Then there was that little road in Turkey that Mr. Garmin and Monika insisted we follow on a two-track through a grove of overgrown olive trees, and I do recall our discovery of Bahia de Los Animas in Baja, at the end of an arroyo guarded by hungry mesquite trees. Scratches mostly polish out.

After the 2015 Overland Expo in Arizona we camped with friends at Valley of the Gods when a sudden rain squall/storm swooped over us and then surprised us with a double rainbow. To keep the heat (and sometimes eyes) out of the cab, we always cover the windows on the inside.

At the Valley of the Gods, a sudden squall swooped across the desert and then surprised us with a double rainbow. To keep the heat (and sometimes eyes) out of the cab, we always cover the windows on the inside.

In reality, the dust and mud and grit of overland adventure all pretty much wash off. The real damage done to our vehicles has always been from the ultra violet rays of the sun, the heat, bird droppings, love bugs, pitch and just plain old weather.

Certainly one of our secrets over the years has been that during the months that we are off the road and The Turtle trucks are parked outside, they are always protected by Custom Covercraft Covers. As much as we love our vehicles and as much as they cost nowadays, and considering how much of them are made of plastic and rubber, it just makes sense to protect them. Covercraft Custom covers come in a variety of styles and materials. Our favorite has been Evolution, designed to stop just about anything that might fall from the sky.

Sometimes people laugh when we cover our car even for a couple of hours while we are at a restaurant or a movie. I smile. It takes about 30 seconds to put a Covercraft Custom car cover over the entire vehicle or a custom Covercraft Cab Cover over our truck, and another 30 seconds to take it off. It takes me an hour to do a half decent wash job. Do the math.

Even when we are on the road, as soon as we stop, our custom-made side window and windshield covers go up on the inside. Monika sews them from lightweight Space Blanket material, available at backpacking stores like REI. The covers attach in seconds with small Velcro tabs. They block the sun’s heat and damaging rays and as a bonus, any kind of cover keeps curious eyes out. What you can’t see you don’t think of stealing. The Space Blanket covers fold up and store behind the seat or above the sun visors.

There has been discussions among overland travelers as where to place the windshield covers. Putting them on the outside will reduce the heat build-up in the cab a little better but we feel, that in an emergency, where we’d suddenly have to drive away (it never happened), having the covers on the inside would allow us to remove a corner of the windshield cover to peek out and leave safely. (Yes, when parked, we always unlatch the back cab window so Monika could crawl through from the camper and start the engine.) If the covers are attached to the outside they could also be easily stolen or with any kind of a severe wind they would blow away.

As long as we’re thinking of covers, have you priced your tires lately? Our Michelin XZLs run about $535.00 each if you can find them. Even a BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM will set you back over $235.00. Protecting them from the sun is a no-brainer and Covercraft offers several sizes of “Tire Savers”. They also manufacture seat covers, doggy beds, dash covers and cab covers. If you drive it or sit on it, they make a custom cover for it. Do I need to point out; clean trucks, cars and SUVs are happier and run better.

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Eskişehir, Turkey 8 – the people – 5/2014

May 18, 2016

While Gary was fascinated with Meerschaum pipes and Zeus, I want to share some more photos of the Eskişehir area, its people, street scenes and the botanical garden. Eskişehir is a modern, clean town with pedestrian streets, funny sculptures, elaborate monuments in round-abouts and interesting parks. I just loved the houses of the beautifully restored Old Town where we strolled around, visited the Meerschaum museum and absorbed the atmosphere. People were busy with life or just sitting on park benches watching the world go by. It was a very welcoming and friendly scene.

The smell of fresh bread beckoned us to a bakery, and following our nose we discovered how the popular sesame bread rings called Simit were made. They are sold throughout Turkey . The busy bakers invited us in and happily posed for photos. In the end, we were presented with a tasty Simit, just pulled out of the oven.

Eskişehir People 32The master meerschaum pipe carver, Mr. Besim Aktaş, patiently answered all our many questions and was very helpful in our quest to learn more about meerschaum mining. His store sold all kinds of Meerschaum products including pipes, letter openers, hairpins, jewelry (necklaces, ear rings, finger rings, brooches and beads) etc. I was surprised that the intricately carved brooches, like the pipes, were as light as a feather. He called a cousin in his home village and told him he was sending us his way to see the mining process. (see Turkey Blog 7 and  www.aktasmeerschaumpipes.com)

Arriving in the village, we found a parking lot adjacent to a community center with a large covered balcony were old men were gathered for their morning “tea” klatsch. Not a woman in sight. None spoke English but as it turned out, several had worked in Germany for a few years so thanks to their rudimentary German, we were able to communicate. They had many questions for us. As tradition has it, we were immediately served with a glass of tea before Mr. Aktaş’ cousin brought us to the area where villagers were working in the shafts and tunnels. The miners were pleased to demonstrate their simple but functional extraction methods and showed us around. I took their invitation to climb down into one of the pits, first using a rope to hang on for a few feet and then climbing a chicken ladder. Just like the gold miners, they used picks and shovels to loosen the dirt in search of nodules of meerschaum. It was backbreaking work in sometimes very cramped tunnels. One miner even demonstrated how he lights and uses his oil lamp. Yup, I made it up the rope again.

Eskişehir People 37Back in the village, we stopped at a house with a porch to drink a soda and learned a bit about the villagers’ lives. Nearby were some old men shooting the breeze and across the street was a lonesome fragil man enjoying the Spring sun. We were told he was over 100 years old and that his wife had recently passed away. There was no family left in the village to care for him. How does he survive, I asked. Some of the kind women in the village bring him food and help when needed. I guess, that’s Turkish Social Security at its best. I walked over to say hello and asked if I could take his picture. He smiled, extending his hand in greeting and seemed pleased for the moment’s attention he received. Too bad we did not speak Turkish. Imagine, born just before World War I during the Ottoman Empire, he could have told us many stories about his long and probably hard life.

After having returned to Eskişehir where Gary bought his treasured meerschaum pipe from Mr. Aktaş, we were looking for a quiet place to spend the night on the outskirts of town and spotted a botanical garden on the GPS. It was a weekday so there were only a handful of visitors. Some mountain bikers peddled by, a group of guys barbecued shish kebabs over a small grill, and a few families were out for an evening stroll. A river had created a large island where a well designed garden with interesting features included trees, shrubs and flowers, water fountains and ponds, art work, educational information, exercise equipment, playgrounds and pick-nick areas. Visitors who passed by greeted. The ones who spoke English stopped to chat. By sunset we were alone and it felt perfectly safe to stay for the night.

 

 

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