I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Turkey (5)


One last day




It was a bleary eyed room-service breakfast at 6.30am this morning, for our day in Ephesus was to begin at 7.40.  Much as we’d have liked a later start, it was a Good Thing, because we watched four huge cruise ships appear as our bus left the parking lot and we were ahead of them all.  Not only that, but it was comparatively cool still.




We were a little cool about returning to Ephesus so soon after our last visit.  Not that we didn’t enjoy it, but there were other places we’d have preferred to spend our time – Miletes, Didyma, Priene.  Anyway, here we were with Hakim, excellent guide, determined to make the most of our day.




I didn’t want to take the same photos again, so looked for different aspects.  As is often the case, I was glad to find patterns in the stones.




Of course, the sight of the arch with no other person in view is too good an opportunity to miss.




And really, how could I pass Nike by without taking a photograph?




More patterns




Hakim was good at finding shady spots and we did well at keeping ahead of the game.




Even so, we didn’t want to miss anything.




It was starting to get rather warm.  Hot, even.




I’m admiring the wonderful lettering, finding it hard to imagine the age of these stones and wishing I could read ancient Greek.




Our tour then takes us to somewhere new to us – the Terrace Houses.  Described as the biggest jigsaw puzzle on earth, archaeologists are working to piece these stones together to get a better picture of what these houses were like.




It being Sunday, no-one was at work but it was fascinating to see a process underway.




I’d say that they’re doing pretty well so far, with these beautiful frescoes bright and detailed.




Looking over the site from a steel and glass walkway, there were fine mosaics and beautifully preserved wall decorations.  We had seen none of these on our previous visit and were thrilled to be able to visit this part today.




We were also lucky that it was Sunday, because the Marble Street was open for us to walk along – it has been closed on weekdays because of the work taking place using that crane.




Looking back at the library from the Marble Street, it’s easy to pretend we had the place to ourselves…




But that was far from the truth, of course.




The Marble Street leads to the Theatre, where St Paul spoke to the Ephesians.




I don’t suppose he encountered quite the number of shopping opportunities, though.  Genuine Fake watch anyone?




Back in Kusadasi, the shopping is a little less tacky but equally good natured.




Our ship was never far away!


Moving along




This is a fine city.  Such a magical silhouette.




Friday lunchtime and the call to prayer sounds from the minarets




But there’s still business to be done, in children’s hats






Who knows what someone will want to buy?




There must be some football fans around here?




Such a city of merchants.  Watch or a lighter anyone?






So many small structures, this one a little burial ground




Lokum = Turkish Delight.   Yes please.  Of course.




Sailing away at 11pm, the party continues in small restaurants and cafes along the Bosphorus.




Every so often, a small ferry goes by with loud music playing and people dancing.  We sail under the bridges, Asia on the right, Europe on the left and follow an ancient course past the Dolmabahce Palace, where we’re told, there is a meeting of EU ministers this evening.  Perhaps the chandelier will be lit?








It’s getting chilly and it’s been a long day.  But fortified with a glass of Drambuie to warm the cockles, we stay out a little longer.




Finally, around midnight, we agree that it’s time to go to bed.





With the castle coming into view, it’s goodnight Istanbul.  Goodbye Turkey, for now.  See you in a few days.


Changing the Guard – in a different palace



Christopher Robin didn’t bring Alice here though.  Watching these young men march up and down, looking fierce and composed one minute, then stepping out of line and suddenly becoming ordinary young men again was quite entertaining.  Observing the trouble taken by some visitors to compose the perfect shot of themselves with the guard, only to be thwarted by an unexpected addition to the snapshot was yet more amusing.  But we were here to see other things.




Explaining our dilemma to the concierge this morning resulted in the same suggestion as the one we had from someone yesterday.  The Dolmabahce Palace was only a step from our hotel and was well worth seeing, we were told.  So, that’s what we did.





Before stepping inside, we had to clad our feet in plastic showercaps.  You can imagine how comfortable that is in 30C heat, not to mention the increased hazards of wonky carpets and stairs.  Shall we say, it concentrated the mind, somewhat?

But any distraction from such things was banished the minute we stepped inside the building.  Six huge chandeliers, all lit and sparkling were the first hint of what we were to see.  There on the ceiling, above the chandeliers were painted surfaces, trompe-d’oeil mouldings in taupe, grey and brown – breathtaking decor and so much to see.

Except that there wasn’t time to see it.  A guided tour is obligatory and our guide whisked us through at breakneck speed, for other groups were hard on our heels and we had to keep up with the one in front.  We kept pace, nudging each other to point out the next glorious vision, me frantically scribbling notes in my sketchbook, determined to refer to the website which she promised would have photos to download, because, of course, photos were forbidden.  There were striped silks in raspberry and dove grey, a blue room with matching blue glass chandelier, cases of treasure and incredible cutwork blinds at the windows.  Also at the windows were hanging the most beautiful lace curtains, silhouetted against the cream blinds pulled down to protect the decor from the sunlight.

Keep going, follow the red carpet.  Keep up there at the back.

Everywhere there were chairs.  Every room had a dozen.  Many rooms had more.  All lavishly upholstered in beautiful fabrics.  Most rooms had a chandelier in the centre, mostly English glass, though in the Harem, the chandeliers were French, we were told.  “More romantic”.  ( ? )

Room after room, each with another variation on the central table, chairs, chandelier theme.

Until we reached the last room of all.  The Ceremonial Hall.  The only chandelier which wasn’t lit.  The four and a half ton chandelier which was given by Queen Victoria and which is lit only on special occasions.  By this time, we were pretty much chandeliered out and yet this amazing piece left us all with gaping mouths.  Neither ballroom nor mosque but suitable for use as either, the painted ceilings, pillars, walls were stunningly beautiful and it’s hard to imagine anyone who could fail to be impressed by it.  Which is exactly the idea.




Almost exactly an hour later, we found ourselves outside in the sunshine again, not quite believing what we’d just seen.  How pleased we were that we’d taken that advice and not tried to battle our way through to the old town.  Even more pleased to think that we’d not had to queue in the hot sunshine like those arriving now – possibly another reason why we’d had to scuttle through so fast.





What a great place to go.  How lucky we didn’t miss it.




We’ve been trying to figure out that song since we arrived, and still can’t seen to get it to fit.  Perhaps we should settle for Istanbul.




We arrived in rush hour.  Except that it seems to have been rush hour from early morning until late at night.  This city never sleeps, nor does it go home, it seems (however much it might want to).

Two hours after landing, we were still sitting in a traffic jam, reassessing our thoughts for tomorrow when we’d hoped to scoot around and do a bit of the old town.  We’d not given it much thought but had assumed that we’d go to the Spice Market, soak in a little atmosphere and make the most of the very short time we had here.  But one thing after another made us think differently.

Firstly, tomorrow is Friday and the city will be particularly busy as the Mosques open for their main weekly service.  The traffic will be worse as a result.  Next, it was announced that our transfer to the ship was scheduled for 1pm – peak time for mosque services and people moving around the city.  Finally, we hadn’t reckoned on our hotel being quite so far from the old town.  We swiftly reached the conclusion that we’d be foolhardy to try to do too much in such a short time and decided to reconsider.

We did a super-quick turnaround and walked the short distance to Taksim Square, somewhere we knew would be a good place to begin to find some fun.




Thursday evening, 7.30pm, Taksim Square.  Just the place to meet friends, have a photo taken in front of the Memorial, relax and enjoy being in the city.

Which is exactly what we did.  Except we haven’t any friends to meet.




Joining the pedestrian migration towards Beyoglu Tower, suddenly we were here. In Istanbul.  Still in Europe but not quite.  Faced with a plethora of choices




Roast chestnuts?  Not yet.




Baklava?  Ooooh….maybe later.




Kebab, meatballs, pasta, cheese….so much to choose, all there in front of our eyes.  What did we fancy?




No decision!  Seeing these two jolly souls making flatbread in the window of a traditional style Anatolyan restaurant by the name of Otantik, we dived straight inside (really, they were laughing and chatting until they posed for my photo, when they turned serious!)  We allowed ourselves to be persuaded into sharing a recommended filled flatbread starter, followed by an assortment of specialities and tucked in enthusiastically.  The filled flatbread was delicious, the platter full of familiar looking skewers and meat dishes with some tasty couscous there in the centre was just what we needed and the perfect choice on this warm evening.





Of course, we couldn’t resist dessert, Anatolyan style, which came with a floor show




This strangely chewy ice cream was said to be made of ewe’s milk and tasted fresh and good.  But the texture was a little odd.

We made our way back up the street, towards our hotel and our comfortable bed.  Strange how doing nothing but sit around waiting, travelling from one place to another is so tiring, isn’t it?  And funny that, however far or near we fly, it always seems to take a day.

Yes, we did resist that baklava on the way back.

No, we didn’t resist the Turkish Delight shop…


To Ephesus

One of the highlights of this itinerary was Ephesus, only a stone's throw from Kusadasi, last stop of our trip. We'd heard of the place before - Edna and Gordon, my parents, had enjoyed a stop here and warmed to the Turkish people as a result of mooching around the town some years ago and people we'd met along the way spoke warmly of their previous experience of being here.

We arrived early this morning. In fact, as we woke and opened our curtains, we found land right outside our window and after a quick breakfast, we went ashore to meet our guide for the day - Tuba. For once, we got her name correct, for she explained that it was indeed the same as the musical instrument!

We were a small group, only 10 of us, so our sightseeing was more efficent than usual. Straight to the site, then, and before 9am there we were, gobsmacked from the off. Who wouldn't be, when such treasures were at our feet, so unspoiled and ready for us, some of the first visitors of the season.

We were so fortunate to visit in comfortable temperatures, for Tuba explained that, for much of the tourist season, the heat is overwhelming and the site is nowhere as green and lush as we saw.

By the time we reached the library, we could hear the sounds of a string quartet, a fine accompaniment to our visit, thoughtfully arranged by the cruise company for our enjoyment. Those who had been here previously had not been able to access this fantastic structure at such close quarters, so we all shared the delight in discovering the fine architectural details and marvelled at the fact that we were able to be here and appreciate it first hand.

Sadly, time was short, there was more on our schedule, and we must move on

past the advertisement for the brothel

to the Theatre and back to our vehicle for further stops on our tour.

Firstly, to the museum in Selcuk, where some of the original components of the ruins were kept, since in some cases, the reconstruction had involved the use of replicas.

Next, past the site of the Temple of Artemis, another of the Seven wonders of the ancient world, to St John's Basilica, his burial place, where we had a short lesson in some ancient Christian symbolism. Interesting.

By now, we were getting towards lunchtime but there was one more important site to visit

This small building was said to be the last house of the Mother Mary, place of pilgrimage and scene of several miracles, according to local history. Once again, we were fortunate to have the place (almost) to ourselves. What a privilege.

To lunch then, in a local garden which just happened to be alongside a carpet making school. No hard sell here, though, just a delicious "picnic" from a local hotel and then a chance to see some of the processes involved in the making of a Turkish rug of the highest quality.

We saw the double knotting, on silk and wool carpets

and then went next door where the dyeing process was under way and a few large pots bubbled. Gasps of amazement were to be heard when the yarn was pulled from the indigo vat - truly magical even when one knows what happens!

The "evil eye" was never far away as we sped back into town and were set free to roam the streets of Kusadasi in search of bargains. But the salesmen had to work hard, for their colleagues had already sold us Indian gemstones, gold in Dubai, Arabian pashminas and fine Egyptian cotton. But here there was leather...

Having spent up, we changed and went out on deck for our last sailaway, waving goodbye as the last rope was untied and we sailed off toward Pireus, from where we fly home tomorrow.