Ibn Battuta – Moroccan Vagabond

The greatest adventurer of all time for me is the Moroccan vagabond, Ibn Battuta. He not only traveled everywhere in his known world, but he wrote about it in ways that no one before him had. Ibn Battuta’s journey lasted 29 years, so by Moroccan standards, my wife should be understanding of this current journey I’m on.

Ibn Battuta was the only world traveler in Middle Ages and he achieved fame because of he visited every Muslim ruler’s land of his time. He also traveled in China, Sri Lanka, Byzantium (which included huge amounts of Europe, Turkey, and Central Asia) and Russia. He traveled over 75,000 miles in his lifetime. And keep in mind most of this was by foot, camel, or horse. There were no frequent flyer programs then. He traveled like a nomad throughout the world and in the process, he introduced (and is still introducing) the cultures of the world to one another.

Ibn Battuta was a well known traveler who lived according to the slogan ‘never, if possible, cover any road a second time’. He traveled on camel, horse, by boat and on foot. He went as far as he could through every means of land transport. He also traveled to West Africa and visited Timbuktu, Niger, and Mali. He distinctly described the existing political, social and economic conditions, religious matters, and position of women in the nations and regions he visited.

Ibn Battuta Resources
The Adventures of Ibn Battuta
The Travels of Ibn Battuta in the Near East, Asia, and Africa
Traveling Man: The Journeys of Ibn Battuta

He was elected Chief judge of Delhi, and he spent his life as Qadi (chief judge) of Morocco in the city of Fes for twenty three years, meanwhile he also wrote of his travels which at the time included almost everything that was known about the world.

At the age of 21, Ibn Battuta started his travels from Morocco. The main reason for his journey was to go on the Hajj, the long journey to Mecca, like all other Muslims who are required to do the same during their lives if possible. travels of ibn battuta

He traveled for 29 years and covered almost 75,000 miles where he visited 44 modern countries. He faced many dangers and adventures on his way. Bandits attacked him and he nearly drowned in a sinking ship during his travels.

ibn battuta on camelIbn Battuta was born in Morocco in a Muslim family in 1304. He studied Muslim law and in 1325 he left the place to make the journey to Mecca. He was very interested in adventure and world travel. Traveling to Mecca through land and by sea was dangerous. He traveled on land with a donkey at first. Later he joined a caravan with other travelers.

Ibn Battuta was asked to dictate the story of his travels to a scholar by the Sultan of Morocco. Today we are able to read that story in English and the story is called “Rihla-My Travels”.

Extraordinary Vagabonds: Harry Franck, Pioneer of the Vagabonds

This is an excerpt from my book “Vagabonds: Sometimes Getting Lost is the Point” . It’s available as an ebook for kindle or ebook readers. Over the next several months we will be exploring some of these amazing vagabond characters from the past (and present).

In terms of extraordinary vagabonds, it’s hard to imagine someone who fits the bill more than Harry Franck. This literary vagabond traveled the world and wrote more than thirty books about his adventures during the early 1900’s.

Among Franck’s books are:

A Vagabond Journey Around the World (1910, The Century Company)
Four Months Afoot in Spain (1911, Century Company)
Tramping Through Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras (1916, The Century Company)
Trailing Cortez Through Mexico
Vagabonding Down the Andes (1917, The Century Company)
Vagabonding Through Changing Germany (1920, Harper)
Roaming Through the West Indies (1920, The Century Company)
Working North from Patagonia (1921, The Century Company)
Wandering in Northern China (1923, The Century Company)
Marco Polo Junior(1929, The Century Company)
Zone Policeman 88 (Panama Canal)
South America:
Prince of the Vagabonds: Harry Franck
Glimpses of Japan and Formosa (1924, The Century Company)
Roving Through Southern China (1925, The Century Company)
All About Going Abroad (1927, Brentano’s Inc.)
East of Siam (1926, The Century Company)
The Fringe of the Moslem World (1928, The Century Company)
I Discover Greece (1929, The Century Company)
A Scandinavian Summer (1930, The Century Company)
Foot-Loose in the British Isles (1932, The Century Company)
Trailing Cortez Through Mexico (1935,Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
A Vagabond in Sovietland (1935, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
Roaming in Hawaii(1937, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
Sky Roaming Above Two Continents (1938, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing)
The Lure of Alaska (1939, Frederick A. Stokes Publishing, later printings by JB Lippincott Co.)
Rediscovering South America (1943, JB Lippincott Co.)

As you can see by his titles, this guy got around and was most certainly a pioneer of the modern vagabond spirit. What makes him special is that he was at that point when mass travel was just becoming an option for getting from place to place. As you can see from the picture above, Franck was a backpacker in an age when there really weren’t any backpackers. Certainly he had to make his own gear and figure out things that would make most modern backpackers quiver with nervousness.
Vagabond Harry Franck Franck’s first journey was after his freshman year of college when he decided to see Europe with just $3.18. Not a lot of money even in the 1900’s. He did it. The next year, on a bet, he managed to work his way not only across the Atlantic but around the world with no money at all to start and then published Vagabond Journey Around the World in 1910.

Harry Franck’s willingness to travel with no money, his keen eye for the details of his journey and the societies he recorded (some of which soon disappeared) make him a welcome addition to our list of Extraordinary Vagabonds.

A Moment in Istanbul

Today is my 49th birthday. Here is what I was doing nine years ago. Wow. The world has changed. My life has changed. And my daughter? She has changed into an awesome nine-year-old. I’m super grateful to still be around and to have her around. I’m grateful for my life in this crazy world of 2020 that I never saw coming back in 2011. 

A Moment in Istanbul

This is all real life you know. Whatever that means. Sometimes I forget and for that, I’m sort of thankful but sort of confused. I’m not even sure how I feel about that. Or what it means.
the view from my Istanbul windowWhat I know is that my wife, who I love and miss, is in Morocco looking for a house for us while I am working in Istanbul, staying in a small apartment that looks out on a city state of ships at rest in the Marmara Sea waiting for their chance to go up the Bosphorus and reach the Black Sea and the many Russian and Central Asian ports it holds.
As dusk comes, the lights on the ships come on and instead of hundreds of ships on a sea, it begins to look like a city. Amazing. I miss swimming every day. I miss being in the water, but being able to see the water when I wake and when I go to sleep, even if it appears as a city populated by all the countries of the world, is a fair trade.
And so I work while my wife carries our daughter who will hopefully be born healthy and sound in a few months. Both of us doing our part to make the family we will have in the future a reality. I wonder what things would be like if I were more responsible. What if I’d simply gotten a job after graduation…
Well, then I wouldn’t have met my wife. What if I would have stayed in Morocco? Well, what if? I didn’t. Here I am. There she is. Where we are. And that is what we will have to see. I do wish I were independently wealthy, born into wealth, or lucked into it, or even had the connections to make it big. I didn’t. I don’t. But that doesn’t preclude it from happening sometime in the future. And, since the Ayzan just begain, I should point out that my wife says that whatever you are saying when the call to prayer sounds is supported by God…so, there is always hope.
I’m watching this international maritime city come to light and my wife is looking for an apartment for us for when I finish this job…meanwhile our daughter is growing and becoming more real each day and hopefully, she will understand all of this more than I do….to be honest, I understand less every day, but then maybe that is the way it is suppossed to be.

The Feeling that is Istanbul

People ask me about Istanbul and I have a hard time describing exactly what it is that makes this place so incredibly special to me. There is a feeling here that just sits right, it is a feeling of wonder and melancholy at the same time. Excitement, happiness, and sadness. Do you remember the first time you were truly and hopelessly in love with someone you could never have? Do you remember how you knew you were making them better than they actually were, but you didn’t care, the illusion was worth the price you would pay in disillusionment? Do you remember those feelings? Istanbul is like that for me. I’ve tried to share a bit of it in this hastily shot and edited video – I think it may say it better than all of my words. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Sypil Magnesia aka Tantalus – The Magic Mountain of Manisa

We moved here and both had  this strange sense of being drawn to the mountain. At night I look at the gorgeous shadow of it and I have this sense of power pulsing in it. Those of you who have read a bit of my published work, may be familiar with my idea that God (aka Allah, Creator, IS) is actually the strong forces of the universe: Magnetism, Electricity, Gravity, and Strong (atomic) Force. To me, this idea fits well with the idea that God holds the universe together, is everywhere (omnipresent), knows everything (omniscent), and has all the power in the universe (Omnipotent).

Throne of Pelops
All of this fits well within just about every major religion and I find that particularly, Quran and the words of Christ take on new meanings when you read them with this insight. In fact, I think that this is the missing key which obviously could not be explained to B.C. shepherds or 7th century nomads in scientific terms. The fact is, we know that these forces exist, we sort of know what they do, but we really don’t know why they exist or how they came to be. Just like God.

So, what does this have to do with the magic mountain of Manisa? Well, in fact, the ancient name of Manisa was Magnesia, the name comes from the magnets which come from Sypil mountain, also known in ancient times as Tantalus. The entire mountain is, in fact, one huge magnet. Stories of magnetic gold being found here, and stories of the Olympian Gods struggling with humans also come from this amazing mountain.


Cities here date back as far as 5000 BC and some researchers have postulated that it was a highly advanced city on Sypil that was swallowed into a great lake during a large earthquake. The great lake no longer exists, except as a minor body of water, but geologic evidence shows that there was one, it did exist, and there is some evidence to show that this was actually the site of a civilization of which we know very little. What was the name of this city?

Atlantis. And of course, with stories growing and changing it is more than likely that from a relatively advanced civilization being destroyed in a large lake that the story could grow to a continent sinking into a sea. Not unlikely at all.

Atlantis in Turkey

Tantalus was named after the first King of this region. Tantalus, the son of Zeus. Keep in mind that Homer came from the nearby city of Izmir and he is the first one to write of ‘magnets’ in historical records.

It should also be mentioned that many of the sages of ancient Ionia said that the word magnet actually meant spirit. And the name Sipylos comes from greek and means ‘Gate of the Gods’.

Tantulaus in Manisa

All of this, leads me to wonder if I was drawn here like some piece of iron drawn to a magnet. I’ve found myself in this life living in many ‘power spots’ on the globe and certainly the circumstances which brought me to Manisa are not exactly run of the mill.

Gate to the Gods - manisa, turkey

While I haven’t had the chance yet to climb up the magic mountain of Manisa, I know that once Hanane gets here, we will begin to do some exploration of it. For now, I wonder if I am living closer to God than I ever have before.

My Favorite Travel Adventures of 2011 – Flashback to A Wonderful Year of Travel

2011 was a great year for me in terms of travel, family, and work. While this was yet another year that I didn’t make it home to Hawaii or the USA, it was certainly a busy year. While there were a huge number of experiences to choose from, here are my top ten favorite adventures that came from this incredible year. I’m hoping that the coming year 2021, will be another one to remember.

volos1) Sailing in Greece was the highlight of my year. The food, the boat, the swimming. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

 

 

 

travel in Turkey 2) Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey was one of those oddities that while not being the coolest thing of the year, was certainly one that will never leave me.

 

 

 

korean ceremony 3) Jingabongs in South Korea are my favorite discovery of 2011. Who knew that Korean bathhouses would be so awesome?

 

 

 

DMZ trip 4) Hitching to the DMZ and seeing North Korea for the first time was one of those adventures that I used to read about and dream of doing.

 

 

 

Paris street 5) Whiskey in Montmarte, Paris. Can there really be much better than carousing with strangers, drinking whiskey in the streets, and finding great hole in the wall jazz bars? Only if you do it in Paris.

 

 

 

6) Sleeper train from Istanbul, Turkey to Sofia, Bulgaria. I love train travel and this trip was the first that I’ve shelled out the dough for a sleeper. Everything about this trip was great – until I decided to leave Bulgaria and go to Serbia.

 

 

Switzerland wildlife
7) Eating horse for lunch in Switzerland. Not all trips have to be long – sometimes just the flavor can make a memory.

 

 

 

istanbul walks 8) Istanbul walks were among my favorite travel moments of 2011. Having the chance to live in Istanbul and simply take huge meandering walks in the many neighborhoods including ferry rides, trams, and more. Yes, I miss Istanbul.

 

 

Rome artwork
9) The angry dudes and sexy nudes of the Vatican Museum in Rome were the top museum highlight of 2011.

 

 

 

adventures in Malaysia 10) Finally, I totally enjoyed the weird adventures in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The city was not what I expected at all and well worth a visit.

The Temple of Artemis and Isa Bey Camii


We had a bus to catch at 9:00 am but I wanted to see a couple of things before we left Selcuk. Hanane wanted to sleep so I got to do some power walking and sight seeing at my own pace.

I wanted to see the temple of Artemis, or what was left of it. Antipator of Sedon, who put together the original list of seven wonders of the world wrote of it:

I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the colossus of the Sun, and the huge labour of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, “Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand”.

Alas, today the sight is far from the shining splendor he witnessed. Frankly, I find it amazing that this surpassed the pyramids, but then, maybe it was the essence of the place. As I gazed down upon it from near the Basilica of St. John, I could almost feel a pulsing of power coming from the place. I’ve always believed that certain places do have power, whether that comes from so many worshipping in one spot or whther it comes from before that, it’s really impossible to say, though I tend to favor the idea that places of power predate humans. If it sounds outlandish, just consider how many mosques are built on churches which were built on temples, which were built in those spots for some reason. One thing is certain, this area around Selcuk is litttered with places of worship and powerful religious figures. One of the earliest we know of was Artemis, the virginal goddess of the hunt and the moon.

The Temple of Artemis was completed around 550 BC and now 2500+ years later just one column and some foundation stones remain. Archeologists have found remains of previous temples there that date back as far as the Bronze Age. The Greeks said the temple was originally constructed by Amazons, though this version was destroyed about 700 BC by a huge flood. In 550 BC the Cretans began reconstruction which took about 120 years to complete. The temple was made completely of marble It was a temple which was all about women and archeologists say that Artemis was simply a Greek reinterpretation of fertility Goddess worship which took place there long before the temple was built. The temple was run by a high priestess and plenty of vestal virgins along with female slaves.
Selcuk, Temple of Artemis, Ephesus, Turkey
So, how was this marble monumental structure destroyed? Arsons and Christians. First, a madman seeking fame burned the temple in 356 BC. It’s said that Alexander the Great was born on this night. The Temple was rebuilt after his death. Later the Christians came and they didn’t want any trace of this glorious wonder to remain, though they failed at pulling it apart completely. It’s said in the Christian bible that St. John prayed in the temple and caused half of it to fall. Much of the Basilica of St. John was built with materials pulled from the Temple of Artemis.

I walked around the site though it was closed. It’s remains were small, but perhaps I felt something. Certainly I felt energized.
Isa bey Mosque Cadii Selcuk
From there I walked to the Isa Bey Mosque. Mostly I was intrigued by the unique hammams next to the mosque. They were fenced and I was unable to get inside or even as close as I wanted to.
selcuk isa bey hammam
A far better description than I can give of the mosque which was built in 1374 exists at Archnet.org . and a detailed description of the Isa Bey Hammam at Ayasoluk at the Austrian Archeological Institute’s website.

I would have enjoyed spending more time wandering around Selcuk but we had a bus to catch. Hanane had been dying to bathe in radioactive mud since she found out we were coming to Turkey and that was where we were heading next.

Places I’ve Lived #20 – Manisa, Turkey

Throne of PelopsWe went to Manisa on our honeymoon and since I’d blogged my way out of a pretty good job in Fez, I turned it into a job interview with a school there. I’d been emailing the director and he had said to come anytime and he would show us around. So we did.

The bus ride there from Istanbul was long and beautiful. We passed mountains and streams and finally came to a city with a large mountain behind it. It felt good to me. I called the director and he gave us directions.

We got to the school and met with the director. Manisa is primarily a business city and so it doesn’t have all the cheap or luxurious options for travelers that other cities in Turkey have. Otel Emirhan was fine and offered us a/c, television, breakfast, wi-fi, hot water showers, and a decent bed in a clean room. Once we had settled in a bit, we went to a great little cafe where we met with a second director from a different school.

I  had the interviews, but we both ended up getting jobs at the school with the second director! We moved to Manisa, Turkey!

There were plenty of shops, movie theaters (that even sometimes have films in English), big green parks, a beautiful old mosque, and a lively souk filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, and more. Manisa is also home to the famous “Tarzan of Manisa”

It’s  in the mountains, has plenty of hiking nearby, wild horses, it’s a 30-minute bus ride from the beach city of Izmir, and in ancient times Manisa was where Turkish Sultan’s used to undergo their Sultan Training. Furthermore, Manisa was named one of the best cities to do business in for all of Europe. So,it all seemed pretty great to us.

We went back to Morocco for two weeks and then I returned to Manisa. I was there for almost two months before my wife came to join me. The school was good. I loved my students and I got along well with all the other teachers and the directors. They helped me get a residence permit, a bank account, and to get all the things I needed. When my wife arrived, things got more complicated. Since she was Moroccan, it was more difficult to get her a residence permit. She felt like the school was cheating her. Our relationship with the directors and some of the other teachers took an adversarial turn.

She had to make a visa run to renew her visa so I booked her a flight to Morocco. Then we found out she was pregnant. She wanted to take two weeks to a month back in Morocco but was needed in classes. I was suddenly feeling like papa bear and things turned ugly when they wouldn’t agree to let her have the time off. I felt like it was important – it was Christmas and she was pregnant – she needed to be with her mom. They threatened to fire her. I gave them an ultimatum that if she couldn’t have the time off, they would have to fire me too. So they did.

She flew home and I started looking for a new job and a new place to live since I’d been renting our apartment from the school. I loved Manisa but figured I would have more luck and a better life in nearby Izmir.

Manisa, Turkey – Ancient Tantalus and Magnesia

The ancient name of Manisa was Magnesia, the name comes from the magnets which come from Sypil mountain, also known in ancient times as Tantalus. The entire mountain is, in fact, one huge magnet. Stories of magnetic gold being found here, and stories of the Olympian Gods struggling with humans also come from this amazing mountain.

Cities here date back as far as 5000 BC and some researchers have postulated that it was a highly advanced city on Sypil that was swallowed into a great lake during a large earthquake. The great lake no longer exists, except as a minor body of water, but geologic evidence shows that there was one, it did exist, and there is some evidence to show that this was actually the site of a civilization of which we know very little. What was the name of this city?
Atlantis. And of course, with stories growing and changing it is more than likely that from a relatively advanced civilization being destroyed in a large lake that the story could grow to a continent sinking into a sea. Not unlikely at all.

Atlantis in Turkey
Tantalus was named after the first King of this region. Tantalus, the son of Zeus. Keep in mind that Homer came from the nearby city of Izmir and he is the first one to write of ‘magnets’ in historical records.
It should also be mentioned that many of the sages of ancient Ionia said that the word magnet actually meant spirit. And the name Sipylos comes from greek and means ‘Gate of the Gods’.

Tantulaus in Manisa
 

Places I’ve Lived #21 – Izmir, Turkey

In a way, I feel like I’m cheating when I say I lived in Izmir, Turkey. The main reason is that in the criteria I set out in the beginning of this process of documenting where I lived specified that I needed to be working and paying rent in a place to have it listed – technically, I wasn’t working while I lived in Izmir – I was looking for work and learning how to make a living from a travel blog (this one, actually).  But there is no time for that sort of waffling.

Izmir was wonderful and difficult at the same time. I moved into an apartment with two Turkish heavy metal-heads. My wife was pregnant and back in Morocco and I was suddenly living a bit of a rock star lifestyle – going to shows, hanging out with friends in Izmir, and (really) looking for work during the day. I LOVED living in Izmir. It was this bizarre couple of months when the universe gave me a chance to breathe – my wife was safe and happy with her mother, I was unemployed but had a little bit of money coming in and was surrounded by friends, and I was in one of the most exciting places on the planet. Izmir is cool.

Izmir has great food, great events, and great sport. The Gozetepe football team is one of the best in the world. I’m not going to write too much because I was only there for three months…my job hunt came up with many promises but few offers. Turkish schools in Izmir typically made this offer – “We are going to give you the best offer ever” – when I expressed interest they would say “The best offer ever comes after completing two years of the worst offer ever…really”. I didn’t accept any.

Eventually, after a lot of fun and a lot of searching – my friend Gaye offered me a job working at her hotel in Istanbul. I packed up and headed up there. After all, I had a wife and a baby on the way – I couldn’t afford to just hang around Izmir like a millionaire playboy…

Izmir, Turkey

Izmir has a population of around 3 million making it the second largest city on the Aegean besides Athens and the third largest city in Turkey. In ancient times it was known as Smyrna. Izmir has 8500 years of history in the same location and when you walk around this city, you can feel it.

Izmir is an amazing city filled with progressively minded and forward thinking people. It is the gateway to the Aegean with ferries running to many Greek and Turkish Islands.

Alexander the Great, the Selcuks, the Ottomans, the Romans – they all had their day in Izmir. And I had mine too.

 

 

Niobe: Manisa’s Lady of Sorrow

Near the foot of Sypil Mountin in Manisa, Turkey sits a stone ediface that has been written about for ages and which has inspired some of the world’s greatest art and music.

Just a short walk from the Manisa city center in the Karakoy part of the city is the natural stone monument variously known as Niobe Rock or The Crying Rock. This simple outcropping has inspired literature, music, and painting through the ages. For those interested in historical tourism, Ancient Greek tourism, or cultural tourism – the Niobe rock is something that should be seen, touched, and meditated upon.

The rock itself resembles the head of a wavy haired crying woman complete with eye sockets which have been carved by the natural processes of erosion.

First written about by Homer, the story of this tragic lady has it’s roots in the ancient Greek Mythology of the region. Niobe, the daughter of the great king, Tantolos (Tantalus) was a proud woman who had seven beautiful sons and seven beautiful daughters. In a moment of ill conceived conceit, she bragged of her fortune to the goddess mother of Artemis and Apollo, Leto (Not to be confused with Judge Lance Ito).

Soon after, in a terror of motherly rage, Apollo and Artemis were dispatched to kill all the children of Niobe with poisoned arrows. They succeeded in their task and Niobe was destroyed with sorrow and remorse, she sat on the slopes of Sypil Moutain surrounded by the corpses of her children and cried until the Gods took mercy and turned her to stone. The water which still seeps from her eyes is the tears she still sheds.

Pausanius wrote “I saw the rock known as Niobe when I went to Sipylos Mountain. This rock resembles neither woman nor rock when looked at from near, but when it is looked at from far, a person dreams that it is a crying woman with bended head.”

Homer wrote in the Iliad “Today on Sipylos Rockies over desolate summits, along with the banks of the Akheloos River where there are beds of elves. Just there Niobe has become a stone on the orders of the Gods and she digests her sorrows still, deep in her heart.”

Sophocles wrote of her, Shakespeare mentions her in Hamlet’s Soliloquy “like Niobe, all tears” and she was the inspiration for renaissance painters, classical composers, and even today continues to inspire and bring forth music and art which is tinged with sadness.

5 Extraordinary Souvenirs to Take Home from Turkey

5 Extraordinary Souvenirs to Take Home from Turkey

Turkish CarpetTurkey is one of those destinations that will affect you for the rest of your life. The aesthetics of design, the tastes, the smells – you will never forget a trip to Turkey. Still, it’s nice to have a special souvenir to remember your journey. Here are five extraordinary souvenirs to take home from Turkey with you.

A Carpet or Kilim

There’s a reason Turkish carpets are famous. They are beautiful. Buying a carpet can be one of the most rewarding experiences you have in Turkey. Or, it can be where you get ripped off. Do your homework, only buy from reputable carpet dealers, and make sure you aren’t paying big money for a mass produced Chinese rug.

Iznik Pottery

The delicate blue pottery from Iznik, on the other side of the Marmara Sea from Istanbul is famous the world over. The beautiful fblue and white patterns and fine character of the pottery will serve as a lifelong reminder of the beauty of Turkish design.  Just make sure you pack it carefully!

Turkish Delight

While you can’t take a kebab home, there is a treat you can bring back that will last a little better. Turkish delight is the famous Turkish taffy that comes in flavors from rose to pecan. While it is doubtful that you will keep this souvenir very long once you are home, it will certainly be worth carrying. We won’t blame you if you don’t want to share it.

Turkish Shadow Puppets

The city of Bursa is famous for a shadow play about two funny characters. Karagoz puppet shows were very popular during the Ottoman times and the puppets, made from camel leather and then hand dyed are a gorgeous souvenir. You can find a Karagoz puppet theatre in Bursa – after the show see if you can find your favorite characters.

Turkish Evil Eye Protection

No Souvenir is Turkey is more famous than the famous blue and white glass eyes. You can find them in a multitude of shapes and sizes but if you look really deep in the bowels of the Grand Bazaar you can find particularly fine examples from Ottoman times. The talismans are meant to protect you from envy of others, but if you find one beautiful enough, it might do just the oppossite, so you might want to buy two of them!

 

Topkapi Palace and General Thoughts on Tourism

When I go to new places, I like to see the things that one should see in those places. Or at least, I have liked that. I don’t know that I do anymore.

Last time I was in Istanbul, I felt like I should see Topkapi palace. Upon visiting, I found hordes of tourists lining up to see relics and jewels. I found an admittedly gorgeous place filled with people that I didn’t want to be around. I hated it!

While I’m sure I would have enjoyed wandering around the palace if it was deserted or having a private tour with a guide, I didn’t enjoy the pressing crowds around the Topkapi dagger or the huge cues at the harem or the fact that to get a picture without someone’s head in it was a matter of divine intervention. In fact, I just put my camera away and wandered around. That’s why there are no pictures in this post.

Admittedly, I was a tourist just like every other tourist there that day and what in fact were we? We were commoners crowding to see the trappings of the sultans. We were all trying to feel, or see, or experience something and for what purpose? To show the people back home pictures of it? To blog about it? To see what it was like to be Ottoman?

Here is how I feel about historic and beautiful things. You need to spend time with exquisite things to truly appreciate them. Like a beautiful woman or an extraordinary wine, you aren’t going to get the most out of them if you are in a crowd or in a hurry. I would have liked to spend an hour contemplating the sword of the Prophet Mohammad (or a year) but I was rushed through by the crowd around me. Same goes for the staff of Moses and the many other religious artifacts displayed in Topkapi palace.

As for the bejeweled dagger and the 3rd biggest diamond in the world…I’ve got no use for those unless I can put them in my pocket and walk out the door with them. I’m much more interested in the cushions and textiles, the architectural features, and the subtleties. I’ve no desire to gulp down a fine wine and my trip to Topkapi made me realize that I’ve no desire to gulp down a place or a work of art either. When you go to a fine restaurant, you don’t get rushed out by the wait staff – that happens in 3rd rate places that want to produce as much food as possible instead of producing the best food possible.

Tourism has become like that. Get in and then get out so the next person can get their ticket or the next tour can come through. I like to take my time with things and my advice to you is that if you want to enjoy Topkapi Palace, arrange a private tour, or get a coffee table book and go through it slowly with a fine glass of wine in your hand.

Sunday Hiking in Bozdag, Turkey

I feel very fortunate to have found and joined the Manisa Tennis and Mountain Club. This club meets every Sunday for adventures in Manisa. Many of the members are mountaineers and this Sunday I joined them for my first mountaineering adventure in Manisa!
Every day I’m in Turkey, I find that this country and these people suit me more and more. Turkey is an incredibly beautiful country and the people are warm, friendly, and have a hearty zest for life that really suits my nature.
hiking in Manisa
Of course, part of what led me to living in Manisa was that the city’s mascot is ‘Tarzan’ and finding the Manisa Mountain and Tennis Club was a great thing for me. This Sunday, since Hanane felt a little under the weather, I went to join them for a hike, not really knowing what to expect. I wasn’t too prepared for a big adventure, just a pack with water and a few pieces of fruit. I thought it would be a hike of a few hours on nearby Sypil, boy was I wrong!
hiking in Turkey
They had a bus waiting and we drove about two hours to the mountain town of Bozdag. On the way we passed the ruins of Sardis which is where money was first invented, one could say that it is the place where the root of all evil emerged into the world, but the ruins looked quite serene from the bus. Our first stop was a little mountain bazaar where we had tea and breakfast. In addition to the resident mountaineer, Fuat, two other members spoke great English and befriended me. When I went to pay for my breakfast (tea and a sort of burrito made of spinach and cheese) I found that the president of the club had already paid for mine! It was just the first of many acts of generosity and kindness I experienced through the day.
mountain town Turkey
After this we went to Bozdag where we split into two groups, those who wanted to explore the town and those who wanted to climb to the 2600 meter summit. I joined the climbers.
Turkey hikes
There were about ten of us climbing and perhaps 20 who stayed to enjoy the town. The hike was a beautiful 15 km stroll with a little bit of scrambling, but no technical climbing. On the way we found wild apricots, juniper, and plenty of chestnuts scattered on the ground.
At the top, I was surprised to find that we had climbed to the peak of a ski mountain from the back side. The chair lift wasn’t running though, so we had to hike back down which was, of course, not a problem for any of us.
lunch on Bozgar
At the summit the other climbers shared a delicious meal of bread, cheese, cookies, tea, fruit, dolmoths, and other Turkish goodies with me. One new friend told me that in Turkey the rule is that if you see food, you eat and if you get punched, then you run! I really love the way Turkish people share food. If you are going to eat, you share what you have. My orange and pear didn’t go very far, but were appreciated none the less.
I love hiking in Turkey
Along the way we met other hikers and there was always a true sense of warmth and as we hiked, it made me feel good to hear the hearty laughter of my companions. I’ve been starting to think that Turkey is perhaps the most civilized nation on the planet. The hospitality and caring people show for one another is reflected well in the sharing of tea and the good natured companionship one finds here.
Old man in Bozgar
After the hike we sat and enjoyed tea before climbing back on the bus and coming back to Manisa. It was a wonderful Sunday and I’m so happy to be back among people who love the outdoors and appreciate nature and culture for the wonders they are.

Ancient Travelers – Footprints from 25,000 BC

Travelers have been coming to Manisa, Turkey for a long time. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Lydian travelers voyaged through the area and in some cases set up homes.

The oldest evidence of such ancient vagabonds are the fossilized footprints from 28,000 years ago from the nearby Sindel village. The footprints were preserved by ancient volcanic tuff which filled the original tracks with basalt cinder and thus preserved them until the present day. One can only wonder about the person who made the tracks, no doubt as they high tailed it to someplace further from the volcano!
ancient traveler footprints
The later civilizations which inhabited the area included the Yortan-Bostanci culture, the Hittites, and the Yortan culture- each of which exhibited a degree of nomadic traits while having semi-permanent sedentary villages. While the traces of the ancient vagabond footprints (they’ve discovered about 50 of them!) don’t reveal much, there has been a lot of significant finds about the other culture with Bostanci burials, vessel tombs of the Yortans, and a magnificent Idol workshop which dates to the neolithic age.

The ancient Niobe statue which I discussed last week and the stone statues in the mountains which I will discuss in upcoming Manisa Monday features are undetermined in age or influence, though since Niobe is a natural feature, we are more concerned with the stories about her.

What is it about the geography, geology, and natural life around Manisa that has drawn so many for so long? In part, it is the interruption of the sea by the mountains, the Mediterranean climate, and the fertile soil which supports wild pears, junipers, and many varieties of apples, cherries, and vegetables.

Goreme to Ankara to Istanbul

Since we tried booking at the last minute,  we were unable to get a bus from Cappadocia direct to Istanbul when we needed one. We’d been given advice that wasn’t really great, he was right that there are a lot of buses, but there were apparently more people than seats. So, my advice is to book your direct overnight bus tickets in advance.

As it was, we took a bus to Ankara for 25 lira. I figured we had three options 1) stay the night in Anakara 2) catch a sleeper car on the train or 3) catch a different bus to Istanbul.

So, we woke up and lounged around our super high end cave for a while enjoying all the amenities before going to the bus station and catching our bus to Ankara. It was about 5 hours to Ankara and the bus stopped at one fairly expensive tourist shop/roadside restaurant along the way. At the stop, I started talking with a man near us named Ramazan. Ramazan is the comptroller for a Turkish Bank and is fortunate to be able to travel all over Turkey for business. He was a very friendly, good natured guy who was excited to get back home and see his pregnant wife in Ankara.

I asked him what he thought the best option was for us out of the three above. He said we should definitely get the train but if the train was full, he knew of a fairly cheap hotel near the train station. I asked him how to get to the train station and he said that since it was on his way home, we could share his cab and that he would help us to book our tickets. Another very nice man offering to help us on the bus in Turkey!

From the Otogar in Ankara which was truly massive with hundreds of buses going to all points in Turkey, we followed Ramazan and got into a cab which took us to the modern and architecturally interesting train station. It was situated near a giant amusement park that made me remember going to Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm when I was a kid.
Ankara Dolmus, Ankara bus station, Ramazan
The sleeper cars were full on the train. So were the regular seats. So were the first class seats. Apparently since Ramadan was coming up, lots of people were on holiday and heading to Istanbul. Ramazan told us to follow him and he would lead us to the hotel. He was apologetic and told us that if his wife weren’t pregnant, he would let us stay with him. He couldn’t find the hotel he thought he remembered though and so he started to make calls as we took a long walk around the amusement park.

The truth is that every hotel in Ankara was beyond our budget. Since it’s not a tourist place, the hotels are priced around business and politics and thus are priced high since the people in both fields usually have someone else footing the bill.

Ramazan walked us back to the Dolmus station and showed us which Dolmus to take back to the Otogar. That was what we saw in Ankara.

The Otogar, the train station, an amusement park, and a Dolmus station. With only that to judge by, I have to say that I think Ankara must be a beautiful city and I look forward to seeing more of it. I also felt that in that time I made a good friend in Ramazan. I hope we get the chance to spend more time together in the future.

At the Otogar, we found that nearly every bus was full but finally we managed to catch a bus with Metro Bus Lines, the only catch was that we had to wait five hours during which we ate, drank tea and orange juice, and browsed the many book vendors in the Ankara Otogar.

When the time arrived, the Metro bus was very nice and got us all the way to the ferry on the Asian side of Istanbul by about 8 am. It was 35 lira each from Ankara to Istanbul.

Fethiye – Tourist Trap?

Fetiye Harbor, Mediteranean Port, Turkey
This may come as a shock, but Fethiye was a disappointment to us. Our friend Darren had told us before we left Morocco that the one place we didn’t want to miss was Fethiye so despite having quite a few other recommendations from other friends, we decided we wouldn’t miss Fethiye. I’m not convinced that it was a terrible place, in fact, it seemed like a very nice place- I just think that maybe having great expectations and coming from our great time in Koycegiz sort of meant Fethiye was destined to be disappointing.
Turkey, Fethiye Monument
The mini-bus from Koycegiz to Fethiye was only 10 lira each. The bus from the otogar to the town was free and in a strange fit of being prepared I booked our tickets to Goreme for two days later and our 12 Islands cruise for the next day while we were at the bus station. This is very untypical behavior for me and I don’t recommend you do the same thing as it limits your options to be booked ahead.
Looking in the LP, it looked like everything was a bit more expensive in Fethiye and so we opted to go with the cheapest hostel that was rated as decent. The Ideal Pension.

DON’T DON’T DON’T GO TO THE IDEAL PENSION. Lonely Planet is way outdated on this one. Don’t go there.

I used to manage hostels in Hawaii and I’ve stayed in hundreds and as soon as I walked in this place, I was sure that it was a sleezy dump. First impression was that it was dirty, unkempt, and that we would be likely to get our bags stolen or catch bedbugs there. Still, I went up to the desk because I wanted to at least see a room.
The guy at the desk had this intensely negative energy that was like hot grease poured on water. I later found out from other travelers that he was the owner and that there have been some major drug problems and sexual harassment at the Ideal Pension.

I asked him about a double and he told me 60 lira, shared bath, and no a/c! I looked around the dump and decided I would rather take my chances elsewhere. “You won’t find anything better for that price!” he yelled after me as I walked out. Thankfully, Hanane decided to just trust me on this one as I couldn’t really explain why we were leaving right then. I just wanted out of that place. I didn’t want to spend time explaining.

We walked less than a hundred meters and found Yildirim Pension. The owner, Omar agreed to give us a big double room with a/c, private bath, and tv for 60 lira per night. The furniture and bedding were pretty worn, the bed wasn’t very comfortable, the water didn’t get very hot, and the curtains didn’t quite stretch enough to cover the street facing window but Omar seemed a pretty nice guy and told us that he made a great free breakfast. I figured it was probably about as good as it would get in an overpriced tourist trap town.

Yildirim Pension is at 1 Kragozler Mah.Fevzi
Cakmak Cadassi Number 37
Fethiye – just around the corner from the dumpy Ideal Pension

Omar arranged for our transport to the 12 Island Cruise the next day and for the free shuttle to pick us up to go to the Otogar the day following. He told me that a big scam at the bus station was to sell the cheap cruise for the expensive cruise price. He called the tour company and told me that he had fixed things so that we were on the better boat now but we would have been on the worse boat. I’m not so sure his calls did any good.
Fetiye, Turkey, Boat Cruises
We walked through Fethiye and it was hot! the weather was scorching and as we walked along the docks, I saw literally hundreds of tour boats competing for business. If I had been more patient, I’m certain I could have gotten us on an ultimately much better cruise for the same or less money (30 lira each plus ‘expenses’).
Fetiye, Harbor, Boarwalk, cruises
We found a great little restaurant off the tourist path called Efe where we a delicious dinner of pide (Turkish pizza), salad, and chicken wings for about 23 lira. The owner reminded me of Lee Marvin with his American accent and constant cigarette smoking. Nice guy, delicious food, reasonable prices.
Lee Marvin, Fethiye, Turkey

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