From Yenikapi to Yalova to Bursa by Ferry and Bus

We woke up early and Alp helped us to get to Bostanci where we caught the ferry to Yenikapi. Bostanci is the big ferry port on the Marmara Sea which has all the ferries out to the Prince’s Islands.

We hope to make it out to the Prince’s Islands someday on another trip. As it was we said our goodbyes to Alp and used the time before our ferry to Yenikapi on the European side to try to figure out how we were going to get to our next stop, Bursa.

Bursa was the first capital city of the Byzantines and is filled with historic buildings and sites. It sits on the slopes of a huge mountain called Mt. Uludag and has famous thermal baths, but none of that is the real reason we were going there.
ferry to Yalova from Yanikapi, Bursa
We were going to Bursa because it was on the road to Manisa (much more on Manisa later) and we had found a couchsurfing host in Bursa before we left Morocco, but as you probably already know, our couchsurfing in Bursa didn’t happen, for which I wasn’t entirely disappointed because sometimes it’s nice to get a hotel room and have the freedom to come and go as you see fit. In particular this is true after staying with hosts for a few days. The reverse is also true, it’s nice to have your own house to yourself after hosting for a few days too.
Yenikapi Ferry Terminal, Istanbul, Turkey
So, in any event. We found ourselves at Bostanci with an hour before our ferry to Yenicapi and so we thumbed through the lonely planet and tried to figure out the best way to get to Bursa, what we would do when we got there, and of course, we watched the other people in the ferry terminal as they read newspapers, kissed in public (which was particularly shocking to Hanane since that is another thing you can be arrested for in Morocco), and wore fashions that were sometimes amusing and sometimes painful.

It looked like the best bet was to go to Yanikapi, catch the ferry to Yalova, and then take a bus to Bursa. That was what the LP said, but when I looked at the ferry schedule, I saw a ferry that went straight from Bostanci to Bursa. Looking at the map, I didn’t really see how that was possible since Bursa seems to be landlocked, but I thought it was worth a try. Our other option , since by this time I’d found out that we didn’t have a couch there anyway, was to take a ferry to Bandirma and skip Bursa all together.
Yanikapi, Yalova, Ferry, Bursa, Istanbul
Since I was thinking that, I should say that Bursa had started to look like a place to eat an Iskendar Kebap and see more old buildings. That being said, I really have to admit that I’ve lost my excitement for seeing old things unless they have some special significance to me like having been in a book I read, in a movie I’ve seen, or even in a game I’ve played. I’d rather sit and drink a pint in a place where Steinbeck used to hang out than to look at some 2000 year old building where Blahblah the Great who I never heard of changed the style of dress for the Ottomans. Of course, maybe it’s just a phase I’m going through…

The nature in around Bursa sounded great but I was starting to be in a bit of a destination instead of the journey mode and so decided that we would only stay one day so that we could get to my destination before the weekend came.

In any event, we got to Yanikapi and the direct ferry to Bursa was already gone so I wasn’t able to find out if it was a land ferry or how that worked. I asked a Turkish friend later and they said that it takes you to a spot where you can catch the Bursa Metro. I like to think of the land ferry though.
We also got there a few minutes too late to go to Bostanci. We were just in time for the Yalova ferry but it was full, so we had to cool our heels for 2 ½ hours while we waited for the next one.

I know, we could have done some great exploring, had a nice meal, sat in a park or done lots of great things, but instead we pulled out my netbook and watched a film in the ferry terminal. The trip from Bostanci was 6 lira each, from Yanikapi to Yalova was 28 each, and from Yalova to Bursa Ottogar we would need a bus for 9 lira each, and finally another bus from the Ottogar to the city center for 2 lira each. So 45 Lira each to get from Istanbul to Bursa.

The ferry had assigned seats and some of the most expensive food of any transport I’ve been on. A slice of pizza, a coke, a coffee, and a sandwich cost us 18 lira. It was far less food than a meal would have been. The views from the ferry of the Prince’s Islands and the Marmara Sea were pleasant if not spectacular.

I expected to find the hassles and touts at the ferry port like we would find in Morocco, but Turkey was one of the most hassle free places I’ve ever visited. No one approached us at all. I found the bus to the Bursa Ottogar and we ended up sitting surrounded by an Algerian family who Hanane eavesdropped on to find out if they knew a good hotel. Since they didn’t seem to be saying we decided to pick the cheapest place recommended by Lonely Planet.
bus station Bursa, Bursa tourism, tours in Bursa
We arrived at the Ottogar and I found us a bus to Central Bursa, we asked three young girls carrying their English lesson books if they could tell us which stop to get off at so we could find the Hotel Gunes, but they didn’t know so they asked a guy wearing a cheap suit who was sitting nearby if he knew. He told us to just follow him when he got off the bus. It seemed like a bad idea to follow a guy in a cheap suit off a bus in a strange city, but we did anyway.turkish guy in a bad suit

The Hippodrome of Istanbul

Traveling sometimes brings images up that I don’t remember i real life. Images of exotic places, ancient times, and Ben Hur. The Hippodrome is one of those tourist locations.

The Hotel Ayasofya is located near all of the wonders and sites of Sultanahmet in Istanbul. Our walk took place just after the wonderful breakfast of cheese, plump dried figs, cereal, juice, toast, yogurt, and Turkish tea that the hotel serves for its guests.
tours in Istanbul, Tours in Turkey, Obelisk in Hippodrome
Since I knew we would be Couchsurfing (although I thought we would be with more than just one host), I bought a TURKCELL Sim card for 40 Lira which gave me a local number and 20 Lira worth of phone time. I have multiple pay as you go SIMs for the countries I visit because I’ve realized that temporary SIMS with prepaid amounts end up costing me less than cell phone contracts. The Turkcell Sim can be bought at any of thousands of phone shops throughout Turkey and can also be recharged just about everywhere you see a Turkcell logo. With light use, my credit lasted me throughout our trip and left me with about 3 Lira of call time when we left.
Istanbul sight seeing, Istanbul tours, Istanbul Hippodrome
From the hotel, we walked up the hill, past the ancient city walls and to the Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque. I have to be honest here and say that while I kept hearing people mention the Hippodrome, I expected it to be a building and it wasn’t until later when we bought a guidebook that I realized the lovely park we walked through to get to our first sights was one of the great sites of Sultanahmet. We wanted to get some lunch so we found a kebap restaurant that smelled good, looked good, wasn’t aggressive in getting us to come in, and had modest prices. I can tell you, it’s not an easy thing to find in Sultanahmet. We had two kebaps and a couple of drinks for 20 lira which is a little expensive in most of Turkey, but not bad in such a touristic place. It was while we were sitting there that I realized what the Hippodrome actually was.
Istanbul sightseeing tours, Hippodrome
What I saw as a nice rectangular park with some old monuments in it was actually a Byzantine race track which used to have two levels of seats on the outside and where chariot races used to excite the crowds for more than 1200 years. The chariot teams were really political parties called ‘Greens’ and ‘Blues’ and so it was part politics and part sport for the Byzantine Emperors and chariot fans.

It was here that the janissary guards of Sultan Mahmet II were slaughtered thus freeing his mother to rule through him. Since it was a place of such great interest, the many monuments placed here by the Emperors of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires are astounding in their age and beauty. The Crusaders stole most of them in 1204 but left the heaviest one’s for future generations to see.

The first we looked at which Hanane immediately declared another fake was the Obelisk of Theodosious which was carved in Egypt in the 1500’s BC and brought by the Emperor Theodosius to Istanbul in AD 390. Hanane just couldn’t believe that something so well preserved could be more than 3500 years old.

Further on is a brass spral column stolen from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi where it was erected in 478 BC. It was brought to Istanbul by Constantine the Great in AD 330.
tours of old Istanbul, Constantinople, Istanbul, Serpentine Column
Another big rough stone obelisk looked worn enough for Hanane to acknowledge it might be real, mainly because the Crusaders had stolen all the brass covering from it. I never figured out if Hanane was only joking with me or if she really doubted the ages of these things, but either way, we both enjoyed looking at them and trying to figure out how old they might be.
Istanbul, Constantine Column, Hippodrome, Turkey Tours
There’s no charge to wander around the Hippodrome and the park is a great place to people watch. In a short time we saw people from all over the world there. Since it is such a busy place, the Asian tourists we saw and heard probably didn’t realize that it was the sound of their language which caused Hanane to go into giggling fits. That’s going to be difficult when we travel to Asia someday.

Touring Ancient Troy and Bloodsoaked Gallipoli in Turkey

Gallipoli Tour
Most visitors to Turkey have already heard of Ancient Troy and the Gallipoli Peninsula.
Both the scenes of epic battles and massive bloodshed. Both also made into films of the same name.
For most visitors from Australia and New Zealand, a visit to the Gallipoli Battlefields is an integral part of their trip to Turkey. Gallipoli was the first battle site for the ANZACs (troops from Australia and New Zealand) and it scarred the national memory. It was also the place were Mustapha Kamal Ataturk (the father of Turkey) rose to notice. And despite the fact that they were enemies, it is the place where a long and respectful friendship between Aussie, Kiwis, and Turks was born.
While it is possible to tour Gallipoli and Troy on your own, you will get much more from it if you are with an experienced guide.
A visit to this beautiful and moving Peninsula can be easily arranged, either in a day or combined with a visit to the ancient city of Troy. A private tour with your own vehicle, English speaking driver and specialist guide is another option for those who want a more personal experience.

GALLIPOLI DAY TOURS
If you opt for the regular tour from Istanbul you will depart from your hotel in Istanbul at 6.30 am and returns approx 10.30 pm
Included in the tour are transport, lunch and guided tour of the Kabatepe Museum and all the memorial sites including Anzac Cove, Ariburnu Cemetary, Lone Pine, Johnstons Jolly, the Nek
Turkish Cemetary and Chunuk Bair Memorial.
This tour is 100 Euros per person.

Private Tours of Gallipoli from Istanbul
You will depart your hotel in Istanbul at 7.30 am and return at approximately 9.00 pm. Included are a private vehicle with English speaking driver, a highly experienced guide, packet breakfast, and lunch on arrival.
The tour covers all of the Australian and New Zealand memorial sites but also gives guests the opportunity to visit the Turkish Memorial Cemetary at Cape Hellas.
The cost for a private tour is usually about twice the price of the standard group tour so count on about 200 Euro per person, though there are discounts for three or more.

Day Trips to Troy
Tours of TroyA regular tour from Istanbul goes from about 6.30 am from your Istanbul hotel and returns around 12:00 midnight. Included are pickup from hotel, transport, lunch in Ecebat, crossing the Dardenelles and a fully guided Tour of Troy before returning to Cannakkale and then back to Istanbul.
Cost is about 110 Euros for this trip.

GALLIPOLI AND TROY – OVERNIGHT
To really experience the places, it’s recommended that you go for at least one night, though some schedules won’t allow for that. By going overnight you can have the fully guided tours of Gallipoli and Troy plus spend time in Ecebat. Transport is included in this package as well as one night’s hotel in Canakkale. All fees, tolls, etc are included as well as lunch on the first day.
Prices vary depending on level of hotel, tour options etc.

Travelling in Turkey – More Greek and Roman Ruins than Italy and Greece!

Again, not a lot of time to write, but we are having a wonderful time in Turkey. From cruising the Bosporus to marveling at the Iskander Kebap in Bursa, this trip has been filed with adventures stretching across the Black Sea, the Marmara Sea, and soon the Aegean Sea, and of course a bit of the Mediterranean Sea too.

I’ll be writing about all of our adventures when I have some time to put things together and pick the best photos. In the meantime, here is a small piece I’ve put together on this amazing land we are trekking across by ferry, bus, taxi, and more.

turkey is surrounded by 4 seas
Turkey is surrounded by seas and littered with ancient civilizations.

As a guy who loves the ocean, I can hardly imagine a place that offers more variety than Turkey. While very different from places like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Hawaii; Turkey is filled with more Greek and Roman ruins than Greece and Italy and is surrounded by four seas and several straits.

The Black Sea which the Turkish people call Karadeniz borders the northern part of Turkey. It’s an inland sea that takes up more than 420,000 kilometers. Geologists say it was formed when Asia crashed into Europe and opened up the Bosporus Strait and flooded an inland plain. It is about 2200 feet deep in places and is warm in the summer and extremely cold during the winter. It is fed by many rivers and empties into the Bosporus. While no one seems to be certain why it is called the Black Sea some say it is because of the dangers that exist in it and others that it is because of the deep dark waters. It is the youngest sea on earth and is kept saline through inflows from the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosporus.

Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterreanean Sea
There\’s no shortage of beaches in Turkey

The Sea of Marmara which Turkish people call Denizi is a small inland sea connected to the Black Sea by the Bosphorus Strait. The Marmara Sea’s name comes from the Greek work for marble (marmar) and is about 11,000 square kilometers. It is relatively small being only 280 by 80 kilometers at its widest points. It is filled with many islands. To the south the Dardanelles Strait connects the Sea of Marmara with the Aegean Sea.

Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterreanean Sea
There is plenty to do in the seas of Turkey.

Turkish people call it Ege Denizi, but in English it is known as the Aegean Sea. Legend says that it was named for a famous drowning but whether that was Queen Aegea of the Amazon or Aegeus, the father of Thesius isn’t totally clear. It’s waters however, are very clear and while it is only 214,000 square kilometers and often included as a part of the Mediterainean, it has over 3000 islands within it including Crete, Rhodes, Lesbos. It sits between Turkey and Greece. It’s shores were home to Trojans, Mycenaean, Persians, Minoans, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans, and many others. You can’t take a step without stepping on ancient stories and history.

Sea of Marmara, Black Sea, Aegean Sea, Mediterreanean Sea
It really is as gorgeous as you can imagine in Turkey

And finally, there is the mighty Mediterranean Sea. Bridging the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe and the many countries that exist on it’s shores. It fills the area between The straits of Gibraltar in the West which lead to the Atlantic Ocean and the Suez Canal in the East which connect it to the Red Sea. The Turkish name for the Med is Akdeniz which means White Sea. Mediterranean actually comes closer to meaning Middle Earth in Latin. That explains all the hobbits. Despite the Latin origins of the name, the Romans called it Mare Nostrum- Our Sea.
The Mediterranean is nearly 2.5 million square kilometers. Just about everyone you read about in ancient history class lived on its shores. Phoenicians, Egyptians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Lycians, Arabs, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Seljuks, Ottomans, and all those Europeans during the Renaissance. That’s because it has a massive 46,000 kilometer long coastline that is shared by Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Malta, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Greece,Turkey, Syria, Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco.

The Basilica of St. John at Selcuk – Revelations and the Anti Christ

St John Basilica, Sacred tours, Turkey, Selcuk, Ephesus
I had no idea that I would be visiting the place where the idea of the Anti-Christ was born or the book of Revelation was composed, but there I was clowning around in the baptismal pool of the church that was built on the grave of St. John, apostle of Christ and author of Revelations.

It was an impressive ruin. If it were still standing it would still be the 7th largest Christian church in the world, but it’s not standing. It’s crumbling. Amazingly as we walked through, I saw something blue on the ground and reached down to see what it was and realized I was walking over an unprotected fresco that no one had bothered to uncover. It wasn’t a recognizable scene, but I spent the next few minutes uncovering it so that others might notice it and maybe someone would even put some sort of barrier around it.
Christian tradition says John lived to an old age and to have died a natural death at Ephesus about A. D. 100. He was the last survivor of the apostolic group. The Gospel was probably written later than the three Synoptic Gospels, about A. D. 85-90.
Basilica of St. John, Selcuk
Apparently after Christ was crucified, John and Jesus’s mom came along and settled in this area. John preached and wrote. John was the best writer of the ancient world. Just look at the way he uses words. Here are some of my favorite bits attributed to him:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:1
John answered them, “I baptize in water, but among you stands one whom you don’t know
John 1:26
baptized at Basilica of St. John
Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it
John 12:14
I will write upon him my new name.
Revelation, 3. 12
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death.
Revelation, 6. 8
Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Revelation, 13. 18
Basilica of St. John, turkey, Christian Holy Sites
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Revelation, 17. 5
And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
Revelation, 18. 21

For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Revelation, 22. 15

Good stuff. The Basilica was built by the Emperor Justinian in the 4th century AD on the spot where John was said to have been buried. Not far away in the hills is the house of the Virgin Mary. We didn’t make it there this time, nor did we make it to the cave of the seven sleepers which is supposed to be a place where seven young men fell asleep for a few centuries and woke preaching about God.

John was the first science fiction writer. It was he who put those crazy ideas about Jesus being the son of God into all those crazy Christian heads and he also provided the creepy lyrics for that great Iron Maiden song, The Number of the Beast.

Up the Bosporus to the Black Sea

bosporus cruise, black sea cruise, cruise in Istanbul, book cruisesThis was a wonderful day from back on our first international trip together in 2010. This post is a bit of a mess with all the pictures, but it captures the day very well.

One of the things I had been most looking forward to in Turkey was taking a boat up the Bosporus Strait to the Black Sea. There is something about both those names which strikes those chords in me that still believe in magic and set out to see the world expecting to find the adventures of Marco Polo, Jim Bridger, Sir Richard Francis Burton, Ibn Buttata, and other great explorers. I know…the world is a very different place than it was during the times of those heavyweight explorers but still, the chance to see new places that I’ve spent my life reading about and imagining is really why I travel.
world travel, adventure,
And so, the chance to cruise along the mighty Bosporus and to see the dangerous waters of the Black Sea was something that I wasn’t going to miss.
tourism in Istanbul, Istanbul tours, world travel
Our friend Alp took Hanane and I for a lovely walk through Kadikoy. We loved the Rose Garden and something that we found throughout Turkey and enjoyed hugely were the exercise stations.
free gyms in Istanbul, excercise, travel
Not only are they free and sturdy, but they are also fun. Since we wanted to catch the ferry up the Bosporus, we didn’t have time to take a swim at the Marmara Sea Beach or eat an ice cream, but thanks to Alp, we know that Kadikoy is much more than just where the people who work live as so many of the guidebooks say.
istanbul tourism, Istanbul travel
From the beach we took a bus to a ferry boat at Kadikoy, the boat to Eminonu, and managed to get our tickets for the Bosporus cruise on the public ferry just as the boat was literally shoving off. If we had missed it, we wouldn’t have gotten to take the cruise.The only bad part was that most of the comfortable seats were already taken because we had arrived a bit late.

By the way, public transport in Istanbul is 1.5 lira whether it is bus, tram, or ferry. The longer ferries cost a bit more, this one was 25 lira each for the round trip and very much worth it. The trip up the Bosporus was about 2 hours.
Istanbul tours, Turkey travel, Bosporus cruise, Galata tower
We left from Eminonu Pier where we had amazing water views of the Galata Tower which was built in 1348 and rises above the Beygolu portion of the city like a magic castle. On the left side was Europe and on the right side was Asia. Wow. On the way to Besikatas we passed the magnificent Dolmabahche Palace which dates from the 19th century.
Dolmabahche Palace, Istanbul Tours, Turkey tours
The snow white palace stretches 600 meters down the shore of the Bosporus…impressive? Yes..
Dolmabahche Palace, Istanbul Cruise, Turkey Cruise, Black Sea Cruise
A bit further on, we had wonderful views of the Ortakoy Mosque which was built by Sultn Abdulmecid in 1854.
Ortakoy Mosque, Turkey, Istanbul, Turkey Cruises, Black Sea Cruise
Not all that old, but certainly very pretty and in a great location.

We then we passed under both bridges which are the connecting points between Europe and Asia. We passed several more palaces and pavilions (The Beylerbeyi Palace, the Goksu Pavilion)

Yali on Bosporus
Hanane’s Dream House
Istanbul Travel, World Tourism, world Travel
My Dream House.

Along the shore there were gorgeous old Ottoman era wooden houses which are called yali – meaning coast.

Bosporus Cruise, Black Sea Cruise, Yali
See the two guys? They’re not real….

Istanbul, Turkey, Black sea cruise, Bosporus cruise
We made a brief port call at Kanlica where the stewards brought fresh yogurt aboard for 2 lira each. It was delicious even if overpriced a bit. Then further on we stopped at Sariyer and RumeKavagi and then a final stop at the Black Sea fishing village of AnadoluKavagi where we had lunch..
tourism in turkey, Turkey travel, Turkey trips
If you go to Anadolukavagi be warned that the restaurant touts there are as pushy as those in Fes. Go past them. Walk up straight from the ferry dock. When you come to the 2nd cross street look left and you will find a tiny, non-descript place run by a very nice family.

Hanane and I shared a massive lunch of delicious mackeral filets, fresh hamsi, calamari, breaded mussels, fresh bread, sand a delcious salad for just 16 lira and that included water and sodas. It was one of the best meals we had in Turkey. Absolutely delicious . Of course, we did work up an appetite before we went there because we climbed up to the Yorus Castle (which is only about 1000 years old or so but in a worse state than many far older things in Turkey) for amazing views of the Black Sea.
black sea tourism, tourism in the black sea, black sea cruise, world travel
travel in Turkey, Istanbul tourism, Yorus Castle, Black sea cruise
After lunch we strolled around stealing the occasional piece of fruit from fig and plum trees. We met three nice local girls who asked to take their pictures with us. It reminded me of Japanese tourists in Waikiki randomly asking if I would be in their pictures with them.

Finally we caught the ferry back to Eminonu, the ferry back to Kadikoy, the bus back to Alp and Seraps, and Hanane made chicken and vegetable tagine and amazed Serap with her culinary skills.
turkey travel, women with knives
An incredibly nice day. The only sad part was that when we went to bed, we knew that we would be leaving our new friends and Istanbul the next day.

Ephesus Efes – Classical Mediterranean City – Swelled with Tourists

Ephesus Efes Selcuk TurkeyEven though we followed the good advice to go to Ephesus (called Efes in Turkey) late in the day to avoid the busloads of tourists from cruise ships, we still found it to have a population that may well have been in excess of what it held when it wasn’t a ruin.

Lots of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese tourists were there. We were surprised to see two young Turkish girls go up to a Korean group and ask to have their picture with them “Can we have a picture with you? My friend is a big fan of Koreans.” Really, that’s what they said…in English. Then they all posed together for about fifty photos.

We had brought a lunch with us. We picked up a huge sandwich and some fries for 5 lira from a Libyan guy in Selcuk and then caught the minibus out to the site for 4 lira each. The entrance fee was 20 lira per person (2010) which you would think would include seeing all the ruins, but they want an additional 15 lira each to see the terrace houses which are well preserved and have some great mosaics, I know this because I looked at pictures of them on the internet after we chose not to pay the extra 30 lira.

While Efes is magnificent and I don’t regret seeing it, I have to say that because of the crowds and the high fee, it isn’t something that I would consider a must see, in particular if you have spent time in other well preserved classical cities (such as Volubulis in Morocco) .

People have been living cities in this area for about 8000 years. At about 1050 BC, it was a port city for the Greeks called Apasas. In about 300 BC, one of Alexander the Great’s generals changed it to Ephesus. For the Roman’s it was the capital city of the state of Asia. It was founded as a city dedicated to the Goddess Artemis who represented hunting and the moon.

The Romans called her Diana. Ephesus stopped being a port city when the sea receded about 600 AD. The city was also controlled by the Persians during its long history.

Ephesus Efes Selcuk TurkeyWithin the city there were an amazing number of statues that I am surprised have not been looted. Hanane said she thought they were all fakes. I didn’t want to believe her. Her reasoning was that things couldn’t be that old – my emotional response was that of course they could be.

The gorgeous Library of Celcius makes the perfect photo opportunity, for everyone, and no one got a solo shot while we were there. In fact, we saw some guys who were intentionally photo  bombing people’s shots at the last second. At one point the library contained 12,000 scrolls. The Goddesses of goodness, thought, knowledge, and wisdom ( Arete, Ennoia, Episteme, and Sophia) grace the exterior.

A short way up we found the Roman men’s toilets near the Roman brothel. The toilets were of an ingenious design with a hole on top to go in and a hole on the bottom to wash in. Apparently there were brushes that sat in a trough of running water that ran around the toilets. No divider walls. I can’t say what the whores were like.

The Great Theater was indeed great and we were amazed to eat our lunch at the top and hear the whispers of Chinese tourists on the stage floor. It was built to hold 24,000 people and is the greatest theatre of the ancient world. Personally, I think it deserves a better name.

The Gate of Hercules was also quite nice to admire too as were the many statues. As we wandered around and looked at the statues, I began to think that maybe Hanane was right and that many of the statues at Ephesus are indeed fake. It just seems strange that conquerors and ancient souvenir hunters would leave such beautiful treasures out in the open. On thinking about it, I think they are fake too.

 

The Fully Integrated Backpacker Treehouse Resort – Kadir’s Treehouses

Treehouse Hostel Turkey OlymposThe most surprising thing about Olympos is the huge volume of choice when it comes to places to stay. Since Thailand, I haven’t seen this many bungalows, backpackers, or pancake stands – perhaps the hardest part of coming to Olympos is picking where to stay.

Since we wanted to come here for four days, we opted to split our time between two of the most famous tree house resorts. The first, Bayram’s tree houses, I should point out that this is the off season, so it was pretty calm and quiet, but even so there were some serious drinking sessions around the nightly campfire.

Treehouse Hostel Turkey OlymposAfter two very fun days there, we moved up the road to Kadir’s Treehouses.  While there are tree houses and bungalows here – it would be more appropriate to call it Kadir’s fully integrated backpacker tree house resort and bungalow complex and village – but that might be too much of a mouthful. We had plenty of opportunity to meet with Kadir himself and to explore the property –

Kadir came here 25 years ago when there was nothing in Olympos but farmhouses and shepherd camps. He left a career in economics in Ankara behind to tune in, turn on and drop out – well after the hippies of the 60’s but well before the hippies of the now. His parents and friends told him he was crazy but he bought a piece of land next to a stream in Olympos, built a tree house, and carried what he needed from up the mountain or bought it from the nearby farms.

At this point, a few backpackers started coming to see the ruins at Olympos and a couple of them asked if they could rent his tree house for the night. Then it happened again. And again. So he built a second tree house – but more backpackers came. So he built more. And within a couple of years he had tree houses, bungalows, and even a couple of bars to satisfy the thirst of the the backpackers.

Turkey Treehouse HostelThe nearby farms saw his success and they copied the model. Now, while I didn’t hear anyone say this overtly, there seems to be some bad blood between the farmers and Kadir these days – on the one hand, Kadir is the stranger in a valley filled with family – and on the other, people stole his business model and then – according to one source – when his property caught on fire while he was away – just let it burn and didn’t notify anyone until it was too late. Kadir says that when he arrived his tree houses, bungalows, bars, and even the trees were completely gone. I’m assuming that no one was here when it happened since Kadir said that nothing was saved.

So Kadir built again. Today, his sprawling complex still has a few tree houses – including one built on a huge 750 year old cedar stump that Kadir bought from the government and then trucked down here! It’s his log-o now.

During peak times, Kadir hosts as many as 350 backpackers! His complex has a nightclub (The Bull Bar), a Pizza House, The Hanger Bar, an activity center, a volleyball court, a huge fire pit, and the downstairs restaurant/bar where dinner and breakfast are served which feels like it could have been imported directly from Alaska. This is even including the bartender Simon who wears a red plaid lumberjack shirt and even though his English is very good always replies “Thank you very much!” even when it doesn’t fit. (As in Alaska – the odds are good but the goods are odd)

Kadir is usually playing backgammon, snapping photos on his Galaxy Note, or wandering around. The bungalows and treehouses are colorfully painted and built in a haphazard, Tom Sawyer treehouse way which includes half bent rusty nails and railings that feel as if they might break under your hand. If there is a downside to Kadir’s – it is that the size and numbers create a sort of junkyard feel to parts of the complex with disused furniture being piled in unused corners and piles of broken plumbing or wood scraps tumbled around devil may care – but then, that adds to the overall feel of the place. Sanford and Son meets Tom Sawyer. Kadir’s is about a 20 minute walk from the beach but the stream and mountain views make that a pleasant journey.

Treehouse Hostel Turkey OlymposWe stayed in a deluxe bungalow facing a gorgeous rock face and the beautiful clear water stream. It was big, clean, had AC and heat, hot water and was comfortable. We found the included breakfast and dinner to be tasty and filling. All of this for about 25 Euro per night, is a steal and one of the best deals going in Turkey, if you ask me. If you want to go even cheaper – you can rough it in the treehouses or sleep in the dorms, but honestly – the lack of comfort and privacy wouldn’t be worth it for me. Still, the backpackers we spoke with who were doing that, loved it.

What’s next for Kadir? He told me he has found a new location where no one goes yet and this time he is going to open an eco-resort. It will be his fourth property – he now has a family resort, Kadir’s Garden, Kadir’s treehouses and then Kadir’s Eco-Resort – the moral of the story? Sometimes it pays to drop out and go live in a treehouse!

Fire on the Mountain – Visiting the Ancient Chimera in Olympos, Turkey

One of the highlights of visiting Olympos is a trip to see the fantastic Chimera fire on the mountain. These fires have been burning for tens of thousands of years and even when you douse them, they quickly reignite. It’s not a huge surprise to find that numerous tales and legends have grown from these – but by far, it is the Greek story of the Chimera and Pegasus which is the most well known. Rather than retelling again (it’s in the video above) – here it is from the most prevalent source on the internet:

Homer’s brief description in the Iliad is the earliest surviving literary reference: “a thing of immortal make, not human, lion-fronted and snake behind, a goat in the middle, and snorting out the breath of the terrible flame of bright fire”.

Hesiod’s Theogony follows the Homeric description: he makes the Chimera the issue of Echidna: “She was the mother of Chimaera who breathed raging fire, a creature fearful, great, swift-footed and strong, who had three heads, one of a grim-eyed lion; in her hinderpart, a dragon; and in her middle, a goat, breathing forth a fearful blast of blazing fire. Her did Pegasus and noble Bellerophon slay”Chimera Fire Turkey

Sighting the Chimera was an omen of storms, shipwrecks, and natural disasters (particularly volcanoes).

The Chimera finally was defeated by Bellerophon, with the help of Pegasus, at the command of King Iobates of Lycia. Since Pegasus could fly, Bellerophon shot the Chimera from the air, safe from her heads and breath.

It’s said that the people were so happy at the defeat of the beast that they held a special games to celebrate and lit the torch commemorating the games from the flames…yes, the Olympic flame comes from here.

While most of the treehouse resorts will organize trips to see the Chimera – since we had a car (and a baby) we opted to drive ourselves. The winding road took about 45 minutes from Olympos and then the hike of 5 km or so was another 45 minutes – be sure to bring a flashlight and to wear shoes with good grips since the trail can be treacherous – especially in the dark which is the best time to experience the magic of this amazing spot.

Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey

Camel WrestlingCamel Wrestling. Sounds dangerous. I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I saw it on Couchsurfing as a group activity for those near Izmir in the town of Selcuk, Turkey.

While it is a little hard to understand the excitement that one feels in the crowd, it is motivated by the thing that Turks love and get the most excited about. Money. It’s the bets that make the sport worth while and if you aren’t betting, chances are that you aren’t really enjoying things to the fullest. Still, it is important to understand what is happening if you are going to be a spectator. I was going to write an article about the intricacies of this amazing sport, but it turns out that someone has already done that:

Burak H. Sansal over at 2Camels.com writes: While the Spanish have bullfights, and the Italians cockfights, and the English go hunting with hounds, the Turks have camel wrestling. Camel wrestling is now mostly restricted to the Aegean region though it was once more widespread in Anatolia. In the winter you will see elaborately saddled camels being paraded through the villages with the owner extolling just how his camel is going to make mince-meat of anyone rash enough to challenge his beast. The camels are all fully grown bulls specially fed to increase their bulk further, and the sight of them wrestling one another would seem to promise some spectacular action.

In reality it doesn’t happen and camel wrestling is more akin to comedy than to blood- sport. Bull camels normally wrestle and butt one another in a knock- out contest for precedence in a herd, and more importantly, precedence in mating. In the arena two bulls are led out and then a young cow is paraded around to get them excited. It’s very easy to know when a bull is excited as streams of viscous milky saliva issue from his mouth and nostrils. Mostly the two bulls will half-heartedly butt each other and lean on the other until one of them gives in and runs away. This is the really exciting bit as the bull will often charge off towards the crowd, with the conquering bull in pursuit, and the spectators must scramble hurriedly out of the way.

And that’s about the size of it, but the real interesting part is in the crowds. Horns, drums, and the smoke of a thousand cooking fires as the spectators, mostly men, barbecue camel, sheep, and chicken – drink raka and beer – and place huge wagers on which camels will win. While I wasn’t exactly sure how the events themselves work, watching the camel spit fly was entertaining (from a distance) and weaving through the elbows only crowd to see the various fires, tables, and sweet spots that were set up was exotic as hell.

Camel WrestlingThe strange thing for me was just how much camel meat was actually consumed at this event which was in a way, honoring camels. And yeah, in case you are wondering, I got a camel sausage sandwich and it was delicious! Spicy, not as hairy as sheep sausage and was the perfect thing to watch the camels wrestle by. That and some raka.

To be honest, two hours of the camel wrestling was enough for me. I took a lot of exotic camel pictures, but since I wasn’t getting drunk or betting on the camels, or having a barbecue with friends – it was actually pretty boring once the medieval festival aspect of it wore off.

It really was like being in a time long long ago with the drums, the smoke, the sounds of the camels grunting and fighting, and the sound of the nasal ne floating on the sausage smoke breeze.

 

Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul, Turkey

I’ve had a fascination with Sufism since I first learned of it. Interestingly, I was reading the poems of Rumi, way before I ever knew what a Sufi was.
I thought they were beautiful and ephemeral and spoke to what I felt was true. At the time, I was deep into Taoism and the Tao te Ching and I was amazed that this Persian poet had captured the essence of the Tao so well.

Later, through my brother, I met a profoundly interesting man, Sharif Baba. Sherif Baba is a Turkish whirling dervish. He was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and having zickers in the basement of a tea house called Silk Roads. He liked my brother and the three of us connected well in conversation both at the tea house and in the house where Sherif Baba was staying. I would say that in the short time I knew him, I picked up some of the most interesting pieces of spiritual wisdom that I have come across. Probably the most interesting thing was that God needs to be taken with a sense of humor. As Sharif Baba said “All the buses lead to the same bus station.”

You can learn more about Sharif Baba at http://www.sherifbaba.com/

It was at this time I discovered that my favorite poet was the founder of the most important sufic order. I began reading a lot and fell in love with Sufi parables and realized that while this was definitely Islam, it was all inclusive Islam. I asked Sharif Baba why whirling was important and he told me something like this

“The dervish whirls so that the true form of the world can be seen. When we whirl all the individual pieces we think are separate blend together and we begin to sense the totality that is God.”


Needless to say, my mind was blown as I immediately saw the truth in his statement. Like the Hindu story of the blind men who are arguing over what an elephant looks like based upon which part they touched, humans argue over what God looks like based on which part they’ve touched or been told that others touched. It was around this time that I truly became a Muslim, one who submits to the will of God. The reason was simple, I recognized that there is no choice in the matter.

As I have said before, being a Muslim shouldn’t be about the pillars, not about the Quran, not about fasting, not about anything except that understanding, that submission, that recognition. Don’t confuse the forms with the reality.

So, needless to say, I was excited to see dervishes whirling in Turkey. It is only in the west that we call them Whirling Dervishes, they call themselves the Mevlevi Order and they were founded by Mevlana Rumi in the 13th century. Yes, that’s the same Rumi. The basic tenets of the order are tolerance, forgiveness, and enlightenment and while I’m still failing pretty hard on all those counts, I recognize that my life would be better if I had stronger versions of all three.

Essentially, the zicker (rkir) is a religious ritual which is a prayer to Allah (aka God and many other names). The basic idea is to let go of ties to the forms and to merge with the totality of the divine. Music and dance are an integral part of this.

The Mevlavis played a huge role in Turkish culture in music, art, calligraphy, dance, poetry, and religious thought.

We went to a refurbished Hammam and we sat in an audience. There were clear signs not to take pictures since it was truly meant to be a religious experience. There were also signs not to applaud and not to speak during the music and dance. It seems that I was one of the only ones who read them though. Pity.

The dervish pictures in this post are from internet sources.

For the most part the audience was respectful but we had three Russian Israeli’s (Israilis who spoke Russian) next to us who spoke in loud voices, cracked jokes, and took pictures during the entire thing.

It was an incredibly moving performance even with the distraction. It brought tears to both of our eyes. The whirling of the dervishes was mesmerizing and the music was trance like and completely divine. Most of the crowd stopped applauding and talking and looked as moved as we felt. Not those three next to us though.

When we left, we were surprised to see that they were staying for a second performance.

Cappadocia – Goreme – Fairy Chimneys and Rock Cut Churches

Goreme Cappadocia TurkeyIn Central Anatolia lies a land that looks like it comes from The Lord of the Rings- Cappadocia. Even the name has the ring of a fairy tale Kingdom.

“I, Sir Vago of the Kingdom of Cappadocia, do ride forth to seek out new lands and great fortunes.” – or something like that, though Cappadocia was never a kingdom of its own and in fact was a place of troglodyte refuge for Christian outcasts and societal misfits.

The landscape of massive stone chimneys (wistfully called fairy chimneys) and dream like rock formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. From the 4th to the 11th Century a community of Christian refugees carved an unbelievable number of churches from the stones. Houses were also carved and the traditional livelihood was agriculture until the 1980’s when a tourist boom started.

A new friend we met in Goreme, Cemil, has lived there since that time and he remembers when there were only three hotels in Goreme. Now there are hundreds and  when we arrived, they were almost all full. No need to tell you what the number one industry is now. Many people come to Goreme just so they can enjoy Cappadocia Balloon Tours. There is nothing quite like floating over the fairy chimneys as the sun comes up.

Goreme is a magical place and filled with charm. An interesting fact  is that in Goreme, it used to be that if a man didn’t own a pigeon house, he wouldn’t be able to get married. These days there must not be many marriages, though more likely is that that particular tradition was tossed aside with agriculture when tourism became so lucrative.

Virtually everything in Goreme is directed at tourists from the hot air balloons to the travel companies, tour companies, restaurants, and tourist shops. Unlike other tourism hot spots though, the prices seem reasonable and the people don’t seem so hungry for the hunt.
Goreme Cappadocia Turkey
It’s one of the things that really makes me sick about tourist places is that the people who work in tourism tend to forget that the clients or customers are real people, instead they become prey. It’s the same for criminals, people become prey and they are something to be hunted. I went through it myself as a tout and as a stock broker, if people simply become a means to an ends, life becomes much less magical and satisfying. While we did encounter quite a few people who were on the hunt in Goreme, it was less than r Fez and the hunt itself was less in your face than either place as well.

We had a very nice breakfast with our friend Cemil at the Blue Moon Hotel before heading out to the Goreme Open Air Museum. this is an astounding place, though no more so than Goreme itself. The big draw at the Open Air Museum are the rock cut Byzantine churches and the painting and frescoes they contain. Admission was 15 lira each.

Goreme Cappadocia TurkeyFlash photos weren’t allowed and several guides told us not to take photos at all which was a bit extreme(they say the flash destroys the color of the old paintings). And in fact, everyone was doing it.

The rock cut churches had interesting pews and tables carved in them, graves which had been robbed or excavated in the floors, and of course the paintings. This was a monastic community and then became a pilgrimage site for Christians in the 17th Century.

Hanane was not overly impressed with the paintings, in particular the Red Ochre made very little impression on her. “I could get up there and paint the same thing right now. They’re fake.” By this point, we were laughing each time she called something fake but I still think she was partly serious. Once again we opted to skip the extra fee, this time 8 lira each to see the frescoes in the Karanlik Kilise. I feel no regrets over that. I really hate to pay an entrance fee only to be faced with another entrance fee.

Goreme Cappadocia TurkeyWe exited feeling that we had both seen enough churches. While we didn’t have the time this visit to go to the underground cities, it was a nice thing to whet our appetite with the rural charms and comedic tourist hunting that takes place there. As examples of how the hunt is conducted in Goreme you can look at the names of the Pensions. Flintstones Pension, Bedrock Cave Hostel, Ufuk Pension, Shoestring Cave Pension and more. We were recommended to try the Peri Cave Hotel, though as I wrote previously, we were very fortunate to be staying in the Moonlight Cave Suites.

We strolled through the Rose Valley and then went back to Goreme village where we had a bad dinner, at Cappadocia Pide Salonu. Not recommended. Awful.

From there we hiked up to the highest point in Goreme and watched the sun go down and the lights of the fairy chimneys flicker on in Goreme. A bottle of wine would have made it perfect.

From there it was back to our cave to enjoy the hot tub, king size bed, and overall luxury of the Moonlight Cave Suites. Warning – don’t scroll down or you will see more of me than you want to.

too much exposure

5 Fun Family Activities in Istanbul – Turkey with Kids!

Family Fun Istanbul

Istanbul may not be the first place you think of to take a family vacation, but the city that bridges two continents is an extraordinary place to take a family vacation. While there may not be an Istanbul Disneyland (yet!), the city abounds with activities that are worthy of inclusion in any magic kingdom.

Istanbul AquariumFishtanbul!

The Istanbul Aquarium is filled with more than fish. Educational multi-media displays, 4-D films, hands on exhibits, and then there are the tons of fish, tunnels, old boats, and everything a kid of any age could want. (http://www.istanbulakvaryum.com/en-US/)

Koch Transport Museum

The Rahmi M. Koch Transport Museum has collections of just about everything you can imagine from dolls to bicycles, baby carriages, motorbikes, classic cars, boats, boat houses, locomotives, engines, toys, Rahmi Transport Museumand even a submarine. Plenty of hands on exhibits and you can even schedule a boat ride and a submarine tour. (http://www.rmk-museum.org.tr/english/index.html)

Dondurma Clowns

Go to Sultanahmet in Istanbul and you will pass brightly dressed guys who offer Turkish ice cream, called Dondurma. The price is a bit high but this is an especially delicious treat on a hot day. Of course, the real treat is the way they serve it. Expect to be tricked, but in a good way. Laughter can’t be contained around these guys.

Cruise Up the Bosporus

Family Fun IstanbulCould there be a better family excursion than a trip up the waterway that divides two continents? You can make stops in Europe and Asia and visit the Marmara Sea and the Black Sea before coming home. Plenty of treats along the way like the special yogurt of Kamlica and the delicious hamsi (Black Sea Sardines) at the Anadolu Kavagi village at the top of the Bosporus just before the Black Sea.

Turkish Dance Extravaganza

This family friendly dance show has something for everyone. Belly dancers, Black Sea folk dance, and even a little bit of Sufi sacred music. This show is more kid friendly than the Whirling Dervish specific show but both are great.  

Who needs Disneyland when Istanbul awaits you?

 

Snow Hiking in Turkey – Izmir – Bornova – Manisa

Bornova Snow Hike

Our time in Turkey was some of the best that we had anywhere. We will always look fondly back on adventures like this one.

Adventures in foreign countries can be complex or they can be simple. One of the reasons I loved living in Manisa was because of the Manisa Tennis and Hiking Club. They made hiking adventures simple.

I met up with the club at the usual location in Tarzan square on a Sunday morning. As usual, everyone there was healthy, happy, and ready to get hiking and eating. Part of the fun of this club (and probably all Turkish clubs) is how much emphasis is put on the food. The packs were loaded and this wasn’t just going to be a normal outing in the snow. This was going to be a good old fashioned snow hike/sausage roast over an open fire in the mountains.

The club had arranged a bus to take us to the highest point in the mountains between Izmir and Manisa. It was going to take us higher but since there was quite a bit of snow and ice, the road was closed down. The driver let us out at the bottom and we began carefully working our way up the mountain road. More than one hiker slipped and fell but no one was seriously hurt.

Bornova Snow Hike Along the way we stopped to drink tea and have breakfast. The location was pretty but not very good for those of us who hadn’t brought something to sit on! It was a cool ass place! Ha ha.

Further on we came to a small village where the snow had trapped the inhabitants in. They didn’t seem to mind a bit. One problem did seem to be sewage leaking from somewhere though as the smell of urine was incredibly strong throughout the village. I’m not sure why, but I watched where I stepped.

We hiked up into the hills further through virgin snow and past woolly cattle who didn’t seem to mind the snow drifting in the least. They ran in a small herd. I don’t know why, but there aren’t all that many cows in Turkey which makes beef incredibly expensive. In fact, all meat is expensive in Turkey in comparison with North Africa or North America or Europe. I haven’t really figured out why.

Bornova Snow Hike Finally reaching what seemed to be a peak of sorts, we started to gather wood for our weenie roast. Once again, the choice of spots wasn’t the greatest for those of us without pads to sit on, but since my Turkish is minimal I went with it, even though a more comfortable spot was not very far away with places for people to sit.

After a few misguided efforts to start a fire with large or wet wood, finally wiser heads prevailed and we managed to do things the proper way with small dry tinder, small dry twigs, and plenty of room for the fire to breathe. After that, it was sausage time.

Turks love sausages. Obviously not pork, mostly sheep or some of the more expensive ones are cow meat. We roasted, we ate, we drank tea, and then we covered up the fire with snow and set off back down the mountain.

Down the hill, through the village, down the road, and with only one injury that caused some tears, we made it back to the waiting van. On the way we passed plenty of Turks who had come up from either Manisa or Izmir playing in the snow. Snowmen, plenty of picnicking, and as I smiled at two senior citizen couples enjoying the snow, one old man nailed me with a snowball! I wasn’t the only one laughing. His wife looked scared at first that I would be mad, but how could I be!

Bornova Snow Hike

Santa Claus – Extraordinary World Traveler Vagabond

Real Santa ClausSanta Claus – He’s Not Who You Think He Is

Earlier this year, before her 1st birthday, my daughter had the opportunity to visit the real home of Santa Claus. No, we didn’t go to the North Pole. Nor did we go to Lapland.  We didn’t visit with the elves or travel through the snow.

We were in Demre, Turkey. If you don’t believe me, you can read a little about the history of Santa on Wikipedia or you can just read on and trust me with the facts.

If anyone ever tells my daughter that Santa is a made up person, I can show her pictures of us visiting where he really lived. He was a real person. A person named Nicholas.

If you are one of those people who says Santa Claus isn’t real – you’re right because he’s long dead, but he was real. He was a real person, so if you are one of those people who say Santa Clause is a fictional or imaginary character – you are wrong.

Santa Clause was born in the town of Patara, Turkey on the Mediterranean Coast. If you visit today you will find (much to the surprise of many) Santa shops, Christmas shops, and everything Santa you can imagine in this mostly Muslim town. At the time he was born, Turkey wasn’t yet a country and so despite being Anatolian, he was Greek. A Byzantine Christian to be precise. For those who don’t know, Istanbul was the capital of Byzantium and called Constantinople in those days.

His parents left him as a wealthy orphan and he used his inheritance to help the poor who weren’t as fortunate as he.  In particular, he was generous with children and traveled the known world distributing gifts and help to the needy.

Real Santa ClausIn 325 A.D. He became the Bishop of Myra (Now Demre, Turkey) and was a part of the Council of Nicea who cobbled together the Holy Bible from a vast assortment of documents. He died December 6, 343 A.D. In fact, in many parts of Europe, December 6 is a day to give gifts and exchange presents.

Six Facts You Didn’t Know About Santa (From Natalie Sayin’s Turkish Travel Blog)

 

So, how did he become Santa Clause?

Here’s a story you won’t see in Christmas cartoons…one of the most famous stories of St. Nick’s generosity was when he gave three orphaned girls dowries so they would be able to marry and wouldn’t have to become prostitutes! It was this gift that some say led to the giving of presents on Christmas today!

In the 10th century – Myra was attacked by Italian sailors who carried away all the relics of St. Nicholas to Bari where they still sit today.  He is the patron saint of archers, sailors, and children to pawnbrokers.

After his death, he was attributed with miracles aplenty. He brought boys murdered by a butcher back to life, he kept a ship from sinking with his prayers, and he levitated one sailor from the water to save his life. Hmmm…I believe he can fly!

Clement C. Moore, an American professor of divinity, was the one who turned Saint Nicholas into Santa with his 1823 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.” The poem provided the inspiration for the first portrait of Santa Claus, drawn by newspaper cartoonist Thomas Nast in 1870.

Real Santa ClausAfter he died, he was made a saint and a tomb was built for him in Demre. The Church of St Nicholas was built over that tomb in the 6th Century. It is a ruin now, but still a very beautiful piece of  Anatolian Byzantine architecture. Many of the mosaics and frescoes have survived.  There is a tomb there, but the bones are in Bari.

St. Nicholas is the patron saint of Russian Orthodoxy, so it’s not surprising that on peak days (around December 6th) you can find up to 60 buses per day of tourists – mostly from Russia. The government of Turkey issued a Santa Claus stamp in 1955 and have heavily promoted ‘Noel Baba’ as a tourist draw. It’s a pretty good one if you ask me.

 

How Not To Enjoy World Travel – Part 2

world travel tipsThis is the second part in an ongoing series about how to have the worst time possible during your world travels. Here is the link to part 1.

http://www.vagobond.com/how-not-to-enjoy-world-travel-part-1/

4. Don’t Read
To me, reading is an essential part of travel. As far as I’m concerned, if you are one of those people who ‘doesn’t like to read’ than you are one of those people who should stay home and not travel.

Don’t read anything about the country of place you are going to. That way you won’t understand the culture, the traditions, the history, the climate, or anything else. You will be able to have a completely one dimensional experience. If you should read, for example, about how it is rude to point the bottoms of your feet at someone in Thailand, then you’ll miss out on the ass kicking that results when the kick-boxer tells you to stop pointing your feet at him and you continue to do it. You wouldn’t want to miss that.

Or if you read, you might feel compelled to go fifteen kilometers out of your way on the way between Seattle, Washingon and Vancouver, British Columbia and visit the remote and gorgeous Scenic Hot Springs. Wouldn’t that suck?

Don’t read on your trip. Don’t discover that Mark Twain stayed in the same hotel you are visiting in Honolulu (The Moana Surfrider) or that the lovely looking picnic spot in Cebu, Philippines is where Lapu Lapu ate a famous explorer. Who needs to know details like that?

Don’t read when you are stuck at the airport. It’s much better to just sit and get angry at the workers or eat overpriced food. Don’t read at the beach because it’s much better to sit there wondering what to do now that you are done swimming.

Yes, if you don’t want to enjoy world travel, it is essential that you not read.

world travel tips5) Don’t talk to anyone unless you have to

If you want to have horrible and meaningless travels, don’t talk to anyone unless you have to. Don’t talk to the man next to you on the airplane or bus, he might be a Chinese businessman who would invite you to visit his home and stay with his family.

Don’t talk to the guy who works at the hotel unless you need towels or directions. If he thinks “Hey, this is a nice person” he might actually tell you someplace that he doesn’t recommend to every other rude tourist. You might end up going to a tiny temple in Penang, Malaysia instead of going to the big one that has eighteen tourist buses outside it.

Don’t talk to people in the street. They might try to sell you something. They might want to practice English with you. They might want to share a bit of their culture or learn something about yours. Wow, wouldn’t it be a bummer if that Indonesian guy learned that the USA is not just like Bay Watch and Jerry Springer? Don’t talk to him.

If you want to NOT enjoy your travels, do not talk unless you need something.

world travel tips6) Don’t learn any of the local language

Finally, if you want to be absolutely certain that you don’t enjoy your world travel, pretend your a British Colonist and refuse to speak the local language.

Don’t say Tarima Kasih in Indonesia, don’t ask where to get the gonggongcheecha in China, don’t say Yvet in Turkey, don’t show the grocer in Barcelona you can understand the uno, dos, tres, don’t speak French in Paris (I found Parisians to be very gracious about my bad French), don’t say shukran in Morocco, kapcun kap in Thailand, daijobu in Japan, bollacks in England, dude in California, wienerschnitzel in Germany, or Mahalo in Hawaii.

Speaking the language encourages people to learn about you, to teach about their culture, to make friends, to have relationships, to even fall in love. There is nothing miserable about any of that. So if you want to Not enjoy the world of travel…don’t speak the local language.
Got more tips about how to NOT enjoy world travel, why not leave a comment below or send your tips to me using the contact form.

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