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.

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.

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.

Izmir Sunday in a Friendly Turkish Home

We voyaged to Izmir this Sunday to meet up with a Moroccan friend my wife made on her flight here. Nice to have a different location for this week. Sunday in… Izmir, Turkey.

Hanane’s ability to make new friends will never cease to amaze me. In this case, her new friend is a Moroccan woman married to a Turkish man. Her husband is in Morocco and she and her sister are staying with her in-laws in Izmir. they sat next to each other on the plane and then exchanged facebook and skype info and have been chatting ever since. One evening they even had both of their families join in the conversation!
Turkey loves Moroccans!
We woke up, had a late Sunday breakfast and caught the bus to Izmir which costs just six lira each. The girl, Souad, her sister Wafa, and her father in law picked us up at the bus station and drove us around Izmir. Fishermen in Izmir, TurkeyWe had a nice walk along the water and then went to Souad’s in-laws house where we had a wonderful Turkish lunch/dinner and enjoyed the afternoon in a lovely Turkish home. Souad’s little boy is cute as a bug and her father in law showed me his garden filled with grapes, pomegranites, olives, and hot hot peppers.
I know just how hot because after eating some at dinner, I stupidly reached up and touched my eye! It hurt like hell, but for some reason, that kind of pain, like tattoos, I’ve never really minded. I don’t know quite how to explain that, so I’ll just leave it there.
Dinner was a Turkish soup, followed by beans, followed by kifta (lamb meatballs) with wild rice and yogurt/cucumber sauce. After dinner, a lovely cup of Turkish coffee, followed by nuts, followed by chocolate. Needless to say, I feel like I might explode.Our Friend's Father in Law in Turkey
They were all lovely people and we had a very nice day. It was especially nice for Hanane, I think, because I know how nice it is to connect with your expat community when you are living abroad. Since this is her first time living outside of Morocco, I’m guessing from the smile on her face that this was a very nice Sunday in Izmir. For me too it was nice, though it was somewhat confusing to have to change channels from English to Turkish and back to Moroccan again, but I wasn’t alone. At one point Souad started to explain something to her Turkish mother-in-law, but she was doing it in Darija while the woman smiled in confusion. We all laughed together about it.
Izmir statue of Attaturk
After way too much food, Turkish coffee, nuts, and chocolate they drove us back to the bus station and we headed back home.
I really love Sundays, wherever I am. That’s why I pretty much always make it a condition of any job that I never work on them.At least not for anyone but myself.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t such a good Sunday in Istanbul where two bombs by separatists killed seventeen or more people. While Turkey is generally safe and wonderful, Kurdish separatists have been growing increasingly violent over the past few years. I’m glad to be somewhere that isn’t ‘important’ enough to be a target for them.

What am I doing here? Manisa #2

The life of a solo traveler can be great, but I have to admit I’m very happy that my wife has arrived. Suddenly this house doesn’t feel empty and today, Sunday, we set out for a nice walk through our new hometown of Manisa, Turkey.
After a late morning and some pancakes for breakfast, we set out walking just to see a little bit of Manisa together. Of course, I’ve already had plenty of long walks in Manisa, so I took us in the general direction of some things I wanted her to see and to see for myself.
We strolled through Fatih park, past the statue of Tarzan of Manisa (still with a broken arm) and then up past the mosques where I told her about Mesir, the spicy candy for which Manisa is quite famous.
The museum of Manisa is still closed for renovations, so we couldn’t go in, but we did get a peek in the courtyard and saw quite an astounding number of Roman, Greek, and Lydian sculptures.
Kids playing in Sypil Mountain From there we strolled towards the signs that point the direction to Sypil Mountain Park and Niobe (which I will talk about tomorrow for Manisa Monday). Manisa is really an amazing place. It has one of the only protected forest parks in all of Turkey, there are hot springs in the mountains, it has a huge number of historical buildings, ruins, and structures, and it is clean, beautiful, and safe. On top of that it has a thriving Industrial Free Trade Zone, plenty of agriculture, and friendly warm people. So, with all of that, why isn’t Manisa a tourist draw?
Simple. Manisa sits surrounded by the cities of the Aegean Coast, the ruins of Sardis and Ephesus are close enough to draw historical tourists, and the city of Izmir is a metropolis seaside playground. If Manisa were not surrounded by so much, it would be one of the top places in Turkey.
View of Manisa Of course, the way things stand, I like this kind of city. It’s why I prefer Bellingham to Seattle, Kailua to Honolulu, and Sefrou to Fes. Everything you could want and the shitty tourists get drawn into the surrounding vortex zones.
Anyway, we took a small hike up into the mountains and were astounded by the quick change in environment from urban to wilderness. A herd of goats sat on a steep mountainside, they were too far away to tell if they were wild or domestic.
Manisa is beautiful.
From the mountain we strolled along the high road taking in the view and seeing the more traditional way of life when one gets outside of the city center. Sadly, what you would expect was true, the poorer areas had more garbage which probably translates to less government services like garbage pick up. Still, people looked generally happy and healthy. Manisa Turkey is Fun
We saw three little guys riding a tiny tricycle down a steep hill and about twenty older guys taking turns riding a mule two at a time. We found a couple of cafes which offered stunning views of the city and then hiked back down through the city center to my favorite restaurant (so far) Konya Mutfagi. I had the pide (Turkish pizza) and Hanane had the chicken wings. Lucky for me, she liked the food too, so we can keep eating there. For both of us the total was 20 lira which included pide, salad, chicken wings, two sodas, two waters, and tea. That translates to about $13 which is a pretty great price for such a delicious meal.
From there, it was time to go home. The house, as I said before, actually feels like a home now that Hanane is here and despite the fact that I thought it was pretty clean, she insisted on cleaning it again and I can see the difference easily.
Hiking in Manisa
Yeah, it’s nice to have her here. To hear the television, to have the Arabic conversations with her family going on in the living room (via Skype) and to be able to play and explore together.
Tomorrow, I will tell about Manisa’s patron saint of remorse. Niobe.

What am I doing here? Manisa, Turkey

I live in a small Turkish city called Manisa and while it is an interesting place with lots of interesting stories to tell, I don’t really want to be here all the time.
One thing I’ve learned in years of wandering around is that if you don’t take the time to appreciate and enjoy the time when you don’t really have anything to do, you end up looking back on it with some regret. Sure, I’m bored now, but that could change at any time and so I need to just let myself fall into the zen-like state of slack. I have almost done that. And while I still find myself wishing that my life were more exciting, I’m actually enjoying the sensation of boredom.
the Street in Manisa Turkey
I had kind of expected that I would have friends here that would be willing to show me around, share insider knowledge, and maybe teach me some things about Turkish life, but that hasn’t really happened. The teachers I work with are either busy teaching or just disinterested. The students are busy with work and classes. And the expats, well, as soon as I arrived the one I was going to share a house with split.
So, here I am. In Manisa and my days are fairly simple. I wake up, try to force myself to do some yoga and go running (about 50% successful) and then I head to work. I teach for a few hours and then I have a few hours during the hot part of the day so I come home, make lunch and study a little Turkish, check my email, and perhaps do some online work. Then I go back to work and at around 10:30 I come back home, make some dinner, watch some TV on the computer, and maybe read a bit before going to bed. I usually talk with Hanane a little bit either in the afternoon or before I go to bed and we sometimes play battleship on Skype. That’s my life, six days a week.
Since I haven’t had a camera and since I sort of want to save most of my sight-seeing for when Hanane gets here, I’ve sort of avoided checking out the old mosques or doing the other sight-seeing kind of things.
But, now, since I got my Samsung Star semi-smart phone, I have a camera and today was my one day a week off. Sunday. So, without further ado…I introduce a new feature here at Vagobond. Each Sunday, I will try to do a little exploring or will just document my rather humdrum day. If I go somewhere else it will be Sunday in…wherever but since I am in Manisa, Turkey, here it is.
Sunday in …. Manisa.
My roommate left the house with no gas for hot water and no light bulbs aside from one or two in the room he was in.
I told the school and they told me they would have gas delivered. They didn’t tell me I would have to pay the toothless boy who brought it. In addition, he couldn’t make the gas water heater work and neither could I. I’ve been with nothing but cold showers for my time here, which isn’t awful since it’s warm and Hanane isn’t here.
When the boy arrived, I didn’t have money but luckily the guys who run the little market across the street loaned me 20 lira. Natural gas here is expensive. 54 lira for a canister. This all happened last week. I told the school about my cold showers but nothing happened, so I told them again and they told me that the landlord would come either Sunday or Monday. They didn’t tell me which.
So, I woke up on my day off not knowing if I really could go and do anything at all or whether I had to stay at the house. I called the school and they told me ‘Oh yeah’ the landlord will come on Monday. It didn’t make much difference to me.
Since I had the camera and the day off though, I decided to walk around and take random pictures. This is the little store that loaned me 20 lira.
 Manisa, Turkey
Here is the view up the street.

The other direction are the train tracks. Crossing them, I saw this little ruin and thought it worth a picture.
 Manisa, Turkey
Then I found this beautiful old locomotive. I climbed up in the engineers cabin, but someone had taken a big dump in it, so I didn’t stay.
 Manisa, Turkey
I walked around a big stadium and one of these horse drawn wagons built on an auto chassis that I love in both Turkey and Morocco came down the street. My camera was out too late though to capture the big peasant ladies who were driving it.
 Manisa, Turkey
Back across the tracks, I encountered what I think was a wedding since there were lots of women waving scarves out the window. The wedding procession is led by a big traditional band playing in the back of a flatbed truck. This is the same as the circumcision parade for young boys but since I didn’t see any horse and carriage with little boys dressed up like fairy tale princes, I knew this wasn’t one of those.
 Manisa, Turkey
I walked up to the Manisa museum which is under construction so I couldn’t go in but I did get to see lots of marble columns and architectural pieces that are probably around 2000 years old through this gate.
 Manisa, Turkey
I took a couple of pictures of the mosques. I didn’t go in though. Not today.
 Manisa, Turkey
The statue in the roundabout is Merkez Effendi who was an ancient doctor who created the famous candy/medicine of Manisa which is called Mesir and which I will write about in detail in a future post.
 Manisa, Turkey
From there, I went to Fatih Park and took a few pictures of the Monument of National Sovereignty which was decorated with wreaths today and since I saw a lot of military guys in dress uniforms as I wandered around, I figured it must be a holiday of some sort.
 Manisa, Turkey
The Monument of National Sovereignty was built in 1985 by the sculptur Tankut Oktern. It symbolizes the public, army, and youth working together with the founder of modern Turkey, Kamal Ataturk. To me, it looked like a statue of Daniel Boone in shorts and the world’s tallest man with his normal sized family.
 Manisa, Turkey
In fact though, the Daniel Boone figure and the two warriors are ‘Zeybek’, an ancient Turkish word, meaning a wise person. The zeybek were like the samurai of Turkey.
 Manisa, Turkey
After that I bought some mesir and went to the Hollywood Cinema where I watched “The Expendables” which was in English with Turkish subtitles. It was an incredibly bad film. Bad writing, bad acting, bad everything. Awful. The mesir on the other hand was delicious spicy stickiness.
Then I walked around taking pictures of Tarzan who I will detail tomorrow in Manisa Monday. Yes, I figure one day a week devoted to the town I live in for the next year is a decent amount of time to spend…after all, what else am I going to do with all my time here?

Technomad Tools – #1 – Smart phone – Mine and yours?

Let’s talk about smartphones. I just got one and following is my review. What smartphone do you use? Is it better or worse? What features do you love? What features could you do without?
This term technomad is coming up more and more these days. To a certain extent, I fall within the category since I do a lot of my paid (and unpaid) work online and for that I don’t have a boss, an office, or a need to be in any one place.
As such, my office for the past year or so has been my netbook. An Acer Aspire One which has been by far the best $300 I’ve ever spent. I’ve used it for everything a full on laptop or desktop can be used for and it has never let me down. I recommend it 100% as the ultimate travel machine. Below is an affiliate link from Amazon for one.

Still, I’m always trying to make my possessions smaller, faster, and better and I’ve been looking at people with smartphones for a while now and wondering if I would be able to make the leap and perhaps the next time I travel I would be able to leave the netbook at home.
best phone for travel
Does your phone travel well?

I’m a cheap bastard. I don’t like to replace things while other things still work, so when my camera went kaput during our wedding in the Sahara, I thought that maybe if my phone would die too, I could replace the phone and the camera with a smart phone. So, I’ve been keeping my eyes open.
Unfortunately, in both Turkey and Morocco the cost of electronics is about 500% more than in the USA or Europe. Even in Europe the cost of an iPhone or Blackberry is at a premium. Another thing is that I don’t like contracts since I’m never 100% certain I’ll be staying in a country. And, I’m pretty poor in terms of money that I can spend.
An iPhone in Morocco runs about $1700 U.S. A Blackberry is a little less, but the truth is that I’ve used Blackberries and I don’t particularly like them. In Turkey and iPhone is about $1500. I thought about ordering one from Ebay or Amazon, but friends here confirmed that customs (as in Morocco) would rake me over the coals and I would end up paying more. I don’t want to make any bones about it, I’ve looked around and despite the problems, it looks to me like an iPhone 4 is the best thing going.
The other day when my old Motorola Razor V1 once again started dying with a full charge, I decided it was time to make the leap to something. One of my colleagues showed me his phone and told me that I could get one for right around 350 Turkish Lira which works out to about $225 US.
I did a little homework and decided that while it didn’t have all the options I wanted, it would be a pretty decent way to break into having a smart phone. Here is what I wanted:
– a decent camera
– wifi so that I could check email, use voice services on Skype, GTalk, and Yahoo messenger to make calls with no charge when wifi was available
– video capability – playing and recording
– blue tooth
– good sound quality/ call quality
– a good quality touchscreen
– fm radio
– good battery life
– and some games/ability for java apps
samsung star wifi
The reviews I read of the phone seemed to indicate that I was going to get what I was looking for with the Samsung Star Wifi which is marketed in India, Pakistan, Turkey, and other Arab countries under various names such as Samsung Avila.
The phone lives up to most of what I read about it. I’ve had no problems with the wifi though I haven’t yet figured out how to change the default for most java apps so that I don’t get charged for usage.
samsung star wifi - phone for vagabond
It’s small, light, and fits easily in my hand or my pocket.
For me, the camera takes acceptable pictures but the lack of a zoom and flash probably means I’m going to have to get a camera anyway. The video quality seems pretty decent.
Call sound is good and the music player works well but doesn’t seem to have much flexibility in the way playlists work. Definitely would prefer i-tunes.
One big issue at the beginning was that the proprietary browser kind of sucks. Only allows one window at a time. I solved this by downloading the Opera Mini 5 browser which allows for multiple windows but the cost is that with Opera when I turn my phone sideways, it doesn’t automatically change to landscape screen
Another issue is that since it is proprietary, Skype and other voice chat services (VOIP) have not bothered to (or not been able to) make software that allows free calls. So even with the wifi and a browser, I’m not able to make the free VOIP calls I wanted. I was able to download a java app called Nimbuzz, but can only access it through the browser and engage in text chat only. Big disappointment on this one.
Also, I think because of the firmware and proprietary Samsung crap, I can only run one app at a time, although there is a setting which allows music to run in the background while I do other things. So what this means is that if I am using the Opera browser and want to make a note, I have to close the browser and open up the note. Again, big disappointment and not ideal at all.
The initial data storage size is reasonable, but not huge. I’ll have to buy a data card. I want to have the space for videos and music on it, not to mention pictures, and hopefully an ebook or two.
The word processing (notepad) function is fairly primitive and when I have put pdf or .doc files on it, I have to scroll left and right in addition to down. Not really very good for reading something which I was hoping would be an option.
The battery life is good. About 10 hours with heavy usage or from what I’ve read, if it isn’t being used much, a week or more.
The touchscreen seems to work great. It’s fun and the stylus which comes inside is easy to use and stores in the corner safely.
As to videos, I’m afraid that this phone is set up to mostly play youtube videos and since I’m in Turkey, where youtube is banned, I’ve not yet had the opportunity to watch any video but the one I recorded to test out the video camera function. I’m hoping to find an alternative source so that I can watch tv shows and news.
The phone has a couple of kind of goofy features. One is that if you choose you can set up the phone to automatically email two contacts if the SIM is replaced. Ideally this will tell you the number of any thief who steals your phone.
Another one is a fake call function where you can press a button and the phone will call you and play a conversation you’ve pre-recorded so that you can get out of class, meetings, or other uncomfortable situations. It’s a phone with built in lies.
One last thing I do like about this phone is that it comes unlocked and is quad band so I can go anywhere and use it in any country on the planet.
Overall, I like the phone. It’s a definite upgrade from the razor v1, but it is definitely not a replacement for the netbook. That will have to come later. Although, I’m quite happy to lug the netbook with me since it is light and awesome.
Now, how about you- what smart phone do you use? Does it kick ass? Or does it blow?

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