Chapter 4: Mediterranean Dreams

Trip Start May 10, 2006
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Trip End Dec 17, 2006


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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wow, where to begin with this entry? Good times, great places, wonderful people... When people ask why I travel, I need to be able to give them a highlights video of the last couple weeks extracted from my memory. I don't think anyone would question the desire to travel after seeing that.

Turkey has been a crossroads and disputed territory for centuries. Being the link between Asia and Europe has meant being conquered and reconquered as empires spread. Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans... All have had their influence on religion, culture, architecture, food, etc. In the early 20th century, Ataturk came to power and made major changes to the country trying to make it more western. He created a more western constitution, changed the alphabet from Arabic to Latin based, legalized alcohol, Islam was no longer the state religion, abolished polygamy, gave women near equal rights (including being able to have a job), etc. Ya, drastic changes. Because of this it's a much more liberal Muslim country than most in the Middle East (Turkey is 99% Muslim). Some might say that's a good thing, but many would argue otherwise. There was some incredibly high inflation just a few years ago but the lira was revalued and is doing alright now. Today it's on its way to joining the EU with some of the affects already being felt (e.g., many places already list prices in Euro [the Euro means higher prices but also more money for the Turks with the high number of European tourists]). In the east, Turkey is bordered by Iran, Iraq and Syria. Those countries love Americans. Actually, I've heard good things about Syria. There are still occassional clashes with Kurdish guerrilas out that way. I think I read that like 80% of men smoke here, which doesn't surprise me after being here for a little while.

I arrived in Kusadasi on the west coast of Turkey after an overnight ferry ride to Samos in Greece and a morning ferry from there to Kusadasi. I had met Renato from Brasil while on the overnight ferry and we caught the same ferry to Kusadasi in the morning. I was pleasantly surprised at Turkey immigration that my visa only cost $20 since my book said it may be as high as $65 and last I read online it showed $45. Renato didn't have to pay for a visa and was outside recruiting others to go to the same hostel we were on our way to (Ariel plus Sue and her kids from Australia). You're forced through a shopping center to exit and one of the first things I saw was Starbucks. It's freakin' everywhere! We found the guys from our hostel just outside port and they transported us the 20 min or so to Atilla's Getaway in Selšuk. Atilla's is about 2km outside of town and is sort of an oasis with pool, bar, hammocks and places to relax.

One of the guys working there gave me the rundown on all they have to offer and was nearly planning my entire time in Turkey before I had to stop him and say "whoa, I may want a couple days to relax and really don't need to be in that big of a hurry." He did get me setup with a daytrip to Pamukkale (though I should've checked first with Renato and the others to see when they were going) and a boat cruise along the south coast. Soon after arriving, Renato, Ariel and I went into town to explore a bit. They got money changed at a jewelry shop and we sat down for lunch after. It quickly became apparent that we might not have chosen a good place as everything we ordered seemed to be coming from elsewhere (waiter went next door to a market for water and sodas). A guy on a scooter arrived and dropped off our food to the waiter which was then put on plates and served. ??? When it came time to pay, the restaurant didn't have change for 50 lira and had to run around to various shops to make change (this would become a standard practice all over Turkey, even with small bills). After lunch we explored the market which was cool 'cuz we got to see the locals shopping as they normally would. Lots of clothes, spices, fruits and vegetables. We lost Ariel in the market and Renato and I went to see St John's Basilica (John the Baptist was supposed to have come to this area following the death of Jesus) and the Citadel. The Citadel is closed but as we walked towards it a kid approached and offered to show us a way through and gave us a tour. That was kind of cool. Of course he wanted more than we originally bargained on after showing us around, but we figured he deserved a little more (I bargained him way down in the beginning). Caught the shuttle back to the hostel and had some time to relax and have a swim before dinner (dinner was included with stay). We sat at picnic benches with everyone else as we ate. I met Johanna from Austria sitting across from me and was putting her to the question as to places to go in the Austrian Alps. After dinner we played some backgammon and billiards. Not too crazy a night at the hostel which was ok as I needed to catch up on sleep from the previous night's ferry ride.
The following morning I went on a daytrip to Pamukkale. At a rest stop on the way, we learned that Japanese and Turkish are very similar languages as a Japanese girl was nearly able to have a conversation with a Turkish shopkeeper. Who would've thunk it? We stopped for lunch before 11:30am, which was a little too early for me after having just had breakfast at 8:30am. After lunch we headed out to the Hieropolis where there are various tombs from 3rd century A.D. We had a few hours to explore Pamukkale at our leisure. Pamukkale is an area on a hill in which calcium has built up as water flowed down. There are, or used to be, pools of water to frolic in and everything is all white from the calcium.

The story I was told is that a hotel at the top and a hotel at the bottom have drained all the spring water so water no longer flows and the pools have dried up. Plus all the tourists visiting caused damage and turned much of the white to yellow. I walked around and could see how it would have been beautiful back in the day, but now it's just ok. I don't know that I'd even recommend it anymore. I also went and checked out the amphitheatre ruins while I was there. Bus back to Selšuk and dinner at the hostel. It was an all vegetarian meal...anyone who knows my eating habits knows veges aren't my favorite. I was sitting with Sue and her two kids and I got to compare what vegetables I did actually like with the kids. At least there was lots of bread. What I began to notice by the second day is far less of the American and Canadian college kids and more "real" people out traveling, which was just fine by me. Played more backgammon with Johanna and Renato in the evening.
The others were all off to Pamukkale for the day but I went to Ephesus to explore the ruins. Got there early and kind of raced down to the most impressive of the ruins, the library, for pictures.

Had a couple hours to explore all over and I actually walked through most everything three times. The shuttle dropped me back in town where I had lunch while waiting for the shuttle back to Atilla's (which didn't come). Since the shuttle didn't show, I had time to kill in town and went to the Archaeological Museum and just wandered. Later I got the shuttle back to Atilla's and just hung around there 'til dinner. Renato and Johanna were kind of late getting back from Pamukkale and I sat and was blabbing non-stop with Johanna as I hadn't got to talk to much of anyone all day. The three of us played a dice game Johanna knew then more backgammon. It always ends in backgammon, eh?
Renato and Johanna were due to leave in the evening for an overnight ride to Istanbul and I didn't have to leave anytime soon for K÷ycegiz so we decided on a beach day. We had to wait around most the morning for Atilla's to shuttle us into town so we wasted time playing pool and just hanging out. Got the bus from town to Pamucak beach. It wasn't very crowded but that may have had to due with the wind. Renato felt he was coming down with a cold and didn't like the wind so went back after just being there a short while. Johanna and I stayed and got sand blown all over us and stared at by Turkish men (though I'm fairly certain they were staring more at her than me). I dropped my camera while there and the lens stopped working (open/close) - d'oh! At least I brought my backup camera (it's the one that leaves black at the corners and sometimes a spot). Maybe I can get the camera fixed when I get to Istanbul. We stayed at the beach 'til about 3pm then got the bus back to town and the shuttle to Atilla's. The guys at Atilla's told me I had to hurry for my bus so I rushed for a shower and said goodbye to Johanna (Renato wasn't around) and they gave me a lift to town where I proceeded to wait 40 min for my bus. Uhh, what was the rush for? I had some good times at Atilla's - it really was a nice getaway from the city and a cool place to chillout. Johanna is cute and great to spend time with, Sue and the kids were fun and Renato was one of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met.

I got the bus from Selšuk to Aydin and from there to K÷ycegiz arriving late in the evening. The bus driver informed me it was 2km from the bus station into town - d'oh! - so I started walking. About 10 min later a car pulls up alongside me and I see it has "Tango Hostel" written on it so I'm like "sweeet!", hop in and get a ride to the hostel. Checked in and went to dinner in town with Mark (who I met at Atilla's). The hostel there had free i-net access so I spent the evening trying to crank out the entry for Greece.
K÷ycegiz is right on a big lake which actually connects to the ocean. I went on a boat trip on the lake with Donna and Guy (who I also met in Selšuk) and a bunch of Turkish. It took us across the lake before breaking down for the first time. Then it proceeded through some marshy areas and past cliffs with tombs built into them (Lycian Tombs).

Those were quite cool looking. We stopped at Turtle Beach to lay in the sun but had the wind blowing sand all over us there too. Saw a couple turtles on the boat ride back. We stopped at the mud baths were you rub mud all over your body, stand in the sun to dry, rinse it all off then have a dip in the hot springs. It didn't feel like it did anything for my skin. Back to the hostel for a quick shower and catch a lift to the bus station for the next bus to Fethiye, where I'd be starting my cruise the following day.

I arrived in Fethiye about 8:30pm and caught a taxi down to the port. Found Olympos Yachting office and Rami showed me the boat and let me stay in a cabin for the night. I had some dinner then met up with Rami, Mel and Sara at Car Cemetary Bar for overpriced drinks. I think Sara may have been the owner...or at least worked there. A couple of her middle-aged friends showed up later and one was giving me the eye and showing entirely too much interest in me, which creeped me out so I left. Back to the engine fume filled cabin for a night of sleep.
I wandered town and lounged on the boat in the morning until the other passengers showed up. Karina (who I met at Atilla's), Sue and her kids (from Atilla's), Jono (NZ), and a middle aged American family with their mom were onboard. Steve (Australia) would kind of be our guide and liaison with the crew. Mel was also aboard for the first couple days just to check it out (it helps to be dating the manager). Not quite like the brochures which show about 12 young ladies and one guy. The boat's water pump broke so we ended up stuck in port 'til 2pm (supposed to leave at 10:30am). Just laid out in the sun mostly 'til then. It was windy so we weren't able to make the stop at Butterfly Valley. We did stop by Oludeniz for a swim. It quickly kind of became the younger gang hanging out together (me, Jono, Steve, Mel and Karina). We had the windsurf board out in the water and were attempting to stand on it or get all of us on at once. The boat continued on to St Nicolas Island where we anchored for the night. Had dinner and stayed up having some drinks with the others. The American family thought I was Australian, even after talking to them (???). They also thought I was married to Sue and those were my kids (!!!). Not sure where they got that from...maybe 'cuz I told them where Sue was from and that she lived in Beijing (since I already knew this from meeting her in Selšuk). I would sure be a lousy husband and father, if that were the case, 'cuz I was mainly hanging out with the others my own age. Many of the people slept on deck since it wasn't too windy and the cabins were rather humid and fume-filled.
The next three days were spent mostly lounging in the sun on the deck with an occassional swim.

All meals were provided to us, though lunches were always vegetarian and always a Turkish breakfast (bread, tomato, cucumber). We visited Kas, the sunken city of Kekova, Simena and the Pirate's Cave. Played some drinking Uno when we got stuck in Kas due to high winds. We didn't last long drinking Raki (Turkish alcohol) and switched to beer. I began to miss the Amstel available in Selšuk as Efes doesn't taste so good and leaves a bad taste in your mouth. One of the dinners gave me an allergic reaction. The old American woman was trying to convince me it was eggplant because her late husband was allergic to eggplant and started off on one of her many tangents/stories. She should have simply asked if I'm allergic to eggplant, which is no (since I'd been eating it at various meals before then and actually didn't have any at dinner when I had the reaction). Sue's kids, Georgia and Amy, would come hang out with us often when Sue would be having discussions with the others. They were well-behaved and never cried, but there were times when we didn't really feel like babysitting. Also had more time playing with the windsurf board in the water and learning backgammon skills in the evening.
The last day we cruised for a little while and arrived in at Demre where we were then shuttled to Olympos. The cruise was reasonably good but didn't live up to all the hype I had been hearing about it.

Olympos is a national archaeological site and has a regulation for building such that there can be no concrete or paved roads. Some of the first things built there were treehouses for travellers and it became a popular destination so more and more started being built up. Part of the deal with the cruise was we'd get a discount at Turkmen Treehouses so all us young'ins stayed there. It was only about $12 for my own bungalow and that included breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was Turkish and dinners were a big buffet with various salads and same main courses. Quite good and people from other pensions raved about it as well. My original intention was to stay 2 or 3 nights but that turned into 5 as it was a great place. Steve works with Turkmen / Olympos Yachting so got a free place to stay, free food and free beer while at Turkmen. That guy's got a sweet deal - lounging on a boat for a few days at a time and hanging out in Olympos getting free food and drink the other days. The first night we hung around Turkmen most the evening playing foosball, ping pong and backgammon waiting for the evening to get late. The main place to go is Orange Bar, an open-air dance club with views of the mountains and stars (quite nice). We arrived there sometime after midnight and started dancing. I showed off my "crazy legs". It started to die down before 3am so we left and went back to the pension.
Karina was leaving that second day and I thought she had to be checked out by 11am so was looking around for her (she had Spanky), but didn't see her anywhere. I went to the beach and met up with a couple of the guys from the night before and lounged on the beach. Back at Turkmen I found Karina still in her room nursing a hangover and was able to recover good 'ol Spanky. Watched the Aussies beat Japan in World Cup (with lots of commentary by Steve) and had dinner. Said goodbye to Karina as she was on the overnight bus to Cappadocia. Steve, Jono and I went over to Bayrams to hang out with some pretty Aussie girls (Maddie, Lou and Clem) from earlier at the beach. Their tag-along, Ivan, was also there who was smitten with Clem and would follow her around. Ivan was on holiday from Serbia and could be seen by day at the beach in small blue speedos. We had some drinks at Bayrams then out to Orange Bar for another night of dancing. Danced on the bar and all over the dancefloor.

The ladies received several free drinks from the bartenders. One of the perks of being a pretty girl, but I also heard lots of bad stories about men trying to break into places they were staying in other parts of the world, being followed, being grabbed, etc. so maybe it isn't all that easy being pretty. That was a late night...out 'til almost 5am.
The Aussie girls said I should stay and I was enjoying Olympos so that pretty much was enough reason to extend my stay there. The next few days were spent at the beach during the afternoon, Turkmen Pension in the evening for World Cup and dinner, then out to one of the bars at night. It actually rained late in the afternoon one of the days...first rain I'd seen in like a month. Luckily it was sunny earlier that day when the ladies met up with me at the beach so Lou could ask if I minded if she sunbathed topless. That is the silliest question ever. :) I explored some of the ruins around the beach, which are cool in that it feels more like you're exploring the forest and discovering the ruins yourself.

I later read in my book to be careful of snakes and scorpions. Uh, ok...too late now. I also haven't actually worn a pair of shoes or socks in a month (just my sandals). It's nice. Had lunch with Sue and her girls on the day it rained. Spanky made a trip out to the beach one of the day for some good photos. I had a bit of a bender one of the nights and ended up staggering back to the pension with Steve as the sun was rising. Jono and my last night was actually a bit calmer and we just hung out with the girls at Turkmen and at a bar next door. Still didn't get to bed 'til like 4:30am though. Lots of relaxing days and some crazy nights (never to bed before 3am) while in Olympos. Great times! Never did make it to the Chimaera flames though.

My liver thanked me profusely as I left Olympos and got away from Steve's bad influence. ;) I took the bus to Antalya, which I originally considered as a stop but the city was much too big for my liking, especially after being in remote Olympos for 5 days. Caught the bus from there to Side. My book made it sound like Side would be nice, but it's become very, very touristy. There must be cheap flights to this area from Germany and Scandinavia as there were lots of them there (some English too). The shopkeepers would all address me in German and ask "Deuschland?" - "Nein! Deuschland ist kaput!" Anyway, I got a pension where the woman spoke no English which made some of the communicating difficult. I just waved my arms frantically and spoke louder and slower. ;) Explored the ruins in the area and the town before naptime. Went out in the evening for dinner and watching World Cup (lots of bars with big screen tv's and some in English). There was a nightclub right near my pension blaring music 'til like 5am so sleeping proved difficult. I was hoping to catch up on sleep while there.

Next day was a beach day to lounge in the sun. I visited the museum first and had some lunch before getting a chair on the beach. Tough times, let me tell you. Another quiet evening just watching World Cup.

The couple weeks in Turkey were wonderful, highlighted by the great people I met along the way. The Turkish people are very friendly and always honest (I kept expecting a scam or ripoff). And I was actually able to just sit and relax in the sun (usually I'm too ancy and wanting to do something). Heading away from the coast now, inland toward Cappadocia and later Istanbul.

"Don't you think it's quiet around here?
Doesn't seem so much to do here?
Think back to this time last year
Good times, good times, good times
Don't you think we've stayed far too long?
Don't you think the colour has gone?
Get on a plane it can't be wrong
Moving on, moving on
Red light blinking in the twilight
Tracing out a path right out of here and now
Baby baby, I think it's time we move on now"

- move on now, Hard-Fi
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