Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199710 Turkey

WEDNESDAY 1 OCTOBER 1997 – I go into Istanbul with Cicek and her Mum Gulistan to carry out some traditional Turkish pre wedding shopping. The bride’s family buy some Gold jewellery for her and the groom and the bride’s Mum chooses the nightwear for the wedding night!  Rain in the afternoon.  Steve and Barry go out in the evening to a haman bath with Alp.



THURSDAY 2 OCTOBER – Cicek seems to have a cold coming on so stays at home.  Barry, Steve and I head into Istanbul to continue the sightseeing programme.  First we want to climb the Galata Tower but once Barry sees how high it is he insists on getting something to eat first.  We go to a traditional Turkish restaurant where they serve fresh roast chicken, doner and other hot meals.  I settle for chicken, roast potatoes and veg, Steve has lamb with rice and Barry a lasagne.  There are huge piles of fresh bread on the tables and bottles of water.  I have a slightly worrying moment when Barry says he thinks we have boobed and gone into a men only restaurant, as I am the only female and attracting strange glances.  Fortunately no sooner has he said this than a couple of women come in – have I started a new trend?  The bill including a pudding is just under £3.  With enough sustenance in our bellies we make the climb up the Galata Tower and get great views and can now pick out many of the areas we have already visited.  It’s a short walk to the Pera Palas Hotel.  Michael Palin stayed here on his “Pole to pole” trip.  Agatha Christie also stayed here when she mysteriously disappeared for 11 days only to emerge having written Murder on the Orient Express.  The Orient Express used to terminate in Istanbul and the hotel was built for the passengers to be able to stay in equal opulence.  A small backhander gets us a visit to the room where she stayed.  The story gets more intriguing as a medium later had a vision of Agatha hiding the key to her diary under the floorboards in this room.  The key was duly unearthed and put in the hotel safe where the manager hoped to bribe Warner Brothers who were making a film about her.  His dealing didn’t work and the key is still here.  A short hop in a taxi takes us to the Sulleymanye complex from where we walk down to Kapali Carsi (the grand bazaar) where Barry negotiates and buys a copper tray type Turkish table.  Next stop is the Beyazit Meydani where they have a second hand book market.  The stalls are full of schoolwork books, mainly to teach students English. It seems that at the end of the school year students sell their old books here and by new ones, at least they are supposed to wait until the end of the school year.  We are feeling peckish and from a street cart buy pizza type pitta bread filled with salad and washed down with Aryan (water yoghurt), a snip at 35p a time.  Get a taxi back to the car.  Barry gets a bit lost and we end up with an unscheduled drive around the old city walls that enclosed Byzantium.  Stop off at Migros supermarket to buy ingredients for a vegetable curry.



FRIDAY 3 OCTOBER – Turkish tradition has it that the day before the wedding the bride’s Mum comes and prepares the wedding bedroom.  As Cicek’s Mum got a phone call yesterday to say that her house move is scheduled for this Sunday she has delegated the task to Cigdem (Cicek’s brother’s wife) – my offer to help is politely refused.  I find out later that the bed has special sheets on for the bride’s first night!  In the evening I go along to the hen night.  Gulistans house is full of relatives and Cicek’s friends, over 50 people in total.  Very loud Turkish and Arabic music is played and everyone dances in circles.  A small ceremony is performed – the bridge put on traditional clothes and a jewelled headscarf.  Everyone holds a small candle and the lights are put out as the bridge walks under a tunnel of candles with what looks like a green birthday cake held over her head.  Once seated on a chair a circle of chanting forms around her and then the oldest lady in the house (her grandmother) takes some paste from the cake (a henna cake) and plaster it on Cicek’s hand and then covers her hand with a bag.  The lights go on and Cicek has to go around and kiss everyone.  Anyone who isn’t attending the wedding then pins coins or banknotes on her.  Next we all daub henna on one hand.  After ten minutes you wash the gunk off and then the remaining green stain slowly turns orange and remains on for up to two weeks.  Meanwhile Steve and Barry have gone to Alps for a few drinks and call to collect me just before midnight with Steve very much the worse for wear.  I think he has looked after Barry by drinking his share of whisky as well as his own.  They come into the house and Barry sits on the floor whilst Cicek’s grandmother pus henna on his little finger.  The journey back to Barry’s is slow, as we have to keep stopping for Steve to open the door and be sick.



SATURDAY 4 OCTOBER – We collect Cicek, her best friend Arzu and Cigdem then proceed to the hairdressers where we spend the next four hours.  We all have our hair and make up done and then get changed into our wedding outfits.  Barry collects us in his car strewn with flowers and takes Cigdem, and I to Gulistan’s house whilst he and Cicek go to the studio for formal photos.  All the women are gathered inside the house and the men are out in the street.  When the bride returns the women hide her with the veil.  Her brother Yavuz enters the house to partake in negotiations by Barry to buy the bride.  Barry secures the deal with a Tottenham Hotspurs shirt and we pile into cars and head for he town hall.  En route other cars toot their horns and children stop the wedding car to be handed money.  The big problem with this nowadays is that some of the older kids literally jump out and stop the car and block the road until they have all had a lot of money, this has resulted in someone being killed as most of the roads are very busy.  The official ceremony is performed at the town hall with Alp acting as interpreter and Steve and Arzu witnesses.  The bridge and groom then move into the back room to stand in front of a plain wall for photographs.  Everyone files past pinning gold coins, gold jewellery or banknotes onto Cicek and Barry then pausing for a photograph.  Once everyone has gone past we set off for the reception.  We are travelling with Alp and he stops at Burger King and then at a fish restaurant boat on route.  Having seen the type of food served at the previous wedding we can understand this but suspect Barry has something grander in mind for their reception.  Arrive at the Malta Kiosk in Yidez Park where we are seated in a conservatory.  An organist plays music whilst we enjoy a big three-course meal but no alcohol is served.  The Muslim ladies sit at a separate table to the men and also dance separately to Turkish music.  We are seated with Cicek’s friends who are so westernised they have smuggled in a few bottles of wine.  Very different to an English wedding and we feel privileged to have joined in.  When Barry & Cicek return home we go to Alp & Gamze’s to stay the night.



SUNDAY 5 OCTOBER – With Alp, Gamze and children Timor and Tunc we return to Barry’s.  Barry bought a huge 3 litres bottle of champagne whilst we were in Bulgaria and this goes well with the fresh tuna steaks that Steve cooks on the BBQ.  It’s a lovely day so we relax in preparation for setting off tomorrow.  Neighbour’s Ali and Aisha join us along with their family.



MONDAY 6 OCTOBER – Finally get away from Istanbul at 12.00.  We head towards Gallipolis but detour for a couple of hours to sunbathe on a beach.  We are pulled over twice for spot checks, once by Police and once by the army.  Apparently this is normal in Turkey and they usually just look at your documents but as they don’t speak much English and our Turkish is no better we escape with a polite Hello then Goodbye.  We don’t make it as far as Gallipolis but settle on a campsite (1,000,000 TL (3.90) without electric) on the straits side of the peninsula and are joined by a German couple that sleep in their estate car.  



TUESDAY 7 OCTOBER – Once again I wish I had taken more notice during the school history lessons instead of having to read everything in the guidebook.  Briefly the peninsula of Gallipolis controls the Dardanelle’s channel, which is the only ice-free passage to Russia.  Australians, New Zealanders, British, French and Indian troops tried to invade this area in order to control the shipping lanes.  For various reasons all attempts failed but not before about 160,000 people were killed.  The area is full of World War 1 battlefields and Allied cemeteries with multiple graves, memorials and obelisks.  A shocking reminder in contrast to the peacefulness and beautiful scenery we see today.  We visit a number of sites and the main obelisks for the New Zealand, Australian and British troops before being drawn to the beach.  The weather is fantastic with not a cloud in the sky.  The campsite at the back of “V” beach (Cape Helles) is closed but a local person tells us it is OK to stay there overnight.



WEDNESDAY 8 OCTOBER – We make an early start and stop in the village for a loaf of bread (9p) and a couple of tomatoes for which the man will not accept any payment.  A quick look at the tetrahedral shaped Turkish monument on the top of a hill with fantastic views.  It seems that the main monuments carry the names of all that countries dead but the bodies are scattered around the various cemeteries as near as possible to where they were killed.  At the small village of Kilitbahir we catch the unofficial ferry to Canakkale 1.500.000TL (£5.80).  We are really too high to fit on and it’s a drive on drive off but they put us on at the back of the ferry with most of the motorhome hanging off.  At the other side he backs into the port for us to reverse off.  Yet another example of how helpful the Turks are.  A short drive southwards down the coast takes us to Truva (Troy).  Yes another history lesson as it has recently been proved that the legend of Troy actually occurred.  There’s a replica of the Trojan horse and a vast archaeological site to wander round.  They have dug down to 9 different levels dating back to 2500BC.  The weather is still holding out so we head down the Aegean cost to a little village called Oren to become the only visitors at the Atlin campsite.  It’s a very nice spot with a private sandy beach.  The biggest problem with this weather is that we are already a day behind schedule, but who cares?  I don’t feel too well in the evening and opt for an early night at 8pm.



THURSDAY 9 OCTOBER – I’m still not well and stay in bed until 11am but can’t quite say what exactly is wrong with me.  Steve spends the whole day on our private beach and I amble to and fro.  Finally figure out what the problem might be as the water in the van has become silvery coloured and smells of sulphur (all this time I’ve been blaming Steve for the rotten smells).  We flush the tank through with a very mild bleach solution and refill with fresh water.  I guess that with the van being out of action for 6 weeks the water has gone off and this has become more apparent as we have got down the tank.  I drink much more water than Steve so this may explain my problem.  Steve manages to buy a phone card from the chef in one of the village hotels but it now turns out that the phone card telephone booth on our site is locked and the one that is open only takes jettons!



FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER – Back on the road again with an early morning visit to Bergama (the ancient town of Pergamon).  The ancient site is quite interesting and has great views from its hillside location.  Call at a garage to get air put in the tyres and end up shelving out 4,000,000TL (£15.70) to have extension tubes fitted from the inner tyres.  Better still is Ephesus, which we visit in the afternoon.  Said to be the largest and best-preserved Roman site apart from Pompeii.  Tourist abounds on day trips from Kusadasi.  Late afternoon it is quiet enough to wander round and avoid the crowds whilst taking in the magnificent ruins.  Just up the road from the site we visit the cave of the seven sleepers.  Seven Christians fell asleep in here and were walled in by anti-Christians.  They awoke after an earthquake and on venturing into the village found out that 200 years had passed and that it was now fashionable to be a Christian.  They died soon after (presumably from shock) and were buried in the grotto with a commemorative church built over their graves.  Sounds good but following a wild goose chase up the mountainside we find that the cave is closed.  Nearby the Lonely Planet leads us to a café specialising in gozleme (pancakes).  Park at the Motel camping near Ephesus.



SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER – We don’t seem to learn from experience and set off on another wild goose chase to Meryemana.  Jackanory time again folks – St John was asked to look after the virgin Mary as one of Jesus’ last request and he brought her to Ephesus.  In the 18th century a German nun had a vision of a small stone house where the Virgin spent her last years and died.  A priest later followed up these records and the description led them to a building near Ephesus.  This spot has now become a shrine on the itinerary of pilgrims worldwide.  We actually can’t believe what we are saying as it really could be anything.  A short drive north up the coast takes us to a nice beach, NW of Selcuk Notion, where we sunbathe before facing the tourist resort of Kusadasi. Steve is persuaded to stay when he sees a sign that the England V Italy world cup match is on in the bars.  We check onto Campsite Onder 1,150,000TL (£4.25) with electric.  It’s very quiet with only 4 other campers.   Walk into town where the hassle starts straight away, as we are coaxed into restaurants and bars serving English meals and with English speaking staff.  Queen Victoria is our final choice and we join dozens of other England supporters for the 9.45 local time kick off.  It’s uproar when the match doesn’t come on.  Visits to other bars in “Pub Alley” produce no better results.  Eventually at about 10.15 they manage to tune in toe the Italian channel and as it is the only bar in the street to do so we are joined by even more supporters.  A typical example of Turkish organisation, to advertise the match and not realise it is on a pay channel that they don’t subscribe to!



SUNDAY 12 OCTOBER – For £10 we book organised coach trip to Pamukkale, lunch and admission included.   For a 400km return trip it is cheaper than taking the van and fun to be conventional tourists for the day.  On the way we pass lots of cotton fields and learn that the pickers have come from eastern Turkey with their families and get paid around £4 each per day.  With an average family of 10 people this makes the journey worthwhile.  They stay in primitive tents in the fields and return at the end of the season with enough money to last until next year.  Our bus driver gets pulled over for speeding and rather than pay the full fine and get a ticket both he and the policemen are happy with a bribe and no paperwork.  Another interesting piece of information is about he Turkish railways, mainly built by the British.  The tracks take a curious route because the contract offered the builders rights to anything within 100 yards of the track and this was manipulated to best advantage. Near Pamukkale we stop to look around Hieropolis necropolis before continuing. Pamukkale means cotton castle and is a natural phenomenon where spring water with calcium carbonate has run down the hill and coagulated on the rocks to eventually form terraces with rock pools full of mineral water (travertine).  This was fantastic until a few years ago when the Turks in their wisdom decided to sell the water to the Hotels and this in turn reduced the flow to the terraces.  Theses are now almost dried up from lack of water and destroyed by tourists being encouraged to walk over them.  Slightly better late than never they have now roped off most of the area and you can now only walk on a small section.  Still a fantastic sight but not doubt it would have been much better a few years ago.  There’s a proper swimming bath at the site and we swim in there until the coach leaves.



MONDAY 13 OCTOBER – Steve is tempted by the cheap “full English cooked breakfast”.  Bit of a mistake as the bacon has about 1” fat and the sausages are a few slithers of pepperoni. Drive south via Soke, the edge of Lake Bafa and Milas to Bodrum.  Continue out onto the peninsula to Huseyin Burnu lighthouse.  There’s a nice quiet beach where we sunbathe in the afternoon.  Take our evening meal in the nearby Fener restaurant. 



TUESDAY 14 OCTOBER – It’s very hot weather so we spend a lazy day on the beach.  Our lunch is truly international, Turkish steak, Bulgarian wine, Romanian smash potato, Hungarian margarine, French mushrooms and an English packet of peppercorn sauce.  Walk along to check out the hotel early evening then return to play scrabble. 



WEDNESDAY 15 OCTOBER – Very windy in the night and still so when we wake up.  Drive into Bodrum to look around the castle.  Stop for petrol at Mobil station and end up with free tea and a full van wash as part of the service.  In Marmaris we try to find the shipping agents for an English company who offer naturist cruises in this area.  We have been unsuccessfully trying to contact them by phone for a few days but eventually find the agents who tell us they are based on the peninsula at Orchanye.  Drive into the village where many boats are anchored in the bay.  Make contact by walking out to the end of the pier and shouting out “Ahoy Cockatoo” in the general direction of the boats.  Someone appears on deck and rows ashore to introduce herself as Sarah before inviting us aboard for a drink.  It transpires that Sarah & Roy left England in 1980 to travel in their boat Cockatoo but after 4 years they were running out of money but still wanted to keep going.  By taking passengers on board in the summer they could be self financing.  13 years on and they still do the same thing from May until the middle of October.  They have now finished their work for the year but as we have a lot in common and have made such an effort to track them down they invite us along for a short trip.  For just £25 day they will take us with them tomorrow when they head for the Greek island of Simi in order to renew their visas.  We return to Orchanye intending to eat at the recommended Cems restaurant where we believe Steve will be able to watch the Liverpool v West Brom match on their satellite TV.  As we are assessing if we can make the steep drive a car drives out.  Cem is just leaving and to cut a long story short we end up spending the evening at his house being fed by his Mum whilst Steve watches he match.  They then offer us parking at his Dad’s Motel with use of the showers and toilets.




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