Saturday, May 29, 2010

More Phrasebook Phun

Well, it looks as if I won't be able to relate my the rest of my stay in Dalyan until after this Tuesday. This ıncludes the twin ordeals of Tlos and Aphrodisias. Riveting stuff for sure. For the time being, please enjoy further selections from my phrasebook:

My dentures are broken! - Takma dişim kırıldı!

She is having a baby and a heart attack. - O doğurmak üzere ve kalp krizi geçiriyor.

Good day! I have been drugged. - İyi günler! Bana uyuştrucu verildi.

I'd like some sheep's brain salad, please. - Lütfen biraz beyin salatası istiyorum.

I'd like a children's menu and a child. - Çocuk menüsünü ve çocuk istiyorum.

I'm interested in Islamic nomadic performance art. - Ben İslamcı göçebeliğe ait eser sanat ile ilgeniyorum.

Will you go out with me, meet my parents and marry me?- Benimle çıkmak ister anne ve babamla tanışmak ister benimle evlenir misin?

What's the sea like today? - Bugün deniz nasıl?

Find a Turkish person and amuse yourself with their reactions!

Saturtle

Question: how does a turtle crawl over rocks? Answer: very carefully. Have a look:
video
No more fast turtles, folks. This guy just wants to get to the other side of the rocks. He eventually did. He's probably still clımbing over rocks now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marmaris

There are two schools of thought about Marmaris:
1. It has a cool yacht harbor;
OR
2. It's a completely soul-less place that attracts Euro-trash like a Josh Groban concert draws very nice middle-aged ladies.

Let's back up a bit. I woke up that morning and it was raining very hard. There was no poınt going to the beach, because it doesn't work so good when there' no sun. This is what it looks like:

Yeah, not welcoming. I decided to go to Marmaris instead. It's about two hours away by bus. When I got to Ortaca, the local bus hub, it was raining so hard that I couldn't see more than 15 feet in any direction. Once out of Ortaca, the weather moderated. By the time I arrived in Marmaris, it was downright pleasant. Honestly, there's nothing to see but the harbor and all the ships (believe me - I walked from one end of the town to the other), so here they are:




So there's the yacht harbor. And if you're not mega-rich disco-hopping Euro-trash, you'll probably need something to do at night. You can go see this movie:

It's Dear John. You might like it more if you're a teenage girl. Anyhow, there were gangs of British tourists who had been paroled from this ship that was cruising the Greek isles, so this was their first (and probably last) brush with Turkish hospitality. It was particularly hard-sell. For some reason, they totally left me alone. Maybe I looked too poor or I wasn't pale or fat (Did I mention that the British are quite fat these days? That's right, I dıd. Well it bears repeating.) enough to look British, so I was invisible to them. Most of the hard-selling going on was for harborside restaurants. Turkish guys would just be out front trying to generate business. And then there was the yacht harbor, but in general the place was quite uninspiring. After two hours, I was ready to go.

Coming back, Ortaca was again in the midst of a downpour, but Dalyan was non-torrential. Funny thing, this is the first substantial rain I've seen in Turkey in five visits. The locals say that it won't be the last.

Kaunos

The local ruin around Dalyan is a place called Kaunos. Back in the day, its inhabitants were known for either their greenish or yellowish pallor (historical accounts vary), because of their proximity to the local swamp and all the interesting diseases with which they were blessed. Their government differed from those of most cıty-states in that they worshipped their leader as a demi-god. Yeah, this wasn't Greece; it was Caria. Like neighboring Lycia, all kinds of weird stuff went down. They even had their own language. When the Persians came through taking things over, many couldn't see what the big deal was all about and others fought to the death. Anyhow, getting to Kaunos is fun: you walk up to the fat guy at the dock, give him 3.5 lira and he has either his son or his mother row you across. The kid who rowed me was Dennis, which is quite a popular Turkish name. I've met two others in the last few days. When Dennis got done rowing, I set off for Kaunos. It was about a 15 minute walk. Some of the site is excavated and (groan) reconstructed using contemporary materials, but much of it is just a bunch of rocks lying around. Here's what it looks like:





Here's some stuff just sittin' around:

Like so many cities of that time, Kaunos' decline began when its harbor silted up. Plus, most of the classical world was kind of freaked out by its residents' appearance. If anything though, I'm ready to heap praise on them for those lovely rock tombs. Let's look at them again:

This is one very nice place, but to tell the truth, I miss all the crazy people and sirens. I'm sure they'll still be there when I get back.

Hey Ladıes!


If you're ever in Patara and your beard needs trimming, stop in and see these guys. According to their sign, they sing a lot.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dalyan


Yes, Patara was nice, laid-back, friendly and beautiful in its own rurally-Turkish way, but Dalyan is a cut above even that. I came here intending to spend 5 nights, but now I'm planning on 11. I was going to head up to Çannakale, see the very disappointing ruins of Troy and get in on the ANZAC tour that spotlights the WWI travails of our English-speaking friends from Australia and New Zealand, but no. I'm staying here. This place is just super. It's located on a river between a lake and the Mediterranean. You get to the beach (and a very nice beach it is) by boat. People, ıncluding myself take tours on boats. There are many boats going many places. I first came here in 1998. It was a sleepy little place barely aware that tourists existed. Now things are different. It is a destinatıon for packaged tours coming from Britain. The tourist breakdown is as follows: 65% from the UK, 15% from Turkey, 10% from Germany and 10% from everywhere else - France, Holland, Ireland and undesirables like myself. You know what? The English are now quite fat. They also sport quite a few bad tattoos - not as many as Americans, but still very many. So they've got those things going against them now, too. If they weren't extremely pale, they could just drop the accents and be Americans.

But we were talking about lovely Dalyan. Here is the beach. By the way, the Mediterranean here is warm and wavy:

It's called Turtle Beach, because the loggerhead sea turtle comes ashore here to lay its eggs. Dalyan is all about the turtles. That a likeness of the loggerhead (also known as the Caretta Caretta) adorning the town center up above in the first photo. These aren't like the Saturtles. They're big, they dive deep and they eat tons of fish. Saturtles eat grass and the occasional slow bug. They also live forever. Anyhow, Dalyan is about as eco-touristy as Turkey gets. People actually come here to see the turtles who swim in the river and into the nearby lake. I saw them once. It was early in the morning. I'm still not sure what I saw.

So this is my fourth time to Dalyan. If there's one thing that keeps me coming back, it the Carian rock tombs across the river. Have a look:


That big tomb over on the right. Do you see that? It's unfinished. I guess they figured they didn't like the guy they were building it for when he croaked, so they must've just stuck him in some hole in the ground. My hotel has the best view of the tombs across the river in all of Dalyan. Here's the lovely place right now:

I stay here every time I'm in Dalyan. They always give me the same room. Around 11 years ago, I had a fling with a Turkish girl, so I'm staying in the exact same room where we had our, ahem, foreign relations. It's not weird.

Here are thing you see along the way to the beach:


Here's something that you might see at the beach:

That's a blue crab. Ahmet the tour guide is holding it. People hang out in their boats and sell them close to the beach. I wish I liked crab, but alas. This is Dalyan's main square:

They love them some Atatürk. There was a big Atatürk celebration a few days ago with a marching band and kids doing strange folk dances and other kids reading poetry. It was a great day for Turkey and why not?

Here are a few more random photos from around town. This is the completely vacant information booth:

And this is out in front of the dolmuş stand:

Well, that's one way of putting it - and not spelling it right.

None of this can really give you a flavor of Dalyan. You have to visit. This place is completely outstanding. If it can manage to keep me for 11 nights, then they've gotta be doing something right.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fast Turtle 2

In lieu of a Sunday Squirrel, I'll give you a Saturday Turtle - or Saturtle, if you will. Or even if you won't. Here goes:
video
This is at the ruin at Kaunos. In addition to this turtle, I also saw a kangaroo rat. Yes, they hop! But honestly, the sight of a hopping rat is initially a little alarming.

Saklikent

OK, the ankle burn turned out to be a bit more serious than I first thought. After two days, it was more painful than you can imagine. Since the beach was out of the question, I decided to go to Saklikent Gorge. Several tens of thousands of years ago, there was this big earthquake. A mountain split open. That split in the mountain eventually became Saklikent Gorge. In a perfect world, Saklikent is 30 miles and 45 minutes from Patara, but this world is hardly perfect. On the advice of my hotel owner, I took this baroque route that left me semi-stranded by the side of the road for long stretches of time. This trip that should have taken 45 minutes ended up being over three hours. It involved a bus, a minibus and many dolmuşes. (For those unacquainted, a dolmuş is a community bus, usually with questionable suspension and exhaust leaks, that is just a bit larger than a minivan. They'll stop just about anywhere you tell them as long as it's on their route.) Once I arrived at Saklikent, my ankles were burning fiercely. And this was just the thing they needed.

Saklikent experience is very simple; you pay your 4 TL (about $2.60), walk into the gorge, jump into the water (it's knee-deep most of the time) and wade upstream. Oh, and try not to fall or lose your shoes. That's it; step into the very cold water and wade upstream as far as you can go. Now, there's just no good way to photograph the scene. The crack in the mountain isn't particularly spectacular and the gritty stream winds and winds way all over the place. The one really impressive thing you can do is look up. This is what you see:

Yeah, it's 500 feet nearly straight up. And the farther you go upstream, the narrower it get and you have to maneuver past these giant boulders that have found their way down there from God-knows-where. And the stream gets colder. And deeper. What was ankle-to-knee deep soon approaches the waist. I wish I'd taken a few pictures of all the hapless tourists struggling upstream. It was quite a scene. But no matter your troubles, you could look up and see this:

Of course, you start thinking nonsense like: 'Well, if this mountain just cracked open one day, it can probably snap shut. And what if that day...is TODAY???' I found myself preoccupied with that thought as the gorge got narrower. After I hadd gotten past a particularly difficult rapid (I had been goıng upstream for at least an hour), I decided to turn back. For you Saklikent veterans, this was just prior to the waterfall. I could see it, but I couldn't get to it, because the water became too deep. I headed back. You know something? That cold, dirty water worked like magic on my tomato-colored ankles. Nothing cures things like gorge water!

I took my time getting back, but when I arrived at the start/finish point, I looked like this:

Very intrepid, no?

The return to Patara was even more time-consuming and convoluted than the trip to Saklikent, but at least I wasn't left by the side of the road this time. My ankles were fine for hours and after that, they got better. The next day, things were in good enough order for me to go to the beach again.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Letoon & Xanthos

After that ankle-burning day at the beach, I was ready for some ruin-tromping. I've been to both these places before, but I never tıre of Xanthos and I was willing to give Letoon another chance. Let's start with Letoon:

This was one of the most sacred places to the Lycians. The story goes that Leto gave birth to Apollo and Artemis on Delos, but fled to Lycia to escape the wrath of Hera for, y'know, getting knocked up by her husband Zeus. She (Leto) landed in this spot and tried to get some water for her twins. For some reason, a pair of shepherds tried to stop her. She promptly turned them into frogs. To this day, the frogs remain, as it very swampy. OK, the complex conists of three temples (one each to Leto, Apollo and Artemis) and a theater. That's all she wrote. Folks, the is a UNESCO-designated sight and that's all you get. I walked 5 miles to get to it and it was even more disappointed this time around. Anyhow, here is an overall view of the temples:

Here's a mosaic in Apollo's temple:

If that's original, my name is Mausolus of Halicarnassus. Here is a nearby sheep:

Here is a sample of the swampiness:

This is the theater:

And a local goat:

And that's it for UNESCO-designated Letoon. It was a six-mile march to Xanthos in the midday heat. It was totally worth it.


Xanthos was probably the largest city in Lycia. It also had one of the most violent histories. On two occasions (in the 5th century when they were besiged by some Persian satrap and in 42 BC when they were again besieged by noblest Roman of them all, Brutus) they all chose to kill themselves and torch the place. The city was subsequently restarted by families who were 'on vacation' at the time of the mass-suicide. Xanthos is also mentioned often in the Iliad. In fact, Lycia gewts a lot of airplay, with Sarpedon and Glaucus leading the Lycian contingent. However, neighboring Caria is only noted in passing. Anyhow, Xanthos has some really cool funerary architecture in the form of pillar and rock tombs. There are also mosaics, a rather small theater and lots of other ıntriguing stuff that the British didn't haul away to put in their museum in London. If you like, and your budget will allow, you call see the original Tomb of the Harpies (this one sports reproductions generously provided by the British) and the Nereid Monument at the British Museum. Here are some photos:








That last tomb is the so-called 'Dancing Maiden Sarcophagus.' Those are the maidens dancing right there. There are also others scenes, like people hunting lions and a guy falling off a horse.

This place's location is on a hill above the vıllage of Kınık. Looking down from it, you can see gangs of greenhouses:

When I first came here in 1998, those weren't there. Things change sometime.

So it was a very hot day, but the visit to Xanthos was just super-excellent. I recommend it to each and all.

Additional Turkey Gravy

Here's more information that you don't wanna know:

Another feature about Patara - GIANT BUGS. Bumble bees as big around as your thumb, prehistoric-sized dragonflies, very large green flies, economy-sized crickets (6 inches long, people) and swarms of misquitoes. But really, it's such a nice place even with all those critters. Remember, there are quite a few turtles here.

No Americans! The last two I met were in Olimpos many, many days ago. One was from Maine, the other from Oregon. They were quite young and not very entertaining. In Patara, the foreigner breakdown is about 60% British, 30% German, 10% others - like me, the Dutch and the French. I hate to say it, but I believe that Americans are still afraid of traveling to Muslim countries - and this has nothing to do with Midnight Express. Of course, back in the eighties, that movie alone reduced Turkey's tourism revenue by 30%. Or so I was told.

Gas is horrendously expensıve here - 8 bucks a gallon, I kid you not. I'm glad I'm not driving! As a result, everybody has scooters, motorcycles or mopeds. They all tear around without helmets. Women ride sideways. Sometimes whole families ride together, lıke four-decker sandwiches. Although they ride crazy, I have yet to see an accident.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Patara

OK, by this point, I'm beginning to notice that something is different about Turkey. Namely, it's more expensive - like three times more expensive than when I was last here in 2002. That hotel room that used to be 8 bucks is now 25. The five-dollar meal that had me so full that I swore off food for the next few days is now 15. Everything costs more. I was not fully prepared for this, but it's OK now. I mean, everybody pays the same, Turks, tourists and all others. It's not like they raised the prices on just tourists. But they've also redone the money. You used to have to deal it out in comical amounts. In 2002, the exchange rate to the dollar was something like 1.7 million lira to one dollar. This made everybody feel rich. But then in 2008, they wıped out a bunch of zeroes and now the exchange rate is a relatively boring 1.5 lira to the dollar. Without the new valuation, I believe it would exchange at 15 million to one. Anyhow, Turkey might no longer be the ultimate bargain basement, but even at higher prices, it's worth every penny.

OK, I got to Patara, intending to spend an entire week. I was true to that, spending a day at the beach and a day exploring around. It worked out very nicely. A word about Patara: it's very small. Most people grow tomatoes in the many, many, many greenhouses in the area. It would be a one-horse town if somebody had a horse. But it's that small-town vibe that draws people. Osman stands in front of his restaurant in a ridiculously tall chef's hat talking about the weather, while his brother, Ramazan, does the same thing at his restaurant around the corner. All in all, there are eight restaurants, four bars, a post office (that's never open) and a mosque, all on one street. That's Patara. As I mentioned before, it's the birthplace of St. Nicholas, but nobody seems to care about that. They're more interested in showing off their beach. Here it is:

This is just the beginning of it. It continues on for another 10 miles. Most of the day when I was out there, the closest person to me would be half a mile away. Yes, this beach was so inviting that I burned the holy heck out of my ankles my first day out. Yeah, it's just as painful as it sounds. Anyway, the Mediterranean is as warm as a cool swimming pool, which makes it absolutely perfect in my book. When the wind whips up in the afternoon, you can do some fairly satisfying body surfing.

Between the town and the beach are the ruins. Keep in mind that Santa Claus once trod these streets. Oh, and I should mention that they've done a lot of work on the site since I first saw them in 1998. Back then, the theater was half-filled with sand and the acropolis was a friggin' death trap. But all that has changed. Have a look:





While I was there, a had an interesting conversation with one of the foremen working on the site. Here is the gist of it:

(I' sitting on a slab of marble in the shade, watching a crane lift other slabs of marble.)

Him (ın Turkish): Do you speak Turkish?
Me (in Turkish): No
Him (still in Turkish): You shouldn't sit there.
Me: (also still in Turkish): What?
Him: You understand Turkish, right?
Me: What?
Him (in English): Do you speak Turkish?
Me (in English): No.
Him: You no sit there.
Me: Why?
Him: If you speak Turkish, I tell you. No sit.

He really didn't want me to sit there. It was very interesting watching them hoist those slabs in the air, though.

Finally, I suggested to Soner, my hotel owner, a new slogan for Patara - something simple and to the point. Check this out: Patara-dise. I told him that he should run it by the Patara chamber of commerce at their next meeting. I believe their current slogan is 'We have very nice beach.' He said he'd test the waters with a few cronies.

I made a few side-journeys during my time in this wonderful little town. These were not always easy, as it was 6km to the main road and bus service was unpredictable. But every evenıng I'd head up to the hotel's roof terrace and hang out while it got dark. This is what it looked like:

The town is to the left, the ruins and beach are to the right and millions of frogs are in the water. They didn't make the standard ribbit-croak noises like most frogs we know. They were more like creeeeeeeeek and nyuk-nyuk-nyuk. They were tremendously loud, but I really loved the sound. There's nothing like it. Patara was very nice.