Turkey–so polite!

“But, of course…”
I have never felt more welcome in a foreign country than I did in Turkey.  We were looked after, catered to and most questions were answered with, “but of course”.
With Mosques on almost every corner, this exotic city boasts 14.2 million people within city limits –and I swear they must all use the tram, which I call, “the crush of humanity”!
Spanning Europe and Asia Minor,  it is quite a amalgamation of cultures.  Dressed in traditional style, this woman sews amazing creations.
The city seems wedding crazy–with shops all over the city.
The Valens Aquaduct was completed by the Romans late in the 4th Century, and stretches over 155 miles.  It provided water for a growing population and now serves as a reminder of Turkey’s rich history and the blend of old with new.   
I expected more English signage, but many times we were at the mercy of genteel people, offering to help, whether they spoke our language or not.  Sitting in the courtyard of a local Mosque, a Muslim woman approached me with a shy smile, gesturing for me to follow her.  Finally, I realized that she was offering me an insider’s view.  After covering our heads and removing our shoes, she indicated holy relics, helping me to understand their importance.  Our communication was non-verbal but totally real. As we parted, I felt a lump in my throat and a smile in my heart that I’ll never forget.
Muslim history is young compared to Istanbul’s and the museums are overflowing with ancient evidence, dating as far back as 7000-8000 B.C.  The Archeology Museum was a true find–amazingly affordable and in the off-season of November, we practically had it to ourselves.
The descriptions are well written and chronoiogically in order, rendering a true understanding of how  civilization  unfolded. Did you know that Troy was Constantine’s first choice as the
new Rome in the East?  It didn’t meet the standards of location and resources and so Constantinople (now Istanbul) was designated instead.
The political clime is a concern;  what once was celebrated as a republic could be in danger.   It could hamper good relations internationally, not to mention the citizens’ quality of life.

Not to be missed, is one of the many boat tours at night.

Complete with belly and gypsy dancers, our 4-hour cruise had most of us on our feet, dancing to a fusion of traditional music–gone electric, having the time of our lives!

Anatolia, Aegean Sea–it’s all Turkish to me!

Sipping strong Turkish coffee on a terrace at the furthest reach of Anatolia, over looking the Aegean Sea, I am surrounded by groups of tourists, business types and conference attendees at this 4-star resort, Altin Yunu (Golden Dolphin) in Cesme, Turkey.
‘Though new to me, Turkey’s beauty is ancient history to those who would claim it over and over again.  Located on the Urla peninsula, this was once a Hittite stronghold literally thousands of years ago.  No small wonder, it is both strategically located with bountiful resources.
Outside the front entrance of this resort is Turkey’s first windmill.  On the hills in the distance is a bevy of them, like sentinels scouting, awaiting the return of Odysseus. 

I am mesmerized by the constant current from the deep Mediterranean, offering a sea of peace broken only by the sparkling diamonds reflecting the sun and the lyrical tunes from a distant radio on a boat moored across the marina..  This spot is known for its windsurfing but it is off-season now, with a windless calm.  Cloudless and serene, it is the perfect backdrop for cruising seagulls, reminding me that all coastline creatures marvel at such sights.  (Now I see the connection between marvel and marvelous.)
It’s interesting how the cacophony of languages fade into the background when you don’t recognize the words.  Like magpies, they add richness rather than distraction.  And I feel insignificant to the hills across the bay–luring me like Sirens to take photographs that never quite do them justice.
The marina below shelters the ocean-cruisers from the mid-day sun which has lost its bite in this fresh Autumn light–perfect for lingering for just one more cup of Kafir, a blend of bitter rich coffee beans with a delectable crust of sweetness from the raw brown sugar sprinkled on top.   
Why would anyone want to leave?
There must be big money here, if the yachts moored in the marina are a watermark of such.  They provide stark contrast to the poverty we witnessed in downtown Ismir-where the refugees from Syria have congregated and rest before hopefully fleeing to a welcoming shore. Guilty about the ease that I feel; I pray that they find safety. 
Close on the horizon looms  the Greek Island, Chios, the 5th largest of the Greek islands.  It’s tempting to hop one of the yachts and explore its
 rugged coast.  

Selcuk, Ephesus, Turkey

Next destination: Selcuk, known by the Ottoman’s as
Ayasoluk, the location of the magnificent Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
Close by are the remains of Ephesus, a city of amazing magnitude–the New York City of its time.

The 5th Avenue of Ephesus:

Nestled in the hills, this is purported to be the last home of Mary, mother of Jesus, brought here by Apostle John.
Christians and Muslims both revere her and pay homage.
The trip was a bit nerve wracking–since trains are the major transport for neighboring towns,  the cars were full, the seats were taken and we ( I ) had over-packed. (Only now do I realize the association between the words, “lug” and “luggage”!)
Nearly taking the wrong train, a young university student who noticed our mistake and held us back.  Speaking no English, how he knew our near-blunder remains a mystery–but thankfully we followed him as he helped us heave our baggage on the train and disappeared at one of the stops. ( I hope my blessings followed him home).
Fate seated me next to yet another young Turk who spoke good English and time flew along with the miles as we engaged in lively conversation.  A musician, he plays Santour, a type of dulcimer, which he uses to practice   “Turkish music therapy” (Turkish Music Therapy) which dates back 6-8,000 years.  His girlfriend is studying Sufi dancing and is a massage therapist! Synchronicity knows no boundaries, it seems.
Arriving at the Sulcek station, he actually gave up his seat in order to help us with our bags before the train lurched towards the next stop.  And through Facebook, we can maintain this friendship, I feel sure.
Looking around, we found nothing to indicate where we were in relation to the directions to our hotel.  Noting our confusion, people were quick to help.  One man used his cell phone to call our hotel, arranging a pick-up and then he, too, disappeared as though a genie returning to his bottle.
Within 10 minutes we were picked up by the manager of the Ayasoluk Hotel  who stopped to give a lift to a man on crutches.
It turned out that he is the owner and had Polio too when he was quite young.  Living in a poor Eastern Turkey village, they were not equipped to deal with his condition until much later in his life.  I couldn’t help but feel that synchronicity was at work (again)–  no one relates to Polio, like someone else who has had it.
His hotel was not only beautiful but he had built it only 2 years ago with ramps along side the stairs for easier access.  Not only that but it was located near the top of Ayasoluk Hill, very close to the famous Ottoman Castle. The view was as breath-taking as the hotel was tasteful –down to the smallest detail.
Our room had a view of the one remaining, lonely column from the Temple of Artemis, who was worshipped as the Goddess of Fertility, a huntress and Apollo’s first-born twin.
Strolling through the town, I was not prepared for how difficult it would be NOT TO BUY a rug that I have no desire to buy. These guys are intense.  The amount of energy they spend must be why they are slight in build–or maybe they are really suffering economically.  Once a confluence of carpet shops, Sulcek is reduced to a precious few.  Many of their sad-stories seem to be all too real.
But these people are friendly, and appear happy,  with a light that seems to shine through their wizened eyes.  In youth, they are beautiful like dancers.  In old age, they seem as weathered as the olives, dried in the timeless sun.

More Turkey, please–Izmir

Izmir, the 3rd largest city in Turkey, is one of the very oldest sites of civilization in the Mediterranean basin, dating back 8,000 years. It was known as Smyrna until Turkey’s first president, Mustafa Ataturk decided to push the country into the 20th Century, updating mores, practicing cultural and religious tolerance and requiring the country to convert to the Latin alphabet–thus the name change; these people still revere him, nearly 100 years later, his picture is everywhere.

Arrived in Turkey

WE are safe and sound in Turkey!  Being up over 24 hours, we are beyond tired but things have gone remarkably well.  We were upgraded on the plane and I not only had foot room but I could lie down on the seats!  Traveling off-season is definitely the way to go!
We opted to stay at the Tav Hotel and were upgraded to a very very nice hotel room which adjoining the airport-thank God!–we were almost delusional by then.
This morning’s breakfast was included and served a huge buffet of wonderful Mediterranean foods-fancy oiled olives, a variety of hard and soft cheeses with croissants, sour dough breads and dried fruits including Turkish dates, apricots, prunes, cherries and some which go unidentified–oh my, what a feast!
This place (Izmir, pronounced Ismuh) is loaded with antiquity, dating back 10,000 years-pre-Socrates and pre-Athens to Neolithic times.  Izmir is known as the “princess of Aegean.  You can feel its unique and special lifestyle in every place and every setting… it is also known as the cradle of democracy and has maintained its role of being a leader city throughout history after (the)foundation of the Republic, as well.  Tolerance and freedom the legacies of multiculturalism are the greatest attainments of Izmir…”
Who knew?  Until this trip, I had not heard of Izmir.
And yet, it is the 3rd largest metropolitan city of Turkey and became the center of the world trade in the 16th century.  It can be reached easily by air, sea and road.  It is easy to see why it is known as the “pearl of the Mediterranean”, located on the Izmir Bay, in the northern part of the Aegean Sea.  Best of all (in my opinion), it has 300 days of sun per year!
Today, the temps are in the 60’s and we’re getting on a hop on, hop off tour bus to see what we can see.  Iszmir is on a bay of the Aegean Sea– the Northern part of the Mediterranean.  There are hills all around the city and from this view out our window, it looks like California.

Izmir, here we come!