Ripples Following Ripples ~ MORE TURKEY-TRAILS

The cheapest flight I could get to Turkey was to Bodrum. I wasn’t prepared for the 40º heat when I arrived; it hit me like a hammer! I tried to get a taxi to Milas, 15 kms away, but was unable to negotiate anything less than 45 million Lira (about US$32; exchange-rate: 1.43 million lira to $1), I waited a while before setting out to walk the 4 kms to the highway, where I might catch a bus to Milas. I was sweating like mad, but halfway, a car pulled up beside me, and the young driver offered me a ride. He’d just dropped someone off, and was on his way back to Bodrum. I asked him to drop me at the bus-station, so I could get a bus back to Milas without waiting at the roadside. This he did, and I got a minibus; the fare was 3.5 million, and it took just over an hour; it was a hot ride, without air-con.

Reaching Milas, I took a room in a hotel, but it was like an oven as there was no fan, let alone a/c. I went to buy bread, tomatoes and cheese. Later, I tried to boil water for coffee, but my water-heater burnt out and blew the fuse; the power in my room went off, and only some hours later was it restored.

Next morning, I left my hotel early to go to Bodrum, and a friendly policeman on the street got me a ride on a police bus to the bus-station, where I took a minibus to Bodrum. I soon saw what a holiday resort was like ~ horrible! I went to the crusader castle that dominates the town, as that’s what I’d come for, but at 15 million, entry was overpriced. It was too hot to be climbing all the steps. Parts were under restoration, and closed, but the views of the harbor and town from the ramparts were excellent. After that, I made my way through the streets below to the scanty ruins of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, constructed in the 4th century B.C, and one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world; most of them had been carted away long ago for use in the castle and other things. It must once have been stupendous, but the remains were not very interesting.

From Milas, I proceeded up the coast to Canakkale, to visit Ali and Aiten again. They were a bit surprised to see me, as I’d not told them I was coming, but they welcomed me anyway. I met them in ANZAC HOUSE, and they took me to their home, where I spent a few pleasant days, taking long walks in the early morning beside the Dardanelles, often joined by friendly dogs.

As last time, Aiten drove me to places of interest in the region, like Assos, an ancient Greek site overlooking the Aegean, with a ruined temple of Athena. It was rather disappointing except for the fine view over the sea.

Ali persisted in his habit of getting drunk every night and insisted on me sitting with him until he was ready to go to bed; he was also quite argumentative at such times. There was nothing Aiten could do to change him; she’d long ago accepted it.

Leaving some stuff at their home, I took leave of my kind hosts, and proceeded to Iznik, which, under the name of Nicea, had been a major city of the Eastern Roman Empire, and was the site of two Councils of the developing Christian Church under Con-stantine. It is now a museum-city, situated at the eastern end of a large and placid lake, its extensive but crumbling city-walls largely intact; only in parts can you climb up on them. It was also famous for its glazed tiles under the Turks; they can be seen in mosques and palaces throughout the country; their quality and colors were never again matched.

After two days exploring there, I went to Istanbul, a journey, by bus and ferry, of 5 hours. I got the same room in Sehir Hotel as last time, but without a fan, so it was very warm. I soon went out, intending to visit Fetih, but he wasn’t there, and a friend told me the authorities had ordered him to remove his sidewalk stall. The Blue Mosque had also been cleared of its hawkers and vendors.

Walking along, someone tapped my back-pack as he passed by, and turned to smile at me. I wondered why, and suspicious that he might have tried to pick my bag, I checked it, to find the pocket unzipped. Had I forgotten to zip it up, or had someone opened it? It seems the guy was only drawing my attention to it, and I appre-ciated it, otherwise I could easily have lost my camera! Another time, in a crowded alley, there was a fat woman in front of me, blocking my way, and I was jostled from behind, and that pocket was picked; luckily, my camera wasn’t in there at the time, so I lost only some small things; that’s how they operate, it seems.

I saw some more of Istanbul, places where I’d never been before, as well as taking some long walks; I circumambulated the Golden Horn, which took longer than I thought it would. On the way back, I helped an old lady push her borek cart, and when I bought some of her pasties, she gave me extra.

Passing a cinema one day, I noticed the movie Troy was being shown, and having been to the actual place, went to see it. It was quite good, but the cinema was packed, and I had to sit near the front, never a good place to see a film.

At the Fatih mosque, I looked for school-teacher Ali, but he was not around, so I went to see Dusun, the headache man, and had tea with him. He told me he’d just bought a car and would drive me all over Istanbul if I paid for the gas. I didn’t accept his offer.

I took a bus to the Black Sea entrance to the Bosphorus, which is where Greek legends say the ‘Clashing Rocks’ of Jason and the Argonauts’ fame were situated, but there wasn’t much to see at this historic place. I then went in search of Yener, the kindly man who’d operated a travelers’ restaurant before. I’d looked for him in ’97, but the area where his shop had been had changed so much, and of course, I didn’t find him. This time, I made more in-quiries, and finally met someone who showed me a magazine-article about him; he’d died 7 years before! If only I’d made the same inquiries in ’97, I might have seen him! I met the publisher of the Sultanahmet News, a nice man named Ercument; who served me tea, we had a good talk, and he gave me a copy of the magazine I wanted with the article about Yener.

For years, I had wanted to walk over one of the two bridges that spanned the Bosphorus, linking Europe to Asia, but knew it was not allowed. Even so, I decided to try, so went to the bus-station to get a bus over, and there met a particularly helpful man who told me he had worked in Amsterdam for 20 years; he spent quite a while helping me get the right bus. I was soon over the bridge, but was unable to take any good photos on the way. I got off im-mediately the other side, and went to the bridge-police-station, where I tried to wheedle permission to walk back across the bridge, saying I wished to take some photos, but was refused. My persistence, however, resulted in 2 policemen driving me back over, stopping halfway for me to get out and take some photos, then driving me all over the place ~ Besiktas, Taksim, Levent ~ before returning to the place where we’d started. There, they told me to wait in the car while they went into the station, then came out and drove back over the bridge again, this time dropping me where I wanted to get out. Why they did this, I don’t know, as their English was almost non-existent, but when I got out of the car, they requested me not to publish the photos I’d taken on the bridge. It was quite an adventure!

I went to Akbiyit Street to see Ercument again, and he introduced me to two of his friends, and we had a very interesting time, at a sidewalk table drinking tea and eating fruit. One of them, a lady, although she spoke English quite well, got Ercument to translate something for her, not daring to say it herself; it came back: “She wants to know if you would like to spend the night with her.” I was shocked, but laughed it off. Maybe she was just joking. I don’t think she was a whore. I gave Ercument my sole copy of BOLEH TAHAN, as we’d been talking about Gallipoli.

Istanbul has a very good archaeological museum, where I’d been before, but after buying my ticket to visit again, I discovered that galleries I particularly wanted to see were closed for renovations.

Long having wanted to visit Tunisia and Morocco, I got a round-trip ticket, and left for the airport, where baggage screening was very strict; almost everyone’s bags ~ even check-in baggage ~ were opened. There was no vegetarian food on the flight for me, even though the travel-agent assured me my request had been noted; I had to make do with bread and cheese ~ the very least of my hassles that were to come. Upon arrival in Tunis, there was no visa-fee, but it took ages to get through Immigration. It was a hassle declaring my currency, and worse trying to get a taxi into the city; it should have been no more that five Dinars to the city-centre, but the meter went haywire, and the driver insisted on seven dinars; eventually, I gave him six.

It was a nightmare trying to find a hotel in the old quarter, espe-cially as it was very hot; the hotel-keepers were rude, and the rooms I was shown were no good. I was helped by a young guy named Fatih, who I met at one of the hotels, and after going with him to several other hotels, eventually got a room with attached bathroom for 15 D, but without a fan; I settled for it rather than go on looking. Tunis lacked the friendly atmosphere of Istanbul. Al-most no-one spoke English, but French; it was very backwards, considering the number of non-French-speaking visitors.

The next day, I went out early to explore and search for another hotel, but got lost in the labyrinth of the souk before coming out at clearer streets. I checked several hotels ere deciding on one, and went back to get my bags. Fatih arrived at that point and insisted on accompanying me, only expecting more money (I’d given him 10D the day before). After checking in again, I went to look for a cyber-café, and Fatih wanted to drink coffee ~ at my expense, of course; I refused, and told him I wanted to be on my own; he left, and I didn’t see him again; I couldn’t do with him hanging around. I wanted to visit the ruins of Carthage in particular, but it was so hard to get information anywhere, so I went to the airline office to change my booking to Casablanca, giving up any idea of seeing the sights of Tunisia ~ too hard to get around. Returning to the hotel, I startled the porter in my room; he wasn’t expecting me to return so soon; he assured me that he hadn’t touched anything. I’d locked my bags before going out anyway, anticipating this.

Two days later, I flew out to Casablanca, only to repeat the same experience. Fed-up, I returned to Istanbul, and was happy to be back there again, even though my room at the Sehir (on the 5th floor this time), caught lots of cigarette-smoke drifting up from the sidewalk café below; the bathroom was also not-so-clean).

After shopping around for a ticket, and making a reservation to fly out to Malaysia 10 days later, to fill in the time, I set off to visit several places in the south. The first was Pakukkale, where I’d been before, but which was good to visit again; I spent a while in the Roman ruins of Heirapolis, pondering on how a once-proud and prosperous city like this could be destroyed and made deso-late by the forces of nature; it was quiet and peaceful there, and I ate ripe figs from a tree I came across. Since my previous visit in ’97, most of the hotels and shops that were there at the time had been demolished in order to protect the travertine pools. From Pamukkale, I made a trip to Aphrodisias, another ancient Greco-Roman city, wandering around the remarkable ruins; I could only wonder what it must have been like as a flourishing metropolis. I have a strong feeling for that period of history.

Back in Canakkale, I stayed with Ali and Aiten for a few more days. I joined Ali on the Gallipoli-tour again, with a nice lunch in a restaurant to start off with. He also arranged for me to do the Troy-tour. It was my second time at Troy, and the young guide ~ being a protégé of Ali ~ took good care of me. I returned to Istan-bul the next day, provisioned with food by Aiten to eat on the way.

My flight was in the afternoon, so I had time to check my email and make a last visit to the Blue Mosque, where I often used to meditate. The shuttle-bus came and took me to the airport, where the staff at the MAS desk told me I needed an ongoing ticket from Malaysia; but I said I’d never needed one before, and thought that maybe the rules had changed since my last visit; I had to sign a paper saying that I’d understood this, and was allowed to proceed. I changed into my robes in a toilet, and dozed fitfully on the 10-hour flight; I seem unable to sleep well on planes, and al-ways wake up sweating. Because of that, I prefer not to sleep.

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