Saturday, July 7, 2012

Turkey! Birinci bölümde (part one)

TURKEY!!! Just like Vanessa Williams, I have saved the best for last! I was exhausted by the time I flew to Turkey, (remember speed-touring Rome in 5 hours pre-flight?) but I had been sooooo looking forward to this seeing this country since I began planning this trip that I was not going to let a little sleep deprivation, sore knees, and jet lag get in the way!
When I was in high school, I adopted a lovely fairy godmother named Susie! She was one of my mother's best friends growing up in Lubbock, and we ran into her while she was back in the states at one of my Lubbock High plays. She has traveled/lived in countries all over the world and currently lives in Izmir, where she teaches theatre at the same school where her husband of 17 years teaches mathematics. I have been wanting to visit Susie and Ben for years when they lived in Indonesia, but was unable to make it there before they moved. Thus my excitement was even more elevated by finally getting to go visit after all of these years! They graciously welcomed me into their home and showed me the most amazing time in Turkey! Below are the chronicles of visiting my fairy godmother and godfather.

We awoke and slowly got our things together to drive to Selçuk, which is south and slightly east of Izmir.
This city is home to the ancient Greek city of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis, one of the seventh wonders of the ancient world. Our first stop was the Efes (Turkish title for Ephesus) museum.
You will see many statues, monuments, and homages to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk around Turkey. He is the nation's hero. He was the first president of Turkey and transformed the country into a civilized, secular, modern country. For all of his accomplishments, see In many cities across Turkey, people stop all activities even their own cars at the exact time of his death every year at 9:05am on November 10th. It is against the law to insult his memory or defame any monument dedicated to him. This law is still being debated and challenged today.
Geek out! Ancient drawings of medical procedures. Below: Medical instruments.
Every good theatre kid knows about Dionysus!
All of these artifacts were found in Ephesus or returned from other parts of the province of Izmir.

This is a picture of where they found one of the busts now on exhibit in the museum. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of looting in Ephesus but they have increased security in the area.
Greeks were very busy sculpting and chiseling things. Imagine all that we could accomplish each day if we did not have smart phones, facebook, and reality tv. I'm going to start my first stone statue this weekend!

The first of many cat guardians of Turkey. There are cats ALL over Turkey. My FGM (fairy godmother) told me that it is rare for Turks to have house pets, so the entire city takes care of and feeds animals in the streets. More on this later. This cat looks exactly like this African Serval friend of mine I used to take care of at the Little River Zoo in Norman, OK. He HAS to be some kind of descendant He immediately climbed in my lap and we had a little love session while we listened to the midday call to prayer.

I'm officially obsessed with Islamic art and writings.

I love this. This is a sculpture of Eros and Psyche. I love the story, read here if you don't know about it . I was also in the play Metamorphoses at OU, and was a narrator for this lovely story :)
The Lady of Ephesus

Orange trees ALLLLLL over the place. Very jealous.
Storks build their nests on top of any tall structure. These are metro storks.
We walked into the cute town for some mezes (appetizers) and some local bonding.
Two men playing backgammon, the nation's favorite game!
Really really love their architecture and style.
Super fancy shoe shining kit.
This is the man that made our fresh flat bread. He is obviously happy at his job. There are several shops near this restaurant and are owned by family members, so you will see people watching each other's shops and selling each other's items.
Here we are at Ephesus! As per usual, the pictures do not even begin to show the grandeur and beauty of the ruins. The scale of the structures, the meticulous details, and the thoughtful civil engineering is awe inspiring! (Note: you can click on pictures to enlarge them for detail)

Scenery is not too shabby if you ask me.

The smaller theatre.

Artsy Claire cannot contain herself.

You know when you have a camera and you think you are taking all of these super cool poignant and artistic pictures...that's what happened here :)

You see a lot of pieces like this around Ephesus, and it could have just been trim along a wall of a public building or house. Such attention to detail! How did the ancient Greeks do that lettering without a stencil?? What happened if they messed up? Get a new stone slab??? Mind blowing.
It's not too difficult to be transported back in time to the height of this city's greatness. It was a huge commercial hub until the coast became silted up and the sea moved further and further from the city.

The statue of the goddess Nike!
These mark the gates of the commercial part of the city where the markets and businesses would have been. The markers were designed so that no large wagons could come through the gates. On the other side (upcoming pictures) is the more residential side of Ephesus.
This road has survived how many years? And we build buildings and houses that need to be torn down after 60 years? "We've designed this building to look as if it was built over FIFTY YEARS AGO! Nooooo, surely not! No one was alive then!" - Eddie Izzard

Me and my beautiful, wonderful, and knowledgeable fairy godmother!

The Temple of Hadrian
Susie says that people used to send their servants to sit on the "toilets" to warm the stone before their master would come use it themselves. Being high maintenance has been passed down from generations to generation.
Crosses were later carved once Christianity swept the civilization.
We went inside the town homes of Ephesus where we were able to see the current work of the archaeologists! It seemed that they were working on pieces of flooring that had been collected from the area. To some, this work would seem me, it looks peaceful!
Painted walls of a home.
Reconstructed roof

A look down on some of the rooms
Mosaic floor. Blowing my tiny mind! I can't believe it's still here! (See more mosaic flooring below for the next few pictures)

Poseidon, I think he's m'fave!
FGM Susie thought that this was an ancient mosaic-tiled helicopter pad. She funny rady.
Cats. Cats alllll over the place. Pretty cute though :) My camera died around this point, so Susie has the rest of the photos of the Library of Celsus, the giant amphitheatre and so on. It's pretty awesome.

The next morning, I had coffee and breakfast on Susie and Ben' s gorgeous terrace. Bay of Izmir in the distance.
I walked with Susie to the IB school (International Baccalaureate) where Susie teaches theatre and Ben in mathematics. I had a tour of the grounds (see pictures above and below) and had a fabulous lunch in the cafeteria where I met their fabulous teacher colleagues.

Then I walked along the Bay of Izmir where I watched all of the fisherman race to different spots along the water for the best catch! I loved when the men would rush over and to help a fellow angler when they got a bite! It was great entertainment.
HUuuuuuuge barge. Goes back and forth every day, apparently.
Looking north along the bay.
Looking south along the bay.
I. Love. Turkish. ANYthing.

A monument outside of a school.
We drove south along the coast (and east down a peninsula) near Karaburun to stay at Susie and Ben's home-away-from-home. Here is a map of where we were

The picture above shows the deck of their house and the hideous backyard with the awful view ;)
I was invited to share in their weekend rituals at the house. One of my many favorites was drinking wine on the deck, munching, and watching the sun go down behind "their mountain" and looking for the outline of the Greek island of Chios across the sea. Did I mention that I love Turkey?
Me and Susie and Ben's personal mountain. I'm obviously not enjoying myself here in the photo above. I did a lot of reflecting that weekend on my trip as a whole, what I wanted to bring home with me, and how I have been changed by this experience. Some reflections were more brief due to several glasses of "sleepy juice" (aka wine).
Another photo of the backyard mountain.

Front patio, complete with orange tree :) 
Susie popping her head out of "my bedroom" while reopening all of the shutters for the weekend.

Pecan tree? I forget. I believe I remember Susie and Ben telling me a story about waking up in the middle of the night to sound of mass munching. They looked out of their bedroom window to find a sounder of boars cleaning up the remnants of the tree that had fallen to the ground.
Stone mosaic on the front patio
Ben tilling/widening the space around their fig/pear tree? I forget. The point is they have a lot of awesome fruit-bearing trees.
My serene Turkish/Indonesian quarters. Susie and Ben incorporated a lot of their furniture and decor from Indonesia into their Karaburun and Izmir homes. Fantastic global blend!

My view through the window beyond my fresh lavender in the window.
Touch of Indonesia in the window above the stairs.
The bedroom opens up onto the deck pictured previously.
Another special weekend ritual of S & B's is to have coffee and biscuits on the balcony in the morning.

There are several shepherds and flocks of sheep that mosey their way by the house for the yummy grass. There were small babies that ran through small marshes in the micro-valley. I watched the shepherd walk along about 20-40 meters behind them, just singing songs, burning poisonous bushes, and going about the day in the age-old tradition.
Back to the cats: There are many many dogs and cats roaming the group of fishing villages along the peninsula. S & B have named the cats that frequent their back porch. They are very vicious and unloving. They hate snuggling and getting treats ;) This is me hanging my legs off of the stone ledge while I watch the sheep meander through the pasture.
"Hey. Look! Another human."
Post-coffee and sheep-watching, we dine on fresh olives, cheeses, veggies and fruit. I love Turkish breakfasts.
We took a hike around the backyard mountain (pictured earlier), and I was able to see some of the other fishing villages closer to the water.
Beautiful view. It was the most amazing spring day!
The land was dry but still supple with shrubs and fresh, wild herbs.

We made it to a high point! What a lovely hike! When I first saw this photo, I cringed after I judged myself. I am my worst critic. I immediately scolded myself as my therapist has instructed. She always reminds me that my body is my vessel that has carried me through my life. So I would like to take this opportunity to say that this body of mine has led me through triathlons, going back to school, sadness, happiness, euphoric outdoor adventures, AND across Europe with only a backpack for two months! This vessel is mine, and I am proud of it. I continue to work on this mentality every day. I hope those of you that also disapprove of your physicality can take a moment and appreciate it's service to you for all that you ask it to accomplish.
Behind the mountain, we happened upon a tiny village made up of about 4 dwellings called Monastere. The houses are built over the ruins of an old monastery. No telephone wires, wifi, running water...perfection. 

This is where they keep their donkey. Obviously.
I love all of the minarets all over Turkey! Along these small villages, you see them tower above a community and hear competing calls to prayer.
We had to wait for the goats to cross the road. Oh the jokes, the jokes! It hurt my brain a little to hold them in.
These fresh water spigots are all over the place. They have been around for a loooooong time as well. We stopped to wash our hands and get a drink of fresh cool water.
I love Islamic script!
HUGE herd of goats. They are so cute with their long "Pantene" hair!

I needed a post-hike snack, so we stopped at a small "store"/living room, and the woman below sold me a Turkish beer and some American chips. Delightful!
My new Turkish friend. She was so hip and didn't know it. Her floral pants that people are dying over these days, silk head scarf, and leather vest. Put an emaciated pouty face model in those, and you have most designers' spring line :) I do not get the socks with sandals though, that was the only part of the outfit that went south.
Ancient ruins atop a hill overlooking the sea. While the Greeks were fleeing Turkey, this town was left completely abandoned.
This is not staged. This is a true candid shot. I love this non-digital, non-industrial world.
S & B atop the mountain.
GEEK OUT! I saw something skeleton-esque on top of a giant boulder near Monastere. I scaled the boulder against S & B's wishes (I love scaling rocks and such), and found the remains above. I believe that it is goat? I think it's a pelvis on the right. What do you think, anatomy friends? I think that is a head of a femur broken off.
This is one of the sweetest photos I have taken. Once we returned to our village, we stopped to socialize at the small tea house with my new friends, S & B's old friends. I turned around and saw this elderly couple enjoying their early evening tea staring out at the sea together. The moment before this picture, she brushed something off his shoulder. So wonderful.
Patio of the tea house.
That night we went down to the edge of the water for some fresh caught fish.

One of the "town dogs"
This strip of restaurants is hopping during the summer time with kids, animals, and families coming to socialize with their old friends and family.
I was introduced to the national Turkish alcoholic beverage, Raki (pronounced rock-uh). It's a lot like ouzo or pastis. It pours clear and then you add water to dilute it and it turns cloudy white. I enjoyed it for a sip or two, but it is something you have to get used to, I think. I'm not much into sweet beverages. 
Sunset along the water. Idyllic.
Not a bad table in this place.

I did it! I ate something that was staring at me!
Turkish dessert. I'd say it was like a nutty/flan/creme brulee.
Hi waving man! The Turks are some of the most friendly, hospitable people I have ever met!
Our new friends that pulled up chairs without hesitation. We battled the language barrier and laughed at our shared method of charades in hopes of better communicating.
The next day, Susie and I went on a hike down the old Roman road. And it is as it is described, an ancient road made by the Romans with ruins lining the path among fields of narcissus and olive groves. Pictured above is another relic fountain where communities would obtain their drinking water. 
This giant tree has a natural moat of pebbles and a small stream running in between. Each tree seemed to have a personality of its own. I could imagine the seasons that it has weathered and the civilizations of people it has witnessed.
Old Roman Road
Olive trees
I'm in heaven! I was laying on a field of white blossoms. The huge inclined meadow looked as if it had blankets of white flowers woven together.
Still in awe. What a treat it is to revisit these photos and transport myself back to these places.
The road ended at an Islamic cemetery.
Each grave has it's own enclosure as if it was an afterlife vehicle to carry them beyond. It is customary to place a vase of water on the grave for the journey of the departed. There was an Islamic calendar change-over, so you will see some interesting years listed for birth and death. 

We returned to the house to find Cub, the youngest of the clowder of cats, sunning him/herself on the porch.

Angel was busy posing by the weeds Ben had uprooted.
What an amazing and ethereal place for S & B to escape to each weekend.

This is me standing in the Mediterranean. It may be my favorite sea :) It's so clear and blue.
It's cold! But how could I travel all this way and not get in??

We made it back to Izmir, and I gathered my things to visit my final Turkish destination, ISTANBUL! I am eternally grateful to my FGM Susie and FGF Ben for hosting me in both of their homes, showing me the amazing rural side of Turkey, and loving me as if I was their own :)

My next blog is allll about Istanbul. I am still obsessed with talking about Turkey! I was expecting to be so exhausted by my last country on this trip, but I found the the country and its people rejuvenated me and inspired me to keep searching for new and wonderful experiences.

Thank you for bearing with me through all of these blogs, it has been a joy to share them with you all!

As per usual, I love comments and thoughts and corrections! Stay tuned!