Travel – Ferries of Europe

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  • Journal entry: 7 Sep, 2001 Thursday Athens to Santorini Ferry Up at 5:30, hotel let us into the dining room early for cakes, simit and coffee. 6:15 Transfer to Piraeus and the 7:30 ferry to Santorini. The docks make WA state
    ferry system seem puny. Ferries docked for a mile or more, large multidecked, fast catamarans, and slower hulking ones. Taxis everywhere letting out passengers. We board, and take our assigned seats. Nice interior, comfortable seats. Polished wood floors. Snack bars, reasonably priced. Once boat is underway, no one is allowed to stand outside, though (too much spray). Leave on time; come into Signos harbor about 10:15, just time to get a coupla pictures, then on to
    Santorini. First views of Santorini look like the caldera is snow capped, then the white resolves into houses and hotels cascading down the brown volcanic slopes. Unload about 11:45, met by Fantasy Travel and bussed up the switchbacking road to Volcano View Villas/Hotel. Beautifully sited, all rooms look out into the caldera and spread across the hill with swimming pools spaced among them.Journal entry: 9 Sep, 2001 Thursday  Santorini – Crete Ferry
    Had time for a refreshing swim before transfer to the port. Driver just backed into a parking place at the end of the dock, unloaded our luggage & bid us goodbye. Chaos – people everywhere, lining up for multiple ferry arrivals, dozens of others filling the local cafes while waiting. Cars & taxis spitting out more people at random, trucks maneuvering, with a few police pretending to direct traffic. Had to ask several times to find, then confirm where to go for the Crete ferry; no signs or other details anywhere. Crowd grew impatient when a first ferry docked, disgorged, then immediately backed water and took off without loading anyone. But our boat, the Minoan Lines, El Greco, was just waiting its turn, and backed into the dock, tossed its mooring lines and dropped the ramp. Might as well have cried ‘Havoc’, ’cause the dogs were loose – any attempt at lines ceased to exist as everyone surged forward and up the bumpy ramps, wheeled luggage only a slight advantage.

    Once entering the maw of the ferry, the real journey began. I was directed up and onwards, and then down a long narrow corridor with cabins, all with closed doors. Emerging at the other end, there was no one to direct traffic, and I looked briefly into several smoke filled salons, already jammed with people, many sitting on the floors. (Turned out these were only for those with cabins). When I tried to go further I was turned back, since I had dared to press into first class territory; but no signs to indicate that. Told to go up, but no immediate way to do that, other than return the way I’d come. Finally found stairs up to another deck, only to find packed video game rooms and yet another ‘pullman’ salon just as crowded as the others. After asking several uninterested and unhelpful workers, I finally made my way out to the deck, to find Audrey, Marv & Rosemary who’d fought their way up from below without the trek thru cabin land. They’d checked their bags, hoping it would be possible to recover them in the crush of the anticipated disembarking procedure. All still a hurried jumble around us.

    Finally found a place on the top deck, under cover, and commandeered several movable plastic chairs, more comfortable than those bolted to the deck in sections. Things finally started to sort themselves out, we managed to have chosen a place with few smokers, and the boat pulled out just in time to enjoy a spectacular sunset over Therissa and the volcano islands. Ferries let you settle down to read and doze for the 4 hour trip to Crete. Leaving about 7:30, we docked at Heraclion at 11:30 or so. We’d decided to wait for the first wave to cram its way thru the gates before moving down. From the upper decks I was able to use my zoom lens to find the agency agent holding a card with my name on it. When we finally emerged and regrouped about 30′ later, he took us over to the parking lot, in the dark, went thru the paperwork formalities, and gave us instructions to find the hotel “go out that road, and follow it until you see the hotel, it’s not too far”.

  • On 9/11/2001  we were on Crete
  • Rhodes, Greece to Marmaris, Turkey: Sep 16, 2001 Sunday – Rhodes to Bodrum Up around 6, allowed in early for breakfast,then picked up by taxi around 7 and down to the ferry terminal.   On board, it’s an easy ride – comfortable airplane type chairs and tables, 3 decks, with adequate air.  Luggage on ferries is stored in a central area, under cover.  Good early morning views of the harbor and fortifications, with yachts sailing past.  8:10 sailing, supposedly 50 minute catamaran ride, but took nearer 1 1/2 Probably 2/3 or more of ferry’s passengers were just heading across for the day.   So there was no big line for visas, though a bit of a wait to get thru passport control.

Turkey – Hiking Selge and Aspendos

Turkey offers day hiking that combines moderate exertion with a journey into the past. We hiked along mountain paths that include parts of Roman construction for Silk Road traffic.

With an early morning start, we drive to the Pamphylonian city of Selge – one of the most isolated and dramatic of ancient cities. The road narrows as we climb out of a narrow canyon, crossing Roman bridges. The pine forest gives way to chestnut, thorn and olive trees. The conglomerate rocks form lopsided towers, creating a vast, natural stone metropolis. We arrive at the village of Zelk (modern Selge), populated by formerly nomadic people. As we hike thru the village careful observation reveals many Roman columns and capitals and other architectural elements become raw building materials in stables and farm houses.

Starting at the impressive Roman theatre, we are joined by a local guide to explore the remains of the agora, acropolis and city walls. Then we hike down the valley, dropping almost 1000 feet. After about 10K we emerge from the Koprulu Kanyon at the ancient Roman bridge. We stop by the river for a lunch of local fresh fish, at a restaurant overlooking a mountain spring.

Freya Stark Alexander’s Path

Strabo mentions these bridges in the mountainous country which abounded with precipices and ravines and kept the Selgians from being ‘at any time or on any single occasion, subject to any other people’. This one joined two cliffs with one arch across the river far below and its road, cut in the precipice continuedto show itself at intervals, in slabs of stone placed end to end for miles into the hills.

.. here solitude floated up from the vertical gorges, filled with cypress or cedar as if with black spears. The silence buried the sound of its own waters, and a thin haze, spun in the blueness of air, divided one range from another, as if the heights wore haloes… Higher up the oak leaves lifted into sunlight, and their tyrunks, and those of a tall tree like a chesnut, stood furrowed like stone among the strange hieratic stones. These ribs of rock, symmetrically ranked, descended, one felt, into the hill’s foundations, and the bare rain-washed scaffolding that shows must be a part of the hidden scaffolding of earth. … There was a human kindness about these trees; as there was in the floor of the road whose giant stones we kept on meeting, and in a cistern scooped solid through the rock at the rim of the cliff.. The symmetrical, natural rocks encircled this place and must have made it religious long before the days of known history or the knowledge of the Greeks. Small pointed hillocks were framed in these formal borders, and … we reached a cemetery of stones and marble fragments scattered under high oak trees and saw the village now called Zerk .. scattered among prostrate columns under a Roman theatre in a hollow.

It was shallow as a saucer and the ploughed fields filled it and small pinnacles surrounded it, where temples had stood on easy slopes. Beyond them, the high peaks rose with unseen valleys intervening.

The town of Zelk lies today at the end of a winding road, but in ancient times was an integral part of trade on the Silk Road. It’s a less visited place along the Aegean Coast. The amphitheatre is in decent conidtion, except for the columns and blocks of stone that now form parts of stables and houses in the village below.Don’t worry about a guide, as soon as you appear, local girls appear to show the ruins. They also just happen to have beautiful handicrafts they’ve made and you just might convince them to sell you one. From here, it’s an easy hike down through narrow gorges and fragrant strawberry trees and osmanthis.

Nearby Aspendos is a day trip from Antalya and contains one of the best preserved Greek theatres. It’s still used for performances.

Again, from Freya Stark:

The theatre stands on flat ground, like a box from which the lid has been lifted. Proud, limted and magnificent, there is a prison air about it – a difference as of death and life that one feels between the Roman and the Greek. No landscape stretches here beond a low and unobtrusive stage, for the easy coming and going of the gods. Human experience,that moved with freedeom and mystery, is here walled-in with balconies and columns; its pure transparency, the far horizon window, is lost.

In the Greek theatre, with its simple three-doored stage and chorus undertone of sorrow, the drama of life could penetrate, without any barrier between them, the surrounding vastness of the dark. I have listened to the Hippolytus of Euripides in Epidaurus where the words of Artemis and Aphrodite with the mountain pines and the sunset behind them, become a limpid fear – a play no longer, but nature and all that ever has been, anguish and waste of days, speaking to men.

Travel in Turkey – Hagia Sophia

Hagia Sophia, or Ayasofya, is one of the most impressive landmarks of the world, and a major stop on any visit to Istanbul.  Over 1500 years old, it combines art & architecture of Byzantine and Islamic artists.

Download royalty free images of Hagia Sophia Hagia Sophia at night
Hagia Sophia at night

Santa Sophia possesses the power essential to any of the man-made Wonders of the World that I have seen, which is the power to sweep aside all preparations made in your mind, and to hit you amidships with an original force which makes you stop and stare.  Venice’s Grand Canal does that, and the Taj Mahal and the skyline of Manhattan seen from Central Park; and so does Santa Sophia.  First there is the hint of vast internal space glimpsed between massy columns, the effect of its magnitude broadening upon you as you advance under shadows in the half-domes like clouds, under gilt like dingy sunlight, until you are far from shore in the midst of the place, exposed to the total blow it deals you.  Reverberant, multitudinous , the crowds with their many-echoing voices pay homage to the building itself, prayers of Muslim and Christian alike arising into those dim muttering domes lie the smoke of incense mounting into the cranium of an indifferent god. Thereafter the building’s presence up there on the skyline dominating the city – knowledge of what those domes contain every time I look up and see them there – has made me feel that I have identified the genius of the place, much as you feel that Vesuvius brooding above Naples is that city’s genius loci.

Journey to Kars – Philip Glazebrook

Travel in Turkey – Istanbul

When we visit Istanbul, we try to stay in the Sultanahmet area since it’s in easy walking distance of many major attractions, including the Grand Bazaar. And  Hagia Sophia is a short walk towards the Golden Horn, while nearby is the sprawling complex of the Topkapi palace which takes a day in itself.  Topkapi host everything from the sultan’s harem, Mohammed’s sword, jeweled clothing of the sultans,to the famous Topkapi jewels and the kitchens that fed thousands of Janissaries.  And that doesn’t include time for the separate museums on its ground such as the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Middle Eastern Countries. Splendid imperial mosques include the Blue Mosque, the Suleymanie, and Hagia Sophia. Vivaldi played in the background as we toured the enormous Basilica cisterns.

Sultan Ahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque ) glows in early evening light
Sultan Ahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque ) glows in early evening light
Galata Tower originally built as a fire watchtower in Istanbul, Turkey
Galata Tower originally built as a fire watchtower in Istanbul, Turkey
Head of Medusa as column decoration
Head of Medusa as column decoration
Ancient columns in water

Ancient columns in water

Sometimes magnificent works of art are preserved by a quirk of fate. An Ottoman pasha had the mosaics of St. Saviour whitewashed, and they were only recovered in the 20th century. These mosaics and frescoes of the Chorae  Church form one of the visual highlights of any tour. If you’re interested in calligraphy, you’ll want to visit the small museum devoted to this artform near Bayezit.

In addition to the imperial mosques, many exquisite, smaller mosques are scattered thru the city, and display incredible Iznik tiles and other decoration.

In the Taksim area, Gezi Park was quiet on our most recent visit. There was a small protest near Galatasaray, but the police presence was much larger. Several dozen police and a water cannonvehicle nearby. A hundred yards up the road, a similar detachment of riot police; repeated several times all the way back to Taksim Square itself where there were more police and tanker trucks to re-supply the water cannon. Luckily the day ended peacefully.

Book – Byzantium – John Julius Norwich

Final assault and the fall of Constantinople in 1453
This is a trilogy consisting of:

      • Byzantium – The Early Centuries
      • Byzantium – The Apogee
      • Byzantium – The Decline and Fall

There’s also an abridged version, in one volume, but I  find it difficult to consider missing out on so much. Norwich writes for the lay reader, but relies heavily on primary sources, often with intriguing quotes.  Despite the potential for dry history, he instead presents a lively and fascinating account of the millennium of Byzantine history, starting with Constantine and ending with the Ottoman conquest. Beginning with a quote from W.E.H. Lecky, 1869,

  • Of that Byzantine empire the universal verdict of history is that it constitutes, without a single exception, the most thoroughly base and despicable form that civilisation has yet assumed.. …The history of the Empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude of perpetual fratricides.”, he comments, “This somewhat startling diatribe… although to modern ears it is perhaps not quite so effective as the author meant it to be — his last sentence makes Byzantine history sound not so much monotonous as distinctly entertaining — the fact remains that, for the past 200 years and more, what used to be known as the Later Roman Empire has had an atrocious press.  “

 

Norwich proceeds to prove that point in 3 volumes of readable history filled with tales both heroic and despicable.

The footnotes are as intriguing as the main text. After describing how

  • the soldiers everywhere proclaimed that they would accept on none but Constantine’s sons, reigning jointly.  With Crispus dead, that left the three sons born to Fausta; the Caesar in Gaul Constantine II, the Caesar in the East Constantius, and the Caesar in Italy Constans”,

he footnotes

  • The distressing lack of imagination shown by Constantine in the naming of his
    children has caused much confusion among past historians, to say nothing of
    their readers.  The latter can take comfort in the knowledge that it lasts
    for a single generation only — which, in a history such as this, is soon over

His style is brisk and interlocking, writing on the broader European history, he’ll follow one thread for several years, then return to the main branch and continue on.  The current year under discussion is always in the upper right corner of the page, making it easier to follow the twists and turns of the plot.   The book is so well written that one can easily jump in anywhere and pick up the flow.

One of the major benefits of this leisurely treatment is the ability to correct historic misunderstandings and mistakes.  The first and most interesting is his emphasis on the fact that the ‘barbarian’ invasions of the 4th and 5th centuries were almost always led by christianized tribes (Goths, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Visigoths) looking for a land to settle their people.
And in many cases, these were not invasions, but uprisings and revolts of peoples who had been promised land and security by the emperor(s) and then been ignored.  The case of Alaric is of particular interest — history books typically spend a paragraph at best and describe him as an invading brute, whose invasion of Italy is stopped only by a courageous pope.   In fact, Alaric and his Visigoths had been alllied with the Roman Empire for some years, and it was only after they had been continually denied their promised lands that Alaric invaded.  (He was opposed by the Vandal Stilicho who led the Imperial forces. Another interesting view is the ‘fall’ of the Roman Empire (western) in 476. The last Western emperor, Romulus Augustulus abdicated in favor of Odoacer, whose goal was to continue to rule as a subject of the Eastern Emperor. Rather than a major turning point in history, Norwich explains

  • it is also undeniable that most people in Italy at the time, watching the young ex-emperor settle himself into his comfortable Campanian villa, would have been astounded to learn that they were living through one of the great
    watersheds of European history.  For nearly a century now that had grown used to seeing barbarian generals at the seat of power.  There had been Arbogast the Frank, then Stilicho the Vandal, then Aetius — who, though a
    Roman, was almost certainly of Germanic origin on this father’s side — then Ricimer the Suevian.  Was the Scyrian Odoacer, they might have asked so very different from these? 

The answer is that he was — though for one reason only.  He had refused to accept a Western Emperor.  In the past those Emperors may have been little more than puppets; nevertheless they bore the title of Augustus, and as such they were both a symbol and a constant reminder of the imperial authority.  Without them, that authority was soon forgotten.  Odoacer had request the rank of Patrician; but the title that he preferred to use was Rex. In less than sixty years, Italy would be so far lost as to need a full-scale reconquest by Justinian.  I would be two and a quarter centuries before another Emperor appeared in the West; when he died, his capital would be in Germany rather than in Italy, and he would be a rival rather than a colleague — not a Roman but a Frank.

It’s always difficult for modern readers to fully understand any previous culture, and for the Byzantine case, Norwich spends extra time trying to convey a sense of the importance of religion in every day affairs.  Many of the political arguments revolved around the propagation and extermination of various heresies.  Despite the attempts of various councils convened by the Emperors, heresies such as the Arian, Nestorian and monophysite continued to prosper.  What’s particularly interesting is that the history is not a simple progression of orthodox emperors and allied
clergy fighting a successful battle against heterodox opinion.  Rather it’s a much more complex situation in which Arian or monophysite ideas would control the state and church for long periods.  Only after the fact can one look back to see the emergence of the orthodox.   Splits between east and west were also common, but sometimes even comical:

In 482, the Emperor Zeno’s attempt to

  • heal the breach by means of a circular letter known as the Henoticon, had proved spectacularly unsuccessful.  It had sought to paper over the differences .. and, like all such compromises, it had aroused the implacable hostility of both sides.  Most outraged of all were Pope Simplicius in Rome and his successor Felix III, whose anger was still further increased by the appointment to the Patriarchate of Alexandria, with the bless of both Zeno and Acacius, of one Paul the Stammerer, a cleric whose utterances, when comprehensible at all, were violently monophysite in character. At a synod held in Rome in 484, Pope Felix had gone so far as to excommunicate the
    Patriarch of Constantinople — a sentence which, in default of any orthodox ecclesiastic courageous enough to pronounce it, had been transcribed on to a piece of parchment and pinned to the back of Acacius’s cope during a service in St. Sophia, when he was not looking, whereat the Patriarch, discovering it a few moments later, instantly excommunicated him back, thereby not only placing the see of Constantinople on the same hierarchical level as that of Rome but simultaneously confirming and open schism between the two churches that was to last for the next thirty-five years.

The Byzantium trilogy contains a good index, and excellent tables of the emperors, and family trees for the often confusing lineages. The maps are adequate, but as so often happens, fail to contain many of the important place names contained in the text. Luckily there are many excellent historical atlases available as complements.  While expensive ($45 each in hard cover), Byzantium is well worth the price.

Other links:

Books about Turkey

Byzantine Ruins

Markets, Bazaars & Souks

Markets of the World

Markets by Type

Spices Markets of the World

Spices make excellent souvenirs for many trips – for yourself or your friends. They’re light, reasonably priced and literally import the exotic flavors of your trip. Of course, it helps if you know how to use them, but even if you don’t, you’ll find but even if you don’t, you probably know someone who does, and spices make a great gift.

There’re rarely any problems with customs. The main hassles are raw food items like unroasted coffee beans (ie, only buy roasted coffee beans) or many air dried meat products like prosciutto. Educate yourself before your trip;
learn what the common spices look like in various forms. During the trip, ask the waiter about the flavors in dishes you particularly enjoy. You may even be invited by the chef to explore the kitchen.

Spices can be found in many tourist souvenir shops, but avoid these prepackaged bits, often 5 or 6 spices on a foldout card . They tend to be both old and expensive. Instead, find a local market, where business is more frequent. In Istanbul, the Egyptian Market on the Golden Horn waterfront is the exemplar. Some bargaining is expected, with minimal changes of 10% or so are common. Do ask for prices before buying though. Some spices, like sumak or cardamon are several times more expensive than more common ones. Familiarize yourself with the metric equivalents if you’re used to ounces. 50- 100g should be enough for most purposes (about 2-4 oz).

 

Turkey – Recipes

    • My favorite spices from Turkey are its many peppers — everything from mild paprika, to hot red peppers. Usually powdered, they’re also found in paste form, and if well packaged, these travel and keep well.
    • Saffron is available in several forms.  It’s not as good as Iranian orMoroccan, but much cheaper, and for simple rice dishes, or soups, you just use a bit more.   Watch out for ‘Indian Saffron’ — it’s just turmeric.
    • And there are now many different forms of Turkish Viagra — from powdered ginger to walnut stuffed figs.

India – Recipes

India was the source of the original spice trade, making the fortunes of many successful voyagers.
Today anyone can bring back a Prince’s ransom in delectable spices.

  • Cardamom is the fruit of Elettaria cardamomum, a member of the ginger family, which grows in the moist, tropical regions of Southern Asia
  • Vanilla beans
  • Cocoa pods
  • Tamarind
  • Nutmeg & Mace are derived from the apricot-like fruit of the evergreen tree Myristica fragrans. When the fruit is ripe, it splits in half revealing a deep red, net-like membrane that covers a brittle shell. The membrane is mace, the shell nutmeg.
  • Turmeric is a rhizome of the tropical herb Curcuma longa. It’s used in powdered form.
  • Coriander
  • Ginger is a light-brown rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale
  • Cayenne is made from the dried red skins of chili peppers
  • Cinnamon is the dried bark of an evergreen tree of the laurel family, Cinnamomum
    zeylanicum
    is native to India and Sri Lanka.
  • Asafoetida is the sap from the roots and stem of a giant fennel-like plant which grows wild in Central Asia. The sap dries into a hard, smelly resin and is usually used ground

Morocco

Cumin is the national condiment, found with salt & pepper on tables everywhere. Use either the seeds of this small
annual herb from the parsley family Cuminum cyminum, or the ground powder form. Popular in tagines.

Saffron – various qualities of saffron are widely available, prices vary accordingly.

Mexico Recipes

Dried peppers of all sorts are cheaply available everywhere. There’s no problem in bringing them back to the US, even with their seeds. In Mexico, both fresh and dried peppers are abundant, and the names change when a pepper is dried — anchos are just the dried form of poblanos. Chipotles are the smoky, dried form of jalapenos.

In many markets you can find moles – mixtures of up to 20 or more spices. These are excellent bases for sauces, soup flavorings, or marinades and I always buy several kilos – they’ll keep for months in the refrigerator.

Huitlacoche  is a fungus that grows on corn ears, producing big, swollen, deformed kernels, black inside with a silvery gray skin. It’s easily compared to truffles, with a delicious, inky mushroomy flavor, but it’s rarely available commercially. Sometimes you can find it in restaurants as Huitlacoche para Quesadilla.

China – Recipes

        • Ginger
        • Anise

Specific Spices:

  • Saffron  Absurdly priced in the US, saffron is affordable in many countries.   You do need to know a little about the differences. True saffron is made from the are the stigma (female organ) of the autumn
    crocus, or Crocus sativus, but other ‘saffrons’ are made from different flowers, sometimes even leaves.  Mexican saffron is one of these, it’s very cheap, but gives a completely different flavor (though quite good).   Turkish saffron is very good, but you need to use a loose teaspoon of threads where a recipe calls for a few threads of Spanish saffron.   In Morocco, several grades of saffron are available, in both thread and powdered form.  All are good value and reasonably priced.  Iranian saffron is some of the best I’ve found, but priced accordingly. In Turkey, you’ll also find ‘Indian Saffron’, but this is really Turmeric, a different spice entirely
  • Sumak Mostly unknown in the US, this is a common spice in the Mideast.  Use it to flavor grilled chicken or fish, or just sprinkle lightly on a salad of tomatoes and sliced onions.PepperDozens of choices, so try tasting them and choosing what you like best.  In Turkey, commonly red pepper, with some browns.
  • Pepper pastes (moles) also widely available.   In Mexico, both fresh and dried peppers are abundant, and the names change when a pepper is dried — anchos are just the dried form of poblanos.  Chipotles are the dried form of jalapenos.
  • Paprika  Good paprikas are widely available, with tastes varying from sweet to moderately spicy.
  • Cumin–The national spice of Morocco — found on most tables withthe salt and pepper.  Used in many dishes here and in India, Mexico, and the Middle East.  Available in both powdered and seed form. Roast the seeds to get a wonderful flavor
  • Coriander  The powdered form (made from the dried seeds)  very different from the fresh leaves and stems (also known as cilantro). Used in cultures throughout the world.   Use the fresh form in
    dishes that call for parsley!
  • Turmeric— The ‘poor man’s saffron’, this spice is basic to many dishes in the Indian subcontinent, up through China. It provides a beautiful saffron color, and a distinctive taste. In the US it’s most
    commonly found as a coloring agent in chicken soup.
  • Cardamom Another expensive spice in the US.  You can find green or black forms, or seeds.
  • Discover recipes using these spices

    More on markets, souks and bazaars

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Tips for Travel in Turkey

Arrival & customs – You need to purchase a Turkish visa when you arrive in Istanbul. You’ll need $65 US, in cash. The visa line forms just before you go thru immigration, and is easy to spot. You need the visa before you get in the other line to go through and collect your luggage.
Once you have your luggage, follow the exit signs. Customs is simple, there’s a list of non-allowed items, but you’re not likely to have them, so just use the green gate. If you’re part of a group, this is where someone will meet you as you come out, and they’ll take you to our hotel. Otherwise just go to the ground transportation area to find a taxi into town.
Most meters don’t work so agree on a price beforehand. From airport to Istanbul, either
Sultanahmed or Taksim should cost about $15-25 depending on your bargaining skillsDaily Travelo As a rule, we drink bottled water; it’s cheap and easily available. Other drinks include soft drinks, beer, juices and ayran (a yogurt drink).o We use a van and driver / guide to allow easier access and scheduling when we have small groups. We’ve also driven in rental cars and with Turkish friends,. Turkish buses are clean, modern, air conditioned and very comfortable. The caravansaries of old are now truck & bus stops along the major highways. A group van is handy, so you can carry things you may not want to take hiking, and leave some things in the van. The driver will always be there to watch it.

o Our hotels should be good and complete. Air conditioning is standard in Istanbul and along the coast (it’s not needed in Cappadocia). Hair dryers are usually present. Be sure to carry adapters and transformers if you bring electrical items like battery chargers. An extension cord is useful and can be found in hardware stores in Istanbul

o A typical day will start with breakfast at the hotel between 7 and 8. We’ll start from the hotel between 8 and 10, depending on the itinerary. There’ll be a break for lunch, usually at a local restaurant around noon; sometimes a picnic of local fresh foods and specialties. We’ll be back or arrive at the hotel between 3 and 6 on most days, and supper will be around 7-7:30.

Money

o ATM are common and you can easily get Turkish lira with a debit or cash advance card. Changing money at the airport ATM is fine; we’ve found the rate there to be reasonable. even with the fees, the exchange rate is better than using foreign banks, and MUCH better than getting cash at US banks before your trip

o Credit Cards are commonly accepted for large items, such as carpets, but be careful that a reasonable rate of exchange is listed, and be prepared to bargain.

o Now that ATM are so common, we no longer carry Travelers Checks, but you may wish to have them for security. They can be more of a hassle to cash, but in some cases (again, carpet sellers) they are preferred since it becomes a cash transaction. Since they cost the seller more, you usually get a poor rate of exchange.

o Cash – US one dollar bills are easily accepted and often preferred because of inflation. Bazaars, markets, street vendors readily accept dollars, and dollars can be handy for a quick tip if you’re on your own, for taxi fare, etc.

o Make a copy of your passport and keep it separate from your other traveling papers. It’s also handy to have copies of your credit cards, airline tickets, etc.

o Theft isn’t a major problem; just be careful as you would in any major city. Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are the biggest problem, especially in the markets or on public transportation. Just be alert. I usually carry my walkin’ around money loose in a front pocket; some more is in my wallet, and the rest stored in locked luggage or a moneybelt. Nothing’s more attractive to pickpockets than seeing a tourist partially disrobe to get a few dollars out of a concealed moneybelt!

Clothing

In spring and early fall, the weather should be warm and getting warmer as we move down the coast. We can hike in shorts, but skirt or long pants are suggested in Istanbul. Take swimsuits, although the ocean is going to be cool. Bring a small towel. Some of the hotels have pools, but we’ve found these are usually cool, too.

o Low, hiking or walking shoes are sufficient, no need for heavy boots.

o A small, flat rubber stopper is helpful for washing clothes in the hotel sinks.

Tour Ancient Troy

The Dardanelles has been a strategic water route and an object of conquest throughout history. The city of Troy was placed strategically to dominate the straits, the site for Homer’s epic tales.
Troy Tours

The Dardanelles take their name from Dardanus, the mythical ancestral founder of nearby Troy – He was born, according to our guide, when Zeus was‘naughty’ with Electra, the local king’s daughter.. Also, according to ancient writers, it’s the place where Helle fell from the back of the golden-fleeced ram while passing through the strait on the way to Colchis in the Black Sea, setting the scene for Jason’s quest of the Golden Fleece. Further it’s the setting for the fatal attraction of Hero to Leander, leading to his drowning while trying to swim across to meet her. Such sacrifice, however foolhardy, naturally led later romantic poets to idealize and even try to imitate them.

The Dardanelles has been a strategic water route and an object of conquest throughout history. The city of Troy was placed strategically to dominate the straits, the site for Homer’s epic tales. Then in the 5 BCE the Persian king Xerxes built a pontoon bridge for his army on his invasion of the Greek city states. It was later fought over by Alcibiades in the Peloponnesian War and Alexander used it on his invasion of Asia. A thousand years later the Rumeli Turks crossed here, establishing their first European beachhead, which culminated in the capture of Constantinople a hundred years later. Their castle today benignly observes the European-side ferry landing. In World War I it lured yet another over-confident invader when the British made their landings.

Troy (Troia, or “Wilusa” in the Hittite language) is an ancient settlement located in the province of Canakkale, Turkey. Troy is well-known because the events told in Homer’s epic, “The Iliad”, took place at Troy. The drama of the Trojan War lies at the heart of the Iliad, which is one of two epic poems attributed to Homer. “Trojan” refers to the inhabitants and culture of Troy.

Today Troy is the name of an ancient site, the location of Homeric Troy in Hisarlık, Anatolia, close to the coast in Canakkale province in northwest Turkey. It is also slightly southwest of the Dardanelles near to Mount Ida.
Troyas  has existed for over 4,000 years and is known as a center of ancient civilizations. For many years people believed that it was a city mentioned only in tales and never actually existed until it was re-discovered in the 19th century. Troy (“Truva” or “Troya” in Turkish) is located at Hisarlik hill near the village of Tevfikiye in Canakkale province, where the remains of this once-great city can be visited.

In 1865 an English archaeologist nameed Frank Calvert carried out the first trial excavations at Hisarlık. Later, in 1868, a German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, began excavating on a much larger scale and at his own expense. From this it was discovered that the city had nine distinct layers and that Homeric Troy was probably what we now call Troy VI. What is left are the remains from the destructive dig carried out by Schliemann.

Today, an international team of German and American archaeologists bring the Troy of the Bronze Age back to life under a sponsored project . A Turkish legal team is work negotiating with Russia and Germany to retrieve stolen Trojan treasures.

The site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

A walking tour of Troy is both rewarding and easy; just be sure to bring sun
protection and water, as it can be hot and exposed. Homer immortalized Troy
in his stories of King Priam, Hector, Paris and beautiful Helen.
Archeological excavations have revealed nine separate levels of cities. A
symbolic wooden Trojan horse commemorates the legendary war. There’s more to see here than we were led to expect, though it’s not as dramatic as some other sites. The walls of Troy VI and I are easiest to discern. Then we got a better view of Troy I looking across Schliemann’s Trench, the deep gash early
archaeologists cut thru the midden. Continuing around we passed the ramp and gate of Troy II, then remains of Troy VII and IX, including the Odeon, South Gate. As we returned, we were reminded that this area is still a military
crossroads – overhead, US jet fighters flew back to their Turkish base after
sorties over Kosovo. [1999]

Troy tours include the following:

  • The Odeon
  • Temple of Athena
  • Entrance ramp to Troy II
  • Place of Sacrifice and Altars
  • The Wooden Horse

You can do Gallipoli and Troy as a long day trip from  Istanbul, but it’s much more rewarding to take several days, which then lets you expand to Pergamum. There are good hotels in Cannakale with convenient ferry connections. A guide is highly recommended.

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