Thursday, October 20, 2011

Turkey and Greece September 2011


All Pictures are in the middle and bottom of the Story
On the road again - last year you all voted that in 2011 DUG should sail the Greek Isles. After some research I found out the eastern part of the Greek Isles had the best sailing and sites. So while I will be visiting some Greek Islands I will also be visiting some Turkish Islands and spend ten days touring the interior of Turkey.

As I write this I am a little over half way through my twelve hour flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to Istanbul, Turkey. Once in Istanbul I will connect to a commuter flight to Dalaman, Turkey which is on the South East corner of Turkey. From there I will take a taxi 25 kilometers to Göcek, Turkey where I will be spending the night.

Arriving at the Istanbul airport, looks as if I could be arriving at any international airport in the world, at least the ones I have been to. All the unique features, Starbucks, McDonalds, Burger King, and of course Sbarro Pizza.

I have a two hour lay over and then it's on to Dalaman. Fortunately, I speak fluent Turkish upon my arrival in Dalaman, not one of the Taxi drivers spoke English. I have a room booked at the Olive Garden Apart Hotel in Göcek. The taxi drivers were great and helped figure out where the hotel was.

I arrived at 10:00 PM (Sunday September 11, 2011) Turkish time and was greeted out front of the hotel as if it was mid-day. No check in just great service. The room was more like a small apartment it was very nice and clean If you are ever in Göcek, I would highly recommend The Olive Garden Apart Hotel.

Once I was in my apartment, I found a wonderful surprise! Margarite was there! I will spare you the details, but this was a great surprise.

9/12/2011- Monday
Göcek is a small harbor town catering to the boating / tourist industry. There are five marinas and many call this area of Turkey, the French Riviera of Turkey. Margarite and I walked the town and had some lunch at one of the many seaside cafe's. At 3:00 pm, we met the ferry that would be taking us to Club Marina, which is where we would be meeting our captain and boat.

We have chartered the T.G. Ellyson (TGE) from Gordon and Jennifer Abercrombie. Jennifer will not be joining us sailing, instead Brigitte-Anne Pelletier will be our first mate.

Captain Gordon Abercrombie was born in Alexandria, Virginia. He spent much of his youth in Annapolis, Maryland, in Plymouth, England, and in Ankara, Turkey. In Plymouth, he served in the Royal Navy Sea Cadets and was assigned to HMS Golden Hind. Returning to Annapolis he obtained a degree in naval science at the U.S. Naval Academy. For five years from graduation, he served on destroyers with the Atlantic and Mediterranean fleets, frequently visiting Greece and Turkey. Following subsequent tours of duty in Vietnam, in Washington, D.C., and with the Pacific Fleet, Lieutenant Commander Abercrombie resigned his commission and entered the investment banking business where he eventually rose to positions in senior management. Leaving investment banking in 1981, he purchased the T.G. Ellyson and set sail for the eastern Mediterranean where the TGE has remained since arrival in 1983, principally sailing Greece and Turkey. In 1985, Mr. Abercrombie became Chairman of the Board of Daley Securities in Cleveland, Ohio, a position held through 1994. From 1975 through 1997 he was a member of the Board of Directors of E Capital Corporation and from 1988 through 1997 of Wedbush Capital Corporation, both in Los Angeles where he also served on the Audit Committee of Wedbush Morgan Securities. The author of two manuscripts concerning a fictional sailor, Mr. Abercrombie resides with his wife and their two children William and Sian in Derby, England.

First Mate Brigitte-Anne Pelletier was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1961. Later living in Algeria, Trinidad, and Mexico, she returned to Montreal to pursue a degree in Women's Studies at Concordia University, subsequently working as a screen actress. Fluent in English, French, and Spanish, she is learning Turkish. Brigitte's passion for sailing was inherited from her father and grandfather, both sea captains, while her charm and easy manner come naturally. She is accomplished in the galley.

Club Marina is situated up against pined slopes of a national forest in the North West corner of the Gulf of Fethiye. As soon as we got our gear loaded on the boat, we immediately left for Tomb Bay. This was an easy six mile sail from Göcek, on the wind. Since there was no wind we motored. Tomb Bay is the idyllic site of ancient Crya, a Carian and Lycian city-state and the citizens are believed to have been bi-lingual and the ruins of which date from the 5th century BC. Among the numerous tombs are the remains of a Roman-Byzantine baths once fed by a nearby spring, while the Carian Acropolis immediately above is distinguished by both outer and inner walls of mixed ashlar and polygonal masonry. Positioned around the bay's startling and inviting blue sea are two 4th century BC Ionic temple tombs, three house tombs, numerous pigeon-hole tombs, and a free-standing vaulted tomb. Lycians are believed to have been Cretans driven from Crete by Minos of Knossos. Carians are thought to have been native to Asia Minor.

After a quick visit to Tomb Bay, Turkey, we decided with the wind so light to motor on to Wall Bay, Turkey as the breeze is typically stronger at Wall Bay and will be more comfortable for sleeping.

The only way to Wall Bay is via boat, there is one marina with full facilities. They bring everything in by boat. Dinner was fantastic! Gordon's let us know this is the quality of food we should expect for the rest of the trip.

After a morning swim, quick hike (to what many people think is Cleopatra's Bay), and a great breakfast prepared by Brigitte, we motored off to Ekincik, Turkey Twenty-seven miles from Wall Bay on the wind. As we left Wall Bay we re-entered The Gulf of Göcek.

Ekincik is like a mountain lake plopped down with its own pine trees against the red buttes of Sedona, Arizona. And does it have a restaurant! This restaurant may have Turkey's best comprehensive menu. Our first dinner was great and our second... even better.

In the morning, we hired a piloted River boat to take us up the Dalyan River to ancient Caunos. You can read about Caunos in Herodotus's History, a city-state and maritime power. We first went up the Dalyan past Caunos and saw Dramatic rock tombs before hiking through ancient Caunos.

After our excursion to Ancient Caunos, we headed to Kumlu Buku (Ancient Amos), Turkey, fifteen miles on and off the wind west of Ekincik. Once we docked, Margarite and I headed to the Ancient Amos Ruins which was a short climb above the beach, including an early Hellenistic theater with a hill-top view of Marmaris Bay. Behind the beach below is an extravagant example of modern bank-insider excess. A bank executive built a huge home along with additional villas for his family, all with Bank money, not his. At the other end of the beach is a restaurant featuring superb Beijing cuisine and unsurpassed ice cream crepes. Yes, we had Chinese food in Turkey! I had a traditional Turkish Lamb meal, but Margarite, Brigitte, and Gordon went for the Chinese.

One great surprise, Gordon is not only an accomplished sailor, he is a expert in Western Civilization, Greek, and Roman history as well as a expert archeologist. Margarite and I are enjoying the history Gordon is sharing with us though I wish I could say I am retaining it.

Gordon shared with us that Brigitte is a graduate of the CIA, no not the Central Intelligence Agency, but the Culinary Institute of America, though he did not have to tell us this we would have guessed by the taste and quality of the food she has been preparing.

I hope I get enough running and swimming in to burn off the calories I have been taking in.

After a breakfast of crepes stuffed with fruit and covered with chocolate sauce, we set sail for Loryma, Turkey, A Rhodian outpost twenty miles off and on the wind from Kumlu Buku, This was our first chance to sail, both Gordon and Brigitte did their reputations proud. Once we settled in at Loryma, after a refreshing nap, and swim, we hiked to the Fortress which dates from the third century BC. The anchorage during the fourth century harbored the Persian fleet of Conon the Athenian while it prepared to end Sparta's sea supremacy in a battle fought nearby.

We had dinner at Kucuk Mustafa's. Again there were no roads to this harbor so everything is brought in by boat and the food and service was great, the seafood could not be any fresher.

Because of a slight engine issue we choose to head to Selimiye, Turkey where a diesel engine mechanic would be available. What a spot! Hussein, the owner of the marina / restaurant, was so welcoming. We were in paradise. The rest of the day was swimming in the crystal clear water of the Mediterranean, reading, and just relaxing, life is grand, the day ended with Hussein hosting us for a fantastic dinner.

Gordon's daughter is a child prodigy piano player. Through YouTube and the Internet she played for us at dinner.

As we continued to enjoy great hospitality of the people of Selimiye, we also enjoyed a hike up to a Byzantine Castle. What a sight! On our return from the Castle, we found out the diesel mechanic was on Turkish time so rather the showing up at the promised 10:30 AM, he showed up at 1:00 PM. By 7:00 PM the issue was fixed. And we experienced Another Beautiful night in Selimiye.

We headed to Datca, Turkey to check out of Turkey through Passport Control. To make up the day we lost, we left at the crack of dawn to a beautiful sunrise. Datca was Knidos, before Knidos moved to the Triopian cliffs about 365 years before the Christian era. As Knidos, the city was famous for its school of medicine and many Knidian medical analyses have come down to us as parts of the Hippocratic Collection. Later, as Stadia (hence Datca), the city flourished as an agricultural center. Now it's a resort town where rug merchants are somewhat reasonable. Since we wanted to make up a day, we left Datca after a quick walk around and headed for for Simi.

Simi(Symi), Greece is one of 248 Greek islands, Gordon has sailed and feels this one, seven miles off the wind from Datca, is among the more striking. Simi Town has a special charm with neo-classical homes of long-gone sea captains climbing steep harbor slopes. From the heights above Simi Town, you can see the straits in which the Spartan fleet in 411 BC trapped the Athenian fleet, beginning a six-year decline in Athenian maritime dominance culminating in final defeat at Aegospotami. There is also the remains of the tropaion (monument) erected to celebrate the local victory. The best Taverna dining in Simi may be had at Meraklis one block south of the harbor. Simi is our Port of Entry for Greece. Brigitte, Margarite, and I hiked the hills for several hours before dinner. The town is built into the hillsides with stairwells connecting the residence.

To get back on track we are skipping Ova Buku, Turkey Fifteen off-the-wind miles from Simi Town, Ova Buku is a sleepy resort beneath steep slopes close by ancient Triopium. The latter is situated within fortified Archaic-period settlement walls with bastion above the village of Kumyer, the walls still standing to a height of 25-feet.
Instead of Ova Buku, we headed to Pali, Nisiros, Greece. A motor-bike island 40 sailing miles west from Simi, Nisiros is a volcanic cousin to the more-visited Santorini, last erupting 25 thousand years ago. Its verdant exterior and quaint rim-villages mask a crater floor nevertheless still bubbling in places. Thick-soled shoes are recommended, as is a visit to the ancient city said by some to have the finest Classical Period walls in all of Greece. Wonderful dining at Christina's Taverna Afrodite. Gordon, Margarite, and I rented scooters and toured the island.

We sailed out of Nisiros for Kos Town, Greece. Kos is one of the green Dodecanese islands, its beaches and inland treks popular with travelers since Cleopatra. It is also the birthplace of Hippocrates, and is remarkable both for its beaches and for its evidence of history. Among the latter is the medieval fortress built in AD 1470 by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem in part from Hellenistic blocks purloined from the Asklepeion school of medicine founded in 357 BCE in memory of Hippocrates. Both are worth a visit. After a walk through the city center of Kos Brigitte, Maragrite, and I rented bikes and headed to Zia 13 kilometers away, but more important 2,000 feet up the mountain. The ride was worth the breath taking views. We had lunch at The Water Mill of Zia. Then we had a very fast ride down back to the marina.

Bitter sweet day today: we leave Gordon and Brigitte, even though we have only known them for 10 days, they had great impact on us.
Pictures from First Half of the Trip

We now move on to the next part of our adventure 10 days traveling the inland of Turkey. We crossed the eleven miles between Kos, Greece and Bodrum, Turkey by fast ferry. Once in Bodrum, we set out to find our rental car I rented through Hertz. Two hours and 250 Turkish Lira later, we found our car. We reserved our car at the Hertz Office at the Club Med Hotel per the Hertz website. Unfortunately for us, that office no longer exists. Once we got our car, we headed back into Bodrum and toured The Underwater Archeological Museum. This museum resides in the castle that sits on the banks of the Mediterranean in the center of Bodrum. Once we thoroughly toured the museum, we headed inland to see some of the sites in the center of Turkey. We drove about 140 kilometers to the city of Muğla, Turkey. This town is a business center with a very active community, and we found a great local restaurant for dinner. This stop is just a quick overnight stay as we did not want to drive in the dark. So far the driving has been fine, but we have been warned to be cautious and NOT drive at night.

We hit the first rain in 11 days. As we drove out of Muğla, we hit some roads that were called super highways. These roads resembled interstate highways in the United States, except with random stop lights, pedestrians, and scooters (many times going against traffic). Cars and trucks would pick the speed they wanted to travel at, the range was 20 kilometers per hour to over 150 kilometers per hour. Also you had to worry about construction work, which would occur without warning. All these facts made for stress free driving!

Today we toured about 400 kilometers of Turkey visiting two archeological sites. Aphrodisias the site the love goddess lived, you will see a resemblance to someone we all know and love.

We also visited Pamukkale (Hieropolis) - Pamukkale, Turkey's foremost mineral-bath spa because of its natural beauty: hot calcium-laden waters spring from the earth and cascade over a cliff. As they cool, they form dramatic travertine's of hard, brilliantly white calcium that form pools. The ancient Greco-Roman and Byzantine city of Hierapolis was built on top of the white "castle" which is in total about 2,700 meters (8,860 ft) long, 600 m (1,970 ft) wide and 160 m (525 ft) high. It can be seen from the hills on the opposite side of the valley in the town of Denizli, 20 km away.

From Pamukkale, we drove to the small lakeside town of Eğirdir, Turkey (eh-YEER-deer), a causeway that extends into the placid blue lake waters to connect two small islands to the mainland. We stayed on the island.

We left our lake front hotel. On the way we realized that back in the United States the stock market crashed and I need to start working again. So we stopped at the small town of Sultanhanı, Turkey and there I got training for my new job as a Turkish cook and the meal I prepared was awsome. Also in this town was a Caravansera, which is a historic road side inn where travelers could rest and recover from the days journey. It looks more like a castle then a roadside inn.

Eleven Hundred Kilometers of driving and we hit our most inland destination, Cappadocia, Turkey. We are staying at the Esbelli Evi Cave Hotel. Now I know why Osama Bin Laden did not mind living in a cave. This hotel is the finest hotel I have ever stayed at.

The next two days we will be exploring Cappadocia, Turkey

9/24/2011- Saturday
The prime activities we did on Saturday was visiting the historic painted cave churches of the many monastic valleys (especially the Göreme Valley and Zelve Valley) and hiking the volcanic valleys. The owner of the cave hotel took care of setting everything up for us. The landscape was out of this world as you felt like you were exploring another planet or the moon.

We visited the Göreme Open-Air Museum in the Göreme Valley, only a 15-minute walk (1.5 km, 1 mile) from Göreme Town and a short ride (6.5 km, 4 miles) from Ürgüp, Turkey which is the town our hotel is in. We had dinner at Ziggy's and what a meal it was. Five Stars all the way! Yes, I am getting fat on the trip as I am eating lots of good food.

After a refreshing run (to burn some of this fat off) and breakfast, we headed to The Underground City of Kaymaklı, Turkey Cappadocia has dozens of underground cities, but the largest and most elaborate (and frequently visited) are at Kaymaklı. What an unbelievable site! It's over six levels deep and miles of tunnels and all types of rooms from the winery to the bathroom. We only toured about 10% of the underground city. And just this 10% that we saw was overwhelming! I wonder how people living in this city did not get lost. Over 15,000 people lived in this one city at one time.

What started out as a very relaxing day turned stressful real fast. After the underground city the plan was to take the next day and a half and drive the 900 - 1,000 kilometers to Istanbul. As we started the drive Margarite said, "Maybe we should fly instead of drive" so we made a quick U turn and went to our Cave Hotel. Here we are in Turkey and we have no idea where the closest airport is let alone a flight schedule or cost. Once we reached the Cave Hotel, the awesome owner first laughed at us and then hooked us up. A quick call to a travel agent and we got the last 2 tickets on the 2:10 flight from Keyshir, Turkey to Istanbul, Turkey for 508 Turkish Lira. Now for the stress it was 12:00 PM we had 2 hours 10 minutes to find the travel agent pick up our tickets, get to the airport, fill the rental car with gas, return the rental car and catch our flight.

We found the travel agent and got our tickets in 15 minutes, it was now 12:15 unfortunately the travel agent did not know how to get to Keyshir she only knew it was at least an hour away. We found someone on the sidewalk that gave us directions. "Follow the signs toward Keyshir, about an hour away, once you past all the car dealers bare left and take the new road to the airport", clear as mud. RIGHT!

Once on the main road we saw a sign Keyshir was 60 kilometers away, it was now 12:30 no problem I was driving 120 kilometers per hour we should be at the airport by 1:00. (I WISH). We past the car dealers veered left found an old road that turned into an even older road, finally after some back tracking we found the new road. Back up to speed 120 kilometers per hour until the road turned to one lane now 20 kilometers per hour and it was 1:00. Finally we saw and airport sign and took the exit, only problem at the bottom of the exit there was no sign on which way to go right or left. 50 50 chance we went left. Bad call after 5 kilometers we clearly could see there was no airport in sight. Quick U Turn and we stopped at a gas station, luckily I speak Turkish. I put my arm out and ran around making air plane noises. 1:15 and we had directions for the airport 8 kilometers away.

The Rental Car was now full, just needed to return it and check in for our flight. It was 1:30 so all was good. After a few minutes of searching for Hertz, the police said you have to leave the car in the parking lot and take the paper work inside the domestic terminal. No problem as we still had 40 minutes. Margarite goes to get our boarding passes I go to return the car, there is every rental car company but Hertz. I was told Hertz was at the international terminal. I ran over there passing through security, it is now 1:45, 25 minutes before flight time. No Hertz in international and I am told Hertz is in domestic. I run back clearly there is no Hertz. I beg the Avis guy to take my car, he calls Hertz yells at them and then takes the car. Yah!! Avis! I find Margarite we have 15 minutes until flight time the flight is boarding. We go through the second round of security screening and Margarite is flagged. She has knitting needles. She now has to check her bag 10 minutes to flight time. The security officer walks her over to the ticket counter gets her to the front of the line and we make our flight with 2 minutes to spare. I skipped the part where a 5 year old kid who almost had his entire body splatter all over the highway. I am not sure who was more freaked out, the boy or Margarite when my horn and breaks simultaneously went full on. Luckily we all had good reflexes and a disaster was averted.

Once in Istanbul, Turkey we found the Side Hotel which was recommended by Brigitte and it was a great hotel, clean, great location and great price.

9/26/2011- Monday
We have four days in Istanbul, to make the most of it we decided to take a city bus tour to get the lay of the land. We had a few hours before the tour so we visited the Underground Cistern, Sultan Ahmed Mosqu also known as the The Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace.

The bus tour was actually made up of three tours. Our first was at 2:00 PM and would cover the northern part of the city and then cross over to the Asian section of Istanbul. This tour gave us a great overview of the city and it's rich history. After the tour, we wandered around Istanbul taking in all the great culture.

After dinner, we took a night bus tour (tour 2) as seeing the city at night gives you a different perspective. Though this tour had some interesting aspects, I would not recommend it because halfway through the tour they took us to a cafe for a one hour rest period. Clearly a tourist trap to get us to eat or drink at the cafe. Margarite and I found another bus that was heading toward our hotel so we hopped on that bus.

9/27/2011 - Tuesday
In the morning, I went for a run and got cat called by a beautiful women leaning out of her bedroom window. Boy did I feel like a piece of meat.

We have our third bus tour today the Golden Horn part of the city, I would not recommend this tour, as it was somewhat repetitive.

After the bus tour, we walked through the Grand Bazaar which was not that impressive. I guess after spending time at the Old Bazaar in Cairo, Egypt it would take a lot to impresses us. After the touring the Grand Bazaar, we walked through the Egyptian Bazaar, which was more to our liking.

After a quick lunch, it was off to Aya Sofia. Aya Sofia was a Byzantine Cathedral until some guy named "The Magnificent" kicked the Romans out and turned their cathedral into a mosque.

Aya Sofia is huge. You can fit the entire Statue of Liberty inside. The pictures do no Aya Sofia justice.

We had a great dinner tonight at the restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel, Seasons Restaurant, it was a great meal, pricy but well worth it.

9/28/2011 - Wednesday
We visited the postal museum. This was real cool. They did not allow pictures, but they had the camel express instead of the pony express, otherwise much like the history of the United States Postal Service. After the museum, we took a ferry up the Bosphorus River to the Black Sea. We saw a lot of palaces from the Ottomans Empire. Our last stop was in a small village, Anadolu Kavagi, Turkey, Which sits at the mouth of the Bosphorus River on the Black Sea. In this village, we climbed to the top of one hill where there is an old castle and the view of the Black Sea was very cool. I highly recommend this tour / ferry as it gives you a great understanding of why over history the Bosphorus River has been so strategic to the different empires occupying what is now modern day Istanbul.

9/29/2011 - Thursday
Our Last day in Istanbul!

This morning we walked over to the last mosque we will be visiting, Suleymaniye Camii. I once heard the saying, "If you have seen one mosque you have seen them all.". This is not true in Istanbul. From the mosque we crossed the Golden Horn (waterway) to visit one of two Jewish synagogues but due to the Jewish holiday, this synagogue was closed. We also found out this synagogue is no longer used for services but is now a museum. From there we visited the Galata Tower. The highest point in Istanbul, from the top of the tower, we could see the great expanse of Istanbul. From the tower, we found the second Jewish synagogue Neve Shalom Sinagogu. This one is a working Synagogue with a safe room with bomb proof doors on both sides for security. Once I explained I was Jewish we were allowed in, but they felt we were not dressed appropriately since services for the holiday were going on, we did not make it past the second set of bomb proof doors. They were correct about our dress. From the Synagogue we took the old fashion tram ( like a San Fran cable car ) to Taksim Square were we had lunch. Then we walked back to our hotel through the high end shopping district visiting a Catholic Cathedral, and then the pet section of the Egyptian Bazaar.

For dinner we took a cooking class at Alaturka Cooking. We had met 4 ladies from New Jersey on our boat trip the day before. They invited us to join them at the cooking class. I think they were hot for me, but got disappointed when they realized Margarite was with me. What a way to end a trip hang out with 8 other people you do not know and learn to cook a Turkish dinner.

The courses were:
Feta / Yogurt Soup
Green runner beans with Zucchini Patties with Herbs and Cheese
Egg Plant stuffed with beef and lamb
Dessert was Walnut Stuff Figs in Syrup
Followed by Turkish coffee

Tomorrow we fly for 11-12 hours.

Heading to the U.S. For a visit.



1 comment:

istanbul tours said...

“A treasure!”
We visited Aphrodisias on a day trip from Pamukkate and were so glad we did. Sitting out in the middle of the countryside, the ruins of this city are really amazing. There were other tour groups there at the same time, but we often found ourselves alone among the ruins and able to really enjoy them. Includes the truly beautiful ancient gate (tetrapylon), the remarkably intact stadium the temple of Aphrodite with many standing columns, the bouleterion, baths, agoras, houses, lovely amphitheatre, and the remarkable Sebasteion as well as an excellent museum. So much to see, and plenty of time to see it on a gorgeous early October day. Highly recommended.