Not another ancient ruin!

My final day in Kusadasi was again a private tour and again with Adam who again stressed me out considerably as he cruised along in his 3 cylinder Fiat with left hand on the wheel and the right alternating between phone and gear knob.
As an aside and for those of you who are travelling to Turkey, as I create this blog at breakfast on my first morning in Istanbul,you may find it useful to learn that with respect to the shakers, salt comes out of the pot with 3 holes and pepper out of the 1 hole pot. I have notified Trip Advisor as well.

But back to Adam! The day was of 600km round trip almost to Pamukkale the renowned mineral Springs. We passed them by as I had been there 40 years ago and in geological terms not much had changed other than the sensitive recreation of an ancient McDonald’s unearthed by archaeologists 30 years ago. The restoration has been very faithfully carried out even down to the menu with one understandable change as the ancient Greco-Roman hamburgers were made with minced bull’s testicle. 

Our destinations were the cities of Aphrodisias and Laodiceia the latter on a hilltop 10 km from Pamukkale which was clearly visible.

Both these ancient cities are off the beaten track and are not as well known as Ephesus. Saint Paul as any Christian worth his catechism would tell you, wrote a letter to the Ephesians telling them to mend their ways or else. I don’t think any disciple wrote to the Aphrodisiacs…. But they should have! 

Both are being impressively explored archaeologically and restored by the state with international support. 

So I had 2 full days of exploring ancient Greek and Roman cities and temples. I can hear Terry Deboo complaining ” not another bloody temple and Ionic column!”
Again rather than use words here are a few pictures. 

a gate entrance at Aphrodisias


life like tanned Gladiator standing guard at the gate

Victorious Gladiator in the stadium. has just sprinted the 400 m around the track whilst being chased by raging lions


the amphitheatre at Aphrodisias


Syrian Street in Laodiceia because it runs in the direction of Syria !


spectacular row of columns at Laodiceia … incidental bridal party !

A Baker’s Delight

It was not until a mere several years ago that I was educated by that man of oriental wisdom, PJM on a trip to Asia, on the term “Tap and Tug”. I can assure the reader that the aforementioned man, despite being a financial planner of the most sage and sanguine breed, this term or saying has nothing to do with money. Perhaps one can hear him admonishing his clients with warnings such as “buyer beware” or “never mind the quality, feel the price”. Such perceptive insights are ignored at ones peril whether it be to do with equities or buying a bike. 

He is often overheard to say around a coffee table on The Parade at Norwood, “put your money where your mouth is.’ Normally such advice is unarguable, but in the context of an Asian “Tap and Tug” in my experience is absolutely negligent and actionable in the legal sense and no other.

Anyway the point of the preamble is to say that as in the Orient, so in Asia Minor there are as many Turkish Bath Houses as there are kittens. (I was going to write pussies, but withdrew knowing immediately that it was at best an adolescent school yard joke). So the day after I arrived I paid 80 Turkish Lira for “the works”: Scrub Peeling, Foam Massage and Oil Massage.

The Beledize Historical Turkish Bath, is just that : ‘historical’. The leaflet claims ‘since 1495’. The corpulent owner and head masseur assured me that this was not a case of dsylexia. The inside was quite forlorn. What was once a gleaming, steaming decadent palace of travertine marble is now a dark dingy travesty, a decaying edifice that resembles the ancient Roman baths I have toured these past three days. It is a truism that a picture says a thousand words and I attach a picture of the advertising leaflet. Me thinks that it is photoshopped. 

Given a cotton longyi, I lounged for 15 minutes in a small marble domed room not unlike the ceiling of a mosque I suspect. There were several swarthy portly Turkish men and a couple of giggling young men waiting to be lathered. Eventually I was signalled to lie on an octagonal marble altar like structure. The man in charge of the Scrub Peeling and Foam Massage was not the oil masseuse. Indeed not. A smooth skinned tanned edentulous man in his 60s approached and rather roughly manhandled me stomach down on to this sacrificial altar. He was wearing a black glove which was well worn and reminiscent of the sort of mitten that one uses to clean down the BBQ grill after use. Having extended my right arm to the point of dislocation he scoured that limb then undertook the same manoeuvre on my left arm. I will not descend to describe his approach or rather attack on my lower limbs. I will however boast that thankfully I have a brisk cremasteric reflex.  

The overall experience was diametrically opposite to the totally unexpected Badger Brush treatment in Laos, or was it Cambodia? 

Next he produced a large plastic bucket and without warning ( I am lying prone remember) doused me with its contents. This he lathered up into a rather slimy bubbly foam. Cleopatra bathed in milk, I can only describe my experience as being immersed in a bubble bath of childhood Creaming Soda. It would have been sensuous were it not for the rather slimy feel which rhymes with grime. 

The oil massage was not to be taken lightly! I suspect the masseur was a not too distant relative of the foam man. This was not to be all froth and bubble let alone beer and skittles. He attacked me in a manner eloquently opined by a well known Australian member of the judicary as ‘rougher than usual handling.’ As he kneaded his way away from knee to vastus medialus (inner thigh), I had the distinct impression that the more I grimaced, groaned and grunted so he regroped (the spelling is correct) like a sweaty baker kneading a custard pull-apart or a yeast bun. And speaking of buns… I won’t go there except to admit that once or twice he slapped them. So covered in a warm moist cotton longyi and kneaded and slapped, I refused to do what any self respecting yeast cell would do naturally and that was to rise. Indeed it was more brewer’s droop. 
I shall consult the Oracle PMJ upon my return 

a panorama of a Roman plunge pool

Simple fare

Travelled by local bus to the national park near Kusadasi 20 km. I must research the Muslim equivalent of kissing the earth upon safe arrival at one’s destination. As of this evening I am in his debt thrice over.

The National Park near Kusadasi is a gem of crystal clear turquoise waters,I hope a foretaste of my Great Big Blue Swim beginning in a little more than a week.

I walked along a Canyon some 13km round trip ascending, according to my iPhone, some 47 storeys of a skyscraper. Then several swims before the unnerving bus back and a delightful Turkish Pide just down the road from my hotel for evening meal. 


“Third Beach”


the Canyon in the National Park


panorama from the crest looking towards Greece


a local Turkish Pide I tnought well deserved after today exercise but no alcohol


A circular tour in the province of Aydin 

What was booked as a boutique small group tour became a very personal trip with an extremely articulate and knowledgeable Turkish guide called Adam! Why? Because I was the sole member of the group. We set out in extreme dry heat in a small Fiat that Adam hurled around the highway at breakneck speed (downhill at least), thus gaining enough momentum to cough and splutter up hill. Those highways that we travelled were impressive and dual carriage way, although this did not stop the occasional farmer’s tractor, kid on a bike or mangy dog from tempting fate by simply being on the road or worse still actually travelling against the flow of traffic. For a while I pictured myself back in India.

We were to visit three ancient Greek cities. Whilst Ephesus is the jewel in the archaeological crown in Aydin, I had visited the site 40 years ago, so opted for these amazing cultural heritage sites. Adam and I, not pushed for time or hindered by straggling or complaining crowds, meandered between sites. We visited Priene, Milet and finally the Temple of Apollo in the village of Didim. 

The other memorable aspects were the abundance of figs! Roadside stalls sold baskets of yellow and purple figs, unblemished, huge and beautifully sweet.

We had lunch at a local roadside Cafe where the food was laid out as a smorgasbord of typical Turkish mainly vegetables. Adam ordered a fresh sea Bass grilled with fresh lemon and salad which we shared. Oh and by the way the tomatoes were sublime – rich red and so flavoursome.

3 photos of the ancient city of Priene, founded  around 350BC. It was at settlement, by the sea! But the silt of the River Meander over the centuries pushed back the sea level. With global warming who knows in a few more centuries, the water level may return to ancient levels!

The monstrous amphitheatre of Milet and the fantastic Roman baths.


a panorama of the amphitheatre


Several pictures of the Temple of Apollo 



Allah be praised 

At Istanbul international airport I approach the AKTURK Bank money changing counter. I have some small denomination notes, 10 English pounds and a crisp New Zealand $20. They proved apparently worthless to the state owned bank. Believing as I do, that an English pound was surely as safe as…… well a bank, this particular note had a 5 mm tear in the upper right corner. It was disdainfully discarded across the barrier. The last time this happened was 40 years ago in Nepal, where even the Royal Bank of Nepal refused to take their own money with the minutest nick. Pass across currency crumpled, creased and covered in cow dung and it would pass muster immediately provided it was un-nicked. As for the virginal NZ note it was also rejected. She had never heard of New Zealand and despite my best efforts at imitating a sheep, she was resolute in her rejection.

I regrouped and stepped six paces to the right where the adjacent Travellex exchange counter coped unphased and unfussed with both currencies, even a slightly lacerated Queen Elizabeth II.

The 6 days I am to spend in Kusadasi have all been planned and prepaid before leaving Adelaide. At Izmir airport I am collected by an adolescent who manfully carries my backpack out to a Mercedes van and he and his father transport me at breakneck speed the 100 km to Kusadasi. I suspect that they will transport me back to Izmir as well, Allah be praised.
Kusadasi is the archtypical ancient seaside settlement that has been gone from a vibrant medieval centre of the spice trade to a modern mecca of the rag trade. The old part of the town is crumbling and whilst the local municipality have turned the historical streets near the shore into boulevards and pedestrian malls, it is still a seething tourist hub of commercialism. The number of shops selling blatant copies of italian designer clothing and footwear, is only outnumbered by the population of alley cats and kittens. Several gaudy side streets are dedicated wholly to tattoo parlours. The overall feel for the “old town precinct” was as far as I was concerned a unique mishmash of the Vietnamese street markets and the gaudy streetscapes of our western seaside tourist townships minus thankfully the pussies. 
Food and icrecream stalls abound and did a roaring trade after 7 pm. Until then the outside temperature hovered around 38 degrees and that with a high humidity induced a sophorific physical and mental stalemate.
By the second day I was feeling more enthusiastic – although the death of Oliver Sacks, the reading a “Fairyland” by Sumner Locke Elliott on the plane over and the memories of the many books by Bill Bryson which I adore, all combined to induce a tsunami of self doubt about my literary skills and I sat down at the keyboard. 


In the mornings I walk at dawn, having been rudely called to pray at 5:30am by the Tannoy speakers on the mosque. Clearly this acapella cacophony is digitised on an iPod playlist and set to automatic whilst the Mufti remains in bed asleep with a pair of earplugs affectionately known as the “Mufti Muffs”. 

I swam in the Agean sea in the late afternoon, meandered home via a Turkish chocolate ice cream parlour and proceeded to tongue my Recorder in the confines of the hotel garage whereupon within seconds the Mufti iPod activated calling all to evensong and several stray cats started a fight to the death in the alley outside the garage.


Ladies Beach. lots of stray cats but definitely no room to swing one


care for a tattoo ?