24 April 2006

Turkey Day 12 - Constantonople/Istanbul

Mar. 30th, 2006 | 11:46 pm

The end of the trip started with a sillily early wake up call, and a 6 AM trip to the airport. A Lithuanian who we picked up after me managed to leave her suit case with the presents she had bought in her three months of teaching in Turkey behind at the hostel. (We stood in line for a long time at initial security - Turkish airports have light security going in to the airport, then another round before you get on the plane). I had gobs of time, as the plane was an hour delayed, (or actually on time but the itinerary failed to notice daylight savings time.

Then the long flight home. No interesting people to talk to, finished my books.

JFK has the worst signage of any airport in the world. There is no indication from the International Terminal how one might get to other terminals (if they, in fact exist).

The flight to SF was delayed by an hour or so, I picked up Wicked and read about half of it on the way home.

Turkey Day 11 - Blotting out the Sun

Mar. 29th, 2006 | 11:55 pm
mood: ecstatic music: Airport annoucements
We got up and finally had a hot shower! Small joys. Russell set off to see if he actually had a hotel reservation and to move his stuff over - we toddled off to breakfast. It was a wonderful sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. We enjoyed another beautiful, if rather bread centric breakfast overlooking the Mediterranean. The mountains across the Bay still had a brilliant coating of snow, which near as we could tell had fallen two days before when we were caught in the rain. Possibly it had been there before and we missed it on our first day, but we all think it fell whilst were were there.

We had scouted out a number of sights to watch the eclipse from, but the big square near the hostel seemed like the best deal, close by, several nearby alternatives if it got too busy, close by to caf├ęs if we suddenly needed tea... Since the weather was perfect, there seemed no need to have emergency get away plans.

So we camped out on the retaining wall, and watched the people very slowly gather. It turned out that the website had neglected to adjust for Daylight savings time, so we were an hour early, but this gave us more time to watch the people.
Other early arrivals included a German family of four, a older English couple from Ipswitch (he had the film that let you see the sun in white, rather than the sort of tan that our shade 14 welding glass showed - as well as a 1000x lens).

We watched the boats come and go, somebody swimming off the rocks, the palm tree trimmers working on the street leading away from the ocean, the poor guys trying to sell Polaroids in one of the most densely camera populated places in the city. Tour groups came and went, but eventually people came and stayed, but it never got terribly crowded. A bunch of people set up telescopes off to one side, and there was a TV camera crew set up, as well as a bunch of people with tripods. (Note to self, bring tripod next time - even a small one).

At long last the moon arrived and the dog started eating the sun. The eclipse happened very slowly and we took plenty of pictures as the occlusion progressed. The sky remained clear, though slowly high thin clouds started to gather around the mountains, which made us glad that we did not leave the coast as many people seem to have done. It might have been possible to get another 11 seconds of totality, but that would have meant hiring a car and driving and general hassle.

Gradually it started getting dimmer out and at about 25% we started putting jackets on, and by 50% it was starting to get cold. There was building excitement as it was clearly getting darker out, and by 75% there was a buzz in the crowd, the street lights started coming on, and the birds started getting more excited than they had been.

It was also clear by this time that the sky was going to hold clear and the last wispy cloud moved out the the danger zone. Excitement was mounting. We found we could take hundreds of pictures of the sun and because most of the field was black, they compressed to nothing. then the Sun fairly rapidly was reduced to an ever decreasing sliver of light, and as the moon gained it got darker and darker into an eery grey twilight, with the rosy hues of sunset 360 degrees around the horizon, except for the far mountains which were dimmer, but not dim, the nearer mountains turned pink on their snow covered slopes.

Then, at last the cheer went up, the last bit of sun was blotted out - the corrona shown a glimmering white circle around a coal black round hole in the sky, Venus and some of the brighter stars were visible and you could see the Sun's outer atmosphere shimmering and moving around the blackness of the moon. We struggled to divide our attention between the spectacle over head an attempt to get a couple of pictures of it, to see the eery vision of a darkened landscape about us, the funky horizon of pink, and in the far mountains the shining glimmer of snow beyond the shadow.

We had hoped, from our vantage point overlooking the ocean, to seen the shadow rushing over us but it came gradually, though we thought we might have seen the shadow leave.

Our mission done, we went the the Antalya Museum in the afternoon - since it was the thing that we had not done yet. Most of the "good" stuff from the ruined cities (statues etc.) is in the museum. It was a pretty good museum, and happily everything was in Turkish and English again.

Afterwards we met up with Russell's advisior who was also in town for the eclipse and had dinner in the same place we had had dinner the other night becasue they were near our hotel, open, and had veggie food. Then it was off to the airport, and the flight to Instanbul. Not especially eventfull, they did load the plane from both ends.

In Istanbul we discovered that the hotel did not, as advertised, have a shuttle from the airport, so after dodging a really expensive way of getting to the hotel (which we knew was bogus from previous taxi rides) we took the taxi. The nice hotel we had for the last night turned out to be down the street from where we had originally stayed. I still had a bit of energy left - so I took a last walk to the Blue Mosque and St. Sophia, and had a last beer at the bar accross the street from our original hostel, and chatted with some american guys who were just starting their trip.

Turkey Day 10 - Perde

Mar. 28th, 2006 | 07:41 am
mood: calm music: Birds chirping
After a good night's sleep - for me, not so much for Nikita and Lenore who were hacking away much of the night. Another surprise in the morning was the lack of hot water. Not just the water being cold, but actually nothing coming out of the hot tap at all. So we skipped showers in hope of hot water later.

We had our first day split up - Russell and I took off for Perde to see the ruins there, while Lenore and Nikita stayed behind to do laundry and see the flying Dervishes. More on that in a bit. So Russell and I hiked across the the city to find a roundabout where we were to pickup the bus. Despite the really bad map and kinda vague directions, we managed to find it, get the bus and half an hour later we were at the town next to Perde. A short 2 km hike and we were at the stadium. We crawled around the ruins for about three hours (there agan, are enough pictures to recreate the ruins in 3D). The city was huge - on the same scale as Ephesus and not quite as well restored, but clearly in about second place. Most of the ruins were Roman, but there were two large towers of Hellenistic origin.

After we finished photographing the city to death, we had lunch at a roadside cafe, next to a big market, before catching the bus back. There were a bunch of schools (at least 3 maybe 4) on the road to Perde, and our bus had a number of school kids who gradually got off as we headed back to the city. One of them had a periodic table, so I'm guessing she was studying Chemestry.

Back at the hostel, we found that Nikita and Lenore had spent much of the day resting, but had a nice lunch of soup. The flying dervishes were apparently nowhere to be found.

We spent the rest of the late afternoon sitting on the veranda either reading or writing in LJ. We watched the sunset, and the boats going by. There are a lot of birds flitting around. Tomorrow is the eclipse, and if the weather is as clear as it was today, we will go home happy.

Now a few more chapters of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and then dinner....

Turkey Day 9 - Termelssos

Mar. 27th, 2006 | 08:54 am
mood: accomplished music: Turkish Radio
Today we got up kinda late, but made breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the Mediterranean (many pictures). Then we set out for Termelssos which is a city high on the mountain that managed to hold off Alexander the Great way back when. We had to take a bus to the bus station, then another bus to the foot of the mountain, then a taxi up 9 km to the base of the Park, then climb 2 km up the mountain to the city gates, then a bit more to the main ruins, very well documented. We crawled around on the ruins for several hours, took enough pictures to recreate a 3D model back home, and then climbed some more to see the tombs. [the theater was well preserved, seats 4,500 and was in pretty good shape, unlike most of the other buildings].

Just as we saw the last ruin, it started to rain, and we hoofed it down the hill to meet our taxi (it was about time anyway). It was 30 YTL to go up and down, and the taxi driver offered to take us back to the bus station for another 30 YTL, which given it was raining, the bus cost 13 YTL and it was pretty full on the way out - we thought was a good deal.

The Lonely Planet guided us wrong again on buses back to the city, so we spent way too much time taking the express (not) bus rather than the bus we had taken in the morning. Bad Lonely Planet, no biscuit.

Then we spent several hours sitting in a cafe overlooking the Mediterranean, watching the ships come back into the harbour, and watching the sun set in the clouds, drinking tea and wine, and actually writing some postcards.

Afterwards we followed the lead of Lonely Planet and went to their first recommendation for dinner, not great atmosphere, but the food was really good (and having climbed a mountain and skipped lunch, we were pretty hungry. It was also pretty spicy. On the way back we saw Burger Queen Pizza. (many pictures to follow).

Then a stop at the internet cafe (see previous post) and braving the rain storm to get home. The forecast still looks good, but afternoon thunderstorms seem to be happening outside of the forecast and the Weatherunderground's idea of sunny is not ours.

Unknown plans for tomorrow - and now its midnight and it's Bedtime for Bonzo.

Turkey Day 8 - On the Road Again

Mar. 26th, 2006 | 12:13 pm
mood: bitchy music: Talking Heads - On the Road to Nowhere

I stayed up late drinking beer and a taste of the local liqcorish flavoured drink and talking to the couple from Orinda and the guy from Holland about American politics, health care, dentistry (the Dutch guy had a broken tooth), and drug policy.

Eventually I went down and did last night's email.

In the morning we woke up slightly late, went to breakfast in stages - I talked to a group of international educators on their spring break. We then set off to the bus station, got on our very nice Mercedes bus, and set off, more or less on time. There was some confusion with bus seat assignments, as they had sold at least one of our seats more than once. An attempt to fix this ultimately led to us being transfered to another bus company, which generated both a 45 minute layover, and a much less nice Mercedes bus. We will have words with the Anzac people who set this up.

The bus ride was otherwise uneventful, well documented, and we went up and down through the mountains, which were fairly impressive and had rather a lot of snow at the top of them. There were a number of shepherds with their flocks, a few people apparently living in tents by the side of the road (nomad semi-perm type) as we approached Antalya. There seemed to be lots of construction everywhere, and lots of open farmland, but still the same style houses. Sometimes the brick is double layered with a layer of foam in the middle.

On arriving in Antayla, we discovered our hotel was overbooked but they had a room for us next door, which seemed ok, and was apparently the last one. People it seems were not checking out on schedule.

We had a brief walk to see the ocean, then went to a nice little restaurant for dinner and had tea with little flower pots (see pictures later).

Sleepy now....

Turkey Day 7 - Ephesus

Mar. 25th, 2006 | 02:42 pm
mood: happy music: Long playlist
This is a short post, hopefully more to follow tomorrow.

It was a perfect day, we slept in just a little, then had a very nice breakfast, I had a rather nice omlet, Ali drove us to the south gate of Emphases and for the next 2.5 hours we consulted the guide book, the audio tour, and caught bits of other tours and wandered around the ruins. They were amazing, "so much better than the art history books." ¨ Afterwards we visited the museum (just down the hill from the hotel) and the Basilica and the Temple. And were home by 5.30. The hotel (the ANZAC most vigorously recommended) got us our bus for tomorrow, cooked us a good barbie, and we met a couple from up the road from me (at home) and a guy from the Netherlands who has been traveling for the last 12 years.

More on this tomorrow when I have more time to write!
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Turkey - Day 6 - Travel

Turkey Day 6
Mar. 24th, 2006 | 10:56 pm
music: Road to Nowhere
Today was a travel day. We got up at 7.30, had breakfast, went out to the shuttle at 9.08, it was waiting for us to take us to the main bus station. The bus to Izmir was waiting for us there, we got on, and half an hour later as expected, we took off.

The country side was much like most rural countryside, except with more terraces, more twisty pine trees, more olive trees, and smaller farms. There were herds of sheep with clearly visible shepherds, lots of orchard pruning, and more construction than you would expect. Most of the buildings consisted of a concrete box with the wall made out of a red ceramic brick with 9 or 12 squarish holes in the middle. Buildings often have an extra story of rebar ready to go, but not apparently under current construction. This apparently works up to 4 floors an then the roof goes on.

Many building are painted in bright colours and there are a lot more 5-12 story buildings than you would think there would be. Even in fairly rural areas. A fair amount of the agricultural land is irrigated and there are some interesting aqueducts I tried to take a picture of, probably not entirely successfully.

We transfered buses at Izmir without difficulty, for a change, and the hour long short bus (very cramped, very crowded, and 5 lira) was uneventful. The ANZAC hostel was very close to the bus station and the hostel is very nice, bright clean rooms, nice bathroom, extremely friendly helpful staff, amazing views from the terrace. We found a pretty authentic place for dinner, found Nikita some pain killers and me some sunscreen, as he has my bug from yesterday and I have had my limit on sun, to say nothing of Lenore.

We spent a few minutes on the computers and then crashed. I'm sending this the next morning while I wait for them to shower.

Turkey - Day 5 - In search of Troy

Mar. 24th, 2006 | 10:56 pm
music: Thumping of the music next door, clock chimes
Today was a dual adventure, Troy in the morning, the battle fields of Galipolli in the afternoon.
Breakfast was much better than the previous day's with several kinds of cheese, two kinds of eggs (scrambled and hard boiled) and marble cake and cheese rolls, and some kind of small round pastry. We were to meet our tour at 9.30, but it was much closer to 10.30 by the time they came and got every thing sorted out.

Troy was about what I expected, lots of walls and foundations, and sort of midlevel excavations. More than some places as the walls were pretty high and the foundations were maybe 3-4 feet high. The altar at the main shrine was mostly intact and showed 1,000 years of improvement in stone masonry from the bottom to the top. As one of the first archeological sites it had more than its share of bad decisions in archeology. What I did not know was the that the Romans had used the site and it had been occupied a lot longer than I thought, with the Greek period being fairly early in its career as a site. It used to be a port, but like Bruges, the port silted in over the millennia, and its now something like 7km from the water. There are some nice pictures from the site of the temple of Athena which overlooks what would have been the port. In the pre-being able to sail upwind days, you would have to wait at Troy for the wind to turnaround so you could go up the Bosporus.

After a few hours of wandering around Troy, we went back, to discover that we had to take the noon ferry back to Europe to catch the Anzac tour. this required a light jog to get there in time, but much to our amazement, the tour bus was waiting for us on the other side, and they had lunch and a litre of water as promised, and we wetn off on time.

This tour was much longer, and we visited the landing sights, and dozens of meticulously kept grave yards. The Commonwealth commissioner for grave sites has been busy. There are dozens of them. (see lots of pictures) No doubt they look especially nice becasue ANZAC day is only a month a way, and they were busy building stands for the big annual event. Apparently about 20,000 New Zealanders and Australians come every year for Anzac day.

We also saw a lot of the trench work which is still visible. Some of it has been restored, but a lot is just left over as ditches. Fairly recently a lot of trees have been planted, and apparently there is enough rain, but fires run through too often for the area to remain forested without help. There is a significant attempt to reduce erosion with the reforestation project. I'm not going to try and account for the battles but the high ground is rather high ground and steep, and you can see how territory captured on the first day before both sides got dug in made all the difference.

We took the ferry back to Asia, had dinner at the Seaside Bistro Cafe which was a glass box slightly out on the street. We had passed it several times because it looked expensive, but it was about the same as other places and the food was better, if slightly too European standard. I had become less and less well as the day progressed, so this was fine with me. Then we went back to the hotel and Nikita set up his machine as the wireless hub and amazingly it worked two floors away.

05 April 2006

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I'm back from Turkey - the eclipse was great, and I'll back fill the travel log as soon as I get a chance!