08 Turkey, Greece

TURKEY (TURKIYE)                                                                                          February 1999

Our first impression was of large industries and modern filling stations and even a hypermarket. (Different from the Middle East).  When we exchanged money, we were instant millionaires (US$100 = 33 500 000 T lire). 

The grey concrete houses all had solar water heaters. We took the coastal route with citrus orchards and forest on one side and the magnificent sculptured coastline with promontories and beach coves on the other.  We were so enamoured with the view that one night when we had again parked on the edge of a cliff, the wind came up so strongly that we would surely have been blown off, if we hadn’t moved at 2 in the morning.

We saw the airfield (Incerlic) with parked planes from where the US was bombing Iraq. 

Somewhere on the winding road the power steering packed up and Jan had some body building exercises steering the Diplodocus up and down the next 3000 km of mountain roads, with potholes too! 

We passed some Crusader Castles and chose to see only the best of Roman ruins, like Aspendos (with it’s large free standing theatre), Afrodisias (beautiful tall marble pillars among tall poplar trees), Pergamon (with remains of the first library, and what was left after 19th cent. archaeologists removed most to Berlin) and Ephesus (with a marble road with furrows made by ancient chariots and the restored Celsus Library facade).


Roman toilets with running water.




We explored the picturesque peninsulas with yacht harbours at Bodrum and Marmaris and stayed a few days at the gorgeous lagoon of Oludenitz.

Higher up, in the Anatolian mountains, at Pammukale hot springs, where lime terraces and pools cover a whole mountain side, we were invited to an employee’s secret spa.  It was at the source of one of the thermal springs, amongst the Roman ruins.  We went late in the evening when the temperature outside was 3°C and the steaming water 34°C.  Afterwards we were invited for Turkish apple tea. 

   

We were often offered a friendly cup of tea or coffee in shops and filling stations.

In that mountain region all the women in the villages are involved in carpet weaving. We went to a community production centre where young girls

 were creating the beautiful carpets in front of vertical looms.  We were amazed at the fine work – silk 100 knots per square cm and wool 25.  After 4 hours of Jan’s bargaining we had a good deal… but then the salesman took us to lunch! (?)

There were blue, white and red anemones by the roadside and a great activity of olive picking and the aroma of oil from the many presses.  Turkish cooking was very tasty.  Leoné bought a Turkish Cookery book and we tried dishes, which were not easy to find in Restaurants.  The evenings were long, with the sun setting at 5, so there was time for culinary experiments.

We crossed the Bosphorus and arrived in Europe from Asia.  We contacted our friend who works for Chrysler in Istanbul.  Through his efforts and efficient office infrastructure we soon had two hub drive flanges, a set of new tyres fitted, secure parking (at a dealer) and lovely company from the family.

Shopping centre bombings in protest against capture of Abdullah Ocalan, Kurdish leader, did not prevent us from stocking up for our two expected visitors and for the more expensive countries ahead.

To our greatest delight Ingrid arrived.  Pale and exhausted after academic stress and severe battles to extract credit cards, insurance, spare parts, c/carnet and, almost our new passports. She had letters from home and some tasty SA goodies from a considerate friend. Also a new power steering part! 

We explored the Sultanahmet area on foot: Blue mosque (with 6 minarets and a cascade of domes). Topkapi Palace (with bejewelled dagger, crib, throne etc; and the harem with 250 rooms). Aya Sofya, begun in 532 AD as biggest Christian church and then in 1453 became a Mosque. The ever wise Attaturk (moderniser of Turkey), turned it into a museum (to avoid conflict between Muslims and Christians). Mosaics and walls of different coloured marble. Dolmabahce Palace (built 1839-1861); Luxurious fully furnished palace with room where Attaturk died in 1938.

Ingrid never skips a meal so we tried even more delightful Turkish snacks. The colourful bazaar with acres of shops caused the girls much delight and Jan much fatigue…

We followed up Ingrid’s friend’s Turkish carpet purchase 4 months before - paid for but never sent and no proof of dispatch. We showed that we suspected monkey business and they were quick to give us a replacement. 

Ingrid and Leoné had great fun going to a real marble Hammam for a Turkish bath.  First it was relaxing in the steamy atmosphere on the warm marble slab.  Lots of soapsuds were created and then they had a foamy massage.

In many countries finding and choosing bread is difficult.  In Turkey there was a standard loaf, always fresh; placed in a standard glass case usually outside the door of kiosks and shops, visible from the street.  A bakery was in Turkish: “Ekmek Fabrikasi”.

We headed for Greece hoping for warmer weather.  At the Turkey Greece border we were astounded to find that we had not been given the 6 weeks length of stay we had requested upon entry. After resistance and argument we had to pay a penalty of US$300.

 

GREECE  (ΕΛΛΑΣ)                                                                                          March 1999

Immediately we saw white painted houses and balconies of flowers. Just before Thessaloniki we went on the three fingered Peninsula and drove along the middle finger with forests of sea and umbrella pines, fine sandy beaches in secluded bays and inlets with deep fjords with sheer rock walls.  The view east was towards Mount Athos where no female creature of any kind has been allowed on the peninsula since 1060.  Immense monasteries were visible through binoculars.

Meteora meaning “in the air” is where groups of fantastic grey rocks rise up out of the valley. On these are 15th century monasteries, previously only accessible by rope ladder and hoist. Now only 5 of the 24 are occupied. 

We followed the directions given by a fellow traveller and relaxed for two days at the hot springs near Thermopilae, where we could enjoy total immersion whenever we liked.  Home catering and Ingrid’s presence created a festive atmosphere for Leoné ‘s birthday.

The ancient ruins of Delphi range down the mountainside, where deep valleys full of silver-grey olives stretch down to the sea.  Delphi was the “hub of the universe” in the 2nd millennium BC.  In the museum we admired the 478 BC bronze statue of the charioteer.




The campsite in Athens was under olive trees and on the bus route.  The three of us walked from Sindagma square, where the soldiers with pom poms do their slow high kicks, up to the Acropolis.  We lunched in the Plaka; had snacks and baklava in Monastiraki. (Where Ingrid and Gerhard had also been two months before, during a stop over on the way back from Europe).  We spent hours at the Akropoli Interpretation Centre and other museums.





 We had 14 days to do a clockwise circle of the Peloponnissos, starting with the Corinth canal. We often camped near the sea and Ingrid was not afraid to swim in the cold water.  The following were some of the highlights.

Mycenae (2000BC); Behind the Lion Gate where gold masks and jewellery were discovered in beehive shaped tombs.

Pretty town of Leonidio; we stopped to walk, when we were invited into a pretty court yard to see an ancient water fountain (with a modern tap crudely installed!)

Monemvassia; partially ruined medieval fortified town, half hidden on the south face of a steep rocky peninsula linked by a narrow causeway.  Ingrid invited a nice American backpacker for coffee. He says it is a change from the cave above us where he is currently living!  We talked to Germans travelling with dog in Landcruiser Camper (they had twice been given a transit visa for Saudi Arabia; a rarity).

Diros Caverns; where we are poled on clear water through very extensive caverns; beautiful white crystal formations.

Near Kalamata harbour we heard a loud clattering from the engine area and suspected the worst.  Jan was relieved to find it was only broken starter motor bolts.

At Olympia we learned that the Olympic games date from 8th cent. BC.  At their peak (500BC) about 200 000 people attended the 5-day event. The last time was in 383 AD Then they were revived again in 1896.  Ingrid particularly enjoyed the classic sculptures, like statues of Hermes and Nike.

 

Back in Athens we repacked Ingrid’s luggage to capacity (with items cluttering the limited space in the Camper).  We were gearing up for the farewell and had parked early, near the airport.  A German couple came to chat because they had owned a similar vehicle when they lived in South Africa.  “Come home for a shower and a glass of wine…” We chatted until almost check in time and then he took us to the congested airport in his car.  We were grateful that the parting had been made so cheerful, even though we were missing her Hons. graduation in 3 days time.

“Land Rover Experience; Petros Balomenos”

We had spotted the signs from the bus and now went to see if he could help us with a swivel ball. He had seen an article about us in a Land Rover magazine (which we did not know about).  He welded one of our spare swivel balls and gave us another.

We drove to Patras to find a ferry to Brindisi.  We found one with a camper deck where we could spend the night in Dipli.  The 14-hour ferry was $147.

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