Monday, October 1, 2012

Journey to Bozcaada - Mama Mia!

When I moved to Turkey, I assumed that I would be drinking a lot less wine.  The expat blogs, guidebooks and other various sources repeatedly stated that Raki (aka "Lions Milk) was the national drink, that wine was prohibitively expensive and not all that good.  I found this to be moderately true, with a couple of drinkable exceptions, so when Travel Junkies - a delightful band of international personalities (more on them in a bit) put out an invitation for a weekend trip to a wine island on the Aegean sea... I was intrigued and naturally signed up immediately.

It had been a long and exhausting week at school, so when Friday rolled around, I went home to pack my bag and nap a bit before boarding a travel bus at 11:30 PM for an all night trip to the ferries that would carry us to yet another adventure.  Now one of my friends has joked that my adventures would eventually become a book, then a movie (we've already picked the actress who will play her character), but I never imagined I would be experiencing a Mama Mia kind of ride! We had Turks, Americans, Iranians, Canadians, Romanians, teachers, doctors, salesmen, caterers... and a few in between.  A fantastic mix of people that routinely join our host Ibrahim and hostess Susan on near and far flung adventures and treks to interesting (and usually beautiful) sites in the area.  I've blogged before on one such trip to Princes' Islands. 

We nodded and gazed sleepily as Istanbul eventually fell away and the bus drove past territory I had not seen before.  Buildings became less dense, albeit more western in appearance for a time.  The next I woke... we were on a country road and the lights of the city were far behind us.  We made a few bathroom breaks that reminded me of road trips made long ago with my family.  The warm night air hinting that I was not in Idaho in a late September, but in rural Turkey heading to the Aegean Sea.

Ok.... so I remember learning about Helen of Troy and the infamous tussle over her love and the "Trojan Horse" that was used to retrieve her in trickery, but here we were, nearing dawn, and a replica of both the horse and the city of Troy was just outside of our bus because the ancient site of Troy is just down the road from the first ferry boarding.  Of course, this was only a replica of the device, but I must say, at dawn after a night on a bus... it looked pretty impressive.  (Yes that is a Fiat in the background on its nose... I have no idea why!)  We ooohed and aaahed, and walked around the replica of Troy that is next to the horse, and we boarded a pre-dawn ferry... the first of two that we would take to our destination.

We ate a delightful Turkish breakfast at a roadside restaurant.  My coffee was tasty and the meal was extremely filling.  Then we headed to the last ferry that would take us to the Island of Bozcaada.  Oh this WAS rural Turkey.  Lots of agriculture, olive groves, pomegranate trees, corn, tomatoes still on the vine, cabbage, and goats.  In many ways, it seemed like the small rural area my grandparents raised my father, mother, and their siblings.  I imagine in some ways... these people are very much like my people.  I apologize for the fuzziness of the picture, but on this fairly busy road I spotted several herds of goats feasting or on the move, or clustered with their shepherd waiting to cross the road.  Many of the most interesting, jaw dropping, "Huh???" kind of moments were a bit blurry antd surreal in a way.  This is normal for the people who inhabit this place, but it is new to me.  Like walking into the pages of a National Geographic.  I am so happy to simply be still and watch.

We boarded the second ferry anticipating our arrival.  A couple of fishermen were getting ready for their day as we crossed over to the boat.  I waited until one of them put his pants on, then asked to take their picture.  They obliged.  My friend commented that he was very happy I waited until the shirtless man put his drawers on before I snapped the photo.   The sea was stunningly beautiful in color, I love the word azure... but have never seen it in a sea until now.  The water is clear and sparkles in the sun so brilliantly I feel as though I have been hypnotized.  It's probably just a lack of sleep.  We approach the small island and spot the ancient fortress easily from a distance.  This island was one of the unfortunate victims of the mandatory transfer of residents between the Greeks and Turks resulting from the Treaty of Lausanne.  This history is stunningly tragic as are most tales that result out of war.  I highly recommend Birds Without Wings if you want to know more.  Be prepared to weep for Turks and Greeks alike.

But now is NOT the time for weeping.  We are landing at Bozcaada and the wine is waiting.

But first.........  we will visit the fortress.  Our wise guides have reasoned that we may wish to tour this impressive citadel prior to imbibing in the island's grape as there are some steep stairs and some dizzying heights and it may be best to navigate it with our faculties unimpaired.  

It cost 5 TL to enter this site.  The history of this place goes back to a time when tales of gods and their offspring were elaborately related with intrigue and trickery and destruction.  This island is rumored to have once been home to the son of Poseidon himself.  Ibrahim reads the sad tale of woe to us before we begin our free reign, self guided tour of the place.  There are no guards.  No gates. No alarms.  No signs warning of danger.  Just a people trusting in a mediocum of common sense.  I find it incredibly refreshing. This is a truly ancient place and it has the feel of deep history.


Our host explains the sad and tragic tale of Poseidon's son.

I stumble by accident into a dark doorway, and enter a stunning room!  I am taken aback by the antiquities which have been excavated and put on display.  Again... no guard to ensure the safety of these treasures.... only trust that mankind will do the right thing and leave the room as it was found.  I later learned that these urns may have been burial pots dating back to a time before the advent of Christ.  The history of both the island and the fortress is quite complicated and twisted.  The fortress itself was razed and rebuilt around 1455.  It still stands, fairly unperturbed by the onslaught of time.

I find lots of little nooks and darkened rooms and can easily imagine lovers stealing a touch, a kiss, a caress while daily life goes on about the fortress.  The walls echo with stories.
      There is a cemetery in the center of the fortress
      and we find tombstones of
      Christian and Muslim side by side.

We leave the fortress and head to our inn to rest and freshen up for an afternoon of wine tasting and winery tours.  My thoughts are swimming with what I've just traveled through ...this is real.   I have touched things I'd only ever read about in history books, and I have felt the echos of love and life in the walls of an ancient structure that has stood the test of time.... and it's only noon.
Next....... The stories of the wineries ......  or riches to Rags.


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