Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Seven Sleepers & Ephesus

It was getting quite warm by the time I left the temple of Artemis and headed to Ephesus.  Someone offered to give me a ride to the other entrance, but I declined.  It was a beautiful day and I wanted to take advantage of the glorious weather.  There was a young man walking ahead of me on the road and he crossed the highway to enter the site the same time I did.  We walked sort of in tandem for quite a while in silence, he on one side of the road and me on the other, both of us stopping on occasion to allow the huge fat white tour buses to scream by.  After about a quarter of a mile I came to the main entrance of the site, but there was a narrow road leading to the left marked with a sign saying "Cave of The Seven Sleepers".  I had no idea what that was, however at this point the young man who had been sort of walking with me said  "You should start with the seven sleepers."  and then when I glanced his way...."Don't be afraid of me, I'm just taking my daily walk."  I laughed at his assurance, and told him he needn't be afraid of me either.  I turned left taking his advice, and he also headed that direction.  We started conversing from across the road, quieting our conversation when cars or taxis would drive by.

The landscape was absolutely lovely.  It's springtime in Ephesus
Olive groves, tangerines, oranges, peaches all at or nearing blossom stage.  Oh, and the occasional donkey feasting near a fruit tree.  I asked the young man if this grotto was worth visiting and he assured me it was.  He said he would walk with me until I was ready to be alone, so we asked each other the usual questions.... he was a resident of Selcuk and worked in hotels.  He explained the Seven Sleepers a bit to me as we neared it after a long hot walk down a slightly winding road.

According to legend, and the young man... (before I had read the sign... so there is some slight disparity)  there were six boys and a dog that ran away from some soldiers who were trying to kill them because they were Christians.  They blocked themselves into the cave and dug graves then fell asleep in the graves only to awake two hundred years later.  Upon their resurrection, many came to believe in Jesus Christ and eternal life.  When the boys aged, and died again, they were re-buried at the same site.  It has become a place of pilgrimage for many.  The sign tells a slightly different story, seven young boys and a dog, but I can accept it either way.  It was indeed special.  and like many places here... had an aura of holiness about it.

At this point, I wanted to be alone, to sit and think and have a glass of wine.  The young man was heading into the hills on a path that was not tourist, so we parted company.  I sat for a while and had a my wine and some gozleme and pondered life and death and how oral traditions can keep history alive for thousands of years.  I also thought about my faith and the history of the place where I was sitting.
I left the Seven Sleepers and moved up the hill towards the Ephesus gate.

As I was walking along the road.... buses still whizzing by...
I heard the tinkling of bells and the sound of sheep
 moving and calling.  Stepping off the main road I followed
 the sound, and sure enough there was a shepherd moving
 his flock.  I just sat there for a while listening and watching
and thinking about how we are like such sheep as well.  We follow the bells of the world blindly, munching on whatever comes our way, rarely looking up to see where we are going and what we are doing.  Without a caring shepherd, the sheep would blindly meander to unsafe places or places where sustenance is sparse or deadly.  I too have need of such a shepherd, and I am coming up on the gate to an ancient Roman city where a few of His apostles actually walked and talked.

I wandered through this city....silently gazing, wondering, imagining,   I really have few words for this place that was once a thriving Roman metropolis.  It did strike me that the theater where Paul made his argument, was in it's day such an important place.  I am sure the people thought the grandeur of their society would never disappear into oblivion, but here I am, and that once grand place in now a photo op for tourists.  Long forgotten are the names of the wealthy, beautiful, entertainers, politicians (most of them anyway) and business men of the day.  Instead, it's main claim to fame.... a Jew who preached the gospel in it's courtyard.

Streets worn smooth by centuries of travelers and residents - Who walked here?

View of the Theater 

 The grand ampitheater - where countless gladiators fought, politicians pontificated 
and where Paul defended himself,

My day was overwhelming to say the least.  I was quite overcome with my visit to Ephesus, and tired, and sunburned and thirsty.  I headed back into town where I met Ferhad, the shoe maker.  Like all Turkish merchants, he asked me to take a look at his wares, but that conversation eventually turned into an invitation to tea and a deep political discussion.  I find, in spite of all the warnings not to discuss politics with Turks, they they frequently bring the subject up.  Their country (as most around the world) is currently embroiled in a dichotomous struggle between those who would rule with the strong arm of religion and those who would remain free to live and worship as they please, free from the dictates of power and money.  We shall see... the opinions are varied and depend on of course an individual's background and experience.

It is fascinating to me that in spite of the very strong influence and influx of Christianity in this amazing land.... there are few vestiges left, though some remain steadfast.  More on this in another blog.  Islam is of course the predominant faith here in Turkey, though much like Christianity is the predominant reported faith in the western world, I would hazard a guess that as many people here take their faith seriously as do in "Christian" countries.  It is not an easy puzzle to understand, religion.  It is difficult to live in this land of Turkey where daily we are reminded several times over that God is Great.  Say what you will, but there is no such public acknowledgement of a living God in Christian countries.  I know that Jesus walked the face of this earth.  Muslims agree.  I know he taught us to love one another.  Muslims agree.  I know he was holy.  Muslims agree.  Our problem comes with the claim that Christ was the son of God, a King most high, and a part of a triumvent power that is regenerative and all encompassing.  It was by plan that I visited this part of Turkey during holy week.  I wanted to be able to walk in these places and feel the spirit that became the bulwark of spreading the gospel into Europe and further.  Had it not been for the work and faith completed in Turkey, many theologians and historians agree... the western world would also most likely have become Muslim as well.  Again... a puzzle, and food for deep thought.  In the meantime... Easter approaches.  My next trip will be to a place that has been recommended to me... Palmukkale.  It will become for me a watershed of emotion, but not for the reasons one might think.  Until we meet on the streets of Hieropolis.....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Antiquities and Lizards and Turtles, Oh My

This morning I woke slowly after a very good night's sleep.  Eventually I headed to the breakfast provided by my hosts and was surprised to find not the typical Turkish buffet, but my own personal table heavily lain with simits, breads, eggs, jams, olives, etc. etc. etc.  I got my money's worth telling myself that I would walk everywhere today.  And so I did.

First up was to explore the column topped with a nesting stork couple, and the arch that stands next to it.  The shots I took in the dark did it better justice than the pics I took in broad daylight.  The arch was an entrance to St. John's Basillica.  A fortress surrounds the site of what was once a great church and is the purported burial place of John the beloved disciple.  This link has a lovely and touching story about John's death that is still told today.  The fortress that surrounds the site is immense, very secure, and gave me a sense of eternal strength.  I did take some shots from non-traditional angles.  What struck me most about this place... is the magnitude of who lived here... and who taught here.  I do not have words to explain my feelings or emotion about being in this place.

The day was warming up nicely.  It was the off season so in spite of a couple tour buses, there weren't too many crowds.  Just below St. John's is a mosque that was built by Isabey, son of Mehmet, built in 1375 and still standing with the exception of one minaret that toppled in an earthquake.  What was different about this particular mosque for me was the ceiling, constructed of wood and cross beams, much like one might find in a byzantine chapel.

This is looking up at the still standing minaret of the Isabey mosque.

My hotel hostess had told me that I could walk to all
of the Selcuk sites with the exception of the
house of Mary, Jesus' mother.  She gave me a good
map and I was managing to navigate the town fairly
well.  I headed next to the site of the temple of Artemis. I am not very learned regarding Greek mythology nor am I much enamored, but I fell in love (sic) with this site ... not because of her temple ruins though ... there is precious little left of them, but because of the aura surrounding the place that was once considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

In this picture you can see St. John's fortress up on the hill left, below that the Isabey Mosque, and in the foreground, a single column left from the Temple of Artemis.

There was an odd serenity here that filled me with a sense of great happiness and peace.  I believe that had more to do with the creatures who  have inhabited this place, which eerily enough, fits right in with the mythology of Artemis, daughter of Zeus himself, goddess of wildlands and animals,
(among other things). 

The pools and ponds that once surrounded her temple have long since fallen into the hands of nature itself.  A stork couple nest at the top of the column, cats sleep lazily in the tall grasses surrounding the grounds, geese and ducks hiss and prance and quack and honk near water's edge, hundreds of rather large and ferocious looking lizards inhabit the broken scattered remains of the structures, and the water alive!

As I began to walk the murky water's edge, I noticed turtles sunning on some of the larger rocks.  Every rock as a matter of fact.  I love turtles, and actually had a dream a few days earlier about finding a place teaming with turtles.  It was a happy place in my dream, and the few turtles piled on the rocks in the late March sun seemed as if the dream were coming to life... it was then that I started hearing this strange sound... repeatedly and quickly,  plop plop plop at irregular intervals.  How cute I was thinking, the turtles are startled at me and dropping off the rocks, but the sound increased and changed and I was stunned and startled (I seem to need to use those words a lot here in Turkey)  to see THOUSANDS, and I am not exaggerating here, thousands of turtles on the banks of this once grand pool, slipping into the water as I walk past.  Their camouflage is so excellent I was unable to get a good picture with my simple little camera, but the memory of all those turtles will keep me smiling for years to come.  Artemis remains guardian over wild lands and the animals.

I had been walking and exploring for about 3 hours.  I wanted to stay at the site of Artemis, but two huge tour buses pulled up and began depositing loud people who failed to see the real treasures of the place, so I left quietly past the Turks hawking plaster statues of Artemis that were cleverly laid out on the hoods of their cars.  I did stop to talk to a woman who was picking something in the grass.  In broken Turkish with some gestures I managed to gather that she was picking dandelion root.  My daughter would have loved it.

I continued down the avenue to Ephesus, past the exercise equipment that line parks everywhere here, past strolling men, and couples arm in arm... on my way to the place the letter of Ephesians was written to.  I have seen pictures, but nothing has prepared me for the ability to step back into a time and place that is so steeped in cultural and spiritual history.  I had walked where St. John walked, stepped into a 14th century mosque, sat by the banks of the temple of Artemis, and was now on the road to Ephesus...

... and it wasn't even noon yet.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Ephesus or Selcuk or the Place I Thought I'd Never Get To See

The smell of coal smoke is thick and sweet in the warm spring air of Selcuk tonight.   I am happily ensconced in a very pleasant room overlooking a lovely courtyard at the St. John Hotel in Selcuk.  I had planned to come here for quite some time but it seemed at points as if I was being thwarted in my attempt.  Even up through today this trip seemed as if it would take some herculean effort to accomplish.  The last long weekend we had available at our school, I had made reservations to come here, but I became quite ill, and on top of the flu, a man (who turned out to be a bit of a disappointment in the end) encouraged me to stay in Istanbul and help him navigate the city.  I obliged, like a good hopeful "girlfriend wanna-be" ...and stayed home, cancelling my plans for Ephesus.  That turned out well after all because that flu laid me out flat.  The man on the other hand... well, he can go fly a kit.  Or a plane for that matter.  Nuff said.  Anyway....

It's spring break for our school this week, and I made plans again to finally visit this area of immense history and biblical weight.  You know, the book of Ephesians... well Paul wrote it to the church here after he had visited them.  I am not the biggest fan of Paul but I don't think he would care much what I think.  Peter is more my style... brash, jumping before he looks, shooting his mouth off before he thought about things clearly.  Yeah... I definitely identify more with Peter, but Paul was HERE.  HERE where I am visiting.  He spoke here and stayed here and I can scarce comprehend the age of this place and the fact that a man (John) who walked with Christ.... most likely walked here as well.  According to legend and anecdotal history... the mother of my Lord Jesus actually was brought here by John (St.) to live out the end of her life.  More about that next post.  I jump way ahead of myself before I've even had the chance to explore and dissect this area.

Ok... so I woke up early for me on a Saturday... 7:48.  Good I have enough time.  My flight leaves at 11 AM, I can do my morning thing, take my time... hit the 30D by 9 and be at the airport by 10 easy.  Right.  Traffic.  No 30D.  Taxi to Kabitas... slow tram even.  Transfer even slower.  By the time I arrive at Turkish Airlines counter my plane is no longer boarding.  I haven't missed a plane in  many years.  (Kim....?)   Well darn it.  Turkish Airlines will re-issue a ticket for 259 TL at 3:00 PM.  What?????  They were kind enough to send me over to Atlas... who in turn sent me to Pegasus.. . oh you don't want to read all this.  Long story short...Pegasus took off and landed late.  I missed the train to Selcuk.  I tried their "free" shuttle sitting and conversing with a nice Chinese family from Jersey also flying on Pegasus, who eventually decided to exit the shuttle because it hadn't yet left, but I waited for another 40 minutes.  The driver then disappeared and I was stuck in Izmir.  I marched back into the airport (like only I can march.... ask my children) and some poor Pegasus employee tried to sort my transfer out.  I was near tears, reminding myself to stay calm, don't panic... he put me finally on a train he said would take me to Selcuk.  The problem with that was the legend on the train didn't indicate a Selcuk stop.  Hmmmm.  I phoned the hotel and fell apart over the phone.   Mind you this is St. John's whom I cancelled with before when I got sick.  They told me I was on the right train.  No... maybe not.  Well maybe...I kid you not... I got on and off that damn train 4 times before I finally figured out... with the help of a security guard... that the real train was down a flight, back up a flight, and over to another station.  THEN... it turned out the station was closing, but.... the last train would come in an hour and I could pay on board.  I sat down on the bench and put my sunglasses on because I didn't want anyone to see me cry.  Then... this old toothless man, in his standard old man Turkish garb... suit jacket, sweater vest, cap... comes up to me and hands me two sprigs of greenery and smiles.  Cok Tesekuraderiz is all I can stammer out twice.  This small sweet gesture changed everything in a moment.  Suddenly I remembered where I was...on an adventure in Turkey....  heading to a place I have only ever dreamed of visiting.  I have a week to explore to my heart's content and I am NOT in a hurry.

The ride is pleasant.  Scenery shifts my perspective.  All is green and spring is evident.  Purple cabbages... a donkey foraging...many children flying kites.  Sun and trees and a land still resting in time.  Hold the world at bay... please.

The train slows and I exit at my destination.  My hostess is lovely and sweet and she commiserates about the journey with me as she drives the short route to the hotel.  St. John's castle walls loom above and while I won't really have time to explore much tonight... I am aware that I am walking upon many many layers of change and civilization.  Such triumphs and such sorrows this land has seen.  My hosts at St. John's prove instantly their Trip Advisor reviews are well deserved.  They are lovely hospitible people who welcome me with tea, sweets, wine, and a recommendation for dinner, which is actually a restaurant someone in the family owns.

  It turns out to be a wonderful spot, and the tavuk is fantastic.


On my way back to the hotel, I wander just a bit past the bars and shops and then down a street past very old columns and walls.  As I stop to take a picture, I don't notice, until it flies over me in protest... a stork on the top of the column.  It's mate still sitting on what must be eggs.  The sight takes my breath away.

 From another angle I get a shot of the arch in this picture with a bit of street light coming through.  Tomorrow I will try and gather more information about these structures... their age and significance.

All and all... the day worked out ok.  Upon arrival back at the hotel, my hosts insist that I not go out again when I ask for the nearest store for wine.  Instead they prepare a tray of cheese and a nightcap.  I am blessed.  Tomorrow is Sunday.  I am looking forward to exploring this ancient place and realize as I finish this sentence... the hassle, the difficulty, the requisite patience... it will all be worth it.  It is a lesson I must learn, if not now when?  The world can slow.  All things change.  What seems so important today will meld eventually into tomorrow.  All things will yet be well.

Contentedly yours.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Faces and Places in My Neighborhood

People who specialize in cultural adaptation will tell you that there may come a time when one might hit a proverbial brick wall after a few months in a new cultural environment.  May and might mean probably.  The routine becomes established and we become habituated to the exotic until it no longer seems so .... special.  We cease to see with fresh eyes, and the neighborhood baker morphs into just another guy that takes our money. The same can be said for anywhere we live.  We may be surrounded by day to day miracles and stunning beauty, but cease to be awake to it because we take it for granted.  As I hit that brick wall a week or so ago, I determined to set out over a five mile radius of my neighborhood and to re-awaken my senses and appreciation for the things and people around me daily.  In particular I want to connect with the human beings that have become part of my life here.  Not necessarily my colleagues, though a couple may end up on these pages serendipitously, but the merchants and acquaintances that make up the periphery of my day to day existence in Ortokoy, Besiktas, Istanbul, Turkey, 34340.
Saturdays are my shopping days.  I get to sleep in late, take my time with my morning routine and go for a walk.  I stop along the way into the neighborhood shops to pick up whatever I need, or want in the case of pastries and dried fruit.  Yum. Last week was beautiful and warm.  I went for a long walk up and around the long winding hill road back down into Ortokoy.  I have always wondered (I think I asked the question in another post) where the dogs in the area go to sleep or get away from bad weather.  I found out.  As I rounded the top of the hill, there under the bridge were about twenty dogs resting in the sun.  There are only eight visible in this picture, but I didn't cross the road to get closer because there is a large sign warning about the dogs.  You can see how each animal has it's spot staked out. It is still amazing to me how people and animals... dogs and cats manage to live in fairly unfettered peace.  The animals are definitely a part of the community here.  Sometimes they are taken in and domesticated.


Some are not.  This is the doorstep of the Cami (Mosque) just down the road from my apartment.  This is the resident guard.  He is not a domestic... you can tell by the clip in his ear which indicates that he has been neutered and given all his shots, checked for disease, bathed, and put back out on the street to live.  He earns his keep.  I have seen him sleeping on the bench next to the mosque as well. 

I am out of bread, and I have a yen for a nice Turkish pastry, so I continue down the road past the many little family owned shops that line the streets.  The Turks are big on bread.  It is eaten with everything and they've honed the art of doing creative things with flour and sugar and other lovely ingredients.  I can get a fresh loaf of wonderful bread for about 1 TL.  It doesn't have preservatives, and it is consistently tasty with oil, cheese, and olives.  Sometimes I choose one or two of their pastries as well.  These aren't light and fluffy by the way.  It takes me about three days to eat my favorite one, a heavy crescent stuffed with walnuts and honey.  These guys know me now, and I am always greeted with a lovely smile and friendly service.


Next up is the produce market.  These men also know me by sight.  They sell everything from giant artichoke hearts to eggs.  Today they talk me into some strawberries which will go well with my yogurt.  I also purchase some lemons.  Sometimes the youngest boy who helps out, will flirt with me... the older guys usually shoo him away though and take care of me themselves.  The oldest man sits in the back at a cash drawer and takes the money.  I love the fact that this little stand is not slick or commercial by supermarket standards.  The produce is fresh and reliable, the prices are excellent, and again... there is just something so very nice about seeing the same people every time I shop there and to have them know me and be so willing to help me with kindness, in spite of my limited Turkish.

As I rounded the corner I saw this man, a kebab restaurant owner, breaking up a crate for firewood to grill some meat on the street. 

This shop sells nuts, dried fruit, honey, teas, and  herbs.                                                                                 
They are very friendly and cheerful though I didn't see the proprietor working, I snapped a picture of the man who sold me some dried cherries, pineapple, mango and kiwi.  I've already eaten half of them.

Not all of my wandering were food oriented or animal oriented.  I try and buy fresh flowers often.  Nothing cheers me up so much as to have a nice bouquet on the table.  There are small flower sellers everywhere in Istanbul.  One area of Taksim is dedicated to flower stalls, much like Pike Street Market in Seattle.  I used to buy my flowers from this nice man who owns a shop on Dereboyou.  He would always send for tea and invite me to sit and have tea with him while he prepared my purchase of roses, or delphinium or whatever struck my fancy.  He was very sweet, but I stopped dropping in because I was afraid he would misunderstand my frequency.  Once some friends of his came into the shop and I am almost certain they were teasing him about me sitting there having tea, so I haven't been there in quite a while.  This lady sits at the bottom of our hill on the corner in all kinds of weather, selling her flowers.  We've gotten to know each other, and hug one another and greet each other now with the standard Turkish kiss.  The first time I bought flowers from her, she cheated me.  I won't go into details, but I did heartily complain to her in my limited Turkish.  The next time I stopped by, I cheated her.  She also heartily complained.  By the third purchase we had come to understand one other, and there has been no cheating ever since.  She is my consistent source for flowers.  Last time I bought a delightful bunch of gerber daisies from her.  Her husband happened to be present, and he slipped a little daisy head band on me along with a small bunch of miniature daisies.  I told her she was my arkadas (friend) and she told me I was sweet.

 These are some of the people and animals that inhabit my day to day routine outside of the work world.  They are interesting and friendly and genuine.  Like me, I am sure they are not perfect.  We all have flaws and shortcomings, but we live together in this village-like place called Ortokoy.  I have left some people out.  The guys at Epope where I frequent for soup and bread and wine, the Jewish restaurant staff who serve Turkish meals in an atmosphere that is decidedly different than the other places around, the grocery clerks, bus drivers, furniture guys, cell phone service people, and the bank staff that speak English, or not, but manage to help me anyway.  I now understand what it is like to be an immigrant.  How difficult it is to function in a foreign country with limited communication, and limited understanding of social and political intricacies.  Nevertheless, I continue to manage day to day thanks to others who surround me in this world.  They aren't all like me.  Many aren't even remotely like me.  And yet...
it is becoming "normal" to me.  I think today I realized that this routine... is a good thing.  It's predictability sustains me and comforts me.  We are all in it together.  Similarities and differences... adventure and routine... life goes on.  Forever.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Thermal Without the H Part 2

The larger fast ferries that run out of Istanbul are nice as ferries go.  One of the surprises to me about the sea going Turkish ferries is that seats are assigned.  The inter-city ferries are first come first serve and you sit anywhere you can on a crowded day, but these larger fast ferries make maximum use of seat space and you sit where your ticket says you should sit.  That was ok for the most part.  Morikke and her family had booked their tickets on-line so they were several aisles away from our group of four, but we managed for the most part to all sit together.  The ferry was almost full.  For a while there was an empty seat next to me, but by the time we departed the port of Yenikapi, it was taken.

It felt good to be leaving Istanbul behind for a bit.  As much as I love the city and its people, there comes a time when you just need a break from the fast pace and the routine and the hoards of people.  To be in this wonderful country and not explore other parts seems a shame, so we are heading to the port city of Yalova on the larger Asian portion of the country.  The population of Yalova is near 102,000, a small town in comparison to Istanbul.  There is reportedly a great Saturday market near the ferry docks, but our crew was not so keen to spend much time there.  The main goal was to get to the hot springs town of Termal and to explore that area.  I decide to call a couple of hotels that were supposed to be full according to the on line reservation system.  The Green Termal Hotel had a room available at a great rate.  Bingo.  Susan and I will spend the night in Termal.  The rest will head back towards evening.

It was a nice sleepy relaxing 1 1/2 hour ride.  There is a small cafe aboard and we had cay and coffees.  We chatted and snoozed and read and daydreamed until the ferry slowed and Yalova came into view.  It's a very busy port and there were hundreds of sailboats and yachts at the port docks.   I imagine in the summer time the place is packed with up and coming Turks.  The main quay is lined also with restaurants and bars.  Morikke came over to tell us that she and Jerry had met a very nice Turkish man who offered to take them to lunch and give them a ride in his car to Termal.  That is something I love about the Turkish people.  They can be so warm and hospitable.  The rest of us hopped into a dolmus headed to Termal.  Dolmus are sort of a hybrid between a bus and a van.  They make short trips for a small amount of money and move lots of people quickly.  They also are an invaluable mode of transportation to get out into the smaller village areas in Turkey.

We paid our 2.50 TL to ride the 7 km to Termal.  As the dolmus was making it's way out of Yalova I commented to Prags that the town looked quite lovely and interesting.  There was a pleasant waterfront and several hotels that looked out over the Sea of Maramara.  I would have liked to explore more.  Next time perhaps.  It was a winding road leading slowly away from the sea and up into hills and fields. The population and houses thinned out.  Every now and again the dolmus would make a stop to deposit and pick up a passenger or two.  As we traveled the winding road I noticed the dress was becoming more conservative, the women covered, the men in hats.  I shifted to a window seat in the back when a couple departed, and a stooped man got on and sat down next to me.

 He had many lines of history in his face.  As we began to see signs and arrows directing to different hotels and inns, I called out to Susan up front to ask the driver if he knew where the Green Termal Hotel was in relationship to where we would be dropped off.  I was shocked when the old man sitting next to me turned and said in perfect English "Do you need to have the driver drop you at the hotel?" 

"Oh, your English is excellent!" I exclaimed, and he grinned and explained that he had lived and worked in North Carolina for five years when he was much younger.  We chatted briefly and I learned his name was Nuri.  I asked if I could take his picture and he said, "Sure, I'm a handsome young man huh!"  with some undertone of lost memory and a hint of sadness.  I would have liked to learn more of his story but he helped the driver find the hotel for us and we were deposited at the door step waving goodby to my temporary friend.

I was so excited to see a poster at the hotel's entrance announcing folk singing and a Turkish singer in the hotel restaurant that same night.  We checked in, met up with our other friends and headed out to explore.  Two significant things we noticed about Termal.... 1) Arabic lettering on almost every single restaurant, storefront and hotel  2)  A conservative tourist population with the majority of the women we saw covered, some in the severest of dress.  Half of us paid to use the spring fed pool, and the others went off to explore the town.  The pool itself was pleasant, though much confusion ensued about the proper protocol for everything from changing to keeping valuables in the locked drawers.  It made me miss Ainsworth BC.

Morikke made quite a splash in her bikini... most of the pool's patrons were men.  As you can see from the sign.... all manner of conditions can be cured by these waters, but don't try to apply it to pregnancy!

The pool was fine, but as I said, I am spoiled forever by Ainsworth so my time in the healing waters was limited.  I dressed and went off to find our non soaking friends.  We eventually made our way back to the hotel where everyone joined us later for drinks and lively conversation.  Evening drew in quickly and the majority of our party had to head back to catch the ferry in Yalova.  We waived goodby from the balcony and dressed for dinner.

Dinner was excellent and included in the price of our room.  We were surrounded by mostly families.  Every woman in the dinning room was covered with the exception of one other lady sitting near us.  I felt rather conspicuous, but that feeling left me after about my third glass of wine.  Then the entertainment began. A handsome musician on keyboards, and later a woman dressed in a bright pink and green floral outfit with high heeled pink sparkly shoes.  She sang traditional Turkish music softly as diners finished their desserts.  As soon as the dessert plates were cleared, the music got a little more lively.  A group of 6 joined the fun, all Turks, but the women were young and very stylish in dress, no covering there.  They began dancing.  It looked like so much fun.  Yes.  I got up to dance with them.  As my long time friends can tell you... once I get going with dancing, it's difficult to stop me.  By the time I had wrapped my scarf around an old man sitting in the corner, and managed to raise the eyebrow of the woman sitting behind me ( well I am not sure I raised the eyebrow because she was covered in black from head to toe and I couldn't see her eyebrows, but her eyes didn't look pleased)  I was breathless.  Kind Susan suggested it might be time to head back to the room.  (I am so glad Susan came along).  It seemed like a reasonable suggestion to me, so we left our friends behind and headed off to some great late night conversation and sleep soon took over. 

The next day I was up before Susan, determined to have my FIRST BATH since arriving in Turkey.  A jetted tub too!  A bit of relaxation out on the balcony... watching the amazing construction project across the street - Turkish construction-  gotta love it... no OSHA standards here!  buckets and mortar and strapping young men on rooftops stacking bricks by hand.  It occurred to me that the hotel we were staying in was probably built the same way.  Then a fantastic breakfast  (do stay at the Green Thermal Hotel if you venture to Termal) and off to walk in the woods.  The hotel clerks were wonderful, but they sure didn't think we could manage the 7 km walk to the falls.  We gave up on directions because they kept insisting we couldn't walk to it.  The woods past the pool are lovely.  We went a ways in and could easily imagine how lovely this place must be in the summer when the temperatures and energy in Istanbul soar to almost intolerable levels. 

You can see from the shots that it was still winter here, but the hints of Spring were evident.  Once you get past the town proper, the woods are quite lovely.  I have lived in Colorado, Oregon, and Idaho... and find that the woods differ significantly in all of these places.  Turkey is no different.  Lots of scrub oak, but a different variety... moss and pine like Oregon, but a drier and climate give the woods a different personality.  I saw no sign of wildlife save a single sparrow that lit upon a branch thinking it surely was not spotted because of it's camouflage.  There was some kind of spoor, but horse or cow, or something else... I do not know.  I only know it was good to be away from the city and in nature again.  I missed my dog terribly on this walk. 

We had neither shoes nor time to continue to the falls.  Also, two women alone in the woods in a strange area of a country where one does not know the language... probably not a wise move.  So we eventually returned to the town of Termal.  We had tea and wine and then headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and make the trek back to Yalova and eventually Istanbul.  I will return... maybe in warmer weather, or perhaps next fall.  There was major construction going on in the town, and I think they anticipate much growth judging from the amount of hotels that were being built.  That may hurt the place and the the gregarious and hospitable vendors that line the street to the baths.  I had no cash as I walked that road back to my inn and told a kind old man so, when he suggested his wares.  Never mind he told me in Turkish... have some tea anyway.  It was poured from a blackened old kettle into a cheap paper cup.... but that herb tea was some of the best I've had in Turkey.  I pray that never changes, that kindness, generousity and hospitality.  I suspect however it will. 

And so we left Termal behind.  Rested.  Relaxed.  Rejuvenated.
The thing about the temporary residence in place that travel allows... is the capability to depart with the best of memories, the most generous understanding of the people who inhabited our days for a few moments, and the blurry recollections of time spent in another place far removed form our day to day reality. 

I just love to travel.

.                                      Leaving Termal

Spring is on it's way.  May it arrive soon

I don't know about you, but it has been a long and (at times) difficult winter.  I am ready for more changes and new adventures.  I am ready for love and joy and surrender.  May GOD be with us.

From Turkey,

Where Spring is springing.