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.

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