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Trip to Turkey September 2004
Friday, September 10, 2004

We were on the major road from Troy to Edremit.  There was no problem whatsoever with reading road identification signs in a foreign language, as there were no road identification signs, not here and not anywhere else.  Brown signs with placenames indicated ruins.  They were all over everywhere.  There were also ruins with no signs pointing to them.  There were signs of places with arrows and a number representing kilometers at intersections; but there were no road names or numbers which might have been helpful for matching up the road we were on with the one we saw on the map.

On the road north of Kucukkuyu (koochook kooyoo) there was a line of fruit stands.  The vendors were selling olives, figs, pistachios, almonds, peppers, tomatoes.  I purchased some food for the road, while Tom found some discarded wooden boxes that were perfect supports for the part of our pressboard-mattress set that wasn't sitting on legs from the chairs that we put into storage.

The beaches looked very inviting from a distance, the white sand persisted even though by this time we were at the Aegean and no longer at the Sea of Marmar.  We went swimming at the south-facing beach of Kucukkuyu.

A little later we stopped at Altinoluk, a sweet little beach town just east of Kucukkuyu with another beautiful and unspoiled south-facing beach.  I would like to return here sometime.  It is not one of the normal tourist stops, at least not for foreign tourists.  It was helpful to know a little Turkish.  The food was authentic.  There were stores with float toys for the ocean, good quality (but unpretentious) Turkish beach clothes, bakeries with baklava, restaurants with outside seating, and a sunny promenade. 

This was one of the few places in Turkey I could imagine bicycles.  There aren't very many bicycles in Turkey, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise because riding on an animal or a motorized vehicle on a Turkish road is dangerous enough.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Along the Aegean seacoast, the ring-necked doves coo at dawn.  They have a different song from the hooping mourning doves in Istanbul.  We were north of Dikili and already starting to see lots of birds, including pink flamingos.  Yes, Turkey is home to real-life wild pink flamingos.  Pink flamingos are white flamingos who feed on pink brine shrimp.  The closer they live to the source of pink brine shrimp, the pinker they are.  The ones we saw north of Dikili had black undersides of their wings, but pink on the top of their wings.  Their breast and belly was also pink.  Their back was white.

As we approached Dikili and Izmir and the salt pans, the less white remained on the flamingos; the pinker they were.

pink flamingos
work donkeys We also saw a lot of animals on the road, particularly work donkeys.  People were either riding them or walking beside them as the donkey carried a load of twigs or hay or other bundles.

We enjoyed the sea-town of Izmir.  Tom spent 3 years of his childhood there and we tried to find the place where he lived, but it is possible it was flattened to become the new highway.  We couldn't find any roads there.  What we did find was the bay marina where Tom's Dad kept their boat, the Agabey ("ah-bee," elder brother).  Again there were cats and fishermen.  We watched 3 older men get into a little fishing boat.  They appeared to be dressed in suits.  There were boats pulled up on the beach and I now understood where Tom's aesthetic sense of boats originated.

boats on beach boats on beach 2
boats tied to rocks
boats at dock
kitties resting on fishing net water red from brine shrimp

There is a bird sanctuary north of Izmir.  There was almost no one there.  I'm hoping that it is because we were there in mid-September and the weather was windy and drizzly.  The bird sanctuary was also a place of salt pans and we saw more pink flamingoes (their bodies were totally pink), white egrets, black herons, an assortment of peeps, mallards, cormorants, and geese.

salt foam

Along the seacoast between Izmir and Cesme (Cheshmay) we decided not to take the ferry to Lesbos.  I wasn't feeling at my peak, we realized we were going to be pressed for time, and the weather had turned cold and very windy. 

We were starting to realize the enormousness of our trip.  All the guidebooks remind us that Turkey is about the size of Texas.  Seems to me that three weeks would be PLENTY of time to see all of Texas.  But Turkey isn't like that.  For one thing, there are 2 not-very-long real highways (autobahns) in all of Turkey (and we rode on both of them).  The rest of Turkey has little slow roads from town to town.  Turkey is densely populated - which means that there are very few areas with long expanses of nothing.  The terrain itself, the ruins, and the villages were all points of interest and we wanted to explore every nook and cranny.

Plus, the reasons we had for wanting to go to Lesbos (women, boats, cats), which seemed important before we left, were seeming less important now that we were seeing the beauty of the Turkish beaches.

The wind continued.  We were back on the road heading to Cesme (Cheshmay).  It was approaching sunset as we were on an old road from Izmir to Cesme (from Cheshmealta to Cheshme) we were atop some high rounded hills (rocky tops) in a desolate area from which we had a great view of the sky, town, and shore.  We pulled off the road a little ways thinking we would sleep here and wake up to a gorgeous sunrise.

Shortly after pulling off the road, we were followed by a Red Toyota four door pick-up truck with 3 men inside.  They followed us and appeared to be watching us.  As I was making up the bedding and putting up the curtains in the back of the van, Tom got out of the van and approached the truck to find out what they wanted.  He didn't understand their Turkish so he made hand signals that he was taking pictures.  The Turkish men nodded and the truck drove away.

Tom returned to the van and sat in the driver's seat.  Our bed was prepared and I turned to Tom and asked him if he was going to join me in back.  Tom didn't feel comfortable.  His encounter with the men in the truck had made him nervous.  I was sleepy and cranky but I've had too much experience with Tom's good intuition to do or say anything other than "okay, let's drive on." By now it was late twilight.

So we drove, and as we drove back to the road, the red Toyota pickup truck, with its lights off, appeared from behind some nearby rocks, where they were hiding, and drove ahead of us to the highway.  We got close enough to read their license:  35 RBA 01, but we don't know what to do with it. 

When we arrived at Cesme, we realized the date was "9-11".  I was a little bit shaken wondering why the men in the truck had been lying hidden in wait for us.  A few stores were open and I was drawn by the brightness of a very trendy looking book and music store.  There was an unexpectedly large Nazi section and the music sounded hostile to foreigners.  At this point, I wasn't sure if I was understanding the Turkish in the song or just feeling vulnerable.

We decided that when sleeping in the van in Turkey, we'd have to do it in a more occupied place.  Mostly, we slept in the van at gas stations.  At Cesme, we slept in a Tansash (Fred Meyer) parking lot.  It was so convenient we were hoping for more of them along the way, but this was the last one we saw.

Created:  November 15, 2004
Updated:  August 24, 2005
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