A Travellerspoint blog

A part of my heart is gone today

Safe journey across the Rainbow Bridge Gizmo Gilroy

This entry is not related to my journey but that of a wonderful cat we called Gizmo Gilroy.

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Yesterday, all day, my mind was back in Virginia. I did not know why, but I kept thinking I should call my parents. I put it off, and put it off. It was probably a good thing. I had much studying to do and could speak to them today, or tomorrow. Now I think I know why my mind was back in Virginia. I found out last night via a tearful phone call from my husband, Tim, that our cat Gizmo made his journey across the bridge. I type this with my best effort to hold back the tears. On one hand it is almost a blessing to be removed from the familiarity of surroundings when you lose something you love. On the other hand, being alone when you are hurting from loss simply stinks. Period. This was my biggest fear when I decided to leave for such a long period of time. Something happening to someone I love back home.

Gizmo, the Big Galoot, Fuzzbutt, Big Boy, Giz the Piz, Gizimodio. He had many names and gave us many years of love, joy and comfort. We almost lost in in 2001 to liver disease, but with our constant vigilance, great vet care, and his staunch perseverance he pulled through. Thankfully he remained to give us another 7 years of joy. He was a pain at times. He hated Willow, he fought with his mother Frodo, he had litter box issues, but all of those seem so insignificant now that he is gone. Gizmo use to love nuzzling in my hair after I had washed it. He had a passion for food, especially yogurt. He could lick a yogurt cup clean if you let him. One of his favorite games was chasing a fat rubber band. But the thing that defines Gizmo most of all, was his obsession with the bathtub tap. Yes, he was obsessed. Beyond obsessed. He loved drinking water from the bath tap and would head that way often looking up at you as he went as if asking "can I have some? Can I?"

When we moved to Virginia my parents were kind enough to let Gizmo live with them since our living space was rather small and Gizmo terrorized Willow. Gizmo then became my fathers buddy. He would sit on my dad's lap for hours. Follow my dad when he got up thinking he was going to give him bathtub water. My dad loved talking to Gizmo. I hurt as much for my dad in this loss as I do myself. I'm 5000 miles away, but I can feel the quiet loneliness in their home. Last night as I sat on my balcony crying I looked down on the street and saw a gray and white cat saunter across the sidewalk. No, it wasn't an identical cat to Gizmo, but the fact that it was gray and white gave me a little comfort. I felt Gizmo's spirit with me last night. I felt a peace for a while. I imagine I will cry at times. It is hard to lose such a faithful friend. I was there when Gizmo was born, I should have been there when he left. But I wasn't and maybe he wanted it that way. Safe journey Big Boy. I love you.

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Posted by oceanchild 00:32 Archived in USA Tagged animal Comments (0)

A walk around Kuşadasi

That's what you do when you can't find the bus stop!

I realized I forgot to post some photos from before. One was taken from my hotel room, and the other was taken from Mehmet and Fisun's place. The views were wonderful!! So we start this entry with sunset.

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My second day in Kuşadasi I intended to get to the little town of Sirince. Fisun told me that I could take the minibus there and I planned on just spending the day out that way, maybe exploring Selcuk on the way. I ask the front desk at the hotel where the bus station is and she gives me a map with it all marked out. Herein lies the problem. Streets in Turkiye, as well as Greece, are not always marked in a highly visible way. So, I just had to try to count and hope I turned on the right street. Several turns later I realized I had not, because I could see no bus station anywhere. I kept seeing the minibuses and thought about just running after one to follow it. I didn't. Walking around allows you to see things you would otherwise miss.

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I was continually amazed at how graffiti free the town was. I'm sure part of it is due to the fact that it is a tourist town. But even the streets far away from the dock and tourist shopping were amazingly clean. And quiet.

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When I finally thought I found the bus station it was pushing close to 11, so I decided to forgo Sirince and just wander Kuşadasi. I knew there was a bazaar so I headed that way. Sure it's touristy, but it's still almost a fun game seeing how many times you can ignore the call of "hey, lady...'scuse me, lady..." I have to say I was a sucker and often stopped and chatted with shop owners. You know, it seems no matter how far you travel you can't escape American commercialism. BK and Century 21.

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I did want to make my way over toward Pigeon Island. I had seen it when we sailed in and thought it would be a nice place to walk around. Thankfully there is a walkway to the island so it's easy to visit. The island has often attracted migrating birds and was once called Bird Island. In fact, the Ottomans gave the name to the town itself. Kuşadasi means "Bird Island." The name of the island, which was used by the military in the Ottoman era, was eventually changed to Pigeon Island. The castle that sits on the island is a Byzantine castle and because it was used as defense against pirates it is called Pirates Castle.

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What is more appropriate on an island that use to be called Bird Island?

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There were several prayer trees on the island. This one seemed to be the fullest of them. People write their prayers on a piece of paper and tie them to the branches in hopes that their prayers will be answered. I am not sure of the origin of the prayer trees and haven't researched it. You have know, feel free to contact me and let me know.

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As I was leaving the island this older man selling soap and various sundry of course did his usual "hello,'scuse me, how are you" to which I love replying "merhaba!" because they just get thrilled when you speak their language. Next think I know he has me sitting on the wall next to him chatting about Bill Clinton. What is it about Bill Clinton? People here love Bill Clinton! I think they believe we should have kept Bill Clinton in power until he was no longer capable of leading. So we talked about Bill Clinton and various political issues. He showed me his soap for sale, tried to get me to come to the "ladies beach" (yes, there really is a beach called the ladies beach in Kuşadasi) to hear him play his music later. Then he gave me the story about how he lost his wife in the earthquake several years ago. I hate to be skeptical, I really do like to see the best in all humans, but I have heard too many sob stories of men losing their beloved here. Ok, his was only the second but it was a bit too familiar to Angelo's tragic loss and I started to believe Mr. Soap guy was trying to pick me up. But he did give me pumice foot scrubber and a hideously ugly as sin watch that I would not be caught wearing. And I bought some olive oil soap. He made a sale and got his picture taken, which they seem to like as well.

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Finished with the soap guy and walked off with my pumice, soap, and ugly watch (Yes I do need to photograph it and show you) and headed back toward the bazaar. Little did I know Mr. Soapy would start a trend of being accosted by shop owners, talk of Bill Clinton, abortion, infertility, breastfeeding trends in America, Obama, McCain, religion, what an intriguing woman I am, and various other subjects. In Kuşadasi alone I must have chatted with half a dozen of them. Most were nice, a few were questionable. I think the younger men seem to have more charm and are less, well, questionable. Most seemed truly intrigued by a woman who is a student, photographer, married, in her 40's and traveling alone. So, it took me almost all day to make it around the bazaar. Much to their disappointment, I didn't buy. Ok, I bought some apple tea after chatting with the shop owner named Philip for an hour. He did make me tea and seemed genuinely interested in talk, not just sales. I regret I did not photograph every person I chatted with. The bazaar sells the usual wares you find in Turkiye. Pashmina's, lanterns, jewelry, leather, belly dance outfits, tea, nargile pipes, rugs. It's all very beautiful. I spent most of the day there just wandering and talking.

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This guy. Now he was funny. He was trying to get me to do one of his tours but I had the pleasure of telling him I had been to every single place he showed me. He too wanted his picture taken and I think several of his friends thought it was funny. Either that or the joke was on me. It yielded probably the most hilarious photo yet. The two of us posing while someone holds a stool over our heads, a guy gives the finger, and a sign behind us the says "genuine fake watches." I wonder if this is where Mr. Soapy's watch came from.

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It was dark and I needed to get back to my hotel because Fisun was meeting me to give me my bus ticket for the next day. There were courtyards in the bazaar that were lit up in such a magical way it was hard to resist just sitting and having a drink, or coffee. In fact one shop owner wanted me to go to the Mamma Mia cafe. Nope, I wanted to sit under these lanterns and just take in the night air.

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There is a magical feeling about Turkiye and I think it is evident nowhere stronger than in Istanbul....and that is where I was headed the next day. My excitement was palpable. I was downright giddy. I had the best pizza and beer that night at the Cimino cafe. Life is good. It was going to get even better!

Posted by oceanchild 09:28 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Temple of Aphrodite at Aphrodisias

-17 °C

You know I was thinking as I walked down the center to get internet that the Mastercard commercial fits really well with this whole adventure in Turkiye.

Cost of ferry ticket to Kusadasi: 30 euro
Gas to drive to and from Aphrodisias: 100 YTL
Having a private tour guide and solitude at Aphrodisias: Priceless

And it is so true. It was priceless. It was nice to have moments where I could just stand there and take it all in. Just me.

But back to the temple. Aphrodisias is of course named after the goddess Aphrodite. Most are familiar with Aphrodite as the goddess of love and beauty among other things. It was founded around the 1st century BC on a site that had long been considered sacred. It became and important city during Roman rule of the 1st through 6th centuries CE. Of course, as usual during Byzantine rule, the temple was converted to a church. The apse is still standing today. Much of what you see standing has been re-erected. Much of the excavations at Aphrodisias were led by an archaeologist named Kenan T. Erim, who happens to be buried on the site. He spent 30 years of his live working the site.

The temple as you see it approaching from the north....

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Standing inside the temple looking west. In ancient times you would enter from the east and there would be a cella about where am standing with the cult statue (see last entry). When converted to a church during Byzantine rule, you would have entered from the west.

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The apse that was added when the temple was converted to a church.

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In the ancient days of the temple you would have entered through the gate that is called the tetrapylon. It too has been mostly re-erected in recent years. It has to be one of the most beautiful sanctuary gates I have seen.

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Just to give you an idea about excavation, you can see the depth of debris that had built up in this photo.

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We left the temple and walked over to the stadium. It happens to be one of the best preserved stadiums around. The problem with photos is you don't get a good idea of the sheer size. I'm not sure how many this one could hold, but I do know the one at Olympia could hold 45,000 so I'm sure this one is comparable if not bigger. It has not been totally excavated. Unfortunately there just isn't a lot of money out there these days for full scale excavations, especially in Turkiye. Oh, what I wouldn't give to work on an excavation there!!

You would have entered the stadium through one of two tunnels on either end. This is not how you enter it now, however. They have excavated this so you get an idea of what it might have looked like.

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These are taken from on the ground looking west. You can see the other tunnel way down there. It gives you an idea of the size.

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I'm still in awe of Aphrodisias. One more site in Turkiye to knock off my list!! One our way out I of course had to get a photo of the bull.

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Mehmet wanted to play with my camera, so I let him. The result....I think it is a nice effect.

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This face had donkey ears....

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Then there were the ever present cats...

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I didn't take too many photos of cats because we had planned to stop for lunch at a roadside restaurant. It was a very nice place in a beautiful setting. Mehmet had told me there was usually a man there playing the saz, a stringed Turkish/Middle Eastern instrument. What was funny was he was playing Ode to Joy! I let Mehmet order since he knows the food better than I do. We had pide, which is kind of like pizza, grilled mushrooms and cheese, and grilled meatballs. All very delicious!! As usual fruit was served for dessert.

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Ok, scold me. I forgot to take photos of my food because I was so hungry! We left the Anatolia restaurant to head back to Kusadasi with a stop for gas and Turkish tea. Most gas stations in Turkey seem to serve food or at least coffee and tea. This one had fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juice as well. Very nice!! It was quite a shock to pay 100 YTL (which stands for Yeni Türk Lirasi or New Turkish Lira by the way). That works out to be about 60USD to fill the equivalent of a Yaris or Ford Focus. No complaints when I get back to the US. Imagine what we would say if we had to pay over $6 a gallon. I had to photograph this just for kicks and giggles...and memory sake!!

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So, we are driving back and Mehmet asks me if I would mind him stopping in Aydin so he can look at a car at the Toyota dealership. Of course not!! After all he took time out of his day to take me way out of the way and show me around Aphrodisias. So we stopped at the Toyota dealership and looked at a few cars. Looks pretty much the same as US dealers, but with less cars and hardly any SUVs or big trucks. Mehmet tells me that Turkiye taxes gas guzzlers so much that you have to be very well off to afford one. That is one way to get the people into economical vehicles.

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We did test drive one. It was quite fun driving down the road in Turkiye at almost 140 kph!! Better than a taxi ride at least!

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No, Mehmet did not buy a car. He tells me cars are very expensive there. But when you need one, you need one. He did invite me back to their home, where his wife and a friend fixed cheese fondue, served a variety of cheeses, some which were Turkish, fresh cukes and tomatoes and let me finally try retsina. Retsina is a Greek wine that is aged with pine resin on the corks. It gives it a distinctive flavor and no I haven't tried it in Greece! They couldn't believe it. We also had some great Turkish wine and wonderful conversation. It was the best night yet!! I am grateful for their wonderful hospitality.

Posted by oceanchild 07:57 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

A Delightful Turkish Day

Aphrodite, here I come!

sunny 21 °C

I am very lucky to have friends in Turkiye. When I was here in January we had the most wonderful guide. Mehmet truly cared about sharing the wonders of his country with us and taught us so much. I think that is part of the reason why I love Turkiye so much. The people are so open and friendly. Hospitality seems to be second nature. Turkiye has my vote for most friendly country. No doubt about it.

When I decided I wanted to return I was a bit worried about traveling here alone. I expressed that worry to Jan, along with my strong desire to come back here (and if anyone understands that desire, it is Jan for certain) she was gracious enough to contact Mehmet's wife, Fisun, and ask her if she could possibly help me. Fisun went above and beyond to help make my stay here an amazing and worry free holiday. I will ever be grateful. She made most of the arrangements for me, including my hotel in Istanbul and Kusadasi, and was happy to answer any of my questions along the way. She met me at the port and walked me to my hotel. It felt like I had known her for years. Once I settled in we made plans for going to Aphrodisias the next day. We were to meet at 10 in the hotel lobby. She would drive, I would pay for the car and gas. Plans made, I decided to go find something to eat. The little cafe/bar/restaurant next to the hotel seemed good enough, if not a bit pricey. But I have to remember that 15YTL is really only about 9.5 USD. Still, it's tough to look at the price of a simple entree and see 15-20 next to it. In spite of it, I ordered the chicken kebap and tried to order an Efes or Efes dark. They only had Tubord and and Carlsburg. The tragedy. I bar in Kusadasi and it has no Efes? So close to Ephesus and no Efes? Pity. I would have loved one about them.

It is typical here that when you speak the language, the Turks respond with excitement. Sometimes that is hard to gauge. My waiter was thrilled that I was using my Turkish. I'm not quite sure what to think of some of his remarks though. For instance "what are you doing after you eat dinner here? You go out? You go to sleep?" He kept asking in some form or another. And when I told him "go to sleep" he proceeded to ask "what you do tomorrow night?" When I left he said "I see you tomorrow I hope" I will admit, I am enamoured by the broken English. Flattered by the attention somewhat. But I have to question the age of some of these men. Surely I am almost old enough to be their mother! Flattering low light or the glow of the Mediterranean sun? It's anyone's guess.

Sleep came to me that night in spite of the loud music at the bar just below me. But it came and was welcome. For some reason I felt much more at home there than on Samos, or Kalavrita, or Olympia. Don't ask me to explain, I can't. I feel at home in Turkiye. I still feel like a foreigner in Greece much of the time.

Saturday morning I had my breakfast of bread, honey, jam, olives, cukes, tomatoes and cheese all washed down with plenty of Turkish tea. I sat there waiting for Fisun to get there at 9. She had called the hotel the night before and said to meet at 9 instead of 10. An extra hour is always good. I happen to look up from my plate and guess who is walking through the door? Mehmet! Fisun had things to do at home and Mehmet happened to be free, so he was taking me to Aphrodisias. I was thrilled because I wasn't sure I would get to see him while in Kusadasi. The drive would be a long one, and I was hoping worth it. We headed out through the Meander valley and things started to look familiar to me. We had come this way in January. I'm still amazed at how much I took in back then! We stopped on the way for fresh squeezed orange (portakal) and pomegranate (nar) juice. It is like the nectar of the gods. If you have never had it, you are missing a piece of heaven.

Mehmet and I talked of politics, history, languages, religion, you name it, on our drive. It was great to just chat. We finally arrived at Aphrodisias. Mehmet kept telling me I would be amazed at this place. It's very far removed and parts of it are well preserved because of that. Aphrodisias is the site of an ancient sanctuary dedicated to Aphrodite. It is said that the site had been a shrine to the Mother Goddess of Fertility since 5800 BCE, but the actual sanctuary was not build until around 74 BCE. Aphrodite, as many may recall, is the goddess of love.

There were several tour groups there so we hit the museum first. There was a fairly new display of sculpture from the Sebasteion. Many of these looked as if they were just sculpted yesterday. Like this detail of Prometheus from a scene where Herakles releases him from bondage and torture. The details are nice.

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Thankfully the cult statue from the temple has been preserved as well. I've always wanted to see a cult statue.

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From the museum we walked the foot path around the entire complex. Mehmet kept telling me there were hundreds of faces carved for the theatre decor. I thought he was exaggerating, but he wasn't. There were theatre masks everywhere you turned! No two appeared to be alike.

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I was lucky enough to have the theatre to myself for about 5 minutes. Mehmet had to go make a phone call and turned me lose to explore as I wished. I got ahead of a big tour group and walked down into the theatre while it was deserted. This is where solitude is a good thing. Even after all the ancient theatres I have seen, I'm still in awe of them. The perfection astounds me. I only wish we could create such wonders now.

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Then the tour group showed up and my solitude was lost. So I left the theatre to head down toward the baths of Hadrian. Here again was a moment when solitude was appreciated. Call to prayer echoing over the countryside has to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. Just to stand there taking in all of the beauty while listening to the call to prayer has to be one of my best moments.

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Mehmet finally caught back up to when I got down toward the baths of Hardian. The retro look was in even back then!!

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See, in Turkiye you can even touch the ancient ruins!

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From the bath and pool we headed over the the bouleuterion, or parliment house. This is one of the best preserved becuase nobody reclaimed the marble facing on the seats.

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The chairs on the upper tier of rows were carved with dolphins....and me....

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After the bouleuterion it was to the temple! I'm going to continue in a second entry, mainly because I'm tired and want to get up early tomorrow to catch breakfast and take in everything I can, but also because there is a lot to share.

Posted by oceanchild 11:34 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

I arrived in İstanbul

and am finding that I'm rather disappointed I only have 3 days here

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I arrived safely from Izmir to İstanbul. It was a short flight but they still fed us. Turkish Airlines has props in my book, especially now a days when airlines are cutting back significantly in the US. I got to my hotel by cab around 10:45, came to my room, called home to let my husband know I made it, woke him up, then I headed out to see if I remembered how to get around. I'll go into details after I have uploaded some photos. I still have to finish my entry for Kuşadasi as well!! It is raining in İstanbul now, so I will work on my blog, possibly nap and then go out later to do more exploring. I promise to be in by a decent hour. I know better than to explore the dark streets of İstanbul at night.

Posted by oceanchild 04:53 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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