floating in the aegean sea, finding (someone else’s) true love, & the bus back to istanbul

Saturday: After eating the Hotel Sozer‘s pathetic excuse for a breakfast, I become embroiled in an altercation with the staff.  On my way to breakfast, I tell them I have no hot water.   They assure me they will fix it.  After eating, I check in with them and they haven’t even had anyone follow-up. A boy follows me up to my room and tells me I should leave the water to run for 10 minutes. I do and it remains coolish-lukewarm. This is upsetting to me because I have not run across a bathtub in ages (only once at the Antik Cave Hotel); Korea has few or no bathtubs, and Turkey is lacking as well.  I have my mind made up that I will take a bath at this hotel, and they are foiling my plans. In addition, the phone in my room isn’t working, so each time I have to make an inquiry about the water, I have to go all the way downstairs again.  I do just that after running the water for 10 minutes and finding no change in the temperature.

the pre-dawn view out of my crappy hotel window

the pre-dawn view out of my crappy hotel window

Another staff guy comes up and sticks his hand under the water.  He says in a snide voice, What?  This isn’t warm enough for you? I say, No!  Are you kidding?  He says, Let it run 30 minutes.  I say, 30 minutes!! That’s ridiculous!  He says, You have no choice.  You have to wait.  He leaves and the water runs, never changing from its original temperature.

I go downstairs again.  They brush me off, say there is nothing that can be done. I ask about my phone.  I say I need to call my travel agent to make arrangements for my overnight bus tonight and I have no working phone.  They say they will get someone to check on it.  I finally go take my lukewarm SHOWER (a lukewarm bath is no fun!) and still, when it is time for me to leave for my boat trip at 9 a.m., no one has come up to fix my phone.  I go downstairs and tell the desk staff I need to use a phone because mine isn’t working.  They grudgingly make the call for me, but it’s too early; Turista’s office in Istanbul isn’t open.  By then I am furious at their attitude.  As if I am the one being unreasonable!  I must check out of the hotel and leave my bag with them for the day because I will not return till 5:00 from the boat trip.  I tell them before I leave that this hotel has terrible service and I am not one bit happy. They shrug.  Obviously service matters not to the Hotel Sozer.

a cruise on the aegean

I am the first one on the boat.  A woman with scarlet-dyed hair and a tight-fitting camouflage/leopard print top offers a drink.

the maroon-headed lady

the maroon-headed lady

The air is blue and breezy and the water shimmers and bounces in the sun.  It’s a lovely day for a cruise.  I sip a Coke and wait.  Two tall unshaven Turkish men (they look like brothers) are readying the boat for the day, moving ropes and anchors and cushions, chopping food in the gallery below, filling coolers with ice.  Birol, the one who booked my trip,  shows up briefly to say hello, hugs the other two men, and then vanishes.

departing the marina for the day-long cruise

departing the marina for the day-long cruise

A large group of 12 arrives; they are all Iranians.  One of the women, wearing huge sunglasses,  sits beside me on the cushions; she is quite pretty but she looks miserable and says she has a horrible headache.  Another nice young lady, Mitra, tells me she teaches English in Iran.  She’s Iranian, though, not a native speaker.

so happy to relax

so happy to relax

Other people arrive in pairs and smaller groups, Belgians, Turks; I am the lone American.  Finally the boat pulls out of the marina and we are on our way.  We cruise along the northern shore until we reach a rocky cove with some caves.  Several of the guys jump overboard and swim.  I am not warmed up enough yet for swimming, so I just watch.

looking back at the marina from the boat

looking back at the marina from the boat

After a half hour or so, we head out into the wide blue sea.  At first we can’t even see land on the horizon.  It’s a bumpy ride of at least an hour.  The Iranians are drinking beer and I swear there is some Persian music playing and they are dancing all over the boat, snapping their fingers over their heads, twirling around and around.  They ask me if I’d like to dance, but I’m not really ready to start drinking & dancing at 11 a.m.  I enjoy just chilling and watching.

the seasick iranian girl in the sunglasses and her kind boyfriend in the purple shirt

the seasick iranian girl in the sunglasses and her kind boyfriend in the purple shirt

The Iranian girl with the sunglasses is turning white.  She is getting progressively sicker and is now vomiting into a plastic bag.  Her boyfriend, a handsome gray-haired guy in his 40s stays by her side, bringing her ice, holding her, letting her lean her head against him.  She looks horrible.  He is patient and kind.  I know it’s really tough to travel with someone who is sick when you feel just fine.

Finally, we arrive at a pretty cove with a beach and a couple of trees; a rocky ledge and silvery bushes border the inland side of the beach.  Five other mid-sized cruise boats are anchored in the cove.  People on some of the boats are dancing and singing.  The seasick Iranian girl climbs off the boat and swims to the beach, where she lies like a dead person under a shade tree the whole time we are anchored.    I descend the ladder into the water.  Shocked by the cold at first, I am soon soothed and cooled.  I float and swim around and around.  Three little Turkish boys, maybe 12 or 13, keep saying Hi! Hello! to me. (This sounds like my students in Korea.  They’re always saying Hi! Hello! But they can never take the conversation any further.) One of the boys with a pimply face keeps winking at me!

one of the other boats in the cove

one of the other boats in the cove

The two men and the scarlet-haired lady serve us a huge lunch at a big center table.  I have a beer now as it is after noon.  The three Turkish boys are sitting on the ledge at the back of the boat.  The pimply one keeps smiling at me and winking.  Boy, they are trained early here in the art of flirtation!

After lunch, and my beer (!), I lie in my bikini (which I never wear around anyone I know!) on plastic cushions covering the bow of the boat and sleep.  I sleep so soundly that when I wake up, I find we have moved to an entirely different cove!  I never even felt or heard the boat moving.  I must be exhausted. 🙂

the beach at the cove

the beach at the cove

We stop at 3 different coves, each time for about an hour.  Each time, I dip into the cool turquoise water and swim.  After, we take the long ride back to Kuşadası.  This late in the afternoon, the water is quite rough, and we bounce roughly home.  By this time the seasick Iranian girl is practically wearing the plastic bag around her mouth, puking into it constantly.  Her face is pale and her eyes are black and sunken.  I have never seen anyone so seasick.  Her boyfriend remains kind and patient; he sits on the floor holding her, pulling her hair off her face, rubbing her back.

I sit toward the front of the boat as we chop & bounce along and chat with the scarlet-haired lady and her husband.  I find that she is a nurse from eastern Turkey and they have been married a long time and have a 17-year-old son.  Her husband is Birol’s brother and the brother of the other captain on the boat.  They all look alike, tall, lanky, a little sun-weathered and grizzled, but handsome.   She and her husband look into each other’s eyes, laugh together, seem incredibly happy, even after being married a long time.

cruising

cruising

I think I have found true love.  Yesterday, at the Virgin Mary’s house, I drank from the fountain of love, and I made two wishes hoping to find true love here in Turkey.  Sadly, I forgot to wish for true love FOR ME!!  I think on this cruise today, I find true love multiplied by two.  The Iranian boyfriend taking such good care of his seasick girlfriend and this couple, the scarlet-haired lady and her weathered captain husband.  I realize that this is probably the closest I will come to having my wish come true. 😦

After the cruise, I go back to the haman for a pedicure.  Though yesterday’s bath and massage were quite lovely, today’s pedicure is amateurish.  The lady holds my feet on her lap and dries my toenails by blowing on them!  She never applies a clear protective coat.  By the time I return to the hotel from the hamam, the nail polish is already chipping.

boats galore

boats galore

On my way back, I stop at a cafe and eat a quick mushroom omelet, then I wait at the hotel to get picked up for my last overnight bus back to Istanbul.  The hotel of course had never called Turista as I had asked them to;  finally, I connect with Marina myself; she tells me someone will pick me up at 8:00 and he will have my bus ticket.  I am squirming because the guy doesn’t get there until 8:30.  I imagine the worst: having to stay another night at the Hotel Sozer!

coming back into the marina

coming back into the marina

Finally, I am transported to the bus terminal, where I have to wait 45 minutes in the grungy, dirty outdoor terminal.  I am miserably hot and sweaty.  I board the bus, finally, at 9:30.  Next to me tonight is a fat Turkish woman who falls promptly asleep and leans in my direction like the Tower of Pisa all night.  Each time we stop for breaks, I have to climb over her; she never even flinches.  Her legs are like tree trunks…. it’s a good thing she’s asleep.  Otherwise, she would be someone serious to contend with!

Again, the long overnight trip with the sporadic stops.  The bus terminals bustle with Muslim women in colorful floral headscarves, sunken-eyed children, rough-looking Turkish men smoking and standing around in some kind of secret brotherhood.  Always these pretzel-like things for sale, which I never get around to trying. The light in these places is always a dirty yellow; in it, the shadowy faces look sallow and sickly, including my own. The toilets have bidets to clean your undersides, like all good Muslim countries, & big washtubs for washing before prayers.  These terminals have a seamy underside that is partially mitigated by the covered Muslim women; they somehow make these surreal places seem safe.  I figure they are prayerful women and they’re in charge; the men are rough and tired from the wear & tear of their hard lives. These women look like peasants; they’re different from the covered women in Egypt or Dubai.  In Dubai, especially, the covered women seem to wear the classic and simple all-black hijabs.

Anyway, I can’t help but think that in all this heat, in Turkey, Dubai, or Egypt, the covering seems silly.  I sympathize with the modesty factor in the religion, but I cannot truly understand why these women choose this, or submit to it.

Back to Istanbul… for my last 3 days.

 

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ancient ephesus, the virgin’s alleged home, the artemis column (& will the real turkish bath please stand up?)

Friday, July 30: In the morning, there’s a flurry of confusion as  I decide I want to relax an extra day in Kuşadası instead of returning to Istanbul tonight by overnight bus.  Kuşadası is a resort town full of blue sky and blue sea on Turkey’s Aegean coast, about 60 miles south of Izmir.   I’m burned out from touring and need a rest day.  I call my English-speaking tour guide at Turista, Marina, and she arranges it, but it involves me checking out of the Hotel Ozdelick and checking in at the Hotel Sozer right next door.  It may be right next door, but it is definitely a huge step down!

hotel sozer, a big step down from the hotel ozdelick

hotel sozer, a big step down from the hotel ozdelick

the beach in kusadasi

the beach in kusadasi

ephesus

The tour today is led by a cute Turkish girl named Gonja who warns us that it is easy to get lost in Ephesus; she’ll carry a white umbrella so we can always find her.  She also passes out earphones and transmitters that we hang around our necks like huge pendulums. We have, once again, the Pakistani family of 11 and another group of 6 from Toronto, Canada who were in Croatia for a wedding and decided to visit Turkey as well.  On the way to Ephesus, Gonja quizzes us on the capital of Turkey, which we answer correctly is Ankara.  She says many people mistakenly think  Istanbul is the capital; this historic city is the capital of commerce with 17 million people, but Ataturk designed Ankara as the capital because it’s centrally located.

gonja and her white umbrella

gonja and her white umbrella

Gonja tells us about Turkish “permission nights,” when a potenital suitor’s family comes to visit a girl’s family.  If the girl thinks she likes the boy, the family puts sugar in the Turkish coffee.  If she already has a boyfriend, they put salt in it.  If the girl says no way, under any circumstances, would she be interested in that boy, they put anything they can find in the kitchen into the coffee: laundry detergent, chili peppers, whatever.  They then serve this coffee to everyone in attendance.

Gonja warns that the sun will be unbearable, that we might want to buy hats and bottled water.  I don’t usually wear hats, especially because my head is so huge that most hats won’t fit. 🙂 But when we see a long array of outdoor shops, the first one of which has a sign “Genuine Fake Watches,” I can’t resist exploring this place.  I find a hat in the style of Neville’s hat from yesterday.  Sometimes I like to take on other people’s identities, and I think it will be cool to look a little like an Aussie around-the-world traveler.  So I purchase it and place it atop my big head.  Yes, the XL fits just fine.

Genuine Fake Watches

Genuine Fake Watches

the ruins at Ephesus

the ruins at Ephesus

in my neville-like hat at the amphitheatre

in my neville-like hat at the amphitheatre

Gonja opens her white umbrella and we follow her, only to become confused by another guide assuming Gonja’s identity.  He too is carrying a white umbrella.  Luckily, he is male and she female.  We recognize the we might become momentarily misguided, but upon finding ourselves so, we will quickly be able to rectify the situation.

a few of the Pakistani delegation

a few of the Pakistani delegation

The Ephesus ruins still retain much of their former glory.  Enough is still standing of the city to imagine it as it was centuries ago, and with its crowds of tourists milling about, it is brought to life for us modern-day interlopers.  We can see it as the bustling Roman city it once was.  I wear my hat for a while, but my head gets wet and sticky underneath and I end up removing it to cool off.  I remember now that this is why I don’t wear hats, or sunglasses, for that matter;  they make me sweat.  I hate to sweat.

the bustling city of ephesus

the bustling city of ephesus

Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a major Roman city, on the west coast of Turkey. In the Classical Greek era, it was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League. In the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city (behind Rome) of the Roman Empire.   More than 250,000 people lived in Ephesus in the 1st century BC, which also made it the second largest city in the world (Lonely Planet Turkey).

ruins galore

ruins galore

Ephesus acquired a sizable Christian congregation.  It’s said that St. John settled here with the Virgin Mary.  St. Paul lived here for 3 years around AD 60, where he organized evangelism missions into the outlying communities.  It’s believed Paul wrote the first letter to the Corinthians from Ephesus and later wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome.  The Gospel of John was possibly written in Ephesus around 90-100 AD and Ephesus was one of the 7 cities addressed in Revelation.

Ephesus

Ephesus

We wander through the Odeion, Curetes Street, water and sewer systems, the Temples of the Goddess Rome and the Divine Caesar, The Pyrtaneion, The Pollio Fountain, The Temple of Domitian, The Temple of Hadrian, The Roman Library of Celsus, the Latriana, the Gate of Augustus, the agora.  The Odeion is the small theater that used to serve as council chambers.  The Temple of Hadrian boasts a head of Medusa to keep out evil spirits.

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

The Library facade sits like an impressive exclamation point at the far end of the city.  This library once held 12,000 scrolls in niches around its walls and was temperature-controlled.  The Latriana was the public toilets, arranged side by side with no partitions.

Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

The most impressive ruin is the Library of Celsus which was apparently built to look larger than it really is.  Of all the ruins at Ephesus, it truly takes one back in time to its Roman heyday.

We spend several hours in Ephesus and after, we all congregate and go directly to lunch.   Another covered open air buffet place, but the food and the atmosphere are better than the same type of place from yesterday.  I miss my friend Neville today, because all of the other tourists are grouped; I’m the only lone traveler.  The Pakistani family eats quickly and heads off for the nearest mosque for Friday prayers.  One of their party gets inadvertently left behind.  Seeing I am all alone, one nice girl from the Toronto party befriends me and invites me to eat with them.

Library of Celsus

Library of Celsus

After lunch I wander through a small shop and then sit at a table that catches the only breeze in the place.  I sit with the shopkeeper, the Pakistani guy, and Gonja.  We have to wait a good hour for the Pakistanis to return from the mosque; we amiably sip several glasses of hot apple tea and bask in the small whiffs of breeze that come our way.

me in front of the library of celsus ~ i love books:-)

me in front of the library of celsus ~ i love books:-)

After lunch we visit a tile factory where I am overwhelmed by too many beautiful plates, bowls, & tiles and I want them all desperately but they are expensive and will be too heavy to carry.  I am determined to stick to my original plan to visit the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul on my last day, and carry whatever I buy directly home to Korea from there.

the virgin mary’s house

We visit Meryemana, the Virgin Mary’s house.  Believers say the Virgin Mary came to Ephesus with St. John towards the end of her life (AD 37-45).  Pope Paul VI visited the site in 1967, unofficially authenticating it, and it soon became a place of pilgrimage.

the virgin mary's house

the virgin mary’s house

Here, places abound for prayers and wishes. Outside of the chapel, I light two candles: one, praying for my son Alex to find his way in his life and, two, for me to find true love in Turkey.  Next, there are four fountains that originate from beneath the floor of the house. Each one is supposed to have special curative properties.  I drink from the one that is supposed to bring love. ♥♥♥

the fountain where i drink the water of love....

the fountain where i drink the water of love….

Below the chapel a wall is covered in rags: Turks tie bits of cloth or paper (or whatever they have on hand) to a frame to make a wish.  On a paper tissue, I write a wish to find true love here in Turkey in July/August 2010.  Hmmm…. I always wonder when I make wishes such as these if I am asking specifically enough for what I want….

the wall of wishes

the wall of wishes

the temple of artemis

After the Virgin Mary’s house, we head to the Temple of Artemis, which was in its time the largest of its kind in the world, even bigger than the Parthenon. This got it listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Today, there is only one column left remaining.  The goddess of Artemis, for whom the temple was named, is the goddess of wildlife, hunting and moonlight.

the one remaining column of the artemis temple

the one remaining column of the artemis temple

The first incarnation of the temple was built in the middle of the 8th century BC; it was destroyed by flood in the 7th century BC.  Then a new temple of marble was built in 550 BC and then destroyed in an act of arson in 356 BC.  Apparently a fellow named Herostratus destroyed it so his name would be known through history; the outraged Ephesians sentenced him to death and forbade anyone to ever mention his name.  However, someone recorded his name so the arsonist got his wish for minor fame.  On the night Herostratus was killed, Alexander the Great was born.  The temple was later restored in 323 BC, after Alexander’s death; that reconstruction was also disrupted in a raid by the Goths.  Eventually the early Christians rebuilt the temple only to have it finally destroyed by a mob in 401.  The stones were all taken away and put to other uses.

leather

Our final stop today is at a leather factory where we watch a hip and fast-paced fashion show of stylish Turks wearing tight pants and leather jackets.  I am sitting nearest the door where the models come out.  After the show, the models pull people from the audience and they insist, despite all my protests, that I come up.  THIS IS SOOO EMBARRASSING!!  Especially because today I am wearing these baggy (read: frumpy) cargo shorts and a loose-fitting shirt.  They put me into this cream knee-length leather jacket, and I look like some kind of Bozo the clown.  It is so horrible!  Thank god these are people I will never see again in my life.  I try to be kind of funny about it, because I know there is no way I can pull of “stylish!”  Afterwards, I want to climb into a deep dark hole and disappear.

the models in leather....

the models in leather….

I wander through the showroom and come across a really cool black leather jacket with a belt.  The price tag says 900 euros, which I would NEVER pay, but the sales people are very pushy, insist on finding my size, demand I try it on.  Frankly, even with my stupid cargo shorts, it looks quite cute!  After much pushing and prodding, I say I MIGHT be willing to pay $350 USD.  WHAT AM I THINKING??  The girl from Toronto, who has befriended me and is watching over me, comes to the rescue.  She says, DON”T LET THEM PRESSURE YOU!   She admits the jacket is quite nice, very chic, looks good on me.  But she, the voice of reason, says, Do you really want to spend $350 on a leather jacket?  She and I go into the ladies’ room where she tells me to take my time.  As we walk out of the restroom, Gonja comes up and says, what did you decide?  I waver.  The Toronto girl says, NO!  And we bypass the showroom and the pushy salespeople, and get directly on the bus.  Whew!  Close call….. 🙂

will the real turkish hamam please stand up?

Back at the lovely (NOT) Hotel Sozer, I decide to sign up for a day-long boat cruise tomorrow.  The guy who runs the cruise, Birol, walks with me to the marina to show me the boat. I pay him and then ask him where I can find a Turkish hamam.  I want to have the normal experience of the Turkish bath while here, since my “local” hamam experience with Hakan was so bizarre.  The boat guy takes me to a lovely lower level spa at a seaside hotel;  it’s a modern spa much like one finds in the U.S.   I am naked but given a kind of checkered tablecloth covering which I keep wrapped around me the whole time.  A young lady in a bikini rubs me down with a soapy scouring pad.  She dips a towel into a bucket of lemony suds and waves the towel back and forth; the towel puffs up like cotton candy.  She squeezes the towel over me and I am covered in aromatic lemony bubbles.  She scrubs and scrubs.

turkish tiles

turkish tiles

I sit in a waiting room in a fluffy white robe, where I’m given ice-cold water. Then into a massage room, where the same girl, who has changed out of her bikini into tight overalls, gives me a fabulous, utterly relaxing, olive oil massage for a whole hour.  Ahhhh… heaven!  When I leave, I ask if I should shower, and they say No!!  Surprisingly, my body has soaked up all the olive oil and my skin feels softer and shinier than it has ever felt.

Will the real Turkish bath please stand up………?

An expensive Turkish plate I really want to buy but don't :-(

An expensive Turkish plate I really want to buy but don’t 😦

I am too relaxed. I eat a margarita pizza at a seaside cafe, accompanied by a glass of red wine, and then promptly go to bed where I dream of Turkish baths from days gone by, burly Turkish masseuses, and a sweet guy named Hakan taking me down that crazy road.

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