Europe 2015: An Anatolian Hiatus
Slipping from the bonds of Istanbul's grasp with barely noticeable motion, this monstrous ferry slithers by a snoozing cemetery of freighters that is the sizable merchant fleet parked offshore from Yenakapi. Straightaway, then, we get to crossing the Sea of Marmara and officially say goodbye to the grand city. An epic adventure this is definitely not, however, certainly not in its form of only two hours of smooth sailing aboard a large, modern, and eminently comfortable ship.
There's the odd dolphin to spot through the window for entertainment, but otherwise I preoccupy myself with reading or nodding off (what with such a convenient portal of glass to lean my head upon). Sooner than I would've guessed, then, we've arrived at a port across the way; suddenly I'm needing to pose questions to the various folks who line the way through and out of the terminal: "How do I get to Bursa?!?" I've heard there's a bus, and I see plenty of folks boarding one, but the answers I'm uniformly getting are to take a taxi. Hmm... sounds spendy... not my usual mileiu... but not having really researched the issue (unfortunately per the usual), I allow them to softly bully me into the concept and jump in.
Big mistake. But it's not to the driver's discredit: he just does as he's told, efficiently shuttling me at good speed in this pristine VW onward to Bursa. This, however, does nothing to diminish the fact that I'm noticing how the meter just keeps rising and rising. It's gonna take more to get to the big city than I've estimated. Thus it's nearly 70TL later (~$30, compared to a bus that probably cost $1) that I'm being let off at Bursa's bus station. I tip the friendly driver in spite of my disappointing choice, rueing my stupidity in noting that I usually possess better street/travel smarts than this. But I've blown it and that's that.
At least it doesn't take much time to query around the station, almost immediately finding myself aboard a very cushy Pamukkale bus heading to Bergama. This is more my speed, using public transportation at all of 40TL to achieve 5-1/2 hours of comfy cruising through what appears to be generally well-cultivated countryside. In between these copious fields and groves I notice mostly modern buildings, meanwhile, plus the odd graveyard (almost always located in woods) - while also spotting a fair amount of trash at the side of the road. Evidently recycling hasn't quite managed to even start up in Turkey; certainly that was Istanbul's case, at least on any formal level. Onboard, however, all is glistening and clean, and I happily accept the freebie sweets and tea the attendant offers while surfing through the music offerings from the digital device screen facing my seat. It takes a while to rummage through the gobs of crappy contemporary Turkish pop, true, but eventually I find older, traditional tunes that show true musicianship, technique, and style: I'm aurally content for the rest of the ride.
About 4.5-5 hours into the trip I'm nevertheless itching to be done with this pleasure cruise, listless as we cross through the coastal areas north of Izmir. This is obviously an area more than a little down on its heels, but this moderate bleakness sufficiently prepares me for what comes next - when I'm let out of my luxury liner and plopped into a vacant, small and isolated bus station some 7km outside of Bergama. This inconvenience of this compromise dumping ground apparently results from the fact that the fabled town lies a little inland and off of the main route to Izmir. Crud. Sigh.
The only remaining passenger on the bus by this time, a woman, now joins me in waiting for our free shuttle arranged by Pamukkale to head into town. Misery loves company, and we're both mildly miserable as together we now endure a relentless and blasting heat. It lets itself be better known by the sizable wind that pushes it in our faces, but it's that which prompts me to do what comes natural: I pull out the horn... to allow the miracle to happen: My new friend shortly flicks on her phone, dialing her husband.
In seemingly only minutes he arrives, and I'm offered a ride into town. Cha-ching! Along the way the rewards compound, too, as I'm offered a bit of history lesson of the area. Then, perhaps inevitably, the conversation turns to jazz after the subject of my trumpet is brought up. It turns out that my benefactor behind the wheel, Çesar, is a veritable trove of jazz lore: he even owned a cafe that played it nonstop in Istanbul's Kadiköy neighborhood. Kindred spirits, we compare heroes of the horn, piano, and composition with a good deal of overlap in our tastes.
As we angle through town with such conviviality, then, I'm offered lunch at their house - should I decide that Bergama can wait a moment - and that turns out to be a great call when I eagerly agree to the opportunity. Some 10km beyond town finds us in their village, then, where we enter their small house/compound and the wine and raki (an anise-based hard spirit) shortly come out. Somehow we shift from lunch to dinner along the way, then into a late night of conversation, and frankly it's a wonder that I actually remember to call my hotel to ask about pushing back my stay a night as more olives, hummus, and various vegetables from their organic garden are served up. Humble statements of trying to pull together a quick meal have turned into an all-out feast as far as I'm concerned, and I learn of my friends' history in Istanbul and their new life here out in the sticks. Çesar's thinking that all this returning to the countryside might eventually culminate in another cafe here in town (Bergama), a jazz haven similar to his previous one in the big city. Maybe that's just the raki talking, but it sounds good.
The inevitable hard crash at their house leads to an unsurprisingly slow morning, and then I'm ushered back into town with a few more history lessons being offered toward my back seat. I'd rather my new friend actually looked at the road and gave the chain cigarettes a break, sure, but for the greatest part I'm really enjoying this unexpected company and gracious hospitality. We safely reenter the town in spite of our driving methods taken, soon sidling along the famous Red Basilica (2nd Century A.D.) which is being restored in the center of town. I'm pointed out a ruin of a building across the street from it: *this* will eventually be the new cafe, I'm proudly told. It's got a long way to go, yes, but I'm betting he'll do it justice. In any event I'm shortly dropped off near my first official digs outside of Istanbul, very happy to be counted a survivor of one very pleasant, non-Dervish whirlwind of a night of talk and booze.
The unassuming and quiet Hotel Athenas becomes my brief home now, an oddly reclusive sanctuary set back from the hubbub of the main road that lies at just a mere block away. It houses some ancient buildings within its low walls, a picturesque redoubt to be sure, but best of all it also affords a rather stunning view of the Roman ruins that tower above Bergama and give the place its raison d'être on the tourist circuit. Then again, wait a sec... come to think of it, *have* I being seing any tourists? Nope, and nor will I. Strange. Even the hostel only has a small family staying over for a night, but I deem this vacant feel positively perfect when I spy hammocks to be enjoyed without competition, and this the more so after finding my host to be quite knowledgeable about the area and helpful with suggestions. That the breakfast come morning will be the most varied and of the highest quality in my entire Turkish delight of a visit doesn't hurt, either.
But of course I've mainly come here for the ruins, like everyone else. So, waiting until dusk to take some edge off of the sun, I cut through teeny Bergama's downtown to dutifully make my way up the steep access road to the ruins. Eventually scrambling up some even-steeper goat trails to access them more directly, unfortunately, proves to be not necessarily the brightest idea but, in retrospect, here I am and here's the sought reward: an odd cluster of columns and hunks of carved rock: Ruin city!
It's the (extremely vertical!) amphitheater that first draws me like a moth to the proverbial flame, of course, and I've not coincidentally brought my trumpet along. So I immediately give a good go of dramatic tunes, testing out different angles from what I assume must've been the stage area give or take two or three thousand years (make that around 1st Century A.D., when Bergama was Pergamon). Disappointingly, it turns out that the sound quality here isn't discovered to be anything special, or at least not at all to the performer, but I can nevertheless appreciate the magnificent setting and how it looms so above the town. These are my first Roman ruins in the countryside, after all, and at the very least I'm greatly enjoying hearing the birds tweet here on high while following their frantic hunt-n-dives from such a prominent, solitary location.
Almost no one else is around here for me to potentially disturb with my horn or mere presence, either, so I climb further up to eventually make my way through all of the ruins at a leisurely pace. A lot is left to the imagination, to be sure, but at least I find some passageways which suffice to offer better venues for playing the horn. I'm certainly in no hurry to leave this serene place. Frankly, it's only the falling of the sun which ushers me out, with me being the last of seemingly only a few visitors on the day and no noticeable security whatsoever. Hmm. I guess stealing an artistically-labored rock would be both in poor taste... and impractical.
With hopes of saving time and fading sunlight, I eventually re-access the road via my not-so-favorite goat paths. Oops!: Looks like the gate's already been closed. I regardless make my way around and out of it, soon offered a ride down into town by a young man on a moped. Perhaps surprisingly, I accept on a whim - I've just had a great experience this way less than 24 hours ago, why not allow for another? - but almost immediately I regret doing so when we move down the hill rather quickly. I'm not exactly sporting a helmet for what seems the inevitable wipeout, but - surprise! - it doesn't happen, and I'm again let off near the Red Basilica without a scratch (or any other damage - if conveniently ignoring the extra million heartbeats my suffering organ called a heart has just churned through in a very short period of time. I guess I won't be getting those back anytime soon.)
Then, well, that's already about it for Bergama as far as I'm concerned. Sure, I do the obligatory wandering about town for a bit, looking for a bite to eat while checking the few other ancient buildings of note I spotted from above. Even an overly eager, snappily dressed man feverishly beckons me to come over and sit at his table when I it pass by a couple of times, but I decide to skip on a third potential cultural exchange in Bergama when it feels that this might really just be a gay hookup in the offing. I opt instead in favor of a quiet restaurant where I can read about, well, Cuba some more. Yeah, maybe that guy just wanted to practice his English, I dunno, but it doesn't hurt to *sometimes* be a bit wary of the overeager unknown. Then again, given this country's proclivities, he probably just wanted to sell me a carpet.
So that's officially it for Bergama's hijinks, and coming morning I say goodbye to that lone Belgian family also leaving behind this elegant and quaint little hotel/B&B - well, not until I've fully indulged again in a leisurely breakfast and some more hammock time. Duh. But otherwise, yep, it's now time to enter the tourism maelstrom that is Ephesus, and I'll being do so in spite of the sketchy WIFI at Athena not giving me an opportunity to reserve a bed in high season. There'll be no worries, I'm (sort of) sure, as I first hop onto a bus to Izmir before jumping onto a second one to Selçuk. Ephesus, here I come!
A mere couple of hours pass uneventfully en route, then I arrive and find myself outside at the bus station, suddenly having to dodge folks that are a little too helpful. One of them surprisingly turns quite angry when I put my hand up to say "Please, no!" to his offers of lodging, taxi, tour, and a litany of other services. Welcome to mass tourism ground zero for Turkey, I guess. Yikes! Eager to escape the madness of a thousand services to be rendered too helpfully, I round a corner to cross the street for a getaway, catching my breath to momentarily recuse myself from this tourist mayhem I've just plunged into before next seeking out a cafe for some tea and working WIFI to research getting a bed for the night. There remain only a handful of spots, I quickly learn, and this doesn't include any beds in a dormitory to save a few Lira, but fortunately a decent one offering a room seems to be just across the street. So "Done!", I sigh, and almost immediately thereafter I deem it already high time for a nap.
My newest home, the ANZ Hostel, has been around some time. It's a rather sprawling space, too, with a generous rooftop terrace (and terraces are really big deals in Turkey, I've come to know) and run by a couple of Turkish brothers - Mehmet, the excellent cook, and Ibrahim, the more responsible one who actually runs the place - in spite of the rather incongruous name. This shortly makes sense, when I'm informed that these two first made their foray into the tourist scene by taking care of Aussies and Kiwis looking for services of any kind (thus the name of the place) - which led into opening the ho(s)tel after getting repeated requests for places to stay. It's a nice story of gradual success, true enough, but as I'm soon rummaging through their brochure book of guided trips I'm only looking for which ones I can do on my own. Lessee... the major ruins of Ephesus are a given - that's why we've all come - but it looks like the local museum has most of its best artifacts. Fine. There's also a nearby Temple of Artemis and some nearby older buildings in town that're worth a looksee. And so - snap snap snap - a properly half-assed program is put in place in about five minutes. Done!
As I make ready to begin my traipsing about, I'm shortly tracked down and then accompanied by a young woman from Hong Kong. She quite evidently feels uncomfortable traveling alone here, and by the time we've gone through the little museum we've headed to - which indeed houses a very professional display of the statuary, I'll agree, especially on account of its blessed A/C and decent coffee to be had afterward - I accept that I'm to be her chaperone. I'd better, because she's already been following me, seemingly always within required eye contact as I make my way through the museum's exhibits of busts, friezes, and the like. Again, impressive displays all, although it *does* seems a shame that I won't be checking them out in situ heading to Ephesus (whence they came).
Now informally tasked as a relatively unknowledgeable tour guide, I lead my charge to now head to the Temple of Artemis, quite reasonably not so far a walk away - if still long enough to sweat a dozen or thousand bullets in this muggy place. The few standing pillars left of the temple, meanwhile, are found to lie in what looks now to be a swamp, albeit against a fantastic backdrop with a setting sun. Near the murky waters there's also a field of carved stones to rummage through should one so desire, the results of the excavation that they didn't know what to do with, I presume. We generally don't, preferring instead to check out this awesome lizard/iguana I spy on a tree. The squirrelly bugger is a bit camera shy, but eventually he (she?) gets used enough to our presence to allow us a good long look.
Lizard-gawking sufficiently accomplished, we next stroll through the nearby - and oldest - neighborhood of town. There we intend to check out another ruin, but it leaves quite a lot to the imagination, reminiscent more than anything else of an oversized outdoor oven. Well, an ancient one, I should add. This we immediately follow by a visit to the imposing St. John's Basilica-turned-mosque building, the supposed #2 highlight of town after Ephesus. To be fair, this latter edifice doesn't thrill, either, but it *is* quite large and in pretty good nick - so we most importantly decide that it offers a respectable respite with shade for a sit. Actually, far more intriguing is a trio of women sitting on a carpet in the shade of a wall by the road on the way, whiling away the day. They're sewing lace while sipping tea and, I'm guessing, catching up on the local gossip. They give us brief smiles lacking quite a few teeth, probably not the first tourists they've seen just on this day alone (although admittedly this stroll has been mostly tourist-free), nor will we likely be the last. It's a peaceful scene.
Ephesus, where I head the morning, is decidedly NOT peaceful, nor serene, nor any other appropriate synonym. And it's not even a remote possibility to be so, either, not when there are tour/shuttle buses that even hail from cruise ships (I think several buses alone come from one called Norwegian Jade). Good gravy, this is going to be insanity! And it is, too, and that's even after making sure I'm among the first to access the ruins for the day (as suggested). Soon herds have formed everywhere there's space, each with their guides to cover virtually all well-known languages - with Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese in surprisingly high numbers. Granted, there are the usual suspects yapping in German, French, English, Spanish, and possibly about every other language under the sun, but I mostly try to stay just on the front side of this moving mass to stay ignorant of what the nearest group is being addressed in. Granted, sometimes I can't help but pick up snippets in one of the several languages I'm familiar with, but nothing earth-shatteringly new is related. In a sense, one ruin of an ancient society isn't drastically different from another. Leisures were few, and storing food and offering protection were always paramount activities and concerns. Then again, let me here not deny the fact that the row of ancient toilets is a hit with everybody... including me.
On the whole, I proceed much more quickly through these extensive ruins than expected, hounded equally by the crowds and the sun. There are some impressive structures to behold, yes - like the library and what's left of its grand facade - but I have my limits with such teeming numbers. So what I've guessed should be a four-hour affair is completed in about two and some change, with perhaps the highlight of it all being this odd, goofy stage show near the exit. I have no idea how accurate the actors portray their Roman characters, boldly pronouncing in stentorian tone their speeches to a growing audience of onlookers, but the dancing about and spear thrusts sure beat hiding behind columns for shade - or making tracks, as yet another tour group approaches whatever spot I've lingered at for more than a minute or two. Yikes. Well, as they say in Rome, "That's Ephesus!"
They probably don't, but I do, so I'm happily aboard a bus and exiting Selçuk post haste come morning. I'm now headed inland to another major attraction, the travertines of Pamukkale - which apparently come with their own set of ruins, Hierapolis. The bus rolls me on in, taking a few hours through mildly hilly countryside, then eventually we're bypassing the big city of Denizli to allow for dumping us all off at nearby Pamukkale instead. Here there's just the teeniest of bus stations, handily located almost directly under the travertines. So much for suspense.
As for this main attraction, yes they are indeed impressive, a huge blob of blurbling-yet-stationary whiteness rolling down a hillside. But that'll have to wait, as my first order of business is yet again to retreat from the insane laserbeam that is the sun. This time my orb-dodging'll be done while evading entreaties from all the tourist shops and restaurants in the area, rather a trivial task when my brain is solely preoccupied with "Wow, this is hot!" Oddly, I straightaway decide on yet another hot lentil soup and hot tea which'll do nothing to lighten the heat load, no, but when I follow this daily required ritual by essentially next living at the bottom of my nearby hotel' swimming pool, I successfully do so. It turns out that the pool is fed from the nearby waters of the travertine above, but by the time they've reached this location they no longer bear any appreciable heat. They'd better not!
Eventually, with a few hours still to go before the season's late dusk - at about 5p.m., as suggested by the welcoming owner of my hotel - I deem it time to check out the travertines with the remaining, eminently more reasonable light supply from above. I pay the fee at the small guardhouse, take off my shoes, then walk on up the slope. With the temperature agreeable all around, both air- and water-wise, this is a pleasant stroll. No shoes, meanwhile, makes for both less erosion and a prettier white that is exposed below my feet, plus it also allows for easily mixing in some traverses of the various pools that have been carved out of the travertines. Just a splish-splash in the park, this is.
For some, of course, the idea here is to partake in mudbaths that supposedly are therapeutic for the skin, but I'm content to just piddle-paddle through the water that I allow up to my knees at times, taking in the sights as they come. There are plenty of others doing the same, naturally - this IS a major tourist attraction - but as time goes on and I walk higher up, they slowly and steadily decrease in number. Like Ephesus, this is a place evidently quite popular with Chinese, Japanese, and Korean tourists that I'm not used to seeing in such numbers in my usual holiday haunts. Here, many (all women, anyway) sport sunbrellas to protect their skin against burning or tanning (I'm not sure which, or if both) via the beating sun. The other tourists don't bother, unwisely or not.
At the top of the travertines there is a museum I peer in at, but I almost immediately decide on a skip yet again to instead walk around the periphery ledge of the hill. This'll allow me to eventually access the ruins of Hierapolis - just above and behind the travertines - while also offering one view after another unto the distance, all glorious to behold under yet another cloudless sky. Soon I'm next ambling among the ruins, however, happily noting that they compare well with Ephesus yet with a fraction of the tourism. Now that's a welcome bonus, but it's true as well that they come minus the elegant library facade. Nor have they been fully excavated, either, but with my fellow tourists now down to about zero I'm more than content. From a few huts semi-buried in the travertine mess I continue on, then, eventually making my way through the extensive necropolis which follows the settlement almost to its very end. Pretty cool.
The more important question, of course, is whether I'll be able to play the trumpet in the amphitheater. Not for nothing am I lugging it along yet again. The quick answer is no, though, a restriction strictly imposed after the guard calls in my request to some higher-up. Sigh - I'm quite disappointed, especially since a sampling of clapping has shown this structure to have good acoustics. There'll be sound-swallowing here like at the ruins above Bergama. But I'm mostly bummed because I can't fathom the rejection, particularly since there's almost no one about this place and it's near closing time. (To this I can only grumble something stupid like "Turkey - no culture, only money!" to no one in particular, especially seeing that no one here speaks English.)
Granted, there's also the annoying reality of having just trudged through this entire area shouldering a trumpet around for nothing. Argh! Anywho, with some (plenty) disgruntlement over the sheer inhumanity of it all (this is called an exaggeration - sort of), I finish up by checking out the ruins behind the museum. At least the light is now fantastic for photos, I force myself to mentally compromise, next slowly making my way down the travertines again. As for the gorgeous sunlight, I'm evidently not alone in my thinking, or at least I'm certainly not if based on the small remainder of the former crowds I see. With such soft light beckoning, there's a large Korean group taking either wedding or fashion photos, but there are plenty of others who have similar ideas, all of us playing with the lovely-lit backdrops and the water pools. The pools are now mostly empty of bathers, of course, and it's this reality which ultimately allows me to properly sulk - I mean soak! - within a few of them. In the end, too, Pamukkale will leave me with a further worthy caveat that'll come in the form of a delicious dinner of kebabs, rice, and more made by the hotel owner... plus there's the pool, right?
Right, but that doesn't stop me from getting on a bus come late morning (post the requisite swim, of course, since I don't know when another pool will be in the offing). I'm now fully in hopes of escaping the onslaught of tourism I've run headlong into at Ephesus and Pamukkale, ready for something different. To that end, and being told by my unofficial guide to Turkey back home (my friend Igor again) that Dalyan might be just such a sweet spot - outside of the fact that a good number of Brits have latched onto it, he also mentions as a warning - off I go. This does entail deviating ever so slightly from the main tourist track, however, which also means having to head to Denazli to find a bus to Ortaja, so I quickly learn that I'll first have to cool my heels (only figuratively, trust me!) there by sitting in the bowels of the sweating Denazli Bus Terminal. Per the usual, I pull out my horn and play a few tunes, making a few new surprised friends, and it's a good thing I do since I'll soon require a few of them to help get me onboard the right bus. As a result of the horn, too, I soon have a couple of fellow travelers to chat with over the four hours to Ortaja.
Compared to the road in to Pamukkale from Selçuk, the way out from Pamukkale to Ortaja is a rather more significantly mountainous route - which is a good thing, scenery-wise. But the downside is that it's also pretty uncomfortable at times, which starts precisely when the bus driver cuts the A/C off to begin each sustained climb. Each time, approximately when we're just about all ready to pass out, we somehow reach a new summit in the road and he flicks the blessed device on again for the descent. Maybe this is what hot flashes are like, I muse, happy to at least be afforded a mild compensation in being able to chat with a young guy who's practicing his English during this entire escapade. A drag in our mini cultural exchange, however, is that he's a bit too fastidious about using the correct English word, constantly heading to his smart phone dictionary to repeatedly bring the conversation to an abrupt - if temporary - halt, but that's okay. This is the kind of stuff I'm here for and, frankly, how many Turks do I know back home? (For the record, one, but she hasn't lived in Turkey in a long time.)
Somewhere in this stop-and-go exchange I learn about my new friend's plans to be an agronomist, and we naturally talk about all the massive monoculture tree replanting quite visibly going on outside of the bus windows. Although generally a pleasant and extended diversion for the road, I'm nevertheless slightly relieved when he jumps out of the bus somewhere in the middle of nowhere a short ways before Ortaja: this dictionary-induced, interrupted style of conversation has become taxing on my patience, and I like to think that I'm one of the more patient people I know.
In Ortaja, meanwhile, I transfer onto the jammed minibus to Dalyan - and over a mere 10km almost immediately find myself back in the throes of... full-on tourism. Sigh. I guess Dalyan HAS become a bit more than discovered (and not just by the Brits, for the record)! There's even been enough visiting going here to merit a small office of tourism, something I notice right upon disembarking - although the man inside is clearly not tourist-friendly, evidently quite displeased that I have the audacity to ask where I might find my hotel. I'm guessing that if he's not recommending a boat - and likely getting a kickback/commission - there's clearly no other point to giving out information. Is there? Probably not, and that's about the sum of his vague hand motion that seems to tell me to walk downriver, which I do. Some few minutes later I've found my hotel, checked in, cranked up the A/C to cool my skin down to a mere boil, passing out while reading a book. Dalyan can wait.
Well, not for long, as I've forgotten how quickly A/C can work its magic when you sprawl out under the machine naked as a jaybird. I guess it HAS been a couple of decades since my Florida days, where it seemed that every building had A/C and I somehow learned to live with that ubiquity. I remember being something of an oddball to that freezer party, though, one of those very few who only used it modestly as a protection against mold and humidity. Such are my thoughts as I shake off the shiver to head back outside come late afternoon, anyway, now with the sun more reasonable to do my traditional walkabout of town...
...to shortly and officially deem myself a little less than pleased with coming. Sigh redux ad nauseum. Yes, I do spy the promised and undeniably picturesque tombs across the way, just over the river and lending a certain special ambience. They're quite a backdrop, yes, but it seems like I can't take a step without being bugged to take a river cruise to see them up close. Should I just wear a shirt that says "NO!"?, I wonder, almost instantly vowing that I won't be jumping on any of the river cruise boats out of spite. The restaurant hawkers are just as relentless, too, practically accosting me with their menus half-opened and their swinging arm gestures to suggest "Right this way!". Ack! No, you're not my good friend nor my brother!
Thus it's not without reason that I end up eating and drinking a good deal more than planned back at the patio of the hotel over my stay, from the outset already not quite ready to take any more of this. However, that comes with the positive consequence of soon befriending a Polish-Turkish couple (Anna and Berg). They're in the midst of an extended breakup, true, but this future reality is coming more on account of Anna's having had enough of Turkey. She's made a go of it for a couple years, learning the language well and loving many things about the culture and the friends she's made, but her increased language skills have also only made her ever more aware of the comments she hears when walking down the street. She's of the firm belief that many here will only ever see her as a slut, hussy, or worse - and that's just for her blond hair and wearing western clothes. This revelation, of course, gives me room to think that perhaps it's best that I *don't* learn any Turkish...
Certainly I won't learn anything when we end up drinking raki late into the night of the day on which I meet them. The trumpet even has a coming out party, with the bartender (who looks like Borat) grabbing his harmonica for good measure, and all this apparently will serve to render Berg a wreck for the next full day-plus. Anna, a proper Polish girl - by which I mean she can down vodka like nobody's business, so what's this raki stuff? - survives this attack on her liver quite admirably, as do I, so it's maybe this alone that gives rise to Berg being jealous of our even chatting the next day. Then again, *that's* another thing my new Polish friend has had enough of, proving evermore the unsuspected hidden side of multicultural relations beyond the attraction of initial intrigue.
As for me, I've got other fish to fry - literally, as I have fish every day in Dalyan. The swimming creatures are what's on the plate here, and a million Brits can't be wrong! But post the night of raki, I'm a bit sluggish to focus on that, similarly also missing out on taking a planned boat downriver to access the beach that's supposedly a highlight here. Instead I settle with walking over to the rowboats, several of which sit clustered at the end of the riverside walk. A woman eventually ambles over to row me across, and in a few minutes I'm on my way afoot to the ruins of Kuonos. To do so I have to briefly make my way through a jumble of humble restaurants that surround the modest dock on the other side, true, but they're nothing like the entreaty mayhem found just across the river back in Dalyan. In minutes I've cleared them, anyway, next strolling the necessary kilometer to the ruins while always under the watchful gaze of the ancient tombs, here now only a stone's-throw away.
For such a minor trouble as a kilometer, along the way I get to feast on a number of fresh-squeezed juices of orange and pomegranate. These are available from a few stands erected alongside the path, with each vendor trying to ensure that I'll stop for seconds (or thirds) on my way back and - at all of only a dollar or two to enjoy brilliant cold refreshments, perfect respites against the fireball in the sky - I'm certainly game. As for the ruins I shortly reach, meanwhile, they're blessedly abandoned for the most part. There's chiefly only a number of goats and turtles I stumble onto in walking about them; their excavation is incomplete. There is a small amphitheater, however, and fortunately I've long learned to bring my trumpet along just for such circumstances. So I shortly find myself befriending an extended Turkish family, met in the process of a brief concert to an audience consisting of only them. After enough chitchat, I'm welcomed back to their spot in town should I want some tea... and a tattoo. I guess I *am* a brother from another mother.
Well, the tattoo offer's different, but conversations subtly turning into business pitches hereabouts isn't. I assent with no intention of follow-through, likely giving a less than convincing performance in so doing. That, however, mostly comes from the fact that I hate tattoos, true now more than ever with this more-than-exploding fad not showing any signs of letup. So I leave them behind to picnic amidst a wall formation, then spend most of my remaining time among the ruins completely by myself. I try to imagine folks living in this odd spot chosen close - but not too close - to the sea, but don't get it, frankly, only ultimately reasoning that, well, there IS the river. Hmm. I finish scooting about this solitary place, then, and on the way back I decide on venturing right up to the famous tombs that are carved out of the hill's rocky side. I access them through a rather less-than-ancient cemetery just below them, soon imagining that this'd be exactly the spot that many a teenager would use to get tanked or laid. And so ends my ruinous - I mean ruins-centric - adventure.
Back in town, and again with my new friends back at the hostel (who are now nurturing a crescendoing argument on this the eve of their breakup), plans for another dinner together with more raki are unsurprisingly scotched. Berg's hangover is in for the long haul. I fend for my fish myself rather gratefully, however, not being a big fan of conflict. I'm also thinking that a raki-less night should likely allow me to get up early enough to head to the turtle beach.
Come morning, however, I naturally miss the 7:30 a.m. bus I've planned on and, not wanting to wait a few hours for the only other bus run, I rummage about town trying to get my hands on a bike or moped. No one seems to think they should open before 10 a.m. to help my cause, though, a gross miscue in the tourism business if there ever was one (by my frustrated thinking, anyway). In the process I'm assured that hitchhiking should do the trick - "No problem!", I'm told - but that's evidently not exactly the case as I end up walking half of the distance to the beach, all under an increasing solar heatblast. Eventually an elderly couple lets me jump in the bed of their pickup truck, but that's only good for too blessed few kilometers. So back to walking I go, although now with views of the sea in the distance which'll grow until I'm again given a brief ride, this time by a few young Turks heading to the beach for the day.
Once there, I trundle out of the car rather bewildered, I suppose, quickly opting to settle on a copse of trees to lay my towel amidst a handful of Turkish families similarly hoping this shade will provide sun protection. More excellent news is that the beach is calm and inviting, both affording waters that are the perfect temperature of warm while pleasingly shallow and infinite. Finally - a beach day! Even the numbers of folks frolicking in the sands - mostly clustered near the snack bar - are reasonably low, too. So all's right with the world and the hours disappear serenely, an effortless alternation between reading and dipping in the grand drink. True, I don't see any of the advertised turtles when I do the obligatory long walk down the beach, but even that's pretty damned acceptable when there's no one else venturing out that way. Indeed, the only downside comes when I eventually determine the bus schedule to get back to town and agree to submit to its rigors. I promise myself to be on it regardless of how pleasantly this day's being whiled away, not willing to roll the dice again on hitchhiking to spoil what's turned into a superb day.
Later, in town, when Anna apprises me of a restaurant doing an admirable job of mezze (an a la carte menu system), serving up one Turkish delight (not the sweet kind, I'm just rolling with the metaphor!) after another, the day is properly capped. Like a kid in a candy store, it's difficult to restrain from just ordering every permutation and combination of eggplant, olive, or hummus found here, all liberally doused in olive oil and spices. Even as I make my way down the counter showing what's available, solemnly vowing to somehow try it all in a go, I'm already knowing that I'll be back the coming night. Good thing I've reserved another night at the hotel.
It helps, too, that it's easier to ignore the boat and restaurant hawkers at night, so I allow myself the obligatory post-feast stroll to leisurely cover the entire length of the riverwalk under moonlight. The soft glow of lamps steadily reveal the actual extent of the resorts that line the river in Dalyan, and to that end I learn that there are roughly a zillion of them, all of varying grandeur, although under the cloak of blackness that prevails I can amble by each stealthily to appreciate the live musics they provide AND the chirping sounds of the critters in the river. All the while, I reconsider my disgruntlement with this tourism on steroids, recognizing that I'm certainly a tourist here as well who's looking for amenities and services of conveniences. I guess the real question is whether it has to be so bald and in-your-face. Why can't it always be like it is right now?
I try to find some kind of peaceful resolution to this tourist crisis of my mind's making the next day, again wandering up the boardwalk quite early while my iPod blares tunes and my gaze is dazed and straight-ahead. No one bothers me, a lesson of sorts, so apparently beating the breakfast hour is what really helps avoid the crush of queries more than anything, I figure. Or maybe the hawkers figure everyone's hung over. Again I reach the very end of the resorts, but this time I continue into the pomegranate grove beyond the rickety bridge that I imagine typically serves to deter tourists from continuing by default. All drops to a dead silence beyond a bird chirp. Wow. So *this* is what this entire area looked like not that many years ago, beautiful fruit everywhere! Okay, it was probably that minus prosperity, too. There's gotta be some kind of balance when a place like this takes off due to tourism, but it seems like that equilibrium never happens anywhere. Greed and opportunity set in, and it seems that that's that. Eden was made to be despoiled, I suppose.
When I head back into town, I opt for traversing the back streets, suddenly surprised to take in my only glimpses of Turkish tourists or locals at rest here. Most choose to play okey or backgammon in the cafes, it appears, as the lonely voice from the small central mosque bleats completely ignored from above. Such a call to worship doesn't stand a chance against this deafening quiet fray of morning, however, nor does it stand a prayer against the shadow of explosive and rampant commercialism. Again these minor revelations make me reflective, thinking as well of the goofy tourist town I live in back home - which *also* is busily attempting to sell whatever soul it might have ever had for the almighty dollar. Hmm.
My tourism-underscored outing complete, I return for my now-expected breakfast of olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese. Should that be it for Dalyan, I wonder? Well... yes. I'm still looking for that slice of Anatolia that's not sold its soul to tourism. So yes, it IS already time to close the short chapter that's been Dalyan, yes, it's time to heed the cries of "Ortaja, Ortaja!" from the local minibus. And shortly I'm aboard, too, as we curl the circle of the tiny village center to eventually slowly move through the small streets of town. Clearing the periphery, we pick up speed and head away.
From Ortaja I head to Fethiye, another cradle of tourism that I won't explore, transferring onto yet another bus to bring me to what should be the last stop on my Anatolian swing, Patara. And about time, too, as it's here that I'll thankfully find my place - a fact almost immediately obvious, starting right when I hop out of a transfer van that picked me up from the highway where the last bus dumped me off. I behold the few deserted streets that comprise the village's center, a few restauranteurs look at me, hopeful for business, but no one bothers to actually emerge from their building to try and engage me. This is much better, I think, setting to stroll up the nearby hill where I'll take a room in Zeybek 2, another recommendation from Igor.
I meet the owner on the hotel's rooftop, immediately able to take in the extensive views of ruins and sea in the distance while considering the inevitable heat already building both in the day... and in my host's views on all that is wrong in Turkey today. This is after I've been offered a tea or two and Patara's merits have been extolled, of course, but it's hardly of a bother when I'm just so happy to be out of the hubbub of tourism. So, of a mind to only enjoy this place, and shutting out any ill winds that might arise, I just generally nod and agree with all that he says (minus the parts where he thinks the Kurds have to be dealt with a firm hand, although I don't think it matters one way or another if I should nod or not, seeing as he's on a roll). To be fair, too, my new host's actual points are interesting - if all to be taken in by me with the caveat that he's simultaneously that odd mix of being a devout Muslim and a secularist. Hmm. Maybe I *shouldn't* have mentioned knowing Igor, perhaps giving license to this intense diatribe against the world based on previous conversations I was never a party to. What a confusing, if not truly that bothersome, entry to Patara.
A more interesting artifact of my arrival comes in the form of how my host's wife and daughter don headscarves immediately upon my showing my face. In no time, too, the daughter looks at me as if I'm an infidel who wants to assault her or worse. I don't know the Turkish word for "Chill!" or "Relax!", but I sure wish I did. But okay, maybe I shouldn't have tried to read the French quote on her shirt, an innocent curiosity which is met with a scowl. Honestly, no such thoughts of what might lie beneath are even close to arousing my mind (or otherwise) in any desirous sense, nor would I ever harbor the will to actually act on such with even the merest suggestion whatsoever. So I only can wonder if it's my caucasian face that arouses what I take to be such a negative reaction. And she'll be consistent on this over my entire stay, too.
In contrast, the son - whom Igor actually *had* mentioned (as being possibly hostile in an pubescent way) - looks bored out of his skull, completely nonplussed by my presence, while the mother seems only to be waiting for her next instruction from her husband to perform. Well, I've certainly escaped the throes of tourism, that's for sure - and now I'm completely lost. I don't understand this (I assume) traditional family dynamic I've stumbled into, but maybe I will over the next several days. Vive le mystère!
Then again, with such a view to enjoy, plus almost no other tourists around, I don't care too much to delve into this mystery, either. No, I'm only ready to settle in for a relaxing stay, politics, culture and religion notwithstanding. So eventually, if only after a few hours of listening and nodding my head in bursts of conversation, father Sonar finishes with an exclamation of "Bah! Politics!" to end the discussion, and that's that. I'm sure it's not the end of it, nor should it be, but I don't live in this environment where politics never get to be merely ignored, either. I remind myself that Turkey IS a land caught between Europe, Russia, and the Middle East, where no one ever gets to fully escape ancient history - or that which is being made even as I write (vis a vis the Kurds, and the war in Syria).
So politics do come up again, of course, like every day I sit on the balcony for tea. I absolve myself from any riles, however, merely nodding along about the many U.S. mistakes that have led to the current situation - which I agree with, actually, not needing the preaching since I'm already a well-informed choir member - to lessen my exposure to any unexpected haranguing. Just wanting to lounge on the rooftop terrace for its nice views, I figure it's just a small price to pay, plus I can always leave. After Selçuk, Pamukkale, and Dalyan, I'm willing Patara to be mine and nothing will stop me.
It's not like this landscape can't be appreciated from other vantage points, either, and the good news is that here is quite easy to see both the ruins and the beach up close. So that's what I do every day, both early in the morning and late in the afternoon, taking advantage of those blissful moments when the sun is far from its blistering zenith. I follow something of a trail through open, if prickly, brush, accessing the beach each time a different way to stumble onto a different dribble of ruin or sand dune. The odd turtle crosses my path as do a couple of foxes; the sea's waters are never less than pleasant.
Much of the peace I derive is because I'm accessing the beach a good kilometer or away from the main public beach. Technically all of this enormous beach is only open from 8a.m. to 8p.m., a regulation in place to lower the stress for any turtles which might be trying to lay eggs, but I don't see any of these larger turtles in evidence over my days. What I do see is the random oversized sailboat in the distance, charter boats with folks cruising the coast. I also spy random bits of trash on the beach, usually made of plastic or other non-composting materials, so on each trip I fill another bag with the detritus. It's a minor price to pay, and I'm willing to contribute. But mostly I just float about in the water, weightless and without a care in the world while the sun is in the hours of its better behavior, gently basking instead of basting me.
When it's time to head back, each time I try a new path through the sands to return to my awaiting trumpet and the A/C which'll allow me to read away in peace. Along the way I'll spot the odd iguana or cactus flower, all the while respecting the uncountable sharp thorns trying to give me a scratchy reminder of Patara for when I eventually leave. A local bird of blue-black-white coloring is a particular favorite of mine to spot, common enough, and I don't ever weary of the deafening sound of crickets. They crease an unceasing and deafening - if pleasant, in my mind - racket that comes and goes, all depending on state of their realization under their steady ambience. The red soil, too, will be missed when I leave this tranquil place.
As for the ruins of Patara - which are of some note, I'm told - these are accessible from my main beach trail but are more along the paved road from Patara to the beach. They're respectable in size, neither forgotten nor over-trodden, and some buildings have been restored. More importantly, they sport an amphitheater... so naturally I'm once again with horn in hand when I come to exploring that edifice. I've withheld the temptation to play to the goats seen along the way, each ambling through many of these grounds most of the time, but in this ancient performance space I'm once again ready to find respectable acoustics. Luckily, this time I befriend a young couple; they take shots and video of me playing. A few others who pass through do the same, giving smiles or a thumbs-up in exchange for witnessing the oddity that is me and my trumpet, surreptitiously taking their own photos and/or video. Then, my requisite amphitheater moment complete, it's back to walking among the columns and wondering about what was. From experience, now, this much I can say: it's all about the baths and tombs. That much is inescapable.
Over my brief stay, I DO make a couple of sidetrips from Patara, never one to miss taking advantage of being in an area that I might never return to. One such sojourn is to Salkikent, where I use a local transport that trundles over there once a day. En route, I make buddy-buddy with a young French couple, happy to speak (endure) French with me, as said bus service gets us there after only an hour or so. At the drop off point we're confronted with a circus of restaurants in the middle of nowhere, all lying just outside the gated access to this very narrow gorge which attracts a good number of tourists from all over the region. That sufficiently explains the eateries, anyway, each of which channels a portion of the waters that feed through the gorge to now further run through their erected platforms which all sport the usual seat cushions on the floor for feasting.
Inside the gorge, meanwhile, it's a different zoo of folks, here all still in their upright position and walking through the water. At times one and all are required to clamber over rocks found upstream, generally remaining more or less singlefile, but these pose no great issue. At points, too, there there are the tiniest of waterfalls which form traffic jams of our teeming mass, but the canyon is beautiful enough and folks are in a good enough mood that such chokepoints are taken in stride.
A final waterfall, too high to easily climb up, makes for a forced turnaround point, and it's here that almost all of us first opt for a practically obligatory dip in the rushing waters. Naturally, there's a woman who forgets to take off her glasses, only to have them blasted off of her face - I wonder how many times this happens a day? - but this has its value as well, allowing me to become a hero. I find them after a frantic fifteen minutes which ensue after said incident, where a dozen of us begin fishing about on our hands and knees while trying to ever-so-gently step about in trying to guess where the hell they might've washed away to.
Visual order restored for at least one person, it's back along the stream and again to the outside we go, resuming the need to constantly maneuver around the many folks now focused on their selfies as I vow for my part to not ogle - too much - what my friend the Frenchman calls "Bulgarian porn". Not exactly, but they are quite the troupe of beautiful women who wear both bikinis *and* hard hats (for safety, although only a small number of us bother with them). Personally, I have no issue with their look, but I'm not squiring a girlfriend, either.
Being back outside the gorge naturally brings on the obligatory lazing about on the cushions, a perfectly acceptable ritual of consuming kebabs while sipping tea to wait for our bus driver to ultimately wake from his nap and take us back. We all try, but fail, to ignore the groups of jeeps that increasingly pull up to the site as the day grows longer, each loaded to the gills with gap-year kids from Britain, Germany, or elsewhere, and each armed to the teeth with super soaker squirt guns. I'm only too well-reminded of the Queensland Coast in Australia, where I similarly felt that this extended adolescence stuff can sure get old - or I am, anyway.
A much longer, even potentially more cultural sidetrip affair comes when I try to access the Lycian ruins of Arykanda. These have also been recommended to me by Igor, a ruins complex rediscovered most recently and forevermore after some sleuthing by the clever Brit orientologist Sir Charles Fellows in 1920. The good news is that I get to access them with far less work than that poor sap endured, but this is still only after a series of buses that go from Patara to Kalkun to Elmali to somewhere on the road to Finike near the village Aykiriçay. This makes for a long day, by the way.
The first of these minibus rides is the most interesting, packed beyond capacity and filling up with anyone waving their hand along the side of the road. But we complete this ridiculousness in performing what impolitically used to be called a Chinese fire drill, accomplished right in the middle of nowhere only to require us to jump onto another bus that pulls up. Fortunately I don't know or care what the deal is exactly, as I've reduced myself to just pointing at the map to the next driver to get a sufficiently reassuring nod each time.
This all works fine, too, except for the part where I arrive at the ruins at the zenith of the death ray hour that's the early afternoon sun. My now-typical dehydration goes from bad to extreme by the time I complete the short walk up the side road to access the ruins, so surprising the girl who's supposed to sit in attendance at the entrance booth that she's hurried to shoot up on her moped to attend to me. I manage to croak "ticket!", or something facsimile thereof, and then proceed to ruefully trudge away from this last one bit of shade offered by her booth.
I soon run into the lone, other small group of people here, a trio of wiseacres each around 20 years old, and each very eager to have their picture taken with my hat on. Sigh. Okay. This really has come to be an annoying thing here, I've noticed, everyone wanting a go at this cheap hat picked up in Spain, but at least this time there's the beneficial consequence of afterward having the ruins to myself. Well, most of the time. In any event, I first more or less memorize the site map I see at the entrance. It more or less gives the lay of the ruins while evidencing that, while not huge, they're big enough and on a steep-enough hillside to not want to have to backtrack a missed point of interest. Especially when they'll be draining the last drops of water in my system.
Up I go, then, into and through the usual checkmarks of tombs, temples, baths and pillars, ending with the amphitheater as always - but this time sans horn. I couldn't spit a dot if I tried to, anyway, so for once not bringing it is the right call. It's all pretty impressive, to be honest, plus there's quite a view for not being the most convenient place to access location-wise - unless you particularly love calf workouts morning, noon, and night. I generally don't, or not when I'm crazily thirsty, so I don't know why this site was chosen for a civilization. Then again, these ARE ruins and the folks ARE long gone, so perhaps that's a telling-enough fact. Anywho, by the time I've finished up with my gawking about and am positively gasping for water, another group of young yahoos show up to subsequently run around the place with a certain amount of abandon, making tarzan-like calls in a game of hide-n-seek or marco polo, I dunno which. I do know, however, that when they pass me in their car as I walk my way out, I'm offered water to drink. So they can yell all day long unto eternity as far as I'm concerned. Cheers.
Back at the road I find a scene of appreciable mayhem. That's likely on account of the stream coming down the mountain here, but there's also a crowd of folks who've set up stands roasting corn and selling vegetables to take advantage of it. I debate whether this water is considered holy in some sense, with so many filling receptacles with the stuff eagerly, but this isn't confirmed. But otherwise it does seem like an odd place to have an impromptu market, here at a bend in the road completely in the middle of nowhere. Perhaps it's about the ruins above, some tombs much like the ones at Dalyan that loom over this bustling spot? I dunno, but I'm not one to argue, either, and I'm more than happy to simply buy some corn-on-the-cobs loaded with salt and butter while getting my hands on never-enough water.
Somehow eventually sufficiently sated on both counts, I next wait under the tiniest offering of shade across the street from the "market". I'm in reasonable hope of flagging a local bus down, which I do, but the cranky driver doesn't prove much of a help in Finike when we zoom right by the bus station I asked him to stop at. Fortunately I yell for a halt when something doesn't seem quite right, a lucky awareness that nevertheless entails an unplanned stroll through town to apparently be put on the agenda. At the bus station I'm eventually able to catch the next bus to Kás, then the one to Kalkun, then finally on to Patara. Talk about a long and very dry day! And that aspect's particularly not helped when we roll along a stunning stretch of some of Turkey's finest coastline. I can only longingly look out the window at all those folks bobbing below, capering about in pristine, and very, very wet - unlike my mouth - water. Sniff.
Perhaps it's this insult to my injury that leads me break down the next day, finally availing myself of the convenience in paying a visit to the public beach for my afternoon dunking. I even rent - heaven forfend! - an umbrella, making my way down the beach to play peek-a-boo with the sun for many an hour, never quite getting enough of being in the water. Water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink... except out of these huge bottles I have at my side for once.
And then, like a flash, that's it for Patara, and soon it's to be curtains for Turkey as well. After a number of calls to find a bus seat (in trying to find a seat online for the first time, I learn that women and men can't technically reserve seats next to each other), I'm eventually able to put myself aboard a cushy night bus for the long return to Istanbul. We arrive back at the city to encounter a mayhem of transport unrest to keep things interesting, I suppose, but effectively all this ultimately does is push me to the decision of jumping off the bus like some others to make my way over to the metro system on foot. What is this, France in July?
Actually I don't care, I'm so happy to return to the familiar hubbub that is Sultanahmet, that jewel with all its offerings of food and interesting walks. For some last such strolls, I pick up some random gifts (mostly lightweight purse things) in hopping on various trams here and there. These include once more using the funicular to Taksim Square, the better to allow me a reason to walk back to Sultanahmet in leisurely fashion - but only after stopping at the hipster-styled coffee shop on the main drag each time. Naturally, I repeatedly gorge on simit (a kind of soft pretzel with sesame seeds), roasted corn, and kestane (the aforementioned roasted chestnuts) to my heart's content, before resuming my searches for more mezze places, stopping for yet another lentil çorba soup heavy on the lemon, a şis (kebap), plus random nut-based sweets. I'll miss this.
As something of a concession to the ode to tourism that's been my Turkey visit, only now do I finally cave in to visit the magnificent Hagia Sophia complex, the famed if monstrous-sized church-turned-mosque. For all its acclaim, though, let me here be the first (not likely) to say that St. Peter's it ain't - but its mix of Catholic and Muslim *is* vaguely interesting, if only because of the dual roles that result in its artwork. Fine, okay, done: I duly mark the check on an imaginary list.
More importantly, I'm back to playing my trumpet on the rooftop of Sultan Hostel, again putting up with that grumpy cat when not again chatting extensively with Orhan, iTouch, Orun and my nameless Kurdish friend. They all seem happy to see me back - if now only to translate a bit for the large groups of Uruguayans, Chileans, and Argentines that they're currently hosting. That's fine with me, especially as I coincidentally quite diligently finish up my second book in Spanish in the process. (That'd be "La Havana Para Un Infante Difunto", which follows Llosa's similarly overly large-sized book on Roger Casement and the horror of the Belgian Congo, "El Sueño del Celta". Both are to be placed in Millan's awaiting hands back in Madrid.)
All the above wraps up Turkey for me, and I do so without a clue of if or when I'll be back. For one thing, the war in Syria is only getting worse and bleeding evermore into Turkey. Will this country remain safe(-seeming) for tourists? I have no idea, but it seems like Americans such as myself might soon become all too convenient targets. I wonder about all that, also cognizant of the fact that I can find similar beaches elsewhere. I've also learned that I'm especially unworried about abandoning the Greek and Roman ruins for which the country is famous for, which I've realized aren't necessarily the biggest draw for someone like me. The people I've met, however, I *have* enjoyed, giving me different perspectives from a corner of the world in the middle of it all. And then there's the food. Reasons to return, indeed.
As for the conundrum of women feeling obligated to hide themselves, I'll remain unable to comprehend this, outside of cultural brainwashing or coercion. What kind of man wants his woman or child to wear such head and bodygear? I'll never be able to believe it's fair at the bottom of it all, I guess. I won't miss that conundrum in the least. I also won't miss the lack of any ecological consideration, or drivers aggressively brushing me on foot with their vehicles. (A cyclist died while I was in Patara, a completely unnecessary tragedy on a road less traveled.) But these are the few negatives for what's generally been a very positive experience.
What I do know for sure is that, *should* I return, the way to see this country next time would be to rent a car. I vow to myself that that's how I'll do it should I ever retread these grounds. I'll also choose the season more carefully with respect to the sun, take in more of the traditional music, and learn more about the traditions behind the cuisine. But right now I've got a tram and a train to catch to the airport. Madrid, it looks like you're stuck with me again for the moment.
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