From cotton castles down the silk road to ...

Trip Start Oct 02, 2001
Trip End Nov 01, 2001

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Flag of Greece  ,
Wednesday, October 24, 2001

From cotton castles down the silk road to finally leave Turkey the way everyone should... tired and blown away by the places we have visited. On a small ferry boat on the Agean sea, we look back on the last few days in awe as we slowly see the turkish coastline disappear in the distance. What an amazing country this was and what great memories we will always have.

Pictures to come, we had a problem uploading them to the site in Greece.

Pamukkale - The original and natural turkish baths!

This was a day where we would visit the Pamukkale region and it's many hot springs. Having left Capadoccia in the darkness of a cold night, we awoke to find ourselves in hot and pleasant weather again. Our first stop was the hot red springs.

The water temperature is about 40 to 50 degrees celcius and is red colored because of the iron ferite it contains. People come here from all over Turkey to bathe in these rich waters and believe that their healing powers will rid them of all kinds of illness. We saw people soaking their feet and even drinking it. They told us that most people stay here for at least 2 weeks to heal themselves. We took a walk in about 2 inches of water and we bolted right back out after feeling the burning sensation of the water temperature! We came to the conclusion that the people who come here and soak their feet for an extended periods of time need at least 2 weeks to recover which is why they stay that long! ;)

Cotton castles... that's what they call the naturally forming pools of calcium rich water that cover the mountain side with their white, snow-like calcium deposits.
The water comes from the depths of the earth and runs down the mountain side slowly accumulating to create these incredible pools of hot water. Unfortunately, there are signs everywhere stating that you can only walk in them now after the Turkish government took over the area in hopes of preserving this site. Our guide brought us to the upper area which contains about 12 pools of hot 30 degree water. He insisted that we were allowed to swim there even though the signs clearly stated otherwise so we quickly changed into our bathing suits behind a small tree and dove in!
We figured out later that some of it was lost in the translation and that he was saying that there were no guards so we could do what we want. You'll notice in the pictures and video that everyone else just took off their shoes and we are the only ones swimming!

This place is so beautiful with it's white calcium blanket covering everything in sight. It really does give you the illusion of swimming in a hot pool in the middle of winter, although our two friends from Saudi Arabia had a hard time relating to what we were saying. We did NOT want to leave this place.
If you ever visit Turkey, we highly recommend coming to this amazing place to experience first hand these pools of 30 degree snow white calcium formations.

We relunctantly left Pamukkale on a 5 o'clock bus towards the port city of Kusadasi on the Agean coast of Turkey. A short 3 hour bus ride later we found ourselves settling into a nice waterfront 3 star hotel overlooking the bay. What a change this was from sharing dorm rooms with other people. A private bathroom and shower was exactly what we needed.
A quick clean up and change of clothes later we armed ourselves with millions of Turkish Liras and we were off for a nice meal and a night on the town.
I love being a millionaire! ;)

Effesus - the mighty city by the sea

Day four of our blitz through Turkey brought us to the ancient city of Effesus near Selcuk. Effesus was built on 4 seperate locations having moved due to destruction or for convenience. At it's peak, the 3rd location (and biggest) of Effesus was nestled in a small valley about 1 km wide and the city length was over 15 km long! At a time when the total world population was barely 400 million, Effesus' population was a stagering 250,000 people! That means that in comparision to todays population, Effesus would rival the great cities of the world like Mexico city and Istanbul (both over 20 million)!
It took us over 3 hours to cover the ruins of this great metropolis by foot and overfilled us with images and stories, facts and statistics, enough to give us an idea of what this city would have been like in it's prime. We left understanding why Effesus was one of the wonders of the ancient world, and why it was the most important trading port in the Byzantine times. In a time when all roads apparently led to Rome, all the trade routes of the era led to Effesus. It was the starting point for the all major trade routes to Asia and the biggest port city on the northern Medditeranean. It wasn't just another city along the famous Silk road... it was where and why the silk road was created.

The holy house on the hill

Another part of our tour brought us to a place we were definitely not expecting... the house of the Virgin Mary. After the persecution of Jesus in Jerusalem, Saint Paul brought the Virgin Mary away from the troubles of the holy land and across the lands of what is now Syria and Turkey to settle near the great city of Effesus. Populated by jews and pagans, Saint Paul and the Virgin Mary unsucessfully tried to convert them to christianity. Paganism was not only a religion but also a strong self-supporting economy. Praying to an idol meant that the market places were filled with objects of worship which meant that to convert these people would unfortunately have destroyed the core of their economy. Having failed in their quest, they were forced to live outside the city walls and built a house high atop a nearby mountain that was declared an official holy place and house of worship by none other than Pope John Paul II in the late seventies when he came to hold a service in commemoration.
He also blessed the deep well that nourished the Virgin Mary and anyone can drink from it's source today. After a moment of reflection and a little more history absorbed we went back down towards the port city of Kusadasi and our hotel.

Single knot or double knot?

Turkey is known for many things including world famous double turkish knot hand made carpets. We can't even count the times we entered carpet showrooms in Istanbul or any other city we've through. Also, every tour you purchase through a travel agency brings you to at least a carpet "warehouse" or a ceramic and pottery store. It feels really weird to pay for a tour and have them bring bring you to see their goods in hopes that you will buy when at home they pay you to come see what they are selling.
The problem with buying a carpet in Turkey is that you never really know what you are getting and what is a good price. However, after several "presentations", we became somewhat little carpet experts.
Armed with the knowledge of distinguishing between wool on wool and wool on cotton, we tried hard to bargain our salesman down to a decent price and cut through the web of lies he sent our way. After bargaining hard for what seemed like hours, our salesman left the room out of pure fustration of not being able to make another easy sale. That opened the door for our new friend Haken.
Haken works for this warehouse but agreed to meet us later for a rarely seen look at the true carpet world of Turkey. As suspected, half of everything we were told about the carpet world in Turkey were lies. He brought us to a friends little carpet shop where he showed us the real deal on carpets. His friend still made a profit, Haken made a small but good commission and Chuck got himself an authentic wool on cotton, double turkish knot, 24 knot per square centimeter Blue tone turkish carpet!
It's not silk but it's another thing off the to do list!

The great escape...

After another (and final) night on the town, we slammed our heads on our pillows for some good rest. Too bad we had to get up in a few hours.
We woke up only to find out that we were already late for the bus!
In yet another packing frenzy, we threw our things in our packsacks and headed for the lobby where the driver was already waiting.
A short bus ride and customs check point and we were on the boat to Samos.
We saw the shore of Turkey disappear as we lay down for some much deserved rest.

Today, we are renting motorbikes to find a beach and swim...maybe a quick tour of the island before leaving on a 5:30 plane to Athens where we'll catch our flights out of Greece.
Gerry is unfortunately going back home and leaving Chuck and Europe behind.
So, it's just gonna be me from now on. Flying off to scandinavia, I'll start my last week in Stockholm and make my way back to where it all started, Munich - Germany.
We'll see you soon.

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