My Life in Ruins....

Trip Start May 26, 2011
Trip End Jul 19, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  , Turkish Aegean Coast,
Thursday, June 16, 2011

As I mentioned before, the last three days of the tour are all about the larger Greco-Roman ancient cities that thrived off the west coast of Turkey.  This morning we got on the bus and within a few hours we were arriving at Aphrodisias, the city named in honor of Aphrodite.

The first civilizations in this area were from 7000 BC, but the city of Aphrodisias saw its hay day between 75 BC and 200 AD.  Doing a Google search will tell you more about the history than I can possibly say here.

One of the incredible sites of Aphrodisias in really good condition is the stadium where gladiators fought to the death and sport contests took place including running, wrestling as well as discus and javelin throwing. It held over 30,000 people and it was fun to sit there and imagine what it must have looked like 2000 years ago.   Our guide said Turkey is going to try for the 2020 Olympic games and if successful, they are going to use the Aphrodisias stadium for the 100 meter races.  What an incredible place to watch an event and I'd love to come back to Turkey to be part of that.
It has definitely warmed as we approached the coast so although a great visit, it was getting pretty hot out there in the sun.  After the tour, we took a quick ride up the road to the Anatolia Restaurant which originally opened in the 1960's to feed all the archaeologists digging out Aphrodisias.  The food was simple, but it caught on with the locals and has been popular ever since.  We chowed on Turkish pizzas with feta cheese and spiced beef, salads and more bread. For dessert it was a choice of a spiced shredded pumpkin with cinnamon and walnuts or their famous yogurt with honey and nuts.  I went for the yogurt as I can't get enough of that stuff and it's still fairly good for you.
After stuffing ourselves, we were rolled onto the bus and we were on our final push to the last city of our tour, Kusadasi which means Bird Island in Turkish.  It's right on the coast of the Aegean Sea and is a big port city for cruise ships. This is also the home of our guide and we got an invite to go to his condo for wine and cheese before we all went to dinner together.
When we got to the hotel we were pleasantly surprised as this was the nicest hotel on the entire trip by far.  The theory behind this particular tour is to go the way of the locals and mingle with them, but by the end we were happy to not be roughing it anymore and having somewhere really nice to stay.  The hotel sat high on a hill and all the rooms overlooked the port and the city and it has a huge, beautiful pool.   We checked in and were given two hours to relax, nap, shower and be ready for the walk to Mert's condo.

When we got to his condo on the 10th floor we were all amazed at the views he has.  Big wrap-around balcony that looks out over the bay and the mountains and with the sun just starting to go down we were all looking forward to the sunset we knew we were in for.  The wine started flowing, shots of Turkish Raki (The Turk version of Greek Ouzo) were being downed one after another and no one was feeling too much pain.  We watched the amazing sunset and by then everyone was ready for some food.  

The restaurant, which normally would have been an easy walk down the hill to the port, was a little more challenging after the Raki, but everyone made it with their body parts intact.  The restaurant seated everyone outside on their deck so we could watch the end of the sunset and with the cool breeze off the water it was perfect.  The sign on the restaurant advertised that, in addition to seafood, they were a steak house -- reading that was all it took as I was ready for one. The owner of the restaurant helped take our orders since there were 20+ us of sitting down at once and he was a really nice guy.  I couldn't spell his name if I tried, but our guide introduced us and told us he was a finalist to be on one of the recent seasons of Top Chef, the show on Bravo. Apparently with him living in Turkey and the show requiring the candidates to make multiple appearances during the try outs over many weeks, they couldn't make it work where he could keep making the trip between New York and Kusadasi so he lost out on the chance.  The food was really good though so there is no doubt in our minds he would have done well.
Although it was not our last night together, after the alcohol and while eating the good food, it was natural for all of us to start talking about the highlights of the trip, the funny stuff that happened and how we had all bonded even with all our diverse backgrounds.  It was a highly intellectual group - we had a couple that owned a winery, a physicist that works at Los Alamos lab studying radiation, a retired nuclear chemist, three teachers (two retired), two statisticians, oh and ME, the complete derelict of the group - the youngest, unemployed and burden on society. I'm actually okay with that <grin>.
Tomorrow we take a 20 minute ride from Kusadasi to the ancient city of Ephesus and then back to Kusadasi for our last night in Turkey.

Lots more rock and sun pictures below for those inclined :)




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