Trip Start Aug 18, 2006
149Trip End Ongoing
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The last 30km into Izmir turned out to be real motorway, with only intermittent hard shoulder and moderate traffic. After grabbing a tow on a car-carrier half-way up what turned out to be a very high and steep mountain, I let go when I saw a public standpipe and rest area
I spent the next two days killing time in Izmir, waiting for my parents to turn up. I went in search of any kind of sea transportation to Egypt, by any route, but had no luck. The ferries that would normally be available having disappeared due to the off-season and the Israel-Lebanon war. I went to the museum but found little of interest there. The 'cultural park', for which read 'fairground', entertained me for about 4 seconds. In the end I watched Saw 3 and Bond at the cinema. Both crap.
Now, if anyone was wondering whence I derive what for want of a better word I'll call my 'writing-style', read on...
Seven wonders, seven churches and several games of backgammon (by Mum, with occasional editorial interruptions)
Apparently, Tim's blog will come to a permanent and premature end if I don't add an entry for Izmir and around
He cycled over the hilly interior of Turkey from Istanbul to Izmir, and got there before us... so he and the bike were there at the airport to meet us. This, as it turned out, was a good thing. Only because the bike was there were we able to identify our first elementary mistake... 2 errors which compounded each other. An underestimate of the amount of space the bike would take up, even in pieces, in a hire car... and an overestimate of the size of car we had hired ( a focus is a hatchback in England - apparently not so in Turkey). Once we had exchanged the rather tatty looking and inadequate saloon for a very funky brand-new 'Kangol' - a high-rise car with oodles of space, at much greater expense - we were away.
Izmir itself is one of the 7 churches of Asia Minor mentioned in the book of Revelation... ancient Smyrna. By the time we finished our tour we had done several others as well... Ephesus, Laodicea and Pergamum... and come close to the others. We had also seen the site of one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world (the temple to Diana/Artemis at Ephesus), and had spent a fair bit of the holiday trying to remember the other 6.
For those who want the personal details that are often lacking in this blog - yes, he has lost weight. He is leaner and looks tanned and healthy. (I left England with a BMI of 38, which in layman's terms means clinically dead. It is now around 29- the top end of overweight but positively svelt by comparison. -ed) He had had a shave and a haircut in our honour. Despite the minimal luggage he travels with, he still managed to fill each bedroom he occupied with untidy stuff..
We took a circular route around Izmir, heading south and east into the hills and stopping where we found ourselves. It is definitely low season in November in Turkey, and this was our (mine and Jeremy's - Tim is an old hand by now) first foray into being 'independent travellers'. In one town it took some time to find a hotel of any kind, and in the enormous restaurant where we had our evening meal, I was very obviously the only woman who had eaten there for a bit. In fact, it is quite an experience for a western woman - it took me a while to get used to the fact that my food always arrived last in restaurants, and my order was taken last, too.
Culturally, the high point was definitely Ephesus, which is fantastically preserved on a large site
I was not allowed to visit 'Mary's house' ..
21st century features of the trip included drinking a lot of turkish tea, of various flavours; sitting in a café on turkish carpets smoking nargile (which I am assured is neither addictive nor narcotic - don't tell me if you know otherwise;) eating meze, and kebabs and baklava; Jeremy and Tim playing endless games of backgammon; sharing a sauna; being plied with turkish coffee and tea while we failed to buy a carpet from the charming hotelier; and best of all the wonderful ad hoc lunch prepared for us by the proprietors of a 'closed for the winter' campsite on the top of a mountain, beside an empty swimming pool.
At the end of 5 days we gathered at Izmir airport to say goodbye. This was not as easy as you might think - the security barrier at Izmir is at the entrance to the airport, rather than at the entrance to the 'air-side' part of the airport as at, for instance, Heathrow
And so we came to the end of our visit. Congratulating and reassuring ourselves that despite, or perhaps because of, our best efforts, our son has turned out to be capable, efficient, and organised and well able to cope with all that this challenging trip may throw at him...
... then he discovered he had left his glasses in the hire car.
After the hire car had been fetched back from its car park, and Tim had negotiated airport security twice more, (good thing that, due to an oversight on my part, we were ridiculously early for our flight), we finally bade our farewells, reassuring ourselves that he remains comfortingly unchanged by his adventures
A new plan had finally come to the fore by the time my parents left, since by sea to Egypt hadn't worked, by land would have to. This meant catching a bus back to Istanbul, where I would get a visa for Syria before heading south. This new plan was going to mean catching some buses, not because of intraversible landscapes or scary politics- both of which failed to materialise, but because I've made arrangements to meet.. . guess who... in Egypt on 14 Dec, and I don't have time to do the whole way overland by bike. C'est la vie.