Assos: Another Fine Day

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Çanakkale Province,
Thursday, December 4, 2008

'Twas another day when the Turkish Travel Pixies hovered over my journey. It was a great day.

Once again I caught the 7am mini-bus out of the village of Tevfikiye, but only the 5 km out to the main highway running south out of Canakkale. And once again, it wasn't but a few minutes that another larger mini-bus appeared heading on south and stopped at my signal.

As before, I stepped out of it at Ezine. The entrance to the otogar was just about 40 meters from where I stepped out. Right in front of the entrance to the otogar was one of the larger inter-city coaches. Its destination card said Izmir--south, the direction I was headed. I inquired about a seat, and was gestured to get on.

Ezine was about half way to my destination, so I only had about another 30 minutes on that bus, getting down to the next stop at the small town of Ayvacık (EYE-va-juk [a sort of French j, more like a z sound, actually. And the undotted ı sounds like an uhh]. Now you can go there!). Once at the otogar there I did not want to go looking for a mini-bus on to Assos. I don't like to be told to go sit by until a dolmus is full and ready to go. I would rather walk on towards out of town. Then I can hitchhike. Or, if the dolmus or bus comes, it will usually stop anyway. And, in this case, that is exactly what happened.

I was just past the last house of the town when a mini-bus came on and stopped for me. I was motioned in to the front seat--"shotgun." While I sometimes get a little tired of being looked at as the foreigner in cities, out on the highways and byways it most probably is an asset. The usual questions, and I think there was a favorable comment about Obama.

In the next village the driver pulled up before a school. A clutch of children came running to the bus as about six or seven of the passengers exited--a set of young teachers. Then we proceeded on to Assos, where I got out.

Walking up through the village, passing shuttered pensions and restaurants, and vacant tourist chachkes stands lining the ancient stone street to the acropolis, I came upon a statue of Aristotle, who once lived in Assos. Beneath the statue was a local resident. And I thought, Aristotle, he'd be so proud.

The acropolis of ancient Assos is crowned by the remains of a temple to Athena. It faced east to the rising sun. The 360 degree view is magnificent, with the Greek island of Lesbos not far across the Bay of Edremit to the south. Running below, the remaining walls of the ancient city are said to be of the finest example of Greek fortification.

Well, what I do is just walk and climb all over the place. Looking at the crumbled and mumbled stones, some telling, many not. I don't spend time dreamily fantasizing. But how can one help but wonder what it was like. What might have been had there not been earthquakes and wars. Those with knowledge can at least speculate on what the architectural appearance was, as in this drawing of the supposed appearance of the agora area. (The Greek agora was roughly equivalent to the commercial center of a city. You might say, the mall of its day. Therefore, as in college, a chance to "compare and contrast," as a few days later, in Ankara, I made a video in a Turkish mall. The scene is something one does not necessarily associate with Turkey. At the very end you can hear the voice of a security guard telling me making a video is not permitted.)

Returning, though, to Assos, from the heights of the acropolis I saw high land across near the edge of the sea. So I thought I'd try to get over there and see what things looked like looking back. In the climb/walk down, inspecting every stone remaining in the wall, I saw perhaps a more worthy legacy of the spirit of Aristotle.

Some pictures show the land I walked and climbed through. It is sort of like going through a maze. There are slight goat and cow paths, appearing and disappearing, to aid the course.
At the end there was an impenetrable wall of thorn bushes (Oh, I could have spent some time trying to go around). And beyond, one of the most beautiful of sounds: Goat Bell Chimes.

Heading back, my objective was food. Specifically obtainable in the small, historic, photogenic harbor of Assos.

But before I got there, a pause to lie beneath an olive tree, listen to the waves break on the shore, and watch a fishing boat bob between me and the Island of Lesbos. (That's  my foot).

Then, what do you do after a day of hiking around a seaside port but have a fish meal.

This is winter. All the usual tourist stuff is closed down. Few travelers come. Outside, quayside where I was eating, there were but three people patronizing this hotel restaurant. I think I saw another couple at one of the other places. I didn't pay much attention to the three people outside.

After I finished my meal I took a walk along the small harbor quay, just taking in the scenery and looking for an illustrative picture. I was vaguely aware of the three co-patrons of the restaurant had come out on the same walk, but, busy looking at framing a picture, and a passing set of Turkish Air Force planes, didn't pay them the slightest heed.

For a few more minutes I looked around the small set of hotels, trying to remember where I had stayed one night about four years before. Unsuccessfully.

Finally, I started my walk up the steep winding road to the crest of the hill just below the acropolis. From there I would . . . . well, either hope that there would be a mini-bus yet to get back to Ayvacık, or, in the fast closing late afternoon, traffic enough by which I might hitchhike. I approached some cars parked along side the road just at the entrance to the tiny harborside business area. The three aforementioned people were just entering their car. For some reason I can't explain (even to myself) I chose not to try and elicit a ride from them. I passed them by, wordlessly, not even making eye contact.

I was hardly a dozen paces beyond them when the car slowly pulled up alongside, and the driver asked me in English, "Where are you going?" Well, since I was actually going to the small, obscure village of Tevfikiye I may have said Troy, Truva, or Canakkale. Whatever, I was motioned into the back seat.

It was a mother and father and their son, he in the back seat. He was serving his military duty in Canakkale, and his parents had come from Istanbul to spend a half day with him on a drive to Assos. He spoke more English than his father. I asked him how it was that he had a relatively cushy assignment to Canakkale. It is a more or less usual policy of the Turkish military to send lads from one region of Turkey to the opposite ends of the country for their period of service. It is a way of homogenizing the country, I guess. This fellow speculated that he served in Canakkale, at the Maritime Museum because he spoke German and English.

As we drove northward, past Ayvacık, in the quickly fading twilight, I realized I had overstayed my time in Assos. I had paid scant attention to the lateness of the afternoon. I had made no inquiries about timing of returning mini-buses to Ayvacık, which is on a main line. Oh, I suppose I could have gotten back to Tevfikiye that night. Maybe.

But, the way it worked out, I had a very comfortable sedan ride all the way back north to the 5 km spur road to Tevfikiye. I walked the distance in 40 minutes beneath a veiled 1/3 lit moon face. There was enough light to cast a slight shadow. Though a light breeze blew, it was yet warm enough to walk in shirtsleeves.
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