I drove west along the Black Sea coast for two more days past Trabzon. I did one venture down to a Kus Cenneti to look for birds to no avail. It did however get me onto some quiet country roads which I extended for a couple of hours. I also finalized plans for the rest of my trip.
I left the coast at the small tourist town of Sinop. I climbed up through smaller mountains than further east back onto the Anatolian Plateau. It seems to me that the Black Sea coast is wetter than the Mediterranean. Certainly the vegetation is plusher, and now in it’s Autumn garb capable of getting me out of the car a few times.
My first destination was a series of three Hittite sites. The Hittites were the primary power in Anatolia from about 1750 to 700 BC, before the Phrygians moved in, well before the Greco/Romans. As their time was almost twice as long ago as the Greeks the sites are more decimated. At Hattusa, the primary site, you visit by car. I drove about 8 km around the perimeter, stopping three times where large mythical and real characters has been carved into the guardian pillars on each side of entry gates. Inside and outside of the perimeter wall structural remains gave some indication of how large this city must have been. As I walked in some of these structures I surmised that all the smaller building blocks had been used by subsequent generations, leaving only the enormous ones remaining.
A sister site close by, Yazilkaya, is billed as a religious site. A man was waiting as I, the lone visitor on this grey day, pulled into the parking lot . He said his job was to explain what I would see, no charge . I thought he did a very good job of telling a story behind the figures that had been carved into the cliff faces of a small grouping of rock formations about 10 m high. I could readily accept that this was a special place.
Near the end of our tour my guide started to tell me about the artistic efforts of a cooperative group that he belonged to and could he show me some of their work. I said sure and he pulled a canvas from the entry to a building with the usual souvenirs. He had done so well in his guiding that I thought I would support him. I asked about a small rock with facsimile carvings, light enough to squiggle into my pack. He told me how wonderful the piece was and that the normal price was 4000 TL ($1000), but…I was now on my way to the car. By the time I was heading out of the lot he was down to 200TL, where he should have started. This was the first time this had happened to m in Turkey.
From here it was onto Ankara, the capital. Mostly I was visiting because I had time, but it was a good stop. I had a nice street photography session in the old town and a great visit to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, where I learned some more and saw some of the movable pieces from the various sites, including the ones I had just visited.
Since deciding to come to Turkey my readings continually touched on Kemal Ataturk, the military man who in 1923 was largely responsible for overturning the sultans of the Ottoman Empire who had been in power for 500 years bringing Islam to the region. They had driven the Christian Byzantines out. The government of Ataturk in effect created the Turkey of today, based far more on European norms. It was secular although heavily militaristic. He outlawed some of the deeply fundamentalist practices, like full facial veils on women. Although I do see a few now , possibly with the Islamist party of Erdogan in power. I see in Turkey a country much closer in many ways to its European Mediterranean neighbors than to other Islamic countries nearby. Attaturk is the reason for that.
One of the things he did was to move the capital from Istanbul to Ankara. As a result this is where his remains lie in a mausoleum in a park dedicated to his history and recognition of him as the father of the country. I spent a day walking to and visiting the site. Many people, army and plain clothed security forces, but most fun were the thousands of mostly pre-school kids always in large classes. I was in line with them as we filed past the sarcaughagus, through the Museum and around the grounds. It was good fun.
I headed to Eskisehir, the closest I would get to Istanbul in my car. There were two of the attractions. The old town Dunpazari, was billed as a tastefully done Ottoman section. It proved to be so, and I realized that by ottoman style they meant the narrow streets with overhanging second levels, which I had seen a number of places previously, most notably the old town in Antalya. My hotel and it’s owners were wonderful here. The young woman had taken two degrees in San Francisco and we had a nice visit. She also made Manti for me; a nice stuffed pasta with yoghurt sauce and taught me how to make Turkish coffee.
My second and possibly main reason for coming to Eskisehir was to visit the Meerschaum Museum and to watch pipes being made. Meerschaum is a very light mineral, sepiolite, made from sea life deposited on sea floors eons ago. 70% of the world’s supply is found here. The museum was small, but interesting. I watched a number of pipe makers at work in their shops around the old town and enjoyed dealing with them. I bought one largely in memory of my first Meerschaum that I bought 55 years ago in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
On to Pamukkale, another pure white attraction, travertine mineral water pools, which are much higher on tourist lists than meerschaum. Also at Pamukkale is Hierapolis, a significant ancient site built by the Greeks to take advantage of the mineral waters that flow out of the hills creating the limestone formations and travertine pools that the Greeks bathed in and now attract people from all over the world.
Most visitors take a bus up to Heirapolis, walk through the ruins and then walk out to try the pools. Some will continue on down to town and be picked up by their tour buses at the bottom. Others, advisedly not old men with very tender feet, will walk up carrying their shoes visit Heirapolis and then walk back down.
You are absolutely not allowed to walk on the limestone without shoes, even flip flops. I had read that the surface could be slippery and there was a good climb to get to the top, so I had a walking stick with me. It turned out that the dry stone and where water was running across the surface was not slippery. in pools the limestone under the water was powdery and like grease. So slippery wasn’t the problem, it was where the water had created narrow channels making the surface very rough. Most people, particularly the young, scampered along without issue. Where these sections occurred I had to resort heavily on my stick to reduce the weight on my feet.
I did enjoy the struggle though. I guess I still have some masochism in me. Heirapolis was quite impressive , with its theatre, baths and sarcaughaguses in abundance. And I did chase some birds around getting a couple.
A nice bonus to my stay here was that I got invited to a wedding. When we got to the open courtyard set up with chairs surrounding an open area I was told by the women I was with that men are not a part. We stand on the outside looking in. OK. I walked around to where I found some men and stood waiting with them. People arriving all of the time. I was handed a glass of tea. The bride and groom came in, through fire works and started dancing, surrounded by young friends. More joined in, including some men. Young girls, older women joined in. The men retreated. I finally went back to my hotel but from the music I could hear that it went on for a couple more hours. I have video.
My major destination on my car-return trip was Dalyan, on the Mediterranean about half a day from Antalya. Dalyan is primarily a British tourist enclave on a slow moving river just as it flows into the sea. I booked four nights attracted by the descriptions I had read and that “”ebird” had successful birding reports regularly leading up to my visit. I arrived about noon, was shown to my room which overlooked the pool, beyond which I could see a deck with tables over the river. I stepped out on the deck with my welcome glass of tea and within minutes a green dot sped across to the other side of the river. I would track these little green streaks for the next four days. I saw the streaks, created by Common Kingfishers, many times, the bird itself only twice.
I loved my time in Dalyan. My hotel was wonderful, a little up-market for me, but so worth it. Each morning I was out birding before sunrise: once in a canoe provided by the hotel, once on a dirt country road recommended by an online site, once in the neighbourhood of the hotel and once on the 2 km long flagstone pathway leading into the town.
After my birding I would have breakfast on the deck watching Cormorants, two kinds of heron, Great Egrets, sea gulls, a few other indistinguishable small birds and the elusive green streak I was in ever search of. I am always after new kingfishers as I travel.
A very shy Eurasian Jay
One day I took a mid-day boat trip up the river across Koycegiz Golu (lake) to a town with the same name to its weekly market. Walking through town was at first disappointing as the market seemed to be clothing and tourist kitsch, but then I found the produce market. It was wonderfuL; 100s of vendors selling every conceivable kind of produce. I am attracted because I find both vendors and produce attractive.
After seeing nothing but green streaks for a few days I hired a boat for a few hours to take me out onto the reed encrusted delta for two hours to try for a picture of my elusive prey. The boat guy was pretty confident he could deliver. To take a tour of the delta with a group costs, like my market tour, about $10. My dedicated trip would cost me $75, the equivalent of 1 ½ days in my resort or 3 days normal accommodation. But, I do want my kingfisher, and there were no guides here at this time of year.
I saw an eagle, lots of the normal birds I had been watching, some spur-winged plovers, and we pursued about five green streaks, only one of which revealed a fuzzy orange breast for a milli second. Finally well past my two hours, my driver looking very worried he might disappoint me, we caught a streak and then as he was trying to back the big boat up, my kingfisher flew up to a reed beside me, gave me a look and sped off.
My $75 Common Kingfisher
I had a nice visit with three Portuguese students, two boys and a girl, I picked up on my way to Antalya. One more night in that delightful city and now I am in Istanbul before flying home.