Tuesday, October 22, 2013


I decided to do just a single post for our short stop in Germany since this blog site is hard to use.
   We made it to Frankfurt without issue and took a car. Michelle didn't realize she had mistakenly canceled our reservation with Avis by luckily Europcar was loaded with vehicles. We took a brand new VW Polo which was a real joy to drive.
   Our first stop was Michelle's Ringcon 2013 convention, which is basically dealing with Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and similar type stuff. We got our hotel in a town outside Bonn called Bad Godesberg, which gave us a straight 10 min train ride to the hotel the convention was being held at. The town was lovely and we strolled around, even finding a Woolworth's store which is basically a pic n save type thing now. It is fun looking in shops when in foreign lands. Michelke and I had a good time and the next day hit the convention. Michelle had already bought tickets and we picked them up, there were tons of people in costume. Every lord of the Ring character and all kinds of other things, manly local German shows or games we were not familiar with. I am familiar with gorgeous ladies in skimpy elf get-ups so even though not much of the show interested me I was we'll entertained. Michelle was like a little girl and really enjoyed the show, buying things from vendors and meeting some of the actors in her Game of Thrones show she likes. This was important for her and I am happy she got her dream.
    We next drove to Trier along the Mosel river and were treated to quite a sight. All the trees are turning with seas of yellow, gold, oranges and reds. Each vista was like a post card and it was one of the loveliest drives I have ever taken. We finally got to Trier and our hotel room looked out at the Porta Migra, the Roman gate. What a beautiful city Trier is with rich history. We spent a couple days soaking it in, visiting the Roman amphitheater, baths and the incredible Landesmuseum which had on display a huge hoard of Roman gold aurei (Nero to Septimius Severus) weighing forty pounds! What a great museum it was and we really really really liked Trier, really.
    We then drove back along the Mosel river and found our little hotel here near the Frankfurt airport. Five nights, six days and a perfect way to end a couple months of traveling.
   We had a great trip and are ready to come home to our babies (cats) and our friends. We are rested and reinvigorated and most importantly the princess is happy. Thanks to all you one or two people who took the time to read this rambling blog. Next trip I'll find a better blog site where pics could be added easier. Take car and see you or talk to you soon!

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Istanbul is one of the world's great cities, no doubt about it, European in every way. It is silly some consider Turkey part of the Middle East because the country has more in common with Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The city is vibrant and people walk everywhere. You can wander from district to district and continually be amazed by the history and culture.
    Each time we come to Istanbul we stay in Sultanahmet, where the Byzantine city was. All the famous landmarks and the Archeology museum is over here. We also went to the area around the Galatay tower with crowded streets with all kinds if shops. Michelle found a clothes store that sells the type of Turkish style clothes she likes. Everything was cheap and on sale and she had a ball. I have never scene her shop like that, but a girl needs clothes. We also visited the Pera museum which had a fantastic collection of scales and weights and some paintings, one, 'the Tortoise Trainer', especially famous. We also picked up a couple carpets and just enjoyed the place, buying bags if cat food and feeding cars everywhere. It was a super 2 1/2days in Istanbul and tomorrow morning we leave for Germany. We are flying to Frankfurt then taking a rental car to Bonn, where Michelle plans for us to attend a convention concerning Lord of the Rings and other stuff. Like Comicon if I understand it correctly. Will keep you posted.
   But that is all I have from Turkey for now, we had a super trip with nothing but great experiences!


The Troad is an interesting area to explore and I mean the Roman province of Troas. The T's don't use the term in the modern sense. We plan our trip around the in the context of how the Roman's roughly had it organized, which were basically provinces. We have combed this part of the T a few times in the past. Troy being in the northwest part. The town of Assos is in the southern portion and lies on the coast, the island of Lesbos seemingly a stone's throw away.
    We loved Assos the last time we came here and back we went, the drive into the down long and winding, with brief vistas of the Mediterranean. This time we decided to stay in the tiny harbor of Assos and what a perfect choice that turned out to be. It really is too small for cars so one has to park on the side of the windy road and walk down. This means the harbor is quiet and peaceful. Out hotel, called Assos Grand Hotel, gave us a room facing the harbor from two sides, it was really awesome and we just hung around the place enjoying the local cats and feeding the schools of fish. Our breakfast table was only inches from the water and the bread was a hit. Life slowed way down for us in this town. Eventually we did go up and visit the ruins of Assos itself, the theater a good place to spend the early evening and the acropolis and surrounding city the next afternoon. We decided to stay an extra day and just hated to leave but we had to.
   We then took of and visited a local site called Zeus Altar which was lame and we noticed there was all kinds of Local T's there and many places were closed. We finally realized it was a Turkish holiday  called Eid al Adha, which lasts four days.
    We then visited the ancient site of Antandros which offered a partially excavated villa with interesting paintings, then sped to Nicaea (Iznik). We ended up getting there past dark so we couldn't see all the original Roman walls which still surround much if the town. We did stay here in 2009 so at least saw them then. They were built in the early 4th century AD. Since we had to get up early to catch the ferry across the Bosporus at Yelova at 9:45am we had to leave at 7;30, so we saw what work they are doing to the theater and some of the walls and sped off to Yelova.
   The ferry was lightly attended and it was an easy and straightforward jump to Isranbul.
    Now taking the car back to the airport was the only loose end. When we drove off the ferry the car suddenly was having transmission issue and I was concerned it might not make it to the airport. A light came on on the dash saying the car needed service or repair. I was thinking " after 5,000+ miles you are going to give out on the final few kilometers to the airport! You're kidding right?". Well we stopped to to it off and when we started back up the issue seemed to vanish. Odd? When we turned it in the company forgot we were coming and the whole return took way too long. We had prepaid for it and the guys working for the car rental were shocked to find out this car (and us) originated in Diyarbaker! I guess our kind of traveling is not too common, but eventually they said all was well and didn't notice the few dents and such Michelle hid with mud. The car was so dirty it was hard to ascertain the color, but we were good to go. The other thing were the super hwy toll boths (all électronic) we had issues with. Supposedly we were ok to go through them but they sounded the violation noise each time we went through. We expected issues here but nothing said. We sighed with relief over that one.
  We then took a cab into Istanbul and looked forward to our last couple days in T-land.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Hello my faithful one or two readers, if you are still with me I appreciate your dedication. Let me know if anyone is actually reading this thing if you don't mind. At least I won't feel like I am always talking to myself.
   So, on Oct 10th we drove back to Seljuk, near Ephesus And Kusadasi, and stayed at our beloved Kayhan hotel. We visited Euromos again and showed up at the hotel at 11am and planned to toss our things down and head up the coast to hit some Ionian cities. The staff were happy to see us (we've stayed there many times and just 9-10 days ago, and they gave us one of the big rooms named Didyma (after the place). The room was so inviting we crashed until 2pm then decided to drive up the coast to Teos, exactly as Greg and I had done some five years ago. 
    It was a pleasant drive, weather just like LA for date, and found Teos, whose Greek coins always have a griffin. The T's have been up to no good as usual and more of the site has been excavated and better organized with pathways etc. It was a lovely hike around as we enjoyed the fall colors. The theater was a bit delapidated but the bouletarion was awesome. We had fun and the drove south and tried to find Lebedos, but the site seemed closed and there were tons of kids around the gate and we just got the heck out of there. 
   We decided to visit Claros and watched the sunset before having a nice meal at our hotel. Michelle loves this hotel and it was hard to leave the next day.
    We then drove north to Bergama, visiting the town if Alishar on the way (the town isn't really on the way) to see the ruins if Thyateura. I have like 20 coins from this city and saw some ruins existed from the Roman period. Well, what we found were a few tiny excavated areas in parks or closed off areas amidst the total hectic and chaotic modern town. It was very nerve wracking driving around. We think it was lunchtime market day or something. People just don't move out of the way. One guy I almost hit walked right in front of meas he texted. It is very hard with pedestrians here because they don't look and they barrel out in the street often texting. People are glued to their phones around here. We went through a traffic control point today where they create a traffic jam and funnel the cars into one Kane via cones. When we passed the cops one was having tea with some guy, chatting away behind his car, while the other one stared into his phone within the car, just wasting everyone's time!
   We were disappointed with Thyateira and just got the hell out of there. We then drove on to Bergama and found a comfortable hotel. We ate dinner in a restaurant that had a local business having a dinner and award ceremony. It was interesting, especially the part when we showed like desert wandering stragglers, especially me, and all the T's were dressed up nice. It was our hotel restaurant and when a group of French travelers showed up from a tour at least we didn't look so out of place.
    The next morning we visited the ancient city of Pergamon, a truly important classical city. I visited the place in 2003 with my friend Ross, (Michelle's ex-husband and still my good friend), and we had to hike a very long way up this extremely steep path to gain access to the acropolis. Well the T's went all out and completely pulled out all the stops for us this time, since they knew we were coming and they wanted to impress us. We drove to the normal parking place expecting to hike and low and behold the T'a has built a sky cable thing with little clear plastic cars hanging from a cable you sit in. These take you to the top like the thing in Palm Springs, which takes you up the mountain. We were like 200 feet up or so at the highest point and thought of our dear friend Barold Rightman, who loves things like this. We goofed around in the car and took pic of ourselves.
   Now the site was spectacular, google Pergamon to see for yourself. Not too many tour bus loads were there so we had the run of the place. There was this Jspanese guy, maybe closing in on sixty, who seemed to always wander into our group photos (where we set the timer and take pics of the two of us). Sometimes he noticed we were waiting for him but he seemingly just didn't care! I named him captain oblivious and we kept spotting him stumbling about.
   After visiting the acropolis we visited the Aesclepion, which was an ancient healing center dedicated to the god Aesclepios. It has a nice theater and we were really impressed by this place. Afterwards Michelle wanted to drive through part of the town were it is a small village kinda outside of the modern city where the ancient Roman town was. We found the lower theater and the remains of an amphitheater, which was alone and forgotten. Originally it seemed a small creek ran underneath it, the seats on the opposing banks. It was way cool and the princess was pleased. I noticed the villagers had noticed us and were preparing an assault with their bags of trinkets they always have for sale. Since I planned for this buy turning the car around before we parked it was just a simple task of driving over the first couple then speeding away. No we just declined their insistent offerings. If we capitulated every time we would have hundreds of scarves and dozens of wooden spoons! We then hit the museum which is rather underwhelming, but we did enjoy a nice lunch nearby where we were bombarded by the usual assortment if hungry cats. After sharing lunch with our feline friends we decided to head for the town of Assos as our looming date with Istanbul fast approaches. Michelle was delighted with her visit to Pergamon and I was happy because she has looked forward to it for a long time, the upper theater is just spectacular!!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Gerga or bust!

Now there is a special site in Caria called Gerga, I wrote a few college papers on the place and have always desired to have a visit. Michelle and I tried three times to find it in the past and Greg and I also tried, all to no avail. There are no clear directions and the writer who wrote the most on Gerga, George Bean, seems to have given the wrong directions as well. If it wasn't for old images of the place we could have begun to believe the place didn't really exist but there is a sign for Gerga off the hwy so it must be there somewhere!
   Our trip this te began with some google Earth notes and maps and George Bean's directions. We tried to get a bead on the place but could not. We drove to the bridge Bean mentioned but nothing he said made sense like before so we decided beating our heads against the wall and expecting different results would be stupid. We then trashed our notes and just decided to ask every human being we could find in this rather lonely area. One guy pointed opposite of where we believed the site was and indicated we had to walk, but to where and from where? On illiterate old lady we asked clung to the car and continually declared Michelle her daughter and asked why she didn't speak Turkish. She was extremely vivacious and friendly but didn't seem to know what we were talking about when we mentioned Gerga. It took us ten minutes to extract her from the side of our car! Another guy just basically said 'forget it, you'll never find it.' Finally we stopped in front of a lonely house where a man walked with a wheelbarrow with apparently his mom. We asked him about Gerga, he pointed back the way we had come and gestured that we had to walk. We tried to find out more but we could see in his eyes the feeling that 'these two idiots don't have the slightest chance of finding the place on their own!" So he immediately dropped what he was doing and offered to lead us there. We were thrilled and he changed his shoes, grabbed some water, snacks and a hat and got in our car. We turned around and no where near where we were looking he had us stop at the side of the road, absolutely nothing around. We got out and walked down the embankment, then up and down for 4-5 kilometers, no trails just cow paths and gullies. Eventually we saw the hut-like stone structure and goodness we were there- Gerga at last! It was like a pilgrimage for us and we hugged each other with joy. Our guide, nice but very quiet, just lead us around to the various parts.
   See Gerga was either the name of the town or a local deity who was worshipped there. The name Gerga is oddly written in Greek in like 20 places, which is odd, but the style of much of the walls and such are obviously Carian. My studies have pointed to this place having aired than likely older Carian history but the structures visible belong to the 4th -3rd centuries BC to thé Roman périod. Part of a large statue, perhaps of Kybele, lay below the main terrace. It is such a remote place with a road or even a foot path leading to it. It is as if time has forgotten Gerga and it is rather sad this very curious place has been left to the elements. At least this remoteness also seems to protect the place from harm.
   We were so happy to finally find the place and this made the long hike to the car a lot better. I gave the guy 100 TL for taking us which seemed to shock him, but we truly appreciated him taking the time to lead us. He probably thought we were a comple of nuts, but who cares, we made it to Gerga!!!!
   We finally made it back to the hwy and saw that sign "Gerga16." First of all at the 16 km point you are past the closest point the road gets to Gerga (where we hiked from), second there are no further info signs or anything to aid someone turning off the hwy seeking the place or to tell them the site is 4-5 km from the road!!! Who the hell decided to put a sign there and why? What an odd thing to do and it has caused us repeated frustration but this time we prevailed! Michelle extensively documented and photographed the mileage, locale and hike so we can now go there on our own next time.
That was an awesome day!!'


We decided to spend three nights at our Szencir hotel but day by day as we added another night after the first. The owner didn't speak English and our Turkish is pretty bad. We thought we had everything settled after the first night to stay a second but she came to our car as we left in the morning (without our bags) thinking we were skipping out. A few pictionary rounds later from both sides settled it all amicably. Everyone wants the same things in life, the path just sometimes gets a bit clouded.
   Well this part if Turkey, the south west was ancient Caria in Greek and Roman times. I really like the coins from the various cities and we planned to comb a small (relatively) area contains the ancient cities if Stratonikeia, the sanctuary of Hekate at Lagina, Euromos, Myus, Amyzon, Alabanda, Alinda, the sanctuary of Zeus at Labranda, Mylasa (Milas) and Herakliea ad Latmos, which is actually considered an Ionian city for some reason. Gerga gets a post all to itself. To avoid boring my one or two readers I won't go in specific details about the visits to each of these ancient places. What I will do is give a general feeling of these three days.
   We have of course been to half or more of these places and due to the ongoing trend by the T's of continuing to develop many of the ancient site a repeat visit offered new insights and things to hop around on. At Lagina the newly uncovered streets and buildings, temples were amazing, with all kinds of neat graffiti carved into the steps. We had a great time here, our third or fourth visit. At Stratonikeia the T's tied the various monuments together so the visitor can walk around and get a sense of the place. The bad thing there is the 18th - 19th century village ruins that were there were wrecked in my opinion, though they are still a big part of the place as they present it. The old remaining houses were too tidied up compared to before and the fantastic dilapidated jami (mosque) with the earthquake split walls was restored to just looking like another old mosque, one of thousands in T-Land. I was pretty bumbed about that. Add to it there are now places you can't go and more people around means although a good site to visit Stratonikeia has lost some of her old charm.
   We decided to visit Alabanda, then drive down to Alinda then over to Labranda. These mountain roads really sucked five years ago and I was a bit hesitant but Michelle thought we would be ok as the roads seemed to have been improved. Sceptical still I went along with it. We reached Alabanda around noon (after Stratonikeia) and found this great Carian city was as unexplored and developed as before. We jumped around the theater, which is in bad shape, and as we were leaving a local T who was the ticket guy found us and asked for the 6 TL entrance fee. Really! For Alabanda? Geesh! I dug around and only had 5,70 TL. He had no change. I was 30 kurush short, like 15 cents and though extremely friendly wouldn't let us slide due to HIS lack of having change. So we had to go all the way back to his place to get change. He was a by the book kind of guy with obviously nothing else to do. We did see 6 tortoise, each with a partner. Alabanda is cool in as much there is a neat area next to the road where rows of columns protrude from the ground. In situ and in excavated, the ancient streets some 6-7 feet below.
   We left and drove toward Alinda, the mountain road extremely narrow and winding with steep drop-offs, no guard rails and often cows in the road. We meandered about, had a nice picnic pb&j sandwich and then realized we were lost. See the T's will have signs, but when you take your path the road often splits without a further sign to guide you. We often have to just choose and we did, the result was a nice drive right by Alananda a second time, but just about an hour or so later.
   Michelle would not be stopped and eventually we found Alinda right where I left her three years ago. We had great light at Alinda but unfortunately it is a site that closes now. We had to be out by five and the guy waited for us when we left at 5:15. That sucks, we slept there a few years ago! The frontier is being closed down by order and little gravel-lined parking lots.
   Now we had a 30  drive back to Mila, Labranda supposedly on the way. I knew the road was bad from before, but they are working on it now and it was just awful! It was first miles of loose gravel and deep mud. I luckily let a local bus pass me so I could use his experience to guide us over the safe parts, as a bad area could sent us into a tree or over the side. At one point a huge backhoe tractor thing was digging at the road and he just backed up and invited us to drive through the mud hole he was digging in. We drove right under the huge digging claw and barely slipped through, the buses tire tracks saving the day for our tiny Opel. They would never let cars on a road like that in the US. We has to put our front license plate back on as the fre got destroyed! After the gravel and mud our bus left us and we continued, one steep switchback was so steep that first gear barely got us up as the gravel was inches deep. The back fish tailed around and such. I am telling you that road was bad! We finally hit asphalt once again and it was full of pot holes and depressions. Anyone with dentures would have had to take them out, the bumpiness and all. Add to this groups of sheep and cows in the way which slowed us down. One other annoying thing is due to the amount of beekeeping in the area our car continually had unwanted passengers. What a trip down this 'road' we had. Eventually we found Labranda, as the light waned the nice caretaker allowed us to enjoy the lovely place way after closing, understanding I guess what we must have endured getting to the place.
  On the way back to Milas, there were gravel trucks speeding down the tiny windy mountain road and after nearly having one hit us head on and scaring the bejesus out of us I flashed the high beams until the road widened and we avoided any further incident.
   The trips to the other sites were enjoyable and we love Caria a lot, Michelle naming it as her favorite part of the T.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Iasos Mylasa

On Oct 7th we awoke early at our skeet pensyion across from Iasos (the village name is long and unattainable at the moment but is started with a K) and we hiked around the promontory of Iasos and then back for breakfast. It was nice he made us a Mediterranean breakfast but I don't fancy a pile of cucumbers and tomatoes in the morning and I don't like olives. The hard boiled egg was goopy and Michelle called me 'Goldilocks' and eaty egg. I did enjoy the dish of local honey and dipping bread into it.
   This reminds me of another thing. We've coveted by car over 7000 kilometers from Diyarbakir to presently Milas and basically the T's eat the same kind of bread. White loaf, it is usually shaped the same, sometimes a bit different but it is always the same. You can find maybe a few varieties and wheat at a supermarket but in the local places only this same bread always. Don't they ever tired of it? I saw a truck delivering bread as I waited for Michelle to use the bathroom or something. A truck pulled up and when he opened the back I saw plastic crates filled with plastic bags all containing the same oval shaped loaves of white bread! Geesh! I wrote with my finger in the dirt on the back of the truck but only Michelle knows what I wrote.
   Anyway, after breakfast we re-entered Iasos and found it to be lovely as we have never been there before. We then had to go and drove back out the windy narrow road back to the hwy and then proceeded on to Herakleia ad Latmos, which can't decide if it wants to be in Caria or Ionia.
   On the narrow road into Herakleia we were blocked by a huge group of sheep, gosts and cows. the shepard tried to get the animals to move to the side but one sheep would move back into the car than the whole damn lot of them would. i was afraid of hurting one of them and the situation was rathet unerving. The situation wasnt aided by some ahole who was glued to my bumper and pissed i wasnt forcing my way through. I finally got annoyed with h and brake checked him off, which he did. when he finally passes us he shouted at me and I gave him the finger, which he didnt seem to understand. Michelle and I decided he must have been the champion at driving on roads full of animals and therefore impatient with my lack of experience. Well excuse me!!
    Aholes aside, the ancient ruins are located on a rocky landscape bordering a lake, whose current level is obviously higher than it was on antiquity. It was fun to hike around and there were cows roaming the place as well. We sat down by the lake which was nice and I skipped stones and potsherds asichelle soaked her feet. Herakleia is a nice place but it got rather hot.
   Back in the car (and cleverly dodging the ladies selling scarves etc) we cruised back down the T-Way and visited Euromos, a place anyone would love. We rolled out the pb&j sandwiches and felt all proud of ourselves until a German couple pulled in with their custom jeep with every supply imaginable. How nice it would be to be able to drive from home to T-Land. But Euromos has a wonderful temple mostly still standing built during Roman emperor Hadrian's time (AD 117-138). We walked to the theater and other parts and could see the T's had spruced up the place as they obviously expected our return and wanted the place nice and spiffy. Coins from Euromos are very rare and we have   10 or so which is a lot! It is a place you always must visit while in the big T. We would easily miss Ephesus or Pamukkale just to visit Euromos under the olive trees.
    After saying our goodbyes to Euromos (and letting the air out of those German's tires) we looked for a decent hotel in Milas, which used to be hard to do. We stopped at one place advertising three stars but we felt like we were bothering the heavy smoking concierge with our visit and instead drove back down to the Zancir hotel we spotted down the street, modest and for the working class T. We checked in and decided to stay here three nights so we could explore Caria and search for elusive Gerga. We have tried 5 times to find Gerga and Greg and I failed as well. This time we had a new plan, a new approach, it had to work, so we thought...