Saturday, January 16, 2016

No Camel Wrestling After All

There are two "cultural" events, that I've been reading about in the guide books. One is oil wrestling which happens every year in June near Edirne on the Greek/Turkey border and camel wrestling which happens in January in Selcuk.

With a little arm twisting, I convinced my family that a trip to Selcuk might be just the thing.  We left Friday morning and arrived in the dark Friday night after a long, but uneventful day on the road.  There are a few roads that lead to Selcuk from our house, but they all involve mountains.  We decided this trip that a new route was in order so we crossed the Marmara at Lapseki, drive to Canakkale and from there to Can and then Balikeshir.  It was a wild journey, up one side of the mountain and down and then back up again.  Now these are little mountains compared with the Canadian Rockies, but 500m elevation gain on narrow Turkish roads without so much as a guardrail, make for an exciting ride.Thankfully the weather was good and the views were amazing. The other good thing about the day was that Sam was riding shotgun and I was in the backseat!

The weather for Sam's birthday, on Saturday, wasn't so great.  It was windy and threatening rain, so we headed to the Train Museum first.  Not sure why but the kids love this place and of course Cam does too.  As usual we had the place just about to ourselves.

Johanna spent a lot of her time getting in and on the trains.

Nicole and Sam spent time together exploring.

I seem to have taken a lot of photos of roosters!

On the way back from the Train Museum, I suggested we stop briefly at the Seven Sleepers.  We'd never been before.  According to legend, seven young people hid in a cave to avoid persecution.   They fell asleep and awoke miraculously 180 years later. This site isn't on the regular Ephesus tour.  I had the impression it was a small cave with a restaurant out front.

This is what I expected. 

This was what we saw.
It appears that a large Christian church was built into the rocky hillside to commemorate the miracle.

The site is an amazing warren of passages, niches, and empty tombs.

Not all of the site is visible from behind the fence.  The kids followed a steep path to one side of the site and gained access to some of the more interesting areas that way.  

In some places the original painted mosaics are still visible.

After a ramble around the site, Johanna and Sam went exploring down a narrow pathway along the hillside. This is what they found:

Two enormous rock arches.

The gigantic boulders on the ground made me uneasy, because it was clear they had once been overhead.

The kids loved the place and I tried not to worry about falling rock.

After a late lunch in Selcuk, Cam and I dropped Johanna, Nicole and Sam off at St. John's Bascilica, the site of an enormous church built by Justinian I and Theodora, who are also responsible for the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.  The apostle John is buried on the site. Cam and I went looking for and found Pamucak Beach and the nearby site that was going to be used for the Camel Wrestling event the following day.

Everywhere we went in Selcuk there were orange trees filled with fruit.We picked a few after we saw locals filling bags.The flesh was light orange and the fruit very sour.

Taxi drivers sharing a one pot meal. No forks just bread for dipping.

The enormous fortress on top of the hill overlooking the town is under repairs and not really open for visitors. However the gate was open and I hear that Johanna, Nicole and Sam walked up the hill and had a look a round inside.

Sucuk (garlic sausage). Johanna and I had a walk around the market late in the day.
Lots of vegetable and fruit vendors.
Bags of grains, dried beans and spices.

On our way out of the market, Johanna and I followed the sound of music and found a crowd of 50 people squeezed into a small area, watching a couple of men dance in the street.  We hung back initially because the watchers appeared to be men.  However, two of the band members (the drummers) were women.  When we got close, one of the older men who was watching, made a place for me to get close and take pictures.

The crowd and the dancers in front of the arches of the aqueducts.

A dancer and a drummer.

One of the dancers.
The band and dancers from the back.
Afterwards, we found a little place nearby for supper.  Cam told the waiter that it was Sam's birthday, so he went out and bought a small cake, wrote Sam's name on it and brought it for dessert.

Through the night high winds ripped through the region, bringing heavy rain. After breakfast, Sunday we drove out to the camel wrestling site bundled for the weather, only to discover that the event was canceled and the camels had "gone home".  We were all disappointed.

We spent the rest of the morning in the newly opened Ephesus Museum. It's the nondescript brick building behind the tourist information center near the the bus station; not the enormous pillared building at the edge of town as I first thought. The beautiful building with the columns and carved stone lintels is of course a shopping mall built especially for people arriving by tour bus.  The Museum has an interesting collection of coins, headless statues, sarcophagi, jewelry and small household items retrieved from Ephesus.  They could have used more seating especially in front of the 30 minute "through the ages" video of Ephesus, but otherwise I quite enjoyed it.  It made this prosperous vibrant ancient capital city come alive.

There was a big tree in the little tea shop adjacent to the gift shop.

We spent the balance of the day reading and relaxing in our hotel room.  We stayed at the Hotel St. John which had beautiful furnishings and comfy beds, in addition to being well located for walking around Selcuk and clean.

Monday morning we got up to chilly rainy weather, so we piled into the X-Trail and headed for home.  Selcuk is about 6.5 hours from our home on the Saros, so we expected to be home by suppertime.

However, when we got to Izmir, we discovered the highway from Izmir to Manisa was closed and there was snow on the cars coming from that direction. Using the map and sat nav we found a different route out of Izmir and got on the road to Bergama.  We stopped in Bergama for a conference and for lunch. Johanna was all for stopping at Bergama for some site seeing, but Cam was anxious to get home.  So we got back in the car and set out again.  In an hour's time our rainy coastal drive turned into a mountain highway drive, complete with snow and rock slides.

There wasn't a lot of snow on the roads, but they were slick.  About 5:30 Cam checked in with a colleague who told us that the ferries across the Marmara were cancelled.  The journey from Bandirma to Biga, just 74k, took us all of two hours. We prayed and slid our way down a couple of long hills, surrounded by big trucks in the dark.  Using the sat nav, we were able to find a hotel in Biga and there we sat for two days, waiting for the roads to clear and the ferries to sail.

Domino's Pizza delivery scooters lined up outside the Biga location.

Biga's new mosque. According to one Turkish tour guide, Turkey has more mosques than any other country.

Tuesday, January 19.  Nicole in front of our "otel".
We were all glad to get home Wednesday afternoon. We stopped long enough in Gelibolu for Sam to pick out a birthday cake, and for Cam to pick up car insurance paperwork.  There was still a bit of snow in some of the ditches along the highway, but nothing around our place. The house was like a meat locker.  It took most of two days for us to get it warmed up.  Oh how I miss central heating.

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