Saturday, 19 July 2014

Troy and Gallipoli

I was a committed Pagan as a child. Anglican Sunday School was all about being nice and giving to the poor, but my religious passion was reserved for the Greek mythology that I devoured insatiably from about the age of eight. The myths and legends were like an epic soap opera – gods with awesome power and human qualities like love, jealousy, arrogance, rage, grief; gods who interfered in the human world in vengeful or whimsical ways, wrecking our best-laid plans and mocking human pride. They were great stories. My heroes were Heracles and Odysseus, my personal deity, the goddess Athena. (I think it helped that there were plenty of good roles for women in the pantheon!) A little later I read and reread Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, transported to the ‘wine-dark sea” and the “ringing plains of windy Troy”. And now here we are sailing those same seas, and visiting the ruins of that once-great wealthy city.
                                     The wooden horse from the film Troy, in Canakkale Harbour
Troy. Established as a real place rather than just a legend by the German entrepreneur/ archaeologist/ treasure-hunter/ thief Heinrich Schliemann in the 1870s, the city is at least 9 cities built in layers on top of each other. The Troy of Homer appears to be about “Troy VII”. The hoard of treasure that Schliemann smuggled out to Germany, that he called “Priam’s Treasure” for publicity purposes, actually seems to have come from a much earlier period. Mustafa Askin, the writer of an excellent guidebook on Troy, generously describes Schliemann as having “the cunning of Odysseus” in his various dealings with Turkish authorities.  From another perspective, however, without his dedication and belief in the project, Troy might still be just an idea hovering in the no-man’s-land between myth and ancient history.

The site itself is not so remarkable, after the ruins of Ephesus and Pergamon. It is really not much more than lots of walls at different levels. What is really impressive is to stand at the highest point and to look over the coastal plain to the sea, and the Island of Bozcaada (Tenedos) beyond. This is what Helen would have seen as she surveyed the battle from her tower – the vast Greek fleet beached, with a gated wall and moat constructed to protect the ships (Homer tells us that Poseidon destroyed the wall once the Greeks left), the tide of battle ebbing and flowing as the Greeks pushed the Trojans back to their city gates, then the Trojans pushed them back to the ships. At the end of the siege the Greek fleet was hidden behind Tenedos as they waited for the signal from those who had penetrated the city (by means of a wooden horse or an earthquake, depending on the story you prefer).

Now you can see several large mounds out towards the water, and there is some evidence that one of these could be the funeral mound where the bones of Achilles lie, mingled with those of his beloved friend Patroclus. It is fertile farmland; that, and the strategic position as a trading point between east and west had made Troy massively wealthy – probably the real reason for the siege, rather than the retrieval of Helen, "the face that launched a thousand ships".
The coastal plain, with the funeral mound of Achilles (?)

Rereading The Iliad is quite a confronting experience. I think the one I read earlier must have been a children’s translation, as this one is absolutely brutal – definitely in the genre now known as “battlefield gothic” where the emphasis is on extreme violence and graphic descriptions of weaponry and wounds. Because we are also on the site of a twentieth century battlefield, the Gallipoli Peninsula, drawing comparisons and contrasts is inescapable. To me, the clearest comparison is that both wars involved the pointless sacrifice of thousands of young men for a cause that, on the invaders’ side at least, had little to do with them. Then there is the idiocy of command, from Agamemnon’s imperious offence to Achilles, to the criminal waste of life at the battle of the Nek. Then the consequences of both battles: the Trojan War defined “Greece” as an empire and led to the foundation of Rome (in legend, at least, Priam’s son Aeneas flees the burning city and founds a new settlement in Italy.) In 1915, the Gallipoli campaign gave a sense of nationhood to the ANZAC countries and, under the inspired leadership of Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, saw the birth of modern Turkey. There are contrasts too, beyond the obvious one that the home side lost the first war and won the second. Homer lovingly describes the armour, weapons and physical attributes of each warrior – the golden horsehair plume of Achilles’ helmet, the fearsome stature of Ajax Telemon, Hector’s famous ringing battle-cry, how their swords and shields were fashioned, the deeds of their fathers and their sponsoring gods. No such testimonials for what Wilfred Owen described as “those who die as cattle”. The mass slaughter of WWI is horrifying and dehumanising.
Lone Pine memorial

Anzac Cove

We toured the Gallipoli Peninsula with Crowded House, who offer a well-organised operation and knowledgeable guides. No matter how much you’ve read, how many films and documentaries you’ve seen, it is still an emotional experience to stand on the beach at Anzac Cove, to step the few short metres between the Allied and Turkish trenches at The Nek, to imagine the thousands dead in a day in the small field at Lone Pine, to read the gravestones and feel a world of loss in the simple inscriptions. There were three young guys from Melbourne with us on the tour, all in their mid- twenties. It was sobering to think that 100 years ago, Ryan, David and Jase would have been in uniform, and probably only one of them would have made it home to Australia.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Babakkale (Terry)

Where are we?  We are on the Western-most point of the Asian continent!!

Too right we are.  We are in the harbour of Babakkale, a remote village in Canakkale Province of Western Turkey.  There’s not a lot here.  However, the town council does go to the trouble of issuing certificates stating that you (insert name) are at the westernmost point of the Asian continent and standing on the shores of the Aegean (Ege in Turkish).  This was extremely exciting for us so we pushed the envelope and walked out along the harbour wall to the western-est point of the breakwater we could find, which is part way around a bend.  (the island of Bozcaada is more west but is not mainland).

On the dock in Babakkale
As little as this town has to offer in terms of luxuries, what it does have in spades is that extremely comforting Turkish hospitality.  We arrived here in rising winds, concerned about the layout and possibilities for secure berthing.  As we were manoeuvring around this very modern but sparse fishing harbour, a chappy with a limp did his best to hurry over to an alongside spot and motion us to come over.  Can’t pass up an opportunity like that so over we went.  He took our lines and we secured.  He wandered away and came back with his receipt book and told us it was TL30 per day.  That’s $15 AUD.  Excellent deal and we were good friends immediately.

We checked out the castle (open 24/7, no locked doors) and the sad small cemetery below the walls for the mariners from here who have lost their lives at sea.  Wandered about town a little, scaring the living daylights out of several residents who exited their houses to the sight of a very large long-haired westerner and a very blonde pretty lady.

We went for dinner up to the first of 3 hotel restaurants on the right of the street up from the harbour and had a satisfying meal.
The Octopus

We were convinced by the owner that the octopus was good.  And the Calamari.  And the fish.  And the salad.   So, being tired, hungry and glad of a safe haven, we splurged.  The octopus was indeed good.  Grilled, soft and full of flavour.  The squid was imported but still quite nice.  The fish were the small red mullet you get all over here and came from one of the boats we are tied up near.  The salad was wonderful.  Carol couldn’t resist a small bottle of Shiraz and I wanted my usual 500ml Efes.  Total was a bit higher than usual, $62, but it was a wonderful meal in pleasant surroundings overlooking the harbour and over to the Greek island of Lesbos, some 10 miles away.  It was worth 41 years of hard slog, tension, stress and drama to be able to look out from a place nobody has ever heard of and realise that we could do whatever we wanted to and go wherever fancy took us, albeit at 5 nautical miles per hour.  But it is the westernmost point of an entire continent and we did feel a little special standing out on the breakwater.   I have contacted a Geocaching friend in Istanbul and he’s going to put an Earthcache here (a type of Geocache), one in the Castle and one up in Apollon Smintheon.

The entrance to Babakale Harbour

In the morning, we got on the dolmus to Canakkale.   We were told the bus left at 7:50 but we wandered up at 7:30 to see the brake lights on and the engine running.  Off we went through tiny village after tiny village for the next 2 ½ hours until we got to the Canakkale Otogar.  We could have exited earlier but we had no clue where we were.  Then into town and a wander about this very large city, which is the base for almost all ANZAC tours and also for tours of Troy.  There is even an ANZAC house hotel/pension.

Our main mission was twofold.  1, check out the marina.  Met a very large Turkish marina manager who said sure, come on up, there’s space.  Nice man.   TL1400 for a month’s stay = AUD$700, or under $180 a week.  Walk 50 metres to any number of great seafront restaurants.  A good place to visit the battlefields, Troy and maybe the Black Sea coast. We’re in.

Second was to return yet another dead Kindle.  Carol kills these things with overuse.  I think they are using her as a crash-test dummy.  When she contacted Amazon help, the dude said it was actually just out of warranty but it would seem that as she singlehandedly supports half the authors on Kindle’s list, they decided to replace her out-of-warranty dead one with an upgraded Kindle Touch!!  You can tell who’s their favourite girl. We couldn’t find the UPS office we had to use so we asked in a business if they knew.  The lady thought she knew and then her husband came out and said that they used to be around here but they moved over to the airport.  He rang them to confirm it.  Then he insisted that we get in his car and he drove us over to the new location.  He is a retired Biology teacher who has travelled widely in his lifetime and now works for his two sons – they are engineers and have built a magnificent block of apartments and he sort of runs the office for them while they are being sold off. Once again, Turkish generosity from every stranger you meet.

Day #3 we got on the Dolmus to Assos.  Old, old city.  The ruler of Assos liked to have nice things around so he invited Aristotle to come and stay, and Aristotle did.  The city is very high up, which discourages plunder.  We thought the return bus was due at 6:40 but were not at all sure so we wandered down at 5 just in case.  Turns out it arrived at 7:10.  We sat in the bus stand with an old Turkish dude who was convinced we could speak Turkish, so he kept up a conversation with us.  He sat there all the time we waited but we assume he left when we did.  It’s a fair bet that he wanders down the hill from Assos every day just to sit in the bus stop to watch all the action.  And there’s action a-plenty at this bus stop.  Most cars don’t know where they’re going, because we’re in the back blocks.  So they stop in the middle of the intersection.  Then a guy with a tractor and a trailer comes along and he has to stop.  He blows his horn, so the lost guy in the car takes this as an invitation and gets out to go ask the tractor guy, who must be a local, how to go somewhere.  The old guy in the bus stop finds this endlessly amusing and keeps up quite a banter about it.  He was most taken with an old lady who was not on the normal bus with the other ladies as she tried to flag down car after car without success.  He chuckled away at every attempt.

The Rock at the entrance to Assos

Next day, we went to the town of Gulpinar, to the site of Apollon Smintheon, or Apollo, God of Mice (or rats if you prefer).  Apollo can save you from the mice or he can send you a plague of them, depending on the occasion.  Homer's Iliad actually begins here in this obscure place - but more of that  in a later post. This is a wonderful site, full of interesting ruins and fruit and nut trees all over, plus  green grass and running water.  There was a road that has begun to be excavated that ran 30km from Smintheon to Alexandria Troia.  Yes, Troy is just 30km away.
Temple of Apollo, Smintheon, Gulpinar
The Baths, Smintheon

The day after, we went again to Gulpinar to get some supplies (Babakale is a little light on for shopping) and had lunch in the Hektor Restaurant.  The man who owns this has spent something like 40 years working on the historic site – it’s a sort of community effort in Gulpinar – and has old photos of him and his tractor moving huge marbles and friezes around and off to the museum.  He has a superb book on the site, but it’s in Turkish so we could only look at the pictures. 

The Hektor Restaurant with Oral Uysal

Exiting the harbour was easy – no wind and no swell and off we went to the beautiful holiday island of Bozcaada, where we arrived safe and sound at around 11am, tied up on the harbour wall and settled in.

On the harbor wall, Bozcaada
Our kind of town


Ayvalik, Pergamon and Alibey

 Waterfront warehouses, now restaurants, Ayvalik Harbour
A great lunch for a couple of dollars

Settled comfortably in Ayvalik Marina, we gave Common Sense and ourselves a good wash down, and stocked up on essential stuff. Our first day in town was market day, and it was humming. There didn't seem to be a central market area, just stalls, kiosks and mats on the ground wherever a space could be found to display produce or handcrafts. In season right now - apricots, peaches and cherries, ripened on the tree and with about 500% of the flavour of supermarket fruit at home. In the warren of cobbled streets we found a great little Locantasi (I think that's the word for a home-style restaurant where you have whatever they are cooking that day) and a nice café/antique store in one of the old stone houses. Ayvalik is an interesting town. Behind the busy harbour and touristy waterfront, narrow cobbled streets and stone buildings suggest that this was a Greek town before the population exchange of 1923. Many of the buildings are derelict, including a number of big olive oil factories, but others have been cleverly renovated as cafes, shops and boutique hotels. We used the wonderful Turkish transport system to visit a couple of attractions:

Trajan Temple at the top of Pergamon

The ruins of Pergamon crown a hill 275 metres high, with vertigo-inducing views of the town and farmlands below. Famous as the home of Galen, one of the celebrated medicos of ancient Greece, Pergamon was a noted Asklepion (a kind of hospital/ health spa/ temple - the Trojan hero Aeneas was supposedly transported here by Aphrodite to be healed of his wounds) as well as a centre for the arts. After a dolmus ride to the town centre, we took a taxi up to the top of the hill and walked down through its various buildings. It is quite a contrast to the gleaming white marble of Ephesus, being built in huge solid blocks of dark stone. The slender white columns of the temple of Emperor Trajan stand in vivid contrast at the top of the site. Most spectacular is the theatre, where 10,000 people could be seated in the steepest theatre in existence - you can't help wondering how many patrons suffered cardiac arrests on their journey to the cheap seats up the back. Some beautiful artworks are preserved in the Pergamon Museum, but unfortunately it is in Berlin.

View from the cheap seats


          Patisserie in Alibey
Named after a notable local war hero, this little island is joined to the town by a causeway and a regular ferry service. It is essentially a crumbling old Greek village, mostly built of attractive pink Andesite, a volcanic stone. There is a large disused church and the remains of an older basilica, and a lovely old restored windmill at the highest point on the island. The harbour is pretty and well protected, with some nice cafes and patisseries serving the local tourist trade. Terry found a couple of geocaches, which I believe took him over the 200 mark.

Andesite stone

Departing from Ayvalik early in the morning, we actually managed a good brisk SAIL to Behrem Kale (Ancient Assos) but once again we couldn't be confident the anchor was holding and we headed on a few miles to Sivrice. Next was a short hop to Babakkale, where we found good shelter from the howling northerly that blew in and kept us pinned to the dock for four days.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Eski Foca to Ayvalik: anchors and jellyfish

Setting off from Sarpdere

Our overnighter from Sarpdere to Eski Foca, our first night at sea for the season, was quite pleasant. We set off at sunset and had enough wind to get a couple of extra knots from the sails. It was quite a scenic trip with the lights glittering from the hills on the Greek island of Khios just a few miles across the strait.  The channel between Greece and Turkey is quite narrow and we had some hairy moments getting squeezed between a 200 metre cruise liner going one way and a 195 metre freighter going the other way with us in the middle.  At 2am.  Terry said they were lucky they didn't hit us or there would have been hell to pay .Emoji

 We arrived in the attractive harbour of Eski Foca and scouted around for an anchorage, but once again we were plagued with a failure to dig in. The bottom in most places seemed to be rocky with thick seagrass and we tried both styles of anchor (Manson and Danforth) without success. Finally we headed over to look more closely at the town dock (which appeared to be full) and a couple of blokes guided us into a berth which they said we could sit in until 4pm, when its usual occupant would return from a day sail. We have found the Turkish people to be unfailingly helpful and kind – they love to help you solve a problem! (Problem ? Problem yok!) Well at least we could fill up with water, buy some provisions and have a rest – we were flagging fast and I was just so thankful not to have to drop and pull in that *!# anchor one more time.

Eski (old) Foca  (that's 'foe-cha') was the home of the ancient Phocians who were famous seafarers referred to in Homer’s Iliad. It is a fishing town and a tourist resort for Turks from the big cities of Ismir and Istanbul – and everything is much cheaper than the resorts that target foreigners. There are some interesting ruins here, but unfortunately we were on a limited time schedule and didn’t have a chance to explore. After a good rest it was off with the lines and up with the anchor (pausing to disentangle it from someone’s mooring line) and off to Tatilkoyu a couple of miles to the north. We set anchor easily in lovely mud and enjoyed the sight of dozens of Hobie Cats, sailboards and sailing dinghies flitting around the huge bay. A comfortable night? Not really – the anchor dragged again with a wind change and we had to do it all again at 2am.

Anchors! They’re giving us hell at the moment, refusing to set, refusing to hold. We take our time and do it right, but I think the seabed must be a bit rocky and unfriendly in these parts. Wherever possible I dive in and check if it’s holding, but you can’t do that in low visibility or bad conditions. And now, as we tried to set off in the morning, the Danforth came up with about half an acre of mud, rock and seagrass attached, which no amount of dunking would dislodge. Bit by bit we cleared it with hands and boathooks. The wind was strong from the north, so it was a hard but uneventful beat up to Bademli Limani.

     Bademli Limani
This is a very sheltered little harbour, now pretty much silted up so that only small fishing boats have access. Fishing is its reason for being – there is not much here apart from working boats and tough old fishermen mending their nets – but it is a safe anchorage and quite scenic. I swam over to greet the only other cruisers there, and of course they were Aussies, David and Jenny from Sydney aboard Windjammer III. Terry and I managed to locate the only (fish) restaurant where we enjoyed an excellent meal overlooking the shoals and an abandoned yacht, transformed into a reflection pool in the moonlight. A wander around the dusty little village next day, then off early in the morning for the 20 mile hop to Ayvalik.
Passing the island of Alibey, entrance to Ayvalik 'lake'

When you enter the enclosed bay of Ayvalik through a narrow channel, the vivid blue of the Mediterranean slowly changes to jade green. The seagrass is lush, fish leap: the water in this bay, known as “the lake”, is biological, full of life. And then you pass a bubble of bright Med blue against the green. Then another … and another. Then one the size of a basketball! Brilliant blue jellyfish surround the boat, their bells hemispherical and glossy, frilly skirts hiding a spray of short tentacles. These are barrel jellies, Rhizostoma pulmo. They are prolific here in the sheltered bay and they really do look like fragments of Mediterranean blue that have strayed into foreign waters. They can grow to the size of a dustbin, apparently. Like slow-beating hearts they make their way purposefully in one direction or another, seeking richer blooms of plankton, perhaps. They are beautiful, like dancing glass, but we take a break from swimming of the boat.
Rhizostoma pulmo

We anchored first in the south easternmost bay, accessed through a very narrow channel, and spent two days dug in firmly for a change.  We dinghied ashore a couple of times, and even went to the far end of the bay to a wrecked twin engine plane that almost made it to the water to land but came up about 50' short.  Of course, there is a Geocache inside it and Terry just had to get it.
Once again, we were alongside Windjammer III with David and Jenny and had a pleasant drinks evening on board their very comfortable Hunter 46. 
The next two days forecast strong north-easterlies, the start of the dreaded Melteme again, so we will head into Ayvalik Setur Marina for fuel, food, water, waste pump-out, hot showers and a safe haven for a couple of days.  We will use the time to visit the ancient city of Pergamon and also the island of Alibey, which we passed on our way in to Ayvalik.
Marina bar, Ayvalik

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Bay of Teos (Terry)

We are sitting quietly in a bay to the south of Saperde in Turkey.  Last two nights we were in the Bay of Teos, quite exposed, but dug in nicely in the thick mud.

Common Sense all by herself in the middle of the bay

We anchored to the West of the bay of Teos, quite close to the ancient harbour wall (Antik Limani) then dinghied in to the closest resort café/restaurant and had a beer.  Then we went walking for miles to find the local Market but they had no nothing, no fresh vegetables, no fruit or anything.  Lots of Raki and lots of beer.  Trudged all the way back and dinghied over to the main beach side of this resort bay.  Trudged all the way up to their Market.  Same story, tomorrow, probably.
So we went down to the beach again to the Albatros restaurant.  Beer = ₺8 !!  Love Turkish, non-tourist prices.  Pizzas looked good.  Sorry, no pizzas.  Ok, fish and chips.  Patron wanders off and comes back with a pen and proceeds to cross out ¾ of the menu.  Sorry, none.  Tomorrow, maybe.  The tourist season is about to start, it hasn’t started yet so things aren’t up to full speed.  He recommended (because he had it) Chicken with Porcini mushrooms.  To smooth over what he thought might be a poor start, he provided a great mezze plate for free.  Nice bowl of crispy bread, too.  The chicken was wonderful, grilled on charcoal.  Chips were crunchy, salad and rice good, too.  Two Tuborgs, Carol’s red wine, two chicken dinners plus the mezze and bread came to ₺48, or $24.  We had to write him a page for his visitors’ book so Carol obliged.

Nice view from upstairs on the balcony overlooking the whole bay as the lights came on and the beach quietened down.
Next day we went back in to the ancient harbour and walked up to where it looked like you could get a Dolmus.  A Dolmus is a small Turkish local bus that does a pre-defined route, usually using a major town as a hub.  If you think it is sounding somewhat similar to the Greek Dolmades, you’d be correct.  Dolmades are vine leaves stuffed with rice and nuts.  Dolmus are white things stuffed with passengers – that’s where the slang comes from.

 One guy said “No English” but did agree that a Dolmus would come.  I thought he meant at 10:30 but I wasn’t sure.  Nothing happened for ½ hour so I went down to a small shop and the guy showed me on the clock 11:20.  Sure enough, along it came and off we went to Sigacik, where the Teos marina is (very expensive) and on to Seferihisar, quite a biggish town.  We wandered about a bit having a little look-see and seemed to be the only non-Turks there.  Found a busy Pide Restaurant and working on the principle that all those people can’t be collectively stupid, sat down also.  Well, what a find.  Quite simply, for $3.50 each we had the best Pides we have ever had.  Plus a drink each came to about $9 for lunch for the two of us

The young Pide chef guy (there was an older guy as well.)
Wandered through the supermarket to get some basics then hopped the bus back to Antik Teos, which was a short taxi-ride from Sigacik.

Ancient Teos had the largest temple to Dionysus in the old world.  Most of it, apart from two columns, is scattered all over the ground, thanks to the usual earthquakes. 

 Temple of Dionysus
The old Theatre is not much to look at, certainly not on the scale of Ephesus which is impossible to match, but the Bouleterion was remarkably well kept. 
Took the opportunity to grab a Geocache while we were there, then wandered back to the Ancient Harbour and then back to Common Sense.  Several families farm the area and their fields and orchards are interspersed with the ruins.  The road runs through their properties, too, so you look like you’re walking in their front or back yards but it’s just that they’ve built bits on each side of the road.  They are not fazed at all that you are wandering along and smile and wave. 

Olive Tree planted by Epicurus (ok, I made that bit up, but it's as old as him)
Not the world’s greatest set of ruins, but we know now where Epicurus was brought up and walked the streets he walked.  A quiet night on board with a Chicken Rogan Josh I whipped up and a pleasant night being rocked to sleep in a gentle swell awaiting forecast thunderstorms after midnight.  They never arrived.
We left the Bay at around 8:08 on a silky smooth sea and motored about 18 miles to Saperde, although we did manage to get all the sail out for the last hour.  Unfortunately, we arrived as the thunderstorms forecast for the previous night were finally heading to Teos but now were right where we were.  Several strikes on the hill above Saperde convinced me to do some laps way, way out in the bay over by the fish farms until the clouds moved on.  I don’t trust our lightning dissipater enough to give it a multi-million volt test.

Today we just couldn't get a hold anywhere, so in desperation I untied our ancient Danforth, put away the Manson Supreme and dropped the metal.  In she went.  We haven't moved since, so we'll get a good night's sleep.  The wind generator is doing what it should be doing, working ceaselessly for the first period in three years’ of ownership, thanks to Robert the Sparky in Piraeus’ efforts last year.  There are three of us in here and we are all quite settled in.  There must have been something of a settlement here because the Admiral swam ashore and has found piles of earthenware shards, handles and bits of amphorae, all over the beach and in the water.  Being a good citizen, she examined them and left them there.

Tomorrow we're going to put the motor on the dinghy and go in to the village here before heading out around 9pm for an overnighter up to a city about 60 miles away.  We've been doing small day sails for the last 6 weeks which is why we've only managed to get 422 miles from our start point in Finike.  We decided to harden up a bit and go overnight. 

Kusadasi and Ephesus


Kusadasi (Terry)

It was about time we treated ourselves to a stay in a civilised environment so we made our way along the coast into Setur’s Kusadasi Marina.
Kusadasi?  Never heard of it BUT it turns out it is the second-busiest port in Turkey, after Istanbul.  Why?  This is why :
The two "Celebrity" ships on the left are identical in measurement.  The next to the right is "Louis Cruises", after our cheeky nephew.
Ephesus is only about 15kms away and all these people are here for that.  You have not seen so many group banners held high with “Pink 4” and “Red 6” outside Paris.  Maybe Rome?
The marina is quite hi-spec, with cards for this and that but amazingly they do not have any facility for dealing with the Turkish Mavi card (waste water disposal).   The cruising guide is a little disparaging of the town but we found it quite pleasant, with some good restaurants, and a nice Doner place where we sat in the street on plastic stools with cars picking their way around us.
The hill lit up at night time
It is very touristy on the beachfront though and that was a bit irritating.  Nevertheless, we had a pleasant three days there, refilled our water tanks, put a massive charge into the batteries on a slow trickle and had a wonderful evening with a group of engaging Kiwis who were delivering a boat for another Kiwi, but had the privilege of delivering it in a roundabout way, via Turkey, Samos, Crete, The Peloponnese, and into the Gulf of Patra.  Young Ben, Gordo (the rigger), Nicky and Craig, were full of life and sparkle, up for adventure and excitement.  Craig had frequented the Fremantle waterfront in the America’s Cup challenge in Perth.  We hope we will run into Nicky and Craig down the track when they sort out the mix between work, cruising and retirement, and maybe we’ll run into Ben when he works out what boat to buy and where.
Ephesus (Carol)
You know how you know one fact, and you know another fact, but somehow you’d never really linked them together? Then when you finally do, a whole lot of things line up and make sense. Well this was probably obvious to everyone else, but I just realised that the people of ancient Ephesus were the Ephesians as in St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, from the Bible. St Paul was actually here (not really a surprise – he was nearly everywhere we’ve travelled through the whole Mediterranean) preaching in the synagogue for three months to Jews and pagans in what was then the major Eastern city of the Roman Empire. Paul’s epistles were written to support and encourage his band of early Christian converts here in Ephesus, as were his other letters to the Corinthians, Romans etc. It becomes pretty clear touring around these parts that without the zeal and energy of Paul, Christianity would probably have remained a short-lived minor cult. The Virgin Mary is also supposed to have lived here, but I believe the source for that is a vision of a German nun, so we might put that one on hold awaiting further evidence.

Christianity seems to have been one of several forces that conspired towards the fall of this great city. Texts from the time lament the rise of this new cult as it was starting to impact on the lucrative sales of icons from the Temple of Artemis and other shrines. I suspect the financial rage of silversmiths had as much to do with the stoning of Christian martyrs as any religious objections. And then their harbour silted up – so often the end of great trading ports. The wonderful Celsus Library with its 15000 scroll books was wrecked and burned by the Goths in 265 AD, along with the Temple of Artemis, and that was pretty much the end of this outpost of the Empire in Asia.
Façade of the Library
Ephesus has the best preserved ancient ruins in the east – some say the best anywhere. The street layout is retained, along with the under-street water and sewerage systems (What have the Romans ever done for us?) so you can literally walk the streets, passing the temples, the library, the public baths and latrines, the brothel, the agora which would have been a busy market. The most visible and impressive structure is an enormous theatre, set into the hillside and with seating for 25000. Cultural events were held here, but the most popular attractions were apparently gladiatorial battles with various wild beasts. There are high walls around the seating area to protect the front rows from being attacked.
The theatre dominates the site
 A broad processional way, lined with pillars that would have had statues on top, runs down to the ancient harbour. Marc Antony and Cleopatra walked into the city along here, their path strewn with flowers.
The road to the harbor 
For a few lira more, you can go inside to check out the archaeological site of current activity, the houses of the wealthier Ephesians terraced into a hillside. These are in remarkable condition, with vivid frescoes and mosaics depicting scenes from myth and everyday life, bathrooms, kitchens, dining halls and bedrooms. You can also see the work of the archaeologists – the painstaking uncovering and piecing together of these precious artefacts over months and years.

World's hardest jigsaw puzzle
Neptune mosaic

Ephesus was wonderful. Even the crowds, with a little imagination, could be visualised milling about the streets and markets in their togas and sandals. The Ephesians must have felt proud of their bustling, prosperous city, trading with all corners of the known world, a centre of commerce and culture. They must have felt important. How could their sophisticated, civilised way of life fail to endure and progress?

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Bodrum and Beyond

Well it looked like a perfect anchorage - good shelter, solid holding, right under a very atmospheric Crusader castle - what more could you want? We settled in and prepared the dinghy for the short trip in to a restaurant quay for dinner and a look at the town. We noticed that a French flagged cruiser nearby launched its dinghy at the same time, so we had an opportunity to try out our slogan for the year, "Follow the French!" especially where eating and drinking are concerned. We ended up at a pleasant waterfront tavern, but when the French crew decided to leave a little later, they found that their dinghy was sinking. Terry ferried them back to their boat, then ferried their little dinghy back as well. I guess that's another reason to follow the French - they might need rescuing!

St Peter's Castle

Anyway, we had a wander around the lively waterfront of Bodrum, enjoyed a meal then tootled back to Common Sense for a sleep. No such luck. The huge party catamaran docked next to the castle erupted into raucous life at midnight and didn't let up until 5am, blasting out techno dance music that reverberated through the hull and our heads relentlessly, making sleep impossible. The massive Halicarnassus nightclub (capacity 5000) sent back its own soundwaves from the other side of the bay. We got up and watched the laser light shows for a while and tried to remember if there had ever been a time in our lives when we would have enjoyed this.

As soon as we 'woke' the next morning we motored around to Gumbet, a bay further to the west, in hopes of a quieter second night. Gumbet is another "corner of a foreign field that is forever England" with its pubs, fish and chippies and Full English Breakfast signs everywhere. We didn't spend any time there, but caught the dolmus back into Bodrum proper to visit its most famous attraction, the Castle of St Peter, another fortification of the Knights of St John, now home to the marvellous Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

This is really something. The castle itself is wonderful - one of those Lego castles with moats, turrets and even a real dungeon including some of the implements of restraint and torture. It has commanding views of the surrounding bays and the harbour. The different 'Langues' (language-based units) of the Knights of St John each had its own tower within the castle, and these now house armour, furniture and weaponry of the time. The stones of the English tower were engraved with the names and crests of residents - fine examples of medieval graffiti! Apparently the castle's formidable defences were never really tested: it was simply handed over as part of the package when the Knights' main stronghold on Rhodes was lost to Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522, and the Knights took possession of Malta as their new base.

The underwater archaeology exhibits cover a range of ancient shipwrecks from the surrounding coast. Most of them were located, researched and excavated under the direction of Peter Throckmorton, then George Bass, with lots of assistance from their students, local historians and enthusiastic local sponge divers and fishermen who had previously had little time for the vast hoards of pottery, marble and skeletal vessels that they often encountered on the sea floor. Apparently the locals contributed so many artefacts once the archaeologists had shown an interest that the then derelict castle was the only place with lockable rooms big enough to store it all - hence the birth of the museum.

I think the museum's design work must have been done by a theatrical designer. Far from dull, dusty cases of exhibits, these are showcased in dramatic and interesting ways. Shipwrecks are displayed as they were found, with blue-green lighting and sound effects simulating the deep ocean floor. The fine glassware from several wrecks is in a darkened room, with each piece backlit to show its delicate structure and colour. Getting around the museum's multiple towers and halls is quite a challenge (there are lots of steps and they are big steps - I thought Medieval people were meant to be short?) but it is well worth it. Even the gardens are great, with a fine collection of Mediterranean trees and interesting artefacts - amphorae, wells, grave markers - strategically placed.

Wreck with amphorae and copper ingots

Well that was the good part. Hot and exhausted after a long day and quite a drive/walk back to the dinghy, what's the last thing you want to see? Or rather, not see? That's right, your yacht isn't where you left it. Aaarggh! Common Sense was not bobbing quietly at anchor where she'd been that morning - she was tied up to one of the big tourist gulets further in. The wind had changed and picked up, and the good old Manson Supreme anchor that we celebrated in the last blog had dragged! The gulet guys, champions that they were, had rescued her from going aground or doing some damage to another boat. Now came the challenging part: getting the anchor up - and of course it had snagged the gulet's mooring line and had to be wrangled free. Anchor up and we had to manoeuvre in the tight spaces between the gulets and fishing boats near the shore - and of course we strayed a little too close and got stuck in the mud. None of the usual tricks worked so Terry used our dinghy and another gulet used theirs and eventually pushed us back to open water, though not without further dramas as I narrowly missed a few neighbouring craft. Phew! Well away from the scene we made another attempt to set the anchor, but it didn't hold. The conditions were windy and unpleasant and I think we'd lost confidence a bit. At this point we noticed two yachts tied up alongside a big concrete pier behind the gulet dock. This looked like an attractive possibility, so we eased in and tied up. Terry asked a Turkish woman in one of the yachts if it was OK to be there and where we should go to pay; she shrugged her shoulders and said, "No need to pay!" and indeed, on closer inspection it was clear that the pier was unfinished and wasn't even connected to the land. What a relief to be securely tied up and to know that we would still be there in the morning!

Next day was another dinghy trip + dolmus into town to do a bit of shopping and visit a hidden gem - the Bodrum Maritime Museum. This small museum is financed by the local Chamber of Commerce and is dedicated to Bodrum's relationship with the sea through sponge-diving, fishing and travel. The ground floor is filled with beautifully detailed models of the boats that have been part of the town's history, accompanied by pictures and stories of their captains and crew. There is a display dedicated to the writer Cevat Sakir Kabaagacli (referred to as 'the Fisherman' in English, for obvious reasons) who popularised the idea of coastal cruising by gulet for pleasure, now a huge tourism industry. The top floor is a glorious collection of seashells from all over the world, which I could have studied for hours while the Captain looked at the boats.

The best looking of the Kaptans

Back to Common Sense, dropping off a couple of bottles of raki to our saviours of the previous day on the gulet. There she was, resting quietly where we left her, thank goodness, and we were set for a good night's sleep ... but wait ...tonight was obviously Gumbet's night out. The doof doof music resounded from party boats and bars til the early hours, in the words of Rod Heikel's Cruising Guide "like a heart monitor in overdrive". That was enough. Great town, lots to see and do but we really needed some sleep so it was off with the lines and on to the next (quiet) destination...