If you like looking at lots of piles of really, really old stones and rocks, then Turkey is the place for you. Ephesus is intruiging because the ruins there aren’t adjacent a cafe/bus depot/municipal building, as with so many other historic sites in Europe situated cheek by jowl to currently inhabited buildings. You can clearly see the bones of the old city which gives you a good idea of the original layout. Some of the buildings, such as the Celsus Library facade have been rebuilt, but it’s still a really impressive site. We found the latrines somewhat amusing. With capacity to seat 50 at one time, we’re told the unlucky slaves had the uneviable task of pre-heating the marble seats for their masters. (Can’t begin to imagine what the stench must have been like). Restoration work is still being undertaken, particularly in The Terraces, the well-preserved homes of wealthy Romans, and I daresay it will be for some time. It is extraordinary to think that there is still about 82% of the site yet to be excavated; that’s around 300 years of digging.
We were also pleasantly surprised by our visit to the ancient city of Hierapolis. The near intact spectacular Roman theatre built by emperors Hadrian and Septimius Severus apparently once seated over 12,000. Google Maps took us on a slightly more adventurous route to Hieraplois than planned, but that just added to the whole delight of travelling. Once we’d negotiated ourselves back off the dirt roads and goat tracks we found ourselves in a weeny village where we stopped for Turkish pide for lunch. The people here are just so friendly that it doesn’t matter that you can’t speak their language.
Adjacent to Hierapolis is the wonder of Pamukkale. The claringly bright, white travertine terraces overflow with warm, mineral-rich waters which people swim, wallow and paddle in (shoes off only). On first pass you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the snowfields (if it were not for the bikini-clad people running about). These combined sites now have UNESCO World Heritage status and are well worth the 3 hour drive from Kusadasi.
Since my earlier post we’ve spent most of our time in Greece. From Kusadasi we headed across to the island of Samos, the birthplace of Pythagoras. Pithagorion, the harbour town named in his honour is a pretty little spot. Apparently, apart from being a brilliant mathematician, Pythagoras was a bit of a boozer (or perhaps his mates were?) and he invented a drinking vessel which, when filled to the appointed level can be drunk from in the usual manner, but when it is overfilled the contents pour out the bottom into the lap of the hapless drinker. Fitzy is now the proud owner of just such a cup!
From Samos we decided to explore the northern Dodecanese before we headed across to the Greek mainland. We visited Arki (max pop approx 40), Leros and the sweet little island of Lipsi. We generally have a loose plan of where we’d like to go, then the weather tells us if and when we’ll get there. In the case of Patmos it was not to be. We’d already had a bit of a squall at Leros and with another forecast from the sou’ east we figured we’d have to skip Patmos and head straight to Mykonos, about 70nm west.
You know you’re approaching Mykonos, the party island, when you can hear the ‘doof-doof’ music even though you’re still two miles offshore, and the AIS is telling you that the ‘Maltese Falcon’ is moored just around the next cove. If you have a lazy 385,000 euro you can charter her for a week. (I’m not kidding! Check out the website: www.symaltesefalcon.com). I can now understand why people rave about Mykonos town with it’s higgledy-piggledy narrow streets and white cubed houses piled on top of one another, all very quaint. Oh, and there’s also some serious retail there too. On the first day we had a look around town. On the second we had planned to hire a car and drive around the island, as we did in Samos and Leros, but the breeze cranked in and some boats in the marina were getting damaged, so not a good day to leave Loki unattended. The next day presented a weather window for going north, so further exploration of Mykonos will have to wait until another day.
From there we headed nor’ east up to Andros, then along the west side of Evia, the second largest Greek island after Crete. The middle of Evia almost kisses the Greek mainland and is separated from it by a gap of only 130 ft at the town of Khalkis (or Halkida – why does everything have two or more spellings in Greek?) You can motor through it, but it’s not straightforward. The channel is known for it’s fairly unique tidal phenomenon, where the water flow changes direction about every 6 hours and whips through at 3-4 knots or more. Rumour has it that in the 4th century BC Aristotle threw himself into the tidal flow, either in an attempt to try and figure it out, or in frustration at not being able to do so!
When there’s wind against tide it throws up a nasty sea that resembles a mini Port Phillip heads on a bad day. There’s an old bridge built at the narrowest part of the channel which is controlled by the Port Authority and slides back into a recess under the road. Water traffic is scheduled to minimise road traffic disruption, which usually means: paying your bridge fees to the authority, being on standby (at anchor near the bridge) by 9pm, then waiting for the radio call to go through sometime between 1-3 am. We got the call at 2 am. Went through uneventfully with 9 other yachts, but once through was astounded to be greeted in the channel by the first south-bound vessel, a 270 ft cargo ship. The AIS showing him ploughing through the narrow gap doing 10 knots. Must have big kahunas.
We are now at the top of Evia, heading for the Northern Sporades, then up to the Khalkidiki Peninsula where we are looking forward to catching up with Billy & Dora and Chris & Penny for a few days. Should be a hoot.