October 14 - November 4   These three weeks surely could provide enough information to fill a small book, but I will just hit a few highlights.  We spent only a couple days in Istanbul, a city of 13 million people.  We were on our own for the first 24 hours and met some other tourists with whom we shared dinner, complete with the requisite belly dancer.  After that, we joined 24 delightful people for a "Europe Through the Back Door" tour led by Meli, a Turkish lady with an very impressive knowledge of history, politics and religion - plus a passionate love for her country.  In Istanbul, we saw the usual great sights like the Blue Mosque PA140040Blue Mosque.JPG (97999 bytes)and the Ottoman Topkapi Palace, got a short history lesson at the Turkish Arts Museum and tried to remember a few elementary Turkish words which we soon forgot.  We wandered through the Egyptian Spice Market and the Covered Bazaar, where I got my first of many temptations to buy rugs and ceramics.  The evening cruise on the Bosporus took us from the European side of the city and into Asia while still being within Istanbul city limits.  Then it was off to Ankara, the present Turkish capital, where we toured the Anatolian Civilizations Museum and Ataturk's mausoleum.  Although we saw the usual tourist sights, we also did things that the typical tourist would never have an opportunity to do, such as visit several families in their homes.  One family lives in their handmade, traditional nomadic "black tent" made of goat hair.  We shared tea, cheese, and flat bread with many people.  We swam in thermal waters over marble ruins at Pamukkale, crawled through stone houses carved in the mountains of Cappadocia, PA180196.CappadociaJPG.JPG (61845 bytes) slept in an ancient monastery, and explored Ephesus and more other ruins than we could ever remember. The food was well chosen for us, giving an extensive variety including lots of white cheese and olives, wonderful yogurt, eggplant in many forms, and even a delicious dinner of personally grown mushrooms served six different ways, ending with clove marinated mushrooms garnished with coconut!  We saw ceramics being made as well as Turkish rugs.  Salesmen and souvenirs were everywhere and hard to resist, but everyone was pleasant and congenial.  A number of our tour members came down with various levels of minor maladies, but there were no major health problems and Larry and I managed to stay well.  We had a wonderful group of interesting and adventurous people.  A few were from the Seattle area and we are looking forward to seeing them again some time in the future.  We all learned a lot about history and about the Turkish people, their land and its religious backgrounds.  Our tour ended at Ephesus, the Pa250035Ephesus.jpg (64169 bytes) partially excavated and thoroughly impressive 2000 year old site.  As we packed for the last day, which was a boat trip to the Greek island of Samos, Larry and I pondered whether to continue into the Greek Islands as we had originally planned or to head to Turkey’s southern coast, where so many Germans migrate to resort areas.  In talking with Meli (our tour guide), she mentioned the cancellation of another couple she had planned to share a short cruise with.  It was the end of her busy tour season and this was to be a time of relaxation.  Not wanting to intrude, but very enthused, we leaped at the opportunity when she offered us the chance to PA270093boat.JPG (47312 bytes) fill in the space.  So we lounged on a 90 foot boat for three days along the rocky coastline of southern Turkey and shared the company of five guests and a crew of three. PA280055.groupJPG.JPG (56841 bytes) Meli’s friends could all speak English, and we once again showed our ignorance by communicating only in our native tongue interspersed with nods and body language.  We had a great time eating, drinking, swimming, and relaxing - and I even caught a couple fish!

After that, we struck out on our own once again.  We took a minibus to Datca with plans to explore Knidos, an ancient trading city reputed to have been even larger than Ephesus.  In the dark, the bus driver dropped us at a hotel for which we paid $21 that night.  The next morning we explored the alternatives and switched to a much nicer accommodation with balcony and pool for 18,000,000 Turkish lira.  (That is only 28 U.S. dollars!)  We took a much needed day to get clothes and bodies washed, hair, beard, and nails trimmed.  Then we hired a taxi for the winding 30 mile drive to Knidos, which has not been excavated to much extent, but you can still see from the ruins the large area it once covered.  On the way back, we stopped for lunch at one bay and then stopped at a second beach and the driver's home where we were presented with a large bag of his freshly harvested almonds.  Although the hotel was very nice indeed, we were starting to get tired of the same breakfast Pa310018.jpg (67178 bytes)which we had been getting every morning for three weeks - tomatoes, cheese, olives, and honey or jam for the same Turkish white bread everywhere.  It is very nice for several mornings in a row, but I was craving some breakfast variety and we never got it in Turkey.  So we flew up to Istanbul in preparation to head onward to Hong Kong and mainland China.  Istanbul, with its bustling crowds,gave us one last chance to savor wonderful lamb and Turkey's unique charm.

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