Eastward Ho!

Living in our middle-class Moda neighborhood, surrounded by the beauty of the sea and indulged by the delicious varieties of food and drink so near at hand, tends to cloud our view of Turkey as a whole. That’s why it’s good from time to time to rebalance our perspective by spending a few days in a different part of Anatolia, one far from the cosmopolitan delights of the seaside towns and cities. For that purpose. the northeastern section of the country, especially the districts containing the cities of Erzurum and Kars, are an excellent choice. These are the borderlands where the landscapes of mountains and steppe remind us that over the centuries it was through here that the waves of Selcuk and Ottoman Turks and the Mongol hordes from Central Asia passed to conquer and settle Asia Minor.

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Ballooning in Cappadocia

Ürgüp, Cappadocia—September 17, 2010.

Kay and I got our wake-up call at 4:30 am, early enough to join our friends Jenny and Ralph and catch the bus from Kapadokia Balloons at 5:30. Thus began a hot-air balloon adventure, a new experience for the four of us. It was Jenny who had instigated this. Kay and I had seen the balloons in the air during previous visits to the area, but, in view of the expense, we had passed on the attraction. Now, sparked by the enthusiasm of our friends, it seemed like a good idea.

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Walking the Lycian Way

April — May, 2010

For me, the Lycian Way, so named because it traverses a region along southern Turkey’s Mediterranean Coast that was once ancient Lycia, was a rugged, 500-kilometer, trekking challenge that Britain’s Sunday Times rates as one of the world’s ten best walks.

Could I do it? Were my spirit and 67-year-old body up to this kind of an adventure? My only previous long-distance walk had been a week in Scotland, and that walk had been supported. Others had transported my luggage from one B & B to the next, and I always ate in fine restaurants and slept warmly between clean sheets. I also had the companionship of Kay and our American friends Mike and Judy.

The Lycian Way would be different. I would be alone and carrying everything I needed on my back. I had to be prepared to camp at those times when no other refuge could be found. I gave myself a month this past April to walk as far I could, and in fact I stopped after 24 days. During that time I covered 15 of the Lycian Way’s 28 routes or segments for a total of about 240 kilometers. I had some uncomfortable moments, but, on balance, it was a positive and memorable experience. What follows are some excerpts from the journal I kept while walking. They give a pretty good sense of what my days were like.

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May, 2009

I know a neat excavation . . .

There’s a lot of ruins in Mesopotamia . . .

Mesopotamia’s where I want to go

Oh Oh, Oh Oh . . .

From Mesopotamia by the B-52’s


Mesopotamia – the land between the rivers – was the subject of one of my earliest geography lessons. As a young scholar at Chicago’s Clissold Elementary, I learned that Mesopotamia was “the land where civilization began.” Over simplified that lesson may have been, yet the towns and archeological sites between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in Turkish Mesopotamia are, if not the oldest on the planet, not much younger.

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Turkey’s Wild East

Kay and I are walking along the main street in Tatvan, a Kurdish town on the western shore of Lake Van in Turkey’s  ‘Wild East.’ It is evening and both sides of the street overflow with men, and men only, chatting and relaxing.

Jonesin’ for a beer, we’ve walked the street from end to end trying, without luck, to find a store that sells it. A cold beer would really taste good right now after a dry, hot July day of sightseeing.

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The Prettiest Town in Turkey

Amasya’s charm and interest derives from several sources, the first being nature. Situated in a narrow valley along a beautiful, winding river, the old city is flanked on its north side by a sheer rock face and on the south by hillside nearly as precipitous. At what point does a rock become a mountain? I don’t know, but I can report that those that enclose Amasya are awesome in their size and proximity.

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Heat – A Blue Trip in Turkey

July 2005

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson observes that “Earth is not the easiest place to be an organism.” This is especially true if the organism in question is one of us, for as Bryson continues, “in terms of adaptability, humans are pretty amazingly useless. Of the small portion of the planet’s surface that is dry enough to stand on, a surprisingly large amount is too hot or cold or dry or steep or lofty to be of much use to us.”

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