This is the true story of a Puertorican who joined the Peace Corps in June 2006. This blog chronicles my misadventures in the Country of Georgia and in NO way represents the Peace Corps, its mission or its views. It is my personal blog!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Trekking through Turkey

*click link to see pictures

I'm back in Georgia. That was an incredibly hectic and productive week in Turkey. I had a great, budget-friendly vacation. So here's a quick summary of what Kat (fellow PCV from Azerbaijan) and I did in Turkiye.

Sunday 12 Aug
Cross border and go to Ezurum, the capital of Eastern Turkey---very conservative. All women were covered from top to bottom and the men were wearing long white robes. I felt awkwardly naked in my capris and tshit. Spend the night there and then off to Cappadocia
Took 12hr grueling bus ride to Cappadocia region in Central Turkey. So sick of seeing mountains...mountains...mountains everywhere. Not much else to see and by the time we go to Goreme (city) it was too dark to appreciate the awesome landscape. Arrived at bus station 11pm and by midnight passed out in 'cave' dormitory room. Cave room was not quite authentic but for the price I wasn't complaining.
Took tour of Cappadocia. If you haven't heard of this place, google it. It's simply amazing. Shaped by volcanic eruptions 60+million years ago, combined with wind, flood, etc erosion the landscape is simply eerie and breathtaking. Some parts reminded me of the Southwest and Badlands area. In some parts, the lava flow was so strong it was 100 meters thick. There are many interesting rock formations known as 'fairy chimneys' to the locals. Reminded me of "toad" from Mario Bros games hehe. Visited cave cities, saw monasteries and homes built into the rocks. Went to pottery factory, and was able to see masters at work. Their handiwork were absolutely amazing. I'll post pics up shortly.
Free day. Explored more of Goreme and hiked into the nearby mountains. More cool fairy chimneys. Took night bus to Ephesus (Efes). Frequent stops every 2-3 hours. Around 4am we turned into a rest stop and all I thought was a huge Turkish Don Quixote was staring me down. At the entrance to this station was a huge statue of a bearded, turban wearing man sitting backwards on a donkey. He was holding out prayer beads and cherries to visitors. And this was fully colored and 50+feet high. The symbolism is still lost on me.
Seljuk-Efes are very important to history and religion. Some highlights of the area
This is where the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient World, once stood. It was larger than the Pantheon. Now all that remains is one lonely pillar. It was maintained until 110AD. Pillars form the temple were taken and used in other projects such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Tradition has it that shortly after Jesus was crucified, St John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary moved to Efes and lived out the rest of their days there.

On top of a hill overlooking Seljuk is the Basilica of St John, where his tomb is located. The Basilica was built by Emperor Justinian in the 5th Century to mark the spot of his grave. The foundation and many pillars still remain. It was a beautiful sight overlooking the valleys. And unlike many ruins, this one had beautiful gardens in and around it. The basilica in its prime must've been a spectacular site. It had 2 stories and 6 golden cupolas. If entirely intact today, it would be the 7th largest cathedral in the world. From the Basilica you can see the remains of the Temple of Artemis and the Isa Bey Mosque built in 1375.

Near the Basilica is an expansive fortress which dates back 2000yrs. It puts the fortress in Gori to shame, and that's saying a lot. Inside are 15 towers, a church that was converted to a mosque, and cisterns. An aqua duct system that ran through Selcuk transported water from the mountain opposite the hill to the fortress. The aqua duct still remains to the day- though not entirely intact.

House of the Virgin Mary. Located about 9km away from the town, it is said she lived here until her death in a house on a mountain peak. Every 15 Aug, mass is held here to celebrate her Assumption. Too bad we arrived on the 16th!

Church of the Virgin Mary- 1st church built in her honor. Site of the 3rd Council (Council of Efes) in 431 AD where bishops convened to decide whether her Mary was 'Mother of Christ" or "Mother of God."
Arrive in town of Selcuk, near Efes ruins. Check in and by 11am we're lounging on the Aegean coast. Beautiful sandy beaches and perfect water. Visited St. John's Basilica, Temple of Artemis, fortress, and Isa Bey Mosque.
Visited the antique city of Efes. Efes has been populated since 6000BC, and "New" Efes was built in 300BC by Lysimachos, one of Alexander the Great's generals. The ruins take you on a journey of the city and it doesn't take much imagination to imagine Ephesians walking about.

Some highlights:
Temple of Domitian: Dedicated to the Emperor, it was the 1st structure to be built in honor of an emperor. It was an honor and a privilege for cities to be part of the Emperor Cult where they'd be allowed to build structures in their honor. There once stood a 7meter statue of him. All that remains now is his head (massive) and part of an arm.

Lots of ornate fountains and baths built in honor of gods and emperors

Pryaneion (Town Hall) was sacred center of Efes. Contained an altar with an eternal flame that burned for centuries. Site of 2 impressively large Artemis statues.

Temple of Julius Caesar and Dea Roma (divine personification of city of Rome)

Hercules Gates

Royal Roman seriously. Connected to the brothel and baths, it had a square pool in the center and the 4 sides were covered with latrines. Nice mosaics on the floor.Something pretty to look at since I don't think they had bathroom reading material back then.

Terrace Houses were multi-story residences for wealthy Ephesians. Used from 1-700 AD.

Brothel had 2 stories and lots and lots of rooms. How do you know you've reached the Brothel? A footprint at the doorway leads you there.

Library Celsus was built by Julius Caesar in honor of his father who was the the consul of the Roman Asian province. He's buried in the library. It has a 2 story facade and large interior room measuring 15 meters. Female statues out front symbolize wisdom, virtue, intelligence and knowledge. This was by far my favorite place in Efes.

Gate of Mazeus and Mithridates built by freed slaves in honor of Emperor Augustus and his family

Grand Theater had seating capacity of 25,000. Was site of gladiator competitions. Gladiator cemetery nearby.

After Efes, went to the Efes Museum where they had more statues on display. If you have a chance check out the Artemis statue online. Had an exhibit on Gladiators and by excavating and studying the bones of those buried in the cemetery where able to show how they'd been killed. Pretty gruesome stuff.
Arrived in Ankara at 730am after taking the overnight bus.
Went to the Ataturk Mausoleum. Didn't really know what to expect after living in the world of Stalin for the past year. Was relieved it is nowhere near as creepy as the Stalin Museum.
Went to Museum of Anatolian Civilizations representing Urartu, Hatti, Hittite, Phrygian and Assyrians. Lots of cool things to see, but by this time I was experiencing burnout and couldn't wait to get back to Georgia.
Perked up when we saw a Burger King, had delicious lunch and headed back to the bus station.
Overnight bus to Hopa (borders Georgia)
Arrive in Hopa 830am. Alarming discovery...for the 1st time in my life I developed...cankles!!! We both did. Well I guess that's what happens when you take 2 overnight buses in a row and don't elevate your feet.
Cross border by 1100. Home sweet home! I'm back in Georgia!Take the worst 5hr bus to Gori. Blech. I was spoiled on Turkish transportation where they spoiled us w/ a/c, free drinks, etc.
Happy to say I'm not cankle-free and recuperated. Turkey was awesome and I couldn't believe how much we did in a week's worth of time.

So how many hours in total did we travel...ouch my poor bum. 11hours in crisscrossing Turkey= 67.5 hours.

Now that's hardcore!


Anonymous Gigi said...

I recently started a Web resource for English speakers in Georgia (“Q&A Georgia” on, which hopefully will centralize all disseminated bits of information regarding living and travel in the country for foreigners.

Ideally, it should serve not only as an informational forum on Georgia, but also as a place where foreign visitors will have a chance to interact with English speaking Georgians, as well as with each other. I thought that you, as foreign visitors (and Peace Corps volunteers)who are closely familiar with Georgian culture and reality, might significantly contribute to the project.

The forum is relatively new and there are not too many resources yet, but it still has a potential to become valuable platform for interaction and experience-sharing.

Your feedback and recommendations will be appreciated.

Thank you.

11:20 PM


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