Category Archives: Turkey

Cyprus, The Village of Omodos and the Struggles

Monastery 001

The following day we went on another coach trip.  Were we mad?  I am a believer that the mind cancels out bad things and despite the fact that we had endured a nightmare coach ride to Nicosia only three days previously we set off again, this time to the Troodos Mountains.

After twenty minutes or so I remembered why I had said that I would never do this again as we went through the same tedious routine of picking people up from all over the holiday resort of Paphos.

Just as my head was about to explode we finally we left the city and headed for the mountains first of all through surprisingly green and fertile fields, potatoes, peppers, grapes vines, almonds and olives.  I was expecting a barren landscape similar to  that of Malta for example but it turns out the Troodos Mountains provide abundant water and mountain streams and rivers deliver adequate water to the valleys below to support arable farming on a very large scale.  I was surprised by that.  I learn something new every day.

Troodos 01

After an hour or so we arrived at our first stop – the village of Omodos which turned out to be one of those tourist trap villages where all coaches make a stop-over and the local people pester the life out of you to buy souvenirs that you really do not want or need.  We successfully ignored them all and made our way the centre of the village and the Timios Stavros monastery that we had come to see.

The monastery itself was mildly interesting, mostly icons and incense as you can probably imagine but it was other exhibits on the site which made it really worth going to see.  First of all a room of precious Byzantine icons several hundred of years old;  I am not especially interested in Byzantine icons I have to confess but what fascinated me was the fact that they were just decorating the walls without any protection or security and looking quite vulnerable.  I suspect that there was most likely some CCTV somewhere in the room or maybe they are just not especially valuable.  Who knows?

Omodos Icon 01

Even more interesting was a discreet little museum tucked into a corner room that wasn’t especially well signposted.  It was about the struggle for Cyprus independence which was a bad tempered little spat that took place between 1955 and 1959 between Greek Cypriot freedom fighters in an underground organisation called EOKA (Ethnikí Orgánosis Kypríon Agonistón or roughly translated National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters) and the colonial rule of the British.

Discreet because although Cypriots celebrate independence and consider the terrorist fighters to be resistance heroes I suspect that they don’t really want to offend the hundreds of thousands of British visitors to the country because the reality is that Cyprus relies heavily on British tourism to support its economy and specifically here the tourist shops in Omodos.

I try to be objective in matters like this but the bottom line is that EOKA were terrorists, much like the IRA in Northern Ireland and the Mau Mau in Kenya, and they killed three times as many British soldiers as British soldiers killed Greek Cypriots.  They employed guerilla warfare tactics including sabotage, civil disobedience, civic disruption, cowardly assassinations, ambush and unjustified attacks against police stations, military installations and the homes of army officers and senior officials including civilians and families of army personnel.

the-struggle-museum-in

The museum consisted of display cases honouring each of the freedom fighter heroes who died in the struggle and who came from nearby.  Each case set out details of their lives and deaths and contained their clothes and other personal items.  Regardless of the rights and wrongs I found it to be an interesting little museum.

There are no memorials here to the British soldiers who died.

Cyprus celebrates Indepence Day on 1st April each year.  Worldwide there are one hundred and sixty countries that celebrate an Independence Day.  This sort of thing is quite difficult for us British to understand, we don’t have an Independence Day to celebrate.  Uniquely (I think) we celebrate a day in history when we were conquered and lost our independence and that says something about the British character, that day was the The Battle of Hastings in 1066.

France has a sort of independence day on the 14th July (Bastille Day) to celebrate the end of the Divine Right of Kings. Germany has a Unity Day on 3rd October to celebrate reunification in 1990 and Spain has a National Day on 12th October which celebrates Christopher Columbus reaching the New World and the subjugation of an entire continent, a sort of Independence Day in reverse!

Another interesting fact is that of the one hundred and sixty Worldwide Independence Days fifty-five celebrate independence from the British.  Whoops!

We stopped for a while for a drink in the sunny main square of Omodos and then ran the gauntlet of the souvenir shops for a second time and made our way back to the coach for the next leg of the tour.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

 

Cyprus, A Stormy Day in Paphos

Paphos 05

On Saturday morning we woke to blue sky and sunshine but the weather forecast was pessimistic, promising storms and winds by lunchtime.  The weather seemed so good that we thought surely they had got it wrong so after breakfast we set off for the three mile walk to the harbour.

We stopped on the way for a haircut for me that I thought was unnecessary but Kim insisted.  It was a bit untidy I confess but it now seems that I will never be allowed to grow that pony tail!

Along the way we stopped at the Catacombs of Agia Solomoni, a gloomy and overrated underground tomb and sanctuary with catacombs with supposedly magic water.  I hoped the magic water would keep the rain away so I made a wish.  We didn’t stop long but passed by to the twelfth century church of Agia Kyriaki which turned out to be well worth the visit.  Among the excavations are some Roman columns, one of which is called Saint Paul’s pillar.  It seems that Saint Paul visited the island to preach Christianity but the Roman Governor took exception to this and had him flogged.  Poor old Saint Paul seemed to spend a lot of his life being flogged it seems.

Paphos 04

A lot of the walk into Paphos was completely dull and uninteresting along a strip of charmless grey car hire offices, car parks, travel companies, estate agents, every so often an Irish Pub and a modern but  unfortunate McDonald’s restaurant.  There is always a McDonald’s restaurant.  But closer to the harbour and the older sections there was a more interesting mix of history and styles.

Paphos 11

As we walked we strayed away from the main streets into backstreet areas where some people hang to the old ways like stubborn barnacles clinging to a rock.  Houses from the past which take up space that modern developers would love to get their hands on but people will obviously not give them up easily.  Mostly old people of course and I imagine that once they have gone their families will happily sell up and cash in.

I had to include a door of course…

IMG_0080

Our plan was to walk to the sea front and stop for refreshment in a place that we had found and liked but we didn’t get all the way to the harbour because as it turned out,  despite my reluctance to believe them, the weather forecasters knew better than us after all so at about the half way point and with angry grey clouds building ominously above us we did the sensible thing and turned around.

Paphos 06

Back at the hotel I sat in the last of the midday sun and with head down reading a book failed to notice the approaching storm.  Suddenly the shrapnel rain hit the balcony like the unexpected Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and I had to make a dash to the room.  That was it then for the remainder of the afternoon.  Two hours stuck in a bedroom watching afternoon TV and every now and again optimistically peering out of the window into the murky gloom as storm clouds swept in relentlessly from the west.

Luckily there was a small shop in the hotel and we had some wine to share.

After a couple of hours the storm passed, Kim went to the hotel spa for a massage and because I am not keen on body massages administered by a stranger I went instead for a walk along the coastal path in an invigorating force seven gale. The gale force wind gave me all of the massage that I needed!

Later we debated dining options.  There were more storms so should we risk the walk to the nearby restaurants about a mile away or settle for the hotel dining room.  Kim wanted to take the risk but I was a lot more cautious and advised against it.  We chose the latter option which turned out to be a bad mistake, my mistake of course, a poor menu and tables of seriously unruly Israeli families close by.  I was obliged to agree that we should have taken the storm risk, like I said before I sensibly leave restaurant choices to Kim.

Despite the bad weather we had surprisingly managed to walk just over ten miles today.

Storm Ship

Thursday Doors, Nicosia in Cyprus

Nicosia Door 005

Nicosia turned out to be rather a disappointment, a city of crumbling grey concrete, abandoned cars and fly tips.  I didn’t care for the place a great deal.  Here is a rather sad collection of neglected doors…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Entrance Tickets, The Temple of Apollo at Didyma

It is claimed by some to be the finest single ancient monument in this part of Turkey and this is a part of Turkey which has an awful lot of ancient monuments.

I can confirm that it is very impressive indeed although little of the original structure remains standing; it was destroyed by the Persians in 494 BC, ravaged by time, rearranged by earthquakes and plundered over the centuries for convenient building material, but regardless of the damage I found this to be a stimulating place with history literally oozing out of the cracks and fissures in  the columns and the stones.

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Entrance Tickets, Pamukkale and Hierapolis (Turkey)

Turkey Pamukkale

Heirapolis/Pamukkale  is the site of an ancient Hellenistic and then a Roman city because it benefits from a rejuvenating spa of constantly warm water that the ancients were rather fond of.

The source of the spring is carefully locked behind bars because as it emerges from the earth’s core it brings with it a lethal cocktail of poisonous toxic gasses that will overcome and kill in seconds but once separated from the noxious fumes the clear water flows down towards the edge of the mountain where it calcifies and forms startlingly white travertine pools of dazzling white calcium deposits like a fresh fall of snow that you mind find in Archangel, Alaska or Alberta.

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The Seven Wonders of The Ancient World

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were by no means a comprehensive agreed-upon list of the most impressive structures of the day. Today a list like this would be determined by a TV phone-in. The masterpieces included in the original list are the traditionally accepted Wonders as first set down by Philo of Byzantium although when he drew up the list he had no way of knowing about the Great Wall of China, the Treasury at Petra or Stonehenge.

The Pyramids of Egypt 

The Pyramids of Egypt

A group of three pyramids, Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura located at Giza, Egypt, outside modern Cairo, is often called the first wonder of the world. The largest pyramid, built by Cheops, a king of the fourth dynasty, had an original estimated height of 482 feet and the base has sides 755 feet long. It contains 2,300,000 blocks and the average weight of each block is 2.5 tons.  The Pyramids are the only one of the Seven Wonders that still exist today.

Hanging Gardens of BabylonHanging Gardens of Babylon

Often considered to be the second wonder, these gardens, which were located south of Baghdad, Iraq, were supposedly built by Nebuchadnezzar around 600 B.C.  Archeologists think that the gardens were laid out atop a vaulted building, with provisions for raising water. The terraces were said to rise from 75 to 300 feet.  No one really knows because of all the Wonders there is no archaeological evidence at all.

Statue of Zeus (Jupiter) at Olympia

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Phidias (fifth century B.C.) built this 40-foot high statue in gold and ivory. All trace of it is lost, except for reproductions on coins.

Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus

Temple of Diana at Ephesus

The temple was a beautiful marble structure, begun about 350 B.C., in honour of the goddess Artemis. The temple, with Ionic columns 60 feet high, was destroyed by invading Goths in A.D. 262.

Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus Bodrum Turkey

This monument was erected in Bodium, Turkey, by Queen Artemisia in memory of her husband, King Mausolus of Caria in Asia Minor, who died in 353 B.C. Some remains of the structure are in the British Museum. This shrine is the source of the modern word “mausoleum,” which is a large above-ground tomb.

All that remains now are a few toppled columns and splintered stones and a hole in the ground where the burial chamber once was because all of the usable stones had been previously carted away by the Knights of St John who needed a convenient supply of stone to build their castle.  The Knights of St John have quite a lot of lost architectural heritage to answer for it would seem and if the World Heritage Organization had existed in the fifteenth century I think they may have had a great deal of explaining to do to the Director-General of UNESCO!

Colossus at Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes

This bronze statue of Helios (Apollo) was the work of the sculptor Chares, it represented the sun god Helios and stood at the harbour entrance but a strong earthquake about 226 BC, badly damaged the city and toppled the Colossus.  Legend has it that Helios himself was displeased by the statue and forbade the Rhodians from making any attempt to rebuild it so for the next eight centuries, give or take a few years,  it lay in ruins until it was sold to a Jewish merchant who was reputed to require nine hundred camels to haul it all away.

A fully laden camel can carry four hundred and fifty kilograms  so that would be roughly about four hundred tonnes of bronze, by comparison the Statue of Liberty weighs two hundred and twenty-five tonnes and is forty-six metres high so using this dubious logic the Colossus of Rhodes would have been ninety metres high and huge.

Pharos of Alexandria
Lighthouse at Alexandria

 

The seventh wonder was the Pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria. Sostratus of Cnidus built in the Pharos during the third century B.C. on the island of Pharos off the coast of Egypt. It was destroyed by an earthquake in the thirteenth century.

Travel Memories – All Inclusive

Sarigerme Turkey

The plane landed and taxied to a standstill and after everyone had barged their way off the aircraft there was passport control to negotiate but before we could pass we had to acquire a permission to enter which cost £10 each.

They called this a visa procedure but there were no forms to complete and no checks to establish our suitability for visiting the country because this is not a formal visa in any way whatsoever but rather a crude Robin Hood tourist tax and the uniformed official might as well have held a pistol to our heads as we handed over our cash before he let us proceed to passport control where they checked the rip-off visa and stamped it with an authoritative thump as though to legitimise the theft which I interpreted rather loosely as ‘Welcome to Turkey’.

Now we had to find our transport to the Suntopia Topical Hotel and we dutifully made our way to the transport coach and it was at that point that I first realised that this would not really be my first choice type of holiday as I walked down the aisle looking for a seat past tattooed bodies, football shirts and Geordie face-lifts.

Towards the back I was then forced to settle in just in front of a family of gypsies who had no manners, no awareness of other people and were clearly exactly the sort of people that we didn’t want to find as next door neighbours at the hotel.

Fortunately I didn’t have to deal with his issue because after arrival and the check-in procedure we were allocated a room well away from them and after we had been branded with our All Inclusive wrist band and rushed to the bar for our first drink we set about the process of making ourselves at home!

Andrew with his All-Inclusive wrist band

At this point I think I was determined not to completely enjoy the ‘All Inclusive’experience because in a snooty sort of way I have come to think of myself as a traveller rather than a holidaymaker, a journeyman rather than a tourist and much to the dismay of my daughter I started straight away to find things to dislike.

First of all the apartment, which was a ground floor basement room and I always find these semi-subterranean arrangements to be rather sad and dark and exposed – I don’t like basement rooms.  It was well appointed and had all the facilities that we had been promised and I had expected but basement rooms are designed for Hobbits who live below ground level and all that we could see from our sun starved balcony were people’s sunburnt legs walking by.

I returned to reception and asked if we could possibly be moved to a room on the first or second floor but the receptionist said that that this would be quite impossible.  I told her that I had a fear of earthquakes and being buried alive but she showed no sympathy for my feigned phobia and turned away to deal with another guest.

And so I returned to the room and looked for a technical or repair issue and found it when I discovered that the balcony door wouldn’t lock and I went straight back to reception to demand a repair or a move and the receptionist promised that it would be dealt with within the next few minutes.  I told her that if it wasn’t then I would expect to be moved to a room on the first or second floor because I was nervous about security issues especially as there were young children in the room and I gave her a look which said ‘you really wouldn’t want a Madeleine moment would you?’

And so I returned to the room and we went for a walk around the gardens confident that we would shortly be moved and do you know what? By the time we got back the buggers had fixed it so I had nothing else to complain about.

Actually it broke again a couple of days later but by then I was a lot more chilled out and Sally and the girls had rearranged the room in the way that they like it – rather like Belgium after the German Panzer division had passed through on the way to France in 1940, so I really couldn’t face the prospect of packing and unpacking and I just let the matter drop.

Sarigerme Beach Turkey

In between all this whingeing we did indeed walk through gardens which were splashed with dappled sunshine like a Monet painting and where swifts and martins dipped and swerved in the warm corners and as the minutes passed my irritation began to evaporate.

There was a real danger here that I might drop my moaning mood and start to enjoy myself but then we went to the restaurant for evening meal.

I understand that dinner time at the Suntopia Tropical was once used as an initiation test for new recruits to the Soviet Army but it was discontinued because it was considered too tough even for this.  The food, it has to be said, was very good indeed but the restaurant ambiance was like Dante’s inferno!  Wooden chairs being scraped across tiled floors, cutlery being dropped on the floor, children running about and shouting, parents bawling instructions and the constant attention of the cleaning up crews who, if you weren’t careful would whip your plate away from under your nose even before you had finished.

Turkey Souvenir Shopping Bag

So, this was a mixed sort of day and at the end when the children were asleep and in bed and I was sitting on the underground balcony drinking a third or fourth gin and tonic I began to wonder what I was doing here and then the penny dropped and I had a quiet word with myself.  This might not be the sort of place that I would choose for myself but I suddenly realised that this holiday wasn’t about me – I was here to give my grandchildren a good time – it was all about them and in that moment my mood relaxed and I was at peace with myself and so I went to the bar and ordered a fifth gin and tonic!

This might sound like a lot I agree but it wasn’t the real thing and was a weak alternative to branded gin which had to be paid for in real cash because the wrist bands didn’t work for Gordons or Beefeater.  The beer was even worse – one day Sally said ‘Dad, you’ve drunk about eight pints of lager’, this, I confess was quite true but it was so weak that this massive quantity was only roughly the equivalent of a single can of Stella Artois and the only restriction on drinking any more, was not an alcohol induced coma, but the fact that I couldn’t get my trousers done up!

Have you ever been on an All Inclusive holiday?  Did you like it?

Sarigerme Turkey Suntopia Tropical

Travel Issues, The Standing in Line Dilemma – Wait Your Turn or Push In?

Malta Bus Chaos

This year we visited the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.  Malta used to have an efficient local bus service which was subjected to privatisation and the whole thing turned belly-up.  The service bombed and suddenly the orderly process of getting a seat on a bus became a competitive mad scramble.

This has made me think about the whole issue of good manners in a queue or a line.

A couple of years ago or so I went to an all-inclusive holiday resort in Turkey where you really did need sharp elbows!  At meal times the crowd started to gather around the locked doors in something reminiscent of the waiting period before the start of a European Cup Final or the US Super Bowl.  As the tension mounted they began snorting and stamping like impatient bulls waiting to be released into the ring, agitating like ancient warriors preparing for a deadly battle and arranging themselves like combatants in a French bus queue.

Five minutes to go and the tattooed ones start to perform a HAKA and terrified men behind the doors  suddenly opened the locks and ran for their lives as a tsunami of greed was released.  The whole thing was rather like the first set scrum of a British Lions/New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Test Match, muscles bulging, eyes popping, sweat dripping, elbows flying and fingers gouging and this, let me tell you was only the women!

Catalonia Steeple of People

The majority of the hotel guests were from the UK but there were also quite a lot of people from Russia and Scandinavia and from most other countries in Europe and the nationalities all behave differently when lining up (or not, as the case may be).  Russians and Ukrainians especially don’t like standing in line but I was at an advantage here because I had been to Russia only a year before so  I knew not to hang back when these people are around and I sharpened my elbows and got straight in!

If pushing in was an Olympic sport then Eastern Europeans would be picking up a lot of medals especially if there was a category for barging in because this would require no finesse at all and would be based on simple brute strength as they muscle their way to the front of the line.  Italians would do well in the stealth category because they can slip in with the speed of a stiletto knife and I’d back the Greeks in the opportunistic category because they can slide into a space as thin as a cigarette paper almost as though they had been beamed down from outer space.

Sadly for all of them however they would be destined to be like a British tennis players and they would only ever be left fighting for second place because they would never be able to beat the undisputed champions of pushing-in – the French.  The French don’t believe in distraction or sneaky moves they just move right on in ahead of anyone as though you are holding a door open for them and then look you straight in the eye with a Gallic sneer that says, “I am French and it is my God given right to push in”.  

They really believe this and with the advantage of this being hard-wired into their national psyche they would win over and over again and would be especially good in the being completely rude category.  You would need a police road block to keep your place in a French queue.

Along with the UK, other countries that would not do so well in the games would be the Americans and the Germans who both display exemplary discipline in line but absolutely the worst at this would be the Swiss who I can guarantee would come last every time.

In a French queue, if I am challenged about pushing in my plan is simple, I give an arrogant Gallic shrug, say something like “Bonjour Monsieur, Allez Oop, Vive Jeanne d’Arc, Vive Charles de Gaulle, Merci Beaucoup”  and give a contemptuous sneer as I asserted a natural French divine right to barge in.

So, how do you do it and who gets your vote for best at pushing in?

An orderly queue/line

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye-Spy

CleopatraRock Sculptures St MaloIceland ReyjkavikCatalonia Spain Door DetailSemana Santa Siguenza

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Trio

Turkey Altinkum Shop Sign

There was a perfect blue sky when I was woken quite early by an invasion of sunlight bulldozing its way into the room through the gaps in the curtains and I lay still for awhile contemplating being in a new country.

I began to think of the most obvious things that I associated with Turkey – Turkish Delight, Turkish Baths, Turkish Tea, Turkish Wrestling, Istanbul, Magic Carpets, Uncle Spike, Kebabs and Belly Dancers and when my mind was quite cluttered up with all of these thoughts I got up and opened the balcony door and was greeted with a powerful aroma drifting in from an adjacent apartment that reminded me of one more thing – Turkish Coffee!

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