Tag Archives: Turkey

On This Day – Excursion to Ephesus

Even though travel restrictions are easing I am not yet minded to risk it so I still have no new stories to post so I continue to go through my picture archives and see where I was on this day at any time in the last few travelling years.

On 25th September 2014 I was on a coach excursion visiting Ancient historical sites in Turkey…

The problem with bus trips is that you cannot choose your travelling companions – it is a game of chance!

I imagined that we would be accompanied on this trip by middle aged historians in crumpled linen suits and battered panama hats, archaeologists carrying trowels and leather bound notebooks and the entire cast of a Merchant Ivory film but at the first pick up we were joined by a Geordie and boisterous Lithuanian family and then horror of horrors by a noisy bunch of women who looked as though they should really be going to a market rather than one of the World’s finest archaeological sites.

Read The Full Story…

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…

 

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

 

Looking Back on 2014

Wroclaw Arial View

January always seems to be a good time to go away if you ask me and this year I found some cheap Ryanair flights at only £50 return to Wroclaw, the fourth largest city in Poland and as we had previously been to Krakow and enjoyed it there we quickly the decision was quickly made to visit the historic capital of Lower Silesia.

We enjoyed a wonderful weekend in this charming Polish city and enjoyed it so much that we have made arrangements to go to Warsaw early in 2015.

Semana Santa Holy Week Siguenza 3

Twelve months previously in March 2013 we had travelled to the small town of Sigüenza about one hundred kilometres north east of Madrid on the road to Zaragoza and Barcelona and we liked it so much we decided to return for a second visit.

One of the reasons was to see the  Semana Santa for a second time.  This is one of the most important traditional events of the Spanish Catholic year; it is celebrated in the week leading up to Easter and features a procession of Pasos which are large floats of lifelike wooden sculptures of individual scenes of the events of the Passion.

Ireland Dingle

There is a pub quiz question that comes up regularly and which I always get wrong, which is ‘what is the nearest country to the United Kingdom’ and the answer of course is Southern Ireland or Eire but I always forget about the border with Northern Ireland and blurt out ‘France, it must be France’.  Not surprising then that until now I have never visited the country.

2014 has been a big year for me as I reached the birthday milestone of sixty years and I was planning something special to celebrate the occasion and then some friends asked if we would like to visit Ireland with them and that seemed special enough so we set about making travel plans.

Thomas' Place Kalami Corfu

In 2004 I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with family on the Greek island of Santorini.  On the final night I treated everyone to a birthday celebration meal in a taverna and drank far too much Mythos Beer, Ouzo, and Metaxa Brandy and rashly declared that we would do the same thing in ten years time when I would be sixty.  I went to bed and promptly forgot all about it.

My children didn’t forget.  As 2014 got ever close they kept reminding me about the offer that I had made that night and so eventually I had no option but to deliver on the promise.  Sadly the Boss Bar in Santorini  closed down sometime between 2004 and 2006 and so I needed to find a suitable alternative and decided upon the village of Kalami on the island of Corfu which we had enjoyed a couple of years previously.

Turkey Souvenir Shopping Bag

The end of the Summer usually means the Greek Islands for our travels but this year we were breaking with tradition and although close by to the Dodecanese we were visiting mainland Turkey instead.

At the end of the holiday I drew up a balance sheet of our visit to Turkey.  I had enjoyed the antiquity and the ruins, the temples and the ancient cities; the long walks along the coast; the friendly people; Bodrum; our excellent apartment courtesy of our friends Steve and Kath and the weather.  On the other side of the balance sheet was the dogs, the litter and IMX Travel but overall I declared the holiday a resounding success and look forward to returning to Turkey as soon as the travel itinerary allows.

Budapest Travel Group

At the end of the year we travelled with friends  to Hungary and its capital city Budapest.  We had been before in 2007 but only for a couple of days which wasn’t nearly enough time to see the sights of this magnificent city so had no objections to going back for a second time.

Budapest was an absolute revelation, I had not been expecting anything so grand, it was easily as good as Vienna and in my opinion much better than Prague, the scale of the city eclipses Bratislava and Ljubljana and I liked it as well as any other city I have visited.

2014 has not been our most prolific travelling year – that was in 2007 when we managed to get away somewhere twelve times, once every month.  Airline tickets were cheaper then and we didn’t have grandchildren so I doubt we will doing that again soon.

Just six overseas trips this year and oddly, although I often say that I won’t go to the same place twice this year half of our travels were to places that we had enjoyed previously – Sigüenza, Corfu and Budapest and I think we will try and avoid repeat visits in the future if we can.

So now the serious business of planning for 2015 really begins.  We will start with a city trip to Warsaw in February and then see where the rest of the year takes us…