Sunday, August 01, 2004

Nobody’s Business but the Turks.

I really have nothing interesting to report. I spent one more day in the cave full of Australians, then headed down to Olympos. I spent the last day hiking with two random Brits and a crazy Canadian mother hell bent on taking her two grade school age children to Syria. We went to Love Valley, where the natural rock formations would make Dr. Ruth blush. It was a little lost on the kids. Luckily I was juvenile enough to appreciate it.

Olympos is supposed to be this super cheap, mythical backpacker mecca where the conversation is chill and the dope is plentiful. I fucking hated it. Cheap? Perhaps I shouldn’t have spent almost four months in the developing world before hitting it, but $6 bucks a night to sleep in a “treehouse” (read: rough wood shack with holes in the slates big enough for a chicken to walk through)? No. Not cheap. There was plenty of dope there, although it was mostly in dreadlocked human form. I escaped the scene a bit down to the ruins and the beach, with were admittedly beautiful. That night, around midnight, I went to see the Chimea, the legendary flames spewing forth from the rock, reported to have guided ships since the ancient times. It is supposed to be breath of a mythical beast living below the ground. Scientists speculate that it has something to do with leaking natural gas deposits, though they have about as much empirical proof as the mythical beast theory. The hike up was surprisingly steep and difficult, though short, and I made it (the hike) with some Norwegian guy. The flames are just plain eerie. They burn nothing and from nothing.

Next day I booked a 4 day Mediterranean cruise, and headed out to sea on a huge sailboat. Other than some sunburn, the trip was uneventful. We stopped a few places to swim, pirate caves and the like, and explore some ruins, but that is pretty much it. One of the other guests and I, both crazy American women of course, decided to jump off a cliff at one of the places we stopped to swim. The local kids were doing it, and the Australians of course, both of which have no sense of their own mortality. We passes a couple of older local guys on the way up, procrastinating about the uncomfortable distance between them and the water. We jumped without hesitation, eventually shaming them into doing the same. The captain was mad though. Apparently some crazy American girl had done just the same thing a couple years ago, and managed to break her neck. That captain got sued. This captain wasn’t interested in that fate. He liked me, anyway though, and tried to convince me to stay on the boat to work there. As I sat in the sun, cruising through the beautiful turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about it for a while. “Hi Mom. It’s me. No, everything is fine. Yeah, I decided to blow off the Fulbright and Harvard to be a sea dog in the Mediterranean. What’s that? You are coming to kill me?” I turned him down, but did take his card for future reference.

After the sun, I went to Ephesus, former home of the Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, current home to some kick ass Roman ruins. (There is some Greek stuff too but I can’t figure out how to spell Hellanistic.. Helenist... whatever, I am going with Roman.) It is hard to describe ruins (and then there was this mind blowing DORIC column), but they were cool. Back in the main town of Selcuk, I went to the Selcuk museum, which had some bits of the long ago demolished wonder of the world, and a great detailed exhibit on the various ways gladiators had of killing each other, with medical textbook like descriptions. Then it was the tomb of St. John the Apostle (apparently he and Mary moved up here after all the goings on in Judea), which was nice, in that ruined Byzantine Church sort of way.

I am currently in Istanbul. After getting off my second overnight bus in a row this morning, I decided that the best use of the first day was to take a nice long nap. When I came to around noon, I headed off to see the sights. First stop was the ATM, which, given the prices here, will be a frequent one here in Istanbul. Then to Hagia Sofia. It’s a church. It’s a mosque. It’s a museum. Whatever it is it is awesome. (Took over the title of my favorite place of worship from St. John the Divine uptown.) There are Byzantine mosaic, Islamic frescos, immense architecture. It’s got it all. Then I hit the Blue Mosque. Also pretty, but not ol’ Sophie. Final stop of the day was the Underground Cistern, which was, as promised, both underground and a cistern. You could wander on platforms above the flooded floor, where big ol’ carp swam around. In the back they had two colossuses heads of Medusa, one upside down and one on it’s side, that the original builders must have scavenged from a Roman temple to use as column bases. One the way home I wandered through the Hippodome (obelisks for one and all) and had some sour cherry juice (complete with song and dance from mobile cherry juice salesman), and called it a day.

That is it for now. I’ll be back in the US on Friday, so there will likely only be one more installment on Kristen in Wonderland as Dad calls it. Never fear though! I should be in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania by mid September, so the adventures can continue.

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