Mediterranean Turkey



Sanliurfa and the South East
Sanliurfa is not on the map above but is just East of where the red line starts. Sanliurfa is where Turkey is completing its massive GAP irrigation project to make this desert area agricultural by producing cotton. This huge dam is controversial on many accounts. It is curbing the flow of both the Euphrates and the Tigris making both Syria and Iraq nervous. South East Turkey is also home to the large Kurdish population in Turkey with which Turkey has had so many problems. In the last twenty years, 30,000 people have died in this ugly conflict. Both the Turkish security apparatus as the Turkish PKK have used atrocious violence. Things are now calmer but the conflict has not been resolved. Some say the dam will make the population in this area richer therefore taking away a lot of steam out of the will to create an independent Kurdish state. The general feeling in Turkey is that Attatürk managed to create a new territory from the ashes of the crumbling Ottoman Empire against the Allied of the times. Many rich areas of the Ottoman empire were lost at that time and the current territory of Turkey is considered sacred by many Turks.



Men playing cards and sipping tea in Sanliurfa (left), Sanliurfa's Rizvaniye Vakfi mosque (centre)


Sanliurfa was originally called Urfa. Because many of its people fought well with Attatürk in the 20ies, the city received the adjective "courageous" Urfa. The same happened with many other cities in Turkey. Sanliurfa has always had a rebel attitude. It adopted Christianity in the first century AD and fought to keep it against Roman influence of the times. The carps in the pool between Rizvaniye Vakfi and Abdur Rahman mosques are considered sacred. "Legend had it that Abraham, who is a great prophet in Islamic belief, was in old Urfa destroying pagan gods one day when Nimrod, the local Assyrian King, took offence at this rash behaviour. Nimrod had Abraham immolated on a funeral pyre, but God turned the fire into water and the burning coals into fish."  From Sanliurfa we made a visit to Harran, right next to the Syrian border. The village of Harran is known for its beehive-shaped mud houses. 


Crossing the Euphrates in South Eastern Turkey (left), the wonderfully peaceful ruins of Seleucia in Pamphylia (centre), Marmure Kalesi, an impressive crusader's castle 


In this part of Turkey, the Taurus chain of mountains falls right into the sea leaving space for not much more than a winding road !


Eastern Mediterranean 
From Sanliurfa we drove West to Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul. As we neared the Mediterranean Sea, the temperature became warmer and warmer. Our first encounter with what is essentially "our" sea was very special to us. This is the sea that we know from holidays to Southern France and Spain. After the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, its colour was a warm blue, full of life. We reached it on November 7th and we were still able to swim ! If Turkey was a country of "firsts" (puncture & police fine) it was also a country of seconds. A second puncture as well as a second fine for driving 105 km/h on an empty countryside road where the limit was 90 km/h. This time we did not plead guilty and said we had no money to pay the US$ 20 fine. Christian was not happy as he felt the sole purpose of this exercise was fundraising. A normal car occupied by police will post itself at the bottom of a hill and start flashing. Never mind that we are the safest car on the road having driven 40K km without a scratch. Would we pay the fine in Edirne, at the border with Greece ? Yes of course ! As we write this, we have left Turkey and have NOT had to pay this unjust fine ! Ha ha ha, beat the system ! We don't know what's wrong with Turkish roads but we also got our third puncture in less than a week, despite 8 months and 40,000 km of puncture-free driving before that.




Since leaving Hong Kong, we have hardly seen any tourists. We were either not traveling at the right time of year or many tourists have stayed away since the September 11th attacks. Or else, and this is what we believe, all of them have gathered in Alanya and Side ! To our horror, we saw hordes of tourists, most of them insisting to be dressed in shorts and sleeveless shirts despite the chilly weather that day ! This is the worst possible form of tourism according to us. These tour groups come in their hundreds from Germany, England and  Scandinavia at cost of US$ 150 per week ALL included : flight, transfers and half pension 4 star hotel. They are driven around in coaches in which drinks are sold at DM rates 2 or 3 times more expensive than in Turkey and dropped at shops for compulsory shopping several times a day. As their one week stay in Turkey probably includes a visit to an old Roman building, they can probably go home and claim they have had a cultural holiday ! One of the consequences of this mass tourism (some 8 million visitors come to Turkey each year) is that great chunks of the coast have been bulldozered and great ugly buildings have been built. As this does not exist elsewhere in Turkey, these tourists see something that is NOT Turkey !



The ancient Roman city of Anamurium with the extraordinary colour of the Sea behind, sunset at the top of Alanya citadel


From Antalya onwards
Turkey is peppered with Greek and Roman remains like no other country we know. Nowhere is this more the case than along the Mediterranean coast. Each city has an important classical past and most are mentioned in the Old Testament. 


The Roman period mountain-face tombs of Myra (left), along the coast and the church where St. Nicolas was buried at Demre (right)


Troopie next to Turkish boats, the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea around Ucagiz.


After the Turkish Republic was proclaimed in 1923, there was a large exchange of population between Greece and Turkey. The homes left behind were sometimes re-occupied but sometimes not. Karmylassos is such a village that was abandoned by Greeks but never reclaimed by Turks that had left Greece. It stands there modified only by earthquakes and pillars. It was an eerie sight. A new Karmylassos was built in the outskirts of Athens. Another Turkish village that was abandoned because of the nearby lime quarry is that of Stratonikea. This village has remained a 1930's agricultural village. 


Untouched tile roof and rusted minaret at Stratonikea (left), a Greek orthodox church at Karmylassos (centre) and the pleasant town of Bodrum (right)


In Ephesus we were joined by Kathleen's parents who had not been able to join us in Iran. With them we spent a great 10 days talking, visiting and ... taking ! It was special to be able to travel with them like we have done with our Troopie for the last 8 months and explain everything that had happened. 


The beautiful little village of Assos (left), Emir Sultan mosque at Bursa (centre) and the historical Detroit of the Dardanelles, just below the Bosphorus where numerous battles were fought to take over Constantinople (right)


Have you ever crossed from one continent to another by car ? On the November 30th, after 39,000 km since Hong Kong we crossed the Bosphorus bridge into geographical Europe and we were proud to have achieved this ! We were blessed with gorgeous weather although we did not know this would not last at that time !


Troopie taking a ferry to cross the Eastern Marmara Sea (left), the Bosphorus and the amazing Bosphorus bridge linking Asia and Europe !


Here is the first of our extra pages on this part of Turkey : the city of Antalya

Antalya, our home away from home

We are doing well !

Coming from Eastern Turkey Back to Trip page Heading to Capadocia