The Ballards - Turkey Kusadasi


Summer 2011.
Greece has not (yet) crashed out of the Euro.
David Cameron has not (yet) re-legalised fox hunting.
Tony Blair has not (yet) been indicted for war crimes.

But many large British cities are on fire with disillusioned yoof looting iPod speakers and flat screen TVs from Currys.
Whatever political undertones these possibly-inspired-by-Arab-Spring riots exist are submerged beneath blanket accusations from Police and government that this is just lawlessness and looting by the underclass.
Police make vast numbers of arrests, thereby exacerbating what caused the riots in the first place: insensitive policing and outdated drug laws. It would be interesting to discover the racial mix of the arrestees once this has all died down.

You do wonder though whether the immediate condemnation masked a concern: having spent the last few months watching citizens of other countries demonstrating and being abused by the local constabulary, did this mean our riots had a more political dimension the Press were stepping around or were the Arab riots more motivated by flat screens and ipod speakers?

Time to escape to Kusadasi near Ephesus for a week of all-inclusive heaven in a decent hotel, far from any domestic worries. Apart from a once a day stab at the free wi-fi (Zyxel 660 boxes, I see) to pick up e-mail, and the BBC World Service on our room TV, we would be incommunicado.

Kusadasi is massively built up and even the big dual-carriageway bypass built around it to the east is now in the middle of some serious-sized urban developments. The centre of kusadasi is a wasteland of apartments and pushy Turkish salesmen aimed at the cruise passengers 2 hour shore excursion window ("Gee Honey, it's Tuesday - it must be Turkey..."). Yuk.
But (not that I took advantage of this) a trip to the chemist (for Optrex, honest...) yielded the amused observation that in Turkey you can buy Viagra over the counter: no prescription required.

They do have traffic-light controlled junctions but far more interesting are the Who Dares Wins non-traffic light junctions. Some of these are pretty major and look like small roundabouts but the right of way on the junctions is totally unclear.
There are no give-away lines, no lanes, no guidance. It's like the highway engineers built it big, then shrugged their shoulders and walked away saying over their shoulders "I've done my bit: you sort out who goes when...".
So it becomes a heaving maelstrom of cars, motorbikes, mopeds, (often being ridden the wrong way up the street, or along the pavements), pedestrians (with and without pushchairs), tractors, dogs and Dolmucs.

It's survival of the fittest, which is fine if you've intimidated taxi drivers in London for 30 years, but exciting to the uninitiated. I do understand why some people are scared of driving in Turkey.

And of course there are British bars.
These are a staple of foreign towns anywhere the English care to journey. They speak to something in our psyche that requires TV football (on a wide screen), Baked Beans, bacon, simple traditional English food (like, say, pizza and chicken Tikka Massala), English ale and the companion of other like-minded English moaning about the weather (too hot), the Turkish food (too spicy) and of course the bloody football.
No other nationality requires a sort of local embassy in each destination to provide a sanitised version of the local culture. The irony of the local English bar doing a "Turkish night" utterly eludes them.....
You don't see "French" bars in far flung towns with supplies of proper croissants, those bloody gum-destroying baguettes, pains chocolate, litre bottles of vin ordinaire (the obligatory accompaniment to the French long-distance lorry drivers lunch), Disque Bleu (filterless sun-dried French tobacco contributory to all manner of respiratory problems) gravel petanques areas, those little glasses of pastis, Accordion music and Edith Piaf on the stereo, a signed photo of M Sarkozy behind the bar and of course those ghastly uncomfortable plastic Remy Martin chairs every bar in France must be equipped with by law.
That opens at random times and is closed for all Saints Days observed in France i.e about twice a week. And is recognisable not by the 2CV or the garlic-stringed bicycle out front, but by the more representative symbol of a knackered, lowered, hotted Peugeot 104 with Cherry bomb exhaust, nuclear non-proliferation treaty violating stereo on the back shelf, and some hoodied Tunisians dealing crack from the passenger seat.
No, the English are unique in attempting to recreate their country in whatever foreign soil they happen to find themselves in.

Turkish driving is "interesting" - they drive a lot like Londoners used to in the 1980s.
There are few traffic jams, few motorways, lots of what we used to call "suicide lanes": a single central lane shared between traffic in both directions and a cheap way of facilitating overtaking without building a dual carriageway.
In the Neutered UK of course these have almost all been removed (and of course speed cameras added....).
Strangely enough, I found an unimproved section the other day and now I'm damned if I can remember where. Maybe I dreamed it.
Nope, I didn't: I found it again. It's just outside Bracknell near Blackbushe Airport. Experience it while you still can.

They drive a mixture of crappy, dangerous, overloaded Dacias: licence-built Renaults, and Mercedes Benzes imported from the fatherland when Turkish gastarbeiters were the flavour for non skilled work in Germany, before the Ostis escaped the communist yoke in 1989 and became the bog cleaning, road mending, gardening, hole digging labourers of choice for the master race.

They are so lucky to be unfettered by speed cameras, roadsigns and the minutiae of crap that has so decimated British motoring in the last 30 years. So we still see overloaded cars, those little Massey Ferguson tractors with no roll bars towing trailers up the dual carriageways at 10mph with the entire family on board for a day out in the dizzy metropolis that is downtown Selcuk (population 500).

And we see towns that have ripped up their entire road system at once (not street by street, but everywhere at once) to replace perfectly good and smooth Tarmac with these little interlocking concrete blocks every dodgy 1980s house conversion in Surrey came with.
You know: the ones that if not properly drained and laid on a really solid foundation would shift and just look cheap and nasty in about 2 months.....
So there is no road surface in these towns, just ripped up Tarmac and badly laid, shifting patterns of cast-off Surrey Tudorbethan driveway.
What a horrendous waste of public money.
Turkey is not a member if the EU, but plainly the Government is practising the top down waste of money approach to civic improvements in readiness for the dambusters-raid wave of reconstruction funds the EU will dump upon Turkey in the event of an accession.
In five years the impoverished locals, desperate for non-wobbly back streets will re-Tarmac over the top or rip them up and build their kitchen extensions out of them.

Many of the cars run on "mogaz": not, in this case, a ludicrous American description of the use of car petrol in aircraft, but LPG. We accidentally visited an LPG station - they are entirely separate stations from the normal petrol/diesel jobs, and wondered why everyone had their fuel hoses plugged in below the bumpers. Weird, but it seems to work, despite the "phwoar, was that you?" smells around these stations.

The local plod (the Jandarma) all have their rooftop flashing lights on all the time they are driving, which makes everyone very compliant whilst they are visible, but kind of defeats the object: what do they do when they are rushing for an emergency? Turn them off?
And the cops do a lot of random stop'n...... well, I'm not quite sure really. Whether it's drug busts, licence checks, drink and drive, speeding or terrorism is anyone's guess. I saw no speed cameras, so maybe it's just because they want to cadge cigarettes off the populace?

Our hotel used to be a prison in a previous existence, and that is apparent in the architecture, which looks like something out of Myst on the outside and The Shawshank Redemption on the inside.
The window sills and central atrium balustrades are dodgily low; they must surely have lost a few drunken guests out of the windows since opening day. It is full of Russians and built on the side of an extremely steep bay, with insufficient lifts of inadequate capacity and reliability. I've never seen Omak Turkish lifts before but I can vouch for their unreliability, and having inspected the motor rooms the inadequate sizes of motors employed. Ooh, look. how quaint: analogue switching circuits.....

The Russians are of course a nightmare abroad: like Americans the ones that can afford to, and have the desire to, holiday abroad are a) unrepresentative of the wider Russian lumpenproletariat and b) precisely the ones who are the worst possible ambassadors for their country abroad.
Rude, slovenly, wasteful, pushy, domineering gangster males with convict haircuts, beetle-brows, doll-like haunted-looking partners many years younger than the males, they strut around in inappropriate Speedos during the day, getting drunk and violent (the men) or weepy and wobbly (the women) at night and massively offending the mainly Moslem Turks who act as barmen.
No wonder the Turks eschew alcohol; they see the effect it has on other people....

We had a couple of low key gay Russian men next to us one night. They were discreet, as I suspect homosexuality is still frowned upon in Russia (as indeed it is in Moslem Turkey).

The Turks, of course, are laughing: tourism is good at present because so many of the traditional tourist haunts are off-line: it's due to Arab Spring uprisings and their associated Government backlashes, collapsing economies in the Southern half of the EU and the fact that the Turkish lire is worth diddley squat on the foreign exchange Market.

Here the Euro is king, so we didn't bother to exchange any Turkish lire, we just offered Euros everywhere. Everyone, from the smallest shop to the most obscure government department, takes Euros or pounds Sterling or US dollars quite happily and at a pretty good exchange rate.
They say economics always trumps politics and the parallel Euro economy here shows this true.
Turkey doesn't care: they don't have the same EU levels of structural debt as say Greece and whilst they haven't had the Celtic Tiger leap forward that Ireland had, neither have they the massive hangover.
The Irish diaspora has started all over again I hear, and I am not surprised.
So I think Turkey is blessing the day it wasn't allowed to join the EU.......

And so to Ephesus, that huge remnant of Greek and then Roman construction that has been semi-excavated by first the British then the Germans.
It's big, yes, although the amphitheatre at El Gem in Tunisia is bigger. But what is great is that they let you climb all over it.
Unlike most archeological digs where your course is circumscribed by Keep off notices the Turks actually don't seem to care overmuch about the passage of touristic feet over the ancient cobbles: well, it has survived for 3000 years, it will look after itself.

Many of the huge blocks of masonry still bear Roman symbols: these have not faded or been scratched out because for most of the last 2000 years they have lain beneath the soil, safe from random Turkish terrace builders hungry for raw material but one suspects that an unannounced trawl around old houses within 20 miles would yield a good proportion of the missing masonry......
Some of the lumps of excavated masonry are top heavy and unstable, and will eventually collapse: Sic Transit Gloria.

Other lumps have been unsympathetically reconstructed with reinforced concrete. I guess the reasoning behind this was like the UK planning system whereby add ons are not allowed to be the same materials as the original, so you can see the join, but this is taking things a bit too far: the structural work resembles chunks of U boat pen. Which is unsurprising as much of the work was done by German teams....

The view through to the restored library facade from the tops of some of the more solid Walls is disconcertingly Hollywood, or even Lara Croft, but the restoration of the library facade has been beautifully performed. It's just a pity the german archeologists involved had to sign their work in foot high print on the rear, in all known languages except English.
But the remainder of the library is tiny. I refuse to believe it was this small, surely. And where are all the bookshelves? I don't expect Austrian painted steel British Library spec shelves to BS9185-23 subpara2 but they must have had shelves at some point. Where are they?

You can't help wondering when looking at these ancient and in many cases well-engineered ruins what would have happened had these civilisations not stagnated and the Goths (no, the real ones, not the black-eyeliner and depressing music bunch....) not intervened. We could be so much more advanced (and who is to say Western civilisation is not now on the cusp of a new unholy Eco-Islamic slump back to the Dark Ages while the Chinese watch and quietly gobble up random countries like Tibet and Zimbabwe....).

I love people-watching and the people who turned up in our group were an eclectic bunch.
A group of South London blacks: grandma as wide as she was tall, with a stick but surprisingly sprightly, mum who had very obviously just been to the coiffeurs and was done up to the nines, plus the teenage daughter who was wearing all-black and more bling and make up than the average club diva.
A flamboyantly gay Chinese man with beautifully tailored oriental shirt, nicely done nails and a colourful line in personal umbrellas. Like Gok wan, enjoying not only being the ascendant race but the ascendant sexuality as well.

A mid-fifties intellectual with panama hat, mumsy Irish wife and pale-skinned, flame haired (I have never seen quite such richly coloured hair) teenage daughter in blue panama, bottle top glasses, pale sundress, flip-flops and, unbelievably on this hot day, a cardigan, who flounced about and I am not convinced took any of the extensive discourse by our very knowledgeable Turkish guide very seriously (well, I assume he was knowledgeable but didn't listen much having googled Ephesus the night before and spent an hour picking through contradictory Wikipedia articles on why the dredging in Ephesus harbour failed to arrest the alluviation of the delta (you see I did listen in geography, JJMcP......) which led to Ephesus's fall from prominence as its harbour filled-in, before becoming distracted by a random picture of Tea Leone and going on to Amazon to look at rotary cable strippers.....).

However she was usefully easy to spot, always close to the rapidly moving guide among the crowds of Japanese tourists as I flitted from one wobbly camera vantage point to another in search of the ultimate Ephesus shot (yes, I know, a hardcore photographer would have overnighted in some quiet spot behind the amphitheater and done some nifty HDR focal plane time-lapse video stuff at sunrise but hey, we're on holiday here you know...)
A teenage boy (Matt, actually) with an ironic garish plastic toy camera loaded with "real" 35mm film (remember that?) for some authentically dreadful fuzzy low depth of field grainy retro-70s photos. Fortunately he had a 12megapixel digital camera in his pocket as well for the photos that would be actually recognisable as Ephesus on his return.

We were able to see (but not sit on) the communal Roman loos. The Romans considered bowel movements a sociable part of the day. Our buttoned-down, desperate- not- to make a noise or leave a smell private defecatory moments in cramped, locked cubicles are unnecessary, unhealthy and contributory to IBS I remain convinced.

The drains have been excavated, and many clay pipes have been stacked above ground. Their similarity to modern day clay drain pipes are astounding: aside from the increased homogeneity of the modern day equivalent, the result of the mechanised process used to create them, the size, length, jointing flanges and internal diameter are remarkably similar. As is the considerable accumulation of calcium deposits: these pipes furred up just like modern pipes in the central heating become if you don't run a closed loop system and zap it with inhibitor when you fill it.
So quite why plumbing comes from the Roman Plumbum for lead is anyone's guess, these hot water pipes are clay.

Some of the original stonework is seriously impressive, zero mortar joints 2000 years old and not rough and ready like Egyptian masonry: These boys knew what they were doing. How the hell they got straight edges on blocks that massive without electric water-cooled rotary saws and laser levels is beyond my ken.

The amphitheater (or Odeon, apparently; presumably popcorn and cigarette girls in the aisles, mammoth lift-up organ in the stalls, B movies interrupted by little boys throwing rolled up bits of paper at the screen......oh no hang on, Odeon was Greek for theatre. Well, that's buggered that train of thought...) is impressive and you can actually get to walk around most of it but, unlike the entirely unrestored amphitheater at Selge further up the coast there is the inevitable and entirely unnecessary keep out, danger, health and safety hard hat and dayglo vest notices inherent near excavation sites.
Not that they were actually doing anything, of course.

The upper rows were, however, wired off for no good reason, a little like the A40 coming out of London the other day.
Massive queues, finally the slow lane cones off for 100 metres and absolutely no damage, workers, vans, hard hats, broken manhole covers, police or any explanation as to why the bloody hell this lane was coned off causing 30 minute delays back at Gypsy Corner. I felt like stopping, stealing the cones and simply driving off. We need more motorists action groups to do things like this.
And then later on, near Beaconsfield, in light traffic, all doing the normal British "70mph" (about 90mph actually), on come the motorway signs: "queue ahead, 60mph". Then: "queue ahead, 40mph". Then: "20mph". Now bear in mind we are all still doing "70" and can see way beyond our safe stopping distances, and there is no queue/swan/roadworks/broken down car, the road is clear as far as the eye can see (about 3 miles here). Then "road clear". You what?
So were we really meant to slow to 20mph for some feeble-minded wonk in a control centre in Birmingham fresh from doing CCTV work in a Solihull shopping mall who had a piece of Kentucky Fried on their glasses and thought they saw a queue near the Beaconsfield junction?
I'm so glad these signs are advisory, which means you are free to ignore them as you see fit.

So the intellectual stands in the middle of the stage surrounded by a fuckwit (I believe that is the correct collective noun) of Japanese tourists and suddenly declaims as only the English can: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears" which reverberates around the amphitheater thus proving that the Greeks knew a thing or two about acoustics.
I'm up in the highest accessible row trying to sort my polarising filter out, and I can hear every syllable. He gets a round of applause from the Japanese and later admits he was going to start singing instead.
I love the English abroad.

Ephesus is fun, but they've not really started excavating the harbour bit yet: the long straight street is there but inevitably roped off and the main square is still under grass with exciting looking lumps dotted about. The amphitheater is great, but needs sensitively restoring then opening for U2 concerts and the like, which would neatly pay for 100 years of excavation.
The ludicrous "you only get to see inside the greenhouse at the terraced houses by paying extra" needs stopping as well. You pay for Ephesus, you should get Ephesus.
The squares need clearing of rubble and the houses need reassembling a bit, some more "this is what life was like in Roman times" bits added and that's about it really. I'm unsure it needs an awful lot of prettifying. Particularly if that brings the Health and Safety boys in.....

There is an airfield next to Ephesus and I would have given my right nut for a microlight flight over the ruins, but there is no advertising, no web-based details to request a flight: a serious commercial opportunity missed.

We did see one of the ex-Buffalo Airways ("Ice Pilots") CL215 water bombers flying out of there, an eclectic mix of Mil9 and Kamov KA25 underslung water bombers practicing, and there were 2 C182s parked on the field but no availability. A real shame.

To get away from the awfulness that is Kusadasi we had a car and went South to Milli Park Nature reserve. We spent a hot afternoon swimming in the sea at Karasu Beach, far enough away from Kusadasi not to smell it or sample its' seaborne wastes... A small slice of heaven visited only by the locals: we were the only foreigners there. Wholeheartedly recommended.

Once again we were struck by how user-friendly Turkey is compared with one's expectations. Provided you ignore the human rights issues in the East of the country the sanitation is surprisingly good and whilst the roads leave something to be desired (a lot of roadworks, but at least they are dualling the Bodrum-Izmir road, the whole thing at once from what I can see) the people are friendly and they like the English.
So that's a "yes".