|The Ballards - Turkey Kusadasi|
But many large British cities are on fire with disillusioned
yoof looting iPod speakers and flat screen TVs from Currys.
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...").
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.
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.
Turkish driving is "interesting" - they drive
a lot like Londoners used to in the 1980s.
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.
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?
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 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
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
And so to Ephesus, that huge remnant of Greek and then
Roman construction that has been semi-excavated by first the British then
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......
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
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 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...)
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
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.
The upper rows were, however, wired off for no good
reason, a little like the A40 coming out of London the other day.
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
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.
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