Tour of Turkey in the company of Tony and of Dennis Levy.
On land: Istanbul – Ankara – Kayseri (Urgüp, Göreme) – Iskenderun – Adana – Mersin
By sea: Mersin – Antalya – Izmir
On land: Izmir (Efes) – Bergama – Bursa – Istanbul
Saturday 2 August. It was by now definite that the camp would finish on the following Tuesday. We left for good on the Saturday, having arranged to meet some of the party in Izmir on 10 August, to find out when we are due to get the train back home. — We left half of our luggage in the left luggage office in Istanbul and caught the overnight train, with couchette, to Ankara. This was a small village until Atatürk made it the capital in the 1920s and there is absolutely nothing worth seeing at all, except a museum of Hittite, Greek and Roman antiquities, which we duly visited. Since this is ‘Asia Minor’, Turkey is chock full of ancient remains, so there are hundreds of museums and scores of ruined cities.
We did not waste the time in Ankara because we had to get visas for Bulgaria. Altho’ it was a Sunday we phoned the Embassy and they said, come round at once, and that was that. We also had a second Turkish bath — not as good as the one in Bursa — and looked at the Atatürk Statue, Atatürk Avenue, Atatürk’s Mausoleum (only from a distance) and Atatürk’s picture in all the cafés we stopped at for tea.
The next day (Sunday 3 August) was absolute hell. By bus to Kayseri (= Caesarea). We left Ankara at 7:30 and got to Kayseri at 4 pm with one half-hour break in the middle at a filthy place called, appropriately, Kiršehir (“Dirt town”). The bus was crammed full of Turks of all shapes and sizes and smells; the seats were hard; there was no leg room; the road was very bumpy and very very uninteresting: almost desert-like, odd colours (purples, yellows, browns), undulating, but no trees and hardly any houses.
KAYSERI is a bit more interesting than Ankara but not much of a place. However it has one very old and interesting mosque with a low roof decorated in reds (an unusual colour for mosques)
and a castle wall, which we visited.
We stayed two nights in Kayseri. The day in between,
Monday 4 August, was taken up with a visit to Ürgüp and Göreme. This too was accomplished by bus: more comfortable this time, but a much worse road. Normal depressing brown scenery at first, apart from snowcapped Mount Erciyes which towers over Kayseri.
Kayseri (60 years later — a much larger city!) with Mt. Ercyes
But then we left the main road and climbed up into the most peculiar valley I have ever seen: fantastic rock shapes, mostly cones and towers, infrequent at first but all over the place near our destinations. Most of these have holes and caves in them; at Ürgüp they are houses carved in the rock face.
We were dumped down in the middle of this wilderness some 4 miles past Ürgüp and everyone pointed down a side road, shouting “Göreme”.So we trudged off in the boiling heat, clutching cameras and a little blue bag full of watermelon, bread, cheese, jam and so on. The watermelon cost 25 kuruš (= twopence by our rate!). The road wound down between more of these cones etc., including some looking like real pixie-houses.
At the bottom of the hill, where the road curved, stood the guide’s habitation, also carved in the rock. We ate our provisions, paid our one lira, dutifully, and followed him up a winding path in the heat. Suddenly he turned and ducked down through a tiny doorway — we almost had to crawl — into a church! … 1500 years or so ago there was a thriving colony of Christian hermits here and in adjoining valleys, and they carved hundreds of churches, chapels, kitchens, dining rooms and living quarters of all kinds.
We inspected a large number, including 5 churches, (about the size, on average, of the front bedroom at ‘91’ – my bedroom in Worthing). They must once have been very beautifully decorated and even now create a very striking impression, with paintings all over walls and ceilings, even tho’ most of the figures have been defaced by, one supposes, Turks in later centuries.
The guide left and we climbed up into one cave and then into another one, which must have been some sort of hideout, the only way in was up this ’chimney’ through the rock with hand- and footholds cut into opposite sides to serve as a staircase. At the top were slits in the walls (peep- or arrow-holes), and a funnel which opened directly over the staircase, one presumes for boiling oil etcetera.
Worn out by the clambering around and the heat we set off back towards Kayseri. Luckily we were picked up by a lorry which took us back to the main road.
Along this we trudged with nary a lift, hardly a passing car even, into Urgüp. Now we had been told that there was cheap transport back to Kayseri, at frequent intervals. We asked. No buses! We asked again. No lorries! How much by taxi? 25 lira each — We had paid 5 lira to come out to Urgüp. — Any other means of transport? Yes, if we wished to wait till tomorrow! Go today — Pay a lot of money. No money — Wait till tomorrow. The charming man who volunteered this information then burst into a peal of laughter and staggered off to a nearby tea-house, roaring over the wonderful joke.
In the end we found a taxi to take us back for just 10 lira each. We were glad to get away from Urgüp! We have encountered some mistrust, suspicion and surly looks, about Cyprus, when people learn that we are English — but not even the “Cad1” in the language camp was so b-minded and rude into the bargain. Most Turks we have found very helpful and hospitable; they will go out of their way to show us how to get somewhere, and just yesterday, on the boat, we were invited by a family to a meal when we reach Izmir. But as far as prices are concerned they are either very careless or very dishonest — one has to watch one’s step and always ask for prices in advance before buying or eating anything….
Tuesday 5 August: We left Kayseri in the grey light of dawn by train for Iskenderun (= Alexandretta). A more interesting journey this time: first mountain gorges, then a fertile plain with cotton, oranges, bananas and so on growing; then a number of old (Crusaders’?) castles, and finally the coast — where the train went right along the beach, within 20 yards of the sea. (No tides here, of course). Strangely enough, the train was half an hour early! One never knows in Turkey.
A great shock awaited us in Iskenderun. We went straight to the Maritime Lines Office
(to book our ship to Izmir) and found out that Iskenderun is inside the ‘forbidden zone’ for foreigners, being full of military and other installations, and that we had to leave within one hour! This was frightful, for we had planned to spend the night there, visit Antioch the next day (only 20 miles away) and be back to catch the boat at midnight. Now we had time only to book our tickets and cabin, have a cup of tea and catch the bus out again. All we could do now was to pick the boat up one day later in Mersin. (It was worth getting the tickets there, to get a cabin — there was only one left! — otherwise we would have to go 3rd class (too filthy) or 1st (too expensive.)) This meant one night in Adana, the bus to Mersin, another night and morning in Mersin — which we did.
Note: Antakya = Antioch.
We did not realize that we went through Tarsus, the birthplace of St. Paul. Wikipedia says: “… Tarsus was one of the largest trade centers on the Mediterranean coast. It had been in existence several hundred years prior to Saul/Paul’s birth. It was renowned for its university. During the time of Alexander the Great, who died in 323 BC, Tarsus was the most influential city in Asia Minor.”
Wednesday 6 August: Adana is a hole, and a stinking hole at that. Our hotel was expensive and dirty; we couldn’t find one decent restaurant that was open for food after 9 pm., the time we arrived, and the place we did go to served the worst food that we have had in Turkey, at some of the worst prices. We were glad to get away the next morning after a quick stroll around to see the sights: there weren’t any (Adana is the fourth biggest town in the country).
There were no sights worth seeing in Mersin, either, but Oh! what a much more pleasant place! Clean streets, good tea-and-pastry shops, a clean hotel, a park with tea gardens, full of palms and bougainvilleas, by the sea. We had a lazy afternoon, a good night’s rest after a huge meal with some delicious local fish, and a lazy morning —
Nowadays Mersin is a huge seaside tourist resort (below): in 1958, not so.
We joined our ship, Thursday 7 August..
Monday 11 August. We are arriving in Izmir this afternoon, in 2 or 3 hours’ time.
We had a very restful cruise, plenty of sunshine, plenty of food; reading, writing, playing cards. The islands mostly passed by at night but we saw Rhodes yesterday afternoon. It looked cleaner than Turkish towns (all the islands up the Turkish coast are Greek!) and has a huge castle, church spires, and so on. …
I did not, apparently, write to June from the train across Europe, as I had promised; or I did so and that letter is now lost. Memories not in my letter:
Our tickets for the four-plus day journey from Mersin to Izmir, including the cost of the cabin and food, cost less than a few £ stirling each!
Antalya. This is the biggest port on the south coast, about half-way between Mersin and Izmir. We had time there to walk round the town, and before we rejoined our ship we went into a shop to buy some Turkish Delight (rahat lukum). We found ourselves with a bunch of tourists/students who were all talking German — Germans being the most frequently-met visitors to Turkey — and Dennis was in the front of the line. We all were buying the same size box of TD. He asked the price and paid. Then the Germans asked the price and were told it was about half of what Dennis had paid. So Tony and I, at the end of the queue, simply spoke German and paid the same low rate. (In the 1950s both Turkey and Greece claimed Cyprus. Under British administration, in which Tony took part during his military service, the island was — rather unofficially — partitioned. Anti-British feeling along the South coast of Turkey was understandable, but we were not prepared for it!)
IZMIR, August 11-?
Ruins of the agora
The modern city
Meeting up with others in our party — I have no memory of doing this. I do remember that we three visited the ancient cities of Ephesus before travelling back, and (presumably) Pergamon on the way to Bursa and Istanbul. Both cities, which had been in ruins, were being re-constructed; at least once we saw a reconstructed pillar or wall with an original stone with an upside-down inscription! I do have photos and postcards from our visits.
Efes (EPHESUS). The ancient city is to the west of Selçuk, close to the harbour at Kusadas1. The best memory from Ephesus is sitting under a fig tree to eat our lunch and picking some ripe figs for the dessert!
Plan from brochure, 1958:
Modern map for tourists:
The Great theatre, 1958, with Tony’s back:
The Great theatre, 2018:
Great theatre and Arcadian Way, 1958:
Great theatre and Arcadian Way, 2018
Gate of Persecution, 1958:
Temple of Domitian, 2018 (not reconstructed in 1958):
House of Virgin Mary, 2018
Church of Virgin Mary, (Wikipedia:) This is a very important church for Christianity because it was the first one devoted to the Virgin Mary. The Council of Ephesus and the Synod declared that church as the centre of Christianity in 449 AD. The Council of Ephesus held meetings there in 431 AD discussing the role of Saint Mary as the Mother of the God. They agreed at least on the fact that she came to Ephesus accompanied by St. John and that she died there.
PERGAMON (Bergama): I have a picture postcard from here and a detailed plan of the modern town and the ancient site, but neither photographs nor personal memories. Bergama is on the way north from Izmir, and we visited it on the way to Bursa and Istanbul. Tony recalls more than I can: “When revisiting … in more recent times I remembered the steep rake of the theatre and how one of our number climbed down to the stage area to “give utterance” so that we could test the acoustics.” Here is the plan of the city and the two sites; I made it soon after our visit:
and here is a copy of a picture postcard I bought then, with contemporary pictures from the internet:
The AESCULAPIUM (the Sanctuary of Aesclepios).
The Temple of Serapis:
The Temple of Telesphorus:
The rendezvous with rest of group was, presumably, in Istanbul. I have neither pictures, nor memories, other than the following!
Stop-off in Germany on the way back. I had mentioned, to the group. that I was not in a hurry to get back to England, since my mother was away from home (visiting my sister June in Adelaide, Australia); and Barbara invited me to stay a few days at her parents’ home. This was somewhere not far from the East German border North-East of Bamberg in Bavaria. More I cannot remember!