Monday, 18 June 2012

The Earthquake near Ölüdeniz

So I finally experienced my first earthquake, I had already accepted that it was likely that I would eventually experience one as it seems and unlikely that I would be able to spend this much time in Turkey without it happening at some point. We were having a pleasant sunny afternoon stroll in Kaş when the earthquake struck. Walking down a fairly steep hill in the old part of town my wife suddenly lost her footing in a weird way, I asked if she wanted me to take the pushchair but the atmosphere was odd and she just stared down the hill suddenly turning to me saying “earthquake”.
Simultaneously the Earth emitted a low groan and absolutely everything began to shudder causing me to stumble slightly. The main quake was over in a matter of seconds but the area seemed to continue to vibrate in an almost imperceptible way, for some time after you clearly see light fittings vibrating. Obviously this caused a degree of panic and within a minute everyone was in the street. The people who had been inside were visibly more disturbed as it is more frightening to be inside, everyone moved into open spaces.

Personally I had no idea how to react and just stood there like a dumb ox, I guess this was partly the shock. It left me feeling quite emotional for the next few hours, apparently this is a normal reaction to having the solidity of your reality challenged. The people around us swapped stories of how it was in their house or shop, chain smoked, phoned to check on loved ones and waited nervously to see if anything else was going to happen and to find out if there had been a major earthquake further away. After twenty minutes or so people began to carry on with their day to day business. The earthquake measured 5.8 on the Richter scale we were approximately 60/70 km from the epicentre. I heard later that there were 50 odd serious injuries mostly in Fethiye due to people jumping from balconies in a panic I'm told this is a common reaction and is more of a reflex reaction that and indication of your intelligence. Luckily the epicentre of the earthquake was just of the coast beneath the ocean floor had it been in a population centre it would have been a lot more serious.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bergama (Pergamon)

The modern town of Bergama is not particularly picturesque town and I certainly wouldn't recommend it as a destination from which too base your holiday, however it has a fascinating history making it perfect for a day trip. 
The older part of the town has some old style town houses and its not overly touristy so can be a nice place to observe the Turks going around their day to day business. Attractions at Bergama include two large archaeological sites, a museum of archaeology and a gargantuan brick temple earmarked as the throne of the devil in the coming Armageddon.

Museum of Archaeology in Bergama
The museum at Bergama is well established having been built on the orders of Fevzi Çakmak in 1932. Recently it has been refurbished to a high standard. The exhibits are mostly from nearby Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman remains. Outside the front of the museum there is a collection of sculptures and decoratively carved Islamic tombs and grave markers. Inside there are more sculptures many of which have had their heads removed and apparently stolen by western collectors. By far the most interesting exhibit for me was about the altar of Zeus of which there is a reconstruction and a collection of photographs and drawings. The original was removed by German Archaeologists in 1878 and shipped piece by piece to Berlin where it was re-built in the museum of Berlin, an act of cultural theft and vandalism that still shocks over one hundred years later. The original location of the alter is visible on the Acropolis. The museum also contains a nice collection of 19th century Bergama kilim rugs. The local villages still produce high quality handmade kilim rugs with patterns and designs that are specific to Bergama.

The Acropolis
The Acropolis was for me the most impressive of the two sizeable archaeological sites and can be reached by a brand spanking new cable car. It sits on top of hill overlooking the town and a recently completed dam. Once you have ignored your way past the standard ramshackle collection of touting gift shop owners you can enter the sizeable remains of the old citadel which includes temples, alters, monumental tombs, theatres and military buildings, not to mention some beautiful and far reaching views. Highlights were the partially restored temple of Trajan and the theatre of Pergamon, which is gigantic, apparently accommodating 10,000 people in one go, it is also jaw droppingly steep! A visit to the Acropolis makes for a pleasant and fascinating afternoon stroll which took us about two hours. 
On the other side of Bergama are the remains of Asklepion an ancient medical centre, in its time one of the most important in the world. It was constructed in the 4th century BC and as well as the temple of Asklepion it it has an interesting history in medical research including early experiments with water therapy, music therapy and dream analysis.

Red Basilica 'the throne of the devil'
The enormous Red Basilica (Kizil Avlu) can be found in the centre of Bergama, and is hard to miss as it is by far the largest building in town.
The basilica has a certain eerie quality, partly because its a giant derelict building in the centre of town and partly because its referenced in the Bible as being one of the seven churches of the apocalypse, and is referred to by St John in the book of Revelations as 'the throne of the devil'.

Rev 2:12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges
Rev 2:13 I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's throne is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.

Purportedly built around the early 2nd century the temple was dedicated to the pagan Egyptian god Serapis. Like many older religious buildings it was recycled firstly as a church by the Byzantium empire in the 4th century, and latterly as a mosque. The building was badly damaged by Arab raiders in 716 AD and a smaller church was built inside. The current day mosque is situated in a tower to one side.

Getting there
Most day trippers come by bus and organised tours. If your coming by car Bergama is easily found on the main road between Ayvalik and Izmir. The two archaeological sites have designated parking, but parking near the museum and around town is tight and you will normally arrive back at your car to find a parking attendant hovering, but the parking charge is reasonable so not to worry.


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Bounjour Pansiyon - Ayvalik

The Bonjour Pansiyon in Ayvalik is an interesting bed & breakfast situated in a restored house that
Formerly belonged to the French ambassador to the Sultan. The house is deceptively big and somewhere in this building there are 12 rooms.
Restored to a high standard with lots of interesting original features and added decorative items gives the place a romantic old world feel. The ceilings have also been decorated with some authentic looking frescos. The rooms are basic as you would expect, nicely decorated and include air con/heating. There are shared bathroom facilities throughout the pansiyon.
Breakfast is served in a walled courtyard and includes, bread, local olives, cheese, eggs, Turkish fried bread, jams, honey and hot and cold beverages.

We paid 45 YTL per person per night including breakfast, the pansiyon is located about 5 minutes walk from the otogar (bus station) at this address Fevzi Cakmak Cad. Cesme Sok. No:5, 


Thursday, 12 May 2011

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee (Türk kahvesi) is extremely strong, dark and bitter. Prepared using finely ground roasted coffee beans that have been slowly heated to boiling in a small pot called a cezva. Turkish coffee is always served black and the sugar is added whilst the coffee is being boiled. If you want it with sugar order şekerli without sugar is sade or plain.

Turkish coffee is sipped slowly and is so thick that the bottom of the cup is normally an undrinkable dark sludge, if your lucky enough to be drinking with a group of Turkish women they will often turn the cup upside down on the saucer allow the sludge to run down the sides and dry, ten minutes later the will read your coffee fortunes (Falına Bakmak) predicting your future by the patterns and pictures left in the dried coffee.

If you want more European/Western style coffee order Nescafe, recently you will also find European style coffee shops selling caffe latte and cappuccino's.


Monday, 14 March 2011

Gemiler Island (St. Nicholas Island)

Gemiler Island also known as the Island of St Nicholas is located on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey between Olu Deniz and Fethiye. The Island is only small approximately 1000m long by 400m wide but that small area is littered with the remains of an historic monastic retreat containing among other things the original resting place of St Nicholas. The Island offers the perfect opportunity to take a break from sunbathing and spend an hour exploring the medieval remains, that for centuries attracted pilgrims from all over Christendom. On the island are the remains of four churches, related religious buildings, Byzantine dwellings, harbour, cistern, stone tombs, graveyard and ceremonial passageway. The views from the top of the Island across the Mediterranean and back inland are also quite stunning and well worth the walk.

The Tomb of St Nicholas
St Nicholas better known now days as Father Christmas or Santa Claus was the Bishop of Myra, which is just a few miles from from Gemiler Island in modern day Demre.
Archaeologists believe that after his death on the 6th of December 343AD he was buried on Gemiler island. The Island became an attraction for local pilgrimages and pilgrims from afar who would stop off on their way to Jerusalem to visit the shrine. Paying homage at the basilica that housed St Nicholas's remains, where you can still see faded frescos depicting scenes from his life. Around 650AD the remains were removed to the safety of Myra after the island was repeatedly attacked by Arab pirates forcing the inhabitants to abandon the settlement in favour of nearby Kayakoy.

Later St Nicholas's remains were again removed by a special expedition in 1087 to the city of Bari in Italy making the Bishop quite well travelled for someone who had been deceased for over 700 years. The church that housed the remains is referred to as the third church and is on the highest part of the Island at the top of the ceremonial passage. The remains were believed to have been kept below the alter.

Getting there
Most vistors discover St Nicholas Island either on one of the many Island hoping tours that come from Fethiye and Olu Deniz or by walking down from Kayakoy and geting a boat across the half mile stretch of water from Gemiler bay.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Ottoman Calligraphy

This is a sponsored post in courtesy of The Pen Company

Ottoman calligraphy began its life when the Turks migrated from Central Asia towards Asia Minor coming into contact with Islam along the way, they abandoned the traditional Uyghur text and adopted a hybrid written language based on Persian and Arabic tradition. In Islamic theology the text of the Qur'an is considered sacred as it is the word of Allah himself as revealed to the prophet Muhammed. This combined with the fact that artworks picturing human and animal forms are prohibited, meant that calligraphy as an art form flourished in the Ottoman empire with the most impressive works being undertaken in Istanbul. Istanbul became the capital of the Ottoman state in 1453 after Fatih Mehmet took the city effectively ending the Byzantium empire. Within Istanbul there are many fine examples of Turkish calligraphy one of the most famous being engraved in 1478 over the imperial gate at Topkapi palace by Ali Sofi a calligrapher in the reign on Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror.
Another famous and impressive example of Ottoman calligraphy is the Ottoman Tughra a highly stylised calligraphic signature that also acted as the Sultans seal and could be found on official state paperwork, coins and medals.

The Tughra varied from Sultan to Sultan and various examples can also be found carved above gates at Topkapi palace. Each Sultan would have a new Tughra designed by the court calligrapher at the start of his reign. The picture is the tughra of Sultan Mahmud II of the Ottoman empire, It reads Mahmud Khan son of Abdülhamid is forever victorious. Written in full it would appear like this:
محمود خان بن عبدالحميد مظفر دائماً
If you are interested to see a collection of beautiful examples of Ottoman calligraphy the Sakıp Sabancı Museum in Istanbul is located near Emirgan park and houses a collection of calligraphic art. The collection spans a period of 500 years and offers a comprehensive view of Ottoman calligraphic art consisting of nearly four hundred separate pieces including manuscript Korans , prayer books, calligraphic panels, imperial documents, poetry books and calligraphic tools.

Visiting Hours
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10 am - 6 pm
Wednesday: 10 am - 9 pm
Closed on Mondays.
Sabancı Üniversitesi- Sakıp Sabancı Müzesi
Istinye Cad. No:22
Emirgan 34467- Istanbul
Tel : 0 212 277 22 00
Fax : 0 212 229 49 14
Web :
E-mail address :