This time we were prepared for our overnight bus trip. A fellow traveler had given us some advice in Istanbul that a bottle of liquor would help with the overnight bus trip. We purchased a bottle of Malibu Rum in Istanbul but made the mistake of packing it in our backpacks which got stored under the bus. We had learned our lesson and thirty minutes after boarding our night bus we were making cocktails. The bus was again very nice and they stopped every three hours for a break. Karen decided to switch to a local red wine and found out the hard way that Malibu and Red Wine don’t play well together. Her night of unrest was a little bit more uncomfortable than mine.
Our initial destination was Pamakkale for a couple of hours then onward to Bodrum and another ancient wonder of the world. The bus arrives at our destination around 6:00 AM and we are asleep. The actual stop was the side of the highway and the driver started yelling at us to wake up. It took a few minutes to figure it out but we had to get off. The local tour companies were waiting to feed and began the barrage of pick me, pick me. These guys were ruthless and kept hurling insults at their competitors about being cheats and how they overcharge. We picked the guy who choose to refrain from being negative about his competition. Karen and I would only be here for a couple of hours just long enough to take pictures of the Pamakkale cliffs and then get on another bus for Bodrum. A shower would be nice or maybe a swim in some thermal springs.
The Pamakkale region of Turkey has been a major tourist destination in Turkey since the fifth century BC and it is an example of how Tourism can destroy nature. The area is filled with mineral rich thermals that have a high concentration of Calcium. The water flows from a cliff region and the entire path has been covered with white Calcium. The Calcium built up forming small natural pools and the water would cascade down to the valley below. The pictures of the way it was are beautiful. The way it is today is a shame. In the hope of making tourist dollars they built hotels along the top of the cliff and redirected the water into large manmade swimming pools. This disturbed the natural water flow and the white cliffs turned to black algae covered rocks. The hotels have been since shutdown and the water has been allowed to follow its natural path but it looks nothing like the pictures.
We walked up to the top and because it was 7:00 AM we had the place to ourselves. The area was so far very unimpressive and that was exactly why we came. This was prime example of man destroying nature and tourism run amuck. After our walk to the top of the cliff we found a flea market, condemned hotels with large empty pools and a museum under construction. Our trusty guidebook indicated that there was a natural thermal pool for swimming and we really needed a dunk based on the smell that kept following me. The thermal pool turned out to be a day spa/hotel that charged a fee for swimming for two hours. The pool was filled with ancient ruins of columns and statues submerged underwater. We could not find any indication if these columns were original or added for the overall effect. It didn’t matter the water was refreshing and we had the pool all to ourselves. If Karen or I had been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, respiratory ailments, general malaise we would have been cured. Our skin was wrinkled and it was time to get out of the pool. By the time we changed clothes the area was filled with tour buses dropping off the customers of the day. It was 9:00 AM and time to get back on another bus and hit the road. Our walk down the cliff was different than our walk up. This time it was covered with hundreds of tourists taking pictures and laying in the white calcified water. Pamakkale is worth about two hours and only if you can avoid the tourists.
We still have six hours of bus ride ahead of us before we get to Bodrum and our bus departs at noon. We had to change buses in a large town about an hour after leaving Pamakkale. The bus station was busy and we would not be leaving until the bus was full. You could see all kind of games being played by the bus driver and the potential passengers. We finally left with a couple empty seats only to stop five minutes later to pick up four passengers who had just been at the bus terminal. I don’t think their bus fare will make it out of the bus drivers pocket. This process continues and we stopped often to pick up more passengers. I would look down the isle and the back of the bus was filled with squatting passengers.
Arrival into Bodrum was around 6:00 PM and we had no idea what to expect. Our only reason for coming to Bodrum was another ancient wonder of the world. Bodrum was one of the first Greek colonies in Asia, part of the Dorian Federation. Halicarnassus (Bodrum) reaching its pinnacle under Mausolus (377-353 BC). Upon his death, his wife and sister Artemisia ordered the construction of a great white marble tomb. This tomb made the original list of the ancient seven wonders of the world and is more popularly known as The Mausoleum. The Mausoleum consisted of a solid rectangular base surrounded by 36 Ionic columns, topped by a pyramid and a massive statue of Mausolus and Artemisa riding a chariot. What we didn’t know was that Bodrum is a major party spot that rivals anything we have ever seen. For those of you who don’t know Karen and I we have been to some really big party spots.
We had know idea were to stay and our guidebook actually said that there was not a lot to do in Bodrum. We got greeted by a gentleman when we got off the bus and he had a really nice pension which fit into our budget of 7,000,000 Lira or $28. He clearly stated that if we did not like the place it would not be a problem. We took him up on his offer. Karen took one look at the room and told the guy it was way overpriced. The place was a dump and we were out of there. He got angry, cussed us in Turkish, and told us not to come back. He jumped in his car and headed back to the bus station. He was the first angry or rude person that we met in Turkey. We found a nicer hotel down the street a block from the ocean for $40 a night.
Bodrum is one of the most crowded places we have come across. Not in the form of locals but hordes of people having a great time on vacation. Bodrum turns out to be a major party town and attracts visitors from all over Europe. We are most likely the only Americans in town and we are blown away by the number of bars, cafes, restaurants and discos. The town stretches along the shore of two bays and has been a Turkish upper class resort for years. Strolling around town is a sea of scantily dressed people from all parts of Europe filling up the local shops and huge discos. We tried to stay up but we have had a rough 36 hours. The party continued until the early morning and even though we were in our hotel the music did not stop until 6:00 AM. We are leaving for Greece in the next couple of days but decided that Bodrum was worth another night. We spent the afternoon walking around doing a little shopping. We ended up adding two T-shirts to our collection. We also changed hotels to one further down the street away from the music and a little cheaper.
We refocused on the reason we came to Boldrum and that is a look at the Mausoleum. We followed our tour map and actually had trouble finding the ruins. The ruins are only a couple of blocks off the main shopping district and the locals had no idea what we were looking for. The Mausoleum suffers from being a lost ruin that they think they found. According to the history books and the exhibits in museum the building was probably destroyed by earthquakes. Time went on and the Mausoleum was forgotten. It was not until the time of the holy crusades that the site was rediscovered. The Knights who occupied the local fort knew the Turks were coming. Their fort was not up to the proper fortification so they set out into the woods looking for stone. They stumbled across a field covered with columns of marble. They removed marble for four days and added to the walls of the fort. After some more digging they stumbled across the actual tomb filled with gold and jewelry. According to the official letter written by one of the knights, they discovered the tomb at the end of the day and were tired. When they returned the next day everything was gone. I am sure that is exactly what happened– the knights have no idea what happened to all the gold. The ruins are a collection of columns and broken statues on display in the middle of a small field surrounded by houses.
Tonight we are going to be party animals and join the vibrant night life of Bodrum. Who are we kidding, we couldn’t make it past midnight. The number of bars and discos was too overwhelming for us to handle. We looked at each other and decided sleep would be more fun. Our two mile walk back to the hotel was filled with people. In some places the road was so crowded that you couldn’t move. Bodrum looked like Bourbon St. during Mardi Gras or a Gator National Title game. For those of you looking for a party destination Bodrum, Turkey should be on the top of your list.
We need to leave Turkey and start our camping path across the Greek Islands. Turkey and Greece are not big fans of each other and they make it a little difficult to come and go. Bodrum is close to the Greek Island of Rhodes but we wanted to travel through the Cyclades Islands. It would be quicker to catch a bus to Kusadasi and a ferry to the Greek Island of Samos. Our only problem was that no one knew any of the ferry schedules or even what time the boats leave from Kusadasi to Samos. Our only choice would be to wing it. We got on a 9:00 AM bus that was headed north but did not go to Kusadasi. We would need to change buses somewhere. We had been to Kusadasi before on our cruise via the Marco Polo. This somehow gave us more confidence about setting out along an unknown path.
We changed buses somewhere and caught a Dolmus (an overcrowded local bus) to Kusadasi. Without fail we got a flat tire and everyone on the bus chipped in to help. We arrived in Kusadasi and found out that the last ferry left at 5:00 PM and it was currently 6:00 PM. This meant we would need to spend the night and leave tomorrow for Samos. We stayed in the Liman Hotel a one minute walk from the port. We would leave at 9:00 AM for Samos and catch a 4:00 PM ferry to Paros.
To put it simply, Turkey is the reason why you should travel. Before we arrived we knew nothing about Turkey or the people who lived there. When we left our heads were filled with new found knowledge and a better appreciation of why history is so important. I learned that it is a mistake to assume anything about anyone based on their religion or the country they call home. It should be mandatory for all world leaders to embark on a solo pilgrimage around the world. They will find that no matter were they go or how hard life is everyone wants to be happy and share kindness with a stranger. We all want to wake up in the morning with a smile on our face and a little food on the table. We want to watch our children grow up and figure out how to give them a better life than we had. Most importantly they want their leaders to figure out how we all can live in peace. The world really is a big happy place filled with a few small minded people who somehow get in charge and only find happiness by destroying others. I have hope the world will be a better place.