Day 13 – Gonen, Isparta, and Egirdir

Day 13 – Sunday – July 24, 2011

Sunday is supposed to be my day off but as I am leaving on Monday I wasn’t too sure.  That being said I thought it a good idea not to miss breakfast.  I found out that the Germans (and Bert) were going to head to Sagalassos by bus first thing from Isparta.  I decided that I wanted to go to Egirdir because Bert said it was easy to get to and that there was a ruin of a castle right by the bus station.  The Germans said that they also might go to Egirdir in the afternoon to go swimming but Bert just wanted to go to Sagalassos.  Bilge said I had some some work to go but let me go if I promised I would be back in time to finish taking some pictures.  All I wanted to do was see the castle, eat lunch, and on the way back go to the Hamam in Isparta.

A funny thing happened at breakfast – it felt like I got stung by a bee in my thigh/crotch area.  I jumped up and ran inside only to find that a needle from the tree had landed on me and when I shifted had pricked through my pants and into my leg.  A big scare but only for a moment.

Also at breakfast I finally was able to photograph the black and white cat that had a Hitler like mustache – I called it a “kitler” because of the website and Uygar started to laugh – too hard – and I asked him if he knew it and he said yes and then proceeded to explain it to Bilge who was in shock that such a thing existed and that her students would actually know about it.  I must admit I was shocked too – but only from a cultural perspective.

So the Germans, Bert, and I all headed on the bus from Gonen to Isparta and then went our separate ways. I realized when I got to the bus station that I only had big bills (100TL) so I asked them to break it for me when I bought my ticket.  They gave me dirty looks and  I can’t blame them – the one way ticket cost 3.5TL.

The bus ride was…interesting… the bus had no air conditioning and for the first part of the trip the driver kept the front and side doors of the bus open (I am guessing for ventilation).  The open doors were pretty scary.  But he did eventually close them and enough air came in for it to be pleasant.  There was this interesting sign on the window that looked like a “no praying” symbol but I think it means don’t lean on the glass.

As we got closer to the lake I recognized that I had driven through the town last year – I think Paul was driving.  I remember seeing the military training field – you can see the obstacle course – as well as the big signs up on the mountain. Last year we saw a brush fire on the mountain it was crazy how fast the fire moved and there were helicopters going to the lake for water.  (But that was last year.)

When I got there it was just gorgeous.  The sun was shining and the lake was just a crystal blue.  The guy at the bus station told me the return trip was every 20 minutes so I had nothing to worry about in getting home.

The first thing I noticed (after the lake) was a large mosque which had a courtyard and another building attached to it. What was unique was that the minaret wasn’t your normal tower but it extended from the wall (over the door to the courtyard) and you could walk UNDER it. Of course I really wanted to walk in it but I have to stop hoping that I will get that lucky again.

The courtyard led to the mosque itself and also to a small shopping plaza.  At one point it had been an open courtyard but now it was draped with a very large cloth and there were small shops in each of the little rooms. And I mean little – just tiny 10×10 rooms. The doors were little too and I really hit my head hard on the stone doorpost because I didn’t duck properly.

The shopping was your usually stuff – clothes – jewelry – military supplies.  Oh ok well military supplies is a little unusual but with a base so near it probably isn’t.  There was also a small toy store there too which had some very nice plastic toy guys – all black with no orange tip – ah the small differences from home.  I also saw a penguin! When I went to photograph it they looked at me like I was insane.

After I left the shopping center I passed the local Ataturk sculpture – this one was very nice – he looked very formal as he was all in white.  I started to hear all of this honking and yelling and these cars started to zoom around the square wrapped in balloons and ribbons.  I thought it might be a wedding but they were SO agitated I thought it might also be political.  Every few minutes you would see a new round of cars – this went on all afternoon.  In fact as I wandered around town I would see various florist shops were people were getting their car prepared and then zooming off and honking.

The real reason for my visit was to find the castle and it wasn’t too hard to find – right near the area that they have their weekly bazaar (but what was now just an empty lot) was a ruin of a wall and a gate.  It was flying the Turkish flag and had the name Egirdir in big letters on a sign on the top.

I walked all the way around it to see how much was left (not a lot) and saw a Turbesi (the are really tomb-like shrines – and from what I have seen usually green) that was locked.  I took some photos but the sun was high overhead and figured that I might do better taking more after lunch.

When I walked around to head to lunch I saw a road leading up the back of the ruin.  It didn’t seem inviting and had a big red and white bar crossing the road – bit it didn’t have any signs and looked like it was there more to block car than foot traffic so I figured I would climb it slowly.

It was a warm and slow climb (not dangerous as the path was wide) and it was very hot.  About half way up I came to the horrific realization that I only put sunscreen on the TOPS of my arms and had no idea if the undersides were in danger of being burned.  This might sound silly but I am very pale skinned.  There were a lot of bugs up there too but they seemed to concentrate on the occasional flowers and left me alone.

It was funny at the top.  It leveled out and was large enough that you really didn’t feel high up – in fact none of the pictures from the top give you an impression that you are on a castle wall at all.  There were several large chucks of roman antiquity strewn about almost like sitting stones and some graffiti and beer bottles here and there that showed signs of life.  There was a path off to one side that led closer to the sign and flagpost and I carefully walked around to it (but not any higher).

When I got all the way around I saw an opening in the wall that looked like it could house some sort of room or cave.  I got very excited but proceeded carefully – usually places like that are filled with broken glass and smell like pee.  As I got closer I did see a lot of glass and it did start to smell bad and as I turned into the opening – I surprised a young couple that was – well I think they were fully clothed but they were much more passionate than simply making out.  I apologized and moved back to the main area.  The main area also had an old canon on top of it (and lots of beer bottles there too).  As I was sitting there reflecting on whether or not the two were actually having sex and wondering how many people come up here for it I was joined by several other people who started to explore the ruin.

They were fearless and climbed into areas that I would never have gone and they too surprised the couple and too my delight they emerged a few minutes later – not embarrassed at all – and walked down the ruin.  This now being my chance I went back to the opening and took some pictures.  It was a terrible mess of broken glass and other filth – not what I wanted to see – but neat architecturally.

I climbed down the ruin and as it was lunch time lots of people were climbing up it and sitting in various corners talking and relaxing.  I wanted lunch myself but I figured I would leave after so I walked by the lake first.

It is really a gorgeous lake and I saw a couple of vans pulled by the side of the road and some ladies picnicking on a blanket.  As I got closer I saw that there were many people adults and children in the water and they looked like they were really having a good time – I don’t swim so the water isn’t really for me.  I did pack some swim trunks (which I didn’t bring) since last year we went down to the Mediterranean Sea and it sounded fun (though I didn’t go in then either).  I thought it was funny to see all the women dressed (over dressed) in traditional scarves and long pants sitting by the side of the road watching the half naked men and children in the water.  I think there was a woman in the water too but I didn’t want to stare at them too long.  The woman who were not swimming looked to be having a splendid time laughing and eating and thoroughly enjoying themselves it was a Turkish version of a Seurat painting.

Having photographed everything I was going to shoot, I thought I might walk around the old city and see if they had a Hamam (which would save me from running around Isparta).  The town was mostly closed – well at least the old city was – and I just came across the usual suspects of men sitting outside drinking tea and talking.  I did spot one lively spot and realized it for off-track betting – they had tv’s and ticket booths just like in the US.

I saw some shopping places were open and wasn’t surprised to find that everyone was selling stuff for the military base – berets – flashlights – knives.  I found a great bag for my iPad that is a little bigger than the one I got last year and its looks like it is made out of a durable nylon.  I also shopped for some vests.  The guy had one that was great a mix of cloth and leather and some really snazzy lining but it didn’t fit – in fact none of his vests fit – though he was happy to keep trying to sell me a winter coat.

As I left the store I found it – the Hamam!  This was great – it meant I could get my bath, eat lunch, take the buses back home – and then put on more sunscreen!

I walked in and it was small and dingy like the first one I went to in Isparta.  There was an old man with a crutch reading a paper and when I walked in he seemed very eager to help me.  He didn’t speak English but quickly ushered me into a changing room and handed me a towel indicating I should come back after.  The room was small and private and only afterwards did I realize that the door was this solid slab of metal with no doorknob.  I changed into my towel and as I left the room he padlocked it from the outside and handed me the key.  I kept thinking – I was just in that room that has no windows – no handle – and padlocks from the outside! But anyways…

He motioned to my chest in a rubbing fashion and I though he was asking me if I also wanted to get a massage.  I said yes and he smiled and pointed for me to the bath area itself.  He never really got up during this time and as he was alone at the Hamam I wasn’t sure if we were communicating properly or not.  I grabbed a bar of rose soap (1TL) and headed into the bath area.  It was very nice (and empty) and very hot.  Since I had told him I wanted the massage/scrub I figured I would just lay down and wait for a bit.  I waited and waited. After about 10 minutes I figured that this was going to be like the first Hamam I visited and strictly self service.  So I sat up and grabbed my bar of soap when I heard a bang on the door and this young guy comes in (also in a towel) and while he barely speaks any English either indicates for me to lay back down and wait.

He came back a few minutes later and does the whole thing – the scrub – the bubbles – the massage.  He was very good and he wasn’t the sadist that the guys from Isparta were – he used warm and cool water instead of hot and cold.  After my final rinse we left the Hamam and he offered me tea – and when I declined pulled out a bottle of water which was much appreciated.  The old man had gone and I am not sure if they guy was on break or what but he just sat back in his chair (still only in a towel) and I went back and got changed.

In total the Hamam was 30TL which is a great price and after I paid he gestured to put something on my hands.  I quickly remembered that this was Limon Kolonyasi or lemon cologne that the men put on everything after everything (especially the hands after the bathroom).  I quickly declined but I grabbed my camera and took a picture of the bottle (and the soaps) to remember for later.  At this point he gave me a very sad look and asked why I didn’t take his picture.  Well – because you sitting there in a towel!  Of course I didn’t say this to him and Hassan (I later found out his name) eagerly posed for his portrait and I headed on my way.

There is nothing like being clean on a hot summers day.

So with that I headed to find lunch.  I was very hungry and while the temptation to just stop anywhere and grab a gryo was there – I knew I wanted a real nice lunch and looked around until I was beckoned properly by a guy with a nice picture menu.  I took my time and ordered the lamb shish (he didn’t have chops) and really just enjoyed a full meal of salad and bread, rice and lamb.  I asked him for some rice pudding but he said he was out and instead offered me some Kunafeh.

Now it is hard to describe Kunafeh – its like shredded wheat baked with sweet cheese and a butter sauce with crumbled pistachios – I highly recommend it.

After my meal he started telling me about the dinner specials of fresh fish and I told him I was only in town for the afternoon that I was visiting from Gonen.  He stopped in his tracks and said – are you doing archeology there?  I laughed because this must have been the restaurant that Bert went to last week!

Having accomplished everything I set out to do (and reminding myself that I was no longer wearing sunscreen) I headed back to the bus station.  The bus was a more modern bus (and just about to leave) and as we drove out of town we passed one of those giant building sized 7-up billboards that you don’t see in the US but always see in James Bond films – I thought it was funny.

The trip back was quick and once I hit Isparta I immediately headed for the bus back to Gonen.  I got some water from a kid who was also selling ice-cream – he really was hustling hard (but nicely) so I got some – this time I got nut flavored.  It was disgusting – I really need to watch the ice-cream it rarely tastes good – I had to go around the corner to throw it away so I wouldn’t insult him.  The bus showed up 5 minutes later and 35 minutes after that I was back in Gonen.

I had work to do so I put on my sunscreen grabbed my tripod and Emre grabbed the new measuring stick which instead of being a simple wood stick with painted intervals was something right out of CSI and we headed back to the park.  I’m not joking about the stick either.  The use of visual scales in photography when purchased overseas is usually for archeology and are found online at archeology supply shops – however in the US you can pretty much only get them at CSI supply shops.

At the park we grabbed the last few shots – I used my tripod to shoot the last few hard to shoot images as high-dynamic range pictures.  The shots aren’t designed for viewing so much as they are for drawing – the multiple exposure expanded range allows them to see all the details to draw from. We only had 3 objects to shoot again so it went fast and Emre thought we should hang out in the park for a little bit and relax (it was our day off).

As we headed to get some refreshments we bumped into one of the store owners from the village (the one who insisted I take his picture in his shop).  He didn’t shake my hand – instead he did the whole kiss on the cheek thing – I never know which side you are supposed to do first. Last year Paul told me that they do it the other direction in Greece.  It was very nice because it is a greater sign of friendship than a simple handshake.

The park was lovely – people drinking tea or playing backgammon.  I was having some good ice-cream (finally) and drinking some water – Emre was having some coffee.  Just a pleasant afternoon.

Then we hear a voice call out – its the Minister’s Representative and her nephew.  Now I really have to say that he is quite the terror.  I have held off on going into detail all of the terrible things this 11 year old kid has done over the past 2 weeks – but he is awful.  And I don’t care that he is probably having the worst summer vacation ever – it still is no excuse to be grab technology, hit people, grab the gearshift of a car (while it is on) and various other things.  It was so bad that at one point Arzu held him back so I could take pictures without him jumping in front of the camera.  So as they went off to get their drinks Emre turns to me and gestures its time to go and in clear and plain English says “I don’t like him” – neither do I.  I debated on weather or not to tell this little story or not.  But the fact is he was a terror and she knew it.  I had to tell her multiple times to have him stop grabbing my camera and we all had to start locking our doors to prevent him from barging in our rooms and touching everything in sight.  She was very nice to all of us – made us special food and was very friendly – but she can’t be surprised if we didn’t like him or didn’t want to be around him – we didn’t sign up to be babysitters for a little monster.  OK I have vented.

The walk back was a little sad – I passed my favorite white mulberry tree and grabbed a berry for the last time (this trip).  I can buy one when I get home but it might not survive a Cleveland winter.

Bert showed up a little while later. He had a great time at Sagalassos and I guess he made some friends there who took him around and gave him a ride down the mountain.  The theater I visited last year was closed so he didn’t get to see it but he said everything else was great.  The German students went on to Egirdir to go swimming so he parted company with them some hours before.

Just like earlier in Egirdir – I saw cars driving around town with ribbons and flowers on them honking like mad.  I asked Bilge and she said it was for the wedding tonight (the one whose rehearsal we were at last night before we went to the other wedding).  She verified that what I saw in Egirdir was indeed a wedding and reminded me again that it was wedding season.

Dinner was just weird. Maybe I am tired or maybe its because I had a real meal but the poached egg thing with yogurt and spice we had for dinner was really not doing it for me and it occurs to me that I really don’t have soup this much at home.  I barely touched my dinner – I hope it didn’t seem rude.

I should have gone to my room and packed but instead I hung out with the Turkish students and Bert – we had a really nice time – we knew things were winding up (Bert leaves 2 days after me, the Germans 2 days after him).  It was a fun time and if I can come back I really will.

As it got later and later we started to worry about the German students.  Did they miss the last bus?  How would they get home?  Where might they get stranded?  We weren’t too worried but we were pretty curious.  Shortly after midnight they rolled in having caught the last bus back into town.

They were going back up the mountain at 6am the next day and since I wasn’t I had say goodbye to them.  Goodbyes are hard – you are half way around the world and you really might never see someone whose company you really enjoyed – I do hope they stay in touch (Bert too).

Tomorrow is going to be a long day – I have to pack and I have to travel to Istanbul!

Images from Day 13 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)