My Travels in Turkey Part 4 – A Contribution From Our Old Friend, Allen Lai


Stewart Goes Walkies continues with the fourth and last instalment of Allen’s travels through Turkiye. (Note: On the 3rd of June, the United Nations announced that they had received official notification from Ankara that they wish to change the spelling of the country’s name – “Turkey has told the United Nations that, at the behest of its president, it wishes from now on to be called “Turkiye” in all languages, the UN announced Thursday.”).

You may read parts 1, 2 & 3 of Allen’s report here, here and here.

Allen continues

Leaving Cappadocia, writes Allen, we continue to move south to Konya, the most religiously conservative metropolitan centre in Turkey. It was once known as the “Citadel of Islam”. The highways are well designed, clean and modern. The highway was dotted with modern factories, farmlands, and ranches. Turkiye has problems with corruption, political instability, and terrorism. But it certainly didn’t show on this Anatolia peninsula.

Due to COVID, the tourist business is down to zero. It seemed we were the only tourists in this part of the land. There was one event that I particularly recall.
 At one roadside view point, we were the only tourists. There were an old couple selling dates and dried fruit. In general, none of us paid them any attention. But our local tour guide. Bulent Gok, a Muslim, had a big heart. He suggested to us that we help by shopping local. The result was we all start buying, their produce. And, this was the first time we didn’t bargain, and just bought happily. When we parted, we saw the joy, relief and contentment on the old couple’s well weathered faces. It cost us very little, but we knew we had done the right thing. A few years down the road, we might forget the thousand-year-old ruins we visited, but we will never forget the happiness of the old couple and the little good deed we had done.
Pamukkale UNESCO site.
Turkiye’s most famous natural wonder, because of its special white topography, which is shaped like cotton. The temperature of the spring water is always at 36~38C. During the Roman Empire, European nobles traveled far and wild to bath here to heal their diseases. The layers of white calcification pools, coupled with the blue sky and beautiful scenery, are a paradise for photographers.
Right at the top is an antique hot spring pool. It is said to be where an Egyptian Enchantress came to admire the ancient Roman hot springs. It is thought to have once been the private bath for Cleopatra, queen of the Ptolemaic kingdom, Egypt. At the bottom is you can see the Roman temple pillars and ruins from the last earthquake.
Hierapolis UNESCO site.
Due to the popularity of Pamukkale, a city was formed nearby in 133 BC. It became one of the most prominent cities in the Roman Empire in the fields of the arts, philosophy, and trade. The town grew to 100,000 inhabitants and became wealthy. It was abandoned due to war and earthquakes. We visited The Roman Theatre – Built in the 2nd century AD. It had a capacity of 8500 – 10000 spectators and was divided into two parts as upper and lower parts of seat by a diazoma. The number of spectators reveals the size of the city at that time.   Nearby is the business area of the city, The Frontinus Street was wide and long, with shops on both side. The entrance to the main street is guarded by castle like watch tower. I tend to compare it with the Champs-Élysées these days.
Continuing our journey further south to Kusadasi, the famous tourist town by the Aegean sea. A sea that embraced numerous loves stories, both happy and tragic endings. Along the highway, the pit stops are modern, spacious and clean. And the prices are cheap. There’s about 10 liras to CAD$1. A Cappuccino tall is C$2 at Starbucks.
Ephesus UNESCO site.
The city was once considered the most important Greek city and the most important trading center in the Mediterranean region. Exquisite stone carvings, an open-air theater which house 25,000 spectators, one of the three major libraries in the contemporary world, Marble Road, Hadrian Temples. Ancient brothels and luxurious toilets.
An Ancient Advertisement
It was here that we saw what was probably the oldest advertisement in history for the oldest profession in the world.
The brothel seems to have been hidden, but it was certainly no secret, as the advertisement shows. It’s a carving on a marble stone. The carving features an image of a cross, a woman, a heart, a foot, a money purse, and a library, plus a hole dug into the rock. One interpretation of the carvings is as follows: up at the crossroads, on the left, you’ll find women whose love can be purchased. But please, only stop in if your foot is at least this big, young men, and you have enough coins to fill this hole. Otherwise, we kindly direct you to the library on the right.
At least they suggested a more enriching experience for those who were too young to enter the brothel. Having said that, rumour has it that, at the library, there’s a tunnel which joined the brothel house. That’s where the gentlemen went for their evening reading.
The Public Toilets
Then, of course, there were public toilets. Imagine a public toilet where there was no partitions and people sit side by side, shoulder to shoulder, it’s a place where businessmen conduct their business…. say ” Hey, what do you think of the DSLR vs Mirrorless camera?” In winter, slaves were employed to sit on the seats prior to their use in order to warm them.
Original caption: A humorous reconstruction of the communal nature of a Roman public latrine. Note the sponge-on-stick tools. Gemma C M Jansen
Troy UNESCO site.
Troy is a 4000 year-old ancient city and archaeological site in modern-day Turkiye. It is also the setting for the legendary Trojan War in Homer’s epic poems the “Iliad” and the “Odyssey.” I have been to Rome and Greece. And yet,  it still stunned me looking at the size and the thousand years of historic changes of the ruins.
Temple of Artemis UNESCO site.
Much of Ephesus’s ancient history is unrecorded and sketchy. What is known is that in the seventh century B.C., Ephesus fell under the rule of the Lydian Kings and became a thriving city where men and women enjoyed equal opportunities (hard to imagine). It was also the birthplace of the renowned philosopher Heraclitus.
In 356 B.C., a crazed man named Herostratus burned down the Temple of Artemis. The Ephesians rebuilt the temple even bigger. It was estimated to be four times larger than the Parthenon in Greek and became known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. What is left of the Temple of Artemis now, is a single column and inhabited by a family of vultures.
That ends my Journal in Turkiye. I like to take this opportunity to thank my buddy, Stewart, for allowing me to share my experience. By writing it, it helps to put my thoughts in order and review the trip one more time in depth. To conclude, I extracted what I wrote on the return flight while sipping the 15 year-old Glenfiddich single malt scotch the airline provided.
“I am on a long flight home, 10 hours, my mind is full of fond memories. I knew nothing about Turkiye, the Ottoman Empire, or Islam before I signed up for the trip. But as I started looking into it I realised there’s so much to learn. I wasn’t even aware a Turkish airlines, not to mention that it flies to more countries than Air Canada.
For the past two weeks, I traveled over 3000 km. Saw the city, the countryside, the historic ruins. I am totally impressed. Everywhere was clean, orderly, not necessarily rich, but beautiful. What impressed me most was the people. They are polite, religious, well educated, content and happy.
Well, I love this country, more importantly, I love the people. I felt so safe, so comfortable here. It’s a wonderful experience after the long absent from traveling. I am getting long winded, better finish my 15 year-old Glenfiddich single malt and catch some sleep before landing.”
Stewart Goes Walkies is very grateful to Allen for letting us publish his report. And we are grateful for his kind comments. We wish him safe travels for his future exploits and look forward to seeing them here.

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Published by stewartgoeswalkies

Happily married man to a wonderful lady. Living in Hong Kong. In my younger days I enjoyed hiking, camping and rock climbing. I've trekked in the Himalayas and climbed Mt. Kinabalu in East Malaysia.

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