Webmaster's Note: Because the BikeAbout team is traveling in smaller groups for a little while, we have changed the format of the journal slightly. The dispatches for Turkey will be presented in geographical rather than chronological order. To view the chronological order, go to the itinerary.

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While Ethan, Anthony, and Padraic are cycling from Mersin to Silifke and then Silifke to Anamur, Corinne and andrEa are traveling along Turkey's Aegean coast:

Rider Notes: February 15–16, 1998

topics: ruins ruins everywhere, the Oracle, apple tea (food), the effects of war on tourism; jump to dispatch

Food of the Day: Apple tea

Turkish apple tea tastes just like hot apple cider and is a terrific warmer-upper once the sun has gone down and the crisp winter air surrounds you.

Word of the Day: Tammar — "OK"

The word we've heard most so far in Turkey is tammar click to hear an audio clip, which we soon realized was the Turkish word for "OK" (which, incidentally, sounds a lot like the town called Söke, except without the "s" sound)!

Tech Fact of the Day: Ill-informed tourists afraid of Iraq

We learned from our friends at the Eyup Family Pension in Didim that many tourists are canceling their vacations in Aegean Turkey due to the current situation between the USA and Iraq. Looking on a map at the HUGE country of Turkey, one might notice that, at its far, far eastern and southern corner, Turkey borders with Iraq. Not fully educated on the geographical and realistic space between the Aegean Coast of Turkey and Iraq, some tourists are frightened by what this shared border could mean, and hoteliers in Turkey are worried that the spring tourist season will not be fruitful for them.

Person of the Day: Fishermen

Today we honor the fishermen click to view a photograph who insisted on driving us and our bikes to Söke. The road was flat, the scenery plain, and the headwind ferocious, so we didn't mind a bit. Luckily, the back of the truck was empty and the cab didn't smell like fish. And taking a ride with these guys in the morning allowed us to bike into Selçuk by the afternoon, thus saving a whole day of cycling, and putting us back on schedule! Thanks again, guys!

Place of the Day: Temple of Apollo at Didim click to view a photograph

The view of the Temple of Apollo from our hotel room window click to view a photograph was enough to shake us out of bed and send us scurrying to get a closer look. Since these are by far the biggest and most impressive ruins andrEa and Corinne have seen thus far, we spent much more time wandering through them and meditating than we had anticipated, overwhelmed by the huge and holy grounds, entranced by the scrawled inscriptions from both ancient and recent times.

Pilgrimages to this site were the norm for ages, as people came here to consult with the Oracle, whose origins are at Delphi in Greece. (We can't wait to get there, either.) Priests who represented the Oracle drank "holy water" from a well within the Temple itself and than gave mysterious answers to life's most difficult questions. This pagan practice often helped both common people and military officials make significant decisions.

Running our hands over the cool, rough, black and white marble of the remains, we took the small tunnel entrances to the courtyard where the Oracle was once consulted. We peered into the empty well to catch any leftover holy vibes, and then went on to climb around the brightly-lit exterior, ducking into the occasional cool shadow of the towering walls. Capitals and ornamentation from fallen columns were scattered all over the excavation site, so we were able to get a close-up view of some decorations which are often hung high on terraces and tympanon-triangles. We were able to get a better understanding of the work that went into the making of this temple. It must have been a lot of effort, as engraved wings and leaves enduring the test of time are still as well carved and gaudy as the day is long.

Group Dispatch, February 15–16

picture of andrEapicture of Corinne

Leaving Milas for Didim early in the morning, Corinne and andrEa allowed themselves a few minutes for a stretch and then hit the main road into plenty of headwind and early morning sun. Once again they had over-dressed for the moderate weather, and when the hills began, they regretted it. So, today the bright white of their legs in shorts would certainly keep them cooler and more visible! About 30 km (19 mi) into the day they had a particularly grueling hill that never seemed to end, as the top of the mountain was never apparent.

Then it happened. The tunnel through the mountain that they saw marked on the map was before them, although without any indication of its length. click to view a photograph They stopped their bikes and peered in, only to hear — but not see — the tons of fast-paced traffic and enormous trucks and buses rumbling within. They stopped to shoot a little video click to view a photograph and discuss this demon ahead.

With no road lights in the tunnel, and only their dim bike lights to guide them, they didn't even know whether the tunnel was headed up- or downhill, much less whether there was anything resembling a road shoulder where they could ride somewhat safely. It took some courage, and lots of adrenaline, but they made it through the approximately 100-meter-long (328-ft) tunnel not only with their bikes intact, but also during a time when there wasn't any traffic. Phew!

The downhill afterwards was a relief, but they still weren't "out of the woods yet." Donkeys roaming in the road seemed to be the norm for the farm families in this area, so the ladies had to stay alert. After a while, though, they hit the peak of the hills near Bafa Lake, where they stopped for lunch on the shore. Other folks had a similar idea, and Corinne and andrEa encountered a number of families enjoying Sunday picnics. After lunch, it was a race to Didim before dark. The many hills along the shore of Bafa Lake click to view a photographclick to view a photograph and the valley and climb over to Didim were definitely an obstacle, but Corinne was determined to consult the Oracle at the Temple of Apollo before the day was through (see the Place of the Day).

In fact, so blind was her biking fury that she missed a really significant turn, and the 3-km straight downhill that followed was too much to try and bike back up. Much to andrEa's chagrin, they biked the long way to Didim, adding at least another 13 km (8 mi) to their day, which had already exceeded 73 km (45 mi). The ladies did arrive in time to catch a magical and extended sunset at the Temple of Apollo, though, and watched as little girls from the neighborhood made a playground of the ruins, which had, sigh, closed for the day. click to view a photograph

The otherwise completely empty pension where they stayed offered a terrific view of the Temple grounds. Before a roaring fire and sipping apple tea (see the Food of the Day), they watched every color eventually disappear from the sky and change the look of the marble in the great canyon. When they convinced the pension owner that they really DID need four blankets each to sleep well at night, they hit the hay, eager to be awake for sunrise on the Temple from their hotel room window. click to view a photograph

Sure enough, in the morning, before and during breakfast, they greeted the expanse of crumbled columns and then hit the site itself. The great thing about exploring ruins is that the ancient lives of long-dead people seem much more tangible, not just something you read about, or look at in drawings. For andrEa, who had to memorize and recreate drawings of all such ancient architectural buildings in school, it was fascinating to see and touch these places for real.

This entire area of Turkey has a wealth of scattered ruins — former cities, towns, temples, and theatres — and other remnants of what it has seen through the ages. The towns of Priene and Miletus, as well as Didim, flourished as coastal cities in the prior to the fourth century BC, but soon dwindled in importance as the sea receded. Still, the fact that each of these three cities has withstood the test of time is incredible. The owner of the hotel told Corinne and andrEa that when he was a child in the 1950s, the Temple of Apollo ruins didn't budge an inch during an earthquake, while the rest of the town crumbled! That said, even after 4,000 years of construction by different rulers, it was ironically never finished! But whatever they did do, they did it right.

Baking in morning sun as they packed their bikes to leave, Corinne and andrEa changed to warm-weather biking clothes for the first time since Egypt, and then set out to battle the headwind on their way to Söke via Priene and Milet. The beating sun was whipped away by the off-shore wind as they backtracked over yesterday's route, and then continued north with every intention of catching a few more ruins on the way.

As luck would have it though, the People of the Day, a couple of fishermen click to view a photograph whose truck was parked at the side of the road waved them down to offer a 50-km (31-mi) ride straight to Söke. They didn't want to be rude and refuse them, and knew that they could use the extra mileage to get move along further, faster.

"Söke?" they asked, and they had to respond, "S'okay!"

As they rolled through the flats between Didim and Söke, using extremely simple English, they worked their way through a somewhat jumbled and rumbled conversation and were told that their drivers were fishermen, both of whom come from and have very large families. As they all passed one barren cotton field after the next, they were quite relieved not to have biked such a boring stretch of land, and to have traded it for their meeting with these two men.

Once they arrived in Söke and said goodbye to their new fishermen friends, they were on to Selçuk, the town right next door to the famous ancient city of Ephesus.

The loping road to Selçuk hugs the coast (complete with headwind) and all its hills, rushing past pristine beaches and shores, dipping and climbing in and out of the tourist town of Kus(h)adasi. Corinne and andrEa were not pleased with Kus(h)adasi. It always seems like the more touristic an area, the less cultural flavor it has. The obnoxiously enormous hotels click to view a photograph and golf courses on the shore somehow disrupt the otherwise lovely sea and mountain scenery.

They arrived on the plains of Ephesus in the late afternoon and were immediately stopped in their tracks click to view a photograph by the huge, ancient theatre ruins in the distance, nestled into a hillside. click to view a photograph

Suddenly, quiet spectating at this amazing view was interrupted by a man who jumped out of his car and insisted that the pension he worked for was the best one in Selçuk, a mere three km away. He offered his card. While the ladies were startled by his abrupt and somewhat absurd approach, they rode right up to and checked into his suggested hotel anyway. Then they headed out to see the town.

Selçuk was, until a few decades ago, a farming village with some notable ruins. Then the Ephesus excavation and renovation turned it into more of a tourist town. The in-town ruins of the St. John Basilica were almost the hardest item in town not to spot, second only to the statue of the fertility goddess Artemis click to view a photograph click to view a photograph that welcomed them into the shopping district. But more about both of these things tomorrow.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until after dark that Corinne and andrEa also discovered (more like ran into) the remaining arches of the ancient aqueduct that runs smack through the center of town, and the towering Ottoman-style fortress on the hill. When they retired and again fell asleep at their computers, they were snug and exhausted under tons of blankets.

Meanwhile, the guys have cycled from Mersin to Silifke and then Silifke to Anamur. You can read about their journey in their February 14-15 and February 16-18 dispatches.

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Questions? Ask andrEa Go To andrEa's Page or Corinne Go To Corinne's Page!

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