Friday, June 26, 2009

Tolkien's Inspiration? Not the Loo! Merhaba from Anatolia

Cappadocia, in the central part of Turkey, reminds me of the images I envisioned when reading Lord of the Rings. The spires are created by volcanic tuff (my geology prof's pronounced it toof), covered by basalt, and eroded. A thousand years ago or more, people excavated their homes and churches into the tuff. The painting in the one photo dates to the 11th century and is in one of the churches.

There are many (around 40) underground cities excavated into the hardened ash (these and the other features of the area are UNESCO World Heritage sites) that held thousands of people to escape armies, winter and animals. They are at least two thousand years old The one I visited is excavated down to 80 meters below grade and has eight levels.

I stayed in a cave (modern excavation) in Goreme, which is a laid back town in the middle of Cappadocia. There is one photo of three pots - these are "pottery kabobs" which include meat and vegies poured into a small hole in the top, covered with bread and baked for several hours. The pot is broken open at the table and served with bread and rice - great food.

Tom and Jill - you asked for an infrastructure picture, so of course I shot the loo. The nice thing about this common type of loo is there is no arguing over leaving the seat up.

The blue amulets (nazar boncuk) in the tree are worn or hung to ward off Evil Eye.

The columns that I am holding up are said to cure headaches if you push out really, really hard. That photo is at Pumakkale, where the travertine terraces are also shown.

Allaha ismarladik. Oh, and tesekkur (thanks) for the comments. I really appreciate your thoughts and communication.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Santorini Part Duex

Lest ye think I am always roughing it and suffering deprivations the time on my travels I have added some photos of my sunset at Franko's bar in Fira. A nice glass of red and opera music playing and me, lounging in the chaise and read Out of Africa (getting ready for another adventure) as the sun melts into the Greek islands. It's rough, but I did go cheap on dinner - two gyros and a beer for 5e; I was lucky the motorcycle cop was not looking out for me as I rode the scooter home in the dark to Perissma on the other side of the island with a slight buzz.
I am now in another Continent and will write again when I get some photos or stories to post. Let me know if you have anything you want me to write or photo and I will do my best. Your comments are appreciated.


It is going to take at least two postings to put up the photos of Santorini. The island is so beautiful, that I hesitated taking pictures. It just seems so easy and yet difficult to really do it justice. I loved swimming in the sea here. The water was about 75 and crystal clear. I felt I could swim forever and went for three long swims per day. The photo of me with the red cliff in the background is Red Beach, where I went every day. The water was so clear and the most beautiful color that I would stop and stare while swimming. I will miss it.
The photo with the bouganvillas is the villa room I stayed in. The penthouse room for 20e per night was a splurge, but worth it.
The greek churches like the one pictured are incredible inside, especially the one in Oia.
I found out first had about the fiery tempor of the greeks. For the two full days I spent on the island I rented a scooter and rode everywhere. In Fira, the capital, I rode up a one way street (guess which direction.) You have to understand that I have been watching scooter and moped riders in Morocco and have come to believe that there is no such thing as traffic rules except "do not crash", which, obviously from my experience in Barcelona, I forget sometimes. Back to Fira - seems my one way, wrong way driving almost caused a truck driver to crash. He honked and yelled at me and I rode off. Apparently he had not got enough of me as he turned his rig around ( no small feat in these streets) and chased me down. He was yelling at me in Greek and I just looked at him and said "no intiende", still thinking I was in Spain or South America. He was just getting ready to decend from his truck to kick my ass when he jestured behind him and drove off. I merrily went on my way to discover that his jesture was in reference to the motorcycle cop behind him. That come gave me another ration of crap in Greek to which I smiled and replied "In English?" So I got to hear it all again in loud broken English. Finally, frustrated that he did not seem to be flustering me enough he asked what I thought he should do about my transgressions and I just said I am sorry. He yelled and drove off, saying he would be watching for me.
By the way, I did not have one of the lobsters in the tank, but they did make a nice photo.


Our tour guide on the walking tour of Athens started out by asking us how much longer we were all staying in Athens. Then he said "hopefully for not much more than today, because you will have seen all that is worth seeing and there is no reason to stick around Athens." He was right. Still, seeing the Parthanon, Olympic Stadium and changing of the guards at the President's house and the Tomb of the Unkown Soldiure was worth the visit. Besides, Athens is on the route I have choosen and there are some nice islands worth visiting. Enjoy the photos. Also, I would love to get any comments, even if it is just to say hi. I look for comments each time I check the site and it would be nice to hear from you.
In my view of the Parthenon, I think Zues got the better deal even though his building is much smaller than Athena Nike's (incidentally, I assume that where the Nike corporation came up with the name? - I think it means victory in Greek). Her temple looks to be all columns, whereas Zues at least got some maidens (in the photo)to hold up part of his temple. The scale of the columns is pretty incredible when you consider these things were built by hand.
On to the Islands!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tea in the Sahara

The three days spent in the mountains and dunes of southern Morocco were magical. Warm beautiful weather (probably around 100 f.) The Berber culture is inviting, simple and colorful. We spent a night in nomad tents in the dunes after a couple hour ride on the camels at sunset. We then rode the camels back at sunrise. The light on the dunes is ever changing and absolutely stunning.

Back to Morocco and the Atlas Mountains

After only exploring the Fes area of Morocco, it seems right to return and check out Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains for another week.

It was a beautiful week. The riad (with the pool) was such a nice place to stay and relax, swim and take in the sun after a busy time in the chaos of the medina of Marrakech.

The three days spent in the mountains and desert were incredible. Towns and kasbas seem to spring from the rocks, surrounded by lush green islands of agriculture and flowering oleanders everywhere.

I think the lizard in the photo was for sale to eat, though I was not interested. The olives, however, where great!

Tapas, Flamenco and Jamon - Spanish Flavors

While Spain does not quite fit the mold of places I am going this trip (I am leaning toward developing or undeveloped countries), it was a wonderful couple of weeks traveling around Madrid, Barcelona, the interior and costas, and Granada.

Madrid, with its over the top architecture was so much more inviting than I expected. The little bars and restaurants in and around the city center were great places for tapas, sangria, paella and beer. The Museo de Jamon (a cafe with legs of Spanish ham all around it) every morning for cafe con leche was a treat. Madrid is a very accessible city with a great subway, wonderful museum (the prado) and inviting parks.

Spain has some of the best classical guitar makers in the world, so I could not pass up buying a beautiful guitar in Barcelona. Now I just need to learn to play it.

The Alhambra in Granada is a beautiful place to spend the day. Granada also has gypsy cave homes and wonderful flamenco music. The town is an interesting mix of muslem, gypsy and christian cultures and architecture.

From Spain it was back to Morocco to explore the southern part of the country and get out to the mountains and desert.

Where is Craig Now?

It was man verses wild (motorcycle that is.) I guess I am no Bear Grylls because the motorcycle won. It was in the streets of Barcelona in the early morning and I was just stepping out between parked cars when it came at me very fast. I did not know it was there until I was in the air, landing among the parked cars and bouncing back into the street, where I lay unconscious for a moment. Once I awoke, I tried to stumble out of the street but only made it a couple of steps. I again regained some composure and made it with help to a chair at the outside cafe where I passed out again and had the most wonderful dream - all light and warm and inviting with soft sounds and voices.

I got a ride to the hospital by ambulance, some stitches on my face and back of my head, some radiation, blood and piss tests, and a few bandages. The real scare came when I got dressed to leave and passed out again. On to the CT scan where my doctor looked with consertantion at the scans. Seems he saw something that gave him pause. Next the neurosurgeons looked over the scans and examined me. And here is the best part, despite what some of you might think, they proclaimed that there was nothing wrong with my head and cleared me to go. My favorite words came from my doctor - "You are free to continue on with your trip, - I am jealous." Even better news came from accounting, it seems that since I was the one hit, I did not have to pay a penny.

So now, over two weeks later as I write this from Athens, I am mostly healed except for some numbness on my right hip, side and bum and a sore shoulder joint. Could be much worse. On with the trip!