It so happened that I have been to Turkey three times. Surely, such frequent attendance of this country by me can be accounted for by a mere coincidence. But every coincidence has regularity. After all, Turkey was just not a bad place to visit.
My 1st trip to Turkey was “forced”, so to speak. I did not quite recover from a serious disease at the time, so I was afraid to travel somewhere too far away. There was as short as 3 hour flight to Turkey, so, after a several trial travels within Russia (in particular, to the city of Yaroslavl), I, again, made for a tempting foreign land.
Unfortunately, the trip’s beginning was marred by an unhappy flight departure time (3 am), so I arrived to the point of destination pretty worn. Having taken a key from the hotel’s reception, I headed for my bungalow. I was walking through the hotel’s territory, I carried a suit-case, and I had a 3-piece suit on, whereas people around me were all in bathing suits and swimming trunks (despite the month of October, daytime temperatures there topped 28 degrees Celsius that year). Having entered my bungalow, I quickly threw off all superfluous clothes and went out already in shorts and a tee-shirt, drank a glass of cooled red wine at a bar on the way, and plunged into a warm and caressing sea.
Gradually, my misgivings completely dissipated. The ambience was exclusively favourable. My bungalow (to be more precise, it was a 2-storey bungalow’s 2nd floor) was located in a quiet, shady place, and my neighbours were most friendly and kind. Meals were superb, and they were served round the clock – you could always have a snack and/or drink. And yet, by 7 pm, there was always a queue lining up at the restaurant’s entrance: having got bored with the commonness of casual snacks and soups, the people were craving for a real feast of food. And they were sure to get it. The dinner at the hotel was noted for a special gastronomic variety and was a bit like a theatrical show: every new dish would be carried into the room with a torch-light procession and accompanied by a drum-roll. Besides, the dinner was a focal point of communication, when people, overwhelmed with new impressions, would, at last, assemble together after the day’s trips and excursions.
Our hotel provided many free services, including hair-cutting, massage, and the hamam (a Turkish bath), which I, with the exception of the latter, did not fail to get avail myself of. Massage came in especially useful – it rid me of a back pain, because of which I could hardly sit. As for hamam, one could get there only by pre-booked appointment (moreover, such a procedure was contraindicated for me). Besides, I began to attend an archery course, in the art of which I succeeded pretty well.
But I wanted to get there not from above, not from the highway, but along the sea shore. The beaches there are all public, so you can move along unhindered, despite the nearly uninterrupted train of hotels built on the shore. I liked to stroll along the beach before breakfast, in cool morning hours. During one of such strolls, I came across a mountain which blocked the beach and jutted into the sea. Trying to bypass this mountain, I turned aside from the beach and soon found myself on a path, on which there was a guide sign: “Phaselis.” This is how, as it turns out, one can get there! The next day, I woke up earlier and set out in the reconnoitered direction.
I turned to the above-mentioned path and went deep into a spacious pine forest. First, the path ran slightly uphill. Along the path, green-painted guide signs could sometimes be seen, keeping me confident that I was on the right track. The surrounding landscape was very much reminiscent of something – I could not rid myself of a feeling as if I was in the Southern Crimean Coast. Soon I reached the mountain’s summit, from which a breathtaking view opened up of the sea, the mountains, and the albescent ruins that could be seen on the shore across the bay – that was Phaselis. Charmed with the beauty of the panorama, I sat in the shadow of a pine for some time, imbuing myself with a sense of regained perfection.
But, as the apothegm goes, “the eye is not satisfied with seeing”. So, I went on my way, which was now perfectly clear to me. I walked down the hill, crossed a stream, overcame yet another mountain, not so high this time, and, finally, found myself in front of a barbed wire fence. Most likely, it was that very fence that encircled the territory of Phaselis. Having climbed through the hole in the fence, I assured myself in the correctness of my assumption.
Soon I was walking down the central street of the ancient city. The street was wide and paved with stone slabs. On its both sides there were pedestals bearing inscriptions in ancient Greek, on which statues of Gods and heroes may once have stood. Behind them the ruins of temples, as well as public buildings could be seen, including gymnasiums, baths, and libraries. I was most impressed by the ruins of a theatre that could seat several thousands of spectators. Behind the theatre, there was the acropolis, where residential houses were situated. The street was closed (or rather opened) with a triumphal arch, erected on the occasion of the visit to Phaselis by the emperor Hadrian. Earlier, the city had been visited by Alexander of Macedon. Having stopped in front of one of the statues, he asked: “Who is it?” “It is Theodectos, our philosopher”, – was the answer. Having heard this, Alexander tore the diadems off the heads of his accompanying persons, threw them onto the statue’s pedestal and said: “Only philosophers deserve to be crowned.”
During my 1st trip to Turkey, I managed to visit yet another remarkable sight, a place where natural fire erupted from the earth. I had known of this place being there earlier, and, in order to get there in the best possible way, I was looking for fellow travellers among the holiday-makers. Soon I got acquainted with a friendly middle-aged married couple, who agreed to provide me company. Certainly, it is better to watch this scene in the dark, so we set off for the place by day’s end. We rented a car and drove down the road laid along the picturesque Mediterranean seashore. The mountain which houses this object of note, is called Chimera in Greek, and, in Turkish, it is Yanartash. When we arrived at the foot of the mountain, it was already dark. We left the car in the parking lot situated in a pine forest. To proceed further, one had to walk a couple of kilometers along a rugged path running uphill rather steeply, kind of the Crimea’s D—l’s Stairs. But at that moment I felt unwell. I lay down on the grass and said I would not walk any further. My companions refused to climb up without me and decided to wait until I felt better. Having lain a bit, I suddenly noticed some dot of light shimmering among the trees. Having come nearer, I saw that it was a drinking water slot-machine. Amidst many labels presented there I could identify the “Mirinda,” which was well-known to me, and in a moment I was already partaking of this cool, invigorating liquid. Having felt a “second wind,” I, together with my companions, started ascending the Chimera.
On completion of the climbing, a fantastic view opened up before my eyes: against the background of a starry sky tongues of flame broke out of the earth here and there. Enterprising locals were sitting beside some of them, warming up tea on them and treating it to the arriving travellers. This mountain once was amply overgrown with forest, with wild goats grazing on its slopes and snakes teeming at its foot. It boggled the imagination of ancient Greeks and prompted them to create the myth of Chimera, the fire-breathing monster having a lion’s head and neck, a goat’s body, and a snake’s tail. Sometimes the tongues of fire would rise higher, and then this mountain served as a natural lighthouse for sailors. Not far off, in the reflections of the flames, the ruins of the temple of Hephaestus, the God of fire and blacksmith’s work, could be discerned. Then this mountain appeared not as a fire-spitting Chimera, but as a home of the Lemnossian God’s underground forge.
By the end of my 1st, week-long, stay in Turkey, I almost completely felt at home there. In the morning, I could hear a muezzin’s distant call. I learned some Turkish phrases (by then, I lacked the energy to learn Turkish as well as any other language in its entirety). I bought a T-shirt with a Turkish emblem, and when I paraded the streets in it, local girls would winsomely call on me: “Türkiye, Türkiye!” In our hotel, and, perhaps, all over the place, “ruling the roost” were Germans. I would say “Guten Tag” to greet occasional passers-by, and would almost always be reciprocated accordingly. I did not make a show of being Russian, but I did not make a secret of it, either. Should people learn I was Russian, I would always be treated kindly. One German lady once familiarly clapped me on my back and added, now in English: “I like your Gorbachyov!” Sometimes, I even happened to hear passionate confessions coming from German lips, like: “Ya tyebya lyublyu”.
Not long before leaving that place, I looked in a souvenir shop and bought there a number of “nazarliks”, Turkish eye-shaped glass amulets. Besides, I bought several breloques, picturing a character known in Greece as a Satyr and called “Ali Baba” by Turks. Interestingly, the shop owner’s name was Aladdin, which, surely, evoked a host of sweet childhood memories.
The next year, I decided to go to Turkey again, to the same place, at that. Due to financial problems, I had this time to choose myself a more modest hotel, something at a 3 star level, but, nevertheless, with an “all inclusive” system. The hotel was located on a sea shore and consisted of plywood cabins scattered across a pine forest. Meals were not noted for great variety there, but they were quite bearable, and you could have a bite almost at any time during the day. Certainly, I felt a bit fearful, especially at nights, being aware that there was no guard there, and the fence surrounding the hotel compound almost entirely consisted of holes. By the end of my stay at the hotel, there was almost nobody left there, except me – everybody made off due to a worsened situation in the Middle East.
During my 2nd stay in Turkey I planned to visit what I had failed to during my 1st one. In particular, I wanted to see the ruins of another antique city, Olympos. Cicero spoke of this city as the one “abounding in riches and works of art,” while the young Julius Cesar took part in liberating the city from pirates. Olympos also was honoured with a visit by the emperor Adrian (apparently, the local authorities had no time to build a triumphal arch to welcome him, so the city was simply renamed into Hadrianopolis for some time). One fine day I found myself in this picturesque and historical place. There I met two middle-aged French ladies, who had strayed away from their group. We wandered together along stony paths and even waded across some river. Unfortunately, they did not speak English, whereas my knowledge of French was more than scanty. They both wore high-heel sandals, and I often heard them repeating: J’ai peur de tomber /I’m afraid to fall/.
The beauty of that place was striking: mountains, pine-trees, ancient ruins… One could see something like that at one time in the Crimea’s South Coast. When we stopped to have a rest, one of my companions exclaimed: Regardez voir! Ce sont cyclamens, les cyclamens savages! /Look, these are cyclamens, wild cyclamens!/. I looked where she was pointing to and saw: all the ground around us was covered almost all over with light pink flowers. – “Wow, – I thought to myself, – nothing lies empty here, and everything is filled up.”
Having taken a breath after my excursion to Olympos, I started seeking new impressions. And a chance was not slow in turning up. One day, when exploring the hotel’s surroundings, I came across a man with a camel who gave rides to all those wishing around a prescribed circle. “Why not, – it occurred to me, – ride this camel to Phaselis?” I addressed this proposal to the camel’s master, and he agreed, and the price he charged was quite affordable. The next morning, I, having had a substantial breakfast, came to the appointed place. Yuryuk, the camel’s master, was already waiting for me. He held a camel by the bridle with one hand and a donkey, with the other (it was supposed that he would lead the way riding the donkey and I would follow him riding the camel).
I came up to the camel and started wondering: “How can I climb it (the camel’s height made up, perhaps, about 3 meters)”? Yuryuk dispelled my doubts: with a resolute gesture he made the camel kneel in front of me. It only remained for me to lift my leg up, and… But as soon as I pulled my leg behind the camel’s hump, the camel abruptly sprang to its feet, so I could hardly pull my leg back. It was repeated several times. Then Yuryuk stopped trying to bring his pet down: he clasped his hands together, and I, using his clasped hands as a step, finally, perched on the camel.
Having found myself at the top, I did not feel any relief. The camel started expressly prancing under me patently trying to unhorse me. I clang onto its neck in a deadly grip. Yuryuk came pat – he reined in the camem, took it by the bridle and led it, with me sitting astride, to the destination point (we had to abandon the donkey). But that was not the end of my tribulations. Firstly, the camel’s motion was so rocky, that my square breakfast started moving inexorably from my stomach upwards. Having found myself at the top, I did not feel any relief. The camel started expressly prancing under me patently trying to unhorse me. I clang onto its neck in a deadly grip. Yuryuk came pat – he reined in the camel, took it by the bridle and led it, with me sitting astride, to the destination point (we had to abandon the donkey). But that was not the end of my tribulations. Firstly, the camel’s motion was so rocky, that my square breakfast started moving inexorably from my stomach upwards. Secondly, it turned out to be a she-camel (a bitch, to be more precise). Striding past some pole or a tree, she never missed the chance to dash me against it with all her strength. Especially, she loved wading through thorny bushes – considering the fact that I had only running shoes and thin shorts on, all the plenitude of sensations was ensured to me.
It was more than once that I begged Yuryuk to return – in all the languages I had a command of (it sounded especially well in German: Yuryuk, zurück!). But he only smiled and stubbornly kept on stalking along, purporting that the entire event has been “paid” for (you have to pay for everything in this life, even for your torments). Gradually, I came to terms with my fate and silently swayed, keeping time with the she-camel’s step. On the other hand, all this had its charm: I could look down on everything, and everybody respectfully moved out of my way. Besides, this episode could provide a plot for some historical narrative, like “entering Phaselis on a camel”.
But here’s the familiar fence. Yuryuk helped me to dismount, tied the she-camel to the tree, and we crept into a hole in the fence. Having found myself in the territory of Phaselis, I left Yuryuk resting in the shadow of the trees, had a dip in the sea bay, and went walking down the ancient city’s main street. Again, I felt this shiver, the nostalgia for antiquity known to man since the time of the Renaissance. Certainly, Modern Times impress one with their achievements in science and art. But has man become happier thereby? On the other hand, Modern Times have presented the mankind with Hegel’s dialectics, thereby pointing the direction, in which one should search for a new revelation of God… Musing in such a way, I found Yuryuk, who was waiting for me, and we set off on our way back, which, thanks to the acquired experience, did not seem that unbearable.
Also this time we sailed “to the islands”, where we bathed, and where there were snacks and drinks. Certainly, the sights were beautiful out there, like everywhere in the neighbourhood of Kemer, but there were no historical or architectural landmarks there to be found. I had some trouble with leaving Turkey. I had had the imprudence to have bought an “open return ticket,” so I spent my whole departure day at the Antalya airport in a strained expectation of a plane with a vacant seat. And yet, it was rather comfortable in the airport building, air conditioning was working well, and Turkish peasants fed me with grapes and other gifts of the orchard. The hotel’s guide was around all the time. In the end, he managed to “squeeze” me into a plane, which apparently was the last leaving for Russia that day.
My 3d trip to Turkey was hardly remarkable in any way. I once again made sure that recreation was organized there perfectly: you would always get everything you wish (within reasonable boundaries), and no one would hassle you. Hotel rooms, where it is due, have got air conditioners, and this will not preclude you from opening a window (sometimes, there is an interlock: while the window is open, the conditioner will not work, and, vice versa, while the conditioner is working, you will not be able to open the window). Also remarkable there is a layout of hotel rooms. For example, a bungalow may have 4 individual rooms, where bedrooms have got no common walls. At the entrance of the restaurant, you may see a warning prohibiting you from bringing out any food from it. Certainly, it never comes to anybody’s mind to take notice of this warning. Neither comes it to the hotel workers’ mind to reprimand the holiday-makers for doing so, nor search them, or count how many times they have tuned up at the dinner (as the case may be with some Hilton hotels). If you travel with children, you may entrust them for the whole day to the animators, with whom they will play, draw, sing, and dance. Moreover, the children are often involved in some joint activity, for example, prepare a musical, so as to present it to the hotel public in the evening. I have always admired the professionalism of Turkish hotel animators, who are able to unite and fascinate this multilingual and prankish crowd.
These are my impressions of Turkey. And I hope many other people’s impressions of it are equally favourable. Let’s do aerobics to the exciting Turkish pop-music: