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Phespirit goes to Turkey
tour     April/May 2002

It had long been high among the ambitions of Phespirit to travel around Turkey. This is a land profoundly rich in history. Great civilisations have been flourishing here since the Bronze Age. The ruined walls and fallen columns of their legendary cities are to be found all over. The surrounding landscapes are diverse, sometimes surprising, sometimes dramatic. The cities of the present era are full of character, balancing local traditions with modern cosmopolitanism. The people are friendly and the chicken kebaps are good.

Phespirit started out from İstanbul and headed south-west to the Gallipoli Peninsula, where hundreds of thousands of brave, bloodied, bewildered men were cut down in the Great War. Of the many cemeteries and memorials here, the Monument of Deep Respect to Mehmetçik is especially moving. It honours the courage of an unknown Turkish soldier who, during the heat of battle, left the safety of his own trench to carry a wounded Anzac officer out of no-man's land, across to the Anzac side. This is heroism of a kind that is almost unimaginable in our petty, selfish, small-minded, intolerant twenty-first century.

A ferry across the Dardanelles, from Gallipoli to Çanakkale - crossing the Hellespont - brought Phespirit onto Asian soil. Following the Aegean coast south beyond İzmir and turning inland towards Pamukkale, the route is marked by the remains of once-fabulous cities: Troy, Pergamon, Ephesus, Aphrodisias and Hierapolis ..... magical places, beautiful and evocative, the stuff of myths, why Phespirit came.

Pamukkale is famed for its brilliant white travertines. These were formed over thousands of years by the action of calcite-rich spring water emerging on a plateau at 35°C, trickling down and depositing crystals of calcium carbonate as tiers, walls, pools and stalactites. Subtle pastel shades can be detected within the overall glare of whiteness: pink dust collects in the white ridges of a riverbed; pale yellow penetrates the slopes where rain washes down from the roads above; bright turquoise radiates from the waters that gather in travertine pools. Phespirit removed his shoes and socks to go for a walk on the area restricted for sightseers, hobbling over slippery stones and wading through mysteriously tadpole-filled ponds. That evening the waters at the Hotel Herakles Thermal were satisfactorily taken.

Next stop Konya, from whence the Whirling Dervishes come, and then into the heart of the country, the heart of Anatolia, to Cappadocia. Summarising the history of the region: volcano, volcano, volcano, ash, lava, basalt, compression, tufa, wind, rain, erosion, thirty million years, plateaux, peaks, fairy chimnies, mankind, troglodyte caverns, early Christians, rock-cut churches, frescoes, underground cities, tourism. It is difficult to decide what is the more improbable about this place - the rich and strange topography or the peculiar uses that human settlers have found for it. Weird and wonderful indeed.

Phespirit left Cappadocia via Aksaray and headed north-west, visiting the cultured metropolis of Ankara, the ancient tombs of Gordion, the green city of Bursa and the salty promenade of Mudanya.

The circuit was completed back at İstanbul ..... the ambition was fulfilled.

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