Monday, October 23, 2000

TR Switzerland

10/19 –10/23/00

Now that we had finished the marathon and our adventures in Turkey it was time to move on to Switzerland. I had mentioned in the Turkey report that prior to setting up this marathon trip that I had been fortunate to find a marathon in Switzerland in the same time frame so that I could complete two countries and marathons on the same trip. I was doubly fortunate that the marathon was being held in Lausanne which meant it should be fairly flat and easy compared to some of the other Swiss marathons that are mainly trail runs up one of the higher mountains in the country.

We flew direct from Istanbul to Geneva on an early morning flight that got us into Geneva about noon on Thursday. After finding a 4-star hotel close to the Gare (train station) we caught a train into the city. Since we had been to Switzerland before on ski trips with the kids and had done the city tour in Geneva, we decided to walk around the city on our own to explore some of the side streets in ‘La Vieille Ville’ (the old city). Later we took a cruise on Lac Leman, commonly called (incorrectly) Lake Geneva. Most of Lac leman is situated in Switzerland with about 1/3rd of the southern shores located in France. We had seen news flashes on CNN about the storms and floods in Northern Italy and the south of Switzerland but did not see any damage or affect in Geneva other than the Rhone River was very high and fast. The cruise started near the Pierres du Niton (Niton Rocks), two large rocks sticking out of the lake (elevation 373.6 m) that are used as the base for all altitude measurements in Switzerland. We then passed by the Jet d’Eau, a fountain that shoots lake water to a height of 140 meters. As we continued cruising along the south shore we viewed many homes and mansions along the shores such as the Diodati Villa where Lord Byron lived in 1816. We then crossed over to the north shore to view some more castles and mansions including Baron Rothschild’s castle and the villa where Josephine de Beauharnais ( Napoleon’s wife) lived. Autumn leaves were at their peak and the city and parks on both sides of the lake provided a kaleidoscope of colors. We continued on past the Palais des Nations, the European seat of the United Nations and the World Trade Center before finishing near St Peter’s Cathedral, dating from 1150 and rebuilt in the 16th century.

After the cruise we found a small gourmet shop, purchased a loaf of bread, some gourmet Swiss cheese and a bottle of French wine and returned to the hotel to have a picnic in our room while I watched CNBC on satellite TV. I had not had any update on financial markets since we left the US! Nicole finally pulled me away from the TV after we finished our great picnic and we decided to find a good restaurant for dinner. A travel acquaintance who had lived in Switzerland recommended that we try lake perch when we were in Geneva or Lausanne. There is supposedly a perch that lives only in Lac Leman and is only served fresh in restaurants along the lake. So we tried ‘les fillets de perch’ and it was excellent!

The following morning I got up early and did a final training run along Lac Leman passing many of the parks and mansions mentioned above. The weather was much milder than expected; highs in the mid 60s and lows in the high 40s. It was such a beautiful and peaceful run that I would have ran much longer if I didn’t have a marathon in two days. But it was time to catch a train for the 40-minute ride along the lake to Lausanne.

Lausanne is a small and compact city (population 125,000) built into the hills overlooking Lac Leman. The countryside on both sides of the city is covered in vineyards and is very picturesque. Lausanne seems to be divided into three sections based on the level of the land. The Ouchy district is located along the lakeshore and is the most scenic. The Gare or city center is located at the next flat level up from the lake and is the business section of the city. La Vieille Ville or old city is located at the top levels of the hills where it was built in the 6th century for defensive reasons. A cog rail or metro system connects the three levels.

Our hotel was located in the city center across from the Gare and next to the Metro. It was a great location for access to the city but I would recommend that a visitor stay in the Ouchy district along the lake. But we had a great 4-star hotel for less than $100/day including breakfast which is a bargain in Switzerland! There were no city tours operating because it was off-season so we picked up a brochure of walking tours from the tourist office and did our own tour. We spent a few hours walking around La Vieille Ville visiting some of the old castles and the Cathedrale Notre-Dame built in 1150. Then we took the metro down to Ouchy to explore the mansions and castles along the lakefront. This district is also the home of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) founded by Pierre de Coubertin in 1894 but moved to Lausanne in 915. It contains an Olympic Museum and Park and a plaza named in honor of Pierre de Coubertin.

You may have noticed that I have been using a lot of French? Based on past trips I expected the Swiss to speak French, German or Italian depending on which part of the country you are in and the nearest neighbor. Most of the citizens usually speak English too but on this trip we found that we had to speak French the majority of the time. Even in government offices such as the post office and train station we had to converse in French to conduct business since these cities are so close to France.

Since we had explored most of the major attractions in Lausanne on our first day we figured that we should explore some of the country on Saturday. The marathon was on Sunday and fortunately it was a 10am start with the race HQ open until 9am for packet pickup. I don’t normally like to leave the logistics that late but when we investigated the time needed to get to the Matterhorn we learned that a full 10 to 12-hour day was needed.
So we caught an early train for the long ride to Zermatt. Normally it only takes 3 ½ hours as you take a normal train to Brig, near the Italian border, and then switch to a narrow-gauge railway for the rest of the trip to Zermatt. But the storms had indeed inflicted damage in the area near the Italian border. We had to train to Sierre and change to two buses as we bypassed sections of the rail tracks that had been washed out by floods. We saw some of the damage as we bussed through Visp and Brig in Wallis Province. Finally 4 ½ hours later we arrived in Zermatt where we switched again to a cog train that carried us from 4900 feet in elevation to Gornergrat at 9400 feet. It took 40 minutes to make that climb but the ride offered many spectacular views of the Matterhorn and its neighboring mountains. Four mountains including the Matterhorn form a huge basin or bowl with the ski resort of Zermatt at the bottom of the bowl. The Matterhorn (13,500 feet) is by far the more majestic of the mountains with its well-known pyramid shape even though the others are higher – Mount Rosa is 14,000 feet.
There are four permanent glaciers in the bowl that offer year-round skiing. The recent storms had dumped about 3 to 4 feet of new snow on the mountains and it looked like there was about 12 inches of fresh powder. Some of the runs were groomed but nobody was skiing? It looks like a great ski area and resort but it is a bitch to get to and will be for a while.

We only stayed at Gornergrat for about twenty minutes –just long enough to enjoy the many views of the Matterhorn and snap a few pictures. Then we headed back down the mountain to Zermatt because there were more restaurants to choose from for lunch. After lunch we strolled through the village for a while to pick up a few souvenirs and then decided to start the long trek back. It was a long day but well worth it!

The following morning I had to pay for my frivolous adventure of the day before by getting up at 6am to look for race HQ and pick up my race package and final instructions. Fortunately I was successful and was on the starting line and ready to go at 10am. The weather was perfect –overcast, almost foggy and cool. I was cold but waited for someone else to put on a garbage bag (remember Istanbul) before I pulled mine out and put it on!
The course started in Ouchy and ran northeast along Lac Leman through vineyards and small villages to La Tour de-Peilz where it looped back over the same route. It reminded me a lot of the Napa marathon –very scenic but lots of rolling hills. I passed through the half too quickly (1:47) and knew that I couldn’t hold that pace on those hills so slowed down. I felt good throughout the whole race and at mile 23 knew that if I wanted to break 3:40 that I had to lower the hammer and run about an 8-minute pace for the last 5K. This day was much different than the previous week in Istanbul – when I dug down there were energy reserves available and I crossed the finish line in Olympic Park in 3:39:06!

After the race and a quick shower Nicole and went back to Ouchy and strolled along the lake, stopping now and then for a glass of wine before deciding to eat dinner. I wanted to find a nice small intimate restaurant in La Vieille Ville –silly me- so we took the cog metro up to the old city –only to find that it was completely shut down! Not a single shop or restaurant open! So we had to retreat back to the city center and eat at the hotel restaurant –not very intimate!

But all in all it was a great trip. Although Switzerland is very expensive it provided a sharp contrast and nice change from Turkey. Time to go home and get recharged for the next adventure! See you then.

Thursday, October 19, 2000

TR Istanbul Marathon

10/11 –10/19/00

Planning for this trip began back in March while I was running the Turin marathon with a friend from New York City. He indicated that he planned to run the Eurasia marathon in Istanbul. We both needed to complete a marathon in Turkey as part of our quest to run a marathon in every European country. The Eurasia or Istanbul marathon also has the distinction of being the only marathon in the world that runs through two continents.

Thus I agreed to meet him in Istanbul in October. As I was researching airfares, etc I looked for a second marathon in that same timeframe so that I could complete two marathons/countries on the same air ticket. Luckily I was able to locate a marathon in Lausanne, Switzerland the following weekend and I still hadn’t run a marathon in that country so I decided to combine the two. However I will talk about the Swiss part of the trip in a separate trip report.

Nicole and I planned to spend the first few days of the trip in Istanbul to recover from jet lag, tour the city, run the marathon and then escape to one of the coasts. After that we were going to play it by ear. After leaving Sarasota at 10am on Wednesday and flying via JFK in NYC we arrived in Istanbul at 11am on Thursday – 18 hours of flying and airport time and 7 hours of time difference. Needless to say our bodies were not happy with us! But we managed to stay awake and when our friend Edson showed up a few hours later he and I decided to find the marathon office and pick up our race packages. This turned out to be a bit more difficult than imagined and to explain why I must first give you a geography lesson plus some travel tips for Istanbul.

Turkey is spread across two continents, Europe and Asia. About 1/8th is in Europe, the other 7/8ths is in Asia. The continents are separated by the Bosphorus Strait and the Sea of Marmara. Istanbul sits on both sides of these bodies of water and is connected by two bridges across the Bosphorus and many ferries. The old historic city and business sections of the city are located in Europe; the residential sections are mostly located in Asia. The old city lies across an inlet called the ‘Golden Horn’ from the downtown area called Taksim where most of the tourist hotels and restaurants are located. There is a newer business district called Maslak located northeast of Taksim. We stayed in Maslak. Although it is only about 6 miles from Taksim the traffic in Istanbul is horrendous and public transportation is poor. Istanbul has 15,000,000 people and I think they all drive – and the road system was not built for that many cars! It reminded me very much of Rome and Cairo – there are no traffic rules other than the bravest gets to go and pedestrians have no rights! Taxis were surprisingly cheap when you consider that gas was $4/gallon.
But it took at least 30 minutes and $10 to get downtown from our hotel. So my advice – stay in the Taksim or old city districts! Now back to the story about the race packages.

After a 30 minute taxi ride through sections of Istanbul never before seen by tourists as our driver used back streets and alleys to avoid the congested main roads, he finally dropped us off in front of the soccer/football stadium in Taksim where the race HQ was supposed to be located. Right!
We finally did find race HQ and also found that there was very little organization and even less English spoken. Somehow we managed to get our race numbers but when we tried to get additional information such as how to get to the start, etc. the only answer we could understand was that we were expected to catch a bus at the race HQ to take us to the start. Oh well, we had two more days to figure out what to do. Now it was time to get some sleep and start our sightseeing.

Oh yes! There is another interesting tidbit that I need to pass on. Take a calculator with you! The exchange rate was 675,000 TL (Turkish Lira) per $US. And things in Turkey are not cheap which means you are talking big numbers. Fortunately big-ticket items such as hotel rooms and tours are quoted in $US. Can you imagine being quoted 168,750,000 TL ($250) for a hotel room? But restaurants and taxis charge in TL so you need to carry about 100,000,000 with you in cash. If you charge a purchase they quote $US but actually put TL on your credit slip. I signed a Visa slip with the biggest number I have ever seen on one – well over 1,000,000,000 (yes –that’s BILLION). Hopefully Citibank applies the correct conversion –otherwise I will be asking all my family and friends to donate $50,000,000 each to pay off my Visa bill at the end of the month!

But now it is time for some sightseeing. On Friday we took a full day tour of Istanbul. The first stop was in the old city to visit St Sophia; a Byzantine basilica built by Emperor Justinian in 537 on the same site as the first church that was completed in 360. In 1453 the Ottoman Turks rebuilt and expanded it using remains from ancient cities such as Ephesus (more on that later) and converted it to a mosque. Today it is a museum.
Next was the Sultanahmet or Blue Mosque renowned for the millions of blue tiles used in the interior decoration. Then on to the Hippodrome where the Romans held their chariot races. The last stop of the morning was the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinth of streets and alleys containing over 4,000 shops –reminded me a lot of the ‘souks’ in Dubai.
After a nice Turkish lunch we proceeded on to the Suleymaniye Mosque and the Topkapi Palace. The palace is the former residence of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to 19th centuries and has been converted into a museum. It contains the famous emerald dagger, star of the film ‘Topkapi’ and the 86 carat Spoonmaker diamond. And finally we had to have the compulsory stop at a carpet factory. Actually it turned out to be quite interesting and informative since they explained how to distinguish carpets from the various regions of Turkey based on their designs and color of the dyes. A silk carpet costs as much as $40,000 US (27,000,000,000 TL) –how would you like to see that charge on your credit card?

The following day we decided to treat ourselves and sleep in to overcome the jet lag. We opted for an afternoon cruise on the Bosphorus that took us along the shores from the fishing village of Sariyer to the Golden Horn. We made a stop to explore the Rumeli Fortress that was built in 1452 at the narrowest point of the strait. We passed under both bridges as we viewed the magnificent mansions and palaces that line both sides of the Bosphorus. Finally at the Golden Horn we made a visit to the Spice Bazaar where they sold Turkish and other spices that I have never heard of? The tour bus dropped us off in Taksim where we found an Italian restaurant to have our pasta feed the night before the race. Over dinner Edson and I pondered how we were going to get to the start of the race. We figured that since we would have to take a taxi into Taksim to catch the marathon bus that we might as well just take a taxi to the start line.

When we returned to the hotel we discussed our plan with the concierge and were immediately advised of some glitches. The Bosphorus Bridge would be closed to traffic Sunday morning until after the race started. No problem – we would have the taxi drop us at the entrance to the bridge on the European side and walk across to Asia. Wrong! Both bridges have been permanently closed to pedestrian traffic because too many Turks were jumping into the Bosphorus to kill themselves! Thus the final plan was to have a taxi take us across the second bridge, drive through the suburbs in Asia and drop us off at the entrance to the Bosphorus Bridge on the Asian side. Time for bed now that we have a plan!

Sunday was M-day! Up early – get the concierge to explain to a taxi driver exactly where to take us. The driver scared the crap out of both of us as he insisted on carrying on a one-sided conversation in Turkish while he drove like Michael Shumacher in the Indy 500! Almost kissed the ground when I got out! But he did get us to the right spot and 45 minutes before the start. Since we had no idea where to find the baggage bus we decided not to take any baggage or warm-up clothes with us. But I did take the customary black garbage bag and as we approached the start area I decided to put it on. Well ! –ALL HELL broke loose the second I put it on!!! Two TV stations including CNN-TURK and a few newspaper teams descended upon me like vultures?? My first thoughts or concern was that I had somehow offended their culture or morals. The interviews went something like this:
Q “ Where are you from”
Q “ Did you come here just to run the marathon”
A “Yes and to visit your beautiful country”
Q “Are you going to win the Eurasia Marathon”
A “No (laugh), I’ll be happy just to finish healthy”
Q (As they touch the garbage bag) “ Why are you wearing this disguise or costume”
A “ In the USA and Northern Europe many runners wear these bags to keep warm and dry until the race starts and then we throw them away”
Q “Are you a top runner and are you going to win the race”
Q “ Can we take your picture for our newspaper”?

By this time more photographers and a big crowd were converging on me so I ripped the damn bag off and quickly blended back into obscurity among the other runners. I never did find out why that damn bag caused so much commotion??
But I do have two recommendations for my fellow runners who may consider running this marathon in the future: 1) Stay in Taksim and walk or take a taxi to the marathon bus to get to the start and 2) DON”T wear a garbage bag –(unless I have started a new fashion trend among Turkish runners?)

Finally it is time for the race to start and all the runners make their way to the start line that is about ¼ mile from the Bosphorus Bridge on the Asian side. The gun shoots and we’re off and soon crossing the bridge for some fantastic views of Istanbul, the Bosphorus and the Sea of Maramara. But I quickly realize that I have another problem! In my anxiety to escape the limelight I never had a chance for my last-minute pee! And I am certainly not going to stop by the side of the road and relieve myself like most runners do in a marathon –until I see some locals pull over. I’ve had enough attention for one day thank you! Fortunately within a few miles after we cross the bridge I see some locals finally pulling over to do their deed and I join them. Now I am ready to run – it is difficult to run with your legs crossed!
After crossing the bridge into Europe the course skirts around the Taksim area and at the 10K point the marathon and 15KM races split. The marathon crosses a bridge over the Golden Horn into the old city where it passes many of the tourist sites mentioned above as it makes it way to the shores of the Sea of Marmara. It then heads west along the Sea until the 15 mile point where you turn and loop back to finish in the football stadium. By this time they started to reopen the roads on the other side of the boulevard and we were sucking in wonderful gas fumes. My buddy Edson caught up to me at 15 miles and we ran together until mile 23 when he lowered the hammer and left me behind so quickly that I had to look down to see if my feet were still moving? But I just didn’t have the energy reserves to respond that day so I followed him across the finish line in 3:47:12!

After a quick shower and a massage we all decided to head over to a small fishing village on the shores of the Bosphorus and find us a great seafood restaurant and some wine. We enjoyed a great meal but it wasn’t cheap –about the same as big-city US prices. Then it was time to go back to the hotel and get ready to leave: for Edson –back to work in NJ; for us – on to the Agean Coast of Turkey!

Since this report is turning out to be much longer than expected and I haven’t even started on the most interesting historical part I think it is time to close and provide the remaining part of the adventure in Part #2.

Monday, October 16, 2000

TR Istanbul Part 2

10/11 –10/19/00

Now where did we leave off in report #1? Oh yes! We were getting ready to depart for the Aegean Coast. Why the Aegean Coast? To answer this question I need to backtrack a few days. Since we had no set plans and not much knowledge of Turkey I simply gathered as many tourist brochures as I could find from local travel agencies and reviewed the canned tour packages. These not only told me what the most popular destinations were but what attractions or sites they offered. Most of the tourist destinations seemed to be located on the Aegean and Mediterranean Coasts with the more important historical and biblical sites being on the Aegean. Our choices were to take a canned package or do our own thing. After experiencing the traffic, driving and communication problems in Istanbul I was concerned that they might even be worse in the rural areas, so I opted for a tour. However it was off-peak for tourists and most tours were only one or two days so I put together a proposal for a three-day custom tour and asked three agencies to provide quotes. They ranged from expensive to exorbitant in price; hence my visa charge for 1,000,000,000+ TL mentioned in the previous report. By the way my visa bill arrived and I am happy to report that you can go ahead and spend that $50,000,00 y’all had set aside for me –you did set it aside –right? But I will admit it is a nice way to travel!

The agency arranged everything- booked our air travel to Izmir and reserved the hotels including one at the airport in Istanbul for an overnight stay before leaving for Switzerland. A tour guide met us at the airport in Izmir with a car and driver and they baby-sat, er, I mean escorted us around for three days. Our first stop after arriving in Homer’s birthplace (Izmir) was the ancient ruins of Ephesus. But on the one-hour drive to Ephesus our real education of Turkey began. I had some idea beforehand of the many ancient Greek and Roman ruins – but I had no knowledge (or had forgotten) how much biblical history there is in Turkey. Since I will talk about both throughout the report I need to provide a bit of a prelude on the Biblical history.

The land of ancient Asia Minor or Anatolia is today’s Turkey. The biblical history starts in the Old Testament (Genesis 2:14) with the Tigris and Euphrates, two of the four rivers that flow through the Garden of Eden. These rivers rise from the mountains of Eastern Anatolia. Mount Ararat (Agri Dagi –16,800 feet) is in Anatolia. It is believed that Ararat is the place where Noah’s Ark landed and his son Japheth and his descendents populated Anatolia. And the biblical history terminates at the end of the New Testament (Revelation 16:12:15) again with the Euphrates where it dries up to allow the crossing of the forces of the nether world before the final battle at Armageddon. The Seven Churches of the Apocalypse are all situated in Anatolia: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum,Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Did you know all that? No? Then read on to begin your history and bible lessons!

On the way to Ephesus I noticed that the geography and topography of the region were similar to California. The coastal highway reminded me of Hwy #1 from LA to San Francisco- beautiful ocean scenery on one side and scrub mountains on the other. When you pass over the mountains there is a very fertile valley where the majority of Turkey’s fruits and vegetables are grown. Our guide stopped at a few roadside stands to buy us some samples of the local produce. We followed the rule ‘If you can peel it, it is safe to eat’ and had no problems.

And finally we were in Ephesus. There have been four cities built on the same site/area dating back to 3,000 BC. We were visiting the ruins of the second city built and inhabited by the Greeks and Romans from 300BC through 800AD.
At its peak it had a population of 250,000. The city had been built on the confluence of the Aegean Sea and a river for easy transportation. But the ruins are now located about 3 miles from the Coast because of the silting of the river over the past 2,000 years. Only about 10% of the ruins have been excavated to date. A few buildings such as the Library of Celcius – the fourth largest library in the world at that time- have been partially restored and are quite impressive. Across the street from the library was a brothel. It had it’s own indoor hot pools and bathrooms (with running water no less). But the most ingenious feature was a secret tunnel that ran under the street to the library. When an angry wife came banging on the door of the brothel demanding that her husband come home she was informed “her husband was at the library”. Meanwhile hubby would beat a hasty retreat through the tunnel and magically appear coming out of the library with the book of the day. Things haven’t changed much in 2,000 years have they?
The city also contained the Great Theatre, an amphitheatre with a seating capacity of 24,000 – the largest in Anatolia. There were several temples and statues dedicated to the Gods including one to the Goddess Nike. And stupid me didn’t even know that they had running shoes back then?

Just down the road from the ruins at Ephesus were the ruins of the Temple of Artemis (Goddess of Fertility), one of the ‘Seven wonders of the Ancient World’. All that is left is one column – the rest were taken to Istanbul to be used in the remodeling of St Sophia and other mosques. Remember that information from the first report? No? You forgot? Can you remember what the other Six Wonders of the Ancient World were? OK, they are: the Pyramids of Egypt, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos of Alexandria.

After a nice Turkish lunch we continued on to ‘Meryemana’ or the ‘House of the Virgin Mary’. At the crucifixion Jesus assigned the care of his mother to the Apostle John (Jn 19:26-27). John brought her to Anatolia and he and his disciples built her a house on the top of Mt Solimus very close to Ephesus where they could protect her. She lived the rest of her life there. The house has been restored and converted to a small chapel and shrine.

Next our guide took us to a museum located in the current city of Ephesus. Up until 1923 most of the antiquities found in Turkey were taken to other countries. But when Mustafa Kemal (‘Ataturk’ –the father of the Turks) took control of the country in 1923 he ruled that no more antiquities could leave the country. And he did a smart thing by building museums in each local community so that the treasures and antiquities found in that region could be displayed for the locals to see as well as tourists.
In Ephesus we also saw the ruins of churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John as well as the prison where the Apostle Paul was held for starting a riot.
Our final stop in Ephesus was a government co-op where they trained women-young girls actually- to weave carpets. They were one of the government controls and distribution centers for Turkish carpets and their prices were about 1/3rd those in Istanbul. So yes! We broke down and bought a carpet made in the Bergama region. That region is noted for it’s earth tone colors because they use tobacco plants for their dyes.

Our guide then took us to our 5-star hotel in Izmir and made sure we were given a room overlooking the main square and the harbor on the Aegean Sea. Izmir was founded by Alexander the Great and is Turkey’s 3rd largest city (3,000,000). The city had just refurbished the harbor area and there were lots of new restaurants and shops and most importantly a new park along the harbor with a dirt running trail about 1 ½ miles long. I had to run up and down this trail several times each morning to get my training runs in –I didn’t dare use the roads since very few have sidewalks!

The following morning our guide collected us and headed north to Bergama. We passed through Smyrna (another Church of Revelation) on our way to the ancient Roman city of Pergamum. Pergamum was the Roman capital of the Aegean region even though it was smaller than Ephesus. It was built on the top of a mountain for defensive purposes. Initially the Romans were able to supply the city with water from wells and catch basins that they built into the side of the mountain. But as the city grew they had a water problem. How did they solve it? Good question. The emperor declared a contest and the winner who could provide the best solution would marry his daughter. The solution was to build an aqueduct to another mountain range 35 miles to the west that had snow and much more rain. Since that range was 2,000 feet higher, gravity and water pressure would force the water to the top of the city. However there was a major problem. The water pressure on the route up the mountain was too high for the clay pipes to handle. So they wrapped the clay pipes in a lead sheath and encased those pipes in solid rock. Examples of those pipes still remain at the ruins. I was intrigued by how an engineer had solved the puzzle 2,000 years ago. And did he marry the emperor’s daughter? The story goes that he got so excited when the system worked that he fell off the defense walls and was killed! I guess they had nerds in those days too?

Pergamum had the usual temples, baths and amphitheatre and the second largest library in the world (200,000 books). Only the library in Alexandria was larger and when it burned down the Romans sent books from Pergamum to replace some of those destroyed. The most interesting attraction in Pergamum was the Aesculapium or ancient medical center built in the name of Aesculapis, the ‘God of Medicine’. The Romans used herbs, venom from snakes and insects, and thermal water and muds for treatments. They also used psychology in their healing: the medical center had it’s own theatre to offer comedy and music, the library only contained books of comedy and poetry –no drama. The wards even had acoustic pipes or channels built into them so that the doctors could whisper to the patients while they slept to reinforce that they were getting better. We also saw examples of medical and surgery instruments that were used at the Aesculapium. Once again it doesn’t appear that much has changed in 2,000 years. I think that Jason could have spent $5 for admission to Pergamum and learned as much as he has at med school – and saved $100K!

From Pergamum we toured the city of Bergama with stops at the Church of St John’s (another Church of Revelation) and the local museum to view many of the artifacts excavated at Pergamum. Then it was back to Izmir and another good dinner overlooking the harbor. I ordered a pepper steak assuming that it would have the normal peppercorn sauce. Wrong! The sauce was made from local Turkish peppers and was the hottest/spiciest thing I have ever tasted. So I had the waiter run a hose to the beer tap and I managed to keep the flames doused while I enjoyed every bite! The meals were a bit cheaper in Izmir – 22,000,000 TL ($33 US) for two with wine and lots of beer.

On our third and final day in the Aegean region we headed inland about 150 miles to Pamukkale. Our driver knew the back roads and took us through many small villages and towns so that we got a good look at how the country folk really live. I was somewhat surprised to discover that everyone had tractors and modern farm equipment. There were a few donkey and horse carts but they were the exception. While driving through one village we passed a funeral procession where the men were carrying the deceased wrapped only in a blanket and laid out on a wooden cot that they carried on their shoulders as they paraded solemnly through town.
Finally after a very long drive we arrived at Pamukkale or the Cotton Castle, a beautiful and spectacular natural site, unique in the world! The waters of thermal springs laden with calcium carbonate have over the past 14,000 years, formed a dazzling white petrified cascade of stalactites called Travertines ( Pamukkale in Turkish) flowing over the edge of the Salpak Mountains into a series of basins and pools.

The Romans believing in the healing powers of thermal water built a city named Hierapolis on the site in the 2nd century BC. They had several bathhouses and pools spread around the city and built an aqueduct or pipe system to channel the thermal waters to the various sections of the city. They also directed the outflow to various sections of the mountain resulting in the Travertines being spread over about two miles of the mountain. This aqueduct system is still being used today to direct the flow of the thermal waters. Hierapolis also contains a Necropole that is one of the largest ancient cemeteries in Anatolia. The Martyrium of the Apostle Philip is in Hierapolis where he taught until his death and was martyred in 80 AD.

Now it was time for our babysitters to return us to the airport in Izmir for our return flight to Istanbul. After a pleasant dinner and a good night’s rest we were ready to leave on our next adventure to Switzerland. But that is another story.

In summary Turkey was interesting but a land of many surprises. It is not as poor and undeveloped as I expected. It certainly is not as cheap to visit as I expected. And there is a lot more history to learn and enjoy than expected. I would go back but then there are lots of other places that I want to see first.