A Travellerspoint blog

July 2017

A Double Dose of Amazing Ancient Ruins in a Single Day

overcast 30 °C

Day 53 Sunday July 16 2017
Pamukkale to Bergama / 365 km

  • SG manages to persuade AG to do a significant detour to one of Turkey's most important archaeological sites of the ancient classical world. Afrodisias. The name appeals. A detour of over an hour in journey time on an already long day. Add to that the duration of our visit and you will understand that SG hopes it is worth the effort.
  • It is. For its remoteness which means fewer crowds ( and today hardly anyone else ). For its beautiful setting in the Anatolian countryside. For its size, for the assortment of ruins in varying stages of retrieval & restoration. And above all for its magnificent stadium. Yes it's overgrown with weeds, but somehow that adds to the charm. Measuring 270 m long and nearly 60 m wide, it has a capacity of 30000 people, nearly twice the city's population at its peak in 2C A.D.
  • Yes, ancient civilisations sure knew how to live well - the baths, the theatres, the stadia, the angoras, colonnaded streets, large ceremonial buildings and of course a constant supply of slaves to do the building, the farming & the serving.
  • Here at Afrodisias, archaeological work is very much in active progress. This is unusual. A large workforce of manual laborours & professionals are working & living on site - classical language experts, architects, civil engineers and archeologists. We meet a couple of classical archeologists from Oxford. They are spending a long hot summer here - in their nirvana.
  • They explain that excavations carried out during the 1960's were not sufficiently rigorous by today's scientific standards. In part, some of the current project is addressing the imperfections of previous discoveries & classifications. They also emphasise that it is very often preferable not to restore or reconstruct completely but rather to leave as a ruin in its rightful place, a small piece of a larger whole.
  • This is probably the reason that we encounter good & bad restorations all over the world. Even on this trip we have seen reconstruction of old churches & touch ups of ancient frescoes that are simply so pristine as to be unrealistic.
  • The archaeologist's aim is appropriate ' anastylosis ' - this is defined as the re-assembly of existing but loose parts. According to best practise, the extent of reconstruction should be determined by the proportion of preserved antique pieces. Defects & cracks should be left visible as far as possible to indicate age and history.
  • For instance here in Aphrodisias, the monumental gateway ( Tetraplyon ) has been reconstructed because it is an astonishing 85% original. With so many pieces still in existence, total reconstruction is absolutely the right archaeological approach.
  • Archaeology, a useful science in our contemporary world? Or a waste of time and money - only of interest to academics, historians & classicists? SG admits: when young and studying Latin, she could not imagine a career more boring than spending years doing digs, often in inhospitable & remote places & studying tiny fragments of stone & ceramics. But a revelation has taken place, albeit gradually. She now understands how essential archaeology is to our contemporary world and to civilisations of the future.
  • A senior German archaeologist on the project team is standing amidst precious ancient rubble and directing the day's work - how long will his project take, AG jokingly asks - at least another 100 years is the reply. His work must be like solving a huge and complex jigsaw puzzle of the smallest of pieces - a puzzle that he knows he can never finish.
  • It is clear that an archaeologist may be short of funding, but never of work.
  • Our visit to Afrodisias has been enlightening. We will look upon restoration of old buildings with freshly critical eyes. Regardless of whether you are fortunate enough to meet any archaeologists on site, Afrodisias is absolutely worth the detour.
  • Its getting hot - again. We must be on our way. We leave the extensive Anatolia region & continue our journey via the great port of Izmir to the Northern Agean. Today's destination is Bergama ( known in antiquity as Pergamum because it was a centre of large scale production of pergamena - a type of parchment made of stretched animal skin ).
  • One of Bergama's main attractions is the Acropolis located high up on the hill above the modern town. With the exception of the Temple of Trajan which was built during the reigns of Roman Emperors, it is largely a site of ancient Greek ruins.
  • Greece, geographically so near and yet so far. Culturally so close and yet so estranged. In this part of Turkey and even in parts of Central Anatolia such as Goreme, the mingling of Greek & Turkish influences is clear.
  • Understand history and the reasons are apparent. There's has been much changing of identity and loyalty over the centuries. Turkey was part of Ancient Greece, Imperial Rome & the Byzantine Empire. Modern day Greece was part of the great Turkish Ottoman Empire until 1830 when it gained freedom. Until the population exchange of 1923 there were Greek speaking Muslims living in Greek territory and Turkish speaking orthodox Christians living in Turkey.
  • Why was there a population exchange between Greece & Turkey and what did it involve? Turkey already weakened by the Balkan Wars, picked the wrong side in World War 1. It emerged a greatly diminished power and vastly reduced territory. Western powers, including Greece jostled to cherry pick the spoils of the now defunct Ottoman Empire. Ultimately Turkey rejected the Treaty of Sevres 1920 imposed upon it by the western allies . Instead it fought the Turkish War of Independence under the command of Mustafa Kemal, who under the name of Ataturk became became Turkey's iconic leader until his death in 1938.

Ataturk was a man of vision. The kind we need more of today. He genuinely had the interests of the Turkish people in his heart. Under his benign and enlightened despotism he transformed Turkish society into a modern nation state. Check out his achievements on Wikipaedia - the list is impressively long.

  • But mistakes were made. The population exchange of 1923 was part of the post war agreement to settle the Greek / Turkish issue, an attempt to prevent future ethnic tensions. The aim for both Greece & Turkey was to create homogenous nation states. Muslims living in Greece were expelled to Turkey and Christians living in Turkey were displaced to Greece. Regardless where they were born, how long they had lived there, what language they spoke. Their religion was the deciding factor. Numbers of affected people vary according to which version you read. But it is estimated about 1.5 million people were displaced back to Greece and around 500,000 Muslims living in Greece were forcibly relocated to Turkey. Imagine that happening now! How times have changed.
  • Cyprus - at the time of the population exchange in 1923 Cyprus was already a British colony and so was unaffected. But once it gained independence from the UK in 1960 tensions and aggressions between Greece and Turkey resurfaced. Exactly the type of problem that Ataturk endeavoured to avoid through the 1923 population exchange.
  • Today Cyprus is still a country divided by ethnicity, religion and EU politics. Looking at the map you can see why the Turks refused to allow Greece to take control.
  • SG admits previous ignorance. She doesn't think she is alone. Modern history is not taught enough in schools. How many times did we & our children learn about the Vikings, Roman Britain and King Henry VIII!
  • A long digression. Apologies. Back in Goreme a few days ago, locals referred to former 'Greek' villages. Now the reason is clear.
  • The road to Izmir impresses. It is Turkey's third largest city and its main Agean (Mediterranean) port. Turkey is spending its EU windfall well. Isn't that re-assuring.
  • As we approach this heavily populated area, the car brands become more expensive, service stations get bigger and traffic is generally heavier. It is a shock to our system.
  • The BP station even has a Starbucks! Now that's a pleasant surprise. We savour our first flat white in a long while.
  • As we continue on from Izmir we see the Agean Sea for the first time. It is also several weeks since we last drove a coastal route - actually not since the early days of our trip along the Black Sea Coast.
  • We arrive in Bergama mid afternoon. Our pension the Attalos Hotel is located in an old residential part of town. A 10 minute walk to both the cable car up to the Acropolis and the Red Hall. It may not be easy to find by car, but it is very convenient, quiet & charming. Enter the large double door and you walk into a lovely courtyard around which are 2 levels of comfortable and recently restored bedrooms. The owner speaks little English but has long worked in Germany as an engineer. German is our mutual language.
  • AG is doing well. Two ancient ruins in one day. Ascending by cable car is slightly incongruous. It feels like we are missing something - skiis perhaps? A round trip costs £3 per person. You could go up one way and walk down through the various ruins, if time permits. Surprise, surprise this is not an option for us. The site shuts at 7 p.m. And so does the cable car.
  • The weather has deteriorated during the day - it's still hot but it has become very windy. The 5 minute ride up is a bit concerning. High winds in ski areas often cause cable cars to stop temporarily until the gusts dissipate. We feel that the wind we are experiencing today would have already broached those tolerance levels in Europe. Safety standards are self evidently a great deal slacker here in Turkey. There is not even staff in attendance to supervise the loading of the cable car. The only signage visible warns only of leaving behind possessions. Good grief it's our lives we're worried about, not our belongings.
  • So with crossed fingers and not a little anxiety, we access the Acropolis where we pay out yet more money on the museum entrance fee. That pan Turkey museum pass might be a very good idea.
  • As previously stated, every individual site of ancient ruins has its own special appeal . It's hard not to visit them all. FOMO... But if you are in Bergama you should very definitely come to its Acropolis. The appeal is its setting, the stunning views, the fine examples of appropriate archaeological restoration and the amazing Hellenistic theatre dating back to 2C B.C.
  • Our amateur photos cannot do justice to its sheer scale - the squeaky bum moment ( AG's words ) when you emerge through the tunnel at the top of the vertiginous auditorium. It is built into the hill and overlooks modern day Bergama, way down below. It has a capacity of 10000 people. There are at least 150 tiers - we know because we walk down & climb back up. The one puzzling thing about the design is that the theatre faces west, directly into the afternoon & evening sun. The audience would have had the bright sun directly in their eyes. So what time of day were the performances held and was the stage illuminated by massive flame torches?
  • Must find an archaeologist to ask!
  • We wander back to the cable car through more astounding ruins. We are in awe of the quality and sophistication of the structural engineering required in the construction of the Temple of Trajan . Dating back to 2C A.D. it is the only remaining Roman ruin on site.
  • And our impressions as we leave the last Turkish ruin of our visit? The culture, the art, the quality of workmanship, civic pride, the architecture, the engineering, the lifestyle of those in authority and connected to it, the sport & leisure facilities, the theatres, the stadia - and all that 2 millennia ago. It certainly puts into perspective the progress that we think we have made and the levels of civilisation we claim to have achieved since those ancient times.
  • The wind has not abated, if anything as dusk approaches it has become stronger. We cross fingers and ride down. There are no staff in sight.
  • We are having supper in the nearby Pergamon Boutique hotel this evening. Again a small insignificant doorway leads onto a large elevated garden with views. Another reasonable & cheap meal in gorgeous surroundings. Once more we are the only overseas visitors. Turkey needs you!

Ornamental Archway - Afrodisias

Ornamental Archway - Afrodisias

Magnificent Afrodisias Stadium

Magnificent Afrodisias Stadium

One of Pools at Roman Baths, Afrodisias

One of Pools at Roman Baths, Afrodisias

Theatre in Afrodisias

Theatre in Afrodisias

Pieces of Wall Frieze Identified, Classified & Stored for Re-Construction - Afrodisias

Pieces of Wall Frieze Identified, Classified & Stored for Re-Construction - Afrodisias

Archaeology - One Giant & Infinitely Insolvable Jigsaw Puzzle

Archaeology - One Giant & Infinitely Insolvable Jigsaw Puzzle

Agora at Afrodisias - a Focus of a Major Archaeology Project

Agora at Afrodisias - a Focus of a Major Archaeology Project

Archaeologist Directing the Day's Dig

Archaeologist Directing the Day's Dig

Oxford Archaelogist Contemplating Unpublished Ruin - Afrodisias

Oxford Archaelogist Contemplating Unpublished Ruin - Afrodisias

Old Bergama House in Need of TLC

Old Bergama House in Need of TLC

Incongruous Cable Car Ride Up to Pergamum Acropolis

Incongruous Cable Car Ride Up to Pergamum Acropolis

Bergama House Overtaken by Fig Trees

Bergama House Overtaken by Fig Trees


Classic Pergamum

Classic Pergamum

Vaulted Foundations to Roman Temple at Pergamum - Amazing Engineering

Vaulted Foundations to Roman Temple at Pergamum - Amazing Engineering

Amazing Standards of Archeological Reconstruction at Pergamum

Amazing Standards of Archeological Reconstruction at Pergamum


AG in the Cheapest of Seats - Pergamum Theatre

AG in the Cheapest of Seats - Pergamum Theatre

Is This How the Phrase 'Up in the Gods Originates'?

Is This How the Phrase 'Up in the Gods Originates'?

[img=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/896073/36168F83DE30EA65B76EAAFB041371B2.jpg thumb=https://photos.travellerspoint.com/896073/Reconstruction atr

Posted by sagbucks 13:12 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Ljubliana - An Unexpected Highlight

sunny 35 °C

Day 58 Friday July 21 2017 / Mladenovac to Ljubliana / 579 KM / Motorway most of the day.
Border Crossings: Serbia - Croatia - Slovenia

  • Breakfast is not served at Motel Jezero until 9 a.m. With such a long drive ahead and hot, sunny weather forecast, this is too late to wait. We heat up our last remaining packets of camping food, make a brew of coffee and are on the road just after 8.
  • it is a short drive to the motorway route E75 that heads to Belgrade and circumnavigates the worst of the city's rush hour traffic. We are soon on our way to the Croatian border, another access point into the EU.
  • Our documentation, both personal & vehicle is given a cursory check by Border police.
  • We are again grateful that we are headed back to Blighty (as AG has the habit of referring to our British shores ). Rather than somewhere on the European coast. There is a 3 km double lane queue to get into Serbia. Most vehicles will be passing through to other countries.
  • Freedom of movement in Europe makes cash road tolls a very lucrative business. And yet the UK charges annual road tax only to its poor British residents.
  • Some 20 kms into Croatia there is a further roadside check of vehicles. They ensure that number plates match the paperwork and that neither the vehicle nor driver is on any active police alert list. They have a direct link to their national security system.
  • We are legal, have nothing to hide and do not mind at all about such 'stop & search ' procedures. Liberal lefties supporting our human rights in this respect, please note.
  • Congratulations to Croatia for taking border control seriously. Shame on Greece.
  • So past Zagreb and on towards the Slovenia border. Another EU country ( since 2004 ) and part of the euro and Schengen zone. It is also vignette country. A week is the minimum period - we are in Slovenia for 2 days & 1 night. We must pay 15 euros for the pleasure.
  • According to Plan A, we should have been staying longer in Slovenia and exploring this beautiful country in greater detail. If Ljubliana is representative of what is on offer, we will definitely be back.
  • The capital city is a revelation. It has the climate & sophistication of Italy but the grand architecture & scenery of Central Europe. English is widely spoken, levels of cleanliness & customer service are good. It's definitely a long weekend destination to add to your list.
  • Easyjet have already identified its potential : its online brochure states: Slovenia's capital is one of the best kept secrets in Europe. Often described as Prague in miniature, minus the crowds compared to Salzburg for its setting and Vienna for its architecture...
  • Actually we rate it higher than any of those cities. it is as yet probably not a common destination for hen parties and stag adventures. Please God may it stay that way.
  • It goes without saying that Plan B does not allow us to do justice to Ljubiliana.
  • Our hotel, B&B Slamic is located just outside the old part of town, but within a 5 minute walk. It offers parking. A precious commodity in many European cities.
  • But there are many small hotels & AirBnB appartments within old Ljubiliana that may be of more interest if you fly rather than drive. For this is where the cultural action and many of the historic sights are concentrated.
  • Ljubiliana has an extensive pedestrianised zone that leads along the river and around the castle which dominates this part of the city. In cooler temperatures and with more time on our hands we would have walked up. Instead we take the funicular up & down.
  • There looks to be a good range of continental shopping in town and abundant choice of bars, cafes & restaurants, often with outdoor seating. We have a pre dinner drink at such a pavement cafe, then dine in the courtyard of the Spajze Restaurant.
  • After our meal we meander back through the old town towards the river. We come across a couple of musicians playing live classical music - free. The mini illuminated stage and sound equipment indicate they are not buskers and that their performance is a scheduled event.
  • Further on more noise - far from classical - no it's a beach volley ball match between Slovenia & Holland. Temporary scaffolding with seating has been erected around the sand filled pitch. Again it is free. We follow the crowds, find a couple of seats and spectate our first ever beach volleyball. We can see the appeal!
  • Match over, victory to Slovenia and we continue our way back to our hotel. The city is packed with revellers. It's a fine summer's evening in a beautiful setting. Ljubiliana is certainly having fun.
  • P.S. The city also has a Christmas market. ?

Ljubiliana Citadel

Ljubiliana Citadel

Bronze Church Door, Old Ljubiliana

Bronze Church Door, Old Ljubiliana

AG & Old Ljubiliana

AG & Old Ljubiliana

Boutique Hotels in Old Town Ljubiliana

Boutique Hotels in Old Town Ljubiliana

Night Time Ljubiliana

Night Time Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

3 Bridges in Ljubiliana

3 Bridges in Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

Fountain in Ljubiliana

Dancing the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Dancing the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Strumming the Night Away

Strumming the Night Away

Play the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Play the Night Away in Ljubiliana

Posted by sagbucks 07:53 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

Operation Plan B - Macedonia to Serbia

sunny 35 °C

Day 57 Thursday July 20 2017 / Plan B / Ohrid to Mladenovac / 562 KM / Border Crossing Macedonia to Serbia

  • A day to remember family Birthdays - SG's Mum now 87 years old & still going strong. And AG's youngest niece, Millie, also doing very well at the tender age of 19. We hope the cards have been posted on our behalf.
  • Plan B starts today. In anticipation of a house move that is not yet confirmed, we have revised our journey home and cut it short by nearly 10 days. It means no leisurely meandering around this part of Central Europe, known formerly as Yugoslavia: Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzogovnia.
  • A few destinations from Plan A have been retained. But daily distances are now significantly longer and there is little scheduled sightseeing.
  • It will mean much longer days in the car, shorter blogs and fewer photos.
  • It's a gorgeous morning as we leave Ohrid - sunny, 19C @ 9 a.m. Perfect.
  • We manage to escape the twists and turns of Ohrid without further blemishes to the truck's paintwork.
  • Much of the 175 km journey to Skopje is through wooded & undulating countryside. Very pleasant indeed. We were meant to be stopping over in Macedonia's capital but now with Plan B in operation, we just bypass - on a new impressive peripherique which is wonderfully traffic free. If only, if only, our M25 was as quiet.
  • As we approach Skopje, temperatures are back up to 30C and its only 11 a.m. It's going to be another long hot day after all.
  • The highway to the Republic of Serbia's border is dedicated to Mother Teresa. She was Macedonian.
  • So we are again crossing non EU borders. For us the process is very quick. No search of our vehicle and no checking of our truck documentation. Serbia is fortunately covered by our European insurance and so there are no extra charges to pay either.
  • We have hardly seen any British vehicles for weeks. It seems not many of us venture this far by road. But once in Serbia it is noticeable that cars using the highways in Central Europe originate from many different countries. This is the reason road tolls are charged. It is a lucrative source of income. Add to that the EU financial support for Serbia's road development ( signage confirms this ) and we understand how Serbia can afford the huge road projects that are under construction.
  • Lucky them.
  • By the way in both Macedonia & Serbia, you can pay in Euros. It's a pain to buy local currency if you are just travelling through. Change is given in local currency in Macedonia, whilst in Serbia you can opt for euros. However the rate of exchange is not the most favourable.
  • The motorways may be fast and relatively traffic free. But there is a dearth of good service stations of the kind we take for granted in UK. If travelling long distances on the Balkan road network it pays to bring healthy, nutritious food with you. Otherwise you may have to resort to a pastry or worse, a bag of crisps for lunch.
  • Another tip is to use toilet facilities at the petrol stations themselves. We have found others on the motorway to be quite vile.
  • Parked up for our last boil in the bag lunch, in temperatures of 35C , we see the first campervan of our journey to date. From the Czech Republic and towing a fair sized boat behind. Its driver is on the large size too.
  • Mladenovac, our destination for tonight is situated in Belgrade's rural hinterland to the south. There seemed little point in going back to the city we visited some 7 weeks ago. We leave the motorway and drive through beautiful, mellow countryside - rural Serbia.
  • Incidentally we are still seeing the odd stork nest, both in Macedonia & Serbia. But not in anything like the density of Turkey, Georgia & Armenia. If storks bring luck ....
  • There is nothing noteworthy about the town of Mladenovac. Our motel is set a few KMs away, well off the road in amongst fruit trees. It's a strange place really - geared to hosting large events such as weddings & conferences. Apart from a very large banquet hall, facilities are non existent. However our room is comfortable & cool. Unusually we must drive to supper. The only restaurant reception can recommend in town is a pizzeria. AG devours his pizza but SG picks at her very poor choice - a veggie pasta.
  • There really is no good reason to come to poor old Mladenovac.

Posted by sagbucks 07:48 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

A First Visit to Macedonia

sunny 28 °C

Day 55 Tuesday July 18 2017 Alexandroupolis to Popova / 417 KM

  • It blows a gale and rains heavily during the night. If any refugees are attempting a Mediterranean crossing, they will encounter very choppy seas.
  • We are surrounded by Greek families on holiday on an all inclusive package. Except for us - and we are also the only couple without children in tow.
  • Whilst the location on the beach is pleasant enough. Inside it is just like one big airport lounge. Due to the bad weather, it has become a playground!
  • White wine is served warm & red wine straight out of the freezer.
  • A large buffet spread is soon decimated by the guests. We order a la carte. Sounds refined doesn't it. But because everyone is on an all inclusive ticket, chef is not prepared for individual orders. Andy's chicken concoction is inedible. He shares SG's main course instead. It is a miserable experience. We are particularly upset because we are being charged extortionate EU prices - our room is costing just under 100 euros and AG's main course 20 euros.
  • In the morning we discover we only have one bath towel between us, that the overhead shower does not work and that the toilet seat is broken.

We aim to leave as early as possible. Only breakfast dictates our departure time. It is after all included in the room rate. We figure if we get to the breakfast buffet as soon as it opens at 7.30 a.m we will be ahead of the holiday crowds.

Do we complain? You bet. For our troubles, we get a bottle of Greek red wine and a small fruit plate. The Thraki Palace will be receiving very poor reviews.

  • As we set our respective satnavs ( 2 in the car ), the familiar digital voices greet us: "please drive to the highlighted route". And so another day thankfully begins & we leave Alexandroupolis.
  • This time next week we will be arriving back in UK. We are meant to be moving within a month. We have a house to pack up and temporary accommodation to find. But hey that's a full 7 days away. Let's enjoy what is left of our trip.
  • Today we drive a coastal highway to Thessaloniki before heading north to the Republic Macedonia, a country neither of us have ever visited previously. North of Thessaloniki the roads deteriorate noticeably. Confusingly this region of Greece is also known as Macedonia.
  • The border crossing into Macedonia is a relatively quick but expensive affair. Since the country is not yet an EU member ( just on the waiting list ) we are not covered by our European car insurance. We must pay 50 euros, a blanket charge, for the minimum period on offer - 15 days. We are spending 3 days 2 nights here.
  • Do we charge non EU cars coming into UK ports with a blanket insurance fee? Do we even ask if they have insurance? SG determines to find time to write to the Secretary of State for Transport - whoever they are.
  • As well as the standard Duty Free store, there is also a casino at the Macedonian border - and then a few more are subsequently advertised along our route. This may be geared to Turkish travellers - casinos and gambling are banned in Turkey except for the state run lottery.
  • The Macedonian & EU flags fly side by side. There are EU signs indicating that the huge road projects we see in progress are supported with EU money. Admittedly the existing road from the border to Skopje the capital is in need of improvement. You would just have thought it possible for a country in receipt of EU funds, to be incorporated within the EU insurance agreement.
  • We are staying this evening in our favourite kind of accommodation - a vineyard with a restaurant. Set in quiet, mellow Macedonian countryside, Popova Kula Winery is obviously a well known stopover for travellers heading across the Balkan States in either direction. We are not alone. And there are 50 rooms.
  • We sign up for the 5 p.m. wine tour. It is a brief event and there is no wine tasting. We are therefore none the wiser what to choose with our evening meal.
  • We do discover that they cultivate about 8 different grape varieties including a grape unique to this area called Stanushina. In all they produce 600000 litres of red, white & rose wines per annum. The one fact we do learn, (and we possibly should have known this previously), is that barrels are graded not only according to the type of oak and age, but also to the intensity of scorching. This is the application of flame heat applied to the interior of the barrel during its manufacture. Barrels are clearly marked with this information. The higher the temperature, the more scorched the wood and the toastier & richer the flavours of the wine stored.
  • Dinner is not the fine experience we hope for. It seems they are better at making wines than food. However this evening the fridges are malfunctioning and the 'taster' menu is served with tepid white wine. Strangely the bottled water comes to table well chilled.
  • Still there have been worse stopovers on this trip. We have but one night here; we are on the move again tomorrow. Our modus operandi has advantages.

Popova Kula Winery

Popova Kula Winery

Popova Kula Winery

Popova Kula Winery

Some Red Wine Evaporates Through the Skin of the Barrel During the Ageing Process

Some Red Wine Evaporates Through the Skin of the Barrel During the Ageing Process

Wine Barrel Classifications Include Degree of Heat @ Manufacture - HT = Hot Temperature

Wine Barrel Classifications Include Degree of Heat @ Manufacture - HT = Hot Temperature

Posted by sagbucks 12:44 Archived in Macedonia Comments (0)

Back to the Dardanelles, Gallipoli & Alexandrouplis

overcast 30 °C

Day 54 Monday July 17 2017 Bergama to Alexandroupolis / 417 km / Border Crossing

  • Bergama has a few more sights to offer than we have time to see. So what's new!
  • In particular the Aslepion ruins. The Pergamum medical school became renowned throughout the ancient world. Mainly because an eminent physician by the name of Galen (A.D. 129- 216 ) came to work here. His theories on our bodies' circulation & nervous systems were used in western medicine up until 16C. The snake that features in the BMA logo even today, was the symbol of the God of medicine, Asclepios. Make it to the sanctuary at the Aslepion and you'll apparently see them carved around the base of the entrance column. The ruins also include baths, latrines, a sacred well, a theatre, and a treatment centre. Sounds a fascinating place, especially if you have a medical background.
  • Oh and there is also a reasonable archeological museum ( closed today Monday ) and the Red Hall which is so huge to be unmissable as you drive or walk through the old town. Dating back to 2C A.D. it is a former pagan temple built in honour of Egyptian gods. It is currently being restored. How well we don't know, but for the moment it is closed to the public.
  • For relaxation, if you have the time, there is also meant to be a fine old 16C Hamam. We've seen it from the outside but sadly have had no opportunity to try it out. In the summer heat, a Turkish steam bath & massage is not top of our agenda.
  • Bergama is somewhat of a maze to negotiate an exit route. As we leave town, market stalls are being set up for Monday market.
  • A quick word before we leave Turkey about the 15/16 th July weekend. President Erdogan has gone to a lot of trouble to make the 15th of July a day of national celebration. You may have read about it in the British media. We have seen plenty of evidence in Turkey too.
  • On July 15 2016 there was an attempted coup against Erdogan . A coup that was supported by 'traitors' in the militia & police force. It was seen as an affront against Turkish democracy and its legally elected government. The government's response was to crush its opponents - brutally. Ostensibly to safeguard democracy. But it has given Erdogan the legitimate excuse to rid himself of troublemakers, those who oppose his dismantling of secular elements of Turkish society or his extension of personal power. In 2016 50000 Turks were sentenced to prison for involvement in the failed coup & 150000 lost their jobs under suspicion of being sympathisers.
  • A year later and to celebrate the Erdogan victory, a further 7400 public sector workers have recently lost their jobs.
  • 15 th July has been declared a National holiday. Events this weekend were carefully stage managed to ooze symbolism & to give the impression of huge national support for the Erdogan regime.
  • Turkish TV screened live the celebratory rallies, marches, speeches & sermons that happened all over the country. Huge Turkish flags fly everywhere, large pictures of Erdogan along our route are a frequent sight. The famous Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul has been officially renamed July 15 Martyr's Bridge, and Erdogan summoned the government to Ankara on Saturday morning, 15 July, to give his victory speech - at 2.32 a.m ( the time when the government buildings were bombed last year in the attempted coup ).
  • You may recall that in April this year Erdogan held a referendum - a democratic tool was used to allow the people to vote for or against his plans for the extension of his authority and various constitutional changes. Like in the Brexit referendum, the issue was not black & white. People had many different reasons for voting the way they did. In the end 51.3% voted for Erdogan's plans & 48.7% against.
  • Turks who have been willing to talk to us about the delicate subject of politics have explained that the electorate are faced with a dilemma - a lack of real and quality choice. Some of Erdogan's policies have benefited ordinary people; a type of bribery to get them to approve the constitutional changes that will ultimately enhance his power & authority. Then what will he do?
  • On the other hand a weak opposition lacks vision and ideas for the future. Above all many opponents of Erdogan are also against political involvement by the military. On this one issue Erdogan is a unifying force.
  • We commiserate with their dilemma and re-assure them that the Turkish people are far from being alone.
  • It's 200 km or so from Bergama to Cannakale where we will catch the ferry for a very short journey across the Cannakale Strait ( also known as the Dardanelles . We will then continue our drive to the Greek border.
  • It is this notorious waterway, together with the Bosphorus that essentially connects the Black Sea with the Mediterranean. It is therefore highly strategic and very busy. In wartime it was the quickest route for armies to cross from Europe to Asia Minor.
  • At the small & crowded ferry harbour we inadvertently get put in the Istanbul queue. It is definitely not our destination today. When signage is poor and language a barrier, it pays to keep checking with different people. Should advice conflict, you know there is a problem. Navigator soon establishes that we need to change queues quickly before we become hemmed in.
  • The crossing costs 10 euros including car. It takes barely 10 minutes.
  • Thankfully we are driving in the right direction - across the water in Kilitbahir, there are queues of about 3 km of oncoming traffic to access the ferry back to Canukkale. We think this is all part of the summer migration of Turkish families who work in EU countries such as Germany & Netherlands. They are headed home for the holidays. Best to avoid this direction of travel mid to end of July. And likewise the reverse at the end of August.
  • If you have an interest in World War 1, a pride in our fallen soldiers, and an admiration for the way overseas allied cemeteries are maintained in pristine condition, then you should definitely put the Gallipoli Historical National Park at the top of your 'to do' list. We visited it back in 2010 and were immensely touched.
  • In 1914 the Ottomans closed the Dardanelles. This blocked the Allies supply route between Russia, Britain & France. Winston Churchill decided it was essential for the Allies to take control of the Dardanelles, the Bosphorus & Istanbul. An ambitious scheme. His first attempt to free the Dardanelles failed in March 2015. This was not his greatest moment.
  • A second alternative strategy was devised and put into action the following month on April 25. British, Aussie, NZ and Indian troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula. French troops came ashore in a pincer action near Canakkale. The mission was a disaster - the Allied forces were hemmed in by Turkish forces & were unable to advance across the peninsula to the Strait. The Turks were led brilliantly by a certain Mustafa Kemal, the future Ataturk, who is rightly regarded as the father of the modern Turkish nation. The Allies had no choice but to dig trenches and fight from there. They did so for 9 terrible months before the decision was made to withdraw our troops in December 1915 / January 1916. The Gallipoli campaign was a great Turkish victory and is remembered as such with immense pride by the Turkish nation.
  • The balance sheet figures were grim: more than 370000 casualties & 130000 deaths - all within 9 months and in the Dardanelles area. The British Empire forces lost 36000 men including 8700 Australians. The Ottoman army lost over 86000 men. Terrible statistics.
  • Gallipoli is also engrained deep within the Australian Nation's psyche - Anzac Day on April 25th is commemorated every year by Australians all around the world with a dawn service. Gallipoli has become a place of pilgrimage. Around 10000 visitors from Down Under come every year.
  • The Turks hold their annual commemorations here on 18 March . It might be best to avoid these two dates if you wish to escape the crowds. Weekends between March & September is also busy with Turkish visitors generally. The Turkish government has decreed that all schoolchildren must visit Gallipoli at least once during their childhood.
  • When we came late October 2010 we had the park practically to ourselves. We were fortunate to find 'peace & quiet ' to contemplate. We hope you are too.
  • Now it's onward to Ipsala & the Greek border, the entry point into the EU. The Turkish road on the approach to Greece is as impressive as always. There are no queues in our direction of travel but people are definitely on the move from Greece into Turkey. The queue of inbound cars stretch a good 3 km and a separate HGV line of at least 5 km compounds the problem. Best to avoid.
  • Bearing in mind this is an external EU border - it is interesting and not a little concerning that our vehicle is not checked and there are no sniffer dogs anywhere in sight. We look harmless, middle aged travellers with British passports. But our truck is large enough to be carrying a significant amount of something or a few people...
  • The road on the Greek side heading to Turkey is noticeably inferior.
  • We drive another 50 km to Alexandroupolis on the coast. Chosen because it is a convenient overnight stop after a long drive - a day that can be further extended if the border crossing is difficult or even thorough!
  • We have been to Alexandroupolis once before - on our Rally Med trip in 2010. SG, tired of researching where to stay in over 40 different places, took the easy / lazy option and decided to return to the Thraki Palace .
  • But a month ago (June 2017) the Thraki Palace was taken over by the Ramada group. There has been no time either for much needed refurbishment or staff training. Indeed it soon becomes apparent that it is another of those 'get us out of here quickly ' places.

Large Entrance to Our Hotel  in Bergama

Large Entrance to Our Hotel in Bergama

And Behind Closed Doors - Our Wonderful Hotel in Bergama

And Behind Closed Doors - Our Wonderful Hotel in Bergama

Real & Fake

Real & Fake

Bergama Street Advert Condemning Last Year's Failed Coup'd'Etat.

Bergama Street Advert Condemning Last Year's Failed Coup'd'Etat.

A 'Why Are We Here'  Look from AG

A 'Why Are We Here' Look from AG

Posted by sagbucks 12:41 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

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