And just like that we’re back in Asia. We caught a short boat ride from Kos to Bodrum, on the southwest corner of Turkey, the 40th country we’ve been to since leaving the U.S. 27-plus months ago. Two years ago, when we were on the Trans Siberian Railroad, we crossed the border between Asia and Europe overland going westbound, and now we’ve crossed eastbound by boat. Amusingly, I was in Anatolian Turkey 40 years ago when I was in the Navy, and I’m pretty sure I had no idea at the time that I was in Asia. But I was, and now we are again.I have to say, I’m a little surprised by the degree of culture shock in that short trip across to Turkey. All of a sudden we’re in a Muslim country. Wine is three or four times more expensive here than it was in Greece. You see lots of women wrapped up in scarves, though thankfully you don’t see (or at least we haven’t seen yet) the full Burkhas. There are surprising differences in the food. The people are a lot darker and, the men at least, swarthier. And it’s just a couple miles from Greece over here.
After a couple days of wondering if we’d made a mistake, if perhaps we should have stayed in Greece maybe a while longer, though, we’re getting into the swing of things.
First, a word on Bodrum. Known in ancient times as Halicarnassus, it housed one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Tomb of Mausolus. Mausolus was a Persian satrap who later switched sides to embrace the Greeks and whose wife (who was also his sister – yuck) ordered and directed construction of the massive tomb, from which the word mausoleum derives. Otherwise the most famous native of the city was Herodotus, the 5th century BC “father of history”, whose Histories is still available on Amazon.com. Like Mausolus, Herodotus also gave us a word: the English translation of his book is something more like Inquiries, but the Greek title Historia passed into Latin and thus we obviously get the word history.
So that’s the background. Today Bodrum is the main city on the peninsula of Bodrum and its major industry is tourism, particularly associated with beautiful beaches spread around the peninsula. So we took our four full days on the island to sample the various beaches. Each day we’d head down to the bus station, maybe 10 minutes from our hotel, and hop on a different bus to a different part of the island and a different beach. Everything from fancy Euro-rich yacht-types to more local downscale places. Everything from great lunch places to … not so great.
That was the start of Turkey. We’re going to spend a few weeks here, hopefully going up to the ruins of Ephesus, probably meeting a friend on the Lycian Way, likely going up to Cappadocia, maybe even exploring the capital Ankara. There’s so much to see, in fact, that we’re not at all sure we’re going to get to Istanbul, one of the great cities in the world. And it looks entirely as though we’re going to have to miss Lake Van (or Lake VAN as it’s known in our world): too far east and over in a part of the world that just might not be stable or safe.