Bart and the kids fended for themselves for 10 days while my
Arant and I took a whirlwind tour of the eastern Mediterrenean. We
two days in Athens, a day on Crete, a day on Rhodes, a day on the
coast at Kusadasi, a day on the boat in the Dardanelles, and two days
Istanbul. It took a full day to get there and a full day to get back.
are a few pictures I took as we tromped over historical sights and
In the heart of Athens, at the upper edge of the Plaka (the old market district) a Byzantine chapel finds itself next to a busy intersection with an office building planted on top of it (picture at left). I wonder what it looked out on when it was built.
We did our first rug shopping in the Plaka.
We paid a visit to the Parthenon and looked down from the
Acropolis at the sprawl of modern Athens. It was mid-week, off-season
and threatening rain, so we had the place pretty much to
ourselves In front of the Parthenon, my
cousin Do Lee is on the left and Deborah is the one in the hat. Do
Mykonos and joined us for a day of sightseeing in Athens.
|Medieval Crusader fortifications guard the harbor in Heraklion, but the real treasure is the Minoan palace at Knossos, just a few miles inland. We took the bus there and were two of only a handful of visitors, trying to imagine it in its heyday 3500 years ago. After wandering the traces of the elaborate network of hallways and seeing the dozens and dozens of bull figurines and bones at the museum, it's easy to see how the legend of the minotaur in the labyrinth got started. This is me on the right, in front of a colorful fresco of a charging bull.|
We were told this is the only intact and inhabited medieval city left in Europe. Six thousand people still live within the old city walls. As we walked through the narrow, cart-width streets, we saw people walking their kids to school, working in their gardens and opening up their tiny shops for the day. A modern city carries on just outside the old battlements.
The Crusaders came through about 700 years ago and built their fortified palace (picture at right) on top of what is now believed to be the site of the pagan temple of Helios. I felt like a pawn on a chessboard next to the towers which flank the palace entrance.
Istanbul was a sleepy fishing village called Byzantium
until Constantine moved the throne of the Roman Empire there in 330
A.D. and declared Christianity to be the state religion.
Since then it has seen revivals of Paganism, been attacked by Persians,
Arabs, and Bulgars and been sacked by underpaid crusaders before
falling to the Turks
in 1453. The Aya Sofia cathedral/mosque (left) reflects this
of history. Two columns from a Temple of Aphrodite were used in its
in 532 A.D. A millennium later, the Turks added minarets and plastered
the figurative Byzantine mosaics to conform to Islamic law. When Turkey
a republic in the 1920's, Aya Sofia became a museum, a monument in
and brick to Istanbul's tumultuous history.
The Grand Bazaar, on the other hand, brings
that history to life. In its
teeming, vaulted corridors, people live and laugh and
bargain as they have in this hub of civilization for hundreds of years.
is impossible to be both western and inconspicuous.
We stood out like neon signs and learned quickly not to enter into any
negotiations we didn't intend to finish. To ask a price is to invite
intend to buy something, the bargaining is half the fun. Taking home a
or a bargain is the other half. If you look serious about a rug, for
tea is summoned from a street vendor who brings the distinctive tulip
glasses full of hot tea to the shop on a steel tray suspended on curved
rods from a brass ring. Then rugs are laid out and commented upon until
floor of the tiny shop is mounded with them. A favorite is selected and
the more able you are to tear yourself away from your chosen rug, the
the price goes. When all objections have been met, the deal is done.
rug is rolled into an impossibly small (but heavy) bundle and you are
a cheap, black soft suitcase to carry it in. This black bag is a sign
other rug vendors to try extra hard to lure you in to their shops. We
out of the bazaar on the last day to cries of "Now, it is my
"Lady, let ME take your money," and "Don't walk away. You break my