Around the Middle East
in 80 days

February 25th to May 14th, 2004

Part 1

Turkey

                                                 Back to Index    -    Part 2: Northern Syria >>


Intro

I'd never made a really big journey before, and that was something I wanted to do at least once in my life, so at the beginning of this year I decided I had to do it now while I still could, i.e. before getting a permanent job.

While my trip to Egypt in September 2003 had been mostly about the pharaonic monuments, it gave me a taste for the Middle East and I'd already decided my next trip would be in that region again. The idea for this specific trip came while watching the list of cheap plane tickets on a web site. I noticed that while most destinations in the Middle East are expensive, there are always cheap last-minute tickets available to the popular beach resorts in Turkey (like Antalya) and Egypt (Hurghada and Sharm al-Sheikh). I figured that traveling from one to the other would be a fantastic trip that would take me through Syria and Jordan, two countries I'd always wanted to visit, with possible detours via Israel and Lebanon, two countries that interest me enormously because of their political situation.

I very much liked the idea of using tickets to/from dumb beach resorts to visit the culturally and politically most interesting region of the world, so once I got this idea my mind was quickly made up. I found a one-way ticket to Antalya on the Turkish south coast for February 25th for only 50€. I'd leave without a return ticket since I wanted to be free of any time restrictions; I figured I'd be able to find a similar ticket home from Egypt once I'd get there.

Preparations

First of all I set out to buy the Lonely Planet (LP) guide for the Middle East, but in the book shop it turned out there was another LP guide called "Istanbul to Cairo" that described almost the exact same trip I was going to make (in my case it was more like "Antalya to Hurghada" though) so I got that one instead. I read the entire guide, and looked up pictures on the internet of each location it mentioned, marking each as ++ (must see), + (wanna see), +- (so so), 0 (nothing to see) or - (not worth seeing). Thus I singled out the gems among the hundreds of locations described and got to see them all, while avoiding all the places that have little to offer. It was the crucial part of my preparation.

Then I read standard travel guides for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. Since I didn't want to carry 10 kilos of book around, I just made photocopies of their descriptions of major sites - it's always fun to arrive in a spectacular place, sit down and read about it while looking around. From these guides I also learned about some interesting places not mentioned in the LP, like the more remote monuments of the big cities. I also read a book that describes hikes through Jordan's spectacular nature reserves, and made photocopies of the routes that I might want to do.

I also read books about the history of Israel and about the Lebanese civil war, and decided on places of interest I wanted to visit there. The LP pretty much ignores the West Bank so I copied maps and descriptions of the major West Bank cities. I also got some very good information on the internet (mostly the LP forums); e.g. I found out about some interesting sites in southern Lebanon which was occupied by the Israeli army until just 4 years ago, and about a ruined city in the Golan heights that you can visit if you get a special permit at a certain ministry in Damascus - great!

All of these things proved very useful and during the trip I often congratulated myself with my preparation. Without it I'd have enjoyed a lot of places less than I did, and I'd have missed out on a lot of good stuff altogether; e.g. the Dana nature reserve in Jordan which was one of the highlights of the trip but is hardly mentioned in the LP, which generally ignores nature.

I gathered tons of information but I didn't plan or arrange anything in advance. Even during my trip I never arranged a single hotel in advance until the very last one. This way I had complete freedom and that proved to be a delight; I could always decide to go anywhere on impulse and many times I did.

On February 24th I was very nervous while packing my brand new, first ever big backpack. I wanted to travel as light as possible so I'd thought carefully about what I'd need and not need, but I was still very worried I'd forget something stupid. In the end I had 14 kilo of luggage, and I didn't forget anything!


History of the region

To understand the significance of the places I visited it's useful to know the historical context. Fortunately the region I visited mostly has a common history. I'll just list the main historic periods here, you might find it useful as a reference later on.

  • 3000-650 BC: Early civilisations. Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Assyria (Iraq), the Phoenicians (Lebanon).
  • 650-330 BC: Persian empire.
  • 330-30 BC: Hellenistic period. Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire and his successors carved it up. The Ptolemaic dynasty ruled from Alexandria in Egypt, while the Seleucid dynasty was based in Antioch in Syria.
  • 188BC-330AD: Roman empire. The Roman empire conquered Alexander's old empire bit by bit, starting with Turkey and ending with Egypt which fell to Octavian in 30BC. In 66AD the Jews revolted against the Romans; a few years later Jerusalem was razed and the Jews were deported.
  • 330-635: Byzantine empire. In 330 Constantine moved the capital of the Roman empire to Byzantium (renamed to Constantinopel and later to Istanbul) and made christianity the state religion. While the western half of the empire collapsed, the eastern half remained largely intact for a few more centuries. Although the region is now islamic, it's here that christianity first flourished, so it has the oldest churches in the world.
  • 635-1038: Arabic rule. The Arabs conquered most of the middle east, reducing the Byzantine empire to Turkey. Christianity was replaced by islam, though significant christian minorities have survived to the present day. Until 750 the new islamic empire was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty from Damascus, after 750 by the Abbasid dynasty from Baghdad.
  • 1038-1194: Seljuk empire. The Seljuk Turks, hired as soldiers by the Abbasids, wrestled power from their masters.
  • 1097-1291: The Crusaders. With the Turks conquering most of present-day Turkey, the Byzantine empire was being reduced to a city state and called for help from the West, using the supposed plight of christians in Jerusalem as a pretext. Enter the Crusaders, who conquered Antioch in 1097 and Jerusalem in 1099 and built a whole string of fortresses to protect the holy land. In 1187 they were kicked out of Jerusalem by the Kurdish warlord Saladin, who established a new short-lived dynasty.
  • 1250-1517: Mamluk empire. The Mamluks were a class of mostly Turkish slave-soldiers. They killed a successor of Saladin and took control of the region, ruling it from Cairo. In 1260 they defeated the Mongols, who had just sacked Baghdad, and in 1291 they drove the Crusaders out of their last stronghold in Akko.
  • 1517-1918: Ottoman empire. The Ottoman Turks, who had conquered Constantinopel in 1453, defeated the Mamluks in 1517 and thus acquired their empire.
  • WW1-WW2: European rule. During WW1 the Arabs revolted against the Turks (cfr. Lawrence of Arabia) because they'd been promised independence, but instead the French (Syria, Lebanon) and the British (Jordan, Palestine, Iraq) divided the region among themselves while Atatürk created a new Turkish state in 1923. Independence would be gained after WW2, but not before the UN, then a mostly European club, had given half of Palestine to the Jews, with the known consequences.


Feb. 25th (day 1): Departure

My father picked me up early in the morning and dropped me at the airport. Not having a return ticket I didn't know when I'd be back; I was aiming for two months but wasn't sure I'd last that long. I quite liked that uncertainty. In fact I hadn't even decided yet where I'd go after landing; I just knew I was flying to Antalya.

I was fortunate to get a window seat. I remembered I got a great view on the Alps when flying to Greece last year, so I had my brand new digital camera ready in case I'd get lucky again, and I did. First I got to see a München covered in snow, and then a most spectacular view on the Alps.
We landed in Antalya at 4pm. All the other people on my plane quickly disappeared into a waiting bus (I was on a charter flight full of package tourists) and I found myself alone on a mostly deserted airport. The LP mentioned an airport bus service and I spent an hour wandering around only to find out it doesn't exist. Great start! In the end I had to take a ridiculously expensive taxi which pissed me off. I'd never take a Turkish taxi again, and 79 days later I'd have a bus drop me off at the highway exit to the airport and walk the final 2km on foot, much nicer :)

I had the taxi take me to the otogar (bus station) of Antalya. Each Turkish city has an otogar, usually a few km outside the center, and from there private busses depart regularly to other cities. It's a very easy and rather cheap system, but it's also rather slow and uncomfortable compared to trains. It was already 5:30pm now and I decided to jump on a night bus and head straight for Pergamon on the west coast. This was the farthest point along the coast I wanted to go to so this way I could get that over with this first night and then start traveling in the right direction (east towards Syria).

It was a good plan but I should have waited a few hours before taking a bus. As it happened, I arrived in Izmir (ancient Smyrna, some 100km south of Pergamon) way too early, at 1am, and found myself having to spend the night there. It was freezing hard during the nights then, and the bus station of Izmir had no warm spots; in fact the wind could blow through it freely. There were a few dozen Turks lying on the iron benches in the station hall, some of them had warm blankets the lucky bastards. I didn't even have a coat since I was traveling light. That was one miserable night. Of course I didn't sleep one second. Luckily there was a bus to Pergamon at 5am already, and sitting in the warm bus was heavenly after four hours of shivering.


Feb. 26th (day 2): Pergamon (Bergama)

Pergamon is an ancient Greek city that grew into a rich and powerful kingdom in Hellenistic times and became a province of the Roman Empire in 133BC when the last king had no heir and willed his kingdom to Rome. It was famous for its 200000 volume library, the second biggest in the ancient world after that of Alexandria, until Marc Antony had it entirely shipped to Alexandria as a present to Cleopatra. Parchment (pergamum) was invented here and is named after the city. Nowadays Pergamon is a provincial Turkish town called Bergama.

The bus arrived in the miserable little otogar of Bergama at 7am. The sun had just started shining and as I stepped off the bus into the cool morning air I immediately saw the acropolis of ancient Pergamon in the distance; I could actually make out some pillars on top of the mountain! It was a most inviting sight, and I forgot my fatigue completely. I'd left my big backpack behind in the luggage storage of the otogar in Izmir, so I'd only my small backpack to carry around. I bought some bread at the otogar's market and feeling full of energy I started walking through Bergama towards the acropolis. I knew the site was opening at 9am so I had two hours to get up there. It took a little longer because the road twisted all around the mountain but it was a nice walk.

I spent a few hours on the acropolis admiring the Greek-Roman ruins. There were hardly any other tourists around. I had the greatest time and thought it was all fantastic, especially the steep 10000 seat theater. Pergamon was really one of the locations I enjoyed the most during this trip, but in hindsight that was probably due to it being my first destination; I got to see much more extensive Roman ruins later on. The theater is spectacular though, and the whole mountaintop setting is pretty unique, and the ruins are pleasant enough to wander through, so I'd still recommend it highly.
Going back down I found the shortcut route through the ruins and then through some farmland. At the foot of the acropolis lies the 2nd century Red Basilica which was originally a temple to the god Serapis before being converted to a christian basilica by the Byzantines. It's a very imposing yet picturesque ruin, and the only Roman building in red brick that I know.
On a nearby hill are the scarce ruins of Pergamon's famous Asclepion (medical school) which had held the library. There's also a military training camp up there and a trio of soldiers who'd just come down in their jeep turned around again just to give me a lift to the top, very nice. However the entrance price proved to be ridiculously high (a common problem in Turkey) so I walked down again.

At 2pm I took a bus back to the otogar in Izmir, where I picked up my luggage and took another bus on to Selçuk (Ephesus) where I arrived at 6pm. I checked into a hotel, had dinner, took a shower, updated my travel log for the first and last time that week, and then went to bed after having been awake for 40 hours. It had been exhausting but I was off to a flying start and feeling content about that.


Feb. 27th (day 3): Ephesus (Selçuk)

Ephesus was a Greek city which during Roman times eclipsed Pergamon in importance. It was and is famous for housing the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), for its 25000 seat theater which was the biggest in the ancient world, and of course for Paul's letter to the Ephesians in the New Testament. Today Ephesus is Turkey's most famous Greek-Roman site. Right next to it lies the modern town of Selçuk.

I spent the morning wandering around the ancient city. The eye-catchers are the Roman era library of Celsus, of which the facade still stands, and the huge theater. The latter was the site of a riot described in Acts 19:23-41.
In Ephesus I met Chris and Neve, a British/Irish couple who were on an even bigger journey than myself. We walked back from Ephesus to Selçuk together and visited the site of the Temple of Artemis along the way. The first temple of Artemis was burned down in 356BC by one Herostratus who only did it to get famous, hence the expression herostratic fame. In a freak coincidence, this happened on the same night Alexander the Great was born. The new temple was considered the most magnificent ever built and got listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Sadly it was destroyed by the Goths in 262AD. From the remaining rubble a single column has been erected to mark the site.
Near Ephesus lie the ruins of the Byzantine St. John Basilica, built in the 6th century over the supposed grave of St. John, the apostel and evangelist, who is believed to have spent the last years of his life in Ephesus. It must have been a huge structure but not much is left of it. On the hill above it a fortress was built by the Seljuk Turks in the 11th century.
After saying goodbye to Chris and Neve (we agreed to meet again in Beirut on St. Paddy's day, but they wouldn't make it to Lebanon due to visa problems) I picked up my luggage and took a bus to my next destination, Bodrum.

I arrived in Bodrum rather late and made the big mistake of ignoring some perfectly nice looking hotels and checking into a hotel that the LP described as a "Japanese run place with a good reputation" instead. In truth this place was run by an old Turk, I was the only guest, there was no heating and an ice cold wind blew through cracks in the window frames. I spent the whole night shivering in the freezing room, not getting any sleep for the second time in three nights. To add insult to injury, the room had no hot water. Well this taught me to request to watch the room and test the hot water before checking into a hotel.


Feb. 28th (day 4): Bodrum

Feeling rather groggy I spent the morning visiting Bodrum's main attraction, the Castle of St. Peter, which is beautifully situated on a peninsula that protrudes into the Mediterranean (originally an island just off the coast). It was built from 1402 onwards by the Knights Hospitaler, who held it against the Turks until 1523. It's a nice but not very impressive castle.
In the 4th century BC, Bodrum was called Halicarnassus and was part of the Persian empire. In 350BC a huge white marble tomb, designed by Greek architects, was built here for a local ruler named Mausolus. The monument was called the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus after its occupant and became one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Its fame was such that the word mausoleum came to be used for all large tombs. It must have been especially impressive because of the countless huge statues that adorned its facades.

Except for the Great Pyramid which still stands, the Mausoleum was the longest surviving of the Wonders. In the 14th century it was ruined by a series of earthquakes, and in the 15th century it was used as a quarry by the Knights Hospitaler to build the fortress described above. In 1522 they broke down the remaining base because they needed more stones to strengthen their castle against the advancing Turks.

The site of the mausoleum is basically a pile of rubble. Still it was very much worth a visit, thanks to the excellent little museum built around it. It describes the mausoleum in detail with big clear drawings, and the surviving pieces of sculpture are tagged so that you can figure out where exactly they belonged.
I also checked out the ancient theater of Halicarnassus but it is not nearly as impressive as those of Pergamon and Ephesus.

At 4pm I left Bodrum by bus, and six hours later I arrived in Fethiye. It's always hard to orientate yourself in a new city if you arrive in the dark, and due to some bad judgements (and probably misunderstanding 15 million as 50 million for the price of the first hotel I tried) I walked around with my backpack for 1.5 hours before I found a good hotel. I was feeling very miserable by then, not having slept the night before and all, but the hotel I finally found was great and a hot shower quickly cheered me up.


Feb. 29th (day 5): Fethiye and Kayaköy

Fethiye sports the ruins of another castle of the Knights Hospitallers on a hill above the town. The views up there are nice but the ruins themselves aren't very photogenic.

In ancient times Fethiye was a Lycian city called Telmessos. In the 4th century BC the Lycians cut out some tombs in the rock wall above the town, and those tombs are now Fethiye's main attraction.
The last picture was taken by four nice Turkish girls who subsequently asked if I wanted to accompany them to the "mountain of love". I was sure I must have misunderstood them, but I didn't; it turned out that's the name of the hill with the ruined castle :) Since I'd just been there and didn't have that much time I had to turn down the offer, bummer.

Walking through a quiet neighbourhood of Fethiye I suddenly came across a Lycian sarcophagus standing in the middle of the street. It must have been standing there for 2400 years, and the modern street just built around it, pretty cool. I thought this was a unique specimen, since my guide only mentioned the one sarcophagus in a park somewhere, but as I was taking a picture of this one an old Turk offered to show me some more sarcophagi hidden from view behind the houses. I accepted the offer, and it was certainly worth it; I'd had no clue that the whole town was littered with these ancient graves! We had to walk through the back yards of the rather scruffy houses, and climb roofs and scramble rocks to reach them, fun. I wish I had an ancient grave in my garden too; would go nicely with my Corinthian capital.


Kayaköy

From Fethiye I took a minibus to Kayaköy, a Greek town that was abandoned in 1923 when almost all of Turkey's Greek inhabitants (over 1 million) left Turkey (a result of the Greek-Turkish war which erupted after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire when Greece sought to attach the parts of Turkey with a Greek majority, mainly Izmir, but lost). Since then Kayaköy has been an authentic ghost town. It must have been an attractive mountain town before it was abandoned; the houses were built in such a way that everyone had a nice view. It still is very attractive, but now in a gloomy (and more interesting) way.
The minibus back to Fethiye was stopped by an old man with a goat - the driver didn't have a problem with both of them hopping on :) At 6pm I got a bus to Antalya, and four hours later I was back in the city I'd flown to from Belgium 4 days earlier. I actually wasn't interested in the city itself but only in some ancient sites near it, but it turned out there is not a single hotel near the gigantic bus station - how silly is that? So I had to take a bus to the center and once again had to find my way around a new city at night; this time I found a good hotel quickly though.

Intermezzo: Pockets and Backpacks

I took the following picture just before leaving Fethiye, while carrying all my possesions. Let me use it to describe where I stored everything.
My main valuables were always on my trousers and in my small backpack. In the right thigh pocket (also right on the picture) of my trousers I kept my wallet, and in the left thigh pocket my passport, as well as my notebook and a pen. When I was photographing I carried my camera in that pouch on my left hip, otherwise I put it in my back pack.

In the main compartment of my small backpack I kept my Lonely Planet guide (in my hands now), my camera (idem), drinks and food, toilet paper (absolutely crucial since almost no toilets in the middle east have paper), and a folder that contained the information I prepared, stuff like insurance papers and most importantly the CD's on which I'd burned my pictures.

In the front pocket of the small backpack I kept sunscreen, the mini-tripod for my camera, a flashlight (always had it with me, and it was useful a lot of times! E.g. when climbing a tower, exploring a cave or a castle, electricity failure in the hotel room, ...), fruity candy, and many many other useful things.

There's another front pocket, and there I kept the second set of 4 rechargable batteries for my camera, and my second wallet which contained all the dollars and euros I took on this trip (500$ and 300€ at the start, so quite a capital) and something even more valuable: the second memory card of my camera.

I ALWAYS kept my small backpack with me, to the extent that it amused the people I met. I carried it around the hotels, I took it to the toilet, I took it to bed when I slept in a dorm, I wrapped it around my leg when sitting down - it was always on me.

My big backpack contained all my non-valuable luggage. In the beginning I wanted to keep it safe all the time too, but like all travelers I soon had to give that up. Almost every day I had to leave it behind unguarded in a dorm or in a hotel lobby after checking out, and just trust that it wouldn't get stolen. One time in Jordan I paid a taxi driver to bring it back to my hotel :)

Throughout the trip I kept the backpack organised the way I'd packed it the night before leaving. Shoes and electric stuff in the bottom compartment; underwear, socks and CDs in the top compartment; and since the side pockets were empty at the start that's where I kept my laundry :) Lol, while writing this I suddenly remembered I'd hidden 50$ somewhere in the back pack, in case I'd get robbed. I'd completely forgotten about that. I gotta substract that from my cost calculation :)


March 1st (day 6): Aspendos

In the morning I checked out the center of Antalya, which turned out to be pretty nice. I'd return to Antalya 71 days later and spend several days there, so I'll tell you more about it then.
The night before the bus had dropped me off in a one-way street in the center of Antalya, so it took a while before I found where I could get the bus back to the bus station. There were three sites near Antalya that I wanted to check out: Termessos, Perge and Aspendos, all ancient cities. I'd hoped to do at least two of them that day, but I'd already lost some time and I lost more waiting for the bus to Termessos to get going. After a while I lost patience and when I saw a bus depart in the direction of Aspendos I jumped on that one instead.

I was dropped in a small town called Serik, some 50km east of Antalya, from where it was a further 4km to Aspendos according to the LP guide. When I asked local people for directions they told me there'd be a bus going to it but I didn't feel like waiting so I set out on foot. I walked through the countryside for half an hour (so about 3km), then I got a ride from a Turk and his three sons (at least 2 km), and then when I was walking again the bus passed me and I decided to hop on; a fortunate decision because Aspendos was still several km away - bad information from LP? I finally arrived at 1pm.

Aspendos has the most beautifully preserved ancient theater in Turkey and possibly in the world - in any case it's the nicest of the 10 I visited during this journey. It dates from the 2nd century AD, can seat some 15000 people and is still being used during summer festivals. I got some nice pictures but a theater is always hard to capture except from the air, so check out this aerial pic too.
Like most ancient theaters this one was built against a hill, and you could climb that hill and view the theater from above. Up there I noticed that getting on the roof would be pretty easy - at the highest point of the hill the wall was only about 3m high and there was a small window halfway. Naturally I couldn't resist; there was noone else on the hill anyway. Walking on the roof was great fun. There was a guard inside the theater so I had to be careful when standing on the inner edge of the roof, but he never looked up.
I thought the theater was the only sight in Aspendos, but the plateau behind the hill turned out to be full of ancient ruins, a pleasant surprise.

On the road again

On the minibus back to Antalya I first talked to a young businessman who worked in the diamond industry and hence had been to Antwerp. When he got off, a bunch of students started talking to me. One of them suddenly asked "what do you think of islam?" A touchy question that. Trying to be at once diplomatic and honest I answered that it's hard to make one judgement for all of islam, that I don't like islam the way it is in places like Afghanistan but that here in Turkey it seemed perfectly nice. At that point he almost had to get off the bus, but after paying the driver he said "Do you know where I'm from? I'm from Afghanistan." Ouch! But then as he got off the bus he said "don't worry, I don't like Afghanistan either" - I guess he was a refugee of sorts.

I made it back to the Antalya bus station at 6pm. I'd taken my backpack there in the morning to leave myself the option of skipping the other ancient sites (Termessos and Perge) and moving on the same day. I'd been moving every day so far and I quite liked rushing through Turkey that fast, so I decided to stay in the rythm and move on. Originally I'd planned my next stop to be the city of Alanya which lies some 150km east of Antalya and has a nice Seljuk fortress, but feeling strong after two nights of good sleep and being eager to get to Syria, I decided to take a night bus straight to Antakya at the Syrian border, a ride of a whopping 14 hours.

So the 6th night of my trip was the 3rd one without any sleep, because I really can't sleep on a bus. The first night had taught me I could manage with just resting though. The bus ride was actually okay; I was wel equipped with an inflatable pillow (an excellent last-minute idea to bring that along) and about 700 hours of music to play on my CD/MP3 player. I got a scare though when we stopped in Alanya. I was told we'd stop for 10 minutes, but when I walked out of the bathroom 6 minutes later I saw the bus driving off the parking lot and had to run behind it hehe. Bastards.

They played Titanic on the bus. In Turkey all movies are dubbed (which is probably why Turks speak English a lot less well than Arabs, who use subtitles) but that way I could listen to music and it still helped me kill three hours. I actually kept watching because I was wondering if they had cut out Kate Winslet's nude scene in Turkey - they had.


March 2nd (day 7): Antioch (Antakya) to Aleppo

Antakya is actually the modern Turkish name for the ancient city of Antioch, which in Hellenistic times was the capital of the Seleucid empire and later the third most important city of the Roman empire, after Rome and Alexandria. Both Peter and Paul lived here in the earliest days of christianity, and Luke (the evangelist) was a local. Sadly, due to earthquakes and numerous conquests, there is absolutely nothing left of the magnificent ancient city.

Antakya and the region around it (Hatay) actually belong with Syria, as is clear from looking on a map, but it had a large Turkish population and in 1938 France gave it to Turkey (to prevent Turkey from allying itself with nazi Germany). Syria still doesn't recognise this and it is still a source of friction between the two countries.

I arrived in Antakya at 9:30am. I knew there was nothing to see there, but hey it's Antioch so I still wanted to have a look around before pushing on. I checked the times of the busses to Syria, figured I could spare an hour or two, left my backpack and set out. It took less than half an hour to see that the city had nothing to offer, so I decided to use the rest of my time to check out the museum which was said to have magnificent Roman mosaics. Now for some reason I don't really care for mosaics, but these were nice indeed. I especially loved the museum's excellent Roman sarcophagus though (had to get a guard to unlock the room to see it).
I was back at the bus station at noon and got on the bus to Aleppo in Syria. Crossing the border took an hour or two, which gave us time to admire the first big portraits of the former and the current president Assad. It was the first of 8 border crossings I made during the trip.

Thus ended my first visit to Turkey, and so part 1 of this report ends here as well. I'll take you back to Turkey in 62 days though.

                                                 Back to Index    -    Part 2: Northern Syria >>






Godsmurf Tue 24 Feb 2009 @ 11:55
About equally funny I'd say. And I have no problem with anyone calling my clothes funny. Still, it's hard to beat men who wear women's shoes and put plastic bags over their big black hats when it rains. But there can never be too much funny-ness in the world so bless 'em.

Marvin Tue 17 Feb 2009 @ 15:02
You keep mentioning the "funny" clothes that religious Jews wear throughout your writings of the Israeli portion of your trip. Are they as funny as the strange copies of middle eastern attire that Catholic priests; nuns; and the Pope wear?
You look strange as well wearing funny European clothes.

My suggestion look in a mirror before you comment on others.

Flylice Tue 10 Jul 2007 @ 09:17
Alright, thanks for helping me waste 3 hrs at work...but anyway great travelog! I'm going to Syria & Jordan in august, but only have 3 weeks :(

Silvia Thu 29 Jun 2006 @ 04:13
I just love your website. It's excellent. Didn't read everything, but great pics.

Godsmurf Mon 10 Apr 2006 @ 13:41
I wouldn't recommend it, based on what a German girl who lived in Damascus told me (cfr the last paragraph of part 5), but on the LP forums I often see female solo-travelers who say they had no problems.

Ira Sun 09 Apr 2006 @ 20:58
Nice pics...very interesting.
Is it safe for a single woman to travel to Syria? Do we have to wear head scarf too?

Zoltan Fri 07 Apr 2006 @ 17:15
Hi Godsmurf!

Excellent site;I spent hours to read Your comments and check out the photos.
Good Job!

zeituni Sun 02 Apr 2006 @ 12:29
Hi again!

According to my sister(who until recently lived in East Jerusalem), there are quite a few Christians living in the old quarter and other parts of Jerusalem. However, they might not use the churches most commonly visited by tourists. When I was there there was also a grand celebration taking place at the convent of St Mary Magdalene and the neighbouring Greek Orthodox convent. There were hardly anyone but Palestinians there, admitedly, some of them were from areas like Bethlehem or Beit'Jallah.

I know I'm not bringing firm statistics to back up this, but that was her notion and my impression as well.

Anyway, just a comment!

Still a very great travelogue! And on point on the Israeli border personnel!

Godsmurf Thu 30 Mar 2006 @ 22:05
Thank you! If you have any questions feel free to ask, my mail is linked at the bottom of each page.

Vedica Thu 30 Mar 2006 @ 09:17
i love your travelogue!!....it is amazingly interesting!
Am planning a trip to middle east myself (around July - yes i know itll be hot) and your site has been an EXCELLENT guide and resource! thanks for sharing!

cathleen Tue 28 Mar 2006 @ 08:36
great writeing and photos you really have a talent at breaking things down e.i. the formation of the isreali state etc. very objective

Godsmurf Sat 25 Mar 2006 @ 23:04
Thanx for the compliments, glad to have readers :)

Well I'm not sure (I said they're *probably* not christians) but firstly I don't think I ever saw a Palestinian in any of Jerusalem's churches, and secondly I sensed humour instead of devotion in the way they were selling christian souvenirs. But I could be wrong of course. Am I?

zeituni Sat 25 Mar 2006 @ 08:25
Fantastic travelogue! Are you writing a book?

One question however; why do you assume the Palestinians in the Christian quarter are not actually Christians?

hasof_TT Sat 25 Mar 2006 @ 00:11
Great trip report. Was going to just scan, but got intrigued and am reading it word for word. Thanks for sharing!


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