Silk Road 8


mi ruta de la seda » 2010 » July

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2010

07.26

A very quick post to tell you what Bosra is. I don’t have much time working as sub-guide. It is a challenge making a “father” feel good in a Muslim country and it requires nearly all my energy so I can’t spend that much time in the blog.

Coming back to Bosra, which is the topic of the day. There was a moment in Turkey I was a bit bored of Roman ruins and I was very close to not go and see “another“ ruins in Syria. The curiosity convinced me and I’m glad I did it. It would have been a pity missing Bosra. The further I go from Rome, the more Roman settlements I visit, the more I realize how impressively powerful the empire was. In February I was in Rome, it’s July and I still walk in it’s territory, this was the roman region of Arabia and Bosra was its capital in the 2nd century.

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The main reason to come here is to see the theatre , it would be nearly impossible to be preserved any better. It’s only two hours driving south of Damascus nearly at the border with Jordan. The theatre has the peculiarity that it’s done with Basalt, a very strong volcanic rock of the area, that gives it the dark colour.

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The city next to it is also built on basalt and has all the things the Roman cities have, the public baths, the agora, the columns… There are two enormous cisterns that received the water by an underground aqueduct from the mountains 30 kilometres away.

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The desert covered the the city in sand for centuries making possible the great conservation of 70 years ago when it was found. The sand preserved the ruins from the weather and humans leaving them as they are now. Saladin fortified the theatre defending the city from the crusades and Mongols.

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Church on the way back to Damascus, our base. Also in basalt and prepared for a wedding.

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What a better way to finish the day than tasting the local bear? The truth? It’s pretty bad. The most similar to a real beer is the Lebanese one. Lebanon also has good red wine. Well Lebanon must be a very cool country everybody here talks about how great it is. I’ll have to leave it for another trip though.

The next post will be about Damascus. The city that once was the most important in Islam when religion was at its height. We’ll see what we find!

See you soon.

Fernando

2010

07.24

I’ve been in Maalula, north of Damascus. Here Aramaic is still spoken, and it sounds so remote I want you to hear it, is like hearing an echo of a language that star Ted 3000 years ago and that has been sounding until now.

Click to hear a pray in Aramaic language: Arameo(may be slow).

The first day my Father was in Damascus we went to the National Museum, we took a guide that spoke in Spanish and the museum was the right place to start. We went through all the Syrian history from the beginning to the end and we had a contest on how much we would see in Damascus and the country for the remaining the days.

The most fascinating objects  are the ones that have something written in Aramaic. Seems unbelievable that there is still something of a language that is so old, the language that Jesus Christ spoke.

From these fascinating and intriguing objects, the much more amazing thing is a six centimetre stone on which is written the first alphabet ever. It is the first time that instead of writing sounds “ce”, “be”, “to”… that consonants have been independent from the vowels. Whoever did it had to be an extremely intelligent person to be able to abstract the sounds and divide them, in one side the consonants and in other the vowels, then complete the sounds of the consonants.  I’ve been impressed thinking on the proccess it took to reach this.

About the Arameic, there has been created an Aramaic Institute, until now it’s a language passed from generation to generation in a speaking way by the Maalula people and other villages. In the Institute they want to teach how it’s written so it’s not lost.

I think it wont get lost, it has proved that it is a survivor.

I leave you today so you can come back to the modern world, try not to think that anything we do is difficult that it will last 3000 years or that is as important as inventing the alphabet.

See you soon.

Fernando

2010

07.21

Syria is giving me wonderful surprises every day. People are amazing, they say hello, they ask, they tell you, they make you feel good. As soon as I say I´m spanish they all congratulate me about the world cup, they like football a lot, even though it seems impossible they have a lot of Spanish flags everywhere. They are very happy to have Spain winning instead of Germany or Holland. Being Spanish is quite good for travelling, people usually likes us.

It was not easy leaving Aleppo but the dead cities aroused an intense interest to which I couldn’t say no. To arrive there is no public transport  so you have to find a taxi for half a day to go. From the one who likes them with a passion for a while there are around 600 settlements, from isolated monuments to full cities. I visited four of them and was lucky to find two “friends of the day” in the hotel to share the taxi and not going alone. Here are the pictures.

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In the city of Al-Bara there are funeral tombs, the one in the picture is the best preserved one.

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Greg on top of a wall overlooking the horizon, the city seems it never finishes. It’s eerie walking between the houses, walls and the olive trees, we are totally alone discovering what is in each building, in each corner. The reason why they were abandoned is not clear, seems that the trading routes changed and the population moved away gradually leaving this isolated landscape.

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In the shade it’s 40 degrees.

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The name of dead cities is not totally right, there are some people still living in them.

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Clothes drying is an unmistakable symbol of life.

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Jedara and Ruweiha are two cities that are together and they are some of the biggest. In the background the Byzantine church of the 5th century, it’s used nowadays for living.

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Goat.

The last city we saw was Serjilla, one of the best preserved and most prepared for tourism with explanation panels. Some houses have two floors created building an arch inside the house to hold the second floor, I liked the idea.

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The next stop was Hama where I went to see the water Norias.

http://www.vimeo.com/13508349

Orontes means revel river as it’s the only one in the area that goes from south to north, it in fact starts in Lebanon mountains where there’s even a ski resort.

For the Zaragoza Expo I’ve been told they constructed one, now I want to go and see it as they brought the same people to build it that maintain the ones in Hama.

As soon as I click the publish button I’m going to the airport to collect my father, he’s coming a few days for visiting. Hope the flight is not delayed.

See you soon

Fernando

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2010

07.14

I can finally post a video, the last two I tried to do looked horrible so I haven’t posted them. I recorded one of them with Ana about an Oraculum in Greece and the second was about my backpack so after a lot of time I’m very happy to edit a video and post it here.

The video was totally improved, I arrived there and liked the activity so much that I thought capturing it in pictures would have lost the meaning of constant movement. Different to the Istanbul bazaar there’s nearly no tourism, I only saw four foreigners in four hours. It’s a local market with no souvenirs with Syrians buying Syrian things.

http://www.vimeo.com/13336938

The music is Turkish because I still have no Syrian music, they are Burhan öcal & Pete Namlook.

I’m going to tell you quickly my last steps in Turkey as I went through Antakya, one of those names that sounds so biblical and you don’t know what to expect.

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I knew there wouldn’t be much from what I had read, and in fact apart from the centre of little alleys the rest is quite ugly. In the picture an alley downtown.

What I’ve liked the most is the mix of culture, I tell you; in the guide books you read that Antakya is one of those places where Christians, Muslims and Jews have always been living together in peace, bla bla bla….and when I read this I think that it sounds beautiful but with those things I always think that it’s something written in the books but that there is no way to feel it in the city.

In Antakya this is more tangible than in other places. Apart from the fact that you can see mosques, churches and a synagogue, the interesting thing is that when somebody stops you in the street to talk(yes, it’s very normal) after giving a cordial welcome they tell you the same, that here they are all mixed and happy and tell it proudly. It’s comforting that there are places in the world that co-living exists.

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To finish feeling what the books says I stayed that night in the HOSPEDERÍA of the Christian church. They are old houses where you can sleep. There were some musicians preparing an event of songs for peace in the cave-church of Saint Peter. There was a very good atmosphere around, it was like sleeping in a music school where music of any instrument could start at any moment as well as a chorus starts singing. I was planning my trip to Syria for a couple of days.

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Religious symbols of all religions. Barbara showed me the place, she´s been there 38 years and broadcasts peacefulness.

Also staying in the place was a German, Jens, an anthropologist working for an American university he was doing a study of the integration of religions. As he had an interest in the silk route we were talking for a while. An interesting guy.

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Antakya museum is one of the most important in the world regarding mosaics, It has a lot of pieces from the II and III century.

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The day of the canticles. One of the songs was in Spanish so during rehearshal I read it in Spanish so they would know the right pronunciation.

The last night I made a stop in Odeon, a café that I’d spotted in one of my walks around Antioch. A chatty Turk came to talk with me, he was a biologist, specialized in butterflies and he worked for the university. He made 1000 Euro a month, that let’s you do a lot of things in Turkey. I proposed playing Backgammon with him, he was the champion of his town and as that’s the application I use the most in my phone, I decided that was the perfect person to try my game.

We started with a very sad 0-2 to him as he set up the board in the opposite way my phone does and I was a bit disoriented at the beginning, after a little while we were 4-2 to me. When the owner of the place came to chat with us the board was mysteriously closed and moved to a corner as if nobody had ever played it. The owner was a very nice guy, he had been travelling all around the world selling gold and now he was taking his time to enjoy live in a relaxed way.

Next day to cross the border with Syria I got a shared taxi, it’s a bit more expensive than the bus but I keep checking where my passport is exactly. It also takes a few less hours as the arrangements for 50 passports in a bus takes a while.

By the road I saw men and women harvesting potatoes, the harvest seems to be much earlier than in Spain, there were a lot of cereal crops already reaped in pieces of land that the dessert has not taken. A few more potato fields and the wire fencing and the watch towers announced the border. Once more I felt the excitement that I have when I’m taking my passport out of my pocket to cross a border.

See you soon.

Fernando

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2010

07.09

I leave the Aegean sea where Kudasai goes by the coast to Syria. The first place I stop is Dalyan on the shores of Dalian river where the Kaunos ruins can found, a Carian settlement of 10th century B.C.

Here the tourists smell mosquito repellent, seems to be the perfect habitat, that’s why in ancient times this was a malarian zone. The foreigners blamed the figs as they were very common in the area. Near Dalyan is Iztuszu beach that is protected due to the turtles that come to lay the eggs in it’s sand, they are massive up to 130 Kg.

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To go to the ruins you have to cross by boat, in the picture is a boat woman.

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I explored Kaunos surrounded by lizards and yellow winged grasshoppers. In th entrance loud disco music was playing, as the ruins were so big I left the sound behind me very quickly, but while walking in the ruins I could hear the call to pray from a nearby mosque. That was the soundtrack.

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Thistle, new word for me. Loved the colour.

Next day I had breakfast in the terrace overlooking the tombs in the cliff, the oleanders‘ smell. I prepare the things to go to the Dalaman river, the reason why I’ve come here. I like the river company, they were a mix of guides from Costa Rica, Turkey, Nepal and Ukraine. They managed the safety in the river very well so I paddled very comfortably. The kayak they let me was really bad but as the river wasn’t difficult it gave the day a bit more of emotion.

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The guides were apologizing for the colour of the water, normally is a wonderful blue but due to the previous days rain it got cloudy. I like rivers with this colour.

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I suppose that she has not thought that if she falls into the water the skirt can cover her face making it difficult to breathe, but each one get’s into the river as they desire.

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Doing the last class IV rapid I rolled, in the last picture it can be seen how I’m getting ready to roll back up with the paddle aligned with the kayak.

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The next stop was Kas, in the middle of the turquoise coast. It’s a very charming village with bougavillas, ottoman houses, a centre with no cars and a seaside with amazing colour to explore by boat. To complete the image the mountains border the coast and a bit more inland they are as high as 3000 meters.

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There are Lician tombs in the village.

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In the morning I go to the port to get a boat to go by the coast and to see some of the ruins of the area. This excursion cost like 20 Euro to spend the day in the boat and you get food.

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Kekova is a gorgeous submerged city, the earthquakes of the second century sank it. It’s forbidden to stop the boats or swim.

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We stopped in Ucagiz village that is on an island.

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I didn’t wanted to pay the entrance to the little castle so I went around to see what could I see and I found this Lician tomb just for me.

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 Turkey has two types of vipers. The ottoman(didn’t make a big effort to get the name…) is very poisonous.

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The picture is a bit too burnt, but at least you see how the place was.

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I bought tea from him and after the picture he gave me a granddad kiss. He cultivated the tea himself.

On the boat I met a French woman, she loved Turkey having been here 20 times she had travelled all over the world including Afghanistan 40 years ago, she had also travelled all around Africa providing aid when she was young, she was my friend of the day. We were talking about Greece and Turkey rivalry. They really dislike each other, for example the Greeks still call Istanbul, Constantinople in some maps.

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On the way back to Kas after a good day. Apart from the memories of the ruins what I’ve liked the most has been diving. There were not too many fish but diving in the silence of the blue water while the rays of light penetrate the surface is just blissful.

My last visit through the coast is Antalya. More otoman houses, this time on the top of the hill overlooking the sea. All the coast is packed with tourists, I expected this from the places nearby Ephesus but it spreads all along the coast.

Here are the Taurus mountains, the country has 70% of the territory covered with mountains and near the city a part is protected as the Kopruli national park. I went kayaking in the river but it was a mistake, there were hundreds of rafts and literally thousands of clients, have never ever seen anything like that, instead of seeing the river you’d see rafts and rafts. A huge mistake, I had to make an effort to enjoy, there was zero contact with nature.

 

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 Antalya has an spectacular museum with items compiled from the ruins around. Here is the sarcophagus room.

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 The face on the left is the one I liked the most. In fact I only put pictures of museums to pretend that they are interesting.

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I eat a gozleme, something like a creppe. By the time I want to take it a picture I´ve finished it!

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The sunset from Antalya with Olympus mountains in front(nothing to do with Greece) It would have been a better choice to stay here as it’s quieter as it’s further from the  International airport.

The next post will be a video from Syria. Yes a video after a while!!

See you soon

Fernando

2010

07.08

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This is Pamukkale. With a million visitors a year it is one of the attractions of Turkey. During the 80s it become so overly touristic that was close to being destroyed it but some hotels were demolished and even it though it is a bit damaged it is still worth visiting. Quite a few years ago it was quite a common destination as honeymooners from Spain.

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Before visiting Pamukkale we went to the Hierapolis. Founded by Eumeus II in the year 190 BC on top of the mountain. The thermal waters became famous during the roman empire and the city grew until some earthquakes destroyed it and it was abandoned. In the picture one of the city doors with thick walls of a few meters. I liked the city as much or more than Pamukkale.

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You can’t miss the Necropolis. It also has a very important amphitheatre for 12.000 people that is in great state but as I’ve already shown you a few so I’m changing it for some wonderful tombs.

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The necropolis continues a few kilometres to the north. There was a lot of people coming here to be healed but seems some of them came a bit too late. Derya was asked the previous day, probably by an American tourist, “Why did Romans make so many ruins”?.

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Tombs in the calcium area. Rest in peace.

Before going to the travertines(name given to the terraces) we had a bath in the “Antique Pool”, thermal water with columns in the ground. It was good for the remains of my killer tourticullis. When the torticullis was at its worst I was thinking  “Seems impossible that a head is so heavy”.

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General view of the travertine formed by calcium carbonate.

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There are areas where the calcium is not very thick and doesn’t look that white. 

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After the travertines you can see the valley where the village is nowadays.

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It’s absolutely packed with Russians, must be a very famous place there, maybe because it looks like snow but you can be in a fuzzy bikini. If you are a Russian girl you can’t leave the place without a hundred pictures posing. By the way, Russia is the only country that like turkey spans two continents.

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Pamukkale means “cotton castle”. Cleopatra is supposed to have come here.

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Me and the water sliding down the wall depositing the calcium.

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There is a section of travertines that is open and you can walk barefoot and bath.

 

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The wind was blowing.

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 Other view.

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On the way back we saw a few villages with bottles on top of the roofs. If you have daughters in of marrying age, this is the tradition. A bit later we stopped to get a couple of wild sunflower plants for Andrés and Derya and at the last stop to see a hidden Roman aqueduct that is conserved really well.

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To finish the day we had a seabass cooked in salt in the newest restaurant of Kudasai. The price was less than 20 Euros. I have to say that the seabass was much better than the Spanish omelette I cooked the previous day. Cooked with crisps instead of potatoes following the recipe of the famous Spanish cook Arguiñano.

My next stop is Dalaman river. It’s said it is one of the most beautiful in Turkey!

See you soon.

Fernando

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