Travel Log - Turkey - March 2006
At 13:55:22 on Wednesday 29 March 2006, Solar Eclipse Totality occurred in Turkey. Some friends and I watched and photographed this awesome natural phenomenum from the top of the Oymapinar Dam in the Taurus mountains. You can see where we were in Turkey if you Click Here. The image on the left shows the dam itself - we were positioned right up the top where all that concrete is! Now I don't usually do heights, but since I'd do almost anything to get a good view of an eclipse, I went along with the idea! I am very glad I did because it provided us with a wonderful viewing point - and also nicely showed the eery effect of the eclipse on the valley below as the moon's shadow passed over - we even heard a cockerel crow!
I have wanted to experience a full solar eclipse since I was a kid, so it was an emotional experience for me; one that I shall never forget. It was made particularly special because of sharing it with some of my closest friends. Though I am thrilled to have captured the whole thing on film (as you will see if you click the image to the right hand side. However, the photographs are merely date. To capture the sheer magic of an eclipse, you have to be there...
In the days before and after the eclipse we also did a bunch load of other stuff. We stayed on a traditional Turkish "gulet" - a type of wooden boat. This was a bizarre adventure. Apart from the berths being so tiny they only had double-beds which meant we all had to share, there were no showers or bathing facilities other than to splash yourself with cold water and to flush the loo required manually tipping water down it! I managed to drink too much one night and spent the entire night in the tiny bathroom throwing up! Then, I managed to nearly knock myself out on the boom of the boat (when I got home I had some nosebleeds, went to casualty and they said I had in fact concussed myself!). The foot was not great since I am a vegetarian - the Turkish do like their meat!
Anyway, on the third day we came back to the harbour, my friends and I decided to disembark and stay at a local hotel for the night, so desperate were we for creature comforts. Once the decision was made, we practically raced one-another to the hotel to book ourselves some space. I am not good at sharing a room unless I know the person extremely well, so was desperate for a room of my own. I got one - a huge, beautiful, clean double room with a huge, clean, working bathroom! Bliss. I practically dived into the shower.
Now, the holiday was a packgage we did via Guerba Travel and the boat trip was part of the package, so we had to pay to stay in the hotel ourselves. The moral of that tale is do be careful. Do go on one of the boat trips but if you can, or unless you are sure about the quality, or if you don't care(!), just do it for one night! In a hot climate, not having a shower for three days and living in such basic, tiny conditions is, for me, akin to torture and it is not something I'd care to repeat!
However, Guerba were on the whole fantastic. Ougz, the handsome and extremely courteous tour guide they had chosen, was incredibly knowledgeable about Turkish history, politics, architecture, archeology and pretty much everything Turkish. He had great patience and a fantastic sense of humour and went out of his way to ensure we had a good time. So well done Guerba for selecting such a great guide. Ougz was the one responsible for the idea of taking us inland away from Anatalya to see the eclipse from the top of the Oymapinar Dam. He has done a lot of research to try and find the best location and refused to divulge it to other tour guides (who were keen to know the best place to take their tourists). As a result, the dam was nice and quiet - there were enough people up there to give a nice atmosphere, but few enough people that it was not noisy and there was lots of space to set up camera and other equipment. Ougz did us a big favour, because when we got home and heard just how busy Anatalya and its beaches had been on eclipse day, we knew it would have been a nightmare to have stayed there. So nice one Ougz if you ever read this!
It was interesting talking to Ougz about Turkey. Conscription is in place, so Ougz had been in the Turkish army for a while. You don't have any choice about this if you are a young Turkish lad - you just have to do it whether you are a pacifist or not. There is still a degree of bad feeling towards the Greeks (with whom the Turkish have been in bad relations for centuries) although Turkey are so keen to join the EU that they are desperately trying to overcome this, and the bad image it gave of them to the west. The people are on the whole really friendly, passionate about their country, and fun and seem very keen on the English, in particular. There is still very much the feeling of "third-world" in many areas of Turkey, but it is being westernised extremely fast in their quest to join the EU. I wish them all the best with their endeavour.
One of the things that "got" me about Turkey was the incredible amount of archeological sites about the place. Although some of these sites were "officially" run and open to the public, the country seems to have remnants of ancient times just litered all over the countryside, not managed in any official way at all. It is almost as if there are just so many of them that the government/whoever simply can't administer them (otehr than the "big" ones) all. Just driving or walking through the countryside, nearly everywhere you go you are within sight of such things as sarcophagi crumbling away on the hilsides, ancient forts and and other interesting constructions. So if you are interested in archeology, Turkey is definitely a place you should visit.
To see my archaelogical photos and read more information, please Click Here.
So if you are thinking of going, check out my favourite web sites below. It is certainly a place to which I would love to get the chance to return to explore some more of Turkey's fascinating archeology and geology.