With a Total Solar Eclipse approaching my backyard in 2024, it was time to reboot one of my first ever travel blog articles, a trip to Turkey to witness "Totality"
After 6 months of rubble and trouble, it was time to leave post Katrina New Orleans for an adventure of a lifetime. The highlight of the trip was a total eclipse of the sun on the Mediterranean Coast of Turkey. The trip started with a few days in the Big Apple and a viewing of “Spamalot”; a witty knock off of Monty Python’s movie Search for the Holy Grail. After a trip to the famous Met, Wall Street, and walking tour of China Town and Alphabet City our Big Apple journey came to and end and set off to Turkey.
We stayed on the Aegean Coast about 10 minutes from the ancient city of Ephesus. The entire area was filled with nice hotel resorts and 2 large water parks, many of which were only ½ complete. The area has started to boom as a European Resort destination. Our tour guide informed us that Turkey had just opened up real estate ownership to outsiders as one of the many pre-requisites for their European Union membership.
Totality is what eclipse gurus refer to as the experience of watching the Total Eclipse of the sun. Totality is the period where the sun is totally covered by the moon. Regarded by many as a spiritual event that changes the soul, I had been anticipating this event for many years. The total event lasts about an hour and a half, with “Totality” only lasting about 4 minutes. You must use special glasses, telescopes, filters, and other gadgets of the trade to capture the experience. Our guide for the event would be Dr Hale Bradt, an expert on eclipses, from MIT. Our location would be on the beach of the Mediterranean, with the Grand Mountains of Antalya as the backdrop.
First contact occurred at 12:38, a sliver of the moon touched the sun, an event only viewable with your special eclipse glasses. For most of the time the sun looks the same with the naked eye. About 15 minutes before totality the shadows become very crisp as the sky starts to darken. Then in a brief moment totality hits, the sky darkens, the temperature drops, and you can view the halo of the sun with your naked eye. A powerful site and an unforgettable experience. Just a few minutes later the sun once again appeared and an effect called the diamond ring came into view. I blinked and missed this phenomenon. After a day on the beach it was off to Istanbul.
Istanbul is a huge city that spans 2 continents and is filled with Mosques, a handful of rivers, urban sprawl, and a unique nightlife. There is far too much to see on your first visit in this immense city steeped in history. Here are some of the sites we saw on in a few days.
|Castle on the River.|
|Urban sprawl that goes on forever on the banks of the rivers.|
|Taken from the top of the point hotel in the tourism district|
|Outside market next to the spice market|
|Inside the Grand Bazaar|
|The blue mosque, which is now a museum more than a place of worship. I promise I didn't "Photoshop UP " this pic.|
|The ancient underground water reservoir|
|I did "Photoshop Up" Medusa, she was standing on her head|
The Mosques and The Imperial Palace
The blue mosque is one of many temples in Istanbul. The buildings are truly remarkable, but a little difficult to photograph. All of the mosques sort of look the same so it got old for me pretty quick. The Imperial palace is also remarkable, but your can't take photos inside. They have the head of Jon the Baptist among other things.
The Grand Bazaar and spice market
No trip to Istanbul is complete without a trip to the collection of shops that is referred to as the grand bazaar. It used to be a grandiose flea market but now has actual store fronts embeded into this large structure. Most of the stores sell the same assortment of touristy items. You can find some OK leather and other clothing. The rugs are very nice, adeptly made, following a tradition that is centuries old. It is certainly worth seeing. I personally only made out with a party pack of oriental spices and an ice cream cone.
The party strip
There is one huge street with all sorts of back alleyways and other small walkways that is filled with bars, restaurants, dance clubs, shops, and even a handful of foreign embassies. Like everything else in Istanbul, the sheer size of the strip is breathtaking. The buzz of this beehive dwarves the quarter in New Orleans, though the vibe is very similar. I spent two nights on the town in this district with some of the other young members of our travel group. Many of the small streets are packed with outside bars that feature miniature tables and chairs. The last night we ate dinner and listened to traditional Turkish music at a local hang out. The lead singer, while we could not understand him, sang and danced with remarkable energy. He kept winking at me too, instead of the young ladies I was with. A little odd...
More Facts about Turkey
Turkey is one of the few secular countries in the Moslem world. They have great bars, live music, and most all the luxuries of the Western lifestyle that I'm familiar with. Don’t poke fun at the national hero, Ataturk! it can get you escorted out of the country for good. The food is wonderful. The people are very friendly, and most of them speak some English. The women are also very independent and beautiful. The cost of goods and services are reasonable, except in Istanbul, where prices are comparable to New York City.
|The ruins at the ancient city of Ephesus are truly amazing. The start of the tour takes you through some modest ruins of the old market.|
|Then you descend down the hill to a well-preserved facade of one of the largest libraries of the ancient world.|
|A large amphitheater and the old harbor road highlighted the end of the tour. I had the pleasure of witnessing an older Brit sing a few verses of an old English drinking song. The crowd erupted into applause.|
|The second half of the day we had lunch at a rug factory, where they showed us the old ways of making Turkish rugs.|
|The morning adventure was a trip to one of the finest preserved Roman amphitheaters, Aspendos.|
|A local TV crew was here filming something that featured a cat, a panda bear, mimes, and clowns.|
This photo is a statue of Artimus. The temple that stood next to the ancient city was one of the ancient wonders of the world, but now it’s not much of an experience.
The day ended with a trip to the museum that was home to impressive statutes excavated from the Ephesus site.
The next day we traveled to the resort town of Antalya, a booming resort metropolis on the Turkish Riviera. Our final destination would be a resort hotel on the beach about 30 miles outside of Antalya. We would arrive just in time to see the sunset behind the mountain and sea. After a night at the hotel bar sleep was still difficult in anticipation of the main event - the total eclipse of the sun.
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