Too Many Drummers.com - my music website
Journal 1 - The Land Downunder
Journal 2 - Indonesia
Journal 3 - Singapore & Malaysia
Journal 4 - Thailand 1
Journal 5 - Thailand 2
Journal 6 - Indian Ocean
Journal 7 - Red Sea
Journal 8 - Egypt
Journal 9 - Suez to Israel to Petra
Journal 10 - Turkey
Journal 11 - Greece & Italy

Journal 12 - Balearics, Gibraltar, Canaries
Journal 13 - Canaries to Cape Verde to Atlantic
Journal 14 - Barbados to Grenada
Journal 15 - Trinidad
Journal 16 - Bahamas DC-3 Plane Wreck

Journal 17 - 34 Things I've Learned in 33,000 Miles


Let’s talk Turkey.

Thought I should get all the wordplay out of my system right away.  It is hard to resist lame attempts at wittiness when cruising through places with names like Turkey and Greece.

Because it serves as a bridge between
Europe and Asia, Turkey has long been a site of military conquest and ethnic conflict.  Hittites, Persians, Alexander the Great, Romans, and Ottomans all claimed this land for their empires at one time or another.  Modern Turkey was born after World War I through the policies and reforms of a soldier-turned-politician named Mustafa Kamal.  He instituted laws cementing the country’s new status as a republic and modernizing their culture.  Today Kamal is better known by the name Ataturk (which means “father of Turkey”).
One Turkish law says it is illegal to make jokes about the Turkish republic, the Turkish people, or Ataturk.  At the same time, an unwritten law seems to be that nights are made for partying until dawn with the whole family at the disco.  This wide spectrum of behavior gives you an idea of the country’s character.  Turks are a friendly, dignified people who know how to have fun and know when to take things seriously….thoroughly cool hombres.

We were lucky to arrive in Finike at the start of the annual Finike Festival.  The town is famous for its orange industry, as evidenced by the giant orange sculptures dotting the landscape.

The Festival is an authentic Turkish experience.  Concerts begin around 9 pm and each night features a different musical act.  Circus-style troupes warm the crowd up for the main events, often in unusual ways.  For example, one evening Sarah and I arrived in time to watch a scantily clad belly dancer undulate across the stage holding an albino python.  An armada of highly enthusiastic photographers shadowed her as she wiggled past thrilled fathers, shocked mothers, and confused children.  When she finished (to tumultuous applause by the male half of the audience), a contortionist came out and spent five minutes bending her body into various pretzel shapes.

The first two acts had set a very high standard, so I was a bit disappointed by the next lady.  She basically sat on a large spinning ring and pointed her toes occasionally.  I suppose it was impressive that she didn’t get dizzy.  At the conclusion of her act I could see a future for myself in a traveling Turkish acrobatic troupe…a future quickly shattered by the next, final act…

Behold!  The Two Roller Skaters of Insanity!  I don’t think anyone knew what to expect as the purple-clad couple skated out onto the concrete.  When the techno music cranked up and the pair began an awkward dance routine, most of the audience probably wished silently for a belly dancing encore.  But all such thoughts were forgotten when the purple man grabbed the purple lady’s legs and spun into ever-tighter circles.  Soon she was airborne, with only a few laws of physics and a man on roller skates between her and a very unforgiving block of cement.  In ice skating, these spins are often called “death spirals”.  I think it’s fair to say that roller skates and concrete up the ante to “death wish spirals”.  For the next five minutes Sarah and I held our breath as the lady was spun by her skates, by her skates around the back of the guy’s neck, by one leg, and by her pony tail.  In spite of the odds, she survived to be rewarded by a flurry of relieved applause.

The moral of the story: Kids, stay in school.

Concerts are the focal point of the Festival.  All of the acts are big Turkish names, and they run a gamut of styles from folk music to pop and rock.  Since I don’t speak Turkish, it was an excellent chance to get a feel for the different styles of music without being distracted by lyrics.  Turks love their music.  Even when the songs are mellow, audiences clap in time and dance in the bleachers.  One of the things I appreciated the most about the concerts was the lack of pretension in the crowd.  People are out to have a good time and they don’t seem to worry much about impressing each other with how cool they are.

This sentiment thankfully extends to the basketball court.  I played my first basketball in over a year at the Finike downtown court.  It was fun.  One of the frustrations I had in Miami was dealing with the egos and macho chest pounding of “for fun” street basketball.  Just getting in a game requires the verbal equivalent of slapping someone else in the face with a leather glove, then prancing around looking tough… And if you somehow manage to play, heaven forbid that anyone passes the ball… But if by some unfathomable mistake the ball does end up in your hands, prepare to be football tackled by an angry man who has no basketball skills but is trying to impress the girl sitting under that tree over there (who incidentally would be much more impressed if he would just go over and talk to her like a person instead of rampaging around the court like a clumsy elephant bull in heat).

My point being: Basketball can be FUN.  It’s possible to enjoy sports without hurting other people, strutting around like a ninny, or even (dare I say it?) winning every time.  It’s just a game, people. (Unless of course you are a professional athlete, in which case strutting around like a ninny is part of your job.)

The Turks I played with understood this concept and we had fun.  After the game we chilled out and used hand gestures to talk about the NBA and music.  Michael Jordan and wailing on the air guitar are universal concepts.

On the final day of the Festival, the town’s young men competed for aquatic glory in the downtown marina.  An enormous crowd gathered throughout the day to watch the boat parades/races, swimming races, and (my favorite) “Catch the Duck”.

”Catch the Duck” is exactly what it sounds like.  Imagine a large marina basin surrounded by thousands of cheering spectators….Now imagine the entire male population of Finike hyped up and fueled by the screams of an adoring audience…Now imagine a rather unfortunate duck….You get the idea.

When the official released the duck into the basin, 50 people leapt into the water to capture it.   With a few strokes of its feet, the duck easily outdistanced the best swimmers of the bunch, and the chase was on.  The crowd roared with each near miss and laughed when the duck swam under the pier where no one could reach him.  Any time it ventured too close to a boat, all the men on board jumped in after him.  The eventual winner was a teenage boy who followed the duck from the shore and dove in when he had it cornered.

As thrilling as Catch the Duck was, it didn’t hold a candle to the day’s main event: The Greased Pole.

Imagine a wooden telephone pole extending 30 feet over the water at a 20 degree angle….Slather it with handfuls of the cheapest, nastiest automotive grease possible….Now imagine a very unfortunate duck (just kidding)…

Anyways, the goal of the Greased Pole competition was to slide, slither, and hurl up the length of the pole to reach a Turkish flag mounted on the end.  I don’t know what the prize was, but rumors of opulent riches abound (most likely the prize was a duck, if only because these people seem to have it in for waterfowl).

Over the next hour the young men of Finike subjected themselves to public humiliation and grievous injury in their quest for the flag and immortality.  One at a time, they sprinted up the sloping pole to discover a new way of pin wheeling into the water.  The audience was very appreciative, rewarding the most agile attempts with “oohs” and the least elegant with laughter.  Soon all the competitors were covered with grease, especially the ones who clung to the pole after their initial slip.  In the end, someone managed to flail and twist his way to a victorious dive at the flag, and the crowd went wild (each person silently thinking that next year they would enter the competition and show how it is done).

After all the fun of the Festival, we had to get back to business with boat work.  We hauled Exit Only out of the water for some routine maintenance.  I introduced Sarah to the joys of waxing 160 feet of hull (we have a catamaran, which doubles the length of everything) while Mom worked inside and Dad painted the bottom.  Seven intense days later, Exit Only was ready to go.

Sarah and I managed to squeeze in an excellent adventure from Finike.  We took a bus ride over the mountains to get to the backpacker town of
Olympus, home to the Chimaera Flames.

Thousands of years ago, ancient Greeks discovered a mountainside where naked flames leapt inexplicably from the earth.  Since they didn’t have the Scientific Method, they did the next best thing and made up a story (I tried this in biology class with less-than-spectacular results) about a fire-spewing beast called the Chimaera who was imprisoned beneath the mountain by a hero named Bosephius (hey, it could happen).

Another legend purports that these flames were the source of the original Olympic Eternal Flame (I think the fire-spewing beast story is more likely to be true, but that is just me).

Modern science dispels us of any romantic illusions.  A glowing sign at the gate to the Flames tells visitors the exact chemical content of the burning gases (it seems a group of disgruntled chemists on vacation decided to spoil the fun for everyone with a sort of scientific “so there!”).

Fortunately, as soon as you walk to the Flames the truth dawns: quite simply, the mountain is on fire.  OK, it’s not quite as dramatic as that, but it’s still cool.  Small flames dot the side of the hill like a troop of Boy Scout campfires, just the right size for the well-prepared German guy who brought sausages.

I probably wouldn’t make a good scientist (actually, my biology teacher was quite clear on that point).  I don’t care about the real reasons self-igniting flames burst from cracks in solid rock.  Without a little mystery life would be a lot less interesting.  Long live the Chimaera.

The Turkish coast has proven to be excellent cruising.  It is high season, so the water is rife with charter boats and package tourists, but there still seems to be room for everyone.  The most common tourist experience is found on large wooden boats called “gullets” (pronounced “goo-lets”).  Gullets hold between 15-20 passengers and offer a variety of cruises ranging from daytrips to weeklong tours.  There are hundreds of them out here, but they pretty much mind their own business.  Occasionally a gullet captain is overly optimistic about how close he can safely anchor to us, but otherwise, no worries.

Unfortunately, gullets are all-too-willing targets for the ubiquitous Water Sports Guy.  You know who I’m talking about: He’s the guy who shows up on a jet ski and circles around your romantic dinner cruise for an hour until you hurl your cheesecake platter at him like a discus…he’s the guy who doesn’t realize that water skiers and snorkellers are a bad combination.  In Turkey, he’s the guy who pulls up to every gullet in the anchorage dragging a banana boat.

One unusual bonus of cruising Turkey is the opportunity to snorkel underwater ruins.  Over the years, earthquakes turned waterfront property along the coast into a miniature Atlantis.  Swimming past pottery shards, foundation stones, and rock walls makes me feel like a real explorer.

In conclusion: cruising rocks.

My best efforts to write and record on the open
seas are laid bare for your listening pleasure....

Click here - March the Unafraid (it's danceable!)
Click here
- Carousel/Move to Sever
Click here - Sarah's Song
Click here - One Less Kangaroo (just the song)
Click here - One Less Kangaroo (with explanation)
Click here - Picasso

Greased Pole at work

The Pole scars another ego for life

That's a lot of hull to wax

Boat yard kitten rescuing me from work

Dad searched in vain for a kitten to rescue him
(this is why I use cologne that smells like catnip)

The Chimaera lives!

Sarah's first foray up the mast
YAAAAAAAAAAY Sarah!  You rock!

Lycian sarcophagi

Mom won't snorkel with me anymore

Sarah in a covered walkway built for an albino
princess' daily walk from the castle to the beach.
Modern umbrella technology has rendered
such structures obsolete.

Filming atop the covered walkway

Hydrofoil ferry

Megayachts pay 100 times as much
to go the same places as the rest of us.
It's a crazy world.

The film crew

Gullet with a built-in waterslide

Quick!  Where's the cheesecake platter?
(you'll understand if you read the journal entry)

Herb, the Chimaera's slightly-less-famous brother,
is imprisoned beneath this town.
(Herb doesn't do flames)

This web site is a companion to Outback and Beyond.com.