Too Many Drummers.com
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
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,
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
”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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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!
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
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)