Thursday, July 8, 2010

Spoon man...

Ersan and the kids

We had arranged for a driver, and not just any driver, either. Ersan, who we'd met in Istanbul, a smallish, tidy man with sly wit behind his spectacles and an overwhelmingly conservative driving manner who is also something of a celebrity driver. Many of his jobs entail carting around journalists and the media, especially those from Al Jazeera.

He was generous with us, the verdict stated a few days in that we were different to drive around than the news folks, and at least we never fretted about the light or the angles or tried to make him drive 360 degrees around something we wanted to film, regardless of the roads.

This was being generous as, on the day of the comment, we'd had a particularly loud and cranky child who wasn't afraid of expressing herself, loudly, repeatedly, and in the enclosed vehicle. We also had to pull over for pee stops. Ersan remained calm and agreeable, and was good at shooing away agressive sellers of various and sundry goods at tourist stops.

And he parked the van. I think I'm an OK driver, but if there was a Special Olympics for parking...yeah, I still wouldn't qualify for a medal. And I think everyone gets a medal at those events.

So, with not having to get a rental car, not having to worry overmuch about other Turkish motorists, not having to deal with (or at least be responsible for) getting lost, let me tell you, Ersan was worth every penny.

Our first day with him was a half day, so, after a leisurely breakfast in the sun, enjoying the extra cup of coffee, and relaxing in that way you can only achieve on vacation with not a damned thing to do, he came to the gate at noon and we traipsed after him into the maroon Mercedes and down the winding valley road to the nearby town of Selçuk.

On the way we saw a turtle making its slow but purposeful way across the road but we didn't see it soon enought to justify stopping to investigate closer.

Lucky turtle.

We kept an eye out for the rest of the trip but apparently the word had gone out and our shelled friends timed their crossings to not coordinate with ours. Ersan tried his best not to look incredulous at the "stop for any and all turtles" request, and nearly succeeded in being quite the diplomat...but not quite.

In Selçuk Ersan parked the van beneath an ancient aquaduct, upon which storks had built their giant nests. He folded in the mirrors and removed the radio faceplate...good to know.

After the massive undertaking of finding an ATM machine that would accept any of our debit cards, He had a suggestion of a place for us to eat, restaurant owned by a relative's friend or some such thing. We found it after walking down a few of the small, pleasant streets, occasionally having to step quickly out of the way for a motorcycle, stepping over cats and HOLY CATS!

No, that's no illusion. That cat has one green eye and blue eye. It's called a Van Cat, and they're actually from Turkey.

Now, Van Cats are a rare critter, originating in the Van (duh) area of the country. They have white fur and are distinguished by those brilliant, differentlyly colored eyes. I had never heard of them before, but that being no excuse, once I read about Van cats they went directly onto the "must-find-and-photograph" list. I had been on the lookout for the unique breed ever since we placed foot in the country, and believe me, there are a lot of cats in Turkey.

So, Colleen and I, the two shutterbugs, having spotted not jsut one but three Van Cats, went a little nuts chasing after these felines to try and secure photos. Little cat hunt instead of big cat hunt, but quite satisfying nevertheless. The cats seemed to know we were trying to get photos and perversely made it as difficult as possible. The ratio of usable photo to crappy ones was about 1:35.


Thank goodness for digital, huh? In the meantime we were being as polite as we could to their owner, a rug seller, with impressively overpriced textiles (50 TL, which is 32 bucks, for a small pillowcase?!) whose pedigree he lied like a son of a potato about. I don't mind when sellers exaggerate, but when you flat out lie to me...see ya, cats or no cats.

We ate outdoors at the restaurant, watching life wander by.

This should be no surprise, we ate outside darned near the entire trip. There's something great about enjoying new foods, the handshake of the person who cooked it, and company out in the fresh air.

The beer wasn't bad either. And oh, did it go well with the wickedly spicy charcoal-grilled meat, called Adana Kebab. Lamb, papper flakes and salt. What a fantastic combination.

The restaurant was so good we ate there for dinner too. And I had Adana Kebab again. (Guess how I felt the next morning?) Sellers of various things would wander by, including, more than once, people offering wicker shelves, and also Spoon Man. I read about him later on our favorite Turkish travel website ( and I felt a bit sad I hadn't realised that the spoons weren't made-in-China stuff but all pieces he carves himself from Bodrum juniper wood. At the time I merely thought it humorous that someone would putter along the streets selling spoons.

Shows what I know.

We chased up our meal with ice cream that we didn't need but couldn't resist trying thanks to the interesting flavors offered: among others, chestnut, mulberry, and kiwi. I had fig and walnut. Tasty.

There was a market nearby, selling, well, everything. I loved the farmer's market portion, where, with Ersan's urging, I picked up some strawberries for the kids, and admired the piles of tomatoes, peppers, beans, garlic, eggplant, and pears.

Except for the sock seller, (selling at the top of his voice and doing a steady trade) there was little else that interested me, except, as you already know well, the siren call of the spice merchant.

To round out the day, we extracted ourselves from the town and headed nearby to see the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis.

Artemis has always been my favorite goddess, (yes, I AM a geek. Have we not established this yet?!) the Goddess of the hunt, protector of the wilderness, wild creatures, young girls and childbirth.

Independant and beautiful, fierce yet nurturing, she's a goddess, if one is needed, for all the ages.

The temple was built about 2500 years ago and in its day was a beautiful white marble multi columned Greek building, similar to the Partenon but about 3 times the size. Artemis' temple fell and was rebuilt several times, including one time funded by Croseus (yes, the king synonymous with being über rich) and once burned by the arsonist, Herostratus, for no reason other than to secure his infamy forever. (Even 2300 years ago...wackos and the media. The Ephesians, understandably perturbed, vowed his name should be forgotten but somebody wrote it down, and from this I understand we get the phrase herostatic fame.)

A mighty flood, the Goths, and finally the Christians, also brought the temple down during her history. The last time the temple fell, 1600 years ago, many of those columns ended up being used to build Hagia Sofia in Istanbul. Funny world, isn't it?

I was looking forward to seeing the site of the Temple of Artemis, even knowing that there is only one column left, in the middle of a swamp, and that column was recreated from disparate bits and pieces of marble found on the site.

The column, deemed by guidebooks as hardly worth stopping for, is perhaps overshadowed by the citadel behind it, and yes, it is surrounded by mud and water, even in the summer, but what a peaceful place. Storks, also associated with childbirth, have built their nest on top of the last column to the Goddess Artemis.

I think she would like that.

So, a day of an eggplant Mercedes van, watching for turtle speed bumps, cats with different colored eyes, a spoon man, spice sellers, storks and, to round it out...a Goddess. Sort of.

That works.


Anonymous said...

Just read your post about the Spoon Man and ultimately visiting the Temple of Artemis. Turns out when Eric and I were in Greece (can't wait to read your posts about Greece to compare my notes with your travels, by the way) he had single-handedly decided that when/if we have children, the firstborn would be named Artemis. He didn't quite care that we might end up with a boy either...I didn't think too many other people (other than Eric, that is) would be so into Artemis or the name itself. Wonders...

Natalie said...

Yes, Mike had named Thomas before he ever even met me. No debating that one...good thing I liked the name too! As for Eric, well, Artemis is a wonderful choice, but you know, the goddess had lots of names; Diana, Selene, Cynthia, and Phoebe are just a few of them.

As for a boy, Apollo or Art? :)

Hopefully the blog will get to Greece before we get on our next plane, back here in realtime. (yes, I know what you're saying, good luck with THAT one, Natalie.)

Marc said...

I like the spoon man ;-)


Natalie said...


Me too...the interview with him on the link is great. The "real" Spoonman, about whom you might have heard from the Seattle band Soundgarden, is a real guy named Artis, a staple of the Seattle street music scene and could always draw a crowd downtown or at the University of Washington. A real maverick and quite the protest music performer, once seen, never forgotten. He's in his 60s now.