Luigi and Manly Mumford's
Trip to the Eastern Mediterranean
October 10 - 21, 2000

Tuesday, October 10. Seldom do I pay ten million for a taxi ride. However, the ride was from the Istanbul airport to Swisshotel Bosphorus and the millions were Turkish Lira.

At the current rate of 668,000 lira to the dollar, the sum of fifteen dollars, including tip, did not seem unreasonable. At this rate a kernel of corn would cost about 300 Turkish Lira if four ears cost a dollar.

This million lira note is worth about a dollar and a half.
The hotel was large, new, and fancy. Luigi and I arrived around three o'clock PM in the lobby which, though at street level where we entered, was on 9th floor according to the counting of the hotel, which is built against a cliff.

Our room on the eighth floor had two large picture windows joined at a right angle and giving a splendid view of the Bosphorus and Asia Minor beyond.

Naps were followed by a meeting of members of our group of 24 university alumni of Northwestern, Michigan, Indiana, and Washington with Karen Levy of Gohagan & Company of Chicago, the travel agent through whom the arrangements were made. Also present were Nesli, our freelance Turkish guide, who speaks English like an American, and Scott who seems to be a Gohagan apprentice. Hors d'oeuvres were served with good Turkish red wine. Only one other couple represented Northwestern - Jerry and Nancy Spore of Wilmette. Enough Michigan alumni were on the trip for that university to send a staff representative -- a very cute young woman named Li Li Leung, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey.

Dinner for Luigi and me was at very good Turkish restaurant attached to the hotel a 75 yard walk through a light rain. I had lamb, tomatoes, green peppers, and mushrooms cooked in foil. Luigi had mixed grill with tomato sauce with pita. Also crushed bulgar wheat basmati to soak up juices. Very good.

Wednesday, October 11. Breakfast was from a buffet in the hotel with other members of the Gohagan group. Then we went by bus to Santa Sophia and Topkapi Palace.

Santa Sophia was completed under the Roman Emperor Justinian in 537 and has a magnificent dome that was not rivalled for a thousand years. It served as a mosque for many years after the Turkish conquest and is now a museum.

Topkapi comprises many buildings for various purposes, a little like the Forbidden City in Beijing. It includes the treasury in which we saw huge emeralds, one larger than my fist.

We had a large 4-course lunch in a restaurant on the grounds of the Mosque of Sulleyman the Magnificent. Alcoholic beverages not being permitted here, we had a choice of cherry juice or diluted yoghurt as a beverage

The mosque is almost the same size as Santa Sophia, and is still in use for religious purposes. We were previously advised of the dress code: women do not display shoulders or knees. Shoes are left on 3-tiered rack along the outer wall; (this meant unlacing my high-top tennis shoes and the loss of my orthotics for 20 uncomfortable minutes). In the part of the mosque where men might otherwise unroll their prayer rugs, the carpeting is woven in the pattern of many prayer rugs, somewhat smaller and closer together than individual rugs would be. This permits more men to pray at one time than if they brought their own rugs.

Back at the hotel we watched a nearly full moon rise over Asia Minor. Lunch was so filling we supped on salted peanuts, dried fruit and Bourbon with water. Karen had said it was not a good idea to drink the tap water, but that it was ok for brushing teeth . The hotel provided two small bottles of drinking water daily.

Thursday, October 12. We had a splendid buffet breakfast in the hotel's Swiss dining room with others of our group and then were taken by bus to the Karyie museum - an old church with ancient frescoes and mosaics. Then we saw the Hippodrome, where nothing much is left but the race track (that is now part of the Istanbul street system) and a large Egyptian obelisk, old Roman obelisk, and the remains of carvings of chariot races.

Next we saw the Blue Mosque (of Ahmed I) that rivals Santa Sophia and the Mosque of Sulleyman the Magnificent. Here we took off our shoes and put them in old plastic shopping bags that we carried through the mosque, as the exit was on far side from entrance. This time I wore low shoes. Instead of having the usual four minarets, this mosque was built with six. That so angered Mecca, which alone had six, that Ahmed sent Mecca the money to build a seventh. Ahmed's mosque is called blue because of the many blue tiles lining the interior walls. While Western Europe tried for height in Gothic churches, Constantinople built huge domes covering great areas; so, from outside, large mosques' proportions don't convey such an appearance of height. Inside they appear so high that some people believed that the domes were suspended on hooks from the sky.

Lunch was on our own in the hotel sandwich shop -- Salami and cheese on buns with two of their last three bottles of cool beer (Heineken's). Then we took a brief walk through a small park and uphill to a graveyard. Except for the park and graveyard, it looked as though all land in the area is covered by hotels and restaurants.

Dinner was in the hotel's nice outdoor restaurant: Turkish meatballs and garlic mashed potatoes and greens. Moonlight and warm apple crumble with rich ice cream for dessert.

Friday, October 13. We put our luggage outside our room before breakfast; it was gone when we returned, presumably to be loaded onto the ship. Then we turned in our passports at the Gohagan desk. Karen, who had dropped out with food poisoning yesterday, was at the desk with Scott. She tends to talk a good bit, and mentioned that her husband accused her of talking to a pillar for half an hour before noticing a lack of response. Luigi tried to mail a postcard but the concierge would not sell her a stamp and the hotel post office would not open. Perhaps because the day was Friday. Mail boxes are unknown in Turkey.

Luigi and I had pizza for lunch in the hotel's Swiss delicatessen. Our group's bus ride to the Archaeological Museum was slowed by traffic because police had blocked major street near the Blue Mosque. We were told that at noon prayers a spontaneous movement started to protest Israeli actions against Palestinians. Police in large numbers, and with a water cannon, surrounded the mosque and did not let people leave until they quieted down. When we reached the museum we saw many splendid sarcophagi and sculptures; most of our group paid more attention to a stray cat.

Our bus then took us to the Grand Bazaar. This is a huge covered area with hundreds or thousands of small stores hoping to sell jewelry, silver, leather, clothing, etc. There were few Turks and many tourists among the potential customers. Nesli, our guide, had said that, except to buy wedding presents and the like, few Turks go there. The jewelry made much use of very tiny diamond chips as a sort of paving. Outside peddlers swarmed like gnats. Their solicitations sometimes resembled assaults. Once I closed my eyes and turned away, and my arm was grasped by one. I brought my face within 6 inches of his and shouted, "Don't touch me!" This scared him away for a little while.

Finally the bus took us to the pier where we boarded the ship, MS Song of Flower, about 4:45 PM. Our luggage was in our stateroom. The ship left at 6:00 PM.

Dinner was in the ship's main dining room, open seating. Whenever we turned up for a meal, we were asked if we wanted to sit with others. When we said yes, they took us to a partially filled table, or to an empty large table to which they later brought others. This evening we sat next with two very pleasant couples and an attractive woman named Cathy. The very tasty meal was complemented by complimentary good French wine. All the food aboard was very good with much fresh ripe fruit.

The MS Song of Flower, a ship of 8,282 tons, is owned by Radisson Seven Seas Cruises. She holds 180 passengers, and is luxurious beyond my previous experience. All cabins are outside with big windows. All wine with meals is complimentary except that special wines can be ordered for a charge. A bottle of vodka and one of Scotch were on our dresser, but we opened neither. We did open and enjoyed a bottle of white wine supplied by the Gohagan people. Items in the mini-bar were also complimentary, as was a nice bowl of oranges, apples and bananas. And no tipping is permitted. The only things we paid extra for were laundry and a shore excursion that we had not previously signed up for. The staff were mostly young Europeans. Our cabin attendant was in her third year of studies in a German university, concentrating in hotel management. The captain was particularly proud of this ship, and enjoyed meeting the passengers. He had his son and at least two grandchildren on board.

Saturday, October 14. Our morning at sea took us past mountainous coasts to Dikili, Turkey. The ship docked about 11:45 while we were at a delightful lunch buffet. As the ship docked, the engine vibrations made a stack of plates jiggle amusingly.

A special bus took the Gohagan group to Pergamon, where we saw the ruins of a city conquered by Alexander and later left by its king to Rome.

The Acropolis contains the remains of Temple of Hadrian (right) and of an older 200,000 volume library that rivaled Alexandria's.
Because of this rivalry, we were told, Egypt refused to sent more papyrus to Pergamon; consequently Pergamon started using sheep and goat skins to write books on; "parchment" derives from "Pergamon." The best of Pergamon, however, is in Berlin, where, on separate occasions, Luigi and I saw the magnificent Pergamon museum. German archaeologists realized the value of the remnants before either the Turks or the tourists. An impressive hillside theater was not removed and is still where it was built.

Then we went on to Aesklepian, the location of ancient healing center. Another ancient hillside theater was being used for a performance of Japanese drumming. The ancient Greeks did not know how to build theaters with seat rows rising toward rear, so they used hillsides. They still work.

Sunday, October 15. Our ship reached Kusadasi, Turkey during breakfast. Luigi went on a bus tour to Ephasos. I stayed in ship with sore right leg. In time I walked ashore to a local bazaar, like Istanbul's but smaller, where I looked at bottle of Turkish red wine for $5 but did not buy it until after lunch. The label read, "Yakut Kavaklidere, Kirmizi Sek Sarap, 1999. Ideal 2000-2002." We each drank a glass before dinner, and found it red, good, dry, fairlylight with a nice, unfamiliar bouquet. I believe that the Turks use different grapes than the western Europeans.

Luigi saw Ephesus and a carpet factory and had good lunch nearby.

Monday, October 16. Our ship reached the Greek Island of Mykonos about dawn. Luigi supervised the docking process, and it went well. We walked about the old town, observing its counter-spiraling narrow streets, under balconies that sometimes almost touched each other. Some abandoned windmills near the high point of the town are now homes. The island is very scenic; many artists moved here to paint Mykonos. We were told that the buildings are whitewashed to purify rainwater which is collected, and we saw a few plastic jugs or buckets at the bottoms of drainspouts. The sidewalks and streets were paved with flat stones of varying sizes. Some bore barely discernable carving.

In the afternoon we visited MS Diamond, a Radisson catamaran in port nearby. This ship holds 350 passengers, and looked very nice. A Gohagan cocktail party back on the Song of Flower lured us back to our own ship before dinner.

Tuesday, October 17. We entered the harbor of Rhodes (Greece) at sunrise. The island's old stone fortifications run for hundreds of yards near the water's edge. We walked about in the old town; the streets were paved with small fist-size stones set in concrete. The shops were selling much the same stuff as in previous cities plus more, including many sponges. Luigi bought a 2.5 ounce envelope of saffron for 800 Drachmas ($2.06). The pure stamens of the saffron crocus were available at a considerably higher unit price, so we suspect that what she bought was extended; nevertheless, a very small quantity later proved enough to give rice a good saffron flavor.

We looked at a rug store where a woman was weaving in front, but did not buy anything then. After lunch we returned and I bought a Kilim rug 6-1/2' X 4' for $300 - $60 in cash and 96,000 Drachmas on a credit card. It is now in my office. The dealer told us that the white areas are raw silk and the colored areas are wool, all on a cotton web. Kilim rugs are woven, not knotted, so there is no pile. They come mostly from Turkey and Iran.

Wednesday, October 18. Our ship anchored at Santorini, the last of the Greek Islands we visited. A cable car at the boat landing cost $3 per person each way, and was well worth it. Donkeys cost the same, and walking up the many switchbacks along the cliff was free. Luigi and I walked about town north of upper cable car terminal. Shops and most tourists were south. We saw beautiful vistas everywhere over the sparkling white buildings. White buildings seemed piled atop one another. We descended just after one of the boats to our ship left, so stayed ashore for lunch at a small open-air restaurant next to the boat landing. This meal consisted of delicious fresh fish soup and two fresh fish that were introduced to us before they were grilled, plus some Santorini white wine that went very well with them. The bottle bore a label declaring that the wine "discretely caresses the most demanding taste," but it was good anyway.

Thursday, October 19. Luigi got up about 4:00 AM to watch ship go through the Corinth Canal. From bed, I looked through the window at illuminated cliffs that were very, very close.

After breakfast, Luigi went on a ship's tour of Delphi, including a museum and ruins. Her group had an excellent guide.

The ship returned through Corinth Canal in the late afternoon, when both of us saw the narrow passage that larger ships could not have negotiated.

We had dinner with Gerry and Nancy Spore of Wilmette, the other Northwestern couple. He had gone to N.U. and she to Radcliffe.

Friday, October 20. After breakfast we disembarked in Pireaus and took a taxi to the Hotel Attalos in Athens. I had located this hotel in an Internet guide to Athens. Our driver was born in Chicago, but had been living in Athens for over 40 years. He spoke ill of the Attalos, saying it was a sex hotel, not suitable for families, and tried to steer us to Hotel Minoa. The guidebook had said that taxi drivers were likely to do this because hotels give them commissions, so we did not follow his recommendation. The hotel turned out to be a delightful, very clean and freshly painted, family operated establishment with a pleasant staff. Our room (which cost fifty dollars) was very small, but large enough, and the tiny elevators lacked interior doors.

The top (seventh)floor held a roof garden with an enclosed bar and gave an excellent view of the Acropolis, including the Parthenon which was full of scaffolding for a restoration project.

A walk before lunch took us past a large fenced area where the old Agora was being excavated and restored. Then we ate lunch at Monastraki outdoor restaurant: Greek salad of tomatoes, onions, cucumber and feta, and a Greek mixed grill of sausages, gyros meat, smoked meat, three kinds of cheese, eggplant relish, and hard boiled egg. Stella Artois Belgian beer was available in draft and welcome.

In the late afternoon we had an inoffensive red wine in the rooftop bar while observing the Parthenon at sunset. Cloudy weather diminished the drama of the view. Dinner at a nearby restaurant consisted of fried eggplant in much oil and three kinds of gyros: veal, pork, and chicken. We also got into a conversation with five German businessmen at the next table.

Saturday, October 21. Breakfast was served in the in hotel breakfast room: rolls, sweet bread, dense yogurt from a big bowl, plus honey in a small pitcher/dispenser. We went up to the top of the hotel and got a final look at the Parthenon with the sun shining on the east end. On the way down Luigi spotted pile of paperbacks. The top title was "Sex and the Single Camel."

Then it was time to take a taxi to the airport, a 1:45 Lufthansa plane to Frankfurt and another to Chicago, where we arrived about 7:30. En route, we got a splendid view of southern Greenland, all snow and rock, mostly snow.