Archive | May, 2015

Istanbul and the Ionian coast

30 May

It’s that time of the year again: bus rides, food disorders, and lots of random people. I’m in Turkey now, kicking the roads by public transport as always. The long bus rides are luxury for my standards: free snacks and drinks, quite spacious seats, and individual tv’s. If you are lucky, wifi. Times are a changing, nowadays buses are like what plains used to be —and plains are like what buses used to be—. The local transport are vans passing every now and then. The eating habits have indeed got totally messy, but also I have been a bit disappointed by the food itself. Let’s say that I have tried better kebabs in Barcelona. Maybe those weren’t really kebabs, or maybe I fell for too many tourist traps in the beginning. In any case, I ain’t lost hope just yet, I’ll keep ya posted on this! Ah and then the people, I am getting to meet many Syrian immigrants, and I can hear about all the bad shit happening in their country more directly. Yesterday a roommate read for us a whatsapp he just got: one of his colleagues was just shot dead by a sniper. He was walking down the street in a city in the north of Syria, he explained. The bad guys just wanted to get control of that street. It’s interesting to hear these stories outside the news. They get you more.

All this began in Istanbul. Super huge city with super incredible buildings in its heart. Not my type of city, I have to say. I like them cuter, smaller, smarter. But Sultanahmed, with its Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Tokpkapi Palace, Roman Cistern, is unique. It’s a must see. Specially if, like me, you have seen dozens of churches before seeing one single proper mosque. 

From the Arabic mosques in Istanbul I got southwest to the greek and roman theaters, agoras and temples. What is left of them of course, mere basements of the original buildings. But you get to imagine the “wealthy” and “civilized” life of the times. The theaters specially are quite well preserved. In Ephesus you get to really walk for a couple of hours among  the ruins. Didim is not a city, only the temple of Apollo, but two whole columns are still intact and are quite impressive. Pergamon, Priene and Miletus are much less crowded, and you get this sensation of discovering by yourself as you walk. As a scientist with a growing interest in history (of science) and philosophy (of science) I was specially interested to learn more about these greek cities. In these places the first (western) philosophers, scientists in a sense, were born. I admit this interest is quite new. When they explained me that Thales of Miletus teached that everything was made of water I thought, who cares, we’ve known about atoms for a while. Bad attitude I know. Also I was missing the point. It’s not that they got it right or wrong, clearly they got it wrong. It’s that they were the first to reflect about the nature of things without adjudicating everything to the gods. This they got it right, and as a scientist I appreciate this a bit more now. It was exciting to be there and to discover a bit more about  those places and times.

All these ruins are spread in the west coast of Turkey, the Ionian coast. When leaving it I stop in the famous terraces of Pamukkale, made  of calcite deposits of running water. One gets to walk in muddy white waters, sunbathe, and drink water full of minerals. It’s all very natural and my mom would love it, but it’s not going to be my highlight. The bus to my next stop, the south of Turkey and the Lycian way, is not a bus, is a van and is overcrowded. I don’t really care, I put my headphones and finish “The Martian”,  fastest audiobook I’ve ever listened to. The book is super addictive and you get to learn a lot about space travel. This is Rover rides, Martian food, and lots of very smart people.