Samos / Ephesus / Pamukkale

Samos was the final step­ping stone into Turkey, our after­noon there mem­o­rable only for time spent with Spy­ros, our malev­o­lent taxi dri­ver, whose idea of safe­ty was to fin­ger his beads wher­ev­er con­ven­tion­al wis­dom might have sug­gest­ed brakes. It was good only in so far as – as my life flashed before my eyes – I was able to revis­it the high­lights of my trip with­out hav­ing to devel­op rolls of film, and made an excel­lent diges­tive, help­ing to restore equi­lib­ri­um after a par­tic­u­lar­ly heady souvlaki.

Fer­ry­ing into Kusadasi, it was hard to believe we farewelling Greece for Turkey, about to enter the east­ern most reach­es of Europe. In Selçuk, near Eph­esus, we stayed in a guest­house with amaz­ing Turk­ish food (to match the amaz­ing rats and spi­ders in our room), and close access to the ruins of ancient Eph­esus. It was also the place we met Dieter, a stoned fifty-year-old Zim­bab­wean, whose girl­friend was a preg­nant Thai dwarf. He was also an ex-tourist oper­a­tor, and had lived exten­sive­ly in Turkey, and he helped plot the next stages of our Turk­ish delight.

Hav­ing loved Eph­esus (in the scorch­ing heat), our next stop was Pamukkale, site of the Hier­apo­lis ruins, and, pop­u­lar­ly, a series of hot springs, per­fect­ly arranged for Ger­mans to swim around sunken Roman ruins in biki­nis. Our first long Turk­ish bus ride was an expe­ri­ence in itself, the land­scape so var­ied as to be con­stant­ly fas­ci­nat­ing, from the insane­ly rugged to the spec­tac­u­lar­ly green and abun­dant. Equal­ly fas­ci­nat­ing was the cus­tomer ser­vice. A bus tick­et (very rea­son­ably priced) includ­ing fre­quent water­ing, and, for the sweati­er and smelli­er trav­eller (of which I was nei­ther) a gen­er­ous per­fum­ing, which I couldn’t help but think would be appro­pri­ate for some of the school­child­ren who catch the 461 back home.

As won­der­ful as the ruins of Hier­apo­lis were, and as inter­est­ing as the white cal­ci­um pools were to pad­dle in, the high­light of our time in Pamukkale (oth­er than the scary chil­dren play­ing with knives on the shut­tle bus) would have to be the afore­men­tioned Ger­mans. The weath­er was so hot and the land­scape so bar­ren, it might have been a mirage. They invad­ed by the gleam­ing bus loads, waxed, toned and tanned for the occa­sion, parad­ing around in biki­nis and budgie-smug­glers, pos­ing briefly for a pho­to and each oth­er, before return­ing to their lux­u­ri­ous Star Destroy­er coach­es and dis­ap­pear­ing. So renowned are the hot springs for their heal­ing prop­er­ties that these crea­tures evi­dent­ly want­ed to seize the moment and take advan­tage of their new­found vigour some­where oth­er than the per­fect Roman ruins, utter­ly desert­ed, yet only two min­utes away!