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Middle East Jasmine Dispatch

Anatolia: Spirits of Old and New
February 9, 2000


Icy-slick roads, glorious white-capped mountains, and tiny footprints across the pristine snow-covered valley of Central Anatolia held my gaze. My imagination however was not so easily contained. Instead it soared about in my mind on a magic carpet ride, place to place, from one corner of the earth to the next. It seems as if we've been everywhere together on this Odyssey. And long bus rides provide the perfect opportunity to reminisce on that fact. This particular journey (eight hours from Kutahya to Olimpos) took me back. I thought about the long hot days we spent in Mali basking on riverboats up the Niger (until that rain and sandstorm hit of course). But even that was a far cry from this. Turkey here we come!

This place, Olimpos, however, was not snowy or cold. As a matter of fact, "It's time to break out the bikinis because we're headed to the beach!" But not only that, from what I hear, Olimpos brings it all together, like the energy of the elements fire, water, earth, and wind becoming one and creating the legends you only dreamed of.

"I'll bet we have Olimpos, the home of the gods and many ancient people, all to ourselves once we arrive. This little hideaway will be peaceful and serene, waiting just for us."

I was getting a little ahead of myself. We still had a long way to go before the mountains of Central Anatolia were behind us. But that was nothing a nap or two wouldn't take care of. So I decided to finish reading up on Olimpos until I dozed off. And like clockwork (after nap number two that is) the snow began to fade away.

In no time we were there, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, which boasts some of the most famous beaches of all time. There was a crazy energy that just seemed to surge. Immediately we set out to explore! A great and distant past is in this place; many a pirate docked on these beaches, innumerable kingdoms rose and fell. Now the Odyssey Worldtrek was here to make our mark!

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It may be winter, but we're off to the beach!

Then I remembered why tourism isn't very high in the winter here. It's rainy. But that didn't stop us. Raincoats zipped and boots strapped, Abeja and I set out early in the morning to find the Olimpos ruins. Talk about the sands of time! We were standing on them and I could only imagine the stories they would tell. By noon the sky opened up, the sun shone down brightly and we lost ourselves in an enchanted forest. Our playground was an ancient city that once belonged to the Lycians, Romans and the Byzantines too! Now it's hidden away in a place where the Toros (Taurus) Mountains meet the sea. Not even an eight hour bus ride could have taken my imagination to a place like this. I could hardly believe it was real, or was it? There was something truly different about this place.

After an hour or so we stumbled on a small camp. "These don't look so ancient, Abeja. Someone must be living out here," I exclaimed, excited about my new find.

"No one lives here," said a voice from behind. "Not for some time now. As for me, I'm only passing through."

Will was a researcher studying ethnomusicology. Ethno-what?!? That's exactly what I said too. What it boiled down to was he knows a lot about the various ancient peoples that once lived here, and the music they made. (Ethno: comes from ethnic and ology: means to study something.) The really cool part about it all was that Will was our age. So not only did he have lots of cool things to share, he didn't mind doing it over a challenging game of tag. We quickly noticed that games of tag don't last as long when you're twenty-something years old, as they did when we were kids. So we soon found ourselves sprawled on the ground looking up through the trees, giggling, and trying to catch our breath. The breeze was sweet and gentle.

"It's a summer breeze in the winter," I smiled.

"It's just the magic of this place," Abeja added.

"It's the spirit, the ancient spirits," said Will. "If you listen they'll tell you tales of all they've seen."

Not really sure what he meant, we listened. "Stand up," he said "and face the east, I'll show you." So we all stood up so we were facing the sea.


pristine - pure, uncorrupted by civilization
reminisce - to recollect and tell of past experiences
ethnomusicology - the comparative study of music of different cultures
satarap - governor
emit - to give off
combust - to catch fire
gurgling - flowing in a broken, irregular current with a bubbling sound
coinage - the process of making coins
sarcophagi - old tombs

"The things of nature make up a part of the world that is connected to us in spirit. These things - the seasons, the directions, the elements - have always been with us but over time have become less and less important. As technology evolved we became less dependent on the spirits' signs and in some cases we even grew out of touch with our own spirits," Will explained.

"Our focus changed and eventually that part of our spirit, our connection to life and the world around us died. The Native Americans were very conscious of the spirit of nature and animals, for example," said Abeja.

"Right, you get it! And we can be in touch too. All you have to do is recognize them and off you go into a new dimension of life. Each direction has distinct characteristics, like us. And when you start to realize who they are you'll begin to feel how similar and connected we all are. We share energy, them from us and us from them. That gentle breeze a few moments ago, was the winds thanking us for our company today."

"I know! It sounds crazy but it's true I'll show you! Let's begin by welcoming the East, Direction of the air," Will began.

"Welcome East," we said together.

"Thanks for coming!" Abeja giggled.

"The East is air. It represents free-flowing innovation, being open, and youthfulness," Will explained.

"Like a breath of fresh air?" I interrupted.

"Yeah and childhood," said Abeja. "The East is fresh and new like babies with new eyes, seeing the world for the first time and knowing you can make anything happen!"

"The East is full of big dreams," I added.

"Exactly!" said Will. As each of us began to call on the East the seas started to crash a little harder as the winds began to blow a little stronger.

"The East remembers the Phrygians who became well-known for their artwork and their new styles, and designs...newness way back from about 1200 BCE to 600BCE."

"And what is spring without her song? The Phrygians also developed numerous musical instruments. Turkey's still famous cymbals, and the double clarinet, the flute, the lyre, pan-pipes and the triangle, to name a few."

"They weren't afraid to try new things! I remember reading about their art. While the Hittites concentrated on mostly clay and ceramics, the Phrygians took it a step further. They began to use wood, create mosaics, shape metals, and even carve rocks," I added.

"They were so creative," Abeja continued, "surely they would have been Odyssey Worldtrekkers, or maybe we were Phrygians!"

"You guys ever heard of the Midas touch?" Will asked.

"Yes, of course, why?" we asked.

"He was a Phrygian King, or a lot of the Phrygian Kings was he, actually. Many of the Phrygian Kings called themselves Midas in association with the good reputation Phrygian had earned."

"Wow you're right, Will, and maybe this was the secret to his golden touch!" laughed Abeja.
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Jazzy strikes a pose

"Now you're feeling it, girls, but we can't forget the Ionians. Around the same time as the Phrygians, these Greek invaders started out as refugees - having fled their homeland during the Trojan War. And they went on to build kingdoms that laid the foundation for rulers like Alexander the Great," he said.

"Just imagine!" Abeja interjected, "By the time he was our age he had conquered all of the Middle East from Greece to India. We'd better get ourselves on the ball."

"While the Phrygians developed new forms of art and music, the Ionians developed a new school of thought. The first recorded western philosopher, Thales, was Ionian," I added.

"Alright, you go Jazzy!" they laughed.

We all realized that we had been laughing and playing in the spirit of the East all that time. Now she was flying high, as we raced on. We chased the waves along the shores as they curled up into white foam at our feet. Soon we found ourselves down the beach quite a distance away. This beach was lined with trees and behind it was a valley where two mountains came together. The union was so bright and so green that it was almost magnetic. And as we turned to head towards it Will began to giggle.

"What, what?" we asked.

"You're in the flow! South follows east in the circle of directions and guess where you're headed!"

"Welcome South," we laughed, "welcome, welcome, welcome!"

And without tiring a bit, up and up and up we went. I understood why when Will explained that South is passionate and fiery.

"I'm a lot like the south," I shared, "I know what I want and I go for it 101 percent!"

"You're not alone, Jazzy Lady," began Abeja, "The Carians, whose city was just up the coast in ancient Halicarnassus, were famous for two things and one of them was their great female rulers. Talk about fiery, one Carian satarap, Artemesia I, led a fleet against the Athenians in their war with Persia around 430BCE."

"I remember reading about her in the book Persian Wars, which was written by the man known as the Father of History, Herodotus. It's all coming together now," I smiled. "He was a Carian too!"

Just then we came to a clearing. Will shushed us and motioned with his hand to come and look. It was the things that fairytales are made of - the rocks were all aglow! We had reached the Chimera, where natural gases emitted from the rock, naturally combust when they touch the air.

"You can't help but be creative and cutting edge, when you have the Chimera in your back yard," said Will. "The ancient Lycians who once lived right here in Olimpos used to worship the eternal flames of the Chimera as Hephaestos, the god of fire. And there are a million versions of the Greek myth about the Chimera floating around too."

"I heard that pirates used to use the Chimera's guiding light as a navigational tool to tell where they were. But I thought it was a legend. I never imagined it was real. Now if only the fiery South could tell us where to find the pirates' hidden treasures," I laughed.

Careful not to sit on a combustible spot, we lay on the rocks telling tales of the Chimera.

"I could lay here for hours with the sun shining like this," I sighed.

"A lazy summer day courtesy of the South," Abeja smiled.

"OK, so the East is associated with Spring, the South with Summer, the West with the Fall and the North with Winter, right?" I asked.

"Exactly!" they said.

"Well then what are we waiting for? Let's go meet the West!"

We welcomed the West and following the trail of a gurgling brook we headed in her direction.

"I'll bet you guys can't guess the element associated with the West," Will joked.

"That's a hard one, Will," Abeja mocked, "We've only been following this wonderfully peaceful little brook forever! The West is most like water of course."

"So you feel it now," Will smiled, "You see how it all comes together. Great!"

"When I think of West and water I think of a mother; life-giving, and nurturing, just look around us! These forests are beautiful and full of life. Where do you think they get the nourishment to create these lush greens and lively purples?" I smiled.

"It makes me think of the Lydians," Will said. "When the Phrygian kingdoms started growing old and weak, the Lydians came in and developed Sardis. They brought new life to the region and by 560BCE Sardis had become one of the greatest ancient cities ever known."

"You're right, Will! Their king, Croesus, was a famous coin collector. But not only that, he developed a system of coinage that revolutionized money and systems of wealth forever. Before coinage, wealth was in the land, in property and estates. But that was limiting. When people grew in wealth they found that the land they owned was distant and often grew out of their control. Coins meant you could accumulate wealth in one place, like in your pocket for example. This was a revolutionary idea at the time. It consequently made Sardis a business and commercial trade center," I added.

"Did you guys notice that this brook kinda follows the path of these ruins?" Abeja asked as we continued alongside the old water channels.

We all agreed in spirit, I'm sure, though no one really said much else. We just continued contentedly along through the forest, each of lost in our own thoughts. Some trails led to paths which would dead end at sarcophagi. That meant the original ancient road used to lead to that place. So we would turn back and try the next path. Every one took us to a new place. We discovered more and more ruins; from what used to be homes, to theaters, and an extraordinary water channeling system. We uncovered an entire city beneath the trees, which now called the otherwise deserted ruins home. It was awesome. Trees were growing in amazing shapes and directions, wrapping around age-old stones coming to reclaim the mountainside.

"Hey guys we're headed North now and we didn't welcome her," Will broke the silence.

"We're so deep in the forest, how do you know?" I asked.

"That's just it," he said. "We're deep in the forest, lost in the wonders of nature. North is the direction associated with the earth. North is wise, and knowledgeable, deep and dark."

"North must be introspective too, did you notice how quiet we were?" Abeja added.

"Wow, you're right," I smiled. "I have a lot of the playful springtime East in me. It was nice to think deeply about things for a while. I noticed even the tiniest flowers as we walked. Everything has its purpose and I felt that connection!"

"There's an especially heavy energy here, just look at where we are. These ruins were ancient Roman and Byzantine structures. The Lycians were the first to establish kingdoms here but over time things evolved and different nations came into power. The Romans came at around 129BCE and the Byzantines, beginning in 330AD. They had to have recognized the awesome power of this region. That's why most of what you see now are ruins of what they developed on top of the places pioneered by their Lycian forefathers."

He was right. There were crosses on what used to be old door seals. That meant the building was a church or the Bishops house. It was amazing to think that people actually lived here. We walked on and on listening to the stories of the fallen rock. Cracked sarcophagi told us how pirates had once raided their tombs. The theater walls and seats told of grand plays and performances. Puddles of water in the middle of paths told of great earthquakes that opened the ground in places that were not open before. It was a magical time that seemed to be nearing a close. I felt things winding down and noticed that things were beginning to look familiar. Not to mention, there were no more directions. And sure enough, there we were back in the clearing where we met.

Again we sprawled out over the ground, looking up through the trees, spent from an unbelievable journey.

"Thanks for coming," we thanked the directions. And against the cool breeze the trees rustled softly, the waves crashed gently and lulled us all to sleep.

But wait, it's not over yet...

"Up, up, up, you go Jazzy!" giggled Abeja. "It's time to go."

"OK," I rubbed my eyes. "I'm ready."

"No you aren't. You have to put your book away and get your things together. This isn't the last stop and this bus will keep going with you on it. I know you don't want that. Olimpos is just around the corner. And we're almost there!"

"What?!?" I jumped up, "bus, but Olimpos...we were there...wait a minute Abeja really."

"Whoa, that must have been a good book, or an even better dream. But come on Jazz, we have one more bus to catch. Then you can tell me all about it," Abeja explained.

"Abeja really, it wasn't a dream...I mean it didn't feel like a dream it was so real! The Lycians, and the Phrygians, they were all there...and the seasons told me about the directions...I mean it all came together, it was beautiful," I sputtered.

But there was no use. I couldn't manage to utter a single coherent sentence.

"Yeah, I know. It's all in the book you're reading, Jazz. And if you don't get your pack, we're never gonna get to find out for ourselves," said Abeja.

So I got my pack and sat down on a bench to watch both of our packs while Abeja went in search of our next bus. I remembered everything so clearly.

"But could she be right?" I wondered. "I did see pictures of Olimpos in the book and, I was reading it before I fell asleep."

"That's deep," is all I could say, as I sighed, still a little tired from my great dream adventure.

"So, you all right lady?" Abeja smiled.

"I suppose," I replied.

And with that we were off and on our way to...Olimpos? It was an hour ride from Antalya to Olimpos. And I read the entire time, trying to figure out if Olimpos would live up to my dream. I honestly couldn't tell. And in a weird way, it left me kinda sad inside. Abeja noticed that I was quiet and inquired. But there was no way I could explain.

It was dark by the time we made it to Olimpos so we began the descent to the village from the main road by foot. There were no more dolmus mini busses running at this hour. The air was still and peaceful, quietly calm and vaguely familiar, but I paid it no mind. My mind was still on my dream.

"Guess what?" Abeja smiled quietly. "It's funny the people you meet. We're Worldtrekkers and I didn't think anyone had us beat. But when I was buying our tickets for the second bus I met a really cool guy. He is traveling and doing some independent study thing. He might even come down to Olimpos tomorrow. Hopefully, if we head out to the ruins, he'll bump into us somewhere."

"That's nice." I replied.

"I think his name was Will. He was playing a weird little violin for everyone while we all waited in line. Did you hear us all laughing?" she asked.

"Will!" I exclaimed. "Violin! No, that's impossible! And did you say he was doing independent research?"

"That's what he said," Abeja replied with a confused frown. "I don't get it."

I was so thrilled that I jumped around in giggles. "He's an ethnomusicology major," I sang, "And you're right, we will see him tomorrow!"

"What?" Abeja asked, "He's an ethno-who? And what makes you so sure we'll see him again, there are a million places he could be?"

Just then it began pouring rain. So we raced to the bottom of the hill to take cover. And like clockwork, a small car buzzed around the corner. The driver had just enough room for two Trekkers and so graciously gave us a ride. He said he had a small hotel where we could stay. But I only smiled.

"The other pensions are closed for the winter," he said, "and I am coming home late from the city. This is your lucky night," he smiled.

"You can say that," I said. "But I think we're just in the spirit."


p.s. - Please e-mail me at

Abeja - The Head of a Lion? The Body of a Goat? The Tail of What?!
Andrew - Turkish Torture
Kavitha - Seeds of a Revolution
Monica - The City Mouse and the Country Mouse

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