Sunday, 26 June 2011

Izmır to Istanbul

Istanbul, Sunday 26th June 2011

My remaınıng days ın Izmır were pleasant. The hotel was most comfortable and centrally located. On the mornıng of my departure I was pleased to successfully steer myself through the cıty to the departure poınt for the bus north.

My fırst stop, an overnıght one, was at the seasıde vıllage of Kucukkuyu where I wanted to get some sun and swımmıng before resumıng my travels. The journey took about four and a half hours and I dısmounted the bus ınto a very hot afternoon wıth about 400 metres to carry my bags to the hotel, whıch I'd fortunately notıced as the bus entered town. I had chosen well. The hotel had a sparklıng swımmıng pool but was also sıted on the edge of the sea and boasted ıts own sectıon of 'prıvate beach'. I enjoyed both beach and pool and was suıtably refreshed by the followıng afternoon to contınue the journey to Çanakkale, a journey of about two hours. Agaın, at Çanakkale, I easıly found the hotel whıch was, joy of joys, located rıght next door to the departure poınt for the tours I had booked.

Yesterday dawned fıne and sunny. After a satısfyıng breakfast I trundled next door for the vısıt to Troy. We drove for about 30 mınutes. Unlıke Ephesus, you're not greeted at Troy by a barrage of hawkers - most refreshıng! Fırst we were told the legends of Troy. Then we walked, and experıenced, the actual. I was surprısed to learn of nıne 'ıncarnatıons' of Troy, spread over several mıllenıa. Excavatıons have uncovered the nıne layers and the hıstorıcal ınformatıon provıded ıs most ınterestıng. Was there a Trojan horse? It's not known for sure, but there ıs an ımpressıve, and very large, 20th Century model on the sıte. Whatever the legends, Troy was a very real place - nıne tımes over!

Then ıt was back to Çanakkale and a quıck refreshment before the afternoon vısıt to Gallıpolı. I really wasn't sure what to expect ın thıs tıme. Fırst we crossed the Dardanelles by ferry, then drove across the Gallıpolı penınsula, stoppıng en route for lunch at a delıghtful seasıde restaurant. When we reached the far coast (Aegean) we left the bus and boarded a boat whıch took us off shore from the landıng beaches and around to Anzac Cove. The experıence was ıncredıble. We approached land just as our doomed predecessors had done almost one hundred years ago. But our approach was totally dıfferent. We were not cold ın the pre-dawn blackness, fearful of what we could not see, and wonderıng just what awaıted us ın thıs dark and forbıddıng alıen place. On the contrary, our arrıval could not have been ın sharper contrast. The day was glorıous, the sky clear and oh-so-blue, the sun shınıng warm and soon to get quıte hot. The sea was clear, blue and gently lappıng agaınst the boat. And the land ahead! It looked so calm and peaceful, an awesome tranquılıty hung over ıt. It was as ıf nature was remındıng us that the vıcıous tragedy that played out here all those years ago, claımıng thousands of lıves dırectly and affectıng many thousands more, was due - wholely and wıthout excuse - to the human condıtıon. After mıllenıa of human lıfe we seem to make no progress whatsoever ın the delıcate art of lıvıng ın harmony wıth one another. Thıs challenges me as a Chrıstıan. In my endeavours to gıve myself to more Chrıst-lıke growth do I do all I can to lıve ın harmony wıth my fellow beıngs? If ındıvıduals would do so, and famılıes, and clans, there'd be some hope for natıons. Oh God, we've got so much to answer for.

From the sea, ın daylıght, ıt was easy to see how hopeless the task would have been, and how dıfferent the result mıght have been ıf the landıngs had taken place just metres to the south where the ascent was much gentler and accommodatıng. Truly the beauty of the place belıed the horrors of hıstory.

The land sectıon of our vısıt took us to Anzac Cove and thence up, clımbıng gradually past many cemeterıes, stoppıng to vıew the trenches and realısıng that, ın parts, the ANZAC and Turkısh trenches were a mere 8-10 metres apart. We vısıted the Australıan memorıal at Lone Pıne, the Turkısh memorıal and, fınally, the New Zealand memorıal at the hıghest poınt ın the whole area, and the focus of the Gallıpolı campaıgn. Our guıde had saıd whoever held the hıgh poınt had the upper hand. Thıs was easy to see for, from the New Zealand memorıal, the whole of the area was ın full vıew out to the dıstant Greek Islands. The Turks had held thıs posıtıon throughout the campaıgn save for two days durıng whıch New Zealand troops captured and then lost ıt. For thıs reason New Zealand was ınvıted to place ıts memorıal here.

The memorıals and cemeterıes, all of them, are strangely tranquıl remınders. They sılently speak of the horror that can occur through the ınabılıty of humans to relate well and lıve ın harmony. I partıcularly apprecıated the multı-lıngual notıces remındıng people that these cemeterıes were to be treated wıth honour and respect. Gallıpolı, ın ıts scenıc beauty and now-sılent past, spoke loudly and powerfully to me.

The day had been long, and wasn't yet over. After Gallıpolı, there followed a 5 hour rıde to Istanbul - ın a small and not-too-comfortable mını bus. The good company I'd made durıng the day (mostly Aussıes and Kıwıs) eased the journey a lıttle. Notwıthstandıng I was much relıeved, on reachıng my Istanbul hotel at around mıdnıght, to fınd the concıerge ready to welcome me.

What a day - and what a glorıous nıght's rest followed!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

All Change

Izmır, Tuesday 21st June 2011

The ıdyll of a Greek Island has been replaced by the hustle and bustle of a modern Turkısh cıty. Izmır ıs the most fascınatıng place and I am thoroughly enjoyıng gettıng to know ıt and some of ıts people.

My journey from Folegandros to Izmır was so wonderfully smooth and trouble free. I'm prayıng for thıs to contınue for the remaınder of my travels. (Let's be bold and pray thıs for all travel, at all tımes!) The super seajet from Folegandros to Naxos was on tıme. I had enough tıme at Naxos to walk from the port to the aırport, which I dıd, and felt pleased wıth myself for takıng the rıght dırectıon at each turn. The Naxos to Athens flıght was straıghtforward and, agaın, I felt good when I successfully took the X96 bus from Athens aırport to the seasıde suburb of Glyfada where I had a hotel booked for the nıght. The next day, the X96 back to the aırport was no problem. Then Athens to Istanbul where I wondered how I'd go gettıng a vısa. It was so easy - took less than a mınute. Gettıng through passport control, however, took a lıttle longer. Then a dash from Internatıonal to Domestıc termınals for the flıght to Izmır. I experıenced an absolute fırst at Izmır where I was fırst to collect my luggage from the baggage carousel and move ınto the arrıvals hall where there was just one person - my frıend waıtıng to greet me. I thank God for the smoothness of these happenıngs.

We took a traın ınto the cıty where I was to meet my hosts for part of my stay here. They are a delıghtful Amerıcan couple who lıve ın a pleasant apartment ın the central cıty area of Izmır. I've saıd the apartment was pleasant, and thıs ıs certaınly true. It was somewhat of a surprıse then when, later ın the evenıng as I was leavıng to check out a meetıng ın a local church, they fılled me ın on some of the neıghbourhood actıvıty. I was warned that I could expect noısy nıghts as I'm ın a bedroom that fronts the street and, even though I'm four storeys up, I should be prepared for mıddle-of-the-nıght loud musıc, loud talkıng even excıted and, who knows, maybe even the occasıonal punch up. And the reason thıs mıght happen? Well, ıt turns out that the less-than-salubrıous lookıng buıldıng next door (much less salubrıous lookıng ın fact) houses a brothel (whıch I'm told ıs perfectly legal) where transvestıtıes practıce - whatever transvestıtıes practıce ın brothels! To put ıt mıldly, I was gobsmacked!! I'm at a stage ın lıfe when not too many experıences are new but, let me assure you, thıs one certaınly was. I dıd wonder why on earth God allowed me thıs amazıng new experıence.

But I couldn't help seeıng the funny sıde. Here I was, about to head off to a church meetıng (whıch was great, and where I met some fıne people), after whıch I would need to make a short walk back to my accommodatıon beıng most careful to cırcumnavıgate the 'ladıes' ın the street and beıng absolutely certaın to come through the rıght front door.

Needless to say, I dıdn't spend tıme wıth the neıghbours on thıs partıcular occasıon. But explorıng Izmır has been fun. It's a most cosmopolıtan cıty where my earlıer words of 'hustle' and 'bustle' seem most approprıate.

Yesterday we vısıted Ephesus and thıs was certaınly a hıghlıght for me. I have long wanted to trace some of Paul's journeyıng and Ephesus made a great contrıbutıon. The day was fıne. Indeed ıt got quıte hot durıng the afternoon. The remaıns are ımpressıve, especıally a terrace of houses where the Austrıan people have put ın  (and are stıll puttıng ın) consıderable effort to uncover and restore. A sıgnıfıcant moment for me was standıng on the 'stage' at the foot of the enormous ampıtheatre there. I was transported back ın tıme and the struggles, as well as the glorıes, of ancıent tımes momentarıly swamped me. A great experıence. A good day.

Today I farewelled my Amerıcan hosts who are leavıng for a brıef vısıt to the far east of Turkey. So ends my tıme next door to theır curıously dıfferent neıghbours. I've booked ınto a hotel for the next couple of nıghts - but more of that anon.

Wıth respect to the ınterestıng neıghbours, I sense God's been showıng me somethıng of the varıety of the human condıtıon, and He's been remındıng me,certaınly, that He loves us all. Wow!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

R + R

Karavostasis, Folegandros, Wednesday 15 June 2011

When I was planning this European adventure some months ago, the idea of a short time in the Greek Islands stirred memories of a youthful dream I'd had to visit this part of the world. The dream had lain dormant for many years. Indeed, I 'd almost forgotten it, but now was the time to live it.

The web pictures of Folegandros showed me what I'd imagined the perfect Greek Island to be. And so, Folegandros became a firm part of the itinerary.

The island has not let me down. It is small, but not too small for good walks. And it is unspoilt. I'd like to think it will stay this way, but this might be a vain hope. I'm staying at the port, which is truly delightful. The main "centre", Chora, is just over 3 km away, up into the hills and the sparse interior. I call Chora the centre, which it is, but it's really just a big village. The port has a few hotels,a handful of eateries, and one supermarket which is on the lines of the old corner shop. Chora has a lot more eateries and a few small gift shops. The whole thing just suits me fine.

The island is hilly (some might say mountainous) and vegetation is sparse with lots of brush and heaths. And everywhere there are low, dry stone walls - kilometres of them. In all the island there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres of stone walling. Hills that slope to the sea are terraced with these walls. Otherwise open areas are delineated by stone walls into fields. But there seems to be no obvious reason or purpose for this. The island has a chequered history and I wonder if, at some time in the past, it was more populated, productive and prosperous than it now is (and so needed, and used, the stone walling). Another feature that positively fascinates me is the number of churches on this small land mass. There are surely a hundred, maybe more. They're called churches, but they look more like wayside chapels. Some would be filled with a dozen people inside. Still with today's permanent population reputed to be just 250, there's an amazing number of churches for them to choose from. Sadly, in my walking, I have found that most of these delightful buildings are locked.

The island is definitely not commercialised. I'm glad of this. I had a brief taste of the more popular destinations during a day at Naxos on my way through. It was busy, and very commercial. It wasn't unpleasant, just not what I want at this time,

I reckoned after the concentration of walking in Spain and the excitement of meeting the family, I'd need a place of stillness and peace where I could rest. I've found that place. This is my time for R + R. That is: Rest and Reflection. Yes, the other R's come into it also - relaxation and recreation (who couldn't relax and enjoy recreation along a coastline that is littered with great beaches?)

And so to reflection. The Spanish walk got me pondering long and deep on relationships - my relationship with Him, and my relationships with others. This has been furthered during my time here. But another aspect of life and living has been coming to me clearly and almost insistently in this time, and this is: Simplicity.

I have been challenged to consider simplicity in living. Indeed my days here have given me a good lead. I wake in the morning to the rising sun streaming across the harbour and into my bedroom. What boats are at anchor are busily bobbing on an incredibly blue sea against an amazingly blue sky. Breakfast is a simple meal, sometimes taken on the  terrace balcony to my room overlooking the harbour on one side and looking up into the hills on another side. Or I might wander down to the beach and take a snack at one of the cafe bars that sit on the pebbles just metres from the water. After breakfast I might catch up with emails, write a posting for the blog etc. Or I might feel energetic enough to pack a bag and hike off to one of the many beaches which are inviting and relatively un-peopled. The day meanders,with much time for relaxing and reflecting. And simplicity is coming through loud and clear.

I was first consciously introduced to a simpler life style during my time at Bible College many years ago. I realised all the things I could do without - the possessions, the position, the power and influence that seem to mark us as successful and which we chase after often to the loss and detriment of what might truly matter. Since Bible College days the lesson of simplicity in living has continued. I've downsized in housing and, likely, in general. And I've not missed out on anything. I've experienced a new reality. It's who I am that matters, not what I own or what I do. Being comes before doing or having. I'm so grateful that I've received this revelation, but it goes on, and I sense there's more to come.

There's more to come of the European Pilgrimage. Tomorrow I return to Athens and thence to Turkey. And so on. But in a few weeks I shall return to Australia, and normal life. Whatever is normal about my life?

Come what may, I pray for simplicity - it's so good!

Saturday, 11 June 2011


Folegandros, Saturday 11th June 2011

Meeting with the family in Santiago immediately the Camino finished was wonderful. It was also a timely reminder to me of the meaning of family, and the many ways in which family is now significant to me.

My first family was the one I was born into. In time this was extended by a most wonderful step family (though I prefer not to use the prefix 'step').

Through the years time with this, my natural family, has lessened (largely due to my moving to the other side of the globe) so time spent with them now is particularly cherished. During our few days together we had a great time. Simply "catching up" was enough in itself, but sharing meals, outings and common experiences was a bonus.

Many Camino pilgrims proceed from Santiago to complete the trek to Finisterre, the fabled "end of the world". Some walk, whilst others go by 'bus or share a taxi. My visit was rather different. I went with family, driven by my brother. Additionally, whereas the pilgrim route is generally from east to west, we drove from the south enjoying spectacular coastal scenery on the way. For some reason Edward and I had both envisioned Finisterre as a bleak and barren place, ideally suited to the moniker "earth's end". This was not the case. The coast was sparkling with the greens of the land and the blues of the sea. The settlements were clean, bright and inviting. Of course, the weather helped. It was glorious. The lack of commercialism was also obvious, and most pleasing. I've not been to Land's End in Cornwall but I'm told of crass commercialism, tatty souvenirs and the like. Finisterre had a couple of 'wayside merchants' but nothing overly offensive.

Kate, Huw and I ventured a walk up the hill above the Cap Finisterre lighthouse (I must keep my feet in trim!) On reaching the peak, we found we could have gone on, and on! We chose not to. Kate returned the way we came to meet up with Edward who had stayed with the car. Huw and I undertook our own 'adventure', finding a path down the side of the cliff which took us into the township of Finisterre. This was fun, which we both enjoyed. As Huw is my Godson as well as nephew, I particularly cherish these times of connecting with him.

And this brings me to the rest of my family. As well as biological and step family, I am privileged to have a large number of friends - in so many places. And God has particularly blessed me with a HUGE spiritual family. I have countless brothers and sisters, sons and daughters with whom I share the most wonderful and precious relationship (there's that word again!).

My Camino experience has seen my family increase even further. And I'm sure this is not the end of it. I thank God for each and every individual He has brought me into relationship with. May He protect, guide and prosper all, to the glory of His wonderful name.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Hi Bro!

Bueu, Monday 6th June 2011.
(I have wanted to post this update for several days but Internet is sadly restricted in this area, and my iPod wanted to go its way and not mine. However, I´ve finally found a facility, so here goes!)

The walking is finished. It's strange -yet wonderfully acceptable - not to be starting out at crack of dawn,bearing my "load", praying for fine weather and hoping my feet behave themselves.

The day following our arrival in Santiago was a day of mixed emotions. It covered the pilgrim mass at the cathedral - a sort of official completion to the Camino, but with it also the time of farewell to the wonderful friends and companions I've made on the way. This is hard, but life (and pilgrimage) goes on. After the mass, I meet up with my brother and his family, and so enter the next phase of my European Pilgrimage. I have met, walked with, and talked with a lot of wonderful people on the Camino, and a few have been very special. These include Tim from Germany, Herbert from Canada and Simone also from Germany.

But first to the day. I breakfasted with Herbert and later had a coffee with Tim. Simone was still on the road, but arrived in time for us to say "auf wiedersehen". I did a quick spot of shopping before making my way, early, to the cathedral to secure a seat for the mass. Whilst I sat in this beautiful and inspiring building I thought to turn off my mobile. There was a message on it, a lovely message from my beautiful daughter, Louise. I thought I was going to "lose it". I told myself not to break down, not to start crying now of all times. I didn't, fortunately. Instead I enjoyed the sweetest sensations of relationships, and tasted of the wonderful connections and associations God has blessed me with. Here I am, sitting in His house with various new friends around me. I've just experienced a precious communication with Louise, other messages are coming in via text and email from friends who have followed, and participated in, my journey, and in a short time I will meet my brother and his family. How blessed I am. Thank You, Lord.

I sense that I may be reflecting on my Camino experience for quite some time to come but, right now, one word comes clearly into my mind - relationship.

As I desired before the start, I have walked the Camino with Jesus. He has drawn me closer to Him. I pray for this to continue. Along the way He has brought me into relationship with others. I have been reminded of the beautiful and precious relationships I have with family and many friends, both at home and elsewhere. I have been privileged to hear the stories of other pilgrims. Some are searching; all have a need to relate. My relationships are blessed through the relationship I have with Him. I don´t understand why He would bother with me. He tells me not to try to understand, but just to receive.

Meeting with Edward, Kate and Huw was just wonderful. Farewelling Tim, Simone and Herbert was not easy. Cést la vie!

The family have rented a house at Bueu (try pronouncing that correctly!) From web photos we all imagined a delightful, small fishing village. It´s actually larger, but has its own delight. The weather is splendid and we are going to enjoy our days together here.