Electronically Serving Monterey Park, Alhambra, San Gabriel, & Rosemead


This is the fourth in a series of articles about a trip to the interesting country of Turkey.


By Charles N. Stevens

Bundled against the cold wind, we walk the street from our restaurant to the ruins of the Temple of Apollo Branchia built in 400 B.C. and once considered the most impressive structure in Asia Minor. Near the entrance a huge stone relief of Medusa, her hair of snakes almost seeming to writhe, still frightens away bad spirits and bad people. A long crack runs through her face. We look up at twin Ionic columns still supporting a section of the architrave and walk through the ruins of the bases of many fluted columns. The oracle who once resided here was more famous than the oracle at Delphi in Greece. Intoxicated with the vapors of bay leaves, she had cast the fortunes of many famous men who had traveled hundreds of miles for her advice. The remains of the well where she once purified herself and her quarters still exist in the cold, fractured stone. Stiff with the cold, we prowl around the fallen stones and the battered columns trying to imagine what it was like then, yet still admiring the scraps of beauty left behind.

On our way into the ancient Greek and Roman port city of Miletus we pass many more olive groves. More women, bundled against the cold wind with scarves or rags wrapped around their necks and faces, knock olives off the trees with long poles then pick them off a spread tarp on the ground. Only two or three women work in each grove in this cold labor. Sometimes a respected olive tree grows in the middle of a plowed field, the furrows neatly curving around it. Olive trees often border vegetable fields.

Our bus pulls up near the deserted ruins of the theater in Miletus, built in 400 B.C. by the Greeks then enlarged by the Romans to accommodate the enormous crowds that attended their spectacles. We walk stiffly over the damp ground strewn with stones, bracing ourselves against the icy wind. Grass shoots poke up among the stones despite the wintery cold. The huge semicircle of stone seats looks largely intact, the seats along the aisles still bearing carved lion’s claws at their base. Just beyond the seats and taking advantage of the hill necessary to build the theater stands the towering rock walls of a Byzantine fortress, the red Turkish flag on top snapping straight out in the wind. A small black and white “temple dog” follows us around, hoping for a scrap or even a kind glance. The Romans had deepened the stage or orchestra to permit gladiator fights with animals. The higher wall, still plainly decorated with the egg and dart motif, once protected the audience from the lions and other beasts.

Miletus had once been a busy port city, even in Roman times, but the sea now lies six miles away, the estuary long ago filled in by silt at the mouth of the river. Now farmers grow cotton and pick olives where Roman galleys used to sail. Miletus was once one of the greatest Greek cities in Asia Minor, and was the hometown of three renowned Greek philosophers, Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes, none of whom could have understood the Roman excesses that were to follow their time. I hunch up in my heavy jacket and pull my knit cap down over my ears as we walk over for a distant view of the Roman agora and baths, now crumbling. Our guide, Olcay, wears no hat, and her long dark hair blows in the wind.

On the way back, we pass trucks loaded with puffy cotton bales, and watch several hunters as they carry their guns into the marshy fields for foxes, boars, rabbits, and geese. We pass healthy-looking orange and lemon groves, pointed minarets protruding from every village. We speed by the ruins of Priene, another famous Greek city, its remaining columns barely visible among the rounded Mediterranean pines. Stopping briefly at Soke some purchased bottled water and Raki, the national drink of Turkey. Raki is very similar to Greek ouzo which I do not like because of its sweet licorice flavor, a good excuse not to buy any. Like ouzo it turns milky white when poured in water, giving it the nickname of “lion’s milk”.

Back at the hotel we discover that our bags still have not arrived and will not be available until Friday, several days away. Swiss Air makes only two flights per week to Izmir, so we must wait until the next flight.

We begin our dinner with a wonderful spicy soup made of tomatoes, brown rice and peppers, a traditional soup served at weddings in Anatolia. We select a plate of appetizers from a whole table of them. Most are like the ones we had tried the night before, but I sample a new one, one-half of a boiled egg covered with a creamy sauce and speckled with black and red pepper. Our main dish is chicken chasseur, chunks of chicken and vegetables with rice on the side. Dolores finishes with a many-layered chocolate cake.

Back up in our room we watch our bright red television set. We watch Turkish singers who perform in strange minor tones broken with flourishes of their voices. All the while they keep their faces sad and pensive. We understand that the songs originate from the Arabic and are always about lost loves and lost hope.

MONTEREY PARK AUTHOR PUBLISHES 4th BOOK – Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s:

Charles “Norm” Stevens, a 49 year resident of Monterey Park has recently published his 4th book: Seeking More of the Sky: Growing Up in the 1930’s. This is the story of a young boy growing up in Inglewood, California in the l930’s. This was a time during the depression when unemployment was affecting many and the banks were closed, while the clouds of war were gathering in Europe. But he was lucky enough to be raised in a loving family, the power of that love reflected throughout his stories.

Stevens is the author of three previous books about his experiences during WWII:

An Innocent at Polebrook: A Memoir of an 8th Air Force Bombardier (Story of his 34 bombing missions from his base at Polebrook, England over Germany and France)

The Innocent Cadet: Becoming A World War II Bombardier (A prequel to the first, telling of his training in the U.S. before going overseas into combat.)

Back from Combat: A WWII Bombardier Faces His Military Future from Combat: (This book details the time from when he returned from combat in England until the end of the war.)

He is known to the readers of The Citizen’s Voice as the author of Travel Log Articles including “Cruising the Rhine and Mosel”,” Best of the West”, “In Search of Snow” ,  “From Paris to Normandy on the Seine”, and “Exploring New York”.  He is retired, having taught for 32 years, primarily in the Montebello Unified School District.

Those interested in purchasing an autographed copy of any of his books, may contact the author at 323-721-8230 or  Normstevens24@gmail.com.

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