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


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


By Charles N. Stevens

The moon, loosely framed by silver-edged cloud, casts a broad glittering path on the bay, the

currents near shore swirling in the moonlight. On the shore the lights of Kusadasi reflect and tremble on the restless sea. We dress before sunrise as we must depart early for Pergamum, a considerable distance to the north.

An early breakfast consists of cold cereal, cheese, luncheon meat, a flat roll tapered at the ends and a pile of Greek olives. Again, we have a nice table close to the large windows where we can look out over the bay as we eat. The same two rowboats bob in the swells close to the hotel, and the sky is still dominated by broken gray clouds.

After breakfast we walk briskly up the stairs to our room. From our balcony I notice that only a few scraps remain from last night’s snow. To the east snow still lingers on the hills, covering the higher ones completely. The leaves of the trees below are still.

We board the bus at 8:00, noting as we walk that, out front, the hotel staff has built a pathetic little snowman holding a little red Turkish flag. Before we begin the trip north, we swing through Kusadasi, past the hotels, shops, a large mosque, the attractive boat harbor and the old fortress. All the people outside seem pained by the cold as they turn their collars up snuggly around their necks and pull their hats down over their ears. A cart pulled by a tractor rattles by with heavily wrapped women on their way to the olive groves. We listen to Turkish music on a tape.

As we travel northward, we move in and out of the snow line. In higher places snow covers the ground between the olive trees, lies in lacy patches along the road cuts or whitens roofs. In a higher pass the snow is still caught in the leaves of shrubs. Near Selcuk over two inches of snow remains on the ground. It lies deep in the orchards between the bare fruit trees, the reddish branches contrasting with whiteness. It clots in the branches of orange and tangerine trees among the fruit and lies like a white blanket in cotton fields Even the sun-loving olive trees bear their share of white. We pass the snow-decked ruins of a castle A hunter with his gun slung over his shoulder prowls the fields looking for game now made more visible on the snowy landscape.

At Pamukyasi heavily bundled school children assemble into orderly lines in a schoolyard. Nearby, brownish coal smoke curls out of the pipe-like chimney of a stone house as a woman works in the front yard.

As we near Izmir, formerly called Smyrna, the snow disappears, and the clouds begin to break up. On the outskirts of Izmir new industrial buildings and new high-rise apartments spring up everywhere, but closer into town older industry crumbles, and “mushroom houses” that seem to go up overnight cover the hillsides. The houses are built by people who have migrated from the more rural areas of Turkey into the city to find work. A large, polluted bay that we are told often smells rotten dips in from the Aegean to form Izmir’s harbor. Junk floats on the water or protrudes out of the shallow places. Ships dock at the piers, and large cranes load container freight destined for all parts of the world. A murky pall of coal and oil smoke hangs over the city, but a large peak capped with snow smiles down on it. Many busses and trucks crowd the city, but cars are few. A donkey hauls a cart of gleaming white marble.

North of Izmir the land flattens out into open country. Near Buruncuk we pass farms, vineyards, and fruit trees with snowy hills in the background. Olive groves and cabbage fields appear along the road. Near here we make a roadside stop. Roadside stops usually sell gasoline, food, and drink. Dolores and I order apple tea, sipping it carefully out of steaming little glasses that look like tiny vases. Two cubes of sugar and a little spoon rest on the saucer. By 10:30 we are on the road again.

We continue the trip north, passing everything from extensive olive groves to smoky steel smelters. At Aliaga, dominated by a huge refinery, over a half-dozen tankers wait to unload or take on fuel. As if in compensation, city workers have built attractive parks and walkways all along the shore.

Past Yenisakran we still see bays and boats, but then we sweep up into the wind-shaped olive groves again. We pass an overturned coal truck by the side of the road, its shiny black coal spilled out over a field. Overloaded trucks, excessive speed, careless driving and roads that have steeply slanted shoulders contribute to many accidents.

We reach the city of Bergama but pass through the substantial city on our way to the hills overlooking it where the ruins of the once great city of Pergamum lie. We bounce up cobblestone streets between old, joined houses that front the road like a long stucco wall. Other steeper cobblestone streets run up the hill on our left side. In an open doorway a kerchiefed woman beats a rug as we pass. We wind up the high hill, passing a dam and a large reservoir. A lack of guard rails on the twisty road makes the ride even more exciting. As we grind higher up the hill, large snow and ice patches appear on the road.

Once at the top, we slowly file off the bus, immediately feeling the bite of the frigid wind. We walk through several inches of snow, the snow squeaking at each step. I take a photograph of the city of Bergama far below. We trudge up a steep incline to the rocky remains of a heroum and two royal palaces. We pass an interesting old wall begun by the Greeks then later repaired by the Romans and then the Byzantines. The wall includes besides the large stones, Roman bricks and an old capital, even a chunk of an architrave. A temple cat, one of its ears badly chewed from cat fights, follows us all the way.

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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