… A vast, undulating herd of zebra and impala, gazelle, topi and eland, extended families of elephant and giraffe along with resident hippo, warthog, baboon and Cape buffalo. A teeming, writhing, rumbling mass of frenzy and fury, grazing and rutting, birth and death. A moving landscape that creates its own eco-system as it marches ever forward in a steady rhythm across 6,000 square miles of the Maasai Mara and the adjoining Serengeti Plain…
If you are a newbie to the African safari circuit, welcome aboard rafiki (friend) and hang on tight because this is one heck of a ride! Where to begin? If you want the biggest bang for your buck, you begin in Kenya, East Africa, one of the least expensive options available. And since the migration follows the rains, the best time to go is usually July through October. First stop: the world famous Lake Nakuru.
I spend several afternoons at the ruins, taking in the carefully restored relics of a civilization that thrived in the 13th through 15th centuries. The salvaged and/or meticulously restored temples of Ek’ Balam, Coba and Tulum are delightfully jaw-dropping —even from the distance imposed by the ropes that guard them from prying tourists…
Built by the Mayan people on a limestone plateau in the early 10th Century, the magnificent and aptly named El Castillo (the castle) is not only the focal point of Chichen Itza, but looks eerily like the step pyramids of Saqqara, Egypt. And while scholars still struggle to decipher the true meaning of Egypt’s pyramids, the Yucatan’s Mayan culture recorded everything, leaving no doubt as to what mischief was afoot.
Almost twice as big as a full size SUV these babies look huge from water level and there are several coming at me full steam ahead. I don’t know if they can’t see me (with their tiny black eyes) or if this spawning stuff is like a crack buffet to them, but I find myself scrambling to get out of the way so I don’t end up in a head on collision. The giant passes me by with complete indifference; not even a subtle nod of recognition marks my passing.
…When it comes to Ephesus, I’m not just tossing around the word ancient. Established more than 12,000 years ago (that’s 7,500 years before the pyramids, folks!), the biblical city of Ephesus has a long and storied past. Once a major port for ships plying the Aegean Sea, Ephesus was second only to Rome, in size and populace during its’ heyday. Needless to say, prime location and immense riches made Ephesus the target of marauders for eons; from the Greeks to the Persians to the Romans and (even) the Egyptians, not to mention the Byzantines and Ottomans. In short, throughout its’ formidable history Ephesus was continually wracked by war, burned to the ground many times over and decimated beyond recognition by earthquakes (and overzealous home builders).
First mentioned in text more than 8,000 years ago, central Turkey’s Cappadocia region has been a major player in world history for eons. Literally. And while it’s predominately Muslim today, Cappadocia has at one time or another been Greek, Roman and Byzantine, a conquest of Alexander the Great and a sanctuary for early Christians. Encompassing an area of approximately 40,000 square miles Cappadocia is one of the most visually exciting places that I have ever been. Mile after mile reveals a kaleidoscope of snowcapped mountains, lush fertile valleys and fairy chimneys…
Housed in an exquisitely restored, centuries old Byzantine monastic retreat, the Gamirasu Cave Hotel is pure magic – allowing you to step back in time while still enjoying those modern amenities we have all come to expect.
Straddling the mighty Bosphorus Strait, connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, Istanbul is both a commercial powerhouse and a small riverside community. Passenger ferries ply the waterways connecting east to west dodging sailboats, crude-laden Russian oil tankers and the occasional swimmer along the way. Did I just say swimmer?? Oh yeah… that guy was nuts!! Not that there is anything wrong with being nuts.
If you are expecting to see “the Turkey” you first visited, 10, maybe 15 years ago, prepare yourself to be dazzled. Bravo!! Aferin! Turkey… you’ve come a looong way, baby.