The Black Sea

We flew in to Istanbul’s new airport around midnight and took a taxi to the Black Sea resort of Kilyos. The flight had been tiring, and we fell asleep immediately. It was only in the morning when we went down for breakfast that we found what a charming village we had chosen to spend the night in.

We’d seen this huge stone tower outside the hotel when we looked out in the morning. At the reception we were told that it was part of a Byzantine “water castle”. Looking at the map, I realized that modern day Kylios lies between Istanbul and the area known today as the Belgrade Forest. This was one of the sources of water for Constantinople. So I guess this immense tower is the remnant of a Byzantine aqueduct.

We walked past it to the village. At a cross roads there was a cluster of shops. A knot of women who’d been chatting in front of the grocery store had begun to melt away by the time The Family and I reached the square. When I took a photo of the store front, only the shopkeeper was in the frame. I liked the wooden upper balcony. It looked like the owner of the shop could have lived in the upper floor.

Across the road was a store with fruits and vegetables on display. In this part of the near-west I didn’t expect to see anything really new. It was mid-spring, and I saw strawberries and apricots on display. Along with those were trays of juicy blackberries. Both The Family and I had grown up eating wild blackberries, usually before they had a chance to ripen. The shopkeeper hurried over to sell us a box of the fruits, dut in Turkish. We munched on them as we walked through the village.

The next store was a kiosk with clothes. Modern shops at the western end of the ancient silk road are not that different from those in Xi’an and Guangzhou, at the eastern end. When you examine the labels on the clothes you find that the silk road has come alive again. It was a little surprise to see the Turkish flag flying in the store. Over the next few days I was to see the Turkish flag prominently displayed in many shops.

The freshness in the air and the warm sunlight made the prospect of sitting at an outdoor cafe very welcome. If we’d not just finished breakfast I wouldn’t have minded sitting down. The Family and I looked at the menu and then disappointed the server by walking on.

We turned a corner and walked down a path which sloped into the sea. A bakery was doing brisk business. We looked at the breads on display. The style of breads here are not very different from those in other near-western countries. The baking seems to be done at a lower temperature than that commonly used in the far west of Europe, so the crust is not as crisp as in France or Germany.

It was too early for restaurants to open. Kilyos seemed like a town which is open late at nights, and, as we found elsewhere in Turkey, such places wake slowly. This restaurant seemed to have its menu properly set out in the mural beneath large picture windows. Street art can be so useful! We walked past this menued wall towards the sea and got the featured photo. Small waves lapped the shore; there seemed to be a sandy beach a little way off on one side. The water seemed clean in spite of a nearby shipping lane.

Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to sit around and enjoy the perfect weather and the crystal water. We had to catch a flight out to Cappadcia soon. We turned to go. On the way we passed through an open cafe, and I paused to look at their selection of beers. There were a lot of internationally well-known brands, but one shelf held the local beers. I would get to taste several varieties of Efes during the trip. I didn’t see Bomonti again, and if I have to believe the average reviews, it was no great loss.

As we walked back to our hotel, a Black Sea cat crossed our path. It ran across the path, climbed part of the way up a staircase and glared at me as I paused to take a photo. This was a good sign, the first of the feral cats of Turkey. When we passed it ran back across the street. It had come out only to look at us!

The oldest parts of Barcelona

We had a quick look at the the most ancient part of Barcelona near the Metro stop called Jaume 1. On one side is the busy Via Laietana, on the other, the remains of the old Roman wall. Barcelona existed before the Romans built the fortified town of Barcino around 15 BCE, during the time of the Emperor Augustus. These walls are not visible at street level now. What one sees is the Roman wall from the 4th century CE and later additions.

Barcelona: part of the Roman wallWe walked along via Laetana until we came to the Placa de Ramon Berenguer el Gran (featured photo). The Roman wall has been used here to prop up the medieval Chapel of Santa Agata. The arches and windows that you see here belong to the chapel, which dates from the early 14th century CE.

We walked along the impressive walls looking at the mixture of old stone replaced by later brick filling. Doors had been cut into the wall at some time, and one of these was impressively decorated in the modern street style (photo here). We walked along until we came to the remnant of what must have been an aqueduct supplying water to the walled town.

A longer walk would also have been interesting. It is also possible to visit the extensive archaeological discoveries under the Barri Gotic. We saw the entrance near the cathedral, but, regretfully, had too little time to do this.

In the rest of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona it is hard to tell true history from fanciful reconstruction. The Roman wall anchors you to real history: the founding of Barcino, possibly by the Laietani, the arrival of the Romans a century or two later, and the eventual fall to Visigoths in the 5th century CE.