From Kayseri to Cappadocia

 

Turkish truck driver on the road to Kayseri

 

Kayseri is along a historic trade route and is an important city in Anatolian history. It is surrounded by mountains and is important in the history of the Armenian church. We visited the Church of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, where until the year 373 all Armenian consecrations were held. The city has been inhabited since 3000 BCE and lies along the Great Silk Road.

 

Fluffing wool in preparation for spinning

 

On the way to the Armenian  church, we walked through an old neighborhood. I found that there is often something unexpected happening in these situations, and this time it was the woman sitting on the ground beating a stack of wool freshly sheared from the sheep.

 

Children in Kayseri

 

As people saw us gathering in the street, the children wanted to see the foreigners. They were often eager to be photographed and even brought props, such as two live chickens, to enhance the experience.

 

Five boys and two chickens

 

The church was quite ornate, with lots of handpainted and gold surfaces.

 

Ceiling of the Armenian Church

 

 

Alter at the Armenian Church

 

We also visited the mosque and the town, which is well known for its pastrami production. Every meat vendor has pastrami hanging in the shop, and many local dishes include pastrami and white beans.

 

Praying in the mosque

 

 

Pastrami hanging in the market

 

From Kayseri we travelled on to Cappadocia, famous for its cave dwellings and unusual landscape. It is in some ways similar to southern Utah, with the tufa formations reminding me of the spires in Bryce Canyon, yet they are very different. Dogs roam the landscape and the towns – they seem to exist among the people, yet they don’t appear to belong to anyone. In the morning, hot air balloons rise above the landscape as visitors go for rides to see the area from above.

 

Cappadocia landscape

 

 

Triangle, Cappadocia

 

 

Tufa in Cappadocia

 

 

Full moon in Cappadocia

 

 

Town ramparts, Cappadocia

 

It feels so safe and peaceful here that I make photographs well into the night, wandering the village on the hillside that has been occupied  by humans for thousands of years.

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The Anatolian towns of Tokat and Sivas, and the surprise wedding.

The hammam (Turkish Bath) in Tokat

Photography studio in Tokat

Medrasa in Sivas

The silver artisan

The town of Tokat is still in the mountains and has some very interesting relics. It’s simply amazing to think of the centuries that these areas have been occupied by humans, dating back thousands of years before the Christian era.

Tokat

Ancient grave markers

We visit mosques and other holy places, and I’ve taken some time to wander the town on my own and meet people. I am asked to make photographs of people on the backstreets, which I happily do. I am offered tea more times than I can remember, and one man shook my hand and didn’t release it for quite a while, insisting we have tea. Unfortunately, I was running short of time and had to excuse myself.

We left Tokas and drove to a town where Ataturk had a house that he visited. One of the reasons the house is famous is that it is the place from which he sent his wife away, when he finally had too much of her rude behavior. In doing so, he is said to have exclaimed that he could work with all the people of Turkey, but that he could not handle his wife any longer.

Buildings in tokat

As we were walking down the street to visit Ataturk’s home, we heard the exotic sounds of the clarinet-like Zurna and the Davul drum. Think snake-charmer music. As we approached the musicians sitting in chairs along the street, we discovered that they were celebrating a wedding that was to occur the next day. We were invited to hear the music and see the huge pans of food being prepared for the celebration, and eventually we ended up dancing in the street with everyone. By trip’s end, we will have been spontaneously invited to three weddings.

Wedding musicians

Cooking the wedding feast

Women of the village

Dancing in the street

Girls in the wedding ceremony

Street celebration

Village boys

We end the day in Sivas, with its Medrese or school from the 13th century that is now in the middle of town and used as a meeting place and cafe.

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The Riverside Town of Amasya

The town of Amasya

We rolled into the mountain town of Amasya after the political capital of Ankara, and what a change of scenery and mood. This is a happy little town on a river, with quaint wooden houses hugging the shoreline. In some ways it reminds me of Venice and in other ways it seems like Bavaria, but after all, it’s Turkey.

Street scene - Amasya

 

Narrow street in Amasya

Like every other place we’ve visited, this town feels completely safe and the people are friendly without being pushy. Their friendliness is not conditional upon purchasing something from their shop, rather it is a friendliness based on wanting us to feel welcome and comfortable in their country. This is quite refreshing.

 

 

Beautiful Women of Amasya

Due to the warm, dry weather, most of our meals are taken in restaurants that are designed with open-air courtyards. The food consists of fresh ingredients, and depending on the region, it includes either fresh meat or fish. Cucumbers and tomatoes are part of every meal, including breakfast, and the tomatoes have an intense flavor that’s missing in America. Many of our meals have 2 appetizer courses, a main course and 2 dessert courses.

 

 

Dustin Hoffman (?) fishing in Amasya

After lunch, we went to the former mental hospital where we heard a moving concert by 2 young men playing guitar and a traditional Turkish instrument similar to the oud, but with 7 strings.

 

 

Virtuoso

By the way, it may not be evident, but I’m writing this blog as much in real time as possible. That becomes challenging when the internet is not available in the hotel and is tiring when after a long day I start downloading images after 10pm and begin writing after 11:30 or so. Today I am composing and uploading while on a very bumpy bus ride, all the while keeping an eye on my battery level and hoping to finish before it runs out. The challenges of travel!

 

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Political Discussions in Ankara

Downtown Ankara

Ankara is the capital of Turkey, and it is home to many foreign diplomats and embassies. From our Hilton Hotel, the Iranian embassy was just a block down the street. Part of the reason Turkey plays such a key role in the world is due to its geographic location and its tradition of having trading partners such as Iran and Pakistan.

My group at the Ataturk Mausoleum

Soldier at the Ataturk Mausoleum

During our day in Ankara we had a couple of interesting political discussions. The first was during lunch with Dr. O. Faruk Logoglu, a Turkish diplomat and the former Turkish Ambassador to the United States. Dr. Logoglu explained to us the differences between the current government’s philosophy and that of the former administration. Basically, the current government of Turkey is interested in a less secular state and integrating the Muslim religion more into daily life. Since the Turkish war for independence in the early 20th century and the role of Ataturk in creating a secular democracy, this is the first time the country has turned towards a more religious government. The vote for modifying the Turkish constitution passed with a majority the day before we arrived in Turkey.

Prehistoric cave painting - Ankara

Cattle sculpture from the bronze age

In Ankara, we also visited the tomb of Ataturk, a huge shrine which was being visited by throngs of schoolchildren when we were there. Then we went to the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, which has an amazing collection of ancient artifacts from human civilization.

Ankara students playing folk music

Student folk dancers - Ankara

In the evening, we continued our political discussion with both a Turkish and an American diplomat. Mr. Serhat Aksen is the Head of North American Affairs for the Turkish government, and Mr. Daniel J. O’Grady is the Acting Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy in Ankara. Both of these diplomats have had long careers and are well versed in world issues. We discussed many topics dealing with politics, the European Union and foreign trade, and the talks were both lively and enlightening.

University student - Ankara

We finished the day by watching a performance by the Ankara Technical University’s folk singing club. These students gave a great musical and dance performance just for our group, and I was allowed to photograph them. Interesting that we did not see many headscarves on campus.

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Over the mountains and through the fog….

Eastern Turkey landscape near Nallihan

We left Istanbul early in the morning for the long drive to Ankara. On the way we made two stops – first at a motorway rest stop which had an amazing indoor market, and the second was in the town of Beypazan.

Farm workers in Eastern Turkey

Food at the market

The indoor market had most of what anyone would need, especially in terms of sweets. The Turkish people love sweets and there are so many varieties. Many of them have pistachio nuts inside or are made of taffy or consist of dried fruit or honey. The biggest surprise for me was eating a delicious dried strawberry.

Stuffed grape leaves for lunch

Musicians at festive lunch

Everyone danced at lunch

This man is 86 years young!

Some people wore scarfs as a costume in this short play

Beypazan was a wonderful small town with a sculpture of a large carrot in the middle of town. Carrots must be one of the main products, as there was carrot juice available on the street and in the market.

Street in Beypazan

Inside the mosque

We had lunch in a festive restaurant that featured 3 generations of musicians playing traditional Turkish music and offering the opportunity to dance. The 86 year old ‘grandfather’ was quite the dancer, and he took the microphone to sing one of the songs. Later, we performed a play in traditional costume (or as best as we could fake it with scarves).

Prayer beads

The Jewelry shop owners

Shopping was a very pleasant experience in Beypazan, even though I cannot speak Turkish and many people did not speak English. People in general go out of their way to make foreigners feel welcome.

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The beautiful lakeside town of Iznik

The Green Mosque in Nicea

Iznik (Nicea) is a small town that was founded in 4BC on a large lake. In addition to holding Christian ecumenical councils in 325 and 787, there is a tradition of tile making. 16th century Iznik tiles have many similarities to Chinese tiles in terms of color and process, but traditionally they were less expensive than importing them from China.

Painting Tiles, Nicea

Checking a large tile installation, Iznik

Pottery detail in Iznik

We visited the Iznik Foundation and watched the workers decorate tiles by hand. Women carefully drew the patterns on the tiles in preparation for other workers to apply paint and color. The results were fantastic.

Later, we saw the finished products. The Foundation is committed to maintaining the traditional processes of hand work, and the cost of the tiles and other ceramic objects reflect this. However, each tile is unique and the colors and designs are great.

Sample tiles, Iznik

We also visited the 14th century Green Mosque in Iznik and the Roman city walls. The details of these structures attracted me – and you can see this in the photographs. On the way back to Istanbul, we rode the ferry to save time, and being on the water helps to understand the history of this ancient country.

Inside the Green Mosque

Window detail from Green Mosque

Floor mosaic from Green Mosque

On the ferry boat to Istanbul

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The Mosques and Markets of Bursa

Preparing to enter the mosque

We spent the day today exploring the city of Bursa further, both in terms of the mosques and the markets. It was a nice blend of guided tours and time to explore on our own.

Market scene in Bursa

Raw silk being prepared for use

Bursa has traditionally been an important location for the silk trade, and there is a lively market specializing in that fabric, especially scarves. We saw the progression of silk from cocoon to finished product, and there is no shortage of stores from which to purchase a scarf.

Shops in the silk market, Bursa

Fruit at the market, Bursa

Although the silk shops are on the upper floor, the market in Bursa has many other shops on the lower floor. Food is in abundance, as you can see from the fruit pictured above.In addition, farmers grow beans and fishermen bring their daily catch to the market.

Vegetables in red and green, Bursa

Selling dough for baclava

Tomatoes

Fish for sale

The mosques in Turkey welcome non-muslims and allow photography. At times, we have had the local imams speak to us about their mosques or bless us for our visits. What follows are some photographs from one such mosque in Bursa.

Reading the Koran

The Kebab slicer

Waiting for the food to ripen

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The Ancient City of Troy

Canakkale at dawn

After leaving Canakkale and the WWI memorials, we drove the next day to the ancient city of Troy. This town is famous for its place in the Trojan War, where legend has it that a giant wooden horse filled with soldiers was used to fool the guards and win the battle. Homer wrote about it in “The Iliad”, and it’s been occupied by humans since about 3000 B.C.E. In 1998 it made the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and it consists of at least 9 different cities build upon the same foundations at different times in history. We were led through the site by the archaelogist Mustafa Askin, who has written a definitive book on the history of the site. As appears to be common in Turkey, his brother conveniently owns a souvenir shop not too far from the entrance to Troy. 🙂

Stonework for a wall in Troy

Defensive wall in Troy

It was quite amazing to be in the same place as Achilles, Odysseus and the Roman emperor Constantine the Great.

Wall of Troy

A later section of wall, showing the skill of the stonemasons who smoothed and notched the stones for greater stability

After leaving Troy, we drove to Bursa, a city of about 3 million people. Our hotel has a natural spa, with warm mineral water coming from a spring. It was refreshing to bathe and swim in the mineral-rich waters in the hotel spa. While the women went to a different Hammam, or Turkish Bath, the men received a Turkish Peel in addition to the spa treatment. This was a thorough scrub-down and massage by a couple of Turkish men, and it was quite refreshing. The massage part of the washing was so vigorous, I thought the masseuse might break one of my bones, but I left feeling completely relaxed and clean. Sorry, I don’t have any photos from inside the Hammam!

Ramp at Troy leading into the city

A reconstruction of the fabled Trojan Horse

The Odeon at Troy

After leaving Troy, we drove to Bursa, home of the Turkish championship soccer team, among other things. We stopped and saw a performance of Shadow Puppets, all performed by one man.

The shadow puppeteer

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On the road to Canakkale

Domes at the Medical School

We left very early this morning for the drive to Canakkale by way of Edirne, which is quite close to the Bulgarian and Greek borders on the European side of Turkey. On the way, we stopped at the Sultan Bayazid II’s healing center of Bayazit, completed in 1488. This was where students could come to learn the art of healing people through ancient traditions, such as using herbs, music and massage.While there, we were given a concert by a man playing a bamboo flute – the music is said to have medicinal qualities. Performance was great, and I certainly felt better afterward!

Minaret, Turkey

Next, we drove south to the peninsula in the Aegean sea which has the town of Gallipolis, site of a terrible battle during WWI. During the 10 months that Turkish troops fought the British forces for control of the peninsula, there were about 250,000 casualties. Turkish troops were told that they were being sent to die for their country – they eventually defeated the British, who withdrew from the peninsula. The fighting was particularly tough, with the British trying to scale cliffs from which the Turks could pick them off. At the end, Attaturk (Turkey’s beloved ruler of the early 20th Century) honored all of the fallen soldiers, including the British.

Islamic Design

We visited a few cemeteries in the area, and it is an emotional place. It is difficult to imagine how Churchill and Attaturk could send so many young soldiers to their deaths, but that is what happens in war. On the other hand, a beautiful sunset appeared at the end of the day, casting a comforting glow on the peninsula that had seen so much death.

Sunset in Turkey

We drove directly to the town and boarded a small ferry boat (with the motor coach!) to cross the water to the Asian side of Turkey. Canakkale is where we are spending the night after having a substantial meal on the terrace of the hotel. In the morning, we’ll see the famous city of Troy!

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Christian and Jewish History in Istanbul

Guard at the Sultan's Palace, Istanbul

Today we went to the Dolmabehce Palace in the morning. It is an extremely large building built after Versailles in France. The chandelier in the main room weighs over 4 tons and is suspended from the domed ceiling. The sultan kept his family in this palace in the 19th century – today it’s visited by thousands of people each day. Photos were not allowed inside 😦

Grounds of the Sultan's palace, Istanbul

New and old, Istanbul

Then we visited both a Jewish museum and  a Greek Orthodox and an Armenian church. The Museum of Modern Art was also on today’s program, and it was a large and well-aranged space with plenty of light. Some of the paintings were obviously heavily influenced by artists such as Cezanne, Monet and other impressionists, but the more recent work had greater originality. Again, no photos allowed 😦

Church Altar, Istanbul

Portriat of Barak Obama in Baclava

For lunch we stopped at a cafe and loaded up on baclava and spinach pie. Before visiting the churches, I made some photographs on the street in downtown Istanbul.

Aerial Staircase, Istanbul

2 Rowboats, Istanbul

Small Window, Istanbul

Magic Windows, Istanbul

Angular Window, Istanbul

Freedom of Color, Istanbul

We have to be up at 5am tomorrow for an early departure to the Greek/Bulgarian border area!

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