If it’s Tuesday this must be Belgium

Yup! It’s Tuesday and we’re in Belgium.

After getting up at dark:thirty in the morning and getting a cab to the airport, we said goodbye to Istanbul, driving by the Golden Horn one last time.

Our flight to Brussels was just under 4 hours -uneventful.  Once we deplaned in Brussels, got through Passport Control and all the rigmarole of international travel, we caught a train to our hotel.  Riding a train from the airport is always an adventure – made more so because we were hauling our luggage and all the signage looked like gibberish.   

The train was comfy and fast…and it was maybe 35 minutes before we were hopping off. Now, here we are in the Brussels Central Train Station. It is only a 10 minute walk to our hotel but that apparently did not take into account the 40 minutes it took us to find our way OUT of the train station! 
Then, we walked for about 30 minutes, got lost, (dragging our suitcases behind us on cobblestoned streets) ended up back at the train station. Hmmm, didn’t feel like we were walking in a gigantic circle!  
Now its starting to rain….okay, we’re getting a taxi.  But first we have to figure out how to get out of the train station again.  I feel like I’m in a Marx Brothers movie.  We can’t find the taxi stand.  We walk into the Royal Windsor hotel (not ours) and let Eve do the talking because she, after all, has an English accent and it IS the “Royal” Windsor.  Go out the door, in the rain, turn left, take the first left and there’s a taxi stand. RRRIIIGGGHHHTTT. We’re back at the damn train station.
Finally, finally we find a cab.  Success!

We have rooms at the “Welcome Hotel”  This place is a riot and it is wonderful!  Each room has a different theme.  

All Good Things…

Oh, can it be?? Today is the last day of our scheduled sightseeing during our wonderful tour of Turkey.  Before telling you about today’s sites, here’s a story about last night’s farewell dinner.

Our group went to a very tasty fish restaurant for our farewell dinner. Great food, great wine and lots of fun.  Afterwards we straggled back to our bus.

 You know how sometimes you just get an odd feeling about someone? I was walking and got a creepy feeling about a young guy walking behind me, so I step suddenly off to the right, whirled around and stared directly into his eyes. I must have startled him or looked menacing or both (I hope I looked menacing and not just like a crazed squirrel) because he took a wide step around me. I still had that creepy feeling and looked quickly to see where Mary was. She was just getting into the bus

As I watched, I clearly felt what this kid was going to do. Faster than anything I’ve ever seen before in my life, he slipped his hand into Bill Chew’s front pocket and lifted his wallet! Slickest thing I’ve ever seen in my life! And it seemed like slow motion. Bill sent up a hue and cry and I grabbed the kid. If I’d been thinking I would have grabbed his clothes or just body checked him into the side of the bus, but it happened so fast. Anyway, I grabbed his arm, but he squirmed away – whoever he is, he’s got a nasty scratch on his arm.  What we didn’t realize at the time,  was when I grabbed him he dropped the wallet. Whether by accident or because he thought he’d been caught I don’t know.  Ender and our driver (who could easily play linebacker for any NFL team) took off running after him. Holy moley – those guys can run!!  Needless to say, they didn’t catch the kid, but Bill wasn’t hurt and his wallet -picked up by two passing Turkish men who brought it to me – was recovered.  A great ending to what could have been a real bummer for  Bill.

Other than that, we’ve had no issues at all with crime in Turkey and never felt unsafe. Now though I  appreciate my ‘creepy’ radar more than I did.

Now, onto today’s sites… one of the biggies – the Blue Mosque. I’m sure you’ve heard of it because the Blue Mosque is one of the most famous religious buildings in the world. It is because of the (mainly) blue Iznik tile work in the interior that it is called the Blue Mosque. I think the French originated that term.  It is striking.

The mosque was built between 1609-1616 and received a very negative response because in its opulence it incorporated six minarets. This bordered on sacrilege because the mosque in Mecca had six minarets.  This affront was dealt with most expediently by adding a seventh minaret to Mecca. 

The mosque is gorgeous outside and inside. 
Each of those minarets has two or three balconies and I never found out what they’re used for.

Inside the underside of the domes are painted. They used to be stained glass windows but I guess 17th century stained glass didn’t hold up. This mosque was designed with over 250 windows. The domes are beautiful painted though.

It was difficult to get decent photos in the mosque because of the lighting, but I did my best. Here’s a photo of Mary trying to get a nice shot.  


The famous blue tile is found on some of the mosque’s walls (not the ceilings or domes) and it is beautiful.

This abulations fountain (left) is now decorative but the minbar (right) is still used  by the imam during Friday prayers.. I’m sorry that the photo of the minbar is so poor (it is the slanted piece in the background). It is, of course, also from the 17th century and is beautifully carved marble.

The Blue Mosque is an active mosque with regular prayers. It was wonderful to experience it.

 Within walking distance of the mosque is Topkapi Palace. 

Topkapi Palace was the home from which the Ottoman sultans ruled for 400 years. 400 years!  Having only a few hours to explore the huge palace was scarcely long enough to scratch the surface. I could spend several days here and hope that someday I’ll be able to do just that.  There was too much to see and not enough time to absorb what I was seeing and I know I missed 98% of the palace. But I’m thrilled with what I did see and here are my highlights…

The entry to the Palace is called the “Gate of Salutations” and leads to the first of three courtyards.   
The first courtyard is open to everyone, but the others have restricted access,with the third being restricted to the sultan and his family and maybe one or two persons permitted inside on business.

The viziers (or members of the imperial council) would meet to discuss matters in the Divan. It’s pretty clear from where our meaning of ‘divan’ originates, isn’t it? 
There was a room in the upper wall of the divan that the viziers could not see into – that was the sultan’s room. So they never knew if he was listening to their conversations.  
This was the age of beheadings so I’m guessing everyone was on their best behavior.

Because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see everything at the Palace, I had to pick and choose. I chose not to go to the Treasury because jewels are jewels and while I’m sure they were spectacular I was interested in seeing the more unique offerings of the Palace. I found what I was looking for in the “Privy” and, NO, it’s not what you think!

The Privy has some of the most holy relics of Islam on display. In fact, Muslims make pilgrimages to this room. Photos were not permitted so I tried hard to capture in my mind the treasures I was privileged to see.  For me, the most powerful item was Moses’ staff.  The walking stick that Moses carried…the stick that assisted Moses in carrying down the 10 Commandments, that parted the Red Sea.   The other thing I remember most is the Prophet Mohammed’s cloak (mantle). You can’t even go into that room, but you look through an open door into a separate chamber. As an indication of the importance of this relic, passages of the Koran are read live, 24 hours a day over the gold chest that stores the cloak. It certainly added to the atmosphere to have the Koran verses continually chanted while seeing this important artifacts.  Oh,  but I did kind of smile to myself because there were about 20 vials all labeled “Prophet Mohammed’s beard” because it reminded me of how we save the hair from kids’ first haircuts. Interesting.

After the Privy, I went to the Baghdad Pavilion. It was built in 1639 to celebrate someone’s (Murat IV?) capture of Baghdad. Anyway it has gorgeous blue and white tile work.

I also popped into the Circumcision Room – no explanation needed here! 

and to the Revan Kiosk (the Chamber of the Turbans).

The Chamber of the Turbans was built in 1635-36 and is where the sultan’s turbans were kept. Is this like having a separate closet just for your hats?? Anyway, it has beautiful marble decorations and blue tiles and is one of the last examples of classic Ottoman architecture.   

Walking the grounds of the Palace, I saw the Breaking Fast Pavilion where the sultan supposedly broke his fast each day of Ramadan. It overlooks a beautiful view of the Bosphorus and city of Istanbul (though I’m pretty sure there was not a cruise ship in his view!)    

Like I said, I didn’t see much of the Palace and one of the things I missed was the Harem. Yup, harems were for real!  In fact, the last concubine left the Palace in 1909.

 World War I brought an end to the Ottoman Empire.

Today’s sightseeing is over…our tour with SmarTours has come to a close. Riding the bus back to the hotel, different folks departed at different places. Eve, Leroy and Elaine got off at the Spice Market to do some last minute shopping. Mary and I rode back to the hotel, where we very sadly said goodbye to Ender – the guide extraordinaire.

But we weren’t done. After Mary and I had a cup of tea, we decided it would be fun to walk to Taksim Square.  Taksim Square might sound familiar as it was the site of some newsworthy protests in Turkey 3 months ago. Since it is only 10 minutes walk from our hotel we thought it worthwhile to visit.

It is a beautiful city park – in the middle of all the hustle and noise of Istanbul sits a lovely oasis of trees, fountains, a children’s playground.  There is a tea man who walks about with cups and a thermos of tea to sale. Wonderful, shady, green and relaxing.


 It was this little park that incited the demonstrations three months ago. The authorities decided it would be a good idea to replace the park with more shopping.  Oh, just what is needed….more shopping.  You can see why the protests ensued.
Part of Taksim Square is also a large paved square…kind of an big, ugly, concrete pedestrian way and that is where the protesting took place.  Here are a couple of photos of that area as well.


 And with our walk back to the hotel, Mary and I brought our sightseeing to a close.

When Elaine, Eve and Leroy returned to the hotel the five of us celebrated our trip with a picnic dinner in Eve and Leroy’s room. Then it was time to think about packing up…tomorrow morning we leave for Brussels!

What’s behind Horse #2?

We spent last night at the Iris Hotel in Canakkale  – right on the Aegean Sea.


 I have been looking forward to today’s sightseeing more than any other. We’ve all heard the story of the Trojan horse and today we’re going to Troy.

Troy (Truva in Turkish) is the site of the decade long Trojan War (1200 BC) and is the pivotal point of Homer’s lIiad, which I’m reading now. Being here makes the Iliad sooo fascinating!

Troy is actually nine different sites, one built over top of the other, so its timeline is something like 4000 BC to 300AD.  Here is a signpost showing visitors the way to Troy 7B, Troy 8 and Troy 9.  

As you walk around the site(s) you can see obvious differences in the ruins – like how the walls were built for example.  In this area, there are markers right in the ground showing to which Troy the ruins belong.  
The little white squares give the number of which “Troy” that area is linked to. You might have to  click the photo to enlarge it enough to see the distinct signs.

The fact that there are 9 different cities atop one another threw off Heinrich Schliemann. Schliemann, a German amateur archaeologist, was determined to discover Troy, and he kind of did.  Schliemann dug sideways into the “tell” and as a result there is now a huge trench that has caused damage to that part of the site.  That and the fact that once he found a hoard of gold and silver jewelry he was done, makes him either an archaeological pioneer or a sleazy plunderer.
Here are a couple photos of Schliemann’s trench. Actually the one on the right is the road over the trench.


 Its hard to imagine the excitement of the later archaeologists when the depth of this site was uncovered (all word play intended)

 This photo (left) is of homes located outside the walls of Troy.

Below is a view of Troy’s amphitheater. 

 Now, on a totally different note: do you see cat in this photo?  The black cat is a shadow. I don’t know what it is a shadow OF, but it stopped me in my tracks. There is a real kitty on the rock just to the right of the shadow cat.  Weird, eh? 

Be honest now…if you were hiking around ruins and saw this very unofficial sign, wouldn’t you want to explore? 
Yes, of course, you would. Despite the handwritten sign, I followed the path and sure enough it lead me to a cave. Why? Beats me, but it was a pleasant side jaunt, peaceful and uncrowded. 
And here it is! A replica of the Trojan Horse!

Our morning in Troy drew to a close and we headed back to Istanbul.  Our return trip involved taking a car ferry (car, semi, tour busses, pickup truck with gypsies in the back) across the Dardanelles. (Remember the Dardanelles connects the Aegean and Black Seas.) Here’s a photo of the line to the ferry.  
The ferry took maybe 20 minutes then we were on the road again.

At one of our rest stops, this little guy (the cook’s son) decided he’d like to go for a ride on the big bus, too. With all the attention he was getting he wasn’t interested in disembarking. 

Too soon we were back in Istanbul, pulling up next to the TRYP by Windham. Since this was our original hotel it was like coming home after a vacation!  

There is so much that I haven’t talked about in my blog – I wish I could share everything with you. Tomorrow is our last planned sightseeing day. Until then –

Pax Romana

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Today we are traveling from Izmir through Bergama to Canakkale.
Bergama is the modern city that sits below the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamum. At one time Pergamum, a Hellenistic kingdom, was more important than Ephesus. Pergamum was a big administrative center with large imperial buildings before Ephesus became one after Augustus.

Pergamum is perched on a hilltop which, of course, most of these large centers are for security reasons: you can see the dust of galloping horses or lines of solders coming from a far distance.

The Acropolis of Pergamum has several large sites or spots where the sites used to be.

To reach the site we left our bus and got into a cable car. 8 people to a car. It was a great ride up the mountain. Very quiet and the car rocked a little, in a soothing way, in the wind.
Here’s a view down from the cable car and a photo of a car  arriving at the top.

Though the Altar of Zeus was  the site’s largest temple,  (there is also a Temple of Athena and one of Dionysus) all that is left of it here are these two stone steps. In the late 1880s German archaeologists  removed (looted, is probably more accurate) the Altar of Zeus and shipped it by boat to Berlin where it stands reconstructed in the Berlin Pergamum Museum. Because these antiquities were removed in the 1880s they do not fall under the Antiquities Repatriation Act. (That isn’t really  the name of the act, but it is something like that.)

One of the more intact ruins (well, more intact than Zeus’ Altar)  was the Temple of Trajan (built 125-138 A D).  Trajan was one of the “5 good Emperors”. It was the 2nd century AD when the rule of these five emperors  was at its height. During this time Roman outlying areas, like Pergamum, flourished. Aqueducts, theaters and other imperial structures were built – peace prevailed. I think this is the period that Ender refers to as “Pax Romana” which I interpret as “Roman Peace”  Just think 200 years of peace…
Anyway, Trajan’s temple ruins are easily identified because it was a huge white marble structure.  

In this photo I have climbed up behind the temple and am shooting down toward my subjects: Elaine, Eve, Leroy and Mary. 

 As an administrative city Pergamum was one of the ancient world’s center of learning. And what does every good center of learning need? A library!

This is the site of Pergamum’s library.
  It supposedly had 200,000 parchment scrolls, so was giving the library in Alexandria some competition. Interestingly, when Mark Anthony married Cleopatra part of his wedding gift to her was sending a LOT of these works to the Alexandria library.

A city this old and important had to have a theater. Pergamum’s was built in the 3rd century B C. and it could hold approximately 10,000 people!  
Unbelievable. The theater ruins, perched on this hillside, show the difference in how the Roman’s constructed as opposed to the Greeks. You can see from my picture that this is built right into the hillside.

Now, compare that to how the Romans built some of the outer walls. They used arches to elevate the ground and give themselves a flat plane to work with. Remember the theater at Aspendos ? (look at my XX entry dated Wednesday, September 11th) That theater, which was built by the Romans, is on level ground, not built into a hillside; the Greeks didn’t have the construction skills of the later Romans.

Here are some photos of the Roman arches supporting Pergamum. I’m totally fascinated by this stuff!

The walls of Pergamum encircled the hilltop city – about 3 miles of rock work.

The five of us walked way out on the city walls and came across Pergamum’s arsenal.  Pretty smart of them to put it so far out of town ( but still within the city walls of course). A sign there said that 900 types of shells have been found here.

Walking back to the city proper, back to our big white bus chariot, I left the others and walked down and under the city arches. Gorgeous! Up under these arches were areas for storage and other rooms. Leroy was exploring this area as well.  

I’d never heard of Pergamum and really know nothing about ancient times, but I am having the most wonderful time! I know some of the things I’m writing  might have the wrong dates or the photo might not be what I think it is because  I’m writing mainly from memory and scribbly notes I’m taking when Ender is talking. So, don’t take my blog as historically accurate but as a simple record of a fun vacation.

We boarded our bus to continue on to Canakkale which is where we’ll be spending the night. We drive along the Dardanelles, the sister strait to the Bosphorus. The Dardanelles leads from the Aegean Sea to the Sea of Marmara. So, the route is… Black Sea, Bosphorus, Sea of Marmara, Dardanelles, Aegean Sea, Mediterranean. The only way for the Russia navy to get out is through Turkey. Interestingly, Turkey has no sovereignty over the Bosphorus or the Dardanelles, but is responsible for keeping those Straits open for the rest of the world. 
You history buffs will recognize Dardanelles as playing an important role in World War history. It was up the Dardanelles that the British (and French?) fleets sailed. There is place in the Dardanelles called “The Narrows”  where the Turks and Germans (and sea mines) turned them back. 

Ah!! Our hotel is on the Aegean Sea..and it didn’t take me long to get in!

The Mother Goddesses

Every day at the end of our touring I think to myself, “That was the best!” and every day it’s true.  Therefore, today was the BEST.

The title of this post “The Mother Goddeses” is a bit obscure (and inaccurate) but here’s what I was thinking. Today we’re exploring Ephesus, built about 1000 BC, and which became a center of worship of Cybele, the Anatolian Mother Goddess. After Ephesus we’re going to the final home of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Two Mother figures…get it?

When we got on the bus this morning, Ender told us that he had some bad news from a friend he had dinner with last night. His friend, also a guide, told him that there were 7 cruise ships in Izmir today. YIKES!  All those people swarming to Ephesus the same time as us. Apparently it isn’t unusual for 2 or 3 cruise ships to be in port at the same time, but 7??  

You would think forewarned is forearmed, but I was taken aback by the disneyland-like crowds.
Still, this was the best  day!

I could write pages and pages about Ephesus and I’ve tried to keep this post short (and,hopefully, interesting). 

Ephesus is considered one of the greatest ruin cities in the western world, and it really is amazing. It was a port city and very an important ‘administrative center’ for Rome.  Do you see any water in the photo below?
 Nope, I didn’t think so. Ephesus’ decline was due to the silting over of it’s harbor…where there was water there is now miles of flat land. This silting over of this Aegean harbor played a death knell for other cities as well but it is in Ephesus that the flat land is so obvious.

Joining the hordes of cruise ship tourists, Ender bravely lead us into the fray with his flag.  



 I loved this carved angel   and below is a photo of the Temple of Hadrian. Hadrian visited Ephesus in 123 AD and this temple was built to honor him. Isn’t it amazing that this is still standing? 

But my favorite part of the entire day was the Library of Celsus. Remember, Ephesus was an administrative center and a library would have been important. This library was built by Celsus’ son and he put it right in the MIDDLE of the town’s main thoroughfare.


 As an Imperial administrative site, Ephesus would naturally have a large theater. I walked up almost to the top of the seating so you can get a feel for the scope of this structure. It was originally built during the Hellenistic period so was built into Mount Pion but was later renovated by the Romans.


We have lots of free time to wander the sites on our own (we aren’t flag followers really) and I have a tendency to find myself off the beaten path.  That was the case here in Ephesus.  I walked away from the crowds to find a faint grassy path that had a small sign: “Church of the Virgin Mary.”  Naturally I was curious and walked down it. I came upon a live dig. 

A wee bit further along was the “Church of the Virgin Mary”. This was as close as I could get (I’m still pulling stickers out of my socks). I don’t know anything about this site and since I was alone and it was quiet I simply reflected on what it might have been or meant to the citizens of Ephesus.  

I eventually wandered back to the bus.  Our next visit was to the House of the Virgin Mary – a much smaller site and strangely moving.  There are probably four different countries that claim to have the final house of the Virgin Mary; each with it’s own proof.  Because John was known to be in this area and Jesus referred John to Mary as her son (“Mother, behold thy son”) the thinking in Turkey is that St. John the Evangelist came here from Patmos to take care of her.  My Biblical knowledge borders on nil, so I may not have all the names correct. Ephesus was very important in the spread of Christianity (Ephesus=Ephesians) and two great Councils of the Church were held here in AD 431 and 449. So, sure, this could be the final house of the Virgin Mary.


The part I found strangely moving in this experience was this wall.  

There are a bazillion small pieces of paper, tissues, ripped from notebooks or tablets – whatever people have in their pockets – they write their “wishes”  or prayers.  I had a “moment”. I wanted a HUGE HUGE piece of paper and I wanted to write ‘bring us peace” and cover the wall.  Some of the more simple slips left said things like ‘help me to pass my exams’ and “help me find a good husband.” My attitude is, if you have the ear of the Virgin Mary, ask for mankind.

A great day…let’s end it with some food! Pomegranates

Bring out your dead…

We have been so incredibly lucky with the weather during our trip.  Rain is not uncommon this time of year, and we haven’t seen a drop…and it has been HOT! Hot, hot, hot!

Our sightseeing today was to Pamukkale and Hierapolis. Though these are technically two different sites they are in exactly the same area.

First we explored Pamukkale, home to famous and beautiful travertine terraces.  it is easy to see how Pamukkale, which means “cotton castle” got its name.

These terraces form when water from the hot springs loses carbon dioxide as it flows down the slopes leaving limestone deposits…beautiful layers of white calcium carbonate (limestone) build up.
Within the terraces (which are off limits to viewers) are these beautiful pools.

There are a couple of large pools at the top of the terraces open to wading. Here is a wonderful photo of me wading and of the injury I sustained walking around the rocks. 

Luckily for me, these hot springs are good for what ails you! This sign lets me know that my stubbed toe will probably heal without a problem (though I did put a band aid on it). After all, if the water can heal rickets, what can it do for a minor cut?

Part of Pamukkale is open to swimming.This area is the hot springs – why anyone wants to get into hot springs on such a blistering day is beyond me, but some of our group did enjoy the water.  Oh, and YES, those are real Roman ruins at the bottom of this pool. Unbelievable.   

Those of us who wanted to walk with Ender through Hierapolis got together. The choice was to stay around the pools and take a shuttle back to the bus, or to walk with him in a guided experience through the site. Seven of us hearty (fool hardy is more like it) souls decided to walk – did I mention it was really HOT??
Because we were such a small group, Ender took us on a path that he doesn’t usually follow with larger groups. I felt like we were bushwhacking a couple of times which was awesome.  

First, a little background about Hierapolis. Called “Thermopolis” in the Bible it is a larger site than Ephesus which we’ll explore tomorrow. ‘Hierapolis’ means “Holy City” and in the Book of Revelations is referred to as receiving one of the “7 letters of Asia Minor.” I can’t remember what that means, so if you know, drop me a line and I’ll add the information.
The size of Hierapolis is because it is home to the largest surviving Roman necropolis. The whole of the city is surrounded by cemeteries, In fact the number of tombs is greater than its population because people came here to be buried. They believed there was easier access to the Underworld because of the grotto (“Plutonium”) dedicated to Pluto. This grotto for the God of the Underworld emitted sulfur gas. People would see these gasses rising, most of those who got into the gas would die or become ill; hence it was a gateway to the underworld.

As with any good town, you entered through the main thoroughfare, a wide street called the Plateia. Here in Hierapolis you come in through the Arch of Domitian. 

What we explored today was the Northern Necropolis (remember, I told you there were at least 3 large graveyards surrounding the town). The Northern Necropolis is the largest ancient graveyard in Anatolia with over 1200 tombs! There are graves from the Hellenistic, Roman and Christian eras. 

The tomb types ranged from circle tombs (right), shown here, that encased families (kind of a mausoleum) all buried in the same structure) 
to sarcophagi (below).  and simple tucked away tombs like this one (lower right). 
There was a large Jewish population in this area, and the graveyard was not segregated in any way. Notice the menorah type symbol carved into the stone on this tomb.

Some of the tombs were for a specific purpose. I put together this very short descriptive video of the Tomb of the Gladiators. I hope you enjoy it. Click on the black box, then click on the left (go) arrow. 

 I know it was completely inappropriate, but as I was walking amidst all the tombs, I wanted to sing  “Bring out your dead.” AKA Monty Python.  I chalked it up to the heat making me goofy.

Here is Mary plugging away hiking among the dead. She said if she’d gotten much hotter she would have joined them.    
Happily, she made it and here she and Stan are sharing her fan.  

 All kidding (and whining) aside, this was a great visit!  I haven’t even talked about the ruins of the theater or the Martyrium of St Philip. Amazing sites, amazing history, amazing country.

Back on the bus…heading to Izmir (Smyrna), the home of Homer and Turkey’s 3rd largest city with a population of 3+ million residents. Until tomorrow…

Turkey’s Turquoise Coast

Even though our hotel is situated nicely on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast on the Mediterranean, I, and eleven other adventurous folks gave up our free day to travel with Ender to see the sites. And I’m so happy I did! 

We began today by visiting Aspendos which has a beautifully preserved amphitheater

The amphitheater was built around 162AD and is remarkable today, in fact until very recently (like this year or last) it hosted the annual Aspendos Opera and Ballet Festival.
Aspendos, the town, was an important trading city but it is the amphitheater that draws us.

Here is the entrance to the amphitheater

Within the amphitheater, you have the wall or stage area that the audience faces. 

This door is the stage door and leads behind the staging area.


And the backstage passage way.   

 There was an arched gallery went around the top of the theater that protected patrons from the elements..and when we visited it was closed off. But, if you look at this view of the outside of the building (you are looking UP) you’ll see supports for a roof that covered at least part of the seating. Remember,these would have been daytime performances and sheltering from the sun important.

The amphitheater seated  about 12,000. Here is a period costume.

 And here’s Eve deciding that all the world, might just be a stage… .


After Aspendos, we went on to Perge (pronounced “per gay”), What an incredible ruin! Like many of these sites, I’d never heard of Perge and I’m thrilled to have been there.My guidebook doesn’t say a lot about Perge and I’m so happy that Ender was our guide.
 I certainly won’t do it justice here, but let me show you a few of the highlights…

Inside the city walls there was a theater and you can see from this photo that there were at one time statues on the plinths on this wall.     

 Many of these statues are now in the Antalya Archaeological Museum. Imagine this statue and many many others lining the walls above you.

What I found most interesting in Perge was the fact that the main street had a canal running right down the middle of it.  
There was a fountain at the top of the street that funneled water right into town. Kind of a ground level aqueduct.

The main street was lined with columns with the canal in the center. The agora (marketplace shops) were off to the sides. See the squares defined by the stones? 

 As I walked around the ruins of this ancient market place I thought I could hear the sound of the water splashing in the canal, of children running and of the vendors calling: “Figs, come see my fresh figs”  “This fish – my son caught this fish this morning. Best fish in the market” “Olives, olives, olives, buy my olives”
Then I realized it was just the birds and the wind.
Leaving Perge we traveled to the Antalya Archaeological Museum.  If only we had had DAYS to visit instead of a couple of hours. I won’t even attempt to describe this incredible museum and it’s treasures, but I do want to show you a piece of pottery that caught my eye. Isn’t it beautiful?

It was time to go back to our wonderful hotel.  Eve, Leroy, Elaine, Mary and I decided to have a picnic in our room.



Then Mary and I went down to the water and here are a couple of photos of me enjoying the Mediterrean.


What a wonderful day      

Mother, Mother Ocean

Traveling, done right, is a great adventure and I had my very own adventure last night. Let me preface this story with a little background. Somehow I have become the one in our group to whom stuff happens. For example, in Cappadocia I missed a step going to dinner and fell down a small set of marble stairs. Ouch! The next day while exploring Goreme’s Open Air Museum of rock churches, I slipped and ended up on my butt; of course, I was up pretty high and in full view of folks when I made my ungainly descent. Golly, I need to learn to fall gracefully. So, it didn’t seem to shock anyone when I got locked in the bathroom of our hotel  room. But it wasn’t my fault…

I was leaving the bathroom and the door handle, the whole plate of the door handle, came off in my hand. I shouted for Mary who was getting ready for bed. “What are you doing in there?” She asked me, which, when you think about it, is not something you generally ask someone who is in the toilet. “I’m stuck in here; push on the door!” Mary shoved and I yanked on the towel rack which promptly broke off in my hand. Okay, now I’ve got a door handle, two screws, two hexagonal bolty things and a broken towel rack.

We decided our next best course of action was to go get Leroy – he’s strong and could probably put his shoulder against it. Leroy got out of bed, dressed and he and Eve came down to our room. While waiting I decided to brush my teeth again and to ponder that  if I had to sleep in the bathtub would I have enough towels for a comfy pillow?

Leroy peered through the hole and saw that the door was latched, not just pushed tight. We were going to need tools and my Swiss Army knife  was not going to be enough.

Do you have any bolts in there?” Leroy shouted through the door. I gave him a litany of the hardware littering the bathroom floor. “Put one of those bolts into one of the holes.” Okay, 2 bolts, 2 holes = 4 combinations. Leroy was able to turn the bolt (who in heaven’s name travels with pliers but Leroy??) and I was freed.

Now though we have a bathroom that looks like Aerosmith partied in it.  Eve called the front desk – thank goodness their English is better than our Turkish. Soon we had 3 Turkish men in our bathroom, drilling and hammering . I’m sure our neighbors were not at all pleased with us as it was nearing midnight. I looked at Mary and burst out laughing because she was in her pjs, but had run to put on a scarf when the maintenance men arrived. We laughed until we cried. 

Today we travel from Cappadocia over the plateau to Konya, which you may remember as the birth and death place of Rumi, over the Taurus Mountains to Antalya.

It was a long day on the bus. We left Cappadocia at 8am and arrived here in Antalya about 6pm. We did stop, of course, but only for food and rest areas. This is the only day of our trip that is solely travel.  I was thrilled though because today was my day to sit in the front seat of the bus.

SmarTours  (http://SmarTours.com) (that’s the group we’re travelling with) usually has groups of 38-40 people on their tours, but ours is only 27 (and I think we are fortunate that SmarTours went ahead with the trip given the small number of participants).  

 Anyway, because there are so few of us we all get seats to ourselves on the bus, and two days ago, Ender instituted a seating chart. Each day, we move up or back 2 seats ensuring that everyone gets the front seat sometime during the trip.  The first day he posted the seating chart chaos ruled.  We couldn’t decide if the numbers were the seat numbers or the row numbers; honestly, it was like a bunch of third graders trying to do long division.  All good humored, of course, though I do think Ender must think we are a bunch of lunatics. It’s a very nice group of folks; various ages and nationalities which I enjoy a lot.

Ender is an amazing guide. His professionalism and knowledge simply cannot be adequately described. 

 Several times during our travels he has shown us Turkish newspapers and demonstrated how the news is reported in different ways. Just like in the United States, where you know which newspapers have which political biases.  Ender is presenting the information in a non-judgemental and non-biased way – he reads the headlines from each and we draw our own conclusions. It is wonderful to see this aspect of ‘real’ life.

So today we rode the bus…I had fellow travelers asking what I could possibly write about today and here’s what I’ve some up with.

Did you know that Turkey’s 2 top industries are automotive and textile? They do not have a car brand of their own, but make parts, etc., for all of the major car companies (including Ferrari). Textiles didn’t surprise me as we all know about Turkish towels and rugs, that sort of thing.  Part of the area we drove through today had a few cotton fields, but that industry has dried up because of competition from China.

Here’s another tidbit. The Turkish language is not an Arabic language but is more a combination of Hungarian and Finnish. Isn’t that interesting?? Also, the Turkish language has no exceptions to it’s rules, so no “I before E except after C or when sounded as “a” as in neighbor or way. Once you know the rules, you’re good.

 We passed through Urgup, the ancient name of which is Assiana. Up until WWI, 25% of the population was not Muslim, but Greek speaking Christian. After WWI, due to political strife particularly in this area because of the war, the Greek and Turkish governments decided to swap minority populations. The citizenry had no say in this process. About 1 million Christian Turks were moved to Greece and approximately 500,000 Muslim Greeks were sent to live in Urgup. Some of these families, most of these families probably, had centuries deep ties and were uprooted to help restore peace to this area.

Though this is a traveling day, one of our rest stops this morning involved a little sightseeing. We stopped at the Sultan Han, a spot in the middle of nowhere on the ancient Silk Road. This was used as a caravanserai (caravan-sir-rye) in the Seljuk period. Trade was flourishing in this area and the Silk Road was the main corridor. Caravans, walking and with camels, could travel maybe 25 miles a day and the caravanserai  were the equivalent of today’s rest areas. There was room to bring in your camels, your goods and there were inns or rooms for the travelers. There was also, naturally, a mosque.

Imagine the excitement when the camel caravan lumbered through this gate.  The crowds looking to buy or sell…goods going back and forth and perhaps greeting friends that you had not seen since the caravan passed through maybe 6 months ago.

Here are a few of the things used in Sultan Hai. 

And here’s a modern day caravan!

We drove on through the Taurus Mountains. Those of you who are Christians will remember St. Paul of Taurus and his walk to the end of the world. The belief back then was that the earth was flat. On the other side of the Taurus Mountains is the Mediterranean – no land to be seen, so the end of world. 

It was a gorgeous mountain drive and Ender told us a funny, apropos story. God decided that the bus driver would go to heaven, but the priest wouldn’t. The priest protested. “WHY was this lowly bus driver who has done nothing important going to Heaven, when I, who have dedicated my life to God, am not?”
The angel answered, “When you preach, people sleep. When the bus driver drives, people pray.”
And that about sums up our ride down the mountain.

We have arrived in Antalya, a beautiful city on the Mediterranean. Our hotel, the Marmara is GORGEOUS and the decor is so up my alley!! Here’s what door numbers looked like. Pretty cool.

 A shot of our room (with a lovely working door handle in the toilet).

 Downstairs there is an area to freely use computers, a 50 foot tall 4-sided book shelf, and outside a double Olympic length pool. Ahhh…

Dinner outside was very good and the Mediterranean weather with its warm breeze is wonderful. There was live music, a man and a woman singing, and they sang two of my favorite songs back to back: ABBA’s “I have a dream” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. The Cohen song just seems especially significant in this setting.

Tomorrow is a full day at our leisure and I have been planning to spend it by the pool or in the sea but  Ender described an optional tour we could do in the morning and it sounds too good to miss. We’ll get back to the hotel around 1:30 so there will still be plenty of time for the sun and water. It was, though, the only day to sleep in!

The Mediterrannean Sea…

Fairy Chimneys and Underground Cities

Today was a full and wonderful day of sightseeing!

This morning in Cappadocia several folks got up at the crack of dawn to take a balloon ride over the landscape. This area is known for it’s incredible landscape for good reason.  Mary and I didn’t go for the balloon ride but we were able to see them from the window of our room.   

After breakfast we boarded our bus and headed for the Open Air Museum in the Goreme Valley. This area has amazing early Christian rock cut churches and monasteries. There were 30 churches, I think, cut out of the tuff (soft volcanic rock). You couldn’t take photos inside so you’ll have to take my word for it that there were frescoes and paintings in most of them. These ‘buildings’ are dated from the 9th century (800 AD) and UNESCO has declared the Goreme Valley a World Heritage Site.

This is a photo of the Kizlar Monastery. There were rooms for monks, a kitchen, all the necessities of life. Also, this wasn’t an enclave of men, but there were widowed women and children here as well. ‘It takes a village’.

We went into many of the rock buildings (think caves) that did not have frescos so you could take photos. and here are some of the interior photos.  Pretty amazing!

 The scenery around this site was spectacular as well.  Here is Mary in a decidedly other worldly landscape.

 It was difficult to decide what would make a good picture. Here Leroy, Mary and Eve are discussing the best composition of a photo. 

 Speaking of other worldly, maybe some of this looks familiar?  Well, the first Star Wars movie was shot in this area because of the landscape.

After Goreme we visited the Kaymakli Underground City. This was incredible!  This city, and it really was the size of a large city, was hollowed out of the volcanic rock and it went 7 to 9 floors beneath the earth!!  We went down three floors.

 The tunnel we took down and out was very very narrow and even I had to bend almost all the way over to get through. But once you got down there, the rooms were large. In fact, one room had a huge tub like basin carved into it. That’s where they stomped grapes to make wine.  The rock was even stained with grape juice.

 It was a maze of hallways, chambers, storehouses, kitchens and even churches. I took some photos but when I looked at them they were pretty much all black. There is very little light three stories underground.  Not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart!

Finally today, see I told you it was a long day, we went to a landscape spot to see the”fairy chimneys”.    
Aren’t they cool looking? 

I thought you might be interested in seeing some Turkish wildlife. I swear that I just came across this while walking around the fairy chimneys.  I laughed out loud.

What a great day of sites. Tomorrow we will be riding along the Silk Road through Konya to Antalya.

Turkeys Can’t Fly But They Can Dance, Part 2

Sunday, September 8, 2013

“Human beings are discourse. That flowing moves through you whether you say anything or not. Everything that happens is filled with pleasure and warmth because of the delight of the discourse that’s always going on.” Discourse 53

These words are Sohbet with means something like “mystical conversation on mystical subjects.  Celaleddin Rumi, known more commonly simply as Rumi, was a Sufi mystic who founded the Mevlevi order – better known as the Whirling Dervishes.

When offered the opportunity to observe a Whirling Dervishes ceremony I was ecstatic. The mysticism of Rumi, his order’s  belief that music and dance could induce a mystical state or trance of universal love had great interest and appeal. The sema, or whirling ceremony, is central to the practice of the dervishes. Love is the central theme of the sema – sharing god’s love among earthly beings.

The ceremony, and it felt like a ceremony as opposed to a show, was held in a large caravan. There were maybe 50 observers and we sat on four sides of a square under the stars – a mystical setting in itself. I cannot explain or capture the essence of the ritual – it was mesmerizing, powerful and eerily evocative of an awakening inside me.

 As the dervishes greeted one another and shed their dark heavy cloaks – their souls become unencumbered by shapes and bodies. The white garments (beneath the cloaks) that you will see in my whirling video, according to my reading, symbolize the ego’s shroud and the large hats, the ego’s tombstone. The symbolism of the costuming was dynamic and the loss of ego, of self, in giving oneself over to this trance inducing dance was palatable. The live music made me feel as though I, too, was involved in the circular whirling. Whirling envelopes us…the earth rotates, the planets revolve, life is a whirl of birth, experience and death and rebirth. 

“Who Says Words With My Mouth?”

All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
But who is it now in my ear who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?
I cannot stop asking.
If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home.

This poetry. I never know what I’m going to say.
I don’t plan it.
When I’m outside the saying of it,
I get very quiet and rarely speak at all.”