C.A.A. Arts Tour of Turkey

May 27 - June 11, 2014

offered through Tutku Tours
with our guide, Zafer Bozoglu

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May 27/28, 2014
I left Philly around 5PM for the drive up to Newark. It was easy going until my GPS got me lost in Elizabeth but I finally pulled into the Park2Go lot around 6:45PM and was checked into Swiss Air and at the gate by 7:30PM. I was able to get my carry on below the 8kg weight limit by stashing a lot of the heavier stuff in my “pocketbook” (i.e. my Weavers Way tote bag with the feed sack inside). Once I got to the gate I moved the heavier stuff back into the carry on. The plane left on time and the transfer in Zurich went well although we were about 40 minutes late leaving the airport due to traffic. I like the way Swiss boards its passengers, everyone just get on and it works perfectly fine. No crush at the gate.

I met the Tutku guide at the airport with no problem and was at the Grand Halic hotel by 7PM: time for a quick clean up before meeting the group on the top floor restaurant for dinner. Imagine my surprise to find that one of the 5 ladies I would be traveling with was my Italian Ren professor, Marcia Hall. Quick intros to the rest of the group and met our local guide, Zafer.

WIFI in the room and great views across the Golden Horn make a great start to the trip. I can even hear the calls to prayer coming from across the water.

May 29, 2014 (Thursday) - Istanbul
After breakfast the group met at 9AM for our drive across the Ataturk Bridge down to the Sultanamet. We have a lovely and spacious minibus (15 seater) so everyone can spread out and be comfortable. It even has WIFI which is an incredible luxury.

The historic Sultanamet area is densely packed with tiny streets and lots of people so we left the bus at the south end of the HIPPODROME and proceeded on foot. The viewing stands are, of course, gone but the outline of the racetrack itself and the central spina are still clearly visible. The only remnants of the original structure which was enlarged by Constantine when he arrived in the early 4th century are the various columns still standing down the central spina. The 4 great golden horses now at San Marco in Rome were stolen from here in the early 13th century when the 4th Crusaders sacked the city.

First we come to the Column of Constantine. After sacking the city in 1204CE, the 4th Crusaders tore the plating off the column thinking it was solid gold. (It was really gold-covered bronze). Today it stands as a rough stone column.

Then came the remnants of the Serpentine Column which is one of the oldest; it was originally installed at Delphi around 478 BCE but was brought to the City by Constantine c. 330 CE. It was once much taller and capped with serpent’s heads, a fragment of one of the heads is preserved in the Archeology Museum.

The Obelisk of Theodosius was brought from Egypt in 390 CE from its home in Egypt. It was originally erected by Thutmose III (r.1549-1503 BCE) at the temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak. It was carved from pink granite and is still in pristine shape. When it arrived in Constantinople it was set on a marble base into which is carved scenes of Theodosius, his family and court and bodyguard as they would have looked observing the races from their royal box ( kathisma ) which would have been opposite, on the east side of the Hippodrome.

Theodosian base to obelisk

Egyptian Obelisk

The entire Palace complex which would have stood on our right is now gone. It was in ruins when the Ottomans arrived in the 15th century and the Blue Mosque now covers much of the site.

Opposite the Blue Mosque, across the Hippodrome is the original palace of Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier to Suleyman the Magnificent who was done in by the Suleyman’s wife, Roxelana. His grand palace is now home to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts. We were scheduled to visit this museum but it is closed for renovations.

At the north end of the Hippodrome sits a modern gazebo like structure with a lovely domed roof: The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain presented as a gift to the Sultan Abdul Hamit II in 1901 as a token of friendship.

After walking the length of the Hippodrome we visited the Blue Mosque : it was built for the Sultan Ahmet I (r. 1603-17) whose tomb is on the north side of the site facing the Sultanamet.

The building is full of the sensuous curves of numerous domes with 6 slender minarets (Turkish domes are characteristically tall and slender unlike other Moslem areas). Blue Iznik tiles cover the interior giving it its common name.

It clearly was inspired by the nearby Hagia Sophia: everything about the place is huge and impressive. The 6 minarets were considered controversial at the time (most Mosques have at most 4 minarets, only Mecca has 6 so the Sultan solved the problem by commissioning a 7th minaret at Mecca). You enter through an enormous open courtyard which is the same size as the interior.

After leavng the Blue Mosque we walked through the Arasta Bazaar where we found a little café to sit down and have some Turkish Coffee (Cay for me, in lovely little glasses set on their own small plates).

Although the Great Palace complex is long gone they have found remnants of a series of courtyard mosiac tile floors that belong to the complex from a peristyled courtyard. These mosaic floors are now visible at the Palace Mosaics Museum. The scenes are rich and naturalistic portrayals of Nature, including Dionysian images showing the more worldly aspects of early Imperial life.

After lunch at the Pudding Shop, we headed to the nearby Hagia Sophia one of the city’s crowned jewels. It is currently under renovavtion so there is a huge scaffold in the naos but who cares. It’s the freakin’ Hagia Sophia. Built in the 4th century, burned in the early 5th and re-built, burned again in the Nika riots of the early 6th century and rebuilt in 537 CE by Justinian II. It was converted into a Mosque by Mehmet the Conqueror who made it his first stop after conquering the city on THIS VERY DAY in 1453. It was declared a museum by Ataturk in 1935 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What an awesome history this building has had. And how amazing to be here on “Conquest Day”, the day the Ottomn Turks finally breeched the Theodosian Walls and the thousand year old city, fell. The people gathered here must have been shell shocked to see their world collapse.

Despite a huge scaffold that obscures the entire northern interior it is still an amazing space. You can really see the structure of the building, the way the dome and the pendentives sit on the 4 arches and the enormous outward pressure of the dome that shows up most clearly on the second level. They tried to correct the problem by adding the interior walls on the 2nd level but then compromised that support by cutting archways into those walls. You can see how the weight of the dome is crushing down on those arches causing the arch to buckle.

It explains why the whole dome fell down within 50 years and had to be re-built, this time slightly taller to offset the downward thrust. But that still wasn't enough and buttresses were later added to the exterior to support the dome.

Everywhere there are gorgeous marbles: sheets of booked marbles. And the wonderful mosaics that shimmer in the light. Many of the mosaics have been lost and the areas of flat paint detract from the overall brilliance so clearly restorations are desparately needed.

Recent cleaning has restored a face to one of the Seraphim on one of the pendentives and is lovely. Eventually the other 3 should re-gain their faces as well.

One of the exhibits at the church was of the wonderful photos that are now also on display at the U of P Museum. Seeing them here was like running into old friends.

It was hard the leave the Hagia Sophia, there was so much more to see and not enough time. I think that may be one of the problems with this trip. Not enough time.

We wandered around some of the back streets for awhile, making our way to the car park behind the complex to meet our bus for the drive back to the Grand Halic where dinner was on the rooftop restaurant of the hotel with its great views of the City.

5/30/14 (Friday) – Istanbul:
After breakfast at the hotel we left again around 9AM to head back to the Sultanamet area; this time we headed directly for the Topkapi Palace Complex. You enter through a large gate into the first of 3 separate garden courtyards, each one moving you closer to the center of power.

We passed by the Hagia Irene and I’m sorry we didn’t get to step inside. I know there’s very little left of the Byzantine church but it would have been nice to see the space itself and the Golden Cross in the apse is believed to date back to pre-Iconoclasm period. It would have made a great comparison to the apse Mary and Jesus mosaic at the Hagia Sophia which is post-Iconoclasm, c. 846 CE.

Mehmet the Conqueror built the 1st stage of the Palace shortly after the Conquest on the most prominent spot of land as an assertion of imperial power, the Topkapi dominates the southern point of the peninsula and has awesome views of the Golden Horn, the Bosphorous and the Sea of Marmarra. It has been gradually added onto by subsequent sultans.

The thing that strikes you immediately is the overwhelming use of Iznik tiles which cover all the rooms with color and pattern. You would think it would be "too much" but it isn't. Everything seems to fit together so well. There's a harmony in all the patterns.

Many separate rooms surround the courtyards, each dedicated to a separate collection. There wasn’t enough time to view them all but Zafer cut us loose to explore on our own. I, of course, headed first to the TEXTILE Collection. I was struck by the large size of the men’s tunic jackets with the incredibly small neck openings and the long rows of tiny button closures. The sleeves stick straight out. The stitching is impeccable and the fabrics, beautiful silks, linens and velvets. There were also talismanic shirts covered in inscriptions. The few womens' garments were simple but elegantly made.

The other exhibit I checked out was the RELIC Room. I am fascinated by relics, mostly because of the pull they have on people and it was obvious that many in the crowd approached with reverence. Items included: the Saucepan of Abraham, the Sword of David, the Staff of Moses, the Turban of Joseph, many “keys” to the Kabba, the Footprint of the Prophet, numerous “beards” of the Prophet, the case of the Banner of the Prophet, the Tooth of the Prophet, the Sword of the Prophet, the Sword of Ali, the Mantle of Fatima. I can now say I've seen them all.

It’s interesting that the Byzantines brought all the “big” Christian relics to the city; all of which are now long gone but the Ottomans followed suit and Istanbul, like Constantinople before it, became the center of religious faith.


After re-joining the group, everyone decided they wanted to visit the HAREM which was not on the original itinerary but we had the time. It is a rabbit warren of rooms and corridors, beautifully tiled but stripped of all their fabrics and textiles.

I always get the sense that we are never seeing the "real" places without all the "stuff" they would have contained, many of them textiles.

Guarded by their eunuchs this must have been a hotbed of intrigue under the careful eye of the sultan’s Mother. It is a huge complex, over 300 rooms, yet completely cut off from the rest of the Palace. They could see nothing and no one could see them.

Since inheritance was not based on primogeniture there was much intrigue and violence as sons (and their mothers) jockeyed for position. Horror stories are told of new sultans murdering off their brothers who might pose a threat to their authority.

Entrance through the Eunuchs courtyard

The group separated again as several of us (Marcia, Nona and I) went off to have lunch and see the Istanbul Archaeology Museum while the others explored elsewhere. The complex has 3 main parts: Archaeology, Ancient Orient and Tiles. Unfortunately the Alexander Sarcophagus section was closed but we had a nice lunch before entering the museum where the highlights for me were the sarcophagi from the Sidon Excavations. The quality of the relief carvings was incredibly fine and beautiful.

We also visited the TILE MUSEUM which was nearby and the PRE-ISLAMIC (Ancient Cultures) BLDG. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to fully explore everything because we had to meet everyone back at the bus because we were headed over to see the Galata Tower (except for Marcia and Nona who wanted to go to the Spice Bazaar).

The tower was built in 1348 and was the tallest structure in the city for years. It was raining on the drive over but had stopped when we arrived at the Tower. There was, however, a long wait to get in, to get up the elevator and then to finally make it out onto the observation deck. From the Tower you can get some awesome views of the City but the overcast skies hampered the effect.

Because driving in this part of the City is so difficult, we walked back to our hotel through narrow, winding streets including the famous Iskitlal Street, arriving back in time to meet our guest lecturer from Koc Univeristy for a 6:30PM talk about Byzantine Constantinople.

Ivana gave a very interesting overview of the history of the City, most of which was already familiar to me. So much of the ancient city is lost; there are only 2 small visible remnants from the Great Palace complex including the Mosaic Museum with its scenes of cycles of childhood. Even after the fall of the City in 1453 CE remnants of Byzantium continued in places like Mestra and Trebozond.

After the lecture we left the hotel and walked via Istiklal Street to a lovely restaurant in the Ikinci Bahar Passage. Walked home in the rain but that didn’t stop the “party” atmosphere of the street. This street is the main boulevard in the Boyoglu section of Istanbul: full of shops, cafes, cinemas, restaurants and bars. At its northern end it reaches Taksim Square, the heart of the city and the site of recent demonstrations.

31 May, 2014 (Saturday) (Istanbul => Iznik => Canakkale)
Today we left the city (and threats of demonstrations at Taksim Square), crossing the Bosphorous and entering Asia, first via a bridge and then on a feribot. We even passed the ancient city of Chalcedon, driving through olive groves to Iznik, site of the ancient city of Nicaea.

We were looking to visit the Iznik Tile Foundation but found it closed when we arrived. Fortunately we found someone to show us around and was it amazing. The tiles they are producing are, like the ancient Iznik tiles, made from clay which is 80% quartz. The formulae was lost for many years before being re-discovered. The space itself was very inspiring, what a wonderful studio and garden space.

After leaving the Foundation we stopped off on the shore of the Lake. Recent discoveries have uncovered a 4th century basilica just under the water surface. We couldn’t see any of that but it was fun to imaging that it was out there, just under the surface.

We stopped for lunch in Iznik before making one last stop in Iznik at the Ayasophia of Iznik ; earthquakes, fires, conversion to mosque…all have played havoc with the original 4th century church. They say the church was built on the site of an earlier temple, converted to a mosque in 1337, then into a Museum in 1935 and then back into a mosque in 2011. It is impossible to see what the “original” structure would have looked like.

The walls are stripped to their original bricks which allows you to see how the building was constructed but at floor level on the north wall is a lunette with a fresco of the Deesis. Its low position suggests that there is a doorway down below the current floor level, possibly leading to a crypt.

Old image I found on-line; image is now hidden behind a heavy plexi screen and impossible to see clearly

The “restorers” of this site have claimed that this was the site of the 2 councils of Nicaea (4th and 8th century). That needs to be taken with a grain of salt given the size and status of ancient Nicaea but the recent discovery of the basilica under the lake of the same age definitely puts those claims in question.

We then set off for the long drive to Canakkale and a quite lovely hotel on the water, overlooking the straights and the Gallipolli peninsula.

1 June 2014 (Canakkale => Troy) (Sunday)
First stop of the day is the nearby site of Troy. It’s a confusing site because it’s really several sites all piled on top of each other.

The “Disneyland” atmosphere, especially at the entrance doesn’t help but it turned out to be way more interesting than I thought it would be.

Schleimann's Trench

diagram of Schleimann's Trench

Our visit was cut short when the skies darkened noticeably and we were forced to flee to the saftey of the van as rain descended in buckets.

I love this photo because the light standards really are that shape and the sky really did get that dramatic.

Then we stopped off at a lovely seaside town to stretch our legs and enjoy the amazing scenery. There are some lovely inns and restaurants in the area and the light is amazing.

Continuing on our drive, with Mt. Ida in the distance, we came to a village at the base of a great hill. Leaving the bus behind we climbed up the steep main street through the “new town” lined with shops where we took refuge from a sudden downpour in a cafe for some Turkish coffee and cay, before finally continuing the climb up to the ancient acropolis city of ASSOS. The city was founded in the 8th century BCE with its great Temple to Athena built in 530 BCE. Aristotle, himself, lived here from 348- 345 BCE before fleeing a Persian invasion. Alexander the Great eventually drove out the Persians and by 241 BCE the city was being ruled from Pergamum.

The Temple of Athena still sits at the top of the Hill with its massive Doric columns, somewhat clunky because of questionable reconstructions but the awesome views overlooking the sea remain. The architrave of this temple is currently in Boston and Paris but we did find bones embedded in the nearby soil as if they were the remains of past offerings.

Leaving Assos, we stopped for lunch along the way before heading to Ayvalik but before going to our hotel we went out to Cunda to walk around the harbor; enjoying the boats, shops and the many friendly cats. Cats seem to be everywhere in Turkey.

Our hotel was lovely, right on the bay but the service, not so much. And WIFI connection was awful. How easilly I am spoiled.

2 June 2014 (Monday) - Pegamum
Another “late” departure, 9:30AM on the road to Pergamum, the modern town of Bergama. All 3 building styles are visible at this site: Archaic (big solid blocks), Roman (mix of stone and brick) and Byzantine (lots of small stone patches).

This is an impressive site; quite large covering an upper and lower city on a staggering mountaintop site although it is not as heavily visited as sites like Ephesus. This was also the site of the Asclepion, ancient Romes pre-eminent medical center, where Galen himself once practiced.

Pergamum owes its prosperity to one of Alexanders generals, Lysimachus. The city grew rich and powerful before becoming a Roman province in 129 BCE.

We began our tour with the upper city and the Stoa of the 2nd century CE Temple of Trajan with its architrave with the Medusa heads.

The theater at Pergamum is one of the steepest in the world but with a small orchestra and no room for a stage because the road leading to the nearby Temple of Dionysus runs just behind it, so a portable stage was put in place when needed and removed when not. Unfortunately we only got to see the theater from a distance but we did get to explore the support system beneath Trajans Temple which was fascinating. I love trying to understand how things were constructed.

Pergamum also has the ruins of a great library. Egypt had a monopoly on papyrus so Pergamum developed the use of parchment which eventually led to the development of the codex form. Cleopatra visted Pergamum with Mark Anthony and was so impressed with the library she had its contents moved to Alexandria where they were eventually destroyed when the great library at Alexandria was destroyed.

But the great jewel of Pegamum was its Altar to Zeus. Known as the Pegamum Altar, it is now in Berlin. All that is visible now is a lovely grove of trees which shows where the great altar once stood, its 2 giant wings opening outward to the Valley. It must have been an awesome sight as you approached the city.

Leaving Pergamum we stopped in the modern town down below to look at the huge Red Basilica or Red Hall . It's hard to miss it because it is an enormous wreck of a place. It began as a Temple to Isis/Serapis, then became a church, then a mosque. Now it’s in complete ruins. The rain made it harder to spend time with this building but there’s really not all that much to see. They are attempting some rebuilding but it's not clear what their intention is.

Then it was on to IZMIR, the 3rd largest city in Turkey. The hotel (Anemon) is quite nice but the staff seems a bit surly which is a shame.

3 June, 2014 (Tuesday) (IZMIR)
We started the day by driving up to the Castle, overlooking the entire city. It’s a bit shabby (lots of trash and graffiti) but it does offer some great views of the city. On the way we passed by the oldest church in the city, the 16th century church of St. Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna (ancient Izmir).

It was then off to the Archaeology Museum and the Ethnology Museum, both very nice before we drove in town to the old French Consulate which is now an art museum featuring and exhibit of Lalique Glass owned by a private collector in Izmir. The building and the glass were extraordinary.

Lunch was nearby, along the waterfront before visiting the Ascensor, an elevator built by the 19th century singer, Nism Levy, as a way to help people reach the upper part of the city. From the terrace above you have great views of the city and can still see the only remaining synagogue left in Izmir.

Our next stop was the SU GRUBU Gallery , home of the organizer of the Izmir Biennale. Seba Ugurtan was incredibly generous with her time and her enthusiasm was quite infectious. She shared with us works by her artists group and information about the Biennale.

Our Intrepid Group: Marcia Hall, Lynn Jackson, Edith May, June Hope, Seba, Becki Van C., Nona Hershey and ???

We walked around downtown Izmir before walking over to dinner which was along the waterfront at a restaurant called Mezzaluna. Esra, a lovely member of Tutku Tours, joined us for a delicious dinner. She lived in Florida for a while and was quite outgoing and friendly and clearly someone who knew how to get things done. The weather was extremely chilly and many were wrapped in blankets but it was a lovely night.

4 June, 2014 (Izmir => Ephesus => Kusadasi)
Another 9AM departure; this time we’re off to Ephesus ( modern city Selcuk).

Just outside of the modern city of Selcuk stands a single column in a low marshy area. This is all that remains of The Temple of Artemis which was one of the largest temples on earth and was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

This Artemis is Anatolian, however, not Greek. Her image is VERY different from her Greek counterpart; this Artemis is the Mother Goddess with eggs (or bulls testicles) hanging around her neck (you can see her image in the museum at Ankara). She is closely related to the Cybele of Anatolia. Bulls are very prominently displayed in Ephesus and turn up a lot in early Anatolian civilizations as symbols of power and fertility.

The site of Ephesus itself has changed several times over the years as the bay has retreated . The 2nd location of the city arose in the vacinity of the Temple of Artemis because of its holy spring. We drove to the Upper City entrance and proceeded to walk down to the Lower City. Most of the remaining city dates from the 1st – 4th centuries. There was no real acropolis but there was a high point of the city which incorporated all the traditional structures. 82% of the City is still to be unearthed so there is so much more to discover.

    Some of the great sites were:
  • Theater with colonnaded walkway in front; covered and used as a parliamentary house by the Romans (look for signs of drainage; no signs indicate the structure was covered or roofed)
  • capitols with bull head additions (see Artemis)
  • various baths around the city and the control and flow of water throughout the city including an extensive aqueduct system
  • The Curetes Way which is the main pathway through the city
  • The Men’s Latrines
  • Brothels and Terraced Houses still under excavation
  • Moving lower through the city we come to the more commercial area
  • Terrace Apt. Complexes still under excavation but revealing extensive domestic architecture and mosaics and painted frescoes
  • Library and Brothels, Latrines, commercial agoras etc.

For the "off season", there are alot of people all over the place which detracted a bit from the experience but it is an awesome place. We continued walking down the main street until we emerged at the lower gate.

I wish we’d had more time here. It felt a bit like being funneled through without the time to really explore the area.

Afterwards we stopped by the Carpet Co-op where we had a lovely lunch in their gardens before being shown through the factory. We got to see a brief demo of silk reeling and a chance to watch several master weavers at work before getting to the REAL show of high end carpets. It was quite a performance.

We then moved on to Ephesus Ceramics where we got a chance to watch a demo of pot making before another shopping op.

Some of the group got to try their hand at painting pottery. I did make a purchase here: a lovely teapot using the high quartz Iznik style clay in an old blue and red Anatolian pattern.

Our next stop was at a lovely village called, Sinirce, filled with shops selling all sorts of goods. We stopped here especially to visit a local felt maker (one of our tour participants was a feltmaker). We got a chance to watch him make one of his creations (with the help of June) and then got a chance to wander around his shop (also an antique shop).

Wandering through the rest of the village brought many more shopping opportunities, esp. jewelry for those so inclined.

Then it was on to our hotel for the night at Kusadasi.

5 June, 2014 – Thursday - (Kusadasi => Pamukkale)
We started the day at TOLAR, a very high end leather producer with the thinnest, silkiest leather I have ever seen. They produce garments that are awesome but I refrained. Even with a 40% discount, the jacket I liked was $1100 and there is no way I could justify that. Especially since I’m more than a little put off by wearing lambs hide. I will always regret not having my camera with me that morning. I missed a chance to see Marcia Hall strut her stuff on the runway.

Then came the long drive to Pamukkale . Fortunately, with WIFI in the bus, the trip did not seem quite so long. I’ve never been this “connected” on any trip. It was a bit weird, tooling through the Turkish countryside while posting on Facebook.

Unfortunately, I just realized that I left my camera charger at the last hotel in Kusadasi. Now I only have 2 batteries (1 of them dead) and no way to re-charge them because none of my USB cables work with this camera. STUPID!!! Fortunately I still have the camera in the IPAD but it makes me really mad.

We finally arrived at the ancient spa town of Hieropolis . Walking along the cliff edge we got great looks at the salt springs below before exploring the Roman ruins at the site above. The saucer shaped travertines stand out in stunning contrast to the clear blue water and makes it clear why this has been a popular spa town for thousands of years.

We were given a short time to explore on our own. I managed to make it up to see the theater but there wasn’t time enough to make it higher up to the Martyrium of Philip the Apostle who was allegedly martyred nearby.

The Roman Theater was built in stages by the Emperors Hadrian and Septimus Severus and could seat over 12,000 people.

Hieropolis as it appears now is orderly, laid out streets with manicured walkways. It was founded c. 190 BCE by Eumenes II from Pergamum and prospered under the Byzantines. There are probably thousands of structures up on the hillsides still to be uncovered. It is said that Cleopatra came here to bath in the salt pools and look how well she turned out.

This egg shaped motif is found all over Anatolia.
One prominent thought is that it represents bulls testicles since the bull was a powerful symbol of fertility.
The famous Anatolian Artemis is depicted with a whole slew of these objects around her neck.

We then checked into the Lycus River Spa with time to do the whole “spa” thing. The place was filled with beefy Russians which took the charm off for me so I took the opportunity to just relax. Unfortunately the WIFI really sucked so I wasn’t able to get anything done. Dinner was on the terrace and I nearly froze plus the food was pretty crappy. A shame.
6 June 2014 Friday - (Pamukkale => Konya)
Today was a long driving day. Zafer called to see if the last hotel could find my battery charger but I’m not hopeful. We had lunch at a roadside stop which, like most of the roadside spots, is remarkably clean with good food. I’m getting really used to pita pizza since the kabobs are not tempting for me.

Zafer spent the time telling us great stories of Hoca Nasreddin whose city we drove through. Hoca is a great comic folk hero and philosopher in Turkey. We passed numerous fields of white poppies (the opium variety) which are legally grown in this country.

We reached the town of Konya around 2PM. The town looks like a lovely generic town with little of its local character remaining.

Passing through Konya we continued to the historic site of Catalhoyuk which was first occupied over 11,000 years ago. This area was originally rich marshlands and it is believed that thousands of structures are still to be excavated.

They have a lovely interpretative center, a reconstructed “experimental” house and 2 terrace complexes (north and south) under cover. The site dates back thousands of years when Bronze age settlers built their cluster dwellings into the hillside. Entrance to the rooms was through the rooftops. It looks very defensive but evidently there is no sign of any actual warfare. Many of the items from the site (including earth goddess figures) are in the Museum at Ankara.

7 June 2014 - Saturday - (Konya => Capadoccia)
Leaving the hotel we drove through town to visit the Mevlana Museum , home of the great Sufi mystic poet and philosopher, Celaleddin Rumi. The Museum is part of a large complex with individual cells surrounding an open courtyard. Each cell is designed to show an aspect of Sufi life. The place is packed with people but all very respectful. We pass by rows of tombs until we come to the tomb of Rumi with his large tomb, draped in fabric and topped with a huge turban. There are actually 2 turbans on Rumi’s tomb since his son had wanted to be buried next to him.

There are also beautiful Qurans on display, plus garments belonging to Rumi and his son and a room dedicated to Shams who was Rumi’s teacher in the 13th century. It was after Rumi’s death in 1273 that the Dervish movement spread.

Mevlana’s tomb, covered with a velvet shroud and topped by the symbolic turban, dates from Seljuk times. There is also a mosque, a kitchen and several rooms surrounding the courtyard.

Then we left Konya and began the long drive to Capadoccia through high, flat, fertile plains. This area has long been on the major trade routes (the end of the great Silk Road) and we stopped at a 13th century Caravanserai , the largest in Turkey and one of the most elegant.

Passing through Nevsehir (ancient Nyssa) we get our first look at an underground city, stopping at a site called Dunya Miras Alanlari. It’s hard to imagine so many people living down there for months on end but you can certainly see what made it a secure place to hide out in times of trouble. It’s tiny and cramped and not a little claustrophobic. Getting trapped behind another tour group makes it very difficult to move through the site.

We finally arrived in URGUP , at our Cave Hotel. It is a lovely spot right on the main street. They have a great terrace which is good since WIFI is only available on the terrace. My room is way at the top, tucked into the hillside. Perfect.

Time to get lost walking around town before dinner.

8 June 2014- Sunday - (Cappadoccia)
We were up bright and early this morning for a 4:40am pickup for our Balloon ride. It was truly magical as dozens of balloons lifted off and drifted effortlessly down the valley. We moved so gently for close to an hour thanks to our expert pilot who was able to set us down expertly right on the back of the trailer.

We drifted past fairy towers and over vineyards and fields. The towers are created as the softer under-surface of rock is eroded away by wind or water. Heavier upper layers of soil leave a hard "cap” to the towers but, eventually, they too will collapse. For centuries people have been storing their goods and living inside these towers. They were also used as churches. As places of refuge it was easy to disquise their presence.

After setting down, we received our certificates, drank champagne and had the chance to buy gear, dvds and photos. Talk about a well-oiled machine.

Then it was back to the hotel for breakfast. Urgup was until 1923 a Greek village before their expulsion. It is a lovely and elegant town.

    After breakfast we headed back out to visit the Goreme Open Air Museum

  • St. Basils Church: with Christ and the 2 warrior saints (George & Theodore) and 3 apses with burials in the narthex
  • The Apple Church
  • St Barbara’s Church with its strange images of cocks
  • The Snake Church – only semi finished – with Constantine and Helena; Theodore and George fighting a snake and the strange image of the hermaphroditic St. Onophorius
  • The Dark Church with is wonderfully preserved frescoes in intense colors.
  • The Buckle Church with its different painting styles, mostly narratives
  • And across the road, the Tokali Kilesi.

Unfortunately you can no longer take photos inside of any of these churches so I bought a book to show some of the amazing frescoes still in place.

We had lunch at a lovely café overlooking several painted cave houses and then we visited the nearby village of Cavusin. Following the main road on foot up into the hills, past the mosque, we eventually reached a hilltop cave church. The main apse dome is now flanked by only 1 semi-domed side apse. The side aisles off the nave have also been closed in. Underneath the thick black smoke encrusted walls are scenes of the Life Cycle of Christ (a Last Supper, Resurrection, Harrowing of Hell and a Crucifixion. The main apse contains an Angel). Ah, Betsy…..you would love this.

The guidebook calls this the Church of John the Baptist, one of the oldest churches in Cappadocia. There is no sign of any attempt to protect, let alone restore, this church.

After another pause, waiting for some to finish their shopping, we visited a Gem distributor where we got a demonstration on opal cutting and yet another shopping opportunity. I would have preferred spending more time at Goreme and less time on shopping but that’s just me. It is beautiful jewelry.

We then headed off to see a Dervish ceremony : 4 musicians (1 canon/harp player, 2 flutes and 1 drum), a “master” with 5 young men dressed in pure white created a mesmerizing sight of the whirling meditations. No photos were allowed during the ceremony itself but 4 of the Dervishes returned afterwards for a brief demonstration that could be photographed.

Then it was back to the hotel for dinner after a very long and exciting day. Everyone got a chance to show off their jewelry purchases which was a fun way to end the day.

9 June, 2014 – Monday - (Urgup => Ankara)
I’m sad to leave such an amazing area but it’s off for the long drive west to Ankara. Passing again through Gregory’s town of Nyssa (Nevsiheri) and stopping again at the rest stop at Akesaray with its palatial bathrooms and massage chairs, we made a special stop along the Salt Lake. Learning from the marketing of the Dead Sea Salts in bath and beauty products, the Turks are trying to develop their own products and they do seem nice. Most people stop here to walk down and wade in the heavily salted waters. Unfortunately busloads of tourists created a circus atmosphere, not a place I wanted to linger.

We arrived in Ankara in early afternoon and headed off to the Anatolian Civilizations Museum . Recently re-opened after a long reno, the building is beautiful and the displays are excellent. We spent a couple of hours wandering around seeing many of the excellent finds including items from some of the sites we’d visited like Catahoulyuk, Ephesus etc. They also have finds from Gobekli Tepi which I would love to see one day.
(left: earth goddes from Catalhoyuk)

Neolithic burial find

Bearded Mans Head: period Antonius Pius- 138-161 CE

The skies opened up trapping us in the museum for a while. We’ve been very lucky. While we have had lots of rain and cool weather on this trip, the bad weather was kind enough to come generally while we were on the bus. After finally escaping we ran into horrible traffic and so did not have time to visit the tomb of Ataturk although we did get to drive by it.

Dinner was at our hotel where a surprise awaited me at the front desk. The hotel in Kusadasi had found and returned my missing charger and battery. YAY!!!! I honestly never thought to see it again.

Ankara is clearly being carefully constructed: lush parks and gardens keep the city from being oppressive and lots of modern designs are visible. It is a vibrant and alive city as "captiol cities" often are. One wonders, however, about the impact on the local people swept away in the tide of modernization and too much "progress". Many people have been rudely displaced to make way for this new modern city to emerge.

10 June 2014 (Tuesday) (Ankara => Istanbul)
We left for the airport around 7AM for a 9AM flight. Fortunately traffic was not bad so we made it there quickly. It was time to say goodbye to our guide, Zafer, and our driver, Sohmettin. Both have been excellent companions, very knowledgeable and kind, anxious to make sure we had the best time possible.

My guide for today, Arzu, was waiting for me when I got off the plane in Istanbul around 10AM. Tutku found me the perfect guide: a teacher at the University with a degree in Byzantine Art history and an interest in painted churches.

We had a heavy schedule but were able to move quickly and got in everything I wanted to see.

1)... First stop was the Golden Gate . It’s impossible to see it from the outside anymore because of the vegetation but we went into the 7 Towers Museum which uses the Theodosian wall and gate as one side of its Ottoman complex. We got someone to open the gate from the inside so we could walk through the Golden Gate and see it from the outside.

It’s such a degraded site now but the sense of history is quite powerful. It probably began its life in the late 4th century as a 3 arched triumphal archway and then shortly thereafter it was incorporated into the Theodosian defensive walls. Imagine it large and open, coated in gold and topped with a chariot driven by the emperor and drawn by 2 large elephants. WOW.

2).. Then we drove along the old Theodosian Walls and I got to see the gardens that have been maintained for so many years on the terraces between the walls. Arzu says the current government is trying to evict the gardeners which would be a real shame. They are a link to so many years of history.

For a thousand years these walls protected the City of Contantinople before falling to the Ottoman Turks on 29 May, 1453. I probably drove by the spot where the final battle was fought, the battle that saw the fall of the last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI Paleologus, and the end of the great coty of Constantinople.

3)...The CHORA Monastery is starting a massive renovation project so the Naos is closed but the 2 narthexes are thankfully still open. The crowds in this very small space make it hard to really get a sense of the place but that is inevitable given the awesomeness of the place. To come to Istanbul and not see the Chora is to miss something vitally important to understanding Constantinople and its people.

My photos can never capture this place, this required getting the BOOK.

Arzu definitely had a plan for viewing the Chora: we started in the esonarthex with the scenes from the Life of Mary, moving on to the Miracles of Christ and then onto the frescos in the Parakleision with their Old Testiment themes. The church was probably dedicated to both Mary and Jesus and the name "Chora" is generally defined as meaning "enclosure or container" although it originally meant "out in the countryside". Mary was seen as the "container of the incontainable" but the church itself can also be seen as a container.

Leaving the church you would have seen the great Theodosian Walls which can also be seen as "containing" the city itself. So many layers of meaning, so many associations built into this church and its decorations. You could spend a lifetime here and not understand it all.

4)...We then walked a bit around the neighborhood, along the nearby wall. We finally came to a place where I could climb the walls but unfortunately the view from the top was disappointing. Still it was great to stand there and imagine the history of this place. That's what most of this trip has been all about for me, trying to imagine the past from the fragments that remain.
5).. Leaving the Chora district, we drove past the last standing walls (much restored) of the Blanchernae Palace complex. Today it sits in a quiet park, but it was originally a huge palace complex dominating this hill overlooking the Golden Horn and the city down below.

6) ... The next site we visited was The Pammakaristos Museum. It is still a functioning mosque but there is a funerary chapel along the side that still remains and there are some lovely mosaics. The church of St. Mary Pammakaristos was founded in the 12th century as a monastic church and the funerary chapel was added to the south side c. 1261 by Michael Glabas who was buried there. His wife, Maria, wrapped the building in the text of a great poem she commissioned in his honor.

After the Conquest it was the seat of the Greek Patriarchy until around 1587 when it was converted into a mosque.

7).. We then took a quick rest stop to have lunch. We drove through a very conservative neighborhood with women in full burkas which contrasts greatly with the rest of Istanbul. The variety of womens dress is quite incredible and points to how open and liberal the city is.
8)... After lunch we visited the Suleymanye Mosque with the tombs of Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife, Roxelana. The cemetery is filled with the tombs of those wishing to be close to the Sultan but Suleyman and Roxelana have their own separate tombs, both unfortuantely closed although you could peer through the windows to see the elaborately tiled and decorated interiors. The mosque is massive but very simple in its design; there is an overall sense of calmness.

Much of the great Ottoman architecture under Suleyman the Magnificent is the work of one man, Sinan the Architect . He is widely considered one of the greatest, if not THE greatest Ottoman architect.

It is fitting that leaving the Suleymanye Mosque, one of his great creations, by the back gate brings you to a tiny street and a small tomb, simple yet grand, holding the body of the great Sinan himself.

9)..We then drove down towards the Sultanamet area driving past the old Aqueduct, Marcians column which is stranded now in a roundabout and held together with steel bands, finally coming to a small park surrounding the ruins of St. Polyeuktos .

Through a chain link fence, capped in razor wire I could peer down through the vegetation to see fragments of the rough foundation walls of the once great church built in the 6th century by Anicia Juliana. Although supposedly open to the public, the gate was firmly locked so I was not able to actually walk down to see what's left. {Kaelin; this one was for you}

10)..The last stop of the day was the old Church of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus . Built in the 6th century by Justinian just outside the Grand Palace it is a tiny jewel and a prelude to the much grander Hagia Sophia. Called the Little Ayasophia, it is a working mosque. While much of the original Byzantine decoration is long gone, the structure is still clearly visible and there is a complete sense of peace and tranquility. It was the perfect way to end my tour and will remain one of my favorite spots in Istanbul.

My day was over. We had covered so much ground and seen so many things that it will take a long time to process it all. I am so happy I decided to stay on for an extra day. It still wasn't enough time. I'm still leaving with so much more I want to see; so many places I want to re-visit and so many new places I never got to see.

Arzu delivered me to my hotel, the Galata Anemon, next to the Galata Tower. It was a long and very tiring day so I took some time off and just rested. The area is a nightmare for drivers but a great area to explore on foot.

11 June 2014 – Wednesday - (ISTANBUL => Newark)
The driver was waiting for me when I came down around 10:45AM. Traffic is unbelievable in this area of incredibly narrow streets so it took a while to just get across the Horn but then it was an easy drive to Ataturk Airport. I didn’t even try to meet the weight limit for carry on so I just checked the suitcase through to Newark. Ataturk has one of the biggest Duty Free shops I have ever seen but I refrained. I had used up all the Turkish liras I’d brought so I just headed to my Swiss Air gate by 12:30pm.

The connection in Zurich was way more complicated going home: bus to terminal, train to terminal E, another security check and passport control. On the plus side the plane was half empty so everyone got a chance to spread out and get comfortable.

My bag was waiting for me when I got through immigration in NJ so I was at Park2Go by 9:10pm and home by 10:30pm.

This was the perfect introduction to Turkey: a small congenial group, all interested in Art, an excellent guide and tour company, great accommodations and good food. What's not to like.

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