Friday, April 30, 2010

Malatya mountains

Saturday 1 May 2010

Travel day today. Here is a view from the bus window, as we come into Malatya, the country's apricot capital.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Harran camel

Friday 30 April 2010

This is outside the town of Harran, which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world.

The field there is full of stones, you might be able to see, remnants of the great capital city that used to sprawl here. (Today it is a very very small village.) We've seen fields like this in several parts of Turkey, and it is always odd to think that a huge, bustling metropolis used to cover a space that is now full of goats and camels. History seeps into every corner of this country.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Holy carp, Batman!

Thursday 29 April 2010

The most famous sight in Urfa - the pool of holy carp.

Local legend has it that Abraham was sentenced to be burnt to death for destroying pagan idols. However, when they went to burn him, Abraham was thrown into the air and landed in a bed of roses. The fire was all turned into water and the coals into fish.

These are the descendants of those fish, supposedly, and are considered sacred.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Abraham's cave

Wednesday 28 April 2010

This is the cave where Abraham (yes, the one from the Bible) was born. You can go in and collect spring water and pray inside.

As you can see from the gender separation still visible in this photo, there is one side for men and one for women, walled off so you can't see each other. When I went in, the women's side was absolutely packed, though Ryan said the men's was almost empty.

You can also see a lot of women here wearing lilac headscarves. All the Kurdish women here in Urfa wear that color - it almost feels like a uniform.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Tuesday 27 April 2010

There are some amazing mosaics in the Gaziantep Archeology Museum.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Gazi of Antep

Monday 26 April 2010

The town of Gaziantep used to be known as just Antep. After World War I, the French tried taking the town, while attempting to extend the land they controlled in Syria. The people of Antep, however, kept the French at bay for 11 months without any help from the national army. For this heroism, the prefix "Gazi" (meaning veteran, or war hero) was added to Antep. They are often noted as being the most patriotic Turks.

These are some of the heroes of the resistance, in the Gaziantep citadel museum.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Sunday 25 April 2010

We are currently in the town of Gaziantep, which is known for having the best pistachios in the world, and also the best pistachio baklava.

Ryan and I have done some rather extensive testing, and we are very willing to award the "Best Pistachio Baklava Prize" to Gaziantep. My personal favorite, though, is walnut baklava - now where's that town?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dark Church

Saturday 24 April 2010

Today was a travel day, so I thought I'd show you another photo from our time in Goreme. This is the Dark Church, so called because there are no windows, making it well-protected and beautifully preserved. It is one of the cave churches carved out of the mountains in which early Christians sheltered.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Underground city

Friday 23 April 2010

Finally had a nice day today, so we took a tour of the region. Here is a room in one of the underground cities that dot the region. Built around 2,000 years ago by the Hittites, they are best-known for being home to early Christians hiding from the Romans.

Walking through hundreds of rooms reaching down eight stories, it was hard to imagine actually living here. There was plenty of ventilation, but nothing could prevent it from being an awfully cold, damp home.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fairy Chimney

Thursday 22 April 2010

One of the "fairy chimneys" for which this region of Turkey is famous. They are unique rock formations that sometimes look like cones, sometimes like mushrooms, and sometimes like something else . . . .

We've had three days of cold rain and hail, and were getting a little antsy. So, we went out for a walk this afternoon despite the threatening clouds. It was a bit damp, but at least we didn't get soaked.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The evil eye

Wednesday 21 April 2010

These are glass "evil eyes," which can be seen hanging in homes and businesses all over Turkey. (And Greece, I hear.) They are supposed to essentially glare back at anyone giving you the evil eye, or bad luck that heads toward you, and protect you from it. They say that if yours breaks, it is a sign that it has stopped something bad from happening.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Goreme cemetery

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Our international cemetery tour continues. Here was a lovely flower-filled one in Cappadocia, within sight of some fairy chimneys.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Monday 19 April 2010

Our second hammam experience. Turkish baths may not quite compare to my awesome Taiwanese spa, but they're pretty good. This one was mixed gender, requiring swim suits, but usually they're separate and you just go in your underwear. (Though never naked, it seems. Too bad.) A hammam is a big marble room ringed by a bench with basins set into it, and full of warm stone beds. The steam works its way out through a hole at the top of the dome overhead.

First you clean yourself off with a metal bowl and the water from the basins. Then sit and relax for a bit in the hot, steamy air. (We went to one in Bursa that had wonderfully deep hot pools of spring water, too.) When you feel sufficiently softened, it's time for a full-body scrub, followed by a thorough soapy massage.

Here we are cooling down and drying off afterwards, with a cup of apple tea and some fruit.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Antalya Museum

Sunday 18 April 2010

The Antalya Archeology Museum houses an incredible collection of Roman statuary.

Friday, April 16, 2010


Saturday 17 April 2010

A statue of Ataturk in Antalya. Ataturk means "Father Turk," and is the affectionate name given to Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey. The country is full of Ataturk statues, paintings, photos, schools, and highways. His face is drawn onto half the flags. Pictures of him hang in just about every business.

He is so well-loved, in fact, that it is actually illegal to say anything negative about him. This makes me a little nervous, personally (I guess it's very American of me, but I like my freedom of speech!) but the people here truly admire his determination and love of his country.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roman Theater

Thursday 15 April 2010

There is an extremely well-preserved Roman theater just outside of Kas. Ryan and I climbed up today to watch the sun set over the mountains. What a show!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sea kayaking

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Ryan went diving today, so I went kayaking over the smooth teal waters around Kas.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Kas at night

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Our first night in Kas (pron Kash), a nice little town on the Mediterranean. This is the view from our table at a lovely restaurant serving up delicious home cooking and cold beer.

Doesn't get much better than this, huh?

Circumcision Sultans

Monday 12 April 2010

These outfits are for young boys to wear to their circumcision parties. Here in Turkey, boys are circumcised around age 7 or 8 as part of a huge coming-of-age celebration. Parents spend tons of money on the costume, on gifts for the boy, and on food and entertainment for the whole family. It's rather like a quinceanera in Latin cultures, but for boys.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Sunday 11 April 2010

I get cold just looking at this photo.

The Tashkin's took us up to the top of Uludag (pron oo-loo-dah), a mountain just outside of Bursa, for a barbeque today. (It is one of the mountains that might have been Mount Olympus, by the way.) It was the first time in 7 and 1/2 years that I've seen snow. Frankly, I could have waited a few more months.

I rode a ski lift for the first time ever, and slipped and slid through the mushy late-season snow. It was neat to see, but man what a cold day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ottoman parade

Saturday 10 April 2010

While visiting friends here in Bursa, we caught this neat little parade of Ottoman and other traditional Turkish costumes.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Seconds of Sufis

Friday 9 April 2010

We saw another example of the Whirling Dervishes tonight. Although it was still a performance, this one took place in a Sufi religious community center and had a much more somber atmosphere than the last one we saw. It began and ended with a prayer, and no one was playing to the crowd here.

If you look at the audience members in the background there, you'll notice that they're all men. We women had to sit on the second floor and peer down. I'm noticing that whenever women have separate quarters of any kind in these Muslim countries, we seem to get the short end of the stick.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


Thursday 8 April 2010

This is Miniaturk, a funny and cool park full of models of the important and beautiful places in Turkey. (They even used bonsai trees, to look like normal trees next to the miniatures.) Walking around it was like taking a little tour of the country.

(If you look carefully, you can see the people stomping through like giants.)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dolmabache Palace

Wednesday 7 April 2010

On Monday we visited the older palace, and today we saw the more modern one, the palace built and decorated in western style. All the gilt and glitz was a little overwhelming for me - every inch was carved and painted and swirled and inlaid and hung with crystals. (There was even a staircase with a crystal banister!)

It certainly was impressive, and I do with I could show you the chandelier that was probably the size of my parents' house, but cameras were not allowed into the palace. Here is a guard on the grounds.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Aya Sofia

Tuesday 6 April 2010

The Aya Sofia is probably the most-visited sight in Istanbul, and it was easy to see why. This photo is of a very very small part of it, and do you see how tiny those people are? Stepping into this church-turned-mosque, you are almost overwhelmed by both the immensity and the elegance of an incredible work of architectural art.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Gulhane Park

Monday 5 April 2010

We saw many interesting and old things today in Tokapi Palace, and part of me thought I should put up a photo of the royal splendor we saw.

But I just loved this photo so much, taken at the park next door.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Inside the Blue Mosque

Sunday 4 April 2010

Today we went into the Blue Mosque, one of the highlights of Sultanahmet,the area of Istanbul where we are staying for a few days.

Pretty impressive, huh? I was wishing for a wide angle lens, though, that's for sure!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Blue Mosque

Saturday 3 April 2010

We've arrived in Instabul, just in time for the Tulip Festival.

(Did you know that tulips are originally from Turkey?)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Dead Sea Scrolls

Friday 2 April 2010

At the Archaeological Museum here in Amman, they have a few small pieces of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls - here's a little bit.

Super-cool, huh?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ryan enjoys the theater . . .

Thursday 1 April 2010

. . . he just needs to work on his Latin.

There is a very nicely preserved Roman theater here in Amman.