Friday, February 22, 2013

Turkey, for real

Disclaimer - this is a photo heavy post
We'll hopefully be back to our regularly scheduled crafting programming this weekend, but for now, here's a more thorough review of our Turkey vacation. In 10 days, we took 5 flights, visited 5 cities (plus a few other little towns), saw countless mosques, and took 1064 photos.  Narrowing that down to a manageable amount was tough, but I think I succeeded.  I left out pictures of the majority of the mosques and I'm going to try to limit the writing so this post doesn't go on for days.
So here goes:

We started our trip in Selçuk (pronouced Sel-chuk), which is a small down near the Aegean Sea.  We stayed there primarily due to it's proximity to Ephesus, which was a major Roman city during the first century B.C. and is now reconstructed ruins.


Library of Celsus
While in Selçuk, we also visited Sirince (pronounced Shirinjay), which is best known for the fruit wine produced there.  After doing a tasting that included quince and cherry (which tasted like cough syrup), among others, we bought a bottle of melon.

Next, it was on to Izmir, which is the third largest city (by population) in Turkey and sits right on the coast of the Aegean Sea.  Unlike many of the other places we visited, Izmir is not very touristy, but it did have a few neat sites, included a huge bazaar (in which we got lost), an ethnographic museum, and the Agora. There was also this really neat clock tower (saat kulesi) that was built by French architect Raymond Charles Père in 1901 as a gift from the German Emperor Wilhelm II to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II's rule.

Saat Kulesi
There were hoards of pigeons around the clock tower that kept flying, as a group, in random directions.  Nostalgia struck Mr. T and he bought some (overpriced) seeds from someone sitting in the square to feed them, so they kept flocking around us.  Apparently he used to do this as a child in India.
On our third day, we flew to the town of Göreme, which is in Cappdocia. This area is know for the fairy chimneys and valleys that were formed when Mount Erciyes (Erciyes Dagi) erupted a few thousand years ago.  It's a quite touristy region and there are a few staple activities:

Sleeping in a cave room.

Taking a hot air balloon ride to get an aerial view of the landscape.

Hot air being blown into the balloon.

Landscape of Göreme

There were at least 80 balloons in the sky.

Fairy chimneys (the phallic structures) and Uchisar castle in the distance.
Mr. T helping to get the air out of our balloon when the ride was over.

Uchisar Castle from the ground.
Fresco in a rock church at the Göreme Open Air Museum
Graves in a structure at the Open Air Museum.  People back then were very small.
Erciyes Dagi in the distance, from the top of Uchisar Castle
Finally, it was on to Istanbul! My favorite thing about Istanbul is the juxtaposition of historical sites (like Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque) from Byzantine and Ottoman times and the bars, restaurants, culture, etc. of a modern day European (and Asian) city.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque (popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of the Iznik tiles inside). One of our favorites of all the mosques we visited.  We went back a few times.

Blue Mosque at dusk
Me with my head covered (clearly, I still need some practice) inside the Blue Mosque.
Topkapi Palace - primary residence of Ottoman Sultans, now a museum with lots of artifacts
Mr. T in front of the Ayasofya (known in English as the Hagia Sophia). Originally a church built by Emperor Justinian in the 500s, then converted to a mosque in the 1400s, and is now a museum.
Inside the Ayasofya, from the balcony.
One of several mosaics that are currently being restored inside the Ayasofya. AMAZING! Each pieces is about the size of a pinkie finger nail.  So small!
Basilica Cistern - cavernous space underneath Istanbul that was used to store water during Emperor Justinian's reign in the 6th century.
One of two Medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern.  No one is clear as to why or how they are there.  Or why they're not upright.  The other is a bit bigger and upside down.  Both serve as the base of columns in the northwest corner of the cistern.
We took a cruise on the Bosphorus River, which separates the European and Asian parts of Istanbul and connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. This is a view of the Bospohrus Bridge from the river,   The bridge was completed in 1973 for the 50th anniversary of the founding of Turkey.
Fortress of Europe on the western bank of the Bosphorus
Fortress of Asia on the eastern bank of the Bospohrus.  There's not as much remaining as the Fortress of Europe (it's 50 years older), but a few towers are visible behind those houses.
We caught a futbol match.  So much better than any sporting event in the US!  The crowd is so much more enthusiastic.  The only comparison I can think of is an entire stadium full of just the student section at a Michigan football game (or presumably any student section, but I'm a Michigan Wolverine, so...GO BLUE!).
Spice Bazaar! I think this was one of my favorite places in Istabul because of the vibrant colors.  Everything is way overpriced.  We bought a few spices from stands right on the edge or just outside the official market building and they were 1/4 to 1/3 the price of the same spices inside.  But I love the way everything is displayed! In case you're curious, we got some sumac, whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, Ottoman spice (whatever that is), and 1.5 kilos of dried apricots for me!
Olives at the Spice Market
Drying peppers and maybe some eggplant and mushrooms.  I couldn't tell.
More dried veggies and sponges!
This was my favorite mosque - Rüstem Pasa (Pasha). It was built in 1561 by Mimar Sinan for Rüstem Pasa, the son-in-law and grand vizier to the Sultan Süleyman I. The plethora of expensive Iznik tiles that decorate both the interior and exterior demonstrate how corrupt Rüstem was, managing to stash enough money to pay for such extravagances. 
Sure is pretty though! I'd love to make a quilt that looks like this.

We also saw the New Mosque, Süleymaniye Mosque, Little Ayasofya, Grand Bazaar, and Nuruosmaniye Mosque, and a lot of other things, including a bunch of stray cats that we fed with food bought from the animal bazaar (just outside the spice bazaar).  Oh, and we had a Turkish bath.  So weird to have someone else wash me, but 100% worth it!  We went to a place called Cemberlitas, which was built in 1584 by the primary Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.  He also built the Süleymaniye Mosque and 300+ other structures.
So, that was a bit of a slide show and history lesson, but the moral of the story is - if you get a chance to go to Turkey, DO IT!  Now I'm off to have some baklava!

1 comment:

  1. You did so much in so little time! The pictures are wonderful and I enjoyed the history lesson. Very cool vacation - hot air balloons man, so cool!