Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

Dano, Melissa, Kennedy, Ethan, Erin, Abigail, and Emily

20 October 2010

Turkey – Istanbul: Day 1

We left our hotel and were driven the long two hours back to the Kayseri airport from which we flew back to Istanbul. Istanbul is huge! It is one of the top five largest cities in the world. It is home to nearly thirteen million people. The traffic is ridiculous! The drivers are only slightly better than the drivers in Jeddah. It is unique in that it is the only city to span two continents, Europe and Asia. The great Bosphorus marks the division between the two. The Bosphorus is a strait which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean Sea which then connects to the Mediterranean Sea. It is Turkey’s largest port.

One of the employees of the newly acquired company in Turkey was kind enough to tour us around Istanbul for two days while Dano attended meetings. I could not have done it without her. The language barrier would definitely have been a hinderance to our getting around.
It was a little overwhelming to think about all of the historically significant events that have taken place in this part of the world. We were so fortunate to be able to visit just a few of the structures and sites that make up this history.

The few sites we visited were on the other side of the Bosphorus. We had to ride a ferry across the strait, much to the children’s delight. They enjoyed throwing crackers up in the air off the side of the ferry and watching the seagulls dive to catch them.Upon reaching the other side we rode the tram a short distance and then walked and walked and walked some more.
The first site we stopped at was Kaiser Wilhelm’s Fountain. It is a beautiful gazebo-style fountain constructed in Germany in 1898 and then presented to the sultan by the Germans in 1900.
There are women there selling plates of seed to feed to the many pigeons. Berra, our guide, treated the children to a couple of plates so they could feed the pigeons. As I took pictures, I couldn’t get the “Feed the Birds” song from Mary Poppins out of my head. Now, as you look at our pictures, maybe that song will be stuck in your head, too!As I was attempting to get a picture of the beautiful fountain, a pigeon passing by happened to poop on my shoulder. Gross, I know. Berra told us it’s actually considered good luck to have a bird make its mark on you. Personally, I think that’s just some senseless rationalization made up by someone who wanted to seem cool after he'd just been bombed on his head!

From there we headed just a short walk up to the Obelisk of Theodosius. It reminded us of the Washington Monument.
This is the oldest monument in Istanbul and was carved in Egypt in the BC 1500s for Pharoah Thutmose III. The Emperor Theodosius had it brought from Egypt to (then) Constantinople in AD 390. It is constructed of red granite.
The base was constructed by Theodosius with incredible carvings of him, his wife, sons and state officials observing chariot races, a popular pastime. This entire area we were walking through was once the Hippodrome.

These two sites were situated on our walk to the famous Blue Mosque.The mosque was constructed in the early 1600s and has six minarets compared to the normal one or two. It also has a large courtyard with carvings and beautiful detailed painting.
We entered the mosque on the south side as only worshippers are permitted through the main entrance. We got in just before they closed the doors for prayer. As it is a holy spot and Muslims remove their shoes before prayer, we were also asked to remove our shoes and were provided bags in which to carry them around.The interior was impressive with its tens of thousands of blue tiles (hence the unofficial name) and its nearly three hundred stained glass windows. Hopefully the brilliance is conveyed in these pictures (even though the photographer had not been briefed in how to take indoor pictures with the new camera!).

The Hagia Sofia is just across from the Blue Mosque. It was completed in 567 AD by the Emperor Justinian (who wanted a greater temple than Solomon’s) and was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly one thousand years. In 1453 Constantinople was conquered and the cathedral was converted into a mosque. Under direction of the conquering sultan, many Christian emblems and artifacts were removed. One of the changes made was the plastering over of many of the faces of the mosaics. Part of the Muslim belief is to not replicate faces. It remained a mosque until 1935 when it was turned into a museum. It is a UNESCO site and, as we were told, seems to be under constant renovation (note the scaffolding in some of the pictures).

One of the changes they’re making is removing the plastering from the angels’ faces that float in the dome of the museum. You can see one angel's face in this picture and the other is still covered.Again, the detailing is magnificent and the mosaics impressive.

This final photo is of the Haydarpasa Train station which we could see from the ferry. I just thought it was a striking train station. The sky really was this beautiful. It’s the last time we’ll see blue skies for quite a while.
When we arrived back at the hotel, it was fun to see several of Dano’s friends from Greif, as their meetings were there in the hotel. They were meeting for dinner so the kids and I ordered a pizza and watched a movie on our bed. It was very easy to crash. We were all so tired and would be repeating our walking tour the next day.

Turkey – Cappadocia Day 4: Our last day

We woke up on our last morning, put the final touches on our packing, and headed off for one last hurrah in Cappadocia – hiking to the top of Uchisar Castle.
Like a natural skyscraper, this was the pinnacle of Cappadocia. It can be seen from all around, and we had had our eye on it since we arrived. With its peak at 1350 meters above sea level, it is the highest of all the fairy chimneys. Our hike to the top was a little strenuous but short, probably only a couple hundred feet. The stairs were steep and there were no barriers to keep one from falling off. As a mother, it made me incredibly nervous to watch my fearless little mountain goats scale the mountain as if it were a race to the top. We reached the flag at the top together and took in the panoramic view of Goreme and Cappadocia.

We went back to the hotel, said goodbye to the wonderful staff who had treated us so kindly.
Abby told her friend, John goodbye. He had been so kind to Abby and she took quickly to him. She’d call out to him whenever we’d return from touring around, or when we’d get up in the morning, or when she was just walking around the hotel veranda. We found out that his name was really spelled Can with the Turkish doo-hickey under the C which makes it sound like ‘zh’ and means ‘life’ in Turkish. We were very fortunate to find such kind, hospitable people to stay with.

18 October 2010

Turkey – Cappadocia Day 3: Ihlara Valley

We finally took a day to sleep in, which in the Lister family means we slept until about seven. We had a driver arranged to drive us about two hundred kilometers to the Ihlara Valley. I haven’t yet mentioned one of the notable vegetative attributes is the vast fields of squash and pumpkins. They seemed to be everywhere in the Cappadocia region.

Upon arriving at the valley where we’d begin the hike, Dano and my already-swollen feet and ankles were waivering on whether I should make the trek. I copped out. Under normal circumstances I would have gone, but the last thing I wanted was to get stuck in the middle of the valley, unreachable by car, or find myself in early labor in a foreign country. So I got back in the car with the driver and we drove to Belisirma where we’d meet up with the rest of the family in a couple of hours. He was so kind to outfit me with a pillow and recline the seats so I could take a nap.

Dano and the kids made really good time. According to all of them it was a really great hike. The scenery was beautiful and, like most of the Cappadocia region, it reminded Dano of far western Colorado. He checked on our maps and found out it is situated latitudinally close to Colorado.

You can see the trail running along the valley floor.
Because of the river running through the gorge, the foliage is quite lush.
Along their hike they saw more churches and monasteries and even more pigeon homes near the natives’ homes.
We ate lunch in Belisirma at a restaurant that had wonderful tables on platforms stretching out over the river. It was so peaceful. A paddling (just learned that word!) of ducks came swimming by to enjoy the pieces of flatbread the kids threw in the water. From there, our last stop was the Selime Monastery which is, of course, a rock-cut structure.
It was hidden in a little town with very narrow roads up the hill from Belisirma. This monastery, however, incorporated a large kitchen with a chimney. There was a chapel for worshipping. This monastery also had stables with rock-carved feed troughs. This is a linseed oil press which they used for cooking or fuel.
The kids are sitting on a grinding wheel which was at some point hooked up to this mill and was turned by the livestock which were housed there. We were so glad our driver took us to this very unique monastery.

16 October 2010

Turkey – Cappadocia Day 2: The rest of the day

Following our balloon ride we headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum. I thought this somehow was going to have historic airplanes or talk about the Turkish air force; that it was going to be something like the beloved Air Force Museum in Dayton. Silly, I know. Who would have thought by the name that it was a Byzantine monastic settlement made up of clusters of rock-cut churches, chapels, and monasteries?
These churches were a popular sanctuary in the 17th century. The roads are all original cobblestone which were charming but not so good for comfortable walking. I can’t say enough how much I loved my new Keens! The chapels were again amazing; just to contemplate how they constructed these churches out of the rock and how they painted, again, so many frescos that have withstood the forces of nature for hundreds of years.

After hiking through the Open Air Museum for a couple of hours both Abigail and my ankles had had enough. We gave it quite a bit of thought and decided it would be best for us if we headed back to the cave house for a rest. We enjoyed a really good Turkish lunch with some people in our tour group and then Abby and I took a cab back. I think it was the right move as she took a five hour nap. By the time Dano and the kids returned, my elephantitis had subsided and my feet fit back in my shoes.

However, with our compromise we missed out on quite a few neat sites. After lunch the group went hiking through some cool valleys. One was Pigeon Valley. Here the natives carved thousands of houses in the rocks for pigeons. Imagine wanting to attract pigeons! The people provided this shelter in order to collect the birds’ feces which they had realized was wonderful fertilizer. They also hiked through Devrent Valley made up of volcanic stones which appear to be stacked and balanced on each other. Many of them seemed to form animal shapes.
They also saw many examples of the most distinctive geological feature of Cappadocia which are called Fairy Chimneys. This is an odd name, yet perfectly suited for the stone formations throughout this region. These unique structures were formed by three phases of natural processes. First, volcanic ash filled the valleys of Cappadocia from the three major volcanoes and many active craters in the region. The volcanoes then deposited harder stone on top of the ash. Much of the harder stone was basalt. The next process was many years of pressure turning the ash into a soft stone. Lastly, wind and water did what it does and eroded the softer stone where it was not protected by harder stone on the top layer. This process left these great Fairy Chimneys. The soft stone formed by the compressed ash is also what allowed thousands of years of civilization to carve homes, churches, pigeon houses, and even our hotel.

From there they headed back to Avanos where we had toured the ceramic shop. This time they were able to tour a weaving shop. Turkey is known for their amazingly beautiful rugs. At this particular workshop they had seventeen thousand rugs. Here the kids were given an opportunity to help tie knots in a rug-in-the-making. They each loved this. The ornate rugs the kids helped with will eventually be approximately 2 feet by 3 feet and will take these women up to six months to weave them, explaining the significant cost of rugs.
They were also shown how they harvested the silk from the silk worms and spun it into yarn.
They told the kids that they are able to harvest about a mile of thread from each worm. Many of the rugs are made from silk and are soft and have a beautiful sheen. They also make rugs from wool and cotton.

While we were out we saw many of these ice cream peddlers. Dano and the kids decided to give Turkish ice cream a try. You can tell by the facial expressions that the peddler was hilarious. He teased the kids unmercifully. Ethan told me he almost dumped the ice cream on his head. They all loved the ice cream. It was the first time they had tasted ice cream made with camel milk.

That evening we walked a little ways from our hotel to a restaurant and enjoyed a really fun dinner together. The evenings were quite mild (though not mild enough to cool off our cave room) and the air was clean and refreshing. We felt so blessed to be able to spend time together in a wonderful little part of Turkey.