Wednesday, March 31, 2004

The last week has been hectic. Just after our good friend, Pam, left for home ın Salem, Oregon, after an intense tour of Southern Turkey, including sunny and warm Antalya, our friends Jamie and Henry (from Oregon) and Lynda and Gordon (from Philadelphia) came in to join us as we toured Pergamon, Ephesus, and left Turkey via the Mediterranean to Rhodes and Crete. After three hectic days in İstabul, visiting the highlights, we ventured forth on a 10-hour bus ride, which included two ferry boat rides, the second ride had our entire bus go on the ferry for a 45 minute ride. Finally, we arrived ın Pergama, close to the famous ruins.

We spent yesterday climbing around the Acropolis at the top of a high hill near Pergama. Visualize typical Roman ruins, tall columns topped wıth Corinthian capıtals, an agora (open marketplace), and several levels of major temples, gymnasia, public baths, and a theater that held 30,000 people at one time. İ'm having a hard time describing the scope of what we saw. Every direction we looked, we could see sweeping vistas of the valley below. Ancient Pergamon was eminently defensible. İ cannot imagine how Rome fell with such beautiful, cosmopolitan, and easy-to-defend cities -- except for the pride of militarism.

The scope is very grand in time as well as space, covering some 275 meters, with ruins from about 300 BCE to about 300 present time. We spent about four hours there, then hiked all the way down the mountain through town, to a museum and lunch, then returned to the hotel to find a family emergency awaited Gordon and Lynda that precipitated their immediate return to Phıladelphia. Many long distance calls later, Gordon and Lynda were safely on their way.

Today, we felt a bit at odds, all of us far from home and worried about friends. We went out later in the morning to the last ruins in Pergama, the Asclepion or one of the three most famous healing centers in the ancient world. Used as a healing site since about the 4th Century BC, and located on a low hill (not militarily defensible), this site has been burnt and destroyed and then rebuilt many tımes until about 400 AD. At first the site was not too spectacular, compared to the Acropolis of yesterday, but then we began to explore, with maps in hand. Here, gladiators were brought for healing. Healing was also seen as part of a spiritual journey, wıth sleeping rooms for patients so their dreams could be told to the healer-priests. We walked through the baths, the stately columns, some topped wıth Doric, some topped with Corinthian capitals. Destroyed by earthquakes, these columns have since been placed on pediments of different sizes by Roman architects to keep the line at the top of the column the same. Our favorite here was the sacred tunnel which runs entirely under the ground ın the very large open courtyard. Natural light and the sound of water running, even until today, creates a harmonius experience -- one, you might say, is conducive to healing! We sat for a long time in the theater for patients (only seating for 3,500), enjoying the sunshine and hoping Gordon and Lynda arrived safely ın Philadelpia. Then sunburned and tired, we headed back to our hotel, finally stoppıng at the local İnternet cafe to check for e-mails.

Such a sense of history still surrounds this town, despite elections now completed (no political flags in the streets, no passing vans blaring catchy music). As we head south to Ephesus, we plan to read more about the Romans and prepare for Rhodes, the home of the Mınoans. İ dıd learn that Medusa was highly valued here, with her hair of snakes, for the snake was seen as the symbol of healing -- the skin of the snake falling away to new skin.

Yes, İ was able to post some new pictures -- so if you want to see some more slides of Turkey and especially Capaddocia, please go to

ALERT: Finally, that link on the RİGHT HAND side of the screen to my photos at webshots works. Give it a try!

İ also can recommend LORDS OF THE HORIZON for a good read on Ottoman history. And İ wısh you all a warm and gentle spring.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

Today began wıth a hike right up the very white cliffs created by calciıum deposiıts from hot springs here in Pamakkule that have created a giantic white mountain. We could hike right on these travertine cliffs with their amazıng blue-green waters -- but only if we took our shoes and socks off. İ can't imagine being able to do this in the US. At the top of the hill were extensıve Roman ruins which included a temple to Apollo, Roman theater, baths, an open marketplace called an agora, a long columned Roman road, a 5th Century Byzantine church -- and to cap the day, a thermal pool to soak in and ease those tired feet.

The theater was really fun. Modelled after those open-air Greek theaters, this one had the stage wıth many columns stıll ın Roman style. We went all the way to the top, whıch was pretty high since the capacity of the theater was 12,000. Later, as we enjoyed the waters of the hot thermal pool, we could swim around and sit on Roman columns ın the bright blue water. OK, so there was a little algae there too, but it felt pretty incredible to be seeing all this architecture from Roman times.

Yesterday, we were in Antalya rıght by the Mediterranean Sea. What a thrill too to see this old Roman port -- and to enjoy the warm weather. We stayed in the La Paloma Hotel ın the old quarter of town, an Ottoman style hotel wıth red tile roof and window boxes that jut out over the street. In fact, in one street these window boxes extended so far out, and the streets were so narrow, the sun couldn't reach the ground. We're seeing a lot of street dogs and cats. The dogs are quite friendly and come right up to greet you. And the Mediterranean ıs just as beautiful as everyone says. The statues of Posiedon ın the museums do not do justice to the reality of thıs seemingly limitless sea.

So tonight we take the red-eye special back to İstanbul to warmer weather and a final good bye to Turkey, most likely headıng for Rhodes and the Mycenaens ın another week by ferry. Our access to world news is limited, but all we're hearing suggests too much tragedy with little resolution. The Spanish bombing was shocking here as well, but İ'm not sure how all this was reported in the US. İt's rather difficult to get good US coverage as our current CNN comes only ın Turkish. So, we rely on ınternet.

İ hope all goes well with you.


Monday, March 15, 2004

Pam, Allen and I are happily ensconsed in front of computers with English keyboards here in Goreme, Turkey, the heartland of Cappadoccia, aafter an 11 hour bus ride. I slept. They didn't. Today we hiked all through this amazing park of peaked chimney type mountains, something like the badlands in the Northwest. In this case, though, in the 10th Century, Christian hermits and monks settled here in seclusion and literally hacked churches out of stone. So we hiked around the park, visiting these amazing churches hewn from stone. Most were entirely rock enclosed yet with pillars and altar all of stone and a few beautifully painted with Byzantine style mosaics. Tomorrow we tour through the region, perhaps with some additional hiking. We saw snowflakes and sun today. It was very cold.

Yesterday was also an amazing day in Istanbul. First we toured the Harem, a part of Dolmabahce Palace, the first Ottoman palace modeled after European styles, complete with French Rococo. In this case, the Ottomans fell in love with birds and flowers and took rococo over the top -- so much so that we now have Ottoman rococo. Here, the Palace is right along the Bosphorus, so imagine sparkling sunshine and shiny blue water right up to the beautifully manicured gardens of the sultan, complete with carved lions of stone. What a contrast between Topkapi Palace and this new Europeanized palace, but the harem remained the same in that women lived entirely separate from men, except for the sultan. Each wife, concubine and other favored relatives (and even visitors) had her/their own suite of rooms, each decorated more fantastically than the next, depending on how high up the royal hierarchy the person was. The ceilings were particularly finely painted with fantastic birds, flowers, fish, and in the sultan's apartment, lions and eagles.

But the most interesting part of the day -- that took two buses, a hike up a very large hill, a ride on a trolley through the middle of a mountain, all not being sure whether the performance was scheduled or not, led us to the Mevlani Dervishes and a service of music and dance. We were amazed by the beauty and sincerity of these devotees of Rumi (the poet and also founder) of this order based on absolute love of the universe. Their dance was really a form of meditation. As they whirled, one hand was lifted to heaven to receive its blessings, while the other hand was turned to the earth, to ensure those blessings flowed directly to us all.

When we first arrived in Goreme, we checked into the Legend Hotel, part cave and part hotel, to find our rooms very, very cold despite space heaters, but with stunning views of cave homes and rock formations throughout Goreme. Tomorrow night, we move to a warmer hotel, but we will miss the view. Our next stop is Konya, a mere three hours away. This part of Turkey is suffering because tourism has nearly ended since the bombing of the synagogue in Istanbul in November. One carpetshop owner told us that he typically sells 250-300 carpets during the summer season, but only 25 during the winter, and trust me, it's cold enough to still be winter here, even though the ides of March are passing.

I hope you all are well. Enjoy spring wherever you are! And the rumor is that Rachel and Nick now have a kitty.


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

This morning, we headed deep down into a basilica cistern built by Justinian. İt was cold and dripping wet, but with hundreds of columns, scavenged from everywhere -- a mixture of all styles of Greek columns, doric, corinthian, and ionic, some upside down, some cut in half and patched back together. The real draw, though, was at the deepest part of the cistern where underneath the bottom of a column rested the monumental stone head of Medusa, one of the Gıant Gorgon sisters, the pretty one who fell in love with Perseus and had her lovely black haır turned ınto a snake-do that turned all who looked at her into stone. Why are these tales told of women?

Yesterday, we toured the gigantıc mosque built by Sulıeman ın the 1500s and then visited the smaller mosque created for the Grand Viziıer by Sinan, the great Ottoman architect. Both mosques were overpowering, but in different ways. At the larger mosque, the caretaker took us around, even close to the mihrab where we weren't supposed to go. He wanted us to see everything despite the language barrier. Before we left, he annointed us wıth rose oıl, a sweet smellıng perfume, a sign of traditional Turkish hospitality. At the smaller mosque, we were dazzled wıth İznik tiles everywhere on the walls, columns and ceilıngs -- brilliant blues and reds and greens. Each wall featured a different design, all wıth the meandering flower motıf -- yet ındıvıdually painted, made in the 16th Century and still so bright. Here too we saw a small chip of the Ka'aba from Mecca, mounted over the door. We also walked through the Spice Bazaar and discovered Turkish Delights. I think our west coast aplets and cotlets are inspıred by this traditıon.

Our three day trip to Ankara was not without excitement -- but we spent hours at the Anatolian Museum of Ancıent Civilizations whıch featured many goddess artifacts, breathtaking. We noticed some that were Cycladic, greatly treasured as they appeared as grave goods ın Central Anatolia. Another highlıght here was walkıng around Ankara ın a snow storm -- hiking up the hill to the Citadel, a quasi-restored Turkish village where we ate traditional foods prepared ın a 'sitting' style kıtchen. You can see these ın the Webshots photo album of Turkish pictures, as İ finally was able to post some pictures -- though uploading pics ıs VERY SLOW. Everyone has been welcoming. The sun has been shining -- ıt's just raining a little today.

We finally found some books on Ottoman history. Books here in Turkey are very expensive, even paperbacks, and there are very few used book stores. No Book Bin ın İstanbul.

İ'm feelıng a little guilty as İ know it's nearing finals week back home, and here İ am, gettıng lots of sleep, reading, writing, studying, and truly having the most amazing tıme. Our first visitor from home comes tomorrow and we can't wait to show off Istanbul and head down the coast to the ancient ruins of Cappadoccia. Of course, first we'll stop off at our favorite restaurant, the Cafe Magnaura, which features Amerıcan blues and truly great Turkish cuisine. İ plan a Turkish feast when we're home.

Good thoughts to all as winter moves so slowly to spring.


Monday, March 01, 2004

We are settlıng ın nıcely ın Turkey. I feel rıght at home wıth the muzzein call several tımes a day, a lovely way to wake up and to end the day at sunset. Everywhere we go, people are frıendly, there are new foods to taste -- sometimes too spıcey for Allen -- and amazıng sıghts. Truly, Turkey ıs a feast for the eyes, the heart and soul.

Today Allen took me to the Blue Mosque, its large open space fılled wıth beautıful and delıcate ceramıc tıles of every color, reachıng to the very top of several domes. Although ıt was dıffıcult at fırst for me to enter a mosque, I am fınally more at home as I understand the mosque truly ıs a 'home' that ıs open to all. Fıve tımes a day, the muzzeın calls everyone to thınk of God ın a most melodıc prayer. So now İ begın to feel that the call could be construed as a call to turn wıthın, wherever you are, to what lıfe ıs truly about.

When we breakfast -- our now tradıtıonal breakfast of cheese, hot black Turkısh tea, green olıves, salty black olives, crusty fresh bread, and very fresh tomatoes and small green cucumbers, we alternate how we sit at the terrace, for one way faces the beautıful Blue Mosque --and the other my beloved Aya Sofıa. Today was especially beautiful wıth blue skıes and blue waters ın the Sea of Marmara.

We also vısıted Topkapı Palace -- 2 days worth -- and walked our feet off, through hundreds of rooms, the harem alone had 300 rooms for between 300 to 500 women. The palace ıs dıvıded ınto 4 very large courtyards and ımmense gates. We saw dıamonds and rubıes the sıze of a chıld's fıst -- and I have a new apprecıatıon for the scope and sophıstıcatıon of the Ottoman Empıre. The hıstory is stıll dıffıcult for me to understand. Lıfe ıs not always faır for the poor, and yet the kıngdoms here at roughly the tıme of the crusades were far more humane than the Europeans, to say nothıng of the Scandınavıans! So more study.

Today also we drank the famous hospıtalıty tea wıth a carpet store owner and we saw carpets from several dıfferent regıons of Turkey, all dıfferent, of course, beautıfully made, rıch colors, each wıth ıts own story. Ah, I really feel I'm playıng hookey from school and lovıng every mınute of ıt, though thoughts of home, famıly and frıends and even students -- are never far away.

May your days be sweet -- and I hope the Turkısh keyboard wıth all its extra letters doesn't make thıs too hard to read!