May 2013



Turkey: A stupendous holiday exploring Eastern Turkey. Pics (L->R): Sultan Ahmet Mosque (Istanbul); 13th Century Church St. Gregory of Tigran Honents (Ani Ruins); Poppies; 10th Century Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross (Akdamar Island); 3rd-4th Century Mosaic; Egyptian Bazaar (Istanbul); Mount Ararat; Topkapi Palace Porcelain (Istanbul).

The Travel Route

The Travel Route: Once again I joined Footloose Forays, this time for 2 weeks with a group of 10 to explore eastern Turkey. We traveled mostly by bus, but flew 3 hops for the longer distances.

Along the way we saw absolutely stupendous history, the making of mankind. Nearly everywhere we viewed temples and churches and mosques, some in active use while others, now Turkish landmarks, in various states of restoration of their sometimes century old creation. Nearby Kars, we visited the dramatic site of Ani, once the capital of the old Armenian Kingdom, then a walled city of 100,000 inhabitants and a legendary 1,000 churches.

Everywhere we were treated with an unbeivable array of wildflowers. Fields of poppies, spectacular irises and orchads, and numerous varieties of flowering shapes and color. In the mountain region of Barhal we walked nearby rushing rivers and exotic (and common) wildflowers to a remote hamlet, and there enjoyed a scenic break with a lovely, camera-shy, old resident at her simple dwelling.

Everywhere we traveled the Turkish people were friendly and gracious. The cusine was delectable, the customs of dance and music delightful.


Istanbul ~ A view from the Galata Bridge of Istanbul's old town with its Bosphorus waterfront, city life, mosques, and minarets. The colorful boats in the foreground are floating "Turkish fast food," a place I enjoyed freshly filleted grilled fish on a hard roll, a sunny outdoor table, and the excitement of hundreds of locals and tourists alike.

I explored using two feet and two eyes for my days in Istanbul traveling up and down hills, along conventional and circuitous paths, by the waterfront and on the Bosphorous by boat, and on main streets and side streets. My journey was a delight viewing history, local culture, and sometimes the unusual while at other times the mundane, and on all these walks I felt safe as at home.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Sultan Ahmet Mosque ~ Located in Old Town Istanbul, the best time to visit is early morning when the throngs of tourists are at their least. But, I also had a wonderful view of the mosque from the breakfast balcony of my hotel, Hotel Nena (highly recommended). And not to be outdone, I had another grand view with excellent outdoor dining (not once but twice) just across the square at Hotel Alzer.

Topkapi Palace

Topkapi Palace ~ So much to take in, but sadly photos are mostly prohibited in the palace. This photo of harem ladies shows these central characters from a larger painted porcelain tile mosaic.

Best Photo I Ever Shot

The Best Photo I Ever Shot was of a young charming Turkish couple upon a chance meeting nearby Topkapi Palace. She was dressed in traditional clothing, a black burka, but with her face in full view under her headscarf. She had posed with arms extended as if in playful dance while her husband was ready with camera to capture the moment. Using universal sign language (I don't speak Turkish and I assumed they didn't speak English) I pantomimed "may I take your picture." They accepted my offer, and he handed me his camera. Then like Ma and Pa Kettle they posed. After that first boring shot I again pantomimed, this time with my arms in playful dance for another picture. They completely understood. So as the young charming couple posed in playful dance they were memorialized. Handing back their camera, I received a gracious (pantomimed) thanks while all our faces paraded beaming smiles. That was the best photo I ever shot!

Egyptian Bazaar

Egyptian Bazaar: Forget our new world shopping malls, rather imagine bazaars in Istanbul with a plethora of merchants selling everything conceivable: Cookware, tools, plumbing, fabric, shoes, wedding gowns, candy, and, ..., and spices. The colors and textures of these spices were intriguing, but most I wouldn't know how to use.

Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar: And at the Grand Bazaar these colorful lights are also among the items for sale.

Flower Pot

Flower Pot: Istanbul is a place of many faces. During my wanderings I spied this clever flower pot. For those interested, it's located nearby Amiral Tafdil Sokak, No 24.

Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum

Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum is an archaeological museum displaying a wide variety of rescued mosaics from the 3rd century Roman frontier city of Zeugma on the Euphrates. These mosaics are thought to have been founded by a general in Alexander the Great's army. The treasures remained relatively unknown until 2000 when new dams on the Euphrates meant that much of Zeugma would be forever flooded. The museum is located in the town of Gaziantep.

This mosaic is a depiction from Greek mythology of Oceanous and Tethys. Oceanous was the embodiment of the world ocean. Tethys (from the Greek work têthê for "nurse" or "grandmother") was the daughter of Uranus and Gaia and sister of Oceanus, and is often depicted with wings on her forehead to represent the rain clouds.

Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum

Gaziantep Zeugma Mosaic Museum: This is another fine example of a rescued mosaic. The museum includes numerous mosaics representing Greek mythology and others that are geometric. A visit to the museum will render you in awe by its expansive historic content.

Mt Nemrut National Park

Mt Nemrut National Park is the mountain top tomb of King Antiochus (62 BCE). The tomb is flanked by numerous huge statues of himself, lions, eagles, and Greek, Armenian, and Iranian gods. The heads of the statues are no longer attached, rather they are scattered about.

Mt Nemrut National Park

Mt Nemrut National Park ~ One of many heads from the mountain top tomb of King Antiochus (62 BCE). This one likely represents one of the Greek, Armenian, or Iranian gods, ..., take your pick.

Crown Flower

Crown Flower ~ While viewing the ruins (still in primitive condition) of Göbekli Tepe, I spied this beautiful flower. [locale]

Rizvaniye Mosque

Rizvaniye Mosque is build on the site where the prophet Abraham is believed to have been born. The mosque is located in Şanlıurfa, often simply know as Urfa.

Atatürk Dam

Atatürk Dam is located on the Euphrates River on the borders of Adiyaman and Şanliurfa Provinces. Completed in 1990 the dam generates electricity and stores water for irrigation. With the formation of its reservoir (Lake Atatürk Dam) more than a hundred hamlets and villages were inundated and some 50,000 people were forced to relocate.

Sunken Village

Sunken Village ~ Since 1990, upon completion of the Atatürk Dam on the Euphrates River, the town of Eski (Old) Halfeti and its now rocketing minaret stand flooded in the dammed water. The town Yeni (New) Halfeti was relocated nearby, a place where we lunched and launched our boat tour. Some in our group went swimming, burr the water was cold!

Iris Paradoxa

Iris Paradoxa ~ Exotic and just lovely, we took a short break from our travels to give reverence to the flowers. [locale]

Iran, That-a-way!

Iran, That-a-way! ~ During our travels we skirted six of the eight countries bordering Turkey. Here we were near Iran, but along the way we were also within spitting distance of Syria, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, ..., while the two other bordering countries are Bulgaria and Greece, both to the west.

Gevaş Halime Hatun Vault

Gevaş Halime Hatun Vault ~ A funeral vault in the Gevaş Seljuk Cemetery [locale]. According to the inscription on the entrance door on 1335 by Izz al-Din Malik, daughter of Halima Khatun was built for Ahlatli Wrestler Assad's son.

Church of the Holy Cross

Church of the Holy Cross on Akdamar Island of Lake Van [locale] was a medieval cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church, built as a palatine church for the kings of Vaspurakan and later serving as the seat of the Armenian Catholicosate of Aght'amar [source Wikipedia].

Ishak Pasha Palace

Ishak Pasha Palace is an Ottoman-period palace whose construction was started in 1685 by Colak Abdi Pasha continued by his son Ishak Pasha and completed by his grandson Mehmet Pasha. The Harem Section of the palace was completed by his grandson Ishak (Isaac) Pasha in 1784. [source Wikipedia] [locale]

Ishak Pasha Palace

Ishak Pasha Palace ~ An entryway into the palace from the central courtyard.

Mt. Ararat Sunset

Mt. Ararat Sunset ~ Turkey's highest peak (16,854 ft) is a famous mountain in the book of Genesis. According to the book it is the place where Noah's Ark came to rest when the waters subsided. The mountain plays a similar role in the Epic of Gilgamesh for which Noah goes by the name Utnapisthtim. Many scientists now believe that there was a significant flood during the fourth millennium BCE, a possible time of Noah's flood. [locale, Mt. Ararat @ 6 mile NE and Iran @ 4 mile SE]

Group Photo

Group Photo ~ Left to right: Michael (leader), Kay, Cemil (guide), Ramona, Bert, Cappie, Tom, Leanne, Jennifer, Bill.

Red Poppies

Red Poppies ~ A horizon painted in red, poppies were prolific the many places we ventured. Many were red, but other colors, such as orange, were also prevalent. [locale]

Common Flax

Common Flax ~ Yet another stop along the road and more lovely flowers. [locale]

Corn Chamomile

Corn Chamomile ~ Turkey, an endless variety of flowers. [locale]

Geranium Tuberosum

Geranium Tuberosum ~ More of Mother Nature's best. [locale]

Fethiye Camii (Victory Mosque) Ani Ruins

Fethiye Camii (Victory Mosque) ~ The ancient city of Ani is a ruined and uninhabited medieval Armenian city now situated in the Turkish province of Kars, along the border of current day Armenia. Called the "City of 1001 Churches," Ani had many buildings, palaces, and also technically advanced fortifications. Established as early as the 9th century, it remained a vibrant city until it was abandoned in the 18th century. At its height, Ani had a population of 100,000 to 200,000 people. [source Wikipedia]

The largest building in Ani is Fethiye Camii (Victory mosque), and was named by Seljuk conquerors. The building was completed in 1010. It changed roles from mosque to church when Muslims versus Christians controlled the building. [locale]

Church Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents Ani Ruins

Church Saint Gregory of Tigran Honents ~ Completed in 1215, it was build in the Armenian city of Ani during the rule of the Zakarids and was commissioned by the wealthy Armenian merchant Tigran Honents. [source Wikipedia] [locale]

Arch Ani Ruins

Arch ~ Just a nice arch within the Ani ruins. [locale]

Menüçehr Mosque Ani Ruins

Menüçehr Mosque ~ This Ani mosque is named after its presumed founder, Menüçehr, the first member of the Shaddidid dynasty that ruled Ani after 1072. The prayer hall, half of which survives, dates from the 12th or 13th century. [source Wikipedia] [locale]

Armenia Border Ani Ruins

Armenia Border ~ A view through an arched window of the Menüçehr Mosque to the Arpa/Akhurian River below, and to the supports on each bank of a past footbridge, and to the river border of Turkey with current day Armenia. [locale of footbridge]

Barhal Mountains

Barhal Mountains ~ Flowers, flowers, flowers. From our hovel at the Barhal Karahan Pension [locale] we spent 2 days with superb hospitality, great food, and the best area accommodations, albeit basic. A highlight of my Eastern Turkey trip, we walked these hills enjoying stupendous mountain scenery.

Orange Poppy

Orange Poppy ~ A splendid walk from the Barhal Karahan Pension. Along the way we enjoyed numerous wildflowers in glorious bloom. [locale]

Geranium Rotundifolium

Geranium Rotundifolium ~ A small geranium flower along our Barhal walk. [locale]

Meadow Bistort

Meadow Bistort ~ A distinctive bistort, one that is a more vibrant variety than I enjoy in the Sierra Nevada's. I also viewed this flower on our Barhal walk. [locale]

Geranium Snow Drift

Geranium Snow Drift ~ Mother Nature's variety is a feast for the eyes, and one more of the many pleasant flowers on our Barhal walk. [locale]

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom ~ A scenic break to enjoy the mountain views from the home of a lovely, camera-shy, old resident. Her mountain side home had a small orchard of apple trees. [locale]

Marker Hagia Sophia Church

Hagia Sophia Museum ~ Once a church, now a museum in Trabzon. This marker is one of many on the grounds. [source Wikipedia]

Sümela Monastery

Sümela Monastery is a Greek Orthodox monastery at Melá mountain on a very steep cliff at 3,900 feet nearby Trabzon [locale]. Legend has it in 386 AD two priests undertook its creation after discovering an icon of the Virgin Mary in a cave on the mountain. [source Wikipedia]