Itinerary for The Magic of Istanbul

One of my cousins asked if I could share with her a list of things to do while visiting Istanbul.

Funnily enough, I had just put together the itinerary for my upcoming book and film project: The Magic of Istanbul.

The following is a list of what I will be doing on my third expedition to Istanbul.
And yes I have already visited everything listed.

The Hippodrome: Serpentine Column, Egyptian Obelisk, The German Fountain, Constantine Obelisk

The hotel I like to stay at is right in the Hippodrome and it really is a park like atmosphere. The monuments are all outdoors and are fun (and quick) to see. I like to see them during the day and at night as the flavor of the area changes.

The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art

The museum is fascinating and offers a really nice mix of things to see.  The collection really rounds out things you won’t see at other museums.  I missed it my first year though and felt really bad.

The Blue Mosque

There are many mosques in Istanbul but this one you can not miss! On both previous expeditions I went back several times. It is truly an awesome experience. You have to watch the clothing restrictions: be prepared to take off your shoes, women are given head covers and men can’t wear shorts.  Some people really respect that this is a house of worship but don’t be surprised by tourists who don’t show it (or the rules) any reverence. Be offended by these people – just don’t be surprised.

The Arasta Bazaar

Right outside of the Blue Mosque is a small and very low key bazaar. It’s not a madhouse and very fun to look at – the prices aren’t great but shopping is as much looking as it is buying.

The Great Palace Mosaic Museum

This is located in the Arasta Bazaar and it has some fantastic mosaics. There is a lot to read and even more to see – though it is really just one big open space laid out so you can walk around and see it from above and at ground level. I’ve hard some people think its small but I include it on my must see list.

The Basilica Cictern

Not far from the Hippodrome is the Bascilica Cictern – also something not to miss.  It is dark and cavernous, this underground water reservoir is a little hard to describe.  It has some cool architecture (and a Medusa head). Plus they filmed parts of From Russia With Love in it.

The Hagia Sophia

One of the most important places in Art History and in Christianity – it was recently renovated and you can spend time just basking in the vastness of it. This is a universal must see.  Expect to spend a lot of time here – it is big – and you don’t want to miss any of the nooks and crannies.

Topkapi Palace

This place is huge! You have to pay extra to see the Harem but it is worth it. Between the gardens, the Harem, the treasury and the reliquary you can spend a lot of time here. The reliquary even has the sword of David & the staff of Moses! There are also some amazing views of the rest of the city.

Hagia Irene

It’s in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace so if it’s open peak in.

The Istanbul Museum of Archeology

This museum goes on and on (and on).  I think you need to pick your battles as I don’t think anyone can see the entire thing. At some point you will just start to survey. I have seen it all I just haven’t read it all. I tell people to go but not to feel bad if they get overloaded.

The Column of Constantine

Is a nice monument plus it’s on the way to The Grand Bazaar.

The Grand Bazaar

Everyone should go to the Grand Bazaar twice. Once to view – once to shop. You can get great deals or you can get badly swindled. You can get knockoff designer versions of anything. I also like to wander the streets around it – the farther you wander the better the prices.  When I buy scarves I keep walking to where the Turkish women shop and the prices plummet to a few dollars each.

Sahaflar Carsisi – The Book Bazaar

I hunted this down because I really wanted to see it – it isn’t too far from the Grand Bazaar (but it isn’t too close either).  They have some very nice print and book merchants but most everything of course is in Turkish.  Prints are expensive and you need to know what you are looking at before you buy anything.

Suleymaniye Mosque

This is one of the most important mosque’s in Istanbul. It is a real pleasure to visit and there is a garden, cemetery, and tomb.

Dolmabahce Palace

Across the Golden Horn (but still on the European side of the Bosphorus) is the other big palace. Well worth going – the last room is one of the most breathtaking rooms I have ever seen in my life (and I have been to  Versailles). Like Topkapi there are extra fees for the Harem and it also has a clock museum and an aviary. All of which are worth doing!

Taksim Square

Everyone ends up at Taksim Square because it is so famous – its just a square (though I didn’t go at night) and it has a Starbucks – I don’t drink coffee it’s just a sign of the times.

Istiklal Caddesi

The neighborhood right outside of Taksim is all upscale shopping and there is a trolly that connects Taksim to the Galata Tower (area) fun to walk around for a little but then I like to take the old fashioned trolley.

Galata Tower

Every panorama of Istanbul is taken from Galata Tower – it has great views and they offer a very expensive dinner/show which I have not been to. The area around it has a lot of musical instrument shops. The whole area has a really mellow vibe.

Galata Bridge

The bridge connects back across the Golden Horn. Underneath there are a bunch of seafood restaurants. Watch the prices and if what you are ordering is local fresh or just fresh fresh.

Sirkeci Station

While modern trains still run through the station it is the original terminus for the Orient Express and they have a nifty little museum. It really is a hidden gem and shows a part of history you don’t see in other parts of the city.

Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir

Not far from the station is the sweet shop that invented Turkish Delight. You have to go if just to get a free sample.


I like going to this sweet shop because it has a larger variety of items (and also more free samples).

The Spice Bazaar aka The Egyptian Bazaar

The Spice Bazaar is not very large but it is a completely different experience from the Grand Bazaar. Everyone will try and sell you Saffron and giant Jasmine flowers. The different teas are fun to get and they will vacuum seal everything for you.  You can get your luggage overloaded pretty fast by bringing home a kilo of this and a kilo of that. Like the Grand Bazaar I like to walk around and see the area that has spilled over around it for amazing food and culinary supplies.

The New Mosque

Is attached to the Spice Bazaar so if you have a few peak in.

Chora Church

The church is a must must see and the mosaics and frescoes are breathtaking and even though it is harder to get to its really worth the trip. Some nice shopping right around it as well. There is nothing else like it in Istanbul!

The Theodosian Walls

The outer walls of the city – while you can see them everywhere – when you are by Chora you really get a chance to explore them.  Every so often you find stairs that lead to the top of the walls – and if you aren’t afraid of heights you can get some awesome views.

The Palace of the Porphyrogenitus

Part of the wall (and near Chora) forms the ruin of a ancient palace – its right by a playground and a truck parking lot. I love architecture so I hunted it down – for most though it is just a different stretch of wall.

Bucoleon Palace

Just another stretch of the old city walls that has the ruins of some window openings of another palace long gone. It’s really hard to find – and not worth it for most. It is on the far side of the city walls by the water.

The Valens Aqueduct

It is a huge aqueduct running through the city – with traffic going under. I thought it was great – but again I’m into architecture – tricky to get to though – it isn’t near anything else.

Sehzade Camii – The Prince’s Mosque

Since I wander everywhere for architecture I visited this really nice Mosque.

Beylerbeyi Palace

Across the water (on the Asian side) is this little palace which I think is a real gem to visit. You take the train to Dolmabahce and then the ferry across the water (and then a taxi) sounds like a hike but it really is lovely.

Yedikule Fortress

Since I am a castle guy – I need to see the local castles. This one has 7 towers and is totally empty! Not for those afraid of heights (which I am) because they really let you explore the towers and walls. To get there you take a real train. It is not for most and I don’t imagine a lot of people go there but I think it is awesome!

Istanbul Cevahir

I have a thing for malls – and this is the largest mall in Europe and the 6th largest in the world. The 5th floor is one giant food court, the 6th is all restaurants. Why am I telling you this? Because sometimes when I am out of the country for a month I need to go to the movies! Plus fast food in Istanbul is much better than fast food at home.

A Bosphorus Cruise

There are many ways to see the Bosphorus and the best way is a cruise. Not a big fancy one – just the basic “Full Bosphorus Cruise”. While you can get on and off, I like to take it all the way to the end which is at Anadolu Kavagi a little fishing village – have a great seafood meal and then…

Yoros Kalesi

Take a taxi (don’t hike it) up the mountain and visit this really neat ruin of a castle. From here you can see a view that stretches out to the mouth of the Black Sea. They started doing a dig there so you can’t get into the castle anymore but it is a pretty spectacular view from outside. Plus its a ruin so there is not much to see inside that you can’t from the outside.

Rumeli Hisari

On the cruise you will see a giant three towered castle – the Castle of Europe. You get great views from the cruise but it is also possible to visit (with buses and taxis). As castles go – it is very well preserved, a nice fortification ,and a pleasant afternoon – but again I like castles. Some just enjoy the views from the cruise – I like going there – it has a great little outdoor theater. There is another little castle across the water called the Castle of Asia – it is barely visible from the water and not worth visiting in person (I did once and if you blink you miss it).

Cappadocia Day Tour

It’s not Istanbul – in fact it is not anywhere near Istanbul but if you fly halfway across the world why not go for a little more. Capaddocia is simply magical. Last year I did a one day trip – they fly you out in the morning, drive you all over, feed you, and then fly you back. In one day I saw: Devrent Valley, Pasabag/Monk’s Valley, Avanos Pottery Village, Goreme, and Uchisar Citadel.  Its a slippery slope though because you can spend more days here and then start seeing the other sights outside Istanbul – but I feel one little excursion doesn’t hurt.

Other Things To Do

Eat! Shop! Listen to Music! Watch Dancing! Go to a Turkish Bath! Get a Shave! Shop for a Turkish Carpet (but don’t buy it).
So much to do!

Istanbul is Coming!

So I left off my Turkey journal on Day 14 just as I was getting ready to head to Istanbul.

My original intention was to post nightly in Istanbul as I had in Gonen – but things changed.

Every night when I came back to the hotel – I was very very tired.

I work hard – I play hard – and there just wasn’t enough energy to do it justice.

Now that a few months have passed and I am ready to tackle the stories from my notes, memories, and photographs.

But before I do – I have news – big news!  I have been invited back to Turkey this summer to again work in Gonen on the archeological survey.  However while I am there I am planning to spend another 2 weeks in Istanbul where it is my intention to create a book and film entitled “The Magic of Istanbul”.

I have setup a Kickstarter project to help raise the funds for the project.  For those who don’t know Kickstarter – it is a way that people can raise funds for a project by offering various rewards for different pledge amounts.  Its a unique fundraising system because unless the entire goal is raised (in this case $19,500) the project doesn’t get funded at all and then no money changes hands. For this project I have created pledge rewards of photographs, copies of the book, copies of the Blue-ray/DVD, as well as various production credits. Update: The Kickstarter goal was not reached.

For this (my third) expedition to Istanbul I have put together an intense itinerary that includes all of the major hotspots (and a day excursion to Cappadocia).  I will also be bringing with me a professional writer & cameraman. The funds go for the travel and post production expenses.

Here is a video which includes some highlights images from last expeditions to Istanbul.



Day 13 – Gonen, Isparta, and Egirdir

Day 13 – Sunday – July 24, 2011

Sunday is supposed to be my day off but as I am leaving on Monday I wasn’t too sure.  That being said I thought it a good idea not to miss breakfast.  I found out that the Germans (and Bert) were going to head to Sagalassos by bus first thing from Isparta.  I decided that I wanted to go to Egirdir because Bert said it was easy to get to and that there was a ruin of a castle right by the bus station.  The Germans said that they also might go to Egirdir in the afternoon to go swimming but Bert just wanted to go to Sagalassos.  Bilge said I had some some work to go but let me go if I promised I would be back in time to finish taking some pictures.  All I wanted to do was see the castle, eat lunch, and on the way back go to the Hamam in Isparta.

A funny thing happened at breakfast – it felt like I got stung by a bee in my thigh/crotch area.  I jumped up and ran inside only to find that a needle from the tree had landed on me and when I shifted had pricked through my pants and into my leg.  A big scare but only for a moment.

Also at breakfast I finally was able to photograph the black and white cat that had a Hitler like mustache – I called it a “kitler” because of the website http://www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com and Uygar started to laugh – too hard – and I asked him if he knew it and he said yes and then proceeded to explain it to Bilge who was in shock that such a thing existed and that her students would actually know about it.  I must admit I was shocked too – but only from a cultural perspective.

So the Germans, Bert, and I all headed on the bus from Gonen to Isparta and then went our separate ways. I realized when I got to the bus station that I only had big bills (100TL) so I asked them to break it for me when I bought my ticket.  They gave me dirty looks and  I can’t blame them – the one way ticket cost 3.5TL.

The bus ride was…interesting… the bus had no air conditioning and for the first part of the trip the driver kept the front and side doors of the bus open (I am guessing for ventilation).  The open doors were pretty scary.  But he did eventually close them and enough air came in for it to be pleasant.  There was this interesting sign on the window that looked like a “no praying” symbol but I think it means don’t lean on the glass.

As we got closer to the lake I recognized that I had driven through the town last year – I think Paul was driving.  I remember seeing the military training field – you can see the obstacle course – as well as the big signs up on the mountain. Last year we saw a brush fire on the mountain it was crazy how fast the fire moved and there were helicopters going to the lake for water.  (But that was last year.)

When I got there it was just gorgeous.  The sun was shining and the lake was just a crystal blue.  The guy at the bus station told me the return trip was every 20 minutes so I had nothing to worry about in getting home.

The first thing I noticed (after the lake) was a large mosque which had a courtyard and another building attached to it. What was unique was that the minaret wasn’t your normal tower but it extended from the wall (over the door to the courtyard) and you could walk UNDER it. Of course I really wanted to walk in it but I have to stop hoping that I will get that lucky again.

The courtyard led to the mosque itself and also to a small shopping plaza.  At one point it had been an open courtyard but now it was draped with a very large cloth and there were small shops in each of the little rooms. And I mean little – just tiny 10×10 rooms. The doors were little too and I really hit my head hard on the stone doorpost because I didn’t duck properly.

The shopping was your usually stuff – clothes – jewelry – military supplies.  Oh ok well military supplies is a little unusual but with a base so near it probably isn’t.  There was also a small toy store there too which had some very nice plastic toy guys – all black with no orange tip – ah the small differences from home.  I also saw a penguin! When I went to photograph it they looked at me like I was insane.

After I left the shopping center I passed the local Ataturk sculpture – this one was very nice – he looked very formal as he was all in white.  I started to hear all of this honking and yelling and these cars started to zoom around the square wrapped in balloons and ribbons.  I thought it might be a wedding but they were SO agitated I thought it might also be political.  Every few minutes you would see a new round of cars – this went on all afternoon.  In fact as I wandered around town I would see various florist shops were people were getting their car prepared and then zooming off and honking.

The real reason for my visit was to find the castle and it wasn’t too hard to find – right near the area that they have their weekly bazaar (but what was now just an empty lot) was a ruin of a wall and a gate.  It was flying the Turkish flag and had the name Egirdir in big letters on a sign on the top.

I walked all the way around it to see how much was left (not a lot) and saw a Turbesi (the are really tomb-like shrines – and from what I have seen usually green) that was locked.  I took some photos but the sun was high overhead and figured that I might do better taking more after lunch.

When I walked around to head to lunch I saw a road leading up the back of the ruin.  It didn’t seem inviting and had a big red and white bar crossing the road – bit it didn’t have any signs and looked like it was there more to block car than foot traffic so I figured I would climb it slowly.

It was a warm and slow climb (not dangerous as the path was wide) and it was very hot.  About half way up I came to the horrific realization that I only put sunscreen on the TOPS of my arms and had no idea if the undersides were in danger of being burned.  This might sound silly but I am very pale skinned.  There were a lot of bugs up there too but they seemed to concentrate on the occasional flowers and left me alone.

It was funny at the top.  It leveled out and was large enough that you really didn’t feel high up – in fact none of the pictures from the top give you an impression that you are on a castle wall at all.  There were several large chucks of roman antiquity strewn about almost like sitting stones and some graffiti and beer bottles here and there that showed signs of life.  There was a path off to one side that led closer to the sign and flagpost and I carefully walked around to it (but not any higher).

When I got all the way around I saw an opening in the wall that looked like it could house some sort of room or cave.  I got very excited but proceeded carefully – usually places like that are filled with broken glass and smell like pee.  As I got closer I did see a lot of glass and it did start to smell bad and as I turned into the opening – I surprised a young couple that was – well I think they were fully clothed but they were much more passionate than simply making out.  I apologized and moved back to the main area.  The main area also had an old canon on top of it (and lots of beer bottles there too).  As I was sitting there reflecting on whether or not the two were actually having sex and wondering how many people come up here for it I was joined by several other people who started to explore the ruin.

They were fearless and climbed into areas that I would never have gone and they too surprised the couple and too my delight they emerged a few minutes later – not embarrassed at all – and walked down the ruin.  This now being my chance I went back to the opening and took some pictures.  It was a terrible mess of broken glass and other filth – not what I wanted to see – but neat architecturally.

I climbed down the ruin and as it was lunch time lots of people were climbing up it and sitting in various corners talking and relaxing.  I wanted lunch myself but I figured I would leave after so I walked by the lake first.

It is really a gorgeous lake and I saw a couple of vans pulled by the side of the road and some ladies picnicking on a blanket.  As I got closer I saw that there were many people adults and children in the water and they looked like they were really having a good time – I don’t swim so the water isn’t really for me.  I did pack some swim trunks (which I didn’t bring) since last year we went down to the Mediterranean Sea and it sounded fun (though I didn’t go in then either).  I thought it was funny to see all the women dressed (over dressed) in traditional scarves and long pants sitting by the side of the road watching the half naked men and children in the water.  I think there was a woman in the water too but I didn’t want to stare at them too long.  The woman who were not swimming looked to be having a splendid time laughing and eating and thoroughly enjoying themselves it was a Turkish version of a Seurat painting.

Having photographed everything I was going to shoot, I thought I might walk around the old city and see if they had a Hamam (which would save me from running around Isparta).  The town was mostly closed – well at least the old city was – and I just came across the usual suspects of men sitting outside drinking tea and talking.  I did spot one lively spot and realized it for off-track betting – they had tv’s and ticket booths just like in the US.

I saw some shopping places were open and wasn’t surprised to find that everyone was selling stuff for the military base – berets – flashlights – knives.  I found a great bag for my iPad that is a little bigger than the one I got last year and its looks like it is made out of a durable nylon.  I also shopped for some vests.  The guy had one that was great a mix of cloth and leather and some really snazzy lining but it didn’t fit – in fact none of his vests fit – though he was happy to keep trying to sell me a winter coat.

As I left the store I found it – the Hamam!  This was great – it meant I could get my bath, eat lunch, take the buses back home – and then put on more sunscreen!

I walked in and it was small and dingy like the first one I went to in Isparta.  There was an old man with a crutch reading a paper and when I walked in he seemed very eager to help me.  He didn’t speak English but quickly ushered me into a changing room and handed me a towel indicating I should come back after.  The room was small and private and only afterwards did I realize that the door was this solid slab of metal with no doorknob.  I changed into my towel and as I left the room he padlocked it from the outside and handed me the key.  I kept thinking – I was just in that room that has no windows – no handle – and padlocks from the outside! But anyways…

He motioned to my chest in a rubbing fashion and I though he was asking me if I also wanted to get a massage.  I said yes and he smiled and pointed for me to the bath area itself.  He never really got up during this time and as he was alone at the Hamam I wasn’t sure if we were communicating properly or not.  I grabbed a bar of rose soap (1TL) and headed into the bath area.  It was very nice (and empty) and very hot.  Since I had told him I wanted the massage/scrub I figured I would just lay down and wait for a bit.  I waited and waited. After about 10 minutes I figured that this was going to be like the first Hamam I visited and strictly self service.  So I sat up and grabbed my bar of soap when I heard a bang on the door and this young guy comes in (also in a towel) and while he barely speaks any English either indicates for me to lay back down and wait.

He came back a few minutes later and does the whole thing – the scrub – the bubbles – the massage.  He was very good and he wasn’t the sadist that the guys from Isparta were – he used warm and cool water instead of hot and cold.  After my final rinse we left the Hamam and he offered me tea – and when I declined pulled out a bottle of water which was much appreciated.  The old man had gone and I am not sure if they guy was on break or what but he just sat back in his chair (still only in a towel) and I went back and got changed.

In total the Hamam was 30TL which is a great price and after I paid he gestured to put something on my hands.  I quickly remembered that this was Limon Kolonyasi or lemon cologne that the men put on everything after everything (especially the hands after the bathroom).  I quickly declined but I grabbed my camera and took a picture of the bottle (and the soaps) to remember for later.  At this point he gave me a very sad look and asked why I didn’t take his picture.  Well – because you sitting there in a towel!  Of course I didn’t say this to him and Hassan (I later found out his name) eagerly posed for his portrait and I headed on my way.

There is nothing like being clean on a hot summers day.

So with that I headed to find lunch.  I was very hungry and while the temptation to just stop anywhere and grab a gryo was there – I knew I wanted a real nice lunch and looked around until I was beckoned properly by a guy with a nice picture menu.  I took my time and ordered the lamb shish (he didn’t have chops) and really just enjoyed a full meal of salad and bread, rice and lamb.  I asked him for some rice pudding but he said he was out and instead offered me some Kunafeh.

Now it is hard to describe Kunafeh – its like shredded wheat baked with sweet cheese and a butter sauce with crumbled pistachios – I highly recommend it.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanafeh

After my meal he started telling me about the dinner specials of fresh fish and I told him I was only in town for the afternoon that I was visiting from Gonen.  He stopped in his tracks and said – are you doing archeology there?  I laughed because this must have been the restaurant that Bert went to last week!

Having accomplished everything I set out to do (and reminding myself that I was no longer wearing sunscreen) I headed back to the bus station.  The bus was a more modern bus (and just about to leave) and as we drove out of town we passed one of those giant building sized 7-up billboards that you don’t see in the US but always see in James Bond films – I thought it was funny.

The trip back was quick and once I hit Isparta I immediately headed for the bus back to Gonen.  I got some water from a kid who was also selling ice-cream – he really was hustling hard (but nicely) so I got some – this time I got nut flavored.  It was disgusting – I really need to watch the ice-cream it rarely tastes good – I had to go around the corner to throw it away so I wouldn’t insult him.  The bus showed up 5 minutes later and 35 minutes after that I was back in Gonen.

I had work to do so I put on my sunscreen grabbed my tripod and Emre grabbed the new measuring stick which instead of being a simple wood stick with painted intervals was something right out of CSI and we headed back to the park.  I’m not joking about the stick either.  The use of visual scales in photography when purchased overseas is usually for archeology and are found online at archeology supply shops – however in the US you can pretty much only get them at CSI supply shops.

At the park we grabbed the last few shots – I used my tripod to shoot the last few hard to shoot images as high-dynamic range pictures.  The shots aren’t designed for viewing so much as they are for drawing – the multiple exposure expanded range allows them to see all the details to draw from. We only had 3 objects to shoot again so it went fast and Emre thought we should hang out in the park for a little bit and relax (it was our day off).

As we headed to get some refreshments we bumped into one of the store owners from the village (the one who insisted I take his picture in his shop).  He didn’t shake my hand – instead he did the whole kiss on the cheek thing – I never know which side you are supposed to do first. Last year Paul told me that they do it the other direction in Greece.  It was very nice because it is a greater sign of friendship than a simple handshake.

The park was lovely – people drinking tea or playing backgammon.  I was having some good ice-cream (finally) and drinking some water – Emre was having some coffee.  Just a pleasant afternoon.

Then we hear a voice call out – its the Minister’s Representative and her nephew.  Now I really have to say that he is quite the terror.  I have held off on going into detail all of the terrible things this 11 year old kid has done over the past 2 weeks – but he is awful.  And I don’t care that he is probably having the worst summer vacation ever – it still is no excuse to be grab technology, hit people, grab the gearshift of a car (while it is on) and various other things.  It was so bad that at one point Arzu held him back so I could take pictures without him jumping in front of the camera.  So as they went off to get their drinks Emre turns to me and gestures its time to go and in clear and plain English says “I don’t like him” – neither do I.  I debated on weather or not to tell this little story or not.  But the fact is he was a terror and she knew it.  I had to tell her multiple times to have him stop grabbing my camera and we all had to start locking our doors to prevent him from barging in our rooms and touching everything in sight.  She was very nice to all of us – made us special food and was very friendly – but she can’t be surprised if we didn’t like him or didn’t want to be around him – we didn’t sign up to be babysitters for a little monster.  OK I have vented.

The walk back was a little sad – I passed my favorite white mulberry tree and grabbed a berry for the last time (this trip).  I can buy one when I get home but it might not survive a Cleveland winter.

Bert showed up a little while later. He had a great time at Sagalassos and I guess he made some friends there who took him around and gave him a ride down the mountain.  The theater I visited last year was closed so he didn’t get to see it but he said everything else was great.  The German students went on to Egirdir to go swimming so he parted company with them some hours before.

Just like earlier in Egirdir – I saw cars driving around town with ribbons and flowers on them honking like mad.  I asked Bilge and she said it was for the wedding tonight (the one whose rehearsal we were at last night before we went to the other wedding).  She verified that what I saw in Egirdir was indeed a wedding and reminded me again that it was wedding season.

Dinner was just weird. Maybe I am tired or maybe its because I had a real meal but the poached egg thing with yogurt and spice we had for dinner was really not doing it for me and it occurs to me that I really don’t have soup this much at home.  I barely touched my dinner – I hope it didn’t seem rude.

I should have gone to my room and packed but instead I hung out with the Turkish students and Bert – we had a really nice time – we knew things were winding up (Bert leaves 2 days after me, the Germans 2 days after him).  It was a fun time and if I can come back I really will.

As it got later and later we started to worry about the German students.  Did they miss the last bus?  How would they get home?  Where might they get stranded?  We weren’t too worried but we were pretty curious.  Shortly after midnight they rolled in having caught the last bus back into town.

They were going back up the mountain at 6am the next day and since I wasn’t I had say goodbye to them.  Goodbyes are hard – you are half way around the world and you really might never see someone whose company you really enjoyed – I do hope they stay in touch (Bert too).

Tomorrow is going to be a long day – I have to pack and I have to travel to Istanbul!

Images from Day 13 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)

Interlude: In Transit

So – I am behind in my writing and editing.  The truth is – I have taken a crazy number of pictures AND my computer is acting very slow so editing as been difficult.  Plus I am very tired all the time.  This isn’t to say I have given up – the narrative and editing will continue it will just take a few days to catch up.

I am posting this because while I am just about to start my Istanbul adventure (in my narrative) I am in fact just about to head home from it.  It is 2:15am – my bags are mostly packed – my data is backed up and I am about to board a shuttle to the airport.

So… if you are confused about where I am vs where I am – don’t be.  The narrative continues faithfully very soon even though I will be writing it from Cleveland from my copious notes and abundance of photos.


Day 12 – Gonen and Isparta

Day 12 – Saturday – July 23, 2011

I got up a little late on Saturday knowing that I wouldn’t be going up to the mountain.  Today I would be photographing all of the pottery collected so far.  I needed to setup the lighting just right.  Bilge told me that it was laundry day so I packed up all my dirty laundry quickly because this would be my last chance for it.

Shooting pottery is tricky – have to set the light and color just right and the stuff is very small.  You shoot it was the label – without the label – as a group – as individuals – the front – sometimes the back.

Right int he middle of shooting we hear this huge pop and start to smell smoke and burning plastic.  I panic because of all the equipment I have plugged in but its just the light fixture in the room (which has been out already for days so I didn’t realize it was on).  The smell was awful and we had to open the windows to air out the room.

As a backdrop we have been using black poster board but it gets pretty dirty pretty fast because of the pottery and they didn’t have any clean ones so we were going to have to drive into Isparta after lunch to the only office supply store in Isparta to get some extras.

Arzu has really been opening up.  She has always been very friendly – but I think she has been worried about her English.  She also never lets me take her picture.  In the middle of shooting she turns to me and says “When are you going to take my picture?”  I laughed and said I had been trying and she said that she would let me know when she felt her hair was right.

As we walked to lunch (we eat at this little restaurant across the way that is normally closed during the summer and where the prepare our food) dreaming of various foods Arzu said “I want Burger King”.  Me too.  We were joined for our lunch of veggies and rice (or in my case rice) by the other Turkish students who had come down from the mountain due to the appearance of some dogs.  They aren’t wild dogs but worse they are sheep herding and I guess very territorial without the shepherds around.  Funnily the Germans stayed up on the mountain to do more scans and no one was sure why it was ok for them to stay but not the others.

As I ate my rice thinking about what I would be eating  in a few days – they brought out the next best thing to pizza. Left over pizza!  Oh it was just what I needed!

As I sit at lunch I like to watch the people as they go by.  We rarely see pedestrians or bicycles.  We normally see cars and either motorcycles or mopeds that are packed with people and things.  Its amazing what we have seen come by on a motorcycle – family of four – a father and a baby – 2 guys and shovel!  Because the area is rural we often see tractors going by as transportation – especially on market day you will see tons of people riding a tractor or a motorcycle pulling a wagon – whatever it takes to get people to the market!

So we drove into Isparta for posterboard – it was me Bert, Arzu and our driver Yusuf.  Yusuf is a great guy and every time I even look at something out the window (and especially when I point my camera out the windows) he slows down or stops.  Its funny – it is helpful but it doesn’t always help.  I told Arzu we should make him take us to Burger King but she thought better of it.

We stopped at a little corner store which I am told is the only place in Isparta to buy poster board and got some thing black sheets of paper for 0.30TL each.  I also got another little notebook to take notes in.

Arzu had other errands to run in Isparta and every time we pulled over you could feel how hot it was.  I was beginning to wonder if the rental car even had AC and then Yusuf started to blast it on me.  It was great.  But the moment we started moving again – the windows came down and it turned off.  I don’t think its the gas either I think its just cultural – windows down – air flowing.

Driving around Isparta was fun – at one point we saw these cars wrapped in flowers and ribbons honking loudly – it was a wedding party and they were driving and taking photos.  I guess they drive through town kinda like a parade to show off.

Arzu stopped at the butcher’s to pick up dinner but we had to wait so we circled the block a few times.  They showed me yet another Hamam in Isparta and a soup restaurant in the shape of a boat (which I swear was a boat) and a fleet of Domino’s Motorcycles (they deliver).  All of the sudden Arzu jumps up very excited – the car pulls over and she runs out and gives Merve (one of the Turkish students at the site) a hug – Merve hops in the car and we drive her three blocks and drop her off again.  It was totally unplanned – we literally just bumped into her!

At the gas station on the way home I got some think that looked like malted milk balls (even in the same type of container) but they weren’t and a pomegranate sparkling water that was very good (so was the not-malted milk balls).

Dinner was very fun.  The German professor Kai and his daughter Amelia joined us.  I like Amelia because she is very sweet and he German is slow enough that I can sometimes understand her.

The schnitzel was awesome!  The flavor was so unique! It was totally covered in seasonings.  Bilge told me that the butcher puts it on but that she has her own direction of what she has him put on it.  We also had fries and salad and smoked eggplant – which I know was smoked cause she made me taste it – and yes I still do not like eggplant.

They kept feeding us – I had three helpings – Uygar had four!

As we sat around we could hear a party coming from the area that they have the bazaar.  Bilge said it was a village wedding and that if we wanted we could go.  We all decided it sounded fun and as we got closer Bilge said that there were in fact two celebrations one was a rehearsal dinner and the other a real wedding.  The rehearsal dinner was fun and it was packed with people.

We then went to the wedding.  It was even more packed.  Bilge said that it was wedding season because people don’t get married during Ramadan.  We watched the dancing at the second wedding (which filled the bazaar area) and this kid came around to offer us wedding cake (we all passed).  Of course who do we run into at the wedding? Abdullah!  He told Bert that he was a cousin or something.

Bilge was very pleased.  She explained that the dancing was very traditional – we watched the father dance with each other and everyone having a good time.  There was a DJ who I thought was mixing everything but when I watched carefully I noticed that he was singing live and playing the keyboard to some backing tracks – it really was a one man show – and very good.

Before we left Bilge handed someone an envelope which contained a present from us and we went back to the field house. Sunday is technically my day off but since I leave on Monday Bilge said we would discuss my day at breakfast.

It was a beautiful starry night and I tried to get some picture of it before I went to bed.

I took some video at the rehearsal and the wedding – just a few samples for flavor:




Images from Day 12 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)

Day 11 – Gonen

Day 11 – Friday – July 22, 2011

I got to sleep in on Friday morning because I was heading to the market.  Gokce was going to be my guide and she said that Bilge wanted us there at 9am!  Gokce’s English isn’t as good as some of the others but she is very enthusiastic and very helpful – she was very nervous though.

As we walked to the market I asked what our goal was. Her’s was to give out invitations to an upcoming event and mine was to take the pictures Bilge wanted me to take.  The only problem was that Bilge didn’t tell me what she wanted pictures of at the market and has never wanted pictures of the market before.  I figured I would just wing it.

When we got to the market it was half empty – not of people – but of merchants.  Normally we show up around noon or so and some people have left because they have sold out.  Apparently they don’t all setup at 9am either.  But we wandered around watching people get setup.  A voice came on the loudspeaker and everyone froze in their tracks (like a flash mob) and put their hands out in front of them palms up.  Gokce explained that it was a prayer ceremony that happens before they open.  It was really neat kind of a National Anthem at a ballgame moment.  When the voice was done – the hustle and bustle started right up again – and even a little louder as they were now open.

At the market they sell more than just food.  The little kitchen comforts like Disney glasses, salt and pepper shakers shaped like flowers, tea pots, and brooms.  I love the brooms – everywhere you go you see people sweeping and sweeping – (no handle on the brooms).  And there is this little touch of pride in it – you see old ladies trying to get their little house just a tad nicer in the front and you realize how homey it all is.

People still were setting up for a while.  I liked watching the olive vendor scoop out each tray of olives.  Some people took it nice and causal.  I watched a family eat a nice big breakfast and another man making his morning tea (using a propane burner).  The butcher was busy getting his chicken together and everyone was getting their displays and signs just right.

I think it was a slow day in the market – a lot of places didn’t seem to fill.  Gokce slowly gave out her invitations and we walked up and down the rows over and over.  I said hello to a lot of my village friends and even saw the last guy I needed to give 2 photos to.  He was very friendly and again asked when I would come back up the mountain.

One display had a big cardboard sign in front of it and Gokce told me that it said his vegetables were grown without medicines, hormones, or chemicals.  Organic!  A selling point even in rural Turkey.  Another display had really nice tomatoes and right next to them this weirdly shaped pink/yellow things which she told me were ‘garden’ tomatoes vs ‘greenhouse’ tomatoes.  See – live and learn.

People kept calling us over to chat and the guys who sold fabric insisted I share some watermelon with them – yummy.  I went around and around and I looked at the one place that sold clothes and I saw they had vests!  Just a few but one fit me nicely – I asked how much and she said it was older so that instead of 10TL she would give it to me for 8TL.  Yeah that’s less than $5.  I didn’t negotiate any further.

I passed this one little kid sleeping on some carpets but Gokce told me that he was awake and saw him arguing with his mother and was just sulking.  Kids.

Everyone said hi – the Yufka (bread) guy asked if I wanted some but I wasn’t going to make that mistake again – and we headed back to the field house to the sounds of “oneliraoneliraonelira”!

At lunch time there was meat – little meat patties that they call hamburgers but don’t look like them and a big plate of mixed veggies.  I was happy to enjoy my patty when they brought out – gasp – PIZZA!

It turns out that the Minister’s rep decided to make us all pizza – oh my goodness – it was so good – cheese and olives and some onion and peppers and even some of the meat patties.  We ate our fill and it hit the spot so nicely.

The rest of the day we spent working in the field house.

After dinner Bert and I decided to get our Friday shave but found that the barber we went to was closed.  We did find another one open and his was a little fancier.  He had multiple chairs and instead of propane to heat the water used a instant electric kettle.  We had to wait for a local to get his very stylish beard shaped and trimmed and then it was out turn.  It was a great shave – though no flames at the end. When I handed him my 5TL note – he gave me change! It was only 3TL! That’s like $1.80!  Bert reasoned that’s why you can have fancy beards if you can afford to trim them at the barber.

I can’t believe how fast the time is flying.  Saturday is my last working day because we have Sunday off and Monday I head to Istanbul.

Images from Day 11 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)

Crazy Times and Updates Coming

Kidnapping! The Black Market! Plundered Antiquities! Dinner with Relatives! Lamb!

All these adventures and even more hyperbole and photos coming soon!

Thanks for bearing with me!


Day 10 – Gonen and Isparta

Day 10 – Thursday – July 21, 2011

As days quickly pass and I would be leaving the area soon Bilge wanted me back in Isparta to photograph all of the non-inscription sculptures in the garden at the museum.  She sent her student Emre with us to show us which ones but said if we had time to get as many as we could.

I was a little wary about the lighting and what I think is a good shot vs. what they need to show the detail they want.  So I sent my camera to shoot 5 pictures of each photo (2 overexposed and 2 underexposed) with the hope that one of the 5 might do it.  I was again not going to use a tripod (it was sunny) so there might be slight variance and they wouldn’t be ideal to combine as HDR (high dynamic range).

Its very hard work.  All the shots need to be straight on and the only way to be steady is to take a knee.  After an house my hip was killing me!  Bert was brought along to hold the scale but then I was told we didn’t need it so he just was moral support.  We did the ones we were told to in lighting time so we just started to systematically go through the entire front and back garden.

We did take a break as I tried to do a VR object and a VR panorama.  The panorama is gorgeous the object will take time to put together and won’t be done in Turkey.

In all I shot over 800 photos at the museum and Emre told me to stop (even though we didn’t do all the sculptures we did more than enough).  Emre walked with me to get a snack (which he wouldn’t let me pay for!)  The local lunch place was closed to we stopped and got what I thought were candy coated peanuts but instead were salt coated (I mean SALT) an then we waited for the car and just relaxed in the garden on benches using a column capital as a coffee table (which is common and very strange at first).  Emre is a very nice guy – he tries hard with his English and while I try not to correct anyone when he asked “Are you boring?” I told him he meant “Are you bored?”  And communicated the subtle difference – I think he too thought it was funny.  No cracks from the peanut gallery if you are reading this far and you think I am boring then whose fault is that?

Lunch was your standard rice and beans and tomato soup (I do love it when the have chickpeas ) but most everyone was up on the mountain with the Germans.  Bert and I just stayed in the room working on data and reading our books.

We started to hear the sound of people being back and when we went and explore we found EVERYONE in the German students bedroom/lab hunched over the computer looking at the scans they took that day.  If you remember at the beginning of Jurassic Park when they are all gathered around the ground penetrating radar waiting for the images to materialize – it was something like that.  They were glued!  One of the German students, Arie, walked everyone through the process and you could tell Bilge was very excited.  They then showed us some examples of work they had completed in Syria and the ramifications of how you could post process afterwards.  I like these guys!

Pervin came back and told me that after dinner she wanted to run up into the hills and look at the new apartments/public housing projects.  We were losing the light but she insisted that we eat first.  I noticed the German’s weren’t heading to dinner and instead were having a few beers by themselves.  When I told them it was dinner time they said they were heading into Gonen to have some Lamb Shish.  I was so jealous – I have never skipped dinner with the group to have meat in town.  They said I was welcome to join them and I told them I had to go with Pervin but to keep an eye out for me.

Dinner was peppers stuffed with rice – and while I know some of you would love this – it really isn’t what I eat at all.  There was some dessert though – this crispy fried pastry covered in honey called – Tulumba which I did eat.  I told Pervin we should not miss the light and she grabbed her student Gokce (since Gunsu has left) and we headed up the hillside.

It was strange because we rarely drive this direction in Gonen and as we passed the cemetery I realized that we never filmed or walked around it.  We headed up and saw some really nice apartments.  Pervin was amazed that I said they were very nice and asked if I wanted live in something like it.  I told her no but that compared to the other houses we had seen this was very nice and modern (and isolated).

Gokce had to stop for batteries and there was a very modern looking 3 store shopping strip up the hill and while she shopped we drove by the upper Mosque.  Pervin remarked, as she saw the building and the sunset, that it was a very pretty picture of a not-so-pretty building.  The mosque was almost industrial and looked as fabricated as the houses.

As we headed back I told Pervin to drop me off in town so I could meet the German students.  She wanted to know where and I said just drop me anywhere as I had no idea where they were going.  She seemed very concerned until I reminded her that the entire downtown area was a 3 x 3 square block and that they wouldn’t be hard to find.

So I was wrong about that.  I kept looking and I couldn’t find them.  Its not that big a town but still.  I did see a film crew with light and monitors and such filming something – it looks like a commercial but I have no idea what they would need to film in a small cafe in Gonen.

As I walked along I heard some laughter and some German and found them.  They had already ordered and when I asked for a menu they remarked that there wasn’t one and to just order the Shish.  It was oh so yummy good, lamb, bread, Fanta, good company (they all spoke English very well).  4 of us and the total was 28TL!

I stayed up talking with the three German students (Arie, Hajo, and Hanna) rather late and I felt bad because they had to go back up the mountain again the the morning – they are only onsite for 10 days and want to get as many data points as possible.  They laser scan from a point and then relocate the machine to keep building a better and better model.

In the morning I am schedule to return to the local bazaar!

Images from Day 10 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)

Day 9 – Gonen, Igdecik, Gumusgun, and Koctepe

Day 9 – Wednesday – July 20, 2011

We woke up again to no power – its not a complaint – it just happens.  Last year at the mall it happened and people froze and then continued on with their lives.  I noticed a generator and some petrol when I walked out side – the Germans are here with their laser scanner – they are going to create a scan of the entire mountain if they can but first they need to spend the day at the police station getting residency permits.

I joked that their lemonade tasted funny and they told me that the probably should have written that it was petrol in the containers in a language OTHER than German (which they had done).  None of us are stupid enough to drink it though – it looks like pee.

So Pervin picked me up to take me to 3 small villages which contain some great old houses – not great condition but mansions in their day.  In her car I noticed something I noticed all over Turkey.  No one takes the plastic wrap off of the technology or LCD displays.  This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine not that it I feel it is wrong but that I feel compelled to remove it!  I didn’t of course.  Ah – self control.

The three places we were going to were Igdecik, Gumusgun, and Koctepe.  Basically I was told that Isparta is a City, Gonen is a Town, and these were smaller so they were just villages.  There is some formal definition involving public works that I didn’t get the details of.

The first place we went was huge!  It must have been amazing in its day with its windows intact.  It had a great doorknocker of a hand and some very interesting details of molding and paint.  The back of the house was used as a local movie theater in the 1960s and one of the columns instead of being concrete was a bit of ancient column.  As I mentioned earlier this type of ‘spolia’ is not uncommon.  In fact we saw a cornerstone on another house and some grapes on a city wall embedded just the same. We couldn’t get inside though and told us another time we might be able to.  It was still pretty early and the moon was still visible in the sky – I hope it shows in the photos.

The village was interesting – very nice modern (but small houses) we even passed a club where men and women are allowed to socialize together.  In Gonen the men hand out at the cafe drinking tea but the women are nowhere to be seen.

And then it happened.  I saw a cow! I didn’t think they had them but they do – a lone cow!

I ask a lot of questions and I talk really fast and Pervin who was never been to American keeps up really well.  But today she was prepared – when I would ask what something was – she would whip out her dictionary and tell me!  She really was a great sport about it all and I tried to talk slower – but it is me! She was on the ball – that’s a hazelnut – that’s a locust plant etc…

We spotted some ladies making  small fire from twigs with a big purple bucket – I thought it was dye but it turns out it was berries – it looked like a giant cobbler – and I wanted some but I bet it didn’t taste like cobbler.

We saw a lot of dogs – in fact a real variety of them – and they seemed very friendly which is nice because up on the mountain if you see a dog you are told to panic cause they are NOT friendly there.  I enjoyed seeing the livestock because I am a city boy and it was funny to watch a chicken followed by the chicks wander in and out of the big livestock pen via a little hole in the wall right past a sleepy cat who clear wasn’t going to attack the chickens.  Damn cartoons you taught me wrong again! And FYI kittens are always cute.

Everyone was very friendly and let us take pictures of them – several of the older women were DO photogenic I couldn’t get it down to just one picture – one lady was so expressive that I would say all 20 pictures of her are different and all wonderful. This one woman had her scarf so tight and an earring just so that she reminded me of a gypsy or a pirate.

One of the houses we were told was very dangerous so we just took a photo from the outside. Then the opened the door for us and we stuck out heads in and took another photo. And then he said it was ok and we followed him up.  It was a spectacular ruin – the roof caved in – the floors with holes – but still furnished and with paint and decoration on the walls.  We saw two different 100 year old chests and some really neat and scary looking rooms.  We walked very carefully and man could you film a haunted house movie here!  I will post many pictures because each image is its own glory of decay.

As we left the house the man pointed to something on the group like a little fuzzy ball.  He picked it up and it started to move and he put it down in the road and it totally curled up.  I asked Pervin and she flipped through the dictionary and told me it was a hedgehog (the word was VERY foreign to her and she had a hard time saying it – but braver than me I usually just point). It stayed in a ball and would only occasionally open a touch to stick its nose out and look to see if we were still there.  The man said he could get it to open up and poured water on it – at which point it started to run away – I apologize if the pictures are blurry but c’mon its a hedgehog!

We headed back to Gonen for lunch and afterward Bert and I headed to the park to take photos again of the stones there.  It was much easier with a second set of hands.  On the way we passed a children’s park and I noticed all the equipment and remarked to Bert how shocking it was to see all metal construction of a jungle gym and slides and such all over concrete – we don’t play that way anymore do we? We took a break for water and bumped into my friend Abdullah! He was thrilled to see us and we had to have tea with him – I got to meet his son Sadick and Bert translated back and forth.  It must have bee really hard on Bert.  His German is great but its not his native language and being put in the middle isn’t easy.  Abdullah remarked that my boots looked to big and hot and everyone was staring at my giant boots – they were very concerned that my feet were too hot. At one point I told him – Tell Abdullah I really appreciate his kindness and the tea and Bert turns to him and a in a loud clear voice says – He really appreciates your kindness and the tea.  I said to Bert – now tell it to him in German.  We both laughed because he literally turned to him and said exactly what I said to him IN ENGLISH.

I don’t know who paid for the tea – the shopkeeper or Abdullah but no one would take my money and we went back to work.  I don’t think the tea was good both Bert and I didn’t feel very well afterwards.

We walked back to the house and I saw a man riding a motorcycle carrying a ladder!  But I was too slow with the camera to get it.  I saw one guy with a shovel before – but a ladder?  Back at the house people were scrubbing the days pottery find.  Apparently Bert is a complete natural at spotting pottery and I told him to cut it out because I had to photograph it all!

This might seem like a short narrative but it was a crazy big photo day – check out the gallery there are some real winners!

Images from Day 9 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)