Saturday, May 18, 2013

Far Eastern Turkey



3 to 17 May, 2013 – Trabzon, Kars, Doğubayazıt, Van, Diyarbakır, Hasankeyf, Mardin, Şanlıurfa, Harran, Kahta, Nemrut Dağı, Gaziantep, Antakya – (Turkey)

While it certainly was sad to say goodbye to the Caucasus region, a few hours in Turkey with cheap leather jackets for sale, Turkish rugs, kebabs, and baklava, and we cheered up a lot.

Oh, the tea. I have never been a tea drinker, only occasionally imbibing a cup. Here, I am consuming 3, 4, or more each and every day. It is cheap and ubiquitously available, and often provided free. Waiting for bus? How about a çay. Buying something? Here's a çay while we negotiate. Eating a meal? Çay. Not eating? Çay. Walking past? Come in and have a çay.

So, we have had a great start to Turkey, spending the first weeks in the eastern part; skirting along the Black Sea (sounds exotic, doesn't it); along the border of Georgia (oh, just left there); down past Armenia (ooh, just there, a few kilometres away, only 3 weeks ago); nearly back in to Nakhchivan region of Azerbaijan (ah, can you believe, that was 2 months ago that we were just over there); close to Iran (well, that's on the list, gotta get there one day soon); sort of past Iraq (intriguing); Syria so close you could almost touch it (hmm, steer clear for a while); and finally toward the Mediterranean (3 years ago looking the other way from Northern Cyprus).

And we have stacked on some amazing sights on the way. Lucky there is still plenty of walking involved to stop the stacking on of kilos, too.

That means there are a lot of photos in this update, and we have tried to be really selective. That's what happens when it is two weeks between updates.

Olive Heaven
Olive Heaven
OK, so I'm not an olive sort of person, but even I was impressed by this shop.


Sumela Monastery
Sumela Monastery
Clinging to the cliff, Sumela Monastery near Trabzon also boasts some beautiful frescoes. However, it is the setting which is an undeniable highlight.


Trabzon's Aya Sofya
Trabzon's Aya Sofya
A vertical panorama inside the former Church of the Divine Wisdom, now the Aya Sofya Museum, in Trabzon, showing the floor mosaic work as well as the light and spacious dome.


Cathedral at Ani
Cathedral at Ani
Ani was once the capital of Armenia. After changing hands a few times, it was abandoned and fell in to ruins after 1319. This cathedral was built between 987 and 1010. It fluctuated between being a church and a mosque, depending on the ruling powers of the time. The remains of the city are spread over a large area, which now is predominantly grassy rolling mounds with more than a dozen significant ruins dotting the landscape.


Really, We Didn't Know!
Really, We Didn't Know!
The sign marking the military zone was rusting, and had turned around to an angle meaning we did not see it when we walked past. It was only on our return that we realised we were in a no-go zone. I do think if they were serious about it, they should put up a fence, or at least some obvious signage!


İshak Paşa Palace
İshak Paşa Palace
This is near Doğubayazıt, nick-named “doggie biscuit”, close to the border of Iran. The sky cleared up for about twenty minutes between downpours, allowing some outdoor viewing and photography.


Akdamar Island on Lake Van
Akdamar Island on Lake Van
A cloud mimics the shape of the island below it. The church of Akdamar is visible on the island.


Armenian Carvings
Armenian Carvings
These beautiful reliefs dating from the 10th century, adorn the outside of the church of Akdamar, on an island on Lake Van, Turkey.


A Turkish Van Cat
A Turkish Van Cat
Turkish Van cats often have different coloured eyes. For this breed of cats, having white fur or even white markings against other colours is genetically linked to them possibly having one or both eyes blue (blue eyes in cats have received no colour pigmentation). White cats with two blue eyes are also deaf, but these, where the one eye remains blue and the other attains a colour (yellow or green seemed common) are not. They generally appeared to be curious and social, and like most cats, thrive on attention and affection.


Another Turkish Van Cat
Another Turkish Van Cat
Notice that this cat's blue eye is her right eye, while the previous photo showed a cat with the left eye blue.


Hasankeyf
Hasankeyf
The importance that Hasankeyf once held can be gauged by the size this bridge must have had, dating from a period before Ottoman rule. Strategically, with the extremely sheer cliffs and fortifications thereon, and the easily defended cave city (not visible in this photo), it was surely a city in a place to control, or at a minimum monitor, the flow of traffic up and down the Tigris River. A precariously positioned watch tower can be seen, looking ready to topple off the cliff top.


Cave City of Hasankeyf
Cave City of Hasankeyf
A view to the caves of Hasankeyf.


Cliff Top Structure, Hasnkeyf
Cliff Top Structure, Hasnkeyf
Whoever placed the first stones of the walls must have had nerves of steel, particularly given the age of the building and the probable entire lack of safety measures that would have been in place back then. A fantastic example of some fine engineering skills, considering the entire walls would have been built from the inside.


Stork Nest Atop a Minaret, Hasankeyf
Stork Nest Atop a Minaret, Hasankeyf

City Walls of Diyarbakır
City Walls of Diyarbakır
At over six kilometres, the city walls of Diyarbakır are said to be the second in extent in the world, only beaten by the Great Wall of China. They are made from basalt, and are certainly impressive.


View Over Mesopotamia
View Over Mesopotamia
From Mardin, looking over the plains of Mesopotamia to Syria. Sitting out and taking çay seems to be the most significant pass-time here.


Sacred Carp, Şanlıurfa
Sacred Carp, Şanlıurfa
It is said that anyone who should harm one of the fish swimming in the pools of Gölbaşı, Şanlıurfa, will go blind. They swim, they get fed, they grow fat, and they breed. Tough life.


Looking Down To Şanlıurfa
Looking Down To Şanlıurfa
The Mevlid-i Halil mosque in the area known as Dergah dominates in the foreground. Looking over the pleasant older areas of Şanlıurfa. Next to the mosque is the cave where it is believed that Abraham (or İbrahim) was born. Job also spent time here.


A Dromedary and Beehive Houses, Harran
A Dromedary and Beehive Houses, Harran
Harran is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited place on earth. It gets a few mentions in Genesis, although little more than in passing. Although the beehive style of houses is believed to have been in use here for more than a millennium, most examples are quite recent with the oldest examples being about 200 years old.


Statues of Nemrut Dağı
Statues of Nemrut Dağı
The statues of Nemrut Dağı, on the eastern terrace, with their heads lined up in front of their respective bodies. Behind them is a funerary mound, a pile of stones brought to the mountain top to cover an unknown number of tombs.


Eastern Terrace Heads of Nemrut Dağı
Eastern Terrace Heads of Nemrut Dağı

Jo Comforts A Fallen Head
Jo Comforts A Fallen Head
Maybe some affection will bring a smile to that forlorn face.


One of the Western Terrace Heads, Nemrut Dağı
One of the Western Terrace Heads, Nemrut Dağı

Beautiful Relief Carving
Beautiful Relief Carving
At Eski Kale, near Kahta, this fabulous carving stands showing King Mithridates shaking hands with a god, Heracles.


Castle and Bridge
Castle and Bridge
The Seljuk bridge over the Kahta river. Although there is a new bridge not far away, it is still possible to drive over this beautiful old bridge. The remains of the castle Yeni Kale of Eski Kahta top the mountains behind.


Cendere Bridge
Cendere Bridge
Fantastic Roman bridge, build in the 2nd century A.D. Driving is not allowed on this one.


Mosaic of Oceanos and Tethys
Mosaic of Oceanos and Tethys
Some of the mosaics we are encountering in this part of Turkey are so superb that they look like tapestries. This mosaic was in the bottom of a shallow pool in a Roman house. It was relocated to this museum in Gaziantep when the site where it was found was flooded by the waters of a new dam, about 20 years ago.


Gypsy Girl
Gypsy Girl
This beautiful section of a mosaic was nicknamed Gypsy Girl because of her hair and earrings. The eyes are the sort which follow you around the room, although they seemed to follow Jo more than me. The rest of the mosaic was stolen from the original location, but this section was missed by the thieves, and it is considered a masterpiece of mosaic art.


The Antakya Sarcophagus
The Antakya Sarcophagus
This beautiful marble sarcophagus is the prize of the Hatay Archaeology Museum. Incredibly ornate and detailed, with very little damage, it was found with the remains of two adults and a young female, and with a small amount of jewellery and a handful of coins.


Mosaic of Psyche and Eros
Mosaic of Psyche and Eros

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