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Captivated by Cappadocia

April 20, 2016 by · Comments Off on Captivated by Cappadocia 

If I was enticed by Istanbul, I was utterly captivated by Cappadocia. Ever since I’d seen a poster of hot air balloons flying over a strange landscape and discovered it was Cappadocia, I wanted to visit. Now, I was on my way.

Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimneys

This is Cappadocia.

This is Cappadocia.

If you are visiting Istanbul, Turkey and wish to see Cappadocia, it’s easiest to fly (a drive takes over ten hours). Turkish Airlines will get you there in an hour, but you’ll still need transport to Goreme. Judy and I had the treat of being met by a driver who took us directly to our hotel, thanks to arrangements from Barefoot Plus Travel. This company helped coordinate and timely maneuver us through many parts of Turkey.

Fairy Chimneys

Fairy Chimneys

I peered out the car window and saw snow-capped mountains in the distance, a surprise to me. Who knew you could ski in Turkey? As we drove on, the scenery changed to farmland. About 8-10 minutes before we reached Goreme, the landscape underwent a total transformation.  All of a sudden I felt like a tiny gnome in a field of giant mushrooms. The whimsical high rock formations look like mushroom caps and are called fairy chimneys. The effect is enchanting.

Cave Homes in Cappadocia

Cave Homes in Cappadocia

As we proceeded into Goreme, the rock shapes changed into large domed humps or sharper edged boulders, and many included doors and hollowed out windows.  Now I felt like I’d dropped into Fred and Wilma Flintstone’s neighborhood of cave homes.  There is, in fact, a Flintstone Hotel, but we stayed in a cave hotel named Lalezar.

View from the cave hotel.

View from the cave hotel.

Our cave-like room had white-painted curved rock walls that created a spacious feeling. A double and single bed, plus bathroom, fulfilled our needs, but we had no window. Most of the other rooms included openings, but ours was a less costly choice. You can’t beat $33 per night for lodging, a traditional Turkish breakfast and 24/7 availability of coffee or tea.

Cave Hotel Room

Cave Hotel Room

Within minutes, I ran up the stairs to the top balcony of the hotel and started taking photos. The otherworldly landscape wowed me.

Another view from the cave hotel balcony.

Another view from the cave hotel balcony.

Next morning we were picked up by van for the first of our two small group full-day tours. These tours are the easiest and most convenient way to see what is important in Cappadocia. We began with an hour and a half hike through the Red and Rose Valleys. The walk yielded a feast for the eyes and heyday for photographers. At times, we looked down on towering boulders, pinnacles and pleated folds in the soft volcanic rock that looked like wind-blown sand dunes.  Occasionally, the hike took us down into the bizarre wonderland formed by erosion.

Hiking through the Red Valley

Hiking through the Red Valley

Views from the morning hike.

Views from the morning hike.

Other hikers on our tour.

Other hikers on our tour.

Later in the day, we stopped at a few scenic overlooks, one included cave homes with yellowish streaks caused by sulfur and the other was a castle. Well, the guide called it a castle, but I would say it’s a fortress. The highest rock, Uçhisar Castle, has been a lookout tower for centuries. Due to safety concerns, no climbing is permitted.

Sulfur causes yellow streaks in the rock.

Sulfur causes yellow streaks in the rock.

Uchisar Castle

Uchisar Castle

Lastly, we were taken to an underground city of tunnels, a labyrinth of rooms that extend seven or eight levels into the earth. The volcanic rock is soft enough to carve initially but hardens when exposed to air. The hidden chambers were used by as many as 10,000 residents to hide from invaders.

Underground City Rooms

Underground City Rooms

Underground City

Underground City

Touring the underground

Touring the underground

One must bend over to move within the tunnels, and the floor is uneven but well worth the discomfort. We saw massive rolling-stone doors that were used to prevent invaders from entering. A variety of rooms were used for food storage, pressing grapes, keeping livestock, and smaller family rooms for sleeping and cooking. The clever inhabitants dug deep wells and shafts or chimneys for ventilations. They also built churches. Sometimes hiding in these underground cities was necessary for months at a time until it was safe for the villagers to return outside.

The Entrance Door or Rolling Stone.

The Entrance Door or Rolling Stone.

On the second day of our tours, we started at the Goreme Open Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1984 and an outstanding one in my opinion.  Here, we entered exquisite frescoed rock churches in varying degrees of preservation. Most of these chapels belong to the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries.

Grounds of Open Air Museum

Grounds of Open Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum

Goreme Open Air Museum

Up and down many stairs.

Up and down many stairs.

I photographed one while standing outside, but otherwise no interior photos are allowed.  We paid a small extra charge to enter the Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise)and by all means don’t miss it. This astonishing rock church surrounds and embraced me with a force I’ve rarely felt. The frescoes are in mint condition, colorful, captivating, and emotional in detail. The interior is arranged like a modern church with an aisle, apse, and side chapels.

Rock Church Exterior

Rock Church Exterior

The Dark Church

The Dark Church

We also stopped in nearby Avanos at a pottery firm where we met the famed artisan, Galip Korukcu, often called Einstein. He has been the creative genius behind decorative pottery in this area for decades.  We watched him throw a pot using a foot-powered potters wheel and also observed some of his students drawing and painting designs on raw pottery.

Einstein at work

Einstein at work

In one particular room, we were mesmerized by Galip’s glow in the dark works that sound funky but are actually gorgeous. Had I money in my budget, I would have purchased a plate to hang in my home.

Pretty Pottery Plates

Pretty Pottery Plates

 

The Red Valley

The Red Valley

Over two days, we climbed up and down hundreds of stairs and tromped many miles through a variety of treasures within Cappadocia. The landscape is like no other, but the place is one I can wholeheartedly recommend to curious travelers and photographers. Hikers and bikers love the region because there are many open trails for them to explore. We, however, saved the best for last, an exciting adventure that most tourists to the area splurge for — a hot air balloon ride.

Use your imagination...a camel?

Use your imagination…a camel?

IMG_7590 IMG_7602

Please return to bylandersea.com to see those photos of our hot air balloon ride.

All photo copyright Debi Lander@bylandersea.com

Please follow along our upcoming adventures at www.bylandersea.com.
Archives can be found at “Bylandersea Abroad” on the top menu on the homepage.

Diggin’ the Archeological Museum in Istanbul

April 15, 2016 by · Comments Off on Diggin’ the Archeological Museum in Istanbul 

Istanbul’s Archeology Museum ranks as one of the best in the world. On our last day in Istanbul, Judy and I intended to spend a few hours there but ended up browsing there most of the day.

Sign at Archeology Museum Entrance.

Sign at Archeology Museum Entrance.

Exterior of the Museum

Exterior of the Museum

The museum rests down the hill from the Topkapi Palace. The complex has three main parts: the Archaeology Museum, the Museum of the Ancient Orient and the Tiled Pavilion. Plus, we found lovely statue gardens where you could sip a cup of coffee and have some lunch with a multitudes of cats. There is a glassed-in pavilion in case the cats or cold weather intervene.

Statuary Garden

Statuary Garden

 

Museum of the Ancient Orient

 

The Ancient Orient Museum lies on the left after purchasing your ticket and entering the compound. The 1883 building holds a collection of pre-Islamic items from the Ottoman Empire. My personal highlight and certainly one of the museum’s priceless treasures are the pristine condition series of large blue-and-yellow glazed-brick panels from ancient Babylon. They formerly lined the processional streets of Babylon. How extraordinary – Babylon! I never thought I’d see anything from ancient Babylon.

Tiles from a Babylonian Wall

Tiles from a Babylonian Wall

More tiles from the Babylonian Wall.

More tiles from the Babylonian Wall.

The museum also houses a mummy collection including a few sarcophagi and these neat little mini-mummies (like dolls) that are regarded as servant figures. According to a sign, “They were intended to do heavy work in the deceased place, should he/she be called upon to do manual labor in the afterlife.” How cool is that!

Box of mimi-mummies or servant figures.

Box of mimi-mummies or servant figures.

 Mimi-Mummies or Servant Figures.

Mimi-Mummies or Servant Figures.

We also admired the statues of lions and bulls and some mythical creatures before leaving the building.

Double Headed Sphinx

Double Headed Sphinx

Tiled Pavilion

 

Next, we visited the Tiled Pavilion, constructed in 1472 by order of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror. The exterior features 14 marble columns, and the interior includes a main hall or lobby with small rooms on either side.  Each room holds selected Seljuk, Anatolian or Ottoman tiles and ceramics, some dating back to the 12th-century.We had to read labels to know what we were looking at since our knowledge of ceramics is limited. The tour turned into us more or less just glancing at and enjoying the designs and colors.

Ancient Tile Work.

Ancient Tile Work.

 

 

Archeology Museum

 

We saved the main museum building for last. It houses an extensive collection of classical statuary and sarcophagi plus displays on İstanbul’s history.

Treasured Sarcophagus

Treasured Sarcophagus

We entered a dimly lit room holding the museum’s major treasures: sarcophagi from the Royal Necropolis of Sidon (Lebanon).  According to my guidebook, “These sarcophagi were unearthed in 1887 by Osman Hamdi Bey in Sidon.” The detail and beauty in the Alexander Sarcophagus and Mourning Women Sarcophagus are exquisite and are as poignant today as ever.

Amazing detail remains on this sarcophagus.

Amazing detail remains on this sarcophagus.

Amongst the historical collections from Istanbul, we saw the missing snake’s head from the Serpentine Column we’d seen earlier in the Hippodrome. We also browsed lots of cooking and eating utensils, coins, medals, pottery and tools.   One hall displayed statues and busts, some from Ephesus and Afrodisias that we would be visiting in a week.

Ancient Bust

Ancient Bust

Ancient Statue-1

We eventually left the museum and were delighted to encounter Gülhane Park bursting with magnificent blooms.  The park features a statue of Ataturk and an evil eye garden amongst its swirling designs.

Evil Eye Garden

Evil Eye Garden

Gardens-1

Spring Blooms

Judy at the Ataturk Statue.

Judy at the Ataturk Statue.

Our days in Istanbul were ending, but couldn’t have been more rewarding. We were now looking forward to visiting Cappadocia.

*******

All photo copyright Debi Lander@bylandersea.com

Please follow along our upcoming adventures at www.bylandersea.com.
Archives can be found at “Bylandersea Abroad” on the top menu on the homepage.

Sultan’s Riches at Dolmabahce Palace

April 10, 2016 by · 6 Comments 

The Dolmabahce Palace, along the shores of the Bosphorus River in Istanbul, was built between 1843 and 1856 for Sultan Abdülmecidu. He decided the 72-acre Topkapi Palace no longer met the needs of the royal household. Six sultans went on to use the Dolmabahce as their home before the Ottoman Empire fell.

Dalmabahce Palace as seen from my cruise on the Bosphorus.

Dalmabahce Palace as seen from my cruise on the Bosphorus.

The massive 161,500 square feet building consists of three parts: the State Apartments, Ceremonial Hall and the Imperial Harem as well as other small buildings. High walls and iron fencing with gate openings to the shoreline surround the palace. The grounds and blooming gardens feature spectacular ponds, statuary and scenic pathways.

Statuary by the side gate.

Statuary by the side gate.

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