Jul 192013
 

 Kusadasi Panoramic View of the City

 

Being a photographer, what I love most about traveling is wandering the old neighborhoods and back alleys of some exotic locale. Turkey offers this in spades with the added benefit of safety. I have not felt unsafe for a minute.

Unfortunately for photography, the government is pushing urban renewal. The slums are fast disappearing. Developers are given government land in exchange for building modern apartments that are given to those whose houses are then bulldozed.

 

The slums of Kusadasi

 

Yes, I said given. The developers turn their profit on the additional condos that can be sold. This enlightened approach is transforming Turkish cities and the lives of the poor.

The coastal Aegean city of Kuşadası is a prime example. Kuşadası is the bedroom for tours visiting the ancient and cosmopolitan, biblical city of Ephesus.  http://www.dreamcatcherimaging.com/blog/2010/10/13/from-the-ruins-of-ephesus-to-the-mediterranean-beauty-of-antalya/    Four and five star hotels dominate its headlands and coves. The azure waters of the Aegean washes lazily at their rocky foundations.

 

Kusadasi Hotel swimming pool

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Fisherman rowing boat

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Fish Market

 

Kusadasi Harbor

 

The city’s waterfront, pedestrian plaza is evidence of the urban transformation. New sculptures, restaurants and playgrounds follow the sweep of the city’s bay which terminates in a slum encrusted hill at its south end.

Wandering the steep lanes and narrow alleys of this poor neighborhood, I find old, Ottoman houses in various states of decay. Children play hopscotch in the cobblestone lanes while a man on his balcony proudly displays his prize fighting rooster. Observing this is an elderly grandmother safeguarding the neighborhood from her rooftop perch. 

 

Kusadasi

 

Kusadasi street

 

Kusadasi Man with Fighting Cock

 

Kusadasi Old women watching her neighborhood

 

Turks are invariably friendly and eager to help. Several stop to talk as I wander, some offering me cookies and fruit juice.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Girl

 

Kusadasi, Turkey bearded man

 

The tree-filled park crowning the hill provides a panoramic view. Urban renewal is evident in the new, multi-colored apartment buildings stacked upon the surrounding hills.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey park with children

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Panorama 

Rooftop, solar hot water installations are ubiquitous. With Turkey’s lack of petroleum resources, it makes sense to use the abundant sunshine.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Solar hot water installation

 

Turkey’s enlightened attitude influences not just urban renewal and energy use but extends into infrastructure, education, social security and health care.

The country is investing in their future with new roads, bridges and communications access. Education is mandatory and free. Win entrance to college and the government picks up the tab. Everyone has access to free, quality health care, and government retirement benefits are generous.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey men talking

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Man selling vegetables

 

This hasn’t always been the norm. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 brought frequent upheavals over the following decades. Since the Turks embraced democracy and modernization, there has been a steady rise in prosperity and stability.

 

Kusadasi, Turkey Ad for modern apartment

 

Kusadasi. Turkey  panorama at night

 

Moving east into Western Anatolia, the fertile Menderes River Valley reminds me of California’s enormous central valley in miniature; a long, broad, agricultural valley bordered on one side by hills and low mountains and on the other by magnificent, snow-covered peaks. 

After several hours traversing the valley, a white scar becomes evident along a bench on the northern mountains. This is the national park of Pamukkale, or Cotton Castle, one of Turkey’s major tourist destinations.

Drawing closer, the enormous size of the majestic, travertine cliffs becomes apparent. Think Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone on a truly mammoth scale. The brilliant, white formation is a mile and half long and over five hundred feet high. People have bathed in its terraced pools for thousands of years.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Panukkale, Turkey Hot Springs

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hot springs bathers

 

The ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis sits on a broad bench of ancient travertine behind the cliffs. Green hills sprinkled with crimson poppies rise behind the ruins. Hierapolis must have been a magnificent city in a spectacular setting. People from around the Roman world came to take the cure and many, to die. A vast Necropolis of tombs and sarcophagi lies west of the reconstructed ruins.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

  

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

The modern spa and hot springs allow visitors to partake of the ancient waters amid a lush oasis. Columns and pedestals of the long dead civilization provide resting places for those enjoying the healing waters.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

The more I explore Turkey, the more impressive it becomes. Coming from a country with a historical perspective of only a few hundred years, it is difficult to imagine the viewpoint of a Turk. 

America has known only two civilizations in 1,000 years of history. The Anatolian Peninsula has known 623 years of Ottoman civilization preceded by the rise and fall of numerous civilizations over some 8,000 years, back to the very dawn of history. This must influence their outlook.

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Pamukkale, Turkey Hieropolis Roman Ruins

 

Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Also check out my photography tutorials at:  http://dreamcatcherimaging.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

May 032013
 

 

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The melodic wail of the Azan, the call to prayer, pierces my jet-lagged sleep. “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!”God is great! God is great!, calls the amplified muezzin in a high tenor. Quickly following sings a second muezzin in a resonant baritone. Before the first begins his next phrase, a third chimes in, another tenor but with faster tempo. 
Somewhere more distant, a fourth Azan rings forth and maybe a fifth. I can’t tell. The melodious call to prayer reverberates along the dark, narrow streets and alleys of Sultanahmet, Istanbul’s old city. The sounds echo off walls and buildings, rising to a glorious cacophony until each muezzin finishes in his turn and once again quiet rules the dawning day in Sultanahmet.

 

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I have returned to Turkey with a contract for a book from a Turkish publishing house. Seeing my previous work, an editor felt there was a place in their catalog for a book by an American photographer/writer that could reinforce the bridge between Western misconceptions and the reality of his dynamic country.

They’ve invited us for lunch today. Their office is somewhere in Asia, that is, the Asian side of the legendary Bosphorus dividing not just Istanbul, but Europe and Asia as well.

 

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 Nothing like trying to do a photo shoot on a breezy day in a rocking boat at the entrance to the Bosporus Strait.

 

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“Take a ferry from Eminönü to Üskudar, then a taxi to my office.”, wrote the editor. On the ferry, address in hand, we meet a kindly, English-speaking Turkish gentleman who takes us under his wing. “Don’t take a taxi. They’ll drive you around and cheat you.” He finds the right bus, even pays our fare, hands me his phone number saying, “Call me when you’re done and I’ll show you the fantastic view from Çamlıca Tepe.”

Following our course on googlemaps shows me where to get off but when I get to the location shown on the app, it’s not there. Quizzical gestures with the address to a passerby points me to the building two blocks away.

The meeting goes well. We’re shown warm, Turkish hospitality and the impressive variety and quality of books they publish. When finished, the editor calls our new friend and we agree to meet at the ferry. How can one pass up such serendipitous hospitality.

Weather has turned. It’s overcast, not an afternoon to photograph a spectacular, mountain-top view. He suggests a ferry ride through the Golden Horn, the body of water separating old Istanbul from the more cosmopolitan Beyoğlu district. First though, he takes us around Üskudar and introduces us to a friend of his who owns an historic kebab restaurant where we sample some wonderful fresh-baked bread.

 

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After passing beneath the famous Galata Bridge, we zig-zag from shore to shore, dropping people off, picking others up. Dusk descends, a glorious sunset spreads behind the city silhouetting mosques and their minarets against a crimson fire. We take the funicular  to the top of the Pierre Loti cemetary where the lights of the Golden Horn are spread beneath us. Exhausted from the day, jet-lag and the cold, it is after-all, winter, our friend sees us off in Eminönü promising to meet another day for the view from the mountain.

 

Golden Horn Night Pano

 

The next day we spend wandering the streets of Sultanahmet and at Istanbul’s archeological museum where millennia of human habitation and creativity is on display.

 

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The incredibly crafted Alexander Sarcophagus from the 5th century BCE. A masterpiece of ancient sculpture.

 

If there is one thing that dominates your awareness in Turkey, it is history. Vast expanses of human history pervade the Anatolian landscape. The Tigris and Euphrates, those rivers of legend that cradled civilization, have their source high in the mountains of Northeastern Turkey.

 

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 A Seljuk mithrab from 1432, made twenty-one years before the Ottomans conquered Constantinople in 1453.

 

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The massive bulwark of the aspe on the exterior of the Hagia Sophia built by the Emperor Justinian I in 537 CE.

 

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The remains of a Byzantine triumph arch, the starting point of the Via Egnetia. This Roman road led to the cities of Europe and was the point from which distances were measured.  4th century CE


Evidence of humanity extends back 65,000 years! Civilization though, doesn’t begin until the Neolithic, around 8,000 BCE, when mankind evolved from its hunter-gatherer lifestyle and learned to cultivate crops and domesticate animals. The Anatolian Peninsula, which makes up the 97% of Turkey not in Europe, is chock full of Neolithic sites.


The neolithic was only the beginning. Cities sprang up. Bronze replaced stone, iron replace bronze. Armies conquered. Empires grew. clashed and disappeared time after time over the thousands of years before the Greek roots of our civilization appeared.
The entire panoply of early civilization and much of the history of the past two millennia can be seen. So here, in two short days, I experience a summation of my book; the incredible warmth and hospitality of a Muslim culture firmly rooted in history.
Before I really get to work though, we’ll escape winter and head south to Israel, returning in a few weeks to southern Turkey where spring will have begun.

 

 

Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

 

Jul 182012
 


Split, Croatia

 

Soon after entering the warren of narrow streets and tiny alleys comprising the ancient, walled, old section of the Croatian town of Split, the glorious harmonies of a men’s chorus beckons us. Seeking the source, we mount a stairway adjacent to the elegant facade of the Cathedral of St. Duje leading to a high, bullet-shaped pantheon, open to the sky at its apex.

 

 Split, Croatia Damatian Chorus Cathedral of St. Duje

 

Split, Croatia

 

A chorus of eight, black-clad men stand in the small, acoustically profound space, serenading the gathered tourists with traditional, dalmatian music–a tight blend of magnificent, a cappella harmonies. Happening upon these wonderful voices in such ancient surrounding sends chills up my spine and tears to my eyes–so unexpected, so profoundly beautiful; buskers of the highest order. Who could begrudge them a generous donation while also purchasing their DVD to enjoy at home.

 

Split, Croatia Damatian Chorus

 

This is a miraculous introduction to the clean, bright, Adriatic town of Split, Croatia’s second-largest city.

Recent archaeological research indicates the Greeks founded a trading settlement here sometime in the 6th century BCE. Later, the Romans, the dominant power of the region, established control during the Illyrian Wars of 229-219 BCE.

At the beginning of the 3rd century CE, the emperor Diocletian had an enormous and opulent palace built to serve as his home after his retirement from politics. Becoming the first Roman emperor to voluntarily step down, Diocletian retired to then Spalatum in 305 CE. The palace now constitutes the old section and inner core of Split.

Following the slow decline of the Western Roman Empire, Spalatum became part of the Byzantine empire ruled from Constantinople, now Istanbul.

During Medieval times, the Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Croatia, and the Kingdom of Hungary vied for control. In the 10th century, the influence of the slowly rising trading power of the Venetian Republic over the islands and coastal towns of the Adriatic gradually spread. It wasn’t until 1420, following a twenty-year civil war, when the Kingdom of Hungary lost control to Naples of what was then called by its Croat population, Spalatro. Venice subsequently took control of the town, buying it from the Neapolitans.

Venice ruled what they called Spalato for 377 years, losing control in 1797. Napoleon ruled it from 1806-1812 after which now Split, became part of the Austro-Hungarian province of Dalmatia until the empire’s dissolution following World War I.

It was incorporated into the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia until the Nazis invaded in 1941. Fascist Italy annexed Split a month later. The Fascists met heavy opposition from the Croat population and following the capitulation of Italy in September, 1943, the partisan brigades of Marshal Tito temporarily liberated the city only to be forced to retreat by the Nazis a few weeks later.

Split was finally liberated in October of 1944. It became the Socialist Republic of Croatia, a sovereign republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This was a boom time. Split became the largest passenger and military port in Yugoslavia. Investment poured in and industry, particularly shipbuilding, flourished.

In 1991, with the collapse of Yugoslavia and the rest of the Eastern Bloc, Croatia declared its independence and with Splits old section, the long-since urbanized interior of Diocletian’s palace, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city remains a major link to numerous Adriatic islands, the Apennine peninsula and Croatia’s interior.

 

Split, Croatia Harbor

 

Split, Croatia Harbor Cafe

 

Cafes set along the harbor and against the walls of Diocletian’s Palace

 

Split, Croatia Harbor

 

Split Old Town

 

A clock tower dominates the entrance to the ancient town.

 

Split, Croatia

 

Split, Croatia Graffiti Abstract

 

Split, Croatia

 

Split, Croatia Ethnographic Museum 18th Century Clothing

 

Traditional dress inside the Ethnographic Museum.

 

Split, Croatia Ethnographic Museum

 

Split, Croatia Cafe

 

Split, Croatia

 

The Cathedral of St. Duje and its adjacent square.

Split, Croatia Roman Artifacts

 

Split, Croatia

 

The Basement Halls Museum of Diocletian’s Palace.

 

Split, Croatia

 

Croatia’s greatest sculpture, Ivan Mestrovic’s statue of the Croatia Bishop Gregorius of Nin, Grgur Ninski in Croatian.

 

Split, Croatia Adriatic Coast Panorama

 

Panorama of the Croatian Adriatic coast south of Split.

 

Split, Croatia Adriatic Coast Panorama Dusk

 

Dusk along the mountainous, Croatian, Adriatic Coast between Split and Dubrovnik.

 

Copyright 2012 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Jun 102012
 

 

 

Along the northeast coast of the Adriatic, wedged tightly between Italy’s elegant Trieste and the mountainous coast and islands of Croatia, lies a tiny sliver of Slovenia. The ancient town of Koper occupies this narrow shard providing otherwise land-locked Slovenia with its only access to the sea.

As Yolanda and I wander Koper’s walled old quarter, its ancient streets echo to the hoof-on-stone sounds of a team of horses clopping and sliding down the gentle incline of age-polished cobbles. Seeking protection within a doorway gives the colorful cart of tourists space to pass.

 

 

The town is clean and bright. Shuttered, lightly pastel houses and buildings rise only occasionally higher than two stories. Being a Sunday, few people other than tourists are about.

 

 

 

 

Finding ourselves quickly outside the walls of the old section, we encounter the modern side of Koper, again, low sleak buildings sloping gently to an azure harbor filled with boats. Only a very few boats belie the apparent modest incomes of this newly-formed country cloven from the former, communist Yugoslavia.

Wandering along the harbor on this gorgeous, clear, fall morning, a hive of activity surrounds several large tents. We’ve stumbled upon a local harvest fair. Booths inside the tents display local cheeses, olive oils, honeys, vinegars, vegetables and wines.

 

 

 

Proud farmers eagerly hand out samples hoping to entice purchases or simply to share their land’s bounty. A local mushroom-gatherers club displays numerous varieties as a fragrant batch is sautéed for sampling.

 

 

 

Emerging from this festival for the taste buds, the distant snow-covered mountains of Italy and Austria rise to the west of the deep blue Adriatic. A long, white line, miles away, appears very strange. Using my telephoto, the line resolves into a massive volumn of sails, thousands as it turns out. Trieste, Koper’s Italian neighbor, is holding their annual yacht race, the largest in the world. Over two thousand yachts participate each year!

 

 

More to follow on the amazing, ancient Croatian cities of Split and Dubrovnic.

Copyright 2012 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

 

 

Jul 032011
 

Descending the medieval lanes of Saint-Emilion, France.

 

The brilliant sunshine of a southern France spring plays across vast, rolling fields of venerable grape vines. Row upon row march up and over the undulating landscape of the Dordogne Valley with military precision. Where the land is flat, their perfectly straight files disappear into distant trees or perhaps one of the many, age-old Châteaus dotting the horizon and hilltops. In the distance, an ancient steeple among a cluster of stone buildings rises out of the vineyards denoting a village.

A typical village in the Dordogne Valley near Saint-Emilion.

Driving the two lane, back roads of northeastern Bordeaux is a journey into 18th century France. The landscape has changed little over the centuries-a few, widely dispersed towns, tiny villages set among vast battalions of bright, green vines, here and there islands of trees, and of course, the ubiquitous, elegant Châteaus.Market day in the town of Libourne on the way to Saint-Emilion.

A baker in his mobile boulangerie selling scrumptious breads on market day in Libourne.

Blossoming rose bushes adorn the ends of many rows. Besides providing a contrasting touch of color, they act as sentinels for disease and fungus, an early warning system telling the farmer of possible problems in his vineyard.

Occasional signs along the road announce various Châteaus, inviting the traveler to taste their wines, have dinner or spend the night. It is impressive to see signs for some of the most famous wines in the world. Narrow lanes between the vines lead to the elegant facades of Château Ausone, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Figeac, Château Magdelaine, and Clos Fourtet, all members of the elite classification, Premiers Grands Crus Classés.

The ruins of an ancient church greets visitors as they approach Saint-Emilion.

The town of Saint-Émilion, the center of the world famous Appellation Saint-Émilion Controlee and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies now only a few kilometers away. The Bell Tower of its ancient, monolithic church and the buildings surrounding it give no indication as to the scope and beauty of the town. For that, you must stop and explore it on foot.

Entering a church through its age-worn portal unknowingly gives entry to the town. The cool, dark interior is lit by tall, stained-glass windows in the rear apse surrounding the chancel. Gregorian chant plays softly through hidden speakers. The effect is so beautiful and appropriate that it is a wonder more historic churches don’t take advantage of this simple method for dramatically enhancing their atmosphere.

A delicately columned cloister is accessed through a side door. From there, another door leads to the Saint-Émilion tourism office and through it to a small plaza surrounding the bell tower. Umbrellas shade the tables of two cafes and beyond them is a low wall. Spread beneath the wall is a panorama of tile-roofed, stone houses and cobbled lanes, a wonderful surprise.

Saint-Émilion is set within an enormous, natural amphitheater. Rows of grape vines mark the edge of town, disappearing into the distant horizon. At the foot of the sheer cliff lies a small, cafe-lined plaza. From this limestone cliff, the underground, Monolithic Church, the largest of its kind in France, was carved by generations of devoted Benedictine monks. Over 15,000 cubic yards of rock were quarried to create the huge interior spaces.

Narrow lanes, one so steep and slick a handrail is necessary, wind around and down, past stylish wine shops, to the plaza below. It seems as if the only businesses are wine shops, restaurants or macaroon stores, crunchy, multi-colored macaroons being another Saint-Émilion specialty.Establishment Martin is one of Saint-Emilion's premier wine shops. It sells over 90 different wines and will happily provide tastings.

The portal to the Monolithic Church with its iconic bell tower.

The massive doors to the Monolithic Church lie at the bottom of the cliff just off the plaza. Frequent tours explore the vast interior. Past the church, more wine stores provide tastings of the local vintages. Cocktail tables with bottles and glasses sit just outside the doors of the shops, allowing casual tastings of the regions full-bodied reds as you stroll.

A leisurely 10-15 minute walk brings you to the vines of Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes abutting the town. From here, you can wander in all directions to your heart’s delight, toward wineries, châteaus and beyond.

The hills around Saint-Emilion.

A typical grave in the cemetery of village 1 km from Saint-Emilion.

Saint-Émilion is an architectural gem. Its timeless, medieval atmosphere transports you to a previous era. Here, you will find not only marvelous, southern French cuisine and exceptional wines, but also, a sense of quiet elegance and understated self-confidence that comes from centuries of culture and a world class reputation for excellence.

Copyright 2011 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

 

 

May 262011
 

Lisbon's Moorish inspired Campo Pequeno bullring,

Admittedly, six nights is dismally inadequate to explore Portugal. Here you have a country whose archeological history goes back some 30,000 years, a lush, varied, sun-drenched land settled by the Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors-long-ago ancestors of the current Portuguese people. A month, really, should be a minimum, but for various reasons, Yolanda and I were limited to this short time before traveling in southern France.

There is an entire western and southern Atlantic coastline to explore, replete with isolated beaches, magnificent cliffs and ancient, languid towns. There are mountain ranges rising to the east with the Spanish border only 175 miles from the western coast. More than anything though, there is the Portuguese cultural heritage, a unique and sometimes fantastic conglomeration of Roman, Moorish, Spanish, English and Catholic influences that has survived and at times, thrived since the expulsion of Islam in the 13th century.

The Alfama

Lisbon is a bustling, cosmopolitan, capitol city. From its broad, tree-lined avenues, punctuated by monumental monuments to Portugal’s heroes and history, to the tiny, twisting, cobbled lanes of hilly Alfama, Lisbon is a delight to explore. Buy a four Euro day pass for its metro, busses and anachronistically, iconic trams and explore to your heart’s content.

Riding Tram 28 along the narrow street of the Alfama.

Traditionally tiled building are common place in Lisbon. Here, an elderly couple keep an eye watch the comings and goings of their Alfama neighborhood.

Hop aboard Tram 28 for several hours of rattling up and down the hills of Alfama and the Barrio Alto. In the narrow street the tram misses by inches parked cars, people and the corners of houses. You can hop on and off to take in the magnificent viewpoints, eat at a street side café, experience the calm of exquisite centuries-old churches or explore the ancient castle sitting atop Alfama. Here, miradouros amidst a park-like setting of stone walls and parapets offer panoramic vistas of the city below.

 

The Tejos estuary from one of the miradouros in the Alfama.

From Lisbon’s vast Tejos River estuary, Portuguese 15th and 16th century explorers like Vasco de Gama embarked on their journeys of discovery. Facing what for them was the complete unknown, they opened the west and east coasts of Africa, the Straits of Hormuz, India, Ceylon, the spice islands of Indonesia and Malaysia as well as China and Japan. This brought European commerce and sometimes Portuguese domination to the regions.

The gateway to Lisbon's waterfront.

The plato do dia is an excellent value for dinner at the sidewalk cafes of Rossio.

At the same time, other Portuguese sailors happened upon the east coast of South America. They determined it was actually a vast continent rather than just islands as Columbus thought and established the huge holding that would eventually become Brazil.

The unique portal to the Rossio train station.

The ornate tower of Sintra's town hall.

For Yolanda and I though, the attraction of big cities pales to that of small towns, especially towns with an architectural heritage so interesting and fantastic as that of Sintra. Sintra is a short half-hour train ride from Lisbon’s centrally located Rossio train station. At less than 4 Euros round trip, the train is a bargain and makes an easy day trip. But with so much to experience an overnight, even two nights, is a must.

A sculpture exhibition adorns the road from the train station to the historic center of Sintra. The chimneys of the royal palace are in the background.

In the historic center of Sintra.

The small, historical center of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a romance of hills, narrow, cobbled lanes, lush vegetation and art. Tiny cafes serving the freshest seafood are tucked into its many corners. The ancient, stone, walls and towers of a Moorish castle and the fantastic palace of Portugal’s 19th century monarchs, Palacio de Pena, loom on hilltops high above the town. Parks, trails and roads rise into the verdant hills above the village. The forest reminds me very much of coastal Oregon.

The Quinta da Regaliera.

For centuries, Sintra has been a summer retreat for Royalty and the wealthy. Incredible palaces and mansions, some now hotels, peak through the dense foliage of the hillsides. Yolanda and I spend one amazing afternoon exploring perhaps the most fantastical, the Quinta da  Regaliera. Luigi Manini, a well-known Italian architect and opera set designer for his wealthy patron, Carvalho Monteiro, designed it around the turn of the 19th century. Manini devoted fourteen years to creating a mythical landscape out of the many acres of wooded hillside.

The Entry.

The entry to Leda's Cave.

Paths wander throughout forest. Surprises lurk around every; fountains, caves, waterfalls, and towered, stone fortresses. We descend the circular stair set into the wall of the Initiatic Well eighty-eight feet to a mosaic floor. Dark caverns lead in various directions that eventually open onto other incredible scenes. I can imagine the pseudo-mystical ceremonies played out by torchlight operatically staged for the guest’s benefit.

The eighty-eight foot deep Initiatic Well.

One exit from the tunnels leading from the Initiatic Well.

Another exit from the Initiatic Well.

Ponds, aquariums and elegant fountains are set amidst an arboretum type landscape. Statued terraces and a lovely chapel are staged among the greenery. Labyrinthine grottos twist their way through the rocks.

The Quinta da Regaleira is a masterwork of fantastic landscape and architectural design.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Oct 252010
 

The Mevlana in Konya


It’s a lovely evening. The air is comfortably warm, the hospitality warmer still. We arrive in Konya from Antalya after dark to find two host families waiting at an outdoor restaurant flanked by two, brightly lit, 900 year-old tombs. Three teenage girls, one wearing a headscarf, all shyly giggling, practice their English with us. Interesting conversations about life, education and religion passes between the hosts and ourselves.

Interfaith Mingling Amongst the Women

Feelie and one of our hosts

Alan and one of the teenage daughters intent in discussion

Konya is the spiritual center of the Sufism. Here, the great poet, theologian and mystic, Rumi, lived eight hundred years ago. Sufism is the most peaceful and spiritual of Muslim sects. The roots of the Whirling Dervishes are here.

The entrance to Rumi's Tomb

The Mevlani Way is an ascetic, spiritual life. Rumi believed passionately in utilizing music and dance as a path to God. This evolved into the whirling ritual, focusing the mind so intensely that the soul is both destroyed and resurrected. Apprenticeship entailed a final test; meditating in the communal kitchen for days without food as meals were prepared around you.

It is evident from the women’s dress that Konya is the most traditional of the places we’ve visited thus far. Many more women with headscarves are on the streets. Most wear the shapeless, full-length overcoat of the devout and there is a hint of ethnicity in their style of scarf and flowery skirts.

As we approach the Mevlana, Rumi’s tomb, its green dome sets it off as different from other mosques. The colorful gardens surrounding the complex are immaculately maintained. Sculpted rose bushes and topiary set amidst lush green lawns give color and style to the sanctuary.

I would love to have photographed inside the tomb. The marble walls are covered with flowing Arabic script and, like most mosques, the ceiling is a delight of design. On display are many elaborately illuminated Korans. The beauty of their calligraphy and wealth and creativity of their gilt illustrations captivate me. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed, something, as a professional, I always respect.

Rumi’s epitaph reads: “When we are dead, seek not our tomb in the earth, but find it in the hearts of men.”

Entrance to the school founded by Mehmet Ozdemir

Learning English as the students run up and down the stairs

Entrance to the kindergarten

Lunch is at a primary school built by a local businessman and follower of Fetullah Gülen. This is the first day of school. Garlands of balloons welcome the students. Lunch is with one of the teachers. Peppered by questions from our inquisitive group, we learn that English is taught from the primary level and that the success rate in the Gülen schools is exceptionally high. The vast majority of students pass the national college entrance test and graduate from university.

Music sounds in the hallway. It’s the end of a period and the corridors fill with happy voices. Our group wades out amongst the excited throngs, cameras in hand. We are met with many Hellos, What is your names and Where are you froms. For a quick five minutes the smiling faces of beautiful, happy children besiege us. They make the most of this strange group of visitors who enhance their first-day-of-school enthusiasm.

The evening promises a visit to another school though little do we know what we are in for. A few hours on the bus and we arrive, again after dark, in the small town of Nigde. Here, we are to be divided between the homes of the host families for the night.

A little impromptu performance on the bus by Cem and Serkan

Introductions all around between ourselves and our hosts

Our hosts greet us warmly, taking our bags to their respective cars. Climbing the steps to the school we are ushered into a large, comfortable office for the obligatory welcomings and to again, one by one, recount a bit who we are. The founder of the school, Mr. Celal, a spitting image of Sigmund Freund, leads us into an assembly room where the surprises begin.

Ten, beautiful, young girls in traditional, folk dress, bouquets in hand, flank the entry. Smiling and laughing, they hand each of us a bouquet while welcoming us in English. A mouth-watering aroma wafts through the room as we are shown to our tables surrounding the central floor space.

Suddenly, the girls are lined up in front of an imposing image of Ataturk. Music begins and they dance a well-rehearsed folk dance. We’re delighted!

More introductions follow along with an invitation to line up and be served. Following the dinner of too much delicious, regional food, a tray is wheeled out to the floor and the local master treats us to a demonstration of traditional, Turkish water painting.

In a tray of water, oil paints are dripped onto the surface. The artist uses special implements to shape the drops, adding more, shaping those, until, within five minutes, a lovely image of carnations floats upon the water. Placing a piece of watercolor paper on the surface transfers the painting to the paper and the artist smoothly draws the paper from the tray revealing an amazing painting of life-like carnations.

We are asked to take seats in a row beneath an imposing image of Atatürk, and then are called upon in turn to receive a framed water painting and say a few words.

Terre Sanitate offers some appreciative comments

With the last gift given, music swells, fireworks in front of us gush twin fountains of sparks while cannons on either side engulf us in confetti. I am beyond words.

It took me until the next day to get all the confetti off

A late night ensues as we each go to our respective host’s home. Yolanda, Serkan and I go with a doctor and his wife along with another couple; Turks living in London. We talk about everything, learning about each other’s cultures and religions. For the first time this entire trip, Serkan is fading.

Breakfast is late for a change. We gather, along with our hosts, at the home of a family with a large, abundantly productive garden. Long tables are arranged beneath a grape arbor planted by the host’s grandfather’s.

Casey makes a point

Once again, we are treated to incredibly warm hospitality as we partake of the bounty of the garden. Conversation ranges over a myriad of topics, always penetrating and pertinent to today’s world. It is difficult to express how fortunate I feel to be able to meet people of the Muslim faith on this level. We experience nothing but respect, warm hospitality, dialog, interest and polite acceptance of our differences.

Mr. Celal, the founder of the school, gracious host and Sigmund Freud lookalike.

As we reluctantly take our leave, handshakes, hugs and traditional kisses on both cheeks abound. I feel a glimmer of understanding, not through words but through direct experience, of the philosophy and teachings of the Fetullah Gülen. If our experience reflects some basic principles of Islam, then the world is a less dangerous place and the future brighter still.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Oct 132010
 

The ancient Roman Library at Ephesus

While grape vines and plump clusters of fruit shade us from the morning sun and orchards of figs and almonds stretch to the steep mountains a mile away, our group sits at one long table, sharing breakfast as an ages-old fortress stands sentinel from a high ridge. In this idyllic setting, exhaustion from prior intense days disappears with cups of thick, Turkish coffee.

A fortress overlooks the valley from the right-hand peak of the mountain

Olives, cheese, tasty, ripe tomatoes and bread slathered with local honey, complete the meal. Upon arriving in Izmir, Biblical Smyrna, Turkey’s third largest city, we were whisked from the airport to this lovely setting on our way to tour the ruins of an ancient city.

A cornucopia of produce for sale at the restaurant's roadside stand

Efes, its Turkish name, was a major crossroads of the Roman Empire. Formerly a port city, silting over the centuries has pushed the Aegean Sea over three miles away. The apostle Paul walked these streets, preaching his gospel to the Ephesians two millennia ago.

It must have been an impressively, beautiful city with broad streets, tall, elaborately carved, marble buildings, numerous statues, gushing fountains, two large amphitheaters, one holding 25,000, and one of the greatest libraries of the ancient world.

The smaller of the two amphitheaters

The facade of the library

We spend hours wandering the ruins, peering through broken doorways and climbing ancient steps. Ephesus was a diamond in the emperor’s diadem, a city of wealth, power and knowledge.  Excavations are still underway.  The city is much older than the Romans and there is much left to unearth.

This mosaic gives a taste of how the houses and buildings were decorated

The larger of the two amphitheaters

We return to the shade of the orchard restaurant for lunch. Afterwards, I snag an empty, pillowed platform used for traditional family meals, and doze off. All to quickly, we’re off again, this time to a small, ceramics manufacturer specializing in exceptional, definitely not cheap, hand-made pottery.

I watch the demonstrations, photographing the women painting the vases and plates while Bruria Finkel, the artist of our group, puts on a demonstration of her own, turning a bowl. The showroom displays thousands of dishes in numerous styles but Yolanda and I pass while others buy. We loaded up on ceramics while in Mexico last year.

Hand-painting the ceramics at Art Ceramics

Bruria turning a bowl

From the heat of the coastal plain, we drive into the cool mountains immediately to the south of Efes where, according to legend, Jesus’ mother lived out her days. As we climb, I catch occasional glimpses of the dramatic Aegean coast, a deep, blue sea colliding with rocky cliffs.

The shrine is near the top of the mountain shaded within a thick wood. Pilgrims from around the world make their way here. The surface of a long, high, rock wall, is blanketed with prayers in the form of millions of slips of paper; dazzling white against the forest in the late afternoon gloom.

A nun exits the purported House of the Virgin Mary

A tiny section of the high wall covered with prayers

Returning to Izmir with the setting sun, we meet our sponsors at a local restaurant. We are beginning to understand the reason for the cultural exchange: it is not simply to meet local leaders and learn about Turkish culture, but also to gain an understanding of the Gülen Movement, an Islamic group seeking interfaith dialog and understanding between peoples.

Two year-old Mehmet with his mother

Me, taking a turn a carving kebap, man was it hot!!

Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish intellectual now living in Pennsylvania. His writings have inspired a movement, said to have the sympathies of 75% of Turks. One of its primary goals is education. Later, we are to visit several schools and a university built by the movement.

Following another evening of interesting conversation and too much good food, we reach our hotel and crash, Yolanda and I sleeping through breakfast. Little is planned for the next day; lunch, a stroll through the bazaar, dinner with local families.

Streets of the modern, port city of Izmir

Izmir's bazaar

An antique shop in the bazaar

Along the waterfront in Izmir

An ancient urn at Izmir's archaelogical museum

An ancient urn in Izmir's Archaeological Museum

A bronze life-size athlete from the late Hellenistic period-Izmir Archaeological Museum

The following day, we fly to Antalya, a resort city on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast. As the plane approaches, a large, sapphire bay appears with an immense, mountain range thrust steeply from the sea; a western barrier disappearing into the haze. The Taurus Mountains are one of Turkey’s important ranges. Around Antalya, its tree-less peaks rise abruptly to over 11,000 feet. This is something I find over most of the country: Turkey is very mountainous but from the base to the peaks they are mostly bare. Strange.

The Taurus Mountains from Antalya

Along the coast, Antalya is a postcard of Mediterranean beauty. Red tile-roofed, stone houses beneath a clear, blue sky tumble down the hillsides to an azure sea. Small harbors dot the coast along with broad beaches. The covered terraces of restaurants provide welcome relief from the heat along with awesome coastal views.

We stop for lunch at one of Antalya’s wonders, Duden Waterfalls. Spring-fed waterfalls cascade through a narrow defile amidst a series of rock grottos. Copious trees shade outdoor restaurants along the river while the rushing water furnishes natural air conditioning.

At one of the restaurants at Duden Falls

Selling ice cream is a performance in Turkey, sometimes a way too expensive performance

A leisurely lunch ensues; delicious, grilled fish, fresh from the Mediterranean. To our regret, we must forego exploring Antalya’s Mediterranean beauty and ancient wonders. Local leaders await us for dinner in Konya, a mountainous, four-hour drive north and the former home of Rumi, Islam’s most revered poet.

Despite the valuable insights Turkey’s historical sights provide into its history and culture, the privileged meetings with the people of today’s Turkey round out our experience in ways not accessible to the average tourist. We leave Antalya anticipating another fascinating evening.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com