Aug 232013
 

 

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The Silk Road conjures images of caravans and exotic spices. The months long journey between China and Europe passed over a network with several branches focusing travel through the Anatolian Peninsula to Constantinople and the Black Sea and Aegean coasts. 

During the Seljuk empire, 1077-1307 CE, 250 Caravansaries were built to facilitate trade. For three days, travelers received free food, water, shelter and fodder. Built a day’s camel journey apart, some still exist and have been restored. The Sultanhan Aksaray, along the highway we’re traveling from the coastal city of Kuşadası to the other-worldly landscape of Cappodocia, is a beautiful example. 

Built in 1229, its imposing stone walls, elaborately decorated portal and massive gates would have signaled that within lay security and hospitality.

Caravansaries operated year-round. The interior courtyard and surrounding storerooms accommodated fair-weather travelers while the enormous enclosed space behind provided shelter for winter.

 

Sultanhan Akasaray

 

Sultanhan Akasary Turkey

 

 

Sultanhan Akasaray Turkey

With humans and animals housed within, the stench must have been incredible. Still, it beat the open spaces of this high, windy plateau. On the day we visit, dust, blown by a strong, southerly wind makes things a bit unpleasant.

Traveling farther east, the tawny plains give rise to rolling hills dominated by a snow-capped volcanic peak. This volcano is one source of the soft volcanic tuff that eroded into the other-worldly landscape for which Cappodocia is famous.

 

Goreme Cappodocia

 

 

Weaving Turkish carpet Cappodocia Turkey

  The Cappodocia region is the primary source for high-quality hand-woven Turkish carpets.

 

Goreme Cappodicia

 

 

Cappodocia

 

For thousands of years, people have carved their homes, stables and churches into the fantastic hills and canyons of the region. During the 9th century, they excavated entire underground cities which could shelter as many as 50,000 people from the marauding armies of the time. 

Our travels this day take us to the city of Nevşhehir and into the unforeseen warmth and hospitality of a resident of the tiny village of Nar.

 

Nar, Nevshahir

 

We planned to first wander the streets of this ancient village of cave houses and later to explore a valley near the famous outdoor museum of rock-hewn churches in Göreme.

As we walk the twisting lanes, people invariably greet us. A women sorting home-dried raisins, offers us a handful.  A man leaving a tiny mosque motions us to follow him. Leading us to an opening, he shows us an ancient mill where donkeys had driven the huge grinding stone for generations.

 

Nar Cappodocia

 

 

Nar Cappodocia Mehmet's Neighbor

 

  

Nar Mosque Camii

 

 

Nar Cappodocia

 

  

Nar Nevshahir Cappodocia Cave House

  

Leading us further, he points out various things but our non-existent Turkish inhibits understanding. Then, coming up the street, he introduces us to Mehmet, a colorfully dressed gentleman with salt and pepper hair and an infectious laugh. We quickly find we can communicate in German and our plans for the day evaporate.

Mehmet is a retired art teacher. Born in Nar, he returned after retirement to buy the cave house he grew up in to turn it into an artist’s retreat. He invites us to visit and without hesitation, we accept.

 

Mehmet of Nar

 

Entering a hand-carved wooden door reveals a series of hand-hewn caves set in the cliff,  some are ancient, others not. He has excavated 2,500 pickup loads of rock to date. There are multi-room caves, two-story caves with hand-made wooden floors, stairs and cabinets. This is a labor of love.

 

Mehmet of Nar Cave House

 

Climbing the cliff reveals more caves, one half-filled with rubble yet to be hauled away, and another former stable with stone feed troughs and hitches in tact. How many generations have lived here? 

Mehmet plys us with tea and homemade bread as we sit on his terrace  overlooking the town. Here is a truly happy man, building his dream.

 

Mehmet's Cave Garage Cappodocia

 Mehmet’s Garage

  

Nar Cappodocia

 

 

Nar Cappodocia Mehmet's Neighbors

 

 

Nar Cappodocia Turkey

 Mehmet and I with some of the locals.

 

Mehmet's Neighbors Nar Cappodocia

 

He invites us to go hiking. Soon we’re leaving the town behind, walking through a narrow valley of small farms. Purple blossoming almond trees shelter people planting potatoes while earlier crops poke through the ground.

 

Husband and Wife farming outside of Nar Cappodocia

 

Unprepared, after several miles, we’re thirsty, and hungry. There is no town or market. 

Mehmet makes a call, leads us across a field and into a small dwelling where we’re greeted by his friends, a retired commissar and his wife.

 

Mehmet's Friends Nar Cappodocia

 

She prepares tea and produces bowls of nuts, dried fruits and cookies. It’s difficult to communicate but there are thank you’s and smiles and they know we appreciate their hospitality.

A different way back leads over hills, through vineyards and past an old Ottoman cemetery. We say our goodbyes, thanking Mehmet for a memorable day, once again, blown away by the graciousness of Turks, a culture of hospitality that extends far back in time.

 

Ottoman Cemetery Tombstone Cappodocia

  

Plastic bag trash Nevsheshir Turkey

Plastic bags are sadly a scourge seen all to frequently around Turkey.

 

Rainbow over Nevşehir, TurkeyNevşehir, Turkey

 

Cappodocia Turkey

An old women in Nar chopping grape vines for kindling, used to flavor grilled meats.

  

Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 032013
 

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At the intersection of legend and history.

Few regions in the world have held such hold on the collective psyche as the northern stretch of Turkey’s Aegean coast. Think Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan wars, the Biblical city of Smyrna and more recently, Gallipoli a name held in reverence by both Turks Aussies and Kiwis. And how about the dwelling place of Satan?

Driving west along the Sea of Marmara from the megacity of Istanbul, the housing developments thin out and rich, rolling farmland dominates.

After two hours, low mountains appear with quiet, blue lakes nestled within their verdant valleys. Turning southwest toward Gallipoli, the long, narrow peninsula which protects the legendary Dardanelles Strait from the Aegean, rolling hills and small plains are filled with blossoming orchards surrounded by rice paddies and fields with emerging artichokes and strawberries.

 

Gallipoli Harbor

 We arrive at the port of Gallipoli, Galibolu in Turkish, the major transit point south across the narrow and dangerous thirty-eight mile long Dardanelles. Known to history as the Hellespont, it allows passage between the Mediterranean and Black Sea. Here, as in Istanbul, a narrow strait separates Europe from Asia.

While awaiting the ferry, we wander the small, double harbor where the fishing fleet lies at anchor. Fisherman patch nets while others sit upon the many bags of nets strewn about the stone wharf talking and smoking.

 

Gallipoli Fisherman Mending Nets

 

Gallipoli Harbor Boats

 

Loading the ferry, a blustery breeze stirs the choppy waters of the strait. The three mile crossing takes thirty minutes and, after disembarking, we head toward perhaps the most legendary city on the planet, Troy. Looking across the strait as we drive the forty-five minutes southwest, monuments to the WW I battles of Gallipoli appear on the opposite shore. 

These battles between the Ottoman army and the ANZAC forces of Australia and New Zealand, have become legend. The Ottomans, allied with Germany and led by Colonel Mustafa Kemal, held back an intense assault over many months. Defeat would have given the allies access to the Black Sea and supply routes to Russia. Brutal fighting cost over four hundred thousand casualties. 

Mustafa Kemal gained fame here and later passed into legend as Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey. Every April 25th, tens of thousand Aussies and Kiwis, descendants of the ANZAC troops, come from afar to honor their memory at a sunrise service.

Coming to the turnoff to Troy, a 5 km road leads west through fertile farmland to the archaeological site. 

 

Troy and the Dardenelles

Ruins of legendary Troy hold their silent sentinel over the now silted bay that made the city wealthy.

  Troy disappeared from history sometime after the 4th century CE. Historians were not certain whether it had existed or was simply a legend. Heinrich Schliemann, a German businessman who had made his money in the gold fields of California, became obsessed with discovering Troy. He read every account he could find and finally determined the location before digging a long, wide trench down to bedrock. His initial trench revealed at least nine levels of habitation, growth and destruction.

 

Troy

Showing the nine layers of habitation between 3000 BCE and 100 BCE found while excavating the city. 

 

Troy

 

Troy

  Salih, our excellent, venerable guide.

The city had been on a large bay at the mouth of the Hellespont. The bay has silted up over the centuries. Ships passing the strait can be seen from the ruins across several miles of lush, flat farmland. Troy became rich collecting anchorage fees from the ships waiting in their harbor for the infrequent favorable winds that would allow them to pass the strait. 

 

Canakkale Waterfront 

Canakkale

 

We spend the night in Çanakkale, a vibrant, modern city on the Dardanelles. It is Sunday evening, an hour before sunset. Strolling families and couples fill the wide pedestrian mall lining the waterfront. The huge Trojan horse from the 2004 movie stands proudly on the mall.

 

Canakkale Waterfront

 

Trojan Horse Canakklale Turkey

 

Canakkale Turkey Night

The brightly lit minaret of a waterfront mosque is a focus of the lively city of Çanakkale.

 The following morning, we head south to the ruins of the ancient city of Pergamon and, according to the Book of Revelation, the dwelling place of Satan. The acropolis, with its theaters, temples and the second finest library in the ancient world, rises 1,000 feet above the river plain. The magnificent, reconstructed Altar of Zeus, likely thought of as the throne of Satan, has it’s own room in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.

 

Pergamon Bergama Turkey

 

Unfortunately, the acropolis is closed for major reconstruction, but wandering the Aesklepion, one of the major Roman centers of healing, offers a taste of the architectural splendor of an ancient spa. Legends come to life and are made in this fertile coastal region of Turkey. And how could they not after 5,000 years of human habitation.

 

Asclepium Pergamon Bergama Turkey

Ruins of the ancient Sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of healing, testify to the magnificence of an ancient Roman spa.

 

Pergamon Bergama Turkey

  

Pergamon Bergama Turkey

Country life in the shadow of the acropolis of Pergamon. 

 

Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

 

Jun 132013
 

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I had tried to imagine the Aegean coast of Turkey’s southwest; hundreds of miles of empty coastline with isolated beaches punctuated by rocky coves of crystalline, turquoise water surrounded by lush, Mediterranean vegetation and ancient archeological ruins.

I was not disappointed.

The city of Bodrum, the heart of this region, lies on the southern coast of its peninsula. With its well-sheltered harbor separated from a sandy-beached bay by an isthmus and the magnificent Bodrum castle, the city holds charms for both the well-heeled and the backpacker.

 

Harbour Pano

  

A glance at the harbor tells you unequivocally; there is some very serious money in Bodrum. Yacht after incredible yacht lines the castle-side quay, every one impeccably maintained. Their thick coats of varnish gleam in the generous sunlight.

As for the rest of the harbor, lesser, yet still expensive yachts, clutter the wharfs and quays with a forest of masts.

 

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The eastern bay side of the castle offers a crescent of sand lined with restaurants, shops, bars, discos and pensions. Everything a tourist could want is found in the maze of alleys behind the beach. More facilities are planned as the area is undergoing renovation.

A broad, pedestrian plaza fronts the bay’s eastern end. We spent several gorgeous evenings as the sun went down feasting lazily or sharing drinks at seaside restaurants and cafes.

 

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Our real find though, was the Manastir Hotel situated on the eastern hillside above the town. Our room’s balcony had a breathtaking 180 degree view of the town, the Aegean and its many islands including Grecian Kos, fifteen miles away. Service was superb, the staff well trained and friendly plus, they provided the best breakfast buffet we had in all of Turkey. Breakfast is an important meal to the Turks and always included with the room.

 

Bodrum Day Pano Short

 

Bodrum is the main port from which sailing excursions depart. Day trips to multi-week adventures leave from here to explore the vast coastline of southwestern Turkey and its Aegean islands. The peninsula has become a mecca for Brits, Germans and Swedes escaping their northern climes.

 

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 Looking southwest over the tiny village of Gümüşlük toward the Greek island of Kalimnos.

 

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This sad circumstance spawned a building boom that has flooded the picturesque coves around the peninsula with all to often ticky-tacky little boxes. Entire hillsides on the western end of the peninsula are awash with developments.

 

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As with the rest of Turkey, history extends back thousands of years. Known to the Greeks as Halicarnassus, one of its most famous kings, Mausolus, built his eponymous mausoleum around 350 BCE. It was so beautiful and formidable an architectural masterwork that it was identified as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. Its foundation and ruins are now a museum where one can gain a sense of its majesty and artistry.

When the Knights Hospitaller arrived in 1402, they used much of the earthquake ruined structure to construct their castle in the isthmus where Mausolus’s palace likely had stood. Over the next 120 years, most of the mausoleum’s stones were used to fortify the castle while its many statues were ground up to produce lime for cement. 

 

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The castle fell to the Ottomans in 1522 and after several incarnations over the ensuing centuries, has now been turned into the premier underwater archeological museum in the world.

Despite some rain and cold weather, we’re glad to have been here in off-season. We had several gorgeous sunny days without crowds. Come spring and especially summer, the city is jammed. The disco/party scene goes until dawn.

 

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We rented a car for a day to explore the peninsula. Driving along the coast on the at times, sketchy road, offers one great ocean view after another. In all the small towns and nearly every cove, construction is either in full swing or recently completed. You have to wonder when the boom will collapse.

 

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Still, we found much bucolic countryside with horses grazing in fields of wildflowers, little villages stuck in time and hills thick with evergreen forests.

 

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If you are like most provincial Americans who possess a distorted and negative image of this extraordinary country, the beautiful, vivacious, modern city of Bodrum will disabuse you of your erroneous illusions.

 

Bodrum Pano from West

 

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 Pınar, a lovely, Kurdish woman from Ceylanpınar, a Turkish town on the Syrian border.

 

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Copyright 2013 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.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

 

Dec 052010
 

Istiklal Caddesi

Bidding our new friends goodbye, Yolanda and I set out on our own. We remain in Istanbul for a couple of days to decide how we’ll spend our final two weeks and are astounded that no hotel room is available in the city! We end up on the fifth floor of a hostel, ninety steps up, (I counted them), in Beyoğlu, Istanbul’s most fashionable area.

View of part of Beyoğlu from our rooftop terrace

Beyoğlu is a different world. The crowded, narrow streets below our rooftop terrace are wall to wall with restaurants and bars. It’s Friday and they bustle with life.

We enjoy a delicious, shrimp dinner at one of the hundreds of sidewalk cafes, people watching throughout the meal. Afterwards, unawares, we set out to explore the area, stumbling headlong into the teeming hoards promenading Istiklal.

Along one of the many narrow streets leading to Istiklal Caddesi

The cramped, café-lined alleys contrast dramatically with Istiklal Caddesi, Independence Avenue, probably the busiest walking street in the world. Istiklal is a broad, cosmopolitan avenue, several miles long. It is flanked wall to wall by architecture from older eras; Ottoman, Neo-Classical, Neo-gothic, Beaux-Arts and Art Noveau. Brightly lit, fashionable, stores, theaters, boutiques and restaurants line the street.

Istiklal is visited by as many as six million people over a weekend. I can believe it. Day or night, people throng it’s length. Night though, brings out the masses, a constant, unceasing, never slacking parade between the Galata Tower and Taksim Square. A quaint, iconic, historical tram plows daringly through the crowd, passengers hanging out its doors.

Things really don’t get started in Beyoğlu before nine and don’t stop until sometime around four or five in the morning. Music and conversation fills the streets. Amazingly, we sleep, waking only briefly to the loud, weekend festivities below.Istiklal Caddesi during the day

A fish monger displays today's catch along one the narrow streets of Beyoğlu

I found this beautiful display of produce at one of the many narrow intersections in the maze of alleys

An outdoor cafe, crowded even early Sunday morning

A cobbler plying his trade near the Galata Tower

We decide to catch a plane to the northeastern city of Erzurum. The mountains to its north with their thousand year-old Georgian monasteries and churches beckon. The city lies at over 6,000 feet and happens to be at the foot of Mt. Palandöken, Turkey’s premiere ski area, though it’s to early for skiing.

The Atatürk memorial in Erzurum's main intersection

The ornately decorated 14th century Seljuk mosque in Erzurum with it's beautiful and unusual minaret

Even though Erzurum was an ancient stop on the Silk Road and contains over 320 cultural landmarks, it is quite modern with broad, tree-lined avenues and colorful apartment buildings. Atatürk University provides a youthful air. The streets are filled with students. We are approached several times by students wishing to help us and practice their English.

Something else that surprises me is the pedestrian crossing lights. They’re snowboarders! What fun! I also notice a huge ski jumping venue under construction close to the university. It seems that Erzurum is to host the 2011 Universiade, the winter university games, the winter “Olympics” for college students from around the world.Advertisements like this for the Universidade are embedded into the floor of the waiting room at Erzurum's airport

The most enormous cabbages I've ever seen in my life!!!

I’m surprised that headscarves aren’t more in evidence. This is after all, eastern Turkey, a very traditional region. Two reasons may account for this: first, Erzurum is where Atatürk, in 1919, laid the foundations for national unity and a modern Turkey: second, the secular state Atatürk established, banned the wearing of headscarves in government buildings and universities.

Devout students wearing headscarves must remove them before entering the gates. This is a cause of much anger within the Muslim community and also denies government employment and an education to women who feel it their duty as a devout Muslim, to cover their heads. This issue was addressed through a referendum process that took place just prior to our arrival in Turkey but any changes have yet to be implemented.

The height of Islamic fashion displayed in a store window

Erzurum and the surrounding region have played a significant role throughout history. Not only was it main stop on the Silk Road, but archeologists have found evidence of occupation going back 8,000 years. The Erzurum museum has impressive displays of artifacts and pottery from prehistoric through Byzantine times. A side room displays a number of carvings and a beautiful, decorated bell from the Georgian churches we hope to visit in the mountain valleys.

An Eastern Anatolian, Transcaucasian Ceramic pot from around 2,000 BCE

Stone ornament from an ancient Georgian church

Detail of one of the Georgian bells

We spend two nights in Erzurum before heading north to the town of Yusefeli deep in the mountains of the northeast. I want to rent a car. That makes Yolanda nervous so we opt for a three-hour trip on a thirty-passenger bus, overcrowded with at least forty-five people

Taking a break in the mountains between Erzurum and Yusefeli

Once again, I’m surprised at the treeless slopes. Ancient, tectonic activity is obvious and everywhere. The mountains are a tortuous jumble of volcanic rock cut deeply by water-worn valleys. I meet a mountain guide on the bus who speaks excellent English. He describes his life guiding groups of trekkers from around the world. Not only does he guide in the Kaçkar Mountains with Kaçkar Dağı, the highest peak at 12,917 ft, but he also leads multi-day treks up Turkey’s most famous mountain, 16,854 foot, biblical Mt. Ararat, of Noah’s ark fame, ten miles from the Iranian border.

Our ultimate destination is Barhal, a tiny village the guidebook describes as a jumping off point for trekking, rafting, kayaking and hunting. Arriving in Yusefeli, we catch a minibus to Barhal. Bumping along the one lane, gravel road, barely attached to the mountain with precipitous drops to the river, Yolanda is terrified as the driver races to pass a car. Fortunately, this lasts only a few minutes and the driver slows to a reasonable speed for the rest of the hour and a half trip.

I swear, this must be the Garden of Eden. Lush orchards and terraced gardens rise steeply up the mountainsides and line the river. Every type of fruit, vegetable and nut grow in profusion. Perhaps this is the source of the enormous, seven-foot diameter cabbages we encountered in Erzurum.

These rich valleys have been occupied for thousands of years. Sadly, a dam is slated for construction in the next few years, shutting off this Eden and displacing the tens of thousands living in these spectacular, mountain valleys.

It’s getting dark as the van deposits us at Karakan Pension. The owner’s nephew puts our bags on a flying-fox type of contraption, bangs on the cable, and they disappear up the mountain into the dense foliage. He guides us in the gathering gloom up a steep series of paths and stairways to the terrace of the farm/pension.Climbing even more steep flights from the terrace restaurant, we are shown a clean, sparse, perfectly adequate room. Dinner that evening is one of the best of our trip: fresh, organic vegetables, fruits, rice, delicious, grilled fish and baskets, overflowing with bread. Again, way too much food.Barhal. There were lots of newly constructed homes around the valley like the one in the center

Morning brings another huge breakfast and we’re off to explore. Adjacent to the pension is a deserted, thousand year-old Georgian monastery. Across the valley on a high ridge, the ruins of a small church sit stark against the sky. Here, finally, coniferous trees fill the mountainsides.

A farmhouse sits perched above the road in a magnificent setting

It’s a beautiful, late summer day. Yolanda and I spend hours walking the deserted roads, down one valley and up another. In the afternoon, we relax in the village and enjoy tea on a tiny veranda restaurant situated over a small brook. The owner insists on showing me the hunting licenses of people from around the world he’s guided along with photos of the animals they’ve bagged; a few bear and several ibex, one with horns so large they tower over the hunter standing beside his kill.A farmhouse typical of the region

The market in Barhal

The Barhal Skyline

Late in the day, even though tired, I’m determined to hike to the ruins high up on the ridge. The owner describes the path and I’m off.

The Karahan Pension with the 10th century monastery.

It’s steep, but the trail is obvious. The views get better the higher I go. The long, steep valley the pension is in comes into focus and is more populated than I realized. It is a bit disconcerting to run across fresh bear scat in the middle of the trail. I’m used to this at our cabin in Colorado and take my precautions but I am after all in Turkey, alone and way out there.Yup, bear scat all right. And it's pretty fresh!

The ruins sit on a broad, cleared point at the conjunction of three valleys with 360-degree views. Higher mountains surround me. It has clouded up. Rain and lighting cross a range not unlike the Gore Range above Vail at home. The sun briefly breaks through, allowing me a few decent photographs. As it sets behind a peak, I descend in the gathering twilight to marvel at the opportunities I’ve been afforded.

Barhal is far below. Yusefeli is down the valley some twenty miles away. This is will all be covered with water when they build the dam.

In these remote, ancient mountains, surrounded by such deep, rich history, and so far from the intense bustle of one of the world’s most venerable cities, I recall the warm, selfless hospitality of the people we’ve met. I am so fortunate to have been able to dialog with people from such an age-old culture and whose religion is at the heart of the world’s conflicts.

What is evident is that, on a personal level, their hopes and aspirations for their much-beloved children and their country are no different than ours. They wish for peace, desire it intensely, that the succeeding generations, male and female, may grow up in a world that fosters their abilities and provides opportunities to achieve their human and spiritual potential.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Nov 272010
 

Checking out the gold in the Grand Bazaar

We have to beat feet to Ankara. Our plane leaves for Istanbul at nine and it’s a four hour drive from Cappodocia.

Unfortunately we arrive after dark in Turkey’s capitol city. I can’t see much. It appears from it’s highways, a very modern capitol. The freeway to the airport is broad, with bright, blue, neon displays every kilometer or so.

The airport itself, with its architecturally stunning and spacious, marbled public areas, is worthy of any capitol city in the world.

We arrive at the Sabiha Gokcen Airport south of Istanbul in Asia rather than Atatürk International on the west and in Europe. On the bus from the plane to the terminal I meet a Turk who speaks excellent English. He’s a colonel in the Turkish army and a graduate of West Point. We chat only briefly but after reading several book on Turkish politics I yearn for a real conversation to gain his unique perspective.

It takes another hour and a half to reach the Grand Anka Hotel where we will spend our last three nights. At this late hour the trip is long and uneventful other than crossing the beautiful Bosphorus Bridge as the tens of thousands of colored lights ringing its cables and superstructure put on an ever changing light show.

Our final days with the group, who is now more family than simply co-travelers, are spent meeting with various media, charitable and professional associations as well as exploring Istanbul’s famous bazaars.

Our first stop after breakfast, is Fatih University, an inter-faith college and the alma mater of Serkan’s wife, Nooran, who we finally meet. She needs to pickup some paperwork for their upcoming three-year sojourn in America.

Serkan and his lovely wife, Nooran

Mustafa Yücel of Fatih University

We meet with one of the administrators and, true to form, our erudite group peppers him with questions about education at the university level in Turkey and Fatih in particular. Fatih is a Gülen inspired institution and draws students from around the globe. I believe seventy-five countries are represented. Classes take place in English.  The university is young and only now providing graduate-level courses.

Our group at Fatih University with gifts, more books.

Our next stop is Zaman, one of Turkey’s leading newspapers and the only with an English language edition. Zaman’s modern building is architecturally interesting with a visually stunning interior atrium rising seven stories to an open skylight. Offices circle the brightly-lit interior while floor to ceiling windows allow a view into the bustle of the newsrooms.

The stunning interior of the Zaman building

Meeting with Karim Balcı, one of the editors

A view into a part of the newsroom, some with headscarves, some without.

Security measures at Zaman's entrance

An interesting point that opened my eyes to the danger Al Qaeda poses beyond the U.S. we learned from our conversation with the editor: Because of Zaman’s stance as a moderate Islamic newspaper and its vocal condemnation of terrorism, the military recommended security measures be taken. Zaman’s building is now surrounded by high fences, cameras and guards; it’s underground parking protected from car bombs by moveable barriers.

In one of the main corridors of the Grand Bazaaar

Amazingly, we have a free afternoon to spend in the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. Several of us spend hours wandering the maze of over 4,000 shops lining the crowded, noisy corridors and narrow alleys of the ancient bazaar. Certainly it’s touristy, with trinkets and geegaws alongside finely-made leather jackets, quality silks, beautiful, hand-made carpets and exquisite fabrics.

The entrance to a shop in the section of the Grand Bazaar devoted to fabrics

If you can’t find it inside, then it’s likely sold in the warren of streets we encounter while trying to find the Spice Bazaar. Thousands more shops bustle with with activity; Turks here rather than tourists.

The two bazaars appear much closer on the map than in reality and after a few wrongs turns we stumble upon the entrance and unmistakable aromas of the Spice Bazaar. It is a delight to the senses, even more than its larger cousin. Elaborate displays of colorful spices, nuts and candies line the aisles, each stall competing for eyeballs and noses. Signs proclaiming “Iranian Saffron”… and “Turkish Viagra” vie for our attention.

One of my architectural clients in Vail told me I must look up a friend with a shop here. I find it without much trouble, opening its door, one of only a few stores with doors, and step from the noise and crowds into the quiet, lightly-scented interior. I find a store selling much higher quality merchandise than most.

I ask for Tahir but am introduced to his brother, Ibrahim, instead. Tahir is out of town, he tells me, visiting their family’s home town of Nigde! Nigde of all places!! The small town in central Anatolia where we received such an overwhelming reception only two nights before! Talk about coincidences.

Ibrahim invites us downstairs into a basement world of fine carpets, fabrics and clothes where, true to form, we share tea and customary Turkish hospitality.

Esra Tur at Kimse Yok Mu explains in excellent English some of the programs undertaken by the charity

Our last day together begins with a visit to a Gülen-inspired charity, Kimse Yok Mu, “Is anybody there?”, the name based upon a cry from a victim trapped in Turkey’s 1999 earthquake.

Afterward, we stop at Samanyolu, among Turkey’s highest-rated TV networks. Here, we are told, they strive to provide quality programming that is in some way uplifting or family oriented. As well, they over-dub popular shows from other countries including America. No gratuitous violence, certainly no profanity. A brief tour finds us in the kitchen of Yesil Elma, Turkey’s Emeril, just prior to broadcast.

A brief lesson in Turkish Cooking as Yesil Elma prepares for his show

Chef Casey and his eggplants

Yolanda can't resist a photo with the chef

We receive a quick lesson in Turkish cooking from the gracious host while indulging our questions. Cem, our “assistant guide” from LA, phones his wife, a big fan, handing the phone to the chef. She is thrilled.

The dessert counter at Kanaat Lokantası in Üskadar

It’s now lunchtime. We’re in Asia and Serkan directs us to a restaurant owned by a friend in Üskadar, across the Bosphorus from the Golden Horn and Istanbul’s prime historical attractions. The restaurant has been around for ages and specializes in dishes from the Ottoman Era.

Feelie making a point to the owner, Serkan's friend, Mehmet Ulutürk, during lunch.

During lunch, smoke rises from the upper floor of a bakery across the street. Fire has always been a severe threat in Istanbul due to the crowding of the wooden buildings, many, very old. The city has suffered huge conflagrations in the past.

Fire trucks arrive promptly, the smoke diminishes and all is well is Üskadar.

The rest of the afternoon is spent in Asia. We visit Bakiad, the Atlantic Association of Cultural Cooperation and Friendship, one of the sponsors of our trip and meet with Osman Baloglu, the General Secretary. Their mission statement reads: Our ultimate goal is to serve and maintain global peace and harmony by building bridges towards a long lasting friendship between the peoples of Turkey and North America, including transatlantic countries, through educational, social, art and cultural activities.

At Bakiad

I must say, and I believe I speak for the other members of our group, they achieved their goal with us. We have learned so much about Turkey’s history, people and culture. We have experienced unparalleled hospitality. We have engaged in deep, rewarding dialog, gained insights into Islam and it’s unique practice in Turkey’s culture, and I believe we also provided those we met with a tiny window into our culture, beliefs, values and lifestyle. Clearly, the goal of building bridges was achieved. We hope too, that lasting friendships were formed.

Meeting with Dr. Ahmet Atliğ at the Journalists and Writers Association

Our final meeting is with members of the journalist’s and writer’s association. Our group is ushered into a bright, spacious meeting room whose broad windows open to a lush, terraced garden. The de rigeur tea is served and our dialog with two, well-dressed gentlemen, one, a former Imam, both writers, begins.

Much of what is discussed focuses around their interest in ways to get the message of the moderate Gülen Movement out, especially to the US, and who to invite on these exchanges. Our ideas surround inviting Buddhists and Hindus; the smaller sects, in addition to those of the Abrahamic traditions; also, inviting artists, ministers of mega-churches and young people, so that they might live with an understanding of the warmth and love we experienced and that this understanding might influence their future.

Additionally, we talked about Wahabbism and the power it exerts over America’s perception of Islam. Succinctly, the former Imam described it in these terms: Taking a cup of tea he said, “This is tea and this is sugar. Sugar is spirituality. Tea needs sugar. When you take the sugar out of the tea, here, you have Wahabbism. No spirituality, just pure religion, dry knowledge.”

Later, in summing up the purpose of these cultural exchanges he cites a story about Rumi: “One day Rumi was asked the meaning of love. He struggled, but couldn’t define it. Instead, he said this: ‘I can’t express to you the meaning of love, just taste it.’. You came here, we’ve been to America and we tasted. Our duty is to say just taste it.”

Dusk is now descending. Still in Asia, Serkan has one last surprise. We find ourselves in a park, high above the Bosphorus, the colorful lights of Istanbul’s two famous bridges shine far to the west. A large, palace-like structure looms in the gathering twilight, floodlights playing across its ornate facade. We enter the high-ceilinged, tastefully, ostentatious rooms for our last dinner together. This is a restaurant few tourists would ever find.

Outside the Beltur Hıdiv Restaurant

Capping our meal as well as our trip, we each attempt to share our feelings about our time in Turkey, each other and especially our warm feelings toward Serkan. Little do we suspect that Serkan has a final surprise up his sleeve. Cem’s wife, Noor, joined us at lunch and spent the afternoon with us. It’s her birthday and Serkan has ordered a birthday cake complete with sparklers shooting into the air.

We all sing happy birthday and Noor is overcome with tears. Such a fitting ending to not only a wonderful day, but to an incredible journey filled with warmth and surprises.

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com

Nov 092010
 

Next on the agenda is the incredible, in the truest sense of the word, fairytale landscape of Cappodocia. First though, on the road from Nigde to Cappodocia, a tour of the subterranean world of Kamakli.

The town above Ramakli

According to the Turkish Department of Culture, the Phrygians began the complex of underground cities, carving them from the soft, volcanic rock of the region in the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E.. They were greatly enlarged in the Byzantine era and perhaps sheltered the early Christians from Roman persecution. In the 6th and 7th centuries C.E., Christians, fearing Arabs raiders, used them as well. More than 200 underground cities, many connected through miles of tunnels, have been discovered between the towns of Kayseri and Nevsehir. Only a few are excavated and open to tourists.

Casey and David photographing inside what was the church.

One of the stone doors which was rolled into place in times of danger. The hole in it's center allowed the defenders to shoot arrows at the attackers.

The Kamakli underground city is a labyrinth of rooms. Stables, passageways, kitchens, wine cellars, air vents and churches extend eight erratic levels below the surface. Only four levels are currently open. The city is cleverly excavated to allow airflow from the surface. Smoke from the cooking fires was absorbed by the soft rock, hindering detection. Up to 3,000 people took refuge for months at a time.

Another nearby underground city, Derinkuyu, an eleven level complex, is believed to have housed as many as 50,000! It must have been a cramped, uncomfortable and desperate existence with little privacy.

Selling carpets outside the underground city

A short drive takes us to Göreme where, even though prepared, I am astounded by the amazing honeycombed, rock pinnacles of the small towns. Doors, windows and porches of homes are sculpted into the volcanic tuft. Signs adorn the bizarre formations as small shops are carved into the stone.

One of the towns in the Cappodocia region

I yearn to stop as we drive by one amazing town after another. Finally, the bus pulls up in front of a large complex of stalls selling every conceivable trinket and rug. Walking between them takes us to a long cliff overlooking a panorama the like of which I have only seen in a few of America’s western national parks and monuments.

The valley stretching beneath is a complex panoply of erosion sculpted white and gray hoodoos. The hulking pyramid of an extinct volcano, the likely source of all this tuft, lurks in the distance beneath a bright, blue sky. Interspersed amidst this bizarre landscape are houses, shops, mosques and large hotels. Homes have been hewn from most of the rock formations. I can only imagine their interiors. Many pinnacles are hotels. Rooms can be had for a little as $50 a night with rooms in the higher-end hotels going for hundreds of dollars a night.

A hotel set within the valley

Thousands of prayers adorn the skeleton of a tree at the valley rim

We are allowed an all to brief stop and sadly, no chance to descend and walk amongst the incredible formations of this fairyland-like town.

Reluctantly climbing aboard the small bus, we head to our next destination, a restaurant for lunch. And once again, nothing could have prepared us for what we are to experience.

As we pull into into the large parking lot, little is seen but a brown ridge covered with dried grasses and low bushes. It is fall after all. Rounding a corner, we encounter a spacious, stone courtyard flanked by two stone eagles leading to the finely carved, columned entrance to Uranos Sarikaya, where we are to eat.

The waiting room near the entrance

A wide, dimly lit hallway perhaps fifty yards long leads deep into the hillside. Passing through the archway at its end we enter a high, round chamber, the restaurant itself, beautifully carved from the living rock. A lone musician plays the zither in the subdued light at the very center of the circular mosaic floor, sitting within concentric circles of elaborate design. Five chambers, each with stone six tables seating ten diners extend like spokes of a wheel from the mosaic hub. Everything, the tables, benches, railings, columns and doorways are carved in place from the stone of the mountain; truly beautiful craftsmanship. This must provide a taste of what the homes and hotels must be like.

The cooks arrive with once again, too much delicious food and any frustration over the short time spent viewing the valley is forgotten.

The zither player serenades us at our tables with traditional songs

The kitchen off the entry hallway

The kitchen off the entry hallway

Following lunch we return to the area of Göreme for what, according to the guide books, is an imperative; the Göreme Open-Air Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum is a monastic complex of Byzantine refectories and churches carved into the rock between the 9th and 12th centuries C.E..

Crowds waiting to enter one of the churches

Once again, fantastic shapes abound. We have time to enter only a few of the eleven or so tiny, 12th century churches. Vivid, colorful frescoes, most in exceptional condition, adorn the walls and ceilings. The love, talent and stupendous time and effort is humbling and awe-inspiring.

Unfortunately, again, I am not allowed to photograph inside the churches. Even though with my cameras, I wouldn’t need to use flash, it is understandable. If allowed, thousands of flashes would go off every day. This continual assault would degrade these thousand year-old treasures in no time. Here are links to some photos of the frescos taken without flash. It gives a taste of the beauty of the work as well as more history: http://www.goreme.com/goreme-open-air-museum.php and http://www.sacred-destinations.com/turkey/cappadocia-goreme-cave-churches

Sadly, our itinerary doesn’t include a night here. We have another several hour drive to Ankara, Turkey’s capital, to catch a night flight back to Istanbul for our final few days with this amazing group of new and extremely interesting friends. I have to be satisfied with a morsel of what Cappodocia offers. Truly, this region of Turkey is so phenomenally otherworldly that I must return and spend days wandering its valleys, exploring its ancient wonders and photographing its bizarre, fairytale formations.

The traditional Turkish amulet used to ward off wishes of bad intent or the "evil eye"

Copyright 2010 Dennis Jones/Dreamcatcher Imaging

www.dreamcatcherimaging.com