1628) Travelling Anatolia & Thrace Special

Turkish Belly Dancing

Turkish Travel Intro

Orhan Veli
İstanbul'u Dinliyorum

  1. Georgian valleys from Erzurum to Yusufeli - Off-The-Beaten-Track Turkey
  2. Ten 'must-visit' cultural routes in Turkey
  3. Human & Nature Scenes from Ancient Silk Road . . Roman Anazarbus . . Anavarza
  4. The cow that wasn’t
  5. Off-the-beaten-track Turkey: Anazarbus
  6. Ani : 21 Monument Ancient City / To Discovery Van
  7. Monuments in Ani
  8. Van waiting patiently to be discovered
  9. Pirin / Perre : Second Cappadocia
  10. The Riches of East Anatolia
  11. Saving the Bosporus
  12. Istanbul 2010: Creating New Urban Environment Through Arts & Culture
  13. Walking Gallipoli
  14. Off The Beaten Track Turkey: Mudurnu And Lake Abant
  15. Biblical Anatolia: From Genesis To The Councils
  16. Off-The-Beaten-Track Turkey : Aksehir: The Hodja’s Place
  17. Uncovering Üsküdar
  18. New Life On Dieffenbachia Leaves
  19. The Eastern Kaçkar: A Short Walk Around Barhal
  20. The Flowers Of The Lake District: Three Nature Walks Kasnak National Park
  21. Iznik: A History Of Ceramics In Turkey
  22. Ayder: A Cloud-Wreathed ‘Honey Forest’ Black Sea’s Firtina (Storm) Valley meets the Kaçkar Mountains
  23. More Rafting Coming To Alanya
  24. Aspendos And Side: Festivals In The Ancient Theaters
. .

Walking Gallipoli
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
We would be right to understand “leafing through the pages of history and reading” as being synonymous with walking the Gallipoli Peninsula while consciously reflecting on it.

The Turkish public shows its respect and gratitude to the martyrs of Gallipoli by visiting the Martrys Monument and the cemeteries around the peninsula.

One feels the nature and nuances of Turkey’s desperate battle for survival along while walking here.

“Bastigin yerleri toprak diyerek geçme tani, düsün altinda binlerce kefensiz yatani” “Don’t underestimate the ground where you step. Know. Think of all those lying shroudless below.”
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
Whether the writer of these lines, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, also the author of the Turkish national anthem, wrote them while thinking of Gallipoli is unknown. However we must appreciate the truth of Gallipoli, called Çanakkale in Turkish, to be able to recognize our yesterdays and foresee our tomorrows. If you are ready and want to find out what was experienced in those lands less than a century ago we invite you to accompany us on this journey.

Our first stop is the Kilitbahir Castle built by Sultan Mehmet II the Conqueror a few kilometers away from Eceabat. It was built immediately after the conquest of Istanbul to prevent any attempts to cross the strait toward the city. As a matter of fact it has been protecting the strait against enemies for centuries. If we continue from the castle we come across the Namazgah Fort. Though it appears quite normal when viewed from the sea, the hills themselves act as concealed shelters and arsenals hidden by an astounding natural camouflage.

Walking a few kilometers northwards takes us to the Mecidiye Fort, which was where the famous Corporal Seyit served during the sea campaign of March 18. This is where he fired the shot that sank the HMS Ocean. His statue, showing him hefting aloft the 250-kilogram projectile, is still there as a reminder of those days. Perhaps if you step on the place he managed a superhuman act, perhaps with divine help, and take a look at the strait you to may sense how the “invincible” fleet was defeated.

A little further away from the Rumeli Mecidiye Fort we come to another cemetery for martyrs named Havuzlar. We offer humble prayers for the spirit of Captain Kemal and his martyr friends and leaving the coastal area, advance toward the cape of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Immediately to our right is the Martyrs Cemetery of Soganlidere where lie the venerable martyrs who perished in the Kerevizdere combat. Now we are standing next to a promontory. Here is Alçitepe, once known as Kirte. The ANZAC troops made painstaking endeavors to take this fortified hill. We suffered three major combats to protect it. Eight-thousand Turkish soldiers gave their lives to protect it during the first encounter, 10,000 during the second and 15,000 during the third; but the Turkish soldiers did not falter.

We turn right from the square of the village and go to the field hospital. This was to be Çanakkale’s greatest field hospital. It was so big that at times up to 50,000 wounded men were laid out here. However, it had one fatal setback; it was only around two kilometers inland. The enemy fleet shelled this place remorselessly with long range cannons on the night of June 28, 1915 until the dawn, though they knew very well that it was a hospital. This led some 18,000 injured Turkish soldiers to die.

A kilometer closer to the sea from the famous field hospital we see the Nuri Yamut Memorial. In the 1940s heaps of the bones of our fallen were still visible on the hills. Nuri Pasha could not stand this view and collected all of them and buried them underneath a memorial he built with his personal financial means. This memorial today sits atop around 10,000 interred bones.

Now we head back to Seddülbahir where just 67 Turkish soldiers endeavored to stop the advancement of 3,000 enemy troops backed by the cannon fire from the River Clayt and Albiom. They were so firm that they did not take even one step back. The enemy had to kill all of them to capture the place. While the British warplanes were flying over this village they wrote a report: “The landing bay looks like a lake of blood for 50 meters inward from the coastline.”

The next stop is Morto Bay where the French landed their troops. They had so many casualties during the landing campaign that they came to call this spot “morte” (dead). One can still find shrapnel fragments in the water.

We now look at the precipitous scenery before us: This is where the enemy got stuck. We remember that Winston Churchill, then first lord of the Admiralty, made plans for employing poisonous gas to surmount these steep rocks. It was July and there was a stiff landward breeze, making the conditions perfect for the employment of such a weapon. But when they brought the gas to Gallipoli the wind changed direction and began blowing seawards. Upon witnessing many extraordinary events like this, Churchill wrote this sentence in his chronicle of events, “In Gallipoli, we did not fight the Ottomans, we fought God, and were naturally defeated.”

We climb the Bloody Ridge which was attacked many times by the enemy ANZAC troops; hills that overnight turned crimson red. Just ahead of us lies the Martyrs Cemetery of the 57th Regiment. This is where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, while still serving as a colonel, sent the regiment to face the enemy -- each and every soldier of the regiment died. The tomb of the commander of the regiment, Huseyin Avni Pasha, is a little above this point on the edge of a cliff. We pray for their souls.

We come across Atatürk’s monument on the ridge of the Conkbayiri -- where a shrapnel piece hit the watch in his breast pocket. This battle was of high importance for both Atatürk and our coming War of Independence. Atatürk, who made a name for himself in the Libyan city of Tripoli, proved to be an excellent leader at Gallipoli and would soon take the task of organizing the War of Independence.

Now the Anafartalar Plain is lying before us. This place reminds us of the combats that took place in the heat of August. One recalls those days, when the ANZAC troops attacked with all their power from Anzac Bay and Suvla Bay. When the age limit for recruits dropped to as low as 14 and when Hamilton begged Britain to send him one more unit. Britain was so obsessed with taking Istanbul that they responded positively and the Norfolk Royal Regiment, which was otherwise tasked with protecting the British Royal family, was sent. They were not going to hear from that regiment again, whose soldiers disappeared amidst a gray cloud, as the eyewitnesses say.

Conkbayiri is a hill of heroes that acted as a wall preventing the enemy from advancing toward Istanbul. After all the long years that have passed we stand here on this hill and pay homage to all those brave men who lived in trenches for months during the one-year Çanakkale battle and who did not hesitate for a second to give their lives for their country.


Off The Beaten Track Turkey: Mudurnu And Lake Abant
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine why a town has slipped beneath the main tourist radar.

In the case of Mudurnu, however, the reason is obvious -- it’s stranded in the middle of nowhere halfway between Istanbul and Ankara. But what has so far acted as a negative could just as easily be seen as a plus. After all, if you’re not in a rush to get from one metropolis to the other, what could be more pleasant than stopping for a picnic lunch or even an overnight break midway between them?

Ask a Turk what they know about Mudurnu and they will probably come up with the chicken factory which has given its name to a chain of fast-food restaurants. These days the factory is a pale imitation of its former self but Mudurnu is a surprisingly lovely, predominantly Ottoman town set on the banks of a river in one of Turkey’s greener corners. Like Safranbolu and Kastamonu, it retains a large number of wonderful wooden mansions, some of them of stupendous size suggesting that the town wasn’t always such a backwater. The best of them, including the superb but crumbling Armutcular and Haytalar Konaklari, stick close to the river; others have been restored to house comfortable hotels and restaurants.

Strolling through the town center you’ll quickly discover the bazaar which resembles a cut-down version of the more famous one in Safranbolu. Here tiny kiosks still echo to the clatter of the copper-beaters, while elderly saddle makers sit cross-legged on the floor to stitch their wares. Also in the town center is the superb, newly restored Yildirim Beyazit hamam, which dates back to 1374. It is still open regularly for male visitors, although women who want a massage may need to make an appointment.

Of Mudurnu’s three nicest places to stay, the Haci Abdullahlar Konagi, with its Ottoman-style rooms, is the most atmospheric. However, the Keyvanlar Konagi is much larger and has a great riverside location as well as an outdoor restaurant for romantic alfresco meals. The Yariskasi Konagi, housed in an imitation Ottoman building on the northerly outskirts, offers great views over the valley. Prices at all these hotels tend to rise dramatically on weekends.

Twenty-five kilometers northwest of Mudurnu is Abant Gölü, a pristine crater lake surrounded by woodland inside a national park. It’s a great place to visit at any time of year but is at its colorful best in spring and autumn when the spectacular foliage of the trees makes a perfect frame for the water. There are two five-star hotels right on the lake-shore, both of them built to satisfy the international conference trade. Luckily they’re reasonably discreet and offer inviting waterside restaurants in which even non-residents can tuck into tasty locally-caught trout.

If you’re not the five-star-hotel type but would still like to make the most of the greenery, one other option is to put up at the Degirmenyeri Dag Evleri, a set of six comfortable mountain chalets in Kilözü village between Abant and Mudurnu. Out of season it’s wise to phone ahead to make sure someone will be there to receive you.


Driving from Istanbul, you take the main Ankara highway and turn south at Bolu. There are infrequent local buses from Bolu to Mudurnu and then from Mudurnu to Lake Abant (summer only).

Pat Yale is co-author of “Lonely Planet Turkey.”

Biblical Anatolia: From Genesis To The Councils
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
Turkey is becoming a hotspot for faith tourism. What draws thousands of believers to this beautiful land, and which sites can they tour when they arrive?

Although a visit to Jerusalem is a highpoint for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, and for many Christians a visit to the land of the Bible means a tour of Israel -- "the Holy Land" -- one of the most amazing guides to Turkey's rich Biblical history is this gem of a book by one of Turkey's most experienced tour guides, Fatih Cimok.

Starting with the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which flowed through the Garden of Eden, Fatih Cimok's detailed text and evocative photographs take us on an amazing journey of Turkey's part in the story of salvation as depicted in the Old Testament, New Testament and early church history. We are also pointed forward in time to the prophecies concerning the end times, when, according to the Book of Revelation, the Euphrates will dry up to allow the forces of evil to cross it in the run up to the Battle of Armageddon.

From east to west, north to south, nearly every part of this beautiful land has been a backdrop of what has often been termed "the greatest story ever told."

The most well-known and popular sites are Ephesus and Cappadocia. These receive magnificent treatment in Fatih's armchair guide. Stunning photographs bring the sites to life as we read the part these places played in the Biblical account, with sensitive analysis and interesting information about empires and customs that grounds the Bible stories in the life and customs of the time.

Many accounts can read like a guide to a pile of old stones. "Biblical Anatolia" breathes life into the history of this land and proves that Turkey is justified in claiming to be a cradle of civilization.

Rather than focusing on sites, we focus on the people who lived many centuries before the Turks came to Anatolia, and the story of faith is told through their eyes. Well-known individuals such as Noah, Abraham, Paul the Apostle, St. Ignatius and St. Nicholas are introduced into the sweeping narrative as characters stepping on to the stage at the appointed time. Their contribution to the spiritual life of this land becomes more relevant as we see them in the context of the whole pageant.

Perhaps the secret to the success of this volume is the fact that the author is not just one of the most knowledgeable tour guides in Turkey, but he has a real love and enthusiasm for his subject. It is this desire to publicize the beauty of Anatolia both at home and abroad, and to inspire in others a fascination and curiosity for the wealth of archaeological sites in this special homeland that led him to launch his own publishing house, A Turizm. The guides and coffee-table books produced by this wonderful boutique publisher excel both in terms of the quality of the English text and that of the color illustrations. So much so that in this year's awards by the Turkish Association of Tour Guides (TURER) -- nicknamed the tourism Oscars -- A Turizm won the award for best books about Turkey.

The majestic view of Mount Ararat, the landing place of Noah's Ark, adorns the cover. Rising from the plains near Van, it is the fabled location of the antediluvian rebirth of man. When Marco Polo traveled through the region he remarked that the mountain (Agri Dag) is always snowcapped and that no one could ascend it.

Abraham, an important figure to the three major monotheistic religions, is linked with both Harran and Urfa. Many relics of moon worship have been found in the localities; Abraham, however, believed in one god, and in return received the covenant promise that through his seed all the nations of the world would be blessed.

The following centuries saw many civilizations cradled in Anatolia: the Edomites, Hittites, Arameans, Assyrians, Babylonians and Medes, Urartians, Phrygians, Scythians and Lydians. We encounter each of these in the Bible as they either oppose or are helpful to the children of Abraham.

But it is perhaps the early Christian era that is sought by modern-day pilgrims to Turkey. Within the 40 days leading to Easter, Lent, when St. Peter was preaching to the crowd in Jerusalem on what is now known as Pentecost, it is recorded that among those in the crowd were people from Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia: all Roman provinces in modern-day Turkey. The apostles' message spread far and wide and new churches were founded in all of these places.

Maybe the most famous messenger of Jesus Christ in the first century was Paul, who was born in Tarsus in southern Turkey. Commissioned by the church in Antioch on the Orontes (modern day Antakya) he went on three journeys throughout modern day Greece and Turkey, founding churches and visiting other fledgling congregations. These trips were not as smooth as the one facing the modern-day traveler, following in his footsteps in an air-conditioned bus, staying at high-quality hotels with a great Turkish guide. He faced a riot in the theater in Ephesus, a shipwreck in the Mediterranean and countless escapades such as needing to revive a member of the congregation who fell from of a top floor window when he was preaching near Assos. Some of the most beloved parts of the New Testament are letters he wrote to churches and Christians in Anatolia such as Ephesians, Colossians and Galatians.

The epistles of Peter are also addressed to Christians scattered throughout Anatolia. But the most-visited and photographed sites of Biblical letter recipients are the Seven Churches of Revelation: seven locations within a few hours' drive of Izmir. The apostle John, exiled on the island of Patmos, had a vision of the risen Christ in which he was instructed to write to these seven "lampstands," encouraging them to press on through persecution.

The story of the early church in Anatolia is rounded off with the efforts of other Church Fathers such as St. Basil and St. Ignatius, and the momentous Councils of Nicea (Iznik) and Chalcedon (Kadiköy, Istanbul) where doctrine was debated and creeds written.

Today is Easter Sunday, when Christians throughout the world greet each other with the words "Christ is risen -- he is risen indeed!" "Biblical Anatolia" seems written in the hopes that many more of them will come to this fascinating land to discover the early roots of their faith and the living welcome awaiting them in Turkey.

"Biblical Anatolia," Fatih Cimok
Published by A Turizm
Paperback. 35 euros. ISBN 978-975719925-0

Off-The-Beaten-Track Turkey : Aksehir: The Hodja’s Place
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
In terms of tourist facilities Turkey is not particularly well set up for younger visitors.

Aksehir is the burial place of Nasreddin Hodja, who was the medieval funny man of Turkey, the one we see endlessly reproduced sitting astride his donkey with his face turned to the tail.

The coast may boast plenty of water parks and funfairs but most museums are extremely grown-up-oriented and few other amenities have been designed with youngsters in mind. What a relief then to come across Aksehir on the edge of Turkey’s Lake District, which does at least take a light-hearted approach to tourism in keeping with its claim to be the burial place of Nasreddin Hodja.

Nasreddin Hodja was the medieval funny man of Turkey, the one we see endlessly reproduced sitting astride his donkey with his face turned to the tail. He’s the one with the outsize turban and the one whose stories, like those of Aesop, end with a sting in their tail or at least a moral lesson. Whether or not he actually existed is a moot point though and certainly many of the stories attributed to him were obviously made up after his death. For what it’s worth, the standard story claims that he was born in Sivrihisar and then came to live in Aksehir where he studied under two famed mystics while presumably reciting his stories to local scribes in his spare time.

These days the fun starts as soon as you arrive at Aksehir bus station, which has an outsize statue of the Hodja and his donkey on its roof. But the specific monument that you come to see is a tomb in the local graveyard that purports to be his and gives the date of his death as 386.

You catch yourself thinking, 386? How can that possibly be when he is always shown in medieval garb? Well like all the best Hodja stories the trick is not to take the date at face value. Instead you must reverse the digits to read 683 and then do a quick calculation to change the Islamic date to the Gregorian one. Once you do that the date of his death will be revealed as 1284. See? Simple.

It would be a mistake to shrug your shoulders and rush straight on to Egirdir because right in the centre of Aksehir there’s a wonderful small park with, as its centerpiece, a giant cooking pot. This stands as a memorial to what is perhaps Hodja’s most famous story, the one about the cauldron that gave birth and then died … No I’m not telling you, you’ll have to buy one of the many anthologies on sale around town.

The cooking pot is surrounded by trees that contain figures from other Hodja fables. One of them even features the man himself sawing through the branch on which he is sitting. Oh all right, I’ll tell you this one. A passer-by warns him that he will fall if he keeps sawing. Sure enough, that is exactly what happens. “If you knew I would fall, then you must also know when I will die,” the Hodja says and so the tale rolls on.

To capitalize on the merriment the Aksehir authorities have provided the park with a fountain on which are carved the features of more recent Turkish wits. Amongst them, anyone who has ever watched any old Turkish television programs will immediately recognize the gummy smile of the late Kemal Sunal, who died in 2000. Sunal was the eternal poor outsider struggling to make good in the face of constant obstacles, and Turks still laugh as heartily at his oldest and grainiest films as they do at the tales of the Hodja.

There are regular buses to Aksehir from Afyon and Konya.


Uncovering Üsküdar
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
Founded in the seventh century B.C., Üsküdar was originally known as Chrysopolis, or the "City of Gold," and was a suburb of nearby Kadiköy.

Kiz Kulesi, an old Byzantine structure built centuries ago, is one of the symbols of Üsküdar and is located just off its shoreline.

With an excellent natural harbor it soon grew in importance, for it was here that all military excursions into Anatolia began. During Ottoman times the meydan was a staging point for the caravan that left each year for Mecca and Medina.

Currently Üsküdar is undergoing more changes as construction of the Marmaray tunnel continues. The once peaceful meydan is now a massive construction site. Gone too is the waterside fish market by the iskele, with its ever-present seagulls and cats hoping to snatch a quick bite. But, in spite of the almost daily traffic re-routing and noise from the work site, it is worth a trip to explore Üsküdar.

One of master architect Sinan's best small mosques in the city is just up the road from the iskele, heading east towards the Kiz Kulesi. Situated on the water's edge, Semsi Pasa Camii was built in 1580 for the Vezir Semsi Pasa. Long before motorized vehicles made it easier to traverse the city, except at rush hour, the only way to get from the European to the Asian side was by boat. As a result of this, the Semsi Pasa mosque was designed to be best viewed from the water. This complex is made up of the mosque, a medrese (school) which is now a library, and the tomb of Semsi Pasa.

Sitting high on a hill overlooking Üsküdar is the complex of the Atik Validiye Camii. Built by Sinan in 1583 for Nur Banu Sultan, wife of Selim II, this mosque is one of his masterpieces, and is second only to Süleymaniye in size. Originally the complex included the mosque, a medrese, hospital, soup kitchen, caravansary and hammam. Some of the buildings were abandoned over the years and allowed to fall into disrepair, but the mosque has recently undergone renovations to restore it to its former glory.

Near the Atik Valide Camii is what is considered by many to be a hidden jewel of Üsküdar, the Çinili Camii. Founded in 1640, this mosque was built by Mahpeyker Kösem Sultan, who was the wife of Sultan Ahmet I and the mother of the future sultans Murat IV and Ibrahim. This small, simple mosque is decorated with exquisite examples of Iznik tiles. While these particular tiles were made after the best period of Iznik tiles, these blue, turquoise and white tiles are still some of the best to be found.

Getting there:
Semsi Pasa Camii is west of the Üsküdar ferry landing, on the Sahilyolu or coast road.

From Üsküdar's main street, Hakimiyeti Milliye Caddesi, walk south up the hill to Toptasi Caddesi until coming to Körbakkal Sokak. Take the stairs to the left, leading up the hill to reach Atik Valide Camii.

Çinili Camii is near Atik Valide Camii, on Çavus Dere Caddesi.


New Life On Dieffenbachia Leaves
March 14, 2007
ISTANBUL - Turkish Daily News
Nick Merdenyan, in his 1,000-year-old shop in Istanbul's covered bazaar, engraves traditional calligraphy, gilded designs, the symbols and prayers of three religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) on dieffenbachia and caladium leaves. Going back centuries, Mardenyan is the only one still practicing this laborious art form.

A graduate of a commerce academy, Merdenyan's journey and interest in this form of art started by coincidence. His cousin brought dieffenbachia leaves for the babtism of Merdenyan's son. Merdenyan has put the leaves of the plant in a book and was surprised to see the mutation the leaves underwent a year later. This mutation changed his life.

His “Leaves of Tolerance,” as Merdenyan calls them, can be found in the White House. Merdenyan's works, some of which are owned by collectors around the world, are exhibited in the Roslin Art Gallery in Los Angeles, A-Havva in Florida and Authentic Jewelry in New York.

Merdenyan explains the characteristics of dieffenbachia and the traits of his art to the Turkish Daily News.

Merdenyan says, “Every Armenian boy's path crosses the covered bazaar school.” His adventure started in childhood by producing pipes and jewelry from meerschaum. He started working with dieffenbachia in 1993. Saying that Mariana, a type of dieffenbachia, is not grown by Turkish growers because it is a laborious task, Merdenyan said he first exported the leaves from Holland. When growers in Holland have ceased production due to economic reasons, Merdenyan went to Florida to obtain dieffenbachia. Explaining that he goes to Florida and studies each leaf before buying them, Merdenyan says he can use only one or two young leaves from a plant.

Stating that he buys an average of 1,500 leaves on each trip to Florida, Merdenyan points out their transportation to Turkey is also very strenuous. Merdenyan explains that he very carefully packs them into his luggage, and that leaves curl or crack due to heat, humidity and pressure. He treats each leaf with a special method and allows them to rest in between sheets of third grade paper for a year.

Merdenyan's work is in the White House:
Merdenyan says he has a special permission to bring the leaves from the United States to Turkey. He adds each leaf is inspected and documented by U.S. authorities. Saying the leaves, the materials used, and the treatments done to the leaves varies greatly, Merdenyan produces only one example of each of his works.

Deriving from the common principle of tolerance of all three religions, he infuses their symbols into his work. He praises the aesthetic value of Arabic and Armenian letters. Merdenyan also says he is also working on Buddhism. He adds the English translation underneath all his works on dieffenbachia.

Hillary Clinton, who bought Merdenyan's work, entitled “The Meeting Point” and depicting the symbols of all three religions during her visit to Turkey in 1996, has sent Merdenyan a thank-you certificate. Another name to take a work by Merdenyan to the White House is Laura Bush, who came to Turkey for a NATO summit. Merdenyan says other names to buy his works include former Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Italian Infrastructure Minister Antonio Di Pietro. One of his latest clients is Microsoft chief Bill Gates.

He works with cat-hair brushes from London:
Working in collaboration with two people from Istanbul's fine-arts university, Mimar Sinan University, Merdenyan says they pay attention to the color schemes of the cultures they reflect. Pointing out the importance of the dye used, he says the colors will lose their intensity if the dye is not of high quality.

Explaining that the leaves are very delicate, Merdenyan says they cannot use just any brush while working with the leaves and that they import special cat-hair brushes from London for this purpose. They obtain the 24-carat gold used in the gold paint on the leaves from abroad also. The gold paint then goes through a special treatment before it is brushed on the leaves.

Merdenyan says the work on each item takes an average of 15 days, not including the time required for design and treatment phases. Once the work is complete, it is then covered completely and put in between two layers of glass. He says this is very important to ensure the leaf stays well for a long time.

Working on Caladium leaves, which are as thin and delicate “as the wings of a butterfly,” Merdenyan says these leaves are too fragile to be able to withstand heavy paint.

Merdenyan represents Turkey in many international festivals. His latest works will be exhibited in the gardens of International Landesmuseum in Zurich, starting from May. 19.

The Eastern Kaçkar: A Short Walk Around Barhal
 This content mirrored from TurkishArmenians http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
The Altiparmak-Kaçkar-Verçenik range of mountains, rising to nearly 4,000 meters, runs northeast-southwest, parallel with the Black Sea shore.

The Kaçkar National Park lies mainly west of Kaçkar’s peak itself, and north of the Verçenik massif, with its myriad jewels of lakes. Thus it protects the lush emerald forests on the rainy north side of the range, but not the drier, steep summer pastures centered on the small towns of Yaylalar and Barhal, accessed via Yusufeli and Erzurum. These once-wealthy yaylas are rapidly polarizing -- where modern roads reach them, city dwellers are repairing old family houses, sometimes on a grand scale, and the area is reviving. But the majority, without electricity or roads, are dying of neglect. Only a few families maintain traditional lifestyles and these send their children to Istanbul for education. Cattle farming, bee-keeping and orchards are no longer profitable, a few have jobs with the forestry authorities and others turn to tourism. Families open their houses as pensions or shops, and men work as guides and mulemen for the short tourist season.

With only a primary school, no hospital and no shops other than small grocery businesses, daily life depends on dolmus services to the market town of Yusufeli. With such a severe climate, the winding riverside road undergoes constant disruption and repair, and the 50-kilometer journey, when possible, can take three or four hours.
The summer visitor is immediately spellbound by the beauty of the lush green valleys, spangled with sparkling flowers and butterflies, with the jagged granite peaks sawing the sky above. It’s only after a few days’ exposure to this wonderland that the fitness and endurance of the locals, and the harshness of winter life, sinks in. Now is the time to meet these stoical yet welcoming people and experience their life on the summer yaylas, before the last families drift away to Istanbul or Bursa and only the tourists are left.
Below I describe a circular walk based on Barhal, which takes you through several yaylas, inhabited and empty. The goal of the walk is Karagöl (Black Lake) in a hollow scooped by a glacier below the upright digits of Altiparmak -- the six-fingered mountain. Take a tent and food for three days, for you will spend the nights on one of the most delightful campsite in the world -- Satibe -- a grassy ridge rising clear of thick pine forest, with views all along the range of the Kaçkar and down into the deep valleys of the Kisla (south) and Barhal (north) streams.

Day 1:
Barhal to Satibe via Saribulut: 5-6 hours

Our route starts from Barhal, opposite the turning for the Karahan pension. Here a wooden bridge over the stream leads to a decaying watermill and a path that turns left and rises up the ridge to the ruins of a small chapel. Looking back you have wonderful views down to the 10th century monastery church -- a basilica plan building with a central aisle of immense height, set under a steeply pitched stone roof. From the chapel, turn right and follow a clear path rising along the ridge line. It climbs steadily through forest to a junction where a wide path leads downhill, then level across the lush upper pastures of Saribulut (yellow cloud) yayla. The yayla lies along a short spur leading south from the main ridge, and is usually accessed by a walk of half-an-hour along a line of telegraph posts from an unsurfaced road from Barhal. It’s now completely deserted -- most of the 20 smallish stone and timber houses are collapsing gently, and the mills just above the village no longer have water flowing to them. Just past the right-hand houses, turn right and up, past the mills, and find a path leading up the right side of a valley, through rhododendron scrub and pines, to the open grassy ridge above. Continue left along the ridge, to locate a water pipe gushing into a hollow tree-trunk. Here, at 2,450m, is your campsite for the next two nights -- complete with water, firewood from the forests below and level pitches for many tents.

Day 2:
Satibe to Karagöl and back via Nebisatgur Tepesi: 5 hours

The sun rises early on Satibe, so dew will still be on the long grass as you set off west along the ridge-top water channel towards Karagöl. Gentians, buttercups and orchids line the channel, which in places has fallen away or been filled by landslides. Follow it around a sharp corner by some pines, and through scree toward the source -- a waterfall gushing from hidden Karagöl down the steep glaciated valley. Here, at a cairn, turn up over a rhododendron-clad rise to a path which rises steeply left. At a junction, take a gently rising path right towards the lip of the cirque -- beyond this, hidden until the last moment, is Karagöl. Nearly all year the north-facing lake is ringed by snow, so although the water may look tempting, the briefest splash can freeze your marrow.
To the right and slightly below the lake are some stone huts -- roofless and useless -- and behind them a path leading west up the stream to more small lakes. This is the route to Büyükkapi, the pass between Didvake and Altiparmak, leading over the range to Zigam yaylasi. Explore as far as you like, then return to the junction on your incoming path. Here turn upwards on narrow path rising over a crest towards Nebisatgur Tepesi -- turn back for a final view of Altiparmak. The path levels and contours across the grassy slope until the campsite comes into view. You could turn right to the summit of Nebisatgur or left, and down the ridge crest toward your tent.

Day 3:
Satibe to Barhal via Amaneskit and Naznara yaylas: 4-6 hours

Pack up your tent and start as for Day 2, along the water channel. At the clump of pines, turn down the ridge on steep hairpins, with pines on your left, then follow a water channel as it descends the ridge through Amaneskit and Naznara yaylas. The butterflies on this channel are amazing -- blues, apollos, fritillaries in jewel-like colors. Some of the houses are massive stone-built mansions with barns of logs, allowing the air to circulate. In July whole families work at scything the hay, and carting it to the barns, to supply the cattle for the winter. These are still working yaylas, although the watermills along the course of the channel no longer function.

Below Naznara, leave the ridge to descend to the river on your left, and cross a log bridge onto the dirt road, which leads down the valley to Barhal. You could take a detour up to Altiparmak yayla, and the others on the north slopes -- a path leads up from the end of the road and after passing through the yaylas rejoins a secondary road which runs downhill to join the main Barhal dirt road.

At Barhal, end your walk with a visit to the monumental monastery church, which soars, like the mountains, to meet the overarching sky.

Fingertip Facts:
Location: Barhal; about 30 kilometers west of Yusufeli, in the Artvin province.
When to go: July for spring flowers, butterflies and birds
Access: From Erzurum, local bus to Yusufeli; dolmus to Barhal leaves about 3 pm.
Barhal (Parkhali) church: is now a mosque and kept locked -- ask at the adjoining school for a key. The frescos have been whitewashed, but angels are carved on the pillars.
Web site, maps and books: www.mountainsofturkey.com, www.kackarlar.org, have local information and a downloadable map. “Trekking in Turkey” (Marc Dubin and Enver Lucas, Lonely Planet) is out of print but useful; “Mountains of Turkey” (Karl Smith, Cicerone) has brief descriptions of many walks.
Equipment: Thick soled boots and good socks, waterproofs, water bottle, sun glasses and sunscreen, camera, rucksack, food and cooking equipment for two nights /three days, sleeping bag and mat, tent.


The Flowers Of The Lake District: Three Nature Walks
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The tall limestone mountains in Spain, Greece and Turkey are the only places in Europe where wild peonies still grow. One place is unique -- Kasnak National Park in the Taurus Mountains, home not only to Paeonia maculata but also to a unique endemic oak tree -- the volcanic oak (Quercus vulcanica).

Blue grape hyacinths reflect the blue sky over the glittering snow on Davraz Dagi

In a sheltered dell on a steep limestone slope stands the type specimen, a 600-year-old granddaddy over 30-meters-high. Straight and sturdy, this tree is surrounded by groves of smaller oaks, which together form a sheltering canopy of dappled shade over the lush forest floor. Below the oaks are carpets of the park’s other wonder -- the wild peony.

Early to mid-May is the time to see these brilliant cerise peonies, their upturned cups filled with golden stamens. The tall yellow daisies of doronicum and curved sprays of sweet peas (Lathyrus aureus) complement the cerise peonies with more gold. After the peonies until mid-June Juno irises (Iris purpurobractea) flower on sunny forest slopes. The flowers are in every shade, from deep mauve to creamy yellow, with delicate variations of buff, pale-pink, mauve and bluish-white. The bloom itself is varied, with the three upright petals in plain shades and the falls showing deeper color, fine brown striping and a ruff of golden stamens. The short interval between the snowmelt and the arrival of the shepherds is also the time to search for the smaller and less conspicuous alpine plants on the stark shoulders of Davraz Dagi, which rears above the oak forest, sheltering the park from the northwest. As the snow retreats up the mountain, a miniature garden filled with crocus, colchicum, muscari and fritillaria bursts into bloom.

Spring also brings migrant birds back to their breeding grounds. In the forests, the dominant sound is the trill of finches, interspersed with pip-pip alarm cries as you approach. In the upper branches Kreuper’s nuthatch peeps like a toy trumpet, and the rapid fluttering of a flycatcher attracts the eye. The hammer of a woodpecker adds percussion and a flash of black and white flits across a clearing. Higher up, red-fronted serins drink the snowmelt, and pink and grey Ortolan buntings pipe the first bars of Beethoven’s fifth. If you’re lucky, a pair of lammergeiers (giant vultures), or golden eagles, which breed high on the crags, will glide over to inspect you from above.

Part of a long-distance walking trail (the St. Paul Trail) runs over the high limestone ridge east of Davraz Dagi, connecting Kasnak Forest to the pasture of Kuleovasi. It passes a government-owned ski lodge and two new hotels, one of which has just opened. Delicate, minute plants on the ski slopes have been bulldozed for just a few weeks of winter skiing, but the new accommodation does give nature lovers a chance to explore a wonderful area. Here are three walks, which link Egirdir to the ski lodge and Kasnak forest. You could start at Egirdir and continue to Yukari Gökdere, or use taxis to access them from your favorite accommodation.

From Egirdir to Davraz ski lodge (6-7 hours)

Leave Egirdir on the old railway line, and follow it over the spectacular viaduct and under the new road. Branch left onto a dirt road to Sevinçbey village. After crossing the bridges, follow a path along the river banks for about a kilometer, then turn left on a narrow old road that rises up the hill to meet the new road. Turn right, walk about 500 meters on the main road and turn south onto a dirt track that runs gently up a long, narrow valley toward the mountain. At a pass, bear right over two hillocks to join a level dirt road. Turn right and follow it over two rises. There before you is the level plain of Kuleovasi, and on the far side is first the newly built Sirene Hotel, then the Selene lodge. You can walk straight across the ova, or, if it’s too muddy, follow the road around the right side. In the ova are masses of tiny golden Crocus chrysanthus, colchicum, ornithogallum and grape hyacinth (muscari) bulbs, appearing from the boggy ground left by the snowmelt.

A circular walk around the ski lifts (4-5 hours)

Davraz Dagi (2,635 meters), clad up to 1,800 meters with scattered huge black pines and juniper, dominates the ski slopes. Walk down the road from the hotels toward Egirdir and turn left onto a bulldozed track which climbs into the foothills through forest scattered with occasional orchids (Orchis pallens and O. pinetorum). At a spring tiny black red-fronted serins flock and you strike off left to a gully where grape hyacinth and crocus grow on the steep slopes. Reaching the track again, turn left and continue toward the upper end of the ski lift and a cafe. In the hollows beyond are masses of tiny brown-yellow Fritillaria pinetorum, half-hidden by the spring grass. If snow is still there, you may see flocks of white and brown snow finches and the black-horned shore lark.

A track continues upward into a broad hollow on the northern side of the ridge -- the final ski lift terminates here. To return, turn east along the row of moraine hills at the base of the main ridge, then aim for the highest clump of pines. From these, an irregular path follows the left bank of a gully down towards the ski slopes and hotels below.

Davraz ski lift to Yukari Gökdere via Kasnak forest (7-8 hours)

From the base of the ski lift, walk southeast toward the lower end of a gully. On the left bank, a waymarked path climbs up into the hills, across a couple of level plains where from early June the topmost shepherd tents are erected. A gap between rocky slopes marks the start of a track, which leads along the left slope of a valley to Beskuyu (five wells), and then downhill toward Kovada lake, in the valley far below. Following waymarks, turn left from the track into the upper reaches of Kasnak forest. Here cedars and pines clad the upper slopes, and a shady track leads across meadows around rocky hollows and down toward the heart of the park. Descending the slopes, irises spring from the pathsides, the tiny yellow woodland tulip and checked Fritillaria whitallii grow under the massive oaks. At a junction marked Çatalli Armut (Forked pear-tree), turn left to the peony glades and the volcanic oak. The dimensions and age (600 years) of this huge tree are listed on a notice hanging on its massive trunk. From here, the path leads out of the forest park and on a mixture of footpaths and tracks downhill, past a graveyard, to a small dammed lake. A short walk on driveable track takes you down to the prosperous village of Yukari Gökdere, amongst peach and apple orchards. Continue to the petrol station on the main road where it’s easy to call a taxi or hitch a lift back to your base in Egirdir.

Fingertip Facts

Location: Isparta province -- Egirdir or Davraz ski resort (27 kilometers from Egirdir, 25 kilometers from Isparta).

When to go: April to early June for peonies, irises and alpine flowers.

Access: Bus from Ankara; overnight train from Istanbul to Isparta, then connecting bus to Egirdir.

Restaurants: Lakeside restaurants serve freshly-caught fish; the Big Apple has good mezes.

Equipment for day walks: Thick-soled boots, waterproofs, a water bottle, sun glasses and sunscreen, camera, binoculars.


Iznik: A History Of Ceramics In Turkey
The Flowers Of The Lake District: Three Nature Walks
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The city of Iznik has so great an historic and cultural value that if you try to write it all down its history would run to many volumes.

Iznik also describes a style of porcelain. The culture of painted china in Iznik started 600 years ago during the rule of the Ottomans and lasted until the end of their rule. In the centre of Iznik you can see the Ayasofya Mosque and the remains of a glorious Roman theatre.

The first capital city of Anatolia, it was originally described as a city of scholars. However much we speak of Iznik -- historically, culturally, artistically, theologically, naturally -- many of its tales will still remains to be told. This city has many assets: green lawns, olive groves, grapes, perfect olives, a lake, a grassy plain, mountains and ancient architecture.

Iznik is set in a valley between two mountains and the road which runs parallel with Lake Iznik, flanked by olive groves on both sides, takes us there. At the city entrance I see a sign reading “Nikaia-Iznik.” After winning the war against Antigoneia and conquering the region, Lysimachus from Iskender gave the city his beloved wife’s name in tribute to her. When Nikaia -- or Nicea -- became the capital city of the Seljuk State, Shah Suleiman changed its name to Iznik. Every historical place and story in Iznik has its own mythological tale.

The entrance to Iznik has four main gates; we enter the gate that faces Istanbul. These gates were made with the purpose of protecting the city and were set in massive city walls. Behind these gates, life continues. It is stunning that even in this part of the year the land is green, only from the cold can we be sure that it is winter.

Iznik is now almost synonymous with the ceramics that were made here. The culture of faience, or glazed, colored china, began in Iznik 600 years ago during the Ottoman era and continued until the end of their rule. The term “china” comes from Chinese porcelain. The best porcelain of the time, used at the palace, came from China. Since it was so expensive and the conditions of its transportation so difficult, the sultan ordered its domestic manufacture. They began to try to produce the same white porcelain that was made in China. However the result was not porcelain but Iznik china, which, according to contemporary ceramics chemistry and literature, was impossible to produce.

When you start your tour from the centre of Iznik you come upon many historical remains. In the centre of Iznik sits the Ayasofya Mosque, which is at the crossroads where the roads from all four gates cross. It is where Emperor Constantine called the first gathering of Christian theologians and scholars, hence the Nicene Creed, and is thus considered of great importance to Christians. It is also the place where the Ottomans, after taking military control over Iznik, performed the first Friday prayer. You have to visit to see and feel these spiritual values. It is also possible to see the remains of the glorious Roman theatre.

Next we go to the china workshops, where one is free to look without being obliged to buy anything. These fill a whole street and we choose to tour at the china workshop at the Suleiman Pasha Medrese. The ceramics that became identified with this historical place fit its atmosphere perfectly. It is satisfying to sit in one of the medrese’s tea gardens, sip tea at a tiled table, watch Iznik and feel the history beneath your feet.

How to go there?

Leaving Istanbul behind and taking the Eskihisar ferry is the fastest and most practical way to go to Iznik. The ferry trip takes 40 minutes. After you come to Yalova, you take the road to Orhangazi, and from there following the Iznik sign, head toward Iznik Lake. The historic city is just two-ad-a-half- hours from Istanbul.


Ayder: A Cloud-Wreathed ‘Honey Forest’
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Ayder’s breathtaking beauty is to be found where the Black Sea’s Firtina (Storm) Valley meets the Kaçkar Mountains.

The Ayder plateau which is located near Çayeli, a small town of the city of Rize, has a breathtaking beauty.

The area is known locally as a “honey forest,” though its fame has spread beyond the region. Indeed its beauty is such that words are not sufficient to describe it; it must be seen to be understood. However alarm bells are ringing for Ayder, which has recently become a popular tourist resort.

The Ayder plateau is located near Çayeli, a small town of the city of Rize. If you leave the coastal road and take the forest path you will almost immediately find yourself in pristine natural beauty. With its craggy topography and rich flora and fauna, the valley ands with the Kaçkar Mountains, which host glacial lakes feeding the valley’s river. The damming of the valley was once considered and hotly debated, but such was the beauty and natural value of the area the dam project was abandoned.

An ever-present sound of water

If you are already keen to visit Ayder from what you have heard so far, you are right to be so. However on your journey through Storm Valley be sure to take a brief break in Çamlihemsin. There you can stock up on provisions before following the river-side path, marked by unique stone bridges, which will afford you some magnificent views of small waterfalls and cataracts. Other sights not to be missed en route include the log cabins about the falls and the local inhabitants going about their daily business in a way seemingly unchanged for centuries. As you ascend into the clouds you approach Ayder. Eleven villages and 44 plateaus are settled within the Kaçkar Mountains National Park, but the magic of the Ayder plateau is distinct. It has an imitable beauty. The plateau, now protected, is almost more like an arboretum or botanic park, home as it is to so great a variety of plant life.

The plateau’s authentic houses are as interesting as its nature. You are certainly welcome to step inside uninvited to chat and taste the local food. Please remember not to offer to pay for what you have eaten or drunk; such offerings are a gift, making payment akin to an insult. The lakes region close to Ayder should also be seen; we recommend the Black Sea Glacial Lake and Great Sea Lake to those who feel themselves up to the challenge.

Ayder is full of surprises. Sunshine may all of a sudden sun turn to rain, or the entire mountain become covered by heavy fog. Regardless of the weather conditions, its is a beauty that makes one forget everything but the moment. The plateau’s abundant nature and scent-laden fresh air make visitors feel vibrant and full of life.

The steadily growing plateau tourism is making Ayder a focal point for those who seeking serenity and tranquility. This increased interest brings with it a tremendous threat: The concrete houses and pensions nearby the valley are nothing short of a disgrace.Uncontrolled development indicates that an imminent threat awaits Ayder, despite its being a protected area. To remedy the problem the Ministries of Environment and Forestry and of Culture and Tourism and the regional municipalities must take immediate action. Concrete buildings are prohibited in Ayder, but apparently the ban is not widely observed.

If you have the chance to visit the plateau, don’t forget to sample the local food -- particularly the renowned honey. And you will regret it if you don’t quench your thirst from a crystal-clear spring.


More Rafting Coming To Alanya
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This summer will see more rafting planned for the Köprü and Alara rivers near Alanya, which will secure the Alara River’s place as a must-see destination for tourists interested in rafting and outdoor sports in Turkey.

The Alara River also boasts the historic 1,250 year old Ali Köprüsü (Ali Bridge), an attraction which is being introduced at domestic and international tourism trade fairs even now.

In preparation for the fast approaching tourism season, the Alanya Tourism Services Union (ATHB) has been at work beautifying the Ali Bridge, while the Konakli Municipality and the Güneycik Village Assistance and Cooperation Foundation sponsored a rafting event on the Alara River. In order to symbolize the caravans which once passed over the historic Ali Bridge when it was a part of the Silk Road during the Seljuk period, there will be camel, horse and jeep safari tours. Contributions from Konakli Mayor Abdullah Sönmez have led to the building of a 3 kilometer road linking Güneycik village and the Ali Bridge to the Alara River.

Osman Yilmaz, a local authority, spoke of the 13 centuries of history linked to the bridge, noting that the Seljuk leader Alaeddin Keykubad used to cross the Ali Bridge when passing from Konya to the winter capital of the Seljuk dynasty, Alanya. The bridge, notes Yilmaz, carries all the typical hallmarks of Seljuk period architecture. Yilmaz is hopeful about raising the level of rafting on the Alara River, explaining: “We will hold tours symbolizing the caravan trade which used to pass over the Ali Bridge. Through our efforts, it should become at least the second most popular spot for rafting after Köprülü Kanyon. We will make this area known to the world.”

In a similar move, representatives from the Güneycik Village Assistance and Cooperation Foundation are addressing tourism agents in Alanya and Manavgat. Foundation head Ahmet Ugur asserts that Alanya’s natural beauty has remained relatively untouched and says the well-preserved historical bridge represents a great opportunity for Güneycik village residents, whose villagecontains all the elements necessary for successful nature tourism. Says Ugur: “The history and geography of our village make it perfect for all the outdoor sports. We believe that this will be a preferred spot for rafting during the tourism season.”

Abdurrahman Büyükkeskin Alanya

Aspendos And Side: Festivals In The Ancient Theaters
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Imagine taking your theater seat in the self-same spot a Roman citizen would have some 1,800 years ago! OK, the limestone beneath you is hard (local theater lovers in the know bring their own cushions) but it’s still radiating warmth absorbed in the heat of the day.

Sunset at the ruins of the ancient Roman Temple of Apollo in Side.

Above, the only roof is a soft, purple-black and star-strewn sky. From outside the ancient theater at Aspendos, the best preserved in Asia Minor, comes the incessant chirrup of cicadas. Inside the noise is equally insistent -- the murmurings of a positive babel of voices -- with Turkish, German, English, and Russian most prominent. As the 10,000-strong audience settles down, the sound of popping wine corks mingles with the hum of stringed-instruments as the musicians warm up in the orchestra.

The views from the semi-circular auditorium, comprising 40 tiers cut into the hillside, are breathtaking. At sunset, the light on the remains of this once wealthy and powerful city and the Pamphylian plain beyond is at its best. The ragged spine of the mighty Taurus mountain range looms in splendid silhouette to the north There’s a faint taste of the nearby Mediterranean on the breeze, mixing with the aromatic scent of thyme growing wild on the hills behind the theater.

As darkness falls the lights dim briefly and the massed ranks of spectators fall silent. Then stage lights begin to play across the facade of the richly-ornamented, multi-tiered stage building, throwing the Ionic and Corinthian columns and elaborate friezes and pediments into vivid relief. Slowly the intensity of the lights increases and the performance begins. Verdi’s Aida is a perennial favourite, the pomp and splendour of this popular opera, set in ancient Egypt, working wonderfully well in this setting.

As midnight approaches the show reaches its climax. The light intensifies, and thousands of people -- having suspended disbelief for a few memorable hours -- empty out into the night. The scramble to get out of the packed car park is undignified and lengthy, but I’m sure that you will have found the rewards of the experience far outweigh the pain of departure!

Enjoying a night of top-class ballet, opera or classical music in the majestic ancient theaters of either Aspendos or nearby Side is a unique experience. The month-long Aspendos Opera and Ballet festival has been running since 1994. Organized by the Turkish State Opera and Ballet directorate, it is a showcase for the cream of Turkey’s performers and some fine foreign touring companies -- particularly Russian. The Side Festival has less of a pedigree and is shorter, but the splendid setting of its recently-restored Roman theater (literally a stone’s throw from the Mediterranean) make it a worthy contender to its longer established rival.

The gateway to both Aspendos and Side is the bustling, seaside Antalya, easily and cheaply reached by air from both Istanbul and Ankara. This region is a “heartland” of Turkish tourism, so there’s a wealth of accommodation to choose from. Whether you want to stay in a luxurious beachside hotel with pool, a traditional stone and timber built hotel in Antalya’s walled old-quarter, or a bougainville-shrouded pension amongst the Roman ruins in Side, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Tempting though it may be to spend your days sunbathing and swimming in the Mediterranean, particularly if you have come down from ultra-urban Istanbul or Ankara, it would be a shame, though, not to look around the remains of one of the great classical-era Pamphylian cities which have provided the venue for your evening’s entertainment. The fertile Pamphylian plain was settled by Greeks around 1200 B.C. Isolated by the mountains, it was a remote part of the world. This didn’t prevent the rise of four great cities -- Perge, Silliyon, Aspendos and Side. The early history of Pamphylia has gone unrecorded, but in the sixth century B.C. the Persians took over. A tug of war between them and the Greeks ensued. Today’s Köprülü river (which you will first cross, and then drive alongside for awhile en route to Aspendos), is the famed Eurymedon. At its mouth, in 469 B.C., the Greeks defeated their Persian rivals in a decisive naval battle.

Alexander the Great conquered the region in the fourth century B.C. Three hundred years later this area had become the haunt of pirates, whose plundering brought down the wrath of the mighty Romans. They ousted the pirates, took control of Pamphylia, and gave the region an unparalleled security for the next few centuries. It was during this prosperous period that the remarkable theaters in which you will sit and be entertained were built. There is more, though, to both cities than their theaters. Aspendos has a fine acropolis (fortified hilltop), where you can explore the atmospheric remains of the agora (market place) and nymphaeum (sacred spring). As you do so, try to imagine the lives of the well to do Roman citizens who led a life every bit as civilised as our own -- possibly more so in some ways, without the tyranny of the industrial revolution and attendant environmental ills! Brilliant engineers, the Romans kept their cities well-supplied with fresh water. At Aspendos, the substantial arches of the aqueduct which brought water 15 kilometers from the mountains into the city, stand in splendid isolation to the north of the acropolis.

Side is even easier to explore than Aspendos, as the modern town has literally grown-up among the classical ruins. You are never far from a café or bar, and can interrupt your explorations for a dip in the Mediterranean from one of Side’s sandy beaches. The museum, opposite the theater, is well-laid out and famed for its “Three Graces,” a trio of (now headless) nude female statues of minor deities. If you are fond of an after dinner stroll, head for the southern tip of the promontory, where the elegant columns of the Athena temple are romantically flood-lit after dark.

The Roman leader Marc Anthony and his royal lover (immortalized in Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra) used Side as a romantic getaway some 2,000 years ago. You could do a lot worse today -- but wherever you choose as your base, a night of culture under the stars in ancient Aspendos or Side is not to be missed.

Fingertip facts

When to come

Aspendos Festival: Mid-June to Mid-July

Side Festival: Last two weeks in September

What to bring

For an evening at the theater bring: camera, binoculars, cushion, insect repellent, cardigan or shawl, an umbrella (thunderstorms are not unknown), a bottle of wine (and opener!) and snacks

How to get to Antalya

Turkish Airlines fly daily from Ankara and Istanbul, Onur Air, Atlas Jet and Pegasus daily from Istanbul. Sunexpress daily from Izmir

Antalya is linked to all Turkey’s major cities by inter-city coaches

How to get to the theaters

Special buses run from Antalya to performances at Aspendos, departing from outside the city’s Archaeological Museum at 7 p.m. Buses ply regularly between Antalya and Side from Antalya’s bus station (otogar). There are dozens of car rental outfits at Antalya Airport, in the old quarter (Kaleiçi) and on Fevzi Çakmak Caddesi in the city centre.

Site opening hours and admissions

Aspendos - daily 8 a.m. -- 7 p.m.; YTL 10

Side (theater) daily 8 a.m. -- 7 p.m.; YTL 10. Museum daily 8 a.m. -- 5 p.m.; closed for lunch 12 - 1p.m.; YTL 5. Perge - daily 8 a.m. -- 7 p.m.; YTL10


Georgian valleys from Erzurum to Yusufeli - Off-The-Beaten-Track Turkey

 This content mirrored from  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix Erzurum in northeastern Turkey has an unenviable reputation as one of the coldest places in the country.

In the days of the hippy trail a fair few foreigners used to pass through the town, but once politics put paid to the road to Katmandu, Erzurum fell off the tourist map. These days only the hardy few (and those in search of an Iranian visa) make it here.

Between the ninth and 14th centuries the area due north of Erzurum formed part of the Kingdom of Georgia and folk memory remembers a succession of kings called David and a queen called Tamara. The drive north to Yusufeli is very appealing, with soaring mountains on either side of the road and orchards full of apples, mulberries and walnuts surrounding villages of rickety wooden houses. East and west of the highway a string of magnificent old churches serve as enduring reminders of the Georgians. Most stand in ruins, forgotten by everybody except the birds.

Heading north from Erzurum, there is little to detain you as you cross a plain which extends as far as the small town of Tortum. Then after another 25 kilometers you’ll spot a turnoff on the left to Bagbasi (the old Haho) where you’ll find the beautiful 10th century Church of St. Mary, topped by a drum-like structure surmounted by a tile-clad dome. For anyone who has seen the more famous Akdamar church on its island in the middle of Lake Van, it would be easy to assume from its appearance that this was another Armenian structure, but, as ever, history provides an explanation for the confusion. Apparently the Georgian Bagratids, who ruled this area from the ninth century, were related to another group of Bagratids, who governed medieval Armenia. Not surprisingly both groups favored a broadly similar architectural style.

The Church of St. Mary became a mosque in the 17th century, when its congregation converted to Islam, but if you start your explorations here you may find it easier to imagine what the other ruined churches looked like in their heyday.

North of Bagbasi you come to Tortum Gölü (Lake Tortum), a great place to stop for a picnic or perhaps a trout lunch. In winter the Tortum selalesi (waterfall) makes a spectacular sight. In summer a better place to pause may be Çamliyamaç (once Öskvank) where a viewpoint overlooks the lake and a gorge carved out by the Çoruh River. Çamliyamaç is also home to a stupendous ruined 10th century cathedral, its frescoes, inscriptions and blind arcading now cruelly exposed to the elements.

Continuing north you arrive at a turnoff on the right to Olur and then, along that road, to a turning to Ishan, a village with a particularly beautiful setting high up on a plateau. Ishan plays host to the ruins of the vast Church of the Mother of God built between the ninth and 11th centuries. Twenty-five years ago the paintings on the walls were still well-preserved. Now they are fading fast although you can still admire the hardier horseshoe-shaped arches that form a blind arcade around the apse. A surviving dedication stone in the Georgian language credits King Bagrat III (1000-1014) as the church’s founding father. Today its dome balances precariously above a void.

North of the Olur turnoff the main road from Erzurum passes through a spectacular stretch of the Çoruh Canyon with thick bands of alternating color in the rock. A few more kilometers and the road spins off to Yusufeli. A turning on the left leads to Tekkale (Lone Castle) where the eponymous structure’s ruins perch so high up on the rocks it is almost impossible to imagine how the stones could have been maneuvered into position. From Tekkale a rough road continues to Dörtkilise (Four Churches), which may indeed have had four churches once but now has just the one fine 10th century specimen half-hidden amid vegetation beside the road. It’s a beautiful but stark building covered in stone arcading but still retaining some of its frescoes, including a portrait of King David Magistros, who ruled the area between 961 and 1000.

After that a bit of backtracking will return you to the main road to Yusufeli, still just about hanging on as a white-water rafting center despite the long-standing threat of a dam.

The best choice of hotels is to be found in Erzurum although Yusufeli has a reasonable selection of pensions.

To do justice to this part of Turkey you really need a car. Local buses are timed to get villagers to Erzurum or Yusufeli and back again in the same day which means that they rarely suit the needs of visitors.


Ten 'must-visit' cultural routes in Turkey

This content mirrored from  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix Culture tours are the rising stars of tourism in recent years. In particular, many different culture tours are organized as the number of companies specializing in this branch of the tourism service sector increases

As an alternative to sea, sun and sand travel, culture tours mostly concentrate on history of the destination. The routes are picked among historical sites and neighborhoods. In addition to full-day trips, excursions are available too. As demands go up, tour operators find new concepts to attract more travelers. Hürriyet daily asked a jury of specialists about the top 10 culture routes to be discovered in Turkey.

TOP 10
1. Sultans' mothers and wives foundation tour - ISTANBUL
2. The Balyan Family artworks - ISTANBUL
3. Bosporus cruise - ISTANBUL
4. Hattushash -ÇORUM
5. Beypazari - ANK
6. Dülük - GAZIANTEP
7. Grand Bazaar's Inns - ISTANBUL
8. Kayaköy - FETHIYE
9. Diyarbakir - DIYARBAKIR
10. Harran - URFA

The Jury:
1- Serif Yenen - Tour Guides Association president
2- Reyan Tuvi - Travel writer
3- Faruk Pekin - Father of culture tourism
4- Attila Tuna - History of Art specialist, tour guide
5- Remzi Erbas - Owner of Kent Haber Web site
6- Hüseyin Poroy - Governor of Çorum
7- Saffet Emre Tonguç - Guide, travel writer
8- Mehmet Yasin - Travel writer
9- Nurdogan Sengüler - Tourism operator
10- Aysenur Arun - Tourism operator

Sultans' Mothers and Wives Foundation Tour
Foundation buildings from Scutari to Eyüp

You could start your tour from the Scutari Atik Valide Sultan Complex built by the wife of Sultan Selim II, Nurbanu Sultan. Then, in order, you could visit the Turkish bath built by Hürrem Sultan in Sultanahmet, Haseki Hürrem Complex in Cerrahpasa, Hürrem Sultan's daughter Mihrimah Sultan's Mosque and Social Complex in Edirnekapi, Mihrisah Valide Sultan Foundations in Eyüp, Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque and Complex, older parts of Haseki Hospital and Pertevniyal High School. During the tour, you could have your lunch at Kanaat Restaurant in Scutari, or at Katibim in Salaca, or one of the Kaburga Sofrasi in Aksaray.

The Balyan Family Artworks
To the honor of Dolmabahçe Palace's 150th year

With this tour, you have a chance to see artwork of The Balyan Family. Due to Dolmabahçe Palace's 150th anniversary, your tour could be more meaningful. From Yildiz Mosque, you could start and pay visits to the Yildiz Hamidiye Mosque, the Church of Virgin Mary in Abbasaga in Besiktas, the Palace houses, the Tesvikiye Mosque and the Police Station in Akaretler. It is possible to have snacks at the public fountain in front of Tesvikiye Mosque. Then, you could pass to Dolmabahçe Palace and Mosque. The Tophane Nusretiye Mosque, the Bayezid Tower and the Aksaray Valide Mosque are among the places worth seeing. Via Sehzadebasi, the Fatih and Hirka-i Serif mosques could also be visited. In Fatih, you could have your meals at Kömür Restaurant situated on Fevzipasa Avenue or at Ispir Kurufasulyecisi (a restaurant serving only haricot bean) in Tophane.

Bosporus cruise
From Besiktas to Tarabya

Your cruise starts from the Besiktas Naval Museum. ?Saltanat Kayiklari (Boats)? is a must-see. After visiting the Hagia Dimitri Greek Holy Spring in Kuruçesme and the old Ottoman streets in Arnavutköy, you deserve a lunch break at Balikçi Adembaba or at Köfteci Ali Baba. Later on, Bebek Park and the district are waiting for you. Stop at Roma Dondurmacisi (Ice Cream Shop) and please do try a cone of ice cream here. Then, the Japanese Garden in Baltalimani, the Emirgan Heights and Boyaciköy are places that should be seen. In the area, you could visit houses, churches and streets of late Ottoman minorities. Take a break at Emirgan-Çinaralti. Later, see the Pembe (Pink) Kiosk and the Sari (Yellow) Chalet in Emirgan Woods, the Sait Halim Pasa Mansion, the Erbilgin Mansion, the Austria Embassy Palace and the Huber Kiosk in Yeniköy and then return to Tarabya.

World cultural heritage

Named by UNESCO on the World Heritage list in 1986, Hattushash, the capital of the Hittite Empire, is situated at Bogazkale in the Central Anatolian province of Çorum. Six kilometers of city walls encircle this ancient city that has sanctuaries, private buildings and holy sites. The Yazilikaya open air temple is located 2 kilometers outside Hattushah. You can reach the temple by walking. The Hittite kings walked the same route between the palace and the temple when they were conducting religious rites. In the sanctuary, the reliefs of god (Teshub) and goddess (Hepat) are worth seeing. After the King's palace, you could pay a visit to the Budaközü River valley.

Famous for its historical mansions

For this tour, your start point would be Geyve. The Sakarya Bridge in the town of Ali Fuat Pasa is a must-see site. What makes this bridge special is that the structure has a niche for praying. It is known that the Ottoman Sultans Yavuz Sultan Selim and Yildirim Bayazit used this bridge during their eastern campaigns. The most famous Ottoman traveler Evliya Çelebi used this bridge to follow the route of Geyve-Tarakli-Göynük-Mudurnu-Nallihan-Beypazari, according to his Seyahatname (Book of Travels). If you go through his route, you first reach Tarakli, Göynük, Mudurnu and Nallihan, then to Beypazari. First stop is the Hidirlik Height if you want to see a view of the surrounding. The second stop could be Alattin Street where restoration work has just completed. It is famous for historical mansions. You could also go for shopping to check handicrafts by women of Beypazari.

600,000-year-old settlement

In the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep, crushed olives, katmer (baked pastry sheet folded with vegetables, ground beef or cheese), fresh village sour cream, home-made bread, cheese and jams are served in a special breakfast. After a city tour, you could visit Dülük Village, 10 kilometers north of Gaziantep. In the village, the Dülük Ancient City site has 600,000-year-old ruins. On the walls of the Sarkli Cavern, the first-ever number system was used in the history of mankind. After its invasion in 1,525 B.C. by the Hittite King Hattushili I, Dülük became a military base. It is also believed that Dülük, for a while, was the capital of the Gummuhi Kingdom, one of the late Hittite kingdoms abrogated by the Assyrians. Later on, Assyrians, Persians, Alexander the Great, Selevkoses, Romans, Armenians, the Crusaders and Muslim Turks reigned in Dülük.

Inns of Grand Bazaar
Labyrinth-like streets

You could get into the Grand Bazaar from the small gate located in the Bakircilar (Coppersmiths) Bazaar side. Through labyrinth-like streets you enter Zincirli Inn. Then, take Tacirler Street and later discover Gümüsçüler (Silversmiths) Bazaar. Leave the Grand Bazaar by using Mahmutpasa Gate. Take a look at import goods from China and the East at the Orient Inn, and then pass to Abud Efendi, Büyük Yeni Han (Grand New Inn) and Rüstem Pasa in Tahtakale. You have a chance to taste the Ottoman cuisine in Arslan Restaurant located at Çemberlitas Square, or in Bahar Restaurant at inner garden or in the historical Subasi Restaurant at Nuruosmaniye Gate. You could save the best for traditional Turkish tea, coffee and nargile, the Turkish tobacco water pipe, which is also known as hubble-bubble, at Çorlulu Alipasa Madrasah in Divanyolu.

Phantom village in Fethiye

In southern Turkish town of Fethiye at Mediterranean coast, Karaköy looks like a phantom village. During the population exchange in 1924 between Turks and Greeks, the village completely emptied. When the Greeks returned to Greece, Turks as the new comers of this village did not prefer to settle here. Therefore, you might face surprises in desolate streets and suddenly run across a church or a school. Houses here do not obstruct each other's view and sunlight. Unfortunately, only the outer walls of the houses remain today. Hundreds of houses have ruins of blue walls, cisterns, mosaics. When you climbed to the chapel, the Mediterranean in all its grandeur will be waiting for you.

Islam's Fifth holiest sanctuary

The first mosque built in Anatolia and the Fifth holiest temple of the Islamic World (Harem-i Serif) Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) will welcome you in downtown Diyarbakir. For the last 400 years, the structure was used as a mosque, but was known as the Mar Toma Cathedral, which belonged to Assyrian period until the city was conquered by Islamic armies. At the backside of the mosque, the Zinciriye Madrasah dating back to the 12th century is used as shelter for the poor. Do not forget to stop by Hasan Pasa Inn. You will see famous Dört Ayakli Minare (Four Feet Minaret) after you go through the old Yoghurt Bazaar. The Chaldean Church is one of the two Christian sanctuaries that are still in use today.

Center of culture in ancient times

Situated 45 kilometer southeast of the southeastern Turkish province of Urfa, Harran is the most significant center of the old Mesopotamian idolatry in which the Moon, the Sun and planets are accepted as celestial. Town houses having conic domes are worth a visit. Since the Ancient Age, Harran has been a center of philosophy, religion, astronomy, mathematics and medicine. So, the Harran University stands as the most important ruins of this southeastern town. The Halep (Aleppo) Gate still stands as the only gate of the ramparts. You will see the Çoban Caves 15 kilometers northeast of Harran. The caves presumably belong to the Roman era and they were once the rock tombs. 10 kilometers ahead, a Seljuk hostel (caravansaray), built on the Harran-Baghdad route, will be waiting for you.

March 3, 2007
Turkish Daily News

Turkish Belly Dancing

Turkish Travel Intro

Orhan Veli
I.stanbul'u Dinliyorum

Human & Nature Scenes from Ancient Silk Road . . Roman Anazarbus . . Anavarza

 This content mirrored from http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
The cow that wasn’t
With four days, 1,000 miles, and 6,000 feet in elevation separating us from Istanbul, we parked our battered rental on the side of the road, climbed past a nomadic shepherd’s village and walked out onto a vast plain near the Turk/Armenian border. .

Human and nature scenes from Ardahan, a province in for - Eastern Anatolia.

It was a moment for us to remember; our boots marked with the dust of the ancient Silk Road for the first time in our lives.

The village behind us was a seasonal encampment of stone huts with earthen roofs. The locals claim this village with 40 or so dwellings is over 3,000 years old. With autumn fast approaching, the residents had left this mountainous home with their families and flocks and had headed to lower elevations to weather the winter in more hospitable climes. We had missed them by only a few days.

Back on the road we veered northwest to find lodging in the nearby town of Ardahan, stopping at a local teacher’s hotel. Most Turkish school districts maintain apartment style units to house their large educational staff. These “Ogretmen Evi’s” often rent out available rooms to traveling teachers, and to a lesser extent, to wanderers who pose (pathetically in this case) as writers.

With the season of Ramadan still upon us we waited until the local mosque signaled the end of the day’s fasting before we walked into the “Sükran Sofrasi” for dinner. Being in a much more conservative area than Istanbul, we were careful in how we approached dining out as a family. The cafés we had seen so far had been full of men and boys without a seat to spare.

I entered the “Sükran Sofrasi” alone to see if there was a family salon; the first floor was packed to the rafters with men, without a woman in sight. When the owner saw me and then my family waiting outside, he smiled widely and motioned for us to follow him up and away from the main floor.

We were quickly herded upstairs and past three more crowded floors of “men only” seating, and into the corner of the top story where a large rattan screen had been placed to keep women, or families with accompanying females, sequestered from the larger male clientele. After dinner we stopped at a little market and picked up sodas and snacks for later that evening and then strolled through a large park downtown, before returning to our room.

Hitting the ground early the next morning we discovered that it was market day and found the streets and sidewalks clogged with herds of sheep, goats, produce sellers, dry goods, apricots, dates, pomegranates and heaps of spices resembling conical pyramids of amazing colors and textures.

We are familiar with the daily pazars in Istanbul, but this one had an untamed atmosphere; mountain people with dark, deeply lined faces wearing heavy quilted clothing bartered fiercely with hard faced men with Russian features, animals numbering in the thousands were herded against walls, cars and storefronts awaiting inspection and sale, while gun toting-bandoleer laden shepherds melted out of sight as heavily armed soldiers patrolling the crowd passed by.

As we drove out of town Stanley saw a lone cow standing on the sidewalk that had been tethered to the doorknob of a shop and wanted to take a picture to add to his “cow collection.” Unable to make a u-turn, we bypassed his “bovine photo op” and drove out of town and back into the mountains towards the Georgian border.

Our Turkish visas were due to expire in a few days and we were hoping to combine a visa exit and an exploratory foray into the Republic of Georgia. We wound through 40 miles of mountainous roads to Pasof, a small town on the Turkish side, to check out an infamously difficult border checkpoint.

The guide books warn of corruption, extortion, and worse, on the Georgian side of this crossing and we wanted to get a “feel” for it before making the attempt. After spending some time at the border a few miles beyond Pasof, we saw nothing that worried us and decided to make passage the following day.

We returned to Ardahan in time for the breaking of the fast and headed back to “Sükran Sofrasi” for dinner. This time we found our own way to the women’s enclave on the top floor and ordered spicy ground lamb kebaps, roasted eggplant, chicken simmered in hot peppers, and piles of chickpea sprinkled rice.

Ayran was brought to the table in frosted copper mugs with froth spilling down the sides.
Leaving the café, we headed back to our snack market to restock our soda and munchies cache. The main street that had been so congested that morning was now dark and quiet with only a few lights showing from scattered markets.

We were walking slowly when we were stopped short as a man burst out of a half darkened shop and dropped something heavy into a cardboard box on the sidewalk. Stanley’s eyes grew wide has he recognized the distinctive hide of his cow from that morning…now folded neatly and very flat and absent of its host. A moment later another load was dropped on the sidewalk… this time a pile of bones, still steaming with bovine warmth.

In the time it had taken us to run to the border and back Stanley’s cow had been dispatched completely. Not knowing what to say I began to laugh, and then Stanley rallied, smiled and uttered these now famous words that have endeared the little town of Ardahan to us; “I guess this must be the town of the cow that wasn’t.”

Whether it was a disappearing cow parked on a downtown sidewalk, an exotic bazaar from millennia past, or a sequestered meal high in the loft of a local sofrasi…something had happened to our crew of four; high in the rugged mountains of the Turk frontier we had fallen under the spell of a people and country who were quickly becoming our own.

Stan Steward and his family left sunny Los Angeles to spend the next few years exploring, living with, and learning about the peoples, tribes, and cultures of those who live along the Silk Road of High Asia. They are at heart “Wanderers” posing as writers. They live and base out of Istanbul. Your comments are welcome at SilkRoadNomads@gmail.com



The cow that wasn’t
With four days, 1,000 miles, and 6,000 feet in elevation separating us from Istanbul, we parked our battered rental on the side of the road, climbed past a nomadic shepherd’s village and walked out onto a vast plain near the Turk/Armenian border.

Human and nature scenes from Ardahan, a province in for - Eastern Anatolia.

It was a moment for us to remember; our boots marked with the dust of the ancient Silk Road for the first time in our lives.

The village behind us was a seasonal encampment of stone huts with earthen roofs. The locals claim this village with 40 or so dwellings is over 3,000 years old. With autumn fast approaching, the residents had left this mountainous home with their families and flocks and had headed to lower elevations to weather the winter in more hospitable climes. We had missed them by only a few days.

Back on the road we veered northwest to find lodging in the nearby town of Ardahan, stopping at a local teacher’s hotel. Most Turkish school districts maintain apartment style units to house their large educational staff. These “Ogretmen Evi’s” often rent out available rooms to traveling teachers, and to a lesser extent, to wanderers who pose (pathetically in this case) as writers.

With the season of Ramadan still upon us we waited until the local mosque signaled the end of the day’s fasting before we walked into the “Sükran Sofrasi” for dinner. Being in a much more conservative area than Istanbul, we were careful in how we approached dining out as a family. The cafés we had seen so far had been full of men and boys without a seat to spare.

I entered the “Sükran Sofrasi” alone to see if there was a family salon; the first floor was packed to the rafters with men, without a woman in sight. When the owner saw me and then my family waiting outside, he smiled widely and motioned for us to follow him up and away from the main floor.

We were quickly herded upstairs and past three more crowded floors of “men only” seating, and into the corner of the top story where a large rattan screen had been placed to keep women, or families with accompanying females, sequestered from the larger male clientele. After dinner we stopped at a little market and picked up sodas and snacks for later that evening and then strolled through a large park downtown, before returning to our room.

Hitting the ground early the next morning we discovered that it was market day and found the streets and sidewalks clogged with herds of sheep, goats, produce sellers, dry goods, apricots, dates, pomegranates and heaps of spices resembling conical pyramids of amazing colors and textures.

We are familiar with the daily pazars in Istanbul, but this one had an untamed atmosphere; mountain people with dark, deeply lined faces wearing heavy quilted clothing bartered fiercely with hard faced men with Russian features, animals numbering in the thousands were herded against walls, cars and storefronts awaiting inspection and sale, while gun toting-bandoleer laden shepherds melted out of sight as heavily armed soldiers patrolling the crowd passed by.

As we drove out of town Stanley saw a lone cow standing on the sidewalk that had been tethered to the doorknob of a shop and wanted to take a picture to add to his “cow collection.” Unable to make a u-turn, we bypassed his “bovine photo op” and drove out of town and back into the mountains towards the Georgian border.

Our Turkish visas were due to expire in a few days and we were hoping to combine a visa exit and an exploratory foray into the Republic of Georgia. We wound through 40 miles of mountainous roads to Pasof, a small town on the Turkish side, to check out an infamously difficult border checkpoint.

The guide books warn of corruption, extortion, and worse, on the Georgian side of this crossing and we wanted to get a “feel” for it before making the attempt. After spending some time at the border a few miles beyond Pasof, we saw nothing that worried us and decided to make passage the following day.

We returned to Ardahan in time for the breaking of the fast and headed back to “Sükran Sofrasi” for dinner. This time we found our own way to the women’s enclave on the top floor and ordered spicy ground lamb kebaps, roasted eggplant, chicken simmered in hot peppers, and piles of chickpea sprinkled rice.

Ayran was brought to the table in frosted copper mugs with froth spilling down the sides.
Leaving the café, we headed back to our snack market to restock our soda and munchies cache. The main street that had been so congested that morning was now dark and quiet with only a few lights showing from scattered markets.

We were walking slowly when we were stopped short as a man burst out of a half darkened shop and dropped something heavy into a cardboard box on the sidewalk. Stanley’s eyes grew wide has he recognized the distinctive hide of his cow from that morning…now folded neatly and very flat and absent of its host. A moment later another load was dropped on the sidewalk… this time a pile of bones, still steaming with bovine warmth.

In the time it had taken us to run to the border and back Stanley’s cow had been dispatched completely. Not knowing what to say I began to laugh, and then Stanley rallied, smiled and uttered these now famous words that have endeared the little town of Ardahan to us; “I guess this must be the town of the cow that wasn’t.”

Whether it was a disappearing cow parked on a downtown sidewalk, an exotic bazaar from millennia past, or a sequestered meal high in the loft of a local sofrasi…something had happened to our crew of four; high in the rugged mountains of the Turk frontier we had fallen under the spell of a people and country who were quickly becoming our own.

Stan Steward and his family left sunny Los Angeles to spend the next few years exploring, living with, and learning about the peoples, tribes, and cultures of those who live along the Silk Road of High Asia. They are at heart “Wanderers” posing as writers. They live and base out of Istanbul. Your comments are welcome at SilkRoadNomads@gmail.com


 Anavarza © pix
Off-the-beaten-track Turkey: Anazarbus
These days the part of Turkey immediately to the east of Adana is too built-up and industrialized to attract many sightseers. But just inland lies the cotton-growing Çukurova plain.

This is Yasar Kemal country, birthplace of the prize-winning author, and its fantastical giant thistles and clouds of eagles provided the backdrop for his most famous novel, Memed My Hawk.

To see the Çukurova at its best you need to turn off the highway in search of Roman Anazarbus. For people who prefer to savor historic sites without the tour-group crowds it’s a detour well worth making because you will almost certainly have the ruins to yourself. What’s more, the modern village of Anavarsa is a pretty piece of rural Anatolia, so free of commercial pressures that you will be hard-pressed to drum up a glass of tea. As at Heraklia near Didim, the ruins are wrapped round the modern village like bindweed around roses and every other gatepost turns out to be a piece of marble column dating back to Roman times.

As so often, it helps to know a little local history if you’re to make sense of the ruins. This is a crossroads corner of Turkey which has been traversed by a confusing succession of players. Two thousand years ago it was part of the Roman province of Cilicia, and it was the Romans who founded the hilltop city of Caesarea-ad-Anazarbus. But as their hold on the province weakened, Cilicia split into two. Tarsus became the capital of the western part and never looked back. Caesarea-ad-Anazarbus became the capital of the eastern part and was then grabbed in turn by the Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Armenians and Mamluks of Egypt. Finally, in the 15th century it was virtually abandoned.

As you approach modern Anavarsa you pass through a gate in the ancient city walls. If laid end to end, these would stretch for more than four kilometers which gives you a clue as to how important a place this forgotten site must once have been. A short walk in one direction soon brings you to the remains of the aqueduct that used to supply the city with water. In the other direction you’ll find a small private museum housing pieces of ancient column and a few sarcophagi (stone tombs). Its most treasured exhibit is a mosaic of the Roman nymph Thetis and her dolphin companions. The curator will rush to pour water over it, whereupon its drab colors will shine as vividly as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
Past the museum the most striking relic of old Anazarbus is a triumphal arch built in honor of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (193-211). Scattered nearby are confusing traces of an ancient theatre, stadium and baths, as well as of a later Byzantine church. Keep walking and eventually you will spot Roman tombs cut into the rock. Over the centuries Anazarbus was repeatedly battered by earthquakes; a Biblical inscription in the rockface appears to refer to them.

Then you need to steel yourself for a steep climb up to the hilltop fortress (the ground can be treacherous so check at the museum before setting out) where you will find reminders of an obscure piece of medieval history. From 1080 to 1375 Anazarbus had a second flowering as part of the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia. During those years kings with names like Rupen and Leo were buried inside the fortress and you can still inspect the walls of their church even though its frescoes grow fainter with every passing year.

But the real reward for your exertions is not so much the buildings as the outlook, for the fortress presides over a panoramic view of the Çukurova, with, if you’re lucky, the odd Kemalian eagle freewheeling on the breeze beneath you.

There is nowhere to stay in Anavarza. The best choice of accommodation is in Adana.

This is a site best visited by car. Otherwise public transport will only get you as far as the village of Aysehoca, leaving a 5km walk to Anavarza.

Pat Yale is co-author of Lonely Planet Turkey.


Ani : 21 Monument Ancient City / To Discovery Van

Ani 21 monuments still stand in ancient city
The ruins of the old medieval capital lie near the Turko-Armenian border, close to the village of Ocakli, some 45 kilometers east of Kars. The city is located on a triangular site protected on its eastern side by Arpaçay ravine. Ören Yeri was the first camp site and business center on the Silk Road toward Anatolia. Ören Yeri's history dates back to 5,000 B.C.

Ani is an ancient settlement that dates back to 5,000 B.C. Ani became an important city in A.D. 960 when the Bagratids settled and made it their capital. It became a center for administration, economics, education and religion. Many castles, citadels and city walls were built after 960. Ani was an important destination in the East until 1020. But as a result of natural disasters and human activity there are only 21 monuments left in the ancient city.

The ruins of the old medieval capital lie near the Turko-Armenian border, close to the village of Ocakli, some 45 kilometers east of Kars. The city is located on a triangular site protected on its eastern side by the ravine of the Arpaçay. Ören Yeri was the first camp site and business center on the Silk Road toward Anatolia. Ani received most of its business from there. Ören Yeri's history dates back to 5,000 B.C. in the prehistoric period when it was founded on volcanic caves near the Bostanlar river. Ören's place today is located inside the city wall built in A.D. 4 by the Karsaks who gave the city Kars its name. The walls of Ören were built by Bagratid king Ashhot in 964 In 978 King Smbat II refortified the town with walls and after the Seljuk sultan seized Ani in 1065, Ebul Munechr refortified the walls again between 1064 and 1072. The walls were built with Khorasan material. Built to naturally fit the land, the northern walls had three gateways known as the Lion Gate, the Kars Gate and the Dvin Gate. Towers were built between the walls for support as well as storage. The exterior has motifs of crosses, lion and snake relief's and decorative ceramic tiles. The main gateway is the Lion Gateway, which has two doors. To the east of the gate there is an inscription of a Kufi Islamic proverb evidencing Sultan Alparslan's siege in 1064. The city's glory years reached its end in 1045 when Byzantine armies took over Ani.

Kafkas University History Professor Ali Ipek said Ani experienced it glory years between 960 and 1020 when there were about 1,000 churches in the medieval city. After Sultan Alparslan took control in 1064 he left the administration to the Shaddadids, who built and transformed many churches into mosques. In the 13th century Seddadi's strength declined and the Mongul besieged Ani.

"Alparslan besieged Ani after a long and hard battle. If Ani had not been conquered Istanbul would not have been conquered because the conquering of Ani was marked in history as the first Turkish presence in Anatolia. Once Ani was handed over after a long struggle, the Muslim world celebrated the victory like a holiday. Tactics used to conquer Ani were very similar to that of Prophet Muhammed's during the Taif siege. The plan used to siege Taif castle was the same plan used by Alparslan to besiege Ani citadel. After Ani was conquered, Armenians claimed Alparslan committed genocide," professor Ipek said.

Restoration that began in Ani years ago will continue throughout this year. Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koç expressed his content over the works. In 2007 Ebu Manucehr Mosque and the Pictured Church will be restored. Aside from the towers, there are 21 monuments left in Ani. The first official restoration works were launched in 1965. Kars Museum Director Necmettin Alp said previous works were not done well but with the request of the ministry new works had been launched. Projects will be thoroughly examined before implementation. Excavation works that have been continuing in the city for 16 years were recently handed over to the Museum Directorship, Alip said.

Armenian dynamite blasts damage ruins
Kars Museum Director Necmettin Alp said that in the recent past dynamite used in the Armenian rock mines located across from Ani had damaged the ruins in the city. Ani is located on a volcanic plate and its ground is soft. Every explosion causes serious damages. Cracks were formed in some ruins, walls collapsed and rocks fell. Dynamite blasts stopped after Kars' governor and mayor complained to the Foreign Affairs minister. Efforts were launched to restore the monuments damaged in the explosions. Alp also said that both natural disaster and human activity such as rain snow sleet and flood along with cattle breeding had damaged the ruins. He also highlighted the importance of the tourism gendarmerie in protecting Ani. Ani used to be classified as a high-level military zone, but this classification was changed in 2003, prompting a flow of tourists to the region. Ever year there are about 15,000 tourists who come. In 2006, 5,820 foreigners and 13,690 local tourists visited Ani. The expected tourist number this year is 20,000. According to a legend, the residents of Ani were very wealthy. Those that lived inside the city wall were rich and those outside the city wall were poor. Wealthy families built a church in front of their house so a poor shepherd living outside of the city also wanted his own church. Turning desire into passion, the shepherd worked for seven years and saved enough money to build his own church. The church has survived until recent day and is known as the Shepherd Church, located near Ocakli village.

Settlement in Ani first began between 5,000 and 3,000 B.C. There was a bronze-age settlement there from 3,000 to 2,000 B.C. Afterwards there was a Hurri settlement during the Stone Age from 2000 B.C to 900 B.C.

The Urartu Kingdom settled in the area from 900 B.C until 700 B.C. In 650 B.C. Kimmeri's took control, and from 626 to 149 B.C. the Iskits were in control.

Then between 430 and 646 A.D the city was dominated by Sasanis, until Arabs took control in 646. In 732 the Bagradids took control; in 966 Ani became the capital of King Asshot's kingdom.

In 1045 Byzantines besieged the city. In 1064 Seljuk Sultan Alparslan besieged it. In 1199 Gurcu's took control until 1226 when Harzemshah took power. In 1235 Mongul conquered the city. From 1339-1344 the Ilhanlis took control, and then the Blackkoyunlus assumed power from 1406 to 1467.

From 1467 to 1516 the Akkoyunlu government had power, and from 1516 to 1534 the Afsar Turks had power. Ani became a part of the Ottoman Empire in 1534. In 1878 it was besieged by Russian. The Ottoman's took Ani back in the War of Independence in 1921.

Monuments in Ani
Menucehr Mosque (Ani ruins): It is located in the ancient city. Built by Ebu Süca Manucehr from Seddatogullari Government in 1072, the mosque attracts attention as the first building to have been constructed in Anatolia by the Seljuks. It is among the most splendid Seljuk work in Anatolia with its vivid stones in view of mosaics and rich geometric decorations on its ceiling.
Ebul Muammeral Mosque (Boz Minare, Ani ruins): Located at the center of Ani province, the mosque was constructed by Seddatli Sultan Sahan Sah. The minaret of the devastated mosque has collapsed over to one side.

Keçel Church (Aziz Pirkitch Church, Ani ruins): Located in Ani, the church was constructed by the son of Abugremrizents Daklavini,the grandchild of Gregor, between 1034-1036. It was restored in 1173 by Priest Tridot and a belfry was added to the main building in 1291. The dome was repaired in 1342. Nearly half of the building is in ruins since it was struck by lightning.

Sirli Church (Aziz Gregor Church, Ani ruins): The church was constructed by Tigran upon the request of the minorities of the Seddatli government in 1215. The main structure, which is of high esteem with its adornments on the inner sections of the dome, has fallen apart to a certain extent.
Abughamrent Gregor Church (Ani ruins): Located in Ani ruins, it was constructed by Ani King Gagik XI in honor of Gregor in 998.

Güvercinli Church (Maiden's Church, Ani ruins): The structure thought to have been built in 12th or 13th centuries is perched on a steep rocky area near Arpaçay
Kemserakanli Church (Ani ruins): The church was built in 922 and only a single wall adorned with the motifs of primitive men has remained today.

Meryemana Cathedral (Fethiye Mosque, Ani ruins): The construction of the cathedral begun during the reign of Sembatat II at Ani in 1010 and was completed during Gagik I's reign. After Alpaslan conquered the province of Ani in 1064, the building was used as a mosque for a certain period of time. As it had been damaged by the earthquake in 1319, it was restored by the achitect Tiridot. Today it is among the few structures in Ani that have been well-preserved.

Arak' Eltos Church (Ani ruins): The church was constructed as a patriarchate in 1031. Upon the Seljuk invasion, it was converted into a caravanserai in 1064.

Getting to Ani
Tourism agencies that have tours to Kars usually schedule bus transportation to Ani. People can travel there by land, air or train. According to Kars Museum Director Alp, most people prefer to travel by road. Alp said tourists should to travel to see all of Kars, not just Ani, noting that there was more need for the city's promotion. In 2006, Ani hosted its first prime minister ever with Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit. He examined the restoration projects and pressed for the construction of two lane roads to Ani. The city is 1,131 kilometers from Ankara, 1,480 kilometers from Istanbul, 1,733 kilometers from Izmir and 1,633 kilometers from Antalya.


Van waiting patiently to be discovered
Van, one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in eastern Turkey, is eagerly waiting to be discovered. Besides having Turkey's largest lake, Van is also renowned for its natural wonders and historical legacy, hosting several civilizations that have each left behind a part of itself.

The origins of the city's name remain unclear, but Evliya Celebi, the famous Turkish traveler who lived in the 1600s, wrote that Alexander the Great recorded in his journal that he had named it after a sanctuary called Vank. Other stories claim it was an ancient city that was given the name Shahmerimekerd after the Assyrian Queen Shah Mariam. But during the last half of the Kuyan Empire, a governor named Van had expanded the city and launched beautifying projects. Inhabitants began referring to the city as Van in his honor. Van Castle, a must-see for any visitor, is a fascinating site constructed during the Urartian period. At the top is an amazing view of the lake and the city. It is also a great place to watch the sunrise and sunset.

There is a plethora of other landmarks: famous sites include Horhor cave, Akdamar and Adir islands, the Seven Churches, the Charpanak Church, the tomb of Halime Hatun, Cavustepe, Hosap Castle, Muradiye waterfall, Ganisipi waterfall, the Van museum, currently under renovation, Edremit pier, Husrev Pasha Mosque and the Kaya Celebi Mosque. Other locations include the Gevash and Artos mountains and the Izzettin Sir Mosque, where scenes for the movie `Vizontele' were taken. The list sounds overwhelming, but tourist can see the area in just one week.

Lake Van's islands and their legends
Lake Van's islands must not be left out of any itinerary. There are boat tours to Akdamar, Charpanak, Adir and Kuzu islands, the most popular of which is a 20-minute cruise to Akdamar to view a spectacular Armenian church. Built by King Gagil I Artunsi between 915 and 921, the church is currently under renovation. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to re-open the church as a museum in April 2007.

The island is also a favorite destination for monks, who go there for spiritual retreats due to its seclusion from the outside world. The story of how the island got its name is quite interesting. According to legend, there was a beautiful young girl named Tamara who lived on the island. Tamara fell in love with a young man renowned for his swimming abilities. The two began to meet secretly each night. Tamara would hold a lamp for her sweetheart. But a few monks learned of their secret and began looking for ways to catch the young man. One stormy night, Tamara did not hold a lamp. Monks were notified of the situation so they decided to deceive Tamara's sweetheart by holding their own lamp. When the young man saw the lamp, he assumed it was Tamara and immediately jumped into the lake to swim toward the island. But the storm made the waters turbulent. The young man drowned, crying, `Oh Tamara, oh Tamara.' The island was given the name `Oh Tamara' in honor of their love and has come down to the present day as Akdamar.

Lake Van (aka Van Sea)
Lake Van is the largest lake in Turkey. The-120 kilometer-long lake is sandwiched between the cities of Van and Bitlis, and one city center, six towns and hundred of villages are located on its shore. Inhabitants of Van usually refer to the lake as a sea, which is understandable considering its busy traffic: ferryboat tours between Tatvan and Van, cargo ships and dozens of small fishing boats regularly cross the lake.

The lake is very salty, making it impossible for wooden vessels. Despite its attractions, boaters or jet skiers are rarely seen.

Lake Van monster
The stories of a monster in the lake -- Turkey's version of the Loch Ness Monster -- have gained wide coverage both in Turkey and abroad. The claim prompted an increase in tourism, but shortly afterwards it was discovered that people had made up the story to boost local tourism. Nevertheless, those who still insist there is a Lake Van Monster.

Winter tourism and mountain climbing
Aside from seeing the sights, both historical and natural, tourists can enjoy skiing, mountain climbing, water sports and much more. In anticipation of growing winter tourism, a ski center will be built on Mt. Kurubas in the village of Gurpinar. Van also hosts several unique birds during the summer season, including flamingos and seagulls. Mountain climbers are attracted to the Artos, Suphan, Erek and Tatvan mountains.

Unique fish in Lake Van
A type of fish known as inci kefali (Chalcarburnus tarichi) lives in the lake's extremely salty water. In the past, the fish were being caught before they reproduced, creating serious concerns of extinction. In response, the government established a fishing season that allows an uninterrupted breeding period running from April through June.

The best way to prepare for a great tour is to begin the day with a healthy breakfast, with breakfast cafes on almost every corner in Van. On a typical breakfast table is honey, yogurt, cream and butter, yogurt mixed with cucumbers, herbed cheese, breaded cheese, white cheese, eggs, olives, cucumbers and regional dishes. One of the most popular breakfast cafes is Yusuf Konak Bak Hele Bak. Van has a special herbed cheese, the main ingredient of which is herbs grown in the mountains. Aside from cheese, there is murtugadir, made from flour, butter and eggs. One can sample various dishes at tents set up near Van Castle during the summer.

The Van cat
Aside from its lake, Van's other claim to fame is its cat, which has one amber, one blue eye. These cats are endangered and are currently being protected at the Yuzuncu Yil University Cat House. Locals think these cats create an emotional bond with their owners. Among the most famous of these optically multi-colored felines was Sultan Abdulhamit's Van cat Pamuk.

There is no shortage of transportation or accommodations in Van. Among the preferred accommodations are the Sahmaran Merit, Tamara, Akdamar and Urartu hotels. One foreign company and one domestic company are planning to construct a five-start hotel in the village of Gevas. The Sahmaran Merit Hotel is 15 kilometers from the city center. Most of the other hotels are located in the heart of the city. Prices range from 30 to 120 YTL ($20-80).

Everything you need at Russian Bazaar
Van is famous for its cheap bazaars, particularly the Russian Bazaar, which is actually several bazaars sitting side by side. One can find just about anything, from gifts to clothes to art, and prices are much lower than those in the stores 100 meters away. People also enjoy visiting the Iran and Egypt shopping districts as well as the Japanese Bazaar.

Tourists will not only enjoy the tours and shopping experiences but also the warmth and hospitality of the inhabitants of Van. Visitors will never forget their hospitality and the amazing view of Lake Van. It truly is a magnificent place, isn't it?

Turkish Daily News
Feb 22 2007

Pirin / Perre : Second Cappadocia

 Perre This content mirrored from  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix The ancient city of Perre, or Pirin, located 5 km from the southeastern city of Ad?yaman, is famous for its long history as well as the burial caves and cities built into the hills. In modest Pirin, preparations are under way to transform it into one of the area's most popular tourist attractions, second only to Mount Nemrut, where huge rock statues perch above the mountaintop.

Ad?yaman Governor Halil Is,?k told the Anatolia news agency that excavations conducted in the area since 2001 have uncovered significant findings.

The ancient city of Perre was one of the largest cities of the Commagene Kingdom dating back to 162 B.C. Overall, 222 artifacts discovered during the 2001-2005 excavations were handed over to Ad?yaman Museum, the governor said. "The excavations carried out since 2001 have uncovered historically important findings with promising other findings waiting to be unearthed as the work continues.” Is,?k further noted that the ancient city of Perre is quite important for the tourism of both the province and for Turkey, and he believes that the ancient city will soon be a tourist center with its mosaics and sarcophagi, like the important historical site Mount Nemrut.

Noting that the ancient city of Perre is set to become the second Cappadocia of Turkey because of its stunning landscape and rock tombs that are similar to those of Cappadocia, Is,?k said, “A visual and historical feast awaits tourists here.”

According to Is,?k's figures, around YTL 63 million was spent on the excavation and clean-up work in the ancient city, which features burial crypts, sarcophagi, coins, rings, and other artifacts. The excavation and clean-up work of 26 unearthed tombs and 136 sarcophagi have been completed, while 222 artifacts including 89 coins and 133 artifacts are on display at the Ad?yaman Museum.

Mount Nemrut, Ad?yaman's renowned and popular sightseeing destination, was included in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage List in 1987. The tomb built by King Antiochus Theos of Commagene, along with the huge statues (8-9 meters high) of lions and eagles as well as various Greek and Persian gods such as Hercules, Zeus, Tyche and Apollo at the top of the mount are the city's main attraction.

February 17, 2007
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

The Riches of East Anatolia

An ancient Commagene city, Zeugma is located in the Gaziantep province of southeastern Turkey. Unfortunately much of the ancient city was flooded by the construction of the Birecik dam on the Euphrates River,although not before many of its wonders were rescued and put on display in nearby museums .

What remains of Zeugma is located in the Kavunlu village 10 kilometers away from Nizip district. The city's remains date back to Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times.

Traces dating back to the Paleolithic age surround Zeugma and Samasota that were located on a crucial part of the ancient Euphrates River. Zeugma has witnessed its fair share of glorious days, when retired officers, high-level administrators and Legio IV resided here. Hundreds of artists must have flocked to the city in its heyday and many of its important buildings and villas were all adorned with mosaics and sculptures. However, in 256 B.C. Sasanid King Shapur I burned the city to the ground.

Roman villas were also uncovered, and despite the conflagration that marked the end of Zeugma, their frescos, mosaics and other artifacts remained almost completely intact. Some of the mosaics remaining today depict Zeus, Poseidon, Mars, Dionysus and the battle over Troy. These artifacts can now be found in the Gaziantep Archeology Museum.

Gaziantep is 672 kilometers from Ankara, 1,125 kilometers from Istanbul and 1,105 kilometers from I.zmir.
Tourist Info 342 230 59 69

Mount Nemrut National Park
Stone-faced gods

Mount Nemrut stands in all its grandeur 40 kilometers north of Kahta in the Adiyaman province of Turkey. The Gods of East and West meet here and are represented side-by-side on this 2,150-meter-high mountain.

In the first century B.C. this grand rendezvous was arranged by the king of Commagene, Antiochus, the ruler of a small kingdom wedged between the Roman Empire in the west and the Parthian Empire to the east reigned until 72 B.C. The king resisted Roman rule and announced himself a living god-king. He then combined the gods of east and west in the form of sculptures and giant stone heads and placed them on Mount Nemrut.

The mountaintop is graced with two temple compounds and many beautiful stone sculptures. A conical tumulus rises 50 meters above the temples: it is 150 meters in diameter and is composed of countless fist-sized pieces of white limestone. The tumulus is bounded on the east, west and north by three courts, each hewn from the living rock. The east court contains a large terrace, five colossal statues, a pyramidal fire altar and the remains of several walls. Rock sculptures adorning the eastern walls depict the Persian and Macedonian ancestors of Antiochus.

There are some reliefs on the walls, showing the king with each god separately. There are also statues of lions, alongside the statues of gods, representing the protective power of gods. The lion reliefs on the western courtyard carry some astronomical symbols, illustrating 19 stars on the background and on the body of the lions.

This national park is 96 kilometers northeast of Adiyaman and 60 kilometers from Kahta and can be reached via the Adiyaman-Kahta highway.

Places to visit:
Set in 13,850 hectares, including the Cendere Bridge, Karakus, Hill, Arsameia (Old Kahta), Mount Nemrut was declared a national park in 1988.

Mount Nemrut Tumulus: The entire site lies between the villages of Sincik, Tepehan, Gerger and Eski Kahta, and the area has many different points of interest. Beyond the entrance, the tumulus dates back to the first century BC. Antiochus I constructed a crypt and sacred areas surrounding it on three sides, giving perfect views of the sunrise and sunset, as well as panoramic views spanning hundreds of kilometers. He purposely selected such a high peak in order to gain the maximum impact. Three terraces surround the tumulus: east, west and north. The east and west terraces have a similar layout, both bearing statues of seated gods.

Eastern Terrace: Antiochus put his own statue within a row of gods, including Apollo, son of the leader of the gods; Fortuna, meaning luck or abundance in Latin; Zeus in the center, leader of the gods and ruler of the sky; King Antiochus himself; and Hercules, the symbol of power and might. At each end is a lion, the king of animals symbolizing power in the world; and an eagle, the messenger of gods representing celestial power. Each figure is several meters high; the heads alone are two meters in length. The figures are mainly headless, having been decapitated by earthquakes, and lying rather eerily on the ground are the heads and fragments of the lion and eagle.

Western Terrace: Five sandstone reliefs situated here have been well preserved and depict Antiochus greeting Apollo, Zeus and Hercules. The names of the gods are written in both Greek and Persian, mainly because of Antiochus' claims of descent from Alexander the Great (Greek/Macedonian) and Darius the Great (king of ancient Persia). He positioned the faces of the gods to the west and east, in order to unite the ethnic difference of his ancestors and enhance its cultural richness.

North Terrace: This forms a 10-meter-long ceremonial road that connects west and east terraces and contains an 80-meter-long empty pedestal.

Legends, miracles and the city
Urfa is a city of prophets and legends, tempting one to explain its two monuments, dating back to the Osrhoene Kingdom (132 B.C. and A.D.), through singularly mystical tales.

A city with a 9,000-year-long record of inhabitation, Urfa sits on a plain under open skies, about 80 kilometers east of the River Euphrates.

Religious figures from Adam to Jesus, from Abraham to Job are all thought to have lived here in S,anl?urfa, according to some. When Adam and Eve fell from grace they allegedly lived on the nearby Harran Plain. The Osrhoene Kingdom once reigned here, leaving two notable columns. According to legend, these columns were used to catapult Abraham into fire. Jesus is rumored to have dropped a sacred handkerchief into a well here in S,anl?urfa. Legends rule the city and the entire place feels woven from magic.

The Pool of Sacred Fish, or Halil-ür Rahman Lake, in the city center also has its own mythical significance. Jews, Christians and Muslims alike believe that Abraham spent some time in S,anl?urfa, whose citadel and lake were the scene of his struggle with Nimrod.

There are so many historical places in this southeastern Turkish city. The Rizvaniye and Ulu mosques should top your list. S,anl?urfa is also famous for its historical markets, which include the Kazzaz (Bedesten), Sipahi, Kurkcu, Isotcu, Culcu and Kinaci Bazaars.

Places to visit:
Citadel of Urfa: With its Corinthian columns, this is one of S,anl?urfa's highlights. The 300-mete-long and 80-meter-wide fortress in the foothills of Mount Top is located in the southwest of the city. The locals know the hill as Nimrud Kürsüsü (Nimrod's Pulpit). A 12-meter moat separates the castle from the hinterland.

Mosques and more: The Great Mosque is the oldest in the city. Nurreddin, the ruler of Aleppo in Syria, built it in the 12th century. The Rizvaniye and the Firfirli Mosques – the latter was once the church of the Apostles – are worth a visit. Ayn-i Zeliha Lake and Halil-ür Rahman are other historical sites in the city.

Abraham's caves: There are two caves on the northern side of the Citadel of S,anl?urfa, and one of them, according to Muslim tradition, is where Abraham was born. According to the Old Testament, Abraham stopped at S,anl?urfa on his way from Ur to Canaan.

S,anl?urfa is 1,264 kilometers from Istanbul, 811 kilometers from Ankara and 1,243 kilometers from I.zmir.

Crown of the Plain
The city ends where the Upper Mesopotamia Plain starts. The sun washes these lands during the day and stars light them at night.

The sun has its own cities and Mardin is one of them. The surrounding plain gives one the feeling that Mardin, with its 110-meter-elevation, is suspended in a vacuum and belongs to the sky. The plain is like a dark sea at the night in which Turkish and Syrian villages shine like stars.

The houses in Mardin are masterpieces of masonry, with most made from the local yellow limestone. They are also known for their unique doorknockers.

This city is ancient indeed with ruins dating back to 6500 B.C. The Hurris, Hitites, Assyrians, Persians and Romans have ruled in Mardin, which was a meeting point of civilizations – Turks, Kurds, Syriacs, Arabs, Yazidis, Armenians, Chaldeans… – in short, whatever Northern Mesopotamia had is all here in Mardin, something reflected in the city's monumental artifacts.

Ulu Mosque, the Meryem Ana Church (Church of Mary) and Patriarchate, Mor Yusuf Church (Surp Hovsep), Deyru-z Zafaran Monastery (Mor Hananya), Deyrulumur Monastery (Mor Gabriyel), Mor Yakup Monastery (Nusaybin), Midyat Meryemana Monastery and Mor Dimet Monastery are some of the must-see places in Mardin. Among these, Ulu Mosque is regarded as a symbol of Mardin.

Another reason to visit Mardin is its markets; jewelry stores, the Copper Works Bazaar, Revaki Bazaar and Kayseriye Bazaar to name but a few. Copper, telkari and stone masters rule in these bazaars. Telkari is a famous traditional Turkish silver jewelry handcraft, its name means “wirecraft,” or silver processing more exactly, and the filigree works produced are unique to the Anatolian civilization and its surroundings. Telkari craftsmanship goes back to 3000 B.C. It emerged and evolved in the wealthy lands of Upper Mesopotamia. The silver filigree is shaped into jewelry or decorative ornaments and it too is known as telkari.

Mardin is 1,450 kilometers from Istanbul, 1,430 kilometers from I.zmir and 997 kilometers from Ankara.

Places to visit:
Mardin is on the slope of Mount Mazi and is dotted with stone houses. Its most important structures are its mosques and medreses (Muslim seminaries). The city was once the seat of the Syriac Patriarchate.

Mardin Castle: Constructed by Hamdanis in A.D. 975-976.

Other castles: K?z, Erdemest, An?r, Dara, Rabbat, Dermetian Aznavur, Merdis-Marin.

Zinciriye Medrese: Dated 1385, the structure comprises a rectangular mosque covering a wide area, a tomb and several additional sections, all richly decorated.

Kas?miye Medrese: Its construction started during the reign of Artuklu and was completed during the rule of Akkoyunlu Sultan Kas?m between the years 1487-1502. In terms of its architecture and adornments, it resembles the Zinciriye Mosque.

Deyr Ul Zaferan Monastery: Five kilometers east of Mardin, the monastery was constructed in the fourth century B.C. Deyr ul Zaferan is one of the best known structures in Upper Mesopotamia and the religious center of Syriac Kadim Community.

Virgin Mary Church in Midyat: This can be found in the village of Hah, 40 kilometers east of Midyat, on the Dargeçit road.

Mar Yakup Monastery in Nusaybin: Located to the west of Deyr ül Zaferan Monastery. It is estimated that it was built around the first and second centuries B.C.

Famous dishes in the region are kaburga dolmas? (stuffed ribs), is,kembe dolmas? (stuffed tribe), maldum (eggplant kebab), irok (fried meatballs) and mercimekli köfte (lentil dumplings). Spiced meat is always served with bulgur pilaf. The cuisine of Mardin is very much meat-based.

February 16, 2007

Saving the Bosporus

Oil and gas are indispensable for our life. As such, they’ve become the crucial elements of global politics.

The international community witnessed once again on March 15, 2007 that determination coupled with money and power produces an anticipated result: On that day in Athens, the leaders of Russia, Greece and Bulgaria signed an accord to construct a Transbalkan pipeline. Roughly 300 kilometers long, the pipeline is to connect the ports of Burgas on the Bulgarian cost of the Black Sea and Alexandroupolis on the Aegean Sea in Greece. Its prime aim is to establish a shorter and cheaper way for the Russian crude to reach its lucrative clients in the West instead of passing through the congested Bosporus Straits. “A deep-water port of Alexandroupolis has a potential to host the oil tankers of up to 300,000 tons displacement. This is what the Bosporus can’t give us,” elaborated Semen Vainstock who heads Russia’s Transneft company.

Russia is the mastermind and beneficiary of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis pipeline construction. After more than a decade of relentless effort and protracted negotiation, it has managed to bring the parties involved to the final agreement and secured its signature. The negotiation process went far from smoothly, and the project kept remaining uncertain till very recently.

Just this past February at the Kremlin, apparently annoyed by delays and lack of clarity, President Putin voiced his straightforward opinion, “If the same pipeline is constructed in future through the territories of other countries, both Bulgaria and Greece will lose the opportunity of becoming transit countries in relation to the hydrocarbon deliveries to Europe from Russia and the Caspian region.” Also, Putin mentioned the project as the means to diversify hydrocarbon transit routes to Europe: “We consider the project important and of high priority for consumers of the Russian hydrocarbons in Europe. Regardless, we should get rid of any monopoly in the transit operations. Our partners are in the Caspian region and we are suppliers, while the prime consumers are located in Western Europe.”

It doesn’t need to be mentioned that shortly afterwards the project got on a smooth track to result in an epoch-making three-party agreement signature last week in Athens.

Russia is the largest stakeholder in this 1 million euro pipeline: Its equity participation accounts for 51 percent, while the remaining 49 percent is split between Bulgaria and Greece. When constructed by 2009, the pipeline will become a channel for delivery of Russian crude to the lucrative Western clients bypassing the narrow and traffic-blocked Bosporus Straits.

The Transbalkan pipeline is to have a capacity of 35 million tons with potential expansion of up to 50 million tons, making it equal to the recently commissioned Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline with the only difference that the Burgas-Alexandroupolis route still has to be constructed. Still, if it happens as originally planned in 2009 -- or earlier as President Putin anticipates -- the project will secure Russia an opportunity to transport its crude from the Black Sea to the European, US and Asia Pacific markets through Bulgaria and Greece.

For Russia, the US and Asia Pacific are the dreamed about markets. The very possibility of accessing them makes the Transbalkan construction a venture of highest priority for the Russian authorities and business leaders. When operational, the project will make it possible to deliver Russian oil to Bulgarian Burgas by tankers from Novorossiisk and to further pump it through the pipeline to Alexandroupolis in Greece, and there from to be collected by the high tonnage tankers for delivery to the Western markets.

This project is a long-cherished Russian dream to establish a Russia-controlled southern export route for its crude oil. It’s a means of building a stronger Russian position at the world oil markets, ensuring an additional cash flow from its crude sales and brushing-off Turkish control over the Russian deliveries from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

As of now, by far the largest share of Russian oil exports to the West pass through the heavily overburdened Bosporus Straits. During the past decade alone their traffic load has doubled substantially increasing the accident risk and potential danger for the 15 million people metropolis of Istanbul.

The Bosporus is the world’s busiest strait; it has three times the traffic of the Suez Canal. In 2000 alone, 50,000 large ships passed through the connection between the Black and Mediterranean seas. According to the Turkish naval and maritime authorities, every 10 to 20 minutes 350-meter-long crude tankers of 200,000 tons or more, as well as other big ships carrying liquefied natural gas, chemicals and other hazardous materials pass through the Bosporus.

The Bosporus is also among the most difficult of waterways to navigate: The 35-kilometer strait has 14 abrupt, angular turns. In 1988-1992 alone 155 accidents happened on the Bosporus to earn it a reputation of “the world’s most dangerous strait.”

It is enough to recall the tragic accident that happened in 1994, when the Greek Cypriot tanker Nassia caught fire, its 29 crewmen perished, and the straits remained afire and closed for five days. In another case in 1997, a Norwegian tanker ran aground directly opposite the home of then-Prime Minister Tansu Ciller. No doubt, that heavy traffic endangers the population of Istanbul, which is virtually built on the water. More than 10 million are crowded on the shore, and many of those live very close to the waterway. For the sake of the truth, it needs to be mentioned that the Bosporus navigation and control security has substantially increased during the past five years. It’s largely happened due to installation of the modern and highly sophisticated navigation radar system equipment along the Bosporus coast line. Nevertheless, the risk of an accident still remains.

Besides congestion, another issue of concern remains the Bosporus ecological environment. Heavy traffic on the waterway seriously contributes to water pollution, inflicting by this irreparable damage to the unique underwater world of the Bosporus, its flora and fauna ashore. For the multimillion population of Istanbul, the Bosporus is the prime source for ensuring the city’s ecological balances and remaining a healthy environment for its inhabitants.

Protecting the population of Istanbul from the risks and dangers imposed by heavy traffic on the Bosporus has been a matter of government attention for years. During the past decade certain restrictions and limitations were introduced in regard to the vessels passing through the waterway. But while reducing the risks involved, the measures started to affect the volumes of deliveries through the Bosporus, reducing its attractiveness for transportation.

For security reasons, the tankers exceeding 200 meters in size are allowed to pass through the Bosporus in the day time only, provided the weather and visibility are good. Especially in winter, the tankers have to wait for days and weeks at the Black Sea ports for the weather to clear in order to cross the Bosporus. Experts believe that the inflicted annual loss amounts to $1 billion.

For Turkey alone the Bosporus has been a major and traditional import channel, and ensuring its safety of transportation, while keeping required volumes of delivery -- of energy carriers first of all -- has become an issue of major national attention.

In the middle of the ‘90s Turkey came to understand that the construction of oil and gas pipelines could be a remedy to save the endangered Bosporus, while ensuring an uninterrupted supply of energy resources for its growing economy. Since then, at least two main pipelines of international dimension were successfully constructed and inaugurated: In November 2005 the Blue Stream gas pipeline was formally commissioned and in July 2006 inauguration took place for the BTC oil pipeline. Still, none of them directly benefits the congested Bosporus increasingly used for deliveries of Russian crude from the Russia’s main Black Sea oil terminal of Novorossiisk to the Mediterranean. As such, the recently signed Transbalkan pipeline seems to be the means to directly reveal the Bosporus from a transit traffic burden, but reducing Turkish potential as an energy transit country.

Turkish pipelines lose their economic feasibility

Turkey believes that construction of the Transbalkan makes Russia a strong Turkish competitor in the energy matters in the Mediterranean: Russia has the controlling stake in Burgas-Alexandroupolis. At least such is the pessimistic scenario anticipated by Turkish energy experts. The Russians recognize the project not only as interesting but also highly demanded in terms of energy security. In their opinion, Russia needs to have a multi-option system of oil and gas deliveries in order to possess alternative routes for supply, if an emergency arrives. This is what the Transbalkan project is about, they say. Still, and while being a remedy to save the unique natural integrity of the Bosporus, to ensure security for its population and energy security at large, the Transbalkan pipeline has a good chance to become a major source of bitter competition between Turkey and Russia. Any potential Turkish pipeline to deliver oil to the Turkish Mediterranean coast from the Black Sea will face rivalry from the Transbalkan. A deep-water sea port of Alexandroupolis located in a close proximity to the Western markets is just one of the reasons.

As of now, the most affected becomes the planned Ceyhan-Samsun oil pipeline to connect emerging Turkish oil terminal of Ceyhan with a Black Sea port of Samsun. Until now, Turkey has considered it as an alternative route to crude transportation by tankers through the Bosporus. In light of the ongoing successful cooperation in the field of natural gas, Turkey considered the projected pipeline construction of an interest to Russia as well. Nevertheless, Russian business appeared reluctant to render support to the Samsun-Ceyhan project and decided in favor of the Burgas-Alexandroupolis route construction.

This virtually undermines the overall economic feasibility of the Ceyhan-Samsun project. “If the Burgas-Alexandroupolis project is to happen, I don’t think we’ll need the Samsun-Ceyhan pipeline. It simply loses commercial sense: Its length alone is 700 kilometers; besides, certain technological difficulties exist related to its implementation,” assumes Semen Vainstock, the head of Russia’s Transneft. Construction of the Transbalkan pipeline secures for Russia another exclusive transportation route for its energy resources delivery to the West. By this Russia decreases its dependence on the Bosporus Straits controlled by Turkey. Russia’s increasing concern about its dependence on Turkish transit and Turkey in general are among the reasons for Russia’s reluctance toward the Samsum-Ceyhan pipeline project promoted by Turkey. CThe change experienced in the forces correlation to the Mediterranean energy market is bound to affect the BTC pipeline as well. By April 1, the BTC is expected to reach its operational capacity of 50 million tons per year, and just recently the 100th tanker with Azeri crude aboard left the Turkish oil port of Ceyhan. Among other things, the BTC is awaited to boost an economic development of the Ceyhan seaport: To accommodate the BTC crude deliveries to the region, an oil terminal is planned to be constructed there. Its annual capacity will exceed the largest in Europe oil terminal in Rotterdam. This development is due to transform Ceyhan into a major oil transit center of the region and will be largely beneficial for the economic situation in southern Turkey, creating as a result new jobs and fostering industrial growth there.

Nevertheless, the envisaged construction of the Transbalkan pipeline is bound to make these plans difficult to realize. Ceyhan will not only have to compete with Alexandroupolis in becoming the largest oil terminal in the region but may face problems with the volumes of crude to be dispatched through the BTC as well. “We are ready to start pumping as well the Azeri oil currently passing through the Bosporus from Novorossiisk,” Vainstock announced.

It means that crude presently expected to come from the Azeri and Kazakh oil fields could substantially shrink in volume, if certain amounts are dispatched through the Transbalkan pipeline. For this the economic benefits are apparent, believe Russian authorities. The Burgas-Alexandroupolis route would substantially reduce the transportation time. From now on the tankers will not have to travel around half of Europe, but will just cross the Black Sea. Opinion is also voiced that a submerged pipeline to cross the bottom of the Black Sea will be laid some time in future to make the recently signed project unbeatable. “The necessary technology is available,” confirms Sergei Prikhodko, assistant to President Putin.

Russia and Turkey enjoy a highly productive and mutually beneficial energy cooperation: Turkey relies on Russian natural gas for 65 percent of the natural gas it consumes. Their mutual oil business is not as successful. Russia was always against construction of the BTC, its oil businesses are quite reluctant to get involved in joint projects with Turkey. Still, as an immediate neighbor and energy market Turkey generates for Russia a lot of interest and their cooperation will continue going on and expanding in line with regional economic realities.

Nevertheless, Russia envisages Turkish-Russian bilateral relations in the context of the overall cooperation system in the wider Black Sea area. Russia pursues in the region a multi-lateral cooperation policy to most fully meet its economic interests. Turkey is a good example of this in terms of natural gas cooperation, while Bulgaria and Greece are bound to give as good an example in terms of oil transit. Construction of the Transbalkan pipeline is aimed at ensuring success for Russian oil business interests. In pursuit of it, Russia promotes Bulgarian and Greek advance as the oil transit countries. “At the world energy map two new countries have appeared, Bulgaria and Greece,” assumed Greek Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis when signing the agreement. Both countries will indirectly benefit from Russian expansion at the world oil market, while building their good-neighborly relations with Turkey in the context of new regional realities.

* Maria Beat is an international journalist and writer who specializes in CIS countries. Her email address is mbeat2000@yahoo.com


Istanbul 2010: Creating New Urban Environment Through Arts & Culture

 This content mirrored from  http://armenians-1915.blogspot.com © pix
Since the European Capital of Culture (ECOC) concept was launched by the European Union in 1985 based on a proposal made by the late Greek Culture Minister Melina Mercouri, there have been successes and failures.

Some cities have made the most of the opportunity offered by a year in the limelight and used it to strengthen their cultural institutions and promote a new image of themselves. Others have barely registered as a blip on Europe's cultural radar.

For Istanbul, their 2010 selection represents both an enormous challenge and a unique opportunity. "To mobilize the whole city is like mobilizing a country, because of the size and population," says Esra Nilgün Mirze of the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), who is the deputy chair of Istanbul 2010. "The diversity of this city is its richness. We are going to work with the diversity. There is energy, youth, vigor, expectations and future. All the ingredients are there for a successful project."

As the former capital of three empires -- Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman -- Istanbul already attracts millions of foreign visitors every year. It is a strong foundation to build on. But tourists are not always aware of the rich contemporary culture that Istanbul and Turkey have to offer.

On the domestic front, domestic interest in the arts and cultural events has grown tremendously. The music, film, theater and jazz festivals organized by the IKSV are increasingly popular, as is the Istanbul Biennale, which continues to expand. Major arts exhibitions and new museums, such as the Istanbul Modern, are attracting a lot of public attention. But the potential for further growth, and for taking culture beyond the city center to less privileged parts of Istanbul, remains largely untapped.

Arts and culture can be powerful instruments of social cohesion. What the organizers hope to achieve with Istanbul 2010 is to foster a spirit of common citizenship and convince people to cooperate across social boundaries for a better city. Initiated by 13 civilian organizations working in tandem with the municipality and state institutions, the project immediately set the tone for a new kind of relationship between civil society and the authorities. "We want a new way of governance for Istanbul, which is almost a country onto itself," explains Mirze. "There are all kinds of issues: migration, infrastructure, urban capacity building, cultural integration, ghettos in the periphery. Addressing these issues shaped our bid. It is a bottom-up process."

The Istanbul municipality and governorate provided strong support to the bid. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former Istanbul mayor, has also lent his weight to the project. "In the past, civil society and government have not been on friendly terms. It is a great opportunity to learn to work together, unite for a goal, a better Istanbul," says Mirze.

In 2005, a Cabinet decree formally backed the initiative and provided some financial assistance for the initial bid. The theme of the submission made to the EU focused on Istanbul as a city of four elements. According to the project, the first months of 2010, from Jan. 1 until March 20, will highlight the "Earth" element, focusing on tradition and transformation. Spring will bring "Air" and spirituality, followed by "Water" during the summer months, to make the most of the city's connection to the sea. "Fire" will take over in the last quarter of the year, which will be centered on forging the future.

On Nov. 13, 2006, Istanbul's nomination for 2010 was confirmed. The Istanbul 2010 organizers, under the executive chairmanship of the energetic Nuri Çolakoglu, representing IKSV, are now in the process of transforming the glossy presentation of the city submitted to the EU into a series of concrete events. Egemen Bagis, AK Party deputy for Istanbul, chairs the advisory board. With less than three years to go until January 2010, time is of the essence. Some 70 separate events were mentioned in the bid. They range from Istanbul Inspirations-3 Operas, a compilation of European musical works on Ottoman sultans, to an exhibition of icons and sacred relics in Haghia Irene and also include a walk covering "7000 years in 7000 meters," an exhibition of Istanbul costumes, numerous concerts of classic, rock and jazz music and public gatherings in universities. A "Dem(art)cracy Village" aims to turn geçekondu (shantytown) areas into artistic centers, and bring art to those who live away from the center.

All these projects now need to be re-examined by small teams made up of members of an artistic committee. "We will have groups of three people evaluating the projects. Each group will have several projects to assess," says Ahmet Çakaloz, financial and administrative director of the Istanbul Initiative.

By the end of the summer, the Istanbul team hopes to have a basic catalogue of events and a budget. But there will be no time limit, and new events could still be added until the last minute. A communications committee will ensure that the population is kept informed during the preparations and invited to get involved.

Unlike in Liverpool, where the preparations were handled by a large team of professionals, the Istanbul team expects to limit the number of paid staff and rely instead on the work of volunteers. Four full-time team members currently work in their spacious offices, located in two palatial rooms of a historical building belonging to the Ministry of Culture in Beyoglu's Atlas Pasaji. One employee is on loan from the Istanbul municipality, and one from the governorate. Two are employed directly by the initiative.

The reliance on unpaid work is part of a conscious strategy to nurture a different understanding of urban governance. "We have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to involve as many organizations and volunteers are possible. I believe the level of development of a country is measured by the level of volunteer activity," explains Mirze, deputy chairperson of the Istanbul Initiative. "We want more conscious Istanbulites, who know about their cultural heritage, their past and their future."

For the same reason, Istanbul 2010 does not want to rely exclusively on public funds. Since the Cabinet resolution adopted in 2005 only granted the initiative official status for the bidding process, a law is expected to be submitted to Parliament in the coming months. It will provide a new legal framework for Istanbul 2010, a hybrid organization which brings together nongovernmental organizations, the Istanbul municipality, the governorate, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as universities and individuals. "The law will help secure the financial side of 2010, but we also want companies to approach it with social responsibility and contribute to the social transformation," explains Mirze. "Some have already contacted us. We want to coordinate the sponsorship efforts, and match companies with projects to support. We hope funds will come partly from government sources and partly from non-government and international sponsors."

Istanbul has plenty of arts and culture enthusiasts in Istanbul willing to give their time and hard work to ensure that 2010 makes a real splash. "Many people are sending emails, asking how they could be part of it," says Çakaloz. Being European Capital of Culture is not only an opportunity for the city to raise its international profile as a major cultural center, it is also a chance for Turkey to showcase different aspects of its identity to the European Union and the rest of the world. The Istanbul Initiative hopes to set up joint projects with its sister ECOC cities, Pecs in Hungary and Essen in Germany, in 2010. "We aim to have something sustainable. If we can get funds, we want to create a Young Museum of Art &Design in all three places," says Mirze. "It would have rotating exhibitions for four months in each location." There are also plans for Istanbul to be part of the Cities on the Edge project launched by Liverpool.

Istanbul 2010 should help millions of people living away from the center, particularly the 60 percent of its residents who were not born in the city, to feel more integrated. "Getting the community involved is a main priority," said Çakaloz. "We want to take ECOC to the periphery, to underprivileged areas. We may be involving schools. It could help the democratization of the city: intercultural dialogue through the arts." For all of us living in Istanbul, 2010 is going to be an exciting year, one that will probably be remembered as a turning point in the city's modern history. "It's going to be a year of celebrations and festivities. This will be the visible tip of the iceberg," says Mirze. "But the main thing is the social transformation it will generate and the capacities it will develop to benefit the city in the future."



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