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May 24th 2016
Published: June 1st 2016
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A sweet hello as we pass by his restaurant
Why travel to Turkey in these unsettling times you might ask. To answer, lets back up a bit to 2013 when our youngest, Jessica, feels the pull to add Turkish to her list of language proficiencies. In short, she studies 2 years and receives a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Turkey’s capitol city, Ankara. Being both a dedicated mom and a hopeless wanderer, this is just the reason I need to overcome any trepidation and dive in to explore this interesting and oh so important part of our world. Over the course of 2 visits, including stops in Istanbul, Ankara, and Cappadocia, I have seen the palace of sultans, breathtaking Islamic mosques and byzantine cathedrals, secret caves that housed and served as church for persecuted 6thcentury Christians, perfectly preserved cuniform writing carved over 3,000 years ago, and fairyland vistas enveloped in colorful hot air balloons. I have bargained with carpet touts, drank my first intoxicating raki, been scrubbed raw with coffee grounds in a hauntingly beautiful hamam, crossed the Bosphorous in a ferry with the local Istanbul commuters, bobbed in and out of scenic valleys in a balloon, prepared Turkish foods in the cave home of a local Turk, and
Dancing in historyDancing in historyDancing in history

The Aya Sophia and her 1500 year old stones set the stage for Kirsten's leap of joy
watched more than my fair share of sunsets over sites of history that make the mind wander and the heart yearn for more. And these are just the tip of the iceberg of experiences that await the traveler intrepid enough to explore this crossroad between Europe and Asia. There are so many more regions in this country that I would love to explore - Trabzon, Pamukkale, Izmir, and Ephesus just to name a few. Alas, there are always more travels to be experienced and it seems that one trip always is the tinder for embarking on yet another.

With my dangerously limited experiences in this wonderland of Turkey, I’ve learned just a few important things to note about this place and the charming people who call it home. In no particular order and certainly not all inclusive:

· Turkish tea: As ubiquitous as kimchi in Korea. Not only is it a sign of welcome and hospitality, it smooths over all sorts of problems and differences and provides a sense of comfort in its commonality at all sorts of locations and venues.

· Innocence: The Turkey I experienced is one where children are joyful, twenty somethings a bit
150 Balloons150 Balloons150 Balloons

Simply breathtaking views and unbridled joy
less sophisticated (in a good way), and the elderly warmly greet and engage with foreigners. As for those in the workin ‘years…

· Men: They work hard when young, but somewhere around 50 give it all up in favor of sitting around streetside and talking. Then there’s the

· Women: Hardworking. Fixated on cleanliness for their home. Do basically everything and never rest.

· History: We’re talkin’ Mesopotamia history here – as in cradle of civilization! Mostly though the historical artifacts and places I visited started with the Hittites around 1800 BC and moved through the Romans (500BC-500AD), Byzantines, Islamists, crusaders, and Ottomans. Whew! Makes for interesting artifacts and even more interesting explorations of remains.

· Christians, Muslims, and conquerors: All have left their mark on Turkey. How did I not know that in the 20’s there was a big switch of populations? All Turkish Christians forced to move to Greece and all Greek Muslims to Turkey. North Korea/South Korea, Palestine/Israel, native Americans/settlers and more – how our world still suffers from forced living arrangements of the past.

· Food favorites: Dondurma (chewy goats milk ice cream), Kaymak (the cream of the cream), Taprak (stuffed
Photo bombing the solemnityPhoto bombing the solemnityPhoto bombing the solemnity

As we respectfully wait in line to enter the Blue Mosque
grape leaves), lentil soup, testi kebap (stew cooked in a small ceramic pot), baklava, hazelnuts (best in world!), goat milk cheeses, and so much more….

· Here’s an interesting one: scores of simit (big pretzels) and corn vendors dot the tourist areas around Istanbul. According to locals, these are actually jandarma in disguise. I wondered how they could ever sell so many ears of corn!

The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. So here I'll switch gears and invite you to trot along with me through my Turkish journeys through pictures and captions. Afiyet Olsun - may it be good for you!

Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 24


A walk to breakfastA walk to breakfast
A walk to breakfast

Down the steps and to the right a traditional Anatolian organic breakfast awaits us, served up by charming local ladies. The spread includes cheeses, yogurts, traditional honey comb, fresh eggs (laid that day!), olives, warm breads, fresh vegies, homemade jams, and of course, Turkish tea and coffee!!
Marriage certificate, 19th century BC!!!Marriage certificate, 19th century BC!!!
Marriage certificate, 19th century BC!!!

Marriage contract between Idi-Adad and Anana stating that Idi-Adad cannot take another wife. If he does and divorces her, he must pay 5 minas of silver. How about that! Sort of like the original pre-nuptial agreement, nearly 4,000 years ago!!
Sunset over AnkaraSunset over Ankara
Sunset over Ankara

Jeff, Kirsten, and I clambored up to this vista hilltop with a citadel offering amazing views and romantic sunsets.
Kocatepe CamiiKocatepe Camii
Kocatepe Camii

Though this Ankara mosque is expansive, inside it is serene and filled with positive energy. One of Jessie's favorite places to visit in Ankara.
Cruisin' Ankara streetsCruisin' Ankara streets
Cruisin' Ankara streets

Typical street in the capitol of Turkey. There are always flags and pictures of Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
Turkish delightTurkish delight
Turkish delight

This emblematic food is ubiquitous in every region I visited. In fact, on Turkish Airlines, the attendants pass out a particularly delicious Turkish delight to all passengers as a welcome treat. Can be all flavors, including chocolate, and often contains nuts.
Jessie's placeJessie's place
Jessie's place

A short metro ride from the main area of Ankara, Jessie shares an apartment with 2 other Fulbrighters in the community of Emek. They have a narrow balcony high up with a view and in close earshot of the local minaret with the 5x daily call to prayer.

In a low sing-song voice, these peddlers of a fresh sesame coated type of bagel call out their commodity: "Siiiiiiimmmmiit"
Aya SofyaAya Sofya
Aya Sofya

This church/mosque/museum, built in the 500's, inspired us to drop our jaws and hum and skip while touring it's cavernous interior.
Into the naveInto the nave
Into the nave

Beautiful lighting and sunlight streaming in, reflecting off the stone floors and highlighting the mosaics and medallions create an awe inspiring ambiance. We call this "the gravy of Istanbul".
Where saints and sinners have trodWhere saints and sinners have trod
Where saints and sinners have trod

If only the smooth worn stone floor at the entrance could tell the tales of the Byzantines, Ottomans, and crusaders - not to mention the lucky tourists who have explored her halls since becoming a museum.
Jesus and AllahJesus and Allah
Jesus and Allah

Where else are Christian and Islamic emblems so beautifully sharing peaceful space side by side?
A memory togetherA memory together
A memory together

Jessie and I were fortunate enough to visit the Aya Sofya twice - once with Matt and next with Kirsten and Jeff.
Inside the Blue MosqueInside the Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque

Famous for its tens of thousands of blue tiles adorning the interior, for me its the huge sunlit central prayer area that leaves the lasting impression.

6th June 2016
Rose Valley of Cappadocia

Cappadocia - haven't been there in a long time
I visited Cappadocia about 20 years ago and I absolutely loved it. I was very fascinated by the underground cities. One day I will hopefully go back there again. /Ake

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