Touring Turkey: A Delightful Culture 12,000 Years in the Making

From September 11 through 22, 2013, my wife and I toured western Turkey. This nation of ancient roots where Europe meets Asia, elected republican government melds with Islamic religiosity, and the fruits of capitalism and modern technology brush up against the ruins and ghosts of numerous ancient cultures, has long held a fascination for both of us.

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Before we met our official tour guide, we had a day and night to ourselves in Istanbul. The pious city of 14 million souls was shockingly quiet at night (and, despite traffic, even by day), although a nightlife does exist there, and we were awakened before dawn by the mosques’ mellifluous calls to prayer.

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We were surprised and delighted to discover that, for some reason, the Turks are madly in love with cats, which are allowed to roam wild but are clearly well-fed. (They don’t share the same cultural affection for dogs, sadly.)

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The view from within the famed Blue Mosque. It was an architectural as well as spiritual wonder of its day, and still inspires awe.

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The Day of the Fish is upon us! We just had to shoot this sign in a restaurant next door to the Lâle Restaurant (Pudding Shop) of 1960s and early 1970s hippy tour fame. The fish was, in fact, delicious.

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After taking the ferry across the Dardanelles, we investigated the historic site of Homer’s Troy. It consists of nine different archaeological levels, and in its midst is a Grecian marble altar probably erected by Alexander the Great.

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Next door, Canakkale has a teeming nightlife and a contemporary European or even North American feel to it.

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Here we stand in the ruins of the Asclepion, where Galen, the father of modern medicine, healed and taught.

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There’s nothing like national pride! This Turkish national symbol is embedded in a hillside just outside the Asclepion.

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A cat watches over the ruins of the legendary Library of Celsus, in Izmir. (Formerly in the biblically famous city of Ephesus.)

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Wending our way through the mountains on the way to Pamukkale, we stopped to eat at a fantastic open air restaurant where a chicken is the maître d’hôtel. (She’s really only so bold because she’s a supplier of eggs.)

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Salt coats the ground like snow atop the Pamukkale Hot Springs.

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In Cappadocia one lovely evening, we entered a caravanserai (which means “Palace of the Caravans”) to experience…

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…the famed Whirling Dervishes. They dance a celestial dance as planets themselves (except for their leader, the “man in black,” who is the Cosmic Void or perhaps even a Black Hole, unseen here), and despite its deep poetry it’s a religious ritual, not an artistic performance.

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In Cappadocia, the only way to fly is to soar up, up, and away in a beautiful balloon.

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The impossibly strange fairy chimneys of Cappadocia are all-natural formations, but some people have bored homes out of them.

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“Sailing home” on the Bosphorous.

All photos are courtesy of the author.

Touring Turkey: A Delightful Culture 12,000 Years in the Making

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