Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's All About the Food

One thing is for sure: we have eaten like royalty every day of our tour!  Breakfast is always at the hotel buffet, where the assortment of hot and cold dishes is mind boggling.  Not to mention the selection of cheeses, olives and nuts!  My favorite breakfasts: the yogurt in Greece and the honey cut straight from the honeycomb in Turkey.  Lunch is a sit-down affair where course upon course is laid before us.  There is hardly room on the table for all of the dishes!  After salads, spreads with bread and appetizers comes the main course.  Dessert at lunch time is nearly always watermelon, or watermelon with another kind of melon.   And tea, of course.  After lunch we, Fulbrighters, continue on our tour, when a siesta is really the more appropriate option.  Dinner has either been with the group or on our own, depending upon the plan for the day.  Cheap doner, or a meal with a fantastic view of the's all available!  Below you can enjoy some of the treats that I savored during my five weeks of travels.

Various stuffed items (dolmas, sarmas)

A salad in Turkey

These spreads and cheese with bread is enough for a meal!

Beef, chicken, Adana kebap

Guvec: meat and vegetables cooked like a stew in these clay pots.  

The top of the pot is removed, and the pot is served!


Melon and watermelon, elegantly served

Melon side view

Thick Turkish yogurt with honey and poppy seeds

"The best gelato in Greece"  in Napflion

Greek spinach pie

From the sea!

One of many, many, many Greek salads

Another delicious chicken dish

All vegetarian meal, prepared by the women at the Women's Center in Ankara

Honeycomb, just waiting for customers to come cut away!

Dunkin Donuts Fan May Be Converted

In Acton, you are either a Dunkin Donuts patron, or you are a Starbucks patron.  True confessions:  I fall into the Dunkin Donuts camp.

But I would be convinced to switch teams if Starbucks Acton had the view that this facility has.  Bebek is a tony neighborhood of Istanbul (on the European side), right on the Bosphorus.  That's the waterway that connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, of course.  We cruised the Bosphorus today, then stopped for a stroll around Bebek.  Not too bad...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cannakale to Istanbul

On Wednesday we left Cannakale, crossed the Dardanelles to the Peninsula of Gallipoli, then continued on to Istanbul (the European side).  Here are some photos. 

The view from my hotel in Cannakale overlooking the Dardanelles; the sun setting behind the Peninsula of Gallipoli.

An Australian/New Zealand cemetery at ANZAC Cove

The dome inside the Blue Mosque

One of the "Elephant Leg" pillars inside the Blue Mosque

A tile on display in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art.  The inscription is the name "God" in Arabic.  This appears in every mosque.  
Doner!  Yum!

The Underground Cistern

The Underground Cistern

The interior of the Hagia Sophia

KT at the "Loge of the Empress."  This is where the Empress would stand, up on the second floor overlooking the crowd.

The Hagia Sophia from the second floor

The streets of the Beyoglu district of Istanbul

The Beyoglu district of Istanbul.  Can you see how many people there are?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Did Someone Say Brad Pitt?

Guess where my travels took me today?  See below:

Who is that, ready for a surprise attack?

Oh!  It's me!  This was the horse at the site of ancient Troy.  Archaeologists are still searching for the original structure from the 13th century B.C.  (ha!)

On the other hand, you can go to the center of Cannakule and see this  5 year old was the one used in the recent movie "Troy."  If you look carefully, you might see Brad Pitt or Orlando Bloom in the background.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How to Not Shop in Turkey

Lesson #1: Don't even stop.

Like many women, I'm attracted to jewelry.  The sparkle of a faceted diamond or ruby from a jewelry shop window has the ability to catch my eye and bring my walking to a screetching halt.  Such was the case this afternoon when my Fulbright friend and I decided to spend our free day here in Kusadasi walking and shopping along the road that parallels the harbor.  The sun was scortching, so the shade under the awning of the shop was as appealing as the jewels themselves.  We were among the shops along the harbor walk, right where the cruise ships dock.
Lesson #2: Don't comment about the merchandise.

One piece in particular caught my eye.  The piece might best be described as a pendant--something that dangles from a simple black cord around the neck.  But the pendant was anything but simple.  It was unique in its design, truly creative and artistic.  The piece was a replica of one of the ceramic pitchers that I had seen dozens of times in Cappadocia.  I believe this style of pitcher was popular during the Ottoman time period.  Essentially the pitcher is constructed with a hole in the center of it, so that a person could pour its contents while the pitcher is slung over his shoulder.  This style ceramic pitcher would make a lovely decoration in any home.  Below is a photo of such a ceramic pitcher.
Can you see how his arm is right through the hole in the middle of the pitcher?  Another such pitcher is on the far end of the table.

The pendant was solid gold, designed like the Ottoman-style pitcther.  "Pouring" out from the spout were precious jewels: diamonds, rubies, sapphires suspended from delicate golden chains.  The piece was approximately the diameter of a U.S. quarter, but three dimensional of course; it was a pitcher, after all!.  The necklace was NOT your run-of-the-mill deep blue Turkish turquoise (where do you think that name came from?!).   This pendant was a stunning piece of art.
Lesson #3:  Never forget that someone from the shop is always standing at the door, ready to begin the negotiation process.

There was Ali.  "Ah!  I see you have chosen a beautiful necklace," he began.  Actually, that's not what he said at all.  I don't have any recollection of what he said, because without warning Ali had slipped into easy conversation with us, drawing us in with his charm.
Lesson #4:  Early into the process (like the second sentence) expect to hear, "Where are you from?"

I still haven't figured out exactly how to answer this question.  During a shopping adventure the other day I was asked if I was from Australia.  At another shop, the owner actually thought I might be from Turkey...until I got past "Merhaba, nasilsiniz."  (In Greece I was never mistaken for a native!)  When asked where I'm from half the time I answer, "The United States." To which the reply is always, "Ah, America!"  (Side note: this was a topic of heated debate on the bus one day.  Why do those of us who live in the U.S. claim to be "Americans" when, in fact there are other countries in the Americas?)  Or I answer, "From Boston, Massachussets."  Today I chose the latter.
Lesson #5: The shop owner will then tell you about 1) his travels to the U.S.; 2) his travels to your city; 3) his friends or relatives who live in your city, or; 4) some random fact he knows about your city.

At IBM sales school, we would call this "establishing rapport."  Ali had recently been in Boston.  He does business in New York and Dubai (at this point he pointed to the sign in the window announcing this fact), and during his last trip to New York he did the 4 1/2 hour drive up to Boston....despite the snow at the time.
Lesson #6: Don't try to be cute and engaging, thereby keeping the conversation going.

"Wow!"  I exclaimed.  "You made great time, especially in the snow."  Before I knew it, the conversation moved east...from Boston back to the gold pitcher in the window.  My friend had been looking at another piece in the window, and for a time Ali's conversation went back and forth between the two of us and the items we were eyeing.  The pitcher was a custom design (of course).  More conversation transpired about the design of the pieces.
Lesson #7:  Be aware of the question that will be the hook to lure you from the street front to the inside of the store.

For us it was an "innocent" remark: "Just pick any piece, and I'll tell you the price."  Of course I was curious about my jewel-flowing golden pitcher.  What the heck, I reasoned.  That item is so far out of my price range it's humorous; I'm just window shopping.
Lesson #8:  The water (or apple tea, or wine, or raki, or any other offered beverage), is really just a way to ensure that the customer spends more time in the shop while negotiations ensue.   The beverage is part of the process and is impossible to refuse.

It was about 100 degrees outside.  I must say that the chilled water tasted refreshing.  But now I was seated across a jewelry case from an attractive, well dressed, eloquent Turkish man who knew how to close a sale.  He had no trouble looking me straight in the eye as he talked.  I found myself wondering how I had ended up in that chair.  The bejewelled pitcher was put around my neck.  The charm was about the size of the Italian medallion that my niece had given to me from her travels to Italy, which I happened to be wearing at the time.  Both charms were suspended by simple black cords.  The gold was warm, the jewels glittered.
Lesson #9: Salesmanship entails solving a customer's problems.  Even jewelry has problems.

The pitcher with its spilling jewels was lovely; I felt like a princess with it around my neck.  But, conveniently enough, the piece's design allows it to be worn as a ring as well as a pendant.  So, if I don't want to wear it around my neck, it can be worn on my hand. " Look," said Ali, as he slipped the ring on my finger.  He actually asked my permission to do so before proceeding.  See how the jewels shimmer as your hand moves?  Very, very elegant.  One of a kind.  Eighteen karat gold.  And the brushed finish can be polished smooth and shiny if that is a look that I preferred.
Lesson #10: It is unlikely that the shop keeper will actually give you a price, even a starting price.

Ali finally asked me, "How much do you think is the price?"  I have absolutely no clue how to value many products.  Like the Turkish rugs that our group was privvy to peruse at a weaving shop the other day.  One small (say, 1 x 2 ft) silk on silk rug was priced at $6,000.  (I didn't buy it.)  But jewelry pricing often comes down to weight of the metal and stones.  I've scoured Tiffany catelogues enough to know that metal alone is one thing when it comes to price; add precious stones and the prices leap off the page.  In response to Ali's question, I was thinking in my mind $10,000.  But I hesitated to say that number.  Instead I said, "A few thousand dollars."  I was still just window shopping, wasn't I?  I wasn't lobbing an opening salvo in a negotiation game.
Lesson #11: A smile and more conversation on the part of the salesman means the game is on.

Ali took my response as a lob.  He grinned and responded, "You are right."  He punched several keys on his hand-held calculator, squinted, tilted his head, and finally wrote a number down on a piece of paper.  $5, 470.  To myself I was somewhat satisfied.  See?  I told myself.  I wasn't so far off.  I really am a smart cookie, especially to have restrained from saying "ten."  But, really.  Like I'm gonna spend five grand on a blob of gold.  I politely told Ali that the piece was lovely, but I really wasn't going to be buying any jewelry.  Ali persisted.  What would it take?  The piece is clearly speaking to me, he said.  It is a unique item that will always remind me of my travels to Turkey.  More water was poured into my glass.  I noticed that the door to the shop was closed, and my Fulbright friend and I were the only people in the store.  Polite shakes of the head were meaningless to Ali.
Lesson #12:  Chipped nail polish doesn't seem to be a clue to a jewelry salesman that his prospect doesn't really have as much money as she appears to have.

I had tried the golden pitcher on as a ring several times.  In fact, Ali placed the ring on my finger; didn't he see my ragged nails?  Remember that manicure I got back in Athens?  Well, I got another manicure in Ankara a week later.  But the standard manicure in Ankara entails just a base coat and one coat of color for polish.  You can imagine how chipped my nails have become in the seven days since getting my hands done.  If I can't afford to keep up my hands, how could I possibly afford that glob of gold?  Ali changed his tactic; instead of waiting for me to name my price, he started lowering his.  $5,000.  I shook my head.  $4,000.  More punching on the calculator.  $3,000.  Such a deal.
Lesson #13: If you do this kind of shopping with a friend, arrange a secret code that means "time to go" between the two of you...before you begin.

When you travel with someone, you really get to know that person.  I've been traveling with this Fulbright crew for 4 weeks now.  We know more about each other than many of us care to.  But we still don't know everything about each other.  For instance, my Fulbright shopping buddy had no idea that I was really starting to get uncomfortable and just wanted to get the heck out of that shop.  I kept looking at her, pleading telepathically, "Save me!"  But she was looking at some pieces Ali had thrown her way.  I seemed to be his big fish; he was reeling in and I was running.  My friend didn't know me well enough to know that this was becoming a game gone seriously awry.
Lesson #14: Even when you lay every last card on the table, the game is not over.

"Look," I finally said, ready to get up and go.  "We are teachers," I explained.  "Think of a teacher's salary.  There is really no way I can pay that kind of money for a necklace.  Yes, we have been traveling for a month, but we are studying with the Fulbright Foundation.  And back home I have 3 children to put through college, and that ring represents 1/10th of a year's tuition."  Whew!  Got that off my chest!  Now I can walk out the door.  No.  Instead, a conversation about college and college tuition ensued.  More water was poured. Then Ali asked me how much money I wanted to spend.  I didn't want to actually purchase a piece of jewelry there!  I was just window shopping!  Ali brought out several rings that hovered in the $300-500 range; before I knew it, several rings were adorning my fingers.  Beautiful.  Unique.  Trinkets to remember Turkey.
Lesson #15: The hardest question to answer is this--"Why?"

Money is a weird thing.  Actually, it's not the money that's weird.  Rather, it's the fact that money has such power over us.  Money influences our behavior, attitudes, sense of self or satisfaction, our world view.  When I walked up to that jewelry shop I was captured by the artistic element of the pitcher necklace.  I marveled at it as I had marveled at the solid gold diadem of King Philip II in the museum in Vergina, Greece three weeks earlier.  But, truly, I had no more interest in actually owning the pitcher as the diadem.  "Why?"  Ali asked.  Why NOT own something beautiful.  I am a beautiful woman.  (Ooops, that last sentence should have been in quotes, because this is what Ali said to me.)  Ali had much to say along these lines.  He had a valid point.  Then the final question:  "What kind of credit card so you have?"  Ali was quite disappointed when I explained that buying a piece of jewelry was not something that I was going to do.  My friend and I moved to the door.  Even that last step across the threshold to the exterior was delayed by a handshake and a piercing look into my eyes.  Ali wanted to see that pitcher walk out the door around my neck much more than I ever did.
East meets west, "window" shopping.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Cappadocia to the Coast

If there's one thing I've learned since the tour portion of my adventure in Turkey began, it's this: background information or "schema" is critical!  These terms may be education jargon, but the idea is probably familiar.  Basically all I'm trying to say is this: when you don't know anything about a concept, it's really challenging to learn the concept when there is little or nothing already there in your brain about the concept to attach the new information to.  (Yes, I know that sentence is long and grammatically incorrect; bring on the Grammar Hammer!)

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we toured parts of "Central Anatolia" that were geologically spectacular, but culturally foreign to me.  The landscape of Cappadocia, formed by volcanic forces and shaped by rain and wind over millenia, is utterly breathtaking.  Taking it all in via balloon is the way to go!  Culturally, this land is identified with the Byzantine era, where Christians took refuge in the caves here, building extensive cities.  Another reason people come to this part of Turkey is to pay homage to Celaleddid Rumi, the mystic philosopher and poet whose followers were organized into the brotherhood called the Mevlevi, or whirling dervishes.  I am only vaguely familiar with Byzantine, Ottoman, and Muslim history, so while I could appreciate the beauty of the landscape, oogle at the architecture of the cave dwellings, or feel the peace of the dervishes as they whirl, I felt as if all other historical and cultural information about this place is still suspended somewhere in Never-never land in my brain, not really connected to anything else.

Add on to that over six hours of driving during each of the last three days in a relatively small bus with 17 other people, and you might start to take some pity on me and my trials in this foreign land.  I mean, I've hardly had time to process any of this new information.  And as a teacher, I know how important it is for students to process, review, manipulate, retell, and analyze what they learn.

I know, I know; it's hard for you to shed a tear for me and my problems here in Turkey!

On Thursday and Friday (July 7 and 8) I felt like I was back on terra firma: ancient civilizations!  An era I am fairly familiar with!  Who knew I'd see my good friends Zeus, Aphrodite, Hermes, Apollo, and all of their relatives here in Turkey?  Well, actually, I knew as much!  After all, the Aegean Sea was not a dividing line between nations in the ancient world.  On the contrary, the Aegean was the bridge, connecting the land east and west.  At certain points during the history of the region, goods and ideas flowed more from west to east.  At other times the flow was in the other direction.  The two sides of the Aegean have many, many similarities, despite the national border that exists between the two land masses today.

Hieropolis was a Hellenistic city, founded in  190 BC by the King of Pergamum.  The chief god of the city was Apollo.  Like Delphi and Didyma, the temple had an oracle.  The source of inspiration was an adjoining spring called the Plutonium, dedicated to Pluto (God of the Underworld).  Confirming the direct link to Hades were the toxic vapors that rose from the earth (carbon monoxide) that killed animals presented by priests there.  Also at the site of the ancient city and necropolis are springs rich in calcium, which still flow today.    As the springs flow over the cliffs the calcium is deposited, creating spectacular visions of snow covered mountains in this desert-like region.



Afrodisias is my new favorite ancient site.  There really are no words to describe this ancient city: spectacular; awe-inspiring; breath-taking; unique.  None of these words do the site justice.  Photos only marginally capture what is there.  The Lonely Planet: Turkey guidebook may actually sum up things about Afrodisias the best.  They boldly state that if Afrodisias were located on the coast (or convenient to get to), the place would be a complete mob scene.  In the 1960s a young Turkish photographer visited the village that sat upon the ancient site of Afrodisias.  He noticed what he thought was Roman material in the area...even pillars coming up from the ground in the town.  Sure enough, the ancient site of Afrodisias lay beneath the soil there.  The village was relocated, and excavation began in 1961.  The site is enormous, although only a fraction of the site has been excavated.  Excavation continues (we saw work being done in several areas!), under the auspices of the Turkish government and NYU.  Afrodisias is the only excavation site where none of the findings have left Turkey.  But the best aspect of touring Afrodisias on Thursday.....we pretty much had the entire landscape to ourselves!  The stadium of Afrodisias measures approximately 270 by 65 meters...humungous!  And while the stadium's capacity is about 30,000, yesterday just 16 Fulbrighters and their guide sat on the marble seats at the end of the oval where gladiator games were staged in the second century A.D.  The experience was remarkable.  I am thrilled to have visited this monumental site at this time.  I imagine so much more to be excavated and recreated in the next 20 years, which is terribly exciting to think about....but with it will come the crowds.  Yesterday was one of the highest high points of my trip thus far.
The Stadium at Afrodisia

The Tetrapylon (Four-way Gate) at Afrodisia

Detail on the Tetrapylon at Afrodisia

Every day I wake up and cannot image that the day's itinerary is any more spectacular than the day before.  But every day I am shocked to find that it is!  Today (Friday) we toured Ephesus.  Apparently Ephesus is a nightmare of a mob scene, due to the cruise ships that dock at Kusadasi (the resort town on the Aegean that is nearby......Kusadasi is our "homebase" for four days while exploring this region).  But we totally lucked out today!  Only one cruise ship docked this morning, and I'm not sure that crowd made it to Ephesus.  So, relatively speaking, we had the place to ourselves!  It has been a thrill for me to walk the streets and agoras of every ancient city that I've come across.  But there was something extra-special about Ephesus, knowing that the apostle Paul walked these streets as well.  But as far as sixth graders are concerned, perhaps the most interesting part of Ephesus is the public latrines.  Yes, the toilets.  This large rectangular structure was really more of an ancient men's club, where the "real" business of the city was conducted.  Has much changed in 2,000 years?  The latrine is lined on three sides by a long slab of marble with seats carved for the business of the latrine (I know you know what I mean...), and a channel on the floor, the length of the seats, served to deliver fresh water through the building, with which the men could clean themselves.  In the middle of the latrine was something aking to a courtyard, where plants and other decorum beautified the building.  The seats of the latrines were nice and cool in the summer.  But in the winter?  Well, the rich men sent their slaves in to warm the seats before they would bare their backsides on such cold stone!
The Library at Ephesus

The even MORE interesting Latrines at Ephesus

KT just sitting on a random capital, one of many littering the landscape of Ephesus

More ancient sites tomorrow.  I wonder what Miletus and Didyma have in store for me!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Turkish Ceramics

Say "Turkey" and two things instantly come to mind: 1) Turkish baths, and 2) Turkish rugs.  

I have not yet been to the hamam, but I plan to do so.  The coffee treatment and full body massage sound particularly appealing.

I have not yet bought a Turkish rug, and I wonder if I'll get caught up in the moment at the Grand Bazaar in Instanbul.  The colors and patterns are intoxicating!

But I have bought some Turkish ceramics.  Like the rugs, that seem to be everywhere, the ceramics are visually captivating.  We visited a ceramics maker in Cappadocia, where we dove into a sea of bowls, plates, vases decorated in vibrant and glistening reds, blues, greens, yellows.  Here are just a few of the plates that decorated the back room where a potter gave us a kick wheel demonstration.  (It brought back nightmares of trying to center a slab of clay on the pottery wheel at Westlake School in 7th grade.)

Guess which pattern I picked?  You'll have to be our guest back in Acton to find out!