Posts tagged with 'Turkey'

Farewell to Istanbul

By Ross in Travel on Mon 16 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

As I bid farewell to Istanbul, here is one last set of photos.

Istiklal street, Beyoglu.

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The Grand Bazaar.

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All the shiny things are for sale, including nautical antiques.

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Egyptian spice market.

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Fishing from the Galata bridge.

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Galata tower, Beyoglu, from across the Golden Horn.

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Sultan Suleiman mosque, from the other side of the Golden Horn.

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The Halic bridge, the fourth and newest bridge across the Golden Horn. This cable-stayed bridge carries pedestrian traffic as well as a metro line. There is a metro station (usable, but still being completed) in the center of the bridge.

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Street music!

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Taksim Square.

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Nighttime in the alley behind the Downtown Istanbul hostel.

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Heybiliada

By Ross in Travel on Mon 16 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

For my last day in Istanbul, I decided to take a break from Istanbul and visit the Princes' Islands (Adalar). Since they are only about an hour's ferry ride from the city, they are a popular weekend retreat for Istanbul locals, hence the warning from guidebooks and websites alike to not go on the weekend.

To get there, I descended from Taksim square to the Kabatash ferry port via funicular. The funicular has two sets of cars which run in opposite directions up and down a track (it is a single track at the two ends, and a double track in the middle where the upgoing and downgoing cars pass each other). The wheels at the top spin in opposite directions, winding or unwinding a cable to which the cars are attached.

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After getting to Kabatash, I took the ferry to the island of Heybiliada (the second largest of the Princes' Islands). There are no cars on the islands, which contributes greatly to the sense of serentity one feels there (especially after experiencing the crazy driving and traffic in Istanbul!) I walked everywhere, but other options include renting a bicycle and getting a ride in a horse-drawn carraige.

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The majority of the buildings on the island are old, wooden houses, some of which are in better states of repair than others:

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Some of the houses have nice plants and gardens:

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This is a more-or-less typical street on the island:

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I really like this tree growing out of the middle of the street:

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I met some cute kittens in my wanderings:

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Towards mid-afternoon, the weather became threating, with storm clouds looming in the sky, although it never actually rained (at least not where I was).

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I got back to Istanbul just in time to have a nice dinner out with Kaan (the manager of the Downtown Istanbul hostel where I stayed), two of his friends (Okan and Daria), and Ben (one of the other guests at the hostel).

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Military Museum

By Ross in Travel on Sun 15 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

This morning, I woke up early to work my back towards Istanbul. I was able to prearrange the shuttle bus to Kayseri airport, and then it was a one hour plane flight to Sabiha followed by another bus ride to Taksim square. From there, it was a short walk to the military museum, which I decided to visit after reading about Ottoman swords on their website.

The military museum contains an impressive array of weapons and armor, most of which dates from between the 16th and the 20th century. Although the collection focuses on Turkey and the Ottoman Empire, there are a substantial amount of items from the rest of Europe and from America. It is all well-labeled, although some of the English descriptions are nearly incomprehensible. I did not take many pictures, as most of the items are behind glass, but there were a few interesting items out in the open.

Here is the chain which was placed at the entrance of the Golden Horn during the conquest of Istanbul (Tyrion Lannister knows his Ottoman history):

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Here are some of the cannons on display:

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And here is the Sultan's battle tent:

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In the afternoon, there was a concert by the Mehter, allegedly the oldest military band in the world:

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The band is composed of the following instruments:

  • zurna (double reed wind instrument) x 5
  • boru (trumpet) x 5
  • nakkare (kettledrums) x 5
  • davul (drum) x 5
  • zil (cymbals) x 5
  • kos (ruler's drum, not portable) x 1

Most sections have five players. The four on the left (from their perspective) are dressed in black, and the one on the right is dressed in red, which I presume marks him as section leader. This closeup shows the nakkare and zil sections.

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Both melodic instruments have a nasal color, and overall their sound is dominated by percussion (how could it not be, with 16 percussionists!) They also had ten singers, as well as standard-bearers, whose only job, as far as I could tell, was to remain absolutely still during the entire performance.

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Pottery

By Ross in Travel on Sat 14 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

Since I slept poorly last night due to paroxysmal abdominal cramping and woke up this morning with acute gastrointestinal tract hypermobility, I decided against an extended hike. I opted instead to visit nearby town of Avanos, known for its earthenware pottery.

Avanos is a larger town than Goreme, and is easily reachable from Goreme by public bus. Avanos straddles the Kizilirmak river, the longest river in Turkey.

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I opted not to take a river tour in a Venetian-style gondola.

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There are numerous pottery studios in town, most located near the potters' monument (which, interestingly enough, also features weaving).

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Having no idea which one to visit, I entered the first one I came across. After watching a pot-throwing demonstration, the propietor asked if anyone wanted to try. Given that I did some pottery in high school and like getting my hands dirty, I volunteered. I was able to make something vaguely pot-shaped with only minimal assistance (he kicked the wheel for me), but I ended up getting much more than my hands dirty. I spent the next ten or so minutes rinsing clay out of my clothes, which was mostly successful; luckily it was a sunny day and all my clothes are quick-drying.

While I was wandering around with damp clothes, I stumbled upon the pottery studio of Hasan Bircan. 

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We spoke for a while in broken French, as he speaks little English and I speak even less Turkish. His signature style combines brown stoneware clay with an accent of white porcelain, and he gave me a demonstation of a small pot made in this style. He starts with a lump of brown stoneware. Next, he rolls out a few thin cylinders of porcelain and presses them to the outside of the lump. He then throws a pot normally, which, when finished, is completely brown in color. Finally he scrapes the pot gently with a metal scraper, revealing an undulating white line which spirals up and down the work. Here are three unfired pots made in this way (the one is the middle is the one he made while I was there):

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And here is how they look after they are fired:

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Here are a few photos from his shop:

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He encouraged me to take photos of the blackened pots, which are done in a Raku style.

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I expressed my regret that I could not buy anything, but if you are ever in Avanos looking for pottery, I highly recommend you seek out his shop.

I returned to Goreme in the late afternoon, but I was not done with pottery for the day. After washing my clothes to get out the remaining clay, I set out in search of pottery kebab. Pottery kebab is a Cappadocian specialty where the meal (usually involving meat) is cooked in a clay pot. It is brought to your table while still aflame:

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The top portion of the pot is removed with a hammer, and the contents are poured on a plate over rice. It was rather tasty.

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Fairy Chimneys

By Ross in Travel on Fri 13 June 2014. Tags: Turkey

It was about 1600 by the time I reached Cavushin, but rather than start walking back to Goreme, I decided to venture onward in seach of fairy chimneys.

I had to ask for directions several times, and made a few wrong turns, but I finally made it to Pashabagi valley (fairy chimney valley). Unsurprisingly, I took an absurd number of photos:

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I also took a panoramic photo of the entire valley.

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After bidding farewell to the fairy chimneys, I decided it was wise to start walking back towards Goreme. I reached Cavushin right as the public bus was pulling into the bus stop, so I hopped on and was back in Goreme in less than five minutes. Best 3 TL ever spent!