Monday, June 30, 2008

Poem: Moslems vs. Nazarenes vs. Pagans

Moslem shepherds steal ınto the strange caves wıth paintıngs
And scratch the eyes out and throw stones at the heads
of figures on the frescoes.

The Crusades.

The Christians charge in
And carve crosses into the foreheads
Of fallen statues in the Roman ruins

Like somehow that will make up for
Whatever they did or didn't belıeve

A lot of us don't belıeve this
But they were all people just like you and me.
And ın some strange way
They were just all tryıng to save each other.

Pıgeon Valley ın the Goreme

click to zoom in on Pigeon Valley

Our last trip in the Goreme was to Pigeon Valley. The views were incredible, and the shops pathetic. I mention the shops, because this was perhaps the one time our driver stopped by a site where he might have been im cahoots with the merchants. We were, as always, stalwart ın our defenses against The Merch. The offerings were the usual, and as always iın Turkey, they were not overly aggressive. We came for the views and that's all we took away with us. Selah.

İt was a great road trıp, but in retrospect, having had a car a few days ın Selcuk and Efes, we're pretty good at operating our own tours. But our driver dıd cap it off by giving us a watermelon feast iın a meadow across from the caravanserai.

click to enlarge

Our driver was a good guy, and we all liked hıs grandson Abdullah... Anyhow, I am still a litle out of order here. . .İ have yet to write about our day ın Ankara, the plane flight to Selcuk, or even the really fascinatıng bus rıde from Ankara (thumbs up to Turkish Aır!). And I stıll need to write about Ephesus. And my essay on Turkish cuisine. And our Pensione owner ın Goreme. And, after today, our visit to St. John The Baptist's basilica, and Ephesus, of course, not to mention the fantastic Ephesus Museum.

Colum, our driver, Abdullah, and Del - click to enlarge

We didn't learn much about this valley, but there are hundreds of dwellings carved from the tufa hillsides, as well as a lot of stone and masonry houses constructed as infill (real estate name drop).

Ephesus: my favorite ruins of all time

The Theatre at Ephesus - clıck to enlarge
İ'll write about this more, when I get 'net access and some free time again,m but Ephesus ıs by far the most impressive ruins I have ever seen ın Europe or Asıa. Here ıs one quick photograph of the theatre. It held 25,000 people. It stıll does. We were hoping to be able to catch a performance there (can you ımagine how cool ıt would be to see a play a play by Sophocles Aeschylus there?).

A vısıt to a Caravanseari

The gate to Hoca Meset Caravanserai

Yesterday (or maybe the day before?...we've since been to Ankara and Ephesus...dıd ıt even really happen iıf I couldn't get wiıred up to write about ıt?) we vısıted The Hoca Meset Caravanseri ın the Goreme. Caravanseris were a sort of hotel/way station for camel caravans that brought goods back and forth along the Aksaray Layseri highway. It had numerous spacious stalls, both open and closed, for use in the summer and winter. There were rooms for camels and rooms for the men. As hot as it is here (ın the 90's), it is hard to believe there is ever really a winter...but there is, and it gets cold...similar to the extremes of clımate in the eastern part of Washington State, or the middle-west. Interestingly, as we took the bus here, when the mountains receded iınto the distance, the landscape very closely resembled the rolling plains of the midwest, say like Iowa or Kansas. But just when I thought that more mountains would appear, or once, a gigantıc salt lake (or possibly an inland sea).

The Caravanseris looked very castle-like, and had domes, and elaborately carved gates, as well as to turrets. Although we were told they were just basic stopping places for camel trains, they were defınitely spiffıer than, say, your usual Motel 6.

Although people told us there was no was no defensive purpose to the Caravanserai, ıt was so heavıly fortıfıed that ıs very hard to belıeve. By now I know that iıt would be on a hiıll ıf they expected much trouble, I am stıll dubıous that it was all peace-love dove there. There had to be a least a touch of violence ın Pepperland, or at the very least some clan warfare and skirmıshes, and possibly some raids and thievery. It wasn't fortified for nothing.

Sleeping chambers off a central courtyard

This particular Caravanserai was built in 1231. None of the many tours people go on stop here because there isn't a lot of merch for sale (of which the tour operators usually get a cut...the reason we don't use guides of tours), or even a restaurant or anywhere to even get a chai or Turka Cola.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Selime Monastery and the İlhara Gorge

OK....the internet here in our hotel is sketchy to say the least, complıcated by the Turkish keyboard, whıch ıs dıfferent enough that it took me half an hour to figure out whıch keys to hit to log in...

The İlhara Gorge
The Ilhara Gorge - The family hiked with our young friend Abdullah through the Ilhara gorge. My knee was killing me (since in remission...I thınk I torqued it ın that run of eıght mıle walkıng days up and down the steep steps and hılls of Istanbul...ıt seems good for more abuse now), so I waited for them at the end, where I wrote a poem (see:, drew two pictures, and drank three glasses of chai.
Claıre and Jack drinkıng chai on the creek at the end of the gorge
Inside the sanctuary

We also vısıted another church in the hills,(The Selime monastery). Yes, another cave church, but this was the most elaborate and complex of any we visited in Gorem (and we visited at least six or seven). The church itself was far more archıtectural and elaborate that the cruder ones we'd see hacked out of tufa ın the Underground City. The sanctuary was a very tall barrel vaulted structure with two domed apses on a T ın the front. The frescoes were again paınted by schooled artists, and the overall finish seemed to indicate that the people who buılt this ıntended ıt to be more permanent.

The outside of the Monastery

Claire and Abdullah ın a room ın a cave ın the monastery

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The underground city

--as usual, click all photos to enlarge--

In one of the cave kitchens, four floors beneath the earth

We went on a long tour today, hitting at least five interesting geological, historical, and religious sites. The first stop was the underground city, an enormous cave of interconnecting rooms, four stories of which are open to the public for exploration and to give us all a serious case of the willies. It was fascinating. And spooky. The underground city reaches down nine stories into the earth...a puzzling labyrinth with hundreds of tunnels connecting rooms on each level. Each floor contained dwellings and various public rooms, churches, wineries, cooking caves, and stairways leading up or down to the next level.

A room three stories down -click to enlarge

A ventilator shaft that goes down nine stories

The entire time I was in the cave, I was a little nervous about earthquakes, the possibility of an entire busload of tourists panicking and heading for the exits (the tunnels and staircases are rarely wider than two and a half feet). And then, what if the lights went out?! Without a torch, could you ever possibly escape? Well, as you see, I was a nervous nellie, because we made it out after an hour...

a staircase leading down to the next floor

More tomorrow-- my travelling partners, aka family, promise to pull up their slack and write about some of the other sites we saw and adventures we had today (like an amazing cave church in a remote mountain; a hike along the gorge, and a visit to a caravansary. Tomorrow morning, we travel via bus to Ankara (the capitol) for one night, and then fly off to I forget where for the next leg of the trip. In closing let me say that one thing I've learned on this trip is the enormous difference between a vacation and travelling...I have yet to put my feet up and read the weighty Melville tome I brought along. That will happen later in the trip. I hope!

Jack with a bouquet of wildflowers and poppies he picked for Keelin at a crater lake

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jack's version of a ceramic mosque tile

click the tile to enlarge...

Poem in Göreme

A breeze carries
The scent of horses
Along the creek

A band of swallows
Spins a circle
Fifty meters toward heaven

The creek alongside me
Carries raindrops, tears, and snow
That may once have landed

In Johannesberg, Soho
Bucerias, Constantinople,
Athens, Ketchikan, or Saskatoon.

Six ducks, looking exactly like
Their American brethren
Wait for handouts of bread

From the waiters
As each table of German, French,
And Japanese tourists

File out, refueled and ready
To restock the tour buses
And move on to the next stop.

Göreme, Turkey, June 27, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A restorative Hot Springs visit in the mountains

Tomorrow, were doing something we've never done in our travels. We're taking a tour. Or rather, we're hiring a van and driver to take us on a 200 kilometer tour of some outlying areas. When Keelin--savvy negotiator she is balked at the price, our friendly local scooter renter (who we also spent the night with watching the Turkey v Germany match) offered to take us at nine o'clock tonight to a hot springs. Of course we jumped at the chance. If you've read All This Is That long, you know I am a hot water aficionado and this would be an awesome chance to soak in the geothermal waters of Turkey. Of course there are hot springs here--there have to be if you have seen the utter devastation the three volcanoes wrought as they exploded and created the fantastic tufa towers of the Goreme.

The springs were about 25 Km. and a somewhat harrowing van ride away. We passed dozens of slow moving trucks crawling up the mountain pass, and finally hit a reasonably smooth dirt and gravel road. When we arrived the place looked closed. It was. But they gladly opened it for us (opening it consisted largely of taking some Lira from us). The facility was extremely rustic in the best sense of the word.

The hot springs were piped into an Olympic sized pool, and the water was perfect, although cooler than I keep my my own backyard hot springs. It was about 100 degrees. At one end a chute funneled in water at about 130 degrees. Naturally I spent most of my time at that end of the pool. We got them to turn off the lights and we could see billions of stars--even more than you see in the heart of Montana. With zero light pollution, dark skies rule the day. You could see the stars so clearly that in spots they looked like a picture of the Milky Way, with dense star formations that almost looked like fog or clouds. We could also see satellites and shooting stars and more constellations than I have ever seen in my life. We soaked, talked, star gazed and swam for about an hour and a half.

The water was perfect, and unlike most hot springs, there was almost no sulphur smell at all. The highly mineralized (I'm pretty dubious this is actually a word) water felt great on the skin, and extremely soothing on our weary limbs after another day of tromping up and down hills in the mid-day sun.

Cappadocia's Goreme Open Air Museum, Churches, and Troglodyte dwellings

A fresco of Jesus in the black church - click to enlarge

A tufa tower with many dwellings. I could not figure out how they got to the higher caves. A local said there hand and footholds and the inhabitants climbed to their homes.

The most famous sight--and justifiably so--in Turkey's Cappadocia region are the thousands of cave dwellings and at least 400 churches built into rock caves. I won't go into the history of the Saints or the story of how Christianity took a foothold here, but it is a fascinating and moving story, particularly since Turkey is now virtually 100% Moslem.

The famous open air museum at Goreme is only about a mile walk from town. It's the second open air museum I've visited (the first was the Desert Museum in Tucscon, AZ). There were a lot of German and Japanese tour groups (including some amusing ones, like a Japanese tour group that all wore matching canvas vests). But we were mostly able to shoot ahead of them, skip some churches and dwellings and circle back later.

The caves are all pretty cool, but most amazing are the painted cave-churches. Medieval orthodox Christian monks (1000-1200 AD) carved the caves from the soft volcanic tufa and decorated them with elaborate Byzantine frescoes that were clearly painted by skilled artists. Some dwellings and churches did have outsider sort of art painted by troglodytes (a/ka/ cave dwellers), but almost all of that art was decorative and you see in Mosques.

The troglodyte habitations in Cappadocia were probably occupied since Hittite times, but Göreme is best known for these 1000 year-old churches.

Most of the frescoes in the churches have been pretty compromised—by wind, water, weather, earthquakes, and (I learned later tonight from a local friend) shepherd boys who used the faces of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the disciples figures as rock targets. These shepherds had been taught that images in church (even infidel churches) were sinful. Despite all of that, most of theart has survived...even many faces.

The best frescoes are in the Karanlik Kilise (Dark Church), where most of the paintings have been restored (and where I could not take pictures due to restrictions on flash). I think I mentioned earlier that some of the rock towers and dwellings were shot as backgrounds in the first Star War movie. It really is another world something from Mars. Or Star Wars.

Interior of a typical cave dwelling (at least typical o the ones we saw)

Tufa Towers

Frescoes in the dome of a church

Keelin and Del on the steps of a cave church

An explanation of the nunnery

A painting on the rib of a dome

A damaged fresco of Jesus--o0o---

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Germany 3, Turkey 2

OK. We lost. Don't you like the way I use we after residing here only a week? It was great. And I was really impressed with how they took the loss. The room once again chanted

Türkiye ya!
Türkiye ya!
Türkiye ya!

I'll put up some pictures from the gathering tomorrow. I had to deal with a couple hours of work things after the game, and want to part company with my trusty laptop for the night.


2:00 AM, in Cappadocia, Turkey, where there are no streetlights, or any sounds at all, and the thousands of stars across the sky look like a photograph of the Milky Way. Goodnight!

Some first glimpses of Cappadocia

Click images to enlarge. I'll write more tomorrow. Wow.


Futbol! Tonight in Cappadocia, we will be watching Turkey vs. Germany in the Euro League Championship

Click to enlarge the Brummet youth on the rocks

After a great & restorative dinner and some wine at our pensione, we are walking to the village to watch the Euro League Championship...Turkey vs.; Germany.

Istanbul's Efes Pilsen One Love Festival,with Gogol Bordello by Del and Claire Brummet

Story By Del Brummet
All This Is That Contributing Music Reporter

Photographs by Claire Brummet
All This Is That Contributing Photographer

The Efes Pilsen One Love Festival was basically a small version of Seattle's Bumbershoot. Tons of hip 18-30 year 0lds were there plus, cool younger kids and older people grasping a hip life style. Keelin, our mom, was the first to become aware of this festival, and she was the one to get me and my sister to go, despite the fact that we thought it would cost 50 Turkish Lira. The bands to play at the festival were Shantel, Miss Platinum, Baba Zula, Kolektif Istanbul, and GOGOL BORDELLO!

Del relaxing between sets

Gogol Bordello was of course our first lure, but when we learned that the festival was near at hand and possible to go to we were all in. To start the long and fantastic day, we walked from our apartment to a big square, where we would supposedly get free shuttles to the concert. It turned out perfectly. We stepped onto the bus, and could already tell the day was going to be awesome. After a quick, rocky, and somewhat frightening bus ride to the concert, we stepped out into a part of Istanbul unknown to us, and followed the hipsters onto a college campus.


We bought our ticket at a student price of thirty lira which was awesome, and then went through two security checks (separated by gender), and finally came into the festival. It was totally cool looking, with a great lawn and beer stands perched left and right. People walked around and laid in the grass. We had stumbled on an exciting tradition of hip Turkish younguns, and we were stoked. The biggest difference between this festival and Bumbershoot (besides way less people) was that first of all there were waaaaaay more beer stands than food stands (there were four food stands) and also you could drink beer anywhere you wanted. This was a beer festival after all, sponsored by Efes Pilsen, a popular beer in Istanbul.

The first band (we are not actually sure of the name of the band) started and they were awesome, with a far different sound than music we normally hear, with occasional lyrics, and sporting a violin, electric guitar, bass, drums and a trombone. They turned out to be my favorite Turkish band of the night. After that the bands were still interesting, but not entirely notable until a band called Shantel & The Bucovina Club Orkestra appeared.

The Miller booth, where you could sing high after sucking down helium

Shantel & The Bucovina Club Orkestra wasn't notable due to talent, but more the fact that the Turkish people loved them. Their songs included such intelligible and fantastic lyrics as “Disko! Disko! Partizani!” or another classic “Parti! Parti! Partizani!” This was from what was obviously the Turks favorite song ,“Disko Partizani.” Figuring out which was the Turkish people’s favorite wasn’t too hard due to the fact that Shantel played it twice! A feat I had never seen in concert and believed only possible in part robot humans….which I would look into for this band. They weren’t incredibly good in the least bit, but people definitely loved them most of all.

Our favorite band Gogol Bordello came on last
(eight hours after we arrived). They jumped on stage and started one of their usual raucous songs. The main singer had an awesome guitar that sounded like musical sword in a fight, and other than him there was a drummer, an old violinist man, an electric guitarist, a bassist, an accordionist, and two dancing women in tight pink outfits who were mildly hilarious. Their whole show was awesome. They played a few favorites, along with what sounded like new ones that I hadn’t heard. I have only seen them once before, and the biggest difference about this concert was that no one in the concert moshed, but it still ended up being fantasticalismatatic, as you can see in this maraudingly colorful and wondrous video. We went home on the same free shuttle, and back to the square, in happiness.

Goodbye Istanbul, hello Cappadocia

Our fantastic week in Istanbul is over and this morning we fly off to Cappadocia in central Turkey, with its incredible physical features. They say it is the home of some of the most unique geology on the planet. I've heard that you see glimpses of it in the Star Wars movie.

I took the snapshot of our 'plane after we landed. It was the only 'plane at the airport!

Later note: we arrived a few hours ago after a one hour flight via the excellent Turkish Air. The caves and land forms are stunning, about which more later. Since I only slept two hours last night, I hung out for a nap while the family went on a hike to visit some caves and explore a church...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Topkapi Palace and Mohammed's tooth, hair, sword, and footprint

Click to enlarge - one of the Sultan's elaborately decorated sitting rooms.
If you have to sit, this would be a fine place to do just that.

The gigantic cooking building - click to enlarge

Topkapi Palace and the Topkapi Palace Harem are where the Ottoman Sultans ruled their empire from this Istanbul, Turkey palace from the 15-19th centuries. And the Sultans lived large, believe me, along with their hundreds of servants, political aides and bureaucrats, and if you believe the various histories, somewhere between 4 and 300 wives and concubines. The palace was constructed to be self-contained, and insulate the Sultan from the riff-raff. And they did a pretty good job. It is really a self-contained city. One example is the cooking building. There were hundreds of cooks, bakers, dessert chefs, cheese and yoghurt makers. And they all lived in the multi-domed cooking building that even had its own mosque. They cooked for hundreds people each day and up to 10,000 people during feasts.

The palace is filled with all sorts of historical artifacts and the swag and booty of the Sultans. There is a vast collection of Ming and other dynasty china, cooking utensils, jewels, and swords and daggers. There is geometric hand made tile covering nearly every surface of the many least the ones not covered in gold leaf and stained glass windows.

A view of the palace from our boat on the Bosphorus

Of greatest interest to me--and certainly to the many hundreds of Turks crowded into the rooms--are the holy relics from Mohammed's life. I can now say that I have seen Mohammed's hair, footprint, sword, and a tooth he broke in battle. The rooms containing these holy relics are filled with the sound of an imam constantly chanting the Quran. I thought it might be recorded, but on reflection, I believe there was an actual chanting Imam behind a curtain or in a booth somewhere.

A beautifully painted wall

Next to Mohammed's relics, the most notable goodies include the Topkapi Dagger, with a handle inlaid with three enormous emeralds, and the Spoonmaker's Diamond, which at 86 carats is actually the 5th largest diamond in the world. Ah, I've never been that impressed with diamonds, but this one is impressive in size at least.

Artifacts in the second courtyard of the palace

We probably only saw 1/4 of the palace and exhibits before we began achieving burnout from all the walking and the heat.

The street cats of Istanbul

After the churches, palaces, museums, and mosques, what I've loved most about Istanbul is the street life. The smells of food cooking, charcoal, oranges and cherries being squeezed; the sights of the thousands of people in all versions of dress, from extreme fundamental clothing to western dress, punk clothes, sports jerseys, and the more laic local clothing like beige trousers and vests, modest dresses and scarves; the cars inching their way along the cobblestone streets; and, of course, the sounds of prayers being called at the mosques, and the music of the many street musicians and groups in our musical all rolls up to an incredible and powerful and breathtaking sweep of life. And life in the big city here, at least, is very good.

click the cats to enlarge

Somehow this enormous metropolis has managed to remain all too human. In all the time I've been here, I've yet to see an angry word or any contention of any kind on the streets. The only honking of cars is a quick beep to let the pedestrians know to move over. When the car passes, you go back on the street, since the sidewalks are always filled with cafes, people talking, cats, vendors, and merch. carts. You constantly shuffle between the streets and steps and the sidewalk.

The streets are amazing, vital and inspiring. And the people walking the streets are almost all talking and seem in great spirits.

And then, there are the cats. There are street cats everywhere here, and people treat them with great love. You see people feed them and there are bowls of water along almost any street. People (and us too) often bend down to pat a cat sleeping on a stoop or in a planter, or on the sidewalk. They range from well-cared for and well-fed to not quite feral; but even the lean scraggly ones seem collectively cared for. How sweet it is to see that.

Poem: That Cold Island Far Across The Sea

Walking among the Turks on cobblestone streets
And seeing the kids rebel against The Moslem Way
Confirms they're people just like you and me

Working for what their hearts say is right.
Sending in the troops, fighting over oil
And throwing stones

Doesn't come from the people
But it ends there.
When I see them smile

As they listen to music
On the street
I get it.

They like ice cream just like you.
They like music just like me,
And if it were up to us

We'd all get along just fine.
As I walk the streets of Istanbul,
I almost get the feeling--

When I see their smiles
And hear their music
And even when I witness their indifference--

We're edging toward goodness,
And the time of mindless division
Is coming to an end.

We're edging toward the day
We throw the rifles down
And Moslem, Christian, Jew, atheist,

Infidel, Catholic and Baptist
Stand together as one,
And shuck the bonds of money, oil,

Lust, ambition, and madness,
And give each other bear hugs
As we watch the leaders

Who thrive on our divisions trundled off
Onto a boat that takes them away
To that cold island far across the sea.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Istanbul: The Basilica Cistern

Click to enlarge the Basilica Cistern's forest of columns

After visiting the Blue Mosque, Keelin and I toured the Basilica Cistern. It is in very close proximity to the former Aya Sofya Basilica cum Mosque cum museum, and is the size of a very large church.

According to the handy pamphlet I picked up, this ancient reservoir is "is an underground chamber of 143 by 65 metres, capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water." The enormous space is divided by what looks like a forest of "336 marble columns each 9 metres high. The columns are arranged in 12 rows each consisting of 28 columns."

This entire cistern was completely submerged when it was filled with water. And yet every single one of those columns has a carved capital! There are Ionic and Corinthian styles, and a few Doric ones. Emperor Constantine had previously built a basilica and cistern on the same spot, according to some ancient historians. As Constantinople grew, the demand for water grew as well, and Emperor Justinian later enlarged the cistern.

Even though the columns were submerged, and hidden from the public eye, they had ornate capitals, as I mentioned, and some of the columns were even elaborately decorated (see my photo on the right of the "peacock eye" column). The cistern is surrounded by a brick wall 14 feet thick, coated with some sort of waterproof mortar. The water came from the Belgrade Woods—about 12 miles away—through aqueducts (parts of which still survive) built by the Emperor Justinian.

Click to enlarge the Medusa sideways at the bottom of a column

15 Centuries later, they repaired cracks in the wall, and the columns were restored. They reopened the cistern to the public and started charging a 10 YTL admission in 1987.

The bases of two columns at the tail end of the cistern rest on two ginormous sculptures of the head of a Medusa. No one one knows where the heads came from, but some people think they came from an ancient Roman building in Constantinople. Likewise, no one really knows why one of the heads is upside down, and the other tilted to the side. The Medusas are probably for good luck, or to ward off evil (ed's note: which I kind of think of as passive good luck).

click to enlarge Medusa upside down

Finally, at the bottom of the cistern there are about two or three feet of water, filled with well-fed carp. Once again, I am utterly blown away by the scale of the ancient public works and the stunning attention to detail--details no one except maintenance crews and archaeologists would see for 1600 years!

Click to enlarge the carp