A Trifecta of Mosques, A Black Sea Castle and 21st Century Cave Dwellers

Not bad for three days work, eh?  Before I go on, I should let you know we’ve settled into a bit of a routine.  I write the entry and CeCe sprinkles her wonderful photos all over the site.  So, this post is just text for now.  Click around elsewhere for the pictures.

Today we arrived in Goreme in Cappadocia after an uncomfortable overnight train from Istanbul and a brief stop in Ankara.  (Evidently, Ankara is to Turkey as Albany is to New York State.)  It had been a while since I had read up on this part of Turkey, so what we uncovered was as bewildering as it is sublime:  bizarre rock formations in the shape of pyramids (“fairy chimneys”) with 21st century Turkish inhabitants.  We followed one woman into her home and were startled to hear the phone ring.   We weren’t startled when she tried to sell us mittens.  (If you’re nice and email me – I get a tenth the emails that CeCe does – perhaps you’ll get a nice Christmas present from me.)   We had just a few hours to wander around but it was a treat to see how various inhabitants have modified and expanded their abodes to compliment the existing rock structure.  Click here for a couple of sample photos.

Yesterday we bid adieu to Istanbul with a ferry up the length of the Bosphorus.  (The Bosphorus is the strait that splits Turkey, connects the Black Sea with what ultimately becomes the Mediterranean, and marks the geographical boundary between Europe and Asia.)  It was a trip we should have taken a few days earlier because it really gave us a sense of the scope of the city.  The ferry ended just south of the Black Sea beneath a crumbling Byzantine fortress in the port of Anadolu Kavagi.  We battled annoying tourists for a while before we realized the real fun was happening a little further down the coast where all the Istanbul day trippers were picnicking.  No one invited us to join in unfortunately but we pretended for a while anyway.

On Saturday, we hit the aforementioned mosque trifecta with the obligatory visit to the Blue Mosque as well as to the lesser known Kucuk Ayasofya and Sokollu Mehmet Pasa Mosques.  We’ve quickly learned that when it comes to mosques in Istanbul smaller is better.   Our guidebook says that Kucuk recently underwent a major restoration and it certainly was a successful one.  The stucco walls were painted in beautiful, bold colors, which, judging from earlier artwork on display, was consistent with traditional decoration.  Simply eye-popping.  The other small wonder was similarly exceptional although our visit was cut short when we declined to purchase an overpriced packet of photographs from the younger of the two imams, the surly half of a father-son duo.   A bribe of baseball cards got us nowhere.

Finally, as I write this the town of Goreme is enjoying a fireworks display.   The Turks sure enjoy fireworks.  I believe this is the fourth consecutive night we’ve enjoyed them from somewhere in this fabulous country.

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