Cemeteries in Turkey

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. (Kahlil Gibran)

These pictures were taken at sunset in the cemetery of Side-Kemer.

The pictures below are of a cemetery in the trees near the village of Gundogmus (Sunrise) in the Taurus Mountains about one hundred kilometers from Side.

To see more, click here and here.

Turkey 2008 III: Cappadoccia cont’d

Wilfried convinced me to accompany him on a balloon ride over the Cappadoccian landscape. Being scared of heights and terrified of fire is not a good combination for balloon-riding; here, waiting at the Goreme U.F.O. museum while the balloon people decided whether the weather was good enough to fly, I look as though I’m not quite sure it’s a good idea.

However, after waiting for two hours, they decided it was a go and several trucks came roaring in, all pulling trailers with huge balloons in them.

Balloons come in a few different sizes; ours was a 12-seater (although they had no seats – standing room only). It was quite fascinating watching the balloons being inflated; I couldn’t help thinking about the possibilities of flaming balloon death, though. Each time the propane was turned on to inflate the balloon, it exited the tank with a great big whoosh.

I also found it somewhat disconcerting that absolutely everyone associated with the balloon business smoked … I wasn’t sure the extent to which that was dangerous, given the circumstances.

However, I did get into the balloon basket and we did ascend over the Cappadoccian landscape, along with about 13 other balloons at various heights in the sky.

We sailed quietly over the Red Canyon with only the occasional whoosh of flame as the balloon’s pilot sent us higher and higher.

Below is a picture of the view from the balloon, with Uchisar castle in the background.

I did keep a death grip on the balloon the entire time we were aloft; apparently we rose to about 1,600 meters (can that be right?!) at one point.

Once safely back on solid ground, the balloon crew gave us both champagne and a certificate of flight.

Thanks to Wilfried for the great photos of the balloon flight! On our way back to Side, we stopped at the Mevlana Museum in Konya, home of the Sufi mystic and poet Rumi and his followers, the Whirling Dervishes, whose dances, the Sema, Rumi developed, and the site of Rumi’s sarcophagus.

The garden surrounding the Museum has beautiful flowers and grave markers with elaborately carved calligraphy.

To see more pictures, click here and here.

In 2007-8 I created a book work dedicated to Rumi; to see it, and others from the Book of Hours series, click here and here.

Turkey 2008 2: Cappadoccia

While in Turkey, I took a three day tour around Cappadoccia. Once again in a small minibus, 14 of us, plus the guide Mahmut, the driver “our Captain”, and his un-named uncle, hit the road early in the morning heading out over the Taurus mountains from Side to Konya.

While driving through the mountains, we could see several nomadic families at work in the hills.

Somewhere out on the road between Side and Konya the minibus broke down – flat tire. No safety gear was in evidence so the driver’s uncle brought out his briefcase and put it in the middle of the road to warn other drivers that we had broken down. This action caused on-coming drivers to pause briefly before roaring past us –

Our first stop, after repairing the bus and arriving in Cappadoccia, was an underground city – here’s our fearless leader Mahmut Akman.

This place was fascinating, all tufa stone, darkness and yellow lights.

Local women descended on the minibus, hundreds of hand-made dolls in hand, selling for absurdly small amounts of money.

Our next stop was Uchisar, with its gigantic rock “castle”, and Pigeon Valley.

Below is a close-up of the Uchisar castle top.

Below is a Nazar Boncuk tree in Uchisar – the evil eye protector.

The Cappadoccian landscape is beautiful; on this trip, it was also cold. I had packed expecting 35 degree sunny weather; however, it turned out to be about 20 degrees and drizzly rain, occasionally clearing to a slate grey sky. As part of my outerware for this tour, I wore a large black garbage bag under my shawl – this turns out to be a very effective jacket against the cold and wet. Below is a picture of part of our intrepid little group.

Here we’re climbing a ladder to see the Rock Church frescoes.

Inside the Rock Church are Byzantine era frescoes, from the historical period in which Christians and Muslims side-by-side in this area.

The Cappadoccian landscape is full of so-called “fairy chimneys” whose phallic connotations should be obvious –

It is rather disconcerting to travel through a landscape of erect penises.

The women in this area make amazing handcrafts: here a woman is selling her handmade embroidery.

This woman spoke almost every conceivable language at least enough to sell her products. As part of our tour, Mahmut took us to several factories producing and selling local goods. The ceramic factory in Avanos had some spectacular items; here workers display how their wares are made.

These wine flasks are replicas of Hittite era flasks.

The glaze work and painting on these is amazing.

Our group appears mesmerised as they watch the craftsman work.

Alexandra seems happy with her small fairy chimney replica …

Here’s the showroom full of an enormous number of vessels of all descriptions.

After the ceramic factory demo, it was off to an abandoned Greek village. As Karballa, or Gelveri, Güzelyurt was a prosperous Ottoman-Greek town specializing in farming and goldsmithing.The League of Nations population exchange following World War I took its hundreds of Greek-speaking families to Greece, where they founded the town of Nea Karvali. The exchange brought Muslim families from the Greek towns of Kastoria and Kozan to re-populate Karballa, now renamed Güzelyurt (“Beautiful Home”).

Our Captain and Mahmut fed this very hungry Cappadoccian puppy kidney meat which he wolfed down without a pause.

Some people here are still living the troglodyte (cave-dwelling) life. This cave house is still being used today – apparently it stays 22 degrees inside all year round, whatever the weather outside.

I bought a beautiful handmade shawl from this woman, the one she has over her right shoulder.

I found the plethora of items for sale at the Onyx factory we visited absolutely amazing. Once again, though, there were just way too many objects to even contemplate selecting any one object. Here’s a sample:

After the onyx factory and its objects-in-excess, our group made its way to the Yusuf Rock Church, with its ceiling frescoes of the risen Christ and saints.

After that, in a bit of a whirl, we visited a carpet factory …

its dying room …

And then, off to Turkish Night at a large converted cave house in Avanos, with its Whirling Dervishes

and dance troups.

Turkey 2008 I: Side, Kekova, Demre, Myra

In June 2008 I spent three weeks on the South Mediterranean coast of Turkey based at Side, an ancient town, beach resort and the love playground, in history, of Anthony and Cleopatra. The Turks are famous, or notorious, as masterful merchants and hagglers – one cannot walk down any street in this town without being accosted from all sides by persons trying to sell every conceivable consumable.

This is the main drag down to the harbour; many a time I zoomed down here on  my rickety rental bike, brakes shreaking as I narrowly missed running into yet another oblivious tourist. It is a mystery to me how it is that people become so catatonic on holidays …

At night the place really comes alive; tourists arrive in swarms, herds, masses – and crowd the narrow streets of the town until the early hours of the morning. While there were many very beautiful things for sale, I found the sheer numbers of everything to be overwhelming and paralyzing and essentially not very conducive to purchasing any one thing. Take, for example, this representative boutique:

Not a space to breathe anywhere.

The back streets were much easier, and more pleasant often, to navigate. I had a fantastic apartment in a site called Athena Evleri; two bedrooms, two balconies, two bathrooms on two levels – called a Dublex. The apartment overlooked the pool and gardens, the latter with a huge and beautiful wisteria tree.

The pool was fantastic, especially on those mornings when it was 38 degrees by 6:30 am.

This particular complex has mostly Norwegian owners; two couples who were there when I was come from the same part of Norway that my mother’s family hails from, Trondheim.

From the front door of my apartment, one can see rows and rows of holiday apartments, all with solar heating panels on their roofs. From the apartment to the town beach was a quick zip on my bike, about 10 or 15 minutes. Here one can rent an umbrella and lounge chair for 3.5 YTL a day (about $2.25). People in the tourist industry here work like slaves, from 9 in the morning until midnight for the most part, with only a short break in the afternoon. Between 2 and 4 local men – waiters, bartenders, shopkeepers – descend on the beach to swim, play ball and sunbathe.

The temperature during the time I was here ranged from a low of about 35 up to around 50. The sand on the beach was scorching, impossible to walk on with bare feet. The umbrella was a necessity for me; while I love the sun and the warmth, I can’t take it beating down on me for hours on end.

Here’s a view looking down the town beach with Sorgun Forest in the background.

Very few local women are on view here; sometimes, though, in the middle of the afternoon for an hour or two women would bring their children down to play on the beach. Some, like this woman, were in full cover dress – must have been excruciating in 50 degree heat. Here’s my friend Ann Marie emerging like Aphrodite from the waves.

One of the ruins for which Side is famous is the Temple of Apollo, seen here at sunset, a pilgrimage destination for photographers.

The temple of Apollo is right next to the harbour; the sunsets here are beautiful.

The temple pediment has beautiful carved heads, of Apollo, Aphodite and lions.

While I was in Turkey, I was conducting research for my art project entitled Ruination. This entailed travelling to various ancient sites, and photographing their ruined structures. One such trip was to Kekova, Demre and Myra, further west along the Mediterranean coast from Side.

The landscape on the road from Antalya to Kekova is dry, dry, dry with lots of tiny pine trees and scrub. About 14 of us travelled in a minibus, leaving Side at 5:15 in the morning. We stopped at the Sorbet Surprise just outside Antalya for breakfast; here one would have sworn we were in Russia; all the signs were in Russian, the music was Russian, the Turkish salespeople spoke Russian – madly loud, with cowbells (?) being rung every two minutes – the noise was enough to drive me out onto the street seeking shelter. Our driver, a big, burly man, confided in me that he had 4 wives, 8 children, and 15 girlfriends and that he hadn’t slept in 4 days … he also worked two jobs and ran a doner shop to keep this brood in business. I had visions of a flaming, fiery death on the Turkish highway as our minbus careened up hills and around corners on the highway to Kekova.

We did arrive safely in Kale, a tiny harbour town on the Med coast, on the way to see the ancient city on and underneath the island of Kekova. Kekova is a submerged port dating back to the 5th century bce, when Lycia was an important kingdom in this region. The Lycian capital was Xanthos, an hour west of Kekova, from where King Sarpedon, who fought in the Trojan Wars, originally came.

A Lycian necropolis, with chest-type tombs spread out along the coastline, lies at Teimiussa, near the present-day Ucagiz on the mainland across from Kekova.

In this neighbourhood tombs and sarcophagi are everywhere. Below is a picture of an ogival Lycian rock tomb in Kale (Ancient Simena).

The harbour and landscape here are beautiful; after our long journey along the windy highway we arrived in one piece at the harbour where we boarded a wooden tour boat to the island of Kekova.

Along the edge of Kekova, facing the mainland, lie the half-submerged remains of a Lycian sunken city.

Here are the remains of buildings and walls beneath the water and staircases leading to nowhere.

Kekova really is like a dreamscape … after a boat ride, a swim in the ocean, then onto the minibus once again and on the road to Demre, whose claim to fame is the church of jolly old St. Nicholas.

The Church of St Nicholas, a Christian saint and Bishop of Myra, in Demre was pretty much a non-event. Not much of the original church actually remains, although there are some beautiful frescoes still evident on the walls and ceiling.

Inside the church I saw a small cat who appeared to be praying to ol’ St Nick.

He appeared to be a very sentient beast …

Another very fascinating site was the temple and rock tombs of Myra

Many of the tombs have log cabin features carved into the rock, presumably reflecting the domestic architecture of the period. A few easily accessible ones have inscriptions in the Lycian language. Carvings above are mostly in poor repair but the overall effect of this jumble of the architecture of death is dramatic.

These are absolutely amazingly beautiful. Most of the tombs are from the 4th century bc, and many contain funeral scenes in relief, some scenes portraying the daily life of the deceased.

The Lycians seem to have held a belief that the souls of their dead would be transported from the tombs to the afterworld by a sort of winged siren-like creature, and so often placed their tombs along the coast or at the top of cliffs when they were not integrated into the liveable areas of the cities.

To see more pictures, click here.