MindStormPhoto Blog and Gallery

Travel and Photography by Burt and Evelyn Johnson

Turkey 13 – The Turkish Pinch

Cookistan cooking class - local food vendors

We spent today with Aysin, from Cookistan to learn how to cook a 6-course Turkish meal.  We traveled there using Uber for the first time, which worked well in getting us directly to the meeting point, though it took 93 minutes to travel 27 km (about 16 miles) in Istanbul traffic.  With Aysin's directions, we were able to return via subway at 1/10 the cost and less time.

We began the session with a tour around her neighborhood on the European side, stopping at various stores to learn about the foods and spices, and to pick up a few items for our upcoming meal.

One shop specialized only in the "inner parts of the animal," and photographs of lamb brains and feet can be seen above.  At another stop, we discovered men cutting the leaves off artichokes (lower right), leaving only the "artichoke heart" for sale in markets and restaurants.  We were told that the leaves and stem are sold for animal food and preparation of cosmetics.

Cookistan Turkish cooking class in Istanbul

Upon entering Aysin's beautiful home, we immediately saw a large preparation area set up for us (upper left), laid out with ingredients, spices and utensils for our class.  After a welcoming glass of tea, we started the lesson. Aysin told us she would show us three types of Turkish food:  Istanbul, Ottoman and Antalyean.

We started making a pumpkin dessert, because it took awhile to cook, and then had to be chilled before serving.  We then went on to learn how to cook:

  • Süleymaniye Soup (lower right)
  • Bulgur Salad
  • Cirkassian Chicken
  • Börecik (middle right)
  • Stuffed Dried Eggplants (lower left)

For each course, Aysin would make a dish, and we would then each make the same, color coding our plates so we would know who made which.  Then would come the taste test to see how they turned out.

All the foods involved a "Turkish pinch" (three fingers grabbing a lot of spice) for each of four spices (mint, medium-hot red pepper, cumin and paprika), plus black pepper and salt.  I kept holding back, thinking I was going to overpower the meal, but it seems that Turkish recipes do indeed use a lot of spice.

Each of the courses was absolutely delicious, though as you might imagine, there was way too much food to eat at one sitting.  We therefore took home several plates of the cold foods, which took care of dinner tonight and probably lunch tomorrow.

Turkey 12 – Grand Bazaar

GrandBazaar istanbul

Today we visited the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.  This is the largest covered market in the world, covering 61 streets and more than 3000 vendors.  In addition, there were many more vendors on the outside surrounding this market. There is no way that anyone can visit more than a small portion of the bazaar in a single afternoon.

It was difficult taking any photographs that would actually give a sense of the enormous scale of this place -- the indoor streets are narrow, crisscrossed by overhead electrical cables, and usually packed with people.  It is estimated that between 250,000 and 400,000 people visit this bazaar every day.

GrandBazaar Istanbul Stuff to Buy

You can buy nearly anything at the bazaar.  From blue jeans, to buttons, to scarves, lights, fishing poles, ceramics, and even assault rifles. Not only is everything available to purchase, but every item is also negotiable, meaning most transactions are accompanied by a period of haggling.

GrandBazaar Food and Candy

As with the Spice Market a few blocks away, there were plenty of vendors of Turkish Delight.  We stopped at one such vendor (who spoke 12 languages!), sampled many, and ended up buying a kilo of Delight plus dried apricots, taking home the box seen in the lower right.

Turkey 11 – Tulips in Emirgan Park

tulips Emirgan Park dead

Dead?  Dead!  OMG, they are all dead!

Emirgan Park is the largest park in Istanbul, and famed for the tulips that are planted each Spring, filling the park with color from early April until early May.  As with much of the world, this year has been unusually hot, causing the tulips to bloom earlier than usual.  As Mehmet warned us in an email after our tour was over, the tulips are dying early this year, and we need to get there quickly if we wish to see them.

We decided to try using public transport again to reach the park.  As before, we began on the Metro subway, reaching the Ferry pier.  We were told which ferry to take, and we looked for a port with that magic name on it.  We found one and entered, paying our 2.30 TL (a little under $1 US).  As we approached the final door, it was being closed, and the boat was leaving the dock.  Drat. We had just missed it, but the next boat was scheduled for 30 minutes later, so we waited... and watched a ferry from & to the same destination arrive and leave next door.  We felt like we do in the grocery store when we try to get into a short line, only to discover it is moving the slowest.  Being retired and in no rush, we took deep breaths and told ourselves it didn't matter...  Breathe deep...

Reached the other shore in 20 minutes... though our ferry schedule said it would take 45 minutes?  The map says we are not where we thought we would be, yet the port name was correct.  hmmm...  Next step was to find a minibus with the park destination.  After searching for another half hour, and not finding any, we gave up and flagged a taxi, who took us there for about $7 US.  We have a habit of getting lost in large new cities, and Istanbul has joined that long roster, but there were plenty of taxis to save the day.

As we drove along the Bosphorus, we were impressed by how much it looks like the bay in Sausalito or Tiburon (two upscale communities to the North of San Francisco).  When we approached the park, the driver stopped and indicated via pantomime that we had to walk from there.  A police roadblock had been set up at the park entrance, in which all cars had their trunks searched, mirrors used to look for bombs underneath, and passenger IDs checked.  We had been told before that this was normal for Turkey, and not any new security efforts due to ISIS activity.

As we arrived at the park, all the flower beds were choked with dead and dying tulips.  Bummed out, we shot a few images of the dead plants (above), but decided to explore the park anyway.

tulips Emirgan Park alive

Fortunately, as went deeper into the park, we found plenty of vibrant tulips to enchant us and our cameras.  The planters had seen the wisdom of staggering the plantings, so while some were dying, others were in full bloom, while still other beds were in early budding, set to bloom in the coming days.

tulips Emirgan Park flower beds

The tulips were laid out in beds, with a single color filling each section.  We were  glad there were still many tulips for us to photograph.

tulips Emirgan Park people

We were here on a Monday afternoon, expecting the park to be largely empty.  To our surprise, the park was filled with people enjoying the environment.  There were yet more pre-wedding photo sessions.  We were rather surprised by how steep the paths are in the park.  Istanbul is a hilly city, and the park is no exception.

tulips Emirgan Park Evelyn

Even Evelyn could not resist the urge to play among the tulips!

Turkey 10 – Pera Museum and Sunset

Istanbul transportation, ferry, metro, subway

Today was another day of exploring the European side of Istanbul, and testing our new lenses.  We planned to start off with a visit to the Pera Museum, which meant once again using the metro subway and ferry to get there. The subway comes every 5 minutes on Saturdays ("1 DK" and "6 DK" indicate the next train is 1 and then 6 minutes from now). We often people-watch on the ferry. This time there was a conservative Muslim man in a long robe, even though it was a hot day. When he first came on board the ferry, he had a very harsh look and a loose fitting robe.  It was hard not to let all the news photos flood through our minds...

We also did some people-watching of each other. Right-center shows me with my 2-week-old white beard -- still haven't decided how long to grow it, or how long to keep it.  Evelyn is giving me the Evil Eye in the lower right, below that...

Istanbul Pera Mueum art show

We arrived at the museum, and found there was a 50% discount on entry. Always a nice surprise. The art shown was generally very good, including Evelyn's new favorite, the Tortoise Trainer image bottom right in the block above. She acquired a bowl and a refrigerator magnet with that image. The descriptions of the art was in both Turkish and English, so we were able to learn the rather interesting history of the piece. (There was also the inevitable "modern art" section, where some curator got conned into displaying a painting that consisted of nothing but a black dot on white paper...) There were also several groups of children getting a museum tour and learning history on a Saturday afternoon.

Istanbul people

We took the long way back from the museum (a polite way of saying we got lost...), which gave us plenty more  people-watching time and discovering a new neighborhood.  At one point, we came across a movie being made (upper and lower center images in above block).  We also walked across the Galata Bridge again -- men (plus a lone woman) fishing, but under harsh early afternoon lighting conditions this time.

Istanbul skyline pollution

While we were photographing the occasional mosque, skyline, or construction images (the latter will compose a later blog entry),  I snapped a couple photographs, only to find a car quickly stopping in the middle of the street, with a policeman running over to tell me it was forbidden to photograph any military installations. Yikes!  He said it was NATO's new offices, that I could go to prison for photographing it, and that I had to delete the photos immediately.  The one image on upper right managed to miss the purge... We had thought a mosque was being refurbished with a dozen workers on a Saturday afternoon, which demonstrated the Turkish work ethic.

Istanbul has a fair amount of pollution, though not on a level of Beijing or other famously polluted cities.  Walking across the Galata Bridge and looking towards the mosque on the hill (lower image in block above) gives a rather condensed quick view of the situation.  Ornate ancient mosques, surrounded by spewing smokestacks, power lines, automotive traffic, cafes and throngs of people.

Istanbul sunset blue mosque new mosque

When we arrived at the ferry dock, we realized that it was approaching sunset.  We tried to photograph the sunset from this location two weeks ago, but that had been an overcast dreary evening.  Today there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the weather was warm, so we decided to head over to the seawall and check out the sunset.

Unfortunately, we had not traveled with tripods today, not expecting to shoot a sunset.  However, the images do give a sense of what it was like as the sun settled below the horizon, and the colors came to the evening sky.  We were joined by hundreds of couples, most of whom sat on the seaside rocks, drank beer, smoked (almost universally...) and enjoyed a romantic sunset together.

Istanbul tulips

I'll finish this post with a few tulip photos from yesterday, when we visited a neighborhood park a couple blocks from our apartment.  We had been warned by Mehmet (our photo tour guide) that the tulips were dying early this year, so we went to the closest source for some quick images.  This time of year is normally the peak tulip flowering period, but there were large swathes of dead and dying tulips.  Here are a few images from this park.  We plan on going to one of the major tulip parks on Monday.  With luck, we'll report again after that excursion.

Turkey 09 – Camera Mania!

Instanbul Meto underground subway

Today was an adventure in exploring transportation around Istanbul, shopping, dining, getting lost, and spending way too much money on stuff we can't get in Ecuador.  Let's see how it unfolded...

Evelyn decided she wanted a new camera bag. She is in love with luggage, and still searching for the ideal bag that will weigh zero pounds, allow her to stuff with everything she owns, and still weigh zero. Hermione Granger had it in Harry Potter, so why shouldn't Evelyn?  I needed a new tripod plate for my tripod, since I learned that a separate plate was really needed on my monster Canon 70-200 f2.8 lens to keep things balanced and stable.  Off we went in search of the "camera district" that we had passed two weeks ago when on tour with Melmet.

Deciding to go on public transportation, we started walking to the metro (aka subway) station.  It looked pretty far on the map, but 10 minutes later were descending on the first of two very long escalators. First thing I noticed was that everyone was rushing to catch the next train, even though they came every 3 minutes -- far more often than any California or Ecuadorian light rail.  We missed the first train, but that just let us photograph the approaching cars a couple minutes later (center in above set).  The other thing we noticed was the number of musicians playing for spare change.  We have seen this in almost every subway we have taken around the world, but these musicians were almost all blind -- a twist that surprised us.

Istanbul ferry

After watching the electronic map show our progress, and arriving at the last stop (at the ferry peer), we got off.  During the trip, we saw two people separately give up their seat for older women.  Evelyn commented that nobody gave her a seat, and I noted that just meant we did not look old enough to be seniors.  Always a bright spot in every situation.

From the subway, we walked about 500 feet until we saw a ferry with a sign giving the destination we wanted.  A security guard blocked our entrance, and when we said the name of where we wanted to go, he pointed us to another entrance. Hey, he understood me!  Of course, there were about 4 words (the 4 destinations in that building) that he probably heard a bazillion times, so his filter saw through my terrible pronunciation.  Got on the ferry, and waited maybe 15 minutes for it leave. The trip was uneventful, taking about 20 minutes.  The combination of metro and ferry cost a total of 5 TL, which is less than $2 US.  Martin (the owner of the apartment we are staying in) had left us with two Istanbulkart cards with about $10 each on each, so we breezed through.

Istanbul camera stores restaurant

We got off the ferry... only to realize we had forgotten the note Mehmet (our photo tour guide) had given us with the name of the store and neighborhood.  Well, it was around here somewhere, so we started walking.  After a few blocks, we asked a security guard, whose English was not yet as good as our Spanish (in other words, pretty basic). Pointing at the camera Evelyn was carrying, pointing around at random, and shrugging got him to understand we were looking for a camera store.  He pointed back the way we came and said "is in underground."  Huh?  What we saw the prior week was certainly not underground?  Decided it was only polite to go in the direction he pointed, and check it out.

Back to the ferry building, and then a bit further. Just as we were to give up, we saw a stairway leading underground some ways ahead.  Tried it, and found that was a pedestrian underpass, chock full of trinket vendors, and leading across the busy main road we had been wondering how to cross.  Bingo!  The guard was right!

Coming out, I recognized a mosque we had visited a week earlier, and knew we were near the Spice Market.  Comforting to be in almost known surroundings, but still no idea of where the camera stores were.  Stopped and asked someone (more gesticulating) and made some progress.  Asked again, and were again pointed in the same general direction.  Just as I was about the ask the fourth time, we saw a FujiFilm store, and entered.  We had reached our destination.

At each store, Evelyn would look at camera bags, and I would ask about the tripod plate (mostly by holding it up and saying "var mi?" which is Turkish for "do you have?").  Evelyn never hit it off with any of the bags, and each vendor pointed us to the next likely candidate to have my plate.  After several stores, we ended up in the Canon store.  Nirvana!

Everyone on the photo tour had been envious of my tripod that is so super-light, collapses to almost nothing for a backpack, yet is surprisingly stable.  Evelyn saw a version of it in the Canon store, and started to get serious about that too.  Then she asked about a Tamron 16-300mm lens for her Canon 7D that she had read about.  We didn't expect them to have it, but they did... and at a competitive price too. Hmmm...  Since we are talking about lenses, I have read about the new version of the Tamron 28-300 for my Canon 5D too. Now we find ourselves negotiating for two lenses.

We decide to check next door at the other Canon dealer first, but he doesn't have those lenses.  They do have some bags that Evelyn starts to lust over though.  I know this is going to be a long wait, so I walked a couple blocks to the next place that was suggested for my tripod plate.  Eureka! They had it, so I bought two... and noticed an impressive array of tripods.

Returning to Evelyn, she had decided to buy the bag, so we did.  Next door for both lenses, which we also bought (along with protective UV filters). Since Evelyn had been looking at tripods, and not impressed, we went back to the place where I bought the plate.  Half an hour later, we walked out with a new tripod for her too.  Looks even smaller and sleeker than mine, but costs 3 times as much.  When we got home, we found hers was 1 inch longer and weighs exactly the same (just over 1 pound) as mine, so my envy was quieted some...

Loaded down with bags, we retraced our steps to the ferry building, and got on the ferry that took us back to the Asia side (so called because it is, literally in Asia, while the cameras stores in Istanbul are in Europe -- the Bosphorus Strait splits the city, and also separates Europe from Asia).  On the ferry, the man next to me started talking to me, in excellent English.

Zihad is a contract advisor for Saudi Aramco, an oil company in Saudi Arabia.  He was there to get a hair transplant, which he proudly pointed to.  When I asked why he came here, he replied "the best hair transplants in the world are in Istanbul. All my friends came here!"  We chatted the entire way across, talking about his family (married 6 years with one 3 year-old daughter, both of whom were sleeping below) and job.  When I told him we now live in Ecuador, he was fascinated, saying he had never met anyone that lived there before.  As we arrived at the far shore and were parting, he said that maybe we could do a home exchange with his Saudi home.  hmmm... Our Istanbul exchange was started by a conversation not all that different, so maybe...?

We then took the metro back to our stop.  At the street, we stopped to look at our iPhone screen to decide which route to walk home (the way we knew, or some new streets?).  A man stopped and asked if he could help, in perfect English (very rare on the Asian side).  We first said we knew where we were, but then asked him for a restaurant recommendation.  We showed the direction we were planning to go, and he insisted those are all fast food places that will deliver to your home.  If you want good restaurants, he pointed to our iPhone map and showed where to go.  We thanked him and headed in that direction.  It was clearly the long way home, but... another adventure.

We walked... and walked... and walked... and realized it was hard to judge distances on that tiny iPhone map... We had pretty much given up and were ready to call it a failure.  Evelyn noted a pharmacy a few doors down (they are everywhere in Istanbul!).  We had discovered a drug here that seems to work as well as Pseudofed does in the US (but cannot be obtained in Ecuador), and wanted to get another box.  Went in and got that.  Evelyn then asked for a restaurant recommendation, and the owner pointed across the street with an enthusiastic smile.

We went across to a little seafood restaurant, named Kücükyali Balikcisi and sat down.  Nobody spoke a word of English (which is common in this part of town), so the waiter took us to the seafood market next door (actually part of the restaurant, as seems common here) and pointed to various fish, giving an approximation of the English name -- probably the only English he knew.  We pointed.  He picked one out and gave it to the chef.  A bit later we had one of the best sea bass meals on our plates that we have ever tasted. We also had some excellent calamari rings (after some confusion, managed to learn that "tavir" means deep fried), and two Efes beers (the most common Turkish brand).

After dinner, we figured we were in for a long walk home.  PointX (the iPhone app we use to return to key places, such as our apartment or hotels when in unknown cities) showed the basic direction to head.  About a block later, we suddenly recognized the neighborhood.  Though we had walked a long way to get the restaurant, it had actually been just a round-about way to get there, and we were only about 5 blocks from our apartment.

All in all, a very successful, long, exhausting, and wallet-busting day.

Turkey 08 – St. Nicholas and Kale

Demre St Nicholas Church Santa Claus

Unfortunately, the threat of terrorism did have an impact on our trip. Due to the threats of ISIS kidnappings, we diverted from our original plans of going to Adiyaman and Sanliurfa. Always ready to react to changing circumstances and opportunities, Mehmet took us to Demre and his favorite fishing village, Kale instead.  This blog post is the last from our tour with Mehmet (from Fantastic Photo Tours).  His tour has been one of the best run we have experienced -- in fact, we have tentatively planned on joining him in 2017 to tour three of the "-stan" countries (Kazakhstan, etc).  The details for that tour has not yet been finalized.

Yesterday, we drove to Demre, where we photographed the Church of St Nicholas. This is the burial place of St Nicholas, a 4th century bishop, who is considered the original Santa Claus.  The upper images, plus lower-right show some of the still-vibrant frescoes depicting the life of the saint. A young Turkish family arrived while we were there, also exploring the church.  Mehmet talked to the girl and her mother and convinced her to pose for us.  The result added a touch of color and size perspective to the center photograph of the nave.

Kale castle Turkey

We then took a boat to the tiny village of Kale, population approximately 45, and protected by the Turkish government as a historically significant site. Overlooking the village is the oldest (and smallest) castle in Turkey, initially built in the 4th century BC. Cannon emplacements attest to the fact that this castle was still in use more than a millennium later, when it was being used to protect against pirates entering the bay. Next to the castle is a Lycian graveyard and sarcophagus.

Kale Turkey people

Climbing the steep steps to the castle, we met a few village members. We asked the precocious girl in the upper-right how old she was.  She was obviously tired of hearing the same question repeatedly, and scowled at us (in Turkish), "I'm 6 already!"

The man (middle left) was steadily stripping oregano from the branches, to be sold in small bags to visitors of the fishing village. Throughout Turkey, we saw many variations of the Nascar talisman, intended to protect the wearer from the harm of an Evil Eye curse.  The lower-left was the handicraft version sold here.  Also, the owner of the restaurant had purchased an octopus from a fisherman in the morning, and offered to share his family's dinner with us.

Kale Turkey Coast

On our final morning of the photo tour, we woke up to the sounds of the garbage man on a boat beneath us. Then a small squall started, turning into hail stones pounding on our rooftop, and the strong wind blowing the rain across the bay so the landscape was nearly obliterated.  We finished with a tour of the underwater ruins.

Turkey 07 – Cappadocia Enroute to Antalya

The chimney fairies were our last photo stop in Cappadocia. But first, a word from our sponsor...

It seems that some people are a bit confused about this blog, and believe that Burt (aka "me") is the source of all photographs and writing.  Actually, at least 1/3 of all photographs shown were taken by Evelyn, and all posts go through a final edit from her before being distributed.  I do almost all the photo editing, but otherwise this really is a shared effort, though it is usually written in "my voice."  And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

Antalya love valley Baglidere Valley

This photo spot is Baglidere Valley, dubbed the Love Valley due to the phallic symbols carved by erosion.  Looking around the valley, it is easy to see a layer of sediment decidedly different on both sides, that corresponds to a volcanic eruption some 10's of thousands of years ago.  The demarcation resulted in the rock above and below eroding differently, creating the shapes you see above.

There were also numerous rock formations where it was easy to imagine an animal had been carved, and reminded us of the Alabama Hills in Eastern California.  The "rabbit" in the lower left image is one of many such examples.  (The lower middle image shows Mehmet coming out of an alcove where he had been shooting an image framed through a natural hole.)

Antalya. Caravansary at Sultanhani stadium

Enroute to Antayla, we stopped at the Caravanserai at Sultanhani, the best preserved Roman stadium in Turkey, where a local actor hired himself as a gladiator to pose for tourists. Mehmet convinced him to model for us, in exchange for buying a photograph of him with our entire group afterwards.

We then drove to an old Roman Bridge on the Koprupazari River, where we encountered yet another pre-wedding photo session in progress.

Antalya aqueduct village Belkis

Next stop was the Roman aqueduct around which the village Belkis has grown.  After photographing the aqueduct itself, and a lone poppy found in the field (middle left is Rich from our group, photographing the poppy), we explored the village.  As has become the norm in Turkey for us, the people were friendly, open, and willing to let us photograph them.  At one point, a matronly woman (bottom left) insisted we come into her home. She then offered us Turkish coffee (for Evelyn) and orange juice (for me) and introduced us to her entire family (lower right), including mother, sister, and multiple sons, daughters, nieces and nephews.


Along the road to our hotel, Mehmet spotted a farmer plowing his field.  Again, he stopped the bus, got permission to photograph, then had us join him.  Payment to the farmer for his time and helpfulness was a candy bar.  At lunch, we saw how "puffy lava bread" is made (middle image).  Walking around Antalya that afternoon, we came across still another wedding photography session.  This is clearly a popular time for young Turks to get married.  We had dinner on the Mediterranean, watching the sun set.

Turkey 06 – Cappadocia Balloons and Fairy Castles

Cappadocia Hot Air Balloon Launch

We spent last night in an exotic "cave hotel," where the rooms are carved out of the hillside, and lived much like the ancients did.  Of course, those early inhabitants did not have lights, indoor plumbing nor internet, but we were only willing to go so far in "roughing it."

Yesterday, we pored over the map to see where we were going today.  We finally concluded that it was not a very good map, since Cappadocia was not even shown on it!  Mehmet then informed us that Cappadocia is an informal and mostly tourist name, not the name of any city nor even an official name of the region.

We got up well before dawn, to head to the area where hot air balloons are launched each morning when the air is sufficiently calm. We have photographed balloon ascensions in Albuquerque, NM in the past, and even rode in hot air balloons in Napa, California. We still find it fascinating to walk the grounds as the pilots fire up the propane burners to provide the hot air to lift the balloons into the air.

Cappadocia hot air balloons flying over valley

Most photos of Cappadocia show a scene of hot air balloons flying over the valley.  Watching 30+ balloons all lift within minutes of each other, and then drift over the "sand dunes" (more on those later) and into the valley makes it clear why this is such a popular photography location.

Cappadocia Pigeon Valley

Our next stop was Pigeon Valley, so named because of the thousands of pigeons that call this place home.  They were first brought here in the 4th century AD, and raised both for food and fertilizer, harvesting the bird droppings for crops.  You can see Uchisar castle in the background, as well as a few hot air balloons still in the air.

Breakfast was yet another feast with more than 50 courses-- nobody ever goes hungry on Mehmet's photo tours!  Then, on to the Göreme open air museum of cave dwellings.  Unfortunately, photography was forbidden here, so I have no images to share of the frescoes.

Cappadocia Fairy Castles

After lunch, we visited the "fairy castles." These are limestone hills, that were occupied starting in the 6th century BC. Ortahisar castle is again seen in the background here, and  Mehmet bribed one local vendor to pose for us.

Ortahisar Sand Dunes

In the late afternoon, we drove to the "sand dunes" of the region.  Actually, these are limestone formations that have eroded over the millennia until they looked very much like sand dunes.  The low afternoon sun was optimal for creating deep shadows.  The upper-left image shows the area from a wider view, letting you see the overall topography of the area, while the others zoom in for more abstract images.

Cappadocia sunset

We waited for sunset in a small park overlooking the Uchisat Castle, followed by another scrumptious dinner at a restaurant where Mehmet knew the owner.

Turkey 05 – Opium and Konya

Cappadocia opium fields farmers

Enroute to Cappadocia today, we saw some women working in the fields. Mehmet signaled the driver to pull over, and after a minute of discussion with the workers, Mehmet signaled for us to join him. He had gotten permission for us to take their photographs.  They were hand weeding what appeared to be barren soil, but we were told it was actually a poppy field, grown under government license for producing opium.

A few minutes later an older gentleman walked over, and after a short hesitation, wanted to also pose for our cameras (center top).  He then insisted we walk with him over to a neighboring field, where we could see some leaves sprouting up (upper right image). He introduced us to his wife (lower right), then pulled up one plant, and gave each of us some leaves to chew.  A little bitter, but nobody started wearing lampshades. Turns out the leaf has no narcotic effect, and we got a short lecture on how opium is harvested (as translated by Mehmet).

The older gentleman was not accustomed to displaying public affection, so he laughed when he put his arms around his wife.

Cappadocia Mausoleum of Mevlana in Konya inside

When we got back on the bus, we continued to Konya, where we visited the Mausoleum of Mevlana.  This was the birthplace of the famous Whirling Dervish sect, outlawed in 1923 by the first Turkish president (he outlawed any Muslims sects that were "man made," and felt that only the Sunni and Shiah were valid religions).  The dervish statue outside the mausoleum shows a dancer, one hand uplifted to Allah, and the other down towards the power of the earth.

Cappadocia Mausoleum of Mevlana in Konya outside people children

After leaving the mausoleum, we wandered the grounds. Again, the people were welcoming to us.  One 83 year-old man had a flowing white beard, sitting in the shade with his daughter (right upper image).  Mehmet approached him, and the man agreed to move to better lighting, in the shade against the temple wall (lower right image).

Turkey 04 – Karacasu and Pamukkale

Pamukkale goat herder

This morning we got up early for a long bus ride to our next hotel.  On the road, Mehmet suddenly told the bus driver to stop, then back up a couple hundred yards.  He had spotted a woman herding goats on the side of the road.  In what became a common occurrence,  he approached the woman, greeted her  with “merhaba” (“hello" in Turkish), asked permission to photograph her, then invited us to crowd around with our cameras. Fortunately, there were only six of us (Mehmet keeps his photo tours small), so there wasn't too much jockeying for position as the shutters started clicking.

Pamukkale castle and wedding

After a lunch in Karacasu, which we will come back to later, we proceeded to Pamukkale.  Walking towards the calcium terraces of Pamukkale, the small ancient castle of Hiropolis built in the 3rd century AD can be seen off to the side.  Just as we arrived at the terraces, we came across a pre-wedding photography session.  A young newly married couple were having a professional photo session created for their memory books.  We immediately thought just how common a scene like this is back in the US for new brides these days.  These scenes repeatedly reminded us just how much we have in common with the Turks, even if the language makes no sense to our ears.

Pamukkale calcium terraces

As we passed the pre-wedding photo shoot, we came across the famous Pamukkale calcium terraces.  Pamukkale means "cotton castle" and the area consists of hot springs laden with calcium deposits that evaporate and leave the white terraces behind.  This area has been a hot-spot of tourism for thousands of years, and brought us here today.

The underground springs that feed the terraces are now controlled by 20th century sluice gates. Unfortunately, most of the terraces had no water today, as the local government chooses to let them dry periodically to maintain the clean white appearance.  Mehmet went off in search of water, and discovered one far-flung set of pools that still had water, even though the park guards insisted there was none.  He then ran (literally) back to the entrance gate, hired two golf carts, picked us up and drove us there in time for the sunset.  Though I was impressed with Mehmet's dedication in finding photo opportunities for us, I later realized it was just his standard approach and what makes him special -- he did this kind of quick-change, find-the-best-spot repeatedly for us during the entire tour.

Karacasu market children

Children, often with their mothers carrying them, in the Karacasu market.

Remember I said we would come back to the village of Karacasu?  Well, here we are in a special place where no tour buses would generally stop.   We had a rather nice lunch at an outdoor cafe, then  had an hour to photograph the locals going along on their daily business in the market.  This was thoroughly enjoyable, and surprising in some ways.

This was our fourth day on tour with Mehmet.  We have begun to realize that Turkish people are friendly, and not camera shy.  They only rarely indicate they do not want a photo taken.  More often, they will turn and smile, before returning to their daily life.  This market took this to a new level though.  People in this market did not just cooperate -- they profusely thanked us (usually in Turkish, that we could only understand via body language), and then often gave us little gifts for taking their photos.  When we loaded the bus after the hour, we came back laden with apples, bell peppers, twigs of spices, or whatever the person was selling and offered as a token of friendship.

In some ways, this was the hardest section to edit photos for the blog.  I normally limit myself to seven photos per "story," so that one photo montage has enough images to see, in a large enough size (after lots of reader feedback that the earlier crowded sets were too small -- thanks for letting me know!), and the story is told enough to support the text.  Here, there were just too many photos of market people that I fell in love with!  I edited some 500 of them down to 60, and then those down to 28.  It hurt too much to cut further, and so here you get a sampling of the glorious people of the Karacasu market, that welcomed all six of us into their lives for an hour this afternoon.

To keep the text from getting overly long, I will let the next blocks speak for themselves.  Hope you enjoy them as much as we did while interacting with these people!

Karacasu market men

Men in the Karacasu market

Karacasu market women

Karacasu market women

Karacasu market women #2

More Karacasu market women

Newer / Older