Travel Letters

Pamukkale: Travertines, Sculptures, Sarcophagi

6 November 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

I had a wonderful stay in Pamukkale.

The Travertines are unique.* And while I was climbing up the slightly treacherous hillside and wading through the pools, I met a young Japanese woman. She encouraged me to keep climbing and when we reached the top we strolled around the ruins of the Hierapolis together. ** Finally we visited the Hierapolis Archeological Museum. ***

On my own the next day, a rainy day, I traveled to Afrodisias.**** The site is splendid, but I spent much of the time juggling my umbrella and my camera while trying, sometimes unsuccessfully, to keep the lens dry.

Kıyıköy: The Black Sea


15 November 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

The Black Sea.  I have never been here before.  I’ve been to Romania three times but I never went to Constanţa, the popular beach resort.  I’ve been to Bulgaria but I avoided Varna.   I guess I avoid the noisy, popular beach resorts now.  Too much...I don’t know…too much of the stuff I don’t do anymore. 

Anyway, here I am in tiny Kıyıköy (pop 2500).  From my hotel balcony, the view is the wonderfully blue waters of the Black Sea.* 

Masada, Caesarea: "Sightseeing"


22 November 2009
Dear Family and Friends,

The town of Binyamina is the final destination of my trip to the Middle East.  After five weeks of intense travel in Egypt, Turkey, Rhodes and Turkey again, I am trying to relax with my cousins Miryam and Moshe Lauer.

Miryam is a marvelous cook.  Even after a minor surgery on her eyelids yesterday, she is back in the kitchen today preparing all my favorite German-Jewish dishes.  So I am relaxing and eating too much.  But Moshe!  No relaxing with Moshe.  Moshe, 81, is an energetic and irrepressible tour guide.

Nang Rong, Buriram: "The First Haircut"

10 February 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

Along with the photographs he neatly pasted into my Baby Album (photos, I may note, of a very cute infant boy) my father Otto also affixed a small white envelope. The envelope is clearly marked, "Jan's First Haircut." Inside the envelope to this very day is a shock of fine, light-brown baby hair. Cute?

Ten years ago in Miami I noticed that the hair of my neighbor's young son grew longer and longer, almost to his shoulders. My neighbor, Levi explained that his son Baruch-David will have his first haircut at three years of age - a Jewish tradition.

Three years ago my friends in Mumbai, Sushma and Paawan invited me to Mundan Sanskar, the traditional Hindu hair cutting ceremony for their one and a half year old son Agastya. *

Last year, our Rabbi here in Bangkok announced that his three year old son Ephraim would soon undergo the traditional haircut ceremony or Upsherin. Rabbi Kantor explained: "In Judaism we recognize three cuts. The first is the umbilical cut. The second is the circumcision. The third, the cutting of the hair, takes place at the moment the young son is ready to begin study of Torah, the sacred books of Jewish learning.

Most recently, my friends Mai and Mark invited me to the Buddhist haircut ceremony, Kornphomfai, for their daughter Molly, now about eight months old. Also participating were Molly's infant cousin, Prairwar, and her parents and grandparents and great-grandfather.

Bukhara: International Children's Day

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

June 2, 2009

Dear Family and Friends, 

On my last day in Bukhara I visited several medressas and mosques well as The Ark - the remains of a town within a town.

The Ulugbek Medressa (1417) is Central Asia's oldest medressa and a model for other large projects. Ulugbek, a mathematician and astronomer, was Genghis Khan's grandson.

The Ark is the oldest structure in Bukhara, occupied from the 5th Century until 1920 when it was bombed by the Red Army. The town is mostly in ruins now, but the protective walls are impressive. The royal quarters are used as museums. The Ark is swarming with visitors.

Beside a pool, opposite the Ark's gate is the Bolo-Hauz Mosque, the emir's official place of worship built in 1718. Here it's quiet, cool and refreshing.

The Abdulla Khan Medressa is named for the great Shaybanid ruler. Just opposite lies the Modari Khan Medressa, named for the Khan's mother. On the sun-blasted plaza between these two huge structures is an equally powerful minaret. The plaza is adjacent to Samani Park.

It is the park that provided the unexpected today.

Bukhara: "White Apricots"

Bukhara, Uzbekistan
June 2, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

"How's the food over there?" you ask.

Here's today's menu:

Breakfast at the Komil Hotel: cherry, apple or apricot juice, raisins, almonds, peanuts, chocolate, fresh apricots and cherries, omelet, slices of cheese, rolls, butter, honey and home-made preserves, coffee or green tea - the national beverage.

Alfresco Lunch today in Nurata: cold salty yogurt soup with scallions, tomato and cucumber salad, bread, and tender, tasty chucks of grilled spicy lamb with onions, green tea.

Alfresco Dinner at the Lyabi-Hauz: noodle soup with small balls of minced lamb, bread, and mimosa salad that includes layers of sliced fish, chopped egg, chopped cabbage, mixed greens with a light mayonnaise dressing.

Sandwiched between my meals were several worthy sights;