Places I Missed the First Time

Places I Missed the First Time

Bangkok, Thailand
4 October 2009

Dear Friends,

When I visited Egypt two years ago, I missed Aswan and Abu Simbel.

When I visited Turkey seven years ago, I missed the Aegean Coast, the Mediterranean Coast, and Southeastern Anatolia.

When I visited Israel last year I missed The Negev and Masada.

So for my next adventure, I decided to see some of the places I missed.

Istanbul: "Sunday in the Park"

Istanbul, Turkey

13 October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Fortunately, I chose to be in Istanbul on Sunday.

Fortunately, my hotel was a ten minute walk to the Sultanahmet area and the Blue Mosque and The Haghia Sophia – two of Istanbul's most historic and most visited sites.

On Sunday, the visitors included hundreds of residents of Istanbul and other Turkish tourists and their families who swarmed around the grand mosques, picnicked on the grounds, and entered the halls for prayer. It was Sunday in the Park and I was happy to meander among the multi-colored crowd as I admired once again the lofty minarets, the colossal domes - the superb architectural achievements of mighty Istanbul.


Van, Tatvan, Bitlis: "Castles in the Sky"

Lake Van
Southeastern Anatolia
19 October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

The Lonely Planet "Turkey" is 732 pages thick. When I got to the last chapter on page 597, Southeastern Anatolia, I decided to begin my travels out there and work my way backwards in the book, traveling from east to west in southern Turkey. I flew from Istanbul to Van (1642 km…1020 mi).

Out here, Turkey's neighbors are Georgia and Armenia. West of Van lies Iran (only 100 km), and to the south, Iraq and Syria. Even though they were very close, and tempting, I decided not to visit any of these countries, at least not on this trip, since there is so much to see here.


Mardin: "Hasankeyf on the Tigris"

Southeastern Anatolia
21 October 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

Talk about last minute decision making:

On the bus from Tatvan, I re-read my guidebook for the entry for Diyarbakir (pop 665,000): mostly city walls and gates. Haven't I seen enough of them for the moment? Besides, I am avoiding the big cities. I looked at my map and explained to the bus driver's assistant (yes, there is always extra staff on an intercity bus - they serve drinks and snacks and help with luggage and tickets) -- I explained that I want to go to Mardin.

Şanlıurfa: "Mount Nemrut & Heads of State"



October 24, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

The bus ride form Mardin to Şanlıurfa (178 km - 110 mi) was a straight shot from east to west across the agricultural plain of Upper Mesopotamia. Olive trees, pistachio trees, apricot trees, cotton and corn fields are all irrigated with the river waters of the Tigris and Euphrates. As I travel across "the land between the waters," my university course, Ancient History 101, comes alive.

The area around the city of Urfa (pop 463,000) has been a battleground for more than three thousand years: first the Hittites in c.1370 BCE, then the Assyrians, Alexander and the Macedonians, Aramaeans, Persians, Romans, Arabs, Turks, Armenians, Byzantines, Crusaders, Seljuk Turks, Saladin and the Kurdish Ayyubids, Mamluks, and finally the Ottoman Turks. Urfa was renamed Şanlıurfa (glorious Urfa) in 1984.

Şanlıurfa is a place of history and legend:

Antalya: "Miserable"


Antalya Province

The Turquoise Coast

Republic of Turkey

26 October 2009

12:30 pm

Mehmet: Please come in.  Please have a tea with me.

Jan: Thank you. I was just admiring your carpets

I am thinking: Tea sounds good. I am tired wandering around the cobbled streets of this hilly old town. Actually, Antalya is quite lovely, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Mehmet: Are you interested in hand woven carpets?

Jan: Yes. But I am not considering buying one now. 

Stay strong, Jan. This guy's a Turkish carpet dealer.

Mehmet: Please let me show you a few. Do you prefer hot tea?

Jan: Yes. It's chilly and I'm a bit wet from the rain.  

My water absorbent Old Navy jacket is not helping at all.

Mehmet: Since it's now the end of the season, I can give you a special price and ship the carpets at no additional cost.

Jan: Thank you Mehmet. Your carpets are beautiful. Please let me think about it. 

They really are. I am tempted, but....

Mehmet. Perhaps you will come back after lunch?

Jan: I am thinking about visiting the mountain ruins of Termessos this afternoon. Do you know a reliable driver?

Jan deftly changes the subject to the Termessians, a Pisidian people who were fierce warriors. They fought off Alexander in 330 BCE. The Romans accepted Termessos as an independent ally in 70 BCE.

Mehmet: I will call Nezi. He is known as "the doctor." But Jan, I recommend that you visit Termessos tomorrow morning. It will rain this afternoon. You will be miserable walking in the rain on the mountain.