Wednesday 16 November—
For the past two days, I’ve been in the center of Anatolian Turkey, in the surreal region of Cappadocia. This morning we had a gentle dusting of snow on the volcanic tufa landscape (photos will be forthcoming)! In the meantime, here are photos of three spectacular cave hotels, all cut from living rock. Parts of each are contemporary excavation and construction, but all three include centuries-old rooms from individual homes. Day or night, each has spectacular views from their terraces and balconies.
We had planned to go hot-air ballooning at dawn tomorrow, but the forecast for November 17th is cloudy, with ground fog and a high probability of snow. My Turkish colleagues (who have trained Turkish air force balloonists) take NO chances, so my aerial adventure will be postponed. Stay tuned as I return to Istanbul tomorrow… Lots of new museums to visit! So much to do, see, and eat– and so little time!
Friday 11 November—
Today, I’m writing from Bodrum, the ancient Halicarnassus, and now a charmingly preserved fishing community as well as an international resort and yachting center. Some areas are impossibly chic, but the old sponge divers and retired sailors still sit below the mosque to drink tea and play backgammon. The Aegean is timeless…
Here are more unedited photos from the SW corner of Turkey’s coast.
Tuesday 08 November
More photos in this Picasa album
Sunday 06 November,
The first day of Kurban Bayrami, The Feast of the Sacrifice. This Muslim holiday celebrates Abraham’s obedience to God and the salvation of his favorite son, Ismail (Isaac in the Judeo-Christian tradition, for this is the same story related in the Old Testament).
It’s a colorful time, and Istanbul is filled with tourists– most of them Turks who are taking advantage of the week-long break to visit their city cousins. But there are also tour groups from Azerbaijan, honeymoon couples from Jiddah, housewives from Turkmenistan, a conference of hoteliers from Hyderabad, and fashionistas from Beirut. In particular, Saudis, many of whom have already made their own obligatory Hajj to Mecca, enjoy an escape to Istanbul, especially during the pilgrimage season.
This is the time to sit in an outdoor cafe or hotel lobby and simply watch the flow of people. At any moment, one can hear Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Hindi, Urdu, English, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Italian, Farsi, Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, and a dozen Turkic dialects.
More text to come later, but for now, here’s a link to an unedited photo album from the past two days.
05 November 2011: ISTANBUL
The pomegranates and figs are running late this year and will probably outlast the end of the Istanbul Biennial exhibitions, currently open beside one of the city’s newer museums, the impressive Istanbul Modern.
The Istanbul Modern, on the European shore of the Bosporus, is a stunner. I don’t think I’ve ever been in any museum, anywhere in the world, where the gallery notes beside the paintings are as extensive and sensitively translated (in this case, Turkish to English) as they are in these galleries. Though erudite, the notes clearly convey a condensed history-through-painting of the Ottoman Empire’s metamorphosis into the contemporary Republic of Turkey.
Though Istanbul’s roses and hydrangeas are still in bloom, it is cool enough for roasted chestnut vendors to do a brisk business. Meanwhile, myriad dessert shops stockpile pale green pumpkins whose brilliant orange flesh will be candied, then topped with walnuts and water-buffalo kaymak, as thick as cream cheese. Yet Istanbul (on nearly the same latitude as New York and Rome) lets us dine outside (even on a rainy night) to enjoy a classic autumn meal of arugula and fried Black Sea anchovies.
Ah, Istanbul—my city, now just shy of fifteen million—maybe pushing sixteen; no one really knows. Each time I return, it is in fear that something I cherish will have been lost. Instead, I find that I can rejoice in what has been added….