5/17/2015

Mount Nemrut, Turkey



This view from the top of Mount Nemrut gives an idea of how high it is.

We, literally, made a flying visit to Mount Nemrut, in Southeastern Turkey, with friends Jan and Tim. We flew into nearby Adiyaman on Saturday, and out again on Sunday. At the airport, we hired a car and began our drive to one of the most spectacular monuments of the ancient world.

At the top of the 2150 metre Mount Nemrut, is the burial mound of King Antiochos 1 of Commagene, which dates back to 62 BC. It is surrounded by 7 metre-high statues of Greek gods, and sacred animals. Unfortunately, all the heads have been toppled off, and stand like the Easter Island statues on the ledge below.


David and Tim walking over the ancient Roman Cendere Bridge

On the way to the mountain, we stopped off to see the humpback Roman bridge over the Cendere River. Built in the 2nd century AD in honour of the Emperor Septimius Severus, his wife and sons, the bridge, although renovated in places, stands as a monument to Roman engineering.


Looking out from the bridge


Kahta Castle

Another stop was to look at the old castle, perched high upon a hill. This was the fortress of the kings of Commagene. It was later added to, and houses dwelling places, shopping areas, a bazaar, a mosque, cisterns, a jail and a dungeon. Unfortunately, much of the castle is being renovated, so is off limits to tourists at the moment.

Finally, we started the approach to Mount Nemrut. The road was steep, and winding, and still being built, so there were some tricky moments as the car made the climb.


The long hiking path to the top of Mount Nemrut

Once at the car park, we were confronted by a 600 metre mountainous path to the top. I realised that I would struggle to reach the summit, so I asked a waiting man how much was the donkey ride to the top. "It's not a donkey, it's a taxi", he said emphatically. So I booked my "taxi" to the top, and began my perilous ascent. Of course, I realised that it wasn't even a donkey, it was a mule, so it was able to bear my  weight. Fortunately, the man clung to my arm all the way up, so I didn't feel unsafe, even though the "taxi" teetered on the edge of the slippery, stony cliff face from time to time. (I might add that the "taxi" didn't follow the steps up, but stayed on the rocks! You can just imagine how slippery the terrain was!)


Tim took this photo of me on a Mount Nemrut "taxi"!


The headless statues on Mount Nemrut


Intrepid travellers! They all managed the climb to the top!


King Antiochos 1 of Commagene


Sacred Lion


The head of Zeus


We decided against crossing this frozen snowfield

Finally reaching the top, we admired the statues and heads on the first terrace, but had to cross a snowfield to see the other terraces. Just in front of us, some boys slipped on the icy track and tumbled down. Due to advanced age, we felt we wouldn't risk damaging ourselves by falling down on the lethal ice, so we didn't get to see the rest of the statues. Never mind! We will just have to go again when the ice has melted!


At the end of the day, we found our hotel, The Kervansaray.


The next morning, we breakfasted on the terrace, with the most amazing view


View from the terrace


Our typically Turkish breakfast. This was followed by omelettes, then fruit.


...and all around, the wild poppies were in flower.

Such a fun weekend. Thank you Jan and Tim, you were great travel companions!

Elizabeth Coughlan

5/14/2015

Botanical Gardens, Istanbul University


We began by gazing out at the wonderful view from the terrace of the 
Istanbul University's Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Garden, belonging to Istanbul University, is the oldest and most diverse botanical garden in Turkey, housing more than 3,000 species of plants. This area, consisting of 17 hectares of gardens, is near to the Suleymaniye Mosque, with amazing views over the Golden Horn.


Hedges separate the different species of plants

It was fascinating looking around the Botanical Gardens. We saw all kinds of different plants, some of them quite new to us.


Fortunately, most of them were named, like this Marsileaceae, a form of water clover. 
Did you know that this can thrive for more than 100 years by continually reseeding itself?


We wandered through some of the nine greenhouses, housing a large variety of plant species, 
like palms, cacti and carnivorous flowers.


Many of the greenhouses had waterlily ponds, unfortunately it was too early in the season
for flowers to have developed


We could see the Galata Tower across the Golden Horn..


...as well as the Bosphorus...


In 1995, the plants and trees in the Istanbul University Botanical Gardens were placed under legal protection by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Despite this, there are reports that the government has plans to open this area to construction and development. It would be so sad if this oasis of tranquility in the midst of this bustling city, was to be buried under tons of concrete!

We finished our tour with lunch in a rooftop restaurant with a 360° view of Istanbul. What a great day out!


Our lunchtime view of the new Ataturk Bridge...


...and the Galata bridge

Elizabeth Coughlan

5/07/2015

Hidrellez Festival, Edirne, Turkey, 2015



The colourful Hidrellez Festival in Edirne, Turkey

Together with a group of friends, I joined a tour to Edirne for the Hidrellez Festival, run by Oriental Istanbul.  We joined up with tours from Japan and Australia, and had such fun that I think I will have to go again next year.


Our experience began with a two-hour dance class, given by Dalia Carella

For me, two hours of continuous dancing was rather exhausting, so I ducked out to take some photos, and a video. Many of the Australian and Japanese attendees had studied this sort of dancing in their home countries, and were very proficient!


Later, ready to party, we crossed the bridge by the Justice Tower, a part of old Edirne Palace


We were greeted by this band, playing traditional Romani music

The Hidrellez Festival is observed in Turkey every May 6. It celebrates the day that the two prophets, Hizir (Al-Khdir) and Ilyas (Elijah), met each other on Earth in springtime, a time associated with planting and new life. The word "Hidrellez" is a fusion of the two prophets' names.

The festival in Turkey has become a joyous proclamation of the coming of spring. People prepare for Hidrellez by thoroughly cleaning their homes, buying new clothes and shoes to wear for the festival, and making special food, such as fresh lamb or lamb's liver.


Everywhere, there were groups of people dancing and singing


Suddenly, we heard the band, and the procession began. They came marching over the bridge.


We saw a man on stilts...


 ...and a beautiful lady, like a butterfly!


...followed by dancers, with tambourines.


These children were singing and dancing for the crowds


A stack of wood seemed to be the focal point, and a man threw petrol over the wood.


Then the fire was lit, and the crowd backed away from the incredible heat!


We went to dinner at a nearby restaurant, and were entertained by the 
amazing clarinetist, Yuksel, and his band


Even they were impressed by Dalia's dancing, as we partied into the night!

We arose early next morning to join the dawn celebrations by the Fatih Bridge. Many Turks believe that Hizir drank the water of life and is immortal, and that he is able to bring health, happiness, and abundance. For this reason, celebrations are often held near water, and the people write their wishes on pieces of paper, and throw them into the river so they will flow to Hizir, who will make their wishes come true.


People lined the bridge to watch the proceedings.


This woman was selling votive offerings to cast into the water with a wish


As dawn approached, there was singing and dancing


...and lots of happy people


The dancers came back for the sunrise dance


Here is my video of the Hidrellez Festival. Enjoy!

Elizabeth Coughlan

4/29/2015

There's Always Something New in Istanbul


The tulip carpet in Sultanahmet

It was lovely to host old friends, Margaret and Harry, in Istanbul recently. They were with us for such a short time, but we managed to race around and savour many of the iconic sights of this extraordinary city.

The first amazing sight was the tulip carpet, right outside the Hagia Sophia. 543,000 tulips were organised to replicate an Ottoman design. How fortunate we were there at that moment, as the carpet can only be seen for a short time during the annual tulip festival. This year, the carpet was only on view from April 18 to May 3.

Our next lucky break came when we visited the Topkapi Palace and found newly opened sections in the Harem. By the entrance, there are stairs leading down to the dormitory which housed the "Halberdiers with Tresses". These were guards, carrying halberds (axes mounted on the end of large spears). The "tresses" were two long curls hanging down either side of the face.


Two Halberdiers relaxing smoking their pipes in the Halberdiers' dormitory...


...and tending the barbecue?

Other newly opened sections in the Harem, are the Imperial Hall and Music Room.


Margaret taking photos of the beautiful Imperial Hall


The large-domed Imperial Hall in the Harem, is where ceremonies and receptions were held


Even the floors are exquisitely laid out in the Harem


Here, Harry stopped to check out his guide book, there is so much
to assimilate as you walk around this historic building


This was our view, as we looked out from the terraces of the Topkapi Palace

The newly restored kitchens also have extra added areas.


I previously complained that the kitchens didn't show how they cooked in Ottoman times.
Someone must have been listening!


...and here are cooking utensils.

This all goes to show, that no matter how much you think you know a place, it is worth going back to see if anything else has been changed since your last visit.


Of course, we did the Bosphorus cruise...


...all the way to Yoros Castle at Anadolu Kavagi


...and met up with friends on Buyukada, one of the Princes Islands.

I love taking friends around this wonderful city of Istanbul, There is always something new to discover.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!