Photography Club Trek to Buyukçekmece

Entrance to the Sancaklar Mosque, Buyukçekmece

Our photography club visited the soon-to-be opened Sancaklar Mosque, in the Buyukçekmece district of Istanbul. Unfortunately, it was hosing down with rain for most of the morning, but we persevered anyway.

There is no minaret for the mosque,only this tower above ground

This, the very first underground mosque, won first place in the World Architecture Fest competition for religious places. Its design is meant to merge the essence of Islamic and Ottoman concepts with modernity. Sancaklar Mosque was inspired by the Cave of Hira, where Prophet Muhammad is said to have received God's message.

Inside the mosque

Sancaklar Mosque, built by the Turkish architect Emre Arolat, is 1200 square meters in size, and seven meters underground. It is lit by thin tubes of lights, and skylights for natural light, to give a quiet, spiritual environment.

The only decoration is this calligraphy on a shiny black background

The mosque has an interesting roof structure

After leaving the mosque, we continued to explore the area. It is a fascinating glimpse into bygone days. The weather was also beginning to clear, thankfully!

A statue of Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent (1495-1566)

During Süleyman's reign, the Ottoman empire was at its highest peak of grandeur and prosperity. Soon after his death, the empire began its decline.

Büyükçekmece Sultan Süleyman Bridge (built 1566-1567)

The bridge, which was called the Four Brothers because of its four distinct parts, is 636 metres long with twenty eight arches. It was built by that great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan, who is said to have remarked, “This is the masterpiece among my buildings”.

The rounded arches of the bridge

The minaret of the Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque

Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Mosque (1567), was also built by Mimar Sinan for the Prime Minister of the time, Sokulla Mehmet Pasha. This mosque is famous for its minaret, which was hewn from a single piece of stone. The only other example of this is in Egypt. Unfortunately, because of modern additions, the mosque itself is unremarkable.

The mosque's fountain, where worshipers wash before prayers

Statue of the great Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan

Buyukçekmece Caravanserai (The leaded Han)

This was the nearest lodging place to Istanbul for the traders who travelled the old Silk Road, that linked Asia to Europe in the 16th century.  Originally, the roof was completely covered with lead, so it became known as the Kurşunlu Han (the Leaded Han). After falling into disuse, the han was renovated in 1985-1987, and is now being used as a centre for culture and the arts.

As we were leaving Büyükçekmece, these two children ran up to me and begged me to take their photo. So here they are, two children from Büyükçekmece.

by Elizabeth Coughlan


A trip to Denver, Colorado

This is the new Union station in Denver. It used to be an abandoned rail yard.

After our visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove to Denver, where we stayed for the remainder of our trip. We were fortunate that our friends Efraín and Cathy live there, so they could show us around. Everywhere we looked there seemed to be construction going on. Denver is creating a new city within a city.

Here is the old station, and the new together

I love this sculpture of a blue bear, staring into the Colorado Convention Center

Although everyone refers to the above sculpture as the "Blue Bear", its real title is, "I see what you mean". The structure is enormous at 40 ft (over 12 metres), and is already a star of TV and film.

We decided to escape Denver and visit the surrounding area. Mainly because of the vast numbers of tourists pouring into Denver. Many had come to take part in The Marijuana Festival, with thousands of people crammed into the park taking advantage of the, now legalised, drug.

We, on the other hand, went to visit Dinosaur Ridge, and the Colorado's Red Rock Amphitheatre in Golden.

Dinosaur ridge is a fascinating glimpse into the past. More than 300 Iguanodon-like dinosaur footprints have
been preserved here.

A dinosaur's footprint

Red Rock Amphitheater

The Red Rock Amphitheater is used widely as a music venue for visiting bands, although, when we went there, university students appeared to be using it as a fitness training center.

Golden City was formed in 1859, during the days of the gold rush.

I was amused by this historic sign next to the bridge in Golden.

And here, they claim,  is the resting place of "Buffalo Bill" Cody, on nearby Lookout Mountain

...as it says here

While in Denver, we also visited the Botanical Gardens there. Unfortunately, they were being renovated, but there were still some lovely sights to see.

Sadly, that was the end of our visit to New Mexico and Colorado, and it was time to say goodbye. Thank you to all new and old friends, but especially to Pamela in Santa Fe, and Efraín and Cathy in Denver. Hasta la vista!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

We stayed in Estes Park, nestled in a valley of the Rocky Mountains

On a whim, Juliana and I decided to drive up to the Rocky Mountain National park. We stayed in Estes Park. Unfortunately, our visit was too early for the summer hiking season, and too late for the snow shoeing and skiing season, so the town was pretty dead. We had intended to stay up in the park for two days, but it was so cold, that we came down after just one night there.

We drove through the most stunning scenery

We did manage a drive in the park itself, however, even though many of the high passes were closed due to snow. The views from the park are spectacular and, apparently, it is home to a variety of wildlife, although we only saw elk, hundreds of them! Among those we didn't see are bighorn sheep, black bear, mountain lion, mule deer, and moose, although we were happy not to come across the black bear or mountain lion!

We saw elk grazing beside the road...

...and tree-covered mountains rising up from the plains

More elk in the woods...

...and beautiful vistas

I would definitely like to go back in summer.

by Elizabeth Coughlan


From Santa Fe to Boulder Colorado, by Road

Red Rocks at Ghost Ranch

We reluctantly left New Mexico and followed Highway 84 to Colorado, through the Village of Abiquiu, past Ghost Ranch, and up to the Carson National forest.

The different layers within the sandstone cliffs

We marvelled at the amazing rock formations we saw, and stopped to photograph them. These sandstone cliffs have been formed over millions of years, and the different layers, formed through the millennia, are distinctly visible.

Echo Amphitheater

One spectacular stop was at Echo Amphitheater, with a natural stone rounded structure that makes you want to shout with joy, just to hear the echo reverberate all around.

Could this be blood, or just a strange configuration of the rock?

There is a legend attached to this particular formation. It is said that in 1861, a group of settlers were executed by a band of Navajo Indians  here, and their blood spilled over the walls. Three years later, there was a revenge attack by the settlers, and more blood was spilled, which seeped into the rock, and is supposedly this, clearly visible today.

Although the paths were lined with fragrant sage bushes,
we also saw lots of this lethal-looking pencil-cholla cactus

After visiting Echo Amphitheater, we climbed higher and higher, 
so high that we drove through snow-covered land.

Our Lady of Guadeloupe, Conejos

Our next stop was in Conejos, Colorado, where Colorado’s Oldest Church stands. Our Lady of Guadeloupe Parish Church was built in 1858 and dedicated on December 12, 1863.

The beautiful sign over the arched doorway dates from the reconstruction of the church after a fire

Tiled mural of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, in the church

The grotto outside the church is a shrine to Our Lady of Guadeloupe

This really is a vast expanse of country. Just imagine going to school in this every day. Magnificent!

by Elizabeth Coughlan


Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, New Mexico

On this day, Juliana and I visited the Farmers' Market in Santa Fe, before meeting up with Pamela for our day's outing. It was fun wandering around and seeing everything on offer. The market is held every Saturday morning in the rail yard, and is very popular.

The Lavender Lady, selling sachets of lavender, among other things, at the Farmers' Market

I was amazed at the size of these Kohlrabi,
the smaller ones are the normal size!

I loved this healthy-looking hand-made bread!

After exploring the delights of the market, we met up with Pamela and Buckley to drive to the bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge, near Taos.

After driving for a while, we saw this sign, and couldn't resist investigating.

We decided we needed some of the group therapy that was on offer. 
From the left, me, Pamela, and Juliana.

Just a little more wine-tasting before we were back on the road again.

Although we passed through Taos, we were unable to visit the Indian Pueblos as they were closed for "Quiet Time". So we carried on to the Rio Grande Gorge. Wow, the bridge is an amazing sight! At 650 feet (nearly 200 metres) above the river, and with a span of 1,289 feet (393 metres), I can see why it was deemed "The Most Beautiful Bridge", in the long-span category, by the American Institute of Steel Construction. And the views are stunning too!

The bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge,
with the Sangre de Cristo mountains in the background.

The view of the gorge to the north

The view of the gorge to the south

While we were on the bridge, we were entertained 
by this very accomplished guitar playing singer

There is no settlement around the bridge, 
so this entrepreneur has a great idea. Is this "food to go"?

As you can see from the photos, the weather was closing in. So we returned to Taos for a leisurely, and delicious, lunch, before returning to Santa Fe. This state of New Mexico is an absolute gem. And one well worth returning to, as we have really only scratched the surface of all it has to offer. Thank you, once again, Pamela!

by Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!