|Courtyard of the Blue Mosque|
|Interior of the Blue Mosque|
Topkapi Palace was also on the agenda for our first day. It was the palace of the Ottoman sultans for 400 years. Photos were not allowed inside the palace rooms, but it was interesting to see the exhibits. My favorite was the staff of Moses. I'm not really sure how they know this stick was the one Moses used to part the Red Sea, but hey, Wikipedia agrees that Topkapi Palace is where this relic is displayed, and who am I to argue with Wiki! Other relics include the footprint of Mohammad, his bowl, and hairs of his beard.
It was only a short walk to our next stop, Hagia Sophia. This amazing building served as an Eastern Orthodox Cathedral from 360-1453, then a mosque until 1931 when it became a museum.
|Famous for its massive dome, Hagia Sophia is the epitome of |
It was the world's largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years.
|Beautiful murals were covered when Hagia Sophia was a mosque but are being uncovered.|
We spent the evening surrounded by the wonderful fragrances of the Spice Market, where I tasted Turkish Delight and purchased some spices to liven up my cooking back in the UK.
|Layers of Ancient Troy|
|At the Temple of Trajan|
|The Amphitheater at Pergamon|
I think my very favorite part of my trip to Turkey was visiting Ephesus. I grew up reading Paul's letter to the Ephesians so it was really amazing to visit this place.
|I can hardly believe I am here!|
|Lovely view of Ephesus|
|I just had to take this photo of the Roman toilets!|
|Catherine and me at the Roman Library of Celsus|
|Odeon Theater that the UK theater chain is named after|
|Snake symbol showing that this was a medical facility|
I love folk art, so I was really excited to see how Turkish rugs and pottery are made.
|After the demonstration, I even got a chance to throw a pot myself!|
Another interesting place we visited was Pamukkle, known locally as the Cotton Castles. This area was formed when warm calcium-rich mineral water cascaded over the cliff edge forming travertine pools. It looks like a snow scene, but the water is nice and warm.
|Come on in, the water is warm!|
|Now, normally I would NEVER post a photo of me in a|
swimming suit, but I'll probably never swim among
Roman ruins again, so here it goes!
There has been a thermal spa here since the early 2nd century when this was known as the ancient city of Hierapolis. The theater was built in 129 when Emperor Hadrian visited the city.
|The theater at Hierapolis|
|Many reliefs and statues, depicting mythological figures, have been excavated from the site. |
They are amazingly well preserved!
Continuing onward, we made a brief pause at an caravan stop on the silk road. This was a safe place for merchants to rest and stable their camels and other animals. We couldn't stay long because we had to get up early in the morning for a big adventure!
After toasting to our safe landing, we went off to see what really was below the surface of Cappadocia. We learned that it wasn't really fairies after all, but humans that lived under the ground. Early inhabitants of Cappadocia opened the cavities in the rocks to escape animals and hard winter weather. They enlarged the caves and connected them with tunnels, creating underground cities. Later these cities were used by Christians escaping persecution from Roman soldiers.
Back on the surface, we explored more of Cappadocia on foot.
When I was first asked if I would like to go hot air ballooning I declined, as I get queasy just riding on rides at Disneyland, but then I thought of the advice I was given at our Fulbright training, that this should be our year of "yes" so I decided to go for it. We had to get up at 5:00 in the morning so we could be in the air in time to see the sunrise over Cappadocia.
|It was interesting to see the balloons being filled with hot air.|
|Amazing views of Cappadocia|
|The ride was so smooth, I wasn't queasy at all!|
|These formations are called "Fairy Chimneys". It was believed|
that fairies lived underground, so these had to be their chimneys.
|There are lots of windows between the rooms....|
|...and the rooms are quite spacious.|
|If early Cappadocians were no taller|
than I am, walking through the underground
city tunnels isn't much of a problem.
|Goereme Open Air Museum is filled with rock-cut churches from the 10th,|
11th and 12th centuries.
|The frescoes in the churches retain much of their color. |
The best ones were in a church where we were not allowed to photograph.
Is this a home for Hobbits? No, this is Zelve, home to Christians during the Persian and Arab invasions.
Cappadocia's first seminaries to train priests were located here.
|Cute Camel Rider|
I guess the Grateful Dead had it right:
"When in doubt, twirl."