Sunday, September 28, 2014
Saturday, September 27, 2014
Perched on a rock rising high above the Mesopotamian plains, is the city of Mardin. Mardin had until this point, held a mythical status in my mind— uttering its name will generate long sighs and far-off gazes from anyone who has travelled there. I have wanted to see it for myself, the so-called "honey-coloured" houses, the labyrinthine alleyways, the churches and the mosques.
Mardin has at one point or another been home to the Hittites, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, Assyrians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Kurds, and Ottomans, to name a few. Armenian and Syriac churches stand side-by-side elaborately carved mosques, and voices carry Kurdish and Arabic through the streets. The road up the hill to the old city centre takes you past a grim prison and some rough-looking houses— definitely something omitted from travellers' tales and guidebooks. However, once in the centre, it is clear to understand why the name Mardin elicits those romantic, dreamy eyes. The architecture is stunning; though not far off from the pale, ornate structures in Urfa, but the setting is spectacular— it's out of another time, out of a book. Just the word Mesopotamia is enough to transport you.
One of the first things I noticed were the pretty, flat brown breads stacked outside bakeries. I couldn't recall seeing anything like them in Turkey, and our hunger and curiosity compelled us to investigate. The heat of the day kept them warm as though straight from the oven, and once we were away from view (not wanting to eat in front of anyone fasting), we set to work.
"This tastes Christian..." I mumbled through a mouth full of the sweet, cinnamony bread. Pedro looked at me puzzled. There was something about that flavour combination that I guess I subconsciously associate with the religion— it reminded me of Easter or Christmas.
In need of a shower and a brief nap, we retreated to the hotel that we had found, one of the few within our price range. Mardin, we were beginning to discover, was prepped for tourists.
Monday, July 21, 2014
We rolled into Akseki sometime in the afternoon when the sun's strength had started to wane and the birds were getting cheekier. The landscape had turned Mediterranean; rocky hills with green pines and shrubs, olive trees and wild thyme. The little town gracefully spilled down a hillside onto a dry valley, and within the boxy concrete buildings stood some beautifully constructed old stone houses. There are stone houses throughout Turkey, but the way in which these were built, with wooden support beams layered between the stones, was quite unique. The exterior walls of some houses were smoothed with a layer of dung or cement, some were painted, and others were left natural.
Akseki is a very small town, but it has two hotels— fortunately the receptionist in the first one turned us off with his brusque manner, and we were able to find (with some help from cheerful, loitering older men) the much more affordable Star Hotel and its charming owner, Yusuf bey. The spartan, clean room was just what we had hoped for, and once we had settled in, we headed out to explore and to find some birds.
We came across a village named Çanakpınar, which though it seemed to be quietly crumbling into the earth, was still inhabited. A handful of children played in the street, and an ancient, trembling lady stared at us from her doorstep. I imagine she had seen the village when it was alive with families, when the wood of their roofs was fresh, and the walls of their homes were not sinking into the dirt. I wonder what that must have been like— when the hunter brought home his ibexes, and hung the curved horns above his window with pride.
We stopped a while to sketch one of these marvellous houses— one that we thought had been forgotten, but as I looked closer at one of the windows, I noticed a hand was grasping the wooden lattice. I strained to see the face to which the hand belonged, but it was too dark inside the house. How long had they been there watching? I smiled, and hoped there was a smile in the darkness too.
Sunday, July 13, 2014
I'm back now, with the best internet connection available in days— which is not saying much. Nevertheless, I am grateful for it. We left Konya some time ago, but let me get back to where I left off. When I think back on Konya, the memory at the forefront of my mind is being trapped in a carpet shop by a rabid fanatic who has a real bone to pick with England. We didn't even want to buy a carpet, but we were too polite to decline his invitation to look at some fine kilims. His rant ran from chemicals in food to Communism, from yoga to the evils of Western Europe and America, from religion to the superiority complex of professors. We desperately hoped for a pause in his nonsensical meandering tirade, and thankfully, it came when he realised we were not going to purchase any of his wares. Sadly, this experience is what first surfaces and then, the mad drivers and roving bands of unpleasant young men.
Yet Konya has an interesting history which has left beautiful architecture and some of the world's most cherished poetry behind. It is the heart of the famous whirling dervishes, of Sufism, and Rumi. I will show you a bit more on that in another post, as Rumi and the Mevlana Museum deserve their own post.
What we have here are some stunning examples of architecture built and expertly embellished by the Seljuk Turks, who had made Konya their capital between the end of the ninth century until the 11th. The intricate details are exquisite, and the city boasts some true beauties that I would have loved to sketch, were it not for the oppressive heat and the aforementioned roving men, who made me quite uncomfortable.
There were of course, lovely people who made us feel welcome, and I thank them with deepest sincerity— this is the best part of travelling; meeting the kind souls out there in this odd, wonderful world.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Monday, March 17, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
Sunday, February 9, 2014
I was really lucky to have been given the opportunity to attend a workshop in Zagreb last weekend, and due to the timings of available flights, I had a good chunk of time to explore the city. Being that it was also my birthday, Pedro came along— searching for Zagreb's feathered residents while I learned about Service Learning.
Everything was so... clean. The streets were litter-free, public spaces well-kept, people looked put together, there was an absence of traffic, no one was screaming... it was wonderful. Granted I was a tourist, and only seeing it in a frozen February when most people were huddling indoors, but it really seemed to be a peaceful and orderly city. The architecture was beautiful and there were cafés everywhere, and there appeared to be a museum for everything (including one for broken relationships— but we'll get to that later). I was enchanted.
While in Zagreb, we packed in as many museum visits as possible— and were fortunate to have arrived in time for Croatia's ninth annual Night of the Museums, when nearly all museums in the country are free from six in the evening until one in the morning. Having researched and planned nothing before setting foot off the plane, everything seemed fortuitous; we had no idea what to expect and were in a constant state of happy surprise. Sometimes, this might just be one of the best ways to travel!
Museum lovers, get ready for some photos!