The Last Entry of the 2013 Teacher Study Tours

28 07 2013

As our Turkey experience comes to a close, I am assigned the task of writing in the blog, so here it


American teachers are we,
New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota,
Washington, Vermont, Minnesota,
New York, Connecticut, Montana,
Varied backgrounds and ages
But much in common have we!

Traveling adventurers are we,
Mingling with protesters,
Enjoying Turkish baths,
Swimming in Dardanelles and Aegean,
Mingling with villagers,
Floating above Cappadocia.

Abundant acquirers are we,
Spices and treats from the market,
Silk scarves and textiles from Bursa,
Clothing, jewelry, and gifts from Sirince Village,
Ceramics and carpets from master artists,
Logistics and trinkets at every Temple of Relief and Comfort!

Enlightened educators are we,
Reading and learning before and during,
Absorbing Orhan’s microphone hours,
Taking in sights, food, and cultural moments,
Experiencing Mosques, churches, and Dervishes,
Sharing our ideas and plans for instruction,
Learning history and politics at Turkey’s Capitol.

Appreciative, enchanted, amazed,
Awed, changed,
All are we!

– Karen

Teacher Study Tours 2013 – Group 2: Ankara – Istanbul

27 07 2013

⦁    Departure from Hotel & transfer to Ankara Esenboga Airport (ESB)
⦁    Homebound flights from ESB through Istanbul

Teacher Study Tours 2013 – Group 2: Cappadocia – Ankara

26 07 2013

⦁    Depart for Ankara
⦁    Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Museum
⦁    Lunch
⦁    Museum of Anatolian Civilizations (⦁
⦁    Briefing on domestic / foreign policy issues
⦁    Farewell dinner and overnight

Teacher Study Tours 2013 – Group 2: Cappadocia

25 07 2013

⦁    Kaymakli underground city
⦁    Lunch
⦁    Goreme Open Air Museum
⦁    Scenic views of Uchisar, Pasabag (Monks Valley) and Pigeon Valley
⦁    Dinner and overnight at Hotel

Day 11: Good-bye Pamukkale, Hello Cappadocia!

25 07 2013

“Our travels have taken us across the most beautiful landscape one can imagine.  This vast and seductive country is lined with fig trees that I have long ago stopped counting.  I stood beneath one tree in Ephesus that was over sixty feet tall.  It seemed to be part of the landscape since the dawn of time.  Wherever you look you see pomegranates, olive groves, apricots, honey and wine.  Turkey is tantalizing, and my senses are in overload.  Fresh peaches in the markets run down your face, and if you are lucky enough to taste the perfect melons that grow here you will never want to leave.  Our tour group is now completely under the spell of Turkish red pepper, the many variations of eggplant, and yogurt with dollops of honey.  One step into the villages and markets, mosques and ruins is a walk through time.  Every person on our tour has been amazed at the diverse range of activities, exciting surprises, historic sites around every turn, and the grace and dignity of our hosts and the people we’ve met.   Today we walked through the ancient city of Hieropolis and allowed our feet to sample the water trickling towards the valley from Pamukkale.  The site is otherworldly.  Imagine two dozen distinguished teachers aching to find the next great photograph from every conceivable angle.  Imagine the desperate walk to see as much as we can before Orhan, our tour guide beckons us back to the bus.  These short pilgrimages to Turkey’s most iconic sites are making us long for more.

Pamukkale is just one site that pulls you deeper into Turkey.  Imagine the sound of running water, gushing downward past ice colored salt terraces.  Imagine the valley a thousand years ago and three miles of tunnels bringing fresh water to a city of wool makers nestled in the fields.  The Pamukkale Travertines look like a winter Olympic village, yet they are not made by the hand of man.  This is one of Turkey’s great natural wonders, but the ingenuity of the many great empires of this land is never far.  Peering down upon Pamukkale is Hieropolis, one of mankinds greatest achievements.  In the 3rd Century A.D. this city was a health center.  During the Roman Empire period thousands of people used to come to the baths to find remedy.  The water is thought to be effective against rheumatism, eye diseases, and nerve and muscle systems.  The ruins of Hieropolis are protected as a UNESCO Heritage Site.  Some of the most important sites to see in this vast complex are the Southern Roman Gate, Big Bath Museum, Temple Spring, Theatre, and Ancient Pool.  If you can imagine the beauty of this site through my descriptions it will still fall short.  You must visit Turkey, and Pamukkale.

The TCF tour has affected each teacher in the group.  I can see it in all of our faces.  There is pure joy, pure thankfulness at the opportunity, and genuine appreciation for a country that for many American’s is a mystery.  We have all bonded, we have all tried to learn from each other, and we have all spent time getting to know Zeynep, Emine, Orhan, Zeynap, Mr. G, and Berk.  We have learned from each other, drank Raki together, laughed, and collectively enjoyed the journey.

Imagine our group driving through Anatolia, listening to Turkish songs, or Orhan telling stories from the microphone.  Orhan the Terrible has a quick wit, brilliant mind, and ability to effortlessly trace the history of this region as our bus weaves in and out of the valleys and olive groves.  Today we learned the epic stories of Sheik Bedreddin, a man who led a revolt against the Sultan in the coastal regions of Anatolia.  “Bedridden’s braves looked out from the rocks at the horizon.  Those who looked out from the rocks had opened up this earth like a brother’s table spread for all- this earth with it’s grapes, figs, and pomegranates, its sheep with fleece blonder than honey and milk thicker than honey and its narrow-waisted, lion maned horses.”   There is so much more to see in this beautiful land.  I write this blog entry with a heavy heart because the tour will end soon, and Turkey may again remain elusive.  I don’t know when I will be back, but this journey has opened my eyes to a country that is the most interesting place I have ever been.”

– Mark (Connecticut)

At the ceramic workshop, Shannon shows off her skills

“Today was our longest day yet, leaving Pamukkale at 7:00 and arriving at our hotel in Konya, a distance of 405 kilometers or around 250 miles, at almost 9:00. Though tired and hungry, there were a lot of happy teachers, having experienced yet another day of amazing and unique gifts of this magnificent country.  Our first stop was at Hierapolis, a second century BC thermal bath for the elite, located at the top of a mountain unlike any I had ever seen. Mark will be discussing this more, which is good for me as I found it totally indescribable – a gift for the senses! Zeynep even took it a step further by indulging in the “fish nibbling” form of exfoliation offered there.Being the daughter of a former farmer, I found the terrain we traversed today quite interesting as Orhan the Magnificent shared geographic tidbits. We began our day’s journey in the area of the Meander River and travelled through hills that reminded me somewhat  of the yellowish hills of California, followed by hours through the flat Anatolian Plateau. There was not as much land under cultivation as I would have expected there due to the more arid climate, but they did cultivate sugar beets and Napoleon cherries. Later in the day we passed areas where opium crops, closely regulated by the government for pharmaceutical usage, were harvested back in May.At the Mevlana Museum in Konya, we saw the mausoleum of Rumi, whose 13th century teachings would lead to the religious order of whirling dervishes. Tomorrow we will actually be able to witness a ceremony of this mystic group.

For me, the  highlight of the day was our visit to Catalhoyuk, which was my most anticipated site. This ongoing excavation of the oldest known Neolithic Village started in the 1960’s, and we had the incredible good fortune to get a personal after-hours tour by the director of the excavation, Dr.   Ian Hodder. He has been working at this site for the last 24 years and, needless to say, was a wealth of knowledge. I was most amazed at how this culture would periodically raise the roof of their dwellings so that they could fill in the floors with several feet of new dirt to increase space for burials beneath their homes. It was also amazing to learn that there has been absolutely no evidence of violence uncovered for this culture, probably due to their dedication to egalitarian principles.

It was another outstanding day provided to us by the generosity of the Turkish Cultural Foundation, and we are all so grateful for the opportunity to explore this magnificent and diverse country. I almost forgot one very important part of today’s adventures. Thanks to the Washington state contingency, we welcomed another traveler to our group who seems to have stolen the heart of our very own Z. They were spotted dancing lovingly in the aisle of the bus during a special moment together. We welcome the Penguin as an honorary teacher and member of our Study Tour!”

– Patsy (New Hampshire)

Day 13: Last Day in Cappadocia

25 07 2013

Cappadocia at sunrise - from James's camera

Our group is now in the area of Nevsehir, in Cappadocia.   A few adventurous souls rose in the wee hours this morning to take a balloon ride to view the region’s spectacular scenery from the air.  It looks like it was a wonderful experience – thanks, Ethan, for sharing your pictures!

First on the day’s agenda was a visit to Kaymakli, a network of underground shelters created during the Byzantine period as protection from Arab attacks.  The network includes stables, churches, kitchens and other spaces, all cut from the volcanic tufa.
Next we visited The Goreme open air museum, a UNESCO world heritage site.  More than 300 churches were carved out of the tufa, and the complex includes a monastery which was occupied from about 400 AD up until the Greek-Turkish population exchange of the 1920s.  The churches (more like chapels in size) were decorated with frescoes.  Some have deteriorated over time, others were deliberately defaced after the population exchange due to the  resentment of local people over their treatment by the occupying Greek army.
In what is referred to as the “Apple” church, four columns chiseled from tufa are decorated with red paint and every available surface was at one time decorated with vibrantly colored frescoes depicting Jesus, Mary, the apostles and other saints.  What I found most expressive of the devotion of the monks who used this space was in front of the small side altar dedicated to the Virgin and child: a small half-round niche carved into the floor where a person could kneel in prayer.  In those areas where the bright reds and blues of the frescoes have flaked away, earlier simpler paintings in red and white are visible.  This simpler, more primitive style is also visible in the Saint Barbara chapel, where the barrel vaults are lined in red to resemble masonry blocks.  The most impressive of the churches I visited was the Tokali church, where the frescoes are being restored by Turkish and Italian experts.
Some of the living spaces of the monastery are also visible, including a kitchen space with a smoke-blackened ceiling and a dining area where the long table and benches seating as many as 30 monks were also carved from the tufa.
The teachers were treated to lunch today at the Matis carpet workshop, where we learned about the work which goes into creating these works of art, especially the months and in some cases years of hand knotting by expert craftswomen.  We were privileged to be able to observe some of them at work.  During lunch, carpet after carpet was spread out for our enjoyment: wool, silk, and cotton in a variety of colors and patterns.  Truly awe-inspiring!  Some of us took the plunge and purchased a very special memento of our very special trip to Turkey.
Julia  (New Hampshire)

Day 12: Cappadocia – The Land of Enchantment and Fairy Chimneys

24 07 2013

Shannon shows off her kick-wheel skills at a prominent ceramic shop in Cappadocia

“The Cappadocia stop-over today was truly a unique viewing experience. It was documented by “Orhan the Remarkable” that as a result of volcanic eruptions over 4,000 years ago a large tableland was formed from the volcanic activity. Orhan further explained that the height of the soft rock formations help us to estimate the original level of land elevation. The soft rock formations of yellowish clay mixed with iron provided inhabitants of the area a way to develop a network of rooms connected to each other by tunnels, which added to their security. Today, the rooms are used for meeting places,restaurants, and places of business. Cappadocia is one of the most popular balloon tour center visited by millions every year….even by our courageous tour group. In fact, our group will probably say that this was one of the best destinations of the tour.

A historical ceremony was presented tonight by the Whirling Dervishes at the Sarihan Caravanserai, built in 1294. According to the pamphlet, that was handed to the group, the Whirling Dervish “embraces all humankind, all the creation with affection and love. The group members reflected on the performance with the following points:

  • discipline
  • precision
  • trance like
  • peaceful
  • restful
  • powerful alignment
  • feel the breeze from their skirts
  • hypnotic movement
  • memorizing

Enjoy the Wisdom Today!”

– Ralph (Connecticut)

“Like merchants of the past, we started and ended our day at a caravanserai. Along the way, we ‘paid’ tribute to the merchants of the past and present by learning more about Turkish economic history through Orhan’s presentations and with stampedes in every passing souvenir stand.

Leaving Konya for Cappadocia, we marveled at the new topography of volcanic rock, flat plateaus and villages built alongside abandoned cave dwellings. We had another great regional lunch – this one at a restaurant where our food was slow backed in special ceramics.

At Firca Seramik, Shannon, our group’s resident ceramicist, did a great job of demonstrating how traditional methods can still be used by artists today.”

– Orah (Rhode Island)

Teacher Study Tours 2013 – Group 2: Konya – Cappadocia

24 07 2013

⦁    Depart for Cappadocia
⦁    Sultanhan Caravanserai
⦁    Lunch
⦁    Whirling Dervishes Ceremony at the Saruhan Caravanserai
⦁    Dinner at Hotel

Teacher Study Tours 2013 – Group 2: Pamukkale – Catalhoyuk – Konya

23 07 2013

⦁    Depart for Konya
⦁    Lunch
⦁    Museum and Tomb of Rumi
⦁    Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk
⦁    Dinner at Hotel