Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 1: Ankara- Istanbul

11 07 2015

•    Departure hotel for Ankara Esenboga Airport (ESB)
•    Homebound flights from ESB through Istanbul

Day 12

10 07 2015

We started our morning at the Haci Bektashi Veli Museum, which gave us an intimate look at the life of an Alouite community center. I really liked walking around especially seeing their garments, rooms, and places of worship. After driving the LONG distance to Ankara, we were treated to an insightful analysis of Turkish current affairs from Mr. Unluhisarcikli, a representative of the German Marshall Fund. I was surprised to hear him explain that Turkey did not feel like they had any allies in Europe. It brought home how important the relationship is with the US. Afterwards, we had lunch in an authentic room of the Ankara Castle with amazing views of the capital city.
The massive mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was our next stop. alking around this memorial made me think of how we honor our first president with a monument and not really a museum about the man himself. Same goes for our most beloved President Lincoln. I loved Ataturk’s quote in the education hall: “Teachers are the one and only people who save nations.”
Then we visited the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations. It would have been great to have more time at this site which had collections of artifacts going back 10,000 years. A very special treat for us was getting to see the children’s area where museum curators recreate artifacts that can be touched and manipulated for young learners.
After checking in to our hotel, we gathered to hear comments from Mr. Henick, the Public Affairs Officer of the US Embassy. He engaged in a QnA that was honest and informative. Especially interesting was his answer to my question about his use of the phrase “…an event commonly referred to as the Armenian Genocide…”
Finally, the group had our farewell dinner where we expressed to all the TCF and Tour staff how much we appreciated all of their work. There was singing, eating, laughing, drinking, and even some tears of sadness that our trip was coming to an end.

Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 1: Cappadocia – Ankara

10 07 2015

•    Haci Bektas-i Veli Museum
•    Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and Turkish War of Liberation Museum
•    Lunch briefing on Turkish current affairs
•    Museum of Anatolian Civilizations
•    Briefing on U.S.-Turkey relations
•    Farewell dinner

Day 11

9 07 2015

Today began very early for some – around 5:00 am.  8 of the teachers took to the sky in a hot air balloon.  It was stunning, peaceful and exhilarating all at the same time!  We were all thankful to have had the experience!
Today, we visited Göreme (open air museum) and Kaymakli (underground city).  Both were so different from each other but incredibly impressive.  We had the opportunity to stop at Matis – a local carpet workshop where we learned the process of creating the beautiful Turkish carpets.
Finally, we got together as a group to present our lesson plan ideas.  There was limited time, but we had all learned so much and we are looking forward to see how exited our students will be to learn about Turkey!


Cappadocia.  A land of fairy chimney-looking natural earth structures.  Other worldly looking dwellings for people not very long ago; magical looking from the sky.  Cappadocia is world famous for spectacular hot-air balloon rides and now it was my turn.  I, along with a few very lucky souls, rose early and made our way to our balloon.  Atmosfer was the name of the balloon company and it did not go unnoticed that it sure sounded like “At Most Fear!”  A few of us are acrophobic but we certainly were not going to miss this once in a lifetime gift.
Instructions were given and the fiery ascent began.  Gently rising to the sky we joined a hundred other colorful balloons filled with others living this same moment.  Floating calmly above one of the most beautiful places ever imagined is the most surreal time in my life.  Words escape me as I try to relive floating above this enchanted mythical landscape.  I thought my favorite part would be going as high as possible.  I was mistaken.  Our pilot steered us low and close to these otherworldly structures.  I half expected an fairy to greet me good morning!
Cappadocia must be experienced.  I thank the Turkish Cultural Foundation for this amazing experience!


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 1: Cappadocia

9 07 2015

•    Kaymakli underground city
•    Lunch
•    Goreme Open Air Museum
•    Scenic views of Uchisar, Pasabag (Monks Valley) and Pigeon Valley
•    Wrap-up meeting and presentations of lesson plan outlines at hotel
•    Dinner at hotel

Day 10

8 07 2015

Our day was full of adventure exploring the way of life of the ancient people in the Cappadocia region.
We explored a caravan stop-overs, ate an authentic lunch from terra cotta pots, and hiked the ancient rock formations and peered into the old dwellings inside them.
But the most impactful moment for me was getting to witness the ceremony if he Whirling Dervishes. Words cannot accurately enough portray the emotions I felt while watching these beautiful worshipers. I was in awe at beauty, grace and meaning they poured into each of their movements. This experience affirmed my believe that God is present in all places and methods of worship. And that our differences in methodology only bring further glory to the creator by emphasizing the breadth of the beauty of this world and its people.


We spent our 11th day in Turkey visiting the Sultanhani Caravanserai, which was built by the Seljuk Turks to foster trade by providing safe lodging and rest for merchants along the trade routes. There was no charge to use the pre-modern rest stop and merchants had use of safe stables to rest their horses, a small mosque to pray and areas for sleeping and cooking. These Caravanserai have been thought to promote cultural diffusion from across Asia to the Middle East and Europe.
The day also included plenty of time to shop (to practice those bartering skills) and view the sights of Cappadocia, including natural rock formations. Locals of Cappadocia carved homes into the rocks and lived in the rock-carved homes until the 1950s! The “rock-carved” homes provided cooler spaces than any other type of home during the hot summer months. It was also a great place to store and cool perishable items. We also visited a 7th generation underground ceramic shop that produced beautiful traditional and modern pieces. Ceramics painted by grand master artists could take up to 100 days to create these pieces as they were all painted free-hand with no rulers, forms, or stencil.
Our day wrapped up with the ritual ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes. A dervish is a follower of the great mystic and poet, Rumi and the practice of “whirling” is a ceremony used to celebrate their mystical union with Allah. Their white skirts spun out as dervishes kept a perfect spin with traditional music playing. It seemed as if the dervishes entered into a trance-like state while spinning.


We continued our journey to the arid interior of Anatolia, with stops at two Caravanserais serving as cultural bookends for the day.  Apparently the Seljuk Turks actually encouraged trade through the development of these historic “truck stops.”  By ensuring safe passage along the Silk Road, the merchants became more successful and wealthy, filling the coffers of Seljuk tax collectors.  These bed and breakfasts look like little fortresses, with intimidating walls and ornamental doorways; however, there were no system of defense or soldiers within the Caravanserais.  Inside they had kitchens, stables and, of course, places for tired travelers to sleep.  People of all religion were welcome, and it was free lodging for merchants as well as storytellers, entertainers and barbers, among others.  In addition to being a rest stop, it was also a place of unofficial trade, where merchants could diversify their offerings based on the needs of the places they were planning on traveling.  For example, a merchant selling silk scarves could acquire spices to bring to the area he was headed to increase his profits.  Visiting the Sultanhani Caravanserais near Aksaray was incredibly interesting and insightful into trading along the Silk Road.
After a brief stop for shopping and “temples of comfort” (bathrooms), we had a delectable lunch at Bizim Ev Restaurant where we were treated to a new style of Turkish cuisine.  Our main course was a beef stew served in little brown pots that had been slow cooked.  I liked to think of it as Turkish goulash made in mini-crock pots.  The meat was incredibly tender, and the flavor was enhanced by the vegetables.
Our next stop was a ceramic shop that has been owned and operated by the same family for 7 generations, with the most congenial and hilarious shop owner we’ve met!  It was so interesting to see the red and white clay transformed into artwork.  There were so many beautiful vases, plates, cups, and decanters.  It was incredible to see an expert potter use a manual wheel to create an intricate wine decanter in less than 10 minutes.  It takes a lot to make a group of 24 teachers silent, and this artist definitely mesmerized us.  As if this stop couldn’t be cooler, all of the rooms are in caves underground to maintain a consistent temperature.  They also housed a museum full of ancient artifacts!
One of the highlights of the afternoon was seeing all the natural formations of Cappadocia.  These pillar-like rock formations are not only beautiful, they were functional.  Until the 1950s, many of these hollowed out rocks served as homes for the people.  We balanced the afternoon with “Fuji stops” for photo ops, markets for souvenirs, and exploring the cavernous formations.  I had seen pictures of Cappadocia before, but nothing prepared me for the incredible beauty of this place.  I was also impressed by the fortitude of the people that literally carved out a life there; especially since I nearly bit the dust a few times climbing the steep inclines of the caves.  Although most people were spent after this portion of the day, either physically financially or both, we had one of the more entrancing activities still to go.
We headed to another Caravanserai for a “whirling dervish” performance before dinner.  The “dervishes” are mystic followers of the great Turkish poet and mystic, Rumi.  It was unlike anything I had ever experienced.  Listening to the Quran being sung in a powerful, clear voice was beautiful.  Then instruments chimed in, and before I knew it the dervishes were swirling around in a mesmerizing fashion.  Everyone was captivated as they perfectly circled around, their white clothing billowing with their movement.
Although today opened and closed at Caravanserais, it truly shows the richness and diversity of Turkey.  It is impossible to describe how beautiful, unique and distinctive this country is.  I cannot wait to see what new wonders tomorrow brings!


Today’s adventure was full of surprises. Our morning began at Sultanhan Caravanserai, a 13th century rest stop for travelling merchants. The caravanserai was peaceful, but I imagine that it was once a bustling place, with merchants bartering amongst one another or relaxing in the dormitories while their animals rested in the stables.
After lunch we explored an underground ceramics museum and workshop. We watched in amazement as the artists painstakingly painted intricate designs on unfinished ceramic plates, and we were treated to a demonstration of the process of creating a ceramic wine decanter.
Next we explored the rock dwellings of Cappadocia. For me, this has been one of the most exciting days of the trip. Seeing these rock formations and the homes and churches carved into them has been an item on my bucket list for most of my life. And Cappadocia did not disappoint. The landscape is other-worldly and it is difficult to imagine what life among those rocks must have been like. I’m looking forward to seeing more tomorrow!
We ended the day at another caravanserai where we witnessed the Semâ ceremony of the Whirling Dervishes. The whole experience was mesmerizing. The austere faces of the dervishes, the rhythm of the music, and the ceaseless whirling combined to create a hypnotic effect.
Each one of today’s events was nothing as I expected it to be, from the tranquility of the caravanserai to the alien world of Cappadocia to the dervishes’ dedicated whirling. Turkey truly is a magical place, providing our TCF tour group with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 1: Konya – Cappadocia

8 07 2015

•    Depart hotel for Cappadocia
•    Sultanhan Caravanserai
•    Lunch
•    Whirling Dervishes ceremony at the Saruhan Caravanserai
•    Dinner at hotel

Day 9

7 07 2015

We started the day’s journey by dipping our feet in the warm waters of the Pamukkale pools, just as the 1st century CE travelers did when visiting Hierapolis.  From there we traveled forward in time and distance to Konya.  After refueling at another one of Turkey’s unique roadside restaurants we disembarked for the Medlevi Monastery.  The paintings above Rumi’s coffin are so beautiful, colorful, and intricate, I could not look away.  It is a wonder they are not celebrated in the west like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.  We whirled through the site, following our masterful tour guide back to our caravan and on to our final destination.  We followed the tels in search of the ancient ruins of Catalhoyuk.  There, I was impressed by the focus and determination of the archeologists, who meticulously dig section by section, layer by layer, to uncover the past.  Though they are seekers of bygone eras they are also preservers of the future, leaving parts of the site untouched for future generations to discover.  Our day ended as it began, with a hearty meal and the company of friends.


Today was a day of colors.  Pamukkule’s white walls were amazing and the jewel tone blue in the pools reflecting the sky was almost spiritual.  Even with the crowds, the colors gave it a serene feel.
On the morning bus ride, greens and earth tone browns were broken by flowers and blossoms of every color.  Again more white, as Orhan pointed out the salt lake and the piles of collected salt drying.
Rumi’s tomb and monastery featured bricks and stone of dark reds, browns, and greys preceded by a riot of colorful flowers at the entrance.  The muted blues, greys, and greens of the tombs topped with the brown coffin hats and white turbans helped to create a quiet place to reflect on Rumi’s teaching to “Come, Come, Whoever you are …. Whether infidel, fireworshiper, … Come, come again.”   This was my favorite place of the day.
In the afternoon, the greens, browns, and yellows of the field gave way to the beige/grey huyaks in the distance.  Upon our arrival at Catal Huyak, yellow straw marked the path to the adobe structures.  Stark amongst them were several original white-washed walls of a few living spaces and the red of 11,000 year old wall paintings.  Orhan pointed out a reconstruction of an 11,000 year old painting that might be depicting a volcanic eruption.
Driving away from Catalhoyuk, the day felt complete as the blazing orange sun set behind the misty grey-blue mountains.


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 1: Pamukkale – Catalhoyuk – Konya

7 07 2015

•    Depart hotel for Konya
•    Lunch en route to Konya
•    Museum and Tomb of Mevlana Celaleddin RUMI
•    Neolithic site of Catalhoyuk
•    Dinner at hotel