Day 8

30 07 2015

We began day nine of our journey by saying güle güle to the beautiful, vibrant and colorful city of Kuşadası Some people say that all good things must come to an end. I’ve never agreed with that statement and so far I feel I’m correct as each day in Turkey brings new adventure, learning, exposure to wonderful culture, interaction with genuine people, and historical amazement and just plain awesomeness.
As our bus ride to Atakoy Primary School embarked Professor Orhan gave an insightful lecture on the Turkish language. He taught us about the Turkish alphabet, how Turkish differs from English, what challenges are faced by native Turks learning English and vise versa. He also taught us some vocabulary like how öğretmen means teacher and how haydi means hurry. Orhan often says “hurry teachers” so our knowledge of these words will be of use to him in the future I’m sure.
After our lesson/bus ride we arrived at the village of Karacasu to visit the school and meet the principle and the students of Atakoy Primary School. This was the most heart warming part of the trip by far. The students were adorable and so excited to meet us. They sang us a song in English, told us about their interests, and showed us around the school. We even got to play a little pingpong there with school principal Süleyman Dikman. I lost but trust me when I say he was good. I mean he has a pingpong table in his school! We left gifts for the children, said bye and then departed for lunch.
The lunch time experience we had at Anatolia Restaurant in Karacasu-Geyre was definitely better than good. Meeting us there was musician and entertainer Erol Bebeci and his colorful dancing parrot. He was playing for us a stringed instrument called the tambura bağlama while his parrot happily danced a little jig. Erol was kind enough to allow me hold his parrot and he also let me to play his bağlama. Later during lunch he even taught another teacher named Dana, who bought himself a cura bağlama while in Istanbul, how to play a tune named Maçka Yolları which means the ways of Maçka. Maçka is a place in Turkey. The food was delectable and I had the best yoğurt I’ve ever tasted. I’ve learned that it was invented in Turkey and it was remarkable.
Our final stop was at the ancient city of Aphrodisias along the Meander River basin. It was interesting because we had to take sort of a tractor driven speedy hay ride minus the hay of courseto the site for the last mile or so. This is to keep vehicles from possibly damaging artifacts under the surface I inferred.
Once we arrived, Orhan was at it again teaching us about how Aphrodisias was built as a dedication to the goddess of love Aphrodite. Fitting because the other teachers and I definitively loved the ancient city of Aphrodisias.
The area of the city I will probably most remember was the stadium where games were once played and in later times it  hosted gladiator fighting. The professor, when asked, assured the group that they didn’t fight to the death at this particular stadium.  That’s a good thing.
The stadium is massive and was built sunken into the hillside. The field area seemed to be larger than two football fields. I walked down to the field and looked up at the 20 or so high massive grayish stone bleachers that surrounded me in oval form. They were slightly colored with wild green flora that contrasted with the stone and bright blue sky. I couldn’t help to think of the past when it was bustling with people absorbing the sporting events and watching gladiators fight. My thoughts turned to American football and I couldn’t resist the urge to strike a three-point stance.
We finished the expedition with a quick trip to Aphrodisias Museum which was inside the gates of Aphrodisias. We had about fifteen minutes there. We could have spent hours exploring the abundance of authentic Greco-Roman sculptures and artifacts which included busts of Socrates and Pythagoras, plus hundreds of statues of Roman figures and marble reliefs. We had to move on however because there is so much more to do and see here in Turkey and we’re on a mission to do so. Remember Orhan’s teachings haydi öğretmenler?
Thanks for reading and şerefe from Turkey!


Today, the TCF teachers traveled from Kusadasi to Pamukkale, stopping on the way to visit the historic city of Aphrodisius. The city has a long history, dating back to Neolithic times, but most of the structures and artifacts that have been excavated, are from the Greeks and Romans. Professor Kenan T. Erim of New York University excavated Aphrodisius in the early 1960s, and was buried at the cite after his death in 1990. An interesting sidenote here is that the cite was a thriving village when archaeologists discovered the ancient ruins. Villagers lived among the ruins until the government relocated them prior to excavations beginning. In fact, the owners of the restaurant that served us lunch were among the people that were relocated.
After parking the bus, we loaded into a trailer towed by a tractor and were taken to the site (busses cause too much vibrations for the fragile ruins). As we approached the cite, the two sets of arches that form the gates to the city’s shrine and the temple to Aphrodite that sits about 100 meters away became visible. The pillars that support the gates’ arches have a magnificently carved spiral pattern that extends from the bases to the ornate capitals. The whiteness of the stone contrasts with the green backdtop of the walnut and pomegranate trees that surround it.
A short walk from the gates of the shrine took us to the stadium of Aphrodisius. The site is original and has not been reconstructed since its excavation in 1964. It was contructed in the 1st century AD by the Romans and was used for athletic competitions and eventually for gladiator fights.  When archeologists first discovered the stadium, farmers were using it for growing tobacco, seemingly indifferent to its historical significance. The stadium is about 150 to 200 meters long and has two tunnels at both ends for the fighters or athletes to enter and exit. Despite being covered in lichen and vegetation, intricate details such as game boards engraved in the marble seats were still visible.
After the stadium, we visited the remnants of the temple to Aphrodite, Roman baths, and a 15,000 seat stadium. While all of these were beautiful and will like leave a lasting impression on me, one of the most remarkable aspects of Aphrodisius were the collections of pillars, capitals, statues, and other building pieces strewn about, piled on top of one another or organized neatly into rows along the waking paths. The most striking of these collections though, was a wall we encountered at the end of our walking tour of the city, built entirely out of stone trim work containing intricately carved faces (masks), stacked 5 or 6 high and extending about 40 feet in length. Each face was different and some were so well preserved, they looked almost new. These pieces were likely excavated from the cite and, like the other piles of debris, were stacked for organizational purposes. The fact that artifacts of this age and significance are stacked like firewood is a testament to the abundance of such artifacts in this region of Turkey. Undoubtedly, the sheer abundance of artifacts we’ve encountered in Turkey will be memorable long after we leave.


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 2: Aphrodisias Geyre-Pamukkale

30 07 2015

•    Depart hotel for Aphrodisias, Geyre
•    Atakoy Primary School, Karacasu – Geyre
•    Lunch
•    Aphrodisias
•    Pamukkale springs and travertine, Denizli
•    Dinner at hotel

Day 7

29 07 2015

What does a Civil War in the relatively  new country of the United States have to do with Turkey? Turkey became the source to replace cotton from the American south. With this growing need for cotton John Woods from Great Britain was sent to Turkey to create a path to fill this gap with railroads for distribution.
While surveying for the railroad John found the covered remains of Ephesus. Standing at Ephesus today viewing the Library of Celsus I can imagine hundreds of people in their every day life thousands of years ago.    The pale ivory colored columns on the facade of the library make me wonder how such detailed beauty could have been common place so long ago.
So with the personal curiosity of an Englishman and opportunity brought on by a war in the USA an illustrious part of Turkey’s history is now shared with the world.


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 2: Kusadasi

29 07 2015

•    Depart hotel
•    Ephesus
•    Basilica of St. John
•    Lunch
•    Sirince Village
•    Return to hotel and free time
•    Dinner at hotel

Day 6

28 07 2015

Yesterday was the most amazing day of the trip of many amazing days. The opportunity to listen to Mustafa Askin put the history of Troia-Troja-or Troy into an understandable context was very special, giving teachers much more to pass on to students. Walls that are side by side, yet thousands of years a part. Views of the surroundings that match those of the Iliad, bring a realty of what Troy was. Only visiting Pergamom and the acropolis could add to the day. My curiosity about the construction of the temples was satisfied, as I was able to view closely sections of columns and buttresses. But, best of all, Kelly, Dana, John,  Tracy, and I were able to view the underground archways. Beautiful and magnificent! Tomorrow off to run a new continent!


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 2: Canakkale-Kusadasi

28 07 2015

•    Depart Hotel
•    Lunch
•    Bergama, Acropol
•    Isa Bey Mosque, Selcuk
•    Dinner at hotel

Day 5

27 07 2015

Tuesday we started our morning at Troy. We picked up the Troy expert, which was a great privilege and greatly appreciated. The tour started with an organized effort to get only TCF teachers in the windows of the Trojan. I believe we were successful! Some of the highlights from Troy that I will always remember:
Because of the Physical Geography and potential for earthquakes, the first 5 meters of the wall were built on a diagonal. The next 5 m were straight and made of mud.
The entrance was around a corner, so there was no chance of a battering ram to approach. GENIUS!
Then on to Pergamum, up the hill with our awesome taxi driver who spoke as much English as we do Turkish. He was great! Some of the highlights I will remember:
The library, one of the most extensive at the time was given to Cleopatra as a wedding gift from Marc Anthony in 41BC. Of course, later destroyed in Alexandria.
The amphitheater seated 10000 people and had 80 rows, some of which are still original. The stage was built up on wooden pillars.
It was a fantastic day and look forward to even more 100+ degree weather tomorrow. ;)


We leave the beautiful hotel off on our grand adventure. Orhan tells us the story of the writer of a Turkish life. Handouts of artwork from Nuri Iyem. He has depicted Cappadocia and depicted urbanization including squatting on public land called “night landed”. Squatting, like so many other things I once thought to be traditionally Greek, turns out.. Turkish. (Hahaha) One more image of the Mediterranean metal sculpture (lady represents between the lands this is the literal meaning of Mediterranean so it is well named and placed within Turkey in that it too is a bridge between the lands).
More fun facts from Orhan include (but are not limited to)…
Turks eat most of the olives thus not as much olive oil exports
Turkish coffee is originally from Ethiopia. Eat before coffee (Turkish word for breakfast)
Laz jokes are like Polish jokes.
We were pulled over by the Turkish police to make sure our bus driver did not go over his bus driving allotment.
We stopped at a gas station and once back on the bus we got the lemon oil and it once again smelled magical and made my hands feel so smooth…
Back to history lessons from Orhan…
Poem by Nazim Hikmet about his heart. He was a great poet educated in Soviet Union who is now buried in Moscow because he was exiled by the Turks. He cannot be brought back due to political implications. People used to be arrested for reading his books and his poetry.
Marmara means sea of marble the island in the middle was where the marble came from that built most of the ancient world. Built Constantinople
We watched a video of poetry set to music two songs the composer played the piano with the orchestra and choir. The first poem was done by a small girl the second read by a famous actor then sung by opera singers (it will be available via Kelly or at some point)
We arrived at the ferry line and it seemed to go on forever. None the less we got on the ferry and it was fine. You could say, the Ferry ride was a success. Plus, we saw tons of jelly fish.
Lunch on the water was great. I Deboned a fish all on my own! Then we returned to the bus.
We Landed on Gallipoli headed to the battlefield as we drive to the battleground Orhan relayed the historical significance of churchill’s obsession with the Dardanelles and his ultimate failure or the victory of the ottomans. He also explained the beginnings of the start of WWI and the role turkey played being decided by the guy in the yellow house and two of his general buddies. People were fading after lunch so we got time for a siesta as we continued our journey to the battle ground. (Side note: Troy the city of legend…yes that same city of Priam and Hector and Paris! That city that was immortalized by homer…will be saved until tomorrow :/ I won’t be blogging about it I will just be appreciating the fact that I will finally see the setting of this amazing epic!)
Back to today. We arrived at Gallipoli only to find…
The cemetery for the Anzac. There some of us could soak our feet in the Dardanelles, or take some time to peruse the beach for rocks who have possibly seen all this historic moments these shores have experienced. As I walked along I found myself drawn to a particularly shiny black rock. I reached down and grasped the historic relic in my sauage like fingers … I am still not sure what this particular black rock is, or if it is really a rock. But I do know that there is the smallest chance it has been there since the arrival of the Anzac in the land of the ottomans. Who is to say it is not the remains of a campfire burnt along those shores or perhaps in the trenches?!???
Then on to the Turkish cemetery in between we were told of the rise of Mustafa Kemal. He was not the general but instead worked his way through the ranks and became known for his military prowess.
Now to the place where the pocket watch saved the life of Ataturk. As we closed in on the statue to commemorate the historical moment of the pocket watch we (a couple of us) realized that we had gone the wrong direction, however not to be deterred we climbed the stairs and ventured through the terrain only to arrive directly behind the magnificent statue. As we rounded the statue and came about the front of the statue we read about the historical moment. I got the moment captured in digital memory standing in front of the massive statue and stood in awe of its daunting stature. There was no questioning the importance of this moment from the size of the statue.
We then returned to the bus in order to catch the ferry to the hotel. As we drove up we could see the ferry was basically full. The good news was that we were there for the 5:15 ferry so we waited patiently and then rode the next one across the narrow strait. As we crossed I was drawn to the two ottoman forts that use to guard the strait. Then it was a short ride to the hotel in the woods.
The hotel was quaint to say the least. It was like stepping back in time, we got our room key (an amazingly heavy golden access pass to our chambers) in the lobby and climbed the stairs to our rooms. This time the bathroom shower had a door that actually closed all the way. (It is the little victories). We changed quickly and walked down to the beach to soak in the Dardanelles. I put my feet in to experience it and then decided that was enough experience. We climbed back up the steps to the salt water pool and “chill axed”.  After the pool we had dinner at the hotel and I am pretty sure we tried some sort of Turkish egg roll and a savory chicken kabob.  My meal culminated in a Turkish flan. It was pretty delightful.
I would say another astoundingly successful day!


Today was a great day to be a History teacher! Not only did we visit a World War One site that I didn’t know much about, but we also learned some fun things about Turkey along the way.
Being able to see Gallipoli up-close gave me a new way to present WWI to my students because I was able to envision the War from both sides, instead of just through the eyes of the Allies. I did not realize just how much WWI impacted not only the events immediately following it, but it also shaped the course of contemporary history as well.
Now I will also be able to introduce my students to a great military leader in Mustafa Kemal and debunk the myths about the way in which Anzac & British POW’s were treated following the battle.
The bus ride was also filled with tidbits of history, compliments of our wonderful tour guide, Orhan. Among the things I have now learned about Turkey:
-People were arrested in previous decades for possessing a Nazim Hikmet book of poetry. While in prison, people were tortured until they would name another who also believed the same way. Now TCF is one of the sponsors of Nazim Hikmet festival every year in the U.S.
-A Laz man was so determined to build his house his way that the electrical wires for the town ran through holes beneath his second story ceiling.
-Buses record their speed, time & distance and Police stopped our bus to check them. Orhan warned us when we got out our cameras:
“You trigger your camera, they trigger their gun. Look innocent”.
Other Orhan “words of wisdom”:
-Turks count olive trees, not sheep, to go to sleep.
-Turks don’t drink apple tea. It’s a tourist thing.
-Without olives, breakfast doesn’t count.
-Now we will make a stop to worship at the temple of relief & comfort.


Teacher Study Tours 2015 – Group 2: Canakkale-Gallipoli-Troy

27 07 2015

•    Depart hotel for Gallipoli
•    Anzac Cove, 57th Infantry Regiment Cemetery and Memorial, Chunuk Bair, Canakkale Martyrs Memorial and the Lone Pine Cemetery & Memorial in Gallipoli
•    Lunch
•    Troy
•    Dinner at hotel

Day 4

26 07 2015

Today was a bittersweet day as we left Istanbul and headed to Bursa in the Marmara region, an area known for it’s mosques, religious monuments, spas, and silks. While visiting the Ulucami Mosque (also referred to the Grand Mosque) I was overwhelmed by the spectacular architecture. This  mosque has 192 examples of Islamic calligraphy that is featured prominently in the
interior and a large fountain found in the center. This is a major landmark of the Ottoman Empire and the largest in this city.
Today also brought an incredible visit to the Karagoz House where a brief history was given by Sinasi Celikkol about the traditional Turkish shadow theater “Karagoz ve Hacivat.” This is where a light from a lamp behind the stage reflects the puppets onto a curtain. The shadow play was popularized in the Ottoman palace during the time period 1389-1402 and was a accepted in 2009 as an “intangible cultural heritage” by UNESCO.


We started off the morning at 7:00 a.m., earlier than the first few mornings. As we left Istanbul, a few of the people on the bus marveled out loud and wondered if they’d ever be back to the magical city bridging two continents that we’d been introduced to the past few days. Looking out the windows, we were able to catch our last glimpses of the seven mosques dotting the skyscrape. One person was missing from the bus, though. Orhan let us know that Eric had opted to stay in the city for the morning and try to swim across the Bospherus, swimming between Asia and Europe! So, minus one, we crossed the Golden Horn and began our adventure into Asia as we headed toward Bursa.
After passing the Trump Towers (yes, Trump has real estate here too) and taking a quick pit stop for a bathroom and some delicious (and cheap) Turkish Coffee, we drove on a toll-way for a bit before coming to the home of Osman Hamdi Bey – a famous Turkish artist from the late 19th Century. This man lived in a small village right next to the ferry launch. After touring the man’s estate and getting to see some of his work, we took the ferry across the Sea of Marmara – a nice shortcut that put us much closer to Bursa. Being on the water was a real plus for some. The teachers from Seattle, for example, are used to the ferries, but relished the sea and the breeze as a striking commonality between their lives in the states and being in this foreign land.
Orhan used his MH time to explain the system of civil service leaders that had been an institution in his country. In the 1350s and for the next 600+ years, Sultan Orhan started a system of bringing boys to Istanbul. These boys were sometimes orphans, but were often taken against the parents’ will to live in Istanbul. They came from various conquered peoples, including Croatian, Serbian, Greek, Armenian boys. These boys had three general characteristics. They were rural, poor, and non-Turkish. Rural meaning they were more naïve and less ambitious. Poor meaning they would be appreciative of things given them, and would have loyalty to the Sultan. And finally, the Turkish people are historically nomadic and rebellious. By being non-Turkish, these boys would not have this rebellious attitude.
Orhan also mentioned that he knows all the flowers of Turkey. There are two types of Oleanders… white and pink. Any others are not Oleanders! That is your floral lesson for this trip, Orhan told us.As he was bemoaning what he sees as senseless construction projects, Orhan said that Turkey might be “…the only country in the world to have a Ministry of Environment and Urban Development… under one roof!”
Lunch was an experience we just couldn’t have prepared for. We went to Kebabçi Iskender at Botanik Park. The man who runs the place has a passion for Döner Kababs and for restauranting in general. At 77 years of age, he spoke of a way of life – a healthy way of life – rooted in walking, not drinking, and carrying on in a positive fashion. He said that while he is a Muslim, he doesn’t judge others. Over the years, he has served a number of Presidents, from his own as well as other countries (George W. Bush included).
After lunch, it was a quick drive to the Bursa Silk market followed by a visit to the Ulucami Mosque. Built in 1399, this Mosque had an ambiance more akin to a public square than the mosque we visited in Istanbul. People were able to go throughout the mosque itself. The colors were stark contrasts. Shades of white highlighted by shades of black and vice-versa. There wasn’t much for color (other than the red carpet) in the building. This mosque was also unique because there is a fountain in the center. Yunus  told me that he thought one of the landowners had held out not wanting to have a mosque on the site. So, when construction proceeded, as a tribute to the dissenting person, the fountain was placed inside the mosque in the center.. Orhan said he didn’t know why the fountain had been put there, but that Muslim custom is to wash your feet before entering a place of worship, not coming inside and then cleansing the feet.
Not done, yet, we next drove a short bit to the Karagöz Muzesi – the Shadow Puppet Museum. Many of the group were struggling to stay awake, but the actor who played the parts was phenomenal! After the show, most of the group took turns at managing the puppets in the control room. The air conditioning wasn’t quite cranking out the coolness some of us would have preferred, but the pure joy of the amateur puppeteers among us made up for the warm temps!
When we left the museum, it was a short five minute walk to a parking lot where Ismail had parked the bus and arranged for all of our keys. We had a parking lot ‘check in’ and then walked about a few hundred yards on up to the crest of a little hill and into our hotel. A nice hotel, sure, but the Turkish Bath was the part many were excited to experience!
This bath was built about 600 years ago. The marble columns and walls with skylights at the top of the domes (there were two) were visually stunning. Our group was extremely fortunate to have Yunus (the Turkish Math teacher) as our guide, for the only person who spoke English in the bath was the man who gave us the tokens to give to the men in the bath for our services.… As I sat relaxed and basking in the warmth of the towels, Turkish music played over the sound system and the towel-wrapping man brought me an Ayran Yogurt! Indeed, one of the high points of the trip, this Turkish Bath experience was. I sure hope to have another before this tour is over!