Posts tagged ‘Legendary Turkey’

Legendary Turkey: The Best of the Travelers’ Photos

OK, I probably shouldn’t say they’re the “best of” the travelers’ photos, because I didn’t get a chance to collect photos from everyone on the Legendary Turkey trip. But over the course of our nearly three weeks together, I would occasionally (usually in the middle of some long bus ride) get a passenger or two to take their memory card out of their camera and let me plug it into my laptop. Then I’d scan through their images and grab a few—with the travelers’ permission, of course—to share with you.

We’ve been back for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve finally had a chance to look through some of those photos and post a collection to the Alumni Association’s Facebook page. I’ve put 30-plus photos up there so far, taken by about eight different participants on the trip, and I hope to get some more up soon. Enjoy.

Tina Hay, editor

June 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm Leave a comment

Ankara, and Then Home


A guard at the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding president of Turkey.

Our last day in Turkey was spent driving from the Cappadocia region up to Ankara, doing a little sightseeing in Ankara, and then crashing at the Ankara Hilton in anticipation of a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call for the trip to the airport to head home.

I don’t get the impression that Ankara is the city you’d build your vacation around; it seems like a nice enough city, but it didn’t seem to have the charisma and history of Istanbul—or the ocean view of, say, Antalya. I think it probably was on the itinerary because it’s the nearest major-city-with-an-airport to Cappadocia.

Still, it has an impressive Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, as well as the Atatürk Mausoleum. The latter wasn’t on the official itinerary, but Gökhan made sure that we made a stop there—it’s a major landmark in Turkey and well worth a visit.


Changing of the guard at the Atatürk Mausoleum in Ankara.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was Turkey’s first president, a military guy who was an officer in World War I and then played a big role in Turkey’s War of Independence, from 1919–23. When Turkey became a republic, he became its president, serving until his death in 1938. He is absolutely revered in Turkey to this day. You see his image everywhere—many towns have a statue of him in the main square, and his photo shows up on the walls of stores, restaurants, even gas stations. We flew into Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul and walked past Atatürk Stadi (Turkish for “Stadium”) in Antalya.

Atatürk’s mausoleum in Ankara is actually a complex of buildings set on a big hill, with young military men standing guard at various locations à la Buckingham Palace or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Tourists often stand next to a guard to get their picture taken with him. At one point it was raining, and suddenly I noticed that each of the guards had ducked into a little phone-booth-like shelter to continue his vigil.

Also on the mausoleum grounds is a gift shop, where you can buy all kinds of Atatürk souvenirs: books, coloring books, framed paintings, even wrist watches and neckties with Atatürk’s signature and/or portrait on them. The watches were only 25 Turkish lira—about 16 U.S. dollars—and I was half-tempted to buy one. It certainly would have made a great conversation piece back home.

Tina Hay, editor

May 23, 2011 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

Galip the Potter Shows How It’s Done (includes video)


The town of Avanos shows off its pottery heritage right in the middle of the Red River. (Click to enlarge)

Like our visit to the carpet factory in Çamlik a week or so earlier, the pottery excursion in Avanos was one of those sleeper things: It was just another item on the itinerary, and we had no idea what a cool experience was in store for us.

Avanos, in the Cappadocia region, is known for its pottery, thanks to the clay soil from the Red River that flows through town. (“Red River” is a lot easier to say—and remember—than its Turkish name: Kızılırmak.)


Galip shows us one of his specialties: a wine pitcher shaped like the ones the Hittites made.

And perhaps the best-known pottery studio in Avanos is Chez Galip, named for Galip Körükçü, whose studio walls are plastered with newspaper and magazine articles about him. He’s even been on Martha Stewart; the video clip of that appearance is pretty interesting to watch.

Galip told us—through an interpreter, as he speaks Turkish and French but not much English—that he’s at least (more…)

May 20, 2011 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

The Cave Town of Zelve


Hiking into the ghost town of Zelve. (Click to view larger.)

No one quite knows exactly how many centuries ago people started living in the caves of Cappadocia. But in the case of one cave town—called Zelve—we know exactly when they moved out.

The former town of Zelve is a honeycomb of caves in the rocks, scattered across three valleys. One of the valleys once housed a monastery, which, like the town, was carved out of the rocks.

Turkey is prone to earthquakes, and an earthquake hit the area in 1950. Two years later the government decided it wasn’t safe for people to live in the caves of Zelve anymore, and set up another place for them to live—called Yeni Zelve, which means “New Zelve”—a mile or so away.


One of the many dwellings in the cave town of Zelve.

The ghost town was turned into the Zelve Open Air Museum in the 1960s. Today, for a small admission fee, you can hike into the valley, climb around some of the caves, and imagine what it was like to live in among the rocks just 50 years ago. A few members of our group were brave enough to even crawl through a rock tunnel connecting one valley to the next. I was not one of them!

By the way, it’s not just earthquakes that are a concern. There’s also the constant process of erosion that causes the rock dwellings to shift and crumble. The fragility of the environment was underscored when our tour director, Gökhan, pointed out a rock church in Zelve that collapsed not long ago. Five years ago he was still taking tour groups into that church, but today it’s just a pile of rocks.

Tina Hay, editor

May 19, 2011 at 1:50 pm Leave a comment

The Fairy Chimneys of Cappadocia


Our first full day in Cappadocia was cloudy and rainy, and while the avid photographers among us would have preferred sunny skies, we still did a lot of oohing and aahing at the eerie landscape and natural beauty of the place.

The weird terrain is the result of a couple of volcanoes in the area that have erupted more than once over the years, laying down a layer of ash-based rock called tuff, followed by layers of molten lava. That plus the natural erosion over time has produced what the locals call “fairy chimneys”—so named because (more…)

May 19, 2011 at 10:48 am 1 comment

A Sneak Peek at Cappadocia


The Legendary Turkey trip officially ended in Antalya, but 13 of the 19 Penn State travelers signed up for the optional extension: a trip to the beautiful region called Cappadocia.

Cappadocia—or Kapadokya, as the Turkish spell it—is an area in central Turkey where the landscape is the star. It’s a magical place of weird and beautiful rock formations, ancient underground cities, and hot-air balloons. For some of us, it was the part of the trip we were looking forward to the most.

We arrived in Cappadocia (pronounced “kappa-dokey-uh” with a long “o”) pretty late in the day, getting to our hotel in the village of Uçhisar around sunset, so there wasn’t much to see. But the next morning I opened the curtains of my hotel-room window and looked out to see the scene you see above: a mass ascension of hot-air balloons at dawn.

(By the way, I don’t know why WordPress seems to mush up the quality of photos so much. If you click on the photo above, you can see a larger and crisper version.)

I also took the photo below around the same time. It’s a shot of the hotel swimming pool in the pre-dawn light, with the Uçhisar Castle—the big rock on the hill—visible in the background.


Those two views were enough to tell me that our two days in Cappadocia were going to be pretty special. More on our Cappadocia adventures tomorrow.

Tina Hay, editor

May 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm 1 comment

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