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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's good to be home

This weekend was the big offshore race boat weekend. The boat that was fastest, over 175 miles per hour, was 50 feet long with two turbine engines.

Tomorrow I leave for Seattle for a few days and hopefully when I get back the new computer will be here. Right now the only way I can open my photos was on the laptop. For the blog have been taking the raw files from the camera and adjusting them on the laptop but it's difficult to get them very accurate as a slight change in the angle of the screen makes them lighter or darker.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Yes, I made it home. The Turkish Airlines did make it to Chicago by flying a southern route to avoid the volcano cloud. It made a flight that normally takes a little over 11 hours take two hours longer. Our first plane had mechanical problems and the next one we got on had to wait two hours to take off, combined with the extra two hours flight time I missed my connection in Chicago. Also missed the next two flights to Las Vegas causing my ride home, which drove for three hours and waited for three flights from Chicago to finally give up and head home as he could get no information on where I was and I had no way to contact him. When I did get in and called home my wife was able to call him and he turned around and drove an hour back to the airport to pick me up. Made it home at 3AM, special thanks to Reese Mead for the pickup even though he had to be at the office only a few hours later. I was very lucky to get that flight because today British Airlines is asking people with flights to and from Europe next week to give them up if they can in order to get stranded passengers a seat home.

No, it's perfectly safe

I'm always asked if it's safe to travel to these countries so I show this image taken in the eastern desert of Syria. I have always felt safe traveling in all these countries,the people always are very friendly. Yes, you occasionally run into an official that's having a bad day and there has been a couple times when things have gotten interesting, usually because I'm photographing some place off limits, but your certainly as safe or safer anyplace here than you would be in any large American city. Even traveling with lots of expensive camera and other equipment we have had no problem with theft. As one man on a camel who stopped to talk with in the Roman Ruins in Syria explained, no one would think of taking anything as that would dishonor his family and he would possibly have his hand cut off. He went on to say to steal would be worse than killing you- not reassuring. When he found out I was from America he stated that not many Americans come there and asked if we were afraid to travel there. He then stated over and over how safe we were there, while we talked, more camel drivers stopped to talk as dawn broke. As they deal with tourists most spoke some English and all were hoping more Americans would come. This is a common theme, most want to see more Americans tourists as opposed to some of the tourists they now see.

One thing you notice is that hospitality is very important, you are always being invited in for tea which then turns into a meal as more and more food appears. It's very common to be invited into a home for a meal which soon turns into a large gathering of family and friends all bringing more food. In a small town in eastern Syria I stopped in a store on the way back to camp to get some food as I had missed dinner while photographing, when the owner found out I was an American he called his family down and soon the store was filled as more friends were introduced and more food and tea offered. When I left town the next day several stopped by the truck to say goodbye as I was now their friend from Arizona.

Monday, April 19, 2010

VALCANO!, What do you mean Volcano

Spent most of the day on the internet dealing with British Airlines, news flashes, volcano info searches dealing with web site that crashed or wouldn't open. My flight was going back through London tomorrow and all things looked bad for getting to London but BA wouldn't cancel it. Finally just twelve hours to flight time they canceled the flight. Was waiting for the cancellation before buying another ticket and had found one on wednesday but by the time British Airlines canceled the only options for wednesday was a China Airlines flight through Peking for $4896. There were several later next week for less than a thousand but an extra week of hotels and meals in Istanbul is not cheap, especially since the most I paid for a hotel before Istanbul was $15 a night. The least I paid was $1.50 in Allepo, and it wasn't worth it, would have rather camped.

There are a number of things to worry about when traveling in the middle east such as war breaking out but never thought about a volcano. The last trip here was a month before Israel bombed the nuke plant in Syria. Later when the site was found on google map I realized we had camped not far away one night. Sure would have been a scoop to get photos that night of the sky lighting up.

Just an hour ago I was able to get on Turkish airlines site and found a last minute flight from Istanbul to Chicago and on to Las Vegas for about half what it was earlier. Wow, I'm going home!!!!!!!!!! Hopefully. The news tonight was that some airports in northern Turkey are shut down as the volcano junk is moving east and south. If we can get out of here before it gets to Istanbul we should be flying far enough south to avoid the European flight space problems.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Emre at Constantine Gallery

Emre has a great art gallery across the street from the Four Seasons Hotel, the former prison seen in "Midnight Express". If your in Istanbul stop in and see him, he makes the best cappuccino in town. Here he is holding one of my prints he has in the gallery.

Street Art

Street Food

Roasted chestnuts, corn, and sesame pretzels are the most common food sold from carts in the city. There are some other things that I can't identify but these are the most common.

Haghia Eirene

This is the oldest Byzantine Church in Istanbul dedicated in 360. It was the main church in Constantinople until the Hagia Sophia,which can be seen behind, was built in 536 by Justinian. Unfortunately it is not open, yes I tried every angle to get in, but is used occasionally for performances as it has perfect acoustics.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Istanbul Modern Art Museum

The day started out windy, raining, and cold so spent the morning at the Art Museum. Ran into one of our fellow middle east travelers who has been stuck here two days because of the Iceland volcano. I was hoping that the skies would clear and airports would open by Monday as I go home through London but today is not any better. Come on-ash-we can't go home because of ash.

Lines and Angles in IMAM parking lot

Walmart Delivers

Local delivery in neighborhood that is all uphill and downhill.

Silhouette, Blue Mosque

This evening the rain stopped and we were given a great sky.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Mosaic, Haghia Sophia

This mosaic in the Haghia Sophia was covered over when the Muslims took over the city in 1453. The well preserved mosaics where uncovered during renovations in 1930 when Ataturk converted the Haghia Sophai to a national museum. This mosaic of Christ is thought to be the image that all pictures of him are based on.

Dome, Haghia Sophia

Built by Justinian in 536 the dome was the largest built until Saint Peters was completed in the Vatican.

Column Detail, Haghia Sophia

Justinian was said to have cured a migraine by resting his head on one of the columns leading to a belief that each column of the church could cure a specific disease.

Stairs to Upper Level, Haghia Sophia

Entrance Hall, Haghia Sophia

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Banners in the Park

This morning they were putting banners up in the park between the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya getting ready for the start of the Turkey Auto Rally which was flagged off this afternoon. Even though Istanbul has a population of close to twenty million, when you are staying in the old city it has the feel of a small community. My hotel is a short half block away from the prison that was featured in the movie "Midnight Express" but it is now a Four Seasons Hotel. The Blue Mosque and Aya Sofya are a block away. I have photographs in a gallery around the corner and a behind a friends carpet shop a block away there is a hole in the ground that goes to the Byzantine Palace that at one time was a mile square and is just one layer of history on which the city has been built over.
This morning I just walked the neighborhood and this afternoon walked down to the spice market where in the large square the Tulip Festival is in progress. The Banners indicate the pride of the city. In addition the the Tulip Festival and FIA auto rally there in an international film festival and some ballet thing going on.

Galata Tower across Golden Horn

The Galata Tower was built in 1348 By Genoese settlers toprotect there colony

Start of Turkey Rally

The Turkish FIA rally started today just a block from my hotel. Here they line up along side the Aya Sofya { Haghia Sophia }, Church built by Justinian in 536, then Mosque, Now museum.

Neighbor Washes His Duck

When you live in an apartment this is one option to wash you duck and give him some exercise.

Ottoman Style Houses

Cementary at Local Mosque

Neighborhood Cat

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Colors of Istanbul

The Tulip Festival is on in Istanbul. In Holland in the Spring you you see thousands of tulips, Millions if you go out to the countryside, however, Tulips came from Turkey. Who knows where they got them but Istanbul was always at the center of the trade routes. This time each year Tulips, as in Amsterdam, are everywhere in Istanbul.

Dome, Rustem Pasa Camii

This small mosque near the Galata Bridge was built in 1561 and with its Iznik tile work May be the most beautiful in Istanbul.

Kids and Pigeons

There are thousands of pigeons outside the spice market along with numerous booths selling birdseed to feed them. As far as I can determine the main purpose is to give the kids some entertainment.

Tulip Festival, Istanbul

Tulip, Istanbul

Flag Salesman, Istanbul

So whats the deal with flags? After 9/11 flags popped up everywhere especially on fire trucks. Some took issue with that especially in California where some cities passed ordinances prohibiting them on fire trucks. I asked a friend in one of those cities why and her response was that to allow flags to be flown would indicate excessive patriotism*.
Its very interesting to see the difference in the middle east. Here flags are everywhere. In Aqaba there is a huge flagpole and flag that can be seen miles away on all sides of the city. I'm told that the flag and flagpole is much larger in Amman. A few days ago in Turkey I noticed a large flag on the hill outside the market and looking down the street counted a total of 9 flags. In every city you see them hanging in front of stores or from apartment balconies. I wonder if the same people that took offense at flags on our firetrucks would criticize the display here. Maybe it's only politically correct to criticize Americans.

* Webster's Pocket Dictionary: Patriotism -to love his or her country

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cemetery, one of many at Gallipoli

Today we toured the battlefields, cemeteries, and monuments of Gallipoli.In a couple weeks the yearly anniversary will bring thousands to the site from Australia, New Zealand , England and elsewhere. Certainly Turkey has done a great job keeping up all the cemeteries and memorials but it is a depressing place. Just as my years in Viet Nam, to see all the evidence of death directed by politicians in their offices thousands of miles away and realize it was all for a failed campaign is beyond depressing,I had to leave. In a place like this you can feel the reality of it all, something those in there far away offices will never feel.

Flowers growing graveside

Quote from Ataturk

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Leaving Asia

Took the ferry across the Dardenelles leaving Asia for Europe. Here at Gallipoli one of the bloodiest battles of WW1 was fought, with over 500,000 troops killed or wounded in an attempt to defeat Turkey by opening a passage through the Dardanelles to Istanbul. The then junior commander gave his troops a historic command:"I am not ordering you to attack, I am ordering you to die." In fierce fighting which saw bayonet charges against trenches defended by machines guns they won the campaign. That commander,Ataturk, later became known as the George Washington of his country.

Patrol on the Dardanelles

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Library at Ephesus

The library is probably the best known structure of Ephesus. It was built by the son of Julius Celsus for his father whose sarcophagus is buried under it.

Hot Water Pipes

The Town of Ephesus had a aqueduct that carried fresh water from the mountains which was heated and piped to provide hot water and heat to the town. There was also water to constantly flush the public toilets. All this over 2000 years ago.

Theater where Paul spoke to the Ephesians

The large theater of Ephesus held over 24,000 people. This is where Paul was said to have spoken. The day I was there a Greek Orthodox Group on a pilgrimage come in and started singing on the stage. I was almost to the top but could hear perfectly the songs which have been heard here for thousands of years.

Flush Toilets, over 2000 years old

Worlds First Advertisement?

Carved into the marble sidewalk from the harbor, now all silted up, to the town of Ephesus is what is claimed to be the worlds first advertisement, over 2000 years old. It involves a pretty woman, money, and a left foot indicating the left side of the street.


Friday, April 9, 2010

White Terraces of Pamukkale

Drove of in the mountains to the white terraces of Pamukkale. It was much colder with new snow on the mountains. The white pools and terraces are formed by limestone laden hot springs. The Romans must have enjoyed them as they built bath houses and a large theater on top. With the increase in tourism the limestone formations suffered, now to climb the terraces you must go barefoot. I left the hotel at 5:30 AM to catch the early light. At the start there was much more water running than I have seen before, in fact, due to two days of rain it was a cascade. OK, shoes off, you forget how cold walking half mile or more uphill barefoot in the cold can be. You also must walk back and it didn't seem any warmer. Every once in a while you would find a hot patch of water but you don't want to fall with your camera gear while walking on sharp gravel and limestone ridges . Due to the fact the guard was asleep at the entrance and the police at the top didn't wake up when there dog barked at me, I was able to get in with my tripod. A couple hours later my luck ran out when I got caught in the theater with tripod. So it was off back downhill-barefoot.

Theater at Pamukkle

Column Boneyard at Pamukkale

At the top of the white terraces there are many ruins including a large theater and Roman bathhouse. There is also a large site where many columns and other large pieces are in storage. one of the more interesting columns is this one with a heart shaped cross section and interesting fluting design. There are also some that have the fluting done in a wavy lines going up the column.

Weathered arch at Pamukkale

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Worlds greatest paragliding pilot on left

I had mentioned that this area was famous for its paragliding so it wouldn't be a proper blog without showing you.
It starts with a long ride up a narrow mountain road to about 4000 feet above sea level, directly above the sea. I had talked with my pilot about the difference between paragliders he flys and sailplanes I fly. I asked him about thermaling in a paraglider and he said "watch". Shortly after we took off he had us twice as high, you can see one taking off in the lower left of one photo. Soon he pointed out we were at cloudbase which is the limit of rising currents. Later he landed us on a busy sidewalk in front of the restaurant.

View from above

The pilot pointed out the sites below including the Greek islands of Rhodes and others on the horizon.

Launch Site in lower left