Sunday, July 22, 2007
Hilarious! and suprising something I would recomend. If you are going to Turkey for a while, go to MiniaTurk and check it out. We saw places and thought, darn, I wish we would have known about that so we could have seen it for real. Oh, if you don't know MiniaTurk is a little amusement park that is filled with miniatures of very important building and other monuments of Turkey. I would estimate that there are 75 different buildings and things. Cool.
The walls of Diyarbakir are black. Made of basalt? They are very old and quite well preserved and are second only to the Great Wall of China. Oh, you great wall. The Ulu mosque had some very interesting architecture. The most interesting place for me was the church of the Virgin Mary, still in use, which houses the bones of the apostle Thomas. Yeah! His bones, creepy, but cool.
For two days we stayed in Dyarbakir, the unofficial Kurdish capital. It was quite nice. The first day we headed out the Mardin. We heard that there was a monastary out in the desert next to this town and the grapevine was correct. It was a beautiful place. Deyr'ul Zafaran Monastery is a Syriac monastery 9 kilometers to the east of Mardin, built in the 9th century. At present, it is a visit place and a shelter for pilgriming Syriacs. Also of great note is the stone city built on the hill. Amazing. It was also really hot there and as you can see by one of the photos I was not entirely happy to be having my picture taken at that moment.
Somewhere on the journey Dave and I stopped in a little town called Beitlas. It was really uncomfortable. Immediatly after getting off the bus we had all eyes on us. Not that that is unusual, but in this case it was. One after another people were approaching us or yelling stuff at us. Not bad stuff, but it was just a little too much, like no one had come to this town in quite some time which was probably true. It was then that we also noticed that there were no women on the street... at all. None. Wierd. Where am I? Let's go.
Van, man is this place far out there, literally and figuratively. Far to the East, in Van I would estimate that we were within two hundred miles of Iran and Iraq. Yikes! It is also one of the more violent areas of the country due to the ongoing struggle between the Kurdish PPK and the Turkish government. As we approached Van we were stopped twice at check points and we lots of armored vechiles and soldiers in pillboxes waiting to shoot. That aside, Van is a beautiful city and we found the inhabitants to be very nice... and a little interesting. The people of Van love their white cats with two different colored eyes. Yes, that's right, I was a little stumped by this one too. I never even saw one of these cats, but I am assured they do exist. The main attraction for us in Van was of Van castle.
Over roughly the past 2500 years Van castle has stood as a fortress on the hill. Now unoccupied and largely unattended it is really a sight to see. The pictures do not do it justice. In the middle of a fairly flat plain a mass of rock juts up into the sky with almost sheer cliffs. Atop this is Van Castle. Once you get to the top you can easily imagine why this spot was chosen for defense.
Also pictured is what looks like an island. It looks like and island because it is, but don't get too excited yet, that is not the coolest part. On the island is a monastary, I believe it is still functioning. There was a nice story about the monastary and young love. The daughter of a priest on the island fell in love with a boy from the mainland. The father, of course, disapproved of their courting. To circumvent this the young girl would wait until nightfall and then light a lamp so that her lover could come to the island and visit her. Her father, being no dummy, caught on to this and one night he waited until the lamp had been lit for short time and then he blew it out! Oh the horror! The young lover lost his course midway to the island and drowned! End of story. Lesson to be learned? I think so. If your swimming in to an island in the middle of the night, bring a life-ring. Or wear some water wings or something like that.
Wow, Turkey! Yes, I made to the third leg or the trip, Turkey! Get it? Leg? Turkey? Anyways, the first night in Istanbul I was understandably tired, so we did not do much besides going out for a few beers and wiled the night away. Dave and I discussed what we would be doing the next day, riding clear across Turkey. Oh boy! What fun! After doing laundry and packing the sack we hit the road for Van and the East. Onward!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Paris was really a good time and I am very thankful that I met my Brazilian friends. I went to a lot of places with them. To the cemetery with Marcos, the Eiffel Tower with Claudia and Vincent, to Versailles with Claudia and Marcos, and just the general cohesion and laughter that Andre’s personality brought. I can’t think of a much better crew to have spent my time with. Also thanks to Jack and Ruby for offering a little bit of an English breaker, even if it was sloppy Queen’s English.
Notre Dame Cathedral was interesting. There were lots of people who were at the cathedral, all of them jamming into tiny doors to get inside and see the architecture. It was beautiful. Looking, with my twenty-first century eyes, I thought that this truly was a beautiful place, but also thinking that it had been built hundreds of years before, was truly amazing. Thinking of all the people that spent there lifetime, or gave their life, to see its completion was the true beauty. Of course, also, I couldn’t help but to think of the entertainment aspect of the cathedral as well. How many stories and movies had been told or produced involving this place? Who hasn’t heard of the hunch back?
Jack, Ruby, Marcos, Andre’, Claudia, and myself went to Versailles together on what was, for most of us, our last day in Paris. Arriving at the gates we were excited to get inside and see the beauty of the place, especially the hall of mirrors, but it would not be. It was a Monday and in France a Monday is like a Sunday in the U.S. or at least what a Sunday used to be like. Places shut down for a little breather each week. Disappointed, but undaunted we toured around the gardens and had a nice little picnic by one of the rowing pools. Although we didn’t get to go inside it was still pretty interesting to see the place to imagine the aristocrats who had walked these grounds before us.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
There is not too much to say about the Louvre. It is what you suspect. Very beautiful architecture encasing priceless pieces of art. Early one day The Brazilians and I spent a few hours at the D'Orsey which is an extension of the Louvre and contains many great works of art by Rodin, Klimt, Manet, VanGogh, Ganguin, Rosseau, and many others. Unfortunately we got to the Louvre very late, with 30 minutes before close, so Vincent and I only had enough time to run to the Mona Lisa. I have to disagree with what most people say, it is not that small. I would estimate its 18x24. It was kind of hard to get a good look at her, but it seemed like she was looking at me. I think she has a thing for me.
I am so unlucky, on day two the battery on my camera died and I had forgotten to bring the charger. It is of unusual size and so finding a replacement was pretty much out of the question. Luckily, that morning I had talked to one of the other guys staying in my room, Andre’, and got together with him and three other Brazilians to tour around. Most of the rest of my trip was spent with some or all of this Brazilian group. In the pictures below Claudia, Vincent, and I went to The Arc De Triumph and then to the Eiffel Tower. At the end of the day we went to the Louvre, but that will be a different post. The Arc is beautiful. It has this quality to it where it is really hard to tell how big it is. It fits so nicely with its surrounding that it makes you think it isn’t really that big, but then you see people walking by it and realize its true size. We marched to the top to get the view as well. I think it was 8 BP to get in to the top, no lift, lots of stairs.
The Eiffel Tower is of course the symbol of Paris which is odd considering that it has almost been torn down more than once. It started out as a project from a World’s Fair and kept its life as a radio tower before becoming the beloved landmark that we all know. It is about 950 feet tall and interestingly, in the winter, it will shrink 6 inches. Cool huh? There are three main lifts that take you to the top and three observation decks, but who wants to stop at the first or even second deck? To the top baby!