Turkey: One Country, Two Continents A Photo Essay by Robert Painter

Istanbul – the name alone conjures up the most exotic thoughts. The famous Topkapi Dagger that inspired the plot for the movie Topkapi. The fabulous Spice Bazaar filled with cinnamon, saffron and Ceylon tea. The mysterious Orient Express. The beginning of the Silk Road leading across unknown lands all the way to Beijing. The Ottoman Empire. The Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofa and the Grand Bazaar. These are all symbols of Turkey, and I will take you on a photographic journey of this intriguing country. Istanbul is the only city in the world situated on two continents, both Asia and Europe. Let me show you some of the Turkish delights that I discovered during my ten day adventure in this far away place, which may be closer than you think.
Sultan Ahmet Camii, better known as the Blue Mosque, constructed to rival the Aya Sofa. Built a thousand years later, it has six minarets: more than any other mosque outside of Mecca.
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Sofa, known also as the Haghia Sofia and as the Church of Divine Wisdom, is a marvel of construction that dates back to 537 when it was the greatest church in Christendom.
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In great contrast are the old wooden Ottoman buildings, many of which have now been restored and renovated to serve as small boutique hotels. I stayed at one called the Asmali Konak just a few blocks from the Blue Mosque.
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Istanbul is a vibrant, modern city, but not all the old ways are forgotten.
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fishermen on the bridge across the Bosphorus seem prepared to catch some pretty large fish, but most of them were hauling in sardines!
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the bridge you can spend hours wandering through the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar. The spices here a bargain, and if you’re a cook you can fill your spice jars for pennies on the dollar. I bought a kilo of Ceylon tea for a friend. You’ll also want to stock up on the wonderful Turkish candy – Turkish Delight.
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sesame rolls are really delicious, but they do make you thirsty. Most of the children here could be children from anywhere. If you saw this little guy in Milwaukee would he stand out in the crowd?
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a Whirling Dervish performance outdoors at the Dervish Café across from the Blue Mosque. But you want to see the real thing. Be sure to visit a sema (a Mevlevi worship ceremony) for the real thing. It is transcendental experience that you won’t want to miss. Check your guidebook (I can recommend Lonely Planet) for an authentic experience.
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Turks seem to have a great penchant for rooftops. Not only private spots like this one, but hotel restaurants as well.
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If this is your image of a warrior Turk you may have been watching too many old movies. More commonly you’ll encounter broad smiles and friendly greetings. This guy had to stand at attention as part of a military band with the sun in his face. Who wouldn’t be scowling?
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of the great views from the Bosphorus boat ride. It’s a great way to get a better perspective of the city. And you’ll cross under the bridge that you can later walk across in order to tell your friends that you walked all the way from Europe to Asia.
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you want proof that this was part of the Roman Empire at one time? Check out the outstanding Roman Aqueduct. It is a striking example of the period.
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in Cappadocia, many Christians who were fleeing the persecution of the Romans discovered these soft tufa rocks and excavated them for their homes. A great place to hide and with built in insulation. Reminiscent of the cave dwellings in the American Southwest.
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Nowadays Cappadocia is better known for its ballooning than for its capacity as a sanctuary. There are, however, hotels that are excavated from the soft stone. This must be the hot air balloon capital of Asia. The flying here is fantastic. I’ve done it in a number of places, but nowhere so fascinating as in Cappadocia.
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the Silk Road through Anatolia you’ll frequently run across these caravanserais, although they’re not all as spectacular as this one. They were built about a day’s camel journey apart and were established to provide food, shelter and a place for trade. The Ak Han dates from about 1250 and the carving on the entrance alone is worth the visit.
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of motherly love. The children that I saw in Turkey appeared to be very well cared for, loved and quite happy. I did see a couple of tired and grumpy ones, too, but they don’t make nearly as nice a photograph.
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like this. The belly dancer was beautiful, but I really enjoyed the Japanese tourists. It seems that they are always willing to participate and have lots of fun doing it. You should have seen the men trying this!
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course, for Roman ruins, the place you have to visit is Ephesus, home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and where rumor has it that St. John brought Mary after the Crucifixion to live out her life in a small stone house on nearby Mt. Koressos.
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next stop won’t be as difficult as you might guess. If you’re as friendly toward the Turks as they will be toward you, you might just get invited to a delightful home cooked meal. If you get the invitation – don’t turn it down.
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is no better way to wrap up a 10 day or 2 week vacation than to spend the last few days of your holiday on a wooden yacht, or gulet. Not a very appealing name, perhaps, but an adventure that you will always remember. Your Blue Voyage as it is called will take you to some of the bluest, clearest water you can imagine. You’ll anchor off shore from some little island where you can hike in and among the old ruins and then take a swim in the crystal clear water. You may want to snorkel and there are even scuba diving possibilities. I also saw tandem parasailers in the area. I later learned that this is one of the best places in the world for this activity. Or just lie on the deck and soak up some sunshine – it’s your choice. Enjoy. Imagine returning from a vacation rested and relaxed.
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leaving my gulet I spent one more night in Istanbul before flying home. And this was my reward from the rooftop restaurant of the Asmali Konak Hotel.
Keep on Traveling!