A Few Random Videos

Here are some more videos, held back due to Turkey’s odd restrictions on people using the internet in their country.

This video is what Christina calls the ‘Human Teapot’.  We found him wandering the big old bazaar in Istanbul.  In the heat of the summer he was serving up a cold sour cherry drink which was delicious enough for us to order a second after tasting it the first time.  In fact, he seemed to be quite popular with everyone in the market on that hot summer day!

This next video is a quick one I took of a Turkish baker rolling out some thin pastry breads.

This last video is an interesting video of a Turkish man running through his prayer beads, or worry beads.  He was standing and watching some traditional music and dancing.  You can tell by his smooth action that he has been doing this for many years.  Watch him flip them over when he feels that he’s reached the end.  Worry beads are very popular with older men in Turkey, who seemingly have to have something in their hands at all times!

Plucky Girl

Now that we are out of the no-YouTube zone (in Turkey, see the Attaturk post) we can again post and link videos in the blog.

To get warmed up, here are a couple of videos taken while we were staying with the rural farming family in the grasslands of Eastern Turkey.

We were asked a bunch of times before dinner if we would eat a chicken if they killed one. There was also some interesting back-and-forth about which chicken was going to get it to keep us all fed. It is the eldest son’s job, apparently, to do the actual chicken catching. However, when he first came back triumphantly holding our soon to be dinner, she was given a last minute reprieve when somebody noted that she was still laying. That meant another chase for our boy, who then showed up with this young cockerel.

The second video is a machine that takes in raw cow milk in one end and separates it for cheese-making, drinking etc. into milk and cream streams. There is a short shot at the end of several members of the extended family standing around making sure she’s doing it right…

Derinkuyu – An Underground City!

Homey for Hobbits

This is one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen, an entire town built underground.  Basically the idea was that the whole town would hide underground when those persecuting armies would come invading.  There are several in the area, but this one in Derinkuyu was huge, with hundreds of tunnels, rooms, stairwells, and air shafts.  They had places to store animals, a chapel, running water, toilets, and everything else they could think of to withstand sieges.  I believe this one was seven levels deep.

One interesting defense against having those marauding armies just follow you underground was to build yourself some nice stone doors.  These guys decided to build nice round rolling doors that would cover the access tunnel by slotting neatly into the disc-shaped wall slots on the far wall.  You could then brace the door to prevent it from being rolled back again, leaving those marauding armies with a foot thick stone door to deal with before they could do any more marauding.

Ready for Refugees

Ready to Roll the Rock

A firmly closed door.

Turkey’s Idol Worship

The Beloved Two

One of the things you can’t help but notice in Turkey is its patriotism.  In traveling around the world, I’ve never seen any place with as much of a flag fetish as America has, that is until I went to Turkey!  Bright red flags adorn pretty much everything in Turkey.

More interestingly, there is a historical figure whose features are nearly as common as the flag itself.  This man is Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.  He was first (bizarrely) introduced to us as we were listening to a podcast which included a Turkish woman who had been organizing tours for foreigners in Turkey for more than a decade.  So we are driving along, listening to bits and pieces about Turkish history, clothing, religion, etc. when the lady pulls out this quote:  ” For a long time I stayed single because I thought I could never love another man because I was so in love with Ataturk.  ”    Keep in mind that the man she refers to was dead before she was born.

This certainly perked up our interest in this figure.  One of the things which didn’t remain a mystery for long was his appearance.  The man is literally everywhere every time you turn around.  Shops have his picture, cars and buses have his face and/or signature, buildings have his profile, mountains carry his likeness.  The only (non-religious) figure I can remember being this popular is the king of Thailand, who frequents about 25% of all walls in every building I was inside in Thailand (once per room).

Ataturk is beloved by many of the Turks for single handedly wrestling Turkey into the modern age and building a modern secular democracy.  Kudos to a great statesman.

However, Ataturk is so beloved by the Turks that they interpret attacks against the great man as defamatory attacks on Turkey itself, punishable as a crime laid out in the Turkish constitution itself.  This kind of infatuation is somewhat less fun, but has had at least one rather amusing knock-on effect in Turkey.

Resting in Peace?

The Greeks, famously belligerent to Turks and knowing just exactly how to irritate them, got wound up during a Greece v. Turkey football match and decided to have a little singsong suggesting that the great man was gay.  Someone posted this little ditty on YouTube and so the government of Turkey decided that this couldn’t be allowed to continue and so banned YouTube. That’s right, thanks to Turkish sensitivities and the Greek willingness to poke the Turks where it hurts, all Turkish ISPs block access to YouTube in Turkey.

I’m wondering if some enterprising Greeks are right now figuring that it would be pretty sweet to try and trigger additional Turkish internet bannings with a bit more Ataturk shenanigans.  Anyone for starting a new Facebook group???


Ephesus was an ancient Greek city, and later a Roman city with a population of 250,000 during the 1st century B.C.

We got to wander around on the main marble-paved road framed by a line of columns on either side and peer down the occasional gap to see that the streets were also the top of an elaborate sewage system running under the streets. Ephesus had running water.

The city also boasted a huge amphitheatre, marble latrines and an amazingly restored facade of the city’s library that you see on the left. It is impressive as it stands now, it must have been absolutely magnificent in its time.

We also enjoyed pouring over the construction techniques on display in the diagram you see and thinking about what it would have taken to build a city without power tools.  Another fascinating discovery: the Romans didn’t use mortar – they poured molten lead to set stones in place and hold the iron ‘nail’ they had driven into the stone. Click on the image to see it enlarged.

Ephesus was also home of one of the ancient wonders of the world – the Temple of Artemis/Cybele. Sadly now only one column remains. However, statues of Cybele – and Anatolian fertility goddess –  are preserved in a museum.

Anatolian fertility goddess

Cybele was later co-opted into the Greek and Roman pantheon as the goddess Artemis. But if you ask me, this many-breasted matronly figure is nothing like the young, nimble huntress of the Greeks…

The Evil Eye

The charm

Here in Turkey you are never safe. Danger lurks in every face. At any time someone can turn the evil eye on you. Maybe because they didn’t like something you did, or maybe because they’re jealous of you.

But don’t be too worried. There is some protection available. It comes in the form of a charm you can keep about you to ward off evil eyes. It looks like an eye, sometimes with a ribbon on top. And in these heavily-touristed times they come in stickers, keychains, pillowcases, earrings – just about anything you can think of, really.

Turkish truckers know all about it. The superstitious among them paint large evil eye charms onto their vehicles to keep them safe on the road.

Why have one when you can have two?

Figs – going to the source

Everytime I look at a package of dried figs in the grocery store in Europe (usually with longing) I notice that the country of origin is often Turkey. Along the way on this trip I’ve been biding my time and waiting for a chance to indulge in my rightful Greek heritage. We finally arrived in Turkey and I’ve been enjoying the abundance of figs.

On the left, you see one dried fig, one fresh green-skinned fig, and one with the red sweet interior exposed. There is also a dark purply-black skinned variety.

The dried versions make a great snack and last forever. Here in Turkey they even come in necklace form.

Fig necklace

To give you an idea of relative cost: In Canada, a fresh fig (as in one fresh fig) goes for $0.99.

Here, fresh figs go for about 2.50 Turkish Lira per kilo. At the local weekly market in Foça, I bought 7 figs for 1.50 Turkish Lira – 0.22 or about 0.10 Euros each… And they were absolutely delicious! Exotic fruit is definitely one of the fun parts of traveling.

In the background you can catch a glimpse of the Aegean sea – the ideal setting for enjoying fresh, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth fruit.

Unique Dining

With a warm climate comes outdoor eating. With outdoor eating comes cafe and restaurant crowded streets which always feel lively and pleasantly pedestrian-focused. In Datca, we found dinner tables right on the beach. During the day the tables were stored away, and every evening put out along with lamps and electrical extension cords. Simple, creative use of outdoor space.

Datca Dining

By chance we’ve stumbled upon some neat spots. Having a vehicle has made it easier to take advantage of the more out of the way ones.

Boardwalks and tables on stilts

Here’s another example of Turkish creative use of natural features: a restaurant nestled in a river. They offered a chance to fish for your dinner. The tables were cleverly perched on low stilts over rocky pools. A few trees providing shade and the running water made it a lovely, cool spot (much needed in Turkish summer) with lots to watch: fish in the pools of water, a few ducks and diners hoping to be successful fishermen. We suspect that the fish were fed – we didn’t witness a single catch while we were there.

Click on any of the images to see bigger versions.


Prometheus vs. The Chimera

The Chimera Sleeps Below

Along the Turkish Mediterranean coast where the Greeks used to live, there is a second Mount Olympos (We Americans would have called it New Olympos).  At the foot of Mount Olympus (the second) is a hillside famous for thousands of years.  It’s famous because it’s been on fire for those thousands of years.  Apparently, it’s dying down a bit, since the flames used to be easily visible by ships sailing by in the Med (about a kilometer away).

At the moment they are conveniently about the size of a small camp fire.

So this hillside has some sort of methane gas that has been streaming out of the hillside (on fire) continuously throughout recorded human history.  It is suspected to be the source of the Chimera legend (the lion-goat-snake) of Homeric fame.

It occurred to me that Prometheus might have had it easier than he let on in his quest to ‘steal fire from the gods’ if it really only involved some sailing and an hours walk in the woods.

Steal Me

In my mind, his people accidentally let their fire go out and turn to him and he says “Again?”, sighs, “Oh all right, I’ll be right back…”

The neatest thing about seeing these fires burning away is that some of the fires don’t have visible holes and so it looks just like the rocks themselves are burning.

Old Places

Just Chilling

Among others vying for the title of “Oldest Continuously Inhabited Places on Earth” is Harran.  It’s an interesting stop a few reasons:

  1. Abraham (Yes, THE Abraham) lived here
  2. Beehive houses (designed three thousand years ago)
  3. A really nice ruined castle to clamber over

Beehive houses are designed to stay cool on this baking dry desert plain.  Most people seemed to have them as storage areas (and to draw the tourists) in this age of air conditioning.

Roomy Fixer-Upper

The castle ruins were very fun to explore.  Un-reconstructed, you could climb up and over and under all three levels of the castle.  Each one had twenty foot high vaulted ceilings, which made the three levels together quite a high building.  The outer walls were huge blocks of stone that seem to have weathered the encroaching village fairly well.

The inside arched ceilings were made of wide clay bricks.  These ceilings made of interlaced bricks were still strong enough to walk over, as we found out walking around on levels 2 and 3.

Old Arched Ceiling

One Level Up - Humpy Floor

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