August 7 – August 19, 1999
Turkey and the Last Total Solar Eclipse of this Millennium
Tam Gunes Tutulmasi

August 7, 1999     Introduction by Dave Moser    

I saw my first total solar eclipse on February 26, 1979 in Oregon. Once you’ve had that experience, you can never accumulate too many seconds in the moon’s shadow.

In 1986, Carolyn and I visited New Zealand to try and get a good look at Halley’s Comet. The comet viewing wasn’t great, but the trip gave us the opportunity to meet a few astronomers there who also happened to be in search of "the shadow." During one of our conversations, Noel and I decided to put together an expedition to Baja California, Mexico for the July 11, 1991 eclipse. This was to be the longest duration for several hundred more years, and a "MUST SEE."

Thus, the "Kiwi Connection" was born. Over the next few years, we maintained contact by letter with our Kiwi friends (no e-mail in the dark ages.) Meanwhile, we started "talking up" our upcoming expedition with our friends in the U.S. About two years early, I started making arrangements to gel the trip. We ended up with a group of 45 composed of 1/3 Kiwi’s and 2/3 Yanks. We had a most successful trip with a week of fun in the sun and a spectacular eclipse.

Over the next few years the shadow touched down in some pretty inaccessible places or at the wrong time of year. In the spring of 1997, almost on the spur of the moment, I asked Carolyn if she would like to go on a cruise. She thought I had lost my marbles (I wasn’t a cruise kind of guy—or so I thought.) It made more sense to her when I mentioned that "by the way, there will be a total solar eclipse while we’re on board."

Most people don’t think about planning another eclipse while waiting for one, but knowing the difficulties of arranging the Mexico trip, I had to consider Europe in 1999.

After studying the weather prospects and looking at the choices for a promising vacation, I chose Turkey. In September of 1997 I found myself planning two eclipse trips at the same time.

I contacted Mehlika (Meli) Seval by e-mail. She had heard about he eclipse coming through Turkey and immediately agreed to arrange out trip. In January of 1998, Meli toured the U.S. and we met in San Diego. Details were worked out and I started designing a web site for the trip.

Meanwhile a successful and very enjoyable Caribbean Cruise Eclipse took place in February (eclipse of February 26.)

In April, I contacted those who were interested in the Turkey expedition and filled the trip in two weeks.

Now it’s two years and over 700 e-mails later and we are finally HERE!

We already have seen that Turkey is a spectacular country and look forward to a wonderful trip and another few seconds in that special shadow with our very special friends....THE JOURNEY BEGINS!


Saturday PM
August 7, 1999 by Larry Adkins             
The Blue Mosque, Rami Restaurant

Our group assembled in the lobby of the Ayasofya Hotel in Istanbul at 5:00 P.M. to meet each other and our guide from Melitours, Meltem. Most of us arrived a couple of days early. The Kiwi contingent (a.k.a. New Zealanders) toured the Gallipoli battlefields earlier in the week, while others like Lorna and me spent a few days browsing around Istanbul sights not included in the tour.

Meltem gave her introductions, told us a bit about Turkey and the philosophy and rules of the tour. Most important is promptness! Clearly Meltem will be a gentle but firm commander.

Introductions over, we marched up the hill to the Blue Mosque. The mosque was handsome indeed in the fading light of a sunny day (ideal light for photography.) We took off our shoes, as is the custom for all mosques, and trailed Meltem inside.

It goes without saying that the interior is magnificent—blue tiles from Iznik down the coast, "Nicaea" in Roman times, cover the walls with graceful designs of interlacing flowers and geometric patterns. Also, low slung chandeliers, stained glass windows, and prayer carpets on the floor.

Meltem is full of information. Highlights: 1.) Why does the mosque have six minarets? Because the Sultan ordered altin minarets (altin meaning "gold" Turkish), but the builder thought he meant alti (six in Turkish.) The number is important because only Mecca had a mosque with six. A bad move for the architect. 2.) Why are women not allowed to pray in the central area? Because the prayer position on a crowded day leads to a "head to rump" formation. If ladies were allowed on the floor, the thoughts of the devout worshiper directly behind her might wander off into unwholesome areas.

After the interior tour, we met in the courtyard and played a "name game." We all gathered in a circle and the procedure is that each person announces his/her own name and the name of the previous person(s). This becomes more challenging as the game progresses around the circle, but we all take it in stride with good humor—and it seems to work!

We left the mosque and retired to dinner at Rami Restaurant nearby. It is named for a famous Turkish impressionist painter who died about 20 years ago. Some of his works grace the walls. We dined on spinach-stuffed cucumbers, a pastry dish stuffed with what seemed to be potatoes, stuffed grape leaves, and finished with baklava—all excellent.

This officially ended the first day. Some of use, Larry, Lorna, Joyce, and Mervyn, stayed for the light show at the Blue Mosque. The illumination was spectacular and worth the wait, but the impact of the narration was lost on us as it was in French. Apparently they use a different language each night. Afterwards we strolled back to the hotel through torch-lit sidewalk cafes catering, it appeared, mostly to locals.


Sunday AM
August 8, 1999 by Bill Allen            
Hippodrome, Basilica Cistern, Islamic Art Museum, Pudding Club

The tour started at 8:45 A.M. and the "buddy system" worked well—no sign of Dave Moser our trip leader—found in his room by his buddy (me.) He broke Meltem’s first gul (rule) DON’T BE LATE.

The group walked from the hotel through the Hippodrome where Meltem explained the various points of interest and on to the Basilica Cistern. The Hippodrome had three splendid features—the Obelisk of Theodosius, a spiral bronze column with the three snakeheads missing and the rough-stone obelisk with all the bronze surface plates missing. These were stolen by the honourable fourth crusade.

The Basilica Cistern was an amazing 5th century city water supply. The chamber was underground and many columns recycled from archaeological sites south of Istanbul support the roof. Now I see why there is nothing left at Troy! As an engineer the place was a major public engineering feat for its time, and Handle’s "water music" played during the visit was most appropriate.

Our next stop was at the Islamic Art Museum. Before we started the tour, Meltem gave us a potted history of Turkey over a cup of tea—Turkish naturally. She explained that the Brits gave the name Turkey. The Turkish spelling is Turkiye—which means land of Turks (this happened in 1923.) The old name was Anatolia and this has been used since the 10th century.

Istanbul is strategically placed bridging the Bosphorus and controlling the trade for centuries. The earliest settlement information was found in cave drawings over 300,000 years ago. The earliest written records were in 6000 BC.

Anatolia was a fertile country with minerals and a pleasant climate and a strategic location. No wonder there has been many battles to secure this wonderful country. By far the most prominent occupation was by the Ottomans, who ruled from 1299-1923. 1999 is in fact the 700th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire.

At the end of Meltem’s excellent history lesson, we moved into the Islamic Art Museum where we saw how the Anatolian people moved from nomadic life to very comfortable Ottoman housing in cities. The early nomadic life required mobile living with the "black tent." The women were major contributors to the household by weaving tents, rugs, pillows, and carpets. Consequently they became efficient weavers of kilims and rugs. The difference between the two types of weaving was explained. Kilims are two dimensional, i.e. warp and weft and pile. This explains why rugs and carpets are more expensive and generally larger.

Another interesting feature of the museum was the exhibit of natural dyes—complete with chemical formulae. Finally it was a great morning and the lunch at the Pudding Club was most enjoyable.


Sunday PM
August 8, 1999 by Chuck Hower             
Ayasofya, Topkapi Palace, Kumkapi

One more feature of the A.M. museum visit that was unusual was the Turkish-Polish exhibit. It seems the Turks and Poles had a special relation extending over several hundred years.

The first stop after lunch was the Saint Sophia Museum. It was built as a Christian church about AD 600, converted to a mosque when the Ottomans came in, and is now being restored as a museum. It is famous for its mosaics and as an experiment to see how much interior space can be spanned with stone blocks. The interior is enormous. The mosaics are singularly beautiful and tell some of the history. At the entry there is a mosaic of three figures, Justinian presenting the church, Mary with Christ child, and Constantine presenting the city. Justinian is shown presenting the structure of the church to Christianity, Constantine (having converted near his death) is shown presenting the city itself. Well, if you were emperor you could do that sort of thing. In fact the emperors considered themselves holy.

In AD 800-900 Christianity was iconoclastic and covered up all the mosaics with plaster. The capitols of some of the columns inside have the monogram of Justinian and his wife.

Beyond St. Sophia is Topkapi Palace, the residence of the sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It was used until the 18th century. It is a "city within a city" consisting of four courtyards becoming more exclusive as you pass from one to the next. In the fourth courtyard Meltem abandoned us to fend for ourselves. Some found the harem (we will not say here which ones), some found the second largest collection of Chinese porcelain (Meltem asks "and why here?"), and some found the library and peace from other tourists. I myself found the faithful performing ablutions at the many basins of the Blue Mosque. Continuing farther, a good number of our group found the Turkish baths and their own kind of ablutions. I found absolution in a can of Tuborg Red.

Dinner: we followed Meltem like obedient children down twisting narrow streets, past a park with children playing, jumping out of the street for passing cars, and finally appeared in the middle of a restaurant district, Kumkapi. Dinner was a lavish spread of appetizers followed by fish. We savored fresh fruit for dessert. All was excellent, bringing to an end day two and this narrative.


Monday AM
August 9, 1999 by Nelson Copp             
Covered Bazaar, Chora Church

The day started with our wonderful Turkish breakfast of various cheeses, bread, yogurt, eggs, and juices. Noel’s daily lessons of learning to add R’s to his words continues as we also listened to Jim talk about his Turkish bath. We loaded a large air-conditioned bus and said our good byes to Hotel Ayasofya and the staff.

We headed to the covered bazaar that was built in Ottoman times. There are more than 4000 shops and beautiful architecture. We entered at the Nurosmaniye Kapisi entrance. We headed immediately for the quiet, sedate book bazaar. Many old maps, books, and pictures from old books.

We then split up and went our separate ways in the bazaar. Several of us went to the "Old Bazaar" within the bazaar. It seems hard to call this section old since the whole thing is really old. The old section consists of many interlocking domes of thin red bricks. The newer sections of the bazaar have many archways and small arch-like windows that let filtered light in. Instead of exposed brick, the newer sections had frescoes over the brick with red and white on blue floral designs.

Monday at the bazaar was pretty quiet. Fridays and the weekends we found were a lot more crowded.

The bazaar is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. Insistent shopkeepers assure you that they can help you decide how to spend your money. Almost all of them seem to have a family member near where you live or who visited that area. Was it a coincidence or a clever sales tactic?

We left the bazaar and drove along the coastline enjoying the old city walls. Huge, thick edifices that provided the city protection for at least 700 years before being breached.

Meltem talked about the large number of mosques in Turkey, most from the Ottoman period. Istanbul has been a capital city for three empires and more than 2000 years. Byzantium (657 BC to 330 AD), Constantinople (330 to 1453), and Istanbul (1453 to 1922.)

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey with approximately 14 million people. It sure seems like it as you walk or drive through the city. It has too many cars and people for my liking. Turkey itself has 65 million people, so 1 out of 6 people live in Istanbul. Many people are moving from small towns in the outlying countryside to the big city for better jobs and living. The center of the city is overbuilt and is growing outwards.

Meltem explained that Istanbul is the prototype of Turkey—people from all parts of the country but less than 35% are local natives.

We drove to the Fatih area to see the Chora Church museum. Most churches in Turkey have been turned into museums. Chora contains the finest examples of Byzantine mosaics. Chora translates to "Church of the Holy Savior outside the walls." It was built in the 10th century and the mosaics were done in the 13th century. When the Byzantines conquered the area, they covered the mosaics with white plaster. A disaster you might think, but it probably served to protect them. It was restored in 1950.

Chora was a popular church in Byzantine time. It was in the "neighborhood" rather than the city central and people came from miles around to see the mosaics. Most people didn’t read, so the stories portrayed in the mosaics were great "reading."

The mosaics were spectacular. From the expressions on the faces to the detail in the robes and dresses, the mosaics grab you and pull into the story. The life of Mary is shown in detail from her birth to her first seven steps.

The architecture alone is enough to take your breath away, but adding the mosaics really makes it wonderful. The newer part of the church is done in frescoes. The color and detail achieved is stunning. Yellows and blues and reds mixed together into a reality that is hard to leave. But leave we finally had to do.

We headed back to Taksim. The bus let us off at the Pera Palas Oteli, where the lucky riders of the Orient Express would spend the night before their trip.


Monday PM
August 9. 1999 by Stuart Ryder             
Taksim, Spice Market, Bosphorus Cruise

By now I was so hungry I would have eaten the birdseed that the man was selling to feed the pigeons. Desperately seeking food, we headed up to the Istiklal Caddesi, the main thoroughfare to Taksim Square. This street is for pedestrians only, except for the train cars that run up and down the centre. Many of us were reminded of similar trains in cities like San Francisco, Melbourne, and Wellington. Most of us opted to skip lamb burgers at McDonalds in favour of a more authentic Turkish experience, this being one of only two meals on the entire trip for which we are on our own. A group comprised of Robin, Noel, Kathy, Jo, Chuck, Jim, and myself ended up in a large kebap house. The Turkish pizza and kebaps were great, but the fresh-squeezed orange juice was best of all. The excellent pita bread we ate in honour of Pamela Lee Anderson on account of it’s being puffed up on two large, but hollow lumps.

On the way back to the Pera Palas Hotel, I had a couple interesting conversations, mainly on account of my wearing the official group eclipse T-shirt. One cafe manager wanted to know more about what the eclipse would look like. So I tried to explain why someone would travel all the way from New Zealand (or in my case Hawaii) just to see one. Next to a man making a living refilling gas cigarette lighters, I got talking to a couple of guys who looked like locals, but it turns out they were from Melbourne and over here for a holiday. Interestingly, they much prefer living down under to living in Turkey.

After regrouping at the hotel, it was back to the peninsula and the delights of the spice bazaar. It didn’t take me long to succumb to a Turkish Delight taste test, which inevitably resulted in the purchase of a boxed assortment. Then Mervyn and I decided to be more adventurous and ventured into the market alleys beyond the spice bazaar itself.

At this point, I feel I have to relate the only sour moment of my time in Turkey so far. As we navigated our way down one alley, a van was squeezing its way toward us, and the crowd would step onto the footpath as it did so. As I stepped up, I found myself wedged between two or three men, who seemed intent on boxing me in. Becoming just a little concerned, I made a quick dash across to the other side of the street. Once I was in the clear, I discovered the zipper to my shoulder bag was half-open. Fortunately nothing appeared to be missing, so perhaps the "Evil Eye" charm that I received that morning as change at the Grand Bazaar brought me good luck after all.

Feeling a little spooked, I cut my bazaar experience and head over to the Golden Horn dock where our Bosphorus cruise was due to depart at 5:00 P.M. A group of us wound up at the ferry terminal instead, owing to some miscommunication with Meltem. Eventually we all found our way to the right boat, and we spent a very pleasant couple of hours crossing up the European side of the Bosphorus as far as the second bridge., then down the Asian side, where we disembarked for dinner. I have to admit, my appetite for the appetizer disappeared once Joyce pointed out to us that it was liver (but I wasn’t the only one, Mmmm!)

Then it was off to the railway station where I hand over to my roommate "Train Nut" Thomas.


Monday PM through Tuesday AM
August 9, 1999 by Mervyn Thomas     
Train to Ankara, Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

Sorry about the quality of the script, but the train is bouncing about a bit, and as Stuart wants to go to sleep--so I have to write it by torchlight (for Americans read "flashlight.")

We all arrived at Haydarpasa Station at approximately 8:30 P.M., as the train was not ready for boarding it gave me a chance to explore the station. All good train journeys should begin by checking out the station--and this one is a good example. Meltem told me that it has been used as a railway station for over a hundred years. The entrance hall has been splendidly restored. The hall seemed to have a 3 "barrel" vault ceiling decorated with plaster old style roses. The walls were painted with designs like double headed dragons, flowers, etc. A frieze ran all the way around the wall and over the arches. The colours were pastel and the overall decoration was rococo in style--blame Carolyn for the last comment!

The rest of the station was clean and tidy and had the usual collection of shops, post offices, and also a small garden--a nice touch.

The schedule on the wall said ANKARA EKSPRESJ leaves 22:30 and arrives 07:35--we will see!

The train starting at the back consisted of

6 standard carriages in the old blue/red livery

2 Yatakli Vagons #6, 5, and 4

1 Yemekli Vagon (dining car)

2 more Yatakli (sleeping cars) #3 and 2

1 baggage car

The whole lot was pulled by good ol’ engine number "I.E. 43 036" a 2 pantograph electric unit.

The Yatakli units are said to be less than eight months old and compare well with others I have seen around the world—more modern than the Russian and bigger berths than the American ones. The shower (duse) proved to be a little bit of entertainment--cost 1 megaTL--and after the hard days work we had all put in--essential. The shower was fine, but I found it a little odd that there was no shower curtain, a little too much vigour with the shower and you soaked your clothes hanging on the door!

The train started at 22:31 (official time) and my watch is official time for this part of the journey.

00:23 UT--we have now been moving for almost two hours and it still seems to be traveling through the outskirts of Istanbul. The car attendant has turned the room into twin bunks, and guess what? Somehow Stuart has got the top bunk!

00:41--lights off. I wonder what the countryside will look like in the morning. There is something very relaxing about going to sleep in the train.....

05:30--wake up--first thing look out the window--half an hour before dawn and the train is passing through rolling hills, farmland (wheat?), and the occasional tunnel. As usual, I slept well on the train--best way to travel. All over Yatakli #4 and #5 novice travelers on trains are learning the gentle arts of getting dressed without poking the other person in the eye--although this train is pretty smooth--so they should have no problem.

It is now 05:57 so off to the dinner car for breakfast--a typical Turkish breakfast--olives, cheese, tomatoes, bread, and more. One of the best parts of the train ride is sharing breakfast with three others at a table while the countryside rolls by.

06:08 sunrise (one of several sunrises as the sun plays peek-a-boo amongst the hills to the SE.) Nelson is playing with his GPS and promised to give me an exact position and speed if the gadget ever works out which country we are in.

The countryside seems to be mostly crops, sunflowers, wheat, and some irrigated crops. As we travel east, it gets more and more dry and the hills become more eroded. No animals--where are they?

07:18 arrived in a small town station with blue commuter trains coming and going--must be near Ankara. Now to the saddest part of a long train trip--arrival and the struggle to pack and get all those bags onto the platform.

I thought this was a great train trip, excellent cars, smooth journey--I give it 8/10.

Ankara station 07:39. The exit onto the platform was more orderly than some trains—plenty of porters. No time to check out the station--but it is an impressive black and white marble platform. Finally to the Melitour bus. It has a library at the back but no WC (as one of the more incontinent party members observed.)

Meltem introduced us to our very calm driver--Metin. But first a few Meltem facts. The ancient city of Ankara became the modern capital of Turkey in 1923 and now has a population of greater than 4 million people.

We arrived at the Anadolu Medeniyetleri Muzesi about 8:10 A.M. The gardens around the building feature bits of ancient civilization—pots, columns, and statues scattered amongst the flowers and the trees. Before entering the museum, Meltem gave a short lecture on the history of civilization in Anatolia from 7000 BC to Roman times. While civilizations come and go, the people and their way of life persist, and thus modern Turks are the sum of all those that have gone before.

What to say about the museum--overwhelming. 90 minutes is not enough--lets skip a few of the restaurant breaks and introduce more museum time.

A few items that impressed me--the artifacts from the Paleolithic period of Catal Hoyuk--the bull heads, leopard reliefs (demonstrating the loss of flora and fauna in the last 10,000 years.) The drawing showing the erupting volcano was particularly dramatic.

The display, featuring the Hittite bas-reliefs was of great interest to me. There were the usual scenes of "kingly" activities--receiving ambassadors, hunting, killing lions, making war, driving chariots, as well as the more peaceful times with musicians and gardens, playing games, etc.

The Hittite bronzes were also magnificent and the cuneiform tablets enclosed in a clay envelope seemed like a great idea--try steaming that open!

In summary, a great museum, but it needs a whole day and a detailed guide book. At 10:15 we left for Tokat.


Tuesday PM
August 10, 1999 by Debra Copp             
Bus to Tokat, Home stays

Bumpy bus ride to Tokat. After my nap, viewed much of the countryside very much like the farm country of California. Lots of tractors, donkeys, and men selling the fruits of their labors on the side of the road. I would love to try these casaba looking melons for the sweet natural flavor.

Oh Boy! Finally the stop for lunch, I’m hungry! Surprising since all we seem to do is eat! But the food is great and from the farmland it should and does taste wonderful.

OK, so you have to pay for everything here--most of all the bathrooms. I hate that even though it is a small amount.

Just buzzed by some jets but don’t know if they are Saudi, American, Iraq, or Turkish. Makes you think twice over here.

Topography of the area is wheat fields, sunflowers, and Poplar trees. Very lush, fertile country. This is a great source of money for the farmers. They sell sweet beets, hay, and sunflower seeds for their oil.

The story of the Poplar trees is that a tree is planted for each baby that is born. It gives them their connection to the Earth and to their religion. It also provided a windbreak for each land area. When the baby grows up they will have money for a dowry, house, or whatever. What a wonderful way to be and stay with mother earth--your roots and part of the matriarchal philosophy. It fits in well with my own holistic beliefs. It is the tree of life that is so common in Turkey’s culture. Everyone has a tree planted for him or her.

I watched as the world went before my eyes. I was watching as history played itself out in true life form. Women working and being a productive part of the real world of having to provide for the family.

Tonight Tokat was the greatest. After getting to meet some of the families and getting to know the children, a huge feast was provided for us. Great chicken kebaps, beef and lots of fresh tomatoes, hot peppers, and local red and white wine. We are being treated to the best the locals can provide. Then at the celebration of the Tam Gunes Tutalmasi, we are placed up front in an area of importance. I feel like royalty! Beautiful local dancers and singers and the atmosphere of a town come together.

Then to our family--a newly wed couple. We shared and tried to communicate about ourselves. Howard, Kathy, Lavonna, Stuart, Nelson, and I. I was spokesperson having the best luck pronouncing the Turkish words. They understood me!

Great hospitality and so very nice. Now after a shower, off to find ear plugs to go to sleep (from the street noise.)

What I wanted to add is that in spite of our differences in communication, we all seemed to laugh and understand. And even if it was too difficult for us to get our ideas across, it didn’t matter. We were making the attempt across so many lines to be "alike." The people here are so very nice. I hope that we could look at this experience to see how we could extend that hospitality across other borders. So glad I came, I feel very safe here.


Wednesday AM
August 11,1999 by Joyce Ashe             

Our local family breakfast was the traditional cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, fabulous bread, and some homemade jams. Becca, Justin, and I were treated wonderfully by our host family.

We all took a walking tour through Tokat and visited a typical home of the past. It had very large rooms and incredible woodwork on the ceilings. Next stop was a caravan house, the inner courtyard would house the animals and the travelers would be put up in the house.

A short stroll took us back to the square where more entertainment was going on. We boarded our three minivans to head up to our eclipse-viewing site that Dave and Noel had found. The site was spectacular and the sky was clear--an air of anticipation was building...


Wednesday PM
August 11, 1999 by Helen Mahoney         
"The Eclipse" in Tokat and The Perseids at Bogazkale

The date and place that have been in my thoughts and plans for 18 months (since 3rd contact of the February 26, 1998 Caribbean eclipse) are finally here!

We have been treated like visiting royalty so far by the wonderful people of Tokat. It was so nice to see the whole town getting excited about the eclipse and so appreciative of the Americans and Kiwis who came so far to see it in their city.

We climbed onto minibuses for the trip up the mountain to the chosen site, as the dirt road was going to be too difficult for our big tour bus. Noel and Dave had selected that spot as it was high enough to be above fog that may form as the temperature dropped, and also gave a great view of Tokat and the surrounding valley. We bumped along, dodging donkeys and tractors, to the top. What a magnificent spot! Meli had us look out over Tokat and explained how the town was situated: on the slope of the hill to prevent flooding, to allow natural sewer drainage, and to leave the low fertile lands for farming. The town is also at the foot of the fortress to protect it. This ancient wisdom of city planning seems to be lost in modern times. Meli said it is being appreciated and taught in the colleges now, but it really only takes a view of a city like Tokat from our mountain vantage point today, to see the logic in it.

A picnic lunch was served--meat, cheese, bread, tomatoes, green peppers, and eggs. And then...first contact! With our safety glasses you could start to see a teeny nibble taken out of the sun at 3 o’clock. Time for everyone to check their equipment, walk through their game plan in their minds, and take partial phase pictures. We made eclipse shadows with straw hats, our fingers, and holes punched in cardboard. We were delighted to see that several of the local people had driven up to join us and were enjoying peeks through our filters.

The lighting became eerie--like an overcast day, and yet no clouds overhead (thank you Dave and Noel!) A look through the filter showed the sun looking like the crescent on the flag of our great host country. The temperature dropped noticeably and a light breeze came by. There was only a tiny crescent sliver left. The light level as though someone had their hand on a dimmer switch. In the northwest, the sky turned indigo blue as the shadow of the moon swept toward us. The distant clouds turned sunset-purple and the nearby hilltop darkened.

I tossed the filters aside in time to see the diamond ring glowing, yet shrinking, as the moon slipped across the solar disk to cover it completely. That moment is so exciting! The months of anticipation came down to seconds, and the anticipation in those last few seconds rises asymptotically.

The corona is always a surprise. I’ve seen four now (my 5th totality in 79 was cloudy) and each is different, with its own unique characteristics. This one had a colorful glow and streamers that shot out as spikes. The top ones were curved over.

There were multiple prominences visible. The sky around the sun was dark blue, but the disk of the moon was deep, velvety black. It looked like a hole in the sky. Venus was visible, a hand-width’s distance away at 7 o’clock.

I took a moment to spin around to see the sunset colors all around the horizon 360 degrees, and then heard someone say "It’s almost over." Boy, 2 minutes and 14 seconds sure goes by fast. A tiny dot of light appeared on the other side of the moon, and it rapidly expanded into another diamond ring, and then the corona was gone. The light returned to the world, the sun that had been eaten up was spit back out. To the southwest, the exiting moon’s shadow was like a fuzzy shaft of deep blue. To complete the natural drama, a hawk circled above.

Whew! What an experience. Lavonna, a nurse experiencing her first eclipse, was heard to say that seeing her first eclipse was as moving as the first time she saw a baby being born. Becca, also a first timer, said "I’m hooked!" I’m sure it won’t be her last.

As if the day was not already spectacular, after dinner a group of us went to the Hittite temple in Bogazkale to view the Perseid meteor shower. The Hittites were a civilized society, and they had gods or goddesses for each of the important functions of life. They continued the Mother goddess as their ancestral peoples did, but she was mostly for fertility.

The god of the sky or heavens was very important, because he controlled the sun, moons, stars, and weather. The temple we saw--with well-preserved (remarkably so) pictures carved into stone, was dedicated to the sky god. It did indeed give us goose bumps to see the carvings that were made 4000 years ago by flashlight (torchlight) and then look up at the stars and Milky Way that inspired them. Neither had changed much in all that time. What a day it has been!


August 12, 1999 by Justin Goodman             
Cappadocia, Zelve, Cavusin

After a truly spectacular day of eclipse and celebration under the stars last night—wine (eclipse wine at that) and classical music under the stars, as we sat on kilims in the Hittite temple (OK, the parking lot)—our pace slowed a bit today. We started with a bus ride in the morning from Bogazcale where our hotel was located, lasting several hours and taking us to the region of Cappadocia. We lunched in Avanos, a town known for pottery and carpet weaving, and now, by us for bland soup requiring much supplemental salt and pepper. We will be returning to Avanos tomorrow, to explore both of the former while hopefully avoiding the latter (the view from the restaurant, that is situated right at the river’s edge was lovely, unfortunately the food was not equally appealing.)

Another short bus ride (through which I was remarkably able to sleep) brought us to the fabled "fairy chimneys" of Cappadocia. The columns of tufa—a soft, easily eroded or carved volcanic ash—are littered about the region. They would be remarkable enough merely as geologic phenomenon as they stretch toward the sky, but the fact that many have served over the millennia as homes and houses of worship makes them all the more. From days unrecorded, it’s locals have fashioned these formations into structures more useful to them then, well, rocks dotting the countryside.

Our first up-close inspection of this "moonscape" (as it’s described in the guide books) was in the town of Zelve. It had been inhabited since before the 7th or 8th century AD through 1952 when the government forced evacuation due to safety concerns (erosion, instability, etc.) It is one of Inesco’s 100 world heritage designated sites. We explored several churches, with some remnant fresco work still intact, a mill room, and several honeycomb-like networks of rooms, hallways, and steps, all carved into the tufa. Deep in the formations we discovered a pleasant and refreshing coolness--a nice break from the 90 degree F heat outside. We also found an ingenious "lock" mechanism that could be used to seal off homes from undesirables (marauding neighbors, door-to-door salesmen, etc.) consisting of a large stone wheel that could be rolled in front of the door. Overall, a very impressive site; well worth the visit. We celebrated with ice cream before hopping back on the bus.

Our next stop was a "photo-op" across a valley ("pigeon valley") from the town of Uchisar. This was an entire town carved into a single hulking tufa formation. Amazing. From the viewpoint we had the opportunity to purchase some time atop a camel’s back. Several people in our group exercised the option for a cool, one million Lira.

The evening found us arriving at our lodging for the next several days--the Green Motel in Cavusin. Run by an exceedingly gracious family. It is very comfortable and most of the rooms have great views of the surrounding town and hillsides that contain yet more of the tufa dwellings. After nightfall, many of us gathered on the large upstairs patio congregating around Noel’s telescope and lying down on kilims to watch the stars. We were hoping to view the Perseid meteor shower. Those of us who hung around until approximately 3:30 a.m. were indeed rewarded with a nice show.

And now, apropos of nothing, a few Turkish phrases from my guidebook that every traveler should have in his or her repertoire to facilitate communication with the locals:

  1. Is there a kebap restaurant around here?
  2. To mess up. Literally, however, to step sideways on your penis.
  3. I’m in favor of abortion.
  4. I feel myself becoming more complete with you.


Friday AM
August 13, 1999 by Doug Millar and Helen Mahoney 
Kaymaki Underground City

After a night of Perseids (two per minute) laying on kilims. The friendliest, dirtiest dog in Turkey shared our viewing. Becca and Justin earned their stripes as astronomers by staying up all night!

We awoke to beautiful morning light, melon patch and ground cover grapevines with huge bunches of grapes. Nice warm showers! Cappadocian wine was among the best.

We loaded up about 9:30 a.m. to head off to see the Troglodyte houses and underground cities. While we’re visiting the sites today, Gulem is doing our laundry. We were told to count our pieces to get the same amount at the end. What Meltem didn’t say was whether or not we could trade up.

Turkey is self-sufficient for everything except power. They have 22% of what they need. They import oil from Iraq, Iran, and Azerbeyjan. That country, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan were once part of the former Soviet Union. They are mostly ethnic Turks, so have a great relationship with Turkey and close trade relations. Their language is similar, but they were forced to write in Russian alphabet. Now learning the Turkish alphabet with the help of Turkish teachers.

We visited the underground city of Kaymaki in Nevsehir. This was carved out of natural caves from 4th to 10th century AD and served as a hiding place for the early Christians. Even different Christian groups fought. They lived in above ground cities and went underground when danger threatened.

Archaeologists estimate there are 30 underground cities in Cappadocia. Some go down 10 levels. They may be connected to each other. This one was carved into the soft tufa stone down 4 levels (that we know of.) 7000 people lived here. There were tunnels that could be closed off by rolling a big stone in front of the opening. There were also secret escape tunnels. There was a church carved into the stone with a niche and crosses. They had a winery too. Grapes were crushed and the juice was channeled into a spout in the stone that dripped down to the level below. The ventilation shaft went through all the levels and kept the place supplied with oxygen. The insulating properties of the tufa stone kept the caves cool in summer (and it was delightful!) and warm in winter.


Friday PM
August 13, 1999 by Lorna Adkins         
Goreme, Avanos Carpet Demonstration

In Tokat we visited an Ottoman House museum; today in Goreme, we lunched at the modern, very beautiful Ottoman House Hotel. What a treat to sit on a rooftop terrace strewn with Turkish rugs and look out at the "fairy houses" of Cappadocia while being served an elegant meal of Lentil soup (spiced with oregano, chili pepper, and curry), various hors d’oeuvres including chicken and nuts in a white sauce, a main course of rice and chicken with peppers and eggplant, and fresh fruit (including watermelon with a peanut sauce!) Meltem says it is a principle of Meliturs not to stay in hotels like these, despite their beauty and reasonable cost ($30 for 1 night--an especially low cost because of poor tourist business this summer.) But rather to stay in places run by locals (and not built purely for tourists) in hopes of slowing the migration of locals to the big cities. However, it also seems to be a principle to stop at interesting restaurants with special food or locations as a treat for those of us on the tour.

After lunch we drove to the open air museum in Goreme where we (somewhat groggily because of the big lunch) toured four churches carved out of the tufa stone in the 11th century. We visited the chapel of St. Basil, the "Apple Church", the "Snake Church" (Yilanli Kilise), and the "Sandal Church" (Cankli Kilise). We also saw a suite of rooms containing a larder (pantry/storage room), a kitchen with a blackened ceiling and one tiny round vent hole, and a dining room or perfectory with built in tables and benches. In between the various sites we had not one, but two group photos with everyone in eclipse shirts (much coveted by other tourists) and with photographer Noel rushing to reach his place before the timer went off for the picture.

As always, Meltem shared her great knowledge about the sites we were in—in this case, the various churches. A few highlights:

1. Local saints (Basil, Theodore, and Gregory) are featured in the frescoes in several of the churches and are often pictured on horseback--as in the snake church where two of them are shown killing a snake or dragon, or symbolically evil.

2. The frescoes are of two types: early ones painted directly on the tufa stone, and slightly later ones painted on plaster. The predominantly earth-tones colors are typical of the area.

3. Many of the images on the frescoes are similar to ones in the mosaics at Chora Church in Istanbul. Mary holding the baby Christ; Christ as Pantocrator (hand up and holding the book of enlightenment) flanked by Mary and John the Baptist; the apostles; the crucifixion; the "Ictus" or fish sign; and Joseph contemplating. An unusual image in the 3rd church, the snake church, was the image of the naked hermaphrodite St. Onoprius shown with breasts and a long white beard.

4. Many of the frescoes were defaced by invading Arabs, who believed they could "kill the soul" by destroying the face and especially the eyes of an image, since the eyes reveal emotions and feelings. Other destruction to the frescoes resulted from Byzantines who chipped pieces from the frescoes, added water, and drank the mixture in hopes of receiving something good. Sounds a bit like Howard drinking/eating Turkish coffee grounds with lemon before lunch today--Meltem’s home remedy for stomach ills.

5. The locals named the churches: "St. Basil Church" (long and narrow) because of the picture of that local saint; "Apple Church", because Gabriel is shown holding a sphere, that may be a globe of some kind; the "Snake Church", with its fresco of the saints killing the snake/dragon/evil; and the "Sandal Church", that shows Christ wearing sandals (and which also shows Gabriel with a round orb), among many other beautiful frescoes.

After leaving the museum proper, we walked to the cathedral just outside. This is a newer, much larger structure that dates from the 12th century AD. It is distinguished by frescoes having a bright blue background. These elaborate frescoes are painted on plaster, but where the plaster has chipped away, one can sometimes see earlier, earth-toned frescoes painted directly on the stone.

From the cathedral we headed by bus for Avanos Hall, a carpet cooperative, subsidized by the Turkish government in hopes of keeping alive the dying art of carpet weaving done traditionally by women. Meltem remarked that "only women are that patient." The men however, do get to string the long vertical and horizontal threads that become the skeleton of the carpet.

I’ve written far too much already, so I’ll try to summarize the cooperative in bullet form:

Following the demonstration of the various steps involved in making Turkish carpet, we were invited into a large room for drinks and the viewing of carpets. What a demonstration! Herman, the charming director of the coop, snapped a finger and workmen rolled out one gorgeous carpet after another. Almost like performers in a magic show. Herman told us that buying a carpet is like "choosing a good friend"—a lifetime decision. By the end of the demonstration, a number of us had purchased a carpet we’d had no intention of buying when we walked in the door but couldn’t resist because of their beauty and good value. The "new friends" would arrive at our doorsteps in 6 or 7 weeks.

What a day! Just another amazing day in Turkey.


Saturday AM
August 14, 1999 by Becca Bracy         
Pottery Demonstration, Kilim Demonstration

At last, the weekend is here! After a long, hard week of eating and sightseeing we can finally relax and enjoy a weekend of eating and sightseeing…

The day began early for a few brave souls who walked several feet from their rooms for a mini star party. Noel had the telescope set up and gave us a chance to look at Jupiter and Saturn. I had seen them the night before, but got up again so I could have another look at Saturn—such a beautiful sight.

Another group of folks assembled at 7:00 am for a pre-breakfast trek through the ruins right near the hotel. They were incredible—hard to believe people lived there until the 1960’s. I tried to imagine daily life in the rock as I walked through the rooms and passageways. There is a large church there—the Church of St. John the Baptist, according to the local teenager leading us. We got up to the top of the formation only to see people who were higher than us in hot air balloons. They actually came down pretty low in the canyon.

We returned to our usual delicious breakfast. And I learned that what I thought was thick honey is actually a syrup made from grapes—who knew?

Once on the bus we had a successful "buddy check" (each person had a buddy they had to check for whenever the bus was leaving) and peppermint lifesavers for all. Then we were off to Avanos where we saw an excellent pottery demonstration. Galip, a master potter, made a teapot right in front of us. It was truly incredible how the shapes and forms just seemed to magically appear out of the clay. The men of this family have been potters for five generations and they do gorgeous work. These days he employs several cousins and other family members and will train locals interested in learning the craft as well. I saw so many beautiful pieces and bought a few to take home.

A strange part of the shop was a room where the walls were literally covered with samples of women’s hair from all over the world. Each piece is attached to a little card with their name and address. Galip says that once a year he picks ten and they get two weeks of free pottery training at his workshop studio. Honestly, the whole room was interesting for a moment, and then seemed rather creepy. I was conned into giving him a lock of hair, but felt kind of strange about it afterwards and took it down off the wall before leaving. I don’t think it will be missed—there were thousands. But even if his hair hobby is bizarre, the pottery is still fantastic.

After the pottery—kilims!! The women in Galip’s family are weavers. We had a demonstration of how to prepare the wool by Galip’s 70 year old Mother. It amazes me what skilled people can do with their hands and some basic materials. We saw some really interesting woven items. A salt bag, a bag to carry a baby on your back, a hanging cradle, a bridal kilim, for wrapping the dowry in, etc. As Meltem pointed out, the nomads couldn’t carry around wooden furniture or big solid items. It made much more sense to use woven things. I couldn’t resist buying a salt bag. I don’t know why, but I loved it.

We also got to see all kinds of kilims—new and old, wool and silk, big and small. The room looked like a tornado went through it when our group was finished.

It was great to learn about two more traditional Turkish arts, and to see a place that is committed to continuing to educate people and keep the traditions alive.


Saturday PM
August 14, 1999 by Kathy Warner               
Belisirma Village, Guzelyurt

After a lunch beginning with bland soup, moving on to a very tasty selection of salads (our first salad bar in Turkey), a main course of chicken wrapped in eggplant with spaghetti on the side and melon, we piled on the bus, and I, at least fell asleep. Woke to more stubble fields and a 14,000 foot volcano (Mt. Hasan). It is one of the volcanoes that produced the geology of Cappadocia and will dominate the landscape for today and tomorrow. No eruptions expected however.

Left turn to Ihlara Canyon and Belisirma Village. Past more stubble fields – a few with rock boundaries (better on the edge of the field than under the plow). A few isolated prosperous looking houses in the fields. Lots of people in the first part of the village- none in the second part, halfway down the canyon wall. We arrived at our hostess’s home with her daughter, five month old grandson and the daughter’s sister-in-law. It is 40 degrees centigrade outside – a little cooler inside. The house has a flat roof for drying fruit and vegetables, a porch with a place to remove your shoes, and a beam and mat ceiling like a pueblo. We all fit in the living room that has little furniture – cushions around the walls, a cabinet at one end for dishes, family treasures, bug spray and such. The water closet is down in the chicken house. We were made very welcome, she served tea for 28 on the spur of the moment and kept apologizing for the lack of pastry.

It turns out that there is wedding in the village and all the women are at the henna party (the first day of three days of festivities). They henna the brides hands and everyone dances, sings and has a fine time. The men have a party for the groom that centers on large quantities of raki. Tomorrow will be dowry viewing day when everyone, especially in-laws, can see what the bride has produced for her hope chest and be impressed by her skills. Then the third day the knot is finally tied. It took 40 days in old times. Weddings are held after harvest when people have more time and money and relatives from the city can take vacation time for the wedding.

There are lots of relatives from the city including most of the men of the village. They go to Ankara to paint houses and drive trucks because these little wheat fields won’t buy washing machines and satellite dishes. So the villages have fewer and fewer families and the cities get bigger and bigger.

Our hostesses are wearing their lovely scarves and the daughter wears her five-gold-coin necklace. It her dowry and her insurance. Gold jewelry is the best wedding present, so brides wear lots as well as paper money pinned to their red dresses. The bridal color from here to Japan. There is no social safety net here other than the family, so the gifts of money are needed.

The daughters treasure chest is brought down and opened. Her treasure is scarves, lace and edgings. Melten takes the opportunity to give us a scarf lesson. First a traditional white scarf of the countryside tied babushka style or simply loosely wrapped to the back. Soft and good sun protection. Then Cappadocian style with the end lying on top of the head – this one takes some skill. Last, the two scarf eastern Turkey or sheik of the desert style. The Tokat dancers wore this one.

All wilting in the heat as we say goodbye and head for Guzelyurt.

At our hotel, an old monastery, there is a swimming pool! We cool off and cheer up immediately and have a lovely dinner in the great hall. About four courses served buffet style with no lack of eggplant. A happy evening of ping pong and moon photography and maybe another swim.

P.S. Meltem also explained some of the fundamentalist head coverings we’ve seen. The main point is to completely cover the hair. That is considered a woman’s most tempting feature. Some of the strictest ones even wear gloves, so that no part of her is seen outdoors.


Sunday AM
August 15, 1999 by Howard Williams 
Guzelyurt (Neiden), Monastery Valley

Most of us were up early – the chant from the mosque this morning was especially good. Kathy and I had a walk around town as did Chuck and Jim, Jo and Mervyn. Becca and I took a jog up the hill. On our way back through town, we found Joyce, so we had a good excuse to walk. We found a small alley with a sign "Antik City" that heads toward the Monastery Valley. Lots of old cave homes and ruins, donkeys, cows, roosters and kids. We were invited into one of the homes by the children, ages 4-10. It was a cave home similar to ones we had seen over the past week, but this one is lived in. The courtyard had a cow, donkey, two chickens and 6 kids. The home had sleeping quarters and a large storeroom with about 50 bags of flour. We wondered how many of us would invite non-english speaking strangers into our homes for a tour. Something to be said for the religion. At 8:30 we headed to the home of the blue door and had a delicious breakfast of Gorek plus the usual fare of tea, cucumber, egg, bread and tomatoes. The home was originally a Greek home before they were deported to Greece at the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1924. They return in September of each year for a festival.

Meltem called us all to class for a talk of Islam and the Turkish Independence War. Islam is not just terrorists and bombs. There are many interpretations of the Moslems. Islam means submission to God’s will. Humans are a direct reflection of God’s perfection and are the most important thing in existence. No one is between God and people including the clergy. Moslems originated in the 7th century AD in Saudi Arabia among groups of pagans.

There are five principles of Islam. One, the main dome (cimi), a spiritual dome that covers us all. It means believing in God and his prophet Mohammed. The others are pillars which support the main dome in a spiritual way. Two, pray 5 times a day. This also got people in the habit of cleaning themselves frequently. Friday noon prayer is the most important time of the week.

Hocca (ho’ja) are not there to tell Muslims right from wrong. They are able to read the Koran in Arabic (holy) script. Three, fast during Ramadan. Fasting begins at sunrise and last until sunset. It includes smoking, drinking liquids, or even smelling a flowers. It gives us an appreciation of those who do suffer from hunger. Ramadan moves 10 days each year, so never is at the same time, but makes a cycle in 36 years. The fast ends with olives and bread, always shared with family. Four, give aid or alms to poor people. Service is more important than money, but one fortieth of ones income must be donated. Five, make a trip to Mecca at least once in your life if you have done all the other things in life. The pilgrimage is called hac (hodge), and if you have been, it is called haci (ha-gee). Mecca is important as the birthplace of Mohammed and the religion. There are two main sects of Islam. Ninety-five percent are Sunni. The others are Shiite. There are many branches or sub-sects of each. Our group had a hang-up about whether or not Hocca are clergy.

Mohammed became a prophet at the age of 40 at the direction of God. He wrote the Koran in 632. It specifically mentions other religions and respects them as holy. There is heaven and hell in the religion. Souls will go one way or the other on judgment day. A demonstration of scarves by Emel and of prayer by Meltem followed. (Editor: Again there were no tractor demonstrations).

A walk from the top of Monastery valley followed. St. Gregory started a church there in the fourth century. It was renovated many times until the Greeks departed in 1924. The church was a welcome site this time as relief from the heat, as was the bus at the bottom of the hill. A drive up the valley showed many monk caves. We had 20 minutes to experience the monk life which seemed just about enough for me. Boddy check and vee go.

Back to the hotel for lunch (eggplant) and a dip in the pool. Before turning over the journal duties, I’d like to thank Meltem and Melitours for showing the country the way it should be shown. You meet and interact with the people and learn how they live rather than trying to reproduce your life at home in modified American facilities, eating American food and only visiting crowded tourist attractions. Thank you. I love Turkey!

Sunday PM
August 15, 1999 by Sue Humphries         
Karavanseri, and on to Konya

We’re on our way from Guzelyurt to Konya. The countryside begins like the mesas of the American southwest but later flattens out into a very fertile dry lake bed which has become the (wheat) bread basket of Turkey.

Our point of interest for the afternoon is the pre-Ottoman Selcuk Turk Caravansari (a Turkish word meaning "traveler’s inn"). This beautifully preserved facility is on the Rona-Aksaray Highway and was built by Alaaddin Key Kubat I in 1229. Designed by architect Muhammet Bin Havlan el Demaski, it was restored and extended by the city governor after a great fire in 1278, thus becoming the largest caravansari in Turkey (according to the sign).

Meltem informed us that these facilities were provided free of charge by the sultan all along the Silk Road (a part of which we, too, traveled today) at intervals of 30km (18mi) which was the distance a camel could travel in one day. The Silk Road extended from Istanbul to Persia and on to China. This much-used road, traversed by many different peoples and their animals and trade goods went through the area of Konya which was a crossroads and thus needed large facilities. There was no toll for this road as the sultans wished to promote trading. Marco Polo and Ibin –2 Batuta took this route. (Ibin-2 means "wise man").

Since the countryside was quite wild at the time, the walls needed to be tall, thick, and strong (fortified). J Groups of colorful travelers would have been on the road for months and would have been happy to see this building. The striking stone work is of local stone with marble facades. It’s beautiful work (and shows the builders to be excellent masons). Traditional Selcuk designs of the star and sundial were used. One enters through a large door into a courtyard with an open mosque in the center. In the summer the animals would have been kept here, while the people would have stayed in the roofed open-sided hall to the right. On the left side were rooms for toilets, Turkish baths, refectory and kitchen. Straight ahead, beyond the mosque is the covered high-arched hall used in the winter by both people and animals. Small windows and many bodies provided warmth in winter and the high ceiling provided coolness in summer. The entrance to this great hall has the original Selcuk arch and niche with Arabic designs and inscriptions. This most beautiful and best preserved caravansari is a truly impressive sight. Note: Sultanhan means it has been built by a sultan. Many 1500’s-1600’s European buildings have design ideas taken from Anatolian buildings like this. Some caravansaris are now used for shops, restaurants and hotels.

Now we are on our way to the commercial city of Konya (500,000 people). In the Bible, Konya was known as Iconium. St. Paul was here, as was a large Christian population (1908 church). Konya was the capital of southern Selcuk as well as a cultural and technical/scientific center. Here the Whirling Dervishes were started by Rumi who was the poet and philosophical group of Sufis. The Whirling Dervishes do their dance in public only on a few occasions such as the death of Celaleddin Rumi on 12/17. This is also a holy site – a pilgrimage site – for Moslems.

As we continue, Meltem is playing some Turkish music for us – a real treat of traditional folk music. On our way into town we pass a Selcuk astronomy school building and a Selcuk mosque. Meltem says Konya is a more fundamentalist city than Istanbul. Meltem is looking forward to seeing her sister and niece tonight and we wish them a good time. Tonight we stay a Sifa Otel.

What a great trip!


Monday AM
August 16, 1999 by Dick Humphries    
Konya (Iconium)

Today we passed right by the renowned Selimiye Mosque (16th century) in favor of a 13th century mosque turned into the Mevlana Museum. A place of great religious significance for local Moslems and a pilgrimage destination for Sufi fans from all over. A very impressive and beautiful place containing old rugs, the tomb of Celaleddin Rumi and the beard of Prophet Mohammed. Rumi (1207-1273) had a philosophy of universal brotherhood. An approximate quote: "Come and come again whoever you are and join us." His writings embody the philosophy and practice of Sufism. The "whirling dervishes" is a formalized ritual dance to transcend the ego in search of enlightenment from above and bringing it to one’s fellow men through service.

Meltem said Sufism is growing in what may be called the liberal wing of Islan. Also, the fundamental wing of Islam is also growing. A kind of bifurcation in Islam.

Dick’s Editorial Comment: With the world contracting at an exponential growth rate, reaction to fundamentalism is occurring worldwide. However, the parochialisms will inevitable conflict as the contraction continues. New generations must either fight or accommodate. In the end, reality will force accommodation. Rumi’s universality may provide "ancient" principles for a global culture 1000 years after his time.


Monday PM
August 16, 1999 by Carolyn Moser
Evil-eye theory according to Noel, Turkey according to Meltem, Justin's Birthday

Because this might have been missed in the morning, as the afternoon scribe, I will enter it:
"It" is a new astronomical theory devised by Noel Munford of Palmerston North, New Zealand. The theory is the result of many cups of Turkish tea offered throughout this trip combined with the ubiquitous evil eye talisman in every form imaginable.  The Turkish T.E.A. or Theory of Evil-eye Absorption is the result of Noel giving deep thought to the following questions. How much evil can an evil-eye absorb? How does one know when an evil-eye is full? How does one empty a full evil-eye? Noel postulated that the black center of the evil-eye is the Turkish equivalent of an astronomical black hole and therefore can absorb an infinite amount of evil which then disappears to…who knows where? Thank you Noel for clearing that up.

As we left our lunch stop near Aksehir, Meltem told us about Nasrudin Hoca, a national character (1208-1284AD) with a way of teaching similar to another national character, Aesop. Many examples of Hoca Nasruddin's wisdom abound. An example follows:
Hoca asked the people in the mosque before he started his sermon, "Do you know what I'll tell you today?" "No," the people answered. "Well, if you don't know, how can I tell you?" and he left the mosque. Hoca asked the same question the next week. This time the people answered, "Yes, we know." "Since you know, I don't have to repeat it." And he left the mosque. The following week, the people made a decision, when Hoca asks the same question, some will say, "Yes, we know." And some will say, "No, we don't." After hearing these two answers, Hoca Nasredin thought for a while, then he said, "Those who know are obligated to tell those who do not know." And he left the mosque. Moral of the story, "Those who know must tell."

After many days of introducing us all to ancient Turkey, Meltem, explained aspects of modern Turkey, education, health care, military service and the development of the terrorist group known as the PKK. With the establishment of the Republic of Turkey came the first compulsory education for all Turks from ages 7 to 12. This has resulted in a 96% literacy rate. Many more students want to continue on to a University education that the Turkish universities can accommodate. Consequently, competition for university placement occurs annually with the Central University Exam. General health care is provided free to government workers, private business owners, housewives and farmers with a 10% co-payment for medications and surgeries. There are private physicians who provide medical care for a fee.

Meltem was asked about alcoholism, drug abuse and homosexuality in Turkey. She replied that these are not prevalent problems because Turkey is a traditional society based on the Muslim religion.

Military service is compulsory for men and varies from 15 to 18 months. Turkey maintains a force of 750,000 military members and constitutes the government's largest annual expenditure. This is necessary due to Turkey's geographic neighbors-especially Syria, Iran & Iraq. 

When asked about what the politicians are doing about the extremely high rate of inflation, Meltem replied that they are watching it increase. And now to the PKK, and questions many of us had before coming to Turkey. Meltem explained that until 15 years ago there had been no difficulties involving Kurds. They have always been a nomadic group and in Turkey they live predominantly in SE Turkey. By the best estimates available there are 20 million Kurds living in areas of Russia, Syria, northern Iraq and Iran. Of these, 6 million live in Turkey and 3 million of the 6 million live in Istanbul.

So, 15 years ago a group emerged, its leader from Syria, that declared itself the leaders of the Kurds. Known as the PKK, the group engaged in guerilla warfare with the objective of forcing the Turkish government to establish a separate independent country for Kurds. Editorial comment: I find it odd that the PKK did not also engage in guerilla warfare on behalf of the other 14 million Kurds living outside Turkey. The PKK targeted schools, hospitals and military facilities. It is suspected that the PKK has killed Kurds who do not support the PKK or its philosophy. The financial engine that drives the PKK is profits from drug traffic originating outside Turkey which transports drugs through SE Turkey en route to Europe. Fifteen years and 30,000 deaths earned the PKK leader Ocalun a place on the"Red List". By international agreement anyone on the "Red List" who is found in another country is to be immediately arrested, detained, and returned for trial for their terrorist crimes.
Questions to consider.
Why is the PKK allowed to maintain its headquarters in Greece?
Why have both the Italians and Syrians knowingly harbored the PKK leader, a terrorist on the "Red List", giving him accommodations and living expenses?
Why do other European countries sanction the PKK either actively through arms sales or passively, such as allowing the use of satellite connections to broadcast PKK terrorist beliefs? Editorial Comment: Before coming to Turkey I accidentally brought up the PKK Website, which happened to be in English. It was the most vile, hate-filled, violent and frightening thing I have ever seen. The word that comes to mind is "evil."

And now on to a much lighter note, August 16 was Justin's 29th birthday. Dave, Meltem, and Becca planned a surprise birthday cake for him to be presented at dinner at our hotel in Pammukale. Becca also composed a poem for the occasion.

A long time ago in the States,
John and Judy Goodman became mates.

They wanted a son,
And soon they had one-
Young Justin was sent by the Fates.

This Justin was quite a bright lad,
He brought joy to his mum and his dad.

Year after year
They grinned ear to ear
As they saw what a fine son they had.

Yes, the talents of Justin were great.
If they were food he'd have quite a full plate!

He could read, write and add.
He could surf.---He was rad.
A credit to his ma, pa, and state.

When he went up to Stanford for school.
He sang with an acapula group---very cool.

When he'd sing a tune,
The women would swoon.
Not an exception, this was the rule.

So before our time here we must expend,
We should ask him to sing for his friends.

Jazz, pop, or blues-
Justin can choose.
But let's get at least one song by the end.

Besides singing he studied quite hard.
His books would stack by the yard.

Of course the schedule he kept,
Required that he slept.
Sleep and naps were held in such high regard.

Now Justin's a medical resident
So beloved he's probably class president

To come on this trip
Required a huge schedule flip,
But in 20 minutes he found
People to cover his rounds,
A medical school feat without precedent.

When he called to invite me to Turkey
The odds of me going seemed murky.

But a chance to spend
Time with such a great friend (and Turkey and the total solar eclipse)
Made plans firm up quickly like beef jerky.

And now that you've been with him 10 days,
You can see that it's all like I says.

A most charming chap
Who still likes to nap…
Let's wish him many more happy birthdays!


What a full day! But we weren't finished. In an after dinner galactic re-enactment of how eclipses are predicted with Meltem as the Moon, Carolyn with a flashlight as the Sun, and Noel as the positioning guide, we learned how moon position, earth and sun position create eclipse cycles (Soreas) and families. Thanks, Noel!
(Editor’s note: At one point, Noel said "Will the sun please shut up?").


Tuesday AM
August 17, 1999 by Robin Gledhill 
Pamukkale, Hieropolis

Woke up to the tragedy of earthquake news. First we went to Hieropolis and sarcophagi; the Roman dead center of town! Saw the amphitheatre in process of being restored above the silica terraces of Pamukkale – meaning "Cotton Fortress". (Reminds me of Pink and White terraces of Mt. Tarawera, buried in eruption of 1886).

See Kurizism; old thermal pool. And the warm spring baths, source of the mineral laden water that forms the terraces.

Leaving central Anatolia we are reminded of the many English words of Turkish origin and the long list of crops growing in the fertile river valley of the River Meander; and its meaning. Intriguing to learn of government sponsored irrigation for plum apples figs, grapes for eating, wine making and sultana exports and olive trees by the square km.

Met first rail line for days, a sign of economic determination. Lunch of shish kebabs at Ortaklar. And loving it!


Tuesday PM
August 17, 1999 by Kathy Williams
Temple of Apollo, Miletus, Kusadasi

Continued our drive through Meander Valley towards the Aegean coast. The sea flowed up through this valley 3000 years ago, until silt filled it in. Now many crops grow in this fertile valley including cotton, olive trees, figs and tobacco.

Our first glimpse of the Aegean Sea through the hills, turned left as we reached the coast into the city of Didim. This areas along the ocast has had tremendous growth with vacation home building. The Temple of Apollo in the distance. Built in the 3rd century BC, it is the largest Hellenistic temple on earth. Part of the ancient city of Dedyma, the sanctuary was never completed due to lack of funds and earthquake damage. We entered the area and were quite impressed by the magnitude of the remaining columns, with their impressive diameters, carvings and scrolls at the top of the Ionic columns. The marble was polished and may areas contained mason’s marks to identify their designer.

The Oracles lived within the walls of the temple. Always women, they used the cistern in the middle of the courtyard as holy water to predict the future. The public was not allowed with so the Oracles would send their predictions as short statements needing interpretation via the messenger to the people.

There is an ancient road, 18km in length, extending from sanctuary to the city of Miletus. After leaving the temple we drove along the coast and stopped at a pleasant spot with a restaurant/bar for a short swim. Half of the group took a refreshing dip in the Aegean while the rest enjoyed the cool ocean breeze.

On to the ancient ruins of Miletus, the cultural center of science. Thales, father of Philosophy and science, was a mathematician thought to have predicted a total solar eclipse. The amphitheater showed signs of additions made over the years. The original construction was 300 BC with rounded stones. With the Romans (1st century AD) came sidewall arches and smooth ledges. They also raised the first row of seats in the amphitheater to use the performance area as an arena, with gladiators and wild animals.

The last addition came during the Byzantine time around 9th century AD, with fortress walls.

Looking out from above the amphitheater, we see more of the city. Before the silting in, the ancient cities were all located harbor side.

We continued our drive toward Kusadasi (Meltem’s summer home). We had a nice view of the Greek island of Samos in the distance. Kusadasi translates to "Bird Island" due to their tradition of feeding pigeons in the area. Winter population in Kusadasi is 40,000 and swells to 250,000 in the summer. We observed evidence of this by the many tall buildings and density. It is a main harbor for cruise ships, with tourism its main source of revenue.

Up a hill the Hotel Palmera with a spectacular Aegean view and lovely pool. Most of us swam and then gathered outside for a dinner of chicken schnitzel. We have definitely noticed a change in this area compared to the villages and countryside we have become so familiar with.


Wednesday AM
August 18, 1999 by Lavonna Reeves
Temple of Artemis, Ephesus Museum, House of the Virgin Mary

We awoke to another beautiful Turkish morning and found a tall ship sailing in the Aegean between Samos and us. I feel well rested and refreshed; but some of us had a rough night's sleep; people shouting, dogs barking. Wonder what we're having for breakfast this morning...?

On the bus again and riding through town, past the harbor, past a Caravansary now converted into a hotel. On the way, Meltem describes the importance of this region and how the Meander River met the Aegean Sea here in what is now the valley. This is why Ephesus was so important not only as a hub for trade; but also as a religious center. Driving through the now familiar countryside, past fields of cotton, apricots, grapes, figs, melons and the ever present Poplars; it's now easy to understand the thinking of those so long ago that termed this area "The Fertile Crescent". It's just so beautiful! The Temple of Artemis - what a site! On the hill, sitting atop the old first city of Ephesus, now sits a Byzantine castle. Just below, a mosque from the 1300's, and to the right the Basilica of St. John. After St John's exile to the isle of Patmos, he returned to Ephesus and presumably died here. His tomb is just under this basilica; built by Justinian in the 6th century. A Selcuk town sits amongst the ruins just below this site; the descendents of Ephesus juxtaposed between old and new.

This site, the 1st city of Ephesus, was chosen after a 'stone fell from the sky'. Could this have been a meteor? More than a century later the ruins of this site was discovered accidentally by a British engineer working for the railroad. Several pieces are now found in the British Museum. Goodness, it only 10:00 AM and I've already absorbed more history than in all of high school!

Off to the Archaeology Museum of Ephesus for a preview of what we'll see this afternoon when we visit the ruins at Ephesus. First, artifacts from the terrace houses showing what a sophisticated life these rather wealthy people had. In a re-creation of a terrace home courtyard hangs a fresco of Socrates. Remember this is the 2nd century AD, some 1,700 years ago and these people had philosophers hanging on their walls? I'm impressed. Next the God of Fertility, "Priape". Looks like the Turkish Viagra that we noticed in the old Egyptian Spice Bazaar is not a new idea to the area.  

Just a few more steps brings us to the Statue of Triajan. The Emperor stands tall with his foot on a ball or a globe? The inscription reads: " to the most powerful Emperor in the world". Did these people really understand that the world is round? Further on a frieze from the Temple of Hadrian , with Amazon warriors and the Goddess Artemis standing side by side with Emperors. Amazing. Were there really equal rights among the immortals in the second century?

Next ,Statues of the Nymphs standing under a fountain. The idea was that this marble be cut so delicately that their forms give the illusion of wet tissue over skin. The illusion works. Could this have been the first wet T-shirt contest?

Further on, an amazing three dimensional piece of furniture made of ivory. Found in pieces it took 3 years to put together. The ultimate jigsaw puzzle!

Ahead, as we walk through the next courtyard, we find a sundial , dedicated to the Emperor Caracalla. It must have been like our modern day clocks hanging near banks and city squares. Everyone needs to know what time it is, even in the 2nd Century. And finally we view the Goddess Artemis, the Goddess of Fertility. Women were thought to be the center of creation at this time. The role of men in childbearing was not yet fully understood. Her features include: The bust made of large eggs symbolizing fertility. The crown of Ephesus on her head symbolizing her being the mother-protector of the city. The clusters of grapes that make up her necklace and adorn her costume, indigenous to the region. She is an impressive sight, standing with open arms willing to give fertility to all those that ask. Between she and the God Priape, looks like they had a monopoly on the fertility market. 

Later, relaxing among the old columns in the ivy-enclosed garden, something that Meltem said a few days ago comes to mind. "Turkey is in Ruins", she said, mostly as a joke. Today, after viewing some of these ruins, it rings true for me. I feel connected now to this ancient city and it's people. Today, I realize that they really weren't so different from us.  Well, except maybe that we like to have partitions between the commodes in our public restrooms. 

Back on the bus and up the mountain to the House of the Virgin Mary, the presumed site of her death. Since Christ&death St. John and Mary traveled together and since John's tomb is under his basilica just below us in the valley, it makes sense that she would have been nearby. Also, there's  the visions of a German nun describing Mary's House as situated where the Aegean Sea, the island of Samos, and the city of Ephesus could all be seen. This must be the spot. This site is a mass of tourists. Cruise ship syndrome. I counted 18 buses in the parking lot. Walking into the house, there is a very reverent atmosphere for both Christians and Muslims alike. On the wall upon exiting there are scriptures from the Quaran describing the Virgin Mary as the mother of the prophet, Christ. Walking back to the bus some in our group take a dip in the spring just below the House. It is said to have "healing properties". At this point in the day I just need something with "cooling properties", it's so frickin' hot!

Again on the air-conditioned bus and coming down off the mount, we stop to take in this amazing panoramic view one last time. Down below in the valley rests the first city of Ephesus, St. John's Basilica, the Mosque, the Byzantine Castle, and in the foreground Ephesus' second city, with it's ancient Hellenistic walls, surrounded on all sides by mountains. We all take pictures knowing that our photos will not capture the splendor of this scene. The valley seems to be smiling at the welcoming, albeit retreating, Aegean Sea. It makes me smile too.


Wednesday PM 
August 18, 1999 by Chuck Hower

After lunch in Selchuk (lamb shiskebobs) we drive out to the site of Ephesus. Concern about the afternoon heat is lessened when we find the afternoon breeze promise by Meltem. Still, it is 92 in the shade and there is not much shade.

First my personal impressions before they get drowned in detail. This was not just a city. It was a place of great beauty and wealth and power. A splendid, shining city of marble on the sea. It was cooled and cleansed by cascades of water and lit by eternal torches. Is there anything in our times as grand?

Now for the walk-through. (If you want accuracy read your guide book) Ephesus was moved twice having been originally at the site of the temple of Artemis. This Ephesus was occupied from 300 B.C. to 700 A.D. , first by the Greeks, then by the Romans, and finally by the Byzantines. So many types of ruins are interlaced in the 1000 year old city. It was once on the sea, but silting moved the sea 6 km away and eventually caused the decline of the city. Only 20% of the city has been excavated. This was a planned city, by Hippodomus--streets are laid out in orderly and linear manner. We first pass through the administrative section where the governing class hung out with their own baths and declaimed in the Odeon, a small auditorium dating from 2nd Century A.D. The original tile pipe is amazing and attests to the elaborate water supply system; some aqueducts were 40 km long. There was also a sewer system (but I wonder if they swam in the bay). Noel remarks to Meltem that the construction cranes in view are just like the ones we use today. (She doesn't get it.) Romans used marble veneer over more crude material in their walls. Columns: Doric (plane), Ionic (flowing design on capitol), Corinthian (more ornately carved capitol). Priests called curates kept an eternal flame going (which was carried to colony cities as far as the Black Sea coast). We go down the Sacred Ramp to another square. Here is the temple of Domitian. His statue was in the museum. Also a medical school and fountains, the statues of which are also in the museum. There are holes in the marble paving to support giant torches for lighting the square and Curates Street, which we now enter. The amount and scale of ornate carving is amazing. Inscriptions in Greek are everywhere. We walk by the terrace houses, street level shops with mosaics on the floors, statues with heads that were replaced with whatever patrons of the city were current. There is a building dedicated to Hadrian with the goddess Fortuna in an archway, from time of Pax Romana, 2nd century A.D. (Personal note: there is a fictionalized account of Hadrian's life that makes a good read for anyone interested. This is the same dude who built the wall in England.)

And the public toilets! Room for a hundred. Running water at your feet. And you sit down. Now we enter a square at the intersection of Curates Street and the Marble Way. Here is the library (look at your pictures, I can't describe it). It held 12,000 volumes but they were all given to Cleopatra by that lout Marc Anthony and lost in the Alexandria fire. Meltem makes special note that statues on the facade are of women and named, in translation, Knowledge, Friendship, Understanding, and Wisdom. (I guess the men were across the street.) A large gate leads to the Agora, about 400 feet square and bordered with a wooden roof supported by the columns seen still standing. Now it's down the Marble Way, passed directions to the brothel, and on to the great amphitheater. 25,000 can be seated here and it is still used for special events (Izmir Festival in June and July). We have our own private performance of "Summertime". Thank you Justine! Finally, we pause under an olive tree and look down Harbor street to where the harbor was at one time. Ichtus signs can be found carved on the paving blocks of this street. To one side are the public baths, situated so visitors can clean up before entering the city. No dirt allowed. And while sitting in the shade we reflect that on this street walked Hadrian, Anthony, Cleopatra, St. Paul, St John--and many more.

Evening. One last trip on our bus to a harbor side restaurant in downtown Kusadasi. An elegant meal under a crescent moon. Live music. A perfect way to end a grand trip. Thank you Dave and Carolyn for the dinner. Thank you Jim and Kathy for drinks. Hosca Kalin!



Doug and Helen’s Memories: We kept saying to ourselves what our number one thing was in Turkey, and it kept being "the people". Usually the eclipse was down the list somewhere. That reflects to me that the trip had to be exceptional in every way to be able to move the eclipse experience down the list! I have lots of great memories from almost everywhere we stopped.  When we were waiting for the bus at the square in Tokat, Helen and I saw some of the folkloric dancers from the other night. We went over and talked with them and they danced for us. They even brought Helen into the group to dance. I videoed them and they were ecstatic to see what they looked like. Later at the bus with our host family, Erdim and others, we must have said good bye a dozen times and hugged as many times.

It was a wonderful experience. I am very proud to have been a part of the group and thank you for your friendship.

Ok, vee go..........Doug