Day 25 – Istanbul

I woke up at 6AM.  I couldn’t believe today I had to be at the airport.  WHY!??!!  I need just one more day to say good-bye properly.  As I plotted ways to miss my plane, to figure out a way to wash dishes and afford an apartment, I said my goodbye’s to the lucky remaining students bound for Greece and Italy, and boarded the shuttle to the airport.

Luckily, I had company on the bus to talk to to keep my eyes from wandering off to look out the window at the Bosphorus, Mosques, Palaces, Businesses, and people.  I think now in hindsight, I would have teared and went into a mad frenzy in order to be deemed un fit to fly so that I could have another day or two there.  :-p

At the airport, I checked my bags.  It was official, I was leaving and had no other way out.  I hugged our tour guide Deniz, telling her not necessarily goodbye….

Somehow, I know I’ll be back…

Day 15 – Bursa

Today we visited the Green Mosque & Green Tomb, the Ulu Mosque, and the Silk Market (Kozahan). 

The Green Mosque was amazingly imperfect.  It was in the process of being restored and we were lucky that the Imam and the architects restoring the Mosque were eager to make our acquaintance.  The Imam spoke perfect English and was forthcoming in providing us with answers and information on all the intricacies of the mosque.  The chief architect even showed us a feature that we hadn’t seen in any of the other Mosques or buildings before.  When it was built in the 15th century, they installed rollers to ensure the building was still level and intact in the event of an Earthquake.  As long as the rollers still move, the building is fine.

The Green Mosque in Bursa, Turkey

The Green Mosque was small and quaint and the art work was purposefully done without perfection as a way to show humility below Allah (God).    The building project itself was never completed in it’s day.  However, it is referred to as the Green Mosque because the green tiles reflects light which creates a green hue within the mosque.  The Sultan that funded the project is buried in a “matching” tomb nearby. 

Inside the Green Mosque

The Green Tomb is the resting place of Celebi Sultan Mehmet I Turbesi and his 3 sons, 4 daughters, and nanny.  The tomb isn’t the resting place of his wife because back then, culturally the daughter is always buried with her father.  The coolest part about visiting the Green Tomb and Mosque was that over the course of a week and a half, I’ve really gained an appreciation for architecture and also Islamic Art.  I have a greater understanding of what the smallest details mean and even the work put into create it.  🙂

Inside the Green Tomb in Bursa, Turkey

So, when we arrived at the Ulu Mosque, I found a stark difference among others.  A lot of the Asian influence could be seen in the decor, but when the Mosque itself featured 20 domes and calligraphy with no patterns or designs except on the carpet and minbar, I was floored because there was a big difference in the status quo.  I like to believe that the reason for this was to remind worshippers at the mosque that they are there to be focused on the word over anything else.  But our Islamic Art and History professor says it’s because Calligraphy is an art of it’s own in the Muslim world. 

Ulu Mosque in Bursa, Turkey

So after admiring the art of calligraphy, we headed to the silk market.  The silk market should be renamed to the scarf market.  There were what seemed to be 30 scarf shops.  How do they stay in business with their competitors next door?  Most importantly, how would I have money to eat with walking through all of that?! 

Entering the Silk Market in Bursa, Turkey

The good news was, the silk market didn’t just feature scarves.  There were silk ties and shirts too. :-p  Ok, there were cafe shops and a pretty cool Jewelry store.  We (The MBA’s & Meredith) befriended the Jewelry shop owner because he helped translate at the shop next door in order for Brenda to buy a gift for a family member.   The owner (pictured below) even granted us an interview so we could learn more about his business.  Truly it became an incredible insight to the Jewelry & Custom furniture business even though it was all really an excuse to day dream about owning a titanic sized diamond ring before heading back to the hotel. 

Jewelry Store

When we got back to our dream world at the Kervansaray, we had spa time before the dinner with a Turkish bath.  The good news about a Turkish bath, I no longer have stretch marks.  The bad news, I’m waiting for my skin to grow back.  :-p  Kidding, it wasn’t that bad… It was a little strange at first, I felt a little violated, but after it was over, I found myself glowing and feeling refreshed.

Now, I’m going to bed feeling as if the whole day was a dream.  But at least tomorrow, I’ll still be in this waking dream where I’m still in Turkey!

Day 5 – Cappadocia

Today was a wonderful morning.  I was missing hiking in the hills of LA and traditional breakfast.  I got a pleasant surprise when I went down for breakfast and there were omelettes. 

I was in for another treat.  We went to Camel valley and walked up the steep inclines and named the rock formations as we went.  Camel Valley would be Turkey’s Grand Canyon. 

Camel Valley in Cappadocia

Afterwards, we headed to Avanos Pottery.  At Avanos, they make and hand paint ceramics and clay in honor of ancient Hitit traditions.  We were throuroughly impressed by the workmanship and the professionalism of the owner.  He was very forth coming and fills orders many times with the US.  When he asked if anyone in the crowd was from Chicago, I eagerly raised his hand.  Mayor Daley had been there recently.  I believe everyone got at least one souvenir because it was impossible to ignore the beauty of the handmade ceramics.  In other words, when it’s time for my wedding, you’ll know where to find my registry – fircaceramic.com   😉

Inside Avanos Pottery in CappadociaHitit Pitcher, unique to Turkey

It was then off to Pashaba for lunch.  There was a scene we actually saw yesterday at the Ethnographic museum that looked exactly like today.  Women made homemade pancakes just as they did hundreds of years ago.  These pancakes were cooked on the grill with the choice of cheese, spinach, and potato.  Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the cow cheese that they used. 😦  I took a bite and had to pass it on to one of the guys.  Thank goodness for Louis Pasteur! 

Women preparing Turkish pancakes in PashabaHitit Pitcher, unique to Turkey

While leaving, one of our Professors, Rochelle, ran into some US Senators & Congressmen from Georgia that are in town looking for ways to work with Turkey.  She was gracious enough to make sure we met them.  I’m unsure if they’ve decided on anything specifically, but I can say like me, they’ve been pleasantly surprised with how wonderful Turkey is. 

It was then off to the Saruhan, a recently renovated caravansaerai.  A historic caravan stop where merchants would park their camels, horses, and wagons while they sold their items at the market.  It’s now also a theater where the Dervishes perform.  The Dervishes are followers of Rumi.  I’ll tell you more about that in a later post as we’re going to see them perform soon.  🙂

Sarihan (Caravanserai) from Selcuk Period

Before coming to Turkey, the few people I spoke to told me to be leary of carpet salesmen.  They don’t allow you to say no.  :-p  While I’ve only been hastled by one salesman, it’s not as common as everyone has told me.  Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of carpets and salesmen.  

Silk production, removing the silk from the cocoons

At first glance, Turkish styled are the same carpets that a year ago I would have turned my nose up and felt were old lady carpets for sitting in the foyer of nana’s house.  But when a carpet is done right, it is a labor of love and more than a craft, it’s art.  We met with Bazaar 54 owner, Korkmaz Karakaya, the carpet warehouse/school where they teach women who live in smaller villages the art of creating carpets and also sell them.  It’s co-sponsored by the Turkish government to ensure that the craft of the Turkish carpetry doesn’t die.  When learning about Turkish carpet, you will never look at carpet the same.  These hand woven wool and silk masterpieces are not only a part of the Turkish cultural history, they are workmanship like no other carpets and last longer than any other carpets.  The secret is in the knotting and materials.  Real Turkish carpets are made in Turkey and are certified by the seller.  Your name, sales date, picture of the carpet will come with a certificate of authenticity.  The design tapestries are common from indigenous tribes and passed down through family… 

Dying fabric in Cappadocia, TurkeyAshley learns to weave the famous Turkish knot

Maybe carpet salesmen are effective… They made me fall in love and after knowing the work that goes into it from silk and wool production along with dying and weaving, it’s no longer Nana’s carpet.  I’m banking on wedding registration at some point… I’ll post the website later. :-p

Carpets on display in Cappadocia

Today was a great day for handmade arts and getting back to nature.  Tomorrow, we are bound for Konya.