Follow My Journey

Follow My Journey

Here's Where I've Been....

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Turkish Reflections

Below are some comments made by Group II participants of the 2007 Turkish Cultural Foundation study-tour to Turkey.

Summer 2007 Teacher Study Tours

I am so grateful to the TCF for this opportunity. Each day, I discover something new and amazing about Turkey! The people have been wonderfully gracious and friendly. The sights have been awe- inspiring. Words simply cannot express what a valuable experience this has been for me. Thank you so much. Angela Cartwright Lysnkey, Columbus, USA

I had never traveled abroad before and many family members, friends, and co-workers were shocked I was going to a country as dangerous as Turkey. After having been here 15 days, I have to say I have never met so many friendly people. From the merchants at the Grand Bazaar, to the water vendor who knew me by name on the streets of Istanbul, to the women having an Amway meeting in Amasya I felt welcomed and respected by all. I will never forget the imam who took his time to read part of the Koran with a smile for all of us, his students for that moment. Beth MacLehose, Columbus, OH, USA

I can’t put into words all the sights and sounds of such a rich, diverse country. I didn’t know what to expect but I am fondly taking home many memories which I will share with my students and community. Pat Huss, Columbus, USA

Your investment in the experience will result in countless hours of fascinating projects and research about Turkey – an amazing country with a balance of rich tradition and modern growth! I have learned so much as a result of your generosity. What I had previously in terms of knowledge about policy and contemporary issues I can now enhance greatly. I’ll forever remember the feel of Turkey, the sounds, landscape, food, art, and people and will work to make it real for my students as well. I plan a return trip in the near future – both with students and with my husband as this country is a very romantic place! I will be indebted to all of you forever for making this possible. Stephanie Calondis, Columbus, OH, USA

Older Turks to children have been a spirit of joy: we respect each other. Looking at the stars one night, we all felt serene and asked the unanswerable question: why can′t the world show the same respect that we have encountered? "See with your mind; hear with your heart." Turkish proverb that’s what this study tour has done: I have seen with my mind, but my heart has listened as well. Thanks for filling my memory card with unforgettable delights.
Marilyn Strelau, Connecticut, USA

These past two weeks have been life changing for me. To travel to such historical places and see firsthand how much Turkey has been a part of history –center stage in fact- has been eye opening. The grandness of Istanbul, the beauty of Bosphorus, the classical history of Turkey, the importance Turkey has played as stops along the Silk Road, the history of Ottoman Turkey, the beauty of Islamic mosques and medresses, etc. I can go on and on. My knowledge of this land, history and people has so immensely increased! Thank you Turkish Cultural Foundation.
Maria Avery, Connecticut, USA

Not all the DVDs I watched nor all the books I read prepared me for the beauty of Turkey, the varying landscapes proudly waving the Turkish flag and minarets dotting the country.
Susan Kopecki, Connecticut, USA

My impressions of Turkey – firstly I am impressed by the history of this area and how each succeeding group has built upon the previous groups. This has created such a beautiful patterns of diversity and tolerance. I love the pride of the people in their history and the layer upon layer of cultures which is modern Turkey.Secondly, I see Turkey as an amazing example of democracy for this whole area of the world and I would like to see a stronger partnership between the USA and Turkey because we share important beliefs in human dignity and democracy. Nancy Billman, North Carolina, USA

The overwhelming emotion I’ve experienced over and over on this trip is appreciation – appreciation for Turkey. Its history is my history. Every event in Turkey’s past has had a indirect influence on the way most of the world lives today. It is a part of the “New World’s” past. So how come when I talk about Turkey to people at home, they have so many misperceptions? I will continue to educate people about Turkey, and now I am so much more equipped to do that. Nancy Goodwin, North Carolina, USA

This visit to Turkey has been a highlight of my life. The amazing legacy left by ancient civilizations and the impressive dynamism of contemporary Turkey exist side by side and serve to make Turkey an utterly fascinating place. Given this rich history and its importance to contemporary world affairs, it is unfortunate that it is often given short shrift in typical school curricula in the U.S. The Turkish Cultural Foundation has given us a tremendous gift in this experience. In response, all of us will trumpet the virtues of this nation back home in America and work hard to not only have it represented more in American classrooms, but to also forge closer ties between our two countries. Bob Herold, Seattle, USA

I am overwhelmed with the hospitality and graciousness of everyone I have met. I will take this opportunity to experience the glory and luminosity of Turkey to my heart, and share what I have learned both through my teaching and because I am a citizen of our world community. Each day on this journey I have been privileged to new priceless artifacts o truly magnificent civilization. Jan Morgan, Seattle, USA

We have been guided expertly by Serhan, Hulya and others along the way. It’s a portable university, a portable feast, a paradigm shift of tectonic scale. I’d love to bring a group of students here, they’d never se the world the same way again. Rebecca Timson, Seattle, USA
It will be impossible to remember every moment of this trip, but the special memories will be once to last a lifetime. I am grateful to the Turkish Cultural Foundation for this amazing opportunity and wish them the best of luck in expanding this program to even more education throughout the U.S. Jesse Sealey, South Dakota, USALearning more about Turkish art forms has been a highlight. I appreciate the way people in this country treasure old traditions and then use that background to inform current and future parts of this lives.
The more I learn, the more I want to learn. This introduction to the richness of Turkey will be a springboard for asking and searching answers to new questions. It will be a joy to share about Turkey with people in. Kathryn Ann Miller, South Dakota, USA

I had high expectations for this trip but somehow the Turkish Cultural Foundation found a way to exceed them!... Every day and every way. Clearly this program was put together with great care and the result is that at the end of each day I felt filled to the brim with new knowledge, images, insights and fantastic food – but now, at the end of the trip, I find myself hungry for more. All the efforts put forth to make this trip memorable are deeply appreciated.Mere words cannot express my gratitude for the great gift of this trip. I will work hard to repay the opportunity by teaching more about Turkey with greater understanding... And I will be back. Cindy McNulty, Pittsburg, PA, USA

It is difficult to contain in one page all of the various impressions that I have of Turkey. How does one sum up over 8,000 years of history and culture? How does one do any justice to the tastes, sounds, and smells? Where can one go to meet people that are more friendly?The trip has been one of discovery and awe from Istanbul to Ankara. There was so much that I did not know about the country, and I know there is so much to learn. Turkey is a proud country and one I very much admire. I think that when people –Americans- came here, they leave with a more informed and positive impression than what they had before they left home.
Gary Peiffer, Pittsburgh, USA

Before coming, I had no idea of the vast diversity I would encounter. I hope I can do Turkey justice after returning home. I felt very at home here and that is due to the very warm & friendly Turkish people that I met. Every day was filled with new adventurous and sweet smiles. Victoria Robins, Pittsburg, PA, USA

This has been one of the most professionally –rewarding experiences of my career. The understanding, experiences and stories I have acquired over the last two weeks will enrich my teaching for decades to come. David Rezelman, Hampton Roads, Virginia, USA
After all that we’ve seen and done over the last few weeks it still seems as though we’ve barely scratched the surface of what Turkey has to offer. So many cultures have passed through and left their mark on this land! It’s truly awe-inspiring. Lisa Marie Priddy, Hampton Roads, Virginia, USA

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hascakal Turkeye!

It's 6 am in the morning and I'm packed and waiting for our 7 am ride to the airport. We fly from Ankara to Istanbul and then direct to New York. It's been an amazing two weeks here in Turkey......Istanbul, Cappadocia, the Aegean Coast etc...this land has such beauty...Ephesus, Pergamum, Catalhoyuk, Konya, etc....this country is so rich in history and culture.....A big THANK YOU to Hulya and Guler and the entire Turkish Foundation for putting this trip together and making this journey a reality, a thank you to Serhan and CREDO tours for guiding us through this amazing land, and thank you to all the Turkish people we have met along the way (the Imam we met, the Turkish tea house ladies, the Iznik tile artist, the Cappadocia pottery makers and carpet weavers, the lovely cave house couple, and all the Turkish people we have met etc)...they have all been so hospitable and have gone out of their way to make us feel welcomed and comfortable in their beautiful land.

I leave Turkey with a sad heart, but hopeful that someday I will return. So it's not goodbye Turkey, but it's "until we meet again."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ankara-Cental Anatolia Tour (Day III)

Today was our last full day in Turkey. We spent the morning visiting the Museum of Anatolian Civilization. The museum has priceless collections stretching from prehistoric times (we saw many artifacts from the Catalhoyuk site we visited) to the classical (again we saw many artifacts from the ancient sites we visited-Pergamun, Ephesus, Aphrodisias, and Hieropolis). It is one of the world's greatest museums and is housed in a restored Ottoman Han. Then it was lunch with the Eurasian Strategic Research Foundation followed by an informative briefing on Turkish domestic/foreign policy issues.

In the afternoon we visited the Mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey. After spending two weeks here in Turkey, it was fitting to end our trip here with this visit. His presence has been felt constantly...his image is in every classroom in Turkey, statues of him are in all public institutions and main squares throughout the country. School children learn about his life story and on November 10th of every year, the country comes to a standstill on the stroke of 9:05 to commemorate his death in 1938. Ataturk is Turkey's hero for sure and perhaps it can be argued more than that...for he is the embodiment of Turkey's secular modernization, "Kemalism" and as such a counter to of the growing Islamic ideological movement.

So we made our way past two towers, down a stone walkway, flanked by two lions, Hittite symbols of power and strength. The design of the stones forced upon us the need to always look down instilling in us a posture of respect in the presence of this great man's final resting place. We eventually came to the museum of Ataturk, where we walked through what has to be described as a surreal journey through Ataturk's life and accomplishments, memorabilia and personal effects. And finally we walked up the grand marble stairway of Ataturk's Mausoleum and through the huge bronze doors into the lofty marble hall and paused for a moment in front of the cenotaph marking the final resting place of the country's first president.

Then it was onto the bus for one final journey together to the Ministry of Education for a farewell reception. We were given a briefing on Turkish Education and afterwards chit chatted with the Turkish educators present and gave our farewell gifts to Hulya, our Turkish Foundation liason person and to Serhan, or illustrious tour guide for the trip. Then it was back to the hotel for one last eveing in Turkey before our 9 am flight back to the states.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Central Anatolia Tour (Day II)

This morning we drove to the ancient center of the Hitite culture at Hattusas. Hattusas is near modern day town of Bogazkale. The ancient Hitites once commanded a vast Middle Eastern Empire around 2,000 BCE from Babylon in the East, Syria to the south and to the borders of Egypt in the west. Hattusas was their capital city. They worshipped over a thousand gods, most importantly was Teshub, the storm god and Hepatu, the sun goddess. They wrote in cunneiform style and these tablets reveal a society that was well ordered with more than 200 laws. They went into decline around 1250 BCE, being taken over by the Phrygians.

First we explored the Hitite religious sanctuary called the Yazilikaya, or Inscribed Rock. In these galleries of stone we saw reliefs of numerous goddesses and gods. We next explored the Main Temple Complex, dating from the 14th century BCE. We walked through the processional street and saw the main temple surrounded by storerooms which contained food stuffs, money, and cuneiform tablets, amongst other valuables. We also saw the green cubic rock, supposedly one of only two in the world and a present from Ramses II after signing the Kadesh peace treaty. Next, we drove up to the defensive walls and gates of the city. The most impressive was the Lion Gate, with two stone lions on either side of the gateway to protect the city from evil spirits. These walls, built alomost 4,000 years ago, illustrate the Hitites engineering ingenuity. They had a great ability to build along with the terrain plus and ability to transform the landscape. It must have been an impressive view to any approaching army! Next, we drove down to the Sphinx Gate and walked through the 70m long tunnel used as a route for Hitite soldiers defending the walls from attacking invaders. We then carefully climbed down from the rampart via the monumental stairway and enjoyed the view over Bogazkale.

On the bus again to Ankara, the capital of the Turkish Republic! It was our last and longest bus journey of these past two weeks, but finally we arrived to the Gordion Hotel in Ankara in time for dinner and a little gift shopping along the main street. Ankara is the capital and center of secularism in modern Turkey. It's Turkey's second largest city after Istanbul. It's history goes back to the time when Ankara (then called Angora) was once part of the Phrygian empire. It prospered at the intersection of the north-south/east-west trade routes. Later it was taken over by Alexander the Great, claimed by the Selecuids, and finally occupied by the Galatians (Gauls) who invaded Anatolia around 250 BCE. Julius Ceaser annexed it to Rome in 25 BCE and named it Ankyra. It was controlled next by the Byzantines and Seljuk Turks briefly before the Ottomans possessed it. Angora was known at this time for its gsoft haired goats but little more until 1923 when Ataturk chose Ankora as the capital of the new republic.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Central Anatolia Tour (Day I)

We stayed overnight in Sivas, our most Eastern Turkish town. I felt as if I had come to a part of Turkey where tourists are not so commonplace and it felt exciting to feel the east closing in on me. While staying at the hotel in Sivas, a few in our group were invited to attend a night before the wedding party for the bride and all her family and friends. It was so nice to be welcomed to see the happy occasion. I saw the "bride to be" dance in her red dress with her future husband and then when he kissed her goodbye and left, the real party began. The women at the event danced and ate cookies and cake and had a wonderful time. Later in the evening my friend Sue went down and had her hand painted with henna, along with the bride, a tradition in Turkey.

Sivas is located on the eastern end of the Central Anatolia Region and at its highest point. Its history goes back to 1500 BCE when it was established as a Hitite town, and then in turn was ruled by Assyrians, Medes, and Persians before coming under the rule of kings of Cappadocia and Pontus. eventually it fell to the Romans and finally the Turks. It is located at the junction point of the Persian and Baghdad caravan routes and was once a busy commercial center. It has some of the finest Seljuk Turk buildings ever erected.

We spent the morning exploring Sivas medresses. We started with the Sifaiye Medresse, a medieval medical school dating back to 1217. Inside now is a lovely rose garden and tea tables. Just opposite it is the Cifte Minare Medrese (Seminary of the Twin Towers) finished in 1271. Unfortunately all that is left of this medresse is the portal.

We walked next to the Buruciye Medressi, built in 1271. This medresse was once the mathematics and science school. Currently inside is a lovely tea garden. On our way out we were approached by some adorable young boys selling pretzels. Hospitality for sure!

After the morning tour we headed to Tokat and a visit to the Gok Medrese. Gok means blue in Turkish and the building's blue tiles is where the medrese received its name. It was built in 1277 and was used as a hospital until 1811. Now it's a museum that contains Stone and Bronze Age artifacts from excavations at Masat Hoyuk, relics fromTokat's churches, (including a wax effigy of St. Christina martyred during the reign of Diocletian), tools and weapons, Korans and Islamic calligraphy and an excellent costume display. On the way to lunch, we walked by the Tas Han, an Ottoman caravanserai and by the Hatuniye Mosque and Medresse dating from 1485. And finally right across the street from where we ate lunch we saw (but unfortunately had no time to enjoy) the wonderful Ali Pasa Hamam. This bath house was built in 1572 for Ali Pasa, one of the sons of Sulleyman the Magnificent. I also bought a pretzel from some more "pretzel boys."

Next it was on the bus again to Amasya, a beautiful city between the Black Sea and inner Turkey. It is described as one of the prettiest towns in all of Turkey. Amasya was once an Hitite town and later conquered by Alexander the great. It was later controlled by Persian provincial governers and became the capital of a great Pontic Kingdom. The golden age of the Kingdom of Pontus lasted until 47 BCE when the Romans conquered this area. On the way to Amasya our bus passed through the same pass that Ceaser's troops passed in Central Anatolia. Nearby this area, Julius Ceaser was recorded as saying, "Veni, vedi, vici...I came, I saw, I conquered," made in reference to his victory over the Kingdom of Pontus.

Once in Amasya we walked along the Yesilirmak River and had a "off the itineray" pleasure. A small group of us popped into the Mihri Katun women' s tea house for a cup of cay and women's talk. (Mary Khatun was Amasya's first female poet in the 1400s). It was so delightful for the small group of us American and Turkish women to laugh together few a while and share our stories in this tea house. When we left, we hugged goodbye and really felt like we had connected with each other. It was well worth the reprimand from our illustrious leader once when we returned!

That night we stayed in the Apple Palace hotel over looking the Tombs of the Pontic Kings, which were cut deep into the rock face on the bank of the river. At dinner that night up near our hotel we had a beautiful view of the Pontic Tombs illuminated in the evening darkness.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia

4:30 am....That was time I had to meet Kapadokya Balloons down in the hotel lobby for an incredible once in a lifetime experience. For over an hour, as the sun was beginning to rise over the magical land of Cappadocia, I enjoyed a beautiful hot air balloon ride from 3,000 feet above.

The hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia was surely the highlight of this day. Before leaving the Cappadocia region we went to Avanos, a town famous for its pottery and visited a pottery workshop. Afterwards, we boarded the bus and headed towards Sivas.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Today was a full day in Cappadocia, “Land of the Beautiful horses.” We started this incredible day with a trip to Zelve Open Air Museum. Zelve was once a monastic retreat from the 9th to the 13th century. There we visited some incredible rock cut churches, including, Balikli Kilse, or The Fish Church named for the image of Christ as fish painted on the wall above the altar.

Then it was on to “Anatolian Carpets” and a presentation on Turkish Carpets. Carpet weaving is an old tradition in Turkey going back to the 12th century. . Traditionally carpets were woven by village women for their dowries. During Ottoman times carpets were used in the homes of the Sultan and of the upper classes. I learned quite a bit about the types of Turkish carpets as we toured the factory -wool on wool, wool on cotton, and silk carpets. We were shown their weavers-all women. (The men in the area are all trained as potters traditionally.)
In addition to the women in the factory, “Anatolian Carpets” outsources many weaves throughout Turkey to make artisan quality hand-made carpets. After an enjoyable presentation of various styles and types of carpets we were allowed to roam the factory for a carpet of our very own. I won’t tell you how much I spent, but I left very pleased (and that’s all that matters after all, right?) I bought a lovely wool on wool carpet to put on the side of my bed.

In the afternoon we explored the Goreme Open Air Museum. One of Turkey’s Cultural Heritage sites, Goreme is a valley beyond words. It is a cluster of rock cut Byzantine churches, chapels and monasteries. Cappadocia was once the home of 1500 Orthodox Churches. First built during the time of Christian persecution, in the first through third centuries BCE, these churches were built in secret and in remote places to escape discovery. Once Christianity was made the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great these churches continued to grow in number. The insides of these churches were covered in elaborate wall paintings depicting Christ and Mary as well as bible stories, the gospel writers and various early Orthodox saints. One church we visited was the Yilanli Killse, or the Snake Church. I loved the fresco of St. George and St. Theodore attacking the dragon as well as the fresco of St. Helena and Constantine the Great holding the True Cross. The Karanlik Killse, or Dark Church had stunning recently restored frescoes of Christ Pontocrator, Christ on the Cross and the Betrayal by Judas.

I spent some time today just wandering alone through this breathtaking land and found myself greatly moved by the beauty surrounding me. I ended my afternoon here at Goreme with a "must do" when traveling along the Silk Road-a camel ride. Can you imagine traveling hundreds of miles on this big beast? Ouch!

As if this top ten day could not have been any better, we ended it with an evening trip to a Whirling Dervish Ceremony.....We gathered in an old 13th century Caravansarai after nightfall through the illuminate gate and main courtyard of the caravanserai. We sat down on raised seats surrounding a rectangular platform. The room was faintly lit. The Mevlevi ceremony was about to begin. Out walked the Dervishers in black robes and tall turbans. They bowed to us and sat down in the center. An opening verse from the Koran was chanted aloud. The drum, and the reed flute was played. And then the Dervishers began their mystical dance of union with God. I sat in the evening darkness entranced by their swirling, graceful movements. One hand up and one hand down to symbolize their role as vessels of God’s grace poured onto all present. Around and around they went, led by their master. Their black cloaks drop to reveal their white skirt and top undergarments-symbolic of their burial shroud. Their conical felt caps symbolic of their tombstones. Now the Dervishers are in union with God and have left behind their worldly attachments. The music is so uplifting, the movements so trancelike. I am lost in the mystical feeling of it all. When they stop their dancing, the Koran is chanted again wishing peace on all of us. The mystical union is sealed. The ritual dance is over.