I Am Single Malt

craigduff scotchThe other day, when I thought I was logging onto a website, I was actually doing a google search (I’m a little absentminded lately), and my name with no space between yielded this as the top result:

It turns out I’m ten years younger than I thought, and I have Sherry Butt number 2513.

Who knew?

More from Cappadocia

My apologies for being off line for a while. A few days into my trip to Turkey, the Turkish government decided to block all access to wordpress.com. Apparently someone said something on a blog they didn’t like (I don’t think it was me).

So we have some catching up to do:

It’s my prerogative as a traveler/tourist to allow myself to get lost.

Sometimes it yields adventures and experiences I would never have dreamed of. Sometimes it means a longer walk.
But it rarely gets me into too much trouble. And the surprises seldom disappoint.

red valleySo when I started walking down from an overlook, staring down into a canyon and trying to see where the unmarked path came up again out the other side of the valley of red-tinted hoodoos some call fairy chimneys, I felt confident I could find my way out and back to my pension in no more than a couple of hours. After all, the sign said 5600 meters. How long could that take?

I began the hike after lunch, walking in mid-day sun down the side of the road toward Çavusin from the town of Göreme. monastery coneAccording to the map I bought at the tourism office, which turned out to be more of a general sketch than a precise guide to the area, I knew that there was a former monastery dug into a cluster of stone chimneys to the right of the road about a mile or two down. I found the area, and wandered among its various rooms, carved into the dozen or more vertical formations. There were large spaces where monks must have lived, kitchen areas, and nooks hidden behind the rocks that led up to the rooms with windows I saw some thirty feet above from the front of the rock. It was a magical adventure among the various nooks and crannies of the formerly holy place.

monastery rock faceAnd then I found a chapel, where I found respite from the daytime heat, in a quiet little room.

It was a modest little chapel, with tombs just inside the door (my how we’ve grown as a species…. the holes were no longer than five feet and narrow as an Olsen twin). But the amazing thing about it was I had it all to myself. I sat for long minutes just enjoying the quiet and the coolness of its cave atmosphere. chapel doorAnd then I coughed. And I noticed how it echoed and resonated in the stone chamber. I then held a long note, the length of one breath. It rang with overtones and hung in the room for several seconds after the breath gave out.

I don’t know any Byzantine tunes, so I sang what I knew of Gregorian chants and then lyrics in Latin from things like requiem masses.

And then I sang Leonard Cohen.

They say there was a secret chord, which David played and it pleased the Lord. But you don’t really care for music do ya?

The much covered (by Bono, John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan and k.d. lang, just to name a few) Hallelujah.

It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift. The baffled king composing Hallelujah. Continue reading “More from Cappadocia”

Göreme, Turkey

cappa05Here are some shots from Göreme in the Cappadocia region of Turkey, where castle rocks abound, and for centuries people have carved churches, homes and now pension rooms into the conical rocks.

After arriving at dawn on an overnight bus yesterday, I spent the morning meandering among the rock-hewn Byzantine churches of the Göreme Open-Air Museum. cappa09There, dozens of rooms, among them churches, chapels, monasteries and dining halls, were cut into the stone of the chimney rocks, and frescoes were painted on the walls, ceilings, columns and arches.

The area had been the site of Christian monasteries and the home of bishops since the fourth century of the Common Era, but most of the brighter frescoes date from the 11th century.

cappa02My favorite was the church dedicated to St. Onuphrius, an ascetic who lived in Egypt and whose dedication to religious meditation and removal of all comforts of human life inspired one of the benefactors of the Göreme churches. A fresco of Onuphrius, with a palm frond protecting his modesty, is on the ceiling by the doorway, opposite a scene of Saints George and Theodore attacking a dragon.

cappa04The most impressive remaining frescoes (many have been vandalized over the years), are in the so called Dark Church. Here, scenes of the life and death of Christ are crafted in vivid colors, with dominant dark blues. It’s said that the lack of windows protected the frescoes, so the colors haven’t faded. It’s one of the churches at the open-air museum that has had extensive restoration, and the work has clearly paid off.

I’m staying in a little pension overlooking the town of Göreme, which has similar cone formations to the churches at the open-air museum, many of the chimneys are now turned into tourist lodging (I can hear a jackhammer whittling out a new room as I write this). I didn’t spring for the extra cash to stay in a cave (never been much for the troglodytic life), but I have a comfortable room with windows over a quiet alleyway and stone arches over my bed.

cappa08In the afternoon, I took a long walk to a place called Zemi (Love) Valley, with a spectacular view across the landscape. The path to the site was a rugged trail at the bottom of a canyon, and involved some scrambling. On the walk back, I found a wider path among vineyards and pumpkin patches that rose above the canyon and put me back at the top of Göreme in half the time.

My goal this week is to hike at least four hours a day and to catch up on sleep. Looks like there’s plenty of opportunity here for both.


Prince’s Islands and Holden Caulfield

princesislandGuidebooks have short half lives. By the time one goes to press, its prices, and a lot the info in it, may have changed. The bookstore in Cairo rarely has the latest editions. Since my guidebook was printed, the Turkish Lira has dropped six zeroes – in a bid to fit all the numbers on the bills and keep up with the pace of inflation – and Istanbul has added several tram and metro stops.

So when I relied on the guidebook for information about the ferries to The Prince’s Islands, it set me on a little haphazard journey on Istanbul’s public transportation system. But with such a clean and well-run network of trams, trains, buses and ferries, it was a pleasure to be constantly in motion.

Thinking the ferry left from the pier very close to my hotel, and that it left at noon, I made my way in ample time to get a good seat on benches on the outside of the boat. But when I arrived at the docks, I was told the ferries for the islands now leave from another pier, and I’d have to take the tram to the end of the line and get the boat there.

Fair enough, still had plenty of time. So I dashed to the tram stop, hopped on and it briskly and efficiently took me to the end of the line. There, I got out and made it to the ferry ticket window just as the 11:30(!) ferry was leaving the dock. The next boat would not leave until 1:10. With time to kill, I walked down the docks and, for the heck of it, hopped a ferry (most ferries are part of the public transit system and take the same “jeton” or token) for a little round trip across the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul.

When I got back, I decided a cup of coffee was in order, so I hopped on the new underground funicular train to the top of the hill at Taksim plaza, walked down the famous Iskidal Caddisi and grabbed an American coffee and a brownie.

Then it was back downhill on the funicular, across the street to the ferry, where I made it in time to find a seat on the outside near the stern. The trip out to the islands would take about an hour and a half.

As the boat steamed out to the islands, the young man sitting next to me was reading a book in Turkish. I tried to make out what it was from the pages, but the only word I could make out was Kim. Then, when he turned the book over I could see the jacket, and it had an image of a baseball and the name J.D. Salinger on the cover. It was The Catcher in the Rye.

If you really want to hear about it…

Continue reading “Prince’s Islands and Holden Caulfield”

Like Stone Mountain without the ZZ-Top and Elvis tunes

Blue Mosque Light ShowLast evening, I was having dinner at a terrace cafe in the Sultanahmet neighborhood of Istanbul, with a view of both Aya Sofya and the famous Blue Mosque lit up in rotating colors. On the domes of the mosque, there was a laser light display of a whirling dervish. Visitors to Atlanta (my home for more than 13 years) may have seen the laser light show at Stone Mountain, which animates the confederate generals on the side of the largest chunk of free standing exposed granite in the world. And, after a series of cartoon-like animations set to music by bands like ZZ Top, the generals ride off into the sunset after the country is unified. I recall the final moments being set to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, sung by none other than Elvis, who died thirty years ago this week (and would have been 72).

But this laser show featured a lone dervish, twirling on the dome, surrounded by colored lights on the domes, walls and minarets. And a film, describing the life of words of Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi, the mystic and poet and founder of the Mevlevi sect of Sufi Islam, played on a screen in front of the mosque.

* * *

Earlier yesterday, as I lifted my camera to take the first of what I had hoped would be several photos during a ferry ride up the Bosphorus to a small village near the Black Sea, I saw a terrible message on my camera’s LCD screen: “no cf card.” Argh. I left my compact flash memory card in the little reader I use to load images into my computer. It was in sitting on the desk in my little hotel room.

So you’ll have to take my word for it that there were lovely scenes along the shores of the Bosphorus, the strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. Little villas and towns line the shores, and it was about an a hour and a half to the last stop on the ferry ride. As soon as I got off at the dock, I saw a sign that said “castle this way.” I climbed the hill and walked about a mile to the top, where old castle walls look over the entrance to the Black Sea.

mosque light show yellow


Blue Mosque WS

I’ve escaped to Turkey. Arrived late this afternoon and took the metro and tram system to my hotel, which is about a quarter mile from the most famous sites in the city — Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. Took a long walk at sunset along the Sea of Marmara and walked among the narrow streets below the mosques. tilted minaretsIt’s a truly beautiful city. Was able to snap a few photos before sunset, but I’ll take more tomorrow.

Dinner was on a rooftop at a hotel, with a view of the Bosphorus and the mosques. Stunning scenery, a lovely breeze, clean air, and the food wasn’t bad either.

I’ll write more soon. I wasn’t going to bring my computer, but I didn’t finish all of the work I had to do this week, so part of this vacation is going to be of the “working” variety. But only part. The upshot is I’ll be able to write dispatches in my hotel rooms.

Now if I can just get that song by They Might Be Giants (or The Four Tops for the older set) out of my head.

Haga Sofya through fence

Every gal in Constantinople

Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople.

So if you’ve got a date in Constantinople

She’ll be waiting in Istanbul.

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam.

Why they changed it no one will say,

They just liked it better that way.

Istanbul, not Constantinople, yes it’s

Istanbul, not Constantinople.

Why did Constantinople get the works?

That’s no one’s business but the Turks.



Attaboy Ataturk Blue Mosque Minaret


Life in Boxes

SHipping boxesThe shippers came. But they left the boxes behind.

They’ll come tomorrow to pick them up and send them on their way.

Today, I moved my electronics to J&K’s pad, and E got all the plants. We moved everything in a little Peugeot taxi in two trips. The plant trip to Mohandiseen (about three miles) was funniest, with big, bushy green things blowing in the breeze on the roof of the little car.Appliance boxes

Because I’m a congenital pack rat, I kept the boxes for the TV and microwave and stuff, so it all traveled well the two and a half blocks to its new home.

Now, it’s odds and ends, and the clothes I kept to last me three weeks in Turkey and here.

Finally feels like I’m getting somewhere.  Where that is, and what I’ll do when I get there?

Serendipity is my closest ally.

Plants plant

The Shippers Haven’t Shown

Magda’s Moulid PaintingThis will be the hardest thing to ship: a painting by Magda, who also happens to be the mother of a well-known journalist and blogger in Cairo.

I once bought a painting at a gallery in Baghdad – an abstract, almost cubist, trio of musicians – and, in order to get it home, I had to take it off the frame and roll the canvas up and put it in a tube in my luggage. Having it remounted and framed cost three times as much as I paid for the artwork.

This piece is also a trio of musicians, and is quite a bit larger — about 3 feet by 4 feet. It’s part of a series of paintings of scenes from a moulid, a kind of birthday festival for what passes for saints in Egypt (though they’re not officially Islamic).

Maybe I’ll start a collection of images of middle eastern musicians. Collecting is in my blood. My grandmother had hundreds of sets of salt and pepper shakers in two china cabinets in the grandparents’ old house in Mecca (that’s the one in Ohio).

I’ve spent the afternoon waiting for workers to come and pack up about 2/3rds of my belongings here so they can ship them back to the states. That will avoid the hassle of dragging everything to the airport and paying excess baggage fees, which the airlines now delight in wringing every dollar/euro/pound/dinar they can from.

And I won’t have to drag the excess bags up the fourth floor walk-up Marie has kindly let me crash at for a while when I return.

Magda Mother Child

But I’m not sure how we’ll deal with the paintings I’ve bought.

Guess when the shippers show, we’ll have a conversation about that.

When they show.


This is another one by the same artist. The woman’s beautiful face reminds me of my friend G.