Is It New Mexico? . . . Or Is It Cappadocia?

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I saw a few photos of Kapadokya (Cappadocia) before leaving for Turkey, but didn’t really know what to expect. As we drove into the area, I felt like I was in my beautiful New Mexico, right down to areas that look just like Tent Rocks. Soon we stopped to take photos at Kapadokya’s own version of Camel Rock. Russian Olive trees are everywhere. Chiles strung and hung on balconies to dry recall New Mexico’s chile ristras. Horses saddled up wait with their Turkish cowboy to give rides through the countryside. Kapadokya even launches 100 or more hot air balloons early every morning to sail tourists over the striking landscape.

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Kapadokya’s Camel Rock

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20120923-075806.jpgSo what is the difference between the New Mexico and Kapadokya landscapes? The rock formations in Kapadokya are formed of tuff–soft rock created from massive ash eruptions from three area volcanoes.  For hundreds of years, into this soft rock, the residents of Kapadoky have carved underground cities and, above-ground, houses, fortresses, stables, pigeon houses, and, most remarkable of all, churches.

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Map of one of Kapadokya’s 6-story underground cities, carved by early Christians to hide from the Roman soldiers. It includes food and wine storage areas, living quarters, a room for butchering animals, access to underground water source, and an elaborate tunnel scheme between other underground cities for escape if Romans find an entrance.

My hand is on the huge stone wheel that was rolled into place and locked over the escape route through a tunnel to a neighboring underground city.

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Pigeon Valley has many pigeon houses carved into its rocks. The pigeons were used as messengers as well as for food. The houses were usually painted with some design which was repeated on a pigeon’s wings, so that the pigeons could identify their house and the owners could identify their birds.

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Pigeon house.

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Fortress in the city of Nevishir, with residences below still in use.

Below is the entrance to Göreme National Park, one of the “Treasures of Turkey,” which preserves an area in the fabulous rock formations of Kapadokya into which are carved more than a dozen churches of the early Christians.  Turkey is a country in which 97% of its citizens are Muslim. Yet the respect and attention this country has given to preserving and honoring the long history of Christians in this land is remarkable and impressive. I wonder if so-called “Christian” countries would be so respectful of Muslim relics in their lands?

Entrance to Göreme National Park, one of the “Treasures of Turkey.”

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Göreme National Park, which includes a dozen churches carved into the rocks.

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Part of this church’s walls have fallen away, revealing how the churches carved into rock were fashioned after the architecture of churches built of stone.

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The inside walls of these churches were covered with elaborate and beautiful frescoes. Photos were not allowed inside the churches, but here are a couple of images from the internet to give an idea of how incredibly these areas were decorated.

Fresco in the Dark Church (copyright Hawkeye58.wikipedia.en)

(Copyright George Johann)

One of my favorite frescoes was the rendition of the Last Supper in the Dark Church. Here is a copy of it reproduced on a contemporary tile.20120923-080406.jpg

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Istanbul Treasure: Süleymaniye Mosque

This first week in Turkey has been an unending feast of sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Intending no slight to any of the other wonderful things I’ve seen, I still hold as my favorite so far my afternoon at the Süleymaniye Mosque–the most beautiful and serene building I’ve ever known.

Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent commissioned the building in the mid-1500s. He charged Koca Mimar Sinan, his favorite–and one of Turkey’s most celebrated– architects, with the design.

All who entered that afternoon, including the often-rowdy tourists, seemed awed and calmed in this lovely, soaring space. I was among many who simply sat down on the magnificent orange and blue carpet, felt our hearts slow down and our blood pressures drop, and gazed around at a place that is majestic, graceful, artful, sophisticated, and perfectly proportioned from every viewpoint, inside and out, day and night.

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iPalouse–Shooting and Tweaking with iPhone and iPad

 Ancient winds blew glacial silt into rolling dunes in eastern Washington and western Idaho.  In this agriculturally fertile area known as the Palouse, the hills are plowed into intricate contours for planting wheat and beans. Abstract patterns and colors stretch as far as the eye can see–a perfect venue for a workshop on iPhoneography.

More and more, I travel sans computer, relying on my iPhone and iPad for storing and tweaking travel photos. I still take most photos with my Canon Powershot SX20is camera, but the iPhone increasingly serves as a second camera. Many of these Palouse photos were taken on the iPhone, and all the photos were processed in various apps on the iPad.

Sunrise Palette (Two photos taken with Canon, merged in True HDR app, fine tuned in Snapseed app)

Self-portrait (iPhone, Hipstamatic)

Lone Tree and Steptoe Butte, iPhone photo

Same photo, with effect added in Moku Hanga app

After Moku Hanga effect, converted to black and white in Snapseed, then added Drama filter in Snapseed

Started with two plain photos, converted one to a sketch in Photo Artista Sketch app, then merged/blended the sketch with the barn photo in Filterstorm

Greens and blacks

Started with iPhone Hipstamatic photo, converted to sepia in OldPhotoPro app

Morning in the Palouse

Palouse in Black & White

The moose are loose in Palouse

Strangers in Good Company

An iPhoneography workshop in the rolling Palouse Hills of Eastern Washington with Teri Lou Dantzler and Harry Sandler offered up incredible photo ops and 4 days of learning about taking and processing photos with the iPhone and iPad. But the trip gave the added wonderful bonus of the people in the class. We braved 4 a.m. wake-ups for sunrise shoots, scorching heat in the high 90s, and dust everywhere. No whiners here–only a bunch of photo and iPhone fanatics who made the time an unforgettably fun experience.

And when they hunkered down in a patch of posies seeking the perfect shot, they looked like a bunch of lovely flowers themselves.

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Cody and the Tetons

What can beat a week in the Grand Tetons? Having Diane’s great, great nephew Cody with us. We crammed in a boat ride across Jenny Lake; a hike past Hidden Falls to Inspiration Point where Cody lured and petted chipmunks; a bicycle ride; a fly casting lesson; canoeing Lower Slide Lake; a horseback ride; moose, buffalo, pronghorn, raccoon, and eagle spotting; outfitting Cody with cowboy hat and boots; fishing on the Gros Ventre River; a fish/float on the Snake River; and a birthday dinner for Diane.

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Cuba: Russians and the Tropicana

A trip to Havana would not be complete without an evening at the fabled Tropicana. Opened in 1939, it survived the Mob and the Revolution to continue offering up voluptuous showgirls and muscled showboys in sequins and feathers, accompanied by the hot beat of Cuban music.

Diane and I were squired by two handsome guys from our group who managed to land us stage-side seats for the extravaganza. Just before the house lights dimmed, a minor commotion attracted our notice: Two house staff members were escorting a couple to join our table.

Our new companions were clearly completely blind, as signaled by their white canes and dark glasses. We said hello and soon learned that our neighbors were André and Tatania from Russia. Sharing our limited common words in English and Spanish, we managed to exchange a few pleasantries. Then the show began, and thinking we had done our bit for Glasnost, we turned our attention back to the stage.

But then I heard André’s deep, guttural voice saying, “Debora, Debora.”  “Yes, André?”  “Debora–you must dance with me.”  Of course, the aisle by our table was completely dark, but André didn’t know that. Not another soul was dancing, but André didn’t know that. And, well, how do you refuse an invitation like that from a blind Russian? So, we danced for a bit, then returned to our seats.

We were not, however, yet finished with our Russian encounter. Apparently, André had brought along some good Russian vodka and was well along into consuming it. He began talking to his vodka bottle in a very loud voice, seemingly providing an emotional non-stop account of something–sort of like a Tourette’s onslaught in Russian.

We nevertheless managed to enjoy the sights and the sounds of the dancers and music, accompanied by André’s constant commentary.

Then, another commotion at our table.  Two staff members arrived to lift André’s head from the table where it had fallen and carry him from the room.  They said something to Tatania  (who had yet to say a word, break a smile, or tap a foot)–perhaps asking if she wanted to go with André. Whatever they asked, her answer was a definitive “Nyet.”

A bit later, the staff members returned and poured Andre back into his seat, where he spent the rest of the evening with his head and white cane resting on the table.

Tatania never smiled.

And that was our evening at the Tropicana.

In honor of Andre and Tatania, a new cocktail called Two Blind Russians. It’s a variation of the classic Three Miller (aka Between the Sheets), substituting vodka for the rum and lime juice for the lemon juice:

  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1 oz. Cointreau
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. cognac

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with two maraschino cherries. After a couple of these, you’ll be as blind as the Russians.