Friday, January 10, 2014


Not too many visitors to Turkey visit the eastern part of the country, which is too bad because it's beautiful and has a lot of offer. After the main tour, I continued on with a few of the others in our group to visit the southeastern part of Turkey, which I hadn't seen before, despite a prior visit to eastern Turkey. I'll cover that later, but sticking to the 2013 tour in order, I'd like to introduce you to Mardin, near the Tigris River and about 25 km. from the Syrian border. It's one of the oldest settled areas in Mesopotamia, dating back to at least 4000 BC, and has been fought over and changed hands many times in its history. Its architecture is stunning and Turks, Arabs and Kurds live here in more harmony than we usually ever hear about in the U.S.

We went from the airport to a restaurant (Cercis Murat Konăgi) in a wonderful old building and ate amazing food. I haven't said much about the food in Turkey, but it was terrific just about everywhere we went. It's very fresh, interestingly season, and beautifully presented. Note the beautifully carved arches in the restaurant:

Our guide, Ulaş, and part of his beautifully presented lunch:

 Mine wasn't too shabby, either...and delicious, too!

When I looked out the window of the restaurant, I saw a couple of women stuffing grape leaves for a future meal:
 They graciously invited us down for a closer view of what they were doing:

Mardin's situated on a hillside, so houses tumble down the hillside and some of the streets are quite steep, but it provides lovely views over the Syrian plain. As an architecture buff, I was in heaven!
A building ripe for renovation; that's our guide Ulaş in the sunglasses:

The old and the new:

The roof of an old haman, public bathhouse:

Steps leading up to an old medresesi, an Islamic school:

Details, details, details - isn't this Art Deco glass awning a stunner?

Elaborately carved doorway - I believe this is the entrance to the Şerifi mosque:

Another beautiful carving above a doorway:

I said before that our guide Ulaş is a genius at ferreting out unusual experiences that really make a trip wonderful. In Mardin, the rabbit he pulled out of a hat was in a music store we were just walking by. It turned out to sell only the CDs of the proprietor (center in the photo below), who was playing music with a couple of friends, so we crowded into the closet-sized shop and got an impromptu concert in Kurdish, Syriani and maybe a little Turkish thrown in for good measure. Ulaş didn't know these people, but he was raised in eastern Turkey and learned to speak Kurdish as a child, so he has an entrée to things that a guide who didn't speak the language could never provide:
Transportation has, in some cases, changed little in a few hundred years..
... although it's amusing to see someone leading a donkey while chatting away on his cell phones:

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