Friday, November 1, 2013

Tour First Day: Gaziantepe -- the Citadel, Zincirli Bedesten, Sirvani Mosque

  As always, click on any image for larger view.
Bins of nuts sold on many sidewalks.  We watch a bird standing on top of
one bin, eating his fill.  We will not be buying from these outdoor bins.
One of the major enjoyments of cruising foreign countries is exploring new areas via land travel. Interesting historical sites are very plentiful in Turkey;  this is a country very rich in history.  Last week we were fortunate to have the opportunity of participating in a small group tour to the Southeastern Anatolia Region.  The tour was organized by Gwen through Koral Travel Agency; Gwen is a longtime resident of Marmaris and a fellow sailor.  Fifteen sailors participated, 7 of whom we already knew either from the tour last year to Cappadocia or had met out sailing somewhere.  This was a 7-day tour originating out of Marmaris, which meant 9 days for us since we started and ended in Fethiye.  We took the bus from Fethiye to Marmaris and stayed overnight with Gwen aboard her boat S/V Kornweld (known to everyone as K.W.) in Netsel Marina.  Enjoyed a lovely dinner at Pineapple; our treat for Gwen as a token gesture for her hospitality.  At the pre-dawn hour of 06:15 we boarded the small Koral Travel bus en route to Izmir where we boarded Pegasus flight to Gaziantep.  At the Gaziantep airport we were met by another driver and small bus.  We were delighted to see that our guide was  again Tas (The 's' should have a squiggly beneath it so is pronounced Tash as in Johnny Cash.  I do not have a Turkish keyboard so cannot use the correct letters.).  Tas was our guide for the Cappadocia trip last year.  He is excellent; intelligent, knowledgeable, funny, speaks several languages and his English is perfect.

An unusual headscarf.

In Turkish the preface 'gazi' to a town name means 'war heros'.  This city was known forever as Antep.  Thousands of Turkish men in Antep were killed fighting the French in 1921 to 1923 during the Turks' struggle under General Ataturk to form a new country from the Ottoman Empire.  To honor these war heroes the name of the city was changed from Antep to Gaziantep.  It is an ancient city; and, like most of the other places we would visit during this trip, was an important part of the old Silk Road.  Merchants have traveled and traded through Gaziantep for millennia.  Gaziantep is among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.

Top of a minaret; no idea which mosque in Gaziantep

After settling into a basic hotel we again boarded the small bus and headed off for a fabulous lunch at a restaurant right next to the Sirvani Mosque, also called Sirvani Mehmet Mosque.  The restaurant was named 'something' çağdaş   That is a coincidence because a good friend in Gocek also has the surname çağdaş.  The squiggly beneath the c and the s means those letters should be pronounced as 'ch' and 'sh' and the symbol over the g means it is silent, so the name is pronounced Chadash.   In 1923 at the formation of the country Turkey from the old Ottoman Empire each person had to choose a surname.  In Turkish the word çağdaş means modern.  A fitting new last name for a man in a 'new' country.

Sirvani Mosque under rennovation
Unfortunately, the Sirvani Mosque currently is undergoing complete restoration.  Scaffolding surrounded the entire building and minaret and entry was forbidden. Frankly, that was okay with us.  We have seen enough mosques to last a lifetime. The date of construction of this mosque is unknown although it is assumed that the mosque was built in 14th or 15th centuries during Dulkadirli or Mameluk periods.  
Sirvani Mosque minaret
The epigraph on the portal shows that the mosque was repaired in 1681 by Seyyid Mehmet Sirvani. During this renovation a water-tank with a fountain was added to the courtyard and the toilets placed beneath the ground floor. The mosque is located in the area to the west of Gaziantep Castle, one of the oldest districts in the city. The location shows that this mosque is one of the oldest buildings in Gaziantep. It is thought to have first been built as a Mevlevi "semahane" (a building where the dervishes perform their whirling spiritual dance).  Since we could not enter the mosque this provided us more time to wander the Zincirli Bedesten, which is located directly across a ultra-narrow street.

Entrance to newer separate section of the bazaar
Zincirli Bedesten means 'the chained bazaar' or Coppersmiths Market;  it is also called the Black Stairs Market.  The bazaar was built in 1781 and now is fully restored after being destroyed by fire in 1957.  It is a rambling labyrinthine bazaar.   Five doors enter the bazaar from surrounding streets, almost like spokes of a wheel except the alleys twist and turn once inside the bazaar.  The literature said there were 80 shops inside the Zincirli Bedesten, but I think there were at least double that number of those tiny shops.  The entire bazaar is filled with tap-tap-tap of the metal workers and the makers of handmade shoes and all sorts of items.  It is extremely easy to get lost.  
Inside the old labyrinthe bazaar.

Inside bazaar.

Center, where 5 alleys meet

Making copper pans by hand.

Looking into a shop inside the bazaar that had an old
boombox with a TV in the center of it.  The shop owner
would not let me take a photo of it.

Very old doors to close up shops
at night.  These were on regular
streets in the old city district,
not inside the bazaar.

Dried veggies. The white ones are
dried small squash.

Many shops both inside and outside the bazaar had the typical mini-mountains of multi-colored spices and graceful garlands of various dried chiles and other dried vegetables.  We saw these strings of dried vegetables everywhere we visited on this trip.  
The long light green ones are okra; black are eggplant; the
red ones are tomatoes and sweet & hot peppers.

Many, if not most, of the homes have no refrigeration.  Millenia ago the people of this region learned how to dry most vegetables and see no reason to switch to processed vegetables in cans or jars.  These dried vegetables are rehydrated when desired and then cooked as usual.  We have been told that these are very good and closely resemble fresh veggies.  There also were many shops selling baklava as this region of Turkey is the pistachio growing area.   Iran is the world's largest producer of pistachios, followed by the USA, and Turkey is third.  Pistachio trees covered the countryside of this region. 

These metal serving dishes were so pretty I wanted to buy
some.  Then realized these would never get used, so didn't.

Right in the heart of the bazaar is a quaint kahvehane (coffeehouse) set in a restored caravanserai.  A caravanserai was a large inn enclosing a courtyard providing accommodation for caravans during the old years of camel caravan merchants.  After our huge lunch we were not tempted by coffee and baklava, although many others in our group enjoyed the delicacies.  We got a kick out of one particular member of our group.  He loved baklava but had the oddest way of pronouncing this word.  Our neighbor in Houston for many years was a Greek who had immigrated to the USA.  His mother made the best baklava, but using walnuts rather than pistachios. 
Walking sticks, heavily inlaid; beautiful work.  Thought
about buying one for Bill's brother as a Christmas present
but did not.  (Sorry, John; you won't be getting a new
fancy walking stick for Christmas this year.)

Lamps and trinkets made from
silver and other metals

I do not eat pistachios, so this Turkish baklava was of no interest to me whatsoever.  But a British man in our group loved the Turkish baklava made from pistachios.  He pronounced it bah-CLAV-ah instead of BAHK-lah-vah.  Everytime he said bah-CLAV-ah I thought he was talking about a headscarf worn by a Russian woman.  
Heard this many times daily for a week and never did get accustomed to this strange pronunciation.  If he reads this blog posting, I submit this link for him (and some of the other Brits)  to hear how the name of this pastry should be correctly pronounced:

Correct pronunciation of baklava

Chess set; Crusaders vs. Muslims

Adjacent to the Zincirli Bedesten but not part of the labyrinthe was another section of the bazaar that was more brightly lit and with wider aisles for shopping.  This section has more items of interest to tourists.  One of our group members purchased a chess set with teams of players of the Crusaders vs. the Muslims.  Also available were teams of players such as the Egyptians vs. the Romans.  The Turks have long memories.  

Typical coat, all year long.
Another year-round coat.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that a common form of dress in Turkey is for women to wear a long coat over their clothing.  It usually looks like a raincoat and often is tight-fitting.  These are worn both winter and summer.  This area gets up to 48C in summer; that is 118F and these women still wear these coats in that heat.  

More year-round coats.  Everywhere.

The coats are worn OVER long pants or skirts AND long-sleeved tops, along with the usual tradition headscarves.  I do not see how they can tolerate that in such heat.  Don't tell me that they are used to it and don't feel the heat like we do. I have seen women stand up and their entire backs and legs are drenched with sweat, with the coat saturated.  
The inaccessible Citadel

Next we walked a few blocks to the Gaziantep Citadel.  Our guide had heard from local people that the bridge had collapsed and the citadel was closed, but we all wanted to see for ourselves that it really was closed to visitors.  It was.  The 250-year-old wooden pedestrian bridge at the entrance had collapsed just a few days prior to our visit.  There was no way to enter the castle.  I was glad that it had collapsed BEFORE we arrived rather than collapsing while we were on it.

Tower at entrance of Citadel

Gaziantep Citadel is a castle, located in the center of the city.  The history of castle is a mystery.  As a result of the relatively recent excavations conducted there, bronze age settlement layers have been found beneath the castle section existing on the surface of the soil. The original castle is next to and beneath the current old castle.  The current castle was built as an observation tower during the Roman Period and was enlarged over the course of time. It achieved its present appearance after undergoing restoration work during the period of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century AD.  It is approximately 325 feet in diameter and 3,900 feet in width.  The castle incorporates 12 towers and bastions today; but during its heyday this castle was much, much larger.  At one time it had 36 towers.  It looks quite large with just the 12 towers; I can only imagine how large it must have been when it had 36 towers.

Excavation project of the old original castle which is both
adjacent and BENEATH the Citadel sitting so high up.
The glass panels allow visitors to see the ancient site
but entry is forbidden.  

The ditch around the castle is about 33 feet deep.  Access to castle is possible only via that collapsed wooden pedestrian bridge.  According to the tourist information, inside the castle are remains of Roman baths, cisterns, masjid and various other constructions. On the basement level are halls, galleries and corridors constructed in order to provide support for the upper sections of the castle.  There is also a water source under the main block.  This citadel could have housed and protected a great many people for a very long time if a siege had occurred.

Here is a link for images and info on the Gaziantep Citadel which we were unable to enter:

Gaziantep Citadel info in first section of this link

Freshly harvested olives for sale.  People like to process
their own fresh olive oil as well as cooking the olives that
we are familiar with in jars.  Special spices to individual taste.

Next we walked through a different section of the old city area with yet even more small shops of every description.  Olives are now being harvested and there were bins and bags and barrels of olives for sale along the streets and sidewalks. 

Intricate metal work and inlays on old knives, swords & guns.

Bill liked this old gun

A sword and gun shop caught our attention. The metal work was gorgeous.

Handanbey Mosque

Our destination was yet another mosque.  I have forgotten the name of this one but it hold great meaning to the Turkish people because over 1,000 men were killed inside this mosque by the French during the fighting of 1921 to 1923.  The French would line up the men and shoot them inside the mosque.  I did not go inside but others of our group did and they spoke of the bullet holes still visible on the interior walls.

This was enough for our first day of this group tour.  It had been a long day of travel and sightseeing after a too-early rising this morning.  We were all more than ready to return to the hotel and relax.

On the bus this day one person was slightly ill and sneezed several times. A few of our group spoke a little Turkish said something each time she sneezed.  I cannot remember the Turkish words but the translations go like this:

Person sneezes and instead of "God Bless You" one says: "Long Life."

Instead of saying "Thank You" the person who sneezed says:  "May you live to see it."

Isn't that a nice exchange of expressions.

Here is a short video of men baking bread in a small shop in Gaziantep.  There were lots of these small bakeries.

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