Hiking in Turkey is All About the Rocks

On Tuesday night we hiked up an old road – built for trading olive oil by the Lycians and improved by the Romans. There are still olive trees on the hills. At the top of the road, we found a nomad’s tea shop, a Roman temple, city hall, and cistern. The temple was built with marble from at least 200km away and the latin inscriptions are still clear. Right next to the Roman temple stood a Byzantine church. Over the hill sits another cistern from the Ottoman era, still in use. We were welcome by a goatherder and his wife, formally fed tea made from the sage bush in their yard, and invited to buy spoons made from sandalwood, belts woven from goat hair, goat bells, and wild honey. Our new Turkish friends on the boat are curious and open and enjoy being active outdoors – much like our Czech relatives and our Canadian friends – but against a backdrop of antiquity rather than against our Canadian landscape of wilderness, wildflowers, and wildlife. Here, hiking is all about the (very, very) old rocks.

Written July 14, Posted July 19


Andrew and Mehmet looking at a Roman rock


Latin inscription – what does it say?


Roman or Byzantine? Our Turkish friends can tell….


Ottoman era cistern (water storage). Water storage is a big deal for serving merchant ships


Hiking on a Roman road first built by the Lycians – now the Lycian Way hiking trail. Note the olive tree – bottom left.



Life on the Seahorse – cruising and diving on the Aegean Sea

17 of us slept under the stars, woke at 7am for pilates and swim in the sea before 8am breakfast, or slept in (including the instructor). Then eat at 8am, move the boat, dive at 10, swim or snorkel after diving, rest in the shade, 12:30 lunch, nap or read or chat while the boat moves to a new dive site, dive between 3 and 4pm, swim, shore walk at 7 (sometimes), watch the sunset over the Turkish coastline, 9pm dinner with 6 mezes and 4 mains, drink tea or beer and chat with friends, fall asleep under the stars by 10:30. All to the rocking motion of the boat with sea breezes and as much or little sun as you like. There is nothing bad about this.

“Old” Just Got 10 Times Older

In Alberta, old was a “turn of the century home” not so very long ago. In England, my idea of “old” multiplied to hundreds of years old. In Antalya, old is measured in centuries. I kind of knew this was coming, but it is a bit mind boggling.

On Monday, Inci took us to explore the old town and I asked her when Antalya was founded. She wasn’t quite sure, but Hadrian’s Gate was built to welcome the Roman Emporer here in 136 AD. I concluded that Antalya has ALWAYS been here. The wheel ruts made by the Roman chariots and wagons are about 4 inches deep.

On Tuesday, we went to Side to see the Temple of Apollo and Athena. There are several such temples scattered around the ancient world, in case you think this is a bit confusing. This site dates back to the second century BC – so that would be 4000 years old – and there is also an amphitheater and a huge mess of leftover city that you can explore at your leisure. Being IN an amphitheater is Wow.


Touring with Visitors – Inci and her Mom


Princess Rebecca…she wouldn’t let me post the goofy picture


Side, Roman Amphitheater


Rebecca commented to Inci that she must have seen these places many times…the words old rocks were upgraded to ancient rocks….less pretentious than Antiquities.

Yesterday, we went to the beach at Phaselis. This is like a provincial park with a really nice quiet beach, no beach chairs and umbrellas, and very few tourists. Lots of familes – and also the site of an ancient harbour founded in 700BC by the Phaseliens – who apparently were not very good at repaying their debts. Pirates took over the harbour at one point, and later Hadrian was also welcomed with a gate – which still stands. The harbour eventually turned into a swamp and the site was abandoned. Our delightful tour guide treated this as quite incidental – not worth mentioning actually.

I have tried many times in my life to go see a Roman aqueduct. There are a few of them in the UK and in France, but somehow this fascination never worked out. In the last few days, I have seen several. We went a good half hour walk out of our way to find the first one in Istanbul, then found several others scattered around our walks, but Phaselis really made the point.  The aqueduct is a car park. In Turkey, Antiquities are just about as common as potatos on PEI, and we are definitely the wide eyed visitors!!!
After Phaselis, we climbed a hill in Olympus to see the burning ground where gas escapes…

Aqueduct at Phaselis

Istanbul – a gentle chaos

St. Petersburg and Prague and many other European cities are the same way – mornings are quiet – but evenings are riotous and filled with people getting out and getting together – and blowing bubbles at midnight.

I have had many colleagues arrive in Canada over the years from this part of the world, and from all parts of Europe. The one thing that seems to startle them the most is the lack of street life at night. As a Canadian, I have always found this a bit confusing. Evenings, for us, seem to center around family and the warmth of home, and service of one kind or another.

Istanbul is full of life until late at night. We are here during Ramadan, staying close to the Blue Mosque. As we make our way home late in the evening, the square is full of families breaking the fast and picnicing together on the grass – as full as Folk Festival – waiting for late prayers, and sharing a time of rest and joy. Last night, we went across the Golden Horn to a more secular part of the city and walked along a shopping boulevard with many others, enjoying the fresh air, the lights, and the sense of a cosmopolitain city. On our way, we passed through another park filled with people – couples, families, friends – all  out in the fresh air, enjoying the open space.

There is much more to write about this gentle, chaotic city – filled with an beautiful yet uneasy mix of cultures – but there is so much to embrace…the jumble of the Grand Bazaar, the streets filled with color and smells and people, the many mosques and calles to prayer, the foods, the busy working waterways, even the transit system…we will be back.


Philosophers Gathering

The curve of the world turns, with all of that flying…
The first time I flew to Europe in 1986, I had a window seat and saw the sun emerge from darkness to rainbow to daybreak around the curve of the earth. No matter how many times I do this overnight flight, the enchantment of seeing the curve of the earth from high altitude never fades.
…Join the herd for the mad rush…where does everyone come from? …
So many immigration lines, visas, passport stamps, and moments of being herded through with a mass of other migrating humans. My favorite was the official at Heathrow who asked why I was coming to the UK. 
        “To attend a conference.” 

“What do you do for a living?”

        “I am a chemical engineering professor.” I replied, with an involuntary guarded edge to my voice…

“What conference are you going to?” was his stern response. 

        Now I smiled, “The Gordon Conference on Visualization in Science Education!”

He smiled back, “For that, I will call you Professor!”

…I am all but surrounded…Grandfathers and babies…forgive me my unconcealed envy…

So many times we arrived at the airport in Charlottetown, always watching for the moment when my Dad’s stern face would break into a thousand smiles at the sight of his granddaughters and his children. So many times I arrived in a strange country and moved through the arrivals corral, secretly envying fellow passengers being greeted with magical welcoming signs promising a safe delivery to their final destination – and then having one of those signs assigned to me at a conference in Beijing in 2011. Tomorrow, I will go back to the airport in Istanbul to collect Rebecca who is now waiting for her flight out of Toronto.

…We’re philosophers gathering!…
…and yes! So many conferences with colleagues to talk about Mixing, to share ideas and questions and adventures in our host country. This time, at the 15th European Conference on Mixing, we are in St Petersburg…after Warsaw (2012), London (2009), Bologna (2006), Bamberg (2003), and Delft (my first European meeting, in 2000).
The friendships survive this three year cycle, students grow up and have children and grow research groups of their own…good friends start bringing their wives after their children leave home… and then they retire – but keep coming as part of their holidays because it is such a big part of our lives. 

This time, for the first time, three of my former research group members are here as professors – one from Turkey, one from Germany, and one from Alberta. The White Nights of summer mean that the sun is still evident at midnight, so we stay up until 2am every night, celebrating the time together, walking and talking and going to the opera and walking some more. A big thank you to our hosts, who have welcomed us with grace and shared the best that their home country has to offer!

Philosophers Gathering – Sasha, Marcio, Suzanne, Thomas, and Inci

The Floors at the Hermitage

The thing about a palace is that it is designed to be overwhelming. It’s a thing. If you want my opinion, building an art gallery beats the heck out of building an army…but there it is.  Today, I’m going to talk about a couple of floor details.

In the room below, there is one of the highlights of the collection – an enormous gold peacock clock. On the other side of that room, as you can see below, are some pretty impressive chandeliers (6 of them, in fact) a beautiful roof top garden, and a floor.  The floor is what caught my eye.  Let’s have a look. 

The room with a floor, a peacock, and a view


The floor has 8 panels, and each one has a garland of fruit and flowers… 

…and each of the flowers has a lot of petals that are miraculously cut by some kind of angel-magician.  

Below the garlands  are scenes of sea creatures (did I mention that I have a thing about water?)…   

Apparently the same angel-magician was at work here. While you are at it – check out the shading in the border detail. Seriously impressive.

The Hermitage is so big that they have to number the rooms so you don’t get lost. There are hundreds of rooms. At least half of them have some kind of magic like this going on.

I added some of the hardwood floors to prove I am not making this up – and a doorknob at the end for good measure. Remember. Hundreds of rooms.  Plus the paintings. 

You see why my feet are sore?  It’s like a great book. Very hard to put down!


What is it about Art Galleries?

The first time I was blown away by a visit to an art gallery I was 20. A mentor and good friend sent us to the National Portrait Gallery on our first trip to London. Suddenly, all of the pictures from all of my school history books came to life in front of me. Queen Elizabeth I was a living breathing human – and someone painted her – and that painting  was right-in-front-of-me-hundreds-of-years-old.

The second time was in Amsterdam – about a year later.  Something about seeing a large body of Rembrandt’s work and a large body of Van Gogh’s work in one day changes both your heart and your brain. I recommend it.

Many years later, and many marvelous exhibits later, I have my own modest collection of art, and I still seek out great galleries anywhere I can. Visting the Hermitage is an extraordinary opportunity, and it was remarkable.

The gallery is an astonishing super-position of the palace of Catherine the Great – who ruled Russia for (count them!) 30 years – and one of the great art galleries of the western world. We’ll get back to the palace later. By “Great Art Gallery” I mean something very simple: even if you know nothing about art, you will be able to walk through and recognize paintings you have seen many many times. Most of us are surprised by either how small (the Tiffany stained glass windows at the Met) or how large (Nightwatch by Rembrandt!) favorite works of art are in person…and by how richly alive the truly famous ones seem to be. A well curated show puts paintings together so that the relationships between them become clear, and provides limited but strategic background information.

Thanks to a lovely and thoughtful curator I was left with a happy Aha! moment on Saturday…the kind where many mysterious pieces of your life suddenly fall into place.

I’ve followed and loved Art Nouveau hints for many years…William Morris (wallpaper and other decorative arts)…Tiffany (stained glass)…Liberty (fabrics)…Klimt (fashion designer)…Gaudi (architect)…the Paris Metro signs…many bits of architectural detail in Prague…the Gibson Girls…the list goes on.  

Here is the gift from today’s curator, “The style’s trademark feature is fluid supple lines shaped like waves…often interwoven with the female figure…it arose from the Industrial Revolution and from new technological tools for design”  

Well. No wonder I am so consistently enchanted and mesmerized by this good friend! The photo above is a door handle to a book store. I took the photo before I knew why I was taking it – I just had to have that door to take home with me. For fun, I’ve added a couple more below – just so you get the idea of how persistently this feature catches my eye and makes me smile.

That is why I love to go to great art installations – anywhere they pop up. They have the capacity to change the way I think and feel and they add to what I know about myself and the world around me. A great day.

Drainpipe decoration, Bakery, St Petersburg


Porte -Fleurs, The Hermitage