Every photographer loves the golden hour, that special time between dusk and dark. Sunsets can be spectacular, unusual and surreal. Since I just got back from Page Arizona to photograph the natural beauty of the area, including of course Horseshoe Bend at sunset, I have decided to collect a few of my favorite sunsets from around the world. Not all sunsets depend on color to make them spectacular, although Horseshoe Bend might be the exception. Often it is the subtle interplay of light and dark, the delicate colors rather than flashy vibrance and it is always about that soft light that fills our senses as the embers of the day play out.
Göbekli Tepe is the oldest megalithic structure on earth, predating Stonehenge by 6600 years and the Pyramids by 7100 years. Göbekli Tepe, or “Potbelly Hill” in Turkish, is possibly the most important archaeological discovery of this century, atop a mountain ridge in the Southeastern Anatolia Region of modern-day Turkey, approximately 12 km (7 mi) northeast of the city of Şanlıurfa. It was discovered in 1995 by archeologist Klaus Schmidt. What makes this site so special is not the age but the implications regarding the onset of the Neolithic period when humans first settled in permanent communities in a fixed location. I have previously written on the ragged edge between the Paleolithic hunter-gatherers and the more sedentary Neolithic settlements. Specific markers such as pottery, domesticated animals and cultivation of grains were discovered, forgotten and rediscovered over millennia before the lessons took root in the Neolithic package. Göbekli Tepe demonstrates another indistinct marker, special use megalithic buildings, possibly temples, built by Paleolithic hunter-gatherers.
The abandoned Armenian city of Ani in north-east Turkey is a reminder of the Armenian history of this region. Visitors who pass through Ani’s city walls are greeted with a panoramic view of ruins that span three centuries and five empires, including the Bagratid Armenians, Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, Georgians and Ottomans. The ruins of the former mighty capital of Armenian Kingdom Bagratuni lie right on the Turkish-Armenian border. At the time of its greatest glory it competed in its importance to the largest towns in the Middle East. It was protected by canyons of rivers on three sides and on the fourth by powerful walls. Between 961 and 1045, it was the capital of the Bagratid Armenian kingdom that covered much of present-day Armenia and eastern Turkey. Called the “City of 1001 Churches”, Ani stood on various trade routes and its many religious buildings, palaces, and fortifications were amongst the most technically and artistically advanced structures in the world. At its height, the population of Ani probably was on the order of 100,000. Long ago renowned for its splendor and magnificence, Ani was sacked by the Mongols in 1236 and devastated in a 1319 earthquake, after which it was reduced to a village and gradually abandoned and largely forgotten by the seventeenth century. Ani is a widely recognized cultural, religious, and national heritage symbol for Armenians.
I have decided to write a series of posts on eastern Turkey, a pivotal historical area, from Kars in the north to Sanliurfa in the south based on my travels last summer. This is a relatively untraveled area, strictly Muslim today and generally inhospitable to most western travelers. Vanand is the name used to describe the area of historic Armenia that roughly corresponds to the Kars Province of present-day Turkey. Named after the Armenian family of Vanandi, it was a principality of the Kingdom of Armenia (321 BCE to 428 CE) and a later province of the Democratic Republic of Armenia. Its historic capital was the city of Kars. The region fell to numerous invaders including the Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, and the Ottoman Turks. As Chorzene, the town appears in Roman history (Strabo) as part of ancient Armenia. During the Turkish–Armenian War in late 1920, Turkish revolutionaries captured Kars for the last time. This post is not about history, I will cover that in a separate post, this is about Kars today.
Istanbul is much like Paris when it comes to restaurants, there are really good cafés on nearly every block. However, there are always a few restaurants that are special, often because of location or amazing food. Rarely, there is a restaurant that has both, like Sunset Grill and Bar in Istanbul boasting stunning views of asian Istanbul, the Bosphorus and sunsets in the heart of city, on the hills of affluent Ulus. This restaurant was suggested by my friend David and I am so pleased I took his recommendation. I was staying in the Sultanahmet or old city and with traffic it took only about 30 minutes to get there, well worth the effort. Istanbul’s first restaurant to add a sushi bar (in 2000), Sunset Grill & Bar isn't just any upscale restaurant in the city. The restaurant grows its own herbs in the garden, produces wines in its vineyard in Bozcaada and has Turkey’s most precious wine collection in its possession. They are open Monday-Saturday from noon to 3:00pm for lunch and daily from 7:00pm to midnight for dinner.
The Tigris is the eastern member of the two great rivers that define Mesopotamia, the other being the Euphrates. In Greek, Mesopotamia means between two rivers. The river flows south from the mountains of southeastern Turkey through Iraq and empties itself into the Persian Gulf. The Ancient Greek form Tigris was borrowed from Old Persian Tigrā, itself from Elamite Tigra, itself from Sumerian Idigna. The original Sumerian Idigna or Idigina was probably from “running water”, which can be interpreted as “the swift river”, contrasted to its neighbor, the Euphrates. Another name for the Tigris used in Middle Persian was Arvand Rud, literally “swift river”. Today, however, Arvand Rud refers to the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (known in Arabic as the Shatt al-Arab). In Kurdish and in southeastern Turkey the river is known as Dicle also known as Ava Mezin, “the Great Water”. Rising in the Taurus mountains of southern Turkey, the Tigris flows southeast through Iraq, where in the southern part of that country it merges with the Euphrates to become the Shatt al Arab, which then flows to the Persian Gulf. The river has numerous small tributaries running from its eastern bank, and is 1,180 miles (1,899 km) in length.
The Hittites, one of the great Bronze Age civilizations of the Mideast, are less well known than other great ancient civilizations such as the Greeks, Sumarians, Persians and Egyptians but no less deserving of our attention. For a long time, the Hittites were only known to historians as an obscure tribe mentioned in the Bible. In 1834, when archeologist Charles Texier stumbled upon the ruins of Hattusha (modern-day Boghazkoy/Bogazköy), his discovery went unrecognized. The Hittites were an Anatolian people who established an empire at Hattusa in north-central Anatolia around 1750 BC. This empire reached its height during the mid-14th century BC under Suppiluliuma I, when it encompassed an area that included most of Asia Minor as well as parts of the northern Levant and Upper Mesopotamia. After about 1180 BC, the empire came to an end during the Bronze Age collapse. The two main periods of Hittite history are customarily referred to as the Old Kingdom (1700-1500 BC) and the New Kingdom, or Empire (1400-1180 BC). The less well-documented interlude of about a hundred years is sometimes referred to as the Middle Kingdom. The early Hittites, whose prior whereabouts are thought to be in the southern Ukraine, borrowed heavily from the pre-existing Anatoloian Hattian and Hurrian cultures, and also from that of the Assyrian colonisers—in particular, the cuneiform writing and the use of cylindrical seals. The Boğazköy Museum is located 82 km southwest from Corum, in the district of Bogazkale. The museum, displaying excavation finds from the Hittite capital of Hattusha, opened on September 12 1966 and was completely refurnished in 2011.
I traveled to Turkey this year with one primary wish, to visit one of the cradles of civilization, Göbekli Tepe, at least 10,000 years old. Even though I was more than happy to visit many other places, restaurants and buildings in Turkey recorded in this blog, my visit was motivated almost entirely by the desire to visit Göbekli Tepe. My desire on this very long voyage was to visit this exact place and how appropriate that on the tell/hill of Göbekli Tepe was a wishing tree, a sacred place to to the local populace. A wishing tree is an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish. This place is so important and so relevant to me, that this will be the first of many posts on this place and time, nearly 12,000 years ago, that civilization became real to me and to the rest of humanity. I felt it was appropriate to begin with the wishing tree on top of the hill.