H3A day trip to Stratonikea and Lagina 23 November

Photo by: Mete Toppare
Photo by:  Mete Toppare

‘Looking East: Exploring Iran’s Rich History and Culture H3A tour to Iran 4 to 11 October 2016’

During the last two hundred years we Turks have only paid attention to the west and almost completely ignored our eastern neighbours.  As a result of my trip to Iran in February this year I reached the conclusion that we have much in common historically and culturally.  The Iranians, who have been described to us as surly religious fanatics, are actually highly cultured and have a very rich history with women playing an important role in their society.

I wanted my family  and other interested H3A members to share this experience.  Consequently I requested my friends at Oasis Tourism Limited to organise a trip this autumn.

It seems now there is an increasing demand for Iranian cultural tourism but there is a capacity problem.   The infrastructure has been neglected during the last thirty to forty years so the hotels that exist are full and expensive and reservations need to be made months in advance.  In April, when we  advertised the H3A trip to Iran, we had a target of 20 participants which we achieved by the beginning of the summer.

On the evening of 4 October we boarded the THY flight to Shiraz. There we were met by our young Iranian guide Rana Sohrabi.  She spoke perfect Turkish with an Istanbul accent although she had never been to Turkey.  It seems  she perfected her Turkish by watching Turkish soap operas.

our-guide-rana-sohrabi

our-guide-rana-sohrabi

Shiraz is considered to be the cultural capital of Iran.  Two of Iran’s  most famous poets, Sadi and Hafiz, are buried there in two parks carrying their names and visited by thousands of people every day.  It is said that every Iranian household has two books, the Koran and the Divan of Hafiz.  We had to visit Hafiz’s tomb in the early evening and it was quite crowded.  My brother Haluk Şahin, who is also a poet, read a poem about the  tomb written by the famous Turkish poet Yahya Kemal.

We could only spend one full day in Shiraz which was hardly enough.  My favourite sight was the Nasr-al-Mulk mosque which the Europeans call the pink mosque.  The most  exciting part of the day was visiting the Şah-ı Çerağ tomb which is one of the holiest places for the Shiites in Iran.  The women in our group were supplied with a proper chadoor on this occasion.  It was the only time they had to wear it during our visit.

The-pink-mosque-Shiraz

The-pink-mosque-Shiraz

Our-guide-Rana-at-the-entrance-of-Masjed-e-Vakil

Our-guide-Rana-at-the-entrance-of-Masjed-e-Vakil

sah-i-cerag-siraz

sah-i-cerag-siraz

Masjed-e Vakil

Masjed-e Vakil

During our second day we departed for Persepolis which is a former capital of the Persian Empire.  Although it was destroyed by Alexander the Great the place is still very impressive.  It reinforced my belief that civilization began in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Iran and was later adopted by the Greeks.  Later that day we had visited Nakş-ı Rüstem which contained impressive rock tombs of earlier Persian emperors.

persopolis

persopolis

selcuk-sahin-at-persopolis

selcuk-sahin-at-persopolis

Persopolis

Persopolis

Nakşı-Rüstem

Nakşı-Rüstem

On our third day we crossed the desert and arrived in Yazd which is also known as the Bride of the Desert.  The town was very interesting with its mud brick architecture, wind towers and underground water canals bringing water from the mountains.  Yazd was also an important centre for the Zoroastrians.  We first visited a Tower of Silence where Zoroastrians offered their dead to vultures, not wanting to pollute the earth and water which they held to be sacred.  Later on we also visited their Fire Temple, Ateshkadeh, as well as the old quarters of the city built entirely with mud bricks.  These much impressed our group from an architectural point of view.

Masjed-e-Jameh-Yazd

Masjed-e-Jameh-Yazd

Yazd-Zaroastrian-tower-of-silence

Yazd-Zaroastrian-tower-of-silence

9tower-of-silence-yazd

Tower of Silence Yazd

On the fourth day we crossed the desert-like Iranian high plateau, stopping at a few caravanserais and at Meybod which has one of the world’s oldest castles built of mud bricks.  We stopped at Nain for lunch, a famous carpet making town, and towards the evening we reached Isfahan.

Our hotel in Isfahan was situated by the famous Si-o-Seh bridge but as soon as we had checked into our rooms we headed for the Naqsh-e Jahan Square,   undoubtedly one of the most beautiful squares in the world.  Iranians call the city Isfahan Nefse Cihan which means half of the world.  If you must see only one city in Iran surely it has to be Isfahan.

Seeing the mosques, palaces, galleries and the bazaars around the square can take several few days.  Among my favourite was the Chehel Sotun Palace which means 40 columns and is adorned with magnificent wall paintings.  Meanwhile we also did some shopping in the bazaars.  Favourite items were  carpets, hand printed covers, miniatures and other handicrafts.  We also bought saffron and Iranian tea.

A-tea-house-in-Isfahan

A-tea-house-in-Isfahan

 

 

Zurhane- İsfahan

Zurhane- İsfahan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had time to visit the Armenian quarter which I hadn’t seen on my previous visit.  It was an entirely different experience for us.

 

An-old-inhabitant-of-the-Armenian-quarter-Isfahan

An-old-inhabitant-of-the-Armenian-quarter-Isfahan

As it was the holy month of Moharrem for the Shiites we were able to witness their processions.

On the final evening we retired to our rooms to rest before our wake up call at three o’clock –  in time to board the early morning THY flight to Istanbul.

Selçuk Şahin
Photos by: Camille Şahin

 

Other Photos by Camille Şahin (Click to enlarge)

 

Mary Nolan’s Photograph Gallery (Click to enlarge)

 

 

BERGAMA / PERGAMUM TRIP 23-25 September 2016

A trip of superlatives – the steepest theatre, the largest library, the biggest altar – plus vintage cars, an Egyptian god, dream interpretation and suggestion therapy all conspired to make H3A’s most recent tour highly memorable.

H3A member Edit Sumer, helped by  Teoman Sumer and Linda Bennett, organized this trip so meticulously that the experience for us was one of a professional travel agency with the bonus of friendship and care.     The contribution of our local guide from Bergama, “Suleiman The Magnificent”,  in introducing us to the local culture should also be noted.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Being third age people, we encounter few things that surprise us but during this trip we saw many things which interested and even amazed us. The first example was the KEY Museum in Torbalı owned by the Özgörkey Group which we visited on our way to Pergamum.  In this museum, 130 cars and 40 motorbikes from late 1800 to 2011 are exhibited in an area of 7000 square meters.  As we strolled around in the museum, each one of us expressed our astonishment in different ways. Seeing such a variety of cars in such great numbers was really very impressive.
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When we arrived at Bergama, before checking in at the hotel, we visited the Red Basilica where the statute of the Egyptian god, Serapis, was there to welcome us.  The main buildings were undergoing restoration but the courageous Hero3A team did not hesitate to enter the site despite the scaffolding to be able to see every detail. By the time the guard noticed what was going on and ran from his post to alert us, our “serious” members were laughing out loud, sharing the joy of having broken the rules.  They did not believe that they had just done such a mischief.
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The next morning, following quite an exciting trip for the agrophobics amongst us by cable car, we visited the acropolis of Pergamum which was our main destination. The steepest Hellenistic theatre, the largest library and the biggest altar of Anatolia are situated here.  Moreover, Pergamum is the place where the first parchments were used and here one can see the longest water systems of the Roman period. What we had encountered was a list of incredible firsts and time flew by as we tried to see and understand them.   When it was time for lunch we went back to the centre of the city and upon the suggestion of our guide, we chose the local food, Çığırtma, made of aubergine, which was delicious.
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After lunch we visited the Bergama museum followed by the Asklepieion, the largest and best known health centre of Anatolia.  Dream interpretation, suggestion therapy, mud baths, running barefoot under the rain were some of the natural treatment methods used at the Asklepieion.  We fed the turtles swimming in the area of the mud baths, washed our faces with the water from the spring and walked through the tunnels experiencing suggestion therapy by trying to listen to the sound of water. Although we were all quite tired after a long day this refreshed and revived us.
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On our way back to Bodrum on our last day we stopped at Ayvalık.   Here we visited the Taksiyarhis museum as well as two churches which are now used as mosques.   After some free time and lunch at places of our choice, we left Ayvalık, taking with us the famous goat cheese sweet (lor tatlisi) that we had bought and the sweet memories that we will cherish as we continued to Bodrum.

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Vivian Kohen, September 2016
Photographs by Demet Menteşe, Teoman Sümer, Vivian Kohen

 

(BEST OF THE REST) PHOTOGRAHS:

 

H3A tour to Nysa, 27 April 2016

Situated on the slopes of the Aydın (Messogis) mountains, the ancient city of Nysa overlooks the great Maeander fault valley, one of the longest and deepest geological fracture of Anatolia – the B Menderes fault.

The most sacred place for Nysa was Acharaca, a health centre which contains a temple of Pluto and Persephone as well as a subterranean cave where thermal hot springs and noxious gases gushed.  Nearby Tralleis was an important city of ancient times.  It was one of the wealthiest because of the Great Maeander plain which was a centre of education and political activity.

Strabo, the geographer and historian was educated in Nysa and wrote 27 books on world geography, including three chapters on Anatolia, and 42 books on the history of the known world.
The trip was guided by our own Semih Adıyaman and organized by Reyhan Destan.
Photographs by Ayşe İdil:
Nysa-Akharaka-Tralleis gezisinde Herodot'un ağır topları

Nysa-Akharaka-Tralleis gezisinde Herodot’un ağır topları

 

Photographs by Perran Arpacılar-Onat

A Presentation by Mehmet Çuhadar on the Visit to Milas/Mylasa – November 7, 2015

https://youtu.be/4GkU1XbK-v0

Other photographic contributors: Ayşe İdil, Kadir Vargı, Nilgün Erdem