Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

I was standing on top of a hill amongst ancient ruins. Looking one way, there's the beautiful crystal blue Mediterranean. Looking the other dırection, there's ruins scattered amongst limestone peaks.
We're in the small beach town of Olympos, the town we've been at for the last five days that we can't seem to leave. Looking around me, I felt this invigorating and inspiring sense of happiness. Normally, inspiration would lead to creative endeavours. But rather than using the creative right side of the brain, I contemplated how the analytical left side of the brain might look at this 'Happiness' I was feeling. This is what I came up with:
Ancient Roman Ruins + Crystal Clear Mediterranean Coast equals Happiness

But similar to 1+1=2, or 5-3=2, or 30,246 / 15,123=2, there are many different formulas to reach the same solution. Standing on this hillside, I also contemplated a few other formulas for 'Happiness' such as:
The Penelope Cruz Chocolate Chip Cookie Theorem

or the Will Smith Pursuit Movie Hypothesis
And obviously there are many more theorems out there to ponder, that achieve similar results of 'Happiness'. Feel free to develop your own scientific analysis.

Here's Ander's defacing ancient irreplaceable ruins to achieve his own personal happiness.
I'm sure the Turkish authorities would like to have a word with him upon seeing this photo, to discuss amongst other things, the validity of the movie Midnight Express.

....and speaking of Turkish prisons, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Monday, April 23, 2007

(((Cappadocia Captured on Camera in Closed Captions)))

(((We just spent a week in Cappadocia, beautiful lunar like landscape, good food, friendly people, and other tourist friendly accoutrements. I’ve been traveling around for awhile now, so I’m running out of interest capturing blog ideas. Feel free to comment on how lame this entry is. By the way the title and content is not meant to trivialize those who are visually impaired. However it is slightly ironic that this is a photo heavy entry.)))
(Our week in Cappadocia started like our time in Eastern Turkey. Cold and snowy)
(balancing rocks framing snow capped extinct volcano in the distance)
(balancing rocks formed by a volcanic eruption of heavy magma layer on top of silty weaker layer eroded over time creating the ‘balancing rock’ look)
(more phallic formations formed from volcanic eruption)
(valleys viewed from high above a mesa we climbed)
(Fairy chimney dwellings that dot the area. The right chimney is a church. The left one we climbed into)
(view to the east)
(view to the west)
(Old Greek fresco inside a different fairy chimney cave church)
(fairy chimney cave dwellings guarded by three phallic rock formations)
(detail of Turkish rugs outside a rug shop)
($6000 Turkish rug that Spotty rolled around in while stopping at a rug shop. Rug shop owner not too happy.)
(For $200, you can ride this balloon for 2 hours. Or you can photograph the balloon from below, like I did for free.)
(sunset tree)
(((((Dónde está Ché Pelotas?)))))

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Don't Dam It!

The sun setting over the Tigris River, if you remember from high school, as 'the cradle of civilization'
Our first two weeks in Turkey was spent in the Eastern Anatolia region, far from the tourist trail with westerner sightings being limited to about 2 persons. The highlight for me was the small town of Hasankeyf located near the foot of the Tigris River. We did a day hike through beautiful canyons and up striated cliffs.
our lunchtime spot and view
Looking the other way, perched up on a hilltop are incredible ruins incorporated with hillside cave dwellings, dating back to the 16th century.
lunch view looking west
We decided to climb down from our lunch spot, to try to figure a way to climb up to the top of the ruins. We ended up hiking around the hilltop and up the backside, and unknowingly (well, no not really), we snuck into the park climbing up the backside and avoided paying admission fee.
the Ristaino's on the trail, ruins straight ahead
These are the views we were greeted with upon 'accidentally' entering the ruins:
not another tourist in site

view looking down into the town of Hasankeyf, with the ruins of a bridge dating back to the year 640. No, not the modern arched one, the ruined pillars in the Tigris in front of it.

Doesn't this hillside profile look like Richard Nixon?
Unfortunately, there are plans to dam the Tigris River, flooding the valley from Batman (not as exciting of a town as it sounds) all the way to Midyat (Ilsu Dam Project). Meaning these incredible ruins would all be under water.
600 feet up, would now be 600 feet under
Even worse, it would displace approximately 37 villages, including Hasankeyf, home to these young Kurdish girls.

Not exactly sure what we can do to stop this from happening, but it be a shame to lose these fragments of history......
But now we're back on the tourist trail in the dramatic Cappadocia hillside, in the town of Goreme. In the first 2 minutes of arriving here, we've seen more western tourists than in our previous 2 weeks in Anatolia. It's an incredible natural landscape to explore and get lost in, and we've been taken around by our guidedog Spotty from the Kose Pension.
Spotty the wonder dog just loves vistas....seriously. He stops at every viewpoint to show us.
Spotty's incredibly sweet and incredibly intelligent. He even had the wherewithal to ask us, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

action ANDERS newsflash....

......a supplement to andy's last post ---- this just in.
the absolute latest ANDERSON LANBRIDGE sighting....

update at 11, Dónde está Ché Pelotas?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Traveling with Hobbits

Frodo and Sam searching for Mordor?

Besides the customary stares and thinking that they’re German tourists, I’ve noticed another trend traveling with the Ristaino’s. Many young Turks affectionately call them ‘Lord of the Rings’. But what these young, gregarious (Turkish for obnoxious) jokers don’t realize is that our Frodo and Sam are truly hobbits on a mission. But not on a mission to destroy the ring, but to search for the sacred honey-flavored ring created by the ‘Lord of the Simit Ring’.
For the back story of the simit, go here. For the back story of Lord of the Rings, call Peter Jackson.
That is why our young hobbit heroes are here in Turkey. To find the Sacred Simit Ring in the land of the simit. Our journey first took us on a boat ride across the cold waters of Lake Van.
We traveled to Akdamar Island, sight of a ruined Armenian church rumored to be where the Sacred Simit Ring was first forged.
Sailing under the auspices of the Turkish flag

Sıte where the Sacred Simit was created
On the island, our hairy footed hobbit friends stumbled upon the epitaph of the Cross of the Simit.
Two fully-holed simits flanking the cross at the top in this photo.
This sacred epitaph instructed our heroes that upon entering the church, there is a door to another portal leading to the Lord of the Simit Ring, holder of the Sacred Simit.
The Sacred Simit beckoning us to enter and cross the threshold of the point of no return.
Upon crossing the portal threshold, we were thrust into an eerie alien landscape of jagged limestone cliffs and pockmarked plains with mirages of swirling simits in the air.
Eerie and tasty
The Lord of the Simit Ring is rumored to be a red-coated Turkish woman residing in a phallic ruin.
We climbed the Van Kalesi Castle ruin searching for the Lord of the Simit Ring,
and were greeted by Kurdish locals.
We asked them, 'where do we find the Lord of the Simit Ring, the holder of the almighty and powerful Sacred Simit Ring? '
The red-coated Lord that we are searching for

The old and wise Kurdish woman told us, 'The Lord of the Simit Ring doesn’t reside at Van Kalesi anymore. She is thought to be working her delicious, honey sweetened, sesame sprinkled Simit Magic in Iran, which is 75 km east of here as the crow flies.'
That’s when we realized our quest was harder than we ever imagined.
Since neither Americans nor hobbits are given tourist visas to enter Iran, entry into Iran would be quite a challenge. And if you’ve got the double-whammy distinction of being American hobbits like our heroes Frodo and Sam Ristaino, the search for the Sacred Simit could have dire consequences.
75 km east to Iran
So that’s where we leave our hobbit friends.
On a strange and foreign landscape, in their never ending quest for The Lord of the Simit Ring.

For another sacred pilgrimage, check out Dónde está Ché Pelotas?