Sunday, September 15, 2013

Frank Lloyd Wright - Fallingwater

We went to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house Fallingwater last summer. For some reason, I am just now looking through a ton of pictures from my camera. 

The trip started with a journey out to and overnight stay in Morgantown, WV. It pour rain on the ride out, to such an extent that we had to pull off the highway and take refuge in a parking lot. 

We stopped at Weavers in Hancock, MD on the way out. Very awesome pie and food there. I highly recommend it. We had also intended to stop at Mountain City Coffeehouse on the way out, but found it closed. A shame, because they make really great sandwiches for lunch and the coffee is also very tasty. We settled for pizza at a local shop.

When we finally did make it to Morgantown, we found that it was such exciting place that we decided to take no pictures of it, and leave as soon as possible lest we have too much fun. In fact, we had so much fun there, we are never going to have to go back. All the fun was had, can't have anymore.

The next morning we ventured off to Fallingwater. It is set back in the hills of Pennsylvania near to Pittsburgh. It was built as a vacation home from the Kaufmann family between 1936 and 1939. The thing that make the home so unique is that it was built over a waterfall. The Kaufmanns originally intended for Frank Lloyd Wright to build the home on the bluff facing the waterfall. Wright decided that it would make a greater impact to embed the home into the waterfall and make it part of the natural surroundings. The resulting design, has made it one of the most iconic homes in America.

You are required to tour the home with a guide, which is actually a nice tour. You are taken through both the main house and the guest house that sits on a hill above the main house. 

This is spot, facing the waterfall, where the Kauffmans wanted the home built. 

On our way home we stopped in Cumberland, MD to visit the Queen City Creamery. There are a lot of great places to eat and get sweets along I-70 and I-68, but Weavers, Queen City and Mountain City are, in my opinion, the best.

While in Cumberland we visited the end of the Great Allegheny Passage trail, and coincidentally the trail head of the C&O Canal. If you were so inclined you could hop on a bike in Georgetown, DC and bike all the way to Pittsburgh, PA. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Turkish Odyssey - Trip Home

The day dawns cold and gray...this city lives seems to live under a steel gray sky. There can be some leisure in the pace of the morning but time melts away and our 9:00am departure time rolls rapidly around. We bus to the airport with US expats who live in Panama and outwardly project affluence and wealth (vis-a-vis the Real Housewives). One questions how much wealth each has, if they were on a budget tour. Though there is nothing wrong with frugality.

We are scanned, detected, questioned, stamped and approved four separate times before we are sufficiently worthy of the square foot of personal space afforded to us as home for the next 11h30min. More screaming children, this one in particular screams in upper registers that must make life for parent and those immediately around highly uncomfortable. Somehow the flight passes in what seems like a flash. Perhaps watching Argo, Hitchcock, Total Recall (new one), and Beverly Hills cop helped. A note to United, people get hungry at dinner time and not providing food is a crummy policy.

As we take off, the whole of the city stretches out below us. Minarets dotting the landscape like pins sticking out from a cushion. You can not count how numerous they are. Largely uneventful and boring we pass the time and eventually a more familiar skyline, that of NYC, creeps into view and we touch down with a thump.

It is wonderful to conduct business in english again. It is the little things too, like water fountains...and for that matter having potable water at all. It is good to be back.

A Turkish Odyssey - Day 11

A bittersweet day. We are on the road at 7:30am bound for Istanbul, not Constantinople. The scenery is mostly the same as every other day. We work on puzzles and doze. Stopping for lunch at yet another Turkish roadside cafeteria with the same food as all the others, but today we have a secret weapon. Leftovers from the market! Certainly not the most scenic of places for a picnic, a curb in the parking lot at a truck-stop, but that lunch was one of the best, if not the best on the trip. I find myself loving oranges and shall begin to eat them in earnest upon our return. Well the cliffside stop was pretty good too. On the road again, and I am thankful the collywobbles have mostly passed. Few more hours to the city. Crossing from the Asian side to the European again I am struck by the enormity of the city. We travel down the golden horn past the second more modern of the Sultans palaces, and arrive at the ferry terminal where most disembark for the river cruise. We, however, leave and wade into the throng of humanity in and around the spice market. What feels like an eternity later, we find the market entrance. The streets around the market are packed with people and shops and dudes delivering tea on silver platters. The whole scene is too chaotic for photographs and out of control,  but we are on a mission and dive into the market.

Shops come in three flavors; trinkets, spices, and jewelry. Many are a mixture of the three such that it all blends together into a dizzying array of continuous merchandise. Very little of which has price tags on it. I dislike bartering for goods. Please just give me a fair price and be done. You never feel that you got the best deal, because it always feels and seems arbitrary. Regardless we have lira to spend and no reason to bring them home. So off we go. We meet Mr. Super Mario who sells us some pepper and slips in a 'sultans aphrodisiac' into the bag for free. He is a true salesman, but nice about it and not overly pushy. On the way out we stop for coffee. In ordering two 50 gram bags of grounds, money has left my hand, change is slapped on the counter and a plastic bag with my order is tossed my way before I can complete the word grams. The "S" is still on my tongue not out of my mouth as I turn to walk away, transaction complete. 

On the way home to the hotel, we wind through more alleys full of shops. It seems that every square inch of space is taken up by something in this city. We are not 100% sure of our location and this unnerves me. Thankfully something recognizable, the University, appears and we make it back to and check into hotel Mosaic. Dinner at a fish market restaurant. Efes beer, the Bud of Turkey is not much more palatable then its US counter-part. The fish is boney and I have no idea how to effectively eat such a thing, so unfortunately most goes to waste. Joy and Joe were good company and it was good fortune to share a table with them. It seems surreal to have crossed 2,000 miles of Turkish countryside and be back in this oppressive city, but here we sit, dining and being forced to dance by local musicians. We effectively wait out the storm till it passes and are allowed to remain seated. With no fan fair, no hoopla, dinner ends and the trip is over. Levent confides in me that this is likely his last tour. He remained outwardly resolute, but being away from his injured wife...I don't envy what he must have gone through. It is good for him to be heading home to be with them. 

We are bound for departure at 9:00am with 18 hours of travel to follow. It is with nervous anticipation of the journey ahead and bittersweet emotion on seeing the journey end that I drift quickly to sleep. 

A Turkish Odyssey - Day 10

The day dawns clear and crisp. Unfortunate trouble has befallen my stomach. Between Lunch or dinner the day before, my intestines were poisoned somewhere along the way. I am thankful that it is only a minor case, but enough to take me off my game. An army marches on its stomach after all. We are on the bus for most of the day. Stopping for rice and restrooms. Thankfully the latter is not needed in any major capacity while on the road. We reach Ankara and the Turkish capital and stop at the mausoleum of Ataturk. A giant grand stone building on a bluff in the city center. His tomb sits 45ft below a large pink marble sarcophagus. Guarded by stoic members of the military. They stand for 2 hours at a time before the guard is changed. They don't move and hardly blink. One hand on their rifle and the other on their bayonet. It is a mix of Lincoln memorial and Jefferson/GW grave site. A blitz through the Ataturk museum and back on the bus. 
Next stop the very tiny museum of Anatolian civilization. Tiny only because of renovations. A great shame because what is on display is amazingly cool. The oldest recorded bronze tablet written in Hittite. A lterr from one queen to another on a stone tablet. Gold and figures from at least 3 thousand years ago. We are particularly taken with the Hittite pictographic writing (at least we think it is Hittite). Levent is obviously excited about the collection and wants to share all he knows about each piece, but with 40 people sight lines to display cases are extremely limited and hearing is difficult. We have time, but not enough to explore all the museum has to offer. A common theme, yet we are not 100% ready to return. The issue lies in that we tire of touring with the group, of 20 minute time limits, and of seeing sits in general. Quiet irony that our trip ends tomorrow. Our hotel bathroom is equipped with a window that looks into the what devious purpose we dare not imagine. 
Our trip to the mall and supermarket this eve sets in my mind that it will be good to be in the USA again. We made dinner out of pretzel sticks, cheese, an orange and bread. It hit the spot given my stomach trouble. The trip to the market made me sympathize with spanish and other non-english speakers in the US. It must be horribly bewildering to shop and to conduct business in a foreign land with a difficult and foreign language. Hello is such a simple word and yet I can't say it in Turkish. Only one day to go.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Turkish Odyssey - Day 9

The weather can not make up its mind today. Cold it is always, but things vacillate between snow and sun and wind for much of the day. Looking across the valleys of Cappadocia, you can see a wide sunny patch while a harsh cold wind blows snow into your eyes. This weather adds to the atmosphere of the place. Somehow we have driven into a Dr. Seuss landscape. Volcanic rock deposited over softer sandstone leading to mushroom shaped formations. I would love to describe the beauty of the place, and I imagine Islamic poets and scholars have done this, but I fail to find an adequate way to write of what I have seen. I think of pictures of the grand canyon, only in reverse. Rather going down, land rises up. Mountains that were once hard edged like the Rockies have been mellowed by wind rain and time. If you use the soften tool on a photo of the Rockies, perhaps you get close. Better yet, the US southwest has painted hills, and perhaps that is a better fit. There are strata clearly visible on the hillsides and the mushroom shaped "fairy towers" are all over. 

We criss-cross the landscape by bus today, stopping every 20-30 minutes for 20 minutes. We stop first at the Pigeon Valley. Named for the carrier pigeons that lived in small holes in this area. Local merchants oblige tourists by keeping a few pigeons around and making them fly around from time to time. 

Next we stop at the base of a fortress set up so high as to have a commanding view of the valley, and prevent tour groups from visiting it. However, the highlight of the day came next. The Görem open air museum which houses cliffside churches from approximately the 13th century. Four or five of these still contain original frescos in various states of completeness. In the apple church I am taken for a German, as a women keeps speaking to me in German, until I tell her I don't spreken ze. The frescos are stunning. To protect themselves, the early Christians took to these hills and filled their time carving rock and painting. Or at least they must have, because rock churches, structures and frescos are everywhere. The churches are covered in paint and iconography.
The best example is in the dark church. An extra 15tl gets us in to a place devoid of light for so long that the colors remain in the paint. The figured are also largely untouched, except that many have had their eyes scratched out. I must ask Stove about this. We linger longer and find ourselves alone. with just a guard, who shushing us, allows us to take quick photos that are expressly forbidden by informative signage. This is exceedingly amazing fortune. We snap many and retire from the space.
Thick snow is swirling around outside, but by the time we reach the bud, the sun pokes out. Lunch was and that is all that can be said of the meager portion relative to price. After our dinning experience we dive into an underground city. Used by women and children as a shelter in case of war and as a storehouse at other times of the year. This particular one was 8 stories deep and could house thousands. Others go 12 stories down and hold many more. Large stone wheels block the entrances to each floor. As you retreat lower, you block the door behind you. On the 8th level a tunnel takes you back to the surface or connects with other cities. Amazingly complex and ingenious. I find myself thinking of Minecraft and wanting to pick it up again. I worry for Becky in such close enclosed spaces. Only once are we close to much trouble. In a narrow stooping tunnel we are stopped, but all is well in the end and she comes through with flying colors. I am in awe of her ability to face such fears with such resolve. 

We make 2 more roadside stops. By camel rock and by the mesa of knowledge. We found it! Shall have to send a picture to Bob Gardner. At all stops today vendors hawk the same wares. Everywhere the same items. They must all shop with the Turkish equivalent of QBP. Warehouses full of these items must be someplace. Molly is consistently last and often on the late side. With all the driving today, it is good Ali fixed the bus yesterday after we puttered up a hill and the bus nearly conked out. We are deposited at Peri Tower for night 2. Lets hope the cry of "CHIIIIIINA" does not ring inches from ear as as my wake up call tomorrow. We played backgammon in the lobby and the hotel bartender took an interest in our game. He helped us setup and stood watching us play. Giving pointers on moves and tsk'ing with his tongue when we made a bad play. It was fun to have someone who is an actual skilled player and a Turk help. Most enjoyable way to pass an evening and a fire to boot! Warm feet and lovely writing spot.