Friday, January 30, 2015

salt dough and tacky daggers

It sounds like a great idea: a clay pot is filled with meat and veggies, then sealed with a lump of salt dough and thrown into a fire where everything simmers in its own juices. The pot is dramatically hacked open sometime later to reveal a steamy stew which you can then enjoy with some buttery pilaf. Naturally, the unusual Testi Kebabı is one of the touristy must-haves when visiting Cappadocia, and typical of dishes marketed to tourists, the kebabs we ate in Göreme left much to be desired. I did however, delight in the ridiculously tacky dagger that our waiter produced for cracking open our pots.

It wasn't bad, mind you, just overpriced and bland. While waiting for our coffee, Pedro felt the need to express the horrors of having to share a small sofa with me— I assure you he is not being truthful:

Ah, married life!


The sun had long since sunk below the horizon and though it was early evening, winter had turned the sky an inky black. It was an enticing word in a small font on a tourist map that set us upon the Aksaray-Nevşehir road: caravanserai. Caravanserais were situated along trade routes (the most famous being the Silk Road), where the large complexes could offer travelling merchants and their animals a place to rest, safe from bandits.

It was something we couldn't possibly miss— a ghostly, imposing portal rising high from a crumbling village on the side of a lonely stretch of road. The Ağzıkarahan Caravanserai was built between 1231–1239 CE, its entrance ornate with Seljuk patterns expertly carved in stone. Were it not for the headlights of our car, its beauty would be lost in the darkness. I pushed my camera with a desperate hope that it could capture some sense of what was before me— inevitably, its flashes coaxed a short, bent figure out from the shadows, who asked if we wanted to have the massive door unlocked.

For five lira he handed us a pair of weak plastic torches and welcomed us inside a pitch-black open space, walled in by structures I couldn't quite make out. The light from my torch barely reached my feet, and I moved with a slight tremble, aware of my propensity to walk into walls, fall off things, and generally injure myself. Curious about the construction of the caravanserai, I began to take photos blindly, the flash briefly illuminating arches and a small mescit. It felt like the beginning of a horror film, when the unsuspecting tourist suddenly catches a ghoulish figure in the background of a photo...

Imagine this nearly forgotten space alive with the shuffling of camels, donkeys, and horses, the conversations and tales of travellers floating up into the night; fires lighting, heating, cooking— the smell of animal and of supper.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

the missing faces of saints

The Ihlara Valley in Cappadocia is riddled with caves, many of which were constructed into early churches. This particular beauty, the Ağaçaltı Church, has biblical frescoes that date back to the 9th–11th centuries CE.

As is typical of any early Christian structure in Turkey, there is an unbelievable amount of vandalism and graffiti, with many of the faces of saints scratched out. Much of the graffiti dates back over decades and sometimes even centuries, but some of it is as recent as the week before last. Having always been told that Muslims ran rampant across the land, chipping off faces and eyes in disagreement with the depiction of the human form in art, I am confused by the amount of Greek, Armenian, and Georgian text etched into the painted surfaces. There is everything from names to entire paragraphs in these languages, and I have to wonder what the intentions were behind all of this destructive expression...  

It's all a shame really; it doesn't matter what religion these frescoes depict, they are part of our human history. I do hate to see the beautiful faces destroyed, and I wonder what kind of tacky individual needs to profess their love for a girl by carving her name in a heart on a 9th Century fresco. Was she impressed?

to the ihlara valley

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

airport bear

This delightful fellow is our transition between Scandinavia and Cappadocia. A lot happened in between the two trips, mainly a lot of stippling for those ink portraits that showed in Toulouse (which you can see here and here). Are you ready? We will now leave the northern chill and warm company of friends for the surreal moonscape of Cappadocia.

By the way, ten lira is a lot for a bear on a stick, so mister blue here stayed in the domestic terminal of Atatürk Airport.

Monday, January 19, 2015

elegance and greasy sausage

Whether lost in a maze of rough and weathered streets, or beneath the elegant spires and heroic statues of glorious pasts, there is always a person with a cart selling something delicious, cheap, and greasy. Here in Copenhagen, this treat often materialises in the form of bacon wrapped sausages shoved into hollow buns filled with mustard.

Oh yes.

red, green, blue, bird

Sunday, January 18, 2015

on the walls

danmark with an 'a'

The last time I was in Copenhagen, my grandad was dying. Since he couldn't make the trip from California to his beloved Danmark with an 'a', I bought a plane ticket and went for him. I wanted to smell Denmark, eat Denmark, drink Denmark. I wanted to visit his hometown of Esbjerg, and meet his cousin Maria. I wanted to visit his father's grave. I wanted to do all the things he would do if he could, and I wanted to report back to him all the feelings I felt, and show him hundreds of photos. He liked to look at photos.

When I called him from Maria's house and he heard our voices together for the first time, he cried. I told him about the herring and the hakkebøf, the rain and the sea. I told him I would see him soon.

He died on the day I arrived in California. I never got to show him the photographs I took.

And so I found myself in his Danmark again, with a terrible aching inside. There are so many things I wish I could tell him. He would have loved Pedro— he would have told him all the stories I loved to hear, even if it was for the hundredth time. I can see him clearly; turning in his armchair to spin his globe for Portugal, with an "I'll be damned" muttering out from a cloud of pipe smoke.

Jeg elsker dig, Morfar.