Fred and Sharon spent a week in Turkey on this latest trip.
Luckily we had easily obtained online visas some time before the current low point in relations between our two countries. The political impasse means that Turkey had stopped airport and online visas, thus hindering touristic travel. We can only hope that both countries come to their senses, because we have many Turkish friends and love traveling to this fascinating ancient land.
This time in Istanbul there were no cruise ships in port and no tour buses filled with western tourists. Tourism hasn’t totally dried up, however. We saw many Arab and Russian visitors, and even more Chinese groups.
Still, many of our friends are not doing well. Well-known and respected carpet stores are empty of customers, and some places are already bankrupt and closed. Further, although we felt totally safe, the political atmosphere is as highly charged as in the U.S. with “fake news” affecting people’s political views…just like here.
We bought lots of neat stuff for our shop during our stay, and made many new friends.
While Sharon managed the shopping, Fred was determined to travel to see an archeological site we had missed during our last trip–the 12,000 year-old temple at Gobeklitepe near Urfa in southeast Turkey.
We were last in Urfa, near the Syrian border, five years ago. We had visited a number of ancient sites, including the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the world. We had then heard about excavations at another site where a farmer plowing a field had pulled up a tall
thin rock that had damaged his plow…only to find it was covered with animal carvings. Scientists had uncovered a temple complex there which, according to initial reports, was four or five thousand years old, like many in Turkey. We skipped it.
A short while after returning home, we picked up a National Geographic to find the cover story explained that revised carbon dating had proved that the temple site we skipped, Gobeklitepe, was now confirmed to have been constructed about 10,000 B.C. !!! This new time-frame so pre-dates any known settlements in the world that its very existence has thrown all theories of how humans used religion to moved from hunter-gatherers to settled life out the window.
Fred wasn’t going to miss this again, so he set off on a trip to the area with our best Turkish friend, Ali, who was coincidentally from the Urfa area. They flew down to the region where every tourist-related business and rental car company bragged that Urfa was the “Gateway to Gobeklitepe.” A new museum was to have been built in 2016, along with a large roof to protect the temple.
After some trial and error, the two adventurers arrived at the site full of excitement and expectation.
It was closed. A watchman with big ferocious dogs would not even allow them to approach the site. Whaaaat ???? The museum and roof, which were to have been finished by July 2017, remained unfinished, and the complex was deserted… closed to visitors. Devastated and disappointed, they drove back to town and then noticed a small sign in Turkish that said the site was closed. An even smaller sign in English cited the construction project of June 2016-July 2017.
No one anywhere, either in Istanbul or Urfa, had told us it this. Later in the day, we told local tourist-related people and they were amazed. Apparently none had been there, and no one seemed aware it was closed.
So the closest Fred got to photographing those temple carvings was photographing cement copies of the carvings in the roundabout on the highway leading up to the site.