Daily Update

Welcome to the daily update page! The 2012 trip is now over, but please peruse the daily blogs, if you wish to find out where we went, what we did, and all that we experienced.

UPDATE: August 1, 2012

Final entry.  In the States now after our whirlwind trip, leaving behind our home for the past month.  Woke up not knowing where I was — my brain kept trying to figure out which city we were in, whether I had to pack or not, what time breakfast was, and when the bus would be departing.  Many heartfelt (and a few tearful) farewells, as we ended this tremendous experience, for faculty and students.

Two short thoughts to end this blog, which occurred to me on the plane.

First, for the students.  I heard many comments the last day or two about the trip, how pleased people were about their time in Turkey, and I’m grateful for all the compliments and constructive criticism (for when we run version 2.0 in 2014).  In addition to what you have learned, I hope that you take away the lesson that we live in an exciting global community, where we need to put aside any preconceived notions of foreign lands, and plunge into the cultures that surround us.  Turkey is a wonderful place to do this, and it was a pleasure to show you around a country where I have been priveleged to work and live for the past 20 years.  To be able to create and implement this trip was a dream that I have long shared with Aydin, and to live that dream, to see all of you there and sharing with us such a wonderful country, with its long history, vibrant modern culture and welcoming people, brought me personally a great deal of satisfaction.  I hope in your lives you also have a chance to see your own dreams come true; there is no greater satisfaction, I think, than to see one’s dreams come to life and to share your passions with others.

Which brings me to the second point, which is that this entire program could not have been possible without the contributions of many people at or associated with Gonzaga.  I’m grateful to the Gonzaga Administration and Study Abroad for their support over the past 1.5 years, as we took this program from the planning stages through its final implementation.  Their support allowed this experience to happen, and I hope that they are pleased with the results.  Even more so, it would have been impossible to run this program without the support and enthusiasm of my colleagues and fellow travelersProf. Dan Garrity, Fr. Steve Kuder, and Phil Taylor — who enabled us to offer a wonderful academic and personal experience for the students.  You have only to watch the videos created by Dan and his crew to get a sense of how successful the trip has been.  Finally, all of us owe an enormous debt to my long-time friend and former student, our Turkish Zag Aydin Aygun, as well as his wife/logistician Sofie and partner Patrick Olson.  The smooth and successful implementation of this trip is owed in large part to their tremendous energy and professionalism, which allowed an entire month on the road to pass with nary a hitch.  This trip could not have taken place without their efforts, and I feel blessed to have been able to work with them as we brought this program to life.

And with those thoughts, I say to you all: tesekkür ederim (thank you!),  kendine iyi bak (look after yourself well!) and güle güle (good-bye)!

UPDATE: July 31, 2012

And so it’s here: the final day of the trip.  Somewhat hard to believe, that the trip has gone so quickly.  No one seems quite ready to leave, and when I joked about being only halfway through the program, several of the students looked quite hopefully that we’d move on to the other parts of this vast country which we’ve not yet visited.  But shortly we will have to depart, to rejoin friends and family at home, drawing our adventure to a close.

That said, we managed to squeeze in one more lovely day in Istanbul, a particularly comfortable one since the weather has — at last — become cool and breezy, the humidity has dropped, and walking through this busy city is as refreshing as it should be.  The morning was given over to our final classes, wrapping up the coursework to bring the academic side of this program to a close.  After a final exam by Fr. Kuder, the group discussed with me the nature of empires in Turkey, how they related to what we saw at the myriad of sites we visited, and how the concepts which we studied can be applied to the modern world — specifically whether we live in an American Empire or not.  It was a very thoughtful hour, one that allowed us to contemplate for a final time the people and cultures of this rich land, one which the conversation demonstrated had made a deep impression on the students.

The afternoon was given over to lighter affairs, starting with a lunch in the Sultanahmet area in the Old City.  Aydin led several of the more adventurous souls to taste a final culinary treat, Kokorec, the mixed, fried animal innards that are a Turkish street specialty.  We then boarded a boat and for two hours cruised up the Bosphoros, enjoying the wind and waves and sights of the city from the water.  Following our return, students had free time to shop, visit the odd sight that they hadn’t seen yet, and relax.  We then headed off to our farewell dinner along the Bosphoros, a three-hour meal filled with laughter, speeches, a few emotional moments and, of course, a final round of tasty Turkish cuisine.  As the students spoke about their experience to the others, I felt a great sense of satisfaction that we had achieved our objectives, having brought them to a foreign land where they visited some of the most important sites in human history, gained close, new friends, and expanded their horizons.  This is the goal of study abroad, in my opinion, to open the mind and create new perspectives, and in this I believe my colleagues and I have succeeded.

But ask them yourselves, since tomorrow morning our travelers depart with transfers to the airport, and we return them to you, perhaps a bit more worldly, a few pounds heavier (Turkish food has a way of doing that), and unquestionably changed by the month we have spent together, on this joyous ride.

UPDATE: July 30, 2012

Two days to go, and the winding down continues.  Today, the final day of our on-site outings, was in Ottoman Istanbul, looking in depth at the final empire of our program, that of the Ottoman Turks.  A great way to review all of the peoples and empires we’ve discussed, and to get to know this wonderful city even more.

Our schedule was a busy one (as usual), but we were out early (8:45) and ready to go.  The morning was spent in the Ottoman palace of Topkapi, on the First Hill of Istanbul.  This was the site of the original Greek settlement of Byzantium, and was the heart of Constantine’s city.  It was also the site of the Ottoman palace that was established shortly after the conquest of the city by the Turks in 1453.  For three hours we wandered through the beautifully preserved public and private buildings, viewing the objects from the treasury (e.g. jeweled daggers, with emeralds the size of walnuts, and exquisite turban pins with diamonds of similar size) as well as sacred objects said to belong to Muhammed himself.  We also toured through the harem, learning from Aydin about the lives of the women and servants there (far different from the more salacious stories that were told in the West).

Following our tour of the palace, we made a quick stop at the famous basilica cistern of Istanbul, Yerebatan Sarayi, to discuss water systems in the city in the Byzantine and Ottoman period.  After a quick lunch, we proceeded to the Blue Mosque, for a discussion of imperial Ottoman architecture and city organization.  The Ottoman city – and modern Istanbul today – was organized into neighborhoods (mahalle) surrounding the mosques, which sat at the center of large complexes (kulliye) that held public kitchens, schools, libraries, hospitals and more.   We also spoke about developments in Ottoman architecture, with the adaptation of the design of the Hagia Sophia into new, vibrant and harmonious structural forms.

The afternoon was spent in a more relaxing fashion, with shopping (and more video shooting) at the Grand Bazaar, the covered market of Istanbul dating to 1461.  We strove mightily to support the Turkish economy; expect many goodies, those of you at home.   Hearty bargaining took place, and much fun was had by all.  Additional purchasing took place shortly afterwards in the Spice Bazaar, amid the wonderful smells and colorful sights of Istanbul’s premier food market.  Although the hot and humid weather left us tired by the end of the day, it was a memorable trip through the city and its more recent developments, tacking on one more empire as the trip comes to a close.  Tomorrow we wrap things up, and then we send the students on their way, to tell you about their experiences in person.

UPDATE: July 29, 2012

Seems a bit odd to wake up in the morning and not have to repack, now that we are in Istanbul and in the final days of our trip.   But it’s good to be off of the road, after such a long trip, and the students are glad to be back here as well.  I had to smile when I heard Victoria Fallgren say, “Ah, it’s good to be home.”  I’ve always found Turkey to be a very welcoming country, and it appears that I’m not alone in this…

Today was dedicated to the Byzantine Empire, that oft-maligned successor to the Romans in the eastern Mediterranean (whose citizens actually considered themselves TO BE Romans, “Byzantine” being a historical and sometimes pejorative term applied only in more recent times).  Indeed, it is an empire more often recognized for its more dramatic moments (e.g. fervent religious controversies, great battles won and lost, deposed emperors having their nose and ears cut off) than for its considerable achievements, which include its extraordinary monuments and artistic representations, an adept administrative and financial structure, a complex legal system, and its astounding longevity (lasting for over 1000 years, in one form or another).   Istanbul is a wonderful place to examine the more positive aspects of its legacy, so this is what we set out to do.

Our first stop was a pilgrimage, really, to one of the greatest monuments ever created, the Hagia Sophia, Justinian’s cathedral to Holy Wisdom.   The third successive church on the site, it was constructed in an astounding five years (532-37 AD) and for nearly 1000 years remained the largest church in the world.  Once inside we discussed at length its construction history (with its massive dome and pendentive system), its decorative system and its historical significance.  We wandered through this massive structure for over two hours, delighting in its gorgeous marbles and mosaics, marveling at its lofty dome, and chasing down its architectural details.  Afterwards we set off for the small, but wonderful Mosaics Museum, what is actually part of Justinian’s imperial palace and a personal favorite of mine in Istanbul.  Located about 10 feet below the modern street level, this small museum features a walk-through in one of the palace corridors covered in stunning 6th-century mosaics, which include depictions of animals, daily scenes, gods and the occasional mythical creatures (like sphinxes and griffins).  Not what one would expect to find in a Christian emperor’s house, and an enlightening moment for demonstrating the playful inventiveness and diversity of Byzantine art.

After lunch nearby, in the area known as Sultanahmet, we drove around the city’s 5th century land walls, discussing their structure and speedy construction (Atilla the Hun was coming; I’d have been speedy, too).  From there we continued to the Chora Church, which houses the best preserved Late Byzantine mosaics in the world, a ceiling and wall cycle that follows the lives of Mary and Jesus, based upon the 3rd-century Gospel of James.  Finally, we made a brief stop at the Orthodox Patriarchate, to visit its small but stunning church and to discuss the role of this religion in the Byzantine and modern world.  From there we returned to our hostel, the humidity having subsided, to enjoy a cool and breezy evening in the ‘Bul.

UPDATE: July 28, 2012

And so we begin the final leg of trip, moving today from Eskisehir to Istanbul and completing our broad circular path across Anatolia.  It’s a bit hard to believe that we set out from Istanbul over three weeks ago, yet the blog says it’s so, and August is nearly upon us.  But the road trip must finally end, and a three-day stay in Istanbul is a fitting way to end our program.

Compared to the busy schedule which we’ve had, today was expected to be a relatively quiet, straightforward part of the trip.  Until we got lost.  We left Eskisehir around nine, heading west and then north as we made our way towards modern Iznik, the ancient city of Nicaea.  For the past 20 years, however, Turkey has been increasingly expanding its road network, and many new highways have been created or old ones doubled in size.  Where and what construction is taking place at any given time is anyone’s guess.  Much to our dismay, we realized that the short cut we had hoped to take was under construction.  We saw the open section of the route across the valley, but a second attempt to reach it was foiled as well, this time by a railroad bridge that was two feet too low for our bus!  Finally, we headed further north and took a narrow, mountainous road that promised to be another short cut…and this time our luck held.  In fact, when we rejoined the main road to Iznik, we found that the route we probably should have taken from the east was blocked off…by construction.  Clearly it was time for us to get back to Istanbul.

Our visit to Nicaea (when we finally got there) was a busy but quick one, beginning with a long discussion about the emperor Constantine and Nicene Creed alongside the Iznik Lake, near to the First Ecumenical Council likely took place.  We then proceeded to walk atop the fortifications, which are the best preserved Byzantine walls in Turkey, excepting Istanbul’s.  After lunch and a tour of the church where the 7th Ecumenical Council met, we headed to Istanbul, our trip including a lovely ferry ride across the Sea of Marmara.  An hour later, we crossed back over into Asia and arrived at the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) campus, where we will stay for the final three days.  Tomorrow: Byzantine and Ottoman Istanbul.

UPDATE: July 27, 2012

Zooming across the Anatolian plateau, heading for Eskisehir (= Old City), where we’ll be staying tonight.   An exciting day is now coming to a close, and a special one for me, as I took our team to my own excavation site, the ancient Phrygian capital of Gordion.  It was a quick homecoming for me – I was able to spend about 20 minutes at the dig house, speaking with old friends – but a lovely one, to a place that holds 20 years of memories.

But sadly nothing stays the same, as I learned this morning.  Our first stop back in Ankara was the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, one of the top three museums in Turkey.  I know the director and most of the staff there, and expected to see them around the museum, catch up with old friends, have the requisite glass of Turkish tea.  Instead, we couldn’t even get to the museum, since they were tearing up the road leading up the Kale (= Castle) where the museum is based.  Having arrived on foot, we found about three-quarters of the museum closed for the next year, the 16th-century building which houses the collection undergoing a major restoration over the next year.  Nonetheless, the group rallied and focused on the material available, which included some of the most important finds from Turkey spanning over an 8000-year period.  Taylor Ann Sims started us off with a discussion of Anatolia’s most important deity, the Mother Goddess Kybele, whose worship is deeply rooted in central Turkey and across multiple civilizations.  We then studied major Bronze Age and Iron Age finds in the museum collection, including the golden treasures from Alacahöyük and the stone relief carvings from Carcamesh (excavated in part by T.H. Lawrence, of Arabia fame).

After the museum, we made two additional stops in the city, both in honor of major figures in ancient and modern history.  The first was at the Temple of Augustus and Rome, dedicated to the imperial cult and bearing, in Greek and Latin, one of the largest inscriptions ever found, the Res Gestae of Augustus (Rome’s first emperor).   The Classical Civ students in particular were thrilled, seeing the building – first a temple, then a church, and finally part of a mosque – that bears this immense testimony to the deeds of Augustus’ 41-year reign.  Following this visit, we proceeded to Anitkabir, where we toured the mausoleum to Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.  Ataturk is a fascinating man, the driving force behind the establishment of modern Turkey and a beacon of progressive reform for the Middle East and other countries.   Within a period of five years, for example, he took a country with a literacy rate of about 10% and increased it eightfold.  The quiet, solemn environment of the mausoleum was an excellent place to discuss the achievements of modern Turkey, which has emerged as one of the most important economic and political players of the Middle East.

Finally, after lunch outside of Ankara, we proceeded to Gordion.  Although the day has become brutally hot, we began in one of the coolest places (literally and figurately) in central Anatolia, the so-called Midas Tumulus.  Here we were told, by Chastonie Chipman, about the excavation of this major monument in the mid-1950s and its exciting finds.   The temperature inside is always in the 50s, so we enjoyed a cool half an hour, hearing about the finds and exploring the tomb.  After a stop at the Gordion Museum (at which time I headed over to the dig house for my short visit), we then toured the site, where one of the Gordion team member (that would be me) led the group across the Citadel Mound, examining the destroyed palace of ca. 800 BC.  Having seen so many sites over the past three weeks, it was a true pleasure to take them to my own site and guide them through its history.  Oozing back inside the bus (it really was quite hot today), we then headed down the road, reaching Eskisehir, our final overnight before returning to Istanbul.  For me, it was an emotional day, a trip back to where I spent so many years and had so many of my own foundational experiences.

UPDATE: July 26, 2012

An early wake-up and departure for us (7:45 am), as we headed north, deeper into central Anatolia and its massive, rolling plateau.  Our objective today was to explore Hattusha, the capital city of the Hittites, a people who held sway over central Turkey and numerous peripheral regions from the 17th to the early 12th centuries B.C.  They were one of the world’s first and most powerful empires: they fought the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II and his army to a standstill at the Battle of Kadesh in ca. 1275 B.C., when Egypt was arguably at the height of its own power.  Yet only a little more than a century ago, we knew almost nothing about these people and their culture, before the extensive German excavations began there in the early 20th century.  So today we were combining a discussion of both origins AND empires, the two major themes of our program, to examine how one of the earliest imperial systems worked and its people lived.

And so we proceeded to drive 3 hours to Hattusha – and then drive around most of the site, since this Late Bronze Age city is so large and steep that it is the best way to see it all when on a tight schedule.  We began with the massive fortifications, examining the parabolic-shaped gates decorated with carved lions, sphinxes and gods.  Several volunteers then agreed to scale the walls for us, attacking the city like the wild Kaska tribes once did, to show the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the exterior fortifications (Colin Johnson, first to the top, earned himself a free lunch).  Following this dramatic reenactment, we continued around the site, observing the numerous temples, inscriptions, shrines and water collection pools.  We next climbed the acropolis of Büyükkale and toured one of the very first palaces in the world, examining the use of public and private space in an imperial residence.  Finally, we studied the Great Temple of the Weather God, a massive complex dedicated to the most important gods of the city.  This naturally led us to the nearby rock sanctuary of Yazilikaya, an open air worship area with its rock-cut reliefs of the Hittite gods.  Victoria Fallgren used the location to present information about Hittite religion and myth, which played an important role in magnifying Hittite imperial power, ideology and control.

After a quick roadside lunch, we headed to Ankara, capital of modern Turkey, about two hours to the west.  For me, this is a special part of the trip, as I lived in Ankara as a student for 2.5 years and consider it my second home.  Though many of my friends since then have moved on, and others are out in the field at excavations, it was still lovely to be back, to walk the streets again (stepping carefully, since the sidewalks are notoriously treacherous), and see me old haunts.  Hmmm, I feel a reflection coming on – I think that I shall add one to the blog reflection page, among the mix of poetic, humorous and thoughtful submissions of our students (take a look, if you haven’t already).   More on the city tomorrow, as we visit some of its most important sites…

UPDATE: July 25, 2012

Our second day in Cappadocia began early, ended late and thrilled everyone.  There isn’t much more that one could wish, as our trip continues to unfold.

First, there were the early risers, our dawn balloonists.  The contest winners (see yesterday’s blog) and several other students (who consented to pay the cost of the fare) were on the road by 4:15 am, off to soar into the skies above Cappadocia.  They returned to breakfast with adrenaline-fueled grins, sparkling over their airborne journey, slightly awestruck at what they had done and seen.  Expect several student reflections on the subject over the next few days (see our reflections page on this blog).

The entire group then headed out for another scenic hike, down a small valley which led from the fortress town of Uçhisar to Göreme, the central community of the region.   It was a lovely hike, with stops to pick and eat the white mulberries and ripe apricots growing alongside the winding path.  We were then picked up by Altan and the bus and taken to the small, scenic town of Ayvalik, where we were treated to a fantastic four-course village lunch.  We were not merely guests, however: the students learned their way around a Turkish kitchen, shaping and baking the bread for the meal as well as making the desert (an apricot and walnut concoction of sigh-inducing yumminess).

After a short break at the hotel, for swimming and napping (some of our early bird balloonists were a trifle woozy), we set out for the venerable Byzantine monastery at Göreme, where Aydin toured us through the small churches and refectories.  Carved into the soft local tufa, this dense cluster of buildings is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it contains the best-preserved Middle Byzantine frescoes (9th-11th centuries) in the world.  The hour we spent there flew by, and they had to usher us out the gates as they closed up for the day, as we weren’t disposed to leave yet.  Any remaining energy, however, found an outlet in an evening hike through the Rose Valley (where the tufa is a lovely magenta color) or carpet shopping in Göreme.  We arrived back at the hotel for our final night there, a bit late but happy and hungry, as we neared the end of our Cappadocian visit.  Next up we have a “capital” day planned out: the Hittite capital of Hattusha and the Turkish capital of Ankara.

UPDATE: July 24, 2012

Everyone needs a bit of rest, myself included, so in order to get ready for one final week of travel, we changed the schedule a bit today to afford some downtime to the group.  The weather here in Cappadocia is delightful, as always, much like Spokane: dry, cool at night, breezy.  And so we decided, after so much bus time of late, to cool our heels, slow down and enjoy the scenery.

And what scenery there is.  While I stayed at the hotel to catch up on business and grading, the students headed off with Aydin and the other professors for a two-hour hike in the Meskendir Valley, a beautiful, vista-filled canyon not far from our hotel.  For those of you who have never seen the landscape of this region, it is truly unique, with thick blankets of volcanic ash worn away by wind and rain into an amazing series of shapes, cones, pillars and more.  The colors of the stone vary from place to place; one finds a pastel panorama of pinks, yellows, grays, and greens.  Student reaction, as you can imagine, was exuberant, with much climbing, jumping and (apparently) rampant silliness.  They certainly returned to the Dinler Hotel with broad smiles, ready to enjoy the pool, catch up on reading and get to writing up their next assignments.  For students who hadn’t had enough hiking, Aydin led a second expedition in the early evening, this time to the Ask (Love) Valley, where the volcanic columns resemble…well, this is a family blog, so I’ll stop there.  I’m sure that student pictures will shortly appear on the photo page of the blog (you’ll get it then, if you don’t now. We’re NOT talking subtle here).

The only real excitement for the day (after getting fresh laundry back — a happy moment for many) was the Blog Contest.  Aydin had posed this contest two weeks ago, with the best student reflection and best student picture receiving an early morning balloon ride over Cappadocia.  Everyone voted, tension ran high as the tally took place.  The winners were Victoria Fallgren (best picture: the Andrew Bobsled photo), and a tie for best reflection between Hanna Hanks and Andrew Gorini.  The downside was a 4:15 am pick-up time, but they are going to have a marvelous experience, as they drift up and down, in and out of the Cappadocian valleys.  Congrats to our winners!  And more news tomorrow, as we continue to explore this stunningly beautiful part of the country.

UPDATE: July 23, 2012

Today began the loop back towards Istanbul, as we left hot, coastal Antalya and the Eastern Mediterranean for the inland plateau of Anatolia. For those of you familiar with central Washington, imagine no further: on the high, dry and cool plateau you could be just outside Ritzville or Moses Lake, with its heavily farmed flatlands and low mesas.  This is where my own research has taken place over the past 20 years, so it was with high spirits that Aydin and I guided the program into the not-so-mysterious interior of Turkey.

Much of today was spent on the bus, heading towards Cappadocia (our base for the next several days), with our trip punctuated by stops at several magnificent sites.  The first was the Neo-Hittite summer palace at Karatepe, an open-air museum and national park located 2 hours north of Antakya.  Here we viewed the magnificent carved orthostat reliefs and discussed the world of the Neo-Hittite kingdoms, the successors to the Hittites who, from the 10th to 8th centuries B.C., ruled over a large swathe of southeastern Turkey.  From there, after a quick roadside lunch, we proceeded into southern Cappadocia to the Gumusler Monastery, an 11th-century community whose houses and churches were carved into the soft tufa rock of this region.  Here we had our first glimpse of Cappadocian culture, with its beautiful wall-paintings and excavated buildings.  To experience more of the latter, our final stop of the day was the Underground City of Kaymakli, just south of Nevsehir (our home for the next several days).  Descending deep below the surface, our adventurous students crouched and crawled through the settlement’s underground passages and rooms, most likely used as an emergency refuge from the numerous armies — Persians, Lydians, Macedonians, Romans, Selcuks, etc. — which often passed through central Turkey.  Emerging unscathed back on the surface, we headed to Nevsehir and the Dinler Hotel, where we swam in the pool, had our buffet supper, and readied ourselves to hike tomorrow in the scenic beauty of Cappadocia.

UPDATE: July 22, 2012

Once the third largest city in the Roman Empire, ancient Antioch – modern Antakya – is a mere shadow of its former self.  Its population has only recently begun to reach the levels at its heydey (ca. 100,000 people) of the Roman and Byzantine periods, when it was surpassed only by Rome and Alexandria in terms of size, wealth and reputation.  Little evidence of that city remains on the surface; like so many sites, much is now buried by the accumulation of river (fluvial) deposits and eroded soils from the nearby mountains.  Still, it was worth traveling to the southernmost tip of Turkey to see the city where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.

The day was surprisingly cool and breezy, a wonderful gift after the hot weather in Antalya.  Our day began underground, actually, at the nearby site of Seleucia ad Piera (mod. Samandag), which was once Antioch’s port city and now is a thriving beach town.  Here we descended into one of the greatest engineering works of the Roman Empire, the so-called Titus Tunnel.  This channel, dug to divert an entire river around the port city, cuts deeply through the local bedrock and, at one point, 200 meters (ca. 600 ft) through a mountain.  It is a spectacular reminder not just of how advanced Roman engineering was, but also the harshness of the Roman system against those who rebelled, having been dug (as an inscription there tells us) by enslaved Jews taken from the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.  For me, this monument carries a personal significance; knowing that my own ancestors were forced into back-breaking labor to make this tunnel was, as always, a chilling thought.

We soon emerged back into the daylight, however, with a trip to the monastery of St. Simon the Younger, on a mountaintop just south of Antakya.  Now surrounded by a giant windfarm (green energy is alive and well here in Turkey), this monastery was inspired by this ascetic stylite, or column-sitter, who spend several decades atop a column in this location, a holy and inspiring figure to the early Christians of the region.

After lunch back in Antakya, we proceeded to the local museum, which contains one of the best collections of ancient mosaics in the Mediterranean.  Room after room of beautiful floor decorations greeted us as we entered the building, a stunning sight that reflected the enormous production of this decorative form in the region around Antioch.  We were introduced to the collection and the art of mosaic-making by Geoff Melder, who led us through the collection and knowledgeably directed our attention to representative examples of the different design types.  A fun surprise for me was to meet with an old excavation friend, Ozcan Simsek, who is now the museum’s director (and getting ready a brand new museum to hold the collection).  As the theme of “It’s a Small, Small World” ran through my head (and sadly is now stuck there), I was reminded that I’ve been working here for 20 years, having met Ozcan when I was a young grad student.  Tempus fugit, as the Romans would say…

Our last stop was the Grotto of St. Peter, located on the mountain above the city, a small, rocky cavern where some of the city’s earliest Christians are said to have met.  Once again, we were treated by Fr. Kuder and Aydin to a fascinating discussion of early Christian dynamics, illuminating aspects of identity, politics and doctrine associated with one of the most important early Christian communities in the world.  For many of the students, a mass at the small, local Catholic church followed shortly afterwards, and for everyone we had a splendid dinner in a local suburb named Harbiye, ancient Daphne, at a venerable restaurant named the Hidro.  This green, well-watered area was the site where the god Apollo chased the lovely nymph Daphne through the woods, a romp which ended in her escape by transformation into a laurel tree (which became Apollo’s favorite).  The only transformation we did was around our waists, with a traditional meal of starter plates (meze) and grilled meats that left us happy, sated ready to head to Cappadocia tomorrow…

UPDATE: July 21, 2012

Although we’ve been generally calling our program “Gonzaga-in-Turkey”, the official title includes a colon, and an amplification: “Origins and Empires”.  So far, we’ve spent a great deal of time on the latter, but today we began to explore the role which Turkey has played in shaping the history, culture and religions of the human past.

We began with a visit to the Mevlana Museum in Konya (where we stayed last night), to learn about the mystic Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Balkhi, known in Turkey as Mevlana and in the West as Rumi.  It was in Konya that Rumi lived (during the 13th century), and where his followers established the Sufi Order, better known as the Whirling Dervishes.  While we did not see any dervishes whirl today (the dance – called the “sema” — normally take place in the early winter), we did discuss the origins of this group, meditated on the beauty of Rumi’s poetry, and toured the museum dedicated to his life and the dervish order.

Following that visit, we drove an hour in order to the famous site of Çatalhöyük, the 9400-year-old mounded settlement on the Konya Plain.  Excavated in the early 1960s, Çatalhöyük forever changed our understanding of the Neolithic period, bringing new light to bear on the origins of human settlement, animal domestication and the advent of farming.  Having worked there several years ago, I was able to arrange a tour by one of the leading staff members, James, who toured us across the site for over an hour (and charmed some of our female students with his British wit and accent).  The visit allowed us to see one of the world’s foremost excavations in action, with 120 excavators, specialists and students carefully investigating the ancient mudbrick houses and their contents, in what is one of the earliest human settlements ever found.  It was quite a day, to put it mildly.

The final stop of the day was a short one, but an important one, for it allowed us to explore the origin of St. Paul himself.  After speeding through the Cilician Gates – a very narrow pass through the Taurus Mts. – we drove to Tarsus, the ancient and modern city which lies upon the Cilician Plain.  Though few ruins remain to be seen there, we did visit St. Paul’s well and listened to Fr. Kuder and Aydin discuss what we know of Paul’s early background, in what was a prosperous university city.   It rounded off the day nicely, and our spirits later soared further when we encountered the rarest of phenomenon in blistering mid-July: an actual rainstorm.   It was with high spirits, then, that we pulled in to the Orontes Hotel in Antakya in the early evening, ready to explore ancient Antioch the next day.

UPDATE: July 20, 2012

After a busy week in hot and humid Antalya, it was with some relief (weather-wise) that, following a morning in the classroom, we departed northwards.  We were headed back to Pisidia, the ancient land of mountains, mountains and, well, more mountains.  Our goal was Pisidian Antioch (mod. Yalvaç), a Hellenistic colony that became a major Roman colony under the Emperor Augustus, in 25 BC.  Our focus today, in class and on site, was to investigate Roman imperial power, how it was used and how it manifested itself in terms of its physical presence.

Annexing the region in 25 BC in the face of a rebellious native population (rowdy Pisidians, that is), Augustus settled something like 30,000 Roman/Italian veterans and their families at Pisidian Antioch, on what was essentially the eastern frontier of the empire.  As such, the site provides a perfect example of Roman colonization, with its carefully laid-out streets, its Latin inscriptions, and its majestic Imperial cult sanctuary and temple to Augustus (the subject of a detailed talk by Charlie Nichols).  We could have easily been on an Italian site, given the evidence before us.  The modern equivalent would be a U.S. base on foreign soil, with all the amenities of American life provided for the soldiers (or veterans, in the ancient case).  The emperor had multiple reasons for this new foundation: internal security, providing land to recently decommissioned soldiers of the civil wars, Romanizing the natives, and protecting trade and communication routes with the East.  He succeeded in all these areas, for within 30 years Rome successfully pacified the natives, flooding this region with 12 such colonies, a magnificent new road system, and the resources of its empire.  Thus was the empire born (in this region, at least).  A sobering lesson, as we headed off to Konya, where we would be staying for the night (the first of Ramadan, or Ramazan here in Turkey).

UPDATE: July 19, 2012

From heat to humidity, still sweating here in Antalya.  We’ve all become more or less acclimated to the weather by now, but yesterday’s pleasant conditions at Sagalassos left us hoping that the worst was over.  But it was not to be: we woke to quite warm, muggy conditions as we set off for ancient Lycia, the coastal area lying to the west of Antalya. It’s our third discrete ethnic and geographical region in the past three days, having just visited Pamphylia and Pisidia as part of our exploration of the ancient peoples and cultures of Turkey.  Now the Lycians were at the plate.

We had several reasons to journey to Lycia.  The first was to examine Lycian culture, as seen through its burial customs and political institutions.  At our first stop, ancient Myra, we visited the city’s rock-cut tombs, dozens of house-shaped burial chambers carved into the cliff-side of the acropolis.  We were treated to an informative discussion by Andrew (Dewey) Williams about the Lycian League, the earliest representative form of government in the world and an inspiration to James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, as discussed in the Federalist Papers.  From there we proceeded nearby to the Church of St. Nicholas – yes, THE St. Nick – and, surrounded by Russian pilgrims, saw his burial place (where he was interred until the Italians from Bari made off with his bones in the 11th century).  We followed this up with a different religious experience: a tour of Myra’s harbor, Andriake, and a stop at the newly excavated synagogue, one of the earliest discovered in Turkey.

After a fish lunch at one of my favorite Lycian restaurants, the group proceeded to the beach and nearly site of Olympos.  Not to be confused with Olympia (the original site of the great games, soon taking place in London), this seaside city has never been excavated is largely popular for its evocative atmosphere.  Mostly given over to jungle, one wanders through the ruins, encountering a temple here, a church there, a who-knows-what sticking out of the thick bushes.  Sadly, they have begun to chop down the trees, and its charm is now being lost (since getting lost there was part of the charm).  In any case, after a swim in the Med, the group climbed for 20 minutes to reach the Chimera, another natural wonder of Turkey.  Linked to the mythical creature (part goat, lion and snake), this site has natural fires which burn continuously, fed by underground gases.  In the dusk, the flames were enticing, and we sadly lamented the lack of marshmallows in Turkey (though chocolate and graham crackers are available, for Smores).  But it was time to go, and what proved a long, hot but fun day ended soon afterwards, as we returned to Antalya for one final evening.

UPDATE: July 18, 2012

My mother recently told me: “Getting old is NOT for the weak.”  Today I had a sobering lesson in that, as I attempted to keep up with 17 undergrads on the mountain-top city of Termessos. The Hellenistic and Roman site, located about half an hour outside of Antalya (where we will continue to stay until Friday, at a private university dorm), is now a national park and remains unexcavated, a tremendously overgrown, romantic place that evokes the kind of wonder you suspect 19th century explorers felt when they traveled in Turkey.  This was to be our student testing ground: having visited a dozen ancient cities so far, they were tasked in groups to explore and map the site, analyzing the remaining monuments (some of which are still standing 30-40 feet tall).

Having sent them on their way on the well-marked paths, I proceeded to get lost.  Truly lost.  As a professional archaeologist, I found this a little embarrassing, as you might imagine.  The site is so large and so heavily wooded that parts of it are almost impenetrable.  Shortcuts are (as I learned) non-existant.  More than once I wished that I’d had a machete with me.  I finally got my bearings and emerged, scratched and sweaty, inside the theater, one of the best preserved in Turkey and full of our students, who were blissfully unaware that their teacher had just scaled the back side of the mountain.  Not only were they much smarter than me (having stuck to the paths), but I stared in frank envy as they clamored — in some cases ran — up and down the ancient city, with that kind of energy young people have, old people envy, and chiropractors make oodles of money from (with the latter trying to act like the former).  Nevertheless, the exercise appears to have been a success, teaching our lithe mountain goats the excitement and difficulties of site exploration, inside the most beautiful classroom setting I will likely ever have.  The picnic lunch provided by Aydin and his family at the end was a perfect way to round out several hours of mountain top scampering.  My own lessons were a bit more pragmatic: stay on the trail, wear long pants, and don’t pretend that you can keep up with the college kids anymore…

The rest of the day was a blissful relief from the heat, as we headed up into ancient Pisidia, the rough, mountainous interior of Turkey just north of Antalya.  After a quick stop at the Burdur museum, we headed to the site of ancient Sagalassos, a Belgian excavation of a Pisidian city perched (yes, again) on a mountain top.  Professional guides lead visitors through the site, and Laura marched us across this fascinating city, stopping every 15 minutes or so to introduce us to a new student excavator, who proceeded to explain his/her work and recent finds.  Most fascinating were the restored Roman fountain (= nymphaeum) and Hellenistic fountain house, both of which still flow with water from local springs.  We were grateful to the field director, Dr. Jeroen Poblome, for arranging our guide, to help us enjoy this cool, breezy site (after a week of very hot weather).  All of this travel left us quite hungry, but I leave the story of the Sheep’s Brain Soup for you to watch on the Turkish Zag Travel Show, also located on this blog.

UPDATE: July 17, 2012

Welcome back, for the Second Half of our tour.  Quite hard to believe that we have already reached this point.  But when you see how comfortable the students are now with this country and culture, how often they are casually throwing in a Turkish word or phrase, you realize that we’ve been here for awhile.

Antalya is a hot city.  Located in a beautiful bay on the southern coast, the temperatures here are usually among the highest in Turkey.  In the winter, this is lovely, like a trip to Florida or California.  In the summer, well, not so much.  It hit 43 Celsius yesterday, which is almost 110 degrees, the last day in a heat wave up from Africa.  Knowing this, we planned accordingly: the morning at two ancient sites, Perge and Aspendos, and the afternoon in the air-conditioned Antalya Museum.

Happily, it worked to perfection.  The morning was spent exploring some of the best preserved Roman monuments of their kind in the world: the baths and colonnaded streets of Perge (the largest ancient city in the region) and the theater and aqueduct of Aspendos.  In the South Gate Baths at Perge, Colin Johnson took us through the sequence of its rooms (from hot to cold), discussed the heating system and explained the cultural significance of bathing in the Roman empire.  At Aspendos, after touring the theater (which many people consider to be the best preserved Roman example in the world), we listened to a detailed talk by Alanna Redine on the equally impressive aqueduct and its superbly engineered inverted siphon.  The afternoon proved equally as wonderful, as we spent 2.5 hours in the Antalya Museum, one of the finest in Turkey with its stunning collection of artifacts from the region and a perhaps unparalleled collection of Roman statues, sculptural relief and sarcophagi in Turkey.  The latter were investigated by Brian Foster-Dow, who used the collection and a Hercules sarcophagus to explain in depth burial styles and tastes in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.  As we headed back to the hostel, smiles of satisfaction could be seen (hopefully not just for our air-conditioning in the bus)…

UPDATE: July 16, 2012

Mid-session break today, in hot and humid Antalya.  After a quick trip to the beach this morning, the group headed to — that’s right — the Mall!  Time for a little modern Turkey, hitting the food court and the air-conditioned movie theater.  When the students all start to say “Look — yet ANOTHER pile of old rocks!”, you know it’s time for a break (for us all).  Hey, I can take a hint (plus we planned for a full day of R & R in Aydin’s hometown).  Tune in tomorrow when we are back at it, visiting ancient Perge, Aspendos and the Antalya Museum…

UPDATE: July 15, 2012

A relaxed and happy crowd awaited me at breakfast this morning; nothing like a hot pool of mineral water to brighten spirits.  Perhaps even better, awaiting us today was a special treat, as we proceeded to ancient Hierapolis, an Italian excavation in central western Turkey.  For those of you who have flipped through brochures on Turkey, this is the city with the white cliffs and pools of bubbling water, unique geological features that make every travel website about this country.  The one I’m ALWAYS asked about (“Have you been to that site with the white cliffs?  What’s-it-called?”).  For the record, it’s called Pamukkale (“Cotton Castle”), for the whiteness of its calcified deposits and the rich crop of cotton grown in the region.

And the treat?  Yes, there was wading (and various antics, including an impressive human pyramid) in the pools along the cliffs, now carefully protected by the Turkish government in order to preserve them.  But for us, a rare opportunity to see a spectacular discovery: the tomb of St. Philip, unearthed only last year to much international fanfare.  Our guide was none other than the director of the excavation, Prof. Francesco D’Andria (Univ. of Lecce), who generously spent the morning with us and walked us through the site.  After visits to the theater and Plutonion (a sanctuary to the god of the underworld), we hiked upwards to the newly discovered church and tomb, one of the first groups allowed to visit the martyr’s resting place.  Prof. D’Andria narrated the tale of this remarkable find, a detective story that solved the mystery of a lost saint’s tomb sought after for decades.  We were privileged to see this new discovery, part of a remarkable day.

Following a delicious lunch of meze (starting plates), meat dishes, and birthday cake for our own Dan Garrity, we headed southeast in the bus to Antalya, in the midst of a heat wave (thanks, but no thanks, Africa).  In the early evening, we pulled into the Ugurlu Hostel, where we will stay for the next five nights (right around the corner from Aydin’s house).  And tomorrow, the mid-session break: no travel, no sites, no stress…

UPDATE: July 14, 2012

One of the great pleasures of being an archaeologist is working with colleagues who are as passionate about their work as you are.  Today I had the opportunity to show the students this, as we departed from Kusadasi to the ancient site of Aphrodisias, where New York University (NYU) has been excavating since 1961.  Famous for its sculpture, the site has yielded more carved marble objects — reliefs, sarcophagi, portraits, etc. — than perhaps any other site in the Mediterranean.

Upon our arrival, we proceeded to the Aphrodisias Museum, where Sydney Taylor ’12 discussed the reliefs from the Sebasteion, a set of long halls with over 120 carved reliefs depicting the imperial Julio-Claudian family, the Olympian gods, and peoples of the empire.  The monument is an enormous propaganda display for Rome’s first emperors, emblematic of our tour’s focus on ancient empires and their ideologies.  After a picnic lunch, we moved across the site to the stadium, the best preserved in the Mediterranean, where Anthony Johnson ’14 spoke about gladiators and ancient entertainment of the Roman period.

Next began a parade of experts from Aphrodisias, who explained their work at this dynamic American project: Kent Severson, one of the head conservators, explained the field of monument conservation while giving us a tour of the Hadrianic Baths, now closed and under restoration; Prof. Phil Stinson (Univ. of Kansas) led the students through the Civic Basilica, one of the city center’s most important urban buildings and the focus of his excavations and planning for the past 10 years; and Dr. Alex Solochek, field director for Aphrodisias, who took us through the most recent excavations at the site, a major Roman street and set of shops.  By the end of our visit (in admittedly hot weather), our students now had a crash course in the workings of a modern excavation, courtesy of generous friends and colleagues of mine at this terrific site.

The day ended on a quiet note, as we headed into the modern town of Pamukkale (ancient Hierapolis), where we checked into the Richmond Hotel.  As I explained to the weary students what a “thermal hotel” was, smiles crept back on their faces.  Before dinner, we were soaking in the hot, natural spring water, the road miles (or kilometers, actually) fading away…

UPDATE: July 13, 2012

Today we toured what I’ve come to call the “Triple Threat”: lecturing at Priene, Miletus and Didyma, three of the most beautiful and important sites in ancient Ionia, the region which we are presently exploring.  Each of the three is exceptional in its own way, and lecturing about them takes a great deal of preparation, since each deserves significant discussion.  Our first stop was Priene, one of the loveliest sites in Turkey with its shady pines and stunning views of the Menander River valley.  This Hellenistic city, founded in the 4th century, is not only beautifully preserved, but also has monuments like the theater and the Temple of Athena Polias which figure prominently in the architectural history of the ancient world.  At Priene, for a brief moment we walked in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, one of the many stops which he made as he traversed Asia Minor in 334 BC.

Our second stop (following a tasty summer lunch of salad, sea bass and watermelon) was the ancient sanctuary of Apollo at Didyma, the third largest temple ever built by the Greeks and the best preserved of the largest three.  The dimensions are mind-blowing: well over the size of a football field, the Apollo temple was once surrounded by a veritable forest of columns, 120 in total, with each over 60 ft in height.  Never completed, the building housed a smaller temple (the naiskos) in its central courtyard, an open area where the sacred spring lay and the oracular prophetess of Apollo once lived.  Even the massive remains of the temple cannot help but impress the visitor.  Our own task at the site was to re-enact what a suppliant to the oracle would have experienced, and a squad of hearty volunteers — Sydney Taylor (the Suppliant), Brian Joyce (the Scribe), Geoff Melder (the Prophet), and Taylor Ann Sims (the Prophetess) — carried this out with didactic facility and theatrical precision (see the newest Zag Travel Show, Episode 5, for our re-enactment).

Our final stop was at the region’s least attractive site, the city-state of ancient Miletus, peaking out of a fetid, swampy landscape, its famous harbors now completely silted over.  In spite of my admitted dislike for the site physically, it is one that should not be missed, for Miletus was arguably not only the greatest of all Greek city-states, but contributed most to the emergence of a truly Greek culture and worldview.  Many of the most important developments of the Greek Archaic period (ca. 800 – 480 BC) took place at this city or in the Ionian region, such as the emergence of the pre-Socratic (or Natural) Philosophers, men like Thales and Anaximander who began to speculate on the world from a rationalistic viewpoint.  The Ionian Greeks — and particularly the Milesians — moved western society in an entirely new direction, pioneering in the areas of Greek sculpture, monumental architecture, iron technology, lyric poetry, and more.  Although our visit was brief, it was an obligatory nod to some of the ancient world’s most important innovators, before we leave Ionia tomorrow for ancient Aphrodisias.

UPDATE: July 12, 2012

Ephesus.  When most people visit Turkey, they pass through this city, walking its marble streets and peeking into its vast array of excavated buildings.  It is the busiest ancient site in Turkey, with shiploads of tourists descending each day upon the ruins, bused in from nearby Kusadasi, where we ourselves are staying for several nights as we explore the cities of Ionia (central western Turkey).  Yet while most tours bustle along, herded by tour guides through the streets and on to the next site (or lunch back on the cruise liner), we proceeded at a more leisurely pace, with the formation of the Roman Empire our topic of the day.  Chosen as the capital of the province of Asia by the first emperor, Augustus, in 29 BC, Ephesus is like a direct echo of Imperial  Rome, with its formal government center, its competitive and status-driven elite, and its landscape of richly decorated public and private buildings.  For nearly four hours we toured the city, including the beautifully restored Slope Houses (the equal of anything at Pompeii) and the famous library of Celsus, and we left having seen the pages of our textbook come to life, in one of the empire’s greatest, most prosperous cities.

Although hard to top such a morning, more was in store after lunch: touring the Selcuk Museum (which holds the finds from Ephesus); investigating the 6th-century Church of St. John (where Brian Joyce discussed its construction and plan), and deciphering on of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (with the help of Andrew Gorini, who discussed the goddess, her worship and her fragmentary sanctuary).  The afternoon ended with a mass by Fr. Kuder at the House of Mother Mary, a small chapel located just southeast of Ephesus that is a pilgrimage site for many who travel to Ephesus.  A full day indeed, and a satisfying one to all who traveled with us (esp. with a cool and welcoming swimming pool awaiting us at the Marina Hotel at the end)…

UPDATE: July 11, 2012

As an American archaeologist who works in Turkey, I take some pride in the accomplishments of our discipline in that country over the past century, at major sites across the region.  One such site is Sardis, the capital of ancient Lydia, an Iron Age kingdom that once controlled the western half of Turkey, in the middle of the 1st millennium B.C.  The site has been excavated continuously by Americans from Harvard and Cornell Universities since 1958, and is currently one of the most dynamic digs in the country.  After quick stops at Thyateria and Philadelphia (modern Akhisar and Alasehir, respectively), where two of the Seven Churches of Asia were located (but which now have little to see), we proceeded to Sardis to see what our fellow Americans had been up to.

While most of the team was absent for the day (it was their mid-season break), we were privileged to have a two-hour tour by the excavation director, Dr. Nick Cahill, of the University of Wisconson – Madison.  After a detailed examination of the Artemis Temple (the fourth largest in the Greek world), we proceeded to walk through the remains of the Roman and Lydian cities, studying the giant bath-gymnasium complex, the Jewish synagogue (one of the largest ever found), and the Persian Royal Road, the first major highway in human history.  All told, it was another satisfying day, filled with discussion about the ancient Persians and Lydians, as we walked across their ancient battleground and imperial city.  But move on, we must, so the day ended with our arrival in Kusadasi, southwest of Ephesus, where we will tour tomorrow…

UPDATE: July 10, 2012

The ancient city of Pergamon – our destination for today – is one of the most fascinating cities of all Turkey, perched as it is on a high mountaintop above the modern market town of Bergama.  As Alexander’s empire began to slowly crumble after his death in 323 BC, his ambitious generals and companions began to cut to pieces his conquered lands (and in the process, often cutting each other to pieces).   One small kingdom to emerge in the middle years of the 3rd century BC was that of Pergamon, ruled over by the Attalid dynasty for almost a century-and-a-half during the Hellenistic era (ca. 323-31 BC).  Our goal today was to explore this mighty ancient citadel, the only Hellenistic capital to be significantly excavated, and to explore how the Attalids and later the Romans used architecture, art and ideological propaganda to assert their claims of empire, sovereignty and divinity.  Particularly impressive to the students (who climbed all over it) was the temple dedicated to the Roman emperors Trajan and Hadrian, parts of which have been re-erected in recent years (a process known as anastylosis).  Our analysis was augmented through a detailed talk presented by Hanna Hanks at the site of the Great Altar of Pergamon, a monument excavated by the Germans in the 1880s (now the centerpiece of the Alt Museum in Berlin) and arguably the greatest work of Hellenistic art ever to have been created.

After descending to plain below, where the Roman city was located and where Bergama now sits, we proceeded to the ancient cult center of Aesclepius, the Greek god of healing.  Once at the Aesclepion, Andrew Opila provided us with a through outline of the site, the myths surrounding the god and the treatments that visitors of antiquity would encounter (often including dream interpretation and snakes).  He then led us to the sacred spring, where many of us washed in its cooling waters (which was quite nice for the director, who was suffering a mild case of heatstroke), and through the underground tunnel into the sleeping chamber, where visitors would spend the night and seek aid from the healing god.  After a brief lunch of Turkish pizza (or pide) – see the new addition to the Turkish Zag Travel show page on this blog for details – we returned to the Berksoy for an afternoon off, swimming in the pool, and some early evening classes.  Fr. Kuder had much to say, since Pergamon was one of the Seven Churches of Asia founded by St. Paul, and tomorrow we visit two more, Thyateria and Philadelphia.  So stay tuned…

UPDATE: July 9, 2012

Bright and early, we departed the Tusan for the southern Troad, for the ancient cities of Alexandria Troas and Assos.  Our mission for the day – beyond surviving the heat, which has been considerable – was not so unlike that of St. Paul: to cross through this ancient landscape (though by bus, not walking), to journey to its important cities (via modern highways, not Roman roads), and to meet its in habitants (through the remains and texts, not in person).  For our course on ancient Christianity, the day focused on the mission of Paul at both ancient sites, with Fr. Kuder speaking frequently – and in the theater of Assos, in spite of the heat, with rousing eloquence – about Paul’s mission and its objectives.  In our course on empires, we looked in depth at the phenomenon of colonization, since our sites were all colonized by outsiders in the Archaic Greek, Hellenistic and Roman Imperial periods.  Since the site of ancient Assos was also very well preserved, we also explored there the elemental components of a Greek city-state (polis), including the acropolis with its Doric temple to Athena, the agora with its council house and stoas, the gymnasium, fortifications, cemeteries (necropoleis) and more.  It is with some pride that we wandered through this magnificent city, perched on its hilltop overlooking the island of Lesbos (and home of Sappho), since Assos was the very first ancient site ever excavated by an American team, from 1881-83.

Having finished our work for the day, we all climbed back into our air-conditioned bus, drank several bottles of ice cold water, and the happily fell into a deep sleep, while our capable bus driver Altan drove us through the southern Troad into ancient Mysia.  Several hours later, we arrived at Bergama – ancient Pergamon – and the Berksoy Hotel, for a late poolside dinner on a breezy, cool evening.  Next up: the citadel city of Pergamon and its sanctuaries…

UPDATE: July 8, 2012

The site of ancient Troy: few sites on our trip are more evocative or as hard to explain to a visitor.  After a morning of classes, we set out for fabled Ilion, to circle the walls around which the body of Hector was dragged, and to walk through the city where King Priam once ruled and which the Greek army under Agamemnon so ruthlessly destroyed after its 10-year siege.  The site itself is a difficult one to navigate, in spite of the new signage which has appeared in recent years, produced by the Universities of Tubingen and Cincinnati as part of their work at Troy since 1988.  The original excavator, Heinrich Schliemann, carved up this citadel mound (or hüyük, in Turkish) in 9 seasons of work between 1871-94, creating both a sensation across the world with his finds and an incredibly mess with his excavation techniques (or more appropriately, the lack thereof).  So our afternoon was spent deciphering this complex mounded site, learning about the intricacies of stratigraphic excavation, the difficulties which arise when reconciling literary and archaeological evidence, and the importance of applying new scientific and conservation techniques at old excavations, the results of which have led to many recent, momentous and exciting reinterpretations of the landscape and settlement at Troy.

After a brief stop at the Canakkale Museum, where Rachel Palmer presented a short talk on the famous Polyxena sarcophagus (a unique piece of late Archaic Greek art), we returned, tired and triumphant, to the Tusan, after what many thought was truly an epic day (sorry, pun intended)…

UPDATE: July 7, 2012

A long day, but a wonderful one for the group, as we headed out bright and early from Istanbul — fully fueled with Turkish tea, or chai — towards the Gallipoli peninsula.  Today we were studying how empires clashed, declined and disintegrated, for we were heading towards the Dardanelles (a.k.a. the ancient Hellespont), the thin strait of water connecting the Black Sea with the Aegean.   It was along the banks of the Hellespont where some of the mightiest armies of history passed or met: where King Xerxes and his enormous Persian army crossed in 481 BC, off to invade Greece (and slaughter the Spartans at Thermopylae); where the last fleet of Imperial Athens was crushed by the Spartan Admiral Lysander at the Battle of Aegospotamai in 405 BC, the clash that finally brought to an end the 27-year long Peloponnesian War; where Alexander the Great and his Macedonians crossed into Asia in 334 BC, off to challenge the Persian King Darius III and eventually conquer his Persian Empire; and where the British and Ottoman Empires fought desperately for 9 months in 1915 at Gallipoli, one of the fiercest battles of World War I and a conflict from which the nascent Turkish state would eventually emerge, through the inspired leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

So much history packed into such a small area.  And yet that’s why we’re here in Turkey, since there are few countries in the world which one can visit where so many momentous and decisive events took place affecting the course of human history.  We were left with a great deal to ponder as we pulled in to the Tusan Hotel, just south of Çanakkale, for the next two nights.  And tomorrow, we head to Ilion, the fabled city of Troy, where the crossing of myth and history will lead us down a very different path…

UPDATE: July 6, 2012

Our second full day in Istanbul began again with classroom sessions, discussing the Byzantine Empire, the conversion of Paul, and video footage techniques (for Dr. Garrity and his team of student videographers).  After lunch along the Bosphorus in the Besiktas neighborhood, where our guide Aydin once lived (and so was able to show us to all the best restaurants), we headed for the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, one of the finest in the country.  Established in 1891, this museum holds some of the most important archaeological treasures of the ancient world.  We stood in quiet awe before the Alexander Sarcophagus from ancient Sidon, peering at Alexander the Great as he rode into battle against the Persians, in one of the very few contemporary portraits of him to survive.  Students then leapt into a half-an-hour group exercise in the exhibit “Istanbul Through the Ages”, analyzing the ancient pottery and sculpture on display there to investigate how ancient cities grew and changed over time (a whopping 8000 years for Istanbul!).  Finally, we sauntered over to the famous Hippodrome, where the chariot races took place in ancient Constantinople.  On site, Lauren Kuhn presented her research about that monument and the immensely popular phenomenon of chariot racing, the NASCAR of its day, regaling us with stories about ancient entertainment, racing accidents, public executions, and fan hooliganism from the Byzantine period.  After dinner nearby in the Sultanahmet area, students returned to the Maslak campus (or headed out to explore more of Taksim), on our last night in the city until the end of the trip.

UPDATE: July 5, 2012

After a lovely dinner together in Kumkapi on July 4, we began the program at the Maslak campus, a lush, green neighborhood located on the northern edge of Istanbul.  The school where the students are staying was established in 1863 in order to educate orphans, and is one of the most prestigious in Turkey, producing graduates who are among some of Turkey’s finest writers, poets and artists.  It is an honor to be able to use their facilities and dorms.  After a morning of introductory classes (think: first day of the semester), we set out together to tour through the Taksim area, the hub of modern Istanbul, to give our students a feeling for what Turkey is like today.  Several hours later, we hopped on board a ferry boat to the Asian side, to cross the Bosphorus to Kadikoy (ancient Chalchedon) and experience the Turkish neighborhoods and less touristy atmosphere across the water.  The return ride, watching as the sun set over the city from the water, was an exhilarating experience — and a nice moment to cool down after a hot July day.

UPDATE: July 4, 2012

A lovely, warm July day here in Istanbul, as the faculty and students begin to assemble for the program.  The faculty arrived yesterday, and spent the morning planning out various aspects of the program with our guide, friend and former Zag (’04), Aydin Aygun.  About half of the students also arrived one day or more early, to explore before the program officially began (at 5 pm on July 4).   The rest chose to come in today, on Independence Day, are currently being met at the airport and transferred to the Maslak Hostel.  As for the holiday, we plan to celebrate by bringing the entire group together for a welcome dinner in Kumkapi, a neighborhood along the Sea of Marmara that is famous for its seafood.  Our first few days will, in fact, be relatively quiet ones, as we adjust to Turkish life and recover from jet-lag.  But now off to dinner, as the gathering begins!

UPDATE: July 3, 2012

Greetings to our Readers!  The trip leader (me, Dr. Goldman) is about to leave Chicago and head to Istanbul, where the faculty is assembling a day early to do some pre-trip prep, wipe away a bit of our jetlag (10 hours ahead of the West Coast!), and begin gathering in our 17 students.  As this is my 22nd or 23rd time doing this flight, it is not quite as exciting as it once was, when I myself was a student traveling over here.   What pleases me this time is that I’ll be in the company of all these Zags, taking them to the places that I love and enjoy so much.   As for the group, we’ll meet for the first time on Wednesday evening, July 4, at the Maslik Hostel, and begin our adventure together in Istanbul and over the next 30 days.  Please stay tuned here for daily updates, as we trek across Turkey, through the great sites of the ancient and modern world.   And now, for Turkish Air Lines (THY), Chicago to Istanbul…


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