Thanksgiving at Putnam Science Academy

On the Wednesday evening, 11/23/11, before Thanksgiving 2012, Barbara and I went to the Putnam Science Academy for a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat and an interfaith service of thanks.  We saw our friend Nebi Demirsoy, executive director of the Turkish Cultural Center Connecticut.  I also talked with Chaplain Aysenur Kaplan, who had served as a chaplain intern at Eastern about 3 years ago.  Barbara and I has dinner with Mr. Paul Duhamel, PSA’s Dean of Students and Art Teacher, and Mr. Ocello, an English teacher.  Mr. Duhamel had also visited Turkey and posted his photos at

The interfaith service was in the school’s meeting room, which had been a chapel.  It featured presentations by local political leaders, readings from diverse faith communities, communal singing, and discussion of the activities of PSA’s intercultural association.  It was an inspiring evening.

Our tour guide, Burkhan, and his fiancee Daria are to be married tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day in West Haven.  I am sorry that I won’t be able to attend, but hope to share other happy moments with them in the near future.

David Stoloff

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Barbara’s Pictures

Our first day in Istanbul, Turkey. We meet some wonderful people. My pictures will tell the story.

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Amy’s photos

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Kris’s stuff

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Bosphorus Trip



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Trip to Turkey

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Trip to Ephesus

Trip to Turkey

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John Landosky’s Organized Trip Blog

My name is John Landosky, I am an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) and one of the participants on the 2011 ECSU Turkey Trip.  This is me on a camel in Cappadocia surrounded by the Fairy Chimneys.  The trip was amazing!  We had so many incredible experiences that it would be impossible to adequately summarize them all here (almost like experiencing the ocean through a small window in a submarine).  Through reading everyone’s blog, it is our hope that we can offer you several submarine windows to experience our voyage!

Here we are!  From left to right: Barbara Williams (ECSU Information Technology instructor), John Landosky (ECSU Biology professor), David Stoloff (ECSU Education professor), Amy Brenner-Fricke (ECSU University Relations), Nancy Purvis (ECSU Police Officer), Steve Fricke (City of Norwich Firefighter), Kris Jacobi (ECSU Librarian), Walter Diaz (ECSU Dean of Students), Maritza Diaz (Windham County high school teacher), Jian-Zhong Lin (ECSU English professor),  Not in picture: Neset Ulusal (tourguide, Turkey native, Masters student in comparative religious studies at the University of Hartford, and current Connecticut resident).

When the invitation to join the trip to Turkey was extended to the university community, I was extremely interested in the opportunity…. as were over 40 other faculty and staff members. The possibility of going to Turkey was even more exciting after attending the annual ECSU Turkish Student Association dinner. I knew the odds were against my having the opportunity to join the trip, but I was lucky enough to draw a winning number! I immediately started to learn some basic Turkish and reading about the Turkish culture. I also scheduled a flight that allowed me to stay in Turkey for five days following the organized trip.

One of the things we discussed sharing on this blog were our preconceptions going into the trip and our experiences in relation to our preconceptions. I didn’t have a lot of preconceptions. I knew that Turkey, more than any other country, was the country in which Middle Eastern culture coexists and melds with European cultures. Especially given our current political climate, I was very interested in experiencing and learning from this coexistence. I was also excited and nervous to visit a country whose language I hardly spoke.

Here are some impressions/pictures in chronological order:

Day 1 – June 22, 2011 (Istanbul)

Istanbul: This was our first glimpse of Turkey (Istanbul) from the plane.  Note all of the ships.  One of the major reasons Istanbul/Constantinople has been so important to the various civilizations that have called it home is its strategic port location between the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Mosques: Istanbul is an extremely large city with many of the features of large cities in the US.  One noticeable difference on the skyline, however, is the abundance of beautiful and impressive mosques.  The iconic dome shape of the mosque was actually inspired by a Christian church in Istanbul that was later converted to a mosque (more on that later).

Minarets: Minarets are the towers associated with a mosque. Each mosque may have one or several minarets.  These towers have a practical purpose: to call Muslims to prayer.  People used to stand on the turrets of the minaret and make the calls vocally, but now loud speakers typically do the calling.  Muslims are called to prayer five times a day (the exact times fluctuate over the calendar year), and are expected to pray at some time between each call to prayer.

The Food: The food in Turkey was amazing!  This was our first meal in Turkey.  It was all I could do not to take a picture of every meal.  I’ve always been a fan of lentil soup; and the lentil soup in Turkey didn’t disappoint.  The main dish was an eggplant casserole.   In general, I would say that Turkish cuisine focuses on fresh vegetables and breads with flavorful spices.  A salty yogurt drink called Ayran was typically available and delicious.  Tea is served after every meal and even during shopper/shopkeeper bartering!

Turkish Nationality: The Turkish people are very proud of their country.  Turkish flags are everywhere.  The Ottoman Empire, already weakened by the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913, was on the losing side of World War I and was largely occupied and dismantled thereafter.  Turkey was occupied by Britain, France, and Italy, but Greece envisioned adding much of what is now Turkey to its territories.  Turkey fought the Greek occupational forces and and won its independence in 1923.  Turkey’s war effort was led by Mustafa Kemal, later known as Ataturk, who subsequently helped establish Turkey’s secular government.

Bosphorus Cruise:  On our first day in Istanbul, we took a cruise up the Bosphorus, which runs through Istanbul.  From left to right (those in bold have not yet been introduced): Burhan, Neset Ulusal, Jian-Zhong Lin, Barbara Williams, John Landosky, David Stoloff, Nancy Purvis, Zuleyha Ozen (current ECSU Biology student, Turkey native).

Leander’s Tower: This is a famous landmark in Turkey we saw during our Bosphorus cruise (Zuleyha compared it to our Statue of Liberty).

Bosphorus Bridge: OK, admittedly this isn’t the most interesting picture in the world, but it is a very important structure.  As I mentioned before, the Bosphorus runs through Istanbul.  It also connects the Mediterranean and Black Seas and separates Europe from Asia.  Before 1973 (when the Bosphorus Bridge was completed) the only way to get from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side was to take a ferry.  In the 1980’s, the addition of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge further helped intra-Instanbul transportation.

The Fortress of Europe: The territory that is now Turkey has been home to many civilizations, including the Hittites, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, the Byzantines, and the Ottomans.  One of things I found most striking about Istanbul (and Turkey in general) is the enduring evidence of all of these civilizations, often right next or integrated into modern buildings/uses.  The Fortress of Europe is a structural witness to the transition of the Byzantine to Ottoman Empires, through the fall of the Constantinople (the Byzantine stronghold which is now known as Istanbul) by Mehmet the Conqueror.  Mehmet designed and built this structure to control the Bosphorus (a critical Byzantine supply route) and eventually conquer Constantinople.

Miniaturk:  This is Miniaturk.  Think “It’s a Small Turkey After All”.  It has over 100 replicas of Turkish landmarks.  If you had to see Turkey and only had an hour to do it, this would be the place.  Seriously, the models were impressively detailed and the audio commentary (available in English!) was very informative.

Miniaturk Chess Match: David and Nancy face off in a giant-sized chess match in Miniaturk.  Nothing is in the expected scale in Miniaturk!

Day 2 – June 23, 2011 (Istanbul)

Topkapi Palace: This palace was built by Mehmet II and was the residence for the Ottoman sultans for over 400 years.  To me it seemed like a small city in and of itself.  Within the palace there were many treasures on display, but the items of most interest to most of the visitors were items owned by the Prophet Mohammed as well as one of his teeth and hairs from his beard.

Day-Specific Tour Guides: In addition to Burhan and Neset, some days we had tour guides with specific knowledge of the places we would go on a particular day.  The man in the green shirt was our tour guide for Day 2.  Others in the picture, from left to right: Neset, Walter, David, and Jian-Zhong.  I took this picture in the Topkapi Palace.

Turkish Dress: Most, but not all, women would cover their heads in scarves when out in public.  The scarves could be plain but were often quite colorful and stylish.  Male clothes were pretty similar to clothes you would find in the U.S., but they would more often wear slacks than shorts and button down shirts than t-shirts.  When entering a home or mosque, it was important to remove your shoes (Topkapi Palace).

Turkish Tilework:  One of the most impressive themes I saw on our trip was beautifully detailed artwork, including ceramics, carpets, textile, inlaid woodwork, and calligraphy (often stylized Arabic writing).  This is an example calligraphy on metal (top) and ceramic tilework (bottom) (Topkapi Palace).

Haghia Sophia:  Haghia Sophia was  a church built in the 6th century by the Byzantines and is considered one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements.  I don’t think I was able to capture the scale of it in any of my pictures.  Notice the domes at the top of the Haghia Sophia.  These domes predate Islamic mosques (they predate Islam itself) and were the inspiration for the domes that are typical of mosques around the world!

Mosaics of Haghia Sophia: When the Ottomans took Constantinople, they converted Haghia Sophia into a mosque.  In Islamic faith, imagines of people or animals are not allowed in mosques because they distract from religious meditation.  However, instead of destroying the priceless Christian mosaics, they instead plastered over them. 

Mosaics of Haghia Sophia (con’t.): When Haghia Sophia was converted from a mosque into a museum by the secular Turkish government, the plaster was removed and the mosaics were restored.  This mosaic depicts the Virgin Mary with Jesus on her lap, the Emperor John II Comnenus to the left and the Empress Irene to the right.

Mosaics of Haghia Sophia (con’t.):  I believe (though I’m not sure) that this is Christ with the Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus to the left and the Empress Zoe to the right.  My guess is that this may have been a way for an Emperor to both show his power/wealth by commissioning a work like this and also to show that he was right with God or even led with divine inspiration.  Either way, the art is fantastic.

Stained Glass of Haghia Sophia:  Haghia Sophia also has beautiful works of stained glass.  This particular work incorporates Arabic calligraphy, suggesting that it was probably created during the period of time that Haghia Sophia was a mosque.

ECSU in Haghia Sophia:  Here is some of our group waiting for everyone to regroup following our exploration of Haghia Sophia.  From left to right: Kris, Maritza, Walter, and David.

Metalwork in Haghia Sophia:  The level of artistic detail in Turkey is incredible.  This is the metalwork on a outer door of Haghia Sophia.

From left to right: Amy and Barbara appreciate Haghia Sophia’s metalwork.

Turkish Fountains: There are many ornate fountains in Turkey.  These fountains are often associated with mosques and are part of the traditional charitable Islamic traditions of providing the poor with food and water.  They can also be used for the ritual cleansing/purification (ablutions; see Blue Mosque below).  This particular ablutions fountain is located outside of Haghia Sophia and was built around 1740.

Lunch:  We ate lunch with an incredible view of the Blue Mosque.  Steve and Amy frame the shot.

Nancy searches her bag at lunch.  I have no legitimate reason for posting this picture; I just like it!

Turkish Ceramics: Beautifully decorated ceramic work (plates, tiles, vases, cups, bowls, and other items) were ubiquitous.  Maritza considered a plate here but didn’t end up making the purchase.

Burkas: Every once in a while we would see a woman in a full burka, but this was rare and we were told that they were almost certainly tourists from countries.

The Blue Mosque: After lunch we visited the Blue Mosque.  The mosque was built in 1616 by Sultan Ahmet I.  It was controversial because of its opulence in a time of difficult financial times for the Ottoman Empire but more importantly because it had six minarets (the mosque towers used to call Muslims to prayer), the same number as Mecca, and was therefore thought to be an attempt to rival Mecca.  To address this issue, Sultan Ahmet I ordered a seventh minaret to be built at Mecca.

Tilework of the Blue Mosque: The Blue Mosque got its name because much of the tilework within it is, well, blue.  The blue tilework is an example of Iznik ceramics, named for the town of Iznik, which produced fine blue and white ceramic work from the 15th through 17th centuries.

Carpeting of the Blue Mosque: This is the carpeting of the Blue Mosque.  Notice the slightly darker red color of the carpet in the middle.  These occur in regular lines across the mosque and indicate where parishioners are to place their knees and head during organized prayer services.  When Muslims pray outside of a mosque, they use an individual prayer rug.

Stained Glass of the Blue Mosque:
The stained glass within the Blue Mosque was beautiful.

Ablutions Outside of the Blue Mosque:  Before praying in a mosque, a Muslim will engage in a ritual cleansing/purification called an ablution.  This includes washing all exposed skin, including the head and feet.  These absolution fountains were built directly into the side of the Blue Mosque.

Woman’s Prayer Section:  Within a mosque, women typically have their own section in which to pray.  This might be a separated section, as seen in the Blue Mosque here, a second story (which we saw in at least one mosque, but I’m not sure which one), or simply behind the men on the same level without any structural barrier (as was the case in the Yidirim Beyazit Mosque in Bursa).

Hippodrome:  This unassuming corn and roasted chestnut stand is located within the Hippodrome.  There isn’t a lot of its structure left, but to give you an idea of its scale, this brick road is a portion of the chariot track within the Hippodrome.  The Hippodrome was a huge sports stadium built in the 3rd century by the Byzantines.  It could hold approximately 100,000 people.  To put that into perspective, only 11 stadiums in the world today have that capacity (fun fact: the University of Michigan’s “Big House” is the largest college or professional stadium in the U.S. and third largest in the world, with a capacity of 109,901).

Hippodrome (con’t.):  The picture is of The Obelisk of Theodosius, built in Egypt in 1500 B.C., and imported from Egypt in the 4th century, contained within the hippodrome.  When the Byzantines were trying to erect the obelisk, it broke, and is thought to be only 1/3 its original size.

The Byzantines took their sports seriously.  In 532 A.D., two rival chariot-racing teams had a scuffle that grew into the Nika Revolt (think Michigan State’s 1999 basketball riot or the Vancouver Canuck’s 2011 Stanley Cup riot).  After destroying a good portion of Constantinople, the rioters crowded the Hippodrome shouting “Nika! Nika!” (how the revolt (and perhaps your shoes) got its name) meaning “Victory!”  So the Emperor Justinian ordered the gates of the Hippodrome closed and massacred everyone within it (approximately 30,000 people).

The Fountain that Destroyed the Ottoman Empire (a.k.a. Emperor Wilhem II Fountain): Before World War I, Germany was trying to court the Ottoman Empire to be its ally.  The Orient Express ran from Germany to Istanbul; the trainline represented an important trade route to Africa and Asia.  Germany was also concerned about fostering alliances because it feared (militarily) France to its east and Russia to its west.  Anyway, when German Emperor Wilhem II asked his advisers what would be a grand gift that would be appreciated by the Ottomans and help forge their alliance, he was told that fountains have charitable and religious importance (see above).  He therefore offered this magnificent fountain on his visit in 1898.  Whether because of the fountain or not, the Ottoman Empire did ally with Germany, together they lost WWI, and as a result of the war, the Ottoman Empire was dissolved.

Basilica Cistern: Believe it or not, this beautiful underground structure, supported by 336 columns, was simply used as a place to store water (it could be filled to the top of the columns).  It was built by the the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, the same guy who crushed the Nika Revolution, in 532.

Basilica Cistern (con’t.): This is one of two Medusa heads at the base of two of the columns within the Basilica Cistern. This one is on its side…

Basilica Cistern (con’t.): ..and this one was upside down.  My first thought was that this was a statement about how the Christian Byzantines thought about the pagan Greek mythology.  Instead, it appears that these were just some solid stonework scrap left by the Greeks useful to construct columns whose aesthetics weren’t terribly important (because the bases were intended to be underwater).  Contractors!

Day 3 – June 24, 2011 (Izmir)

Greek Ephesus: Ephesus was a Greek city that was built around 1000 BC and became well known for being an important place of worship of Cybele, the Anatolian Mother Goddess.

Experiencing Ephesus: Visitors are allowed to walk among the ruins in Ephesus.

Ephesus Excavation: The majority of Ephesus has not yet been excavated.  The excavation to date has focused on the valley, where many of the communal structures are expected to be.  The mountain slopes are expected to contain many residences.

Greek Ephesus II: Not much remains of the original Ephesus founded in 1000BC.  Most of the Greek ruins that have survived to the present day are from ~350 BC, during the rule of Lysinachus.

Steve in Ephesus: That’s Steve in the hat and sunglasses.  I think he looks like Neo in the Matrix in this shot.

Roman Ephesus: Under Roman rule, Ephesus became a major port on the Aegean Sea.

Greek or Roman Ephesus: Most of the surviving ruins are from the Roman period.  As we walked through the ruins, we were told that one way to determine if a structure is of Greek or Roman origin was to consider how smooth the marble is.  Greek marble is rough but Romans polished their marble to smooth surfaces that are still apparent today.

Ephesus Tour Guide: Our Ephesus tour guide is to the left of the picture.  All of the tour guides at Ephesus had a uniquely colored umbrella so that tour groups could more easily find their guide.  Also pictured, from left to right, Barbara and Amy.

Ephesus laws in stone: If I remember correctly, this writing are laws written on the columns.  It’s all Greek to me, officer!

Hippocrates (Ephesus): This is Hippocrates’ serpent, a symbol still in use in medicine today.

Library of Celsus: This is a famous library, built in 117 AD by Consul Gaius Julius Aquila.  The library was damaged by an earthquake in 1000 AD (Ephesus).

Ephesus Crowded: While Ephesus is a popular tourist destination, even our one-day tour guide was struck by how crowded Ephesus was when we were there.

Temple of Hadrian: Hadrian, the 14th emperor of the Roman Empire, visited Ephesus in 123 AD.  This temple was built to commemorate this visit.

Temple of Hadrian (con’t.): Greek gods and goddesses are carved into the temple.

Swastika:  The swastika design predated the Nazis (Ephesus).

Walking Among the Ruins: I can’t adequately express how strange and awe-inspiring it was walk among and touch these ruins rather than see them from behind a rope (Ephesus).

Library of Celsus:  This is the Library of Celsus from a different angle (Ephesus).

Ephesus Theater: The Greeks cut this theater from the side of Mount Pion and the Romans later renovated and added to it.  The theater could accommodate about 25,000 people.

The House of Mary:  In the bible, from the cross, Jesus told John the Evangelist to care for his mother Mary.  It is believed that John brought Mary to Ephesus in 37 AD where she lived the rest of her days in this home.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures within the home.  It was a simple two room dwelling with an alter set up in the far room.  The House of Mary is about 5 miles from the Ephesus site above; we drove up a long, winding road to get here.  

The House of Mary (con’t.):  This sign details much of the history of this site.

Prayers at The House of Mary:  The thing that struck me the most about the House of Mary was the prayer wall.

Prayers at The House of Mary: People write prayers to Mary on paper and attach them to this wall.

Prayers at The House of Mary: I was moved by reading some of these prayers (though I felt somewhat voyeuristic).

Prayers at The House of Mary: My internal rule was to not touch the papers.  If the author wanted others to read the prayer he/she would presumably attach them in a way that allowed them to be seen.  Those were the ones I read.

Ceramic Art Studio: After The House of Mary, we visited a studio where we were able to see some of the Turkish ceramic art being created.  Notice that most of the women don’t have their heads covered (and the one that does has a scarf as bright as the ceramics she’s creating); head dress is truly optional in Turkey.

Penciler/Inker: Like a comic book, the art starts with a black and white penciling and inking process.  That’s what this person is doing.

Colorist: Then color is added by a colorist.  That’s what these women are doing.

Glazing: After all of the color has been added, the ceramic will be glazed (the vase above has not yet been glazed).  The glaze goes on thick and milky, almost completely obscuring the color below it.  In the kiln the glaze will turn clear and show the color of the ceramic in all of its brilliance.

Imperfections in the ceramic are often not apparent until after the kilning process.  Each piece is struck, e.g. flicked by a finger.  If the tone resonates like a bell, the ceramic is flawless.  If the tone sounds like tin and does not resonate, the ceramic has a flaw and will eventually crack.  It must be discarded (and all of the art on it lost).

Ataturk: This is a depiction of Ataturk on a mountainside in Izmir (the reflections are from the bus window).  The Turkish people have a strong reverence for Ataturk; his image is ubiquitous and required to be on the walls of all schools in Turkey (see also Turkish Nationality above).

Day 4 – June 25, 2011 (Denizli)

Hierapolis Theater: Hierapolis was founded by the Greeks (Pergamum’s Eumenes II) to take advantage of the region’s hot springs (which they made into thermal spas), but also became known for its woolen textiles.

Hierapolis Theater (con’t.): This theater was built in 200 BC and could originally seat 20,000 patrons.

Pamukkale:  Maybe the main attraction in Hierapolis is Pamukkale.  The hot springs that have been flowing in Hierapolis for millennia contained carbon dioxide which has deposited as limestone.


**More to Come!**

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