Saturday, August 30, 2008

From Michael's Perspective

I always find it amazing that Linda can talk about going to a really incredible place without actually talking about the place. She talks about parks and hotels and magical chickens found in gas stations but not the actual place. So as usual the job of informing ya'll about where we went falls to me.

Mt. Nemrut is a burial tumulus (fancy name for a big pile of rocks) that was raised over the body of King Antiochos I of Kommagene, who ruled from 69 to 36 B.C. The Kommagene Kingdom was founded by King Mithridates at the upper reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in about 80 BC. It had arisen out of the ashes of the Seleucid Empire (which had been founded by Seleucus I Nicator in 312 BC out of the ashes of the Greek Empire following the death of Alexander the Great who had carved his Empire out of the Persian Empire which...... As I have said before- we live in a place rich in history. Interestingly it appears in the maps in the LDS edition of the KJV Bible- maps 13 (grid E3), Map 20 (grid F2) and Map 21 (Grid F2)).

King Mithridates and his son King Antiochus I created a small empire in south central Turkey under a state religion that mixed Greek and Persian Gods to unite a mixed people. King Antiochus claimed descent from both Greece and Persian through his father Mithridates from Darius I (522-486 B.C.) and, through his mother Laodike, from Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). The height of the Kommagene Empire occurred under Antiochus with the Kingdom becoming rich as a buffer state between the Kingdom of Rome and the Parthian Empire on the east.

The site at Mt. Nemrut (elevation 2,134 m/7,001 ft) includes the burial mound (a giant heap of limestone moved to the peak of the mountain by hand), 2 ceremonial platforms- the east (public area) with a dias for the sunrise ceremony where a sacred fire would have burned and west (for the Nobles only). At each platform were statues- 5 giant seated statues of the king and the Gods (from left to right in the following order: King Antiochos, the fertility goddess Kommagene, Zeus-Oromasdes- the god of the sky (the central and largest statue), Apollo-Mithras, and Herakles-Ares). On the flanks are 4 smaller statues of guardian eagles and lions. On the north was also a series of stellae representing the royal genealogy. In a cult inscription, King Antiochos declares that he had the site built for the ages and generations that were to follow him "as a debt of thanks to the gods and to his deified ancestors for their manifest assistance."

The kingdom's independence came to an end in 72 AD with its defeat by Roman legions in the last of the Kommagene wars and it became part of the Roman province of Syria. The Roman Legions at that time destroyed many of the cultural accomplishments of the Kingdom and the site at Mount Nemrut was no exception. The heads were toppled and many of the stellae destroyed. No reference is made to it in ancient sources and it essentially disappeared from history until Karl Sester, a German road engineer, rediscovered it in 1881. Mount Nemrut has been declared as World Culture heritage by UNESCO is one of the important National Parks of Turkey.

The east platform is where we watched the sun rise and it really was a neat experience. We sat next to the fire altar (which was too crowded) and waited for the sun to come up over the horizon. The haze sitting low to the ground blocks a lot of the suns light and you can literally look straight at it as it climbs. It was a far more interesting experience than I was expecting. We didn't get many pictures on the east terrace as it was swarming with people and any picture of the statues would have included a bunch of strangers milling about. We had better luck with the west platform due to the smaller and more polite crowds. The heads are better preserved on the west side as well. Here are some pictures.

The heads behind me are (from L to R) Zeus, Kommagene (a local fertility goddess), Apollo (behind my head), Ares, and a guardian Eagle.

Dallen with (L to R) Guardian Eagle, King Antiochos, and Kommagene.

Bennett with Zeus.

Maryn had by this time boycotted all pictures so she is not seen.

There is a lot of good information on this at .

After watching the sun rise at Mount Nemrut we went to old Kahta village there stands the remains of the ancient site of Arsameia, which was a capitol city of Commagene's nobility. Here are a few hand cut tombs as well as a really well preserved relief of King Antiochus shaking hands with Herculese as well as a long inscription in Greek describing the founding of the kingdom.

Yes of course it was all Greek to me. HA HA HA

After that we traveled to the Caydere river and the single arched Candere Bridge built where the river exits a narrow gully and spreads out onto the flood plain. The bridge was built to the honour of the Roman Empire Septimus Severius(193-211 AD) and was built between A.D. 198 and 200 by the 16th Legion "Flavia firma". There were originally 4 dedicatory columns (to Septimus Severus, his wife Lulia Domna and their sons Caracalla and Geta) but the one to Geta was taken down in A.D. 212, part of an attempt by Caracalla to obliterate any references to his brother whom he had removed from power.

Yes of course those are my children throwing rocks into the water. They also played with a mangy dog. Not sure if they noticed the bridge. 2 of the dedicatory pillars can be seen on the left.
Then we went to Karakus Tepesi (Black Eagle Hill), a second tumulus where the women of the royal family had been interred. I toured this site alone as all the kids and Linda were pretty tired and refusing to exit the air conditioning of the tour bus into the afternoon heat.

Then we went back to the hotel, took a little nap, had lunch, gathered up our things, and started home.

Of course the kids were grumpy as they had not slept well due to the heat of the hotel and having awoke at 0200 to go to the mountain. And though we were surrounded by amazing historical artifacts the kids were more interested in other things. Maryn took it upon herself to save all the ladybugs on the mountain and Dallen and Bennet took turns throwing rocks (which had been moved into position by hand over 2000 years ago) down the mountain. Oh- and Dallen had to pee and took a wizz on the UNESCO world heritage site. (He has now peed on 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sights as he also wizzed at Cappadocia) They all got tired of me telling them to go stand at one place or another for pictures and eventually Maryn revolted and refused to pose for any more pictures. I have numerous pictures of her sitting with her back to me and refusing to smile. On the way home thankfully everyone fell asleep except me.

The only real gripe I have about the trip was the Hotel. Linda has discussed the difficulties the Turks seem to have in getting Hotels done right and the farther east you go in Turkey the more poor and removed from the luxuries of the west you get. For me it is the details. Yes the buildings are safe (aside from the death trap stairwell), the rooms spacious, and the beds OK but the little things are never right. It is like they got the room 90% done then gave up and just threw the rest together. In our Hotel room there were bare wires protruding from the ceiling where I assume a light fixture was going to be installed, the shower in the bathroom would fall off the wall, the toilet paper roll holder would fall off the wall if you pulled on the toilet paper, and the bathroom vent in the roof was for show (a vent cover mounted in a hole in the roofing tile with no fan behind it).

Turks all over the country seem to have the biggest problem with bathrooms. Most bathrooms are "squatty potties" where you just squat over a depression in the ground and then turn on a little water spout, wash your butt with your hand, and wash your poo down the hole. Most of them stink to high heaven due to a lack of sanitation (cleaning a bathroom is considered low work so many people wont do it) and (I have been told) by a lack of J-traps (a little plumbing piece that keeps the sewer smell from coming up into your house through the pipes).

And Linda mentioned the lack of air conditioning. Its not that there wasn't any air conditioning- it was just inadequate. The room was on the top (and hottest) floor since the sun was shinning on the concrete roof of our room and all the rest of the heat in the building had come up the open center of the building and, it seemed, come into our room. To save money the rooms AC is only turned on once the room is occupied so when we got there it was like walking into an oven. We turned the AC on and took turns sitting under the glorious cold air pouring from its vent. The kids literally had to sleep with wet towels from the bathroom over them to fall asleep. Of course by the time we left the AC had been on for about 24 hours and it was actually starting to get comfortable- the naps on day 2 were great.

Well that was our trip to Mount Nemrut. A "glad we did it but probably wont do it again" trip. Our next trip will be back to the states for Roberts Wedding. See many of you in about 2 weeks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Back in the saddle

Okay, I realize that it has been over a month since we last updated. But hear me out! The main reason is that we had a base-wide internet crash. Since that also interfered with our phone, we really haven't been in touch with anyone in quite awhile. Everything is back on now, and I will attempt to fill you in on the last few weeks.

Everything went relatively smoothly with the workers strike. In fact it really wasn't a strike after all, so we didn't have to worry at all.

For my birthday Michael planned a trip to Mount Nemrut. The fact that it consisted of waking up at 2 am to take a 1 mile hike up a very steep mountain with four grumpy children to watch the sun rise made me wonder if he has ever actually met me. When I pointed out this was more appropriate for HIS birthday, he just said, "Come on! It will be FUN!" Hmmmm..... I think for his next birthday I am going to take him shoe shopping.

In all fairness, he did give me a ultra-fabulous new Sony a300 with a kick-butt lens. This camera can do everything but your dishes. Now I can record the misery of hiking a mountain at 2am with stunning clarity.

No really, besides the fact that Hayden cured boredom by attempting to leap from the sheer cliff face, it really was fun. (And hey, watching to see if I'd catch him every time he bolted for the edge was nothing short of hilarious....for him)

Our first stop on the way there was at a small rest stop that we now affectionately call the "Death Trap Playground" If you look closely at this picture you will see that the slide is metal in the 115 degree heat, making it more conducive to burns. It is also tilted at such an angle as to cause the rider to reach speeds close to warp 9. I am assuming the thinking was that if they could propel the children into orbit, they wouldn't feel their flesh melting off. But the real crowing glory of this whole set up is the landing. The end of the slide dropped off at about two feet high, and placed there to cushion the blow was a lumpy, cracked wad of concrete. This was to ensure that if the children escaped third degree burns, they would at least have fractures severe enough to land them in traction. I would post the pictures Michael took of me frantically chasing and catching Hayden while he scrambled up over and over again and howled with delight. But I look close to losing my mind, and they are a little embarrassing.

Our next stop on the way to Mt. Nemrut was a beautiful town called Kahramanmaras. We had a wonderful time touring the market place. When we passed a man selling spices, Bennett exclaimed loudly, "Yuck!! I am NOT eating leaves!" Of course I couldn't resist a picture.

Further on in the market, Dallen met a blacksmith that helped him make a knife. Everyone kept swarming our kids. Turks really adore children. I always joke that when we head back to the states, Hayden is going to have a shock when he isn't adored every time he sets foot out his front door. In fact yesterday, we were walking to the park and we passed a man doing some repair work on an electric box. He was facing away from us and (understandably) absorbed in his work. When we passed him, Bennett looked at me, completely puzzled and said,"Mom, why didn't he say Hello to me?" When I tried to explain that he was busy, Bennett looked unimpressed and merely stated with disgust, "Well he's supposed to say Hello to Hayden at least."

Here are more shots of the market place, these men were pounding copper pots. They did it in time, so it was almost like a song.

Next we found a man making Turkish ice cream. He would spin and toss the sticks in the air. He'd yell, "Huppa" and dance and all the while keep the sticks moving. The kids were transfixed!

The whole day was fun, but long. When we arrived at our hotel after a bus ride of Hayden loudly voicing his disapproval of car seats, Bennett removing the entire contents of the diaper bag onto the dirty floor because he was searching for the blue car that he swore he put in there, and Dallen rhythmically kicking the back of the driver's seat, I had about one nerve left. Understandably, I was a little upset when I found that the "four star Hotel" didn't have air conditioning. Remind me to never stay in a Turkish two star. Once again, I decided to find everything funny. It keeps me from committing homicide. Below you will find a close up picture of the stair railing outside our room on the fourth floor. Yes, the bars are 18 and 3/4 inches apart. I measured. By the way, that is wide enough for Hayden to run straight through, as he enthusiastically demonstrated for me. Really, is there a death wish? Am I that hard to live with?

The next morning, we all rolled out of bed while muttering insults at Michael, because it was his stupid idea. Hayden and Dallen actually fell back asleep while I was getting Bennett dressed. It was strangely cold for July, and I bundled the kids up for the hike. The view from the top was amazing and we got some nice pictures. By this time Hayden and Dallen had gotten a second wind and were busy thrown rocks from the highest point they could find. Hayden soon tired of this and began throwing himself, which is why you see the harness below. If anyone is judging me for putting it on him, I defy you to come and spend a day with this boy here in the country of no guard rails.

Now apparently the ancients believed that this was the birthplace of the sun each day. What they didn't realize, is that it is also the birthplace of ladybugs. Below are just a few of the ones we saw. My children were in heaven. Maryn almost drove herself crazy trying to round them up and place them where they wouldn't be stepped on.

On the way home we stopped at a gas station for snacks and a potty break. They had a few shelves stocked with toys that I found so funny, I just had to post them.

The name of the doll is "Amused Baby" The yellow banner says "My new store. There is a lot and new clothes here" The bottom says "style, fashion, nobleness" I don't know about you, but I have always put those qualities together in the same sentence.

Dear Santa, this year all I want for Christmas is a magical hen...... Especially one described as "New Addition! Many color a lot, selected freely by your!" and make sure it has "included three eggs"

I think the shopkeeper thought we were crazy. We were laughing so hard and snapping pictures. There were also a few food items I would have loved to get pictures of, (like pizza flavored cola) but the bus was ready to leave and we ran out of time.

We made it back safe and sound with a whole lot more memories to laugh about.

Jump ahead now three weeks - Missoula Children's Theatre came and held tryouts for a play. Dallen and Maryn both got parts. Maryn's was even a speaking part. The show was a loose (and I mean LOOSE) adaptation of Robinson Crusoe. Dallen was a chameleon and Maryn was Will the Goat.

That was about it as far as news. Hopefully our internet will stay online and we won't have another long silence.