Wednesday, April 8, 2009


We took a quick overnight trip this past week-end to a town near Syria called Sanlurfa. We went with another family that has girls the same ages as our kids. (Apparently, if you are my friend and your name is Angie, you are only capable of producing girls.) =) There were a few historical sites in the area that Michael has had on his list since we got here. But up until about three weeks ago, the area was "red zoned". Meaning, active duty military were not allowed to travel there. So when the ban was lifted, Michael started planning! =)

Okay, so this isn't actually a historical site, per se... But Bennett looked so cute mooing at the village cows... I just couldn't resist. This was on our way to see the "last castle" on Michael's list. I say that with quotes, because I'm pretty sure he will find more to drag me to. =) (Editor's note (Michael) This is the last castle IN THE CILICIAN PLAIN. There are lots more outside the plain. HaHaHa.)

Here was the first official site we stopped at. The famous Euphrates River. It wasn't at all how I had pictured it, but a lot can happen in 2000 years, right?

This place is Gobekli-Tepe (Turkish for "The Belly Hill") It was originally discovered in the 1960's but no one bothered to dig because they thought it was a grave yard. Then in 1997, a German Archaeologist became convinced it was something more. So he dug even though he was told it would be a waste of time. Well, it turns out he had uncovered an ancient religious site. They have found pillars, sculptures, carvings and more - that carbon date to 10,000 BC. Yep this stuff is 12,000 years old. It is the oldest religious structure on the planet. 6000 years older than Stonehenge. Kinda makes you feel small, eh?

If you are interested, here is an article about it.

Here we are in the Bazaar in Urfa (or Sanlurfa, if you want to be formal) (Or Edessa if you were a crusader 1000 years ago. The Kingdom of Edessa was the first crusader state in the Middle east established during the first crusade but being landlocked (no reinforcements) and near enemies was also the first to fall lasting only about 50 years. -Ed.) If you look closely, you can see the people standing on the right of the picture. You can also see a bike tire on the left.

Now, it may seem as though we have mistakenly caught a couple of bystanders in our photo, but not so! In all reality, there were about 10-12 more people standing behind Michael while he snapped this photo. Apparently most Americans don't travel this far out (at least not the sane ones), so we are an anomaly. That, coupled with the fact that most Turks don't have personal space, meant that we were almost constantly surrounded. It started to make me feel sympathy for celebrities, but then I remembered they make obscene amounts of money to put up with this. So I went back to resenting them. =)

This was outside the entrance to Abraham's cave and the sacred pools. According to Islam, when Abraham was going to be burned by King Nimrod for telling the people they shouldn't worship wooden gods, he prayed and God turned the fire to water and the coals to fish. So this water and these fish are sacred, and if you kill one you will go blind.

It was incredible to see the amount of fish in these pools. And the minute something hit the water, there was a huge surge. They would ram each other to get to the pellets you threw. Sometimes even lifting each other out of the pool. I have never seen such greedy fish, they were worse than pigeons. I know this can happen when you are worshipped, but honestly, I have never rammed someone for my food.

Just across from the pools, they had a stand where you could dress up and have your picture taken. We couldn't resist. First because the girls looked so cute, and second because you'd be surprised how many locals still wear this stuff. I have never seen so many sequins in one place outside of Vegas.

Dallen wanted to join in the fun, so he decided that he would dress up like Ali-Skaba. That is a shout out to you Micah. He still listens to your album. =)

On the way back to the hotel, we passed the shopping district. I couldn't pass up these pictures! Let me make it clear, that these were NOT taken in a costume shop, but a formal wear shop. Did I ever tell you that I spent almost two days in Las Vegas looking for a formal dress to wear to Russ and Kelly's wedding that wasn't too skimpy? And here I am in Turkey and I find a whole store full of modest dresses I wouldn't be caught dead in! The Turks really have their own sense of style. Bjork would love it here. If any of you want one of these hot dresses, let me know. I'll hook you up. How 'bout it Norine? =) (I wanted to get Linda the red one but she flat out said NO!. -Ed.)

The next morning, we headed back to the sacred pools. This time to explore Abraham's cave. It is believed this is the cave he was born in and also hid in for 7 years. Because it is sacred, Angie and I had to cover our heads. After watching us struggle stupidly for a few minutes, a few ladies from the crowd around us, (I wasn't kidding before) stepped forward to help us do it right.

They were very sweet and cheerfully declared, "Now you are more beautiful". I decided to consider it a compliment. (Funny how in Turkey, being asked to hide behind a veil is NOT an insult - "Uh, excuse me- Will you please cover as much of your face as possible with this, so you can be beautiful?") Hmmmm....

We weren't able to get a picture of the inside, but this is the garden out front of the cave.

Then we climbed the fortress and I tried to kill myself on an ancient stone staircase that I swear was booby trapped. Unfortunately, I only succeeded in messing up my leg, so I got to be miserable for the rest of our walking trip. But who's whining? (Linda was and so were the kids but anyway. This was the original way in and out of the castle (no wimpy concrete stairs for those folks). A tunnel dug through the rock. It was awesome. -Ed.)

Next we drove to Harran which is Turkish for "Land of many annoying children that try to snatch things off your person just to say they have something American and if that doesn't work, they will beg for coins by jumping at you and shouting, Lira! Lira!"

Okay, not really, but it felt like it.
At least our groupies up to this point didn't actually try to get something off of us or out of our cars. Oh well, they were harmless, if irritating. I finally started saying, "Evett, isteyorum Lira (Yes, I'd like a Lira)" and holding out my hand expectantly when they'd shout. It really threw them off, and a few even left.
(It is actually an ancient city that was very important in antiquity. Abraham and his brother Nahor and his father Terah and his nephew Lot lived here for a while before moving on to the Holy Land. Terah died here. Despite being conquered multiple times it continued to thrive until 1260 when it was decimated by the Mongols. It was abandoned after that and only recently resettled. -Ed)

All we wanted was a nice family picture. Is that too much to ask? What we got was a stop-motion recording of the afternoon's events. Which were, in a nutshell, Dallen and Bennett acting like spazzes and Daddy yelling at them to "Quit it and look at the dang camera!" (Sigh) They are cute, which is why they haven't been left with a gypsy family. And by "they" I mean Dallen, Bennett, AND Michael.

Hayden spent most of his time charming all the locals and trying to toss himself down holes. He was very proud of the hat a village man gave him, and he bore all of their kisses with the dignity of a long suffering sultan.

When Michael and Angie headed down the road to get the vehicles, Chance and I were mobbed by the oldest woman in Turkey with the least amount of teeth. She assumed we were married and all eight of the kids were ours. I was squeezed and kissed and had blessings pronounced on me. Same goes for the two babies. We tried to tell her it was two families, but she really wasn't listening. And besides, she was just so thrilled.

This was taken at Job's well. Another holy site. The cave is believed to be the place he went after his home was destroyed and his family killed. The muslims believe, when God decided he had suffered enough, he was commanded to tap his foot and a well appeared. God told him to drink from the well, and he was healed. Many people still believe that the water can heal, so the well has been sealed off. (NO miracles for YOU!) But you can look down into it (and kiss it if you are Turkish).

We drove to the border of Syria, and Chance took this picture of Michael. I am not in it because I was hiding in the car preferring not to provoke the angry looking men with machine guns, and saying a lot of prayers under my breath. My husband says I'm silly, I say, "Okay, whatever, can we go now?"

At least he seemed a little nervous when we passed a riot on the way home. We saw about 40 police officers in full riot gear (body shields and everything) and a bunch of people running and shouting. He looked at me and said, "Hmmm, maybe lets not stop here for dinner." Wow, he does have a sense of self preservation!

The trip was fun, if exhausting. We are back home, safe and sound and getting ready for our adventure to Israel next Monday.

Being adored and mobbed by all the locals really wears a kid out.