The 2009 Ride: Before Setting Out
Contributed by Gerald Maclean
I ended the last post reporting that ‘On 22 September 2009, with seven horses and a supply vehicle, the first Evliya Çelebi Ride set out to follow the first stages of his itinerary.’
But how could it be that simple? Plans for the 2009 Ride had started to come to focus more than a decade earlier, long before our supply vehicle was designed and built.
In the mid-1990s, Donna and I first went riding in Cappadocia, sometimes camping overnight alongside the horses in spectacular landscapes, and we soon began imagining how wonderful it would be to travel across Turkey on horseback.
At about the same time, Caroline Finkel was thinking much the same thing, except that her plan involved travelling on foot. When we met in 1999, the two schemes began to combine, swiftly moving from topics of dinner conversation into serious possibilities.
Donna and I were already part of an academic research group exploring how and in what ways historical re-enactment was a useful method in historical and cultural research, but Caroline introduced the name of Evliya Çelebi for the first time as a way for thinking about the route we should take.
While finishing Osman’s Dream (2005), her narrative history of the Ottoman Empire, Caroline had been working with Kate Clow on pioneering trekking routes across Turkey. Kate was establishing The Lycian Way and St Paul Trail, seeking to promote sustainable inland tourism away from the coastal resorts.
Donna had begun research on Lady Anne Blunt’s manuscript journals of her equestrian travels in Turkey and elsewhere, and I was finishing a book about seventeenth-century English travellers in the Ottoman Empire. So Evliya quickly became a focus for our common interests: he travelled by horse along routes that would take us into remote areas where tourists seldom ventured.
Today, my focus is on one of my favourite places in the world, Sultanahmet – the old city of Istanbul.
We have stayed a number of times in Sultanahmet when we have been in Turkey and it is a place I truly love. Although it is also a destination for many tourists and is often very busy, I am still entranced by the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofya, Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern and the many, many other landmarks that make this a magical place.
One of the things I love most is when you are walking along, it is commonplace to see old Greek and Roman ruins, sitting peacefully in the park, alongside shops or just jutting out of the ground. These ruins are not anything of note in themselves, but speak more largely about the many layers of history that are contained on this site.
Take for instance the Aya Sofya (or Hagia Sofia), it was built as a church and then was a mosque and now is a museum. Wikitravel says:
Dating from the sixth century, it was originally a basilica constructed for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I. A masterwork of Roman engineering, the huge 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The church was looted by the fourth Crusaders in 1204, and became a mosque in the 15th century when The Ottomans conquered the city. It was converted into a museum in 1935.
When we visited the Aya Sofya, it was very interesting to see that many of the Christian wall frescos had been covered up with verses of the Koran during its time as a mosque. It says something very interesting both about the layers of history and the contrasts between these religions. To see glimpses of angels mixed with the holy words of the Koran is strangely comforting to me – that even though they are very different ways of worship; both seek to uplift the human spirit to think about what is beyond this world.
Another place we like to go walking is Gülhane Park (near Sultanahmet, and next door to Museum of Archaeology). In the past, this park was the royal hunting grounds and now is a public park. Depending on when you go there are lots of seasonal flowers, including huge patches of tulips in early April, and massive plane trees to shade your walk. The high walls on one side of the park separates it from Topkapı Palace.
One of the places that is a must see inside the park is the Istanbul Museum of The History of Science and Technology in Islam. The Museum has technological and scientific works by Islamic scholars and is run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA), the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and Frankfurt Goethe University (Germany).
We have made some good friends in Sultanahmet as well, which has made this place even more special to us. Over time I plan to post more about Sultanahmet and Istanbul, as there is far too much to try to cover in just one post.
The main purpose of my first trip to the UK and Europe was to attend a conference and present a paper. The conference was titled Identities in action (University of Wales, Aberystwyth) and my topic was ‘Workshopping the museum of the future’. The event was located at Gregynog Hall, a gorgeous Tudor mansion in the middle of Wales. Mr Wikipedia says:
Gregynog is a large country mansion in the village of Tregynon, 6 km northwest of Newtown in the old county of Montgomeryshire, now Powys in mid Wales. There has been a settlement on the site since the twelfth century. From the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries it was the home of the Blayney and Hanbury-Tracy families. In 1960 it was transferred to the University of Wales as a conference and study centre by Margaret Davies, granddaughter of the nineteenth century industrial magnate and philanthropist, David Davies ‘Top Sawyer’ of Llandinam.
To stay at Gregynog was a fascinating experience as there is history everywhere you look, from the collections of art and books still remaining, to the beautiful gardens and grounds that surround Gregynog.
Gregynog has a rich history as well as having links to art and music, which came about because of the development of a press by the Davies sisters. According to the Gregynog website it was the headquarters of their enterprise to bring art, music and creative skills to the people of Wales. The websites states that:
The Davies sisters together created one of the most important private collections of art in Britain and donated a total of 260 works to the National Museum Wales in the mid 20th century, where it has become one of the nation’s greatest treasures. However, some of the pictures, a great deal of the furniture, and many, many books still remain at Gregynog.
Here is an image from a publication printed by the Gregynog Press.
I would love to return to Wales and Gregynog one day, this time just as a visitor to soak up the history of the site and the surrounding townships more fully as I am sure there is much to be learnt from this beautiful green country.
Day 63: Museum of Natural History, Dublin, Ireland
While we are on the topic of museums, today I would like to reminiscence about my 1999 trip to Dublin, where I visited many galleries and museums. One museum in particular stands out in my memory, the Museum of Natural History. This place has a great nickname, “The Dead Zoo” reflecting the wonderful sense of humour of the Irish.
The Natural History Museum in Dublin is the oldest museum in Ireland having been opened by Doctor David Livingstone in 1857. This museum is very engaging if only for the immense variety of “stuffed” subjects. There are animals from all around the world in the collection, and I was stunned by the size some of the Australian marsupials, which many must have been caught in the early days of European occupation, as we do not have kangaroos or wombats at the size represented in this collection anymore.
The collection is expansive with over 10,000 items on display and over 2 million in storage. That is a lot of stuffed animals, birds, reptiles and preserved insects.
There is great attention to detail to the exhibits in the collection. In reference to the above image from the Irish mammals collection:
One of a series of very popular exhibits was made by the Dublin taxidermy firm of Williams & Son. They produced ‘family groups’ of badgers, otters and pine martens. These mammals are characteristic of the Irish landscape. Badgers are active at night, seeking out pastureland where they feed on earthworms, as well as many other ingredients in a highly varied diet.
One of the things I love about visiting museums and galleries is many of them are free to visit – not the ones in New York, but many in Australia and other countries have free admission, such as the Dead Zoo.
The Museum of Natural History is centrally located on Merrion Street, Dublin 2, next door to the National Gallery. Use this Google map to find your way.
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Honouring the Gods is such a long-standing tradition in Bali that the island is named after the native word for ‘offering’ – Bebali. For the Balinese, to make the material world as beautiful as possible ensures a safe journey to the afterlife and a better reincarnation.
The religious festivals of Balinese daily life are a continuous performance. Traditional music, dance, theatre and the arts are there to give pleasure to the Gods. The daily offerings are an excellent example – every banana leaf offering is covered with rice and marigolds, mostly grown in the highlands around Bedugul in the north of the island.
Bouquets of flowers and larger offerings abound, and in traditional towns like Ubud the daily hubbub of tourist traffic is punctuated by the sight of these beautiful ‘bebali’. Lavish sculptural offerings of food and gifts are created for odalan, or regular temple activities.
Tono Prayseta is an Ogoh Ogoh artist from the small artist’s village of Batubulan near Ubud.
An Ogoh Ogoh is a classic Balinese figure that is closely associated with Nyepi – the Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar. The villages are cleaned, food is cooked for 2 days and in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils.
On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes. No arrival nor departure flights at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar – Bali. No tourist activities… The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia.
Ogoh ogoh is a kind of statue/giant doll made of light materials such as the combination of wood, bamboo, paper, and styrofoam so it is easy to be lifted and paraded. The name ogoh ogoh is taken from Balinese ‘ogah-ogah’ that means something that is shaken. In fact, when an ogoh-ogoh is paraded around it is always shaken by its carriers to make it look like it’s moving or dancing. There’s no set image – it can be any of dozens of frightening creatures.
In culturally diverse Bali the celebrations of Hindu holidays are very important. For example Galungan celebrates the return of Balinese gods and deified ancestors to Bali. For ten days, Balinese families offer prayers and offerings, along with ceremonies to cleanse and balance the inner and outer energy on the island.
Galungan lasts for 10 days and features, among other things, Barongs (links with Vishnu) dancing from temple to temple in each village. The festival symbolises the victory of good over evil. The origins of Galungan are still a mystery, but essentially this is the beginning of the week in which the gods and ancestors descend to earth…and good triumphs over evil.
The Balinese have maintained their unique culture for centuries despite many outside influences. 95% of traditional Balinese practise the Hindu-Dharma religion (known as Agama Tirta). This uniquely Balinese combination of Hinduism, Buddhism and ancestor worship is basically a monotheistic religion with one Supreme Being, Sang Hyang Widhi.
As a practising Buddhist when I took Refuge in Buddhism I made five vows:
1. Not to kill any sentient being.
2. Not to steal.
3. Not to lie.
4. Not to indulge in sexual misconduct.
5. Not to surrender to intoxifying substances.
The Balinese have their own Five Religious Principles:
1. Brahman, belief in One Supreme Being
2. Atman, Belief in Souls and spirits.
3. Samara, or Reincarnation
4. Karma, that action and practice is appropriately rewarded – that is good rewards good and evil, evil.
5. Moksa, the possibility of unity with the divine.
There are many parallels with Buddhism apart from the fact that Buddhism is regarded as a philosophy and we don’t believe in One Supreme Being.
A Balinese person’s life is marked by rituals, beginning in the seven month ritual of pregnancy followed by the birth ritual; the sixth month ‘baby touching the ground’ ceremony; the teenage’s toothfiling ceremony (perhaps in abeyance now); wedding and birthday celebrations and clan gatherings at temple anniversary ceremonies.
The ultimate ritual, Pitra Yodna, is coming next month – in July and August many villages prepare pyres for the elaborate cremation of the dead, to speed their souls to Balinese heaven so they can be reincarnated for an even happier existence in another physical form.
One thing is certain. The tremendous growth in tourism has generated demand for the work of all Balinese artists and craftsmen, revived their traditional skills and fostered a thriving new industry. Whether it’s sculpture in stone, wood or styrofoam; fantastic kites or wallhangings, the art of Bali has a soul – and that’s also expressed by their daily offerings and lifestyle.
Manik Organik is a great spot, offering delicious whole foods from the cafe, natural skin care, alternative health therapies, arts, dance and cooking classes and our favourite form of tropical torture – yoga.
There were three types of yoga classes on offer while we were here – Bali style, Hatha and Ashtanga Vinyasa Flow. We did the Bali and Hatha classes and enjoyed both, for different reasons. The Bali style was quite different to other classes we have done in the past and the first class was very challenging. The second class was a bit easier, finding that our bodies were willing to stretch a bit more. Mangku was also a wonderful teacher and we promised him next year that we will be better. He is also a traditional Balinese Hindu priest and healer – here is some information from The Power of Now Oasis Yoga website.
Jero Mangku comes from a long line of traditional balinese hindu priests, his life is truly an offering. He began teaching yoga over 5 years ago, and is certified by the School of Sacred Arts here in Bali. He always brings strong elements of Joy, Peace, and Harmony as well as Effort and Discipline into his yoga classes. Drawing from a deep knowledge of spirituality, body work and a life of practice, his classes are very popular with locals, expats, and tourists alike.
Here is Mangku in some pretty amazing poses.
What we found was really nice way to spend a morning was to go to yoga class and then tuck in some yummy breakfast from the cafe. Here is a picture of the fruit and muesli plate – delicious!
Given we are already planning our trip for next year, it looks like some more yoga will be in store – the challenge will be making sure we keep going once we get back to the cold of Canberra.
Day 50: Parap Markets, Northern Territory, Australia
Today and for the next few posts, I will be writing about a place I love dearly, Darwin. Our family moved to Darwin in 1977, as my Dad worked in the building industry and was employed to work in the rebuilding efforts after Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin on Christmas day 1974. Many of my school friends lived through this catastrophic event, which literally wiped Darwin out. I will write in detail about Cyclone Tracy later.
For today though, my focus will be the fabulous Parap Markets, which has been a Saturday morning tradition for many years. The markets started in 1982, with some humble offering of some Asian foods (fantastic Laksa), juices and some fresh fruit and vegetables from some of the market gardens. Of course the market was extremely popular with locals at the time, because good quality fresh food was hard to come by. Anyone who lived here in those days will speak of the horrible, old fruit and veg from the larger supermarkets, shipped from down south which cost a bomb. In contrast, the fruit and veg from the markets is locally grown, fresh and mostly organic.
Over the years, and with the expansion of tourism in the dry season, the markets has grown enormously, now with many jewellery and craft stalls, boutique sauces and condiments and lots more great spicy food to enjoy from Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
After grabbing delicious (and huge) icy fruit drinks we wandered around and checked out all the stalls. Along the way we met Photographer Louise Denton, who creates some beautiful images of the Top End. I couldn’t resist buying her book – mainly as I couldn’t choose a photograph for the wall at home.
It was great to spend some time wandering around the markets with some friends, enjoying the offerings and doing some people watching. It was also quite nostalgic for me as well, as going to the Parap Market was one of my favourite things to do on the weekend when I lived in Darwin. The Asian food, tropical fruit and seeing people wandering around with big sun hats remind me of how much I treasure Darwin and how it seems so different from any other Australian city, more like South-East Asia because of the climate and relaxed lifestyle.