While another year seems to have slipped by faster than expected, it has been a good one, full of travel and surprises. Unexpectantly, it has been a year of monasteries. From the monasteries of the Cappadocian Greeks carved into cliffs, to the Syriac Monasteries of Tur Abdin, or from the ruined monasteries of the Armenians of Vaspurakan to the cliff-face monasteries of the Pontic Greeks, I’ve found myself climbing, crawling, and hiking in search of these holy places more than I had expected.
It has also been a year of portraits. While I’ve always wanted to be better at photographing people, this seems to be the year that it’s finally happened and I’ve managed to come to the end of this year having captured some of the unique characters that make up this fascinating country.
2022 has also been the year that we’ve finally visited the Black Sea and written guides to some of this wondrously distinct region’s many sights. While we now have guides for 46 of Turkey’s 81 provinces, we’ve really only begun to scratch the surface.
1. Cappadocia in The Snow
Cappadocia is one of Turkey’s must-see destinations, and so isn’t usually the type of place we focus on. Usually known for being hot and sunny, the chance to see the fairy chimneys and strange rock formations dusted in snow was a beautiful and unique opportunity
2. Shepherd on the Shores of Lake Van
If you’re looking for something in the remote hills of Turkey, your best bet is to ask those who wander them.
3. Brick Kiln of Osmancık
Behind every object are stories of blood, sweat, and tears. In the case of the common brick and the workers unloading the kilns, the story is one of sweat by the bucketful.
4. Mardin Coppersmith
Thanks to the cold weather, the usually bustling market district of Mardin was quiet and we had the chance to photograph and share a cup of tea with a coppersmith who told us about his craft and the threat of modernity on his profession.
5 Diyarbakır Blacksmith
6. Tea Harvester
Tea is a central part of Turkish culture, and though its cultivation is usually depicted with photos of manicured fields on the mountainside, tended by women in immaculate traditional costumes, the reality is often less glamorous.
7. Shepherd of Kalecik
8. Boatbuilder of Yalıköy
There are few things that capture my attention as much as a master of a traditional craft with a face lined with age. While a picture can only capture a moment, the face, hands, and setting hint at a story of long years and the change that they bring.
9. Flute Playing Shepherd
Sometimes the best photos are the ones you can plan but hope to stumble upon some day. Like the above-mentioned boat builder, our meeting with the shepherds of Perşembe Yaylası was not planned. The flute was more than I could have even hoped for.
10. Forest in the Clouds
Being from the Pacific North-West it’s long over-due that I get a picture of a moody scene like this. Only this isn’t the fir clad mountains of Western Canada but the spruce covered mountains of northern Turkey.
11. Habsus in the Snow
12. Mardin Architecture
Plans For 2023
Every year I write out my travel plans for the coming year, and every year I’m surprised at how I managed to accomplish so few of my original plans and yet manage to see so many other things. Yet again, this year’s list is unfortunately similar to last years.
Van (Again, Again)
The region around Lake Van just keeps on giving. While I’ve now seen the sights of the west shore, and almost all of the sights of the south shore, there are still some impressive, abandoned churches in the interior and on islands in the north of the lake. There’s still so much to see that I’m not even convinced this will be my last trip to the area, and I’m not the least bit disappointed.
Mount Nemrut and the Kingdom of Commagene
Mount Nemrut is one of Turkey’s most striking historical sites and the fact that I haven’t been there since starting this site is a shame. Not only is Mount Nemrut stunning, but the remains of the Commagene Kingdom, with their massive burial mounds, ruined castles, and scattered statues, are also fascinating.
Bafa Lake and Mount Latmos
While I’ve actually been here, I haven’t managed to explore the mountain and find some of the monasteries or neolithic cave paintings that are hidden in this massive jumble of boulders. Mount Latmos may be one of the most overlooked places in this country with remains from all periods dating back to the earliest stages of civilization all set amidst the wild and unique landscape of the mountain.
Also, I have a friend with an olive grove here producing the best olives I’ve ever tasted.
Erzurum to Artvin
The Valleys of Turkey’s north-east are filled with the remains of medieval Georgian churches and monasteries. While many of the monasteries in Van that I’ve written about are humble or in ruins, the Georgian churches seem to have survived the years of abandonment in better condition. The city of Erzurum is also supposed to be a fantastic place to find traditional craftsmen plying their trade and hopefully I’ll be able to track them down.