Around lunchtime we arrive at Yenikapi (Istanbul) and having fixed our non-ringing telephone we go for lunch near Galata Bridge. Afterwards we climb the steep hill, pass the Galata Tower up to Istikal Caddesi (Beyoglu) where the new Borusan Music and Art Centre is situated.

This is a development project by GAD architecture that we are interviewing at the building’s opening celebrations later that evening. A man who works across the road from the Borusan invites us upstairs to film the building from above.

GAD’s design has preserved and restored the historic shell of the building built in 1875, which is typical of the other facades lining the famous Istiklal Caddesi. The building core has been totally removed to create an empty void into which they have inserted lightweight steel ‘box’ which allows for flexibility and space for floor layouts. The inserted ‘box’ appears to be suspended and is framed by the historic masonry shell. Several art installations have been integrated into the build including tube LED’s illuminating the V-columns, designed by Leo Villareal. Not only will the building be an art exhibition space but also the rehearsal and performance centre for the Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra.

We go to meet Serap at her offices where she’s working with Ur on the feature movie they are at the pre-production stage of. Serap saves the day again and lends Julia some of her clothes for the grand opening of Borusan Music and Art Centre that night. We arrive at the venue with Serap as our ‘glamorous assistant’. We set up the lighting, audio etc for the interview on the top floor as it is the only quiet area because the philharmonic orchestra is practicing below. The venue has 6 floors; the ground and first floor are exhibition spaces, then there is the practice room for the orchestra with a viewing area looking down on it, then there are dressing rooms and a catering area, followed by another exhibition space and above this a bar/disco area with a terrace and then finally an incredible roof terrace with spectacular views. The interview goes well with Mr. Gokhan Avcioglu, (the principle and founder of GAD in Istanbul) even though details of what he says are lost on us as it is in Turkish (at our request). Besides other things, he speaks about the tension between the old energy of an abandoned building and the new energy when it is redeveloped and how this affects its relation with the public. After the interview and filming the building we are free to enjoy the party where excellent food and wine flows! There is also entertainment by way of live music and art as well the famous and astonishing Turkish swirling dervishes. We are one of the last to leave!

The following day we catch the tram to Sultanhamet (old Istanbul) and walk to the area of Fener, which we have been told is full of abandoned buildings since the forced population exchange between Greece and Turkey in 1923 (see previous blog). The area is full of abandoned buildings and shows a side to Istanbul rarely seen by tourists. There are lots of very old wooden Ottoman buildings, cafés full of men playing cards and dominoes. We notice that the prices advertised in the shops and cafes are much cheaper than anything we have seen in the rest of Istanbul. Unfortunately most of the wooden houses are in a terrible state of repair and there is talk that most of them are soon to be demolished so we are pleased to have been able to document them before they disappear forever. We had been told that this area was very dodgy and that we should take real care going there but we find it to be the opposite and everyone is very friendly and it seems more authentic than other parts of Istanbul that we’ve visited.

We meet Serap at Galata Tower and go with her to meet Yücel Tunca of the Galata Photographic Academy We meet with him to discuss our project and how we are looking for photographers in countries that we are visiting to participate in the final exhibitions. The idea is for a photographer to revisit an abandoned place where they have previously taken a photo and to take a new photo from the same position to show the passing of time there. Click here for more information. Serap acts as our interpreter and Yücel expresses interest and says he will forward the information that we send him to all his photographic contacts.

We return to Serap’s flat to pick up our video kit and catch a taxi to the Esma Sultan to film it at night as we have heard it is stunning when illuminated. The traffic is terrible but we finally arrive there and it does indeed look spectacular when lit up.

Esma Sultan was the daughter of the 32nd Ottoman Sultan, Abdulaziz I. At 16 she was married to an important statesman who presented her with the 19th century Ottoman mansion as a wedding gift and named it after her. After Esma Sultan’s death it was given to her daughter and then to her granddaughter. In 1918 it became a Greek school then in 1922 it was used as a tobacco warehouse, then a carpenter house, furniture warehouse and coal warehouse in 1950s. The building was then burnt down in a large fire in 1975 after which it was left abandoned for many years. In the 1990s the Marmara Hotel Group bought it. GAD was commissioned to renovate and redesign the space. They designed a thin but strong stainless steel and glass box that is then suspended within the brick structure. Glass buildings are often inappropriate in hot climates but the brick surround creates a shelter from the sun, rain and wind. Suspension rods ensure that equidistance is maintained between the glass box and brick surround so it can withstand extreme weather conditions and earthquakes. From the outside, the building gives the illusion that the palace remains in its original state.

We enter through the gardens and are immediately stopped by security that calls a lady to talk with us about our request to film there. Unfortunately this lady is very rude to us and tells us that under no circumstance can we film there, despite GAD telling us there would be no problem. She tells us we must apply to the hotel group’s head office and that the process takes some time so it would be impossible to grant us permission whilst we are still in Istanbul. We catch the bus back to Serap’s flat feeling rather fed up and letdown. By now Geppe’s eye, which has been irritating him for some time is very inflamed, painful and swollen. Back at Serap’s we make Geppe a homemade eye patch to rest his eye. Berna comes round and we all feast on a wonderful fish dinner.

The following day Geppe’s eye is looking a bit better so we buy some professional eye patches and head off to catch the 11:30 ferry back to Yalova, but not before saying goodbye (once again) to our fabulous hostess, translator, cook and of course great friend Serap.

Istanbul to Kütahya 09/01/2010

As we sit on deck waiting for the ferry to leave at Yenikapi we are amazed by the thousands of seabirds that are swarming all over and around the buildings on the shoreline. The crossing is calm and we arrive to sunshine in Yalova. We are very relieved to find the camper van waiting for us and happily pay the 23 liras for two and a half days parking.

We go straight to Termal (see previous blog) for a hot bath and sauna. It is interesting for Julia to watch the many scarfed ladies disrobe in the changing rooms. It is so rare to see large groups of strict Muslim ladies giggling and getting naked together! Unfortunately there are so many of them that the whole bathing experience is far less enjoyable than last time but despite this we both feel very relaxed, clean and prepared for the long drive ahead by the time we leave.

Julia drives us 5 hours through the night (as Geppe’s eye is still bad) to Kütahya, which is famous for porcelain and ceramic tiles. We find a place to spend the night on the outskirts of the city next to an earth deposit!

Back to the Phrygian Valley 10/01/2010 – 11/01/2010

We wake early and drive to the Phrygian valley area that we had visited less than a week ago. (see previous blog for more details) We drive through several small villages such as Kizkaören where a man with a full car of people stops to direct us. A little later as we are happily continuing on our way he reappears to tell us he’d told us the wrong way and so redirects us. There are many abandoned buildings in these isolated rural villages and we see many men hanging around on their streets but very few women. We continue on to Damlat Karaagac and eventually find our way to Kirka where there is a big Sunday market in progress. We make our way to a car parking area next to the market.

The place is buzzing and there are many women around for a change, all of them wearing the customary big baggy trousers and headscarves that is the traditional wear for women in the more rural areas of Turkey. Having stocked up with some bread and fruit we resume our journey to the village of Kümbet.

Kümbet is a very old village on the ancient road to the Phrygian Yazilikaya Religious Affiliation Centre (see previous blog). The village has an unusual Seljuk kümbet (tomb), which has old Byzantine marble carvings reused around its doorway. It also boasts a stork’s nest on its roof. Inside its is empty except for some pieces of brightly coloured material. Next to it is an impressive rock formation containing several rock fireplaces. We explore the village accompanied by some children who seem particularly intrigued by Geppe’s every move! It is a fascinating place and feels like going back to a different period in time. There are many abandoned and semi-abandoned buildings and the majority are made from traditional mud bricks. A girl appears and beckons us to follow her and she shows us an ancient stone with a cross carved into it that has been used to support one of the houses, which is now abandoned. It is very typical for people all over Turkey to reuse parts of antiquated buildings and monuments in the construction of their homes. We see ancient rock carvings as well as old caves that had been used as houses but have since been abandoned.

We detour to the village of Gokceguney, which is very quaint and is overflowing with abandoned buildings and sheep! We rejoin the road to the Yapildak Valley where we discover many rock tombs and caves as well as Yapildak Asar Rock Phrygian Rock Tomb and the Roman Yapildak Fortress Rock Monument Tomb. There is a large rock with a square cut out of it.

We continue on to Yazilikaya Valley where we find more Phrygian rock tombs near to Çukurca Village. as well as the very impressive Gerdek Kaya Rock Monument tomb that we decide to explore properly the following day as it is nearly dark now. We find somewhere to camp nearby under the full moon.

We wake to light snow and the most magnificent views imaginable. The landscape is made all the more spectacular by the very windy and changeable weather that is causing the clouds to move very quickly across the huge expanse of sky, creating dramatic animated shadows on the rolling hills and unusual rock formations. We go for a long early morning walk through the stunning countryside, traversing a huge rocky outcrop and discover an abandoned house and some rock tombs.

It starts snowing very heavily as we make our way to the Gerdek Kaya Rock Monument tomb that we had briefly seen the day before. It is very impressive perched high up on the rock face. We climb the makeshift ladder up to its platform and we are very impressed by its construction as it looks so well built and the roof in particular looks like it was built quite recently. There are two doorways that lead into burial chambers. By now it is really snowing hard so as we leave we are only able to glimpse the other tombs on the mountainside.

Our next stop is the spectacular ‘Doganli Kale’ (the Doganli or Falcon Fortress). This is a massive rock that has many rooms and tombs carved into it. It is so beautiful as it rises up and looms over the stunning countryside below, this beauty is accentuated by the constantly changing light as the clouds zip across the sky blown by freezing cold winds. The fortress once housed the Phrygian nobility who were there to defend the nearby Yazilikaya Religious Affiliation Centre.

From here we drive to the small town of Doger where we buy a picnic lunch. The town is full of tractors and the activity of a bustling rural community. We continue to the nearby Emre Golu (lake Emre), which is another surreal setting with large phallic rocks coming out of the lake. There are yet more amazing rocks overlooking this lake that have had hollows carved in them by both man and the wind.

We drive along precarious sandy tracks around the lake to Bayramaliler and Uderkayasi where there are huge ‘fairy chimneys’ similar to those found in Capadoccia. We see more rock tombs carved into the rocks. One of these has a very decorative entrance. We have a picnic whilst overlooking this beautifully serene and out-of-this-world scenery. On our way back to the main road we nearly loose the road altogether as the sandy track crumbles away down a ravine.

Afyon to Kas 11/01/2010 – 12/01/2010

Finally we’re back on the road and heading to Afyon. Afyon boasts an imposing citadel that hovers high above the city. It is incredible that anyone would build a castle at such an inaccessible place that can only be reached by around 700 stairs. The first fortifications were built here in 1350BCE, then each subsequent invader added their own features. Afyon’s real name is Afyonkarahisar, which means black fortress of opium. This is due to its citadel and the area’s main cash crop. Approximately a third of the world’s legally grown pharmacy grade opium is cultivated in the area. The government buys the end product to make morphine. Afyon is renowned for its ‘kaymak’ (thick cream), which is known to be so good due to the local cows grazing on the magic poppies. We of course have to try some but accidentally we buy the sweet variety and it is so sweet it is like icing sugar. From here we continue down to the area known as the Lake District and Lake Egirdir. By now it is dark so we look for somewhere to spend the night. Whilst doing so Geppe nearly drives into the military barracks and we don’t see the guard hidden in the shadows in his century box until he emerges with a gun and helmet! We sleep next to Lake Egirdir.

We wake to stunning views across the lake and a spectacular backdrop of snow covered mountains where nearby Mount Davraz rises to 2635 metres. We decide to take the small roads south to Antalya and we mean small … at times the road is so narrow that even though the dashed line down the centre continues the space either side is only wide enough for a bicycle to pass. The scenery is beautiful as we make our way through the mountains and wooded valleys with rivers flowing through them.

From Antalya we drive along the coast to Kas but we don’t stop anywhere as it is pouring with rain. It is torrential and it doesn’t let up until we reach Kas. We meet Michael and Muge who own the apartment that we shall be renting. We follow their car to the Cukurbag or Kas Peninsula, which is a 2km spit of land that juts out into the Mediterranean Sea. We arrive at the Lantana garden apartment and it really is as good as the photos we have seen and it will be our home for the next month or so.

To discover more about project ‘Abandoned?’ visit www.wasabandoned.com