Wednesday, February 13, 2019

In the Land of Fairy Chimneys

When we visited Turkey we didn't limit our time to Istanbul even though we could have easily stayed a couple more weeks there (and still not see everything). But we wanted to explore more of Turkey, go into the interior. So after one week in Istanbul we rented a car, crossed the Bosporus into Asia and started our "Anatolian adventure".

One area we wanted to see no matter what was Cappadocia, a historical region in Central Anatolia. Here you can find exceptional natural wonders that are characterized by fairy chimneys and a unique historical and cultural heritage. The UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of Göreme National Park, Kaymakli Underground City and Derinkuyu Underground City. Except for the last one we visited all of these places - and they truly took our breath away.

So what are these "fairy chimneys"?

The relief consists of a high plateau over 1000 meters altitude (hot summers and cold winters) that is pierced by volcanic peaks. The sedimentary rocks of Cappadocia eroded into hundreds of spectacular pillars and the people carved out houses, churches and monasteries from the soft rocks of volcanic deposits (this happened from the 4th to the 11th century). There are entire underground cities that you can visit if you feel like it (more about that in a later post).

Many of these "cave houses" or "cave apartments" are deserted today, but some are still inhabited. We could see signs of life everywhere. These places offer coolness in the very hot summers and seem to be reasonably warm in the cold winters (yes, it can snow here). I'm not quite sure whether I would like to live in such a cave, however, we did stay in a cave hotel in Göreme and it was pretty awesome (more about that in a later post).

Most of these photos were taken in Uçhisar, about 5 km from Göreme. All at once we saw these fairy chimneys rising in front of us. I just wanted to stop and explore. So we parked the car and walked down into a beautiful valley from where we could see dozens of these unique housing units. It was our first real view of this area and until the end it remained my favorite one.

The rock has a slight pinkish hue that starts to glow at sunset. It is simply spectacular and a sight that I will never forget. Except for fruit trees (apricots!) and olive trees there isn't much shade here and the sun burns down mercilessly. But you almost don't feel bothered by the heat in this other-worldly landscape.

Can you see all the "apartments"?

Friday, February 8, 2019

Favorite Photos of 2018 - and a Giveaway

During the year I usually organize favorite photos in a special folder so that later I can easily locate those photos of the certain year. 2013 was a year with a lot of favorites, whereas 2018 I didn't put even half of that number in my folder. Its a clear sign that I didn't take that many photos as I used to do.

In this post I will show you my top 15 favorite photos of last year. Some of them you already saw in a blogpost I wrote, but some are new to you. I would love you to tell me in the comments which 3 images out of these photos are your favorites. All the photos have numbers, so just put in the numbers in the comments. By next week's Saturday I will see which three photos have made the top, and one of you will get those three photos as greeting cards.

So leave your ranking and see whether you will be the lucky winner by next weekend, February 16/17.

1. Along the Ring of Kerry

2. Before the Lava Came

3. California Spring

4. Hagia Sophia Lights

5. Happy Hour

6. Irish Sheep

7. Istanbul Umbrellas

8. May Beauties

9. Old Saddle Road

10. On the Lookout

11. Pepperwood Sunset

12. Point Reyes Shipwreck

13. Soaking up the Sun

14. Stairways to Heaven

15. Winter Sunset

Sunday, February 3, 2019

An Image and Its Story - January 2019

I had debated with myself whether to continue "An Image and Its Story" in 2019 or not, and then decided to go ahead. Looking back at the photos I took during the previous month always makes me aware of how much (or not) I went out with my camera or just the phone. I can recall walks, events, sunsets, anything that I thought was worth a photo. It's also easy to see whether it was a good month or weeks of stress and discontentment. January was so-so - lovely days with my daughter in the first week and after that work rushed in full power and kept me busy throughout the month.

But I was still able to find time for walks, and what better place in the rainy season than to walk around the lake. Usually I meet up once a week with my friend Lyz, we walk and talk around the lake and then stop at "our" bench along the Fisherman's Trail where we sit, sometimes for hours, talking, looking out over the lake, listening to the birds and occasionally we even spot an otter or two. It's a special place for both of us where we can take a break and breathe. She lost her home in the October firestorm in 2017, has moved four times since then and struggles with insurance, contractors and builders to finally get their home rebuilt. It's a long and agonizing process.

The view in the photo appears pretty early in our walk and is one that never ceases to delight me. I have a weak spot for crooked trees anyway and fortunately for me, there are several at the lake or in the vicinity of it. Whenever I am here I feel grateful to have this special place so close to my home.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What I read in 2018

Before the first month of 2019 is over I thought I want to write at least one post for my blog. I can't believe that I haven't written anything since we said goodbye to 2018 - this month just flew by in all its busy-ness. But finally I'm here, and what better topic to write about than books?

My book shelves are still in a state of complete disorganization, but thanks to my Kindle Paperwhite I didn't add many new books to the chaos. I did, however, add a lot to the Kindle.

I read 61 books in 2018 and put them all in my "read" folder - I like this way of organizing books.

I also list them chronologically in a big notebook - title, author and when I finished it. If I particularly enjoyed a book it gets a little star at the title - when I look back at the list I realize that I enjoyed quite a good amount of books last year. This is the way it should be, right?

Some of the novels that I loved are "War Brides" by Helen Bryan, "Cara's House" by Annie Katz, "The House between Tides" by Sarah Maine, "The Forgotten Girl" by Kerry Barrett (wow, what a story!), "Whisper Me This" by Kerry Anne King, "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" by Mark Sullivan and "The Secret" by Kathryn Hughes. For some reason I fell in love with "Red Mountain" by Boo Walker which is not even an outstanding book, but it's a sweet story and I like almost all of the characters. That doesn't happen very often.

My favorite book, however, was "The Keeper of Secrets" by Julie Thomas. The title suggests chick lit, but it's anything but. It's the story of a special Guarnieri violin from the 1930's in Nazi Germany through the time of the Soviet Union to present day America. It's gripping, often sad, and beautiful. I learned a lot about violins and music in general. When I was done I had to listen to Bach's violin concerto that is mentioned in the book and re-discovered my love for classical music.

As some of you know I also enjoy reading mysteries. I hard started the "Huntress" series by Alexandra Sokoloff in 2017 and read the remaining four "moons" in 2018 ("Blood Moon", "Cold Moon", "Bitter Moon" and "Hunger Moon") and think there are more "moons" to come. It's actually not a mystery but downright thrillers. The interesting thing is that the reader roots both for the detective and the murderess (who also develop some feelings for each other). It's not so much a "who done it" but "why" and the entire background story. I was going through a whole range of feelings while reading these books and they have never quite left me. Another author of mysteries is Viveca Sten, a Swedish writer whose books I discovered this year. The Sandhamn Murders series takes place on a small island (Sandhamn) near Stockholm and not only deal with the crimes but with the daily life and its challenges of the main characters. The first in the series is "Still Waters" and I would start out with that (the Sandhamn Murders as well as The Huntress series should be read in the right order to fully understand what's going on).

Of course I also read German literature. I re-visited one of my favorite writers of short stories, Wolfgang Borchert, who died in 1947 at the age of only 26. One of his most endearing stories is "Nachts schlafen die Ratten doch" (The rats do sleep at night), that in all its sadness and desperation is uplifting in the end. I have decided to use my German language students as guinea pigs and read this story in class.

One of the books I used the most is this one - my trusted Sibley.

In my opinion it is one of the best guides to birds, and so far I have found in here every unknown bird to me I ever saw. I only wish it came with a disk or a link to the sounds of the birds as well.

Other books I consulted over the year or looked into over and over again are these ones:

Shortly before Christmas my private student gifted me a beautiful book in a sturdy box and with a giclée print of one of the paintings of the artist. It is about the art of painter and naturalist Thomas Quinn who grew up and lived in Marin County (the county between here and San Francisco). It shows many if not most of his watercolors as well as quotes and poems, some written by Quinn himself. The book is exquisitely done (my student was the printer of that book) and a true treasure.

Now let's go back to reading, shall we?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

An Image and Its Story - December 2018

Northern California winters - at least here at the coast - are mild ones with the occasional freezing nights and chilly days. Clear days and nights mean colder weather - and stunning sunsets. Somehow. the winter sunsets are so much more brilliant than the ones in summer. The colors are bolder and there are way more pink and red shades in the evening sky. The same, by the way, goes for sunrises.

December had some amazing sunsets for us. I saw this one from our upstairs window, grabbed my camera and went outside and further down the street. I knew that this tree would be the perfect silhouette for the sky. Bare trees are my weak spot, and this one is a preferred resting place for dozens of crows during the day. I once saw a hawk perching on a branch and observing its surroundings (no crows in its vicinity at that time!). The tree stands just at the edge of a lovely meadow that is home to our beloved neighborhood donkey.

While I'm writing this it's raining - much needed and therefore more than welcome. No gorgeous sunsets for the next few days.

Monday, December 31, 2018

December Reflections

In Germany we call this time between Christmas and New Year's Eve "between the years" (zwischen den Jahren). It's a time when we often have a break and consequently more free time - time to reflect on the year that is almost over and looking towards the new year that's almost here. I'm off work from both the high school and the German School right now which is a more than welcome break from the quite hectic days at both schools. Kaefer has been home since the third weekend in December and will be here for another week before she, too, needs to get back to the work and college life.

I do love the more quiet time after Christmas. Since we celebrate on Christmas Eve as is our German tradition, Christmas Day itself was very relaxing with playing games and cooking (and eating) a good meal for dinner. Kaefer and I did a complete re-run of all the Downton Abbey episodes - binge watching at its best for almost two weeks - and enjoyed the Christmas special of "Call the Midwife", our favorite TV series. We were invited to a lovely 65th birthday party which resulted in some great dancing and lots of laughter. The clutter in my studio has bugged me for a long time and I finally cleaned out at lot of stuff and brought it to the thrift store that specializes crafts supplies. I have been working in the garden - there has been a lot of trimming back and I'm still not done. We had frosty mornings and mild days - oh, how do I love the Northern Californian winter. We also had some heavy rain which is always much needed in this area, and it has kept away the fears of wildfires for now.

Good old-fashioned German Glühwein

For the entire month of December I have joined Susannah Conway's "December reflections 2018" challenge on Instagram which I enjoyed very much and is a beautiful tool to go back and reflect about the year. If you want to you can see the results on my Instagram.

This was a mixed year and not everything was good. But when I look back it's mainly the good thinks that stand out for me - our trip to Istanbul, a Turkish wedding, traveling in Turkey and Ireland. 10 marvelous days on the Big Island where we could enjoy the wild beauty of Puna before many parts of it were consumed by the lava spilling out of fissure 8 a few months later. Some lovely hikes and seeing how nature bounces back after the devastating wildfires of October 2017. We're seeing burned down neighborhoods springing back to life, fire survivors re-building their homes. Our daughter was traveling in Europe on her own, then going to Dubai and finally to Cape Town where she was doing an internship in two hospitals, experiencing a completely different life. It is delightful to see the young woman she is growing into.

The last of the roses in December, "Anna's Promise"

But I also felt a bit in a rat hole. November and the first part of December have been very busy in my shop and I was constantly knitting - my hats sold like hot cakes. It's lovely, of course, but I do feel that I would also love to knit something else. Over the past two weeks I have started to knit a baby sweater which I enjoy, and a cat pillow that is not quite as fun to knit as I had thought. However, I would also love to go back to painting. I actually did paint a bit over the summer and it felt so good to have paint on my hands again. So I decided to enroll in a year long online class, hoping that my creative juices will flow a bit more easily again. I also took part in a short five-day journaling class - actually "took part" is not quite the correct term since I mainly took notes, but it gave me a considerable amount to think about. Wonderful beginnings for 2019.

For the new year I wish that my family and friends stay healthy and happy. I hope that our country will be kinder than it is right now and that common sense finds its way back here.

To all of you a lovely 2019 - may the new year give you many reasons to laugh and experience the joy of life.

Sunset on Christmas Eve

Sunday, December 2, 2018

An Image and Its Story - November 2018

When it comes to taking photos, November pretty much didn't happen. For almost two weeks I couldn't get out of the house (except for short grocery shopping trips and driving to work) because of the bad air quality, and when I did I certainly wasn't in the mood spending much time taking photos (try holding a camera in front of your eyes without pushing the filtered mask you're wearing deeper into your face all the time...). On top of that I was very busy in both my jobs and my small business that everything that was not somehow connected to these was simply left undone.

But then it was Thanksgiving and that meant driving to Davis to pick up Kaefer (and dropping her off again a few days later). That's when the photos happened! The drive to Davis was during the first rain when the air finally started to improve. I couldn't resist stopping my car and getting out to photograph those fog covered vineyards in the Napa Valley; and on the Sunday, it was sunny and clear and again, I stopped in Napa Valley to capture the vineyard right before the sunset.

The grapes in the foreground were already in the shade of the mountains, but the colors were so beautiful and vibrant. Whenever I passed this particular vineyard I always loved the look of the rows of grapes with the wind machines in between. Quite handily there's a small bay by the road where I could stop safely without blocking other traffic. The wind machines are used to blow warmer air from above into the grapes when there is frost - yes, we do have frost here. Frost for grapes is bad - that's why there are so many wind machines in our vineyards. I find them quite picturesque.

We may not have the spectacular autumn colors of trees like in New England, but our vineyards make up for that big time. Depending on the grape you can find all shades from light yellow to a deep burgundy red. It is a brilliant show that I enjoy every year.