11 Questions to a Museum Blogger on (the day after the day after) Museum Blog Day

So, I’ve been publicly challenged by the marvellous  Tincture of Museum to answer 11 questions about my blogging experience. This game of inquisitorial tag was initiated to celebrate Museum Blog Day by Museum Diary and MuseumMinute.

Now, as you’re looking at my blog you’ll be able to see that ‘I don’t do Blogs’, but apparently I do, so here goes…

1.  Who are you and what do you like about blogging?

I’m MooseandHobbes and I seem to have been credited with the title of  ‘Museum Blogger’. I do feel like I should say from the off that my blog is as random as my brain, so by no means all of my posts are museum-related. I’ll try to keep this on topic though. Just shout of you sense that I’m wandering off. I like blogging random stuff, and judging by my blog visitors, I’m not alone.

2 . What is the most popular post on your blog?

And straight into the random. I had a massive spike in traffic from a gig review of a band called Loop, but my most popular museum posts are about the Zeugma Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep and the Hatay Archaeological Museum in Antakya. These posts always get visitors. People like mosaics.

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Zeugma Museum

3.  Do you have a blog you want to write but haven’t found the time/research to do it?

Oh, I don’t know. Most of my blog posts just appear by osmosis or automatic writing or something. I don’t usually plan them in advance. They just happen when I feel like writing about something that I’ve just done/seen/experienced. I think that I quite like it that way.

4. If you could go behind the scenes of any museum, which one would it be and why?

The Red Castle Museum in Tripoli (formerly called the Jamahiriya Museum). I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this museum in 2008 and I’m extremely hopeful that I’ll be able to visit again before I die. Based on the, frankly, jaw-dropping collection on display, I can only dream about what riches could be found backstage.

I should also say that the curators here are total heroes. During the recent revolution they collected up everything that could be moved and hid it all in various underground store rooms and overlooked cubby holes, even welding doors shut to protect artifacts in the event of trouble. The museum was broken into by (then-called) ‘rebels’ who, to be fair, weren’t really on the rob, but by removing as many of the portable objects as possible the museum staff really helped to safeguard and protect their heritage.  Good work chaps.

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Muammar Gaddafi’s Volkswagen Beetle from the 1960s. This was one of the few items in the museum to be vandalised during the revolution.

5. If you could interview anyone, anyone at all, for your blog, who would you talk to and what would be the first question you ask them?

David Mattingly, ‘Our Man in Libya’. My first question would be “can I come to Libya with you? Seriously. I’ll carry your bags”.

6. What is your earliest museum memory?

I have a terrible memory, but wafting about in there is a vague memory of a school visit to the National Railway Museum in York. In all honesty the only thing that I remember is that there were trains, but I’m going to be visiting York again soon, so maybe I’ll be able to pay a visit and top up my brain with something a little more insightful.

7. What was the last museum you visited what did you see?

The last museum I visited wasn’t actually a museum, but there was an exhibition, so I’m going with it. It was the Crossrail Visitor Information Centre for the Portals to the Past exhibition. I was getting some info and photos for a talk that I was giving about Roman ritual practice in London (I just LOVE all those Walbrook sites). Good stuff. Archaeology. Skulls. 😀

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8.What is the weirdest thing you have done in a museum?

Me and couple of friends went to Dr Johnson’s House for Regency Dancing 😀 😀 I don’t know if this really counts as weird, but it’s at least a bit different and enormous fun.

9. If you could live in a museum which one who you choose?

Probably the John Soane Museum, just because it’s bonkers. And there are Hogarths. What more does anyone need?

10. Which museum do you think more people should know about?

I absolutely love the Crypt at All Hallows by the Tower. It’s right next to the (also super) Tower of London, but much overlooked by the masses. For me, this space is proof positive that a fantastic and fascinating museum doesn’t have to be big or showy. I recommend it to any of my non-London friends who are visiting the Smoke. Especially the Romanists.

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11. What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who was thinking about starting a blog?

Start now. You don’t need to write big long posts with intricate in-depth research. You can just post a picture of something cool you’ve seen and share it with your friends.

11/1 What’s the oddest search term that has led people to your blog?

This was one of Tincture’s questions and I liked it so I’ve nicked it.

I don’t normally look at search terms, although I am practically obsessed with looking at which countries visitors are viewing from. However, as I saw this on Tincture’s 11 Questions, it prompted me to have a look at mine.

I’ve got “person under a train” and “evidence of the alans”. I’m assuming that that second one was a typo (maybe), but the fact that it lead someone to my blog just goes to prove its total randomness.

Best blog image? Depends on how you define ‘best’, but I like this one from a post about some volunteer archiving work that I’ve been doing at The Royal Armouries (at the Tower).

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These are the guidelines for processing and storing finds, as issued in 1983.

So that’s me.

I’m going to tag Jan Drew because she’s relatively new to blogging and I think that this is a good way to meet people. I know Jan through our involvement with the Thames Discovery Programme

I’m also going to take a rather free approach to the word ‘museum’ and tag my old mucker Badger, AKA Detritus of Empire. He does history, he does archaeology, he does immigrant carp and stuffed squirrels. Did I mention I like random?

So Jan and Badger, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you and what do you like about blogging?
  2. What is the most popular post on your blog?
  3. How do you decide what to post about?
  4. Do you have a post which you hesitated before posting because it was just too random/dodgy/libellous?
  5. What is your favourite local or specialist museum? The smaller and more random the better
  6. How would you encourage someone who doesn’t like museums to visit the aforementioned museum?
  7. What is your earliest museum memory?
  8. What was the last museum you visited and what did you see?
  9. Have you ever seen an exhibit in a museum that you felt (or came close to feeling) should not have been displayed (or displayed differently)?
  10. If you could live in a museum which one who you choose?
  11. What’s the oddest search term that has led people to your blog?

Oh, and as I’ve taken a rather free approach to the word ‘museum’ you are allowed to take a rather free approach to the questions.

  • Include the BEST BLOG image in your post, and link back to the person who nominated you (that would be me, or this blog post).
  • Devise eleven new questions – or feel free to keep any of these ones here if you like them – and pass them on to how ever many bloggers you would like to.

Good luck 😀

UPDATE:

Jan and Badger have risen to the challenge and posted their own blogs. You can find Jan’s here http://drewj1485.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/museum-challenge/ and Badger’s here http://detritusofempire.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/museandhobbes-throws-gauntlet.html

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Pistachios, pistachios, baklava, baklava, baklava, guns, baklava, pistachios…

Walking down some of the shopping streets in Gaziantep can sometimes feel a little like walking through a sweet shop. Everywhere you look there are shops displaying a mouthwatering array of tiny pastries, some of them almost entirely green.

Gaziantep is known for its food, and especially for its pistachios.

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It seems amazing that so many shops, in such close proximity to one another can all be selling virtually the same product and actually stay in business. This, I guess, is clear evidence of the Gaziantepine love for all thing pistachio-related.

What really made me stop and stare, wide-eyed, were the shops openly displaying lethal weapons in their windows; hand guns, rifles, huge killer knives.

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There was one opposite the fruit market, there was one in the shopping mall, there was one next door to the shop where I bought my lemonade. Yikes!

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What this really shows up is my own Englishness (or is it just my squeamishness?). In many quite civilized countries no-one bats an eyelid at the sight of firearms in public view on the high street, but we just don’t do that.

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Views of Antep

After Antakya, I headed over to Gaziantep, about 125km to the north-east.

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Gaziantep used to be, and often still is, called Antep. The ‘Gazi’ prefix means (roughly) ‘veteran’ and was awarded to the city by the Turkish government in 1921 in recognition of the city’s resistance to French in the Siege of Antep during the Franco-Turkish War. Gaziantep was officially adopted as the name of the city in 1928.

All over the city are memorials honouring the men, women and children who fell defending the city.

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A common sight in Gaziantep is the water fountain. All over the city are public fountains, used for pre-prayer washing, topping up the drinking water bottle, hand washing, and just general freshening up. As the temperature soared, these were a welcome sight around town, as just that quick rinse is wonderfully reviving.

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Another frequent sight is mosques. There are loads in the city and I wondered if the city had a similar sort of set up as the City of London, which is divided into small wards, each of which has its own church.I have no idea if this is the case; I just wondered.

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Many of these mosques are quite old, with some dating back to at least the 14th century. This wonderful black and not-quite-white stonework is often used for mosques and other buildings, and it reminded me of  buildings in Aleppo. A reminder of the influence of the arab world on this region of Turkey.

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Many of the mosques have beautiful ornate minarets, often with a concentration of the decoration around the balcony at the top.

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It’s not uncommon to see older buildings which have fallen into disrepair undergoing restoration. I understand that over the past few years the local authority has been carrying out a lot of restoration and regeneration, bringing these lovely buildings back to life.

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One building, which looked like it may been a caravanserai, was being almost entirely rebuild, as there only seemed to be a few small sections of wall and a couple of stone arches still standing from the original building.

People of other faiths also have a long history in Gaziantep. One of the most prominent pieces of evidence for this is the wonderfully austere Kendirli Church,  a Catholic Armenian church built by French missionaries in 1860.

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Another reminder of Syria came in the form of  the many sellers-of-snacks who appeared in the streets at different times of day.

About 3pm the sweetcorn sellers showed up with a yummy snack for me 😀 .

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nom nom, then the simit sellers come out to play/ply.

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The sherbert sellers

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Gaziantep has a whole range of interesting features for the visitor to see, including a castle. Although it is not known when the first castle was built, excavations have concluded that there has been some form of settlement on the citadel mound since at least the bronze age.  The existing castle (Kale) was enlarged and restored during the sixth century CE under the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. From the surrounding streets it cuts an imposing figure.

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Obviously, castles are always good value, so I had intended to pay a visit. Unfortunately there had been a little accident…

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During a horrendous storm in December 2012, flood water destroyed the stone bridge into the castle. Now, before I went to Turkey, I did my usual research into the places I was visiting and, weirdly, there is not a word about this on any of the Turkish or English sites that I consulted. In fact, even now that I’m specifically looking for reports about this mishap, there really isn’t much about it anywhere, but here’s a short news report: http://www.habermonitor.com/en/haber/detay/date-of-gaziantep-castle-the-new-measures-tak/30939/

more to follow

Zeugma Mosaic Museum, Gaziantep

The Zeugma Museum in Gaziantep was built specifically to house a large collection of absolutely stunning mosaics rescued from the site of Zeugma, a town on the bank of the Euphrates, said to have been founded by some of Alexander the Great’s Generals.

The site came to prominence after some of the artifacts began appearing in various museum in the 1990s. The site, and its mosaics, were due to be lost forever to the Euphrates due a new dam building project, so excavations at the site became more urgent and more systematic.

The new purpose built museum opened in 2011.

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Basically, you walk in and from then on it’s just one absolute  stunner after another. Here are some of them.

Oceanus and Thetys

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Acratos and Euprocyne

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Painted frescos

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Euphrates (from The River Gods mosaic)

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Dionysos Portrait

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Eros and Psykhe

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Metiochus and Parthenope

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The birth of Venus

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Border

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Dionysos, Telete and Satyros

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Details from The Dionysos Mosaic

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Geometric Mosaic

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The Gipsy Girl Mosaic

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The owners of this villa are so posh they even have mosaics in their toilet!

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Zeugma Mosaic Museum

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Duluk, Home of a God (or two)

A mere 10km from Gaziantep is the town of Doliche. Here, over an area of around 4 sq. km.,  can be found the remains of ancient life, death and the worship of gods.

Up high on the hill overlooking the town is the ancient home of the Hittite storm god Tesub-Hadad, the god otherwise known in antiquity as Baal, now as Dülük Baba Tepesi  and, for the Romanists in the house, Jupiter Dolichenus.

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Despite its proximity to Gaziantep, this area is really VERY rural. There are few public amenities and public transport is extremely limited. Finding a way to visit the site wasn’t that easy, although I got lucky in the end. The staff at my hotel weren’t really any help , just telling me to get a cab. When I tried to get a cab in town, I ended up in the middle of a horribly familiar Taxi-Driver ‘discussion’, with a group of about six drivers disagreeing on the location and route. This didn’t fill me with any confidence at all. Finally, and with a very unclear idea in my head, I got the bus to the otogar (the main bus station) and asked a taxi driver there. Good move. By sheer good luck I’d stumbled across one of those ‘no problem’ drivers.

As we drove out from Gaziantep otogar, the landscape very quickly turned rural and, I confess, I began to feel slightly concerned that I was going to end up stuck in the middle of nowhere. I needn’t have worried because my driver, Namik, had no intention of leaving me anywhere. I fact, he turned tour guide 😀 .

In the slopes around the modern town (actually, I’d say village), there are numerous rock-cut tombs, some ornate but many very simple.

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Lots of these tombs are being using by the local people for storage and for keeping animals in. One was even pressed into service as a dog kennel.

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Over in the opposite hill there’s an irresistible looking cave. So, off we go.

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It turns out to be a large cave containing a mithraeum, which has been made accessible by the installation of walkways and lighting.

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Interestingly, the image of the god has a cross inscribed over the head. Perhaps this is an indication of a ritual site being taken over on behalf of the new god.

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At the mithraeum we meet some other people, one of whom is, I think, the farmer of this plot of land. All around there are apricot trees  and that most Gaziantep-ine of crops, pistachos (fistik).

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Namik and the farmer, whose name I didn’t get I afraid, set about harvesting some of the delicious apricots. A welcome burst of fresh fruit on a hot hot day.

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We then visited a few more tombs, all set together in a dedicated area higher up on the hillside opposite the mithraeum.

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We then set off back to Gaziantep. I’m sure that it must have been time for Namik’s lunch. Once we reached the otogar again, I made sure to thank Namik for acting as tour guide well above and beyond the call of duty and, especially in view of the pretty modest cab fare, I included a nice fat tip.

Excavations have been going on on top of the hill since 2001, carried out by the University of Münster,  and although the site is not yet generally open for visitors, there are plans afoot to improve access and promote this area to visitors. I didn’t get to see even half of the overall site. There’s the hill top area, plus a quarry and many more rock-cut tombs, but after such a fantastic morning, who could complain?

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My intrepid taxi driver in action.

Hatay Archaeological Museum, Antakya

The other thing that I did in Antakya was to visit the museum, which doesn’t look like much from the outside, but which houses, among other things, some amazing mosaics from nearby sites like Daphne, Seleucia Pieria (Samandağ), Antioch and Tarsus.

On arrival I discovered that one of the main mosaic rooms is closed as there is some conservation work being done (this was a definite theme of this short trip to Turkey). This was actually a bit infuriating, as that room contained one of the mosaics that I most wanted to see. However, as you can probably tell from the pictures below,  the rest of the collection was more than enough to beat me into submission, so despite that disappointment  I did have a great time in there.

Highly recommended.

The Sarcophagus of Antakya

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Mosaic of Isisac Ceremony, Daphne

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Personification of Apolausis (Joy), Daphne

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Mevsimler Mozayiği, Daphne

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The mosaic of Chresis, Daphne

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The Triumph of Dionysus (detail), Daphne

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Personification of Soteria, Narlica-Antakya

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Decorated Birds, Antakya

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Personification of Ge, Daphne

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Mosaic of Ananoesis (Awakening), Antakya

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Iphigenia in Aulis, Antakya

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A Dionysiac subject, Antakya

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Crouching Venus, Antakya

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Personification of Epicosmesis (Celebration). Antakya

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Tombstone

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Eros and Psyche, Samandağ

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Mosaic of Arethusa, Iskenderun

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Gladiators, Samandağ

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Dionysos, Antakya

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Season of Summer, Daphne

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The Sundial, Daphne

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The Seated Orator                                  The God of the Orontes River

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Demirkapi

So. Blog 2. How bloggie am I?

Anyway, the Iron Gate.

In these parts it’s called Demirkapi and it’s a jolly good thing that I knew that.

After escaping from the towering inferno that was Mount Silpius, I thought that I’d at least try to head over to the Iron Gate. I had no real idea of what the route to it would be like, and Google Earth wasn’t much help due to the deep deep shadows and weird distortions on this view. Still, nothing ventured…

The Iron Gate may have functioned as one of the city gates of Antioch, but it was also, and perhaps more importantly, a flood defence installation built into the city wall where it crosses the Hacikürüsh River, which runs, sometimes rages, into the Orontes. Possibly built in the time of the Emperor Justinian, although perhaps not first built, but improved at this period.

Basically I just walked along the dusty river bank, past numerous small houses, until I found myself bumbling in on a family’s tea (lunch? It was about midday, and it was as hot as hell so having tea was really the only sensible thing to be doing).

Anyway (all of us using the international language of pointing and saying one word), I asked if this was the way to Demirkapi, and they said yes, and then invited me to stay for tea. It seemed rude not to, so I did.

Here they are.

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The father’s name is Kaydet and I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t get all the other names. They’re Kurdish and I think that Kaydet is a shepherd, although I could have got that completely wrong. He keeps pigeons, which he clearly adores, and they have at least one pet rabbit.

Three cups of tea, a bag of sweets that I’d brought and a visit from a neighbour later, Kaydet said that he and one of his sons would show me the way to Demirkapi.

Best guided tour EVER.

We continued along the path, leaving the houses behind. This path passes a number of caves, some used for storage, and it is rather precarious in places. Kaydet not only acted as guide,but also ensured that I didn’t slip or fall down any holes on the way.

A short way from his house, we pass a fragment of an old (medieval?) bridge over the river.

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Then, a short way on again, my first glimpse of Demirkapi.

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The scale in this picture is deceptive. The drop into the river bed is around 50ft, and the path runs along the base of the cliffs on the left of the picture and then down hill slightly to the gate.

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Once we’d reached the gate, we had a good look around, and Kaydet let me take a couple of pictures of him and his son.

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We then walked over the gate, along the ledge, to have a closer look. Kaydet was again very careful to hold onto my arm and make sure that I didn’t go bumbling over the edge and into the ravine below. I’m not great with heights, so this was very welcome.

From this shot you can see that some of the building blocks have been reused, as they have a simple decorative elements on them.

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Kaydet also pointed out an inscribed stone built into the gate. I don’t know whether this is a reused piece that happened to have an inscription on it, or if the inscription was done when the stone was in place. The latter, I suspect.

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The views up to the citadel are fantastic from here, but the cliffs are very steep.

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Just for an adventure, we walked back along the ledge over the ravine (again, Kaydet helped me across). You can see the scale of the gate from Kaydet’s son sitting in one of the doorways.

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We walked back to Kaydet’s house and after a quick wash and freshen up I said goodbye to my excellent hosts 🙂 .

 

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