On Death and Drowning in Lycia: The Rock Tombs of Myra and Kekova Sunken City

rock tombs of myra antalya

On Death and Drowning in Lycia:
The Rock Tombs of Myra and Kekova Sunken City

Southern Turkey is hugely popular with travelers on package holidays to Turkey with outfitters like FirstChoice,  but most will stick to the beaches of Antalya or Alanya. What most miss, and perhaps the most interesting part of the province, is the many centuries of Greek and Lycian civilizations and Arab and Italian rule. Indeed, Lycia ruled over a large region of modern-day Turkey and fought with the Persian Empire in the Greco-Persian Wars of ‘300’ fame. This was, for a time, a flourishing civilizaton.

But now? Now they’re all dead.

The Rock tombs in Myra.
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    Categories: GYG Tours, Turkey | Tags: , | 4 Comments

    Instagram Update: The Best of November

    instagram november

    I know, I know, I know. Only two posts in November, and both of those fro old trips to Europe! I spent November in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan and the beaches of Southern Turkey and online working in Bishkek… and yet somehow didn’t get around to writing about ANY of it. Luckily, though, I did manage to find time to post photos on my Instagram account nearly every day; whether shots from the archives or live from the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

    The most popular, this shot from the mountains surrounding the village of Xinaliq in Azerbaijan, is one from way back in the archives yet remains one of my favorite memories and locations in the entire country. You might be amazed just how much time two photographers can spend with a flock of sheep in a picturesque mountain background.

    This one too, is from way back. Since I stayed in Kyrgyzstan for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, I decided to celebrate by heading out to the snowy mountains just to the south of Bishkek for a weekend camping in the snow. This photo, from a trip last year to the same national park, is a good representation of what it felt like: snow, cold, and lots of walking to stay warm thorough an amazing landscape. Check back later for photos from this most recent trip.


    The rest, as you might expect given my travels in November, are all from Turkey. These two, shots from the mosques of Istanbul, represent two of the most colorful parts of one of my favorite cities in the world. The next two, both from Antalya, mark the first time I’ve ever visited Turkey and left the big city… remarkable given that I’ve been there 15 times at this point! Another trip to IST is coming up in mid-December and, true to past form, it’ll be all big city all the time. I do want to get back to Antalya to explore a bit more, though, as well as to eventually see what the rural bits of Turkey look like.


    That was November on my side of the world, and you can follow me on Instagram to see December’s updates and beyond. What was it like in your November, and what big plans do you have for the end of the year? 

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      Categories: Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Photo Blogs, Turkey | Tags: , | Leave a comment

      Paris At Night: 7 Things to Do After Dark in the City of Light

      paris at night

      Paris At Night:
      7 Things to Do After Dark
      in the City of Light

      Paris is one of those world cities so grand that you could stay for years and never run out of new places to go and new things to do during the day. For all the many travel articles I see written about the city’s best museums and restaurants and macaron shops, however, there doesn’t seem to be much discussion of the options for travelers once the sun goes down. Some are obvious backpacker favorites, others unknown neighborhoods full of Parisians but largely unbothered by the tourist hordes. It isn’t just in the catered chalets France can promise merriment and good times: all of these options will also make for a fun night in the City of Light.


      citroen 2cv and eiffel tower by night


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        Austria’s Benedictine Melk Abbey: The Other Side of the Danube

        benedictine melk abbey austria library

        Austria’s Benedictine Melk Abbey

        Lest you think Austria’s Wachau Valley is all bike trips and vineyards and crumbling castles,  it seems worth mentioning that there are quite a lot of ancient monastic orders that have set up shop in the region as well. There are around 50 historic abbeys in the country, 36 of which are still active today (and have been for hundreds of years), but by far the most popular among visitors is the Melk Abbey that sits on a bluff overlooking the Danube river about an hour by road from Vienna.

        Main Courtyard of Austria's Melk Abbey.

        The Benedictine Melk Abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II of the House of Babenburg donated an old fortress to the Benedictine Order, though the current version is a renovation of the 1736 Baroque reconstruction. Despite damage during the Reformation, more damage during the Ottoman Invasion, and confiscation during the Anschluss period that preceded World War II, Melk Abbey is still one of the finest examples of monastic architecture in Austria. For many, the Abbey Chapel itself is the most impressive part of a visit to Melk.

        The chapel of Austria's Melk Abbey.

        To my mind, though, the Melk Abbey Library is where it’s at. For any Benedictine monastery, the Library is second in importance only to the Chapel and this is often reflected in the care put into design and maintenance of the space set aside for learning. At several of the monasteries I’ve visited in Europe the library is strictly a no-photo zone, and (always to my chagrin) this is the case at Melk Abbey as well. Tiny old women patrol the space with a fanatical zeal, swiftly alighting on any tourist daring enough to try to violate the rule. This, sadly, is one you’ll have to see for yourself as they quickly foiled most of my attempts for surreptitious shots.

        Art inside of Melk Abbey.

        The rest of the Abbey is fair game, however, the historic displays of religious relics and somewhat more modern art and all the other bits and bobs and chapels and study rooms that one would expect of a monastery that has been an active center of religious study and learning for over 1300 years. Of course, there’s also the religious art. Portraits and frescoes and entire salons built to be seen from one very specific spot in the center of the room. It’s hard not to take a ton of photos of it all, just to make up for the Library!

        Corridor inside Austria's Melk Abbey.

        This is, again, one of the most popular Abbeys for tourists to visit anywhere in Austria so don’t expect a lot of time for quiet reflection on the beauty of religion. For a bit of art and architecture on a short trip out of Vienna, though? Austria’s Melk Abbey is just divine.

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          Instagram Update: The Best of October

          Snow Leopard Images from Kyrgyzstan

          I realize things have been unusually quiet around here since September, but as is often the case the more I find myself traveling the less free time I seem to have to write travel blog posts. I’ve been in and out of Bishkek over the past month, researching and getting permits for an ongoing project on Snow Leopard Conservation in Kyrgyzstan as well as taking some short trips for my job here.

          In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’m the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine here in Bishkek and we just finished up our Fall 2014 issue. Even if I haven’t been writing much here during the past month, I’ve been active on Instagram trying to post one or more photos each day. Some are looking back towards recent travels in Kyrgyzstan, some are quick snapshots from daily life here, and others are looking forward to a trip to Turkey I’ll be taking in mid-November. If you don’t have the patience to wait for almost-weekly posts on MonkBoughtLunch, make sure you follow me on Instagram for that daily dose of photos I’ve taken!

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            Categories: Kyrgyzstan, Photo Blogs, Tajikistan, Turkey | Tags: , | Leave a comment

            Kumtor Gold Mine: Kyrgyzstan’s Fine Line

            centerra kumtor gold mine kyrgyzstan

            Kumtor Gold Mine:
            Kyrgyzstan’s Fine Line Between Ecology and Economy

            Standing squarely at the heart of countless clashes, the Kumtor Gold Mine is equally one of Kyrgyzstan’s most important economic contributors and one of its most controversial environmental and investment considerations.

            The Kumtor Open-Pit Gold Mine in the Mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

            The Kumtor Gold Mine is located high in the mountains to the south of Issyk-Kol, 50 miles up a rugged winding road from the district of Tong (1,740m / 5,710ft above sea level) on the shore of the lake to the open-pit mine above 4,000m / 13,000ft just below the Davidov glacier.

            That location in the permafrost zone sits close to a glacier that serves as a water source for the Naryn River (Kyrgyzstan’s longest) that flows through the country and on into Tajikistan and Uzbekistan downstream. In only the first year of Kumtor’s operation, a truck carrying a cyanide-based solution crashed into the Barskoon River – an inauspicious start that from the beginning of the operation highlighted the potential environmental consequences of mining activities in such a fragile environment.

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              The Kutna Hora Bone Church: Life, Death, and Silver in Bohemia

              kutna hora bone church

              The Kutna Hora Bone Church:
              Life, Death, and Silver in Bohemia

              At first glance, Kutna Hora seems like any other once-prosperous European town. Big churches, beautiful cobblestone streets, and a central square that serves as the heart of the city and the center of life. If you haven’t ever heard of it before, your initial impression of the town might be that it seems pretty and quaint and nothing particularly out of place for a traveler looking for a bit of ‘Old Europe’ to experience. You would be correct.

              The old town of Kutna Hora in Bohemia.

              You would also, as it turns out, be missing the most famous and photogenic and delightfully gruesome part of Kutna Hora and no doubt the thing that keeps tourists coming in droves to this otherwise quiet corner of Bohemia: the Sedlec Ossuary.

              Details view of the Kutna Hora Ossuary.

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                The Best of September: An Instagram Update

                The Best of September: An Instagram Update

                What a month! First snow leopards, then the World Nomad Games, and now all of a sudden I’ve got to get a Magazine together within the next few weeks. Add to that commitments to write aboout the Nomad Games for other sites and a few ongoing writing commitments like at GoMadNomad and, to be quite honest, I don’t have much time at the moment to write more about Vienna and Prague or the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Luckily, I do have a LOT of pictures from the past few weeks! I also (finally) set up an Instagram account at the end of August, so as you’re looking at these photos make sure to add me on Instagram if you haven’t already.

                My most popular photo on Instagram in September was, probably not surprisingly, this picture of hiking in Kyrgyzstan in the mountains above the little sanatoria at Issyk-Ata. This remains one of my favorite hiking spots in the Chuy Valley that surrounds Bishkek, because its accessible and pretty and somehow just grounds me and calms me down when I’m feeling stressed and need to get up into the mountains. This shot was a *bit* of a cheat when it comes to Instagram, because I think it was taken something like 15 months ago! Not to worry, though, I should have more and current epic mountain photos coming soon in late October.

                Also quite popular, again as I kind of expected, was this snow leopard that I met at the NABU Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center on the northern shore of Issyk-Kol. You can (and should) read more about the NABU Center at that link, but from a personal and photographer perspective I’ll say only this: it was incredible. Yes, they’re captive and yes, that is sad. But when a snow leopard is standing about five feet away from you purring like an oversized kitten you very quickly lose sight of the negative points. I’m hopeful (and fairly confident) that I can get back over there during winter to take some snow-scattered photos to add to the gallery, so keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook pages to make sure you don’t miss ‘em.

                These two both got quite a lot of likes, with the first from Bir-Bulak Canyon and the latter in the rarely-explored Chon Kaindy Valley. The second shot, especially, makes me feel a little bit like I found Jurassic Park every time I look at it. To be honest, hiking there felt a bit the same – when we got done all of us were drenched in water from fording rivers and scratched all up from bumbling through branches and briars.

                Finally, to be sure, the World Nomad Games! Despite the number of words I’ve written on my own site and others, I still wonder if I’ve done a good job of accurately capturing just how much was going on and how amazing it all seemed at the time. Not only were there crazy sports – Kok Boru and Horse Wrestling being right at the top of that list. But there were also just a ton of really amazing people, whether actors or spectators or fellow travelers/journalists, who made it not only a picturesque week of nomadic culture but also a really fantastically good time.

                So, that was September. Want to see more? Make sure to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

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                  Categories: Kyrgyzstan, Photo Blogs | Tags: , | 4 Comments